Friday, July 21, 2017

"No Ways Tired in A Sea of Lies"

"No Ways Tired in A Sea of Lies"
by Chris Floyd

"I think we are living in a world of lies: lies that don't even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies. One of the hardest things to accept is that the reality of our world is buried under so many layers of official deception and well-cultivated public ignorance about our history and our political system. Even if you break through somehow, momentarily, and hold up a fragment of the truth, most people have no context for dealing with it. It's like a bolt from the blue, they can't process the information. And so the sea of lies closes over us again, and again, and again. And yet the reality of our economic future appears on the horizon, denial be damned, an irresistible tsunami of destruction, changing all our lives forever.

These are the facts, and they can't be altered. But how to respond to this catastrophe? Shall we weep, moan, rend our garments, cover ourselves with sackcloth and ashes? Shall we sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of republics? Shall we cower in the shadows and sing glamorous dirges for the Lost Cause, for vanished glories and broken dreams?

Or shall we come out fighting, unbowed, heads high, laughing fools to scorn, rejecting at every turn the moral authority of murderers and thieves to rule our lives, determine our reality, act in our name? Let's dispense with lamentation - give not a single moment to that emotional indulgence - and get right back to work, more determined than ever to bear down harder, dig deeper and excavate the radioactive nuggets of truth still glowing beneath the slag-heap of ruin.

Let's fight, let's reject, let's resist - without violence, the weapon of the stupid, the hormonal secretion of evolutionary backsliders in thrall to the chemical soup in their heads, dull primitives dressing up their ape-lust for power with scraps of religion, philosophy and cant. Let's fight these pathetic, malfunctioning wretches who lay their hands on our world and rape it like beasts in a mindless rut. Fight them with the truths we find, exposing their crimes and deadly hypocrisies to the people they've suckered, perverted and betrayed.

This is not an insurmountable task, no matter how impervious the Machine - that monstrous conglomeration of judicial bagmen, Congressional rubber stamps, hard-right media moguls, dopehead radio ranters, sex-crazed theocrats, neo-conservatives, neo-Confederates, war profiteers, think-tank bleaters, Wall Street sharks, oilmen, Moonies, gun nuts and woman-haters - might appear at the moment.

I don't know what else we can do, except to keep on telling as much of the truth as we can find, to anyone who will listen: reclaiming reality, fragment by fragment, one person at a time. It's an endless task - maybe a hopeless task - but the alternative is a surrender to the worst elements in our society - and in ourselves. It's worth the fight. Let's take it on. In the words of the old spiritual, let us be in no ways tired. The road back to sanity starts now."

"When We Can No Longer Tell the Truth..."

"When We Can No Longer Tell the Truth..."
by Charles Hugh Smith

"Truth is treason in the empire of lies."
- Ron Paul

"When we can no longer tell the truth because the truth will bring the whole rotten, fragile status quo down in a heap of broken promises and lies, we've reached the perfection of dysfunction.

You know the one essential guideline to "leadership" in a doomed dysfunctional system: when it gets serious, you have to lie. In other words, the status quo's secular goddess is TINA - there is no alternative to lying, because the truth will bring the whole corrupt structure tumbling down.

This core dynamic of dysfunction is scale-invariant, meaning that hiding the truth is the core dynamic in dysfunctional relationships, households, communities, enterprises, cities, corporations, states, alliances, nations and empires: when the truth cannot be told because it threatens the power structure of the status quo, that status quo is doomed.

Lies, half-truths and cover-ups are all manifestations of fatal weakness. What lies, half-truths and cover-ups communicate is: we can no longer fix our real problems, and rather than let this truth out, we must mask it behind lies and phony reassurances.

Truth is power, lies are weakness. All we get now are lies, statistics designed to mislead and phony reassurances that the status quo is stable and permanent. The truth is powerful because it is the core dynamic of solving problems. Lies, gamed statistics and false reassurances are fatal because they doom any sincere efforts to fix what's broken before the system reaches the point of no return.

We are already past the point of no return. The expediency of lies has already doomed us.

Honest accounts of hugely successful corporations that implode share one key trait: in every case, managers were pressured to hide the truth from top management, which then hid the truth from investors and clients.

This is the key dynamic in failed oligarchies as well: if telling the truth gets you sent to Siberia (or worse), then nobody with any instinct for self-perservation will tell the truth. If obscuring the truth saves one's job, then that's what people do. That this dooms the organization is secondary to immediate self-preservation.

A distorted sense of loyalty to the family, community, company, institution, agency or nation furthers lying as the "solution" to unsavory problems. Daddy a drunk? Hide the bottle. Church a hotbed of adultery and thieving? Maintain the facade of holiness at all costs. Company products are failing? Put some lipstick on the pig. The statistical truth doesn't support the party's happy story? Distort the stats until they "do what's needed." The agency failed to fulfill its prime directive? Blame the managerial failure on a scapegoat.

Pathological liars and cheats rely on self-preservation and misplaced loyalty to mask their own failure and corruption. A hint here, a comment there, and voila, a culture of lying is created and incentivized.

Obscuring the truth is the ultimate short-term expediency. Now that it's serious, we have to lie. We'll start telling the truth later, after everything's stabilized. But lying insures nothing can ever be truly stabilized, so there will never be a point at which the system is strong enough and stable enough to survive the truth.

We are now an empire of lies. The status quo--politically, socially and economically - depends on lies, half-truths, scapegoats and cover-ups for its very survival. Any truth that escapes the prison of lies endangers the entire rotten edifice.

In an empire of lies, "leaders" say what people want to hear. This wins the support of the masses, who would rather hear false reassurances that require no sacrifices, no difficult trade-offs, no hard choices, no discipline. The empire of lies is doomed. Lies are weakness, and they prohibit any real solutions. Truth is power, but we can no longer tolerate the truth because it frightens us. Our weakness is systemic and fatal.”


"How It Really Is"

“The Imperial City’s Fiscal Waterloo”

“The Imperial City’s Fiscal Waterloo”
by David Stockman

“It’s all over now except the shouting about Obamacare repeal and replace, but that’s not the half of it. The stand by Senators Lee and Moran was much bigger than putting the latest iteration of McConnell-Care out of its misery. The move rang the bell loud and clear that the Imperial City has become fiscally ungovernable. That means there is a chamber of horrors coming. With it, an endless political and fiscal crisis that will dominate Washington for years to come. Its cause is deep and structural.

Founding Fathers, Fiscal Crisis and the Washington of Today: The founders, in fact, were small government de-centralists and non-interventionists. That’s why they agreed to Madison’s contraption of redundant checks and balances. Aside from ruthlessly ambitious Alexander Hamilton, the founders wanted a national government that was hobbled by levels of hurdles and vetoes. They wanted a government that could act sparingly and only after thorough deliberation and consensus building.

And that made sense. After all, most believed that the 10th amendment was the cornerstone of the Constitution. Neither Washington or Jefferson envisioned the political and fiscal burdens of running an empire. “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” That was George Washington’s Farewell Address to us. The inaugural pledge of Thomas Jefferson was no less clear in stating, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.”

So when Woodrow Wilson embarked the nation on the route of Empire in April 1917 and FDR launched the domestic interventionism of the New Deal in March 1933, the die was cast. It was only a matter of time before the disconnect between a robust Big Government and the structural infirmities of Madison’s republican contraption resulted in a deadly impasse.

The Fed has now backed itself into a corner and is out of dry powder. Even its Keynesian managers are determined to normalize and shrink a hideously bloated balance sheet. The current account has no basis in sustainable or sound finance.

The time of fiscal reckoning has come. With the financial sedative of monetization on hold, bond vigilantes will soon awaken from their 30 year slumber.

First up is the imminent debt ceiling crisis. Republicans will never reach agreement on a bill to raise the debt ceiling by at least the $2 trillion that would be needed to get through November 2018. That’s because the Freedom Caucus conservatives would never agree to a clean debt ceiling bill. By agreeing to such a measure, they would betray the fundamental reason they went to Washington.

The Washington Post reported that sentiment exactly this morning in comments from Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows: "Meadows said that he recently attended a meeting of eight of the most conservative Senate and House lawmakers about how to handle the debt ceiling and that not once did they consider the idea of backing Mnuchin’s proposal for a clean debt-ceiling increase."

The end game is quite clear. After several false starts, the Trump White House will be forced to turn to Democrats for votes to raise the debt ceiling but it will come at a price. Not only would Trump be forced to bailout Obamacare with subsidies to insurance companies to keep rates out of double digits and coverage on state exchanges from collapsing, but it would also mean setting aside his vaguely outlined domestic agenda. That would include dropping the sweeping domestic spending cuts contained in the Administration’s budget and settling for a modest tax plan constrained by revenue neutrality.

Even if Trump were to agree to a quid pro quo with Democrats to get votes for a debt ceiling increase, it would soon be surpassed by a far bigger consequence. It would be the complete implosion of any functioning Republican majorities on Capitol Hill. That’s because a White House deal with the Dems on the debt ceiling would amount to giving the GOP rank and file release from party discipline - ragged as it already is - on fiscal matters going forward. White House complicity in Obamacare’s rescue would be considered an unforgivable betrayal.

Donald Trump, the Debt Ceiling and the Fiscal Reality: The Donald has almost no real friends in the Imperial City among the ranks of the seasoned political pros who run the Congressional GOP. After a debt-ceiling-for-Obamacare-bailout deal with the Dems, he would have no friends at all. The President would then be completely beholden to political enemies.

The naïve notions about “bipartisanship” and “working with Democrats” held by the White House inner circle of economic advisors will then come into play. As far as we can tell, both Secretary Mnuchin and chief economic advisor Gary Cohn (and son-in-law Jared Kushner) are lifelong Democrats. They are individuals who have no fiscal policy principles whatsoever — except doing whatever is necessary to keep the stock market rising.

They would likely lead the Donald into a fatal debt deal with the Dems based on the doctrine that the “credit” of the U.S. must be preserved at all hazards. By doing so, the Wall Street/Washington establishment’s fifth column in the White House will bring about the final defenestration of what is left of Trump’s presidency.

The astute leader of the Freedom Caucus made the devastating political cost of such a maneuver crystal clear. In recent commentary on the impending crisis, referring to Mnuchin’s campaign for a clean debt ceiling bill, he explained there is no such thing as 50/50 GOP/Dem coalition to pass a debt ceiling bill.

The minute the White House starts making concessions, the GOP bench will jump off the ship in droves. It will then become an overwhelmingly Democrat vote show: “He’s certainly in the minority in the administration,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. “The problem is, yes, you could get a clean debt-ceiling, but it would be 180 Democrats in the House with 40 or 50 Republicans, and that’s not a good way to start."

Before Trump is forced into a surrender, there will be the same vote count maneuvering in GOP caucuses of both Houses. Similar to what preceded the GOP collapse of their seven-year crusade against Obamacare, such maneuvering may even lead to one or more small increases in borrowing authority.

The more likely case, however, is that the Treasury’s cash - which now stands at $168 billion - will run-out before they get to a stop-gap debt ceiling increase. That would cause the Treasury to unleash the nuclear tool of spending prioritization and allocation of incoming revenues to the highest uses (debt service, social security payments and military payroll).

Again, the Washington Post story hit exactly what is coming: “One former Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive agency deliberations, said officials are now “brushing up on options in the ‘crazy drawer.’”

In past administrations, Treasury officials have designed plans to prioritize payments to government bondholders so that if the government runs short on cash it could avoid defaulting on U.S. debt. Such a scenario would be very difficult to manage because some bills would either be delayed or not paid - making it necessary to prevent an actual default. Prioritizing payments could lead to a spike in interest rates and a stock market crash, analysts have said.

The Undrainable Swamp Meets Wall Street: That’s an understatement, if there ever was one. Prioritization and unpaid bills piling up in the Federal agency drawers will cause a thundering shock in both Washington and Wall Street. Congress would ring with stories about unpaid contractors, delayed grant distributions, furloughed Federal employers, closed national parks, and endless more.

If there’s any lesson from the 2008 crisis, it’s that entitled elites and robo-machines on Wall Street do not cater to a Congress that’s not doing their bidding. That became clear when the stock market dropped by upwards of 800 Dow points during the fifteen minute interval when the first TARP vote was being tallied (and voted down).

The non-compliance with Wall Street demands for protecting the credit of the U.S. at all costs and the sight of political disarray in Washington will come as a shock. It will cause panic on Wall Street and an even greater headache for the Donald. That’s because Trump has trumpeted the 18% rise of the stock market averages since Nov. 8 as an endorsement of his Presidency. Instead, he should’ve punctured the bubble on Day One by demanding Yellen’s resignation and blaming the crash on the Fed and its enablers.

Having taken the easy strategy of embracing the stock market bubble, Trump will soon face a double whammy of unfair blame. He soon will be blamed for the debt ceiling crisis that he inherited; and nailed for causing the third major stock market crash of this century. Even though it was fostered by a rogue central bank that he has not addressed, let alone subdued.

The WaPo story provides the growing atmospherics, but the real countdown is in the Treasury numbers. Last year the Treasury collected only $595 billion between July 14 and the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Last year’s collections during the back 78 days of the fiscal year amounted to $7.6 billion per calendar day. This figure might reach $8 billion per day this year based on the 4.4% year-to-date lift in total tax collections. Under that math, Washington has now spent $2.6 trillion through the end of May, or about $11 billion per calendar day. So call the cash burn rate $3 billion per day, and compute the inception of crisis as follows. That makes 50-60 days of cash left, at most. Then comes the first great fiscal temblor of the new era.

The first round of prioritization and allocation will only be the precursor. It will come when Senator Schumer stands with a hapless Donald Trump in the Rose Garden announcing that the debt ceiling will be increased enough to get through the November 2018 election. Perhaps the Wall Street robo-machines will then be reprogrammed, finally.

At that point there will be no dip to buy. The political and fiscal crisis will become a permanent disaster in the Imperial City and the dip on Wall Street will become an extended cavern. As all school boys know, the original Waterloo decisively changed the course of history. So will this one.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Greg Hunter, “Weekly News Wrap-Up 7/21/2717”

“Weekly News Wrap-Up 7/21/2717”
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com 

"Did President Donald Trump just signal an end to the Syrian civil war? President Trump just announced he was ending a covert CIA program to arm the so-called rebels. It was ISIS and al Qaeda we were supporting because the Free Syrian Army has long been dismantled. Is this the deal that Trump was cutting in his more than two hour meeting at the G-20? The Syrian war has taken the lives of nearly 500,000 people and displaced millions more.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is expanding his probe. Now, he’s going beyond the so-called Russian collusion story and probing Trump’s business transactions. Mueller and his staff of mostly Democrat lawyers (who are also donors to top Democrats) are going to be looking at transactions as old as 10 years. Trumps says this is unfair, and Mueller is crossing the line if he delves into the family business.

You can chalk up another fine for another big bank for market rigging. This time it’s BNP Bank, and it was fined $246 million after traders for the bank were caught in chat rooms rigging the currency markets. Nobody goes to jail for felony law breaking, and the best part for them is shareholders are the ones that actually pay the fines, not the criminal bankers."

"Join Greg Hunter as he talks about these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up."

Musical Interlude: Gandalf, “Once in a Star-Brightened Night”

Gandalf, “Once in a Star-Brightened Night” 

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Jets of streaming plasma expelled by the central black hole of a massive spiral galaxy light up this composite image of Centaurus A. The jets emanating from Cen A are over a million light years long. 
Click image for larger size.
Exactly how the central black hole expels infalling matter is still unknown. After clearing the galaxy, however, the jets inflate large radio bubbles that likely glow for millions of years. If excited by a passing front, radio bubbles can even light up again after a billion years. X-ray light is depicted in the above composite image in blue, while microwave light is false-colored orange. The inset image in radio light shows newly imaged, never seen-before details of the innermost light year of the central jet.”

The Universe

"You can "dance" with the illusions of time and space, choosing your "steps" based upon things and events as they now are, or you can dance with your dreams, choosing your steps based upon things and events as they will be.  And I bet you can guess which steps will perpetuate today's illusions, and which ones will change everything... Daily, in some small way, dance with your dreams."
"Shall we?" 
    The Universe

"Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!"

"One Summer Night..."

Click image for larger size.
"One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will."
- Rachel Carson

"A Gathering of the Tribe"

"A Gathering of the Tribe"
by Charles Eisenstein

"Once upon a time a great tribe of people lived in a world far away from ours. Whether far away in space, or in time, or even outside of time, we do not know. They lived in a state of enchantment and joy that few of us today dare to believe could exist, except in those exceptional peak experiences when we glimpse the true potential of life and mind. One day the shaman of the tribe called a meeting. They gathered around him, and he spoke very solemnly. "My friends," he said, "there is a world that needs our help. It is called Earth, and its fate hangs in the balance. Its humans have reached a critical point in their collective birthing, and they will be stillborn without our help. Who would like to volunteer for a mission to this time and place, and render service to humanity?"

"Tell us more about his mission," they asked. "I am glad you asked, because it is no small thing. I will put you into a deep, deep trance, so complete that you will forget who you are. You will live a human life, and in the beginning you will completely forget your origins. You will forget even our language and your own true name. You will be separated from the wonder and beauty of our world, and from the love that bathes us all. You will miss it deeply, yet you will not know what it is you are missing. You will only remember the love and beauty that we know to be normal as a longing in your heart. Your memory will take the form of an intuitive knowledge, as you plunge into the painfully marred earth, that a more beautiful world is possible.

"As you grow up in that world, your knowledge will be under constant assault. You will be told in a million ways that a world of destruction, violence, drudgery, anxiety, and degradation is normal. You may go through a time when you are completely alone, with no allies to affirm your knowledge of a more beautiful world. You may plunge into a depth of despair that we, in our world of light, cannot imagine. But no matter what, a spark of knowledge will never leave you. A memory of your true origin will be encoded in your DNA. That spark will lie within you, inextinguishable, until one day it is awakened.

You see, even though you will feel, for a time, utterly alone, you will not be alone. I will send you assistance, help that you will experience as miraculous, experiences that you will describe as transcendent. For a few moments or hours or days, you will reawaken to the beauty and the joy that is meant to be. You will see it on earth, for even though the planet and its people are deeply wounded, there is beauty there still, projected from past and future onto the present as a promise of what is possible and a reminder of what is real.

You will also receive help from each other. As you begin to awaken to your mission you will meet others of our tribe. You will recognize them by your common purpose, values, and intuitions, and by the similarity of the paths you have walked. As the condition of the planet earth reaches crisis proportions, your paths will cross more and more. The time of loneliness, the time of thinking you might be crazy, will be over.

You will find the people of your tribe all over the earth, and become aware of them through the long-distance communication technologies used on that planet. But the real shift, the real quickening, will happen in face-to-face gatherings in special places on earth. When many of you gather together you will launch a new stage on your journey, a journey which, I assure you, will end where it began. Then, the mission that lay unconscious within you will flower into consciousness. Your intuitive rebellion against the world presented you as normal will become an explicit quest to create a more beautiful one.

In the time of loneliness, you will always be seeking to reassure yourself that you are not crazy. You will do that by telling people all about what is wrong with the world, and you will feel a sense of betrayal when they don't listen to you. You will be hungry for stories of wrongness, atrocity, and ecological destruction, all of which confirm the validity of your intuition that a more beautiful world exists. But after you have fully received the help I will send you, and the quickening of your gatherings, you will no longer need to do that. Because, you will Know. Your energy will thereafter turn toward actively creating that more beautiful world."

A tribeswoman asked the shaman, "How do you know this will work? Are you sure your shamanic powers are great enough to send us on such a journey?" The shaman replied, "I know it will work because I have done it many times before. Many have already been sent to earth, to live human lives, and to lay the groundwork for the mission you will undertake now. I've been practicing! The only difference now is that many of you will venture there at once. What is new in the time you will live in, is that the Gatherings are beginning to happen."

A tribesman asked, "Is there a danger we will become lost in that world, and never wake up from the shamanic trance? Is there a danger that the despair, the cynicism, the pain of separation will be so great that it will extinguish the spark of hope, the spark of our true selves and origin, and that we will separated from our beloved ones forever?"

The shaman replied, "That is impossible. The more deeply you get lost, the more powerful the help I will send you. You might experience it at the time as a collapse of your personal world, the loss of everything important to you. Later you will recognize the gift within it. We will never abandon you." Another man asked, "Is it possible that our mission will fail, and that this planet, earth, will perish?"

The shaman replied, "I will answer your question with a paradox. It is impossible that your mission will fail. Yet, its success hangs on your own actions. The fate of the world is in your hands. The key to this paradox lies within you, in the feeling you carry that each of your actions, even your personal, secret struggles within, has cosmic significance. You will know then, as you do now, that everything you do matters. God sees everything."

There were no more questions. The volunteers gathered in a circle, and the shaman went to each one. The last thing each was aware of was the shaman blowing smoke in his face. They entered a deep trance and dreamed themselves into the world where we find ourselves today."
※※※
"Who are these missionaries from the more beautiful world? You and I are surely among them. Where else could this longing come from, for this magical place to be found nowhere on earth, this beautiful time outside of time? It comes from our intuitive knowledge of our origin and destination. The longing, indomitable, will never settle for a world that is less. Against all reason, we look upon the horrors of our age, mounting over the millennia, and we say NO, it does not have to be this way! We know it, because we have been there. We carry in our souls the knowledge that a more beautiful world is possible. Reason says it is impossible; reason says that even to slow - much less reverse - the degradation of the planet is an impossible task: politically unfeasible, opposed by the Money Power and its oligarchies. It is true that those powers will fight to uphold the world we have known. Their allies lurk within even ourselves: despair, cynicism, and resignation to carving out a life that is "good enough" for me and mine.

But we of the tribe know better. In the darkest despair a spark of hope lies inextinguishable within us, ready to be fanned into flames at the slightest turn of good news. However compelling the cynicism, a jejune idealism lives within us, always ready to believe, always ready to look upon new possibilities with fresh eyes, surviving despite infinite disappointments. And however resigned we may have felt, our aggrandizement of me and mine is half-hearted, for part of our energy is looking elsewhere, outward toward our true mission.

I would like to advise caution against dividing the world into two types of people, those who are of the tribe and those who are not. How often have you felt like an alien in a world of people who don't get it and don't care? The irony is that nearly everyone feels that way, deep down. When we are young the feeling of mission and the sense of magnificent origins and a magnificent destination is strong. Any career or way of life lived in betrayal of that knowing is painful, and can only be maintained through an inner struggle that shuts down a part of our being. For a time, we can keep ourselves functioning through various kinds of addictions or trivial pleasures to consume the life force and dull the pain. In earlier times, we might have kept the sense of mission and destiny buried for a lifetime, and called that condition maturity. Times are changing now though, as millions of people are awakening to their mission all at the same time. The condition of the planet is waking us up. Another way to put it, is that we are becoming young again.

When you feel that sense of alienation, when you look upon that sea of faces mired so inextricably in the old world and fighting to maintain it, think back to a time when you too were, to all outside appearances, a full and willing participant in that world as well. The same spark of revolution you carried then, the same secret refusal, dwells in all people. How was it that you finally stopped fighting it? How was it that you came to realize that you were right all along, that the world offered to us is wrong, and that no life is worth living that does not in some way strive to create a better one? How was it that it became intolerable to devote your life energy toward the perpetuation of the old world? Most likely, it happened when the old world fell apart around your ears.

As the multiple crises of money, health, energy, ecology, and more converge upon us, the world is going to collapse for millions more. We must stand ready to welcome them into the tribe. We must stand ready to welcome them back home.

The time of loneliness, of walking the path alone, of thinking maybe the world is right and I am wrong for refusing to participate fully in it... that time is over. For years we walked around talking about how wrong everything is: the political system, the educational system, religious institutions, the military-industrial complex, the banking industry, the medical system - really, any system you study deeply enough. We needed to talk about it because we needed to assure ourselves that we were not, in fact, crazy. We needed as well to talk about alternatives, the way things should be. "We" should eliminate CFCs. "They" should stop cutting down the rain forests. "The government" should declare no fishing zones. This talk, too, was necessary, for it validated our vision of the world that could be: a peaceful and exuberant humanity living in co-creative partnership with a wild garden earth.

The time, though, for talking merely to assure ourselves that we are right is coming to an end. People everywhere are tired of it, tired of attending yet another lecture, organizing yet another discussion group online. We want more. A few weeks ago as I was preparing for a speaking trip to Oregon, the organizers told me, "These people don't need to be told what the problems are. They don't even need to be told what the solutions are. They already know that, and many of them are already in action. What they want is to take their activism to the next level."

To do that, to fully step into one's mission here on earth, one must experience an inner shift that cannot be merely willed upon oneself. It does not normally happen through the gathering or receiving of information, but through various kinds of experiences that reach deep into our unconscious minds. Whenever I am blessed with such an experience, I get the sense that some benevolent yet pitiless power - the shaman in the story - has reached across the void to quicken me, to reorganize my DNA, to rewire my nervous system. I come away changed.

One way it happens is through the "gathering of the tribe" I described in this story. I think many people who attended the recent Reality Sandwich retreat in Utah experienced something like this. Such gatherings are happening now all over the world. You go back, perhaps, to "real life" afterwards, but it no longer seems so real. Your perceptions and priorities change. New possibilities emerge. Instead of feeling stuck in your routines, life changes around you at a vertiginous pace. The unthinkable becomes commonsense and the impossible becomes easy. It may not happen right away, but once the internal shift has occurred, it is inevitable.

Here I am, a speaker and a writer, going on about how the time for mere talk has ended. Yet not all words are mere talk. A spirit can ride the vehicle of words, a spirit that is larger than, yet not separate from, their meaning. Sometimes I find that when I bow into service, that spirit inhabits the space in which I speak and affects all present. A sacredness infuses our conversations and the non-verbal experiences that are becoming part of my events. In the absence of that sacredness, I feel like a smart-ass, up there entertaining people and telling them information they could just as easily read online. Last Friday night I spoke on a panel in New York, one of three smart-asses, and I think many in the audience left disappointed (though maybe not as disappointed as I was in myself). We are looking for something more, and it is finding us.

The revolutionary spark of our true mission has been fanned into flames before, only to return again to an ember. You may remember an acid trip in 1975, a Grateful Dead concert in 1982, a kundalini awakening in 1999 - an event that, in the midst of it, you knew was real, a privileged glimpse into a future that can actually manifest. Then later, as its reality faded into memory and the inertial routines of life consumed you, you perhaps dismissed it and all such experiences as an excursion from life, a mere "trip." But something in you knows it was real, realer than the routines of normalcy. Today, such experiences are accelerating in frequency even as "normal" falls apart. We are at the beginning of a new phase. Our gatherings are not a substitute for action; they are an initiation into a state of being from which the necessary kinds of actions arise. Soon you will say, with wonder and serenity, "I know what to do, and I trust myself to do it."

The Poet: Robert Bly, "Things to Think"

"Things to Think"

"Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it's been decided that if you lie down no one will die."

- Robert Bly, “Morning Poems”

"The Eternal Silence of Infinite Spaces..."

"The eternal silence of infinite spaces frightens me. Why now rather than then? Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time have been ascribed to me? We travel in a vast sphere, always drifting in the uncertain, pulled from one side to another. Whenever we find a fixed point to attach and to fasten ourselves, it shifts and leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condition, most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desires to find solid ground and an ultimate and solid foundation for building a tower reaching to the Infinite. But always these bases crack, and the earth obstinately opens up into abysses. We are infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, since the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from us in an encapsulated secret; we are equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which we were made, and the Infinite in which we are swallowed up."
- Blaise Pascal

The Daily "Near You?"

Mesquite, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

X22 Report, “Has The Fed Used The Same Tactic To Fool The People Again?”

X22 Report, “Has The Fed Used The Same Tactic To Fool The People Again?”

"Margin Calls Explained"

Margin Calls Explained:
"Explains what happens when margin call event occurs, the effect on your margin loan, profit and loss. (Remember, the derivatives-interlocked global situation today is magnitudes greater than in 2008 due to the Federal Reserve pumping $23 trillion into the stock market/banks to keep stock prices going higher into fantasy land valuations. Once they stop, and they will, the corresponding consequences for the banks, student loans, subprime autos, and pension funds will be catastrophic on an unimaginable scale, total global systemic collapse, as we'll all see soon enough. This is also why it's utter insanity to raise interest rates are they've done, and want to do. - CP)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pABVbSlmPSU
Related:
This clip from “Margin Call” (2011) - "Senior Partners Emergency Meeting"
is quite illustrative.

"What is Short Selling?"
"Financial Derivatives Explained"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf9ByTdX0aY

Extremely relevant:
"Wrecking Ball: The Date Of The 'Finite-Time Singularity'”
by John P. Hussman, Ph.D.

"I’ve periodically framed market action from the perspective of Didier Sornette’s model of log-periodic power-law bubbles (see my recent comments in Fair Value and Bubbles: 2017 Edition). Our current best-fit to this structure is presented below. Based on recent market dynamics, I’ve refined the date of the “finite-time singularity” in this model. That “critical point” is not necessarily the date of a peak or the beginning of a crash, but what Sornette describes as “an inflection point from self-reinforcing speculation to fragile instability.” It’s also worth remembering that the “catalysts” associated with sharp market losses have often been fully recognized only after the fact, if at all. As Sornette observes, “The collapse is fundamentally due to the unstable position; the instantaneous cause of the crash is secondary.”

There’s a Wall Street aphorism that one can talk about time, and one can talk about price, but never about both. For that reason, feel free to take the following chart with a grain of salt. From our perspective, we would be inclined to take far more salt if our own measures of valuations, market internals, and overextended conditions were not so hostile as well. As conditions stand, the overall analysis contributes to our general view that the speculative pendulum is dangerously overextended.

In any event, the estimate that best fits recent market dynamics would place the critical point in the first week of August, within less than 2% of current levels. Indeed, the 30-day crash probability that we estimate from this particular model is rising vertically, and will continue to do so with every market advance from this point. In practice, based on a much broader set of historically reliable evidence, we already view the market as highly vulnerable to steep, abrupt losses.
Click image for larger size.
There will be no avoiding the completion of this market cycle for investors in aggregate. Every share of stock that is issued has to be held by someone, at every moment in time, until that share is retired. So it is useless to encourage investors to “get out” of stocks here. There is no such thing. The real question is who will hold the bag, so to speak - those would best be investors who are committed to a passive investment strategy, who understand the relationship between valuations and likely risk and return over the completion of the cycle and the long-term, perhaps those who are comfortable enough with their own evidence to dismiss ours, and in any event, those who could tolerate the outcomes that we anticipate without abandoning their discipline, in the event they actually unfold as they have in prior market cycles."
The full article can be found here:
As always, inform yourself and draw your own conclusions...

"There Is A Tide..."; "The Fierce Urgency Of Now..."

William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”
Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

“We are faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’
 - Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We’re All in the Same Boat: Different Ways of Navigating”

“We’re All in the Same Boat: Different Ways of Navigating”
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

“We are all on this earth together learning and teaching together in many different ways. We're all in the same boat. We just have different paddles, and perhaps we find ourselves on different rivers. We all live in human bodies. These are the vehicles in which we move through our world. We are all made of flesh, blood, and bone, with brains, hearts, and lungs to power us. Our paddles - the tools we use to move through the world - vary, as do the bodies of water - the environments - in which we find ourselves.

Some of us use our high IQs to get where we want to go. Some of use our smiles, others use kindness, a gift with language, or athletic ability. Some of these qualities we were born with and others are skills we have learned. Considering this metaphor in light of your own life can be very enlightening. What tools are you using to get from point A to point B in your life? Chances are, you and the people you know have used many different tools in various combinations throughout your lives to get where you needed to go. Just as with oars or paddles, a balanced approach is best. If you rely too much on one thing, like beauty, to open doors, you fail to be well-rounded and you may eventually lose your equilibrium. And if you lose that one quality, you have no paddle at all. This is inspiration to develop multiple tools to navigate your world.

Some of us may be moving along paths that are like rushing rivers; others may be on a large, still lake. We have all felt, at one time or another, tossed about on a stormy ocean. Through all this, we are never really alone, even though it might seem that way. There is inspiration all around us in the form of other people making their way through the world, in the very same boat. Remember to look around you for role models, companionship, and encouragement.”

"The Truth Is..."

"The truth is we live in a world where we don’t listen to people anymore. So often we’re just waiting for the next opening to respond. What we need to realize is that sometimes people don’t need advice. Sometimes people just need to be heard. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is just to keep our mouths shut and let them empty themselves into our hands. When they’re finished, we don’t need to do anything with what they’ve given us. We just need to show them that we’re holding it for them till they can catch their breath."
- David Joy

"How It Really Is"

"Being Poor Ain't Cheap"

"Being Poor Ain't Cheap"
by Joshua Wilkey

"Poor people are cash cows. It makes no sense, really. One would think that poor people, by virtue of being poor, would not be profitable customers. However, for many large corporations that target the poor and working poor, there's big money to be made on the backs of those who have no money. 

At Dollar General Store locations, customers can get cash back on their purchases. This is not novel. In fact, most all retailers these days offer this option. Soccer moms get cash back so they can have lunch money for their children. Restaurant patrons can get money back to leave a cash tip for their servers. I sometimes get cash back at the grocery store so I can buy Girl Scouts cookies on the way out. It's a simple process. Click "yes" when the little screen asks for cash back, tap the $20 icon, and the cashier hands you some bucks along with your receipt. We've all done it. For those who are poor and those of us who are not but who have limited retail options, however, there's often a sinister catch. 

I noticed this a few years ago, first at Dollar Tree, then at Dollar General. There's a little asterisk after the standard "would you like cash back?" prompt. The footnote indicates that "a transaction fee may apply." The transaction fee is usually $1 no matter the amount of cash back. If one opts to get $10 cash back, one is charged a dollar. That's a ten percent fee, for a service that costs the retailer nothing. It's just another way for retailers like Dollar General to make a profit off of their customers, many of whom are very often living below the poverty line. 

If an organic grocer or movie theater were charging a fee of this sort, I would likely be annoyed by it, but I wouldn't be so annoyed that I would write about it. However, the poorest members of our communities do not shop at Whole Foods, and they do not often get a chance to go see the latest blockbuster at the theater. They can afford neither. In fact, they likely do not have either organic grocers or first-run theaters in their neighborhoods. Instead, they have Dollar General. Dollar General's stores grow like kudzo in rural America. Even if there isn't a real grocery store in most tiny communities, there's probably a DG. 

These ridiculous transaction fees are but one example of how corporations make billions of dollars by taking advantage of socioeconomically disadvantaged customers with few options. There are many other examples, though, and politicians continue to allow it at the expense of their poorest and most marginalized constituents.
Payday lending is one of the most sinister ways that large corporations exploit poor people. For those who are not familiar, payday lending goes something like this: People who are running short on money but who have a verified record of regular income (whether it be Social Security, SSI, payroll, etc.) are able to go to payday lenders and receive a cash loan to be repaid on payday. Often, borrowers are unable to repay their full loan balances and simply “roll over” their loan until a future payday, accruing all sorts of fees and additional interest. The annualized interest rate on these loans is often in the triple digits. Yes, that’s right. Sometimes the annual interest rate is over one hundred percent.

In defense of this practice, many payday lenders and their high-dollar lobbyists argue that they are simply offering a service to poor borrowers that said borrowers cannot obtain anywhere else. This is partially true. The poorest members of society have no access to traditional forms of credit. Some even lack access to checking accounts because of low credit scores or a history of financial missteps.

I know some people who make occasional use of payday lending because they genuinely have emergencies arise that they could not address without a short-term infusion of cash. I also know people, including members of my own family, who have been riding the high-interest payday loan merry-go-round for years, and who have paid thousands more back than they have borrowed yet still owe more. In debating the role of payday lending in our communities, it is essential that we take a nuanced approach. Some form of short-term credit is necessary for those mired in poverty. However, it is flat-out immoral that we regulate payday lending so loosely in many places that people end up feeling crushed under the weight of small high-interest loans that they have no hope of ever repaying. Taking out a $1,000 payday loan should not mean a person becomes tied to tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Another egregious example of corporations exploiting the poor is rent-to-own retailing. Companies like Aaron’s and Rent-a-Center purport to offer a valuable service for the poor. Because those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum are seldom able to save for big-ticket items like appliances or furniture, these retailers offer a pay-by-the-month scheme that often requires no credit check and no money down. The result is that customers pay as much as three times the retail price of the item, assuming they are able to make payments until the item is paid for. When they are not able to maintain the payments, the retailers simply show up to repossess the items.

Like payday lenders, rent-to-own retailers argue that they provide a valuable service to poor consumers. However, many observers, myself included, conclude that some rent-to-own practices are ethically questionable and tend to target vulnerable consumers who need immediate access to essentials like appliances and bedding. In many states, companies are not required to disclose the final price of the items. Instead, they simply tell customers the amount of the monthly or weekly payments. Because companies call the arrangement "rent-to-own," in many places they are not required to disclose the amount of "interest" customers will pay because it technically isn't interest. When consumers can no longer afford the payments and have to return the item, they often get no credit for payments they have made even if they have paid substantially more than the item is worth. Many customers never realize that they are paying as much as three times the retail price for their items. Those who do realize it likely have no choice apart from going without a bed or refrigerator.

In some instances, state attorneys general have successfully sued major rent-to-own retailers for violating usury and consumer protection laws. However, because these retailers are covered generally by state laws rather than by federal laws, there exists a hit-and-miss patchwork of regulations. Some consumers enjoy greater protections than others. The only determining factor is their location. Those states with more corporation-friendly attorneys general are unlikely to see any activity that might force retailers to behave more ethically toward their customers, because such enforcements will result in a drop in profitability for the retailers. Many major corporations spend good money to be sure that politicians protect their interests rather than the interests of consumers. Rent-to-own retailers and payday lenders are no exception. The poor, of course, can’t afford lobbyists or political contributions.

There are some who will argue that the free market, not the federal government, is the best solution to corporations that exploit the poor. However, those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum, especially the rural poor, do not live in anything resembling a free market. Also, it is important that we label the behavior of rent-to-own companies and payday lenders as what it is: exploitation. 

In the hills of Appalachia, poverty is often the rule rather than the exception. One of the most poverty-stricken ZIP codes in the United States is Manchester, Kentucky. Manchester is located in Clay County, which has a population of just over 20,000 people. According to the most recent US Census data available, the per-capita income average between 2011 and 2015 was just $13,802 (less than half the national average) and 46% of the population lives below the poverty line. In Manchester, Rent-a-Center is often the go-to option for poor people looking to buy appliances or furniture. The county has a Walmart, but the nearest discount appliance and furniture dealers are miles away, too far for many to drive. There are some locally-owned options, but few in Clay County are able to pay cash for major purchases given the high rate of poverty and the low rate of employment.

In addition to the rent-to-own retailers, Clay County also has no less than five payday lenders, but only two traditional banks. Conveniently, the primary shopping center in Manchester currently houses a Dollar General, a Rent-a-Center, and two payday lending branches, all within feet of one another. 

In places like Manchester, rent-to-own and payday lending outfits thrive. They do so often to the detriment of the poor folks who frequent their businesses. Those promoting the so-called free market approach might argue that customers are not forced to do business with these types of companies. However, given their dire financial circumstances and lack of available options, poor people in Manchester have little choice. They are excluded from participating in the wider world of commerce, often because of forces beyond their own control.

Manchester is not a rare exception. Particularly in central Appalachia, rent-to-own retailers are often the only option for poor people, and payday lenders outnumber banks by large measure. In addition to being food deserts, many poverty-stricken communities are retail deserts. In the most isolated rural areas in Appalachia, Dollar General is one of the only available retail options. Within ten miles of our house in rural Jackson County, NC, there are four Dollar General stores, and our community isn't even particularly isolated. Dollar General is the closest store to our home, and my wife and I tend to shop there by default because it is either that or a ten minute drive to the closest grocery store, or worse, a twenty minute drive into town. While we have the resources to go to town any time we want, many of our neighbors do not. The folks in the trailer park down the road often walk to Dollar General because they have few other options. This does not seem much like a free market driven by competition. Therefore, "free market" solutions simply do not work here. 

Dollar General is, I believe, fully aware of the demographics of their shoppers. They know that there are often few ATMs near their locations, and their customers often lack access to traditional banking anyway and end up paying fees of three or four dollars to access their money at ATMs. Especially for people who depend on Social Security or SSI for their income, access to money is an important issue. Dollar General and similar retailers, it seems, understand this. Their solution is not to offer a resource for their customers but to profit from their customers’ limited access to funds. It's cheaper than an ATM, but it's a fee more affluent shoppers never have to think about. While there is nothing illegal about this, it is certainly morally questionable.

That’s the thing about the so-called free market. It makes no accounting for moral right or wrong. That, free market proponents allege, is up to the consumers. Poor consumers, however, still need to eat. They still need ovens and beds. Consumer choice and self-advocacy is often, like so many forms of social or political action, a full-stomach endeavor. When one is hungry, one’s ability to be an activist is diminished. When poor people have no choice but to do business with the greedy companies who reap a hefty profit from their customers' lack of options, those drawing the short straw simply do what they must to survive. Surviving is what poor people do best, and it makes for a miserable life. I know, because I have been there. 

When poor people have little option but to do business with discount retailers who charge cash-back fees, rent-to-own retailers who charge inflated prices, and payday lenders who mire their customers neck-deep in impossible-to-pay-back high-interest loans, they are even less likely to ever escape poverty. The stark reality is that poor people often pay substantially more for essentials – bedding, appliances, housing – than would those of us with means. If my wife and I needed a new washer, we'd shop around for the best deal and go buy it. In fact, we might even buy it from Amazon Prime and get free two-day shipping. When my mother, who lived her entire life in poverty, needed a new washer, she was forced to buy one from a rent-to-own outfit that charged her an outrageous delivery fee and hassled her every time she was even a few hours late on a payment. She probably ended up paying $2,000 for a $450 washer. The poor do not have access to Amazon Prime like the rest of us because they can't afford a hundred bucks a year to subscribe. They do not get free delivery and obscenely low prices. They get fleeced.

The limited options available to those in poverty are rarely considered by the political ideologues who are so prone to victim-blaming. These retailers, who are all too often protected by state and federal lawmakers from both parties, package their predatory tactics as opportunities. What they are really selling are tickets on yet another segment of the poverty train. The politicians who protect them should be deprived of options and see just how much more expensive it is to survive. They should be ashamed for protecting those who profit from poverty, and those of us who know about it and have the resources to fight back should be ashamed for letting it happen to our neighbors.”