Saturday, December 16, 2017

Musical Interlude: Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells Finale”

Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells Finale”

"Life Just Is..."

"It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of the intoxicating existence we've been endowed with. But what's life to a lichen? Yet it's impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours- arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don't. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moments additional existence. Life, in short just wants to be."
- Bill Bryson

"Our Society Is Run By Insane People."

"Our Society Is Run By Insane People"

“I think our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. And I think that’s what I sussed when I was sixteen and twelve, way down the line. But I expressed it differently all through my life. It’s the same thing I’m expressing all the time. But now I can put it into that sentence that I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends, you know.

If anybody can put on paper what our government, and the American government, and the Russian, Chinese… what they are actually trying to do, and how and what they think they’re doing, I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing.

I think they’re all insane. But I am liable to be put away as insane for expressing that, you know. That’s what is insane about it.” 
- John Lennon interview, 6/6/1968

"It's fear of the unknown. The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that - it's all illusion. Unknown is what it is. Accept that it's unknown and it's plain sailing. Everything is unknown - then you're ahead of the game. That's what it is. Right?"
- John Lennon

"545 People"

"545 People"
by Charlie Reese

"Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them. Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are really against deficits, WHY do we have deficits? Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are really against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

•  You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.
• You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of representatives does.
•  You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.
•  You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.
•  You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices. 545 human beings out of the 325,517,698 as of Saturday, December 16, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates, are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 325,517,698 cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted - by present facts - of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

•  If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.
•  If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.
• If the Army and Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way. If they were on Social Security then they would fix it fast.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do. Change the law so that it is unlawful for quasi public companies (like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to donate to politicians or political parties etc and unlawful for those persons/organizations to accept donations from those over which they have oversight.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible. They, and they alone, have the power. They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses... provided the voters have the interest and incentive to manage their own employees."


“Although there may be nothing new under the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that gives meaning and savour to life.”
- Robertson Davies

“What Happens After The Next 9/11?"

“What Happens After The Next 9/11?"
by Doug Casey

“Is a police state in the US possible? Absolutely. That’s because people are essentially the same the world over, regardless of their culture, religion, race, or what-have-you. A certain percentage of them are sociopaths.

There is a standard distribution of sociopaths across time and space. It’s a function of Pareto’s Law, better known as the 80-20 rule. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Another 20% are responsible for 80% of the crime. 20% of the population always winds up with 80% of the wealth. And so forth, through all areas of human endeavor. This observation can be represented by a bell-shaped curve - a “standard distribution” - with a small minority at each extreme, but the large majority in the middle. The people who will take us to a police state are sociopaths - criminal personalities who don’t respect the liberty or property of others. And sociopaths gravitate towards government, and eventually come to control it.

My view is that 80% of human beings are basically decent, get along, go along types. 20% are what you might call potential trouble sources, that can go either way. But then you take 20% of that 20% and you’re dealing with the sociopaths.

When social conditions reach a certain stage these really bad guys come out from under their rocks and take advantage of the situation. We’re seeing that right now in the US, across the political spectrum. Just as we’ve seen in the past in hundreds of places throughout history.

A major tipping point occurred sixteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, with the attacks in New York and Washington. They were disastrous. But not nearly as disastrous as the government’s reaction to them.

Among them the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Anybody that speaks German knows that a reasonable translation of Homeland Security is Geheime Staatspolizei, which is usually abbreviated to Gestapo. Anybody that goes through airline security these days should ask themselves, “Where the hell did they find these people? Didn’t they have jobs before they went to work for this moronic agency?” The answer is that there are people out there who like wearing costumes, are willing to boss, herd, interrogate, and go through the dirty laundry of their fellow citizens. They take their jobs seriously and you better not even look at them sideways. There’s no reason to believe it’s going to get better as they groove into their jobs, and their employer cements itself into place. More likely the trend will accelerate.

Is America currently a police state? Well, let’s see. You can still get in your car and go anywhere, although you might be stopped by the police and you might be detained if your papers aren’t in order. Or the officer thinks you’re not properly respectful. Or you have “too much” cash.

Was there any particular day that Germany became a police state in the 1930s? I’m not sure you can put your finger on any one particular day, even after Hitler was legally and democratically elected. It was a progression, with new laws, new regulations, new taxes every day. While more fear and hysteria were worked up among the populace. Kristallnacht didn’t occur the day after the National Socialists took power.

It’s a case of the frog being put in a kettle of water where the temperature is gradually raised to a boil. That’s what’s occurring in the US. After 9/11, in addition to Homeland Security, we got the Patriot Act, with, among other things, its suspension of habeas corpus. That means that the government can lock anybody up for any reason and not even have to tell them why. Accuse them of being an “enemy combatant” - a neologism that justifies anything, and is robotically and thoughtlessly accepted by Boobus americanus - and anything is possible. Including a trip to a CIA black site in some Third World hellhole. This is something I thought was settled in Western Civilization with the Magna Carta and King John. But we’re going backwards in most areas of personal freedom. And America, of all places, is leading the way - even while falling behind economically.

I don’t know if I can put my finger on exactly when we’re going to go over the edge, but if I was going to guess I would think the real catalyst is going to be the next 9/11-type event. And I don’t doubt it’s going to happen.

How are we any different than the Germans in the 1930s? This was one of the most civilized, best educated countries in Europe and they fell into the abyss. I suppose we’re a bit different. Americans are addicted to welfare, anti-depressant drugs, food, and electronic devices. That should certainly give us a better outcome…

There’s a joke I like to tell. Let me ask you this: Which is the gravest danger? Is it the ignorance, or is it the apathy of the average American today? Stumped? Here’s the answer: I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, “Laguna Indigo”

Liquid Mind, “Laguna Indigo”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“It is the largest and most complex star forming region in the entire galactic neighborhood. Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy orbiting our Milky Way galaxy, the region's spidery appearance is responsible for its popular name, the Tarantula nebula. This tarantula, however, is about 1,000 light-years across. Were it placed at the distance of Milky Way's Orion Nebula, only 1,500 light-years distant and the nearest stellar nursery to Earth, it would appear to cover about 30 degrees (60 full moons) on the sky.
Click image for larger size.
Intriguing details of the nebula are visible in the above image shown in near true colors. The spindly arms of the Tarantula nebula surround NGC 2070, a star cluster that contains some of the brightest, most massive stars known, visible in blue in the image center. Since massive stars live fast and die young, it is not so surprising that the cosmic Tarantula also lies near the site of a close recent supernova.”

"Amazing Interactive Space Map Lets Users Navigate The Galaxy In Incredible Detail"

"Amazing Interactive Space Map Lets Users
 Navigate The Galaxy In Incredible Detail"
By Ellie Zolfagharifard

"If you ever need a reminder of just how tiny we are relative to the universe, then take a look at this. The interactive Google map called 100,000 Stars’, provides a spectacular fly-through of our galaxy. Taking users on an inspiring journey, it reveals, in incredible graphic detail, the vast distances which lie between our home and alien planets. Zooming out provides a dizzying look at the galactic plane and the Milky Way, which is home up to 400 billion stars - the hottest on the map shown in blue. Zooming all the way in to our sun gives a glimpse of some of the 100,000 stars relatively close to Earth,

Meanwhile, using imagery and data from a range of sources, including Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA), the map plots the location of the stars closest to our sun. Clicking each name on over 60 of the most prominent named stars will provide more information about it along with a digital rendition. The interactive map also lets you click on a ‘take a tour’ button for a look at what's surrounding us. Voyager is shown as the furthest man-made object to enter interstellar space. First launched in 1977, the unmanned spacecraft has been in uncharted territory since last year.

Beyond the spectacular views, is a demonstration shows off what advanced web technology can do in Google Chrome. The music is provided by Sam Hulick, who video game fans may recognize as a composer for the popular space adventure series, Mass Effect. ‘As you explore this experiment, we hope you share our wonder for how large the galaxy really is,’ said Aaron Koblin of Creative Lab. ‘It’s incredible to think that this mist of 100,000 measurable stars is a tiny fraction of the sextillions of stars in the broader universe.’ Google has has previously launched maps of the surface of Mars and the Moon."

Chet Raymo, “Take My Arm”

“Take My Arm”
by Chet Raymo

“I'm sure I have referenced here before the poems of Grace Schulman, she who in inhabits that sweet melancholy place between "the necessity and impossibility of belief." Between, too, the necessity and impossibility of love. Belief and love. They have so much in common, yet are as distinct as self and other.

How strange that two people can hitch their lives together, on a whim, say, or wild intuition, knowing little if nothing about the other's hiddenness, about things that even the other does not fully understand and couldn’t articulate even if he did. Blind, deaf, dumb, they leap into the future, hoping to fly, and, for a moment, soaring, like Icarus, sunward. The necessity of wax. The impossibility of wax. We "fall" in love, they say. Schulman: "We tramp the road of possibility. Give me your arm."

The Poet: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "What If?"

"What If?"

"What if you slept?
And what if,
In your sleep
You dreamed?
And what if,
In your dream,
You went to heaven
And there plucked
A strange and
Beautiful flower?
And what if,
When you awoke,
You had the flower
In your hand?

... Ah, what then?"

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"In The Time Of Your Life..."

"In the time of your life, live - so that in good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle... and have no regret. In the time of your life, live - so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it."
- William Saroyan, "The Time of Your Life" (1939)

The Daily "Near You?"

St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Free Download: Eckhart Tolle, "The Power Of Now, A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment"

“The Power of Now” (Excerpt)
by Eckhart Tolle 

• "Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace? 
Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.

• Is it not possible to attract only positive conditions into our life? If our attitude and our thinking are always positive, we would manifest only positive events and situations, wouldn't we? 
Do you truly know what is positive and what is negative? Do you have the total picture? There have been many people for whom limitation, failure, loss, illness, or pain in whatever form turned out to be their greatest teacher. It taught them to let go of false self-images and superficial ego-dictated goals and desires. It gave them depth, humility, and compassion. It made them more real. Whenever anything negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it, although you may not see it at the time. Even a brief illness or an accident can show you what is real and unreal in your life, what ultimately matters and what doesn't.

Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are always positive. To be more precise: they are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in complete acceptance of what is - which is the only sane way to live - there is no "good" or "bad" in your life anymore. There is only a higher good - which includes the "bad." Seen from the perspective of the mind, however, there is good-bad, like-dislike, love-hate. Hence, in the Book of Genesis, it is said that Adam and Eve were no longer allowed to dwell in "paradise" when they "ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

• This sounds to me like denial and self-deception. When something dreadful happens to me or someone close to me - accident, illness, pain of some kind or death - I can pretend that it isn't bad, but the fact remains that it is bad, so why deny it?
You are not pretending anything. You are allowing it to be as it is, that's all. This "allowing to be" takes you beyond the mind with its resistance patterns that create the positive-negative polarities. It is an essential aspect of forgiveness. Forgiveness of the present is even more important than forgiveness of the past. If you forgive every moment - allow it to be as it is - then there will be no accumulation of resentment that needs to be forgiven at some later time.

Remember that we are not talking about happiness here. For example, when a loved one has just died, or you feel your own death approaching, you cannot be happy. It is impossible. But you can be at peace. There may be sadness and tears, but provided that you have relinquished resistance, underneath the sadness you will feel a deep serenity, a stillness, a sacred presence. This is the emanation of Being, this is inner peace, the good that has no opposite.

• What if it is a situation that I can do something about? How can I allow it to be and change it at the same time?
Do what you have to do. In the meantime, accept what is. Since mind and resistance are synonymous, acceptance immediately frees you from mind dominance and thus reconnects you with Being. As a result, the usual ego motivations for "doing" - fear, greed, control, defending or feeding the false sense of self - will cease to operate. An intelligence much greater than the mind is now in charge, and so a different quality of consciousness will flow into your doing.

"Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?" This was written 2000 years ago by Marcus Aurelius, one of those exceedingly rare humans who possessed worldly power as well as wisdom.

It seems that most people need to experience a great deal of suffering before they will relinquish resistance and accept - before they will forgive. As soon as they do, one of the greatest miracles happens: the awakening of Being- consciousness through what appears as evil, the transmutation of suffering into inner peace. The ultimate effect of all the evil and suffering in the world is that it will force humans into realizing who they are beyond name and form. Thus, what we perceive as evil from our limited perspective is actually part of the higher good that has no opposite. This, however, does not become true for you except through forgiveness. Until that happens, evil has not been redeemed and therefore remains evil.

Through forgiveness, which essentially means recognizing the insubstantiality of the past and allowing the present moment to be as it is, the miracle of transformation happens not only within but also without. A silent space of intense presence arises both in you and around you. Whoever or whatever enters that field of consciousness will be affected by it, sometimes visibly and immediately, sometimes at deeper levels with visible changes appearing at a later time. You dissolve discord, heal pain, dispel unconsciousness - without doing anything - simply by being and holding that frequency of intense presence."
- Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now”
"Perhaps once in a decade, or even once in a generation, a book like "The Power of Now" comes along. It is more than a book; there is a living energy in it, one you can probably feel as you hold it. It has the power to create an experience in readers, and change their lives for the better.

"The Power of Now" was first published in Canada, and the Canadian publisher, Connie Kellough, told me she heard repeated stories of positive changes and even miracles that have happened once people got into the book. "Readers call in," she said. "And so many of them tell me of the wonderful healings, transformations, and increased joy they are experiencing because they have embraced this book." The book makes me aware that every moment of my life is a miracle. This is absolutely true, whether I realize it or not. And "The Power of Now," over and over, shows me how to realize it.

From the first page of his writing, it is clear that Eckhart Tolle is a contemporary master. He is not aligned with any particular religion or doctrine or guru; his teaching embraces the heart, the essence, of all other traditions, and contradicts none of them - Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, indigenous, or anything else. He is able to do what all the great masters have done: to show us, in simple and clear language, that the way, the truth, and the light is within us."
Download "The Power Of Now, A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,"
 by Eckhart Tolle, here:

"All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas..."

"Cognitive Dissonance And the Human Mind"

"Cognitive Dissonance And the Human Mind"
by Dan Eden

"When “Robbie” the robot was told to shoot a weapon at a man in the movie Forbidden Planet, his electronic brain sparked and short-circuited. His creator had programmed him to never harm a human and so the conflicting ideas paralyzed him. Human beings often are presented with opposing thoughts also, but our brains have developed a way of resolving these conflicts through a process call cognitive dissonance. We are taught, like “Robbie,” that killing is prohibited — but what about war? And many anti-abortionists support the death penalty… conflicting behavior is all around us. So how exactly does that work?

Simply put, congitive dissonance theory states that when you have two opposing ideas (or ideologies) at the same time, you will act upon the one that causes the less distortion to your ego. According to Wikipedia: "Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, and also the awareness of one’s behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Dissonance normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her cognitions. This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. For example, a belief in animal rights could be interpreted as inconsistent with eating meat or wearing fur. Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people’s ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony or consonance. If cognitions are unrelated, they are categorized as irrelevant to each other and do not lead to dissonance.

Let me give you some examples. There are lots of schemes and con-artists trying to get your money these days. Almost every day I receive dozens of e-mails from people like Abada Muzoola from Nigeria, who just happened to get my e-mail address and wants me to help him transfer 70-million dollars to my bank in return for a 10 percent commission. Wow, I could use 7-million dollars! All he needs is my bank account number and pin-code. He is even willing to transfer the total amount to my account because he trusts me so much. I continue to receive variations of this scheme every day. Why? Because they work. Somewhere in the world is a victim who will have cognitive dissonance.

On a more sophisticated scale, Bernie Madoff bilked hundreds of wealthy people out of an estimated 50-billion dollars by manipulating the same mental process (and would have continued doing so had he not bragged to his sons, who turned him in). So how is it that people are able to convince others to give them access to their funds or to willingly give them their cash? First, one more example: You’re walking down a busy street deep in your own private thoughts. All of a sudden a smiling woman jumps out of somewhere, stands in front of you, and puts a flower in your hand. “Hello dear… isn’t it a wonderful day today? I want you to have this flower!,” she says.Now you have a beautiful flower in your hand. It’s a nice gift and she seems friendly. She begins to walk with you, telling you that you have nice, kind eyes. She says she noticed right away that you were special and so wanted to meet you. You forget your previous thoughts about work, bills or your own life. Suddenly you feel good… appreciated… uplifted. Then, in the same friendly voice and bright smile, she says, “I know you are a good person and you can help me by giving me a something for the beautiful flower — right?”

What happens inside your head at that moment is cognitive dissonance. The dissonance or dis-harmony comes from two conflicting ideas or decision paths. One path tells you that you should just say “No thanks!” and keep on walking; maybe return the flower and feel insulted even if it means she will become disappointed with you. The other path tells you that she has made you feel good and has earned your friendship and a couple of bucks. She has been friendly and you don’t want to ruin the brief relationship you have formed. Heck, you should probably even give her back the flower so she can use it on the next victim. Which decision will cause the least damage to your ego?

In cognitive dissonance theory the outcome of these opposing thought paths will be the one that requires the least emotional stress. Most victims will pay up rather than feel they are being cruel or disrespectful to someone who has made them feel so good. In the case of the Nigerian philanthropist, Abada Muzoola, it is often less stressful to believe that you are the lucky “chosen” beneficiary than to believe you are one of the thousands of e-mails he has sent this offer to. Later, after their bank account has been cleaned out, most people realize that they should have known better and are puzzled by their own vulnerability. Many feel so embarassed that they don’t report the crime to the authorities.

Psychologists refer to this vulnerability as the “willful suspension of disbelief,” where one can easily see the potential manipulations and evil motives of ther perpetrator, but, because they have already made some prior committment to go along with this, it is easier to continue than to back out. The investors of Mr. Madoff knew that a 10% to 12% annual return on an investment, especially in the current bear market, was impossible. Something dishonest or illegal had to be going on. But because they had been made to work so hard to let him take their money — often begging him to please allow them to invest millions of dollars — they had made the psychological investment that “locks in” the cognitive dissonance. After that, it was more stressful to admit that this was a ponzy scheme than to just avoid worrying about it.

In Festinger and Carlsmith’s classic 1959 experiment, students were asked to perform boring and tedious tasks (e.g. turning pegs a quarter turn, over and over again). The tasks were designed to generate a strong, negative attitude. After an hour of working on the tasks, participants were asked to persuade another subject (who was actually a confederate) that the dull, boring tasks the subject had just completed were actually interesting and engaging. Some participants were paid $20 for the favor, another group was paid $1, and a control group was not asked to perform the favor. When asked to rate the boring tasks at the conclusion of the study, those in the $1 group rated them more positively than those in the $20 and control groups. This was explained by Festinger and Carlsmith as evidence for cognitive dissonance. The researchers theorized that people experienced dissonance between the conflicting cognitions, “I told someone that the task was interesting”, and “I actually found it boring.” When paid only $1, students were forced to internalize the attitude they were induced to express, because they had no other justification. Those in the $20 condition, however, had an obvious external justification for their behavior, and thus experienced less dissonance.

Are you beginning to understand how this works now? Cognitive dissonance has been used to control larger groups and populations also. In World War II there was a famous campaign where citizens were asked to donate all their old pots and pans, supposedly to be melted down to make tanks, munitions and war planes. The collection was highly effective and the psychological “investment” initiated solidarity and nationalism for the war effort. Of course, all those pots and pans ended up buried in landfills.

Here’s a modern day example: When the US invaded Afghanistan, ex-President Bush came on the television asking families to donate whatever they could to help the school children in Afghanistan who needed paper and pencils. Thousands of school kids collected coins in classrooms across the nation and sent the donations to the White House. The funds ended up being put in to some vague account that never did what it was donated to do. But the “investment” was enough to gain support for a far-away war in an obscure land for vague reasons. Sometimes, as with the tragic collapse of the World Trade towers on 9-11, the “investment” is made for us. In this way an entire nation can be made to feel that they have already sacrificed something and that they should choose the path of war over peace forgetting about the Iraqi civilian casualties — or even that Iraq was not responsible. I once belonged to an Episcopal church in New Mexico that collected oil for M-16s to send to the troops in Iraq! They also invested the church funds with Raytheon and Haliburton.

Cognitive Dissonance in Advertising and Marketing: In advertising there is a theory that a consumer may use a particular product because he or she believes the advertising for that product, which claims that the product is the most effective of its kind in the job that it does. Then the consumer may see a competitor’s advertisement that seems to prove conclusively that this competitive product is better. This creates dissonance. The consumer must now relieve the uncomfortable feeling that the dissonance brings about and will often do so by switching products. The theory acts as a double-edged sword, though, because while advertisers want to create dissonance for nonusers of their product, they do not want to create it for those who do use their product. This is why advertisers use their logos on things like NASCAR and sports arenas. They want you to become loyal to their brand. This will create distrust when you see the same product — even an apparently better product — with a different and unfamiliar brand.

Cognitive dissonance most often occurs after the purchase of an expensive item such as an automobile. A consumer who is experiencing cognitive dissonance after his or her purchase may attempt to return the product or may seek positive information about it to justify the choice. If the buyer is unable to justify the purchase, he or she will also be less likely to purchase that brand again. Advertisers of high-priced durable goods say that half of their advertising is done to reassure consumers that in purchasing their product the right choice was made.

Some good uses of cognitive dissonance: Congitive therapists use this technique to change bad behavior and decisions. The technique is called a “yes set.” Getting a patient to agree to treatment for addiction or to initiate some beneficial behavior is difficult. There is often a fundamental “batting of heads” between the patient and people trying to help. The breakthrough is achieved when the therapist purposely initiates a series of statements to which the patient can agree. After repeatedly agreeing with the therapist on a multitude of minor decisions, the patient begins to feel good and the therapist allows the patient to “invest” in this positive relationship. Then, with skill, the therapist introduces the crucial decision. “So don’t you think it’s really time for you go to rehab?” Faced with the option of agreeing or offending the therapist, the patient often continues the “yes” response. The example above is highly effective because the patient not only agrees to change the bad behavior but is immediately rewarded by the continuation of their positive self-esteem and good feeling.

Cognitive dissonance requires some skill to work
: The concept doesn’t always work. Especially if it’s poorly executed. I was once shopping for a car and, after selecting a possible make and model, found myself sitting in the little room with the salesman, haggling about the price. At one point he asked me for my driver’s license or credit card and told me it was a “gesture” so that I would trust him. At the time, I just said “No way,” and split. For many customers, this simple act would be enough to form a psychological “investment” with the dealer, who could then use this to manipulate and close the sale. It might be more difficult for the customer to demand his license or credit card and storm out of the office than to sit there and be intimidated until they signed the sales contract.

Eliminating Cognitive Dissonance: There are several key ways in which people attempt to overcome, or do away with, cognitive dissonance. One is by ignoring or eliminating the dissonant cognitions. By pretending that ice cream is not bad for me, I can have my cake and eat it too, so to speak. Ignoring the dissonant cognition allows us to do things we might otherwise view as wrong or inappropriate. Another way to overcome cognitive dissonance is to alter the importance (or lack thereof) of certain cognitions. By either deciding that ice cream is extremely good (I can’t do without it) or that losing weight isn’t that important (I look good anyway), the problem of dissonance can be lessened. If one of the dissonant cognitions outweighs the other in importance, the mind has less difficulty dealing with the dissonance — and the result means that I can eat my ice cream and not feel bad about it.

Yet another way that people react to cognitive dissonance is by adding or creating new cognitions. By creating or emphasizing new cognitions, I can overwhelm the fact that I know ice cream is bad for my weight loss. For instance, I can emphasize new cognitions such as “I exercise three times a week” or “I need calcium and dairy products” or “I had a small dinner,” etc. These new cognitions allow for the lessening of dissonance, as I now have multiple cognitions that say ice cream is okay, and only one, which says I shouldn’t eat it.

Finally, perhaps the most important way people deal with cognitive dissonance is to prevent it in the first place. If someone is presented with information that is dissonant from what they already know, the easiest way to deal with this new information is to ignore it, refuse to accept it, or simply avoid that type of information in general. Thus, a new study that says ice cream is more fattening than originally thought would be easily dealt with by ignoring it. Further, future problems can be prevented by simply avoiding that type of information — simply refusing to read studies on ice cream, health magazines, etc.

Cognitive dissonance is all around us. We live in a world full of contradictions. Children are killed in Gaza in the name of peace. Feminists wear makeup, short skirts and high heels. Conservationists like Al Gore fly around in private, fuel guzzling jets. Anti-gay Christians tap their feet in public bathroom stalls… these opposing ideologies are all resolved somehow, somewhere, deep in our human psyche with cognitive dissonance."

"What Is The Point?"

"What is the point? We assume that every time we do anything we know what the consequences will be, i.e., more or less what we intend them to be. This is not only not always correct. It is wildly, crazily, stupidly, cross-eyed-blithering-insectly wrong!"
- Douglas Adams,
 “The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide”

“Still Can’t Find That Pitchfork, Can You?”

How you'd expect informed, concerned Americans to act...
“Still Can’t Find That Pitchfork, Can You?”
by Karl Denninger

"Corporate balance sheets have never been in the condition they are now, but most of this is a fraud. Virtually all of the so-called “growth” has been in buybacks and (to a lesser extent) dividends. The problem with buybacks is that into ramping prices they are a terrible long-term deal. They make some sense in the depths of a crash, but of course nobody has the cash to do it during a crash.

When debt financed it’s even worse because history says that corporate debt is never paid off, only rolled over.  In point of fact non-financial companies did not decrease their total debt levels (as measured by the Fed Z1) even during the depth of the financial crisis of 2007-2009. This of course means that debt:equity levels go vertical as soon as the ramp in equity price stops.

I remind you that while buybacks increase earnings during good years (by reducing the divisor) they also increase losses during bad ones. People forget this because, well, there haven’t been any bad ones recently. That will end and when it does it will provide a gross amount of acceleration for the decline in equity prices. In fact, it’s not going to be gasoline poured on that fire, it’s going to a mixture of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate…. See Galveston for what will come of that.

But on top of this we now have the real screw job in the tax bill. Hedge fund managers will get a roughly $20-25 billion a year (that’s about $250 billion over the budget period) in additional tax breaks through the so-called “Carried Interest” loophole.

This is raw theft. This “loophole” is really no such thing. The capital gains rate exists for those who put their own capital on the line and risk it. If you manage someone else’s money then it’s their money at risk and you are performing a service. This is clearly a W2 employee or 1099-contractor act and thus is wage income. But, no, it’s not in the tax code due to gamesmanship and the so-called tax reform does not stop this. It would have been very simple to add the following to the tax code on capital gains: In order to take a capital gains tax rate your own personal capital must be at risk in the transaction.

Americans, except for the 0.01%, have every reason to find their pitchfork and use it over this. That particular provision, may I remind you, would almost close the gap in funding that the bill creates by repealing the “individual mandate.” The “individual mandate” is and always has been a fraud. But getting rid of one fraud only to enhance a second is not a net positive - at best it’s neutral and in this case it will cost-shift over $20 billion a year from working-class people to the ultra-rich with 8-digit+ annual incomes.

What’s worse is that the money-printing (by Treasury, which I remind you is where it all traces back to - always - not The Fed) will further destroy ordinary Americans when it comes to their so-called “zero inflation” lives. Asset price, medical and educational cost inflation will continue to advance and you cannot outrun the second and third with the first unless you are already in the 0.1%. While I remind you that the medical cost-ramp problem is one that I’ve analyzed now since the 1990s and my latest projection is just around the time of the 2020 elections this may in fact move the day forward by another year or so."

"$10 says not one American gets off their ass and finds
 their pitchfork over this act of raw theft.”
Americans react as expected... And so it is.
A Comment by Jim Quinn, “The Burning Platform: “I love Denninger’s ability to be outraged day after day and his continuous rage against the machine. I’ve lost that fire. After nine years of this, I’m burnt out. I no longer have that passion driving me. What will be will be.”
Me too, Jim, despite my best efforts, me too... nobody cares.

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Another Answer Came”

2002, “Another Answer Came

"When The Tidal Wave Hits"

"When The Tidal Wave Hits" 
by Jeff Nielson

"Disaster is nearly upon us. This has been a regular theme in these commentaries for several years. Increasingly, however, these warnings draw reactions of apathy rather than alarm. The fact that our house-of-cards economies (and societies) have not already unraveled does not mean that this was a false alarm. It means that disaster has gotten much more imminent.

When straight discourse fails to convey a message, writers typically resort to a metaphor. But which one? The phrase “the perfect storm” has been popularized in our culture. However, to an audience which perceives itself to be standing on dry land, that metaphor would likely fall flat.

A much more illuminating metaphor is the tidal wave. Readers who are warned that an economic crash is coming think to themselves, “I’ve seen an economic crash before.” That would be the Crash of ’08. Call that a once-in-a-generation event. They’ve heard of the Crash of ’29 and the Great Depression that followed. Call that a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The average person has a vague understanding of the Crash of ’08, but that was a very understated dress rehearsal of what is coming. Except for the most elderly members of our societies, we have no personal recollection at all of either the Crash of 29 or the Great Depression. Yet most people reading this will tell themselves they “understand” what is coming.

Now think about a tidal wave. People living on islands in the ocean or particularly exposed coastlines will have witnessed terrible storms – and the magnitude of the waves that such storms generate. Perhaps once in a generation they will witness a truly horrific storm and commensurately greater waves. Recorded history may describe once-in-a-century (or longer) “perfect storms”, supposedly producing the ultimate waves.

Residents of these islands and coastal areas prepare for terrible storms. Many will prepare for truly horrific storms. A few may even prepare for the perfect storm. But no one anticipates a tidal wave, a wave greater than anything that is possible, under normal circumstances. There is only one way to prepare for a tidal wave: escape to higher ground before the wave hits.

What evidence is there that an economic tidal wave is approaching – an event for which there is no historical precedent? We’re saturated with the evidence. We’re assaulted with the evidence. We’re drowning in the evidence.

Debt: There is no historical precedent for the endemic levels of debt which exist around most of the world, and which reach their sickening pinnacle in the West. Readers have been warned that a Debt Jubilee is coming.

Many nations now have levels of debt which could never be brought under control, let alone ever retired. If these nations were corporations they would have already been forced to declare bankruptcy. Instead, thanks to the fraud of the fiat-currency printing press, they delay those bankruptcies – through flooding our economies with their absolutely worthless paper.

Judging by the apathetic response to warnings of “Debt Jubilee”, apparently a mistaken impression has been created. Debt Jubilee: everyone’s debts are wiped clean. A cause for celebration, right? Wrong. Before we ever see a Debt Jubilee, we will see a level of economic pain which few people reading this can imagine. It will have to be a level of economic pain sufficient to cause our corrupt governments to collectively emancipate us from our current Debt Slavery .

Look at Greece. Look at the level of economic pain which has already been inflicted upon that population. Official unemployment is greater than 20%. Official youth unemployment is over 50%. The real numbers are significantly worse. Ninety percent of the unemployed are paid no unemployment insurance. The suicide rate in Greece has more than doubled. At one point, it increased by more than 40% in just five months. Greece and its citizens still have their Debt Slavery. Debt Jubilee is a necessity, but to get there we will likely have to live through a nightmare beyond comprehension.

Asset bubbles: We’ve all seen asset bubbles before, right? We’ve seen them pop. We understand what that means. Wrong. The number of asset bubbles which currently surround us and the magnitude of these bubbles is historically unprecedented. The rupturing of these bubbles will be an event for which there is no historical precedent.

Look at our interest rates! They have not simply been taken to the lowest levels in the entire history of our nations. They have been taken to these reckless levels and left there, permanently. Low interest rates fuel asset bubbles, the definition of “easy money.” The lowest interest rates in history, permanently frozen there by the criminal central banks, are rocket fuel for asset bubbles. What happens when these rockets run out of fuel – and start plummeting back toward Earth?

We don’t simply have the largest bond bubbles in history in the Western world. As already noted, all of these governments are bankrupt. Their bonds are not “overvalued”. They are worthless. Tens of trillions in supposed “assets” are about to go poof!

Then we have the stock market bubbles. People look at the bubbles in Western equity markets in absolute terms and think to themselves: they’re not that bad. Wrong. In typical stock market bubbles, back when we had at least semi-legitimate economies and semi-legitimate markets, valuations would get inflated during economic booms.

That’s not what we have been seeing for the last eight years. Since the Crash of ’08; Western economies have not “grown”. They have gotten sicker and sicker and sicker. In Europe, the scorched-earth policy known as Austerity has already reduced many of the Euro zone economies to rubble.

Those economies not already in ruin are experiencing faux prosperity. Even as poverty rates soar, the majorities in luckier nations still think they are “doing OK.” Wrong. While real wages continue to sink for the vast majority, their “prosperity” is derived from the illusory wealth contained in – wait for it – asset bubbles.

Yet for eight years, Western stock markets have been rising, not falling. In the U.S., markets have been rising rapidly, and now almost vertically. The reality-gap in our stock markets has never been greater, especially in the U.S. – greater even than before the Crash of ’29. There’s a reason why 86-year-old Warren Buffett has got $85 billion of his vampire-dollars sitting on the sideline.

Many readers will still be clinging to a false sense of security. They have their homes. For readers living in one of Canada’s or the U.S.’s extreme bubble-markets, most likely they look at their homes as being roughly equivalent to the Crown Jewels. Fool’s Gold. Eight years of the lowest interest rates in history. Eight years of the easiest money in history. Eight years of the lowest mortgage rates in history. And many Western real estate markets were already seriously inflated before that.

Never before have Western real estate valuations become so wildly inflated. Never before have we seen populations which were so cash-poor but (supposedly) land-rich. What happens when millions of these cash-poor people lose their jobs and become cash-poor to the point of desperation? They will all try to sell their homes, at the same time, in markets which were already in free-fall. The real estate bubbles will burst before the real job losses hit – job losses which will be collateral damage from all of these asset bubbles simultaneously bursting.

How low is low? Bubble markets like Vancouver and Toronto are quadruple any sort of rational valuation. That implies prices falling by 75% in those markets. However, in “crashes” markets always overshoot on the way down. Think 90% losses before a final bottom is in – whenever that might be.

The good news for readers living outside of the extreme bubble markets is that their land is not nearly as grossly overvalued. The bad news is that they will not be spared severe pain. The horrific crashes guaranteed for Toronto, Vancouver, and equivalent cities in the U.S. will severely depress all markets like a contagious disease. Those homeowners thinking they will be spared at least a 50% hair-cut are living in a Fool’s Paradise.

As all these asset bubbles all start to implode simultaneously, $10’s of trillions in illusory Western wealth will evaporate (not counting the $1.6+ quadrillion in the derivatives market which will also disintegrate). Any bonds you hold will be worthless. Any stocks you hold will (with rare exceptions) retain only a small fraction of their current price. Any real estate you hold will retain only a small fraction of its current price.

Our debts and our asset bubbles are only some of the economic diseases which are already far worse than at any other time in our history, far worse than at any other time."

This tidal wave metaphor is NOT as far fetched as you may be naturally
inclined to believe, as we'll all see, much sooner than later, tragically. - CP