Monday, September 25, 2017

Musical Interlude: 2002, “A Year And A Day”

2002, “A Year And A Day”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"What created this gigantic hole? The vast emission nebula N44 in our neighboring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud has a large, 250 light-year hole and astronomers are trying to figure out why. 
Click image for larger size.
One possibility is particle winds expelled by massive stars in the bubble's interior that are pushing out the glowing gas. This answer was found to be inconsistent with measured wind velocities, however. Another possibility is that the expanding shells of old supernovas have sculpted the unusual space cavern. An unexpected clue of hot X-ray emitting gas was recently been detected escaping the N44 superbubble. The featured image was taken in three very specific colors by the huge 8-meter Gemini South Telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile."

"Never Despair"

"Never Despair"
by Sam Smith

"Empires and cultures are not permanent and while thinking about the possibility that ours is collapsing may seem a dismal exercise it is far less so than enduring the frustrations, failures, damage and human casualties involved in constantly butting up against reality like a boozer who insists he is not drunk attempting to drive home. Peter Ustinov in 'Romanoff and Juliet' says at one point: "I'm an optimist: I know how bad the world is. You're a pessimist: you're always finding out." Or as GK Chesterton put it, "We must learn to love life without ever trusting it."

Happiness, courage and passion in a bad time can only be based on myth as long as reality does not intrude. Once it does, our indifference to it will serve us no better than it does the joy riding teenager whose assumption of immortality comes into contact with a tree. But this does not mean that one must live in despair. An ability to confront and transcend - rather than deny, adjust to, replace, recover from, or succumb to - the universe in which you find yourself is among the things that permits freedom and courage.

To view our times as decadent and dangerous, to mistrust the government, to imagine that those in power are not concerned with our best interests is not paranoid but perceptive; to be depressed, angry or confused about such things is not delusional but a sign of consciousness. Yet our culture suggests otherwise.

But if all this is true, then why not despair? The simple answer is this: despair is the suicide of imagination. Whatever reality presses upon us, there still remains the possibility of imagining something better, and in this dream remains the frontier of our humanity and its possibilities To despair is to voluntarily close a door that has not yet shut. The task is to bear knowledge without it destroying ourselves, to challenge the wrong without ending up on its casualty list. "You don't have to change the world," the writer Colman McCarthy has argued. "Just keep the world from changing you."

Oddly, those who instinctively understand this best are often those who seem to have the least reason to do so - survivors of abuse, oppression, and isolation who somehow discover not so much how to beat the odds, but how to wriggle around them. They have, without formal instruction, learned two of the most fundamental lessons of psychiatry and philosophy:

You are not responsible for that into which you were born.
You are responsible for doing something about it.

These individuals move through life like a skilled mariner in a storm rather than as a victim at a sacrifice. Relatively unburdened by pointless and debilitating guilt about the past, uninterested in the endless regurgitation of the unalterable, they free themselves to concentrate upon the present and the future. They face the gale as a sturdy combatant rather than as cowering supplicant."

"The Best Method..."

 Click image for larger size.

"When dealing with the insane,
the best method is to pretend to be sane."
- Hermann Hesse

Click image for larger size, which you may then 
fill in and frame if you're so inclined, as I did...
 - CP

"Fighting the Cowardice of Cynicism"

"Fighting the Cowardice of Cynicism"
by Maria Popova

“There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing,” Maya Angelou wrote in contemplating courage in the face of evil. In the decades since, cynicism has become a cultural currency as deadly as blood diamonds, as vacant of integrity and long-term payoff as Enron. Over the years, I have written about, spoken about, and even given a commencement address about the perilous laziness of cynicism and the ever-swelling urgency of not only resisting it but actively fighting it - defiance which Leonard Bernstein considered an essential countercultural act of courage.

Today, as our social and political realities swirl into barely bearable maelstroms of complexity, making a retreat into self-protective cynicism increasingly tempting, such courage is all the harder and all the more heroic. That’s what English writer Caitlin Moran examines in a stirring passage from "How to Build a Girl" (public library) - a novel that quenches questions springing from the same source as her insightful memoir-of-sorts "How To Be a Woman."

Moran writes: "When cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas. Cynicism means your automatic answer becomes “No.” Cynicism means you presume everything will end in disappointment. And this is, ultimately, why anyone becomes cynical. Because they are scared of disappointment. Because they are scared someone will take advantage of them. Because they are fearful their innocence will be used against them - that when they run around gleefully trying to cram the whole world in their mouth, someone will try to poison them."

In a sentiment that calls to mind Descartes’s abiding ideas about the relationship between fear and hope, Moran writes: "Cynicism is, ultimately, fear. Cynicism makes contact with your skin, and a thick black carapace begins to grow - like insect armor. This armor will protect your heart, from disappointment - but it leaves you almost unable to walk. You cannot dance in this armor. Cynicism keeps you pinned to the spot, in the same posture, forever."

A century and a half after Van Gogh reflected on fear and risk-taking, arguing that “however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth… steps in and does something,” Moran echoes Angelou and adds: "The deepest irony about the young being cynical is that they are the ones that need to move, and dance, and trust the most. They need to cartwheel though a freshly burst galaxy of still-forming but glowing ideas, never scared to say “Yes! Why not!” - or their generation’s culture will be nothing but the blandest, and most aggressive, or most defended of old tropes."

When people are cynical, and snarky, they shoot down their own future. When you keep saying “No,” all that’s left is what other people said “Yes” to before you were born. Really, “No” is no choice at all.

Complement with Rebecca Solnit on resisting the defeatism of easy despair, Jonathan Lear on radical hope, and Toni Morrison on rising above fear in troubled times."

The Daily "Near You?"

Ft. Worth, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"As Far As We Can Go..."

“The development of our cerebral cortex has been the greatest achievement of the evolutionary processes. Big deal. While allowing us the thrills of intellect or the pangs of self-consciousness, it is all too often overruled by our inner, instinctive brain - the one that tells us to react, not reflect, to run, rather than ruminate. Maybe we have gone as far as we can go and the next advance, whatever that may be, will be made by beings we create ourselves, using our own technology. Life forms we can design and program not to be ultimately governed and constricted by the rules of survival. Or perhaps that step forward had already been achieved on another planet by organisms that had a billion years head start on us. If these beings ever visited us, would we recognize what we were seeing? And upon catching sight of us, would they react in anything but horror at seeing such mindless, primitive, hideous creatures?”
- “Fox Mulder,” "The X-Files"

X22 Report, “Russia Is Now Calling On The US To Leave Syria”

X22 Report, “Russia Is Now Calling On The US To Leave Syria”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “The Economic Mirage That The Central Bank Created Is Disappearing”

"On Your Own Terms..."

"If the sun is shining, stand in it- yes, yes, yes. Happy times are great, but happy times pass- they have to- because time passes. The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal-centered. What you are pursuing is meaning- a meaningful life... There are times when it will go so wrong that you will be barely alive, and times when you realize that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else's terms."
- Jeanette Winterson

"Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia"

"Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia"
by Moon of Alabama

"Yesterday three high ranking Russian officers were killed in an "ISIS attack" in eastern-Syrian. It is likely that they were killed by U.S. special forces or insurgents under U.S. special forces control. The incident will be understood as a declaration of war.

The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East wants the oil fields in east-Syria under control of its proxy forces to set up and control a U.S. aligned Kurdish mini-state in the area. The Syrian government, allied with Russia, needs the revenues of the oil fields to rebuild the country.
Click image for larger size.
Last week the Russians issued sharply worded statements against U.S. coordination with al-Qaeda terrorists in Idleb province and warned of further escalation.

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State: "US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement. “Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads. The newly released images “clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.” “Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

This map marks the currently relevant conflict area - (U.S. proxies - yellow, SAA - red, ISIS - black):
Click image for larger size.
The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern-Syria. U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made. As we wrote: "The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. Just like during the "Anbar Awaking" in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game. The local criminal Ahmad Abu Khawla, who had earlier fought for ISIS, was suddenly installed as commander of a newly invented "Deir Ezzor Military Council", set up under U.S. special force control."

Last night a Russian three-star general and two colonels were killed in a mortar attack while they visited a Syrian army headquarter in Deir Ezzor: "Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, of the Russian armed forces, has been killed after coming under shelling from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced. In its statement, the ministry said that Asapov was at a command outpost manned by Syrian troops, assisting commanders in the liberation of the city of Deir ez-Zor. Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov is the highest-ranking Russian officer to be killed in the Syrian campaign. He was a commander of the 5th Army in Russia’s Eastern Military District, one of the four strategic commands in the Russian Armed Forces. The army is based in Russia’s Far East, in the city of Ussuriysk, some 98 km (61 miles) from Vladivostok."

For three years ISIS had besieged Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor city and its airport. It had not once managed to successfully attack the Syrian headquarter or to kill high ranking officers. Now, as U.S. proxy forces "advised" by U.S. special forces, have taken position north of Deir Ezzor, "ISIS" suddenly has the intelligence data and precision mortar capabilities to kill a bunch of visiting Russian officers? That is not plausible. No one in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran or Moscow will believe that.

The Russian military, as usual, reacts calmly and officially attributes the attack to ISIS. Doing so avoids pressure to immediately react to the attack. (The U.S. will falsely interpret this as a face-saving Russian retreat.)  But no one in Moscow will believe that the incident is independent of other recent maneuvers by the U.S. forces and independent of the earlier accusations the Russian military made against the U.S. forces.

Nominally the U.S. and Russia are both in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Russian troops are legitimately there, having been invited by the Syrian government. The U.S. forces have no legal justification for their presence. So far open hostilities between the two sides had been avoided. But as the U.S. now obviously sets out to split Syria apart, openly cooperates with terrorists and does not even refrain from killing Russian officers, the gloves will have to come off.

U.S. Central Command has declared war on the Russian contingent in Syria. A high ranking Russian general was killed. This inevitably requires a reaction. The response does not necessarily have to come from Russian forces.  Moscow has many capable allies in the area. The response does not necessarily have to come in Syria.

"Accidents" and "incidents", like an "ISIS mortar attacks", or unintentional bombing of troop concentration of the other side, can happen on both sides of the front. Cars can blow up, bridges can collapse. Any U.S. officer or civilian official in the larger Middle East should be aware that they too are now targets."

"How It Really Is"

"#Take the Knee”

"#Take the Knee”
by James Howard Kunstler

There’s a lot to complain about in this deranged republic - if it even still is one - but the burdens of being a multimillionaire football player would not be at the top of my list. Personally, I find it a little peculiar that we have to play the national anthem before any sporting event. All it really shows is how insecure we are as a nation that we have to display our love of country in this obsessive manner. Same with congressmen and their stupid flag lapel pins, or the flag in front of Denny’s chain restaurants. Are eaters of the “lumberjack slam” so disoriented when they leave the place that they need to be reminded what country they’re in? “Oh, look hon, we're in the USA after all…”

What burns my ass is seeing baseball players in camo uniforms, as if they were an extension of the US military. What’s up with that? Is San Diego suddenly a theater of war? And why do US soldiers need to wear camo uniforms when shopping for eyeglasses? There used to be a distinction between battle dress and what you wore the rest of the time, even during a world war. And why on earth is it necessary to fly Air Force fighter jets over the stadium before the Super Bowl? Who authorizes the spend for that? Who are we trying to scare?

Of course, this new gale of ill-feeling stirred up by our intemperate president, the Golden Golem of Greatness, is driven by the oceanic currents of racial animus that are drowning the country more ruinously than the recent spate of hurricanes. The #Take the Knee campaign was already there, and getting hotter, even before Mr. Trump chimed in. At least he didn’t issue the usual sort of vapid nostrum about “diversity” and all of us getting along. In his blunt, blundering way, he may force the nation to clarify exactly what the beef is.

Surely it’s not about the woes of professional athletes. They are representing the grievances of a different realm in black America, perhaps the places they came from, the city ghettos or the rural backwaters of Dixieland, or maybe even boring black suburbs like Prince George County, Maryland. And the lingering question, to be equally blunt, is: how much is non-black America keeping black America down?

I say non-black because there are plenty of other ethnic groups in the mix besides the dwindling majority of “white folks.” I daresay there is as much, perhaps more real animus between Asian-Americans and black Americans than between white and black. But Asian-Americans did not enslave black Africans, so they’re off-the-hook for that original sin.

Mostly what Asian newcomers do is demonstrate that it’s possible to succeed economically and educationally in this country even if you start out with a culture and language completely alien to American ways. This is especially noticeable in places of exacting achievement like Silicon Valley. If anything, Asians complain that they do so well in school that the universities have to tamp down their admission numbers to give other ethnic groups a chance.

There seems to be so much psychological displacement in the feelings between black and white America that it is next to impossible to sort out what to do next. White Dem-Progs (formerly “liberals”) appear to be so consumed with anxious consternation over the outcome of the long civil rights struggle that they are ready to commit a sort of hara-kiri to atone for their unforgivable cis-whiteness. To some extent, they have attempted to compensate by campaigning for an ever-growing list of other “marginalized” groups in the hopes of showing some positive results for social change - it’s just easier to get significant numbers of homosexuals into the corporate executive suites than to get blacks in there - but the Dem-Progs are still left with the grinding reality of a large, dysfunctional black underclass. They certainly can’t admit that their own contrived “remedies,” such as subsidizing out-of-wedlock births, has anything to do with it, or the devastating effect of “Multiculturalism” on some sort of unifying common culture based on values that everybody can agree on.

Similarly, black America displaces their oppositionality to whatever remains of a national common culture into the memes of “systemic racism and injustice.” It has evolved insidiously in their own culture since the 1960s, probably (I believe) as a reaction to the anxiety provoked by the civil rights legislation of 1964-65. It’s really about behavior, especially in school. Are you interested in speaking English? Believe me, that would help a lot in this society. Consider this: Ella Fitzgerald was not singing black or white back in the day. She was just singing.”

"Honor..."

"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?"
- William J. Bennett

"Disrespecting The National Anthem And The American Flag Are Not Legitimate Forms Of Political Protest"

"Disrespecting The National Anthem And The American Flag 
Are Not Legitimate Forms Of Political Protest"
by Michael Snyder

"This is going to backfire on the left in a major way. On Sunday, more than a hundred NFL players knelt during the playing of the national anthem. It was obviously an attempt to make some sort of public statement about President Trump, but it was an exceedingly poor way to go about doing that. Because our young people are not even taught about the importance of our national anthem and our national flag in school, most of these players didn’t even understand what they were doing. Our anthem is sung and our flag is proudly displayed prior to major sporting events for a reason. The truth is that our national anthem and our national flag are both symbols that directly represent our nation. In other words, when you show disrespect to the anthem or to the flag you are literally showing disrespect to the United States of America. So what these players did on Sunday was essentially to spit in the face of every single American citizen.

This is not just an American thing. All over the world it is well understood that respect for the national flag and other national symbols is not optional. What transpired at NFL games on Sunday will be broadcast all over the planet, and the rest of the world will be laughing at our national disgrace.

The very first NFL game scheduled on Sunday was held in London, and “dozens of players from both teams” knelt while the national anthem was being played: "The first game of the day between the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars saw dozens of players from both teams kneel while almost the entire Jaguars’ on-field and sideline players and employees locked arms during the U.S. national anthem, including owner Shahid Khan. Some players stood while others knelt."

And of course similar “sideline protests” happened at other NFL stadiums all over the nation. Never before in American history have we ever seen anything quite like this: "Demonstrations spread throughout the league as many players broke out of their routine by joining the protests or engaging in team-wide displays of unity. Several players from the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons were among those who chose not to stand for the anthem. The Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay Packers stood with arms locked, though some players from those teams chose to kneel."

I honestly don’t think that the NFL will ever be the same after this. It had already been transformed into the “no fun league”, and now the focus will squarely be on political protests rather than football for the foreseeable future.

Needless to say, millions upon millions of Americans were completely disgusted by the disrespect shown to our national symbols on Sunday, and President Trump was one of them: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect …,” Trump said in tweets Saturday afternoon. “Our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

If professional football players want to speak out against President Trump, I have no problem with that whatsoever. But for them to openly and brazenly disrespect our entire country is crossing a line that should never be crossed.

What in the world has happened to America? All over America high school football coaches are being banned from saying prayers before games, and yet disrespecting our anthem and our flag is somehow acceptable? The following comes from Zero Hedge: "Marc Short, the president’s legislative director, has also backed his boss, telling “Meet the Press” that a double standard for players who chose to voice their views on the field, and that the president was speaking for the majority of Americans on what sort of expression was appropriate. Short compared a crackdown on protests to the ban on high school football coaches leading players in prayer before games.

“There are high school coaches across America today who are punished for leading their players in prayer, and yet, when an N.F.L. player takes a knee, somehow that player is presumed to be a martyr for a social cause,” Mr. Short said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The president is standing with the vast majority of Americans who believe that our flag should be respected.”

Many of these players are going to look back on what they have done with great shame. They may have believed that they were disrespecting President Trump, but the truth is that they were disrespecting this great land and every single American that has ever lived. They owe all of us an apology, and that should happen as soon as possible.

And the NFL may think that it is all powerful, but stunts like this are going to cost it millions upon millions of dollars. Already, ratings were way down because of the few players that were kneeling whenever the anthem was played. Player protests of the National Anthem – such as when quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest – are the number one reason sports fans watched fewer National Football League (NFL) games, a new survey shows. If just a few players kneeling had that much of an impact on the ratings, what do you think is going to happen now?

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning. In fact, one former Democratic member of Congress is calling on all NFL players to kneel while the anthem is played: "A former Democrat Congresswoman has called for every NFL player to kneel during the national anthem at Sunday’s games, while branding President Donald Trump a ‘white supremacist’. Donna Edwards, who retired as a US representative for Maryland earlier this year, issued the bold statement on Saturday, responding to Trump’s criticism of NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem. ‘On Sunday, I hope every @NFL player takes a knee in solidarity w [Colin Kaepernick] against the white supremacist who squats in our White House,’ Edwards said in reference to the former San Francisco quarterback, who is now a free agent."

No matter what your political perspective is, it is wrong to disrespect our national anthem and it is wrong to disrespect our flag. And anyone that disrespects our anthem and our flag is spitting in the face of the entire country. What happened on Sunday was a national disgrace, and those involved need to apologize to the American people immediately.”

“Tire Tyranny”

“Tire Tyranny”
by Eric Peters

"If you’ve gone to get new tires recently, you may have already dealt with the latest outcropping of technocratic busybodyism: The scanning of your car’s electronic ear tag, its Vehicle Identification Number or VIN. The VIN is a bar code – literally – just like the one on the packages of stuff you buy at the supermarket or anywhere else that’s corporate. The VIN specifically identifies your car – including every last detail about it, such as the engine/transmission it came with, the color it was painted and the tires it came equipped with from the factory.

And now it is being used to identify youThis time, not by Uncle. By private companies, following Uncle’s example. To track you, control you – and even dun you. Here’s how: You visit the tire shop to buy a new set. Used to be that you’d either tell the guy behind the counter which tires you wanted or discuss options with him. Then you’d buy them and he’d install them. Now the guy behind the counter will scan your car’s VIN – which is tied to the DMV – and first find out all kinds of things about you and your car. Then he will tell you which tires you’re allowed to buy. Yes, really.

If your car originally came equipped with tires that carried a V speed rating – the “V” indicating rated for sustained travel at speeds up to 149 MPH – but you’ve decided you’d like to buy less aggressive (and less expensive) tires with an H rating – the “H” indicating rated safe for sustained travel at sustained speeds up to 130 MPH – the Tire Nazi will not allow it.
Or perhaps you’d like to go up a size – or down – for whatever reason of your own. After all, it is your car – and you’re buying the tires. In neither case is any of this necessarily “unsafe” – although that will be the claim.

In the case of speed ratings, they are based on sustained speeds.  It is an important distinction. Thus, a V rated tire can safely handle sustained speeds up to 149 MPH. But it is not dangerous to briefly exceed 149 MPH. The tire isn’t going to shred – unless you operate at sustained speeds in excess of the rated maximum.

Question: How often do you travel at the sustained speeds for which your tire is rated? How about in excess of the rated speed? For how long? In the United States, the fastest allowable highway speed is 85 MPH – in a few rural parts of Texas. In most of the rest of the country, 70-75 is the maximum allowed and while driving faster is common, driving appreciably faster than 90 more than briefly isn’t.

A Q-rated tire (safe operation at sustained speeds up to 100 MPH) or R (106 MPH) pretty much covers that – and a tire with an S (112 MPH) or T (118 MPH) rating more than covers it, with a margin to spare.
In the United States, high-speed tires with ratings of “H” (130 MPH, sustained) or higher are functional overkill unless you actually do drive at sustained speeds at or near their rated maximums. If not, then you can save money by purchasing less aggressive tires – which also usually last longer and ride a bit softer – without compromising the safety of your vehicle.

Except for the VIN Thing. The tire guy knows and will screech saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety but in actuality it’s about selling you the more expensive tires. He’ll also fall back on the Liability Excuse; if he sells you an H rated tire but your car came with V rated tires and you drive at sustained speeds in excess of the H rated tire’s capabilities but at speeds your car is theoretically capable of reaching and you wreck – well, you might sue.

Which you might – if you’re that sort of person. But first the tire would actually have to fail and for that to happen, you’d have to operate at sustained speeds in excess of the rated capacity to deal with them. Good luck with that – even assuming you had the desire to try. If there is a place in the USSA that isn’t a race track where one can operate at sustained speeds in excess of even 100 MPH (let alone 130) I would love to know where.

But it’s not just about tires and up-selling you expensive ones. The VIN ties into the government database at the DMV and via this conduit, the tire shop now has access to the information about your car – and so, about you – that the DMV has. They know the miles you drive each year, when you last got the car inspected for “safety” and smog checked and where you live and – probably – what other cars you own, too. They may even be aware of your ticket rap sheet as well. Part of this is legitimate or at least provides the needed excuse for it.

All modern cars are complex and integrated wholes. When a shop orders a part, it needs to know exactly which part. It has to be precisely specific to the car being worked on. If not, something might not work properly. It is not as it was in the past, when parts were more generic and mostly what mattered was whether a given part would physically bolt up. If it did, it would usually work. Now it must also be compatible with the computer and the coding unique to your particular car’s combination of components, options and equipment. There are also numerous running changes made during a car model’s life cycle and keeping track of these is almost impossible.

The VIN is thus like a DNA sample – it contains detailed data about...everything. Which isn’t the problem. The problem is who controls access to that information. If it’s no longer you – if you are compelled to provide it to others – then is the car really yours? In a way, these VIN “draws” are not unlike the blood draws now being performed against people’s will by armed government workers. The difference – if it amounts to much – is that for now, it is still your right to refuse and take your business elsewhere. But where elsewhere? When they’re all doing the same thing?

Corporations can be – and are becoming – just as creepily coercive as Uncle, having learned at his knee. Viz: Banks that not only demand you show them your ID but insist you hand it over to so that the clerk can write down numbers and other such, before they will allow you to withdraw money from your account. Drug stores that require you to submit to a degrading interrogation process that presumes you’re a meth dealer before they will permit you to purchase cough syrup.

And now, tire tyranny too. Your VIN, please."

"How It Really Should Be"

"A Bitter Winter for US Stocks"

"A Bitter Winter for US Stocks"
by Bill Bonner

"It’s autumn already. A heavy fog covers the farm this morning, the first this year. September can be beautiful here. Not yet cold. But no longer hot. The grass is green, and the sky is clear. Then, in the evening, the horizontal sun filters through the golden leaves and the whole place lights up.

Giving up the fight: Friday, Toys ‘R’ Us went broke. The story is being widely discussed this morning, with the usual mainstream analysts telling us that the bankruptcy was ‘expected’ and that the brick-and-mortar toy retailer was just ‘another victim of Amazon.com’. That is not untrue. But there is an important nuance…

Artificially low interest rates allowed Wall Street hustlers - notably Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, an investor in Toys ‘R’ Us - to borrow heavily against the company. Apparently, Bain didn’t use this money to build a better Toys ‘R’ Us - strengthening its online presence to compete with Amazon, for example. More likely, it used it as the Wall Street players always do: to pay themselves off. Bonuses, fees, dividends - typically, the private-equity suits take the capital out of capitalism. They move it from the Main Street economy to the financial economy…leaving the poor retailer to struggle to survive. Toys ‘R’ Us gave up the fight yesterday.

Great unwind: This returns us to our promised theme…the Bonner Doctrine…connecting the dots to make sense of the blur we all see. We begin by coming back to Wednesday’s news. That was when Fed chief Janet Yellen confirmed the central bank’s plan to begin lightening its balance sheet. After an eight-year buying spree of government bonds that ballooned the size of its balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.5 trillion, the Fed now says it’s going to go the other direction. It has announced it will shrink its balance sheet at a rate of about $10 billion a month, working up to $50 billion a month next year. If this is true, it represents the biggest turnaround in the history of finance. From the biggest bid holding up the bond market, the Fed is about to turn into the biggest ask pushing it down.

So let’s get this straight. The Fed created $3.6 trillion in new money, and pumped it into the financial markets to buy bonds. (Lowering interest rates, stiffing savers, and making it possible for Toys ‘R’ Us, and many others, to borrow heavily.) This money was apparently responsible for the bull market on Wall Street, boosting the Dow threefold.

It also made it possible for the federal government to add $10 trillion in debt over the last 10 years. Politicians did not have to make any tough choices or difficult compromises; they just had to borrow at the low rates the Fed was creating. And now, after so many years of ultra-low interest rates…and easy credit from the Fed… the whole thing is going into reverse.

Grotesque, monstrous, abominable: Is that right? Instead of acquiring more bonds, the Fed is going to say goodbye to those it already owns. Instead of increasing liquidity in the financial markets, it’s going to decrease it. Instead of quantitative easing, we’ll have quantitative tightening. Wouldn’t it be sensible to expect, therefore, that the effects on the markets would reverse, too? Shouldn’t the ‘yes’ from willing lenders turn into a flat ‘no’? Instead of tripling stock prices, wouldn’t this cut them down to one-third of today’s level? After dropping interest rates to the lowest levels in 5,000 years, shouldn’t they go up?

And instead of a Toys ‘R’ Us economy that depends on fake money lent at fake rates to keep its head above water, shouldn’t the whole goofy system sink?

Isn’t this a major change of seasons, with the bountiful summer that investors have enjoyed since the early 1980s - with the warm central bank breezes from all over the world adding $20 trillion to the planet’s money base - turning into a bitter winter of blustery winds and falling prices?

Yes, dear reader. That’s exactly what you should expect. Get out your winter coat. But as always, there’s more to the story. Do you believe the Fed will follow through with its promise? We don’t. Instead, what we expect is that the Fed will begin its ‘normalization’. Then, at any time, all hell could break loose, with stocks crashing and dozens of Toys ‘R’ Us-style bankruptcies. The authorities will not stay the course. They will run the other way, toward less normalization, and toward the most grotesque, monstrous, and abominable economy the US has ever seen.

What is ‘fake money’? But let us return to the Bonner Doctrine as proposed by a dear reader in last Friday’s Diary. Perhaps you will see flaws we missed. We will also address a question posed by another dear reader: ‘What is fake money?’

You don’t get something for nothing. A prosperous economy requires real work, real sacrifice (savings), and real investment.
Real money represents real things - especially time. Real things are limited. Real money must be limited, too. If not, it is fake.
Real money is earned by real people who produce goods and services of real value. Fake money is conjured up and controlled by insiders in the financial sector, and it is made available at preferential rates to other large Establishment players. Government (or, more broadly, the Deep State), big business, and Wall Street are the main beneficiaries.
Since 1971, the US has had fake money (not attached to gold). This has been the reserve currency of the entire world financial system. This has misled investors, voters, consumers, and businesses. It causes them to believe things that aren’t true - that they have almost unlimited credit, for example, that they can afford an expensive empire overseas and a costly welfare state at home, or that they can run up debts and grow their way out of them.
As more and more of the nation’s resources are captured by fake money and directed into unproductive uses - consumption, bad investments, government, war, paperwork, and regulatory compliance - GDP growth, ‘real’ (inflation-adjusted) wage growth, productivity growth, and other markers of genuine prosperity decline.
All ‘wealth’ created by fake money is fraudulent and/or temporary. Look for it to go back whence it came.

Thinning credit: That is the background economic-monetary outlook. We are in our fourth decade of the fake-money system. And its distortions and corruptions are now catching up to us. It is a system that runs on credit, not on wealth. But the world’s credit is getting thin. Total world credit now exceeds $230 trillion, with about $60 trillion added since the debt crisis of 2008. Since the output of the world is not enough to carry these debts - not to mention the promises made to future retirees* - they will have to be offloaded, one way or another, either by bankruptcy (deflation) or more money printing (inflation).

That is the story we’ve been following for the last 18 years. Meanwhile, there is also politics. It has wound itself about the economy’s neck like a python suffocating a jogger. More on that tomorrow.”

"When This All Blows Up..."

"When This All Blows Up..."
by Chris Martenson 

"This report marks the end of a series of three big trains of thought. The first explained how we’re living through the Mother Of All Financial Bubbles. The next detailed the Great Wealth Transfer that is now underway, siphoning our wealth into the pockets of an elite few. This concluding report predicts how these deleterious and unsustainable trends will inevitably ‘resolve’ (which is a pleasant way of saying ‘blow up’.)

The Ka-POOM Theory: In terms how this will all end, we favor the scenario put forth by Eric Janszen in 1998 called the Ka-POOM theoryThis theory rests on the belief that the Federal Reserve along with the other world central banks looked at Japan's several decades of economic stagnation and decided that deflationary recessions are to be avoided at all costs- even if that means blowing asset bubbles and then cleaning up the destruction left behind in their aftermath.

Because the Fed, et al. have a limited playbook (which is: print, and then print some more), the Ka-POOM model calls for limited periods of disinflation, followed by massive money printing sprees that then produce high inflation. Despite the trillions and trillions in thin-air money printed by the world's central banks over the past 8 years, a common rebuttal we hear is “But there’s been no inflation so far!” To which I reply, “Yes, that’s what we're being told. But that's not actually true.”

Remember: inflation is simply “too much money chasing too few goods.”  We can detect today's excess of money in the rising prices in our cost of living- but those higher prices are symptoms, not causes. Inflation is not "higher prices". Inflation is "too much money".

Next, inflation is not an evenly-distributed event. It’s not like the price of everything rises 10% at the same time. The inflation rate is an average, which contains some prices going up, while others stay flat or even go down going down. It’s always a lumpy experience. The reason why is that money is not evenly distributed across the economy, and it doesn't always chase (or desire) the same things.

So the Fed and other central banks have printed up trillions and trillions of dollars, euros and yen, which they then essentially handed over to the financial markets and the very few people who work within them (as well as their biggest clients). As a direct consequence, we’ve seen enormous inflation in the prices of things that relate to that tiny universe of people– stocks, bonds, trophy city apartments, Gulfstream 5 jets, fine art, and rare gems. 

These items have all gotten massively more expensive over the past decade. Just as would have happened if the Fed had printed up a trillion dollars and given them everyone living in a trailer park in the American South, with the restriction that the money could only be used to buy other trailers in the region. Do you have any doubt that the price of trailers in the South wouldn't explode upwards?

Well, that’s exactly analogous to what has happened to financial and trophy assets. The amount of money created and poured into the financial markets by that central banks has been incredibly enormous. As a first-order event, it raised the prices of nearly all financial assets. And then, as a second-order derivative, it then flowed into the properties and cherished possessions of the financial industry insiders. 

The summary is that we’ve already had lots of inflation– but it has (so far) been mostly contained to the areas where the freshly-printed money was first directed. No surprise there. But it's certainly not only been limited to the rarified items the rich enjoy. Anyone who is currently looking to purchase a home, car or college education has a pretty good idea how prices have jumped substantially over the past decade.

Here’s the thing about the attempts by central banks to circumvent the workings of the actual economy by simply printing up money: It is doomed to fail. It always does; one cannot simply 'print up' prosperity.  Printing up money merely creates the illusion of free wealth for those with first access to it. In reality, what happens is that it secretly transfers the wealth from everyone else to those lucky few. 

The Fed and the rest of the central banking cartel are consciously and very pointedly picking winners and losers. It’s not in their power to make everyone a winner. So they have decided to throwing granny (and savers and pensions) under the bus while financial elites and well-connected speculators (e.g. JP Morgan and other large banks) extremely wealthy in the process. Wealth is being transferred from Parties B-Z to Party A – from the many to the few.

What the Fed promised would happen along with all of this money printing has not materialized. There has been no return to rapid economic growth. And there won't be, because we have massive structural problems in our economy that can't be papered over forever.

This stark fact makes the Fed's entire money printing misadventure not just pointless, but dangerously destabilizing from a social and political perspective. The world's central banks, especially the Fed, have done an enormous amount of damage. These institutions, as well as the decision-makers within them, are going to have a heck of lot to answer for when the inevitable crack-up comes.

A Quick Re-Cap: And so here we find ourselves, at the final torturous, grinding part where the final bubble top is formed. The über-bubble. The Greatest Of Them All. A bubble this spectacular requires a top worthy of its size. A long, massive top, full of increasing exuberance- until the very last investor is sucked in. 

Where I’ve noted humans’ remarkably silly behavior during bubble episodes in the past– tulip bulbs, railroads, swampland - I still struggle to understand or even explain this one. It’s so obvious at this point. And yet, like its brethren bubbles of the past, a lot of otherwise thoughtful and careful people are getting sucked in by its siren song.

I guess the best economic description of it might be “a credit bubble” with sub-components like sovereign and household debt, and sub-sub-components like Toronto real estate and the IPO price for SNAP shares (that’s Snapchat, which soon after its launch, had a valuation of $40 billion. This mind you, is a company that has no identifiable revenue model).

A credit bubble occurs when the issuance of credit grows faster than income supporting it. Here’s what that looks like on a national scale for the US. The bottom red line is income (GDP) and the top blue line is Total Debt. We can see that debt has been growing at twice the rate of GDP since 1970:
You have to be quite delusional to think that debt can be compound at twice the rate of income forever. Unfortunately, there are more than a few of those ungrounded optimists working in central banks and governments the world over. Their thinking is simply, The sky’s the limit! 

Those of us living in reality find this mindset puerile and insulting. And, of course, dangerously reckless. And it’s also maddening to hear the media cheerleaders for Wall Street selling us this bunk as if it were somehow sensible. It is not.

Look, millions- likely billions- of people are at risk of getting badly hurt. When this bubble blows, it’s going to be enormously destructive and take out a lot of wealth along the way. Millions of jobs will be destroyed. What people think of as wealth will evaporate as though it never existed in the first place (it didn’t). Political dynasties and major financial institutions will be ruined. As I wrote recently, this will be widely and popularly referred to a period of wealth destruction. It will feel that way to must, but it will be actually be a period of wealth transfer. 

The summary here is this: We are still printing and borrowing enormous amounts of money and credit, but the world is not growing any larger in response.  The pressure is building.  Nobody knows when all of that money and credit will have to be 'trued up' against the amount of real stuff out there. But it will. History shows us that it always does. And that moment will be referred to by most as a period of wealth destruction. 401ks will be shredded, bonds will become worthless, defaults will spike, institutions and entire countries will fail- but the truth is that all of that paper 'wealth' was an illusion. People's faith in it had been betrayed long before, when those in power started abusing the system by creating too many tertiary claims.

After the dust settles, there will be winners and losers, and those with the proper framework will understand that what actually happened was that all of the wealth was transferred from those who thought they owned it, to those who actually did. The biggest remaining question is whether the wealth transfer comes about in the form of an inflationary destruction, like in Venezuela today, or as a deflationary bust more in the fashion of Greece. (Source)

The only thing that capable of preventing this coming carnage would a resumption of rapid economic growth. And I mean growth that exceeds the rate of debt creation. But that's simply not going to happen. 

The Problem With Growth: We can dispense with the idea of “solving” our too-much-debt problem by a resumption of rapid economic growth either by deduction or observation.  Both work just as well on their own, but each tells a similar story in this case. 

The deductive route notes that economic growth stimulated by ever-higher amounts of borrowing simply requires greater and greater debt loads to accomplish.  Eventually debt levels simply become too high, and pinch off growth. We can also deduce that because economic growth is tightly linked to energy consumption, lower amounts of usable energy flowing through an economy will cause that economy to stall out as well. Because we know that both the quantity as well as the net yield we get from our energy-producing activities are flattening, this explains why GDP growth is flattening too.

Thus, from a deductive standpoint, combining what we know about high levels of debt and flattening energy returns energy there’s really no more room for confusion about why GDP growth is, and will remain, anemic (at best).

Observationally, we now have more than a full decade of sub-par (i.e., ‘too low’) world GDP growth: 
Notice that the last year of data, 2016, is coming in at the lowest reading since the Great Recession, while the next two years are estimated to also come in at less than 3%. The world hasn’t averaged 3% GDP growth in a decade. Even the mighty US has gone more than ten straight years without breaking into the 3% range. 

We have to ask: How many years does it take to finally admit that there’s something seriously wrong with our hopeful story line that robust growth is going to save our debt-ridden bacon?

Just for the record, things are not shaping up any better here in 2017 either… "Atlanta Fed GDPNow model predicts 1.2% 1Q17 growth." And, just for kicks, we might also note that the GDP forecasting agencies of the world have consistent in over-estimating future growth. Of course, this doesn't deter them from continuing to predicting higher future growth each year. As a case in point, here are the IMF's predictions for world growth over the past 6 years:
Each of those colored lines is a forecast.  Each of them foresaw growth going notably higher in the near future. Not only was every one of them utterly wrong in direction, each failed at getting even the next quarter anywhere close to right.  See how none of those lines ever dips below 3%?  See in the prior chart how global growth never breached 3% in any of these same plotted years?

For a variety of reasons, with aging demographics being a huge factor, future growth in the OECD countries must slow: 
My ‘prediction’ is that these projections will turn out to be far too high. Mainly because I include declining net energy in my views and no mainstream economist ever does. But the track records of these outfits shows that taking the ‘under’ side of the over/under bet offers incredibly safe odds.

At any rate, the main story here is that the only way we can begin to justify the astronomical levels of debt currently on the books, let alone slathering on new tranches just to keep the whole thing form imploding, is to have a story of endless, rapid future economic growth. Which is, we've already shown, a delusional fantasy.

Stagnating growth, ever more trillions of debt, and a finite amount of depleting net energy all adds up to an unsustainable mess. With asset price bubbles everywhere and wealth transfer mechanisms already in place, the end-game involves a very few winners and a lot of losers.

Anything that is this unsustainable will someday end. But how? First, a punishing crash in prices as natural market forces eventually overwhelm the Fed's doomed efforts to print the world to prosperity. Think of the 2008 crash, but on steroids. Then will come the inevitable response from the central banking cartel: Set the printing machines on maximum speed! While this may seem to work for a brief while, it will soon collapse the world's currencies in a hyperinflationary deluge."