Original & Snatched
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Behind the Curtain.
“Search for nothing anymore, nothing
Be very still and try to get at the truth.
And the first question to ask yourself is:
How great a liar am I?
– D. H. Lawrence, Search For Truth
Like existential freedom, honesty and truth-seeking demand a perpetually renewed commitment. No one ever fully arrives, and all of us are blown off course on the journey. Even when we think we have reached our destination, we are often startled by the enigma of arrival, and must set sail again. We are all in the same boat. The search for truth is a process, an experiment, an essay – a trying without end.
Yet surely it is not an exaggeration to say that most people are liars and self-deceivers. Honesty, while touted as a virtue, is practiced far less than it is praised. There is almost nothing that people are less honest about than their attitudes toward honesty. Few think of themselves as dishonest, and even to hint that someone is so is received as a great insult that usually elicits an angry response. So most people follow the advice of the character Jean-Baptiste Clamence from Albert Camus’ The Fall: “promise to tell the truth and then lie as best you can.” In that way you satisfy your own and others’ secret desires for deception and play-acting, and other people will love you for it.
However, it is widely accepted that political leaders and the mass media lie and dissemble regularly, which, of course, they do. That is their job in an oligarchy. Today we are subjected to almost total, unrelenting media and government propaganda. Depending on their political leanings, people direct their anger toward politicians of parties they oppose and media they believe slant their coverage to favor the opposition. Trump is a liar. No, Obama is a liar. And Hillary Clinton. No, Fox News. Ridiculous! – it’s CNN or NBC. And so on and so forth in this theatre of the absurd that plays out within a megaplex of mainstream media (MSM) propaganda, where there are many shows but one producer, whose overall aim is to engineer the consent of all who enter while setting the different audiences against each other. It is a very successful charade that evokes name-calling from all quarters.
In other words, for many people their opponents lie, as do other people, but not them. This is as true in personal as well as public life. Here the personal and the political converge, despite protestations to the contrary.
Sartre and Bad Faith
Lying and dissembling are ubiquitous. Being lied to by the MSM is mirrored in people’s personal lives. People lie and want to be deceived. They choose to play dumb, to avoid a confrontation with truth. They want to be nice (Latin, nescire, not to know, to be ignorant) and to be liked. They want to tuck themselves into a safe social and cultural framework where they imagine they will be safe. They choose to live in what Jean Paul Sartre called bad faith (mauvaise foi): He put it as follows:
In bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth. But with this “lie” to myself, the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.
Such bad faith allows people to fabricate a second act of bad faith: that they are not responsible for their ignorance of the truths behind the government’s and corporate media’s lies and propaganda, even as the shades of the prison house ominously close around us and the world edges toward global death that could arrive in an instant with nuclear war or limp along for years of increasing suffering.
Those of us who write about the U.S. led demented wars and provocations around the world and the complementary death of democracy at home are constantly flabbergasted and discouraged by the willed ignorance of so many Americans. For while the mainstream media does the bidding of the power elite, there is ample alternative news and analyses available on the internet from fine journalists and writers committed to truth, not propaganda. There is actually far too much truth available, which poses another problem. But it doesn’t take a genius to learn how to research important issues and to learn how to distinguish between bogus and genuine information. It takes a bit of effort, and, more importantly, the desire to compare multiple, opposing viewpoints and untangle the webs the Web weaves. We are awash in information (and disinformation) and both good and bad reporting, but it is still available to the caring inquirer.
The problem is the will to know. But why, why the refusal to investigate and question; why the indifference? Stupidity? Okay, there is that. Ignorance? That too. Willful ignorance, ditto. Laziness, indeed. Careerism and ideology? For certain. Upton Sinclair put it mildly when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.” Difficult? No, it’s almost impossible.
But then there are many very intelligent people who have nothing to lose and yet adamantly refuse to entertain alternative possibilities to the reigning orthodoxies that have them in their grip.
As do many others, I know many such people who will yes me to death and then never fully research issues. They will remain in limbo or else wink to themselves that what may be true couldn’t be true. They close down. This is a great dilemma and frustration faced by those who seek to convince people to take an active part in understanding what is really going on in the world today, especially as the United States wages war across the globe, threatens Russia and China, among others, as it expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities.
Jacques Ellul on Propaganda
The French sociologist, Jacques Ellul, has argued convincingly that modern propaganda in a technological mass society is more complicated than the state and media lying and deceiving the population. He argues that propaganda meets certain needs of modern people and therefore the process of deceit is reciprocal. The modern person feels lost, powerless, and empty. Ellul says, “He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.” But he can’t live in despair; desires that life be meaningful; and wants to feel he lives in a world that makes sense. He wants to participate and have opinions that suggest he grasps the flow of events. He doesn’t so much want information, but value judgments and preconceived positions that provide him with a framework for living. Ellul wrote the following in 1965 in his classic book Propaganda:
The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation. For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even readymade opinions….The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework….the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego. All this propaganda – and only propaganda – can give him.
Another way of saying this is that people want to be provided with myths to direct them to the “truth.” But such so-called truth has been preconceived within the overarching myth provided by propaganda, and while it satisfies people’s emotional need for coherence, it also allows them to think of themselves as free individuals arriving at their own conclusions, which is a basic function of good propaganda. In today’s mass technological society, it is essential that people be convinced that they are free-thinking individuals acting in good faith. Then they can feel good about themselves as they lie and act in bad faith.
The Spirit of Existential Rebellion
In the wake of World War II and the complete shattering of any illusion about the human capacity for evil, there arose in Western Europe, particularly in France and Germany a “philosophy” called existentialism. More an attitude towards life rather than a formal philosophy, and with its roots going back at least as far as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in the 19th century, existentialism emphasized individual freedom, authenticity, personal responsibility, and the need to confront the unimaginable horrors of World War II and the absurd situation in which human beings had created nuclear weapons that could obliterate the planet in a flash, as the United States had used to incinerate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How to respond to the birth of global state nuclear terrorism became a task for the existential imagination.
The traditional belief that an all-powerful God could bring the world to an end had now been replaced by the idolatry of nuclear madmen who had hubristically violated the limits that the Greeks had long ago warned us not to exceed by making themselves into gods. Having unleashed the Furies, these false gods have created a world in which the droning sound of nuclear intercontinental missiles haunts the secret nightmares of the world. We have been living with this unspeakable and unspoken truth for more than seventy years.
Opposition to the nuclear standoff and its accompanying proxy wars has waxed and waned over the years. Dissident minorities and sometimes many millions across the globe have mobilized to oppose not only nuclear weapons but the war makers who have waged continuous wars of aggression throughout the world and have created the national-security warfare state, seemingly intent on world destruction.
However, today the sound of silence fills the empty streets, as passivity has overtaken those who oppose the growing nuclear threat and the ongoing U.S.- led wars throughout the world. The spirit of resistance has gone to sleep. The German writer Karl Kraus understood this in the days of Hitler’s rise during the 1930s when he said, “The real end of the world is the destruction of the spirit; the other kind depends on the insignificant attempt to see whether after such destruction the world can go on.”
We need to somehow resurrect the spirit of resistance that will bring together millions of people across the world who oppose the death dealers. I think it is time to recall the power and possibility implicit in the spirit of existential thought.
The existential emphasis on individual responsibility and authentic truth telling in the works of various writers, including Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Gabriel Marcel, and Albert Camus (who didn’t consider himself and existentialist but whose work emphasized many of the same themes), inspired large numbers of people in the late’ 50s into the mid-to-late’60s, including the international anti-nuclear movement and young American anti-war activists. Contrary to popular understanding, existentialism is not about navel gazing and hopelessness, but is about responding freely and authentically to the situations people find themselves in, which today, is the end- time that is a time when the fate of the world lies in the hands of nuclear madmen.
But by the end of the 1960s this existential spirit of rebellion started to dissipate. Academic gibberish replaced this rebellious spirit with the introduction of ideas, such as post structuralism, leading eventually to postmodernist nonsense that not only refuted the need for personal responsibility, but eliminated the person altogether. By 1999 a leading exponent of postmodern rhetoric, Jean Baudrillard, was dismissing everything the existentialists emphasized. He said, “No one needs this kind of ‘existential garb’ any more. Who cares about freedom, bad faith, and authenticity today?”
If such words were just the ranting of an intellectual lost in a fantasy world of abstractions, that would be one thing. But they are a form of propaganda echoed throughout western societies, particularly the United States, through the repeated emphases over the decades that people are not free but are the products of biological brain processes, etc. Deterministic memes have become dominant in cultural mind control. Such postmodern abstractions have denied everything that makes possible the fight against nuclear annihilation and the warfare states’ domination of western Europe and NATO, led by the United States.
The self is an illusion. Freedom is an illusion. Responsibility is an illusion. Guilt is an illusion. Everything is an illusion. A kaleidoscopic mad world in which no on exists and nothing really matters. This deterministic and nihilistic message has become the main current in western cultural propaganda since the late 1960s and has reached a crescendo in the present day. It is responsible for the growth of passivity and denial that dominates contemporary public consciousness. It underlies the refusal of so many otherwise intelligent people to engage themselves in the search for truth that would lead to their joining forces with others to create a mass anti-war movement.
While many people think of existentialism as only an atheistic approach to existence, this is incorrect. There are atheist and agnostic existentialists, yes, , but existentialism’s core emphases have deep roots in the various religious traditions, such as Judaism and Christianity, etc. That is because freedom, authenticity, truth telling, and social responsibility, while often buried within the institutional structures of these faiths, lie at their core. So if we are going to resurrect the spirit of rebellion necessary to transform today’s world, we need to renew the virtues that the existentialists emphasize.
The first step in this process is to ask with D.H.Lawrence the question, “How great a liar am I?”
Anti-war activist and author of the indispensable book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, James Douglass, made an intriguing suggestion in another book, Lightening East and West, when he said:
The exact opposite of the H bomb’s destructive purpose, but psychic equivalent of its energy, is the Kingdom of Reality which would be the final victory of Truth in history –a force of truth and love powerful enough to fuse billions of individual psyches into a global realization of essential oneness. There is no reason why the same psyche which, when turned outward, was able to create the condition for a self-acting force of over 100 million degrees of heat, thus realizing an inconceivable thermonuclear fusion, cannot someday turn sufficiently inward to create the condition for an equally inconceivable (but nature balancing) fusion in its own psychic or spiritual reality. An end-time can also be a beginning. Gandhi said: ‘When the practice of the law becomes universal, God will reign on the earth as God does in heaven. Earth and heaven are in us. We know the earth, and we are strangers to the heaven within us.’
While Gandhi’s words are couched in religious language, their meaning can resonate with secular-minded people as well. These words speak to the power implicit in the human spirit as a whole. That power begins and builds when people of all persuasions are convinced that they must freely pursue the truth at all costs. As the poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
In these very dark times – these end- times created by nuclear weapons – seeing the truth is dependent on the will to truth, and the will to truth only arises when people believe they are free to alter the circumstances in which they find themselves. This belief in freedom is at the core of all existential thought and is why we need to resurrect it today.
Posted by samoasoftball
Housing Shortage in Eureka! No jobs for you!
Randy Weaver, a North Coast Labor Market Consultant, did a Humboldt Housing
Affordability presentation to the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC) this week and some of the quick observations were pretty interesting. There has been very little growth in Eureka over the last umpteenth years.
The median price for a home in Eureka is $250,000. $317,000 in McKinleyville and ....$459,000 in Redway!
Rental Vacancy rates in Eureka are at 3.4%. Fortuna has 9% available. Renters represent 61% of Eureka Housing.
64% of all houses in Eureka were built before 1959! 32% of them were built before 1939!
Only 2% of the houses were built between 2000-2009. From 2010 to present there has been less than 1%.
Only 23% of residents can afford to buy a house. In 2007 it was only 11%!
When businesses are looking to relocate the most important criteria for such moves are:
1. Low Crime Rate: Not good that Eureka has a crime index rate of 1. Only 1% of all cities are as unsafe as Eureka.
2. Healthcare Facilities: Cost of Living index rate for healthcare is 119 compared to 100 for the US. Not good.
3. Education: Only 82% residents of graduated High School. Average student test
scores are 24% less than national average. Student to teacher ratio in Eureka is 19:1 compared to 16:1 for the nation.
Just about every living index is greatly higher than the national average. And we have
one of the highest Homeless per capita rate in the nation also. These are what businesses take into account when they decide to grow into a community.
What is the solution? Just the messenger here.
From wrong forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Wall Street, to wrong policies by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government, wrong economic theory impacts everyone. Last year was a particularly bad one for the profession, as none of the mainstream forecasts on major events, from Brexit to Donald Trump’s election, and the effects of those events on markets and the economy, were correct. In fact, mainstream economics has been consistently getting it wrong since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008.
So why hasn’t the mainstream realized something is profoundly wrong with the models and theories it uses? Why do they marginalize alternative theories and theorists? Why are the people who have been getting it wrong still in charge?
If you worked for companies like General Motors or IBM and are now out of a job because they have outsourced it to Mexico, you can blame wrong economic theory for this.
They have models that extrapolate what is going on, they have to agree with one another, and they are covering their backs within their profession. That’s why they are always wrong.
— Woody Brock, president, Strategic Economic Decisions
The free-trade model advocated by elites from the IMF to Harvard has promised jobs for the developing world, while keeping the ones in the developed world. It hasn’t worked because the theory behind free trade, developed by 19th-century economist David Ricardo, is 200 years old and obsolete.
“Ricardo’s theory fails in a world of mobile factors [of capital and labor]. It only works if everyone plays by the rules. Free trade … does not produce optimal outcomes because it is never free. It is a house built on the quicksand of assumptions that don’t reign in the real world and never will,” wrote analyst James Rickards in his book “The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites’ Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis.”
The elite economists at the IMF and the Fed have missed their growth forecasts for almost every major economy leading up to and following the financial crisis. Governments and companies making their plans based on the optimistic forecasts (these models never predict a crisis) are in for a rude awakening when they don’t materialize.
“They have models that extrapolate what is going on, they have to agree with one another, and they are covering their backs within their profession. That’s why they are always wrong,” said Woody Brock, president of consulting firm Strategic Economic Decisions.
Wall Street risk managers still use the same risk models that led to the subprime crisis. When the house of cards collapsed, it wiped out the savings of millions and plunged the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Because these same models are in use, another crisis is just around the corner.
“They are treating the financial sector as an outcome of economic action, not as a cause. But we know that the financial sector is a cause if something goes wrong,” said Steve Keen, a professor at London’s Kingston University and author of “Debunking Economics.”
After the financial crisis, fiscal stimulus and unprecedented money printing by central banks in the United States, Europe, and Japan promised us a solid recovery that has not materialized.
“The elite view is if the right Ph.D. economist is seated as Fed chair, with the dual mandate firmly in mind, and money supply as a lever to move the world, the global economy may be pushed to equilibrium and made to run like a fine Swiss watch,” wrote Rickards.
Economists like to pack the world with all its idiosyncrasies into neat little mathematical models that are supposed to predict the future, an undertaking historically reserved for prophets and magicians, at least in the humanities. Actual science like physics gets a pass.
However, the models, no matter how sophisticated, follow the old rule of computer science first discovered in the 1950s: “garbage in, garbage out.”
The most important model in the toolkit of mainstream neoclassical economists is the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model. It states that supply matches demand, and the economy functions like clockwork until some not-to-be foreseen exogenous shock comes around that disrupts the model.
These models have been disproven in theory and in practice, and rely on assumptions that don’t apply in the real world. For example, the model expects the agents (us) to make decisions based on math and economic models and not based on whether we are bored at our jobs and feel like a bit of online shopping.
And yet, they are still being used by the world’s central banks as well as institutions like the IMF and world governments to craft monetary and fiscal policy.
“The herd [of monetary elites] agrees that markets are efficient, albeit with imperfections. They agree that supply and demand produce local equilibria, and the sum of these equilibria is a general equilibrium. When equilibrium is perturbed, it can be restored through policy,” wrote Rickards, who also notes that equilibrium is “a facade that masks unstable complex dynamics.”
The models’ shortcomings are so obvious, however, that the chief economist of the World Bank, Paul Romer, has broken ranks with the economic elite and last year published a scathing critique of macroeconomists in general and the equilibrium models in particular called “The Trouble With Macroeconomics.”
His verdict: “Macro models now use incredible identifying assumptions to reach bewildering conclusions. … Macroeconomists got comfortable with the idea that fluctuations in macroeconomic aggregates are caused by imaginary shocks, instead of actions that people take. … Once macroeconomists concluded that it was reasonable to invoke imaginary forcing variables, they added more.”
It is the DSGE model that led former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to declare the following about the equilibrium interest rate on his blog for the Brookings Institution in 2015:
“If the Fed wants to see full employment of capital and labor resources (which, of course, it does), then its task amounts to using its influence over market interest rates to push those rates toward levels consistent with the equilibrium rate, or—more realistically—its best estimate of the equilibrium rate, which is not directly observable.”
So the rate the Fed wants to achieve, one that will supposedly bring about the best use of capital and labor (remember the assumption behind equilibrium here), is not directly observable, so the Fed is left guessing.
Small wonder it can never predict a crisis and instead often causes one by leaving rates too low for too long and then later raising them at the most inopportune moment. And no wonder the economy still hasn’t taken off, despite zero interest rates for close to a decade, which brings us to another problem.
Crises Don’t Fit
“They ignore money and credit, probably the most important determinants of where the economy goes,” said Keen.
For instance, Bernanke told Congress in March 2007 that “the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.” It wasn’t.
“They only extrapolate the current trends and that only matters if there is no change in the things they are ignoring. So if there is a change in money, credit, and debt, then they are going to be completely wrong, and that’s what happened in 2008,” said Keen.
“What matters in the model is not money but the imaginary forces,” wrote Romer.
Crises emerge because regulators don’t comprehend the statistical properties of the systems they regulate.
— James Rickards, author, 'The Road to Ruin'
Mainstream economists usually use the excuse that nobody saw a particular event coming, like the crisis in 2008, which is only true if the somebodies are mainstream economists and everybody else is a nobody.
Keen did predict the crisis of 2008 using post-Keynesian models, which include private debt, and so did hedge fund legend Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, who also built models around private debt. There are scores of others who did the same and profited from it. None of them follow the mainstream.
Rickards predicted the 2008 crisis using complexity theory borrowed from physics, which has nothing to do with DSGE models and the so-called “normal” occurrence or distribution of risk.
“Crises emerge because regulators don’t comprehend the statistical properties of the systems they regulate,” Rickards wrote.
“There are models that do a good job identifying bubbles using complexity theory, causal inference, and behavioral economics, although the exact timing of collapse remains difficult to predict,” he wrote.
It is mostly physicists who use complexity theory, but it can also be applied to capital markets. Unlike equilibrium models, complex systems allow for extreme events to occur rather frequently. They also have dynamic feedback loops so agents can learn from their past actions and from other agents.
Brock also believes economists at the Fed and elsewhere rely too much on historical data to make predictions for the future.
“They are trained that history is everything,” Brock said. Enough data will identify economic relationships.
“That’s fine until structural changes occur and the previous relationship breaks down,” he said. Structural changes, like too much debt in the system, brought the economy to its knees in 2008 and now prevent us from realizing our maximum growth potential. “Structural changes mean historical samples won’t be good. You must use your subjective judgment so you know what is different,” he added.
In a nutshell, “capital markets were condemned to a succession of calamities while academics-turned-central bankers waited decades for more data to convince them of their failures,” wrote Rickards.
With the exception of Romer, however, mainstream economists aren’t convinced that there is something at all wrong with their way of doing things.
Living in the Ivory Tower
There are several reasons why economists cannot or do not want to see the evident flaws in their models and their way of thinking.
According to Brock, it’s the fact that subjective analysis of structural changes would expose the economists to being wrong, a risk they cannot live with.
“Most people who go for those jobs are risk-averse in the extreme. Subjective probabilities can’t be proven true. They do things where they can always back up positions with data. The fact that the data is irrelevant doesn’t matter,” he said.
Keen thinks this risk aversion combines with a desire to hold on to power. “If the mainstream economists admit that they are wrong and the post-Keynesians are right, they would have to abandon their posts, resign, and let us take over. That’s the last thing anybody will do,” he said.
But given their dismal performance, how can these people stick around for so long? Keen said the problem starts in academia and then seamlessly flows through to the centers of power.
In economics, all the non-orthodox people can’t get jobs in the main universities because we don’t push the mainstream paradigm.
— Steve Keen, author, 'Debunking Economics'
“In economics, all the non-orthodox people can’t get jobs in the main universities because we don’t push the mainstream paradigm,” he said, adding, “We don’t get the exposure, and we are not even part of this debate.”
It is this lack of creative debate that has robbed academics and policymakers of better tools to interpret and handle economic problems. Mainstream economists live in their bubble and have given up serving science. They would rather serve their leaders, according to Romer.
“Because guidance from authority can align the efforts of many researchers, conformity to the facts is no longer needed as a coordinating device. As a result, if facts disconfirm the officially sanctioned theoretical vision, they are subordinated,” he wrote.
“Eventually, evidence stops being relevant. Progress in the field is judged by the purity of its mathematical theories, as determined by the authorities.”
Romer also states that while some mainstream economists have been angered by his critique, others by and large agree but do not dare to speak out in public.
What Romer describes as a “general failure mode of science” is not new. When Nicolaus Copernicus told his fellow scientists in the 16th century that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around, he was in for some trouble.
Both Keen and Romer think of science as a belief system. Humans find it difficult to give up widely held beliefs, even if they are proven wrong.
“Humanity shares belief systems. If you have a belief system, you live in a world that promotes that belief system, and you will be critical of opposing belief systems. The initial response of any discipline is to reinforce its current belief system,” said Keen.
“It starts by distinguishing ‘research’ fields from ‘belief’ fields. In research fields such as math, science, and technology, the pursuit of truth is the coordinating device. In belief fields such as religion and political action, authorities coordinate the efforts of group members,” wrote Romer. He thinks macroeconomics has morphed into a belief field.
What Can Be Done?
Economics is called the dismal science, but it is not useless. There are economists and models that can explain complex human behavior, leading to better policy decisions. Mainstream scholars just have to admit their equilibrium-centric view of the economic system is wrong.
“In the 20th century, we developed the technology to send people to the moon. It involves non-equilibrium systems. If you assume an equilibrium in that process, you have dead astronauts,” said Keen.
He said economists should borrow from these branches of science to model the economy as a non-equilibrium system, and of course include money and debt.
Brock said economists have to allow themselves to be wrong from time to time to grasp structural changes.
“You have to be trained in game theory and political theory to understand” these changes, he says. Neither provides a neat outcome with 100 percent certainty but rather different probabilities. This is somewhat ironic, as the mainstream now claims its models are always right and yet they are wrong at the crucial times.
Rickards thinks capital markets should be analyzed as a complex system with a non-normal distribution of risk.
However, all these changes would only be possible if economists started to adhere to scientific methods again.
“By rejecting any reliance on central authority, the members of a research field can coordinate their independent efforts only by maintaining an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of truth [via the consensus] that emerges from many independent assessments … assessments that are made by people who … accept their own fallibility, and relish the chance to subvert any claim of authority,” wrote Romer.
In the here and now, there are some policies most non-mainstream economists consider safe bets. One of them is the reinstatement of the 1933 Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The act separated consumer banking from the securities business and served the country well until its repeal in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.
“Glass-Steagall worked for exactly the reason complexity theory suggests. By breaking the banking system into two parts, Glass-Steagall made each part stronger by shrinking systemic scale, diminishing dense connections, and truncating channels through which failure of one institution jeopardizes [everything],” wrote Rickards.
In fact, the repeal was a classic case of trying to make reality fit economic models rather than the other way around. “Economists were for the repeal because it fits their model on how the economy should operate,” said Keen.
Another safely established danger signal is private debt. Keen says that once private debt passes 150 percent of GDP, a financial crisis is almost inevitable. “There are danger zones you don’t want to enter,” he said.
Keen and Rickards both argue for strengthening the role of labor in the economy, including enacting some protectionist trade measures and giving workers more influence at their companies.
Brock said infrastructure spending, lower taxes, and deregulation are the right fiscal policy levers. “It’s the incentives that are most important to determine growth,” he said.
Neither of the cited economists and analysts believes, however, that humans could ever achieve perfection with modeling or predictions. It’s rather more important to let go of a false sense of pride and learn from past mistakes.
“Science and the spirit of the enlightenment are the most important human accomplishments,” wrote Romer. “They matter more than the feelings of any of us.”
There is now a prevailing method of argument that replaces discussion and debate with personal attacks. At its root is the same philosophy used by totalitarian systems and leaders over the 20th century—from Hitler, to Stalin, to Pol Pot—to label members of society as enemies of the regime’s social agendas, and to thus mobilize its citizens in acts of suppression or violence against those targeted.
These methods of attack and mobilization have found their way into the arguments of the postmodern left, and traditional liberals seem to be shocked by the emerging problem.
British actor and comedian Tom Walker commented on this in a viral video from Nov. 10, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, and said the same issue had led to Brexit and the Tory majority in Britain. He blamed the left, “because the left have decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable.”
The result of this mentality, he said, is that “we don’t debate anymore,” and instead turn to insults and labels. “If you’re on the right, you’re a freak—you’re evil, you’re racist, you are stupid, you are a ‘basket of deplorables.'”
“How do you think people are going to vote if you talk to them like that?” he said.
Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show,” noted a similar problem during a Nov. 18 interview with CBS about the Trump victory. He said, “There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric.”
Stewart noted that most liberals “hate this idea of creating people as a monolith.” One example, he said, is that you can’t look at Muslims as a monolith, based on negative actions of a few individuals. “But everyone who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That kind of hypocrisy is also real in our country.”
Of course, the avoidance of direct debate was part of the original intention that is causing this new way of thinking—one that groups people into extreme definitions, and bypasses discussion to attack them personally.
A New ‘Ideology’The method of debate is rooted in the Marxist idea of “ideology” and is meant to instill an altered worldview reinterpreted through the teachings of Marxism.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argued that people aren’t in control of their views, and their views are instead formed by the system. All values, concepts, opinions, theories, and beliefs that many of us hold as self-evident are viewed by this theory as products of political developments.
The only ideas that are outside this system and should not be reconsidered, under the Marxist ideology, are the teachings of Marx. This is because it portrays its own ideology as being Utopian—the end of human progress.
It creates a way of thinking where those who subscribe to Marxist ideology believe they are among the enlightened few, and that all other beliefs and ideas are part of outdated ideologies of the past—things they believe should be discarded or destroyed.
“The concept vaulted to unprecedented popularity, primarily because it proved to be a most convenient tool in political conflicts: it allowed discrediting one’s opponents without entering into a substantive argument,” writes former Polish Minister of Education Ryszard Legutko in his book “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”
Rather than engage in direct debates and discussion, this new concept taught its adherents to dig out social characteristics of the individual they were speaking with, to reinterpret those characteristics according to the Marxist view of struggle, and then to attack them based on these labels.
This concept also pulled in an idea of partisanship proposed by Vladimir Lenin: A person is either for something or against something. Moreover, Lenin’s ideas created the understanding that all things should be viewed only in black and white. The spectrum of ideas and beliefs is narrowed to two opposing extremes, with only socialist ideology being valid.
Marxist ideology was used to terrifying effect under nearly all communist regimes, which are estimated to have killed 150 million people worldwide—including 80 million in China, alone—in a single century.
Under Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Russia, the enemies were labeled the “bourgeoisie,” “fascists,” “capitalists,” and “Zionists;” under Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party, the enemies were called “rightists,” “counter-revolutionaries,” the “landlord class,” and those who believed in “superstition.”
“By being identified as serving the cause of the bourgeoisie, the philosophers, artists, and writers could be arraigned on a charge of being the enemies of the socialist revolution and standing in the way of the future, often with lamentable consequences for the defendants,” Legutko writes.
“This practically put an end to any form of intellectual argumentation,” he writes. “No one argued, but either accused someone of ideological treason or defended himself against such a charge.”
Marxism in the WestThe Marxist idea of “ideology” was introduced to the West under the guise of “critical theory.”
Critical theory was brought to the United States by the Frankfurt School, founded as a Marxist school of social theory and philosophy, which was affiliated with Columbia University in New York from 1935 until after World War II ended, when it returned to Frankfurt.
The Frankfurt School has attempted through critical theory to understand knowledge as something that is defined either by a social context or a Utopian goal, not by objective reality. The thinkers in the school have used a variety of perspectives informed by Georg Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and, of course, Marx, although the school has also subjected Marx’s own thought to critical treatment.
Dr. John Lenczowski, founder and president of The Institute of World Politics, described critical theory at an event on Jan. 29, 2016, as a “nihilistic Marxist analysis of our society based on its materialism” that tries to alienate people from traditional values. In particular, this analysis targets the United States, which established a “moral order” that gave us international law and global concepts of human rights.
During the same event, Michael Walsh, author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West,” explained the concept further. He believes that only by looking at what was behind critical theory can we understand its attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and our values as a nation.
Walsh said that most people, religious or not, believe there are some absolute truths based on the human condition, and that we have developed a code of morals based on this recognition. “That is now under attack.”
“What the Frankfurt School tried to do through the mechanism of critical theory, was to undermine your belief in reason,” Walsh said. “They erected a devil’s pleasure palace of illusion to give you the sense that what you previously had believed is no longer true and no longer operable.”
“Among the traits of the Frankfurt School is the war on language, and the war on what you can say and what you can’t say, and that is political correctness,” he said. “Political correctness is meant to forbid you from thinking. That’s what it is—it’s fascism of the mind. The theory being if you can’t say it, you won’t think it.”
The new ideology is a way of using debate to shut down debate. It’s a way of discrediting people based on their race, beliefs, gender, or creed. And it’s a way of using political labels to dehumanize a person so he or she can be stripped of rights and ultimately silenced.
In 1945, Hannah Arendt wrote that evil would be the fundamental problem for postwar intellectual inquiry, but do the sheer magnitude of atrocities like Auschwitz defy human capacities for understanding?
"Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang".
~ Hannah Arendt.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander states Hannah Arendt, thus subscribing to the secondary mindset that inevitably distils to war and genocide. The execution of Eichmann, the holocaust, the Japanese atrocity, all share a common theme: survival of the fittest – the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.
Arendt upon observing Eichmann found him banal. She was surprised at ‘the banality of evil’ and perplexed as to how totalitarianism could seduce such a person to the depths of evil. To properly understand the nature of evil we must raise our consciousness to awareness of totalitarianism on a level that embraces the higher truth of life: the cosmogonic cycle (Russell, Einstein, Campbell, Tesla etc.):
The universe is disappearing to eternity and each return is eternity inside out: a flip-flop between stillness and ultimate magnetic force. Albert Einstein’s Special Relativity explains the physics of eternal disappearance but the information was used expeditiously to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thereafter shelved. Nicola Tesla also took us to the precipice of eternal awareness but, again, we ate the icing and left the cake. One must wonder at the contrivance of this for there is no person or group of persons with the sophistication to enact such levels of control.
The energetic universe was sparked by resistance to eternity. The resulting annihilation was achieved by the ultimate magnetic force of eternity inside out. And thus, the cycle of life began.
The primary resistance is a though-form with an agenda to live and live it does through the secondary result of the universe flashing in and out of the ultimate magnetic field. Please take important note that the primary resistance remains the same as it flashes on/off to serve the demands of the secondary forms of thinking.
The primary lives through the secondary life-forms and just as any despot it will not give up its life of ultimate power and control.
We are all pawns until we learn better.
~ Tom Kitt.
At this level of existence "I" am immeasurably old; my forms are infinite and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy'
- Alan Watts.
Snagged from The New York Times:
By STEVEN LEVITSKY and DANIEL ZIBLATT
December 16, 2016
Donald J. Trump’s election has raised a question that few Americans ever imagined asking: Is our democracy in danger? With the possible exception of the Civil War, American democracy has never collapsed; indeed, no democracy as rich or as established as America’s ever has. Yet past stability is no guarantee of democracy’s future survival.
We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs.
The clearest warning sign is the ascent of anti-democratic politicians into mainstream politics. Drawing on a close study of democracy’s demise in 1930s Europe, the eminent political scientist Juan J. Linz designed a “litmus test” to identify anti-democratic politicians. His indicators include a failure to reject violence unambiguously, a readiness to curtail rivals’ civil liberties, and the denial of the legitimacy of elected governments.
Mr. Trump tests positive. In the campaign, he encouraged violence among supporters; pledged to prosecute Hillary Clinton; threatened legal action against unfriendly media; and suggested that he might not accept the election results.
This anti-democratic behavior has continued since the election. With the false claim that he lost the popular vote because of “millions of people who voted illegally,” Mr. Trump openly challenged the legitimacy of the electoral process. At the same time, he has been remarkably dismissive of United States intelligence agencies’ reports of Russian hacking to tilt the election in his favor.
Mr. Trump is not the first American politician with authoritarian tendencies. (Other notable authoritarians include Gov. Huey Long of Louisiana and Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.) But he is the first in modern American history to be elected president. This is not necessarily because Americans have grown more authoritarian (the United States electorate has always had an authoritarian streak). Rather it’s because the institutional filters that we assumed would protect us from extremists, like the party nomination system and the news media, failed.
Many Americans are not overly concerned about Mr. Trump’s authoritarian inclinations because they trust our system of constitutional checks and balances to constrain him.
Yet the institutional safeguards protecting our democracy may be less effective than we think. A well-designed constitution is not enough to ensure a stable democracy — a lesson many Latin American independence leaders learned when they borrowed the American constitutional model in the early 19th century, only to see their countries plunge into chaos.
Democratic institutions must be reinforced by strong informal norms. Like a pickup basketball game without a referee, democracies work best when unwritten rules of the game, known and respected by all players, ensure a minimum of civility and cooperation. Norms serve as the soft guardrails of democracy, preventing political competition from spiraling into a chaotic, no-holds-barred conflict.
Among the unwritten rules that have sustained American democracy are partisan self-restraint and fair play. For much of our history, leaders of both parties resisted the temptation to use their temporary control of institutions to maximum partisan advantage, effectively underutilizing the power conferred by those institutions. There existed a shared understanding, for example, that anti-majoritarian practices like the Senate filibuster would be used sparingly, that the Senate would defer (within reason) to the president in nominating Supreme Court justices, and that votes of extraordinary importance — like impeachment — required a bipartisan consensus. Such practices helped to avoid a descent into the kind of partisan fight to the death that destroyed many European democracies in the 1930s.
Yet norms of partisan restraint have eroded in recent decades. House Republicans’ impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 abandoned the idea of bipartisan consensus on impeachment. The filibuster, once a rarity, has become a routine tool of legislative obstruction. As the political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have shown, the decline of partisan restraint has rendered our democratic institutions increasingly dysfunctional. Republicans’ 2011 refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which put America’s credit rating at risk for partisan gain, and the Senate’s refusal this year to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — in essence, allowing the Republicans to steal a Supreme Court seat — offer an alarming glimpse at political life in the absence of partisan restraint.
Norms of presidential restraint are also at risk. The Constitution’s ambiguity regarding the limits of executive authority can tempt presidents to try and push those limits. Although executive power has expanded in recent decades, it has ultimately been reined in by the prudence and self-restraint of our presidents.
Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump is a serial norm-breaker. There are signs that Mr. Trump seeks to diminish the news media’s traditional role by using Twitter, video messages and public rallies to circumvent the White House press corps and communicate directly with voters — taking a page out of the playbook of populist leaders like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
An even more basic norm under threat today is the idea of legitimate opposition. In a democracy, partisan rivals must fully accept one another’s right to exist, to compete and to govern. Democrats and Republicans may disagree intensely, but they must view one another as loyal Americans and accept that the other side will occasionally win elections and lead the country. Without such mutual acceptance, democracy is imperiled. Governments throughout history have used the claim that their opponents are disloyal or criminal or a threat to the nation’s way of life to justify acts of authoritarianism.
The idea of legitimate opposition has been entrenched in the United States since the early 19th century, disrupted only by the Civil War. That may now be changing, however, as right-wing extremists increasingly question the legitimacy of their liberal rivals. During the last decade, Ann Coulter wrote best-selling books describing liberals as traitors, and the “birther” movement questioned President Obama’s status as an American.
Such extremism, once confined to the political fringes, has now moved into the mainstream. In 2008, the Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin linked Barack Obama to terrorism. This year, the Republican Party nominated a birther as its presidential candidate. Mr. Trump’s campaign centered on the claim that Hillary Clinton was a criminal who should be in jail; and “Lock her up!” was chanted at the Republican National Convention. In other words, leading Republicans — including the president-elect — endorsed the view that the Democratic candidate was not a legitimate rival.
The risk we face, then, is not merely a president with illiberal proclivities — it is the election of such a president when the guardrails protecting American democracy are no longer as secure.
American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If ordinary circumstances prevail, our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency. It is less clear, however, how democracy would fare in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests — all of which are entirely possible — a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored could pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant. The warning signs are real.
-Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are professors of government at Harvard University.
A PETITION TO MITIGATE THREATS TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF UNSHELTERED INDIVIDUALS IN THE SOUTHERN HUMBOLDT COUNTY AREA BY A DECLARATION OF A SHELTER CRISIS.
there is an ongoing shortage of adequate housing, a persistent population of transient individuals, and continual disruption of camps used by unhoused individuals in the Southern Humboldt area by law enforcement officers and unofficial agencies that needlessly expose individuals to additional risk to their health and safety.
A de facto state of crisis exists that creates a threat to the health and safety of a significant population, and mitigating action by local government to reduce these risks, for the benefit of the communities affected is required, as specifically allowed by Title 2, Division 1. General Chapter 7.8. Shelter Crisis [8698 - 8698.2] of the California State Government Code.
We therefore request:
That the elected Supervisors of Humboldt County declare a shelter crisis in Southern Humboldt County, pursuant to Sec.8698 (2) & (d) of the California code
That the county identify and designate appropriate public facility in the form of unused land in the Southern Humboldt area pursuant to Sec. 8698 (c) for the establishment of an orderly and self regulated campground for the relief and comfort of an at risk, unhoused population, and declare that a sanctioned tent site significantly improves the safety and security of those individuals affected by a shelter crisis.
That the County provide minimal waste disposal service, consistent with the sanitation needs of the campground dwellers and additionally, a rudimentary water storage system be sanctioned, as allowed by the provisions of Sec. 8698.1 (b)
That the County Supervisors agree to allow and support an ongoing, self governing compact of tent dwellers that protect their health and safety by collectively working to maintain a clean and and safe environment that benefits those that choose to participate and causes no impact to those who do not.
GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 8698-8698.2
8698. For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions shall apply:
(a) "Political subdivision" includes the state, any city, city and county, county, special district, or school district or public agency authorized by law
(b)"Governing body" means the following: (1) The Governor for the state.
(2) The legislative body for a city or city and county.
(3) The board of supervisors for a county.
(4) The governing board or board of trustees for a district or other public agency.
5) An official designated by ordinance or resolution adopted by a
governing body, as defined in
paragraph (2), (3), or (4).
(c) "Public facility" means any facility of a political
subdivision including parks, schools, and vacant or underutilized
facilities which are owned, operated, leased, or maintained, or any
combination thereof, by the political subdivision through money derived by taxation or assessment.
(d) "Declaration of a shelter crisis" means the duly proclaimed existence of a situation in which a significant number of persons are
without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.
8698.1. Upon a declaration of a shelter crisis, the following
provisions shall apply during the period of the emergency.
(a) The political subdivision shall be immune from liability for
ordinary negligence in the provision of emergency housing pursuant to
Section 8698.2. This limitation of liability shall apply only to
conditions, acts, or omissions directly related to, and which would
not occur but for, the provision of emergency housing.
This section does not limit liability for grossly negligent, reckless, or
intentional conduct which causes injury.
(b) The provisions of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation, or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health, or safety shall be suspended to the extent that strict compliance would
in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects
of the shelter crisis. Political subdivisions may, in place of such
standards, enact municipal health and safety standards to be
operative during the housing emergency consistent with ensuring
minimal public health and safety. The provisions of this section
apply only to additional public facilities open to the homeless pursuant to this chapter.
8698.2. (a) (1) The governing body may declare a shelter crisis,
and may take such action as is necessary to carry out the provisions
of this chapter, upon a finding by that governing body that a
significant number of persons within the jurisdiction of the
governing body are without the ability to obtain shelter, and that
the situation has resulted in a threat to the health and safety of those persons.
(2) For purposes of this chapter, the governing body of the state,
in making a declaration of a shelter crisis pursuant to paragraph (1), may limit that declaration to any geographical portion of the state.
(b) Upon a declaration of a shelter crisis pursuant to subdivision
(a), the political subdivision may allow persons unable to obtain
housing to occupy designated public facilities during the duration of
the state of emergency.
Beneath Fading Flags
Weaving through the front lines,
a reflection of our culture's decay,
I notice a consistent fading of sticky patriotic flag ads,
on lifted, mud-baptized
and blue, red
worn to white, like
Illusions of separateness.
The most sentimental beings
from fruitful forests
forgotten streets for coffee,
beside bohemian guitars
empathetically escorting wheel chairs
to a remedy.
Weathered street wanderers
surviving on scraps
migrate to huddle in that
hacked-up Humboldt alleyway,
across from the filth's glistening cage,
beneath a mural depicting
farm folk laughing ironically
with grinning neighbors
who appear helpful,
contrasting the entirety of their Hand-me-down reality,
in tattered, tortured souls, concrete camping,
I watch them,
watching Posh bank tellers counting their Cache of cash,
as a status-pearl-parade
comes prancing proudly
concerned mostly for soul-paralyzing stilettos,
but I notice them not noticing the cracks.
The nearer we close in on
the more often I notice
a survival split
You either work for the system,
or to dismantle it.
I stumble from establishment to establishment
where podiums are warm and hallow
while gunfire hammers
against a dulled-florescent-lit fog
Old-Paradigm Professors wallow in anger,
Luna observes in confusion,
Inspiring me to muster up a smile
just to marinate
in variations of Housewife anthems,
and other ignorance's I couldn't claim,
that inspires the perpetuation
of this species-disconnect- feeling.
Sullen super-psychic souls
grow to find acceptance
for life's not what
were trained to make it.
They warn “Pay no attention
to the man behind the curtain”
Same fear-based plots re-branded,
same industries enabled,
same frail, male
genetically modifying natural law,
and at interest, selling us our free will.
So I just retreat to the interior of my eyelids
The safest place I have ever been,
Where compassion is confirmed,
Vivacious colors twirl and spin
My abstractions, legitimate.
It is being widely publicized on the corporate (and "public") media that the Republicans control both houses of Congress and almost every governor's mansion in the country. What is somewhat less widely publicized is the fact that now, as usual, the vast majority of US cities are controlled by the Democratic Party. In most cases, US city governments are essentially one-party institutions, where the Republicans don't even bother putting up a fight, since they never win.
And there's a clear pattern in terms of the governance of all of these cities, and it goes like this: the more the rents go up, the more shrill the rhetoric of the ruling Democratic Party politicians get.
And who are they criticizing with such enthusiasm? The real estate speculators and gentrifying developers who are primarily responsible for the growing misery? Or maybe the 48 (out of 50) Republican-controlled state governments which have banned rent control in their states?
No. They prefer safe targets. Ones that don't affect the bottom lines of the real estate profiteers that bought their political offices for them. They acknowledge that we are having a rent crisis, a housing crisis, and still suffering from the long-term aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. But they say their hands are tied, nothing much they can do. Other than making it easier for the developers to build more "low-income" housing -- in actual terms meaning far above the median income. It is Orwellian doublespeak.
And why not go ahead and break state law and impose some desperately-needed legal controls over the cost of housing? Simple. Because these supposedly progressive Democratic politicians don't give a shit about us. They are bought and sold by real estate developers and other rich people, and they govern on behalf of these scum.
In the 1980's, in response to rising property taxes, property owners formed a lobby, and the Reagan administration passed a law that limited the annual rise in property taxes across the country to 1%. Why has such a law never been passed for renters? Because both parties rule on behalf of the (bigger) property owners, not the lowly renters.
The proof is in the pudding. If these politicians cared about the working class, they would immediately break state laws across the country and institute sensible forms of rent control. In doing this, they would become tremendously popular among the working class residents of their cities. They could change the face of the country. And then of course they would become objects of hatred, victims of smear campaigns led by the real estate developers and property speculators who they would have just betrayed.
Portland has lost most of it's African-American population in between the last two censuses, and statistics in San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere are similar. If these Democratic politicians cared about Black people, they'd institute rent control.
Instead, they'll take what they see as the safe road. They know that most of their constituencies hate Trump and the Republican establishment. They know that most of their constituencies are life-long Democrats with egalitarian impulses, who voted for Obama, who believe in an inclusive society. So they'll focus on things we can all agree on -- racism and sexism and fascism are bad. We stand against these things. What do we stand for? Who the fuck knows. Hope and change, or something. Entrepreneurship. Small business. The middle class, whatever the fuck that is.
But Mexicans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, poor people, and women who are all struggling to make ends meet, who desperately need governments to intervene on their behalf, against the rapacious greed of the landlord class, the big banks, etc.? Fuck them. The mayor of Portland, the mayor of Seattle, the mayor of New York City, the mayor of Boston -- that's what they would be saying if they were honest. Fuck them. We don't give a shit.
Now go protest against Trump and the governor of North Carolina and racism and sexism some more -- just don't pay any attention to the landlord behind the curtain.