Monday, October 16, 2017

X22 Report, “The Last Two Times We Saw This The Economy Was In A Recession”

X22 Report, “The Last Two Times We Saw This The Economy Was In A Recession”

Musical Interlude: 2002, "Starwalkers"

2002, "Starwalkers"

"True Happiness..."

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”
- Seneca

"How It Really, Insanely, Is"

"The New Ranch House Is Ruined"

"The New Ranch House Is Ruined"
by Bill Bonner

‘Uh…was this a good idea?’ Elizabeth was looking at what used to be the kitchen. If a real estate agent called it a ‘ruin’, he could be accused of overselling it. It will take a lot of work and money to bring it up to the ruin stage.
The kitchen in Bill’s new ranch house will need renovations.

No easy job: ‘I wouldn’t go in there, if I were you,’ said the caretaker. ‘The roof could fall in at any time.’ But the roof had already caved in. There is as much as three feet of dirt and debris on the floor in some places. The windows and doors have been removed. The adobe walls lean in or out…sometimes both. As we picked our way from room to room, checking overhead for falling beams…and underfoot for broken glass…we realized this was not going to be an easy job.

‘It will take more than paint to bring this up to code,’ we joked with Elizabeth. But she was in no joking mood… ‘I feel like I’ve lived through enough renovation projects already,’ she said, looking as though she would prefer to go home.

Naked dirt walls: But the bug had already bitten your editor… We put in so much time trying to connect the gauzy dots of economics, investments, and politics, we long to grab a hammer and whack something real. We look forward to bringing in a backhoe and knocking out derelict walls. We relish the texture of real wood and the weight of real stones. We aim not to argue, wonder, or guess…but to put things straight - to plumb the doors and walls so that a line drawn from the centre of the Earth out into space would run through them perfectly…and to level the floors, lintels, cabinets, and sills so that they are at right angles to the plumbed walls.

We want to do something no economist, commentator, or kibitzer can do: put things in order…to make things that are true and solid…make them work properly…so they are pleasing to the eye and comfortable to the body.

But now, the house has no electricity, no plumbing, no running water, no roof, no windows, no doors, no flooring. All it has are naked dirt walls. And those are falling down. ‘It would be a lot easier just to bulldoze this down and start again,’ said the prudent half of the family. ‘Yes, but anyone can build a new house. It takes real imagination to figure out how to put something like this back in service.’ ‘Most people would say it takes a crazy person.’

Crossing the river: Antonio, the caretaker, seemed to agree. He stood by the main entrance and waited. He had a long face…the kind that would be suitable on an undertaker. He seemed to be waiting for a chance to enter the business.

The farm is in two sections, one on each side of the river. The house is on the far side. To get there, you have to drive across the river. In dry season - most of the year, and sometimes all of it - getting across is no problem. You just have to know where to cross. Ramón had already showed us where not to cross. So, we didn’t follow his example. Instead, we selected a ford farther upriver where we’d seen the backhoe - which came to the rescue yesterday - cross.

In the wet season…and after occasional rain showers in the mountains…the river swells, and there is no getting across at all. Then, we will drive to the nearby village of Molinos and check into the local hotel. ‘Could we just cut short the whole adventure,’ Elizabeth pleaded, ‘and check into the hotel now?’ ‘Don’t be silly,’ we replied. ‘This is going to be fun. And don’t forget why we’re doing this. I almost died…or thought I was dying…at 9,000 feet. Here, we’re only at about 7,000 feet.’ ‘Why don’t we just stay at 9,000 feet?’ came the response. ‘I’ll take the risk.’

We spent the night at a hotel in the nearby village of Molinos and then drove back to see the new farm. We hoped that our spirits might have revived after a good night’s sleep…or maybe some helpful leprechauns had put the place in order. Nothing of the sort. It was still a pile of rubble. ‘Why are we doing this?’ Elizabeth wanted to know. We had no good answer.

Javier, who operates the backhoe, was busy clearing in the new fields. ‘How long do you think it will take?’ we asked. ‘Oh, I don’t know… ‘til I retire, probably…’ Javier laughed heartily. But our plan is to have the fields ready for planting in April. We’ll plant oats…let them grow over the winter…and then plough them under and plant alfalfa in the spring. (The seasons are reversed; we’re in the southern hemisphere.)

More trouble afoot: Meanwhile, back at the ranch…there’s more trouble afoot. We had heard that the originarios - locals claiming indigenous rights to land in this area - were building a house on our land, after we specifically told them not to. So, we mounted up…and rode out - unarmed - to check. Sure enough, excavation was already well advanced. Adobes were piled up. Even the roof beams were waiting. This is a violation of a court order. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get away with it. The local courts don’t like to come down too hard on the originarios; it leads to political trouble.
The originarios begin construction of a house on Bill’s land

‘I’d like to bulldoze that foundation and take away those adobes,’ said our lawyer. ‘Otherwise, they’re going to keep at it. But that may lead to retaliation. After all, you’ve got a glass room in your house. Isn’t there some expression in English about people who live in glass houses?’ We will go to court again and try to get another order.

Nothing makes sense: Back on our beat - money - we have no special insights and no new information. The stock market goes up…and up…and up. The Dow, the S&P 500, and the NASDAQ are all making record highs. And global stocks have never been more valuable. Meanwhile, investor complacency, as measured by Wall Street’s ‘fear gauge,’ the VIX, is at record lows. Everyone knows stock prices must come down. But no one knows when…or even why.

Here at the Diary, we try to keep our feet on the ground. But we would need stilts to understand what is going on in today’s markets. Nothing is solid. Nothing is true. Nothing really makes sense. Companies’ profits are fake. They goose them with accounting tricks.

The government’s statistics are fake, too - unemployment, inflation, GDP. If they were done properly (which our research team is in the process of doing), they would show that at least half the country has been in a depression for the entire 21st century.

Stock prices are fake - driven up by ultra-low interest rates…QE…and share buybacks. And interest rates themselves are fake - the Fed has pushed them down to a 5,000-year low. They no longer reflect how much capital (savings) is available relative to the demand for loans… and therefore how much credit should really cost. And at the bottom of it, the money itself is fake.

Dead-end ahead: We’ve gassed so much about this, we won’t bother you with more today. But money is the tape measure for the carpenter economy. If the tape stretches or shrinks…you end up with a house you wouldn’t want to live in, with crooked walls and doors askew. More importantly, you end up with something that will fall on your head. You understand this as well as we do. The trouble is, we don’t know when this monstrosity will collapse, or how. And in the meantime…

The plumbers are putting in more and more pipe…the masons are laying up more blocks…the electricians are running cables and conduit all over the place…and the carpenters are making noise with their hammers. In other words, real resources are going into a woebegone, money-losing, dead-end building project. How long the hammering will go on, we don’t know. All we can say is that we don’t want to be in it when the earthquake comes."

“The Future (Not)”

“The Future (Not)”
by James Howard Kunstler

"I took myself to the new movie 'Blade Runner 2049' to see what kind of future the Hollywood dream-shop is serving up in these days. It was an excellent illustration of the over-investments in technology with diminishing returns that are dragging us into collapse and of the attendant techno-narcissism that afflicts the supposedly thinking class in this society, who absolutely don’t get what this collapse is about. The more computer magic Hollywood drags into the picture, the less coherent their story-telling gets. Hollywood is collapsing, and it’s not just because of Harvey Weinstein’s antics.

Movies of this genre are really always more about the current moment than about the future, and Blade Runner 2049 is full of hilarious retro-anachronisms - things around us now which will probably not be in the future. The signature trope in many sci-fi dystopias of recent times is the assumed ever-presence of automobiles.

The original Mad Max was little more than an extended car chase - though apparently all that people remember about it is the desolate desert landscape and Mel Gibson’s leather jumpsuit. As the series wore on, both the vehicles and the staged chases became more spectacularly grandiose, until, in the latest edition, the movie was solely about Charlize Theron driving a truck. I always wondered where Mel got new air filters and radiator hoses, not to mention where he gassed up. In a world that broken, of course, there would be no supply and manufacturing chains.

So, of course, 'Blade Runner 2049' opens with a shot of the detective played by Ryan Gosling in his flying car, zooming over a landscape that looks more like a computer motherboard than actual earthly terrain. As the movie goes on, he gets in and out of his flying car more often than a San Fernando soccer mom on her daily rounds. That actually tells us something more significant than all the grim monotone trappings of the production design, namely, that we can’t imagine any kind of future - or any human society for that matter - that is not centered on cars.

But isn’t that exactly why we’ve invested so much hope and expectation (and public subsidies) in the activities of Elon Musk? After all, the Master Wish in this culture of wishful thinking is the wish to be able to keep driving to WalMart forever. It’s the ultimate fantasy of a shallow “consumer” society. The people who deliver that way of life, and profit from it, are every bit as sincerely wishful about it as the underpaid and overfed schnooks moiling in the discount aisles. In the dark corners of so-called postmodern mythology, there really is no human life, or human future, without cars.

This points to the central fallacy of this Sci-fi genre: that technology can defeat nature and still exist. This is where our techno-narcissism comes in fast and furious. The Blade Runner movies take place in and around a Los Angeles filled with mega-structures pulsating with holographic advertisements. Where does the energy come from to construct all this stuff? Supposedly from something Mr. Musk dreams up that we haven’t heard about yet. Frankly, I don’t believe that such a miracle is in the offing.

The denizens of this 2049 Los Angeles are a rabble of ragged scavengers bolting down bowls of ramen in the never-ending drizzle. Apparently they have nothing to do, nothing useful or gainful, that is. So you can’t help wondering how this hypothetical economy supports such population of no-accounts. I mean, we do know how our current economy supports the millions who are out of the work force, bolting their ramen between visits to the tattoo parlor: by giveaways based on pervasive accounting fraud backed by the now dwindling supply of oil that can be profitably extracted from the ground. But that won’t continue much longer. Know why? Because things that can’t go on, don’t.

One thing 'Blade Runner 2049' gets right in its retro-anachronistic borrowings from the present is the awesome joylessness of the culture. The artistry in this vision of the future is especially vivid in illuminating the absence of real artistry in contemporary “postmodern” American life. Sleek mechanical surfaces are everything, with no substance beneath the surface.

I walked out after two hours, and there was plenty more to go. It was too dreary, and too intellectually insulting to endure. I don’t blame Ryan Gosling, though. His look of doleful skepticism throughout the proceedings was perfect.”

“How The Elite Dominate The World – Part 1: Debt As A Tool Of Enslavement”

“How The Elite Dominate The World – Part 1:
 Debt As A Tool Of Enslavement”
by Michael Snyder

“Throughout human history, those in the ruling class have found various ways to force those under them to work for their economic benefit. But in our day and age, we are willingly enslaving ourselves. The borrower is the servant of the lender, and there has never been more debt in our world than there is right now. According to the Institute of International Finance, global debt has hit the 217 trillion dollar mark, although other estimates would put this number far higher. Of course everyone knows that our planet is drowning in debt, but most people never stop to consider who owns all of this debt. This unprecedented debt bubble represents that greatest transfer of wealth in human history, and those that are being enriched are the extremely wealthy elitists at the very, very top of the food chain.

Did you know that 8 men now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people living on the planet combined? Every year, the gap between the planet’s ultra-wealthy and the poor just becomes greater and greater. This is something that I have written about frequently, and the “financialization” of the global economy is playing a major role in this trend.

The entire global financial system is based on debt, and this debt-based system endlessly funnels the wealth of the world to the very, very top of the pyramid. It has been said that Albert Einstein once made the following statement“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it.” Whether he actually made that statement or not, the reality of the matter is that it is quite true. By getting all of the rest of us deep into debt, the elite can just sit back and slowly but surely become even wealthier over time. Meanwhile, as the rest of us work endless hours to “pay our bills”, the truth is that we are spending our best years working to enrich someone else.

Much has been written about the men and women that control the world. Whether you wish to call them “the elite”, “the establishment” or “the globalists”, the truth is that most of us understand who they are. And how they control all of us is not some sort of giant conspiracy. Ultimately, it is actually very simple. Money is a form of social control, and by getting the rest of us into as much debt as possible they are able to get all of us to work for their economic benefit.

It starts at a very early age. We greatly encourage our young people to go to college, and we tell them to not even worry about what it will cost. We assure them that there will be great jobs available for them once they finish school and that they will have no problem paying off the student loans that they will accumulate. Well, over the past 10 years student loan debt in the United States “has grown 250 percent” and is now sitting at an absolutely staggering grand total of 1.4 trillion dollars. Millions of our young people are already entering the “real world” financially crippled, and many of them will literally spend decades paying off those debts.

But that is just the beginning. In order to get around in our society, virtually all of us need at least one vehicle, and auto loans are very easy to get these days. I remember when auto loans were only made for four or five years at the most, but in 2017 it is quite common to find loans on new vehicles that stretch out for six or seven years. The total amount of auto loan debt in the United States has now surpassed a trillion dollars, and this very dangerous bubble just continues to grow.

If you want to own a home, that is going to mean even more debt. In the old days, mortgages were commonly 10 years in length, but now 30 years is the standard. By the way, do you know where the term “mortgage” originally comes from? If you go all the way back to the Latin, it actually means “death pledge”And now that most mortgages are for 30 years, many will continue making payments until they literally drop dead.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize how much they are enriching those that are holding their mortgages. For example, if you have a 30 year mortgage on a $300,000 home at 3.92 percent, you will end up making total payments of $510,640.

Credit card debt is even more insidious. Interest rates on credit card debt are often in the high double digits, and some consumers actually end up paying back several times as much as they originally borrowed. According to the Federal Reserve, total credit card debt in the United States has also now surpassed the trillion dollar mark, and we are about to enter the time of year when Americans use their credit cards the most frequently.

Overall, U.S. consumers are now nearly 13 trillion dollars in debt. As borrowers, we are servants of the lenders, and most of us don’t even consciously understand what has been done to us.

In Part I, I have focused on individual debt obligations, but tomorrow in Part II I am going to talk about how the elite use government debt to corporately enslave us. All over the planet, national governments are drowning in debt, and this didn’t happen by accident. The elite love to get governments into debt because it is a way to systematically transfer tremendous amounts of wealth from our pockets to their pockets. This year alone, the U.S. government will pay somewhere around half a trillion dollars just in interest on the national debt. That represents a whole lot of tax dollars that we aren’t getting any benefit from, and those on the receiving end are just becoming wealthier and wealthier.

In Part II we will also talk about how our debt-based system is literally designed to create a government debt spiral. Once you understand this, the way that you view potential solutions completely changes. If we ever want to get government debt “under control”, we have got to do away with this current system that was intended to enslave us by those that created it. We spend so much time on the symptoms, but if we ever want permanent solutions we need to start addressing the root causes of our problems. Debt is a tool of enslavement, and the fact that humanity is now more than 200 trillion dollars in debt should deeply alarm all of us.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

X22 Report, “The Cabal Is Going All Out, Next Event Imminent”

X22 Report, “The Cabal Is Going All Out, Next Event Imminent”

"Amber..."

"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."
- Kurt Vonnegut

Musical Interlude: Georg Deuter, “Sea & Silence”

Georg Deuter, “Sea & Silence”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309's spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core. 
Click image for larger size.
Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309's recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy's grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.”

"The Land Of Dreams..."

“Father, O father! What do we here
In this land of unbelief and fear?
The Land of Dreams is better far,
Above the light of the morning star.”

- William Blake, “The Land of Dreams”

Chet Raymo, "Know Thyself"

"Know Thyself"
by Chet Raymo

"The ancient Greek aphorism, attributed to Socrates and others. Good advice, I'm sure. If only we knew what it means. Is it the same as the "examination of conscience" we were asked to perform as young Catholics? "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." Well, yes, it is good to ask ourselves if we have lived up to our highest moral aspirations. But surely "Know thyself" means more than that.

Does it mean to be aware of our self-awareness? That is to say, not to act impulsively, but reflectively. Thoreau's "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Or perhaps it means to apply the method of scientia to the problem of consciousness, treat the mind like a fish that can be dissected at the lab bench, watch the brain flickering on the display of a scanning machine as the subject is stimulated with love, sex, fear, music, pain. Neuroscience. Daniel Dennet's book audaciously titled "Consciousness Explained."

There is a line from a poem by Jane Hirshfield, in which she questions herself: "A knife cannot cut itself open, yet you ask me both to be you and to know you."

Is it hopeless then? Is there an essential absurdity in a thing knowing itself? Does knowing necessarily imply a knower more complex than the thing known? Is it possible that we might fully understand, say, the neurology of the sea slug Aplysia, that favorite subject of experimental neurobiologists with only 20,000 central nerve cells, big nerve cells, ten times bigger than human neurons, but not the workings of the human brain, with its 100 billion nerve cells, each one connected to thousands of others?

Hirshfield's poem is titled "Instant Glimpsable Only For An Instant." Perhaps that is the best we can do. To know ourselves in those fleeting moments of recognition than come now and then, often unbidden, sometimes as the result of a chance encounter with beauty or with ugliness, sometimes bidden out of the silence and solitude of meditation - a flash upon on one's inward eye that is, perhaps, all the ancients were asking for when they asked us to "know ourselves."

"Above the Infinite Rest"

"Above the Infinite Rest" written by David Bergen.
Featured Painting: "Above the Infinite Rest" by Isaac Levitan, 1891.
Music track: "Surfing the Clouds" from the album "Empty Sky" by Deuter.

The Poet: David Whyte, “The Sea”

“The Sea”

“The pull is so strong we will not believe
the drawing tide is meant for us,
I mean the gift, the sea,
the place where all the rivers meet.

Easy to forget,
how the great receiving depth
untamed by what we need
needs only what will flow its way.

Easy to feel so far away
and the body so old
it might not even stand the touch.
But what would that be like
feeling the tide rise
out of the numbness inside
toward the place to which we go
washing over our worries of money,
the illusion of being ahead,
the grief of being behind,
our limbs young
rising from such a depth?

What would that be like
even in this century
driving toward work with the others,
moving down the roads
among the thousands swimming upstream,
as if growing toward arrival,
feeling the currents of the great desire,
carrying time toward tomorrow?

Tomorrow seen today, for itself,
the sea where all the rivers meet, unbound,
unbroken for a thousand miles, the surface
of a great silence, the movement of a moment
left completely to itself, to find ourselves adrift,
safe in our unknowing, our very own,
our great tide, our great receiving, our
wordless, fiery, unspoken,
hardly remembered, gift of true longing.”

~ David Whyte
 “Where Many Rivers Meet”

Musical Interlude: Deuter, “Earth Shadow”

Deuter, “Earth Shadow”

The Daily "Near You?"

 Hulu Langat, Selangor, Malaysia. Thanks for stopping by!

"A Life of One’s Own"

"'A Life of One’s Own': A Penetrating 1930s Field Guide to Self-Possession,
 Mindful Perception, and the Art of Knowing What You Really Want”
by Maria Popova

“One must know what one wants to be,” the eighteenth-century French mathematician Émilie du Châtelet wrote in weighing the nature of genius. “In the latter endeavors irresolution produces false steps, and in the life of the mind confused ideas.” And yet that inner knowing is the work of a lifetime, for our confusions are ample and our missteps constant amid a world that is constantly telling us who we are and who we ought to be - a world which, in the sobering words of E.E. Cummings, “is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else.” Try as we might not to be blinded by society’s prescriptions for happiness, we are still social creatures porous to the values of our peers - creatures surprisingly and often maddeningly myopic about the things we believe furnish our completeness as human beings, habitually aspiring to the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

In 1926, more than a decade before a team of Harvard psychologists commenced history’s longest and most revelatory study of human happiness and half a century before the humanistic philosopher Erich Fromm penned his classic on the art of living, the British psychoanalyst and writer Marion Milner (February 1, 1900–May 29, 1998) undertook a seven-year experiment in living, aimed at unpeeling the existential rind of all we chronically mistake for fulfillment - prestige, pleasure, popularity - to reveal the succulent, pulsating core of what makes for genuine happiness. Along her journey of “doubts, delays, and expeditions on false trails,” which she chronicled in a diary with a field scientist’s rigor of observation, Milner ultimately discovered that we are beings profoundly different from what we imagine ourselves to be - that the things we pursue most frantically are the least likely to give us lasting joy and contentment, but there are other, truer things that we can train ourselves to attend to in the elusive pursuit of happiness.

In 1934, under the pen name Joanna Field, Milner released the results of her inquiry in "A Life of One’s Own" (public library) - a small, enormously insightful book, beloved by W.H. Auden and titled in homage to Virginia Woolf’s "A Room of One’s Own," published three years after Milner began her existential experiment. Milner would go on to fill her ninety-eight years with life of uncommon contentment, informed by her learnings from this intensive seven-year self-examination.

In the preface to the original edition, Milner admonishes: "Let no one think it is an easy way because it is concerned with moments of happiness rather than with stern duty or high moral endeavour. For what is really easy, as I found, is to blind one’s eyes to what one really likes, to drift into accepting one’s wants ready-made from other people, and to evade the continual day to day sifting of values. And finally, let no one undertake such an experiment who is not prepared to find himself more of a fool than he thought."

This disorienting yet illuminating task of turning the mind’s eye inward requires a practice of recalibrating our conditioned perception. Drawing on Descartes’s tenets of critical thinking, she set out to doubt her most fundamental assumptions about what made her happy, trying to learn not from reason alone but from the life of the senses. Half a century before Annie Dillard offered her beautiful lens on the two ways of seeing, Milner writes: "As soon as I began to study my perception, to look at my own experience, I found that there were different ways of perceiving and that the different ways provided me with different facts. There was a narrow focus which meant seeing life as if from blinkers and with the centre of awareness in my head; and there was a wide focus which meant knowing with the whole of my body, a way of looking which quite altered my perception of whatever I saw. And I found that the narrow focus way was the way of reason. If one was in the habit of arguing about life it was very difficult not to approach sensation with the same concentrated attention and so shut out its width and depth and height. But it was the wide focus way that made me happy."

She reflects on the sense of extreme alienation and the terror of missing out she felt at the outset of the experiment, at twenty-six: "Although I could not have told about it at the time, I can now remember the feeling of being cut off from other people, separate, shut away from whatever might be real in living. I was so dependent on other people’s opinion of me that I lived in a constant dread of offending, and if it occurred to me that something I had done was not approved of I was full of uneasiness until I had put it right. I always seemed to be looking for something, always a little distracted because there was something more important to be attended to just ahead of the moment."

Throughout the book, Milner illustrates the trajectory of her growth with the living record that led to her insights, punctuating her narrative with passages from her diary penned during the seven years. One, evocative of eighteen-year-old Sylvia Plath’s journal, captures the disquieting restlessness she felt: "I want to feel myself part of things, of the great drift and swirl: not cut off, missing things, like being sent to bed early as a child, the blinds being drawn while the sun and cheerful voices came through the chink from the garden."

In another, she distills the interior experience of that achingly longed-for sense of belonging to with world: "I want… the patterns and colorings on the vase on my table took on a new and intense vitality - I want to be so harmonious in myself that I can think of others and share their experiences.”

Looking back on the young self who penned those journal entires at the outset of the experiment, Milner reflects: "I had felt my life to be of a dull dead-level mediocrity, with the sense of real and vital things going on round the corner, out in the streets, in other people’s lives. For I had taken the surface ripples for all there was, when actually happenings of vital importance to me had been going on, not somewhere away from me, but just underneath the calm surface of my own mind. Though some of these discoveries were not entirely pleasant, bringing with them echoes of terror and despair, at least they gave me a sense of being alive."

Much of that aliveness, she notes, came from the very act of chronicling the process of self-examination, for attention is what confers interest and vitality upon life. Joining the ranks of celebrated authors who championed the benefits of keeping a diary, Milner writes: “Not only did I find that trying to describe my experience enhanced the quality of it, but also this effort to describe had made me more observant of the small movements of the mind. So now I began to discover that there were a multitude of ways of perceiving, ways that were controllable by what I can only describe as an internal gesture of the mind. It was as if one’s self-awareness had a central point of interest being, the very core of one’s I-ness. And this core of being could, I now discovered, be moved about at will; but to explain just how it is done to someone who has never felt it for himself is like trying to explain how to move one’s ears.”

This inarticulable internal gesture, Milner found, was a matter of recalibrating her habits of perceiving, looking not directly at an object of attention but taking in a fuller picture with a diffuse awareness that is “more like a spreading of invisible sentient feelers, as a sea anemone spreads wide its feathery fingers.” One morning, she found herself in the forest, mesmerized by the play of sunlight and shadow through the glistening leaves of the trees, which left her awash in “wave after wave of delight” - an experience not cerebral but sensorial, animating every cell of her body. Wondering whether such full-body surrender to dimensional delight could provide an antidote to her feelings of anger and self-pity, she considers the trap of busyness by which we so often flee from the living reality of our being: “If just looking could be so satisfying, why was I always striving to have things or to get things done? Certainly I had never suspected that the key to my private reality might lie in so apparently simple a skill as the ability to let the senses roam unfettered by purposes. I began to wonder whether eyes and ears might not have a wisdom of their own.”

That tuning into one’s most elemental being, she came to realize, was the mightiest conduit to inhabiting one’s own life with truthfulness and integrity undiluted by borrowed standards of self-actualization. Nearly half a century before the poet Robert Penn Warren contemplated the trouble with “finding yourself,” Milner writes: "I had been continually exhorted to define my purpose in life, but I was now beginning to doubt whether life might not be too complex a thing to be kept within the bounds of a single formulated purpose, whether it would not burst its way out, or if the purpose were too strong, perhaps grow distorted like an oak whose trunk has been encircled with an iron band. I began to guess that my self’s need was for an equilibrium, for sun, but not too much, for rain, but not always… So I began to have an idea of my life, not as the slow shaping of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes, but as the gradual discovery and growth of a purpose which I did not know. I wrote: “It will mean walking in a fog for a bit, but it’s the only way which is not a presumption, forcing the self into a theory.”

Distilling the essence of this reorientation of being, she adds: “I did not know that I could only get the most out of life by giving myself up to it.”

Several decades later, Jeanette Winterson would write beautifully of “the paradox of active surrender” essential to our experience of art. As in art, so in life - Milner writes: “Here then was a deadlock. I wanted to get the most out of life, but the more I tried to grasp, the more I felt that I was ever outside, missing things. At that time I could not understand at all that my real purpose might be to learn to have no purposes.”

Half a century after Nietzsche proclaimed that “no one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” Milner considers the difficulty - and the triumph - of recognizing that you are crossing life on someone else’s bridge: ”I had at least begun to guess that my greatest need might be to let go and be free from the drive after achievement - if only I dared. I had also guessed that perhaps when I had let these go, then I might be free to become aware of some other purpose that was more fundamental, not self-imposed private ambitions but some thing which grew out of the essence of one’s own nature. People said: ‘Oh, be yourself at all costs’. But I had found that it was not so easy to know just what one’s self was. It was far easier to want what other people seemed to want and then imagine that the choice was one’s own.”

“One can’t write directly about the soul,” Virginia Woolf wrote in her own diary in the same era. “Looked at, it vanishes.” Happiness, Milner found, was similarly elusive to direct pursuit. Rather, its attainment required a wide-open attentiveness to reality, a benevolent curiosity about all that life has to offer, and a commitment not to argue with its offerings but to accept them as they come, congruous or incongruous as they may be with our desires.

Looking back on the diary entires from the final stretch of her seven-year experiment, she reflects on the hard-earned mastery of this unarguing surrender: “It struck me as odd that it had taken me so long to reach a feeling of sureness that there was something in me that would get on with the job of living without my continual tampering. I suppose I did not really reach it until I had discovered how to sink down beneath the level of chattering thoughts and simply feel what it meant to be alive.”

“The Deep State’s Bogus ‘Iranian Threat’”

“The Deep State’s Bogus ‘Iranian Threat’”
by David Stockman

"Yesterday we identified a permanent fiscal crisis as one of the quadruple witching forces arising in October 2017 which will shatter the global financial bubble. Today the Donald is on the cusp of making the crisis dramatically worse by decertifying the Iranian nuke deal, thereby reinforcing another false narrative that enables the $1 trillion Warfare State to continue bleeding the nation’s fiscal solvency.

In a word, the whole notion that Iran is a national security threat and state sponsor of terrorism is just as bogus as the Russian meddling story or the claim that the chain of events resulting from the coup d’ etat fostered by Washington on the streets of Kiev in February 2014 is evidence of Russian expansionism and aggression.

Likewise, it’s part of the same tissue of lies which led to Washington’s massive, destructive and counterproductive interventions in Syria and Libya — when neither regime posed an iota of threat to the safety and security of the American homeland.To the contrary, all of these false narratives are the cover stories which justify the Warfare State’s massive draw on the nation’s broken finances. We will get to the Big Lie about Iran momentarily, but first it is useful to demonstrate just how enormously excessive the nation’s defense budget actually is, and why the denizens of the Imperial City—especially the neocon ideologues—-find it necessary to peddle such threadbare untruths.

Spoiler alert: Iran has actually never attacked a single foreign nation in modern history whereas Washington has chosen to unilaterally intervene in or arm virtually every surrounding country in the region. Here’s some historical context that dramatizes our point about Washington’s hideously excessive spending on defense. Back in 1962 on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US defense budget was $52 billion, which would amount to $340 billion in today’s (2017$) purchasing power.

Needless to say, the world came to the brink of nuclear Armageddon at a time when the Soviet Union was at the peak of its power and was armed to the teeth. In addition to thousands of nuclear warheads deliverable by missiles and bombers, it had 50,000 tanks facing NATO and nearly 4 million men under arms. The now open Soviet archives, of course, show that the Soviets had far more bark than bite and never conceived of attacking the US or even western Europe; they didn’t remotely have the wherewithal or the strategic nerve.

Nevertheless, by 1962 false moves and provocations by both sides had created a state of “cold war” that was real. Yet even then, the $340 billion military budget was more than adequate to deter the Soviet threat. Nor is that our view as an armchair historian.

The 1962 defense budget was essentially President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s budget, and it is one that he had drastically slashed from the $500 billion (in today’s dollars) he had inherited from Truman at the end of the Korean War. That is to say, the greatest general who ever led American forces had concluded that $340 billion was enough. And that came as he left office warning about just the opposite—-the danger that the military/industrial complex would gain inordinate political power and pursue foreign policies which required ever larger military spending.

Unlike standard cold warriors, Ike believed that the ultimate national security resource of America was a healthy capitalist economy and that excessive government debt was deeply inimical to that outcome. That’s why he balanced the Federal budget three times during his tenure and presided over a fiscal consolidation—thanks to sharply reduced defense spending—that generated an average deficit of hardly 1 percent of GDP. That’s an outcome scarcely imaginable at all in the present world.

Even then, the Soviet empire with all the captive republics that have become independent nations since 1991 (e.g. Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan etc.) had a GDP in 1960 that was estimated to be 50 percent the size of the US. So Ike’s bet was that capitalist growth over time was the ultimate source of national strength; that a healthy domestic economy would eventually leave the centralized command-and-control Soviet economy in the dust; and that ultimately the Kremlin’s brand of statist socialism and militarism would fail.

He was right. Russia today is a shadow of what Ronald Reagan called the Evil Empire. Its GDP of $1.3 trillion is smaller than that of the New York metro area ($1.6 trillion) and only 7 percent of total US GDP. Moreover, unlike the militarized Soviet economy which devoted upwards of 40 percent of output to defense, the current Russian defense budget of $60 billion is just 4.5 percent of its vastly shrunken GDP.

So how in the world did the national security apparatus convince the Donald that we need the $700 billion defense program for FY 2018—-12X bigger than Russia’s—- that he just signed into law? What we mean, of course, is how do you explain that—- beyond the fact that the Donald knows virtually nothing about national security policy and history; and, to boot, is surrounded by generals who have spent a lifetime scouring the earth for enemies and threats to repel and reasons for more weapons and bigger forces.

The real answer, however, is both simple and consequential. To wit, the entire prosperity and modus operandi of the Imperial City is based on a panoply of “threats” that are vastly exaggerated or even purely invented; they retain their currency by virtue of endless repetition in the groupthink that passes for analysis. We’d actually put it in the category of cocktail party chatter.

For crying out loud. Why is Russia considered a threat to the American homeland when it doesn’t even have a blue water navy or any other basis to project offensive power to the North American continent? Indeed, its “attack” fleet consists of a  single, 40-year old smoke-belching aircraft carrier that could never get out of the Mediterranean bathtub ringed by overwhelming US forces.

Beyond conventional offensive power there is the non-power of its 1500 or so deployable nuclear warheads. Whatever you may think of Vlad Putin’s kleptomania and hard-edged suppression of internal dissent, he is surely the “Cool Hand Luke” of the modern world. Do you think he would be rash or suicidal enough to threaten the US with nuclear weapons? Or for that matter that Russia with its pipsqueak $1.3 trillion GDP and limited military capacity actually intends to invade and occupy Europe, which has a GDP of $17 trillion and sufficient military force—even without the US—-to make such a project unthinkable

Likewise, so what if the Chinese want to waste money building sand castles (i.e. man-made islands with military uses)in the South China Sea. It’s their backyard—just as the Gulf of Mexico is ours.

Besides, the great Red Ponzi is utterly dependent upon exporting $2 trillion per years of goods to the US, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea etc. Without those markets its massively leveraged, speculation-ridden, malinvested bubble economy would collapse in 6 months or less. So does anyone really think that the PLA (People Liberation Army) will be bombing 4,000 Wal-Marts in America any time soon?

The truth is, the US defense budget is hideously oversized for a reason so obvious that it constitutes the ultimate elephant in the room. No matter how you slice it,  there just are no real big industrialized, high tech countries in the world which can threaten the American homeland or even have the slightest intention of doing so.

Indeed, to continue with our historical benchmarks, the American homeland has not been so immune to foreign military threat since WW II. Yet during all those years of true peril, it never spent close too the Donald’s $700 billion boondoggle.

For instance, during the height of LBJs Vietnam folly (1968) defense spending in today’s dollars was about $400 billion. And even at the top of Reagan’s utterly unnecessary military building up (by the 1980s the Soviet Union was collapsing under the weight of its own socialist dystopia), total US defense spending was just $550 billion.

That gets us to the bogus Iranian threat. It originated in the early 1990s when the neocon’s in the George HW Bush Administration realized that with the cold war’s end, the Warfare State was in grave danger of massive demobilization like the US had done after every war until 1945. So among many other invented two-bit threats, the Iranian regime was demonized in order to keep the Imperial City in thrall to its purported national security threat and in support of the vast global armada of military forces, bases and occupations needed to contain it (including the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and US bases throughout the region).

The truth, however, is that according to the 2008 NIE ( National Intelligence Estimates) of the nation’s 17 intelligence agency, the Iranian’s never had a serious nuclear weapons program, and the small research effort that they did have was disbanded by orders of the Ayatollah Khamenei in 2003. Likewise, what the Imperial City claims to be state sponsored terror is actually nothing more than Iran’s foreign policy—something that every sovereign state on the planet is permitted to have.

Thus, as the leader of the minority Shiite schism of the Islamic world, Iran has made political and confessional allliances with various Shiite regimes in the region. These include the one that Washington actually installed in Bagdad; the Alawite/Shitte regime in Syria; the largest political party and representative of 40 percent of the population in Lebanon(Hezbollah); and the Houthi/Shitte of Yemen, who historically occupied the northern parts of the country and are now under savage attack by American weapons supplied to Saud Arabia.

In the case of both Syria and Iraq, their respective governments invited Iranian help, which is also their prerogative as sovereign nations. Ironically, it was the Shiite Crescent alliance of Iran/Assad/Hezbollah that bears much of the credit for defeating ISIS on the ground in Mosul, Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and elsewhere in the now largely defunct Islamic State.

In tomorrow’s installment we will address the details of the Iran nuke agreement and why the Donald is making a horrible mistake in proposing to decertify it. But there should be no doubt about the consequence: It will reinforce the neocon dominance of the Republican party and insure that the nation’s $1 trillion Warfare State remains fully entrenched. Needless to say, that will also insure that the America’s gathering fiscal crisis will turn into an outright Fiscal Calamity in the years just ahead."

"How It Really Is"

"Where I Needed To Be..."

"Don’t Forget How Strange This All Is"

"Don’t Forget How Strange This All Is"
by David Cain

"Jerry Seinfeld joked that if aliens came to earth and saw people walking dogs, they would assume the dogs are the leaders. The dog walks out front, and a gangly creature trailing behind him picks up his feces and carries it for him.

Throughout my life I’ve had moments where I felt like one of these visiting aliens, where something I knew to be normal suddenly seemed bizarre. I remember walking home from somewhere, struck by how strange streets are: flat strips of artificial rock embedded in the earth so that our traveling machines don’t get stuck in the mud.

Everything else seemed strange too. Metal poles bending over the road, tipped by glowing orbs. Rectangular dwellings made of lumber and artificial rocks. The background noise is always the hum of distant traveling machines, and all of this stuff was built and operated by a single species of ape.

Even stranger was the fact that these strange things usually don’t seem strange. I know I’m not the only one who has felt this. A few people have shared similar experiences with me, and according to "The School of Life",  it was a central theme in Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel "Nausea."

Sartre apparently believed that the world is far stranger and more absurd than it normally seems. Most of the time, however, we ascribe a kind of logic and order to the world that it doesn’t really have, so that we’re not constantly bewildered by it. Sometimes we momentarily lose track of that logic, and the true strangeness of life is revealed. In these moments, we see the world as it is when it’s been “stripped of any of the prejudices and stabilizing assumptions lent to us by our day-to-day routines.” In other words, we occasionally see the world as if for the first time, which could only be a very strange experience indeed.

Although I know this experience isn’t unique to me, I had no idea whether most people could relate. So when I discovered the surprisingly popular podcast "Welcome to Night Vale," I felt that a small but significant part of my experience had been understood. Night Vale is a fictional desert town, and each episode of the podcast is about 20 minutes of broadcasts from its public radio station. The host reads public service announcements, advertisements, community news and weather, and messages from the City Council. That would be extremely boring, except that almost everything that happens in the Night Vale is incredibly strange, even impossible.

The first announcement in the first episode is a reminder from City Council that dogs are not allowed in the dog park, and neither are citizens, and if you see hooded figures in the park you are not to approach them. In an unrelated matter, there is a cat hovering four feet off the ground next to the sink in the men’s washroom at the radio station. It cannot move from its spot in mid-air, but it seems happy, and staff have left food and water for it.

Wednesday has been canceled, due to a scheduling error. There is a glowing cloud raining small animals on a farm at the edge of town. A large pyramid has appeared in a prominent public space, apparently when nobody was looking. 

I imagine that when most people hear about WTNV, they listen to five minutes of it and turn it off. It feels like a joke at first, or at best, bad art. I kept listening, thinking the weird happenings are some kind of allegory, or a code to be deciphered. But they’re not. The story stays absurd, kind of like an over-the-top Twin Peaks, where none of the weirdness ever gets explained.

Everything is weird until it’s familiar: I was listening to the podcast on headphones, walking down our local riverside path, and I passed an older couple sun-tanning. I’ve seen people tanning a thousand times, but only then did the activity strike me as completely hilarious. In our world, people sometimes take off all their clothes—or at least as much as society will allow—so that they can get radiation burns from a glowing ball in the sky. Even though everyone knows this practice increases your chances of developing a fatal disease, people still do it because they like the color of the burned flesh. Skin burned to a certain tone confers social benefits for a few weeks.

The fact that we live on a planet at all would be unbelievable if we weren’t already used to it. Nobody could have dreamed up this setting: life is set on one of many ball-shaped rocks moving in circles around a bigger, glowing ball. And we have great affection for these other balls. When officials demoted Pluto to a minor ball, people were outraged, even though none of them had ever actually seen it. When the spaceship sent to take pictures of Pluto finally arrived, we discovered it had a giant white heart on its side. It had been loving us back the whole time!

Listening to Night Vale reminds us that our world is no less strange, just more familiar. If in our world, as in Night Vale, taco shops sometimes became encased in amber, we would accept that as a fact of life after seeing it a few times. But that’s no weirder than the fact that in order to live, we must breathe a gas that combusts so easily and so violently that every city has to have specialized departments dedicated to shooting water onto anything at a moment’s notice. (Bill Bryson captures this strangeness beautifully in "A Short History of Nearly Everything.")*

You can see the weirdness in almost any normal phenomenon by imagining how you’d describe it to someone not from Earth or any place like it. Water falls uncontrollably from the sky? Pop culture is obsessed with people who pretend to be other people in moving pictures? We eat fresh food grown on the opposite side of the planet? What?

So our world is really weird and chaotic, which is a helpful thing to realize, because we suffer so much insisting that it should be sensible and orderly. We have to live in a very strange place, and when we forget that it’s strange due to familiarity blindness, it can seem like something’s always gone temporarily wrong. We become preoccupied with returning society to a kind of balance or sanity that it never had, often berating or abusing certain people or certain groups in the process. It’s quite a relief to remember that life was always nuts.

Albert Camus (who is an obvious influence in Night Vale) argued that the universe is always absurd and chaotic, yet we’re always trying to find meaning and order in it. When you listen to Night Vale, making sense is the first thing your mind tries to do with what it hears, and it can’t. When you relax that need for the events to make sense, something softens. You stop straining. You listen more for the moment and less for how each moment serves everything else. You gain a sense of humor about the whole thing, however dark it gets.

Because it requires listeners to voluntarily open up to extreme strangeness, Night Vale has made me a less uptight about our own society’s political and cultural nonsense. I am seeing society less like a troubled person who was once sane, and more like a funny-looking animal, adorably knocking things over by accident. milky way

The three options: Camus thought our unreasonable demand for meaning and sense was fundamental to human beings, and that it creates a ton of pain for us. He saw only three ways to respond to life’s absurdity: we can deny it (usually by claiming that a God has designed it this way), we can commit suicide, or we can embrace the weirdness and live in it wholeheartedly. The last option, he figured, was the only good one. When you stop expecting the world to be sensible, suddenly it all makes sense.

Embracing the weirdness takes the edge off of everything, even death. Whenever you’re worried about “big picture” ideas, such as war, climate change, crime, corporate greed, you can remember that this whole weird thing called life just happened, and it’s always fresh and interesting, even though nobody really asked for it. And in that light, the thought of it ending one day doesn’t seem distressing at all—when your time comes, all you can do is say, “Wow, that was odd.”
* Freely download “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, by Bill Bryson, here: