Wednesday, July 26, 2017

“Changing Batteries”

“Changing Batteries”

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be 
seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."
- Helen Keller

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Musical Interlude: Yanni, “To the One Who Knows”

Yanni, “To the One Who Knows” 

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Gorgeous spiral galaxy NGC 3521 is a mere 35 million light-years away, toward the constellation Leo. Relatively bright in planet Earth's sky, NGC 3521 is easily visible in small telescopes but often overlooked by amateur imagers in favor of other Leo spiral galaxies, like M66 and M65. It's hard to overlook in this colorful cosmic portrait, though. 
Click image for larger size.
Spanning some 50,000 light-years the galaxy sports characteristic patchy, irregular spiral arms laced with dust, pink star forming regions, and clusters of young, blue stars. Remarkably, this deep image also finds NGC 3521 embedded in gigantic bubble-like shells. The shells are likely tidal debris, streams of stars torn from satellite galaxies that have undergone mergers with NGC 3521 in the distant past.”

"The Problem With Proverbs"

"The Problem With Proverbs"
by Patrick Cockburn

"My father, Claud Cockburn, invented a game in which participants made up national sayings that had to be completely meaningless but sound appropriate to their purported country of origin. An example could be the traditional Norwegian saying, “the tree is taller than the highest wave” or, as they say in India, “all is not nothingness, nor the nothingness all”.

The idea for the game came to him on the top of a bus in London which was crawling along in a traffic jam. He overheard a passenger in the seat in front of him complain to a friend about their slow pace, whereupon the friend gave a resigned shrug of the shoulders and replied, “speed is what you make it”. The meaninglessness of the words impressed my father along with a sense that the mustn’t-grumble-but-endure tone of the speaker was peculiarly British.

The sayings should appear at least vaguely meaningful at first sight. For instance, there is the French proverb “il y a des gants sans les mains dedans – some gloves have no hands in them”. Plausible proverbs devoid of meaning are not necessarily easy to manufacture. At first, the traditional Scandinavian saying, “the pine is tall, but does not reach the sky” looks like a winner, but it contains the trite idea that the large or successful have their limitations. A similar objection might rule out the nostrum of Norfolk country folk, in fact invented by my wife, which holds that “burrowing badgers catch no butterflies”.

National sayings may be dull from overuse or were shallow stuff in the first place. As a foreign correspondent, I used occasionally to buy books of local proverbs, hoping that I could use one in an article to illustrate some news event in the country where I was reporting. Inclusion of an obscure but exotic local nostrum in my copy was much better than a quote from a diplomat and would hopefully give the reader the impression that I had my finger on the pulse of indigenous culture and tradition. I did this in Haiti in the early 1990s and again in Afghanistan 10 years later. My idea never really worked out because people in lots of countries seem to have made the same true but banal observations about life. Friends in Beirut used to tell me political jokes with tears of laughter running down their faces, but then had to give me a tutorial on who-was-who in Lebanese politics before I could even pretend to laugh at the right moments.

Sayings by individuals are generally more interesting than national proverbs, but the appetite for these soon cloys. Those most frequently quoted in dictionaries of quotations come across as self-important, patronizing and with a firm grip on the obvious. Often they sound plain wrong or are speaking for effect, as with Gertrude Stein declaring that “in the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is”. This has a contrived midnight-oil feel to it as does Stein’s overused remark, speaking of Oakland, California, that “there is no there there”. The quote used to be especially favored by foreign writers and journalists making snide remarks about the supposed lack of character of American heartlands.

Jokes can be more telling about national character and beliefs than proverbs, though really good ones that don’t sound dated are rare. For instance, there is an Israeli joke used to describe a succession of senior Israeli military officers in recent decades which simply says, “he was so stupid that even the other generals noticed”. This tells one more about what many well-informed Israelis privately think of their military commanders than a dozen carefully written analyses of the Israeli army.

The British sometimes claim that their humor is too subtle and ironic to appeal to those from different cultures. An example often cited is the famous Punch cartoon of the 1930s showing two hippos in a tropical pool, one saying to the other, “I keep thinking it’s Tuesday”. When I was about eight years old I was given a 20-volume collection of old Punch cartoons that dated from the beginning of the First World War until the end of the 1930s and which I found very unfunny. I can remember only one cartoon that seems genuinely amusing in retrospect. It shows a parliamentary candidate on a platform addressing a political meeting with the Union flag behind him. In contrast to contemporary cartoons, there are several lines of dialogue underneath. So far as I recall, they read: “Voice from audience: ‘Can the candidate explain why the Union Jack behind him is upside-down?’ Candidate (glancing round): ‘I can only suppose that the person who put it there was so lacking in common patriotism that he did not know the correct position of our national emblem.’ Voice from audience: ‘Well, it isn’t upside-down.’ ”

Proverbs and memorable remarks inevitably degrade into clichés through overuse. Famous quotes, such as the denunciation of Roman imperialism put into the mouth of a British resistance leader by Tacitus – “they make a desert and they call it peace” – has echoed down the centuries but loses impact through overfamiliarity.

Collections of quotations tend to draw on a limited pool of predictable contributors. By way of contrast, what is striking about the recently published "Quips & Quotes: A Journalist’s Commonplace Book" by my friend Richard Ingrams is its freshness, skepticism and depth. Put together haphazardly by the author over the last half-century, it is a mix of quotes from people long forgotten and others still famous. Their sayings bubble with originality. Lenin quotes are fairly common but I never knew he had said that “the best government has only to be in power long enough for everybody to wish to remove it”. The statement is simple enough but worth bearing in mind as an explanation for every revolution in history down to the Arab Spring uprisings last year. There is the same sort of compelling simplicity in the words of William Cobbett, the great radical journalist, who wrote that “it is the chief business of a government to take care that one part of the people does not cause the other part to lead miserable lives”.

Not many people remember Sefton Delmer, the chief foreign correspondent of the "Daily Express" in the 1950s, but he once said: “I can only think clearly in a five-star hotel.” He is quoted as saying on another occasion that “in real life, the women pursue the men. It is only in Somerset Maugham that the men pursue the women”. I particularly like the remark of Peter Cook: “Cricket is nothing if it is not one man pitted against a fish.”

Few real proverbs are as interesting as these. But my father discovered two, both Chinese, that are equal in appeal and which I have never seen quoted elsewhere. One says: “Do not tie your shoelace in a melon field or adjust your hat under a plum tree if you want to avoid suspicion.” The other competes with Peter Cook’s in its cryptic allure: “Of nine bald men, eight are deceitful and the ninth is dumb.”

"Always Getting Ready..."

"Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? 
Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. 
Before they know it, time runs out."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes 

The Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke"Book of Hours II,16"

"Book of Hours II,16"

"How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing-
each stone, blossom, child-
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God's heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Chet Raymo, “Nuclear Landscapes”

“Nuclear Landscapes” 
by Chet Raymo

"I was thinking recently about August 7, 1945. I was almost nine years old, growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The previous day an atomic bomb had exploded over the heart of Hiroshima. As I recall, all of us, adults and children, struggled to understand this extraordinary event, so remote from common knowledge and experience. It was clear that humanity had crossed a threshold, but to what? Within eight days, the war would be over. One mystery was solved: We now knew what was going on up Highway 11 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, previously a source of wild speculation.

Anyway, as I dredged my memory for the child's awareness of the birth of the Atomic Age, one black-and-white image stood out: the obliterated city of Hiroshima. I brought up a Google Earth image of the city today. You can see a snapshot below. To the left, Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park. Surrounding it, a modern, bustling city, essentially indistinguishable from any modern city anywhere. At the top center, across the street from the park, what appears to be a baseball stadium!

The T-bridge at top left was the target for the Enola Gay. (Click to enlarge.)

I don't mean to make light of the terrible tragedy that befell the people of Hiroshima, or the lingering human scars both physical and psychological. But the environment seems to have healed, at least by the evidence of Google Earth.

What about the country that initiated the Atomic Age? I used Google Earth to bring up an image of the Hanford Reservation in Washington state, where the plutonium was produced for the Trinity test in New Mexico and the Nagasaki bomb- and thousands of subsequent weapons. That's the reservation to the left of the river in the image below, a wasteland. Granted, this part of the state, in the rain shadow of the Cascades, is naturally desert. The area to the right of the river is irrigated orchard and farmland. The Hanford Reservation is still too poisoned by radioactive waste to allow human habitation or cultivation.

The nuclear testing range in southern Nevada and the Bikini and Eniwetok Atolls likewise remain bleak and scarred with radioactivity, and in the case of Bikini, uninhabitable.”

"Be Like The Bird..."

"What matter if this base, unjust life
Cast you naked and disarmed?
If the ground breaks beneath your step,
Have you not your soul?
Your soul! You fly away,
Escape to realms refined,
Beyond all sadness and whimpering.
Be like the bird which on frail branches balanced
A moment sits and sings;
He feels them tremble, but he sings unshaken,
Knowing he has wings."
– Victor Hugo

The Daily "Near You?"

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

X22 Report, “A Strategic Move By Russia Has Just Been Played, Check!”

X22 Report, “A Strategic Move By Russia Has Just Been Played, Check!”
Related followup report:
X22 Report,
 “The Central Banker Transition Is Happening Quietly In The Background”

"How It Really Is"

"Slow Down to Smell the Roses"

"Slow Down to Smell the Roses"
By Mark Ford

"If you want to not only achieve your goals but also have time to enjoy the ‘little’ things in life, you need to eliminate your energy-sapping time-killers. There are obvious time-killers - like watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the net. But the worst one is stress.

Why is stress a time-killer? Because it fills your otherwise productive hours with unpleasant, unhelpful thoughts and feelings. As a result, anything you can do to reduce stress will give you more time. That said, here are some stress-busting suggestions inspired by Ilene Birkwood’s "Stress for Success", and "The Guide to Managing Stress" by J Robin Powell.

1. Identify your stressors: Make a list of the stressful things you encounter on a daily basis: people who are late, long lines, inconsiderate drivers, juggling your kids’ afterschool activities, etc. After you complete the list, take a few minutes to look it over. You will find that you can completely eliminate many of these stressors. For instance, to get a head start on making dinner, or to just take a few minutes for yourself, you can enlist another parent to drive your daughter to soccer practice. If you manage to trim down the list by even two or three items, you will have significantly reduced your level of stress.

2. Identify - and make time for - your favorite pastimes: Make a list of the things you enjoy doing most: fishing, listening to music, writing poetry, etc. Are you taking time to do these things? If not, why not? Remember, balance in life is very important. Taking an occasional break to do something that gives you pleasure will increase your level of happiness and provide you with much-needed stress relief.

3. De-stress your diet: Lack of proper nourishment accelerates cell degeneration in the brain and creates stress in your body. Good nutrition helps you physiologically deal better with stress. You can build healthy eating habits by following three general rules: reduce your intake of calories from fat and meat; double your intake of calories from vegetables, fruits and whole grains; and lower the amount of meat you eat while adding more fish or vegetable protein, like nuts, peas, beans and lentils.

4. Exercise: Exercise can truly relax you. So make it your goal to exercise at least three times a week by doing something you enjoy. This is important because, if you enjoy the activity, you’ll be more likely to make it a habit. Another consideration: Choose an exercise that is invigorating and doesn’t add to your stress. Even if you love racquetball, for instance, it may be a bad choice for you because it is such an intense (and therefore exhausting) game.

My advice is to do yoga every morning for 15 minutes - and then another 15 minutes of exercise later in the day. That’s all you need to be flexible, fit, and feel good. It’s also good to have a physical hobby - a sport like tennis or jiu-jitsu, which you enjoy at least once a week. But don’t count that as exercise, because it’s not. It’s fun.

5. Get a good night’s rest: Lack of sleep (or lack of restful, non-REM sleep) can add to your stress. Doing something that relaxes you before bed - maybe listening to soothing music or taking a bath - will help you fall asleep, and sleep deeply and restfully. It also helps to give yourself plenty of time to digest a heavy meal and avoid alcohol, arguments, and any stimulating mental or physical activity before bedtime.

6. Take regular work breaks: When you feel particularly stressed at work, take a short break. In fact, don’t wait for that to happen. At least once an hour, get up from your chair and walk around your office or down the hall - maybe even take a little trip outside. Get a glass of water or take a minute to stretch. This will revive you and allow you to approach your work with renewed enthusiasm.

7. Laugh: Laughter is one of the best ways to release stress. Regularly expose yourself to things and people that make you laugh.

8. Have realistic expectations: Things don’t run smoothly 100% of the time. People are late for meetings. Traffic slows to a standstill. Your son’s trumpet lesson lasts 20 extra minutes.

9. Leave your work at work: If you consistently bring work home with you, you will be a prime candidate for burnout. Reserve your time away from the office for relaxation, recreation, and your family.

10. Make a big change: Sometimes you can resolve or eliminate stress only by making a major change. If you feel constantly overwhelmed and anxious at work, perhaps you need to rethink your career goals. Major changes like this should not be approached lightly. They may, in fact, cause stress of their own in the short term. But if the long-term benefits could greatly outweigh the immediate stress, it’s something to seriously consider.

One more thing… There’s one more technique I’d like to give you to help you slow down and increase your enjoyment of life. This is not a new technique - there are spiritualists, physical fitness gurus, and yogis who have been teaching it for thousands of years. It’s stayed alive because it works. And it works because it draws from the most fundamental human activity: breathing.

To appreciate how important breathing is to you, do this: Put your head under water and hold your breath for as long as possible. Make several attempts to go as long as you possibly can. Now consider this: That’s how long you could maintain consciousness (even life) without being able to breathe.

So take a full breath right now, and enjoy. Consider how amazing it is that you keep breathing without any conscious effort, and that you have been breathing, more or less without interruption, for your entire life. At an average rate of about 12 breaths per minute, that’s 720 per hour, 17,280 per day, and 6,307,200 per year. That amounts to over a quarter of a billion opportunities to appreciate your life in a 40-year timespan!

Promise yourself that you will never again take breathing for granted. Spend at least a few minutes every morning and evening consciously practicing breathing - enjoying the miracle of each inhalation, and the relaxation possible with each exhalation. And, during the day, when you get into stressful situations, count your breaths - but count them consciously and gratefully.

Today’s action plan: I remember how much my father wanted extra time when he was dying. And I know how much my friend, who’s struggling with cancer now, would give to gain some extra time. He too is thinking in terms of years or months. But maybe he doesn’t have to think that way. Maybe he can extend the life he has - however long it may be - by making it feel longer. By savoring every moment. By measuring it with nature’s metronome…breathing.

Try it now. Close your eyes and imagine that you are locked in an airtight chamber and have only two minutes to live. Rather than panicking away those precious moments, enjoy each breath that you have. Breathe in. Breathe out. This is the essential gift of life. Be thankful for it.”

"Life Is Truly A Ride..."

"Life is truly a ride. We're all strapped in and no one can stop it. When the doctor slaps your behind, he's ripping your ticket and away you go. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you put your arms up and scream, sometimes you just hang on to that bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing. I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair's messed, you're out of breath, and you didn't throw up."
- Jerry Seinfeld

Musical Interlude: Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

"Armageddon Is Two and One-Half Minutes Away"

"Armageddon Is Two and One-Half Minutes Away"
by Paul Craig Roberts

“It would indeed be the ultimate tragedy if the history of the
 human race proved to be nothing more noble than the 
story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump.”
- David Ormsby-Gore

"Are you ready to die? You and I are going to die and not from old age, because our fellow Americans are so stupid, ignorant, and brainwashed that they believe the lies that are leading us to our certain destruction. This is what the Atomic Scientists tell us.* And they are right.

Can you comprehend the absurdity? President Trump is under full-scale attack from the military/security complex, the US presstitute media, the Democratic Party, and from many Republicans, such as Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham and Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain simply because President Trump wants to reduce the dangerous tensions between the two major nuclear powers.

What explains the total lack of concern for their own lives on the part of the populations in South Carolina and Arizona who send to the Senate and keep sending to the Senate two morons determined to provoke war between the US and Russia?

It should send shivers up your spine that you can ask this same question about all 50 states, and almost all congressional districts.

You can ask the same question about the bordello known as “the American media.” There will be no one alive to post or to read the headlines of the war that they are helping to promote.

The United States and the rest of the world with it along with all life on earth are being sent to their graves by the total failure of American leadership.

What is wrong with Americans that they cannot understand that any “leader” who provokes war with a major nuclear power should be instantly institutionalized as criminally insane?

Why do Americans sit night after night in front of the TV absorbing lies that commit them beyond all doubt to their deaths?

America has failed itself and the world.”

"America’s Wars - Just and Moral?"

"America’s Wars - Just and Moral?"
by Patrick J. Buchanan

“One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies,” writes columnist David Ignatius. Given that Syria’s prewar population was not 10 percent of ours, this is the equivalent of a million dead and wounded Americans. What justifies America’s participation in this slaughter?

Columnist Eric Margolis summarizes the successes of the six-year civil war to overthrow President Bashar Assad: “The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, 5 million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another 6 million internally displaced. 11 million Syrians driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine. Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics.”

Realizing the futility of U.S. policy, President Trump is cutting aid to the rebels. And the War Party is beside itself. Says The Wall Street Journal: “The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too high a price for their Syria sojourn. This means more support for Mr. Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The U.S. should also consider enforcing ‘safe zones’ in Syria for anti-Assad forces.”

Yet, fighting ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, while bleeding the Assad-Iran-Russia-Hezbollah victors, is a formula for endless war and unending terrors visited upon the Syrian people. What injury did the Assad regime, in power for half a century and having never attacked us, inflict to justify what we have helped to do to that country? Is this war moral by our own standards?

We overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Moammar Gadhafi in 2012. Yet, the fighting, killing and dying in both countries have not ceased. Estimates of the Iraq civilian and military dead run into the hundreds of thousands.

Still, the worst humanitarian disaster may be unfolding in Yemen. After the Houthis overthrew the Saudi-backed regime and took over the country, the Saudis in 2015 persuaded the United States to support its air strikes, invasion and blockade. By January 2016, the U.N. estimated a Yemeni civilian death toll of 10,000, with 40,000 wounded. However, the blockade of Yemen, which imports 90 percent of its food, has caused a crisis of malnutrition and impending famine that threatens millions of the poorest people in the Arab world with starvation.

No matter how objectionable we found these dictators, what vital interests of ours were so imperiled by the continued rule of Saddam, Assad, Gadhafi and the Houthis that they would justify what we have done to the peoples of those countries?

“They make a desert and call it peace,” Calgacus said of the Romans he fought in the first century. Will that be our epitaph?

Among the principles for a just war, it must be waged as a last resort, to address a wrong suffered, and by a legitimate authority. Deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target. The wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen were never authorized by Congress. The civilian dead, wounded and uprooted in Syria, and the malnourished millions in Yemen, represent a moral cost that seems far beyond any proportional moral gain from those conflicts.

In which of the countries we have attacked or invaded in this century - Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen - are the people better off than they were before we came?

And we wonder why they hate us.

“Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return,” wrote W. H. Auden in “September 1, 1939.” As the peoples of Syria and the other broken and bleeding countries of the Middle East flee to Europe and America, will not some come with revenge on their minds and hatred in their hearts?

Meanwhile, as the Americans bomb across the Middle East, China rises. She began the century with a GDP smaller than Italy’s and now has an economy that rivals our own. She has become the world’s first manufacturing power, laid claim to the islands of the East and South China seas, and told America to keep her warships out of the Taiwan Strait. Xi Jinping has launched a “One Belt, One Road” policy to finance trade ports and depots alongside the military and naval bases being established in Central and South Asia.

Meanwhile, the Americans, $20 trillion in debt, running $800 billion trade deficits, unable to fix their health care system, reform their tax code, or fund an infrastructure program, prepare to fight new Middle East wars.

Whom the Gods would destroy…”

"The 16 Years’ War and Its Cost"

"The 16 Years’ War and Its Cost"
by Paul Rosenberg

"Every night on American TV you can see repeating commercials to raise money for young people who’ve had limbs blown off. It might be cruel to ask the following question in the presence of these veterans, but millions of other people have been forced to pay for all of this, and they need to be protected as well. And so, with condolences to the young people who signed up for these wars believing they were actually defending the good, we must ask this question: What was the payoff?

Some people will evade this question by maintaining that “freedom was preserved,” but that statement rests on a nebulous and self-serving definition of freedom… a definition that boils down to, “What we have is freedom.” Or it's variant: “It's worse in North Korea; therefore we're free.” These lines of reasoning, of course, are fallacious.

The 16 Years’ War (Heading for 20 or More): So, with apologies where due, I must assert that the payoff from all the bloodshed in Afghanistan and Iraq has been negligible. Both places are still a mess, and both places will likely remain a mess for a long, long time.

Almost 16 years of war have gone by in Afghanistan and more than 14 in Iraq. I think we should admit that any possibility of a “respectable win” is long past. So, what was it all for? To make people feel they were getting revenge after 9/11? Was that really worth the cost? Bin Laden (whose official death story reeks) was sick and dying anyway. Or to “get” Hussein? He had been a US ally for many years before he was pushed into the role of the villain. So how reasonable is revenge in that case? Were these two snorts of emotional cocaine worth their price?

Ah Yes… The Price: War is insanely expensive, so I’ve decided to crunch the numbers on this, and I think you’ll want to see them, especially if you’re an American. And so, here, courtesy of Wikipedia, are the costs of the US military-industrial complex for the years 2001 through 2017:

2001                  $335 Billion

2002                  $362 Billion

2003                  $456 Billion

2004                  $491 Billion

2005                  $506 Billion

2006                  $556 Billion

2007                  $625 Billion

2008                  $696 Billion

2009                  $698 Billion

2010                  $721 Billion

2011                  $717 Billion

2012                  $681 Billion

2013                  $610 Billion

2014                  $614 Billion

2015                  $637 Billion

2016                  $522 Billion

2017                  $524 Billion

That comes to a staggering $9.751 trillion. And we should remember that this is for a nation bordered on the east and west by immense oceans, and on the north and south by nations that are more likely to dissolve than to invade. On top of that, The War on Drugs and other programs are only partly accounted for in these numbers.

The costs of just the Iraq and Afghan wars – if they could realistically be separated from the rest of the military-industrial complex – would be substantially lower. One report (PDF) has those costs for 2001 through 2011 at $1.28 trillion. Extending that figure through 2017 would yield a rough cost of $2.2 trillion. But since no war can be fought without the underlying military-industrial complex (bases, training, recruitment, hospitals, logistics and so on), let’s split the difference between the total budget and $2.2T and call the money spent by the US government on these two wars $6 trillion.

And That Comes To… The cost of the past 16 years of these unresolved wars comes to $44,776 per household. That’s a lot of spare change. If you want to look at it on an individual basis, it comes to $18,809 per man, woman, and child in the United States.*

Revenge, we see, is very, very expensive. The full cost of the military-industrial complex (excluding parts of the War on Drugs, some intel agencies, and so on) comes to $30,567 per man, woman, and child and $72,769 per household.

Can We Please Be Honest? I really can’t see a reason to say that the two wars in question kept America safe. I’m not sure how you’d make an argument for that without resting entirely on dark imaginations. And please remember this: Imagined terrors are infinite. You could imagine terrifying possibilities for as long as you had time and energy. And so, any conclusions based upon “what might have happened” are useless. More terror attacks might have happened, or there might have been a Muslim Enlightenment if we hadn’t blown away a few pieces of collateral damage. Both of these are imaginary and neither is an excuse to spend fifty cents, much less trillions of dollars. That first one is scary, however, and fear is great for making humans act stupidly.

I’d also like to add that these expenditures have not gone to the young people who were blown up in these wars and who should have been a top priority. If they had, there’d be no need for perpetual charity appeals on TV. That very expensive segment of the military-industrial complex (VA hospitals, etc.) has failed horribly. Ask a vet.

So let’s be clear on this: The average American family would be at least $44,000 richer if these wars hadn’t been run. And given that most of these families are just scraping by, that seems like a pretty big deal. And given that the net gain from all of this was nil, I don’t know what to call it but a disaster… save for the people who’ve been empowered and enriched by it. Almost no one living has been more damaged by this than all those young people missing limbs. Without this debacle they’d still be whole… and probably a lot wealthier too.”
*I am using Wikipedia's figures of 319 million persons and 
134 million households in the US.
All this is just money. How do you calculate the human costs? How many dead?
Was it all worth it? For what? For who?

"The Truth Of The Matter Is..."

"So how do you beat the odds when it’s one against a billion? You stand strong, keep pushing yourself past all rational limits and never let yourself give up. But the truth of the matter is, despite how hard you try and fight to stay in control, when it’s all said and done, sometimes you’re just out numbered."
- "Meredith Grey", "Grey's Anatomy"

"The Elites Are Privately Warning About a Crash"

"Revealed: The Date When the Liquidity Starts Drying Up"
by Brian Maher

"We heaved up evidence last Wednesday that foreign central banks could be the true source of liquidity floating stocks to record heights. While the Federal Reserve is goosing rates and preparing to tuck into its $4.5 trillion balance sheet... Foreign central banks have flooded markets with a record $1.5 trillion of liquidity so far this year. Bank of America terms it a “supernova of liquidity”… and the “flow that conquers all.”

But if stocks have risen on the cresting waters, atop the “flow that conquers all,” mustn’t they fall when the flooding recedes? That is, when central banks start draining liquidity out the sluices… it seems stocks should wash away with it. Ah, but when… when does the liquidity start draining away? We have the all-important answer, revealed shortly.

A deluge of central bank liquidity post-2008 lifted the Dow from 7,000 in early 2009… to over 21,600 last week. That is why, as Zero Hedge notes: "It is safe to say that the topic of the liquidity injection by central banks, or rather its removal, has become one of the most discussed topics within the financial community. Citigroup reminds us that the market’s been at flood tide for nearly a decade - the combined balance sheets of the world’s main central banks haven’t contracted since 2008. Not for a minute."

But maybe not for much longer... As we noted last Wednesday, the Federal Reserve intends to start draining its oceanic post-crisis balance sheet in September.  This, as word comes that foreign central bank asset purchases (which add liquidity to the financial system) are beginning to slacken. For example, Bank of America's top strategist, Michael Hartnett, notes that central bank asset purchases have fallen from $350 billion in April... to $300 billion in May… to less than $100 billion last month. The Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) asset purchases in particular have fallen substantially in recent months.

Now our well-placed agents forward us unconfirmed rumors… salacious whispers… and snatches of overheard conversation indicating the European Central Bank (ECB) will begin tapering its asset purchases in September. September, once again, happens to be when the Fed starts draining its own balance sheet.

So the “flow that conquers all” will soon slow to a trickle. Declining central bank liquidity means the tide will eventually stop rising, level off, and finally recede. But again, when? At what point does the tide finally reverse?

The answer, coming by way of Credit Suisse's Andrew Garthwaite: "The inflection in central bank balance sheets comes in Q3 2018. Q3 2018, sometime between next July 1 and Sept. 30." That’s when this Garthwaite fellow says: "The contraction in the Fed's balance sheet will start to exceed the purchase of assets by the ECB and BoJ."

“As Credit Suisse pointed out and as Citi confirms,” says Zero Hedge, “In roughly 12 months, the world is about to have its first period of aggregate central bank balance sheet contraction, even as the flow is already shrinking at a rapid pace.” At that point, the tidal “flow that conquers all” will start receding, possibly dragging stocks out with the ebbing tide.

But the before-mentioned Michael Hartnett thinks a rout could start long before the tide rolls out Q3 next year. Beware not the 12–18 months, says he, but the next three–four months. He thinks peaking liquidity - twinned with peaking corporate profits - is leading right to peak market: The most dangerous moment for markets will be when rising rates combine in three or four months’ time with an inflection point in corporate profits. Big [market] top likely occurs when peak liquidity meets peak profits. We think that's an autumn, not summer, story. Then Harnett thinks investors will finally see what lies ahead in Q3 2018… and get out ahead of the tide, before it washes away their money.

Jim Rickards also turns his gaze to the shorter view…Markets are complacent right now and are not expecting any sudden moves to the downside. But it’s when markets are most complacent that sudden drops are most likely.  Another drop could be right around the corner.

Do we forecast a stock market collapse in Q3 2018… or within the next four months? We shall not rise to that bait, dear reader. We’ve been hooked too many times before by gaudy but false lures. No, the answer is on the knees of the fickle gods, where it shall remain, until the gods themselves render their verdict. But this much is certain: We’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the tides for the next several months. You may want to as well.

Below, Jim Rickards shows you why elites are “privately warning about a crash.” Read on."
"The Elites Are Privately Warning About a Crash"
By Jim Rickards

"Many everyday citizens assume powerful global financial elites operate behind closed doors in secret conclaves, like the scene of a Spectre board meeting in the recent James Bond film. Actually, the opposite is true. Most of what the power elite does is hidden in plain sight in speeches, seminars, webcasts and technical papers. These are readily available from institutional websites and media channels.

It’s true that private meetings occur on the sidelines of Davos, the IMF annual meeting and G-20 summits of the kind just concluded. But the results of even those secret meetings are typically announced or leaked or can be reasonably inferred based on subsequent policy coordination.

What the elites rely on is not secrecy but lack of proficiency by the media. The elites communicate in an intentionally boring style with lots of technical jargon and publish in channels non-experts have never heard of and are unlikely to find. In effect, the elites are communicating with each other in their own language and hoping that no one else notices.

Still, there are some exceptions. Mohamed A. El-Erian is a bona fide member of the global power elite (a former deputy director of the IMF and president of the Harvard Management Co.). Yet he writes in a fairly accessible style on the popular Bloomberg website. When El-Erian talks, we should all listen.

In a recent article he raises serious doubts about the sustainability of the bull market in stocks because of reduced liquidity resulting from simultaneous policy tightening by the Fed, European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England. He says stocks rose on a sea of liquidity and they may crash when that liquidity is removed. This is a warning to other elites, but it’s also a warning to you. But it’s not just El-Erian who’s sounding the alarm...

You’ve heard the expression “the big money.” This is a reference to the largest and most plugged-in investors on Earth. Some are mega-rich individuals and some are large banks and institutional investors with a dense network of contacts and inside information.

At the top of the food chain when it comes to big money are the sovereign wealth funds. These are funds sponsored by mostly wealthy nations to invest a country’s reserves from trade or natural resources in stocks, bonds, private equity and hedge funds. As a result, sovereign wealth fund managers have the best information networks of any investors. The chief investment officer of a sovereign wealth fund can pick up the phone and speak to the CEO of any major corporation, private equity fund or hedge fund in the world.

Among sovereign wealth funds, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. (GIC) is one of the largest, with over $354 billion in assets. So what does the head of GIC say about markets today? Lim Chow Kiat, CEO of GIC, warns that “valuations are stretched, policy uncertainty is high” and investors are being too complacent. GIC allocates 40% of its assets to cash or highly liquid bonds and only 27% of its assets to developed economy equities.

Meanwhile, the typical American small retail investor probably has 60% or more of her 401(k) in developed economy equities, mostly U.S. But it may be time for everyday investors to listen to the big money. They are the ones who see financial crashes coming first.

The bottom line is, a financial crisis is certainly coming. In my latest book “The Road to Ruin,” I use 2018 as a target date primarily because the two prior systemic crises, 1998 and 2008, were 10 years apart. I extended the timeline 10 years into the future from the 2008 crisis to maintain the 10-year tempo, and this is how I arrived at 2018.

Yet I make the point in the book that the exact date is unimportant. What is most important is that the crisis is coming and the time to prepare is now. It could happen in 2018, 2019, or it could happen tomorrow. The conditions for collapse are all in place.

It’s simply a matter of the right catalyst and array of factors in the critical state. Likely triggers could include a major bank failure, a failure to deliver physical gold, a war, a natural disaster, a cyber–financial attack and many other events. The trigger itself does not really matter. The exact timing does not matter. What matters is that the crisis is inevitable and coming sooner rather than later in my view. That’s why people need to prepare ahead of time.

The new crisis will be of unprecedented scale. This is because the system itself is of unprecedented scale and interconnectedness. Capital markets and economies are complex systems. Collapse in complex systems is an exponential function of systemic scale. In complex dynamic systems that reach the critical state, the most catastrophic event that can occur is an exponential function of scale. This means that if you double the system, you do not double the risk; you increase it by a factor of five or 10.

Since we have vastly increased the scale of the financial system since 2008, with larger banks, greater concentration of banking assets in fewer institutions, larger derivatives positions, and over $70 trillion of new debt, we should expect the next crisis to be much worse than the last. For these reasons the next crisis will be of unprecedented scale and damage. The only clean balance sheet and source of liquidity left in the world will be the International Monetary Fund, which can make an emergency issuance of Special Drawing Rights, which you can think of as world money.

On the level of the individual investor, losers will fall into two groups when the next crisis strikes...

The first are those who hold wealth in digital form, such as stocks, bonds, money-market funds and bank accounts. This type of wealth is the easiest to freeze in a panic. You will not be able to access this wealth, except perhaps in very small amounts for gas and groceries, in the next panic. The solution is to have hard assets outside the digital system such as gold, silver, fine art, land and private equity where you rely on written contracts and not digital records.

The second group are those who rely on fixed-income returns such as life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, social security and bank interest. These income streams are likely to lose value, since governments will have to resort to inflation to deal with the overwhelming mountain of debt collapsing upon them. The solution to this is to allocate 10% of your investable assets to physical gold or silver. That will be your insurance when the time comes.

Meanwhile, demand for secure vaulting space in major financial centers like London and Frankfurt is soaring. There are plenty of bank safe deposit boxes in those cities, but investors are insisting on non-bank vaults because investors understand that the banks cannot be trusted in a panic. As a result, proprietors of non-bank vaults can’t build them fast enough.

This is one indicator that reveals three important facts. The first is that investors feel a panic may be near and the time to act is now. The second is that investors don’t trust banks. And the third is that investors are buying gold to protect themselves since that’s the main tangible that people put in their private vaults. Don’t wait until the panic hits to secure your gold and make arrangements for safe storage. The time to act is now."