Friday, June 24, 2016

The Brexit Vote -What It Means, Including To Your 401k

calais, migrant, britain, welfare, economic, immigration, population ...
One of the triggers for the 'Leave' vote in the UK had been images such as this showing migrants near Calais, France ready to bolt across the 'Chunnel" to England.


Back in July, 1978, on my first trip to the UK and London (where we stayed with a friend of Janice's) the character of "old England" was ubiquitous. The beauty of the London transport system was that one could take  the "underground" wherever he or she chose, from Piccadilly Circus, to Earl's Court (where we watched a medieval jousting match) to the Royal Albert Hall where we were privileged to see (and hear!)  a fantastic performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  Along the way foreign tongues were seldom heard, either in the tube stations or the venues themselves.

There were no mullahs standing in any area we went (and we covered a lot of London) ordering women to shield their faces with burkas or whatever. The only terror incidents were carried out by the IRA, including one bombing which killed several London police and some of their horses.

Now, flash almost forty years later and all that's changed, the whole UK landscape. Migrants have been pouring in from many nations - particularly Middle Eastern and African - for decades, and the character of the place has altered. One will now often hear as many foreign tongues as native Brit (whether Cockney, Yorkie, or whatever other dialect).

This altered character of the nation, coupled with loss of what is perceived as a British identity since the Maastricht Treaty - otherwise known as the 'Treaty to Integrate Europe' - ultimately drove the "Leave" majority yesterday (winning by 52% to 48% in the "Brexit" vote).  Despite London and Scotland voting to remain, most of the rest of the UK and especially rural or working class areas saw things differently.

Many on the Right, including the odious Nigel Farage (who use scare tactics such as thousands streaming through Slovenia) to depict a direct migrant threat to the UK, are now cheering about "Independence Day".   But as Richard Haas pointed out on MSNBC this morning, it is more akin to dissolution day, given Ireland and Scotland (which voted remain) will now themselves likely call referenda to leave England to itself - dissolving the UK.

Despite the Farage exaggerations, it is true that migrants have been making their way into the UK in greater numbers, often gathering near Calais in France before attempting to bolt across the Channel tunnel otherwise known as the "chunnel".  The spectacle of this happening, added to the existing tensions with mainly Islamic immigrants (recall one of them running amok and chopping off a head barely two years ago)  has enraged many to the point they'd had enough.

Economics was the other rallying point though not as passionately framed as arguments from the anti-migrant segment. Those on this side were basically tired of Brussels calling the shots regarding trade despite the fact the Brits were allowed to keep their own currency (the pound) as opposed to using the euro.  The econ leavers insisted they would carry on just fine, thanks, and no need to worry about repercussions.

But that may be akin to whistling in the dark as the wolf comes to the door.  The fact is the UK had been sending 44 percent of all its exports to the single EU market. That can simply no longer happen any longer since the UK will not have that privileged advantage. They will now have to "go to the end of the line". German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schรคuble put it bluntly barely three days ago in The Financial Times: "In is in and out is out". Meaning if the UK votes 'out', they are out of the EU market - no special benefits or advantages conferred. The extreme case? The EU, if it really wanted to be punitive, could force the UK to make separate deals with each of the 27 remaining EU nations.

This means exports will likely shrink and drastically, with whatever factories left shuttered and their workers laid off.  This is what happens when your biggest customer is now effectively taken away, or at least its impact drastically reduced. It will be even worse if Ireland and Scotland themselves vote to leave England al alone, and remain with the EU. Then England will truly be "little England" with an emphasis on little.

This is what caused the  global markets to react badly early this morning, with the German DAX (.GDAX) dropping 731 points and the Nikkei Index more than 1286.  The DOW is expected to take a dump too, and I'd be amazed if is less than 700 points drop. Further, the turmoil could go on for months as the UK attempts to sort out its new position, and get a new government (David Cameron is now out as PM having called the Brexit vote)

In the end, the vote for Brexit means chaos in the short and possibly long term. It means European issues will be roiled and possibly other EU members now also emboldened to try to leave. We already saw last year the fomenting for "Grexit" or Greek exit, but the Greeks eventually came to their senses and realized they might be better in than out, even with a lot of debt. ('Out' and they likely wouldn't even be able to muster a loan)

For your 401k, as financial guest Melanie Hobson noted yesterday on CBS Early show, it will mean a lot of volatility. I myself expect to see massive dives in the stock market in the coming weeks until the issues are resolved to the markets' liking. Remember, that includes all the markets, not just the U.S. ones.  Keep in mind also that Britain's economy is the 5th largest in the world - meaning a "sneeze" in the UK (as with Brexit fallout) could trigger pneumonia in some places. Pneumonia there (in the UK) could trigger....well, you don't want to know!

Anthony Mason, covering the Wall Street markets opening this morning stated a "pretty bleak opening is expected", which may be an understatement.  The main barometer to watch, I think, is the extent of the flight to safety. Already we're hearing about foreigners buying up treasurys which will have implications for the bond markets, and it also could for money markets.

At the very least, given the low global GDP of barely 3%, the Brexit vote likely brings interest rates down further, and slows growth significantly. (Some even warn the UK could go into recession, but we will have to see what happens in any Scottish or Irish separate referenda to leave the UK.)

On the positive side, central banks are still propping up the markets around the world with their nest to zero interest rates thereby  providing a "balm" as the turmoil continues over the next  few years. If nothing else, Janet Yellen  will plausibly assert:  "Well, because of the economic uncertainties inherent in the Brexit vote, no more interest rate increases for at least 3 years". This will make Wall Street's day and so provide a counter force to the Brexit negative influences.

So those with 401ks, while they will sustain some stomach-churning days, shouldn't go into hysterics. Yet.....

See also the related articles here: 

http://www.theguardian.com/us

See also:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bbd593ee-39d4-11e6-9a05-82a9b15a8ee7.html#axzz4CWIGLKRv


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Is Michio Kaku A Pseudo Physicist For Accepting A "Universal Intelligence"?


Michio Kaku: A real physicist - or a pseudoscientist?

In a scathing commentary ('The Dangerous Growth of Pseudo -Physics',)  appearing in a recent (May, p. 10) issue of Physics Today, Prof. Sadri Hassani of Illinois State University rails against pseudoscience that is "rapidly growing" and has now made its way into physics - the most refined and majestic of the sciences apart from mathematics.

In his 1 3/4 page piece he cites a number of examples including:

- The 2014 publication of a "manifesto for a post materialist science" published in a journal entitled Explore "which elevates parapsychology and near death experience to the rank of quantum theory"

- The popularity of the book 'The Tao Of Physics' by Fritjof Capra, which purports to establish a parallel between Eastern mysticism and modern physics

- The enthusiasm for the (1979) book 'The Dancing Wu Li Masters' by Gary Zukav which hints at "conscious" or "intelligent" photons which know where they are in classical two-slit experiments.

- The misrepresentation of energy as "non-material" to apply to nonmaterial spirits and souls.

In response to the last the author asserts (p. 11):

"There is no instance in nature in which mass transforms into energy (or vice versa) without some material particles carrying that energy".  There is no connection between soul-matter equivalence of mysticism and energy-mass equivalence of modern physics".

Earlier, Hassani points out that two primary assumptions of quantum theory (QT) have "been the main source of much confusion and abuse since the inception of non-relativistic QT"  These are:

1) That the square of the absolute value of the wave function y  is the  probability of the state of a system, i.e.

P = ½y  y *½

2) The superposition principle: If there are several paths available to the system the total y  is the appropriately weighted sum of the y s   for each path.


However, I'd suggest that Paul Dirac's original definition of superposition ('The Principles of Quantum Mechanics' Clarendon Press Oxford, 1957,  p. 4) might have more to do with incessant perversions toward metaphysics, i.e.

"If a system is small, we cannot observe it without producing a serious disturbance and hence we cannot expect to find any causal connections between the results of our observations"

Thus, the entire notion of "observer disturbed" systems was born. Without adequate training in QT, however, too many extrapolated this to macroscopic systems when technically it only applied to quantum ones. Thereby ignoring Dirac's initial emphasis "IF the system is small".

These misconceptions  were then carried into whackadoodle land when one read, as in Richard Schlegel's monograph Superposition and Interaction:Coherence in Physics (1980, University of Chicago Press, p. 178,) about  the opinion expressed once by Prof. Eugene Wigner (at a QM conference) that "the consciousness of a dog would effect the projection into a single state whereas that of an amoeba would not."

So hell, if a dog like a French Poodle could "effect the projection into a single state" why not a human who observes LeBron James closely enough in an NBA game to make his jump shot bounce off the hoop at the last moment?  Again, the reason is that basketballs are macro sized objects, as opposed to electrons, protons, etc.

To combat these aberrations of mysticism filtering into modern physics Hassani recommends  reading assignments in high school and college physics courses "to make students aware of pseudoscientific nonsense". He also advocates the liberal use of rational wiki as a resource, e.g.

http://rationalwiki.org


Finally, we come to the recent claims of  Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City College of New York (CUNY) and co-founder of String Field Theory.  He seriously  believes that the  theoretical particles known as “primitive semi-radius tachyons” are physical evidence that the universe was created by a higher intelligence.

Kaku, after analyzing the behavior of these sub-atomic particles - which can move faster than the speed of light and have the ability to “unstick” space and matter, has concluded that the universe is a “Matrix” governed by laws and principles that could only have been designed by an intelligent being.
According to an article published in the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies.

 “I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore,”

He went on:

To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

This is an interesting development given that Prof. Kaku only two years ago advocated a mechanistic model of mind, e.g.

Where I pointed out in criticism:
 
"where Kaku runs off the rails, as I did,   is in using this ridiculously simple reductionist metaphor to suggest human self-consciousness can result from an indefinitely large macro-assembly of logic elements.  But again, this is what a reductionist would do since he's trapped in a box of his own making, where his very dependence on component reality means he's unable to conceive of emergence.  It is actually emergence - contingent on the brain as a quantum mechanical entity - that leads to a full model of human consciousness"
 
My point here is that Kaku must have radically altered his take since if one invokes a "universal intelligence" it must embody some kind of consciousness.   This is a conclusion I also arrived at in my 2013 book, 'Beyond Atheism, Beyond God', but by a different route - considering Bell's theorem, quantum nonlocality, and the quantum potential. A synopsis of some of my arguments can be found in this post from 2011:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/04/quantum-mind-isnt-same-as-quantum.html
 
 The key answer to the question of whether Kaku (or myself) would be regarded as a "pseudophysicist" then would appear to depend on whether one accepts monistic or nonlocal physicalism. The second, as quantum physicist Henry Stapp showed ('Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics', 1983) allows for quantum theory to be applied to brain function. The first, based on "particles only"  reductionism, would not.

In the latter case, one would concur with the late Victor Stenger's take ('God and the Folly of Faith', p. 155)  that:

"It does not matter whether you are trying to measure a particle property or a wave property. You always measure particles. Here is the point that most people fail to understand: Quantum mechanics is just a statistical theory like statistical mechanics, fundamentally reducible to particle behavior."

 On the other hand, if one subscribes to nonlocal physicalism he will agree with J.S. Bell (Foundations of Physics, (12,) .989 )

"Although Y is a real field it does not show up immediately in the results of a ‘single measurement’, but only in the statistics of many such results. It is the de Broglie –Bohm variable X that shows up immediately each time."

The danger of too rigidly adhering to Stenger's reductonist viewpoint was articulated by Bernard d'Espagnat ('In Search of Reality'):

"If scientism were correct, or more precisely, if the view of the world it proposes so forcefully, that of a world ultimately consisting of myriads of small localized objects merely endowed with quasi-local properties were correct, then such an evolution of our mentality would admittedly be excellent. It is always good for man to know the truth! But on the other hand, if the ultimate vision of the world which scientism proposes is false, if its conceptual bases are mistaken, then this development is – on the contrary –quite unfortunate."


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

HBO's LBJ Movie 'All The Way' - Good, But More Hagiography Than History

LBJ: The Mastermind of JFK's AssassinationImage result for " All The Way"
Which portrayal do you accept: The scum ball who helped plan JFK's killing, or the rising civil rights star who brought two major pieces of legislation to finality. In fact, both can easily be valid - with the latter helping to burnish the reputation of the assassination architect.


"Who controls the past controls the future.  And who controls the present controls the past.


In those immortal words of George Orwell (from ‘1984’) we at once beheld the importance of history in determining the quality of our lives, and outcomes of public policy. Sadly, and I hate to say this – too many liberals don’t know their own past, the nation’s past, and don’t want to. They believe merely because they are scribes at Salon.com, HuffPo or some other site, they’re entitled to weigh in on recent history and distort it. Worse, they want to remain gloriously ignorant - steeped more in hagiography, or misplaced hero worship – than actual history.

This leads us to Ph.D. history student Matthew Rosza, writing in salon.com last month, who exhorted  all liberals to watch the HBO premier movie 'All The Way', to see the analogies to our current election - with Hillary in the similar position to LBJ (not exactly outside the establishment) and the GOP's Barry Goldwater playing the 1964 version of Donald Trump.

But Rosza's premise is totally off base, as when he writes:

"Like Johnson in 1964, Clinton in 2016 is hampered by her problematic background on racial justice issues, from fueling the mass incarceration of racial minorities to supporting a welfare reform bill that disproportionately impacted African Americans. Also like Johnson, though, Clinton has now vowed to fight for important civil rights measures, including overhauling drug sentencing laws, prohibiting racial profiling, and forbidding employers from asking applicants about their criminal history. If she is elected, the non-white voters who helped put her into office will have a right and responsibility to hold her feet to the fire and make sure she gets these things done… but to do that, of course, she must become president first."
But Rosza's  take is too superficial, as telegraphed by even remotely considering Barry Goldwater in 1964 as playing an analogous role to Trump in 2016. In fact, there was no comparison, given Goldwater may have been many things but he was not a bloviating buffoon. Indeed, at Loyola University (New Orleans)  ca. September, 1964, nearly half the student body was hyped over the prospect of having a President Goldwater. Massive student rallies were held and you had to get to classes early to avoid the congestion in the quad. They viewed his conservatism as solid and real - unlike the way Trump's version is seen today.

Rosza's arguments mainly fail because while he dredges up a docudrama history of LBJ from HBO's movie  'All The Way',  he excludes all the real pre-presidential history we now know (such as revealed in Phillip F. Nelson's book imaged above). This,  even as he references  Hillary's actual history via her "problematic background" i.e. on racial justice issues etc.. The result is that he essentially compares the hagiography of one with the history of the other. This in fact is the primary thread that runs through his article: Hillary's actual historical problems, bad decisions vs. only the limited ones we get too see on HBO's  TV movie on LBJ. (To be fair the movie only covered LBJ's first year or so in office, but this is all the more reason not to make comparisons with Hillary._

Most of us who have pursued the documents track since the release of records via The JFK Records Act, have been seeking the skeleton key, if you will, or the linchpin that ties together all the disparate, apparently unrelated facts  of the Kennedy assassination– originally portrayed by the media as “coincidences”, "oversights"  or “mistakes”.  At the time too many of us, excessively gullible, accepted the media's blarney instead of they're being premeditated actions of LBJ to cover his own ass. These included LBJ orders issued for:


-        All of Kennedy’s clothing, including the bullet –holed suit coat - destroyed.

-        The blood spattered and bullet- impacted limousine ordered dispatched to  Detroit,, where it was cleaned, disassembled, then completely rebuilt then sent to Ohio

-        Zapruder film (altered with attempted juxtaposition of frames


-     Original autopsy notes of Dr. J.J. Humes   (burned)

-        Kennedy’s skull (re-imaged using mattes in re-done autopsy photos to make the massive wounds appear in the front and the entry wound in the rear- to comport with the Warren Commission Single Bullet theory[1])

-        Kennedy’s brain (missing from the time the body arrived at Bethesda). The brain would have shown the path of 'cavitation' clearly and added to the weight of evidence for a frontal shot.


Over the years many of us began thinking that none of the preceding were coincidence or error – but deliberate- ordered by LBJ to cover his nefarious tracks, including via the ruse of the Warren Commission which HE created!  I mean, Oswald couldn’t have done those things. Nor could any of these have been done by the Mafia, angry Cubans or even rogue CIA agents. The orders had to come from the top, since the evidence was all material, and in addition under control (at various times) of federal agencies, including: FBI and Secret Service.  In fact, the relevant records disclose that none other than Cliff Carter (one of the co-conspirators found guilty in the Henry Harvey Marshall slaying) gave orders for the actions which, if refused, were followed up by Johnson himself making telephone demands.

Johnson also violated federal and state laws with assorted usurpations, destruction of material evidence (as listed above) , not to mention hijacking Kennedy’s body instead of allowing the autopsy to be performed at the same Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Further, by of his creation of The Warren Commission on November 29, 1963, LBJ acquired the total power to block any House, Senate or Texas state investigations, while awarding himself the power to control all evidence that might possibly surface, and either ignore it, suppress it or allow it to be distorted- thereby further distancing himself, all in the name of “seeking justice”.  To quote a notable wit: “To commit the perfect crime it is only necessary to be in charge of the investigation that follows.”


Thus after much deliberation, we realized (some reluctantly) it could only have been ONE man – LBJ – who also had the most to lose if he didn’t get rid of Kennedy at just that juncture of time. In the words of author Phillip F. Nelson (Chapter 6: The Conspirators, in LBJ: The Mastermind of the Kennedy Assassination, p. 317):

“The crime could only have been accomplished with at least the acquiescence and foreknowledge of the only man capable of choreographing the massive cover-up which was immediately launched. It is axiomatic that since the cover-up started before the shots were fired, the order for JFK’s assassination could only have come from his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.”

So I hate to break this to Rosza and others (like Elias Isquith, Maureen Dowd and even Bill Maher),  but most of us who’ve been involved in deep politics and researching the JFK assassination have finally come to realize that LBJ indeed was involved as one of the prime architects in taking him out – for all the reasons I delivered in the LBJ hagiography post from January 5th last year, e.g.


We only regret it took us over 20 years to realize Craig Zirbel was right all along! (Dating from his 1991 expose of Johnson's role in 'The Texas Connection'.

Unsaid in that blog post, not yet revealed, is the way LBJ secretly courted the military to fire up the Vietnam War though Kennedy was steadfastly against it – ultimately made clear in his National Security Action Memorandum 263. Hence, the lingering smoking gun of Johnson’s guilt pertains to his disgusting back channel efforts to curry favor with the military (especially prime JFK hater Gen. Curtis Lemay). This entailed setting up a network to receive actual Vietnam intelligence behind Kennedy’s back – while ensuring the spooks and Pentagon sources delivered only doctored pap to JFK.  In many nations, this would be regarded as high treason, and anyone who did it (and found out)  put before a firing squad.

Much of the credit in digging up the relevant records goes to Military Science Professor John Newman in his book, JFK and Vietnam which documents that by November 24, 1963 – two days after Kennedy was dead (and before he was even laid to rest)-  a policy shift transpired toward massive commitment to American military forces in Vietnam – despite Kennedy’s NSAM 263. 

In the words of another researcher, Peter Dale Scott (Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p. 30) it also proves that Johnson – since 1961  - "had been the ally of the Joint Chiefs and especially Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay."  Let us recall for reference it was LeMay who compared Kennedy to Neville Chamberlain when he refused to go all out and bomb Cuba and invade it during the Cuban Missile crisis.

Peter Dale Scott summaized Johnson’s treason nicely (p. 31):

A back channel had been established whereby ‘the boys in the woodwork’ were feeding (Howard) Burris and Johnson a steady stream of accurate Vietnam intelligence reports which were denied to the President.”

These latter were almost uniformly false and “optimistic"

He goes on (ibid.):

Meanwhile, U.S. Army Intelligence in Honolulu kept producing a second series of reports, more accurate and gloomy. These were denied to the President and McNamara but supplied by a secret intelligence back channel to Johnson

If this duplicity was all there was it would be bad enough but the real smoking gun – I’d even say fired gun – goes off when it is learned how a secret NSAM (273) had been prepared by Johnson that effectively nullified Kennedy’s restrictions for further U.S. Vietnam involvement set out in NSAM 263..

Johnson’s NSAM 273   “deleted Kennedy’s restrictions and sanctioned plans for U.S.operations to begin shortly thereafter”. (That is, after Nov. 21 – one day before JFK was shot dead in Dallas).  In other words, the fell plans for reversing Kennedy’s NSAM were already in existence a day BEFORE JFK was killed. Scott notes (p. 30) a draft of this NSAM 273 had presumptively been readied for Kennedy to see. (The draft prepared for Kennedy’s signature spoke only of “additional resources” given by the South Vietnamese to fight North Vietnam – as per JFK’s original instructions in NSAM 263 – but this was the part deleted.)

Peter Dale Scott correctly observes that in the wake of this perfidy most media sources (e.g. Michael Specter in the NY Times) and talking heads (e.g. Noam Chomsky) have prattled that “NSAM 273 continued Kennedy’s policies” which it did nothing of the sort – as I showed. Scott further observes (p. 29)  that "even the Nation participated in this obfuscation of the record."  The Nation?  That icon of liberal media? You'd better believe it.

Lastly, let’s bear in mind the NSAM 273 perversion led directly to an even greater outrage, the fabricat.tion of the Tonkin Gulf incident  in August 1964, when two U.S. gunboats - the Turner Joy and Maddox-  were allegedly attacked without provocation. This precipitated the Tonkin Gulf Resolution which directly led to the massive expansion in ‘Nam. As I’d previously written in March, 2013:

In other words, LBJ and  the U.S. aggressors used it as a pretext to demand the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and launch a war that killed nearly 58,000. LBJ had finally delivered on his promise to the military-industrial complex to give them their war in return for having assisted in Kennedy's killing and its massive cover up.

Make no mistake, this historically  reconstructed Texas turd - so blindly idolized by too many uninformed liberals-   is nothing but a verminous traitor, racist and murderer. He not only saw to it Kennedy would meet his death in Dallas (including by altering the motorcade route and venue for his Dallas speech) but also created a phony commission to cover it up even as he manufactured a document to expand the war in Vietnam leading to monumental loss in blood and treasure.

If one can therefore watch 'All the Way' as basically a work of selective fiction -  which skirts over how LBJ ascended to power (it was no "accident" of history as the intro voiceover tries to portray)then s/he can't go too far wrong. The film can then be enjoyed as a docudrama glossing over LBJ's most serious character defects (and treachery)  even as it probably exaggerates his cruder habits. (E.g.  showing him talking to Hubert Humphrey while seated on an opened door  Oval office toilet then wiping his ass, as HHH turns away.)

Hillary may have a checkered past in terms of her ill-advised Iraq war vote, the Libya intervention, Wall Street connections and some inconsistencies regarding racial issues, but none of those remotely compare to what Johnson did to our 35th President  And for that he will live on in infamy for many of us, irrespective of how the media and LBJ lackeys, hagiographers try to portray him as a basic, cornpone hero for civil rights.

Hillary, if she becomes President (the first woman in U.S. history) will have earned it, and not because she masterminded an assassination of anyone to secure power. Then portrayed it as an "accident" of history and a terrible "burden" (boo hoo)  that was totally unsought -- as HBO does with the depiction of LBJ's ascension to the oval office..

See also:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sanders' Socialism Makes Its Imprint On Dems With Consensus to Expand Social Security

"The Ron Paul of the left": Why Bernie Sanders is the cranky socialist 2016 needs
Bernie discussing Social Security expansion one year ago.

Despite the existing and persisting hysterical calls of Trumpites to "send Sanders to a Socialist country", and conflating his democratic socialism with the National Socialism of Hitler- Bernie has left his mark. According to a New York Times piece (June 19, p. 14), 'Driven By Campaign Populism, Democrats Unite on Social Security Plan'):

"President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are rallying around proposals to expand Social Security and increase benefits, a sea change after three decades dominated over the program's rising costs. The Democrats' new consensus was driven by the populist election year politics of Senator Bernie Sanders and by a realization that many workers have neither significant pensions or any significant retirement savings."


In other words, one of Bernie's socialist platform cornerstones - expansion of Social Security as opposed to cutting it to "make it better" - has now come front and center for at least one political party. This means they will also be prepared to defend the proposal as it wends its way into the Democratic Party 2016 platform.

Of course, what many of the anti-socialist yappers tend to forget or ignore is that Social Security is indeed a socialist program. For example, it increases benefits disproportionately for lower earning  workers, enabling them to secure more in retirement benefits than if their earnings were integrated into a linear scale. Thus, a $12,000/yr. earner who puts in at least his 40 quarters will eventually receive (by age 70) far more by proportion than a $100,000  a year earner who puts in the same time or even double that.

Now, with Social Security expansion, the benefits to lower wage workers and those who have suffered by virtue of not having pensions, or years of littler or no earnings will be even greater if monthly benefits are increased. This, as opposed to enduring a Repuke plan of Social Security cuts to fix it. (Or, as one wit once observed: "Cutting off a runner's leg to make him faster".)

Recall the last momentous change to the system was in 1983 when Allan Greenspan - at the behest of a bipartisan commission - pushed through a plan where spending was trimmed, taxes were raised and the eligibility age (for full benefits) was advanced, i.e. to 67 for all those born after 1959.

But now all that's changed and even a once Neoliberal-tilting President appears to be on board. As the Times noted, back in 2011 and 2012 Obama seriously considered proposals (at the behest of his "Debt Commission") to curtail Social Security's benefits by cutting cost of living increases using the chained CPI. See e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/07/chained-cpi-yes-for-chainsaw.html

But now Mr. Obama appears to have touched base (finally!) with his inner Socialist, asserting in a speech in Elkhart, Indiana on June 1:

"It's time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement they've earned,"

This is momentous stuff right out of Bernie's playbook and contradicts all the naysaying we heard last year, from the likes of Claire McCaskill.   As noted by Nancy J. Altman of Social Security Works:

"Senator Sanders...has transformed the debate so that expanding Social Security today is a central tenet and consensus of the Democratic Party."

Indeed. The Times (p. 17) observes that among the plans for expansion being considered we have:

- An increase in benefits for widows and those who take time out of the paid work force to care for sick family

- Increase benefits for everyone but with extra help for those considered most vulnerable (e.g. that $12,000 /year worker with three kids)

- Increase the COLA to reflect the fact that older Americans tend to use more health care.

Bear in mind that non-increases in the COLA for several of the last 6 years have effectively meant an increase in Medicare premiums - given the premiums are deducted from one's Social Security check. Hence, without increases in the COLAs the non-increases translate to cuts - since the Medicare premium never decreases.

The only fly in the ointment left is Mr. Obama's seeming Jekyll-Hyde Neoliberal persona which often appears to act contrary to what he says. We already observed it in the case of speaking like a global warming aware Prez - but then approving offshore oil drilling, first in the Arctic now in the Gulf and off the Atlantic.

In the case of Social Security, while he delivered a terrific June 1 speech the Times points out the Senate Dems are "digging in against a Republican nominated by Mr. Obama to serve a second term as a public trustee of Social Security".

Huh?  The guy, Charles P. Blahous III, is definitely no friend of S.S. expansion given he has "undermined public confidence in the program by exaggerating its financial problems".

Worse, this character was one of George W. Bush's architects for Social Security privatization.

We can safely say then that unless: a) Obama retracts the nomination, or b) the Senate Dems pull his plug, the agenda to expand Social Security won't be going anyplace fast.

Still, it's a sign of victory for Sanders' democratic socialism that the Dems have embraced his expansion proposal - even if thus far mostly by talk as opposed to doing the walk.

Btw, what does Donald Drumpf propose? Well, according to his 2000 book, 'The America We Deserve', Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and needs to be privatized. Imagine, if you will, how that would have worked out if Bush Jr. had succeeded in doing that ca. 2006 with the financial crash ahead in 2008. The losses and mass poverty in the wake would have been staggering and the system might never have recovered.

Yeppers, we need Drumpf, aka Trump, like a hole in the head.



Another Wealthy Moron Buys Into the Life Extension Research Nonsense

Larry Ellison is best known as the founder of Oracle and an America's Cup financier. He is also the latest wealthy bozo - with more money than brains - to fall victim to the life extension malarkey. Or as one recent Denver Post Op-ed put it: "Ellison has found a new calling for his outsized ego: Cure death, or failing that, extend life spans to 150 years".

Of course, that extension would mainly be used to extend the lives of the top 0.00001 percent who might be able to afford such measures should they ever materialize. (I happen to believe they won't.)

Never mind, Ellison plans to put $450 million of wasted bucks toward that challenge - so he and other people with too much moola and too little sense can extend their money-grubbing existence,

According to Ellison, quoted in the Op-ed:

"Death has never made much sense to me. How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not  be there?"

My question is: How can a guy that asks such a stupid fucking question actually be the brains behind Oracle? Or did he just steal the system and claim fame? One begins to wonder.

At the very least this fool ought to have taken a first year college biology and physics course to learn :a) biological organisms do not "vanish", their cells experience breakdown wherein the process of catabolism exceeds that of anabolism. As noted in one recent journal on Nutrition:

"Aging causes loss of many of the anabolic signals to muscle that are present in young adulthood. Recent research suggests that there is also an increase in catabolic signals with age."


And b) at root of all cell breakdown - ultimately leading to death-  is a certain level of increasing disorder as predicted by the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The law can also be stated as "the entropy law", i.e.

The entropy (degree of disorder of a closed system) increases in probability for  all natural processes


In terms of biological -organic systems it means that death is the highest entropy state. This means that once one is dead he remains dead.  There are no "Lazarus-type" resurrections.  Once one's life is extinguished it remains so. In other words, if one adheres to the laws of the natural world there can be no extensions of human lives beyond defined biological limits (depending on the knowledge base at the time). 

In a real sense, one begins the death process from the moment of birth. From then assorted external and internal factors - genetic and other (e.g. toxic chemicals, diseases, poor nutrition etc.) begin to wear one's body down, give rise to more catabolic than anabolic inputs   Nor is it a given that the effects of these inputs means a person dies in "old age" (a relative term if ever there was one.) After all, children of 5 or 6 years of age can die of childhood cancers. My cousin Lois Jean died at the age of 5 from leukemia. That was in 1955. She may have lived longer today with bone marrow transplants, but other kids die from assorted cancers of the liver, kidneys, etc.

Bodies - of whatever age at death -  do not just "vanish"-  they progressively waste away over time by the inexorable power of higher entropy as expressed in a disease (e.g. cancer) or some other . degenerative condition or even the effects of a fall or other accident. At the very least it is supercilious nonsense to believe one can summon the power to defeat the inexorable ravages spawned by entropy no matter how much money one has. But this appears to be Ellison's fantasy. Obviously also, the guy never studied Darwinian evolution which unfolds precisely because it is contingent on deaths-replacement of species' members.

Think of it! If Homo Erectus could have lived 'forever' then modern man would never have appeared. The hominid species would have been stuck at the level of Homo Erectus.  Similarly, if dinosaurs had never died out, we'd never have beheld the emergence of birds  - their evolutionary offshoots. Death then fulfills a critical role, apart from preventing the explosion of populations and allowing these to overrun limited food and  resources.

Imagine then, if instead of funding such a Rube Goldberg scheme Ellison put his money to more practical use for human advancement and welfare.  The site CostHelper.com recently estimated what Ellison's $450 m could have done - including covering prenatal care for 225 million women.  Also, at $1,288 per first year of baby care, including immunizations, that $450m would cover 350 million infants.

Another billionaire, Bill Gates, who's donated a lot toward advancing health and education in the Third World chides Ellison (ibid.):

"It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and tuberculosis for rich people to fund things so they can live longer."

Indeed, and what would these rich people do with those extra years anyway? Clearly the egocentric nature of their quest shows they wouldn't be helping most of humanity. More than likely they'd just be contributing to the global state of inequality. So who the hell needs them sucking up any more air?

A more astute observation is what would happen IF - I say IF - even one offshoot of Ellison's research led to an increase of just 5 years in overall lifespan. That's assuming the benefit extends not just to his top tier wealthy cohort but to millions of other ordinary folks.  Well, it doesn't take a genius to see that it would wreck our current Social Security and Medicare systems which were not really designed to support too many 110 to 115 -year olds! (Which translates to 45-50 years of continuous benefits.)

Those social insurance systems are successful only to the extent the population meets certain thresholds of mortality over time (based on gov't actuarial tables). That means no significant extension of current lifespans.

Even more trenchant, and a point I've belabored,  the primary issue is not quantity of life but quality. Ellison's money then would be better put toward further Alzheimer's disease research if he really wants to make the lives of older folks better. As it is, the proportion of those with Alzheimer's doubles every five years after the age of  65. It is possible here that prostate cancer could cut my own life short - I am still awaiting the MRI results - but I'd rather die at 75, than live to 90 and have incurable Alzheimer's those extra 15 years. (My own mother died of Alzheimer's at age 91).

In any case, no one in human history has ever escaped death and no sane person should want to. It is as much a part of the cycle of existence as life, and indeed, is essential to preserving a relative quality of life for those that continue in the evolutionary path.  Imagine then, if all the humans that have ever lived -all 100 billion of them - were still around. You would not even be able to remotely think of the level of destitution and misery - not to mention cannibalism - this would have unleashed on the world, the human community. Too few resources, too many mouths to feed.

See also:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2015/03/no-this-baby-wont-be-living-to-142.html

Monday, June 20, 2016

Orlando Victim Donations Correct To Shun Non-Profit Charities


Let us accept as a proposition that the bulk of charities are not charities at all but sophisticated scam operations set up to part people from their hard-earned money by appeal to their generosity. We already saw it with the case of the Wounded Warriors Project and how little of the massive donations  actually made it to suffering service members. The bulk went to administration expenses and parties, such as expensive blowouts at the Broadmoor here in Colorado Springs.

Then, we also beheld how the Red Cross post-9/11 collected nearly $540 m from donors but  distributed most of it to what they regarded as other needy causes -  thereby betraying the intentions and wishes of donors. The latter intended their money to explicitly go to the families of 9/11 victims not to ancillary "needs" for which the organization believed it had to direct more funds. The intention of a donor therefore has to be respected, which is why at least the Red Cross finally corrected its error and sent the money where it was supposed to go.

Now, in the wake of the Orlando massacre, we learn  (NY Times, June 18) that the local charity One Orlando has collected nearly $7 million, all of which will be given directly to the families of those killed and wounded victims, not to third parties - mainly non-profits. Experience has taught local groups that all the non-profits do is milk the proceeds for their own take before dispatching a pittance to the actual victims. No more. OneOrlando, to its credit, has said 'enough is enough'.

Returning to my proposition, it now appears from recent reports (Mother Jones, NY Times,  Denver Post, 'In These Times') there are nearly 2 million charities. Worse, once one of them gets hold of your name and address - as well as phone number- it shares your info with others in the loop. Before you know it, the original two or three charities you've donated to have now multiplied to forty,  like so many roaches. Echoing a point made by the WSJ some two years ago,

 'It's OK to Say NO!' - 

If more people did say 'no' it would cause charities to clean up their acts and especially become more efficient, by which I mean less money used for administration fees and more given to those who actually need it.  In one article ('The More We Give', from Newsweek - before it went the way of the Dodo) we learned that giving even an intended 'one off' to a charity can elicit multiple ensuing pleas. These end up clogging your mail box, and it gets worse as they share your name -address with others.

As the piece by Aric Press put it:

"Charities ask, then ask again. Their pleas get more desperate. You give but then they ask again."

In other words, they become like crack addicts, ceaselessly looking for the next fix. Or, perhaps more generously, they have found an easy mark and now wish to milk him or her for all they're worth.

The piece also went on to observe:

"Nonprofit groups sent out 14 billion pieces of mail last year and there's no end in sight....The IRS reports a 22.4 percent growth in what's known in the tax code as 501(c)(3) charities. "

So, the smell of easy money playing off pity drives the pseudo-charity parasites to keep on keeping on, using every sleazy tactic they can summon.  The author (Press) writes that in one case he was forewarned "by the time you finish reading this letter, 18 children would have died", implying that had he given the 50 bucks or whatever they likely wouldn't have.

But as he adds: "The louder they shout, the less clear their message is amid the tumult"

And cripes, it's like they are all about one  "emergency", "desperate situation" or other. Like the prospective donor is the  last bulwark against the final collapse of civilization. Cripes, you'd think they were "editor's notes" from Kort Patterson inveighing against the threat from "the global warming conspirators"! (Jeebus, maybe Kort writes some of these charity pitches in his spare time.)

One of the most reprehensible ploys I've seen is to put a crying kid's face on the envelope, accompanied by the words - in bold red type: "Go ahead and throw me away! I knew you would!" Of course, on seeing such a crass appeal the first thing I do is toss the thing into the trash can.  No one, no charity - will profit from me by pulling on any imagined weepy chords. It just won't work and they can't be allowed to believe it will.

Another ploy is to send live checks made out to you in the envelope, with the understanding you will match or exceed the value on the check and send it back with your own. Of course, I also trash all of these because, frankly, I hate all transparent money grabbing ploys in general - whether from a political outfit (usually the DNC lately) but also uninvited charities that come barging into my mail box.

Yet another money ploy is sending coins in the money plea, attached to the response form, Well, in this case I rip the coins (usually nickels, sometimes dimes) off and add them to my change collection.

Many charities also use assorted ploys to attempt to coerce giving under the guise of  plying the would be target with "free gifts".  These may include everything from dream catchers (sent by assorted Native American organizations) to gift wrappings, greeting cards and note pads. Meanwhile, most of the free gift ploys go without response, if it's a "free gift" - ok, I take that literally. That includes the cheap calculators, "leather" gloves,  daily planners and other schlock.

Then there are the calendars. Each year 'X' charity outfits send their calendars out expecting a hefty donation in return. Not going to happen! I still have over 26 calendars stuffed in a large carton in my garage that have not been put up - given they represent a surplus (our place only has wall space for five of them). At most, I will contribute $1 and call it a day because with such excess supply the calendars are more a nuisance than anything else. Besides, giving any significant amount to each of them would ensure they harass you far into the future with their endless pleas. $1 nominally qualifies as a response but also sends the message it's not worth the cost of postage to send any more calendars in the future.

My giving now is much more restricted, mainly confined to those charities for which the bulk of money goes to the intended source not administration (e.g. St. Jude's).  To find out which charities are which go to :

www.charitynavigator.org


As for the charities that incessantly call day in and day out, some up to four times daily, we never answer and let all calls go through the answering machine. Most are likely robo-calls anyway.

There seems to be no end in sight for the wasted time and space, not to mention paper, arising from spurious charity pleas,  but as Mr. Press advises the best plan is probably to limit charitable giving. After all, the more you give the more they will pester you, and clog your mailbox with crap - as well as fill up your answering machine with dead air or vapid jabber.

No guilt. Charities brought this on themselves!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

51 Ignorant Diplomats Whose 'Memo' To Obama Shows Why They're Paper Pushers

Some time ago (April 30 post) I had recalled reading Pat Frank's spell -binding 1959 novel of thermonuclear war, 'Alas, Babylon'.  The story pivoted around a small central Florida town that had survived (in a manner of speaking) a thermonuclear exchange following an accidental U.S. air strike on Latakia - the Russian Naval base in Syria.

The American pilot, after U.S. planes had been involved in several close passes with Russian MIGs, believed he could get in a missile shot before the Russian MIG returned to base. He chased the MIG then fired in a hyped up frenzy but the missile went awry hitting the Russian naval base and killing dozens. The Russians kept quiet about it until the early morning hours some days later when they knew American defenses would be at their most relaxed - then let loose with hundreds of ICBMs.

We read next of fireballs erupting in Miami, Tampa (McDill AFB), Jacksonville, and other Florida cities as observed by people in Fort Repose, now aware they will be in a fight for survival as all the usual services, including electric power, water and grocery stores soon cease to exist.

The novel reminded me that such a scenario could definitely play out today given Latakia still exists and the Russians have now fortified it further. This is after engaging in Syria to back Assad against the dozens of radical groups that want to take him down.


Russian SU-24  jet over Syria.

Flash forward now to a missive from "51 diplomats" ensconced at the State Department (most of them "mid-level bureaucrats" according to today's NY Times) who signed a document "calling for the United States to take stronger military action against President Bashar al-Assad ...to force him to abide by a cease fire and to agree to a transition of power."

And what, pray tell, does this "memo" from the illustrious 51 call for? According to the New York Times (p. A7, today):

"The memo simply recommends that the United  States carry out targeted airstrikes on Mr. Assad as a way to force him into negotiations."

One is led to inquire if these diplomats, and I use that term with a sense of deliberate irony, got the memo that the Russians (as in the scenario from 'Alas, Babylon') are also involved in Syria and on the side of Assad.  And have these diplomats been paying attention to recent news reports of perilously close U.S.- Russian jet encounters, such as 2 days ago? No, didn't think so.

This might also explain why these neocon (and "liberal hawk", an oxymoron) critics of Obama aren't sitting anywhere near the nuclear codes in the CIC position, but instead pushing papers at mid-level jobs in the State Department.

But think for a moment if Obama was actually foolish enough to abide by this absurd proposal to appease these nitwits. How soon do you think the Russians, might - just might - get involved and retaliate? I'd say within about 50 nanoseconds of the first U.S. air strikes, and that would not only include targeting the U.S. -backed radicals (for whom there isn't a scintilla of evidence that they're not as bad or worse than Isis) as well as U.S. bases themselves. And how long do you think before that escalates to yes, an attack on Latakia from U.S. warmongers or a crazy, hyped up American pilot wearing the 'Stars n' stripes? From there, the Russians retaliate in a limited tactical nuclear strike that quickly escalates to 'all out'.

The point is these diplomats clearly have their brains up their asses and, to tell the truth, they shouldn't even be allowed near sharp objects. (Please,  State Dept. bosses, remove all letter openers from their desks. Also please place locks on their keyboards and cell phones until they receive therapy!)

As I took pains to point out last year (Sept. 10), like it or not Assad's government is the one currently recognized by the U.N. and hence, despite these diplomats' protests, remains the only legitimate one. Further, I cited a Financial Times article noting that Vladimir Putin has a "vested interest" in Assad's stability and Syria in general, given over 2,000 Russians have left to join the ISIS vermin.

Given the aggressive use of Russian planes (SU -24s, SU -25s and now SU-35s) it is clear Mr. Putin is serious regarding Russian commitment to Assad, and the U.S. would intervene with air strikes only at great peril of making a bad situation much worse. 

The 51 diplomats need to shuck their Gen Curtis Lemay personas,  chill out, take some time off and get their deranged brains in order before challenging the decisions of their commander - in-chief again! I suggest a good psychotherapist dealing with intermittent explosive disorders coupled with reality detachment syndrome.

See also 'The State Department's Collective Madness':

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/robert-parry/67732/the-state-department-s-collective-madness


Excerpt:

"In short, it appears that the State Department has become a collective insane asylum where the inmates are in control. But this madness isn’t some short-term aberration that can be easily reversed. It has been a long time coming and would require a root-to-branch ripping out of today’s “diplomatic” corps to restore the State Department to its traditional role of avoiding wars rather than demanding them.


Though there have always been crazies in the State Department – usually found in the senior political ranks – the phenomenon of an institutional insanity has only evolved over the past several decades."