Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Missing Babies" In The Western World? Of course There's No Mystery!

In an Economist article from April 30th this year, the header appeared to present a quandary: 'The Strange Case of he Missing Baby' (p. 55), with the 'baby' emblematic of all the alleged "missing infants" that should have been born in the West but weren't.   The absence evidently even aroused the consternation of Pope Francis who asserted: "The great challenge of Europe is to return to being mother Europe".

But maybe that isn't possible any longer as the Neoliberal agenda and virus metastasizes to every nook and cranny so that citizens' economic security feels under siege. It is a given then that they would not feel comfortable enough to start or raise a family when each kid costs roughly $235,000 U.S. to raise to maturity.  A hell of a lot more than when my folks raised five kids back in the 50s and 60s, e.g.




















Visiting near Everglades National Park in the year 1957. In that year - at that time-  we could all live on one salary of $4,750 a year, believe it or not - and all of us attended parochial schools and ate 3 squares a day.

In those halcyon economic days we could all afford new suits, as well as visiting sundry places including taking trips to St. Augustine, Sarasota, Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Milwaukee. All that despite having only one bread winner - my dad. Try that today and see how far you get with five kids!  Often now, especially since the financial meltdown in 2008, two family earners are needed, just to make enough to afford a roof over the head and food.

Startling new information in the Sunday New York Times pointed out how difficult things are by noting the minimum yearly income a family now needs to live in various cities.  For San Francisco (where I may have to soon return to get further treatment for recurrent cancer) that amounts to a full $119,000 a year. Even for Miami, FLA, where we lived in the 1950s, that's now $84,000 a year. Even accounting for inflation my dad's salary as a commercial artist at Jordan Marsh wouldn't support a family of five in the Miami of today. (It would be about $38,000/yr.)

So basically, my folks would not have been able to afford even two kids, far less the five they actually had. Similarly, why would anyone with sense expect a modern ordinary family (not one of the gilded one percent) to afford any more?

As The Economist piece points out (ibid.):

"The financial crisis abruptly turned the (baby) boom to a bust. Countries in the European Union delivered 5,469,000 babies in 2008 but only 5,075,000 in 2013 - a drop of over 7 percent. That was too much for Kimberly -Clark, the maker of Huggies nappies, which announced in 2012 that it would pull out of most of Europe. In America, the fertility rate fell from a peak of 2.12 in 2007 to 1.86 in 2014. Ken Johnson a demographer at the University of New Hampshire estimates the U.S. is missing 2.3 million babies".

But "missing" in the context above only references loss of corporate sales (e.g. to Kimberly-Clark)  - which is all the Neoliberal cares about anyway.  He doesn't give two shits or a ratfuck about your family and its quality of life, only how many credit card charges he can ring up - to put you further into debt.  And the more babies your family burdens itself with, the larger the credit card debt pile.

"Missing" is also kind of a ridiculous term because it patently assumes all those babies would not be missing if the financial crisis hadn't occurred. But this misses the point that seven more years of zero job growth (to completely account for population increases up to then - via new entries into the work force) had occurred, as well as the fact wage stagnation had gone on for that extra time. So families over that time were still not making headway and there is no evidence at all, zero, that had the crisis not occurred corporations would have added sufficient decent paying jobs for families to afford homes....in Denver, St. Louis, Miami, or anywhere.

Indeed, one could argue all the extra people would have inevitably created an even bigger demand for housing, such as here on the Front Range of Colorado, where the median price of a home is now $265,000 in Colorado Springs, and nearly $410,000 in Denver. This has rendered most homes beyond the reach of families forcing them to be renters. So, it's easy for economists sitting in ivory towers to wring hands and pop off about a birth "deficit" but they can do this because they selectively blind themselves to other factors.

So we then come to the 'DUH' revelation (ibid.):

"The crunch was unsurprising: anxiety about jobs and money put people off children."

Then again, adding how "young and even not so young couples" are "finding it hard to buy property" not only in the States but in Europe. And there, as here, there are on average 4 in 10 of  24- to 29-years olds still living with their parents. Moreover they're saddled with college debts,  thanks to the Neoliberal leech student loan model.

One lamo American economist cited in the piece, Richard Easterlin, actually buys the codswallop that babies might be missing because too many people feel they wouldn't be able to raise them in the style to which they themselves were raised.

Hardly! More than likely, they knew that from the get go, given the national lack of affordable housing - plus the lack of jobs, wages to pay for what does exist. It seems it's more a case that people realize having even one kid is folly minus winning a Powerball. And short of that miracle, bringing a kid into the world might only ensure homelessness or destitution.

In terms of the U.S. alleged 2.3 m "missing babies" let's also acknowledge the problems a Neoliberal culture and economy impose - on those with babies, as well as those without. In this regard two recent letters to the NY Times op-ed pages are illuminating. In one, from a Linda Porter of Seattle, we learn (in response to an article advocating a more family -centric workplace by Judith Shulevitz):

"What does Judith Shulevitz' brand of feminism offer  to women who do not have children...it is just assumed that women like me will take over for the new moms. By the time she gets back to work I'm exhausted but there is no leave for me. The same when children are sick, or it's the school play or any other of the myriad times mothers take time  off for their children. Doesn't anyone realize that all that assistance offered to women with children is at the expense of someone else?"

- Points well taken, and again, let me reiterate this is in the context of a workaholic, no free or family time enabled Neoliberal corporate culture.  A corporate culture that also frowns on giving sick days even for restaurant workers suffering from contagious infections like norovirus. Thus, Ms. Porter is right to complain how she and other childless women are the ones left holding the 'jobs to do' bag when co-working moms have to go to the school play, attend a sick kid or whatever.

But it comes from the other side too, as noted by one Joan DeNatale Green writing a letter on the same op-ed page:

"Employers and the general public do not value child care or treat it as a real job."

And she then cites a friend who, on being informed Mrs. Green was returning to work, replied: 'Well, that's a good idea since your husband has been working all these years.'

Again, these disparate views could only emerge from a Neoliberal business culture and general societal culture which leaves every individual to his own devices, to try to find his or her own economic support and security.  Contrast this to the child care support in the 50s when two dollars a day child care was available and as I noted earlier, it wasn't essential for both parents to work.

But again, people in the U.S. mostly are victims of the fundamental attribution error, which notoriously blames individuals for their economic failures as opposed to the economic system itself. Hence, no surprise that working moms could be blamed, e.g. for having soft schedules and dumping work on their childless colleagues, while also themselves blaming the "general public" for "not accepting that motherhood is a real job". Hence the stage is set for strife and division as the Neoliberals want.

One interesting and welcome (to me) aspect of the missing babies syndrome, according to the Economist  (p. 56) is that the American Census Bureau now "has slashed its prediction for the country's population in 2050".

They now have it at 398m instead of 439m. Good! Less clogged highways, as well as hospital ERs, and National Parks - not to mention more (hopefully!) housing stock available.

But, as is their wont, these economists only obsess over the 'glass half empty' aspect of the population decrease whining that (ibid.):

"A fertility rate of only 1.8 would mean twice as large an annual Social Security deficit by 2089".

Not realizing or appreciating that IF those 2.3 m extra babies had been born they'd also want to collect their Social Security.  The way out isn't to keep adding to the population to pay for existing workers' benefits but to cut the military portion of the GDP back to where it was pre- 9/11.

But don't look for these turkeys to move off their higher population bandwagon as the solution to all things financial anytime soon!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

PFC Contamination Also Theatens U.S. Water Supply


EPA map showing cities where PFC levels exceeded 70 parts per trillion

While we have already seen, as in the case of Flint, MI and other cities, the extent to which lead contamination threatens the water supply, e.g

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2016/02/mark-ruffalo-bill-maher-expose-degraded.html

 that is not the only contaminant to worry about. More than 55 % of the U.S. watersheds and millions of citizens are also at risk from PFC (perflourinated chemical) contamination.

As noted from a Denver Post story (June 16, p. 16 A) "these perflourinated chemicals rank among the worst in an expanding multitude of unregulated chemicals that federal scientists are detecting in city water supplies, including hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and anti-depressants."

And as further observed: "Perflourinated chemicals don't break down"

In Colorado now, as in  many other states and cities, it has reached the critical crisis mark as the water in all 32 wells of the Security, CO water district has been found contaminated by - you guessed it - PFCs. (DPost, p. 1A) In every case the contamination levels have exceeded 70 ppt and in one case hit 1,367 ppt - nearly 20 times higher than the putative limit (and hence inimical for the consumption of pregnant women and small children).

And while PFC ingestion might not lead to retardation as does lead, it can lead to a whole raft of cancers, including the one I am currently fighting (prostate).  It has also been linked to "kidney and testicular cancer (p. 16A) as well as "developmental damage to fetuses, low birth weight, accelerated puberty, distorted bones and liver tissue damage".

Incredibly, despite the fact these horrendous chemicals are persistent in the environment (don't break down) "they aren't regulated under any national water standard although Vermont and New Hampshire have launched state-level action."

So it appears the country as well as most states, have made a deal with the corporate 'devil' to allow as much contamination of water as it likes to further prospective business (and employment) - devil take the hindmost (or the most cancer sensitive). No wonder so many insurance companies are running up huge, outstanding losses under the ACA  - they probably can't keep up with all the poor health as a result of our contaminated water supply.

The situation doesn't get better nationally. Hence (ibid.):

"The EPA has measured PFCs exceeding the limit in one percent of 4,464 public water systems nationwide. That means more than 5 million Americans in 33 states may regularly be drinking contaminated water with perflourinated chemicals".

Would you willingly and knowingly give your loved one a glass of poison? Well, that's pretty much what you are doing if you inhabit one of those PFC contaminated areas. And then triggering one cancer or another, or one of the other damaging medical horrors.

But, of course, it doesn't stop with PFCs since as I noted our water is literally awash with other toxins too, virtually none of which are regulated, including antibiotics, atrazine-laden weedicides and pesticides and other industrial byproducts - all carcinogenic crap for which the cancers generated will likely need painful, invasive biopsies as well as treatments later.

The situation just south of us in Security (ironic name, eh?) is now so bad that summer school students at four elementary schools began to use bottled water. Meanwhile, the residents themselves- worried over the terrible effects - have begun to stock their shelves with bottled water only.  (They hope that showering in the stuff won't prove too deleterious, but who knows?)

Again, more evidence that the neoliberal state and agenda doesn't really care about its citizens other then to make money off them, and use them as temporary cogs in its machine before tossing them away. Or ditching them entirely if they get too sick to work -or too expensive for continued medical benefits.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The 'STAR TREK' Universe Is Definitely Preferable To Star WARS

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Past Tense, Part I
Sanctuary district ca. 2024 in downtown San Francisco as depicted in Star Trek DS-9 'Past Tense'

With a new (50th anniversary) Star Trek movie  ('Star Trek Beyond') due out later this summer, and another Star Wars flick in the works for December, it's interesting to compare the two background universes.

The latest issue of FORTUNE ('Star Wars vs. Star Trek',  July, p. 30) continues the debate on which film (and TV in the case of ST) franchise is superior to the other in terms of how it depicts the future, for that universe. As a long time fan of both, I can easily say Star Trek's future for humanity is better hands down.

As the piece observes, while the Star Wars universe "is the ultimate example of an ineffective bureaucracy leading to a worse dictatorship (from the capital of Coruscant), "the United Federation of Planets (Star Trek) governs in the spirit of democratic socialism".

NO issue there, and the cornerstone two-part episode that really seals that discussion is Deep Space Nine's "Past Tense" Part 1 and II. (Which I have watched three times already, so compelling is it).

From the Wikipedia intro we learn:

"The crew of the Defiant is thrown back in time to 2024 on Earth. The United States of America has attempted to solve the problem of homelessness by erecting "Sanctuary Districts" where unemployed and/or mentally ill persons are placed in makeshift ghettos."

Let me note, and I put in the odd spoiler here, the actual future and history recorded for this ST universe  (bearing the United Federation of Planets)  was not the one into which Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko and his cohort were thrown. (See, e.g. 'The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future'   by Michael Okuda et al.)     No, they ended up in a twisted history version (thanks to the influence of "chroniton particles")  that never should have happened. Hence, they end up in a San Francisco where the super rich have it nice, and the 99 percent are unemployed and tossed into enclaves called "sanctuary districts" where they are basically offered only minimal resources and forced to prey upon each other.

The Wiki entry ends by noting:

" as this episode was finishing production an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times describing a proposal by the mayor to create fenced-in "havens" for the city's homeless, to make downtown Los Angeles more desirable for business. The cast and crew were shocked that this was essentially the same scenario that Past Tense warned might happen in three decades, but was now being seriously proposed in the present"

Which even thirty years ago showed we were already on the Neoliberal arc that would bring us to the horrendous present moment of inequality in which the top 40 odd billionaires in the U.S. own as much as the bottom 60 percent.

The rectification of the hideous past on offer in 2024 in the 2-part DS-9  episode, then led to the proper democratic socialist future portrayed in numerous episodes of Star Trek (and of the series, from the original, to Next Generation, to DS-9, to Voyager).  As often explained by one or other of the primary characters (e.g. Capt. John Luc Picard, Capt. Will Riker, Cmdr. Sisko) "the citizens of the Federation home planet (Earth) know no want. Everyone who wishes has employment and others are able to turn their free time into artistic pursuits. Education is free - though one must qualify in an exam to enter Star Fleet Academy- and there is plenty of food to eat.

One needs to watch hundreds of episodes to get at the bottom of the reasons for this fortuitous outcome which is essentially based on three major pivots: 1) The proper education of the citizenry so they are not fooled by PR, disinformation or the lies of self-interested politicians, 2) The intelligent control of reproduction so that the population can never grow to outpace resources, and 3) Technological advances that serve the bulk of the population, and which render continual development of war materials unnecessary.

Other relevant points made in the FORTUNE article:

- While some alien races (like the Ferengi) still covet coinage, money went the way of the dinosaur.

- Without affluence to dictate socio-economic status merit and reputation holds sway.

An added side point made (with reference to the new book, 'Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek') is that "finance is virtually obsolete and resources are abundant". The latter is likely on account of development of mining of ores, etc. from asteroids and other planets. The former likely because the planet is no longer caught up in cycles of deprivation and debt, owing to manipulations of markets and greed heads proliferating - as they do in the Neoliberal system. Thus, it's clear the future Earth of Star Trek is not under the 'market uber alles' boots of Neoliberals.

By contrast, what do we behold in the Star Wars universe? From the FORTUNE article:

- Take one look at the lavish lifestyle of Coruscant vs. the scavenging ways of Rey on Jakku and it's clear that inequality is rampant.

- Lots of cool tech exists but hasn't made its way to the people of the Earth or other planets yet.

Clearly, to me, while both universes may be entertaining in the framework of their respective movie franchises and characters, etc., it is the Star Trek universe most people I know would rather live in. Trumpies, of course, would naturally opt for an emperor and an empire as portrayed in Star Wars.

Monday, June 27, 2016

SC Bombshell: Court Knocks Down Excessive Texas' Abortion Law In 5-3 Decision


States with major impediments to abortions.

Imagine, just imagine, if getting a colonoscopy required one to only have it at a fully -equipped surgical operation center, and with all gastroenterologists required to have full  admitting privileges to a hospital.  If that were in fact the case the cost of colonoscopies would go through the proverbial roof, and fewer people would have access to them at  gastroenterology screening centers. Fortunately, this is not the case so that if the gastroenterologist accidentally perforates your colon (which happens in about 1 of 200 cases) then you still must be rushed to the nearest ER for repair surgery. The existing centers do not have the wherewithal to do it.

Well, in Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellstedt Texas tried to impose similar burdens on abortion clinics which already had been whittled from 41 down to 19, and only 9 or so would have been left. This would have made getting abortion services extremely problematical for most women in the state given its vast expanses.

The Texas law, passed in 2013, would have required abortion clinics to act more like hospital surgical centers, so they would have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars - and in some cases millions - to upgrade their facilities.  It also would have required doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges. The state claimed the actual aim was to protect women's health, to ensure they had the optimum facilities for their recovery and so on.

Of course, any idiot could see through this smoke screen, given it basically used the ruse of making the perfect the enemy of the "good". Thus, most abortion clinics in the state were good enough to ensure women's health was protected but Texas insisted on making them "perfect".

Thanks to Justice Anthony Kennedy this bogus law has now been shot down, as well as a raft of similar bogus laws being considered in other states. Obviously, since this has set a judicial precedent then any other wacko state that tries to implement it will also lose.

Thus, had the court upheld the law in this case, it would have not only affected Texas but other states considering similar laws restricting women's access to abortions.

Interestingly, this marks the first time Justice Kennedy found an abortion regulation he didn't like, which went too far, and as Justice Stephen Breyer put it in his opinion the Texas law "imposed an undue burden on women to obtain an abortion".

The whole episode speaks to the extreme use of subterfuge, diversion and distraction that  states are now willing to invoke in order to try to do an end run around Roe vs. Wade.. Fortunately, even if Antonin Scalia had been alive and present on the court it wouldn't have made a difference - other than one more for the opponents.

Another reason liberals have no choice but to vote Hillary this November. We can't afford the luxury of women losing any more ground in the abortion wars.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Are Greedy Elders Taking Advantage of the Young? Not In U.S. - But Perhaps in the U.K.



















In a WSJ piece from several months ago ('When Older People Do Better Than The Working Age', March 21, p. A2) a number of claims were made concerning economic advantages reaped by seniors not shared by the young working contingent. All of these bear closer examination, especially in the wake of the Brexit vote (previous post).

According to the authors (Jason Douglas and Jon Sindreu):

"Seniors in the U.S. have recently enjoyed healthier income gains than their younger counterparts, census data show...The average person 65 years and older in the U.S. earns  77% of the income of the average citizen up from 69% in 2008".

Okay, several points, since the earlier claim - preceding this statement is that "the divergence is exacerbating generational imbalances in government pension systems".

In other words, geezers are supposedly profiting at the expense of the youngsters who have to pay into "entitlements" like Social Security to support them.  This is confirmed as the authors later write (ibid.):

"As the elderly population increases, younger workers face a rising bill for the extra tax dollars needed to fulfill past government promises to retirees".

So....according to the WSJ duo, it's evidently the fault of the parasitical seniors for bleeding down the pay and resources of the young - keeping them poor and on a losing treadmill.

Of course this is bollocks. Apart from the fact no account is taken that those on "government pensions" had already put in their working years (decades, in fact) - thank you very much - there is no attention paid to the fact what those pensions don't exactly provide a princely sum. To shed needed light we can thank Nancy J. Altman and Eric Kingson, authors of 'Social Security Works' .

As the authors observe (p. 40):

"It is false that most older Americans are on "easy street". A very small percentage are, many more are poor or near poor, while some maintain a modest, middle class life style, often struggling to make ends meet."


In the graphic shown on page 47, the authors present the actual income distribution for the elderly which shows nearly three out of four senior households have incomes below $50,000 - which is not a majestic  sum considering health costs, etc.. Not when a senior might be one bad fall from a nursing home stay  that will suck up $70k a year. Or,  one major medical catastrophe can savage  frugal savings. (Dunned by continuous zero interest rates for years.) These are problems the young don't have, and the young always have time to get back on their feet - most seniors do not  - say after a major medical calamity.

Anyway the income distributions are indicated a follows:

- 72.5% have less than $50,000 /yr.

- 18.5% have from $50,000 - 99,000

- 5.3% have $100,000 - 149,999

- 2.0 % have $150,000 - 199,999

- 1.9% have more than $200,000

In other words, barely 9 percent of elderly - or 1 in 11, has more than what is regarded as a middle class income. So we (they) are not exactly living on "Easy Street". Other objections to seniors' benefits as being "too much" I already skewered in this blog post, which I invite people to read:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/11/no-oldsters-are-not-gluttonous-uncaring.html


Interestingly, the situation may well be different with respect to oldsters in the U.K., especially in the wake of the Brexit vote. As noted in the same WSJ piece, seniors in the U.K. "earn 89 percent of the average citizen's income".   And yet these older folks found it necessary to vote "leave" in the Brexit vote, thereby taking away opportunities in work, travel, and advancement for the 18-34 age set.

As expressed in opinions of some of the younger U.K. demographic in today's New York Times ('Among Young Britons, A 'Bad Feeling' On Result', p. A1:

From Louise Driscoll, a 21-year old barista in London:

"What do we do now? I am very scared!"

And from Lewis Phillips, 27 of London:

"We're the ones that have to live with it for a long time but a group of pensioners have managed to make a decision for us."

From Dan Boden of London:

"Truly gutted that our grandparents have effectively decided that they hate foreigners more than they love us and our futures."

Hannah Shaw, 25, who works at the National Health Service, had this to say:

"I'm already part of a generation stuck in rented property, unable to buy a house. The older generation seems so happy with the result, almost smug like it's some sort of victory completely unaware of the chaos they've caused for my generation. I'm dreading what will happen to employment, worker's rights, the environment and our economy"]

Which are certainly valid worries for those her age, given the narrowing of opportunities expected now that England likely recedes to merely being an island state again.

The outrage of the U.K. youthful segment is perhaps best summed up,  NY Times p. A8:

"They have expressed astonishment, anger and despair that their parents and grandparents would seek to limit the travel, exposure to other cultures and opportunities to work and study that being part of the European Union afforded them".

Thus, the Brexit vote effectively took away their acquired European identity, feeling part of a whole culture and continent as opposed to merely citizens of a provincial island nation.

From the level of their rage it will be a long time before they get over it, if ever. Meanwhile, the geezers in the U.K. need to ponder now what they have done by actually limiting the work and educational opportunities of the young which bears no comparison to anything oldsters have done in the U.S.

But to be sure, Neoliberalism has wrought havoc in the States too. But this is not the fault of oldsters who are equal victims of its excesses, in terms of extreme increases in prescription drug prices, further increases in Medicare premiums -  while cutting S.S. COLAs, and having to support their offspring and often their offspring, because the Neoliberal state has found it expeditious to retain a service -oriented, low wage society with little or no chance of upward mobility.

The populism expressed in the Sanders'  -- and to a lesser extent Trump campaign- have touched on these divisive issues, but there may yet be more unsettling events to come.

See also:

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/richard-eskow/67837/after-brexit-who-will-lead-the-new-global-rebellion

Update:

An analysis by The Financial Times in the wake of the Brexit vote found that only 36% of 18 to 24 year olds actually cast a vote in the election. In effect, these complacent young voters contributed to their own demise, much as they have tended to do by not turning out in U.S. off year elections.

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 next 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: