“New” Thoughts are not Our Own

I wrote the following on a friends blog:

“I have moved into a new, entirely cynical place and these Gnostics seem to be a rare, albeit tangential, confirmation of my new world view. Inverting As Above, So Below to read As Below, So Above, I observe that the only strategy that thrives in the Duality platform for consciousness is that of parasitism. Whether governments, corporations, gambling casinos, wasps, fleas, viruses or whatever, parasitism supersedes all other strategies. Surely this is because the progenitor of this platform is using just such a strategy. Imagine the progenitor as the ultimate casino owner. While everyone here suffers 55% of the downside of duality and only 45% of the upside, the progenitor has devised it such that it suffers zero, or nearly zero % of the downside and all the upside. Imagine the Hindu’s Krishna as the template. Positing a superior, “good” God hovering invisibly behind the bad progenitor is the vestigial remains of faith and hope. Our need to just say no to multi-national corporations is a mere reflection of our need to just say no to the progenitor parasite who created this rigged game. But talk about insinuating itself, the system is devised to create an endless sine wave of desire that keeps almost everyone in line.”

He had introduced me to the gnostics, the cathars and the Albigenses.  What a great example of how our thoughts are not our own.  “My” thoughts, of living in upside-down land and its creation by a gangster like progenitor, were echoed 800 years ago in people who called this the land of topsy-turvy.  Like me, they shunned animal meat except seafood.  Nothing is ever new.

Just as anyone looking at the plethora of stars and galaxies cannot but conclude that we are not the only sentient beings in the universe, so too can we assume that we are a creation of a creation of a creation to the nth power. I am reminded of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s assertion that the only reasonable way to predict the lifespan of a technology is to assume that it is halfway over. The chances that ours is the first creation are infinitesimally small.

Patti Smith, Liberal Icon

I recently stumbled across the information that Patti Smith wrote the lyrics for several songs of the band Blue Oyster Cult.  I like BOC even less than I like Smith (I do like her Horses album), but I was surprised at the connection and soon learned she had dated the keyboardist of BOC.  In Richard Meltzer’s book about BOC he had this to say about Patti:

“OK, basically, I was the one who brought her to the band,” recounts Meltzer. “She was my friend. In the summer of 1970, my dentist was around the corner from the bookstore where she worked, Scribner’s Books on 5th Avenue in the 40s. And I stopped in there and we became great friends. And somewhere down the line I brought her to the band. And Pearlman wanted to fuck her and that was his interest. And I don’t know if he did or didn’t, but once it was clear that she was with Allen, it got to be that there was a lot of tension between Pearlman and Allen. And Allen and Patti were very anti-Semitic folks, without any irony whatsoever. You know, fuck the Jews, all that kind of stuff. And so there was a lot of anti-Pearlman wrath from both of them. I lived with this woman Ronnie and we would hang out with Allen and Patti a lot, through the mid ‘70s. And essentially what made the relationship viable was that we didn’t mind their anti-Semitism. But the point is that Allen thought the faux-Nazi stuff was a joke. I mean, everybody took it as a joke. Except, as I remember, Eric [Bloom] thought there was something cool about it, that the Third Reich had its shit together. You know, the Jew in the woodpile was the one that took it the most seriously.”

My complaint with Smith is the same one I have with Elton John; they both are just too well acclaimed for the low quality of their output.  I wonder if she really was anti-Semitic; I have no idea what Metzger’s reputation is.  Smith’s status now as a liberal icon guarantees she would never admit it. Her public life hides whatever is true.  She just released a second autobiographical book.  Opportunist? Marketing maven?  I think so.

More on the “secret” Patti Smith: https://dangerousminds.net/comments/patti_smiths_career_of_evil_with_blue_yster_cult

Ponzi Scheme Government

After decades of corrupt politicians and unions jumping in bed together:

From Simon Black:
By January 1920, much of Europe was in total chaos following the end of the first World War.
Unemployment soared and steep inflation was setting in across Spain, Italy, Germany, etc.
But an Italian-American businessman who was living in Boston noticed a unique opportunity amid all of that devastation.
He realized that he could buy pre-paid international postage coupons in Europe at dirt-cheap prices, and then resell them in the United States at a hefty profit.
After pitching the idea to a few investors, he raised a total of $1,800 and formed a new company that month– the Securities Exchange Company.
Early investors were rewarded handsomely; within a month they had already received a large return on investment.
Word began to spread, and soon money came pouring in from dozens, then hundreds of other investors.
By the summer of 1920, the company’s founder was receiving more than $1 million per day from investors.
His name was Charles Ponzi. And as you could guess, it was a total scam.
Ponzi wasn’t really generating any investment returns. He was simply taking the new investors’ money to pay the old investors.
The business collapsed later that year, giving rise to the term “Ponzi Scheme”.
The most famous Ponzi Scheme in recent history was the case of Bernie Madoff, whose scam robbed investors of $65 billion.
But today there’s another major Ponzi Scheme that’s literally 100x the size of Bernie Madoff’s.
I’m talking about pension funds.
Pensions are the giant funds responsible for paying out retirement benefits to workers.
And if you think calling them a “Ponzi Scheme” is sensational, it’s not.
Pension funds (including Social Security) literally make payments to their beneficiaries with money contributed by people in the work force.
In other words, the money that people pay in to the pension fund is paid out to the people receiving benefits.
In theory this could go on indefinitely as long as
a) there’s a sufficient ratio of workers paying into the system vs. retirees receiving benefits; and
b) the pension funds are receiving an adequate return on investment
When one (or both) of these conditions is not being met, the pension is considered to be “underfunded,” and it starts burning through its cash balance.
Eventually it will burn through all of the fund’s assets until there’s nothing left. Poof.
Credit-rating agency Moody’s estimates state, federal and local government pensions are $7 trillion short in funding.
And corporate pension funds are underfunded by $375 billion.
One of the big drivers behind this is that investment returns are way too low.
Pension funds need to invest in safe, stable assets (like government bonds), but have to achieve yields of around 7% per year in order to stay solvent.
But today with government bonds yielding 3% or less (and in some cases bond yields are NEGATIVE), they aren’t achieving their targets.
One or two years with sub-optimal investment returns is not catastrophic.
But it’s been like this now for a decade.
And that’s just problem #1.
Problem #2 is that the ratio between workers and retirees is moving in the wrong direction.
As an example, despite all the hoop-lah about the unemployment rate falling in the Land of the Free, the number of retirees receiving Social Security is rising MUCH more rapidly.
Ten years ago in November 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that 146 million Americans were working.
Today that figure is 153 million, a 4.8% increase over the past decade.
Social Security, on the other hand, was paying benefits to 34.4 million Americans in November 2007, versus 44.2 million today– a 28.5% increase.
These are government statistics– and the numbers clearly show a terrible trend: there aren’t enough workers to pay for retirees.
The problems persist across state and local pensions as well.
The State of Kentucky’s Teachers’ Retirement System, for example, saw a 64% increase in retirees just in the last twelve months.
Unsurprisingly, Kentucky’s retirement system is massively underfunded.
It’s so bad that Governor Matt Bevin is publicly attacking teachers who retire early (early retirement means that someone is taking benefits sooner and paying less into the pension fund).
Bottom line– this trend is real:
– Pension funds are earning a lower investment return than they require
– The ratio of people paying in to the fund vs. people receiving benefits is moving in the WRONG direction.
This is how Ponzi schemes invariably unravel.
Again, I’m not trying to be sensational. These are facts.
And given that just about everyone at some point probably plans on retiring, it’s important to be able to have an objective, data-driven conversation about the topic.
I know it’s uncomfortable. We want to believe so badly that the system is going to work.
I also want to be the starting Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. But that’s probably not going to happen either.

The Real Religion

What we call traditional religion is part fantasy, part social and part atavistic fetish.  Most of us do not go to church on a weekly basis.  Real religion is virtually invisible to its participants.  The most pervasive real religion is STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. Its adherents place their faith in progress and the churches they attend daily are corporations and institutions like Apple, the AMA and Amazon.  This faith promises novelty and ease in the short term and physical immortality in the long term. Neo-Darwinism tells the faithful that the corporations and institutions they bow to have earned their dominant place in the cosmos. Its participants expect we are on our way to heaven on earth if only the non-believers, the infidel, will allow large scale social, medical and ecological engineering to proceed without resistance.

The mind, so useful as a servant, has become master in this rootless religion of mental, egoic me-ism.  The concurrent rise in unhappiness, incivility and poverty is seen as a need for more STEM, never as the result of this upside-down elevation of the mind.

This current, invisible religion is a sophistication and culmination of those preceding it.  Rather than sidelining and minimizing mysticism, it completely ignores it.  Full faith is placed in the physical; if it can’t be seen, touched or tasted, if an experience cannot be replicated, it does not exist.  However pervasive, however fervently believed in, how can this utter madness not become the world’s shortest-lived religion?

Our Primary Adversaries

Companies have become the prime ‘entities’ in what was once our world.

…….And we wake up to find ourselves subsumed into a retrograde process!

The ‘real’ entities now, are corporations. Theirs is a simple life; Their prime directive is to feed and get bigger. They seek to destroy or absorb competing entities. That is all! Any other pseudo motivations are a gloss; A sheen to beguile us, the people who feed them. People who would ordinarily be repulsed by such a base nature.
We, as individual feeders and enablers of these entities, only have the power to save ourselves, but en-masse we can be dragon slayers. The entities should be rightly afraid; We cannot take them on ‘toe to toe’, but we can starve them!

These ‘amoeboid’ entities have become cunning; They know their ‘life’ is tenuous. They dare not risk a lifting of the veil; Direct contact with their feeders!
Vast and elaborate ‘glittery-buffer-edifices’ have been erected. The go-between zone where the communication takes place!

Certain engaging, entertaining and persuasive feeders may find themselves plucked from the pool and set up in this glitzy intermediary land.
They are only free to stay there, as long as they are useful to the process though.
We ordinary feeders are blissfully unaware of the entity’s ‘teeth and claws’. Those elevated to the land of glitz and glamour are sadly, not as fortunate!

Frank Zappa’s and Tipper Gore’s Foxtrot

I was thinking recently about how most successful people are particularly good at marketing. Among others I thought of Frank Zappa. Right away with Zappa I thought of his highly publicized duel with Tippore Gore and her campaign to label music with explicit lyrics. I like Zappa as much as I like most any rock musician. I still listen to two or three of his albums. At first blush he seems the last person to label a marketing maven. He hated hippies, brought humor into rock music, fired his band as soon as he got popular, and was generally anti-establishment. However, we could see this as the advanced branding of a “rebel.” The Gore/Zappa show strikes me as a great promotion of the Zappa brand. After all, if no one cared about explicit lyrics, if it had simply become a big yawn, then where was the relevance of the Zappa brand? Like a book banned in the UK, Zappa “rebellion” remains pertinent only as long it offends the establishment. Offending Tippor Gore was like a USDA seal of approval for his anti-establishment fans.   Otherwise he simply becomes an anachronism, a curiosity from the repressive past. So did he launch his campaign for purely marketing reasons? I doubt it. I suspect he felt strong about the issue, but like much of his personal promotion, he acted unconsciously on his own behalf. Like a good liar who has learned to pass a polygraph test, he just naturally allowed his ambition to lead him in a pragmatic yet largely unconscious manner. As to Tipper Gore’s intentions…

The Tax Code

Simon Black on the US tax code:

Every quarter the United States government publishes a list of individuals who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship.

The latest list came out yesterday, and 1,376 people are on it.

That might sound like a small number, but the total for 2017 is projected to be more than 20% higher than 2016… and 2016 was 26% higher than the total number from 2015.

In fact the number of Americans renouncing their citizenship has been rising dramatically for years.

The primary driver behind this is taxes, plain and simple.

The Land of the Free is one of the ONLY countries on the planet that taxes its citizens on their worldwide income, EVEN IF they don’t live in the United States.

You could be an ‘accidental’ US citizen, i.e. one of your parents is American, but you live your entire life overseas. It’s possible that you’ve never set foot on US soil or even speak English.

And yet Uncle Sam will still demand his fair share of your worldwide income. Plus interest and penalties.

Beyond that, the cost and hassle of maintaining tax compliance has grown worse ever since the US government passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) back in 2010.

I’ve written about this a number of times, calling FATCA quite literally the worst piece of legislation in US history.

The idea behind FATCA was to uncover any hidden money that Americans might be hiding overseas… so the law included countless rules that were thrust upon foreign businesses, banks, and governments.

It was the height of arrogance– the US government extending its jurisdiction to the entire world and commanding everyone to follow its laws.

Imagine if the government of Saudi Arabia decreed that US grocery store chains were forbidden to sell pork products to any Muslim in the United States… and then forced those US businesses to report back to Riyadh on what every single customer (Muslim or not) was purchasing in the checkout line.

Crazy, right? But that’s basically what FATCA does.

Every bank in the world, regardless of whether or not they have US customers, has had to enter into an information sharing agreement with the Internal Revenue Service.

This has become absurdly expensive.

In 2014, the Telegraph (British newspaper) estimated that the cost of implementing FATCA compliance in the UK would cost 500 pounds PER FAMILY.

In other words, British families are paying 500 pounds so that the IRS can sniff out US tax dodgers.

The Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce estimated that the worldwide cost of complying with FATCA would be between $1 to $2 trillion. And many other organizations echoed this analysis.

Yet the US government’s best estimates on the amount of tax revenue generated by FATCA are less than $20 billion.

Think about that– $1 to $2 trillion in costs, $20 billion in benefit. It’s genius!

On top of that, FATCA has created a culture where banks around the world are terrified to do business in the US, and US banks are terrified to do business overseas. It’s amazingly short-sighted.

Most of all, though, FATCA created debilitating rules for certain taxpayers living abroad, to the point that many of them were driven to renounce their US citizenship.

When you go to renounce your citizenship at a US embassy overseas, State Department officials are required to debrief you and conduct an exit interview to find out WHY.

If there’s even a hint that you’re doing it for tax reasons, they can throw all sorts of penalties at you, including barring you from entry to the United States forever.

So naturally nobody ever says “taxes”. Or “FATCA”.

People give all sorts of reasons– I even knew a guy once who told the consulate that his wife (a foreigner) threatened to divorce him if he didn’t renounce his US citizenship.

But the government’s own data is very clear: post-FATCA, renunciations soared. And they continue to climb.

Sadly, a repeal of FATCA is conspicuously missing from the proposed ‘comprehensive tax reform’ that was announced this week.

I honestly have a difficult time even calling it comprehensive tax reform.

All they’re really doing with this tax plan is changing some rates, throwing out a few deductions, and (hopefully) making things a bit simpler. But it’s hardly anything revolutionary.

Real, true, honest to goodness COMPREHENSIVE reform would entail throwing out the tax code entirely.

The current tax code as it exists was written more than three decades ago… in a world dominated by the cold war and heavy industry.

The Internet didn’t exist. Globalization on this scale didn’t exist. Most of today’s biggest industries didn’t exist. And neither did most of the largest companies in the world that exist today.

This proposed plan still essentially jams a 21st century world into a 20th century tax code. It just doesn’t fit.

Real reform would be throwing out the ENTIRE tax code and starting from scratch… beginning with a clear determination of strategy and what they need to accomplish with the tax code.

And if they needed some inspiration or advice, there’s no shortage of countries that have smart tax codes and just happen to be awash with cash: Estonia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.

So this is shaping up to be a pretty big missed opportunity to create a sensible, 21st century tax code that no longer forces thousands of Americans to renounce their citizenship in droves.

The Foolishness of Youth

Youth is so easily persuaded it is a joke that they have voting rights.  Surely parents should exercise their children’s votes from birth to the age of 29 (the first Saturn return).  Below is an example of their urge to stampeding tribal tunnel vision; not only do they listen to the same music and dress the same, but they tend to fall prey to the same manipulative memes.