Finally…I understand the stock market.

And no, this is not some sarcastic screed on the “Wall Street Casino”. I finally found somebody who could explain the mysterious vagaries of the waxing and waning of the market terms that even an artist can understand. Probably because there are lots of pictures. And because the meat of the “book” is only about 50 pages long… in large type.

It’s more of a detailed pamphlet really.

The author, Daniel Arnold, is just a smart guy who wanted to know how to make his money work for him after he retired. He was an electrical and bio-mechanical engineer who had worked for GE for a number of years. He was good at understanding process and the importance of how the pieces fit together. So, with some time on his hands, he started looking at basic, publicly available economic information and began utilizing the data in a way that developed into a very interesting theory.

He started from the assumption that you always hear brokers and stock houses hammering home to investors. One shouldn’t look at how a stock does over a short period of time. Instead, they should look at the long range performance. But the people he listened to or read weren’t talking about long range trends. They were all focused on short term trends and short term results.

When one looks at long term economic flux, there are a lot of theories to choose from. One of my favorites is a long-range theory from a Russian economist named Nikolai Kondratiev. He was tasked with “proving” capitalism could not last because it was a flawed system. What he found instead was that the economies of capitalist countries waxed and waned; although he did not or could not offer a suitable explanation as to why this occurred.

These findings were seen as having the potential to undermine Stalin’s plans for the Soviet Union, so he was sent to the Gulag and sentenced to death. But, his findings align with Arnold’s findings quite nicely. But, Arnold’s prime cause for the fluctuations are a far simpler, more elegant and intuitive explanation than the ones offered by economists trying to find an explanation for the Kondratiev “Wave”.

Any artist or scientist or mathematician will tell you that there in a beauty, a “rightness” to certain solutions. The pieces all fit; like a puzzle. As I read this pamphlet, I kept having those “Ah, that makes sense.” moments that never came while I was studying other economic theories.

So I’ll give you the most basic and important part of his theory here and if you want to read more you can go to his website: The Great Bust Ahead

Let me say first though, as an artist, I will tell you now, the site screams “SCAM”, and if I had seen the site first it would have been easy for me to dismiss the pamphlet as sleazy profiteering. But I’ll give him a pass. He’s an engineer and may not realize how visual cues lead people to certain unconscious conclusions.

The data he presents is easily accessed through public files at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CIA fact files and the INS. So if you have doubt, get the information and crunch the numbers yourself.

Finally down to the nub of it.
In a nutshell:

  • The GDP (gross domestic product) is, in the simplest definition, You and I spending money.

Here he uses Fully Industrialized Democratic Nations (FIDN) as the basis of this data point. The more people, the more they spend, the higher the GDP. And it holds true.

  • If there is a group within the given population of a country that spends more money, they are the main driver of a “good” economy.
  • The age group comprising the biggest spenders in these FIDN is the 45 to 54 year olds.

Why? We are at our peak earning power at this age. We buy cars, we buy houses, we have kids with the attendant school, medical, college expenses. So we are also at the years of our peak expenditures.

  • The strength of the economy rises and falls as generational cohorts come into or move out of this peak earning/expenditure age.

He takes birth data and census data back to the 1920’s and follows the 45-54 year old cohort, correlating it with the rise and fall of the stock market. He has to make adjustments for inflation, but there is an incredibly tight correlation between the peak earning 45-54 demographic and stock market performance.

Until the 1960’s. It took him a while to suss out why the shift occurred. It was the Pill. It allowed women to forestall childbearing. And keeping it basic here, we won’t go into the economic ramifications. Suffice it to say that he adjusted for the data and the correlation resumed its lockstep behavior.

He found he also had to adjust for immigration. He notes that the average age of immigrants to this country is 30 years of age. And once they are assimilated, earning money, making families, they contribute to the upward trend of the stock market in the same way as a birth cohort.

This chart shows the correlations, but there seems to be some divergence in the data. My guess is that if he could find a way to account for illegal immigrants, who contribute to the economy as much as any other worker, it would, once again fall back into alignment.

Sorry about the smudge in the lower left....

I’d like you to notice that after 2010 there is a precipitous drop in the number of people in the 45-54 year old cohort. The Baby Boomers are busting. They are no longer at peak earning power, the kids have gone to college (and come home) and there is a gap of quite a few years until another peak earning demographic comes into prominence.

So, what does that mean? Well, if the trend holds, it means a precipitous drop in the market. It means a long depression. It means a very long, very tough road for people over 50.

So, now that you understand how the stock market works, you can see that we have been trying to put the cart before the horse. Jobs and wages create disposable income. Disposable income creates a thriving economy. And that is simply all there is to it.

No magic. No fractal Elliot Waves. No Wall Street Wizards or brokers who can earn you lots of cash. If you want to get rich in the stock market, make sure people have jobs and money to spend. Then when a generational cohort hits age 40, get in the market. When they hit 50+, get out.

Simple.

Opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune.

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions.

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly mean.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison.

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.

In this country—the most favored beneath the bending skies—we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child—and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity.

I believe, Your Honor, in common with all Socialists, that this nation ought to own and control its own industries. I believe, as all Socialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly owned—that industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone. There are multiplied thousands of others who, like myself, have come to realize that before we may truly enjoy the blessings of civilized life, we must reorganize society upon a mutual and cooperative basis; and to this end we have organized a great economic and political movement that spreads over the face of all the earth.

There are today upwards of sixty millions of Socialists, loyal, devoted adherents to this cause, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color, or sex. They are all making common cause. They are spreading with tireless energy the propaganda of the new social order. They are waiting, watching, and working hopefully through all the hours of the day and the night. They are still in a minority. But they have learned how to be patient and to bide their time. The feel—they know, indeed—that the time is coming, in spite of all opposition, all persecution, when this emancipating gospel will spread among all the peoples, and when this minority will become the triumphant majority and, sweeping into power, inaugurate the greatest social and economic change in history.

In that day we shall have the universal commonwealth—the harmonious cooperation of every nation with every other nation on earth.

Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.

I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. The people are awakening. In due time they will and must come to their own.

When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.

I am now prepared to receive your sentence.

Statement to the Court
Eugene Debs, September 18, 1918

Eugene V. Debs Foundation

Show Me The Note, Motherfuckers!

Zero Hedge posts a followup to Gonzalo Lira’s The Coming Middle-Class Anarchy. Wherein Brian and Ilsa, a retired middle class couple, find themselves with an underwater mortgage. They also find themselves in a very typical bureaucratic run around.

In response, they sensibly did what more and more people will be forced
to do, if banks don’t pull their heads out of their obviously comfy
asses.  

They demanded to see the note.

I’ve spent a good portion of my free time over the last several weeks trying to find alternative branches to the narrative line that is quickly approaching.

Perhaps I’m not clever enough, or knowledgeable enough to faithfully follow Ariadne’s thread. Because I keep circling around the same conclusion: the mortgage (and by default the banks, no pun intended) system is going to grind to a halt because of this issue. And when it does, everything impacted by banking is going to grind to a halt.

The alternatives:

The banks screwed up. But they won’t risk losing market share by admitting it then taking the necessary steps to fix it.

The government can’t step in. Mortgage laws vary by state. There are a host of Constitutional issues preventing a mortgage “bailout” a la JP Morgan or Chrysler. For one thing the auto makers didn’t falsify documents. Their sin was poor business models based on the fact that the US of A can’t compete with countries with universal health care.

The middle class only needs a tiny spark to ignite all that bone dry rage they’ve got lying around. These folks, who have generally only known privilege, won’t have as much patience with the types of bullshit that the lower classes have long ago been broken to. Let those retired boomers…you know the original “Me” generation …decide to harken back to the good old protest days. Silverback Activists and the “Great Bank Sit-in (sponsored by Metamucil)”

Rage on disenfranchised white middle class hellions! Rage on!

The Pea Pickers Dilemma or (handy clickable Gen Y title) The Epic Fail of American Politicians

This morning, I spent the coolest part of the day harvesting green peas off the vine. As an activity, pea picking is incredibly repetitious.

Black-eyed Susans and Green Peas

It is neither physically nor mentally taxing enough to fully engage my interest.  And so, as often happens in these instances where my body is engaged but my mind is free to play, I began to ponder.

What I began to ponder was a charming turn of phrase used when someone expresses utter disbelief at another’s foolhardy actions. “Are you out of your pea picking mind?” I suspect this might have it’s origins as a Southern phrase, much like it’s cousin: “Are you out of your cotton picking mind?” The implication, in both instances, is that pea pickers and cotton pickers are less than, shall we say, astute.

I understand that. By way of contrast, harvesting something wild, like blackberries, requires a broad and overarching attention in order to gather small fruit on unsteady terrain, while avoiding thorns, spiders and snakes (not necessarily in that order). Compared to blackberries, picking peas is simple. You stand in a level row, you see a green pod hanging in front of you, you pick, you drop it in the bucket, you see another pod. You pick. Simple. Unthinking. Repetitive.

Pea Pickers, then, would be the domesticated cousins of the Wild Berry Pickers. Over the years, we’ve bred all the uncertainty, pain and danger from the enterprise of picking peas. As a result, picking peas requires much less mental and physical stamina, much less engagement in the process, than gathering from the wild. Therefore, simpletons are able to do it. And so, the logic suggests, that makes your average pea picker a simpleton.

There is an obvious presumptive flaw in this line of thinking. But as a metaphor for a foolish person doing mindless task, calling someone a pea picker has the potential to be a fair assessment. So hold that thought, we will revisit our pea picker in a few moments.

Let me briefly turn your attention to George F. Will, political columnist for the Washington Post. George Will falls, rather definitively, to the conservative side of the political spectrum. And while I admire him for his occasional ability to admit his most grievous mistakes, George Will and I have only agreed on 2 things in the past 30 years.

The 2nd thing we agreed on was a comment he made during the Inaugural Parade commemorating George W. Bush’s 2nd term in office.

The limousine carrying the President and First Lady was traveling along the parade route with secret service and a uniformed guard detail, on foot, beside the vehicle.

As you may recall, the security for this event was unprecedented. For the first time ever, spectators had 10 foot fencing between them and the parade route. There were “free speech” areas, cordoned off to keep protestors from impinging on the happy occasion.

Mr. Will was a guest commentator on one of the broadcast television networks along with the usual broadcast news anchors. As the events unfolded, the television people nattered on, filling air time as we watched the car progress along the route. At one point, the President’s limousine inexplicably sped up to the point that the security detail had to jog along side the car to keep formation. One of the news anchors made some comment about why they might be moving more quickly when George Will said, apropos of nothing: “It looks like a Banana Republic.”

There was dead silence in the studio, then a quick cut to commercial.

The first thing George Will and I agreed on was in the early 90’s. He had written commenting on a friend of his in northern Virginia, who worked with his hands making custom pajamas for a discerning clientele.

Using his friend as an example, Mr. Will explained that he was of the opinion that those living inside the beltway were entirely disconnected from the daily realities of American life. They didn’t have real jobs. Many of them hadn’t had real jobs in decades. They didn’t make things. Therefore, they didn’t understand the complex and intricate process of seeing an idea through from beginning to end; from thread to cloth to product. Or the ramifications of failing to understand and acknowledge each part as it relates to the whole.

He suggested instead, that a life of signing and pushing around individual pieces of paper, disconnected from a knowable outcome during the day, coupled with a life of political socializing and leisure during the night had created a culture that could not comprehend the realities a majority of Americans face. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing here, but in George Will’s opinion: Making piles of paper, only to send those piles to other people to makes other piles of paper, was no way to understand the needs of your constituents.

Politicians, bureaucrats and their faithful, well-meaning wonks are doing work that is well-defined; bounded by bureaucratic process and laid out in neat rows. There is very little uneven footing. They do not stumble upon tearing thorns. And what snakes and spiders creep there are easily spotted and, unlike their wilder cousins, just as easily negotiated with.

Something happens to those fledgling politicians after they leave the nested security of the small towns that elected them. There is some fundamental shift as they are domesticated by money and power. They forget, or most likely they never knew, what life is like in the midst of briars and mud and need and want.

They also forget who picks their peas; who puts the food on their tables. In their re-negotiated world-view pea pickers, mindless drones of an agrarian age, become part of an indistinguishable mass of humanity that exists out there. They are unknown, and so become unknowable.

To those unknowns outside the security of the beltway, one vote by an ethical politician can keep a multi-national corporation from killing an ecosystem. One vote can save the source of a multi-generational local business or it can allow ruination on an unprecedented scale.

Politicians from the Gulf States who failed to vote against those corporations with no vested interest in the local communities, voted against their own constituents by default. And any politician who chooses without thinking, who mindlessly grasps the low hanging fruits in front of him rather than considering the consequences, has failed those who put him in office.

Deciding the fate of people’s lives was never intended to be easy. It was never intended as a pea picker’s job. But it has become just that; too easy and much too safe. Politicians have become too insulated from the consequences of self-interested choices. They have been allowed the self-indulgent mindlessness of simpletons. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans in the wilds outside the beltway, are forced to scrounge in the briars; competing with coyotes and snakes for what we can gather before the hard rains come.

(This commentary was published in the Grant City Times Tribune during the week of July 7th)

There’s some good news!!!! (and then there’s the news we don’t actually care about)

Hey, it’s a party! The richest, shiniest 400 families in America have gotten 5 times richer in the past 15 years!!!!

And OMG BONUS!!!! Their tax rates fell to the lowest rate EVAR!!! Couldn’t you just die??!!!!

Sources: Tax.com NY Times WSWS.org

WHEEEEE!!!! LOOK AT THAT INCOME RISE!!!!

Incomes Go Up!

YAYYYY!!!!! GO AWAY BAD TAXES!!!!!!

Taxes Go Down!

Total income for our top earners was $138 billion in 2007.  That’s up  $263 million from the previous year. They got an increase of 31%!!!  Yayyyy!!!!  they deserve it.

But how much did the shiny 400 pay in taxes? A mere $23 billion. Isn’t that JUST SUPER?!!!!!!!

Our top 400 Awesome Rich People made more in 2007 than the yearly output of most of the world’s countries; rivaling the GDP of Chile .

If the shiny 400 had paid their 2007 taxes (even at the 1995 rate) the resulting $18.4 billion would have covered California’s entire 2010 budget shortfall. Aren’t you just so proud?

Bill Clinton’s administration started the report back in the day to let us ROOT! ROOT! ROOT! for our rich. But the Grumbledy Meanies in the Bush administration shut it down. Leaving us without any way to know how super and shiny our rich people really, truly are.

And guess what! The wealthiest 1% took 2/3rds of ALL the income generated between 2002 and 2007.  But, ya know what? I think they deserve it.

They took 90% whole percent!!! But they deserve it.

Some Economy Guys named Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez  said income for the top 1 percent grew 10 times faster than that of the bottom 90 percent.

10 TIMES FASTER!!!!!!!!

And don’t we all think that’s just FANTASTIC?!!!

Okay, okay, not be a Debbie Downer, but I did promise that other news (we don’t really care about anyway)

It seems the whiny old states think they might have needed those tax dollars. Pouty Pusses.

Center for Budget and Policy

Those Silly Little Recession Numbers

Current.org
As states cut back their budgets, governors are targeting public broadcasting along with other educational and arts programs. Some stations could face a total funding loss.

But really who needs that stuff anyway? That’s all just local musicians and news and artists. We don’t need to know what they are doing, as long as the rich can get richer. Right?

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
At least 44 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted budget cuts that will affect services for children, the elderly, the disabled, and families, as well as the quality of education and access to higher education.

Look, I know it’s tough. But if you are old or disabled, you are going to die soon anyway. And frankly that might be a blessing, because you aren’t pretty to look at in that condition either.

But if you are young and uneducated, the rich are always looking for somebody to trim hedges or cut the grass, you’ll get by. Heck, I bet you could get Timmy out of daycare and the SUPER SHINY RICH could put him to work in a trice!!!

Little fingers like Timmy has are just perfect for making those big expensive wool rugs the rich like to hang on their walls. It takes patience though, so tell Timmy to work steady or there will be no gruel for dinner. Wait…… that’s right. The rule is one meal a day.

Bonus!!!! Timmy won’t have to eat gruel for dinner, cause there’s no dinner!!!! Yay!!!!!!

Don’t we just owe the Rich EVERYTHING?

One could just SWOON…..

Swooning

Swooning

Paraphrasing Stack, Quoting Gandhi

In the best of all possible worlds our higher selves would exist in perfect synchronization with our highest ideals. But in the real world there is no one who can pass the litmus test of: People whose ideas fall into perfect moral alignment with their actions.

Consider that our Constitution was written by men who espoused freedom for all, yet many of them owned human beings who were kidnapped from their homes and forced to work as slaves.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was known to have plagiarized large parts of another man’s work in the creation of his thesis. And, like many prominent men, he had a series of illicit relationships outside of his marriage.

Gandhi, in discussing methods of resistance against the British, suggested that rather than accept oppression and tyranny that people would be better off standing fast and fighting by force of arms.

Yet we are able to look past these base facts to see the higher truths these people espoused.

Every one who is human does something that has the potential to directly nullify a morally upright stance they take. If we are human, we are flawed. Those flaws in no way minimize the higher truths that move through us. If we are to live honestly, we can condemn the wrongness of an action without detracting from the rightness of an ideal.

That is precisely why our Constitution was such a brilliant creation. It is a document of higher truths, never falling to the level of merely human; rife with frailties and flaws. It cannot seek to rule or oppress those adhering to the tenets contained within it. It is made up of ideas separated from the base qualities of a flawed humanity. I suspect that separation is exactly what the framers intended.

The larger point of my discussion of ideas and ideals versus base human action leads me to the tragedy of Joe Stack. Joe Stack, by all accounts, was well-off enough that he owned his own plane, a large house and his own independent business.

Joe Stack was not poverty stricken. Unlike the truly destitute, he seemingly had choices. So we may never be able to say, with any degree of certainty, what led him to his final decision. All we are able to say with any certainty is he was angry and in that anger made a series of irrevocable, horribly damaging choices.

In considering his last words, I am in no way suggesting Joe Stack was a Jefferson, nor a Washington nor Gandhi, nor King. I am suggesting, instead, that the themes he touched on in his statement have an urgency and validity that should be considered outside the final misguided actions he chose to undertake.

Most psychologists will tell you that fear typically leads to one of two reactions: withdrawal or acting out. Joe Stack acted out. He channeled his fear into anger and he channeled his anger outward, ostensibly against a government agency. But in reality he acted against the very people he claimed to sympathize with: middle class and lower class workers. And that is where his ideals and his actions diverged and lost moral coherence.

What was Joe Stack afraid of? He was afraid of the same things many, many Americans fear in these uncertain times: We fear losing everything we have spent our lives working for. We fear that our country has lost its moral center. We are afraid that the people we have entrusted our lives and livelihoods to, namely our government, does not have our best interest in mind.

Ultimately, we are afraid of discovering the game has always been rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. And it is a game we fear we could have never won; no matter how hard we worked, no matter how upright and earnest our efforts.

Paraphrasing Joe Stack:

-The middle class are having the fruits of their labors stolen from them. The upper classes are benefiting directly from this theft.

-There is a deep disconnect between what we are indoctrinated to believe about the values America is said to stand for and the sad reality of the actions America takes in the name of those values.

-Our government has made promises to the most vulnerable in our society, yet the system continues to leave many of them helpless, even as it helps those who do not need it.

-Our tax system has become Draconian in its complexity. This complexity serves the rich and connected. It has never served the weak and helpless.

– As long as we continue to accept what is happening, it will keep happening.

Interestingly, this last sentiment echoes Gandhi’s assertion that the people’s acceptance of tyranny allows it to continue.

Like Gandhi, I think violence is the less effective choice for dealing with oppressors and tyrants. Gandhi felt the morally upright way and the one requiring the greatest courage was to resist solely by nonviolent means.

Gandhi said it best with this statement: “I believe that no government can exist for a single moment without the cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.”

Change requires deep desire, it requires sacrifice. It does not require violence. Therein lay Joe Stack’s fatal flaw.

Doom and Gloom: Sunspots, Volcanoes and Earthquakes. Famine, Disease and Pestilence.

Sunspots, Volcanoes and Earthquakes

The problem with being merely human is, compared to the vast scales of planetary time, we are but brief and oh, so vapid bubbles. Our capacity to glimpse and somewhat comprehend the eons that have proceeded us, for the most part, only serves to frustrate and confuse.

It is precisely because our brains, and by extension our minds, are geared with pattern recognition and pattern synthesis as built in survival mechanisms, that we valiantly strive to “make sense” of our world, our universe. Some make sense of their world by becoming artists, archeologists or doctors. Others become psychologist, biologist or astrophysicists. And some, eschewing any attempts to understand, keep it simple by “leaving it to god”.

Others leave it to god, but hedge their bets with virgin sacrifices. This, if you think about it, has more in common with the scientific contingent. Reducing action to a simple experiment: A “What happens if ?” question. Where the scientist and the priest will sometimes differ, lays in which needs a definitive outcome. And which will keep trying to prove their ideas wrong in order to obtain a repeatable result.

In times of heightened stress and uncertainty, it seems the desire to create order out of chaos becomes even more acute. If we were all roaming the savanna, keeping a wary eye out for cheetahs stalking in the tall grass, our actively engaged minds wouldn’t have time to parse out the minutia of conspiracy theories or end-time scenarios. Cheetahs are sometimes useful that way.

As a species, we have been both blessed and cursed with the ability to invent time-saving processes and devices and implement them on a massive scale. And after all those processes and devices are firmly in place, what we are left with are active minds and a lot of free time. Here is where the Brain Squirrels tend to show up.

Brain Squirrels are a side effect of attempting to solve problems and create contingencies with too little useful information. We end up running round and round in our heads, trying to make pieces from different jigsaw puzzles fit into a seamless whole; taking a piece of information here, a bit there with no regard for relevance. The end result is either a shoddy conspiracy theory or a series of valid questions we could do little about, even if we understood the problem and its answer completely. Why our weather is outside the norm. Why earthquakes happen. Why are there droughts and crop failures and starvation and so on.

Sometimes though, if you sort through enough muck, you will find something useful. Something that allows you to mark an idea off your mental checklist and ponder contingencies based on known quantities, instead of hapless conjecture.

So while I was poking around after the earthquake in Haiti, I made a few discoveries.

Some people believe there is a link between the sun and our climate. No, I’m completely serious. Stop rolling your eyes. Yes, we are all aware that the sun warms the earth. We are also aware that the lack of sun cools the earth. But this idea is more subtle and more difficult to prove directly due to the aforementioned fleeting lifespan. We simply don’t have enough long term data to make a firm case. And, as yet, the causal link has not been discovered. So bear with me here, while keeping in mind that I am not arguing a case for or against human induced climate change, but am exploring the idea of links between solar activity, volcanoes, earthquakes and climate variation on Earth.

Climate Change May Trigger Earthquakes and Volcanoes. New Scientist

Evidence of a link between climate and the rumblings of the crust has been around for years, but only now is it becoming clear just how sensitive rock can be to the air, ice and water above. “You don’t need huge changes to trigger responses from the crust,” says Bill McGuire of University College London (UCL), who organised the meeting. “The changes can be tiny.”

Among the various influences on the Earth’s crust, from changes in weather to fluctuations in ice cover, the oceans are emerging as a particularly fine controller. Simon Day of the University of Oxford, McGuire and Serge Guillas, also at UCL, have shown how subtle changes in sea level may affect the seismicity of the East Pacific Rise, one of the fastest-spreading plate boundaries.

So science generally accepts that changes in the climate have effects on volcanic activity and on the tectonic plates. If tectonic plates are affected, it seems reasonable to assume that earthquake activity is also considered under that heading.

Right now, we are in a period of increased earthquake activity where quakes have a much greater total strength:

copyright D. Lindquist dlindquist.com

 

And increased volcanic activity worldwide:

copyright Michael Mandeville

From: Global Volcanism: Volcanic Activity

It is understood that volcanic eruptions spew micro-fine particles and other detritus into the atmosphere. This creates a sort of sun filter, cooling the earth by deflecting solar radiation and heat.

That would, at least in part, account for the arctic cold snap covering the Northern Latitudes.

What might account for the rest? Sunspots. Or more accurately the lack of sunspots.

Sun SpotsThe Blank Year NASA.gov

Note the inverse relationship between the charts further up the column and the one shown here.

According to them that study our friend the Sun, we are right at the bottom of what is known as a Solar Minimum. A Solar Minimum is defined as a time in the Sun’s regular cycle with little or no solar activity.

From the site:

The longest minimum on record, the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715, lasted an incredible 70 years. Sunspots were rarely observed and the solar cycle seemed to have broken down completely. The period of quiet coincided with the Little Ice Age, a series of extraordinarily bitter winters in Earth’s northern hemisphere. Many researchers are convinced that low solar activity, acting in concert with increased volcanism and possible changes in ocean current patterns, played a role in that 17th century cooling.


NASA scientists have also noted that the more calm the Minimum, the more quickly the Sun’s systems return to an active state. In addition there are a larger number of strong disruptive events, like solar flares.

Solar Flare

I began by looking at a geology sites on the internet to find some information on earthquake strength and frequency after they Haiti quake. Based on forum postings, the question of earthquakes and sunspot activity comes up whenever there is a major quake. And instead of addressing these concerns, the regular posters flatly and adamantly denied any direct causal link between sunspots and earthquake or volcanic activity in the usual dismissive manner of the pseudo-skeptic.

Since I’m not a fan of flat denial as it has very little to do with critical thinking, I decided to look into the question for myself. After further reading I wondered if the “skeptics” on the geology boards would be willing to admit the possibility of an indirect causal link. A chain reaction, if you will.

I discovered a site with information on a rather interesting theory. On the site M.A. Vukcevic has a formula that discusses the interaction of influence on the mass of the sun from the magnetospheres of outlying larger planets.

http://www.vukcevic.co.uk/

M.A. Vukcevic formula

This chart shows the correlation between the movement of planets Jupiter/Saturn and the incidence of recorded sunspots.

A PDF further discussing his work.

If the Sun’s mass is affected by these planetary magnetospheres, wouldn’t that suggest it is possible that the Earth’s mass, the molten core which helps to drive its magnetosphere would be affected too?

In the end, what I am suggesting is not a simple cause and effect. Instead I’m suggesting like many systems with interlinking chaotic processes, it’s a complex and dynamic cause and effect.

* Reduced sunspot activity due to planetary effects can affect how much heat the Earth receives. This begins to shift weather patterns, which in turn affect the tectonic and volcanic systems of the planet.

* The magnetospheric effects working on the Solar mass are echoed in our molten planetary core resulting in increased volcanic and tectonic activity which results in further change in the planetary weather system.

NASA scientists may not agree with Mr. Vukcevic. I have no idea whether his work is valid or supported. But the scientists at NASA do agree that sunspots, earthquakes and volcanoes are linked in some fashion. At this point they are not willing to forward a hypothesis about the correlations but agree that they are mediated by changes in climate.

Whether this goes toward supporting claims on either side of the global warming vs. global cooling debate is outside my area of interest at the moment.

Famine, Disease and Pestilence

In terms of which aspects of the sunspot/volcano activity are within the purview of my interest I direct you to to:  Nine Meals from Anarchy

“This year is the 10th anniversary of the fuel protests, when supermarket bosses sat with ministers and civil servants in Whitehall warning that there were just three days of food left. We were, in effect, nine meals from anarchy. Suddenly, the apocalyptic visions of novelists and film-makers seemed less preposterous. Civilization’s veneer may be much thinner than we like to think.”

It is certain that the recent Arctic blasts which affected much of North America, has already impacted food security in the United States.

Florida, which tends to be the warmest state during the winter, generally grows tender warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers. The freeze in Florida has crippled supplies of citrus and juices, along with tender vegetables like snap beans, squash, and peppers,

While this, in and of itself, does not constitute a food crisis, the truth is many people are not the position to afford an increase in food prices. It is more along the lines of “Another straw on the camels back”.

If there is a possible link between sun cycles and an increase in deadly earthquakes, volcanoes or weather changes then we are obligated to explore those ideas. Haitians and others across the globe who have been adversely affected by these terrible tragedies are a stark testament to how little we know and how much we need to discover about our world.

Found Poem: Winter in the Collapse

It’s winter. The ground is as hard as an investment banker’s soul.

An evocative trouvaille. But, in my opinion, it needs a little oomphf.

So I reworked it a little. For your consideration:

It’s winter.
The ground is cold and hard.
An investment banker’s soul.

Original poem entitled: What did you expect, job growth? found at Democratic Underground Stock Market Watch by Po_d Mainiac

Of Greater and Lesser Sins.

The Moral Absolutists and Moral Relativists have both managed to get it wrong. On the one hand, there is no one unyielding truth. No unequivocal right or wrong based, ultimately, on some political, social or authoritarian structure.

On the other hand, the fact that some acts are labeled as wrong across cultures, across societies, across time, tells us that at some primal level, there is recognition of something that could be labeled as “sin”. It can, without judgment, be best described as: When you no longer understand that the person standing in front of you is human. And in being human like you, they suffer the same fears, the same hurt, the same hunger as you.

In forgetting this simple idea, the sinner loses some part of what makes him human too.

The one point of agreement between the two camps is that not all sins merit the same levels of condemnation. There can be great evils and then there are the evils of a lesser degree.

In this series of recent stories, the grim irony of the holy man telling his flock to sin, but to sin carefully, ranks in the measure of humanity, as the least sinful of all.

City of Miami to Julia Tuttle Squatters: If You Are Not a Molester, You Gotsta Go!

Police in Miami, Florida have been forcing those convicted of sex crimes to live as squatters under the Julia Tuttle Freeway after their release from prison. The growing number of laws across the country restricting where sex offenders live make it difficult, if not impossible, to house them.

The presence of a “city sanctioned” tent city created a draw for other, non-offending homeless. No surprises there. The homeless will tell you there is a degree of safety in numbers.

Yet somehow, beyond all comprehension, the morally bankrupt idea of forcing people to live as no better than cattle was compounded when police began ordering the non-sex offending homeless out of the squat. So, now the innocent poverty stricken are being treated worse than the people already being treated as less than cattle?

How to comprehend the mind-bending thought processes in play here?  From the police, to social services, to city administrators, to the justice system, each person in those systems turned their backs on the most basic of moral imperatives: treat human beings as if they possess humanity.

Phoenix Church Ordered to Stop Feeding the Homeless

The premise stripped down and laid bare: The application of zoning laws is more important than the fact that men, women and children are starving.

Yes, little old ladies might find it disconcerting to see bedraggled strangers wandering down the street in order to get at least one meal today. And the uptick in minor crimes is something to be concerned about. But these are manageable problems.

It comes back to the idea that if they keep sweeping this human dirt under the rug, the problem disappears. They have failed to realize this mere trickle is the leading edge of a landslide. Sometimes, there isn’t a rug big enough.

The wise and humane thing, the human thing to do is to find a way to accommodate the concerns of the homeowners and the mission of the church.

Fund boss made 7 billion in the panic

I’m not averse to money. Nor am I averse to people making money. But throughout history, there has always been an inverse proportion between wealth concentration and human suffering.

The tipping point measuring human benefit to human damage in our economic system has long passed. And in its waning, it echoes the arc of the twin cults of Self-Actualization and Individualism. These structures have served their purpose for this cycle in history. They have stopped functioning to benefit anyone. It is past time to move beyond them.

Like it or not: We will be forced to move back toward ideas of shared responsibility. Look at the news from across the globe, look at these stories. We are already moving, out of sheer necessity, back to a collective interdependence. We literally can’t afford to continue supporting people or systems that take food out the mouths of our children under the guise of free market ideals.

70% Of The Q3 GDP Growth Was Cash For Clunkers

Summary: The little White Lies of Statistics aren’t helping anyone.

This will most likely mean further stimuli will be considered necessary. A severe contraction of the GDP in future quarters could spook those meager few who now hold a majority of the wealth. And, right now, them that have the money are the only ones with the ability to move it through the economy.

The problem is, the wealthy are merely human. And, in that frailty, they share the same irrational fears as the rest of us, regardless of means. In the end, this does not bode well for those of us without access to those same means.

Priest advises congregation to shoplift

I am not a religious woman. But if it were in my power to deem him a Saint, I would gladly do so.

Drug/Money Death/Taxes Class/War

When I first read about the practice of large pharmaceutical companies paying smaller producers of cheaper generic drugs to keep their product off the market, I can’t say I was surprised. I can’t even say it registered as a blip on my “Disgusting Lack of Morals” scale.

I mean, after all, big Pharma sees an increase in profit because they can continue to sell the higher priced name-brand drug.  And the producers of generics don’t lose any money even though they’ve stopped manufacturing a lucrative, yet lower cost to the public, product. So it’s all good. Right?

TPMMuckraker: Drug-Makers Paying Off Competitors To Keep Cheap Generics Off Market

I was, however, amused by the accuracy of the tag: sleaze.

And my lack of surprise continued when, a few days later I came across a story in the Seattle Times Newspaper by Danny Westneat about a woman living in Seattle with her 2 children. She makes about 18, 000.00 a year. And for that, the IRS decided to audit her.

Because after looking over her tax information, it seems the IRS decided it is impossible to raise 2 kids on 10.00 an hour. Well, no kidding. No pun intended.

Even though they aren’t talking, the IRS seemed to come to the following sage conclusion: She is either lying about having 2 children or she is hiding extra income in order to take the Earned Income Tax Credit.

And when her dad hire someone to look over her tax returns and speak with the IRS on her behalf, the IRS decides that the parents need an audit too. A very thorough audit.  Can’t you just hear the menacing sound of rubber gloves snapping into place?

As far as I could tell, they were just two more stories of money and abuse of power from different ends of the economic spectrum. They seemingly have little else in common.

So, imagine my surprise when each of them kept nudging me. At first gently; like the puppy when he first figured out that the table plus people equaled food. And since he was a puppy and he was cute, he felt his chances of scoring a nibble were quite high.

Unlike the pup, who has long since learned that there are no table treats, the stories did not stop their gentle nudging. In fact, I began to find myself pondering them in tandem.

So what was I missing? What connected these two stories together beyond money and an abuse of power? Late yesterday, the phrase Mafia Model sprang unbidden into my mind.

The Mafia Model, as I explained in an earlier post, is just about all that’s keeping the world economy from following the 2nd half of the plumber’s gospel: Hot always goes on the left and shit flows down hill. The monied people, the financiers, the bankers, the billionaires, the rulers of nations; they are all tied together. Their lives are staked, quite literally to the mountain of money known as the economy. If support breaks and one of them goes down, they all go down.

But let’s expand that universe beyond the power players of finance. Let us develop an internal logic in order to create a consistent reality. In that scenario the Mafia Model plays out like this; Big Pharma pays off Little Generic to throw the fight. Everybody wins. Big Pharma bets heavily on their name-brand guy and rakes in the cash because odds were heavily in Little Generic’s favor. The name-brand winner takes the pot. The loser, little Generic from South Jersey, gets a pay off that keeps him happy and out of traction.

So what of our little Italian family in Seattle? Well, it’s no stretch to see that when you want to set an example, the easiest targets are women, children and small business owners. Don’t like how some people aren’t paying their due because they are protected by Earned Income Tax Credits? Send your goons in to lean on them a little. And when old Pop steps in to protect his daughter and grandkids? Smack him down a peg or two. You don’t need to break any bones, just run them into the ground with fines and fees and legal bills. Folks in the community will get the message. Capice?

Where is Elliot Ness when you need him?

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