So after working through all the philosophical issue here at everdeepening.com and the theological issues at love-returns.org, I have gotten to a place where I am ready to meet people where they are regarding the Book of Revelation. The forum is a Zoom meeting on Wednesday night that is accessible through my “The Soul Comes First” Facebook page. To any of those that have followed my journey here, this is the start of a new stage. I’d be happy to see you there.
The Supreme Court is producing a large number of unsigned decisions on its “shadow docket” – largely on partisan lines. The Roberts court has chosen to focus public hearings on cases with a clear basis in law that produce unanimous decisions, while the conservatives decide controversial cases in forums that do not require them to produce a judicial opinion.
This is frustrating to those of us that believe the court should safeguard the rights of individual citizens, rather than represent the interests of moneyed elites. However, it also provides a clear rationale for restructuring the court.
The frequency of resort to the shadow docket is evidence that the SCOTUS is overburdened. It should be divided into two nine-justice panels: one court for decisions concerned with commerce and another concerned with personal liberty. The existing slate of justices can choose their bench, and new justices elevated with an 18-year term (with the initial terms staggered according to seniority). Cases that cross over the jurisdictional boundary will be heard in a special joint session.
West Virginia is a state unlike any other. Largely beholden to the coal, tobacco, and chemicals industries, when DuPont was discovered fouling public waters with PFAs (an “immortal” mutagen), the State environmental agency responded by increasing exposure limits. The current governor (Jim Justice) is a “chip off the old Trump” whose billion-dollar wealth is defrayed by $700 million in personally-guaranteed loans and hundreds of millions in estimated coal-field restoration costs.
For years, I have watched with frustration as pundits look at conservative politics and descry the major policy threads of ethno-nationalism, abortion, and trickle-down economics. These are all smoke screens. The animating issue of conservative politics is the proposition that the free market is the only valid forum for negotiating the distribution of power. Democracy is a mechanism that blunts the exercise of their profit motives, and global corporations, organizing through the world-wide-web, have run an organized campaign to undermine democratic processes.
In countries such as Russia and China, that was simplified because democracy was never firmly established. These states operate as kleptocracies, changing rules to allow those closest to the head of state to seize economic sectors as state-sanctioned monopolies. Facing the pressure of monopolistic competition, the response among Western corporations has been to finance movements that narrowly align governmental and corporation objectives.
So don’t fool yourself that Joe Manchin, the senior Democratic senator from West Virginia, really believes that the filibuster is a tool for ensuring bipartisan compromise. That is a smoke screen. Representing a state so deeply corrupted by corporate interests, he is almost certainly constrained by other considerations. Not least being protecting the wealth of men, such as Jim Justice, who (as did Donald Trump) seek office principally to exercise the powers of government to shield their wealth from taxation and contractual obligations.
The only effective response to global corporatism is the same one that eventually reined in inter-state corporatism: creating regulations that span the domain of their activism. This was accomplished through federal regulation in the first half of the twentieth century, but the corresponding global framework has been propagandized against since before Ronald Reagan (the old “UN Black Helicopters” and “One World Government” canards). It is time for liberal pundits to open their eyes and recognize that this problem cannot be solved one state at a time. The EU has led the way in building multi-national business frameworks, and protecting their market from exploitation by kleptocratic powers. The US should take a serious look at participating.
Asking for prayers and positive intentions from my network of friends. COVID has caught me in a financial vise. I went full-time as a hypnotherapist in 2019, investing heavily in marketing that did not generate revenues. I made a push in the retirement communities, and then COVID hit, sending my business development into a tail-spin.
I have been unable to get the IRS to accept my 2019 return, held up on technicalities. This means that I have been frozen out of COVID relief, as my 2018 income was nearly $130,000. Conversely, because my income actual was low in 2019, I am also unable to claim PPP relief.
I made it through the end of 2020 doing Census enumeration work. I have considered COVID contact tracing, but in Southern California that requires Spanish.
Fortunately, I continue to have beautiful dreams. Last night, I was homeless on the beach or in a forest, and shifted from fear into visualizations of all the gifts I have received in this life, projecting those that have shared them with me into the eternal realm of love. An ancient will called me forward to walk in the wilderness. I came upon a great tree that continued to stretch heavenward as I tried to see the limits of its branches, until finally they touched the sun.
This is a vision that I shared with some starting a decade ago, that the biosphere heals when we teach the simpler forms of life to be conscious of the loving embrace of the source of all life, and intelligent in focusing it for good.
Blessings to you all.
The Game Stop trading scam has brought public attention to the destabilizing relationship between hedge funds and the underlying stocks. Briefly, a hedge trade is a pair of transactions with a specified closing date. The investor can either buy or sell at the current price, and benefits respectively if the price is up or down (respectively) at the future date.
In theory, this is intended to allow corporations to mitigate against price rises in commodities such as grain or steel. They promise to buy the commodity at a price higher than the current market value, but are protected if the price rises beyond that point. That risk is borne by traders who get a guaranteed profit if the price remains stable. In this scenario, hedge funds are a kind of insurance.
The extension of hedge funds to stocks has no inherent economic utility. Such traders are akin to gamblers on sporting events. The possibility for manipulation arises when market-makers are also hedge traders. When a market maker announces a forecast, they reorganize their portfolios to match, in effect making the forecast come true. When hedge traders get involved, the effect of the forecast is amplified. It is exactly this process that caused the 2008 mortgage melt-down.
The solution is already known to us. This was the same phenomenon that almost destroyed the Euro market. Short-sellers were betting against the Italian, Spanish, and Greek currencies. Because the Euro zone required each government to keep its currency in a trading band, they were forced to shore it up, borrowing money that caused the currency to continue to soften. The manipulation stopped when the German government stepped in tactically to shore up the Greek currency, reversing the short-sellers’ positions and wiping them out.
In American investment markets, this was the role meant to be played by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – which bought up one of the more sophisticated electronic trading companies during the Obama Administration. Lacking that governance, the RobinHood investors are playing that role. Unfortunately, many of those who piled on are not sophisticated enough to monitor the contracts placed by short-sellers. They will get stuck holding the bag when the price softens.
With Biden safely ensconced in the Oval Office, the most vocal concern of the political classes is redirect the passions of the dispossessed electorate that Trump seized from the GoP in 2016. This is not principally a political concern, as factors have aligned to undermine the Republican strategy of minority rule. Trump did not certify the census, and with control of the both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats can act rapidly to impose standards on election and apportionment procedures in the States. Power will tip to the Democratic Party, and the Republicans will confront the necessity of re-inventing themselves.
What are the forces that will define that re-branding? Politically, we focus on the ethno-nationalist minority of the party. As forgotten citizens, they – like seniors – have both motivation and time to organize politically, which brings them disproportionate power in the primary process. But they do not share the motivations that seal the loyalty of most Republican voters. For most Republican voters, the principal drivers are financial entitlement and resistance to reproductive self-determination. The latter is going to be resistant to reform, but the former is far more dangerous. They have money.
While most retrospectives on Trump’s presidency focus on his abusive manipulation of his adoring codependents, I think that we need to remember why Trump sought power in the first place. Trump’s twisted amplification of ethno-nationalism was almost a parody, but he was born into financial entitlement. That concerns provides a fairly coherent explanation for his policies while in office.
Remember that Trump did not enter the race intending to win. He wanted to build his brand. What was the nature of that brand? Trump leases his name to real estate developers around the world. Unfortunately, the brand was not compelling. Investigations of his business dealings in the Arab world showed that they were largely money laundering operations for organizations such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. This was also true of many of the investments made by Russians in the US property market.
But it was the only game he had. Remember his nominating convention, with “TRUMP” in 90,000 point font over the stage. This was not vanity. It was a branding.
Trump’s Administration was full of people like him. Mnuchin, Tillerson, Zinke, DeVos, and Ross were all of this mold. Others, such as Ben Carson, played the sport of presidential politics largely for the speaker’s fees. Among them were those who had come under scrutiny by the Obama Administration for consumer fraud or violation of foreign trade restrictions (Tillerson in Russia).
Trump and Tillerson were unique, however, in the global scope of their entanglements. The State Department hosted investigators sent out to scrutinize their activities, and attracted nationals seeking to curry favor by reporting on a man who had made himself Obama’s enemy. At home, the Department of Justice was the principal danger, with numerous investigations in Federal Districts underway. Treasury, auditing Trump’s tax returns, was another threat. All of these institutions were eviscerated or suborned for corruption.
And finally, there was the rest of corporate America, who considered Trump a buffoon. What we saw in Trump’s Administration was lifted directly from Vladimir Putin’s playbook in the aftermath of Boris Yeltsin’s abdication. Yeltsin was abused by the post-Soviet oligarchs, but Putin used his control over the levers of justice to slowly strangle them, eventually becoming de facto owner of Russia. This was Trump’s aim as well.
He almost succeeded. The financial markets soared, and the Wall Street Journal joined FOX News in giving Trump credit. What the market manipulators didn’t count on, though, was the method seized upon by Putin. There is no honor among thieves, and behind every wealthy man are ten underlings that would be happy to take his place. Trump cultivated them, and was perfectly satisfied that the Senate refused to take action on his appointees to vacant Cabinet positions. As for those beyond his reach: Trump’s attack on Jeff Bezos was a fascinating set-piece of global character assassination, and I assume that his Saudi Arabian allies participated with the aim of securing the arms they needed for their war in Yemen.
I am working on a craft project that will eventually manifest as a “Memorial to the Abuse of Privilege.” The foundation evokes the 400,000 COVID deaths in the last year of Trump’s term. The narrowness of the Biden victory should give us pause. It was not superior campaigning or a compelling vision of the future that propelled Biden to victory. Trump’s botched COVID response carried heavy financial consequences. The Lincoln Project sprang up to lead the opposition to his second term. I believe that without COVID, Trump would still be president, and American democracy would have died.
But talk to a Trump voter and QAnon conspiracist and you might be shocked. They want to go back to work because if we don’t, small business will die in America. They are not classically ethno-nationalist; they believe that the aggrieved ethnic and racial minorities have forgotten indentured servitude and corporate towns and the labor abuses of industrialization and violent suppression of unions and fighting in foreign wars and the deflationary gold standard and corporate welfare and globalization and think “Well, if you deserve restitution and opportunities, what about us?”
In other words, they recognize that the enemy are those that abuse privilege. They bet on Obama, and felt betrayed by his lax treatment of Wall Street raiders in 2009. If the Democrats choose to expose and fight global corruption, they’d win them back, and the Republican Party would have to drag its libertarian corporate pay masters back into a sustainable social contract.
In a chilling article, Reed Berkowitz analysis QAnon through the lens of game theory.
The author fails to recognize that society itself possesses these same characteristics.
Our minds are always looking for correlates: it is in fact designed into the cortex, which is a categorization system for sensory inputs. When a categorization is established, it sends axons out into the brain looking for other axions that are firing at the same time. When they meet, those correlations become higher-level categories.
Normally, our minds obtain rewards by finding correlates that allow us to reap resources from the outside world. The majority of America, however, is trapped in a reality of declining resources. The wealth earned by the Middle Class is being vacuumed up by the financial elite. Automation is undermining blue-collar work. Software distributes expertise, undermining local authorities. Lacking sources of wealth and meaning, middle America is collapsing.
Games become attractive only when players find that reality itself is unrewarding. Pointing out that QAnon is a game is no substitute for changing society so that it works for people. In fact, such change is the only way to prevent illusions from preying upon the forgotten.
At the Capital Mall memorial for the 400,000 dead of COVID, President Biden opined that remembrance is necessary to healing. This reflects the institution of Holocaust memorials, and the Vietnam Memorial wall. Great tragedies reflect a tearing apart in human nature, a locus in which dogmatism (Nazism, Colonialism, or Trumpism) tries to force society to conform to its views. To remember, as a psychic practice, is to confront lies with truth. Upon that foundation, we can then project the love that heals.
But healing is not enough.
We are on the “path of the knowledge of good and evil.” We cannot just paper over the past. Our burden is to understand it, and prevent its repetition.
Prior to the Sack of the Capitol on January 6th, Biden promised that he would “focus on the future.” That is an error. The perfidy of the last four years must be exposed, analyzed, and measures taken to guard against its repetition. While the Republican caucus – led by McConnell, Grassley, Nunes, Rosenstein, Graham, Sessions, and Trump – managed to squash full investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the DoJ must be tasked with completing a full national security and financial review. The FEC (Federal Election Commission) must be reconstituted and tasked with a complete review of campaign finance during the Trump Administration. Every Cabinet officer must be tasked with exposing self-dealing by their outgoing predecessors. Congress, which is allowed to define the framework under which States conduct their elections, must expose bias in existing practices and ensure all voters are represented. And apportionment, manipulated by the GoP’s “Red Map” algorithm following the 2010 census, must be constrained by fairness algorithms that prevent gross bias in favor of any political party.
Much wrongdoing will be exposed, and it might be politically importune to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators. But without knowledge, we cannot learn, and the last four years will be repeated.
Biden’s desire for comity is laudable, and the olive branch should always be held out. But that olive branch should not be a used as a shield by the enemies of democracy to prevent exposure of their wrong-doing. At the very least, Biden must allow Kamala Harris, long known as a lion in the fight against corruption, to exercise her skills to maximum effect.
One of the central tenets of the Constitution is equal access to information. This flow was recognized as essential in the commissioning of the US Postal Service, which ensured the delivery of mail. With the advent of the telephone service, a later generation of political leaders recognized that every citizen required access to the system, regardless of their proximity to urban centers. AT&T was established as a regulated monopoly to ensure that urban subscribers subsidized service provision to rural subscribers.
AT&T’s last accomplishment before deregulation was completion of a portable billing service that allowed numbers to cross geographical boundaries. This was the foundation for diversification of telephone service into cellular and VOIP (voice over internet protocol) services. But the physical infrastructure of the phone system was also the foundation for the internet, empowering services like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to provide content to all citizens.
Those service providers live in a regulatory gray zone. To support service creation, early ISPs were exempted from the standards imposed upon publishers of magazines and newspapers. Most importantly, in recent days, were exemptions from fact-checking of content. Classical publishers hired reporters and were exposed to liability claims when stories damaged the reputation or finances of those covered. In claiming that they were merely providing access to information without paying for content, ISPs were considered exempt. When Facebook and others established social media platforms, they registered themselves as ISPs, and also claimed those exemptions.
This is not to say that social media platforms do not provide financial incentives to content creators. Far from it. Popular “channels” receive a share of advertising revenues. Now the lines are becoming grey: classical publishers do buy content from “freelancers,” but still retain responsibility for insuring the accuracy of reporting. Could social media creators be seen as “freelancers?” If so, the social media platforms appear to be appropriately seen as “publishers.”
One argument against this is that social media platforms do not package content as a publication. There is no “Facebook News” service. But a publication is simply a way of attracting attention to branded content. Social media services do attract such attention, by recommending “content you might like” that is headed by popular channels. Popular creators receive more attention, and thus crowd out less popular creators. As these “recommendations” come under the branding of the social media site, they are in effect publications customized for the individual user, but actually guiding the user into conformance with the views of others like them.
The concern is most heightened in regard to political content, which has always been a rough-and-tumble game. In the thirty years since the founding of the internet, it has become clear that many consumers expect to be entertained by their news. On the left, The Daily Show arose, but under that aegis of a classical media empire that monitored the accuracy of content. On the right, Rush Limbaugh and then Alex Jones did not honor such constraints. Their goal was to cater to the grievances of their listeners with outrage, and to maintain that fever pitch, their fantastical claims became wilder and wilder.
The most outrageous among these were the “PizzaGate” and “Sandy Hook Hoax” stories promulgated by Jones. As well as suffering the loss of their children, Sandy Hook parents have faced harassment and death threats, and PizzaGate drove a listener to an armed invasion of the property.
With Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, I agree that it is time to hold Facebook and YouTube responsible for financing such incendiary content. When creator earnings reach a level commensurate with freelance work, they should be responsible for validating the content, and subject to liability for failing to take action when victims signal that they are being harmed.
In that case of Facebook and YouTube, such moves may be a matter of “too little, too late.” They are effectively monopolies. At this point, it seems prudent to tax revenues to establish external review boards to police content. They must be regulated, as AT&T once was, by overseers to ensure that our information systems serve the public interest.
The lack of an organized Republican response to the anarchy at the Federal Capital Building helped to bring this into focus.
While reading outside the CB&TL this morning, I overheard a Republican witnessing that he believed that “people should be free to do what they want.”
The GoP has invested money in demonizing the word “socialist,” and wields it as a tool to attack any program that attempts to protect people from the consequences of irresponsible choices by others.
For example, if your co-worker contracts COVID and continues to come to work, and you catch COVID, should you be responsible for your ICU bill? Or should they be forced to pay? Isn’t that why we have insurance, because often serious accidents can be traced to the choices made by others? For example, to drive drunk, or install slippery surfaces at entrances that are highly trafficked on rainy days, or employ unskilled labor to construct buildings, or to pay exorbitant executive salaries that destabilize corporate finances leading to collapse and loss of jobs.
It is time to call a spade a spade: most Republicans are not “conservative” in the sense that they believe in preserving institutions that serve the common welfare. Rather, they are anarchists. I would encourage Democratic policy-makers to wield that word in like a knife in policy debates. The endpoint of libertarian politics, as financed by the Koch brothers and implemented by Reagan, Rove, DeVos, and Trump, is anarchy. Resistance to common-sense social policy measures should be labelled as anarchist, and those such as Hawley, Cruz and McConnell should be tarred with that epithet.