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The Flim-Flam Men

The Flim-Flam Men

I suspect if average Joe or Jane were asked to identify modern examples of ‘Flim-Flam Men’, many would point to Bernie Madoff or Allen Stanford. (Remember them from the last “Great Financial Crisis” of 2008?) Or even to a long list of Too Big To Fail bank CEO’s past and present, plus various corporate, government and Federal Reserve officials who’ve graced our lives over the last twenty or more years.

And you know what? I couldn’t argue with them for a second because they’d be correct. But do those examples really illustrate the deeper, more mundane meaning of the common street hustle or financial confidence game? And are we in denial of our own critical role in ‘The Big Con‘?

Madoff and Stanford (and the Federal Reserve of course) would fall into the category of ‘The Big Con’ since they successfully roped thousands, even tens of thousands, of people into their web of deceit. More importantly, they fleeced their ‘marks’ for years, decades even, and every single mark was smiling right up until the end. Why? Because everyone thought they were on the inside track to a sweet heart deal that paid better than average returns. In other words, they were ‘chosen’ (usually because of their own self described brilliance) and thus they had a leg up on everyone else. That is, until reality rushed in to fill the vacuum and their glorious illusion imploded.

What I wish to explore here is some of the emotional and psychological components of the common confidence game (professional money management subdivision, three-card Monte category) perpetrated on the public by the political and financial ‘industry’ in general, and some of our local money managers/financial advisors in particular. It’s one thing to run a onetime financial con on an individual or small group of people and another entirely to do so consistently, ‘professionally’ and as an accepted member of society.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Papers Please!

Papers Please!

For those who may not know, Mrs. Cog and I live in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, near the intersection of the three poorest counties in the Commonwealth. While that fact doesn’t directly affect us, either financially or physically, it does for many who live within our local community.

The area is basically poor farming country, with many locals still scratching out a living raising cows and calves on steep hilly terrain suitable mostly for livestock grazing and, occasionally, assorted cash crops such as cabbage, corn or even hay.

But for the most part, those who must pay the bills work for others outside the immediate area and for relatively low wages. Worse, they travel many miles to make their keep, often 30-50 miles one way on poorly maintained country back roads. This makes for very long days to match those rather short paychecks.

The point is, many who live here must travel long distances for meager wages. Take away their vehicle or impede their travel and many would quickly fall into abject poverty up here on the mountain. That said, it’s not much different from any other rural American community with an aging and declining population.

Last week the governor of Virginia escalated his two week earlier ‘stay-at-home’ declaration, moving it from voluntary to mandatory, with prejudice I might add. Meaning ‘official’ enforcement. As in at the point of a gun, if the ‘authority’ present at the scene of the infraction deems it necessary.

At the very least, there is the implied threat to use significant force if compliance is slow or missing entirely. That gun on his or her hip is not a non-functioning uniform decoration, but a lethal weapon wielded by the state to compel compliance and obedience.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Lies, Damn Lies and Coronavirus Statistics

LIES, DAMN LIES AND CORONAVIRUS STATISTICS

“Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” – Otto von Bismarck

‘When it becomes serious, you have to lie.’ – Jean-Claude Juncker, former President of the European Commission from 2014 to 2019

We all lie. Of this there is no doubt. And anyone who tells us otherwise is lying. While there are a billion and one reasons to lie, there is only one purpose…to gain advantage, leverage or to maintain, consolidate or increase power over our children or spouses, other family members, friends or unrelated individuals, groups large and small and even entire nations.

At its most innocuous, a lie may be considered small, kind, even considerate. Often, we tell little ‘white’ lies designed to sooth or placate a loved one or close friend. At its worst, a lie is designed to kill or injure physically, financially, socially or emotionally.

Ultimately, no matter how harmless or devastating it is, a lie is at its root a power play, information warfare employed to disarm, confuse, convince, steal, disable or destroy. We tend to treat lies, especially lies told to others that have an effect far removed from ourselves and our interests, with benign disinterest or even mild amusement. It’s only when the proximity is close or we feel we are targeted do we become righteously indignant and demand justice and restitution.

The dirty little secret is that for far too many of us, we welcome, even beg to be lied to. Not all lies, of course, just those lies and half-truths that enable us to remain safely cocooned within our own inner narrative, our customized worldview or belief system that neatly packages everything into a more easily digestible and comforting ‘reality’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Decline and Fall of Civil Society

The Decline and Fall of Civil Society

From my perspective at least, it’s a chicken or egg question. Was civil discourse among a diverse human population desired, or even required, in order for civilization to form and flourish? Or did civilization initially coalesce, with civility to follow shortly after as a means to increase socioeconomic efficiency and to encourage people from killing or maiming each other by setting minimum standards for public conduct?

Or could it possibly be more symbiotic, with both components required in varying degrees and amounts for either component to survive and thrive in the combined form of ‘civilization’?

I am a child of the 1950’s and 1960’s, a time so far removed from today’s brave new world that, even to me, feels like ancient history. This is not to say it was all pomp and circumstance back then, but in many respects so-called civilization was much more civil in my youth than it is now. And this applies to just about all modern social interaction, regardless of the underlying medium, method or mix.

Nothing brings this stark contrast to mind more than when I am out and about pursuing simple chores and errands. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are nearly absent from the public’s vernacular, particularly among those under the age of thirty. Holding a door open for either sex has actually earned me a sharp rebuke on several occasions, always from someone young enough to be my (grand)son.

Whenever I walk in front of anyone, such as along a narrow supermarket aisle or inside a crowded restaurant, many of the younger people I encounter are somewhat surprised to hear me say “excuse me” as I transgress their personal space. On more than a few occasions, the perplexed person asked why I was excusing myself or indicated I had offended them in some manner. But those over fifty years of age nearly always understand and appreciate my consideration.

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Deaf, Dumb and Blind: Who is Better at Conceding They Are Wrong–Conservative or Liberal Extremists?

DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND : WHO IS BETTER AT CONCEDING THEY ARE WRONG – CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERAL EXTREMISTS?

For those readers who wish to confirm their cemented bias or simply don’t read past the first paragraph or two, here is the down and dirty answer to the question posed in the title.

The answer is…neither!

And it gets worse from there. Those who harbor extreme and strident political points of view also maintain similarly strong “opinions” (though nearly all will righteously declare them as ironclad facts) in nearly all facets of their life and are unlikely to change their point of view regardless of the contrary evidence presented. I base my statement upon personal experience andan interesting study recently published which examined this very subject.

Here is the first sentence of the study’s Result and Discussion. “An unjustified certainty in one’s beliefs is a characteristic common to those espousing radical beliefs, and such overconfidence is observed for both political and non-political issues, implying a general cognitive bias in radicals.”

Are you surprised to be told this? Or have you quickly spotted a loop hole in which you may escape from the overall generalization of the statement? The wonderful thing about denial is it’s infinitely customizable and completely flexible; enabling the user to deny anything and everything including the nose on his/her face.

Of course, the only way many can accept uncomfortably too-close-to-home assertions is to declare it doesn’t apply to them, just everyone else.

I shall leave the bickering over the study’s findings to those who have immediately bristled in anger or righteous indignation, and instead ponder why extremist thinking occurs in the first place. And why it appears to be increasing exponentially throughout the social strata.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Perhaps It’s Time to Believe the Impossible

PERHAPS IT’S TIME TO BELIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Alice in Wonderland.

It is often said, usually by those who wish to “educate”, control and manipulate us, that we are defined by what we believe. I submit it’s the other way around. We are defined, or more accurately confined, by what we disbelieve and think impossible, or at a minimum, improbable.

Once we consign something to the impossible, unbelievable, farfetched, unlikely, preposterous and unreal cognitive file, rarely, if ever, do we fish it back out of the garbage bin for reassessment and reconsideration. And why would we do so since it clearly belonged there to begin with, otherwise we never would have discarded it in the first place.

That right there is a perfect example of circular logic and emotionally comforting thinking.

From the point in time when non-religious standardized thinking was institutionalized, more commonly known as the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, we have been conditioned to believe everything and anything can (eventually) be cataloged, quantified, qualified and confirmed…or denied. More importantly, the scientific method insists “real” truth can only be verified by way of uniform methods that produce repeatable results.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Essence of Control Is Its Concealment

The Essence of Control Is Its Concealment

For thousands of years “control” of humans, both at the micro individual and macro collective level, was obvious and institutionalized. It was the way the world worked, with pharaohs, chiefs, kings and queens, along with their sycophant and supporting courts, wielding power and control at the top. Arrayed along the bottom were the slaves, serfs and peons of various rank and stature, while scattered about the thin middle were the skilled tradesmen, shopkeepers and professionals such as they were.

It was the most effective social order of all millennium; a control system based upon claimed mutual benefit through the collective sharing of resources and defense, though never fairly or just. With disease, pestilence,hunger and death always lurking around the corner, it just made good sense to gather in groups and subsist as best we could. The pecking order quickly sorted out, with sociopaths and ruthless killers quickly rising to the top.

Of course, things are very different these days…right?

No one likes to think/believe/know they’re being controlled; therefore the tendency is to practice partial/full proactive/reactive denial of any and all evidence of overt and covert control and influence. It’s an ego thing mostly, and those who wish to control understand very well the art of leveraging a person’s ego against him or her “self”.

While at times the blatant and blunt use of force to control is deemed necessary and has distinct and powerful benefits for those who wield the control (and severe detriments for those being controlled) for the most part modern societies are much more productive, compliant and malleable when the illusion of freedom is heavily promoted and widely believed to exist.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There Will Be Blood…And Many More Lies

THERE WILL BE BLOOD…AND MANY MORE LIES

I suppose if we randomly stopped people in the street and asked if they were an honest person, the vast majority of answers would be in the affirmative. And if we applied a generous and flexible definition to the word “honest”, I suspect people might actually be considered honest about their self declared honesty. But in truth, in all the animal kingdom we humans are the most dishonest and deceitful, particularly with ourselves.

Therefore it stands to reason we would lie about our dishonesty, to each other and especially to ourselves. One simply cannot maintain lies when they stand in the face of contrary and irrefutable truth unless an individual and cooperative self deception is employed. In effect we are all liars, of this there is little doubt. The only real question is to what degree. This assessment may be harsh, but it is not fundamentally wrong.

This point was driven home to me several decades ago when my then very young son was asking rather uncomfortable questions about lying, particularly when it was acceptable to do so and when it was not. Of course, at that age there is no acceptable lie simply because a five year old has not yet learned how and when to lie…at least in a sociably acceptable manner.

And therein lies the rub. One simply cannot avoid (though we most certainly can deny) our own hypocrisy when we sternly warn our children not to lie while our own personal cup runneth over. Of course, my lies aren’t really lies since I’m basically an honest person. See how that works?

When speaking about lies and lying, we utilize at least a hundred different modifiers and qualifiers to mitigate or dismiss the intent and intensity of our lies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mad World

MAD WORLD

And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world, mad world

Image result for the primal scream

The haunting Gary Jules version of the Tears for Fears’ Mad World speaks to me in these tumultuous mad times. It must speak to many others, as the music video has been viewed over 132 million times. The melancholy video is shot from the top of an urban school building in a decaying decrepit bleak neighborhood with school children creating various figures on the concrete pavement below. The camera pans slowly to Gary Jules singing on the rooftop and captures the concrete jungle of non-descript architecture, identical office towers, gray cookie cutter apartment complexes, and a world devoid of joy and vibrancy.

The song was influenced by Arthur Janov’s theories in his book The Primal Scream. The chorus above about his “dreams of dying were the best he ever had” is representative of letting go of this mad world and being free of the monotony and release from the insanity of this world. Our ego fools us into thinking the madness of this world is actually normal. Day after day we live lives of quiet desperation. Despite all evidence our world is spinning out of control and the madness of the crowds is visible in financial markets, housing markets, politics, social justice, and social media, the level of normalcy bias among the populace has reached astounding levels, as we desperately try to convince ourselves everything will be alright. But it won’t.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Few Screws Loose

A FEW SCREWS LOOSE

Twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, I haul out one of my extension ladders, fill my back pockets with various wrenches and screwdrivers, and venture up onto our log cabin roof. My purpose is always the same; tighten any loose nuts and bolts on our solar array and conduct a visual inspection of the roof itself.

In the old days they called this type of activity “preventive maintenance” and I always find something that needs tightening or adjusting on the solar array. Nothing major, mind you, just a screw loose here and there which might cause a problem sometime down the road. A quarter or half turn with a 5/8” box end wrench or 5/16” hex key and all’s right in Cog’s solar universe.

Loose screws and fittings are known structural vulnerabilities when generating power from sunlight. The constant heating and cooling of the aluminum frame, combined with high winds out here on the edge of the mountain, present minor challenges easily overcome if one is proactive and not afraid of heights.

Well, not too afraid of heights. I admit to being a little queasy until I get my sea legs properly adjusted. Mrs. Cog, on the other hand, does not like me on the roof and lets me know her displeasure every fifteen minutes or so when she appears outside looking for blood and guts spilled from a fallen Cog. In truth I don’t blame her for her concern. I’m not as young as I once was and balance is no longer my strong suit.

Once every nut and bolt has been hand checked/tightened I turn my attention to the roof itself. I was a residential home builder back in the 70’s and 80’s and I’m quite familiar with all the techniques used in home construction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Control the Narrative and You Control the People

Control the Narrative and You Control the People

It is extremely difficult to get where you are going if you don’t know where you presently are. And you can’t know where you are if you don’t know where you have been. Control the narrative and you effectively control the people.

When my son was young (we are talking over 25 years ago when he was around seven years of age) one of the ways I would keep him occupied when on car trips was to place a paper road map (aka a narrative) on his lap and ask him a multitude of questions for the duration of the trip.

The first question when starting a trip was, “Where are we on the map?” Essentially I was asking him to physically and mentally locate us in the present on a two dimensional representation of reality. And unsurprisingly this was initially difficult for my son, since he lives and plays in a three dimensional world. I encountered similar difficulties as a student comprehending plane (two dimensional) geometry. But unlike other students, I quickly understood solid (three dimensional) geometry because it mimicked real life as I perceived it.

Then I would ask “Where are we going?” This was the future, a point in time not yet experienced. Because our perceptual point of view has not yet experienced this (or any) future, the future is infinitely variable. My son had some difficulty with this concept because in his mind the future was set (we’re going to Grandma’s house) but had not yet arrived. While the narrative map represented an infinite number of possible futures, his task was simply to locate one…Grandma’s house.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Impotence and Denial: The Desperate Virtue Signaling Voices

IMPOTENCE AND DENIAL: THE DESPERATE VIRTUE SIGNALING VOICES

Regardless of whether we are speaking of individuals or groups, what is not said is often far more important and enlightening than what is. How and why we self censor while conforming to the collective hive mind speaks volumes about whom and what controls, or at least greatly influences, our thinking and beliefs.

While those engaged might argue otherwise, virtue signaling is all about displaying our cognitive compliance to the group think of our adopted tribe or herd. Virtue signaling usually does not require actual activity or productive effort towards whatever we are signaling about, thought it also doesn’t preclude it, only that we inform the clan we are right thinking and obedient to the hive mind. In form and function, it is very similar to the movement of herds of animals and flocks of birds.

On the surface this makes perfect sense, allowing the individual to share in the rewards (physically, emotionally and monetarily) of being a cooperative and accepted member of the group. Even today the opportunity for safety and prosperity rise when we join a group rather than live the solitary life, even if our group is defined as a nation or religion. Living alone in the Outback for example, particularly for those not well adapted, is not conducive to a long healthy life.

But just as the hive mind demands uniformity in speech and thought, so too does it command certain thought and speech to be verboten and not to be broached other than in passing and in a derogatory manner.

It is here we ask that age old question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Or in this case, does the group organize before leadership is selected or does leadership gather like-minded followers who then grow the group via assimilation, control and conquest? My money is on the latter and, in my opinion, is a direct outcome of herd mentality and the hive mind.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Entire Western World Lives In Cognitive Dissonance

The Entire Western World Lives In Cognitive Dissonance

In this column I am going to use three of the current top news stories to illustrate the disconnect that is everywhere in the Western mind.

Let us begin with the family separation issue. The separation of children from immigrant/refugee/asylum parents has caused such public outcry that President Trump has backed off his policy and signed an executive order terminating family separation.

The horror of children locked up in warehouses operated by private businesses making a profit off of US taxpayers, while parents are prosecuted for illegal entry, woke even self-satisfied “exceptional and indispensable” Americans out of their stupor. It is a mystery that the Trump regime chose to discredit its border enforcement policy by separating families. Perhaps the policy was intended to deter illegal immigration by sending the message that if you come to America your children will be taken from you.

The question is: How is it that Americans can see and reject the inhumane border control policy and not see the inhumanity of family destruction that has been the over-riding result of Washington’s destruction in whole or part of seven or eight countries in the 21st century?

Millions of people have been separated from families by death inflicted by Washington, and for almost two decades protests have been almost nonexistent. No public outcry stopped George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump from clear and indisputable illegal acts defined in international law established by the US itself as war crimes against the inhabitants of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. We can add to this an eighth example: The military attacks by the US armed and supported neo-Nazi puppet state of Ukraine against the breakaway Russian provinces.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America’s Debt Dependence Makes It An Easy Economic Target

America’s Debt Dependence Makes It An Easy Economic Target

There is a classic denial tactic that many people use when confronted with negative facts about a subject they have a personal attachment to; I would call it “deferral denial” — or a psychological postponing of reality.

For example, point out the fundamentals on the U.S. economy such as the fact that unemployment is not below 4% as official numbers suggest, but actually closer to 20% when you factor in U-6 measurements including the record 96 million people not counted because they have run out of unemployment benefits. Or point out that true consumer inflation in the U.S. is not around 3% as the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims, but closer to 10% according to the way CPI used to be calculated before the government started rigging the numbers.  For a large part of the public including a lot of economic analysts, there is perhaps a momentary acceptance of the danger, but then an immediate deferral — “Well, maybe things will get worse down the road, 10 or 20 years from now, but it’s not that bad today…”

This is cognitive dissonance at its finest. The economy is in steep decline now, but the mind in denial says “it could be worse,” and this is how you get entire populations caught completely off guard by a financial crash. They could have easily seen the signs, but they desperately wanted to believe that all bad things happen in some illusory future, not today.

There is also another denial tactic I see often in the world of politics and economics, which is what I call “paying it backward.” This is what people do when they have a biased attachment to a person or institution and refuse to see the terrible implications of their actions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Cognitive Dissonance Surrounding Donald Trump

The Cognitive Dissonance Surrounding Donald Trump

In general, it has always been dangerous to put blind faith in human icons of any kind; not to mention, entirely unnecessary. The maxim that one “should never meet their heroes” is something far more people should take to heart when applying elevated status to political leaders in particular. Hero worship of a celebrity is unhealthy, but hero worship of a president can be truly dangerous.

Why? Because political power relies mostly on “human capital” — the number of people within a society that are willing to support or even fight for a particular change. Swaths of citizenry can be wielded by politicians with ill intent like a weapon to create the illusion of consensus and dramatic reversals in cultural principles. These changes usually tend to involve more control for government and less freedom for the public and can last for generations.

The cult of celebrity has never been more prominent in politics than it has the past decade. Starting with Barack Obama, something changed in the American view of presidential leadership. With Obama, there was an element of naive adoration that leftists largely embraced. Obama was more than a president — he was an idol.

Unfortunately, I am also seeing some of the same behavior in elements of the conservative population when it comes to Donald Trump. There are many reasons for this.

First, Trump is one of the few presidents that was already a celebrity before running for office. His notoriety went far beyond that of someone like Ronald Reagan, who did rank as a kind of known cultural element, but certainly not an icon or idol before becoming president.

Second, Trump rode the wave of a backlash movement against the far left, which is now by every definition fully invested in cultural Marxism if not economic Marxism. For many people, Trump represents the moment America was “saved” from imminent destruction by an insane ideology.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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