Monthly Archives: March 2016

Immigrants are Awesome

They provide more than just cheap manual labor and wives for Donald Trump.  A Lot More.

From Mark Perry:

Immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70% (62 of 87) of these companies.

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Immigrants are Good

From Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, Refugees and the Economy: Lessons from History.

Current refugee situations as well as more thoroughly studied historical migrations are detailed.  Summary:

Sheltering approximately 2 million Syrians, 25% of Lebanon’s population is now comprised of refugees. Adding insult to injury, the Syrian conflict has also resulted in a sharp decline in tourism, a leading Lebanese industry. Yet in the face of all this turmoil, the World Bank estimates that Lebanon will grow by 2.5% in 2016, the country’s highest growth rates since 2010.

Jordan, the host of almost a million Syrian refugees, is also on the path to growth.
According to the IMF, the Jordanian economy is also estimated to grow by 2.6%. The same is true for Turkey, the host of more than 2 million Syrian refugees. The Deputy Director at the Turkish Central Bank has reported that wages and employment are rising as more refugees enter the country.

Even the European Commission has predicted that the Syrian refugees will bring a net gain equal to a quarter of one percent to the European economy in 2016, as a consequence of government spending (Germany predicts to spend around $20 billion dollars in 2016 on refugees). A quarter of a one percent net economic benefit might not sound like a lot; but at least the Syrian refugees are boosting growth in Europe rather than hindering it as commonly believed. It is a potential indicator that Europe might benefit from accepting even more refugees.


The author is fully aware that objections to accepting more Syrian refugees include national security interests and integration concerns. The purpose of this blog is not to minimize those concerns, but rather to simply isolate and clarify some of the misconceptions about the impact of accepting refugees on economic growth.

This is also true for other types of immigrants, both here and elsewhere.


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Whipping up fear

So an American mom, Lindy West, published an op-ed piece in the Guardian about gun control and the Florida mom shot by her toddler.  Two quotes caught my eye:

Growing up here myself didn’t prepare me for how distinctly, viscerally frightening it would be to raise children in a gun-obsessed nation. My step-daughters go to school in a borderline-rural suburb, whereas I was educated in central Seattle. They already know of at least one friend-of-a-friend who was killed in a school shooting. Many of their friends’ parents are gun owners. … When we send our kids to friends’ houses for sleepovers, it sometimes feels like a leap of faith.


And I’m supposed to believe that frightened Syrian refugees – or whomever becomes the next rightwing scapegoat du jour – are the real threat to my children? I’m supposed to be afraid of sharks? Heavy metal music? Violent video games? Horse meat in my hamburger patties? Teenagers pouring vodka up their butts?

I’m pretty sure she is letting media manufactured fear, rather than any kind of reason or research, dominate her list of real dangers.

First of all, “already know of at least one…killed in a school shooting”? Really?  Counting both colleges and high schools, there have been less than 20 people (not just students) killed each of the last 2 years, according to Wikipedia (I don’t think they are pro-gun, are they?).

On the other hand, the CDC reports around 110 kids 15-24 killed by alcohol poisoning every year.  So, yeah, vodka up the butt should be scarier.

And these are hardly the big threats.  What are the biggest threats to our teenagers?  Car accidents (2,200)Suicide (1,700).  Homicide is next, followed by cancer.  Surely the homicide number includes gun deaths, as does suicide.  And we should work to reduce all of these numbers.  But hysteria will not help.

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Charts and Graphs of the 2016 NCAA Qualifiers

Huge thanks to the estimable Earl Smith of for providing the data on this year’s NCAA qualifiers. Be sure to check out Earl’s podcast, Sudden History, it is a spl…

Source: Charts and Graphs of the 2016 NCAA Qualifiers

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Defense Spending

From Ron Paul:

The best way to really “rebuild” the US military would be to stop abusing the military in the first place. The purpose of the US military is to defend the United States. It is not to make the world safe for oil pipelines, or corrupt Gulf monarchies, or NATO, or Israel. Unlike the neocons who are so eager to send our troops to war, I have actually served in the US military. I understand that to keep our military strong we must constrain our foreign policy. We must adopt a policy of non-intervention and a strong defense of this country. The neocons will weaken our country and our military by promoting more war. We need to “rebuild” the military by restoring as its mission the defense of the United States, not of Washington’s overseas empire.

And from David Stockman:

Donald Trump could be the only presidential candidate talking sense about for the American military’s budget. That should scare everyone.

“I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now,” the real- estate-mogul-turned-tautological-demagogue said on Meet the Press. “It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us. But you know what? We can do it for a lot less.”

He’s right.

U.S. military spending is out of control. The Defense Department budget for 2016 is $573 billion. President Barack Obama’s 2017 proposal ups it to $582 billion. By comparison, China spent around $145 billion and Russia around $40 billion in 2015. Moscow would have spent more, but the falling price of oil, sanctions and the ensuing economic crisis stayed its hand.

The much-maligned F-35 will cost at least $1.5 trillion during the 55 years that its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, expects it to be flying. That number is up $500 billion from the original high estimate. But with a long list of problems plaguing the stealth fighter, that price will most likely grow.As Trump has pointed out many times, Washington can build and maintain an amazing military arsenal for a fraction of what it’s paying now. He’s also right about one of the causes of the bloated budget: expensive prestige weapons systems such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“I hear stories,” Trump said in a speech before the New Hampshire primary, “like they’re ordering missiles they don’t want because of politics, because of special interests, because the company that makes the missiles is a contributor.”

I do not believe that Trump will change anything, or that he will even admit to having said these things if he becomes the nominee.  But it’s nice to hear a candidate say this stuff.


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Blockchain for decentralized energy

From New Scientist:

Something odd is happening on President Street in Brooklyn. While solar panels on the roofs of terraced houses soak up sun, a pair of computers connected to the panels quietly crunch numbers. First, they count how many electrons are being generated. Then, they write that number to a blockchain. Welcome to the future of energy exchange.

This project, run by a startup called Transactive Grid, is the first version of a new kind of energy market, operated by consumers, which will change the way we generate and consume electricity.

Transactive Grid aims to enable people to buy and sell renewable energy to their neighbours. To deal in energy at the moment, you have to go through a central company like Duke Energy in the US or National Grid in the UK, or one of their resellers.

Transactive can skip this central authority because its energy market is built on a technology called blockchain. First used to underpin the bitcoin currency, a blockchain is a cryptographically secure list of transactions. The list is stored on every computer in the system, and is continuously updated as each transaction is completed. The list for President Street is built using blockchain software called Ethereum. It deals with buying and selling electrons generated by solar panels. No central authority is in control: the computers monitor each other to stop fraud.

Buy and sell

The first devices were installed on President Street a few weeks ago. On one side of the street are five homes that produce some of their own energy through solar power. On the other side are five consumers interested in buying excess energy from their neighbours.

Lawrence Orsini, co-founder of Transactive explains that the blockchain makes it easy for anyone to set up and enforce contracts, with the transaction following automatically.

“You don’t have the billing components around it, you don’t have the infrastructure losses or the accounting losses in the system,” he says. Down the line, the company plans to build an app which lets residents set personal preferences for the distribution of the energy they produce. One homeowner might decide to sell all their excess energy for maximum profit, for example, while another could choose to donate a portion to a low-income area.

This is the first example I have seen of use of blockchain that I would be willing to try out.   Call me old fashioned, but I am having a hard time buying Bitcoin.  I just can’t put my hands on it and I’m not sure I can really count on its security or availability.  Call me old fashioned.

But then they say this:

Community benefits

Either way, the energy and the money goes to benefit the community, says Orsini, not the large centralised power company. “When you buy energy from the community, the money goes back to the community.”

“Every kilowatt you buy, you pay for network. If you can cut out the middle man and do the trade directly, you don’t have to pay for the wires,” says Philipp Grunewald of the University of Oxford.

I don’t get it.  What wires are transmitting the electricity back and forth across President Street?  The article talks about a localized microgrid.  So did they put in new wires?  How does that get paid for?  I think the utilities will still need to be included in these transactions somehow, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Do we really want to eliminate the entire electricity network?

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Gut bacteria vs. Anxiety

From Dr. Don Colbert:

Study: Eating Fermented Foods May Decrease Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Disorder

Within the study, individuals with the greatest risk of developing social anxiety disorder seemed to benefit the most. Psychologists have always looked to the brain in trying to find the answers for improved mental health. Now, a new door opens in researching the gut as it relates to mental health.

Environment of the Gut

Psychiatry Research recently published details about this specific study. The researchers feel the environment of the gut is very important to the overall health of the individuals. Amazingly, as the gut health is improved positive benefits are gained in mental health, including lessened nervousness.

Approximately 700 students participated in this one study. Mass testing was administered to include recording the types of food eaten over the course of thirty days, exercise endured, consumption of fruits and veggies, and so forth. Trends were examined thoroughly.


The Strongest Relationship

Students with the highest degree of neuroticism held the strongest relationship (eating fermented foods provided the highest positive outcomes). Neuroticism is a long-term tendency for an individual to hold a negative mental state. Secondly, the students who exercised more also gained an increase in lessened nervousness.

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From Eckhart Tolle

When I Become Very Agitated By Kim Eng
Q: What do I do with the agitated state I experience?
KE: Agitation is interesting. Something is stirring up, wanting to be changed. And the mere asking of a question about it implies that there is some resistance to agitation, some form of non-acceptance. Somehow we’ve learned to not be okay with what arises within. However, life becomes much easier if we can learn to accept whatever arises, instead of denying or resisting it. It’s what’s in your field of consciousness. But it’s not who you are.
The tricky thing is, what we tend to do with agitation, is to identify with it. It’s not who we are, but we think it is and act as if it is. Now, of course, we know that is not who we are. We may even want to push it down, thinking “Oh my god, this is who I am. But, of course, we know deep down that we’re the infinite I, yet we trick ourselves into believing that something impermanent that arises is who we are, that it is an unchanging part of our identity.
My recommendation: Come into stillness and just allow this agitation (or whatever emotion that is arising). Allow it to be here and tell yourself, “Okay, it’s here. Yet I am the field, the space of consciousness” and actually feel it. It may even be signaling something, stirring something, perhaps stirring for a change.
Of course, what may happen, is the impulse to want to just vent it, for example, at the next person who comes along, because we don’t like this feeling inside. But if we can just say, “Okay, here it is. Wow. What does it feel like? What is it stirring? What is stirring inside me? Is there something that needs to be changed?” Or it just a question of accepting what is? And, without trying to think about the answer, just allow it to kind of percolate and allow it to arise. If it doesn’t arise in that moment, maybe it’ll arise tomorrow. What is of primary importance, is that you remain still, alert, present.
And in this stillness, there comes a kind of trust that the wisdom that you need, will come in its own time. This is the spiritual life—living in the unknown yet knowing deep down that whatever manifests, is impermanent, always changing, and is of secondary, or relative importance. But who you are deep down is primary. Nobody and nothing can agitate you unless you let it.

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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7 Books That Will Change the Way You See the World

ConsciousnessJun 1, 2015

Gary ‘Z’ McGee, Waking Times
“You want weapons? Go to a library. Books are the best weapons in the world.” –Doctor Who
Books have a way of capturing us that movies and documentaries simply cannot compare to. The worst thing you can do is limit yourself to reading only a few books. The best thing you can do is find out what you’re interested in and get out there and read up on the subject. You’ll find that your interests will grow along with your knowledge, to the point that you’ll discover the deliciously heavy weight of knowing that you know nothing. If you’re looking for books that will challenge you mind body and soul, and cause you to see the world in new ways, look no further than the following seven books (just kidding, look further).
1.) Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
“With this book I have given mankind the greatest present that has ever been made to it so far. This book, with a voice bridging centuries, is not only the highest book there is, the book that is truly characterized by the air of the heights—the whole fact of man lies beneath it at a tremendous distance—it is also the deepest, born out of the innermost wealth of truth, an inexhaustible well to which no pail descends without coming up again filled with gold and goodness.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra has something terribly well-crafted about it, and indeed – sit venia verbo – it is Nietzsche’s magnum opus. The books single task and raison d’etre consists in turning the human soul inside out. And it succeeds, but only if the reader is open enough to receive it. It has everything from the death of God to the overcoming of man through the prophecy of the Übermensch to the “eternal recurrence of the same.” It possesses a unique experimental style, sang in “dithyrambs” narrated by Zarathustra. It is neither prose nor poetry but it is both somehow, breaking all literary rules but coming out smelling like a rose someone laid on God’s own grave. Nietzsche’s elegant and far-reaching conclusion is that while autonomy and self-overcoming are not easily attained, their absence proves catastrophic to both the individual and culture, as the embittered conformists seek new victims on whom to psychologically pillage with their ideals and avenge their psychic wounds born out of the fear of being an insecure being in an unforgiving universe.
2.) The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
“Danger: real probability of the awakening of terror and dread, from which there will be no turning back.” –Ernest Becker

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction in 1974, The Denial of Death builds on the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, and Otto Rank. Throughout the book Becker’s voice is a chokehold of higher reason. He grabs us by the throat and brings us back down to earth, where he reveals how we are nothing more than insecure, fallible creatures “who need continued affirmation of our powers.” But it is through this continued affirmation where we discover our “symbolic self,” which we use to transcend the limits of our insignificance. This leads to our embarking on an “immortality project,” in which we become part of something we feel will last forever, beyond death. It is at this point that we transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism. Becker speaks like his own tongue was a hero of a thousand faces itself, lashing like existential whips at the heart of the human condition. He forces our head over the edge of the abyss, challenging us to be heroically creative and responsible with bringing meaning, purpose, and significance to the grand scheme of our lives.

3.) Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin
“Remember that self-doubt is as self-centered as self-inflation. Your obligation is to reach as deeply as you can and offer your unique and authentic gifts as bravely and beautifully as you’re able.” –Bill Plotkin
In this book Bill Plotkin introduces The Eight Soul-centric/Eco-centric Stages of Human Development. He takes us on an epic journey of healthy human development, beginning with The Innocent in the Nest, The Explorer in the Garden, and The Thespian at the Oasis. These three stages round out the lower ego-centered stages of human development. The majority of people in Western societies never get beyond this stage, and so true adulthood, or psychological maturity, has become an uncommon achievement, and genuine elder-hood nearly nonexistent. Arguably the most critical stage is the fourth: The Wanderer in the Cocoon, where we learn how to stretch comfort zones, break mental paradigms, and pass through existential thresholds. Our ego is fully formed, and we become a creature that has the capacity for “soul initiation.” The stages continue with The Soul Apprentice at the Wellspring, The Artisan in the Wild Orchard, The Master in the Grove of Elders, and end with The Sage in the Mountain Cave.
4.) Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse
“What will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision, and not what we are viewing, that is limited.” –James P. Carse
This book is a pithy yet gripping exploration of the human condition through the concept of game theory. Carse introduces two contrasting game players: the Finite Player and the Infinite Player. He explains how “a boundary is a phenomenon of opposition (finite). A horizon is a phenomenon of vision (infinite).” The Finite Player plays within boundaries, while the Infinite Player plays with boundaries. The Finite Player plays in all seriousness, while the Infinite Player plays in jest. The Finite Player plays for power, while the Infinite Player plays with power. The Finite Player consumes time, while the Infinite Player generates time. The Finite Player aims for eternal life, while the Infinite Player aims for eternal birth. For the Finite Player the rules of the game always stay the same, while for the Infinite Player the rules of the game always change. For the Finite Player the game inevitably ends, while for the Infinite Player the game phenomenally continues. The only infinite game is the game of life.

5.) The Rebel by Albert Camus
“I rebel; therefore we exist.” –Albert Camus

This 1951 book-length essay by Albert Camus is a tour de force on rebellion and revolution in societies. It is an existential portrait of man in revolt. Riding on a steady stream of transcendental moral values, Camus integrates such writers as Marquis de Sade, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche. He weaves between the concept of the “absurd” and the concept of “lucidity” while explaining how rebellion stems from our being disenchanted with outdated and parochial applications of justice, and a seeming contradiction between the human mind’s unceasing quest for meaning and clarification and the apparently meaningless unclear nature of the world. He also discusses the rebel’s dilemma of seeking to fight injustice without losing transcendental values, and how some rebels can get carried away, losing touch with the original basis of their rebellion. Deeply entertaining and subtly satirical, this book should be the cornerstone of any revolutionary’s education.
6.) Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
“There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will act as the lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.” –Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael
Awarded the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award, Ishmael is a novel using a type of Socratic dialectic to deconstruct the notion that human beings are the pinnacle of creation on earth. Ishmael is a Gorilla who can communicate telepathically. He takes on a nameless human student and proceeds to teach him his philosophy using the Socratic method of dialogue. He teaches his student about “Taker” societies and “Leaver” societies, and how Takers are always breaking the immutable laws of nature. Ishmael explains, “The premise of the Takers’ story is ‘The world belongs to man.’ …The premise of the Leavers’ story is ‘Man belongs to the world.’” Ishmael argues that civilized societies (takers) are failing the world, and that human supremacy is nothing more than a cultural myth, asserting that Takers are enacting that myth with dangerous consequences, such as endangered or extinct species, global warming, and modern mental health illnesses. This novel is truly an adventure of the mind and spirit.
7.) The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsche
“The whole scientific process resembles biological evolution. A problem is like an ecological niche, and a theory is like a gene or a species which is being tested for viability in that niche.” –David Deutsch
This book encompasses everything from how evolution affects the universe as a whole to time travel to the very nature of a “theory,” and how quantum computing could affect our future. The multiverse hypothesis, according to Deutsch, turns out to be the key to achieving a new worldview, one which synthesizes the theories of evolution, computation, and knowledge with quantum physics. He uses a four-strand Theory of Everything (TOE) to explain emergent phenomenon. The four strands are Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, Karl Popper’s epistemology, Alan Turing’s theory of computation, and Richard Dawkins’s refinement of Darwinian evolutionary theory. He writes about universal Turing machines, replicators, memes, free will, the Grand Father Paradox, and time travel machines, weaving it all together with a Popperian problem-solving epistemology. A delicious read for the scientifically minded who are looking to shatter their mental paradigms and think outside of the box of mere simplistic reductive reasoning.
Read more articles from Gary ‘Z’ McGee.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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