Sunday, December 16, 2012

The mind blowing mystery of mathematics, aka "That's a good little monkey."


Wow. A picture of a box made out of sticks, eh? Really boring, eh? YOU HAVE NO IDEA how wrong you are!  This ain't your granddaddy's math. In fact, this isn't the atrocious garbage that was perpetrated on me in the American public school system when I was a to do things in a rote manner to come up with some kind of meaningless answer so they could give the little monkey (me) a bananna (in the form of a good letter grade on my report card).  "That's a good little monkey. You regurgitated the answer we wanted you to regurgitate."
Nope. This is about some of the most fascinating stuff in this universe...if you love knowledge...if you love truth...if you love to think outside the box. Let's begin:

1.618 - just a meanless number with a decimal, right?  Let me tell you something amazing. Stop and think about this: 1.618 is referred to as the "golden mean". It  is kinda like magic...kinda. It puzzles the most astute mathematicians. This ratio, 1.618, occurs in nature, throughout nature, almost everywhere, in fact. Why? That's a mystery of sorts. It occurs in 1) the fractional geometry of ferns (of all things), 2) the atomic structures of DNA, 3) the orbital patterns of galaxies. This number is resonant in creation from little plants on Earth to galaxies, millions of light years away!
Architects with a keen sense of scale, and proportion, often gravitate toward this ratio. Have you ever looked at a huge building, and it just look "right"? Yeah, the spacing between bricks, the proportions, the "everything" about that building is pleasing to the eye. You glance at it and just know it is right. This is often based on the fact that the spacings and patterns are based on a ratio of 1.618. The Egyptians knew this when they built the pyramids thousands of years ago. Go figure.
The Masons have known this for hundreds of years. No, not the guy Ralph who helped built your patio. I mean "the Masons".  The ratio of 1.618 may be found in the dogma and rituals of the Order of the Eastern Star, a female auxillary of the Masons.
Other numbers, or mathematical values, are resonant in nature. The number "7", for instance. The Bible calls it the "number of completion", and it is resonant throughout Scripture, and creation.
What is a "number", anyway? Like the word "time", the word "number" is used by so many people, flippantly, on a day-to-basis. I am not being critical. We live in a practical, day-to-day world. We have to measure things, right? But, in a greater sense, these day-to-day people, when they refer to a number, have NO IDEA what they are talking about.
"Math" is not "numbers". "Math" is hard to define. I am not an academic, and I certainly am not a mathematician, so I will refrain from definitions I don't understand. Here is my sales guy from Pittsburgh definition of math (a definition that is evolving): "The study of  'what is', as it exists in the 3 dimensions that are currently discernible by mankind (there are most likely more than 3 dimensions, but that is a "tangent" [get it, "tangent", ha ha] that I won't go off on right now). The point is, creation can be readily observed and quantified in 3 dimensions. The world we see and live in is seen as 3 dimensions.
So in mathematics, you will find the most fascinating concepts and ideas imaginable in the natural world. As a discipline, math truly is the most transcendent academic field, being found in every single field of study, yet the pathetic public schools I went to treated it as a compartmentalized subject.
Math can be thought of spatially, in 3 dimensions as just stated, which is why I can have that 3 dimensional picture of a box at the beginning of this blog, and you all (hopefully) "get it". You fundamentally understand what a 3 dimensional box is. But, that simply means you DON'T understand what is beyond that. That box may represent nowhere near the complexity that is found in all the dimensions that really exist. It is all we are capable of representing.
Math is space. Math is time. Math is relationships. Math is order. Math is even disorder. Chew on that a while.
So, I want to mention Dr. John Stillwell, of the University of San Francisco. Google him. He spoke to the SETI Institute about the subject, "ET Math: How different could it be?". Yes, it is based on the idea that extraterrestrials would not use our math, and NO he is not a crackpot UFO cooke. John is a distinguished professor, and his real point is not actually extraterrestrials, it is about our concept of mathematics. Mathematics, per se, is a human construct. It is a product of our minds. We do not LEARN algebra, or trigonometry, or calculus, in actuality.  We learn a human way of trying to understand reality.
 Listen to this, so you don't miss the point...these are manmade constructs, disciplines devised by humans that allow us to, as much as possible, understand mathematical reality...don't breeze by this. Think about what you just read. WE ARE LIMITED IN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF MATH, OF ALL REALITY IN FACT, IF WE ALLOW OUR PARADIGMS TO BE SET BY HUMAN BEINGS, BASED ON THE LIMITED MEANS THEY HAVE HERETOFORE DEVISED TO UNDERSTAND THAT REALITY.
Although some scientists are trying to make radio contact with ETs so as to speak with them in a mathematical language, Stillwell asserts (correctly, in my view) that they most likely don't even use our math, may not understand that human construct called "numbers" and cannot communicate with us in our own, unique gibberish. Math is reality, it is physical creation, and  their race would have found their own, unique entries into it's truth. We human who are courageous, outside-the-box thinkers, should endeavors to continue to explore the great, untapped riches of this fascinating universe. But, to do that, we can learn what researchers have to pass on to us, but never, ever accept that as the confine in which we live or think. Then, we have become adult versions of that little monkey in 8th grade math class, taught by a teacher who himself is a trained monkey. There  is so much more out there than this feeble existence. Find it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tap into the Amazing Truth; aka, "You don't know Jack"

(Nicolae Tesla, hard at work)

I truly believe we live in pre-set paradigms of our mind. We have been so programmed by the world around us, our tangible circumstances, our history, culture, suppositions, and genetic predisposition, that we are blind, so blind to the greater reality around us.  I want to try to touch on that, just a little bit. I want you who read this to be quiet…clear your mind…open it up…and focus. Don’t focus by thinking. Focus by studying to be quiet and clear your mind of presuppositions, circumstances, prejudices, distractions, and concerns. Blank…listen…it doesn’t matter…just open up your mind and let the truth pour in.  The Holy Spirit will pour Truth in. The reality that nobody bothers to see will become clear…if you focus…listen…wait patiently…don’t try to figure it out.  Set aside a significant period of time when it is quiet and there are no disturbances…perhaps in the morning.
Have you ever spent a long period of time just listening? Waiting and listening to the Truth? No man or woman on Earth can teach you like those moments of true, serious focus. No book you study can reveal this Truth. The Bible IS the Truth, but one still must allow the Holy Spirit to open it up so it is not just dead knowledge.  So…listen. Be open to what He teaches you. Don’t try to get God to conform to YOUR interpretation of the Scriptures. Don’t try to put Him in your puny little box. Rather, listen and be willing to totally change your paradigm when you learn your understanding of the Scriptures and Truth is terribly flawed.  Although the Bible is all Truth, not all Truth is in the Bible. God just  spoon fed enough information for us to inherit His Kingdom.
I learned very little in college that was of any use. I got a sheepskin out of it, anyway. My masters degree was a particularly horrendous waste of time, money, and effort.  However, I went to a Christian college and I did learn one profound thing there, which I will never forget.  I learned, “All Truth is God’s Truth”. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING that is good comes from anything OTHER than God. Is the devil capable of doing good? Kind of a no brainer, isn’t it? SO…
Thomas Edison said he used to grab ideas, “out of the air”.  He eschewed any idea that he was a great analytical thinker, and his formal education was all but nonexistent.  He was a very hard worker. He was renowned for his hard work, in fact. But, many other people have worked just a hard, or harder, over the years, and have been just as intelligent. Yet, they were no Thomas Edisons. They were often complete failures, in fact.  Unlike Edison, they did not reach to a power beyond themselves. Edison reached into the manifold wisdom of God himself. Was he a born again Christian? Heck, I don’t know. But, I DO know all truth is God’s truth, and any laws of physics, of human behavior, or medical breakthroughs are of God. Yes, they are of Jesus Himself. They have to be…if not God, then Satan, and we know Satan, being pure evil, is incapable of creating or doing anything good, whatsoever.
Nicolae Tesla, Francis Bacon, Leonardo DeVinci, many literary masters, statesmen, and self-made business superstars have reached  into a wisdom and knowledge above and beyond themselves. They were not all believers, but they tapped into the spiritual world. As a believer in Jesus Christ, we are capable of so much more than just wandering, or stumbling, into God’s Truth. We can wade into it freely and deliberately. We have the advantage of the “Helper”, the “Holy Spirit” of God.
I advise any serious minded person to come to Christ. Barring that, study to be quiet, open, and be a seeker of the truth. You will stumble into many great and wonderful things. In fact, don’t be surprised if things are revealed to you that completely ASTOUND you, because God’s truths are God’s truths, no matter who finds them. Besides, the Bible promises you WILL find Jesus Christ, if you seek truth with all your heart.                                                                                                     Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Perplexing Pendulum, aka...relax, the robots won't take over the world

                                       CAN THESE ROBOTS TAKE OVER THE WORLD?

I love speaking to each of my three kids, because I have been blessed with children (now adults) who are more intelligent than “their old man”. Some of the most teachable moments in life, I have found, are not when you are “trying” to learn something, but when you are just having an innocuous, casual conversation with somebody. I was sitting on my porch, when my son Grant called.  Among other topics, our conversation turned toward some research he had read about, out of MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology). I seems researchers, some time ago, found out how to predict the activity of a simple pendulum, with relative mathematical precision (mathematical precision is always relative).  You know, how many times it will swing, the angular magnitude of the arcs, etc. However, this is only for a pendulum that swings back and forth.  For pendulums suspended on a string, able to go in any direction, it is monumentally harder.  They used this for a project in the development of artificial intelligence.  The object of the study was not so much how to predict the activity of this kind of pendulum, but to develop artificial intelligence that can do the job. Well, they achieved just that, but the only problem is that the scientists developed artificial intelligence that was capable of solving a problem, but when that problem was solved, they were not able to understand the solution.  Check it out – The scientists are not as intelligent as the machines they created! Hello!  This is Dr. Frankenstein in the 21st Century.  Right?
BEFORE DISCUSSION OF A PENDULUM BORES YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND…read on:  If we create things that can perform things we cannot perform (such as logical calculations), are they really “smarter”?  No.  They did not create us, but we created them.  By definition, we are more intelligent, for that reason.  We were intelligent enough to create a “tool” (computer program) to perform something we cannot do without the tool.  WE called the shots.  WE figured out that the creation of such an instrument was important for achieving the higher purpose.
Let’s bring this down to Earth- People are stupid.  We are just plain dumb.  Why?  We were created by somebody (or in deference to my agnostic friends, “something”).  By definition, then, that entity is more intelligent than us.  Even if you believe we came from primordial soup, the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, or whatever, that entity, being, or process is superior.  When considering the theory of evolution, one can even reason that, although creatures proceed from less complex to more complex forms, the chemical and physiological processes of this evolution our superior.  The devised a way to perform more complex functions by creating more complexity.
So…who are the “most intelligent people in the world”, in your view?
Steven Hawking, the renowned cosmologist?  Well, as with mathematical precision, human intelligence is relative, and I will tell you he is dumb.  Yes, dumb.  Proof? He has a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which incapacitates him.  If he is really that intelligent, why can’t he heal himself, or find a cure?  I mean no disrespect toward Dr. Hawking.  In fact, I wrote a previous blog entry about him, and it pictures him in a very favorable light.  The point I am making is that we are all subordinate to a more intelligent entity, and this is logical irrespective of theological considerations.  The greatest scientists cannot keep us from getting a cold, or guarantee we will not get influenza, or die of cancer.  I don’t know of a theologian who has the entire Bible committed to memory.  He or she may exist, but I have yet to meet that person.  If he does exist, he is almost certainly autistic, and cannot understand or apply what he can recite.  We have not figured out how to travel to other planets or solar systems, eliminate recessions, stop war or poverty, eradicate human depravity, or even how to generate adequate energy without destroying our world.  But, we call somebody highly intelligent?
No, there is a hierarchy in our universe.  We are, by definition, more intelligent than what we create and less intelligent than what created us.  It is kind of comforting to know.  There was a movie by Will Smith, called “IRobot”, where robots were (“in cahoots”…is there actually such a word?)…where robots conspired to take over the world.  The same thing happened in one of the Terminator movies.  There are probably more modern ones but I am, alas, a bit dated at age 50.  Well, when one looks at it in purely logical terms, such a scenario is impossible.  This “thinking outside the box” lesson is one I am applying to myself.  I have always had a bit of a war with technology in my mind.  I really don’t like it.  It is a nuisance and makes my world unduly complex.  I won’t lie: I like it the way it was in the 1970s.  I really do, and always will.  But, I have decided to cease FEARING technology.  It is an inanimate tool, and it will not cause me to be less human.  That is a paradigm shift I am going to try to make: Stop being so fearful of technology and its intrusive implications for our world (but keep a healthy apprehension), but rather, embrace the wonderful opportunities to use technology for the higher human purposes.  After all, we are the creator, and it is the created.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


There once was a teacher in my local school district, WAAAY back in the 1970’s. Mathematics education in the 1970’s, in my opinion, was, well… just sucked. I went to an awful school district. The older I get, the more I realize just how bad it was. I will not state the name of that district, but just fill in the blank. L A B R A __. If somebody reading this is associated with this anonymous school district, take no offense. Perhaps it is now superb, but the L A B R A __ of my late 1970’s years was not only impotent, but often damaging to kids. I had a math teacher named Mr. Merolla, who could be placed in the hall of fame for bad public school teachers, only to be rivaled by two other characters from the same school district, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Fulton (who was an expert at destroying the fragile self-esteem of children). Mr. McConnell once choked me in gym class and told everybody he never liked me. So, anyway, I had Mr. Merolla for my pre-algebra class in Jr. High. I hated math at that time. Why? Because I loved history and stories. They excited my imagination. Why should I do something so boring as math, which literally had nothing to do with my world, when I could read about people in history, who lived exciting, adventurous lives? At least, that is how I thought. But now, I realize why class was a mild form of torture for me. First, the textbooks were terrible. Rather than teach what math IS, and then learning the mechanics of how to achieve an answer, we ONLY learned the mechanics. What IS a square root? Heck, I didn’t even know it was appropriate to ask such a question. I was only told to memorize some rote process. What really befuddled me was the fact that some nerd in my class, with thick glasses, loved doing this stuff. Anyway, the second reason algebra class was akin to having my nasal hairs plucked, one by one, is this: Mr. Merolla LOVED to humiliate kids, and then cease to help them so he could have the savory experience of giving them an F. Then, as a final blow, he would tell them how stupid they are. Do you think I am exaggerating? No, I could not understand algebra one day, and he literally said to me, loudly so the class could hear, that I was “too dumb to learn algebra” and I would never be able to learn math (Oddly, I took college math courses and got A’s, realizing I liked it, when I finally discovered, on my own, that math can be fascinating when you concentrate on concepts and application). At the time, however, it hurt me and I decided, “I HATE math.” Done. I just wanted to get that off my chest, and perhaps any of you reading this who have been victimized by teachers, like I was by that pompous little man in Jr. High, can relate. So, this article is about vectors. Vectors are a basic mathematical concept. A vector is simply a mathematical object that have value and direction. A train has velocity. It has mass and speed, and it proceeds in a precise, narrow direction. Voila: a vector force. My son, Grant, beats people up as a hobby. He is an ultimate fighter. He is an accomplished boxer and when he punches someone, that guy's pain is the result of a vector force. Why vectors? Because my wife and I went scuba diving in Puerto Rico. Here is what I mean: When swimming underwater there is, of course, a certain buoyancy. My first lesson when scuba diving was to stop trying to do the breaststroke underwater (I must have looked like an idiot). The instructor indicated I needed to extend my arms forward like Superman, while kicking with my feet. The vector forces of the water would keep me in place. Think about thousands of little arrows, pointed at me from all sides. Pressure pushed on me from above, below, my sides, and everywhere else. These kept me comfortably in place (although our ears started popping). Our atmosphere, again, is comprised of vector forces. Here is a truly fascinating observation, if you will just stop and really contemplate it: Scientific axioms, and mathematic principles in particular, can have a profound impact on the non-scientific world around us…on human relationships. They really do, and I could literally write an entire volume on this (and maybe someone already has). I will not go on a tangent about all that, but I will make an observation about vector forces. A vector is a mathematical object that has value and direction…..LIKE PEOPLE. We all have value. We are worth something. We matter. When a given mathematical VALUE is inputted into any mathematical OPERATION, it always changes the result. Even a zero (nil, nothing, nada), profoundly impacts a mathematical result. So too with people…even those poor souls who think they are nothing, who don’t want to live a day longer, who are without hope, who think nobody cares for them, who live on a filthy sidewalk asking for change….they change the world in their own little, yet unique, way. If they were to suddenly exit the world, the world would instantly change. They matter! Tragically, they just don’t know it. Even when they think they are a “zero”, their existence changes the equation of their immediate world. So yes, like a vector in math, people have value….but they also have direction (the other half of the definition). Everybody, whether they like it or not, is heading a certain direction in their lives. Force, energy….these are finite. They are not unlimited. So, it is important to direct one’s force in a specified direction for maximum impact. For example, if my son Grant were to go into a cage fight, close his eyes, and wildly flail his arms like a girl (sorry girls, I just wrote this for affect)…well, if Grant were to do that, he would have little effect, dissipate his energy, and ultimately collapse like a star that burns out. The result for him would be painful. The lesson: Take the finite energy and skill you possess (we ALL have a skill or gift), and direct your value with PRECISION. Like a well-trained boxer who can deliver precise blows, for maximum effect with maximum conservation of energy, affect your world with precision. Find out what you really want to affect in this world, in your limited time here, and direct yourself toward it. Take it from me. I am a bit of a hypocrite on this count, as I spent many years of my life directing my energies in many directions. I still do to some extent, as that is my basic nature. But, a few years ago, I followed the wise example of my other son, Joel. He wrote a list of what he wants to accomplish in this world, and I did the same thing. I prioritized them. In fact, even more importantly, I have a 3 page inscription in the front of my Bible. I literally am having it written into my will that it will be read during a memorial service after my death, so it can benefit those listening (which it will). It is very personal, but it concerns the areas to which I am directing my life energies…my vector forces, if you will. Perhaps you, too, would benefit from doing this. Just sayin. One last word to my Jr. High math teacher…”The joke is on you. Like the old saying, I “took lemons and made lemonade”, I found out from him, how to NOT treat a young person, but rather to mentor him or her. I learned there are tremendous repercussions for the seed we sow in the spirits of other people…good AND bad. But, I learned another lesson that gives me great satisfaction: I LIKE math! Ha, so there. I like it because I discovered it is simply the study of fascinating concepts about the world God made. Yeah…I like math and I am GOOD at it. Mr. Merolla tried to convince some of us that we were dumb, but in fact he was too dumb to see how smart we were. I like math and I AM GOOD AT IT. Put that in your pipes and smoke it, arrogant teachers, and everybody reading this is good at something too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

THE CASE FOR CARBON, aka, You're star material!

I just love my new telescope, compliments of my gems (my kids). I think about how cool and neato it will be to look at constellations with greater magnification. My big goal this summer…on a clear night, is to observe the moon’s terrain. It is theoretically possible with the type of telly I have, but in Pittsburgh it may be, well, problematic. Anyway, I want to talk about an element – carbon. Don’t act so bored (Lydia). Let’s do this again. Drum roll, please…………….I AM HERE TO DISCUSS THE STUFF STARS ARE MADE OF…THE FOURTH MOST COMMON ELEMENT IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE….AN ELEMENT THAT CAN BE FOUND A BILLION LIGHT YEARS AWAY, YET EXISTS IN YOU AS WELL. IT IS THE MOST ACTIVE ELEMENT ON THE PERIODIC TABLE, AND IS COMMONLY RECOGNIZED AS UNIVERSALLY INHERENT IN LIFE AS WE KNOW IT. YOU KNOW IT. YOU LOVE IT. CARBON. BOOM! Now I have your attention. The word “carbon” is something you folks my age or older may remember from school (where you sometimes used carbon paper). The word carbon immediately brings to mind boot camp on Parris Island. If carbon was found in the barrel of your rifle, well, you would have a really bad day. No, I want to discuss carbon as purported to be inherent in “intelligent life”. My son-in-law, Dr. Jared Wilson, kindly posted a video of a discussion featuring astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. I have seen him on TV before. He is a great communicator, and a big “Thinking Outside the Box” kind of guy. I have posted it below, but want to make a couple of observations. Jared is scientifically trained. Neils obviously is obviously so, as well as Dr. Leonard Susskind (more about him in a minute). I am just, well, a salesman. Sorry about that. But, anyway, this blog is simply meant to provoke some thought on the part of everyday people, while at the same time offering some compelling (yes, compelling!) satire. Dr. Tyson makes the point that we are made out of the same elements, in the same proportion, as is the universe. OK. Cool. The idea is that we are actually residue of the big bang. Now, this is not a criticism just but an observation: Tyson makes a hip, quasi-spiritual observation regarding the fact that everything in the universe, including us, is made of the same stuff. It was almost pantheistic, i.e. “Wow, we are one with the universe. Doesn’t it make you all tingly?” (Incidentally, learning of the universe and skywatching is indeed thrilling). However, I know the Big Bang was simply our Creator speaking our reality into existence. Neil also make explains that our DNA is over 98 percent identical to that of a chimpanzee (which of course can be extrapolated to support the Theory of Evolution). He used this information to deliver a compellingly cogent monologue about the extremely high plausibility of other life in the universe. Here is MY “however”…however. Dr. Leonard Susskind is a renowned astrophysicist at Stanford University. How renowned? Well, he is a perennial nemesis (in a collegial, academic sense only) of Steven Hawking, and he is very much Dr. Hawking’s intellectual equal. Anway, Leonard’s lectures may be found online, and I have listened to a couple of them. In one such lecture, he discusses the history of particle physics. He describes in detail how earlier physics theorists were divided between those who thought matter was comprised of particles. Their rivals contended that matter was solid and continuous. The particle people won the day. Well, there was then a period of time where atoms were considered to be the smallest element that existed. This continued for a long time, until the discovery of sub-atomic particles created the field of quantum physics. Also, scientists used to think our solar system was the end of cosmic reality, until they found out we are part of a greater galaxy. Then, we learned there are many galaxies. When I was just a pup, I was taught in school that the universe was unending. Now, enter “string theory”. There is serious data supporting the idea that our universe is one of many. Add to this some additional information: Our galaxy along is estimated to be 2.3 million light years in breadth, which is quite impressive when we consider that light travels at approximately 186,000 miles/second. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity indicates that matter, when it reaches the speed of light, ceases to exist, becomes pure energy. Conclusion: We can never travel outside of our solar system….ever. But, guess what? Let’s bust some narrow minded paradigms! Copernicus, Bacon, and a whole bunch of other pioneers succeeded because they knew there was more to learn. My Savior, Jesus, was the master paradigm buster. He destroyed dogma and ignorance. So, here’s the bottom line: How on Earth can we be sure that there are not things SMALLER than quarks, neutrinos, leptons, muons, and the gigantic number of yet undiscovered subatomic particles? Perhaps they, themselves, can be subdivided into entire universes that are again divisible, ad nauseum. What is beyond a universe or a string of universes? Even more compelling: Do other universes and realities exist AMONG us, but we do not know it because they function by an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PHYSICS…not our physics of the periodic table elements, but a physics predicated on totally different concepts about which we cannot even speculate because we have no frame of reference? We commonly recognize three dimensions, although it is hypothesized that there could be eleven (read about The Universal Theory). So, another reality could exist among us, but since it uses a different physics, it exists in a way that we cannot recognize it with our limited physical senses that operate with OUR physics. OR, we do not have the intelligence to even recognize the existence of advanced lifeforms around us? Back to carbon – Why do we only think about intelligent life in terms of “carbon-based life forms”? Is it because that is the only frame of reference our science can muster? Why can’t life exist in the form of a gas, or a hard mineral, or in a form invisible or which our senses or low intelligence level preclude us from detecting? Why carbon? Because it is one of the elements that is ubiquitous in our universe? Let’s get out of that paradigm and think outside the box. That is a good rule of thumb for life in general, not just for science, in my view.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I have spent a considerable portion of my life thinking, “What if….?” It is not such a bad thing. In fact, when not taken to extremes, not psychotic, and not immoral, a little “what if” can go a long way. The greatest inventions, innovations, and discoveries in the history of mankind started out with “What if….?”
Here’s one….we hear about a federal budget deficit in excess of 14 trillion dollars (no you cannot contemplate it, it is too vast). This deficit is growing exponentially! The credit rating of the UNITED STATES was recently downgraded for the SECOND time. For those who don’t think much about such things, let me tell you, until about three years ago, a downgrading of U.S. creditworthiness was the stuff of science fiction stories, the paranoid hyperbole of conspiracy theorists, of the ilk who think the Pope is the False Prophet of Revelation or Freemasons secretly run the world, along with the Illuminati. So, U.S. Government backed securities, since World War II, and to a lesser extent before, have been THE standard bedrock security against which other investments are measured.
All of that has changed in the 21st Century Obama economy (whoops, sorry for the political commentary). We are apparently behind the exponentially growing curve of compounding federal debt, and the consequent chink in the armor of America, the economic “city on a hill”. What to do? What to do? Scurry, scurry, worry, worry, right? Make no mistake, it really bothers me, until I remember the axiom that whatever is not of faith is sin (God said that, by the way).
So, now to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. Now to consider “What if…the U.S. Government just gave up and defaulted?” I am serious. I am not suggesting this is necessarily the right policy at this time, but the greatest thoughts come from musing and asking “What if?”, so let’s do that. What if the United States of America were to say, “OK, we have an announcement to make. Honestly fellas….we just can’t pay it anymore. We are in so deep, it is literally, logically, mathematically, and ethically impossible to dig out. So, let’s be real. Ain’t gonna happen. The heck (or hell) with it. We aren’t paying. And if you think about it, there’s really nothing you can say about it. We are wiping the slate clean. After all, there are no REAL dollars. Only Federal Reserve Notes, that by legal decree, are backed by the good faith and credit of the United States. Not real money, but just pieces of paper, where we all gathered around and collectively said, ‘We all agree that we will use these green pieces of paper to buy and sell stuff. So, it’s agreed. Right gang? (Right!).’ By the way, you have no choice. Uncle Sugar makes the rules and, much like Cosa Nostra, he has “toughs” to act as enforcers. Why should I accept little green pieces of paper for the goods and services I supply? Because the guys who make the laws and have the guns say so, that’s why (We are to render unto Caesar what is his, but I’m just sayin’).
So, the bottom line is this: We are greedy voters who elected greedy politicians, who prostitute themselves and blow money for the proverbial “bread and circuses” (ala the latter day Roman Empire), while wasting “money” on foreign military entanglements, lining the pockets of contractors who funnel some of that money back to politicians who ensure we print more of those pieces of paper to funnel back to simple, greedy voters who vote the politicians back office so they can start the vicious cycle over again. This is a simplistic generalization. I was in politics myself, and I met some sincere, idealistic politicians. Perhaps most voters love America, as well. But, in a politico-economic sense, this is fundamentally true.
In my fantasy world, using my sometimes vivid imagination, I see someone in charge saying, “Sorry boys. The merry-go-round is about to stop. No more money. Done. Ya’ll ain’t getting’ paid because there is no more money and we are going to stop printing pieces of paper and pretending like it IS money. The ash heap of history is laden with countries who have had unrestrained currency and they have been buried by hyperinflation and currency devaluation. It is happening here, so we are stopping it right now. We, the U.S. government, are not going to pay our debt.” Wow.
I just read a book by Representative Ron Paul, entitled “End the Fed”. He asserts that modern wars, as well as reckless federal government spending and usurpation of liberty, are driven by the power to print money, to control the money supply. Thus, “End the Fed”. On August 15th, 1971, President Nixon directed the Secretary of the Treasury to limit the amount of federal currency that was convertible into fixed assets like Gold and Silver. This was an abrogation of the Bretton Woods international monetary system. Without digressing into an academic discussion of all this, we may suffice it to say that, although the Federal Reserve had been a spigot to spew forth currency as needed, President Nixon’s order was akin to opening the spigots to full blast. I listened to a video of Nixon’s speech at this time, and he assured the American people that it was not a problem, because “…the vast majority of Americans spend their hard-earned American dollars in America, on American goods.” Well, that is clearly no longer the cases. We have a criminal trade deficit, and we are shoveling dollars to China (and others) by the boatload. Our military adventures (some of which have been necessary, but far from all) have put money overseas. Finally, we must remember that the plethora of American military bases overseas, which pump many dollars out of the U.S., as well. There are too many dollars around the world. The dollar is weak. The dollar is floundering.
So, what if we just said, “We can’t pay you. Sorry.”? What if we then wiped the board clean, started over with a brand new currency, backed by a fixed standard, whether it be hold or some other universally respected commodity that holds its value, is easily divisible, and is portable? I am reading “Worldly Goods: A new history of the Renaissance”, by Lisa Jardine. In it, she describes the formation of banking and money, as we know them, beginning in the 15th century. In the 1430’s “The Medicis” were the Pope’s bankers. One beautiful part of the whole compound interest gig is the fact that is could finance wars. The concept of capital was born. Some of the Popes liked interest, because interest meant venture capital, which meant the outfitting of armies, which meant plunder and profit, which could be used to pay back the lenders. Nice little cycle, not unlike, hmmm……us? Military contractors financing wars, to ostensibly noble motives….I dunno, just some thoughts.
But, this is pretty interesting, I think: The Bible teaches against usury so those unscrupulous Popes (and they were not all dirtbags, by the way), avoided that pesky admonition against charging interest by permitting what is like a modern day pawn shop. People paid someone to hold their commodities or other valuables for safekeeping. So, it was ostensibly a “fee”, when it was de facto interest.
Bartering was big back then, without a universally accepted form of money. When money WAS used, it was a commodity with real value. A common money in the 15th Century was pepper. Pepper was highly, universally coveted, valuable, easy divisible, and portable. We all agreed on pepper. Other things can be used, but they all had value. I know little about prison life, other than what I have seen on TV, or what I have learned talking to people. However, I know cigarettes are commonly used as currency. They are coveted, and they have real, tangible valuable that is easily convertible (like, you just open the package and get one of those babies out then fire homie up). Like gold, cigarettes are easily convertible. Gold is highly malleable, and likewise, cigarette cartons can be divided into packs, each transaction consisting of 3 packs, 2 packs, or 1, etc. Then, as you would pull change out of your pocket to fine-tune your purchase, you could do like this, “OK, that shank (I learned that cool, prison sounding slang word on TV)….That shank costs 2 pack 1, meaning 2 packs of cigarettes plus 1 additional cigarette.
So, if Uncle Sam decided to stiff everybody by defaulting, it would hurt China and no doubt have large political and international trade ramifications. A lot of Americans would be hurt, but in the long run they would get over it and perhaps the long-term benefit of living in a sound economy, with real, sound currency would far surpass the temporary discomfort of losing their investments. True wealth, true trade, after all, is mere barter. But, in order to barter, one must have a unit of currency that has universal value. When a currency loses enough of its value, it ceases to be a reliable medium for barter. Then, we get a black market. People begin using whatever they have, of universally recognizable value. In a post-apocalyptic world, money could be fresh water (rather heavy, though), grain, even ammunition.
I try not to be an anachronism of the late 20th Century, but try as I might, part of me IS that anachronism. Accordingly, one of my favorite, and perhaps my very favorite movie of all time, is Thunderdome. The characters live in Bartertown. In this story, people are “real”, bare. When we are stripped of trappings, pretense, falsity, and smoke and mirrors, only that which is honest remains. Good or evil, but honest. The madman master of ceremonies, in the Thunderdome, spoke of the modern world of finance and war as “damn near the death of us all”. In my view, at least, the dome, where opponents entered and fought to the death (the chant: “Two men enter. One man leave.”), is a metaphor for the inner motivation of corrupted mankind. When all the pretense and general B.S. is eliminated, fallen men are simply savages who want what the other guy has. The world is a contest with winner and losers, and often the stakes are high, and the game is for keeps.