Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elusive Desert Moose and Other Lies


I went for a bike ride in Southern Albemarle County yesterday afternoon.  As I headed onto Old Lynchburg Road, the chill of the late fall air sent a shock through my lungs reminding me again that riding in Virginia in the Winter is as much a test of will as it is exercise.  Before long, legs and heart pumping, I thawed myself into a steady state that drove out the cold.  By the time I turned to head east on 708, I had long forgotten the cold and was relishing the fact that I was back on my bike after weeks of travel.  And then, after cresting the third long climb I saw them.  Two zebras and a mule standing in the middle of a field on the north side of the road.  Zebras!  In a region of the country where one expects to see ostentatious horse farms, manicured vineyards, and sweeping estates, zebras are certainly unexpected.  In an instant, I pulled off the road, hopped off my bike and walked over to the pasture fence to take a photo.  As I did that, I realized my motivation for the photo was an echo across over 40 years.

On one family trip across the desert Southwest in the early 1970s, my parents got a bag of M&Ms (still the official road trip snack of champions!).  The four of us boys were told that we would receive M&Ms for being the first to spot any wild animals during our drive.  Long before iPods, iPads, and all digital manners of diversion, a great idea was to get sons distracted by a little competition that would have them focusing out the window rather than on the fact that Dan liked the seatbelt too tight or that someone was in someone else’s space.  While on the road and at rest areas, various ones saw all manner of birds, reptiles and the occasional dog in another car.  For each first, M&Ms were dispensed.  The behaviorist B.F. Skinner would have been having a heyday with this Pavlovian environmental conditioning experiment.

Late into dusk, still suffering from my M&M deficient hypoglycemia, I announced that I saw a moose.  And before I could get through with the surprise sighting, I clarified that I had been certain it was a moose because I saw its ears!  I was told that I was “lying” and was not rewarded with M&Ms.  And so, yesterday, when I saw the zebras, the little boy in me wanted to be damn sure that I had a picture to prove that, indeed, I had seen the zebra.  What I didn’t know when I was 4 or 5 was that objective truth was not objective at all – it was consensus experience.  Sure, the objective fact was that I probably saw a misshapen saguaro cactus with wide sweeping arms and little flower bud nubs (filling in for ears on my moose).  But in the shadowy silhouette, the geometry was that of a moose standing in the night air of the Sonoran Desert. 

As I reflect on this lesson – “lying” about seeing what others didn’t see – I marveled at the hypocrisy of my “truth” conditioning.  Most impactful in my childhood were stories from the Bible, a daily companion to my upbringing.  As a boy who saw and heard things that others didn’t, I often marveled at how giants could exist, how bushes could talk, how dreams could fracture ribs, how fantastical miracles could be revered if they were told in a book that I was supposed to “believe” but the same dimensions were “lies” if they were experienced by a little boy.  And as I grew older, I was supposed to accept other consensus “truths” – faith, hope, love, justice, honesty – only to see in their consensus practice evident hypocrisy and contradiction.  The same boy who saw a moose was able to decipher covert operations by the U.S. government in Central America which later became known as the Iran Contra affair.  The same boy found and helped close the second largest white collar criminal tax fraud in U.S. history; developed a mechanism to render visible assets that were off balance sheet to stabilize and grow economies; went into conflict regions around the world where corrupt corporations were bribing governments to rob wealth from countries and their people and brought light and justice to places where no one else would go; and, continues to find the elusive desert moose that others don’t see.

I’ve watched over the years as those who have been the arbiters of public “truth” – the consensus keepers – have manipulated propaganda to hypnotize the population into being fearful of their own observations.  When governments manipulate and abuse their governed selling predatory intrusion and industrial warfare in the name of security; when churches and clergy demand their tithes but build their own wealth rather than feeding and clothing the needy; when families cling to the illusion of what loving relationships could be rather than acknowledging the pain of isolation in their midst; when disease management is sold as “healthcare”; and, when financial security is built on digital records that can be eradicated in a single magnetic burst, we’ve long abandoned integrity to our own observations and we’ve long left any realm of truth.  Over the past few weeks, while terror has marched across every media feed again, weapon makers have seen their fortunes soar (Defense Sector stocks up over 5.4% while the market has been up 0.47%).  The Brookings Institute along with many others have reported that those wonderful Toyota trucks driven by mercenary forces flying black flags are financed by oil sales (that’s right, someone is buying the oil) and “venture capital” style investments from Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. 

Purveyors of fear are most often the most vocal proclaimers of “truth”.  Why is that?  Well, for one, it’s terribly unacceptable to question “truth”.  In the past, it’s led to being outcast, stigmatized, or even killed – all significant aversion re-enforcements to insure consensus thinking and acting.  Additionally, as Gregory Bateson pointed out in his work on psychological disorders, if you can get someone to doubt their own observations of reality, you can rapidly convince them that they cannot trust themselves and therefore force them into situations where they “trust” others.  The more subtle the subterfuge, the more effective the coercion.  And behind every “truth” and “fear” purveyor stands someone who benefits.  Convince people they’re in danger – no worries, the government will keep you “safe”.  Convince people that they’re sinful – no worries, the church will take your time, focus, and money in exchange for an eternal peace.  Convince people that they’re incapable of understanding money – no worries, advisors will sell you no-downside guarantees in the form of pensions and insurance which “can never go down” never telling you what they do with the “ups” they make. 

I’m going through an amazing journey in life.  Each one of the consensus illusions in my world has been held up for examination in 2015.  And each one, on close examination have crumbled into bits.  Not a little bit – entirely!  And what I’ve chosen to do is find the motivation behind each – find out who was the beneficiary of my distraction – and elected to learn from these experiences rather than judge or despise them.  I’ve chosen to live in transparency – sharing what others would see as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without any sense of concern.  I’ve chosen to live in complete and emanating love – insuring that those who are in my life receive the best from me and that I receive the best from them.  I’ve reaffirmed my commitment to give no quarter to the illusion of fear in myself or others.  Why?  Because I’ve always seen a world that includes imagination, wonder, and conscious living.  I’ve always seen the elusive desert moose.  And I choose to live in a world where I’m measured by the quality of my actions, not by my resonance with consensus.  In so doing, I’m inverting alchemy – taking gold and turning it back into humanity.  I think I’ll have a few M&Ms now cuz there’s a Little Guy who just saw a zebra!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

South China Sea


Several years ago I was asked to offer my input to a scenario planning workshop for a large family office in the U.S.  During the presentation, I suggested that geopolitical risk had a few flashpoints that would be worth watching.  I referred to these as the “Archduke Ferdinand’s Bullet” referring to the assassination which certainly contributed to the violence that escalated into World War I.  The one that I said had the highest consequential risk was the shipping lines stretching from the Straits of Malacca to the South China Sea.  This region, unlike any other, is responsible for much of the energy and container traffic for the world’s largest trading partners.  An LNG tanker explosion, a “friendly fire” salvo gone wrong, and the Asia Pacific powder keg could ignite due to the absence of regional resilience. 

Several days ago, a U.S. naval vessel passed within 12 nautical miles of an innocuous island claimed by China and situated in the South China Sea.  To be sure, the U.S. Navy did NOT need to be there.  There’s a big ocean and passage into and through territorial distributes is not the exercise of a maritime right, it’s a provocation.  And with all of the conflicts raging across the world, a logical presumption would be that we might do well to minimize our willingness to inflame relatively pacified situations.  Do Vietnam, Japan and others have legitimate concerns regarding China’s interpretation of maps?  Quite possibly as maps are capricious in the first place and no entity has the universally recognized map of the world’s land masses and jurisdictional boundaries.  Which made me pause and ask the question:  given the abject stupidity of the Navy’s choice of passage, what else is going on for which this event would serve as a distraction? 

We have religious factions unraveling the delicate, war-torn communities of Afghanistan and Iraq.  We have massive food, water and conflict refugees desperately seeking respite from carnage in Syria.  We’re watching as Venezuela may be about to implode under that persistent economic challenges from the depressed petro-dollar based economy it’s built.  We know that the Arabian Peninsula is teetering on the brink of massive social inequality-fueled regime change – more French revolution than French enlightenment if you get my drift.  A few days ago, I had the good fortune of meeting with representatives of the government of Papua New Guinea and heard the futility in voices who have long sought just participation in the resource extraction from their country only to know that a select few officials are willfully or ignorantly mismanaging these assets.  Consumption is down in the minerals sector.  Companies are shifting headquarters to tax havens as they continue to extract infrastructure value from their actual home country.  We’re looking just over the horizon to Christmas season which will, in its muted performance, give us the opportunity to see exactly how bad consumer confidence is.

Dystopian trajectories are epidemic all around us.  The models of human interaction that have been deployed over the past 400 years have born their blighted fruit and, in the main, this is the generation shouldering the indictment on the Occidental epistemological order.  There are, in my estimation, several generalizable factors of the entropic conclusion of this human experiment. 

As I state in my documentary Future Dreaming, one of these is the concept of dominion.  The idea that anything or anyone is “over” anything or anyone else is a fallacy that results in immeasurable harm.  The religious narrative that places a god “over” the created order is palatable only in the corollary illusion that “man” is entitled to have dominion over everything else.  From divine rights justifying autocracies to our most intimate interactions between men and women in which “my” serves to reify linear possession, our behavior indicts our abject failure to see the natural order as absolutely interdependent and covalently linked in energetic exchange.  And the immoral justification of patronage in which benevolence to the “lower” absolves the “higher” of their tyranny is not appropriate even if the benevolence is absolute.  For in it, the perspective of one forms the context for the other and the “lord’s” context and motivation is opaque.

An additional systemic failure is enclosure.  From the Adamic myth of naming all the flora and fauna in Eden to property laws to accounting, the presumption that life requires boundaries is anathema to all natural systems.  In classic Nordic folklore, the Milky Way or Linnunrata (the light path) was thought to guide bird migrations to and from nesting grounds.  The birds were not thought to “own” the Milky Way but simply use it as their guide.  Edges, boundaries, enclosures and the like – whether defined by fiat or consensus – create separation and separation reinforces scarcity.  We can see this cancer throughout our entire social order.  “My” or “mine” not only implies ownership or dominion of or over a thing but it too has an ugly corollary – digital choice.  Choice is heralded as a valued human ideal but within it is, all too often, the implication of a rejection of the other.  From which laundry detergent to use to which restaurant to select to how to vote, our social behavior sees choice of one person or one thing as an explicit rejection of all others.  Without enclosure in the illusion of time or space, choice could be seen as temporal selection in a moment or for a utility where all other expression, options, or opportunities preserve all attributes of availability in all other moments.  But we don’t live that way.  By selecting a house or a job, we have cut off other options for shelter and purposeful action.  By selecting a relationship, we are thought to deprioritize all others.  In a world that celebrates “choice”, we force the illusion that one dimension of value leading to prioritization is somehow predominant over all other dimensions. 

And finally, digital.  I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the International Day Traders Association conference in Gold Coast Australia a week ago and return for a speaking engagement for the Big Blue Sky Event a few days later.  I was amazed at the ubiquitous intrusion of “digital” in much of the discourse.  Once again, we can barely detect this memetic absolute.  When we don’t like something, we “change” it.  But unfortunately, we don’t specify with any precision that which we find revolting and the attributes of what better would be.  Things are “right” or “wrong”, “functional” or “dysfunctional” but the use of digital thinking (like choice referenced above) means that we can only see momentary state conditions in a macro sense without discerning the subtle nuance that makes all things a composition of all phases and states in subtle variation.  I spoke about the reflexive acceptance and rejection of models of behavior and planning which fail to fully understand the illusions within the stories we are told and used examples like the Third Reich’s contribution to Silicon Valley and the Occupy Wall Street response to Chicago’s CDS trading market to show that digital and causal reflexive response is NOT thinking.  It’s reacting.  And reacting is seldom, if ever, fully conscious.

Overlay these epistemologies on the growing conflicts in the Middle East, South America and the Asia Pacific region and there’s no surprise that the South China Sea is boiling.  We are a common humanity not only divided by our language but equally incapable of integrating and evidencing our capacity to live in a heterogeneous, infinitely orthogonal perspective that is isomorphic with Reality.  And while we may feel incompetent to deal with the geopolitical audacities of systemic failures, we can, in these moments, treat each other with greater grace and mercy.  We can seek to understand rather than judge.  We can seek to inquire rather than project.  We can triangulate perspectives and, in so doing, achieve a more considered existence.  And if we begin that journey in our immediate fields, we can foster an expanding dynamic that, like the Sun, warms the field around us and gradually illumines a path to a more complete human experience.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On Source


An Essay from my new book

We can see that Light and Magnetism enjoy identical nature and essence.  Further, we can see that their union produces and sustains Life.  It is this last observation that serves as the root of Wisdom.  To co-emanatory and inter-reliant energies align in their union to provide the abundance upon which life, as we understand it, depends.  The impulse to place any delimitation around this purposeful unity by ascribing to it some human-derived name or principle diminishes the elegant completeness that it represents.  By understanding its true essence and observing its core nature, we can precisely see how our lives, our stories, our obscurations and our contrivances foster an illusion of separation from perfect coherence with Source.

I use the term “Source” for its precision.  Unlike “origin” which implies some Euclidean distance in time or space limited to linear projections, Source evokes the same essential nature as its first order expressions – Light and Magnetism: namely, persistence, generative, and infinitely orthogonal.  Mesopotamian cultures known to have a profound knowledge of these first order expressions used the cuneiform representation IDIGNA to represent the artesian source of the rivers around which much of civilization organized – the Tigris and Euphrates.  In the Indus, the might Himalayas gave rise to great rivers around which Indic and Sinic culture emerged and flourished.  The Andean cultures had some of their greatest temples at the artesian and mountain springs which fed the Pacific and created the alluvial Amazonia. 

:and preserving the reflected wavelength and essence of the observed Sun was used to adorn the head of the kings and priests.  Was this because it was known to amplify reception and the transmission of energies to and from the head of its wearer?  Was it known to be a conductor of the wisdom afforded by a deep understanding of Light and Magnetism throughout the cosmos?  While we can only speculate, its universality would point to purpose and knowledge over some coincidence.  Why did many cultures find copper to be an important symbol of power and health – two highly correlated expressions in a functioning society?  Like gold, it enjoys high conductivity and luminosity.

The essential nature of Source must be clearly articulated to recognize its coherence or the capricious introduction of willful dissonance.  I will attempt to add precision to the tripartite nature of Source and its First Order manifestations:  Light and Magnetism.

Persistence:  This is the nature of that which has the capacity to emanate and engages the same in complete manifestation unaltered by any exogenous condition.  Rather than relying on an external stimulus to spring into action, persistence self-activates and does not concern itself with reflexive responses and patterns in the field.  It has perfect awareness knowing that the activity engaged is fully provisioned at the pace, intensity, and frequency suitable for the action.  It exists with total ecosystem awareness conscripting that which is required not for its consumption but for its energetic emancipation from a potentiated state into an actualized purpose.

Generative: This is the nature of that which, at its essence is wholly aligned for the emanation of that which can be experienced by and benefit other matter an energy.  Beyond the notion of creation or destruction – a duality that is the product of a constricted perception – generation is that which organizes cycles of perpetual transformation.  Generative processes in and of themselves neither define nor delimit themselves.  Rather, the perpetually align matter and energy in such a way that other systems flourish.

Infinitely Orthogonal:  This is the principle of absolute perspectival equanimity.  Regardless of the point of view of the observer/participant/beneficiary, the capacity for equivalent observation or us is complete.  The elegance of orthogonality is that, as each perspective is entirely uncorrelated to each other perspective, perfect symmetry independent of perspective is achieved through dimensional indifference.

When we consider the Sun’s expression of Light or the bar magnet’s expression of magnetism, we see that Source in situ has an effect on, but does not require a response from, that which it encounters.   When Source is animated or in approximation, sensitive respondents consciously engage and animate.  The heliotropic dance of the flower is evidence of conscious recognition of the essentiality of Source awareness.  The iron filings that align to the infinite sweeps of the magnetic field are evidencing Source awareness. 

Source Awareness has a few essential attributes.  First, Proximity.  The more coherent and unimpeded the path between Source and respondent, the more effortless the interaction and the more identical the effect in evidence.  Second, Purity.  The less interference between Source and respondent, the more effective the transmission and empowerment.  And finally, Proven.  This is the certitude of performance where there can exist no other explanation or attribution because the complete validation is evident and incontrovertible.  In contrast, Source defilement also has three attributes:  Remote, anonymous, and unverifiable.  Every harm done to this planet and to each other is directly dependent on one or more of these defiling impulses.  And most insidious of all, the defiling attributes are frequently cloaked in the deception of terms like “Trust” (remote from actual experience), “Faith” (reliance on an anonymous actor or energy beyond perception), and “Belief” (the requirement to dissociate discernment and perception in order to acquiesce to illusion).  None of these words nor the energies they represent have coherence with Source regardless of their profligate use and their apparent resonant proximity. 

While I’ve used as examples the Sun and a bar magnet to describe First Order expressions of Source, these are quite grand in scale and may be too mysterious to engage.  So let’s examine some examples of Source much closer in.  Inside your chest at this precise moment is an agent of Source. And while we can rush emotionally to the heart, that’s close but not spot on.  Inside the heart wall are a series of cells that self-activate.  We call them the pacemaker.  Now these cells, when functioning in absolute coherence are what literally keeps us alive and our heart beating.  However, when these same highly differentiated myocardial cells elect to function in resonance or dissonance they can stimulate all manners of arrhythmias and can cause death.  The small coordinated node is Source and Life.  The cells either behave like photons and fields in coherence or, when going it alone, act like manipulators and agents of death.  These cells, when properly functioning – as the sun activates pure photonic animation – activate nerve fibers which transmit the impulse to the rest of the heart and the muscle pumps.

I recently experienced another evidence of embodied Source.  On an early morning hike on an overcast morning, I hiked up Ekajati Peak for what I knew was my last time during a sojourn in Southern Colorado at the Tara Mandala retreat.  As I approach the stupa marking the life of the retreat’s co-founder David Petit, I chose to read aloud the tribute written about him by his beloved partner Lama Tsultrim Allione.  I had read the plaque on a previous occasion and had done so in silence.  The moment I started vocalizing the tribute to David, Source emanated from within me.  While tears came to my eyes and my voice started to quiver, I felt a heat in my chest – not my heart, not my lungs – but rather some middle space just below my sternum.  I had no temporal or spatial association with David or Lama Tsultrim but, in that moment the Source emanation in the form of a lover’s tribute, connected their literal energy and lives to mine in an undifferentiated simultaneity.  I was weeping at the end – no sadness, no sense of loss or sympathy.  Just profound reverence for an expression of pure love written years ago.

If you’ve ever seen Michelangelo’s David in Florence, you can experience and watch in the eyes of other first time onlookers Source awareness.  Here, the genius in his art took simple marble and brought forth something far more transcendent than a nude statute of a young man.  Within the marble, he expressed the essence of a shepherd, warrior, lover, king standing in perfect elegance and capable of communicating to persons from every culture regardless of the familiarity with the Biblical account.  David’s elegant atemporal beauty is Source emanating from marble interacting with Michelangelo’s genius.

And David gives us another important path to ancient wisdom.  The marble is starting to crack in the ankles and many fear that one day, he will fall.  Like one day the Sun will supernova or burn out or like one day magnetized matter will compress in infinite density and give rise to the hyperpolarized nursery to birth the process all over again.  Abrahamic faiths have a universal prohibition on making graven images.  This was an important concession to the realization that humans tend to imbue in the artifact what they perceive to be the representation of the essence.  And if this goes on, the risk is that the artifact becomes the agent of reverence and, in so doing, supplants the consciousness of the essence.  Islam and Aztecs have their geometry; Inca and Egyptians have their architecture.  And the more the incarnate form or artifact is revered, the more distant the participant / supplicant is from Source.  The incarnation that is coherent with Source is but one photon transmitting the energy.  And the world would do well to realize that imitation and adherence are not aspirational ideals as to be an aspirant is to reify the illusion of separation.  And Source is coherently One – always and in every phase and state.  The evidence of incarnate and emanating Source is the basis for great inspiration but should not give rise to emulation or aspiration.  Rather it should serve as a reminder that we – the great cosmic union – are born of one and are perfectly inseparable from each other. 

While essential nature shows us that we are all inextricably united in our matter and energy and that any notion of separation is entirely dissonant with the evidentiary witness of Source, this has not stopped at least three millennia of corruptors from instituting cultural manipulations which seek to prey upon the fears which can only be perceived when the illusion of separation is imposed upon reality – notably promoted as Trust, Faith, and Belief.  Elaborate pantheons of gods, demons, dakinis, angels, prophets and saints have been contrived, largely through oral traditions, to obfuscate the ever present coherence of Source.  Esoteric symbols, geometric forms – all evidencing Source influence in their basic forms – have frequently been relegated to occult or mystery schools known by only a few and exclusively accessible to the “initiated”.  And while traditions like the Tibetan Dzogchen contain beautiful Source-inspired photonic practices such as “transmissions” and “empowerments” in which the guru and disciple literally share a common mind or realization, these practices are also restricted to approved practitioners.  When was the last time physics could show you an unqualified photon?  When did you hear of an oxygen refusing to pair with a hydrogen to flow as water because the hydrogen was having a bad hair day or came from the wrong side of the Periodic Table in a previous bonding relationship?  See, while we can make light of this on one hand, when it comes to suffering, injury and extinction, imposed qualifications are all too often the result of horrific and callous predation using the cunning reflex of fear rather than the simple endless mundane entropic states. 

And here may be the more insidious reason why we innovate ways to obscure Source wisdom.  As it is its own evidence and teacher, Source wisdom cannot be monetized because, thanks to its infinite orthogonality, it can be understood by all with absolute equivalence.  Now clearly this condition poses an existential threat to the scientist and the theologian alike.  No surprise that these two professions are the most robust in layering onto Source their own ontology and complexity so as to make the illusion of their exclusivity and remoteness their respective rice bowls.  Is there new literacy and new linguistics needed for the re-emergent Source awareness?  Absolutely.  But it should be as easy as taking off one’s clothes and walking naked in the garden in the blazing splendor of the Sun or as simple as playing with a bar magnet in the dirt. 

Source can be easily discerned as it is a persistent energy all around us.  But its evidence is accessed by First Order perceivable manifestations.  Light and Magnetism are, in our time, the most uncorruptible First Order expressions universally available to any observer.  Their interactions, like photosynthesis, oxidative phosphorylation, molecular formation, auspicious order are isomorphic with Source as they are in coherent proximity to and fully animated exclusively by Source.  These interactions can be considered Second Order expressions.  Now it’s important to note that, like electrons spinning around a nucleus, proximity to the center is neither better nor worse.  In fact, as we move to outer layers, we find a very special and critical function in the outer shells – the capacity to be the site for covalent bonding.  This is an exceptionally important and precise type of molecular formation as it is in the covalent bond that the electron models its indivisibility with Source.  In the bond, it’s neither one atom’s nor the others but rather occupies an egoless, identity-free middle reality. 

Consider the water molecule.  One oxygen and two hydrogen atoms bond to take these two gases and transition their states through liquid, solid, gas, or transitional crystalline structures and matter.  While unified, these atoms retain attributes of their discrete nature but in the shared electron environment, they also have the capacity to transit phases and states not accessible to themselves in isolation.  They didn’t “gain” or “lose” as some would describe.  Rather they elected union based on intent and purpose.  If any hierarchy was necessary in isomorphism, we wouldn’t have water.  The contribution of hydrogen to oxygen and vice versa are equivalently important and can only be separated with the application of exogenous energy. 

So it is that we can see that Source both emanates through and is the patron of Covalence.  It reminds us that Together is Our essential state and allows us to quickly discern that which and those who seek prey upon separation for their own destructive designs.  When there is an impulse to impose separation in any form, Source Covalence is being violated and another dissonant energy is being expressed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I Found My Voice

Enough with the models that don't work.   Now let's move the fulcrum!

For all those I love, this video and this moment is one of the best pictures to answer the question, "So what is it that you Do?" Please join in the dance.

While you're here, please watch the follow up promotional video on the Corporation

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Laudato si' and Other Miracles


Cardinal Pelagius warned the itinerant friar from Assisi against his attempt to meet Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Egypt 796 years ago about nowish.  During the summer battles in the heat and humidity of the Nile delta, thousands of Crusaders and Muslims had been killed and the notion that two unarmed pious men would make it to the Sultan's camp alive was beyond the pale.  According to most accounts, the fact that Francis of Assisi and his companion Illuminatio survived their capture before being brought through the conflict into Sultan al-Kamil's compound was miracle enough.  The hospitality and dialogue that ensued over the subsequent week represents unimaginable kindness on the part of both great and pious men.  And the fact that Francis returned to Europe with a muezzin's ivory horn which he used to call faithful Catholics to prayer as he'd heard Muslims similarly called indicates that the fraternity of this heretical visit transcended the sanctified, murderous zealotry of the 13th century.

I listened intently to Pope Francis' September 25, 2015 address to the United Nations and, together with millions of others, reflected on the humanity that his words and actions represent in a time when zealotry and conflict are grabbing headlines across the globe.  And to be sure, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato si' have fallen about as far from Pope Innocent III's murderous crusades and tyrannical usury as could be imagined.  The historical irony - a 21st century pontiff bearing the name of a saint who's Order was recognized by Pope Innocent III (yes, the same pope that nullified the Magna Carta) - of overturning principles codified 800 years earlier is one that bears note.  But as I listened to several speakers at the Climate Investing: Transition to a Low-Carbon World conference at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana over the past two days reference Pope Francis' many notable quotes about morality and justice, I found myself flooded with heretical thoughts worthy of the Inquisitor's wrack or pyre.

As with hundreds of conferences before, the conversation at this conference recited the tired apocalyptic catechism of degrees centigrade, meters of sea level, tons of carbon emissions, etc.  Somber specters of human extinction were benignly accommodated punctuated by flashes of hope against the soot-blackened outlook on a humanity that is addicted to consumption, hypnotized under the 60Hz spell, and reflexively immune from pathos by presenting gargantuan scale obstacles to intimidate the most intrepid.  In South Bend, we had our Cardinal Pelagius telling us of certain doom, our Innocent III praising the infallible utility gods, and a couple would be Francis and Illuminatios.  But, missing from this conversation - as with so many other similar gatherings - was the recognition that we will not clear the skies or clean the waters until we kneel to humbly repent of a much blacker stain than any carbon could muster.  We still hold onto the abusive notion that we are lords over the earth and we reinforce that illusion by our relentless fear that to contemplate a heresy that threatens the monetary malignancy that demands perpetual growth beyond all natural order is to step too far into the unknown. 

So, while I know that the Vatican bank and the $150 billion a year juggernaut called the Catholic Church will turn to advisors like former Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig at Promontory Financial Group (the firm that was paid reportedly around $2 billion to help bail out their banking clients during the GFC) for their advice and strategic direction, I thought that it might behoove us to consider excerpts of a note I drafted for Pope Francis when I was put on stand-by to comment on his then-up-coming visit to the United States.

Dear Pope Francis,

Your words and actions since becoming the Bishop of Rome have been a fragrant nectar in a desert of moral decay.  Together with millions of others, I deeply honor the courage you've exemplified in challenging the iconic expectations of your office.  Were you and I able to meet one day, I would lean into my Anabaptist heritage and engage in the one lost sacrament that I believe we would both share: the washing of feet in service and humility.  As a young boy, I spent my birthdays traveling through the missions of California and found myself constantly drawn to St. Francis as a model of the human ideal.  So with your accession, I celebrated the reinvigoration of his memory and service.

However, across the years, I've found myself increasingly concerned with what can only be described as hypocrisy plaguing the very catholic and universal impulse that you steward.  For while I can read your encyclicals and find in them profound coherence with my understanding of truth, I am blinded by the simultaneous objective insincerity that they represent when it comes to the ultimate seduction: monetary idolatry….

And let me be abundantly clear on where this idolatry is most poignant.  In Laudato si' you correctly speak of our common home and our stewardship thereof.  And while it is beyond the scope of this message, I would respectfully point out the vast land holdings your Church stole from Communities of Persistence (then labeled as "indigenous" or "heathen") across the globe in the name of Christ.  These lands which include coastal plantations in the Pacific, mining concessions in the Americas and the source of energy reserves throughout the world are now at risk of sea level rise, toxic waste and degradation, and ruin and yet as Chief Steward, you've done nothing to repatriate and heal the very lands the Church took in its darkest hours.  The gilded altars glisten with the gold and silver that came at the cost of the lives of millions in slavery and no reconciliation is proffered….

So, while we can recount the abuses of times past, allow me to offer a modest suggestion inspired by your regnal namesake.  During the height of the Crusades, St. Francis traveled to North Africa in an effort to convince a Muslim Sultan of the merits of ending a war that his Pope sponsored.  The fruits of his efforts were not realized in his life but they could be in yours.  Then, as now, massive human dislocation is taking place in Syria, Jordan, Babylon, and North Africa.  Then, as now, much of this dislocation is fueled by inequitable access to water and means of basic alimentation.  Then, as now, most of the responses from the world's elite is to rain down warfare on the "infidel" regardless of the direction he or she bends the knee. 

Let's do something different.  We know that Syria's conflagration is caused, in large part, by the failure of rains that have made scarce water insufficient to support small farmers.  This problem, expanded to scale, has inflamed old hatreds and has led to unimaginable horrors.  We know that bombings have not worked any better than swords and pikes 796 years ago.  So how about this.  Why don't you place a tithe - one tenth of your bank's balance sheet - into the St. Francis Sultan Malik al-Kamil Fund for Humanity.  Far from a "development bank", this fund would immediately offer a sukuk for water infrastructure development specifically owned by Syrian and Jordanian landowner / farmer cooperatives. The Vatican's obligation would merely be to stand as surety or collateral against the performance of the sharia compliant bond.  The bond service would be paid from the agriculture produced by the arable land.  And, at long last, the words of the Prophet Isaiah will come to fruition: "The desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose.  It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing."

Truly Laudato si'


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Iceberg Ahead - Captain is drunk!


On the eve of the REAL2015 Reshaping Real Estate Conference in Brisbane, I was asked to engage in some of the economic foresight that created a bit of a stir in 2006 and 2007 when I precisely discussed the certainty of what is now known as the Global Financial Crisis or GFC.  Subsequent to that, a dear friend called me to inquire as to the timing of the next major market paroxysm and how one might be prepared for that eventuality.  I have hesitated weighing in on this topic in InvertedAlchemy but given the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) actions of this past week, the iceberg is now in full view and the helmsman is drunk.

The Federal Reserve erroneously states that its mandate is to “foster maximum employment and price stability”.  It continues to run its Ponzi auction of “reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-back securities and… rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.”  In what they continue to describe as “accommodative policy” the FOMC has satiated the wealth transfer mandate of their benefactors while placing the whole of the U.S. (and by extension, the global) economy in irreparable harm.  And my choice of words is precise in that the architecture of the next GFC is much more precarious than the conditions leading to the 2008 hiccup. 

According to the data reviewed by the Committee prior to its September 17, 2015 meeting, the consensus view of the Federal Reserve Bank Presidents is that GDP is likely to hover around 2% for the foreseeable future despite evidence that it’s probably between 1.8% and 2.0% in reality.  Personal consumption expenditures or PCEs are expected to lag GDP by 0.2%.  And over the next 4 years, the Presidents expect that their “firming” policy (in contrast to accommodative) will land the federal funds rate at about 3.5% with the largest spike expected in 2016. 

But the seeds of the looming challenge were respectively planted by Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1937 and by Gerald Ford in September 1974.  Roosevelt’s Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI or Social Security) and Ford’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) have placed the U.S. economy on a collision course with a reality that Senator John L. McClellan (D-Arkansas) would have found unimaginable in 1963 when, as a result of the Studebaker Corporation’s default on pensions, he led the Senate’s investigation into pension fund misuse.  In 2009, the Office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration reported that the program had $15.1 trillion greater obligations than assets.  Since 2010, Social Security’s costs have exceeded its tax income and its non-interest income combined and are expected to do so through 2024 “and beyond”.  In their Communication, the Board of Trustees have stated that the Disability Insurance component of the OASDI will experience “fund depletion” in 2016 and that the OASI funds will be depleted by 2035.  What this means is that in 2016, the program will be able to meet only 80% of its statutory obligations.  In other words, 60 million Americans will have 20% less to spend beginning in 2016 while the FOMC expects spending to grow during the same period.  Take 20% of a population and cut their purchasing power by 20% (to say nothing of the increased tax that will be placed on current wage-earners rising a gross 2.62% thereby wiping out the FOMC PCE projection) and you’ve got a massive problem.  The FOMC and the Social Security teams don’t have the same crystal balls.  Not surprisingly, Social Security wants full employment so that they can collect tax and fund themselves.  The Fed wants unemployment below 6%.  The trouble is that Social Security bases its solvency estimates on employment numbers that don’t currently exist and are not projected to exist thereby accelerating their insolvency.  And it gets much worse. 

Both the Social Security investment program and the ERISA program are required to invest heavily in interest bearing securities backed “by the full faith and credit of the United States Government”.  With the FOMC’s decision to keep “accommodating” low interest rates, this means that all the actuarial assumptions about investment income necessary to meet fiduciary obligations in the future are entirely wrong.  And they’re not wrong by a bit.  They’re wrong by over 200%!  The “real interest rate” from 1966 to 2007 averaged 2.8%.  The real rate in 2014 was 0.4%.  To make Social Security work in the low cost (read fewer benefits) and high participation (read more workers paying more for less benefits), they need a rate of 4.4% - only 1000x greater than reality!  And this same assumption error plagues other investors as well.  With nearly 6 full years of interest rate manipulation, fiduciary investors across the board are beyond the point of no return.  There is no economic scenario in which you can make up the lost ground of persistent interest rate manipulation at the scale we’ve seen since the GFC.  Making the situation worse, the assets that are currently profligate on the balance sheets of many pension funds are agency-real estate linked meaning that the investment picture for pensioners is going to be far worse than imagined.

So long about the U.S. Presidential election next year, the first pillar will actually fall.  And, for better or worse, there’s no getting out of this one.  The market is going to lose a cylinder called the Baby Boomer consumer.  And given that the U.S. economy is not growing at a rate to absorb wage increases or any other off-setting economic driver, the age of entitlements is in for serious accountability.

What does this mean to the global investor?  Well, the answers are already being written on a number of walls like King Belshazzar’s illustrious inscription in the Book of Daniel.  “Your days are numbered; you’ve been weighed on the scales and are found wanting; and your kingdom is about to be divided.”  This time around, Medes and Persians are not at the literal gate but the American consumer’s fate is not enviable.  Therefore, it’s reasonable to carefully examine where discretionary spending is most vulnerable to senior purchasing power reduction and begin by unwrapping these positions.  More broadly, on the U.S. domestic front, general interest-rate dependent sectors are likely going to suffer disproportionately to other sectors.

But the real shift is something that I discussed at the University of Notre Dame’s 10-Years Hence speech in the Spring of 2007.  Then, I discussed the importance of drawing a line from the Mediterranean eastward with one arc bending across the Indian Ocean to India onwards to Indonesia, Australia and across to the South America and another bending up through Persia and across China to Canada.  The former line is the line of cooperation and growth where real economic opportunity will transition in the diverse fields of health, agriculture, materials, finance, logistics and technology while the latter will be economies that have a much higher likelihood of achieving self-sufficiency with minimal foreign dependency.  And, with my 10 year projection a mere 1.5 years off, nearly each point in my 2007 speech has landed precisely where the arc of my speech had projected.  China is not in crisis.  China’s role on the global stage is changing as it turns its economy inwards for its own benefit.  Economic ties between India, Australia, Brazil, Chile and other Oceania states are growing and the interdependency in these areas will be more noticeable in the coming months. 

Ironically, it was economic distress and global conflict that stimulated President Roosevelt to create the octogenarian that is now on life-support.  It was global manufacturing shifts that led to economic conditions stimulating President Ford to enact legislation which is now coming off of its drunken mid-life crisis.  And while we’ve got some tough sailing ahead with gross incompetence at the helm, then as now, we’ll develop a new model that, with any luck, will not be based on actuarial models and willful ignorance.  Until then, there’s turbulence ahead so buckle in!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ignorance on Trial at a Kangaroo Court


On Monday, August 31 I found myself in the most unlikely spot on earth: the Western Australia courthouse at Kalgoorlie.  I was invited to observe the commencement of proceedings against Michael David Tucker - an aboriginal man who was accused of harvesting sandalwood for sale without the proper permits.  Welcomed into the courthouse on the main thoroughfare in this gold rush mining town by contracted security guards native to New Zealand, I joined a small group of people waiting to be admitted into the courtroom.  Among the observers were members of Michael's family, several aboriginal legal advocates, and a few vocal advocates for the entire eradication of national and federal structures and their judicial agencies.  As the published time for the commencement of proceedings past, a small security detail assembled in front of the courtroom door barring all from entering save the ebb and flow of police and security personnel.  The assembly was given no information as to the nature of the closure of the proceedings though word spread that the Defendant was facing the judge without counsel infuriating several of the waiting advocates.  After several days of contentious proceedings, a jury found Mr. Tucker guilty.

Now the facts appear to suggest that Mr. Tucker did, in fact, harvest sandalwood with the intent to sell the same.  And the control of harvesting sandalwood in Western Australia is subject to the Sandalwood Act of 1929.  In this Act, the penalty for "pulling or removing" sandalwood from Crown land or "alienated land" is a fine of $200.  The Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife have a 7 page licensing information sheet that sets forth the guidelines for obtaining a permit for harvesting sandalwood and Mr. Tucker apparently failed to seek or obtain such a permit.  So, under the prima facie argument, there appears to be some rationale for what transpired.  But that's before you review the facts that are relevant in this case.

Western Australia was formally claimed by the Crown in 1829 as an expansion of the Swan River Colony overlooking the contract between King Gustav III of Sweden and William Bolts for the establishment of a Swedish colony in 1786.  While the whole of Australia was claimed by the Crown on 21 January 1827, regional annexations were precisely defined over the next several years with Western Australia being formally subject to Crown land grants two years later.  And Western Australia, the unique agricultural and pastoral home of the Noongar community, was known to be an ideal agricultural anomaly in the early days of the Commonwealth.  In other words, the Crown, at the time of colonization, knew that Western Australia was inhabited by foresters and pastoral lands people.  As such, the Sandalwood Act of 1929 is, in fact, incompatible with Crown law.

Allow me to explain.  Under the never-overturned or amended by reference Charter of the Forest, the baron's companion law to the Magna Carta (declared invalid by King John and Pope Innocent III), any forests claimed by the King must be disafforested to the "good and worthy men" to whom the forests belonged (Section 1).  Further, under Section 14, the Crown's own charter prohibits the extraction of fees from those who collect wood from the forest particularly in the event that in so doing, someone is gainfully earning a livelihood.  In other words, if British subject by force Mr. Tucker were fully informed of the laws governing British subjects (clearly a reasonable expectation since the 1967 Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967 law), he could have reasonably pointed out to the Court that he was claiming his lawful rights under the Charter of the Forest and had an entirely different trial.

So why is that, when I queried the assembled masses in Kalgoorlie, when I spoke to the Aboriginal Legal Services, and when I encountered the several aboriginal people fined and imprisoned for failure to comport to laws themselves incompatible with Crown law, no one seemed to know about the Charter of the Forest - one of England's oldest laws?  Why did I encounter dozens of people who have done jail time for hunting on Crown land despite the exceptionally clear prohibition of such restrictions set forth in Section 10 of the Charter?  Mr. Tucker, it seemed, was the unwitting prey caught between the hounds of repressive faux justice in the goldfields of Western Australia on one hand and Constitutional activists seeking to sever ties with the Crown on the other.  All the while, he was kept in the dark about his actual rights to live as he wished afforded to him by an 800 year old law.

Is it possible that this is yet another example of how our current system of tyrannical abuse of willful ignorance is an inextricable component to how the corruption of capitalism (not free market capitalism in its ideal) has brought ruin to our moral fiber?  When Karl Marx critiqued the Swan River Colony of Western Australia as the evidence of capitalism's failure in Das Kapital, did anyone realize that even his socialism failed to address the real cancer of colonial callousness? 

Mr. Tucker is guilty of one thing.  He's guilty of being as ignorant of the law as were his judge, jury, and advocates.  His penalty, which will include a criminal rap sheet for crimes defined by a law that itself fails to comport with the law, will add further despondency to a people tired of being treated as criminals in their own land.  And, in the end, neither he nor the citizens of Australia will have received justice.  In the final analysis, these abuses of power do not serve any of their stated purposes.  They do not build a free and fair society.  They do not support a robust capitalist system.  They merely show that reckless inhumanity flourishes only when willful ignorance is the currency of the day.  And this condition can be changed if the citizens of Australia and the rest of the world chose to change them.  Until then, thousands of Mr. Tuckers will be the casualties of our collective negligence.  And this, my dear friends, is not a free market.  It's organized crime operated by those incumbencies who enforce their corrupt views of their selective rules.