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Why Is the Fed Punishing My Parents? – Article by Shawn Ritenour

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Shawn Ritenour
March 29, 2015
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In September 1993, President Bill Clinton reassured his radio audience that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children.” Picking up that theme over eighteen years later, President Barack Obama affirmed that “Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same.” The trouble is neither the government nor the financial system backed by the Federal Reserve rewards people like my parents, who have worked hard and played by the rules their entire lives, only to have their savings wither away.

Instead, Federal Reserve officials and the intelligentsia who support them are continuously working to make their lives more difficult, frightening the masses of what shoppers look for every day — lower prices. Price deflation, the cry, is disastrous for the economy. They worry that lower prices will reduce profits, leading to shutdowns and lay-offs and that lower prices make it harder for people to pay their debts. Sound economic theory and history, however, both indicate that price deflation is nothing the social economy needs to fear. If prices fall because the economy is more productive, this is unambiguously positive. However, if prices fall because people spend less, their desire is for larger real cash balances. Falling prices help them achieve their goal, which precisely is the purpose of economic activity.

Lower prices and wages can make it harder to pay fixed debt. This, however, serves as an excellent incentive to stay out of debt in the first place, as my parents have done as a result of significant sacrifice. Before creating even more money out of thin are to ward off lower overall prices, we should at least consider some of the ethical issues involved.

Many men from my father’s generation are not unlike John Adams who wrote to his wife that he “must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” My father embarked for twenty years of hard labor in a meat packing plant providing for his family until he lost his job due to his union pricing him and his fellow workers out of a job. When his plant closed in the mid-1980s, he embarked on a second successful career with my mother operating their own barbecue business for another twenty-plus years. I saw firsthand the challenges they faced trying to keep quality up and costs down, while producing top-drawer barbecue meat and sandwiches for a demand that was always uncertain. I saw the stress on my mother’s face one week in the early days when they netted a mere $15 before taxes. My father indeed “studied” meat packing and barbecue, in part, so I could go to college and become an economist and college professor.

Additionally, Mom and Dad had the foresight and character to make the sacrifices necessary to stay out of debt. Indeed, they are Paul Krugman’s worst nightmare — a family determined not to live beyond their means. Now retired, like many in their generation they are enjoying life the best they can on an almost fixed income. Because they have no debt, they have been able to live without tremendous economic hardship thus far. The Federal Reserve’s inflationism, however, increasingly makes life for them more difficult as steady price inflation daily chips away at their livelihood. Since 2009, for example, the Consumer Price Index has increased over 9 percent. This masks, however, significantly larger price increases for important necessities. Prices of dairy products are up almost 17 percent since 2009. Gasoline prices are up almost 11 percent despite the recent decline. Prices for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs have increased a whopping 26 percent since 2009. Higher overall prices do not help people like my parents at all. They instead act as a thief, snatching wealth away from them in the form of diminished purchasing power. What they long for is to see the value of their savings increase. Far from creating economic hardship for them, lower overall prices would be a boon.

Both sound economics and ethics, therefore, demand that we give up the anti-deflation rhetoric and the inflation it fuels. Charity demands that we cease striking fear into the hearts of the masses, softening them up for ever higher prices. The Federal Reserve should stop punishing people like my parents who have worked hard and played by the rules their whole lives. After all, what did they ever do to Greenspan, Bernanke, and Yellen?

Shawn Ritenour teaches economics at Grove City College and is the author of Foundations of Economics: A Christian View.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Interventionism Kills: Post-Coup Ukraine One Year Later – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
March 29, 2015
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It was one year ago in February that a violent coup overthrew the legally elected government of Ukraine. That coup was not only supported by US and EU governments — much of it was actually planned by them. Looking back at the events that led to the overthrow it is clear that without foreign intervention Ukraine would not be in its current, seemingly hopeless situation.

By the end of 2013, Ukraine’s economy was in ruins. The government was desperate for an economic bailout and then-president Yanukovych first looked west to the US and EU before deciding to accept an offer of help from Russia. Residents of south and east Ukraine, who largely speak Russian and trade extensively with Russia were pleased with the decision. West Ukrainians who identify with Poland and Europe began to protest. Ukraine is a deeply divided country and the president came from the eastern region.

At this point the conflict was just another chapter in Ukraine’s difficult post-Soviet history. There was bound to be some discontent over the decision, but if there had been no foreign intervention in support of the protests you would likely not be reading this column today. The problem may well have solved itself in due time rather than escalated into a full-out civil war. But the interventionists in the US and EU won out again, and their interventionist project has been a disaster.

The protests at the end of 2013 grew more dramatic and violent and soon a steady stream of US and EU politicians were openly participating, as protesters called for the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. Senator John McCain made several visits to Kiev and even addressed the crowd to encourage them.

Imagine if a foreign leader like Putin or Assad came to Washington to encourage protesters to overthrow the Obama Administration!

As we soon found out from a leaked telephone call, the US ambassador in Kiev and Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, were making detailed plans for a new government in Kiev after the legal government was overthrown with their assistance.

The protests continued to grow but finally on February 20th of last year a European delegation brokered a compromise that included early elections and several other concessions from Yanukovych. It appeared disaster had been averted, but suddenly that night some of the most violent groups, which had been close to the US, carried out the coup and Yanukovych fled the country.

When the east refused to recognize the new government as legitimate and held a referendum to secede from the west, Kiev sent in tanks to force them to submit. Rather than accept the will of those seeking independence from what they viewed as an illegitimate government put in place by foreigners, the Obama administration decided to blame it all on the Russians and began imposing sanctions!

That war launched by Kiev has lasted until the present, with a ceasefire this month brokered by the Germans and French finally offering some hope for an end to the killing. More than 5,000 have been killed and many of those were civilians bombed in their cities by Kiev.

What if John McCain had stayed home and worried about his constituents in Arizona instead of non-constituents 6,000 miles away? What if the other US and EU politicians had done the same? What if Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt had focused on actual diplomacy instead of regime change?

If they had done so, there is a good chance many if not all of those who have been killed in the violence would still be alive today. Interventionism kills.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Google, Entrepreneurs, and Living 500 Years – Article by Edward Hudgins

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Categories: Business, Philosophy, Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Edward Hudgins
March 29, 2015
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“Is it possible to live to be 500?”

“Yes,” answers Bill Maris of Google, without qualifications.

A Bloomberg Markets piece on “Google Ventures and the Search for Immortality” documents how the billions of dollars Maris invests each year is transforming life itself. But the piece also makes clear that the most valuable asset he possesses —and that, in others, makes those billions work—is entrepreneurship.

Google’s Bio-Frontiers

Maris, who heads a venture capital fund set up by Google, studied neuroscience in college. So perhaps it is no surprise that he has invested over one-third of the fund’s billions in health and life sciences. Maris has been influenced by futurist and serial inventor Ray Kurzweil who predicts that by 2045 humans and machines will merge, radically transforming and extending human life, perhaps indefinitely. Google has hired Kurzweil to carry on his work towards what he calls this “singularity.”

Maris was instrumental in creating Calico, a Google company that seeks nothing less than to cure aging, that is, to defeat death itself.  This and other companies in which Maris directs funds have specific projects to bring about this goal, from genetic research to analyzing cancer data.

Maris observes that “There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading for the same place. If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to live longer, what do you choose?”

Google Ventures does not restrict its investments to life sciences. For example, it helped with the Uber car service and has put money into data management and home automation tech companies.

“Entrepreneuring” tomorrow

Perhaps the most important take-away from the Bloomberg article is the “why” behind Maris’s efforts. The piece states that “A company with $66 billion in annual revenue isn’t doing this for the money. What Google needs is entrepreneurs.” And that is what Maris and Google Ventures are looking for.

They seek innovators with new, transformative and, ultimately, profitable ideas and visions. Most important, they seek those who have the strategies and the individual qualities that will allow them to build their companies and make real their visions.

Entrepreneurial life

But entrepreneurship is not just a formula for successful start-ups. It is a concept that is crucial for the kind of future that Google and Maris want to bring about, beyond the crucial projects of any given entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs love their work. They aim at productive achievement. They are individualists who act on the judgments of their own minds. And they take full responsibility for all aspects of their enterprises.

On this model, all individuals should treat their own lives as their own entrepreneurial opportunities. They should love their lives. They should aim at happiness and flourishing—their big profit!—through productive achievement. They should act on the judgments of their own minds. And they should take full responsibility for every aspect of their lives.

And this entrepreneurial morality must define the culture of America and the world if the future is to be the bright one at which Google and Maris aim. An enterprise worthy of a Google investment would seek to promote this morality throughout the culture. It would seek strategies to replace cynicism and a sense of personal impotence and social decline with optimism and a recognition of personal efficacy and the possibility of social progress.

So let’s be inspired by Google’s efforts to change the world, and let’s help promote the entrepreneurial morality that is necessary for bringing it about.

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright, The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

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Maybe the Hardest Nut for a New Scientist to Crack: Finding a Job – Article by Bryan Gaensler

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Categories: Science, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Bryan Gaensler
March 29, 2015
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The typical biography of a scientist might look something like this.

At a young age, a boy or girl discovers a love for science. Their dream is to become perhaps a geologist, a chemist, or a marine biologist.

At school they work hard at math and science, and they supplement this with everything else they can get their hands on: books, documentaries, public talks and visits to museums. They take all the right courses at college and then embark on a PhD in their chosen field.

After many years of hard effort (including chunks of time racked with doubt and frustration), they complete a solid body of work that contains some genuinely new discoveries. They’ve had the chance to meet some of the big names they read about as a kid, and now actually know some of them on a first-name basis.

The day a young graduate receives his or her science diploma is the most thrilling and satisfying day of their life. They are finally, officially, a scientist.

But there’s one thing that all those years of study and research has not prepared them for: the job market.

Scientist_Telescope
There must be a job out there somewhere…. Michael Salerno, CC BY-NC-SA

Pounding the pavement as a scientist

No matter what your profession, job hunting is not fun. But for scientists and other researchers, it’s a weird world of intense competition, painfully long time scales, and uncertain outcomes.

The strangest thing about a scientific career is that the application deadlines are often ridiculously early. Hoping to find a university position starting in September? If you wait until February or March to begin your job search, you’ve likely left it way too late. The application deadlines for some of the juiciest positions were way back in November and December.

Because of this advanced schedule, only the things that someone accomplishes a year or more before actually needing a new job will matter for their career prospects. Any amazing discoveries made after the application deadline are largely irrelevant.

The problem is that this is not always how science works.

For many important research topics, all the headline results emerge only at the very end. Students whose research is part of a massive longitudinal study or who are members of a big project team suddenly find themselves at a huge disadvantage, because they often can’t provide instant evidence of the quality of their work a whole year before needing a job.

The other daunting thing is the intensity of the competition. For most specialized scientific topics, there are far more PhD degrees than job postings: across all of science, doctoral degrees outnumber faculty positions by a ratio of 12 to one. An advertisement for a fellowship or junior faculty position will routinely draw hundreds of applications, and only 1%-2% of graduates will eventually land a coveted professorship.

How to proceed, when the odds are so stacked against you? Inevitably, the only way to counter the competition is to apply for lots of positions. A budding scientist is expected to apply for a dozen or more jobs, spread all over the world.

This situation immediately creates some challenges and problems.

By increasing the quantity of applications, the quality suffers. In an ideal world, an applicant will provide a carefully wrought narrative, weaving a story as to how their skills and background perfectly dovetail with the interest of the department they hope will hire them. But there’s no time for that. Instead one typically sends out a generic CV and research plan, and then essentially just hopes for the best.

The process is also incredibly inefficient. Professors all over write endless careful letters of recommendation, most of which have little bearing on the outcome. Selection panels spend hundreds of hours reading huge piles of applications, but can only afford a scant 10-15 minutes considering the merits of each candidate.

What’s more, not everyone can freely pursue jobs anywhere the market will take them. Young children, aging parents and other personal circumstances result in a large pool of outstanding scientists with strong geographic constraints, and hence limited options.

Overall, the harsh reality is that many applicants will simply not get any offers. A lifelong dream of being a scientist, combined with an advanced postgraduate degree, is tragically not a guarantee of a scientific career.

Good scientists should be able to find jobs

The frustration, disappointment and disillusionment grow every year. Things need to change.

First, employers need to make much more of an effort to tell applicants what sort of scientist they are looking for. Instead of reducing the job searching process to the scientific equivalent of speed dating, advertisements need to set out a clear and detailed set of selection criteria, with lots of context and background on the role and working environment. By properly telling the community what they’re looking for, labs and research institutes can focus their time on candidates with useful qualifications, and applicants can focus their energy on only those jobs for which they have a realistic chance.

Second, we need to create flexible career paths. Part-time positions, “two body” hires for couples with both members in academia, and accommodation of career interruptions need to become de rigueur, rather than whispered legends we’ve all only ever heard about second- or third-hand.

And finally, a specialist science degree needs to move beyond the expectation that it offers training only in one particular type of science.

A good scientist graduates with passion, vision and brilliance, and also with persistence, organization, rigor, eloquence and clarity. A scientist can incisively separate out truth from falsehoods, and can solve complicated problems with precious little starting information. These are highly desired attributes. The scientific community needs not just accept but celebrate that the skills and values we cherish are the paths to a wide range of stimulating and satisfying careers – both in and out of academia.

Bryan Gaensler is an award-winning astronomer and passionate science communicator, who is internationally recognised for his groundbreaking work on dying stars, interstellar magnets and cosmic explosions. A former Young Australian of the Year, NASA Hubble Fellow, Harvard professor and Australian Laureate Fellow, Gaensler is currently the Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He gave the 2001 Australia Day Address to the nation, was awarded the 2011 Pawsey Medal for outstanding research by a physicist aged under 40, and in 2013 was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. His best-selling popular science book Extreme Cosmos was published worldwide in 2012, and has subsequently been translated into four other languages.

This article is republished pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives license. It was originally published by The Conversation.

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America’s Aristocracy of Privilege and Power – Article by Daniel J. Bier

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Daniel J. Bier
March 26, 2015
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Bush, Kennedy, Romney, Clinton, and, yes, even Paul — is it just a coincidence that the same names keep appearing on the ballots each election cycle? Are these families just innately talented legislators, naturally “born to rule”?

No, says economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. America’s lame political dynasties are the result of a political system rife with nepotism.

There is a very real chance that the presidential election in 2016 will pit Jeb Bush against Hillary Clinton.… Whether or not you like one of the candidates, it just doesn’t feel right, in part because a second Bush-Clinton election makes a mockery of our self-identification as a democratic meritocracy.…

In our era a son of a president was roughly 1.4 million times more likely to become president than his supposed peers.… The presidency is obviously a small sample. But the same calculations can be done for other political positions. Take governors.

Because it is difficult to be sure that you have counted all the sons of governors, let’s assume that governors reproduce at average rates. This would mean there were about 250 baby boomer males born to governors. Five of them became governors themselves, about one in 50. This is 6,000 times the rate of the average American. The same methodology suggests that sons of senators had an 8,500 times higher chance of becoming a senator than an average American male boomer.

But there’s nepotism everywhere, and most parents want their children to follow in their footsteps. Is politics remarkable?

Is this electoral edge unusual? Successful parents, whatever their occupation, pass on their genes and plenty of other stuff to their kids. Do different fields have similar familial patterns?

In just about every field I looked at, having a successful parent makes you way more likely to be a big success, but the advantage is much smaller than it is at the top of politics….

Think about the N.B.A. further. The skills necessary to be a basketball player, especially height, are highly hereditary. But the N.B.A. is a meritocracy, with your performance easy to evaluate. If you do not play well, you will be cut, even if the team is the New York Knicks and your name is Patrick Ewing Jr. Father-son correlation in the N.B.A. is only one-eleventh as high as it is in the Senate.

Presidents, superstar athletes, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and other leaders in their field are outliers in the distribution. “Regression to the mean” is a statistical principle that describes the tendency of variables to return to the average over time. In the case of hereditary athletic talents, we should expect that Michael Jordan’s sons will be pretty average basketball players and will probably not end up dominating the NBA.

But in politics, we don’t see this: “The Bush family’s dominance would be the basketball equivalent of Michael Jordan being the father of LeBron James and Kevin Durant — and of Michael Jordan’s father being Walt Frazier.”

In other words, the odds that the best person to run your government (assuming such a thing exists) just so happened to live in the same house as the previous senator, governor, or president are stupendously bad.

He notes that politics isn’t the only sphere where irrational favoritism for close relations shows up in the data: CEOs tend to give birth to CEOs at an improbable rate, too, and we know that heredity isn’t a foolproof guide to succession in business, either. Economists have shown that family businesses that favor succession to blood relatives tend to perform worse after the transition.

The difference is that in business, the cost of the decision falls on those who make it. In politics, we all pay.

Stephens-Davidowitz concludes, “The data shows conclusively that we have a nepotism problem. So now the question is: Why does the modern United States tolerate this level of privilege for political name brands?”

Indeed. How could this be? It can’t be nepotism in the same way that family businesses tap relations to run the company — it’s the voters who decide who wins the next election. So how could equalitarian democracy, the great leveller, the system that tells elementary students “you too could grow up to be senator or president,” recreate dynastic political succession?

Well, the answer is that the promise is partially true: technically, any citizen can become a senator — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, he points out, is the daughter of a janitor — but you’re just 8,500 times more likely to get there if your mom or dad was too. And, in part, it could be that intelligence (or low cunning) is heritable and makes politicians’ kids better at the game. But that doesn’t explain the continued popularity of a figure like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the dull luminary of the anti-vaccine and “jail climate deniers” movements, who has clearly regressed to mean with a vengeance.

A better answer is that America’s dynasties reveal something fundamental about politics: we do not have a meritocracy because democracy is not a good way to select rulers (even if it is, as is so often said, the least worst way). Surveys show conclusively that the electorate is wildly ill-informed about both the candidates and the issues, as well as aggressively irrational about a host of important economic, political, scientific, legal, and simply factual issues. Controlled studies show that voters select candidates for patently absurd reasons, like their height, weight, attractiveness, and timbre of voice. And, in answer to Stephens-Davidowitz’ last question, more than anything else, name recognition matters.

What makes politics so futile is not that the national electorate improbably keeps landing on the same few families, decade after decade. Rather, it’s that the voters keep supporting the same dumb policies.

We don’t need a rule to prevent political power from passed down through families. The rules that govern what people can do with elected office matter far more than who sits there. We need, as comedian Penn Jillette once said, to give politicians so little power that it doesn’t matter who they are — rather than so much power that it doesn’t matter who they are.

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian. He writes on issues relating to science, skepticism, and economic freedom, focusing on the role of evolution in social and economic development.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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After a Twelve-Year Mistake in Iraq, We Must Just March Home – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
March 23, 2015
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Twelve years ago last week, the US launched its invasion of Iraq, an act the late General William Odom predicted would turn out to be “the greatest strategic disaster in US history.”

Before the attack I was accused of exaggerating the potential costs of the war when I warned that it could end up costing as much as $100 billion. One trillion dollars later, with not one but two “mission accomplished” moments, we are still not done intervening in Iraq.

President Obama last year ordered the US military back into Iraq for the third time. It seems the Iraq “surge” and the Sunni “Awakening,” for which General David Petraeus had been given much credit, were not as successful as was claimed at the time. From the sectarian violence unleashed by the US invasion of Iraq emerged al-Qaeda and then its more radical spin-off, ISIS. So Obama sent the US military back.

We recently gained even more evidence that the initial war was sold on lies and fabrications. The CIA finally declassified much of its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was the chief document used by the Bush Administration to justify the US attack. According to the Estimate, the US Intelligence Community concluded that:

‘[W]e are unable to determine whether [biological weapons] agent research has resumed…’ And: ‘the information we have on Iraqi nuclear personnel does not appear consistent with a coherent effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.’

But even as the US Intelligence Community had reached this conclusion, President Bush told the American people that Iraq, “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons” and “the evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.”

Likewise, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s “bulletproof” evidence that Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaeda was contradicted by the National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that there was no operational tie between Hussein’s government and al-Qaeda.

Even National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s famous statement that the aluminum tubes that Iraq was purchasing “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs,” and “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” was based on evidence she must have known at the time was false. According to the NIE, the Energy Department had already concluded that the tubes were “consistent with applications to rocket motors” and “this is the more likely end use.”

It is hard to believe that in a society supposedly governed by the rule of law, US leaders can escape any penalty for using blatantly false information – that they had to know at the time was false – to launch a pre-emptive attack on a country that posed no threat to the United States. The fact that they got away with it simply makes it all the easier for Washington’s interventionists to try the same tricks again. They already did with Libya and Syria. It is likely they are also doing the same with claims of a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine.

Last week President Obama correctly blamed the current chaos in Iraq on the Bush Administration’s decision to invade. He said, “… ISIL is a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”

However, if the US intervention in Iraq created the “unintended consequences” of ISIS and al-Qaeda, how is it that more US intervention can solve the problem?

A war based on lies cannot be fixed by launching another war. We must just march home. And stay home.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) Demonstration – March 21, 2015

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Categories: Announcements, Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Segment 1

On Saturday, March 21, 2015, Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov co-hosted the first segment of the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) Demonstration between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Segment 2

The second MILE Demonstration segment, hosted by Roen Horn and Desiree Duffy, is available here.

Description: “We are for awareness that bio-sciences and technologies have opened up the option of expediting a world effort to make gains toward eradicating the roots and diseases of aging, and other forms of involuntary death. Our lives are in our hands, and we must act with urgency.”

Find out more on the MILE Demonstration Facebook page.

Resources
– “Paul Sandford McGlothin” – Wikipedia
Living the CR Way - Website
Death is Wrong – Illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension by Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov -
– “The Aristotelian Golden Mean as Conducive to Good Health in the Pursuit of Life Extension” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II
A History of Life-Extensionism in the Twentieth Century by Ilia Stambler
“Ending Aging” Song by Paul Steven Thompson – Noelternative
Art by Elitanna (Valentinia Korshunakova)
Roy Carl Stanley – US House Candidate – Green Party of Texas
Roy Carl Stanley on Twitter

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Iran Fighting ISIS – Is it Really a Problem? – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
March 16, 2015
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As Iran continues to take an active role in helping Iraq fight ISIS, many US neocons are upset that the US military is not over there on the ground doing the fighting. They want Americans believe that only another US invasion of Iraq – and of Syria as well – can defeat ISIS. But what is wrong with the countries of the region getting together and deciding to cooperate on a common problem?

While the entry of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias into ISIS-occupied areas may not be ideal – there are bound to be revenge killings and sectarian fighting – it is far more likely that the ISIS problem will be solved by the countries in the region than by US bombs and ground troops. Our bombs will continue to make the problem worse because it was our bombs that helped create the problem in the first place. What the neocons who lied us into the Iraq war don’t like to admit is that there was no ISIS problem and no al-Qaeda problem in Iraq and Syria before we invaded Iraq.

ISIS is an idea, not a country or an army, which is why the US declaring war on ISIS makes no sense. It is clear that if we really want to defeat ISIS, the last thing we should be doing is bombing and sending troops back to Iraq and into Syria. Our bombs and involvement in the region only serve to recruit more fighters into ISIS. To make matters worse, many of these radicalized fighters come from Europe and even the US. What happens when they go home?

What if the US had not gotten involved with Iraq in 1990 when Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait after getting what he thought was a green light from the first Bush Administration? The interventionists were saying that if we did not act, Saddam Hussein was going to take over the region and perhaps more! But what about the other countries in the region that may have felt threatened? Maybe Saudi Arabia would have made a move; maybe Israel would have taken care of the problem. Why does it always have to be the US?

The dedicated neocons and other interventionists will not cheer Iran currently taking steps to defeat ISIS even though they claim that ISIS is at this time the number one threat to the US. Why don’t they like this good news? Because they desire the rest of the world to believe that the US is the only indispensable nation. They want the rest of the world – and especially the American taxpayer – to believe that no problem anywhere can be solved without US involvement.

It diminishes our prestige, they argue, for us not to take the lead in every conflict everywhere on the globe. Perhaps if people overseas begin to see that they can solve their own local and regional problems without the US military involved, more Americans would come to see the neocons as the real threat to our national – and financial – security.

Instead of being angered at Iranian help to address the problem of ISIS, perhaps we should send them a “thank you” note.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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James Blish’s “At Death’s End”: An Early View of the Prospects for Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 14, 2015
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At-Deaths-End-ASF-May-1954-900

                “At Death’s End”, written by James Blish (1921-1975), was published in the May 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Surprisingly, this short story is still only accessible in hard copy, within the original Astounding Science Fiction edition. Apart from a brief review by Robert W. Franson, who introduced me to this work, there is today surprisingly little literary analysis devoted to “At Death’s End” – even though it offers a fascinating glimpse into how a science-fiction writer from an earlier era perceived the prospects for indefinite human longevity, from the vantage point of the scientific knowledge available at the time. The world portrayed by Blish is, in some respects, surprisingly like our own. In others, however, it overlooks the complexity of the treatments that would be necessary to achieve actual radical life extension.

                The future (shortly after 2000) that Blish depicts is one where national governments are obsessed with “security” and “defense” – much like the United States today. It appears that the Cold War is still underway in this world (and it could be said that it has been resurrected in ours as well); however, space travel and space colonies are also prominent. The protagonist, Colonel Paige Russell, is himself a spacefarer who begins the story by journeying to the headquarters of pharmaceutical firm Jno. Pfitzner & Sons, Inc., to bring back soil samples from Ganymede and Callisto. In the midst of a society where an entrenched military-industrial complex has taken hold (even to the point of top positions – such as head of the FBI – becoming hereditary), a fundamentalist religious revival has also emerged, though the religionists often use machines to preach in their stead. This development, too, bears striking similarities to the rise of televangelism and the fundamentalist “religious right” in the United States during the late 1970s and 1980s. The overall society depicted by Blish is more permeated with religion than our own, as the alternative to the preachy fundamentalist religiosity of the Believers is portrayed as being a more subdued but still inextricable personal faith. Paige claims,

I’ve no religion of my own, but I think that when the experts talk about ‘faith’ they mean something different than the shouting kind, the kind the Believers have. […] Real faith is so much a part of the world you live in that you seldom notice it, and it isn’t always religious in the formal sense. Mathematics is based on faith, for instance, for those who know it. (17-18)

Even many religious individuals today would disagree with the notion that mathematics is based on faith – and certainly the many atheists and agnostics who are fond of mathematics and of the scientific method would rightly recognize that these logic-based and evidence-based approaches are as far from faith as one can get. And yet Blish intends Paige’s position to be the level-headed, sensible, rational one, compared to the alternative – showing that Blish did not foresee the extent to which skepticism of religious faith would become a widespread, though still a minority, position.

                Blish’s extrapolation of medical progress is remarkably prescient in certain respects. Paige learns of the history of medicine from Anne Abbott, the daughter of Pfitzner’s leading researcher:

In between 1940 and 1960, a big change came in in Western medicine. Before 1940 – in the early part of the century – the infectious diseases were major killers. By 1960 they were all but knocked out of the running. […] In the 1950s, for instance, malaria was the world’s greatest killer. Now it’s as rare as diphtheria. We still have both diseases with us – but how long has it been since you heard of a case of either? […] Life insurance companies, and other people who kept records, began to be alarmed at the way the degenerative diseases were coming to the fore. Those are such ailments as hardening of the arteries, coronary heart disease, the rheumatic diseases, and almost all the many forms of cancer – diseases where one or another body mechanism suddenly goes haywire, without any visible cause. (20-21)

The shift from infectious diseases being the primary killers, to the vast majority of people dying from the degenerative diseases of “old age”, is precisely what happened during the latter half of the twentieth century, throughout the world. The top killers in the early 20th century were infectious diseases that have been virtually wiped out today, as this chart from the Carolina Population Center shows. (For more details, see “Mortality and Cause of Death, 1900 v. 2010” by Rebeca Tippett.) Additional major progress is evident in the 54% absolute decline in mortality from all causes during the time period between 1900 and 2010.

                Blish was foresighted enough to attempt a conceptual decoupling of chronological and biological age. Anne Abbott explains to Paige that “Old age is just the age; it’s not a thing in itself, it’s just the time of life when most degenerative diseases strike” (21). She recounts that “When the actuaries first began to notice that the degenerative diseases were on the rise, they thought that it was just a sort of side-effect of the decline of the infectious diseases. They thought that cancer was increasing because more people were living long enough to come down with it” (21). Anne then proceeds to discuss findings that some cancers are caused by viruses – which is actually the case for a minority of cancers (approximately 17.8% of cancers in 2002, as estimated by the World Health Organization). In the world portrayed by Blish, a rising incidence of degenerative diseases caused by viral infections led the National Health Service to fund research efforts by companies like Pfitzner, in an effort to address the threat.

                Incidentally, Blish also foresaw the rise in major government expenditures on medical research. Anne explains that “the result of [the first world congress on degenerative diseases] was that the United States Department of Health, Welfare and Security somehow got a billion-dollar appropriation for a real mass attack on the degenerative diseases” (22). Of course, in our world, major scientific conventions on degenerative diseases – both governmental and private – are far more routine. Indeed, a small but dynamic private organization – the SENS Research Foundation – has itself hosted six world-class conferences on rejuvenation biotechnology to date. In the United States, billions of dollars each year are indeed spent on research into degenerative diseases. The budget of the National Institute on Aging exceeds $1 billion annually (it amounts to $1,170,880,000 for Fiscal Year 2015). Unfortunately, in practice, even this level of funding – from both private and governmental sources – has thus far proven wholly insufficient to comprehensively reverse biological senescence and defeat all degenerative diseases.

                In Blish’s imagined future, the battle against senescence could be won far more easily than in our present. Pfitzner’s key project is a sweeping solution to all lifespan-limiting ailments – a broad-range “antitoxin against the aging toxin of humans” (36). In this world, Paige, who later becomes trained in Pfitzner’s research techniques, can pronounce that “We know that the aging toxin exists in all animals; we know it’s a single, specific substance, quite distinct from the ones that cause the degenerative diseases, and that it can be neutralized. […] So what you’re looking for now is not an antibiotic – an anti-life drug – but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug” (36). If only it were that simple! Today, even the most ambitious engineering-based approach toward defeating senescence, Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS program, recognizes not one but seven distinct types of aging-related damage that accumulate in the organism. Dr. de Grey’s strategy of periodically reversing the damage is more straightforward than the alternative approach of re-engineering the tremendously complex metabolic processes of the body that malfunction over time, and which are still quite incompletely understood. In Blish’s world, a single company, working covertly, with relatively modest funding (compared to the funds available to research organizations in our world), can develop an “anti-agathic” drug that does for senescence what antibiotics did for deadly infectious disease.

                Without spoiling the ending, I will only mention that it is friendly to the prospects of radical life extension and portrays it in a positive light – one additional reason for recommending that “At Death’s End” be included within the canon of proto-transhumanist and life-extensionist literary works. Furthermore, the viability of indefinite life extension in Blish’s vision is closely intertwined with humanity’s future as a spacefaring species – another progress-friendly position. Blish comes across as a thoughtful, scientifically literate (for his era) writer, who extrapolated the world-changing trends of his time to arrive at a tense, conflict-ridden, but still eminently hopeful vision for the future, where the best of human intellect and aspiration are able to overcome the perils of militarism, fundamentalism, decay, and death.

              The author of “At Death’s End” himself succumbed to death at the age of 54, on July 30, 1975. He did not live to see the world of 2000 and compare it to his prognosis. Unfortunately, Blish seems to have disregarded the tremendous harms of tobacco smoke and was even employed by the Tobacco Institute from 1962 to 1968. A genealogical profile lists Blish’s cause of death as “Recurrent cancer per smoking, metastasized.” This brilliant, forward-thinking mind unfortunately could not escape one of the most common collective delusions of his time – the fascination with and normalization of one of the least healthy habits imaginable, one that is the most statistically likely to lower life expectancy (by about 10 years). This is quite sad, as it would have been fascinating to learn how Blish’s projections for the future would have been affected by additional decades of his experience of societal and technological changes. One of the major trends in longevity improvement over the past several decades has been a major decline in the smoking rate, which decreased to an all-time low in the United States in 2013 (the latest year for which statistics are currently available). Surely, to come closer to death’s end, as many humans as possible should abandon what are now known to be obviously life-shortening habits.

              While an anti-agathic drug is not in our future, James Blish’s vision of the defeat of senescence can still serve to inspire those who endeavor to solve this colossal problem in our world, during our lifetimes. Let us hope that, through the efforts of longevity researchers and through increases in funding and public attitudinal support for their projects, we will arrive at death’s end before death ends us.

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War as a Crime Against Civilization – Article by Butler Shaffer

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Categories: Culture, History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Butler Shaffer
March 12, 2015
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“The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization.”
– Judge Dan Haywood, Judgment at Nuremberg

In her current article at Antiwar.com, Lucy Steigerwald reminds us that, while the deaths of tens of millions of innocent men, women, and children provide the strongest indictment of war, there are other costs that need to be accounted for; costs that can only be calculated in terms of the adverse consequences to peaceful, productive, and decent society — i.e., to civilization itself. Among the earliest casualties of the American attack on Iraq were the destruction and looting of archeological sites, museums, libraries, and other cultural locations that help a nation to define itself. The United States did not invent such ruinous forms of barbarism, nor has the practice abated in such cities as Mosul, where ISIS forces have eagerly and intentionally looted the local museum of its important collections. The fourth-century burning of the library at Alexandria — then considered to be the greatest collection of the world’s literature – reveals the depths of insanity that inhere in the war system.

Historical records and artifacts, art, literature, music, architecture, and belief systems, help to provide people with a sense of what their culture has been about, what it has produced, and what its people envision as the worthwhile foundations of their society. As modern psychopaths look for any pretext to paint a desired enemy in the colors of savage vulgarity, evidence — and, thus, understanding — of its more cultivated and productive character must be destroyed. Those who insist on other people’s children being sacrificed to a new crusade against Arab nations, for instance, would do well to discover just how much of the substance of Western Civilization — in the sciences, mathematics, medicine, art, and other expressions of the best of what it means to be civilized — is directly traceable to Arab culture.

In a world dominated by the pursuit of material values, we tend to overlook the importance of what is unseen or only glimpsed through hazy lenses that can be found in libraries, museums, art, and other attributes of what it means to be civilized. The poet, William Carlos Williams, reminds us of the costs associated with ignoring the unseen values: “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

Butler Shaffer is Professor of Law at the Southwestern Law School. Read his biography here.

Reprinted with permission from LewRockwell.com. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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