Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Invicible Sun Day Chistmas!

The Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) has a certain gravity to it. Most human civilization evolved north of the equator, and until recently the most obvious natural phenomena, besides the phases of the moon, was the shortening of days in the Fall.

Con artists, having observed the sun cycle, they began telling people that the sun would, indeed, sink forever out of site if "priests" were not given "sacrifices" starting around the solstice. Many ancient religions were centered on the solstice or on the resurrection of green plants in the Spring, or both.

No one knows what day of the year Jesus of Nazareth, aka Jesus Christ, was actually born on. Apparently he was not an important man at birth. The data is not given in the Gospels, nor are there clues in the narrative that would help guess it. Stranger still, there is no record of when Christians adopted December 25 as Christ's birthday, or Christmas. They apparently started keeping written records not too long after Jesus's death, but probably no one wanted to admit they did not have a firm grasp on God's birthday. Or where they borrowed it from.

Scholars, of course, have tried to research the question. Here is my favorite scholarly guess, by the Very Reverend W. R. Inge, D.D., in the chapter The Rival Religions in Universal World History, Volume Four, pages 1123-1124 (1935):

"The Christians were both puzzled and annoyed by the resemblance of the Mithraic religion to their own. Not only did Mithras have his high pontiff [pope], his priests vowed to celibacy and his consecrated virgins, but there is to be a second coming of Mithras, preceded by great plagues. The dead will rise from their tombs to meet him... Finally, the [Christian] Church paid Mithras the great compliment of annexing his chief festival on December 25, the birthday of the "Invincible Sun," and turning it into the feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ."

The Invincible Sun. If you need a local god or prophet, why worship some Jewish rabbi or Indian prince or Arabic camel trader or American polygamist when the Invincible Sun is available? Resurrected daily, with an additional annual bonus show around the solstices.

The United States of America has recast Christmas in a modern light. December 25th marks the end of the consumer buying frenzy season.

If there is anything to thank Nature or any god for, it is the end of the modern Holiday season.

Enjoy the holiday, but don't get too drunk, too stoned, too high, or too sad for your own good.

Friday, December 12, 2014

American Prosperity 3.0 Coming Soon

"Cripple our senators, that their limbs may halt
As lamely as their manners!"
William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene I

There are more job openings listed today in the United States of America than there are (officially) unemployed people. That does not mean it is super easy to find a job, but it is certainly a lot easier than it was in, say 2010.

There is no obvious bubble in the American economy. Sure, houses in some areas of California have become pricey again. Sure, a few stocks like Tesla stand out like sore thumbs. But on the whole housing is priced reasonably and so are stocks.

Even at the bottom there are glimmers of brightness, as a few states and cities raise their minimum wages.

But don't worry, if Congress or the Fed does not screw things up, at some point some group of greedy, shortsighted people will. Enjoy Prosperity 3.0 while it lasts. Tuck some savings away, if you are smart.

Looking at American history, you would almost believe that Americans prefer a roller coaster economy to steady improvement. It is a manic depressive economy. It was so manic depressive during the 1800's that the Great Powers — bankers and politicians and friends — set up the Federal Reserve in 1913 to try to dampen the economic cycles.

That did not work, as illustrated by the economic boom of the 1920s, followed by the Great Depression. Millions died in the Great Depression, although you won't hear mention of that from the Hoover Institute, which is too busy blaming Mao for every death that took place in China when he was in power. The New Deal probably helped, at least at first. In many ways the New Deal resembled Fascism as much as it resembled Socialism, but in any case it kept the economy going until World War II.

World War II was the best thing that ever happened to Americans. President Roosevelt wanted to get us into the war early, but between the Catholics in the Democratic Party (who liked Roman Catholic leaders like General Franco, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Marshal Philippe Petain) and the Isolationists (some Democrats, mostly Republicans), we waited until it was optimal. By the time the Battle of Pearl Harbor forced us to admit we were already fighting Japan (in China) and Germany (in the Atlantic), the old empires were in trouble. Our farms and factories fed their war effort; their farms and factories were mostly destroyed.

World War II was great if you were an American worker. My high school drop out mother got a job in a war industry, and even my poker-losing lazy-ass grandfather deigned to take a job.

Which led to the 1950s and 1960s, the high tide of America relative to the rest of the world. It was a party! African-Americans were allowed in, even in the Democratic South, and not just to play banjo and serve drinks.

Sadly, while America was on a cocaine binge, the rest of the world mostly still had their belts tight and were rebuilding their factories and economies.

Which brings us to the 1970s. They sucked big time. In many ways they were as bad as the Great Recession. After the U.S. helped Israel beat up the Arab countries again, we had the Oil Embargo, an astonishing increase in fuel prices, and Stagflation, and Disco. Jobs were scarce. Factories started moving overseas.

Some of us muddled through to the 1980s, many died along the roadside. But the Hoover Institute doesn't rant about Ronald Reagan being a mass murderer for turning the mentally ill out into the streets. After the 70s the later 80s felt prosperous. The stock market began to go up as capitalists and their politicians began pushing more and more of the economic pie into their own mouths. Oh, and PCs (just spreadsheets and word processing back then) made people more productive, which meant lots of them got laid off, then retrained as part-time big box store employees.

The PC and Internet thing seemed to be turning out well by the late 1990s, as the usual gang of privileged college grads were hired into the dot com boom. Followed very quickly by the dot com bust. Followed by the housing boom, as the Federal Reserve failed to take the dot com money out of circulation, even after the companies themselves zeroed out.

Which led to the Great Recession, which unless this blog is being read more than 20 years from now, you know about.

You would think the American people would boot out both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, hang the people at Goldman Sucks, and stop wasting their money on iPhones and AT&T contracts.

But no. We are about to have Prosperity 3.0. Grab what you can while you can, because if history teaches us anything, the party will come to an end when the alcohol and blow run out. No one is likely to be around to help you when this party is over, unless you are a major political donor.