Bizarro Earth

2012: Western Culture Obsessed with End of the World, not Ancient Maya

Mayan stone calendar
© Google Images
According to the Mayan calendar, a significant event will occur in 2012.
Our world is fascinated by prophecies of doom. Every day the media carry reports of predictions that the next year, decade, century or millennium will bring untold disasters. From a reading of current news headlines, this is difficult to argue against.

And now, we are bombarded by predictions of a disaster associated with what many say is the end of the Maya calendar. But did the Maya actually predict that the world as we know it will be destroyed by some unknown cataclysm on Dec. 21, 2012?

When the Maya abandoned their great cities in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, they left behind large stone monuments with hieroglyphic writing. These inscriptions were very difficult to decipher as the writing system had not been used since the Spanish conquest when all, but four, of the books written by the Maya were burned. However, based on the four remaining books, early scholars were able to identify some of the gods and goddesses, the numerical system, and most importantly, parts of the calendar. Therefore, while they could not decipher the events recorded on the stone monuments, scholars could read the dates on which these events occurred.
House

3.5 Million Homeless and 18.5 Million Vacant Homes in the US

homeless shelter
© Unknown
The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative along with Amnesty International are asking the U.S. to step up its efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by giving serious consideration to the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief for those at risk, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.

New government census reports have revealed disturbing information that details the cold, hard numbers of Americans who have been deeply affected by the state of our economy, and bank foreclosure practices:
In the last few days, the U.S. government census figures have revealed that 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes. And we know that the financial hardships faced by our neighbors, colleagues, and others in our communities will be all the more acutely felt over the holiday season.

Along with poverty and low incomes, the foreclosure rate has created its own crisis situation as the number of families removed from their homes has skyrocketed.

Since 2007, banks have foreclosed around eight million homes. It is estimated that another eight to ten million homes will be foreclosed before the financial crisis is over. This approach to resolving one part of the financial crisis means many, many families are living without adequate and secure housing. In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.

The stark realities that persist mean that millions of families will be facing the holidays in temporary homes, or homes under threat, and far too many children will be wishing for an end to the uncertainty and distress their family is facing rather than an Xbox or Barbie doll.

Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Yet every day in the United States, banks are foreclosing on more than 10,000 mortgages and ordering evictions of individuals and families residing in foreclosed homes. The U.S. government's steps to address the foreclosure crisis to date have been partial at best.

The depth and severity of the foreclosure crisis is a clear illustration of the urgent need for the U.S. government to put in place a system that respects, protects and fulfills human rights, including the right to housing. This includes implementing real protections to ensure that other actors, such as financial institutions, do not undermine or abuse human rights.
There is a link available at the Amnesty International website for anyone who is interested and would like to join the call on the Obama administration and Congress to urgently step up efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by seriously considering the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.
Bad Guys

The spectre of 1932: How a loss of faith in politicians and democracy could make 2012 the most frightening year in living memory

The dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition, of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.

Here in Britain, many economists believe that by the end of 2012 we could well have slipped into a second devastating recession. The Coalition remains delicately poised; it would take only one or two resignations to provoke a wider schism and a general election.

But the real dangers lie overseas. In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism. And with so many of the world's oil supplies concentrated in the Persian Gulf, British families will be keeping an anxious eye on events in the Arab world.
© unknown
The Battle of Cable Street: Mosley's fascists tried to march through the Jewish East End, a scene that could be repeated
Dollar

The Number One Catastrophic Event That Americans Worry About: Economic Collapse

collaped freeway
© n/a
Can you guess what the number one catastrophic event that Americans worry about is? There are certainly many to choose from. Many Americans are deathly afraid of a major terrorist attack. Others live in constant fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes. Still others are incredibly concerned that a massive pandemic will break out at any time or that World War III will erupt in the Middle East.

Yes, there are certainly a lot of potential catastrophic events that one can worry about in the times in which we live, but the number one catastrophic event that Americans worry about is actually "economic collapse". At least that is what a recent survey conducted by Leiflin Inc. for the EcoHealth Alliance found. But this goes along with what so many other polls have found over the past few years.

Over and over again, opinion polls have found that the number one issue that American voters are concerned about is the economy. The truth is that average Americans are deeply, deeply concerned about unemployment, debt, the housing crash and the steady decline in the standard of living. It has been years since the U.S. economy has operated at a "normal" level, and many Americans are afraid that things could soon get a whole lot worse.

In the new survey mentioned above, those contacted were asked to select the top three potential catastrophes that worry them the most.
Handcuffs

The Return Of Debtor's Prisons: Thousands Of Americans Jailed For Not Paying Their Bills

Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. It's a practice people associate more with the age of Dickens than modern-day America. But as more Americans struggle to pay their bills in the wake of the recession, collection agencies are using harsher methods to get their money, ushering in the return of debtor's prisons.

NPR reports that it's becoming increasingly common for people to serve jail time as a result of their debt. Because of "sloppy, incomplete or even false documentation," many borrowers facing jail time don't even know they're being sued by creditors:
Take, for example, what happened to Robin Sanders in Illinois. She was driving home when an officer pulled her over for having a loud muffler. But instead of sending her off with a warning, the officer arrested Sanders, and she was taken right to jail.

"That's when I found out [that] I had a warrant for failure to appear in Macoupin County. And I didn't know what it was about." Sanders owed $730 on a medical bill. She says she didn't even know a collection agency had filed a lawsuit against her. [...]

A company will often sell off its debt to a collection agency, generally called a creditor. That creditor files a lawsuit against the debtor requiring a court appearance. A notice to appear in court is supposed to be given to the debtor. If they fail to show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest.
Eye 1

Beware Corporate Psychopaths - They Are Still Occupying Positions of Power

© News.com.au
Over the years I've met my fair share of monsters - rogue individuals, for the most part. But as regulation in the UK and the US has loosened its restraints, the monsters have proliferated.

In a paper recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics entitled "The Corporate Psychopaths: Theory of the Global Financial Crisis", Clive R Boddy identifies these people as psychopaths.

"They are," he says, "simply the 1 per cent of people who have no conscience or empathy." And he argues: "Psychopaths, rising to key senior positions within modern financial corporations, where they are able to influence the moral climate of the whole organisation and yield considerable power, have largely caused the [banking] crisis'.


Comment: The number may be as high as 6 percent of the world population.


Comment: For more information on psychopaths, see these Sott links:

Ponerology 101: Snakes in Suits

Not All Psychopaths Are Criminal

Political Ponerology: A Science on The Nature of Evil adjusted for Political Purposes

2 + 2 = 4

A Tale of Two Cities: Weimar and Washington

© eaglecartoons.com
Mark Twain is credited with saying that "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." Today's United States is often compared to other historic nations, whether at their prime or about to decline and fall depending on one's own political perspective. Neoconservatives frequently eulogize Washington as a new Rome, promising a worldwide empire without end carried on the back of a Pentagon bristling with advanced weaponry. Other observers also cite Rome but are rather more sanguine, recalling how in the 5th century the empire failed dramatically and fell to barbarian hordes. Still others note the fate of the British Empire, which came apart in the wake of the Second World War, or the Soviets, whose collapse was brought about by 50 years of unsustainable military spending.

But the historical analogy that appears to be most apposite for post-9/11 Washington is that of the Weimar Republic. To be sure, any suggestion that the United States might be following the same course as Germany in the years that led to Nazism must be pursued with caution because few Americans want to believe that the descent into such extremism is even possible in the world's most venerable constitutional republic. But consider the following: both the United States and Weimar Germany had constitutions in which checks and balances were integrated to maintain a multi-party system, the rule of law, and individual liberties. Both countries were on the receiving end of acts of terrorism that produced a dramatic and violent reaction against the presumed perpetrators of the crimes, so both quickly adopted legislation that abridged many constitutional rights and empowered the head of state to react decisively to further threats. The media fell in line, concerned that criticism would be unpatriotic.

Both the U.S. and Germany possessed politically powerful military-industrial complexes that had a vested interest in encouraging a militarized response to the threats and highly polarized internal politics that enabled politicians to obtain advantage by exploiting national security concerns. Both countries experienced severe financial crises and printed fiat currency to pay the bills, and both had jurists and political supporters who argued that in time of crisis the head of state must be granted special executive authority that transcends the limits placed by the constitution.
Info

Has Drug-Driven Medicine Become A Form of Human Sacrifice?

US Constitution
© GreenMedInfo
"Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution the time will come when medicine will organize itself into an undercover dictatorship. To restrict the art of healing to doctors and deny equal privileges to others will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic."

~ Attributed to Dr. Benjamin Rush,
Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Benjamin Rush accurately foretold a grave possibility facing Americans today, namely, that the art and science of healing be restricted to a select class of allopathic physicians, who have the sole legal right to recommend and administer medicines, and whose pharmacopeia excludes - as a matter of principle - all the healing foods, vitamins and herbs which have been used safely and effectively for countless millenia in the prevention and treatment of disease.

We have entered an era where medicine no longer bears any resemblance to the art and science of healing. The doctor no longer facilitates the body's innate self-healing capabilities with time, care, good nutrition and special help from our plant allies. To the contrary, medicine has transmogrified into a business enterprise founded on the inherently nihilistic principles of pure, unbridled capitalism, with an estimated 786,000 Americans dying annually from iatrogenic or medically-caused deaths.*
Pills

Are Psychiatrists Inventing Mental Illnesses to Feed Americans More Pills?

prescription bottles
© n/a
Mental health professionals say new diagnoses will lead to overmedication.

Anyone who's ever tried to get reimbursed by a health insurance company after seeing a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, or taking a child or teenager to one, has no doubt noticed the incomprehensible numbers that appear on the clinician's statement, perhaps preceding some slightly less imponderable phrase.

Maybe you are a 296.22 (major depressive disorder, single episode, mild) or a 300.00 (anxiety disorder NOS - not otherwise specified). Hopefully, you are not a 301.83 (borderline personality disorder). Your kid might be a 313.81 (oppositional defiant disorder) or, more likely, a 314.01 (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type).

Since 1952, a tome called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as the DSM, has been reducing to a few digits the psychological malady said to afflict a patient. This bible of mental health treatment, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), provides a list and description of every mental health condition known to - or invented by - psychiatry, from histrionic personality disorder (301.50) to transvestic fetishism (302.3).
Dollar

US: Government of the rich, by rich and for the rich

According to a study reported Tuesday, nearly half the members of the United States Congress are millionaires. Of the 535 legislators (100 members of the Senate and 435 members of the House of Representatives), at least 250 are millionaires and the median net worth is $913,000.

Sixty-seven senators are millionaires and the median wealth of the body's 100 members is $2.63 million.

While the Senate has long been known as a millionaires' club, the transformation of the House is a relatively recent phenomenon. The median net worth of members of the House of Representatives, excluding home equity, has more than doubled over the last 25 years, from $280,000 in 1984 to $725,000 in 2009 in inflation-adjusted dollars. During that same period, the median net worth of an American family fell from $20,600 to $20,500.

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times gave front-page treatment to the data, derived from figures collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. The articles reflect nervousness in the corporate-controlled media over the degree to which the rising personal wealth of members of Congress is discrediting the institution.
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