Sunday, October 31, 2010

The private sector has not created jobs in a year!

An amazing post by Yves Smith describes how the private sector is not the jobs generating machine the Republican claim it to be. Her post was in response to a column by David Broder, who suggested that the way out of our current economic slump is to start a war with Iran. (I think Yves' post ran as a response guest column in the Washington Post, Broder's paper. His column has drawn much fired, and deservedly so.)

Here are a couple of charts from Yves' post.

This first one show private sector job growth over a decade. From 1965 through 2001, there were 20% more private sector jobs than a decade previously. From 2001 until today, that percentage has declined steadily until we now face not job growth at all for the past decade—or at least through early 2009.

Even the jobs that have been created in the private sector have to a great extent been funded by the government.

Where is the American dream?

Nice column by Tom Friedman. He is writing from India.
[When] more than a few U.S. politicians are loudly denouncing immigration reforms, free trade expansion and outsourcing, more than a few Indian business leaders want to ask the president: “What’s up with that?” Didn’t America export to the world all the technologies and free market dogmas that created this increasingly flat, global economic playing field — and now you’re turning against them?

“It is the Silicon Valley revolution which enabled the massive rise in tradable services and the U.S.-built telecommunication networks that allowed creation of the virtual office,” Nayan Chanda, the editor of YaleGlobal Online, wrote in the Indian magazine Businessworld this week. “But the U.S. seems sadly unprepared to take advantage of the revolution it has spawned. The country’s worn-out infrastructure, failing education system and lack of political consensus have prevented it from riding a new wave to prosperity.” Ouch. …

“America,” said Srivastava [co-founder of the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India], “was the one who said to us: ‘You have to go for meritocracy. You don’t have to produce everything yourselves. Go for free trade and open markets.’ This has been the American national anthem, and we pushed our government to tune in to it. And just when they’re beginning to learn how to hum it, you’re changing the anthem. … Our industry was the one pushing our government to open our markets for American imports, 100 percent foreign ownership of companies and tough copyright laws when it wasn’t fashionable.” …

It looks, said Srivastava, as if “what is happening in America is a loss of self-confidence. We don’t want America to lose self-confidence. Who else is there to take over America’s moral leadership? American’s leadership was never because you had more arms. It was because of ideas, imagination, and meritocracy.” If America turns away from its core values, he added, “there is nobody else to take that leadership. Do we want China as the world’s moral leader? No. We desperately want America to succeed.”

This isn’t just so American values triumph. With a rising China on one side and a crumbling Pakistan on the other, India’s newfound friendship with America has taken on strategic importance. “It is very worrying to live in a world that no longer has the balance of power we’ve had for 60 years,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “That is why everyone is concerned about America.”

India and America are both democracies, a top Indian official explained to me, but emotionally they are now ships passing in the night. Because today the poorest Indian maid believes that if she can just save a few dollars to get her kid English lessons, that kid will have a better life than she does. So she is an optimist. “But the guy in Kansas,” he added, “who today is enjoying a better life than that maid, is worried that he can’t pass it on to his kids. So he’s a pessimist.”

Credo action suggests: Tell ABC News not to give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies.

One of the most precious assets of a news organization is its credibility.

So it's appalling that ABC News' election night coverage on Tuesday night will include notorious propagandist and serial race-baiter Andrew Breitbart, who only months ago was publicly disgraced for falsely smearing Shirley Sherrod.

We cannot let this go unchallenged. That is why CREDO is joining with our friends at Color of Change to put a stop to this and tell ABC to rescind its invitation to Breitbart.

There are plenty of other conservatives who ABC News could turn to for analysis or commentary. By inviting someone like Breitbart to participate, ABC News is not only calling its own credibility into question, it is also serving to rehabilitate the credibility of Andrew Breitbart and legitimate more of his race-baiting lies.

Tell ABC News: Don't give Andrew Breitbart a platform to spread his lies.
Sign the petition here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Microsoft's SkyDrive

I never expected to be promoting a Microsoft product, but I'm impressed. Microsoft is offering Windows Live. It's free, and it provides various services, including online versions of the MS Office applications. (It's a challenge to Google Docs.) What I'm using, though is their SkyDrive. It's 25GB of free storage with an easy-to-use interface. If you have Windows 7 it also syncs to your file system to provide an automatic backup. I don't have Windows 7 and don't know how well it works. But I'm quite happy with the free storage service.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chinese build fastest supercomputer

From NYT.
A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower.

The Tianhe-1A computer in Tianjin, China, links thousands upon thousands of chips.
The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, as measured by the standard test used to gauge how well the systems handle mathematical calculations, said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings.

Democratic brands vs. Republican brands

From Advertising Age.Republicans are more strongly committed to their 10th strongest brand choice than Democrats are to their second—59.5 for Cheerios vs. 58.7 for Sony. I guess that's to be expected. Republicans would be expected to stick with things they like, and Democrats may be expected to be more open to new things.

That doesn't quite explain the areas of difference, though.
  • Three Democratic brands don't appear on the Republican list: Google, Sony, Amazon.
  • Three Republican brands don't appear on Democratic list: Fox News, Fox, Lowe's.
It's not just that Democrats like new brands and Republicans don't. Although Democrats like Google and Amazon, Republicans like some relatively new brands such as Fox News and Lowes. The real difference seems to be that Republicans don't have any Internet brands among their favorites.

There may even be a genetic components to this.
Scientists at the University of California San Diego and Harvard University … wanted to explore if politics were heritable by identifying a specific gene variant associated with political leaning. They hypothesized that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences would tend to be more liberal.

The 7R variant of DRD4, a dopamine receptor gene, had previously been associated with novelty seeking. The researchers theorized novelty seeking would be related to openness, a psychological trait that has been associated with political liberalism.

However, social environment was critical. The more friends gene carriers have in high school, the more likely they are to be liberals as adults. The authors write, "Ten friends can move a person with two copies of 7R allele almost halfway from being a conservative to moderate or from being moderate to liberal."

They theorize a larger social network may bring more diverse viewpoints, which could be an influence on the liberal development.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Break the bank

The idea is for a lot of people to withdraw money from a too-big-to-fail bank at the same time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Jerry Brown ad quoting Meg Whitman

Two speeches for the President

Robert Kutner has two speeches he wishes the President would deliver but suspects he probably won't.
My fellow Americans, Social Security is one of the bedrock programs that Democrats have always fought for. In a deep recession, protecting Social Security is more important than ever. Two-thirds of seniors depend on Social Security for more than half their income.

Thanks to the banking collapse produced under my predecessor's administration, older Americans have lost a lot the equity in their homes, much of their savings, and retirement plans such as 401k's. But Social Security is the one part of retirement income that your government guarantees because you have prepaid it with your taxes all of your working life.

Now, with Americans reeling from the costs of recession, many Republicans are calling for a human sacrifice. They want to raise the retirement age, or privatize Social Security, or otherwise cut benefits.

Some leading Republican congressmen who will assume leadership positions if the Republicans take control of Congress are on record favoring Social Security cuts. Some Republican candidates even say Social Security is unconstitutional.

Even in my own party, a few people think Social Security needs to be cut in order to demonstrate that Washington is serious about reducing the federal deficit. Yes, the deficit needs to be brought under control - but Social Security is in surplus for the next 27 years!

We can reduce the deficit without balancing the budget on the backs of seniors. I am happy to have this argument with Republicans and with the few Democrats who would tamper with Social Security out of sincere but misguided concern for fiscal balance.

So as long as I am president, there will be no cuts, no privatization, and no raising of the retirement age. Social Security will be there not only for today's retirees, but for their children and grandchildren. If we want to put Social Security in the black forever, the best way to do it is to put Americans back to work and raise their wages, since Social Security is financed by payroll taxes.

Whatever your partisan preference, I hope you will vote on November 2. And before you vote, you might want to ask your favorite candidate whether he or she has taken the pledge that I have taken--never to support cuts in Social Security.
Friends, I have had it with the big banks. When the whole banking system was about to collapse in 2008 and take the economy down with it, I reluctantly supported relief to the banks. The banks have now paid back nearly all the money under the so-called TARP program. They are profitable again.

I coupled that relief with a call for stringent reform of banking practices, so that no bank would ever again be "too big to fail." Congress, in passing the Dodd-Frank Act last July, provided most of what I requested, including the power to shut down and reorganize large financial institutions that pose systemic risks.

But now we learn that the banks that created the monster of sub-prime loans were not just taking advantage of borrowers with deceptive terms, and of innocent investors who bought bonds backed by sub-prime loans. The banks also put the whole system on automatic pilot, and hired people to sign false affidavits that the mortgages were properly documented.

A great many of the mortgages, and the bonds backed by the mortgages, turn out to have false documentation. In plain English, that means houses can't be sold, because it's not clear who owns them. And if a property has been foreclosed, the bank can't take it back.

This is a needless catastrophe for homeowners, for the banking system, and for pension funds or mutual funds that bought these bonds. The bonds, backed by dubious loans, were already worth less than their face value because of the low quality of the underlying mortgages. Now, many of them may be worth nothing.

All of this was the result of greed, pure and simple. Banks were making so much money, so fast, that they couldn't even slow down long enough to properly document the mortgage loans.

Their greed has undercut one of the most fundamental pillars of our economic system, ownership of private property -- the ability to know for certain when you own something, and to be confident that when you buy something as important as your house, that the person who is selling it actually owns it. The bankers created a doomsday machine.

The people who created this legal mess on top of an economic mess have been lobbying my administration to come up with some kind of quick fix, so that all of these improper mortgages will somehow be okay. And I have told them that there will be no quick fixes at the expense of the tens of millions of ordinary homeowners who have been the victims of these scams. The fact that they were perpetrated by some of the biggest banks in our country makes them all the more shameful.

So today, I am instructing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, as authorized by the Dodd-Frank Act, to call an emergency meeting of the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council that he chairs. I have asked him to declare that a systemic emergency exists, and to come back with a three-part program.

Part one will investigate just how many of the nation's mortgages and bonds backed by the mortgages are not legally valid. We will devise a way of turning these into proper loans, but only as part of a broader program of relief to homeowners.

Part two will provide a more effective system of refinancing mortgages than the present HAMP program, so that people who took out mortgage loans in good faith and then found themselves under water, can keep their homes. This is not a handout, this is justice. Ordinary people will get no more than bankers got -- and no less.

Part three will determine which banks are insolvent as a result of this latest banking mess. Those banks will be restructured, under the new authority of the Dodd-Frank Act, and will be returned to sound operation so that they can serve the credit needs of Americans. No taxpayer money will be required.

My friends, banks are here to serve us, not to take advantage of us. I will not let the short-sightedness of a few people on Wall Street take down the economy for the second time in three years.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

“The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit.”

About half a year ago Rob Watson, a friend in the UCLA English Department, published an article with that title in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Subscription is required for access, but the article is reprinted here.

The article counters the claim that the Humanities are a drain on Universities. Rob quotes Mark G. Yudof, President of the University of California system.
Many of our, if I can put it this way, businesses are in good shape. We’re doing very well there. Our hospitals are full, our medical business, our medical research, the patient care. So, we have this core problem: Who is going to pay the salary of the English department? We have to have it. Who’s going to pay it in sociology, in the humanities? And that’s where we’re running into trouble.
Rob goes on to report that if one compares the cost of educating students in the Humanities with educational costs for other fields, the Humanities come out ahead. From the University's perspective, it's cheaper for a student to take a given number of Humanities units than it is for that same student to take the same number of units in science, engineering, etc. If all Humanities courses were eliminated the cost to the University for a student to earn a degree would increase rather than decrease—assuming the number of units required for a degree remains constant. The more Humanities courses students take, the less money the University spends per student unit.

I'm surprised that this is surprising. The per-student cost of a course depends on the course's student-faculty ratio along with whatever auxiliary resources the course requires. Many Humanities courses are taught as large lecture classes with high student-faculty ratios. Very few Humanities courses require labs or other equipment. It would be surprising if Dr. Yudoff was unaware of this.

So the question is what did Dr. Yudoff have in mind. I can't know, of course, but my guess is that Dr. Yudoff was thinking about outside grants. Presumably medicine and the science bring in lots more outside money than do the Humanities. Many colleges and Universities are under a great deal of pressure to bring in more and more money.

I don't think that's healthy. I don't think a University should see itself primarily as a platform for procuring outside funding. But that seems to be the way it's going these days, and Dr. Yudoff is simply responding to those pressures. The ever increasing pressure on Universities to earn grant money is the real problem, not the cost of providing an education in any particular discipline.

Mark Thoma still think's there's hope for the press

He quotes Colorado Republican Ken Buck as saying “By extending [the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy] you pay down the deficit, you grow the economy by giving people more money”. He goes on as follows.
But, of course, the Bush tax cuts did not even come close to paying for themselves. The Bush tax cuts cost us around $1.7 trillion in revenue from 2001 through 2008, in part because of weak output and job growth following the cuts (contrary to assertions about how the tax cuts would stimulate economic growth).

As for the cost of extending the tax cuts to the wealthy, the Tax Policy Center estimates that making all the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to extending them only for the middle and lower classes, would cost $680 billion over the next decade.

The disappointing part is that the press still lets them get away with this. At best, the press generally says something like "some economists claim this isn't true," implying there's a debate about this issue -- that some credible economists think the tax cuts will, in fact, pay for themselves -- when there is no debate and the answer is clear. Tax cuts don't pay for themselves.
My comment:
You're right. The Republicans have a very successful two-pronged strategy.

1. Lie.

2. Intimidate the press into not pointing out the lies.

OK. So we know that. Now what?

California propositions

See State guide and Ballot*pedia.

My recommendations.

19. Legalize marijuana. Yes.

Why not? May not solve all our drug problems, but moves in the right direction.

20. Modify how citizen's redistricting commission works and extend it to Congressional districts. No.

Prop 11 (2008) created a citizen's commission to do redistricting for state offices. This changes the criteria to be used for redistricting. The commission is mandated to draw lines that conform to neighborhoods. This won't make districts any more competitive. If this is applied at the state level as well, it will make those less competitive. In addition, it will have the effect of making Democratic voters more highly concentrated than Republican voters and will therefore help Republicans.

21. State Park fee. Yes.

Helps save state parks.

22. Prevent state from taking money from local governments. Yes.

Will force the state to face its financial problems. Will at least let local governments do their jobs.

23. Suspend pollution rules. No.

Of course not.

24. Cancel tax breaks. Yes.

These were corporate tax breaks forced on the state in 2008 and 2009 by the 2/3 rule to get a budget passed. Reverse the extortion.

25. Majority vote budget. Yes.

Kill the 2/3 rule for passing a state budget.

26. Require 2/3 rule for imposing fees. No.

Makes it much harder to hold polluters accountable for the problems they cause. We have a 2/3 rule for taxes, which has crippled the state. Let's not add to the problems.

27. Kill redistricting commission. No.

A "Yes" vote would return redistricting authority to the legislature. Not a good idea. Prop 11 (2008) already gives that authority to a citizen's commission. Let it stay that way.

Such a shame

A Frank Rich column has this drawing associated with it. It's such a shame.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Inside Job

It's a movie about the financial meltdown. I got an email from Fix Congress First, Lawrence Lessig's organization. I like and trust him. And perhaps the movie gets the right points across. But it's also very slick and intended to make money for Sony—which, amazingly, is right down the street from where I live! Anyway here's the website for the trailer and other clips.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Income inequality

It is significant, and now we can measure how bad it is. This is from an article by Robert Frank in the NYTimes.
During the three decades after World War II, for example, incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate — almost 3 percent a year — for people at all income levels. America had an economically vibrant middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, and impressive new infrastructure was being built. People were optimistic.

By contrast, during the last three decades the economy has grown much more slowly, and our infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Most troubling, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent of earners, which stood at 8.9 percent in 1976, rose to 23.5 percent by 2007, but during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined by more than 7 percent. …

[Does income inequality matter? Yes it does] The counties where income inequality grew fastest also showed the biggest increases in symptoms of financial distress.

For example, even after controlling for other factors, these counties had the largest increases in bankruptcy filings.

Divorce rates are another reliable indicator of financial distress, as marriage counselors report that a high proportion of couples they see are experiencing significant financial problems. The counties with the biggest increases in inequality also reported the largest increases in divorce rates.

Another footprint of financial distress is long commute times, because families who are short on cash often try to make ends meet by moving to where housing is cheaper — in many cases, farther from work. The counties where long commute times had grown the most were again those with the largest increases in inequality.

The middle-class squeeze has also reduced voters’ willingness to support even basic public services. Rich and poor alike endure crumbling roads, weak bridges, an unreliable rail system, and cargo containers that enter our ports without scrutiny. And many Americans live in the shadow of poorly maintained dams that could collapse at any moment. …

But are there offsetting benefits?

There is no persuasive evidence that greater inequality bolsters economic growth or enhances anyone’s well-being. Yes, the rich can now buy bigger mansions and host more expensive parties. But this appears to have made them no happier. And in our winner-take-all economy, one effect of the growing inequality has been to lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase for financial bonanzas on Wall Street.

In short, the economist’s cost-benefit approach — itself long an important arrow in the moral philosopher’s quiver — has much to say about the effects of rising inequality. We need not reach agreement on all philosophical principles of fairness to recognize that it has imposed considerable harm across the income scale without generating significant offsetting benefits.

Why hasn't Obama championed his own economic philosophy rather than parroting that of the Republicans?

According to the Washington Post,
Obama said that just as people and companies have had to be cautious about spending, "government should have to tighten its belt as well. We need to do it in an intelligent way. We need to make sure we do things smarter, rather than just lopping something off arbitrarily without having thought it through."
As Paul Krugman pointed out,
We’ll never know how differently the politics would have played if Obama, instead of systematically echoing and giving credibility to all the arguments of the people who want to destroy him, had actually stood up for a different economic philosophy. But we do know how his actual strategy has worked, and it hasn’t been a success.
That's one reason Obama's supporters are so angry with him. He simply hasn't stood up for what he said he believes—or at least what he led many of to think he believes. It's one thing to seek conciliation with the other side; it's another never to argue for what you believe.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bank Disinformation III: Obama Throws Weight Behind Banks, Housing “Market” Over Borrowers

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism—who is really very good even though I wouldn't have guessed it from her conventional white-bread appearance—is all over the foreclosure crisis. She was of the people who unearthed and publicized it in the first place.
Team Obama is so predictably bank friendly that it was inconceivable that the Administration would ever decide against them on anything other than the occasional sop to maintain plausible deniability.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I love Brad DeLong too

Here he takes down Greg Mankiw.

I love Dean Baker!

From his blog,
"Beat the Press"
The top article in the Sunday Washington Post is an entirely invented piece that tells readers in the first sentence: 'If there is an overarching theme of election 2010, it is the question of how big the government should be and how far it should reach into people's lives.' There is absolutely nothing in this article that supports this assertion.

The article notes in the fourth paragraph that even most people who complain about the size of government consider Social Security and Medicare, by far the largest social programs, very important. It is not clear what being opposed to 'big government' means in a context where nearly everyone supports its main pillars.

There are no candidates anywhere in the country who are running in support of 'big government,' there are candidates who are running in support of programs which have varying degrees of support. There are many candidates (virtually all Republicans) who are running against 'big government.' While this position has nothing to do with the world (we all oppose waste, fraud, and abuse, the question is always the status of specific programs), it is certainly helpful to the Republicans to have the election framed in this way.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic

With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.
Brad DeLong points to this post by Karl Smith.
Really quickly, this Brian Westbury quote is brilliant because it is so perfectly, delectably wrong. Its the kind of thing you dream a student will say so that you correct the entire class’s misunderstandings in one fell swoop.
Money for stimulus programs has to come from somewhere and he argues that stimulus spending is similar to the old adage: “borrowing from Peter to Paul.”

“They (the government) either had to tax it from somewhere or borrow it from somewhere," says Wesbury and “by moving resources out of one sector into another you have now messed up the natural order of things and you’ve influenced it in a negative way."

Wesbury says THAT is the mistaken belief about government stimulus.
Different professors will approach this different ways but I prefer to go at it like this:

You’re exactly right Brian. The money has to come from somewhere. However, remember money and production are not the same thing. In the case of money, we have a technology known as the printing press which allows us to print money—as much money as we want. So creating money is no problem.

Won’t that cause inflation?

Yes, but we are below inflation targets right now, not above. We want more inflation. Right now the Fed is trying to get more inflation but is having trouble. Stimulus spending will help them out with that.

But, you can’t get something from nothing, can you?

No, you most certainly can’t. However, we aren’t getting something from nothing. We are getting something by combining together unemployed workers and idle factories. Remember a recession is a time when we have increasing unemployment and declining capacity utilization.

We have factories without workers and workers without factories. Those are resources that could be used to produce things but are not being used. If we can get those resources to work [we] will be able to make more things.

Unfortunately, we can’t, and ultimately it's because the economy doesn’t have enough money. Luckily we can print as much of that as we need.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Why you should vote

Everyone Loses from Bill Simmon on Vimeo.

Science Tarot

Neat idea!

7 of Wands - Expansion

The red giant is at a great, expansive stage of the star's life and has grown to thousands of times its original size. Inner creation defines this moment in your life story as well.

The shell around the giant's collapsing core becomes hotter and starts fusing its hydrogen into helium, making the star brighter and the outer shells expand and grow cooler and less dense. Although fiery pressures mark the beginning of your journey, these expansive later years allow creation with a wider reach and a dense inner core.

We speak of "finding your voice" to describe this mature state. Other duties and diversions may fall by the wayside as work consumes the days filled with creation and productivity.

Hero's Journey, Step 7: Return with new knowledge into everyday life. The hero reveals a deeper determination.

9 of Pentacles
9 of Pentacles - Aurora

Bright, mysterious lights wash across the night sky in one of nature's most beautiful displays: the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

A stream of energized particles from the upper atmosphere of the sun accelerate along the lines of the Earth's magnetic field, energizing the nitrogen and oxygen atoms floating here. The colorful glow comes from electrons shed by these excited atoms in our Earth's upper atmosphere.

The invisible stream of particles that pass continuously between the Sun and the Earth streak the night sky with spectacular radiant color. It is a brilliant yet fleeting display of beauty and transformation on a grand scale. Personal success is finally achieved, the old cast off in favor of the new.

Hero's Journey, Step 9: Death of old self, creation of the new self. From sacrifices have come great rewards.

2 of Swords
2 of Swords - Action

Sitting under the apple tree, we contemplate a choice to be made. The tree branch lifts an apple high in the air, and gravity continuously pulls it toward the ground. These equal and opposite forces hold the apple in place. But soon the balance may shift and the apple may fall, releasing the branch from its burden and shaking the leaves as they swing upwards.

Isaac Newton observed that every action caused an equal and opposite reaction and so reasoned that every reaction could be predicted from the action that triggered it. Like a game of billiards, Newton's world is a predictable knocking around of objects: the force of the impact equals the mass of the moving object times its acceleration. To send an apple flying in a specific direction, we only need to know where to hit it and how hard. To move a gigantic apple, we'll need to hit it with a great deal of mass, or we will need a running start.

A decision is hanging over your head. You can choose to leave the apple suspended in the tree, or you can apply enough force to bring it down. Either decision may bring good results, but if you wait too long, the apple may fall on your head.

Hero's Journey, Step 2: Refusal of the call. The hero is reluctant to use this new power.

8 of Cups
8 of Cups - Cocoon

Encased within a protective cocoon during its transformation, the caterpillar utterly loses its form. Every cell takes on a new purpose, and for a time the creature is neither caterpillar nor moth. Only when metamorphosis is complete does the stunningly beautiful Luna moth emerge from its cocoon and spread its wings to the sky.

Times of transformation can demand a protective distance from the world, a total retreat. When the dissolution and recovery is complete, the world's challenges are not so threatening. Until that time, growth must take place in safe isolation.

Hero's Journey, Step 8: Defeating the dragon. The hero retreats from the world as deep changes unfold.

3 The Empress
3 The Empress - Mendel's Peas

Gregor Mendel, a monk in the 1800s, experimented with pea plants, patiently nurturing them as they grew, withered and grew again in his garden. Curious about the passing of physical traits from parents to children, he chose to observe generations of pea plants, which produced hybrids he could easily cultivate. He watched for whether yellow or green pea pods, white or purple flowers and other selected qualities would be inherited from the parent plants.

Through this cycle of life, death and reproduction, Mendel uncovered the process of inheritance: how traits, dominant and recessive, are passed from parent to offspring. From these fruitful lifelong efforts, he became known as the Father of Genetics.

The Empress represents the nurturing attentiveness of Mendel as well as the natural processes he studied so closely and respectfully. This is a time for gestation, growth, patience and attention.