Corruption

Oh Say Can You See?


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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on July 4, 2018

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

 ― Mark Twain  


As we celebrate the nation's Independence, a virtual pallor seems to hang over the proceedings like a shitmist. There will be parades, fireworks, cookouts and picnics, and the attendant mindlessness of a hot summer day. There will be 21-gun salutes with appropriate solemnity. But in many ways, it's almost as if it's "Bizarro- Fourth of July–" similar, but a bit off. As if our hearts are not fully in it. Given that hundreds of thousands attended over 800 rallies demonstrating against government-sanctioned kidnapping of children and separation of immigrant families, they may not be. Now comes proof we're just not as patriotic as we used to be.


New Low of 52% "Extremely Proud" to Be Americans- Gallup

For the first time in 18 years, a recent Gallup poll shows that a majority of US adults are not "extremely proud” to be Americans. That's an average across political ideologies, with the sort of steep differences on either side of the political aisle you might expect.

As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, 52% of U.S. adults say they are "extremely proud" to be Americans, a new low in Gallup's 16-year trend. Americans' patriotism spiked after 9/11, peaking at 70% in 2003, but has declined since, including an eight-percentage-point drop in early 2005 and a five-point drop since 2013.

                                Trend: How proud are you to be an American -- extremely proud, very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud or not at all proud?

From a peak of 70 percent in 2003, the proportion of those "extremely proud to be Americans" has eroded consistently, leveling during the final years of the Cheney-Bush regime and most of former Obama. A slide started in 2015 and continues.

No surprise the numbers split along age and political affiliation. Young adults today are significantly less patriotic than in 2001. Also no surprise that liberals (36%) join young adults as the least patriotic major subgroup. Independents, Democrats, non-whites and college graduates are also slow to salute. In contrast are those major subgroups most likely to wave the flag:  Republicans (68%), conservatives (61%) and those 50-64 (64%).

The 23-point gap in patriotism between Rs and Ds is now roughly double what it was in January 2001.

What's it all mean? Gallup suggests that Americans' continued frustration with national conditions — likely tied to their concern about the economy and lack of faith in public institutions — are reasons patriotism is at an ebb. Not surprisingly, I can offer some other thoughts.

How about the erosion of the middle class? For years, we've read the headlines: the middle class in the United States has been in decline.

CNN May 18, 2018: “Almost half of US families can’t afford basics like rent and food”
Marketwatch June 2, 2018: “50 million American households can’t even afford basic living expenses”
Wall Street Journal February 13, 2018 : “US households shoulder record $13.15 trillion debt”

In Asia, government policies favor the emergence of a prosperous middle class. In China in 2000, according to McKinsey, just 4% of the population was middle class. By 2012, it had exploded to 68% of the population. 

Meanwhile in the US, The Orange Lout has instituted tariffs against our friends, which will have the net effect of raising prices.  When prices rise faster than wages, the middle class struggles. And that’s what’s been happening. The coming round of price gouges will worsen the buying power of the dollar. Powerless workers will demand wage increases, which will further erode the dollar's worth, producing the inflation which the Fed has so dearly wanted to create. The only ones who will suffer are the wage slaves and retirees. Happy days are here again for the swells and grandees. 

Housing is a powerful example. Simon Black points out:

In late 2011, the average home cost around 3.56 times the average salary in the US, according to data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. By the end of 2017, the average home cost 4.73 times the average salary, even though mortgage rates were essentially unchanged.

In other words, even when you adjust for the fact that people are earning more, housing became 33% more expensive in just six years– and that doesn’t account for increases in property taxes, home owners association dues, insurance premiums, etc.

And of course, rents follow. So even though people are technically earning more dollars, those increasingly-worthless dollars purchase less and less house. And everything else. And we haven't even addressed the medical-industrial wealth-extraction conduit scheme. Such long term inflation and value extraction is simply theft baked in to the system. 

How about security? Consider that the postwar Marshall plan to rebuild Europe and institute a consensus of mutual trade and defense endured for 70 years. We're busily thumbing our allies in the eye over trade, and toying with the notion of leaving NATO, the better to get those Eurochiselers to pay Their Fair Share.  While Trumpsuckers cheer, "America! Fuck, Yeah!" they ignore the fact that the nuclear-tipped arsenal purchases their standard of living, thus enabling them to have that chrome-plated eight burner Weber grill on the deck of their double-wide.

Reflecting on recent history,  Watergate shocked the system as we were exposed to our first criminal President. Then Reagan, and Iran-Contra, and Ollie North, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, and then Fox News. Plus we elected two Republican Presidents that lost the popular vote, and two Democrats that governed as centrist Republicans. A useless war, a PATRIOT Act, Citizen's United, and the theft of a SCOTUS seat all reinforced by lawmakers who gerrymandered their own voters.

Yet another President-without-a-plurality institutes policies at clear variance with our stated "values" and which flout both international law and human decency, such that hundreds of thousands are moved to take to the streets in sweltering summer heat. Little wonder the 'proud to be a 'Murkin'" contingent continues to shrink.

How about the fact that public sentiment and voting seems to have almost no effect on national policies? A 2015 study shows the US is a corrupt oligarchy where ordinary voters barely matter. As the authors put it, 

"Economic elites and organized interest groups play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence."

Who does? Major donors and lobbyists. Your cynicism is well placed. 

Never forget that Grover Norquist's avowed goal was to shrink government to the point that he "could drown it in the bathtub." A good way to do that is to vitiate support for government, especially among its natural constituency. As well as to demoralize the general populace, the better to depress voter turnout. 

The current adminstration's policies are designed to immiserate and outrage. Border atrocities done in our names, attacks on the rule of law, insulting democratic leaders while praising thugs, and breaking up trade agreements are all about turning American exceptionalism on its head even as our "President" brays the words.  The so-called "leadership of the free world" is something we are gleefully throwing away. For what? And who benefits?

When Trump declares war on Mars, where are the young people whose patriotic ranks will swell the all-volunteer Space Force?


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.


 

BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE – PART TWO

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 9, 2014

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In Part One of this article I discussed the similarities between the Roman Empire and the American Empire at a high level. In this article I’ll delve into some specific similarities and rhymes between the fall of the Roman Empire and our modern day empire of debt, decay and decline. I’ll address our expansive level of bread and circuses and how defects in our human nature lead to people willingly sacrificing their liberty for promises of safety and security. All empires decline due to the same human failings and ours is no exception. If anything, ours will be far more spectacular and rapid due to our extreme level of hubris, arrogance, willful ignorance and warlike preference for dealing with foreign powers.

It seems there were a few visionary thinkers in the late 1950s who foresaw the dire course our former Republic was setting. Their writings were a prophecy and a warning. There was still time to change course and avoid the pitfalls that led to the Roman Empire collapse. In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley warned against allowing a few amoral men using propaganda, scientific advancements, technology, brainwashing, and economics to control and manipulate a willfully ignorant populace into a dystopian dictatorship. The Soviet and Chinese dictatorships of the late 1950s are long gone, but Huxley foresaw how modern propaganda techniques would be used by the state to drown the masses in a sea of triviality, irrelevance, and consumerism.

“In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationaliza­tion — the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationaliza­tion of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manip­ulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these tech­niques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrele­vance the rational propaganda essential to the mainten­ance of individual liberty and the survival of demo­cratic institutions.”

Another man of vision was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As someone who understood the military industrial complex and the world of politics and power, he knew the danger of allowing the arms industry to dictate the foreign policy of the country. Maintaining a military empire bankrupted Rome and it is bankrupting the American empire. Eisenhower’s warning was unheeded.

“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”

When I was researching the similarities between the fall of the Roman Empire and our American Empire fall in progress, I stumbled across an essay written in 1956 by Ben Moreell called Of Bread and Circuses  

Toxic Bread, iGadgets, Circuses, & Zoloft

“The evil was not in bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease. The moral decay of the people was not caused by the doles and the games. These merely provided a measure of their degradation. Things that were originally good had become perverted and, as Shakespeare reminds us, ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’”Ben Moreell – 1956 – Of Bread and Circuses

There is nothing inherently evil about food, iPhones, professional sports, television, computers, music or medicine. Human beings need food to sustain them, entertainment to provide relaxation and diversion from their daily labors, and medicine to alleviate illness and prolong their lives. Only when the people allow themselves to be lured into servitude by malevolent purveyors of bread and circuses does the perversion of seemingly harmless things begin to fester and overwhelm a nation with the fetid stench of decay and decadence. The moral degeneration of the American populace, like the Roman people before them, happened slowly over time as they sold their liberty, freedom, and self-respect for full bellies, an endless array of modern day distractions, and promises from their highly educated rulers they would be taken care of and protected from all threats to their well-being, whether foreign, domestic, physical, mental, or social.

It did not happen all at once. It happened gradually over time. We allowed the weaker facets of our human nature to succumb to the pleasurable promises of a minority of power seeking manipulative men who always attempt to control and influence the majority because they believe they are wiser and deserving of riches, glory and supremacy. The greediest, most arrogant, ambitious and well educated amongst us tend to rise to the top in all societies. As Ben Franklin stated, only a virtuous people can keep sociopaths from gaining control of our political, economic and financial systems and perverting a republic built upon a foundation of free markets, liberty, and self-sufficiency.

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”Benjamin Franklin

Historian Tacitus noted, as Rome became more and more corrupt, the number of laws grew rapidly. The Roman aristocracy, through corruption and thievery achieved lofty status in Roman society. Senators and wealthy knights engaged in extensive practices of conspicuous consumption, creating palatial town houses and monumental “art villas” to demonstrate their high rank in society. The peasants sank into poverty, while being satiated with bread and circuses. And it was all done legally, just as it is being done legally today by our beloved aristocracy and their minions.

“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” – Tacitus – The Annals of Imperial Rome

Has the proliferation of laws, rules, and regulations over the last century made us freer, safer and less corrupt?

The virtue of the American people has dissipated rapidly over the last century through their willful ignorance, laziness, apathy, vanity, greed and covetousness, while the true ruling power has consciously and intelligently manipulated the masses without them being aware they were being molded, controlled, dominated and influenced by Ivy League educated men of no conscious, empathy, or sense of decency. The paragraph below, written in 1928 by Edward Bernays, reveals the true nature of our “democracy” and our real masters:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda

Bernays and his disciples believed the American citizenry nothing more than a herd of irrational animals that needed to be led by enlightened despots like him and other highly educated wealthy men who knew what was best in a democratic society. The term propaganda developed negative connotations after some Germans used it so effectively during the 1930s, so modern American despots changed the term to public relations. It’s all about the message. As media tools have become more technologically advanced and the study of human psychology perfected, the members of the invisible government have achieved their goal of governing, molding, and pulling the wires that control the public mind in a way that enriches them and their benefactors while satisfying the base needs of the masses and keeping them distracted with trivialities, technological wonders, and a myriad of bogeyman threats. These men have contempt for the common man. They have contempt for the U.S. Constitution. They have contempt for free markets. And they have control of our country.

Needs, Wants & Desires

The concept of bread and circuses ties closely to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. The ruling class realizes the masses must be kept fed, clothed and housed or revolution would ensue. The human needs documented by Maslow were satisfied or not satisfied by humans prior to the 20th century. Once the ruling class gained control of the monetary system through their jurisdiction over the Federal Reserve and the fiscal system through their manipulation of taxes and spending, they were able to bribe the masses with their own money. The rise of the welfare state has not reduced poverty or boosted the standard of living of the poor. It has enslaved tens of millions at the basic human needs level. Once those in power had successfully bribed the masses with bread (SNAP), shelter (subsidized housing), subsistence (unemployment compensation & welfare), security (Social Security) and safety (Medicare, Medicaid), it was only necessary to keep them distracted with circuses to efficiently teach them to love their servitude.

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

abraham-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs1.preview.jpg

The invisible governing authorities don’t want the masses to actually satisfy their psychological and self-fulfillment needs. The last thing they want is an educated, aware, critical thinking, independent, courageous, self-reliant, civic minded populace questioning the motivations of their keepers. This is where the corporate fascists who control the mass media propaganda machine and the sickcare industrial complex have combined forces to create a painless concentration camp of prisoners enjoying their servitude and happy to sacrifice their liberty for perceived safety. An uneducated, obese, sickly, depressed, overly-medicated populace is not a threat to the ruling class. They have been conditioned and pharmacologically sedated to such an extent the governing class feels indestructible, displaying arrogance and hubris in dangerous doses.

“There will be in the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it.” – Aldous Huxley

The concept of voluntary servitude has been a constant theme across the ages as most people want to be led, told what to do, and will not question or contest those in authority. Liberty and freedom require effort, sacrifice, honor and a people with a strong moral character. The Roman people succumbed to tyranny by abandoning their liberty to despots for a full belly and grand spectacles. The American people have succumbed to modern day banker, billionaire and politician oligarchs for a belly full of toxic corporate processed food, cable HDTV with 600 stations, iGadgets, a never ending supply of cheap Chinese produced crap at big box retail stores, Facebook, Twitter, 24 hour drive thru Dunkin Donuts joints, and an endless array of professional sporting events, all paid for with an infinite supply of cheap consumer debt from the Wall Street fraud machine. We live in a warfare/welfare surveillance state built on a foundation of debt, consumerism, and delusion, with no tears. We’ve learned to love our servitude.

French philosopher Etienne de La Boetie captured the degradation of the once noble Roman people five centuries ago, and his words ring true today as the American people have foolishly relinquished their liberty to a corporate aristocracy that has bankrupted the nation, debased the currency, pillaged the middle class and set in motion an irreversible decline of the empire.

“Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books. Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else.

The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.” – Etienne de La Boétie – Discourse on Voluntary Servitude – 1548

We are fools to not realize the governing authorities who benevolently distribute bread and entitlements to the masses have already taken the money at gunpoint from the people, while syphoning off their cut, favoring their courtesans and taking away our liberties and freedoms. H.L. Mencken, who could match de La Boetie in contempt for the ignorant masses and corrupt politicians, understood our democracy was destined for the trash heap of history.

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” – H.L. Mencken – Notes on Democracy

In Part Three of this article I will address how the creation of the Federal Reserve has led to a century of currency debasement, mindless consumption and endless warfare, while impoverishing the masses and setting in motion the dynamics of empire collapse.

US “Democracy” no different than Chinese “Democracy”

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on October 7, 2014

Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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US-style “Democracy” No Different than Beijing’s Version, US Labor Activist

October 7, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – LD) – With the “Occupy Central” protests in Hong Kong still ongoing, the movement’s leadership has been exposed as completely backed, funded, and directed by foreign interests, particularly those of the US State Department through its National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

At the core of “Occupy Central’s” demands, as articulated by co-organizer Martin Lee during his trip to Washington D.C. with Anson Chan earlier this year, is the belief that Beijing should honor the demands made by parting British occupiers who held Hong Kong territory for nearly a century and a half. This includes the “one nation, two systems” approach that the US and British hope will allow Hong Kong to be used to “infect” mainland China with a Western controlled political orders and institutions.

“Occupy Central” insists that they simply want “universal suffrage” and “total democracy” instead of allowing Beijing to approve who can and cannot run in elections to be held in 2017. This implies that the alternative to Beijing’s arrangements would be “free and fair” elections. In reality this simply is not the case. In reality, instead of Beijing putting up candidates for Hong Kong’s elections, the next most influential political backers would vet and put forward candidates – not the Hong Kong people -but rather those foreign interests in Washington, upon Wall Street, and in the City of London who are currently backing “Occupy Central” and many of the leaders who would contest upcoming elections.

The notion of “free and fair elections” is one of absolute naivety. Former Berkeley labor activist Michael Pirsch now residing in Thailand shared his thoughts on what he sees as somewhat hypocritical or perhaps misguided thinking among “Occupy Central’s” genuine followers – misconceptions “Occupy Central’s” US-backed leadership is all too happy to exploit.

Pirsch first points out the ultimate problem with the US backing political movements in foreign countries, stating:

Are there any foreign countries promoting democracy and human rights inside America? There are none, it is not allowed. However, America, through the National Endowment for Democracy disburses millions of dollars in countries in order to effect regime change to a regime much friendlier to America’s policy goals of controlling the planet. 

Pirsch then compares Beijing’s policy of vetting candidates for Hong Kong’s elections to the US primaries, in which big-business ultimately decides who can and cannot run because of the immense financial means required to stand in an election:

It seems to me, to borrow from Noam Chomsky, China is run by “criminal communists” and America is run by “corporate criminals”. In America we have the hidden (financial) primary. where potential candidates demonstrate their ability to attract millions or hundreds of millions for campaigns ranging from local level to national level. If the candidate is unable to attract shiploads of dollars their candidacy is not viable. Nearly all this money comes from the “criminal capitalists”. We are allowed to choose from only those who swear to protect the financial criminals.

In Hong Kong, the system is much the same, except that it is the “criminal communists” who choose the candidates. Both systems provide the same outcome: there is no benefit to the citizens of either Hong Kong or America.

Ultimately, Beijing’s style of “democracy” is no different than the US-style “democracy” “Occupy Central” protesters are rallying for. Of course, Pirsch is only scratching the surface. Support for US candidates, and in fact the functioning of the whole electoral process also hinges on how that process is presented to the public through the media. The media, just like the American primaries, are tightly controlled by advertisers and sometimes directly by corporate-financier interests themselves – just as Martin Lee and Anson Chan complained was the case in China in regards to Beijing’s control over the political process there.


The Solution is Pragmatic, Not Political 

Indeed, at the end of the day, the only choice Hong Kong seems to have at the moment is a political process manipulated and controlled by foreign interests upon Wall Street and in London, or by Beijing in China. The fallacy of believing “democracy” can bring about progress or power to the people is laid bare by these two relatively lacking choices.

Image: Believe it or not, growing your own food or visiting your local farmers’ market is more revolutionary and constructive than burning down your own city and killing security forces. Real progress stems from pragmatism, not politics. 

The problem ultimately is large monopolies of corporate-financier and political power, be they of a Western nature or of Chinese origin. The solution is not participating in political rackets meant to give the illusion of self-determination, but to diminish and decentralize those monopolies pragmatically and locally so that people can better determine their own lives by directly controlling the infrastructure necessary for modern, peaceful, and prosperous lives.

Monopolies must begin being dismantled globally, regionally, nationally, provincially, and finally locally. For the people of Hong Kong, then, their next move is simple – expose and oppose the global monopolies that seek to co-opt their destiny via their agents leading the “Occupy Central” movement today. Then they can begin dealing with their national problem in Beijing tomorrow – and do so constructively and pragmatically – not divisively and politically.

China, or any other nation for that matter, to move forward pragmatically and progressively, must possess an educated, technically competent, pragmatic population that believes in evolution, rather than city-burning “revolution.” The process of devolving power away from massive monopolies of corporate-financier and/or political power can take the form of an orderly transition, leveraging modern technology and innovative solutions to begin building up local infrastructure as massive monopolies are slowly diminished. It need not manifest itself in protests, referendums, or any other process of selecting representatives to implement solutions the people themselves are more than capable of organizing and executing.

The “Occupy Central” protesters would serve Hong Kong best if they abandoned their clearly compromised, exploitative leadership, their disruptive tactics, and instead set up direct action committees that pursued pragmatic community projects to improve education, infrastructure, business, health, and environmental concerns.

 

How Many Had to Die for Your Eight Hour Day?

Off the keyboard of Surly1
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haymarketriot 8 hrs  

A Doomstead Diner Archive article, reworked and republished on Labor Day, September 1, 2014

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“Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all weather of the world was originally purchased.”      ― Adam Smith  

 

How many people died for your eight-hour day?

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September in America. This tribute to the contribution and achievements of American workers  Was purchased, quite literally, in blood and tireless effort. Few today recall how the first Labor Day came about,  or what it means aside from a day off, and an opportunity to visit Walmart for “low low prices.” That could have something to do with its origins.

Many of the labor conditions that we accept as our birthright came at huge cost, borne by working-class people banding together to insist on better conditions for themselves and their comrades. As Americans, we take for granted the many working conditions that were won for us only by the struggle of organized workers coming together to work for common goals.  From the vantage point of 2014, it’s easy to forget that the eight hour day was such a radical, leftist idea that police would fire into crowds of workers to stop it. The campaign for an eight hour day was actually a 19th century labor movement that unfolded over decades.

riotscene

International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day, or May 1) is a celebration of the international labor movement, and recognizes the anniversary of the bloodiest struggles in the history of labor. Commemorated worldwide on May 1 with organized street demonstrations and marches by working people (in recognition of American events!), it remains obscured by design in the United States.  International Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago.

How it got moved to September in the US merits some explanation.


Following the Civil War, the United States experienced a rapid expansion of industrial production. Chicago was a major industrial center and tens of thousands of German and Bohemian immigrants were employed at pauper’s wages, about $1.50 a day. Not surprisingly, the city became a center for many attempts to organize labor’s demands for better working conditions. Employers responded with repressive tactics, including acts of violence, often abetted by police.

On May 1, 1886, in support of the eight-hour day, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, accompanied by his wife, two children, and 80,000 fellow workers, marched down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade. Every road in Chicago stopped running, and most of the industries in Chicago were paralyzed. The stockyards were shut down. The state militia had been called out, and the police were ready. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.

On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago. At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at a rally in Haymarket Square. The bomb wounded 66 policeman, of whom 7 later died. The police fired into the crowd killing several people and wounding over 200. Hundreds of labor activists were rounded up and the prominent leaders arrested, tried, convicted, and executed giving the movement its first martyrs. Those put on trial were guilty only of their ideas. None of the accused had been at Haymarket that day except for one, who was speaking when the bomb exploded. A jury found them guilty and they were sentenced to death.  The Chicago Tribune even offered a bounty to the jurors if they would find the accused guilty.

HACAT_M7P51

There was some evidence to suggest that the person who actually threw the bomb was an agent provocateur, perhaps a Pinkerton, working for the police, hired to throw the bomb to enable the arrest of hundreds of people, and thus decapitate the revolutionary leadership. This was never proven. The immediate effect was to suppress the radical movement of labor. But the long-term effect was to fan the flames of class anger in many, and to inspire many others to action in revolutionary and labor causes. This effort would bear fruit in subsequent generations. Many thousand people signed petitions and a later governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, investigated what happened at Haymarket and pardoned the three remaining prisoners who had not yet been executed.

The real victims of the Haymarket Affair were freedom of speech, the right to free assembly, the right to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of peers. The right of workers to organize and fight for important issues like the eight-hour day was severely compromised as a result.

The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.

May 1 remains celebrated as International Workers Day across the world, except in the United States, where the official holiday for workers is the first Monday in September. This is because Pres. Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre and thus create martyrs. So in 1894 Cleveland moved to support Labor Day in September, and thus obscure the focus on the rights of working people. Right wing governments have traditionally sought to repress the message behind International Workers Day, with results that scream form the headlines nearly every week.

The site of the Haymarket affair was designated as a landmark in Chicago in 1992, and the public sculpture was dedicated in 2004.

The lessons of history, including the lesson of International Workers Day or Labor Day, regardless of when it is celebrated, demonstrate that change ONLY happens when ordinary people band together to educate one another and work together in common purpose to achieve our common interests.

 

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is as pleased as he can be about that.

 

Wall Street has Always Been Corrupt…

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on May 14, 2014

…or about to be corrupted

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Upton Sinclair – I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

“The U.S. financial markets had always been either corrupt or about to be corrupted.” Michael Lewis, Flash Boys

I finished reading Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys take-down of Wall Street banks, hedge funds, government regulators and high frequency traders last week when I had spare time created by a weeklong denial of service attack on my website. It appears to me technology is being utilized more frequently as a mechanism for malevolence rather than a mechanism for good. The smartest guys in the room are figuring out ways to steal you blind in the financial markets, pilfer your personal information, spy on your electronic communications, and censor your right to free speech by taking away your ability to communicate freely on the internet. After reading Lewis’ maddening tome and experiencing the frustration of an attack that reached 50 million hits per day on my website, I’m reminded of two quotes from the brilliant dystopian visionary Aldous Huxley.

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” ― Aldous Huxley – Ends and Means

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” Aldous Huxley

Technology has been pushed on the masses like a drug by the mega-corporation and mega-media dealers. Just walk down any city street and observe the technologically entranced zombies shuffling along the sidewalks staring blankly at a tiny screen, tapping away on an itsy bitsy keypad as if whatever they are conveying is of vital importance to the future of mankind. # Give me a break. God forbid if we had to go out in public without our iGadget attached to an appendage. We might actually have to use our brain to think. We might be able to look someone in the eye and smile. We might be able to say hello to a stranger. We might have to act like a human being.

Being connected electronically 24 hours per day is not progress. The technology being peddled to the masses by mega-corporations is designed to keep people amused, apathetic, distracted and uninterested in thinking critically. Our society has devolved into a technologically narcissistic, ego driven, submissive, trivial culture, asphyxiating in a sea of irrelevance and driven by greed and need to fulfill our every desire, rather than a technologically proficient, selfless, humble, critical thinking, civil minded society of self-reliant human beings who take responsibility for their own lives and refuse to saddle future generations with the financial consequences of living beyond their means. Our willful ignorance, misuse of technology, and inability to control our impulses and desires will be the ruin of our perverted civilization.

If the masses were capable of critical thinking and questioned the existing paradigm, they would conclude a small cadre of evil men has colluded to hijack the financial, political, and social systems in order to syphon off the nation’s wealth, while controlling the serfs through propaganda and luring them into debt servitude. Those who haven’t been brainwashed by media propaganda or amused to death by technology, are kept in check by thousands of laws, statutes, and regulations, enforced by millions of government bureaucrats and police state thugs. Technology is used by the state as a means of control, surveillance, censorship, and bilking the populace of their wealth. And if you don’t like it, the IRS, DHS, FBI, CIA, BLM, HHS, or some other three letter government agency will harass, arrest, fine, or kill you for not “cooperating”. And while the government is keeping you under their thumb, Wall Street shysters are stealing you blind.

The Truth Shall Make You Mad

“As soon as you realize that you are not able to execute your orders because someone else is able to identify what you are trying to do and race ahead of you to the other exchanges, it’s over. It really just pissed me off that people set out this way to make money from everyone else’s retirement account. I knew who was being screwed, people like my mom and pop, and I became hell-bent on figuring out who was doing the screwing.” – John Schwall – Flash Boys

As I continued reading Flash Boys I got progressively madder as more truth was revealed about the inner workings of Wall Street, the wasting of human intelligence on technological schemes to defraud the public, and the utter level of corruptness in the government agencies supposed to protect the public from the vultures in the financial industry feasting on the carcasses of dupes who still believe the “stocks for the long run” drivel regurgitated incessantly by the bimbos and slime balls on CNBC. The concepts of right and wrong, moral and immoral, honesty and dishonesty, and truth and lies are all purposefully blurred in shades of grey by those in power, in a blatant attempt to maintain and expand their vast wealth, immense power and complete governing control.

Michael Lewis focuses on our warped, rigged financial system, but his insights apply across the board to our entire society. Our economic, financial, political, regulatory, and judicial systems are all rigged. This serves the interests of the Deep State, Invisible Government, Oligarchs, Owners, or whatever other term you choose to describe the obscenely wealthy minority controlling this country. The existing establishment will never willingly change the system because it serves their myopic gluttonous interests.

“The deep problem with the system was a kind of moral inertia. So long as it served the narrow self-interests of everyone inside it, no one on the inside would ever seek to change it, no matter how corrupt or sinister it became.” Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

Flash Boys is the fourth Michael Lewis book I’ve read. I had previously read Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, and Boomerang. He is a masterful storyteller. He has the ability to humanize complicated financial concepts and cut through the purposeful complexity built into the financial system to reveal the corruption, criminality and moral degradation of Wall Street bankers and Washington DC politicians. He slices through all the spin, misinformation, and mistruths flogged by Wall Street and their paid-off media mouthpieces to reveal everyone on Wall Street to be in on the action when it comes to fleecing their customers (muppets). The stench emanating from the bowels of Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and high frequency trading bucket shops hangs like toxic smog over our bloated fetid crony capitalist corpse of a country. This cast of despicable felonious characters, scalps investors day after day, with the insiders pretending all is well and the man on the street is being protected.

“The reason is that everyone is a bad actor. There’s an ecosystem that has risen up around a broken pipe on Wall Street. You have high-frequency traders who are scalping the market. They pay exchanges for the tools they need to scalp investors; the exchanges pay banks to essentially mishandle the stock orders so high-frequency traders can maximize the take. It’s a system designed to extract taxes from investors.” – Michael Lewis –Wired

The average person believes the stock market is run on free market principles, with willing buyers and sellers paying and receiving the most efficient price with regards to their transactions. The American people have put their trust in gargantuan bureaucratic government agencies, funded with their tax dollars, to protect their interests and fight for their rights in the financial marketplace. They innocently believe a private bank – The Federal Reserve – owned and controlled by the Too Big To Trust Wall Street Mega-Banks, is actually enforcing regulations and looking out for the best interest of the small investor. They evidently haven’t been paying attention for the last fourteen years, as the Federal Reserve has purposefully created bubble after bubble with ridiculously low interest rates, money printing on an epic scale, encouraging complete deregulation of banks, inciting speculation, and ignoring criminal behavior by their Wall Street owners.

After reading Lewis’ exposes about these Wall Street scumbags, you realize Scorsese’s seemingly over the top portrayal of these people in Wolves of Wall Street is accurate. Nothing has changed since Lewis worked at Salomon Brothers in the 1980’s. The people inhabiting that culture are unscrupulous, greedy, obtuse, ignorant, and intent upon preying on the weaknesses of their “clients”, who they hold in contempt. They are the wolves and you are sheep. The comforting picture of a stock broker representing your interests on a small commission basis has been replaced by stock exchanges colluding with Wall Street banks, hedge funds and high frequency traders to fleece mom and pop out of hundreds of billions on an annual basis using their super-fast computers located within the stock exchanges. The people who know the truth have no interest in drawing the new picture because their massive paychecks depend upon not drawing the picture.

You can tell how accurate a portrayal is by the reaction of those being portrayed. Flash Boys and the subsequent interview of Lewis by 60 Minutes resulted in a broad based assault by Wall Street bankers, HFT dirt bags, corrupt stock exchange CEOs, SEC lackeys, Federal Reserve Chairwomen, bought off politicians, faux financial journalists, sellouts like Buffett, and of course the mouthpieces of Wall Street on CNBC. The oligarchs benefitting immensely from the HFT scams, Dark Pool schemes, and Stock Exchange pay to play swindles, attempted to ambush the good guys (Brad Katsuyama and Michael Lewis) on CNBC, the captured media pawn of the Wall Street ruling elite.

CNBC stacked the deck against the good guys with the President of the BATS exchange, William O’Brien, given the task of shouting the loudest in an attempt to discredit the factual assertions made in the book. The BATS exchange was founded by high frequency traders and designed to foster the predatory schemes of high frequency trading firms who paid the exchange for the privilege of swindling investors. He went berserk on-air, accusing Brad Katsuyama of lying and denying that his firm purposefully allowed high frequency traders to front run slower orders from regular investors. I guess he thought rage, fury, screaming and false accusations would convince the hoi polloi of his innocence. He was wrong. The traders on the NYSE and in trading firms across Wall Street stopped trading to watch the contest on their screens. They would cheer every time Brad Katsuyama calmly responded with truth based facts.

Michael Lewis described the encounter shortly thereafter in an interview:

“The substantial shocker from this encounter is that Katsuyama tried to get O’Brien to admit that the BATS Exchange uses one very slow data feed to give investors the prices in the market, while selling, for vast sums of money, a faster feed to high-frequency traders, the effect being that the high-frequency trader knows the prices in the exchange before your order. So he has the privilege of trading against you at an old price if he wants to. And O’Brien says no that’s not true. He lied, on national television, about a central fact about his business.” Michael Lewis –Wired

Under threat of prosecution, the BATS exchange had to admit its esteemed President blatantly lied on national TV. That seems par for the course when it comes to Wall Street executives. Deceitfulness, duplicity, and evasiveness are crucial requirements for the psychopaths occupying the corner offices in this warped world of high finance. The Wall Street Journal reluctantly revealed the truth:

BATS Global Markets Inc., under pressure from the New York Attorney General’s office, corrected statements made by a senior executive during a televised interview this week about how its exchanges work.

BATS President William O’Brien, during a CNBC interview Tuesday, said BATS’s Direct Edge exchanges use high-speed data feeds to price stock trades. Thursday, the exchange operator said two of its exchanges, EDGA and EGX, use a slower feed, known as the Securities Information Processor, to price trades.

 The distinction matters because high-speed traders can use powerful computers and superfast links between markets to outpace traders and trading venues that rely on slower market data, such as the SIP.

Would the BATS Exchange have revealed the truth if they had not been pressured by the New York Attorney General to do so? Not bloody likely. Wall Street never admits guilt for any of its crimes, wrongdoings, misconduct, deceit or deceptions. They pay $1 billion in fines to their government co-conspirators as a public relations ploy, without admitting guilt and after reaping $10 billion of criminally generated profits. Not a bad ROI. The principles of right versus wrong, moral versus immoral, honesty versus dishonesty, and clarity versus opacity are willfully evaded by the titans of Wall Street and create no dilemmas for these greed driven psychopaths. Money and power are their drugs and the Federal Reserve is their dealer.

Michael Lewis books strike a chord with the public because he chooses a good guy hero his audience can empathize with. He played the sympathetic character in Liar’sPoker. Michael Burry, the brilliant Asperger’s Syndrome suffering investment genius, plays the role in The Big Short. And Brad Katsuyama, the mild mannered good hearted hobbit-like Canadian, takes on the evil forces of Mordor in Flash Boys. These characters all have something in common. They don’t fit in. They question the existing paradigm. They refuse to give in to the depraved culture permeating Wall Street. They exhibit an inner moral strength that enables them to resist the temptation of ill-gotten riches. And they don’t surrender their principles for a buck. This passage gives you a glimpse into the soul of Brad Katsuyama:

“In America, even the homeless were profligate. Back in Toronto, after a big bank dinner, Brad would gather the leftovers into covered tin trays and carry them out to a homeless guy he saw every day on his way to work. The guy was always appreciative. When the bank moved him to New York, he saw more homeless people in a day than he saw back home in a year. When no one was watching, he’d pack up the king’s banquet of untouched leftovers after the NY lunches and walk it down to the people on the streets. “They just looked at me like, ‘What the fuck is this guy doing?’” he said. “I stopped doing it because it didn’t feel like anyone gave a shit.” –  Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

The apologists for the corrupt establishment attempted to trash Lewis and Katsuyama by contending the market has always been rigged and manipulated, therefore, the HFT embezzlement is just business as usual. Warren Buffett, king of oligarchs and apologist for the Wall Street billionaire club, assures the peasants the financial markets are fairer than ever. If Uncle Warren says it’s so to his girl Becky Quick on CNBC, how can anyone doubt him? It’s as if the supposedly mathematical genius billionaire forgot everything he learned in business school.

There is $21 trillion worth of U.S. stocks traded every year. Based upon Katsuyama’s analysis of how much high frequency traders, Wall Street dark pools, and the stock exchanges selling access were skimming on virtually every transaction, he estimated at least $160 million per day was being stolen from stock investors. That comes to a cool $40 billion per year, at a minimum. High frequency trading accounted for 25% of all stock trades in 2005. By 2008 high frequency traders accounted for 65% of all trades. They now account for in excess of 80% of all trading. The Ivy League educated Wall Street elite insist this extreme level of computer generated trading provides liquidity and efficiency for the markets. In reality, the actual trading results of the HFT firms, hedge funds and Wall Street TBTF banks prove the game is rigged. JP Morgan experienced ZERO trading loss days in 2013. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and most of the mega-banks have had virtually perfect daily trading results since 2010. If they are all winning, who is losing? Guess. Lewis provides further evidence of “investing” perfection:

“In early 2013, one of the largest high-frequency traders, Virtu Financial, publicly boasted that in five and a half years of trading it had experienced just one day when it hadn’t made money, and that the loss was caused by “human error.” In 2008, Dave Cummings, the CEO of a high-frequency trading firm called Tradebot, told university students that his firm had gone four years without a single day of trading losses. This sort of performance is possible only if you have a huge informational advantage.” – Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

Buffett, the financial “journalists” on CNBC, and all of the defenders of the Wall Street criminal cabal must have been asleep during their Stat class in college. The statistical probability of going four years or even four weeks without a losing trading day is as close to zero as you can get, unless the game is rigged and you are cheating. These results were not accomplished due to the brilliance of Wall Street big hanging dicks and their oversized brains. They were accomplished by front running stock market orders, bribing stock exchanges for first access, gaming the system with more powerful computers, ripping off clients in shadowy dark pools, and keeping the SEC at bay with promises of jobs and riches if they look the other way. This was all done under the veil of hyper-complexity designed to obscure, confuse, and cover-up the truth from unsuspecting investors.

And it is all done “legally” under the auspices of Regulation NMS, established by the SEC in 2007, to foster both competition among individual markets and competition among individual orders, in order to promote efficient and fair price formation across securities markets. As with almost every government regulation, law, or diktat, the new method of “protecting” the sheeple created fresh ways to fleece the sheeple by those who wrote the regulation. See Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act. I don’t need a law or regulation to tell me the difference between right and wrong.

When obnoxiously wealthy pricks with the ability to bribe stock exchanges to place their trading computers on the floor of the exchange and financially induce the Wall Street banks to funnel trades through their dark pools in order to know what is happening a nanosecond before everyone else, and use this information to front run unknowing investors to generate risk free profits, it’s wrong. It really is black and white. I don’t care that it is supposedly “legal”.  By complying with Regulation NMS the smart order routers of institutional investor firms like Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab simply funneled naïve investors into various snares laid for them by the unscrupulous high frequency traders. The bad guys always win and the good guys always lose on Wall Street. And no one does anything because they are all on the take. Lewis puts it in terms the average person can understand.

“It was riskless, larcenous, and legal – made so by Reg NMS. The way Brad had described it, it was as if only one gambler were permitted to know the scores of last week’s NFL games, with no one else aware of his knowledge. He places bets in the casino on every game and waits for other gamblers to take the other side of those bets. There’s no guarantee that anyone will do so; but if they do, he’s certain to win.” – Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

If you aren’t mad yet, you will be after I go into the details of the regulatory capture, obscure deep pools within the bowels of the Too Big To Trust Banks, misuse of technology to defraud the public, and purposeful complexity built into the financial system to confuse and mislead the investing populace. I’ll tackle that in Part Two of this article.

Devolution or Life

Off the keyboard of  Jaded Prole
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toxic-chemicals 

Confronting our Toxic System

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I was saddened recently to read of the death of Bob Casale, a guitarist who was an original member of the rock band Devo. I listened to them back in the 1980’s and liked the name of the edgy, socially relevant band. It refers to the concept of de-evolution. Years ago I wrote how our Cannibalist economic system reduces us from higher to lower evolutionary species by replacing our cooperative social nature with the competitive self-centered ethic of “I’ve got mine and to heck with everyone else.” Like lower animals, we snarl over our possessions and are ready to kill each other to defend them, seeing no connection to where they came from or the reality of our interdependence — even on nature. We justify throwing families out into the cold for their inability to pay rent; condemn children to hunger and ignorance. We abandon workers to permanent unemployment and homelessness to further enrich the few, and proudly sacrifice our loved ones to wars we have no real interest in based on the latest flimsy lies. This is, in essence, eating our own kind like the most primitive of animals do.

Among the most primitive of life forms are yeast. I sometimes like to make fruit wines. This process involves ripe fruit, water, sugar and yeast. Yeast are small fungi which break things down. Yeasts process sugar to breathe when their surroundings become oxygen depleted, producing both Co2 and alcohol as waste products. Eventually they are poisoned and die from the alcohol they produce. I find an uncomfortable similarity with our own situation.

Last month I wrote about how our local health and our future is being sacrificed by the Lamberts Point coal pier and by the constant presence of poison-laden, dust spewing coal trains. As we are learning from the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River, even after burning, coal ash presents an ongoing threat seeping heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, lead, and boron into ground water from storage facilities and potentially being released into water and air. The Dan River storage facility that caused the recent massive spills in North Carolina is one of many dangerous sites across the country, Kara Dodson of Appalachian Voices states that there is evidence that local residents were already getting sick from leaks and contamination from Duke Energy’s ash dumping ground. The Dan River, now heavily contaminated with toxic coal ash sludge, feeds into Lake Gaston where our area gets much of its water.

In our own area “fly ash” storage has been an issue contaminating the Battlefield Golf Course in Chesapeake as well as a the Campostella Square area. City Manager James Baker stated back in 2007, “burying fly ash was common throughout the country at that time, and its toxicity was not yet understood. If we knew then what we know now, the fly ash never would have been accepted.” Surface water samples in the area show elevated levels of aluminum, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, and thallium in one or more on-site samples. Coal ash is another toxic item Norfolk and Southern profits from hauling, as it did from another massive spill and clean up in Kingston Tennessee.

We’ve also seen other superfund sites locally like Portsmouth’s Washington Park housing project built atop an old foundry site. Portsmouth children still show high levels of lead which causes nerve and bone damage as well as reduced intelligence. There is a long history of environmental racism in our country with toxic waste and polluting industries usually located where the poorest and most powerless people live. Today, we are getting to the point of saturation where most of us are exposed to dangerous industrial toxins.

 

Due to the powerful influence of corporate consortia like ALEC and the National Chamber of Commerce, legal loopholes and lax government oversight result in many unregulated industrial chemicals in our environment and in our tap water. I know that locally our water is rated as the fourth best on the country but I’ve also worked in places where I’ve seen chemicals dumped down the sink. The reality is that utilities don’t even know what to test for. A recent article in Scientific American states that “Traces of 18 unregulated chemicals were found in drinking water from more than one-third of U.S. water utilities in a nationwide sampling, according to new, unpublished research by federal scientists. Included are 11 perfluorinated compounds, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant.”

 

Aside from the direct health effects we see from environmental contamination which include cancer, pulmonary disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases, there are the long term affects on fetal and infant exposure. An important new study on this by Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health and Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was published in Lancet Neurology. In it Philip Landrigan writes, “The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.” This study follows similar research by the authors in which they reviewed clinical and epidemiological studies and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxins: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic and toluene. Lead, arsenic and mercury are present in our local soil due to the aforementioned ubiquitous coal dust. The rise in autism and attention deficit disorders we are seeing appear to be a result of toxic exposures in the womb.

 

 

Environmental contamination, the poisoning of our water and of our bodes is an essential reality of the fossil fuel industry from coal to natural gas “fracking” and oil drilling. The shale oil being mined in Canada is the most toxic and environmentally destructive fossil fuel yet. Nuclear energy, while not producing carbon, is just as bad, though more insidious, because the radiation is invisible and easier to deny. Short of hydro-electric it seems that in our need for energy we, like yeast, are poisoning ourselves with the toxins we produce.

Of course, most of us would not knowingly do this as individuals. The problem is systemic in our profit based system where money and its corrupting influence drive policy. The Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for over 28 years. Efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by further regulating and limiting contamination from industrial waste, fertilizer and sewerage treatment runoff is facing legal opposition from corporate backed leaders of 21 states – mostly Republicans who place private profits ahead of public health. It has become impossible to separate government from the filthy industries which spend billions underwriting political campaigns and legislation. I’ve written before about the vast sums spent by the fossil fuel industry to promote climate denial. This money also funds rhetoric such as the “War on Coal” we hear Republicans accuse others of as well as the non-existent “clean coal” our President promotes. This massive poisoning of our environment for energy production is not even necessary.

The reality is that green energy creates more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. A national study by the Center for American Progress showed that job creation in clean energy outdoes fossil fuels by a margin of 3-to-1. Germany has seen a 4% job growth tied to renewable energy development. We could be developing a hydrogen economy as well as investing is solar and wind energy if our politicians could free themselves from relying on fossil fuel industry backing. That, of course would take real electoral reform along with the legal de-personhood of corporations.

It would be far simpler for us to address the problems we face and to develop clean, renewable energy if we had public utilities. Much of our power grid was built by the government during the last depression and sold off to private companies over time. We could have much more secure, ecologically safe and efficient state and national power grids and more dependable access to water, moving it from flooded areas to drought stricken regions, for far less user expense if utilities were publicly owned and managed.

The power of money that corrupts and cripples our system of governance also undermines its most basic purpose, which is to protect us and provide for our security. Fortunately, unlike yeast, we are self aware. We know, or should know, that we are as much a part of this earth as the soil. We have the ability to change how we live and what we do together as a society and fortunately, there are people organized to do something about the poisoning of our earth. The Sierra Club is a good place to start. As I wrote last month, they can be contacted at coaldust@vasierraclub.org if you choose to get involved locally. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is another important local organization as is Virginia Organizing.

Overcoming the imposed cultural devolution and massive poisoning of the biosphere by this corrupt economic system is no easy task but it is not an abstraction off in some future. It is you and I, here and now. Some of us already suffer the ravages of environmental sensitivity and illness. I certainly do. It is doubtful that our species can save itself without disempowering wealth and reclaiming real, bottom up, ecologically sustainable democracy. We have no other choice if we are not to die off like yeast in our own waste. Apocalyptic thinking is increasingly popular in our culture but our demise is not a certainty. Accepting such an outcome may make it so, but we have a choice. We owe it to ourselves and our children to do what we can to defend life on earth from the insane myopia of systemic greed. We have to start somewhere and our own vulnerable region is a good place to begin.

***

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

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A Probe of his Own

From the keyboard of Surly 1

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gov tu 2

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 26, 2014
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At the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, State Republicans introduced legislation that insisted that Virginia women who wanted an abortion would be forcibly penetrated  by a transvaginal ultrasound device, a procedure with no good medical reason save the desired political ends of inflicting pain and intimidation upon such women.  Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell signaled his enthusiastic support and willingness to sign said bill, thus earning him then and forever the name “Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound” in this space.  The purpose of this legislation was clearly to impede abortion rights. Texas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina all passed similar legislation, as part of the effort of otherwise self-described “small government conservatives” to force their way into the vaginas of American women.

As we have seen from the men’s room exploits of congressional Republicans, dating is clearly a challenge for these guys.

 My local paper, The Virginian-Pilot put it thus in an editorial:

“Under any other circumstances, forcing an unwilling person to submit to a vaginal probing would be a violation beyond imagining. Requiring a doctor to commit such an act, especially when medically unnecessary, and to submit to an arbitrary waiting period, is to demand an abrogation of medical ethics, if not common decency.”

Another salient in the Republican war on women in 2012 was the work of Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound’s hand picked Iago, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli,  in intimidating the state board of health to reclassify abortion clinics so they are subject to the same standards as hospitals. Reasonable people might ask, “why is this a problem?”  The Washington Post put it succinctly:

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed GOP-sponsored legislation last year to reclassify abortion clinics so they are treated as hospitals, which are subject to exacting standards governing the width of hallways and doorways, the size of operating rooms, numbers of parking spots — even the types of sinks and water fountains. Sponsors of the legislation — which does not apply to other outpatient clinics performing plastic surgery or oral surgery, for instance — were intent on shutting down abortion clinics, many of which would be unable to afford retrofitting.

The point is that clinics unable to afford these expensive and unnecessary changes would close. (The previous board had voted to exempt existing clinics.) Mr. Cuccinelli was able to accomplish this by threatening board members that they would be responsible for the cost of their own legal defense should they be taken to court. A remarkable stance from a state attorney general, but that’s Tea Party politics for you.

[At the same time, the governor’s efforts to lift a longtime state ban against uranium mining in Virginia was proceeding through the legislative process. Activists who gathered in Richmond to protest on behalf of women’s rights found themselves distracted and stressed by having yet another issue about which to petition their solons.  An effective feint, if ultimately unsuccessful, due to the concerted efforts of activists, grassroots citizen “lobbyists,” Virginia Organizing and the Sierra Club.]

 So it was with the greatest satisfaction that I found that Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound would receive a probe of his own.

Since Virginia has, practically speaking, no ethics laws on the books (a web search reveals that the most frequent modifier for “Virginia Ethics Laws” is “lax”), it remained to the Feds to bring a 14-count indictment (read it for yourself here) for the interlocking sets of McDonnell family grifts and “aggressive gift-seeking” from  Gov. and Mrs. Ultrasound. Since Cuccinelli had recused himself from the Gov.’s defense, outside attorneys were retained. The incoming Democratic administration put an immediate end to this scam-upon-another-scam. The legal bills had amounted to over $700,000 before incoming AG Mark Herring pulled the plug. And now Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound gets to enjoy a fuller understanding of what an invasive probe really feels like.

Women who have had transvaginal ultrasounds describe them as “vigorously uncomfortable . . .  more than a typical pelvic exam, painful and invasive.” Here’s hoping that karma is thus generous to the outgoing governor and his family.

Bartender, a double schaudenfreude, and see what the boys in the back will have…

As we were returning from a recent trip on I-85, I noted the “Welcome to Virginia” signs now sport the new state motto, “Virginia: Open For Business.” This is part of the Ultrasound legacy, as he sold the tolling rights for tunnels in the Hampton Roads area to a Swedish concern, which will receive rents and fees for the next 60 years. He also attempted to sell off the Port of Virginia to foreign investors, as well the above-described gift of uranium mining to a Canadian concern..For many years, Virginia’s motto was, “Virginia Is For Lovers.” After four years of culture war and selling off the commons of Virginia to the highest bidders, the signs might as well read, “Virginia Is for Looters.”

McDonnell Indicted, Claims ‘Overreach’ by Feds — Former Virginia governor and his wife charged with corruption

 

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Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell makes a statement as his wife, Maureen, listens during a news conference in Richmond, Va., Jan. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP)—Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted Tuesday on federal corruption charges accusing the couple of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in loans, shopping sprees, and money for their daughter’s wedding from the owner of a company that makes health supplements.The 14-count indictment portrays the former governor as deeply entrenched in credit card debt even before he took office and willing to accept lavish gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who hoped the first couple’s endorsement for his products would yield big profits for his company.
McDonnell appeared Tuesday night at a hastily called news conference in Richmond to strongly deny any wrongdoing and denounce what he said was an “unjust overreach” by federal prosecutors. . . While still in office, McDonnell apologized for accepting the gifts and repaid thousands to Williams. Limited to a single term by state law, McDonnell left the executive mansion earlier this month in disgrace, his approval numbers low and his political future in tatters. …
The 43-page indictment portrays a cozy relationship between the McDonnells and Williams that began even before he took office, with many of their interactions initiated by Maureen McDonnell. In 2009, just before the governor’s inauguration, first lady Maureen McDonnell wrote to a senior staffer for her husband: “I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this inaugural is killing us!”
For months afterward, Maureen McDonnell frequently appeared at events held by Star Scientific and discussed the company’s virtues. Later that year, however, she sold more than 6,500 shares of stock she owned in the company, wanting to avoid having to report it on public disclosure forms.Then, in February 2012, the McDonnells discussed transferring 50,000 shares of Star Scientific stock that they could use as collateral for a loan for their failing real estate business, MoBo. However, to avoid having to disclose the stock on public forms, Williams instead loaned the McDonnells $50,000. To avoid raising suspicion that Williams was loaning them the money, he told his assistant to void a check that listed Maureen McDonnell in the memo line and to write a new check.
As the gifts piled up, the governor’s endorsements appear to have become more blunt. In March 2012, the governor pulled a bottle of Anatabloc from his pocket during a meeting with the secretary of administration during a discussion of reducing health care costs. He told her that he personally took the supplement, and that it worked. By February 2013, the scheme began to unravel. The indictment says Maureen McDonnell lied about being longtime friends with Williams, even though he was only an acquaintance even as late as 2009. She and Bob McDonnell then tried to cover up the $50,000 loan. . . 

The governor and his spouse have, of course, pled “not guilty” to the felony charges brought against them by the federal government.  Apparently the governor nixed an 11th hour plea deal that would have had him plead guilty to one felony fraud charge that had nothing to do with corruption in office, while his wife would avoid charges altogether. The Governor maintains his innocence, and early indications are that the defense strategy will be to impugn the credibility of  prosecution witnesses. . .  All this from a candidate groomed at Pat Robertson’s Regent “University” Law School (read madrassa) and who built his political career as a “family values” candidate.

Another schadenfreude, please, barkeep.

The Ultrasound family has received the usual murmurings of support and expectations of acquittal from Virginia’s usual political suspects on both sides of the aisle. Honor among thieves, indeed.

Of course, among political wonks, there is a discussion as to the relative fatality of this blow upon the governor’s political prospects. Clearly campaigning while under federal indictment could be a bit distracting. And this moves other candidates in the Tea Party clown car to the front of the line. As usual, that trenchant political observer Charles Pierce says it best:

You know what job had worse prospects for the future than being the No. 3 man in al Qaeda? Having been a Rising Republican Star at the 2012 Republican National Convention. First, Chris Christie delivers the keynote on the topic of Chris Christie, Political Giant. Then, there was Marco Rubio, who was rather like the home team, except that he’s taken his act on the road and become a cotton-mouthed stepper on rakes who abandoned his signature issue the first time someone in a tricorn yelled, “Freedom!” Then, there was “Bobby” Jindal, who was supposed to be coming back from his own failed debut on the national stage, only to find himself subsequently slapped around by his legislature, spending state money on creationist bayou madrassas, and trying now to keep David Vitter from succeeding him. I think Jindal may run for president of the United States on the grounds that Louisiana’s sick of him. But nobody has crashed and burned more garishly that noted transvaginalist Bob McDonnell, who now faces multiple counts of being a shameless grifter.

The indictment’s out, and it’s a doozy. It’s gooey and icky and full of all kinds of human venality and, worst of all for the McDonnells, their alleged corruption is very easy for the world at large to understand.

16. On or about December 21,2009, MAUREEN MCDONNELL sent an email to JE, stating 1need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. 1 need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke,have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done. MAUREEN MCDONNELL subsequently told JW that she could not accept the dress at that timebut that she would take a “rain check” from him.

Res ipsa loquitor.

It is often said that we get the government that we deserve. If so, God help us all.

Are you not entertained?

***

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Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of adult children in various stages of transition.

Bob Woodward in Norfolk

 From the keyboard of Surly 1, with assistance from Contrary

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 15, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Bob Woodward was January’s featured speaker at the Norfolk Forum. The Norfolk Forum has for 41 years brought a variety of  well-known and lesser-known speakers to Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, presumably to educate the great unwashed in this Navy town. Contrary and I have season tickets, so off we went.

We were having a pre-event dinner at a local restaurant, discussing what it is we might expect from this particular speaker. “I don’t expect much,” I offered. Contrary shook her head ruefully and returned to her dumplings.  Over the space of 40 years we have seen celebrity journalist Woodward turn from eager young reporter hot on the trail of the story of the century to consummate DC insider apparatchik.  His four– count them–four–hagiographies of the Bush administration the depth of the sellout. At least in my eyes.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Norfolk speakers is that after the speaker presents his talk, they offer a question and answer session with the audience. Over dinner, Contrary observed that perhaps I should prepare a question or two: “What would you ask him?” she asked. So I spun off a couple: “Bob, when exactly did you sell out your soul, and do you ever miss your integrity?”  For a follow-up, I added, “What is it like to have gone from muckraking journalist to soulless tool?” Contrary looked up from her pizza: “You know, they will never let you ask those questions. Two neckless guards will hit you with 50,000 watts worth of Taser and drag you off shuddering like a dog trying to pass a peach pit.”

 As it happened, she was right. Bob’s handlers were not about to allow the unwashed access to a live microphone, as was past practice with Malcolm Gladwell in an earlier talk in October. No, all questions were to be submitted via Facebook or Twitter, carefully vetted, disemboweled and sanitized for Bob’s delectation. No potential embarrassment here.

Better minds than mine have called Woodward’s reporting into question. In a 1996 essay in the New York review of Books, Joan Didion observed, “the books are notable for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.” [Italics mine.] She ridicules “fairness” as “a familiar newsroom piety, the excuse in practice for a good deal of autopilot reporting and lazy thinking.” All this focus on what people said and thought—their “decent intentions”—circumscribes “possible discussion or speculation,” resulting in what she called “political pornography.”

 So after dessert we entered Norfolk’s beautiful Chrysler Hall and awaited the presence of the Great Man himself. Here’s how the Forum billed the event:

Since 1971, Bob Woodward has worked for The Washington Post where he is currently an associate editor. He and Carl Bernstein were the main reporters on the Watergate scandal for which The Post won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. They co-authored two books about Watergate: All the President’s Men (1974) and The Final Days (1976). Woodward was the lead reporter for The Post‘s articles on the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks that won the National Affairs Pulitzer Prize in 2002. His book, Bush at War (2002), provides a view of what happened inside the White House in the months following 9-11. Woodward has authored or co-authored 17 books, all of which have been national non-fiction best sellers covering diverse topics including the Supreme Court, the life of John Belushi and the drug culture of Hollywood, the CIA and the Presidencies of Clinton, Bush and Obama. Bob Schieffer of CBS News said, “Woodward has established himself as the best reporter of our time. He may be the best reporter of all time.”

Of course, Schieffer’s last real reporting gig was as a correspondent in the Franco-Prussian War, so what does he know?

 The Great Man held forth: “Obama seems uncomfortable  wearing the mantle of power.” While he has no trouble  embracing a senator’s Chief of Staff, Woodward complains that Obama lacks that “common touch” last seen in the late lamented Bush the lesser, and clearly so prized among the right sorts of people. Somehow, the problem with Obama is “he’s not able to connect” with people on the Hill.  (Of course those of us in the cheap seats are expected to forget that, on the very evening Obama was being inaugurated as President for his first term, across town Republican leaders were plotting how they were going to obfuscate, delay, and ruin his presidency through political scorched earth tactics unseen in this century.

Seemed a bit of an omission, yes? Contrary and I exchanged a look. It was clear that decades of the DC social scene have taken their toll on Bob. He told a story about a time when John Boehner was invited to the White House. Supposedly while Boehner had a glass of Merlot and smoked a cigarette, Obama sipped iced tea and chewed Nicorette. For Bob this illustrated the problem with Obama (!) The black man had failed to sufficiently imitate the matters of the white man, leading Bob to conclude the black man lacked the necessaries to lead, and this offended Bob. Are you fucking kidding me?

 Woodward seems offended by what he perceives to be Obama’s lack of leadership. Never mind the obfuscatory tactics, nevermind the attempted extortion of Boehner to hold the country hostage to the debt ceiling, an act of political terrorism not seen in this country since the Stamp Act. No matter. Woodward says, “Obama is the CEO. He’s supposed to fix this. He supposed to get things done, and find a way to reach common ground.” Guess Bob forgot that Obama can actually negotiate a deal with the Iranians, but he somehow can’t negotiate with the Taliban in the House of Representatives.  Still the black guy’s fault.

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[I hasten to add that I am no “Obot.” Contrary and I’ve had plenty of noisy and unpleasant battles about what I perceive to be the failures of this President. My criticism of Obama comes from the left, and from  opportunities missed while he spent the first six years of his Presidency attempting to negotiate with ideologues in our own House and Senate.  There’s also the matter of piss poor economic policy favoring the banks and the one percent, but that’s another issue for another time.] 

At one point in the evening, Woodward referred to Obama’s apparent amazement at how a person from a background such as his own had risen to such an office and said that “Obama suffered from a great sense of humility.” At other times, he described Obama as “arrogant.” At this point, I had to restrain Contrary from jumping out of her seat. She stared bullets at me and mouthed the words “uppity?”  After the talk, she asked me rhetorically, “Which is it Bob? Arrogant, or  suffering from a bad case of humility? Inquiring minds want to know.”  Really, the leaps of logic were that evident. But his recent books were available for sale in the lobby…

Bob’s main thesis was that things are just so complicated that we don’t really know anything. Sent as the messenger from Olympus to those toiling in the vineyards, his story was that we need to trust the people in power because they are the only people that have enough information to know.

To drive this last point home , Woodward posed a question to the audience: “How many people in the audience feel that their rights have been trampled upon and would like their privacy back?  A few of us raised our hands, Contrary and I being two of them. “Looks like about eight people,” Bob chortled. Then he posed another: “And how many people would trade those rights for the security of knowing that we had not been hit by terrorists since 9/11.” For that question, perhaps a third to half of the crowd raised their hands. It’s a Navy town… See, Bob knows, the implication being,  from a trusted interlocutor who has spent 40 years on the ground, who knows all the right people, has all the right contacts, and can get his calls returned by anyone, even the Pope, and you don’t, you fucking chumps.

Bob Woodward is very pleased with himself, and he wants you to be as pleased with him as he is. He spins sophisticated anecdotes of conversations, and parties, and interviews, and being intrepid enough to knock on the door of a general  he needed for a story at 8:15 PM on a Tuesday at the General’s home. The point of this exercise was, and I quote, “To make sure that the person being interviewed realized he was as important to the story as I thought he was.” And this is a guy who calls Obama arrogant.

Contrary observed that Woodward hadn’t had a conversation since the 70s in which he failed to mention the Robert Redford played him in the movie. And there was the inevitable mention, and obligatory question about the suffix “–gate” being applied to every brewing scandal. “Bridge-gate” was the topic du jour, but that will fade as soon as our paid media can float another story about Kim Kardashian’s ass.

More anecdotes from the Great Man as Witness to History. Woodward tells the story about how, during an interview with George W. Bush, he asked Bush he thought history would remember him. Bush supposedly replied: “it doesn’t matter–in the long run, we’ll all be dead.” Woodward went on to explain that supposedly Hillary Clinton, upon reading this replied “That’s not presidential. Washington wouldn’t say that, Jefferson wouldn’t say that, Bill wouldn’t say that.” When he asked Hillary what history would say about Bill, supposedly she replied “I’ll write it,” the implication being that Hillary would rewrite history on her own.

Bob was not amused, because apparently that’s Bob’s job. He retold the story of Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Woodward went to interview Ford,  who he described as being particularly forthcoming and transparent. Supposedly Ford said, “Okay I’ll tell you what happened. Alexander Haig came to me with a deal, a resignation for a pardon. I refused it outright. I knew I was going to be president, that Nixon’s crimes had gone too far, it was only a matter of time until he would either leave the scene of his own accord or be convicted. So there was no deal. What I found was that Watergate would continue to play on and on in the papers and in the courts for several years, and I wanted my own presidency. The country needed a post-Watergate period.. So I pardoned Nixon for the good of the country.”

So if you like your history rewritten, best to get it from an expert. I just wonder what the NSA has on Woodward.

One questioner posed the question to Woodward whether he felt as if he might, through his reporting and books, have played a role in the widespread cynicism and mistrust surrounding our view of government. “No, no I don’t ,”came the reply. Ironies abound.

The Twilight of Capitalism

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

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Published on Economic Undertow on December 4, 2013

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

As another year-ending holiday season oozes into view the current conversation is about how the economy has improved … rather, how well various market swindlers are doing. Seems they are doing very well indeed, (Investment Week):

 

“I can’t look at myself in the mirror”: Hendry reveals why he has turned bullish

Dan Jones

Eclectica hedge fund manager Hugh Hendry has said he has been forced to leave his bearish outlook behind as he faces up to a market “which only makes sense through the prism of trends”.

Speaking at Harrington Cooper’s 2013 conference this morning, Hendry said he is no longer fighting the “two-way feedback loop” which is continuing to boost risk assets.

 

Hendry’s two-way feedback loop is QE-driven dollar-carry trade and the Chinese capital investment. The real prime movers are moral hazard and institutionalized greed. With the mad rush to money underway there is no place for restraint, or caution … or integrity. The establishment — run by con men rich men — has unsurprisingly decided the solution to our current economic misery is to give more money to those who already have too much of it … (David Rosenberg/CNBC):

Not David Rosenberg: within the trickle-down, comic-book zeitgeist we’ve cobbled into a ‘home’, Americans and their imitators world-wide live vicariously through their betters. Consequently, the good fortunes of the wealthy have become a convenient ‘leading indicator’ for the rest of us! We don’t actually improve along with our betters, we wish we do which is enough! We possess a ‘New American Dream’; that anyone from even the most ordinary background who works hard can become Al Capone …

Rosenberg bizarrely asserts the US government has recently been holding back the wealthy by embracing a stringent fiscal strategy. It seems the government isn’t buying everything after all, only faking it! Nevertheless, Rosenberg assures us a more relaxed fiscal approach is on its way and will arrive tomorrow … there will then be far fewer limitations to how rich the very wealthy can become.

Another noted ‘bear’ Jeremy Grantham, has changed spots and become bullish … It’s hard for analysts who have in the past lamented stock market excesses to resist gorging themselves on excesses that are spooling out in front of them on CNBC! The apostate returning to orthodoxy is a central narrative within modernity; the chastened bears eagerly surrender themselves to the raging, animal-spirited excess like holiday shoppers rioting at Walmart! That’s clearly part of the bezzle, (ZeroHedge):

My personal guess is that the U.S. market, especially the non-blue chips, will work its way higher, perhaps by 20% to 30% in the next year or, more likely, two years, with the rest of the world including emerging market equities covering even more ground in at least a partial catch-up. And then we will have the third in the series of serious market busts since 1999 and presumably Greenspan, Bernanke, Yellen, et al. will rest happy, for surely they must expect something like this outcome given their experience.

 

20% to 30% more! the rising tide lifts only the largest boats. Get out there and buy that … Bitcoin!

 

2013’s best performing asset classWill Bancroft – The Real Asset Company

With the price of bitcoin rising from $14 at the beginning of 2013 to $1,045 today, holders of bitcoin have seen their holdings grow in value nearly 75 times this year.

Those are eye-popping numbers!

And, it’s not just Bitcoin surging. Other crypto-currencies have been on the run too, some appreciating by hundreds of percent in a day. This makes the US stock markets much herald 22% gain this year look trivial.

Whilst the media focus might be mainly on bitcoin, the limelight is slowly widening to cover other interesting new names like Litecoin, Feathercoin, Namecoin and many more.

 

The 21st century’s precious ‘innovators’ and ‘entrepreneurs’ grasp at shadows; the best they can come up with during the longest period of economic uncertainty since the Great Depression is an imaginary tulip bulb. Perhaps reality is too difficult to cope with …
Triangle of Doom 120113(1)

Figure 1: Triangle of Doom: December’s Brent cost convergence from (CommodityCharts.com) Drillers’ costs relentlessly increase while their customers go broke … this last being the consequence of too-high oil prices. What makes this graph useful is that the unit of account — US dollar — is the same for both drillers and their soon-to-be-penniless customers.

This chart represents the nexus between credit- and energy prices. Drillers’ expenses are determined by geology and ongoing consumption; the hundreds of billions of barrels already extracted can never be burned again. At any given instant there is a finite amount of credit, as the share allocated to drillers increases, the share for the customers diminishes … the shrinkage on the customer side adversely affects the economy as a whole and ultimately rebounds against the drillers.

Because of the difficulty accessing supplies in harder-to-reach less productive plays, each new dollar lent into existence returns less petroleum. Drillers are indirectly their own worst enemies; they are dependent upon their customers’ credit to meet their own costs even as each competes against the other for loans … at the same time drillers must also compete for funds against their own lenders and the super-rich speculators who front-run every transaction. This tug-of-war is disruptive … it adds to the cost of funds which are effectively rationed => less-solvent customers cannot borrow => the prices of all goods including petroleum decline. When prices decline there is generally a crisis somewhere; our world only works in one direction; toward ‘growth’.

Ultimately, drillers are stranded by costs they cannot meet. As the supply of petroleum is diminished so is economic activity which further erodes credit in a self-reinforcing cycle. Because Rosenberg & Co. haven’t examined energy affordability, they miss entirely what is wrong with the economy and the markets and they don’t have any idea why!

http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000210298

Examining the economy from the standpoint of energy affordability, leads to unorthodox conclusions. Meanwhile, finance = ‘buy the dip’ schemes. “Don’t forget to tell all your friends.” If this is the best that capitalism has to offer then we are at the end of it!

 

“The rock is reality. The squishy place is the illusion that pervasive racketeering is an okay replacement for an economy.

— James Howard Kunstler

 

The ‘Brand X’ analyst might suggest that the energy industry be directly subsidized to a greater degree than it is now. Lenders would offer more cost-free loans to drillers leaving customer credit unaffected. There are four ways for economic agents such as firms and customers to borrow: a) against their own accounts such as from their own banks or lines of credit or from those of their share-holders; b) against the accounts of their customers; c) against the account of the state by the way of currency or by direct subsidies, and d) against foreign exchange. The lenders to all of these categories except foreign exchange** … are the same lender! If a greater proportion is lent to the driller, a smaller proportion is lent to everyone else.

Keep in mind, any credit would be unsecured as the fuel ‘collateral’ is converted into atmospheric CO2 … just as it has been after all the previous rounds of loans. Eventually, dear lender is sans-collateral, over-leveraged and insolvent. Not even the state can borrow endlessly. Contrary to what some economists suggest, the state loses credibility as its borrowing increases. Whatever collateral worth the state represents evaporates along with its fuel supply! Ultimately, the state renders its lender insolvent … the state competes against its fuel suppliers even as it endeavors to support them. This disconnect between intention and outcome is why there is a credit crisis in the first place … why the graph is called ‘The Triangle of Doom’ not ‘Triangle of Laughs’ or ‘Triangle of Empty Conjecture or Wishful Thinking’. Managers can fool themselves not the people all the time with wives’ tales of unearned income/endless growth. There is a limit or ‘margin’ to credit and we are there!
Flow of funds 5
Figure 2: Fooling the people: a Ponzi scheme is the transfer of funds from individuals to a promoter who promises larger than ordinary returns: it’s a non-violent form of robbery. (From ‘Enter Mr. Conduit’, October, 2011):

Ponzi schemes have very simple structures and depend on human greed. The promoter lures speculators with promises of ‘secret investment strategies’ or ‘finance insider knowledge’ or ‘high-tech shortcuts’ to unearned wealth. The promoter is often someone or some entity that is trustworthy such as the head of a bank, a business or a government administrator (or a respected finance analyst). Often Ponzi operators are infamous criminals offering shares of ill-gotten gains. The promoter will spend enough funds to put on a convincing ‘front’ and craft a compelling narrative. Ponzis come in all varieties: some involve salting real estate parcels with gold or silver, others involve some new technological marvel. As speculators line up, the promoter diverts a small percentage of the incoming flow of funds toward shills who loudly advertise their success within the scheme. Once speculators see real money in the hands of other ‘investors’ they cannot be restrained from putting up their own funds, often offering their entire life-savings. Outside of initial expenses and the small payments to shills, the promoter keeps all the speculators’ money: he either leaves town with it or the scheme collapses under its own weight.

This happens when the speculators start asking questions about their lack of returns. Mature schemes end when new contributors cannot be found, when all speculators are ‘fully invested’. In both instances, the promoter has absconded with the funds.

Ponzi schemes include all ‘money-for-nothing’ speculations in stocks and bond, commodities and real estate, Bitcoins and even gold/silver. Pyramid schemes can be a harmless form of direct marketing. Ponzi-like conduit schemes are extraordinarily destructive.

 

Description Ponzi Pyramid Conduit
Beneficiary Promoter Early entrants Promoter in collusion w/ lender
Source of funds Speculators Speculators Lender; banks-finance w/ government guarantees
Responsible for repayment funds* Conduits
Coercion None None/tax collection Debt collection, prison, denial of services to those outside the scheme
Promised returns In kind Goods or $$$ Empty abstractions: medical ‘care’, ‘security’, ‘solidarity’, etc.
Flow of funds Speculators to promoters Late entrants to early entrants Lenders to promoters, conduits repay lenders
Investment methodology ‘Secret’ Time/compound interest Aims to position conduits within Ponzi schemes

* Conduits are liable for repayment of loans directed toward 3d party recipients. Conduit schemes are more elaborate- and difficult to erect than Ponzi schemes and generally require some form government complicity. This can take the form of loan guarantees, enabling legislation, borrowing capacity or police power. At least one form of the scheme is against the law. Conduit schemes are pernicious and as such, difficult to recognize, they have taken root across the Western economy outside of Ponzi-fied markets. For example, the Affordable Care Act is a massive conduit scheme.

The aim of the conduit promoter is identical with that of the Ponzi promoter; to steal as much money as possible. As such it is another ‘money-for-nothing’ endeavor. Conduit schemes include restructuring within the European Union which leave citizens and bank depositors on the hook for banker bailouts, higher education lending in the US — where students must retire hundreds of billions borrowed by schools from outside lenders and financiers ostensibly on the students’ ‘behalf’. Restructuring of the Muni market in the US is a conduit scheme, so are government subsidy programs with the citizens as conduits, (from ‘Enter Mr Conduit):


– The payments from a contributor to a final recipient are loans directed through a conduit, who is labeled as a ‘beneficiary’. Unlike Ponzis which require voluntary participation, conduits are coercive, gate-keeping regimes. Whether the participant borrows from the contributor or not, the costs to access the scheme’s services are set by the scheme, neither the conduits nor ordinary cash customers seeking the beneficiary’s services have any ‘bargaining power’.

– The benefit promised to the conduit is an abstraction: a common good such as ‘higher education’, ‘Homeland Security’ or ‘medical insurance’ which is unrelated to the actual funds-transfer.

– The transfer from the contributor (lender) to the recipient (promoter) is always money, often in stupendous amounts.

– The contributors are always entities with large capacity to generate funds such as banks/finance sector(s) and/or governments.

– Both contributors and recipients are aware of the scheme at hand and both actively promote it: falsely to the conduit (and the public), accurately to each other. A critical component of any conduit scheme is collusion between lender and promoter.

– The final recipients who are part of the scam have no investment ‘method’, they simply accept the free money offered in the conduit’s name and spend it.

The conduit is incapable of acting in any interest other than those of the contributor/recipient. Taking on loans and accompanying repayment obligations are conditions of using the system in question. Those who are unwilling or unable to act in the scam promoter’s interest exclude themselves if possible. The recipients/promoters gain enormous amounts of money, what the conduits receive has little- or no worth outside of what they brought to the scam in the first place.
Flow of funds 3
Figure 3: Capitalism and free enterprise are nothing more than reliance upon the price signals where the unit of account is the same for buyers and sellers. Marx was wrong; workers are not alienated from the means of production, costs are purposefully alienated from those who are compelled to bear them. Within this scheme and others like it, the price signal ceases to exist.

System managers do not like the signal, they don’t want it because it represents breaking costs. They paint over the signal with cheap credit, propaganda and market swindles. Like pressure within a boiler with the relief valve closed, the costs associated with industrialization’s surpluses have been building for a long time even as they have been obscured. They are set to emerge explosively at the point where they cannot be met at all.

Analysts excuse the absence of investment in ‘productive enterprises’ but but there are no such things. Industry is loss-making, its product is (a surplus of) waste. It cannot be otherwise, if industry could retire its own loans it would certainly have done so already. There would be no need for frauds, only self-sufficient industries raising all boats. There would be no dips to buy, everyone would be rich.

Instead … capitalism’s cupboard is bare; its inventory is scams, QE, capital waste, bribery and propaganda campaigns; mortgage fraud, the manipulation of libor, fixing and front running currency exchange, cornering precious metals; there are policy errors and miscalculations that are compounded. The end of empire brings capitalism full circle; its schemes can only be made effective by way of violence and coercion. Capitalism is undone by the capitalists themselves.

‘Worst’ is the product of twilight capitalism. Managers expect nothing of us but our worst behavior … they rely upon it; our position within the marketplace is ‘fools’. We are never asked what we can do for our country or anyone or anything other than ourselves. It is, ‘What’s in it for me right now?’. The Invisible Hand runs amok: we are children. To satisfy ‘now’ we have become purposefully ignorant, greedy, corrupt and ruthless: these most ‘efficiently’ exhibiting these characters are rewarded, everything outside is excluded. We are encouraged to be as complacent as possible, to ignore risk, to accept falsehoods at face value, become judgmental, impatient, irrational and filled with fear and self-loathing as if all these are virtues; to believe violence and waste represent ‘freedom’.

Character cannot be bought in a store, it is the product of careful husbandry. We need our best … we need courage, restraint, in the place of innovative novelty and ‘entrepreneurial scheming we need patience and creativity … These things not for sale, capitalism is unable to provide them.

* (See conduit repayment obligation above)

** The central bank of a country will issue domestic-currency loans against foreign exchange held as collateral (which is how mercantile states increase their broad money supply). These loans become unsecured as the forex is swapped for petroleum that is burned up for nothing.

Two Forces and Three Bears

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  October 28, 2013
Escher_Implosion_spiral_toroid

 

 

     In these climax years of industrial technocratic society, two opposing forces shape the destiny of government: the desperate effort to control everything versus the decline of the ability to carry out that effort. The result will be the loss of legitimacy and the collapse of government from the highest levels, moving downward until the real power to make anything work re-sets at a feasible and appropriate level — probably very local. This dynamic is seen very clearly in three spectacles du jour: the “national security” (spying) mess, government-sponsored accounting fraud in finance, and the ObamaCare rollout.

     As history develops, people do things for the simple reason that it seems like a good idea at the time. Computer tech made it possible for bureaucrats and military apparatchiks to invade the privacy of everybody, but in the end it only had the effect of embarrassing the perpetrators and eroding a big chunk of the US government’s legitimacy. The attempt at maximum control will eventually lead to maximum resistance and, quite possibly, some sort of political revolution, perhaps starting with the death of the two dominant political parties. When political disruption finally occurs, it will manifest quickly, as criticality thresholds are breached. It has the potential of taking this society in very undesirable directions including civil war, theocracy, and war against other peoples.

     The diminishing returns of computer technology applied to intelligence gathering are that it produces more mountains of data than any team of professionals can make sense of, and it prompts said professionals to make mischief with the information that is easiest to sort out: the financial records of ordinary citizens. Nothing will create political resistance more surely than messing with people’s money. The NSA apparatus is now a self-reinforcing monster that will strive for ever more control ineffectively, creating a debris path of ever more embarrassment and resentment. A lone true patriot like Snowden does more to oppose this monster than all the “freedom” and “liberty” spouting, flag-lapel-pin-wearing cowards in either political party.

     The pervasive accounting fraud in the attempt to prop up an unsound banking system is even closer to criticality. A society that produces tradable goods needs sound money which functions as 1) a medium of exchange, 2) a store of value 3) a unit of account for establishing prices. The combined accounting frauds in Federal Reserve policy, private banking and securities markets, and government fiscal management is destroying all these functions. The more abstracted finance gets from real productive activity, the more fragile the system becomes. We are doing nothing now except adding more complexity and abstraction to it, causing the system to become more detached from reality. In effect, we’re opting to forego an economy based on goods in favor of one based on empty promises and paper swindles. The potential and probable consequent destruction of nominal wealth would be an event that advanced technocratic society likely will not recover from — in the sense that today’s standard of living could be preserved for billions of people worldwide. That destruction would herald a new dark age, this time without any prospect of recovery via the exploitation of natural resources, which will have been depleted.

     The ObamaCare piece of the picture is a mere pathetic soap opera compared to the first two quandaries. The 2000-page law did nothing to address the core tragedy of medicine in America — namely, that it has evolved into a hideous hostage racket. You go to a hospital with a terrifying illness and you are susceptible to fleecing by the so-called “care-givers” for the promise that you may get to live. No prices for treatment are never discussed. They are presumed to be astronomical — but who cares if you end up dead, and if you do get to live, you’ll figure that out later. If you hold an insurance policy, these charges will be subject to a fake negotiation between grifting insurance companies and grifting hospitals, physicians, and drug companies. The price “settlements” are only slightly less a joke than the actual charges, and are obfuscated in documents designed to bewilder even well-educated policy-holders.

     Even if you are insured, the charges may bankrupt you. A typical one-day charge for “room and board” in a non-specialized hospital in-patient bed runs $23,000 at my local hospital. For what? Half a dozen blood-pressure checks and three bad meals? You can be sure that ever-fewer families will be able to fork over $12,000-a-year for basic coverage. The ObamaCare legislation and its laughable rollout of a useless website is just a punctuation mark at the end of the soap opera script. The result eventually will be the complete implosion of the medical racket and a return to a very primitive clinic system, with payment in chickens or cords of stove-wood. The smaller number of surviving humans will surely enjoy better health, and greater piece of mind, when this monster racket expires of inertia, bad faith, and deceit.

    These efforts to manage runaway hyper-complexity with more complexity are guaranteed to fail. Our prime task at this moment in history is managing contraction, and the means for doing that would be simplifying, not adding layers of complication larded with fraud, pretense, and mendacity.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World: Part 2

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Cuckoos_NestPublished on The Burning Platform on August 4, 2013

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

In Part 1 of this article I detailed the insane solutions proposed and executed since 2008 by our owners as they attempt to retain and further expand their ill-gotten wealth, acquired through fraud, deceit, swindles, and the brilliant manipulation and exploitation of the masses through Bernaysian propaganda techniques. Madness has engulfed the entire world, with a concentration of power in the hands of a few psychopathic financial elite wielding an inordinate and dangerous expanse of power over the lives of the common man. They are a modern day version of Al Capone, except their weapons of choice aren’t machine guns, but a printing press, peddling debt, creating derivatives of mass destruction, and peddling heaping doses of disinformation. The contemporary criminal class wears Hermes suits, Rolex watches and diamond studded pinky rings, drops $500 to dine at Masa in NYC, travels by chauffeured limo, lives in $10 million NYC penthouse suites, occupies luxurious corner offices in hundred story glass towers, and spends weekends hobnobbing with the other financial elite at their villas in the Hamptons. They have nothing but utter contempt for the lowly peasants who depend upon a weekly paycheck to make ends meet. Why work when you can steal $1 or $2 billion from farmers with no consequences?

  

The willfully ignorant masses are kept at bay by the selling them a false dichotomy of Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, and capitalism versus socialism. The ruling class distracts the public with fake wars on poverty, drugs and terror, while using these storylines to further enrich themselves and keep the public alarmed and frightened. We’ve been “fighting” the wars on poverty and drugs for over four decades and poverty is at record levels, while drugs are easier to obtain than candy in a candy store. The war on terror is nothing more than a corporate arms dealer welfare plan. The end of the Cold War put a real crimp in the bottom lines of Lockheed Martin and the rest of the peddlers of death. 9/11 and the subsequent undeclared wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria, with Iran on the horizon, have been a godsend to the bottom lines of the corporations Eisenhower warned about in 1961. In reality, the politicians are interchangeable and bought off by corporate and special interests. The people are sold a fable, and controlled opposition is the fairy tale. They perpetuate the welfare/warfare state that enriches Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the healthcare service complex, politically connected mega-corporations and the corporate media propaganda complex. The American people are given the illusion of choice by their keepers. The system is rigged. The real decisions are made by unelected secretive men who operate in the shadows and use their wealth to direct the decision making of the politicians, government bureaucrats, and corporate entities that benefit from those decisions. Edward Bernays described a society that existed in the 19th Century, 20th Century, and has now grown to immense proportions in the 21st Century:

“Political campaigns today are all sideshows…A presidential candidate may be ‘drafted’ in response to ‘overwhelming popular demand,’ but it is well known that his name may be decided upon by half a dozen men sitting around a table in a hotel room…The conscious manipulation of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”Edward Bernays 

The manipulation of the masses has been perfected by the ruling class through decades of corporate mass media messaging the purposeful dumbing down of the populace through government public school education that teaches children how to feel rather than how to think. The conscious manipulation of the masses has been designed to produce obedient non-thinking consumers of corporate products, educated to believe the accumulation of material goods with debt constitutes wealth, to fear whatever the government tells them to fear, and never look up from their iGadgets long enough to actually think for themselves. We are bombarded with Orwellian memes designed to keep us sedated and pliant, as the ruling class pillages the national wealth and expands their power and control over our lives.

Conform; Stay Asleep; Do Not Question Authority; Obey; Consume; Reproduce; Submit; Watch TV; Buy; Follow; Doubt Humanity; No New Ideas; Feel, Don’t Think; Fear; Accumulate; Honor Apathy; Believe Experts; Surrender; Spend; No Independent Thought; Win; Want More; Hate; Succumb To Desire; Yield To Power; Choose Safety Over Liberty; Choose Security Over Freedom   

This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character.

Are You Sane?

“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.” – Kurt Vonnegut – Welcome to the Monkey House

Vonnegut and Huxley’s social commentary reveals a basic truth that societies and human beings have been prone to bouts of madness over the course of decades and centuries. Humans are a weak species, susceptible to the vagaries of greed, lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, envy and pride. The seven deadly sins are in full bloom today, as the American empire descends through Dante’s inferno of reality TV, celebrity worship, religious zealotry, adulation of wealthy titans, military conquest and worship of false idols. Over the centuries humans have gone mad over tulips, farm land, stocks, and real estate. The easily duped American populace has been victimized by multiple bubbles bursting since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. The contention that a central bank run by private banking interests would promote a safer financial system and a stable currency is laughable. The Federal Reserve and the bankers who control it have created three stock bubbles, the largest housing bubble in history, a bond bubble and the mother of all debt bubbles, while destroying 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in the last 100 years.

There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo.

Greenspan’s easy money policies, manufacturing of negative real short term interest rates, regulatory malfeasance and unspoken promise to bail out Wall Street whenever their excessive risk taking threatened to burn down the financial system, led to 50% stock market crash in 2000/2001, a 40% plunge in national home prices, and another 55% stock market crash in 2008/2009. While Ivy Leaguers Bernanke, Paulson, Hubbard, Krugman, and Bush were too obtuse or too blinded by their ideology to recognize the fraudulent housing and stock market bubbles, honest clear thinking men like Robert Shiller, John Hussman, and Ron Paul recognized the bubbles well in advance and understood the consequences to the average American.

“Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss.” – Ron Paul – 2003

What Ron didn’t realize was the peddlers and packagers of fraudulent mortgage debt on Wall Street would walk away unscathed when the bubble they created popped. Trillions of net worth was vaporized due to the policies, solutions, and programs designed and implemented by Bernanke and his Wall Street co-conspirators. The losses should have been borne by those who made the loans. Instead they were borne by the American taxpayer and future unborn generations. David Stockman, in his no holds barred book about the Wall Street and K Street crony capitalist criminals, rails against the Federal Reserve led rescue of the profligate destroyers of capital markets:

“At the end of the day, this trillion-dollar infusion of capital and liquidity from the public till had a single overarching effect: it nullified in its entirety the impact of Mr. Market’s withdrawal of a similar magnitude of funding from the wholesale money market. So the very monetary distortion – the availability of cheap overnight funding in massive quantities – upon which the Wall Street financial bubble had been built had now been recreated at the lending windows of the Fed, FDIC, and the US Treasury.

The opposite path of liquidating the Wall Street bubble was eschewed, of course, not only because it would have meant massive losses to speculators in the stock and bonds of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and the remaining phalanx of the walking wounded. Crony capitalism also triumphed because in muscling the system during the white heat of crisis, Wall Street had plenty of intellectual cover. The fact is, mainstream economists of both parties were trapped in a Keynesian dead end, proclaiming that the solution to the crushing national debt load which had actually triggered the financial crisis was to pile on more of the same.

Accordingly, banks which were “too big to fail” couldn’t be busted up, since they were allegedly needed to shovel more credit onto already debt saturated household and business balance sheets. Likewise, speculators who should have suffered epochal losses during the meltdown were resuscitated by Fed-engineered zero interest rates in the money market, thereby quickly reviving the same massively leveraged “carry trades” in commodities, currencies, equities, derivatives, and other risk assets which had brought on the crisis in the first place.” David Stockman – The Great Deformation – The Corruption of Capitalism in America

The working middle class was forced at gunpoint to bail out billionaire bankers who had been fraudulently inducing feeble minded dupes and trailer trash to purchase $500,000 McMansions with negative amortization no doc subprime mortgages, while bullying appraisers into inflating appraisals, buying off the rating agencies, selling the toxic derivatives to their clients, and then shorting the very same derivatives. They subsequently committed foreclosure fraud by robo-signing legal documents. Describing these modern day Shylocks as heartless, cruel, lecherous, avaricious demons understates the vileness and contemptibility of their nature. Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson blatantly lied to the depraved, gutless members of Congress and to the easily hoodwinked fearful American public about the threat of our financial system collapsing unless the Wall Street banks were saved. This false storyline is still peddled today and believed by millions of willfully ignorant crony capitalist devotees. The financial system wasn’t going to collapse. The stock prices of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, Morgan Stanley, GE, and Wells Fargo were collapsing. The wealth of the financial elites that run the country was in peril. The depositors in these banks wouldn’t have lost a penny, but the shareholders and bond holders would have been wiped out. The personal wealth of Dimon, Mack, Lewis, Prince, Immelt, Blankfein and the other titans of finance took precedence over the rule of law and the negative consequences of excessive risk taking and control fraud.

True free market capitalism embraces the concept of creative destruction. Poorly run companies fail and are replaced by well-run companies. Bankruptcy law worked perfectly during the liquidation of Washington Mutual. The orderly liquidation of the Too Big to Trust Wall Street banks would have resulted in billions of bad debt being discharged, with the losses being borne by the executives who mismanaged the banks and the investors who were foolish enough to fund the disastrous schemes perpetrated by those executives. The FDIC would have kept depositors whole. The privatization of illicit bank profits from 2002 through 2007 and the socialization of the 2008 through 2010 bank losses are proof that we are experiencing a warped, immoral, crony capitalism that enriches the well-connected and impoverishes the working middle class. Our political, economic and financial systems have been captured by corporate and special interests. This corruption will prove fatal, as the vested interests destroy the system through their myopic greed. We’ve allowed a small cadre of malevolent men to gamble away the nation’s future with impunity from all laws, regulations and any sense of morality, under the guise of capitalism. These men and the nation will pay a high price for these transgressions. The punishment will fit the crimes.

“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”John Kenneth Galbraith – The Age of Uncertainty

The chart below reveals the criminal plan as implemented by Bernanke, the Obama administration and the Wall Street banks. Instead of allowing insolvent financial institutions to fail, $700 billion of taxpayer funds were syphoned from the economy and handed to them. Bernanke has since stuffed their coffers with another $2.4 trillion he printed out of thin air. The purpose of this insane transfer of national wealth from the people to the parasites was not to help Main Street. Forcing the FASB to allow these criminal bankers to mark to unicorn rather than mark to market, buying their toxic mortgages, and providing billions in free money was done to cover-up the fact they are insolvent. Their balance sheets and the Federal Reserve balance sheet are choking on bad debt. The ongoing foreclosure/rent to own scam was designed to drive up home prices and allow the bankers to exit their toxic mortgages with a profit. The criminally insane bankers have used the trillions in excess funds to syphon off billions in stock market gains, with assurances from Ben that QE to infinity will always be there. They know if their gambling leads to losses, Ben will come to the rescue.

The purpose of banks was supposed to be to lend money to businesses and consumers so they could make long-term investments that helped expand the economy. These Wall Street cretins didn’t loan money to people and businesses in the real world. It was much easier to generate risk free returns and program their HFT supercomputers to buy, buy, buy. By driving real interest rates below zero for the last four years, Bernanke has stolen $400 billion per year from senior citizens living on the edge and transferred it to bloodsucking bankers. Anyone with money in a bank account is losing money. This was designed to force muppets back into the stock market where they will be fleeced for the third time in the last thirteen years.

inflation and t-bill

Bernanke’s rescue measures have been a smashing success for the .1%. Wall Street is generating record levels of profits and paying out record levels of bonuses to themselves for a job well done. The stock market is at an all-time high, while the middle class is eviscerated by relentless inflation in energy, food, healthcare, clothing, tuition, rent and taxes. Reality does not match the propaganda touted by the financial elite. Ask the 47.7 million people on food stamps.

food stamps

The economic recovery narrative propagated by Wall Street paid economists, Wall Street controlled media pundits, and Wall Street bought off politicians is nothing but unmitigated bullshit. True unemployment, that doesn’t falsely exclude the unemployed who have thrown in the towel, is north of 20%, with youth unemployment exceeding 40%. The “solutions” implemented by our owners have led to a 10% collapse in the median household income since 2008. If the middle class is seeing their real incomes decline, while their living expenses are rising by 5% per year, how can the economy be recovering? It can’t. Bernanke’s banker welfare program and Obama’s $1 trillion deficits, along with accounting fraud and under-reporting of inflation, have produced the illusion of recovery.

economix-28income-blog480

Dimitri Orlov summarizes our modern financial system and sets the table for the coming collapse:

“The main tools of modern finance are mystification, obfuscation and hypnosis. What is different now is that all the governments have already shot all of their magic bailout bullets. The guilty parties are still at large, richer than they were before this crisis and probably thinking that the next crisis will make them even richer.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

The questions that must be answered are: How did we allow this to happen? Are we blameless? Can our course be reversed?

Time to Look in the Mirror

“The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories.  A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction.  It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens… which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens.  What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all.  But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it… which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.’

‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure.  Democracy often works beautifully at first.  But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state.  For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.” –  Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Heinlein has been dead for twenty five years. He wrote these words decades ago. His vision of a state bleeding to death is being played out as we speak. Ben Franklin had an inkling the Republic we were given would not be sustained. The success of our nation hinged upon the wisdom, self-restraint, morality, and civic mindedness of its citizens. Our form of governance was never perfect. Nothing is perfect. Adam Smith’s free market capitalism was based upon true competition, but with an underlying moral code. The rule of law meant something. Those who stole, cheated or broke the law were punished. Bankers and their usurious machinations were frowned upon. They were tolerated as a necessary evil, but they certainly weren’t admired and celebrated. When their greedy schemes to loot the populace went too far, a courageous leader would step forth and rout out the vipers and thieves:

“You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the eternal God, I will rout you out.”Andrew Jackson

Bankers gained more power after the Civil War as oil was discovered, the country grew rapidly, and the robber barons built their fortunes on debt and the backs of the poor. But still, there were leaders like Teddy Roosevelt who stood up to the banking and corporate interests. The die was finally cast in 1913 with the introduction of the income tax, the creation of the Federal Reserve and allowing the people to directly elect their Senators. A century of central banking has led to: a century of war; a century of currency debasement; a transformation from a hard-working, saving, producing society into an irresponsible, debt based spending, consuming society; and the degradation of our society into a mob of egotistical techno-narcissists, who have chosen bread and circuses over freedom, liberty and self-reliance. At first it happened gradually, but accelerated rapidly once Nixon removed the last vestiges of control over greedy bankers, corrupt politicians, and gluttonous voters. The transformation from an industrious nation of savers into a slothful nation of consumers has reached its zenith. Financialization Nation has been built on a pyramid of debt. The youth of today have been left with an un-payable debt burden and as Bill Bonner points out, the endgame will likely be violent and bloody:

“That’s a heavy burden. It is especially disagreeable when someone else ran up the debt. Then you are a debt slave. That is the situation of young people today. They must face their parents’ debt. Even serfs in the Dark Ages had it better. They had to work only one day out of 10 for their lords and masters. As it stands, young people in the U.S., Europe and Japan are expected to work their whole lives to pay for things their parents and grandparents consumed decades earlier.

Let’s see. Deny a young person work and you deny him a career. Deny him a career and you deny him a way to support a family. Deny him a family life and who knows what happens? Will today’s young people accept their lot… and remain in docile debt servitude their whole lives? Or will they rise up and burn T-bonds in public spaces… rampage down Wall Street… and perhaps hang Ben Bernanke in front of the New York Federal Reserve?” – Bill Bonner

The pyramid of debt was built brick by brick over the last century, as an unelected, secretive, unaccountable cabal of private banker pharaohs has controlled the currency of the nation and worked on behalf of the vested corporate and banking interests that control the country. Shortly after its devious creation in 1913, they enabled Woodrow Wilson to wage a war he promised to keep the nation out of. The central bank’s easy money policies during the 1920s led to an unsustainable credit driven boom in stocks, bonds and real estate. As usual, their belated monetary tightening was too late to avoid the 1929 Crash. Federal Reserve and government intervention after the crash prolonged the Depression for over a decade. The Crash of 1929 proved once again that bankers could not be trusted. Their insatiable greed and reckless thirst for more and more riches required checks on their ability to destroy our economic system. The 38 page 1933 Glass-Steagall Act made sure commercial banking was kept separate from investment banking (gambling), keeping the productive activity of helping businesses grow isolated from the parasitic activity of speculation. This clear, concise, understandable law kept bankers from destroying the lives of millions for 66 years, until a bipartisan screw job repealed the law and unleashed the kraken upon the unsuspecting public. Bernanke’s QE to infinity driven stock market gains over the last few years are reminiscent of another historic time, and this story also hasn’t reached its ultimate climax.

“A major boom in real stock prices in the U.S. after ‘Black Tuesday’ brought them halfway back to 1929 levels by 1930. This was followed by a second crash, another boom from 1932 to 1937, and a third crash. Speculative bubbles do not end like a short story, novel, or play. There is no final denouement that brings all the strands of a narrative into an impressive final conclusion. In the real world, we never know when the story is over.”Robert Shiller

The destruction of Europe, Russia and Japan during World War II and the Bretton Woods system that made the USD supreme across the world kept the economic peace for the next quarter century. A confluence of events in the late 1960s and early 1970s set the stage for the ultimate collapse of our faith based monetary system. LBJ’s Great Society welfare programs and our disastrous foray into Southeast Asia began the insane welfare/warfare dynamic that has required more and more debt to sustain. Nixon realized the debt expansion needed to pay for an ever expanding state could never be achieved with the Bretton Woods/gold pegged currency system.  In 1971 Nixon unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the USD to gold. It ushered in the era of freely floating currencies, relentless inflation, financial bubbles, debt accumulation, consumerism, and the rise of the corporate/fascist propaganda state. Using government supplied CPI statistics, the dollar had lost 75% of its purchasing power between 1913 and 1971. Since 1971 it has lost 83% of its remaining purchasing power. And Ben Bernanke has the guts to publicly state his worries about the ravages of deflation.

The years 1913 and 1971 will be seen by future historians as infamous dates when marking the decline of the great American empire.  Prior to 1971, the New York Stock Exchange barred the public listing of investment banks. After the exchange repealed this ban, the large investment banks (Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns) converted from partnerships, where the senior employees owned the company and were responsible for all of its liabilities, profits and losses, into publicly owned corporations, where executives’ incentives become aligned with outside shareholders, who demanded short-term profits and higher stock prices at the expense of long term sustainability. The partnership structure provided a mechanism of restraint, self-control, fiscal responsibility and cautiousness. If the bank failed, the partners’ net worth would be wiped out. Their incentives were for the long-term sustainability of the business and they were discouraged from taking undue risks that might produce huge short term profits, but might also destroy the firm. Shame and a sense of responsibility to fellow partners was a strong deterrent to obscene risk taking. The unholy combination of allowing investment banks to go public and repealing Glass Steagall in 1999, created a greed driven uncontrollable Too Big To Control brutish monstrosity consuming the world in its desire for more. It will only be stopped when it chokes to death while gorging on what’s left of the middle class.

The citizens, formerly known as the hard working American middle class, must accept their share of responsibility for the desperate circumstances we face. Some are guiltier than others, but we only need look in the mirror to find the culprits in allowing the bankers, politicians, military industrial complex, mass media and vested corporate interests to gain control over our country. The introduction of the credit card by Wall Street bankers as a must have for every citizen in the early 1970s coincided with the inflationary demons unleashed from Pandora’s Box by Nixon and the Federal Reserve, along with the peak of cheap U.S. oil production. Thus began four decades of real wages declining and consumer debt soaring. A nation of people that believed in saving before purchasing were given the freedom to spend money they didn’t have. The statistics paint a picture of a society gone mad:

  • Credit card debt grew from $5 billion in 1971 to $856 billion today, a 17,000% increase in forty-two years. GDP rose from $1.2 trillion to $16.6 trillion, a mere 1,400% increase. Real GDP only grew by 300%. Wages have grown from $600 billion to $7 trillion, a 1,200% increase. Real disposable personal income per capita grew from $17,200 to $36,800, a 200% increase.
  • Non-revolving debt (auto, student loan) grew from $127 billion in 1971 to $1.98 trillion today, a 1,600% increase.
  • There are over 600 million credit cards in circulation within the U.S. and Americans charged over $2.1 trillion last year.
  • Over 40% of Americans carry a balance on their credit card from month to month, with an average balance of $8,200 and an average interest rate of 13%.
  • 40% of all low and middle income households must rely on their credit cards to pay basic living expenses like rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, real estate taxes, income taxes, along with their “needed” iPhones, HDTVs, bling, stainless steel appliances, and tattoo artwork.
  • Wall Street banks have written off over $300 billion in credit card debt since 2008 (and passing the bill to taxpayers), while bilking their customers out of $60 billion per year in late fees and overdraft fees.

Despite the storyline of austerity, consumer credit outstanding has reached an all-time high of $2.84 trillion because Bernanke and his Wall Street puppeteers require perpetual debt expansion to keep their Ponzi scheme alive. Federal government dispensation of loans to subprime student borrowers has helped mask the true unemployment rate and Federal government doling out of subprime auto loans through Ally Financial and their crony Wall Street partners has created a fake auto recovery. The Blackrock/Wall Street “rent to own” faux housing recovery was designed by our owners to lure clueless math challenged dupes back into the housing market. Our entire economy is nothing but a confidence game at this point.

The four decade long orgy of debt couldn’t have ensued if our currency had remained linked to the barbaric relic – gold. The apologists and lackeys for the vested interests scorn and ridicule the notion of our economic system being burdened with any checks or balances. This is where the interests of those in power and those being ruled have coincided, as a fiat based monetary system allowed unlimited spending to keep the welfare/warfare state growing, enriching the crony capitalists, deepening the power of the state, and providing the masses with foreign made trinkets, baubles, corporate logoed clothing, techno-gadgets, and pimped out financed wheels. The concepts of self-restraint, discipline, saving for a rainy day, prudence, discretion, and deferred gratification are rarely displayed in modern day America. In a case of mass delusion, Americans have convinced themselves to live for today, recklessly ignore their futures, irresponsibly spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need, neglect their civic duty towards future generations, choose ignorance over knowledge, and vote for spineless politicians who promise them entitlements that are mathematically impossible to honor. The public’s foolish attitude towards debt accumulation matches the arrogance of our gutless intellectually dishonest leaders.

“When people pile up debts they will find difficult and perhaps even impossible to repay, they are saying several things at once. They are obviously saying that they want more than they can immediately afford. They are saying, less obviously, that their present wants are so important that, to satisfy them, it is worth some future difficulty. But in making that bargain they are implying that when the future difficulty arrives, they’ll figure it out. They don’t always do that.” Michael Lewis – Boomerang

The manner in which our leaders are governing the country and citizens are living their lives can only be considered normal in relation to residing in a profoundly abnormal society. The American Dream of having the opportunity for upward mobility through educating yourself, working hard, accumulating wealth methodically by spending less than you earn, and reaching your full potential as a caring loving human being has been replaced by a perverted nightmare where we run on a hamster wheel for our entire lives trying to achieve the new American dream of accumulating throw away material goods, working to make the payments for McMansions, SUVs, stainless steel appliances, and iGadgets you rent from bankers, while driving yourself into an early grave by consuming mass quantities of processed poison and the stress created by trying to achieve the lifestyle sold to us by Madison Ave. maggots, Wall Street shysters and the mainstream media propagandists. The corporate fascists tell you what to believe, which “enemy” to fear, how you should look, what to eat, what drug to take for the illnesses caused by the food they lured you to eat, the kind of house you need to impress your friends and family, and the car you need to drive to impress your neighbors. As George Carlin aptly pronounced: “It’s called the American Dream because you’d have to be asleep to believe it.” – either asleep or insane.

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”  – Ellen Goodman

Our profoundly abnormal society of materialistic zombies, who mindlessly obey the commands and marketing messages of the financial elite, has staked their futures and the future of the country on the wisdom and brilliance of an Ivy League academic who never worked a day in the real world, didn’t spot the largest fraudulent housing bubble in world history, and whose unlawful acts as Federal Reserve chairman have enriched the banking whores who destroyed the country and impoverished what remains of the dying middle class. It’s the height of insanity for the American people to trust these crooked high priests of finance to cure a disease they spread with their immoral, traitorous policies over the last century. Bernanke and his lackeys, in a desperate last gasp gamble to prolong their fiat currency pillaging of the peasants, have rolled the dice with QE to infinity, accounting fraud, and further enrichment of their corporate masters.

“Viewed as a religious cult, modern finance revolves around the miracle of the spontaneous generation of money in a set of rituals performed by the high priests of central banking. People hang on the high priests’ every word, attempting to divine the secret meaning behind their cryptic utterances. Their interventions before the unknowable deity of global finance assure them of economic recovery and continued prosperity, just as a shaman’s rain dance guarantees rain or ritual sacrifice atop a Mayan pyramid once promised a bountiful harvest of maize.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park. In Part 3 of this article I will speculate on the timing, scope and consequences of the coming collapse. It’s not going to be a happy ending, especially for the existing social order.

Crash 2: Draghi Implicated

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on June 24, 2013

dragrakept

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

CRASH 2: DRAGHI IMPLICATED AS ITALY FACES CYPRUS TEMPLATE

Snake hit by rake: Draghi rumours of malpractice in 1990s and 2012 resurface…looking more solid

A report submitted earlier this year to the Corte dei Conti, Italy’s state auditors, suggests not only that Italy faces a potentially massive derivatives hit, but also that Mario Draghi may be personally implicated in those and other frauds. In particular, several appear to have been central to Italy gaining entry to the eurozone in 1999….based on clearly falsified data.

Allegations being made against Signor Draghi insist that he ‘cooked’ Italy’s debt picture when seeming to reduce Italy’s budget deficit from 7.7 % in 1995 to 2.7% by the crucial entry-qualification year, 1998. It was, by a country kilometre, the steepest debt reduction among any of the (then) eleven eurozone applicants. Draghi went on to join Goldman Sachs in 2002, and by then accusations of book-cooking were already starting to emerge. In 2005, the Bank of Italy was forced to issue a denial, but several eminent commentators found it unconvincing. In 2006, news agency Bloomberg  applied to Draghi’s mentor Jean-Claude ‘Tricky’ Trichet for the release of further information, which Trichet refused to give…again, to the consternation of a number of mainstream financial journalists.

Author Simon Johnson, for example, not only found the answers given by Draghi “unpersuasive”, he also pointed out how unlikely it was that, as a Goldman employee, the Italian had “known nothing” about the fraudulent marketing of debt cover-up assistance to the Greek Government. Pascal Canfin, Member of the Italian Parliament and former chairman of the ECON committee, grilled Draghi on how he could have known about these transactions and allowed them to go through. He was not satisfied with the answers. The New York Times reported, after Draghi’s nomination for the ECB was approved, that Supermario had marketed similar transactions to other European governments. So it’s pretty clear there have been clouds above Il Draghi’s head for some time.

Meanwhile, the present Italian Government faces  billions of euros in derivatives contract losses that it restructured at the height of the eurozone crisis, according to the Corte dei Conti report. Those having had sight of it say the document ‘sheds more light on the financial tactics that enabled the debt-laden country to enter the euro in 1999′ (linking straight back to Draghi’s time at the Italian Bank) while in turn – according to the FT – it ‘details Italy’s debt transactions and exposure in the first half of 2012, including the restructuring of eight derivatives contracts with foreign banks with a total notional value of €31.7bn’. There was a suggestion from one US source last night that Draghi is also implicated in these.

Meanwhile, new information received at The Slog suggests the Knights Template may be at it again.

Another source emailed The Slog yesterday to point out that a US banking major (unidentified as yet) has told all its staff, on Fed Treasury orders, ‘to inform the US government about all deposits emanating from Italy, from any entity, company, individual or institution, with full and complete comprehensive details of any account opening or transfer or balance in excess of $100,000′.

There is only one reason for such an order: to trace any and all bailin escapees. Yesterday, The Slog posted in Smoke Signals that Italy’s second biggest financial institution, Mediobanca, ‘has overtly warned that the country is going to need a further rescue-cum-bailin within six months at the most. “Time is running out fast,” said Mediobanca analyst, Antonio Guglielmi, “The Italian macro situation has not improved over the last quarter, rather the contrary. Some 160 large corporates in Italy are now in special crisis administration.”’

Last Saturday’s Slogpost  on Draghi’s financial power in the EU accused the EC the previous Thursday of ‘having handed absolute power to the unelected [Draghi]….at the expense of the citizen.’ I went on to accuse the ECB boss of being ‘completely unaccountable to any body or institution – elected or otherwise. Under the ECB’s Constitution guaranteed by the European Commission he is totally immune from prosecution. He cannot be removed from his position. He is obviously censoring any and all information that might reveal the true situation in the eurozone. He illegally subordinated an entire class of bondholders over the second Greek bailout. He managed and spearheaded an overt heist to steal the banking expertise and economic wellbeing of Cyprus, and in so doing committed an act of grand larceny against innocent depositors in the Island’s banks.

It looks suspiciously like Italy is heading for a Cyprus, and pretty soon. I can only repeat the bold type warning I gave then:

This is not a queue for the showers, European nations. It is the line heading directly to the extermination of your democratic rights, individual liberties, and personal wealth. There may be 27 of you and only one Draghi; but your divisions just make his job far easier. Step in the way of the Beasts now, or you will have a jackboot stepping on your face forever. 

Stay tuned.

All I want for Christmas is the TRUTH

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on December 3,2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

“Eyes blinded by the fog of things
cannot see truth.
Ears deafened by the din of things
cannot hear truth.
Brains bewildered by the whirl of things
cannot think truth.
Hearts deadened by the weight of things
cannot feel truth.
Throats choked by the dust of things
cannot speak truth.”
Harald Bell Wright – The Uncrowned King

I consider myself a seeker of truth. It isn’t easy finding it in todays’ world. In an alternate version of the famous scene from A Few Good Men, I picture myself telling Turbo Tax Timmy Geithner that I want the truth and his angry truthful response:

“Son, we live in a world that has Wall Street banks, and those banks have to be guarded by puppet politicians in Washington D.C. with lobbyist written laws and Madison Avenue PR maggots with media propaganda. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Representative Paul? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for the average middle class American family, and you curse the ruling oligarchs. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That the death of the American middle class, while tragic, probably saved the bonuses of thousands of Wall Street bankers. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, increases the wealth of these same bankers who destroyed the worldwide economic system in 2008. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about in the food bank line, you want me on Wall Street, you need me on Wall Street. We use words like derivative, fiscal stimulus, quantitative easing. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent syphoning off the wealth of the nation. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very debt that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up 1000 shares of Apple, and hope our high frequency trading supercomputers can ramp the market for a while longer. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

I find myself more amazed than ever at the ability of those in power to lie, misinform and obfuscate the truth, while millions of Americans willfully choose to be ignorant of the truth and yearn to be misled. It’s a match made in heaven. Acknowledging the truth of our society’s descent from a country of hard working, self-reliant, charitable, civic minded citizens into the abyss of entitled, dependent, greedy, materialistic consumers is unacceptable to the slave owners and the slaves. We can’t handle the truth because that would require critical thought, hard choices, sacrifice, and dealing with the reality of an unsustainable economic and societal model. It’s much easier to believe the big lies that allow us to sleep at night. The concept of lying to the masses and using propaganda techniques to manipulate and form public opinion really took hold in the 1920s and have been perfected by the powerful ruling elite that control the reins of finance, government and mass media.

Peddlers of Propaganda

“Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

File:Edward Bernays.jpg

Adolf Hitler understood the power of the big lie over the ignorant masses who want to believe:

“All this was inspired by the principle–which is quite true within itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” – Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf

We are all liars. We lie to friends, family and co-workers. We convince ourselves they are only small lies and just protect others from being hurt. We would rather be lied to than face the blunt truth about our deficiencies, shortcomings and failures. Willfully believing mistruths allows a person to become dependent upon those promulgating the mistruths. It relieves them of their responsibility to act upon the knowledge that something is wrong and must be fixed. It is a cowardly path to ultimate servitude and destruction. The German people chose this path in the 1930s and the American people have chosen a similar and ultimately destructive path today. The United States Office of Strategic Services prepared a psychological profile report during the war describing Adolf Hitler’s method for controlling the minds of the German masses:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

America’s corruptible politicians, greedy corporate chieftains, criminal banking overlords, and despicable media manipulators all learned the sordid lessons of mass propaganda from the masters. Our willingness to lie and be lied to set us up to be manipulated by those who understood the mass psychology of a nation. Goebbels and Hitler were heavily influenced by the father of propaganda – Edward Bernays. He and his disciples are professional poisoners of the public mind, exploiters of public foolishness and ignorance, and never allow truth to interfere with a good story. What master manipulators realized is that it is easier to change the attitude of millions than the attitude of one man. By analyzing and understanding the process and motives of how the group mind works, the invisible government has been able to manipulate and regulate the masses according to their will without the masses knowing they are being managed. Bernays described this elitist view of the world in 1928:

“Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda

The super-rich elite believe they are more intelligent, more capable of managing the affairs of state, masters of the financial world, and chosen to decide what is best for the masses. In reality, they are egocentric, psychotic, power hungry, myopic, self-serving ravenous vultures, feasting upon the carcass of a once great nation. Truth is inconsequential and irritating to their plans for world domination and control. Therefore, no truth will be forthcoming from any organization or person that is associated with the existing political, economic, financial or social order. Every bit of information that is permitted into the public realm has been vetted, manipulated and spun for public consumption. The public does not like bad news. They do not like hard facts. They do not like to think or do math. They want to be spoon fed mindless sound bites and happy talk. The oligarchs need to keep the masses sedated and subservient while they continue to plunder and pillage, so all data is massaged to provide a happy ending.

This is where I deviate from the ideologue one-trick ponies that refuse to see both sides of the issue. The ruling oligarchs are wealthy, influential, psychotic, amoral, and few. The masses are relatively poor, easily influenced, willfully ignorant, and many. The ruling oligarchs are most certainly evil, but the masses are not the hard working, stoic, downtrodden portrayed by liberal ideologues. One just needs to walk down the street in one of our urban enclaves, saunter through a suburban mall, or click on People of Wal-Mart to witness the tattooed, pierced, butt crack showing, slovenly, obese, and ignorant, attached to their electronic iGadgets, to understand how far our society has deteriorated. Every individual born into this world has the capability to become educated, think critically, not follow the herd, live beneath their means, and not be influenced by propaganda. Aldous Huxley understood in 1931 that those in power could use material goods to invoke passivity and egotism among the populace. He feared that truth would be obscured by an avalanche of irrelevance (500 Reality TV shows), cultural trivialities (Lady Gaga, Lindsey Lohan), distractions (Professional sports), and pharmaceutical enhanced escape (Prozac). He saw the possibility that we would grow to love our servitude as the pleasures of life provided by our controllers overwhelmed any desire to think or question authority.

“There will be in the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it.” Aldous Huxley

By 1962 when Huxley wrote his last book, he was certain that his worst dystopian nightmares had been unleashed. His description of Western society fifty years ago could have been written today and accurately reflected our current economic paradigm. War, debt and consumption still make our world go round, but the end is nigh.

“Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence – those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you’d collapse. And while you people are over-consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.”Aldous Huxley – Island

The pillars are crumbling. The $1.4 trillion wasted on two worthless wars of choice in the Middle East, the trillions wasted and liberties sacrificed for the never ending unwinnable War on Terror, the Keynesian spending frenzy that has driven the National Debt from $9 trillion to $16.3 trillion in the last five years, the looting of the American taxpayer by Wall Street and their co-conspirators at the Federal Reserve and in Congress, and the belief that ramping up the debt driven consumption that drives 71% of our GDP is our path to prosperity is absolutely freaking nuts. The pillars will not be abolished willingly. The ruling class depends upon their continued existence and expansion. There is the rub. The math doesn’t work. We’ve reached the point where continued expansion of debt and money printing no longer works. With a national debt to GDP ratio of 102% and a total credit market debt to GDP ratio of 350%, we have passed the Rogoff & Reinhart point of no return. This time is not different. A country cannot run trillion dollar deficits indefinitely and expect to not suffer the consequences. This is why those in power are increasingly resorting to propaganda, data manipulation, and outright lies to convince the masses of their omnipotence and brilliance in managing the fiscal affairs of the state.

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

Through decades of mass media messaging the masses have been conditioned to believe whatever those in power want them to believe. To our invisible government rulers we are nothing but rats to be manipulated through food pellets and shock therapy. Pleasure and fear of pain are the drivers of our warped society. The ruling oligarchs truly think they know what is best for the masses and believe any means is worthwhile as long as the ends support their agenda. This is blatantly obvious to anyone with their eyes open and their brain functioning. Sadly, the government run educational system produces mostly drones that are barely able to tie their own shoes, spell Cat, or make change from a one dollar bill. Only 20% of all high school seniors score high enough on the SAT test to get a B minus in college and most of these kids come from private and parochial schools. This is exactly what those in power prefer. They want non-critical thinking, mindless consumers, who don’t understand the criminal nature of Federal Reserve created inflation or their enslavement in the chains of debt at the hands of their Wall Street slave owners. They certainly don’t want the masses to understand that real median household net worth is lower today than it was in 1969. Luckily for the oligarchs, 95% of the public couldn’t define the terms: real, median or net worth. Math is hard.

The average person is inundated on a 24/7 basis with pabulum from liberal network media talking heads, CNBC Wall Street shills regurgitating whatever their sponsors desire, Fox News blonde bimbos and neo-con war mongers programmed to spew Rupert Murdoch talking points, MSNBC tingling leg faux journalists, NYT intellectually corrupt Nobel prize winners, NAR nitwits repeating “best time to buy” on a daily basis for the last 12 years, and government agencies whose sole purpose is to manipulate data in a way that supports the agenda of those in power. The intellectually lazy and willfully ignorant masses are no match for those who control the message and the media. How else can you explain their ability to convince millions of drones to line up for hours in front of a store and stampede like crazed hyenas to grab a $5 crockpot, the Chinese produced gadget of the moment or a designer top made by slave labor in safety conscious Bangladesh factories? How else can you explain a population willing to be molested by government TSA dregs in the name of security from phantom terrorists, the passive acceptance of military exercises in US cities, unquestioning submissiveness as Presidential Executive Orders allow the government dictatorial powers based on their judgment, the monitoring of internet and voice correspondence of all citizens, and believing that FBI agents luring clueless teenage Muslim dupes into fake terrorist plots, providing the fake explosives, and then announcing with great fanfare how they saved us from another 9/11?

But, the prize for boldest, most outrageous, blatant use of propaganda and misinformation to cover-up their criminal looting of America goes to Ben Bernanke, his cronies at the Federal Reserve, and the Wall Street banks that own and control our Central Bank. Having the gall to portray themselves as the stabilizer of our economic system over the last 100 years is a putrid joke on the dying and broke middle class. Their mandate has been stable prices, full employment, and avoiding financial crisis. It is a tribute to Bernays and the rest of the public relations swine that the average American actually believes inflation is a good thing and it is under control despite the FACT that 96.2% of their purchasing power has disappeared since 1900, with the most rapid decline occurring since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971.

inflation-currency

The average American actually believes Ben Bernanke saved us from a Great Depression when in actuality he saved the owners of the Federal Reserve from accepting the losses they generated through the greatest financial fraud in history. His “solutions” have zombified our economic system, just as the Japanese Central Bank did 20 years ago. He has destroyed the concept of saving, while rewarding the indebted and profligate with his QE to Infinity money printing policies. And the ignorant masses have been convinced by the corporate media and their corrupt government lackeys that Ben did this for them. Kyle Bass knows otherwise. He knows how the Fed and their backers have preyed upon the masses through their understanding of human psychology:

“Humans are optimistic by nature. People’s lives are driven by hopes and dreams which are all second derivatives of their innate optimism. Humans also suffer from optimistic biases driven by the first inalienable right of human nature which is self-preservation. It is this reflex mechanism in our cognitive pathways that makes difficult situations hard to reflect and opine on. These biases are extended to economic choices and events. The primary difficulty with this train of thought is the bias that most investors have for the baseline facts: they tend to believe that the central bankers, politicians, and other governmental agencies are omnipotent due to their success in averting a financial meltdown in 2009.

Central banks have become the great enablers of fiscal profligacy. The overarching belief is that there will always be someone or something there to act as the safety net. The safety nets worked so well recently that investors now trust they will be underneath them ad-infinitum. Markets and economists alike now believe that quantitative easing (“QE”) will always “work” by flooding the market with relatively costless capital. Unlimited QE and the zero lower bound (“ZLB”) are likely to bankrupt pension funds whose expected returns happen to be a good 600 basis points (or more) higher than the 10?year “risk-free” rate. The ZLB has many unintended consequences that are impossible to ignore.

Our belief is that markets will eventually take these matters out of the hands of the central bankers. These events will happen with such rapidity that policy makers won’t be able to react fast enough. The fallacy of the belief that countries that print their own currency are immune to sovereign crisis will be disproven in the coming months and years. Trillions of dollars of debts will be restructured and millions of financially prudent savers will lose large percentages of their real purchasing power at exactly the wrong time in their lives. Again, the world will not end, but the social fabric of the profligate nations will be stretched and in some cases torn. Sadly, looking back through economic history, all too often war is the manifestation of simple economic entropy played to its logical conclusion. We believe that war is an inevitable consequence of the current global economic situation.” Kyle Bass

What’s Normal in a Profoundly Abnormal Society?

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited

No sane person could honestly say that what has happened to our society over the last forty years, and particularly in the last five years, is normal. But somehow those in power have convinced the masses that $1.2 trillion deficits, 0% interest rates, declining real wages, the highest average gas prices in history, pre-emptive wars, policing the world and buying rubber dog shit produced in China with a credit card is normal and beneficial to our economy. It seems that I and a few million other people in this country are the abnormal ones. We choose not to be led to slaughter by our masters. The seekers of truth have turned to the alternative media and are able to connect with like-minded critical thinking individuals on websites like Zero Hedge, Jesse’s Americain Café, Of Two Minds, Mish, Financial Sense, among many other truth seeking blogs. This is dangerous to the powers that be and they are using their political clout and extreme wealth to try and lock down and control free speech on the internet. If this is accomplished all hope at disseminating truth will be lost.

Abraham Lincoln once said that he believed in the people and that if you told them the truth and gave them the cold hard facts they would meet any crisis. That may have been true in 1860, but not today. The cold hard facts are available for all to see:

  • A $16.3 trillion National Debt
  • 47 million people on food stamps
  • Over $222 trillion of unfunded Federal entitlement liabilities
  • Over $5 trillion of unfunded State entitlement liabilities
  • True unemployment above 20%.
  • True inflation above 5%.
  • A stock market at the same level as 1999, with a 10 year expected annual return of less than 4% – Stocks for the really, really long run. 10 year bond returns of 0% will be a miracle.
  • A savings rate of 3.7% and with Bernanke’s ZIRP, no incentive to save. Real hourly earnings continue to fall.

  • Baby Boomers within 10 years of retirement have saved an average of only $78,000, and more than a third of them have less than $25,000. More than half of U.S. workers have no retirement plan at all.
  • A crumbling, decaying infrastructure, with 150,000 structurally deficient bridges, bursting water mains, and an overstressed electrical grid.
  • Horrific government public education producing millions of low functioning morons.
  • Rotting social fabric, with 40% of children born out of wedlock (72% of black children) and a 50% divorce rate.
  • An energy policy based upon unicorns farting rainbows and press releases about green energy and the miracle of shale fracking, as average gas prices in 2012 and 2011 were the highest in U.S. history.

As the pitiful excuses for statesmen in Washington D.C. pander and posture about the dreaded fiscal cliff which was purposely created by the oligarchs as a show for the masses, none of the true issues above are being addressed. The dramatic compromise that will ultimately be reached between the equally corrupt parties will be hailed by the corporate media and Wall Street shysters and an HFT supercomputer engineered stock market rally will ensue. The cowardice of these politicians is revolting. As Huxley knew in 1958, politicians and propagandists prefer nonsense and storylines to truth, knowledge and honesty.

“Human beings act in a great variety of irrational ways, but all of them seem to be capable, if given a fair chance, of making a reasonable choice in the light of available evidence. Democratic institutions can be made to work only if all concerned do their best to impart knowledge and to encourage rationality. But today, in the world’s most powerful democracy, the politicians and the propagandists prefer to make nonsense of democratic procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and irrationality of the electors.”Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited

We want to be lied to because the truth is too painful. Hope and denial with a dash of delusion is the recipe the mindless masses prefer. The average person doesn’t want to understand the chart below. They want to believe the U.S. will dominate economically and lead the world for decades to come. We are still the bright shining beacon of democracy on the mountaintop. Even though the facts unequivocally reveal a declining empire, the masses desperately grasp at straws in the wind. The United States share of world GDP will be vastly lower in 2021, as the hubris of declining empires never allows them to take the necessary steps to reverse the decline (Rome, Great Britain).

It is fitting that during this magical Christmas season of fantasy, delusion, debt fueled material over-consumption and fairy tales, we look at the biggest fairy tale of all – the great jobs recovery. I know from the two thousand Obama campaign commercials I was forced to watch in the last few months and 500 robo-calls at dinner every night that we’ve added 4 million jobs due to Obama’s wise economic policies. The magical journey from a 10.3% unemployment rate to a 7.9% rate is a humdinger. I stumbled across a myriad of charts on those truth-telling websites that I had previously mentioned.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” Aldous Huxley

The first chart that grabbed my attention shows the historical relationship between the U3 unemployment rate reported to the masses versus the U6 truer picture of unemployment, along with the percentage of people unemployed for longer than 15 weeks. A funny thing happened shortly after the election of Barack Obama. From 1994 through 2008 the gap between the U3 and U6 rates consistently ranged between 3% and 4%. Suddenly, the gap surged to 7% and currently sits at almost 8%. The figure reported to the masses of 7.9% is so much easier to digest than the 15% to 17% that captures the truer level of unemployment. If the gap between these two figures had remained at the levels of the previous 14 years, the unemployment that should be reported to the masses would be 11%. That is unacceptable to those in power, so the data is massaged and the propaganda machine spins the storyline necessary to confuse and mislead the masses.

 

The next two charts from Mike Shedlock again reveal truths the existing social order doesn’t want you to know. Even though the working age population has grown by 10 million people since 2008, the BLS expects critical thinking people to believe the labor force has only grown by 1.3 million people. You see, the unemployment rate is calculated using the labor force. If your economic policies don’t create jobs, just adjust the labor force dramatically lower based on nothing. In desperate economic times, people do not voluntarily leave the workforce. Only a non-thinking drone would believe that 8.7 million Americans voluntarily left the workforce since 2008, when only 4 million left the workforce from 2003 through 2007. It is not a coincidence that student loan debt, which was taken over by the Obama administration in 2009 rose by $300 billion. Those in power have doled out these billions with no concern for credit risk or academic credentials in order to reduce the number of people in the labor force. Unemployed union Twinkie workers seeking a new career in lesbian studies can get a $20,000 loan from the American taxpayer to sit in their basement along with the 500,000 other University of Phoenix enrollees. The future $300 billion taxpayer bailout was worth it to keep the unemployment rate low enough to insure Obama’s re-election.

The Obama PR machine never fails to expound upon the fact that the economy added 4.9 million jobs since January 2009. In the same timeframe, uncovered employment rose by 6.6 million. Inquiring minds might want to know what an “uncovered” job entails. Selling your accumulated Chinese crap on Ebay is an uncovered job. Calling yourself a consultant while sleeping until noon is an uncovered job. Day trading Facebook and Apple stock is an uncovered job. Trash picking is an uncovered job. The truth is that real jobs are 1.7 million lower than they were at the depths of the recession, while bullshit jobs paying virtually nothing and offering no benefits have surged by 6.6 million. These facts don’t make a great campaign commercial. The number of employed Americans is at the same level as mid-2005, even though the working age population has grown by 18 million. Since 2008 there are 3 million less full-time jobs and 3 more part-time jobs. This trend is accelerating as small businesses react rationally to the oncoming Obamacare train, resulting in aggregate work hours declining and wage growth stagnating.

Zero Hedge reveals more truth about our glorious jobs recovery with the following two charts. They obliterate the false narrative spun by liberal ideologues that the reason for the increase of those not in the labor force is due to Baby Boomers retiring. The truth is that while those in the 55-69 age brackets have gained nearly 4 million jobs under President Obama, everyone else has lost just over 2.5 million jobs. Is this a positive development or a sign of extreme desperation among older Americans who have seen their interest income vaporized by Ben Bernanke and there food, energy, and healthcare expenses skyrocket?

Those in their prime earning years of 25 to 54 still have a net cumulative loss of 2.2 million jobs since 2009. Recent college graduates, with their billions of student loan debt, have nabbed 400,000 TGI Fridays jobs, singing happy birthday to 3 year olds, with their newly minted college degrees. This is the “normal” healthy jobs market sold to the American public by the propagandists and politicians.

The final jobs chart that portrays the truth of what has been a decades’ long spiral downward paints a picture of a country that once created wealth through producing goods from the 1940s through 1970. Since 1970 we’ve degenerated into a debt creating country that consumes foreign produced goods and makes entitlement promises it can never keep. Selling houses to each other, peddling crap on Ebay, and eating out three times a week has shockingly failed to propel our economy. The jobs picture has deteriorated rapidly since 2008 and is not improving, despite the best propaganda money can buy. There is absolutely no chance of any substantive improvement over the next four years based on the policies in place and refusal to acknowledge the economic realities that we face.

The accumulation of material possessions through the use of consumer debt, peddled by bankers and reinforced through relentless corporate marketing propaganda has left the country’s citizens weary, miserable, greedy, indebted and sick. Our obsession with technology has merely provided another means of distracting ourselves from confronting the dire challenges that must be addressed. We can ignore the facts but that doesn’t mean they do not exist. The abnormality that grips this nation is breathtaking to behold, as the status quo cheer on and encourage consumers to buy more things with money they don’t have in order to support an economic recovery that is dependent upon zero interest rates for Wall Street banks, QE to infinity, and the delusional desire for a miraculous return to the good old days when getting something for nothing was possible. We can no longer deny reality. If we want to add 30 million people to Medicaid, it must be paid for. If we want to wage never ending wars and police the world, it must be paid for. If we want a Federal government to spend $3.8 trillion per year, it must be paid for. Nothing is free in this world, but more than 50% of Americans seem to believe that to be true.

“Our economy is based on spending billions to persuade people that happiness is buying things, and then insisting that the only way to have a viable economy is to make things for people to buy so they’ll have jobs and get enough money to buy things.” Philip Elliot Slater

We are seen by those in control as nothing more than common house flies caught in their web of lies. Your owners don’t care about you. They only care about their own wealth and power. They want to control and manipulate you. They want to keep you enslaved in debt and running on the treadmill of consumption. They want passive, non-critical thinking drones to do the menial service jobs that remain in this country, while they use their control of our financial, political, tax, and legal systems to ransack and pillage the wealth of the dwindling middle class. The truth is the continuation of our current economic system is mathematically impossible. Your owners know this. This is why the use of propaganda, misinformation, fake data, and false storylines has taken on astronomical proportions. The time for passivity and accepting the deceitfulness of our leaders is coming to an end. While you’re waiting in line this Christmas season at Wal-Mart to purchase a fabulously priced shirt that only required the deaths of 112 Bangladesh slave laborers, try to figure out how we got here. Your owners think they have you by the balls.

“They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want—they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. You know something, they don’t want people that are smart enough to sit around their kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. Because the owners of this country know the truth, it’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.” George Carlin

How many Americans are awake enough to handle the truth?

All I want for Christmas is the truth.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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