Foreclosures

The Fourteen Year Recession

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 24, 2014

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”Napoleon Bonaparte

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“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men … [W]e have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world—no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.”Woodrow Wilson

When you ponder the implications of allowing a small group of powerful wealthy unaccountable men to control the currency of a nation over the last one hundred years, you understand why our public education system sucks. You understand why the government created Common Core curriculum teaches children that 3 x 4 = 13, as long as you feel good about your answer. George Carlin was right. The owners of this country (bankers, billionaires, corporate titans, politicians) want more for themselves and less for everyone else. They want an educational system that creates ignorant, obedient, vacuous, obese dullards who question nothing, consume mass quantities of corporate processed fast food, gaze at iGadgets, are easily susceptible to media propaganda and compliant to government regulations and directives. They don’t want highly educated, critical thinking, civil minded, well informed, questioning citizens understanding how badly they have been screwed over the last century. I’m sorry to say, your owners are winning in a landslide.

The government controlled public education system has flourished beyond all expectations of your owners. We’ve become a nation of techno-narcissistic, math challenged, reality TV distracted, welfare entitled, materialistic, gluttonous, indebted consumers of Chinese slave labor produced crap. There are more Americans who know the name of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s bastard child (North West) than know the name of our Secretary of State (Ketchup Kerry). Americans can generate a text or tweet with blinding speed but couldn’t give you change from a dollar bill if their life depended upon it. They are whizzes at buying crap on Amazon or Ebay with a credit card, but have never balanced their checkbook or figured out the concept of deferred gratification and saving for the future. While the ignorant masses are worked into a frenzy by the media propaganda machine over gay marriage, diversity, abortion, climate change, and never ending wars on poverty, drugs and terror, our owners use their complete capture of the financial, regulatory, political, judicial and economic systems to pillage the remaining national wealth they haven’t already extracted.

The financial illiteracy of the uneducated lower classes and the willful ignorance of the supposedly highly educated classes has never been more evident than when examining the concept of Federal Reserve created currency debasement – also known as inflation. The insidious central banker created monetary inflation is the cause of all the ills in our warped, deformed, rigged financialized economic system. The outright manipulation and falsity of government reported economic data is designed to obscure the truth and keep the populace unaware of the deception being executed by the owners of this country. They have utilized deceit, falsification, propaganda and outright lies to mislead the public about the true picture of the disastrous financial condition in this country. Since most people are already trapped in the mental state of normalcy bias, it is easy for those in control to reinforce that normalcy bias by manipulating economic data to appear normal and using their media mouthpieces to perpetuate the false storyline of recovery and a return to normalcy.

This is how feckless politicians and government apparatchiks are able to add $2.8 billion per day to the national debt; a central bank owned by Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks has been able to create $3.3 trillion out of thin air and pump it into the veins of its owners; and government controlled agencies report a declining unemployment rate, no inflation and a growing economy, without creating an iota of dissent or skepticism from the public. Americans want to be lied to because it allows them to continue living lives of delusion, where spending more than you make, consuming rather than saving, and believing stock market speculation and home price appreciation will make them rich are viable life strategies. Even though 90% of the population owns virtually no stocks, they are convinced record stock market highs are somehow beneficial to their lives. They actually believe Bernanke/Yellen when they bloviate about the dangers of deflation. Who would want to pay less for gasoline, food, rent, or tuition?

Unless you are beholden to the oligarchs, that sense of stress, discomfort, feeling that all in not well, and disturbing everyday visual observations is part of the cognitive dissonance engulfing the nation. Anyone who opens their eyes and honestly assesses their own financial condition, along with the obvious deterioration of our suburban sprawl retail paradise infrastructure, is confronted with information that is inconsistent with what they hear from their bought off politician leaders, highly compensated Ivy League trained economists, and millionaire talking heads in the corporate legacy media. Most people resolve this inconsistency by ignoring the facts, rejecting the obvious and refusing to use their common sense. To acknowledge the truth would require confronting your own part in this Ponzi debt charade disguised as an economic system. It is easier to believe a big lie than think critically and face up to decades of irrational behavior and reckless conduct.

What’s In Your GDP                          

“The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the broader measures of economic activity and is the most widely followed business indicator reported by the U.S. government. Upward growth biases built into GDP modeling since the early 1980s, however, have rendered this important series nearly worthless as an indicator of economic activity.  The popularly followed number in each release is the seasonally adjusted, annualized quarterly growth rate of real (inflation-adjusted) GDP, where the current-dollar number is deflated by the BEA’s estimates of appropriate price changes. It is important to keep in mind that the lower the inflation rate used in the deflation process, the higher will be the resulting inflation-adjusted GDP growth.”John Williams – Shadowstats

GDP is the economic statistic bankers, politicians and media pundits use to convince the masses the economy is growing and their lives are improving. Therefore, it is the statistic most likely to be manipulated, twisted and engineered in order to portray the storyline required by the oligarchs. Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth usually marks a recession. Those in power do not like to report recessions, so data “massaging” has been required over the last few decades to generate the required result. Prior to 1991 the government reported the broader GNP, which includes the GDP plus the balance of international flows of interest and dividend payments. Once we became a debtor nation, with massive interest payments to foreigners, reporting GNP became inconvenient. It is not reported because it is approximately $900 billion lower than GDP. The creativity of our keepers knows no bounds. In July of 2013 the government decided they had found a more “accurate” method for measuring GDP and simply retroactively increased GDP by $500 billion out of thin air. It’s amazing how every “more accurate” accounting adjustment improves the reported data. The economic growth didn’t change, but GDP was boosted by 3%. These adjustments pale in comparison to the decades long under-reporting of inflation baked into the GDP calculation.

As John Williams pointed out, GDP is adjusted for inflation. The higher inflation factored into the calculation, the lower reported GDP. The deflator used by the BEA in their GDP calculation is even lower than the already bastardized CPI. According to the BEA, there has only been 32% inflation since the year 2000. They have only found 1.4% inflation in the last year and only 7.1% in the last five years. You’d have to be a zombie from the Walking Dead or an Ivy League economist to believe those lies. Anyone living in the real world knows their cost of living has risen at a far greater rate. According to the government, and unquestioningly reported by the compliant co-conspirators in the the corporate media, GDP has grown from $10 trillion in 2000 to $17 trillion today. Even using the ridiculously low inflation BEA adjustment yields an increase from $12.4 trillion to only $15.9 trillion in real terms. That pitiful 28% growth over the last fourteen years is dramatically overstated, as revealed in the graph below. Using a true rate of inflation exposes the grand fraud being committed by those in power. The country has been in a never ending recession since 2000.

Your normalcy bias is telling you this is impossible. Your government tells you we have only experienced a recession from the third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009. So despite experiencing two stock market crashes, the greatest housing crash in history, and a worldwide financial system implosion the authorities insist  we’ve had a growing economy 93% of the time over the last fourteen years. That mental anguish you are feeling is the cognitive dissonance of wanting to believe your government, but knowing they are lying. It is a known fact the government, in conspiracy with Greenspan, Congress and academia, have systematically reduced the reported CPI based upon hedonistic quality adjustments, geometric weighting alterations, substitution modifications, and the creation of incomprehensible owner’s equivalent rent calculations. Since the 1700s consumer inflation had been estimated by measuring price changes in a fixed-weight basket of goods, effectively measuring the cost of maintaining a constant standard of living. This began to change in the early 1980s with the Greenspan Commission to “save” Social Security and came to a head with the Boskin Commission in 1995.

Simply stated, the Greenspan/Boskin Commissions’ task was to reduce future Social Security payments to senior citizens by deceitfully reducing CPI and allowing politicians the easy way out. Politicians would lose votes if they ever had to directly address the unsustainability of Social Security. Therefore, they allowed academics to work their magic by understating the CPI and stealing $700 billion from retirees in the ten years ending in 2006. With 10,000 baby boomers per day turning 65 for the next eighteen years, understating CPI will rob them of trillions in payments. This is a cowardly dishonest method of extending the life of Social Security.

If CPI was calculated exactly as it was computed prior to 1983, it would have averaged between 5% and 10% over the last fourteen years. Even computing it based on the 1990 calculation prior to the Boskin Commission adjustments, would have produced annual inflation of 4% to 7%. A glance at an inflation chart from 1872 through today reveals the complete and utter failure of the Federal Reserve in achieving their stated mandate of price stability. They have managed to reduce the purchasing power of your dollar by 95% over the last 100 years. You may also notice the net deflation from 1872 until 1913, when the American economy was growing rapidly. It is almost as if the Federal Reserve’s true mandate has been to create inflation, finance wars, perpetuate the proliferation of debt, artificially create booms and busts, enrich their Wall Street owners, and impoverish the masses. Happy Birthday Federal Reserve!!!

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When you connect the dots you realize the under-reporting of inflation benefits the corporate fascist surveillance state. If the government was reporting the true rate of inflation, mega-corporations would be forced to pay their workers higher wages, reducing profits, reducing corporate bonuses, and sticking a pin in their stock prices. The toady economists at the Federal Reserve would be unable to sustain their ludicrous ZIRP and absurd QEfinity stock market levitation policies. Reporting a true rate of inflation would force long-term interest rates higher. These higher rates, along with higher COLA increases to government entitlements, would blow a hole in the deficit and force our spineless politicians to address our unsustainable economic system. There would be no stock market or debt bubble. If the clueless dupes watching CNBC bimbos and shills on a daily basis were told the economy has been in fourteen year downturn, they might just wake up and demand accountability from their leaders and an overhaul of this corrupt system.

Mother Should I Trust the Government?

We know the BEA has deflated GDP by only 32% since 2000. We know the BLS reports the CPI has only risen by 37% since 2000. Should I trust the government or trust the facts and my own eyes? The data is available to see if the government figures pass the smell test. If you are reading this, you can remember your life in 2000. Americans know what it cost for food, energy, shelter, healthcare, transportation and entertainment in 2000, but they unquestioningly accept the falsified inflation figures produced by the propaganda machine known as our government. The chart below is a fairly comprehensive list of items most people might need to live in this world. A critical thinking individual might wonder how the government can proclaim inflation of 32% to 37% over the last fourteen years, when the true cost of living has grown by 50% to 100% for most daily living expenses. The huge increases in property taxes, sales taxes, government fees, tolls and income taxes aren’t even factored in the chart. It seems gold has smelled out the currency debasement and the lies of our leaders. This explains the concerted effort by the powers that be to suppress the price of gold by any means necessary.

 

Living Expense

Jan-00

Mar-14

% Increase

Gallon of gas

$1.27

$3.51

176.4%

Barrel of oil

$24.11

$100.00

314.8%

Fuel oil per gallon

$1.19

$4.07

242.0%

Electricity per Kwh

$0.084

$0.134

59.5%

Gas per therm

$0.712

$1.078

51.4%

Dozen eggs

$0.97

$2.00

106.2%

Coffee per lb

$3.40

$5.20

52.9%

Ground Beef per lb.

$1.90

$3.73

96.3%

Postage stamp

$0.33

$0.49

48.5%

Movie ticket

$5.25

$10.25

95.2%

New car

$20,300.00

$31,500.00

55.2%

Annual healthcare spending per capita

$4,550.00

$9,300.00

104.4%

Average private college tuition

$22,000.00

$37,000.00

68.2%

Avg home price (Case Shiller)

$161,000.00

$242,000.00

50.3%

Avg monthly rent (Case Shiller)

$635.00

$890.00

40.2%

Ounce of gold

$279.00

$1,334.00

378.1%

Mother, you should not trust the government. There is no doubt they have systematically under-reported inflation based on any impartial assessment of the facts. The reality that we remain stuck in a fourteen year recession is borne out by the continued decline in vehicle miles driven (at 1995 levels) due to declining commercial activity, the millions of shuttered small businesses, and the proliferation of Space Available signs in strip malls and office parks across the land. The fact there are only 8 million more people employed today than were employed in 2000, despite the working age population growing by 35 million, might be a clue that we remain in recession. If that isn’t enough proof for you, than maybe a glimpse at real median household income, retail sales and housing will put the final nail in the coffin of your cognitive dissonance.

The government and their media mouthpieces expect the ignorant masses to believe they have advanced their standard of living, with median household income growing from $40,800 to $52,500 since 2000. But, even using the badly flawed CPI to adjust these figures into real terms reveals real median household income to be 7.3% below the level of 2000. Using a true inflation figure would cause a CNBC talking head to have an epileptic seizure.

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The picture is even bleaker when broken down into the age of households, with younger households suffering devastating real declines in household income since 2000. I guess all those retail clerk, cashier, waitress, waiter, food prep, and housekeeper jobs created over the last few years aren’t cutting the mustard. Maybe that explains the 30 million increase (175% increase) in food stamp recipients since 2000, encompassing 19% of all households in the U.S. Luckily the banking oligarchs were able to convince the pliable masses to increase their credit card, auto and student loan debt from $1.5 trillion to $3.1 trillion over the fourteen year descent into delusion.

When you get your head around this unprecedented decline in household income over the last fourteen years, along with the 50% to 100% rise in costs to live in the real world, as opposed to the theoretical world of the Federal Reserve and BLS, you will understand the long term decline in retail sales reflected in the following chart. When you adjust monthly retail sales for gasoline (an additional tax), inflation (understated), and population growth, you understand why retailers are closing thousands of stores and hurdling towards inevitable bankruptcy. Retail sales are 6.9% below the June 2005 peak and 4% below levels reached in 2000. And this is with millions of retail square feet added over this time frame. We know the dramatic surge from the 2009 lows was not prompted by an increase in household income. So how did the 11% proliferation of spending happen?

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The up swell in retail spending began to accelerate in late 2010. Considering credit card debt outstanding is at exactly where it was in October 2010, it seems consumers playing with their own money turned off the spigot of speculation. It has been non-revolving debt that has skyrocketed from $1.63 trillion in February 2010 to $2.26 trillion today. This unprecedented 39% rise in four years has been engineered by the government, using your tax dollars and the tax dollars of unborn generations. The Federal government has complete control of the student loan market and with their 85% ownership of Ally Financial, the largest auto financing company, a dominant position in the auto loan market. The peddling of $400 billion of subprime student loan debt and $200 billion of subprime auto loan debt has created the illusion of a retail recovery. The student loan debt has been utilized by University of Phoenix MBA wannabes  to buy iGadgets, the latest PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto and the latest glazed donut breakfast sandwich on the market. It’s nothing but another debt financed bubble that will end in tears for the American taxpayer, as hundreds of billions will be written off.

The fake retail recovery pales in comparison to the wolves of Wall Street produced housing recovery sham. They deserve an Academy Award for best fantasy production. The Federal Reserve fed Wall Street hedge fund purchase of millions of foreclosed shanties across the nation has produced media proclaimed home price increases of 10% to 30% in cities across the country. Withholding foreclosures from the market and creating artificial demand with free money provided by the Federal Reserve has temporarily added $4 trillion of housing net worth and reduced the number of underwater mortgages on the books of the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks. The percentage of investor purchases and cash purchases is at all-time highs, while the percentage of first time buyers is at all-time lows. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can look at the long-term chart of mortgage applications and realize we are still in a recession. Applications are 35% below levels at the depths of the 2008/2009 recession. Applications are 65% below levels at the housing market peak in 2005. They are even 35% below 2000 levels. There is no real housing recovery, despite the propaganda peddled by the NAR, CNBC, and Wall Street. It’s a fraud.

It is the pinnacle of arrogance and hubris that a few Ivy League educated economists sitting in the Marriner Eccles Building in the swamps of Washington D.C., who have never worked a day in their lives at a real job, think they can create wealth and pull the levers of money creation to control the American and global financial systems. All they have done is perfect the art of bubble finance in order to enrich their owners at the expense of the rest of us. Their policies have induced unwarranted hope and speculation on a grand scale. Greenspan and Bernanke have provoked multiple bouts of extreme speculation in stocks and housing over the last 15 years, with the subsequent inevitable collapses. Fed encouraged gambling does not create wealth it just redistributes it from the peasants to the aristocracy. The Fed has again produced an epic bubble in stock and bond valuations which will result in another collapse. Normalcy bias keeps the majority from seeing the cliff straight ahead. Federal Reserve monetary policies have distorted financial markets, created extreme imbalances, encouraged excessive risk taking, and ruined the lives of working class people. Take a long hard look at the chart below and answer one question. Was QE designed to benefit Main Street or Wall Street?

The average American has experienced a fourteen year recession caused by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. Our leaders could have learned the lesson of two Fed induced collapses in the space of eight years and voluntarily abandoned the policies of reckless credit expansion, instead embracing policies encouraging saving, capital investment and balanced budgets. They have chosen the same cure as the disease, which will lead to crisis, catastrophe and collapse.

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises

 

Adios to Orange Blossom and Stranded Assets

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on April 29, 2013


Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

I have just returned from Spain, where we had to go at short notice to give a farewell kiss to our stranded asset. Yes, our farmhouse, which had been the focus of all my dreams and efforts a few years back, was finally released from legal limbo land and the keys handed over to the happy new owners. We got back around half of what it cost us to buy it and do it up, but speaking with other people in the same situation we know that we are among the lucky ones.

What a strange place Spain is! This truly is a country where dreams go to die. To the casual visitor it looks like an earthly paradise. The entire region was bursting forth with a trillion wildflowers on our visit, the air was scented with jasmine and orange blossom and the boughs of the lemon trees still hung heavy with fruit. A bumper wet winter had left the Sierra Nevada mountains with a deep snow pack – meaning happy times for farmers in the year ahead – and the local people were just as courteous, graceful, witty and family-oriented as they ever were.

These were among the reasons why, almost ten years ago, we had chosen to go and live there. The ruined house on the side of a fertile hillside had been converted into a small organic farm. Our kids were happy to sit in the shade of an almond tree with a rock and bash open almonds while I either worked on the land or went into the office where I was running a small ecologically-conscious newspaper that I had set up. Life was good.

Or at least it would have been if we hadn’t taken out a loan to renovate the property. In time that loan became an unbearable burden and our dreams slowly dissolved before our eyes as we found ourselves forced to return to work in Copenhagen and live in a government subsidised flat for five whole years. That wasn’t part of the plan.

And we were the lucky ones. Those who steadfastly refused to leave are now stranded. Most foreigners have left the area. Those who stubbornly refuse to lower the asking price of their houses are hit the worst because they can’t cut their losses and move on. Instead they exist in a shadowy half-world of penury, trying desperately to earn a euro here or there and doing anything they can to keep the wolf – or in this case the bank – from the door. The last thing they need is escapees like me parachuting in and pointing out how lovely the smell of orange blossom is in the spring air.

Those with families to support face an unpleasant decision. With all work having dried up many are finding that the only way to feed their families is by doing illegal things. ‘Such as?’ I asked my friend, who is still desperately clinging on in a legal way. ‘All sorts,’ she replied. Dope grows remarkably well in Andalucia.

Only those who can draw money from the currently still-functioning pension systems of northern Europe are faring better. Yet even that may not be a shortcut to safety as healthcare costs are climbing just as they themselves go into decline. The Spanish have a word for foreigners like that. They call them ‘soloistas’ or some such word – loners. People without family who rely on their money from other countries, their healthcare from far away and a cheap and functional system of airlines to take them wherever they need to access these services. Many of them sit in their jerry-built concrete shells by their swimming pools, drink in hand, and convince themselves that they are still living the good life – even though sterling has depreciated, food costs have rocketed and all of their friends have either been evicted or hot-tailed it back to the country they had said they despised before things started to go wrong. Just one more glass of sangria and everything will be okay again …

Spain is a strange place. It has been in a state of free fall collapse for several centuries. One of my favourite writers, Jan Morris, described the country’s fortunes as (paraphrased) ‘like a rock bouncing, bouncing, bouncing down a steep mountain, its descent every now and again arrested by a small outcrop.’ Here was a country that had a vast empire that was able to liquidate – quite literally – the wealth of an entire continent and bring it home. Five centuries later it was one of the most backward regions of the western world and an embarrassment to the EU. And then the money began to pour in.

The money was used to modernise the country in a kind of Spanish Great Leap Forward. It was all about catching up. Building. Building roads and airports and millions and millions homes that nobody really wanted. You want ten thousand euros? – I’ll lend you fifty! Peasant farmers who owned dry and dusty parcels of land in Almeria – land that would have been literally worthless, almost a curse on the family – suddenly found they could borrow thousands from the bank to buy boring equipment, pumps, plastic greenhouses and fertiliser. All of a sudden they were rich on selling tomatoes and lettuces – and all kinds of other tasteless pseudo foods – to the moneyed northern Europeans, and could afford to employ migrant Africans in bonded slave-like conditions. New pickup trucks and a house by a golf course were suddenly the order of the day. It was a boom alright.

I’m happy that the place where we had chosen to live – La Alpujarra –  was considered too backward even for this kind of boom. The roads were too bendy. The people were too simple. The land was too steep and the streets of the local town were full of the dirtiest and most bedraggled kind of New Agers. Sophisticated people from Granada would come and visit in their thousands every weekend and bring with them loud music, iPhones and shiny fast cars. The locals secretly called them ‘aliens’ and kept their mouths shut as they were serving them in their restaurants and guest houses. I’m happy to say I was never called an alien. At least, not to my face.

But what of these urban sophisticates now? They are among the ones we see on the news reports, living on food handouts and protesting against the government. With their safety blanket pulled out, unemployment rocketing (said to have reached 6 million last week) and the country’s political (and royal) classes being steadily exposed as crooks and liars, things suddenly don’t look so rosy. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Not so for my erstwhile neighbours who, by and large, are getting along just fine with their fields and their small houses and appropriately sized vehicles. Fertlizer and pesticides had always been too expensive, so not that many people had got into the habit of using much of them. These folks had always said things were terrible even at the best of times. The country people of Andalucia haven’t forgotten that the region is prone to famines, genocide and an unstable climate. Listen to some proper flamenco and ask yourself if this comes from a land of happy upbeat people.

Driving back down the coastal highway on the way back to the airport it was impossible not to notice how empty it was. This was a Saturday mid-morning and a few years ago one would have expected it to be moderately busy. Now, we saw a car only every few minutes. It felt like the whole road was ours – and this was the widely ballyhooed mega motorway that was supposed to be a ‘ring of tarmac’ encircling the whole of Spain. Sadly uncompleted, like a broken necklace.

In the news today I read that a Spanish woman dowsed herself in petrol and walked into a bank. The bank had taken her house and her savings and everything else she owned. ‘You have taken everything from me!’ were the words she shouted before igniting the fuel. Such stories are increasingly common.

What next for such a country? There is a growing chorus calling for the debt to be abandoned – for the country to walk away from its obligations to the monolithic banks and finance organisations and to set themselves free again. There is, if the truth be told, no other option. Whether it goes smoothly or is done with explosives is the only question worth asking. Alas, Spain’s history, if it can be used as a guide, doesn’t bode well. I’d love for someone to tell me that I’m wrong on this, but I’m not sure I’d believe them.

But I hope that in this case the past is going to prove to be no guide to the future. Spain held out for so long against the Anglo model of capitalism. Petty local corruption, ironically, kept development at bay and ensured the system as a whole remained resilient. It was only the surging tidal wave of EU reforms that swept away the small scale municipal corruption and replaced it with respectable-looking TBTF corruption.

Bounce, bounce down that mountain.

Labor Day Off the Grid in Minneapolis

Off the Keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published originally on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on September 3rd, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Please excuse my anger last post, with that tirade at my fellow Gen Xer.  Prior to that, I had been gathering Frontenac grapes at my sister’s house, for my third attempt at fermenting wine. It went well, but for the city having butchered the grape vines. They sent a letter to my sister apparently, a demand to remove the “sidewalk obstruction”; but the letter never arrived, forwarded instead to the address of a friend (who is on the mortgage but no longer lives there [not me]). The city workers or contractors could have removed the soil and weeds that have encroached twelve inches onto the sidewalk from the boulevard side, but instead they took a gas trimmer and hacked off every vine on the the side walk-side of the 100ft length of my sister’s south fence, leaving a ragged mess of shredded vines, absconding with approx 100 lbs of grapes, a week before harvest. That’s about 30 bottles of wine equivalent @ $10/ bottle, plus the $250-$350 my sister will be charged for the “work” done, or $550-$650 for grape vines hanging over a portion of a sidewalk. That’s like twice the theft  – which contributed to my anger at Payl Ruan (which I will continue to call him until such time as he proves that he will not help initiate WWIII.)
Ok, I’m still a little angry.
Plus, I was contemplating a new job, working as a temp for a big bank helping to foreclose on houses, if you can believe that. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How could it possibly be, that of all the jobs I have applied for, the one entity willing to hire me, for on-going employment, is a big bank? What sort of command and control oppression could I expect to butt heads with? Besides, the past four years. my attitude has been, I don’t make appointments before 10am. I’m up and awake at 5am now, to catch a bus, to get there by seven, to work for less than I make pushing dirt around landscaping with my friend Organic Bob, less than half I was making for The Behemoth at their world headquarters, just before the collapse of 2008.
My first impression was of a cattle yard, for documents. I wasn’t quite prepared for global bank document carts, 18in wide by 4ft tall by 4ft long, on six inch wheels, all carts being made of plywood, many of which are unpainted, of which there are many, painted and not. Nor was I prepared for a socialist bureaucrat’s utopia, the most ethnically and race diverse workplace I have ever encountered, where none of the thousand (at least) people looks particularly happy, but no one looks necessarily pissed off at the world, either.
I’ve spent the last week training as an auditor, to assure the documents are in order, before they are shipped back to the “investors”, Fanny and Freddie. Wading through the wreckage of the housing debacle, in other words, is what I have been doing. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume either, of the $275-400,000 houses and second homes, which account for about 75-80% of the loans I’ve audited. That’s not saying there aren’t people still in the houses I am foreclosing on, but most every loan I have audited thus far, has suggested outright fraud on the part of bankers and buyers, and over-reaching on the part of buyers, or intoxication, or outright obliviousness.
It’s a curious thing. The Fed made credit cheap, the government encouraged home ownership (BUSH’s “Ownership Society,”) while agreeing to back-up at least half the mortgages (HUD, FHA, Fannie, Freddie), and then they, Fannie and Freddie, contract-hire big bank to clear the mortgages big bank signed for the fees, to tens of millions of greedy, intoxicated and outright oblivious “borrowers” (not “buyers”.)

Nor was I expecting the very warm and genuinely concerned reception, from the training staff, who made the experience a great deal more enjoyable than it might have been. Everyone I have encountered has seemed, if not particularly joyous, astute, on task, and engaged in whatever they are doing. Doing the best with what they have, basically. The command/control is more ingrained in the structure of the system, less overt. More, I sense a people coping as best they can with command/control directives trickling down from above, which are what they are and are tolerable at least. If it was an overt command/control environment, people yelling and domineering, the work would be intolerable. As is, the work lends well to letting go into the task, to get one’s small part in the greater whole done, on time, and done well, depending on how much one wants to hold onto the job, or move into something more enjoyable/less exhausting than whatever one is doing now. We all show at least some mastery over technology, and/or ourselves; we even have a certain contempt for the technology. It’s not as fast as we are; it lags. Big Bank loses more money cumulatively, by far, from slow-ass technology that makes us sit and wait to get done what we are ready and want to get done, than Big Bank would lose if they just trusted us to do the work we are contracted and hired to do, and worried less about tracking us minute by minute.
Head trainer offered us copious amounts of cheap candy to keep us awake, and to lighten the mood, and to make the onslaught of information more palatable, during the training. I let go of my general prohibition on High Fructose Corn Syrup and gorged, while I consumed an extraordinary (for me) amount of coffee, to cope with the massive amount of technical information, and the early morning shift, which has been less a challenge than sitting in a room all day every day with a dozen other of the same humans. I brought veggies from the garden on Friday, a kind of cornucopia, which was well received. I’m optimistic about my immediate future at big bank, notwithstanding how I feel about modern economics generally.
Meanwhile I was listening to the Republican National Convention, on the radio. From about 8pm-close, approx, all three nights. About as much as I could stand. Which makes me a patriot, comparative to the majority of my fellow Americans. Of Ann ro-Money I can only say, I cannot listen to a word that flows from your mouth without juxtaposing, that you brought your horse to the London Olympics. I listened to Payl Ruan’s speech (I wonder what AC/DC and Led Zepplin have to say about being appropriated into the Republican war machine?) I hear many people (in the media) talking about the speech by Mill ro-Money, without saying anything (I found the incessant breathlessness of the final syllable of just about every phrase to be nauseating.) The only speech that really mattered, came from Condoleezza Rice. The elder stateswoman, the Republican Party rock star, speaking directly to the narrative, that the path forward is war in Syria and Iran, and conflict with Russia and China.
(Of particular interest, the narrative encapsulated, 1:35-3:40)

Mill confirmed it, with his attempt to initiate another cold war with Putin, so Mill could show some “backbone”, giving Putin exactly what Putin needs to regain power, to incite the Russian people against the West. Apparently the terrorism bit is wearing thin, so it’s time to ratchet down on some old rivalries.

Where is the media on this? No less than EJ Dionne of the Washington Post, claimed on NPR that neither Condelezza nor ro-Money even spoke about foreign policy! What sort of fukitol pharmaceuticals is everybody on, that almost no one seems able to ascertain the meaning of anything anymore? Or maybe EJ’s admiration of Condolezza Rice is a sign that he’s just a warmonger too?
That speech by Condolezza Rice was crafted in the very bowels of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). There is no economic policy, there is only war. Which is exactly what ro-Money, or Obama, will initiate.
The American people are being asked to dispense with their medicare, social security and safety net, to finance tax cuts for the wealthy so the wealthy can wage and profit from global war. ro-Money claims the potential to create 12 million jobs, in four years. I think he will, in an effort to prosecute the war, and expand the surveillance state; while another 15-20 million jobs are lost, in the debauchery – or the racket – of war, and the reality of declining resources.
The creepiest moment of the convention, by far*, was the mob. When ro-Money mocked O for his claim to want to prevent the rising of the seas, the crowd cackled, maniacally. When ro-Money accused O of wanting to heal the earth, the mob cackled deeper. Followed closely by, after a lie about America and dictators, the most intense chant of U. S. A. of the convention. And then the call to war against Putin. The rest of the world must shiver. I certainly did.
(A particularly enlightening sequence, 31:30-34:30)

There will be NO healing of the earth in a ro-Money presidency. There will only be chants to prevent the rising of the sea. Chants to incite global Armageddon.
Even the Outlaw Josey Wales called it out, that we might want to remember the ten years lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a faux conversation with Obama.
(4:45-5:18. Sorry I’m not skilled enough yet to generate the clip.)

In what otherwise might have been construed as a speech whoring for warmongers. Josey, of course, has nothing on Condoleezza. “Aunt Tomasina” is too kind.
But such an extreme statement is meant to elucidate the severity of the situation. Global war is being crafted. Troops and supporters are being incited.
Know, that such a path can only end in ruin. Which we seem to be walking into as greedily and obliviously as we did the housing debacle. And in the aftermath people will ask how did that happen?
I’m not going to participate this time, like I did buying this house at the peak of the boom. Hopefully though, me and my fruit trees and gardens will still be around when it’s time to clean up the wreckage of global war mongering. I really hope Americans are not that dumb.
Though at least the Republicans have a soul, as twisted as it is. They can talk about love without visibly flinching. Dems are comparatively soulless. More on that and the new job, this week.
*Though I seem to recall something from a video montage preceding Mill ro-Money’s speech, of which I have not been able to find corroborating video, Mill uttering the words, about Ann, “Oh baby,”…

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