Mortgages

Fires Rage, Words Fail One Nation, Under Water, with Penury and Indigence for All (*)

debt-768x512 gc2smOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Published on The Daily Impact on February 19, 2016


(* that is, the 99 per cent.)

I was there when a furniture-store owner I’ll call Chuck introduced, to a certain British-ruled, sub-tropical, behind-the-times island, the concept of hire-purchase — or, in American, rent-to-own. He started selling furniture on credit, for a small down payment and a contract to repay the balance at an astronomical interest rate. His policy scandalized everyone on the island who was rich enough not to need credit for such purposes; and was insanely popular with everyone else.

The establishment railed against what he was doing as somehow immoral, even illegal. Some legislators tried to declare it, and ban it, as “usury” (a quaint, antique sin, now regarded as about as serious as not eating fish on Friday). They decried hire purchase as a practice that would corrupt the moral fiber of poor people, which they seemed to think was somehow improved by not having furniture. They did not feel, however, that the large mortgages they held on their villas had in any way corrupted them.

Despite their disdain, the lower classes got their tables and chairs and Chuck got very rich indeed and was soon a welcome guest in the homes of the island’s rich and famous.

It was hard to follow or to credit the arguments against selling products on credit. Indeed, the upper classes — on the island as elsewhere in the world — soon abandoned all compunctions about selling on credit when they realized that selling things to people who could not afford them made them and their bankers, obscenely rich.

Since the innocent days of yesteryear, when having a mortgage was embarrassing, borrowing money was evidence of a character flaw and declaring bankruptcy was the secular equivalent of eternal damnation, debt in America has become a vast cancerous growth that now threatens the very life of its host. Let’s set aside for now the scary dimensions of public debt  (now $19 trillion and rising) and corporate debt (over $14 trillion and rising) , and focus just on the debt of individual Americans (now over $12 trillion).

Total individual debt is almost back to where it was in late 2008 when the Great Recession began. For five years after the last crash it declined, not because people were paying their debts but because foreclosures and bankruptcies were obliterating them. Since 2013 overall debt has been increasing again, but changing in nature.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest consumer credit report, about 70% of individual debt is for housing (mortgages and revolving debt), and about 10% each for auto loans, student loans and credit-card debt (when you include the “other” category with with credit-card debt). Until the onset of the last recession, each of these categories increased in tandem. Since the recession, two of the categories of debt — housing and credit-card — have been steadily decreasing. The other two have been skyrocketing — student loans without pause and auto loans since 2011.

The characteristics and trends of debt are markedly different among people under 40, and over 40, years of age. In the past 12 years, the aggregate debt of those under 40 has fallen by 12%, while that of their elders has risen by 169%.

The components of debt are markedly different as well. The average 30-year-old has seen his mortgage debt decline by $8,000 (because he can’t afford a house, which is bad news for the economy); his credit-card debt reduced by $1,000 (because he’s wising up about that) and his auto-loan balance down by $300 (because young people are losing their lust for cars). He’d be in really good shape if it wasn’t for the $7,000 increase in his student-loan debt.

Meanwhile, the average senior is in worse shape than ever before. Her mortgage debt has increased by $11,000, her car-loan balance by $1,000 and — incredibly — the average student loan balance for people over 65 is up $850 per capita. That’s a nearly 900% increase in 12 years.

With the debt of young people declining because they can’t afford to buy anything, and the debt of elderly people increasing as they approach the end of their earning years and thus the ability to pay their debts, debt has become both an enormous threat to the welfare of families and a huge drag on the economy.

Remember the old fogeys on the island who accused my friend Chuck of doing something immoral when he enticed people to buy things they could not afford with a promise instead of cash? They sounded silly then. They don’t sound so silly now.


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Oil Crash 2016 Terrifies Banksters

Oil Barrels with Red Arrow isolated on white background. 3D rendergc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Michale Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on January 18, 2016

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Last time around it was subprime mortgages, but this time it is oil that is playing a starring role in a global financial crisis.  Since the start of 2015, 42 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy, 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in the United States, and at this point 50 percent of all energy junk bonds are “distressed” according to Standard & Poor’s.  As you will see below, some of the big banks have a tremendous amount of loan exposure to the energy industry, and now they are bracing for big losses.  And the longer the price of oil stays this low, the worse the carnage is going to get.

Today, the price of oil has been hovering around 29 dollars a barrel, and over the past 18 months the price of oil has fallen by more than 70 percent.  This is something that has many U.S. consumers very excited.  The average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally is just $1.89 at the moment, and on Monday it was selling for as low as 46 cents a gallon at one station in Michigan.

But this oil crash is nothing to cheer about as far as the big banks are concerned.  During the boom years, those banks gave out billions upon billions of dollars in loans to fund exceedingly expensive drilling projects all over the world.

Now those firms are dropping like flies, and the big banks could potentially be facing absolutely catastrophic losses.  The following examples come from CNN

For instance, Wells Fargo (WFC) is sitting on more than $17 billion in loans to the oil and gas sector. The bank is setting aside $1.2 billion in reserves to cover losses because of the “continued deterioration within the energy sector.”

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is setting aside an extra $124 million to cover potential losses in its oil and gas loans. It warned that figure could rise to $750 million if oil prices unexpectedly stay at their current $30 level for the next 18 months.

Citigroup is another bank that also has a tremendous amount of exposure

Citigroup (C) built up loan loss reserves in the energy space by $300 million. The bank said the move reflects its view that “oil prices are likely to remain low for a longer period of time.”

If oil stays around $30 a barrel, Citi is bracing for about $600 million of energy credit losses in the first half of 2016. Citi said that figure could double to $1.2 billion if oil dropped to $25 a barrel and stayed there.

For the moment, these big banks are telling the public that the damage can be contained.

But didn’t they tell us the same thing about subprime mortgages in 2008?

We are already seeing bank stocks start to slide precipitously.  People are beginning to realize that these banks are dangerously exposed to a lot of really bad deals.

If the price of oil were to shoot back up above 50 dollars in very short order, the damage would probably be manageable.  Unfortunately, that does not appear likely to happen.  In fact, now that sanctions have been lifted on Iran, the Iranians are planning to flood the world with massive amounts of oil that they have been storing in tankers at sea

Iran has been carefully planning for its return from the economic penalty box by hoarding tons of oil in tankers at sea.

Now that the U.S. and European Union have lifted some sanctions on Iran, the OPEC country can begin selling its massive stockpile of oil.

The sale of this seaborne oil will allow Iran to get an immediate financial boost before it ramps up production. The onslaught of Iranian oil is coming at a terrible time for the global oil markets, which are already drowning in an epic supply glut.

Just the other day, I explained that some of the biggest banks in the world are now projecting that the price of oil could soon fall much, much lower.

Morgan Stanley says that it could go as low as 20 dollars a barrel, the Royal Bank of Scotland says that it could go as low as 16 dollars a barrel, and Standard Chartered says that it could go as low as 10 dollars a barrel.

But the truth is that the price of oil does not need to go down one penny more to have a catastrophic impact on global financial markets.  If it just stays right here, we will see an endless parade of layoffs, energy company bankruptcies  and debt defaults.  Without any change, junk bonds will continue to crash and financial institutions will continue to go down like dominoes.

We are already experiencing a major disaster.  Things are already so bad that some forms of low quality crude oil are literally selling for next to nothing.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Oil is so plentiful and cheap in the U.S. that at least one buyer says it would pay almost nothing to take a certain type of low-quality crude.

Flint Hills Resources LLC, the refining arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s industrial empire, said it offered to pay $1.50 a barrel Friday for North Dakota Sour, a high-sulfur grade of crude, according to a corrected list of prices posted on its website Monday. It had previously posted a price of -$0.50. The crude is down from $13.50 a barrel a year ago and $47.60 in January 2014.

While the near-zero price is due to the lack of pipeline capacity for a particular variety of ultra low quality crude, it underscores how dire things are in the U.S. oil patch.

A chart that I saw posted on Zero Hedge earlier today can help put all of this into perspective.  Whenever the price of oil falls really low relative to the price of gold, there is a major global crisis.  Right now an ounce of gold will purchase more oil than ever before, and many believe that this indicates that a new great crisis is upon us…

The number of barrels of oil that a single ounce of gold can buy has never, ever been higher.

Barrels Of Oil Per Ounce Of Gold

All over the planet, big banks are absolutely teeming with bad loans.  And to be honest, the big banks in the U.S. are probably in better shape than some of the major banks in Europe and Asia.  But once the dominoes start to fall, very few financial institutions are going to escape unscathed.

In the coming days I would expect to see more headlines like we just got out of Italy.  Apparently, Italian banks are nearing full meltdown mode, and short selling has been temporarily banned.  To me, it appears that we are just inches away from full-blown financial panic in Europe.

However, just like with the last financial crisis, you never quite know where the next “explosion” is going to happen next.

But one thing is for sure – the financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is raging out of control, and the pain that we have seen so far is just the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: Recession Redux

Off the Keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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This was then (2009), but retail stores are right now closing at a rate not seen since then. Just one of many signs that the recovery is not recovering. (Photo by Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

First published at The Daily Impact May 27, 2014

This was then (2009), but retail stores are right now closing at a rate not seen since then. Just one of many signs that the recovery is not recovering. (Photo by Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

Would it not be a hoot if we who expect the crash of industrial civilization, while we are staring intently at the usual suspects (peak oil, climate change, food shortages, grid failure, the San Andreas Fault) and waiting for one of them to start the avalanche, get sucker-punched by the Masters of the Universe? Would it not be excruciatingly funny if the very same people who almost burned the world alive in the first decade of this century managed not only to escape repercussions but to incinerate it in the second? The dial is moving from possible to likely as the ethically challenged whiz kids of Wall Street continue to play, unsupervised by adults, with the same matches in the same gasoline-soaked structure. Here’s what they’re doing, compared with what they did.

My house is my ATM: Back in the day, by which I mean ten years ago, people who owned houses were persuaded by financial jackals to treat their house as if it were an ATM, and take money out of it whenever they wanted. Housing prices would never go down, they were told, so they could always refinance. Today, investors who want a ten per cent return on their investment have been persuaded by financial jackals to treat houses as if they were ATMs, buying them cheaply (because ordinary people can’t afford them, or can’t get financing) for cash and renting them out.

Just as the jackals of old seemed really to believe that people who could not afford mortgages would be able to keep refinancing them, and that the music would never stop; so do today’s jackals seem to believe that being a landlord is a slam dunk. Gradually, they are learning that renters sometimes depart in the night; trash the houses that they don’t own; lose their jobs, or get sick, or have too many children; and far from being a slam dunk, landlordhood often sucks, financially. There are now signs that the smartest guys in this room are looking quietly but frantically for the exits, and when they find them — pop goes the bubble and the weasels.

As for real people in homes? Twenty per cent of American homeowners are under water (they owe more than their house is worth), and cannot refinance or sell. The number of people applying for mortgages with JPMorgan Chase and Citibank in the first quarter of 2014 was70% lower than the number one year ago. The rate of home ownership in the country is at its lowest in 19 years. The lesson: when the institutions bail, there will be no one else to prop up the bubble.

From “No-doc loans” to “Covenant-Lite.” Back in the day, the jackals were handing out “liar” loans (containing unverified and untrue statements about qualifications of the applicant), “Ninja” loans (applicant has no income, no job, no assets), “No-doc” loans (applicant has no documentation of anything). The jackals didn’t care: if they were originators, they sold the loan as soon as they closed it, collecting all their fees and waving it goodbye. If they were conglomeraters, they bundled the loans, issued derivatives on them, and got them out the door, first collecting all their fees. No one gave much of a thought to where they would sit when the music stopped, as it always does.

Now, the action is in commercial lending, with the money flowing to subprime companies, not individuals. The loan flavour du jour is now “covenant-lite” loans, meaning loans made without the usual stipulation that the business use the proceeds for business, not to enrich the business owners. These loans are beloved by private equity firms that like to buy a company, mortgage all its assets, suck out the cash in fees and dividends, then let the company go into bankruptcy and screw the lenders. A record $238 billion worth of these puppies were issued in 2013, according to Reuters, and the pace is accelerating in 2014.

Never mind things, we want derivatives of things. What broke the back of the system in the 2009 era (the contraction actually began in the fall of 2005) was not just subprime debt and overvalued assets, it was the enormous bets placed on the system by institutions acting is if they were drunk in a casino. These bets are called derivatives. For example, slices and dices (called “tranches”) of securitized packages of looney-tunes loans, which constituted bets for the success of the Ponzi scheme; and credit default swaps, bogus insurance that constituted a bet against the success of the scheme. Back in the day, collapsing derivatives brought down some of the biggest players, and very nearly the world’s economy.

Today, the derivatives market is 20 per cent larger than it was just before the music stopped the last time. The International Bank of Settlements estimates that the notional value (notional value: that is, the value of all the bets if everyone won) of outstanding derivatives is $710 trillion, or 44 times the gross domestic product of the United States. If J.P. Morgan Chase, with total assets of $2 trillion, lost all its derivative gambles, it would owe the casino more than $70 trillion.  In Vegas, that kind of loss would get you a one-way ride into the desert; on Wall Street, it gets you a bailout because you’re too big to fail.

Bottom line: as long as the Masters of the Universe are allowed to play their firehoses of money on whatever they deem to be the Next Big Thing (“It’s rental houses! No, wait, farmland! In Iowa! or Africa! No, check that, it’s fracking wells!), they will continue to blow up and deflate bubbles until they blow up the world. Where can I get a credit default swap to cover me for that?

***

 

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

 

Retail Death Rattle Grows Louder

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on May 25, 2014

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The definition of death rattle is a sound often produced by someone who is near death when fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulate in the throat and upper chest. The person can’t swallow and emits a deepening wheezing sound as they gasp for breath. This can go on for two or three days before death relieves them of their misery. The American retail industry is emitting an unmistakable wheezing sound as a long slow painful death approaches.

It was exactly four months ago when I wrote THE RETAIL DEATH RATTLE. Here are a few terse anecdotes from that article:

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun.

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end.

Retail store results for the 1st quarter of 2014 have been rolling in over the last week. It seems the hideous government reported retail sales results over the last six months are being confirmed by the dying bricks and mortar mega-chains. In case you missed the corporate mainstream media not reporting the facts and doing their usual positive spin, here are the absolutely dreadful headlines:

Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%

Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%

Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%

JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter

Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%

Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%

Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores

Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall

American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores

Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%

Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%

Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%

Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%

Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate

McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%

Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster

TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat

Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet

Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%

Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat

Of course, those headlines were never reported. I went to each earnings report and gathered the info that should have been reported by the CNBC bimbos and hacks. Anything you heard surely had a Wall Street spin attached, like the standard BETTER THAN EXPECTED. I love that one. At the start of the quarter the Wall Street shysters post earnings expectations. As the quarter progresses, the company whispers the bad news to Wall Street and the earnings expectations are lowered. Then the company beats the lowered earnings expectation by a penny and the Wall Street scum hail it as a great achievement.  The muppets must be sacrificed to sustain the Wall Street bonus pool. Wall Street investment bank geniuses rated JC Penney a buy from $85 per share in 2007 all the way down to $5 a share in 2013. No more needs to be said about Wall Street “analysis”.

It seems even the lowered expectation scam hasn’t worked this time. U.S. retailer profits have missed lowered expectations by the most in 13 years. They generally “beat” expectations by 3% when the game is being played properly. They’ve missed expectations in the 1st quarter by 3.2%, the worst miss since the fourth quarter of 2000. If my memory serves me right, I believe the economy entered recession shortly thereafter. The brilliant Ivy League trained Wall Street MBAs, earning high six digit salaries on Wall Street, predicted a 13% increase in retailer profits for the first quarter. A monkey with a magic 8 ball could do a better job than these Wall Street big swinging dicks.

The highly compensated flunkies who sit in the corner CEO office of the mega-retail chains trotted out the usual drivel about cold and snowy winter weather and looking forward to tremendous success over the remainder of the year. How do these excuse machine CEO’s explain the success of many high end retailers during the first quarter? Doesn’t weather impact stores that cater to the .01%? The continued unrelenting decline in profits of retailers, dependent upon the working class, couldn’t have anything to do with this chart? It seems only the oligarchs have made much progress over the last four decades.

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Retail CEO gurus all think they have a master plan to revive sales. I’ll let you in on a secret. They don’t really have a plan. They have no idea why they experienced tremendous success from 2000 through 2007, and why their businesses have not revived since the 2008 financial collapse. Retail CEOs are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They were born on third base and thought they hit a triple. Now they are stranded there, with no hope of getting home. They should be figuring out how to position themselves for the multi-year contraction in sales, but their egos and hubris will keep them from taking the actions necessary to keep their companies afloat in the next decade. Bankruptcy awaits. The front line workers will be shit canned and the CEO will get a golden parachute. It’s the American way.

The secret to retail success before 2007 was: create or copy a successful concept; get Wall Street financing and go public ASAP; source all your inventory from Far East slave labor factories; hire thousands of minimum wage level workers to process transactions; build hundreds of new stores every year to cover up the fact the existing stores had deteriorating performance; convince millions of gullible dupes to buy cheap Chinese shit they didn’t need with money they didn’t have; and pretend this didn’t solely rely upon cheap easy debt pumped into the veins of American consumers by the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street bank owners. The financial crisis in 2008 revealed everyone was swimming naked, when the tide of easy credit subsided.

The pundits, politicians and delusional retail CEOs continue to await the revival of retail sales as if reality doesn’t exist. The 1 million retail stores, 109,000 shopping centers, and nearly 15 billion square feet of retail space for an aging, increasingly impoverished, and savings poor populace might be a tad too much and will require a slight downsizing – say 3 or 4 billion square feet. Considering the debt fueled frenzy from 2000 through 2008 added 2.7 billion square feet to our suburban sprawl concrete landscape, a divestiture of that foolish investment will be the floor. If you think there are a lot of SPACE AVAILABLE signs dotting the countryside, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The mega-chains have already halted all expansion. That was the first step. The weaker players like Radio Shack, Sears, Family Dollar, Coldwater Creek, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster and dozens of others are already closing stores by the hundreds. Thousands more will follow.

This isn’t some doom and gloom prediction based on nothing but my opinion. This is the inevitable result of demographic certainties, unequivocal data, and the consequences of a retailer herd mentality and lemming like behavior of consumers. The open and shut case for further shuttering of 3 to 4 billion square feet of retail is as follows:

  • There is 47 square feet of retail space per person in America. This is 8 times as much as any other country on earth. This is up from 38 square feet in 2005; 30 square feet in 2000; 19 square feet in 1990; and 4 square feet in 1960. If we just revert to 2005 levels, 3 billion square feet would need to go dark. Does that sound outrageous?

  • Annual consumer expenditures by those over 65 years old drop by 40% from their highest spending years from 45 to 54 years old. The number of Americans turning 65 will increase by 10,000 per day for the next 16 years. There were 35 million Americans over 65 in 2000, accounting for 12% of the total population. By 2030 there will be 70 million Americans over 65, accounting for 20% of the total population. Do you think that bodes well for retailers?

  • Half of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have no retirement savings. The other half has accumulated $52,000 or less. It seems the debt financed consumer product orgy of the last two decades has left most people nearly penniless. More than 50% of workers aged 25 to 44 report they have less than $10,000 of total savings.

  • The lack of retirement and general savings is reflected in the historically low personal savings rate of a miniscule 3.8%. Before the materialistic frenzy of the last couple decades, rational Americans used to save 10% or more of their personal income. With virtually no savings as they approach their retirement years and an already extremely low savings rate, do retail CEOs really see a spending revival on the horizon?

  • If you thought the savings rate was so low because consumers are flush with cash and so optimistic about their job prospects they are unconcerned about the need to save for a rainy day, you would be wrong. It has been raining for the last 14 years. Real median household income is 7.5% lower today than it was in 2001. Retailers added 2.7 billion square feet of retail space as real household income fell. Sounds rational.

  • This decline in household income may have something to do with the labor participation rate plummeting to the lowest level since 1978. There are 247.4 million working age Americans and only 145.7 million of them employed (19 million part-time; 9 million self-employed; 20 million employed by the government). There are 92 million Americans, who according to the government have willingly left the workforce, up by 13.3 million since 2007 when over 146 million Americans were employed. You’d have to be a brainless twit to believe the unemployment rate is really 6.3% today. Retail sales would be booming if the unemployment rate was really that low.

  • With a 16.5% increase in working age Americans since 2000 and only a 6.5% increase in employed Americans, along with declining real household income, an inquisitive person might wonder how retail sales were able to grow from $3.3 trillion in 2000 to $5.1 trillion in 2013 – a 55% increase. You need to look no further than your friendly Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks for the answer. In the olden days of the 1970s and early 1980s Americans put 10% to 20% down to buy a house and then systematically built up equity by making their monthly payments. The Ivy League financial engineers created “exotic” (toxic) mortgage products requiring no money down, no principal payments, and no proof you could make a payment, in their control fraud scheme to fleece the American sheeple. Their propaganda machine convinced millions more to use their homes as an ATM, because home prices never drop. Just ask Ben Bernanke. Even after the Bernanke/Blackrock fake housing recovery (actual mortgage originations now at 1978 levels) household real estate percent equity is barely above 50%, well below the 70% levels before the Wall Street induced debt debacle. With the housing market about to head south again, the home equity ATM will have an Out of Order sign on it.

  • We hear the endless drivel from disingenuous Keynesian nitwits about government and consumer austerity being the cause of our stagnating economy. My definition of austerity would be an actual reduction in spending and debt accumulation. It seems during this time of austerity total credit market debt has RISEN from $53.5 trillion in 2009 to $59 trillion today. Not exactly austere, as the Federal government adds $2.2 billion PER DAY to the national debt, saddling future generations with the bill for our inability to confront reality. The American consumer has not retrenched, as the CNBC bimbos and bozos would have you believe. Consumer credit reached an all-time high of $3.14 trillion in March, up from $2.52 trillion in 2010. That doesn’t sound too austere to me. Of course, this increase is solely due to Obamanomics and Bernanke’s $3 trillion gift to his Wall Street owners. The doling out of $645 billion to subprime college “students” and subprime auto “buyers” since 2010 accounts for more than 100% of the increase. The losses on these asinine loans will be epic. Credit card debt has actually fallen as people realize it is their last lifeline. They are using credit cards to pay income taxes, real estate taxes, higher energy costs, higher food costs, and the other necessities of life.

The entire engineered “recovery” since 2009 has been nothing but a Federal Reserve/U.S. Treasury conceived, debt manufactured scam. These highly educated lackeys for the establishment have been tasked with keeping the U.S. Titanic afloat until the oligarchs can safely depart on the lifeboats with all the ship’s jewels safely stowed in their pockets. There has been no housing recovery. There has been no jobs recovery. There has been no auto sales recovery. Giving a vehicle to someone with a 580 credit score with a 0% seven year loan is not a sale. It’s a repossession in waiting. The government supplied student loans are going to functional illiterates who are majoring in texting, facebooking and twittering. Do you think these indebted University of Phoenix dropouts living in their parents’ basements are going to spur a housing and retail sales recovery? This Keynesian “solution” was designed to produce the appearance of recovery, convince the masses to resume their debt based consumption, and add more treasure into the vaults of the Wall Street banks.

The master plan has failed miserably in reviving the economy. Savings, capital investment, and debt reduction are the necessary ingredients for a sustained healthy economic system. Debt based personal consumption of cheap foreign produced baubles & gadgets, $1 trillion government deficits to sustain the warfare/welfare state, along with a corrupt political and rigged financial system are the explosive concoction which will blow our economic system sky high. Facts can be ignored. Media propaganda can convince the willfully ignorant to remain so. The Federal Reserve can buy every Treasury bond issued to fund an out of control government. But eventually reality will shatter the delusions of millions as the debt based Ponzi scheme will run out of dupes and collapse in a flaming heap.

The inevitable shuttering of at least 3 billion square feet of retail space is a certainty. The aging demographics of the U.S. population, dire economic situation of both young and old, and sheer lunacy of the retail expansion since 2000, guarantee a future of ghost malls, decaying weed infested empty parking lots, retailer bankruptcies, real estate developer bankruptcies, massive loan losses for the banking industry, and the loss of millions of retail jobs. Since I always look for a silver lining in a black cloud, I predict a bright future for the SPACE AVAILABLE and GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign making companies.

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World: Part 3

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on August 25, 2013

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

In Part 1 of this article I documented the insane remedies prescribed by the mad banker scientists presiding over this preposterous fiat experiment since they blew up the lab in 2008. In Part 2 I tried to articulate why the country has allowed itself to be brought to the brink of catastrophe. There is no turning back time. The choices we’ve made and avoided making over the last one hundred years are going to come home to roost over the next fifteen years. We are in the midst of a great Crisis that will not be resolved until the mid-2020s. The propagandists supporting the vested interests continue to assure the voluntarily oblivious populace the economy is improving, jobs are plentiful, inflation is under control, and housing is recovering. Bernanke and his band of merry money manipulators, Obama and his gaggle of government apparatchiks, and their mendacious mainstream media mouthpieces have enacted radical measures in the last five years that reek of desperation in their effort to give the appearance of revival to a failing economic system. Stimulating the net worth of bankers and connected corporate cronies through engineered stock market gains has not trickled down to the peasants. Our owners try to convince us it’s raining, but we know they’re pissing down our backs. Our Crisis mood is congealing.

“But as the Crisis mood congeals, people will come to the jarring realization that they have grown helplessly dependent on a teetering edifice of anonymous transactions and paper guarantees. Many Americans won’t know where their savings are, who their employer is, what their pension is, or how their government works. The era will have left the financial world arbitraged and tentacled: Debtors won’t know who holds their notes, homeowners who owns their mortgages, and shareholders who runs their equities – and vice versa.” The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

The core elements of this Crisis have been discernible for decades. The accumulation of private and public debt; the civic, moral, and intellectual decay of our society; the growing power of the corrupt corporate fascist surveillance state; growing wealth inequality created by crony capitalist skullduggery; the peak in cheap easily accessible oil; and global disorder caused by overpopulation, scarce resources, religious zealotry, and war; combine in a toxic brew of unimaginable pain, anguish and tragedy. The Crisis began in September 2008 and the sole purpose of the deceitful establishment has been to avert a catastrophe that is destined to extinguish the wealth, power and control they’ve treacherously procured over the last few decades.

The appearance of stability is illusory, as the civic fabric of the country continues to tear asunder. Record high stock markets do not trickle down. The debt engineered stock market gains enrich the .1% at the expense of the working class. Bernanke’s “wealth effect” theory is a charade. He has backed the country into a corner with no escape for the prisoners of his QE prison (he’ll escape to collect his Wall Street paycheck in January). He knows that without the combined $300 billion per month being pumped into the veins of zombie U.S., European and Japanese insolvent zombie banks by central bankers, the worldwide financial system will implode. He blathers on about tapering while awaiting the next government manufactured crisis to give him an excuse to continue or increase his money printing exercise. Control P is the only key on Bennie’s laptop. To think dropping trillions of dollars into the laps of Wall Street will somehow stimulate Main Street is beyond laughable. Some ideas are so ridiculous that only intellectuals and academics could possibly believe them.

The masters of propaganda seem baffled that their standard operating procedures are not generating the expected response from the serfs. They have failed to take into account the generational mood changes that occur during Fourth Turnings. Propaganda loses its effectiveness in proportion to the pain and distress being experienced by the citizenry. Goebbels’ propaganda enthused and motivated the German people during the 1930s as Hitler re-armed, scrapped the Versailles Treaty and took over countries, as well as when he was conquering Poland and France in the early phase of World War II. Propaganda didn’t work so well when the U.S. Air Force was obliterating Dresden, Hitler was hunkered down in his bunker about to put a bullet in his skull, and the Russians were on the outskirts of a burning Berlin. Propaganda works when the people want to believe the falsehoods. When the cold harsh reality slaps them in the face, propaganda no longer works.

    Propaganda Working Well                   Propaganda Not Working So Well

  

The American Empire propaganda machine continues to gyrate but the gears are getting clogged with the gunk of mistruths revealed. Even the willfully ignorant masses are beginning to realize they have been screwed by those running the show. After five years of debt bankrolled “no Wall Street banker left behind solutions” and Keynesian crony capitalist handouts, real median household income is 8% lower, there are 5 million less full-time jobs, there are 19 million more Americans on food stamps, gasoline prices hover near all-time high levels, health insurance premiums are skyrocketing, local, state and Federal taxes relentlessly rise, and the national debt has gone hyperbolic – up by $6.7 trillion in five years.

This 67% increase is more debt than the country accumulated in the 214 years from its founding in 1789 through 2003. The $6.7 trillion of new debt, along with Bernanke printing almost $3 trillion of new fiat dollars and handed to his puppet masters on Wall Street, have generated a pitiful $1.8 trillion of GDP growth. We know Main Street has not benefitted from this insane expansion of our empire of debt. But, someone benefitted.

Shockingly, those who profited from the actions of Bernanke, Obama, Congress, and the U.S. Treasury are the very same malevolent predators that created the financial disaster and prompted the emergency response in the first place. QE to infinity has not been a failure. It has done exactly what it was designed to do. In September 2008 every major Wall Street bank was insolvent. Orderly bankruptcy under existing law was the solution. The richest, most powerful men in the world would have seen vast amounts of their illicitly acquired wealth vaporized. Hundreds of billions in bad debt would have been written off, with no lasting impact on the average American. A brief violent depression would have ensued, but with the bad debt purged from the system and only prudent sensible bankers left, the economy would have rapidly recovered. Instead, a small cadre of financial elite hatched a plan to preserve their ill-gotten gains through accounting fraud, and manipulation of monetary and fiscal policy.

Bernanke and Paulson compelled the pocket protector wearing accounting weenies at the FASB to allow Wall Street banks to mark their assets to make believe rather than market. Bernanke then proceeded to buy up toxic assets from the Wall Street banks, providing a never ending flow of QE heroin injected directly into the veins of Wall Street bankers, and paying .25% on all deposits made by the Wall Street banks. Bernanke didn’t do this so the banks could make loans to John and Susie Q Public and small time entrepreneurs with great business ideas. He did it so Wall Street could repair their insolvent balance sheets on the backs of American taxpayers. The $2 trillion of excess reserves parked at the Federal Reserve by Wall Street banks is “earning” $5 billion of risk free profits for the Too Big to Trust autocrats. Wall Street has generated billions of additional accounting entry “profits” by pretending their future losses on worthless loans will be minimal. Lastly, the “Bernanke Put” allows the Wall Street traders to use their HFT supercomputers and advanced notice of economic data to front run the muppets and syphon billions of risk free trading profits from the real economy. The chart below reveals all you need to know about the true purpose of Bernanke’s QEfinity.

You’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not realize who Bernanke is really working for. But it seems the majority of people in this country don’t care, don’t understand or don’t want to know the truth, as long as the ATM keeps spitting out twenty dollar bills, there are still Cool Ranch Doritos on the shelf at the Piggly Wiggly, and the EBT card gets recharged on the first of the month.

“The mischief springs from the power which the monied interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining…and unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away….” ― Andrew Jackson

Parasite on a Parasite on a Parasite

  

“This is by no means a new idea, nor is it the least bit radical; it is deeply conservative and highly traditional. It was Aristotle who first defined the economy as an exchange of goods and services for money, commerce as a parasite on the economy (where those who create nothing extract a share by trading) and finance a parasite on commerce (which extracts a share by switching money from hand to hand – a parasite on a parasite). A typical US politician, such as the president, who counts financial companies such as Goldman Sachs among his top campaign donors, could be characterized as a parasite on a parasite on a parasite – a worm infesting the gut of a tick that is sucking blood from a vampire bat, if you like.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

The bastardized form of capitalism that passes for our economic system today is based upon a parasitic relationship between Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks, powerful mega-corporations, connected wealthy cronies, and bloodsucking politicians, with the American people as the debt bloated host. The parasites have put the host on life support in critical condition. It took forty years, since Nixon unleashed immoral bankers and devious politicians by decoupling our currency from gold, but the financialization and gutting of America through the false promises of globalization is almost complete. The quaint days of the 1950s and 1960s, when the country was supported by an economy that produced goods, invested in productive assets and citizens who saved money to buy things they desired, are long gone. The insane concepts espoused in the mid-1960s that created our current day welfare/warfare state required Americans to stop using their brains and start using their credit cards. The degenerate Wall Street banking cabal were thrilled to oblige by providing vast sums of debt to the government and the masses. Constant  war, uncontrolled materialism, and an ever expanding welfare state is the triple crown of profits for unscrupulous bankers and corporate CEOs. Once the inconveniant anchor of gold was cut loose by Nixon, the bankers and politicians were free to guide the U.S. Titanic towards its ultimate destination.

The decades long shift from a productive manufacturing society based on savings and investing in productive capital assets to a predatory consumption society based on borrowing and spending has enriched the Wall Street financial elite and destroyed the working middle class. An economy where 25% of its GDP was produced by manufacturing products allowed all boats to rise. A hard working middle class family had a chance to move up the social ladder. An economy where more than 20% of its GDP is dependent upon parasitical financial intermediaries that produce nothing and add no value creates the extreme wealth inequality we have in our society today. Only the yachts rise in such a society. The shift has been slow and methodical and we’ve crossed the point of no return. The propaganda being spewed by the mainstream corporate media and the connected crony capitalists like Jeffrey Immelt about a U.S. based manufacturing revival is designed to pacify the distracted masses. The pillaging by the FIRE sector will continue until the host is deceased.

The growth as a percentage of our GDP in business & professional services from 5% of GDP in 1970 to 12% today provides further evidence of a country in a downward spiral. The country wastes billions hiring “experts” (lawyers, accountants, consultants) to interpret the millions of pages of indecipherable laws, regulations and tax codes created by politicians used to control, monitor, tax and bilk the masses. The 3,300% increase in spending on healthcare and education since 1970 has created tens of millions of sickly functional illiterates. The corporate food conglomerates mass produce processed poison, Madison Avenue maggots peddle the poison to the masses through relentless Bernaysian propaganda marketing, creating nauseatingly obese human beings, and then the corporate healthcare conglomerates treat the dozens of diseases created by this insane process with their drugs, while corporate profits soar ever higher. We all know that superstar corporate CEOs like Jack Welch, Jamie Dimon, Angelo Mozillo, and Mark Zuckerberg deserve hundreds of millions in compensation for adding so much value to our everyday lives. How would we survive without a Best Buy credit card through GE Capital at 21% interest, or a JP Morgan created credit default swap sold to customers and then shorted, or a subprime negative amortization liar loan used to purchase a $750,000 McMansion, or having a place to post every inane thought we have so employers and the NSA can keep up to date on our status.

Corporate-Profits-GDP-081613

The corpulent populace have been so dumbed down by the public educational system run by social engineers and union teachers, along with the 24/7 corporate media propaganda inundating them since childhood, they are content to stare into their boob tubes, play with their iGadgets, or read what a friend of a distant relative ate for breakfast, on Facebook. The government provides enough welfare handouts to keep the increasingly larger lower classes from rioting by borrowing $1 trillion per year from future unborn generations. When the middle class shows signs of discontent regarding their declining wages and lack of jobs, the government and the military industrial complex use the bogeyman of impending terror threats and evil foreign dictators to wage undeclared wars and distract the willfully ignorant masses. Plus, there are always fantasy football leagues, paying $300 to take your family to watch drug enhanced millionaire baseball players not run out a ground ball at a $1 billion taxpayer financed stadium, shopping at a suburban ghost mall with one of your nine credit cards to dull the pain of a meaningless pathetic life, or watch eight year old Honey Boo Boo dress like whore and parade before adult judges on the Discovery Channel. Our choice to ignore the basic mathematics of our lives has resulted in creating a nation of sub-humans wandering through life like zombies in a bad horror movie.

“Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear his shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

And we owe it all to the bankers and politicians that have procured undue influence over the political, economic, and financial mechanisms that control the country. The 2008 financial collapse, systematically created by the pathologically egomaniacal financial elite who are programmed to thrust their vampire squid blood funnels into every potential pot of untapped wealth in the world, should have led the American people to tear down their criminal enterprise and throw the treacherous predators into prison. Instead, the fearful masses begged the Wall Street bankers and the pandering politician flunkies in Washington D.C. to steal more of their money. The bankers won again.

“They have been able to pay off politicians with political campaign funds and have been granted informal and unspoken yet complete immunity from prosecution, setting the scene for even bigger confiscations of investor capital. With the risk of legal repercussions so small and the temptation to steal so large, why would any of them not take advantage? What do they have to do to stop people from entrusting them with their savings? Put up neon signs that say, “We steal your money”?” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

This capturing of unwarranted power by an unelected group of rich powerful men through deceitful means has left the country at the mercy of these psychopaths as their increasingly desperate measures insure the ultimate destruction of wealth across the planet. There are four central bankers (U.S., EU, Japan, China) who are the front men for the oligarchs. They are empowered with control over 70% of all the money on the planet. Do you think they have your best interests at heart? The financial crisis was caused by excessive levels of debt, created to benefit the issuers of the debt and the politicians who used the debt to promise voters more goodies than they could ever possibly deliver. Those politicians would be long gone before the IOUs came due, but the promises got them re-elected and made them rich. The “solutions” put forth by our owners since 2008 to solve our debt crisis have been to create debt at an even more rapid pace. Total credit market debt in the U.S. has surged by $6 trillion since 2007 to $57 trillion, 345% of GDP (it was 150% in 1970). The entire world is awash in un-payable levels of debt as reckless central bankers and gutless politicians know only one response to every crisis they cause – PRINT!!!

The decline in U.S. household debt has been solely due to write-offs, as the bad debt was shifted from reckless households and gluttonous bankers to the government books, where those who prudently abstained from the debt orgy are now on the hook for trillions of newly created unfunded obligations. Despite a moribund economy, with the lowest percentage of the population employed since 1983, consumer spending tanking, interest rates rising, gas prices near record highs, and poverty levels at all-time highs, corporate profits are off the charts. It seems the “solutions” implemented by the Ivy League MBA financial elite bankers and bureaucrats have had the desired result – enrichment of the criminal class who financialized the nation. The establishment and their media propaganda machine have somehow convinced a vast swath of Americans to believe that record profits accruing to the largest corporations in the world and stock market gains accruing to the 1% are beneficial to their lives. It’s a testament to the power of propaganda that people can be convinced to cheer on their own downfall as they are dehumanized and enslaved by the plantation owners who run this country.

“Crime follows money like a shadow. The more money there is within a society, the greater are its social inequalities. Financialization dehumanizes human relationships by reducing them to a question of numbers printed on pieces of paper, and a blind calculus for manipulating these numbers mechanically; those who take part in this abstract dance of numbers dehumanizes others and, in turn, lose their own humanity and can go on to perform other dehumanizing acts. Money is, in short, a socially toxic substance.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

There is no more revealing statistic than real median household income to gauge the winners and losers from the financialization and dehumanization of America. The real median household income of $52,100 is still 8% below the early 2008 level of $56,600. It is still 5% lower than it was in 1999, before the Federal Reserve/Wall Street bubble blowing wealth destruction machine really got going. In fact, real median household income has only risen 9% in the last 35 years. Prior to that, most families could live comfortably with only one spouse working. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that these calculations are based on the fraudulently manipulated CPI figures which are understated by at least 3% per year. Using a true measure of inflation would reveal median household income to be lower today than it was in the mid-1960s. The bottom 80% have seen a decline in their standard of living since the mid-1960s as inflation has robbed them of purchasing power and the financial elite have skimmed the cream off the top of our economic system. The economic gains have accrued to the top 5%, with astronomical gains being amassed by the .1% ruling elite, who have rigged the game in their favor through laws written by their lobbyists, regulatory shenanigans, tax code manipulation, and buying off politicians. Thank you Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, and Phil Gramm for repealing Glass Steagall and stopping any regulation of financial derivatives. Where would the country be without those two courageous acts on your part?

Those in control of the system have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams as 72% of all the wealth in the US is held in the hands of 5% of the population, with 42% of this in the hands of the top 1%. The top 1% now “earn” over 20% of all the income in the U.S., a level exceeded only once before in the 1920s prior to the Great Crash of 1929 and ensuing Depression. During the heyday of middle class upward mobility, from 1950 through 1970, the top 1% earned 10% of all income. Today, the top 1% is dominated by debt peddling bankers creating derivatives of mass destruction, hedge fund egomaniacs in collusion with bankers to syphon capital away from productive ventures, mega-corporation job destroying executives, entertainment personalities, and shyster lawyers preying on the weak and feeble minded. Our insane society heaps accolades on these rich and famous narcissists, who add no value, produce nothing, create economic havoc, and drain the lifeblood from the dying carcass of a once great nation. The nearly extinct middle class owes their fate to the malevolent men that turned the country into a gambling casino of debt, derivatives, delusion and dreams of jackpots that will never materialize. The bankers and their cronies run the casino and the house always wins, as the chart below confirms.

wealth-change-epi

It is mind boggling that we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by the ruling class about the tremendous benefits of globalization, efficiency, productivity, and profitability. When academia, the mass media, and government leaders use their power and influence to convince the masses that ever higher mega-corporation profits benefit the well-being of the country, you end up where we are today. Globalization was nothing more than a scheme by our biggest corporations to use labor arbitrage as a way to increase profits. As American jobs were disappeared overseas to countries that allow slave labor conditions and wages, median household income declined.

The banking cabal stepped to the plate and convinced the increasingly poorer middle class to replace that lost income with easily accessible debt. Just whip out that credit card and use your house as an ATM and you still give the appearance of increasing wealth. You might be in debt up to your eyeballs but, by God, at least the neighbors would think you were doing great. Until the foreclosure sign went up in front of your house in 2009. The marriage of corporations outsourcing American jobs to China with consumer debt peddled by the predator banks was a match made in heaven until the country ran out of decent paying jobs, one in six people was on food stamps, and the average middle class family was drowning in debt. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that corporate efficiency and productivity means firing American workers, cutting benefits, and bigger bonuses for corporate executives as their stock price is boosted by the announcement of more layoffs. The country has been gutted by the predator class in their unquenchable thirst for more. Human nature never changes. Greed, desire, avarice and stupidity will always rear their heads, leading to predictable outcomes.

“Indeed, it had not – not when the nation’s most sophisticated corporate financiers and their accountants were constantly at work finding new instruments of deception barely within the law; not when supposedly cool-headed fund managers had become fanatical votaries at the altar of instant performance; not when brokers’ devotion to their customers interest was constantly being compromised by private professional deals or the pressure to produce commissions; and not when the style-setting leaders of professional investing were plunging as greedily and recklessly as any amateur.” – John Brooks

The psychopaths controlling this country have fashioned untenable financial conditions by further weakening an already structurally deficient economic structure that will result in an epic flood of financial destruction destined to destroy the lives of millions in the U.S. and around the globe. Those who put their faith in financialization and interconnected globalization will reap what they have sowed. We will all feast at a banquet of consequences. Encouraging central bankers across the world to print trillions of fiat currency out of thin air as the solution to our debt problem is the ultimate in idiocracy. The unsustainability of this scheme should be evident to even an Ivy League economist. But the dimwitted government apparatchiks, overeducated economists, greedy corporate executives, vacuous media talking heads, and intellectually dishonest journalists cheer on Ben Bernanke and his central banker brethren.

When you see a Bloomberg bimbo interviewing an Ivy League Wall Street economist about the tremendous merits of QE to infinity, you have a millionaire interviewing a multi-millionaire, with both working for corporations owned by billionaires. Their jobs depend upon the sustenance and further enrichment of the establishment. Therefore, they will lie, obfuscate and mislead their audience about the criminality of their bosses and the true consequences of these crimes against humanity. The existing hierarchy will not willingly surrender their control, power and illegitimately acquired wealth. Only the process of economic collapse, war and revolution will end their reign of terror.

We’ve seen it all before. The cycles of human history have provided us with centuries of proof that a few evil men can gain control over a civilization and procure an inordinate amount of wealth and power before ultimately relinquishing it due to their myopic pathological desire to acquire more. Powerful wealthy narcissists are never satisfied with what they have. Their arrogance and hubris will always be their downfall. Their foolish belief in their own omniscience reveals their true ignorance. Their enormous egos and confidence in the linearity of history blind them to their impending demise. Time is no longer on their side. A reckoning will happen within the next decade. Their gated communities and penthouse doormen will not keep them safe.

The American people cannot shirk their responsibility for this ongoing tragedy. The evil men could only pull off this bank heist with the silent consent of the governed. And that is exactly what has happened. The American people have been gradually persuaded through propaganda and fear to willingly give up freedom, liberty and self-responsibility for safety, security and government provided succor. Over the last forty years the Americans people have allowed themselves to be enslaved in debt by bankers, corporations and politicians, who realized all the riches, while binding the citizens in chains made of credit cards and mortgages. Now that the system has reached its breaking point and the further issuance of debt no longer generates the appearance of growth, the ruling class have resorted to more authoritarian measures, all done in the name of protecting us from phantom terrorists and evil dictators. It’s for the children.

Decisions about our economy are made in secret meetings by unelected officials and with sparse details announced with great fanfare by the corporate media. The President, with the full support of the military industrial complex, chooses which dictators are evil and which are good, with each being interchangeable depending upon the circumstances. The iron fist of American democracy attacks countries at will, without a declaration of war as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Twenty five hundred page laws, indecipherable reams of regulations, and 60,000 pages of tax code are rammed down the throats of Americans without the benefit of even a debate. Each crisis caused by the previous government solution is met with more laws and regulations, designed and written by the very entities they were supposed to control. The farce of party politics is used to give people the appearance of choice, when there is not an iota of policy difference when the opposing party assumes power.

The people are told every situation is too complicated for them to understand and they should let the “experts” solve the problems. Every authoritarian measure used to control dissent among those capable of thinking is done in the name of national security. Edward Snowden is declared a traitor for revealing the traitorous actions of our own government, and the people silently consent. The head of the NSA is caught lying to Congress, and no one cares. The Department of Homeland Security locks down one of the biggest cities in America looking for a teenager and the people cower and beg Big Brother for more protection. The NSA and other secretive government agencies treat the 4th Amendment like toilet paper, and the people feebly respond by breathlessly texting, twittering and facebooking about Anthony Weiner’s cock. The U.S. military desensitizes the masses by conducting live fire exercises in American cities, and the people just change the channel to Bridezillas or I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.

Each new economic “surprise”; each new foreign “threat”; each new government “solution” is met with secrecy, spin, and no avenue for the people to impact the decisions made by our owners. The people no longer matter. They can’t change the course of the country through legal means or the ballot box because the system has been captured. It has happened before. The American people are under the mistaken impression we are free. That boat has sailed. Our economic, financial and political systems have been usurped by malicious men posing as gangsters in this saga. We have allowed this to happen. We mistakenly put our trust in bankers, academics and politicians and will suffer the consequences of our choices, just as the German people experienced during the last Fourth Turning.

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’… must someday lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing…. Each act… is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.” – Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans 1933-45

In the fourth and final installment of this seemingly never ending treatise on a world gone insane, I’ll address how the disintigration of trust will ultimately lead to a collapse of the worldwide Ponzi scheme and how the collapse could lead to a rebirth of a society built upon family, community, cooperation, local commerce, compassion, freedom and liberty. I can dream, can’t I?

That Was The Week That Was in Doom June 23, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 23, 2013

http://991.com/newGallery/That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964.jpg

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

This edition caps a week full of nonsense, proving nothing so much as that rust never sleeps. We were shocked… shocked to learn that Bank of America issued performance bonus for employees managing to force homeowners into foreclosure.  Negotiators firmly set upon enacting a treason against the American people continued busily negotiating the Trans-Pacfic Partnership under circumstances so secret they may well as be hermetically sealed,  lest the proles get wind of the scale of the planned sellout. In other surprises, Congress’ poll rating is the lowest EVAH, Klansmen attempted to build a radiation weapon to use on Muslims, Louie Gohmert sees king crab legs in the shopping carts of SNAP card recipients, reporter Michael Hastings perished in a vehicle fire in a vehicle that, being among the safest on the planet, should never have caught fire, and an entrepreneur is planning a megadoomstead in underground limestone caves, in a facility formerly used for government storage. I know there is meaning in these entrails, so grab a stick and let’s start rooting around for signs, shall we?

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Bank of America Lied to Homeowners and Rewarded Foreclosures, Former Employees Say

As an Occupier, special opprobrium was reserved for the Bank of America. Located close enough to the Occupy Norfolk encampment to cast a shadow in late afternoon, B of A seemed to embody the very incarnation of everything wrong with banking.

The popular “Move Your Money” campaign shifted around a few millions, and quoted bank execs shrugged it off, but one sensed they were at least a bit concerned.

Then we find out this, courtesy of ProPublica:

Bank of America employees regularly lied to homeowners seeking loan modifications, denied their applications for made-up reasons, and were rewarded for sending homeowners to foreclosure, according to sworn statements by former bank employees.

The employee statements were filed late last week in federal court in Boston as part of a multi-state class action suit brought on behalf of homeowners who sought to avoid foreclosure through the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but say they had their cases botched by Bank of America.

In a statement, a Bank of America spokesman said that each of the former employees’ statements is “rife with factual inaccuracies” and that the bank will respond more fully in court next month. He said that Bank of America had modified more loans than any other bank and continues to “demonstrate our commitment to assisting customers who are at risk of foreclosure.”

Six of the former employees worked for the bank, while one worked for a contractor. They range from former managers to front-line employees, and all dealt with homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure through the government’s program.

And Paul Kiel’s reporting even gets better. The Squid itself is involved, through a subsidiary:

Sometimes, homeowners were simply denied en masse in a procedure called a “blitz,” said William Wilson, Jr., who worked as an underwriter and manager from 2010 until 2012. As part of the modification applications, homeowners were required to send in documents with their financial information. About twice a month, Wilson said, the bank ordered that all files with documentation 60 or more days old simply be denied. “During a blitz, a single team would decline between 600 and 1,500 modification files at a time,” he said in the sworn declaration. To justify the denials, employees produced fictitious reasons, for instance saying the homeowner had not sent in the required documents, when in actuality, they had.

Such mass denials may have occurred at other mortgage servicers. Chris Wyatt, a former employee of Goldman Sachs subsidiary Litton Loan Servicing, told ProPublica in 2012 that the company periodically conducted “denial sweeps” to reduce the backlog of homeowners. A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said at the time that the company disagreed with Wyatt’s account but offered no specifics.

Five of the former Bank of America employees stated that they were encouraged to mislead customers. “We were told to lie to customers and claim that Bank of America had not received documents it had requested,” said Simone Gordon, who worked at the bank from 2007 until early 2012 as a senior collector. “We were told that admitting that the Bank received documents ‘would open a can of worms,’” she said, since the bank was required to underwrite applications within 30 days of receiving documents and didn’t have adequate staff.

Your refinance dollars at work. The HAMP program was an apparent clusterfk for banks from inception, as they never had any intention of hiring sufficient staff in order to process the paperwork needed to fully implement it. ProPublica began detailing its failures  from its inception in 2009. HAMP turned out to be a perfect storm created by banks that refused to adequately fund their mortgage servicing operations and lax government oversight.

Bank of America was far slower to modify loans than other servicers, as other analyses ProPublica has cited have shown. A study last year found that about 800,000 homeowners would have qualified for HAMP had Bank of America, Wells and the other largest servicers  done an adequate job of handling applications and paperwork. And we’ll not event mention the outright fraud of robosigning. Yet.

Add B of A

This in, from firedoglake.

 

The latest story is courtesy of one of those much maligned whistle-blowers who saw something and said something. In this case the whistle-blower disclosed that the Too Big To Fail/Jail bank had a bonus system setup encouraging foreclosure on desperate homeowners.

Bank of America (BAC) rewarded staff with cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas tied to sending distressed homeowners into foreclosure, former employees said in court documents.

Mortgage workers falsified records and were told to delay U.S. loan-assistance applications by requesting paperwork that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had already received, according to statements from ex-employees filed last week in federal court in Boston.

The affidavit details a litany of abuse including widespread fraud.

I witnessed employees and managers change and falsify information in the systems of record, and remove documents from homeowners’ files to make the account appear ineligible for a loan modification,” said Terrelonge, a loan servicing representative. This allowed managers to meet quotas for closed cases, she said.

Bank of America instructed employees to delay applications and mislead customers “as part of a deliberate practice of stringing homeowners along,” lawyers said in a June 7 filing.

Salon published a very fine article by David Dayen that included this morsel:

And they would have very specific targets: the ex-employees listed specific executives by name who authorized and directed the fraudulent process. “The delay and rejection programs were methodically carried out under the overall direction of Patrick Kerry, a Vice President who oversaw the entire eastern region’s loan modification process,” wrote William Wilson. Other executives mentioned by name include John Berens, Patricia Feltch and Rebecca Mairone (now at JPMorgan Chase, and already named in a separate financial fraud case). These are senior executives who, if this alleged conduct is true, should face criminal liability.

Bankers facing criminal liability. Here in the FSA. That’s pretty funny.

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More on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership”

Last week we kicked the tires of the Trans-Pacific partnership, a piece of secret legislation being secretly negotiated by the White House, with the help of more than 600 corporate advisers and representative from Pacific Rim nations. Described as a “trade agreement,” the US already has trade agreements covering 90 percent of the GDP of the countries involved in the talks. Instead, the TPP is a major power grab by large corporations, conducted under cover in much the same way that NAFTA was foisted upon the American middle class. The deal will reportedly give multinational corporations a favorable economic and legal status vis a vis sovereign nations, and the ability to challenge legislation in each nation unfavorable to the corporation’s interests.

Why so secretive?

As Margaret Flowers reports in an article, if people knew what was in the bill, the groundswell of opposition would be such as to make it impossible to sign.

The text of the TPP includes 29 chapters, only five of which are about trade. The remaining chapters are focused on changes that multinational corporations have not been able to pass in Congress such as restrictions on internet privacy, increased patent protections, greater access to litigation and further financial deregulation.

So far, all that is known about the contents of the TPP is from documents that have been leaked and reports from NGOs and industry meetings. Unlike other trade deals, the White House refuses to make the text available to the public. In fact, the negotiators refuse to publish the text until four years after it is signed into law. Why are they being so secretive? Former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he opposed making the text public because doing so would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign.

From the information available, one thing is clear about the impacts of the TPP on health care: the intention of the TPP is to enhance and protect the profits of medical and pharmaceutical corporations without considering the harmful effects their policies will have on human health.

recession-2

No reader will be surprised to learn that the net impact of this pernicious bit of treason is to maximize corporate profits. The TPP agreement takes particular loving care of Big Pharma, and attempts to limit the capacities of state owned public health enterprises to care for its own citizenry.

Text from a section of the TPP called “Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” was leaked in June 2011. It reveals this conflict between medical industries that have strictly commercial interests and public health systems that are concerned about the health of the population. Medical industries are pushing on all fronts to keep their prices high while public health systems must negotiate to keep prices affordable and maximise what they can cover within their budgets.

To the medical industries, such price negotiation is one of the “unfair advantages” of public health systems. When a public health system negotiates a lower price, it is said to be exerting its market power. On the flip side, when a government extends patent protections to medical industries to keep prices high, this is not considered to be an unfair advantage granted by the government.

Medical industries are pushing for other concessions within the TPP to “level the playing field”, also known as forcing public entities to operate as market-based entities, such as factoring the cost of not just research, development and production of drugs and medical devices, but also the cost of marketing them into what is considered to be a fair market price. And they only view prices negotiated without any government influence as fair.

As always, Mammon remains hungry.

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Americans’ Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record

Congress ranks last on list of 16 institutions; military earns top spot again

To the surprise of almost nobody, the results are in: virtually no one trusts the scripted mainstream media and even fewer trust Congress. We’ve known it for years, but a new Gallup poll shows that a whopping 77% of Americans distrust mainstream media television and nobody likes Congress who is willing to give their name to an interviewer. . .

Only a bit more ‘trustworthy’ than Congress, which scored in at a record low of 90% saying they do not trust the government body, the Gallup poll details that only 23% of viewers actually trust the mainstream media television news. A reality that has been clear as day in light of blatant mainstream media blackouts on key events like the outrageous DHS Fourth Amendment free zones that stretch up to 100 miles out from every single border of the US, to the blackout over eyewitness reports at the Boston Marathon.

Gallup sez:

Americans’ confidence in Congress is not only at its lowest point on record, but also is the worst Gallup has ever found for any institution it has measured since 1973. This low level of confidence is in line with Americans’ low job approval of Congress, which has also been stuck below 30% for years.

 

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Gohmert: Cutting food stamps not evil because poor people buy king crab legs

 

Going out on a limb here, but just perhaps– perhaps– the low approval rating of Congress stems in large measure from antics like these. Raw Story moved this item in the wake of the defeated Farm Bill this week, which illustrated a new level of political incompetence in Washington unseen in at least one observer’s lifetime.

Congressional comedian Louis Gohmert

complained that Democrats had portrayed Republicans as evil because they supported a measure to cut nearly 2 million low-income people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which would mainly impact working families with children.

On the other hand, Gohmert said, poor people were using food stamps to buy food that other Americans could not afford. He claimed his “broken-hearted” constituents had repeatedly told him they had seen people use food stamps to buy king crab legs.

“Because he does pay income tax, he doesn’t get more back than he pays in, he is actually helping pay for king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself,” Gohmert explained.

“How can you begrudge somebody who feels that way,” he added. “How can you begrudge anyone who steps up on behalf of constituents who feel that way. We don’t want anyone to go hungry, and from the amount of obesity in this country by people who we’re told do not have enough to eat, it does seem like we could have a debate about this issue without allegations about wanting to slap down or starve children.”

The average monthly SNAP benefit for one person is $133.44.

Reports have circulated that the king crab leg purchaser was wearing purple wings and riding an ebony unicorn when sighted making the crab leg purchase.

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Klansman and accomplice charged for building radiation gun

The men allegedly intended for their “Hiroshima on a light switch” to be used on the Muslim community

We are all familiar with elements of the ignorant , violent nativist right in this country, which is much like the ignorant violent and nativist right in every country. But these folks have set a new by attempting to apply technology with a lethal, deadly twist.

 

Two men, one of them a member of the Ku Klux Klan, were arraigned today in Albany, N.Y., on federal charges of plotting to build a mobile radiation gun intended to kill Muslims – or “medical waste,” as the plotters called their intended targets.

Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, a Klan member from Galway, N.Y., and Eric J. Feight, 54, of Hudson, are both charged with conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism in the use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The case has been under investigation by a Joint Terrorism Task Force since at least April 2012, when Crawford allegedly reached out to Jewish organizations, asking if Israel would be interested in such a weapon to kill its enemies.

“The essence of Crawford’s scheme is the creation of a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing human targets silently and from a distance with lethal doses of radiation,” says a 67-page criminal complaint filed by the FBI.

It might sound far-fetched, but experts told investigators that the design would work, producing a “a lethal, and functioning, remotely controlled radiation-emitting device,” the complaint says

A “central feature of the weaponized radiation device is that the target(s) and those around them would not immediately be aware they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation and the harmful effects of that radiation would not become apparent until days after the exposure,” the complaint says.

At one point, Crawford described his planned device as “Hiroshima on a light switch,” the complaint says.

The case against this pair appears built around extensive recordings of their conversations and e-mails. Within six weeks of Crawford’s attempts to solicit financing from two Jewish organizations, the FBI was monitoring and recording much of his activity and had recruited an snitch In.

Last August, Crawford traveled by car from his home in Albany to North Carolina to meet and solicit funding from an unidentified  “ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan,” who cooperated when contacted by FBI agents. In early October, he traveled to Greensboro, N.C., to meet with a cooperating witness and two undercover FBI agents who posed as “Southern businessmen of means who were associated with the KKK.”

Reminds me of the descriptions we often hear about serial killers. “He was a nice boy. Quiet. Shy. He didn’t have much to say.”  Keep this in mind when you’re tricorn hat-wearing neighbor seems to be spending the too many late nights in his garage, tinkering on his neighborhood death ray.

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Michael Hastings, RIP.

As you know, reporter Michael Hastings died in a fiery car crash earlier this week. There’s a great deal loves that chelation about the causes of the crash, and especially the resultant fireball that supposedly consumed is vehicle. Reader Supported News moved an article earlier in the week, and I can do no better than to run it in toto:

The death of reporter Michael Hastings, best remembered for taking on General Stanley McChrystal and other powerful people, has been met with shock and grief in the journalistic community, especially from those fortunate enough to work alongside him. But one layer below the fond remembrances are a host of vague questions and inferences about the circumstances surrounding the 33-year-old BuzzFeed reporter’s fiery solo car crash early Tuesday in Los Angeles. Bringing those suspicions to the forefront last night was WikiLeaks, never reticent to insert itself into a story, which teased, “Michael Hastings death has a very serious non-public complication. We will have more details later.” And after three hours tweeted: “Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.”

“Yeah,” BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith confirmed to Daily Intelligencer. “Before his death, Michael told a number of his friends and colleagues that he was concerned that he was under investigation.”

But other, less reputable sources have taken the speculation much further. “Vince Foster-like murder plot emerging in Los Angeles? Did the Obama administration knock off a star reporter?” asked one blog early on Wednesday, adding to existing conspiratorialTwitterchatter. Another wrote, “Admit it, Michael Hastings’ Death is Weird and Scary.” Hours before revelations about a potential FBI investigation, InfoWars, the Alex Jones website that serves as a catch-all conspiracy-theory clearing house, mentioned Hastings’s death with an editor’s note: “Journalists who mess with government and military power often die under mysterious circumstances.” None had more than conjecture.

The circumstances are these: “Police said a vehicle was southbound on Highland about 4:20 a.m. when it lost control south of Melrose and smashed into a tree,” the L.A. Times reported. Videopurports to show Hastings’s Mercedes-Benz running a red light at a high speed minutes before the crash. “It sounded like a bomb went off in the middle of the night,” a witness told the local news. “I couldn’t have written a scene like this for a movie, where the engine flies from the car.” Photos and video from the aftermath show extreme wreckage, and as of yesterday, the coroner had not officially identified the body because it was too badly burned.

But an automotive writer also fed the doubters:

I’m here to state that I’ve seen dozens of cars hit walls and stuff at high speeds and the number of them that I have observed to eject their powertrains and immediately catch massive fire is, um, ah, zero. Modern cars are very good at not catching fire in accidents. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is an evolutionary design from a company known for sweating the safety details over and above the Euro NCAP requirements, should be leading the pack in the not-catching-on-fire category. Nor is the C-Class known for sudden veering out of control into trees and whatnot.The crash is under investigation and there will be an official accident report (a toxicology report could take weeks). Whatever its findings, they can likely coexist with Hastings’s mind-set at the time and a potential government investigation without representing something more sinister.

“He was incredibly tense and very worried and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” said Hastings’s friend and Current TV host Cenk Uygur. “I don’t know what his state of mind was at 4:30 in the morning, but I do know what his state of mind was in general, and it was a nervous wreck.” But Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery put it plainly: “Ugh, the people posting Vince Foster style comments re Hastings death do a disservice to his no BS truth telling.” Let’s wait for the facts.

Update: The L.A. Times reports that Hastings, prior to his death, “was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by the Florida socialite Jill Kelley against the Department of Defense and the FBI.” The paper also notes, “Since Hastings’s death early Tuesday, wild conspiracy theories have bloomed on the Internet implying that he was murdered by powerful forces wanting to silence him.”

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Limestone Doomstead

 We’ve entertained a lot of discussion about doomsteads on the Doomsday Diner, and discussed many of the preparations and planning that would be necessary to create such a place. It appears that one man is planning on an extinction level event, and is acquired a former government facility in which to plan a doomstead with a few of his friends.

After most of the world’s population is wiped off the map by a wayward meteorite or hail of nuclear missiles, the survival of the human race might just depend on a few thousand people huddled in recreational vehicles deep in the bowels of an eastern Kansas mine. 

That’s the vision of a California man who is creating what he calls the world’s largest private underground survivor shelter, using a complex of limestone caves dug more than 100 years ago beneath gently rolling hills overlooking the Missouri River.

‘I do believe I am on a mission and doing a spiritual thing,’ said Robert Vicino, who has purchased a large portion of the former U.S. Army storage facility on the southeast edge of Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City. ‘We will certainly be part of the genesis.’



Before it comes time to ride out Armageddon or a deadly global pandemic, though, Vicino says the Vivos Survival Shelter and Resort will be a fun place for members to take vacations and learn assorted survival skills to prepare them for whatever world-changing catastrophe awaits.

Jacque Pregont, president of the Atchison Chamber of Commerce, said some people think the shelter plan sounds creepy or that Vicino has ‘lost his mind,’ while others are excited because they will finally get a chance to tour the property.

Atchison is known as the birthplace of Amelia Earhart and one of the most haunted towns in Kansas, Pregont said, so the survival shelter is likely to add to the town’s tourism draw.

Here is a scale model of the facility:
Apparently according to the current pricing structure, a person who plans to park a 30-foot vehicle in the shelter with four people inside will pay $30,000 for the space and $6,000 for food.  Actual sales won’t begin until a ‘critical mass’ of reservations are received and processed, Vicino said, which hasn’t happened yet at the Kansas shelter. Vivos also owns a shelter in Indiana with room for 80 people to live comfortably for up to a year.There, members pay $50,000 per adult and $35,000 per child, so a family with two adults and two children would have to come up with $170,000 to be part of the “new beginnings” generation. So it appears that the 1% will at least be safe in their year-round, 70°, temperature regulated chambers.
In closing, I am moved to wonder why the government sold this facility. Where have they moved whatever was stored here? Why did they sell it, and so cheaply?
Just wondering.
I’m sure the answer lies in the entrails of the next sheep.

Thank You for Your Service- You’re Evicted

Guest article off the keyboard of Mary Malone

Published on The Burning Platform on May 28, 2013

http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/home-eviction-2.jpg

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Note from RE:  Another in the combined efforts of The Burning Platform and the Doomstead Diner to highlight specific ongoing problems for individuals who are being HOSED by the Fascist State.  We both recently Featured the Eustace Conway problem, here is another one which is AT LEAST as sickening, if not more so.  Make the phone calls.  Swamp the Fax Machines.  This is FUCKING BULLSHIT!

From Mary Malone:

Note: Petty Officer Joseph Worrell contacted me months ago – through the “Who’s Your Lender” thread posted on The Burning Platform. PO Worrell has very capable counsel and objected to each unlawful act committed by Emigrant Bank. Yet, Emigrant Bank was allowed to trample all over his rights and unlawfully seize his home.

PO Worrell and I came to the conclusion that the only strategy left – was to go national with the story. True to PO Worrell’s love of country and dedication to service, PO Worrell postponed the PR campaign until his return from deployment.

In his absence, while PO Worrell was serving his country, Emigrant Bank unlawfully evicted the Worrell’s from their home – violating a court ordered stay that was in place while the appeal was pending in federal court.

Emigrant Bank must be stopped. The madness must end. Please circulate this post and contact Eric Cantor and your members of congress and demand that they put an end to Emigrant Bank’s unlawful acts in violation of the SCRA.

Emigrant Bank Violates SCRA and unlawfully seizes active military home while he is deployed on missions in Afghanistan.

Petty Officer Worrell is a Reservist Navy SeaBee and combat veteran living in West Palm Beach who has served honorably for about 12 years. In 2009 he was deployed in the Persian Gulf when the home he built in Palm Beach Gardens was sold by the bank even though federal law (the SCRA) provides military members special protection from foreclosure. Unaware initially Emigrant Bank had in fact sold his house to themselves,  he returned home and continued to live in the home, and with help from a local attorney and military legal aid he started fighting to get the illegal sale overturned.

The Service members Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”, successor to the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act) accords certain protections and rights to individuals who are either on active military duty or recently retired. The purpose of the Act is to allow the service members to perform their valuable duties without the worry of civil prosecution, foreclosure or eviction under most circumstances.

Before a court will permit such actions, the court will require certification that a military search has been conducted to confirm that the individual is not entitled to the protections of the Act. The proof may be required again later in the proceedings before certain collections or enforcement action is sought.  Proof of that verification is usually in the form of an affidavit which may be called a “military affidavit”, “non-military affidavit”, “nonmilitary affidavit”, “Active Duty Verification Affidavit”.
Petty Officer Worrell complied with all requirements under the SCRA. The Florida judiciary – in both state and Federal Bankruptcy Court ignored the law – and allowed Emigrant Bank to unlawfully foreclose on the property, vacate the bankruptcy stay and now violate a stay halting the sale of the home while the case is under appeal in the Federal Courts.PO Worrell was recently recalled to active duty and left his wife living in the home a PBSO agent showed up Monday May 6, 2013 and taped a 24 hour eviction notice to their front door. Worrell’s attorney filed an emergency motion requesting the court stop the eviction because Worrell was outside Florida on active duty, and the case was on appeal. But on Wednesday May 8, 2013, despite receiving via fax a court order halting the eviction, several PBSO agents and representatives of the bank, still showed up at the home in Palm Beach Gardens, broke the lock, and installed a new one. Mrs. Worrell had to flee their home and leave behind nearly all they own.
A local CBS affiliate produced a story on Emigrant Bank’s unlawful foreclosure and violations of the SCRA which aired last night over Memorial Day – link to segment here:

http://cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/navy-reservist-evicted-home-while-active-duty-7683.shtml

The Worrell’s say the bank involved, Emigrant Bank based in New York, is a predatory lender with a ton of political capital. Apparently Congressman Eric Cantor’s wife headed up one of their units, and he allegedly pressured Congressman Michael Grimm of Staten Island into introducing a banking bill that solely benefits Emigrant Bank to the tune of $300 million. See H.R.3128.

Worrell says: “It is very strange because we believe our courts are supposed to protect our rights, not just help banks step on them. Before I can even put down my seabag or checking at my local command – far less pack up and move out, here they come to taking our home to profit unfairly from all our sweat and hard work. We believe some local officials have bent over backwards so this bank can skirt important federal law – and it just wrong”.

Please send this story to everyone on your contact list. We need PO Worrell’s story to go national to embarrass members of Congress into intervening and calling Emigrant Bank off. I’m sending the post to contacts at the American Legion in the hope that retired military will rally behind the Worrell’s and exert their influence on a corrupt Congress.

Contact Congressman Eric Cantor and tell him you want his wife’s employer, Emigrant Bank to comply with the SCRA, follow the law and respect the stay a FL judge has placed on the sale of Worrell’s home.

The law needs to be followed – even by banks connected to his office. Congressman Cantor’s contact info:

Phone: (202) 225-2815
Fax: (202) 225-0011

 

http://www.theburningplatform.com/?p=54957

222

Off the keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on October 24, 2012

 

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

 

This is my 222nd post. Adding the numbers of my name numerologically, they add up to 222.

What to say?

First, I guess I needed a month off. Shortly after the jubilation of my last post, there was a personnel shift at big bank, and I was moved to the coldest, draftiest, most awkward corner in the building. I had been surrounded by seven women; I now have grey cubical walls within arms reach on three sides. A reminder, I guess, not to stand out too much, not to enjoy myself while I work, maybe. That, and all the romantic ideas I sort-of hinted at in my last post, have collapsed in the reality of the generally weird idiosyncratic chaos of my life, including that furnace friend couldn’t fix the furnace, so I’m heading into my third winter in a cold house. (Who do you ask on a date anyway, when you don’t own a vehicle?) It’s also harvest time, and there are many projects in the garden. The garden is very beautiful still, so I’m outside as much as I can be. There was also a stairs I built for a maiden, mother and crone. Anyway, I’m back.

What was going on a month ago? I suppose that was about the time of the first VICE-prez debate. How about this election! What’s weirder than half of American voters, about to elect a vulture capitalist President? That about half of that half two years from now are going to be poorer for it? Though based on Ro-Money they might be angling for jobs driving Latinos out of the country. Or maybe working at a Walmart distribution center, living in tents and half-way houses and on the street. Though what do I know, I may have to work at big bank Monday, Christmas Eve Day, and the Friday after Thanksgiving, foreclosing on people’s houses.

Weirder I think is Ro-Money’s China talk, as if America is not afloat because China is buying Treasury bonds by the trillion, so we Americans can buy mountains of consumer crap we throw into the nearest designated incinerator or hole in the ground – so 28 members of Walton ilk are worth a billion, five or so worth $25bl+. Or maybe it’s that my radical Fundamentalist Constitutionalist Sovereign Christian mother LOVES Wal-Mart? If I do make it home for the holidays, the food will consist mostly of Wal-Mart food product, even veges grown in China.*
But then, ladies, don’t you know, if you get preggers by force, that’s the will of OMOG. Something like my work at big bank is the work of God.

Or maybe it’s that O doesn’t really want the job? If he loses, it won’t just be because America is about done with him. There have been moments in every debate, when I thought he wasn’t sure. What about you? Would you want the job? Oh great, he can continue another four years killing people every week with drone strikes, presiding over the growing domestic security State, the collapse of global financial markets, food shortages famine and die-off(?), global biological eco-illogical destruction in the name of commerce, war in Iran (apparently). Alas, he chose to fulfil a fate, though he might have given it up chosen his own and told America the truth. Existing in such a wicked web of lies and agendas and confabulation, it is impossible to imagine any truth coming out of him, that isn’t about treating Americans as if they are stupid children.

Wait a minute. The weirdest thing was hearing Ro-Money, paraphrased, “you didn’t say that? You didn’t?! You didn’t?! What did you say then!” talking as a child, as to a child, to the President of the United States of America. Or maybe it was both, their inarticulate, fumbling, empty, inauthentic language. Or maybe the media reinforcement of the stupid message.

MY work at big bank is rote enough, and I am good enough at it, that I’ve spent the past week listening to youtube streams of Terence Mckenna. That has been a blessing. Terence talked a lot about the world being made of language. The world as we know it certainly is, the debates being a pre-eminent example. To the degree that most people talk about the world they inhabit, they recite what they hear in the media. The message of the media and the candidates for Prez being tight, no ideological wiggle room there at all, really. You won’t get anything like the truth there, only the Truth as it is prescribed for you, stupid Americans.
ANyWay, here’s some truth from me,

Storable Edibles. Contrary to zombie propaganda, I’m making sure everyone knows I’m growing food.

Another place for a hoop house experimental.

Pics

A stairs for a maiden, mother and crone (crone not present on delivery) living in a condominium. The mother of whom gave me this first generational digital camera.

As if by magic, a delivery, future valkyrie or norn, or the like, I hope.

Asters, on my woodland city walk

Got rid of my cell phone yesterday. I’ll have a house phone and better internet, for $50 less a month than I’ve been paying for cell and city wireless. The Vee ry ZON people called it an upgrade.

*Both links in this piece came courtesy of JoeP.

Lately…

Off the keyboard of WHD

First published @ Off the Grid in Minneapolis
Discuss this at the Epicurian Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

How much can happen in a week?

About a week ago*, I awoke to a story on NPR about organic food. Stanford University had released a study suggesting organic foods aren’t any healthier than industrial foods. I was only half shocked, as I was only partially awake.

When I walked into big bank later that morning, into the break room, BBC teevee news was reporting on a Stanford study, suggesting organic foods are no better for you than industrial foods (though I think NPR and the BBC used the word “commercial.”) That was when I felt a watershed feeling, as of the last gasping breathe of a dying paradigm. Stanford, NPR, and the BBC. The commercialism of life is officially systemic, such that no authority of any kind remains, that is not suspect of bastardizing reality.

Then an Egyptian American coptic Christian con artist, pretending to be an Israeli Jew, released a film. An American Ambassador was killed in Libya, in an attempted kidnapping (why else would the “rioters” have rushed him to a hospital while he was still alive?), and anti-America sentiment with all the vigor and all-the-more ferocity of the Arab Spring, was released, all over the world. Meanwhile, much of China is alight with anti-Japanese fire breathing, many a Japanese automobile smashed to pieces in the street, Japanese restaurants and stores trashed, Japanese compared to dogs and demons. While one of the (debatable) Americans running for President, has been making increasingly aggressive statements against Russia, Iran, Syria and China, and at least 47% of his fellow Americans. Oh yeah, Apple released the iPhone 5. QE3?

First of all, hospitals have no incentive to lower Health Care costs. In fact, they have a financial incentive to fill the hospital, just as the prisons do. Hence, there is motive built into the system to keep people fat, unhealthy, and preferably stupid. Hence, a Federal and State policy in defense of industrial food. Second, we Americans don’t get to presume we have the right to 35%+ of the world’s resources, and then get uppity about the blowback, or to blame the languishing economy on poor people. Third, that attempted kidnapping that went awry can’t be explained away with stories about radical Islam, as wretched as Fundamentalist Islam is, when the very private brain behind American foreign policy, the Council on Foreign Relations, is praising al Qaida for their support of the rebels in Syria; as in, don’t put it past the CIA to kidnap an American Ambassador, or pay al Qaida to do it, with weapons to be used in Syria, to incite Americans to war in the Middle East, to forget about the economy – when NPR, the BBC and Stanford can’t be trusted not to eviscerate the truth with mass media absurdities. Fourth, I can’t tell the difference between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. How many Christian pastors stood up this week and defended Ro-money’s de-humanization of half the country, with the poor put to the proverbial boot? On the whole as Religions with a capital R, Christianity, Islam and Judaism strike me as hostile to women, to the weak and to life, and bent toward world domination. The old beliefs speak of a triple Goddess arising in this world as the archetype of the maiden, the mother, and the crone. Today they are all subdued by dominant visions of the One Male God (OMG), or the One Male Omniscient God (OMOG), as a triplicate tyranny in God the Father, Yahweh and Allah.

An email came through to our department Wednesday, in big bank, that there would be a managerial walk-through at 1:30, and besides not having any personal items at our computer stations, we were required to have our keyboards on our computer trays, NOT on the desk. I didn’t see the email, and no one confronted me, though I can’t be sure it won’t be counted against me that I had my backpack under the desk and my keyboard on the desk. It’s hard to imagine any of my immediate managers insisting.

This is big bank, thinking not of my comfort or health, but of orderly appearances. This is especially obtuse, this kind of oversight, as I’ve waded through two hundred and fifty different big bank proffered mortgage loans in default, the last two days. Talk about government incompetence? Say, institutional. Indeed, Government facilitated these loans I’m expected to do this one thing for, highlighting HUD settlement statements, 150 loans every day the next several days, but the banks profited, big time. Nevertheless, because I have a job to do, I cleared 100 yesterday, 150 loans today, through this stage of the process.

The largest loan of the 250 was $929,000. There were three above $700,000,  about 75 today from Maryland and Virginia, above $400,000. I don’t generally feel too bad about my part until I see a loan under $200,000, the closer the loan gets to $100,000. The especially saddening ones are under $100,000, in rural areas, though the documents aren’t necessarily indicative of refinancing for a quick cash infusion, whatever the state of the debtors. On the whole, these loans do speak of a people trying to step up in class, who overshot, who got suckered into a classic bubble, according to a commercial version of the American dream. The vaunted $25 billion dollar mortgage settlement between the big banks and the State Attorney’s General, is vinyl siding and window treatments to a rotten house, a Cherrio sponge in a bucket full of sour milk. Something I may attempt to benefit from, and report on faithfully if I do, btw, as I am $50,000 under water.

For those readers who remember about my job search, an email arrived from HR, of the DREAM JOB – not just the DREAM JOB, the Job I Was Made To Do. I wasn’t deemed worthy of an interview.

I’m not surprised, nor am I wrecked about it either. Big Bank is not my first choice, but big bank is a kind of blessing in disguise, lipstick on a pig maybe, but a blessing for me now, for sure. A paycheck every week! Though my sister made more in one night serving drinks last week, than I made in my 40 hrs of service to Big Bank. That was sobering. Turns out people don’t drink less when the economy is shitty. Tough work though, hard on the body, slinging drinks. Tough I can’t imagine staring at mortgage documents years on end (though defaults are sure to continue in abundance into the forseeable future, notwithstanding the wish making of the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg et al.) The benefits have abounded, for me; my house is cleaner than it has been in awhile, I’ve brought a lunch every day since I started, most of it from my garden, and I’m encouraged to think about orderly progress on the house and garden. There is much to do, including turning the garage into a greenhouse, tearing up more of the driveway, a paver patio by the pond, insulating boards for the windows, besides putting the garden to bed for the winter, and the full harvest of course. I get up every weekday at 5am with the alarm. I’ve economised somehow and my best dreams seem to come around 2am.

I wish I could show you pictures of my garden, though no image or series of images or words would suffice to capture the beauty of my garden, after a rain, in the twilight, in the fall. My garden is a lush, abundant, enchanted food and medicinal forest, compared to my neighbor’s consensual, bleak, burned out yards of sod. There is a spontaneous landscape artist on the corner right now (with an easel,) painting the sunflowers in the front, which stand ten feet tall, next to the equally tall broom grass, and the heavenly blue morning glory’s on the fifteen-foot, dead, spiraled lilac trunk I propped up right at the corner. Surrounded by cosmos, hyssop, New-England aster, tomatoes, cabbages, melons and sapling fruit trees.

I finished reading a book this week, called The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. Leonard Shlain’s basic premise is, five thousand years ago, everywhere in many cultures the Great Mother was supplanted by a Violent Male God, wherever there is evidence of the emergence of the written word. The word, he claims, is linear, abstract, and analytical, which is the purview of the left hemisphere of the brain, which is associated with the right side of the body. The right brain is about emotion, connection, image and sound, intuition, art and dancing. The written word literally rewired our brains to be left brain dominant, hence the imbalance in the world, the right angles, the general aggressiveness, incongruous attitudes about life, economy, the earth and universal processes. The world is in process toward re-balance, a return to wholeness and equanimity between the opposites of our being, as evidenced by the re-emergence of the image, Shlain contends. Teevee isn’t so bad, in this sense, insofar as the near universality of the image has primed the human brain toward a greater openness to right brained activity, a greater expansion in the feminine. Shlain believes we are on the verge of a golden age, in which the masculine and the feminine are in greater balance. He wrote his book in the Nineties, before 9/ll, though I don’t think he would be surprised necessarily by the resurgenge everywhere of mysogyny, whether that be fundamentalist Islam or the white male American Republican obsession with controlling the womb. Like I said, the watershed, the final thrust, of a dying paradigm.

I gave the painter a watermelon. I’ve made juice from three kinds of grapes that grow here. I’ve made salsa, and I’ve canned tomatoes and peppers. And while I have the urge to store, preeminent, or at least evident, is a desire to share. I measure the true abundance of this garden by what I will keep and what I will give away. Trusting, when I remember, that what I give will come back.

Shlain though contends, it is not to do away with the word, with Logos, with the analytical and science, but to embrace the spontaneous, life as Art and the joy of being alive, emotion, connection and the relation in every aspect to all things. Because therein arises the essence of the next stage of our evolution, the dis-illusion of duality and the unification of opposites. Arising above all out of the body, as it is a fount of universal energies, to the degree we open up to it.

*er, two. LOL

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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