Reagan

Twilight in Amerika

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on January 22, 2015

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Snippet:

10pm…If it was Morning in Amerika during the Ronald Rayguns years, now it is a Sunny Afternoon in Amerika under Obama-sama. Things are fucking GREAT out there! Gas Prices are at Low, Low Prices Every Day! The Stock market is at Record Highs!

You gotta ask yourself how much CRACK Obama’s speechwriters have to smoke to be able to spit out this bullshit. Somehow, these bozos manage to miss the fact that 20% of the citizens are on Food Stamps, the FSoA Labor Force has fewer people working than at any time since Bonzo himself was in office, the Federal Deficit has ballooned from $9T at the end of the Bush era to $18T now, college students are in debt up to their eyeballs before they ever graduate, at which time about the best jobs they can find are dishing out Frappuchinos as a Starbucks Barrista! They also managed to miss the fact that Halliburton laid off 9000 workers in the last couple of weeks and Baker Hughes another 7000.

Sunny Afternoon in Amerika MY ASS! It’s NOT afternoon in America, it is TWILIGHT IN AMERICA, and spinning complete bullshit for consumption by the Sheeple doesn’t change that. It’s 10 PM, do YOU know where your Country is?…

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Welcome to the Exclusion Zone

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on 12/14/2014

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zone

Welcome to the Exclusion Zone

Do you ever get the feeling that life in the last sixty years has been little more than a series of zone creations? Perhaps you don’t, but I do.

Like most words in the Western world, ‘zone’ comes from the Greek meaning a tract, area or belt. The Romans narrowed it down to mean a girdle, but afterwards middle English broadened it out again…until some time around the 1950s, the Americans used it as the universal collective noun for a region.

Since that era, every new bit of formative history has adopted it….to the point where it seems at times to be a banal noun. But usually, it is anything but: when something becomes a zone, it means things are going tits-up.

In the early 1960s, there was the intriguing Twilight Zone on the telly, but soon there was the all-too-real Demilitarised Zone (the Dee-Em-Zee) between North and South Vietnam. By the time I arrived in Lambeth in the mid 1970s, it had been declared a nuclear-free zone. Sadly, under Ted Knight it was also brain-free zone all the time – and a grit-free zone in the wintertime. Later – living as I did just around the corner from Railton Road – it turned into a war zone. Not long after that, it seemed that – overnight – the entirety of London became a No Parking Zone.

A long and pointless period of talking to shrinks began around this point, and the term comfort zone seemed to keep popping up. I also began a rapid period of promotion within a multinational ad agency, and so time zone calculations became a regular thing – in order to work out how knackered one might be on getting back home. I finally got to fly in Concorde, and had my first close-up view of the Ozone layer.

Shortly after I packed in going to the office and started doing different stuff, the eurozone was born. The internet showed early signs of losing its marbles, and not too long afterwards friendzones started up. I began reading about Buddhism, CBT, homoaeopathy – and so began a fascination with the oddities of the sub-atomic zone. And then just last night, I learned that Costa Rica is a blue zone country….because it has one of the highest citizen contentment scores in the world. Well I never.

Who knows what the next zone will be? Whatever it is, I’d wager it won’t be pleasant. There’s something doom-laden about zones, in that they tend to get added to a description when things are getting worse, weird, or completely out of hand.

Twilight was quite a nice (almost romantic) time until zone was added. Before the DMZ came along, something demilitarised was a good idea: suddenly, in this case, folks were fighting on either side of it. Nuclear free zones and No Parking zones sounded constructive, but were in reality early signs of London’s approaching dementia.That dementia has turned some Islamist and West Indian areas into a potential war zone. We used to have wars fought on battlefields: today, we have civilian war zones to mark just how profound our ignorance is of social anthropology.

On a more personal note, comfort zones were merely a recognition of the fact that much of modern life was mentally uncomfortable: one of these for me was constantly crossing time zones. And at the ultimately macro planetary level, big holes in the ozone layer were so worrying, not even James Delingpole was daft enough to suggest they don’t matter.

The eurozone needs no introduction. Suffice to say it will very probably wind up being the single biggest cause of global financial disaster. Much of me thinks ‘Bring it on’, but an awful lot of innocent people are going to suffer the consequences of Brussels, political, banker and geopolitical hubris…and I don’t want that: only fanatics want that.

Anyone who thinks friendzones are other than an awful symptom of the growing human desire to seek out all things unreal and unnatural needs help. The sub-atomic zone is fascinating alright, but it challenges the very reality of that same reality so many people are deserting in favour of the virtual. And no offence to Costa Rica, but if that’s a blue zone, I don’t want to think about what a red zone might be like.

However, if you were to ask me what the most telling and ironic zone of the twentieth century was, then I’d have to give the award to the Falklands War Exclusion Zone. The Falklands War for me was – along with the Dubya remake of the Iraq War – a key factor in my personal rethink. While I knew what a nasty, murderous tinpot dictator Galtieri was, it was impossible to miss that – in our hour of victory – Margaret Thatcher had finally left the Earthly Zone, and was now stationed three up from Barking. More to the point, against all the ‘rules’ of the Exclusion Zone, she sank a ship full of soldiers and got away with it.

It was the point at which I finally understood that, once you’re above the law, there is no limit to how easily you can evade it…and that there is nothing ruthless psychopaths won’t do to achieve their horribly twisted aims once they’re in this place. In truth, as we approach the end of 2014, the West’s control-freaks are in the Immunity Zone. The rest of us are in the Exclusion Zone.

Uneasy in NYC

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 4, 2014

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I live only a two hour drive from New York City, but it is a world apart from my daily existence. I’ve visited the Big Apple probably a dozen times in my life, but never for longer than two or three days. I have a soft spot in my heart for NYC because it is where I proposed to my wife on a bitterly cold December evening in a horse drawn carriage ride in Central Park, twenty five years ago. But, I can honestly say that I never feel comfortable in the city.

Last week we had an opportunity to get away for a long weekend. My wife had gotten tickets to the Jimmy Fallon Show for Thursday afternoon and we decided to get a hotel room for one night and then drive directly down to Wildwood for the remainder of the weekend. My mother-in-law agreed to watch the kids, so we had ourselves a mini-vacation. I anticipated a more laid back trip than our visit to Occupy Wall Street a few years ago, that led to one of my most read articles.

A couple years ago I was shocked to receive an email from David Stockman, complimenting me on a particular article I had written. When a former Reagan budget director, founding partner of the Blackstone Group, and world renowned financial mind takes notice of something you’ve written it really boosts your morale. We have had a periodic email dialogue ever since. When he created his own website earlier this year, he asked me to be a contributor. He also told me that if I ever make it to NYC, let him know and we would meet for a drink.

I was reluctant to bother such a busy man, but during a recent email exchange I mentioned I’d be in New York. He suggested we meet after the Jimmy Fallon Show for a drink. I told him to pick a place convenient for him. He emailed back, the morning we were leaving, to meet him and his wife at the Carlyle Hotel bar at 5:00 pm. I immediately googled the hotel and realized I should pack some nicer clothes. This was no Shamrock bar in Wildwood. It was on Seventy Sixth & Park Avenue.  My uneasiness had begun.

Our agenda was set. We left at 9:30 am on Thursday for our 24 our whirlwind adventure in the Big Apple. The drive to NYC is straightforward – PA Turnpike east to the NJ Turnpike north and then through the 1.5 mile Lincoln Tunnel, under the Hudson River, into mid-town Manhattan. We were in the tunnel in two hours flat, after seeing and smelling the lovely sights of NJ – refineries, more refineries, retail warehouses filled with Chinese produced crap, more refineries, the IKEA Elizabeth store where I had spent many days (my wife and I worked the opening week at the store in 1991), and the Newark Airport.

Once you drive through the tunnel, you enter a world of gridlock, anger, obscenities, honking horns, iGadget distracted pedestrians, fearless bikers, crazy vagrants, and one way streets. Driving into NYC increased my uneasiness.

We were staying at the Hudson Hotel. My bargain hunting wife had snagged a deal at $205 with our AAA discount card. We knew it was on Fifty-Eighth Street, but not sure where. There was scaffolding everywhere. No names were visible on buildings. My itsy bitsy Honda Insight was like a speck among the thousands of cars and trucks in this crazily congested metropolis. The hotel supposedly had valet service, but that meant some dude took your car and parked it in one of the three Central Parking facilities on the block for $35 per day.

As expected, we accidentally passed the hotel and had to circle the block to reach our destination. Sounds simple, right? Not in NYC. The next street was one way leading to Columbus Circle. I had to inch along in the gridlock to Broadway and make a right. Then I had to maneuver for two more blocks before I could make another right turn. There are trucks double parked making deliveries, trash trucks picking up the tons of garbage littering the sidewalks, and dozens of cabs picking up and dropping off riders. It took 15 minutes of hell to circle the block and get back to the Hudson Hotel. But we finally made it. The valet took the car and we headed for the lobby to see if we could check-in early.

The hotel was nicer than I expected and the guy at the front desk got us a room three hours before the normal check-in time. Life was good. We headed up to the sixteenth floor and opened the door to our room. It was nice, clean, and the size of a postage stamp. It was so small you had to go out into the hallway to change your mind. The bed took up 60% of the space in the room. The bathroom was designed for midgets. I could shave, shit and shower while in the same spot in the bathroom. For some unknown reason there was a glass window separating the bathroom from the rest of the room, with only a sheer curtain across the window. I hate being ogled while showering.

After changing into duds that would be acceptable to enter the Carlyle Hotel, we headed out to get some lunch. The hotel is on the edge of “Hell’s Kitchen”, home to dozens of hip restaurants, Irish pubs, and classic New York delis. We immediately found an Irish Pub and got some burgers and beers. Then it was off to Rockefeller Center to see the Jimmy Fallon Show. I haven’t watched a late night comedy show in years. I’m sound asleep by 10:30 pm every night.

We hurried up to wait, then waited some more, and waited some more. We had tickets to the pre-show where Jimmy tries out 30 jokes to see which 12 will make the live show. All of his comedy writers sit with the audience and listen to the laughs. He explained that his only goal is to make people smile after having to deal with the terrible news we are inundated with every day. That’s a noble goal in my book. He was funny and humble. His joke about Eric Holder resigning was the first I had heard of it. Watching the news isn’t a priority when you are in NYC. We were out by 4:00 pm and now headed uptown to our rendezvous with David Stockman.

Meeting With a Famous Person

I have to admit that we were both nervous and uneasy. It’s not every day that you meet a legendary financial mind. And there is nothing like a NYC cab ride to calm you down. It’s hard enough to even get a cab to pull over, but now they quiz you before deciding whether to accept you as a passenger. I swear our taxi driver said, “Are you talking to me?”, when we told him where we were going.

You don’t have to exaggerate the craziness of a thirty block cab ride in NYC. There was speeding, honking, cutting off other drivers, turns from the middle lane, some cursing, prayers (me), backseat invisible brake punching (also me), and all for the low low price of $12. Everything you expect in a 30 block cab ride in NYC.

The moment of truth had arrived. We were really uneasy as we entered Bemelmans Bar, with its 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling and clearly upper-crust clientele. It is named after the creator of the Madeline children’s books and has scenes from the books on the walls. We were there first, so I sauntered up to the bar and ordered two Amstel Lights at $9 a shot. And those weren’t going to be the most expensive beers of the evening.

I realized that David Stockman had no idea what I looked like, but I knew what he looked like. About five minutes later David and his lovely wife Jennifer walked into the bar. I walked up to him and introduced myself and my wife. They were extremely gracious as we sat down at a table for four near the piano player. We were chatting with the most famous people we had ever met, and I felt fairly comfortable because David and his wife treated us like good friends.

We had such similar days. We went to the Jimmy Fallon Show and David had been the guest host on Bloomberg TV that morning interviewing Jeremy Siegel from Wharton. I told him that I’ve bumped into Jeremy in the men’s room at Wharton. He got a chuckle out of that. We talked about Jeremy being a perma-bull and that bulls will be right 80% of the time, but that other 20% usually wipes out most of the bull market gains. He described how three years of Russell 2000 gains were wiped out in 11 days during the 2008/2009 collapse.

It was like we had a mind-meld as we discussed the markets, the Fed, and the enormous debt load that will eventually destroy our economic system. We just naturally moved from subject to subject, while our wives listened or talked about other things. I never have the opportunity to talk with someone who is as interested in financial markets and economics as me. And here I was discussing these issues with one of the greatest financial minds of our generation. I told him his book The Great Deformation should be a required textbook for high school and college economics courses. We talked about Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, the failure of the New Deal to end the Great Depression, the failure of Keynesian solutions to end our Greater Depression, and the foolishness of trying to solve a debt problem with more debt.

Our viewpoints are almost perfectly in sync. He is a proponent of the Austrian School of economics and his position on our foreign interventionism is identical to Ron Paul’s. We talked about the idiocy of our Middle East wars of choice and how we armed ISIS to fight our enemy Assad and now are fighting both at the same time. We agreed that all the war mongering and terrorists created out of thin air is nothing but a cover for controlling “our” Middle East oil. We share a deep seated anger at the people running the Federal Reserve and how they have enriched the bankers at the expense of middle class. I described the impact of ZIRP on my senior citizen mother and he concurred that benefiting debtors at the expense of savers is the exact wrong thing to do. He admitted that he doesn’t know when the next financial crisis will hit, but he is sure it will be even worse than the 2008/2009 debacle.

David and his wife were interested in my background. Jennifer was particularly curious as to why I did this, since I had a full-time job and I certainly wasn’t doing it for the money. I had to think about it for a second, but I responded that I was pissed off about what was happening in the country and was spurred to write after seeing Ron Paul so mistreated during the 2008 Republican primaries. I told them I lost faith in the system and our leaders after the 2003 invasion of Iraq proved to be under false pretenses. I also laid my IKEA saga on them. It was amazing to me that they were interested in my story and my viewpoint. We had a long discussion about the bleak future of retail, the amount of square feet that will go dark, the bankruptcy of developers and the losses to be incurred by banks. He even told me he was a fan of my 30 Blocks of Squalor series, as he laughed and wondered if my employer had any problem with them.

They had dinner reservations elsewhere at 6:30 and we talked until exactly 6:30. The ninety minutes flew by. I forgot to mention that Jennifer is also the President of the Guggenheim Museum, and she offered to give us a private tour the next time we are in NYC. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and they seemed amused when I told them they were the most famous people we had ever met. I guess I’m not good at playing it cool. So we parted ways and we headed back to midtown to find a restaurant for dinner.

Teetering Edifice Built on a Mountain of Debt

I was mentally drained and ready for some relaxation and booze. No cabs this time. We like walking in NYC. I get the chance to do what I like best – observe people and the surroundings. As we walked down Park Ave. my general observation was this was where the really rich people live and shop. This is where the ruling elite, oligarchs, Wall Street bankers, and jet set spend their time and vast wealth. But, even this ritzy area had a number of vacant store fronts and retail space available signs. The number of vacant storefronts increased as we approached mid-town. Vacancy isn’t just for suburban strip malls anymore.

It is clear that NYC, on the surface, is a thriving metropolis, with a tremendous amount of frantic commercial activity. But it is all built on a foundation of sand, which will be washed away during the coming storms. If the inhabitants of NYC thought Hurricane Sandy was bad, wait until the great debt tsunami come crashing down on their little paradise of crony capitalism and excessive materialism. The appearance of a healthy thriving city masks the cancer growing within.

The entire teetering edifice of greed, avarice, excessiveness, and consumerism is dependent upon a gluttonous, corrupt, amoral financial industry, led by sociopathic billionaire bankers and their hordes of wealth driven Ivy League MBAs. What you notice, if you choose to, is that NYC produces absolutely nothing. Wall Street is nothing more than a giant siphon, using fraudulent financial derivatives and their control of the nation’s monetary system to drain the remaining wealth from the bank accounts of the once thriving middle class. These highly educated wizards of finance add no value to the country and are responsible for the regular financial crises that destroy the lives of honest hard working Americans.

There are approximately 300,000 workers in the financial services industry, down from 345,000 in 2008. They collect half of the wages paid in NYC, despite holding less than one sixth of the jobs in Manhattan. The entire state of New York is dependent upon the taxes collected from Wall Street’s excessive profits. The Comptroller tracks the bonus payouts quarterly to assess the “health” of their budgets. Government bureaucrats and union bosses are thrilled when they see that Wall Street doled out $26.7 billion in bonuses in 2013 for a pillaging well done. While real median household income lingers at 1994 levels, Wall Street bonuses should surpass their all-time high in 2014. This is called winning in our warped, corrupt, debased culture of debt based wealth. Regulators, politicians, and government prosecutors will never hold Wall Street accountable for their crimes because they would be killing the golden calf that sustains their opulent lifestyles.

The taxes generated by the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks supports the bloated government union infrastructure that accounts for the majority of jobs in New York City and the surrounding boroughs. After Wall Street, NYC is the biggest employer in NYC. The top five employers in NYC are:

City Hall – 150,000

Department of Education – 119,000

U.S. Federal Government – 89,000

NY State Government – 69,000

Metropolitan Transit Agency – 67,000

The rest of the New York City economy is dependent upon tourism, restaurants, entertainment, retail and healthcare for the masses. It is entirely propped up by the ill-gotten profits of Wall Street that exceed $200 billion per year, with 80% of those profits generated by just nine banks. When the latest and greatest epic Federal Reserve/Wall Street financial bubble bursts, the immense level of pain will ripple through NYC revealing those who have been swimming naked and crushing the hopes and dreams of millions. Mike Krieger recently provided some anecdotes that reveal the level of excessiveness and wealth inequality which will end in tears:

“A new development, 42 Crosby Street, is pushing the limits of New York City real estate to new heights with 10 underground parking spots that will cost more per square foot than the apartments being sold upstairs. The million-dollar parking spots will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis to buyers at the 10-unit luxury apartment building being developed by Atlas Capital Group at Broome and Crosby Streets, itself the former site of a parking lot. At $250,000 a tire, the parking spaces in the underground garage cost more than four times the national median sales price for a home, which is $217,800, according to Zillow.”

“The Census Bureau estimates that 30 percent of all apartments in the quadrant from 49th to 70th Streets between Fifth and Park are vacant at least ten months a year.”

As you walk the streets of NYC from uptown to midtown the canyon like gap between the haves and have nots is plainly evident to anyone with their eyes open. The average financial industry worker makes $267,000 per year, while the average service industry worker is making $25,000 per year. How someone living in the New York area can survive on $25,000 per year is beyond my comprehension, but 37% of all workers in NYC make less than $15 per hour. You can almost sense the desperation, as panhandlers, tour bus solicitors, carriage drivers, and bike ride entrepreneurs hound you on every street corner. As we were walking back towards our hotel it was getting dark, but then out of the darkness rose the mecca of iMorons across the globe. The world renowned Apple Store, where the iGeneration camps out for days to get a marginally better piece of overpriced, over-hyped, Chinese slave labor produced iCrap, loomed above us. I had to have my picture taken with the iMoron hoards.

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I should have pulled out my six year old LG flip phone to witness their disgust and revulsion.

Escape From New York

The hectic portion of our one day escape to NYC was over. The plan was now to find a place to eat dinner, visit a rooftop bar that my wife had stumbled across during her last visit to NYC with her friend, and wander the streets observing the inhabitants of this melting pot that never sleeps. We ended up at the Delta Grill at Forty-Eighth and Ninth for some New Orleans cuisine and a couple Hurricanes. After some Jambalaya and Gumbo, we were off to the Press Lounge rooftop bar in the Ink48 building at Forty-Eighth and Eleventh. The neighborhood seemed a little deserted and dicey to me, but my wife said the views were spectacular and worth the risk of getting mugged. And she was right. It is considered one of the top rooftop bars in the world. We took the elevator to the Sixteenth floor and walked out onto the roof. It had couches, lounge chairs, fire pits, a lighted reflecting pool, and breathtaking views of Manhattan and the river.

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It also had $11 bottles of beer. My cheapskate mind was appalled, as I knew I could buy an entire case of beer for what I just paid for two bottles of beer. We didn’t stay long. We had noticed a bar advertising $5 margaritas on our way to the Delta Grill, so that’s where we headed. It was called Mickey Spillane’s, named after the famous crime novelist. It had the Giants-Redskins game on multiple big screen TVs and it was fairly crowded. We grabbed two seats at the end of the bar, ordered our margaritas, and began our favorite pastime of people watching.

After about ten minutes we started noticing that 90% of the people in the bar were men. There was just a smattering of women. There was only one other married couple in the whole place. A sports bar with mostly men probably isn’t that unusual, but none of the men were watching the football game. And all of the men were extremely well groomed and dressed fashionably. The final clue was the hugging and kissing. We had stumbled into a gay sports bar. Not that there is anything wrong with that. We found it amusing, but I was a little uneasy. It was time to go. We headed back to our hotel and had one last drink in their hip bar for young people, where we also didn’t fit in.

We had to checkout of our room by noon on Friday. The weather was perfect – 70 degrees and sunny. I don’t think I’ve ever been served a bad breakfast in NYC, and we weren’t disappointed again. We walked into the Route 66 open air café and had an excellent breakfast while watching the hustle and bustle on the street outside.

After checking out and putting our bags in storage, we stopped at a fashionable store with actual cheap prices so my wife could pick up some clothes for work. I just stood around, uneasy and impatient. I did notice the retail stores were swarming with Asian and South American shoppers. The Chinese have taken over where the Japanese left off in 1990. After completing the shopping portion of our day we headed for my favorite place in NYC – Central Park. It’s an oasis of solitude and nature in the middle of craziness and consumption. All of my unease dissipates whenever I enter this small sanctuary of green surrounded by miles of concrete jungle. Every time we walk into Central Park we discover something new. We turned down a path and came across a beautiful waterfall cascading into a pond, where ducks were swimming. Even I couldn’t screw up that picture.

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As you stroll through Central Park and around NYC in general, you do notice that residents of NYC are generally thinner than the overall population. The obese land whale tourists with their size 52 jeans, extra cushioned white sneakers, and ketchup stained XXXL sized I Love NY t-shirts are easily identifiable as they waddle along the streets of NYC seeking a fast food joint. I would attribute New Yorkers’ relative thinness to a few factors. If you live in NYC you must walk to get around. It’s too expensive to operate a car. I would estimate the average New Yorker must walk a couple miles per day.

They probably eat and drink as much as non-New Yorkers, but the city does not have many big box purveyors of toxic, prepackaged, carbohydrate time bombs disguised as food that sustain the obese masses in the rest of the country. They buy much of their food at local delis or cooked at one of the thousands of local restaurants. The city is primarily segmented between young poor people and older rich people. The corpulent middle aged couples with their plump progeny can’t afford to live in NYC, so they don’t.

We strolled for a while, sat on a bench taking in the delightful sights and sounds and then reluctantly left to start our three hour journey down the Garden State Parkway to Wildwood. As I maneuvered my car towards the Lincoln Tunnel, the gridlocked traffic where four lanes merge into two lanes at Forty-Second Street reminded me of how precarious getting out of the city would be during a crisis. I was watching various 9/11 documentaries a few weeks ago and you saw how vulnerable the city became without public transportation. The 2003 Northeast blackout brought NYC to its knees within minutes. People were trapped in high rise elevators, the financial system of the U.S. was shutdown, traffic lights didn’t function – creating mass gridlock, and the subway and rail system stopped dead in its tracks. The only way off the island was to walk. A natural disaster, terrorist attack, EMP, electrical grid failure, or solar flare could wreak havoc on this fragile bastion of crony capitalism without warning. Chaos and panic would ensue. As I exited the Lincoln Tunnel back onto the NJ Turnpike, I exhaled and my unease rapidly dissipated.

Fragility and Delusions

NYC is the preeminent symbol of the American empire. It appears to be prosperous, thriving, growing, and alive, home to free market capitalism, and inhabited by the affluent captains of industry. But, in reality, NYC is a fragile ecosystem built upon a weak foundation of debt, corruption, and easy money that will be wiped out during the coming financial storm of the century. NYC and the empire it represents are like a 225 year old majestic oak tree in Central Park that appears healthy and strong to the naked eye, but in reality it is diseased and rotting within. It will only take a predictable storm to bring it crashing down to earth.

Financial engineering, pandering to government unions, issuance of debt, luxury retail, and conspicuous consumption, wrapped in a surveillance police state is not a sustainable economic model. Only the hubristic, arrogant, wealthy aristocrats believe they can sustain such a freak show. They are delusional and blinded by pride and belief in their own infallibility. They, along with the millions of unsuspecting New Yorkers, should really be uneasy. Their paradise of materialism will not survive the hurricane of consequences headed their way.

As I sat on a barstool in the Shamrock on Friday evening, drinking a beer, listening to Billy Jack play some tunes, and chatting with a monster truck driver and his girlfriend from the Poconos we had met last year at the Shamrock, I was completely at ease. The contrast to chatting with a world renowned financial icon at the Carlyle Hotel 24 hours prior was amusing to ponder. It had been a crazy 36 hours that made me realize where I feel most comfortable. And it’s not New York City.

Bread, Circuses & Bombs

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on September 22, 2014

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BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: Bread and Circuses.”

Juvenal – Satire (100 A.D.)

 

Roman satirist and poet Juvenal was displaying contempt for a degraded Roman citizenry that had shunned civic responsibility, shirked their duties of citizenship within a republic, and had chosen to sell their votes to feckless politicians for assurances of bread and circuses. Rather than govern according to noble principles based upon reason, striving for public policies that led to long term sustainability and benefitting the majority of citizens, politicians chose superficial displays and appeasing the masses utilizing the lowest common denominator of “free” food and bountiful spectacles, pageants, and ceremonies in order to retain power.

The Roman Empire’s decline stretched across centuries as the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizenry allowed demagogues to gain power and barbarians to eventually overrun the weakened empire. While the peasants were distracted with shallow exhibitions of palliative pleasures, those in power were debasing the currency, enriching themselves, and living pampered lives of luxury. The Roman leaders bought public approval and support, not through exemplary public service, but through diversion, distraction, and the satisfaction of base immediate needs and desires of the populace. Satisfying the crude motivations of the ignorant peasants (cheap food and entertainment) is how Roman politicians bought votes and retained power. Free wheat, circus games, and feeding Christians to lions kept the commoners from focusing on politicians pillaging and wasting the empire’s wealth.

History may not repeat exactly because technology, resource discoveries, and political dynamics change the nature of society, but it does rhyme because the human foibles of greed, lust for power, arrogance, and desire for conquest do not vary across the ages. The corruption, arrogance, hubris, currency debasement, materialism, imperialism, and civic decay that led to the ultimate downfall of the Roman Empire is being repeated on an even far greater scale today as the American Empire flames out after only two centuries. The pillars of western society are crumbling under the sustained pressure of an immense mountain of debt, created by crooked bankers and utilized by corrupt politicians to sustain and expand their welfare/warfare state. Recklessness, myopia, greed, willful ignorance, and selfish disregard for unborn generations are the earmarks of decline in this modern day empire of debt, delusion and decay.

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

Rome was eight and a half centuries old when Juvenal scornfully described the degenerative spiral of the Roman populace. Still, the Western Empire lasted another three centuries before finally succumbing to the Visigoths and Vandals. The far slower pace of history and lack of other equally matched competing nation states allowed Rome to exist for centuries beyond its Pax Romana period of unprecedented political stability and prosperity, which lasted for two centuries. Prior to becoming an empire, the Roman Republic was a network of towns left to rule themselves with varying degrees of independence from the Roman Senate and provinces administered by military commanders. It was ruled, not by Emperors, but by annually elected magistrates known as Roman Consuls. The Roman citizens were a proud people who had a strong sense of civic duty and made government work for the people.

During the 1st century B.C. Rome suffered a long series of internal conflicts, conspiracies and civil wars, while greatly extending their imperial power beyond Italy through military conquest. After the assassination of Julius Caesar and the ascension of Augustus to emperor in 27 BC, after a century of civil wars, Rome experienced an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. During this era, the solidity of the Empire was furthered by a degree of societal stability and economic prosperity. But it didn’t last. The successors to Augustus contributed to the progressive ruination of the empire. The repugnant reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero reflected the true nature of the Roman people, who had relinquished their sovereignty to government administrators to whom they had granted absolute powers, in return for food and entertainment. It was the beginning of the end.

The American Republic began as a loose confederation of states who ruled themselves, with little or no direction from a central authority. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781 by all 13 States, limited the powers of the central government. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures. After winning the war for independence from England, the U.S. Constitution, which shifted power to a central authority, was ratified in 1789. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was passed in 1791 with the purpose of protecting individual liberties and insuring justice for all. Their function was to safeguard the citizens from an authoritarian federal government. These imperfect documents would benefit and protect the rights of the American people only if applied by moral, just, incorruptible, noble, honorable leaders and enforced by an educated, concerned, vigilant citizenry.

As with the Roman Empire, the quality of leadership has rapidly deteriorated over the last two centuries and now wallows at disgustingly low levels. These leaders are a reflection of a people who have abandoned their desire for knowledge, responsibility for their lives, work ethic, belief in freedom and the U.S. Constitution. The Juvenal of our times was H.L. Mencken who aptly and scornfully described the citizenry in 1920 as an ignorant mob who would eventually elect a downright moron to the presidency. He was right.

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” H.L. Mencken

A Republic was formed 225 years ago, as opposed to a monarchy, by men of good intentions. They weren’t perfect, but their goals for the new nation were honorable and decent. Ben Franklin had his doubts regarding whether we could keep a republic. He had good reason to doubt the long-term sustainability of this experiment. Freedom is not something bestowed on us by men of higher caste. We are born into this world free, with the liberty to live our lives as we see fit, the opportunity to educate oneself and the freedom to succeed as far as our capabilities and efforts allow. Only a self-reliant, virtuous, moral, civic minded people are capable of enjoying the fruits of freedom. Once corruption, self-interest, greed, and dependency upon government bureaucrats for sustenance become prevalent, the populace seeks masters who promise safety and security in return for sacrificing essential liberty and basic freedoms.

The country has defeated foreign invaders, withstood financial calamities, endured a bloody civil war, benefitted immensely from the discovery of oil under its soil, became an industrial power, fought on the winning side of two world wars, and since 1946 has become the greatest imperial empire since Rome fell to the barbarians. Over the course of our 225 year journey there has been a gradual relinquishment of the citizens’ sovereignty and autonomy to an ever more overbearing central government. Lincoln’s unprecedented expansion of Federal government authority during the Civil War marked a turning point, as state and local rights became subservient to an all-powerful central authority. Individual liberty has been surrendered and freedoms forfeited over a decades long insidious regression of a once courageous, independent, self-sufficient citizenry into a mob of cowering, willfully ignorant dependents of the deep state.

From the inception of the country there has been a constant battle between the banking interests and the common people. Bankers have used fraudulent fractional reserve banking to speculate for their own benefit, made risky loans, and created every financial crisis in the country’s history. The profits from excessive risk taking are retained by the bankers. The inevitable losses are borne by taxpayers with the excuse that the financial system must be saved and preserved. The storyline never changes. The beginning of the end of the American Empire can be pinpointed to the year 1913, only 124 years after its inception. Private banking interests captured the monetary system of the empire with the secretive creation of the Federal Reserve. The power of the central state was solidified with the implementation of the personal income tax, allowing politicians to bribe their constituents with modern day “bread and circuses”, paid for with money taken at gunpoint from them by the central state. We are now nothing but the hollowed out shell of a once noble Republic.

A century of central banking and heavy taxation of the people by bought off politician puppets has coincided with a century of war, depressions, currency debasement, overconsumption, obscene levels of consumer debt, trillions of excessive debt financed government spending, hundreds of trillions in unfunded entitlement liabilities, and a persistent decline in standard of living for the masses due to Federal Reserve manufactured inflation. We have failed to heed the lessons of history. We have repeated the blunders committed by the Romans.

The American Empire will not be murdered by an external force because it is too busy committing suicide. The moneyed interests, corporate oligarchs and their hand-picked politician front men see themselves as conquering heroes. Their colossal hubris and arrogance is only matched by the ignorance, gullibility, quivering fear of bogeymen, and susceptibility to propaganda of the general populace. The Wall Street bankers and feckless politicians are not gods, they are only men. Death is the great equalizer for emperors and peasants alike. The only thing that remains is your legacy and whether you positively impacted the world. It can be unequivocally stated that those in power today are leaving a legacy of despair, destruction, and debt.

Empires are born and empires die. The American Empire will not be sustained for eight centuries, as the swiftness of modern civilization, nuclear proliferation, religious zealotry, and sociopathic leadership ensures we will flame out in a blaze of glory before reaching our third century. The spirit of independence, idealism, self-reliance, entrepreneurship, knowledge seeking, advancement, and goodwill towards our fellow citizens that marked the height of our fledgling country has succumbed to a malaise of government dependency, cynicism, living on the dole, financial Ponzi schemes, willful ignorance, materialism, delusion, and myopic self-interest. The moral decline of the American populace has been reflected in the deteriorating quality of leaders we have chosen over the last century. Prosperity was taken for granted and no longer earned. We abdicated our civic responsibility to corrupt financiers and power seeking politicians. As time has passed, the ruling elite have grown ever more powerful and wealthy, at the expense of the peasantry. These sociopaths see themselves as god-like emperors, on par with the vilest of the Roman emperors.

Historians will mark 1980 as another turning point, when the nation capitulated to the financiers and ceded control of our destiny to Wall Street bankers, the military industrial complex, and globalist billionaires. The final deformation from a productive society built upon savings, capital investment, and goods production to a borrowing, gambling, and consumption society built upon debt and profiteering by powerful corporate and banking interests had commenced. The peak of this warfare/welfare state insanity was reached in 2000 and the road to decline and decay is now littered with the figurative corpses of a gutted middle class and the literal corpses of men, women and children across the globe, killed during our never ending imperial conquests. The ruling elite sense the futility and foolishness of their folly, but their insatiable appetite for wealth, power, triumph and glory blind them to the destructive consequences of their actions upon the nation and their fellow man. Power and dominion over others is a powerful aphrodisiac for our current day emperors and self-preservation at all costs is their mantra.

While they bask in their perceived triumph and glory, achieved through rigging the financial and political systems in their favor, they should heed the faint whisper in their ear that all glory is fleeting.

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” George S. Patton, Jr.

The decline of the Roman Empire can be attributed to a number of supportable hypotheses, which have been documented by historians over time. They include:

  • Perpetual warfare depleted the treasury and wasted the manhood of the empire. The use of mercenary armies eventually led to the sacking of Rome by the very armies they had employed.
  • Military overexpansion and spending resulted in resources being diverted from technological advancement, maintenance of the civil infrastructure, and worthwhile investments to support economic growth.
  • Excessive welfare spending, oppressive taxation and currency debasement widened the gap between rich and poor, resulting in discontent, mistrust and rebellion.
  • The emergence of an all-powerful centralized authoritarian government ruling by mandate, racked by corruption, and kept in power by bribing its subjects with promises of bread and circuses.
  • Emperors and Senators became oligarchs and their conspicuous consumption provided proof of their corruption and decadence. The widespread corruption and incompetence of its leadership led to a waning in civic pride among the citizens.
  • The decline in productive commercial and agricultural industries due to high taxes on producers, used to support the military empire, contributed to the circumstances that allowed barbarian invasions to succeed.
  • The moral decay of the people was caused by the influx of slave labor from conquered territories, resulting in a decline in middle class work ethic, and the subsequent rise in the level of citizens on the dole. An economy based upon slave labor precluded a middle class with buying power.

In Part Two of this tale of two empires, I’ll document the parallels between mistakes made, eternal human foibles, military misfortunes, financial misconduct, and moral decay, that denote the decline of the Roman and American Empires.

Slogger Trifecta

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on August 19, 2013

trifecta

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August 19, 2013 · 9:25 pm

At the End of the Day

Over the last few days, cheated preferentes depositors in the Novagalicia Bank  have been demonstrating in Spain. At this morning’s demo they rightly proclaimed themselves to be hard working, thrifty savers who had simply kept their savings there. They can no longer withdraw their life savings, because some hastily manufactured legality has told them they are creditors, not customers.

When, after twenty years hard graft, I finally in 1988 received a large cheque at 3am one morning for my shares in an ad agency I’d helped found, seven hours later I dashed down to the local Building Society and whacked the cheque in. When it cleared three days later – and only then – did I phone my first wife to say “The money’s safely banked”.

Safely. What a rare word that is these days in financial services.

Exactly who do these language-manipulating sociopaths think they are? They are bankers who took money in at minimal sight rates, making eternal profits from their customer base – and then had the gall to introduce service charges. They are blank-faced, goggle-eyed  bureaucrats in Whitehall, Brussels and Washington who approved this weasel terminology as if they might be rubber-stamping the train times to Auschwitz. And they are the multi-faced politicians who perpetually apologise for the indefensible behaviour of those whose money they so desperately need…having failed, year in year out, to keep within budgets.

Feeling safe is about having trust. The EC finally lost the trust of the lenders after the 37th dithering lie about the problem being solved. The ECB lost the trust of the bond markets when it illegally subordinated holders of Greek debt, and then went on to rape Cypriot investors for no good reason at all. Bernanke lost the trust of the American people when he carried on chucking their dollars at an intractable problem intrinsic to neoliberal economics. Parliament lost the last vestige of my trust when it said nothing against the theft of money from Cooperative Bank depositors to save its own neck. David Cameron lost the trust of millions of Britons when he continued to insist there had been nothing improper in his personal relationships with senior Newscorp officials. Congress lost the trust of the entire world when it bickered about the biggest deficit in US history. And last but not least, the Church of England lost any last vestige of trust when it began trying to profit from fracking.

Everything from love to money is based on trust and mutual respect. I no longer love my country, because it is a whore. There isn’t a single institution there I would trust. I can’t even feel that banked money is safe.

But still the apologists for this insane f**ked up fiat currency version of globalist ‘free market’ capitalism witter on, failing as ever to acknowledge that not a single investment market anywhere on the planet is free from artificial (and usually illegal) interference.

Please Britain, don’t put off your protest or jump off the cliff because they tell you to. Switch off the telly, get off the sofa, and tell the bastards where to get off.

· 7:11 am

CRASH2: China plans new gold standard for dominant Yuan

Uncle Sam goes foot-shooting, gets felled by snipers

bondbuy

Last week I posted about how Bernanke has run out of road in his attempt to keep everyone happy. As so often in such circumstances, he’s pleased nobody in the end: not the brokers, not the Asian creditors, and most definitely not the US consumer.

I also posted last week about the huge percentage of US bond-offloading accounted for by Chinese and Japanese dumping. And I’ve posted ad nauseam about the inability to generate spending from people who’s wages one just spent a decade eroding by 30%.

But as America shoots itself in the foot, snipers are busy targeting its head. What follows will explain how.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

From Day One of QE, Ben Bernanke insisted he was showering American consumers with money. Along with millions of other sites, The Slog always maintained he did it to get dividends up, keep the Dow high, and create liquidity/solvency/new business at the banks. Some neat new charts now show us precisely why we were right and he was telling porkies.

In this one, we can see how the supply (aka printing) of money went stratospheric during and after Greenspangling and Bernankenomics, and then upcurved further after 2010:

Fredcrop1There are today almost exactly twice as many dollars in circulation than there were…..but middle America’s share of it went down 30%. So they had less money with less spending capacity. So they spent less, took out more credit – and bought cheap Asian imports. Bang! There go the toes in your right foot.

Now let’s look at what happened as that Nixonian shift off the Gold Standard inevitably turned into Uncle Ben’s buck-showering bonanza:

Fred3cropWhile the supply of Fiat paper rocketed, consumer purchasing velocity fell even faster under QE than it had been doing during the previous pauperisation of the populace. And as blue-collars are now working fewer hours for less money with little chance of further credit, most of the money never reached them….and if it did, they paid off debt rather than indulging in retail therapy. Bang! There goes your right instep. Try to keep your balance now…

There is a growing feeling around the globe (if my contacts are even remotely typical) that after all this mess has finally covered every Westerner in excrement, there will be pressure to end the era of fiat paper. Not only would this be a disaster for the US, it would be a major coup for Beijing: there is every chance that a Yuan set against a new gold standard would make it the dominant reserve currency in short order….especially as the Dollar even now is predictably drifting down in value. China, it seems, has the aim of de-linking the Yuan from the US dollar. And Asian media are increasingly of the view that they will, when the time is right, fix it to gold instead.

China continues to amass gold. In June alone, it imported 104.6 tonnes from Hong Kong. That would bring China’s gold imports from Hong Kong to 1,160 tonnes since the beginning of this year. Officially, China hat around 1,000 tonnes of the stuff. But past experience has shown the Beijing suddenly pops up one day far more of shiny metal than you thought. The real figure is estimated to be around 8,000 tonnes….and likely to pass the US total, audited at 8,113 tonnes.

Yao Yudong, major money-man on the China Bank MPC, has of late been talking about fiat paper being a disaster, and his admiration for Bretton Woods. Further, China has been doing currency swap contracts big time with other countries to bypass the Buck. It has currency swap agreements with Brazil, Russia, Iran, Australia and the UK, to name a few. This aim here is clearly to get Westerners accustomed to the idea of dealing with the Yuan, and seeing it as a new ‘Central Currency’.

Bang! That first assassin’s bullet went straight through your neck. Breathing is getting difficult.

And of course, as I posted in recent days, those interest rates that were never going to rise are, um, rising. Very fast. The American cost of borrowing just doubled. And the Chinese are far and away the biggest sellers of those T-Bonds….which must now offer higher yields.

Oh look America, you just fell over, and your lungs are filling with blood….just as the traders, brokers, and big banking dicks get back to their desks next week, only to see a topping Dow, a falling T-Bond, and a backfiring, stuttering economy. And even though you’re manipulating the gold downwards to repair those bank balance sheets, it becomes even easier for Beijing to fill its boots with that gold.

Bang! That was the rear of your cerebrum coming off. It’s over.

August 18, 2013 · 9:02 pm

At the End of the Day

Lines on the nature of being united in idiocy

I think top marks tonight must surely go to Spain, for its unique ability to get Tom Watson agreeing with David Cameron. Yes, there can be no doubt about it, as long as Spain wants Gibraltar “back”, then the Iberian peoples have the capacity to unite Britain…a set of Islands not so much great any more as disintegrating.

It’s a useful distraction for both sides of course, but none of the fuss from Senor Rajoy holds any water at all. Britain has actually ‘owned’ Gibraltar for far longer and more continuously than the Spanish ever did and – as in the case of the Falklands with Argentina – its inhabitants have no desire at all to be Spanish. But if things get very nasty, I can’t wait to see how Operation Barbarossa van Pumpy in Brussels “handles” it.

At the same time, however, one must recognise the ability of almost any event in the Middle East to have Brit and US pols united in myopia, their respective leaders drivelling on about a Special Relationship that deserves the adjective only in the context of kids who require special needs education. After the demonisation of Assad in Syria comes the glorification of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I came across some Brits down here on holiday this morning, and they clearly didn’t have the remotest notion which way was up about Egypt’s tragedy….or indeed, who was for what, and why David Cameron wants to galvanise the EU into condemning the wicked military “coup”.

A simple analysis of the Egyptian dilemma doesn’t require that many brain cells. Early in July this year, I posted to say that “What [the US] State [Department] has done is bestow respectability upon the Muslim Brotherhood without in any way changing its truly ghastly attitudes and barbaric behaviour.” Tracing the lineage of this dynasty of deranged thinking, as long ago as November 2011, The Slog suggested that “the [Egyptian] military is playing upon a real fear: Egyptian liberals are sympathetic to the military’s attempt to dominate the constitution-writing process, being rightly fearful of Muslim Brotherhood dominance”.

Now we have MB fanatics desperate to present themselves as martyrs – and the usual figures of dead demonstrators growing with every report by Western news agencies. I can only repeat what I’ve been saying for nearly three years about the ‘Arab Spring’: it is based on Anglo-Saxon ignorance about the fundamental nature of Arab liberalism and Islamist fascism.

Very few international situations are as cut and dried as our mamipulative politicians would suggest: in the end – despite the EU nonsense and the Levitt myth of globalism – every nation is out for itself most of the time. The “deposed” President Mohamed Morsi had, from Day One of his term, worked overtime to marginalise a pro-secular Military in favour of his rabidly fundamentalist associates. There is no discernible difference between what Morsi was up to, and what Recep Erdogan has been up to in Turkey – viz, purging all those elements in the political and military class who support the secular aims of the hero Kemal Ataturk, in favour of his own closet Islamist agenda.

From the very start of this dire history of needless death in the name of a religious leader who is a myth, David Cameron and the US State department have placed themselves cynically on the side of authoritarianism: Cameron because he wants trade deals with Turkey, and the US because they want the oil. Yet  again, it is all about munneeeee. And that root of many evils has placed allegedly liberal democracies on the side of a neo-Nazi, misogynist bunch of religious maniacs.

And in other dramatic news developments today, the BBC’s Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman has a beard. I realise that in gay circles this means he has a girlfriend to hide an aberrant sexuality, but there haven’t really ever been any doubts about Paxo when it comes to which way he swings: basically, he would I suspect like to see 95% of politicians swinging from a lamppost. So it is especially sad to see that by far the biggest brain and toughest interviewer at the BBC needs to grow facial hair to catch the fickle gnat’s-length attention of the British public for longer than a tweet.

When the David Kelly affair began the sad descent of the BBC into Government lapdog, Paxman was a steady influence in favour of telling all politicians TGF themselves. After the McApine scam, he once again urged the Governors to face this unpleasant opportunist down. When the Jimmy Savile drivel about him “grooming a whole nation” went full-on tabloid, yet again our Jeremy tried to find some evidence of a spine in the Beeb’s management tier. Having discovered that his employer is, effectively, a mollusc, it is little wonder that he now carries a care-worn, slightly bored air around with him.

To relegate Jeremy Paxman to the margins of our national broadcaster is rather like taking Robin Day’s knighthood away because he gave Thatcher what-for. I’m afraid it symptomatically defines what is wrong with Britain.

Ding Dong, the Witch is DEAD!

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on April 13, 2013

 

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Thatcher: The Oily Lady

 

Margaret Thatcher: The first Peak Oil PM

There has been an awful lot of debate raging since former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher died last week. And like many debates that raise the emotional tempo this one is crystalizing nicely into two competing camps, namely the camp that says she ‘saved’ the UK from decline and the camp that says she left it a scorched moral wasteland where only the greedy and the bigoted flourish.

Regardless of what one might think of her policies however, what has been mostly missing is the role that oil played in her ascendency. When she came to power in 1979 Britain was a dark and miserable place. At least that’s the official narrative; from what I remember things were actually not that bad at all. I, as an 8 year-old boy, could roam around my local town at will without anyone regarding this as unusual, the music in the charts was pretty good, television was for the most part entertaining and giant supermarkets had yet to suck the life out of local communities. Things were pretty good if you didn’t read the newspapers.
But one aspect of life in the 1970s that could hardly be called good was the price of oil. The two oil shocks that had occurred earlier in the decade has threatened the onward march to a wealthier, more comfortable, future. People might have been watching the Good Life on television, but that didn’t mean they actually wanted to give up their jobs and raise pigs in their own back yards. Something had to be done!
Enter Thatcher stage right. The grocer’s daughter from Grantham hit the moribund political scene like a whirlwind, smashing taboos and giving the whole gentleman’s club a sharp kick up the backside. Like any successful politician in a democracy she had identified a deep craving within the psyche of the electorate and had used the power of promise to unleash a wave which she rode to victory as well as any Oahu surfer.
Although people didn’t realize it, they had just done a deal with the devil. No, not Thatcher, the devil I am referring to is right out of Doctor Faustus and its name is oil. Thatcher, and her ideologist in crime Ronald Reagan, pulled every trick in the book to flood the world with cheap oil. North Sea production was ramped up off the coast of Britain, and Reagan did the same thing, eliminating price controls on oil and natural gas in the US. Deals were struck with other oil producing nations to do the same thing and pretty soon the price of oil – and thus the price of everyday life in the industrialised world – crashed to a level so low that it was hardly worth thinking about. The age of mega-abundance was upon us.
Britain, along with much of the industrialised world, then moved into a peculiar position. The access to cheap energy and materials might have been temporarily secured, but Thatcher had a dragon she wanted to slay in the form of the unions. British industry, as she saw it, was inefficient and stuffed full of unproductive suits and workers – most of whom happened to be socialists. The miners’ strike is the best remembered battle here, and Thatcher, by now power-crazed, refused to back down – and won.
But who needed industry anyway? It was much cheaper to get poorer countries to make stuff for you. I remember going on a school trip to a factory where they made tennis racquets. The production manager gave us a talk and I clearly remember him saying that they were ‘offshoring’ soon to China where ‘Each worker will make ten tennis racquets for a bowl of rice.’ And we children all nodded sagely at what seemed to make sense.
Instead of industry we got finance. The so-called Big Bang happened in 1986, when the shackles were thrown off the City of London and financial firms were, not to put too fine a point on it, allowed to create money out of thin air. This proved to be much easier than making cars or ships or digging up coal, and the tax receipts were fantastic too. Nobody mentioned the fact that the whole thing looked like a Ponzi scheme, and the boom in the 1980s swept everyone up, including many of Thatcher’s former naysayers who suddenly found they were doing quite nicely out of it. There can be few more spectacular examples of this than the former Marxist comedian Alexei Sayle, whose stock in trade was lambasting Thatcher and the Tories with foul-mouthed invective. Sayle now test drives luxury cars for the right wing Telegraph newspaper and he’s tied himself in quite a few rhetorical knots trying to explain that one.
But bitter cracks had opened up in the national discourse. Who had the greater moral right to exist? Was it the pit miner, whose family had worked in the same pits for generations, or was it the new breed of financial whizz-kids in the City, who wore red braces and said things like ‘Greed is good,’ into their brick-sized mobile phones? Well, we know who won that battle, if not the debate, in the end.
Individual families were riven – including my own. Once, my aunt and uncle came for dinner. I must have been about 15 at the time, and after a couple of glasses of wine a discussion started between my father and my uncle about the coal miners. My father was ardently pro-Thatcher and had done well out of her policies, whereas my uncle was a socialist through and through, and drove an ambulance for a living. Things became heated and my uncle said to my aunt ‘Get your coat, dear,’and they walked out. I never saw or heard from them again and have no idea if they are dead or alive. Such were the divisions that opened up over Thatcher.
Now, almost thirty years later, it is clear what Thatcher’s legacy was. She, and others like her, rode to power on a gusher. People wanted a cheap way of life and she gave it to them. The billions of barrels of oil that have been wasted over the last few decades could have been used to build a new infrastructure that didn’t rely on the assumption of an infinitely available and cheap energy source. Instead, we wasted it on expensive plastic yachts for the rich and cheap holidays on the Costa del Sol for the poor, and a million other things in between. The chance we were given was squandered.
Was Maggie to blame? Yes and no. She might be a figure of hate for the left and a source of quasi-religious devotion for the deluded neoliberals on the right (including, I might add, Tony Blair) but ultimately, if she hadn’t come along, someone very like her would have seized the same opportunity. Is this how democracies seize up in the end? With two ultimately competing blocks of voters vying for their own share of the pie and regarding the competing faction as ‘evil’? What would Jung say …
People often accuse her of making Britain a crueler, nastier place. Is this true? I have no idea. Looking at it the other way around it could be said that a modern industrialised lifestyle was making Britain a crueler, more atomized, society and that Thatcher was merely our totem. She was the crucible that allowed the 60 million residents of these islands to access vast material riches at the expense of the Third World, and to burn our way through oil supplies that took billions of years to form. She allowed the proud nationalists among us to perpetuate the myth that Britannia had not quite finished Ruling the Waves, and that it was our manifest destiny to remain Great.
Without her, or someone like her, our energy descent would have proceeded in a nicely linear fashion. It’s fun to do a thought experiment on this one. Imagine, for a moment, that instead of electing a Thatcher, we had elected a dull leader lacking in charisma but with the nation’s long term security at heart. This leader, instead of throwing her weight behind motorway and airport expansions, chose to support and invest in bicycle power and energy from windmills. Her government made it law that every house should be thickly insulated to cut down on energy loss, and that cars should be taxed at 200% so that you had to be quite well off to afford one (reinvesting the money in public transport instead).
Yes, Britain would have looked like a larger version of Denmark, where all of the above were followed through on. But instead we got a massive road network that is constantly jammed and unsafe to cycle on, millions of new flimsily-built properties that leak heat like sieves (I have freezing toes as I write this in the fairly expensive 1990s-built house we are currently renting) and an energy grid that is geared for failure.
So, instead of a painful but relatively gentle transition to a future where the ability to harness energy slips slowly from our grasp what we can expect instead is a traumatic and sudden drop-off of available energy exacerbated by a painful financial crash that will likely be the most traumatic time since the cities were bombed to rubble by Hitler.
Luckily for Maggie, though, she won’t be around to experience all that. That joy is all ours

Generalisimo Bloomberg and the Big Gulp Flap

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This is a comment I sent into Zero Hedge:

This will sound psychotic to many of you, but the NWO is not your friend 🙂 Their intention is to kill off, one way or another, at least 90% of what war criminal Henry Kissinger (who got the pent house suite of honor at Bilderberg this week) refers to as “useless eaters.” And to put most in a stupor in the meantime. They just don’t need that many slaves and serfs now with the new technology and cybernetics. Some of this may be difficult to believe simply because it is very difficult for normal human beings with a basic sense of empathy and decency to get into the head and (empty) heart space of our global leaders. They are psychopaths and have been self-bred for psychopathy for centuries (at least). In addition, they are covertly conditioned as children to reinforce their genetic tendencies. As the late, great George Carlin put it shortly before he died, “It’s a club and you ain’t in it.”

Most of their actions have more than one reason. They are very clever and efficient in that respect. One major reason that Bloomberg is suggesting this new regulation is to force the muppets to switch to aspartame (NutraSweet) soft drinks. While HFCS is bad for your health and brain, aspartame is 20 times worse. Those well hooked up inside the Matrix will argue that aspartame must be all right because it was thoroughly tested before it was allowed to enter the food system by the FDA. Really?

Aspartame was owned by Searle in 1980, which was a failing company. The newly appointed CEO of Searle at the time was arch-demon, war criminal, and SEC DEF under Ford (and once again in the future under W) Donald Rumsfeld. He had to take a break from “public service” when the Democrats under Carter had a four year stretch. There was no way that the FDA was going to approve Aspartame under normal circumstances because it was so injurious. But Reagan owed Rumsfeld. An executive order was signed by Reagan his second day in office that the acting Commissioner of the FDA was not to take any regulatory decisions regarding aspartame until a new, Reagan administration one was approved by the Senate and took office. The new one, of course, was vetted by Rumsfeld, and pushed aspartame through against any opposition by career scientists. If you think I am making this shit up, research it. The dots are pretty much in the public record. You just have to connect them.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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