Student Loans

Economic Ebola

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on November 25, 2014

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…For a while longer, a few lucky graduates in a few fields may still glom onto this ever spiraling downward system, but the percentages get smaller all the time. Globally, the energy economy has reached criticality, and its not the Supply end that controls what will be accessed, but the demand end. Demand is being destroyed as an ever greater percentage of the global population is impoverished and simply cannot afford to buy and burn the energy. Demand Destruction outpaces any Quantitative Easing, and all the monetary game does is shift around the pain from one country to another for a while, but everyone is on the downhill slide and nothing will change that. The world has contracted Economic Ebola, and this is a terminal disease for Industrial Civilization…

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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.

Student Loan Forgiveness

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on April 24, 2014

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…Problem of course is that as time went by, there were lots of graduates who couldn’t pay up, and more all the time these days as the economy circles the tidy bowl. Besides that, as more students now had more money to buy an education courtesy of these loans, the institutions started jacking up the prices and the cost to get one of these Sheepskins has gone up about 1000% since I jumped through the hoops 30 years ago. You can’t “work your way” through school anymore, you would have to work 2 jobs to pay a full tuition and room and board, leaving no time to actually attend class. If you cut down the number of classes to take to what you could afford pay as you go, just to get an Undergrad degree would take you 10-15 years, forget doing Grad Skule. Good luck getting a job as a College Grad with no experience at 30 years old.

The expectation here for the student is that if you get one of these Valuable Sheepskins, there will be a Job waiting for you that will launch you into the upper middle class that used to exist, but as time has gone by fewer of these jobs have been available to get while more people graduated qualified for them. This isn’t just a problem in the FSoA, it’s been a long standing problem in China and the old Soviet Union also, where there are tons of folks with Ph.D.s working clerical and sales jobs because there is nothing available in their area of expertiese.  At least in those countries though under the Commie system, they didn’t graduate with a debt load the size of K2…

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RE

The Fourteen Year Recession

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s In Your GDP                          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother Should I Trust the Government?

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

 

Living Expense

Jan-00

Mar-14

% Increase

Gallon of gas

$1.27

$3.51

176.4%

Barrel of oil

$24.11

$100.00

314.8%

Fuel oil per gallon

$1.19

$4.07

242.0%

Electricity per Kwh

$0.084

$0.134

59.5%

Gas per therm

$0.712

$1.078

51.4%

Dozen eggs

$0.97

$2.00

106.2%

Coffee per lb

$3.40

$5.20

52.9%

Ground Beef per lb.

$1.90

$3.73

96.3%

Postage stamp

$0.33

$0.49

48.5%

Movie ticket

$5.25

$10.25

95.2%

New car

$20,300.00

$31,500.00

55.2%

Annual healthcare spending per capita

$4,550.00

$9,300.00

104.4%

Average private college tuition

$22,000.00

$37,000.00

68.2%

Avg home price (Case Shiller)

$161,000.00

$242,000.00

50.3%

Avg monthly rent (Case Shiller)

$635.00

$890.00

40.2%

Ounce of gold

$279.00

$1,334.00

378.1%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dense Fog Turns into Toxic Smog

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on December 31, 2013

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

 

In mid-January of this year I wrote my annual prediction article for 2013 – Apparitions in the Fog. It is again time to assess my inability to predict the future any better than a dart throwing monkey. As usual, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. I was far too pessimistic about the near term implications of debt, civic decay and global disorder. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people. The day to day minutia, pointless drivel of our techno-narcissistic selfie showbiz society, and artificially created issues (gay marriage, Zimmerman-Martin, Baby North West, Duck Dynasty) designed to distract the public from thinking, are worthless trivialities in the broad landscape of human history.

The course of human history is determined by recurring cyclical themes based upon human frailties that have been perpetual through centuries of antiquity. The immense day to day noise of an inter-connected techno-world awash in inconsequentialities and manipulated by men of evil intent is designed to divert the attention of the masses from the criminal activities of those in power. It has always been so. There have always been arrogant, ambitious, greedy, power hungry, deceitful men, willing to take advantage of a fearful, lazy, ignorant, selfish, easily manipulated populace. The rhythms of history are unaffected by predictions of “experts” who are paid to spin yarns in order to sustain the status quo. There is no avoiding the consequences of actions taken and not taken over the last eighty years. We are in the midst of a twenty year period of Crisis that was launched in September 2008 with the worldwide financial collapse, created by the Federal Reserve, their Wall Street owners, their bought off Washington politicians, and their media and academic propaganda machines.

I still stand by the final paragraph of my 2013 missive, and despite the fact the establishment has been able to fend off the final collapse of their man made credit boom for longer than I anticipated, they have only insured a far worse outcome when the bubble bursts:

“So now I’m on the record for 2013 and I can be scorned and ridiculed for being such a pessimist when December rolls around and our Ponzi scheme economy hasn’t collapsed. There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”

The core elements of this Crisis have been visible since Strauss & Howe wrote The Fourth Turning in 1997. All the major events that transpire during this Crisis will be driven by one or more of these core elements – Debt, Civic Decay, and Global Disorder.

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe

My 2013 predictions were framed by these core elements. After re-reading my article for the first time in eleven months I’ve concluded it is lucky I don’t charge for investment predictions. Many of my prognostications were in the ballpark, but I have continually underestimated the ability of central bankers and their Wall Street co-conspirators to use the $2.8 billion per day of QE to artificially elevate the stock market to bubble level proportions once again. If I wasn’t such a trusting soul, I might conclude the .1% financial elite, who run this country, created QEternity to benefit themselves, their .1% corporate CEO accomplices and the corrupt government apparatchiks who shield their flagrant criminality from the righteous hand of justice.

Even a highly educated Ivy League economist might grasp the fact that Ben Bernanke’s QEternity and ZIRP, sold to the unsuspecting masses as desperate measures during a crisis that could have brought the system down, have been kept in place for five years as a means to drive stock prices and home prices higher. The emergency was over by 2010, according to government reported data. The current monetary policy of the Federal Reserve would have been viewed as outrageous, reckless, and incomprehensible in 2007. It is truly a credit to the ruling elite and their media propaganda arm that they have been able to convince a majority of Americans their brazen felonious disregard for the wellbeing of the 99% is necessary to sustain the .1% way of life. Those palaces in the Hamptons aren’t going to pay for themselves without those $100 billion of annual bonuses.

Do you think the 170% increase in the S&P 500 has been accidently correlated with the quadrupling of the Federal Reserve balance sheet or has Bernanke just done the bidding of his puppet masters? Considering the .1% billionaire clique owns the vast majority of stock in this corporate fascist paradise, is it really a surprise the trickle down canard would be the solution of choice from these sociopathic scoundrels? Of course QE and ZIRP have impacted the 80% who own virtually no stocks in a slightly different manner. Do you think the 100% increase in gasoline prices since 2009 was caused by Bernanke’s QEternity?

Do you think the 8% decline in real median household income since 2008 was caused by Bernanke’s QE and ZIRP policies?

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Do you think the $10.8 trillion stolen from grandmothers and risk adverse savers was caused by Bernanke’s ZIRP?

Was the $860 billion increase in real GDP (5.8% over five years) worth the $8 trillion increase in the National Debt and $3 trillion increase in the Federal Reserve balance sheet? Was it moral, courageous and honorable of the Wall Street plantation owners to syphon the remaining wealth of the dying middle class peasants and leaving the millennial generation and future generations bound in chains of unfunded debt to the tune of $200 trillion?

My assessment regarding unpredictable events lurking in the fog was borne out by what happened that NO ONE predicted, including: the first resignation of a pope in six hundred years, the military coup of a democratically elected president of Egypt – supported by the democratically elected U.S. president, the rise of an alternative currency – bitcoin, the bankruptcy of one of the largest cities in the U.S. – Detroit, a minor terrorist attack in Boston that freaked out the entire country and revealed the Nazi-like un-Constitutional tactics that will be used by the police state as this Crisis deepens, and revelations by a brilliant young patriot named Edward Snowden proving that the U.S. has been turned into an Orwellian surveillance state as every electronic communication of every American is being monitored and recorded. The Democrats and Republicans played their parts in this theater of the absurd. They proved to be two faces of the same Party as neither faction questions the droning of innocent people around the globe, mass spying on citizens, Wall Street criminality, trillion dollar deficits, a rogue Federal Reserve, or out of control unsustainable government spending.

My predictions for 2013 were divided into the three categories driving this Fourth Turning CrisisDebt, Civic Decay, and Global Disorder. Let’s assess my inaccuracy.

Debt

  • The debt ceiling will be raised as the toothless Republican Party vows to cut spending next time. The political hacks will create a 3,000 page document of triggers and create a committee to study the issue, with actual measures that slow the growth of annual spending by .000005% starting in 2017.

The government shutdown reality TV show proved to be the usual Washington D.C. kabuki theater. They gave a shutdown and no one noticed. It had zero impact on the economy. More people came to the realization that government does nothing except spend our money and push us around. The debt ceiling was raised, the sequester faux “cuts” were reversed and $20 billion of spending will be cut sometime in the distant future. Washington snakes are entirely predictable. I nailed this prediction.

  • The National Debt will increase by $1.25 trillion and debt to GDP will reach 106% by the end of the fiscal year.

The National Debt increased by ONLY $964 billion in the last fiscal year, even though the government stopped counting in May. The temporary sequester cuts, the expiration of the 2% payroll tax cut, the fake Fannie & Freddie paybacks to the U.S. Treasury based upon mark to fantasy accounting, and the automatic expiration of stimulus spending combined to keep the real deficit from reaching $1 trillion for the fifth straight year. Debt to GDP was 104%, before our beloved government drones decided to “adjust” GDP upwards by $500 billion based upon a new and improved formula, like Tide detergent. I missed this prediction by a smidgeon.

  • The Federal Reserve balance sheet will reach $4 trillion by the end of the year.

The Federal Reserve balance sheet stands at $4.075 trillion today. Ben is very predictable, and of course “transparent”. This was an easy one.

  • Consumer debt will reach $2.9 trillion as the Feds accelerate student loans and Ally Financial, along with the other Too Big To Control Wall Street banks, keep pumping out subprime auto loans. By mid-year reported losses on student loans will soar and auto loan delinquencies will show an upturn. This will force a slowdown in consumer debt issuance, exacerbating the recession that started in 2012.

Consumer debt outstanding currently stands at $3.076 trillion despite the fact that credit card debt has been virtually flat. The Federal government has continued to dole out billions in loans to University of Phoenix wannabes and to the subprime urban entitlement armies who deserve to drive an Escalade despite having no job, no assets and a sub 650 credit score, through government owned Ally Financial. It helps drive business when you don’t care about being repaid. Student loan delinquency rates are at an all-time high, as there are no jobs for graduates with tens of thousands in debt. Auto loan delinquencies have begun to rise despite the fact we are supposedly in a strongly recovering economy. The slowdown in debt issuance has not happened, as the Federal government is in complete control of the non-revolving loan segment. My prediction has proven to be accurate.

  • The Bakken oil miracle will prove to be nothing more than Wall Street shysters selling a storyline. Daily output will stall at 750,000 barrels per day and the dreams of imminent energy independence will be annihilated by reality, again. The price of oil will average $105 per barrel, as global tensions restrict supply.

Bakken production has reached 867,000 barrels per day as more and more wells have been drilled to offset the steep depletion rates of the existing wells. The average price per barrel has been $104, despite the frantic propaganda campaign about imminent American energy independence. Tell that to the average Joe filling their tank and paying the highest December gas price in history. My prediction was too pessimistic, but the Bakken miracle will be revealed as an over-hyped Wall Street scam in 2014.

  • The home price increases generated through inventory manipulation in 2012 will peter out as 2013 progresses. The market has been flooded by investors. There is very little real demand for new homes. Young households with heavy student loan debt and low paying jobs will continue to rent, since the oligarchs refused to let prices fall to a level that would spur real demand. Mortgage delinquencies will rise as job growth remains stagnant, leading to an increase in foreclosures. Rent prices will flatten as apartment construction and investors flood the market with supply.

Existing home sales peaked in the middle of 2013 and have been in decline as mortgage rates have jumped from 3.25% to 4.5% since February. New home sales remain stagnant, near record low levels. The median sales price for existing home sales peaked at $214,000 in June and has fallen for five consecutive months by a total of 8%. First time home buyers account for a record low of 28% of purchases, while investors account for a record high level of purchasers. Mortgage delinquencies fell for most of the year, but the chickens are beginning to come home to roost as delinquent mortgage loans rose from 6.28% in October to 6.45% in November. Rent increases slowed to below 3% as Blackrock and the other Wall Street shysters flood the market with their foreclosure rental properties. My housing prediction was accurate.

 

  • The disconnect between the stock market and the housing and employment markets will be rectified when the MSM can no longer deny the recession that began in 2012 and will deepen in the first part of 2013. While housing prices languish 30% below their peak levels of 2006, the stock market has prematurely ejaculated back to pre-crisis levels. Declining corporate profits, stagnant consumer spending, and increasing debt defaults will finally result in a 20% decline in the stock market, with a chance for losses greater than 30% if Japan or the EU begin to crumble.

And now we get to the prediction that makes me happy I don’t charge people for investment advice. Facts don’t matter in world of QE for the psychopathic titans of Wall Street and misery for the indebted peasants of Main Street. The government data drones, Ivy League educated Wall Street economists, and the obedient corporate media propaganda apparatus declare that GDP has grown by 2% over the last four quarters and we are not in a recession. If you believe their bogus inflation calculation then just ignore the collapsing retail sales, stagnant real wages, and rising gap between the uber-rich and the rest of us. Using a true measure of inflation reveals an economy in recession since 2004. Whose version matches the reality on the ground?

 

Corporate profits have leveled off at record highs as mark to fantasy accounting fraud, condoned and encouraged by the Federal Reserve, along with loan loss reserve depletion and $5 billion of risk free profits from parking deposits at the Fed have created a one-time peak. The record level of negative earnings warnings is the proverbial bell ringing at the top.

negative earnings

I only missed my stock market prediction by 50%, as the 30% rise was somewhat better than my 20% decline prediction. Bernanke’s QEternity, Wall Street’s high frequency trading supercomputers, record levels of margin debt, a dash of delusion, and a helping of clueless dupes have taken the stock market to another bubble high. My prediction makes me look like an idiot today. I’m OK with that, since I know facts and reality always prevail in the long-run. As John Hussman sagely points out, today’s idiot will be tomorrow’s beacon of truth:

“The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top, and most of the signals that have been most historically useful for that purpose have been blazing red since late-2011. My impression remains that the downside risks for the market have been deferred, not eliminated, and that they will be worse for the wait.”

  • Japan is still a bug in search of a windshield. With a debt to GDP ratio of 230%, a population dying off, energy dependence escalating, trade surplus decreasing, an already failed Prime Minister vowing to increase inflation, and rising tensions with China, Japan is a primary candidate to be the first domino to fall in the game of debt chicken. A 2% increase in interest rates would destroy the Japanese economic system.

Abenomics has done nothing for the average Japanese citizen, but it has done wonders for the ruling class who own all the stocks. Abe has implemented monetary policies that make Bernanke get a hard on. Japanese economic growth remains mired at 1.1%, wages remain stagnant, and their debt to GDP ratio remains above 230%, but at least he has driven their currency down 20% versus the USD and crushed the common person with 9% energy inflation. None of this matters, because the .1% have benefitted from a 56% increase in the Japanese stock market. My prediction was wrong. The windshield is further down the road, but it is approaching at 100 mph.

  • The EU has temporarily delayed the endgame for their failed experiment. Economic conditions in Greece, Spain and Italy worsen by the day with unemployment reaching dangerous revolutionary levels. Pretending countries will pay each other with newly created debt will not solve a debt crisis. They don’t have a liquidity problem. They have a solvency problem. The only people who have been saved by the actions taken so far are bankers and politicians. I believe the crisis will reignite, with interest rates spiking in Spain, Italy and France. The Germans will get fed up with the rest of Europe and the EU will begin to disintegrate.

This was another complete miss on my part. Economic conditions have not improved in Europe. Unemployment remains at record levels. EU GDP is barely above 0%. Debt levels continue to rise. Central bank bond buying has propped up this teetering edifice of ineptitude and interest rates in Spain, Italy and France have fallen to ridiculously low levels of 4%, considering they are completely insolvent with no possibility for escape. The disintegration of the EU will have to wait for another day.

Civic Decay

  • Progressive’s attempt to distract the masses from our worsening economic situation with their assault on the 2nd Amendment will fail. Congress will pass no new restrictions on gun ownership and 2013 will see the highest level of gun sales in history.

Obama and his gun grabbing sycophants attempted to use the Newtown massacre as the lever to overturn the 2nd Amendment. The liberal media went into full shriek mode, but the citizens again prevailed and no Federal legislation restricting the 2nd Amendment passed. Gun sales in 2013 will set an all-time record. With the Orwellian surveillance state growing by the day, arming yourself is the rational thing to do. I nailed this prediction.

  • The deepening recession, higher taxes on small businesses and middle class, along with Obamacare mandates will lead to rising unemployment and rising anger with the failed economic policies of the last four years. Protests and rallies will begin to burgeon.

The little people are experiencing a recession. The little people bore the brunt of the 2% payroll tax increase. The little people are bearing the burden of the Obamacare insurance premium increases. The number of employed Americans has increased by 1 million in the last year, a whole .4% of the working age population. The number of Americans who have willingly left the labor force in the last year because their lives are so fulfilled totaled 2.5 million, leaving the labor participation rate at a 35 year low. The anger among the former middle class is simmering below the surface, as Bernanke’s policies further impoverish the multitudes. Mass protests have not materialized but the Washington Navy yard shooting, dental hygenist murdered by DC police for ramming a White House barrier, and self- immolation of veteran John Constantino on the National Mall were all individual acts of desperation against the establishment.

  • The number of people on food stamps will reach 50 million and the number of people on SSDI will reach 11 million. Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and Jeff Immelt will compensate themselves to the tune of $100 million. CNBC will proclaim an economic recovery based on these facts.

The number of people on food stamps appears to have peaked just below 48 million, as the expiration of stimulus spending will probably keep the program from reaching 50 million. As of November there were 10.98 million people in the SSDI program. The top eight Wall Street banks have set aside a modest $91 billion for 2013 bonuses. The cost of providing food stamps for 48 million Americans totaled $76 billion. CNBC is thrilled with the record level of bonuses for the noble Wall Street capitalists, while scorning the lazy laid-off middle class workers whose jobs were shipped to China by the corporations whose profits are at all-time highs and stock price soars. Isn’t crony capitalism grand?

  • The drought will continue in 2013 resulting in higher food prices, ethanol prices, and shipping costs, as transporting goods on the Mississippi River will become further restricted. The misery index for the average American family will reach new highs.

The drought conditions in the U.S. Midwest have been relieved. Ethanol prices have been flat. Beef prices have risen by 10% since May due to the drought impact from 2012, but overall food price increases have been moderate. The misery index (unemployment rate + inflation rate) has supposedly fallen, based on government manipulated data. I whiffed on this prediction.

  • There will be assassination attempts on political and business leaders as retribution for their actions during and after the financial crisis.

There have been no assassination attempts on those responsible for our downward financial spiral. The anger has been turned inward as suicides have increased by 30% due to the unbearable economic circumstances brought on by the illegal financial machinations of the Wall Street criminal banks. Obama and Dick Cheney must be thrilled that more military personnel died by suicide in 2013 than on the battlefield. Mission Accomplished. The retribution dealt to bankers and politicians will come after the next collapse. For now, my prediction was premature.

  • The revelation of more fraud in the financial sector will result in an outcry from the public for justice. Prosecutions will be pursued by State’s attorney generals, as Holder has been captured by Wall Street.

Holder and the U.S. government remain fully captured by Wall Street. The states have proven to be toothless in their efforts to enforce the law against Wall Street. The continuing revelations of Wall Street fraud and billions in fines paid by JP Morgan and the other Too Big To Trust banks have been glossed over by the captured mainstream media. As long as EBT cards, Visas and Mastercards continue to function, there will be no outrage from the techno-narcissistic, debt addicted, math challenged, wilfully ignorant masses. Another wishful thinking wrong prediction on my part.

  • The deepening pension crisis in the states will lead to more state worker layoffs and more confrontation between governors attempting to balance budgets and government worker unions. There will be more municipal bankruptcies.

Using a still optimistic discount rate of 5%, the unfunded pension liability of states and municipalities totals $3 trillion. The taxpayers don’t have enough cheese left for the government rats to steal. The crisis deepens by the second. State and municipal budgets require larger pension payments every year. The tax base is stagnant or declining. States must balance their budgets. They will continue to cut existing workers to pay the legacy costs until they all experience their Detroit moment. With the Detroit bankruptcy, I’ll take credit for getting this prediction right.

  • The gun issue will further enflame talk of state secession. The red state/blue state divide will grow ever wider. The MSM will aggravate the divisions with vitriolic propaganda.

With the revelations of Federal government spying, military training exercises in cities across the country, the blatant disregard for the 4th Amendment during the shutdown of Boston, and un-Constitutional mandates of Obamacare, there has been a tremendous increase in chatter about secession. A google search gets over 200,000 hits in the last year. The divide between red states and blue states has never been wider.

  • The government will accelerate their surveillance efforts and renew their attempt to monitor, control, and censor the internet. This will result in increased cyber-attacks on government and corporate computer networks in retaliation.

If anything I dramatically underestimated the lengths to which the United States government would go in their illegal surveillance of the American people and foreign leaders. Edward Snowden exposed the grandest government criminal conspiracy in history as the world found out the NSA, with the full knowledge of the president and Congress, has been conspiring with major communications and internet companies to monitor and record every electronic communication on earth, in clear violation of the 4th Amendment. Government apparatchiks like James Clapper have blatantly lied to Congress about their spying activities. The lawlessness with which the government is now operating has led to anarchist computer hackers conducting cyber-attacks on government and corporate networks. The recent hacking of the Target credit card system will have devastating implications to their already waning business. I’ll take credit for an accurate prediction on this one.

Global Disorder 

  • With new leadership in Japan and China, neither will want to lose face, so early in their new terms. Neither side will back down in their ongoing conflict over islands in the East China Sea. China will shoot down a Japanese aircraft and trade between the countries will halt, leading to further downturns in both of their economies.

The Japanese/Chinese dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands has blown hot and cold throughout the year. In the past month the vitriol has grown intense. China has scrambled fighter jets over the disputed islands. The recent visit of Abe to a World War II shrine honoring war criminals has enraged the Chinese. Trade between the countries has declined. An aircraft has not been shot down, but an American warship almost collided with a Chinese warship near the islands, since our empire must stick their nose into every worldwide dispute. We are one miscalculation away from a shooting war. It hasn’t happened yet, so my prediction was wrong.

  • Worker protests over slave labor conditions in Chinese factories will increase as food price increases hit home on peasants that spend 70% of their pay for food. The new regime will crackdown with brutal measures, but the protests will grow increasingly violent. The economic data showing growth will be discredited by what is happening on the ground. China will come in for a real hard landing. Maybe they can hide the billions of bad debt in some of their vacant cities.

The number of worker protests over low pay and working conditions in China doubled over the previous year, but censorship of reporting has kept these facts under wraps. In a dictatorship, the crackdown on these protests goes unreported. The fraudulent economic data issued by the government has been proven false by independent analysts. The Chinese stock market has fallen 14%, reflecting the true economic situation. The Chinese property bubble is in the process of popping. China will never officially report a hard landing. China is the most corrupt nation on earth and is rotting from the inside, like their vacant malls and cities. China’s economy is like an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 coming in for a landing at SF International.

  • Violence and turmoil in Greece will spread to Spain during the early part of the year, with protests and anger spreading to Italy and France later in the year. The EU public relations campaign, built on sandcastles of debt in the sky and false promises of corrupt politicians, will falter by mid-year. Interest rates will begin to spike and the endgame will commence. Greece will depart the EU, with Spain not far behind. The unraveling of debt will plunge all of Europe into depression.

Violent protests flared in Greece and Spain throughout the year. They did not spread to Italy and France. The central bankers and the puppet politicians have been able to contain the EU’s debt insolvency through the issuance of more debt. What a great plan. The grand finale has been delayed into 2014. Greece remains on life support and still in the EU. The EU remains in recession, but the depression has been postponed for the time being. This prediction was a dud.

  • Iran will grow increasingly desperate as hyperinflation caused by U.S. economic sanctions provokes the leadership to lash out at its neighbors and unleash cyber-attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and U.S. corporations. Israel will use the rising tensions as the impetus to finally attack Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. will support the attack and Iran will launch missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel in retaliation. The price of oil will spike above $125 per barrel, further deepening the worldwide recession.

Iran was experiencing hyperinflationary conditions early in the year, but since the election of the new president the economy has stabilized. Iran has conducted cyber-attacks against Saudi Arabian gas companies and the U.S. Navy during 2013. Israel and Saudi Arabia have failed in their efforts to lure Iran into a shooting war. Obama has opened dialogue with the new president to the chagrin of Israel. War has been put off and the negative economic impacts of surging oil prices have been forestalled. I missed on this prediction.

  • Syrian President Assad will be ousted and executed by rebels. Syria will fall under the control of Islamic rebels, who will not be friendly to the United States or Israel. Russia will stir up discontent in retaliation for the ouster of their ally.

Assad has proven to be much tougher than anyone expected. The trumped up charges of gassing rebel forces, created by the Saudis who want a gas pipeline through Syria, was not enough to convince the American people to allow our president to invade another sovereign country. Putin and Russia won this battle. America’s stature in the eyes of the world was reduced further. America continues to support Al Qaeda rebels in Syria, while fighting them in Afghanistan. The hypocrisy is palpable. Another miss.

  • Egypt and Libya will increasingly become Islamic states and will further descend into civil war.

The first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup as the country has descended into a civil war between the military forces and Islamic forces. It should be noted that the U.S. supported the overthrow of a democratically elected leader. Libya is a failed state with Islamic factions vying for power and on the verge of a 2nd civil war. Oil production has collapsed. I’ll take credit for an accurate prediction on this one.

  • The further depletion of the Cantarell oil field will destroy the Mexican economy as it becomes a net energy importer. The drug violence will increase and more illegal immigrants will pour into the U.S. The U.S. will station military troops along the border.

Mexican oil production fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2013. It has fallen 25% since 2004 to the lowest level since 1995. Energy exports still slightly outweigh imports, but the trend is irreversible. Mexico is under siege by the drug cartels. The violence increases by the day. After declining from 2007 through 2009, illegal immigration from Mexico has been on the rise. Troops have not been stationed on the border as Obama and his liberal army encourages illegal immigration in their desire for an increase in Democratic voters. This prediction was mostly correct.

  • Cyber-attacks by China and Iran on government and corporate computer networks will grow increasingly frequent. One or more of these attacks will threaten nuclear power plants, our electrical grid, or the Pentagon.

China and Iran have been utilizing cyber-attacks on the U.S. military and government agencies as a response to NSA spying and U.S. sabotaging of Iranian nuclear facilities. Experts are issuing warnings regarding the susceptibility of U.S. nuclear facilities to cyber-attack. If a serious breach has occurred, the U.S. government wouldn’t be publicizing it. Again, this prediction was accurate.

I achieved about a 50% accuracy rate on my 2013 predictions. These minor distractions are meaningless in the broad spectrum of history and the inevitability of the current Fourth Turning sweeping away the existing social order in a whirlwind of chaos, violence, financial collapse and ultimately a decisive war. The exact timing and exact events which will precipitate the demise of the establishment are unknowable with any precision, but there is no escape from the inexorable march of history. While most people get lost in the minutia of day to day existence and supposed Ivy League thought leaders are consumed with their own reputations and wealth, apparent stability will morph into terrifying volatility in an instant. The normalcy bias being practiced by an entire country will be shattered in a reality storm of consequences. The Crisis will continue to be driven by the ever growing debt levels, civic decay caused by government overreach, and global disorder driven by resource shortages and religious zealotry. The ultimate outcome is unpredictable, but the choices we make will matter. History is about to fling us towards a vast chaos.

“The seasons of time offer no guarantees. For modern societies, no less than for all forms of life, transformative change is discontinuous. For what seems an eternity, history goes nowhere – and then it suddenly flings us forward across some vast chaos that defies any mortal effort to plan our way there. The Fourth Turning will try our souls – and the saecular rhythm tells us that much will depend on how we face up to that trial. The saeculum does not reveal whether the story will have a happy ending, but it does tell us how and when our choices will make a difference.”  – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Creepily Close

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  October 14, 2013
Laughing clowns at a funfair

 Creepily Close

     Things that can’t go on, the prophet Herb Stein once observed, go on until they can’t. Criticality eventually bushwhacks credulity. The aggregation of rackets that American life has become is rolling over like a great groaning wounded leviathan and the rest of the world is starting to freak out at the spectacle. Instead of a revolution, we’re having a suicide party.

     But don’t worry, a revolution would not be far behind. My guess is that it would kick off as generational rather than regional or factional, but it would eventually incorporate all three. A generation already swindled by the college loan racket must be chafing at the bureaucratic nightmare that ObamaCare instantly turned into at its roll-out, with a website that wouldn’t let anyone log in. Isn’t technology wonderful? I wonder when the “magic moment” will come when all those unemployed millennials join a Twitter injunction to just stop paying back their loans. If that particular message went out during this month’s government food fight, it would do more than just get the attention of a few politicians. It would crash the banks and snap the links in every chain of obligation holding the fiasco of globalism together.

     So far, the millennials have shown about as much political inclination as so many sowbugs under a rotten log, but it is in the nature of criticality that things change real fast. In any case, the older generations have completely disgraced themselves and it is only a question of how cruelly history will treat them in their unseating. The last time things got this bad, the guys in charge divided into two teams with blue and gray uniforms, rode gallantly onto the first fields of battle thinking it was a kind of rousing military theatrical, only to find themselves in a grinding four-year industrial-scale slaughter in which it was not uncommon for 20,000 young men to get shot to pieces in a single day — one day after another.

     Of course, things are a bit different now since we became a nation of overfed clowns dedicated to getting something for nothing, but despite the abject futility of American life in its current incarnation, there is room for plenty of violence and destruction. The sad and peculiar angle of the current struggle is that both sides in government wish heartily to keep all the rackets of daily life going — they just disagree on the distribution method of the vig.

     What amuses me at the moment is the behavior of the various financial markets and the cockamamie stories circulating to explain what they are doing in this time of perilous uncertainty. One popular story is called “the energy renaissance.” This is a fairy-tale that pretends that we have enough oil at a cheap enough price to keep driving to WalMart forever. Of course, shale oil wells that cost $12million to drill and produce 80 barrels-a-day for three years before crapping out altogether do not bode well for that outcome, but the wish to believe over-rides the reality. Another laughable story du jour is “the manufacturing renaissance.” This story proposes that the “central corridor” of the USA, from North Dakota to Texas, is about to give China a run for its money in manufacturing. The catch is that any new factory opening up in this scenario will be run on robots — leaving who, exactly, to be the customers paying for what these factories produce? Think about it for five minutes and you will understand that it is just a story calculated to goose up a share price here and there, and only for moment until it is discovered to be just a story. What interests me most is what happens when the stories lose their power to levitate the legitimacy of the people who tell them.

            Well, Christine LeGarde, chief of the IMF, tried to read the riot act to the American clownigarchs over the weekend, but they’re not paying attention to her. What has she done for her own country, France, lately anyhow. They’ve got their own set of rackets running over there. The Chinese are getting a little prickly, too, since they are sitting on a few trillion in US promises to pay cash money in the not so distant future. The Chinese are beginning to apprehend that future perhaps never arriving.

     In case you haven’t heard: America is “in recovery.” We can play all the games we want with money, or what passes for money these days. And then the moment will come when we can’t. That moment begins to feel creepily close.

 

***

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

That Was The Week That Was In Doom July 7, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on July 7, 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.

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

  ~H. L. Mencken

Another week goes by as the doomsday clock continues to tick… tick… tick. Mohammad Morsi leaves to spend more time with his family, while observers speculate about how many the role the IMF has actually played behind the scenes…  ice craters in the Antarctic, the do-nothing 113th left for vacation but not before setting the thumbscrews good and tight for the next generation of college students, Sy Hersh steps on SOMEONE’s last nerve, the immensity of the spy networks becomes even more apparent, more  musings on the death of Michael Hastings, and the Diner itself comes within a hair’s breadth of its own version of fast collapse, rescued by haniel and the “database cavalry.” Plus a brand new franchise lovingly entitled, “You’re shitting me, right?” All in a weeks work watching the intertubes. So ignore your doctor’s orders,  pour another cuppa java Diner style, sit back and shake your head in disbelief at what the gobshites are doing this week.

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Why The Muslim Brotherhood Failed In Egypt

There are as many reasons and interpretations of the fall of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood as there are observers. Causes and explanations sprout like dandelions. Morsi was too politically aggressive, too aggressively religious, he alienated too many Egyptians by signaling respect for secular laws then veering rightward,  his religiosity and sectarian Islamist rhetoric was getting on people’s nerves, he spat in the face of public opinion, and ultimately he lost the trust of the people.

Which is not to say that none of this is not true. But those of us who have grown up in a toxic political and media culture within the FSA are in the habit of looking for Root Causes. One such was conjured up Saturday in a fine little blog called The Excavator, in a link posted by Newshound Joe inside the Forum. An analysis by Webster Tarpley (yes, we know) reminds us that if you want the truth,as always, follow the money.

“As soon as they got into power last summer, they [Muslim Brotherhood] began negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. This is the main thing to understand. They threw away their chance to govern because they caved in to the IMF worse than any government in recent Egyptian history. The IMF has always targeted the system of subsidy going back to Nasser and Arab socialism. There is a bread subsidy, there is a cooking oil subsidy, there are other staples, there may be a rice subsidy, but it’s wheat in particular, and fuel, household fuel or gasoline.

And the demand of the IMF was we’ll give you a loan of four billion dollars if you sign a letter of intent that specifies conditionalities. What are the conditionalities? That you will immediately double the price of gasoline. That happened last November, and really it’s been a slide downhill for Morsi since that moment. In other words, he doubled the price of gasoline. Think of that. I think any country in the world you’ll get riots. And in Egypt there’s a tradition. In 1977 Sadat tried to tamper with the bread subsidy and the whole country exploded in his face and he backed off and he never tried that again.

One of the important factors in the entire color revolution-Arab Spring situation, be it Tunisia or Gaddafi or others, is these governments were weakened in advance. They were set up for destruction by years-long IMF offensive to try to attack the system of subsidies and other government interventions to maintain the standard of living. Always the character of these things is to put a floor under the very poor. So the IMF was attacking this.

And what Morsi accepted to do was to double the price of gasoline, to raise the sales tax, and to move towards the implementation of a value-added tax which would be 10, 15, or 20 percent. That was last November. That’s part of the conditionality. This is what destroyed him.” –  Webster G. Tarpley

Tarpley as a source may well be suspect, but even the stopped clock of axiom is right twice a day. Let’s just stop to consider the evidence.

 

187_max

“Should a regime fall without mass mobilization, it is defined as a victim of a coup d’état, usually by a military cabal.”

– Ronald A Francisco, “Collective Action Theory And Empirical Evidence.” Pg. 11.

On his blog,  continues to asser that painting Morsi as the victim of a coup is to miss the larger picture.

The military alone can’t get tens of millions Egyptians onto the streets to remove a president they don’t like. Military leaders were responding to events and the force of public opinion. Was the military happy to nudge the protests along and see the Muslim Brotherhood suffer a defeat? Yes, but the unpopularity of Morsi and the Muslim Broterhood was their own doing.

This is the bigger picture that many in the media are missing.Morsi was doing unpopular things and damaging the reputation of Egypt by calling for a holy war in Syria against Assad and threatening an unnecessary war against Ethiopia over a Dam Project. Many people believe the dispute over the Nile is resolvable through negotiations, including the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.   

If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in power, Egypt might have been dragged into two wars. So the question that should be asked in this instance is not whether an action is good for democracy but whether it is good for the country. Keeping Morsi in power any longer would’ve hurt Egypt, and for many Egyptians their country is more valuable and sacred than the concept of democracy. 

A country should be led by its best men in a crisis and Morsi proved through his actions that he did not belong in high office. It took less than a year for the Egyptian people to recognize Morsi’s failings as a leader and they acted quickly to preserve their country. Morsi was not “ousted” by the military; he was overthrown by his people with the helpful aid of the military. I know it’s hard to believe in these cynical times but popular mass protests can lead to unforeseen political change.

And in a single observation to make the final point, one which warms the heart of this former Occupier…

Brazil’s leadership responded quickly to the massive protests by promising to dedicate the country’s oil wealth to education, health, and other government services.

The only action that changes anything is mass, collective action. Which is why the oligarchs of the FSA, via their hired thugs and rented congressmen, their instrumentations and armies of bankers all conspire to keep Americans at one another’s throats, to prevent that very thing from ever happening here. “Divide et impera,” motherfkers . . .

 

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Antarctic flood produces ‘ice crater’

The BBC moved a story this week that reported that satellite imagery revealed evidence for a colossal flood under Antarctica that drained six billion tons of water, quite possibly straight to the ocean.

The cause is thought to be a deeply buried lake that suddenly over-topped.

Satellites were used to map the crater that developed as the 2.7km-thick overlying ice sheet slumped to fill the void left by the escaping water.

The peak discharge would have been more than double the normal flow rate of London’s River Thames, researchers say.

The location of the flood was Cook Sub-Glacial Lake (SGL) in the east of the continent, and the event itself occurred over a period of about 18 months in 2007-2008.

It was detected and described using a combination of data gathered by the now-retired US Icesat mission and Europe’s new Cryosat platform.

The American spacecraft’s laser altimeter first noted a drop in the ice-surface height associated with the slumping.

The European satellite’s radar altimeter was then employed to map the shape of the crater that resulted.

 

Apparently Antarctica has a little understood series of “ghost lakes” which fill, drain and are replenished via mechanisms little understood. These “ghost lakes” are kept in a liquid state by heat rising from the rockbed below and from the pressure of the weight of the massive amount of the ice pushing down from above.

At present, Antarctica is losing mass at a rate of 50-100 billion tonnes a year, helping to raise global sea level. This study suggests that a not insignificant fraction of this mass loss could be due to flood events like that seen at Cook SGL. “This one lake on its own represents 5-10% of [Antarctica’s] annual mass imbalance,” said Leeds co-author Prof Andy Shepherd. “If there are nearly 400 of these sub-glacial lakes then there’s a chance a handful of them are draining each year, and that needs to be considered,” he told BBC News.

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Fk the kids… and go fk yourself!

Through inaction, which has become a vital part of this Congress’ skill set, the student loan rate doubled on July 1st. After all, why shouldn’t banksters pay half a point for the billions they borrow, while the next generation, upon which we pin our hopes and promise, start their lives with a mountain of non-dischargeable debt for student loans, which will now cost even more? Clearly, the government has recognized that education is indeed the great social equalizer which enables mobility among the classes, and the lesser classes will be getting none of it, not if the agents of the Owners can help it. The subtext is, equally clearly, to make it as difficult as possible for the children of the working classes to date their daughters in some collegiate future.

With the future of the children of the elites secured with trust funds and offshore accounts, the Koch-suckers of the 113th Congress bid America’s next generation, “Go fk yourselves!”

Bob Borosage explains in “Student Loans: Gouge The Kids,”

Interest rates on student loans will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 unless Congress acts. But it seems increasingly likely that the Congress will take off for the Fourth of July recess without addressing the problem. The major sticking point: Republicans in the House and Senate insist on gouging the kids to help reduce the deficit.

Mission accomplished. Republicans want student loan rates to double to “market rates” plus a bit more, much in the same way your credit card rates seem to never get below onerous no matter how cheap the money gets. The theory is that “the government can make a profit from the loans,”  because should government help students even a little on interest rates – never mind paying for college – it is “government spending” and is Therefore An Apostasy. The notion of “providing for the common welfare is a Capital Crime in Glennbeckistan  and Aynrandia.

What does the public want? Well, go fk yourselves.

Public Policy Polling has recently found:

83 percent of Americans want student loan rates to stay the same or be lowered.

41 percent want them to be lowered to 0.75 percent, the same rate big banks pay for overnight loans.

86 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of independents want action taken on this issue.

74 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for their representative if they let rates rise.

52 percent would be more likely to vote for them if they lowered rates.

60 percent of Democrats are more likely to vote for their representative if they lowered rates, 50 percent of Republicans.

2:1 in support of passing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill to lower student interest rates to 0.75 percent; including 65 percent of Democrats and, 56 percent of Republicans.

Nothing will happen between this writing and when this article publishes, so with the best of holiday greetings in sight, remember students and parents, “Go Fk Youselves!”

This message made possible by the 113th Congress.

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Has Seymour Hersh grabbed the third rail?

 

In a speech in January, Seymour Hersh charged that U.S. foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative “crusaders” in the former vice president’s office and now in the special operations community:

That’s the attitude,” he continued. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”

He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”

Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited [sic] to “defence [sic] of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering,” according to its website.

“They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

“They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins,” he continued. “They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.”

 

 

For his trouble, Hersh was called, essentially, batshit-crazy by writers in Foreign Policy. Indeed the vituperation of his critics leads a careful reader to wonder just which Establishment nerve has been struck here. Hersh reported a strange correlation and a surprising importance to a catholic religious order. An order whose past members have included William Casey, James Jesus angleton, Stanley McChrystal, William F. Buckley, Willian “Wild Bill” Donovan, and many others whose names may not be recognizable, but who have hands on the levels of foreign policy, intelligence and NGOs.

Hersh’s opponents have leapt from skepticism to attack and derision. One wonders whether Hersh stumbled onto something deeper and more important than even he realizes? Given that the RCC has been involved in a variety of sordid intrigues for centuries, just how incredulous does it seem for a newly-assertive Church to wish to reassert its  stature and influence. It is reasonable to assume the Church would simply readjust tactics for a new day.

IN any event, who to believe?

Seymour Hersh is in the middle of researching and writing a lengthy book on America’s wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has something of a history of playing looser with his facts in speeches than in print—partially to preserve his scoops pre-publication—and his speech in Doha hewed close to that tradition. In addition to the Knights, for example, he also made claims regarding Opus Dei, another secretive far right Catholic group steeped in just as much rumor and conspiracy theory. However, Hersh is a five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award—a reporter with a record that is well-burnished and nearly sterling.

Given the late 20th Century history of the “Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta,” how strange would it really be to find members of the Order, in and out of the military, collaborating on a new silent crusade with their old Cold War allies?

It would certainly complement the Christian fundamentalist version of the war, as prosecuted by Erik Prince, the former CEO of the military’s most notorious civilian contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater). His views—as depicted in one affidavit from the court case against him—certainly echo much of what Hersh ascribes to the JSOC and the Knights of Malta:

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.”

As for me, I’ll be waiting for Hersh’s next book.

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Murky arrangements

A post by Hiroyuki Hamada. Here is an important article talking about a complexity of the massive NSA spying. It talks about how Western allies colluding with the US massive apparatus.

We won’t be hearing much about it in the mainstream media, but the topic of suppressing mass movements against corporate domination must be an important one among the corporate elites as the movements against austerity, GMO giants, wars, human rights violation and etc. are increasingly becoming global.
We should keep in mind as we hear about NSA revelations that it’s often “the people” who suffer from the collusion of the corporate power, government agencies and elected officials. Behind the scene, the global elites are working hard to keep “the people” under control.

Snowden is being roundly condemned by many who say he had no authority or right to provide the public with details of NSA snooping. But what right or authority did NSA director, General Keith Alexander, have to provide information on NSA surveillance at five meetings of the global Bilderberg Conference – two in Virginia and one meeting each in Greece, Spain and Switzerland?”

“Alexander claims he is protecting the American people from a constantly changing number of terrorist attacks. In fact, he is providing information to elites on the methods NSA uses to spy on labor, student, religious and progressive organizations.”

“When Alexander leaks to the elites, he’s thanked. When Snowden does it, he’s called a traitor and a coward.

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Add Michael Hastings

This man’s death continues to haunt. Circumstances indicate it was inexplicable, and quite possibly no accident.

“It doesn’t take much to extrapolate, as Richard  Clarke did, what might happen to a hacked car driven by a high-value target. Really, with the difficulty in tracing an attack after the car, computers and driver have been “compromised” by a raging inferno, even not-so-high value targets that previously might have escaped retribution are now, thanks to technology, easy prey that might be too tempting to pass up.

One simple OnStar feature, for example, is “Stolen Vehicle Slowdown” which allows a remote operator to decelerate a vehicle. (Imagine the opposite happening via a hack of some kind.)

Although Clarke eschewed the moniker of “conspiracy theorist” and also made clear he was not necessarily claiming that Hastings’ late model, Bluetooth-ready car had been victimized by such an attack, it is notable that he felt the need to make such a strong case for considering the possibility. This is, you will recall, a man who has had a front row seat on the 50 yard line in terms of understanding the means available to govermnent operatives and the motivations that drive them.

As someone well-versed both in cyberwarfare and the tendency of people in power to “shoot the messenger” when the message is dangerous to them, the timing and veracity of Clarke’s interview stand out as chilling reminders of the dangerous games currently being played with national security, whistleblowers and investigative journalism.”
Read more at: http://newsvandal.com/2013/06/richard-clarkes-dire-warning-to-journalists/
Clarke’s HuffPo interview: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/24/michael-hastings-car-hacked_n_3492339.html
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2013/05/james_rosen_named_a_co_conspirator_why_is_barack_obama_s_justice_department.html

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Diner Almost Buys the Farm

As most regulars and some guests know, this week was difficult for the Diner as the hosting service that houses this enterprise shut the forum down, supposedly in response to a reported 75,000 database queries per hour. RE, who lived through all of this, tells it best:

It appears more likely that the old Host simply wanted me to buy a Bigger Hosting Package, based on what appears to be a fraudulent number of Database queries, quoted at around 75,000/hour, which is just insane if it is Real People and not some kind of glitch in the system or some BOT attack.  Sure, the Diner has grown here and we have a pretty decent size readership now, but not anywhere NEAR enough to generate that kind of traffic number in legitimate queries.

Thanks to the intervention of haniel and the “database cavalry,” the entire database has been mirrored, copied and even features some new Features and Widgets already installed on the new Diner. The new URL is www.doomsteaddiner.net. RE again:

This is another very important aspect of running a Website, because the Hosting Server holds ALL your Data, and they can fuck with you at will. IF YOU OWN SUCH A WEBSITE, BACKUP YOUR DATABASES ON YOUR OWN HARD DRIVE!  I was not so backed up, but fortunately for me I had Haniel who could Spoof the Security on the old Host and pull it all down.  Flick of a Switch if you get in a dispute with the Host, your website is DOWN.  You cannot access your data.   So you have to host on a Server where you have decent faith in the people who run it to be Honest & Righteous.  You don’t get that on Corporate Hosts, once you pass a certain point of Popularity, they start to Blackmail you in insidious ways to cough up moreMONEY.  Buy Paid Technical Support, Buy Bigger Hosting Packages.

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The literal meanings of places in the world, mapped.

Sometimes, it’s just for fun. From Slate this week. A pair of cartographers has created a map in which the original place names have been translated to reflect their original meanings.

From the “Misty Mountains” to “Winterfell,” the names of places in fantasy do for us what most real-world names do not: They evoke something. With their primitive literalism, they conjure a sense of dread, as in “Mount Doom” or durability, as in “Storm’s End,” or peace, as in “Rivendell.” Of course, the names of most places in the real world have meanings too, but many have slipped from common knowledge long ago. The above map, designed bycartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust, labels countries, cities, and landmarks with the literal meanings of their official names. Some places, such as “Darkpool” (Dublin) or “Land of the South Wind” (Australia) or “Sea of Middle Earth” (Mediterranean Sea) seem torn straight from a Tolkien epic. Others, such as “I Don’t Understand You!” (Yucatan, Mexico), “Tax Haven for Pilgrims” (Astrakhan, Russia), and “We’re Coming From Cutting Leaves!” (Abidjan, Ivory Coast), are more perplexing. To see further details about the etymology of the names and other maps like this, or to order printed copies, see the cartographers’ website. For more detail on places in the U.S., check out the U.S. map of literal place names.

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Dept. of “You’re Shitting Me, Right?”

http://www.newslo.com/noneedtosatirize-jennifer-lopez-sings-happy-birthday-mr-president-to-brutal-dictator/

Pop singer Jennifer Lopez appeared in a special concert Saturday night for the dictator of Turkmenistan, who runs one of the world’s most brutal and oppressive regimes.

“It was our pleasure!” she cheered from the stage. “And we wish you the very happiest birthday… Happy birthday to you — happy birthday, Mr. President.”

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who last made waves in the western media for falling off his horse in front of a large crowd, has accumulated a sordid history since coming to power in 2006.

Reporters Without Borders says that under his rule, Turkmenistan has become “one of the world’s most absolute and brutal dictatorships.” Human Rights Watch similarly classifies the country as “virtually closed to independent scrutiny,” where “human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal.”

The trip to the oil-rich former Soviet nation was organized by the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation, which Lopez reportedly “obliged” at the last moment, according to The Guardian. Her publicist told the paper that she would not have performed the show had she known about the country’s regime.

You know they LOVE this kind of talk. One wonders where are the women ready to Lysistrata on their asses.

Some women like being forced to have an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, according to former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

Republicans in state legislatures across the country have pushed legislation that requires women to undergo an ultrasound procedure 24 hours before terminating their pregnancy. The so-called “informed consent” laws usually require women to be given a picture of the fetus and be shown a fetal heartbeat, along with general information about abortion.

“The more the ultrasounds have become part of the law, where a woman gets the opportunity to see that there’s a real child, it’s beginning to change minds, and I think that’s a good thing,” DeMint said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It’s time that the 3,000 babies we lose every day have some people speaking up for them.”

Res ipsa loquitor.

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Senior Vatican cleric’s arrest for smuggling stranger than fiction

In yet another blow to the Vatican’s image, a Senior Vatican Cleric has been arrested with two others in an international money smuggling case. Sixty-one-year-old Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary. Scarano was already under investigation in a convoluted case that reads like a spy novel.

Arrested in a Rome parish and taken to Rome’s Queen of Heaven jail, Scarano had hatched a plot to bring up to $52 million into Italy for a family of shipbuilders in his hometown of Salerno in southern Italy, magistrate Nello Rossi says. Rossi is already investigating the Vatican bank for money laundering.

Scarano is under separate investigation in southern Italy in relation to his accounts in the Vatican bank.

Scarano engaged Giovanni Zito, a paramilitary Carabiniere policeman on loan to the secret services, to help him get the money last July, which was in a Swiss bank, into Italy without tax and customs controls, Rossi says.

The third person arrested was Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker with offices in Switzerland and the Canary Islands and who was acting as the fiduciary for the owners of the money.

It’s not yet known how the money got to Switzerland in the first place.

A cleric tries to help some friends, and suddenly, everyone’s a detective . . .

_____________________________________________________________________________

Add Catholic Church: Still Terrible, Still Stacking Cash So Tall They Could Climb It

Wonkette moved a story detailing this particular flavor of horrible: moving assets around so that they could insulate themselves from legal claims from victims:

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation….

[T]he files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.

Hiding your money in trust funds does indeed improve your protection of those delicious monies. Doing so to dick over victims is just what Jesus said to do in First Corinthians, right?! NOPE NOT RIGHT.

This latest bit of financial shenanigans is just one episode in the long-running series called Milwaukee Archdiocese, Why Do You Suck So Hard? Hence, our desire for a macro because Jeee-zus it gets depressing to write about this again and again. Longtime fans will remember that the Milwaukee Archdiocese filed bankruptcy back in 2011 because it was the best way to compensate victims. No really, they said that. They’ve also been whining like a baby without a bottle over the fact that they’ve spent $9 million in legal fees so far during the bankruptcy process and are therefore hobos now. Yr Wonkette is not all that money-savvy, as we have none, but even our rudimentary understanding of how money works leads us to believe that spending $9 million dollars does not make you bankrupt when you’ve already stashed a cool $57 million elsewhere. Milwaukee Archdiocese, you are like the Mitt Romney of churches and your crocodile tears are wasted on our hardened heart. Pay the victims any amount of monies they want because fuck you.

#NoNeedToSatirize: Fox News host: Not using God to sell beer means ‘the terrorists have won’

A Fox News guest host asserted on Friday that “the terrorists have won” because brewer Samuel Adams was not in invoking God in its television commercials to sell beer.

In the “Independence” television spot that began airing last month, an actor in a Samuel Adams Boston Lager commercial quotes from the Declaration of Independence.

“Why name a beer after Samuel Adams? Because Samuel Adams signed the Declaration of Independence,” the actor says. “He believed there was a better way to live: all men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Smooth, flavorful, we bow to no kings. Samuel Adams Boston lager: declare your independence.”

On Friday, the three Fox & Friends guest hosts expressed outrage that the brewer had not included the phrase “endowed by their Creator” in the commercial.

“When political correctness takes over the beer advertising industry, the terrorists have won,” said Watters, who is better known for his job as a producer on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show. “I mean, this is absolutely outrageous!”

“You know, maybe it’s because Sam Adams was the tea party guy — he started the Boston Tea Party — maybe the tea party’s being targeted here,” he added.

For its part, Sam Adams has reportedly explained that the Beer Institute Advertising Code advises against using “religion or religious themes” for marketing purposes.

But co-host Clayton Morris wasn’t buying that.

“If the beer code ethics code guideline, whatever bogus organization that is has more authority than our Declaration of Independence,” he argued, “why don’t you just pull out the Declaration of Independence and say, ‘I’ve got this document here, does this trump yours?’”

“Yeah, you can have a bikini cat fight in the pool with hair pulling and all that nonsense, but don’t put God,” Watters quipped.

___________________________________________________________

Yes, friends, you can no longer make this shit up.

Until next week, then, see you around the newly renovated Diner!

Higher Education Financialism

Off the Keyboard of RE

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

In order to resolve the BALLOONING problem of Student Debt Default, TPTB are rewriting the laws regarding how Student Loans are to be paid back, and how long it takes to finally get your debt accumulated for learning worthless information wiped off the books.

Based on the latest set of revivions to the Student Loan laws, there is now absolutely ZERO reason not to take out the biggest loans you possibly can get guaranteed by Da Goobermint to go to school and drink beer and bang coeds for as long as you possibly can.

In one fell swoop this solves the problem of Youth Unemployment and further Money Creation thru irredeemable debt. Da Goobermint nor Private Industry can figure out how to provide decent jobs for HS Grads, so instead they will now offer further loans you don’t have to pay back if you don’t get a job upon Graduation, if in fact you actually ever Graduate.

You can go get your BA, your Masters, your Ph.D, your MBA, your JD…that works up to around 16 years in Academia! Just keep taking out more Loans! Evenif you only get a job flipping burgers at Mickey Ds at the end of it (all those sheepskins will be REQUIRED for applying for the job of flipping burgers), most you gotta pay every month is $100 for 20 years, then you are Free & Clear!

Is this stupid or what? Of course it is, just provide the damn education for FREE, it would be cheaper that way. LOL. It doesn’t put more fictitious money on the Bank Balance sheets though if you do it that way.

The Higher Education meme has been the fallback principle since the beginning of the Industrial Era.  Back when the FSofA first got settled, if you actually “schooled” past around 3rd Grade level and learned to Read and Write, that was a LOT.  Many if not most people were illiterate, but if they had a patch of land to farm they did OK and could feed themselves and family.

Industrialization though brought all sorta new “Jobs”for people to do, which took not just knowing how to read and write, but Industry Specific Knowledge, which most often was Science and Math related.  To get any of these Juicy Jobs, you hadda have quite a bit more than just knowing how to read and write and add sums.

So began the Warehousing and Sifting of the population through the High Schools, where in the early years you could learn Trades as well as Prepping for College and entry into the Upper Class, if you had the Brians to make the grade in such a track.  In my era, the College Track was a highly limited one, and in NYC sieved into a few schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science. Overall, while Industrial Jobs were still available here in the FSofA, Warehousing through HS and teaching some trades in them worked pretty good.

Come the Late 70s early 80s though, those good paying jobs on the production line of GM began getting offshored to Asia, so now EVEYBODY in HS hadda go on the “College Track” for a good paying job in IT, except of course first off you only need so many drone programmers and second off plenty-o-Chindians are capable of writing decent code also.  The Capital flows toward any area the Labor is Cheapest, always in a Globalized economy.

The only high paying jobs that cannot be offshored really are the Gate kept professions in Law and Medicine, basically high end service economy jobs.  So in the current economy, if you at least have smarts enough to make it thru a Nursing Program, you might still find a decent paying job.  Chindians can’t dress Bed Sores over an Internet Medical Help Line.

In the decaying Industrial Economy, the “Jobs” such as they were are rapidly going to the Great Beyond.  The excess population here in the FSofA is being encouraged to stay in school for ever longer periods of time in Warehousing, in theory learning great skills which will lead to High paying Jobs when they get out, but by the time they actually GRADUATE (if ever), those jobs won’t be there.

It is falling apart as  model already, and this latest Kludge is just a means to prevent the TBTF Banks from having to write down the student loans they currently hold on their books.  Right now, the fact that in 20 years an unpayable student loan will have to be written off doesn’t matter, they can trade the paper as though it actually has some real value.

For J6P here, or at least his kids, this is the Bailout you all have been waiting for.  Take the Loans, you’ll never have to pay them back.  It is IRREDEEMABLE DEBT.  Go to school, stay in school as long as you can.  Accumulate Sheepskins, ad as you accumulate, apply for some obs they qualify you for.  At some point in the process, perhaps you are one of the Lucky Ones who actually GETS a job the Sheepskin qualifies you for!  If not, no worries, the massive debt you accumulate here only has to be paid off on at $100/mo for the next 20 years if you manage to get a minimum wage job flipping burgers anyhow, and will be discharged after that.  sooner too if you get a Goobermint Job, only 10 years there!
It is all  just hilarious. Sadly, I probably can’t get any of the latest loans and will have to pay for my Nursing Ticket out of Pocket Change, but if you are broke right now and out of a job, APPLY TODAY to the University program of your choice and take out the Loans up the Ying-Yang!

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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