Wall Street

Notes from the Locked Ward

rubiogc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 8, 2016

 


The remaining Americans sound-of-mind must view the primary election spectacle with mounting sensations of wonder, nausea, and panic. It’s one thing for the financial system to crack up, and another thing for social norms to disintegrate, and still another for the political system to become a locked ward of obvious psychopathology. Even the neurosurgeon on duty went narcoleptic the other night when his name was called to take the stage.

Last week’s candidate “debates” (or boasting contests) only underscored the human frailty on display. Marco Rubio was unmasked as an android with a broken flash drive. For a few moments I thought I was seeing an clip from the old movie Alien. In fact, the Republican melodrama more and more echoes the tone and plot of that story: a hapless, bumbling crew lost in space. One of these nights, something unspeakable is going to shoot out of Donald Trump’s mouth and there will be blood all over the podiums.

The Democratic boasting contest was not more reassuring. Bernie blew his biggest chance yet to harpoon the white whale known as Hillary when he cast some glancing aspersions on Mz It’s-My-Turn’s special side-job as errand girl of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks. Together, Bill and Hillary racked up $7.7 million on 39 speaking gigs to that gang, with Hillary clocking $1.8 million of the total for eight blabs. When Bernie alluded to this raft of grift, MzIMT retorted, “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.”

There was a lot Bernie could have said, but didn’t. Such as: what did you tell them that was worth over $200,000 a pop? Whatever it was, it must have made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Did it occur to you that this might look bad sometime in the near future? Is there any way that this might not be construed as bribery? And how is some formerly middle-class out-of-work average voter supposed to feel about you getting paid more for 45 minutes of flapping your gums than he or she has earned in the past five years?

Bernie could have found a gentlemanly way to say that directly, but perhaps he experienced a sickening precognitive vision of his jibes being used against the party establishment’s candidate in the fall general election. Of course, if it looked like Hillary was going to get elected, the remaining sound-of-mind in this country might be falling over each other to apply for citizenship in Uruguay.

Beyond all the political histrionics, is there not some broad recognition that whoever occupies the White House in 2017 will preside over a financial debacle like unto nothing in scale that the world has ever seen before? With all the reverberating side effects imaginable among the traumatized nations? Something wicked has been creeping through the stock markets since the year began. The velocity and damage are amping up. Credit default swap spreads are yawning like fault lines in a ‘quake. Bankers are watching their share prices collapse. It’s a wonder that panic has not already broken out.

This is not just about Wall Street and its counterparts in London, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Frankfurt. This is the financial world (and underworld) catching up with the Economy of Actual Stuff. In the USA, that economy has bled out like a hapless bystander with a sucking chest wound for the last eight years. Despite all the patriotic sanctimony on view at the Superbowl, the nation appears to be visibly cracking up, along with the fantasy of a permanent global economy.

None of the desperate work-arounds since 2008 have worked around the predicaments of our time. Politics will not abide a rational journey out of our fatal hyper-complexity to something simpler and more consistent with the realities at hand. Expect more and greater craziness as the year lurches on.

 


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.

The Agonies of Sensible People

B1_bloom_by TJ gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 25, 2016
 

 


Much as many people-who-ought-to-know-better have been enjoying the disruptive antics of Donald Trump, surely other cohorts and coteries have endured dark nights of the soul as they witness the 2016 election spin into a perfect storm of rebellion, corruption, and idiocy. Imagine the scenes in Michael Bloomberg’s drawing room the past eight months, the agonies of sensible people! And so after the close of business Friday comes news that the former three-time mayor of New York City is laying concrete plans to run for president on a third-party ticket. Extreme times call for extreme moves by non-extremists.

The Trump phenomenon is pretty well-understood: a politically paralyzed nation hostage to malign forces, mired in racketeering, captive to PC witch-hunters, and pitching into bankruptcy, turns to a TV clown with no filter on his angry brain and he acts out all the discontents of our time. Does anybody doubt that the perfidies of the day beg to be opposed? But those shadowy figures in Bloomberg’s drawing room must be saying, “is this the best we can do?” And so an honorable man steps forward. Someone had to.

A couple of gigantic problems. First, what about Bloomberg being Wall Street’s pet politician? To many, I suppose, Bloomberg is exactly that. I’m not so sure. While he made his multi-billion dollar fortune building a computerized information service for Wall Street, with a news service and some other apps pinned on, he was not a bankster. He consorted with them all the livelong day, day in and day out, for decades. Maybe that was bad enough. Maybe it also puts him at a very special advantage, since other public figures can only pretend to understand the esoteric rackets lately engineered in lower Manhattan.

For instance, Bloomberg must know what a CDO is, and how outfits like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs used them to swindle the taxpayers. I’m not convinced that Donald Trump could explain that to an audience if given an hour of airtime. He rarely speaks in two consecutive coherent sentences, for all his entertainment value. The next president will be on duty during the gravest and most powerful financial unwind in history, and it might be a good thing if he understood how it worked. He will probably be blamed for it in any case, but at least he will be a true mariner in a storm, not just a bigmouth passenger on the ship. Anyway, the salient question is whether the voters could ever accept him as something besides a tool of the banks?

The public that Bloomberg would have to appeal to has become a weird amalgam of cultural mutants, zombies, and special pleaders — Duck Dynasty and Straight Out of Compton meet The House of Wax. Worse, they are inflamed, not exactly disposed to weigh political fine points. They’re just out for blood against a system that has been bleeding them badly. Did I leave out some big wad of voters between the extremes who retain a few shreds of critical thought? I’m not sure they exist anymore. We’re about to find out in the months ahead. The group in Bloomberg’s drawing room may be deluding itself that there is any thread of clear thinking on the street outside. It would be very sad, if so.

I think it is fair to say that Michael Bloomberg’s success as the three-term mayor of New York City (2002 – 2013) was due almost completely to the financialization of the economy. A Niagara of money flowed into the city as banking ballooned from 5 percent to 40 percent of the US economy. As all the formerly skeezy neighborhoods of New York — the Bowery, the Meatpacking District, etc —got buffed up, the desolation in places like Utica, Dayton, Gary, and Memphis got worse. You might say New York City benefited hugely from all the assets stripped out of the flyover states. All of which is to say that that recent revival of New York City was not necessarily due to Michael Bloomberg’s genius. He presided over a very special moment in history when money was flowing in a particular way, and he went with flow.

For all that, it seems likely that he was also an able administrator as this occurred. A lot of out-front elements of city life improved visibly while he was around. Crime went down, the subways ran better, public spaces were improved. What would he be able to do in the compressive deflationary depression that I call the long emergency? Could he restore faith in authority? Could he comfort a battered public on the airwaves? Could he begin the awful task of politically deconstructing the matrix of rackets that has made it impossible for this country to move where history is taking us (smaller, finer, more local)?

Finally, on top of his Wall Street connection, Bloomberg is Jewish. (As I am.) Is the country now crazed enough to see the emergence of a Jewish Wall Streeter as the incarnation of all their hobgoblin-infested nightmares? Very possibly so, since the old left wing Progressives have adopted the Palestinians as their new pet oppressed minority du jour and have been inveighing against Israel incessantly. Well, that would be a darn shame. But that’s what you might get in a shameless land where anything goes and nothing matters.

For now, anyway, the real disrupter is turning out to be Michael Bloomberg. Finally a serious man enters the stage.

 

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.

The Oil Derivatives Bomb

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on December 3, 2014

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Plummeting Oil Prices Could Destroy The Banks That Are Holding Trillions In Commodity Derivatives

Panic Button - Public DomainCould rapidly falling oil prices trigger a nightmare scenario for the commodity derivatives market?  The big Wall Street banks did not expect plunging home prices to cause a mortgage-backed securities implosion back in 2008, and their models did not anticipate a decline in the price of oil by more than 40 dollars in less than six months this time either.  If the price of oil stays at this level or goes down even more, someone out there is going to have to absorb some absolutely massive losses.  In some cases, the losses will be absorbed by oil producers, but many of the big players in the industry have already locked in high prices for their oil next year through derivatives contracts.  The companies enter into these derivatives contracts for a couple of reasons.  Number one, many lenders do not want to give them any money unless they can show that they have locked in a price for their oil that is higher than the cost of production.  Secondly, derivatives contracts protect the profits of oil producers from dramatic swings in the marketplace.  These dramatic swings rarely happen, but when they do they can be absolutely crippling.  So the oil companies that have locked in high prices for their oil in 2015 and 2016 are feeling pretty good right about now.  But who is on the other end of those contracts?  In many cases, it is the big Wall Street banks, and if the price of oil does not rebound substantially they could be facing absolutely colossal losses.

It has been estimated that the six largest “too big to fail” banks control $3.9 trillion in commodity derivatives contracts.  And a very large chunk of that amount is made up of oil derivatives.

By the middle of next year, we could be facing a situation where many of these oil producers have locked in a price of 90 or 100 dollars a barrel on their oil but the price has fallen to about 50 dollars a barrel.

In such a case, the losses for those on the wrong end of the derivatives contracts would be astronomical.

At this point, some of the biggest players in the shale oil industry have already locked in high prices for most of their oil for the coming year.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

US producers have locked in higher prices through derivatives contracts. Noble Energy and Devon Energy have both hedged over three-quarters of their output for 2015.

Pioneer Natural Resources said it has options through 2016 covering two- thirds of its likely production.

So they are protected to a very large degree.  It is those that are on the losing end of those contracts that are going to get burned.

Of course not all shale oil producers protected themselves.  Those that didn’t are in danger of going under.

For example, Continental Resources cashed out approximately 4 billion dollars in hedges about a month ago in a gamble that oil prices would go back up.  Instead, they just kept falling, so now this company is likely headed for some rough financial times…

Continental Resources (CLR.N), the pioneering U.S. driller that bet big on North Dakota’s Bakken shale patch when its rivals were looking abroad, is once again flying in the face of convention: cashing out some $4 billion worth of hedges in a huge gamble that oil prices will rebound.

Late on Tuesday, the company run by Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma wildcatter who once sued OPEC, said it had opted to take profits on more than 31 million barrels worth of U.S. and Brent crude oil hedges for 2015 and 2016, plus as much as 8 million barrels’ worth of outstanding positions over the rest of 2014, netting a $433 million extra profit for the fourth quarter. Based on its third quarter production of about 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, its hedges for next year would have covered nearly two-thirds of its oil production.

Oops.

When things are nice and stable, the derivatives marketplace works quite well most of the time.

But when there is a “black swan event” such as a dramatic swing in the price of oil, it can create really big winners and really big losers.

And no matter how complicated these derivatives become, and no matter how many times you transfer risk, you can never make these bets truly safe.  The following is from a recent article by Charles Hugh Smith

Financialization is always based on the presumption that risk can be cancelled out by hedging bets made with counterparties. This sounds appealing, but as I have noted many times, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred to others.

Relying on counterparties to pay out cannot make risk vanish; it only masks the risk of default by transferring the risk to counterparties, who then transfer it to still other counterparties, and so on.
This illusory vanishing act hasn’t made risk disappear: rather, it has set up a line of dominoes waiting for one domino to topple. This one domino will proceed to take down the entire line of financial dominoes.
The 35% drop in the price of oil is the first domino. All the supposedly safe, low-risk loans and bets placed on oil, made with the supreme confidence that oil would continue to trade in a band around $100/barrel, are now revealed as high-risk.

In recent years, Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.

Most of the time the big banks are very careful to make sure that they come out on top, but this time their house of cards may come toppling down on top of them.

If you think that this is good news, you should keep in mind that if they collapse it virtually guarantees a full-blown economic meltdown.  The following is an extended excerpt from one of my previous articles

—–

For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.

At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.

It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.

Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.

The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks.  If they fail, so do the rest of us.

We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.

In fact, as I have written about previously, the “too big to fail” banks have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last recession.

At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.

If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.

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Our entire economy is based on the flow of credit.  And all of that debt comes from the banks.  That is why it has been so dangerous for us to become so deeply dependent on them.  Without their loans, the entire country could soon resemble White Flint Mall near Washington D.C….

It was once a hubbub of activity, where shoppers would snap up seasonal steals and teens would hang out to ‘look cool’.

But now White Flint Mall in Bethesda, Maryland – which opened its doors in March 1977 – looks like a modern-day mausoleum with just two tenants remaining.

Photographs taken inside the 874,000-square-foot complex show spotless faux marble floors, empty escalators and stationary elevators.

Only a couple of cars can be seen in the parking lot, where well-tended shrubbery appears to be the only thing alive.

I keep on saying it, and I will keep on saying it until it happens.  We are heading for a derivatives crisis unlike anything that we have ever seen.  It is going to make the financial meltdown of 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Our politicians promised that they would do something about the “too big to fail” banks and the out of control gambling on Wall Street, but they didn’t.

Now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching, and it is going to horrify the entire planet.

Buy the All Time High

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  November 24, 2014

Wall Street is only one of several financial roach motels in what has become a giant slum of a global economy. Notional “money” scuttles in for safety and nourishment, but may never get out alive. Tom Friedman of The New York Times really put one over on the soft-headed American public when he declared in a string of books that the global economy was a permanent installation in the human condition. What we’re seeing “out there” these days is the basic operating system of that economy trying to shake itself to pieces.

The reason it has to try so hard is that the various players in the global economy game have constructed an armature of falsehood to hold it in place — for instance the pipeline of central bank “liquidity” creation that pretends to be capital propping up markets. It would be most accurate to call it fake wealth. It is not liquid at all but rather gaseous, and that is why it tends to blow “bubbles” in the places to which it flows. When the bubbles pop, the gas will tend to escape quickly and dramatically, and the ground will be littered with the pathetic broken balloons of so many hopes and dreams.

All of this mighty, tragic effort to prop up a matrix of lies might have gone into a set of activities aimed at preserving the project of remaining civilized. But that would have required the dismantling of rackets such as agri-business, big-box commerce, the medical-hostage game, the Happy Motoring channel-stuffing scam, the suburban sprawl “industry,” and the higher ed loan swindle. All of these evil systems have to go and must be replaced by more straightforward and honest endeavors aimed at growing food, doing trade, healing people, traveling, building places worth living in, and learning useful things.

All of those endeavors have to become smaller, less complex, more local, and reality-based — rather than based, as now, on overgrown and sinister intermediaries creaming off layers of value, leaving nothing behind but a thin entropic gruel of waste. All of this inescapable reform is being held up by the intransigence of a banking system that can’t admit that it has entered the stage of criticality. It sustains itself on its sheer faith in perpetual levitation. It is reasonable to believe that upsetting that faith might lead to war. After all, a number of places organized as nation-states will be full of angry, distressed citizens clamoring for sustenance and easy answers — and quite a bit of their remaining real capital is stored in the form of things that blow up.

There is an awful lot that President Barack Obama has to answer for after all this time. But there is almost no public chatter (let alone true debate) about his failure to discipline the banking system. He should have commenced to restructure the biggest banks in January of 2009. He should have proposed through his congressional proxies the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act. Almost nobody besides Bill Black has remarked on the remarkable record of the SEC under Obama in making no criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, not to mention the stupendous dereliction of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Of course, Barack Obama is not the only eminent office holder in the land. The behavior of all the others the past decade represents such a titanic failure of nerve and action that the younger generation must think that only revolution can avail. I believe they’ll get their chance. Everything on the horizon — most particularly the idiotic chorus of financial “bulls” — points to an ever more harrowing outcome of the orchestrated pretense that governs money matters in this moment of history.

More of the moment is the anxious decision of the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury in the matter of Michael Brown’s death. The race hustlers so prominently showcased on CNN want to put over the story that there is only one possible just decision. If it doesn’t work out the way they like, this will be a bloody holiday and perhaps the beginning of something much bigger.

 

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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.

WHAT THE FED HAS WROUGHT

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 16, 2014

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The chart below might be the most powerful indictment of the Federal Reserve and our corporate fascist empire of debt ever created. Some people don’t get charts. Charts tell a story. This chart tells the story of elitist bankers supporting the agenda of a corporate fascist state, resulting in the gutting of the middle class. Anyone who views this chart in a positive manner is either a Federal Reserve banker or their paycheck is dependent upon the continuation of the pillaging of the working class. Corporate profits are at all-time highs. Profit margins have always reverted to the mean throughout modern history. If they remain at all-time highs then something is terribly wrong.

“Profit margins are probably the most mean-reverting series in finance, and if profit margins do not mean-revert, then something has gone badly wrong with capitalism. If high profits do not attract competition, there is something wrong with the system and it is not functioning properly.” – Jeremy Grantham, Barron’s

Here is the story I see in that chart. Corporate profits as a percentage of GNP have averaged 6.5% over the last 67 years. As you can see, it is a volatile figure. Corporate profits rise during expansions and fall during recessions. That has been a given over time. The reason corporate profits have always reverted to the mean was due to the basic tenets of free market capitalism. When a company is generating outsized profits, that industry will then attract new competitors, resulting in price competition and lower profits. From 1950 through 1971, corporate profits as a percentage of GNP fluctuated in a narrow range between 5% and 7%. This was a reflection of a market driven by competition, a non-interventionist Federal Reserve, and a government not captured by corporate interests.

It is no coincidence since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 and unleashed greedy bankers, feckless politicians, and self serving corporate executives to utilize easy money and prodigious amounts of debt to financialize our economic system and deform capitalism. The Fed created booms and busts are clearly evident on the chart. Nixon toady Arthur Burns created an inflationary boom in corporate profits to 8% of GNP in the late 70’s followed by the collapse to 3% caused by Volcker having to raise rates to extreme levels to crush the Burns created runaway inflation.

You can see exactly when the Maestro assumed command at the Fed and proceeded to introduce the Greenspan Put, encouraging speculation, borrowing and mal-investment. His easy money boom led to the dot com bubble that doubled corporate profits from their 1987 low. Of course the profits vaporized in an instant and plunged to 4% of GNP in 2001. Greenspan and then Bernanke  proceeded to drive interest rates to record lows creating a prodigious housing bubble resulting in the greatest level of mal-investment and financial fraud in world history. Corporate profits as a percentage of GNP skyrocketed from 4% to 10% in the space of six years. The banking cabal had captured the system.

The Fed orchestra kept the music playing and Wall Street kept dancing the rumba with their corporate CEO dates. The Keynesian acolytes were ecstatic. The Austrians warned of the impending bust. No one listened. The collapse of the worldwide financial system was portrayed by the corporate mainstream media, bankers like Dimon, corporate CEOs like Immelt, billionaires like Buffet, captured government bureaucrats like Paulson, and politicians like McCain and Obama, as a systematic risk that required a taxpayer rescue of criminals.

The $800 billion gift to bankers and mega-corporations by the Washington DC Party of captured politicians was chicken feed compared to the $3.5 trillion of newly printed fiat handed to Wall Street and corporate America by Bernanke and Yellen. Five years of 0% interest rates have impoverished senior citizens and savers, but they have done wonders for Wall Street and mega-corporation profits, along with executive bonuses. Corporate profits soared from 4.5% of GNP to an all-time high of 10.5% in the space of three years and have remained at this elevated level.

Who Needs Wage Earners Anyway?

Is it a coincidence that corporate profits as a percentage of GNP are at record highs while employee compensation as a percentage of GNP is at record lows? Is it a coincidence that employee compensation as a percentage of GNP peaked at 51% in 1971? That year certainly seems to be a turning point in U.S. economic history. Gold’s purpose as a check on statists, Keynesians, politicians, bankers, and the military industrial complex couldn’t be any clearer. The decline has multiple causes, but the storyline about technology being the major cause is patently false. My observations are as follows:

  • From the end of World War II until the mid-1970s employee compensation as a percentage of GNP was consistently between 49% and 51%. The middle class saw their standard of living rise as wages outpaced inflation, savings rates were high and led to capital investment, debt was used for long term purchases like a home or automobile, and bankers accepted deposits and made safe loans. Technological progress over the thirty years was constant, but did not result in declining wages.
  • From the moment Nixon closed the gold window, employee compensation as percentage of GNP relentlessly declined for the next quarter of a century from 51% to 44%. Over this time frame our economy deformed from a goods producing system driven by savings and capital investment into a service/financial economy built upon consumer debt, conspicuous consumption and market gambling. Our iconic mega-corporations fired Americans and hired Chinese slave laborers, lobbied for tax breaks, invested in their own stock, kept wage increases below the level of true inflation, and paid extravagant compensation packages to their Harvard MBA executives.
  • The brief upturn created by Greenspan’s irrational exuberance 90’s boom was short lived. The relentless decline resumed after the dot com collapse, even as Greenspan and Bernanke blew their epic bubble. Their financial engineering machinations on behalf of Wall Street did nothing for the average worker on Main Street. Employee compensation as a percentage of GNP declined from 47% to 44% BEFORE the financial collapse.
  • Unequivocal proof that Bernanke’s sole purpose of QE and ZIRP was to benefit his Wall Street owners can be seen in the continued decline from 44% to 42% since 2008. There has been no recovery for the average American. Wall Street is rolling in dough. Corporate America is rolling in dough. Politicians are rolling in dough. The average American worker is rolling in dog shit.

The mouthpieces for the Deep State insist corporate profits have reached a permanently high plateau. It’s another new paradigm. Just like 1929, 1999, and 2007. Jeremy Grantham is right. The system is broken. The inmates are running the asylum. But financial engineering will not work permanently.  Baijnath Ramraika and Prashant Trivedi in their outstanding article Why Jeremy Grantham is Right about Corporate Profit Margins prove that corporate gross margins have not grown, technological advancement has not been a major factor, innovation and capital investment are non-existent, and corporate CEOs have utilized one time schemes to boost profits.

There are a few major reasons for record corporate profits. The Fed’s gift to banks and mega-corporations of zero interest rates have allowed S&P 500 corporations to refinance their existing debt and take on new debt at below market interest rates. The average interest rate paid by S&P 500 companies is now at all-time lows. Any normalization of interest rates would crush corporate profits.

Even though you hear constant propaganda from the corporate MSM, corporate CEOs, and captured politicians about the dreadful level of corporate taxes, the truth is that mega-corporations are paying record low levels of actual taxes. When profits are at record highs and tax payments at record lows you know they have captured the system. “Creative” tax avoidance and the FASB allowing banks to mark their assets to fantasy have played an enormous role in record profits.

The short term oriented casino mentality of corporate CEOs can be plainly seen in the fact depreciation expense as a percentage of revenue is at 25 year lows, resulting in short term profits but long-term decline. Instead of investing in capital to increase efficiency or expand their business, greedy myopic CEOs have chosen to buy back their own stock at all-time high prices. They did the same thing in 2005 – 2007. Driving up quarterly earnings per share to boost their own stock option compensation is how it rolls in corporate America today. Investing in their workers through higher wages isn’t even a consideration. They don’t teach that in Ivy League MBA programs. SG&A expenses as a percentage of revenue have been driven to all time lows, as outsourcing, downsizing, and working people to death have done wonders for corporate profits.

Ramraika and Trivedi reach damning conclusions of corporate America, based on their detailed unbiased research:

As the world moved increasingly towards the idea of shareholder-value maximization, time horizons for management and the shareholders have shortened. As Montier shows, the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 in the 1970s was about 27 years and is down to about 15 years now. In tandem, the average tenure of CEOs is down from about 10 years in the 1970s to about 6 years now. Combine this with the incentive systems prevalent today (think stock options), and it is only logical that a CEO who is going to be around for as few as six years and is going to get a large chunk of her rewards in stock options will want to see higher stock prices.

Cutting SGA expenses and postponing capital investments — actions that carry positive short-term earnings impact at the expense of a business’ competitiveness in the long-term — look promising to managers whose payoffs depend on stock prices in the short-term. Not surprisingly, the renters (there are hardly any owners any more) clamor for just such actions. The problem with this thinking is that the long-term eventually shows up. And when it does, profit margins will have no choice but to remember their long forgotten tendency to revert to mean.

Are interest rates going to be driven lower for corporations? Are taxes going to be driven lower? How many more people can corporations fire? Have economic downturns been eliminated by the Federal Reserve? Will record profits not result in increased competition and price wars? Can wages be driven even lower?

The financial, economic and political system has been captured by corporate fascist psychopaths. The Federal Reserve has aided and abetted this takeover. Their monetary manipulations have resulted in this deformity. Psychopaths always go too far. The American middle class has been murdered. Decades of declining real wages have left them virtually penniless, in debt up to their eyeballs, angry, frustrated, and unable to jump start our moribund economy by buying more Chinese produced crap. Yellen, her Wall Street puppeteers, and the corporate titans should enjoy those record profits and record stock market highs. It won’t last. Short-term profits will be wiped out, as long-term consequences always arrive when you least expect it. The artificial boom will lead to a real depression. Luckily for the oligarchs, most middle class Americans are already experiencing a depression and won’t notice the difference.

“True, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run. They can issue additional paper money. They can open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artificial boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse soon or late and to bring about a depression.” – Ludwig von Mises

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

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Bread, iGadgets, Circuses, & Zoloft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Needs, Wants & Desires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Double Whammy

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 6, 2014

black_swan

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Over the course of the last week, we have had two MAJOR Black Swans come in for a landing.

The first one actually has been ongoing for a couple of weeks now, the collapsing price in the Oil Market, plunging from its recent “set point’ at around $90/barrel to $77 for WTI as I write this article:

The second Swan came in the form of an announcement by BoJ Chief Psycho Kuroda that the BoJ would ENGAGE Warp Drive on the Printing Press and buy up every last JGB the Nip Goobermint sells in order to meet their ever increasing need for cash.  The Yen was already sliding, this announcement however sent it on a Downhill Run worthy of an Olympic ski course.

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/11/20141103_NKY.jpg

Flip this upside down to get JPYUSD.  Nobody publishes it that way, I wonder why?

Are these two events unrelated coincidence?  Of course not.

Demand Destruction has taken hold all across the globe now, and Oil consumption is dropping everywhere.  Here in the FSoA, we’ve seen a 10% drop in gasoline consumption since 2008, and the end to this is nowhere in sight either.

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Fewer miles driven means fewer Japanese Carz sold here in the FSoA, and it is no different over in Eurotrashland, in fact it is worse over there, particularly in the PIIGS Nations.  Fewer Japanese carz sold means a ballooning trade deficit for Japan, and their trade surplus over the years is the only thing that kept them able to support ever increasing Goobermint deficits, which now have reached the Ionosphere and soon will encompass the entire solar system, including UR-ANUS.

Global Deficits in aggregate soon will reach the Edge of the Visible Universe.

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Going Where No Man Has Gone Before in Debt

kuroda-laughingWhat Psycho Kuroda-san wants to do here is devalue the Yen so far that Amerikans can by Japanese Carz for Pocket Change, and with Gas Prices dropping at the pump EVERYBODY hopes this will stimulate Demand and Happy Motoring Amerikans will once again start burning oil as fast as the Saudis can pump it out of the ground.

The Saudis themselves have promised to be the Walmart of Oil Wholesalers and sell their Oil at Low, Low Prices Every Day into the forseeable future, because they too have hefty obligations in subsidies to keep their population from rising up and beheading the Saudi Princes.  What they have lost in high prices they hope to make up for in VOLUME!

Sadly for the Saudi Royal Family, it appears they will have some difficulty getting this Oil to Market however, since they seem to have Pipelines mysteriously BLOWING UP, another mere coincidence of course.  Pipelines Blow Up regularly over there, nothing to see here, please move along.

Even if the pipelines remain intact however, it is unlikely that the Happy Motoring Amerikans are going to start increasing consumption again just because Gas Prices drop even $1/Gallon here.  Millions of formerly Middle Class Amerikans have completely dropped out of the “Workforce”, and they can’t afford to drive around willy nilly at ANY price.  They divested themselves of their cars already, and they aren’t buying enough new ones from Toyota because they can’t afford car payments either, even at ZIRP for 5 years!  Unless the newly elected Republican Majority magically starts creating Jobs that pay better than Minimum Wage, there is ZERO chance these folks will be Happy Motoring ever again.

Besides this problem on the Consumption End, there is still more Blowback from Low Oil Prices on the Extraction end just around the corner here if Low, Low Prices Every Day continue for any significant period of time, which is the enormous DEBT BUBBLE worked up by the Energy Extraction Industry here during the “Fracking Miracle”, which dimwitted Pols and Energy Shills and the Corporate Media have been selling non-stop as the Ticket to “Energy Independence”.

https://firlebeaconcelebrations.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/shale-boom_0.png

http://www.postcarbon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/cover_Drilling-Deeper_300w-2.pngDepending on the particular play and the costs involved in production, generally speaking only the very best of these plays can bring in Oil at under $80/barrel, so anyone drilling for it in less than perfect locations starts losing money with each well they drill, and the more they drill, the more they lose.  They borrow more money to keep drilling, because to stop is to realize the losses, and nobody wants to do that!  At some point though, and sooner rather than later if the prices stay below $80, the copious debt money being issued to these folks from Wall Street will stop flowing, many companies will go Belly Up and production at all but the best places will be shut in.

http://new.postcarbon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/hughes-thumb.jpgDon’t believe me?  Read the report DRILLING DEEPER from the Post Carbon Institute for 300+ Detailed pages to get a picture of this nonsense.  We will have a Podcast discussing the Drilling Deeper report with Author David Hughes up in the next couple of weeks here on the Doomstead Diner.

Don’t believe David Hughes?  Go to Bloomberg in the Heart of the MSM/Wall Street Oligopoly:

“There’s a lot of Kool-Aid that’s being drunk now by investors,” Tim Gramatovich, who helps manage more than $800 million as chief investment officer of Santa Barbara, California-based Peritus Asset Management LLC. “People lose their discipline. They stop doing the math. They stop doing the accounting. They’re just dreaming the dream, and that’s what’s happening with the shale boom.”

Will this cut the supply sufficiently to outpace the ongoing Demand Destruction and finally get Oil prices to start climbing upward again?  Eventually, it probably will, except by the time this occurs about the only people left able to afford the $200/barrel Oil still produced will be the 1% still on the Gravy Train of Funny Money from Da Fed.

Can 1% of the population pay for all the Road Maintenance, Bridge Repair and drive enough miles every day to keep Gas Stations open along their driving routes to fill up?  Of course not, this is a volume bizness, and in order to build out the whole system it required constant Growth, issuance of ever more Debt on the supposition this growth would continue in Perpetuity, which of course is an impossibility on a Finite Planet with Finite Resources.

Has the Oil Run Out here?  No it hasn’t, and it never will, but most of what is left will never come up from the rock formations it is wedged into, or deep under the sea or way up in the Arctic Ocean, where the costs for producing it are even higher than the tight oil formations in Marcellus and Eagle Ford, which already are higher than the Consumers of the Oil can afford to pay.

It doesn’t matter who gets elected into office here, the only solution to this problem is reduction in per capita energy consumption, and this will occur either through enforced rationing or “Conservation by Other Means” as Steve on Economic Undertow likes to phrase it, the reduction will occur as more and more people simply cannot afford to buy the Oil, or the products made with it.

Since most of our current economy is based on this, it has nowhere to go but DOWN now, which means fewer Jobz in this economy, lower tax receipts and further Defaults at all levels from Goobermint to Corporations to Consumers, and further Defaults means a reduction in the total Money Supply, because the money supply is entirely based on Debt and the belief that the Debt will at some point be repaid, which it will not be.  It is all IRREDEEMABLE DEBT.

Financial Gimmickry has kept this Ponzi going here for a long time, but there are some Hard Limits that gimmickry cannot fix, and one of them is Consumers who just will not BUY oil, because they don’t have the money to buy it.  This is not a “Choice” Consumers are making, it is not a “Paradox of Thrift”, the endless reams of Toilet Paper Da Fed and the BoJ are printing are not filtering out to the end consumers.  You do not have an Economy when you have Sellers but No (or really too few) Buyers.  That is Common Fucking Sense.

CALL ALAN!

It’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN now.

RE

CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER – DESPERATE MEASURES

Off the Keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 25, 2014

Black Friday riot 1

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The desperation of retailers grows by the day. I head to Wal-Mart and Giant in Harleysville every Sunday morning at 7:00 am. to do my weekly grocery shopping. I go to Wal-Mart at opening to avoid the freaks we see weekly on the People of Wal-Mart post. The workers at Wal-Mart are only a small step above the customers. They can barely communicate, rarely look you in the eye, and generally act like they are prisoners in an asylum.

I’m in winter/bad times ahead prep mode. I had a load of fire wood delivered yesterday which I wheelbarrowed to the back yard and stacked with my already decent sized stack. Last week I took an empty propane canister back to Wal-Mart to replace it with a full canister. That would give me three full propane tanks. I left the empty tank outside next to the propane cage and went in to pay. The old lady cashier with the gravelly smoker voice told me she would call for someone to get me a new tank.

I went over the cage and patiently waited for a Wal-Mart drone to come out, unlock the propane cage and give me a full tank. Two minutes, five minutes, and eventually ten minutes go by with no one coming out to help me. The cashier pokes her head out the door and shrugs her shoulders and says no one is responding to her calls. What a well oiled machine they have at Wal-Mart. Eventually the old lady abandoned her cashier post and in a painstakingly slow manner proceeded to unlock one bin after another until she found a full tank. I’m sure a line of unhappy customers were piling up at the only register in the garden center while she spent ten minutes getting me my propane tank.

A transaction that should have taken five minutes from start to finish ended up taking closer to twenty five minutes, with another five or six customers also dissatisfied with their extra long wait. This is a perfect example of how not to do business. Maybe Wal-Mart’s problems are bigger than households having less to spend. They are attempting to maintain their profit margins by reducing staff hours, hiring low quality people, and paying them shit wages. In the short run it may keep profits higher, but in the long-run customers will go elsewhere. Except most of the elsewhere stores closed up years ago when Wal-Mart arrived and underpriced them into bankruptcy.

My shopping experience at Giant is generally pleasant. The staff are nice, competent, and have been there for years. They know what they are doing and serve you with a smile. But their store is part of a worldwide conglomerate, so things have changed for the worse over the last four months. They renovated the entire store, creating bigger aisles and moving stuff around. That’s annoying, but after a while you figure out where they moved the stuff you want. The real negative change was the dreaded “Everyday Low Pricing”. This weasel phrase means you will be paying more. This is what the Apple idiot CEO – Ron Johnson – did at JC Penney. It put them on a rapid path to bankruptcy.

The weekly sale items at Giant have virtually disappeared. This has coincided with the drastic increase in beef, pork and fresh produce prices. Since “Every Day Low Pricing” went into affect our weekly grocery bill has gone up 20%. And I am buying far less beef and more chicken. In the past I would stock up on sale items and put beef, pork and whatever was on sale in our storage area freezer. Now I am stuck buying what we need that week. No bargains, just fully priced food items. Be forewarned, whenever you see a store announce “Everyday Low Pricing” you are getting screwed.

The Boos Begin in August & Bells Start Jingling in October

The desperation of Wal-Mart and most of the other mega-retail chains is no more clearly evident than in their relentlessly ridiculous acceleration of holiday marketing displays. I was flabbergasted when I saw Halloween candy, decorations and costumes in row after row BEFORE Labor Day at my local Wal-Mart. Selling Halloween candy two months before Halloween is idiotic and a sure sign of desperation. Retailers have run out of merchandising ideas. I wouldn’t even consider buying Halloween candy until the week before Halloween. Do Wal-Mart freaks of the week actually buy Halloween merchandise in September?

Holidays used to be special occasions that lent a sense of sales urgency for retailers for a week or two, to pump up sales. Now Wal-Mart and the rest of the dying retailers have Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, and Halloween displays up for 80% of the year. There is no sense of urgency to buy. From September 1 though October 31 there are rows and rows of bags of corporate produced chemicals disguised as candy. I suppose the obese masses buy this crap in anticipation of Halloween, tell themselves they’ll only take one, and then shovel the entire bag down their gullets.

So last week, still a full two weeks before Halloween, Wal-Mart had already converted their entire garden center into a Christmas wonderland of cheap mass produced Chinese cookie cutter Christmas decorations and lights that will blow out after three hours of use. They had also converted aisles at the front of the store to Christmas displays. Who the hell shops for Christmas crap in October? There is nothing like having cheap Chinese Christmas crap available for over two months to create a sense of urgency to buy. Wal-Mart and the rest of the mega-retailers have got nothin. They have no original merchandising ideas. They don’t even try anymore. They source low quality goods from China and compete solely on price. I can’t wait for the Easter candy to appear on Wal-Mart’s shelves in late December.

Black Thanksgiving

Black Friday is dead. Long live Black Thanksgiving. The riots and stampedes by the ignorant masses for toasters and HDTVs on Black Friday are now being replaced by retailers and malls across America opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving. It actually seems fitting. How better to give thanks for our mass consumption, debt financed, materialistic, iGadget addicted society than to open stores on Thanksgiving. Spending time with family is overrated anyway. If you had to spend six hours with cousin Eddie and aunt Bethany, you’d be looking forward to an early opening at Macy’s.

The bullshit message from the mega-retailers is: “We’re not opening on Thanksgiving out of desperation or greed. We’re doing it simply to satisfy the demands of our customers”. It’s a racist national holiday anyway. We should be going to an Indian run casino on Thanksgiving to make up for our past sins. Opening stores and forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving is pathetic, disgusting and a truly desperate measure in this consumer empire in decline. The law of diminishing returns has been invoked upon the mega-retailers that dominate our suburban sprawl paradise.

These retailers can start holiday merchandising three months before the actual holiday. They can open their doors on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. It’s nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture on the Titanic. We’ve allowed bankers, politicians and corporate titans to financialize our economy, gutting the once thriving middle class, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, and convincing the clueless masses that consumer goods purchased with debt is equal to wealth. But, we’ve reached the point of no return. There are 248 million working age Americans and 102 million of them are not employed. Of the 146 million working Americans, 82 million of them make less than $30,000 per year.

While retailers have added billions of square feet since 1989, real median net worth is 5% lower over 24 years. Retailers are attempting to get blood from a stone. The stone is in debt, approaching retirement with no savings and dead broke.

We have one entity that deserves the most credit for destroying the American Dream. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. The 2008 collapse was caused by the easy money bubble machine at the Federal Reserve. We had the opportunity to hit the reset button, implement rational economic and monetary policies, take our lumps, and make the banking culprits pay for their crimes. Instead, the easily manipulated masses believed the Wall Street storyline and allowed the Federal Reserve and feckless politicians to save the banking cabal with extreme money printing and debt creation. This has pushed the middle class closer to the breaking point, while further enriching the oligarchs. The Federal Reserve saved their owners and lured the masses further into debt.

The Fed, Wall Street, and Washington DC have successfully driven consumer debt to an all-time high, blasting through the $3 trillion level. Declining real incomes and rising debt are a sure recipe for success.

Our entire economic paradigm is built upon desperate measures. Zero interest rates, $3 trillion of QE, systematic accounting fraud, fudged economic data, and doling out subprime loans to auto renters and University of Phoenix wannabes have failed to revive our moribund economy. Delusions don’t die easily. But they do die. We are reaching the limit of this delusionary dream built upon debt, denial, and deception. Make sure you wolf down that Thanksgiving feast before 5:00 pm. There are HDTV’s to fight for at 6:00 pm.

Either you’re the Butcher or the Cattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 16, 2014

children-of-men

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I know many people have no interest in watching the boob tube because 99% of the programming is either mindless drivel or government sanctioned propaganda. It’s the 1% that reflects the deeper themes and moods engulfing our society. Television shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead reflect the darkening mood of this intensifying Fourth Turning. I wrote one of my more pessimistic articles called Welcome to Terminus in April regarding the season four finale of the Walking Dead series. I essentially argued we are approaching the end of the line and the world is going to get real nasty.

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In the six short months since I wrote that depressing article, we’ve seen men beheaded on Youtube videos by terrorists no one had ever heard of at the beginning of this year. Somehow a ragtag band of 30,000 Muslim terrorists, using American military equipment supplied to fight Assad in Syria and taken from the Iraqi Army when they turned tail and ran away, have been able to defeat 600,000 Iraqi and Kurd fighters with air support from the vaunted U.S. Air Force. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan descend into never ending religious based warfare. We’ve even had passenger planes mysteriously disappear in Asia with no trace.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia, initiating a plan to punish Russia by the western powers. America supported and planned the overthrow of a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, with a predictable push back response by Russia, leading to a bloody civil war in the Eastern Ukraine. We’ve had a false flag shooting down of an airliner over the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government, blamed on Russia and Putin by Obama and his EU co-conspirators. The American corporate media mouthpieces have ignored the cover-up of missing controller transmissions, black box recordings, and physical evidence regarding the murder of hundreds of innocent people by western politicians. Israel and Hamas resumed their endless religious war in Gaza, with thousands of casualties and destruction.

UK fear mongering and financial threats barely averted the secession of Scotland from the UK. Cantalonia continues to push for a secession vote to leave Spain. Violent protests have broken out in Spain, Italy, France and even Sweden. Turmoil, protests and riots in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have been driven by anger at political corruption, high inflation, and general economic dysfunction. Saber rattling between China and Japan has increased and young people in Hong Kong have been protesting the lack of democratic elections being permitted by China. The world economy, undergoing central bank monetary stimulus withdraw, is headed back into recession as Germany, China and the U.S. join the rest of the world in economic decline. And now the Western Africa outbreak of ebola has gone worldwide, with predictions of an epidemic potentially causing worldwide economic chaos.

What’s happening in the real world makes the dystopian zombie world of Walking Dead seem almost quaint. The writers of this show brilliant use of symbolism and imagery captures the violent, chaotic, inhumane, darkening, brutal world we inhabit as the Fourth Turning crisis period we entered in 2008 deepens on a daily basis. There is a good reason why the first episode of their fifth season drew the biggest cable TV audience in history. The show is clearly tapping into the mood of the masses. Early in the latest episode you realize Terminus has become a processing center run by cannibals. The line between victim and criminal, killer and prey, good and evil, madness and sanity, and moral and immoral is blurred. Everything is relative in the post-pandemic world of the Walking Dead.

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Seeing Wall Street cannibals walk away unscathed after devouring the worldwide economic system in 2008 with their fraudulent financial schemes, corrupt politicians enriched by throwing taxpayers under the bus, militarized police forces trampling the Fourth Amendment, the NSA spying on every American, a private central bank enriching their owners by funneling trillions into their bank vaults, a president trampling on the Constitution by issuing executive orders to bypass the other branches of government, and billions of welfare and tax fraud from the urban ghettos to the penthouse suites in NYC, has convinced a large swath of Americans that everything is relative and nothing matters in our warped dystopian world. Right and wrong no longer matter. Morality is an antiquated concept. Adhering to the Constitution is an outmoded notion. Our society celebrates and condones our dog eat dog economic paradigm. Or zombie eats anything world in the case of Walking Dead.

The Terminus complex is reminiscent of the concentration camp in Schindler’s List. It is complete with railroad cars to hold the prisoners, gates with barbed wire, armed guards, and extermination facilities to “process” the prisoners. Thick black smoke belches into the air. There is a room stacked full of booty, teddy bears, watches, clothes – everything except the gold fillings.The Nazi like precision and attention to detail is reflected in the almost business-like method in which the Terminus administrators go about gutting their prey. The bone chilling efficiency and antiseptic processing facility evoke memories of the holocaust gas chambers. The opening sequence when Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob are among a group of men lined up to be gutted like pigs over a trough in place to collect their spilled blood, might have been the most brutal scene ever put on non-premium cable TV.

The callous and dispassionate way in which the prisoners (cattle) are lined up in front of a stainless steel trough is disconcerting and bone chilling. The victims are hit with a baseball bat and then their throats are slit over the trough by men in protective suits. They have become nothing but cattle to be butchered and consumed by the Terminus cannibals. You see another part of the processing plant where human remains are hanging from hooks like sides of beef. Gareth, the leader of Terminus, supervises the operation like a CEO, berating the butchers for not meeting quotas and following standard operating procedures. Not much different than how our mega-corporations are run today.

thewalkingdead_season5_trailer

The other fascinating similarity between the dystopian “nightmare of want” setting of Terminus and our modern day dystopian “empire of excess” is the use of false advertising and propaganda to lure “customers” into their web. Their version of billboard advertising was plywood with the hand written messages of “Sanctuary for All”, “Community for All”, and “Those Who Arrive Survive”. The Terminus cannibals would have fit in well on Madison Avenue with the highly paid spin artists, propagandists, and whores for the corporate oligarchs.

The signs along train tracks and radio transmissions from a call center like facility showed the calculated business-like efficiency of the cannibals in systematically and methodically luring victims to their slaughterhouse. It is the same techniques used by the apostles of Edward Bernays to consciously and intelligently manipulate the habits, opinions, tastes, ideas and actions of the masses, in order to control and influence their buying habits, voting decisions, and support of their rulers. The unseen men who constitute the “invisible government” use these techniques to keep the cattle docile, fed, and ignorant, as they are led to slaughter.

The government and lack thereof is always lurking in the murky background of how and why the United States has devolved into an infected world of the walking dead. This episode provided some clues about government labs producing viruses as weapons to be used against some unexplained enemy. The insinuation is that the government somehow lost control of the virus and the ensuing pandemic destroyed our modern world and left the survivors to battle the biters and each other for the remaining scraps. The Federal government caused the societal collapse and is nowhere to be found in rebuilding the nation.

It is unclear how the apocalypse went down, but you can assume it began with fear, which led to panic, chaos, economic collapse, violent upheaval, war, and total breakdown of governmental authority and control. It is ironic that today fear of a worldwide ebola pandemic is coinciding with an inevitable economic implosion, wars raging in the Middle East, violent protests raging around the globe, and trust in governmental authority plunging to all-time lows. The Walking Dead has wittingly or unwittingly captured the ambiance of our turbulent times.

When you are faced with desperate circumstances you can either do whatever you need to survive or you can submissively accept your fate and die. Gareth and his cannibalistic cohorts had been in the same situation as Rick and his posse, but they had somehow turned the tables on their captors. Gareth’s survival of the fittest creed was “either you’re the butcher or you’re the cattle”. Human beings react to intense pressure and life threatening situations in different ways. Some people snap and turn into monsters, like Gareth. Some people snap and lose their minds. Others, like Rick and Carol, summon an inner strength to do whatever it takes to survive while barely maintaining their humanity. Others turn into blind followers of a strong forceful leader, not questioning the morality, legality or humanity of what they are ordered to do. The line between right and wrong, necessary versus unnecessary, vengeance versus justice, and butcher versus cattle is blurred in a world without rules, government or accepted norms.

I believe the “butcher or cattle” analogy is sadly a valid meme for the world we currently inhabit. In the Walking Dead world, individuals must choose to be butcher or cattle. It’s a Darwinian world of kill or be killed. Like minded individuals with common values and goals form communities to protect themselves, provide for themselves, and attempt to bring a semblance of order in a chaotic world. The community of Westbury, led by the governor and the community of Terminus, led by Gareth, are founded upon a foundation of evil and ultimately destroyed. Rick’s community of liberty minded freedom fighters do whatever is necessary to survive, but retain their humanity, decency and desire to create a better world.

Our present day world may not be as brutish as the Walking Dead world, though the line between reality and fiction is often indistinguishable when you turn on the news, but the distinction between butchers and cattle is clear. The elected and non-elected rulers of the deep state are the butchers, sending young men off to die for oil companies and arms dealers, impoverishing the masses through inflation and their control of the currency, and enriching themselves through their complete control of the political, financial, judicial, and economic systems. This establishment, or invisible government as Bernays described, is committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. Its scope, financial resources, and global reach put it in a predator class all by itself.

The common people are the cattle being led to slaughter. We are kept docile with incessant propaganda from the mainstream media; marketing messages to consume from Madison Avenue; filtered, adjusted, manipulated economic data fed to us by government agencies; an endless supply of iGadgets and other electronic distractions; government education designed to keep us ignorant; 24/7 reality TV on six hundred stations to keep us entertained; corporate toxic processed food to keep us obese and tame; and an endless supply of Wall Street supplied debt to keep us caged in our pens with no hope of escape. The butchers of the deep state have maintained control for decades, but we’re entering a new era.

Fourth Turnings result in the tables being turned on the butchers. Some cattle are awakening from their stupor. They can see the bloody writing on the slaughterhouse wall. Anyone who isn’t sensing a dramatic mood change in this country is either a mindless zombie or a functionary of the deep state. The financial shenanigans of the ruling class are again being revealed as nothing but a Ponzi scheme built on a foundation of debt and propped up by delusions and ignorance. When the house of cards collapses in the near future, the tables will turn. When people have nothing left to lose, they will lose it. The butchers will become the cattle. There will be no sanctuary for these evil men. Their reign of terror will be swept away in a whirlwind of retribution, death and destruction. It might even make the Walking Dead look like a walk in the park.

 

Ebola Double Feature

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on 10/15/2014 & 10/17/2014

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If A Few Ebola Cases Can Make The Stock Market Crash This Much, What Would A Full-Blown Pandemic Mean?

Stock Market Crash Ebola - Public DomainIs Ebola going to cause another of the massive October stock market crashes that Wall Street is famous for?  At one point on Wednesday, the Dow was down a staggering 460 points.  It ultimately closed down just 173 points, but this was the fifth day in a row that the Dow has declined.  And of course Ebola is one of the primary things that is being blamed for this stunning stock market drop.  Since September 19th, we have seen the S&P 500 fall about 7 percent and the Nasdaq fall nearly 10 percent.  The VIX (the most important measure of volatility on Wall Street) shot up an astounding 22 percent on Wednesday.  So many of the ominous signs for the markets that I wrote about on Tuesday are now even worse.  If a handful of Ebola cases in the United States can cause this much panic in the financial world, what would a full-blown pandemic look like?

Of course Ebola is not the only reason why stocks are declining.  Just look at what is happening over in Europe.  The European Stoxx 600 index is already down a whopping 11.4 percent from the high that it hit just 18 days ago.  That is officially considered to be “correction” territory.

And Greece experienced a full-blown stock market collapse on Wednesday

As if the world didn’t have enough to be worried about (ISIS, Ebola, slowing China, Ukraine, slowing Germany, Fed tightening, etc.) now look what’s back: Greece. And in a big way.

The stock market is down over 9% on Wednesday, which is about as big as crashes come.

And the banks are getting absolutely smashed.

In general, markets tend to fall faster than they rise.

When there is a sudden downturn, the price action can be violent.  And just like we saw back in 2008, financial stocks are leading the way.  Just check out what happened to some of the biggest banks in America before the final bell sounded…

Volume leader Bank of America, down 5%, Citigroup, off 5.5%, and JP Morgan, down 4.6%, were particularly hard hit.

And thanks to Ebola fears, airline stocks plummeted as well

Airline stocks were roiled by the prospects of curtailed travel due to the spreading Ebola virus. United Continental fell 4% and American Airlines was off 4.3%. Among tech stocks, Intel lost 3.3%. Apple fell 1.7% and Microsoft slipped 2.3%.

An increasing number of voices are concerned that we could be on the verge of a repeat of what happened back in 2008.

For example, Professor Steve Keen, the head of Economics, History & Politics at Kingston University in London, wrote the following in a piece for CNN entitled “Brace yourself for another financial crash“…

My acceleration indicator has been flagging that the stock market was due for a fall since mid-2013.

It’s a tribute to the power of the Fed’s Quantitative Easing that the market continued to defy the gravity of decelerating debt for so long. QE was really a program to inflate asset prices since, as my colleague Michael Hudson puts it, “the Fed’s helicopter money fell on Wall Street, not Main Street”.

But with QE being unwound, the stock market is now back under the control of the not so tender mercies of excessive private debt.

So welcome to the New Crisis — same as the Old Crisis. The roller coaster ride is likely to continue.

Others are even more pessimistic.  For example, just check out what Daniel Ameduri of Future Money Trends recently told his readers

“If it drops below 15,000 points I would suggest people start buying food and ammo, because this depression is about to turn nasty.”

However, keep in mind that not that much has really changed from a month or two ago.

Yes, we now have had three confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States, but this could be just the beginning.

At first, the fear of Ebola will be worse than the disease.

But if a worst-case scenario does develop in the United States where hundreds of thousands of people are getting the virus, the fear such a pandemic will create will be off the charts.

In the midst of a full-blown Ebola pandemic, we wouldn’t just be talking about a 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent stock market decline.

Rather, we would be talking about the greatest stock market collapse in the history of stock market collapses.  In essence, there would not be much of a market at all at that point.

And if Ebola does start spreading wildly in this country, we would have a credit crunch that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

During times of extraordinary fear, financial institutions do not want to lend money to each other or to consumers.  But our economy is entirely based on debt.  If credit were to stop flowing, we would essentially not have an economy.

That is why we need to pray that this Ebola crisis stops here.  But thanks to the incompetence of Barack Obama and the CDC, there has been a series of very grave errors in trying to contain this disease.  This display of incompetence would be absolutely hilarious if we weren’t talking about a disease that could potentially kill millions of us.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.  That means stocking up on the food and supplies that you will need to stay isolated for an extended period of time.  As we have seen so many times in the past, basic essentials fly off of store shelves during any type of an emergency.  During an extended Ebola pandemic, those essentials would be in very short supply and prices on the basics would absolutely skyrocket.  Those that have taken the time to get prepared now will be way ahead of the game.

And if there were dozens or hundreds of people in your community that were contagious, you would definitely not want to go to a grocery store or anywhere else where large numbers of people circulate.

The key during any major pandemic is to keep yourself and your family isolated from the virus.  This is basic common sense, but it is something that Barack Obama does not seem to understand.  As I write this, he still has not done anything to restrict air travel between the United States and West Africa.  Hopefully this very foolish decision will not result in scores of dead Americans.

 

Ebola Travel Ban Now!

Ebola Travel Ban - Public DomainIs Barack Obama completely insane?  By not instituting an immediate ban on all non-essential travel between the United States and West Africa, he is putting the lives of more than 300 million Americans at risk.  Anyone with a shred of common sense knows that you keep more people from getting sick by keeping the sick people away from the healthy people.  Because the Ebola outbreaks in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are raging out of control, it is extremely difficult to tell who is carrying Ebola and who is not carrying Ebola.  Therefore we need to keep everyone from those countries away until those outbreaks subside.  If Barack Obama had established an Ebola travel ban a month or two ago like he should have done, Thomas Eric Duncan would never have entered the United States, and we would not have two Texas nurses infected with the virus.  But because Barack Obama did not do his job, now we have a new Ebola scare popping up somewhere in the country almost hourly.  If this outbreak eventually evolves into a full-blown pandemic, we will know who to blame.

Will an Ebola travel ban work?

It has worked in Africa.  Even as the outbreaks in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have spread like wildfire, the nations immediately bordering them are doing just fine.  And there is one primary reason why this is the case…

Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, all of which share borders with at least one of the three most affected countries, have closed those borders.

At this point, nearly 30 countries have instituted an Ebola travel ban.

So why won’t Obama do it?

This is clearly what the American people want.  For example, one recent survey asked the following question…

Should the government allow people who have recently been in any of the countries in western Africa where there is a major Ebola outbreak to enter the United States?

Only 23 percent of respondents said yes to that question.

We aren’t talking about the flu or the measles or some other disease that we are accustomed to dealing with.

We are talking about a brutally efficient killer that could kill millions of us if it were to spread widely inside the United States.

Sadly, at this point Barack Obama and the CDC are dead set against a travel ban, and there are “experts” popping up all over the mainstream media explaining to us why an Ebola travel ban would be a bad idea.

They say that a travel ban would provide a “false sense of security”.

Of course they never mention that travel bans are working quite well in Africa.

They say that a travel ban would make the Ebola outbreaks worse by keeping people from going over there to help.

But very few people are suggesting that essential medical personnel should be banned from traveling.  So that argument makes no sense whatsoever.

They say that travelers would just find another way into this country, and that it is better for us to be able to screen them when they come through the airports.

What are they going to do?  Swim over here from West Africa?

If we ban all sea and air travel from those nations, the only way that they would be able to come in would be through the Canadian or Mexican borders.  And if Obama had secured those borders like he should have done by now, we wouldn’t have a problem.

Some “experts” are even suggesting that a travel ban would be “racist”.

Really?

What about all of the other African nations that have instituted Ebola travel bans?

Are they “racist” too?

Right now, the dead bodies of Ebola victims are decaying in the streets over in West Africa.  Ebola corpses are being dumped into rivers and are being eaten by animals.  Grave diggers can’t keep up with the number of bodies being delivered to them.  The Liberian government estimates that it will soon need more than 84,000 additional body bags as the death toll climbs at an exponential rate.

We don’t want that coming here.

But thanks to Obama, most Americans now believe that we will see a major Ebola outbreak in the United States during the coming year…

According to a Wednesday poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, 52 percent of Americans surveyed said they believe the country will experience a large outbreak in the coming year, while 38 percent said they believed they or a family member would be infected.

In a previous article, I blamed the current state of affairs on Obama’s incompetence.

But to be honest, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.

The truth is that Obama being incompetent is the best case scenario.

There is also a possibility that Donald Trump has raised.  We could actually be looking at a situation where there is something wrong with his mental health

Thursday on NewsMax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show,” real estate mogul Donald Trump called into question President Barack Obama mental health for refusing enact a travel ban on commercial flights from West African nations suffering with the Ebola outbreak.

When Malzberg asked if Trump, who had tweeted that the president was “psycho” for not stopping the flights, stands by questioning Obama’s mental health, Trump doubled down saying, “There is something wrong, and nobody knows what it is, but there is something wrong. There are so many bad decision. Can anybody be that incompetent? There is something wrong.”

Others have suggested that Obama may even be doing this on purpose.

Whatever his motivation is, the truth is that he is endangering all of us and our families.

Meanwhile, the CDC also richly deserves all of the criticism that it is currently getting.

This is an agency that is absolutely showered with money.  It gets more than $6,000,000,000 a year, and it is supposed to be preparing our health care system for events such as this.

And without a doubt, the money is in their budget

This lack of response is despite having these line items in its budget (2012 numbers):

  • Quarantine (non-add) $25,866,000
  • Healthcare-Associated Infections – PPHF (non-add) $11,750,000
  • Workplace Wellness – PPHF $10,000,000
  • Surveillance, Epidemiology, and PH Informatics $262,129,000
  • Personal Protective Technology $16,791,000
  • State and Local Preparedness and Response Capability $657,418,000
  • Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund Transfer (non-add) $30,000,000

How much of these funds were used to monitor, consult, advice the nurses in Dallas who were treating a man with deadly Ebola? $0.00

“Incompetent” is far too kind a word to describe the performance of the CDC so far.

But of course this is just par for the course for federal agencies these days.  This has become so glaringly obvious that even CNBC is talking about it…

The CDC is just the latest in a line of federal agencies viewed as bumbling and incompetent. First it was the botched rollout of Obamacare by the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS seemingly targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny. More recently, the Secret Service came under heavy criticism for allowing a knife-wielding intruder to burst in and run wild inside the White House, among other appalling lapses.

The CDC now is under heavy scrutiny for not moving more swiftly to ensure that Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan did not spread the disease to American nurses and for apparently unclear direction to one of those nurses, Amber Joy Vinson, about whether she could fly after treating Duncan.

As political pressure has mounted, Obama has finally made a “big move” to get a grip on this crisis.

He has appointed an “Ebola czar” to oversee the federal response to Ebola.

His name is Ron Klain, and he is a Democratic political hack best known for his work during the “hanging chads” episode of the 2000 presidential election.

The White House says that they were not looking for an expert on Ebola.

Mission accomplished.

The “Ebola czar” heading up the response to what could be the greatest health crisis in U.S. history does not know anything about the virus.

Let us hope that this Ebola outbreak fizzles out somehow and that by some miracle no more Ebola victims travel to the United States.

Because it has become exceedingly clear that our government is not equipped to deal with something like this.

Matt Drudge recently sent out a tweet warning that we need to be ready to “self-quarantine” if necessary.

I think that is very good advice.  Obviously the government is not going to be able to protect us if Ebola starts spreading like wildfire.

The only people that you are going to be able to depend on are yourself, your family and your close friends.

I encourage all of you to get prepared while we still have time.

Twin Peaks: Stock-Market Fear, Oil Panic

From the keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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This is where stock and gas prices are going. To see the panic index, read from right to left.

This is where stock and gas prices are going. To see the panic index, read from right to left.

First published at The Daily Impact  October 14 2014

 

Gasoline is below three dollars a gallon and the stock market is at an all-time high. Well, yes, that was last week but still. What could be wrong with this picture? Like a face that has had way too many plastic surgeries, this one is stretched a little thin, with eyes bugged out and droplets of sweat all over it. The market, which all concerned promised would go up and up and never come down (Does anybody remember them saying the same thing about real estate? Anybody?) has lost 7% of its value in a week and, yesterday at least, could not pull out of the nose dive. A 10 percent drop is a correction. Twenty percent is a crash. And the low gas prices are being celebrated by everyone but the frackers who brought them to us. For them, low oil prices mean almost-immediate ruin.

The stock market stampede has not yet begun in earnest, but the lightning strikes are getting closer, the thunder louder, and the bulls are getting ready to run. The latest signs and portents:

  • The Volatility Index (the extent to which the bulls are running around in panicked circles) has gone up 80% so far this year — 60% just in the past week.
  • CNN’s aptly named Fear and Greed Index, which goes from 0 (total panic) to 100 (unrestrained exuberance) is at 1.
  • Bloomberg reports that the world’s 400 richest people lost $70 billion from their cumulative net worth last week. OK, hold the tears of sympathy if you must, but as Everett Dirksen used to say, a billion lost here, a billion vaporized there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.
  • The Price/Earnings Ratio — the price of the stock compared with the profits of the company — is at 26x, its highest value in 135 years with the exception of just before the crashes of 1929 and 2000.

Meanwhile, there’s panic in the fracking patch, because nobody was making any money when oil was selling at $100 a barrel, and now it’s at $80 and diving.

To be clear: the frackers have been showing profits on their P&L statements — lots of them — but it’s the balance sheet you have to look at to understand that they are borrowing so much money to build so so many more wells that they are drowning in debt. The number of fracking wells has quadrupled in five years, to more than 1300. The frackers aren’t doing this because they want to — they have to, because the wells play out in four to five years. As Bloomberg Businessweek puts it, “US Oil Producers May Drill Themselves into Oblivion.”

The 60 fracking companies (almost all of them) that Bloomberg tracks, in the year ending June 30,  spent an average of $1.17 for every dollar they earned. It’s the oldest joke in retail; if you lose money on each unit you sell, you make it up with volume. The frackers no longer think it’s funny; they have racked up $50 billion in debt in just three years, and are now carrying $190 billion, most of it raised with junk bonds.

Keep in mind that these less than stellar results were achieved in a period when oil was selling at $100 and more. Now that it seems headed south from $80, even the nominal, paper profits are going away and all these operators, who were teetering at the edge of solvency in the good times, are going to be toppling into the swamp very quickly.

But wait there’s more. Because of the ugly decline rates of these wells — they play out in about four years — the operators are going to have to drill more wells in the next three years than they did in the last three, just to stay even. That means they will need to borrow much more money. (Um, is there a classification below “junk?”)

When fracking hears that the stock market’s crashing, and the market hears that fracking is crashing, there will be nothing left for them to do but get in their Mustang convertible, join hands, and enjoy a Thelma and Louise moment.

 

 

***

 

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

 

 

Bread, Circuses & Bombs

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on September 22, 2014

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BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

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

Juvenal – Satire (100 A.D.)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultural Stupidity: You Can’t Make This Shit Up

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 23, 2014

alibaba

Also don’t miss the recent Podcast with Ugo Bardi & Jim Laughter

Narratives of TEOTWAWKI

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Snippet:

http://rack.2.mshcdn.com/media/ZgkyMDEzLzEyLzAzLzIzL0FtYXpvbkRyb25lLjkzMmVkLnBuZwpwCXRodW1iCTYwMHgzMzgjCmUJanBn/054f4e96/98d/AmazonDrone_Screenshot_5.jpg…You can file this particular rant under the category of Cultural Stupidity.

I cruise around the Internet on a daily basis, occupying my waking hours far more than is healthy or reasonable for any Homo Sapiens. I read an incredible amount of COMPLETE GARBAGE in order to try to sift out a few Nuggets of TRUTH about WTF is going on here as Industrial Civilization spins down the Toilet. It’s a Thankless Task, and few people appreciate the amount of dedication it takes to subject yourself daily to Internet Garbage and Disinfomation in order to make some fucking SENSE out of this Clusterfuck.

What inspires this particular Rant is an Ad that popped up on I think it was Zero Fucking Hedge from Gillete, the Razor Blade people. Did you know it is now possible to buy a fucking SUBSCRIPTION for Gillete Razor Blades and have them delivered to your doorstep weekly? Why buy Razor Blades at Walmart when a Drone will drop them off at the fucking bathroom sink if you open the door to let the Drone in? Fuck the doorstep here, get the damn blades dropped down right next to the fucking Razor and can of Shaving Cream! Why expend all that effort carrying the Razor Blades from the Doorstep to the fucking Bathroom Sink if you don’t have to?…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

The Big Lies Get Bigger

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on August 13, 2014

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Consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. The government apparatchiks, corporate media propagandists, and the Wall Street shysters assured the masses that the negative GDP in the 1st quarter and dreadful retail sales were solely the result of harsh winter weather, as if the weather in the winter is ever good. They were absolutely unequivocally sure that retail sales would soar once Spring arrived.

The thing about retail sales is they aren’t lost. If you are snowed in for a few days and can’t buy that new pair of shoes, they’ll be there next week. The reality is if poor retail sales are really the result of weather, there is pent up demand that will be satisfied when the weather improves. In addition, harsh winter weather should increase the sales of items used to deal with harsh winter weather, shovels, salt, winter coats, long johns, etc.

So here we are in July. Retail sales have been essential flat for the last three months. There has been no rebound. There has been no surge. When inflation is taken into consideration, real retail sales are falling. But still the stock market rises. It rises because it has nothing to do with reality. The average American is far poorer today than they were at the depths of the recession in 2009. Real wages continue to fall, despite the bullshit about a jobs recovery.

The shit dumped by the media and the government is so deep, you need hip boots to wade through it. The reality is the .1% have been enriched by the Federal Reserve at the expense of the 99.9%. Retail sales will continue to stagnate, as the prices for energy, food, healthcare, tuition, clothing, and services rise relentlessly, along with taxes from local, state, and federal governments.

The oligarchs are using the exact same game plan that blew up in 2008 – dole out gobs of consumer debt (auto, student) and try to convince the ignorant masses they are wealthier because they are driving a new GMC Yukon with a 0% down, o% interest, 7 year loan. The megacorps use the free money from the Fed to buy back their stock, pumping their EPS and the stock bonuses of the executives, while laying off thousands, and distributing 2% raises to the plebs. The Too Big To Trust Wall Street titans take the free candy from the Fed, use their HFT supercomputers, and rig the markets with trillions in derivatives of mass destruction. The raping and pillaging of the middle class will continue until there is nothing left but bleached bones.

This Wall Street fantasy world is interrupted every day with anecdotes from the real world, but the willfully ignorant public enjoys believing the lies as their normalcy bias overcomes their own eyes.

Macy’s is supposed to be one of the successful retailers in the country and their earnings report was nothing but PR maggot spin and misinformation. The huge headline was their earnings per share rose by 11%. That sounds really impressive. You have to go deep into their propaganda press release to find out their profit actually went up a pitiful 3.9%. They spent millions buying back their stock. Brilliant move considering the stock cratered by $4 per share today. They announced same store sales growth of 3.4%, but in a little footnote say this includes on-line sales. Their on-line sales are growing strongly and their bricks and mortar is dying. They are closing stores and firing people.

Retail stocks are down 4% this year, while the S&P 500 is up 5%.As you can see in the chart Department stores (Macys, Sears, Kohls, JC Penney) and general merchandise stores (Wal-Mart, Target) are sucking wind with sales collapsing in July. So much for that back to school surge.

JC Penney will report another huge loss later this week. Wal-Mart will report shitty results as their customers are the ignorant masses. Retail is dying a long arduous slow death. It will not reverse itself. Americans are using their credit cards to pay for utilities, gas, taxes, and everyday bills. This Federal Reserve created Bubble 2.0 is going to cause havoc when it bursts because it has engulfed stocks, bonds, and housing simultaneously.

Does anyone with two brain cells actually believe we are having a housing recovery with mortgage applications at 14 year lows? Mortgage rates have fallen for the last year, as mortgage applications have plummeted. That is a sure sign of a strong health housing recovery and really bodes well for home furnishing, building materials, appliance, and electronics retailers.

Retail sales have missed expectations to the downside in 8 of the last 12 months. But, Jim Cramer assures us this is about to change. All is well. The future is bright. Jobs are plentiful. Consumers are confident. The stock market is at all-time highs. There is cash on the sidelines. Subprime loans are going to invigorate consumer spending. The deadbeats won’t default this time. They promise.

So the recession ended in 2009 according to TPTB. Shouldn’t year over year changes in retail sales be accelerating rather than declining since 2010? The unemployment rate, according to the geniuses at the BLS, has fallen from 9.6% in 2010 to 6.2% today. This should have spurred a huge spending spree by all the joyous employed people. What happened? The 9 million people who “willingly” left the workforce surely have plenty of leisure time to shop. The same government drones at the BLS also tell us that prices have only risen by 8.5% over the last four years, so paying more for food, energy and healthcare surely hasn’t deterred discretionary spending. Right?

Again, anyone critically assessing the bullshit heaped upon the public by the government, Fed, media, corporatacracy, and banking cabal realizes everything is a Big Lie. Just examining the highly manipulated and seasonally adjusted data reveals a number of truths:
  • Total retail sales have grown by 3.7% in the last year. People with their eyes open know that inflation is above 5%, so real retail sales are falling.
  • The total is skewed higher by the 8.1% increase in auto “sales”. Again, those awake to the truth know that leasing a car counts as a sale, financing a car for 7 years counts as a sale, and subprime loans to deadbeats who will default counts as a sale. Orwell would be proud.
  • Excluding the renting of cars to millions of Americans, retail sales have grown by a pitiful 2.7% in the last year, well below the true rate of inflation.
  • Furniture, appliance and electronics stores have negative sales over the last three months and essentially flat on a year over year basis. This proves the housing recovery meme is a complete fraud and the home price increases have been driven solely by Wall Street hedge funds using free money from the Fed to pump prices and bailout the Wall Street banks with billions of toxic mortgages on their books.
  • If so many jobs are being created why would clothing sales only be up 1.4% in the last year? Don’t newly employed people need clothes? Maybe they don’t, since most of the jobs are fry cook jobs at McDonalds and Burger King.
  • Sporting goods stores and department stores are filled with discretionary products and both classes of retail are in absolute freefall. Negative 3% to 4% annual sales are disastrous, considering inflation at 5% or higher. This trend assures thousands more retail locations will be shuttered over the next year. Look for more SPACE AVAILABLE signs in a mall near you.
  • Even restaurant sales have peetered out as the obese masses can’t afford the latest Applebees special. The 4.6% annual increase is almost entirely due to rampant food inflation that has caused restaurants to increase prices and reduce portions.
  • Lastly, even the glorious on-line future of retailing has hit a snag. Maybe Amazon stock at $327 isn’t a bargain after all. Online sales FELL month over month and have only risen by 6.7% in the last 12 months. The rate of growth in this category was 15% to 20% for years. The bricks and mortar retailers funded campaigns in all states to impose sales taxes on internet retailers. They’ve succeeded in reducing internet sales while continuing to see negatives sales in their bricks and mortar stores, with the added benefit of depleting consumers of more disposable income and handing billions more to government drones to waste.

So the pundits and propagandists for the ruling class continue to perpetuate the Big Lie of economic recovery, while the evidence in the real world proves it is a lie. Luckily for the oligarchs, if you trot out an “expert” with a degree from Harvard or an important title and instruct him to tell the people all is well and they are getting wealthier by the day, a large portion of the willfully ignorant will believe him. Another portion are so deficient in math skills and the ability to understand any financial concept, they wouldn’t understand anything they are told. The rest of the population is twittering, facebooking, instagramming, texting, or watching the Kardashians.

You will be fascinated to know that Kim (blowjob) Kardashian has 20 million twitter followers and is publishing an entire book of her selfies. She is our modern day John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway. So it goes.

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.

Wall Street has Always Been Corrupt…

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on May 14, 2014

…or about to be corrupted

Discuss this article at the Market Flambe table inside the Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth Shall Make You Mad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Lewis described the encounter shortly thereafter in an interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial WWIII

Off the Microphone of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 17, 2014

 

Snippet..

…The KEY here is the control of the Credit Creation apparatus basically centered on Wall Street and the City of London. There are other ancillary credit manufacturing franchises in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Frankfurt, but the fact is all these places are beholden to the Demigods on Wall Street and the City of London.

For countries that are outside this apparatus, these days it is almost impossible for them to create their own Organic Credit system, this is why everybody doesn’t just Jump Ship off the Dollar tomorrow. The creation of this system took CENTURIES to develop, along with the Legal System that is attached to it that defines which contracts will be honored and under what set of laws, which actually vary somewhat between the City of London and Wall Street. Bad as Wall Street is with this shit, the City of London plays even more fast and loose with it, so you really have a bigger and more unstable House of Cards over there than on the Wall Street side of the Pond, though both are ridiculous Ponzis at this point and if either one goes, the other one goes with it…

For the rest, listen to the RANT!

RE

Forward Guidance

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  April 7, 2014

    Guess what? There is none. Rather, the Federal Reserve practice of Delphically divulging its intentions ought to be understood as the master pretense of US economic life — the delusion that wise persons are actually in control of anything. The result of this guidance continues to be the mis-pricing of everything, especially the cost of money as represented in the operations of debt, and hence the value of everything denominated in money.

     The interventions of our central bank have really been aimed at one objective: to compensate for the contraction of real wealth in an economy that replaced purposeful activity with Kardashian studies and tattoo art.  Purposeful economic activity provides surpluses that allow for the repayment of debt. Kardashian study and tattoo art lead to entropic entrapment, aka, a death spiral of culture and economy. That’s where we are at. The debt is now eating us alive, and the central bank trick of piling on additional debt to mask the failure of repaying old debt is losing  its palliative punch.

     One big problem with the Fed’s policies is that the mis-pricing of everything ends up being expressed in the very statistics (GDP, unemployment, inflation) that are used to justify further interventions that produce ever deeper perversities. That is, the Fed distorts prices, which distort statistics used to make policy, which prompt the fed to ramp up policies that further distort prices, a dangerous recursive dynamic. Since prices are the basic information for running an economy, we end up in a situation where nothing really adds up. The antidote to that has been pervasive accounting fraud — the covering-up of mis-pricing, pretending that things add up when they don’t.

     The poster child for that, of course, is the US government, the operations of which are so saturated in falsity that the inspectors general in every branch and agency might as well just fling linguini against the wall to arrive at whatever conditional reality suits their bosses. The pretense extends to the largest financial institutions including the TBTF banks (their vaults stuffed with the detritus of epic swindles), to the giant pension funds, which were among the chief victims of the swindling, to the corporations dedicated to producing this-and-that, whose cost structures are so fatally impaired by all the aforesaid mis-pricing and accounting fraud, that they must resort to massive stock share buy-backs to maintain the illusion of being going concerns, to the millions of ordinary households running on maxed-out plastic.

     These perversities have been in force for five years now, and “folks” — to use our president’s fond locution for the diabetic masses — are beginning to get nervous about the five-year duration of the so-called bull market. This refers to the stock markets collectively, which have generally only gone up since 2009 in an economic environment that can only be called unconvincing. The word “bubble” is heard more and more in casual chatter. Events like Friday’s tanking of the NASDAQ put people in mind of the ominous Four Horsemen.

      One thing we really do know, as good old Herb Stein put it, is that things go on until they can’t, and then they don’t. Sighs of relief were heaved all last week when it appeared that the Obama / Kerry response to doings in Ukraine amounted, more-or-less, to a policy that might be called “Oh… nevermind.” Personally, I’m relieved that our leaders decided not to start World War Three over that, since in the aftermath there might be no human historians left on planet earth to record our monumental stupidity for the cosmic annals — something for our successors, the sentient cockroaches, to meditate on. But a certain nagging emptiness remains in that void of initiative. The spring zephyrs are finally caressing the tender hills and vales of upstate New York. Something is in that wind. I think I scent revolution.

 

***

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.

 

The Fourteen Year Recession

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 24, 2014

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s In Your GDP                          

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to View

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.

Click to View

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?

Click to View

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

 

Fourth Turning: The People versus Big Brother

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 13, 2014

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.” 

– Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

“In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”Frank Church on Meet the Press regarding the NSA – 1975

Ever since Edward Snowden burst onto the worldwide stage in June 2013, I’ve been wondering how he fits into the fabric of this ongoing Fourth Turning. This period of Crisis that arrives like clockwork, 60 to 70 years after the end of the previous Fourth Turning (Civil War – 66 years after American Revolution, Great Depression/World War II – 64 years after Civil War, Global Financial Crisis – 62 years after World War II), arrived in September 2008 with the Federal Reserve created collapse of the global financial system. We are now five and a half years into this Fourth Turning, with its climax not likely until the late-2020’s. At this point in previous Fourth Turnings a regeneracy had unified sides in their cause and a grey champion or champions (Ben Franklin/Samuel Adams, Lincoln/Davis, FDR) had stepped forward to lead. Thus far, no one from the Prophet generation has been able to unify the nation and create a sense of common civic purpose. Societal trust continues to implode, as faith in political, financial, corporate, and religious institutions spirals downward. There is no sign of a unifying regeneracy on the horizon.

The core elements of this Fourth Turning continue to propel this Crisis: debt, civic decay, global disorder. Central bankers, politicians, and government bureaucrats have been able to fashion the illusion of recovery and return to normalcy, but their “solutions” are nothing more than smoke and mirrors exacerbating the next bloodier violent stage of this Fourth Turning. The emergencies will become increasingly dire, triggering unforeseen reactions and unintended consequences. The civic fabric of our society will be torn asunder.

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

Debt

The core crisis element of debt is far worse than it was at the outset of this Crisis in September 2008. The National Debt has risen from $9.7 trillion to $17.5 trillion, an 80% increase in five and half years. It took 215 years for the country to accumulate as much debt as it has accumulated since the start of this Crisis. We continue to add $2.8 billion a day to the National debt, and the president declares it is time for this austerity to end. The total unfunded liabilities of the Federal government for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government pensions and now Obamacare exceeds $200 trillion and is mathematically impossible to honor. Corporate debt stands at an all-time high. Margin debt is at record levels, as faith in the Federal Reserve’s ability to levitate the stock market borders on delusional. Consumer debt has reached new heights, as the government doles out subprime auto loans to deadbeats and subprime student loans to future University of Phoenix Einsteins. Global debt has surged by 40% since 2008 to over $100 trillion, as central bankers have attempted to cure a disease caused by debt with more debt.

All of this debt accumulation is compliments of Bernanke/Yellen and the Federal Reserve, who have produced this new debt bubble with their zero interest rate policy and quantitative easing that has driven their balance sheet from $935 billion of mostly Treasury bonds in September 2008 to $4.2 trillion of toxic mortgage garbage acquired from their owners – the insolvent Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks. This entire house of cards is reliant upon permanently low interest rates, the faith of foreigners in our lies, and trust in Ivy League educated economists captured by Wall Street. This debt laden house of cards sits atop hundreds of trillions of derivatives of mass destruction used by the Wall Street casinos to generate “riskless” profits. When, not if, a trigger ignites this explosive concoction of debt, the collapse will be epic and the violent phase of this Fourth Turning will commence.

Civic Decay

The core crisis element of civic decay is evident everywhere you turn. Our failed public educational system is responsible for much of the civic decay, as a highly educated critical thinking populace is our only defense against a small cabal of bankers and billionaires acquiring unwarranted influence and control over our country. Our children have been taught how to feel and to believe government propaganda. The atrocious educational system is not a mistake. It has been designed and manipulated by your owners to produce the results they desire, as explained bluntly by George Carlin.

“There’s a reason that education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the big, wealthy, business interests that control all things and make the big decisions. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want—they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest.”

The urban ghettos become more dangerous and uninhabitable by the day. The inner cities are crumbling under the weight of welfare spending and declining tax revenues. The very welfare policies begun fifty years ago to alleviate poverty have hopelessly enslaved the poor and ignorant in permanent squalor and destitution. The four decade old drug war has done nothing to reduce the use of drugs. It has benefited the corporate prison industry, as millions have been thrown into prison for minor drug offenses. Meanwhile, millions more have been legally addicted to drugs peddled by the corporate healthcare complex. The culture warriors and advocates of new rights for every special interest group continue their never ending battles which receive an inordinate amount of publicity from the corporate media. Class warfare is simmering and being inflamed by politicians pushing their particular agendas. Violence provoked by race and religion is growing by the day. The fault lines are visible and the imminent financial earthquake will push distress levels beyond the breaking point. Once the EBT cards stop working, all hell will break loose. Three days of panic will empty grocery store shelves and the National Guard will be called out to try and restore control.

Global Disorder

The core crisis element of global disorder is evident everywhere you turn. The false flag revolution in the Ukraine, initiated by the U.S. and EU in order to blunt Russia’s control of natural gas to Europe, has the potential to erupt into a full blown shooting war at any moment. The attempt by Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S. to overthrow the Syrian dictator in order to run a natural gas pipeline across their land into Europe was blunted by Russia. Iraq is roiled in a civil war, after the U.S. invaded, occupied and destabilized the country. After 12 years of occupation, Afghanistan is more dysfunctional and dangerous than it was before the U.S. saved them from the evil Taliban. Unrest, violent protests, and brutal measures by rulers continue in Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Venezuela, Bahrain, Brazil, and throughout Africa. American predator drones roam the skies of the world murdering suspected terrorists. The European Union is insolvent, with Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal propped up with newly created debt. Austerity for the people and prosperity for the bankers is creating tremendous distress and tension across the continent. A global volcanic eruption is in the offing.

It is clear to me the American Empire is in terminal decline. Hubris, delusion, corruption, foolish disregard for future generations and endless foreign follies have set in motion a chain of events that will lead to a cascading sequence of debt defaults, mass poverty, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation or deflation, depending on the actions of feckless bankers and politicians. There is no avoiding the tragic outcome brought on by decades of bad choices and a century of allowing private banking interests to control our currency. The “emergency” QE and ZIRP responses by the Federal Reserve to the Federal Reserve created 2008 financial collapse continue, even though the propaganda peddled by the Deep State tries to convince the public we have fully recovered. This grand fraud cannot go on forever. Ponzi schemes no longer work once you run out of dupes. With societal trust levels approaching all-time lows and foreign countries beginning to understand they are the dupes, another global financial crisis is a lock.

The Snowden Factor

With ten to fifteen years likely remaining in this Fourth Turning Crisis, people familiar with generational turnings can’t help but ponder what will happen next. Linear thinkers, who constitute the majority, mistakenly believe things will magically return to normal and we’ll continue our never ending forward human progress. Their ignorance of history and generational turnings that recur like the four seasons will bite them in the ass. We are being flung forward across the vast chaos of time and our existing social order will be transformed beyond recognition into something far better or far worse. The actual events over the coming decade are unknowable in advance, but the mood and reactions of the generational archetypes to these events are predictable. The actions of individuals will matter during this Fourth Turning. The majority are trapped in their propaganda induced, techno distracted stupor of willful ignorance. It will take a minority of liberty minded individuals, who honor the principles of the U.S. Constitution and are willing to sacrifice their lives, to prevail in the coming struggle.

Despite fog engulfing the path of future events, we know they will be propelled by debt, civic decay, and global disorder. Finding a unifying grey champion figure seems unlikely at this point. I believe the revelations by Edward Snowden have set the course for future events during this Fourth Turning. The choices of private citizens, like Snowden, Assange, and Manning, have made a difference. The choices we all make over the next ten years will make a difference. A battle for the soul of this country is underway. The Deep State is firmly ingrained, controlling the financial, political and educational systems, while using their vast wealth to perpetuate endless war, and domination of the media to manipulate the masses with propaganda and triviality. They are powerful and malevolent. They will not relinquish their supremacy and wealth willingly.

Snowden has revealed the evil intent of the ruling class and their willingness to trash the Constitution in their psychopathic pursuit of mammon. The mass surveillance of the entire population, locking down of an entire city in pursuit of two teenagers, military training exercises in major metropolitan areas, militarization of local police forces by DHS, crushing peaceful demonstrations with brute force, attempting to restrict and confiscate guns, molesting innocent airline passengers, executive orders utilized on a regular basis by the president, and treating all citizens like suspects has set the stage for the coming conflict. Strauss & Howe warned that history has shown armed conflict is always a major ingredient during a Fourth Turning.

“History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war – class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil – its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured.” The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe -1997

It appears to me the Deep State is preparing for armed conflict with the people. Why else would they be utilizing Big Brother methods of surveillance, militarization of police forces  and Gestapo like tactics of intimidation to control the masses? This doesn’t happen in a democratic republic where private individuals are supposed to know everything done by public government servants, not vice versa. They know the cheap, easy to access energy resources are essentially depleted. They know the system they have built upon a foundation of cheap energy and cheap debt is unsustainable and will crash in the near future. They know their fiat currency scheme is failing.They know it is going to come crashing down.  

They know America and the world will plunge into an era of depression, violence, and war. They also know they want to retain their wealth, power and control. There is no possibility the existing establishment can be purged through the ballot box. It’s a one party Big Brother system that provides the illusion of choice to the Proles. Like it or not, the only way this country can cast off the shackles of the banking, corporate, fascist elites, and the government surveillance state is through an armed revolution. The alternative is to allow an authoritarian regime, on par with Hitler, Stalin and Mao, to rise from the ashes of our financial collapse. This is a distinct possibility, given the ignorance and helplessness of most Americans after decades of government education and propaganda.       

The average mentally asleep American cannot conceive of armed conflict within the borders of the U.S. War, violence and dead bodies are something they see on their 52 inch HDTVs while gobbling chicken wings and cheetos in their Barcalounger. We’ve allowed a banking cartel and their central bank puppets to warp and deform our financial system into a hideous façade, sold to the masses as free market capitalism. We’ve allowed corporate interests to capture our political system through bribery and corruption.

We’ve allowed the rise of a surveillance state that has stripped us of our privacy, freedom, liberty and individuality in a futile pursuit of safety and security. We’ve allowed a military industrial complex to exercise undue influence in Washington DC, leading to endless undeclared wars designed to enrich the arms makers. We’ve allowed the corporate media and the government education complex to use propaganda, misinformation and social engineering techniques to dumb down the masses and make them compliant consumers. These delusions will be shattered when our financial and economic system no longer functions. The end is approaching rapidly and very few see it coming.

Glory or Ruin?

The scenario I envision is a collapse of our debt saturated financial system, with a domino effect of corporate, personal, and governmental defaults, exacerbated by the trillions of currency, interest rate, and stock derivatives. Global stock markets will crash. Trillions in paper wealth will evaporate into thin air. The Greater Depression will gain a choke-hold around the world. Mass bankruptcies, unemployment and poverty will sweep across the land. The social safety net will tear under the weight of un-payable entitlements. Riots and unrest will breakout in urban areas. Armed citizens in rural areas will begin to assemble in small units. The police and National Guard will be unable to regain control. The military will be called on to suppress any and all resistance to the Federal government. This act of war will spur further resistance from liberty minded armed patriots. The new American Revolution will have begun. Leaders will arise in the name of freedom. Regional and local bands of fighters will use guerilla tactics to defeat a slow top heavy military dependent upon technology and vast quantities of oil. A dictatorial regime may assume power on a Federal level. A breakup of the nation into regional states is a distinct possibility.

With the American Empire crumbling from within, our international influence will wane. With China also in the midst of a Fourth Turning, their debt bubble will burst and social unrest will explode into civil war. Global disorder, wars, terrorism, and financial collapse will lead to a dramatic decrease in oil production, further sinking the world into depression. The tensions caused by worldwide recession will lead to the rise of authoritarian regimes and global warfare. With “advances” in technological warfare and the proliferation of nuclear warheads, this scenario has the potential to end life on earth as we know it. The modern world could be set back into the stone-age with the push of a button. There are no guarantees of a happy ending for humanity.

The outcome of this Fourth Turning is dependent upon the actions of a minority of critical thinking Americans who decide to act. No one can avoid the trials and tribulations that lie ahead. We will be faced with immense challenges. Courage and sacrifice will be required in large doses. Elders will need to lead and millennials will need to carry a heavy load, doing most of the dying. The very survival of our society hangs in the balance. Edward Snowden has provided an example of the sacrifice required during this Fourth Turning. How we respond and the choices we make over the next decade will determine whether this Fourth Turning will result in glory or ruin for our nation.

 

“Eventually, all of America’s lesser problems will combine into one giant problem. The very survival of the society will feel at stake, as leaders lead and people follow. The emergent society may be something better, a nation that sustains its Framers’ visions with a robust new pride. Or it may be something unspeakably worse. The Fourth Turning will be a time of glory or ruin.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Click these links to read the first two parts of this three part series:

Do No Evil Google – Censor & Snitch for the State

Google, China, the NSA and the Fourth Turning

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