Sep 142012
 September 14, 2012  Posted by at 7:35 pm Earth Comments Off on Spiritual Musings on Collapse


Noah’s Ark – A Picture of Christ

As many of you already know, I have written about economic, financial and industrial/environmental collapse on The Automatic Earth for a few years now. For all human beings who are still fortunate [or unfortunate] enough to exist on this Earth, these are issues of prime and imminent importance. We are now at least four years running into the start of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, which then morphed into generalized private and public debt crises around the world. Many have predicted that either this year or the next carries the most probability for the next BIG leg down the ladder of financial collapse, including me.

Yet, I was also moved this year to start reflecting on what most people consider to be the more “personal” questions of life, and how the answers to those questions are relevant to the dynamics of collapse. Perhaps it is partly because I started to feel the “collapse blues”… which I’m sure most of the people here have experienced at some time or another – a period of time when you feel like everyone and everything is Doomed, and there’s really nothing you can do about it. We can write and talk and discuss until the cows come home, but only a few people will end up protecting themselves from the inevitable downfall at the end of the day.

So that was a part of the reason for my shift in focus, but by no means the whole thing. The more important part was that I felt there was a big piece of the collapse puzzle that was missing for me, and it had to do with the question of WHY – Why were the sociopathic bankers so reckless and greedy? Why were the shiesty politicians of all stripes so corrupt? Why were the neo-con war hawks so thirsty for blood and oil? Most importantly, though, why could I see hints of all of that sociopathic behavior, all of that corruption, all of that blood-lust and all of that never-ending materialism in everyone around me? My family and my friends were really no different at the end of the day.

Obviously, the average people I know aren’t perpetrating evil at Hitler-like scales, but they have generally accepted and supported a paradigm in which Hitler-like people are much more likely to exist than not. That’s what got me thinking that all of these systemic crises we face now ultimately boil down to existential questions – questions about who are we, where we came from, what our purposes are and why we consistently think and act in the ways that we do over time? And such questions obviously lead you to the realms of history, philosophy and spirituality. To make a somewhat short story even shorter, I took a leap of faith into those realms of knowledge and I came out with what I believe to be very good answers.

Those answers came in the form of Judeo-Christian theology for me. It wasn’t enough to just have the answers, though… I needed to share them with others – and that is how I came to classify myself as an evangelical Christian. And while I have managed to inject some Christian themes into my articles on TAE, and I also managed to get into some fiery debates/discussions on other forums (such as the Doomstead Diner), it simply wasn’t enough for me. What I needed online was a space of my own to devote entirely to my Christian perspective on all manner of modern day concerns. That is why I created my new blog – PICTURING CHRIST.

I want to make clear that this new website is not being supported or endorsed by Ilargi or Stoneleigh, and that the general themes and approach to the subject matter of Collapse are completely different. I would like to see both of these sites and others exist in harmony, providing people with a variety of different perspectives (depending on what they are in a mood to read) and mutually reinforcing the all-important cause for truth. I also cannot over-state my appreciation to Ilargi and Stoneleigh for letting me be a part of their great endeavour on TAE, and right now I plan to continue contributing content here from time to time, while also remaining active in the comment forum (time is always a factor, of course).

I especially appreciate their willingness to let me plug my new blog to the spiritually-inclined readers of TAE, and I appreciate those who wish to follow up on PC with an open, yet critical mind. I will still retain administrative capacities on TAE as well, perhaps acting as the central hub for the distribution of Stoneleigh’s invaluable DVD lectures. My primary focus from here on out, though, will be on alerting readers out there to PC and developing the site to the point where everyone interested will have a chance to read and reflect and contribute.

PC will be all about the interplay between metaphysical philosophy, Christian theology, religious history and the systemic crises of materialism that we face today. It will be about exposing naturalism and materialism for the destructive ideologies that they really are – to the destructive ends that they have taken us – and about giving people an arena to consider and discuss spiritual alternatives. It is true that I am an evangelical Christian, and my posts will be centered around the truth I find in the holy scriptures. However, I also welcome any challenges and alternatives to my views. After all, faith is truly nothing if it is not tested…

I have only been a Christian for about a year now, so I hope to learn a lot more about my own faith from this experience, while hopefully motivating others to learn more about theirs as well. I truly believe that we are living in perhaps the most unique time in all of history, and that the storms looming overhead will leave behind an epic amount of wreckage in their wakes. However, I also believe that it is most important for our souls to be saved on this Earth, rather than our physical bodies. So if anyone here feels similarly or is simply interested in being convinced (or trying their best to convince me why I’m wrong), I encourage you to visit PC and check out the content/discussion.

In addition to the regular posts that will go up, I have added sections for videos and audio files that will deal with all manner of spiritual subjects – such as the NT, the OT, difficult Christian doctrines, numerous fields of apologetics, religious podcasts, the New Age, Eastern religions, and much more. I will continue adding pages and content to the site as time progresses, and I am welcome to any suggestions or input from readers as to what they would like to see or hear. There are already four posts up on the site so far, and I obviously recommend you start with the Intro – An Introduction to Picturing Christ.

However, if you want to know a little more about why I think Christianity provides the ultimate answer to our pervasive problems of Doom & Gloom in modern societies, you can give this one a read –  How Doom & Gloom Disappeared with the Protoevangelium.

IF you would like to know what I truly mean by “Picturing Christ”, and how this process of picturing can help us navigate the treacherous waters we find ourselves in today (like the waters that Noah found himself immersed in thousands of years ago), you can check out this foundational post –  The True Power of Pictures. My second latest post deals with a recent concern of mine over the seeming re-emergence of anti-Semitism in many parts of our increasingly fractured societies – A Few Thoughts on the Jews and Anti-Semitism

Finally, my latest post deals with the problem of “scapegoating” that is so prevalent in modern society – the process through which people always find other individuals or groups to blame for their own problems, regardless of whether those problems were self-induced or are rightfully attributed to the actions of others. We all need to realize that scapegoating others, whether justified or not, is something that will never help us build our own character and lead us to a place of peace and comfort – The Devil’s Scapegoat 

And just so any potential readers know, I am also continuing to work on improving the functionality of the site, including the ease of navigation and the posting of customized comments (fonts, colors, embeds, etc.), among many other things. There are a lot of plugins available on the hosted WordPress platform that I am currently running, so none of that should be a problem. Anyway, to conclude this plug, I would like to thank you all very much for your time and consideration, as well as your previous support of my writings, and I hope we can all continue to interact here at TAE, at PC and at many others forums or physical locations as well!

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Sep 042012
 September 4, 2012  Posted by at 6:47 pm Earth Comments Off on Everything Won't Be Alright

Looking around at those… around me – family, friends, acquaintances and random faces in the crowd of apathy – the level of complacency is so concentrated I can taste it, yet I can’t even describe how bad it tastes. I’m not really talking about the understanding people lack about the numerous predicaments we face as a species – that’s definitely there too… but what I’m talking about is even worse. It’s the assumption that we can just go about our day to day lives, doing our day to day work, having our day to day fun… and humanity will eventually heal itself, no matter how bad the injuries sustained.

This is a cultural phenomenon that has infested the Western world, and refuses to be eradicated. It is where many of us ultimately place our hope and stake our lives, sometimes without even realizing we are doing it. We previously discussed the entertainment enemas that have penetrated modern culture (and the lives of deluded teenagers) in Culturally Programmed Myths of Omnipotence. They have given us the vision that we can always become bigger, “better” and stronger as individuals and nations, evolving towards God-like glory, no matter what obstacles are in our way – all of the stories about superheroes, vampires, werewolves, wizards, robots and aliens – it’s all about the propaganda of pernicious power.

We even see this mentality taking root in academia and scientific research through the field of “transhumanism” (very well portrayed in the documentary, TechnoCalyps). As you can probably guess from the name, transhumanism tells us that we are on the way to becoming something more, something other, than human beings. Forget random mutation and natural selection, the transhumanist says – we can circumvent all of the slow evolutionary nonsense that we only theorized about a century ago. Now we can transform ourselves into a new species over the course of a few decades with the help of modern technology and “intelligent designers”. Just a little bit ironic, don’t you think?



Ironic, yet frighteningly appealing to the broader public. Yet another aspect of this cultural programming is the idea that all troubling stories have a happy ending – that all good things come to those who [sit on their ass and] wait. We have obviously been fed this diet of propaganda by movies and television on a consistent basis over the course of decades. You sit through one and a half hours of action-packed plots with drama, romance, suspense, twists and turns mixed in… and then the whole thing comes together and the heroes prevail in the last 20 minutes. That’s truly how many people view the world now – an epic movie that is approaching its glorious credits, just so the sequel can come out next year.

This virulent mentality is not only quarantined to the mainstream materialistic culture, but is also evident in many alternative spheres of cultural milieu, even penetrating its way into the so-called “Doomer” crowds. Many people who are otherwise extremely pessimistic about the current world-system and its effects on human civilization have found refuge in the idea that we are entering a “New Age” of human existence. It may be initially characterized by pockets of chaos and upheavel, but it will end with a radical spiritual transformation that results from the natural evolution of human consciousness.

The Universe will re-balance itself and bring the blessings of peace and harmony to ALL of its inhabitants – “all” being those who are mentally programmed to properly decode its gifts. There is really nothing “new” about these concepts, though – they borrow many of their underlying tenets from the ancient religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. For example, a prominent prophecy within sects of the latter is the arrival of the Maitreya Buddha at a time when humans have completely lost touch with their true nature as immaterial and interconnected parts of the divine whole (a time like now, perhaps?).

The Maitreya may not be a majority view in “New Age” circles, but it reflects a general mentality that has submerged itself in both the mainstream and alternative streams of modern culture, presenting itself to us in many different forms. There is an entire industry based around the concept of self-help gurus teaching people [much too] simple ways to become “happy, healthy and successful”, no matter what is going on in the world around them. Yet we all know that there is no money to be made from a product that truly helps its patients (customers).



They’re selling us exactly what we want to hear – that the reality of human suffering in the world is not actually as bad as it appears to be; that there is more truth in the fictional movies we have seen than in our real lives. Maybe if we can just find that slick-looking guy in the black leather jacket and cool shades, snatch the red pill and wash it down with a bottle of Absinthe, the truth will be revealed to us and everything will be alright in the end. Or maybe the blue pill will give us a better high…? Either way, I’m here to say that we should be really careful what we wish for, because there is only a razor thin line between the truth and fiction these days.

Most importantly, though, I am here to make clear that no one is immune from the mentality that “everything is alright” or “everything can be alright”, including me. I have my own personal beliefs about how humanity can be preserved and even perfected, and I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with that. What’s wrong is when I forget to remind myself where those beliefs come from and where they are truly leading me. Do they simply make me feel good and comfortable and “enlightened”? Am I simply willing to swallow the red pill because someone slick tells me it will “open my eyes”?

Or is there something more fundamentally true about why I have deep concerns and why I have ultimate hope. What sacrifices are really required of myself and others to reach our maximum human potentials? I believe these are questions we must repeatedly ask ourselves, because the moment we become too comfortable and too uncritical of our beliefs, or the beliefs of others around us, is the moment that we become apathetic and willing to go wherever the world takes us. It is only when we confront the umcomfortable truths of our situation in this world that we will be able to become the best we can possibly be.

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Aug 042012
 August 4, 2012  Posted by at 1:56 pm Finance Comments Off on Lessons From the Full Tilt Ponzi

Black Friday

In the midst of the Eurozone crisis and corporate bankruptcy scandals such as MF Global last year, a smaller-scale yet meaningful scandal went relatively unnoticed. This scandal erupted on what poker players now call “Black Friday” – April 15, 2011. That was the day when U.S. federal authorities unsealed indictments, seized the domains and assets of the three most popular online poker sites – Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and the Cereus network (Absolute Poker) – and arrested the owners. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. poker players were locked out of their online accounts and separated from their funds.

Initially, the central charge against these sites and their owners was one of bank fraud and money laundering. While PokerStars was soon able to return money owed to players, FullTilt players have yet to receive the almost $350 million owed to them. In comparison, that’s about 30% of the amount that was looted from the wealthy clients of MF Global. After several more months of investigation, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan was forced to state that “Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme”.

“Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” [U.S. Attorney] Bharara said. “Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.”



From 2007 to 2011, the owners and board members of Full Tilt received about $443 million in payouts while being well aware that the money owed to players worldwide did not exist and could not be paid out. This included payouts to such trusted names in poker as Howard Lederer, Rafe Furst and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. Players with funds deposited on Full Tilt had every right to be outraged at this criminal behavior, but, then again, these types of corporate ponzi schemes should be viewed as business as usual in the global economy by now.

Every major bank in the world, including the ones that were allegedly “defrauded” by these poker sites (as if they couldn’t figure out what was really going on with all of the sketchily-named transactions they processed), operate on the exact same ponzi principles as Full Tilt. If the “Black Friday” poker disaster can teach us anything, it is that the money you have on deposit at your financial institution does not really exist and there will soon come a day when the banks, in conjunction with the government, prevent you from cashing out your deposits.

For some reason, most Americans still cannot envision such a scenario occurring, even though it has started occurring in Europe and has already occurred to hundreds of thousands of poker players here (as well as the clients of MF Global). They believe that, at the worst, restrictions will be temporary, losses will be minor and the government will eventually make them whole. Well, let’s look at what is now happening with the funds of Full Tilt players to perhaps get a glimpse of how these future “bank holidays” will play out.

Poker Players’ Association Repayment Updates


On April 15, 2011, forever known as “Black Friday” to the poker community, hundreds of thousands of US online poker players lost the ability to access their accounts on the major poker sites. Since that time the PPA has made it a priority to do everything it can to help those players get their money back. Thankfully, PokerStars fulfilled its obligation to its players and promptly returned their funds. Players on FullTiltPoker and the Cereus network were not compensated however. In July 2011 the PPA released the Player’s Funds Legal Guide in order to help players understand their rights and the various methods to assert those rights as the situation unfolded.


Now, 15 months later, another chapter of the saga has come to an end. As reported here the DOJ, FTP and PokerStars have finally come to an agreement settling the civil cases against those sites and paving the way for account balances to finally be returned. The PPA applauds the efforts of the DOJ and all the various parties for reaching this agreement and especially thanks them for making the return of player funds an important priority of the agreement. While details of the player repayment process, known as “remission of funds,” are still not available, rest assured that the PPA will be working diligently to help ensure a fair and easy process for all parties. We have reached out to the DOJ with player concerns before and we will continue to do so. We also will be available to the DOJ to assist it wherever we can in terms of what either the PPA or the players can do to help make the process easier.


The remission process was discussed in the July 2011 PPA Player’s Funds Legal Guide and you can re-read that section to get a general idea of the process. But the specific details of how the process will be conducted with respect to the specific FTP situation are still being determined by the DOJ. The PPA will use this page to keep you informed of all the details of that process as soon as they are available. The PPA will also use this page to provide you with all the assistance it can to help you through this process if you were one of the players affected.

So bookmark this page, return frequently, and keep your eye out for notices of updates. The PPA will make sure the information is here as soon as it is available. Until more information is available the only advice that can be given at this time is to remain calm, gather all the information you still have regarding your FTP account (especially your screen name, your password, and the name under which the account was registered), and stay tuned.

This development was by far the best news a U.S. player with funds deposited at Full Tilt could hope to hear. After 15 months of separation from their funds, most players had been resigned to the fact that their money had vanished for good. Now, it seems that the acquisition of Full Tilt by an even larger online poker company, PokerStars, will make room for players to finally get their money back. However, it still isn’t at all clear what portion of money owed to U.S. players will be remitted or how long it will take for the process to complete.

In the PPA’s 2011 “Legal Guide” referenced above, they say the following:

It has been well reported and documented that contemporaneous with the filing of the April 15, 2011, indictments against the site owners and their payment processors, the Federal Government initiated substantial forfeiture actions against site assets and specifically moved tofreeze bank accounts used by the sites to hold substantial funds. Subsequently the Federal Government has taken legal proceedings to declare these funds forfeited to the Federal Government as the “proceeds” of illegal activity. Many players believe that a substantial reasonthey have not been paid as of yet is that these seized funds represent a significant amount of the sites’ assets, though exact figures are not yet public knowledge. So, players ask, how about seeking to get player money from the money seized by the Government? Answering this question is enormously complex, and whether and how to seek to do it (or not) will once againdepend on the specific circumstances of the individual player. For players to determine that answer for themselves, the basic principles of Federal Forfeiture must be understood and discussed with private counsel.



The only thing we know for sure is that U.S. players will have to submit a petition for remission of funds to the Department of Injustice once the details are finalized. So you have to ask yourself – is this the kind of frustrating, drawn-out and complex process that you want to go through to get your deposited funds from the bank? Are you willing to “stay tuned” for more than a year before the insolvent bank is acquired by a larger entity and you can finally petition that entity (or the government) to reimburse you, at anywhere from 100 to 50 cents on the dollar? Remember, this is really the best-case scenario when severely under-capitalized institutions go bust.

That is especially true if the owners are targets in a civil or criminal investigation, as is the case with Full Tilt. We can easily imagine a situation in which the Department of Injustice indicts a network of major and mid-level U.S. banks on various criminal charges for political reasons, but also as a means of giving those institutions an excuse not to pay out their depositors. Just like it did with Full Tilt, this play could go down after a bunch of board members and upper-level management at these banks have siphoned off billions in compensation, bonuses and redeemed equity shares (many of them already have).

And just like with the major poker sites, there will be one or two high-level guys that take the fall and the rest of the charges will be settled before any sort of trial. The major difference is – who will be able to rescue the assets of these banks and raise the funds necessary to pay out depositors? We are obviously talking much, much greater factors of losses than those endured by U.S. poker players. And as we know all too well, only central governments can step in to backstop these financial ponzi institutions. By the time such a rescue is necessary again, those government ponzis will have been bled dry by the corporate war machine as well.

I suspect that most Americans and Europeans with large deposits in the bank will easily see 25, 50 or even 100% of those deposits disappear into a black hole, and they will not be nearly as lucky as U.S. poker players in finding any “white knights” to reimburse them. If anything, they will have to wait a solid 6-12 months before hearing anything about how to go about getting their money back, and then perhaps another 6-12 months to actually get it. By that time, the state of the global economy and society will be quite nasty, and those funds may be useless anyway. What kind of capital restrictions will be in place across the Western world by then?

The only smart move is, and has always been, to get whatever money you will need over at least a year or two out of the bank RIGHT NOW. Despite their after-the-fact claims to the contrary, most people in the poker community had no idea how or when Black Friday was going to hit, and how extensive the ensuing monetary damage would be. All I know is that the poker players who, for whatever reason, decided to liquidate all of their funds before April 15, 2011 now look like geniuses, while the rest of us look like chumps. But I don’t really care what I look like… I just want to get back the money that is owed to me and learn from my misplaced trust.

Aug 032012
 August 3, 2012  Posted by at 2:01 pm Earth Comments Off on President Rousseff’s Monster

Personally, I don’t have much to say about today’s U.S. Jobs Report… it was a trade-off of fake QE money for fake jobs before the elections. The ruling politicians decided to go with the latter once again (statistically adding 400k+ jobs to the print), so the fiending markets and investors will have to sacrifice the former. [see Who Killed the Money Printer?]. What I’m more concerned with today is a story out of Reuters about how Brazilian federal authorities have decided to sacrifice the Earth’s largest and most precious tropical rainforest for short-term economic growth.

As a part of an ongoing and comprehensive deregulation scheme, President Dilma Rousseff has ceded much of Brazil’s authority over rainforest protection to local officials, who are often severely conflicted. The federal protection agency Ibama has shuttered more than 50% of its field offices and has taken any threat of sanctions for environmental violators with them. Here is the story of one local official who now finds himself trying to protect the rainforest by morning and mine for gold in it by afternoon and night.

Special Report: Brazil backslides on protecting the Amazon (by Paulo Prado)


Ivo Lubrinna has been wildcatting for gold in the jungle here for more than 30 years. It’s a notoriously messy business, as crews strip away topsoil in the forest and along riverbanks and use mercury and other pollutants to draw precious metal from mud.


For the past two years, Lubrinna has held a second job: environment secretary for this riverside city of 100,000 people, gateway to the oldest national park and half a dozen nature reserves in Brazil’s vast Amazon wilderness. As such, it’s his job to protect the area from the depredations of loggers, poachers, squatters – and gold miners.


His dual role neatly divides his workdays: morning as regulator, afternoon as miner. “I have to be good early in the day,” the burly, bald 64-year-old says in his stand-at-attention baritone. “In the afternoon, I watch out for myself.”


Until recently, the seeming conflict of interest wouldn’t have mattered much in this free-for-all frontier of lax law enforcement and often-violent conflicts among interests competing for land and resources. It was the job of Ibama, Brazil’s widely respected federal environmental agency, to police the Amazon as best it could.


But last year, President Dilma Rousseff authorized a change that ceded much responsibility for environmental oversight to local officials. Of 168 Ibama field offices operating a few years ago, 91 have been shuttered, according to Ibama employees. Lubrinna says Ibama agents used to fine him and other miners for violations. Now, he leads a team that inspects wildcatting sites. So far, he says, he has levied few fines.


The shift to local control is one of many changes implemented under Rousseff’s administration that, taken together, constitute an all-out retreat from nearly two decades of progressive federal environmental policy.



So here we have the one and only example of a central government willing to decentralize its authority in recent years, and it’s unsurprisingly in the one sphere of society where decentralization is an extremely bad thing. The guy overseeing regulatory duties for a city of 100,000 people, next to Brazil’s oldest national park and six nature reserves in the Amazon, works as a gold miner for a living – what else is there to say?? Hank Paulson couldn’t have cooked up a more conflicted set of circumstances.

The justification touted by President Rousseff, of course, is “economic necessity”.

In the 19 months since Rousseff took office, longstanding rules that curtail deforestation and protect millions of square kilometers of watershed have been rolled back. She issued an executive order to shrink or re-purpose seven protected woodlands, making way for hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure projects, and to legalize settlements by farmers and miners.


And she has slowed to a near halt a process, uninterrupted during the previous three administrations, of setting aside land for national parks, wildlife reserves and other “conservation units.”


The president is clear in her reasoning: Unleashing further development in the Amazon rainforest, an area seven times the size of France, is essential to maintaining the sort of economic growth that over the past decade lifted 30 million Brazilians out of poverty and made Brazil the world’s sixth-largest economy.


The government intends to build 21 dams in the Amazon through 2021 at a cost of 96 billion reais ($48 billion), as planned under Rousseff when she was still working for her mentor and predecessor, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The dams are necessary, she says, to meet the energy demands of Brazil’s growing consumer class.


And Brazil still has 60 million people living in poverty. “I have to explain to people how they are going to eat, how they’ll have access to water, how they’ll have access to energy,” she said in a speech in April.


That message resonates with many Brazilians. Rousseff enjoys an enviable approval rating of 77 percent, according to a June poll.


She also received 83 percent of her campaign contributions for the 2010 election from corporations, mostly food, agriculture, construction and engineering businesses poised to benefit from opening the Amazon wider to development, according to a review of electoral filings by Jose Roberto de Toledo, a blogger and data analyst.

Look, we all understand the grand economic visions of the rapidly “emerging economies” that wish to transform themselves into “powerhouse” corporate middle-class consumer nations just like America. It’s exactly what Morris Berman was talking about when he wrote “permanent growth = permanent crisis“. Everything else about poverty, energy scarcity, meeting consumer demand and all the rest is simply colored bubbles. I’ll even naively accept that Roussef’s intentions are wholesome here (despite 83% of her 2010 campaign funds coming from corporations that will benefit greatly from deregulation), but the results of her policies are still guaranteed to be horrendous for everyone involved.



Brazil’s well-established environmental movement is aghast. Rousseff’s policies, they say, endanger the world’s largest rainforest, the storehouse of one-eighth of the planet’s fresh water, a primary source of its oxygen and home to countless rare and undiscovered plant and animal species, as well as tens of thousands of native tribespeople. The short-term economic gain, Rousseff’s critics say, isn’t worth the potential long-term cost to the global environment, as well as Brazil’s economy.


“This is a government willing to sacrifice the resources for thousands of years in exchange for a few decades of profit,” says Marina Silva, a former environment minister and a pioneer of Brazil’s green movement.


Already, the rush to exploit the region has spawned flashpoints.


The best-known is Belo Monte, a 26 billion real ($13 billion) project to build the world’s third-largest dam on the Xingu River, an Amazon tributary in Para, the state where Itaituba is located.


The subject of intense media coverage, court challenges, and high-profile opposition from the likes of Hollywood director James Cameron, Belo Monte will displace thousands of tribespeople. It is already luring thousands of migrants to the jungle outpost of Altamira, transforming it into a boomtown where prices for food and real estate have more than doubled in the past year.


In Acre, the westernmost state in the Brazilian Amazon, the retreat of Ibama agents has opened the door to incursions and infighting among loggers and drug traffickers from nearby Peru, threatening Serra do Divisor, a park created a decade ago.


And in the northeastern state of Maranhao, ranchers, loggers and natives clash frequently around the Gurupi wildlife reserve. There, illegal logging has affected as much as 70 percent of the reserve’s woodland, a process that scientists say is hastening expansion of the more arid climate in Brazil’s far northeast.



In January, Rousseff announced her executive order that slices chunks of territory from Amazonia and six other reserves to make way for dams and legitimize illegal settlements. Even though the measure still faces several court challenges, Congress signed it into law in June.


The hydroelectric dam on the Tapajos River will inundate a large swath of woodland upstream, as well as Pimental, a village of about 800 fishermen and small farmers on the eastern bank of the river at the dam site.


Villagers are angry that the government has yet to provide details about the dam, whether they will be moved or compensated, or how the process might unfold. “We are completely in the dark,” says Luiz Matos de Lima, a 53-year-old farmer and grocer in Pimental.

We don’t have to pretend that countries like Brazil are not stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to balancing environmental and economic issues, because they most certainly are. What we can do, though, is recognize that it is ethically irresponsible and practically foolish to continue digging yourself and the world a deeper grave for the sake of superficial appearances. Just like the selfish American Dream, the Brazilian Dream is one that was never meant to be and should not be further pursued. These “dreams” are like Frankstein’s Monster – the last thing we need is to go around creating more of them, but that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

Aug 022012
 August 2, 2012  Posted by at 3:55 pm Finance Comments Off on Permanent Growth = Permanent Crisis

know your enemy

We need a systematic moral transformation in America – something which leads us to a society so fundamentally different than what we have now, it would be scarcely recognizable from our current perspective. That, in my opinion, is the conclusion Morris Berman gives us in his latest blog post, Sociopaths Rule, which is intended as a review and critique of the documentary, Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? (Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher, 2011). Berman points out that Causey and Goldmacher are right to dump on Reagan’s neo-liberal, trickle-UP economic paradigm, but they are also asking the wrong question.

It is not who stole the American Dream, but rather who convinced us that the “American Dream” is worth having in the first place. Why should we even value a socioeconomic philosophy centered on entrepreneurial individualism, unlimited growth and endless complexity? All of those things simply lead us to a state of moral apathy, which leads us to repeated bouts of corruption, exploitation and systemic crises. To answer the question of who transformed American culture into this state of hollow utilitarian morality, Berman takes us back to the very beginning and forces us to look in the mirror (full article found at link above).

Greed, and the free-market ideology, were hardly born in 1981. In this sense, the film lacks a genuine (which is to say, long-range) historical perspective. Greed showed up on the American continent in the late sixteenth century, when what would later become the United States started to be colonized by a particularly aggressive and entrepreneurial segment of the English middle class. Louis Hartz makes this point in his classic work, The American Liberal Tradition (1955), when he says that America is a “fragment society,” i.e. one that took a particular strand from the mother country—in this case the mentality of hustling, of go-getting, of unlimited economic expansion—and made it into the whole of the new country. One might argue that Reagan represented a “quantum leap” in this ideology, but he hardly invented it; from Day One, it is what America has been about. Credit-default swaps are merely the inevitable culmination of a process that has been going on for more than four hundred years.

Over the last few decades, we have merely experienced the accelerated phase of economic, social, cultural and political decay in a country that has been decaying from the start. Note that the word “decay” cannot be confused with “contraction” or “stagnation”. We are not talking about the inability of the wealth pie to grow or innovative institutions to develop – in fact, it is exactly those types of developments that contribute to the inner rot. If we want to recover any meaningful sense of justice, liberty, equality and social commonality, we must be willing to abandon the amoral American cultural Zeitgeist once and for all.

Like Occupy Wall Street, the film insists that we must “take back” the American Dream. Like OWS, it never seems to grasp the fact that rather than recovering or restoring the A.D., we need to abolish it. The A.D. is part of the American frontier mentality, coupled with the mythology of extreme individualism, and is in fact based on the idea of infinity: there can and should be no end to economic and technological expansion. Unfortunately for that hopelessly neurotic vision, we are fast running out of resources; the planet cannot support the A.D. extended to every American, let alone every person on the planet. In fact, it was once calculated that for everyone on the planet to have a “modest” middle-class American life, we would need the resources of six Earths.


This is why socialism, or spreading the A.D. around more fairly, is not an adequate response to capitalism, because it too is based on the notions of “growth” and “progress,” and those notions are fast becoming obsolete. The real shift required is not to (let’s say) a Scandanavian-style economy, but to a steady-state one: no growth, and not profit-oriented. And if the left hates this, as I’m sure they do: well hard cheese, folks, because in thirty to forty years we are going to be forced into this, when petroleum runs out and the dream of unlimited energy turns into the nightmare of scarcity. To socialists and capitalists alike, to Paul Krugman and Robert Reich and every other so-called liberal, I can only say this: permanent growth means permanent crisis. It’s time to start equating this type of growth with cancer.

So how do we achieve this radical transformation into a steady-state economy that abandons self-absorbed pursuits of growth and profit, and focuses on selfless struggle towards the good of the collective? As Berman states in his post, the American people are “exhausted, spiritually spent”… and any intentional metamorphosis of the national identity seems like a pipe dream right now. Movements such as Occupy may raise some awareness and produce a few beneficial results, but their underlying mentality about the whole thing falls way too short.

America needs a systematic moral transformation, but very few are willing to take the necessary steps to get it.

The Elite
All of which are American dreams!

(Rage Against the Machine, Know Your Enemy)

Aug 012012
 August 1, 2012  Posted by at 3:24 pm Finance Comments Off on Culturally Programmed Myths of Omnipotence


Posthuman Godhead, by Acceler8or

Why is it that so many people in the developed world have a dogmatic faith in the ability of human societies to overcome any and all problems, and to keep growing bigger, better, faster and stronger over time? Perhaps such beliefs are inherent to the human condition – i.e. some evolved mentality that cannot be changed. I doubt it, though. We have seen examples of smaller-scale communities and societies throughout history and even today that are much more content with maintaining a stable balance with each other and with nature.

Rather, I think we find a large part of the explanation for these delusional beliefs in our developed cultures. We are quite literally brainwashed to believe that humanity has unlimited material potential, and this programming has only grown more frequent and more potent in recent years. Behind almost every new popular entertainment fad, there is the repetitive message that humans have the potential to become super-humans, post-humans or perhaps even Gods. Take a look at some of the examples below:





This one speaks for itself. Superheroes in comic books and on television are by no means a recent development, but they have overwhelmed the movie theaters over the last decade. Many these super men and women have derived “supernatural” abilities from the “unstoppable” progression of scientific research. In the case of the X-Men, it has been through genetic mutations and intentional genetic engineering that their powers were created – a field of scientific research that is highly developed right now. Characters such as Batman and Iron Man, instead, have relied on highly advanced technology to accomplish their super missions.


Here we have a rapidly growing phenomenon in popular culture that focuses on the ability of humans to become immortal and to gain fantastic strength. Traditionally, vampires were thought of as scary and harmful creatures that should be avoided. Now, in stark contrast, they have been romanticized in books, television and movies to become the role models of almost every child born after 1990. The vampires are sexy, charismatic, cool, intelligent, powerful and even noble and caring.

They are misunderstood humans who have been persecuted throughout the ages by “normal” society, but in reality they have played a large role in defining the nature of humanity and its eventual future. We find a similar dynamic in mythical stories about werewolves, who are commonly associated with super strength, speed and the ability to shape-shift. Many of the vampire-based shows and movies also incorporate werewolves and other mythical creatures into their story lines.



People of all ages have been seduced by these sinister narratives in a spectacularly frightening manner. We even have companies marketing drinks like “Tru Blood” for people who want to gain the super-human traits of vampires, or at least play out the fantasy in their heads. They come complete with blood types and descriptions of what those blood types will do for the person consuming the “blood”. Apparently, Type O has an “arrogant independence” and it is “strong to the point of ruthlessness” – a perfect blend of bloody beverage for the “impulsive kingpin”. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a great description of the people who are running our world into the ground right now – quite literally feeding themselves off the blood of millions.




Once again, a category that speaks for itself. The iconic representation of robotic evolution in pop culture is from the Terminator series, in which self-aware machines take over the Earth and proceed to battle pockets of human resistance. They eventually decide to travel into the past and terminate the leader of the resistance before he is ever born. Here we have the concepts of highly advanced technology/weapons, artificial intelligence, time travel and robot-human hybrids all wrapped together in one tight narrative.

There are obviously significant amounts of scientific research devoted to making some of these concepts into reality, and in some ways they have already succeeded at limited scales. In fact, the growing field of “transhumanism” is entirely devoted to “transforming the human condition” in very similar ways. While researchers in this field claim to also focus on the “ethical” issues involved, we all know that humanity has a tendency to subsume ethics when it gets in the way of technological advancement.

Wikipedia: Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.[1] Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “posthuman”.[1]


The aliens infiltrated pop culture soon after Roswell in the 1950s, but they really bombarded television and movies in the 1980s, and have been growing more popular ever since. They are present in everything from animated movies for small children to extremely violent movies for adults, and, what’s more, the underlying themes are not very different for either target audience. Here we have the idea that highly advanced biological creatures that evolved in other parts of the Universe are visiting humanity to extract resources or impart knowledge or some combination of those things.




Whatever the motives of these aliens, we are told that they have supernatural powers and technologies that any human would be a fool not to covet. In fact, movies like Prometheus have incorporated the very popular idea of directed panspermia – an idea that is actually taken seriously by a few academics out there – which suggests that advanced aliens are the original creators of humanity and have been guiding our evolution ever since. The undeniable message is that humans have the genetic blueprint to evolve into creatures just like these aliens, i.e. the equivalent of Gods with unfathomable technological prowess and the ultimate power over the creation and destruction of life.

Is it really any wonder, then, that our societal leaders constantly feed us propaganda about how we will grow our way out of economic depression, how we will innovate our way out of energy and environmental disasters and how we will consciously evolve our way out of violent conflicts and wars. There are many serious transhumanists out there who believe we will reach some sort of “technological singularity” and effectively become the immortal rulers of Earth. All of this would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that so much time, resources and propaganda are actually devoted to making these things a reality, as well as convincing everyone that it can and will be done

The avenues of popular culture are both tools used to influence the collective mentality, and a reflection of the collective mentality that is already ingrained in global society. It sells because we want to believe it, and we want to believe it because it sells. Make no mistake, the entertainment industry is all about politics, programming and outright deception these days. What we see happening in elite policy circles is not much different from what we see happening on our television sets and in our movie theatres. They want us to believe humanity is becoming omnipotent by following their lead, but instead our cultures are quickly becoming impotent.

Jul 292012
 July 29, 2012  Posted by at 4:14 pm Finance Comments Off on How Will We Handle Our Losses?

The book of Job

We've spent some time talking about the psychology of loss on TAE – see, A Glimpse Into the Stubborn Psychology of Fish, A Glimpse Into the Self-Destructive Psychology of Sharks, The Short Story of How We Lose. The fact is, though, that these discussions remain abstract and hypothetical for most people who are relatively well-off in the developed world, and it will always be that way until we actually see the people around us losing most of what they have, or until we ourselves lose the things we value the most in life. It is difficult to imagine exactly how painful such a process would be, and how we would react. 

One of the oldest and most well-known stories of such loss is that of Job, found in the Old Testament. To briefly summarize – Job was a very pious, righteous and caring man, blessed with a lot of wealth, a comfortable yet meaningful life, and a large, loving family. As a test of his Faith, though, he lost almost everything in the course of a few hours on one dreadful afternoon. His land was destroyed, and his cattle, servants and children were all killed in a series of disasters. Yet the test still wasn't complete…



While he was deeply mourning his losses, Job came down with a severe and painful affliction, which produced horrible sores on his body from "the soles of his feet to the top of his head" and tormented him every moment of every hour of every day for seven days. After three of his friends sat with him in silence for seven days and seven nights, Job finally expressed his sorrow and agony in this poetic outburst of emotion, in which he cursed the day he was born.



The Book of Job, Chapter 3


3 "May the day of my birth perish,

and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!'

4 That day—may it turn to darkness;

may God above not care about it;

may no light shine upon it.

5 May darkness and deep shadows claim it once more;

may a cloud settle over it;

may blackness overwhelm its light.

6 That night—may thick darkness seize it;

may it not be included among the days of the year

nor be entered in any of the months.

7 May that night be barren;

may no shout of joy be heard in it.

8 May those who curse days curse that day,

those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.

9 May its morning stars become dark;

may it wait for daylight in vain

and not see the first rays of dawn,

10 for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me

to hide trouble from my eyes.


11 "Why did I not perish at birth,

and die as I came from the womb?

12 Why were there knees to receive me

and breasts that I might be nursed?

13 For now I would be lying down in peace;

I would be asleep and at rest

14 with kings and counselors of the earth,

who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,

15 with rulers who had gold,

who filled their houses with silver.

16 Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child,

like an infant who never saw the light of day?

17 There the wicked cease from turmoil,

and there the weary are at rest.

18 Captives also enjoy their ease;

they no longer hear the slave driver's shout.

19 The small and the great are there,

and the slave is freed from his master.


20 "Why is light given to those in misery,

and life to the bitter of soul,

21 to those who long for death that does not come,

who search for it more than for hidden treasure,

22 who are filled with gladness

and rejoice when they reach the grave?

23 Why is life given to a man

whose way is hidden,

whom God has hedged in?

24 For sighing comes to me instead of food;

my groans pour out like water.

25 What I feared has come upon me;

what I dreaded has happened to me.

26 I have no peace, no quietness;

I have no rest, but only turmoil."



Even after all of this, Job's friends endlessly try to console him with "tough love", accusing him of being sinful, and they eventually turn on him for being so sorrowful and "ingorant" of God. Job is actually chastised by these so-called friends, instead of consoled, which only adds to his suffering. Of course, Job ultimately passes the test of his Faith, cursing anything and everything around him, including the day he was born and his own existence, but never once denying or cursing God. That is the story of Job's incalculable losses in a nutshell.

If you are like me, then you can't help but stop and wonder how you would react in Job's situation, or how the people around you would react. It is an especially important consideration in times like these, when those who have accumulated great wealth and status and comforts can easily be reduced to nothing in short order; when everything they take for granted, including their loved ones, can be taken away from them. Who among us would have the resolve of Job, never once lifting our hands in violence against others or ourselves, or losing Faith in a higher power?

The sad truth is that the world will be filled with Jobs over the next few decades – people who never knew the pain of severe, systematic loss before, but are quickly plunged into exactly those circumstances. There are certainly many people who are already starting to find themselves in such dreadful scenarios, but the numbers will only grow larger and "closer to home" over time. The threat of financial loss will be unprecedented, as will the threat of physical loss from natural disasters, human violence and disease (all things Job experienced).

Evidence of these converging crises is all around us, from the escalating financial/banking stress across the world to the sociopolitical unrest in the Eurozone, Middle East and Far East, to the rapid rates of air/water pollution, soil erosion, radiation poisoning, etc., to the droughts, famines and severe weather events, to the geopolitical uncertainty in the ME, and much, much more. These things are happening right now, and while there may be some positive developments occurring in the opposite direction, they are few and far between.

The global financial crisis by itself has the potential to produce devastating consequences across all spheres of modern life in our highly inter-connected, inter-dependent world. Our global systems have been deisgned to take crises that may initially effect only one specific area and magnify its impact and generalize the resulting losses throughout the entire world. That fact was illustrated nicely by the latest report from David Korowicz entitled, Trade-Off: Financial system supply-chain cross contagion (a study in global systemic collapse).






This study considers the relationship between a global systemic banking, monetary and solvency crisis and its implications for the real-time flow of goods and services in the globalised economy. It outlines how contagion in the financial system could set off semi-autonomous contagion in supply-chains globally, even where buyers and sellers are linked by solvency, sound money and bank intermediation. The cross-contagion between the financial system and trade/production networks is mutually reinforcing.

It is argued that in order to understand systemic risk in the globalised economy, account must be taken of how growing complexity (interconnectedness, interdependence and the speed of processes), the de-localisation of production and concentration within key pillars of the globalised economy have magnified global vulnerability and opened up the possibility of a rapid and large-scale collapse. 'Collapse' in this sense means the irreversible loss of socio-economic complexity which fundamentally transforms the nature of the economy. These crucial issues have not been recognised by policy-makers nor are they reflected in economic thinking or modelling.

As the globalised economy has become more complex and ever faster (for example, Just-in-Time logistics), the ability of the real economy to pick up and globally transmit supply-chain failure, and then contagion, has become greater and potentially more devastating in its impacts. In a more complex and interdependent economy, fewer failures are required to transmit cascading failure through socio-economic systems. In addition, we have normalised massive increases in the complex conditionality that underpins modern societies and our welfare. Thus we have problems seeing, never mind planning for such eventualities, while the risk of them occurring has increased significantly. The most powerful primary cause of such an event would be a large-scale financial shock initially centring on some of the most complex and trade central parts of the globalised economy.

The argument that a large-scale and globalised financial-banking-monetary crisis is likely arises from two sources. Firstly, from the outcome and management of credit over-expansion and global imbalances and the growing stresses in the Eurozone and global banking system. Secondly, from the manifest risk that we are at a peak in global oil production, and that affordable, real-time production will begin to decline in the next few years. In the latter case, the credit backing of fractional reserve banks, monetary systems and financial assets are fundamentally incompatible with energy constraints. It is argued that in the coming years there are multiple routes to a large-scale breakdown in the global financial system, comprising systemic banking collapses, monetary system failure, credit and financial asset vaporization. This breakdown, however and whenever it comes, is likely to be fast and disorderly and could overwhelm society's ability to respond.

We consider one scenario to give a practical dimension to understanding supply-chain contagion- a break-up of the Euro and an intertwined systemic banking crisis. Simple argument and modelling will point to the likelihood of a food security crisis within days in the directly affected countries and an initially exponential spread of production failures across the world beginning within a week. This will reinforce and spread financial system contagion. It is also argued that the longer the crisis goes on, the greater the likelihood of its irreversibility. This could be in as little as three weeks.

This study draws upon simple ideas drawn from ecology, systems dynamics, and the study of complex networks to frame the discussion of the globalised economy. Real-life events such as United Kingdom fuel blockades (2000) and the Japanese Tsunami (2011) are used to shed light on modern trade vulnerability.

So, the question again is – what will you do when the contagion hits your neck of the woods? How will you react to the devastating losses that are forced on you by natural developments and by human actors? There are certainly ways to prepare and insulate onself from these risks, many of which have been discussed on TAE, but no one can ever be certain that they will avoid the worst of it. We must search our psychological recesses and try to understand the things which will preserve our Faith in such a scenario, whatever those things or that Faith may be.

Perhaps there are people out there, including TAE readers, who have already experienced such losses and have wisdom to share, in which case we should seek out and welcome their counsel. None of us will get through these times alone, and many of us will suffer repeated experiences of sheer dread, pain and hoplessness. I can't imagine what someone like Job experienced when he went through his trials, but I can try to learn from the lessons of the past. There is such a thing as eternal wisdom, in my opinion, and we need to embrace it now more than ever.


Jul 272012
 July 27, 2012  Posted by at 7:32 pm Finance Comments Off on Plutocracy Now: Why the Fed is Unconstitutional

Sometimes it helps to get back to the basics, which, in the context of debt-based money, is the fact that the Federal Reserve is a privately-owned central bank that exists in contravention of the U.S. Constitution, pursues illegal policies and is completely unaccountable to the people. In fact, it is more unaccountable to the people than the White House, Supreme Court or any other public insitution of the United States. The following is a re-post of an article I wrote in November of 2010. While we speculate about QE, no QE, a little QE, a lot of QE, etc., we also need to remember what the foundations of this obscenely powerful and destructive institution really are.

No matter what policies the Fed decides to pursue in upcoming months, we can rest assured that those policies will continue to act as a drain on any remaining productive aspects of our society and as a wealth siphon for the financial elites. This post will also set the stage for an article by a guest contributor that will delve into some of the finer aspects of the Fed’s monetary operations, which should be posted within a few days. There have been A LOT of very interesting quotes about the Fed over the years, but here’s one of my favorites:

“We have, in this country, one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board. This evil institution has impoverished the people of the United States and has practically bankrupted our government. It has done this through the corrupt practices of the moneyed vultures who control it.” -Congressman Louis T. McFadden in 1932 (Rep. Pa)

Plutocracy Now

We could write stacks of books on the prevalence of money in politics and the swarms of lobbyists who descend on Washington every single week, and many people have, but it’s simpler to just focus on the most egregious example of corruption. The most powerful, influential economic policy-making institution in the country, the Federal Reserve (“Fed”), is an unelected body that is completely unaccountable to the people. Well, let’s back up and start with the fact that this institution’s very existence is most likely unconstitutional. Here’s why:

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof”. The Supreme Court has long held that Congress can delegate its legislative powers to Executive agencies as long as it provides an “intelligible principle” to guide the agencies’ action.

We don’t even have to reach the question of whether the Federal Reserve Act sets out an “intelligible principle”, however, because existing precedent states that Congress cannot delegate its powers to private institutions. Schecter Poultry (held “a delegation of its legislative authority to trade or industrial associations…would be utterly inconsistent with the constitutional prerogatives and duties of Congress“). In that case, the Supreme Court struck down parts of FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act which authorized these private organizations to draft “codes of fair competition” and submit them to the President for approval.

The Fed, by it’s own admission, is an independent entity within the government “having both public purposes, and private aspects”. By “private aspects”, they mean the entire operation is wholly-owned by private member banks, who are paid dividends of 6% each year on their stock. Furthermore, the Fed’s decisions “do not have to be ratified by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branch of government” and the Fed “does not receive funding appropriated by Congress”.

In 1982, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed this view when it held that “federal reserve banks are not federal instrumentalities… but are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations. [The Legality of the Federal Reserve System, 5]. Yet, the Fed has exclusive control over the government’s ability to create money and regulate its value through the targeting of interest rates and open market operations (when the Fed buys and sells debt-assets in the market through its primary dealer banks). How Congress can delegate its Constitutional powers to this independent, privately owned and unaccountable institution is beyond me.

Still, the Constitutional issue is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this twisted institution’s embodiment of all things undemocratic. When Congress (and the people it represents) makes a valid delegation of its powers to an executive agency, it almost always retains a level of control through its powers of appropriations, impeachment and oversight. For some not-so-strange reason, the Fed isn’t appropriated any funds by Congress, and so it cannot be financially “starved” like any other agency.

The members of the Fed’s Board of Governors also cannot be impeached by Congress, which is especially twisted, since the President of the United States can be impeached for “high crimes and misdameanors”. [The Legality of the Federal Reserve System, 8]. What about oversight? Well, a Congressional committee holds “hearings” every once in awhile to ask the Chairman a few irrelevant questions, but if this process is what passes for “oversight”, then we have truly gone off the deep end.

Speaking of committees and oversight, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified under oath to Congress in July, he said in no uncertain words, “the Federal Reserve will not monetize the [federal] debt”. [1]. Fast forward to the day after mid-term elections, in which the American people clearly voted for LESS spending/printing, and the Fed announces its plan to monetize $900 billion in treasury bonds. [2].

The Chairman has proven his previous testimony before Congress to be a blatant lie, but instead of condemning the Fed’s recent actions, the federal government has welcomed it with open arms. That’s quite some oversight we have there. Perhaps the best way to oversee the Fed’s actions would be to actually figure out what in Lloyd Blankfein’s name it’s been doing.

In this country, that’s easier said than done. The Government Accountability Office is not allowed to audit the Fed’s transactions for or with foreign governments, central banks, nonprivate international organizations or those made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee (“FOMC”). It just so happens that these are the types of transactions which are most influential on global and domestic financial markets, especially the open market operations.

These operations are conducted by the FOMC, who is comprised of the Board of Governors (7 members appointed by President and confirmed by Senate) and five representatives from the regional Fed Banks. Although the President appoints the Board of Governors, he must choose from a list of candidates provided by private institutions, and the other five representatives are also typically nominated by private member banks. Talk about an organization with conflicts of interest, lack of transparency and lack of accountability all tightly woven into its very fabric!

In the last two years, the almighty Fed has printed trillions of dollars in our name to buy worthless mortgage assets from “too big to fail” banks. It has lent these banks our hard-earned money at about 0% interest, so they could lend our own money back to us at 3%+. These banks also used our free money to ramp equity and commodity markets, which mostly benefitted the top 1% of our population who owns 43% of financial wealth [3], and conveniently, also owns the Fed.

The latter has kept interest rates at next to nothing to punish savers and encourage speculation, making everything less affordable for average Americans who have seen their wages stay the same, decrease or disappear. What’s left standing is the perniciously powerful, highly secretive and entirely unaccountable Fed, who now epitomizes the state of American democracy.

We have all become subject to the misguided and/or malicious whims of a few wealthy individuals operating the levers of economic policy, with no adequate means of challenging their power. Our most treasured contribution to political society has been reduced to a bunch of meaningless articles and amendments, containing equally meaningless words. We the people, in our pursuit of “a more perfect union”, have fallen into an age-old trap.

Our economic policies, currency and laws are all manufactured by our very own private dictator, who amasses a fortune from our collective exploitation and destruction. Then, this despot continues to operate like nothing ever happened. We can scream “ABOLISH THE FED” all day, non-stop to every single politician at the top of our lungs, but it will never happen.

The reality is that there is only one way back to a true democratic system now, and this path will require nothing less of us than the courage of our forefathers.

Jul 262012
 July 26, 2012  Posted by at 4:30 pm Finance Comments Off on Our Debts Must be Redeemed

St Paul's from the south west in 1896.

In mid-October 2011, a group of Occupy protesters in London set up tents and encamped outside of St. Paul's Cathedral for almost four months before finally being evicted by the Corporation of London. At first, the Church welcomed the protesters and preached to them, acknowledging the ways in which governments and banks were clearly contravening Christian teachings.

After a few days of lost revenue due to the presence of the Occupiers, though, several high-ranking members of the Church, including the Bishop of London, decided it was best to side with the City authorities in taking legal action to evict. The Canon Chancellor of the Church, Dr. Giles Fraser, even resigned over this issue, saying the Church should do nothing which could "lead to violence" against the protestors, but ultimately the protest was squashed through coercive means.

The legal arguments focused on fire safety, health concerns, blockage of access to and from the Church and other such things, but ultimately it was about lost revenue from tourists (claimed to be up to £20,000 a day) and the message that was underlying the Occupy London Movement – a message of radical change. Protesters showed up at one of the most famous Cathedrals in the world seeking the full support of a Faith which claims to admonish selfish pursuits, corporate greed, interest-bearing debt, dishonest/fraudulent behavior and repressive government policies, but all they received were a few symbolic pats on the back before they were told to get lost in no uncertain terms.

It is occurrences such as these that show us just how badly the radical ideals of Faith are upheld by the institutional arbiters of Faith, and the individuals who occupy political roles in those institutions. The holy texts of Judaism, Chrisitianity and Islam all contain very clear and strict admonitions against societies organized around debt-based relationships. The Old Testament allows for a debt jubilee (or cancellation) every 50 years, at which time people sold into slavery or previously foreclosed land can be redeemed, and relatively wealthy relatives have an obligation to redeem the debts of those who don't have the means to do so themselves. We also find a stiff rebuke of those who charge interest on loans issued to their struggling countrymen.



Leviticus Chapter 25


25'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26'Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28'But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.



35'Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36'Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. 37'You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. 38'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.


39'If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave's service. 40'He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. 41'He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.

The New Testament is filled with parables spoken by Jesus that deal with humanity's indebtedness to God. The general theological message being conveyed is that we are all accumulating debts to God through our sinful lives, and there is no way we will ever be able pay off those debts. However, with Jesus' death and resurrection on the cross, those unpayable debts have been redeemed for us by an external force. Christian theology, therefore, clearly recognizes the impossibility of individual or societal relationships based on debt, which generally lead to enslavement (to our own desires or others), and the need for an external cancellation of those debts.



One such parable is the "parable of the talents" in Matthew Chapter 25 and Luke Chapter 19, which indirectly portrays Jesus' extremely negative view of interest-bearing debt, but is frequently misunderstood by those who read it. Here are the notes on Matthew 25:27 from the Geneva Bible:

Bankers who have their shops or tables set up abroad, where they lend money at interest. Usury or loaning money at interest is strictly forbidden by the Bible, (Exo_22:25-27; Deu_23:19-20). Even a rate as low as one per cent interest was disallowed, (Neh_5:11). This servant had already told two lies. First he said the master was an austere or harsh man. This is a lie for the Lord is merciful and gracious. Next he called his master a thief because he reaped where he did not sow. Finally the master said to him sarcastically why did you not add insult to injury and loan the money out at interest so you could call your master a "usurer" too! If the servant had done this, his master would have been responsible for his servant's actions and guilty of usury.

We also find that usury was outlawed for about 80% of the Church's entire history in the Holy Roman Empire, during which time a usurer could be punished through ex-communication by the Church, on top of fines and imprisonment by civil authorities. This anti-usurious attitude lasted all the way up until the 16th century. The first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem, Divine Comedy, tells us that the money lenders are consigned to the Inner Ring of his Seventh Circle of Hell (violence), alongside blasphemers and sodomites.



Islam also has a long tradition of antagonism towards debt and usury, originally stemming from its holy text – the Quran. In fact, the Quran is even more clear than the Old Testament on what kind of judgment the Faith believes will come to pass on usurers of any sort. Here are a few passages from English translations of the Quran to that affect:

Those who charge usury are in the same position as those controlled by the devil's influence. This is because they claim that usury is the same as commerce. However, God permits commerce, and prohibits usury. Thus, whoever heeds this commandment from his Lord, and refrains from usury, he may keep his past earnings, and his judgment rests with God. As for those who persist in usury, they incur Hell, wherein they abide forever (Al-Baqarah 2:275)


God condemns usury, and blesses charities. God dislikes every disbeliever, guilty. Those who believe and do good works and establish worship and pay the poor-due, their reward is with their Lord and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. O you who believe, you shall observe God and refrain from all kinds of usury, if you are believers. If you do not, then expect a war from God and His messenger. But if you repent, you may keep your capitals, without inflicting injustice, or incurring injustice. If the debtor is unable to pay, wait for a better time. If you give up the loan as a charity, it would be better for you, if you only knew. (Al-Baqarah 2:276-280)


O you who believe, you shall not take usury, compounded over and over. Observe God, that you may succeed. (Al-'Imran 3:130)


And for practicing usury, which was forbidden, and for consuming the people's money illicitly. We have prepared for the disbelievers among them painful retribution. (Al-Nisa 4:161)


The usury that is practiced to increase some people's wealth, does not gain anything at God. But if people give to charity, seeking God's pleasure, these are the ones who receive their reward many fold. (Ar-Rum 30:39)



The spiritual condemnations of usury certainly don't stop there. We also have examples of them from the ancient Vedic texts of Hinduism and religious texts of Buddhism. Here is a brief article on that from the Islamic Banking and Finance Network:

Money Matters: Usury in Hinduism and Buddhism


Among the oldest known references to usury are to be found in ancient Indian religious manuscripts and Jain (1929) provides an excellent summary of these in his work on Indigenous Banking in India.


The earliest such record derives from the Vedic texts of Ancient India (2,000-1,400 BC) in which the “usurer” (kusidin) is mentioned several times and interpreted as any lender at interest. More frequent and detailed references to interest payment are to be found in the later Sutra texts (700-100 BC), as well as the Buddhist Jatakas (600-400 BC). It is during this latter period that the first sentiments of contempt for usury are exressed. For example, Vasishtha, a well known Hindu law-maker of that time, made a special law which forbade the higher castes of Brahmanas (priests) and Kshatriyas (warriors) from being usurers or lenders at interest.


Also, in the Jatakas, usury is referred to in a demeaning manner: “hypocritical ascetics are accused of practising it”.

With so much of the world supposedly influenced by all of these different Faiths and their holy texts, why do we find ourselves in a world economy that is defined by a dependency on interest-bearing debt? Why do our political leaders, government officials, mainstream academics and media pundits promote the growth of already unsustainable debt levels with their words and actions, while our religious leaders largely sit by and do nothing to instruct and organize their followers? As the Quran implies, these so-called leaders should be waging spiritual warfare at a global scale on the well-established threat of usury.

In the Middle Ages, the Pope would not hesitate much to exercise authority over the King and excommunicate him for failing to comply with the Church's orders, but now such religious leaders are completely subservient to the Establishment. The reason is rather obvious – institutionalized versions of spirituality have become corrupted by their political ambitions and their selfish desires, just like most other institutions. That's why a landmark such as St. Paul's Cathedral in London will evict Occupy protesters rather than contemplate the prospect of foregoing revenues and joining their Just Cause.

Truly, every influential servant of his/her respective Faith in every nation of the world should join together and call for a debt jubilee to be drafted up and implemented right away. At the very least, the struggling masses should have all interest obligations on their debts wiped out, while the large banks are forced to restructure or liquidate. It obviously won't be a simple matter to work out all of the details, but it is both the righteous and practical thing to do, not to mention the only real option we are left with. Our debts must be redeemed and they will be redeemed – the only question remaining is how.

Jul 242012
 July 24, 2012  Posted by at 10:32 pm Finance Comments Off on Einstein’s Definition of Gluttony


“Pie eating contest, Jefferson school, 8/2/23.” Still more pie-eating in Washingon, D.C. National Photo Company Collection glass negative

We all know Einstein’s definition of Insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time”. And more than a few people have applied that to the Eurozone sovereign debt debacle. Case in point – Greece and Spain. It didn’t take more than a single day for the EU officials visiting Greece to figured out that the Troika’s grand bailout, austerity and debt restructuring plans will fail even worse and even quicker than expected.

Reuters is reporting that, only a few months after the PSI debt restructuring in February, it has become clear that Greece’s public creditors (ECB, EZ governments) will have to take haircuts on their bonds as well, which is something they are definitely not willing to do. The officials that are talking to Reuters say that the country is going to be “HUGELY off track” of prior estimates in debt sustainability reports.

Instead of the economy contracting by only 5% this year, it will contract by at least 7%, which will obviously make its debt to GDP ratio far worse than expected. Here is Luke Baker reporting for Reuters:

Exclusive: Greece will need more debt restructuring – EU officials


Greece is unlikely to be able to pay what it owes and further debt restructuring is likely to be necessary, three EU officials said on Tuesday, a cost that would have to fall on the European Central Bank and euro zone governments.


The officials said that twice bailed-out Greece would be found to be way off track by EU and International Monetary Fund officials who have been assessing the country.


Inspectors from the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF — together known as the troika — returned to Athens on Tuesday and will complete their debt-sustainability analysis next month, but the sources said the conclusions were already becoming clear.


It means Greece’s official-sector creditors — the ECB and euro zone governments — will have to restructure some of the estimated 200 billion euros of Greek government debt they own if Athens is to be put back on a sustainable footing.


But there is no willingness among member states or the ECB to take such dramatic action at this stage.


“Greece is hugely off track,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The debt-sustainability analysis will be pretty terrible.”


Another official pointed to the latest growth estimates from Athens, which show the economy contracting by 7 percent this year rather than the 5 percent previously forecast, meaning that the debt burden is only increasing in relation to GDP.


“Nothing has been done in Greece for the past three or four months,” said the official, referring to the delays caused by the two elections held since May.


“The situation just goes from bad to worse, and with it the debt ratio,” said the official, a policymaker directly involved in trying to find solutions to the crisis.

And, as we learned from the Der Spiegel story broken by Ilargi on Sunday – The IMF plans to dump Greece, the IMF may literally BAIL OUT (as opposed to bailout) of any further supportive measures for Greece, which would leave the task entirely on the shoulders of the ECB and EZ national governments. Without international support, it is impossible for the Eurozone to continue carrying the dead weight of Greece’s rapidly deteriorating economy.

As a result, the IMF could decide to pull out of the second bailout program, having already said that further missed targets would not be acceptable. That would leave euro zone member states and the ECB to bear the cost alone.


In that case, the only way to keep Greece afloat and in the euro zone would be for the ECB and member states to write off some of the Greek debt they own or change the terms to give Athens ever more time to pay back at lower interest rates.


“This has not been explored yet politically because no one wants to launch that discussion,” the first official said. “The political feasibility of carrying out an official-sector restructuring is becoming more and more complicated.”


Even though no formal discussions have begun over so-called official-sector involvement, two possibilities have been mentioned — the ECB taking a writedown on the estimated 40 billion euros of Greek bonds it holds, or member states improving the terms on their loans to Athens.


But the officials Reuters spoke to listed six member states who are firmly opposed to extending Greece further lifelines, not only because of Athens’s persistent missing of targets but because the costs will soon be born directly by taxpayers.

Basically, everyone has given up on Greece, and for good reason. The German economy minister, Philip Rosler, recently stated that he was “very skeptical” that European leaders will be able to rescue Greece. The fact is that there is really very little for the European core to gain from providing more official assistance to Greece, compared to what it will lose. With Moody’s downgrade of sovereign ratings outlooks in Germany and the Netherlands, core countries are now experiencing the unacceptable price they must pay to keep the Eurozone periphery intact.

Yet, everyone is already talking about the Troika doing the exact same thing with Spain – i.e. a cycle of “temporary liquidity assistance”, permanent bailout mechanisms and hard-hitting austerity for a rapidly contracting economy. As most of the autonomous regions of Spain are requesting financial assistance from the Spanish government, the Spanish government will be forced to ask for assistance from the ECB, EZ governments and then the international community. From El Economista (translated by Google):

Meeting in Berlin, the Government proposes to request a credit line to save the year


“We are alone.” It is the confession of a Spanish economist. But the general feeling that little by little, is making inroads in all economic and financial forums. Spain, the fourth largest power in the eurozone and one of the founding countries of the euro is increasingly helpless. Nor its European partners and the European Central Bank (ECB) stop the choking. Moreover, the feeling that not even try.



At stake, therefore, is to avoid an imminent financial collapse. Because this danger is real. Analysts are unanimous: If perseveres pressure on Spanish bonds and Treasury loses its access to market-that is, you could not stop, ‘Spain can not cope with the massive debt maturity that awaits him in October, close to the 28,000 million. These be even greater if, in addition, the Treasury has to funnel money to the regions requesting the help of special liquidity fund created by the central executive.


Therefore, sources close to the government have admitted they are considering other alternatives. Like, for example, the negotiation of an overall rescue tender. That is, that Europe give Spain a temporary line of credit with which to address the maturity of its debt, and even financial assistance from the Autonomous Communities in 2012.


This option is based on a premise well known in the eurozone, of buying time. That money would serve to dampen fears today, waiting for the agreements reached at the June summit, as the implementation of a single banking supervisor, are in place and that the Stability Mechanism (Mede) is already in operation and available financial resources and instruments to find solutions.

It is very likely that the EZ governments and the IMF relent and shovel aid towards Spain, its regions and its banks for some time, as they find even more ways to have taxpayer funds looted and their own credibility smashed. How could any of these people possibly be that INSANE, you ask? Well, they’re not really… they’re just greedy as all get out. The people calling the shots at these institutions only know one thing – there is money, assets and resources to be taken from the populations of the EZ periphery before the entire experiment falls apart.

Perhaps some of the lower-level Knights, Bishops and Pawns are expecting different results than Greece, but I highly doubt any of the Kings or Queens are. They are simply following Einstein’s definition of Gluttony“pursuing the same selfish desires over and over again, and expecting the same result each time”. The result of these policies is that the elites will be able to kick the can down the road for at least one more day, create that one extra bond, siphon off that one extra euro, foreclose on that one extra asset and deceive that one extra politician.



It is a corrupt group of minority elites that is gorging itself on the money and the lives and the spirits of the majority, like a surprisingly skinny kid in a hot dog eating contest. Eventually, people living in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S., etc. will find themselves owning a bunch of Spanish bonds through the ECB, IMF and ESM. The Spanish economy will continue to contract, and they will be told that they need to take large haircuts on the value of those bonds if they want to keep Spain in the Eurozone. A very similar path will play out for Italy as well.

That is, of course, if the taxpaying citizens and financial investors choose to play along in the meantime. So far, most of these people have also followed their selfish impulses and clung to the European ideal of lasting stability and economic prosperity, even as their savings and investments quickly rot from the inside out, proving that such an ideal will never come to fruition. As long as they continue to care more about their bank and brokerage statements than the state of their communities and societies, though, the Gluttonous collapse cycle will continue.