Bar One

Presented here is my first silver bar. I have pounds of coins&rounds so when I decided to convert some steem into silver earlier this year, and then @silverd decided to convert some silver into steem in May, and it just so happened I’d powered down enough to buy it, well… who am I to thumb my nose at destiny?

There’s a strange little story that accompanies these images and I will tell it down below. For now just check out how nice this plain little bar looks.

The back side is classic, simple. Beautiful. (Thanks to @trishlarimer for making these images.)

I almost didn’t get this bar.

About a week after we did the deal I went online and tracked the package with the number @silverd gave me. According to the post office it had been delivered days earlier “at or near” my mailbox. But like any kid waiting on a new toy I’d been keeping an eagle eye on that.

It took a couple of days to figure out what had happened. The package was delivered to the wrong address by a substitute while our regular postal carrier was on vacation. But with the help of our regular carrier and her boss Trish trackedthe package to a house several blocks away. (Each package is scanned when delivered and we used the geo-location data.)

We were warned by the PO boss that we might worry about visiting the house, as it’s located in a “bad neighborhood”. Trish reminded the boss that we also lived in this neighborhood.

It took a couple of drive-bys to talk to anyone at that house, which was, I hate to admit, one of the more run-down abodes near the edge of our neighborhood. We live in a very old section of town and sometimes when the old folks die, the younger ones don’t care about what’s left to them. Blows my mind but there it is.

Anyway, the guy shetalked to in broken English was from Mexico and definitely wanted to help us get what was ours and leave. He made the point repeatedly that he didn’t live there but was friends with the girl who did, and he had no trouble opening the house to retrieve the bar. Very nice fellow who tried to explain as best he could that the girl who lived there simply didn’t know what to do and was afraid to even put it back into the mailbox.

In the end, thanks to @silverd shipping with a tracking number, thanks to our carrier and the PO boss, thanks to technology, and thanks to the integrity of random humans, the bar finally found its way to its new home.

Other than the fact that this is ten ounces of shiny, to me this bar represents the bulk of earnings and awards for my short stories that I published on steem in 2017 and 2018 before Kosh died. To me, this is the best piece of silver I own.

These Are A Promise

We’d been together for some years and I thought what the hey–I bet Trish aka @trishlarimer would love a new ring. The only one I’d bought her was a nice little 18k gold dinner ring with little emerald stones. She wears it occasionally…

I was thinking she’d like something in 24k gold. Maybe one of those Crown rings I’d seen on the website.

Trish had other thoughts on the matter. She patiently perused every ring on the site, ooo-ing and ahhh-ing at several of them before identifying the fatal flaw in each which meant she couldn’t have it.

So I asked her what kind of ring she would like, and she had no trouble at all finding these.

Beautiful, aren’t they? These images were made this week, after we’ve been wearing them daily for a couple of months.

Not possessing a flair for jewelry I chose the narrow band and Trish of course chose the traditional wide band. Mine weighs in a bit over seven grams and hers at a hefty eleven-plus. When you wear gold, you know it. It’s heavy.

We love these rings. To us they’re a symbol of both the permanence and the purity of our commitment to each other. As she said when we first laid eyes on them: These are not an investment–they are a promise.

I’d meant to post this a while back but Life. Thanks to @goldmatters for reminding me!

Seventeen Sounds

Were there portents in the sky?

I don’t remember the 1st haiku I ever saw. I don’t remember when I learned of such a brief, structured form that served its function so well that it held its own beginning and its own end within the short span of seventeen sounds. As a young hippie type I should have rebelled at the imposition of such structure. Too many rules to follow couldn’t possibly create real, honest art!

Except that the form created the function, the sounds filled the void with purpose, clarity, and sometimes an awful, terrible truth. Look, for instance at this one, written many years after the subject date.

I Never Looked Up
Were there portents in the sky?
I never looked up.

 With seventeen sounds, two entire books are included. We are placed, in the first line, squarely inside the world of George Orwell. Then comes the reference to the book The Revelation, contained in the Christian bible. From these two points of reference, the haiku then makes a profound statement about humanity. (Or… 1984 was the year my sons were born etc… you decide.)

What then, should we make of this one? The tone of it is almost taunting.

Wake and smell the fishies, your
time is almost gone.

 I’ll let you decide what that’s all about

Something else that I love about the haiku form is how well it captures a moment in time. Below is one of my older haiku, written nearly 40 years ago when I lived in a little duplex with my wife. We had two calico cats named Camuura and Amor.

Lindsay Street Haiku
Cats prowling, windows
wide let the music escape,
small feet pat onward.

Those were some pretty cool cats… then again, Kathy and I were pretty cool ourselves. I was 18 and she was 17, finishing her last year in high school. With no MySpace or Facebook, and no cellphones or iTunes, we actually did stuff. I was heavily into writing any and everything and she was into painting any and everything. She used watercolors in a way that made you swear it was oil or acrylic. She could get the starkest, finest lines into her paintings… One she did of the desert made me write this.

Shadows live, quiet
night falls on the desert, full
moon traces designs.

Haiku are wonderful ways to record a memory, not just an event. I remember once a woman kissed me, and the woman and the kiss and the day and the place and all of it was simply overwhelming. But the real experience of it comes through when I say it like this:

Your Kiss
Your kiss so subtle
rolls through me like thunder. Strike,
lightning! Pierce my heart.

She is an amazing woman… I’ll never forget her, or that day.

Then again, some days aren’t so wonderful. Some days it seems the world tries to bury you while you’re still breathing. That kind of overwhelming needs no introduction…

Arrows Shoot From Me
Tension builds inside
like the pull of a bowstring
just before release.

And sometimes, on those kinds of days, it’s nice to have a litany of mantras to repeat when you’re just about ready to crumble. This is one I wrote to get me through my 1st Calculus class.

I shall clear my head
and derive a solution,
resolve this ordeal.

I didn’t do so well in that class, as I remember. But I did get through it. Maybe I should’ve taken an incomplete…

I am Jon – writing
here only for a short time.
Tick. Tock. I am gone.


Ethical Hacking In The Business World


I like to think that the term ‘hacker’ comes from using a hatchet to make the corners of log cabins fit together, like the fine cuts you see over to the right. Hacking is an attitude – and if you ever talk to a real hacker you get that right away. They may be a little strange sometimes, but they are there to build things, not tear them down.

In the 21st century, though, the term has been co-opted to mean something entirely different. The media refers to “hackers” who release computer trojans, spyware and other malware on the world. These folks aren’t hackers in the true sense, but I am certain they think they deserve the title.

Ethical Hackers

A true hacker is always ethical, but in this day and age we have to make a distinction, and most people aren’t comfortable thinking of malware creators in terms of “crackers”. They were given this name by the real hackers, years ago, because their intent at the time was usually to break things, to ‘crack’ a code.

Now that you know the difference, let me say that I will be using ‘hacker’ in its currently accepted form. I’m about to tell you how to learn what they know and more, how to use their own tactics against them without their knowledge, how to earn the credentials of a Certified Ethical Hacker and how to use all that to perform advanced security audits for any business on the planet.

Get The Certification

It’s a common misconception to think of hackers as just some geeky kids living in their mom’s basement. This may have some basis in fact in the distant past, but today many of them have studied long and hard to learn their craft. After all, it pays well when it works. As more malware is released on the world, a need is created for professionals who have those same skills and can defend against them.

The first step towards becoming that professional is educating yourself. Hopefully, you already know a bit about computers, networking, and the internet. If you’re comfortable discussing TCP/IP and you know what a node is, your next step is getting the specific training you need to win in a battle against the bad guys.

And you’ll want a certification from a respected source, like the EC-Council. Their certificates are recognized worldwide(in over 60 countries) and have received endorsements from various government agencies including the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS). Their certification shows that you not only know what you’re doing, but that you’re doing it Ethically as well.

The IT Guys And Security

Face it, if the “IT Guys” could handle this, they would. The obvious fact is that they can’t. Now before you get all riled up, understand: I have been an IT guy. And in that capacity, I had to make sure each individual pc worked, was able to access the network(which had its own set of problems) and talk to other operating systems and the internet, make sure your email gets to you, remove the paper from the copier, answer (for the 50th time) some random question about computers or the web/iphones/ipods/nintendos…. you get the picture.

IT guys have about enough time to set up layers of defense and automated monitoring tools and then hope everything works. They don’t have time to actively try to break into their own IT Security. Even if they did have the time, the best practice would be for someone else to test security. The guys who set it up will be biased in favor of their own work, and may not ‘try’ hard enough.

As an ethical hacker, that’s where you come in. Companies and governments are constantly in need of people they can trust, to hire as consultants or full time. You’ll be the quality control check for the IT guys, using all the tools at your disposal to help them plug the holes in their security. Like James Dean, you’ll be the ‘bad boy’ everybody loves.

The Bottom Line

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about – the cash. I might like working for a little bit of nothing, but there’s no reason you should. As an
Ethical Hacker you can expect to command a professional’s salary.

But, even more than that, as a Certified Ethical Hacker you are recognized immediately as one of the ‘good guys’. You’ll be the guy with the white hat. Respect from your peers, your employers, your clients and your family and friends – how do you put a value on that?As time has passed and more malware has been released into the wild wild web, the need for Certified Ethical Hackers is only going to increase. Compensation is on the rise.

Some folks will tell you the only way to get ahead is ‘looking out for Number 1’ but I’m here to tell you, the BEST way to get ahead is to look out for those around you. As a Certified Ethical Hacker, you can actually do both. If you’re looking for the next step in your IT career, this may be it.

Social v Marketing

Social Marketing

Over at is a post that sorta set a fire up under my butt. Here’s the title :

What’s it take to be a social media expert? Not much, apparently

You’ll find nice things like this there:

“According to a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa, it doesn’t take much to be an expert, at least if you’re a marketer working at an organization that isn’t using social media”

Well, duh. Sure doesn’t take alot to not do something. How about this one:

“Yes, there are plenty of interesting social media marketing case studies but there are few tried and true techniques that can be applied consistently by practitioners. Everybody is still trying to figure this stuff out.”

Or this one:

“When it comes to putting together viable marketing strategies, executing them successfully, integrating them with multi-channel efforts and tracking ROI, the skills of a professional marketer are must-haves. Without these skills, otherwise creative and potentially successful campaigns will most often fail because marketing is as much about implementation and execution as it is about passion and creativity.”

Hey! I agree with that last one. The emphasis you see there is in the original. And I DO agree with Exactly what it says.

Social vs Marketing

But marketing campaigns are not the same as Social Marketing. And realizing this goes a long way toward understanding why ‘there are few tried and true techniques that can be applied consistently’. (That statement about everybody trying to figure this stuff out is just bunk, in my opinion.)

Social Marketing is simple, as I’ll explain below. But an essential nature of Social Marketing is that it is eternally dynamic. One man’s trash, another man’s treasure and all that. It’s not that there are no rules, no methods, no ‘tried and true’ knowledge.

There are rules, but most of them change depending on the current circumstances. Plus, what works today may not tomorrow, even with the same customers. (That’s why I just don’t get these automated ‘social’ tools. Where is the social in that?)

Back to rules. If you can’t get the 1st one right, then go back to your campaigns:

RULE 1: Do all you can to foster a friendship with the customer.

How do you measure that? Where is your metric and your chart and your Powerpoint presentation for that? Are you really comfortable setting goals that can only be measured over timespans of decades?

So how do you know if you’re being successful? Easy. Ask yourself this simple question with each interaction – Did I help this person?

See, this is where ‘old’ business and ‘new’ business marketers diverge. Strange thing is, the ‘new’ is actually the ‘really old but we forgot it’.

Once upon a time, a long time ago businesses survived because they nurtured relationships with their customers. Nearly all marketing was social. Then came radio, with its slick sound bites, and later television, adding visual impact to the message. Marketing took on a new face, and it had a mouth that was telling its customers what they wanted.

Then came the internet and just like that, the mystique of The Corporation was gone. Suddenly the customers demanded to be heard, and leveraging the power of instant communication they are achieving their goals. Generations of marketing techniques which worked just a few short years ago now fail. Social media allowed the rebirth of social marketing.

Parry and Twist (yeah, the dance)

The following excerpt is from a comment that seemed pretty representative of the comments there.

“A good marketer is holistic and recognizes that before you can come up with an idea for a campaign or commit a significant amount of resource to a particular path (eg. social media), you have to understand what the brands needs, what its goals are, how their achievement will be measured, which stakeholders need to be involved, … etc. etc. etc.”

I chose to respond to it. Here’s what I wrote:

“Don’t most of you get that Social is about relationships with the customer? Where is the customer mentioned in that rant above? To ‘marketers’ it’s all about what the company gets out of a campaign. That’s why you guys are being replaced by folks who, whether you like it or not, are redefining your field. By the very ones you are sneering at with your noses held high.

Social Media is a tool. Social Marketing is about relating (really) with your customer, finding out what that customer wants, and then doing whatever you can to provide the solution. This stuff isn’t rocket science, most of it’s just common sense.

How many of you have heard this: ‘The only reason any company ever exists is because of repeat business.’ That extraordinarily old saying is an expression of the results of social marketing. If you buy used cars, will you buy again from some shallow guy with a good pitch and the right price, or from the guy who takes the time to get to know you, finds out what you want and why, and gives you a reasonable price? That guy won’t be selling used cars for very long…”

OK OK so I’m not a social media expert, I don’t have millions of followers (he said, looking back over his shoulder) and hell, I’m barely alive.

But I can still rant. And even ranting can be social, sometimes.

This Is about Options

Living In The Past

Do you ever look through your favorite blog’s archives? Back in March 2008 Marshall Kirkpatrick published an article about the (then) new MySpace apps, and the conspicuous absence of a “long tail” in the adoption of apps by users. It was an interesting read, even though I didn’t think the title was justified by the content. That is not what this piece is about, however.

I’m a comment reader, and sometimes I even add a comment, myself. The first comment on Marshall’s piece was from Antonio Evans:

“When Myspace gets their self service advertising up and redesigns access to these applications we’ll see a great jump in applications getting well deserved installs.”

Self Service

That phrase, “self service advertising”, jumped right out at me. I even chuckled a bit. Self service advertising is exactly what we need, but not the way it’s being presented. Three generations of the current model of free content in exchange for ads has conditioned us to expect ads on our web. But the model is completely backwards for the 21st century. When will the marketing and advertising industry just evolve already, and realize that as consumers, we all want to choose our own ads?

We’ve been promised that targeted advertising will make our ads more relevant to us, more pertinent to what we might actually need, but I’m willing to bet that each one of you reading this has had an ad on your screen today that was totally off the mark. For instance, maybe you’re a married man, and you get the “meet singles” ad. That’s a really popular one. Ever wonder why that happens?

I have. It’s because of a couple of things, as far as I can tell. First, the technology just isn’t there yet to do what they’re trying to do. Evidently, from what I see and read around the web, no one has written an application yet that can truly understand who we are. In a way, I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t know how I’d like it if a computer program allowed somebody to understand me that well.

The second, and most important reason our online ads suck so much is that the concept is applied incorrectly. Targeting ads personally is a great idea. It’s win-win for everybody. But the way it’s being done doesn’t really work. I’ll assume here that marketing professionals are benevolent entities who really do want to help the consumer find what they are looking for. That’s what the truly great ones are doing, anyway. Hopefully some will read the next paragraph.

Essentially what I’m talking about here is a complete shift in the way commerce is done. So far, it has been such that the consumer is seen as being exploited by the companies. With self-targeted advertising, the consumer has more control, and the ads are more effective. More effective ads mean less investment in wasted advertising, and higher sales ratios from the advertising that is produced. Companies, by allowing consumers to take the role of exploiter, will boost sales while cutting costs. It is, for sure, a no-brainer.

Self Serving

We, as consumers, absolutely hate for a product to be shoved at us if it’s something we know we’ll never use. I mean, come on! I get ads served about Muslim singles, only because I once wrote about a Muslim holiday on my old blog. In a perfect ad-world, we could tell the “ad-universe” what we needed and it would respond with ads that were not only relevant, but right on time. Needless to say, it’s not a perfect world.

But if we can’t tell advertisers what we want, why can’t we tell them what we explicitly DO NOT want? Why isn’t there an “opt out” for these incessant singles ads? I keep “singling” these ads out, but you all know there are any number of intrusive and worthless ads shown to you every day. All I want to know is why we are still seeing such tripe. The answer is simple.

Advertisers are still operating under the 20th century notion that they are in control of the sales process. Advertisers, marketers, lend me your eyes! You are not in control! The consumer has the power to destroy you at a whim, and also the power to elevate you above your competitors. But only if you make us happy. You see, we’re growing up.

We’re not adults yet, no. But through the 20th century we were like small children. You could hold our hands and lead us wherever you wanted, and we went willingly. But we are growing up. We’re more like adolescents now, and we don’t like your hand-holding ways. We want some say in our choices. And if we don’t get it from you, we’ll go somewhere else. There’s always somewhere else. If there’s not, we’ll make one right before your eyes.

Why don’t one of you big guys create some way to get some consumer feedback? What if you could look at your clients and say that you could guarantee interest from your ads? You could have such a guarantee, if you let us tell you what we want. Just add something like “Don’t like your ads? Tell us what you want!” to your displays. Let us help you get it right.

That would be a step towards true “self service advertising”. What you’ve got now is mostly just self serving schlock.


Once upon a time Trish decided we needed a snowcat in our front yard. So she packed and piled the snow into a feline shape.

We ripped up an old broom for the whiskers and eyelashes. Some 14g wire for the nose and a pair of some kind of weird eyeglasses from back when she worked in a chemlab.

Attention to detail required that a tail be added.

This is my all-time favorite snowman… or snowcat. Next time you plan to build a snowman, whynot build a snowcat instead?

In My Little Town

Jello Brain

Following the twists and turns of politics, wars and the global economy over a century can make you feel like your brain is made of jello, but with diligence it is possible to make some sense out of it.

Throughout recorded history we find examples where leaders should naturally have known the terrible outcomes of their choices, but did not. We also find examples of a population too busy to bother with the affairs of their state until their way of life was gone. Much can be learned about the nature of a nation by looking at its choices.

Our once great nation seems to be intentionally tearing down the very structure that once made it great. Successful attacks  over the last twenty years on our Constitutional rights by the Legislature and Executive of the United States–with the limited response it received from our media corps and the general population–provides evidence to the present world audience and all future historians that America has progressed dangerously close to, if not beyond a capitalist-fascist-imperialist system.


We have mistaken military might for the right to wield it. Our leaders prance like peacocks across the world theatre, making pitiful but threatening noises. They are like bullies on the playground. They ignore the agreements we have made with those who were once our allies, who look at us now and wonder who we are. Where once we held the highest moral ground, now we are listed with those countries known for human rights abuses.

Why are we not speaking out? Where is the patriotism I remember seeing as a young boy, when thousands would march in the streets against conditions less extreme than these? Is it true that those people became with age nothing more than the hypocrites they marched in the streets to protest?

We once impeached a president for wiretapping in a hotel in DC. We now have a law permitting the  wiretapping of all of America. Why do we not ask more questions? Why has our voice faded to a whispered sigh on the wind? Who are we anyway?

My Little Town

I talk to people, here in my little town of about 14,000 – Reidsville, my home. We have some pretty smart people living ’round these parts but you know, they just don’t keep up with this stuff. In their lives, they don’t really have the time to keep up. That’s what we elect people to do, to take care of all that for us.

Many people just don’t understand, and don’t want to understand, that those people they elected are the ones doing this to them. Some of them don’t even recognize the problem.

I imagine that mindset multiplied across the fifty states and territories. It’s not a settling thought. I have no doubt that eventually they will realize how out of control our politicians have gotten. I just doubt I will be alive to see it. And not certain I’d want to.

Save The Earth – Burn The Trees


For thousands of years mankind relied on the power of wood. According to Dr. James Hansen of NASA, the scientist who warned of the impending climate crisis back in the 80s, it is time we considered returning to wood power to save the planet.

My great-grandparents had the epitome of wood power in their house. In the kitchen they used a wood cook stove with a double oven and several burners. Ma Roberts could bring one pot to a full boil while one nearby sat and simmered. She could bake a cake while keeping the biscuits warm. A century ago, that was high tech.

The tech that replaced hers was that of the electric grid, the power of coal. The power of coal gave her electric convenience. A refrigerator instead of an ice box. An electric stove with ovens included. Electric heat instead of a wood stove or fireplace. And air conditioning, the invention of the century.

And even though we plugged it all in, the power was coming straight from coal fired power plants. For most of us, it still does. But according to Dr. James Hansen of NASA, it is time we moved on from coal. It seems that, according to his latest studies, if we eliminated all the coal electric generating plants in the world and replaced them with wood, we could probably avert most of the worst-case scenarios caused by global warming.

From The Independent, based in the UK (emphasis mine):

Twenty years ago, Professor James Hansen was the first leading scientist to announce that global warming was taking place. Now he has issued a warning that a back-to-the-future return to one of the oldest fuels is imperative because the world has exceeded the danger level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Growing trees, which absorb the gas from the air as they grow, burning them instead of fossil fuels to generate electricity, and capturing and storing the carbon produced in the process is needed to get the greenhouse effect down to safe levels, he says.

Professor Hansen’s assertion that there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will alarm governments and environmentalists, who are concentrating on the already daunting task of limiting its build-up, while allowing it to rise well above present levels. However, his views will command respect because, as director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for the past 27 years, he has been one of the few climate scientists ready to risk his reputation by openly stating what many suspect to be true.

And from Columbia University, a quick summary of part of the study (emphasis mine all mine):

…Kharecha and Hansen devised five emissions scenarios spanning the years 1850 to 2100. Each reflects a different estimate for the global production peak of fossil fuels, the timing of which depends on reserve size, recoverability and available technology. “Even if we assume high-end estimates and unconstrained emissions from conventional oil and gas, we find that these fuels alone are not abundant enough to take carbon dioxide above 450 parts per million,” Kharecha said.

The first scenario estimates CO2 levels if emissions from fossil fuels follow “business as usual,” growing 2 percent annually until half of each reservoir has been recovered. After this, emissions begin to decline by 2 percent annually. In the second scenario, emissions from coal are reduced, first by developed countries starting in 2013, and then by developing countries a decade later, leading to a global phaseout of emissions by 2050. The phaseout could come either from reducing coal consumption or by capturing and trapping CO2 from coal burning before it reaches the air.

The remaining three scenarios include the phaseout of coal, but consider different scenarios for oil use and supply. One case considers a delay in the oil peak by about 21 years to 2037. Another considers fewer-than-expected additions to currently proven reserves, or taxes on emissions that makes fuels too expensive to extract. The final scenario looks at emissions from oil fields that peak at different times, extending the peak into a plateau that lasts from 2020-2040.

The team used a mathematical model to convert CO2 emissions from each scenario into estimates of future concentrations in the atmosphere. The “business as usual” scenario resulted in CO2 that would exceed 450 parts per million from by 2035, and climb to more than double the pre-industrial level. Even when low-end estimates of reserves were assumed, the threshold was exceeded from about 2050 onwards. However, the other four scenarios resulted in CO2 levels that peaked in various years, but all fell below the prescribed cap of 450 parts per million by about 2080 at the latest. Levels in two of the scenarios always stayed below the threshold.

Clean Coal

There is no such thing. The chances of a ‘clean-coal’ technology being developed in the near future is practically zero. Robert Kennedy Jr talks about the myth of clean coal, the reality of inexpensive alternatives, and the future of fossil industries with no government subsidies. (Hint: It’s a short future.)

Kennedy isn’t the only one speaking out against the myth of ‘clean coal’. A quick google search for the term reveals a huge amount of information. The truth is, it’s time to move on. It’s time to stop talking about it and do something.

The Rockefellers won’t like it, but hey, they had their day. If they play their cards right, they’ll still be in the fun. After all, it can’t be too hard to convert a power plant from coal to wood, and if the Rockefellas have been planting trees where they’re supposed to, they should have all the raw materials they need to just go with the flow.

Real Clean Energy

Real, clean energy is all around us, and we do have the technology to capture it and put it to use. There are countries in the world that get less than 10% of their energy from fossil fuels. Instead they use a combination of other things, mostly renewables like wind, water or the sun.

We need to start building out these wind farms. We need to start growing these passive solar arrays. We need some reasonable electric vehicles, and laws to make it personally better for each of us to own one.

We need to stop thinking in terms of how all this is going to impact the economy. In case you haven’t noticed, the economy is toxic waste no matter how you slice it or dice it. Switching from a fossil economy to a sustainable economy might be just what we need to save ourselves, economically as well as physically.

After all, we don’t have any time left to think about it. Don’t forget, the arctic sea routes were free of ice for the 1st time in human history this decade. For the first time in at least 125,000 years. That is a huge wake-up call.

Besides, I remember Ma Roberts’ stovecooked biscuits from scratch. Mmmmm…

More Rambling On The Last Financial Meltdown

There Is No Spoon

There is no money in the world. There is only debt, promises to pay, IOUs. It’s hard to wrap your head around that, though, so it’s easy to look at all that debt the way we’ve been trained to: as if it were real money. Remember the main difference between “real money” and “Federal Reserve Notes” is only the difference between assets and debt.

But how, if banks can create all the notes they want by creating debt, how could a bank ever go out of business? Well, they can only create those notes by creating debt. If there’s nobody left trying to get a loan, the bank simply has no way to create more debt. That’s essentially what happened in 2008. Nobody wanted loans anymore.

Over most of the course of human history by 2000, the accumulated savings in fixed income securities of the world had built up to about 36 trillion dollars. Then, in the next several years, that figure nearly doubled to about 70 trillion. This is more than all the money spent by all the countries in the world in one year.

Much of this new wealth was stored up overseas, insane profits made recently by historically poor countries, cash made from the sale of oil and high tech items. The people in charge of managing all this new cash wanted to increase the returns on their investments. But they didn’t want to lose any of it. Normally, they would invest in treasury notes or government secured bonds–something safe.

Think about it, there’s suddenly twice as much money to invest and there’s just not that many great investments around. As if that wasn’t enough to cause the money managers to scramble, before he left the great Alan Greenspan released a statement which basically said that the US Federal Reserve funds rate would remain extremely low indefinitely, which made the treasury markets look much less attractive.

Mortgage Backed Securities

So these guys started looking for something that was still reasonably safe, but still more profitable. All they needed to do was beat the 1% from the Fed on Treasury notes, so even the low mortgage rates, around 5% on average, were very attractive. But these guys couldn’t manage a mortgage from around the world. Something new needed to be created.

So the Mortgage Backed Securities were created, and the global pool of money managers loved them. Individual mortgages were bundled together, and those bundles bundled and so on until enough mortgages were bundled together to sell for millions of dollars. That’s thousands of mortgages per package. For awhile things were great.

But no market is endless. Eventually everybody who could afford and qualified for a mortgage had bought one. By 2003 the market was starting to slow, but the demand for these types of securities was still insane. So looser guidelines were instated, making loans easier to get for slightly less qualified borrowers.

These new guidelines determined the loan an applicant could get but in the end, literally anybody should have been able to get a mortgage. That was the so-called NINA loan, which is short for No Income No Assets, which means that there was no check run on you at all except verifying that you had a credit score. (There were cases of loans made to dead people.)

Common Cents

Naturally, this makes absolutely no sense in the common use of the word. Why were the banks doing this? They were writing loans to people knowing in advance that these loans would default. Common belief is that the US housing market will never have a correction–that real estate values would only rise. Common sense says that no market can sustain endless growth. Corrections are a natural part of the cycle, like storms with the heat of summer.

So how did it happen? With all the computers and brilliant people on staff, why did they keep creating this bad debt? The answer is insidious. They were monitoring. They were watching these mortgages like a hawk, and all the data they had was positive. The projected foreclosure rates were capped at around 8-12% of these bad loans. The problem was, the computer programs used to analyze that data were wrong. The analysis used was the same as for the old-fashioned Income Verified/Assets Verified, fixed-rate mortgages, and not for these new variations. 

How Much Money?

The Setup

In a very narrow view there’s no money in existence. At least, not like you think of money. The truth is, in every developed or developing society on earth where central banking exists, there’s no real money at all. There are “notes”, essentially IOUs, promises to pay a stated value in what else? More notes.

Love Me, Legal Tender

Although these notes are backed by the good faith of a government, they are not created by that government. They are created by the banks, who issue loans in order to create more notes, each of which is backed by debt, a promise to pay, essentially an IOU. There are usually rules in place to control how much debt–and therefore how many notes–any bank may create.

But aren’t those notes created by the central bank, you ask? Actually, no. The notes are created at the local bank every time a new loan is issued. One moment the money doesn’t exist and the next moment it does, brought into existence by the loan officer’s approval. Banks don’t lend out the money they have on deposit or any fraction of it. Banks create new money by fiat, with the stroke of a pen or a few keystrokes.

It’s true that most of that new money (new debt) ends up on deposit at the bank where it was created. When you consider that all those deposits represent nothing more than debt themselves, you start to realize that there is indeed no real “money” there. There is only debt.

Look at a dollar and read, in the upper left, where it says “This note is legal tender for all debts public and private”. Think about that sentence, printed on every Federal Reserve Note you have ever seen (unless you’re older). It’s plain as the sun in your eyes, and just as blinding. The Federal Reserve is a private bank, which issues Federal Reserve Notes based on the repayment of all debts public and private. It’s right there on the paper. 

As an aside, here is an interesting little-known factoid about banking: What we consider our assets in the form of bank deposits are considered to be liabilities by the bank. What we consider to be our liabilities (loans from the bank) are considered their assets. Both are just different forms of the same thing (debt).

Collateral Debt Obligations – Toxic Waste


Crisis? What Crisis?

The subprime mortgage crisis was a problem for all of us. Whether you were in Asia, Europe, Africa, one of the Americas or Australia, you most likely felt it. Rising costs in everyday things like gas, food and clothes were worldwide. And the subprime crisis was right in the middle of it.

CDOs were first created in 1987 by Drexel Burnham Lambert. If you remember the stock market crash of 1987, you might recall that afterwards there were several investigations into the marketing of “junk bonds”. DBL was famous for their part in that. So CDOs were not really all that new, but generally they weren’t used with mortgages. Researching at, we find:

“CDOs are mostly about repackaging and transferring credit risk. While it is possible to issue a CDO backed entirely by high-quality bonds, the structure is more relevant for collateral comprised partially or entirely of marginal obligations.”

Marginal obligations. That’s polite for bad loans. The way it would usually work is this: Lots of “marginal obligations” would get bundled together with a few reasonable ones and a very few highly rated ones. That bundle would be bundled with other bundles, created with a similar mix with the added dividend of several low quality bundles and at least one with a high rating. That mega bundle would get a high rating. Then the bundles would be “pooled”. Then these pools would be pooled. Then you take slices from bunches of these pools and and that makes a CDO.

If the CDO has at least one top rated, AAA pool slice, then the CDO has that rating. A quick slang primer: “Money good” is highly rated and everyone believes it’s guaranteed profit with no risk. “Toxic Waste”, well, you get the picture. What was happening was that there was alot of toxic waste being sold as money good, and at least some of the people knew it. But not the investors.

By now, which was around 2005, the investors weren’t just from overseas. The housing boom was so historic that it spawned television shows well into 2007. People who had never invested in anything felt fine investing in a house, or two. And those who didn’t join in the housing frenzy? If they held shares in money markets (usually via retirement funds) , their managers were happily buying up pieces of these CDOs.

Breakfast In America

By 2005 you could buy a house with no money down and resell it a year later for twice the price. For some reason everybody thought prices would only go up. And since anybody could get a loan, many did. By 2005 the average home cost 4 times the annual income of the average family. For most of our history, it’s been only 2 times the income.

But many who were able to get a loan were having trouble making the payments. Prices had skyrocketed, causing monthly mortgage payments to increase. It soon became obvious that just because someone could get a mortgage didn’t mean they could pay it off. The CDOs were supposed to spread the risk out so thin that no investor would be damaged if it performed badly. With so many CDOs filled with toxic waste, there were few that weren’t damaged, magnifying the risk.

People were getting loans, buying the house, moving in, and then defaulting on the first payment. It was a trend in 2006. The first to notice that anything was wrong were the biggest managers of all these CDOs. They noticed that even though the computer software showed acceptable risks, the actual performance was not what was projected by the computer models. Looking into the details, they found that far more defaults were occurring than the computer models predicted.

Crime Of The Century

As defaults piled up, property prices started declining. This was bad news for many homeowners. Many of them had already taken out ‘equity’ in their homes in the form of a home equity loan. In essence, they were making two house payments. With a basically flat economy, that can only last for so long. If you have a picture in your mind of some kind of lower class person just out to rip off the rest of us, you need to rethink. Most were hard working people trying to make a good life for their families.

By 2006 it was common to find people who had gotten mortgages they weren’t even looking for, sold to them by a guy who simply knocked on the door one day and offered them the American Dream. I personally know at least one person who, although he qualified for the best terms, was convinced by the local bank to take a much more expensive loan. Unethical standards were applied across the board, from the local level to the international level.

As the loan defaults continued, credit tightened up. The first to go was the NINA loan. With no notice at all to local mortgage companies, the larger banks and investment firms simply stopped buying them. Suddenly, billions of dollars which had been riding a fast moving gravy train were just stopped. Some banks went quietly of business. Some were bought, or “merged” with another bank to stay alive. (Sound familiar?)

Clear The Smoke

“Smok’em If Ya Got’em! “

I was about 6 years old the first time I ever heard those words. Out in the tobacco fields of 1960s North Carolina, nearly everybody had cigarettes or chewing tobacco in their pockets. At six years old, of course I didn’t have either. But I had eyes and I watched the men all fire up or cut off a chunk to chew. Literally every man in the field had something made of tobacco and like all little boys, I wanted so much to be a man.

By the time I turned seven years old I had started stealing Old Golds from my granddaddy. He worked for the Lorillard company over in Greensboro. Every week he’d bring at least a carton of cigarettes home, a benefit of working for the ‘factory’. Every week I’d steal a pack and sneak around outside, pretending I was a man.

About a year later my grandmother Mama Lacie caught me. She gave me a choice of being whipped or having my mouth washed out with Lava soap. When I chose the belt, she firmly let me know that the smoke went into and out of my mouth and it was that end of me that was going to get worked on.

Lava soap has a taste I’ll never forget. I didn’t smoke for about a year after that. But during my 10th summer, working in the tobacco fields, the inevitable smoke break would come every morning. I don’t remember which day it was. I don’t remember which man it was. Still, one day that summer, one of the men in the field offered me a smoke and I took it. I’ve been smoking since that day with only a few brief interludes.


Thirty-nine years later my left lung partially collapsed. It is perhaps one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had to endure.

According to the online Mayo Clinic,

“Atelectasis may be due to compression of the lung tissue or obstruction of the air passages (bronchi). The collapse may affect only a small part of the lung or the whole lung. Pneumothorax and pleural effusion can cause the lung to partially collapse without closing off any of the airway. A partially collapsed lung may slowly re-expand without treatment. But a severe collapse of a whole lung can be life-threatening and requires emergency medical attention.

If you experience the signs and symptoms of atelectasis, including shortness of breath, chest pain and cough, seek emergency medical attention.”


So what actually causes something like this to happen? We can say: ‘Smoking causes it!’ but that tells us nothing, really. Again, the Mayo Clinic has a great series of pages on it:

“A lung can collapse for many reasons: a growing tumor blocking a major airway, an infection, even an inhaled foreign object. One type of lung collapse, known medically as a pneumothorax, occurs when air leaks into the area between your lungs and chest wall (pleural space). The pressure of the air against the lung causes it to give way, often leading to mild to severe chest pain and shortness of breath. A pneumothorax can be caused by a chest injury, certain medical treatments, lung disease or a break in an air blister on the lung’s surface.

A lung collapses in proportion to the amount of air that leaks into your chest cavity. Although the entire lung can collapse, a partial collapse is much more common. A small, uncomplicated pneumothorax may heal on its own in a week or two, but when the pneumothorax is more severe, the excess air is usually removed by inserting a tube or needle between your ribs into the pleural space.

If air continues to build up, the increasing pressure can push your heart and blood vessels toward the uncollapsed lung, compressing both your lung and heart. Called a tension pneumothorax, this condition is life-threatening and requires immediate medical care.”

Clear The Smoke

In my case it was caused by an underlying pneumonia making my lungs weak enough to become infected with a fungus. But I am certain that were it not for my heavy addiction to cigarettes the total damage would have been much less. As a smoker my lungs were already compromised and more susceptible to infection. And as a smoker I was inclined to attribute symptoms to the smoking, and not seek medical help in time to prevent so much damage. 

Let me make this clear. Smoking cigarettes will damage our bodies. Playing the odds is a guaranteed loss. Pretending that it doesn’t affect everybody is a child’s game. Laugh at the warnings from friends and family, and eventually even laughter will come with pain. If we ignore the warnings all around, then in ignorance we will reap the appropriate rewards.

If you smoke, you are probably already addicted. You’ve played with the idea of quitting, but the addiction is so hard to beat. You can’t imagine a stronger addiction.

Well, I can. It’s called Life. 

The Eyes Have It

This Sunday, I’m thinking about eyes. Sometimes they let stuff in and sometimes they let stuff out, like a doorway between us and the world. What we see out there isn’t always what we want to see. But sometimes we would rather that nobody sees inside…

In Waiting For Discovery

So far away your feelings lie
in waiting for discovery.
Is it love? Was that your cry
as he nailed your soul
to the heart of the hardest tree?

Your eyes would tell me their story
but your mind in its fear
creates clouds to blur my vision.

Your eyes make me stay
so far away, my feelings lie
in waiting for discovery.

Sitting there, wishing there was a way… leads me to wonder what terrible thing could have happened to make those eyes hide the person inside. Our greatest pains are usually tied tightly to our greatest joys. I can only imagine from my own life what might have caused such a withdrawal…

Kick Haiku Me

My best friend kicked me
in the face and then just stood
there, staring at me.

Sometimes the eyes are so astounding you just have to do something, regardless of the risk. You know what I mean. These eyes that I’m talking about here were simple, wonderful brown eyes. Eyes as deep as the galaxy is wide, with lashes that reached from Portugal to California…


Auburn hair sweeps
like a James Bond movie
across her left eyelash

the touch of my words
parting lips
into smiles
not unlike the varied pieces
of the jigsaw

I could never fit together.

I married the young woman I wrote these for, and now one of my sons has eyes like hers. And that’s something we’re both really happy about. Thanks for reading!

Koshi’s eyes

Greed, Power, And The Self-Absorbed

Question in my inbox: When do the greedy have enough wealth, the power-hungry have enough leverage and the self-absorbed have their egos stroked enough? Is there a limit? I feel lucky to have a job, a roof over my head and food in my belly. What do these people want? I, obviously, do not understand greed. Love your writing. Read it whenever work and life allows. Hope u r well, Cindy

A: Thanks for asking, Cindy. These are some questions that deserve full length books for answers, but I will give it a shot in just a couple of paragraphs. Keep in mind that these thoughts are mine, on the spur of the moment, and most certainly incomplete.

Addiction and Fear

From their own perspective, the greedy will never have enough wealth. Greed is a self reinforcing addiction, the more you have the more you want. Whether it’s money, stuff, friends or whatever, greed says you never have enough.

The power hungry only have enough leverage if they perceive that they are already the strongest. If they don’t believe that then they continue to try to leverage their power through intimidation of others, spreading fear among their allies, and purchasing mercenaries both private and from other governments. Look at the USA: We spend more on DEFENSE than ALL the other countries on this planet added together. Yet, our leaders still leverage their actions because they see us as weak and vulnerable. And guess what? That view actually does make us vulnerable.

Greed and hunger for power many times go hand in hand. One is simply a form of the other. Both probably have at their root a deep seated fear of not being ‘enough’. From what I have seen that fear has good reason to be in them, as usually they are not the smartest, or the nicest, or any of the other generally ‘good’ terms we assign to people. They are, however, usually the most thoughtless, careless, ungiving folks you’ll ever meet. So yeah, they should be paranoid about being such lousy specimens of humanity. There is no limit to what that paranoia will drive you to do.

What do these people want? They want the same as the rest of us, just more of it. So much more that you and I may not get our share. But above all that, I think they want security. They want to know they are as good as the folks they look down on. They will never attain that though because no matter what they do, their fears rule them to the grave. They will always be afraid.

It is never wrong to recognize the truth. 

Self absorbed folks really don’t need their egos stroked at all, though. They are down in there somewhere and the subtle or obvious stroking of their egos is forgotten as soon as you’re done with it. They are like cats. Stroke them only when they sit in your lap or rub your leg. Otherwise you’re just wasting time.

Getting A Grip On B.S.

Today’s post may be unsettling, to say the least. And it is a bit longer than usual. But even though these events are ten years in our past,  they serve as an educational example of how our world is run. 

With much gratitude, I will quote profusely from an article written by John Olagues and published at I’m not an expert in these things, but he is. I tried to rewrite this using the info I found in his article, but I just didn’t find a better way to explain all this. And it’s important to get this right. 

The Killing Floor

Financial markets are stranger things than we might imagine. Out here in the “real” world, if you want to sell something, you have to own it first. Not so in the hustle-bustle world of finances. On the trading floor, it’s not only possible to sell something without owning it, it’s a valid strategy and practiced by nearly every successful trader.

The logic is this: for every buy transaction there must be a sell transaction. Timing is irrelevant–it doesn’t matter which comes first. With that in mind, let’s look Bear Stearns. Specifically, let’s look at what happened with Bear Stearns on the trading floor in March 2008. John Olagues begins our journey about a week before the fiasco became public knowledge:

‘March 10, 2008, the closing price of Bear Stearns was 70. The stock had traded at 70 eight weeks prior. On or prior to March 10, 2008 requests were made to the Options Exchanges to open new April series of puts with exercise prices of 20, and 22.5, and a new March series with an exercise price of 25.

Their requests were accommodated and new series were opened March 11, 2008.

Since there was very little subsequent trading in the call series with exercise prices of 20, 22.5 or 25, it is certain that the requests were made with the intention of buying substantial amounts of the puts. There was, in fact, massive volumes of puts purchased in those series which opened on March 11, 2008.

For example, between March 11-14 inclusive, there was 20,000 contracts traded in the April 20s, 3700 contracts traded in the April 22.5s, and 8000 contracts traded in the April 25s. In the March 25s there were 79,000 contracts traded between March 11-14, 2008.

Question: Why did the options exchanges not open the far out of the money puts for trading the first time that BSC hit 70, when the Aprils and Marchs had far more time to expiration. Certainly if the requesters were legitimate hedgers or speculators, buying the March and April with two and three months to expiration was more appealing.

Answer: The insiders were not ready to collapse the stock and did not request the exchanges to open the new series then.’

Call Me Up, Put Me Down

I’m not the most savvy investor around. That’s why I use little phrases to remind me what’s going on. Markets have basically 2 types of transactions, Puts and Calls. The way I remember them is this: “Call UP, Put DOWN”. If I am betting that something goes down in price, then I remember to name it a Put. That’s what these guys were doing, betting that BS was going down within the month. But that’s not the end of the story. David continues:

‘On or prior to March 13, 2008, an additional request was made of the Options Exchanges to open more March and April put series with very low exercise prices even if that meant those March put options would have just five days of trading to expiration. The exchanges accommodated their requests, knowing that the intentions of the requesters was to buy puts. They indeed bought massive amounts of puts. For example the March 20 puts traded nearly 50,000 contracts (i.e. contracts to sell 5 million shares at 20). The March 15s traded 9600, the March 10s traded 13,000 and the March 5s traded 6300 all on March 14 (the first day of trading of the new March series).

The introduction of those far-out-of-the-money put series in the April and March months immediately before the crash, provided a vehicle whereby extreme leverage was available to the insiders. In other words if you had $100,000 and you knew that Morgan would buy Bear Stearns at two dollars, you could make five to 10 times more on the $100,000 by using the $100,000 to buy the newly introduced March puts. This is so because the soon to expire far out-of-the-money puts were far cheaper than the July or October out of the money puts. And that is why the inside traders requested the exchanges to introduce the far out of the moneys just days before the crash.

But this scenario has enormous implications. It means that the deal was already arranged on March 10 or before. That contradicts the scenario that is promoted by SEC Chairman Cox, Fed Chairman Bernanke, Bear CEO Schwartz, Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan (who sits on the Board of directors for the New York Federal Reserve Bank) and others that false rumors undermined the confidence in Bear Stearns making the company crash, notwithstanding their adequate liquidity days before. I would say that the deal was arranged months before but the final terms and times were not determined until maybe March 7 or 8, 2008.

On March 14, the April 17.5s, the 15s, the 12.5s and the 10s traded 15,000 contracts combined. Each put gives the right to sell 100 shares. So for example, these 15,000 April puts gave the purchaser(s) the right to sell 1.5 million shares at prices between 10 and 17.5. Those purchasers expected to make profits on 1.5 million shares because they knew the deal was coming at $2.00.

That is the only plausible explanation for anyone in his right mind to buy puts with five days of life remaining with strike prices far below the market price. So there were requests, during the period of March 10 to 13, to the exchanges to open the March and April series for buying massive amounts of extremely out-of-the-money puts, which were accommodated by the Options Exchanges. Did the Exchanges aid and abet the insider trading scheme? We are not able to have a clear opinion on that.’

Sell Low, Buy Lower

So, what’s going on at this point is that somebody, or several somebodies, were selling millions of shares of future BS stock (constituting a short sale) at anywhere from 12.50 to 25 dollars a share, even though the going rate, the “market price”, was hanging solidly at 70. Remember, for every short sale there must be a buy from the same person. Can you imagine anybody with a brain selling anything, knowing they had to buy it back next week at 3 times that price or lose that cash?

If they sell it for 12.50 and buy it back at any amount below 12.50, then they make a profit. If the price remains at 70, then they lose a fortune. With the time factor inherent in trading these kinds of options, these puts had to be called within a week. That means that these guys, for some reason, believed that BS stock would be dirt cheap in less than seven days. Read on…

‘Reuters, however, on March 10, 2008 was citing Bear Stearns sources that there was no liquidity crisis and that there was no truth to the speculation of liquidity problems. And none other than the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 11, 2008 was stating that “we have a good deal of comfort with the capital cushion that these firms have.”

We even had the “mad” Jim Cramer proclaiming on March 11, 2008 that all is well with Bear Stearns and that the viewers should hold on to their Bear Stearns.

And on March 12, 2008, Alan Schwartz CEO of Bear Stearns was telling David Faber of CNBC that there was no problem with liquidity and that “We don’t see any pressure on our liquidity, let alone a liquidity crisis.”

The fact that the requests were made on March 10 or earlier that those new series be opened and those requests were accommodated together with the subsequent massive open positions in those newly opened series is conclusive proof that there were some who knew about the collapse in advance, while Reuters, Cox, Schwartz and Cramer were telling the public that there was no liquidity problem.

This was no case of a sudden development on the 13 or 14th, where things changed dramatically making it such that they needed a bail-out immediately. The collapse was anticipated and prepared for, even while the CEO of Bear Stearns and the SEC Chairman of the SEC were making claims of stability.

What was the reason that Cramer, Cox and Schwartz were all promoting Bear Stearns immediately before its collapse. That will be speculated upon for years to come.

Cramer has admitted that “truth” was not his friend and that he manipulated stocks to influence investors behavior. Was this one of his acts? But no apologies from Cramer as he claims now that he was referring to keeping money in Bear Stearns Bank not in Bear Stearn’s stock.’

Trading 101, Insiders Out

So, while all these puts were quietly being traded on Wall St, the public was being led to believe that BS was in fine shape. (Interestingly, their balance sheet from that week shows that they were more than 11 billion to the good. Like I said before, I ain’t the most savvy guy when it comes to markets. Maybe 11 billion in cash just ain’t enough to keep you afloat.)

All this makes a rational mind think two words: Insider Trading. Personally, I can’t see any other explanation for it. Somebody obviously knew what was getting ready to happen, somebody who was heavily invested in BS stocks. There is no other plausible explanation for millions of shares to trade at a 70% discount, less than a week before that discount would become a 100% premium or higher. From David’s article:

‘To prove the case of illegal insider trading, all the Feds have to do is ask a few questions of the persons who bought puts on Bear Stearns or shorted stock during the week before March 17, 2008 and before. All the records are easily available.

If they bought puts or shorted stock, just ask them why. What information did they have access to which the CEO and the SEC did not have? Where did they get the info? Why are Cramer, Cox, Paulson, Faber, and Schwartz not subject to a bit of prosecutorial pressure to get to the bottom of this?

Maybe the buyers of puts and short sellers of stock just didn’t believe Reuters, Cox, Schwartz, Cramer, and Faber and went massively short anyway buying puts that required a 70% drop in a week. Maybe they had better information than Schwartz or Cox. If they did then that’s a felony, with the profits made subject to forfeiture….’

Hot Air Comes Out Of Which End Of A Politician?

There was a congressional inquiry into the whole fiasco. Well, there was the pretense of one, anyway. It seems that only a few of the congressmen investigating were actually there to find out what happened. The rest were just warming their chairs. One more long quote from the article over at…

In the first session there were the following witnesses. Bernanke of the Federal Reserve Board, Cox from the SEC, Geithner representing the New York Reserve Bank and an incidental player Mr. Steel from the Treasury. The only Senators that seem to be willing to attack these bankers were Bunning, Tester, Menedez and Reed. All the rest were useless and very respectful….

…All witnesses did their best to keep their stories consistent but they did slip up a bit. They all agree that the bail-out was necessary without any proof that it was.

They all agreed that what caused the cash liquidity to dry up within one day was the rumor mongers. Apparently it is claimed that some people have the ability to start false rumors about Bear Stearns’ and other banks liquidity, which then starts a “run on the bank.” These rumor mongers allegedly were able to influence companies like Goldman Sachs to terminate doing business with Bear Stearns, notwithstanding that Goldman et al. believed that Bear Stearns balance sheet was in good shape. (Goldman between March 11-14 warned their average customers that Bear Stearns stock was “hard to borrow” for shorting due to the fact that other customers had used up all of the stock available for borrowing for short sales) .

That idea that rumors caused a “run on the bank” at Bear Stearns is 100% ridiculous. Perhaps that’s the reason why every witness were so guarded and hesitant and looked so mighty strained in answering questions.

Loans to J.P. Morgan total $55 Billion from the Fed

The Private New York Fed lent $25 Billion to Bear Stearns and another $30 billion to J.P. Morgan. So the bail out cost was $55 billion not the $30 billion that is promoted. This was revealed at second session of the Senate hearings in a James Dimon response to a question from Senator Reed.

Who gets the $55 billion? J.P. Morgan got the money on a loan pledging Bear Stearns assets valued at $55 billion; $29 Billion is non-recourse to Morgan.

Effectively the Fed got collateral appraised by Bear Stearns at $55 Billion for a loan to J.P. Morgan of $55 Billion.

If the value of the secondary facility of $30 Billion ($29 Billion of which is non-recourse) is worth only $15 Billion when all is said and done, then J.P. Morgan has to pay back only $1 Billion of the $30 Billion and keeps the $14 Billion the the Fed loses. If the $25 Billion primary facility is worth only $15 Billion when all is said and done, J.P. Morgan has to pay $10 Billion of the $25 Billion received. If J.P Morgan can not pay, then the Fed loses the $10 Billion.

If after all is said and done the $25 Billion primary assets are sold for more that $25 Billion, the difference goes to J.P. Morgan regardless of the outcome on the secondary facility of $30 Billion. No matter how you cut it, J.P. Morgan wins. If the $55 Billion assets turn out to be worth only $20 billion when all is said and done, J.P. Morgan owes $1 Billion on the $30 Billion and the difference between $25 Billion and the value received on the primary facility.

The Fed would have been far better to just buy the assets at Bear’s and J.P.Morgan’s valuation. Now best the Fed can do is get their money back with interest and the worse they can do is lose about $25 -$40 billion.’

 And The Winner IS

And so at last, we’ve made it to the last section of today’s post. Damned long trip, wasn’t it? And not such a happy one. How does it feel to know that not only did these investment banker types rip us off, but that the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury were in on it all the way, helping to set it all up? And who were those guys short-selling the collapse to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? We never found out.

Was the whole thing just a smokescreen? Could the intention have been to pre-emptively bail out a much bigger fish in the finance industry pool? The only real winner in the whole deal is JP Morgan. Any way you look at it, they got billions of dollars with no requirement to ever repay most of it. 

But if the real issue was a hidden bailout of JPMorgan, why all the misdirection from the Fed and the Treasury? Aren’t these the guys we trust to control our economy and keep us all in the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to? Why would they feel so compelled to hide the truth from us? If they’re really working for the common good of Americans, why would they turn on us like this?

The answers are out there, but we might have to travel the world a bit to find them. Perhaps we’ll do just that–a world tour looking for reasons. 

3 Easy Steps To Replace Your PC RAM


Fast Memory Upgrade

Assuming you have unplugged your pc already, just follow these simple steps to replace or upgrade the RAM in your computer. Remember to make sure the memory you have will work in your pc and, if adding more RAM, that it matches the memory you already have. In other words, if your pc came with DDR3 memory, or is “pc2-5300” or whatever, make sure that’s what you put in it or it may not work. Just because you want 2000Mhz RAM doesn’t mean your system can handle it. To be certain you’re running the fastest memory you can use, it’s best to just look up the specifications for your pc model online, usually at the manufacturer’s website.

1. Remove the side cover of your pc. Looking at the back of your pc, this is usually the right side, but some Gateway models and others have recently started using the left side. It should be obvious to you, as there will be some latch mechanism on the correct side. Once you’ve removed the cover, lay the pc on its side, so you can reach into it easier. Touch the metal case to put yourself at the same electrical potential as the case, eliminating static electricity.

2. Locate the RAM cards, located on the motherboard near the CPU. You will know what to look for if you look at the replacements you have bought. Remove the cards by releasing the latches on each end of the card and pulling the cards straight out. Make a mental note of the gap in the bottom of the card. It will be slightly off center, and you will need to remember this when you insert the new cards into place.

3. Noting the correct orientation, slide the new RAM cards into the slots on the motherboard. The cards should require very little pressure to seat properly into the slots. If the gap orientation is wrong, the card might seat on one side but not the other. If this happens, do not force it. Remove the card, recheck the gap and try it again. When the latches close on both sides, the card is seated properly. Remember, it should require very little force.

That’s all there is to it! But before replacing the case side panel, check out the fan and other things for too much dust or any debris that might cause heat inside the case. Then replace the cover and you’re good to go!

When you restart your computer, it might stop and report that the system memory has changed. If it doesn’t, you can check the available memory in Windows by right clicking on MyComputer and selecting “Properties”.

Bloggers’ First Challenge – Be Happy! Go Lucky!


It’s About Time

Writers of all forms have many reasons for what we do. We write to inform, to entertain, to make others think, to cleanse our soul… the reasons are like the stars in the sky–uncountable. Regardless of the reasons though, the challenge to succeed is always the same. 

As a writing form, blogging may have a unique challenge. With most other forms, the reader has accepted the conditions of reading and has ceased other activity in favor of the current reading. Each form has its requirement of time and the reader allocates this time up front. Whether it’s a book, a story, a poem, a news article, or even the comics, focus time is awarded up front, before beginning to read. For most blogs, it doesn’t work this way.

Blog readers seem to use a different way of allocating time. Scanning headlines in various readers, they may give the title less than a second of attention. If they are attracted within that initial glimpse, they may spend 10 seconds reading the 1st paragraph or two before deciding whether to actually read the rest of the piece. If those ten seconds fail to grab attention, the reader moves on in search of something to read elsewhere.

Perhaps of all readers, blog readers are more acutely aware of the value of their attention. They know how valuable their time is to themselves. There might be hundreds of titles on a given day to choose from, and they know they will not choose them all. They also know that just because Joe Blogger wrote a killer piece yesterday doesn’t mean he will do another today, or ever. But they will probably at least look at his headlines for a while.

The Challenge Of Blogging

So the first challenge of blogging is getting the reader’s attention, and then keeping that reader interested. How important is it that thousands of people visit our blogs but not one stays longer than 10 seconds? There is no value in that for the reader or the blogger. I would rather have lower numbers of visitors who spend enough time to read something.

When I look at the stats for my blog the most important number I’m looking at is the time spent on site. Right now that averages out to a little under 4 minutes, and I think that’s pretty good. Most of the things I publish take about that long to read, or less. That tells me that people are reading this stuff. That tells me I’m not wasting my time.

So now, the question is how to get the reader’s attention and keep it, in less than 10 seconds. As any successful writer will tell you, there’s no real formula for it. But there are some components that are a necessity.

Write well and write often.

Any art or craft must be practiced to be perfected. Poor writing in the form of badly constructed sentences, bad grammar, or incomplete thoughts tend to drive readers away. If we want our efforts to succeed then our blogs must have fresh, well-written content published on a regular schedule. Sporadic postings train our potential audience to expect nothing, and they’ll stop checking pretty fast.

Don’t be too afraid to fail or succeed.

The best way to guarantee failure is to be too afraid to do anything at all. Some people fear failure and some even fear success. Either way, if you want to build a readership you have to get over the fear and actually write something and publish it. And remember, no matter what you do, the world isn’t going to end.

Be happy! Go lucky!

All my life I’ve had this echoing in my head. My great-grandfather Pa Roberts used to say it every day, and I only understood why after I’d grown up. He’d just laugh when I asked him. “It’s Life, son! Be Happy! Go Lucky!” And we’d grin at each other like we knew a secret. And the secret is this: Do whatever you do with a true joy in your heart, for the goodness of it. Life will respond in kind with good fortune.

Write from your heart, using your mind. Be true to yourself and others will feel it. Recognize your fears but overcome them all.

It’s Okay To Turn It Off

Push That Button

One of the most recurring questions I’ve gotten over the years is whether it’s best to leave a pc running all the time or to turn it off when we’re not using it. All solid state electronics perform best and last longest when they are left in the “on” state, so my answer used to be, “Leave it on.”

But computer prices are falling. There’s more awareness of the impact of energy usage on our planet, and more concern over climate changes. With that in mind, here are three reasons why you might consider turning off your pc.

1. Reduce your carbon footprint.

Your carbon footprint is a representation of how much of the earth’s resources it takes to create your lifestyle, measured in tons of carbon waste. It’s been said that in the US the average pc, in the course of a 24 hour day, can have a carbon footprint at least half that of a person in Brazil. If you leave your pc running 24 hours a day for a year you will use about 1752 watt-hours of electricity, producing around 117 tons of carbon.

2. Save Some Bucks.

All that carbon footprint up there in #1 is costing you money. I don’t know what you pay for electricity… 15 cents? So that would be about seven dollars a month to run the pc. Turning it off at night and when you’re not using it would cut that down, probably by half, maybe more. Not a ton of cash monthly, but by the time you replace this pc, it’ll be hundreds–maybe the cost of a new pc. Definitely worth the (non)effort.

3. Security

People are always asking me how to protect their broadband connections from threats on the web’o’net. I always tell them, “Turn it off.” It’s meant as a joke, but as with many jokes, this one’s built from fact. The truth is, there is no way to protect yourself from a determined attack. You can make it extremely difficult, but if they want you they will find a way to get you. Security is always a matter of trying to stay one step ahead, or in a dead heat. To fully protect yourself, turn it off.

Naked Shorting


To understand why naked shorting is bad for the markets, you first need to understand exactly what a short sale is. I’ll begin with a couple of quotes from Wikipedia:

“In finance, short selling (also known as shorting or going short) is the practice of selling assets, usually securities, that have been borrowed from a third party (usually a broker) with the intention of buying identical assets back at a later date to return to the lender. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the price of the assets between the sale and the repurchase, as the seller will pay less to buy the assets than the seller received on selling them. Conversely, the short seller will incur a loss if the price of the assets rises. Other costs of shorting may include a fee for borrowing the assets and payment of any dividends paid on the borrowed assets. Shorting and going short also refer to entering into any derivative or other contract under which the investor profits from a fall in the value of an asset.”

Naked short selling has an insidious twist:

“Naked short selling, or naked shorting, is the practice of short-selling a financial instrument without first borrowing the security or ensuring that the security can be borrowed, as is conventionally done in a short sale. When the seller does not obtain the shares within the required time frame, the result is known as a “fail to deliver”. The transaction generally remains open until the shares are acquired by the seller, or the seller’s broker, allowing the trade to be settled.[1] Naked short selling can be used to fraudulently manipulate the price of securities by driving their price down, and its use in this way is illegal.”

Did you get that? Short sellers are required to borrow the shares sold within a certain time frame (usually about 3 days). Until this time passes, it’s just a short trade. Once the seller fails to borrow the shares, it’s considered a “fail to deliver”, but the transaction is not cancelled. The seller is still allowed to ‘sell’ shares that don’t even exist.

How can something that doesn’t exist ever be sold at all? The standard stupidity says that it’s okay – when the shares are bought back at the end of the trade, it’s mathematically the same as destroying those nonexistent stocks, so the net sum is a zero. But this ignores the fact that, for as long as those ‘nonexistent’ stocks are in fact, counted as REAL, the price of that stock IS manipulated downward.

Let’s see how this works in a simplified market.

Paper Beats Rock

Assume I have 10 special rocks, and the value of them all together is 10 bucks. If I sell them, the value of each is a dollar. If someone comes along and says there are really 20 special rocks and he has 10 of them for sale at half price, then the value of each of my rocks will go down by 50%, even if nobody buys his rocks. My rocks haven’t changed, but the perception now is that since there’s so many rocks they shouldn’t be worth that much, and this guy over here says he’ll sell them for 50 cents. My net worth based on rocks has just gone down by 50 percent, due to some lying asshat who wanted to take my stuff by lying to the public.

Now, let’s further assume that this jerk actually sold some of his rocks to unsuspecting buyers, constituting a short sale in the special rock market. The buyers expect delivery of said rocks. (Remember, this guy doesn’t have any real rocks.) The only place that rock can come from is me. What happens if I won’t sell any rocks?

Think about that and then think about the ‘freeze’ in the credit markets in 2008. If rocks were dollars, the same thing would happen in my little story. The whole rock economy would tumble and fall. The reason is simple: So many non-existent rocks exist, and so many people have bought them. The real rocks aren’t for sale anymore, so there’s literally NO WAY anybody will get any part of what they’ve paid for. So many bought what they thought were rocks, but all they got were paper promises.