To Mark The Day

Interlude

This is just an interlude to mark the day.

I pause and wonder, in quiet amazement as the years pass by.
Promises live on in their own right – only the fools who make them die.

The Treasure

Long Time Gone

Carry Me

Wind On The Water

Helplessly Hoping

Flower Power Failures

Logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (...Image via Wikipedia

There is something I don’t understand – seems there’s a meme lately to blame hippies for the current financial and social state of the world. Obviously, folks today are no different than they were 4 decades ago. Understanding is severely lacking.

Understanding, not in the way your mom says it, but in the way Webster defined it.

I was there. I remember. Let me tell you about it.

There was a huge movement back in the 60s and 70s known as Flower Power. You know: the tie-dyed guys and girls, the insanely flared Bell-bottomed jeans and of course, the ubiquitous flower in the hair.

These folks were not hippies! They were Flower Children.

If you’re gonna criticize the past, it behooves you to know something about it.

There were literally millions of these Flower Children. You could find them in the big cities and even in the backwoods schools of the South. I graduated high school (1976) in a class of 41. There were many flower children there as well. But there was only one hippie.

And that’s the point I’m trying to briefly make here – there simply were not that many hippies. Usually, folks who bash hippies like to bring up Woodstock, where supposedly over a quarter-million hippies gathered in one place.

Hard Work Created This

Woodstock was organized for the flower children, folks.

There were some hippies there to be sure, but nearly all of them were on or behind the stage. Hendrix? Hippie. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young? Hippies. Members of Jefferson Airplane? Hippies. Country Joe? Redneck hippie.

But those guys you see frolicking in the mud? Flower children, every one. They were there to be served the fruits of the hippies’ work.

Yeah, the hippies’ WORK. Hippies aren’t lazy. Hippies do not mooch. Hippies exert. Hippies create.

And above all else, hippies endeavor to understand… everything. That’s what it means – to be Hip. To understand. Because through understanding we are certain of our present, empowered for the future, for all our benefit.

Not so easy to attain, this understanding. But to a hippie, there is no other goal worth spending a life on. Hippies know this means hard work, study, discourse, and more hard work. That’s why there were(are) so few hippies.

Few folks ever born develop the mettle required to be a hippie. Most who try, fail, being drawn away by the drugs or the look or whatever ego-flattering thing they find on their way. Nothing wrong with that – it’s as it should be, as it ever was.

But when those failures grow older, take control of your governments and (financial)industries and chunk a yoke around your neck, try to remember one thing.

It’s not us hippies who are doing it to you. It’s flower power failures.

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Hippies – The Next Generation

Making A Life Worthwhile

From the NY Times

Chris and Paige, 21st Century Hippies

My hat is off, my hair unfettered as I salute my sister’s son, Chris and his girlfriend, Paige. The pic above appeared in the NY Times travel section Jan 9th.

Yeah, that’s San Francisco. Where else would a couple of flower children be singing for their supper? If you click the pic, you’ll get a larger view and make out the words on the sign at Paige’s feet.

Toss’em a dollar if ya’ see’em, would’ya? “Preciate it.

Live Free Or Die

Mark SteynMark Steyn

I don’t do this often, but sometimes I come across something that is so thought provocative and so well presented that to try to rewrite the ideas would be an injustice. If you don’t have the time, bookmark this post and come back later to read it. It’s not quick, and it’s not light.

But it’s definitely solid, and it is something you will want to think about.

Live Free or Die

MARK STEYN’S column appears in several newspapers, including the Washington Times, Philadelphia’s Evening Bulletin, and the Orange County Register. In addition, he writes for The New Criterion, Maclean’s in Canada, the Jerusalem Post, The Australian, and Hawke’s Bay Today in New Zealand. The author of National Review’s Happy Warrior column, he also blogs on National Review Online. He is the author of several books, including the best-selling America Alone: The End of The World as We Know It. Mr. Steyn teaches a two-week course in journalism at Hillsdale College during each spring semester.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on March 9, 2009.

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MY REMARKS are titled tonight after the words of General Stark, New Hampshire’s great hero of the Revolutionary War: “Live free or die!” When I first moved to New Hampshire, where this appears on our license plates, I assumed General Stark had said it before some battle or other—a bit of red meat to rally the boys for the charge; a touch of the old Henry V-at-Agincourt routine. But I soon discovered that the general had made his famous statement decades after the war, in a letter regretting that he would be unable to attend a dinner. And in a curious way I found that even more impressive. In extreme circumstances, many people can rouse themselves to rediscover the primal impulses: The brave men on Flight 93 did. They took off on what they thought was a routine business trip, and, when they realized it wasn’t, they went into General Stark mode and cried “Let’s roll!” But it’s harder to maintain the “Live free or die!” spirit when you’re facing not an immediate crisis but just a slow, remorseless, incremental, unceasing ratchet effect. “Live free or die!” sounds like a battle cry: We’ll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it’s something far less dramatic: It’s a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die.

My book America Alone is often assumed to be about radical Islam, firebreathing imams, the excitable young men jumping up and down in the street doing the old “Death to the Great Satan” dance. It’s not. It’s about us. It’s about a possibly terminal manifestation of an old civilizational temptation: Indolence, as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a republic. When I ran into trouble with the so-called “human rights” commissions up in Canada, it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus ‘n’ truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.

In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it’s effectively severed its citizens from humanity’s primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. Hillary Rodham Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. It’s supposedly an African proverb—there is no record of anyone in Africa ever using this proverb, but let that pass. P.J. O’Rourke summed up that book superbly: It takes a village to raise a child. The government is the village, and you’re the child. Oh, and by the way, even if it did take a village to raise a child, I wouldn’t want it to be an African village. If you fly over West Africa at night, the lights form one giant coastal megalopolis: Not even Africans regard the African village as a useful societal model. But nor is the European village. Europe’s addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.

And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it’s another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ’s Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that’s underway. The 44th president’s multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can’t make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%—ten years ago. Today, it’s about 40%. In four years’ time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.

But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn’t the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They’re wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That’s the stage where Europe is.

America is just beginning this process. I looked at the rankings in Freedom in the 50 States published by George Mason University last month. New Hampshire came in Number One, the Freest State in the Nation, which all but certainly makes it the freest jurisdiction in the Western world. Which kind of depressed me. Because the Granite State feels less free to me than it did when I moved there, and you always hope there’s somewhere else out there just in case things go belly up and you have to hit the road. And way down at the bottom in the last five places were Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the least free state in the Union by some distance, New York.

New York! How does the song go? “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere!” If you can make it there, you’re some kind of genius. “This is the worst fiscal downturn since the Great Depression,” announced Governor Paterson a few weeks ago. So what’s he doing? He’s bringing in the biggest tax hike in New York history. If you can make it there, he can take it there—via state tax, sales tax, municipal tax, a doubled beer tax, a tax on clothing, a tax on cab rides, an “iTunes tax,” a tax on haircuts, 137 new tax hikes in all. Call 1-800-I-HEART-NEW-YORK today and order your new package of state tax forms, for just $199.99, plus the 12% tax on tax forms and the 4% tax form application fee partially refundable upon payment of the 7.5% tax filing tax. If you can make it there, you’ll certainly have no difficulty making it in Tajikistan.

New York, California… These are the great iconic American states, the ones we foreigners have heard of. To a penniless immigrant called Arnold Schwarzenegger, California was a land of plenty. Now Arnold is an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land: That’s not an improvement. One of his predecessors as governor of California, Ronald Reagan, famously said, “We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around.” In California, it’s now the other way around: California is increasingly a government that has a state. And it is still in the early stages of the process. California has thirtysomething million people. The Province of Quebec has seven million people. Yet California and Quebec have roughly the same number of government workers. “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it’s better to jump off the train as you’re leaving the station and it’s still picking up speed than when it’s roaring down the track and you realize you’ve got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express.

“Indolence,” in Machiavelli’s word: There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear. Every night of the week, you can switch on the TV and see one of these ersatz “town meetings” in which freeborn citizens of the republic (I use the term loosely) petition the Sovereign to make all the bad stuff go away. “I have an urgent need,” a lady in Fort Myers beseeched the President. “We need a home, our own kitchen, our own bathroom.” He took her name and ordered his staff to meet with her. Hopefully, he didn’t insult her by dispatching some no-name deputy assistant associate secretary of whatever instead of flying in one of the bigtime tax-avoiding cabinet honchos to nationalize a Florida bank and convert one of its branches into a desirable family residence, with a swing set hanging where the drive-thru ATM used to be.

As all of you know, Hillsdale College takes no federal or state monies. That used to make it an anomaly in American education. It’s in danger of becoming an anomaly in America, period. Maybe it’s time for Hillsdale College to launch the Hillsdale Insurance Agency, the Hillsdale Motor Company and the First National Bank of Hillsdale. The executive supremo at Bank of America is now saying, oh, if only he’d known what he knows now, he wouldn’t have taken the government money. Apparently it comes with strings attached. Who knew? Sure, Hillsdale College did, but nobody else.

If you’re a business, when government gives you 2% of your income, it has a veto on 100% of what you do. If you’re an individual, the impact is even starker. Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place. That’s the argument behind, for example, mandatory motorcycle helmets, or the creepy teams of government nutritionists currently going door to door in Britain and conducting a “health audit” of the contents of your refrigerator. They’re not yet confiscating your Twinkies; they just want to take a census of how many you have. So you do all this for the “free” health care—and in the end you may not get the “free” health care anyway. Under Britain’s National Health Service, for example, smokers in Manchester have been denied treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk are refused hip and knee replacements. Patricia Hewitt, the British Health Secretary, says that it’s appropriate to decline treatment on the basis of “lifestyle choices.” Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his “lifestyle choices” get a pass while theirs don’t. But that’s the point: Tyranny is always whimsical.

And if they can’t get you on grounds of your personal health, they’ll do it on grounds of planetary health. Not so long ago in Britain it was proposed that each citizen should have a government-approved travel allowance. If you take one flight a year, you’ll pay just the standard amount of tax on the journey. But, if you travel more frequently, if you take a second or third flight, you’ll be subject to additional levies—in the interest of saving the planet for Al Gore’s polar bear documentaries and that carbon-offset palace he lives in in Tennessee.

Isn’t this the very definition of totalitarianism-lite? The Soviets restricted the movement of people through the bureaucratic apparatus of “exit visas.” The British are proposing to do it through the bureaucratic apparatus of exit taxes—indeed, the bluntest form of regressive taxation. As with the Communists, the nomenklatura—the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Madonna—will still be able to jet about hither and yon. What’s a 20% surcharge to them? Especially as those for whom vast amounts of air travel are deemed essential—government officials, heads of NGOs, environmental activists—will no doubt be exempted from having to pay the extra amount. But the ghastly masses will have to stay home.

“Freedom of movement” used to be regarded as a bedrock freedom. The movement is still free, but there’s now a government processing fee of $389.95. And the interesting thing about this proposal was that it came not from the Labour Party but the Conservative Party.

That’s Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life. When President Bush talked about promoting democracy in the Middle East, there was a phrase he liked to use: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.” Really? It’s unclear whether that’s really the case in Gaza and the Pakistani tribal lands. But it’s absolutely certain that it’s not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, New Orleans and Buffalo. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government “security,” large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and a ton of other stuff. It’s ridiculous for grown men and women to say: I want to be able to choose from hundreds of cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies from Netflix, millions of songs to play on my iPod—but I want the government to choose for me when it comes to my health care. A nation that demands the government take care of all the grown-up stuff is a nation turning into the world’s wrinkliest adolescent, free only to choose its record collection.

And don’t be too sure you’ll get to choose your record collection in the end. That’s Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it’s a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts. When my anglophone friends in the Province of Quebec used to complain about the lack of English signs in Quebec hospitals, my response was that, if you allow the government to be the sole provider of health care, why be surprised that they’re allowed to decide the language they’ll give it in? But, as I’ve learned during my year in the hellhole of Canadian “human rights” law, that’s true in a broader sense. In the interests of “cultural protection,” the Canadian state keeps foreign newspaper owners, foreign TV operators, and foreign bookstore owners out of Canada. Why shouldn’t it, in return, assume the right to police the ideas disseminated through those newspapers, bookstores and TV networks it graciously agrees to permit?

When Maclean’s magazine and I were hauled up in 2007 for the crime of “flagrant Islamophobia,” it quickly became very clear that, for members of a profession that brags about its “courage” incessantly (far more than, say, firemen do), an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem. A distressing number of Western journalists see no conflict between attending lunches for World Press Freedom Day every month and agreeing to be micro-regulated by the state. The big problem for those of us arguing for classical liberalism is that in modern Canada there’s hardly anything left that isn’t on the state dripfeed to one degree or another: Too many of the institutions healthy societies traditionally look to as outposts of independent thought—churches, private schools, literature, the arts, the media—either have an ambiguous relationship with government or are downright dependent on it. Up north, “intellectual freedom” means the relevant film-funding agency—Cinedole Canada or whatever it’s called—gives you a check to enable you to continue making so-called “bold, brave, transgressive” films that discombobulate state power not a whit.

And then comes Stage Four, in which dissenting ideas and even words are labeled as “hatred.” In effect, the language itself becomes a means of control. Despite the smiley-face banalities, the tyranny becomes more naked: In Britain, a land with rampant property crime, undercover constables nevertheless find time to dine at curry restaurants on Friday nights to monitor adjoining tables lest someone in private conversation should make a racist remark. An author interviewed on BBC Radio expressed, very mildly and politely, some concerns about gay adoption and was investigated by Scotland Yard’s Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist and Domestic Incidents. A Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested and detained in a jail cell over a joke in a speech. A Dutch legislator is invited to speak at the Palace of Westminster by a member of the House of Lords, but is banned by the government, arrested on arrival at Heathrow and deported.

America, Britain, and even Canada are not peripheral nations: They’re the three anglophone members of the G7. They’re three of a handful of countries that were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century. But individual liberty flickers dimmer in each of them. The massive expansion of government under the laughable euphemism of “stimulus” (Stage One) comes with a quid pro quo down the line (Stage Two): Once you accept you’re a child in the government nursery, why shouldn’t Nanny tell you what to do? And then—Stage Three—what to think? And—Stage Four—what you’re forbidden to think . . . .

Which brings us to the final stage: As I said at the beginning, Big Government isn’t about the money. It’s more profound than that. A couple of years back Paul Krugman wrote a column in The New York Times asserting that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about “family values,” the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more “family friendly.” On the Continent, claims the professor, “government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff-to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family.”

As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice that for a continent of “family friendly” policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America’s fertility rate is more or less at replacement level—2.1—seventeen European nations are at what demographers call “lowest-low” fertility—1.3 or less—a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greeks have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild. How can an economist analyze “family friendly” policies without noticing that the upshot of these policies is that nobody has any families?

As for all that extra time, what happened? Europeans work fewer hours than Americans, they don’t have to pay for their own health care, they’re post-Christian so they don’t go to church, they don’t marry and they don’t have kids to take to school and basketball and the 4-H stand at the county fair. So what do they do with all the time?

Forget for the moment Europe’s lack of world-beating companies: They regard capitalism as an Anglo-American fetish, and they mostly despise it. But what about the things Europeans supposedly value? With so much free time, where is the great European art? Where are Europe’s men of science? At American universities. Meanwhile, Continental governments pour fortunes into prestigious white elephants of Euro-identity, like the Airbus A380, capable of carrying 500, 800, a thousand passengers at a time, if only somebody somewhere would order the darn thing, which they might consider doing once all the airports have built new runways to handle it.

“Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor,” wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands. “When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome.”

The key word here is “give.” When the state “gives” you plenty—when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood—it’s not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence—literally so for those Germans who’ve mastered the knack of staying in education till they’re 34 and taking early retirement at 42. Hilaire Belloc, incidentally, foresaw this very clearly in his book The Servile State in 1912. He understood that the long-term cost of a welfare society is the infantilization of the population.

Genteel decline can be very agreeable—initially: You still have terrific restaurants, beautiful buildings, a great opera house. And once the pressure’s off it’s nice to linger at the sidewalk table, have a second café au lait and a pain au chocolat, and watch the world go by. At the Munich Security Conference in February, President Sarkozy demanded of his fellow Continentals, “Does Europe want peace, or do we want to be left in peace?” To pose the question is to answer it. Alas, it only works for a generation or two. And it’s hard to come up with a wake-up call for a society as dedicated as latterday Europe to the belief that life is about sleeping in.

As Gerald Ford liked to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” And that’s true. But there’s an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn’t big enough to get you to give any of it back. That’s the position European governments find themselves in. Their citizens have become hooked on unaffordable levels of social programs which in the end will put those countries out of business. Just to get the Social Security debate in perspective, projected public pension liabilities are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8% of GDP in the U.S. In Greece, the figure is 25%—i.e., total societal collapse. So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I want my benefits. The crisis isn’t the lack of money, but the lack of citizens—in the meaningful sense of that word.

Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that “for the children.” If America really wanted to do something “for the children,” it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That’s the real “war on children” (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they’ll win it.

Conservatives often talk about “small government,” which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they’re for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult. The inertia, the ennui, the fatalism is more pathetic than the demographic decline and fiscal profligacy of the social democratic state, because it’s subtler and less tangible. But once in a while it swims into very sharp focus. Here is the writer Oscar van den Boogaard from an interview with the Belgian paper De Standaard. Mr. van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay “humanist” (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool), was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. “I am not a warrior, but who is?” he shrugged. “I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.” In the famous Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, Mr. van den Boogard is past denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and has arrived at a kind of acceptance.

“I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.” Sorry, doesn’t work—not for long. Back in New Hampshire, General Stark knew that. Mr. van den Boogard’s words are an epitaph for Europe. Whereas New Hampshire’s motto—”Live free or die!”—is still the greatest rallying cry for this state or any other. About a year ago, there was a picture in the papers of Iranian students demonstrating in Tehran and waving placards. And what they’d written on those placards was: “Live free or die!” They understand the power of those words; so should we.

Copyright © 2008 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”

Grow Free Food

Will eat for foodImage by altemark via Flickr

Serendipity Rocks!

OK, so I’m sitting at the keyboard, doing what appears to folks around here as wasting the day (read: twitter). Things on tweetdeck had slowed down a bit, and I figured folks were eating dinner. So bored, I checked my emails, and the last one really caught my eye.

I have twitter setup to send an email whenever I get a direct message or reply on twitter. For me this only makes sense. If it’s a reply, then I must’ve asked a question or been a part of an ongoing conversation, and I’ll certainly want to keep up. If someone just out-of-the-blue sends me a message, I definitely want to know. To DM on twitter, you must be following the sender, and all the folks I follow are important to me. I want to hear them.

So when @Meryl333 shows up in my email, I want to read it. Strange thing was, this email was a twitter-generated copy of a reply she had sent to @petemoraites and it was just one word.

“Perfect”

That’s what she said. Perfect.

Now, for those of you who don’t know Meryl, let me say by way of introduction that I have found her to be one of my favorite ‘Follows’ on twitter. Nearly every tweet has something that somebody somewhere might need. Alot of the time that would be me. (Thanks Meryl!) She gives information, inspiration and promotes honest interaction 100%. Plus she’s just plain smart. If you’re already on twitter follow her HERE.

Anyway, to say the least, I respect Meryl’s tweets, so I was interested in what was so ‘Perfect!’. I went to Pete’s twitter profile and found, in his bio, the hashtag #GROWFREEFOOD.

Grow Free Food!

That IS Perfect! What does a bag of seeds cost? Practically nothing!

Grow Free Food!

Just about any of us could spring for a couple of bags of seeds, or some young plants (“slips”, my grandma used to call them).

Grow Free Food!

Like Pete says:

grow free food at your church, and give generously to stabilize your community

don’t rely on unstable systms, plant seeds, grow free food

Grow Free Food!

Even if there were no economic crisis, this is just a great idea. Plant some today. It’s not rocket science and it’s not even a new idea – there’s a guy somewhere around Reidsville who brings tons of potatoes he grows on his farm, to be taken freely by anyone at all. He’s been doing this for years, for free.

Grow free food. The hunger you stave just may be your own.

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Change And A Smile

The Obama’s First 100 Days

Thanks to Market Ticker for pointing this out (emphasis original)…

I voted for him.

It appears that I am not the only person who has figured out that we got “change” all right. But the change we got wasn’t the change we voted for.

We got more corruption, more (proposed) taxes in the form of a Carbon Tax, admitted tax cheats spread through the Cabinet, a Treasury and Federal Reserve that have continued to wantonly violate black letter statute and an executive that has continued to claim that we must “move on.”

Note this well:

We have a major bank CEO who appears to have alleged to the NY State Attorney General a conspiracy in which he participated at alleged (monetary) “gunpoint”, the central act of which was the embezzlement of tens of billions of dollars from The American People performed not only by him but also by and with The Chairman of The Federal Reserve and The Head of Treasury – two high government officials.

Lynn Turner, former chief accountant of the SEC, says:

“If these allegations are proven true both Bernanke and Paulson should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

This is a scandal that makes Watergate look like a common everyday burglary where a TV set was stolen, and I am willing to bet that it does not begin or end with Bank of America.

[…]

Let me ask just one question:

Would you “move on” if your wife, daughter or niece was savagely robbed and raped by a gang of hoodlums?

Then why should you “move on” when your children, grandchildren and those not yet born are saddled with over one hundred thousand dollars in debt that they will be required to pay so that criminals can not only go free, but don’t lose their fancy homes and cars?

The acts that led us here were not mistakes. They were deliberate acts; willful blindness and even fraud.

Fraud is a crime, and crimes of such monetary import are arguably just as serious as violent criminal offenses.

I have to agree with Mr Denninger – some of the names have been changed but the storyline has remained the same. The core group of ultra-wealthy weasels is still in control of the US. “Moving on” is not an option, it’s a cover-up.

Even the common man on the street knows in his heart that the government is corrupt. Every one of us knows, in our American gut that these guys are not acting in our country’s best interest, but in the interest of a relatively small group of insolvent men who need to steal from us our wealth while transferring all their backbreaking debt to us at the same time.

It’s common knowledge. A revolution may be inevitable.

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Patriotic Infrastructure

Ed Knight, Executive VP at Mill Branch Industries, holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management and is Jon’s brother. Today he discusses a different kind of infrastructure, one that is every bit as important as roads and bridges.

Looking south above :en:Interstate 80, the Eas...Image via Wikipedia

Rebuilding Infrastructure

President-elect Obama has made mention of how an emphasis on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure will have a positive effect on the economy, securing for generations to come that which we have come to rely and expect in our daily lives, by providing jobs for millions. I personally think this is a grand idea. It quite simply makes sense.

But let us for a moment consider our government as a part of that infrastructure. Our founders two hundred years ago were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not of men.

Those laws are the quintessential infrastructure of our United States.

The Damage Done

The outgoing executive administration has for the past eight years repeatedly violated the laws designed to protect the freedom guaranteed to us in the Constitution.

Warrantless surveillance programs, unlawful detainment and blatant kidnapping of innocent American citizens as well as other nationals is, to say the least, shocking – and contrary to the laws that for generations gave the world a view of our country as a shining example of hope for humanity.

Al Gore has said:

“What would Benjamin Franklin think of President Bush’s assertion that he has the inherent power, even without a declaration of war by congress, to launch an invasion of any nation on earth, at any time he chooses, for any reason he wishes, even if that nation poses no imminent threat to the United States? How long would it take James Madison to dispose of our current president’s claim, in Department of Justice legal opinions, that he is largely above the rule of law so long as he is acting in his role as commander in chief?”

Regardless of what you might think of Mr Gore, it would be a rare patriot who would disagree with what he’s said here.

Winston Churchill remarked that “ The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”

Unalienable Rights

Oppressive forms of government survive principally through the suppression of what our founders referred to as “unalienable rights”. Among these rights are the ideas of due process, equal treatment under the law, the dignity of the individual, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom from promiscuous government surveillance.

All of these “unalienable rights” have come into question throughout the past eight years.

Starting a few years ago, our federal government, (you know the one…by the people and for the people…) under authority of the Patriot Act, was granted “sneak and peak” actions not only on suspected terrorists but on anyone. Federal agents can legally, in secret, enter your home without any warning. In fact if you are not home at the time, they do not even have to tell you about it.

The federal government also under the same Act can legally keep a record of every web site you visit and monitor every email you send or receive, every phone call you make and even what you check out at the local library. Yes, that too.

The outgoing administration has made the claim that it can legally collect pretty much any information about anyone that the government finds “of investigatory interest”. I am pretty certain that Stalin felt the same way.

Regain The Road

Thomas Jefferson said of the essential principles of our government “…should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”

That road is certainly a part of our infrastructure and I for one hope that the new president is successful in paving over the multitude of potholes established by the outgoing administration.

I am Ed. Let’s rebuild that road first.

When The Government Is The Felon

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 07:  Protestors wear sig...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeKarl Denninger

If you don’t read Karl Denninger, you are missing out. He writes in a no-nonsense way that everyone can understand. Yesterday he published a piece, the subject of which has been on my mind for awhile.

What do you do when the government is ‘the bad guys’?

Here it is, emphasis and links carried over from the original.

Quick Observation – Law And Order

Last night apparently Oakland CA was the scene of an ugly mob that decided to try a little rioting.

For those who don’t read the news, the underlying reason for the crowd assembling in the first place is that a man was recently shot, apparently in the back, by a BART cop.

It doesn’t matter where you are – shooting a man in the back isn’t going to fly, especially when the victim is unarmed; you have to expect the reaction will be, well, negative. Especially when you’ve already got him on the ground, on his face, he’s outnumbered 4 or 5:1 by police officers. (Video is here: http://www.ktvu.com/video/18409133/index.html)

There is an investigation in process, of course, but the people have seen enough on the news and elsewhere and have come to the conclusion that this was murder, and they’re not getting what they believe would be satisfaction (that is, the cop involved being arrested for the alleged offense.)

Anyway, the point here is that when the people conclude that the government is the felon, not the enforcer of law and order, you are dangerously close to full-scale rioting.

Even the ancient Greeks understood this.

It appears we do not.

Why am I bring this up in the context of the markets? Because as I noted in the morning’s Ticker, we seem to have a lot of lawlessness going on in the financial markets and it is rather clear that the government has been and is at least willfully blind if not outright complicit in the scams.

Madoff, who it seems every brokerage on the street, including Goldman, which at the time was headed by our current Treasury Secretary, knew there was something hinky going on, but when Paulson went to Treasury he did NOTHING to figure out what was going on and stop it.

On top of blatant thievery we have banks that have tripled their “rake” off mortgages over the last three or four months, using the “financial crisis” as a means of screwing consumers who already got raped by these very same financial institutions with their crazy “Option ARMs”.

And now as Mr. Mortgage has documented, we are starting to see documentary evidence of even bigger abuses in the “refinance” space.

Our government needs to put a stop to this crap, and do it now, before a significant percentage of the population comes to the conclusion that The Government is the Felon and is actively conspiring with financial fraudsters to rob the citizens.

Mark my words – if they fail to do so immediately the violence in Oakland last night is almost certain to be just a sneak preview of what will be coming to a city near you.

I am Jon. Go read more from Karl.

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Propoganda Paulson Spins The Tale

TOKYO - FEBRUARY 09:  G7 finance ministers (fr...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeThe Transfer Of Debt

These guys over to the right are the so-called G7. Those are the guys who are causing this economic mess. If you live in a member country (like I do), these guys literally control your life.

Like it or not, it’s true. They caused the crisis and are presently making it worse on us all by pumping trillions of dollars of debt onto our already unsustainable debt-load.

But they are not actually creating NEW debt. They are just trying (successfully) to transfer all of THEIR debt onto our backs, and the backs of our children.

Let’s see what Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has said, via The Financial Times(emphasis mine).

In a valedictory interview, Mr Paulson cast the crisis as partly the result of a collective failure to come to terms with the way the rise of emerging markets was reshaping the global financial system. These imbalances – arising from differences in the inclinations of different nations to save and invest – are reflected in large current account deficits and surpluses around the world.

The US Treasury Secretary said that in the years leading up to the crisis, super-abundant savings from fast-growing emerging nations such as China and oil exporters – at a time of low inflation and booming trade and capital flows – put downward pressure on yields and risk spreads everywhere.

This, he said, laid the seeds of a global credit bubble that extended far beyond the US sub-prime mortgage market and has now burst with devastating consequences worldwide.

“Excesses . . . built up for a long time, [with] investors looking for yield, mis-pricing risk,” he said. “It could take different forms. For some of the European banks it was eastern Europe. Spain and the UK were much more like the US with housing being the biggest bubble. With Japan it may be banks continuing to invest in equities.”

Paulson is not exactly lying here, but he is definitely not on solid moral ground. What he calls excesses were simply the aggregate savings of millions of regular folks, just like you and me. What was excessive, was that this was actual wealth, not debt. To the Fed’s mind, nobody should actually possess any wealth.

So allow me to restate what he probably meant to say, if he had decided to say it this way. They found out that folks who were not used to having wealth were actually saving that wealth, instead of converting it to debt (spending it). There was so much of it out there that if you added it together it was as much as they had, and it was growing. This planted the seeds of greed in their minds, and they decided to come up with a way to take that wealth and convert it to nice, friendly debt.

Oh, by the way, Greenspan created the ‘downward pressure’ when he stated (in 2001) that US prime rates would remain low indefinitely. This made our bonds and treasury notes very unattractive. After that, the Fed entered a campaign of lower interest rates which finally culminated in a de facto zero rate.

So, anyway, what do you expect from this guy? But then FT itself makes these two erroneous statements:

This argument – already advanced by a number of economists and largely endorsed by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke – suggests that the roots of the crisis do not simply lie in failures within the financial system.

It also implies that avoiding crises in future will require global macroeconomic co-operation as well as better financial regulation and risk-management.

So lemmee get this straight: the FT is saying the root causes of this crisis are NOT the way the financial system is managed, and we need a bigger central bank to manage the WORLD economy.

I have to disagree, and wonder deeply about reading this rag anymore. The facts so far plainly show that the financial system is the problem that caused this mess. How can a bigger problem make things any better?

Whatever – It’s 2009 – I’m Calling It What It Is

That’s right. The time for the glove is gone.

Let me say plainly: Ben Bernanke is an asshole. (So is Henry Paulson.) He deserves to be beaten, presented to the world and remain on public display throughout his miserably short lifetime. We could sell ten-dollar tickets and everyone on the planet would buy one, each allowing a single punch to Big Ben, anywhere we want.

Some folks would buy more than one ticket, I am sure. Sure beats the hell out of a lottery.

Modern Bankers – every damned one of them – are the worst sort of folks you’ll ever meet. What they want is to make you indebted to them so they can sit back and have a great life while you struggle to pay them back.

They have never been anything other than parasites. The human race would be better without them. If you think that means we go ‘back to the barter system’, then you just don’t understand economics at all.

Banking has been shown to have never even been able to evolve from barter. The two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

The modern-day robber barons are out to steal the accumulated wealth of the world. About 10 years ago they realized that only half the world’s wealth was under their control, and they wanted it all. That’s the ‘super-abundant savings’ Ben was talking about. It was about 36 trillion dollars of wealth, not debt, about equal to the wealth that the bankers controlled.

Savings is wealth. Everything else is debt, even cash and especially investments.

So the great western central bankers decided to do what it took to grab up all that wealth, and convert it to debt, so that the entire planet’s wealth would belong to them, in the process making nearly every person on the planet their servant. That’s the ‘seeds’ of the crisis Ben mentions. The seeds was greed.

These guys are like sharks. They do one thing and they do it better than anybody else doing it. They feed. Usually on us, but they love best the taste of ‘Banker’. So once all that extra wealth had been converted, and they couldn’t feed on us anymore, they turned to each other, wondering who was tasty.

And they began to make bets with each other. Using the same strategies they’d used on us, the predators bet up a pool of more than 500 trillion dollars. That’s more than the GNP of the entire planet for the next 15 years.

Eventually lots of regular folks were involved as their money managers, seeing an easy way to make some profits, invested in these deals. So many deals were traded among so many individuals that the whole thing got twisted up and practically nobody knew who was invested in what anymore.

By the time the Big Guys realized what they’d done it was too late to get out. All of them, at nearly the same moment, realized they were in over their heads, and they wanted out. Goldman Sachs had been selling their own securities short for quite some time, which is why they seemed to come this far a little better than the rest.

When the selling started in earnest, the market dried up immediately, which halted all the selling. You can’t sell when literally nobody wants what you’re selling. So the Big Boys got caught up in their own scam. That 500 trillion dollars worth of bets was worthless.

But they had an ace up their sleeve. They own the government’s, and therefore OUR money supply. Click on that link below to see what I mean. Since all ‘money’ in any nation with a central bank is actually debt, they have a way to transfer all of their debt onto us, in the form of stimulus packages.

Don’t think I’m right? Look at every piece of cash you have. Don’t they all say ‘Federal Reserve Note’? Go to the bank and ask for real ‘money’. You’ll get ‘notes’.

Notes are obligations to pay. Obligations to pay are DEBTS. Plain and simple.

Here in the US, we get taxed whatever is needed for the Federal Reserve to pay out its notes. And, a close reading of the ammendment that supposedly authorizes those taxes shows that it indeed DOES NOT authorize the kinds of ‘income’ taxes we see today. The Supreme Court has never had to review this ammendment’s implementation.

Since the founding of this country, Bankers have wanted to control our money supply. In 1913 The Federal Reserve was created, and they won a major victory over those of us who would control our own wealth. But just 7 years later, the US Treasury was co-opted through The Independent Treasury Act, which turned our Treasury over to a private corporation.

Click that ‘1920’ link in my signature line.

I am Jon, and since 1920 this has been War. (CLICK IT!)

Public Sentiment Against The

Powers That Be

Some of you will think this video is in extremely poor taste, as it is pregnant to bursting with expletives you’ll wish were deleted.

Some of you will think this is funny – just some redneck from North Carolina, probably drunk or stoned, on a ratcheting rant.

Some of you might be tempted to actually pay attention the whole 7 minutes. Some of you might recognize that, however ill-equipped this guy is to be talking about the economy, you feel the same way.


Thanks to The Fly for pointing to this mess.

The Money Quote

“If Ben Bernanke prints one more dollar, I will bust his ass!”

I am a North Carolina native. My great-grandmother was Cherokee, and in these parts that’s about as native as you can get. My family has lived here for thousands of years.

In my birth-family of NC natives, we share about 35 years of ‘higher education’ between 7 of us. To put it bluntly: We ain’t un-edgicated.

I doubt this guy in the video is uneducated, either. What I don’t doubt is that he really is fed up with the Fed. What I don’t doubt is that his sentiment is shared by (literally) hundreds of thousands of folks across the nation.

What I don’t doubt – any more, anyway – is that those hundreds of thousands will grow to be millions, and they will want vengeance.

I am Jon, you see what I’m sayin’?

2009 – The End Of The Oughts

Universe ZeroImage by kevindooley via Flickr
Crystal Ball

Every year around this time folks all over the world are gobbling up predictions like they were funnel cake at the county fair. I usually stay away from that sort of thing but this year have been been convinced by a few readers to publish what I think is going to happen next year.

Having little experience in this stuff, I immediately went to my long-ago packed-away crystal ball (left over from a divorce from a woman who simply KNEW she was a witch. She wasn’t, which is the reason I guess, that the crystal ball is still with me.)

Seriously, she was not a witch.

Upper right you’ll see a picture of my crystal ball (the way it would look to me if I really had one). Just a glance will give you about as much information as a careful study of the thing. Bleh – so much for crystal balls. (Maybe a real witch would have left me with a crystal ball that worked?)

So, having looked into tea leaves, coffee grounds, walked hallowed grounds, thrown bones and sticks and then listening to some Styx, I decided to try my hand at simple precognition. Into the trance I go:

ObamaRama

Obama’s stimulus package is just more of the same. It will be cheered on, all around the world as we all hopelessly cry out for a savior from our own self induced economic crisis. Like a street addict we beg for more, we promise to do better, and when we get our hands on the fix, we inject the needle deeply. It doesn’t cure us, but it does let us believe that things are better now, and the worst has passed.

Except it hasn’t passed. After the nice Obama bump in the 1st quarter, rumblings are felt again in the financial sectors as credit card and auto loan debt begins to falter. It seems that folks have been using those plastic things to pay for their mortgages, as well as their food. The recent flood of Christmas shopping is revealed to have all been done on credit, and after April or May, with credit cards maxed out, folks have to decide whether to default on their homes, their cars, their groceries or their cards. The cards will be the first to go, followed by the cars and some groceries.

About the same time, the mortgage industry will begin to show new signs of weakness. There will be more to worry about than just the default rates on prime and jumbo-primes. Commercial real estate will falter and in some places simply fail altogether. Construction will, for all intents and purposes, dry up and blow away across most of the nation.

In the midst of all this springtime rain comes a drought of promises from the government. We will be told that the stimulus is indeed working for millions of Americans. We will all wonder who those millions are, and where they live – ’cause they sure as hell don’t live near us. More empty cash will be poured out upon us, and it will disappear like Gandalf into a fiery pit. (But like Gandalf, it will be back later in the story.)

From Fiery Pits To Black Holes

The CERN LHC will go online as scheduled. This time everything works exactly as they expected, and the experiments are begun. The whole world watches, half-expecting to suddenly find themselves being eaten by a growing black hole. The math works, however, and the 1st results from the LHC prove that Hawking radiation indeed does exist. The black holes are being formed and dissipating at a rate of about 10,000 each minute, none of them growing to any dangerous size.

The world cheers. Hawking releases a statement warning of cumulative effects of quantum gravity on celestial objects.

Some people scratch their craniums and wonder what he means.

War Of Agreement

Behind the scenes, the world’s first ‘war of agreement’ will be planned, as an extreme option. The war of agreement will be between two nations with a long history of flagrant opposition, but will actually be an attempt to stimulate each of the two nations’ economies.

While the leaders of each nation say they hope they never have to use this option, secretly they plan to anyway in most of their future scenarios. The plan may grow to include more than just the original countries, and in fact become the world’s 1st scheduled global war.

We will be told that the government will do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep us in jobs, to keep ‘main street’ moving. We will continue to see the very ones who created this mess profit from it at our expense, just like in 2008.

By mid-year, there will have been at least one violent incident that gets national attention, perhaps the burning of a prominent banker’s private residence. Sometime by mid-July, the National Guard will be called out in at least one state, or in the district itself, due to riots or demonstrations.

Unemployment will reach a very real rate of around 30%. The government will report it to be much lower, perhaps as high as 13%. This kind of newspeak is going to eventually be the cause of social unrest in the US. Similar events will play out in most European nations.

And even then, we won’t realize what we’re in for.

Trying to pull the nation together (perhaps not missing the point that the Nation Is together, albeit against them) the government will try to focus our anger on those outside America. Similar strategies will be adopted worldwide, as they have historically always been done.

All the while talking about mutual support and cooperation, each nation will be busy behind the scenes, setting up their version of protectionist actions. Without the actions, there is nothing to point at and say to your nation, ‘See! Here we have engaged the culprit!’

As these actions are taken, the War of Agreement will be quietly staged, with heads of state setting up guidelines for profit, strategies for management so that every participating nation should prosper. The goal in this war will not be to conquer, but instead to keep the current economy intact, ie., the current management team in power.

But that war will not come in 2009. It may never happen. But the stage will be set for it, and that will demand that actions be taken to draw the lines, so to speak. Already, there are several countries around the world manipulating their currencies to position themselves.

So the actions will come, the bigger ones sometime in the last half of the year. I do not know what those actions might be. They could come in the form of tariffs, embargoes, piracy – the list could go on forever. Some fool could even order a real military attack.

All In All, And In The End

The horrible year upon us will not destroy us. Many of us will see our lives change in an instant. Some lucky of us will notice very little difference and the gifted will continue being gifted. We will have things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. We will smile at least once on Christmas.

This past year has been incredibly hard for some of us. We’ve lost so much, we feel, and we really don’t understand it all. Here’s a secret: That’s a good way to feel, right about now.

Truth is, we have no idea what the future holds. After all the study, all the reading and discussing, after riding this wave for as long as we have, all we have in the end is our best guess. Our gut feeling.

I am Jon, and what do I know?

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Remembering John – ‘The Key To The Big Box’

And ‘The Profound Whatever’

Thanks to Josh over at mockriot, where I found this:

From the description over at Current.com:

In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview. This was in the midst of Lennon’s “bed-in” phase, during which John and Yoko were staying in hotel beds in an effort to promote peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon’s every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries traditional pen sketches by James Braithwaite with digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message.

I am Jon, and I still love John.

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Stop Bailing Out The B@st@rds

Cerberus, watercolour by William BlakeImage via WikipediaYeah, The So-Called ‘Big 3’

Below is the (slightly edited) bulk of a comment I posted in response to an article at ClimateProgress.

I should take a moment to apologize to Daniel, who wrote the article. At the end of my comment I called him ‘Joe’… sorry!

Read on….

Comment

When will we finally be able to recognize a rip-off when we see/hear it? I agree that the US auto industry needs to be focused on efficiency, reducing the impact on global climate, and everything else Climate Progress stands for.

But to expect, or even have a distant hope, that the industry will attend to those things without being literally FORCED into it, well – that’s some good ganja, man. Read the following quote, and then remember that Chrysler was bailed out soon thereafter. What did we get from that bailout? Squat and grunt, that’s what…

Thanks to Paul, over at Infectious Greed, we can read this:

“Over the past year, the domestic auto industry has experienced sharply reduced sales and profitability, large indefinite layoffs, and increased market penetration by imports … The shift in consumer preferences towards smaller, more fuel-efficient passenger cars and light trucks … appears to be permanent, and the industry will spend massive amounts of money to retool to produce the motor vehicles that the public now wants.

To improve the overall future prospects for the domestic motor vehicle manufacturers, a quality and price competitive motor vehicle must be produced … If this is not accomplished, the long term outlook for the industry is bleak.”

— Source: THE U.S. AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY, 1980. REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT FROM THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION

My 1979 Toyota Corolla got better gas mileage than ANY US made car in 2008. For that matter, I still own a 1990 Celica that gets an average of 37 mpg…

Cerberus, who owns a major chunk (51%) of GMAC and 80% of Chrysler today, refused this month to help either company, expecting (probably correctly) that the US govt will fork over the cash. (GMAC was among the top 6 sellers of SUBPRIME SECURITIES in 2006, and is one of only 2 remaining from that top 6 group. The other player still standing? Goldman Sachs.)

So this ‘US Auto Industry Bailout’ is really a BAILOUT of a PRIVATE INVESTMENT FIRM: CERBERUS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, who have seen their investments go down the tubes this year.

Sorry about the rant Joe, I am just tired of seeing all this cash go to the very guys who created the mess in the first place. The cash should be going to FIX the mess, not reward the guys who started it. Again.

I am Jon, and that is that.

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Dow Rallies To Close Down For The Week

keystone-copImage by Aaron Edwards via FlickrDo You Still Feel Good?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed sharply late this afternoon to close up for the day. Nevertheless, that close finished a topsy-turvy (pun intended) week which shows a net decline in the Average of -2.19%.

I’ve been sitting back and just watching this thing all week, this jigsaw mess of a market. Horrible numbers are released and folks just pour cash into stocks. Perceived ‘good’ news is released and the whole country grabs as much as they can to hide away.

Talk about a lack of confidence… it’s almost as if the market has decided just to disbelieve every piece of news that comes out. What’s up, people? Did the last 8 years make you that greedy? You’re all out there trying to ‘out-think’ each other. Only problem is – you’re ALL doing the same thing.

Sell into rallies, buy into dips. What hogwash. When everyone has the same strategy, isn’t it time to think of something else? I’m not saying do the opposite just for the sake of doing something different, but geez! This is like watching a bunch of keystone cops running around on ice.

You might be better off just taking a vacation.

Go ahead – criticize me for not buying OR selling. Tell me to keep my mouth shut if it has no cash in it. Choose to only listen to folks who have a position to push, a book to talk.

I’ll just remind you of Jon’s Rule Of Investing In Markets #’s 1 and 11:

1. Everybody is always in the market, whether they know it or not.
11. I do not have to be actively trading in the markets to gain a profit.

It’s Basic Math – So Easy A Schoolchild Could Do It

I firmly believe that we will most likely be enduring a full depression. The actions of the Fed and the Treasury have almost guaranteed it. Instead of letting the market work as it was designed, the Fed and the government have thrown debt-dollar after debt-dollar to correct an excess of already toxic debt. (You can trade that market if you want to.)

Any schoolchild with a basic knowledge of negative numbers can work this math. If you add a negative to another negative, what do you get?

A Bigger Negative.

You cannot create a positive balance by throwing even more negative at it. This entire thing was caused by excessive leveraging. Creating debt without assets to back it up. All of the failed and bailed companies were leveraged at about 40 to 1.

The Fed, and hence our Treasury, is now leveraged at about 51 to 1, and everyone who reads this is probably hoping for Another $600 Billion when Obama takes office next month. Folks, it’s really simple math: This is not the answer.

If the market had been allowed to work the way it was designed to work, the toxic debt would have been forced out into the open sometime during 2008. Huge losses would have become known, mega corporations would have defaulted and disappeared. The folks at fault would have been outed by those who were close to them, charges would have been filed, trial dates set.

It Would Have Been Awful Really Fast

It would have been just awful for the world to see, for us to live through. Most of the banks we knew would have disappeared. Our 401k’s would have evaporated, our savings accounts worrisome. Jobs would have been lost as the entire mess caused by the banking industry rippled like a shock wave through the global economy. Unemployment would have already topped 20%.

There would have been panic, maybe to the point of riots. The Dow wouldn’t have stopped falling until it hit something we could all have confidence in, and even then it would have overshot the real value point due to panic. It probably would have gone well below 5000, maybe as low as 2000.

We’d be right in the middle of that right now, if the markets had been allowed to work. The Middle of it. The so-called ‘bottom’. We’d be seeing the glimmer of recovery at the end of a fairly short tunnel and by the middle of next year, we’d be talking about it in the past tense. But we’re not at the bottom.

We’re not there yet because the folks in the Fed and the Treasury are the same folks as in the banking industry. Specifically, both places a simply filled with people with strong ties to Goldman Sachs. Follow the money. You will see what I mean. But that’s a different story.

It’s Gonna Be Awful A Really Long Time – Thanks Hank!

Instead of letting the market work, our leaders stepped up and started throwing more cash, aka – DEBT – at the mess. As of today, Dec 8th 2008, the total is somewhere north of 8 TRILLION dollars. When you consider that the entire supposed increase of the DOW over the last 8 years is estimated at 12 trillion, you start to see how bad this really is. (Interestingly, the GNP of the US is just about 12 trillion.)

Already, our government alone has poured two thirds of the supposed gains of the entire bubble at the problem, and things are steadily getting worse. The stimulus package Obama is expected to announce will probably be on the order of about a trillion dollars.

That’s a full three quarters of the total gains thrown at the problem, by January 2009. And yet, nearly everyone agrees that even with Obama’s stimulus package, things are only going to get worse throughout next year. Unemployment will rise, companies will fail, bailouts will continue to funnel cash to fat cats who probably deserve prison time instead of a bailout. Nobody really expects any kind of recovery next year, with some saying this will last well into 2010 or beyond.

I am Jon, the optimist.

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