Posted by Jeff Rubin on February 10th, 2014 under SmallerWorld
It’s nine years and counting since the Keystone pipeline was first proposed and TransCanada is still waiting for Presidential approval to build the line. An environmental assessment report from the US State Department that landed last week would seem to move TransCanada’s hopes forward, but the pipeline’s ultimate fate is still very much in limbo.
The State Department concluded that the Keystone XL project won’t lead to greater production from the oil sands and, by extension, more carbon emissions. Many see this overall assessment, which is more or less a restatement of earlier findings, as highly questionable. Indeed, just ask the oil industry itself how important new pipeline connections are to not only increasing production, but also the very commercial viability of the oil sands resource.
The report does envision scenarios in which oil sands development is curbed by a combination of lower oil prices and a lack of pipeline capacity. Ultimately, though, the State Department finds that an increase in the amount of oil moved by rail will allow new oil sands production to come on-stream whether or not new pipelines are built. The upshot, at least for the State Department, is that oil sands production will march ahead with or without Keystone. Environmental advocates, suffice to say, disagree.
In any event, there won’t be any cross border pipeline construction until President Obama gives the okay. And no one knows when that will be or what he’ll ultimately decide.
The President has proven to be a wily politician, particularly on the carbon front. Environmentalists were happy when he directed the Environmental Protection Agency to sanction tough new emissions standards for power generation that will effectively preclude any new coal-fired plants from being built. But he did so only after the advent of cheap shale gas had already rendered coal uneconomic, meaning many coal-fired plants would have been shuttered regardless of new rules from the EPA.
In a similar vein, the President has boldly attached a carbon standard to his approval of Keystone, but that only happened after a gush of domestic oil production made more volume from Alberta’s oil sands redundant to the US market. Indeed, the US is so awash in oil that, even as Obama ponders his decision on Keystone, the American Petroleum Institute is working hard to remove restrictions on exporting crude that date back to 1975. The lobbying effort would only seem to bolster the credibility of claims by US environmentalists that the Canadian oil shipped through Keystone won’t be burned by American motorists but instead shipped abroad for another country’s benefit.
Regardless of the pipeline’s ultimate fate, the Keystone saga highlights the enormity of the challenge that’s ahead of oil sands producers. While Keystone’s 830,000 barrels-a-day of throughput is significant, it’s still only a fraction of the additional pipeline capacity that will be needed for producers to fulfill their expansion plans. The industry is targeting 5 million barrels a day of production within the next 20 years, an amount that it, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sees as inevitable.
Inevitability, though, is clearly in the eye of the beholder. To achieve daily production of 5 million barrels will require not just Keystone, but multiple versions of the pipeline.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, reaching 5 million barrels a day will require a greenlight for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project and TransCanada’s Energy East line, a doubling of Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, as well as an expansion of the Alberta Clipper line — all in addition to Keystone. Even with those projects going ahead, the industry would still be shy about a million barrels a day of shipping capacity, a shortfall that CN, CP, and other railways would be expected to step in and cover.
Obama’s decision on Keystone, though, is up first. Contrary to the opinion of the US State Department, approving Keystone XL is indeed a necessary condition to increasing oil sands production. What happens if it doesn’t get built? Canada’s oilpatch doesn’t like to think about that scenario, but it’s one that investors need to be considering.
Protests in Venezuela continue (despite President Maduro’s proclamation that the nation is in “absolute calm”), with both the government and the opposition holding rallies, leaving several streets and subway stations in Caracas closed. 10 students who were arrested amid violent protests last week have been released, though 6 students remain in custody. Demonstrators do not yet have the numbers or support base to unseat President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, but as Stratfor notes, these protests could mark a turning point as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo.
What’s going in Venezuela (in a nutshell)
And as Stratfor notes, things could be changing for Maduro…
Relatively large student-led opposition protests convened in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and many other cities throughout the country. Rough Stratfor estimates put the crowd in Caracas at between 15,000-20,000 people based on aerial photos posted on social media. Venezuela’s students are very politically active and protests are frequent. However, the relatively large turnout and widespread geographic distribution of this week’s protests indicate that the movement may be gaining traction.
The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.
But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.
How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.
Venezuela certainly does not appear the “absolute calm” the President described it as…
Posted: 02/14/2014 5:53 pm EST | Updated: 02/15/2014 1:59 pm EST
At a press conference on Friday, Michael Gravelle had a clear message: Talks between government, industry and First Nations are moving ahead.
“No matter what else happens, we are determined to see the Ring of Fire go forward,” he said.
But there were scant details on the project’s timeline. Development hinges on the success of talks between First Nations and the province over environmental protection, infrastructure, revenue sharing and social assistance.
The province is keen on pushing ahead as it eyes the royalties and jobs that could flow into Ontario’s Far North, where an estimated $60 billion in mineral deposits lie within the 5,000-square-kilometre track of land.
More from HuffPost Canada’s Staking Claim series:
Transportation to market from the remote location has been one of the key sticking points that has prevented development so far. Gravelle announced Friday that consulting firm Deloitte will help guide a development corporation that will be responsible for infrastructure.
The development corporation was announced months ago, but so far none of the players have committed to it. Gravelle said the province decided to call in a third party because First Nations and miners wanted further examination of the infrastructure question.
Deloitte will act as a neutral third-party adviser in the hopes it will speed agreement on the best way to build a route connecting the region to the Trans-Canada Highway. But Gravelle said it’s unclear whether the firm will provide a conclusion on the best mode of transportation.
One option is a road that would run closer to several isolated First Nations communities near the Ring of Fire and connect to the Trans-Canada Highway. Another option is a road that would cost more to build, but is a more direct route and therefore more cost-effective in the long run. Further options that have been tabled include everything from rail to hovercrafts, Gravelle noted.
The firm will also provide advice on governance and legal issues, as well as timelines for how the corporation, which is still just an idea, would be formed.
Progress so far has been frustratingly slow for some of the miners involved. Global mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources announced late last year that there was too much uncertainty over the project and pulled out. The company called off their $3.3 billion chromite project amid internal struggles with crippling debt and shrinking profits.
Gravelle also said that there has also been “significant progress” toward a regional framework agreement between the province’s chief negotiator Frank Iacobucci and Bob Rae, who is representing the nine First Nations communities who will be most affected by by development in the region.
He expects the province will soon be able to make an announcement that chiefs have signed on to the framework. After that, the talks can move on to more concrete — and potentially more contentious — issues ranging from infrastructure to investments.
However, Gravelle also said he was “disappointed” that the federal budget delivered earlier this week made no mention of the Ring of Fire, despite Ottawa’s recognition of the national economic significance of the project.
“I was surprised, frankly that there was nothing in there about the Ring of Fire,” he said.
The province has consistently called on Ottawa to do more than pay lip service to the importance of the lucrative mining region. Queen’s Park wants the federal government to back up its words with money to help pay for the hundreds of millions in infrastructure the project requires.
Friday’s announcement comes at a challenging time for the mining industry. Commodity prices have plunged, meaning miners are earning less. Weaker profitability means few companies are in the mood to invest in big projects.
When commodity prices were soaring a few years ago, miners were raising capital for new projects faster than they could get regulatory approval. Now, the biggest impediment is financing.
Cliffs announced earlier this week that it would idle production at its Wabush mine in Labrador because it is no longer economically viable. That put 500 people out of work.
Canada’s largest gold miner Barrick Gold, which lost nearly $3 billion in the latest quarter, has not been able to find financing for its Cerro Casale mine. Canadian Zinc is in the same predicament with its Prairie Creek project.
Gravelle said that while the industry is certainly seeing “challenging times,” he is not concerned about its impact on the Ring of Fire because commodity prices are cyclical and development in the region could last for decades.
The lull in investor interest gives the province, First Nations and miners more time to reach an agreement that benefits all.
“While we are keen to move as quickly as we can, we also want to ensure we get it right.”
The Huffington Post Canada | By Eric GrenierPosted: 02/14/2014 10:39 am EST | Updated: 02/14/2014 10:59 am EST
The byelection win in Niagara Falls on Thursday marked the fourth seat the opposition party has gained since the last provincial vote in 2011.
It has been almost 100 years since any party in Ontario has picked up that many seats between general elections.
The NDP’s Wayne Gates won in Niagara Falls with 39.4 per cent of the vote, beating out PC candidate Bart Maves, who took 36.8 per cent. The Liberals’ Joyce Morocco, who had hoped to replace outgoing Liberal MPP Kim Craitor, captured just 19.4 per cent of the vote.
In 2011, Liberals had 35.9 per cent support in the riding against 34.8 per cent for the Tories and 26.3 per cent for the NDP. The Liberals thus lost almost 17 points of their vote share, the bulk of it going to the New Democrats who, despite the drop in turnout, increased their raw vote haul by more than 2,000 ballots.
But Tim Hudak‘s Progressive Conservatives also performed well.
In Thornhill, the PCs’ Gila Martow retained the riding for the party with 48 per cent of the vote, compared to 41.5 per cent for the Liberals’ Sandra Yeung Rocco. Both parties increased their vote share from the previous election, with the Tories up 1.3 points and the Liberals gaining 0.6 points. The NDP dropped from nine per cent in 2011 to 6.8 per cent last night.
For the Progressive Conservatives, the night was not as good as it could have been. They had some hopes of winning Niagara Falls, a riding adjacent to Hudak’s, but held on to Thornhill and took, by far, the most votes in both ridings.
Of the ballots cast in Thornhill and Niagara Falls, 41.6 per cent when to a Tory candidate. The Liberals took 28.9 per cent of the vote in both ridings, while the NDP took 25.4 per cent. For a party that has been clamouring for an election since before Wynne became premier, these results are unlikely to dampen its enthusiasm.
Compared to the average vote share across the two ridings in 2011 (which discounts the effect of turnout), the PCs picked up 1.6 points and the New Democrats 5.4 points. The Liberals dropped 7.9 points, thanks primarily to their poor showing in Niagara Falls.
It was a bad night for the Liberals, as byelections have generally been for this government. But the results in Thornhill, like past votes in Vaughan, Scarborough-Guildwood, and Etobicoke-Lakeshore, suggest the party is still competitive in the area around Toronto.
However, the collapse of the Liberal vote outside of the GTA that was seen in Niagara Falls was also replicated in the byelections in Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor-Tecumseh, and London West. If that pattern continues in a general election, Liberals could be reduced to their enclaves in Toronto and Ottawa, leaving Horwath and Hudak to battle it out in the rest of the province.
Who would prevail in such a fight is difficult to determine, though Hudak has the inside track.
With decent prospects of both parties to increase their representation in Queen’s Park and take advantage of Liberal weakness, there is little to stop the government from collapsing and an election to be held within months.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections. You can pre-order his eBook, “Tapping into the Pulse”, a retrospective of polling in 2013, here.
Following the Bodies: “We Are at the Precipice of Something So Big, It Will shake the Financial World”
Douglas J. Hagmann
February 15th, 2014
Northeast Intelligence Network
Editor’s Note: In the investigative report below, Douglas Hagmann of the Northeast Intelligence Network delves deep into a world that most only believe exists in the realm of cinematic thrillers. It’s one of intrigue, corruption and murder, and it involves some of the world’s most influential firms, business leaders and politicians. There are billions, if not trillions, of dollars on the line. When the nefarious agendas of these sycophants are threatened it’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that those involved will do whatever is necessary to protect their wealth, power and influence. For them, the only way to deal with the problem is to silence it – permanently.
One can chalk off the recent string of banker suicides to coincidence, but what if there were more to it? What if, for example, 39 year old Vice President of JP Morgan Gabriel Magee, who emailed his girlfriend to tell her he was “leaving the office and would see her shortly,” didn’t actually throw himself off of a 33-story building in what police claim was a “non-suspicious” fatal fall? What if the circumstances surrounding many of the deaths of these bankers and a Wall Street Journal financial reporter were the result of, as one financial insider noted a week before the deaths unfolded, a “clean up” of people who knew too much and posed a threat to the overall agenda? Much of this may be difficult to stomach for some, but considering that the people responsible for collapsing the global economy five years ago not only never faced justice for their crimes, but were rewarded with billion dollar bank deals as a result, is it foolish to suggest that there’s much more going on here than the mainstream media and Justice department officials would have us believe?
It all just seems… a bit too convenient.
Exposing what lies beneath the bodies of dead bankers and what lies ahead for us
By Douglas Hagmann
I feel that this is one of the most important investigations I’ve ever done. If my findings are correct, each of us might soon experience a severe, if not crippling blow to our personal finances, the confiscation of any wealth some of us have been able to accumulate over our lifetimes, and the end of the financial world as we once knew it. The evidence to support my findings exists in the trail of dead bodies of financial executives across the globe and a missing Wall Street Journal Reporter who was working at the Dow Jones news room at the time of his disappearance.
If the bodies were dots on a piece of paper, connecting them results in a sinister picture being drawn that involves global criminal activity in the financial world the likes of which is almost without precedent. It should serve as a warning that we are at the precipice of something so big, it will shake the financial world as we know it to its core. It seems to illustrate the complicity of big banks and governments, the intelligence community, and the media.
Although the trail of mysterious and bizarre deaths detailed below begin in late January, 2014, there are others. Not only that, there will be more, according to sources within the financial world. Based on my findings, these are not mere random, tragic cases of suicide, but of the methodical silencing of individuals who had the ability to expose financial fraud at the highest levels, and the complicity of certain governmental agencies and individuals who are engaged in the greatest theft of wealth the world has ever seen.
It is often said that life imitates art. In the case of the dead financial executives, perhaps death imitates theater, or more specifically, the movie The International, which was coincidentally released in U.S. theaters exactly five years ago today.
We are told by the media that the untimely deaths of these young men and men in their prime are either suicides or tragic accidents. We are told what to believe by the captured and controlled media, regardless of how unusual or unlikely the circumstances, or how implausible the explanation. Such are the hallmarks of high level criminality and the involvement of a certain U.S. intelligence agency intent on keeping the lid on money laundering on a global scale.
Obviously, it is important that this topic is approached with the utmost respect for the families of those who died, that they be allowed to grieve for the loss of their loved ones in private. However, it is extremely important that the truth about what is happening in the global financial arena is not kept from us, as we will also be victims of a different nature.
The missing and the dead: a timeline
The following is provided as a chronological list of those who have gone missing or been found dead under mysterious circumstances. It is important to note that this list consists of names of the most recent incidents. There are more that extend back through 2012 and beyond.
January 11, 2014
MISSING: David Bird, 55, long-time reporter for the Wall Street Journal working at the Dow Jones news room, went for a walk on Saturday, January 11, 2014 near his New Jersey home and disappeared without a trace. Mr. Bird was a reporter of the oil and commodity markets which happened to be under investigation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for price manipulation.
January 26, 2014
DECEASED: Tim Dickenson, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re AG, was reportedly found dead under undisclosed circumstances.
DECEASED: William Broeksmit, 58, former senior manager for Deutsche Bank, was found hanging in his home from an apparent suicide. It is important to note that Deutsche Bank is under investigation for reportedly hiding $12 billion in losses during the financial crisis and for potentially rigging the foreign exchange markets. The allegations are similar to the claims the institution settled in 2013 over involvement in rigging the Libor interest rates.
January 27, 2014
DECEASED: Karl Slym, 51, Managing director of Tata Motors was found dead on the fourth floor of the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. Police said he “could” have committed suicide. He was staying on the 22nd floor with his wife, and was attending a board meeting in the Thai capital.
January 28, 2014
DECEASED: Gabriel Magee, 39, a JP Morgan employee, died after reportedly “falling” from the roof of its European headquarters in London in the Canary Wharf area. Magee was vice president at JPMorgan Chase & Co’s (JPM) London headquarters.
Gabriel Magee, a Vice President at JPMorgan in London, plunged to his death from the roof of the 33-story European headquarters of JPMorgan in Canary Wharf. Magee was involved in “Technical architecture oversight for planning, development, and operation of systems for fixed income securities and interest rate derivatives” based on his online Linkedin profile.
It’s important to note that JPMorgan, like Deutsche Bank, is under investigation for its potential involvement in rigging foreign exchange rates. JPMorgan is also reportedly under investigation by the same U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for its alleged involvement in rigging the physical commodities markets in the U.S. and London.
Regarding the initial reports of his death, journalist Pam Martens of Wall Street on Paradeastutely exposed the controlled, scripted details of the media accounts surrounding Magee’s death in an article written on February 9, 2014. Ms. Martens writes:
“According to numerous sources close to the investigation of Gabriel Magee’s death, almost nothing thus far reported about his death has been accurate. This appears to stem from an initial poorly worded press release issued by the Metropolitan Police in London which may have been a result of bad communications between it and JPMorgan or something more deliberate on someone’s part.” [Emphasis added].
Ms. Martens also notes:
No solid evidence exists currently to suggest that the death was a suicide. In fact, there is a strong piece of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. Magee had emailed his girlfriend, Veronica, on the evening of January 27 to say that he was about to leave the office and would see her shortly. [Emphasis added].
Based on information she developed, it appears likely that Magee did not meet his fate on the morning his body was discovered, but hours earlier. Considering the possibility that Magee might now have died in the manner publicized, Ms. Martens offers speculation, and notes it as such:
If Magee became aware that incriminating emails, instant messages, or video teleconferences were not turned over in their entirety to Senate investigators or Justice Department prosecutors, that might be reason enough for his untimely death.
Looking at the death of Magee in the context of a larger conspiracy, it is difficult not to suspect foul play and media manipulation.
January 29, 2014
DECEASED: Mike Dueker, 50, who had worked for Russell Investment for five years, was found dead close to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State. Dueker was reported missing on January 29, 2014. Police stated that he “could have” jumped over a fence and fallen 15 meters to his death, and are treating the case as a suicide.
Before joining Russell Investments, Dueker was an assistant vice president and research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis from 1991 to 2008. There he served as an associate editor of the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics and was editor ofMonetary Trends, a monthly publication of the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
In November 2013, the New York Times reported that Russell Investments was one of several investment companies that were under subpoena from New York State regulators investigating potential “pay-to-play” schemes involving New York pension funds.
February 3, 2014
DECEASED: Ryan Henry Crane, 37, was the Executive Director in JPMorgan’s Global Equities Group. Of particular relevance is that Crane oversaw all of the trade platforms and had close working ties with the now deceased Gabriel Magee of JPMorgan’s London desk. The ties between Mr. Crane and Mr. Magee are undeniable and outright troublesome. The cause of death has not yet been determined, pending the results of a toxicology report.
February 6, 2014
DECEASED: Richard Talley, 57, was the founder and CEO of American Title, a company he founded in 2001. Talley and his company were under investigation by state insurance regulators at the time of his death. He was found in the garage of his Colorado home by a family member who called authorities. Talley reportedly died from seven or eight “self-inflicted” wounds from a nail gun fired into his torso and head.
The enormity of the lie
One must look back far enough to understand the enormity of the lie and the criminality of bankers and governments alike. We must understand the legal restraints that were severed during the Clinton years and the congress that changed the rules regarding financial institutions. We must understand that the criminal acts were bold and bipartisan, and were designed to consolidate wealth through the destruction of the middle class. All of this is part of a much larger plan to establish a one world economy by “killing” the U.S. dollar and consequently, eradicating the middle class by a cabal of globalists that existed and continue to exist within all sectors of our government. The results will be crippling to not just the United States, but the entire Western world.
What began decades ago is now becoming more transparent under the Obama regime. Perhaps that’s the transparency Obama promised, for we’ve seen little else in terms of transparency with regard to the man known as Barack Hussein Obama. For those not locked into the captured corporate media, we’re starting to see the truth emerging. The truth is that we’ve been living under a giant Ponzi scheme and we, the American citizens, are the suckers. As illustrated by the list of dead bankers above, however, the power elite need a bit more time before the extent of their criminality is revealed. The need a bit more time to transfer the remaining wealth from middle-class America to their private coffers. Timing is everything, and a magic act only works when all props are in place before the illusion is performed. Only when their timing is right will the slumbering Americans realize the extent of the illusion by which they’ve been entranced, at which time they will be forced into submission to accept a financial reset that will ultimately subjugate them to a global economy. I contend that this is the reason for the recent spate of deaths, for those who met their tragic and untimely end had the ability to expose this nefarious agenda by what they knew or discovered, or what they would reveal under subpoena and the damage they could cause to the globalist financial agenda.
It is an insult to the public intellect that the media so readily pushes the official line that the deaths were all suicides given the unusual circumstances surrounding nearly all of those listed. This itself should be ringing alarm bells with anyone of reasonable sensibilities, or at last those who are paying the slightest bit of attention to the larger picture. The media is either complicit or completely inept. While incompetence is evident in many areas, even the most inept journalist or media company cannot possible deny what exists directly in front of them. They can only withhold the truth.
Connecting the dots
To understand what is taking place, I contacted a financial source who has accurately predicted many events that we are now seeing taking place, including the deaths of certain financial people for an explanation. In fact, he actually predicted that we would see a “clean-up” of individuals who posed a serious threat to certain too-big-to-fail-or-jail banks and “banksters” a full week before the events began to unfold. Truth be told, I initially greeted his prediction with some skepticism, for such things don’t really happen in the real world, or so the obedient and well-managed media tells me.
“V, The Guerrilla Economist” as he is known in the alternative media, has provided numerous insider alerts for Steve Quayle‘s website and has appeared as a regular guest on The Hagmann & Hagmann Report. He has an undeniable track record for accuracy, which has earned my respect. However, I thought that he had taken temporary leave of his senses when he twice suggested that there will be some house cleaning done of anyone posing a threat to the agenda of certain banks and the globalist agenda on our broadcasts of November 20, 2013 and again on January 10, 2014. In a separate venue, he described what was about to take place by using the analogy of the movie The International. Several dead bodies and a missing journalist later, that analogy has been proven accurate.
The fact is that we are seeing a clean-up where JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank seems to appear at the epicenter of it all. In January, JPMorgan admitted facilitating the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme by turning its head to his activities. Despite this admission, the U.S. Department of Justice under Eric Holder declined to send anyone to jail under a deferred prosecution agreement. Yet this is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
In March, 2013, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a heavily redacted 307-page report detailing the financial irregularities surrounding the actions of JPMorgan and the deliberate withholding of critical financial information by JPMorgan. Prominent in the mix are the actions of Bruno Iksil, who earned the nickname the “London Whale,” for his “casino bets” of others money that caused billions of dollars in losses. Yet, no cooperation was provided by Dimon’s foot soldiers as they failed to testify or otherwise cooperate with Senate investigators.
Remember the damage control and the deliberate downplaying by Jamie Dimon, who maintained that there was nothing to see here with regard to the “London Whale” criminal activities? What was originally described as a loss of perhaps $2 billion ultimately turned into many more times that, yet the actual numbers are still hidden from the public. Such events occurred under the noses of numerous financial executives who had knowledge that went undisclosed.
As we fast forward to today and the current spate of mysterious deaths, we begin to see that many of those who died existed on the periphery of events in the criminal actions of the financial industry. Moreover, it is reasonable to conclude that they possessed knowledge that if disclosed, could have interrupted the magic act taking place for the awestruck audience, captivated by the carefully crafted words of Yellen, her predecessors and the operatives within government who’s duty it is to regulate whatever is left of our current financial system.
That regulation is now a thing of the past. What we have today is a system of facilitation and co-operation between the largest corporations and financial institutions and the U.S. and our intelligence agencies. We now have the “too-big-to-fails” operating with impunity as a result of an incestuous, if not outright unconstitutional relationship where the banks are acting as operational assets for the CIA, the NYPD, and other intelligence and police agencies.
The JPMorgan-CIA-NYPD connection
Perhaps one of the best kept secrets, at least from the majority of the American public, is the integration and overlap between the “too-big-to-fail-and-jail” banks and the most advanced system of surveillance in the U.S. Would it surprise you to learn that the very banks that brought the United States to the brink of financial collapse in 2008, who looted the American public and continue to engage in what most perceive as criminal behavior in the financial venue not only have ties to the CIA, but are actually partnered with the CIA and NYPD surveillance of all of lower Manhattan? That’s right, the big banks such as JPMorgan, Citigroup and others have their own desks and surveillance monitors at a facility known as the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center, located at 55 Broadway, deep in the center of New York’s financial district.
The big banks—the very banks that have been the focus of fraud and corruption investigations have their own system of cameras, more than 2,000 in number, and operate them in tandem with NYPD surveillance cameras at a center that was funded with taxpayer money. Every square inch of lower Manhattan is under surveillance 24/7, not just by NYPD, but by JP Morgan and other members of the so-called “one percent.” Carefully consider the implications of this pact.
JPMorgan Chase and others have had long and quite intimate ties with the CIA. Today, however, the line between the banks that control our financial present and future and police and intelligence agencies no longer exist. This relationship of mutual benefit permits the CIA to use the financial institutions to “handle the money” for their various global initiatives, while it provides the banks a stable of “professional assistants” to handle their “security,” whether such security issues arise in the U.S., London, or elsewhere. Highly trained and skilled CIA operatives now work within the system of interlocked financial institutions that have been at the epicenter of the most egregious crimes involving the theft from our bank accounts and retirement savings.
Please stop and consider this for a moment. The very banks and their top executives who have not only brought the U.S. to the brink of financial collapse and Martial Law, engaged or facilitated in various criminal actions that resulted in fines (but no jail time) for the perpetrators, are working hand-in-hand with the CIA. Not only that, they are working in tandem with the NYPD at their surveillance centers, watching and videotaping every move made by anyone—including potential whistleblowers within their vast purview. By the way, this is no ordinary surveillance or surveillance cameras. You won’t find these cameras on the shelves of your local spy shop. These cameras can focus on the footnotes of a book you might be reading, or the words written on a piece of paper being held by an unwitting person. They employ facial recognition and other advanced visual and data aggregation capabilities, and the extent of their technological abilities is increasing every day.
Additionally, the data is collected and maintained, and files are created of people and groups who are merely going about their daily lives. Equally important, files are created and maintained of problem children and groups, like the Occupy movement and others who lawfully exercise their constitutional rights to protest the actions of the one-percent. Consider this in the context of the Occupy Wall Street protests. where the protesters were not only under police surveillance, but surveillance by the banks and their corporate officers against whom they were protesting. And it was all done with the approval and assistance of the police, in this case the NYPD, and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Now consider the plight of a whistleblower who wants to expose criminality within the ranks of a too-big-to-fail. The institution who is engaged in purported criminality based on the findings of the whistleblower can observe the whistleblower’s every move. Where they go, who they meet and what they are carrying to such a meeting. They can be tracked to a residence, a business, or even to their psychiatrist’s office, place of ill repute, or the residence of some significant other outside of their marriage, all of which would be invaluable for blackmail.
Perhaps the potential whistleblower is clean and free from anything that might dissuade them from revealing what they know, their case could be turned over to the in-house security of former CIA agents for proper disposition. It makes the movie The Firm look like child’s play by comparison.
This is not some fanciful delusion. There is proof of this that exists. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has documented the increasingly extensive surveillance being conducted in lower Manhattan and throughout the city. They have verified that not only are our constitutional rights being violated every minute of every day, but the fruits of surveillance by police and corporate entities are shared between the police, the intelligence agencies and private financial institutions, without restraint on the distribution on such findings.
Are you engaged in a protesting against the criminality of the one-percent? Well, they one-percent are watching you, and they are literally seated right next to the police. Are you a journalist following up on possible “bankster” corruption by meeting a potential whistleblower? You better understand that the bankster target of your investigation is watching you, in real-time, with the complete approval and cooperation of the police. As documented by the NYCLU, you are likely now “on file,” and all data compiled is maintained and accessible not just to law enforcement, but to the very target of your investigation—in real time.
Such surveillance and integration between big banks, law enforcement and spy agencies is not just limited to lower Manhattan or even the United States. It is also most prevalent in London and other cities where international banking is conducted.
Real-time surveillance and the close working relationship between the “one-percenters,” police and the intelligence agencies gives the targets of criminal probes the ability to be pro-active when necessary. It’s all being done under the pretext of national security when it would appear that the real objective is to insulate the banksters from potential problems that exposure of their criminal actions might cause.
Oh, and don’t forget that it is us who are paying for this.
Perhaps we would be well advised to not only consider the capabilities of the surveillance apparatus that exists where the big banks and police are working at adjacent surveillance terminals at 55 Broadway and other locations, but the incestuous working relationship between the banks and the CIA when we read about banker suicides.
Do not expect to see any exclusive report on this in the corporate media, for they, as requested have dutifully maintained their code of silence by not showing pictures of the brass name plates that identify the bankster terminals situated adjacent to the police terminals during photo shoots of this super-secret surveillance complex a few years ago. As detailed by the tenacious and indefatigable Pam Martens, journalist for Wall Street on Parade in this article, the captured media took a pass on revealing the whole truth about what’s really going on at 55 Broadway.
What has been revealed here is merely the tip of the iceberg. The tentacles of the corporate elite, facilitated and empowered by the CIA, the NYPD top brass, and other agencies have now covertly and effectively succeeded in invading everything you do. The fruits of this operation are being used to advance their global financial agenda and silence the opposition.
Knowing this, is it possible that the dead bodies that are increasing in number are the results of this joint surveillance operation? You will not find any answers in the mainstream media. The big banks have chosen to remain silent, even in the face of subpoenas, and have yet to face any legal consequences for their contempt. It’s not, however, merely contempt of congress or pseudo-investigative bodies. It’s their contempt of humanity, of you and me, and the victims that lie dead, leaving their families broken and wanting for the truth.
This article has been reprinted with permission from the Northeast Intelligence Network.
Please visit SteveQuayle.com and RogueMoney.net for headlines, reports and updates on the growing threat to our financial future. Also, tune in the The Hagmann & Hagmann Report on Monday, February 17, 2014 from 8:00-11:00 PM ET as we welcome “V, The Guerrilla Economist” and Steve Quayle to discuss this topic in-depth.
Renown behavioral economist Dan Ariely explain why humans are biologically wired to make irrational decisions when money is involved. It’s a case of our evolutionary wiring interfering with the decisions we face in a modern world very different from the one our ancestors adapted to.
For instance, he explains how one of the easiest phenomena to create in a lab are valuation “bubbles”. Our vestigial herding instinct encourages us to imitate the actions of those around us (e.g. bidding for a particular asset), which then strengthens that signal for others (leading to even higher bidding), resulting in behavior not justified by the underlying fundamentals of reality (asset prices destined to crash).
In this podcast, Chris and Dan explore the human cognitive triggers that have led us to our third major bubble in 15 years (tech stocks, housing, credit) and why our natural programming often works against our best interests. In certain cases, like the banking sector, bad decision-making has become so ingrained in our institutions that Ariely thinks the “clean slate” approach is our best option should we have the courage to deploy it:
In very general brushstrokes I think that most bankers are in fact inherently decent people. We just put them in situation in which their conflict of interest is tremendously high and their social norms are incredibly dysfunctional.
When you hear bankers talking about their customers as Muppets, for example, they are forgetting who they are serving. They are hired by the rest of us to do a particular job; and they forget this. And then they have terrible conflicts of interest.
Imagine that I give you a world in which, if you can adopt a particular perspective on life, you could get $5 Million as a bonus. Wouldn’t you start believing that world? And then everybody around you is doing the same thing, and you have some justification for it by talking about financial market theory and so on. All of a sudden you could see how you could take good people and you could put them in this distorted way — in the same way that we talked about how global warming is probably the perfect storm for inaction — I think Wall Street is the perfect storm for allowing people to rationalize their own selfish motivations as if they are serving other people.
It is really, really terrible because we have not done anything to change the way we pay bankers. And we have not changed anything in terms of the code of ethics and morality.
On the consumer side, there is a tremendous loss of faith. We have been screwed and we know that we have been screwed. And we know that we are not trusting other people. And I think loss of trust is a central issue for this financial crisis and sadly nobody is trying to do anything about that. Human beings are incredibly forgiving, but nobody has really stood up and said, “I am really sorry. I made all of these terrible mistakes. I want this particular bank to start fresh and caring about people,” right? Nobody has admitted anything. So we as consumers feel that there are these other people on the other side who have behaved terribly, which is true, and that are smug about it, and that nothing is different. And why should we trust them? And we do not.
I don’t think it is a generational thing. I think there is a tremendous feeling of lack of control, agency, and helplessness. And the sad realization — this is one of the things that came out of financial crisis — is that it is much harder to start a new bank now. So young people are actually quite idealistic and I think people would have started new banks where they behaved very, very differently. But what happened is that it is really, really tough to open a new bank now. But I am still hopeful: I think that this anger and frustration just needs to be channeled in a better way.
I am not a religious person but the story from the Bible is that God made the people of Israel walk around the desert for 40 years until the old generation that worshipped the golden calf passed away. I do think that we need a new generation of bankers. I think you cannot take the old generation of bankers and rehabilitate them.
Recent history is not showing us that this is something we should hope for. But there is a real question of, How do we create a new generation of bankers that are going to think of themselves as the caretakers of society, rather than the rapists?
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Dan Ariely (42m:54s):
Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. Traditionally economics assumes much. It assumes that resources from the natural world are a function of demand and capital. Perhaps most bizarrely, considering the evidence, it assumes that people are rational and make rational decisions based on cold logic and calculated self-interest. But are they really? And if not, what does it mean that the major core assumptions of the models that drive monetary and economic policy are irretrievably flawed? And beyond economics, speaking very widely here, what motivates people and even entire cultures to accept one set of beliefs while rejecting others even when cold hard facts would strongly encourage the adoption of new beliefs and associated behaviors?
Fortunately there is an entire new branch of inquiry that has been opened up that assumes nothing about how people make choices and decisions, and uses scientific inquiry and the resulting data to develop a view on what actually drives human behavior. And today, to help us explore these ideas, we have back on the program one of the leading researchers of behavioral economics. Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, my alma mater, and is the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. Dr. Ariely’s talks on TED have been watched nearly five million times. He is the author of Predictably Irrational, which I have recommended heartily before, and The Upside of Irrationality, both best sellers.
Dan publishes widely in leading scholarly journals in economics, psychology, and business. His work has been featured pretty much everywhere: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Scientific American, you name it. Dan, I am really excited to have you back on the program today.
Dan Ariely: I will try to keep you excited throughout and not just in the beginning.
Chris Martenson: Excellent. Well, as a starting point for this conversation I would like to talk about bubbles, specifically the idea that once upon a time a financial bubble happened, at most, maybe once a generation because the painful memories literally had to die away before the mistakes could be repeated. But in the US we went from a stock bubble in the ’90s, a housing bubble in the 2000s, and today I think we might have something of a faith bubble, if I can call it that, in the ability of the Fed to get things right this time even though there is nothing in the historical data to support that view, quite the opposite in fact. So what is it in the human psyche that allows selective amnesia to arise?
Dan Ariely: So a couple of things are actually interesting. So first of all the creation of bubbles turns out to be one of the easiest things to do in a lab setting. So you put people in the lab and you kind of create an experiment in which they all trade some fictitious product and the most common behavior that you observe are bubbles. Because if you think about it the natural inclination is to see what other people are doing and to try and follow other people. In psychology this is what is called “social proof.” It is about our herding instinct. It is about the fact that you see lots of people waiting in the line to a restaurant and you think to yourself this must be a great restaurant; let me stand in line as well.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Dan Ariely: So it is almost instinctual that we look at the behavior of others and infer something about the value of the different options. And then of course it keeps on and on and on until there is not enough power to sustain it and then there is drop. And then you see the opposite result, which is people get very depressed and frightened when things go down and they sell at the worst possible time. So bubbles, sadly, are just a part of human nature. And it is all about the ability to see what other people are doing, right? The moment we can see what other people are doing we succumb to bubbles. And in this world today visibility is just much better. If you think about the internet, you think about amount of information out there, if you think about the news—so the temptation for bubbles is just much, much higher. So that is on one side.
On the other side the question is: What causes this amnesia? And I don’t think—of course lack of memory is part of it, but I think the other part of it is that when we live in a particular reality, we come up with stories that explain this reality. And these stories for our own sanity are not stories about randomness and they are not stories about bubbles. They are stories about this time it is real value. When somebody comes to our face and tells us something, we have a very hard time disbelieving it. Our initial instinct is to believe in what they are saying. And we are experiencing the reality that we are experiencing. And we have a sense that this time everything is going to be different. We have a feeling that this time whatever we are experiencing is much more real.
So there is this disassociation between what we know about history and the intensity and realism of our current experience. And because of that we just do not think that those are relevant cases.
Chris Martenson: So this is a case of herding then, and this is normal human behavior. I assume the Federal Reserve must be aware of this sort of material or do you think—does traditional economics completely ignore—it just sounds like a feedback loop and one that is pretty well understood, I guess, at this point. Is that correct?
Dan Ariely: So behavior economists understand very much bubbles and we understand people’s belief about the world in all kinds of ways. By the way, one of the nicest experiments ever was about our need to find reason and logic and structure even in random things. So you show people patterns of clouds in the sky, right, and initially, immediately, somebody says “Oh this dog was chasing somebody here.” You show people shapes on computers and they immediately tell stories about it. You show people random fluctuation in the stock market and they immediately come up with a theory about what is really going on. We really have a very deep need to have a story that describes what it is that we are seeing.
And the stories that we like are stories about causal relationship. This is causing that. And like a lot of things in behavior economics, these things have good things and bad things. So think about how quickly we learn causal relationship. You turn a switch when you come to a room and you learn that it’s a causal relationship to the light coming up. So we are basically looking for those relationships everywhere around us. And the experiment I was referring to was an experiment in which they gave people a machine, a ball machine, that would basically they would press on all kinds of buttons and balls would come out at different speeds and different rates. And then they asked people to what extent have they figured out how to control the machine. What levels would get more balls out and less balls out and so on.
And people thought that they had quite good control aside from the fact that the ball machine was perfectly random. So we have a sense of that. And what kind of people do you think had the best understanding that in fact they did not have much control over the machine? These were depressed people. And the question that arised from this in psychology was whether depressed people are depressed because they understand that they do not have much control over the world, or is the lack of control causes them to be depressed? And we do not have an answer for that.
Chris Martenson: So we do not know cause or effect on that one?
Dan Ariely: No we do not. But if you go back and say, “Does the Fed understand all of these effects?” I do not think so. I do not think when they think about policy those are the things that are driving them. I think it is really very, very sad. But I think that when people think about the behavior of masses, even when people understand irrational behavior, they still go with the standard models way too frequently.
Chris Martenson: It is interesting this part about where the Fed is getting their decision from or even anybody in any policy position. I am thinking about your machine with the random balls coming out. I was really taken by a piece of work, a study in a book that came out, called The Origin of Wealth, by this guy Eric Beinhocker. And he very convincingly proved that the economy is a complex system. And because it is complex it inherently is unpredictable. And we cannot—all sorts of complex systems defy us, earthquake fault zones are complex systems. All we can do is sort of categorize what the risks are: If this fault has not given way, and it is supposed to give way, we might predict an earthquake would come sooner and it might be larger. But that is as close as we can get.
And so the critique he has of economics is that it is still based on the idea that it is a deterministic model: You pull lever A, you get result B. And so I can imagine the Fed, if they have flawed models and they are pulling on lever A and the balls come out randomly, sometimes unemployment does what it wants it to do. I can see them falling into the same trap as well, they are humans, right? So what do we do with this idea that if the world is essentially random in some important respects, what is it in your work that tells us how we might improve our ability to navigate in such a world?
Dan Ariely: Yes, so again you can think about these questions about the need for simple models, a little bit similar to the people who need to feel that they can predict the world. And I think economics in some sense, the reason that standard economics is so tempting is because it gives people the illusion that they understand the world, right? So here is a two-period, two-player model of how the world would react and you basically—it is an oversimplification, and you know it is an oversimplification, but you have a temptation to think of it as a model for the world because it gives you a sense that you understand the world.
And I think the challenge of really understanding stochastic, large scale, complex systems—it is not just about understanding them. It is also about being willing to give decision control to a model that we do not understand very well. And that is really the challenge. So imagine I gave you a big equation and I said this equation should predict how much money you should save for retirement, right? I mean, the question of how much money you should save for retirement is really, really very tough to figure out. Here is a model; we do not understand it exactly. It has been calibrated on lots of other people, and so on. Would you trust it, right? And it is very, very tough.
Again, in economic language, you see all these people on TV at the end of each day telling you what happened today in the stock market and telling you a story about why this is the rational thing to do. But of course they explain it to you backwards: What happened today. And we are just suckers for simple stories. And when the stories are not so simple it is very hard to believe them. And it is very hard to give them power over our decisions.
Chris Martenson: So let me talk about something that came up before that relates to that. You mentioned beliefs, this idea that we are all holding beliefs, and I know that I do. And when I do I have noticed something. My belief systems, they really are very good at adroitly selecting some data for inclusion, I will accept this piece of data I see but I will reject competing data that is unsupportive. This data selectivity, is this something that you see often and contest in the lab?
Dan Ariely: Yes, there is no question about it. We see it in the lab. We see it in life.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Dan Ariely: It is really quite incredible. Now, there is a vicious cycle in which if you have a particular belief now, you can choose to listen to a news channel that would just give you the beliefs that you believe in, right? So, it would be one thing if we all listen to the same news show, all Americans with all particular opinions and then we had to rationalize our behavior and justify some decisions. But now the people who watch Fox News and the people who listen to NPR are very different people and they basically choose to get exposed only to their opinions, which actually makes the problem much, much higher.
For me this was the toughest, but more interesting case. Together with Mike Norton, we wrote a paper on trying to figure out what is the wealth inequality that Americans would like? So if you remember the philosopher John Rawls he basically had the very nice definition of a just society. And he said a just society is a society that if you knew everything about it you would be willing to enter it in a random place. And if you think about it is a very beautiful definition because it means if you are very rich you do not just think about your own state you think about all possible states. And if you are very poor you do not just think about where you are you think about all possible states.
So we asked tens of thousands of Americans to basically tell us what they think is the wealth distribution that they would be willing to join a society like this in a random place. And if you think about it the way we did it was, we asked people to imagine the top 20% of Americans, the next, the third, the fourth, the fifth bucket. And we said how much money—how much of the wealth do you want to be owned by each of these buckets? And that will create the Gini coefficient or the rate of inequality. And there were two main results that emerged. First of all, it turns out that Americans want a much more equitable society than what we have right now. But most interesting, there was no differences between Republicans and Democrats, almost no differences.
So for example, in one question we showed them a distribution of wealth that was slightly more equal than Sweden and a distribution of wealth based in the US, and 92% of Americans on average chose the Swedish distribution. But for Democrats it was 93%, for Republicans it was 91%. So, different but not that different. So we showed this result and we said basically, when you think about wealth and equality in abstract under the veil of ignorance, kind of Rawls’ definition, the reality is that all sides of politics seem to be very similar. We do not have that many differences. And we thought it is a great result basically showing that we are not as different as we think we are. And perhaps politicians are making us think we are more different than what we really are.
The amount of hate mail we got over this [laughter] piece of research was amazing. What happened was, I mean, there is lots of flavors of it. But the one that was the most interesting was a guy who told me that we have not calculated wealth correctly because the wealthy people, their wealth could be taken away by the government at any moment to pay for more social programs. So he basically said that we have not taken the liability of the wealthy people correctly into our model. And I saw lots of those things where people basically were trying very hard—rather than focusing on the result that we are actually much more similar than we think, people were just looking for all kinds of ways to discount the results. And I am perfectly happy with discounting the results. But the thing I was trying to tell these people, I said, even if we overestimated or underestimated by three times, by a factor of four, wouldn’t the results still suggest that we have a more inequitable society than what we want? And wouldn’t we still have the result that we are much more similar to each other than we think?
But I have not been able to convince them. So it was a very interesting, kind of personal case, about the power of desire to see reality in a certain way.
Chris Martenson: Well, it is fascinating because what you are describing is that there is a cultural narrative that we have, something about how we are a free and fair and just society and that when you ask people about that narrative in the abstract they come up with a set of results that are out of comportment with the actual reality of the world they live in. Is that not the definition of cognitive dissonance?
Dan Ariely: So, first of all, when we asked this question, of course the issue is—when we asked the question in the abstract, the question is: “Which answer is correct?” And I actually like the Rawls version of it because—think about tasting wine. When you taste wine you are influenced by the price, you are influenced by the label, you are influenced by your preconceived notions. But when you are doing the Rawls constraint and you say, what society would I like to join, in principle? All of a sudden you are not married to your own position. You are not thinking about your own particular issue and how much you want to pay taxes and do not want to pay taxes. So I think that the correct version is the abstract Rawls version. I think that when we vote on politics we should vote thinking about abstract, long-term ideas rather than what will happen next year.
Now in terms of cognitive dissonance, there are lots of versions of what people refer to as “cognitive dissonance.” But the general approach is a difference between a behavior and a belief. So Festinger’s original experiments—he would get people to the lab and he would get them to do something really boring for a long time. And some people he paid a lot and some people he paid very little. And then he asked them to recommend how much they enjoyed the task and would they recommend it to a friend and so on. Now the people who worked on this task and got paid a lot had no dissonance. They basically said, “This was a boring task. I got paid a lot, okay that is fine.” The people who did not get paid a lot, they got paid a dollar, they had a dissonance. They basically said, “Oh, I worked on this for a long time, I got paid very little, how does this work?”
And the way they resolved that, they could not have said to themselves, “Oh it must mean that I am stingy or something else.” They basically said, “It must been that I actually enjoyed that task more,” and then they recommended it more to others. So the idea is that when behavior is one way and our belief is another way, it is very hard to change our behavior. We remember what we did, so we change our belief to coincide with that. That is why, for example, it is really good to play hard to get in romantic adventures. Because somebody would say, “Oh I worked so hard to get this person. Why did I do that? It must mean I really love them.” Or another romantic example is why big weddings are actually useful. You could say to yourself, “Why did I spend so much money on this wedding? It must mean that I really love this person.”
So cognitive dissonance, this idea that we can get people to act and once we get them to act in a certain way we can get them to adjust their beliefs to fit with that, is a very important, powerful notion.
Chris Martenson: So I want to get back to that in just a minute because that is exactly where I wanted to go with this conversation. But right before then there is a step and it is this—and this is one of the most burning questions we have on our site, and it goes like this: Suppose that someone had some really important information. It has been vetted. It is data. It is as good as they can get. And they want to share this with friends, families, colleagues, maybe even strangers. But that information runs counter to the narrative or the belief structure that that person is holding individually or it runs counter to maybe the collective narrative. What can behavioral economics tell us about how to go about that process of sharing, knowing that the subtext of this is people find this to be an incredibly frustrating position to be in?
Dan Ariely: So this is really about my life as a teacher, right. [laughter] That is what I do all the time. And I will tell you what I do is, I start by showing people visual illusions. And visual illusions are something that people just get wrong, it is easy to show people that they are getting wrong this visual illusion. It is not threatening. It is clear that everybody is doing it and it just clear that it is something very basic about being human. So I start with that as a starting point and I basically said, “Let us agree that there are some things that we are all going to be wrong about. It is not about being smart. It is not about knowing anything. This is just how we function.” So that is kind of step one, and I try to get people prepared for that.
And then as step two, I do not talk to people about themselves because that would immediately increase their defense system, right?
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Dan Ariely: So talking about other people is always good. I have an amazing mother-in-law but if I did not I think that would be a good category to try. But you basically try to tell about other people. And another thing that I try and do is, I do not try to say that anything is definitive—which is always the case, right? We just have this big data. And I say, “Look, this is what we have right now; it is truly kind of an amazing data. And rather than trying to push it down, let us think, what if this was correct, what would it tell us?” So that is when they kind of – okay, so let us think about what does that mean, which changes people’s perspective, hopefully, from attacking to thinking about the implications. And then at the end, I tell people, “Look, if you saw a piece of data that contradicts your set of beliefs, I do not think you should abandon your set of beliefs immediately, right? No data should be used to change you completely.”
“But you should take it into account to some degree,” right? This is what we call “Bayesian Updating.” Think about it, right? So here is what you thought before, here is what you know now; what should you potentially do differently? And then finally I encourage people to do experiments. Because I think that once people understand data with their own hands, with their own clients, with their own workplace and so on, their belief changes quite dramatically. So in my case here is an effect, let us say it is the context effect where you add another very expensive item to a list and all of a sudden people buy something differently. I said, “Try it on your colleagues, try it on your customers, see what happens.” And the first time people do an experiment and see the results for themselves, it is a very different process.
Chris Martenson: So this is kind of a go-gently approach, right? So you start out with a visual thing, “Hey look, we are all subject to having—being human, which means we can interpret things in a variety of ways, some of which may be correct or not.” And then secondarily saying, “If this were the case, then what might the implication of this actually be?” Which sort of abstracts it a little bit, gets people to think about it. But fundamentally we are talking about belief structures and positions people might hold as defended fortifications that you are saying it would be better to be a sort of, come in gently, more like a spy than a battalion.
Dan Ariely: Yes and I think it is a combination of going gently and also trying to make it their own. So the moment that people kind of think about the data as their own, say, “Okay, here is a hypothesis, test it out,” those things are very hard to do about macroeconomics questions, right? Like levels of inequality and so on. But in my little world this is actually possible and relatively easy to do. So I think that it is a combination of go gently, try it for yourself, consider the possibility, and then kind of try to own that.
Chris Martenson: Yes. You really shifted my views a number of years ago when I was thinking about climate change and that climate change is a difficult motivating topic because it lacks some features. It lacks a face, or worse, the face that we might associate with it is staring at us in the mirror. It is abstract. It is distant. It is not near and immediate. That there are a variety of things around that story that would require transforming it out of just the strict statistical data into a more human accessible compelling sort of an argument. And what I am wondering then is to get back to this idea is, what are the best ways of motivating people towards taking new actions? That is the work I care about, but marketers would care about it the same or doctors. We could be talking about—we want to try and motivate somebody towards maybe weight loss or saving more money for retirement, reducing excessive consumption, whatever that new action is. What does behavioral economics tell us about the best ways of motivating people to new actions?
Dan Ariely: So a couple of things. First of all what you said about global warming is absolutely the case. In fact if you kind of search the whole globe for the one problem that would maximize human apathy you would come up with global warming, right? It is, as you said, it is long in the future, it will happen to other people first, we do not see it progressing, it does not have a face. And anything we would do is a drop in the bucket, right. And you could contrast it with, what happens when one guy gets on one plane with a small bomb in his shoe, right? It is clearly terrible, but since then we all take our shoes off every time we go on a flight, right? Clearly taking an action. Global warming, if you believe the science, is a much bigger risk than one person going on the plane with a small bomb in his shoe, but we do not react to it. It does not have the same emotional reaction.
And the issue there really is that, knowing, even the people who are environmentalists, right, so people who are environmentalists are trying to convince the non-environmentalists. But even the people who are environmentalists are not behaving that well. So the issue really is, and this is a deep problem, is that we think that we are motivated by goals and by high order aspirations, and so on. The reality is that we are not. And one of the saddest results I think ever in social science is a recent paper by John Lynch and his colleagues. And in this paper they looked at all the literature of financial education, financial literacy and tried to estimate how much can we hope that financial literacy would help people do better. So how much is knowing something about financial literacy can help people achieve better outcomes?
And the result is that the best we can hope for is an improvement of about 6%. And even that is lower for people from lower economic status, and it goes down over time. So in the history of mankind we have tried lots and lots of things. We have not yet been able to show any success on teaching about financial literacy and have that impact people. And the reason is actually quite easy to understand when you think about it. So here is a situation: You need to think about something, you need to learn about it, and then every time you walk in the street you have to think about that. Every time you buy coffee, every time you go to pay rent, every time you go to do something, you have to think about that piece of knowledge. Really, really hard to do, right? I mean, everybody knows that texting and driving is dangerous and stupid. Does it change our daily behavior? Not so much. You find lots of cases in which this general knowledge just does not penetrate your daily behavior.
So the notion from behavioral economics kind of boils down to this notion of choice architecture, which is the idea that our decisions are partly a function of what we know, they are partly a function of our preferences, but to a large degree they are a function of the environment in which we are in. If I came to your office every morning and layered your desk with donuts, fresh donuts, what are the odds that at the end of the year you would not weigh more? Right, very, very low. Now, no matter what you know about donuts and health and so on, this temptation every morning would just be too much. Now I am not saying you will eat all of them but you will eat enough to make your life worse off. So the question that we want to ask is, “What kind of world do we want to create?” Right? If you think that people are an outcome of the world that they are being given, the question is, “What world do we create?”
And the world right now is all about tempting us to do things that are in the world’s short interest and not in our long term interest. So Dunkin’ Donuts, what are they trying to optimize? They want you to buy another donut today. It is not about your health in thirty years from now. What is Facebook trying to optimize? For you to check Facebook one more time today, not your productivity thirty years from now. What are banks trying to get you to do? Use your credit card a couple of more times today. If you think about it, we are in a world where all of the other players are determining our environment, and all of the other players want us to do something now that is good for them. And, what are the forces that are focusing on long term? You would hope it would be the government, but with elections every two years that is very hard to imagine. You would hope it would be your significant other and your family members, and maybe that is the case, maybe religion to some degree, if we had preventative health that might be it as well.
But really our environment is one that just wants to take, take, take from us all the time and we have to fight with this ongoing temptation in a very, very tough way.
Chris Martenson: Well, this idea of choice architecture then, one of the more vexing aspects of our current environment for a lot of people at my site and elsewhere obviously is the choice architecture that our leaders both monetary and fiscal have set up around this whole banking disaster. So what you are talking about, if you put those donuts on my desk top, that is my personal hazard. But this idea of moral hazard that exists when bad decisions get bailed out, when individual losses at the big banks get spread across a larger society, that creates an environment that is very different for the bankers than for everybody else—I will put myself in the “everybody else” bucket. I look at that and I get demotivated by it because I say, “These are people, they behaved badly, they did not suffer any consequences for their actions. In fact I am the one who is going to shoulder this at some point either now or in the future with a dilution of money. And there seems to be no corrective behavior.”
The environment—people respond very quickly to incentives, don’t they? And if they do, how do you read everything that has transpired in, sort of, the macro lack of—in the macro environment — lack of, what shall I call it, accountability or any sort of responses?
Dan Ariely: So, in very general brushstrokes I think that most bankers are in fact inherently decent people. We just put them in situation in which their conflict of interest is tremendously high and their social norms are incredibly dysfunctional, right? When you hear bankers talking about their customers as Muppets, for example.
Chris Martenson: Right.
Dan Ariely: So, they forget who they are serving, right? That they are basically—they are hired by the rest of us to do a particular job. And so they forget this. And then they have terrible conflicts of interest. So, I wrote a lot about conflicts of interest. It is a topic that I worry a lot about. But imagine again this rationalization story that we talked about throughout this discussion. Imagine that I give you a world in which if you can adopt a particular perspective on life you could get $5 Million as a bonus. Wouldn’t you start believing that world? And then everybody around you is doing the same thing and you have some justification for it by talking about the financial market theory and so on. All of a sudden you could see how you could take good people and you could put them in this distorted way, in the same way that we talked about how global warming is probably the perfect storm for inaction, I think Wall Street is the perfect storm for allowing people to rationalize their own selfish motivations as if they are serving other people.
And so I think that is terrible on that side and it is really, really terrible because we have not done anything to change the way we pay bankers. And we have not changed anything in terms of the code of ethics and morality. On the consumer side I think the issue that you describe is absolutely correct. I think there is a tremendous loss of faith. So we have been screwed and we know that we have been screwed. And we know that we are not trusting other people. And I think loss of trust is a central issue for this financial crisis and sadly nobody is trying to do anything about that. Human beings are incredibly forgiving, but nobody has really stood up and said, “I am really sorry. I made all of these terrible mistakes. I want this particular bank to start fresh and caring about people,” right? Nobody has admitted anything. So we as consumers feel that there are these other people on the other side who have behaved terribly, which is true, and that are smug about it, and that nothing is different. And why should we trust them? And we do not.
And it has been really sad because lots of people have basically taken their money out of the market. They are putting it aside. And now they will never be able to retire. And I saw some report on this yesterday that shows that young people do not want to put money in the stock market.
Chris Martenson: Well, I talk with a lot of young people, millennials and whatnot, and the conversation for those who are really paying attention, it comes down to this idea that occupy Wall Street was sort of a signature moment for some of them. And they felt the way that the system responded to them was to take relatively peaceful, in fact entirely peaceful people in most respects, and surround them with the arms of the state. I mean, I was at Zuccotti Park and it was absolutely surrounded with the latest DHS hardware. There was obvious weird cameras going on all over the place. There were riot police literally ringing the entire place. So their sense of agency, that sense of control that you found lacking in the global warming story, I think the young people feel that loss of—they feel they do not have a voice and they do not have a way of remedying that lack of voice.
And so that sense of—that is maybe the opposite of conflict of interest or related topic is that sense of, How do we feel that we have a sense of control or a narrative that has us as part of the storyline? That is something, when I talk with young people, they are not just opting out of the stock market. Many of them are opting out of much of what they see around them. And maybe that is a typical generational thing to happen. I do not know.
Dan Ariely: I do not think it is a generational thing. I think there is a tremendous feeling of lack of control, agency, and helplessness. And the sad realization, and this is one of the things that came out of financial crisis, is that it is much harder to start a new bank now. So young people are actually quite idealistic and I think people would have started new banks where they behaved very, very differently. But what happened is that it is really, really tough to open now a new bank. So that is making it less likely. But I am still hopeful. I think that this anger and frustration just need to be channeled in a better way. And I think that eventually there will be some—I am not a religious person but the story from the Bible is that God made the people of Israel walk around the desert for 40 years until the old generation that worshipped the golden calf passed away. I do think that we need a new generation of bankers. I think you cannot take the old generation of bankers and rehabilitate them.
Recent history is not showing us that this is something we should hope for. But there is a real question of,How do we create a new generation of bankers that are going to be—think of themselves as the caretakers of society rather than the rapists.
Chris Martenson: Yes. And it is that idea of bringing that idealism and having that coalesce into a vision that people can believe in. You have seen the studies. Most—a large majority of people, I think 68% last study I saw, or poll, said that the country is on the wrong track. And so, to have a sense of what the right track is you need a leadership that is willing to articulate what is clearly a new and different vision. Not just the bankers are lacking that. It seems to be lacking at a number of levels. But I think it is out of that vacuum that, obviously, that people will step into those roles and start to articulate a vision. And so maybe that is the interregnum we are in is, we are kind of between visions. We have the ’50s and ’60s that sort of morphed into ’80s and ’90s and now we are sort of wondering what comes next, and by my judgment I do not see a good articulation of that yet.
So with that, I really want to thank you for your time and most importantly your work. I think your work is just fantastic. It has changed how I think about the world. And it is just fantastic. So Dan, how can people follow your work more closely if they are inspired?
Dan Ariely: So, I have a website. It is DanAriely.com. D-A-N-A-R-I-E-L-Y. And actually, in the middle of March, we are starting a free online course on behavioral economics.
Chris Martenson: Great!
Dan Ariely: This would be on the website called Coursera, coursera.org. And our website is called A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. I will also post information on my website. But it is going to be a time consuming class. So, every week there will be video lectures and discussion groups and some readings. But if people want to, kind of, delve a bit more seriously about behavior economics that is, I think, one good way to do it.
Chris Martenson: Oh that will be fantastic. I am sure we will have people signing up for that. We will put links right below this podcast so people can follow all of that nice and easily. And I am looking forward to it. So again Dan, thank you so much for your time.
Dan Ariely: My pleasure, and nice talking to you again and looking forward to next time.
Chris Martenson: Fantastic.
California’s New ‘Dust Bowl’: “It’s Gonna Be a Slow, Painful, Agonizing Death” For Farmers | Zero Hedge
“It’s really a crisis situation,” exclaims one California city manager, “and it’s going to get worse in time if this drought doesn’t alleviate.”
For the state that produces one-third of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, the driest spell in 500 years has prompted President Obama to make $100 million in livestock-disaster aid availablewithin 60 days to help the state rebound from what he describes is ” going to be a very challenging situation this year… and potentially some time to come.”
As NBC reports, Governor Jerry Brown believes the “unprecedented emergency” could cost $2.8 billion in job income and $11 billion in state revenues – and as one farmer noted “we can’t recapture that.” Dismal recollections of the 1930’s Dust Bowl are often discussed as workers (and employers) are “packing their bags and leaving town…” leaving regions to “run the risk of becoming desolate ghost towns as local governments and businesses collapse.”
“The truth of the matter is that this is going to be a very challenging situation this year, and frankly, the trend lines are such where it’s going to be a challenging situation for some time to come,” Obama said Friday during a meeting with local leaders in Firebaugh, Calif., a rural enclave not far from Fresno.
Obama promised to make $100 million in livestock-disaster aid available within 60 days to help the state rebound from what the White House’s top science and technology adviser has called the worst dry spell in 500 years.
“A lot of people don’t realize the amount of money that’s been lost, the amount of jobs lost. And we can’t recapture that,” Joel Allen, the owner of the Joel Allen Ranch in Firebaugh, told NBC News.
“It’s horrible,” Allen added. “People are standing in food lines and people are coming by my office every day looking for work.”
Allen — whose family has been in farming for three generations — and his 20-man crew are out of work.
He said: “We’re to the point where we’re scratching our head. What are we gonna do next?”
At the local grocery store, fruit prices are up — but sales are down. The market was forced to lay off three employees — and many more throughout the town are packing their bags and leaving town.
McDonald said farming communities like Firebaugh run the risk of becoming desolate ghost towns as local governments and businesses collapse.
“It’s going to be a slow, painful process — but it could happen,” McDonald said. “It’s not going to be one big tsunami where you’re gonna having something get wiped out in one big wave.It’s gonna be a slow, painful, agonizing death.”
The problem is not just in California. Federal agriculture officials in January designated parts of 11 states as disaster areas, citing the economic strain that the lack of rain is putting on farmers. Those states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.
Paul Joseph Watson
February 15th, 2014
The state forbids murder, yet organizes murder on a colossal scale.
The state punishes theft, yet engages in the rampant looting of society’s productivity through taxation at the barrel of a gun.
The state is not necessary for the survival of society, the state is a parasite on society.
The state is the ultimate anti-social, anti-society entity ever visited upon humanity.
Delivered by The Daily Sheeple
Contributed by Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars.