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The Federal Reserve’s Transcripts: The Greatest Propaganda Coup of Our Time? | Global Research

The Federal Reserve’s Transcripts: The Greatest Propaganda Coup of Our Time? | Global Research.

The New York Times and the Fed’s Transcripts

Global Research, February 28, 2014
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There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false.

The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category. The transcripts (1,865 pages) reveal the details of 14 emergency meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in 2008, when the financial crisis was at its peak and the Fed braintrust was deliberating on how best to prevent a full-blown meltdown. But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized.

What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time. They take advantage of the fact that people simply forget a lot of what happened during the crisis and, as a result, absolve the Fed of any accountability for what is likely the crime of the century. It’s an accomplishment that PR-pioneer Edward Bernays would have applauded. After all, it was Bernays who argued that the sheeple need to be constantly bamboozled to keep them in line. Here’s a clip from his magnum opus “Propaganda”:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Sound familiar? My guess is that Bernays’ maxim probably features prominently in editors offices across the country where “manufacturing consent” is Job 1 and where no story so trivial that it can’t be spun in a way that serves the financial interests of the MSM’s constituents. (Should I say “clients”?) The Fed’s transcripts are just a particularly egregious example. Just look at the coverage in the New York Times and judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”:

“The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

This quote is so misleading on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, the New York Times is the ideological wellspring of elite propaganda in the US. They set the tone and the others follow. That’s the way the system works. So it always pays to go to the source and try to figure out what really lies behind the words, that is, the motive behind the smokescreen of half-truths, distortions, and lies. How is the Times trying to bend perceptions and steer the public in their corporate-friendly direction, that’s the question. In this case, the Times wants its readers to believe that the Fed members “misread the crisis”; that they were ‘behind the curve’ and stressed-out, but–dad-gum-it–they were trying their level-best to make things work out for everybody.

How believable is that? Not very believable at all.

Keep in mind, the crisis had been going on for a full year before the discussions in these transcripts took place, so it’s not like the members were plopped in a room the day before Lehman blew up and had to decide what to do. No. They had plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land, get their bearings and do what was in the best interests of the country. Here’s more from the Times:

 ”My initial takeaway from these voluminous transcripts is that they paint a disturbing picture of a central bank that was in the dark about each looming disaster throughout 2008. That meant that the nation’s top bank regulators were unprepared to deal with the consequences of each new event.”

Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? Of course, the Fed knew what was going on. How could they NOT know? Their buddies on Wall Street were taking it in the stern sheets every time their dingy asset pile was downgraded which was every damn day. It was costing them a bundle which means they were probably on the phone 24-7 to (Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson whining for help. “You gotta give us a hand here, Hank. The whole Street is going toes-up. Please.”

Here’s more from the NYT:

“Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators. As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

There’s that same refrain again, “Blind”, “In the dark”, “Behind the curve”, “Misread the crisis”.

Notice how the Times only invokes terminology that implies the Fed is blameless. But it’s all baloney. Everyone knew what was going on. Check out this excerpt from a post by Nouriel Roubini that was written nearly a full year before Lehman failed:

“The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation’s worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer; high oil and gasoline prices; falling capital spending by the corporate sector; a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up; and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who — thanks to falling home prices — can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their income. As private consumption in the US is over 70% of GDP the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.

On top of this recession there are now serious risks of a systemic financial crisis in the US as the financial losses are spreading from subprime to near prime and prime mortgages, consumer debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans), commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans and postponed/restructured/canceled LBO and, soon enough, sharply rising default rates on corporate bonds that will lead to a second round of large losses in credit default swaps. The total of all of these financial losses could be above $1 trillion thus triggering a massive credit crunch and a systemic financial sector crisis.” ( Nouriel Roubini Global EconoMonitor)

Roubini didn’t have some secret source for data that wasn’t available to the Fed. The financial system was collapsing and it had been collapsing for a full year. Everyone who followed the markets knew it. Hell, the Fed had already opened its Discount Window and the Term Auction Facility (TAF) in 2007 to prop up the ailing banks–something they’d never done before– so they certainly knew the system was cratering. So, why’s the Times prattling this silly fairytale that “the Fed was in the dark” in 2008?

I’ll tell you why: It’s because this whole transcript business is a big, freaking whitewash to absolve the shysters at the Fed of any legal accountability, that’s why. That’s why they’re stitching together this comical fable that the Fed was simply an innocent victim of circumstances beyond its control. And that’s why they want to focus attention on the members of the FOMC quibbling over meaningless technicalities –like non-existent inflation or interest rates–so people think they’re just kind-hearted buffoons who bumbled-along as best as they could. It’s all designed to deflect blame.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these conversations didn’t happen. They did, at least I think they did. I just think that the revisionist media is being employed to spin the facts in a way that minimizes the culpability of the central bank in its dodgy, collaborationist engineering of the bailouts. (You don’t hear the Times talking about Hank Paulson’s 50 or 60 phone calls to G-Sax headquarters in the week before Lehman kicked the bucket, do you? But, that’s where a real reporter would look for the truth.)

The purpose of the NYT article is to create plausible deniability for the perpetrators of the biggest ripoff in world history, a ripoff which continues to this very day since the same policies are in place, the same thieving fraudsters are being protected from prosecution, and the same boundless chasm of private debt is being concealed through accounting flim-flam to prevent losses to the insatiable bondholders who have the country by the balls and who set policy on everything from capital requirements on complex derivatives to toppling democratically-elected governments in Ukraine. These are the big money guys behind the vacillating-hologram poseurs like Obama and Bernanke, who are nothing more than kowtowing sock puppets who jump whenever they’re told. Here’s more bunkum from the Gray Lady:

 ”By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.

Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.

On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”

Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

This part deserves a little more explanation. The author says “the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.” Uh, yeah; because the whole flimsy house of cards came crashing down when investors figured out Wall Street was peddling toxic assets. So the money dried up. No one buys crap assets after they find out they’re crap; it’s a simple fact of life. The Times makes this sound like this was some kind of unavoidable natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado. It wasn’t. It was a crime, a crime for which no one has been indicted or sent to prison. That might have been worth mentioning, don’t you think?

More from the NYT: “…on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.”

Yipee! Free money for all the crooks who blew up the financial system and plunged the economy into recession. The Fed assumed blatantly-illegal powers it was never provided under its charter and used them to reward the people who were responsible for the crash, namely, the Fed’s moneybags constituents on Wall Street. It was a straightforward transfer of wealth to the Bank Mafia. Don’t you think the author should have mentioned something about that, just for the sake of context, maybe?

Again, the Times wants us to believe that the men who made these extraordinary decisions were just ordinary guys like you and me trying to muddle through a rough patch doing the best they could.

Right. I mean, c’mon, this is some pretty impressive propaganda, don’t you think? It takes a real talent to come up with this stuff, which is why most of these NYT guys probably got their sheepskin at Harvard or Yale, the establishment’s petri-dish for serial liars.

By September 2008, Bernanke and Paulson knew the game was over. The crisis had been raging for more than a year and the nation’s biggest banks were broke. (Bernanke even admitted as much in testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2011 when he said “only one ….out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States…was not at serious risk of failure within a period of a week or two.” He knew the banks were busted, and so did Paulson.) Their only chance to save their buddies was a Hail Mary pass in the form of Lehman Brothers. In other words, they had to create a “Financial 9-11″, a big enough crisis to blackmail congress into $700 no-strings-attached bailout called the TARP. And it worked too. They pushed Lehman to its death, scared the bejesus out of congress, and walked away with 700 billion smackers for their shifty gangster friends on Wall Street. Chalk up one for Hank and Bennie.

The only good thing to emerge from the Fed’s transcripts is that it proves that the people who’ve been saying all along that Lehman was deliberately snuffed-out in order to swindle money out of congress were right. Here’s how economist Dean Baker summed it up the other day on his blog:

“Gretchen Morgensen (NYT financial reporter) picks up an important point in the Fed transcripts from 2008. The discussion around the decision to allow Lehman to go bankrupt makes it very clear that it was a decision. In other words the Fed did not rescue Lehman because it chose not to.

This is important because the key regulators involved in this decision, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, have been allowed to rewrite history and claim that they didn’t rescue Lehman because they lacked the legal authority to rescue it. This is transparent tripe, which should be evident to any knowledgeable observer.” (“The Decision to Let Lehman Fail”, Dean Baker, CEPR)

Here’s the quote from Morgenson’s piece to which Baker is alluding:

“In public statements since that time, the Fed has maintained that the government didn’t have the tools to save Lehman. These documents appear to tell a different story. Some comments made at the Sept. 16 meeting, directly after Lehman filed for bankruptcy, indicate that letting Lehman fail was more of a policy decision than a passive one.” (“A New Light on Regulators in the Dark”, Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times)

Ah ha! So it was a planned demolition after all. At least that’s settled.

Here’s something else you’ll want to know: It was always within Bernanke’s power to stop the bank run and end to the panic, but if he relieved the pressure in the markets too soon (he figured), then Congress wouldn’t cave in to his demands and approve the TARP. Because, at the time, a solid majority of Republicans and Democrats in congress were adamantly opposed to the TARP and even voted it down on the first ballot. Here’s a clip from a speech by, Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in September 2008 which sums up the grassroots opposition to the bailouts:

“The $700 bailout bill is being driven by fear not fact. This is too much money, in too short of time, going to too few people, while too many questions remain unanswered. Why aren’t we having hearings…Why aren’t we considering any other alternatives other than giving $700 billion to Wall Street? Why aren’t we passing new laws to stop the speculation which triggered this? Why aren’t we putting up new regulatory structures to protect the investors? Why aren’t we directly helping homeowners with their debt burdens? Why aren’t we helping American families faced with bankruptcy? Isn’t time for fundamental change to our debt-based monetary system so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the US Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”

But despite overwhelming public resistance, the TARP was pushed through and Wall Street prevailed. mainly by sabotaging the democratic process the way they always do when it doesn’t suit their objectives.)

Of course, as we said earlier, Bernanke never really needed the money from TARP to stop the panic anyway. (Not one penny of the $700 bil was used to shore up the money markets or commercial paper markets where the bank run took place.) All Bernanke needed to do was to provide backstops for those two markets and, Voila, the problem was solved. Here’s Dean Baker with the details:

“Bernanke deliberately misled Congress to help pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He told them that the commercial paper market was shutting down, raising the prospect that most of corporate America would be unable to get the short-term credit needed to meet its payroll and pay other bills. Bernanke neglected to mention that he could singlehandedly keep the commercial paper market operating by setting up a special Fed lending facility for this purpose. He announced the establishment of a lending facility to buy commercial paper the weekend after Congress approved TARP.” (“Ben Bernanke; Wall Street’s Servant”, Dean Baker, Guardian)

So, there you have it. The American people were fleeced in broad daylight by the same dissembling cutthroats the NYT is now trying to characterize as well-meaning bunglers who were just trying to save the country from another Great Depression.

I could be wrong, but I think we’ve reached Peak Propaganda on this one.

(Note: By “good” propaganda, I mean “effective” propaganda. From an ethical point of view, propaganda can never be good because its objective is to intentionally mislead people…..which is bad.)

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Guest Post: Africa – China And Japan’s Next Battleground? | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: Africa – China And Japan’s Next Battleground? | Zero Hedge.

We have long held that Africa is a crucial region of the world in the near future because there is no more incremental debt capacity at any level: sovereign, household, financial or corporate – in any other region. As we noted previously:

without the ability to create debt out of thin air, be it on a secured or unsecured basis, the ability to “create” growth, at least in the current Keynesian paradigm, goes away with it. Yet there is one place where there is untapped credit creation potential, if not on an unsecured (i.e., future cash flow discounting), then certainly on a secured (hard asset collateral) basis. The place is Africa, and according to some estimates the continent, Africa can create between $5 and $10 trillion in secured debt, using its extensive untapped resources as first-lien collateral.

 

Africa is precisely where the smart money (and those who quietly run the above mentioned “power echelons”), namely China and Goldman Sachs, have refocused all their attention in the past year precisely because they both realize that Africa is the last and only bastion of untapped credit growth and capacity.

Africa in geographical perspective…

 

So it is perhaps unsurprising that China’s current arch-enemy Japan – and its apparently bottomless well of printed money – are taking aim also…

Submitted by Shannon Tiezzi, via The Diplomat,

As tensions between China and Japan multiply, there is an increasing battle for influence in other states. For example, in his recent article in The Diplomat, Jin Kai noted China and Japan’s global media war. There has also been an upswing in more traditional diplomatic wrangling, with Japan seeking to increase its influence in ASEAN as an attempt to reduce China’s sway in the region. With both China and Japan seeking to assert their leadership over the Asia-Pacific, it makes sense that both countries would woo ASEAN. It’s a bit more surprisingly to see China-Japan diplomatic competition supposedly pop up in Africa.

Recently, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both visited the African continent. Abe left on January 9 for a week-long tour of the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, Wang was in Africa from January 7 to January 11, visiting Ethiopia, Djibouti, Ghana, and Senegal. Given the current chill in China-Japan relations (and the tendency for both countries to snipe at each other in the media), the two trips quickly morphed into a sign of ‘competition’ over Africa.

Both countries rejected the idea that they were competing. When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked to comment on the idea that Wang Yi’s visit to Africa “is directed against Japan,” she responded that anyone harboring this idea “is not so acquainted with the past and present of China-Africa relations.” Indeed, as Hua pointed out, it’s traditional for Chinese Foreign Ministers to visit Africa as their first overseas trip of the new year. Hua praised China “sincere and selfless help” for Africa, and warned that trying to stir up a rivalry in Africa is “a wrong decision which is doomed to fail.” This comment was likely directed at Japan, but could just as easily apply to the United States and other countries seeking to increase their influence in Africa.

Japan also denied that Abe’s visit to Africa had anything to do with China. Hiroshige Seko, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying that competing against China is “not our intention at all.” Seko added, “As far as the African nations are concerned, they are important regardless of China.” African countries are important to Japan for the same reason they are to China — a wealth of natural resources as well as ample opportunity for foreign investment. The New York Times pointed out that increasing ties with Africa is just one aspect of Abe’s diplomatic strategy, all of which is designed to support “Abenomics.”

In a speech in EthiopiaAbe reaffirmed Africa’s importance. “A considerable number of Japanese believe that Africa is the hope for Japan,” he said. His speech focused almost entirely on the potential for a positive relationship between Africans and Japanese companies — including how Japanese management strategies can benefit African people. “When Japanese companies that value each and every individual come to Africa, a win-win relationship in the truest sense can emerge,” Abe said. By contrast, his vision of the Japanese government’s role in Africa seemed like an afterthought. Abe did discuss his wish for more cooperation with the African Union, and offered to increase Japans’ assistance and loans to the continent, but he spent far less time on this point than on extolling the virtues of Japanese businesses.

Japan’s strategy, in other words, is economically focused. It’s clear that Abe’s pursuit of a relationship with Africa is closely connected with Japanese businesses. China, on the other hand, constantly emphasizes the “friendship” between its government and those of African nations. Though Chinese companies do big business in China, Beijing almost never alludes to this fact in its official remarks. When joint projects (such as roads or government buildings) are brought up, these projects are always a sign of China’s friendship towards Africa.

Accordingly, in his speeches Wang Yi focused on the government-to-government relationships between China and  African nationsIn Senegal, Wang called for both countries “to firmly support each other’s core interest[s] and major concerns.” In Ghana, he spoke about the need “to promote practical cooperation through strengthening traditional friendship.” China’s relationships with African countries are focused not just on business opportunities (although of course that’s an important aspect) but also on gaining African diplomatic support for China’s policies.

Whereas Abe seems content to have Japanese businesses make profits, China is actively pursuing soft power on the continent. This is nothing new for China. A 2013 study by Gustavo Flores-Macías and Sarah Kreps of Cornell University found that, since the mid-1990s, China has been quite successful at parlaying its trade relationships in Africa and Latin America into tangible foreign policy support. Japan doesn’t seem to be seeking this sort of influence (at least, not yet). Instead, Abe is more openly concerned with increasing economic interactions. While China and Japan may look like they’re competing in Africa, the two countries are actually playing different games.

The Year’s Big Stories : Personal Liberty™

The Year’s Big Stories : Personal Liberty™.

The Year’s Big Stories

PHOTOS.COM

It’s time to put a cap on 2013. It’s a year that, for liberty’s sake, would have best been thrown into the crapper.

The U.S. system is a totalitarianism that has over the past year begun to lose even its veneer of benevolence. This is typical of governments, which naturally grow, increasingly centralize power and become more corrupt.

As countries have more and more centralized power (fascist state), the people have less and less freedom. Propaganda is intensified, vital information is withheld, and peoples’ expectations are manipulated. In reality this mind manipulation and control are nothing less than an assault upon the mental and physical body. It is all accepted gradually — so gradually that most of the people never become alerted to lost freedoms.

It is this gradual, insipid assault on the people and freedom that we battle every day. That is our purpose here at Personal Liberty Digest™.

It’s customary as each year draws to a close for media organizations to cover the year’s big stories. Those decisions are usually quite subjective and are made by people living in an insular bubble of their own design. Their ideas are generally an echo chamber of groupthink.

The wonders of the Internet allow us to use a different metric in determining the big stories. It is you, the readers, who determined for us what was important and what was controversial. You did so by your responses.

What follows are the top stories based upon input you didn’t realize you were providing. They are the stories written by me that had the highest number of viewers. You think this isn’t the best way to list them? Wait until you read them to decide. Most of them deal directly with the growing fascist state.

No. 1: Viewed 53,832 Times

Proof Of A U.S. Police State

America has fast descended into a police state. The trouble is that we want to believe in the rule of law and the system that alleges to support and enforce it. But when reality collides with illusion, it is too late. No matter how bad things seem, we always think that times will get better and that government will do the right thing.

Only a few people left Germany in the early 1930s. They could clearly see the evolving tyranny. Many who stayed thought that things would not get so bad or that times would get better. They suffered from normalcy bias, a form of cognitive dissonance. They paid.

The wisdom today is in being able to see what is happening and having the vision to discern what is going to happen. Sorry. Anyone who still believes in the illusion of the rule of law will not see reality until it’s too late to do what is necessary to survive and keep their assets.

Today, the rule of law is what the 1 percent (the government) says it is. The government holds the police power and the military power. Its main purpose is to be the silent force to contain the population.

The population in the United States is well-armed. That fact does not escape the 1 percent. That is why the 1 percent is so eager to find a basis upon which to justify disarming the people. The armed populace is all that stands between the people and full-blown tyranny.

To read the rest of the article, go here

No. 2: Viewed 35,776 Times

Is Government Readying For A Shooting War Against Gun Owners?

Gun grabbing lawmakers at both the State and Federal level continue to push forward with their anti-American, anti-2nd Amendment, anti-gun agendas, even as more individuals, State legislatures and manufacturers of weapons, weapons accessories and ammunition push back. It almost seems as if the elected class is itching for a fight.

And when one considers that the Department of Homeland Security has contracted for 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition — much of it hollow points or for use in sniper rifles — for its 55,000 armed agents, plus 2,717 armored personnel carriers and 7,000 select fire “personal defense weapons,” it seems even more apparent that’s the goal. For perspective, 1.6 billion rounds is enough to fight the Iraq war for 20 years. It’s enough to shoot every American five times. It’s 28,000 tons, or the equivalent of three guided missile destroyers. It’s almost 30,000 target practice rounds per armed agent — but of course, because they are more expensive, hollow points are not used for target practice.

These purchases have long concerned many of those who pay attention. But only the alternative media talked about it — to derision and catcalls — until Feb. 15. That’s when The Denver Post ran an article by The Associated Press about the purchases. That prompted a column by Ralph Benko at Forbes.com in which he said it’s time for a national conversation about the purchases.

More than that, it’s time for a national conversation on the link between the purchases and the ongoing push by the elected class to collapse the economy and pass legislation against the will of the people.

To read the rest of the article, go here

No. 3: Viewed 31,083 Times

Prepare For A Grid-Down Scenario

On Nov. 13-14, America’s major electricity generating companies along with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and government agencies in Canada and Mexico will conduct a drill to test system responses to cyberattacks and physical attacks on the North American electrical grid that cause its widespread failure.

The drill is called GridEx II, and it moves the threat of a total electrical blackout that sends the country back into the 19th century from the stuff of science fiction and/or tinfoil hattery to the mainstream. According to The New York Times, the drill is designed to:

practice for a crisis unlike anything the real grid has ever seen, and more than 150 companies and organizations have signed up to participate.

“This is different from a hurricane that hits X, Y and Z counties in the Southeast and they have a loss of power for three or four days,” said the official in charge of the drill, Brian M. Harrell of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, known as NERC. “We really want to go beyond that.”

One goal of the drill… is to explore how governments would react as the loss of the grid crippled the supply chain for everyday necessities.

Should the grid collapse, those with medical conditions requiring machines to keep them alive or stable could be in trouble quickly, but most people could easily survive without power for two or three days. It’s not unusual for major storms to knock out power for that long. But longer-term power outages turn into desperate situations as water and food run low and/or generators run out of fuel. Google Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy to see how some people fared during long-term localized outages.

To read the rest of the article, go here

No. 4: Viewed 31,036 Times

An Open Letter To The Elected Class Regarding Gun Control

Dear ______________:

I realize it is customary to begin missives to elected representatives with the words Honorable Senator ______________ or Honorable Representative ______________, but I believe that title must be earned. Frankly, you (I am referring to you individually and to Congress as a whole) have not done so and, therefore, do not deserve to be addressed that way. However, the purpose of this letter is not to criticize you, but to inform you about what is happening in the country you were elected to serve.

According to a recent poll, Congress’ favorability ranks below lice, cockroaches, colonoscopies and root canals. Have you for a moment stopped to wonder why? It’s because a vast majority of Americans believe that Congress no longer represents them, but instead represents big corporations and, mostly, themselves and their cronies. The recent “fiscal cliff” deal is a perfect example. It socked a tax increase on 80 percent of American workers while doling out $76 billion in government money (which means my money) through special tax favors to large corporations, such as General Electric, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and DIAGEO, and to Hollywood and green energy companies. According to a recent column in The Washington Examiner, Senator Max Baucus’ (Fascist-Mont.) former staffers who are now lobbyists all got their clients millions of dollars in special benefits from the fiscal cliff deal. In return, Baucus received thousands of dollars in political contributions from those companies’ political action committees. Americans, myself included, believe this is standard operating procedure in Washington, D.C. And there is talk that additional tax increases on the middle class are on the way.

Upon your inauguration, you swore an oath, with your hand on a Bible, to uphold and defend the Constitution. You have repeatedly violated that oath by passing unConstitutional laws like the USA Patriot Act (and subsequent extensions) and the National Defense Authorization Act, which grants the President the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens and suspends habeas corpus. If I’m not mistaken, these unConstitutional laws contain provisions that in some way violate Amendments 1, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. That’s quite a feat for two laws.

To read the rest of the article, go here

No. 5: Viewed 29,619 Times

More Blood On Obama’s Hands

The overhyped and superfluous George Zimmerman trial is winding down, and Florida’s law enforcers are growing antsy. That’s because they’re seeing in social media and hearing from the streets that if Zimmerman is acquitted in a trial that never should have been held to begin with, blacks will riot and kill whites.

If there are riots and people are injured and property is damaged, President Barack Obama and his Department of Justice will be to blame. The blood will be on their hands.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Obama claimed that if he had a son, Trayvon Martin is what he’d look like. Then the DOJ dispatched its Community Relations Service (CRS) team to Florida to hold “marches, demonstrations, and rallies” on Martin’s behalf. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch, the DOJ spent more than $3,800 to incite racial tensions in Sanford, Fla., and oust the police chief because Zimmerman was not charged immediately in Martin’s death. One of the rallies sponsored by CSR was headlined by the notorious race-baiter Al Sharpton. CSR-sponsored rallies went on for a couple of weeks; and if sparking unrest was the goal, the money was well-spent.

To read the rest of the article, go here

No. 6: Viewed 28750 Times

How To Avoid The Obamacare Death Trap

We are less than one year out from healthcare tyranny under the oligarchy-endorsed Obamacare.

It’s very deceptive to call Obamacare socialized medicine. The law has nothing to do with healthcare. It’s just the opposite. It’s sickness care. The Nazis had their gas chambers and America has “medical care,” which is the most sophisticated killing machine that demented minds can create.

Americans are mentally dependent on the “medical” brainwash. When our dumbed-down people hear the trigger word “medical care,” they go blind and hyperventilate. They do not know a scam from a sham. They will go unanimous for anything with the term “healthcare” in it.

Obamacare is not healthcare. It has absolutely nothing to do with healthcare. It’s a great transfer of wealth and population control with a ticket to the death panels when we are no longer considered productive citizens.

As the paper money regime collapses, the money creators are speeding up the printing presses in a desperate ploy to transfer the wealth of the American people before it becomes worthless anyway. It is disguised warfare against the American people.

It reminds one of the last days of the Nazi regime. As the cities were reduced to rubble, German citizens were being shot for “treason.” In the last days of any regime, the process of oppression of citizens is intensified.

To read the rest of the article, go here

No. 7: Viewed 28,735 Times

DHS Suggests Christians, Constitutionalists Should Get Extra Surveillance From LEOs

Big government progressives and collectivists love labels. They seem to come up with a new one almost daily, as they seek to isolate and demonize one small segment of the population at a time that they can identify as “extremist” and then dismiss from any discussion about the country’s direction.

The Department of Homeland Security and the military have, in reports published over the past several years, equated a large segment of the U.S. population with terrorists for simply expressing displeasure of the nation’s course, preparing for disaster or even paying in cash. DHS and the Barack Obama regime are aided in this endeavor by government propaganda arm mainstream media and organizations like the Southern Preposterous Lie Center (aka Southern Poverty Law Center), see here, here and here.

Now, true to its communistic-sounding roots, DHS is becoming exceedingly fearful of Christians who believe the Bible is God’s word, Christian “fundamentalists” (whatever those are), Americans who believe the country was founded on Godly principles and those who believe the Constitution stands as the law of the land. In training materials, DHS has lumped Christians and Constitutionalists in with a group it calls the sovereign citizen movement and identified them as requiring special surveillance by law enforcement.

In a letter to a conservative blogger, Prowers County (Colo.) Undersheriff Ron Trowbridge revealed what he learned during a recent training course conducted by Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Trooper Joe Kluczynski, a CSP analyst for the Colorado Information Analysis Center, (CIAC). CIAC is funded by DHS and run by the CSP, and the training materials Kluczynski used came from DHS.

To read the rest of the article, go here.

No. 8: Viewed 28,546 Times

Boston And More Government Lies

The Saudi Arabian “person of interest” who was hospitalized with serious injuries and then held under guard at a hospital because he was suspected of playing a part in the Boston Marathon bombing is just a college student who happened to be enjoying the annual spectacle.

Two Chechnyan brothers — one a naturalized U.S. citizen — who heretofore were unknown to the U.S. security apparatus, became radicalized for unknown reasons. Using instructions found online, they fabricated bombs using kitchen utensils, hardware junk and fireworks, concealed them in a backpack and duffle bag and detonated them near the finish line of the race.

Days later, after the FBI solicited the help of the public in identifying two men in grainy video images, the two Chechnyan brothers came out of hiding, killed an MIT police officer in cold blood in an effort to steal his sidearm, car jacked an Asian man, drove to a convenience store and robbed it, then engaged in a firefight with police. The two men were armed with a small arsenal of five pipe bombs, an M-4 carbine, two handguns and a BB gun. They planned to kill as many people as they could and then, depending on who is talking, blow up New York or party there, authorities said.

During the early morning hours of Friday, April 19, the two men battled with police, exchanging gunfire and exploding at least one of their bombs. At least 200 rounds were fired by the cops. The suspects fired back 80 or more at police. The older brother, identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was apprehended when he ran toward police while firing his weapon. Tamerlan was on the ground being handcuffed by police when younger brother Dzhokhar — by all accounts of friends a nice and friendly guy who had never expressed jihadist opinions — drove over him in a stolen SUV, dragging the body at least 30 feet before it became disentangled from the vehicle’s undercarriage.

This violent exchange, in which police believe they wounded Dzhokhar, led to a voluntary lockdown of the town of Watertown, part of greater Boston. Residents and business owners were encouraged but not forced to stay inside all of Friday while police, FBI and National Guard troops and equipment scoured the neighborhood for the criminal terrorist. Police tactical units, armed in full SWAT or military gear conducted house-to-house searches, asking people to exit their homes at gunpoint, strongly encouraging them (with threats) to raise their hands (even if they were of different sex, race and age of the known suspect) and be frisked.

To read the rest of the article, go here.

No. 9: Viewed 28,371 Times

Adam Kokesh Has Been ‘Disappeared’

Adam Kokesh, the Iraq war veteran and host of the Internet radio program “Adam vs. The Man” who became a staunch opponent of the “war on terror” and who planned a peaceful armed march on Washington, D.C., on July 4, was disappeared in broad daylight while speaking at a Smoke Down Prohibition rally in Philadelphia May 18.

Kokesh’s kidnapping came at the hands of Philadelphia police and other LEOs (legally entitled to oppress) who dragged him off the stage just after he began to speak. A video of the incident shows Kokesh being dragged away without resisting. Arresting “authorities” initially claimed Kokesh was to be charged with resisting arrest. But it seems they realized it’s hard to resist arrest when your arrest is illegal, so they apparently changed the charges to “forcibly assaulted, resisted, opposed, impeded and interfered with officers and employees of the United States,” according to these documents. If that’s the case, then apparently standing with your hands up while an inept LEO tries to wrestle you to the ground is now “assault” in the eyes of a government that deems you a terrorist and then targets you for special “scrutiny” if you exercise your 1st Amendment guaranteed right of freedom of speech, claim to be a Tea Partier, hoard food and water, and/or support small government.

To read the rest of the article, go here.

No. 10: Viewed 27,775 Times

President Harrison J. Bounel

Who is Harrison J. Bounel? According to the 2009 tax return submitted by President Barack Obama, he’s the President of the United States. All nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices are scheduled to discuss this anomaly today.

The case in question is Edward Noonan, et al v. Deborah Bowen, California Secretary of State, and the Justices are finally looking at it thanks to the dogged determination of Orly Taitz. The case calls into question many of the documents Obama (Bounel, Soetoro, Soebarkah, etc.) has used and/or released as authentic since he came on the national scene. The case contends that the documents — birth certificate, Social Security number, Selective Service registration, etc. — are fakes or forgeries. If that’s the case, Obama should not have been on the California ballot in 2008 and, therefore, should not have received the State’s electoral votes.

Four of the nine Justices must vote to move the case forward. We’ll see.

Meantime, on Feb. 4, Kathleen O’Leary, presiding judge of the 4th District Court of Appeal, reinstated the appeal of Taitz v. Obama et al filed by Taitz when she ran for Senate. That case involves evidence of 1.5 million invalid voter registrations in the State of California. The appeal also involves Obama’s lack of legitimacy to hold the office of President based on his forged IDs, stolen Connecticut Social Security number, the fact the last name he’s using is not legally his and his fraudulent claim to be the U.S. citizen.

To read the rest of the article, go here

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad the page is finally turning on 2013.

 

Will US Light Tight Oil Save The World? » Peak Oil BarrelPeak Oil Barrel

Will US Light Tight Oil Save The World? » Peak Oil BarrelPeak Oil Barrel.

There has been plenty of hoopla lately concerning the boom in shale (LTO) oil production. From the New York Times: Surge Seen in U.S. Oil Output, Lowering Gasoline Prices

Domestic oil production will continue to soar for years to come, the Energy Department predicted on Monday, scaling to levels not seen in nearly half a century by 2016.

The annual outlook by the department’s Energy Information Administration was cited by experts as confirmation that the United States was well on its way — far faster than anticipated even a year ago — to achieving virtual energy independence.

What the EIA is actually predicting:  AEO2014 EARLY RELEASE OVERVIEW. The data is C+C.

AEO 2014

The first two points were what was actually produced in 2011 and 2012 and the rest of the blue line is what they are predicting for the future. The orange line is what they predicted last year. The predicted numbers this year are a lot higher but the shape of the curve looks the same. They predict US Crude + Condensate will plateau in 2016, actually peak in 2019 and by 2021 be headed for a permanent decline.

Note the difference between AEO 2013 and AEO 2014. The difference rises to just over 2 mb/d and holds that difference util 2030 when it slowly closes down to 1.37 mb/d in 2040. And everything above about 5 mb/d is all Shale, or Light Tight Oil. They expect LTO to rise to about 4.5 mb/d by 2016, hold that level for almost 5 years and for LTO to still be above 2.5 mb/d by 2040. 

Anyway here is what Saudi Arabia thinks about it all. Saudi will not be affected by shale oil output: report:

“Since we doubt that tight oil production will grow as much as most commentators surmise, and since we believe that tight oil production will keep representing only about 3% of total liquids supply, we do not believe that the growth in oil production from tight rock formations in the US, or from shale formations elsewhere, will materially affect Saudi Arabia’s long-term position in the oil industry,” Jadwa said in a study.

And questions are being raised elsewhere: Shale well depletion raises questions over US oil boom

In October, the government began issuing a monthly report on drilling productivity that charted declines in six major U.S. shale plays. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that it takes seven of every 10 new barrels produced in those areas just to replace lost production.

Of course this article is quoting the EIA and their new Drilling Productivity Report.

Speaking of that report, Steve’s blog, SRSrocco Report, has this headline: Eagle Ford Shale Decline Shoots Up A Stunning 10% in One Month!

What Steve is talking about is this. First from last month’s Drilling Productivity Report:

Eagle Ford Dec

And see the difference from the latest report:

Eagle Ford Jan

But getting back to the statement in the “Fuel Fix” article that it takes seven of every 10 new barrels produced in those areas just to replace lost production. If the EIA is correct in their latest report it takes a bit more than 7 of every 10 barrels just to make up for the declines of old wells. If their figures are correct, in Eagle Ford, it takes almost 7.6 barrels of every 10 barrels from new wells just to make up for the decline in production from old wells. And of course that number increases every month.

If the EIA’s decline rates are anywhere close then the Bakken should reach her peak at about 1.25 mb/d and Eagle Ford at about 1.6 mb/d, or at some point very close to those numbers.

Bottom line, all the hype is just hype. The US will likely never reach 4.5 million barrels per day of shale oil, the peak will not be spread out over five years as the EIA believes, and the decline will be a whole lot steeper than the chart above indicates. Shale oil may delay the peak of world oil production for one year, or two at the most.

While it is true that only the Light Tight Oil is keeping Peak Oil from being an obvious fact, that can only last for a year or two, then the US, along with almost every other nation in the world will be in decline.

The EIA’s International Energy Statistics is about a month late already. International oil production data is a really low priority with the EIA. They are much more concerned with the price of kerosene and other such matters than they are with world crude oil, the lifeblood of every economy in the world. So we will have to do without it until they get around to posting that data, if ever. But in the meantime I have constructed the below chart using mostly JODI data, with some EIA data used for countries that do not report to Jodi. I use it just to show what the world oil supply would look like without US Light Tight Oil. The last data point is October 2013.

Jodi World Less USA

According to JODI, the world less USA peaked in January of 2008 and almost reached that point again in July of 2008. In October of 2013 we are down about 2.25 mb/d from that point. Interesting to note also that the world less USA has dropped some 1.5 mb/d since July. July was the last month the EIA’s International Data Statistics has data for.

Euan Mearns, below, asks that this chart be posted. The last data point is October 2013:

World Les US & Canada

It doesn’t look a lot different from the “World Less USA” chart. Down 2.53 Megabytes a day from the peak of July 2006. Keep in mind this is JODI data which differs somewhat from the EIA data. The EIA however only has updates through July 2013. There has been considerable attrition in production since then.

The following charts are based on data from the EIA’s AEO 2014 Early release.

aeo2014uscc1/
aeo2014uslto/

THIS ENTRY WAS POSTED IN UNCATEGORIZED. BOOKMARK THE PERMALINK.

 

How the NSA Paid Security Firm $10 Million to Promote Flawed Encryption | A Lightning War for Liberty

How the NSA Paid Security Firm $10 Million to Promote Flawed Encryption | A Lightning War for Liberty.

Stories documenting the NSA’s intentional attempt to weaken encryption standards have been floating around for months now, but Reuters put out a story Friday that documents just how far the out of control agency has gone to weaken security for hundreds of millions of computer users.

RSA has been a leader in cryptography ever since it revolutionized the field after its genesis in the 1970s from three MIT professors. The company actually provided a lot of successful pushback against the NSA and the Clinton Administration’s push to introduce the Clipper Chip in the 1990′s, but has completely sold out in recent years as it became more corporatized and many of the technology leaders left. If it is true that the only received $10 million from the NSA, they sold out the American public very cheaply. RSA is now owned by EMC

From Reuters:

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a “back door” in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.

The earlier disclosures of RSA’s entanglement with the NSA already had shocked some in the close-knit world of computer security experts. The company had a long history of championing privacy and security, and it played a leading role in blocking a 1990s effort by the NSA to require a special chip to enable spying on a wide range of computer and communications products.

Started by MIT professors in the 1970s and led for years by ex-Marine Jim Bidzos, RSA and its core algorithm were both named for the last initials of the three founders, who revolutionized cryptography. Little known to the public, RSA’s encryption tools have been licensed by most large technology companies, which in turn use them to protect computers used by hundreds of millions of people.

From RSA’s earliest days, the U.S. intelligence establishment worried it would not be able to crack well-engineered public key cryptography. Martin Hellman, a former Stanford researcher who led the team that first invented the technique, said NSA experts tried to talk him and others into believing that the keys did not have to be as large as they planned.

The stakes rose when more technology companies adopted RSA’s methods and Internet use began to soar. The Clinton administration embraced the Clipper Chip, envisioned as a mandatory component in phones and computers to enable officials to overcome encryption with a warrant.

RSA led a fierce public campaign against the effort, distributing posters with a foundering sailing ship and the words “Sink Clipper!”

A key argument against the chip was that overseas buyers would shun U.S. technology products if they were ready-made for spying. Some companies say that is just what has happened in the wake of the Snowden disclosures.

The White House abandoned the Clipper Chip and instead relied on export controls to prevent the best cryptography from crossing U.S. borders. RSA once again rallied the industry, and it set up an Australian division that could ship what it wanted.

Doesn’t seem to me the NSA is doing any protecting whatsoever. On the contrary, it appears they are merely doing a lot of harm to computer security.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

 

The Year at the End of the World | Motherboard

The Year at the End of the World | Motherboard.

By Brian Merchant

Zombies were huge again this year. Via The Walking Dead, AMC

I’ve never remembered much of my dreams, and, as far as I know, I’ve never dreamt of the End. But this was an overtly apocalyptic year, and by December, I’d absorbed more than my subconscious could manage. It spat out that first vision of how I might flail while it all falls apart.

New York City was smoldering red and black. Rows of familiar brick apartments were ablaze, and some crumbled in the dichromatic glow. A mountain of jagged city rose up without warning, shuffling concrete like a deck of cards. I was there, somewhere, on the other side of where I needed to be. The sky was pitch dark with smoke, fires tore through the block pixelated and medieval. My girlfriend was beyond that ruin, I had to find her, no choice but through the middle.

By all rights, 2013 should have been a gauzy hangover from all things apocalypse. A year we awkwardly and painfully came to grips with still being here-ness. We were fresh off the heels of dire old 2012, when the Mayans’ supposed doomsday, that campy apotheosis of pop cultural end times, failed to doom us. Post-apocalyptic films were starting to drag like a legless undead corpse. 2012 saw the worst drought in decades; the New York Times declared it the US’s hottest year ever. An East Coast-swallowing super storm looked apocalyptic, but instead left a country reeling—and a slew of humanitarian, civic, and environmental concerns in its wake.

If ever there was a time to sober up, get humanity’s house in order, and stop wishing disaster on ourselves, 2013 was it. Instead we doubled down on apocalyptic fantasy. Armageddon was everywhere: It was a banner year for films, music, books, television, sci-fi, and cultural obsession about the end of the world. The most-watched cable TV drama of all time aired this year, and it was about the zombie apocalypse. The highest-charting rock song of the year—and third best-selling single, period—is explicitly apocalypse-themed. And I can’t think of a year where our cinematic world was so thoroughly destroyed, overrun, ruined, or obliterated than it was in 2013.

I watched the destruction in multiplexes and at home, on pay-per-view apps like Vudu and iTunes. So many two-dimensional earthlike environs exploded on so many screens. Thank Hollywood for greenlighting so many towering epic films to titillate we apocalypse-hungry masses. I for one wanted to watch as earth was overrun and obliterated not just by zombies, but social strife, alien-controlled drones, and Satan himself. I was so tired this year, and there was something disarmingly easy about seeing the switch get flipped. I doubted I was alone.

World War Z, the year’s token star-powered zombie movie, reiterated for the umpteenth time our fear of a modern mutant plague, our latent desire to empty our rage into dull-eyed semi-humans with blunt weapons. Elysium raised a futuristic dystopian world, ruined by avarice and inequality. The super rich, safely cloistered on a toroidal pleasure barge, lived it up. The poor toiled in earthbound factories, got radiation poisoning from the blighted environment, and biohacked each other in dusty labs.

In Elysium, the world ended because humans let it; we couldn’t figure out how to restrain corporations or protect the environment or distribute resources evenly or be kind to each other—pressing real-world pre-apocalypse themes, of course—so it all failed. The film was supposed to be part social critique, like director Neill Blomkamp’s previous effort, District 9, and it made no attempt to conceal its bleeding-heart allegiance to the 99 percent. In fact it was mostly filmed inthat fateful fall of 2011. In reality, however, the film couldn’t get its act together: it was mostly a grating gunblazer. But it was one of the few movies to put forward a solution to impending planetary doom: universal health care. In Elysium, the rich have heal-all tech—we just need to get them to share it with the poor.

Oblivion was more interesting, as far as total destruction scenarios go. An alien nemesis attacked earth, but not with ray guns—its giant motherships somehow dragged the moon out of orbit, loosing the tides and flooding our cities. The unseen drone-steering aliens had the gall to stick around, drawing fusion power from our oceans and using an army of cloned humans to harass the subterranean survivors.

What began as an effort to trade in on the growing cultural import of drones—the new zombies, maybe—and our fears of them, ended as pure Hollywood sci-fi; action-obsessed and metaphorically confused. Still, there’s a palpable fear here; that technology will enslave us under our noses, while we let the earth go to ruin and become mindless clones.

The world wasn’t exactly over in Pacific Rim, a cheery robo-gladiator flick, but rampaging aliens had thrashed much of it, and doom was immanent—if not for a pan-military effort to bash their skulls in with the steely fists of giant DARPA bots. The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, is dystopian fiction for young adults—the world has gone to hell, reality TV is out of control, and wealthy elites oppress the poor, forcing them to provide their resources with backbreaking manual labor. After Earth was a Scientology-infused far-future despoiled Earth story, and it was terrible, so nobody saw it.

None of that mass death was overtly serious, but this year’s apocalypse was built for laughs, too. In the summer comedy This Is The End A-list comedian hipster bros mined the biblical end of days for jokes; Satan’s army, road warriors, and copious amounts of fire set the backdrop for gags about exorcisms, strained friendships, and demon penises. Demon penises mostly.

The year’s best apocalyptic film was marketed as comedy, too: The World’s End, the final installment of the so-called Cornetto trilogy that began with another stab at apocalyptica, Shaun of the Dead. I watched the comedies with my girlfriend on the weekends; one in bed in Brooklyn, one on the couch in Philadelphia. New jobs had forced us into a long distance relationship after years of living together, we had the weekends. We’d seen Oblivion together too, the soundtrack’s synths washing over us in a cheap Philadelphia theater with sticky floors. I got into the Walking Dead and watched it on the bus rides through the gloaming to Philly.

The World’s End was a surprisingly potent film. It cannily wielded its apocalypse on multiple narrative dimensions: there was the actual apocalypse, yes, where small towns around the world have been infiltrated and destroyed by robots, but all that flair was sneakily deployed in service of a more personal apocalypse.

Gary King, our pathetic leather jacket-clad protagonist hasn’t, can’t, won’t grow up and join dull, ordered society; he’d actually rather embrace the end than evolve beyond his high school glory days. In the film’s postscript, this pointed absurdity is laid bare as our hero relishes a new life of wandering the a post-apocalyptic wasteland with robo-copies of his childhood friends, beating up naysayers. It was a poignant moment that accomplished what most apocalyptic cinema fails to do: raise the question of why it is we want to see the world crumbling around us.

Why indeed. There’s got to be a reason it’s fun for us to watch the bodies pile up and for a band of survivors—stand-ins for ourselves—struggle to make good with what’s left. Part of this is also that we rarely consider the bodies.

“All of this uncertainty and all of this fear comes together and people think maybe life would be better” after a society-annihilating disaster, the child psychologist and zombie fiction author Steven Schlozman told Scientific American.

Mass disaster offers a shot at a clean slate, maybe, both for a societal reboot and, more importantly, a personal one. We might have flocked to the theaters this year to watch the world unravel, vicariously—subconsciously even—imagining what we’d do with that fresh start amidst the rubble.

Schlozman notes that we don’t ever fantasize about rebuilding infrastructure, or living without access to clean water; we romanticize the freedom from obligation but fail to process the misery inherent in the ending world. The narrative inevitably abets this tendency—aside from establishing ‘world-is-dead’ shots of fallen monuments and errant corpses, we’re given little chance to empathize with what was lost. Which is the point: These are action movie playgrounds, abstractions—apocalyptic in an aesthetic sense only. Few of us actually relate to the dead in these films, or the zombies, the impostor aliens, the image of death incarnate. In 2013, I did, mostly against my will.

Image: Flickr

Last year, as in the year before the apocalypse, I administered CPR to a man in the middle of the highway who was almost certainly already dead. He’d crashed his motorcycle, and we were the first ones on the scene, there seconds later. One wheel was still spinning.

My friend is a doctor, and he yelled out some imperatives I don’t remember now; I just remember trying to move a fat purple tongue out of the way of an airway, blowing in, while my friend gave chest compressions. The inner-mouth smell where there was no breath was fetid, his skin was sallow. That was the face of death, the real face of death pressed close up to mine.

The face would show up when I didn’t want it to, but not until months, a year after the fact. Out of nowhere, briefly, in a stray thought or a daydream. No joke, sometimes it would populate whatever apocalypse porn I was watching, against my will, shuffling among the corpse-painted actors like a phantasmic extra. I was reminding myself, maybe, that while I was so gleefully participating in this carnival of fabricated death, buying tickets to films where billions of humans are dispatched without a thought, using it as a perverse source of comfort—that there is feeling to real death that must be remembered, that doesn’t translate to this spectacle, because it doesn’t look all that different than the death on the screen.

That seems important to consider, because mass death was incredibly popular this year.The Walking Dead is probably the best example. The zombie drama is currently the highest-rated program on television. Period. As in, higher rated than Monday Night Football, higher rated than the top network show, The Big Bang Theory. Twenty million people watched its season 4 premiere in October, and ratings continue to climb. Entertainment Weekly crunched the numbers, and found that you have to go back five years to find another program with a higher rating: a cresting American Idol. It’s officially the most-watched cable series in history.

But it doesn’t stop there; 2013’s music was also plenty apocalyptic. Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive,” a ham-fisted song about the end days, was, according to Billboard, “the biggest rock hit of the year.” Its YouTube video has over 109 million views. Only “Blurred Lines” and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” charted higher—”Radioactive” beat out anything Miley Cyrus did by a mile. The song is about breathing in radiated air, my apocalypse, and a new age, ostensibly of revolution. Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires in the City, the winner of the coveted #1 slot on Pitchfork’s best album of the year list, is just as universally bleak, if more subtly so. The album cover shows a dystopian New York covered in a thick shroud of pollution.

“The image looks old, but also seems like it might be a rendering of some kind of future,” Rostam Batmanglij, the band’s “musical architect and de-facto aesthetic director,” said in an interview. The record itself is full of moments that reflect that prognosis; much of it plays like Ivy Leaguers meeting The Road. I listened to plenty of it.

There were books, both fiction, 100 Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, and nonfiction, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive Mass ExtinctionThere were video games, too, though I didn’t play many of them. But State of Decay had players manage not just their own survival in the face of a zombie apocalypse, but an entire community’s. Gameplay focused on providing resources, finding survivors, as well as battling off the undead hordes. It sold over a million copies, and landed itself on the New Yorker‘s Best Video Games of 2013 list. A new installment in the critically acclaimed and wildly popular The Walking Dead game series debuted too, and was downloaded millions of times. It was all pretty overwhelming.

Rarely has the End been so casual, so serialized, so mediated as it was this year. Everything dying is officially not just a genre, but a wide cartoonish palette. So much is highly experimental, and nothing resonates. I sat in a hot tub and watched a 3D printer create and destroy a city made of salt; the artist who built it was eager for nature to wipe us out. He figured he’d survive. You can’t drive motorcycles through tiny salt cities. Neither of us knew what we were talking about, we can’t begin to imagine.

Maybe we’re trying. Maybe all of this apocalypse culture is a totem, a proactive tool and a hedge against real-life calamity.

“Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable,” the neuroscientist Shmuel Lissek told Scientific American. There is science to back that up.According to SciAm, Lissek “has found that when an unpleasant or painful experience, such as an electric shock, is predictable, we relax. The anxiety produced by uncertainty is gone. Knowing when the end will come doesn’t appeal equally to everyone, of course—but for many of us it’s paradoxically a reason to stop worrying.”

That’s a problem, though. It’s why the media critic Douglas Rushkoff laments our obsession with the apocalypse: by convincing ourselves that it’s hopeless, we’re removing the burden of action. There’s plenty to be worried about, little of it having to do with the planet dying tomorrow, but we’re less likely to participate in political systems, engage in activism, or stay engaged with current events if we think it is. “How do you get the good of a zombie apocalypse without the zombies?” he wondered at the time of Occupy. Starting over, really changing things, requires action on the part of the walking living. That goes for all sorts of anti-apocalyptic things, things we really want to fix instead of end.

Image: Flickr

It doesn’t exactly explain the government shutdown, an event couched in apocalyptic terminology and imagery in its own right, but it helps. The apocalypse isn’t just total death, it isn’t just stillborn teenage dreaming or a gritty aesthetic, it’s a collective exasperated white flag; it’s us giving up. It’s tempting to consider it, and easy to see why we’d want to. The challenges that confront us seem insurmountable, our bandwith is limited.

But real-world apocalypse seeds are being sewn. Climate change is scorching the planet—scientists think it may have fueled the typhoon that devastated the Philippines last month, and the hurricane that slammed New York the year before. Many are still recovering, many are ruined. The planet again suffered through one of the top ten hottest years ever recorded. Income inequality is fueling malcontent and insurrection the world over—this year the gap between rich and poor compelled protesters in Turkey, Brazil, and the Ukraine, among others, to rise up. Pollution is swallowing the skies in China. War is ceaseless in Syria, everywhere. Drones drop bombs on foreign lands, on wedding processions.

No wonder we’re dreaming of the apocalypse, no wonder we turn to fiction to simplify it all, to end it once and for all, no wonder my memory of the real dead doesn’t really let me.

In my dream, I didn’t give up. I waded through the tongues of flame and the molten brownstones and found her on the other side. There, plants were already starting to grow out of the cracked cement. There was hope. A few days later, in real life, we figured out a plan—where and how we’d meet up in the event of a disaster. Who would wait for who.

 

Israeli PM condemns US and UK spying on predecessor as ‘unacceptable’ | World news | theguardian.com

Israeli PM condemns US and UK spying on predecessor as ‘unacceptable’ | World news | theguardian.com.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AP

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has broken his silence over revelations that British and US spy agencies had targeted one of his predecessors, condemning the activities as “unacceptable”.

Papers leaked by Edward Snowden, and published by the Guardian on Friday, revealed that GCHQ in association with the National Security Agency had targeted an email address used by the Israeli prime minister when Ehud Olmert was in office.

Three further Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.

“I have asked for an examination of the matter,” Netanyahu told members of his ruling Likud Party at a meeting of the parliamentary faction in the Knesset on Monday. “In the close relationship between Israel and the United States, there are things that are prohibited and that are unacceptable to us.”

Netanyahu had pointedly avoided addressing the growing storm at a meeting of the Israeli cabinet the previous day, prompting widespread media comment in Israel that he was attempting to stifle discussion on the embarrassing revelations about the behaviour of Israel’s closest strategic ally.

Israel has given undertakings not to spy on the United States since the arrest and life imprisonment of US naval intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard in 1987 for spying on behalf of Israel.

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders across the political spectrum, as well as senior retired US security officials, have unsuccessfully petitioned successive presidents to release Pollard, who has served a longer sentence than any other spy in the US. Although Netanyahu repeated his claim on Monday that the two matters should not be connected, he pointedly met with Pollard’s wife Esther in Jerusalem and posted a video of their handshake on his YouTube channel in response to a new groundswell of protest demanding Pollard’s immediate release in light of the latest revelations.

“I have met with Esther Pollard and updated her on our ceaseless efforts to liberate Jonathan. He should have been released long ago. I think that’s understood by everyone here, and also understood by large and growing sectors in the United States,” said Netanyahu.

Israel and the US are locked in sensitive diplomatic manoeuvring around the peace talks with the Palestinians. This new issue could not have arisen at a worse time.

Several Israeli ministers had already broken ranks and protested publicly about NSA surveillance. Israeli anger at the US was exacerbated by a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the country’s largest-selling newspaper, that a US marine rented an apartment in June 2009 directly opposite the private home of Ehud Barak, a former prime minister and military chief of staff who was then Israel’s defence minister.

“Israeli intelligence detected sizeable amounts of electronic equipment delivered to the US-rented apartment,” Yedioth reported, together with diagrams of the sophisticated laser spying devices that might have been used to eavesdrop on Barak’s private conversations via the vibrations of the windows of his home.

Strategic affairs minister Yuval Steinitz and other officials said the NSA and GCHQ would have learned little of value from the email addresses and phone lines they apparently intercepted, which were publicly listed contact points and not used for the transmission of sensitive information.

Oved Yehezkel, a former military intelligence officer who was cabinet secretary to then prime minister Olmert, said it was assumed that communications between Israeli leaders were being monitored by their closest friends in Washington. “Of course we knew. Anyone who thinks that friends and allies don’t spy on each other should re-read John le Carré,” Yehezkel said.

 

Mainstream Economists Finally Admit that Runaway Inequality Is Hurting the Economy Washington’s Blog

Mainstream Economists Finally Admit that Runaway Inequality Is Hurting the Economy Washington’s Blog.

But Bad Government Policies Are Making Inequality Worse By the Day

AP reported Tuesday:

The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals.

It’s hurting the U.S. economy.

***

“What you want is a broader spending base,” says Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.”

***

“The broader the improvement, the more likely it will be sustained,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

***

Economists appear to be increasingly concerned about the effects of inequality on growth. Brown, the Raymond James economist, says that marks a shift from a few years ago, when many analysts were divided over whether pay inequality was worsening.

Now, he says, “there’s not much denial of that … and you’re starting to see some research saying, yes, it does slow the economy.”

As one example, Paul Krugman used to doubt that inequality harmed the economy.  As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote in 2010:

Krugman says that he used to dismiss talk that inequality contributed to crises, but then we reached Great Depression-era levels of inequality in 2007 and promptly had a crisis, so now he takes it a bit more seriously.

Krugman writes this week in the New York Times:

The discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal.

They’re wrong.

The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn’t it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?

Well, no. First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

Start with the numbers. On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie. Which mattered more? The answer, amazingly, is that they’re more or less comparable — that is, inequality is rising so fast that over the past six years it has been as big a drag on ordinary American incomes as poor economic performance, even though those years include the worst economic slump since the 1930s.

And if you take a longer perspective, rising inequality becomes by far the most important single factor behind lagging middle-class incomes.

Beyond that, when you try to understand both the Great Recession and the not-so-great recovery that followed, the economic and above all political impacts of inequality loom large.

***

Inequality is linked to both the economic crisis and the weakness of the recovery that followed.

Indeed – as we noted in September – a who’s-who of prominent economists in government and academia have now said that runaway inequality harms economic growth, including:

  • Former U.S. Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich
  • Global economy and development division director at Brookings and former economy minister for Turkey, Kemal Dervi
  • Societe Generale investment strategist and former economist for the Bank of England, Albert Edwards
  • Deputy Division Chief of the Modeling Unit in the Research Department of the IMF, Michael Kumhof
  • Former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Policy Development, and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department,  Bruce Bartlett

Even the father of free market economics – Adam Smith – didn’t believe that inequality should be a taboo subject.

Numerous investors and entrepreneurs agree that runaway inequality hurts the economy, including:

Indeed, extreme inequality helped cause the Great Depression, the current financial crisis … and the fall of the Roman Empire .  And inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in Tsarist RussiaGilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republicsin Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America. (More stunning facts.)

Bad government policy – which favors the fatcats at the expense of the average American – is largely responsible for our runaway inequality.

And yet the powers-that-be in Washington and Wall Street are accelerating the redistribution of wealthfrom the lower, middle and more modest members of the upper classes to the super-elite.

 

Who Needs the Debt Ceiling? – Russell Lamberti – Mises Daily

Who Needs the Debt Ceiling? – Russell Lamberti – Mises Daily.

US lawmakers reached a budget deal this week that will avert the sequester cuts and shutdowns. These fiscal “roadblocks” supposedly damaged investor confidence in 2013, although clearly no one told equity investors who’ve chased the S&P 500 up 26 percent this year. But even so the budget deal is seen by inflationists as only half the battle won, because it doesn’t deal with the pesky debt ceiling. Unsurprisingly, the old calls for a scrapping of the debt ceiling are being heard afresh.

Last week, The Week ran an opinion piece by John Aziz which argues that America (and all other nations for that matter) should keep borrowing until investors no longer want to lend to it. To this end, it is argued, the US should scrap its debt ceiling because the only debt ceiling it needs is the one imposed by the market. When the market doesn’t want to lend to you anymore, bond yields will rise to such an extent that you can no longer afford to borrow any more money. You will reach yournatural, market-determined debt ceiling. According to this line of reasoning, American bond yields are incredibly low, meaning there is no shortage of people willing to lend to Uncle Sam. So Washington should take advantage of these fantastically easy loans and leverage up.

Here’s part of the key paragraph from Aziz:

Right now interest rates are very low by historical standards, even after adjusting for inflation. This means that the government is not producing sufficient debt to satisfy the market demand. The main reason for that is the debt ceiling.

What this fails to appreciate is that interest rates are a heavily controlled price in all of today’s major economies. This is particularly true in the case of America, where the Federal Reserve controls short-term interest rates using open market operations (i.e., loaning newly printed money to banks) and manipulates long-term interest rates using quantitative easing. By injecting vast amounts of liquidity into the economy, the Fed makes it appear as though there is more savings than there really is. But US bond yields are currently no more a reflection of the market’s demand for US debt than a price ceiling on gasoline is a reflection of its booming supply. Contra the view expressed in The Week, low rates brought about by contrived zero-bound policy rates and trillions of dollars in QE can mislead the federal government into borrowing more while at the same time pushing savers and investors out of US bond markets and into riskier assets like corporate bonds, equities, exotic derivatives, emerging markets, and so on.

Greece once thought that the market was giving it the green light to “produce” more debt. Low borrowing rates for Greece were not a sign of fiscal health, however, but really just layer upon layer of false and contrived signals arising from easy ECB money, allowing Greece to hide behind Germany’s credit status. As it turned out, a legislative debt ceiling in Greece (one that was actually adhered to) would have been a far better idea than pretending this manipulated market was a fair reflection of reality. Investors were happy to absorb Greece’s debt until suddenly they weren’t.

This is the nature of sovereign debt accumulation driven by easy money and credit bubbles. It’s all going swimmingly until it’s not. And there is little reason to think this time the US is different. Except that America might be worse. The very fact of the Fed buying Treasuries with newly printed money proves Washington is producing too much debt. China even stated recently that it saw no more utility accumulating any more dollar debt assets. If the whole point of QE is to monetize impaired assets, then the Fed likely sees Treasury bonds as facing considerable impairment risk. Theory and history are clear about the reasons for and consequences of large-scale and persistent debt monetization.

Finally, it is wrong to assert that the debt ceiling is the main reason for America’s fiscal deficit reduction. The ceiling has never provided a meaningful barrier to America’s borrowing ambitions, hence the dozens of upward adjustments to the ceiling whenever it threatens to crimp the whims of Washington’s profligate classes. America’s rate of new borrowing is falling because all the money it has printed washed into the economic system and found its way back into tax revenues. Corporate profits are soaring to all-time highs on dirt cheap trade financing. Corporate high-grade debt issuance has set a new record in 2013. Companies are rolling their short-term debts, now super-cheap thanks to Bernanke’s money machine, and issuing long, into a bubbly IPO and corporate bond market. The last time corporate profits surged like they’re doing now was during the credit and housing bubble that preceded the unraveling and inevitable bust in 2008/09.

These are money and credit cycle effects. The debt ceiling has had precious little to do with it. Moreover, US debt is neither crimped nor the US Treasury Department austere. Instead, the national debt is soaring, $60,000 higher for every US family since Obama took office and rising. Add to this the fact that the US Treasury’s bond issuance schedule is actually set to rise in 2014 due to huge amounts of maturing debt needing to be rolled over next year, and the fiscal significance of the debt ceiling fades even further.

The singular brilliance of the debt ceiling however, is that it keeps reminding everyone that there is a growing national debt that never seems to shrink. That is a tremendous service to American citizens who live in the dark regarding the borrowing machinations of their political overlords. Yes, politicians keep raising the debt ceiling, but nowadays they have to bend themselves into ever twisty pretzels trying to explain why to their justifiably skeptical and cynical constituents. Most people don’t understand bond yields, quantitative easing, and Keynesian pump-a-thons too well, but they sure understand a debt ceiling.

Conclusion

Those who adhere to the don’t-stop-til-you-get-enough theory of sovereign borrowing, and by extension argue for a scrapping of the debt ceiling, couldn’t be more misguided. In free markets with no Fed money market distortion, interest rates can be a useful guide of the amount of real savings being made available to borrowers. When borrowers want to borrow more, real interest rates will rise, and at some point this crimps the marginal demand for borrowing, acting as a natural “debt ceiling.” But when markets are heavily distorted by central bank money printing and contrived zero-bound rates, interest rates utterly cease to serve this purpose for prolonged periods of time. What takes over is the false signals of the unsustainable business cycle which fools people into thinking there is more savings than there really is. Greece provides a recent real-world case study of this very phenomenon in action. In these cases we are likely to see low rates sustained during the increase in government borrowing, only for them to quickly reset higher and plunge a country into a debt trap which may force default or extreme money printing.

Debt monetization has a proven track record of ending badly. It is after all the implicit admission that no one but your monopoly money printer is willing to lend to you at the margin. The realization that this is unsustainable can take a while to sink in, but when it does, all it takes is an inevitable fat-tail event or crescendo of panic to topple the house of cards. If the market realizes it’s been duped into having too much before the government decides it’s had enough, a debt crisis won’t be far away.

Note: The views expressed in Daily Articles on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Comment on this article. When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment.
Russell Lamberti is head strategist at ETM Analytics, in charge of global and South African macroeconomic, financial market, and policy strategy within the ETM group. Follow him on Twitter. See Russell Lamberti’s article archives.

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US ‘may never know extent of Edward Snowden NSA leaks’ – report | World news | theguardian.com

US ‘may never know extent of Edward Snowden NSA leaks’ – report | World news | theguardian.com.

NSA sign

A senior administration official said: ‘I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.’ Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Government officials have concluded that they may never know the full extent of information leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to a report published on Saturday by the New York Times.

Senior government officials told the newspaper that investigators are unsure of the scope of information Snowden collected, partially because the Hawaii data facility he worked at, as a contractor, did not have employee monitoring software with which other NSA facilities were equipped. Such software is meant to detect unusual behavior among the agency’s approximately 35,000 employees.

“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” the Times quoted a senior administration official as saying. “I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.”

Officials provided some details on how Snowden was able to avoid detection, including that he was able to hack firewalls intended to prevent employees from accessing some parts of the agency’s system. They also said they believe Snowden acted alone. According to the officials, Snowden would have known the Hawaii facility did not have the employee-monitoring software installed.

On Friday, an advisory committee tasked with assessing the agency’s operation submitted a report to the president. According to the White House, the contents of the report will not be made public until next month. President Barack Obama will then announce which recommendations he will act on.

Snowden, who was granted a year-long amnesty by Russia, has said that he gave all the documents, of which he kept no copies, to a group of journalists who then shared them with news organizations including the Guardian. However, the leader of the presidential advisory committee, Rick Ledgett, believes Snowden has access to documents that have not yet been disclosed. Ledgett said he would consider granting Snowden amnesty if he could provide those documents.

“So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,”Ledgett told CBS in an interview scheduled to air on Sunday, on 60 Minutes. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

 

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