Sunday, October 26, 2008

Conquer the Crash by Robert Prechter - Excerpts

Conquer the Crash: You can SURVIVE and PROSPER in a Deflationary Depression. Robert R. Prechter, Jr. 2002. ISBN 0-470-84982-7


If you follow the advice in this book and no financial crisis occurs, you cannot get hurt. In fact, you should profit nicely form most of these suggestions. Even if my outlook proves incorrect, the worst case is that your money will earn less than it otherwise may have.

… the largest stock-market collapses appear not after lengthy periods of market deterioration indicating a slow process of long-term change but quite suddenly after long periods of rising stock prices and economic expansion. A depression begins, then, with the seemingly unpredictable reversal of a persistently, indeed often rapidly, rising stock market. The abrupt change from increasing optimism to increasing pessimism initiates the economic contraction.

A bull market that has endured since the time of the Great Depression is definitely ending, and its termination could well mark the end of an uptrend of one degree larger, which has endured since the founding of the Republic.

… stock market advances and economic cycles must get weaker before they reverse. The final rise is where that weakness must be evident. Advances come in five waves, so the fifth wave is where the relative weakness manifests. The mechanism of that difference, I believe, is the immense optimism of major fifth waves, which encourages the populace to engage in financial speculation. Third waves are built upon muscle and brains. Fifth waves are built upon cleverness and dreams. During third waves, people focus on production to get rich. During fifth waves, they focus on finance to get rich.

A prime symbol of the deterioration … is the Federal Reserve System. Its manipulation of money and credit for the past 89 years … has been so destabilizing that it has transformed America from a production powerhouse into a society obsessed with dodging inflation and manipulating money and credit. A prime symbol of the deterioration in wave V … is General Electric, the oldest name in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Through wave III ending in 1966, GE was one of the finest engineering and manufacturing concerns in the world. Its goods lasted for decades. In wave V, accountants took over the company and transformed it from a manufacturing concern into a financial concern. Today, its manufactured goods are mediocre and its vaunted company a cardboard edifice of credit services. It is the United States in microcosm.

If no dividend is ever paid, of what value is a share of stock? Do you really want to own a share of a super-successful enterprise that handsomely pays everyone involved in it except you, an owner?

Corporate earnings cycle with the stock market but with a 2-month to 2-year lag. Earnings do not begin to rise until well after stock prices have turned up from a bottom, and they do not begin to fall until well after stock prices turn down from a top. For this reason, the two trends often oppose each other. In contrast, book values and dividend payouts tend to be much steadier, cycling only on a very long-term basis with the largest economic trends, therefore providing a steady benchmark against which to compare stock prices to obtain a reliable relative valuation measure.

As I write this chapter, the “watchdog” of earnings, Standard & Poor’s, has just bowed to pressure to change the basis of its earnings reports to “operating earnings” rather than total company earnings so that the reported P/E ratio will henceforth be about half of what it really is.

The engine of high stock market valuation is widely shared optimism. The greater the degree of the advance that is to ending, the greater the optimism at its peak. Optimism also tends to remain strong in the early stages of a bear market … Bull markets, they say, climb a “Wall of Worry.” I like to add, “and bear markets slide down a Slope of Hope.”

To summarize, though my outlook may sound impossible, I am quite comfortable saying that the DJIA will fall from quintuple digits, where it is today, to triple digits, an unprecedented amount.

A pertinent observation with respect to our current concern is that a mania is always followed by a collapse so severe that it brings values to below where they were when the mania began.

Deflation requires a precondition: a major societal buildup in the extension of credit (and its flip side, the assumption of debt).

Self-liquidating credit is a loan that is paid back, with interest, in a moderately short time from production. Production facilitated by the loan generates the financial return that makes repayment possible. The full transaction adds value to the economy.

Near the end of a major expansion, few creditors expect default, which why they lend freely to weak borrowers. Few borrowers expect their fortunes to change, which is why they borrow freely. Deflation involves a substantial amount of involuntary debt liquidation because almost no one expects deflation before it starts.

A high-debt situation becomes unsustainable when the rate of economic growth falls beneath the prevailing rate of interest on money owed and creditors refuse to underwrite the interest payments with more credit.

A deflationary crash is characterized in part by a persistent, sustained, deep, general decline in people’s desire and ability to lend and borrow. A depression is characterized in part by a persistent, sustained, deep, general decline in production.

Governments have often outlawed free-market determinations of what constitutes money and imposed their own versions upon society by law, but earlier schemes usually involved coinage. Under central banking, a government forces its citizens to accept its debt as the only form of legal tender. The Federal Reserve System assumed this monopoly role in the United States in 1913.

In 1933, President Roosevelt and Congress outlawed U.S. gold ownership and nullified and prohibited all domestic contracts denoted in gold, making Federal Reserve notes the legal tender of the land. In 1971, President Nixon halted gold payments from the U.S. Treasury to foreigners in exchange for dollars. Today, the Treasury will not give anyone anything tangible in exchange for a dollar. Even though Federal Reserve notes are defined as “obligations of the United States,” they are no obligations to do anything. Although a dollar is labeled as a “note,” which means a debt contract, it is not a note for anything.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and similar institutions, funded mostly by the U.S. taxpayer, have extended immense credit around the globe. Their policies have supported nearly continuous worldwide inflation, particularly over the past thirty years. As a result, the global financial system is gorged with non-self-liquidating credit.

If the duration of recent past cycles is to repeat, then the falling portion of the current economic cycle would last another two years, and the depression would reach bottom in 2004.

The primary basis for today’s belief in perpetual prosperity and inflation with perhaps an occasional recession is what I call the “potent directors” fallacy. It is nearly impossible to find a treatise on macroeconomics today that does not assert or assume that the Federal Reserve Board has learned to control both our money and our economy. Many believe that it also possesses immense power to manipulate the stock market.

For many people, the single biggest financial shock and surprise over the next decade will be the revelation that the Fed has never really known what on earth it was doing. The spectacle of U.S. officials in recent weeks lecturing Japan on how to contain deflation will be revealed as the grossest hubris.

If people and corporations are unwilling to borrow or unable to finance debt, and if banks and investors are disinclined to lend, central banks cannot force them to do so. During deflation, they cannot even induce them to do so with a zero interest rate.

One example of action impelled by defensive psychology is governments’ recurring drive toward protectionism during deflationary periods. Protection is correctly recognized among economists of all stripes as destructive, yet there is always a call for it when people’s mental state changes to a defensive psychology.

The ultimate effect of deflation is to reduce the supply of money and credit. Your goal is to make sure that it doesn’t reduce the supply of your money and credit.

The ultimate effect of depression is financial ruin. Your goal is to make sure that it doesn’t ruin you.

The main goal of investing in a crash environment is safety. When deflation looms, almost every investment category is associated with immense risks. Most investors have no idea of these risks and will think you are a fool for taking precautions.

An added problem with owning government bonds is the political risk. Governments have a long record of stiffing their creditors in a crisis, and no government is immune from adopting that solution to its financial problems. A new regime especially may have little regard for previously squandered credit.

In the initial stages of a depression, sellers remain under an illusion about what their property is really worth. They keep a high list price on their house, reflecting what it was worth last year. I know people who are doing that now. This stubbornness leads to a drop in sales volume. At some point, a few owners cave in and sell at much lower prices. Then others are forced to drop their prices, too. What is the potential buyer’s psychology at that point? “Well, gee, property prices have been coming down. Why should I rush? I’ll wait till they come down further.” The further they come down, the more the buyer wants to wait. It’s a downward spiral.

Taking out a home equity loan is nothing but turning ownership of your home over to your bank in exchange for whatever other items you would like to own. It’s a reckless course, and it stems from the extreme confidence that accompanies a major top in social mood.

Owning an array of investments is financial suicide during deflation. They all go down, and the logistics of getting out of them can be a nightmare. There can be weird exceptions to this rule, such as gold in the early 1930s when the government fixed the price, or perhaps some commodity that is crucial in a war, but otherwise, all assets go down in price during deflation except one: cash.

Why do banks fail? For nearly 200 years, the courts have sanctioned an interpretation of the term “deposits” to mean not funds that you deliver for safekeeping but a loan to your bank. Your bank balance, then, is an IOU from the bank to you, even though there is no loan contract and no required interest payment. Thus, legally speaking, you have a claim on your money deposited in a bank, but practically speaking, you have a claim only on the loans that the bank makes with your money.

Some states in the U.S., in a fit of deadly “compassion,” have made it illegal for a bank to seize the home of someone who has declared bankruptcy. In such situations, the bank and its depositors are on the hook indefinitely for a borrower’s unthrift.

The estimated representative value of all derivatives in the world today is $90 trillion, over half of which is held by U.S. banks. Many banks use derivatives to hedge against investment exposure, but that strategy works only if the speculator on the other side of the trade can pay off if he’s wrong.

If the authorities in your country decide to disallow short selling, the bad news is that this option will be closed to you. The good news is that they usually take such actions near the major bottoms, so it will probably be about the proper time to cover shorts and start composing your “buy” list anyway.

If your government decides to confiscate gold, your country’s banks will be recruited in the operation. If it happens sometime in the coming crash, the reason will probably be “fighting terrorism.”

With the retirement setup in the U.S., the government need not be as direct as Argentina’s. It need merely assert, after a stock market fall decimates many people’s savings, that stocks are too risky to hold for retirement purposes. Under the guise of protecting you, it could ban stocks and perhaps other investments in tax-exempt pension plans and restrict assets to one category: “safe” long-term U.S. Treasury bonds. Then it could raise the penalty of early withdrawal to 100 percent. Bingo. The government will have seized the entire $2 trillion held in government-sponsored, tax-deferred 401K private pension plans. I’m not saying it will happen, but it could, and wouldn’t you rather have your money safely under your own discretion?

Bear markets engender labor strikes, racial conflict, religious persecution, political unrest, trade protectionism, coups and wars. In the area of personal behavior, part of the population gets more conservative, and part gets more hedonistic, and each side describes the other as something that needs reform. One reason that conflicts gain such scope in depressions is that much of the middle class gets wiped out by the financial debacle, increasing the number of people with little or nothing to lose and anger to spare.

Usually in a major bear market, you are less likely to encounter a mob, a criminal or a terrorist than to face state-sponsored controls within your own country or military attack from without, and there may be little that a retreat or karate can do for you in those situations.

You cannot anticipate every possible law, regulation or political event that will be implemented to thwart your attempt at safety, liquidity and solvency. This is why you must plan ahead and pay attention. As you do, think about these issues so that when political forces troll for victims, you are legally outside the scope of the danger.

Far more people in the past century had their lives wrecked or terminated by domestic implosions that by war. Whether you lived in Russia in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s, Europe in the 1940s, China in the late 1940s, Cuba in 1959 or Cambodia in the 1970s, the smart thing to do early was to get out of Dodge.

People and institutions that best weather the system-wide debt liquidation of a deflationary crash and depression are those that take on no debt and extend no risky credit. This is the ideal situation for most people most of the time, anyway.

If you are entrepreneurial, start thinking of ways to serve people in a depression so that you will prosper in it. For example, I am writing this book. Think about what people will need when times get hard.

Don’t rely on government programs for your old age. Retirement programs such as Social Security in the U.S. are wealth-transfer schemes, not funded insurance, so they rely upon the government’s tax receipts.

Government surpluses generated by something other than a permanent policy of thrift are the product of exceptionally high tax receipts during boom times and therefore signal major tops. They’re not bullish; they’re bearish and ironically portend huge deficits directly around the corner.

Don’t expect government services to remain at their current levels. The ocean of money required to run the union-bloated, administration-stultified public school systems will be unavailable in a depression. School districts will have to adopt cost-cutting measures, and most of them will result in even worse service. Encourage low-cost free-market solutions, which will benefit both children and teachers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook by Claire Wolfe - EXCERPTS

The Freedom Outlaw’s Handbook: 179 Things to Do ‘Til the Revolution. Claire Wolfe. 2007 ISBN 978-1581605785


When freedom is illegal, criminals make laws and Outlaws make freedom.

America is at that awkward stage: It’s too late to work within the system but too early to shoot the bastards.

Don’t vote; it only encourages them.

Get your private information out of the public eye
· Get a PO box or private mail box (Mail Boxes, Etc. or some such)
· Never put your home address on applications or order forms
· Don’t use credit cards if you can avoid it.
· Be self-employed or work underground

Don’t pay more taxes than you must
When George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, Dave Gross went on strike. He quit his job, lowered his income to a level at which he shouldn’t have to pay any income taxes – and began detailing the entire experiment on his Web site ( as a guide for others. His is a safe but adamant form of tax resistance- and he’s discovered that not only are there fewer problems than he anticipated, there are surprising lifestyle blessings, as well.

NEVER talk with the feds.
Title 18 USC 1001 makes it a federal crime to lie to any federal investigator. As former Domestic Diva and federal prisoner Martha Stewart found out so painfully in 2004 – the smallest lie you utter in talking with a fed can put you behind bars. Ooops – poor Martha never got charged for the “crime” they were allegedly investigating her for (insider trading). She mainly got charged for being foolish enough to talk with them at all.

Don’t let the government control your kids
As of this writing, one state, Michigan, has even announced that every parent of a newborn (that is, every parent it knows of) will be automatically subjected to a criminal background check from now on. This is supposed to identify child abusers who’ve lost their parental rights. As with state schooling, SSNs, compulsory vaccines for minor childhood illnesses, and DNA collection, everything done to your children is done in the name of being for the children.

Get started with PGP
If you’re not already encrypting your e-mail: TIME TO START.

Surf anonymously
Both marketers and gov-o-snoops just love to track your movements around the Internet.

Shunning does work better in small communities than in big cities where the target of the shunning has many other options. But make no mistake; it does work. Citizens of northern California’s cannabis-growing counties have used it for years to make drug-prohibition agents unwelcome. And U.S. Forest Service bureaucrat Gloria Flora resigned during a long, heated dispute over public access to land in Elko County, Nevada – driven out by local residents who refused Forest Service employees service in restaurants and otherwise shunned them.

Check your computer for keystroke loggers
Most loggers are made for windows.
General information and help:
Extra help for Mac users:

Use Linux
SuSE Linux from Novell
Mandrake Linux

Getting a drivers license without a Social Security number
Since there’s still no legal requirement that any American actually have a Social Security number … and since a variety of religious denominations vehemently oppose the SSN (usually on the basis of it being the Mark of the Beast described in Revelation 13:15-18) … most states will still issue you a drivers license if you submit an affidavit stating that you have no SSN.

Follow your bliss
You “know” you couldn’t make a living as an artist, hitchhike around the world, build a better mousetrap, live off the land, build a cabin in the woods, invent cold fusion, write the Great American Novel, raise sheep for a living, move to a mountaintop, be self-employed, live in a hamlet in Vermont, join a monastery, lead an insurgency movement, or build wooden clocks for a living. But you only “know” because other people told you so.

Maybe you’re already a “terrorist”
Remember, this is not the America we learned about in school. The federal government can declare any organization to be “terrorist”, for any reason – and can thereafter confiscate its resources and persecute its contributors.

Cultivate some Mormon friends
There is a really bad joke that goes like this:
“Do you know what’s in the most basic disaster survival kit?”
“A rifle and a directory of the local Mormon ward” …
Whether you agree with their teachings or not, the Saints have other valuable lessons to teach us all. They are one of the most cohesive social groups in the world. Their church-run welfare system – based on the dignity of work, voluntary contributions and mutual aid – is more effective and more truly humane than any government system ever devised.

End the Drug War
The government doesn’t need the Drug War anymore. It’s now got the War on Terrorism as an excuse to spy on, arrest, terrorize, detain, and cow us. Not to mention all those other wars on everything from poverty to “obesity”. Not to mention “wars” on half the oil-producing nations of the globe. So what the heck, surely the gummint should be willing to give up one little tiny war, right? The Drug War, as we know from decades of bitter experience and thousands of analytical books and articles, has done absolutely nada, zip, zero, nothing to “get drugs off the street.”

The Free State Project (and its wild west cousins)
The Free State Project is a plan to get 20,000 freedom-loving activists to move to New Hampshire and work to deeply reduce the size, scope and coercive power of government. The idea is that, in a state with a small population, 20,000 activists (as opposed to 20,000 couch potatoes) can have a disproportionate voice in both government and culture.

Government supremacist: the power of words
It’s not “public schools”. It’s government schools.
The government isn’t “us”. It’s them.
They aren’t our “representatives”. They are “politicians” – which everyone knows is a dirty word.
We don’t obey laws. We’re subject to edicts.
They aren’t peace officers any more. They’re enforcers or law enforcers.
It’s not “taxation”. It’s confiscation.
It’s not an entitlement. It’s a giveaway.

Demilitarize the cops
If there’s one trend that’s become dangerously pervasive across the police departments of America, it’s militarization. Tempted by free or cheap military equipment and federal training, besotted with the “glamour” of Hollywood cops kicking down doors and roughing up suspects, cops from New York City to Mayberry have gotten into machine guns, midnight raids, camo outfits, black facemasks, and other accoutrements of terrorist death squads.

There’s a difference between police and soldiers, and it’s an important one. Police are supposed to protect the public against a minority of violent or thieving people. Soldiers are supposed to kill the enemy. You don’t want that latter mentality distorting your local “thin blue line”.

Fly the Gadsden flag
You’ve seen it – the bright yellow flag with its coiled rattlesnake and the words, “Don’t Tread On Me.” That’s the Gadsden flag, designed during the American Revolution and once a candidate for the role now played by the Stars & Stripes.

Know your rights as a juror – and promote everybody’s rights
FIJA, the Fully Informed Jury Association, needs everybody’s support. It has one, clear, simple, beautiful purpose: to tell jurors and prospective jurors what modern judges will not – that they have the right to judge the laws as well as the facts. If you’re on a jury and you think a law is stupid or unfair, you have every right to find the defendant not guilt on that basis. It’s an ancient right, and it’s one juries have often exercised by default anyway. (One reason prohibition ended was that juries were refusing to convict people who violated it. But judges – with no basis in law or tradition – usually tell jurors the exact opposite.)

Put some teeth into the Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution as a condition of ratification. Its aim: to ensure that a strong central government would never overrun the powers of the states and the rights of the individual.

Another worthy organization, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee ( is dedicated to getting cities and states to pass resolutions declaring that they won’t enforce those aspects of the Patriot Act that violate the Bill of Rights.

Create a one-person “organization”
How many big-government-promoting organizations, widely quoted and taken extremely seriously by the media, are not much more than one or two people with a good sense of PR and the sympathies of the press? It’s harder to be taken seriously if you are libertarian or “right-wing”, but not impossible if you are persistent and professional in your approach, or if you live in an area small enough for the media to be desperate for stories.

Learn to disappear in a crowd
Here’s something fun to try that could also save your life. Practice invisibility. That is, practice being in various kinds of crowds and public settings and blending in so perfectly that no one really sees you. Try being the perfect fan at a football game, even if you detest the sport. Try being the tweedy professor on a college campus, even if you didn’t make it past high school. Be the tired mother at the grocery store, the sharp reporter at the crime scene, the business executive at the airport, the street person in the plaza.

Guerrilla gun tactics
Until recently, the “moderates” in the gun-rights movement argued that confiscation would never happen in the U.S. Even after Australians and Britons lined up like sheep in 1997 to turn in their firearms, some said it couldn’t happen here. Then California Attorney General Dan Lundgren announced a confiscation of SKS rifles with detachable magazines. That was a fiat decision, later fortunately overturned. However, in 1998, Massachusetts passed a draconian gun law that required – among other monstrosities – confiscation of many types of firearms from anyone failing to get a state license to own their own existing, legally possessed property.

Cellphones and checkpoints
It’s a good idea to carry a cellphone in your vehicle. You already know that. But here’s another good use for it. If you’re stopped at a checkpoint, you can call a friend, relative, or prearranged contact … and report on your location, what agencies are conducting the checkpoint, and what exactly is being done to the stopped motorists.

Don’t be a terrorist
Terrorism is properly defined as organized, systematic violence carried out against non-government targets for the purpose of producing fear and submission. Despite all the blather in the media and on the floor of Congress, an act has to have all those elements to be true terrorism. Therefore, people who attach only government agents and property aren’t terrorists. They’re guerilla fighters. Whether they are fighting in a good cause or not is up to history – and each of us individuals – to judge. But terrorists they ain’t.

Someday, it will be time
Few things are more painful and depressing than watching freedom be legislated, regulated, and decreed away. It’s even harder when Our Glorious Leaders assure us they’re destroying freedom for the sole purpose of saving freedom, and it’s worse yet when the vast majority of our fellow citizens merely not their heads in response like dashboard doggies.


Edward Abbey
Let us hope our weapons are never needed – but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government – and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws.

Samuel Adams
If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

General Elias Alias
Whoever owns one’s debt owns one’s ass.

Truth is stranger than fiction and also harder to make up.

Charles Bradlaugh
If special honor is claimed for any, then heresy should have it as the truest servitor of human kind.

Charles Bukowski
The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship don’t have to waste your time voting.

Albert Camus
Integrity has no need of rules.

Albert Camus
The future is the only kind of property that the masters willingly concede to slaves.

Douglas Casey
Inventions like gunpowder, the printing press, and the computer have done far more to overpower oppression than every volume of political thought ever written.

Benjamin Disraeli
Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.

Max DePree
We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.

Alan Dershowitz
Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the constitution by claiming it’s not an individual right or that it’s too much of a safety hazard don’t see the danger of the big picture. They’re courting disaster by encouraging others to use this same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don’t like.

Albert Einstein
Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.

Padraig Flynn
Fate is an open road, and all you can do is put your foot on the gas and Drive, Baby, Drive.

Mohandas K. Gandhi
The first principle of non-violence is the non-compliance with everything that is humiliating.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

Robert D. Graham
Once you stop fearing government, the government fears you.

General Alexander Haig
Let them march all they want, so long as they continue to pay their taxes.

Robert A. Heinlein
Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy … censorship. When any government, or any church, for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything. You cannot conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

W.G. Hill
The threat of people acting in their own enlightened and rational self-interest strikes bureaucrats, politicians, and social workers as ominous and dangerous.

Adolph Hitler
The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms.

Mary McCarthy
Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.

Kinsey Millhone
Once people think you’re bad, you might as well be bad. It’s more fun than being good.

Benito Mussolini
Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merge of state and corporate power.

P.J. O’Rourke
This country was founded by religious nuts with guns.

William Pitt the Younger
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

Terry Pratchett
“But look,” said Ponder, “The graveyards are full of people who rushed in bravely but unwisely.”
“Ook.” [said the orangutan]
“What’d he say?” said the Bursar …
“I think he said, ‘Sooner or later the graveyards are full of everybody,” said Ponder. “Oh blast. Come on.”

Ayn Rand
The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.

George Bernard Shaw
The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business.

Henry David Thoreau
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.

Henry David Thoreau
The authority of government … can have no pure right over my person and my property but what I concede to it.

Alan Watts
But when no risk is taken there is no freedom. It is thus that, in an industrial society, the plethora of laws made for our personal safety convert the land into a nursery, and policemen hired to protect us become self-serving busybodies.

Walt Whitman
The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise see in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jim Willie Interview – Contrarian Investor Café

Old Jim Willie has a very dour view of things. Unfortunately, a lot of it makes too much sense to consider his perspective as simply ludicrous. In the meantime, the looting of the system by the financial powers that be continues. One of his key predictions: Another huge chunk of money requested by the banks in the next few weeks.

Here’s the link for the recorded interview:

Also note Jim Willie thinks that the US $ will soon be essentially worthless. This is in contrast to predictions by Robert Prechter, whose book Conquer the Crash will be excerpted on Sunday, October 26 here. Prechter thinks only cash will survive these financial times, and that even precious metals will decline in value, along with everything else. We will soon see who is right.

Keep your eyes and mind open,
Michael Childress

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Freedom Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson - Repeat Excerpts

This is a repeat from an April 2008 posting. There will be more like this coming up. Pick and choose whatever suits your needs.

The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste. Tom Hodgkinson. 2006. Harper Perennial, New York. ISBN 978-0060823221


I have tried to bring together three strands of thought into a philosophy for everyday life; these are freedom, merriment and responsibility, or anarchy, medievalism and existentialism. It’s an approach to life that is also known as having a laugh, doing what you want.

In seeking freedom, I would define myself as an anarchist. In anarchy, contracts are made between individuals, not between citizen and state.

How to be free? Well, like it or not, you are free. The real question is whether you choose to exercise that freedom …

Anxiety suits the status quo very well. Anxious people make good consumers and good workers. Governments and big business, therefore, love terrorism – they adore it, it’s good for business.

Anxiety is the sacrifice of creativity in the service of security. It is the giving up of personal freedoms in return for the promise, never fulfilled, of comfort, cotton wool, air-conditioned shopping centers. Security is a myth; it simply doesn’t exist. This does not stop us, however, from constantly chasing it.

Belief in the abstract invention ‘career’ is a middle-class affliction. The lower orders, wisely, don’t quite have the same faith in progress and self-betterment as the bourgeois classes and neither do members of the aristocracy.

And now more than ever before, the middle classes attempt to impose their career ethic on everyone else. This is called ‘government’.

Governments sell themselves by promoting the idea of ‘equal opportunities for everyone to make the best of themselves’ when really what they mean is ‘equal opportunities for every slimebag to rat on his friends and colleagues in order to worship the false god of career advancement.’

Career is just posh slavery. And career is an institutionalized putting-off a paradise deferred.

Career, then, is a Protestant invention and an ideal for living that would have been impossible in the more fatalistic Catholic medieval society.

‘Learn a craft’ is what I suggest to young writers who contact the Idler: carpentry or blacksmithing or gardening or upholstery; such pursuits sit alongside the life of the mind very well.

Clearly we need to find a town of 50,000 people, 50,000 freedom-seekers, put a wall around it, declare it an independent republic and get on with things on our own. The medieval cities demonstrated to [Prince] Kropotkin that, left to our own devices, we can do a much better job of organizing our affairs than any government.

Solar panels are anarchy in action.

And as for your plans for the future? Well: we all know the Jewish joke: How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

… our resentment makes it hard for us to escape. Resentment can be a barrier to freedom.

Resentment of others – ‘It’s all right for you,’ the feeling that life is just that little bit easier for everyone else around you – is the first manacle that must be cast off in the quest for freedom.

The problem is not that people are different, but that they do not respect differences.

For some unfathomable reason, everyone seems to want an expensive watch. But isn’t it mighty peculiar that what is in actual fact a symbol of slavery should also have become a status symbol? Wearing a watch indicates to others that you have bound yourself to the modern industrial tempo.

It is one of the triumphs of the capitalist project that the slave-driver is now inside us, which saves an enormous amount on the wage bill.

We should abandon the expression ‘free time’, because it implies its opposite, ‘slave time’.

As the unusual German historian Johan Huizinga says in The Waning of the Middle Ages, modern man sees himself primarily as a worker, and this is the great change. No praying, no fighting, no working the land. Just work, hard work.

Competition is a slave’s creed. We think that by beating up the other guy we elevate ourselves, but, in fact, we are debasing ourselves to the level of a slave. To be competitive is a sign of submission as, really, it just means that we are carrying out the master’s wishes.

… ‘financial services’ – and there’s a euphemism for usury if ever I heard one …

… debt has been compared by many to a modern form of indentured labour. You get into debt, and then you are stuck in a job you hate in order to pay off the debt. This helps the system, as it means that most of us are more or less kept quiet and toiling.

It is credit, not cash, that makes wealth: apparently, rich people are often simply more spectacularly in debt than the rest of us.

To free yourself from the cycle of work-spend-debt-work, simply stop consuming and start creating.

Don’t make luxury into a meaning.

We desire things, we are attached to things, we believe that things will make us better. This process serves the postponement of desire which is one of the characteristic features, indeed a motor, of large-scale capitalism. The desire for things produces a restless craving, and this restless craving leads us into the world and into our schemes for betterment.

This is how capitalism works: through a constant stream of disappointments which encourages the spending of more and more money.

To work hard to produce useless items of nothing and then to make that the sole purpose of living – this is the insanity of desire.

So, put simply, if you have somewhere to live, enough money to buy or produce good food, friends, books and plenty of booze and cigarettes, then how bad can life be?

Desire and modern capitalism preach that means are unimportant and that ends are all: ‘I’m only doing my job.’

… fear is actually rather convenient to the smooth functioning of an orderly society. A docile population which is terrified of the authorities in their various forms, whether supermarket, bank, school or boss, and afraid of other human beings, will more likely depend on objects and institutions to give them guidance, solidity, security and a sense of meaning.

Fear keeps us observing life rather than living it. We are spectators rather than participators.

Fear is a tool of control. It is fear of punishment that will keep a classroom quiet and make the teacher’s job easier; it is fear of the sack that will keep the grumbling workers quiet. Fear is also an efficient controlling device. It also helps us to fulfill our roles as consumers. It is fear of life itself that keeps us spending in the arcades and typing our credit-card numbers into websites.

One source of fear is certainly the education system. Little children are fearless, imperious anarchists, and the education system works and works on them over a period of fifteen years to instill docility so that they won’t complain too much when they end up with a boring job.

Life is about nothingness, so go and create your own life and enjoy it. Everything is vanity, fiction, conditioning, self-created, mind-forg’d.

Vanity and absurdity are the same thing – mere creations of man’s imagination, utterly without meaning.

Governments do too much and they do most of it badly.

Politics is not the art of running a country, it is the art of persuading the people that they need a set of paid politicians to run the country.

… the final insult is that we pay the government between a quarter and a half of our income for the privilege of being patronized and bossed around.

There is a real alternative to elected governments. It is self-government, or anarchy, or running one’s own affairs without relying on external authority.

Anarchy is about the creative spirit fighting the cowed spirit, and the battle has to start within ourselves.

What can we do to be ourselves, rather than trying to conform and contort ourselves into a uniform model? Well, we can start simply by ignoring government. The best way to smash the state is to take no notice of it and hope it goes away.

An important mental step in escaping the power of government is to understand that to some degree, we ourselves are complicit with the problem. By not acting for ourselves, we allow others to act for us.

In the existential world, where life is absurd, you may as well create your own life.

In order to keep bureaucracy and taxes to a minimum, we will earn small amounts of money and instead do favours for each other. We don’t want affordable housing, jobs and shopping centers. Those are slave’s perks, handed down by authority, which may be more or less lenient according to whichever government fate has installed. What we want is to create our own little aristocracies, as D.H. Lawrence has it. We want soil, caravans and trees, smallholdings, vegetable patches, art and crafts. And beer and books. That’s all.

Government is a license for people to kill and rape each other; government creates the killing and raping while pretending to prevent it.

Machines have never liberated us from toil, due to the fact that they need minding by a human being and are owned by the capitalists, in whose hands they become instruments of enslavement and prolonged boredom.

The accusation ‘unprofessional’ means ‘You did not behave like a machine today.’

Digital technology may supply you with what you want, but it won’t supply you with what you need.

The future is always about machines. But I don’t think about the future; I think about the present. The future is a capitalist construct. The past teaches us that the future has let us down, and let us down many, many times. Dreaming of some kind of technological utopia in which the machines will do all the work has failed us before, and it is failing us now, with our new faith in digital technology.

… the fact is, the past is a great treasure store of good ideas for living, ideas that were actually applied and whose results we can see. The problem with ideas of the future is that they are untested; they are all speculation, fantasy.

The very thing that we take on board in order to provide us with security – a home – seems to offer instead only anxiety and a feeling of being trapped.

The mortgage, which puts all the burden of buying a house on the individual, is the logical outcome of the individualization of ownership. But the reality is that in being sold the idea that we should all own our own house, we have simply given into a giant usury con.

We need to diffuse land ownership, ban usurious mortgages, stabilize rents and bring house prices right down. We could perhaps do this by simply losing interest in money-making.

The problem with vagabondage is that big governments can’t stand it. They hate the chaos, the unruly elements, the sense that people are wandering around the country doing what they like. When governments increase in power, they all have a resentful way of cracking down on vagabonds.

Putting a lot of time and money into mortgages and the ‘dream home’ is never going to be more than a distraction from the real issue, which is you, and your state of mind.

The family, which should be a source of pleasure, fun, cosiness and nourishment, seems everywhere to produce misery, anger, door-slamming, shouting, cruelty, fighting, death and abuse.

The modern family merely represents a financial burden – in other words, an inducement to take jobs you don’t like.

The commodification of childcare is another of the unhelpful effects of capitalism. You earn money doing something you don’t like in order to pay someone else to ‘do the childcare’, i.e., look after your children.

By confirming the existence of a problem, you create a market. That is why the pharmaceutical industry is forever creating new illnesses; that is why the insurance industry is forever creating new fears; that is why the government is forever creating new enemies.

The wonderful thing about children is not their so-called innocence but their passion, their passion for life and living. This can take the form of tears or laughter, and we need to get it into our heads that tears and laughter are both to be welcomed. You can’t have one without the other. They may even enjoy it – like the medievals, who seemed to embrace all extremes of passion. It is this passion that we need to find in ourselves.

We are fatally over-scheduling our children and creating a nation of useless dependents unable to do anything for themselves apart from the spectacularly useless and costly occupations of computer games, tennis and ballet. We are creating a generation of children who don’t know how to play.

Quality of life has been sacrificed to quantity of life. Living as long as possible rather than living as well as possible – that seems to have become the goal.

Fear of pain, indeed, might be seen as fear of life, since life is pain.

Pain will never leave us. Live with it. Instead of putting energy into destroying pain, we need to put energy into creating pleasure. Pleasure for yourself and pleasure for those around you. Sex, music, dancing, beer and wine, good company, good work, merry cheer: these are the antidotes to pain, and they are of course only pleasures because we know pain. Without pain, there would be no pleasure.

Private pension plans claim to sell you ‘peace of mind’, i.e., freedom from fear, but the reality is the opposite: they sell us fear and then sell the apparent solution to that fear – money.

So, when it comes to pensions, I am firmly of the ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die’ school. Belief in pensions produces a kind of slavery. If you don’t believe in pensions, then you believe in yourself and you believe in looking after yourself. This makes you free.

Funnily enough, the people who encourage others to worry about the future are those who want your money now.

It makes perfectly logical sense that in societies based on a collective ideal, manners and rituals are of the highest importance, whereas in societies based on a competitive ideal, manners are useful only as a means of getting what you want.

Disintegrating manners are a sign of a disintegrating society.

Don’t bother setting up free republics or moving to a country which offers more liberties. Simply declare yourself to be an independent state. Do not involve and coerce others. This is the only way we will effect a proper revolution.

Self-importance is a trap, because the moment we start to think that we actually matter is the moment when things start to go wrong. The truth is that you are supremely unimportant, and that nothing matters. All of man’s striving is for nothing; all effort is wasted. To realize that everything is meaningless is tremendously liberating, since it then leaves us completely free to create our own lives and ignore the plans that others have for us.

So we can see why artists and writers traditionally tend towards Roman Catholicism, while Protestantism is the religion for the serious man of business, the practical man.

We are all supposed to want to become rich. Wanting to be rich is one of the motors of a competitive world. Wanting to be rich is what keeps us striving, working, fighting, struggling, competing, conning and abandoning morals. And wanting to be rich is the precise impulse that is exploited by the people who actually do become rich, the usurers and the investors, the market manipulators, because they exploit our greed for their own ends. Wanting more money removes us from enjoying the present; it is therefore a Puritan trait. We should celebrate what we have. Wanting to be rich is actually the first desire that must be cast off in the pursuit of freedom.

Do it now. Give things away for free and money will lose its power over you.

… since shopping is today seen as our patriotic duty, to be thrifty is actually to be unpatriotic, and therefore it gives one a pleasant sense of rebelling against the state.

It is not thrift as self-denial and the preaching of sobriety, industry, frugality and virtue to the lower orders that I am recommending; it is more a spirited reclaiming of one’s own finances.

We should also be thrifty with our time, and that means not rushing through things and not wasting our time by giving it to an employer.

The tragedy of the nineteenth century was that Western man came to see himself, first and foremost, as a worker. Life became a serious business. Frivolity, mirth, play, ritual, dance, music, merriment, dressing up: those childish pleasures, all central parts of life for the nobles, priests and peasants of old, had been under constant attack since the middle of the sixteenth century.

Make money out of what you are doing anyway. In my case, I spend each morning writing and reading, and the rest of the day is given up to household work: gardening, cleaning, baking … The evenings are for drinking, eating and talking.

Education itself is a putting-off, a postponement: we are told to work hard to get good results. Why? So we can get a good job. What is a good job? One that pays well. Oh. And that’s it? All this suffering, merely so that we can earn a lot of money, which, even if we manage it, will not solve our problems anyway? It’s a tragically limited idea of what life is all about.

If the mortgage company owns 90 per cent of it, how can this be said to be owning your own house? Instead, you are in slavery to two authorities, the employer and the mortgage company. Fall behind on these payments, and the mortgage company will literally take your home from you. Therefore, you will subject yourself to all sorts of humiliations at work out of fear of losing your job.

Relaxing the hold that work has over your life and replacing it with play can be a slow and gradual process. The key to enjoying a life beyond full-time employment is to realize that, once you stop working full time, you start to become a producer, a creative person, rather than a consumer.

Be a jack of all trades; abandon perfectionism. Embrace the creed of the amateur. Do it for love, not money.

If you enjoy your work, then it’s not work. As my friend Sarah says, the trick to living free is to wake up every morning and screech: ‘Morning, Lord, what have you got for me today?’


Matthew de Abaitua
[Retirement:] secular afterlife.

St. Thomas Aquinas
Abstinence in eating and drinking has no essential bearing on salvation: The kingdom of God is not meat and drink … the holy apostles understood that the kingdom of God does not consist in eating and drinking but in resignation to either lot, for they are neither elated by abundance, nor distressed by want.

Simone de Beauvoir
Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.

Aldous Huxley
There will never be enduring peace unless and until human beings come to accept a philosophy of life more adequate to the cosmic and psychological facts than the insane idolatries of nationalism and the advertising man’s apocalyptic faith in Progress towards a mechanized New Jerusalem.

John of Brunn
A man who has conscience is himself the Devil and hell and purgatory, tormenting himself. He who is free in spirit escapes all these things.

E.M. Forster
Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

Masanobu Fukuoka
Humanity knows nothing at all. There is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile, meaningless effort.

John Keats
Beauty is truth and truth beauty,
That is all ye know and all ye need to know.

C.S. Lewis
I believe a man is happier and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the freeborn mind’ … and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of the Government who can criticize its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology.

Penny Rimbaud
Our lives are uniquely and intrinsically our own. It is a responsibility that few seem willing to bear.

Bertrand Russell
Democracy, as conceived by politicians, is a form of government, that is to say, it is a method of making people do what their leaders wish under the impression that they are doing what they themselves wish.

Jean-Paul Sartre
It is … senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.

Henry Suso
…Untrammeled freedom … When a man lives according to all his caprices without distinguishing between God and himself, and without looking before or after.

Leo Tolstoy
… even if the absence of government really meant anarchy in the negative disorderly sense of that word – which is far from being the case – even then no anarchical disorder could be worse that the position to which governments have already led their peoples, and to which they are leading them.

Raoul Vaneigem
The consumer cannot and must not ever attain satisfaction.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change of Focus - What to do about it all

Hello Readers

So far on this blog, I have been doling out all the bad news on the way the system works, how Our Masters really run things. If you have read all this stuff, and especially if you have gone to read the original sources, I think you will have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely nothing you can believe coming out of the mouths or from the pens of governments - here, there, anywhere; past, present, and future. But, in fact, you can probably believe and do exactly the opposite of what the government says and asks, and thereby do very well.

With this in mind, I will now focus, for at least the time being, on what you can do to further your own personal security and prosperity. I don't intend to post any more diatribes against Our Masters, but instead try to present ideas and resources on how to deal with the hand dealt us. This will begin coming on Sunday, October 12. Hopefully, the frequency will be three times a week, like the current frequency.

In the meantime, as always, keep your eyes and mind open,
Michael Childress

Friday, October 10, 2008

Two Perspectives on the Financial Crisis

Here are two perspectives on the current financial crisis.

Jim Willie gets almost hysterical at times in his revulsion at what is going on, but he still reveals a lot of info. Here is his take on the events of the last few weeks - what is really going on behind all the bailouts and mergers:

"Bataan Death March Tickertape"

William Engdahl has a much broader perspective on the grand strategies on the world stage. His tone is much more subdued and matter of fact, but his content is even scarier:

"BEHIND THE PANIC: Financial Warfare over future of global bank power"

These are increasingly desperate times. If the US banking system implodes, short term credit will severely disrupt ALL business operations in the US, including retail. This will threaten food supplies, utilities, and other necessities of modern life - likely resulting in considerable public "unrest".

Keep your eyes and mind open,
Michael Childress

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Financial Parable

Once upon a time, in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10, and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20 for a monkey.

This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each, and the supply of monkeys became so small that it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.

In the absence of the man, the assistan t told the villagers. "Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35, and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each."

The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

They never saw the man nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how Wall Street works.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Century of War by William Engdahl - Excerpts

A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. William Engdahl. 2004 (rev ed). ISBN 978-0745323091


The power of the dollar and the power of the U.S. military had been uniquely intertwined with one commodity, the basis of the world economic growth engine, since before the First World War. That commodity was petroleum, and in its service British, American, German, French, Italian, and other nations called their soldiers to war. As Henry Kissinger once expressed this importance: ‘control energy and you control the nations.’

No other element has shaped the history of the past 100 years so much as the fight to secure and control the world’s reserves of petroleum. Too little is understood of how political and economic power around the raw material, petroleum, has been shaped by interests principally under the control of two nations, the United Kingdom and, later, the United States of America.

British control of the seas, and with it control of world shipping trade, was thus to emerge after Waterloo as one of the three pillars of a new British Empire … Britain’s unquestioned domination of international banking was the second pillar of English Imperial power following 1815. The third pillar, more and more crucial as the century wore on, was British geopolitical domination of the world’s major raw materials – cotton, metals, coffee, coal, and by the century’s end, the new ‘black gold’, petroleum.

Under the hegemony of free trade, British merchant banks reaped enormous profits on the India-Turkey-China opium trade, while the British Foreign Ministry furthered their banking interests by publicly demanding China open its ports to ‘free trade’, during the British Opium Wars.

… increasingly after the 1846 Corn Laws repeal, the dominant faction in British economic policy was not industry or agriculture, but finance and international trade. In order to insure the supremacy of British international banking, those bankers were willing to sacrifice domestic industry and investment, much as happened in the United States after the Kennedy assassination in the 1960s.

For more than two decades [~1888-1910], the question of the construction of a modern railway linking Continental Europe with Baghdad was a point of friction at the center of German-English relations. By the estimation of Deutsche Bank director Karl Helfferich, the person responsible at the time for the Baghdad rail project negotiations, no other issue led to greater tension between London and Berlin in the decade and a half before 1914, with the possible exception of the issue of Germany’s growing naval fleet.

By early 1913, acting secretly, again at Churchill’s urging, the British government bought up majority share ownership of Anglo-Persian Oil (today British Petroleum). From this point, oil was at the core of British strategic interest.

Many in the British establishment had determined well before 1914 that war was the only course suitable to bring the European situation under control. British interests dictated, according to her balance of power logic, a shift from the traditional ‘pro-Ottoman and anti-Russian’ alliance strategy of the nineteenth century, to a ‘pro-Russian and anti-German alliance strategy.

… then the infamous Dreyfus affair erupted in the French press. Its direct aim was to rupture the delicate efforts of Hanotaux to stabilize relations with Germany. A French army captain named Dreyfus was prosecuted on charges of spying for the Germans. Hanotaux intervened in the initial process in 1894, correctly warning that the Dreyfus affair would lead to ‘a diplomatic rupture with Germany, even war.’ Dreyfus was exonerated years later, and it was revealed that Count Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, in the pay of the Rothschild banking family, had manufactured the evidence against Dreyfus. By 1898, Hanotaux was out of office and had been succeeded by the malleable Anglophile, Theophile Delcasse.

Thus, a British-French-Russian Triple Entente in effect had been fully established by 1907. Britain had created a web of secret alliances encircling Germany, and had laid the foundations for the coming military showdown with the Kaiser’s Reich. The next seven years were ones of preparation for the final elimination of the German threat.

One of the better kept secrets of the 1914-18 world war was that on the eve of August 1914, when Britain declared war against the German Reich, the British Treasury and the finances of the British Empire were in effect bankrupt. An examination of the actual financial relations of the principal parties to the war reveals an extraordinary background of secret credits, coupled with detailed plans to reallocate the raw materials and physical wealth of the entire world after the war, especially those areas of the Ottoman Empire believed to hold significant petroleum reserves.

Romania during the course of the war was the only secure German petroleum supply for her entire air force, tank forces, and U-boat fleet. The British campaign in the Dardanelles, the disastrous defeat at Gallipoli, was undertaken to secure the oil supplies of the Russian Baku for the Anglo-French war effort. The Ottoman sultan had embargoed the shipping out of Russian oil via the Dardanelles. By 1918, the rich Russian oil fields of Baku on the Caspian Sea were the object of intense military and political effort on the part of Germany, and also of Britain, which pre-emptively occupied them for a critical period of weeks in August 1918, denying the German General Staff vital oil supplies. Denial of Baku was a decisive last blow against Germany, which sued for peace some weeks later, only months after it had seemed that Germany had defeated the Allied forces. Oil had proved to be at the center of geopolitics.

Britain emerged from the deliberations of the 1919 Versailles conference in the most apparent respects the dominant superpower in the world. One small detail, pushed to the background during the actual conduct of the war between 1914 and 1918, however, was that this victory was secured on borrowed money.

By January 1915, four months into the Great War, the British government had named a private New York banking house, J.P. Morgan & Co., to be its sole purchasing agent for all war supplies from the United States. Morgan was designated Britain’s exclusive financial agent for all British war lending from private U.S. banks as well. In a short time, Britain in turn became the guarantor for all such war purchases and loans by the French, Italians and Russians in the war against the German-Austrian Continental powers. It was a giant credit pyramid on top of which sat the influential American house of Morgan. Never had a single banking house gambled on such high and risky global stakes … Morgan, with its franchise as sole purchasing agent for the entire Entente group, became virtual arbiter over the future of the U.S. industrial and agricultural export economy. Morgan decided who would, or would not, be favored with very sizable and highly profitable export orders for the European war effort against Germany.

By the eve of the American entry into the war in 1917 on the side of Britain, the Entente powers had raised some $1,250,000,000 through the private efforts of Morgan, Citibank, and the other major New York investment houses, a staggering sum in that day. Morgan’s relation to the financial powers of the newly created New York Federal Reserve Bank, under the control of former J.P. Morgan banker Governor Benjamin Strong, was essential to the success of the private financial mobilization.

… it became clear [1917] that nothing else but American entry into the war would turn the looming disaster in Europe facing J.P. Morgan and Morgan’s European clients. They organized that America would enter the European war on the ‘right’ side – in support of British interests. Morgan & Co., and Britain as well, faced complete financial ruin by early 1917 if they did not succeed.

Had Woodrow Wilson not been persuaded to sign the Federal Reserve Act into law on December 23, 1913, it is questionable whether the United States would ever have committed the resources it did to a war in Europe. Without the new law, it is also doubtful whether Britain would have launched her bold designs against the rival empires of the Continent in August 1914. The house of Morgan and the powerful international financial interests of the City of London played the critical role in shaping a U.S. Federal Reserve System in the months just before the outbreak of the European war.

Morgan & Co. had quietly shifted their private British government loans over to the general debt of the U.S. Treasury as soon as the United States officially entered the war, in effect making the British debts the burden of the American taxpayers after the war.

During the course of the Versailles talks, a new institution of Anglo-American coordination in strategic affairs was formed. Lionel Curtis, a longtime member of the secretive Round Table or ‘new empire’ circle of Balfour, Milner and others, proposed organizing a Royal Institute of International Affairs. The proposal was made on May 30, 1919, in the midst of the Versailles deliberations, at a private gathering at the Hotel Majestic. Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian), Lord Robert Cecil and other members of the Round Table circle attended that formative meeting. The first nominal mission of the new institute would be to write the ‘official’ history of the Versailles peace conference. The Royal Institute received an initial endowment of £2,000 from Thomas Lamont of J.P. Morgan. Historian Arnold J. Toynbee was the institute’s first paid staff member. The same circle at Versailles also decided to establish an American branch of the London Institute, to be named the New York Council on Foreign Relations, so as to obscure its close British ties. The New York Council was initially composed almost entirely of the Morgan men, financed by Morgan money.

The combined burden of the Versailles German reparations debt, as well as the inter-Allied debts of the respective ‘victors’ – the war debts of France, Italy and Belgium to Britain, and in turn, of Britain to the United States – overwhelmed world finance and monetary policy from 1919 through to the October 1929 Wall Street crash … The scale of the combined war debt burden of Europe was so large that its annual debt service demands on the world financial system were greater than the entire annual foreign trade of the United States during the 1920. New York’s international banking community redirected world capital flows to the service of this staggering debt burden.

The oil wars, which had shaken the world for more than a decade, were finally resolved in a ‘ceasefire’, which resulted in the creation of an enormously powerful Anglo-American oil cartel, later dubbed the ‘Seven Sisters’. The peace agreement was formalized in 1927 at Achnacarry, the Scottish castle of Shell’s Sir Henri Deterding. John Cadman, representing the British government’s Anglo-Persian Oil Co. (British Petroleum), and Walter Teagle, president of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey (Exxon), gathered under the cover of a grouse shoot to conclude the most powerful economic cartel in modern history. The Seven Sisters were effectively one. Their secret pact was formalized as the ‘As Is’ agreement of 1928, or the Achnacarry agreement. British and American oil majors agreed to accept the existing market divisions and shares, to set a secret world cartel price, and to end the destructive competition and price wars of the previous decade. The respective governments merely ratified this private accord the same year in what became the Red Line agreement. Since this time, with minor interruption, the Anglo-American grip over the world’s oil reserves has been hegemonic … By 1932, all seven major companies in the Anglo-American sphere – Esso (Standard of N.J.), Mobil (Standard of N.Y.) Gulf Oil, Texaco, Standard of California (Chevron), as well as Royal Dutch Shell and Anglo-Persian Oil Co. (British Petroleum) – were part of the Achnacarry cartel.

The unstable international monetary order imposed after Versailles by London and New York bankers on a defeated central Europe came to an abrupt, if predictable, end in 1929. Montagu Norman, then the world’s most influential central banker as governor of the Bank of England, precipitated the crash of the Wall Street stock market in October 1929. Norman had asked the governor of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, George Harrison, to raise U.S. interest rate levels. Harrison complied, and the most dramatic financial and economic collapse in U.S. history ensued in the following months.

In November 1925, Italian Finance Minister Volpi di Misurata announced that the Mussolini government had reached an agreement on repaying the Versailles war debts of Italy to Britain and the United States. One week later, J.P. Morgan & Co., financial agents of the Mussolini government in the United States, announced a crucial $100 million loan to Italy to ‘stabilize the lira’. In reality, Morgan had decided to stabilize Mussolini’s fascist regime. On the urging of J.P. Morgan & Co. and Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England, Volpi di Misurata established in 1926 a single Italian central bank, the Bank of Italy, to control national monetary policy and further ensure repayment of foreign debts.

Since 1926 [Hjalmar] Schacht had secretly been a backer of the radical National Socialist German worker’s Party (NSDAP) or Nazi party of Adolf Hitler. After resigning his Reichsbank post, Schacht acted as a key liaison between powerful, but skeptical, German industrial leaders, the so-called ‘Schlotbarone’ of the Ruhr, and foreign financial leaders, especially Britain’s Lord Norman. British policy at this juncture was to create the ‘Hitler Project’, knowing full well what its ultimate geopolitical and military direction would be. As Colonel David Stirling, the founder of Britain’s elite Special Air Services, related in a private discussion almost half a century later, ‘The greatest mistake we British did was to think we could play the German Empire against the Russian Empire, and have them bleed one another to death.’

While Norman and the Bank of England had adamantly refused to advance a pfennig of credit to Germany at the critical period in 1931 (thus precipitating the banking and unemployment crisis which made desperate alternatives such as Hitler even thinkable to leading circles in Germany), as soon as Hitler had consolidated power, in early 1933, the same Montagu Norman moved with indecent haste to reward the Hitler government with vital Bank of England credit. Norman made a special visit to Berlin in May 1934 to arrange further secret financial stabilization for the new regime. Hitler had responded by making Norman’s dear friend Schacht his minister of economics as well as president of the Reichsbank. The latter post Schacht held until 1939.

Little attention has been paid to the role of oil in the postwar European Recovery Program (ERP), better known as the Marshall Plan, named after its architect, Secretary of State George C. Marshall. From its inception in 1947, the largest single expenditure by ERP recipient countries in Western Europe was to use Marshall Plan dollars to purchase oil, oil supplied primarily by American oil companies. According to official records of the State Department, more than 10 per cent of all U.S. Marshall aid went to buy American oil … Further, the U.S. companies, with support of the Washington government, refused to allow Marshall Plan dollars to be used to build indigenous European refining capacity, further tightening the stranglehold of American Big Oil on postwar Europe.

In his first days in office, under guidance from his advisors, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a small-town Texas politician with little knowledge of international politics, let alone monetary policy, reversed the earlier decision of John Kennedy. President Johnson was led to believe that a full-scale military war in southeast Asia would solve many problems of the stagnant U.S. economy and show the world that American was still resolute … More and more during the 1960s, the heart of the U.S. economy was being transformed into a kind of military economy, in which the cold war against communist danger was used to justify tens of billions of dollars of spending. The military spending became the backup for the global economic interests of the New York financial and oil interests, another echo of nineteenth-century British Empire, dressed in the garb of twentieth-century anticommunism.

To finance the enormous deficits of his Great Society program and the Vietnam buildup during the 1960s, Johnson, fearful of losing votes if he raised taxes, simply printed dollars, by selling more U.S. Treasury bonds to finance the deficits. In the early 1960s, the U.S. federal budget deficit averaged approximately $3 billion annually. It hit an alarming $9 billion 1967 as the war costs soared, and by 1968 it reached a staggering $25 billion.

The Bank of England and London’s Sir Siegmund Warburg, with the assistance of his friends in Washington, especially Undersecretary of State George Ball, had cleverly lured the [expatriate U.S.] dollars into what was to become the largest concentration of dollar credit outside of the United States itself – the London Eurodollar market, by the 1970s an estimated $1.3 trillion pool of ‘hot money’, all of it ‘offshore’, that is, beyond the control of any nation or central bank.

After August 1971, the dominant U.S. policy under the White House national security advisor, Henry A. Kissinger, was to control, not to develop, economies throughout the world. U.S. policy officials began proudly calling themselves ‘neo-Malthusians’. Population reduction in developing nations, rather than technology transfer and industrial growth strategies, became the dominating priority in the 1970s, yet another throwback to nineteenth-century British colonial thinking.

In May 1973, with the dramatic fall of the dollar still vivid, a group of 84 of the world’s top financial and political insiders met at Saltsjobaden, Sweden, the secluded island resort of the Swedish Wallenberg family. This gathering of Prince Bernhard’s Bilderberg group heard an American participant, Walter Levy, outline a ‘scenario’ for an imminent 400 percent increase in OPEC petroleum revenues. The purpose of the secret Saltsjobaden meeting was not to prevent the expected oil price shock, but rather to plan how to manage the about-to-be-created flood of oil dollars, a process U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger later called ‘recycling the petrodollar flows’.

The most severe impact of the oil crisis was on the United States largest city, New York. In December 1974, nine of the world’s most powerful bankers, led by David Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Citibank, and the London-New York investment bank, Lazard Freres, told New York Mayor Abraham Beame, and old-line machine politician, that unless he turned over control of the city’s huge pension funds to a committee of the banks, the Municipal Assistance Corporation , the banks and their influential friends in the media would ensure the financial ruin of the city. Not surprisingly, the overpowered mayor capitulated and New York City was forced to slash spending for roadways, bridges, hospitals and schools in order to service their bank debt, and to lay off tens of thousands of city workers. The nation’s greatest city had begun its descent into a scrap heap. Felix Rohatyn of Lazard Freres became head of the new bankers’ collection agency, dubbed ‘Big MAC’ by the press.

But while Kissinger’s 1973 oil shock had a devastating impact on world industrial growth, it had an enormous benefit for certain established interests – the major New York and London banks, and the Seven Sisters oil multinationals of the United States and Britain. By 1974 Exxon had overtaken General Motors as the largest American corporation in gross revenues. Her sisters, including Mobil, Texaco, Chevron and Gulf, were not far behind. The bulk of the OPEC dollar revenues, Kissinger’s ‘recycled petrodollars’, was deposited with the leading banks of London and New York, the banks which dealt in dollars as well as international oil trade. Chase Manhattan, Citibank, Manufacturers Hanover, Bank of America, Barclays, Lloyds, Midland Bank – all enjoyed the windfall profits of the oil crisis.

The American oilman present at the May 1973 Saltsjobaden meeting of the Bilderberg group, Robert O. Anderson, was a central figure in the implementation of the ensuing Anglo-American ecology agenda. It was to become one of the most successful frauds in history. Anderson and his Atlantic Richfield Oil Co. funneled millions of dollars through their Atlantic Richfield Foundation into select organization to target nuclear energy. One of the prime beneficiaries of Anderson’s largesse was a group called Friends of the Earth, which was organized in this time with a $200,00 grand from Anderson. One of the earliest actions of Anderson’s Friends of the Earth was an assault on the German nuclear industry, through such antinuclear actions as the anti-Brockdorf demonstrations in 1976, led by Friends of the Earth leader Holger Strohm. The director of Friends of the Earth in France, Brice Lalonde, was the Paris partner of the Rockefeller family law firm Coudert Brothers, and became Mitterand’s environment minister in 1989. It was Friends of the Earth which was used to block a major Japanese-Australian uranium supply agreement. In November 1974, Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka went to Canberra to meet Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The two made a commitment, potentially worth billions of dollars, for Australia to supply Japan’s needs for future uranium ore and enter a joint project to develop uranium enrichment technology. British uranium mining giant Rio Tinto Zinc secretly deployed Friends of the Earth in Australia to mobilize opposition to the pending Japanese agreement, resulting some months later in the fall of Whitham’s government. Friends of the Earth had ‘friends’ in very high places in London and Washington. But Robert O. Anderson’s major vehicle for spreading the new ‘limits to growth’ ideology among American and European establishment circles was his Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. With Anderson as chairman and Atlantic Richfield head Thornton Bradshaw as vice-chairman, the Aspen Institute in the early 1970s was a major financial conduit for the creation of the establishment’s new antinuclear agenda. Among the better-known trustees of Aspen at this time was World Bank president and the man who ran the Vietnam war, Robert S. McNamara. Other carefully selected Aspen trustees included Lord Bullock of Oxford University, Richard Gardner, an Anglophile American economist who was later U.S. ambassador to Italy, Wall Street banker Russell Peterson of Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb Inc., as well as Exxon board member Jack G. Clarke, Gulf Oil’s Jerry McAfee and Mobil Oil director George C. McGhee, the former State Department official who was present in 1954 at the founding meeting of the Bilderberg group.

In October 1979, a devastating new Anglo-American financial shock was unleashed on top of the second oil crisis of that year. That August, on the advice of David Rockefeller and other influential voices of the Wall Street banking establishment, President Carter appointed Paul A. Volcker, the man who, back in August 1971, had been a key architect of the policy of taking the dollar off the gold standard, to head the Federal Reserve. Volcker, a former official at Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank, and, of course, a member of David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission, was president of the New York Federal Reserve at the time of his appointment as head of the world’s most powerful central bank … In October 1979, Volcker unveiled a radical new Federal Reserve monetary policy. He deceived a shocked Congress and a desperate White House by insisting that his radical monetarist cure was aimed at ‘squeezing inflation out of the system’. It was aimed at making the U.S. dollar the most eagerly sought currency in the world and to stop industrial growth dead in its tracks, in order that political and financial power flow back to the dollar imperium … The oil crisis and the Volcker shock were further strengthened by a decision of the leading circles of the establishment to ‘take the bloom off the nuclear rose’ once and for all, in order to ensure that the alarming trend of developing worldwide nuclear energy resources to replace reliance on Anglo-American oil was decisively ended.

Prophetically, as he signed the new Garn-St. Germain Act into law, President Reagan enthusiastically told an audience of invited S&L bankers, ‘I think we’ve hit the jackpot.’ This ‘jackpot’ was the beginning of the collapse of the $1.3 trillion savings and loan banking system. The new law opened the doors of the S&Ls to wholesale financial abuses and wild speculative risks as never before. Moreover, it made S&L banks an ideal vehicle for organized crime to launder billions of dollars from the growing narcotics business in 1980s America. Few noticed that it was the former firm of Donald Regan, Merrill Lynch, whose Lugano office was implicated in laundering billions of dollars of Mafia heroin profits in the so-called ‘pizza connection’. The wild and woolly climate of deregulation created an ambience in which normal, well-run savings banks were surpassed by fast-track banks which catered to dubious monies with no questions asked. Banks laundered funds for covert operations of the CIA, as well as covert operations of the Bonano or other organized crime families. The son of the vice president, Neil Bush, was a director of the Silverado Savings and Loan in Colorado, later indicted by the government for illegal practices. Son Neil had the good taste to ‘resign’ the week his father received the Republican nomination for president in 1988.

… as the largest military buildup since the Vietnam War took place in Saudi Arabia, in preparation for offensive saturation bombing in Iraq in the early days of January 1991, more than a few informed voices inside the Washington establishment began to express grave doubts as to the ultimate wisdom of Bush’s clear military intent. In a November 12, 1990 television interview, a former Reagan administration navy secretary, James H. Webb declared, ‘The purpose of our presence in the Persian Gulf is to further the Bush Administration’s New World Order, and I don’t like it.’

With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s, hopes were high in many quarters that the world might see a new era of peace and prosperity. The decade that followed disappointed, to put it mildly. Far from an end to geopolitics and cold war, the stage merely shifted. As sole surviving superpower, Washington set about shaping its New World Order, though the term was quickly dropped by George H.W. Bush after it drew critical attention in his 1991 State of the Union speech. It provoked too many questions as to whose order it was and what priorities it might have.

By the start of the new century, powerful circles in the U.S. establishment had decided it was time for a change in emphasis. If the Treasury had been the symbol of power in the Clinton era, the Defense Department was to become the focal point of the Bush era. And, as during most of the cold war, its agenda was directly tied to oil geopolitics.

With undeveloped oil reserves perhaps even larger than those of Saudi Arabia, Iraq had become an object of intense interest to Cheney and the Bush Administration very early on. Paul O’Neill, a Bush cabinet member who had been fired in late 2002 for not being a good team player, later revealed that, as president, Bush had decided to make Iraqi regime-change a top goal well before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Taliban fell out of favor in Washington in July 2001, when U.S. negotiators proposed conditions for their pipeline, reportedly telling the Taliban leaders, ‘Either you accept our offer on a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.’ The Taliban was demanding U.S. aid to rebuild the Afghan infrastructure. They wanted the pipeline not only to be a transit line to India and beyond, but also to serve Afghan needs for energy. Washington rejected the demands. September 11, 2001, gave Washington the excuse to deliver its carpet of bombs to Kabul.

The military attack on Afghanistan, the first strike in the new war on terror gave Washington many things. It gave it the pretext for a huge Pentagon budget increase to nearly $400 billion a year, and for building a ring of permanent U.S. military bases from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, places deep inside the former Soviet Union territory. (The latter point was not lost on Russian thinkers around President Putin.) The U.S. removal of the Taliban also gave the world a flood of heroin, as old warlords suppressed by the Taliban were able to resume poppy cultivation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

JIm Willie Interview on Contrarian Investor Cafe

Jim Willie talks about fraud in the mortgage markets and banking system. Be sure to listen carefully at the end when he predicts the outcome for the U.S.A.

Keep your eyes and mind open,
Mike Childress

Monday, October 6, 2008

Country Joe and the Fish Redux

History doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme. Remember this little ditty? Just plug in the new words in brackets and it is as good as new!

"Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" - Country Joe MacDonald

Well, come on all you big strong men
Uncle Sam needs your help again
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in [Old Iran]
So put down your books and pick up a gun
We're gonna have a whole lot of fun

And it's one two three, what are we fightin' for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is [Old Iran]
And it's five six seven, open up the pearly gates
Well, ain't no time to wonder why
Whoppie, we're all gonna die!

Well come on Wall Street, don't be slow
Why this is war-a-go-go
There's plenty good money to be made
By selling the army the tools of the trade
Just hope and pray that when they drop the bomb
They drop it on [Old Tehran]


Now come on, Generals, let's move fast
Your big chance is here at last
Now you can go out and get them [Towel Heads]
'Cause the only good [Shiite] is one that's dead
And you know that war can only be won
If you blow 'em up to Kingdom Come


Now come on, Mothers, throughout the land
Ship your boys off to [Old Iran]
Come on, Fathers, don't hesitate
Pack your boys off before it's too late
Be the first one on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

And it's one two three, what are we fightin' for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is [Old Iran]
And it's five six seven, open up the pearly gates
Well, ain't no time to wonder why
Whoppie, we're all gonna die!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire by Morris Berman - Excerpts

Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire. Morris Berman. 2006. ISBN 0-393-05866-2


In his famous essay of 1784, “What is Enlightenment?”, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote, “Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage,” which he defined as his “inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another.” Sapere aude!, cried Kant; “have the courage to use your own reason! – that is the motto of enlightenment.”

Quite honestly, we may be only one more terrorist attack away from a police state.

Despite the unifying patriotic rhetoric that permeates the United States, on some level Americans are not really fooled; at bottom, each person knows he or she must continually “reinvent themselves,” which is to say, go it alone. America is the ultimate anti-community.

American citizens cannot choose not to participate in the utterly fluid, high-pressure society that the United States has become. Liquid modernity is, in short, quite rigid: a world of compulsive self-determination.

On the grassroots level of people’s working lives, this merger of our identities with the economy is surely one of the most destructive aspects of the new globalized world order.

The Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci pointed out long ago that if you capture people’s minds, their hands will follow. He called this “hegemony”, the symbolic level of the dominant culture that convinces people – the evidence of their lives notwithstanding – that this is the best of all possible worlds.

… “one dollar, one vote”, which is actually the description of a plutocracy.

Globalization is our destiny; it is, in effect, the final phase of capitalism. We did not evolve to this place by accident, and short of massive civilizational breakdown, there seems to be now way to alter this trajectory – not even slightly.

In the absence of broad structural awareness, alternatives to a world characterized by liquid modernity don’t have much of a chance. It is also the case that the absence of such alternatives is our consciousness is an inherent feature of this world. In such a context, anything truly different, and certainly anything truly creative, has to swim against an enormous tide of commercial garbage.

The fact is that liquid modernity has a strongly addictive quality to it: its participants are often convinced that death is actually life. In “The Numbing of the American Mind,” Thomas de Zengotita points out that it constitutes “a vast goo of meaningless stimulation.”

… the more money moves to the center of our lives, the more cynical we become about higher values. This … generates a culture of sensation, a longing for speed and excitement, because natural excitement is increasingly absent.

Modern American childhood … is for the most part an education in shopping.

The upshot of all of this is that school is turned into a venue for corporate and consumerist indoctrination – with the blessing of many schools and probably most of society.

The reason shows such as Seinfeld or Friends were so popular is that they depicted community situations – i.e., ones in which people hang out together on a daily basis and have a shared history. The irony of millions of isolated Americans sitting home alone and vicariously participating in a group experience that they themselves will never have, because they will never have it, hardly needs comment …

In what other context would we expect to find “reality” shows on TV, such as Survivor, in which screwing the other person is the name of the game, and which millions find vastly entertaining.

… “social capital”, the connections among individuals that are based on reciprocity and trust.

Shopping malls are now America’s most distinctive public space, and mall culture is about being in the presence of others, but not in their company.

… it is precisely in the declining phase of a civilization that it beats the drum of self-congratulation most fiercely.

Negative freedom … is essentially the freedom to be left alone. Societies without this type of freedom tend to be tribal (or organic) in nature, heavily dominated by custom and tradition. In those cultures, the separation of church and state – a mainstay of secular democracy – is usually absent.

As a California migrant worker once remarked to his family, on a return visit south of the border over the Christmas holiday, “The gringos don’t like to be reminded that they are corpses.”

… Osama’s laundry list of grievances … in particular the fact that the United States has inherited the mantle and pattern of nineteenth-century European imperialism: military garrisons, economic control, support for brutal leaders, exploitation of natural resources.

Beginning with the Wilson administration, taxes collected for individuals were used to provide corporations with loans and subsidies for overseas expansion.

Michael Hunt defines ideology as a structure of meaning that is part of the culture – so much a part, in our own case, that we take it for granted, are not really aware of it, and regard other ideologies as aberrant.

Americans still live in a world in which Anglos are on top, Europeans follow, and the Third (read: nonwhite) World sits at the bottom … Plainly put, Americans don’t respect cultural patterns different from their own, and this has facilitated an imperial foreign policy.

The American Dream involves something more comprehensive than just making money … it includes Americans’ vision of themselves as bringing freedom and the American way of life to the world, being atop a racial hierarchy (although this is no longer expressed overtly), and keeping political revolution at bay.

Across much of Asia and Latin America, our allies cared nothing for democracy; their allegiance was to our dollars, not to our values. Nor did we care, so long as they let us install military bases and said the “right” things.

Recall what [George] Kennan wrote: that the USSR viewed the outside world as hostile, was persuaded of its own doctrinaire rightness, insisted on the elimination of all competing powers and ideologies, believed that no opposition to them could possibly have any merit, and saw their regime as the only true one “in a dark and misguided world.” Let’s not kid ourselves: it would be hard to find a better description of American postwar foreign policy, right down to today.

It is this, to my mind, that makes [Carter] so unusual; it sets him off from presidents such as Reagan or Bush Jr. – men who were (are) very doctrinaire and who confuse(d) strength with rigidity (the American public does as well). Carter accepted compromises and contradictions when necessary, and saw the foreign policy arena as one necessarily fraught with conflict and inconsistency. Allied with this, he did not think in oppositional terms, and since that is all the media and public seem to be able to do, his message got lost.

It is no accident that [Carter] was defeated by an actor, a not terribly astute, sloganeering individual with an opposite modus operandi. Popularity with the media was at the top of Reagan’s list. He was not interested in the substantive details of foreign policy; he probably couldn’t even understand them. What interested the fortieth president was rhetoric, public appearances, and ceremonial duties. He had no intellectual curiosity whatsoever; his political philosophy amounted to little more than “us good, them bad”, and that was basically what most of the American people wanted to hear.

We love our large, energy-inefficient vehicles, and don’t seem to be too preoccupied with the fact that other peoples of the world have to die in large numbers so that we can live an extravagant and wasteful lifestyle.

Americans as a people don’t really like to look inward. Our feelings on the subject are much closer to, say, Bush Sr. than to Jimmy Carter. Whenever the elder Bush was asked probing questions, his immediate response was “Don’t stretch me out on the couch.”

[Andrew] Bacevich claims that [America] had a “globalization” strategy in the 1890s and that it was still operative one hundred years later. Then as now, the goal was to create an integrated international order that offered no barriers to the flow of goods, capital, and ideas, and that is administered by the United States.

The German philosopher Hegel referred to this as “negative identity,” the process of creating an identity for yourself by defining yourself against something. Ultimately, he said, it never works, for to say “I am not that” is at root empty; it doesn’t tell you who you actually are, and in essence enables you to hide from that question.

When you get down to it, globalization, besides being an updated euphemism for imperialism, is not much more than the elite version of shopping.

That September [2002], the White House released the “National Security Strategy” (NSS) … We shall “rid the world of evil”, it fatuously declares; we shall act preemptively; we shall act alone if necessary; and w shall decide who is or is not an enemy, and deserving of “regime change”. In a word, we are going to militarily rearrange the world to suit ourselves. The war on Iraq began almost exactly six months later.

Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker argues that the NSS was a “vision of what used to be called, when we believed it to be the Soviet ambition, world domination.” The document, he claimed was a prescription for a benevolent American dictatorship, as well as for perpetual war. A regime in which the cops have to answer only to themselves, he pointed out, had a name: police state.

In the case of the Bush Doctrine, coupled with the Bush administration’s assault on civil liberties, I think it can be argued that we have been in the midst of a slow-motion coup d’êtat, one that has, in fact, been building since the late seventies, and that can now, in the wake of the 2004 presidential election, finalize its program for a one-party system and a theocratic plutocracy.

To realize their dream of a pax Americana, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al. relied in the 1990s on a number of think tanks and front groups that have interlocking directorates and shared origins in those earlier organizations: the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Security Policy, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, among others. They provided the Bush Jr. administration with policy advice and personnel. They also relied on right-wing media empires to blanket the public space with their message, in much the same way – if more powerfully – that the yellow press of Hearst and Pulitzer did during the Spanish-American War. Thus Rupert Murdoch disseminates propaganda via Fox News, and the Weekly Standard is a mouthpiece for defense establishment intellectuals (for instance, Richard Perle, who is also a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute). There is also the National Interest and the Washington Times (the latter owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon), which also owns the UPI newswire. The result is a “seamless propaganda machine” that has effectively destroyed public discourse in the United States, to the point that we now dwell in a kind of right-wing propagandistic fog.

When individuals “get religion” – and there is really no other name for the Manichaean anticommunism that gripped America during the Cold War – reason and even common decency typically fly out the window, and the results are frequently horrific.

Our basic Middle Eastern policy is by now fully transparent to the Islamic world: the United States supports whoever serves and extends its power, and that can change at a moment’s notice.

On 1 November 1983 Secretary of State George Shultz received intelligence reports showing that Iraq was using chemical weapons almost daily. The following February, Iraq used large amounts of mustard gas and also the lethal never agent tabun (this was later documented by the United Nations); Reagan responded (in November) by restoring diplomatic relations with Iraq. He and Bush Sr. also authorized the sale of poisonous chemicals, anthrax, and bubonic plague.

An intellectual lightweight who didn’t really know what he was doing, Bush Sr. was quickly pushed aside by history after he had fulfilled his role as a catalyst for certain events. By the time his son came to power, the new world order – that is, global American hegemony and the final phase of empire – was pretty much in place. Being a lightweight – or a vacuous marionette, in George Jr.’s case – was not a liability but actually an asset; that Bush Jr. was (is) a hollow mouthpiece for a self-destructive imperial project is an arrangement that makes the project all that much easier to fulfill. That “he’s a real nowhere man” is not an obstacle for a nation sliding into chaos while it is trying to convince itself that it is in charge of the world. Indeed, it’s a perfect fit.

The “coalition” bombardment of Iraq began on 17 January 1991 (Baghdad time) and went on for forty-three days … As many as 200,000 people died. Targets chosen included water and sewage treatment plants, electrical generating plants, oil refineries, transportation networks, factories, bridges, roads, and irrigation systems, much of which bombing constituted violations of international law … There was also a kind of demonic violence exercised against retreating Iraqi forces, who were massacred in flight on February 26-27, after a cease-fire was already in place (also a war crime, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention).

… as philosopher Douglas Kellner points out, there was really no single reason that the United States went to war; rather, it was “overdetermined”, a confluence of political, economic, and military considerations all coming together. Yet the most suspicious aspect of the whole affair, according to foreign policy expert Christopher Layne, was the Bush administration’s inability to articulate a coherent rationale for it, which suggests that the core reason lay in the values and premises of the foreign policy elite – principles that they themselves couldn’t clearly articulate – regarding the concept of a new world order.

But whatever the U.S. policy has been on the [West Bank] settlement question, the one thing the United States has decidedly not done is force the issue by threatening to pull the plug on the huge amount of foreign aid it gives Israel each year. The reason for this lies in the latter’s role as our proxy in the Middle East.

The Nixon Doctrine – that certain countries in key regions of the world would play the role of “local police” under the direction of the U.S. ….

And because Israel serves as America’s proxy, supposedly protecting U.S. economic and strategic interests; because Muslims the world over know about the $3 billion subsidy and where Israeli weaponry comes from; because they see the United States consistently voting against the Palestinians, and for the Israelis, in the United Nations, even on human rights issues – for all these reasons, they despise the United States, and cite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the key sticking point in their relations with the West.

The enemy – “evil” – can never be defeated by definition; there are no possible criteria for what a victory would consist of.

As the British journalist George Monbiot predicted even before the “National Security Strategy” was issued by the White House in September 2002, “If the U.S. were not preparing to attach Iraq, it would be preparing to attack another nation. The U.S. will go to war because it needs a country with which to go to war.”

… when a powerful nation can pick fights only with the small and the weak, it is because appearances to the contrary, it is weak itself.

… on 19 July 2004 Newsweek broke the story that the White House and the Justice Department had, for several months, been discussing the possibility of postponing the November 2 presidential elections, which would have been a first in American history, if it had come to pass. If power at all costs is the game, then democratic elections, protection against torture, civil liberties – all of the things we used to take for granted – become expendable, and practically overnight. As America morphed from a republic into an empire, these sorts of changes began to occur quite naturally, the unthinkable became perfectly thinkable, after all. Nor have most Americans, it must be said, been overly concerned about this new direction in which we are moving. Indeed, a large percentage of them are probably not even aware of it.

Two days after 9/11, Chalmers Johnson remarked in an interview, “I know it sounds cruel to say, but the people of New York were collateral damage of American foreign policy.”

In very rough terms, the central drama of American history is that of an expanding capitalist economy that gained momentum, moving faster and faster, feeding greedily on technological innovation (especially after World War II), eventually steamrolling all other values except those of a market economy, and heavily influencing U.S. foreign policy in its wake.

Our typical idea of the perfect vacation is to go somewhere that has escaped the ravages of “progress”, or that can create the illusion of having done so, because we are disgusted by urban decay and suburban sprawl and meaningless jobs to which we commute an hour or more every day.

“It has been our fate as a nation,” wrote Richard Hofstadter, “not to have ideologies, but to be one.” Americanism, in short: that is our religion.

As Clay McShane points out in Down the Asphalt Path, trolleys contradicted basic American values. They were dirty and overcrowded and made it impossible for the middle class to isolate itself from the lower classes – blacks and immigrants in particular. Meanwhile, by 1932 General Motors formed a consortium of tire, oil, and highway companies to buy and then shut down streetcar systems, bribing local officials when necessary. In the next quarter century, as 1974 Senate antitrust hearings revealed, GM, by means of monopolies and interlocking directorates, killed off more than a hundred electric surface rail systems in forty-five states.

From a European point of view, says sociologist Ray Oldenburg, American suburbs are like prisons. There is no contact between households, and one rarely knows one’s neighbors. There are no places to walk or cafes to sit where people drop in and socialize or read the newspaper.

Portland politics does not revolve around race because the place is one of the whitest cities around, and Oregon one of the whitest states. Given the absence of the “white flight” factor endemic to much of the United States, there hasn’t been that great a motivation for suburban housing in the greater Portland area.

The truth is that cities and civilization are nearly synonymous, and if the former die out, so do the latter. Nor does renaming a phenomenon change it. Techno-oriented or not, the new suburbs continue the trend of racial and class segregation; have not become independent economic entities; are destructive of the environment; epitomize the culture of consumption; and lack the diversity, cosmopolitanism, political culture, and public life that real cities have. The ethos of the technocity remains what the suburban ethos has always been: resistance to heterogeneity, and the desire to live apart.

.. the sad fact is that daily American life contains a great amount of violence and ignorance and is pervaded by a lot of (repressed) alienation and spiritual emptiness.

As Fareed Zakaria notes, the sacred cow in the United States is the American people, to which politicians have to pay ritual homage if they value their careers. No matter how manifestly stupid the people’s behavior is, American politician praise their sagacity. Uttering the phrase, “the American people”, says Zakaria, is tantamount to announcing a divine visitation; anything has the force of biblical revelation if it is ascribed to this mystical, all-knowing entity.

It seems to me that the people do get the government they deserve, and even beyond that, the government who they are, so to speak.

Shopping, of course, is a pretty pathetic religion, but if “God” can be said to be where someone puts most of their attention, then the data are in. Americans spend far more time in shopping malls that in church, for example, and by 1987 the country had more malls than high schools.

The basic perception of Americans from the outside is that we are children, adolescents at best, and Bush is just such a person.

Those of us who now have different values from the country may have to look elsewhere for hope, quality, humanism, and – possibly – freedom, which is not exactly what we had in mind when we were growing up.

Note that since World War II, we have avoided taking on an equal power. Our engagement with the Soviet Union itself was a balancing act involving the (often judicious) use of diplomacy. When we actually attacked, it was at the periphery: Korea (a stalemate); Vietnam (a defeat). Otherwise, the engagement consisted of covert operations against virtually defenseless nations or massive attacks on puny countries or tinpot dictators (Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and so on).

Leaving its abysmal record on human rights aside, China is beginning to resemble the United States in Mandarin. It seems to have no larger vision, and there is absolutely no indications that its emergence as a superpower will herald a better world.

So many Americans posses what might be called a kind of “life stupidity”: they haven’t a clue as to what the good life really is. Like Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo, they think it amounts to a single word: more.

… former Wall Street Journal reported Michael Ybarra, in Washington Gone Crazy, demonstrates quite clearly that the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 1940s and 1950s was not really a response to espionage or an external threat, but more fundamentally “a conservative reaction to the New Deal,” a long-standing series of resentments that included “rural rancor toward urban cities, nativist dread of encroaching minorities, fundamentalist anxieties over the spread of secular values,” and the like. When you add to these the contemporary hatred of knowledge and Enlightenment thinking, and the subliminal awareness that we have become unmoored and are basically failing as a nation, you have a rather potent brew on your hands.


Robert Bellah
Our material success is our punishment, in terms of what that success has done to the natural environment, our social fabric, and our personal lives.

Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child.

Samuel Huntington
The West won the world not by its superiority in its ideas or values or religion … but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.

H.L. Mencken
As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more clearly, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Emmanuel Todd
Theatrical military activism against inconsequential rogue states … is a sign of weakness, not of strength … This is classic for a crumbling system … The final glory is militarism.

Polly Toynbee
God’s chosen people, uniquely blessed, nurture a self-image almost as deranged in its profound self-delusion as the old Soviet Union. The most advanced … nation on earth knows nothing of itself, irony-free and blind to the world around it.

Sharon Zukin
The seduction of shopping is not about buying goods. It’s about dreaming of a perfect society and a perfect self.