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31 March, 2009

The Quiet Coup

Image credit: Jim Bourg/Reuters/Corbis

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

by Simon Johnson

One thing you learn rather quickly when working at the International Monetary Fund is that no one is ever very happy to see you. Typically, your “clients” come in only after private capital has abandoned them, after regional trading-bloc partners have been unable to throw a strong enough lifeline, after last-ditch attempts to borrow from powerful friends like China or the European Union have fallen through. You’re never at the top of anyone’s dance card.

The reason, of course, is that the IMF specializes in telling its clients what they don’t want to hear. I should know; I pressed painful changes on many foreign officials during my time there as chief economist in 2007 and 2008. And I felt the effects of IMF pressure, at least indirectly, when I worked with governments in Eastern Europe as they struggled after 1989, and with the private sector in Asia and Latin America during the crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over that time, from every vantage point, I saw firsthand the steady flow of officials—from Ukraine, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and elsewhere—trudging to the fund when circumstances were dire and all else had failed.

Every crisis is different, of course. Ukraine faced hyperinflation in 1994; Russia desperately needed help when its short-term-debt rollover scheme exploded in the summer of 1998; the Indonesian rupiah plunged in 1997, nearly leveling the corporate economy; that same year, South Korea’s 30-year economic miracle ground to a halt when foreign banks suddenly refused to extend new credit.

But I must tell you, to IMF officials, all of these crises looked depressingly similar. Each country, of course, needed a loan, but more than that, each needed to make big changes so that the loan could really work. Almost always, countries in crisis need to learn to live within their means after a period of excess—exports must be increased, and imports cut—and the goal is to do this without the most horrible of recessions. Naturally, the fund’s economists spend time figuring out the policies—budget, money supply, and the like—that make sense in this context. Yet the economic solution is seldom very hard to work out.

No, the real concern of the fund’s senior staff, and the biggest obstacle to recovery, is almost invariably the politics of countries in crisis.

Typically, these countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them overreached in good times and took too many risks. Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders. When a country like Indonesia or South Korea or Russia grows, so do the ambitions of its captains of industry. As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise.

In Russia, for instance, the private sector is now in serious trouble because, over the past five years or so, it borrowed at least $490 billion from global banks and investors on the assumption that the country’s energy sector could support a permanent increase in consumption throughout the economy. As Russia’s oligarchs spent this capital, acquiring other companies and embarking on ambitious investment plans that generated jobs, their importance to the political elite increased. Growing political support meant better access to lucrative contracts, tax breaks, and subsidies. And foreign investors could not have been more pleased; all other things being equal, they prefer to lend money to people who have the implicit backing of their national governments, even if that backing gives off the faint whiff of corruption.

But inevitably, emerging-market oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and build massive business empires on a mountain of debt. Local banks, sometimes pressured by the government, become too willing to extend credit to the elite and to those who depend on them. Overborrowing always ends badly, whether for an individual, a company, or a country. Sooner or later, credit conditions become tighter and no one will lend you money on anything close to affordable terms.

The downward spiral that follows is remarkably steep. Enormous companies teeter on the brink of default, and the local banks that have lent to them collapse. Yesterday’s “public-private partnerships” are relabeled “crony capitalism.” With credit unavailable, economic paralysis ensues, and conditions just get worse and worse. The government is forced to draw down its foreign-currency reserves to pay for imports, service debt, and cover private losses. But these reserves will eventually run out. If the country cannot right itself before that happens, it will default on its sovereign debt and become an economic pariah. The government, in its race to stop the bleeding, will typically need to wipe out some of the national champions—now hemorrhaging cash—and usually restructure a banking system that’s gone badly out of balance. It will, in other words, need to squeeze at least some of its oligarchs.

Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large.

Eventually, as the oligarchs in Putin’s Russia now realize, some within the elite have to lose out before recovery can begin. It’s a game of musical chairs: there just aren’t enough currency reserves to take care of everyone, and the government cannot afford to take over private-sector debt completely.

So the IMF staff looks into the eyes of the minister of finance and decides whether the government is serious yet. The fund will give even a country like Russia a loan eventually, but first it wants to make sure Prime Minister Putin is ready, willing, and able to be tough on some of his friends. If he is not ready to throw former pals to the wolves, the fund can wait. And when he is ready, the fund is happy to make helpful suggestions—particularly with regard to wresting control of the banking system from the hands of the most incompetent and avaricious “entrepreneurs.”

Of course, Putin’s ex-friends will fight back. They’ll mobilize allies, work the system, and put pressure on other parts of the government to get additional subsidies. In extreme cases, they’ll even try subversion—including calling up their contacts in the American foreign-policy establishment, as the Ukrainians did with some success in the late 1990s.

Many IMF programs “go off track” (a euphemism) precisely because the government can’t stay tough on erstwhile cronies, and the consequences are massive inflation or other disasters. A program “goes back on track” once the government prevails or powerful oligarchs sort out among themselves who will govern—and thus win or lose—under the IMF-supported plan. The real fight in Thailand and Indonesia in 1997 was about which powerful families would lose their banks. In Thailand, it was handled relatively smoothly. In Indonesia, it led to the fall of President Suharto and economic chaos.

From long years of experience, the IMF staff knows its program will succeed—stabilizing the economy and enabling growth—only if at least some of the powerful oligarchs who did so much to create the underlying problems take a hit. This is the problem of all emerging markets.

Continue reading here.


Baltimore Sun: "The rich prepare for the apocalypse - CEOs' desire for even more wealth a preparation for end-times luxury"

by Dan Rodricks
March 24, 2009

The decision by JPMorgan Chase to proceed with plans to spend $138 million on new jets and a hangar to house them, as ABC News reported Monday, fits right into my theory about why the corporate rich continue to indulge and reward themselves despite a public uproar amid financial crisis.

Same with the now-shelved plan at Constellation Energy Group to reward executives with about $32 million in performance benefits and retention incentives - I have a pretty good idea why such a feast had been arranged despite the company's near-bankruptcy, its layoff of some 800 employees and its demand for more money from electric customers.

And same with the whole AIG fiasco - those bonuses that went into the mail despite company catastrophe and the need for a $170 billion taxpayer-funded bailout - it, too, fits perfectly with this theory of mine, which I've kept to myself until now.

It's not just greed that drives this behavior, though greed is certainly part of it.

It's not that the smartest guys in the room are also the most obtuse or arrogant. ("When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America, I personally don't understand it," Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said in a recent speech. "I think it's hurting our country.")

There's something else going on. I call it: hoarding up for the apocalypse.

I have been watching the concentration of wealth in this country accelerate during the past 10 years in particular. The gap between middle class and rich has become wider and wider, and the gap between rich and poor has become so vast as to be immeasurable.

(Actually, it is measurable. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tracked the long-standing trend of growing income inequality and found that it had gone crazy since 1990: On average, incomes for the bottom fifth of American families declined by 2.5 percent while those among the top fifth increased by 9.1 percent. More than one in four working families are considered low-income, earning too little to meet their basic needs, according to a research project funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, among others. One other factoid, from the Economic Policy Institute: The ratio of total CEO compensation to average worker pay rose from 24:1 in 1965 to 262:1 in 2005.)

Knowing that it wasn't always so, I've tried to figure out why so many millionaires of the corporate class do everything within their power to become multimillionaires and even billionaires, piling on layer after layer of wealth, beyond anything most people can imagine as necessary in a lifetime.

(Various groups and agencies that study the gap between rich and poor - those "class warfare" warriors who keep bringing this sore subject up - say the richest 1 percent of Americans own anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent of all net assets. Or, at least they did before this mess, which many of them had a hand in creating.)

Hoarding for the apocalypse calls for belief that the end is coming and that wealth will insulate the wealthy from the misery that will befall the rest of us. (The rest of us might harbor apocalyptic fears, from time to time, but we haven't figured out what to do about them. We're wage-earners, for the most part, or the owners of small businesses. We haven't all that much to hoard - not enough to make a difference, anyway - so we keep working to keep the bills paid and the kids fed.)

The apocalyptic rich have hoarded cash and assets - and they continue to accumulate as much as possible - and they've built retreats to allay a deep fear that, when the world starts to fall apart, they will be at the top of a mountain, in a secure compound with its own source of energy and potable water (and a decade's supply of cabernet), isolated from the screaming, rioting masses.

Continue reading here.


Peter Schiff: "... the fault lines that underlie the global economic crisis erupted into plain view."

Peter Schiff is president of Euro Pacific Capital and author of The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets and Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse.

"Peering into the Abyss"
March 29, 2009

For a few fleeting, horrifying moments this past week the fault lines that underlie the global economic crisis erupted into plain view. With deft and quick effort leaders in Washington, Europe and Asia papered over the fissures and fears largely subsided. But the shock of plain truths which resulted in violent currency movements are the latest reminder that the 21st century economic order will bear little resemblance to the world we now know.

The tremors began in Beijing, where an essay from the governor of the People’s Bank of China seemed to favor the creation of an IMF currency to replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve. In Europe, the rotating president of the European Union, outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, characterized America’s plan to combat the widening global recession as the “road to hell.” At the same time, British Member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan made headlines the world over with his stinging rebuke of the inflationary and debt-focused policies of the current UK government.

As a result of these clearly voiced frustrations, the U.S. dollar suffered a drubbing. However, Treasury secretary Geithner and his ministerial counterparts in Berlin, Paris and London did their best to convince everyone that the world is pulling together as one to combat the economic crisis. The charm offensive was effective in restoring calm.

Given the size and scope of the remedies that the Obama Administration is cajoling the world to adopt, it is likely that the unease will grow until many countries emerge in open revolt to America’s plans.

President Obama and the majority of our leadership on both sides of the aisle are confident that the right mix of monetary and fiscal policy can restart the spending party that defined America for a generation. And as the bleary-eyed revelers wisely reach for a cup of black coffee or stumble into a rehab center, Obama is pouring grain alcohol into the punch bowl hoping to lure the walking zombies back onto the dance floor. Europe and Asia fully understand that Obama will ask them to lend the booze.

Continue reading here.


Moneyweek: "The dollar's days may be numbered"

By Associate Editor David Stevenson
Mar 27, 2009

If you've been on holiday abroad recently, you'll be all too aware how expensive everything has become if you're paying in pounds.

Sadly for travellers, and also for importers, our national economic woes mean there's little sign of sterling recovering much in the near future. But the pound's not the only currency with problems.

With various parts of the eurozone near-bankrupt, the euro is under pressure, while Japan's recession means the yen doesn't look too hot either. And the Swiss franc – a traditional safe haven – has been deliberately crushed by the Swiss central bank, keen to prevent deflation.

Still, there's always the dollar. It might be massively indebted, but America is still the place where everyone runs to put their money when things start looking shaky. The dollar is still the world's reserve currency.

But perhaps not for much longer...

Continue reading here.


30 March, 2009

Affiliate Advertiser MilitaryClothing.com Running Nice Promotion

I added a bunch of new books and DVDs to our selection of Amazon ads today. Check them out and don't forget about the Backwoods Essentials store and the links on this page for all your emergency preparedness needs. And, affiliate advertiser MilitaryClothing.com is running a nice promotion:


Daily Reckoning: "Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are a fraction of what they've been telling us."

Finally, a mainstream investment newsletter has caught up to what Peak Oil believers have been saying for years.

What Bush was told behind closed doors
Discover the biggest lie of the last 30 years...

...revealed by the investment newsletter rated No. 1 over a five-year period by the independent Hulbert Financial Digest

Dear Reader,

Those Saudi Arabians, you've gotta love 'em. First, 15 out of 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis, but Saudi Arabia had NOTHING to do with it, or so we're told. They love us!

Now Saudi Arabia is about to drop another bombshell on us, and this one will make Sept. 11 look like small potatoes.

I never thought I'd say anything could make Sept. 11 look like small potatoes. But this does, at least when it comes to the economy.

Sept. 11 shut the markets down for a few days. When the next crisis hits, you'll wish the markets would shut down so you wouldn't have to watch the carnage.

What Bush learned behind closed doors

If some well-informed experts are right, Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are a fraction of what they've been telling us.

Why does it matter? Because everyone has believed for decades that Saudi Arabia's oil supply is virtually unlimited. That's what the Saudis have said over and over again for more than 30 years.

If an oil shortage threatens to cause a recession or a market crash, we can count on the Saudis to come through. So people think.

But in a private briefing, one of America's top oil experts told President George Bush exactly what I'm telling you. In fact, this same man was a consultant to the secretive task force that drew up Vice President Dick Cheney's energy plan in 2001.

In other words, the guy is a heavy hitter who knows the energy business.

He warned Bush that the Saudis don't have anything near the oil reserves they claim. They already pump less oil than most "experts" think, and here's the real kicker...

Saudi oil production is about to drop sharply. And it will keep going down for good.

Other experts have analyzed the numbers and come to the same conclusions. If the charges are true — and I believe they are — we could be facing...

Oil at $150 per barrel and gasoline at $6 a gallon or more

The oil is running out. It's as simple as that.

But that's not what you hear from so-called experts. If you ask government officials, our intelligence agencies and even powerful Wall Street financiers, they tell you the opposite.

They say the Saudis could quickly double their oil production from the current level if they wanted to. And given a few years, they think the Saudis could produce four times as much oil as they do now.

This is like the Iraqi WMDs all over again

The intelligence agencies and the conventional "experts" are dead wrong. The oil isn't there...

It goes on for a lot longer, but you get the idea.


Hilarious Quote

I received this hilarious quote via email a few moments ago, and I absolutely had to share it.

"I can think of nothing I would rather have our politicians do than argue about AIG bonuses. The more time they spend fighting for TV time to mislead their constituents into thinking they are doing something, the less time they have to actually do something and screw things up. Worrying about last year's bonuses is easily the best use of their time."
-Mark Cuban Mar 2009


Letter Re: "Gerald Celente is a starry-eyed optimist."

In response to yesterday's Gerald Celente video from ABC News, I received the following via email:

Economic Depression and Systemic Collapse in America.

"My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what's really going on to be scared." - P. J. Plauger, Computer Language, March 1983

The resources I've enclosed below are by credible people - professionals, educators, journalists, policy makers, businessmen and nationally and internationally recognized experts. For example, Joseph M. Miller retired as a board member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. One of his associates is a physicist who worked for Control Data Corporation. The other, Marion Butler,
has a background as a CFO. Niall Ferguson holds a Chair in the history department at Harvard.

There's an article by Israeli historian Martin van Creveld. Dr. Krassimir Petrov is from Prince Sultan University, Saudi Arabia. Pranab Bardhan is a professor of economics at Berkley. David Rosenberg is Merril Lynch's North American Economist. Carmen M. Reinhart is a professor of economics at the University of Maryland. Phil Howison is from Victoria University, Wellington,
New Zealand. Professor Michael T. Klare's article is also included. Most of the other resources were prepared by people with similar backgrounds.

Individually, and as a group, their work appears to lead to the same general conclusion: Life as we've always known it is just about over.

Warren "Bones" Bonesteel

Author and Researcher

Sgt USMC 1976-1983

55 Crestview Drive

Rapid City, SD 57701


additional links:

"Economic Depression and Systemic Collapse in America."


"Beyond Conspiracy: Police State America."

http://jaghunters.blogspot.com/ "

Top 10 Conspiracy Theories

Abovetopsecret.com has published a "Top 10" list of conspiracy theories. It's an entertaining read and pretty much exactly what you'd expect. The only surprise for me was that the idea of the current economic crisis being orchestrated by TPTB made it all the way to number 5! It beat out Area 51?!


29 March, 2009

ABC News: Gerald Celente Predicts Economic Armageddon by 2012

Gerald Celente has been saying this stuff for a while now, but the reason I found this interesting is that it aired on ABC. Further, the reporter actually let him talk instead of trying to minimize him and make him look like a loon; he even described his credentials as a means of enhancing his credibility.

This sort of a story is a good thing, in my opinion, because it will carry more weight with average everyday sheeple due to the fact that it aired on a mainstream media outlet.


28 March, 2009

Re: HR 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

As a follow-up to yesterday's article, I thought I should post this pretty convincing rebuttal from Factcheck.org to all of the hub-bub about the proposed legislation. You should read the available material and decide for yourself as always.

Personally, I'm not that worried about what this bill would do in the short term, but rather what it could do later. In what now seems like another life, yours truly almost went the law school route and so took many, many pre-law classes. What worries me about these kinds of proposed laws is the same thing that made me squirm about the Patriot Act: our legal system works on precedent and is open to interpretation. No, the bill does not, upon reading it, appear to affect the micro-farmer/gardener; the problem is that it doesn't implicitly exclude them either.

Imagine a time in the future when a dispute arises between two neighbors; say Neighbor B's dog gets sick from eating tomato plant leaves or something from Neighbor A's garden plot, and sues him for damages. The judge rules in favor of Neighbor B, citing Neighbor A's failure to meet record keeping requirements, et cetera. Now there is a case law precedent in place that can be cited over and over again in law suits all over the country - all it takes is one judge to interpret the law a certain way and then it's considered gospel. The only way to undo it is to appeal to a higher court and hope to convince them that the first judge's interpretation was wrong.

In my opinion, the best option is to push for them to amend the language of the bill while it is still in committee to expressly exclude private gardens. Until they do that, it will always worry me.

Read the Factcheck.org rebuttal here.


Total Meltdown And Civil Unrest: Wall Street's Manipulated Stock Market Rally

By Matthias Chang

The numbers that have been bandied about is beyond the comprehension of the average Joe Six-Packs. I cannot even figure out $500 billion, what more $500 trillion. Ninety per cent of government leaders are also unable to figure out the enormity of the global debt sink-hole.

So, I have accepted the fact that 97 per cent of Americans will just accept whatever explanations and excuses thrown at them by President Obama, Fed Bernanke and Treasury Geithner for bailing out the banks and failing to prevent the implosion of the economy by summer of 2009.

Obama inherited the mess created by war criminal Bush, aided and abetted by Alan Greenspan, Bernanke and Geithner, so he can be excused for there is nothing that he can do at this late hour to change the outcome. But the rest should be lynched!

In the last two years, in several articles, I drew your attention to the fraudulent securities that have been peddled by the global banks and how they have caused the present grid-lock in the global financial system. In essence, these securities ­ MBS, CDOs, CLOs, etc. were all fraudulent papers. Whatever mortgages underlying these papers, were over-valued and now they have shown to be worth at the most 10 to 20 cents on the dollar.

There have been suggestions that if all these papers were to be shredded and the debts written off, the global banks' balance sheet would be wiped clean of such toxic assets. In the result the economy would restart and the good old days of cheap credit and unrestrained consumption would usher another boom!

This is a fairy tale.

In the old days, when the hoodlums want to kill someone and have him disappear for good, they would tie his legs together and attach the rope to a heavy object or an anchor and throw the poor fellow into the bottom of the lake or sea, never to be seen again. A small weight, say 10 kg is more than enough to drag the body to the bottom!

The current financial system is not unlike the man who has been thrown overboard and being dragged down by the heavy object. The only chance for survival is if the man could somehow loosen the rope and detach the weight from his legs and swim to the surface, if he could hold his breath long enough.

What is this small weight that is dragging the financial system down? And why writing off this particular debt will not save the banks?

Compared to the global derivative market which is valued in the hundreds of trillions, the global stock market by comparison is a midget. But it is this midget that will cause the financial implosion in America and Europe and reverberate across the world.

Let me explain in simple terms.

When the Dow collapsed from the stratospheric high of 14,000 to less than 7,000 recently (though recovered somewhat) and other stock markets also went south in tandem, it was estimated that at the minimum $30 trillion was wiped out.

What are the consequences of such a drastic collapse?

Let me explain in simple terms again.

Take the share price of Citigroup. At the height of the boom, its market capitalization was over $250 billion. Today, it is less than $10 billion.

Let us say that you bought the shares when it was trading at $150. You also borrowed from the bank to purchase the shares. These shares will have to be pledged to the bank as security for the loan. The shares are now trading a few dollars, say $5.

There is just no way that you can repay the loan and or to obtain additional security to "top-up" the value of the security pledged to the bank. Where are you going to get the cash to buy more shares? Shares of other companies that you may own have also collapsed, and their value may not be sufficient to cover the difference. You are dead meat!

The bank is also in deep shits because there is no way that they can recover the loan from selling the shares, which is worth $5.

There is the added problem that companies, whose shares are traded in the stock exchange, are not worth even at current values because their core business and operations were premised on cheap credit and were therefore highly geared! These companies are in debt to their eyeballs!

They are insolvent, bankrupt!

Try as hard, the Fed and the Treasury will not be able to engineer a stock rally back to 14,000 points. And even if they could, it does not follow that the prices of the shares of specific companies would return to its previous high. In the case of Citigroup back to $200 per share!

There is no way in the next 3 to 5 years for companies whose businesses have collapsed to be able to recover fast enough and to be profitable enough to justify a market value of at least 50 per cent of its previous high. In the case of Citigroup, back up to $100.

That is an example in the financial sector.

In the manufacturing sector, an outfit like General Motors will take at least a decade to recover. Then there are those companies which have out-sourced and or re-located overseas. To restart local production again would take time and vast amount of credit. But would they be competitive, given cheaper cost of production elsewhere?

Corporate America is shutting down.

Stimulus and pump priming will not solve this huge problem.

Millions played at this casino using home equity. Pension funds risked your retirement benefits gambling at this casino and lost. Leveraging, 10, 20 or even 30 times was the norm. There is no money left in the kitty!

Quantity easing or printing money will not solve the problem, because a company's value and market capitalization can only be enhanced through actual production of goods and services. But the Western economies in the last twenty years were skewed towards consumption and the availability of cheap credit.

Applying common sense, what was missing was the creation of surplus value, which is the result of efficient production, and savings which in turn provide the essential capital for more production and savings.

Nothing illustrates this problem better than the case of a farmer who stops farming because he had so much cheap credit, that he stopped farming. He could now easily purchase all he needed, and earned five times more gambling in the stock market casino than he would earn from farming. He mortgaged his farm to secure the borrowings. He lived and consumed like the rich and famous!

When the casino collapsed, he could not maintain the lifestyle and had to resort to selling heirlooms to survive.

Until and unless the farmer starts farming and pays off his debts, he would not be able to accumulate sufficient capital to resume what was once a profitable business.

In short, the farmer like all the millions of gamblers who have been ensnared by the global casino, are now in the debt trap and being slowly dragged down to the bottom of the lake!

Therefore, pumping hundreds of billions to the banks will not solve the problem.

You can bet your last dollar that when millions are caught in the debt trap and there is no way out, and they see billions been given to the Wall Street fat cats, lynching parties will be the order of the day!

The Count Down has started.


© Copyright 2005-2007 GlobalResearch.ca


27 March, 2009

HR 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

There's a lot of interesting info floating around the internet regarding this bill (full text here) and what it might mean for all of us backyard gardeners, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to discuss it here on the blog.

First, let me say that I am unsure as to whether or not it's as big a deal as some are saying. At first glance, it doesn't appear as though it will affect most of us in any way. The language of the bill regarding definitions is thus:

"(13) FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- (A) IN GENERAL- The term `food establishment' means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.

(B) EXCLUSIONS- For the purposes of registration, the term `food establishment' does not include a food production facility as defined in paragraph (14), restaurant, other retail food establishment, nonprofit food establishment in which food is prepared for or served directly to the consumer, or fishing vessel (other than a fishing vessel engaged in processing, as that term is defined in section 123.3 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations).

14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term `food production facility' means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation."

So, it would seem that according to Section 13 paragraph B quoted above, anything listed in Section 14 is excluded from the registration requirements. therefore, we're in the clear - at least I think.

The worrisome part is that many are arguing that the registration exemption is only one part of it and that the really disturbing parts for us are found in Section 206. According to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund – an advocacy group that pushes for local organic food production - the "burdensome requirements the bill imposes on small farms and the intrusive federal control it creates over small farm operations threaten the future viability of sustainable agriculture and the local food movement." They point out that the bill would require even small-scale farmers to make available to federal inspectors their customer list (should they be selling directly at Farmers Markets, etc.); and, they would be required to develop a written plan describing “the likely hazards [to food safety] and preventive controls implemented to address those hazards.”

Further, it would empower federal inspectors to conduct “monitoring and surveillance of animals, plants, products, or the environment, as appropriate;” to conduct inspections of all facilities to make sure the producer is “operating in compliance with the requirements of the food safety law;” as well as allowing them access to any and all records to determine if the food has been “contaminated, adulterated, or otherwise not in compliance with the food safety law or to track the food in commerce.” It would be within the purview of the federal government to issue regulations establishing “minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, and water.”

Aside from the obvious, another thing I find disturbing is the fact that if this bill becomes law it will be just one more step toward the Nanny State with "Big Brother" Gubbermint run amuck. This law would restructure the FDA into two separate divisions, one exclusively dealing with food safety, and would for the first time place intrastate dealings under a federal microscope. Currently, they can only step in when food items are being sold across state lines, but that will end if this bill becomes law; just one more example of state rights being trampled by the federal government.

And, even if we're wrong and micro-farmers like you and I are really not in trouble, this legislation will most likely spell the death for most of the mid-sized commercial family farms that have already been struggling for so many years.

It is also very telling when you look at who will benefit the most; the huge conglomerated factory farming industry. Should we even be surprised that the Congresswoman responsible for the Bill is married to a lobbyist who counts Monsanto as one of his clients?


Is this the end of America?


U.S. law-making is riddled with slapdash, incompetence and gamesmanship
By Terence Corcoran

Helicopter Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve is dropping trillions of fresh paper dollars on the world economy, the President of the United States is cracking jokes on late night comedy shows, his energy minister is threatening a trade war over carbon emissions, his treasury secretary is dithering over a banking reform program amid rising concerns over his competence and a monumentally dysfunctional U.S. Congress is launching another public jihad against corporations and bankers.

As an aghast world — from China to Chicago and Chihuahua — watches, the circus-like U.S. political system seems to be declining into near chaos. Through it all, stock and financial markets are paralyzed. The more the policy regime does, the worse the outlook gets. The multi-ringed spectacle raises a disturbing question in many minds: Is this the end of America?

Continue reading here.


Grim warning of water and food shortages


The world is heading for a “perfect storm” of soaring demand for food, water and energy by 2030 as the population grows, the Government’s chief scientist has warned.

Professor John Beddington said there would be international food and water shortages in 20 years’ time, while food and energy prices would rise in the UK.

The problems of a growing global population coming out of poverty would be exacerbated by climate change.

In a speech delivered to the Sustainable Development Commission conference in London, he warned that by 2030, world food production would need to rise by 50% to meet demand.

He said one in three people were already facing water shortages, and world water demand was expected to increase by more than 30% by 2030.

And by the same year total energy demands for the world population are expected to increase by 50%, he said.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser told the conference that the world needed to secure supplies of food, energy and water, alongside tackling and adapting to climate change.

Prof Beddington said: “It’s a perfect storm. There are dramatic problems out there, particularly with water and food, but energy also, and they are all intimately connected.

“You can’t think about dealing with one without considering the others. We must deal with all of these together.”

And he said: “My main concern is what will happen internationally; there will be food and water shortages.

“We’re relatively fortunate in the UK; there may not be shortages here, but we can expect prices of food and energy to rise.”

He also said Europe needed to step up its scientific agenda to meet the challenge, by appointing scientific advisers who can challenge policy on scientific grounds at an early stage in the process.

He pointed to the importance placed on science by the new US administration, and said the EU should follow suit.


26 March, 2009

The Big Takeover

When I first read this article a few days ago, I walked away from it with my head spinning. And, this from me and I am typically *NOT* a fan of Rolling Stone Magazine, liberal rag that it usually is. The article is long, but I haven’t before seen a better explanation of all the BS we’re currently wading through and so I wanted to touch base on it here on the blog. Better that it get passed around as much as possible.

Most people are angry about the economic crisis, but they don’t really understand the entire picture because it’s such a convoluted mess. They don’t yet understand that every man, woman and child in America has been effectively sold into a new form of debt slavery that will essentially be impossible to ever pay our way out of. This entire debacle, at its base, has been engineered with the ultimate goal of instituting a new form of feudalism; but, instead of separating the populace into a landowning noble class and a peasant class, they are setting themselves up as the rich elite class while we are being corralled as worker bees in a hive where the line between government and corporations is so blurred as to effectively render them the same beast.


The Big Takeover
The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution

Posted Mar 19, 2009 12:49 PM

It's over — we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).

So it's time to admit it: We're fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we're still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream. When Geithner announced the new $30 billion bailout, the party line was that poor AIG was just a victim of a lot of shitty luck — bad year for business, you know, what with the financial crisis and all. Edward Liddy, the company's CEO, actually compared it to catching a cold: "The marketplace is a pretty crummy place to be right now," he said. "When the world catches pneumonia, we get it too." In a pathetic attempt at name-dropping, he even whined that AIG was being "consumed by the same issues that are driving house prices down and 401K statements down and Warren Buffet's investment portfolio down."

Liddy made AIG sound like an orphan begging in a soup line, hungry and sick from being left out in someone else's financial weather. He conveniently forgot to mention that AIG had spent more than a decade systematically scheming to evade U.S. and international regulators, or that one of the causes of its "pneumonia" was making colossal, world-sinking $500 billion bets with money it didn't have, in a toxic and completely unregulated derivatives market.

Nor did anyone mention that when AIG finally got up from its seat at the Wall Street casino, broke and busted in the afterdawn light, it owed money all over town — and that a huge chunk of your taxpayer dollars in this particular bailout scam will be going to pay off the other high rollers at its table. Or that this was a casino unique among all casinos, one where middle-class taxpayers cover the bets of billionaires.

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — "our partners in the government," as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

Continue reading here.


The Mother of all Bells


by Peter Schiff

“There is an old adage on Wall Street that no one rings a bell at major market tops or bottoms. That may be true in normal times, but as many have noticed, we are now completely through the looking glass. In this parallel reality, Ben Bernanke has just rung the loudest bell ever heard in the foreign exchange and government debt markets. Investors who ignore the clanging do so at their own peril. The bell’s reverberations will be felt by everyday Americans, whose lives are about to change in ways few can imagine. While nearly every facet of America’s economy has been devastated over the past six months, our national currency has thus far skipped through the carnage with nary a scratch. Ironically, the U.S dollar has been the beneficiary of the global economic crises which the United States set in motion. As a result, our economy has thus far been spared the full force of the storm.

This week the Federal Reserve finally made clear what should have been obvious for some time – the only weapon that the Fed is willing to use to fight the economic downturn is a continuing torrent of pure, undiluted, inflation. The announcement should be seen as a game changer that redirects the fury of the financial storm directly onto our shores.

In its statement, the Fed announced its intention to purchase an additional $1 trillion worth of U.S. treasury and agency debt. The purchases, of course, will be made with money created out of thin air through the Fed’s printing presses. Few can doubt that they will persist with these operations until the economy returns to its former health. Whether or not this can ever be accomplished with a printing press alone has never been seriously considered. Bernanke himself admits that we are in uncharted waters, with no map or compass, just simply a hope that more dollars are the answer.

Rather than solving our problems, more inflation will only add to the crisis. Falling asset prices, the credit crunch, declining consumer spending, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and layoffs are all part of the necessary rebalancing of our economy. These wrenching movements, however painful, are the market’s attempts to resolve the serious problems at the root of our bubble economy. Attempts to literally paper-over these problems will lead to disaster.

Now that the Fed has recklessly shown its hand, the mad dash to get out of Treasuries and dollars should not be far off. The more the Fed prints to buy bonds the less the dollar is worth. Holders of our debt (read China and Japan) understand this dynamic. We must expect that they will not only refuse to buy new bonds, but they will look to unload those bonds they already own.

Under normal circumstances, if creditors grew concerned that inflation was eating into their returns, the Fed would raise interest rates to entice them to buy. However, the Fed will avoid this course of action as it fears higher rates are too heavy a burden for our debt laden economy to bear. To maintain artificially low rates, the Fed will be forced to purchase trillions more debt than it expects as it becomes the only buyer in a seller’s market.

Just last week, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao voiced concern about his country’s massive investments in U.S. government debt. In the most unequivocal statement yet by the Chinese leadership on this issue, Wen made it plain that he was concerned with depreciation, not default. With his fears now officially confirmed by the Fed statement, we must wonder when the Chinese will finally change course.

There is a growing consensus that if China no longer wants to buy our bonds, we can simply print the money and buy them ourselves. This naïve view fails to consider the consequences implicit in such a change. When the Treasury sells bonds to China, no new dollars are printed. Instead, China prints yuan to buy dollars which it then uses to purchase treasurers. This effectively allows America to export its inflation to China. However, now that we will be printing the money ourselves, the full inflationary impact will fall directly on us.

With such a policy in place, America has now become a banana republic. It won’t be too long before our living standards reflect our new status. Got Gold?”


G20 warned unrest will sweep globe

A wave of social and political unrest could sweep through the world's poorest countries if G20 leaders fail to come to their aid, the World Bank warns today, as new research says the credit crunch will cost developing countries $750bn (£520bn) in lost output and drive millions more into poverty.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank, is urging G20 leaders to use the London summit in less than a fortnight's time to help protect the developing world against the worst effects of the financial crisis.

"We have to look at the impact of this on low income countries. Otherwise, without wanting to sound alarmist, social unrest and political crisis could be the result. It's in the self-interest of everyone to prevent that," she told the Observer

Her stark warning came as a new report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said the collapse of the global economy would cost 90 million lives, lead to an increase to nearly a billion in the number of people going hungry and cost developing countries $750bn in lost growth.

Continue reading here.


25 March, 2009

Re: Quick and Easy DIY Compost Bin

In yesterday's article, I described to you the process by which you can easily and inexpensively make your own compost bin to help with gardening/food production on your homestead. Today, I would like to expand on that idea with a design that will take a little more time and effort on your part, but can still be accomplished with relatively little expense and will benefit you even more in your quest for self-sufficiency and emergency preparedness efforts.

You'll need:
  1. A large plastic barrel, size is up to you - I suggest 30-55 gallon blue food-grade plastic
  2. 48 inch piece of 2 inch schedule 80 PVC
  3. Scrap lumber - 2x4s, best if treated
  4. Door hinge
  5. Drill with various size bits
  6. Circular saw
  7. Other basic hand tools
  1. Drill a hole large enough to fit the section of PVC through in the top and bottom center of your barrel and then feed it through until it acts as an axle with the barrel lying on its side.
  2. Use the scrap 2x4s to build a stand: two boards on each side nailed together to form an "X" (four boards make two "Xs") and then nail the bottom points of both "Xs" to horizontal boards at the front and rear to create the stand. You should use six 2x4s to complete the whole thing.
  3. Place your barrel horizontally resting within the four top points of the two "Xs" and the whole thing now acts as a sort of cradle.
  4. Use the saw to remove a section from the center of the barrel, so that you can easily add and remove material from the composter.
  5. Use the door hinge and the plastic section you just removed to affix a permanent door in the side of your composter.
  6. Use the PVC as a handle by which to turn the barrel to aerate your compost.
And, you're done! Lehman's sells similar composters in the $200-$300 range, but yours didn't cost you anywhere near that. For best results, I would also suggest that you paint your barrel dark green or even black before you begin, as it will retain heat better and thereby break down your compost more efficiently.


LET IT DIE: Rushkoff on the economy

by Douglas Rushkoff

March 15, 2009

With any luck, the economy will never recover.

In a perfect world, the stock market would decline another 70 or 80 percent along with the shuttering of about that fraction of our nation’s banks. Yes, unemployment would rise as hundreds of thousands of formerly well-paid brokers and bankers lost their jobs; but at least they would no longer be extracting wealth at our expense. They would need to be fed, but that would be a lot cheaper than keeping them in the luxurious conditions they’re enjoying now. Even Bernie Madoff costs us less in jail than he does on Park Avenue.

Alas, I’m not being sarcastic. If you had spent the last decade, as I have, reviewing the way a centralized economic plan ravaged the real world over the past 500 years, you would appreciate the current financial meltdown for what it is: a comeuppance. This is the sound of the other shoe dropping; it’s what happens when the chickens come home to roost; it’s justice, equilibrium reasserting itself, and ultimately a good thing.

Read the rest here.


24 March, 2009

Quick and Easy DIY Compost Bin

If your soil is anything like ours, you're no stranger to the concept of composting as a means of enriching your growing medium. But, for the beginning gardener, it can seem a little overwhelming. It is something you want to get used to doing, though, especially if you have the survivalist mindset; whether your emergency preparedness efforts are predicated around Peak Oil, bird flu or any other pandemic, or an all-out TEOTWAWKI societal collapse, many of us can envision a time when we may be dependent on our gardens as a primary food source.

The goal of this article will be to teach you how to make your own dirt cheap compost bin using stuff you probably already have lying around the homestead. You can resize or otherwise amend this project at your convenience and to better fit your own unique situation.

You'll need:
  1. A bucket/container with a tight-fitting lid, size is up to you
  2. A drill with a small bit, the smaller the better
  3. Food scraps/dry leaves or grass clippings/a little soil to get you started
  4. Water, room temp. - not a lot, maybe a Hardees or Mickey D's cup full
  1. Drill several small holes in the bottom of your bucket/container - seven or eight should be plenty. This is to provide for aeration of the contents and drainage of excess fluid.
  2. Do likewise with the lid.
  3. Place contents in the bucket, careful that all food scraps are completely covered by soil.
  4. Pour water over it all until it is moist but not soaking wet.
  5. Fasten lid.
  6. Place it in a shady area as direct sun will quickly dry it out.
And, that's it! You're composting! At this point, the bucket should be about half full. Each day as you add more food scraps, you'll want to stir it all to keep it aerated and ensure the bacteria can do its job. This can also be accomplished by tipping the bucket on its side (with the lid on tight, of course) and rolling it a few times daily. You may also find that you need to add water periodically, always with the goal of keeping the material moist but not too wet.

If you find that the smell is too strong, it could be because of either too much water or too much matter. Try not adding any more kitchen scraps for a few days. This can also be mitigated by placing the bucket away from your house, which will also help with the annoying fruit flies that will inevitably congregate.

It'll be three months or so before the compost will be ready for your garden. Also, you're going to want to be careful once it is time to start using the compost, because the temperature will be a bit high when it first comes out of the bucket. I would advise that you allow it to sit for a day after removing the lid so it can cool.


23 March, 2009

Re: High Stakes Gambling in Washington

As I stated yesterday, the government has now doubled-down and went all in with a strategy that gives me the impression it will either be wildly successful and fix all of our economic problems or it will turn out to be a disaster of unmitigated proportions and future generations will look back on now as the days when the mighty dollar died. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can check out yesterday's post for greater detail, but they refer to it as Quantitative Easing. A few days ago, the Fed waved its magic wand and presto-poofed $1.2 trillion into existence out of thin air and used it to buy Treasury bills. We are now borrowing money from ourselves. Or, to put it in even greater perspective, it's as though you took a $20 bill out of your left pocket and put it in your right pocket, all the while pretending it's new money you didn't have a moment ago. Now, anybody with working gray matter in their skull knows that if you did that and spent as though you still had a $20 bill in each pocket instead of just the one, you would quickly find yourself in big, big trouble. But when the government does it, it's okay. Huh? Am I missing something here?

Anyway, if you're a regular reader you'll know that I stated yesterday that I had feelers out to folks who are much smarter than me when it comes to economic issues and that I would report back. In response, an old friend of mine who spent several years handling other people's money on the futures markets among other things sent me several articles on the subject that I want to share with you. First, the Mogambu Guru states, "...bonds will fall in price as interest rates rise a lot, because inflation in prices will rise a lot, because the money supply will rise a lot, because the ridiculously childish and simplistic Obama administration and Democratic Congress is promising to deficit-spend a couple of trillion dollars this year, which is a lot, almost all of which will be a lot of new money created by the despicable failure known as the Federal Reserve, and just for the purpose. Of course, nobody is listening to me, as it is nothing new, and I have been whining and complaining about this same stuff since 1991 and I have been really screaming my guts out in fear about it since 1997 when that creepy little bastard Alan Greenspan made the Federal Reserve start creating money and credit with what some could call 'reckless abandon', but which I officially refer to as 'suicidal insanity that you can see by just standing up and looking around, and so how do you like your benign-sounding ‘reckless abandon’ now?'"

Further, he goes on to say, "...this idea to increase the money supply by printing money is the Single Stupidest Idea (SSI) in the whole history of economics for the last 4,500 years, and the reason that no nation does it is because it shows a serious mental defect in that nation’s leaders, its universities, its news media, and the people themselves because it is truly, truly stupid because it is truly, truly catastrophically ruinous every time anyone has tried it." (source: http://www.dailyreckoning.com/quantitatively-easing-into-a-stupid-idea/)

Then, over at Seeking Alpha, they ran an article titled "Fed Intervention, Market Response Confirm: We're on the Path to Hyperinflation." In the article, it is pointed out that "As money supply is expanding while demand for US dollars is collapsing, and as dissatisfaction with the political environment in the United States is at a nearly unprecedented level, it is clear the ingredients for hyperinflation are in place. Moreover, CPI data released yesterday by the Labor Department in the US noted that consumer prices rose for the second consecutive month. Should this trend continue, it sets the stage for a price/wage spiral, whereby higher prices lead to higher wages, which in turn lead to higher prices, and so on. Declines in demand due to higher prices may not be sufficient to stop prices from rising further should the Fed continue an inflationary policy." (source: http://seekingalpha.com/article/127098-fed-intervention-market-response-confirm-we-re-on-the-path-to-hyperinflation)

And the sad truth is that there's much, much more. This article is already so long that I'm leaving out a ton of data. So much, in fact, that I may look it all over and decide to write another complete article; I'm not sure yet. As always, you need to read up on the subject and decide for yourself the best course of action for you and yours, but for me this is tantamount to a call to action to step up my prepping over the next few months in case a prolonged period of hyperinflation is in our future. Zimbabwe, here we come.


22 March, 2009

Free E-books

Our friend Mickey over at the Survivalist Blog has decided to offer his entire e-book collection to his readers for free and has encouraged other bloggers to offer them to our readers as well. You can access this great resource here.

Here at Backwoods Blog, we have recently added many survivalist/disaster genre titles to our book and DVD stores. Please check them out and, if you buy, please use our links. Even if you plan on buying later, I encourage you to click on our links and add the items to your shopping cart. Even if it's next month before you pay for the items and complete the order, I will still get credit.

Also, if you haven't already, don't forget to check out our affiliate advertiser Park Seed's current promotion where they are offering $15 OFF $ 75 or More Just in Time For Spring Seed Starting! Shop Now! You'll need to enter Bonus code VICTORY at checkout to get the discount. The offer is good through April 30th. Park Seed has been in business since 1868 and they offer a nice selection of heirloom varieties for your home garden.


High Stakes Gambling in Washington

They call it quantitative easing. I call it a craps shoot. In case you missed it, it was announced very quietly the other day that we are now buying our own debt i.e. borrowing money from ourselves in an effort to jump start the economy. They literally waved a magic wand and created $1.2 trillion out of thin air, and somehow it went for days without being reported by some in the mainstream media. They were too busy covering Obama on Leno and the manufactured outrage over the AIG bonuses in what I consider to be the most masterful bit of misdirection since the Wizard of Oz. Look at your wonderful leader on the tonight show. He's so down to earth; he's one of us. Death to the greedy AIG executives! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

In my opinion, folks, and the reason why I'm comparing it to a gambling scenario is that I think they have officially played their last card. They are all in. This will either repair the economy or we are witnessing the fall of the mighty dollar as a viable currency unit.

Luckily, I'm not the smartest guy when it comes to economics, so don't despair just yet. I have emails out to folks who are better at this stuff than I am and I will follow up this article after I hear from them. In the meantime, just keep yourself in an emergency preparedness mindset as this could turn out to be a signal to ramp things up over the next few months.


"The US Federal Reserve says it will buy almost $1.2 trillion worth of debt to help boost lending and promote economic recovery."


21 March, 2009

Doyoudiggit.com Write-Up

A few days ago, we received a really nice write-up from the folks at Doyoudiggit.com. In case you missed it, you can view it here. Also, don't forget to subscribe to my RSS feed. Or, you can have our daily updates delivered directly to you via email.


Engineered Collapse?

Let me begin this article by saying that I love conspiracy theories. They're great, always interesting and usually too outlandish to even possibly be true. I read them.I enjoy them. I do not usually believe them.

Oddly, though, something has been nagging at me these past few weeks. I see the moves being made by the powers that be ostensibly in an effort to quell the current economic crises and it seems like, at nearly every turn, the choices made seem to me to be the wrong ones. No, scratch that. It isn't just that they're making choices I don't agree with; it's that they seem to be taking the worst possible path of all those afforded to them.

If their main goal was to purposely destroy the dollar, they couldn't possibly do a better job of it than they're doing right now. So, we must ask ourselves why anyone would do such a thing on purpose. Should you choose, it would be all too easy to tie this to a New World Order conspiracy theory, as crashing the dollar and having it replaced by a common world currency would be a big step in that direction. To my mind, though, there may be other issues involved.

First, be aware that many reputable sources are now in virtual agreement that Global Peak Oil occurred in 2008.

"World oil production peaked in 2008 at 81.73 million barrels/day (mbd). This oil definition includes crude oil, lease condensate, oil sands and natural gas plant liquids. If natural gas plant liquids are excluded, then the production peak remains in 2008 but at 73.79 million barrels per day. However, if oil sands are also excluded then crude oil and lease condensate production peaked in 2005 at 72.75 mbd."
(Image and quote source: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5177)

It has long been talked about amidst folks who discuss Peak Oil Theory that the only way to slow the ever-growing demand for oil is through the concept of demand destruction. Now, an argument could be made that the current low price of oil doesn't fit the model for the demand destruction argument.I disagree, however, because it is precisely the extreme drop in overall demand due to the economic crisis that is responsible for keeping the prices low.

So, could it be that the economic problems were engineered as a means to stave off the worst of the Peak Oil crisis and buy us some time? Probably not. But it makes for an interesting thought.

In closing, let me leave you with this view of what we may have in store for us:


20 March, 2009

Build An Inexpensive Rain Barrel

*DISCLAIMER*: These plans call for using very inexpensive plastic trash cans, which have weak sidewalls. It would be much better to use the food-grade blue plastic barrels that can often be acquired on the cheap or even free from bottling plants, etc.

I am also not impressed by the "relief holes" which would result in soaking the area around the barrels a little too close to the building's foundation for my comfort. I would suggest instead that you fit a hose or tube to handle the overflow and carry it safely away by a few feet. Also, if you plan on using the water for more than just gardening, I would use three or four barrels as opposed to the two called for in these plans.

As far as quality is concerned, the configuration as shown will be fine for watering the garden, but if you want to drink the water you will need to filter it first.


1. Choose the location.
* Site your rain barrels under a downspout, in an aesthetically appropriate spot. Keep in mind, too, that this is a gravity-based system, so it should be in one of the higher areas of your yard, if possible.
* If your lawn lacks a level base under a downspout, use concrete blocks, pavers, or treated lumber to build a flat platform for the barrels. Your base should be approximately 4 feet square.

2. Prepare the garbage cans.
* Remove and reroute the downspout to drain into Rain Barrel 1 (see Figure 1). You may wish to ask a Lowe's employee to help you with your downspout hardware needs.
* Using your drill/driver with a 3-inch hole saw attachment, cut a 3-inch hole into the lid of Rain Barrel 1, and insert the 3-inch atrium grate. (The downspout will fit on the atrium grate when you put the lid back on.)
* Create relief holes. With your drill/driver and a 1-inch Forstner bit, drill several 1-inch holes around the perimeter of the barrels just below the lids.
Tip: If you live in a region prone to mosquitoes, you may want to cover the relief holes and atrium grate with fine-mesh screen (#89305) to prevent breeding. To do this, cut a 2-inch-square piece of screen for each relief hole. With silicone sealant, attach the pieces to the holes on the inside of the barrel. (You can rough up, or scratch, the inside surface of the barrel to allow the sealant to adhere more easily.) Cut a 4-inch-square piece of screen for the atrium grate, and attach it in the same manner. For additional protection, add a mosquito disk (#92460) to the water when it accumulates. This will prevent the larvae from developing.

3. Connect the two rain barrels (see Figure 2).
* With your drill/driver and 1-inch Forstner bit, drill a 1-inch hole approximately 1 inch from the bottom of each rain barrel.
* Apply silicone sealant inside and outside of the perimeters of the 1-inch holes.
* Place an O ring on each adapter.
* Screw the adapters into the 1-inch holes, and place another O ring over the threads of each adapter on the insides of both rain barrels.
* Screw a threaded coupling onto each adapter, and apply another coat of silicone sealant to the joints of the O rings, both inside and outside of the rain barrels. Allow the sealant to partially cure.
* Use a PVC cutter to cut two 2-inch-long pieces of PVC pipe.
* For each barrel connector, you will now prime, glue, and rotate the components in the following order: First, apply purple primer to the inside of the adapter, the outside of the PVC pipe, and the inside of a fitting. Second, apply PVC cement to the inside of the adapter and to the outside of 1 inch of one end of the PVC pipe. Third, insert the cemented end of the PVC pipe into the adapter, and rotate one quarter of a turn.
* Repeat the process for the next component: You've already completed the priming, so apply PVC cement to the outside of the exposed end of the PVC pipe, and also to the inside of the fitting. Insert the PVC pipe into the fitting, and rotate one quarter of a turn.
* Repeat Steps 3g and 3h for the Rain Barrel 2 connector.
* Attach the washer connection hose to the fittings of each barrel connector.

4. Attach the drain (see Figure 3).
* With your drill/driver and 1-inch Forstner bit, drill a hole in Rain Barrel 2 for the drain system. Locate the hole in a spot that will give you easy access to the drain.
* Repeat Steps 3b through 3e to begin constructing the drain.
* Cut three more 2-inch pieces of PVC pipe.
* Apply purple primer and PVC cement to the first 1 inch of the outside of one piece of PVC pipe, and then apply purple primer and PVC cement to the interior of the adapter. Insert the PVC pipe into the adapter, and rotate one quarter of a turn.
* Repeat this priming, gluing, and rotating process to attach the remaining parts of the drain system in order: the PVC ball valve socket, a 2-inch piece of PVC pipe, the elbow, a 2-inch piece PVC pipe, and a fitting.
5. Use your collected rainwater.
* Put the lids on the rain barrels, fit the downspout on the atrium grate, and wait for rain. (If you need to weigh down your rain barrels before the first rain, simply add a few gallons of water.)
* Distribute the collected water to your plants by attaching a garden hose to the drain assembly or turning the valve to fill a watering can.

Source: http://www.lowescreativeideas.com/idea-library/projects/Rain_Barrels_0408.aspx