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30 June, 2009

Could The Greatest Heist In History Be Taking Place Right Under Our Noses?

During the passing of the TARP legislation and the first Bailout Bill a few months ago, I got myself all worked up over how hinky it felt the way hey were rushing things, threatening members of Congress and Senators to bully it through and on to the floor for a vote even though few of them had even read it. I am sometimes guilty of slipping into my tinfoil hat and having conspiracy-minded thoughts, but they usually pass rather quickly. Don't get me wrong, it's not that there aren't some conspiracies that are probably ultimately closer to the truth than is that which we blindly accept. But, if everything people cooked conspiracy theories up about turned out to be correct, then we would be living in what would quickly begin to feel like some kind of cheap suspense novel. I just try not to get sucked into that whole world, if I can help myself. My old standby phrase: "Sometimes a duck is just a duck."

But now, here we are just a few months later, and I'm reading in the Huffington Post about weird inconsistencies in the physical gold transactions coming through COMEX and a bunch of gold that has apparently gone missing from the Royal Canadian Mint recently. All of it is reminding me that the thing that kept popping in my head when they were ramrodding TARP, et al down our throats was that they were trying to just spend as much of the money as they could while it still had value leading up to some kind of crash they knew was coming, and I find myself having similar thoughts again. Peaking sheepishly out from under my tinfoil hate, I find myself likewise haunted by half-remembered conspiracy theories from over the years that posited Fort Knox in Kentucky was actually empty, the gold having disappeared, and how strange it seemed to me when they wouldn't let Congressman Ron Paul in there to do an audit.

As I understand it with the COMEX situation, people trying to take physical possession of their gold have been jerked around by long delays, and when they finally did get their gold it was often the wrong weight and the serial number on the bar did not match their paperwork. So, we must believe one of two things: either the people at COMEX are highly incompetent; or, this is an indication of something akin to a Ponzi scheme ala Bernie Madoff, where they're paying out gold to those that come in so that nobody will realize there is a problem, but it isn't the same gold for which they hold paperwork proving ownership.

Could it be that they've been just making up serial numbers and selling certificates of ownership for gold bars that don't really exist?

If this proved to be true, it would represent fraud at a level never before seen and carry with it ramifications that would be felt all over, not just in the financial world. And suddenly, I am reminded of a quote by George Washington, who said, "The last official act of any government is to loot the treasury."


Global Warming/Climate Change May Render Our Food Toxic

It seems that, with regard to the looming specter of Global Warming/Climate Change, we may end up having to worry about more than just rising temperatures and sea levels. According to this article, many food crops may produce declining yields in an altered climate as well as begin to produce higher concentrations of the toxins they contain already.

The article specifically mentions sorghum and cassava, the latter of which is a starchy tuber that appears to be not altogether unlike a potato. Interestingly, potatoes are a member of the nightshade family of plants and are therefore another known for producing small amounts of toxins. The difference being that, in the current climate and with today's CO2 levels, these toxins are much too mild to harm human beings. If CO2 levels were to rise significantly, an increase in the concentration of these toxins could render the food inedible. Potatoes contain these toxins in the skins and the leaves of the plant. The same is true of the seeds of apples and peaches.


Jim Sinclair Issues 130 Day Warning

I like Jim Sinclair. He usually seems like a pretty smart guy, so I thought perhaps I should post this piece that appeared on his site yesterday as-is. I have to admit though, that I caught my self rolling my eyes a little when I saw that he was actually pointing out an exact date for the coming hyperinflationary disaster to begin. Why are people so intent on trying to pick a date? I mean, the date comes and goes and nothing happens and an otherwise intelligent guy loses just a little more of his credibility. It's crazy.

Yes, Jim, hyperinflation is coming and it will be a disaster like nothing Americans have ever seen. But, even after it hits, I'll wager it will be difficult to pinpoint the exact day even in retrospect.

Anyway, here is what Jim had to say:
"Yes, that is right. You have a little more than 130 DAYS before MOPE (management of perspective economics) falls into the abyss of loss of confidence in the US dollar.

The event will be the birth of hyperinflation in the US and elsewhere to the horror of the spin media. Crude has been trying to explain this to the public, but so far they have not gotten a clue. Crude strength is being called a hedge against the dollar as fundamental energy analysts are hard pressed to explain a rise from $30 into the $70s with NO pick up in US economic activity and NO massive draw down on supplies. The oil price is an example of the arcane and exoteric mechanism of hyperinflation soon to take gold to $1224, $1650 and then on to Alf and Armstrong’s numbers. This phenomenon is something that the murderous Children of the Corn that run the hedge funds will not accept until it happens.

Happen it will.

130 days is no time at all. Are you prepared?"

Click here for the direct link.


29 June, 2009

Shocking Decline In World's 2nd Largest Oil Field & What To Expect Next

In this very interesting article, the author makes some good points about coming changes in the ways we measure energy supply versus demand, etc., but what I find most enlightening are the ideas and statistics discussed in the subtext.

First, he does a good job of explaining the Export Land Model introduced by geologist Jeffrey Brown. Basically, it boils down to the fact that oil producing countries will begin to export less and less of their oil once a worldwide peak becomes obvious, thus meaning less and less oil will be available to import and causing greater stress on non-oil producing nations. Amazingly, the associated charts show that these exports would essentially flat-line within 9 years, meaning there would be no oil at all available on the world market to import after less than a decade past the peak!

Also, this article delves much deeper into something I touched upon in a recent post about Mexico's current woes as a nation: the steep and unexpected (by mainstream sources) decline of the Cantarell oil field. Overall, Mexico's oil production has fallen by about 9%, but the decline at Cantarell is a shocking 38% since it reached peak production of 2.1 million barrels per day in just 2003. It seems that the shockingly rapid fall down the rear slope of the bell curve can be blamed on "production enhancement techniques causing faster short-term oil extraction at the expense of field longevity." So, in short, they've sacrificed the future for better results today. Brilliant. And, being that it is Mexico's largest oil field, you better believe that its rapid decline and subsequent quickly approaching demise will drag that 9% national slump higher and higher in very short order. Barring a miracle, Mexico is up shit creek (if you'll pardon my language).

And, the rest of the world isn't far behind.

Why do I say that? Because Cantarell is what's known as a super giant oil field, the second largest one on the entire planet in fact. That being established, it's easy to see that, for it not only to be well past its peak but quite obviously in its death throes, is a rather bad sign. What's worse is that the only super giant field larger is Ghawar in Saudi Arabia. Now, if you believe the BS that has been pushed for years by the Saudis, you won't understand why this is worrisome, since-- to hear the Shieks tell it-- they still have just gobs and gobs of the stuff left in the ground over there. Nevermind the fact that those numbers they throw out over there have long ago been proven to be suspect. All one has to do to understand that Ghawar, the world's largest super giant oil field, is in trouble is to realize that they're utilzing many of the same "production enhancement techniques" that effectively killed Cantarell in barely 6 years. Why, oh why, would they be pumping sea water into Ghawar by the millions of gallons in an effort to increase the pressure and bring the oil to the surface if they weren't experiencing problems with the production rate? Whether they admit it or not, there is simply no reason to use such practices unless the field in question is in decline.

It's going to be a bumpy ride, folks.


Alan Greenspan On The Approaching Inflationary Economy

Full the full piece from the Financial Times here.

A quote:
"Inflation is a special concern over the next decade given the pending avalanche of government debt about to be unloaded on world financial markets. The need to finance very large fiscal deficits during the coming years could lead to political pressure on central banks to print money to buy much of the newly issued debt."


Warren Buffett to CNBC: U.S. Economy In "Shambles" .. No Signs of Recovery Yet

Read the full interview by clicking here.


28 June, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - Mexican Swine Flu: 28 June Brief Update

The A(H1N1) Swine Flu continues to spread around the world, but we have thus far been lucky as most cases are still relatively mild in severity. It was stated recently that, based on computer models run by the CDC, it is now believed that more than a million people in the United States have now had A(H1N1).

It is my belief that if we are to see a mutation occur that increases the deadliness of the disease, it will most likely make itself known when Flu Season returns to the Northern Hemisphere in a few months. The fact that there are beginning to be increases in the numbers of infected persons in places like Africa and Cambodia increase the likelihood of mutations, as these are regions where greater numbers of poor peoples live in close proximity to livestock, and may or may not have easy access to healthcare and/or education regarding proper hygiene and sanitation.

Laboratory confirmed cases now stand at 70,873, a 38% rise over the ending count of 51,360 exactly one week ago. Here's a breakdown of the up-to-date statistics:

28 June - 70,873 cases - 344 fatalities
21 June - 51,360 cases - 253 fatalities
14 June - 35,538 cases - 180 fatalities
7 June - 24,973 cases - 149 fatalities
31 May - 17,822 cases - 119 fatalities
24 May - 12,495 cases - 92 fatalities

As you can see above, there are now 344 confirmed deaths from the virus. That is just shy of a 36% increase from the 253 deaths that were being reported a week ago. (source)

One week ago, I said that I would be amazed if we don't exceed 75,000 infections of A(H1N1 ) before the end of June. That gives us two more days for the numbers to jump by another 4,127 cases, so I doubt we'll hit it but it's going to be very close.


Cap & Trade And What It Means For The Average Survivalist Or Homesteader

I don't really want to get into a long, drawn-out political discussion here, but I thought it necessary to mention the passing of this monumental legislation. Our wonderful government snuck this bill in to be voted on just before the weekend in an obvious effort to downplay its exposure in the news cycle while their allies in the mainstream media assisted them by concentrating almost exclusively on the untimely death of Michael Jackson. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, this is another instance of them voting on a 1,200 page Bill that none of them actually read, including a 300 page amendment that was added via the interwebs at 3 o'clock A.M. the morning before the vote.

But wait, there's more. As the time for the vote got closer and closer and it was obvious that the deranged old bat Nancy Pelosi didn't have the votes locked-down, the White House whip team took the reins, including President Obama himself getting on the phone to call and browbeat those members of Congress who were still on the fence. In fact, I heard a story where one of the Democratic Representatives from my home state of West Virginia even chose not to attend a function held at the White House because he knew if he did he would be yanked into a room by Rahm Emanuel and tag-teamed by he and the President, and he didn't feel like being bullied. Good for him.

The bottom line is that, despite all the pretty rhetoric to the contrary, the Bill has nothing to do with green energy or technology, nor will it help with Global Warming/Climate Change. The EPA has said as much. In fact, it will have little or no effect on the environment whatsoever, as industries will simply move their operations to China or India and continue polluting all they want. The only difference will be that more Americans will lose their jobs and this Bill will create a whole new derivatives economy based around the buying and selling of carbon credits that the bigwigs can use to amass even more money for themselves.

The reason I thought it was important to talk about it here was that one of the expected side effects should this Bill make it past the Senate and be signed into law will be to increase the average American's monthly electric bill by 90%. Take whatever you pay now and double it. Or, get ready to sit in your house in thermal underwear and mittens with your thermostat set at 50 degrees all winter long, cursing the meddling tyranny of Big Brother as you try to find your way to the bathroom in the dead of night using an LED keyring flashlight because you're terrified what turning on a friggin' lamp might do to your monthly budget.

It sounds like it's high-time all of us start looking seriously at adding some sort of alternate energy infrastructure to our homes, such as solar, hydro, etc., but who can afford it?


27 June, 2009

Scientists Confirm U.S. Has World’s Biggest Oil Reserves

The linked article is, in a word, misleading.

First, what they're talking about here when they say "... technically recoverable oil...," is, essentially, Oil Shale and not the pretty black Texas Tea stuff you just pump right out of the ground and into a barrel and ship it off to be refined. Oil Shale is solid and must be separated from the surrounding rock and earth, heated up to melt it, and so on before you can even get it to the stage where we would think of it as oil for our purposes. Because it must go through all of these processes, it is much, MUCH more expensive to get it to a point where it is useful. In many instances, it is doubtful our refineries could even handle processing the material without requiring a major refit that would cost a lot of money. Therefore, oil, as we think of it, must be EXTREMELY expensive before it makes sense economically to use our shale deposits. That is why the big oil companies aren't racing out there to dig up Big Sky Country as we speak instead of continuing to deal with foreign providers. The idea presented in the article that this oil can be had for $16 a barrel with current technologies is quite simply a bald-faced lie.

Also, the claims made by the researcher quoted in the article that the Bakken Formation "... has more oil in this one compact area than the entire Middle East..." also fails to hold up to simple mathematics. The U.S. Geological Survey states that Bakken contains approximately 3.65 billion barrels of oil. And, while that most recent estimate is the best news so far regarding Bakken as it is much higher than the previous estimate, it still only brings the total approximate U.S. Oil Reserves up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 billion barrels. And then you have Saudi Arabia, who by themselves have reserves of about 264 billion barrels. See what I meant when I said it doesn't hold up to simple mathematics?

Technically, I for one don't buy that the Saudis have that much of the stuff left either as there has always been something shady about their calculations, but look at those 2006 numbers again at all the Middle East countries with higher reserves than us. There's simply no way a 45 billion barrel reserve puts us even in the same league as the big boys. This is especially true when you consider that a good portion of what we do have will be so expensive to produce that I have serious doubts it will ever be made available to the general public. It is more likely that oil from the shale at Bakken will be what keeps Air Force One in the air while the rest of America riots and starves below and I hide in my bunker with my can of beans, my Glock, and my hand-crank lantern.

Peak Oil is real, folks, and it's coming. Stop allowing them to try to placate you with Bread and Circuses and start prepping!


Al-Qaeda planning cyber war against Britain

According to a recent article in the UK Telegraph, British officials will be strengthening their protection of vital information and infrastructure networks via the newly minted Office for Cyber Security. The announcement was made by Security Minister Lord West who claimed that "terrorist groups, which already use the internet for recruitment, propaganda and communication purposes, want to turn it into a dangerous weapon."

Personally, I have little doubt that he is probably correct. It hasn't been that long ago at all that it came out that foreign spies had successfully infiltrated our woefully antiquated electrical grid and other infrastructure systems here in the U.S. and implanted malware in them that, if undiscovered, could have been "switched on" sometime (maybe years) later to cripple us as a nation. It's a really scary concept, if you think about it. We get into some tiff with Russia or China in a few years and they flip a switch, causing our power grid to zap itself out of commission and we find ourselves in the middle of a continent-wide blackout that lasts for months or maybe even years (due to documented shortages of critical components that take a long time to fabricate).

Part of me still reaches for my tinfoil hat whenever I read this kind of thing though, and it's difficult at times to reconcile the deep distrust I have for the government in general and know what to think. I mean, my mind is torn between wondering if things like this are really immediate threats or are they just using the looming specter of a danger to position themselves for another power grab.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a guy who buys into a lot of the conspiracy theories that are floating around out there. And, typically, you won't hear me being overly vocal about even the few I believe might actually hold some truth. This is because most of the time none of us can really be sure about these things, the "proof" is circumstantial at best, etc., and finally because people shut you out when they think you're a wingnut and subsequently stop listening to anything you have to say. Frankly, it isn't worth it to me to have people fail to hear my intended message (urging folks to take emergency preparedness seriously) just so I can rant and rave endlessly about who killed J.F.K.

So, now you understand the dilemma I am faced with. Is it really a threat or a manufactured dog and pony show? Or, am I crazy for even thinking the whole thing could be a big ruse? I'm not sure. The question I would ask, I suppose, is whether or not the notion that big government will do anything it can to devour more and more of our individual rights really even qualifies as tinfoil hat conspiracy stuff anymore? It seems more and more to me like that is pretty much its accepted mission statement at this point.


26 June, 2009

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H1N1 Influenza A - Mexican Swine Flu: More Talk of Possible New Mutations & the Possibility of 6,000 Dead in Canada Alone

Fatalities due to infection of the A(H1N1) Swine flu continue to mount all over, but this article is referring specifically to New York. Oddly, it goes on to say that fewer people seem to be showing up at hospital emergency rooms, so it seems that perhaps the spread of the virus might be beginning to abate. I can tell you, though, that is not the case over the big picture or at least not yet. I will save the actual numbers for the 28th when I do my regular weekly update, but suffice to say it sure doesn't seem to me to be slowing down on the world stage at all with regard to the spread or the resulting morbidity. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

The really interesting part of the article, however, has to do with the fear that we may be soon to see the results of the virus undergoing a mutation that could make it more deadly. The federal agency responsible for infectious diseases in Germany is expressing concerns over troubling developments that they point out may be occurring in Australia and South Africa.

"It's possible the virus has mutated," according to the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. "In autumn, the mutated form could spread to the northern hemisphere."

Again, the possibility of a disastrous mutation of this particular bug surfacing is something I've touched on many, many times before. I'm just glad I'm not the only one keeping the possibility on my radar.

But, we also need to finally come to the realization that the disease could cause a great disruption and loss of life, even if it doesn't mutate into some super bug straight out of a Stephen King classic. This article does a great job of explaining why this is true.

Basically, they state that about 20% of those who are exposed to the virus will become ill, and because exposure can mean something as seemingly innocuous as "... merely touching a surface where there are viruses, because someone else has touched it. Pretty much everyone who comes into contact with other people will be exposed to this flu, sooner or later." So, they argue, that means as many as one in every five Canadians could eventually fall ill. That would mean that out of 33 million Canadians, there could be as many as 6 million sick with the flu, and at the current morbidity rate about 6,000 people could die in Canada alone this Fall/Winter flu season.

Apply those numbers to our population in the U.S. of about 300 million and we could see illnesses in excess of 60 million with 60,000 people dead! And, that's without a devastating mutation! How many more could die from a possible breakdown in services as 60 million lie abed with as many as another 30 million staying home to take care of them?

Are you prepared to take care of yourself and your family if there was a general shutdown of services for the 12-14 days it might take to see a third of the population (nevermind that this number will be an even higher percentage of the actual workforce) return to their jobs and get the infrastructure back up and running?


Plan to protect D.C. from nuke EMP attack

World Net Daily reports that President Obama, to his credit, has greenlighted plans to ensure continuity of the federal government in the event that the U.S. is unexpectedly attacked through the use of an electromagnetic pulse weapon. We have discussed the devastating effects that such a weapon could cause as well as the United State's vulnerability to such an attack previously here on the blog, but such things become even more urgent with the current tensions between Iran and the west as well as North Korea going so far as to be planning a missile launch test in the direction of Hawaii even as I type these words.

Just remember, however, that just because they will be upgrading their systems to ensure that the federal government survives and is able to continue operations, that means very little as to how the average citizen will fare when the lights go out and stay out for months on end or possibly even years. The fact remains that each and every one of us should be getting our logistics in order to be able to look after ourselves and our families in any disaster situation, and we should be encouraging an emergency preparedness friendly mindset among our families, friends, neighborhoods, etc.


25 June, 2009

New Threats Leveled At U.S. By North Korea

I've written quite a bit previously here at Backwoods Blog regarding the dangers posed to world peace by the rogue state of North Korea, but now it is being reported that they are once again assuming an aggressive stance. In what is arguably the boldest public statement issued by Kim Jong-il's government to date, Communist North Korea has now threatened to "Wipe United States off the Map."

To be perfectly clear, I am of the mind that the clear and present danger posed by even North Korea's conventional weapons should be a great cause for concern. I can think of few places in the world, if any other even exists, where one nation lives each and every day with virtually the full might of its entire military infrastructure amassed on one border, ready to lash out at a neighboring nation with literally a moment's notice. Add to that equation the fact that they are not only perpetually massed in a strike-ready posture, but literally have their long range artillery guns loaded and actively sighted on predetermined targets across the border, which they re-sight daily in the case of those targets which are mobile (tank regiments, etc.). Add to that a populace who have been oppressed to the point of starvation in order to finance their military, and yet do not rise up and throw off the yoke of their oppressors because of the level of brainwashing and indoctrination they have been exposed to in order to guarantee their unyielding fealty. Then, you have North Korea. Regardless of the disaster inherent in any scenario where that nation has nuclear weapons, the truth is that they could kill possibly a million people in only the first few minutes of any war against them, even if all they use are their conventional and chemical weapons.

Still, the only viable way I could see them wiping us off the map would be through the use of an electromagnetic pulse weapon. And, this is well within their capabilities to achieve right now.


Things Getting Worse For Our Neighbors To The South

This article lends more credence to my claims that Mexico is on the verge of becoming a failed state, as the news from down there seems to be getting worse and worse. Already, the country's economy is in a shambles; its police, military, and a fair number of government officials are utterly and sometimes openly corrupt; and, the streets are unsafe in many places due to increased drug violence. No. Check that. It's more accurate to say that entire areas of the country are at times under the direct control of the drug cartels the same as if our government would just bow-out and cede control over parts of California and Arizona to the Crips, or the Bloods, or the Latin Kings.

I made the pseudo-prediction back in 2005-2006 (sure wish I had been blogging back then, so I could prove it) that the Cantarell oil field would be virtually tapped-out by 2010, and here we are a year early and production has dropped to under 700,000 barrels-per-day. To make matters worse, their own population's demand for oil isn't dropping (I would wager it's rising, just like everywhere else on the globe, or it's about to). Therefore, the article asks the question: should they halt all oil exports now?

I, for one, don't see how they could.

First of all, I'm pretty sure NAFTA dictates that they must continue exporting to the U.S.. Now, NAFTA does have provisions built into the agreement whereby it may be dissolved, but I'm too lazy to research just how that would work. And, secondly, seeing as how the government down there is in the same mode as the rest of us nations in the west where we're all borrowing money to keep things afloat, how could they possibly afford to lose the revenue provided by oil exports?

The simple answer is that they cannot. I would wager that we here in the U.S. will be getting what's left of their oil to help prop up our lifestyle a little bit longer.


24 June, 2009

Wind Power Could Provide 40% *MORE* Electricity Than We Currently Use - Why It Still Won't Save Us

The following quote is the Abstract section of a paper published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The potential of wind power as a global source of electricity is assessed by using winds derived through assimilation of data from a variety of meteorological sources. The analysis indicates that a network of land-based 2.5-megawatt (MW) turbines restricted to nonforested, ice-free, nonurban areas operating at as little as 20% of their rated capacity could supply >40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, >5 times total global use of energy in all forms. Resources in the contiguous United States, specifically in the central plain states, could accommodate as much as 16 times total current demand for electricity in the United States. Estimates are given also for quantities of electricity that could be obtained by using a network of 3.6-MW turbines deployed in ocean waters with depths <200 m within 50 nautical miles (92.6 km) of closest coastlines."

Very impressive! Something along these lines coupled with a way to get us off foreign oil would be the answer to all our prayers! In fact, this isn't terribly dissimilar to what is currently being championed by T. Boone Pickens. The "Pickens Plan" essentially calls for the investment of approximately US$1 trillion (spread out over about a decade) in new wind turbine generator farms throughout the midwest for electrical power generation, thus freeing up the natural gas resources that are currently being used for power generation to be shifted to CNG (compressed natural gas) to fuel trucks and other heavy vehicles. It is his belief that this could reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil by up to 43%, and he's probably correct.

The biggest problem I see with such grandiose plans is that we needed to have been talking about doing things like this 20-25 years ago. Most people fail to understand the issues involved because they haven't bothered to delve deeply enough into the research and the data available to fully comprehend all that is involved. Sometimes this is because they are uneducated in the details or simply too busy to take the time; still others simply don't want to know the truth because it is just too depressing to them. The cold hard truth is that, while reducing our oil dependency by 43% over the next decade sounds wonderful, we don't have a decade. We are out of time.

Will this mean the end of our society? I don't think so. Does that mean then that we will find a way to keep on living the way we're used to? Absolutely not. The truth is that all of the "going green" and alternate sources of energy in the world won't completely solve the problem. It's too late for that. Leftist, tree-hugger propaganda notwithstanding, there is simply no other source of energy in existence that will ever provide us with the quantity of easy energy we enjoyed from oil. Not wind, not solar, not hydro. None. The closest possible runner-up is nuclear, and it comes with its own set of problems as well; not the least of which being that it's hard to actually get a positive return on the resources you put into it, and if you screw something up you could be left with a permanent orange afro and kids with six arms and 17 toes.

So, barring some Star Trek-esque discovery of a new, clean source of abundant, cheap and easy energy, we are faced with the terrifying reality that we are going to have to drastically change our lifestyles in order to avoid a New Dark Age. Does this mean I am not a supporter of alternate energy? Absolutely not. I think alternate energy is great, but that this idea most folks have that they can put a few solar panels on their roof and go on living exactly the way they've been used to living is a FANTASY.

Let me give you an example of what you have to look forward to: The last time I attempted to size a solar backup system for my home it came to approximately US$13,000. But, the troubling part of that was that I was sizing a system only large enough to run an Energy Star refrigerator/freezer, a chest freezer, a handful of CFL lights, and have enough juice left over in the batteries to charge an electric wheelchair to keep a family member mobile and a handful of small rechargeable NiMH, NiCD and Li-ion rechargeable batteries to run two-way radios, rechargeable lanterns, et cetera. Sizing that kind of system up to meet the current everyday lifestyle of your average suburban family would, quite obviously, be nearly impossible.


The Mogambo Guru: Nightmarish Financial Numbers

Read the full article by clicking here.

Here is brief quote:
"Instantly my mind goes into some kind of weird dream and all I can see is three numbers floating around, bumping into one another. One of them is $14 trillion (which is GDP), and the other two are the number $11.3 trillion (which is the current national debt), and the last one is the number $3 trillion (which is how much MORE national debt will accrue this year alone) because of the sheer staggering amount of irresponsible deficit-spending the federal government will almost certainly commit this year, including the already-announced eye-popping $1.84 trillion in budget deficits and Another Freaking Trillion (AFT) or so in “surprise!” emergency supplemental appropriations as the year goes along, as is Congress’s habit, altogether an insane amount of new money that guarantees ruinous inflation in consumer prices, which is the outward manifestation of the purchasing power of the dollar going down due to unprecedented creations of more and more money diluting the money stock, a devastating process which leads to social upheavals, a prospect which scares me so much that statistical analysis shows I usually pee in my pants in fear."


James Howard Kunstler: A Snake Eating Its Own Tail

Read the full commentary here.

A quote:
"The competence and hence the legitimacy of the US government is on the line here. The US economic situation is going to get a lot worse. Many more people are going to lose incomes and chattels and will suffer, and the moment will arrive when they will direct their anger outward. They need to be told two things: that the borrowed-against future is now here, requiring very different behavior; and that those who received lavish payment for looting the American future unlawfully will be subject to due process of law. So far, nobody has even been fired, let alone officially investigated.

Meanwhile, the nation is lumbering toward an epochal moment of truth when the non-viability of how we get by day-to-day is exposed for all to see, including those other nations who have been lending us colossal sums of their hard-earned money to keep our operations afloat. This will be the moment when the US renounces its debt -- or just proves unable to continue pretending to service it. This moment is liable to come sometime after the middle of this summer. It will be the moment when all the green shoots babytalk stops and the scope of onrushing hardship becomes self-evident. It will be the moment when all of America finds itself in something like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the federal government proves comically impotent and the cold reality hits that we're now all on our own."


23 June, 2009

The Peak Oil Problem Might Be Even Worse Than We Think

No matter how deeply I research Peak Oil Theory or for how long, I still discover new information from time to time that just knocks my socks off. And, this qualifies.

The original article from "The Oil Drum" (credit them for the fancy chart I stole too) does a better job at laying out the specifics than I ever could, but I will attempt to convey the basic idea in layman's terms.

What they're saying, essentially, is that because of failures on our part to factor the myriad technical and economic hurdles that must be achieved in order to get the oil out of the ground and through the production process into our combined analyses, we are now at a point where we are actually much further along the path of terminal resource depletion than we had previously thought. In fact, they argue (rather convincingly) that whereas most students of Dr. Hubbert believe we are now in the early stages of the Peak-- about 50% total planetary oil depletion-- the truth is much, much worse. Adjusting for the previously unaccounted for factors mentioned above, they argue we are really more like 73% toward total planetary oil depletion!

So, in essence, our own increasing proficiency over the years with regards to resource extraction and a failure to factor that data into our assumptions may ultimately make us a party to our own downfall.

The only bright side I can see (and, believe me, I'm looking) is that the years listed on the chart are most likely useless when it comes to planning and should not be seen as definite. Hubbert, for instance, taught us that there would be a plateau where oil production stayed fairly constant before beginning to drop down the tail end of the bell curve. So, where is the plateau on the chart? Also, the chart shows the drop down the tail end of the bell curve as though it will be beginning tomorrow. The truth is, however, that most proponents of Peak Oil Theory believe that either we are in the plateau stage right now and the drop-off may not begin for several more years; or, the plateau we're experiencing right now is an artificial one created by the economic crisis, and the real one might be a few years away. And, who is to say how much time the current artificial drop in demand caused by the economy may have bought us on the ultimate timeline?

So, maybe it won't be as bad as it looks on the chart, but don't allow that to fool you and make you complacent. What you should take from this is when the drop-off does finally come, it is going to come quick and with a vengeance. I've always argued that we were looking at a slow collapse that would take years, maybe decades, but this new data has given me a great deal to think about.

When the crash comes, it might be a fast crash after all.


22 June, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - Mexican Swine Flu: Another Recent Mutation That Could Increase The Deadliness Of The Virus


Recently, it was discovered that the A(H1N1) Swine flu that is currently criss-crossing the globe at pandemic levels has again shown the propensity to fulfill all the nightmares of those of us who have been following the outbreak since it began.

Just a few days ago, I reported that the disease had mutated to "become more infectious." This sort of behavior is exactly what we had expected from the beginning, as the current strain has been known to be recombinant in nature for some time. Still, even with that knowledge, it remained mild with regard to the symptoms experienced by those infected. Now, that may all change, as this new mutation (or another like it) may eventually result in a more deadly strain of the virus.

Essentially, the virus has been proven to have taken on a trait identified as E627K, "which is present in virtually all human influenza A isolates [including seasonal flu that is now Tamiflu-resistant], including the pandemic strain from 1918." To explain in better detail, this is worrisome "because it allows for optimal replication at 33 C, the temperature of a human nose in the winter ... In human seasonal flu, activity peaks in the winter months and only minimal levels are detected in humans over the summer. However, the swine flu has remained active and almost all influenza A detected in the northern hemisphere at this time is swine flu.

The appearance of E627K raises concerns that the level of swine flu with E627K will markedly increase in colder months. In 1918, the flu in the spring was mild, but the fall version of the virus, which had E627K, was much more virulent and targeted young, previously healthy adults, as previously reported for the outbreak in Mexico, and now being reported in United States and Canada, where levels are highest. This younger population target is also being reported in other countries worldwide.

Although the current case fatality rate is low, small changes like E627K could increase viral load, leading to high cytokine levels, which are associated with many of the deaths due to the current "milder" version of the swine H1N1."


The Coming Oil Crisis

This recent article by Mohammed J. Herzallah in Newsweek is sort of a review of Jeff Rubin's new book, Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, and an op-ed piece about resource depletion all wrapped up in one.

The really sad part about it is that it starts out so very promising. The author does a really good job of explaining Peak Oil Theory, not only the geological aspects but even with regard to the havoc it will wreak of the global economy, but then he sells out right near the end and reverts to the comfortable fallacy that is often used to placate the sheeple - future innovation will save us!

His exact quote: "Rubin's argument is powerful. There's no denying that the international economy has become critically dependent on oil as its main source for energy. Yet, like other believers in the 'peak oil' theory, he falls into the trap of underestimating society's capacity to meet future fuel challenges through innovation and conservation. The story of energy over the past century has been one of breakthroughs, not retreat — so although the energy problems we face today should be a cause for concern, global integration will continue to deepen and the world is not likely to get smaller any time soon."

Nevermind that we are so close to the peak at this point that any idea of some magical future innovation-- along with the years of development, trials and errors to finally get it right, and then years and $$$ needed to build an infrastructure for it-- is a sheer fantasy that would be almost laughable, were it not utterly terrifying.

"It'll be okay, booboo," they say, patting the sheeple on its worried little head. "Things will just keep going on like this forever and ever."


Al Qaeda says would use Pakistani nuclear weapons

I'm unsure why anyone would need a big shiny Reuters News Service article to convince them of the truth contained in the statement made in the title above, but okay.

I've written previously regarding the dangers of Pakistan's nuclear weapons cache falling into the wrong hands as well as the possibility that Al Qaeda or other terrorists could use our porous southern border to smuggle in weapons of mass destruction. That being said, I can't imagine even the least informed individual being surprised that these people would love to be able to take such a great opportunity to strike a heavy blow against us.


Is this the death of the dollar?

This is a really interesting article that takes a serious look at answering the question asked in its title. Personally, I worry about the almighty dollar, but not that it will ever completely fail. I worry about devaluation through hyperinflation caused as a result of the ill-devised policy known as Quantitative Easing, known better by its street name: Firing Up The Printing Presses And Running Them 24/7 In Order To Create Gobs And Gobs Of New Money Poof Out Of Thin Air. I'm pretty sure its last name is Retardedly Disastrous Policy.

But, that aside, I'm not really worried that the dollar is going anywhere. After all, even the Peso down ol' Mexico way survived devaluation; you just can't buy anything without a wheelbarrow full of them, and you never will be able to. That is what devaluation does.

And, we've already seen that when devaluation of the economy occurs, people will resort to bartering in order to survive and prosper.

In case you missed my advice for investors that I posted recently, you might want to give it a gander.


21 June, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - Mexican Swine Flu: 21 June Brief Update

The A(H1N1) Swine Flu continues its near-meteoric propagation among the world's population, but most cases remain fortuitously mild in severity. We discovered this past weak that the virus has begun to mutate, as we feared it would, and has now "become more infectious" as a result. Let us just hope that the next mutation doesn't give us a more deadly form of the disease.

Laboratory confirmed cases now stand at 51,360, a 44.5% rise over the ending count of 35,538 exactly one week ago. These numbers have been rising by 40%+ each and every week. Here's a breakdown of the up-to-date statistics:

21 June - 51,360 cases - 253 fatalities
14 June - 35,538 cases - 180 fatalities
7 June - 24,973 cases - 149 fatalities
31 May - 17,822 cases - 119 fatalities
24 May - 12,495 cases - 92 fatalities

As you can see above, there are now 253 confirmed deaths from the virus. That is just shy of a 41% increase from the 180 deaths that were being reported a week ago. (source)

Previously, I predicted that we would see somewhere near 43,000 confirmed cases and 230+ deaths by the end of June, but then had to adjust my estimate when it became obvious we were going to overshoot my numbers big time. I said last week that if the numbers keep jumping by 40% or more, we would be looking at somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 cases by this week, and I was right.

I'll be amazed now if we don't top 75,000 before June is out.


UN: World hunger reaches 1 billion mark

This article, to my mind, should be treated as a signpost to where we are all headed in the not too distant future. The current economic crisis that is gripping the entire world has increased the number of people going hungry in underdeveloped countries, which is our proverbial canary in the coal mine. What I mean by that is that it is logical to argue that malnutrition will become evident first in those individuals who are already living their day-to-day lives at the lower end of the spectrum with regard to daily caloric intake. Those of us who are accustomed to getting more and more calories, on the other hand, will logically be the last to experience these effects, but it does not mean the clock is not already ticking.

The article states "...hungry people rioted in at least 30 countries last year. Most notably, soaring food prices led to deadly riots in Haiti and the overthrow of the prime minister.

"A hungry world is a dangerous world," Sheeran said. "Without food, people have only three options: They riot, they emigrate or they die..."

The hungry in Asia and Africa and elsewhere are mostly the result of ever-increasing populations living in areas that do not possess the resources to support such large populations. The problem is that we are rapidly approaching a time when the preceding statement will apply to the entire world (if we aren't already there).

Please prepare accordingly.


Report About Survivalism On Hannity

I'm not really a Hannity fan as I feel he is far too invested in the current two-party "us against them" paradigm, but this was a pretty good report.


Shell Gas Find in Norway May Be Biggest in 12 Years


Hooray! We're saved! No massive, earthshaking change in our way of life, resource wars leading to a dystopian dark age, starvation or massive die-off headed toward us like a runaway freight train after all!

A whole year or so supply of the good stuff. And, at a record depth that they probably won't even be able to reach for another 10 years too!



The Mogambo Guru: Stupidity without borders

Read the full commentary here.

A quote:
"... I am bouncing along as I take a precautionary walk to the Mogambo Big Beautiful Bunker (MBBB) in a fresh burst of panic at the inflationary implications of this terrifying expansion of world's money supply, desperate to snugly lock myself in as some pathetic kind of attempt to save myself from the Bad Times A-Comin' (BTAC) as prices soar, the economy sours and the people get testy.

I mean, it just sounds so stupid that you wonder what these people are drinking, smoking, inhaling or eating, because whatever it is, I desperately want some, too! It apparently puts the user into some kind of pleasant mental fantasy-land where the problems caused by an excess of pleasure-seeking are solved with much more pleasure-seeking and the problems of too much debt and too much government are solved by much more debt and much more government, but they somehow retain the ability to act straight and sober so they can say this kind of insane crap with a straight face! Wow!"


20 June, 2009

Is Another Market Meltdown Possible, Even Likely?


The link above will take you to an interesting article that, surprisingly, makes a pretty clear case that holding your savings in cash can actually outperform risky market ventures.

My advice, if you're interested, follows this paragraph. Also, please keep in mind that I am not a financial adviser and therefore any decision you make to follow the plan I'm about to lay out here is yours and yours alone and I accept no responsibility.

My advice:

First, get out of the markets ASAP.

Second, invest some of your assets in building an emergency preparedness infrastructure for you and your family, preferably things you will use even if there is no immediate emergency. Depending on your finances, I would prioritize the purchases as so:

  1. If you can afford it, purchase and move to a retreat somewhere far enough off the beaten path but not completely outside civilization, especially if you're keeping your job and will need to commute. Others will tell you that you need hundreds of acres of land, but that is only true if you plan on raising a bunch of livestock; you can grow a monstrous garden and even raise chickens, rabbits and catfish should you choose to on just a few peaceful rural acres.
  2. Make sure your place has clean water via a well or stream. A well plumbed to your house is obviously best, but hauling water is also an acceptable-- though tedious-- option. Just remember there is nothing more important than clean water.
  3. Buy a quality water filter for your drinking/cooking water just in case.
  4. Install a wood burning stove, even if you decide to use electricity or natural gas during normal day-to-day living; the wood stove and several cords of chopped firewood will save you in an emergency and keep your electric or gas bill low if used as supplementary heating.
  5. Buy an appropriately-sized emergency generator (preferably diesel or propane) that will allow you to keep, at the very least, your well pump running should you lose grid power. I also sized mine to keep my freezers/refrigerator running. You'll also need to store fuel for the genset, so be sure to check with the local authorities in your area about safety requirements.
  6. Secure a means to cook/heat/boil water without grid power (i.e. propane or charcoal grill, rocket stove, camp stove, etc.) and stockpile the appropriate fuel (see #5 above).
  7. Have a minimum of two weeks to one month of food stockpiled for every member of your family. See previous article concerning this subject.
  8. Keep a full First Aid kit at home and smaller travel kits in every vehicle.
  9. Buy yourself a good set of sturdy garden tools.
  10. Secure a means of communication between different areas on your property and the outside world.
  11. Keep an emergency survival kit in each vehicle in case you or a family member become stranded by a natural disaster or the next act of terrorism.
  12. Stock up on candles, matches, plastic sheeting, etc..
Once all of that is done, then take the remainder of your assets and invest it in physically-acquired gold and silver coins. Heavy on the silver as it is more versatile than gold should you need to use it to trade.


Navy Positions Destroyer For Possible Intercept of North Korean Ship Suspected of Proliferating Missiles, Nukes

As a follow-up to yesterday's article, we are now apparently moving the U.S. Navy Destroyer USS John McCain into position to possibly intercept the ship as soon as it leaves the waters off the Chinese coast.

To help refresh your memory, the ship left a port in North Korea a few days ago and appears to be headed in the direction of Singapore. The U.S. military has been tracking it since its departure, believing that it might be carrying weaponry, missile parts or nuclear materials, which would be a violation of the recently passed U.N. Resolution 1874.

As I understand it, the Resolution gives us the right to board the ship, but oddly only with permission. If they refuse, then the responsibility to conduct the search, and seize and destroy all contraband aboard falls to the government of the country when the ship next goes into port.

North Korean officials have unequivocally stated the boarding and searching any of their ships will bee considered an act of war. As of this moment, the order to inderdict has not yet been issued to the Destroyer USS John McCain, but she is getting into position.


Analysts say North Korea's chemical weapons pose as grave a threat as nukes


Can you see a pattern beginning to emerge here?

"The independent International Crisis Group said ... [North Korea] is believed to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, phosgene, blood agents and sarin. These weapons can be delivered with ballistic missiles and long-range artillery and are "sufficient to inflict massive civilian casualties on South Korea.""

It would suck to be stationed on the DMZ right now!


19 June, 2009

Navy monitoring North Korean ship: U.S. officials


The U.S. Navy is calling the North Korean ship a "subject of interest" as they monitor it under the authority of a newly-approved U.N. Security Council resolution banning all exports of weaponry from North Korea and most arms imports coming into the country as well. Under the resolution, all U.N. member states are authorized to conduct inspections of any North Korean sea, air and land cargo, as well as to seize and destroy any goods that are found to violate the sanctions. Boarding may be undertaken only with permission, however, and if that permission was denied then it would fall to the country where the ship next comes into port to perform the inspection.

Keep in mind, that North Korean officials have already stated that any attempt to interdict one of their ships will be treated as an act of war against them and promised to react accordingly.

Surprisingly, the article goes so far as to admit that they are concerned of a launch in the direction of Hawaii. "[U.S. Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said he had directed the redeployment of anti-missile assets in the Pacific region, including advanced radar and other defensive systems capable of bringing down medium-range ballistic missiles as a precaution."


Report: NKorea plans to fire missile toward Hawaii


See article above. Apparently, the idea that the regime in Pyongyang may be gearing up to launch a long-range missile in the direction of Hawaii was not borne strictly out of the issue with the rogue vessel currently being monitored. There is some thought that this new missile test will occur sometime between 4 July-8 July.


New 2012 Doomer Film Coming In November

I personally am in the camp that thinks all the 2012 bunk is mostly nonsense, which oughta tell you something since I stand to make money off any hysteria, but this movie looks like it's going to be really fun. The visual effects are amazing.

Official Film Website


Sesame Street Teaches Kids Emergency Preparedness


Sounds like a great idea to me.


18 June, 2009

An Inconvenient Talk: Dave Hughes’s guide to the end of the fossil fuel age

The article linked here is one of the best I have personally ever read on the subject of Peak Oil Theory and hydrocarbon resource depletion. It was written by Chris Turner and the subject is a geologist named Dave Hughes who travels around the continent giving what they refer to as "The Talk," a lecture he presents at trade shows, conferences, symposiums and the like. "The Talk" is all about the rapidly approaching (if it isn't already here) point at which we will have depleted fully half of the world's total supply of hydrocarbons. He's talking not just about oil, but also natural gas and coal reserves, which are running out just as quickly.

Anyone who knows anything about Peak Oil Theory knows that the danger of hitting the halfway mark is multi-faceted. It is true that there will be oil for a long time, but what some folks fail to take into account are the economic factors involved. Fluctuations in the price of the gas you pump into your car have, up until now, been artificial fluctuations created by human manipulation of the supply/demand ratio. If they pump a lot of oil, it creates a glut in the market and the price goes down. This is bad for the oil company's bottom line, so when they see it happening they ease back the production, pumping less and driving up demand and the price per gallon at the pump. This is all based on decisions made in the board room, but what happens when nature takes the decisions out of the hands of the greedy men in expensive suits?

More and more people are coming around to the truth. As quoted in the article, even the the International Energy Agency (IEA) have recently changed their tune from "dismissing peak oil’s proponents as “doomsayers”" as recently as 2005. In 2008, the IEA released "the latest edition of its annual World Energy Outlook, which predicts a global oil production peak or plateau by 2030. In a video that appears online soon after, the Guardian’s George Monbiot requests a more precise figure from the IEA’s chief economist, Fatih Birol. The official estimate, he confesses, is 2020. Monbiot also inquires as to the motivation for the IEA’s sudden about-face, and Birol explains dryly that previous studies were “mainly an assumption.” That is, the 2008 version was the first in which the IEA actually examined hard data, wellhead by wellhead, from the world’s 800 largest oil fields. Monbiot asks, with understandable incredulity, how it was that such a survey hadn’t been conducted previously. Birol’s response: “In fact, nobody has done that research. And the research we have done this year is the first in the world, and this is the first publicly available data in that respect.”"

So, there you have a factual estimate from arguably the most trusted source in fossil fuel reserve prediction on the planet. World oil production will peak sometime between 2020-2030 and we will begin our descent down the backside of the bell curve. At that time, whenever it occurs, the clock will officially begin ticking and every drop of oil pulled out of the ground will be more expensive than the one before it. In my opinion, the only reason this isn't already happening is that your average population of Joe and Betty Sixpacks are segmented into several camps: some have never seen the figures; some don't understand the figures; some live in a fantasy world where they believe we will be saved by new technology and/or new discoveries of huge oil fields that simply don't exist; and, still many more are too busy living their lives to care.

In my mind, Peak Oil is probably the most important obstacle that mankind has ever faced, because our entire lives are drenched in oil, whether we realize it or not. It's the energy that all modern societies were built on. As stated in the article, however, the truth is that "there’s no possible way to keep running the engine of a modern global economy for much longer at the pace we’re burning" fossil fuels.

Anyway, please read the article linked above, paying especially close attention to the percentages of how much of the world's total fossil fuel resources we have already used in such a short span of time.


Peter Schiff on the Daily Show

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Political HumorJason Jones in Iran


Wall Street Journal Article Imagines Breaking The U.S. Up Into Smaller, Autonomous Regional Republics


It seems a little nutty to see something like this in the Wall Street Journal of all places, but the authors succeeds in getting his point across. The point being that allowing the U.S. to devolve and break apart into smaller, more easily manageable Republics could actually be the only viable route to get us back to what the Founding Fathers tried to give us, and help us to throw off the chains of the bloated Federal Government that breathes down our neck more and more.

I have to say I don't think I'm ready to give up on the Union just yet, but it is an intriguing article just the same.

May be I'll run for President Of The Southern States of America... ;-)


Re: "Yet Another Mystery Disease Raging"


It sounds as though it could be the same disease I reported on previously here on the blog back on 12 June, but popping up in a different area in Nepal this time.

At least 9 dead with 300 ill as of Wednesday.


17 June, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - Mexican Swine Flu: strain 'has mutated, become more infectious'

Well, it appears that now one of the paramount fears held by all those of us who have been keeping an eye on this influenza pandemic has been realized. It appears now that the A(H1N1) Swine Influenza virus that is circling the world as the first official pandemic in more than four decades has now mutated into a new strain that is more infectious for humans.

According to Prof. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of Tokyo University's Institute of Medical Science, who has been part of a team conducting research on the virus, the new data involves thorn-shaped proteins called hemagglutinin (HA) that assist the disease to more easily grab onto human cells. He went on to say that the "same mutations have been found in HA of the H5N1 strain of influenza, the highly virulent bird flu, which kills about 60 percent of those it infects. Kawaoka said the virus is still in the process of mutating into a form even more infectious to humans." (source)

No report as yet on whether or not the new strain could be more/less aggressive than the current A(H1N1) virus.


The American Empire Is Bankrupt

In the past, I have rarely found myself in agreement with the author of this article Chris Hedges, but his assessment of what's going on with the dollar as we speak sure sounds pretty dead on to me, with the notable exception of the timeline involved: I have my doubts that things will unravel quite so quickly. I expect the the things he's forecasting to unfold over a decade or perhaps even longer.

This goes back to what I said yesterday about a summit being held between some of the major foreign holders of U.S. debt. I was wrong about the meeting being held in Moscow; it is taking place in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (formerly Sverdlovsk) instead, but it apparently is true that the U.S. asked to attend and was rebuffed. No good can come from that, mark my words. As stated in the Hedges article, economist Michael Hudson is calling it "the most important meeting of the 21st century so far."

Further, the Hedges article linked above includes the quote: "“This means the end of the dollar,” Hudson told me. “It means China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran are forming an official financial and military area to get America out of Eurasia. The balance-of-payments deficit is mainly military in nature. Half of America’s discretionary spending is military. The deficit ends up in the hands of foreign banks, central banks. They don’t have any choice but to recycle the money to buy U.S. government debt. The Asian countries have been financing their own military encirclement. They have been forced to accept dollars that have no chance of being repaid. They are paying for America’s military aggression against them. They want to get rid of this.”

China, as Hudson points out, has already struck bilateral trade deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China’s yuan rather than the dollar, pound or euro. Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies. The governor of China’s central bank has openly called for the abandonment of the dollar as reserve currency, suggesting in its place the use of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights..."

The major question I would have is how does one reconcile all this with the Bloomberg article from 15 June? In that piece, it was reported that "Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the dollar is in “good shape,” further affirming that there’s no substitute for the world’s reserve currency.

Kudrin rushed to reassure investors of Russia’s confidence in the dollar just days after his boss, President Dmitry Medvedev, questioned its global status, joining China’s central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan in suggesting the world may need another benchmark for settling international debts."

To that end, there was some conjecture that the Russians may have been attempting to bolster the dollar's value while they are still flush with them in case a decision would be made to dump the currency, thus ensuring they would be able to get the highest return possible from their holdings. This view was strengthened partially because the dollar did receive a slight bump immediately following the announcement by Kudrin.

In the end, we may have dodged a bullet as the summit concluded with just "a cautious statement suggesting a move away from the dollar’s role in global commerce," (source) but it seems the whole world is catching on to just how fragile our system truly is and are beginning to think seriously about hedging their bets by distancing themselves from us.


Greenbrier Hotel In My Home State Of WV Hides Enormous Cold War Era Bunker

Click here to view the Youtube video clip, as embedding was disabled by the poster. I was a teenager when the Washington Post article came out in 1992 that blew the proverbial whistle on the whole thing, and I remember vividly how strange it felt to discover something like this existed just a few hours drive away.


British Airways feeling the pain, asks staff to work for nothing

"British Airways is asking thousands of staff to work for nothing, for up to one month, to help the airline survive.

The appeal, sent by e-mail to more than 30,000 workers in the UK, asks them to volunteer for between one week and one month's unpaid leave, or unpaid work.

BA's chief executive Willie Walsh has already agreed to work unpaid in July, forgoing his month's salary of £61,000.

Last month, BA posted a record annual loss of £401m, partly due to higher fuel bills and other costs."

Click here to continue reading.

FYI, they're proposing to pay the employees the lost salary incrementally over the following 3-6 months. As many of you already know, I believe the commercial aviation industry is in the final throes of its life. This is just one more example of an attempt to prop the dead horse up a little longer.

I wish them luck.


16 June, 2009

Worrisome Development Involving Several Large Holders of U.S. Debt

Just as I was preparing to post the following set of articles for today, I got wind of a worrisome development that may be brewing. A summit is being held in Moscow today (Tuesday) between Russia, China, India, and Brazil... the United States and Western European officials were apparently not invited. It could be nothing, but it strikes a cord with me because those countries represent a rather LARGE percentage of all foreign-held U.S. debt. Interesting. More tomorrow, I promise.

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UK Telegraph: U.S. Cities May Need to be Bulldozed, Given Back to Nature

That headline may sound like something out of some crazy, doom-errific fantasy fiction, but in reality it's what's about to occur in Flint, Michigan. They are planning on bulldozing vast tracts of abandoned homes and urban blight, and when I use the word vast I'm talking fully 40% of the city. They believe that, by returning the land to nature, it may save the dying city by "concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area."

And, that's not all: the local Michigan county politician who came up with the radical idea has now been tapped by the Obama Administration to assist in enacting similar plans in at least 50 other U.S. cities. These are to include other former industrial "rust belt" cities in the Mid-West and North East such as nearby Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis that were recently identified in a study as "potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes." With regard to Detroit, struggling under "the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside."

Honestly, as strange an idea as it sounds, I think it might turn out to be a much more sustainable way of living. Suddenly I feel like I'm channeling Kunstler, but I could envision each of these smaller neighborhoods operating as a real community instead of in the detached way you often find in big cities. What they need from the people in charge is to be given the chance to succeed at it though. If people still have to get in their car every time they want to perform the most mundane task like we're used to, I'm not sure it will work - at least, not in the long run. People need to be able to walk or ride a bicycle to the grocery store and the pharmacy and still be able to walk or ride home without feeling as though they've just run a marathon or biked the tour de france. In the interests of longterm sustainability, they need to be able to save the car and (perhaps more importantly) the gasoline for longer trips outside the immediate neighborhood, such as monthly doctor visits or other errands. And, city officials need to be serious about policing the areas that they've returned to nature. The average citizen needs to feel safe walking or biking near the outskirts of their neighborhoods without having to race home and lock themselves in from the big bad wolf before dusk rears its head.

If they do all of the above, they might be able to make a go of it. But, in the end, I'll take my quiet place in the country over anything they could offer.