Monday, March 31, 2008


USA 2008: The Great Depression
Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world's richest country faces economic crisis

By David Usborne in New YorkTuesday, 1 April 2008

We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.
Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000. "We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but we have also seen it climbing more in recent months," Maureen Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan's programme, said. "It's been increasing steadily. Without the programme, some families and kids would be going without."

But the trend is not restricted to the rust-belt regions. Forty states are reporting increases in applications for the stamps, actually electronic cards that are filled automatically once a month by the government and are swiped by shoppers at the till, in the 12 months from December 2006. At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, have had a 10 per cent increase in the past year.

In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps has risen by 18 per cent in two years. The food programme started 40 years ago when hunger was still a daily fact of life for many Americans. The recent switch from paper coupons to the plastic card system has helped remove some of the stigma associated with the food stamp programme. The card can be swiped as easily as a bank debit card. To qualify for the cards, Americans do not have to be exactly on the breadline. The programme is available to people whose earnings are just above the official poverty line. For Hubert Liepnieks, the card is a lifeline he could never afford to lose. Just out of prison, he sleeps in overnight shelters in Manhattan and uses the card at a Morgan Williams supermarket on East 23rd Street. Yesterday, he and his fiancée, Christine Schultz, who is in a wheelchair, shared one banana and a cup of coffee bought with the 82 cents left on it.

"They should be refilling it in the next three or four days," Liepnieks says. At times, he admits, he and friends bargain with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. "It can be done. I get $7 back on $10."

Richard Enright, the manager at this Morgan Williams, says the numbers of customers on food stamps has been steady but he expects that to rise soon. "In this location, it's still mostly old people and people who have retired from city jobs on stamps," he says. Food stamp money was designed to supplement what people could buy rather than covering all the costs of a family's groceries. But the problem now, Mr Enright says, is that soaring prices are squeezing the value of the benefits.

"Last St Patrick's Day, we were selling Irish soda bread for $1.99. This year it was $2.99. Prices are just spiralling up, because of the cost of gas trucking the food into the city and because of commodity prices. People complain, but I tell them it's not my fault everything is more expensive."

The US Department of Agriculture says the cost of feeding a low-income family of four has risen 6 per cent in 12 months. "The amount of food stamps per household hasn't gone up with the food costs," says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. "Our clients are finding they aren't able to purchase food like they used to."

And the next monthly job numbers, to be released this Friday, are likely to show 50,000 more jobs were lost nationwide in March, and the unemployment rate is up to perhaps 5 per cent.


Governor signs gun confiscation billFriday, March 7, 2008 11:03 PM MST

CHEYENNE -- Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Friday signed into law a bill
that prohibits government officials from confiscating guns from
law-abiding citizens.

Sponsor Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, has said House Bill 57 was prompted by
the confiscation of guns by police in New Orleans following Hurricane

Freudenthal said afterward that he was pleased to sign the bill,
although he didn't think it addressed any real problem.
But Freudenthal, an avid hunter who was endorsed by the National Rifle
Association in his re-election campaign in 2006, said he can
understand why supporters want the bill enacted here.

"It's not understandable on the basis that anybody around here is
going to be confiscating anybody's firearms, because first of all we
ain't going to allow anybody to do it," Freudenthal said.
Freudenthal said he intends to scrutinize a separate self-defense
bill, HB 137, that has cleared the Legislature and is awaiting his

The so-called "castle doctrine" bill would specify that citizens are
legally entitled to assume that any people who break into their homes
mean to do them harm. It would also give people who kill others in
self-defense immunity from lawsuits.

Supporters say the bill would offer citizens legal protection if they
use deadly force against intruders. They say the bill is named after
the English common-law concept that a man's home is his castle, and
that he's not obligated to try to retreat before using deadly force to
defend it.

The NRA has made passing such "castle doctrine" legislation a priority

Freudenthal said he has asked Attorney General Bruce Salzburg to
review the "castle doctrine" bill.

"It's so nuanced, depending on where the words are, and how it's
structured and what it says, it may or may not have a problem,"
Freudenthal said.

Critics of the "castle doctrine" proposal include prosecutors who say
that enacting it in Wyoming could have unintended consequences. They
have said the state has a strong body of case law on self-defense that
protects citizens' rights. They have said that codifying it could
result in weakening the law.

Freudenthal said he's not surprised to see the NRA push such gun
legislation in Wyoming.

"There's kind of an agenda that the NRA has, and it's not illogical
that they'd come to these states first to get it passed," Freudenthal

"This is a pro-gun environment; we like firearms," Freudenthal said.
"So it's not surprising that they would come to these kind of states
to push that kind of agenda early. My guess is that it's a lot more
responsive here than it would be in California. But in terms of,
'Are there real problems that have to be addressed?' Probably not."


A Survival Retreat for Under $1000
Richard S. Goss

Call it a survival retreat, hunting cabin, or summer cottage, a place away from the crowds and turmoil of the cities is a dream most of us share. Some folks plan out a survival retreat in such detail that long-term storage, over lapping fields of fire, and fuel supplies are worked out. Others, like myself, approach it as a vacation spot that can be readily converted if need be to an alternate living location.

Back in the late 1960s my family had a small two-room cottage on a lake in northern Michigan. The cottage had no electricity, no running water, or no heat. What it did have is nostalgically called a “bath with a path.”

This cottage did however provide what we needed. A few steps from the back door was a pump with clean, clear, cool water. All that was needed was a strong arm and a few minutes to fill the bucket. Cool summer nights were warmed by the glow of the fuel oil lantern that was hung over the dinner table. This lantern produced enough light to fill the cottage and allow card games to be played well past a normal bedtime. The heat from the lantern warmed the place and fuel was cheap. Dinners were usually planned around the nightly campfire, but the old propane stove would serve if needed.

During those periods of time that my father was laid off from work we would spend a week or two stretch of time at the cottage. Living was easy and cheap. Fish from the lake provided many meals and nuts and berries from the woods around the place were gathered and baked into pies. Fall small game season produced meat and poultry in the form of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and grouse. My Dad and I talked often about living up at the cottage if the world went to hell in a hand basket.

After high school and moving into the world of college and working, my trips to the cottage were few and far between. Usually they were only to go up and help Dad secure the place from the last break in that occurred. Sadly, I let the cottage fall into neglect and vandals took care of the rest. Broken doors and windows let the weather in and after a few years the cottage became uninhabitable.

Mom kept the land after Dad’s passing and I started taking my sons there for a few weekend camping trips. Soon the idea of getting the cottage back in shape was talked about, but the northern winters did a good job of making the place beyond repair. With the approach of Y2K and talk of chaos renewed my thoughts of a survival treat. I discussed this with some buddies of mine and ideas of small barns to large military tents were discussed. Like the old saying about when all is said and done, there is more said than done, Y2K came and went and still nothing was done about the cottage.

One of the guys that I had discussed the ideas of a cabin in the woods with called one fall afternoon and suggested that I drive out to his campground and look at a travel trailer that they were giving away. Giving away, free for nothing, giving away? Yup, just make sure it is gone before Halloween.

My youngest son and I drove out and looked at the place. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Although it was a 1955 travel trailer, the interior was clean and bright. The wood finish on the walls was unstained and the place showed signs of good upkeep. I drove home and talked the idea over with my wife and my Mom. The wife had to agree for us to take it, and my Mom had to let us put it on the lake. Both agreed, and my sons and I started planning on getting it up north.

My wife and I agreed that a budget of $500 was all right to spend. We knew that we couldn’t build a lawn barn to use up there for that much money.

Calls to find a mover to haul it north for us were made. Prices ranged from $700 to over $3000. I was taken aback by this and did a total rethink. The guy that helped us find the trailer to begin with suggested I try the guy that moved his out to the campground he was at. That turned out to be a cold trail, but I did find a company in Indiana that was willing to do it for around $200, PROVIDING, I put new tires on it so that it would be pretty much guaranteed to make the trip.

They no longer make the same size tires for travel trailers that they made in 1955. After countless phone calls to any kind of a place I could think of I was referred to a place that dealt with a lot of farm equipment. They informed me that the size I wanted was no longer made but they did have a cross-reference tire that should work just fine. $135 later a pair of the tires were mine. The bad news was I needed them put on the rims and the rims were still on the trailer, 60 miles away. Several more phone calls to repair stores and a place was found that would put them on at the site, but the cost would be around $200.

Getting the tires on proved easier than anyone led me to believe. Even though they were old fashion split rims, the job took just under an hour and the cost was around $170. This put the cost of moving the retreat at the $500 level we had agreed would be reasonable for our budget. I was very pleased and at 11:30 in the morning I left the north central Ohio campground headed for northwestern Michigan.

Thankfully the trip was uneventful. Ben, the very nice driver that the transport company assigned to the job did an outstanding job of getting the trailer to the lake and spotting it where I wanted it. We had to chop out a couple of small trees to get it parked in the sheltered area I wanted, but the job went easy and we were done before darkness set in. The last act of the night was to finish putting the lock and hasp on the door of the trailer before I headed north to my friends cabin for the night. I figured it was easier to drive a little farther north and stay at a buddy’s cabin than make the long drive home.

Mediterranean, Southwestern, early American and assorted other styles of furniture are discussed in the finest design magazines. We settled on what my sister termed “early garage sale.” The propane stove came from a travel trailer that was being scraped out. The chairs for the kitchen table came from the roadside garbage pickup in the neighborhood. The table was a gift from my sister’s basement. Some pots and pans and silverware came from the local Goodwill store. Two sets of bunk beds came from a buddy in the Reserves that worked for a college that was recycling the bunks they had in dorms. The picture pump for the well came in trade for some home repairs done for a neighbor down the street. All in all the cost of the retreat was under $600. Some expenses that will be incurred soon: a new coating on the roof to insure it stays water-resistant and plywood shutters to secure the windows during our absences.
We now have a three-season retreat that allows us to fish, swim, hike, and hunt in the outdoors. We can practice our survival skills, such as fire building and outdoors cooking, and not look like we are doing much more than having a family campout.

We are away from crowds and turmoil of the city. Our friends and family think of it as our “vacation” home, but we know that in a time of crisis we have a survival retreat to go to, and under $1000 cost.


The Campaign to Bore Me to Death
By The Handmaiden

There should be a law against boring people. Ack! I take that back. We don’t need even MORE laws. We need common sense, we need satire, we need someone nefarious to put something in the water to drive us all sane. Ahem….Well, on to the topic at hand.

What an election year. The BS flies ever thicker, the lies fly faster and faster, the promises made by candidates are ever more elaborate and silly--as if any politician EVER keeps any of their promises. Where will all this take us, and why oh why must it go on for so long?

Apparently I am supposed to vote for John McCardboard, Cardboard Rodham Cardboard, or Barak O’Cardboard. They are all pretty much indistinguishable, even though one is a woman and another is a black male. You would think these people would sound different than each other, reflecting different ideas, concerns and politics. But they don’t. They all sound like clones of the political ruling elite, which is exactly what they are, as flatly dull a bunch of liars as one could hope to find in this poor and so far benighted century. Ho hum.

The mainstream media swiftly rid themselves (and unfortunately us) of the only interesting candidates. Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich were all stimulating and interesting. And they presented a threat to the status quo, small threats, but threats. I liked that and would have loved to hear a lot more of what they had to say. So naturally the mainstream sidelined and ignored them, downplayed their ideas, stuck them at the very ends of the line of “debators,” and did its absolute best to denigrate them. Thus the media showed its nasty little hand, revealed its role as cheerleader and tireless supporter to the power elite. Obviously the mainstream brainwashers did not want any of us to think outside the box--they defined the box, and we’d all better stay inside it.

Ron Paul of course is still in the race, and I am all for Ron Paul, that talented and courageous soul. He is truly a man to be admired, and even if he never gets close to the presidency, he did this country a huge favor by educating the alert folks of the nation. He called, and the response was terrific. For the movement that grew in response to his campaign, for the beginnings of a new revolution, God Bless Ron Paul (and all his fervent supporters).

But I’m not here to praise Ron Paul, no matter how much he deserves it. I’m here to complain and whine about how disgustingly vapid politics in America has become. The minute something remotely engaging comes along, the mainstream brainwashers all shout it down, rip it to shreds, letting me know in no uncertain terms what we are allowed to think. For instance, the flap over Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

This guy went from being totally unknown to most everyone in the United States, to being the Number One Topic of Every Pundit’s Commentary for what? One week? Two? Three? And what all did the guy say? You’d never know from listening to the brainwashers, because they’re not about to tell you. What they do is to show clips or bits and pieces taken out of context, to prove that Rev. Wright is totally beyond the pale of acceptability in America today. In other words, the guy is mildly politically incorrect. Ho Hum.

From what I heard and read, I’d tend to agree with Wright and certainly with his right to say whatever he thinks. He rightly criticizes America’s government and the political elite and its foreign policy. Even when he seemed to me to be wrong, I liked how he made his point. Up jumps the mainstream brainwashers to tear Rev. Wright apart and insisted, nay, demanded, that everyone else do so as well. All of this merely to let me know what I am allowed to think, as in: You’d better not dare to think like Jeremiah Wright!

Have you ever met anything so deathly boring and Soviet Russia as political correctness? I mean, who gets to decide what is correct and what isn’t? Hah. Do you begin to see whose hands are shoving your tender little brains into the soapy water? Keep watching and you’ll see lots more.

Anything compelling, riveting, provocative is shunned, banned and condemned. You can’t go there! It’s too horrible to contemplate! It is offensive! We are Outraged! And you’d better agree, or you’ll be torn to pieces in public. Thus ends any chance of anything illuminating the murky zeitgeist of what passes for American thought.

After eliminating the interesting in this campaign, what are we left with? Three cardboard copies of each other; three mediocre lying politicians who are so close to each other’s positions that there is no telling them apart. Just the usual platitudinous crap politics: Hillary thinks the presidency is hers by right (as if being married to an impeached former president is any recommendation!), John McCain is a thieving S&L scandal/Keating 5 loser (and probably lunatic and senile to boot), and Obama is a youngish pretty boy with typically tedious leftist ideas (I don‘t think I can take 4 to 8 years of Hope….Future….Change….). Ho Hum to all three is my response. When I can be bothered to respond, that is.

These three candidates have all undoubtedly been screened and found acceptable by the Powers That Be, and the ruling elite would be happy with any of them. They are all for the war, more war, and war forevermore, they all kiss Israel’s ass, they all take special interest money (to whom they make REAL promises no doubt), and they’re all shallow as hell. Eight endless years of Clintons, eight endless years of Bush and now this. Are we ready for four or eight more years of Business As Usual and Boring as Hell? I don’t think the country can take it.

On the other hand…Remember the Clintons? Remember all the lies, gaffes, the fake tear at Ron Brown’s funeral? Recall the Rose Law Firm billing files that “disappeared” and then mysteriously “showed up?” Remember all the FBI files that were somehow transferred to the Clinton White House? Remember all the astounding lies that poured out of Bill and Hill’s faces, even when they didn’t have to lie? Oh Lord, that infamous blue dress!

What a hoot! They might once again be good for many hearty laughs. But oh, at what price!


Gruff Lord,

A few thoughts on living without electricity and its comforts…

The End of Electricity will be hard for us, but the “end of the world as we know it” for us would be just another day for the Old Amish, who do not use any modern convenience such as electricity or indoor plumbing. It’d be just another day of hard work on the farm, building fence or mucking stalls. This is something for us to keep in mind when contemplating coming possible events. What may seem like the total end of civilization (by which we mean indoor plumbing, electric lights, central heating, hot food, safety in the home or on the street), would be a big yawn for my friends down on their farm. Nothing would have ended for them, for they’d still be using the oil lamps, wood-burning stove, and outhouses they’ve always used.

Does that help put things into some perspective?

And yet it will be a big deal, a really uncomfortable time for us. That will be the biggest loss facing us, I suspect. Not death, not total pain, but simple discomfort day in and day out. Most of our technology, after all, doesn’t keep us alive, it merely keeps us comfortable. We don’t need air conditioners to breathe, we merely need (or want) them to keep the air cooler than it is outside. But it wouldn’t kill us to be outside in 90 degree weather. We’d just sweat, that’s all--your body’s air conditioner. We don’t need indoor plumbing to do our laundry, or washing machines or dryers--they just make the process of washing clothes a lot more convenient and comfortable. Washing clothes by hand is hard work--but certainly not impossible.

The big difference between us and the Amish is their farms, where they have the setup they need to keep life going in a manner comfortable for them (if not entirely for us). We no longer have farms, and huge proportions of our population live in cities and have no way of growing or hunting food, unless they want to eat spouted seeds and rats--which is both possible and probably nutritious enough to keep body and soul together, if not something you’d want to think too hard about.

Americans are so used to getting rid of any discomfort--through drugs, potions, appliances, etc. that to simply have to live with discomfort will be a rude shock. And those will be the lucky people, who merely have to endure discomfort. No more three meals a day with meat at every meal. Think a bowl of soup a day as your full diet, and meat maybe once a week. Maybe some bread or something a little extra, but that might be it for a year or so--just “everlasting soup,” as one post-apocalyptic book has it.

Can you live with that? Can you endure your allergy symptoms without access to antihistamines or live with your own body dirt and smell for weeks at a time, wearing dirty clothes stained with muck and blood? Dirty hair? And worst of all, smelling everyone else with whom you’re sharing the bunker?

Sure. You can live with it. People have, after all, for eons, centuries, prison terms, etc. The trick is how to keep your spirits up, and your sense of humor alive through all this, because I think those two items--morale and humor--might be the first things to go when things get smelly and rough. And yet, you can’t live without ‘em, at least not live well.

When all the survival bloggers tell you to get some skills ahead of time, don’t forget the essential skills of knowing how to laugh and how to play and how to simply enjoy the life around you. Watch kids--they have no idea they are poor (until they run into other kids who let them know). They do know when they’re hungry, but they’ll forget that for a whopping good story any day. That’s an important skill to learn--how to bypass or ignore symptoms of physical discomfort and focus instead on the “good story,” which could be any detail of the life you are currently living.

I remember sailing with my father and brothers. We were sometimes cold and uncomfortable, sometimes capsized into the lake and cold as hell for hours, hoping to be rescued, or slowly towing the boat closer to shore…my dad would work hard to get us to sing, to laugh, to tell stories during these times. Sometimes it wouldn’t work and a more sullen crew could not be found. But when it did, it was wonderful. All of a sudden, what was an awful, even dangerous, situation became a game, an adventure, and it became thrilling, like we were living in a story written by a great, wise author. It became fun!

And all that it took was a change in focus from the uncomfortable to the remarkable, from the dull fact of cold, to the exciting fact of working together to survive. Re-focusing isn’t easy, and it is a skill that requires practice, as do most skills. But practice in this can make survival a lot more enjoyable when it comes down to it.

If we can achieve that ease in paying attention to things other than our physical comfort, I suspect we’ll become as adept as the Amish in dealing with TEOTWAWKI.



I sit at this computer and I get messages from all over the place. Along with my email comments I read alternate news columns for stuff the corporae media won"t tell us, like the news about the Wyoming Sheriffs kicking ass over the federal agencies and making them walk the line. That is what alternate news is all about.

The news on the economy is absolutely mind boggling. Sometime back in December the spirit said that men would not know which way to go and I am believing that more and more. There is no relativly stable place to put your money these days. Used to be that you could buy T-Bills and they would remain stable when nothing else would. But with the dollar dropping like it is the loss of value due to poor management has taken a great toll. If you buy a T-Bill tht pays 3% but inflation is costing you 15%, where the hell is the justification for buying a T-Bill? It ain't there.

But you and I have to eat breakfast every morning. How is this going to affect us? What does this have to do with what's for supper?

It is going to cost you more, is the answer. Your Bacon and Eggs and your Rice and Beans are going up in price. They may double here pretty soon. And you thought that Rice and Beans would stay cheap forever. And who the hell didn't?

But other countries have learned tricks off the ol' whore we call America and they are using these tricks to take our food and put it in THEIR mouths. A Chinaman now eats more meat in a day than he used to eat in a week 10 to 15 years ago. Chinese girls are growing bigger boobs because their carbohydrate intake has gone up so much. Everyone is much happier.

What is the story when you and I sit down to the table to eat? The simplest of exercises, sitting down to food. It is going to cost you more money. This country is used to the cheapest food prices in the world. A reasonable income meant you just didn't worry about food costs. It was too cheap to mention. People started to eat out a lot because it was fun and less work. Cost a little more, but we had the money. I used to watch Bobby Flay on the Food Channel. He was always saying "Eat America." And it was a very great adventure. You could go into a supermarket in podunk Bedford, Indiana, and eat great stuff from all over the world. Fruit and vegetables and fish and meat and just what ever the hell you wanted. It used to bogggle my mind as to what I could find in a common garden variety supermarket. We were truly blessed.

The blessing is going way, however. Your dollar won't buy what it used to buy. And it is going to buy less. The shelves will get a little less appetising. Not the variety you have been used to. On top of degrading the money, the Bush administration is taking our corn and soybeans to make fuels that we can burn and sell on the open market. We will have fuel to drive to the store and we will have fuel to run our cookstove, but we won't have much to put in the skillet to fry.


So what does all this international hoopla have to do with preppers? What can we doomers do that will help our odds of survival? Get an underground shelter and buy all the storage food you can use. It is an old bit of advice but it becomes more relevant with each passing day. We are finding out the hard way that we don't count in the general scheme of things. The Elite, the Privileged, the Connected: They all matter. We folk who just have bacon and eggs for breakfast and try to survive don't make any waves in the big investment banks. We don't have much say in the oil industry. Our views on Big Pharma aren't published. The results of inflated money are not anything we should concern ourselves with. We just don't matter.

So just get prepared to go against the stream. PREPARE ANYWAY! Grow your gardens. Buy a Number 2 Spoon shovel and get busy digging your underground shelter. When you sit down at the end of the week and look back on what you have done, anything will be a victory! The more you got done the more you will have denied them in their insane plans.

Whne the bombs fall, and they will fall, we will have the irrisistable force meeting the immovable object. I call this outcome CREATION. A creation of fire. And fire is the great purifier. It will clean up all the messes for a while. And it will create many new little countries. Little enclaves of a hundred or two hundred people who have banded together in the common cause of saving their own asses. Hopefully their leadership will have a greater understanding of life than to just save their own ass.

I will write on this subject some more if you so desire. Ask me some questions. Questions are in order. This ain't Christianity. HAH!


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weekend EditionMarch 29 / 30, 2008
Slip Sliding Away
Bernanke's Next Big Bail Out Plan

The Federal Reserve is presently considering an emergency operation that is so risky it could send the dollar slip-sliding over the cliff. The story appeared in the Financial Times earlier this week and claimed that the Fed was examining the feasibility of buying back hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) with public money to restore investor confidence and clear the struggling banks' balance sheets. The Fed, of course, denied the allegations, but the rumors abound. Currently the banking system is so clogged with exotic investments, for which there is no market, it can't perform its main task of providing credit to businesses and consumers. Bernanke's job is to clear the credit logjam so the broader economy can begin to grow again. So far, he has failed to achieve his objectives.

Since September, Bernanke has slashed interest rates by 3 per cent and opened various auction facilities (Term Securities Lending Facility, the Term Auction Facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, and the new Term Securities Lending Facility) which have made $400 billion available in low-interest loans to banks and non banks. He has also accepted a "wide range" of collateral for Fed repos including mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) which are worth considerably less than what the Fed is offering in exchange. But the Fed's injections of liquidity have not solved the basic problem which is the fall in housing prices and the persistent downgrading of mortgage-backed assets that investors refuse to buy at any price. In fact, the troubles are gradually getting worse and spreading to areas of the financial markets that were previously thought to be risk-free. The credit slowdown has also put additional pressure on hedge funds and other financial institutions forcing them to quickly deleverage to meet margin calls by dumping illiquid assets into a saturated market at fire-sale prices. This process has been dubbed the "great unwind".

In the last six years, the mortgage-backed securities market has ballooned to a $4.5 trillion dollar industry. The investment banks are presently holding about $600 billion of these complex debt instruments. So far, the banks have written down $125 billion in losses, but there's a lot more carnage to come. Goldman Sachs estimates that banks, brokerages and hedge funds will eventually sustain $460 billion in losses, three times greater than today. Even so, those figures are bound to increase as the housing market continues to deteriorate and capital is drained from the system.

The Fed has neither the resources nor the inclination to scoop up all the junk bonds the banks have on their books. Bernanke has already exposed about half ($400 billion) of the Central Bank's balance sheet to credit risk. But what is the alternative? If the Fed doesn't intervene, then many of country's largest investment banks will wind up like Bear Stearns; DOA. After all, Bear is not an isolated case; most of the banks are similarly leveraged at 25 or 35 to 1. They are also losing more and more capital each month from downgrades, and their main streams of revenue have been cut off. In fact, many of Wall Street's financial titans are technically insolvent already. The Fed is the only force keeping them from bankruptcy.

Case in point: "Citigroup may write down $13.1 billion of assets including leveraged loans and collateralized debt obligations in the first quarter..... U.S. bank earnings overall will tumble 84 percent in the quarter....``We anticipate further downside to both estimates and stock prices'' because banks will be under pressure to mark down assets to reflect falling market indexes." (Bloomberg News)

It's generally accepted that the market for mortage-backed securities (MBS) will not improve until housing prices stabilize, but that's a long way off. Mortgages are the cornerstone upon which the multi-trillion dollar structured investment market rests. And that cornerstone is crumbling. If housing prices continue to fall, the MBS market will remain frozen and banks will fail; it is as simple as that. No one is going to purchase derivatives when the underlying asset is losing value. The Bush administration is pushing for a "rate freeze" and other clever ways to keep homeowners from defaulting on their mortgages. But it's a hopeless cause. The clerical work needed to change these complex mortgages is already proving to be a daunting task. Plus, since 60 percent of these mortgages were securitized, it is nearly impossible to change the terms of the contracts without first getting investor approval.

Also, the tentative plans to expand Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so they can absorb larger mortgages (up to $729,000 jumbo loans) is putting an enormous strain on the already-overextended Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs; financial services corporations created by the United States Congress. By attempting to reflate the housing bubble, the administration will only increase the rate of foreclosures and put the two mortgage behemoths at risk of default without any clear sign that it will revive the market.

Yesterday's release of the Case/Schiller Index of the 20 largest cities in the country, shows that housing prices have slipped 10.7 per cent in the last year while sales were down 23 per cent year over year. That means that retail equity of US homes just took a $2 trillion haircut. Still, prices have a long way to go before they catch up to the 50 percent decline in sales from the peak in 2005. From this point on, prices should fall and fall fast; following a trajectory as steep as sales. Many economists expect housing prices to drop at least 30 per cent, which means that $6 trillion will be shaved from aggregate home equity. In a slumping market, many homeowners will be better off just "walking away" from their mortgage instead of making payments on an asset of steadily decreasing value. Who wants to make monthly payments on a $500,000 mortgage when the current value of the house is $350,000? It's easier to pack the kids and vamoose then waste a lifetime as a mortgage slave. Besides, the Bush administration has no interest in helping the little guy stay out of foreclosure. It's a joke. All of the rescue plans are designed with just one purpose in mind; to save Wall Street and the banking establishment.

The Fed chairman has simply responded to events as they unfold. The collapse of Bears Stearns came just weeks after the SEC had checked the bank's reserves and decided that they had sufficient capital to weather the storm ahead. But they were wrong. The bank's capital ($17 billion) vanished in a matter of days after word got out that Bear was in trouble. The sudden run on the bank created a risk to other banks and brokerages that held derivatives contracts with Bear. Something had to be done; Rome was burning and Bernanke was the only man with a hose.
According to the UK Telegraph:

"Bear Stearns had total (derivatives) positions of $13.4 trillion. This is greater than the US national income, or equal to a quarter of world GDP - at least in 'notional' terms. The contracts were described as 'swaps', 'swaptions', 'caps', 'collars' and 'floors'. This heady edifice of new-fangled instruments was built on an asset base of $80bn at best.

"On the other side of these contracts are banks, brokers, and hedge funds, linked in destiny by a nexus of interlocking claims. This is counterparty spaghetti. To make matters worse, Lehman Brothers, UBS, and Citigroup were all wobbling on the back foot as the hurricane hit.
"' Twenty years ago the Fed would have let Bear Stearns go bust,' said Willem Sels, a credit specialist at Dresdner Kleinwort. 'Now it is too interlinked to fail.'"

Bernanke felt he had no choice but to step in and try to minimize the damage, but the outcome was disappointing. Bernanke and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson worked out a deal with JP Morgan that committed $30 billion of taxpayer money, without congressional authority, to buy toxic mortgage-backed securities from a privately-owned business that was failing because of its own speculative bets on dodgy investments. The only people who made out were the investors who were holding derivatives contracts that would have been worthless if Bear went toes up.

Still,the prospect of a system-wide derivatives meltdown left Bernanke with few good options, notwithstanding the moral hazard of bailing out a maxed-out, capital impaired investment bank that should have been fed to the wolves.

It is worth noting that derivatives contracts are a fairly recent addition to US financial markets. In 2000, derivatives trading accounted for less than $1 trillion. By 2006 that figure had mushroomed to over $500 trillion. And it all can be traced back to legislation that was passed during the Clinton administration.

"A milestone in the deregulation effort came in the fall of 2000, when a lame-duck session of Congress passed a little-noticed piece of legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. The bill effectively kept much of the market for derivatives and other exotic instruments off-limits to agencies that regulate more conventional assets like stocks, bonds and futures contracts.Supported by Phil Gramm, then a Republican senator from Texas and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, the legislation was a 262-page amendment to a far larger appropriations bill. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton that December." ("What Created this Monster" Nelson Schwartz, New York Times)

The Fed chief is now facing a number of brushfires that will have to be put out immediately. The first of these is short term lending rates, which have stubbornly ignored Bernanke's massive liquidity injections and continued to rise. The banks are increasingly afraid to lend to each other because they don't really know how much exposure the other banks have to risky MBS. This distrust has sent interbank lending rates soaring above the Fed funds rate to more than double in the past month alone. So far, the Fed's Term Auction Facility (TAF; under the Term Auction Facility (TAF), the Federal Reserve will auction term funds to depository institutions) hasn't helped to lower rates, which means that Bernanke will have to take more extreme measures to rev up bank lending again. That's why many Fed-watchers believe that Bernanke will ultimately coordinate a $500 billion to $1 trillion taxpayer-funded bailout to buy up all the MBSs from the banks so they can resume normal operations. Of course, any Fed-generated scheme will have to be dolled up with populous rhetoric so that welfare for banking tycoons looks like a selfless act of compassion for struggling homeowners. That shouldn't be a problem for the Bush public relations team.

The probable solution to the MBS mess is the restoration of the Resolution Trust Corp., which was created in 1989 to dispose of assets of insolvent savings and loan banks. The RTC would create a government-owned management company that would buy distressed MBS from banks and liquidate them via auction. The state would pay less than full-value for the bonds (The Fed currently pays 85 per cent face-value on MBS) and then take a loss on their liquidation. "According to Joseph Stiglitz in his book, Towards a New Paradigm in Monetary Economics, the real reason behind the need of this company was to allow the US government to subsidize the banking sector in a way that wasn't very transparent and therefore avoid the possible resistance."

The same strategy will be used again. Now that Bernanke's liquidity operations have flopped, we can expect that some RTC-type agency will be promoted as a prudent way to fix the mortgage securities market. The banks will get their bailout and the taxpayer will foot the bill.
The problem, however, is that the dollar is already falling against every other currency. (On Wednesday, the dollar fell to $1.58 per euro, a new record) If Bernanke throws his support behind an RTC-type plan; it will be seen by foreign investors as a hyper-inflationary government bailout, which could precipitate a global sell-off of US debt and trigger a dollar crisis.
Reuter's James Saft puts it like this:

"It is also hugely risky in terms of the Fed's obligation to maintain stable prices.... it could stoke inflation to levels intolerable to foreign creditors, provoking a sharp fall in the dollar as they sought safety elsewhere." (Reuters)

Saft is right; foreign creditors will see it as an indication that the Fed has abandoned standard operating procedures so it can inflate its way out of a jam. According to Saft, the estimated price could be as high as $1 trillion dollars. Foreign investors would have no choice except to withdraw their funds from US markets and move them overseas. In fact, that appears to be happening already. According to the Wall Street Journal:

"While cash continues to pour into the U.S. from abroad, this flow has been slowing. In 2007, foreigners' net acquisition of long-term bonds and stocks in the U.S. was $596 billion, down from $722 billion in 2006, according to Treasury Department data. From July to December as jitters about securities linked to US subprime mortgages spread, net purchases were just $121 billion, a 65% decrease from the same period a year earlier. Americans, meanwhile, are investing more of their own money abroad." ("A US Debt Reckoning" Wall Street Journal)

$121 billion does not even put a dent the $700 billion the US needs to pay its current account deficit. When foreign investment drops off, the currency weakens. It's no wonder the dollar is falling like a stone.

Mike Whitney can be reached at


[It's last years news but it is good news!]

February 18, 2007

Here’s one the mainstream media isn’t going to tell you: County sheriffs in Wyoming are demanding that federal agents actually abide by the Constitution, or face arrest. Even better, a U.S. District Court agreed according to the Keene Free Press:

The court decision was the result of a suit against both the BATF and the IRS by Mattis and other members of the Wyoming Sheriff’s Association. The suit in the Wyoming federal court district sought restoration of the protections enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution.

Guess what? The District Court ruled in favor of the sheriffs. In fact, they stated, Wyoming is a sovereign state and the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding that of any other state or federal official.” Go back and re-read this quote.

The court confirms and asserts that “the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers EXCEEDING that of any other state OR federal official.” And you thought the 10th Amendment was dead and buried — not in Wyoming, not yet.

Bighorn County Sheriff Dave Mattis comments:

“If a sheriff doesn’t want the Feds in his county he has the constitutional right and power to keep them out, or ask them to leave, or retain them in custody.”

“I am reacting in response to the actions of federal employees who have attempted to deprive citizens of my county of their privacy, their liberty, and their property without regard to constitutional safeguards. I hope that more sheriffs all across America will join us in protecting their citizens from the illegal activities of the IRS, EPA, BATF, FBI, or any other federal agency that is operating outside the confines of constitutional law. Employees of the IRS and the EPA are no longer welcome in Bighorn County unless they intend to operate in conformance to constitutional law.”

The implications are huge:

But it gets even better. Since the judge stated that the sheriff “has law enforcement powers EXCEEDING that of any other state OR federal official,” the Wyoming sheriffs are flexing their muscles. They are demanding access to all BATF files. Why? So as to verify that the agency is not violating provisions of Wyoming law that prohibits the registration of firearms or the keeping of a registry of firearm owners. This would be wrong.

The sheriffs are also demanding that federal agencies immediately cease the seizure of private property and the impoundment of private bank accounts without regard to due process in Wyoming state courts.

This case is not just some amusing mountain melodrama. This is a BIG deal. This case is yet further evidence that the 10th Amendment is not yet totally dead, or in a complete decay in the United States. It is also significant in that it can, may, and hopefully will be interpreted to mean that “political subdivisions of a State are included within the meaning of the amendment, or that the powers exercised by a sheriff are an extension of those common law powers which the 10th Amendment explicitly reserves to the People, if they are not granted to the federal government or specifically prohibited to the States.”

It appears to me that one office where the Libertarian Party should focus it’s limited resources is County Sheriff. The change that could be made is nothing to laugh at. Meanwhile, there are still a bunch of nuts wasting valuable resources supporting those that seek offices that will never be won.
Posted by disinter Filed in US Constitution, libertarian, police Tags: , , , , ,


Hi Mike,
Excellent posting. You hit the nail on the head. I don't believe we should be hunkered down in a bunker watching the world blow up while we indulge in banana chips. (although in my case it would be lobster bisque, I love lobster bisque)

1) What is the answer? If we get to close to the coming choas it will engulf us and we will not survive.

[The answer to that is simple. "Look before you leap." You are gonna know that there is hell to pay if you move the wrong way. If things are too risky don't even go anywhere. Let things die down and cool off. Charity begins at home. If you have your clan on the mountain with you it might be good to make sure of their security. And if you go down the mountainside who are you going to see? Do you know anyone down at the bottom? And if you could use something from the bottom of the mountain why don't you already have it? If the trip to the bottom is going to happen one way or another, do you have anyone capable of scouting the terrain? Stay away from where you don't belong. Eat your food and relax as much as you can. Times will get tough sooner than later. If chaos rules the world, stay out of the world. Let the chaos settle down to something managable.

From earlier writings I assume that your retreat on the mountain is pretty much self contained. You must have water and at least a decent place to put in a garden. Stay put. But don't get "starved" off the mountain. Don't wait until it is a life or death matter for you to decide to go down. I would say that a medical emergency would be your most compelling reason to go down. You got a doctor or a nurse in your clan? Most other things you should have in storage at your retreat. Get a hand cranked radio and listen for any news that might be broadcast. But your scout option might be your best bet.]

2) Your writings on charity are clear but will you expand on your ideas
on how far charity should go?

[Charity should go the limit if it is a case of real human need and not some rip-off. There are a lot of despicable people who will let you and yours work your tails off and make them a living. Don't fall into that trap. But if there comes a family that will work and contribute to the effort of staying alive, let them come among you. You should already have your line of questioning figured out among your men. Every one of you should be able to ask the questions that need to be answered. Don't be bashful and shy. Lay it out on the table and let the cards fall where they may. Just don't kill yourself to save someone else who might eat your food supply down to the nubs. Charity begins at home. I would tighten my belt over my big belly for someone decent if need be. You must make your own decision. But what goes around comes around. Reason and logic must prevail. And who the hell would come up to your place anyhow? Should be rather isolated up there. I've walked timber in that area and I wear a parachute in case I fall. Not really, but those are some damn steep mountains. I can't see you being bothered unless you run up on someone really desparate.]

3) What about the children? Could you pass a hungry chilld by? Could I?

[Children are a thing that grips a mans heart. But children can be used as decoys. If a lone child wanderd into your camp I would have my scouts go IMMEDIATELY to check out the country side. Freebooters know every trick in the book. They know every string that will tug at our heart. Keep close watch in the event of a child wandering in. I would take care of the child if things turned out okay. But I would not show the kid a damn thing about my storage. The kid would hear nothing but misery from me until I got a better handle on the situation. Question the child extensively. Has to be done. It's the life of you and your clan if it is a trick and it works.]

4) How are we going to tell a refurgee from a freebooter carrying a concealed weapon with a family as cover?

[Again, you must have questions already in mind. What is this person doing on the mountain anyway? Why would they come up there? Listen to what they say very carefully. Be very prayerful in your hearing of their story. Carrying a concealed weapon is not a major crime in hard times. If it bothers you then tell them you want to hold the gun for few days until you get to know them a little better. If there are six guys with all kinds of potent firearms standing around you should not get too much of an argument. If there is an argument then that person may need to go on his way. Or he may need to die right there and be buried. He could be a spy for a gang of freebooters. People will do all sorts of mischief to separate good people from their food and shelter. If you get much resistance from a stranger then tell him to get the hell out. Or, like I said, shoot him and bury him. If parts of the country are glowing in the dark you don't need a ball-buster in the camp. You must protect you and yours first. You have a group because you are fortunate. Keep the group safe and secure.]

Finally our cabin is half way up a mountainside with a three mile dirt road that is deeply rutted and impassable during the best of times in anything but a 4wd. It is straight's out of the "Grapes of Wrath".

[So much the better. Fix the roof and put in a new stove pipe. The shabbier it looks the less interest you will arouse. If you have a barn and maybe some other outbuildings then fix them on the inside to be livable for your people. You might keep a shed for "guests".]

5) Am I obliged to come down and help the flatlanders?

[How many flatlanders came to help you with your place? If you go down to flatland will you run into a mob of people who can run you over and do as they please? If you come in all fat and sassy and they are all starving, your ass could be in a world of trouble. And they will most likely have guns too. Move very slowly when considering helping the flatlanders.]

6) I mean am I obliged to come down and try to help stop the killing and raping and robbing when it is none of my kith or kin in danger?

[Yes. It's your duty to stop that kind of behavior. But only if your people are safe and secure. To leave your women and children and go help others may be the dumbest thing you ever did. The bad guys may have not bothered you because they had easier pickin's on the flatland. But they will know where you are and if you are down the mountain they know there ain't much left up there to fight. The bad guys are just not much different than the rest of humanity. They will take the easiest road they can find. If they hear you are all armed to the teeth then they will look for easier prey. Simple as that.

The method of war says you don't attack unless you have a numerical advantage of at least 5 to 1 on a dug in and armed opponenet. Attacking is a lot different than defending. Much different. Are your people trained to attack as a unit? Has even one of them ever killed a man? Do they know even rudimentary squad tactics? Do they know anything as simple as advance and cover? Can they break a line of attack and turn it into a flanking movement? This kind of stuff is what attacking is all about. Just simple infantry tactics. But if you don't know it, you can suffer horrible casualties. And you might get lucky and find them all drunk and laying in the road. I would say that something BETWEEN full scale alert and laying drunk in the road is what you will find.

I would try to help people who are being assaulted by savages, if I could. But it is risky business. All plans seem to go out the door when the first shot it fired. That is why attacking forces like to have 5 to 1 superiority when they make their move. Combat is a thing that can shake a man to the core of his being. Seeing the blood of one of your best friends on the whole planet vaporize in the air right next to you is an earth shaking experience. You won't forget it. It is best to follow Dragon's advice and keep your eyes on the ridgeline and your nose into the wind. Avoid combat as much as possible. You will live longer and so may your friends. But help who you can.




The Germans have started a movement to have European leaders boycott the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics due to China's behavior in Tibet. This will really set the Chinese on fire. They want this Olynpiad to be a very special event in the eyes of the world because it is the first Olympics to be held in China and they view it as acceptance in the world community. Their national pride is at stake. They are very cognizant of what they call "face" in China. If they are spurned then they will hold a grudge against everyone who didn't come to the big ceremonies. To them it is almost a declaration of war to not participate in the opening and closing.

Merkal of Germany is making the big noise and is leading the charge. She is offending the Chinese government to the max. But I don't think China will go to war over it until next year at the earliest.

China has spent a wad of money on getting ready for this Olympiad. One company in America has made about a 100 hardwood gym floors to be installed in China prior to the Olympics. They were made in Wisconsin. There probably was a plane load of technicians sent over to install the floors. Big dollars. China will not take kindly to being snubbed. They have been poor for a long time and they want the international recognition of hosting the Olympics. Poor folks ain't got much besides their pride.

It should be interesting.



Group survival is more viable than individual survival.

Our ducks out here in the pond are acting like they want to form smaller groups. It's getting warm and they get more independant with the increase in the food supply.

I am still getting reports that the economy is going in the tank.

Preparation is the best remedy for possible calamities.

The scripture says: "After having done all, stand."

We don't know what is coming or how it will turn out, but if the mind of man is behind it you can bet it will be bad.

A lot of folks are turning to survival preps. It is becoming part of the vocabulary of America to say, "I am in to survial mode." This means what ever it takes to survive."

Gardening time is getting closer with every passing day. My friend in Mississippi just about has his all planted. Indiana is not so fortunate. But we aren't sweating our asses off either!

Gonna get some metal trash cans with good lids and use them to protect my stored food. Ain't buying this stuff so the mice can eat it. Bay leaves WILL keep the bugs out, too.

We are getting storms outside. Warm weather in the Spring brings storms. America seems to be getting a lot of water this early part of the year. Hope it doesn't turn to drought now. It's almost dark outside. Gonna catch hell. The lights are flickering. See you later!


Saturday, March 29, 2008


The woman has struck again. She was talking today and some good words came out of her mouth and I told her to get her ass in to her computer and write them down. I don't like to see brainpower wasted. She is normally hesitant to get on the soapbox. She is quite happy to leave that to me. But her words had merit and I want you to read them.

She and I were talking about the reason for the Staying Alive blog. I always make some vague statement about telling the people what is going on, about how to stay alive. She came back with this:

"It isn't enough to just want to survive, Gruff Lord. There's got to be a reason to survive; a purpose behind it , or above it. To live with each other and worship God, to live beyond the horror, to be men and women with a vision is what is needed. And that is what you preach and that is the value of it. Not just the nuts and bolts-though you can't do it without the nuts and bolts-but the why behind it all is what counts."

I had her write her feelings and this is what I got. I think this pretty well sums up the heart and soul of the survival mission. You can't make it a better world if you don't stay together and work for it, if you don't have a vision of it being successful, if you don't want good for your fellow man. There are tough times coming, and violence aplenty. People will kill for food. People will kill for just about anything! We must have a vision and we have to work for it. Thus we will demonstrate our reason. Go and prosper, folks.

But remember, if all we can do is fight for our individual home, if all we can do is create a world of
armed pillboxes manned by individuals, then we will become the laughing-stock of History. Stay together and stay alive. We will have a new world to build.



Is There a New Dangerous Biohazard Site Coming to Your State Soon?
By Stan Cox, CounterPunchPosted on March 29, 2008, Printed on March 29, 2008

What would it take to convince you that your town should play host to the world's most feared human and animal pathogens? Believe it or not, five states are locked in fierce competition over a proposed bioterror lab that would have them doing just that.

In 2002, the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was given control of Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. Now DHS is seeking a home in the heartland for a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) that would take over Plum Island's work, along with its potent microbial cultures. The fact that many diseases are now known to jump between humans and animals, combined with this decade's terror-fixation, has led the federal government to convert the agricultural problem of sick livestock into the national-security problem of bioterrorism.

Do I hear a bid?

Lying off the east end of New York's Long Island, Plum Island (which was under the Department of Agriculture until 2002) is the only place in the nation where scientists have previously been allowed to handle the pathogens that cause foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, Rift Valley fever, African swine fever, and other horrific maladies that, if let loose on the mainland, could cause billions in agricultural losses and even threaten human populations.

NBAF will be a "biosafety level 4" (BL-4) facility, providing the highest degree of isolation for the world's most dangerous organisms (Plum Island was one notch down, at BL-3, because it was isolated by water). Locations being eyed as possible sites include the University of Georgia campus in Athens; the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan; Flora, Mississippi, near the capital city of Jackson; a research farm 17 miles northeast of Duke University in North Carolina; and a former ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

There is cutthroat competition for the lab, with DHS being courted with the kinds of incentives that go to all big potential employers. The University of Georgia has offered 66 acres of prime real estate worth $15 million and $4.5 million in road and utility improvements. The Kansas Senate approved the issue of $164 million in bonds to pay for land, roads, and security for NBAF. Now, DHS is reportedly demanding that the lab, wherever it is sited, have its own energy source, a natural gas-fired power plant. Governor Kathleen Sebelius immediately agreed to throw that into the Kansas bid.

A big bio-gamble

Every potential location for the bioterror facility lies close to large human and animal populations. In Manhattan, Kansas, for example, the lab would be located not only in an agricultural region, and not only in the nation's second most tornado-prone state, but also within hailing distance of a senior-citizen home, a student housing area, an affordable-housing complex, a student recreation facility, a football stadium, and a basketball arena.

Kansas State University biology professor Walter Dodd will be have the new bioterror lab a mile north of his workplace if his state wins the sweepstakes. He says that in the struggle over the lab, it's impossible to compare risks. "There has been no formal risk assessment of the BSL-4 facility that is available to the public. Likewise, knowing the risk from terrorists introducing new pathogens is difficult." Although, he says, "We need to do this type of research because we must control diseases if possible," he worries about the proposed locations: "Putting the facility near a city or agricultural production strips one level of protection away." Dodd has recommended putting the lab in a desert or back on Plum Island.

Last year, DHS held a series of public meetings at the five candidate sites for the lab, soliciting comment on environmental, health, safety, and socioeconomic issues. The Department compiled almost 4000 such comments, the majority of them apparently negative. Residents raised a host of alarms about accidents, sabotage, natural disasters, ecosystem damage, water contamination, human or animal epidemics, use of the lab for secret, sinister research, and the general ineptitude of DHS. The Department is working on its responses.

When the bioterror lab is awarded to one of the five contenders this fall, residents of the "winning" location will be asked to accept such vaguely defined risks in good patriotic spirit, to protect the nation's cities, towns, pastures, and feedlots from a hypothetical terrorist attack. But the facility will be run by administrators drawn from the same pool as those who responded to the only actual bioterror attack in this country to date -- the anthrax mailings of October, 2001 -- and who have made virtually no progress in solving them.

Furthermore, as I argued on the CounterPunch site in 2004, any agroterrorists who might want to see their mission accomplished in rural America need only sit back and watch. Agrocapitalism is already doing their work for them: poisoning water supplies, releasing antibiotic-resistant, highly pathogenic bacteria into streams and dust clouds, and contaminating our food supply.
Even bioterror alarmists admit that the increasing concentration of U.S. agriculture, and its increasingly industrial infrastructure, are precisely what make it more vulnerable. The U.S. Government's General Accounting Office acknowledged in a 2005 report that:
The highly concentrated breeding and rearing practices of our livestock industry make it a vulnerable target for terrorists because diseases could spread rapidly and be very difficult to contain. For example, between 80 and 90 percent of grain-fed beef cattle production is concentrated in less than 5 percent of the nation's feedlots. Therefore, the deliberate introduction of a highly contagious animal disease in a single feedlot could have serious economic consequences.

The GAO didn't go on to discuss the damage that can be done by such a highly concentrated farming system even if terrorists never cast their shadow onto the churned soil of the American Plains. And now the federal government plans to take a laboratory that harbors some of the planet's most menacing animal and human germs and place it closer than ever to the cattle feedlots and slaughterhouses of Kansas or Texas, the hog-confinement facilities of North Carolina, or the vast poultry operations of the Deep South.

Critics charge that bioterror-lab boosters at the universities contending for NBAF have nothing but visions of fat grants dancing in their heads. Vigorous opposition in Columbia, Missouri and Madison, Wisconsin got those cities taken off the list of potential sites. Last spring, when Columbia was still in contention for the lab, Eddie Adelstein, an associate professor of pathology at the University of Missouri and the county's Interim Medical Examiner, wrote that his university was:
Developing a corporate structure to allow us to furnish our own income, ignore the needs of the state and pay our top-level executives CEO wages ... To achieve ... financial independence, members of the local welcoming committee for the proposed research center are willing to risk the life of every man, women, child, dog, cat, horse, cow and chicken in our homeland ... Yielding to their self-imposed pressure to become fiscally independent, these leaders in business and education have and are attempting to lure to Columbia a high-tech government facility that belongs in a safer place. The desires of economic growth have overridden all aspects of science and common sense. They would place this facility near homes, schools and nursing facilities ... When accidents occur, we would provide interesting but frightful data as these organisms have a predilection for children, older adults or just young people.

Dismal track records

BSL-4 laboratory capacity in the U.S., its growth once tightly restricted, is now slated to increase tenfold in coming years. BSL-3 labs, already numbering more than 600, will also proliferate. With a new lab in operating in Boston and the proposed NBAF together employing 900 people, and with hundreds more scientists and staff needed at other new facilities, shortages of employees highly trained in biosafety will become critical. A group of 19 experts convened in 2006 as a High Containment Biodefense Research Forum concluded that the influx of new bioterror research workers "will strain the current national capacity for biosafety training", that "many researchers will be working on potentially lethal organisms for the first time," and they "will not be accustomed to the risks of infection ... "

Past infectious-agent mishaps have often been the result of human error rather than equipment or facility breakdown. In the Forum, there was great concern that excessive trust in technology would lead to accidents in the new labs. One participant said, "I fear that some of our researchers believe that the engineering controls will provide their safety. And yet ... it's the procedural controls and the practices of biosafety within the laboratory that are most critical in maintaining good safety."

Government-run biodefense labs do not have a good record of keeping germs contained. The Animal Disease Center on Plum Island, separated from the mainland by several miles of water, was considered for many years to be a safe place to handle exotic pathogens. But as Michael Christopher Carroll related in his 2004 book Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory, Plum Island suffered a long string of potentially disastrous accidents, including the escape of the foot-and-mouth pathogen from containment areas in 1978.

That fiasco led to the slaughter of all livestock on the island. Carroll's stomach-churning account of the killing, dismemberment, and incineration of hundreds of goats, sheep, horses, and pigs -- nonstop through an entire bloody weekend -- provides a preview of what might be necessary if pathogens escape from a heartland NBAF. (And with an urban lab, human quarantine could well follow.) Carroll added the astonishing revelation that researchers took the risk of saving 60 sheep from the slaughter during the "kill weekend", so that they could be inoculated in the open air with the Rift Valley fever virus -- a germ far more dangerous to humans than is foot-and-mouth.

Carroll relates how that incident was only one of many low points in Plum Island's dirty history. He even provides good circumstantial evidence, short of proof, that the pathogens causing Lyme disease and West Nile virus leaked out of Plum Island to become endemic on the U.S. mainland.
In 2006, the Frederick, Maryland News-Post revealed that the U.S. Army's top biodefense lab at nearby Fort Detrick had been plagued with germ escapes since 2001, when an Army technician was exposed to anthrax spores that had somehow reached her outside the containment area. That prompted a search, and the highly pathogenic Ames strain of anthrax was found around an ultraviolet sterilization box, an office, and an employee changing room.

It's not hard to see how contamination might have occurred. An Army safety specialist testified that in one instance, "I went into a virology suite one day. He (no name specified) went through the hot change room stark naked carrying two library books and a bottle of Pepsi. I went in through the change room and found him sitting in the office drinking the Pepsi and wearing scrubs. I informed the individual that the Pepsi and the books from Frederick County Library should not have come in through the hot area ... "

More anthrax spores turned up on the base in 2005, in an elevator and hallway and on a telephone. The News-Post found that the lab filed 161 biological-defense mishap reports just between 2002 and 2005. Accidents involved anthrax and SARS, and lab personnel have been infected with some pretty exotic germs: glanders, Q fever, vaccinia, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and chikungunya. As an Army safety officer told the paper, "People can get complacent. Familiarity breeds complacency." In the words of another spokesperson, "People are people and there will be some degree of human error no matter where you work."

Texas A&M University lost its chance to host NBAF when it was hit with a Centers for Disease Control reprimand for unreported lab-safety foul-ups. The letter cited missing vials of infectious diseases and lab-worker exposure to the pathogens that cause brucellosis and Q-fever.
Finally, according to the Biodefense Research Forum, many past mistakes and mishaps in biosafety labs have never been reported, because those involved had their funding and reputations to protect.

Playing both defense and offense

The Agriculture Department, the U.S. Army, and a university were running the labs that committed the blunders described above. If states competing to host the NBAF expect better performance from the Department of Homeland Security -- the outfit that covered itself in shame with its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster -- they are probably asking too much.
All of the nation's bioweapons work is by definition "defensive", but in the national-security realm, the mechanics of defensive and offensive research are often indistinguishable. Under both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the U.S. has resisted any upgrading of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention by which 158 nations, including the U.S., agreed not to develop offensive capacity. Since 2001, U.S. officials have moved forcefully to block any moves toward effective inspection protocols. A 2003 analysis by Nicole Deller and John Burroughs in World Policy Journal reported that "critics of the administration's policy speculate that the main reason for the opposition to the protocol may be that the United States is reluctant to open its biodefense program-which includes activities kept secret for years-to public scrutiny."

It's no secret why the government doesn't want public scrutiny: Its "biodefense" labs have stretched the definition of "defense" to include of 9/11, the New York Times' Judith Miller and two colleagues revealed that Pentagon researchers had developed plans to breed an extra-virulent strain of the anthrax bacterium; had built and tested a "germ bomb"; and had built a bioweapons lab in the Nevada desert out of materials bought on the open market. (Unlike Miller's erroneous reports on nonconventional weapons in Iraq, this report was not debunked.) As one senior official told the reporters, the Pentagon "was pressing how far you go before you do something illegal or immoral.''

Given the thick curtain of secrecy that DHS will be allowed to draw around the proposed NBAF's laboratories, its research could well be pushed far beyond those legal and moral boundaries, and no one would be the wiser -- especially not the people who work or live in that unlucky neighborhood that finally wins the germ jackpot.

Stan Cox is a plant breeder and writer in Salina, Kansas. His book, Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine, was just published by Pluto Press.
© 2008 CounterPunch All rights reserved.


After the market shut down Friday we were greeted with the news that the Federal Reserve is seeking greater authority to "police" the financial markets of this country. Bush is for this 100%. What it will do is totally privatize our investments and socialize any risk. It will be as close to a sure thing as the Big Boys can get it.

The sub-prime mortage scandel and the subsequent failing of Bear Stearns was all a decoy, or what we call a stalking horse. When people used to hunt from horseback they would have a horse trained to walk into a field with the rider walking beside it and not in the saddle. Other critters are not spooked as much by the appearance of another four legged critter. They all meet each other in the various pastures and know and undersatnd each other.

The stalking horse walks into the field and the shooter walks beside it. The horse ambles slowly up to where the shooter can get a good shot and the shooter lets the horse then walk on while the shooter is bringing up his gun to shoot. Works pretty good.

We also have Mr. Hegel to thank for the wondrous manipulation of our media in this fiasco. I wondered why Bush was not doing something about the sub-prime mess. I wondered why he wasn't talking about it. The answer is that he already had his plan developed and just needed to wait until the proper time to tighten the screws on the American public once again, a little tighter.

Bear Stearns had made a collosal bet against the currency of this country and it's allies in global economy. They were selling T-Bills short and had gone long in Gold. A sure indication that they figured the jig was up in the money end of things. And it looked like Bear Stearns was right.

So Bear Stearns go the plug pulled from under it. The word went to the street that Bear Stearns could not come up with cash for it's investors and the Big Boys started pulling their money out by the semi load. The process was a good lesson for those who went against the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government. Bear Stearns was deaad in the water. And shortly after that the plan was unveiled to give the federal reserve more authority in policing the market. And this country sucked it up like Charlie Vacuumcleaner.

Now we now why this sub-prime crap was allowed to go on. There was a plan to manipulate the market all ready to go forth as new policy, ready to present to the populace as their "government at work".

Don't fall for it.



This is the begining of maybe the best article I have ever read about long term food preps. The article is a I was going to serialize it but it is just too damn long. However, the Doomer who wrote it has done his homework and you will recognize that pretty quickly. I hope you all read this and profit from it. It's a great education.



Most Americans take food and the farmer for granted. The majority of people today are no longer attached to the land and are totally out of touch with the rhythms of nature. Ever since the 1940s, the bulk of the American population started moving away from involvement with the land, and away from personal participation in the annual cycle of putting up food for the coming winter months. It used to be that most of the population had gardens and canned food every year. This change represents a very brief exception in the longer span of human history.

The current norm of cheap and abundant food with no real participation on the consumer’s part has an unnatural and artificial basis. Since the public has not experienced a food shortage in recent history, they tend to take the welfare of the nation’s farmers for granted. A combination of bad weather and economic conditions has caused thousands of farmers to go under in the last several years. Most food is no longer grown locally. This is a potentially vulnerable situation. What makes things even worse is that a lot of the food Americans eat today comes from outside of the U.S.

A Y2K related disruption of power, telecommunications and electronic commerce and/or a nuclear or biological attack upon the United States, could easily disrupt the network of food production and distribution resulting in a nationwide food shortage. Prepared people will not only be able to take care of themselves, but also to help others. The next five years may be a period of planetary resolution which will outpicture as a syndrome of natural disasters, disrupted weather patterns with attendant crop failures and political and social upheaval. The orderly mechanisms of our civilization are going to be put to the severest tests in recorded history. And though this will bring out the best qualities of self-sacrifice in many persons who rise to the challenge of the times, in general, it could be a period of increasing chaos and disintegration.

Under normal circumstances, the modern just-in-time warehousing system provides the consumer with a variety of foods at bargain prices, but as a result, at any given time, the average supermarket only has about 3 to 4 days worth of food in stock. Research and history have shown that most people do not prepare ahead of time. They usually wait until the last minute to prepare, even if they have received advanced warning. Instead, they start shopping when the snow starts falling, or when the hurricane is less than half a day away, or when the river is starting to overflow its banks. A survey of supermarket managers concluded that the general public never purchases food more than a few hours ahead of an expected emergency.

In the typical pre-disaster scenario, a few hours before the storm hits, the general public rushes in and buys what they think they need—primarily bread and water. This is referred to as panic buying and is quite different from making preparations. Survey data about panic buying habits concludes that on New Year’s Eve Day of 1999, most of the public will purchase extra bread, water, batteries and flashlights in preparation for Y2K. This is not a good plan.

The infrastructure for the production and distribution of food is much more vulnerable than most people think, and also much more technology-dependent. Most of the major crops produced by farmers are shipped by rail to food processing facilities. The railroad system is computer dependent. Getting the food from the field to the table involves a lot more than going out in the field and picking vegetables.

In the case of a nationwide food shortage, local communities would be placed in a desperate struggle to feed themselves. A government study undertaken back in the 1970s reinforced the potential for prolonged food shortages as a result of infrastructure disruption. This particular study focused on the effects of a nuclear war, and determined that far more Americans would die from starvation in the year following a nuclear attack than would die from the direct effects of the initial attack. It stands to reason that in a major man-made, technological or natural disaster, the government would implement food rationing whenever and wherever they could.

Prepared people are not dependent people. In the event of a disaster they aren’t a burden on strained and inadequate government relief efforts. They take care of themselves and they also help others. People stocking up when there is abundance helps the farmers and the economy. More importantly, in the event that a real shortage occurs in the future, the fact that some people have stocked up will mean that fewer people will have to compete for the limited available supplies. Then why would the establishment be trying to put preparedness in a bad light? The reason is that dependence is conducive to control.

Prepared people will definitely have the potential of retaining more of their freedoms in the event of martial law. Those who are unprepared, and thus totally dependent upon government handouts, will have to meet the terms and conditions associated with the handout. The helpless will have to comply with governmental restriction and regulation, or go without food.

Historically, national emergencies have resulted in the reductions in civil liberty and the empowering of government. When the government offers assistance it is not a free ride. There are always conditions attached that extend more government control and scrutiny into our lives.

The United States Department of Agriculture administered food rationing during World War II. The Soil Conservation Service, that is a branch of the USDA, has certain duties under FEMA. Not only does the USDA have responsibility for food rationing under FEMA, but they would also have the responsibility of operating designated gun collection centers. The linkage is not a coincidence. If you want a food coupon you will have to turn in your guns. In the event of a food shortage most people will be begging for the National Guard to bring them food, water and other supplies. The average American will gladly agree to a suspension of the U.S. Constitution if it means they are getting fed.

In this case, those who planned ahead and stocked up could retain their right to bear arms. You would not be reading this book if you did not already have an inner conviction that action must be taken to secure the physical well being of our families and community. We should stockpile food while time and availability remains.

It is the author’s recommendation that every family should stock up with a minimum of a four-month food reserve, and ideally, as much as a four-year food supply for each person in preparation for an extended disaster recovery. Don’t forget that buckets and cans eventually get empty. Don’t neglect to consider renewable food options if at all possible. Put away a quantity of non-hybrid garden seeds. Experiment with sprouting. If you live in a rural area, raising animals like chickens and goats will put you way ahead of the rest of the crowd. Not only will you have your own meat, eggs and milk; you will have extra food to barter with.

This section will address practical matters of food storage that have come to our attention in recent years by actual experience in this field. The information will cover both family and shelter long-term food storage programs. Ideally, a long-term food storage program should be designed to meet the specific needs of you and your family. The sooner you start the more prepared you will be. Use the guidelines in this chapter to determine what kind of program you need. If you simply want to purchase a food program, turn to “Basic Food Programs.” Get started now and don’t forget the can opener!

Friday, March 28, 2008


Fed Leaders Ponder an Expanded Mission. Wall Street Bailout Could Forever Alter Role of Central Bank

By Neil IrwinWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, March 28, 2008; A01

In the past two weeks, the Federal Reserve, long the guardian of the nation's banks, has redefined its role to also become protector and overseer of Wall Street.

With its March 14 decision to make a special loan to Bear Stearns and a decision two days later to become an emergency lender to all of the major investment firms, the central bank abandoned 75 years of precedent under which it offered direct backing only to traditional banks.
Inside the Fed and out, there is a realization that those moves amounted to crossing the Rubicon, setting the stage for deeper involvement in the little-regulated markets for capital that have come to dominate the financial world.

Leaders of the central bank had no master plan when they took those actions, no long-term strategy for taking on a more assertive role regulating Wall Street. They were focused on the immediate crisis in world financial markets. But they now recognize that a broader role may be the result of the unprecedented intervention and are being forced to consider whether it makes sense to expand the scope of their formal powers over the investment industry.

"This will redefine the Fed's role," said Charles Geisst, a Manhattan College finance professor who wrote a history of Wall Street. "We have to realize that central banking now takes into its orbit everything in the financial system in one way or another. Whether we like it or not, they've recreated the financial universe."

The Fed has made a special lending facility -- essentially a bottomless pit of cash -- available to large investment banks for at least the next six months. Even if that program is allowed to expire this fall, the Fed's actions will have lasting impact, economists and Wall Street veterans said.

As they made a series of decisions over St. Patrick's Day weekend, Fed leaders knew that they were setting a precedent that would indelibly affect perceptions of how the central bank would act in a crisis. Now that the central bank has intervened in the workings of Wall Street banks, all sorts of players in the financial markets will assume that it could do so again.

Major investment banks might be willing to take on more risk, assuming that the Fed will be there to bail them out if the bets go wrong. But Fed leaders, during those crucial meetings two weeks ago, concluded that because the rescue caused huge losses for Bear Stearns shareholders, other banks would not want to risk that outcome.

More worrisome, in the view of top Fed officials: The parties that do business with investment banks might be less careful about monitoring whether the bank will be able to honor obscure financial contracts if they assume the Fed will back up those contracts. That would eliminate a key form of self-regulation for investment banks.

Fed leaders concluded that it was worth taking that chance if their action prevented an all-out, run-for-the-doors financial panic.

Those decisions were made in a series of conference calls, some in the middle of the night, against hard deadlines of financial markets' opening bells. Fed insiders are just beginning to collect their thoughts on what might make sense for the longer term.

"It has wrought changes far more significant than they were probably thinking about at the time," said Vincent Reinhart, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who was until last year a senior Fed staffer.

Whether there is a formal, legal change in the Fed's power over Wall Street or not, the recent measures, which were taken under a 1930s law that can only be exploited in "unusual and exigent circumstances," represent a massive departure from past practice.

The central bank was created in 1913 to prevent the banking crises that were commonplace in the 19th century. The idea was that the Fed would be a backstop, offering a limitless source of cash if people got the bright idea to pull all their money at once out of an otherwise sound bank.
In exchange for putting up with regulation from the Fed and requirements over how much capital they can hold, banks have access to the "discount window," at which they can borrow emergency cash in exchange for sound collateral. A bank might take deposits from individuals and make loans to people buying a house. Hedge funds do something similar: borrow money in the asset-backed commercial paper market and use it to buy mortgage-backed securities. But the bank has lots of regulation and access to the discount window; the hedge fund does not.
In recent decades, more of the borrowing and lending that was the sole province of banks has come to be done in more lightly regulated markets.

A decade ago, the nation's commercial banks had $4 trillion in credit-market assets, and a whole range of other entities -- mutual funds, investment banks, pensions, and insurance companies -- had about twice that much. Now, those other entities have about three times as many assets, based on Fed data.

Still, the Fed has resisted broadening its authority. On March 4, Fed Vice Chairman Donald L. Kohn told the Senate Banking Committee that he "would be very cautious" about lending Fed money to institutions other than banks or, as he put it, "opening that window more generally." The Fed did exactly that 12 days later.

The New York Fed said yesterday that investment firms have borrowed an average of $33 billion through that program in the past week.

The Fed has intervened in the doings of Wall Street in the past, but in limited ways. Most notably, in 1998, the New York Fed brought in heads of the major investment banks to cajole them into a coordinated purchase of the assets of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, to prevent a disorderly sell-off that could have sent ripples through the financial world.

"Long-Term Capital was the dress rehearsal for what happened with Bear Stearns," said David Shulman, a 20-year veteran of Wall Street who is now an economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said that if investment banks are given permanent access to the Fed's emergency funds, they should have the same kind of supervision that the Fed requires for conventional banks. "This latest episode has highlighted that the world has changed, as has the role of other non-bank financial institutions, and the interconnectedness among all financial institutions," he said in a speech Wednesday.

If Congress and the administration do broaden the formal powers of the Fed, it would be the latest in a long history of financial policy made out of a crisis. The Great Depression fueled an array of stock exchange regulation. The 1987 stock market crash led to curbs on stock trades. The 2002 corporate scandals led to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

And after the panic of 1907, a National Monetary Commission was formed to figure out how to prevent such things from happening again. Its crowning achievement: The creation of the Federal Reserve.