Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10 2012: The Year of the Trojan Water Dragon

Harris & Ewing Listening to the Future September 12, 1938
Washington, D.C. "Acting Czechoslovakian Minister listens to Hitler speech. Dr. Karel Brejska, Charge d'Affaires and acting Minister in the absence of Minister Vladimir Hurban in Czechoslovakia, is pictured listening to Adolf Hitler's radio address today at the legation. He refused to comment on the speech"

Ilargi: Hmm. Right, markets are up. Wonder what they're so happy about? A newfound source of suckers, perhaps, or the same old one that still has some juice left? Yeah, US jobs numbers, housing numbers, yada yada, I know. But does anyone with a sound mind have the guts to risk their wealth on that?

Merkel and Sarkozy are doing emergency meeting 1000, the next one, number 1001, is on January 20. What do they talk about by now? US jobs numbers? Hard to imagine.

Hungary perhaps? It’s fast becoming a major threat to Europe's finances, since Austrian banks are deeply embedded in the country. And in Bulgaria, Romania.

And the Magyar government pushes through one new law after the other, including some concerning the central bank that the IMF and EU don't like one bit. The central bank's independence is under threat, is their complaint. But can anyone name even one example where the IMF stood up to protect a central bank's independence from the IMF? Or doesn't that count?

Hungary’s constitution and democracy are "trampled on", say the headlines. Yes, well, what's new? Are we sure this indignation is well directed? For one thing, not that far from Budapest, Italy and Greece have installed unelected technocrat governments, under pressure from the same IMF and EU. Certainly undemocratic, and almost certainly contrary to their respective constitutions.

I have little sympathy for a government that also writes up new laws that take issues like abortion and gay rights on a journey back in time, but I do think we must ask ourselves who exactly is doing the trampling these days.

In America, anybody at all can now be arrested without any recourse at all, no lawyer, no trial, no formal accusation. Constitution, anyone? A few years back in Europe, a new EU constitution was voted down repeatedly by voters in several member countries. It still went through. Merkel and Sarkozy push hard to change that constitution again, to allow for a two thirds majority to suffice for far reaching "reforms". Democracy, anyone?

It's all just another power game, facilitated by the dire economic circumstances countries find themselves in. We live in the kind of times when the IMF and the World Bank dust off their shock doctrine playbooks, times they undoubtedly long saw coming, and precipitated where they could.

Hungary tries to fight back, and what it is fighting, in its own eyes, is debt slavery. Hungary is one of a growing list of countries that don't have access to international money markets. For them the IMF is the only game in town, and the IMF raises the stakes as the list grows and the countries grow more desperate, demanding ever more loot per dollar borrowed. Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and soon Italy, they depend on a thin veneer of Eurozone guarantees, and after that it's the IMF.

Loansharks International Ltd. Nice little country you got there, you wouldn’t want ......., would you? So, Budapest, do as we say: privatize your resources, shrink your social plans, and put up your national treasures as collateral. If we can do it with Greece, we can certainly do it with you, there’s no Eurozone protection coming your way.

Still, I’d bet Merkel and Sarkozy's main topic is once again Greece. And the extent to which its downfall will drag down Italy and France. They know it's not looking up, despite what the markets do or say.

Everyone including Athens' new technocrat Papademos knows that Greece could fall within weeks, unless it receives yet another bailout slice. Which is dependent on a deal made with investors through a PSI (Private Sector Involvement) agreement. Problem is, that deal keeps on changing, simply because it was never based on realistic assumptions. If a new deal is reached, it will again not be.

Last summer, the private investors signed off on a 21% haircut. Then it went to 50% in October. Now it’s over 50%, though no-one's willing to openly state how much. Yet. The show boxing goes on, as every party involved loses time that's very valuable to them. Every party but the IMF and its henchmen, that is. They watch with glee.

Patrick Jenkins and Richard Milne write in the Financial Times:

Greek bondholders poised to accept higher losses
Holders of Greek bonds are set to accept higher losses as the contentious negotiations over writing down Athens’ debt burden come to a head in the next week.

People involved with the discussions about so-called private sector involvement, or PSI, said that bondholders were likely to suffer a haircut of 55-60%, more than the 50% originally agreed in October.

Both the IMF and Greece have argued that October’s deal should not only be maintained but also toughened while bondholders and elements of the European Central Bank have proposed watering down or even scrapping the idea. [..]

The concept of PSI has been debated for months and has been through two main iterations so far, with an initial plan to trim the net present value of bondholders’ investments in Greek sovereign debt by 21% last summer overhauled to involve a 50% nominal reduction in the value of the holdings by October.

Details were never thrashed out, however, so the maturities of Greece’s new debt issues and the coupons payable have not been decided, although it is generally accepted that new bonds should have 20-30 year durations, with coupons of 4-5%, probably with some upfront discounts for an initial few years. [..]

Policymakers and bondholders are keen that Greece remains a unique case and that further eurozone sovereign debt restructurings are ruled out. One person said Portugal was a possibility "but everyone realises it can’t happen in Italy".

Questions are also being raised about the ECB’s estimated €45 billion of Greek sovereign holdings. Collective action clauses are likely to be introduced into Greek bonds by the PSI deal, leaving the ECB – which has said it will not participate in the voluntary restructuring – potentially in an uncomfortable position in the future. "The ECB’s holding will be the story to watch in the next few months," a person close to bondholders said.

Advisers said agreement on a deal was necessary in the next week or so because implementation of such a complex debt exchange would take many weeks. Greece needs to complete it before its next big refinancing in March.

Ilargi: The parties truly in the know realized long ago that the bonds being discussed were not worth anything at all anymore, even before the summer 2011 deal was struck. That's why the "Details were never thrashed out". There is money to be made in the slow squeeze of Greece. And, not to forget, of the ECB, i.e. the European citizen. And all other greater fools stuck with empty bags full of useless paper.

Der Spiegel ran this graph:

Obviously, the plan is to restructure the part held by the private sector, not the ECB. Or the EU. And certainly not the IMF.

So Greek banks will lose about €30 billion. Other European banks some €25 billion. Greek social security funds are to lose close to €20 billion. Good luck with that retirement, Zorba. Well, these are at least the amounts presently talked about. For no good reason other than shadow boxing those not at the table into ever bigger losses.

Sven Böll, Martin Hesse and Julia Amalia Heyer wrote the piece that goes with the graph for Der Spiegel:

Doubts Grow over Greek Debt Restructuring
Two years after the crisis began, the Greek tragedy is reaching a new climax. The economic data are distressing, the reforms are progressing very slowly, and now negotiations with private lenders on a voluntary writedown of Greek government bonds appear to be on the rocks.

The Greek economy was actually expected to shrink by only 3% in 2011. But according to current calculations the contraction was closer to 6%. Hopes that the economy will regain strength in 2012 will probably remain unfulfilled. Instead, it will most likely continue its downward slide -- for the fifth year in a row. It is becoming more and more apparent that without general debt relief that includes all groups of creditors, from private banks to the ECB, Greece will hardly be able to free itself from its predicament.

But the Greek government and the so-called troika, consisting of the European Union, the IMF and the ECB, are determined to stick to their current strategy. [..]

According to an internal document, the troika sees three possibilities: Either the Greeks must impose even tougher austerity measures, or private creditors must accept a larger debt haircut or the country's creditors must provide Greece with additional funds.

The troika document also says that the administration in Athens is falling far short of the agreed reform targets. For example, the troika notes that Greece is not sufficiently complying with its promise to collect more taxes, while the proceeds from the country's privatization program are well below expectations.

Last fall, the IMF and the EU determined that Greece's debt would have to be cut to 120% of GDP to be sustainable. The country's debt was to be reduced to this level by 2020, and to a lower level in subsequent years. But now the IMF recognizes that this is probably not possible. In any case, even a debt-to-GDP ratio of 120% could still be too high.

In a report released last August, IMF economists concluded that emerging economies could support maximum debt levels of 63 to 78% of GDP in the long term. "Now that they are confronted with the reality on a daily basis, the IMF people are realizing that Greece, in structural terms, should really be classified as an emerging economy," says a senior official at Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank.

"When the most recent restructuring program was approved, it was already clear that the assumptions were unrealistic," says Oxford-based economist Clemens Fuest, an adviser to the German Finance Ministry. [..]

But the troika is not as honest as to admit the impossibility of its own mission. Instead, it continues to stall for time and is pinning its hopes on private investors coming around. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos expects the negotiations with private creditors on debt restructuring to be complete by mid-January. Otherwise, he warns, Greece could face the immediate threat of a disorderly bankruptcy in March, when €17.5 billion ($22 billion) worth of bonds will mature.

But the negotiations between Greece and the financial companies represented by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) are hanging in the balance. Although IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara recently said that progress was being made, he also made it clear that the lenders are not willing to take more than the agreed 50% haircut.

Other players are even more pessimistic. "There is not even a common negotiating position on the part of the lenders," says the representative of one participating German bank.

Besides, the investors also have highly diverging interests. For instance, hedge funds have bought up large numbers of bonds, some of which already mature in March. They have no interest in a debt restructuring. Insiders estimate that speculative investors could be holding up to €50 billion in Greek debt. And bankers, like Commerzbank CEO Martin Blessing, feel that a debt restructuring limited to private creditors is fundamentally wrong.

"The IMF is calling for up to 90% in debt relief," complains one banker -- a claim that sources in the IMF deny. But if the haircut is so large, there is a risk that, even if the lead negotiators are in agreement, not enough creditors will play along so that the targeted debt ratio of 120% can be reached.

Experts are convinced that real financial relief for Greece can only be achieved through a general debt writedown. But then the pretense of a voluntary restructuring could not be maintained. Both Europe's governments and the ECB would have to accept substantial losses, Greece could be forced to withdraw from the euro zone, and speculation against other crisis-stricken countries could escalate.

Nevertheless, even German politicians are slowly realizing that the current strategy is not sustainable. "It is quite possible that we will also have to write off some of the Greeks' debts," says Gerhard Schick, financial policy spokesman for the Green Party in the German parliament. "After all, it doesn't make sense to demand debt repayments that can never be made."

Ilargi: "... it doesn't make sense to demand debt repayments that can never be made". Indeed. But that's what we witness anyway. If you go through the numbers, you can get an idea of what awaits the Greeks. Who've often already lost 30-40% of their wages, and much else. Not nearly enough, is today's word.

And you can bet that they’ll be squeezed further. It's therefore not hard to predict what will happen on the streets of Athens come summer. Or before.

Why is the 55-60% haircut still not enough? Tyler Durden had this last week:

CMA Now Officially Assumes 20% Recovery In Greek Default - Time To Change Sovereign Debt Risk Management Defaults?
One of the ironclad assumptions in CDS trading was that recovery assumptions, especially on sovereign bonds, would be 40% of par come hell or high water. This key variable, which drives various other downstream implied data points, was never really touched as most i) had never really experienced a freefall sovereign default and ii) 40% recovery on sovereign bonds seemed more than fair.

Obviously with Greek bonds already trading in the 20s this assumption was substantially challenged, although the methodology for all intents and purposes remained at 40%. No more - according to CMA [Credit Market Analysis Ltd], the default recovery on Greece is now 20%. So how long before both this number is adjusted, before recovery assumptions for all sovereigns are adjusted lower, and before all existing risk model have to be scrapped and redone with this new assumption which would impact how trillions in cash is allocated across the board?

Of course, none of this will happen - after all what happens in Greece stays in Greece. In fact since America can decouple from the outside world, it now also appears that Greece can decouple from within the Eurozone, even though it has to be in the eurozone for there to be a Eurozone. We may go as suggesting that the word of the year 2012 will be "decoupling", even though as everyone knows, decoupling does not exist: thank you 60 years of globalization, $100 trillion in cross-held debt, and a $1 quadrillion interlinked derivatives framework.

As GGB [Greece Government Bond] cheapest-to-deliver bonds already trade sub-20

Source: Bloomberg

Ilargi: Why negotiate over 21%, 50%, 55-60% haircuts when the real haircut is 80-100%, and, moreover, when this is obvious? Extend and pretend. Everyone who has a seat at the table seeks time to jockey for position. For most it's about money, for some about their careers (re: Sarkozy). And as time goes by, those who are deeply implicated but don't have a seat will come out the losers. Tax payers, -future- pensioners, the (wo)man in the street. Unless and until they fight themselves into a seat at the table, they will lose more and more. Occupy Brussels, Strasbourg, Frankfurt?!

Germany sold bonds at negative real interest rates this week. But it needs to use the cash to prop up a whole slew of neighbors.

Am I the only one who looks at this and calls BS? No. BI’s Joe Weisenthal quotes Nomura Securities' Bob Janjuah:

The Rally Just Has A Few Days Left, Greece Will Hard Default, And The Worst In Europe Is Yet To Come
I think we are very close (days) from a top of some sorts in equities and the risk-on trade. Depending on price action, I reckon the time to get short risk is around/by January 13th - as a proxy guide the S&P should be within 3% to 5% of current levels (1277 S&P).

I think Q1 is going to be extremely bearish for risk, for equities, for the periphery, for the euro, for credit spreads, etc. The real pain may only be seen in March, when I expect the hard Greece default to happen. In Q1 I expect the S&P will trade down to/below 1000, and core US, UK and German government Bond yields will be closer to 1.5% than 2%. [..]

Apologies to all for not telling you anything new or very different. One day, when we collectively abandon the neo-communist experiment in the West that relies on more debt and printing money in order to maintain the status quo, then I will hopefully have a different and far more positive view of the years ahead. I look forward to this time. But for now, expect more of the same as in 2011. And I know it's a few weeks early, but as I am unlikely to write anything for at least a month, Kung Hei Fat Choi. The year of the dragon will soon be upon us.

Ilargi: Interesting. Certainly if you still believe China will be such a great economic power. Which I don't. I said years ago that China's future will be one of domestic unrest at best.

2012 (actually, January 23 2012 – February 9 2013) is the year of the water dragon.

Wikipedia about water in Chinese culture:
Water is the low point of the matter, or the matter's dying or hiding stage.[1] Water is the fifth stage of Wu Xing.

Water is the most yin in character of the Five elements. Its motion is downward and inward and its energy is stillness and conserving. It is associated with the Winter, the North, the planet Mercury, the color black, cold weather, night, and the Black Tortoise (Xuan Wu) in Four Symbols.

It is also associated with the moon, which was believed to cause the dew to fall at night. [..]

In Chinese Taoist thought, water is representative of intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness and pliancy; however, an over-abundance of the element is said to cause difficulty in choosing something and sticking to it. In the same way, Water can be fluid and weak, but can also wield great power when it floods and overwhelms the land.

Ilargi: And for a nice detail, Wikipedia also provides a list of "Ruling countries" in this water dragon year:

Ruling Countries: China, United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, Iran, Japan.

Draw your own conclusions.

About the dragon, of course the only "not real" animal in the Chinese zodiac, usbridalguide.com (who can live without it?) has this:

Conformation is a Dragon's curse. Rules and regulations are made for other people. Restrictions blow out the creative spark that is ready to flame into life. Dragons must be free and uninhibited.

Sounds wild enough for me.

Robert Prechter, in conclusion, sees a very important head and shoulders pattern emerging.

Again, draw your own conclusions.

The Trojan Water Dragon. I like the sound of that. The sound, not the meaning. Water that breathes fire. Greek mythology meets Chinese astrology.Kung Hei Fat Choi.


Nassim said...

my contention is that this would need to be a global decision. Nations or smaller pockets of population trying to do some form of moneyless living would be (and probably have been) incessantly subject to outside force/persuasion


I would like to firstly point out that I am personally against anyone trying to impose one "solution" to the whole world. That is called tyranny. It is the sort of thing the Pol Pots and George Bushes of the world specialise in. However, I have no problem with any community choosing to carry out any such experiments - provided the people can get out of it and get compensation for having to leave behind their immobile capital.

The other point is that there are plenty of historical examples of what happens when money is banned or when only some favoured people are allowed to have money. The examples always lead to various forms of serfdom. Here is an example from the book Why the West Rules---for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future on page 405 of the hardback edition:

He (Hongwu - the first emperor of the Ming dynasty) promoted an image of China as a bucolic paradise of stable, peaceful villages, where virtuous elders supervised self-sufficient farmers, traders dealt only in goods that could not be made locally, and no one moved around. Hongwu claimed that few people needed to travel more than eight miles from home, and that covering more than thirty-five miles without permission should earn a whipping. Fearing that commerce and coinage would corrode stable relationships, three times he passed laws restricting trade with foreigners to government-approved dealers and even prohibited foreign perfumes lest they seduce the Chinese into illicit exchanges. By 1452 his successors had renewed his laws three more times and had four times banned silver coins out of fear they would make unnecessary commerce too easy.

It seems to me that some people on this site would feel quite at home in that society. Not me!

Nassim said...

Organised crime has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making the Mafia the country's biggest "bank" and squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms, according to a report.

Extortionate lending by criminal groups had become a "national emergency", said the report by anti-crime group SOS Impresa, released overnight.

Organised crime now generated annual turnover of about 140 billion euros ($175 billion) and profits of more than 100 billion euros, it added.
Advertisement: Story continues below

"With 65 billion euros in liquidity, the Mafia is Italy's number one bank," said a statement from the group, which was set up in Palermo a decade ago to oppose extortion rackets against small business.

Crisis turns Mafia into Italy's 'No.1 bank'

Credit squeeze.

Ash said...


You and others may be interested in listening to this fantastic interview with Murray Bookchin from 1993 (about 2 hours in 9 parts). He speaks about the desperate need for a new radical left in the face of the implosion of the global capitalist system, which is obviously a very prescient point right now. One of the remarks he makes is (paraphrased), "if people cannot even take control of their own local councils, how can they participate in national politics?" I believe the major difference we have now from revolutionary times of past is that the entire global system of human civilization is on the verge of irreversible fragmentation, which may present smaller communities and regions ample opportunity to fill the void with new forms of socioeconomic organization over the long-term. Bookchin talks about filling the void with "libertarian municipalism", which is very similar to anarcho-syndicalism.

Ashvin said...

Shocking - the banks were given hundreds of billions in free money, and they didn't lend it back out to governments, businesses or consumers. No one could have expected that!

Telegraph Blog

"Banks are hoarding the ECB’s record €489bn injection into the banking system, thwarting attempts by policy makers to avert a credit crunch in the region, claims Barclays Capital. Almost all of the money loaned to 523 euro-area lenders last month wound up back on deposit at the Frankfurt-based central bank instead of pouring into the financial system."

Ashvin said...

Europe’s Pension Threat Grows as Economy Sputters

"State-funded pension obligations in 19 of the European Union nations were about five times higher than their combined gross debt, according to a study commissioned by the European Central Bank. The countries in the report compiled by the Research Center for Generational Contracts at Freiburg University in 2009 had almost 30 trillion euros ($39.3 trillion) of projected obligations to their existing populations."

Greenpa said...

So, guys. Here is the problem with this blog.

:-) No, really. I'm about to reveal it. Before I do that, let me add; this is Ilargi's biggest problem. And Stoneleigh's. And- mine. And I do NOT have a good handle or solution.

This was revealed to me when Smidgen, my now almost 7 year old daughter, hit it last week, in first grade. She was flunking all her tests, earlier; so she was put in the Dumb Class for a while- where she learned how to take tests. Moved back to regular class. And two weeks later moved into the Gifted And Talented track.

"Daddy, I'm smarter than Susie." Yes; she is. And it's causing her problems. We started to talk about it. Fairly soon, we got to the point where - she's also smarter than her teachers; and she knows it. And so do they. How do you cope with that, at age 7?

It's not like I haven't had to cope with it before; my oldest child, Beelar, graduated from that same school with the highest total grade point average on record, ever. Without sweating. Middle Child is 100% as smart- but different, and had Beelar out in front. Smidgen is 7; and female, a new aspect for me.

It's something "we're not allowed to talk about" - sure as hell not in class, not on the bus- and not even here, on this blog.

Periodically we get folks here who scornfully point out that Stoneleigh DID hint pretty hard that full scale collapse was imminent, in the next few months, (probably!) - several years ago. And they take this as evidence that all the analysis here is wrong.

We're not wrong. I agree with all of Stoneleigh's, Ilargi's, Ash's, El Gallinazo's, Snuffy's, analyses; 100%. It's the truth. The Collapse of Civilization is here.

The problem comes when trying to understand why the idiots out there don't see it. How can they be so dumb? Look, we even have graphs.

What does my 7 year old do, when her teacher is so dumb she doesn't know that "ghoti" spells "fish", in English? Her teacher DOESN'T know that; can't comprehend it, can't understand what the hell this kid is talking about, and doesn't know how to react. So the resultant interaction is pretty chaotic, and unsatisfying, and produces nothing resembling progress. And I was dumb enough to not even think about any of that until AFTER I explained to Smidgen why ghoti spells fish. She asked me how to pronounce this absurd word she was reading- "enough" - and it all just came out.

And that's really our problem here. The analyses and comprehensions are so far ahead of the common as to be not only incomprehensible to most; but also of limited use in predicting short term reactions. The truth has no traction on Wall Street. We know that. Yet we still, mere humans that we are, expect them to have a lightbulb go off, soon (probably after reading Gravity), after which they will begin to behave sensibly.

As all of us smarties know, being smart and being foolish are far from incompossible.

The general advice I give my children is not what we really need here. "Yes, we're smarter than everyone else. That's a good thing. But DON'T tell anybody."

Just my morning thoughts, after coffee. So, now what? :-)

On the global scale- we've reached a point where we have many highly intelligent individuals, who comprehend accurately a huge amount of our situation. But what they know does not change where the Great Amoeba Of Man is going.

How do we get traction? Now there's the koan for the times.

ian said...

my understanding is one is not required to accept US currancy within the US. Could be the intern game changer. Aren't there farmers market iou money alternatives?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ash. Bookchin's work was of interest back in the late '80s when I was involved in the Green Movement, but I didn't get around to reading much of it. At this point, however, I'm not interested in something that appeals to "the left" or any ideological group (i.e., "ism"s). I've explored that ground and found it lacking. I've since been continually stepping back to see the bigger picture. I think I've finally reached a useful vantage point. If I have a chance, I'll check it out anyway and let you know what I think.

Anonymous said...

Nassim, you're knocking down straw men. What I'm describing couldn't be imposed by some small minority, let alone an individual. You even quoted me saying as much. Conversely, I doubt that you advocate the tyranny of the minority if a majority chose to live without money.

"[W]hat happens when money is banned or when only some favoured people are allowed to have money" is also addressed in what you quoted from me: I'm clearly not advocating such an alternative--neither an isolated experiment nor a top-down "ban".

This raises the question of how the end of money would be enacted. I'll outline one possible scenario.

Obviously, such a change couldn't happen overnight. We're taking the first step--and, granted, perhaps the only step that's ever taken--here, which is to begin to consider it. This is the requisite thought experiment that would need to precede broader discussions and considerations of the choice. In a less connected world, those discussions and considerations would be more challenging, but we have the internet to assist us in carrying them out.

Eventually, a proposal could be put forth. (12/12/12, 12:12:12 has a certain appeal as a kickoff point.) For example, someone could propose that a year from the date of the proposal the question would be posed: are we ready and willing to end the use of money as of a designated date, say a year later. Such an approach would give both a period of time for consideration and one for preparation.

If the answer was clearly, "No", the question could be reposed to be addressed the following year. This is assuming that people wanted more time to consider it before committing. If essentially the whole world had heard and considered the idea but clearly didn't favor it, that would likely be the end of it.

Would it be a vote (i.e., a referendum)? No, more like a straw poll. Would it matter who is for and who is against? No. All that would matter is whether or not a critical mass of people--whether mostly from the global south, or mostly women, or whoever--made the choice. How would we know when that critical mass was reached? When people stopped using money on the designated day. No trial period would be necessary as this is a matter of passing the tipping point. Insufficient numbers might attempt to initiate it, but that would be insufficient by definition. Only a truly sufficient number could do it.

There's no point in trying to go into more detail than that. Ideas can't be controlled. The future will play out as it will, no matter how much some of us cling to the past.

Ash said...


I wasn't very clear, but the reason I linked to Bookchin is because I think that he explains well how the process of changing our socioeconomic structures must start from the bottom-up, and it is neither likely nor necessary that the entire world operate under the same paradigm, whether that be "money-free", capitalist, socialist, left, right or otherwise. I believe you are placing too much importance on the need for unified global change, while your ideas can be just as well adopted at smaller scales and then perhaps spread out as time and conditions permit.

seychelles said...

Mish discusses a topic that most avoid but that is of critical importance:


TC Burnett said...

Hawaii was one of the last holdouts to the 2005 REAL ID law passed by congress - but after March, 2012, anyone wishing to obtain a Driver's License or State ID card will have to show proof that they are in the US legally.

Without the approved card, no one can enter a federal building or get on an airplane. Not specifically mentioned, but already in place is a requirement to show one of those valid forms of ID in order to use a credit card. Soon, one expects that debit card transactions will require the same ID.

At that point, money can begin to be phased out. Some people think that is a good idea. I don't. That means that someone at a computer somewhere can control your life - your ability to buy food and fuel, or anything else - and...wait for it...no money in circulation means a literal barter system, if such a thing is even allowed by the government. Raw milk is illegal in Hawaii. Farms and even vegetable gardens could follow. Whose to stop them?

Farmer's markets might be controlled by virtue of the fact that trade cannot be accomplished except via a card reader on a smartphone . I have one. They charge 2.7% per transaction. (squareup.com) Every transaction by every person goes right into a databank, along with the details and the location. No Big Brother here! Just smile into my phone.

Social media is an interesting matter as well. Look up Yuri Milner. He owns 2.8% of Facebook. One can confidently predict that the US government owns at least that much.

What is happening seems simple enough. Sovereign governments are being forced into bankruptcy so they have to sell off their state assets. To 'privatize' But after they do that, there is no more state - they have no more sovereignty and their citizens have no more protection - the reason the governments were set up in the first place.

I have never been a conspiracy theorist, but this all seems too pat. The paper and commodity markets ought to be in free-fall.

This might get very nasty very quickly. The year of the Trojan Water Dragon seems beautifully ominous.

Anonymous said...

Ash, for reasons that I and others here have pointed out, living without money just wouldn't work without complete isolation. And who wants that? I do see it as a bottom-up process to get there, though. It's just primarily a process of (long-term, big picture) thought, not action, which is something else we're not generally practiced in.

That said, I'm open to hearing how this is not a tipping point issue but rather how it could play out from small scale practice and spread from there. I can't imagine the scenario where that's more feasible than a scenario like the one I offered.

As far as the whole world operating under the same paradigm, isn't that the case currently? I'm suggesting a better paradigm. Beyond that, communities could freely set up their unique arrangements. In today's money-driven world they're not free to do so. I wonder if Bookchin ever considered this alternative. I doubt it since he's one who would have written about why he rejected it, if he had.

Anonymous said...

Oops, didn't include "at the local community level" in that first sentence. Hope that make it clearer.

ben said...

on hongwu's 35- mile rule and his banning of perfume:

"It seems to me that some people on this site would feel quite at home in that society. Not me!"

nassim, how much do you think that has to do with your having seen liz taylor driving around london with the top down back in the 70's?

TC Burnett said...

@el gallinazo.

Just 'Tom' will be sufficient - thanks. The sarcasm is appreciated but unnecessary.

The main advantage in living in a democratic republic, in which all laws must be based upon the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and nothing else, is that you are free to not to thank someone for their service if the service didn't please you - and I am free not to tip someone in a restaurant if the service doesn't please me. All without drawing commentary - because that's what freedom is - personal choice. Our personal choices may not agree, but we still manage to transact business and live amongst each other in relative harmony.

Insofar as the military goes, the people who do the work don't get to decide what that work will be and most of the time it isn't the right thing as we who were in the military clearly understand. And individuals have the right to refuse unlawful orders, but God help them if they do. In fact, most of the time one cannot tell a lawful order from an unlawful order unless it is just completely foreign to the moral character of the individual and, even then, it's difficult to refuse an order.

My point is that people typically join the military out of a sense of patriotism - or used to - and deserve my respect for that effort. You are not under any obligation to share that opinion.

If someone grabs you and 'disappears' you to gitmo, that would be entirely because you chose to go rather than resist. I'm not open to being 'disappeared' . Again, personal choice. As long as we both have it, I'm happy.

AllGood4All said...

From Bloomberg:
Greek Crisis Dries Up (Medical) Drug Supply

seychelles said...

Let's see, physical central govt money goes the way of the dodo bird, probably via intermediate rationing of bank withdrawals and various levels of taxation (read extortion) for use of handle-able cash, then only virtual money is allowed via Russo's hand chip or some such realization of the masterfascist-slave world. Then random Sol or deliberate terrorist massive EMP(s)
render virtuality and central power long-term disabled. Sounds like a time machine designed to take us back to at least the Dark Ages...at warp speed.

Lanterne Rouge said...

@ Greenpa. I feel your pain! There are two choices. One is to replace traction with transcendence, and retire from the short term manias and live a coherent life of contemplation and manual labour.

The other is to parlay superior pattern recognition, logical analysis and command of rhetoric into (broadly) political form. Where I think Greenish' on TOD has gone. Also, I suspect, where Dick Cheney went, for despair at the evient stupidity of those you are attempting to save will lead to the dark side.

TC Burnett said...


A 1.3 MT nuke 400 miles above Kansas city would render most of the US, Canada and northern
Mexico's grids - and every vehicle - unusable and unrepairable for years.

And there wouldn't be any evidence except a trajectory. The particulate matter would burn up in re-entry. So if someone obtained a Russian 'launcher-in-a-shipping-container' and fired it from a ship or even from an abandoned oil rig - or stuck up a 'weather' satellite and changed it's orbit until it collided with an American one it would be hard to track down.

The EMP scenario is by far the most potentially dangerous to any industrialized nation.

TC Burnett said...

National suicide?


jal said...

Money is king!!!

Since I’m not even one of those lucky upper middle class that has managed to have enough savings to interest edge fund managers....

Then I can dream. :-)

If I could get access to “money” , ( printing press, interest free loans) then I would be competing with the existing vulture funds, banks and the M & A in acquiring distressed assets from unlucky owners that can generate income flows FOR ME. I would be building a self sufficient doomsday community.

Hey guess what!

I’ve been checking out what the well to do people are doing in my neighborhood and I see more new country estates on acreage.


Maybe a skillful old bloke can trade his skills for room and board.

seychelles said...

Hey Jal
Orlov in "Reinventing" counsels that security personnel will be in great demand. Maybe if you develop some semiautomatic AK-47 skills and are discreet, some local baron will give you room and board for walking his perimeter.

jal said...

seychelles said...

"Hey Jal
Orlov in "Reinventing" counsels that security personnel will be in great demand. Maybe if you develop some semiautomatic AK-47 skills and are discreet, some local baron will give you room and board for walking his perimeter."


I can do it remotely by setting up deterrent **** zones.

ben said...

SB, enjoyed your 12/12/12 proposal. since that is the new annual shut down the ports date perhaps it's somewhat fitting so long as we urbanites start getting serious about guerrilla gardens. (there is a major mobilization in the works to prevent an EGT grain shipment of asian origin from reaching port in Longview within the next week or two.) regarding the top-down bottom-up dichotomy, so long as an unadulterated meme (and not hongwu) is playing the role of benevolent dictator we can just pretend it's bottom-up. it should be mentioned that the usurped 'buy nothing day' might be chagrined at the change of plans.

seychelles said...

I can do it remotely by setting up deterrent **** zones.

Just make sure their functionality is not grounded on too much complexity.

The Anonymous said...

"Greenpa said...

And that's really our problem here. The analyses and comprehensions are so far ahead of the common as to be not only incomprehensible to most; but also of limited use in predicting short term reactions. The truth has no traction on Wall Street. We know that. Yet we still, mere humans that we are, expect them to have a lightbulb go off, soon (probably after reading Gravity), after which they will begin to behave sensibly."

And therein lies the problem. You are quite right in that there will come a day when people will "get it", and when that day comes, so too will the "collapse" --- that much is indisputable. On an infinite timeline, there is a 100% chance of the long feared collapse happening.

What is in dispute however, is when the people will indeed "get it", and whether or not that is "imminent" or something that is more of a long term proposition.

For example, say that the allmighty creator himself came onto this blog and told us with all of his purported omnicience:

"the USA's debt load is unsustainable, and when the people in the bond market get this, everything will collapse!!!"

Certainly, there would be a number of frightened people here, and rightly so.

Now lets assume the same thing, but this time when the allmighty appears on this blog he says

"the USA's debt load is unsustainable, and on June 18, 2184 the people in the bond market will "get it" and everything will collapse!!!"

Suddenly, all this fretting that TAE has done for the past few years seems kinda pointless in that the long feared "collapse" is still 172 years away, affecting none of us posters and our finite existences on this planet.

And before someone chimes in to tell me that the collapse "cannot" be 172 years or some other far away date, understand that is not what I am saying. In my view, the collapse could come anytime between tomorrow and 1000 years from tomorrow, and I have no idea when that date will be. Also, understand that there are alot of very smart people who have been saying similar things for a long time. The people that predicted the USA's imminent collapse as a result of the massive, historic, debt load it incurred as a result of the war of 1812 have been dead and buried for over 150 years now.

In my view the best we can do is to assign probabilities as to when that moment of when the people "get it" may be. As such, given that no one here (to my knowledge) is indeed omniscient, we need to examine one's track record when they say something is "imminent". For example, if this person has continuously and repeatedly underestimated the time at which a certain group "gets it", its understandable that others will be skeptical that this time the person is correct.

jal said...

@ seychelles

It all depends on budget and available resources.

As a starter.

... firecrackers are cheap and available?

I'm being indirect for obvious reasons.

Lynford1933 said...

Dr Tom:

In the 'next war' link we find ... "As Iran represents no threat unless attacked, Washington’s war preparations signal Washington’s intention to attack Iran."

My last assignment was at SAC Hqtrs in 'command and control' some 39 years ago. I am quite sure that every country, province, city, village, island, etc. is in some plan somewhere in the Pentagon. But this does not mean we will pre-emptively attack the Big Island terrorists.

Then we get to EMP: In event of CME we have a couple days to shut things down but even that would be TEOTWAWKE since most private transisters are not 'hardened'. A ______ (enter choice of enemy) nuclear EMP with bare minutes (or seconds) of preparation would be considerably worse.

Seychellis, IMHO the Dark Ages would be a piece of cake in comparison because they knew how to live up to that point. In general terms we are clueless WRT food and water with no fuel or electricity.

Lynford1933 said...

Further, it is well within our individual capability to prepare for whatever may be in store especially in the US where we still have some freedom of choice. My recurring nightmare is being well prepared for whatever and then a starving family shows up at our door. Of course we will feed them and give them water.

TC Burnett said...


Preparation and resources are secondary to the motivation and determination of the opponent. We live in an age where thick walls won't protect us.


You can't give them food and water. You must barter it for labor. If the power foes off and the grid fails, physical labor will be the rarest resource because no one has been raised to it. I have a plan to offer food, water and safety in exchange for physical labor. Not everyone will be able to do that, though - so people will have to be allowed to do what they can do as long as it is beneficial to the group as a whole and the rest will have to labor or move on.

The problem is who decides. You cannot run a sustenance community by committee - nothing will ever get done.

sevenleagueboots said...

Doc Tom:
I find your insights compelling and identify with survival
isf as advancing age and what life has prepared us for:
you chose a tropical mixed cultural paradise with most
advantages money could buy; I chose an 80 acre family farm in the midwest handed down since 1830. The struggle is not the geography - its the continuance of a
meaningful life under circumstances of subsistence.

We that sift through current political problems and also attend sites like ZH, KD, TAE, NC, of2minds, etc.
see today the way socialists of the post WW1 era were seen: as irrelevant. Remedy's are centrally passed down until some global chump is cornered.
We're there now.

Two well traveled gents enjoyed food and drink at an inn during one of Europe's bloody wars. The conversation drifted to one's philosophy of life. "Its like there are two armies joined always in battle, allegiance change often, and with death, famine, pestilence and natural tragedy comes a giant with seven league boots who rampages the countryside indescrimately killing people. My philosophy is to enjoy life, help my fellow man, and occasionally pitch a pail of grease under the boots.

Nassim said...

nassim, how much do you think that has to do with your having seen liz taylor driving around london with the top down back in the 70's?


That was another, more innocent, world. Today, her equivalent (lady Gaga ?) would be surrounded by thugs and driven around in a stretch limo with tinted windows.

Recently, I read the novel Any Human Heart. I hadn't read anything by William Boyd since his earliest books came out decades ago - hilarious stuff. Anyway, the raconteur in this story had an amazing life (born 1906) and his "life" seemed to be criss-crossing my much later existence in a tangential way - call it synchronicity if you wish. I don't pretend to have met anyone as illustrous as this guy "had", but there are parallels. For example Sumner Place (I lived there) and Draycott Avenue (I was living in Draycott Place when I saw liz) and lots of other places in Paris and Spain. I can't wait to see the BBC movie - the PBS broadcast it. I could perhaps give Boyd a few stories about what really went on in Draycott Place so that he can put them in his next book. I really cannot believe that he dreamt up all these stories all by himself. :)

TC Burnett said...


What an excellent post! I thank you for it. As you know, I have no family and no prospects of acquiring 80 acres. So I picked the best circumstance I could manage and will enjoy it for the rest of my life, be it months or years.

I would never desert the family homestead - a place I literally had roots - and was inculcated in community life - if I had that choice.

Good luck and fair winds.


trojanhorse said...

"The problem is who decides. You cannot run a sustenance community by committee - nothing will ever get done."

I quite agree, but Tom what exactly do you have in mind? I hope I would not have to use the Herr prefix here.

TC Burnett said...


Usually only young (to me) people aspire to wealth and power, although both can become addictive. I would suggest that the person who provides the food, water, protection from things that go 'bump' in the night and a warm, dry place to sleep should make the decisions of how best to continue that path until the community breaks up of it's own accord and the need for er...liebestraum.

I have a way to do that for a limited number of people and I have friends who will step up and network for the greater good. Once money becomes a barter item again instead of a method for the conveyance of power in small communities, I believe that a sense of participation and necessity of each individual gor the good of the group will bring out the better qualities of the human animal.

I do not believe that to the exclusion of other possibilities, but the harder life becomes for everyone equally, the more value each person SHOULD tend to place on the general welfare of the community - we must all survive together because we cannot survive individually.

I consider that the primary issue in a post-apocalyptic micro-society, such as will exist where I live, will be trade - and the inability of most people to handle the death of a relative without someone to call - the ability of a group to maintain sanitary conditions without flush toilets and toilet paper, and the ability of people to feed themselves if the stores are empty and the roads are blocked by abandoned vehicles. People will still eat and sleep - they will simply need a little counseling and an explanation that the world is merely different - not gone.

After a month or two that will sort itself out - but people who seek companionship in a group must also understand that there will inevitably be armed bands of scroungers and marauders. Those bands must be discouraged. But they cannot simply be sent down the road to predate on your trading partners. They must not just be discouraged, but brought into the community. I have actually set out plans for doing that. I have no expectation that any plan I have ever made will actually work. So I also have a plan to determine the intent of strangers before they come into the fold and kill them if necessary. As with all other plans, that one won't work either. But all we can do is plan for the worst thing we can imagine and then hope it doesn't occur - and that whatever DOES occur will be manageable by some subset of the plan.

Therefore all plans must start civilly and escalate based upon the responses of the other party and not some emotional reaction. One can always escalate, but one can almost never de-escalate without appearing weak to the opponent. And even if your team is weak, you cannot broadcast that fact or you will be eaten by a bigger fish.

trojanhorse said...


Limited time here, so I will get back to your comment anon, for now just the shorthand, 'anarchy' and 'Wobblies, will have to sufice from my end.

ben said...

no doubt, nassim, about gaga rolling in a stretch. i'm reminded of a good limousine scene at the beginning of lars von trier's new movie 'melancholia.' I recommend the movie to everyone as it is a beautiful allegory for doom by a top 10 english language director. the pillorying he was subjected to last year by the media because of his riffing on hitler at the cannes press conference for the film was ridiculous. I half blame the squeamish actress kirsten dunst, who was sitting next to lars, for her utterly conventional reaction. as I recall, the movie was excommunicated from the festival as a result.

you might write boyd, nassim. I expect he'd be thrilled. in a review of the book I read of the scene in which the raconteur finds himself drinking absinthe with john hemingway's grandad. owen wilson's character in woody allen's 'midnight in paris' from last year goes back in time to the 20's and also drinks absinthe with ernest hemingway. I recommend that flick, too - one of his better recent ones along with 'matchpoint.'

girl and I will try and catch the pbs series online. big fan of jim broadbent's.

TC Burnett said...


Anon is fine. However, one cannot be expected to set up a destination of last resort and provision it against the possibilities no one else will acknowledge- and then let everyone who wanders in have a hand in the decisions. They have no skin in the game.

I'm sorry - I don't understand 'Wobblies' . But Anarchism, on my property with my supplies and resources is exactly what I just explained. I have no wish to exploit anyone who comes and wants to participate, and I shan't oversee them like a slaver. But for me to share my bounty, and for the foresight to have made it possible for them to survive, I shall require a measure of labor while they are under my roof. My years of preparation is not an entitlement. It is an earned resource.

Don't misunderstand. A couple of unfortunate medical issues and the subsequent surgeries preclude any sexual possibilities on my part. I am purely a safe-haven provider for people who have previously expressed the desire to group with me in hard times - and as many other people who wander up as we can reasonably accommodate. I seek no advantage - merely a quid-pro-quo which is entirely voluntary and non-contractual. But I am the landlord and have to accept the responsibility of settling internecine problems.

I invision a situation in which everyone expects the world to go on as it always has and suddenly - it doesn't. If it does, I am superfluous and no one loses anything. If it doesn't, I am necessary - for some- but no one loses by coming to me. And because they don't, and because I am fair and reasonable, the new lords of the land will, I hope, feed me into my dotage.

I believe that my concepts are either too simple or to complex for the readers of this site. I don't know which. But I have potential real-world solutions to improbable real-world situations and I suggest that everyone take what they want and leave the rest.

sumacarol said...

I'm getting the sense that acceptance is really the only way to deal with the fact that almost no one can comprehend the possibility of the "business as usual" scenario ending, for whatever reason -- lack of mental capacity or blinders. I'm guessing that just about everyone on this blog is pretty much surrounded by "sheeple" and no amount of convincing or cajoling is going to change this, so might as well treat this as a given. Chris Hedges recalls a similar experience when he was in Yugoslavia before the war there, and how intelligent and educated people simply could not get their minds around the idea that things were going to go so very badly, while Chris foresaw the disaster.

TC Burnett said...


I concur. I like Chris Hedges. I don't like that he attributes divine causality for human failures.

John Day said...

I've been enjoying this thread.
Dr Tom, maybe we will meet some day.
There is a community slightly inland and uphill (mauka) from Kona, consisting of the members of a Hindu Ashram, originating near Detroit around 1970, and eventually making their way there in the early 1980s. They run a 112 year old Japanese coffee plantation, and make the best coffee I have ever had. I rate it a hair better than Ethiopian Moka Sanani. (not mocha, mind you) Here is their site for the Wings of the Morning coffee. http://www.wingskonacoffee.com/
Seychelles posted the link from Mish, which very convincingly shows the graphs, for all to see, which indicate that the natural consequence of the last 112 years or so, will be a 90% die off in our species, in the next 30-50 years.
Just how does one prepare for a 90% reduction in one's species in the next generation or two?
Serious question.

sumacarol said...


Please do keep sharing your thoughts. You are going places that I think are usefully explored. Those of us, myself included, that "get it" may well be called upon to help others, to the extent that we have made some preparations and have something to offer. However, the logistics of doing this are not at all obvious, at least not to me. An area of particular concern is how to deal with the folks that are left twisting in the wind and looking for a place out of the storm. Obviously there are limits to support that one "survivor unit" can offer. However, it will be a challenge to navigate these situations. I would appreciate seeing discussion of how these issues might be approached humanely for all involved.

A historical reference: my Mother tells the story of growing up on a farm in the depression and having people ask to sleep in their barn. Not realizing that these people had no place to stay, she thought it was rather novel to have these visitors.

TC Burnett said...

@ John Day:

Without going to that link, I already concur. We are in the beginning stages of an extinction event, of which I have written extensively for five or six years.

Given that no one can see the future, I have predicted-by-guess that the serious onset will occur in the time frame of 2018~2021 and will peak at the solar max of 2036. I won't bother to defend my numbers. They have been posted on my blogs for years and nothing has changed my criteria.

I don't spend much time with them anymore because those dates - certainly the last one - are well beyond my 'use by' date. So I cannot observe the results. Maybe I can discern them from the same place as Mark Twain or, less likely, Harry Houdini.

Nick said...

Dr. Tom,
If I catch your drift right, I'm 28 yo 6'2" 210 lb wisconsin farmboy who ended up with a higher education and now no real job, besides different part time manual work. Trying to round up family to pool back together on family farm, or even back me in starting a new farm. This probably won't work...
I got skills, I've installed wind turbines, PV systems, wrenched a bit,milked cows (when younger) and know how to do hard work when it needs to get done. Not much money though, and some nagging student loans ($15,000 left @ 4% interest) I also got a 21 ' travel trailer I currently call home. Like to keep my options open on where to park it, in particular I'm on the lookout for debt freem farms to partner up with. I'm open to striking longer working arrangements, in particular with those who can provide me with either pasture land, or good produce ground on fair rent terms. I got a hunch finding the right situation for this could take a bit of practice, so consider this conversation in those terms. Interested?


TC Burnett said...

@ John Day:

Excuse me. I failed to address your comment OR question. I am easy to meet. I don't keep a low profile - and it would be my pleasure. Just understand that I am not a peacenik like my friend Jim Albertini, or a marijuana user like several other friends. Not an indictment. I'm seriously allergic.

I buy Kau coffee at the Muku'u farmer's market when I can afford it, vacuum seal it and store it away. It will be a real treat someday! I have food for years.

I doubt the Big Island will suffer a 90% population loss. If everything stops tonight, I won't be desperate for anything. I will certainly have to re-adjust my concept of what a community consists of, and change my dietary habits to what is available rather than what I might want. I accept that police, fire and medical services may well not exist, but we don't call the police anyway and the fire department arrives too late if you do not have a sprinkler system.

Losing the grid is not a problem - my associates make ethanol and we make ohia charcoal. We can cook with wood, charcoal, alcohol, or preserve food in other ways. Apart from the grid and cable Internet, I have no services at all. I am an Extra Class HAM, am constructing a tower next week and I nave equipment which will allow me to talk to anyone anywhere at least sometimes during the day. I have over 20,000 gallons of water storage capacity now, and I can get through the summer and still irrigate my crops. I build - or have the material to build water filters which remove organics to .01 microns and radionuclides - and my vegetable production can go into greenhouses almost immediately if we start getting fallout from Fukushima.

I'm good to go. I teach the county firearms requirements cours and several NRA courses and am a Florida CCW instructor..

So I have my bases covered - even to the point of chemical suits and 4 respirators.

I'm as ready as I can get.

TC Burnett said...

@ Nick:

Yep. I assume you can use a gun?

Nick said...

Dr. Tom,
No expert shoot, but I've successfully deer and squirrel hunted. Including gutting and processing my own animals (recently added beef cows to this list) Got a 12 gauge, .22 and a 7mm in my goodie cache, along with traps, water filters, and other last resort items...

Just for the record, though my info is true I am seeing this as a practice type of conversation. The type folks my age might have to consider someday soon. I still have hope of working things out in my neighborhood as it would be more desirable to hash it out with the devils you know...back to conversation.

Per crop rent terms, I need either 1+acre of good produce ground within 50 miles of decent outlet city, or alternatively a minimum of 20 acres of pasture ground. I can square rent up either in end of the year paycheck, or agreed upon hourly work at a rate of $12/hr (I suppose this depends on local economy though ). My rental for parking my solar and wind powered trailer can be worked in similar terms. I will also to the best of my abilities confront the unexpected events with the thought of trying to keep the post economic collapse community/farm I am on going, as both my survival and those with me may depend on it. Otherwise I do expect to be able to lead some semblance of a normal life and pursue my hobbies of reading, tinkering/inventing, and walking/contemplating nature. I am not interested in places where my personal free time, and schedule are not valued. I do not need a new dysfunctional family. Sharing close quarters with other people is new territory for americans, but I do not see why it has to terribly infringe upon personal rights, and so I am looking for places that get that.

Still interested?

Alexander Ac said...

ut italian bond yields are DOWN today, so everything must be fine!

Nassim said...

Outrage across the world after footage emerges showing U.S. troops 'urinating on dead Afghan bodies'

I guess that is what happens when soldiers are trying to get sent home.

Alexander Ac said...

Another (peak) oil troubles?

Systematic Shutdown Of (2.4MM Barrels Per Day) Nigerian Oil Ahead

Ash said...

Lengthy but comprehensive and well worth the read.

Chris Cook: Naked Oil

All is not as it appears in the global oil markets, which in my view have become entirely dysfunctional and no longer fit for its purpose. I believe that the market price is about to collapse as it did in 2008 and that this will mark the end of an era in which the market has been run by and on behalf of trading and financial intermediaries.

In this post I forecast the imminent death of the crude oil market, and I identify the killers; the re-birth of the global market in crude oil in new form will be the subject of another post.

Global Oil Pricing
The “Brent Complex” is aptly named, being an increasingly baroque collection of contracts relating to North Sea crude oil, originally based upon the Shell “Brent” quality crude oil contract which originated in the 1980s.

It now consists of physical and forward BFOE (the Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk fields) contracts in North Sea crude oil; and the key ICE Europe BFOE futures contract which is not a deliverable contract and is purely a financial bet based upon the price in the BFOE forward market.

There is also a whole plethora of other ‘over the counter’ (OTC) contracts involving not only BFOE, but also a huge transatlantic “arbitrage” market between the BFOE contract and the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract originated by NYMEX, but cloned by ICE Europe.

North Sea crude oil production has been in secular decline for many years, and even though the North Sea crude oil benchmark contract was extended from the Brent quality to become BFOE, there are now only about 60 cargoes of BFOE quality crude oil (and as low as 50 when maintenance is under way), each of 600,000 barrels, delivered out of the North Sea each month, worth at current prices about $4 billion.

It is the ‘Dated’ or spot price of these cargoes – as reported by the oil price reporting service Platts in the ‘Platts Window’– which is the benchmark for global oil prices either directly (about 60%) or indirectly, through BFOE/WTI arbitrage for most of the rest.
It will be seen that traders of the scale of the oil majors and sovereign oil companies do not really have to put much money at risk by their standards in order to acquire enough cargoes to move or support the global market price via the BFOE market.

Indeed, the evolution of the BFOE market has been a response to declining production and the fact that traders could not resist manipulating the market by buying up contracts and “squeezing” those who had sold forward oil they did not have and causing them very substantial losses. The fewer cargoes produced; the easier the underlying market is to manipulate.

As a very knowledgeable insider puts it….

'The Platts window is the most abused market mechanism in the world.'

...continued at link above

o1122o12 said...


a place might fit your requirement. email o1122l12 at 126 dot com for details.

o1122o12 said...

woops, should be o1122o12 at 126 dot com

Ash said...

For those who find it difficult to get through the initial parts of the Cook piece linked above due to the rapid onset of an oil "complex" migraine, here is the bottom line conclusion:

Current Position

If you believe the investment banks – who all have oil funds to sell to the credulous – Far Eastern demand is holding up, supplies are tight, and stocks are low, so prices are set to rise to maybe $120 or above in 2012, even in the absence of fisticuffs involving Iran.

I take a different view. I see real demand – as opposed to financial demand and stock-piling, such as in the copper market – declining in 2012 as the financial crisis continues at best, and deepens at worst, particularly in the EU. Stocks are low because bank financing of stock is disappearing as banks retrench, and it makes no sense for traders to hold stocks if forward prices are lower than today’s price.

As for supplies, US crude oil production is probably higher, and consumption lower, than widely appreciated. Elsewhere, there is plenty of oil available now that much of the Dark Inventory has been liquidated, and this liquidation was probably why in November 2011 we saw the highest Saudi monthly deliveries in 30 years.

Finally, we see North Sea oil being shipped – for the first time since 2008 – half way around the world to find Far East buyers. We also see Petroplus, a major independent Swiss refiner, crippled by inflated crude oil prices, and shutting down three refineries because demand for its products has disappeared, and it can no longer finance crude oil purchases now that banks have pulled its credit lines.

In my world, refineries closed due to reduced demand for their products imply a reduction in demand for crude oil: but not, apparently, on the Planet Hype of investment banks with funds to sell.

History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme, and my forecast is that the crude oil price will fall dramatically during the first half of 2012, possibly as low as $45 to $55 per barrel.

el gallinazo said...

Wake up and smell the money (Fido)


TC Burnett said...


No, now it sounds as though you are applying for a job rather than trying to become self-sufficient. We might not be ahead of you, but we are past the stage at which we will pay wages and give out land. In fact, we were never at that stage.

There are a lot of commune-type mini-groups in my area, though. Most are vegetarian and marijuana cultures and they wouldn't accept a meat eater or a firearm. They may make it when the crunch comes, and they may not. I notice that most of them are on EBT, Hawaii's version of state aid and food stamps.

I suppose it's relatively easy to live a 'natural' life when someone else is paying for it. Anyway, I'm not hiring - I'm networking - and I really don't like THAT term either because of the MLM connotations. We are just trying to get everyone as ready as they are willing to get. For most it isn't very ready. For those of us who have always wanted to be self-sufficient on a remote island, it's where we were going anyway.

When I moved here the economy wasn't tanking and we weren't at war. The police drove their private cars on duty (and still do) and life was slow and peaceful. It still is. But most people don't want slow and peaceful - they want fast and dramatic. Once you give away your TV and throw away the alarm clock life settles into a calm. My recreation is writing. I try to write plain, common sense. I don't guarantee that it is.

Joe in NC said...

Re: Money sniffing dogs

Certainly glad to see the DHS has adequate funding and resources to train dogs to do god's work :-)

While on the DHS topic, is is not in TPTB's best interest to selectively make life difficult for internet sites/services that do not see things their way...the first chance they get? And is it realistic to think they won't?

Let's not forget - this might just free up some bandwith to benefit "consumerist" sites (Amazon?)...or sites that spew TPTB's propaganda.

For reference:

Homeland Security Given Green Light to Monitor American Journalists

Big Brother's Watching You: The US Governent's Orwellian Media Monitoring Initiative

And for additional reference - my previous comment from Monday 12/09:


>The bug they (and US DHS) need to work out is that some really smart people designed the internet to be unkillable.

F'rinstance, getting around SOPA is about 10 minutes work, albeit with a serious performance hit....


I wasn't thinking in terms of "killing" the internet. Let me give an example. I'm confident (and hope) that someone can shoot a ton of holes through it. It would be comforting.

Lets's say the DHS/NSTIC is currently performing data mining and fancy statistical analysis (text analysis) on internet data. And they have a list of microblogging services (maybe blog sites too?) that their "analysis" deems these services/sites to be potentially "subsersive". Certain words/phrases just occur too often (like 911 stuff, those things in the sky - ch.. tr...., etc.) for the DHS/NSTIC to be at ease with. After a terrorist attack (or other...maybe a burp in Hormuz, N. Korea, etc.) happens, the DHS/NSTIC raise the security level and a part of this involves notifying the potentially "subversive" services/sites that access to their service/site will now require a "real-names authentication path are using National ID cards coupled with real name submissions. I do not know exactly how this would work but it seems possible. Then once it's in place, you know it never goes away.

It seems this is already happening in China to some degree. From the NSTIC link:

"Online businesses in China already reflecting this real-names authentication path are using National ID cards coupled with real name submissions to gain admittance to dating websites and microblogging services. Chinese tech analysts report an estimated 60-80% drop in user account activity."


mike said...

it looks to me like TAE is running out of steam, the entries are getting shorter and shorter. We can all come out now, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining.

trojanhorse said...


If you are familiar with Dicken's novel 'Bleak House' you will know the character 'Skinpole', a rather slimball type, who in the guise of being an innocent lives off of anyone about himself. I think this sort of chap is a rarity that one should be wary of but that in general most people wish to be of use to and valued by others if given the opportunity. Plainly I think you are going in the right direction but possibly are more than necessarily worried that there might be many more Skinpoles types than really do exist.

About 'the crash', it is going on as we speak, one has only to think about the growing pool of unemployed. A sudden collapse, I think, is foolish to make any predictions on. At some point, possibly due to resource deficiency or some black swan event, our 'system' will not be able to hold its centre - complex systems do have great redundancy. While there may be much volitility as 'the system' self corrects, I don't expect a sudden and complete failure any time soon and IMO it will be more like an afterthought than an event ;)

Joe in NC said...
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Anonymous said...


Re: Skinpoles. Cheers on that. We have them far outnumbered. Smother them with love rather than feed them with fear.

Joe in NC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC Burnett said...


Dickens liked a pint on occasion and went into the local pub - but this time ordered a gin martini. "Good-o" said the proprietor "Olive, or twist"?

We can't see the future, so we can either hope for the best and prepare for the worst or continue along oblivious - or worse, deluded.

If China dropped a US$Trillion of increasingly valueless US paper on the market and then dropped their $T in greenbacks, we're gone. It could happen in one day. It could be the day we allow Israel to bomb Iran. That will be a very effing bad day.

I agree a lot of the problem is that people in power tend to concentrate on their agendas and don't consider, or ignore, potential consequences that might ruin their plan. Bush invading Iraq was the most boneheaded play I have ever seen and Obama's decision to stay there until we were tossed out was worse. Everyone except the people in charge could see that coming.

Countries are going to hell, but the sales of THIS was up 37% last year. Something isn't right.


TC Burnett said...

@Joe in NC:

I have the intel community beat. I post under my own name and don't make a secret of the fact that I don't like shenanigans designed to emasculate the Bill of Rights and Constitution. Conversely, I don't 'occupy' anything but my own property - but I'm not going anywhere on a bus, either.

Further, I think that all criminals ought to be tried by law and punished equally, and a good start to that would be the criminals in politics. I think GWB is probably guilty of war crimes and so are most of his top appointees. And I think CEOs are culpable when their companies steal billions. After all, aren't corporations people? Lock up the entire management of MF global and then go to BofA and get all their trash debt off the public's back. Then stop the war on drugs and the war on terrorism which aren't wars on anything except civil liberties. Trust me, MOST people aren't terrified of terrorists and would like nothing better than to confront one.

The world isn't going to hell because of the taxpayers - it's going to hell because of the cheaters who are Too Big To Punish.

So I seriously expect that if we wake up one morning as Third World America, and Third World Europe, the people in political office are going to bear the brunt of the violence - and the police and military, which are no longer being paid, will suddenly do an about-face and work WITH the people, not against them.

I notice that the people who send the military off to war continually talk about 'peace'. It was very confusing in Viet-Nam, and I can understand why it is very confusing to other combat veterans.

Mister President, if YOU want to send us to war, you strap on a rifle and LEAD us into battle. Or have your damn Secretary of Defense and his staff lead and see how that works out for ya. If you haven't been there it's just like playing Tetris. It isn't real to you.

TC Burnett said...


Right after TAE, I like market-ticker.org and PCR:

Alpha Beta Soup said...

Dr Tom,

I have been enjoying reading your comments, too bad you aren't in Seattle! ;-) You would be a great addition to any "community." I am interested in your water setup, (filtration, and 20,000 gal storage) and would love to hear any details you can give. You stated you have a blog, so if this is too far off subject and too detailed for here, and you have the information posted elsewhere, I would love to know where to find it.

I have decided to make a sign for if the SHTF, stating "FOOD IS NOT A GIFT FROM GOD, IT IS THE PRODUCT OF HARD LABOR. ONE MUST WORK FOR IT." I have always wondered how to get around the lazy moocher friends, and hopefully that will be it.


jal said...

Have you figured out how to keep the banking system going?

Here is an insight from ZH.
“The Spanish mortgage banks do not foreclose because they do not want to drive down collateral values, so they count the unpaid portion of delinquent loans as new lending giving a polished image to an otherwise turdish balance sheet.”

scandia said...

I apologize for changing the subject in advance.
I am listening to the news of the US marines pissing on the dead bodies of Afganis. I am listening to Clinton and rest of the US administration go on about American values etc. Whilst I shiver in recalling Abu Graib, the US soldiers who hunted and killed civilians for sport, the rumours of torture and abuse at Bagram prison, the Canadian cover up of US abuse of Afganis detainees, the proposed court martial of Bradley Manning who was an exemplary example of those touted values, the threat issued against the person(s) who posted the pissing video( another example of high moral character), well, I can't help but think the US claim to the high road wears thin.
Throw into the mix the facilitation of the crime of the century.
I feel anxious that the US law enforcement and military can now cross the border into Canada at will. One can only hope that, at a minimum ,they'll keep their pants zipped up.
If I were Karzai I would be expecting 3 or 4 shriveled willies packed in ice on my desk by Monday.

ben said...

selco is starting a survival course next week. and it looks like T was able to sneak in the first comment. ;)

first article of selco's survival guide

Nassim said...


Can you please prove to us that you actually do possess such a pair of boots?

If others need to prove that they are worthy of the "Dr" title, why should you be treated preferentially? :)

sumacarol said...

Just read over at ZH that foreigners are continuing to dump U.S. treasuries leaving the Fed to fill the gap. Someone recently posed the question to me: what is stopping the Fed from continuing to do this indefinitely?

ben said...

sumacarol, I bet the next flight to safety would stop the fed from continuing the purchases. at the point when there's a real run on treasuries I imagine that straining to answer that question will seem less important, or at least that's what i'm hoping. :)

snuffy said...


I figured out that I was a bit ahead of the curve a long time ago....but continue to be amazed at our society's ability to "take damage"and still function....mostly normal.I see the bones of a security state forming,but I think the energy needed to run one will not be there .
I stopped talking to "citizens"about whats going on,as they will get it soon enough.I want most folks to know me.But not well.

My thoughts at this point are the is a certain amount of "self healing"and re-routing done that slows,but does not stop the entropic decay .

I have a 7 year old granddaughter that has shocked me more than a few times.Behind her sweet smile,and cartoon sized eyes,there is a razor sharp little mind that processes data so,so fast...with a older brother[11] who spends lots of time teaching her.He is quiet,and many times, stops to think exact phrasing of questions.[Replacing a radiator in his mothers car took me twice as long as it should have...he now knows most of what I know about Toyota's...having questioned me exhaustively during the repair]

We have some nasty events coming up that have me thinking of building a [better]blast shelter.The hubris I see in our leaders scares hell out of me.

Societies that go the path our leaders have chosen usually loose a big chunk of their population to war.War,if/when it comes,will be unlike anything any of us have experienced.

I have spent too much time today reading whats going on in the world.If their was not so much truly evil things occurring,now I might have more faith in our leaders.Their Whack-a-mole foreign policy only serves to enrage the rest of the world.
Keep your heads down folks.

Bee good,or
Bee careful


SecularAnimist said...

I believe you are placing too much importance on the need for unified global change, while your ideas can be just as well adopted at smaller scales and then perhaps spread out as time and conditions permit.

Yeah, the no money/property paradigm is being adopted at smaller scales now and is spreading. They are called tent cities and homeless communities. .

Ironically moving to a "livable" no-money/property system, at the local level, would require a lot of money.

It's like the doomstead paradox - if you can afford to put together a nice doomstead - you don't need one.

Ilargi said...

And so the dance continues. Got to wonder what interests are involved here.

Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure


Ash said...


"Ironically moving to a "livable" no-money/property system, at the local level, would require a lot of money.

It's like the doomstead paradox - if you can afford to put together a nice doomstead - you don't need one."

I don't get either of these "paradoxes". Could you explain?

I believe the former would be most optimally carried out when the global monetary architecture is collapsing anyway, i.e. dollar HI and no more global reserve currency, and some communities would be much better suited to make the change than others based on a variety of factors, but ideally preparations for the transition would be made well in advance. There is almost no situation I can conceive of in which a unified global transition is more likely or easier to accomplish than local transformations.

With regards to the "doomstead paradox", even people with a lot of soon-to-be worthless fiat (within 20 years) need to eat, drink clean water, stay warm and generally survive. And even when the currency still has a lot of value (purchasing power), there are a lot of shortage and security risks, especially for those who have wisely kept their cash outside of the banking system. Not to mention, "doomsteads" are simply a valued way of a life for many people who would rather not rely on the current system and have the means to pursue those values.

Frank said...

Ilargi, This one is Bayer. This issue was spotted in France and Germany a couple years earlier.

Isn't it odd that a Swiss company can make the German departmanet of Ag (or whatever it's called) into as much of a marionette as Monsanto can the USDA.

Who'd a thunk it.

Joe in NC said...
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Joe in NC said...
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Ash said...

Looks like S&P may finally be following through with that French downgrade they promised more than a month ago (but the Germans and Dutch are safe for now). And, of course, Greek "voluntary" bond swap deal is still falling apart. EUR/USD fell hard to -1.27% now.

AllGood4All said...

Hi Stoneleigh,
I came across an article in ZeroHedge yesterday and am wondering if you would please address. The article seems to say that "foreigners" have been selling off their US Treasuries at an increasing rate. This is a different pattern than what i understand to be your view that "foreigners" would buy up US Treasuries as a flight to safety. Your clarification much appreciated, as always.

Here's the article link:

--- said...

"Not 'the powers that be' but 'the cowards that be.'"

My guy is so quotable.

John Day said...

@ Dr. Tom,

We may meet some time.
I'm beginning talks with the new administrator of the Hamakua Health Center, since the last one left in the fall, and my wife and I are ready to move.

Skip Breakfast said...
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Skip Breakfast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
snuffy said...


Thanks for the link.The folks doing the research were bright enough to follow the industrial trail right to the source of the poison exposure.I am starting to re-think my "Money Idea" about picking up a chunk of money from commercial pollination.They pay between $125 to $175 per hive for almonds in California.Rent for 4 weeks.The downside is "bee rustlers",and exposing your bees to every disease in the book....[I had never seen a hive beetles before I sent some to the almonds last year.].up here not so much,but enough to get my attention .

There was a question in the comment section that pointed out when you lose 1/3 of your bees a year...it doesn't take long to be very short of bees...I have been losing between that and 4/5 of my hives for several years.I do not medicate bees,using a "live and let die" breeding program that I hope will eventually result in a very tough bee that needs no meds to live.I had 40 0dd hives at the beginning of winter,I am down to 21,w/6 of the 20 artificially inseminated queens I introduced last year,but I have the hygienic genes in my bees that I think will be the way to insure long term stability in my bee population. I will keep introducing Hygienic strains into my bees as long as they are available.

Time to head back to work...its going to rain/snow and I need to move firewood,go to the feed store ect...

Bee good,or
Bee careful


Skip Breakfast said...

Suddenly occurred to me that with unimaginable 400% Greek yields, leading to a near-certain default and Euro-withdrawal, it would have been oh-so-much-better if all the powers that be had held off bailing Greece out at all and saved the money for the apparent social collapse that would accompany such Greek default/withdrawal. The money Greece received has probably been vapourized as it was thrown into the furnace of Greek banks and wasteful government expenditure. That money is long gone. Probably a lot of it lined the pockets of wealthy folks who have since extracted their money from Greece anyhow. But if the IMF/ECB/ETC. had kept that financial fire-power until AFTER the inevitable return to devalued drachma, they might have had enough money (in US dollars) to pay for soup kitchens for everyone until Greece can stand up alone again. The fear now is that the elderly and vulnerable will be absolutely devastated by a Greek withdrawal as hyperinflation ensues in that country. And I think it's just so criminal the way this is playing out. Will we learn anything the second, third, fourth time we see this play out in other countries?!

Joe in NC said...

Skip Breakfast,

Oddly, a good chunk of the money went to Military Purchases:

Greece Spends Bailout Cash On European Military Purchases

The elderly and vulnerable will probably be devastated, there are also many Greek parents too poor to care for their children.


trojanhorse said...

AUDIO: heinberg-kunstler-foss-orlov-chomsky

http://energybulletin.net/media/2012-01-06/heinberg-kunstler-foss-orlov-chomsky-public-affair heinberg-kunstler-foss-orlov-chomsky

I generally enjoy what J M Kunstler has to say but in this interview, after jumping on the head of the interviewer for having the temerity to refer to his view as 'dark', he goes on to derail what could have been an interesting discussion by doing the same with Noam Chomsky for mentioning Daniel Yerigan.

I don't take Daniel Yergin's opinion of a near endless oil plateau seriously but to dismiss him out of hand as merely a paid flack, as JMK does in the interview, is foolish.

One thing that might have been brought out through Noam's lead, given the chance, is that the production of oil is being extended by the financial scam occuring in gas and oil fracking. I do not know how long investors will(be able to) subsidize the production of items like the Brakken shale. Does anyone here know when the peak in Greater Fool 'Investors' will occur, what is that Ponzi's date, or dates? As Noam was trying to say, the longer we can push peak oil into the future the worse it will be for this planet.

el gallinazo said...

Skip Breakfast

Once they were citizens; then they were consumers, now they are useless eaters. TPTB do not care about people - only keeping their power and privilege intact. If they cannot restrain the eventual rage of the people through maintaining the obedience of their military and militarized and secret police, they will have earned the fate that awaits them. To paraphrase Nathan Hale, it is a pity that they have but one life to give for their crimes.

Ash said...


It's one thing to make the general point that peak oil may be net beneficial to this species and/or this planet, and another thing to give credence to Yergin or the WSJ and other financial publications (which are most certainly paid shills for the investment bank/energy complex). A relatively rapid drop off in oil production (or more accurately, net energy production, as Nicole harped on in the interview) and out-sized effects on exports/prices and fragile supply chains is part and parcel of legitimate peak oil theory. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the available evidence and induce a certain level of confusion/complacency, which is exactly what Chomsky did when he implied "they might be right". Therefore, I believe JHK was justified in his frustration with Chomsky's line of dialogue and speaking out.

"I do not know how long investors will(be able to) subsidize the production of items like the Brakken shale. Does anyone here know when the peak in Greater Fool 'Investors' will occur, what is that Ponzi's date, or dates?"

As Nicole said in that interview (if I remember correctly), the shale gas investment bubble does not have a whole lot further to go in this economic/financial environment (ignoring political/regulatory issues). They are purely arbitrage plays with cheap credit, over-estimated reserves and artificially high prices. When those relationships give (we are already well into that process), the bubbles collapse, producers go bust and that will have dramatic effects on the ability to generate supply down the line.

el gallinazo said...


While I am often quite critical of JHK, I think regarding Yergin as a paid flack is entirely justified.

--- said...

Not to repeat the old HDP rant at length about the usefulness of guns during teotkwaki, but the cowards that be have you covered. All the more so in the event of collapse.


--- said...

El G

"...it is a pity that they have but one life to give for their crimes."

Thought you believed in reincarnation?

Whether you are right or wrong, to the freshly self-made immortal, going down in flames could take a long, loooonnnngggg time...


Ash said...


I now realize you were also talking about fracking for Bakken shale oil (which makes more sense), and I was only referring to shale gas. The financial and net energy dynamic there is very similar, but the shale oil ponzi has further to go than the nat gas variety (since gas prices have been cratering and diverging from oil for some time, as Nicole documents here). Rising gas prices from collapsed production, though, will also dent the profitability of shale oil production, as producers have come to rely heavily on the price arbitrage between the two.

ben said...

lovely as he is, chomsky proved to be a bit of a turkey in that one if i don't mind saying so myself. it was a shame stoneleigh didn't get a crack at the wishbone. too many cooks with not enough time. the iron-curtained chef sussed out the dismal affair and took receipt of a very important call.

trojanhorse said...


"It's one thing to make the general point that peak oil may be net beneficial to this species and/or this planet, and another thing to give credence to Yergin or the WSJ and other financial publications"

Scheiße man, even that self important twit Patton was open minded enough to read Rommels book!

On this:

"which is exactly what Chomsky did when he implied "they might be right"

Sorry my friend but what Chomsky was doing was making a point, he did say that Kunstler missed the point and it seems you are doing the same as well. You might try reading what I was saying and making the effort to understand.

By the way, here is an instance from a relevant Oil Drum article that makes me remember to always read both sides and only then make up my own mind.

"Peak Oil - Now or Later? A Response to Daniel Yergin

In order for production to grow beyond the 82 mmbpd plateau the oil industry must add more than 4.1 mmbpd new capacity every year from an ever degrading pool of resources. To reach 110 mmbpd in 2030 would mean adding more than 4.1 mmbpd each year to 2030 reaching an additional 5.5 mmbpd new capacity in that year. Where is this new capacity going to come from? Yergin cites a list of new discoveries and new play concepts. But it has always been the case that new discoveries and plays have been developed and produced, and for the past 7 years these have been inadequate to provide new production in excess of declines.

I am in agreement with the writer, Euan Mearns, in his article, but where he says that, an additional 5.5 mmbpd" will be necessary, I find that mildly duplicitous as it really could be stated that 4.1 mmbpd a year has been produced for the past 7 year but we would need to increase that by .3mmbpd to 4.4 mmbpd a year to reach 110 mmbpd in 2030. But then 5.5 sounds much bigger than .3 doesn't it?

On this:

I now realize you were also talking about fracking for Bakken shale oil

My complaint was that Kunstler stifled conversation, Besides all the fracking going on what other freaking things are there that could well be in the wings. Perfect opportunity to go there is lost because JHK got chippy.

If you do feel that Noam is under the spell of Yergin then I suggest you write to him and give him the true facts. He is, I have found in the past, quite approachable.

El Gal,

Yes I think Yergin is a flack, but is he flacking for himself ( maybe trapped by his past opinions) or paid by others.

Joe in NC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ash said...


You posed an issue you had about Chomsky/JHK interaction and some questions, and I responded. No need to get so hostile about it, as you seem to enjoy doing whenever we enter into a discussion. I have read Yergin's peak oil analysis on WSJ and many other analyses of that analysis, so I am not just casually dismissing his argument without cause. There are many respected, independent energy analysts that flat out disagree with Yergin's conclusions and for very good reasons. If Chomsky has to rely on that nonsense to make his more general point (one which I entirely agree with), then he still deserves to be criticized for doing so. Simple as that.

And this is coming from someone who bows down before Chomsky as one of the greatest intellectual/philosophical minds of the last few decades, right up there with thinkers such as Michel Foucault. Chomsky is brilliant, and I largely agree with his anarcho-syndacalist prescriptions. Nevertheless, I will not hesitate to say that he was very misleading in that interview with his comments and I don't see why JHK should be criticized for doing the same. It wasn't his "chippy" comments that prevented anyone from talking about alternative sources of oil, because no one wanted to talk about that at the time - not even Chomsky. He just wanted to casually acknowledge it as a real possibility and segue into his general point, and that's a misleading thing to do.

Joe in NC said...

Monsanto Inc. seems to pop up again & again and....do we have a miRNA specialist here?

The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods

"The type of RNA in question is called microRNA (abbreviated to miRNA) due to its small size. MiRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been implicated as players in several

human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. They usually function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. The Chinese research provides the first in vivo example of ingested plant miRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function in this way."


Skip Breakfast said...

How does it end? I've just commenced a short contract for government. It's been a while since I've taken a government job, and I'm absolutely shocked by what I'm seeing. To be honest, it's surreal, and the risk is it would seem I'm exaggerating but I'm not.

Essentially the job I'm doing is unnecessary and I have nothing to do. So far, I encounter maybe a single minor matter each day which requires my attention, but which someone else could easily attend to without me there. If only they weren't so busy gossiping. The folks around me spend several hours a day leaning back in their ergonomic chairs shooting the breeze. There is no sense of urgency about anything!

Most of my previous work has been in the private sector, where bosses are mean and you earn your keep or you're fired. There is a very palpable "bottom-line". Here in government, efficiency is non-existent. I'm surrounded by DOZENS of desks and offices that are usually empty as employees take long coffee breaks only to return to start half-an-hour of text messaging on their mobile phones.

The question I really have is how does such a gargantuan mess unwind. This is not minor waste here. I'm surmising the problem is systemic and filters through countless layers of workers. Most of the jobs contribute nothing to society. Most of them can be done in half the time for an eighth of the price. But where does the end even begin? Whittling off 5% here or 10% there simply won't work. It's too extensive. The rot just begins again when there's ANY of it left. There needs to be an overhaul of the entire philosophy of how government works and how one works for government.

I can't imagine it's sustainable, but at what point does something this big, this widely accepted and entrenched, get torn down? Over night? Does anyone know how it actually played out in the streets of Argentina when they defaulted? Because surely there are warning signs. I don't seen any warning signs here. Not on the surface, I mean. No one seems concerned. No one is aware of the problem, and if any are aware, they keep it to themselves. I can't see this thing disappearing in a day, or a week, or a year. I know TAE believes in rapid collapse, once things begin to fall. But I just see miles and miles ahead of me before we reach that point. I really would love to know what an Aregentinian has to say on the speed of systemic collapse. The people from Argentina I've talked to tend to be too young to know much of how it went down, except it was "bad".

krollchem said...


In keeping with the specific examples of system theory models at TAE (Meadows, Senge, Forrester) I am amazed that Greece would attempt to apply the Angola variant ( http://www.atimes.com/c-asia/BD13Ag01.html ) without the resources to continually pay the military, the elites and the countries supplying the arms (Germany and France).

Joe in NC said...

You know what they say....."the Angola variant will bite ya in the ass every time."


trojanhorse said...


"You posed an issue you had about Chomsky/JHK interaction and some questions, and I responded. No need to get so hostile about it, as you seem to enjoy doing whenever we enter into a discussion.

If you find me hostile, I wonder that you take the time to make even the off-topic respose you did make. Now I might wish for the aplomb to speak as mildly as Noam did when attemting to talk to JHK's off the mark comments, but then as well maybe you nmight devlop the ability to not take offense so easily.

"It wasn't his "chippy" comments that prevented anyone from talking about alternative sources of oil, because no one wanted to talk about that at the time "

About that statement I see that your misunderstanding of my comment was my fualt in not communicating well where I said in my last comment: Besides all the fracking going on what other freaking things are there that could well be in the wings.
It was a play on words, 'fracking' and 'freaking' by which could mean among other things, the off loading of large segments of the population and moving them outside the use of energy, making the pie not smaller but the partipandts at that party fewer, and that is just one other road not travelled.

"It wasn't his "chippy" comments that prevented anyone from talking about alternative sources of oil, because no one wanted to talk about that at the time - not even Chomsky. He just wanted to casually acknowledge it as a real possibility and segue into his general point, and that's a misleading thing to do."

I agree no one wished to talk of alternate energy, not even me other than to say that alternate energy would only extend the use of fossil fuels, but aside from that how would you have introduced his point? I would imagine, in my hostile way, that you would wrap it up in some overly intelectualized way so as to make it incomprehensible to the general listener? Okay me amigo, here is your opportunity to practice not taking offense ;)

Frank said...

Joe, Greece is not following the Angola variant. They missed the part about having oil money to pay for the soldiers and their toys.

This is more Argentina-like

Hombre said...

@ Skip Breakfast 9:33 - "How does it all end"
I have no idea when/how it all ends and don't think anyone else knows either--depends on a trigger event! However I tend to favor the "long descent" notion because those in charge don't want to go down with the ship (so to speak).
I agree with much of what you said about the wastefulness of time and resources at many job sites, however believe me it is not only at government institutions. I spent 30 years at a "private" corporate occupation and witnessed the evolvement of increasing laxity and carelessness during all that time.
The scope of the human dilemma, IMO, is monumental, so the painful "fix" with either be extremely painful, extremely drawn out, or both!

Ash said...


You simply don't understand the point that Chomsky was going to make. Instead, you are accusing JHK of somehow interfering with the point you want to make. Chomsky wasn't attempting to get into the specifics of various ways in which peak oil could be pushed out well into the future, a la Yergin. If he had got into that discussion, it would not have helped him make his broader point (because analyses like Yergin's are clearly nonsense). Like I wrote several times before (in one eye out the other?), Chomsky was quickly acknowledging the possibility of Yergin-like projections being correct in order to start discussing why high supply/low prices prolong the imperial capitalist model and is devastating to human civilization (again, I generally agree with that, but irrelevant to original issue you brought up). It's a very misleading way of going about it, and I'm glad JHK caught on and said something.

"If you find me hostile, I wonder that you take the time to make even the off-topic respose you did make."

I initially responded because I had a similar discussion with a few others when the interview came out a week or so ago, and because you posted legitimate questions that it seemed you wanted an answer to (but perhaps only from people who agree with you). Now, although it's been as fun and... enlightening as usual, I will cut myself off.

el gallinazo said...

Mike Daisey, reporter and performance artist, visits the high tech computer manufacturing center of China in Shenzhen, China, extensively interviews workers, and reports back. Foxconn, headquartered in Taiwan, has a manufacturing center there of 450,000 workers. Typically workers start at 15 and are often discarded in their late 20's as their bodies wear out, often from toxic solvents such as n-hexane. The average cafeteria services 10,000 employees. When conditions resulting in increasing numbers of workers wending their way to the top of the buildings and throwing themselves off, Foxconn managed to solve the human resource problem by stringing catch nets around the perimeters of their buildings. Mr Daisey's description of this contemporary paragon of Chinese fascism makes Bladerunner appear as a utopian fantasy. This hour is also a worthy hagiography to the current Usaco beatification of Steven Jobs, but one should be warned that you will never look at your iPad or iPhone with a complete sense of unmitigated affection after listening to this. I would welcome commentariat feedback on the program.


bluebird said...

El G - I had listened to that audio program a few days ago. It is indeed shocking that we have such nifty gadgets that are made by hand, hands with tiny nimble fingers that most likely belong to young adults, if not young teenagers too.

Foxconn has been in the news this week concerning the suicides,

trojanhorse said...


I really hate re-reading my stuff, but for you I do it! I hate even more quoting myself!

The only Question I asked was this:

"Does anyone here know when the peak in Greater Fool 'Investors' will occur, what is that Ponzi's date, or dates?"

... and while that was more rhetorical than a true question you give me mounds of ugly Yergins to deal with and expect smiles. AS far as Kunstler goes I think he was rude and obnoxious. By the way I found out about that interview by listening to a JHK podcast on his site where he goes after Noam andsounded more spiteful than justified, so I guess I came to the interview somewhat predisposed against JHK for the mean spirited remarks that he made. I think Kunstler was more interested in raising himself by climbing up on Noam than in anything having to do with Chomsky's mention of Yergin. Maybe some bad blood going on there, Palestine and what not?

Anyway I rather enjoyed that you did not raise to that bit of bait in my last, and yes I too find it fun. Without the devil where would there be any theatre.

Here is that Kunstlercast with mention of Noam:


I can`t give you the exact placement of the comment but you can consider that a bit of the vengeful on my part as you will have to listen to quite a lot of Kunstler's self-aggrandizement to reach it .

OUT ;)

Greenwood said...

From John Markoff, who interviewed Steve Jobs for his 2005 book What the Doormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer.

Speaking about his youthful experiments with psychedelics, Jobs said,

"Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life."

He was hardly alone among computer scientists in his appreciation of hallucinogenics and their capacity to liberate human thought from the prison of the mind.

Jobs even let drop that Microsoft's Bill Gates would "be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once."

Apple's mantra was "Think different." Jobs did.

And he credited his use of LSD as a major reason for his success.


To paraphrase Cheech and Chong:

"I used to be all messed up on drugs, now I'm all messed up on Corporatism."


markogts said...

Sorry to disappoint you but I can assure you the Monti government is perfectly constitutional in Italy. Italy is a representative, not direct, democracy and Monti has been elected strictly following the rules of our Constitution.

This hoax that Monti is not deomocratically chosen is an offence for Italy and a hoax that can make a lot of harm if taken for real by extremists. Please correct your post.

el gallinazo said...

Whole Foods surrenders to Frankenfoods



I am back for a visit to my old island and staying at a friend's luxury villa equipped with a plasma TV and a few hundred channels. So I took this opportunity to watch as much as I could tolerate of Jersey Shore so I could die knowing that I had viewed Snookie and Pauly D. Film editing was definitely alcohol based with most takes lasting less than two seconds. Just watching flashed me back to my last serious drunk (taken on in the line of duty hosting an alcoholic client at a convention) about 35 years ago. Many years ago I visited Sodom on the south shore of the Dead Sea, now a salt reclamation plant. I wonder what God has in mind for the Jersey Shore.

Joe in NC said...

Sorry in advance if this has already been posted (dated Jan 5):

‘Wild Old Women’ Close San Francisco Bank Of America Branch

Go Granny Go!


ben said...

g o d, channeling FEMA, has an oceanfront CAFO in store for the joysie shore. no fishing. and then later in the century he will change the first c in atlantic city to an s.

Gravity said...

Some sheeple say that mr. Monti was appointed through coercion of parliament and not elected by popular vote, as in general elections, and also that he's a treacherous sell-out bankster with no loyalties to the italian people whatsoever, and an enemy to democracy.
But they exaggerate.

ben said...

NYT public editor asks a stupid question

but then again chris hedges insists that selective stenography doesn't constitute media corruption. perhaps it could be framed for him in cultural terms he can understand:

'The flaw in Mr. O’Leary’s logic notwithstanding his proposal isn’t so radical.'

Joe in NC said...

El G,

I know you have plenty of brain cells to spare, but for the "average" reader a warning may have been appropriate that watching 'Jersey Shore' might make you dumber.


Skip Breakfast said...

@ Hombre

re: (un)work

Yes, I agree with you about the private sector too. Much of my work in the private sector has been just as non-essential. And it just begs the question about how much work in general has become non-productive and misallocated energy, doesn't it. I've reached the very strange (psychological) point where I'm about to put in a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee, and I think, gosh, who grew this and how much energy went into cultivating and processing and shipping it to me, and what have I really actually done to earn that teaspoon of sugar. I mean that is life-giving stuff. I wouldn't know how to make it myself if my existence depended on it. And I look at what I do know how to do, and it's all frankly really useless! Structuring a financing deal seems just like bloat to me.

Ilargi said...

New post up.

Housing and Oil: Dark Inventory Rules