Category : money

Remember when Bitcoin was $100? You know, like 2 months ago? Well now it has leaped up $100 in just 4 hours, rising from $500 to $600 USD before retreating slightly.

Bitcoin on Nov 18, 2013

It seems the Little Currency That Could is making a run at $1000. We’ll soon see if it can make it before the bubble bursts again.

But why  are people investing in this crazy “virtual currency” anyway?
When I first stumbled across Bitcoin back in 2011, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It seemed a pretty quixotic goal, making a new currency just for the internet. I knew the network effect was critical for gaining any traction, and at the time it was just the province of a few cypherpunks, led by a mysterious figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto who hasn’t been heard from since 2010. This person or group started the whole thing with a white paper laying out how it would work. Soon the system was up and running. There were a few bumps along the way but this resilient idea has since caught on and now there are a flurry of competing crypto-currencies — that is, digital money that’s secured by lots of complex math.

There’s more to Bitcoin than just another internet scam or tulip craze. The underlying technology that makes Bitcoin work is not smoke and mirrors. You can see it working every day as money is transferred all over the world, nearly insantly. All you need is an internet connection, which of course is needed for any sort of online banking you do with traditional money. Bitcoin’s genius is making large-scale, distributed cryptography work for the masses.

That’s the important point: Bitcoin works for the masses, unlike traditional fiat currencies like the US Dollar. Despite our democratic ideals, American money policy is decided behind closed doors by a secretive agency that fiddles with interest rates and makes huge bond purchases with money it creates from nothing. Transparency is not the Federal Reserve’s style.

Money for the masses
With Bitcoin, the code is open source and there is no central authority or bank — the job of verifying transactions is distributed across the globe. Don’t trust Bitcoin? Review the source code yourself and suggest changes if the security is not up to snuff. Let there be no mistake — Bitcoin is not yet out of “beta” and is not financed by a huge corporation with a strict delivery timeline. Nope, this is a bunch of self-appointed Guardian Nerds who mostly have day jobs not related to Bitcoin (except lead developer Gavin Andresen, who is paid by the nascent Bitcoin Foundation).

With that in mind, it’s best to think of Bitcoin as something that will be really cool and world-changing…

But it isn’t yet. Not until an easier payment system is deployed (it’s being developed now) and a stronger ecosystem of merchants accepting the currency emerges. What we’re witnessing now is a speculative landgrab because smart folks know that Bitcoin’s current market cap of 5 or 6 billion is chump change compared to what a fully mature, global digital currency would have if it were successful. To put it in comparison, Bill Gates could buy the whole Bitcoin economy nearly 10 times over, even in this midst of this bubble.

But is this a bubble or merely staggered massive growth?

Bitcoin versus traditional forms of money
Many valuations have been tossed about for Bitcoin. Most are probably overly optimistic, but the naysayers ignore the fact that Bitcoin was cleverly designed to be a store of value first and a currency second. It’s been derided as a “deflationary currency” even though it’s presently inflating at over 10% as new bitcoins are mined and put into circulation. Though misunderstood, Bitcoin is just on a somewhat-flexible schedule of inflation that will limit it to at most 21 million coins. It will take nearly 100 years for it to inflate from the present total of 12 million to its final total of 21 million. That’s not a bad thing — you can plan your life around that, whereas the Fed could change course tomorrow and you’d have no recourse except to try and compensate for what you think might be their new strategy.

Make no mistake: Bitcoin threatens inflationary currencies because it offers a release valve available to regular folks if the government and/or central bank decides to inflate your currency (as they inevitably do). That’s a good thing because competition among currencies can only help consumers and merchants. Central banks won’t be able to inflate secretly without the price of Bitcoin being affected.

Bitcoin is still pretty clumsy as a currency, but it works well as a store of value as long as you follow proper security procedures and principles. Does your password contain your name or birthday or even the word “password” in it? Does it have the string “12345″ in it? Perhaps you should not buy any bitcoin until “Bitcoin Banks” emerge to offer security to the security-impaired. The bad thing about a global, distributed currency is that it can be stolen remotely too. Don’t skimp on the passwords and don’t keep everything all in one place, like your email account which could itself be hacked. Enable 2 factor authentication where available.

Soon, major merchants will start accepting Bitcoin because they want to save money on credit card transaction fees and/or Paypal charges. Bitcoin is close to free (currently around 3 cents, regardless of the size of the transaction) versus the 2 or 3% fee associated with credit cards.

China: the sleeping giant awakens
Much of the current boom has been driven by enthusiasm in China. During the last huge bubble in April China was barely a participant. This time they are driving the whole market and are responsible for more than half of all exchange trades which consistently outweighs the USD. The Chinese seem to like Bitcoin. A lot.

That means we’re in uncharted waters. Who knows the depths of their desire for bitcoin? Their proclivities could change the world because the Chinese and westerners have different philosophies of money. The Chinese are savers whereas the West has encouraged spending and investment through inflationary currencies that need to be earning you money or solving a problem, or else they are losing value. Much of western civilization is predicated on this quirk of our monetary system. Before, the only way to opt out was to buy gold and silver, but Bitcoin offers a new way to preserve value over time, but has the advantage that it can be sent anywhere in the world cheaply and in about an hour.

That’s why people have taken to calling Bitcoin things like Digital Gold and Gold 2.0. It could become a whole new asset class.

Bitcoin is a blessing and a curse for the Obama Administration
That’s been a problem for the US Government  – it doesn’t know how to classify Bitcoin for tax and regulation purposes. Is it a currency? A store of value? An asset? A security? A collectible? A stock in some hippy/libertarian enterprise? All of the above?

While many observers thought that the US regime would quickly make Bitcoin illegal because of its threat to the US Dollar, it now appears Washington is going to take a more wait & see approach, partly because the Chinese boom seems certain to incubate a new wave of start-ups and millionaires just like the early PC revolution did in the 80s and the internet boom did during the late 90s. Lawmakers face a stark choice: Do you want this new round of innovation to happen in Silicon Valley… or Shanghai?

Besides, Obama/Congress making Bitcoin illegal would only apply to the US and would only serve to drive it underground.  The Feds could try to eradicate it on the internet (at the cost of our liberties), but they would ultimately succeed only restricting commerce. Bitcoin is easy enough to hold offline as a paper wallet. I’m not sure if the US government even still bothers to feign interest in the plight of oppressed peoples living under dictatorships unless there happens to be some oil nearby, but if they did care, Bitcoin is a great way to effect commerce outside the grip of a despot. The obvious early candidates for Bitcoin merchants is any business involving the internet so buying a web domain with bitcoin is already possible. Soon other anti-censorship tools could become available with a digital currency that is difficult for authorities to track if you use appropriate anonymizing tools.

Is Bitcoin anonymous? Sort of.
It should be noted that Bitcoin is not fully anonymous. In fact, every transaction ever made is stored in a huge public ledger (the “Blockchain”) that is hosted and shared by anybody running a Bitcoin node. This helps verify that coins aren’t spent twice and ensures that only the person with the private key can access them. However, you can take steps to make sure no one knows you have that address. Bitcoin addresses are called “wallets” and they are basically both the wallet and bank account of Bitcoin. You can create a new one with a click of a button. No identifying information is required, but the NSA will still be spying on all your activities on the internet (as I’ve been saying for years, but we’re all supposed to be shocked) so tread with caution.

Golden Future: What does the future hold for Bitcoin?
So what does the future hold for Bitcoin? No one knows for sure, but I think we are watching history unfold. People scoffed at the idea of a personal computer. They scoffed at the internet and at mobile phones too. Yet the tide of history flows onward like the River Nile, demolishing our preconceptions and old ideas that no longer serve us in its inexorable ebb and flow.

In the wake of the financial disaster of 2008 and the lingering malaise (even as the Dow breaks 16,000), we have to wonder if our current concept of money is still working. In the old days, money was gold. Or silver. But we banished that idea to the distant past when paper money (which were originally certificates redeemable for gold or silver) caught on. But in the age of derivatives and CDOs and quantitative easing, perhaps it’s time to reassess if paper money — which somehow transformed into digital money in the last few decades — is really helping us.

So the idea of digital money isn’t even new. And neither is Bitcoin’s slow, steady inflation level because it mimics how gold is mined. But the idea of a currency created through cryptographic equations and run on normal PCs is radically new and revolutionary. Could it be that Bitcoin is the best of both worlds, the best of the old and the new?

Time will tell. But Bitcoin is just the first of what promises to be many cryptocurrencies. If Bitcoin doesn’t get it right, it’s likely that some other crypto-coin will.

Learn more about Bitcoin at WeUseCoins.com. Bitcoin has a significant learning curve and it’s worthwhile to invest some time into understanding it before you dive in. And if you’re going to buy in, wait until this current bubble pops. And pop it will, but I bet it will still be higher than it was 2 months ago.

You might be telling your grandkids about way back in your day when a bitcoin was only worth 600 dollars. And your grandkids will ask, “What’s a dollar?”

I see a lot of common ground between liberals (i.e. leftist Democrats and independents) and libertarians (big L and small L). It’s unfortunate that a few fundamental issues divide them because there’s so much room for collaboration, especially when it comes to the calamitous policies of the Federal Reserve.

A Solution: First Steps
First, people need to chill out on both sides of this debate. Second, realize that what I’m proposing is not new, just misunderstood. I’ve jokingly called myself a libertarian socialist before, but today I found that there really is such a thing.

Now, what I’m about to do will piss off both liberals and libertarians, but I need to criticize both approaches before we can find a happy medium. This might be painful for you if you fall on one side or the other, but please bear with me; each side will get its fair share of abuse. And praise.

Neither Side is Perfect
The libertarians, especially social conservatives, need to realize that they do try to protect rich too much even though it’s the rich who created the Fed and many of our current economic problems. It’s the rich, after all, who can afford to thrive during times of moderate to high inflation because they can hire a team of accountants, investment bankers and so on to ride the rough waters of fiat capitalism.

Some well-meaning libertarians, being perpetually out of power, are gradually seduced into supporting right-wing bombthrowers like Glenn Beck, which only makes them look stupid, racist, backwards and irrational to a liberal. The tea parties have not succeeded because they are partisan and co-opted by mainstream Republican politicians like Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann, tapping into anger and doing nothing to really change things. If they were non-partisan End the Fed rallies that might be a step in the right direction. But many libertarians hate liberals because the Democrats who get elected tend to be corrupt establishment figures — just like Republican politicians.

Conversely, the leftist populists need to realize that Obama is not the savior they want him to be. He’s a politican like any other and he’s just playing the game. Note how little has changed since he took office. He’s made lots of noise about change, but our Empire is still killing peasants in Afghanistan, our privacy is still nonextistent as warrantless wiretapping continues, and our economy is still in the thrall of the rich as Bernanke gets re-upped for another term and the idiots who supported deregulation (like Summers) get cushy jobs in the administration. Meanwhile, Obama’s tackling (and losing) the health care fight when he should be focused on the economy first and foremost. I support universal healthcare, but the conservatives are right to question how we’re gonna pay for it. Shouldn’t we get our economic house in order before we make massive commitments to future spending?

The Health Care Riddle
The health care conundrum is a medium-sized part of our economic problems. The bigger problem is exactly what the Libertarians are talking about (and what progressive left-wing publications like the HuffPo are finally starting to realize): The secretive Fed’s embrace of fiat currency and fractional reserve banking will make peasants of us all.

This government, and everything in it (including Obama) is controlled by the banking apparatus. Look at how quickly the bailout and stimulus packages were passed in comparison to health care reform. And yet we could’ve easily paid for health care for every single American with the money we threw at the bankers so they could erase the red ink from their bottom lines and then refuse to give loans to regular people. Bonuses to executives are already back to pre-crash levels.

My point is that unless we fix the underlying issue we’ll be back at square one again. Unless a new amendment is added to the Bill of Rights guaranteeing free health care for all (not bloody likely) the bankers will find a way to put us back in the poor house again. Congress will bankrupt whatever public option we create unless it is rock-fucking-solid. Because of the inflationary and demographic bubbles we face, Social Security and Medicare will likely go bankrupt within a few decades. How will adding more financial obligations to the pile help us solve this mess?

Sometimes Society is to Blame
The typical libertarian response is to say “Get government off my back!” I think libertarians are susceptible to Republican messaging because the Republican politicians pretend to be in favor of limited government. And both libertarians and Republicans see poor people as failed and lazy.

Here’s something libertarians can learn from liberals: Sometimes the main forces that cause poverty really are society’s fault. More specifically to blame: government and corporate interests from banking to health care who are in favor of fiscally incapacitated citizens who thus become dependent on the state and the state’s favored corporations. Fiat currency and fractional reserve lending have created the underlying conditions that make this economic incapacitation possible.

Spending Our Way to Prosperity
Liberals have traditionally tried to solve this problem with even more government intervention. They see government as a tool they can use to elevate the playing field and give those people a shot at crawling out of poverty and back to fiscal independence. Libertarians have largely cried foul but haven’t proposed a practical solution and have in fact fallen for Republican Party propaganda (especially on taxes) when they should have stood with the poor. It is the poor who suffer most from the Fed’s policies.

Yet liberals who think we can continue to spend our way out of this mess are sadly mistaken. In fact, we’ve already spent far too much. It is perhaps the best response to the problem within the context of an inflationary world, but the Keynesian approach will ultimately collapse because the inflation is too destabilizing and it’s also incredibly iniquitous. Who here gets a check for inflation each month? Not me, but because of fractional reserve lending practices, banks benefit disproportionately from inflation. Liberals, just like right-leaning libertarians, are inadvertantly supporting the rich elites who create the problems they decry.

The Tree of Liberty
This crisis threatens to rend our nation apart but also presents an opportunity; a chance to end the Fed and the economic inequity it has wrought. And the only way that can happen is by unifying liberals and libertarians once again. Their names come from the same root word, after all — Liberty. Both sides need to make bold changes to come together, but the only way to achieve true economic liberty is by a combination of tight regulation of banks and specie-backed currency.

As FDR said:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Political liberty cannot come without economic liberty.

FDR Did Better Against the Nazis Than The Bankers
A lot of Libertarians hate Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but what they don’t seem to realize is that he was fighting an all-out war against the corrupt banking and corporate interests who were colluding against the common man, and the levers of government were the only powers the president had available to him. The banker-controlled Fed, after all, caused the first Great Depression and FDR was forced to act quickly to stem the bleeding. Read this link for more insight into FDR and why he abandoned the gold standard — Europeans had already ditched gold and were buying up ours with their fiat currency, but FDR wanted to work out an international gold standard once the crisis subsided. And indeed, Bretton Woods was an attempt to do just that.

Roosevelt has been slandered as anti-business by many on the right. He was not; he was anti-Big Business. He stood up for all of America, not just the plutocrats. FDR’s Keynesian solution was imperfect but it bought time and saved the Union. If he had not acted quickly the Business Plot of 1934 may have succeeded and America may have spiraled into despotic fascism, never to return.

Corporate Power
Some libertarians have not been sufficiently suspicious of the motives of Big Business. They think that corporate rights are the same as personal liberty. They are not.

Corporations are amoral machines that must be controlled. Men should be free to do what they will, but who among us will argue that a man is free to run over people in his car because, by golly, he paid for that car and he controls it and he uses it to make money for his family, so anybody who tries to stop him is abridging his rights? Well, we shouldn’t let corporations driven by men to run amok any more than we should allow that of motor vehicle operators. It is imperative that libertarians understand that economic freedom is more fundamental and more important than corporate power.

A New Respect
Liberals, meanwhile, have long regarded libertarians a bunch of kooks; militia-joining types who are all paranoid gold-bugs who believe in anarchic and anachronistic principles. But libertarians have learned the hard way that governments can resort to tyranny whether they’re controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans. Democratic attempts to solve our basic economic problems have either been limp-wristed or misguided. Liberals need to take a look at the constitutional principles libertarians stand by and realize how closely they align with progressivism. Most importantly, liberals need to get past the false “left vs. right” dichotomy that the elites use to divide and conquer us. The marginalized, but proud Libertarian voters have defiantly supported their minor party despite no chance of winning.

Perhaps liberals will have more respect for libertarians and their journey through the political wilderness after the last 8 years of suffering their own indignity. Soured on big, invasive government (wiretapping, No Child Left Behind, literal invasions) during the Bush years, this is the ideal time for liberals to wake up and realize that they can only secure the freedom and prosperity by looking beyond the political and focusing on the very most fundamental monetary elements of our economy upon which the government and society are built. Libertarians are not greedy to focus on money; they are prudent. Unless we have a secure gold-backed money supply we will continue to have these crises, and at some point we can’t continue to solve them through social programs and endless spending. Inflation creates the poverty that we all fear. It’s time to end it.

This is my plea for liberals and libertarians to work together and remove the Federal Reserve’s charter. It’s time to take back our economic liberty. We don’t have much time to waste.

The Fed is starting to feel the heat! Keep the pressure on, Congresscritters. Looks like the House is united in demanding a real, independent audit. Now we’ve got to get the Senate on board.

More here.

Somebody pinch me. This sounds like a shitty Johnny Depp movie (to be fair, the first one was good).

First, let me say that I don’t condone the taking of hostages (unless it’s an underrated Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson movie) and some of these pirates are clearly assholes.

But a large portion of them are fishermen who got sick and tired of seeing European vessels dumping toxic waste in Somalian waters. Johann Hari wrote a great short article on the piracy issue entitled You Are Being Lied to About Pirates. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

This is an environmental war.

Apparently Europe and America feel they have not raped the African continent enough and are engaging in a propaganda war against the “pirates” in order to justify continued presence in the area and as a convenient distraction from the foundering economy.

Just a reminder: Do not believe the mainstream media, especially when they get whipped into a frenzy like they are now. When the media is all aligned on an issue you can bet they’re wrong or lying. The pirates scare is Class A bullshit and should be treated as such. If we had more journalists like Hari this wouldn’t be a problem, but most will breathlessly recount whatever government officials tell them.

Dig deeper. There’s more to this story than the corporate media will ever report.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably think that organizations like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are there to protect the common man from white collar criminals on Wall Street.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that the SEC is an agency dedicated to protecting the criminals from the gimpy arm of justice. The Madoff scandal is a perfect example. His Ponzi scheme was operating right out in the open and anybody with enough financial sophistication to work on Wall Street would’ve been able to figure out the fraud if they had bothered to add up the numbers.

Former fraud investigator Harry Markopolos did add up the numbers:

“The SEC was never capable of catching Mr. Madoff. He could have gone to $100 billion” without being discovered, Markopolos testified. “It took me about five minutes to figure out he was a fraud.”

Markopolos had been warning about Madoff’s scam since 2000. Nobody listened. He sent his detailed warnings with his reasonings attached and written in such a way I, a financial neophyte, could understand the brazenness of the fraud. It should have been obvious to any SEC fraud investigator within a matter of minutes.

Here’s why they didn’t pursue the matter:

Madoff, who was at one point chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market and sat on SEC advisory committees, was “one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and in a position to easily end our careers or worse,” Markopolos said.

The SEC would have been investigating one of their own, and that’s just not gonna happen; then or now. That would be like Cheney investigating Bush or vice versa. Ain’t gonna happen.

Washington D.C. is kind of like OppositeLand: Everything is the opposite of the way it should be. Our biggest criminals are not just coddled, they are given the keys to the kingdom. When our banks screw up they are given billions for free, but when you are deep in debt you can bet on the credit card industry bribing Congress into passing tougher bankruptcy laws.

If you’re able to wrap your head around the absurdity of the situation you might not be that surprised to find that the CIA is funding terrorism, the FBI is protecting criminals and the DEA is protecting drug smugglers. That’s the way things work in OppositeLand. Bill Clinton gets impeached for a blowjob and Bush didn’t even get censured for pissing all over the Constitution and starting two illegal wars in which over a million people died.

Welcome to OppositeLand, where if you fuck up, you move up. If you have ethics and morals, you can expect to be a social leper or maybe even have your ass killed for your troubles.

Being a hipster is sort of like being grotesquely fat; everybody can see that you are, but it’s considered impolite to actually mention it.

Punks wear their tattered threads and studded leather jackets with honor, priding themselves on their innovative and cheap methods of self-expression and rebellion. B-boys and b-girls announce themselves to anyone within earshot with baggy gear and boomboxes. But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. It’s an odd dance of self-identity – adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims [sic] it.

Hipsters and indie kids try so hard to fit in, but it’s embarassing to have someone point out that fact. The punks would call them posuers, but punks put a lot of thought into their image, too. I guess fashion is always supposed to appear effortless, but the hypocrisy bothers me.

I thought I was the only one annoyed by the judgmental, hypocritical self-righteousness of hipsters, but Douglas Haddow’s adbuster’s cover story from July (forgive me, Hipsters, I am behind the times) is an anti-hipster manifesto brimming with insightful eviscerations of the hipster lifestyle without being too condescending or preachy.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

So basically, hipsterism is the McDonalds of countercultures. It’s unoriginal, manufactured and monolithic. It can’t be reasoned with or defeated because it’s constantly morphing into whatever happens to be cool at the moment — but not too cool:

But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.

If it’s mainstream, it sucks. But what happens when hipsterdom goes mainstream? Your mom might not be a hipster, but if you’re 15 to 40 it’s likely you or one or more of your friends are a hipster (there should be a 12 step program). Hell, everyone you hang out with might be a hipster.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with a herd mentality — it keeps you safe. But there are several annoying things about hipsterdom that really bother me. A list:

  1. Denying what you are: If somebody calls you a hipster and you angrily deny it; you’re probably a hipster.
  2. Following trends while pretending to be a trendsetter: Are you consistantly cool and fashionably dressed? Well, trendsetters take risks, make mistakes and often look goofy; it’s part of the deal. If you don’t take the risk of being uncool, you are not a trendsetter.
  3. High school is over: 15 year-old hipsters notwithstanding, the Coolness Hierachy of hipsterdom is basically High School 2.0 — enough already! I thought you were rebelling against status-obsessed drones who are now working their way up the real power hierarchy.
  4. Smoking cigarettes is not rebellion: You’re a good little Democrat-Hipster, aren’t you? Then why do you smoke cigarettes? Profits from tobacco fund the right-wing hate machine you claim to oppose. Smoking Parliaments does not make you cool. If you want to be (somewhat) rebellious, smoke weed.
  5. Claiming to be so open minded, yet only listening to hipster-appoved music: Indie rock is full of great tunes and good bands, but there are tons of bands out there playing excellent music who don’t get love from hipsters because they don’t have skinny jeans, ironic trucker hats or bed-hed haircuts.
  6. Atheism-chic: As any hipster knows, atheism is “in”. But haven’t you noticed that hardcore atheists are just as annoying as fundamentalist Christians? Most Christians, while misguided, are nice people who respect others’ beliefs. Atheists should remember to do the same.
  7. Conflicting values: You can’t be both an environmentalist and a shopaholic. You can’t jump into the indie side of consumer culture and think that insulates you from the repercussions of materialism and consumption culture. Not driving an SUV does not make you green. Your fancy, designer shoes were probably made by orphan children in the Phillipines and then shipped over here at great expense to the environment… but not your conscience apparently.
  8. Loyalty means nothing, only fashion: Hipsters will often hide their love of uncool things, or cloak their love in a vaccinating veil of irony. This only causes more self-loathing and hypocrisy. There’s a whole generation of hipsters out there who love — truly love — AC/DC but would never, ever admit it, except through irony.
  9. Conformity kills: Okay, so let me get this straight… you’re rebelling against the conformist mainstream in the same manner as everyone else — by joining a subgroup that is undeniably mainstream in your age group. Congrats on being both a hypocrite and a conformist in one fell swoop.

What it really boils down to is hypocrisy and herd mentality. I’m not saying I’m immune to either, but they both bug me and I’m committed to avoiding them wherever possible.

I understand the need to form subgroups. I do. It’s 21st century tribalism and it has its benefits. Countercultures shouldn’t be blamed for going mainstream if it’s a positive force in the world, but I’m afraid hipsterdom has become a regressive force that’s more based on exclusion, ego-driven hypocrisy and ironic apathy than any positive force. What part of hipsterism is positive? Will anyone stand up and defend hipsters… or even admit to being one?

Update: A good friend has challenged me to live in Bismarck, North Dakota with all the “mouth-breathers” with no taste in music. Point made; hipsters are good for something and probably better than many alternatives. Still, I’m sick of being one-upped by him regarding musicians he claims are mind-blowingly awesome and yet doesn’t have on his iPod because he doesn’t actually listen to them. I listen to bands/musicians that I like, not those who have the best technical ability or underground/hipster credibility.

Was the banking industry screwed over by its own bankruptcy law? It sure appears to have hurt the economy

“Before the reform, overindebted households might file bankruptcy and get rid of their credit card debt, and that would free up income to pay the mortgage,” Morgan said. “The new law blocks that escape route and forces better-off households to continue paying credit card debt, which makes it harder than before to continue paying the mortgage.”

The conclusions of Morgan and his colleagues echo earlier findings that the new law’s tougher requirements appear to have increased the number of people defaulting on their mortgages or walking away from their homes rather than seeking bankruptcy protection.

“One of the great lessons and ironies” of the new law, Treasury Department economist David P. Bernstein wrote in a recent paper, was that, by increasing the dollar value of assets susceptible to default, it has weakened many of the financial institutions that sought the new law in the first place.

Man, those guy are fucking idiots, right?
Hmm… I suspect that we need to reference incompetence theory here. These assholes didn’t get to the top of the finance industry by being clueless morons eager to throw their body into the arms of Defeat. No, these hard-asses know a lot more about the economy than most people do and they’re using that insider knowledge to time the crash of the economy and profit from it.The bankruptcy law was an important part of the crash: it was the trigger. It was the pin that popped the bubble.

The robberbarons in charge of this economy aren’t stupid. They know that their inflationary, fiat monetary system creates boom and bust cycles so they simply manipulate those cycles to their favor and crater the system at a time of their choosing.

Cheney’s invested in Europe. The Bushes are in South America and the Middle East. I’m sure Hank and Ben are well taken care of, too. The rest of us will be the ones to deal with the fallout from this avoidable disaster. Don’t assume the bankruptcy law was unimportant; it emanated from the very heart of the banking industry and its passage was assumed/assured in Congress. That law is now adding to the misery of those suffering in this corpse of a system.

It’s time to change. We need to switch to a gold-backed system wherein people can feel safe and plan for the future without the economic rollercoasters juiced by Big Media’s propaganda system, creating fear at the opportune moments. We ride on, strapped into a rickety system that is doomed to fail, and soon. The government hasn’t been keeping up the rollercoaster. In fact, the top of the hierarchy have sold all the screws and bolts to China for a tidy profit. We are held aloft by hope, inertia and the wings of big-tittied angels.

Well, don’t look down. Like Wile E. Coyote, we’d fall if we did. But we have to fall, don’t we?
 

It’s time to fall up
refuse to die
and start to fly
away from the lie

[[blink]]…[[blink]]

Uh, what? Is it New Years yet? … Wha? whatsdat? It’s the 8th already? Of 2009? Seriously?

Shit.

Well, happy new year, folks. Time flies.

I guess I’ve been so busy working, being sick, celebrating the holidays, working up for sick days, working on a website, practicing with the band, and working some more, that I haven’t had time to express my growing rage at the economic situation, which is clearly the work of vile capitalists who know how to make money off the market whether it’s going up or falling down.

Bernie Madoff’s got nothing on the dollar itself. The whole American monetary system is gigantic Ponzi scheme, waiting to collapse at the slightest provocation. This economic house of cards might just get us all killed — you remember World War II started from the ashes of the Great Depression, of course. Well, between nukes, bioweapons and chemical weapons this shit could be even worse if we don’t get out of this mess.

Does anybody know how?

From what I can tell the very same people who got us into this mess are being asked to get us out. The people who saw this coming, the Peter Schiffs and the Ron Pauls of the world, they are not being asked for their counsel, strategy or even the time of day. Nope. The Willfully Blind rush feverishly forward, wailing the whole way about how they could never have known.

Bullshit. They knew. Alan Greenspan can wade eye-deep into technical obscurity on any number of topics concerning money and markets. But you’re telling me he couldn’t see he was creating bubbles left and right? Bullshit. He knew exactly what he was doing and this downturn was planned long ago.

They plan to soak us dry, for every last penny we’ve got. The Ponzi scheme’s house of cards crushes the people at the bottom when it falls. That’s the whole point. The guys high up the hierarchy escape with the aid of their golden parachutes and insider knowledge; the rest of us get to hold the damn thing on our shoulders until it finally breaks our spines and we die, another generations of slaves beaten, broken and used by their illuminoid masters. We wore ties instead of chains but the end result — endless work for pitiful rewards — remained constant. We are a planet of serfs, dutifully laboring away for the guy in the castl-.. er, “mansion” up on the hill because if we don’t we don’t receive the resources necessary to live.

Maybe we should just learn to enjoy it. But sometimes these elite assholes like to deny us even the courtesy of a job to slave away at. And so we enter another such time, when you can smell the desperation in the air and wages stay stagnant while business cut back and hope to survive the storm. Desperate men are easy to manipulate; desperate businesses have to cut costs — the cycle is not a happy one for the wageslaves.

Oh God, I’m gonna go to sleep before I rant all night, typing my fingers off in the uncaring darkness. I gotta let it go; just roll with it. Sometimes I actually hope for the apocalypse (preferably a zombie apocalypse) so we can dispense with the bullshit.

Happy 2009, slaves. Let’s hope Master doesn’t whip us too hard this year.

Reality’s a bitch

Obama is picking moderates and center-rightists for his cabinet. That sound you hear? It’s the sound of a million hopes and dreams thudding to the earth like balloons suddenly alchemized into lead.

We can only hope things will get better under Obama. I’d say they can’t get worse, but that’s not true. Evil has built up quite a momentum under Bush. The decisions he made (or his fellow cabalists made for him) over the last 8 years will continue to reverberate through the nation for the foreseeable future. Bush’s legacy of wickedness and the destruction he wrought on our nation’s principles and people will not be easily forgotten. Or forgiven.

But Obama seems very much of the same mind as Bush when it comes to the economy and the dire imperative of taking care of the ultra-rich at the expense of everyone else. Citigroup should’ve been allowed to fail. Instead we’ve given the supposed pillars of capitalism 7.76 trillion in taxpayer money:

The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

If one of the pillars of American capitalism is made of butter, which Citigroup seems to be, then they must crumble (melt?). New ones will rise, if you believe in the free-market.

Neither Bush nor Obama does.

And with those two messing around with the economy I don’t either; there never was and never will be a true free market because somebody’s always got an agenda and if they have influence in government they will use that power to affect change to their benefit, principles be damned. People who talk lovingly about free markets are full of shit. They want open markets, the same way horny guys want loose women: They don’t really love them (captains of industry prefer monopolies over competition), but they sure will take advantage of it while it’s there. A “free” market is just one that hasn’t been spoiled yet… but it will be. It will be.

The only way to fix this is to reconfigure the fundamentals of our economy so the super-rich don’t control everything. But how are we gonna do that if they already do? Are they going to just let us? Fuck no. They have to have a reason first, and we haven’t given them one.

Until we do, nothing will change. Reality’s a bitch, ain’t it?

Cutting costs

The Big Three automakers are in trouble. So naturally, they do what all captains of industry and hard-nosed capitalists do when the chips are down.

They fly to Washington in splendor to ask for a hand-out from the taxpayers.

ABC News has more:

The CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler may have told Congress that they will likely go out of business without a bailout yet that has not stopped them from traveling in style, not even First Class is good enough.

All three CEOs – Rick Wagoner of GM, Alan Mulally of Ford, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler – exercised their perks Tuesday by flying in corporate jets to DC. Wagoner flew in GM’s $36 million luxury aircraft to tell members of Congress that the company is burning through cash, asking for $10-12 billion for GM alone.

I wonder if the idea of curbing executive bonuses, perks, jets, options and salaries has even been seriously discussed in any of the corporate boardrooms from whence this plan to get taxpayers to pay for their failures came. Here’s how I imagine it would go down:

SVP: “Hey guys, I have an idea: How about we curtail our perks, slash our salaries, eliminate our massive bonuses and quit giving the executive team stock options until we get the company back in the black!”

Rest of board: ” …. HAHAHAHAAA!!!!”

EVP: “Good one, Chuck!”

SVP: “Thanks. I also know jokes about Mexicans.”

All the people who scream about socialism being some intrinsic evil never seem to mind corporate welfare or socialism for the rich. The supposed-capitalists who run the American economy don’t blink an eye before bailing out an incompetently-run company for billions of dollars. But if you suggest we spend money on infrastructure, schools or the poor they will scream “SOCIALIST!!!” at the top of their lungs. They’re all about privatizing profits and socializing losses, which I think is the calling card of Evil 2.0 — they get you on both ends, coming and going.

The rich play by their own set of rules and we are merely spectators. We just voted in a new Congress but we sure and hell didn’t give them the okay to go around bailing out private enterprise. But in Washington money talks and the populace is told to shut the fuck up and go buy a TV. Nevermind the fact you can’t afford it! You’ve got to do your part, just like all those CEOs who rode on their private jets to complain about how poor they are!

Just play your role, America: that of a lamb being led to the slaughter.

So Obama’s president-elect. Whoopee.

A lot of people are saying that either Obama will be way, way better than Bush or that Obama will be significantly worse.

I think it will be neither.

I simply can’t imagine anybody being worse than Bush II. I mean, the guy didn’t do a single thing in 8 years that I 100% agreed with. And committing treason, launching an illegal war on false premises and doing everything he could to destroy the environment and the middle class will be tough to top.

On the other hand, will Obama be that much better? Well, he will be hard-pressed to even get us back to where we were in 2000, before W took over. Simply put: there is no way Obama will be as good as we hope. For one, he’s a moderate when we are in need of a radical. He’s good at compromise and bringing people together, but I don’t want to be brought together with the neocons who destroyed our country; I want to see them rot in jail for their crimes.

Secondly, he’s surrounded by advisors and colleagues who got us into this trouble in the first place. There were economic advisors on both sides of the election (Phil Gramm for McCain and Robert Rubin for Obama) who helped create the current crisis and who continually denied that there even was a crisis. This is extremely bad news for those of us hoping for a quick turnaround (and for “change” in general) and it puts Obama’s judgment and independence into question.

Let’s say, as a wonderful thought experiment, that Obama does intend to bring big change to Washington, and is largely successful based on his penchant for bipartisanship and his crew of old-hands who know how the game works. Then what? Then he gets shot! Simple as that; the system will not allow massive, systemic change without a fight.

For instance, the only way to solve the current financial crisis is to rid ourselves of the pestilence known as the Federal Reserve. This private bank has impoverished America and robbed her of her economic liberty. But the last president who attempted to get rid of it was shot in broad daylight in Dallas by multiple gunmen and there was never so much as a trial.

Until we get back on the gold standard our economic problems will persist. If you have the time, watch a movie called Zeitgeist: Addendum, which lays out all the problems with our current (fiat and fractional reserve) monetary system in great detail, and how it’s basically a pyramid-scheme and a scam to enslave us via money.

Will Obama make the painful changes necessary to rescue our nation from the inhuman greed of the international bankers and their cabal of cronies? Only time will tell, but it certainly doesn’t look good. Add to this the fact that he’s reinforcing Bush’s laughable al-Qaeda myth and encouraging attacks on both Afghanistan and Pakistan and you’ve got a continuance of the U.S.’s crypto-imperialist policies and the War on Terror scam, which is actually a war on civil liberties. These are the tools the Bush admin used to manipulate people, spread fear and crush dissent. If Obama uses them as the neocons did, we will know that he is a threat to liberty too.

I’m willing to give him some time and a short honeymoon, but we must continue to be critical and relentless in our pursuit of justice, liberty and freedom. I don’t care which party he’s in, what he professes to believe, what color his skin is, or what he says he’s going to do — it’s what he actually does that counts. And that’s what I will judge him by.

I had to laugh when I saw this quote:

Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration’s strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don’t need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it’s unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes.

[snip]

“These measures are not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it,” Bush said.

This sounds so much like Vietnam-psychosis it’s sick. Destroying the village in order to save it didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now. Once you’ve started down that path you never find a reason to stop interfering — something, somewhere always needs to be saved. Somehow I suspect that Bush will “save” the economy in the same way he saved Iraq!

Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, said he was “much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government.”

At Evergreen Federal Bank in Grants Pass, Ore., chief executive Brady Adams said he has more than 2,000 loans outstanding and only three borrowers behind on payments. “We don’t need a bailout, and if other banks had run their banks like we ran our bank, they wouldn’t have needed a bailout, either,” Adams said.

Hahahaa! The biggest socialist in Washington these days sits in the White House. Comrade Bush has decided that we need a planned economy, managed by the Executive Branch for the good of the rich.

Comrade Bush has managed to combine the worst parts of both socialism and fascism in his flailing “efforts” to save the economy, which, upon closer inspection, actually seem to be more about re-making the economy in his own image. Let the little guys die, save the big guys with massive amounts of free (taxpayer) cash and then claim you were trying to save the economy as a whole.

Others banks judged too sick to save will be allowed to fail.

Guess who gets to judge? Bush, Bernanke and Paulson, of course.

We’re in deep shit.