Friday, July 06, 2007

Are People Sensing Something Is Deeply Amiss?

Correspondent Bill Murath sent in these thought-provoking comments on group consciousness and the tendrils of evidence that Americans are sensing something is deeply amiss:

"It seems on a large scale people are intuiting a change. I am talking more mainstream folks. My buddy Mark whom I am working with is moving back to a farm in North Dakota in a few months. He was up visiting for his parents 50th anniversary and said a whole lot of his cousins who had left the state were moving back for no particular reason. His uncle, a vietnam vet who lost a leg there, just went out with his 2 boys and all bought pistols. For no particular reason. He never owned a firearm in his life.

People I talk to at work ("homeowners"), complete strangers when I can get a good conversation going mention uneasiness or a sense of something changing or not being right. On the one hand the masses now are sensing the change but the power structure of corporate gov't is holding on with everything they have to hold together their Ponzi illusion.

Maybe if we all pull together we can turn the ship."

Correspondent Harun I. (a U.S. Navy veteran who served many years in elite units) had these comments about the July 4th entry:

"I would also like to thank General Taguba. He sacrificed his career for something bigger than all of us, the truth.

In the context of all that is coming to light after reading about the conversations in the New Yorker article that occurred at the highest levels in our government, I wonder how can we think that we are immune to what happened in Germany? Germany was a democracy and for a time was hijacked by fascists. The names were different but they were human beings.

This is why we can’t "wait out" this administration. Waiting out this administration assumes someone better will come along. What if Rudy wins? His track record from New York reveals he has no problem trampling on civil liberties to bring about "security". He believes we should "Stay the Course" in Iraq. Can we afford another extremist in the executive office? After all, IMHO, that what this current president is. He believes that he can trample on the laws of our land because he serves God. He believes that he can launch preemptive wars against those he believes to be evil because he is on the side of God and is therefore right. So we have extremism against extremism.

We, the American people, must impeach. We must send a clear message that we demand the highest morality, ethics, and integrity in those we entrusted and have given the privilege to guard over our nation. We must send a clear message that they serve at the pleasure of the American people. We are not their servants. We must send a clear message to the world that this is a country that respects the rule of law and individual liberty. By removing this president and vice president from office we prove to the world that democracy does work.

I become incensed every time I hear someone in the news say that an American service member died protecting our freedom. Has anyone bothered to look at the relative scope of the "GWOT"? In Iraq there is maybe a handful of Al Qaeda (that weren’t there before our invasion), probably less than 10,000. The insurgency has nothing to do with terrorism, it has to do with occupation. So in Iraq we have roughly the size of a small town grinding down the most powerful military force in the history of mankind.

Globally what are the numbers of Al Qaeda militants? Once again probably less than a small town. Al Qaeda is dispersed and currently is incapable of launching another 9/11 style attack. They have been reduced to a lethal nuisance. But we have spent almost a half trillion dollars with no end in sight fighting citizens who, for the most part, do not hail from any religious or terrorist ideal, they just want us to go home. What does this have to do with American freedom? How has the death of any one of our service members in Iraq maintained or strengthened my freedom?

What happened to our president’s promise to leave when the job is done? He reversed (revealed his true scheme) when he said he wants to have the kind of troop presence we have in South Korea. This madness will lead to an endless insurgency. Perpetual warfare. Terms like the “long war” meant to psychologically prepare us for endless warfare. To what end?

Over 3500 dead in Iraq. We would have been better off spilling their blood at Tora Bora. We had Bin Ladin trapped and let him out because we didn’t want American casualties. Instead we go to war on lies, engage in "regime change" as if the world is ours to do with as we please. To what end? All of our interventions from the past have brought us to where we are today. What makes anybody think they are endowed with some wisdom to make it better tomorrow?

No, we must not wait. We cannot afford another extremist zealot in the executive office. We must send a warning to those who aspire to that high office that they will be held accountable. We have come to accept corruption as normal. This mindset is also dangerous. This is a bad trade and the only way to end the losses is to exit the trade."

Are Americans sensing something the mainstream print media and the TV propaganda machines are avoiding? Why would someone move back to the agricultural heartland of the nation? How about to be close to the food supply, or for the security/protection of a known community?

Why would a combat veteran who has never owned a firearm suddenly arm his family? Is there any reason but defense against a serious threat? And what would cause someone to fear anything in a time of "stock market hits new highs" and "global prosperity that will last for decades?"

Could all that be basically a Ponzi scheme, as Bill Murath suggests, built on a foundation of lies?

When I come across anonymous (always anonymous, it seems) defenders of this administration online, their words have the hollow ring of desperation: "I support my President." Did this individual say the same when Clinton was President? If you're pledging absolute devotion to the office, no selection is allowed: you either support the President all the way down the line or you don't. Somehow I suspect these "support the President" zealots did not support their President during the years 1992-2000 with the same absolutist fervor.

Another slice of desperados brings up Clinton's lies from 1998, as if one President's lies justify another's. Every lie is wrong. Bringing up a past lie does not justify a current lie. The people anxious to dig up past lies are like the spoiled bratty child who defends his theft of a candy bar with the words, "Johnny stole one, too!" as if others' crimes justify their own and absolve everyone of responsibility. Sorry, boys, they don't.

Correspondent Michael Goodfellow sent along this article on just how decimated those Bear Stearns hedge funds are: You know, the ones which are "contained" and "no problem"? Buyers avoid Bear Stearns' cut-priced sale:

"Investors in the worse-hit of two stricken Bear Stearns hedge funds are offering to sell their holdings for as little as 11 cents on the dollar but still finding no buyers, according to unfilled trades on Hedgebay, a secondary market for funds.

Vulture funds and others have been quick to bid for holdings in the two funds, but the best bid for Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leveraged Fund, the more geared of the two, is just 5 cents on the dollar.

Private sales of stakes are the only way investors can exit the two Bear funds, after the bank suspended redemptions in May amid a wave of withdrawals.

"There are buyers but they can't agree on price," said Jared Herman, co-founder of Bahamas-based Hedgebay.

The less-geared Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund, which the bank has rescued with a $1.6bn loan, is being offered at about 70 cents on the dollar. The fund is only attracting bidders at about 30 cents, according to people who use the system.

Market participants estimate the CDOs the Bear funds held would sell for at least 10 per cent less than the values calculated by lenders. "Where things transact is still many points below where dealers have been marking them," said one manager of CDOs and hedge funds. "That is the big ugly secret of this market."

Does any of this strike you as just a tiny wee bit worse than the mainstream U.S. press suggests? A nickel on the dollar means a 95% loss; 30 cents on the dollar for the "high quality" tranches means 70% loss. How much money do you reckon will be lost as the hedge funds, banks and pension funds reporting huge losses turn into dozens, then hundreds or even thousands?

New correspondent E.S. offers an excellent summary of what he succinctly terms "the gradual unraveling" we are now observing:

"What you write about is the gradual unraveling of what was once a great country.

There are four themes that you touch upon but which I think underlie your essays (not my original thoughts):

1) Private splendor, public squalor;
2) Socialize risk, privatize profit;
3) Malignant, narcissistic entitlement; and
4) A something for nothing attitude.

We are quickly creating a non-society, where our interests are limited to what we can get and what we can do for ourselves. This is reflected in our public spaces, in our attitudes toward our neighbors, and in our contempt for so many individuals who make up our society.

I grew up in Philadelphia and spent a great deal of time in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As an example of #1, consider any smaller or mid-sized town in that state. I think of one in particular -- Bedford PA. Modest, well built homes, a small shopping district, a large and beautiful central part (with the requisite statue to the Union war dead), public accommodations (library, high school, VFW) that bespoke of pride in living in a great place -- the town had a center and a soul.

Compare that town (unfortunately dying) to a modern exurb today. Enormous, cheaply built houses (you were/are a carpenter -- I bet there's an essay in you about modern construction) with ostentatious flourishes. Large and soulless malls with thousands of square feet of homogeneous goods made by virtual slaves thousands of miles away. Roads that are over-crowded because we are unwilling to pay for roads. Schools that are an agglomeration of trailers (yes, despite of our public pronouncements that we're doing things "for the children", they are educated in surroundings that look no better than a 3rd world airport terminal). Town center -- none to speak of, aside from a ersatz town green surrounded by stores. Library, civic centers, etc. are old or non-existent.

So we go home to our GarageMahals and complain about the lack of amenities and civic life. It is a world of our own creation."

Well said, Bill, Harun and E.S.--thank you for the insightful commentaries.

Just in case you might think I am a Johnny-come-lately to the bubbles bursting and the rot at the center of our society, please glance at the following entries, and note that I only started my blog in May 2005:

Housing Bubble? What Bubble? Just Look (June 29, 2005)

The Housing Bubble III: Pop! (August 20, 2005)

Since E.S. was kind enough to mention my many years as a carpenter/wood butcher, please glance at these two entries from last year on the construction defects coming to a GarageMahal near you:

Construction Defects: The Flood to Come? (June 1, 2006)

Construction Defects, The Flood to Come, Part II (June 3, 2006)

If you have a little time on your hands, please skim the entries listed in the 2007 archives (by subject) and the 2005-2006 archives (by subject); many relate to the critically important topics raised by these correspondents.

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