Tuesday 28 January 2014

Why Do Some Americans Speak So Confidently When They Have No Clue What They're Talking About?

The Harvard Business School information session on how to be a good class participant instructs, “Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only 55 percent, say it as if you believe it 100 percent,” Susan Cain reported in her bestselling book Quiet. At HBS, Cain noticed, “If a student talks often and forcefully, then he’s a player; if he doesn’t, he’s on the margins.”
Cain observed that the men at HBS “look like people who expect to be in charge.... I have the feeling that if you asked one of them for driving directions, he’d greet you with a can-do smile and throw himself into the task of helping you to your destination — whether or not he knew the way.”
HBS alumni include George W. Bush, class of 1975, as well as:
  • Jamie Dimon, 1982, CEO and chairman of JP Morgan Chase
  • Grover Norquist, 1981, president of Americans for Tax Reform
  • Henry Paulson, 1970, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, former CEO of Goldman Sachs
  • Mitt Romney, 1975, former governor of Massachusetts, co-founder of Bain Capital
  • Jeffrey Skilling, 1979, former CEO of Enron, convicted of securities fraud and insider trading
People with great power over our lives, in government, business, medicine, and elsewhere, who don’t know what they are talking about are scary. Even more scary are people in authority who don’t know what they’re talking about but who have spent a lifetime perfecting how to appear like they do. Complete conviction and total certainty are sources of great power, especially over vulnerable and uncertain people. And so the pretense of conviction and certainty can be quite damaging.
Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” and former hedge-fund manager, received his BA from Harvard and his JD from Harvard Law School. In 2007, Market Watch quoted Cramer: “What's important when you are in that hedge-fund mode is to not do anything remotely truthful because the truth is so against your view, that it’s important to create a new truth, to develop a fiction.”
Some Harvard graduates have famously rebelled against bullshit training, as Harvard alumni also include Henry David Thoreau and David Halberstam. Halberstam’s 1972 book The Best and the Brightest, with its ironic and mocking title, takes down pseudo-certain Harvard (and other Ivy League-educated) presidential advisers who convinced American leaders and the American public that the Vietnam War was a great idea. To be fair to Harvard alumni, some of America’s most famous pseudo-certain government officials did not attend Harvard, including Donald Rumsfeld (Princeton) and Alan Greenspan (New York University).
Our society once routinely called people “bullshit artists” if they spoke with total certainty without any basis for such certainty so as to persuade others and get attention for themselves. Nowadays, bullshit training is called “leadership training” and unashamedly taught at “elite institutions” and at expensive leadership seminars.
Bullshit Artistry: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Expensive
In Tony Robbins’ talk "The Power of Certainty and State of Mind," he tells us “The person who is most certain will always influence the other person.” If you missed out on Harvard but have $895, you can attend a Tony Robbins seminar, and you too become a successful persuader. Robbins’ multi-day seminars cost up to $10,000, and his Platinum Partnership membership, which gives you the opportunity to go on exotic vacations with Robbins, costs $45,000 (Robbins’ net worth has been estimated to be $480 million).
The Harvard Business School Press ranks Robbins among the “Top 200 Business Gurus,” according to Robbins’ website, which also lists many testimonials for Robbins from celebrities, including Bill Clinton and Pitbull. Described as a “world-renowned music sensation and international businessman,” Pitbull tells us that he grew up listening to his mother’s Tony Robbins tapes, which “was like my university. ... It was my Harvard.”
Sounding completely confident when one lacks any real certainty can be disastrous in government, business, medicine, and many other areas. However, depending on the context, it may not be such a bad thing.
Tony Robbins also reports glowing testimonials for himself from tennis greats Serena Williams and Andre Agassi. Greatness in sports is about talent, practice and confidence, and so learning to completely believe in oneself is vital to achieving greatness in athletics. Teaching athletes to believe in themselves is part of what great coaching is about, and Pat Riley, Basketball Hall of Fame coach, gives Robbins a glowing testimony. Helping your children believe in themselves is also a part of what parenting is about, and so it can sometimes be helpful to appear like you completely believe in your child’s talent even if you believe in it only 55 percent.
However, tragedy in life routinely comes from applying what’s helpful in one area of life to all areas of life. It is the tragedy of fundamentalism. So when the HBS/Robbins theology of pretending to be certain when one is not becomes a fundamentalist religion to be used throughout government, business and medicine to persuade people, then tragedy can ensue.
I was a teenager when I discovered the hell that can be created by people in authority who don’t know what they’re talking about but who have spent a lifetime pretending that they do. I discovered how powerful Harvard-educated bullshit artists can create terror for myself and ruin American society.
When I was 14 years old, the Vietnam War continued to rage and the military draft began, and I worried about what my lottery number would be when I became eligible. I remember wishing Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense under John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson), and Henry Kissinger (Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor and Secretary of State) would one day rot in hell. McNamara was an HBS alumni, class of 1939; and Kissinger received A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard and became a Harvard faculty member and director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program. McNamara and Kissinger’s capacity to convey confidence about the rightness of America’s Vietnam policies are major reasons for the tragic deaths of nearly 60,000 Americans and approximately 2 to 3 million Vietnamese.
Government is not the only place where we can be conned by authorities who don’t know what they’re talking about but who have spent a lifetime perfecting how to appear like they do.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was training to be a clinical psychologist, one of the most influential psychiatrists in America was longtime Columbia University professor Robert Spitzer. In an effort to convince the general public of the scientific validity of its psychiatric diagnostic bible, the DSM, the American Psychiatric Association chose Spitzer to chair the DSM-3 task force. DSM-3 was published in 1980, but by 1989, Spitzer was bragging, “I could just get my way by sweet talking and whatnot.” By 2013, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, citing the lack of DSM scientific validity, stated that the “NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.”
As a clinical psychologist for nearly three decades, I’ve seen how emotionally suffering people and their families are extremely vulnerable to medical authorities who have complete conviction and total certainty. When the advertising business, which shamelessly prides itself on effective bullshit, was coupled with pseudo-certain authorities, it made sales resistance difficult for a vulnerable audience.
In the 1990s, Americans began to be exposed to highly effective TV advertisements for antidepressants that utilized a pseudoscientific notion that depression was caused by a “chemical imbalance” of low levels of serotonin that could be treated with “chemically balancing” antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Given the vulnerability of depressed people and their loved ones, it was easy to sell the chemical-imbalance theory, which made it easy to sell these drugs.
This chemical-imbalance campaign was so effective that it comes as a surprise to many Americans to discover that mainstream psychiatry now claims it has always known that this theory was bullshit or “urban legend,” the term used by Ronald Pies, editor-in-chief emeritus of the Psychiatric Times.
Pies stated in 2011, “In truth, the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend — never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.” However, in Psychiatry’s Grand Confession (2012), Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse respond to Pies: “But if the psychiatry community knew all along that the theory was not true, then why did they not clarify this issue for the general public? Shouldn’t they have pointed out to the general public and patients that what the pharmaceutical companies were saying about psychological stress was not true?”
For the last two decades, Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Biederman has been one of the most influential psychiatrists in America. In 2007, the Boston Globe reported in “Backlash on Bipolar Diagnoses in Children” that “psychiatrists used to regard bipolar disorder as a disease that begins in young adulthood, but now some diagnose it in children scarcely out of diapers, treating them with powerful antipsychotic medications based on Biederman’s work.” In a deposition given by Biederman to several states attorneys (reported by the New York Times in 2009), Biederman was asked what rank he held at Harvard.
“Full professor,” Biederman answered.
“What’s after that?” asked one state attorney, Fletch Trammell.
“God,” Biederman responded.
Arrogant self-certainty and a Harvard affiliation have given Biederman great influence, as he has remained a major “thought leader” in psychiatry even after he was nailed by Congress in 2008 for taking $1.6 million from drug companies, and even after he was caught pitching Johnson & Johnson that his proposed research studies on its antipsychotic drug Risperdal would turn out favorably for Johnson & Johnson.
Is there any justice? While arrogance and time at Harvard can give one great power and influence, it doesn’t assure a positive legacy. The New York Times obituary2009 obituary of HBS graduate Robert McNamara states:
As early as April 1964, Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, called Vietnam “McNamara’s War.” Mr. McNamara did not object. “I am pleased to be identified with it,” he said. ... [McNamara later] concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life. In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in a memoir that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” In return, he faced a firestorm of scorn.
We don't want to hear any “mea culpas" or “my bads” from former powerful authorities who have caused great damage by appearing like they knew what they were talking about when they didn’t. We just want them to have the decency to finally shut up.

Scientists Know More About Marijuana as a Medicine Than Many FDA Approved Pharmaceuticals

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Eldad Carin 

 The Journal of the American Medical Association.  “Only about 40 percent of approvals included trials in which the new drug was compared with existing drugs on the market.” Opponents of legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes are fond 

of arguing that the plant must be subjected to the same standards of clinical study and FDA review as conventional medicines. What they fail to mention is that cannabis and its active components have already been subjected to a greater degree of scientific scrutiny than many FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. 

According to a just-published analysis of some 200 newly FDA-approved medications, few conventional drugs are tested in multiple, large-scale clinical assessing safety and efficacy trials prior to market approval. “[A]bout a third won approval on the basis of a single clinical trial, and many other trials involved small groups of patients and shorter durations,” reports theWashington Post in its summary of the study, which appears in the January edition of 

By comparison, there exists over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years, according to a keyword search on PubMed Central, the government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research. Of these, more than 100 are controlled clinical trials assessing the therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids for a variety of indications. 

A 2006 review of 72 of these trials, conducted between the years 1975 and 2004, identifies ten distinct pathologies for which controlled studies on cannabinoids have been published. The review concludes that these trial data “affirm that cannabinoids exhibit an interesting therapeutic potential as antiemetics, appetite stimulants in debilitating diseases (cancer and AIDS), analgesics, as well as in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy and glaucoma.” 

A 2010 review of 37 additional controlled trials, conducted between the years 2005 and 2009, similarly acknowledges the plant’s efficacy, finding, “Based on the clinical results, cannabinoids present an interesting therapeutic potential mainly as analgesics in chronic neuropathic pain, appetite stimulants in debilitating diseases (cancer and AIDS), as well as in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.” The review estimates that some 6,100 patients suffering from a wide range of ailments have taken part in clinical cannabis trials over the past decades – a far greater cohort of subjects than would typically participate in clinical trials for more conventional therapeutics. 

Most recently, a 2012 review of more recent clinical trials conducted by the California Center forMedicinal Research, involving several hundred patients, concluded emphatically: “Recent clinical trials with smoked and vaporized marijuana, as well as other botanical extracts, indicate the likelihood that the cannabin ids can be useful in the management of neuropathic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, and possibly other indications...Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” 

The bottom line: Scientists now know more about cannabis as a medicine than regulators know about many of the FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that the plant could replace.

Monday 27 January 2014

This time, the Federal Reserve has created a truly global problem.


Currency Collapse

  A big chunk of the trillions of dollars that it pumped into the financial system over the past several years has flowed into emerging markets.  But now that the Fed has decided to begin "the taper", investors see it as a sign to pull the "hot money" out of emerging markets as rapidly as possible.  This is causing currencies to collapse and interest rates to soar all over the planet.  Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine, Chile, Indonesia, Venezuela, India, Brazil, Taiwan and Malaysia are just some of the emerging markets that have been hit hard so far.  In fact, last week emerging market currencies experienced the biggest decline that we have seen since the financial crisis of 2008.  And all of this chaos in emerging markets is seriously spooking Wall Street as well.  The Dow has fallen nearly 500 points over the last two trading sessions alone.  If the Federal Reserve opts to taper even more in the coming days, this currency crisis could rapidly turn into a complete and total currency collapse.

A lot of Americans have always assumed that the U.S. dollar would be the first currency to collapse when the next great financial crisis happens.  But actually, right now just the opposite is happening and it is causing chaos all over the planet.
For instance, just check out what is happening in Turkey according to a recent report in the New York Times...
Turkey’s currency fell to a record low against the dollar on Friday, a drop that will hit the purchasing power of everyone in the country.
On a street corner in Istanbul, Yilmaz Gok, 51, said, “I’m a retiree making ends meet on a small pension and all I care about is a possible increase in prices.”
“I will need to cut further,” he said. “Maybe I should use my natural gas heater less.”
As inflation escalates and interest rates soar in these countries, ordinary citizens are going to feel the squeeze.  Just having enough money to purchase the basics is going to become more difficult.
And this is not just limited to a few countries.  What we are watching right now is truly a global phenomenon...
"You've had a massive selloff in these emerging-market currencies," Nick Xanders, a London-based equity strategist at BTIG Ltd., said by telephone. "Ruble, rupee, real, rand: they've all fallen and the main cause has been tapering. A lot of companies that have benefited from emerging-markets growth are now seeing it go the other way."
So why is this happening?  Well, there are a number of factors involved of course.  However, as with so many of our other problems, the actions of the Federal Reserve are at the very heart of this crisis.  A recent USA Today article described how the Fed helped create this massive bubble in the emerging markets...
Emerging markets are the future growth engine of the global economy and an important source of profits for U.S. companies. These developing economies were both recipients and beneficiaries of massive cash inflows the past few years as investors sought out bigger returns fostered by injections of cheap cash from the Federal Reserve and other central bankers.
But now that the Fed has started to dial back its stimulus, many investors are yanking their cash out of emerging markets and bringing the cash back to more stable markets and economies, such as the U.S., hurting the developing nations in the process, explains Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at BlackRock.
"Emerging markets need the hot money but capital is exiting now," says Koesterich. "What you have is people saying, 'I don't want to own emerging markets.'"
What we are potentially facing is the bursting of a financial bubble on a global scale.  Just check out what Egon von Greyerz, the founder of Matterhorn Asset Management in Switzerland, recently had to say...
If you take the Turkish lira, that plunged to new lows this week, and the Russian ruble is at the lowest level in 5 years. In South Africa, the rand is at the weakest since 2008. The currencies are also weak in Brazil and Mexico. But there are many other countries whose situation is extremely dire, like India, Indonesia, Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine, and Venezuela.
I’m mentioning these countries individually just to stress that this situation isextremely serious. It is also on a massive scale. In virtually all of these countries currencies are plunging and so are bonds, which is leading tomuch higher interest rates. And the cost of credit-default swaps in these countries is surging due to the increased credit risks.
And many smaller nations are being deeply affected already as well.
For example, most Americans cannot even find Liberia on a map, but right now the actions of our Federal Reserve have pushed the currency of that small nation to the verge of collapse...
Liberia's finance minister warned against panic today after being summoned to parliament to explain a crash in the value of Liberia's currency against the US dollar.
"Let's be careful about what we say about the economy. Inflation, ladies and gentlemen, is not out of control," Amara Konneh told lawmakers, while adding that the government was "concerned" about the trend.
Closer to home, the Mexican peso tumbled quite a bit last week and is now beginning to show significant weakness.  If Mexico experiences a currency collapse, that would be a huge blow to the U.S. economy.
Like I said, this is something that is happening on a global scale.
If this continues, we will eventually see looting, violence, blackouts, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks in emerging markets all over the planet just like we are already witnessing in Argentina and Venezuela.
Hopefully something can be done to stop this from happening.  But once a bubble starts to burst, it is really difficult to try to hold it together.
Meanwhile, I find it to be very "interesting" that last week we witnessed the largest withdrawal from JPMorgan's gold vault ever recorded.
Was someone anticipating something?
Once again, hopefully this crisis will be contained shortly.  But if the Fed announces that it has decided to taper some more, that is going to be a signal to investors that they should race for the exits and the crisis in the emerging markets will get a whole lot worse.
And if you listen carefully, global officials are telling us that is precisely what we should expect.  For example, consider the following statement from the finance minister of Mexico...
"We expected this year to be a volatile year for EM as the Fed tapers," Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said, adding that volatility "will happen throughout the year as tapering goes on".
Yes indeed - it is looking like this is going to be a very volatile year.
I hope that you are ready for what is coming next.
Wheelbarrow of Money


Sunday 26 January 2014


This image is taken by nearby resident Ken Peters who shot video of Otterburne pipeline explosion. (CBC)A natural gas pipeline operated by Transcanada exploded and caught fire outside of Otterburne, Manitoba early Saturday.

Though no injuries were reported, the incident highlights the safety concerns posed by many as the pipeline company awaits a White House decision on whether or not to permit the construction of the Transcanada-operated Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

A spokesman from Canada's National Energy Board said the line was shut down and was depressurized to contain the fire and that they are working with the federal Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the explosion.
Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported:
The trouble began early Saturday when RCMP responded around 1:05 a.m. to a "loud explosion."
Witnesses who live close to the scene said it was massive. Paul Rawluk lives nearby and drove to the site.
"As we got closer, we could see these massive 200 to 300 metre high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane," he said. "And that's the thing that really got us, was the sound of it."
He said it was hard to describe the scale.
"Massive, like absolutely massive," he said. "The police were by [Highway] 59 and you could just see little cars out there and you could see in comparison how big the flame was. It was just literally two to 300 metres in the air. And bright, I mean lit up the sky."
About 4,000 residents and other customers may be without natural gas for at least a day, said local utility Manitoba Hydro, as reported by Reuters. Temperatures in the province are well below freezing.

While some argue that increasing incidents of pipeline leaks may provide fodder for increased fossil fuel shipment by rail, as Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki wroteearlier this week, "instead [these accidents] indicate that rapidly increasing oil and gas development and shipping ever greater amounts, by any method, will mean more accidents, spills, environmental damage—even death."

"The answer is to step back from this reckless plunder and consider ways to reduce our fossil fuel use," he adds.


Wars and attacks started by the U.S. Cause Havoc

All the wars and attacks, which were started by the U.S. and its so-called allies in the wake of 9/11, have wreaked havoc. You name it, you got it: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and perhaps even Iran. The Islamic Republic is not yet off the hook. There are strong forces in the U.S. and in the Middle East that prefer war to peace at the expense of the U.S. Right now, there is a war going on in Libya against the Western installed puppet government, without notice of the corporate media.

Cynthia McKinney, a former African-American Congresswoman has edited a book, The Illegal War on Libya (Clarity Press, Atlanta 2012), on the illegal war on Libya fought by NATO members with the support of the Arab League and some despotic Arab regimes. As a member of the Democratic Party, she served six terms in the House of Representatives before she was defeated by Denise Majette in the 2002 Democratic primary. McKinney’s loss was attributed to her support of Arab causes and to her suggestion that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

Those whom the Western powers and their fawning media wish to destroy must first be demonised. This was exactly what happened to Libya’s leader Muammar al Gaddafi. Just before France, Great Britain and the U.S. started the war against Libya, Nikolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi, and other Western politicians courted Gaddafi. When the Libyan leader visited Paris in 2007, he struck his tent in front of the guest house of the French government. His bizarre conduct and much more were accepted by Sarkozy in order to promote lucrative business with Libya. A few years later, he rewarded him with and his country with a bombing spree.

As a candidate for the U.S. Presidency, Barack Hussein Obama had nice things to say in December 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” After he became U.S. President, he expanded drone attacks to an unprecedented scale. “As the U.S. fires its drones killing innocent Somalis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Afghanis, and others around the world, it is my hope that this book will provide a rare prism of truth through which to view NATO’s illegal war in Libya, current and future events, and US foreign relations as a whole,” says McKinney in her introductory remarks.

In her book, Cynthia McKinney has gathered a large number of renowned authors who offer an alternative perspective of the events in Libya. Some authors even risked their life by reporting live during the war. Among them are Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Julien Teil, Stephen Lendman, Christof Lehman, Sara Flounders, Wayne Madsen, Bob Fitrakis, and many others. All of them illuminate the dark machinations of the U.S. in Libya and elsewhere. Their narrative reminds the readers of the overthrow of the Iranian, Guatemalan or Chilean democracy by the U.S. for corporate benefit. The same apparently held true for Libya.

The essays in McKinney’s anthology describe the horrors caused by the Western bombing campaign and the distorted picture of the events painted by mainstream media. Lizzie Phelan refers to a “full blown media war” and to the silence of Western journalists while Libya was “being bombed into extermination.” Although they witnessed these horrors, they found “all manner of justifications for their self and collective delusion.” Their behavior reminded the author of the riddle: “If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” The Western media pundits played down the horrendous crimes against the Libyan people by cartooning Gaddafi as a “mad dog.”

Stephen Lendman designated the crimes committed by NATO against Libya as amounting to “a Nuremberg Level.” He added: “The US-led NATO war on Libya will be remembered as one of history’s greatest crimes, violating the letter and spirit of international law and America’s Constitution.” Whereas the “Third Reich criminals were hanged for their crimes. America’s are still free to commit greater ones.” Lendman invokes General Wesley Clark who was told at the Pentagon a few days after 9/11, that the Bush administration had already decided to attack seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and finishing off with Iran. According to Lendman, the U.S. won’t tolerate democratic rule in Libya, for it needs a puppet regime that would follow the dictates of Washington. Beyond that, the U.S. generously used terror weapons in all its wars. Weapons of mass destruction, including depleted and enriched uranium munitions were widely used in the different Iraq wars, leading to miscarriages and severe deformities of newborn babies.

The anthology also reveals that Gaddafi bore no responsibility for the Lockerbie incident. Although he took the blame and had Libya pay millions of U.S. Dollars to the families of the victims in order to have sanctions lifted against his country, the west thanked him by overthrowing his regime. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya suggests that Libya’s main “crimes” – as seen by the West – were “how (Libya L.W.) distributed and used its wealth, its lack of external debts, and the key role it was attempting to play in continental development and curtailing of external influence in Africa. Tripoli was a spoiler that ef­fectively undermined the interests of the former colonial powers.”

Already at the International Security Conference in Munich, 2007, then President of The Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, used the strongest possible language to warn the U.S., saying that “its aggressive expansionism has brought the world closer to a third world war than it has ever been before.” So far, Putin’s diplomacy prevented U.S. aggression against Syria and Iran.

The book contains, inter alia, a scathing speech by Gaddafi, delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009. A chronology of the NATO-led assault on Libya completes the book.
This book is a must-read. It gives its readers a premonition of things that are yet to come.


Thursday 23 January 2014

Bitcoin making Currencies Digital getting rid of Cash altogether Plays Right Into the Hands of Central Bankers

Bitcoin enthusiasts like to present it as a “power to the people” form of money, stressing its apparent lack of ownership (the “Napster for finance“). They stress the lack of need for a “trusted party” like a bank or broker to verify that a payment has been made. And many clearly relish the idea of launching a currency outside the control of central banks (plus this beats Cryptonomicon in geekery).
If you believe the hype, you’ve been had. As Izabella Kaminska of the Financial Times tells us, you all are really just doing free/underpaid R&D for central banks, since you are debugging and building legitimacy for one of their fond projects, making currencies digital and getting rid of cash altogether.
I had wondered about the complacency of Fed and SEC officials in Senate Banking Committee hearings on Bitcoin last year. Press reports at the time attributed it to successful lobbying. But there’s no need to fight when you understand how to become the alpha quant per Tom Lehrer:
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize -
Only be sure always to call it please ‘research’.
As Kaminska explains (boldface mine):
Central bankers, after all, have had an explicit interest in introducing e-money from the moment the global financial crisis began…
Bitcoin has helped to de-stigmatise the concept of a cashless society by generating the perception that digital cash can be as private and anonymous as good old fashioned banknotes. It’s also provided a useful test-run of a digital system that can now be adopted universally by almost any pre-existing value system.
This is important because, in the current economic climate, the introduction of a cashless society empowers central banks greatly. A cashless society, after all, not only makes things like negative interest rates possible, it transfers absolute control of the money supply to the central bank, mostly by turning it into a universal banker that competes directly with private banks for public deposits. All digital deposits become base money.
Consequently, anyone who believes Bitcoin is a threat to fiat currency misunderstands the economic context. Above all, they fail to understand that had central banks had the means to deploy e-money earlier on, the crisis could have been much more successfully dealt with.
Among the key factors that prevented them from doing so were very probable public hostility to any attempt to ban outright cash, the difficulty of implementing and explaining such a transition to the public, the inability to test-run the system before it was deployed.
Last and not least, they would have been concerned about displacing conventional banks from their traditional deposit-taking role, and in so doing inadvertently worsening the liquidity crisis and financial panic before improving it…
Almost of all of these prohibitive factors have, however, by now been overcome:
1) Digital currency now follows in the footsteps of a “disruptive” anti-establishment digital movement perceived to be highly accommodating to the black market and all those who would ordinarily have feared an outright cash ban. This makes it exponentially easier to roll out. Bitcoin has done the bulk of the educating.
2) What was once viewed as a potentially oppressive government conspiracy to rid the public of its privacy can be communicated as being progressive and innovative as a result.
3) Banks have been given more than five years to prove their economic worth and have failed to do so. If they haven’t done so by now, they probably never will, meaning there’s unlikely to be a huge economic penalty associated with undermining them on the deposit front or in transforming them slowly into fully-funded fund managers.
4) The open-ledger system which solves the digital double-spending problem has been robustly tested. Flaws, weaknesses and bugs have been understood, accounted for, and resolved.
The balance of the article describes how the central bank digital currency would be launched, and Kazmina finds a plan developed by Miles Kimball of the University of Michigan to be thorough and viable.
Oh, and why would Bitcoin, um, central bank digital currency make it viable to implement negative interest rates? Kaminska tells us:
…the greater the negative interest rate, the greater the incentive to hold alternative coins. The greater the incentive to hold alternative coins ,the greater the incentive to produce them. The greater the incentive to produce them, the greater the chances of oversupply and collapse. The more sizeable the collapse, the more desirable the managed official e-money system ultimately becomes in comparison.
Either way, the key point with official e-money is that the hoarding incentives which would be generated by a negative interest rate policy can in this way be directed to private asset markets (which are not state guaranteed, and thus not safe for investors) rather than to state-guaranteed banknotes, which are guaranteed and preferable to anything negative yielding or risky (in a way that undermines the stimulative effects of negative interest rate policy).
So all these tales by Silicon Valley promoters (and remember, Marc Andressen mentioned all the money chasing Bitcoin-related ventures) of how liberating and democratic Bitcoin will be are almost certain to prove to be precisely the reverse. Hang onto your real world wallet.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Federal Reserve & How to Shut it Down by Aaron Russo

I am so disappointed it took me this long to see this. Rest In Peace, Aaron Russo. You resisted the Illuminati and contributing to the New World Order. See you at the golden gates!

Corporations soon will be allowed to Sue Governments and Reduce Religion under TTIP

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade and investment agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. If successfully passed, the TTIP would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the worlds largest free trade area, with a combined GDP of over $30 trillion. The agreement is being negotiated in an undemocratic manner: by an unelected group of political representatives, in Brussels.
According to official estimates, TTIP could add over $130 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and over $119 billion to the E.U. The TTIP will help to smooth capital flows, the agreement will dramatically help to reduce costs of businesses and investments. The agreement would overhaul a current web of regulations and tariffs, by overriding existing (conflicting) regulations from both sides, with fewer constraints allowing capital to flow more freely.
“Europe does have a different level of standard there, an unreasonably high level and not one based on science… European consumers have the same degree of confidence that if it’s good for an American family to eat, then it’s good for the Europeans to eat. So if a suit like that was brought, and was successful, it would mean that the country banning the product would have to pay compensation to the industry involved, or let the product in… that would be a big step forward” -Stuart E. Einsatzt, US ambassador and Co-Chair of the Transatlantic Business Council, USA.
Unfortunately, the consumer will pay the price in the end, due to the potential new risks posed to their health and safety as a consequence of reduced regulations, which were put in place for consumer protection. In December, U.S. and E.U. officials completed the 3rd round of negotiations, the 4th round is scheduled to occur in March of 2014, following a review session held between US and EU trade representatives.
trsAnother growing worry for some with the TTIP is the issue of multinational corporate sovereignty. Some predict that corporations will abuse their right to take action against various governments to push their agendas forward.
“Corporate sovereignty is about putting the corporation above the nation. It lets a company sue a country, and they can do that when they claim that their expectation (future profits) is being diminished by changes in legislation… What I think will happen is that corporations like Monsanto, will sue the European Union for billions of dollars, because they will say that refusing to allow genetically modified organisms to be sold here is actually a barrier to trade, and therefore their profits have suffered, and therefore under the TTIP regulations, assuming they go through, they will claim to have a right to sue the European Union.” – states journalist Glyn Moody
Some believe that the growing NSA scandal could slow-down or tarnish the TTIP efforts: how can you have trade when you don’t have trust? To date, there have been no real consequences for the organization which is responsible for arguably one of the most shameful and gross violations to civil rights ever revealed in the US.
“This treaty is [nothing] else than about submitting the EU working force to corporate [America],… This is all a hoax, all a lie,… We have our own rules, they are working fine, why should we submit ourselves to the Monsanto mafia? – stated economic analyst, Michael Mross
Some of the thus unmentioned issues are pesticides (like neonicotinoids) and regulations about genetically modified organisms. Corporations will gain the right to sue governments for stopping their products: if it is allowed in one, it will be allowed in the other.. All in all, the money that is likely going to be earned through this is  never to be seen by the average consumer, who will still have to face the costs of having even less control or knowledge about what they are eating and buying.
“Europe does have a different level of standard there, an unreasonably high level and not one based on science… European consumers have the same degree of confidence that if it’s good for an American family to eat, then it’s good for a European family to eat. So if a suit like that was brought, and was successful, it would mean that the country banning the product would have to pay compensation to the industry involved, or let the product in… that would be a big step forward” -Stuart E. Einsatzt

Canadian Environment Regulators Now Paid By Oil Industry

alberta2In a defiant move against the desires of the Canadian people, the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal was recently approved, despite surmounting evidence suggesting the danger associated with such a project; a detailed economic analysis by the Alberta Federation of Labour and others. The interests of big oil industries were favored once again over the common good and wishes of the people.
Since the approval, Alberta has begun to shut down one of its energy and environmental regulators, instead opting to replace it with a group (tasked with many of the same powers) who are funded instead by oil, coal, and gas industries. In a strategic fashion, over 75 environment officials, who had observed the oil industries’ activities, have walked away from the provincial environment department, and decided to take up higher paying positions with industry-funded Alberta Energy.
For oil, gas, and other projects, permits are commonly acquired through application to the environment department, and to the now obsolete Energy Resources Conservation Board. The provincial government has shamelessly catered to the energy industry by creating a “one window” method, where new regulators will be funded solely by the industry, instead of by the government (also known as “public money”). Those who crossed over are looking to add a significant increase to their wealth; their salaries in some cases are 25 to 80 per cent higher, noted Mike Dempsey, a vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
Alberta has been under the spotlight, and energy companies under fire, since TransCanada first proposed the Keystone XL pipeline; a plan proposed to bring oil extracted from Alberta’s tar sands (which needs more than twice as much water as normal extraction, and only produces 2 barrels of oil for every 1 invested) to the United States. Protests, overwhelming dissent, and resistance continues to flow from concerned citizens, and various environmental groups. The pipeline is due to run from Hardisty, Alberta and extend almost 2 thousands km across the US-Canadian border to Steele city Nebraska, and then on to East Texas where the southern leg of the pipeline is set to become operational in January.
Ignoring numerous catastrophic environmental disasters from pipeline, and other oil accidents, TransCanada has assured the people who near it that the pipeline is being “built to high standards”, and comically, they don’t foresee any future travesties being likely to occur. When millions of dollars are invested, and billions proposed to be made, its hard to imagine a reason for them to say anything different. After all, it is routinely cheaper and more profitable to lie about problems until they are proven and then paying pennies on the dollar to make them go away. The concern for the common good and the environment cannot compete with the promise of jobs, lower prices, and corporate favor.
Unfortunately, this is not just a Canadian problem. In the face of overwhelming evidence pointing towards the unsustainable and often even ecocidal nature of many projects: regulators and politicians march blindly in the face of public and scientific opinion towards the pursuit of profit, potentially to our death.

The future seems to lead towards decentralized economies, and projects without corporate or government backing… But not if the government has anything to say about it.

You Are The New Economy: People Funding People

crowd444Traditionally, when an individual has wanted to start a new business endeavor, or to fund a project for which they didn't have the funds, then they were required to seek out (and be approved) for a loan from a financial establishment. For some, this method isn’t a viable option, and many never see their dreams come to fruition. Now, Crowd funding websites (like Rock The Post and Kick starter) have helped to change that by enabling people to directly help and fund others whose projects they believe in. This allows individuals to orchestrate the funding of projects which individuals voluntarily support. However, the SEC is looking to dictate some new rules about the exchanges.
The internet has enabled the people to help one another on a wide and personal scale, in quick and easy ways; good ideas and good information on the internet goes a long way. Crowd funding has been the natural and voluntary progression of people being able to help one another on a large-scale, to raise money or share information very quickly via the internet.
The government by definition isn’t in favor of competition, even when it comes to voluntary and peaceful exchanges. According to new regulations set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), those who fund projects via crowd funding campaigns will have to have to pay hefty fees, and meet rigorous regulations in order to see their project carried out.
The new legislation will require that the selling of crowd funding securities occur on officially sanctioned and registered websites. The websites that will be hosting the transactions are referred to as “funding portals” or “broker dealers”, and to be accepted as legitimate they must register with the SEC and Financial Intermediary Regulatory Authority (FINRA). New rules stipulate that investors are to have access to a business plan, transparency of proceeds earned, and to undertake a valuation of the company, among other things. Throughout the endeavor, the government is there every step of the way to make sure that they get a cut: the project administrators will be required to pay costs for completing various required documentation, retaining professional services and so on.
In the SEC’s new cost/benefit analysis, they examine the success of fees: having to pay websites for transactions, the compliance cost for filing forms, and cost for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) review or audit which can cost over $100,000. For projects that aim to raise less than $100,000, compliance fees are going to eat up from anywhere between 13% to 39% of all money raised. For projects over $100,000, but less than $500,000, the fees lower to about 8%, and for funding projects over $500,000 but less than $1,000,000, the fees are 7.66%. In a voluntary exchange that shouldn't have anything to do with the government, the government is once again forcing its involvement, and attempting to cripple those who are raising charitably, in the aim of designing new solutions to world problems, and other projects.
There are going to be risks associated with every exchange in the market that we make, but it is our responsibility as consumers to make sure that we are making an informed one. To help us do that, websites who host crowd funding projects (like Kick starter) have strengthened their verification methods, as well as their funding processes in order to provide more information to the consumer, allowing them to make informed decisions about where they want their money to go. At the same time, some profit oriented endeavors using the systems should have methods of keeping track of, and giving investors access to, the money they invest.
Crowd funding has given rise to dozens of small companies, and funded numerous humanitarian endeavors. It has even being applied on a smaller scale, students crowd funded their own solar-powered classroom, it has helped people to pay for medication, or assist in bills or their rent. It’s direct action, people helping other people, and  it’s inspiring because the donations are people saying they care: it’s saying that they believe in them.
With these new regulations, the government is going to prevent people from helping others who are in desperate need, when they don’t have the means to get approved from any financial institution: the government itself isn’t helping to solve their problem. The last resort of the people is always to turn toward their fellow-man for help, why is that an exchange the government is so intolerant of?

The Truth about GMOs .... Are GMOs All Bad?

Are GMOs All Bad? The Truth about GMOs
Wikipedia Commons. Golden Rice
One of the hottest and most controversial issues in the world today is genetic engineering. With protests against Monsanto on May 25th in over 400 cities, people have shown that this is a topic they truly care about. Largely, the stances are highly polarized with opponents saying it is all cancer causing, poisonous, and environmentally dangerous and supporters saying it is wonderful, improving yield and making everyone except “anti-science” opponents happy.
The problem with polarized positions is they almost always miss the reality of the issue and avoid talking about the general facts. Polarized texts instead skip directly to the evidence supporting their position. But, in real life, I think it is important to lay out exactly what we are talking about before we try to say if it is “good” or “bad.”
The first question we have to address, before we talk about the potential and danger of genetic modification, is what exactly is genetic modification? If you want to avoid the science, you can just skip the next 3 paragraphs. Otherwise, I can advise continuing to read, using the sources I provide, or using a search engine.
In the modern context we are talking about the introduction of foreign genetic material, almost always coding for a protein –which are molecular workhorses capable of doing everything from binding with other proteins to changing what DNA is activated or not (nuclear receptors), to themselves performing reactions and either creating or breaking down molecules-, which is introduced into the genome through a double-strand break and insertion (what I call “splice-in”), or through homologous DNA recombination (meaning it trades bases, or DNA, with a target strand inside the cell).
This means that using existing techniques we are often inserting a new piece of code, complete with its own regulatory mechanisms (transcription factors), into the cell and inducing a targeted insertion with endonucleases, something like TAL-effectors, and hoping this doesn’t accidentally alter any important regulatory or coding elements.
Newer methods allow homologous DNA exchange, but switching out bases (which we can perceive as letters, which together make words –amino acids- which then form sentences –proteins-) from existing code depends on us actually understanding all the roles existing code is playing: which we often do not. So in both cases we risk tampering with existing code and risk current genetic information being lost. But, this risk can be minimized by selecting for redundant code, meaning little risk of disabling something entirely.
But, current usage has not been sufficiently responsible and in fact viral DNA containing an extra Cmv promoter and gene sequence (Gene VI) has recently been found in almost all GM crops. This seems to be able to activate transcription or expression of any cellular mRNA (Ryabova et al, 2002), meaning it can lead to the production of the wrong proteins. Gene VI also codes for a protein which does, among other things, suppress RNA silencing processes: it weakens the body’s reaction against viruses (Haas et al. 2008). Gene VI even makes plants less capable of defending against bacteria (Love et al. 2012). Unfortunately, this sequence was found in all of Monsanto’s transgene crops, and this, many years after they had already been approved in the US (Podevin & du Jardin, 2012).
Now that we know what we are talking about, we can ask ourselves: is this safe? Well, is anything in science inherently safe or dangerous? It really all depends on what you are doing, how you are going about it, and what, if any, precautions you take.
I don’t think we can regard all genetic modification as being equal. Huge successes in the realm of unicellular genetic modification have been seen, for instance using modified yeast to produce insulin or other molecules which would otherwise require complex industrial processes to create (for instance in the realm of fuel alternatives). This use of genetic modification, isolated from the natural world, seems to only bring benefits.
Unfortunately, a lot of the efforts towards modifying multicellular organisms like plants have relied on genetic resistance to endocrine disruptors -disrupt metabolism and internal processes- or toxins. This means that their use and usefulness depends on the simultaneous use of a chemical which will do ecological damage. These chemicals remove competition for the plants by killing anything lacking resistance-genes (for instance Glyphosate aka Roundup), they do this by destroying their metabolism. These chemicals are often, if not always, non-selective and thus will wreak havoc on the metabolism of anything unlucky enough to come into contact with these chemicals.
This toxicity also includes mammals, with 2 year rat studies showing a significantly higher death rate of 2-3x more than normal, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5–5.5 times higher, tumor risk in males 4x higher, and more kidney deficiencies than normal. (Seralini et al, 2012).
The arguments used against this fact is that destruents (which are the most important part of the ecological cycle since they turn dead organic matter –with carbon- into inorganic –without carbon- material for plants to use) like bacteria, Earthworms and other parts of the soil ecology will adapt relatively quickly to this, that the effects are likely limited, and that the doses we consume of them in our produce are relatively small.
But, none of those arguments are fully valid: only some destruents will adapt but many will invariably disappear from the soil at least temporarily (years), since none of these chemicals degrade quickly. This makes the soil less fertile for future generations.
If that was not enough to convince us to avoid GM pest control, Bt toxin plants are often mentioned –plants which produce their own insecticide- along with the statement that they have led to reduced pesticide use. Now, to be truthful, the absolute worldwide use of insecticides has sunk since the introduction of Bt organisms. But, the overall use of pesticides and herbicides has continued to rise, especially as resistance develops in the “target” populations and making Bt less effective.
This has likely contributed to the continued death of the bees: Colony Collapse Disorder, which currently wipes out approx 30-40% of colonies every year (15% is acceptable at the end of winter). Of course, the disorder may also be related to the use of monocultures, which is intensified by the use of total herbicides like Roundup. In the end, it is likely a mix of both the chemicals and the monocultures.
Now, the thing is that these Bt toxins are actually not even harmless to mammals (Portilho et al., 2013) and we need to ask ourselves about the ecological sense in creating something which cannot be eaten by the other organisms in the ecosystem.
Now, before we say that genetic engineering is inherently bad, there are in fact more responsible ways to use this technology even in the realm of multicellular organisms. A really good example is the “golden rice” which is rice with an added enzyme to produce beta-carotine (basically Vitamin A, which we cannot synthesize ourselves). The research was done relatively transparently, seed created and distributed at cost or for free. The rice is even shown to contain more vitamin A than spinach (Tang, 2012).
Meanwhile the World Health Organization advises the continuation of supplement programs instead of giving the people a way to produce the vitamins they need in their own soil. The anti-GM movement has also so far been largely inclined to oppose all genetic modification and lump golden rice in with roundup-ready corn.
Unfortunately, while Monsanto has the economic power to push their products through, even block labeling in certain nations (e.g the US, where despite public support for labeling, the senate blocked an amendment 71-to-27 which would have allowed states to label GMOs if they wanted to, on Thursday May 23rd, 2013) general suspicion of genetic engineering has led to the use of this rice also being opposed, despite the fact that no new chemicals would be needed in its use, and that the new gene actually has a beneficial ecological role.
We are being misled. The world is not black and white, and we cannot lump an entire branch of science together with those abusing it. Luckily, the world may be open to waking up to this fact. Recent global protests have seen millions marching against Monsanto, not against genetic modification.
As always the issues are goals, methods, responsibility, and transparency. Companies like DuPont and Monsanto are not here to help the world’s farmers, they are not there to help feed us. The people making the decisions, as always in an LLC(Limited Liability Company), are not even responsible for any consequences they cause through the company’s actions. They even have personal interest in reducing transparency so they can hinder people from finding out about problems or mistakes for long enough that they can become filthy rich.
They were producing poisons (including Agent Orange) since before they were working to supposedly feed the world. They work very hard to try to discredit all the studies I have linked in this article, but I encourage you to read the studies yourself. If anything, the fact the data is open for us all to see, and their methods of analysis, gives me more faith in them than in Monsanto, who has famously misrepresented and even falsified data in the past (e.g PCBs, Roundup) and has monetary interest in ignoring the warnings.
Both a recent New York Times article and a Forbes rebuttal concentrated on the economic values of Monsanto’s crops, cherry-picking economic data. What is strange is how this discussion has been so railroaded into the realm of statistics instead of real world ecological and health consequences.
So, are GMOs bad? In my opinion, there are some wonderful applications for this technology that have little or limited risk for negative consequences. Meanwhile, the way the technology is being used at the moment, in tandem with dangerous chemicals, is obviously not acceptable. It may be a good idea to not only forbid the patenting of genes, as some companies are trying to do in regard to the human genome, but to make genetic engineering efforts: data, methods, and analysis, publicly available. Only then can we help insure that decisions are not being made independent of the data, to help prevent decisions being made only in light of the profit margi

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