Oil & The Economy Collide

“There are too many ugly balance sheets,” warns one energy industry analyst, adding simply that “the group is not positioned for this downturn.” While the mainstream media continues to chant the happy-clappy side of lower oil prices, spewing various statistics about how the down-side of low oil prices is contained and the huge colossal massive tax cut means everything is awesome for America, the data – and now actions – do not bear this out.” – Zero Hedge

We all knew oil was an Achilles Hell. We all knew the economy was an Achilles Heel. Funny how we now see the two colliding. The currency war is really starting to come out of the shadows now.

Propaganda in the Time of Social Media

[Update: YouTube removed the video I had linked to. Probably a good thing, since it helps decapitate (pun intended) the ability of IS/ISIS/ISIL to spread propaganda.]

Fascinating turn of events. The Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) is trying to turn the propaganda war in their favor. Now that they have America’s attention – gained via what many think are fake beheading videos – they are preparing to tell their side of the story. This is the first video of a series to be released.

Like the telling of all stories, we should take these with a grain of salt – but not miss this truly unique moment in time. A relatively small organization – the Islamic State – can now send its message to a world wide audience via social media. What will be most interesting is how effectively they are able to control the narrative and the response from western governments.

My gut tells me this propaganda effort will be successful in further destabilizing the west and may contribute to the catalyst for war.

But the tone of this video hints at another motive – one that contradicts the beheading videos. The reasonable tone set forth in the video seems directed at appealing to logic and deep desire to know the truth. In other words, it looks like it’s a campaign intended to gain the support for withdrawing western militaries from the Middle East.

Up until now I’ve suspected that they want the U.S. to bomb them because it will only intensify their local recruiting efforts. But if the American public’s support for war could be undermined, the Islamic State many benefit from a two-sided propaganda campaign.

  1. More anti-war sentiment in the West would make it harder for western powers to destroy the Islamic State militarily.
  2. More anti-American sentiment in the Middle East would make it easier to recruit people to join their Caliphate.

In other words – a delicate propaganda balance delivered via social media. An amazing feat if they can pull it off. But no propaganda yields positive results.

If the Islamic State chooses to hold-off on any attacks on American soil it would help them maintain their balance and achieve their goal of establishing a Caliphate. This would be a short-term win-win for Americans – because they don’t have to experience the bloodshed first hand. But in the long-term the reality still stands that the people of the Islamic State hate Americans for the imperialistic nature of our government and foreign policy. So the creation of a Caliphate in the east might be a far greater threat to the people of the west in the long run.

What to do?

  • Watch, listen, digest, keep your head strait. We’re about to witness some of the most amazing propaganda humanity has ever seen, delivered at the speed of light to your mobile phone.
  • Prepare for destabilization – it’s more on-the-table than ever before. We are at war.

China Continues to Cut U.S. Treasury Holdings

So the spin is… other foreigners are buying our paper, as China dumps it. This story is also not exactly front page news, probably because most Americans don’t follow the currency war.

“China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced holdings of U.S. Treasury debt in December by the most in two years as the Federal Reserve announced plans to slow asset purchases.The nation pared its position in U.S. government bonds by $47.8 billion, or 3.6 percent, to $1.27 trillion, the largest decline since December 2011, according to U.S. Treasury Department data released yesterday. At the same time, international investors increased holdings by 1.4 percent, or by $78 billion, in December, pushing foreign holdings to a record $5.79 trillion.” – via China Cuts Treasury Holdings Most Since 2011 Amid Taper – Bloomberg.

The short version, in my humble opinion, is that the world is dividing between nations standing behind The West and The East, and the prize will be reserve currency status.

At the very least recognize that it’s on the table that The West will loose – or at least be willing to start a shooting war in an attempt to win; then… prepare.


Ecuador Grants Asylum to Julian Assange

This is excellent news for those who want truth to surface. I hope Assange does more shows for RT.com from his soon to be new home in Ecuador.

“Ecuador said on Thursday that it had decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Seeking asylum, Mr. Assange has been holed up for two months in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where the police scuffled with and arrested some of his supporters on Thursday.”

via Ecuador to Let Julian Assange Stay in Its Embassy – NYTimes.com.

From Lloyd’s Blog: Getting Out of the Stock Market

Alternative housing guru and publisher Lloyd Kahn posted this on this blog. Food for thought.

“A friend of mine from college told me recently that he sold all his stocks, has the money in cash, and is thinking of getting FDIC-backed Ally Bank CDs.

I cut out these headlines from today’s New York Times business pages.” –  Lloyd’s Blog: Getting Out of the Stock Market.

It does make one wonder – how the heck is this mess is going to turn out. I suspect we’ll have to wait until after the (s)election side show is over before anything is really allowed to correct itself.

I re-registered to vote ‘decline to state’

That’s right I’m party-free. Oh you didn’t know you could do that? I’m not sure you can in every state but I bet you can. In California all I had to do was write “decline to state” in the political party box.

I think this is an important step for everyone to do, conservative, liberal, or other. It seems like too many of us have taken sides against each other, dividing American citizens into easily controlled groups.

Does that sound crazy, easily controlled groups? Yeah maybe it is, but there are a growing number of us free agents. I just wish there were more true revolutionaries running for office. Who knows maybe if enough of us say enough-is-enough there will be.

My Home’s Value is Dropping Again

I was listening to Kunstler’s podcast (#122) tonight and he gave a fairly good explanation of how parts of the financial world work; including the reality that many financial institutions could be holding toxic assets. The truth is that an asset is only toxic if it brings the show to an end.

Take my mortgage for example. My home’s value has been fairly stable for about a year, bouncing along the bottom. I’ve been hoping it would creep back up and meet me half way so I can refinance or sell. I’m an optimist.

But sadly it just took another downturn. I suspect it’s partially due to the the time of year and all the talk in the media about the possibility of a double-dip recession. Who knows what the cause is, but it definitely gives me a moment of pause but doesn’t change my plan.

I’ll keep paying this mortgage until I can’t. I’ll also keep noodling over low-cost simple housing options and looking for ways to move in the right direction. Tiny houses are great therapy for that.

The other thing I take solace in is that while nobody can predict the future, we can all tell when we’re walking on thin ice if we’re paying attention. So I’ll take each step with care and keep that rope tied tightly to my belt. I might take a dip in the ice-cold water but I’ll always be able to pull myself to shore.

My letter to those who banned The Story of Stuff

Below is my letter to the school administrators who banned The Story of Stuff. Please write a letter too. Read the call to action that inspired this letter.


The evidence is overwhelming and pollution and the economy are not partisan issues. No matter what personal or political beliefs each of us holds dear we’re forced to face these challenges together. We’re stronger together.

Humanity is consuming natural resources at an increasingly rate. Waste of all kinds is being produced at alarming rates. Pollution is spiraling out of control around the globe as nations require more energy and consume more natural resources to produce more consumer goods. But lets not focus on mother nature for a minute and instead turn to the immediate impact on humanity.

The economic meltdown was triggered by an over-extension of credit at every level. The abundance of credit fueled an artificial increase in the economy, like air filling a balloon. When the balloon popped, banks stopped lending money and corporations began to fail because the margin they had built their business on had disappeared. This collapse triggered repercussions throughout our economy. But all this should go without saying, we all know what happened.

The underlying problem seems to be that the American dream has shifted from real freedom to one built on visible material wealth. Borrowing money has become the norm. Mortgages, auto loans, and credit debt seem perfectly natural today and it’s almost unheard of that someone actually owns their home and is debt free. Over consumption has destroyed freedom through its reliance on debt. The majority essentially live an existence of voluntary indentured servitude simply because there’s no obvious alternative.

The Story of Stuff tells this story and quite clearly shows how consuming at an unsustainable level steals our freedom. The film is not about eliminating commerce but simply encourages us to do a better job of living within our personal and planetary means. By labeling The Story of Stuff propaganda and banning it from your school you are in effect condemning your students to a life of debt, not to mention a world filled with trash and a future full of trouble.

Please reverse your decision and give your students a chance. The Story of Stuff is not propaganda. It is a lesson in protecting freedom and our future.

Michael Janzen


Don’t wait to hear the D-word

I saw this CBS video the other day that focused on Obama and the economy. One of the things he said strait-out was that he’s working to avoid total economic collapse and a depression. This is not news of course but to hear him dance around the d-word was a bit of an eye opener. It’s one thing to hear our media talk about it and another to hear him say it.

I hope the work he’s are doing today will actually help us avoid more trouble. But I’d argue that we the people shouldn’t wait for the official announcement of a full-blown depression or our own personal financial demise. We should change our lifestyles today, live frugally, and prepare ourselves for the possibility of harder times. Here are some things you can do right now to prepare:

  • Always work to improve your personal health.
  • Buy bulk dry food (beans, rice, grains) and always have a reserve.
  • Learn to cook creatively with beans and rice.
  • Learn to bake from scratch.
  • Switch from coffee to tea, it’s so much cheaper.
  • Plant a victory garden.
  • Raise chickens, if your community permits them.
  • Downsize everything you can.
  • Sell possession you don’t use or need via craigslist, garage sales, and ebay.
  • Create additional revenue streams by monetizing hobbies, blogging, etc.
  • Prepare a worse case scenario plan (job loss, homelessness, etc).
  • Build a tiny house on wheels.

For optimism’s sake lets say we’re not headed for the second great depression. In any event this advice is good advice. By preparing for the possibility of a depression today the worst result is that you’ll be better positioned for the future.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change that survives.” – Charles Darwin


President Obama’s First Full Day

obama-signs-executive-orderThis is just a little strange, an article listing exactly what President Obama did on his first day, hour by hour. I was surprised that the entire morning was pretty much spent at church, but then again, he’s going to need all the help he can get.

I was also impressed with the two executive orders. I’m no lawyer but they sure sound like the groundwork for holding former presidents accountable and another putting an end to special treatment for special interests, like taking gifts from lobbyists. Nice way to start a presidency.Oh he also retook that fudged oath too… even better way to start a presidency.

The only question left in my brain was… I wonder what was on the not left him by George W. Bush? I’m sure it was nothing G.W. wouldn’t want entered into evidence.