“That's not lightning, and it did not strike between those mountains. The diagonal band is actually the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, while the twin peaks are actually called the Spanish Peaks- but located in Colorado, USA. Although each Spanish peak is composed of a slightly different type of rock, both are approximately 25 million years old.
Click image for larger size.
This serene yet spirited image composite was meticulously created by merging a series of images all taken from the same location on one night and early last month. In the first series of exposures, the background sky was built up, with great detail being revealed in the Milky Way dust lanes as well as the large colorful region surrounding the star Rho Ophiuchus just right of center. One sky image, though, was taken using a fogging filter so that brighter stars would appear more spread out and so more prominent. As a bonus, the planets Mars and Saturn are placed right above peaks and make an orange triangle with the bright star Antares. Later that night, after the moonrise, the Moon itself naturally illuminated the snow covered mountain tops.”
"One day I will say the gift I once had has been taken. The place I have made for myself belongs to another. The words I have sung are being sung by the ones I would want. Then I will be ready for that voice and the still silence in which it arrives. And if my faith is good then we'll meet again on the road, and we'll be thirsty, and stop and laugh and drink together again from the deep well of things as they are."
- David Whyte "Where Many Rivers Meet"
"The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life." - Robert Penn Warren
"There's only one question that matters, and it's the one you never get around to asking. People are capable of varying degrees of truth. The majority spend their entire lives fabricating an elaborate skein of lies, immersing themselves in the faith of bad faith, doing whatever it takes to feel safe. The person who truly lives has precious few moments of safety, learns to thrive in any kind of storm. It's the truth you can stare down stone-cold that makes you what you are. Weak or strong. Live or die. Prove yourself. How much truth can you take?"
BALTIMORE, Maryland – "Readers reacted strongly to reports from the ranch. Many have clearly gone over to the enemy’s side – including some members of our own family. More on the insurrection at the ranch tomorrow…
Gassy Hacks and Big Quacks: Today, we recall the “commencement” at the end of four years at the University of Vermont. The university itself is imposing and a little intimidating. The rest of the world works in warehouses or common office spaces. Academia labors in hallowed “halls” and prestigious “centers.”
People in the Main Street world work for profits… and are subject to market economics. The professoriate is above it all; no profit and loss statements… no profit motives or incentive bonuses… and (for those with “tenure”) no chance of getting fired, no matter how incompetent, irrelevant, or wrong they are.
The private sector depends on output and results; academia harbors gassy hacks who may never produce much of anything at all. The ceremony on Sunday opened with the procession of the university luminati, led by bagpipers of the St. Andrews Society. Ordinary people – even presidents of the United States of America – wear common coats and ties; the academic elite are gussied up with all manner of robes, funny hats, cowls, tassels, honors… and a line of capital letters following their names like baby ducks behind a waddling quack.
“All that brainpower… working on our Justin… it must have done him some good,” parents say to themselves. Then, they have their doubts. Justin seems to think that “diversity” is what really matters… that Bernie Sanders has the right idea… and that eating gluten is a sin. Privately, they wonder if they haven’t just been the biggest fools on the planet, spending more than $100,000 to put their boy through four years of brainwashing… with no visible improvement in his critical thinking.
But this is no time to say anything. It’s too late. So, they take their seats, along with thousands of others… At least… those were the dark thoughts gathering in our mind as we sat in a plastic chair on the green, waiting for the festivities to begin.
Criticism and Cynicism: Mr. E. Thomas Sullivan, university president, must have seen the clouds over our head. “Criticism and cynicism will not lead to a constructive solution,” he said, looking right at us. But criticism and cynicism are just what the University of Vermont most lacks. Without them, the Yankees allow themselves to believe any self-congratulatory bunkum that comes along.
They say on Wall Street: When everyone is thinking the same thing, no one is really thinking. That’s the problem with the institution of higher learning on the banks of Lake Champlain. If anyone is doing any thinking there, they didn’t let him say anything on Sunday.
We’re used to commencement claptrap. The typical graduation exercise is always a mixture of lies, pandering, blah-blah, and flattery. The only redeeming quality is that it is transparently insincere. Students are told how wonderful they are. They are assured that they are now equipped to go out into the world and be “leaders.” They are urged to “maximize [their] potential.” How? “Make a difference!” Make a “positive contribution.” “Advance society…” “Advance humanity…” “Save the world…”
Whoa… how do you do that? The suggestions weren’t long in coming… “Who here doesn’t believe that climate change is the most important challenge facing this graduating class?” asked the university president in his opening remarks. Out of thousands of arms, only a couple hands went up.
Mr. Sullivan hardly needed to ask. For him and the rest of the jury, no further deliberations were necessary. The verdict has already been rendered. No need for any more evidence, testimony, or eyewitnesses. The matter was settled. There was not a single dissent. Not a single question.
If there were any doubts about the difference between good and evil… or who should be elected president… none were mentioned… or how the world works… it was nowhere to be seen.
I Care, Therefore I Am: Students were cited for special recognition… awards were given… speeches made… on and on… hour after hour. One student was lauded for his contributions to “eliminating racism”… Another was “building communities”… Still another was congratulated for his efforts to “save the world”… Another was supporting “gender confirmation surgery”… Every one of them was a world improver. Every one “cared.” And every one of these inchoate idealists had a ticket to government employment. Only one will definitely not find a nest among the zombies – one whose degree was awarded posthumously.
“I care, therefore I am,” suggested Gail Sheehy, who gave the keynote address and neatly summed up the event’s leitmotif. “Caring” is all you need to do. You must care about the poor, the excluded, the politically correct victims left behind by modern cutthroat capitalism. Don’t worry about whether caring actually makes a damned bit of difference. Don’t concern yourself whether meddling in others’ lives really helps them.
Ignore Adam Smith’s insight… that it wasn’t his love for humanity that got the baker up at 4 a.m. to warm his ovens. Most likely, Smith was right; world improvement is a by-product of trying to improve your own life, not trying to change the world itself. And Friedrich Hayek was probably right, too; trying to improve the world by inflicting your ideas on others does more harm than good.
But at UVM, all you gotta do is care! And if you don’t care; you don’t exist.
A Strange and Hostile New World: No student was encouraged to bake better bread. None was rewarded for improving the internal combustion engine. Not a single one was recognized for anything that might demonstrably and convincingly make peoples’ lives better. Instead, the caring alumnae leave the university like drunks leaving a bar after closing time… their judgment impaired by the heady fumes of do-goodism.
Will the world really be a better place a year from now… or two years… or however long it takes for these “carers” to work their magic? We don’t know. But you’d think that a university would be a good place to at least ask."
"If some men do not choose to think, but survive by imitating and repeating, like trained animals, the routine of sounds and motions they learned from others, never making an effort to understand their own work, it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by those who did choose to think and to discover the motions they are repeating. The survival of such mental parasites depend on blind chance; their unfocused minds are unable to know whom to imitate, whose motions it is safe to follow. They are the men who march into the abyss, trailing after any destroyer who promises them to assume the responsibility they evade: the responsibility of being conscious."
"You are about to see more very clear evidence that a new economic crisis has already begun. During economic recoveries, business debt delinquencies generally fall, and during times of economic recession business debt delinquencies generally rise. In fact, you will see below that business debt delinquencies shot up dramatically just prior to the last two recessions, and the exact same thing is happening again right now. In 2008, business debt delinquencies increased at a very frightening pace just before Lehman Brothers collapsed, and this was a very clear sign that big trouble was ahead. Unfortunately for us, in 2016 business debt delinquencies have already shot up above the level they were sitting at just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and every time debt delinquencies have ever gotten this high the U.S. economy has always fallen into recession.
In article after article, I have shown that key indicators for the U.S. economy started falling in either late 2014 or at some point during 2015. Well, business debt delinquencies are another example of this phenomenon. According to Wolf Richter, business debt delinquencies have shot up an astounding 137 percent since the fourth quarter of 2014…
Delinquencies of commercial and industrial loans at all banks, after hitting a low point in Q4 2014 of $11.7 billion, have begun to balloon (they’re delinquent when they’re 30 days or more past due). Initially, this was due to the oil & gas fiasco, but increasingly it’s due to trouble in many other sectors, including retail.
Between Q4 2014 and Q1 2016, delinquencies spiked 137% to $27.8 billion. And we never see this kind of rise unless the U.S. economy is heading into a recession. Here is more from Wolf Richter: "Note how, in this chart by the Board of Governors of the Fed, delinquencies of C&I loans start rising before recessions (shaded areas). I added the red marks to point out where we stand in relationship to the Lehman moment:
Business loan delinquencies are a leading indicator of big economic trouble."
To me, this couldn’t be any clearer. Just like the U.S. government and just like U.S. consumers, U.S. businesses are absolutely drowning in debt. In fact, a report that was just released found that debt at U.S. companies has been growing at a pace that is 50 times faster than the rate that cash has been growing.
Just imagine what it would mean for your family if your debt was growing 50 times faster than your bank account. Needless to say, this is an extremely troubling development: "Well, American companies may just have a mountain’s worth of problems, according to a new report from Andrew Chang and David Tesher of S&P Global Ratings. “At the same time, the imbalance between cash and debt outstanding we reported on last year has gotten even worse: Debt outstanding increased 50x that of cash in 2015,” wrote Chang and Tesher. “Total debt rose by roughly $850 billion to $6.6 trillion last year, dwarfing the 1% cash growth ($17 billion).”
Now that the early chapters of the “next crisis” are here, most American families find themselves ill-equipped to deal with another major downturn. In fact, USA Today is reporting that approximately two-thirds of the country is currently living paycheck to paycheck: "Two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to an exclusive poll, a signal that despite years after the Great Recession, Americans’ finances remain precarious as ever.
These difficulties span all incomes, according to the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Three-quarters of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and two-thirds of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill."
What are these people going to do when they lose their jobs or their businesses go under?
If you have any doubt that the U.S. economy is already in recession mode, just look at this chart over and over:
For months, I have been warning that the same patterns that immediately preceded previous recessions were happening once again, and this rise in debt delinquencies is another striking example of this phenomenon. This stuff isn’t complicated. Anyone that is willing to be honest with themselves should be able to see it. As a society, we have been making very, very bad decisions for a very, very long period of time, and what we are watching unfold right now are the inevitable consequences of those decisions.”
Editor’s Comment: "It is clear that things are nothing more than a house of cards. There was no financial recovery, the banks are bigger and more powerful than ever, and the stability of average people continues to slip away. The biggest problems surrounding 2008 are happening all over again… they let it happen. Why are the banks not being prosecuted criminally and broken up? Oh yeah, Justice Dept. people like Eric Holder leave their government jobs to work for the banks… they are too big to jail because they are the true owners. Hold on to whatever you’ve got."
“I hope you’re enjoying these horse latitudes of the political year, when the seas suddenly turn glassy and the Berning sun begins to roast all the diverse and inclusive hands on Hillary’s deck, who wait in anxiety for the first sign of a fresh breeze to push them toward landfall, while, meanwhile, full fathom five below the dead calm waters the leviathan Trump waits in his comfortable darkness, circling forward, circling back, solitary, malevolent, content in his bulking grievances, patiently waiting his moment to rise and smash his rival.
Things go eerily quiet and still before the California primaries. At this stage, the two major parties have discredited themselves so thoroughly that a necrotic stink wafts around the election of ’16. Who put that road-kill possum in Hillary’s podium? Why does Donald look every week more and more like a lurching Golem? The parties are rudderless. Their leaders range the decks like wailing revenants. It’s as if the mortal remains of Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan have come from the grave to eat the brains of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus. The rectified essence of every zombie fantasy churned out of Hollywood seeps through the capillaries of the dying political establishment, as it stews and ferments and waits to be loaded on the garbage barge of history.
Hillary threw a “hail Mary” after the Oregon debacle, proposing that husband Bill would become some kind of economic czar in her inevitable “turn” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s when you knew her crusade was doomed. It raised such a snickering in the media that the sick tropes of HBO’s Veep show looked like press releases from Proctor & Gamble’s PR office in comparison. Bill did such a great job at repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, maybe this dynamic duo of lawyers (“two for the price of one!”) can work on eliminating the anti-trust laws, the First Amendment, and the writ of habeas corpus — and then America can become a fullblown banana republic.
Trump has evidently been working on that smile of his: the slitty eyes, the weird horizontal lip stretch under that baleen of head-gear, the perfect expression of his white whale-hood. The crew from the ghostly GOP Pequod still doesn’t know what the heck to do about him. They rock above the depths in their flimsy dinghies, harpoons drooping, waiting for the sea to boil below them and their boats to splinter.
That will precede a more general splintering to come of the republic, first by demographics, then by territory. The most exceptional thing about the US has been the rapidity of its rise and now fall in the roll-call of empires. We barely had time to put together a coherent culture that historians of the future (enjoying ratatouille with fresh rat by firelight) could identify, and now it’s all percolating into a dreadful maelstrom in which one catches glimpses of the Kardashians, PT Barnum, Betsy Ross, Davey Crockett, and Eleanor Roosevelt amid the detritus of broken Tupperware and flapping pages of the Affordable Care Act. What a goddamned mess we’ve left to posterity.
Something is in the air that tells me Hillary will be dumped by the convention in Philadelphia in favor of Uncle Joe Biden, biding his time practically next door in Wilmington. Speaking of turns, isn’t it Delaware’s turn for a president? He’ll be a respectable place-holder, and he might even get elected, though the party will dissolve before he’s done, just in time for Texas to secede from the Union and set the tone for California, Oregon, and Washington State. Before you know it, the political map will look like 1861 again.
Donald Trump will be forgotten before Thanksgiving. He will leave a bizarre mental imprint on the life of the nation-that-was, something like a bad acid trip. And then the people of North America may actually have to start grappling with the problems induced by a failed banking system, population overshoot, climate instability, and the- lost boundaries of social behavior.”
“Sleep Deprivation Increases Risks of Strokes, Heart Attacks”
by University of Warwick
"New research from Warwick Medical School published in the European Heart Journal shows that prolonged sleep deprivation and disrupted sleep patterns can have long-term, serious health implications. Leading academics from the University have linked lack of sleep to strokes, heart attacks and cardiovascular disorders which often result in early death.
Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the University of Warwick Medical School, explained: "If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 per cent greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke. "The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking time bomb for our health so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions."
Professor Cappuccio and co-author Dr Michelle Miller, from the University of Warwick, conducted the research programme which followed up evidence from seven to 25 years from more than 470,000 participants from eight countries including Japan, USA, Sweden and UK. Professor Cappuccio explained: "There is an expectation in today's society to fit more into our lives. The whole work/life balance struggle is causing too many of us to trade in precious sleeping time to ensure we complete all the jobs we believe are expected of us." He added: "But in doing so, we are significantly increasing the risk of suffering a stroke or developing cardiovascular disease resulting in, for example, heart attacks."
Dr Miller explained further: "Chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body which increase the risk of developing heart disease and strokes, and other conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity". But Professor Cappuccio did warn of the implications of going too far the other way, as sleeping overly long - more than nine hours at a stretch - may be an indicator of illness, including cardiovascular disease. "By ensuring you have about seven hours sleep a night, you are protecting your future health, and reducing the risk of developing chronic illnesses. The link is clear from our research: get the sleep you need to stay healthy and live longer."
"We are all dying, every moment that passes of every day. That is the inescapable truth of this existence. It is a truth that can paralyze us with fear, or one that can energize us with impatience, with the desire to explore and experience, with the hope- nay, the iron-will!- to find a memory in every action. To be alive, under sunshine, or starlight, in weather fair or stormy. To dance with every step, be they through gardens of flowers or through deep snows."
“Moody's Downgrades Deutsche Bank; Now Two Steps From Junk-
Another Lehman Crisis To Hit The World?”
“Folks are literally starving to death in Venezuela from economic collapse (“Hungry Venezuelans Hunt Dogs, Cats, Pigeons as Food Runs Out”), and if Deutsche Bank goes under, starvation will hit Europe and the USA too. Here's the likely trigger: Deutsche Bank. Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded the ratings of Deutsche Bank AG (DB) and affiliates, including:
• the bank's long-term deposit rating, to A3 from A2,
• its senior unsecured debt rating to Baa2 from Baa1,
• its standalone baseline credit assessment (BCA) to ba1 from baa3, and
• its counterparty risk assessment to A3(cr) from A2(cr).
• Deutsche Bank's short-term ratings and short-term counterparty risk assessments were also downgraded to Prime-2 from Prime-1 and to Prime-2(cr) and Prime-1(cr), respectively.
Today's rating action reflects the increased execution challenges DB faces in achieving its strategic plan.
OK, So What Does This Mean to Me? What it means is there is likely financial Armageddon on the near horizon- again. The chart below shows what it means when a financial powerhouse finds its rating "downgraded" the way DB's was today:
Lehman was downgraded in Late April to early May, 2008. By the first week in September, it had triggered the Great Financial Collapse (GFC) of 2008. Lehman's collapse had a staggering huge effect upon the entire financial system; it affected everything! Well, Lehman was "small change" compared to DB.
If Deutsche Bank goes under, and many financial people are fearful they will, the effects will make the Lehman collapse look like a sunny Summer Day. Deutsche Bank is huge. And they are strategically positioned in the Derivatives market, doing business with almost everyone. They buy and issue Credit Default Swaps, which act like insurance for other people's debts. If DB goes under, all that "protection" is gone and the world goes right off a cliff into a financial abyss.
The trouble is, DB is far too big to save. No one in the world has enough money to prop them up. So if DB fails- and it is looking more and more as though they will- the end of the western banking and financial systems will be upon us within hours.
How this happened is simple: They engaged in speculative lending on projects and to Debtors of questionable value or creditworthiness. They also issued Credit Default Swaps to cover loans made by other banks to Debtors of questionable creditworthiness, a lot of which are now going bad. As loan after loan goes bad, it becomes tougher and tougher to balance the books at DB. For a Bank, the existence of a loan is considered to be an "asset" of the bank. The existence of Deposits (like your checking account, savings account and IRA) are considered to be a "Liability" of the bank. As "Assets" become worthless, less and less is backing-up the Liabilities that the bank has. It's a numbers game and numbers don't lie.
What happens if DB Fails? Credit will halt worldwide. Cash will not be available from banks. What little International Trade is still taking place will virtually halt. Numerous banks, Insurance companies, Credit Unions and other financial entities will fail. National Economies will collapse. Supply-chains for things like food and fuel will be "interrupted." Store shelves will empty. There will be food shortages then food riots.
Those of you who do not have any cash at home in case the banks fail, will find that your credit and debit cards are all shut off. You won't be able to buy food or fuel. Those of you who do not have reserves of food at home, will find empty store shelves and no way to feed yourself or your family, just like is taking place right now in Venezuela!
The government is so broke, it can't help, and they long ago sold off the government food reserves, so they cannot ride to the rescue.
Yeah, tell me again, "Oh, that could never happen here!" Right...
Suggested Preparation: If you haven't already begun doing so, start buying long-term shelf-stable foods. Things like:
• canned soups,
• canned meats,
• canned vegetables,
• pasta and jarred sauces/gravies,
• 50 lb bags of rice.
• Flour (to bake Bread)
• Yeast (for the flour to bake bread)
• Gallons of Cooking oil (Canola, Corn, Olive oils)
•These foods do not have to be refrigerated and will last for years.
Stock-up on condiments:
• Be especially sure to save up any extra packets of such things you may get from fast food places that you patronize. They add up.
• Emergency water storage barrel(s)
• Gravity fed water filter.
All these things can be obtained now and are not all that expensive if you make a list and buy a few at a time every week over the next few months. But don't wait. Those who wait will starve to death when a collapse takes place.”
"This is a must see! During an interview WAM's Josh Sigurdson and author/economist John Sneisen conducted with derivatives expert Stephen Kendal, John asked Stephen, "Will Deutsche Bank and its 64 trillion dollar derivative exposure topple the 3.9 trillion dollar German economy?"
Deutsche Bank is currently crashing in 2008 style. In reply to John's question, Stephen said, "In 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed, they had a book of derivatives. An asset book of derivatives. Deutsche Bank took the bulk of that on. A derivative has either 100 or nothing. Until the derivative actually expires, someone has to own it. What happened is Deutsche Bank thought they had a chance making a few quid because (they) believed the market had misunderstood the value of the bulk. So they took on highly toxic contract derivatives from 2008 and was the world's vacuum cleaner when it came to all the things people didn't want. What has happened is, the bets they made haven't turned out the way they thought they would. The contracts they have now are practically worth nothing. The 75 trillion (dollar) derivatives bulk they have when compared to the world GDP which is 75 trillion, they have 30-40 times the GDP of Germany. They match the global GDP. They have no value."
Stephen believes Deutsche Bank will fail and the reason why it's still going is because it's propped up and supported. Deutsche Bank is practically a bank on life support. "Effectively everyone knows the second they pull the plug out, that will be it, it will be gone." Mr. Kendal said.
Josh then asked, "So do you think Deutsche Bank will be the next Lehman Brothers?" Stephen replied, "Yeah, 100%. When you listen to the Fed (Federal Reserve) speak, they say there will be no bail-ins this time. You can't even attempt to bail out that kind of money. If you look at all the other banks in America, the derivatives that they sat on are phenomenal. Look at the amount of assets compared to the derivatives bulk. Goldman Sachs sat on it 70 times. They have just under 1 trillion in assets and they have a derivatives bulk of 70 trillion dollars. Just 10% out would mean goodbye to all of it."
He went on to say, "If you take the 5 big banks in America and what they have as far as their assets and derivative exposure, you're talking about 40 times. Because it's leveraged, it'll just be gone. When people say it's not going to happen, they're just trying to convince themselves because the results are unimaginable."
“Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, NGC 602 is just below center in this telescopic field of view with the angular size of the Full Moon on the sky. The cluster itself is about 200 light-years in diameter.
Click image for larger size.
Glowing interior ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602's massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster's center. Of course, the more extended wings of emission in the region suggest a popular name for the complex cosmic environment, The Flying Lizard Nebula."
"Is time something that is defined by the ticking of a cosmic clock, God's wristwatch say? Time doesn't exist except for the current tick. The past is irretrievably gone. The future does not yet exist. Consciousness is awareness of a moment. Or is time a dimension like space? We move through time as we move through space. The past is still there; we're just not there anymore. The future exists; we'll get there. We experience time as we experience space, say, by looking out the window of a moving train. Or is time…
Physicists and philosophers have been debating these questions since the pre-Socratics. Plato. Newton. Einstein. Most recently, Lee Smolin. Without resolution. What makes the question so difficult, it seems to me, is that time is inextricably tied up with consciousness. We won't understand time until we understand consciousness, and vice versa. So far, consciousness is a mystery, in spite of books with titles like "Consciousness Explained". Will consciousness be explained? Can consciousness be explained? If so, will it require a conceptual breakthrough of revolutionary proportions? Or is the Darwinian/material paradigm enough? Are we in for an insight, or for a surprise?
As I sit here at my desk under the hill, looking out at a vast panorama of earth, sea and sky, filled, it would seem, infinitely full of detail, so full that my awareness can only skim the surface, I have that uneasy sense that it's going to be damnably difficult to extract consciousness, as a thing, from the universe in its totality. I think of that word "entanglement," from quantum theory, and I wonder to what extent consciousness is entangled, perhaps even with past and future.
Who knows? Perhaps consciousness, or what I think of as my consciousness, is just a slice of cosmic consciousness, in the same way that the present is a slice of cosmic time. As a good Ockhamist, I am loathe to needlessly multiply hypotheses. But time will tell. Or consciousness will tell. Or something.”
“We're in the Eye of a Global Financial Hurricane”
by Charles Hugh Smith
"The Keynesian gods have failed,
and as a result we're in the eye of a global financial hurricane.
The Keynesian god of growth has failed.
The Keynesian god of borrowing from the future to fund today's consumption has failed.
The Keynesian god of monetary stimulus/financialization has failed.
Every major central bank and state worships these Keynesian idols:
1. Growth. (Never mind the cost or what kind of growth- all growth is good, even the financial equivalent of aggressive cancer).
2. Borrowing from the future to fund today's keg party, worthless college diploma, particle board bookcase, stock buy-back, etc. (oops, I mean "investment")- a.k.a. deficit spending which is a polite way of saying this unsavory truth: stealing from our children and grandchildren to fund our lifestyles today.
3. Monetary stimulus/financialization. If private investment sags (because there are few attractive investments at today's nosebleed valuations and few attractive investments in a global economy burdened with massive over-production and over-capacity), drop interest rates to zero (or below zero) to "stimulate" new borrowing... for whatever: global carry trades, bat guano derivatives, etc.
Here is my definition of Financialization: Financialization is the mass commodification of debt and debt-based financial instruments collaterized by previously low-risk assets, a pyramiding of risk and speculative gains that is only possible in a massive expansion of low-cost credit and leverage.
That is a mouthful, so let's break it into bite-sized chunks.
Home mortgages are a good example of how financialization increases financial profits by jacking up risk and distributing it to suckers who don't recognize the potential for staggering losses. In the good old days, home mortgages were safe and dull: banks and savings and loans institutions issued the mortgages and kept the loans on their books, earning a stable return for the 30 years of the mortgage's term.
Then the financialization machine revolutionized the home mortgage business to increase profits. The first step was to generate entire new types of mortgages with higher profit margins than conventional mortgages. These included no-down payment mortgages (liar loans), no-interest-for-the-first-few-years mortgages, adjustable-rate mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and so on.
This broadening of options (and risks) greatly expanded the pool of people who qualified for a mortgage. In the old days, only those with sterling credit qualified for a home mortgage. In the financialized realm, almost anyone with a pulse could qualify for an exotic mortgage.
The interest rate, risk and profit margins were all much higher for the originators. What's not to like? Well, the risk of default is a problem. Defaults trigger losses.
Financialization's solution: package the risk in safe-looking securities and offload the risk onto suckers and marks. Securitizing mortgages enabled loan originators to skim the origination fees and profits up front and then offload the risk of default and loss onto buyers of the mortgage securities. Securitization was tailor-made for hiding risk deep inside apparently low-risk pools of mortgages and rigging the tranches to maximize profits for the packagers at the expense of the unwary buyers, who bought high-risk securities under the false premise that they were "safe home mortgages."
Financialization- which can only expand to dominate an economy if it is supported by a central bank bent on expanding credit-has two inevitable and highly toxic consequences:
• Risk seeps into every nook and cranny of the financial system, greatly increasing the odds of a systemic domino reaction in financial meltdowns. This is precisely what we saw in the 2008-09 GlobalFinancial Meltdown (GFM): supposedly "contained" subprime mortgages toppled dominoes left and right, bringing the entire risk-saturated system to its knees.
• Extraordinary wealth and income inequality, as those closest to the central bank money/credit spigots can scoop up income-producing assets first at much lower costs than Mom and Pop Main Street investors.
The rising anger of the masses left behind by the central bank/financialization wealth harvesting machine is the direct result of Keynesian monetary stimulus that rewards debt-based speculative gambles by those closest to the cheap-credit spigots.
As I explain in my book “Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform,” the only possible output of central bank monetary stimulus is financialization, and the only possible output of financialization is unprecedented wealth and income inequality.
The global financial system is in the eye of an unprecedented hurricane. While central bankers are congratulating themselves on their god-like mastery of Nature, and secretly praying to the idols of the Keynesian Cargo Cult every night, the inevitable consequence of borrowing from the future, the obsession with "growth" at any cost and financialization/monetary stimulus, a.k.a. the rich get richer thanks to central banks is systemic collapse.
Don't fall for the mainstream media and politicos' shuck-and-jive that all is well and "growth" will return any day now. The only "growth" we're experiencing are the financial cancers of systemic risk and financialization's soaring wealth/income inequality.”
“If you really want to find out where this system is broken, stop paying your taxes and see what happens next. Violence. Your liberty, property, and if you resist, your life, will be taken from you through the use of force and violence. When it comes down to really understanding the fractured system we live in, it’s not about the money. It's not about who has what. It's about violence. (In the absence of institutionalized violence, many of the “unsolvable” issues facing America would slowly disappear.)
That's the REAL problem. Violence. Violence. Violence. We'll say it until the word loses all meaning: violence. The foundation of our system is violence. Of course, then, it is no surprise that we turn into violent creatures- especially those State actors who are paid to enforce the State’s grocery list of ever-growing agendas.
As Mike LaSusa writes on his blog, this violent foundation is reflected in both the U.S. government’s domestic and international activities: "Considering how the US treats its own citizens- spying on them en masse, imprisoning them at higher rates than any other country in the world, executing them in grotesque and inhumane ways, killing children with missiles for not having “a more responsible father,” employing extreme tactics to quell political dissent including sabotage and physical intimidation, jailing journalists and government whistleblowers, ruining their lives and forcing them into exile, etc.- is it any wonder that the military, police and intelligence forces of our allies and partners like Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras to name just a few, also commit similar and often worse abuses of civil and human rights?"
No. Not really a surprise at all. What’s most outrageous, though, is Americans seem to forget that all of this is done in our name- that we directly fund this madness and are, therefore, complicit. Moreover, the blowback is coming for us- not the politicians who make these maniacal orders. Rather than continuing to condone these actions, we must, somehow, transmute this energy into something more productive. Such as voluntary, consensual interactions between idiots who are just as unaware as the next idiot is about what the actual hell is happening on this flying rock.
Voluntaryism- the idea that all forms of human association should be consensual- is the way to a peaceful world. Free the markets. Laissez-faire. Or, hell, anything peaceful will do.
Alas, Washington D.C., as it beats the war drums louder, is dead-set on creating more chaos at home and abroad. And the sheer level of apathy about the potential for yet another major war is absolutely astonishing. The overall public sentiment can be summed up by taking a look at what’s happening in American airports. The lines to get fondled by government goons have become so ridiculously long that airports are now hiring ponies, clowns and live musicians to calm the nerves of the unwashed masses.
The lesson is clear: As long as you keep Americans entertained- via outlandish elections, bread and circuses, or endless hours of mindless (and often violent) entertainment- they won’t care much about what’s happening outside (or even within) our borders.
Pretty soon they’ll be giving out bread, too…
For example, most Americans have no serious understanding of the many conflicts the United States is engaged in around the world. Moreover, there’s very little shame in being ignorant and indifferent to the lives lost at the triggers of American weaponry. It’s an embarrassment and a disgrace- and only tends to confirm to the world that the stereotypical American is an ignorant drone.
To the sane-minded, it’s obvious: More war is the absolute last thing we need. It should be the very thing which unites Americans this election season, but, instead, conveniently enough, it’s the last thing on the mind of the average American.
War, said Randolph Bourne, is the health of the State. Since the State is little more than a monopoly on violence, the bigger the State, the more violence it can inflict at home and abroad. (Even the people who cry out about police brutality are missing this crucial connective tissue.)
As Tom Engelhardt writes on his blog TomDispatch.com, Washington has become addicted to war and the power it provides. And more military intervention- more chaos- is the only way to justify more hits from the crackpipe. Engelhardt writes: "Washington’s attachment- financial, tactical, and strategic- to the U.S. military and its supposed solutions to more or less all problems in what used to be called “foreign policy” should by now be categorized as addictive. Otherwise, how can you explain the last decade and a half in which no military action from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen to Libya worked out half-well in the long run (or even, often enough, in the short run), and yet the U.S. military remains the option of first, not last, resort in just about any imaginable situation?
All this in a vast region in which failed states are piling up, nations are disintegrating, terror insurgencies are spreading, humongous population upheavals are becoming the norm, and there are refugee flows of a sort not seen since significant parts of the planet were destroyed during World War II. Either we’re talking addictive behavior or failure is the new success."
Keep in mind, for instance, that the president who came into office swearing he would end a disastrous war and occupation in Iraq is now overseeing a new war in an even wider region that includes Iraq, a country that is no longer quite a country, and Syria, a country that is now officially kaput. Meanwhile, in the other war he inherited, Barack Obama almost immediately launched a military-backed “surge” of U.S. forces, the only real argument being over whether 40,000 (or even as many as 80,000) new U.S. troops would be sent into Afghanistan or, as the “antiwar” president finally decided, a mere 30,000 (which made him an absolute wimp to his opponents). That was 2009. Part of that surge involved an announcement that the withdrawal of American combat forces would begin in 2011. Seven years later, that withdrawal has once again been halted in favor of what the military has taken to privately calling a “generational approach” — that is, U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan into at least the 2020s.
The U.S. military is visibly the drug of choice in the American political arena and, as is only appropriate for the force that has, since 2002, funded, armed, and propped up the planet’s largest supplier of opium, once you’re hooked, there’s no shaking it.
Meanwhile, not one of our “hopefuls,” (aside from, of course, our underdogs in the Libertarian Party), have come close to suggesting that the wars will cease when the Oval Office is taken from the Obamanator. Engelhardt goes on: "… no presidential candidate these days could afford to reject the White House-run drone assassination program. To be assassin-in-chief is now considered as much a part of the presidential job description as commander-in-chief, even though the drone program, like so many other militarized foreign policy operations these days, shows little sign of reining in terrorism despite the number of “bad guys” and terror “leaders” it kills (along with significant numbers of civilian bystanders).
To take Bernie Sanders as an example- because he’s as close to an antiwar candidate as you’ll find in the present election season- he recently put something like his stamp of approval on the White House drone assassination project and the “kill list” that goes with it.
Unfortunately, at the moment there is no force, no movement on the American scene that could open up space for such a possibility. No matter who is elected president, you already know more or less what American “policy” is going to be. But don’t bother to blame the politicians and national security nabobs in Washington for this. They’re addicts. They can’t help themselves. What they need is rehab. Instead, they continue to run our world. Be suitably scared for the ruins still to come."
"Intel Officials Urge Fast Report on Clinton’s Emails"
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Those “Damn Emails” – “Really a Concern”
Introduction: Last Wednesday Robert Gates, CIA Director under President Bush-41 and Defense Secretary under President Bush-43, publicly commented that Secretary Hillary Clinton’s “whole email thing… is really a concern in terms of her judgment,” adding, “I don’t know what originally prompted her to think that was a good idea.”
What originally prompted her does not matter. As your Secretary of State and your subordinate, she willfully violated laws designed to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure. It may be somewhat difficult for those not as immersed in national security matters as we have been to appreciate the seriousness of the offense, including the harm done in compromising some of the most sensitive U.S. programs and activities. This is why we write.
Pundits and others are playing down the harm. A charitable interpretation is that they have no way to gauge what it means to expose so much to so many. We do know, and our overriding concern is to protect the national security of our country from further harm. It would be a huge help toward this end, if you would order Attorney General Loretta Lynch to instruct the FBI to stop slow-walking the email investigation and release its findings promptly.
If you choose, instead, to give precedence to politics over national security, the American people will be deprived of timely appreciation of the gravity of the harm done; national security officials who do follow the rules will be scandalized; FBI investigators will conclude that that their job is more political than professional; and the noxious impression will grow that powerful people cannot be held accountable when they break the law. Worse: if the results of the FBI investigation remain under lock and key, dangerous pressures are likely to be exerted on the most senior U.S. officials by those who have the key – as we explain below.
* * *
We the undersigned Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have spent 400 years working with classified information – up to and including TOP SECRET, Codeword, and Special Access Programs (SAP). Given that experience, we believe that much of the commentary on the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton email controversy has been misplaced, focusing on extraneous issues having little or nothing to do with the overriding imperative to protect classified information.
As intelligence, military, and foreign service professionals, we are highly aware not only of that compelling need, but also of the accompanying necessity to hold accountable those whose actions compromise – whether for reasons of convenience or espionage – sensitive operations, programs and persons. In addition, we know that successful mutual cooperation with foreign intelligence services depends largely on what they see as our ability to keep secrets secret.
Background: Last August, Secretary Clinton handed over her private email server to the FBI, five months after she acknowledged she had used it for work-related emails as Secretary of State. She admitted to having deleted about 31,000 emails she described as personal. Media reports last fall, however, indicated that the FBI was able to recover the personal emails, and was reviewing them, as well as the 30,000 others she had described as work-related.
In January, the Department of State announced that, of the 30,000 work-related emails, at least 1,340 contained classified material. The Department retroactively classified 22 of those TOP SECRET and prevented their release. Among the 22 were some that, according to media reports, included information on highly sensitive Special Access Programs (SAP).
The White House has said it will do nothing to impede the FBI investigation and possible filing of charges against Clinton, if the facts should warrant that kind of action. Inasmuch as the outcome of the investigation is bound to have major political consequences, such White House assurances stretch credulity.
By all indications, the FBI is slow-walking the investigation and mainstream media are soft-pedaling the issue. As things now stand, most Americans remain unaware of the import of this industrial-scale compromise of very sensitive national security information in Secretary Clinton’s emails.
Our concern mounted in January when the Inspector General of the intelligence community wrote to the chairs of the congressional intelligence committees that he had received from one of the intelligence agencies two “sworn declarations” asserting that Secretary Clinton’s emails contained not only CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET information, but also information at the TOP SECRET/SAP level.
In 2009, you signed an Executive Order regarding SAP (Special Access Programs), so we assume you were briefed on their extremely high sensitivity and the consequent need to sharply limit the number of people allowed to be “read-in” on them. The mishandling of SAP information can neutralize intelligence programs costing billions of dollars, wreck liaison relationships assiduously cultivated for decades, and get a lot of people killed.
‘It Wasn’t That Bad’: All those directly or peripherally involved in the investigation of the Clinton email issue know very well that it could have a direct impact on who is likely to become the next President of the United States, and they will be making decisions with that reality in mind. They know that it is with you that “the buck stops,” and they are sensitive to signs of your preferences. Those were not difficult to discern in your commencement address at Howard University on May 7, in which you strongly advocated the same basic policy approaches as those espoused by one Democratic presidential candidate – Hillary Clinton.
Your White House has also made excuses for deliberate security violations by Secretary Clinton that would have gotten senior officials like us fired and probably indicted. We look with suspicion at what we see as contrasting and totally inappropriate attempts by the administration and media to play down the importance of Secretary Clinton’s deliberate disregard of basic security instructions and procedures.
It appears that the option chosen by the White House is using the declared need for “thoroughness” to soft-pedal and delay completion of the investigation for several more months, while the corporate media sleeps on. Four months have already gone by since the smoking-gun-type revelations in the intelligence community Inspector General’s letter to Congress, and it has been well over a year since Secretary Clinton first acknowledged using an insecure email server for official business.
Another claim emanating from your White House is that Clinton was careless in managing her emails and has admitted as much, but that she has not damaged American national security. She has called it a “mistake,” but security officials of the National Security Agency explicitly forewarned her against violating basic laws and regulations designed to prevent the compromise of classified information.
NSA, FBI Have Enough Evidence: Surely, enough time has passed, and enough material has been reviewed, to permit a preliminary damage assessment. The NSA has the necessary information and should, by now, have shared that information with the FBI. Secretary Clinton’s server in her house in Chappaqua, New York, was not a secured device. Her email address incorporated her initials, “hdr” (apparently for her maiden name, Hillary Diane Rodham). It also included the “clinton” server identity, so it was easy for a hacker to spot.
Anyone with the proper equipment, knowledge and motivation might have been able to obtain access. That is what hackers are able to do, with considerable success, against government servers that are far better protected than the private email server located in her New York State home.
In fact, there have been reports that Secretary Clinton’s emails were, indeed, hacked successfully by foreigners. The Romanian hacker who goes by the name Guccifer claimed earlier this month that he had repeatedly hacked her email server. He described the server as “like an open orchid on the Internet” and that “it was easy… easy for me, for everybody.” Guccifer has been extradited from Romania and is now in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, where the FBI is said to be questioning him on the emails. There have also been credible claims that Russian intelligence and other foreign services were able to hack the Secretary’s server.
Another argument being surfaced, in a transparent attempt to defend Secretary Clinton, has to do with intent. It is said that she did not intend to have classified information on her computer in New York and had no intention of handling secret material in a way that would be accessible to foreign intelligence or others lacking the proper security clearances and the need-to-know.
But while intent might be relevant in terms of punishment, it does not change the fact that as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, then Senator Clinton had clearances for classified information for years before becoming Secretary of State. She knew the rules and yet as Secretary she handled classified information carelessly after a deliberate decision to circumvent normal procedures for its safeguarding, thus making it vulnerable to foreign intelligence, as well as to criminal hackers.
Anyone who has ever handled classified material knows that there are a number of things that you do not do. You do not take it home with you, you do not copy it and share it with anyone who does not have a clearance and a need-to-know, you do not strip off the classification marks and treat it as unclassified, and you do not transfer it to another email account that is not protected by a government server.
If you have a secured government computer operating off of a secure server that means that what is on the computer stays on the computer. This is not a matter of debate or subject to interpretation. It is how one safeguards classified information, even if one believes that the material should not be classified, which is another argument that has been made in Clinton’s defense. Whether or not the classification is unnecessary is not your decision to make.
Apart from the guidelines for proper handling of classified information, outlined in Executive Order 13526 and 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f) of the federal code, there is some evidence of a cover-up regarding what was compromised. This itself would be a violation of the 2009 Federal Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
Numerous messages both in New York and in Washington have reportedly been erased or simply cannot be found. In addition, the law cited above explicitly makes it a felony to cut and paste classified information removing its classification designation. Retaining such information on a private email system is also a felony. In one of Secretary Clinton’s emails, she instructed her staff simply to remove a classification and send the information to her on her server.
So the question is not whether Secretary Clinton broke the law. She did. If the laws are to be equally applied, she should face the same kind of consequences as others who have been found, often on the basis of much less convincing evidence, guilty of similar behavior.
Some More Equal Than Others: Secretary Clinton’ case invites comparison with what happened to former CIA case officer Jeffrey Sterling, now serving a three-and-a-half-year prison term for allegedly leaking information to New York Times journalist James Risen. Sterling first came to the media’s attention when in 2003 he blew the whistle on a botched CIA operation called Operation Merlin, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee staff that the operation had ended up revealing nuclear secrets to Iran. When in 2006 James Risen published a book that discussed, inter alia, this amateurish cowboy operation, the Department of Justice focused on Sterling as the suspected source.
In court, the federal prosecutors relied almost entirely on Risen’s phone and email logs, which reportedly demonstrated that the two men had been in contact up until 2005. But the prosecutors did not provide the content of those communications even though the FBI was listening in on some of them. Risen has claimed that he had multiple sources on Operation Merlin, and Sterling has always denied being involved.
Jeffrey Sterling was not permitted to testify in the trial on his own behalf because he would have had to discuss Operation Merlin, which was and is still classified. He could not mention any details about it even if they were already publicly known through the Risen book. No evidence was ever produced in court demonstrating that any classified information ever passed between the two men, but Sterling, an African American, was nevertheless convicted by an all-white jury in Virginia based on “suspicion” and the presumption that “it had to be him.”
The contrast between the copious evidence– some of it self-admitted– of Secretary Clinton’s demonstrable infractions, on the one hand, and the very sketchy, circumstantial evidence used to convict and imprison Jeffrey Sterling, on the other, lend weight to the suspicion that there is one law for the rich and powerful in the United States and another for the rest of us.
Failing to take steps against a politically powerful presidential candidate and letting her off unscathed for crimes of her own making, while an institutionally unprotected Jeffrey Sterling sits in prison would be a travesty of justice not dissimilar to the gentle wrist-slap given Gen. David Petraeus for giving his mistress extremely sensitive information and then lying to the FBI about it.
Your order to then-Attorney General Eric Holder to let Gen. David Petraeus off easy created a noxious – and demoralizing – precedent in the national security community indicating that, whatever the pains taken at lower levels to prevent compromise of duly classified information, top officials are almost never held accountable for disregarding well-established rules. These are some of the reasons we are so concerned that this is precisely the direction in which you seem to be leaning on the Clinton email issue.
In our view, the sole legitimate reason for disclosing classified information springs from the only “oath” we all took – “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” When, for example, Edward Snowden saw the U.S. government grossly violating our Fourth Amendment right to be “secure” against warrantless “searches and seizures,” he gave more weight to that oath (ethicists call it a supervening value) than to the promise he had made not to disclose information that could harm U.S. national security.
Possibly Still Worse Ahead: You might give some thought, Mr. President, to a potentially messy side of this. What is already known about NSA’s collect-it-all electronic practices over the past several years strongly suggests that NSA, and perhaps the FBI, already know chapter and verse. It is virtually certain they know what was in Secretary Clinton’s emails – including the ones she thought she had deleted. It is likely that they have also been able to determine which foreign intelligence agencies and other hackers were able to access the emails.
One ignores this at one’s peril. Secretary Clinton’s security violations can have impact not only on whether she becomes your successor, but also on whether she would, in that case, be beholden to those who know what lies hidden from the rest of us – perhaps even from you.
Intelligence professionals (in contrast to the occasional political functionary) take the compromise of classified information with utmost seriousness. More important: this is for us a quintessentially nonpartisan issue. It has to do, first and foremost, with the national security of the United States.
We are all too familiar with what harm can come from blithe disregard of basic procedures designed to protect sensitive intelligence and other national security information. Yes, the lamentable unevenness in how such infractions are handled is also an important issue – but that is not our main focus in the present context.
The Truth Will Out: Not all workers at the NSA or the FBI are likely to keep their heads in the sand, as they watch very senior officials and politicians with their own agendas disregard laws to safeguard the nation’s security. We know what it is like to do the difficult, disciplined work of protecting information from being compromised by strictly abiding by what often seem to be cumbersome rules and regulations. We’ve been there; done that.
If you encourage the Department of Justice and the FBI to continue slow-walking the investigation, there is a good chance the truth will come out anyway. As you are aware, the Justice Department, the FBI, and NSA have all yielded recent patriots who, in such circumstances, decided that whistleblowing – rather than silence – was the only way to honor the oath we all swore – to support and defend the Constitution.
To sum up our concern regarding how all this plays out, if you order the Justice Department and FBI to pursue the investigation with “all deliberate speed,” so to speak, and Secretary Clinton becomes president, the juicy email secrets in the hidden hands of the NSA and FBI are likely to give those already powerful institutions a capacity for blackmail that would make J. Edgar Hoover’s mouth water. In addition, information hacked by foreign intelligence services or Guccifer-like hackers can also provide useful grist for leverage or blackmail.
Taking Care the Laws Are Faithfully Executed: We strongly urge you to order Attorney General Loretta Lynch to instruct FBI Director James Comey to wind up a preliminary investigation and tell the country now what they have learned. By now they – and U.S. intelligence agencies – have had enough time to do an early assessment of what classified data, programs and people have been compromised. Realistically speaking, a lengthier, comprehensive post-mortem-type evaluation – however interesting it might be, might never see the light of day under a new president.
We believe the American people are entitled to prompt and full disclosure, and respectfully suggest that you ensure that enforcement of laws protecting our national security does not play stepchild to political considerations on this key issue.
On April 10, you assured Chris Wallace, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI – not just in this [Clinton email] case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.”
We urge you to abide by that promise, and let the chips fall where they may. Full stop. Period.
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS),
William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Thomas Drake, Senior Executive, NSA (former)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Sen. Mike Gravel, D, Alaska; earlier, Army Intelligence
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF Intelligence Agency (ret.), ex-Master SERE Instructor
John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Scott Ritter, former MAJ, USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
Diane Roark, DOE, DOD, NSC, & professional staff, House Intelligence Committee (ret.)
Robert David Steele, former CIA Operations Officer
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” - Thomas Edison
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