Signs of the Economic Apocalypse 4-25-05
The U.S. stock market recovered a bit last week with the Dow closing at 10,157.71 up 0.7% from the previous week's 10,087.51 but the direction was down at the end of the week. The NASDSAQ closed at 1932.19 up 1.3% from 1908.15 on the previous Friday. The ten-year U.S. Treasury Bond closed at 4.25% up a bit in yield compared to the previous week's 4.23%. The euro closed at 1.3066 dollars, up 1.1% from last week's 1.2924 dollars. The dollar closed at .7653 euros, down from .7738 the previous week. Gold closed at $436.50 up 2.8% from the previous Friday's close of $424.60. Gold in euros would be 334.07 euros an ounce, up 1.7% from the previous week's 328.43. Oil was up sharply again, closing at $55.39, up 9.7% from last week's $50.49. Oil in euros increased as well, climbing 8.5% to 42.39 euros from 39.07 the previous week. The number of barrels of oil an ounce of gold can buy went down 6.7% last week, closing at 7.88 compared to 8.41 last week.
This past week the big story was oil. The violence in Iraq during the past week put upward pressure on oil prices, in spite of good supply at the present. Iraq isn't the only oil-rich country to be hit by violence recently. This sentence was buried deep in a Reuters wire service article on oil prices:
Two suspected militants and two Saudi security personnel were killed in a fierce gunfight on Thursday in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the Interior Ministry said.A gunfight between government forces and militants in Mecca? That can't be a good thing. Of course, the resultant higher oil prices benefits the Saudi royal family and the U.S. oil industry, so who knows? The Xymphora blogger has this:
Speaking of malaise, there does seem to be a rising amount of economic pessimism in the normally-optimistic United States. The Washington Post ran a chart on Wednesday summarizing data from their "Consumer Comfort Index" showing that the percentage of people thinking the U.S. economy is getting worse increased from 33% in mid-November 2004 to 48% today. Funny how the percentage of those thinking the economy is getting worse began to rise just after the November U.S. presidential elections. George W. Bush's approval ratings have been sinking since then as well. It seems that once he got himself reelected, the Bush-controlled media slowed down on pushing their rosy economic scenarios. According to the accompanying article, there is a growing disconnect between the economic fears of the people and the lack of reaction to it by the political elite:
From an article by Efraim Halevy, the former chief of the Mossad and the National Security advisor to Ariel Sharon:
"Not long ago a senior official in one of the world's largest oil companies told me that he wakes up every morning fearful that he will turn on his bedside television set and see reports of a coup in Saudi Arabia."
and (my emphasis of his careful wording):
"Few observers of the Middle East scene are actually taking a good hard look at the situation in Saudi Arabia and examining coolly the terrifying scenarios, one of which might ensue. Some believe that there is a real danger that extremist religious figures will seize power in Saudi Arabia and establish an 'Al-Qaida state' in Riyadh. Others note that the national identification of large numbers of the country's population with the Saudi entity is feeble and that their main attachment is tribal or local-regional. Thus, a revolutionary situation might cause the disintegration of the state and the creation of parallel regimes in various regions of the kingdom.
"In a visit to the United States two weeks ago, I was told by several well-informed observers that should one of the more severe scenarios come to pass, the United States will have no choice but to deepen its presence in the Middle East. To that end, it will have to renew the draft, to ensure that there are enough forces to deal with developing situations in countries like Saudi Arabia."
An attack on Iran just causes problems for the Americans without really addressing the issue of total control of the world's oil that appears to be mad Cheney's ultimate goal. The Iran attack would cost a fortune, go on for years, result in the deaths of thousands of Americans, and might even fail. After the debacle of the lies about Iraq and the disastrous American occupation, it would be very hard for the Bush Administration to make a case for it. On the other hand, if Israel and/or the United States were to stage a fake 'coup' in Saudi Arabia - a bit of made-for-TV bafflegab blown up into a full armed insurrection by the disgusting American media, together with claims that 'al Qaeda' now controls the American oil supply - American troops could have full control of the country in a matter of days, without having to interrupt the flow of oil. Americans run the security apparatus of Saudi Arabia, and can almost certainly remotely render useless any defense mechanisms which have been supplied by American arms contractors. The Saudi rulers are essentially helpless.
Due to the 'instability' in the Middle East ("in countries like Saudi Arabia"), the Bush Administration would then have full authority to call a draft, and the same instability would serve just as well as another terrorist attack in removing the malaise that has now settled over Bush's presidency (the last time we heard of problems in Bush's Presidency was in early September 2001). The new political capital could be used by Bush to propel his planned take-over of the American social security system by Wall Street. The price of oil would go up, benefiting Bush's oil friends, but not too much as to be a political problem (Americans will accept just about anything if it is framed as being part of fighting the 'war on terror' by keeping al Qaeda from taking over Saudi Arabia). Saudi rulers and clerics would be bundled off to the new statelet around Mecca and Medina - a new country completely unthreatening to Israel, having neither arms nor money - and the rest of the country, including all the oil fields, would be run from Washington and Tel Aviv.
It's almost as if the political elite think that the economy and political approval rates as they stand now are no longer important, that something big is coming. It is as if you are working in an office, and have been promised a new computer or something, but the managers know that the office will be shut down and everyone laid off but can't say anything. You keep asking about the computer, and the manager just has to shake his head and think to him or herself that getting the new computer is the least of your worries.
"People feel vulnerable and besieged," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute, "and they don't hear anybody talking about it."
Yet the only economic bills signed into law this year have tilted against the little guy: Legislation that restricts class-action lawsuits, and a major rewrite of the nation's bankruptcy laws, signed yesterday, that will make it harder for debt-ridden Americans to wipe out their obligations.
The Washington area has been insulated from some of the current economic problems. Gasoline prices here have risen as rapidly as elsewhere, but the area has a booming real estate market and strong job growth.
Beyond the Beltway, the real curiosity is why the economy has not become a more significant political issue this spring. One reason may be the media's preoccupation with other news: the deaths of Pope John Paul II and Terri Schiavo, and debates about the future of Social Security and the federal judiciary.
Another may be the degree to which partisanship rather than the actual state of the economy shapes attitudes toward Bush's performance. Republican pollster Bill McInturff said that attitudes about Bush are generally fixed -- with Republicans overwhelmingly supportive and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed -- and affected primarily by terrorism and security. Therefore economic changes have less impact on this administration than past administrations.
Still, there is evidence that the public may be paying closer attention to economic issues, particularly rising gasoline prices, than politicians in Washington realize. The most recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that gasoline prices ranked second behind Schiavo as the most closely followed story during late March.
Ehlers said he has been getting an earful from constituents, angered by gas prices, frightened by the latest layoff announcement, this one from the Grand Rapids-based office furniture giant Steelcase Inc., and frustrated by Congress's inattention. The negative reaction to Congress's intervention in the Schiavo case was particularly jarring, Ehlers said.
"Many are rather upset at the Terri Schiavo issue," he said, even "moderately pro-life" voters. "I'm getting a lot of the, 'Why are you spending time on that when we don't have jobs?' type of thing."
In Michigan, jobs and the economy have vaulted to the No. 1 concern of 34 percent of voters, with the closest other issues, health care and education, at a distant 15 percent, said Ed Sarpolus, an independent Michigan pollster. " I haven't seen anything like that since the early '90s and crime," he said.
Michigan is not isolated. A Des Moines Register poll released Sunday found Bush's approval rating in Iowa down to 42 percent, the lowest of his presidency. Only 24 percent of Iowans approved of his handling of the federal budget, 26 percent approved of his efforts to change Social Security and 36 percent approved of his handling of the economy.
"There are serious pocketbook issues lurking in America," said Rep. Jim Leach (R-
Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the NBC poll with McInturff, said gas prices and other economic indicators have directly contributed to pessimistic views about the state of the country, which have been generally negative in their survey for almost two years.
If gas prices stay high and the market remains sluggish, the economy could mushroom into a dominant issue in next year's midterm elections. "In terms of what they're looking for out of Washington and the president and Congress, [people] are expecting some policy that will address this issue [gas prices]," said GOP pollster David Winston. "It doesn't have to happen tomorrow, but they expect to see some progress being made."
The financiers, however, have to make public bets. For a sure sign of a coming economic depression (at least) we see that Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway acquired a large amount of shares in Anheuser-Busch. Few industries do better in a depression than the beer industry! For a frightening look into how at least some of those people at the level of Warren Buffet or George Soros think about the economy, see this on Maurice Strong, the Canadian billionaire financier, from Jeff Wells's Rigorous Intuition blog:
Could it be that what the super-elite are trying to do is to conduct a controlled demolition of the world economy? If we are to believe Maurice Strong, he thinks the world economy and the biological ecosystem are like a teetering skyscraper. Do you let it fall naturally or do you set explosives in strategic locations and bring it down at a time of your choosing, in such a way that you are in control of the situation during and, more importantly, AFTER the crash?
The broad strokes: The Canadian Strong is an oxymoronic billionaire socialist who serves as Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and as Senior Advisor to the President of the World Bank. He is also, among many other things, Chairman of Strovest Holdings, Chairman and Director of Technology Development Corp, Director of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum ["Davos"] and Chairman of the Earth Council. Strong's former appointments include Secretary General of the World Bank and Director of the Rockefeller Foundation. He is a leading Bilderberger, and member of the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations and Club of Rome.
Strong wasn't born to privilege, but was cultivated by David Rockefeller whom he met at 18, when he took a job as assistant pass officer in the Security Section of the United Nations. A year later Strong was an investment analyst, and at 25 he became vice-president of Dome Petroleum.
What else is Maurice Strong? An environmentalist and patron of New Age beliefs and religious syncretism. He and his wife have been developing tens of thousands of acres in Colorado as a model "international spiritual community," called the Baca, of which the Manitou Institute forms a part.
In other words, Strong is the stuff of nightmares for revanchist conspiracy theorists who hear the whirr of the UN's black helicopters: a gilded Rockefeller socialist linked to the Lucis Trust; a proponent of one world religion and government.
… Strong has said that "we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse." Again, largely, I agree. One teeny distinction between us: Strong is one of those in a position to effect its collapse.
Here's Strong, thinking dangerous thoughts aloud at the conclusion of an
interview with WEST magazine in May, 1990 entitled "The Wizard of the Baca
Each year the World Economic Forum convenes in Davos, Switzerland. Over a thousand CEOs, prime ministers, finance ministers, and leading academics gather in February to attend meetings and set the economic agendas for the year ahead. What if a small group of these word leaders were to conclude that the principle risk to the earth comes from the actions of the rich countries? And if the world is to survive, those rich countries would have to sign an agreement reducing their impact on the environment. Will they do it? Will the rich countries agree to reduce their impact on the environment? Will they agree to save the earth?
The group's conclusion is "no." The rich countries won't do it. They won't change. So, in order to save the planet, the group decides: isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?
This group of world leaders form a secret society to bring about a world collapse. It's February. They're all at Davos. These aren't terrorists -they're world leaders. They have positioned themselves in the world's commodity and stock markets. They've engineered, using their access to stock exchanges, and computers, and gold supplies, a panic. Then they prevent the markets from closing. They jam the gears. They have mercenaries who hold the rest of the world leaders at Davos as hostage. The markets can't close. The rich countries...?
The journalist adds, "and Strong makes a slight motion with his fingers as if he were flicking a cigarette butt out of the window. I sat there spellbound.... He is, in fact, co-chairman of the Council of the World Economic Forum. He sits at the fulcrum of power. He is in a position to do it."