Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Pete Seeger one of the fathers of american folk music, loved and revered by so many, died yesterday. In 1955 he wrote and composed Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The song has become a classic pacifist hymn. We publish 2 versions, one by Pete Seeger and one by Marlene Dietrich.

Seeger recalled about the song:

“I had been reading a long novel – And Quiet Flows the Don – about the Don River in Russia and the Cossacks who lived along it in the 19th century. It describes the Cossack soldiers galloping off to join the Tsar’s army, singing as they go. Three lines from a song are quoted in the book: ‘Where are the flowers?/The girls plucked them/Where are the girls?/They’re all married/Where are the men?/They’re all in the army.’ I never got around to looking up the song, but I wrote down those three lines. Later, in an airplane, I was dozing, and it occurred to me that the line “long time passing” – which I had also written in a notebook – would sing well. Then I thought, ‘When will we ever learn’. Suddenly, within 20 minutes, I had a song.”

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

The Spirit of Davos

Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show fame, glimpses and parses, assisted by an “All Access Badge” , the Spirit of Davos. Enjoy and do not miss the end of the clip, where Samantha Bee reports right from the “Panel of Emerging Economies” where “the leaders at the World Economic Forum are laser focused on making this a fairer and more equal planet”

A United Europe? Think twice

In a revealing article published today by Die Welt, some of the elements of this year’s wish list of the representatives of the global elite, meeting this week in Davos for their yearly fest, are, if indirectly, mentioned.

As expressed by Axel Weber, president of UBS, in this year’s list there is the desire that in the event of a second banking crisis in Europe (assuming the first one was ever finished) the european banking system would be recapitalized, bailed out, with public money. More importantly, perhaps, another element of the list would be advancing the agenda for the “United States of Europe”.

After a few paragraphs of platitudes of what some of the Davos participants think about the present economic situation in the world, “good but more reforms are needed” etc. etc. we come to the meaty part of the article, where Mr. Weber expresses his opinion about both the process of rehabilitation of the european banking system and of the potential results in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament on May 25th.

On the issue of the european banking system, fears Axel Weber:

“….fürchtet er, dass die Sanierung der Banken die nächste Bankenkrise provozieren könnte: Die Bilanzen von 130 Banken in Europa werden demnächst von der EZB streng geprüft. Im November sollen die Ergebnisse veröffentlicht werden.”

“Das kann zu einer gewissen Unsicherheit führen”, says Weber. “Wir werden nicht erst im November, sondern schon einige Wochen vorher sehen, dass Spieler gegen die möglichen Verlierer der Bilanzprüfungsübung wetten und sie abstoßen….Und es werden wieder die Staaten sein, die den Banken frisches Kapital geben müssten”

That is, the capital needs resulting from the results of the stress test that the ECB will impose on 130 european banks later this year might require european states to recapitalize them, again, with public money.

On the issue of the upcoming European Parliament Elections on May 25th, according to Mr. Weber:

“EU-skeptische Kräfte könnten eine entscheidende Kraft werden. Dabei ist die Entscheidungsfindung in der EU ohnehin schon kompliziert”

That is, Euro-sceptic parties might become a decisive force in the new European Parliament, complicating even more the decision making process in the EU.

On the one side, we are warned, a new banking crisis is possible, given the still very weak capital situation of most european banks. If that came to pass, then it would be expected that governments would bail banks out again (with tax-payers money).

Even more important, in our view, is the unease that the Davos mandarins feel about the upcoming European Paliament Elections on May 25. It is feared that anti-Euro, anti-EU parties, perhaps channeling a deep public feeling of having been betrayed by traditional political parties, might win enough seats in the next European Parliament to block, or at least delay the march towards a sort of “United States of Europe”, towards the TTIP, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a sort of “free trade” agreement between the EU and the USA, and toward other globalist dreams, “dreams” presented as the solution to most, if not all, the problems that Europe faces.

This kind of statements reveal, we think, the fear that these elections, even for a parliament with very limited powers, might signal an inflection point in what has become a non democratically sanctioned path towards levels of european integration that many citizens in the European Union, for different reasons, reject.

The Davos elites know what they want: a centralized Europe. The reasons why seem obvious: a distant and highly centralized bureaucracy that controls all of the continents’ economic and political policies is much easier to manipulate than a set of independent states, each with its own agenda. This objective will be presented under the soothing aspect of a democratic continent “finally” united, but what really lies behind such an entity might not be so benign. Citizens feel it, and elites fear citizens acting on their justified fears.

Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to remember Aldous Huxley‘s admonition in Brave New World Revisited when talking about the best way to resist tyranny: decentralize.

“Under the relentless thrust of accelerating over-population and increasing over-organization, and by means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old formselections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the restwill remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorialbut Democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.”

“Or take the right to vote. In principle, it is a great privilege. In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty. Therefore, if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society’s merely functional collectives into self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups, capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Government.”

A  United Europe?  Think twice.

Reverse Robin Hood explained

In this article published by Zerohedge we can find a cogent explanation of the present process of wealth redistribution from poor to rich, a phenomenon felt everywhere. Whether this process is an intended one, a sort of conspiracy, or just “collateral damage” of unsound monetary and economic policies, is for the reader to decide. This is, in words of Stanley Druckenmiller, one of the most successful hedge fund managers, “the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and poor to the rich ever”. Don’t miss the charts, they are self explanatory. As a summary, the aim of achieving this wealth redistribution is achieved thru several mechanisms:

A – “the rich hold assets, the poor have debt”

B – QE has resulted in a loss of purchasing power for the US dollar. Faced with this problem, consumers in the middle class are taking on more non-housing debt in order to maintain the same standard of living. In addition, the US government – which continues to run a deficit year after year – continues to accumulate debt. Due to these facts, total debt outstanding – aka credit market instruments for all sectors – is at all time highs. More debt means more interest payments and lower savings rates. These trends do not bode well for the middle class consumer.

C – On the other hand, QE has been great for the rich. QE has inflated the prices of assets such as property, bonds, stocks, and non-home real estate.

D – Taxes as a percentage of real disposable income have more than doubled since 1980. This trend has not been kind to the bottom 90%.

E – Median household income has been in a downtrend since the late 90s.

F – The entitlement problem is only going to get worse as more baby boomers leave the work force. Future generations will have to pay for the debt that the old and rich continue to take on.

In conclusion, QE, taxes, income disparity, and entitlements are contributing to “the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever” If things continue the way they are going, then millennials and future generations will pay the price:

TYReads “One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed”

On the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve (FED), designed in secrecy by a group of Wall Street bankers and voted into existence by the American Congress on december 23 1913, Ron Paul publishes this article arguing that its creators have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and that the FED has taken total control of the american economy, and not for the good.

To illustrate Ron Paul’s message we include 2 charts. In the first one we can see the loss in purchasing power of the US Dollar from around 1900 until today. In the second one we can see the percentage silver content in the Roman Denarius from around 180 AD to 280 AD, after the government of the Antonines, when Rome went into rapid decline.

devaluation_dollar1

devaluation_denarius

The article:

After 100 Years Of Failure, It’s Time To End The Fed!

A week from now, the Federal Reserve System will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding. Resulting from secret negotiations between bankers and politicians at Jekyll Island, the Fed’s creation established a banking cartel and a board of government overseers that has grown ever stronger through the years. One would think this anniversary would elicit some sort of public recognition of the Fed’s growth from a quasi-agent of the Treasury Department intended to provide an elastic currency, to a de facto independent institution that has taken complete control of the economy through its central monetary planning. But just like the Fed’s creation, its 100th anniversary may come and go with only a few passing mentions.

Like many other horrible and unconstitutional pieces of legislation, the bill which created the Fed, the Federal Reserve Act, was passed under great pressure on December 23, 1913, in the waning moments before Congress recessed for Christmas with many Members already absent from those final votes. This underhanded method of pressuring Congress with such a deadline to pass the Federal Reserve Act would provide a foreshadowing of the Fed’s insidious effects on the US economy—with actions performed without transparency.

Ostensibly formed with the goal of preventing financial crises such as the Panic of 1907, the Fed has become increasingly powerful over the years. Rather than preventing financial crises, however, the Fed has constantly caused new ones. Barely a few years after its inception, the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy to help fund World War I led to the Depression of 1920. After the economy bounced back from that episode, a further injection of easy money and credit by the Fed led to the Roaring Twenties and to the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in American history.

But even though the Fed continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, no one in Washington ever questioned the wisdom of having a central bank. Instead, after each episode the Fed was given more and more power over the economy. Even though the Fed had brought about the stagflation of the 1970s, Congress decided to formally task the Federal Reserve in 1978 with maintaining full employment and stable prices, combined with constantly adding horrendously harmful regulations. Talk about putting the inmates in charge of the asylum!

Now we are reaping the noxious effects of a century of loose monetary policy, as our economy remains mired in mediocrity and utterly dependent on a stream of easy money from the central bank. A century ago, politicians failed to understand that the financial panics of the 19th century were caused by collusion between government and the banking sector. The government’s growing monopoly on money creation, high barriers to entry into banking to protect politically favored incumbents, and favored treatment for government debt combined to create a rickety, panic-prone banking system. Had legislators known then what we know now, we could hope that they never would have established the Federal Reserve System.

Today, however, we do know better. We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians. We know that the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street. And we know that the current monetary regime is teetering on a precipice. One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed.

The Future of Catalonia’s Casteller

My friend and photographer Ann Gagno exhibits a set of pictures about Castellers, an old catalan tradition, in Toronto…have a look at them and enjoy 🙂  here you have the link to the Facebook page of the exhibition and here a picture of the exhibition itself.

Food Trippin'

As I open my month-long show Catalonia’s Castellers, at the Oakwood Public Library today, it brings back fond memories of things that happened that I can never immortalize in images.  As I have once said before, I went home with about 120 Gig of images and it was painful to choose one over the other.  Some of the ones that have touched me most were hard to recreate if there was no story to go with it.  I thought I’d share one today.

As I was standing by the heat of watching the Castellers de Vilafranca at Festa major de la Bisbal del Penedès, last August 2012,  a man who introduced himself as  Jeroen,  approached me because of the camera I carried.  I guess the massive long lens does merit attention and we had a lengthy conversation of what Castellers was all about.  Before we parted ways, he invited me and my…

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TYReads The End Of German Hyperinflation

Today 90 years ago, on the 15 of November 1923, by fixing the value of the recently created Rentenmark at a rate of 1 trillion (1.000.000.000.000) Papermark per 1 Rentenmark, and one month later, by setting the rate of the Rentenrmark against the US Dollar at a rate of 4,2 Rentenmark per 1 US Dollar, the exchange rate that had prevailed between the Reichsmark and the US dollar before World War I, Hjalmar Schacht, the then new president of the Reichsbank, ended the German Hyperinflation of 1922-1923, a monetary phenomenon that it is often argued paved the way for the later onset of Nazism. Thorsten Polliet of The Ludwig von Mises Institute has written this article about it.

90 Years Ago: The End Of German Hyperinflation by Thorsten Polleit @ The Ludwig von Mises Institute

On 15 November 1923 decisive steps were taken to end the nightmare of hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic: The Reichsbank, the German central bank, stopped monetizing government debt, and a new means of exchange, the Rentenmark, was issued next to the Papermark (in German: Papiermark). These measures succeeded in halting hyperinflation, but the purchasing power of the Papermark was completely ruined. To understand how and why this could happen, one has to take a look at the time shortly before the outbreak of World War I.

Since 1871, the mark had been the official money in the Deutsches Reich. With the outbreak of World War I, the gold redeemability of the Reichsmark was suspended on 4 August 1914. The gold-backed Reichsmark (or “Goldmark,” as it was referred to from 1914) became the unbacked Papermark. Initially, the Reich financed its war outlays in large part through issuing debt. Total public debt rose from 5.2bn Papermark in 1914 to 105.3bn in 1918. In 1914, the quantity of Papermark was 5.9 billion, in 1918 it stood at 32.9 billion. From August 1914 to November 1918, wholesale prices in the Reich had risen 115 percent, and the purchasing power of the Papermark had fallen by more than half. In the same period, the exchange rate of the Papermark depreciated 84 percent against the US dollar.

The new Weimar Republic faced tremendous economic and political challenges. In 1920, industrial production was 61 percent of the level seen in 1913, and in 1923 it had fallen further to 54 percent. The land losses following the Versailles Treaty had weakened the Reich’s productive capacity substantially: the Reich lost around 13 percent of its former land mass, and around 10 percent of the German population was now living outside its borders. In addition, Germany had to make reparation payments. Most important, however, the new and fledgling democratic governments wanted to cater as best as possible to the wishes of their voters. As tax revenues were insufficient to finance these outlays, the Reichsbank started running the printing press.

From April 1920 to March 1921, the ratio of tax revenues to spending amounted to just 37 percent. Thereafter, the situation improved somewhat and in June 1922, taxes relative to total spending even reached 75 percent. Then things turned ugly. Toward the end of 1922, Germany was accused of having failed to deliver its reparation payments on time. To back their claim, French and Belgian troops invaded and occupied the Ruhrgebiet, the Reich’s industrial heartland, at the beginning of January 1923. The German government under chancellor Wilhelm Kuno called upon Ruhrgebiet workers to resist any orders from the invaders, promising the Reich would keep paying their wages. The Reichsbank began printing up new money by monetizing debt to keep the government liquid for making up tax-shortfalls and paying wages, social transfers, and subsidies.

From May 1923 on, the quantity of Papermark started spinning out of control. It rose from 8.610 billion in May to 17.340 billion in April, and further to 669.703 billion in August, reaching 400 quintillion (that is 400 x 1018) in November 1923.[2] Wholesale prices skyrocketed to astronomical levels, by rising by 1.813 percent from the end of 1919 to November 1923. At the end of World War I in 1918 you could have bought 500 billion eggs for the same money you would have to spend five years later for just one egg. Through November 1923, the price of the US dollar in terms of Papermark had risen by 8.912  percent. The Papermark had actually sunken to scrap value.

With the collapse of the currency, unemployment was on the rise. Since the end of the war, unemployment had remained fairly low — given that the Weimar governments had kept the economy going by vigorous deficit spending and money printing. At the end of 1919, the unemployment rate stood at 2.9 percent, in 1920 at 4.1 percent, 1921 at 1.6 percent and 1922 at 2.8 percent. With the dying of the Papermark, though, the unemployment rate reached 19.1 percent in October, 23.4 percent in November, and 28.2 percent in December. Hyperinflation had impoverished the great majority of the German population, especially the middle class. People suffered from food shortages and cold. Political extremism was on the rise.

The central problem for sorting out the monetary mess was the Reichsbank itself. The term of its president, Rudolf E. A. Havenstein, was for life, and he was literally unstoppable: under Havenstein, the Reichsbank kept issuing ever greater amounts of Papiermark for keeping the Reich financially afloat. Then, on 15 November 1923, the Reichsbank was made to stop monetizing government debt and issuing new money. At the same time, it was decided to make one trillion Papermark (a number with twelve zeros: 1,000,000,000,000) equal to one Rentenmark. On 20 November 1923, Havenstein died, all of a sudden, through a heart attack. That same day, Hjalmar Schacht, who would become Reichsbank president in December, took action and stabilized the Papermark against the US dollar: the Reichsbank, and through foreign exchange market interventions, made 4.2 trillion Papermark equal to one US Dollar. And as one trillion Papermark was equal to one Rentenmark, the exchange rate was 4.2 Rentenmark for one US dollar. This was exactly the exchange rate that had prevailed between the Reichsmark and the US dollar before World War I. The “miracle of the Rentenmark” marked the end of hyperinflation.

How could such a monetary disaster happen in a civilized and advanced society, leading to the total destruction of the currency? Many explanations have been put forward. It has been argued that, for instance, that reparation payments, chronic balance of payment deficits, and even the depreciation of the Papermark in the foreign exchange markets had actually caused the demise of the German currency. However, these explanations are not convincing, as the German economist Hans F. Sennholz explains: “[E]very mark was printed by Germans and issued by a central bank that was governed by Germans under a government that was purely German. It was German political parties, such as the Socialists, the Catholic Centre Party, and the Democrats, forming various coalition governments that were solely responsible for the policies they conducted. Of course, admission of responsibility for any calamity cannot be expected from any political party.” Indeed, the German hyperinflation was manmade, it was the result of a deliberate political decision to increase the quantity of money de facto without any limit.

What are the lessons to be learned from the German hyperinflation? The first lesson is that even a politically independent central bank does not provide a reliable protection against the destruction of (paper) money. The Reichsbank had been made politically independent as early as 1922; actually on behalf of the allied forces, as a service rendered in return for a temporary deferment of reparation payments. Still, the Reichsbank council decided for hyperinflating the currency. Seeing that the Reich had to increasingly rely on Reichsbank credit to stay afloat, the council of the Reichsbank decided to provide unlimited amounts of money in such an “existential political crisis.” Of course, the credit appetite of the Weimar politicians turned out to be unlimited.

The second lesson is that fiat paper money won’t work. Hjalmar Schacht, in his 1953 biography, noted: “The introduction of the banknote of state paper money was only possible as the state or the central bank promised to redeem the paper money note at any one time in gold. Ensuring the possibility for redeeming in gold at any one time must be the endeavor of all issuers of paper money.” Schacht’s words harbor a central economic insight: Unbacked paper money is political money and as such it is a disruptive element in a system of free markets. The representatives of the Austrian School of economics pointed this out a long time ago.

Paper money, produced “ex nihilo” and injected into the economy through bank credit, is not only chronically inflationary, it also causes malinvestment, “boom-and-bust” cycles, and brings about a situation of over-indebtedness. Once governments and banks in particular start faltering under their debt load and, as a result, the economy is in danger of contracting, the printing up of additional money appears all too easily to be a policy of choosing the lesser evil to escape the problems that have been caused by credit-produced paper money in the first place. Looking at the world today — in which many economies have been using credit-produced paper monies for decades and where debt loads are overwhelmingly high, the current challenges are in a sense quite similar to those prevailing in the Weimar Republic more than 90 years ago. Now as then, a reform of the monetary order is badly needed; and the sooner the challenge of monetary reform is taken on, the smaller will be the costs of adjustment.

Mr. Draghi & the “european banking union”

ECB on collision course with Germany on banking union @ Financial Times

Financial Times publishes this article about the reluctance of Germany to the intent of the ECB to get total supervisory and resolution control over all banks in the eurozone. The so-called “european banking union” plans seek to place eurozone banks under the overarching supervision of the ECB, followed by the creation of a bank resolution scheme for the bloc and, eventually, a common deposit scheme.

“In the 32-page opinion to EU institutions in Brussels, the ECB said the new agency, known as the single resolution mechanism, should be “strong and independent” with clear, unitary powers to force failing banks to either recapitalize or shut down.”

“The stance puts Mario Draghi, ECB president, in direct conflict with Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, who has repeatedly said the EU’s new bank bailout system should instead start as a “network” of national authorities because EU treaties do not allow for a single decision maker for all of Europe.”

“Differences between Brussels and Berlin over the way forward for a new EU bank executioner – which many officials believe is the biggest shift in sovereignty for the eurozone since the creation of the single currency itself – has slowed progress towards banking union to a crawl.”

Mr. Draghi’s haste in trying to get total control of the european banking system, something well beyond what was envisioned both in the intentions and the written law of the EU and ECB treaties, is another, perhaps the definitive, step towards protecting the banking industry from accountability and democratic (even if very mild and imperfect at present) control.

Germany’s reluctance is very logical, since once the ECB gets supervisory and resolution authority over all banks in the eurozone, it will have all the tools to perpetuate a “dual economy”, with a financial sector that not only finances itself at rates (basically zero) that have nothing to do with the rates at which citizens and small and mid enterprises have to finance themselves (if at all), but whose supervision would be in “friendly hands”. Friendly hands to them, banks, but unfriendly to citizens, whose savings are being constantly debased by a zero-interest-rate-policy that increasingly looks no longer like a temporary fixture but as a permanent feature of a new neo-feudal financial architecture.

It is a pity that such aspects are seldom mentioned when discussing the implications of the innocently named “european banking union”. One would hope that Germany would stand firm (even if partially for selfish reasons), but fear it will not. The “european banking union” is not a positive development for those who believe in a democratic Europe and a restrained and accountable financial sector.

Prescient George Carlin

Many of us have spent time in the USA, a country for which we have harbored kind thoughts and fond memories. But in the age of the NSA spying even on the closest allies, in the age of american drones killing civilians in a routine fashion, in the age where Wall Street and its tool, the Federal Reserve, have induced, first, a global financial crisis and, then, are intent on destroying whatever is left of the middle class thru a gigantic reverse Robin Hood transfer of wealth via zero interest rates and QE, in the age where the USA has the highest debt levels in its history (except peak of WWII) and does not plan to do anything to stop abusing the “exorbitant privilege” of having the, so far, world’s reserve currency, in the age where the USA involves itself in, or even promotes, uncountable wars, declared or not, for purposes that nothing have to do with national security, terrorist menace, justice, or the betterment of the life of its own citizens, in this age…there are many that believe that the America they once knew, either never existed (very likely), or is long gone.

Why has the country, once assumed to be the “land of the free”, changed so much? Or has it? Perhaps what is today visible to many was once only visible to a few. One of them is the already deceased comedian and author George Carlin, who, in this video, filmed in 2005, analyzes the “American Dream”. In 2013 it is not only not dated but insightful and prescient.