Solving Climate Change

SUBHEAD: The key to this existential crisis is beneath our feet in the soil.

By Ellen Brown on 26 December 2019 for Truthdig -

Image above: Close-up of living soil from the original article.

The Green New Deal resolution that was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in February hit a wall in the Senate, where it was called unrealistic and unaffordable. In a Washington Post article titled “The Green New Deal Sets Us Up for Failure. We Need a Better Approach,” former Colorado governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper framed the problem like this:
The resolution sets unachievable goals. We do not yet have the technology needed to reach “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” in 10 years. That’s why many wind and solar companies don’t support it. There is no clean substitute for jet fuel. Electric vehicles are growing quickly, yet are still in their infancy. Manufacturing industries such as steel and chemicals, which account for almost as much carbon emissions as transportation, are even harder to decarbonize. 
Amid this technological innovation, we need to ensure that energy is not only clean but also affordable. Millions of Americans struggle with “energy poverty.” Too often, low-income Americans must choose between paying for medicine and having their heat shut off. …
If climate change policy becomes synonymous in the U.S. psyche with higher utility bills, rising taxes and lost jobs, we will have missed our shot. …

The problem may be that a transition to 100% renewables is the wrong target. Reversing climate change need not mean emptying our pockets and tightening our belts. It is possible to sequester carbon and restore our collapsing ecosystem using the financial resources we already have, and it can be done while at the same time improving the quality of our food, water, air and general health.

The Larger Problem – and the Solution – Is in the Soil

Contrary to popular belief, the biggest environmental polluters are not big fossil fuel companies. They are big agribusiness and factory farming, with six powerful food industry giants – Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Dean Foods, Dow AgroSciences, Tyson and Monsanto (now merged with Bayer) – playing a major role.

Oil-dependent farming, industrial livestock operations, the clearing of carbon-storing fields and forests, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and the combustion of fuel to process and distribute food are estimated to be responsible for as much as one-half of human-caused pollution. 

Climate change, while partly a consequence of the excessive relocation of carbon and other elements from the earth into the atmosphere, is more fundamentally just one symptom of overall ecosystem distress from centuries of over-tilling, over-grazing, over-burning, over-hunting, over-fishing and deforestation.

Big Ag’s toxin-laden, nutrient-poor food is also a major contributor to the U.S. obesity epidemic and many other diseases. Yet these are the industries getting the largest subsidies from U.S. taxpayers, to the tune of more than $20 billion annually. We don’t hear about this for the same reason that they get the subsidies – they have massively funded lobbies capable of bribing their way into special treatment.

The story we do hear, as Judith Schwartz observes in The Guardian, is, “Climate change is global warming caused by too much CO2 in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels. We stop climate change by making the transition to renewable energy.” Schwartz does not discount this part of the story but points to several problems with it:
One is the uncomfortable fact that even if, by some miracle, we could immediately cut emissions to zero, due to inertia in the system it would take more than a century for CO2 levels to drop to 350 parts per million, which is considered the safe threshold. Plus, here’s what we don’t talk about when we talk about climate: we can all go solar and drive electric cars and still have the problems – the unprecedented heat waves, the wacky weather – that we now associate with CO2-driven climate change.
But that hasn’t stopped investors, who see the climate crisis as simply another profit opportunity. According to a study by Morgan Stanley analysts reported in Forbes in October, halting global warming and reducing net carbon emissions to zero would take an investment of $50 trillion over the next three decades, including $14 trillion for renewables; $11 trillion to build the factories, batteries and infrastructure necessary for a widespread switch to electric vehicles; $2.5 trillion for carbon capture and storage; $20 trillion to provide clean hydrogen fuel for power, cars and other industries, and $2.7 trillion for biofuels.

The article goes on to highlight the investment opportunities presented by these challenges by recommending various big companies expected to lead the transition, including Exxon, Chevron, BP, General Electric, Shell and similar corporate giants – many of them the very companies blamed by Green New Deal advocates for the crisis.

A Truly Green New Deal

There is a much cheaper and faster way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere that doesn’t rely on these corporate giants to transition us to 100% renewables. Additionally, it can be done while at the same time reducing the chronic diseases that impose an even heavier cost on citizens and governments. Our most powerful partner is nature itself, which over hundreds of millions of years has evolved the most efficient carbon sequestration system on the planet. As David Perry writes on the World Economic Forum website:
This solution leverages a natural process that every plant undergoes, powered by a source that is always available, costs little to nothing to run and does not cause further pollution. This power source is the sun, and the process is photosynthesis. 
A plant takes carbon dioxide out of the air and, with the help of sunlight and water, converts it to sugars. Every bit of that plant – stems, leaves, roots – is made from carbon that was once in our atmosphere. Some of this carbon goes into the soil as roots. The roots, then, release sugars to feed soil microbes. These microbes perform their own chemical processes to convert carbon into even more stable forms.
Perry observes that before farmland was cultivated, it had soil carbon levels of from 3% to 7%. Today, those levels are roughly 1% carbon. If every acre of farmland globally were returned to a soil carbon level of just 3%, 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide would be removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil – equal to the amount of carbon that has been drawn into the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago. The size of the potential solution matches the size of the problem.

So how can we increase the carbon content of soil? Through “regenerative” farming practices, says Perry, including planting cover crops, no-till farming, rotating crops, reducing chemicals and fertilizers, and managed grazing (combining trees, forage plants and livestock together as an integrated system, a technique called “silvopasture”). 

These practices have been demonstrated to drive carbon into the soil and keep it there, resulting in carbon-enriched soils that are healthier and more resilient to extreme weather conditions and show improved water permeability, preventing the rainwater runoff that contributes to rising sea levels and rising temperatures. Evaporation from degraded, exposed soil has been shown to cause 1,600% more heat annually than all the world’s powerhouses combined. Regenerative farming methods also produce increased microbial diversity, higher yields, reduced input requirements, more nutritious harvests and increased farm profits.

These highly favorable results were confirmed by Paul Hawken and his team in the project that was the subject of his best-selling 2016 book, “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.” The project involved evaluating the 100 most promising solutions to the environmental crisis for cost and effectiveness. 

The results surprised the researchers themselves. The best-performing sector was not “Transport” or “Materials” or “Buildings and Cities” or even “Electricity Generation.” It was the sector called “Food,” including how we grow our food, market it and use it. Of the top 30 solutions, 12 were various forms of regenerative agriculture, including silvopasture, tropical staple trees, conservation agriculture, tree intercropping, managed grazing, farmland restoration and multistrata agroforestry.

How to Fund It All

If regenerative farming increases farmers’ bottom lines, why aren’t they already doing it? For one thing, the benefits of the approach are not well known. But even if they were, farmers would have a hard time making the switch. As noted in a Rolling Stone article titled “How Big Agriculture Is Preventing Farmers From Combating the Climate Crisis”:
[I]implementing these practices requires an economic flexibility most farmers don’t have, and which is almost impossible to achieve within a government-backed system designed to preserve a large-scale, corporate-farming monoculture based around commodity crops like corn and soybeans, which often cost smaller farmers more money to grow than they can make selling.
Farmers are locked into a system that is destroying their farmlands and the planet, because a handful of giant agribusinesses have captured Congress and the regulators. One proposed solution is to transfer the $20 billion in subsidies that now go mainly to Big Ag into a fund to compensate small farmers who transition to regenerative practices. We also need to enforce the antitrust laws and break up the biggest agribusinesses, something for which legislation is now pending in Congress.

At the grassroots level, we can vote with our pocketbooks by demanding truly nutritious foods. New technology is in development that can help with this grassroots approach by validating how nutrient-dense our foods really are. 

One such device, developed by Dan Kittredge and team, is a hand-held consumer spectrometer called a Bionutrient Meter, which tests nutrient density at point of purchase. The goal is to bring transparency to the marketplace, empowering consumers to choose their foods based on demonstrated nutrient quality, providing economic incentives to growers and grocers to drive regenerative practices across the system. 

Other new technology measures nutrient density in the soil, allowing farmers to be compensated in proportion to their verified success in carbon sequestration and soil regeneration.

Granted, $20 billion is unlikely to be enough to finance the critically needed transition from destructive to regenerative agriculture, but Congress can supplement this fund by tapping the deep pocket of the central bank. In the last decade, the Fed has demonstrated that its pool of financial liquidity is potentially limitless, but the chief beneficiaries of its largess have been big banks and their wealthy clients. 

We need a form of quantitative easing that actually serves the local productive economy. That might require modifying the Federal Reserve Act, but Congress has modified it before. 

The only real limit on new money creation is consumer price inflation, and there is room for a great deal more money to be pumped into the productive local economy before that ceiling is hit than is circulating in it now. For a detailed analysis of this issue, see my earlier articles here and here and latest book, “Banking on the People.”

The bottom line is that saving the planet from environmental destruction is not only achievable, but that by focusing on regenerative agriculture and tapping up the central bank for funding, the climate crisis can be addressed without raising taxes and while restoring our collective health.


Australian Apocalypse

SUBHEAD: A vet's hellish diary of climate change. Cattle have stopped breeding, koalas die of thirst.

By Gundi Rhoades on 26 December s029 for Sidney Morning Herald -

Image above:Australia has been battling devastating fires on the east coast for weeks. Now, rising temperatures in the south threaten to open a new fire front there. From (

Bulls cannot breed at Inverell. They are becoming infertile from their testicles overheating. Mares are not falling pregnant, and through the heat, piglets and calves are aborting.

My work as a veterinarian has changed so much. While I would normally test bulls for fertility, or herds of cattle for pregnancy, I no longer do, because the livestock has been sold. A client’s stud stock in Inverell has reduced from 2000 breeders to zero.

I once assisted farmers who have spent their lives developing breeding programs, with historic bloodlines that go back 80 years. These stud farmers are now left with a handful of breeders that they can’t bear to part with, spending thousands keeping them fed, and going broke doing it.

Cattle that sold for thousands are now in the sale yards at $70 a head. Those classed as too skinny for sale are costing the farmer $130 to be destroyed.

They are all gone and it was all for nothing. The paddocks are bare, the dams dry, the grass crispy and brown. The whole region has been completely destocked and is devoid of life.

For 22 years, I have been the vet in this once-thriving town in northern NSW, which, as climate change continues to fuel extreme heat, drought and bushfires, has become hell on Earth.

Here, we are seeing extreme weather events like never before. The other day we had about eight centimetres of rain in 20 minutes. These downpours are like rain bombs. They are so ferocious that a farmer lost all of his fences, and all it did was silt up the dam so he had to use a machine to excavate the mud.

Most farmers in my district have not a blade of grass remaining on their properties. Topsoil has been blown away by the terrible, strong winds this spring and summer. We have experienced the hottest days that I can remember, and right now I can’t even open any windows because my eyes sting and lungs hurt from bushfire smoke.

For days, I have watched as the bushland around us went up like a tinderbox. I just waited for the next day when my clinic would be flooded with evacuated dogs, cats, goats and horses in desperate need of water and food.

The impact of the drought on wildlife is devastating to watch, too. Members of the public are bringing us koalas, sugar gliders, possums, galahs, cockatoos and kangaroos on a daily basis.

The koalas affect me the most. To see these gorgeous, iconic animals dying from thirst is too hard to bear. We save some, but we lose just as many.

The whole town is devastated. My business has halved. But with no horses to breed, no cattle to test and care for, what am I going to do? I have worked day and night to build a future for my family, but who would want to buy our property out here?

Who would want to buy a vet clinic in a town where there are no animals to treat because it’s too hot and dry? Where the cattle become infertile from the 40-degree heat. All this on black, baked ground.

I am 53 years old. Can I start again?

Climate change for us is every day, and I am not suffering on the same level as my friends, my clients and the helpless animals I treat. As a veterinarian I am becoming more and more distressed, not just about the state of my town, but the whole world.

Personally, I have had weeks when I just cry. It just bloody hurts me. I also have times when I get really angry and I start to swear, which I have never done in my life.

I also have times when I think about the potential this country has to create a renewable future with clean, green energy, and end our reliance on fossil fuels.

You only have to look at how resilient our farmers are in the face of devastating, extreme weather conditions to understand that we can make a powerful, meaningful difference to our future.

The government has no idea what it’s like for us. It has no empathy. Its members don't know how much it hurts when they just say yes to another coal mine.

I would invite Scott Morrison to come and see what life in Inverell is like. In case he chooses not to, I'll paint this picture for the country and hope people can start to realise and understand the devastating impact climate change is having.

I hope they will take a stand for the people, the places and the animals whose voices are too small for him to hear.

The Winter Solstice Once Again

SUBHEAD: In Hawaii it does not mean the same thing as in upstate New York. But it still means much.

By Juan Wilson on 20 December 2019 for Island Breath -

Image above: Image of a Winter Solstice on today's Navajo-Hopi Observer. From (

Below are two articles from our website "The Gobbler" from the Winter of 1995 in western upstate New York. At this time of year you go to work in the morning in the dark and come home in the afternoon in the dark. Colder than in the inside of your refrigerator - and often colder than the inside of your freezer.

Tonight we are going to have

Christmas Traditions
by Linda Pascatore
©1995 The Gobbler: Winter Crystal
Nativity scenes, Santa Claus, reindeer, stars, wreaths and holly, stockings and presents are all associated with Christmas. Some traditions are directly related to the Christian holiday, while others had their origin earlier in various midwinter or solstice celebrations.  
Christmas, or Christ's mass, is the feast day celebrating the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago. Since the exact date of Christ's birth was not known, the earliest Christians didn't celebrate it. But in 350 AD, the Pope set a date--December 25th. 
It was probably observed at this time because of strong traditions of solstice celebrations. Winter solstice is the shortest day, and the longest night of the year. It falls around December 21st. The earth, in traveling around the sun, is tilted on its axis. At the Autumnal Equinox, around September 23rd, the North Pole begins tilting away from the sun. The days become shorter, the noon sun is lower in the sky, and we get less sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. 
Solstice means a standing still, because the sun appears at the same low point for a few days around midwinter. From that time on, the days become longer, the light grows, and the coming of Spring has begun. People feared the cold dark winter. It was natural to celebrate the return of the sun and hope for the new year. There were many festivals around this time. 
In most cultures, this was the new year, when the Sun returned, a time of light and hope. Since Christ was the "light of the world", and the hope for salvation and new spiritual life, the tone of the solstice festivals was appropriate for his birthday. The "Sun" god was replaced by the "Son" of God.  
Long before Christ was born, the Persians celebrated the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on December 25th. They lit fires in honor of Mithra, the god of light. This date marked the beginning of their New Year.  
The Jews had Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, in December. The purpose was to commemorate an ancient victory, in which they drove off an invading army and then rededicated their temple. Legend has it that they had only enough lamp oil for the Eternal Lamp in the temple to burn for one day, but the light miraculously burned for eight days. The Menorah symbolizes this event. One more candle is lit each day of Hanukkah, along with the servant candle or shamash, until all eight are burning on the last day. 
Many of our Christmas traditions are found in the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans wore masks, danced in the streets, had feasts, and gave gifts. They placed evergreen branches in their homes at this time, and crowned Saturn with wreaths of holly. Trees were decorated and lit with candles. A figure of Saturn was placed on top of the tree. No war or disputes of any kind were allowed during the Saturnalia Festival, making peace and goodwill part of this ancient Roman holiday. 
For Christians, the birth of Jesus is the center of the most meaningful traditions. Nativity scenes, with Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the attendant angels, shepherds, wise men and animals are found around the world. People usually render the figures in their own image, so features will vary from Middle Eastern to Hispanic, Nordic, Oriental or African. Saint Francis of Assisi introduced the living Nativity Scene. He set up a manger in a cave and had real animals and people play the parts. 
This tradition continues in many places today, with whole villages taking part in the Christmas pageants. In Mexico, people dress as Mary and Joseph, and visit one house each night for nine nights, reenacting the holy family's search for shelter. They are turned away the first eight nights, then on the last night, Christmas Eve, they are finally given shelter and the birth of Jesus is celebrated by all.  
The star on top of the Christmas tree represents the bright star of Bethlehem which led the three wise men to the infant Jesus. Astronomers have tried to find an explanation for this famous star. There were no bright novas, or new stars, in the years around the birth of Christ. 
No comet was visible then, either. However, it is possible that Christ was actually born in the spring of 6 B.C., when there was a close alignment of three stars in Pices; Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn 
This particular alignment had great significance in Jewish history. The same constellation had appeared together in Pices shortly before Moses was born. The wise men of the East, learned in astronomy, might have taken the appearance of these stars as a sign of some great event about to take place in Israel, and so begun their journey there. 
In the Bible, Jesus is called "the bright and morning star." Today, in many parts of Europe and the Middle East, Christmas festivities begin with the appearance of the first star on Christmas Eve. 
The three kings, or wise men, are the center of many Christmas traditions. They were probably magi, learned priests from ancient Persia. Some eastern orthodox sects celebrate Christmas on the feast of the Three Kings or the Epiphany, January 6th. The word Epiphany means manifestation, and according to church doctrine, on that day it was manifested to the wise men that the baby was sent by God. 
The days between Christmas and January 6th are called the twelve holy days, with the Epiphany being the Twelfth Night. The gifts of the Magi foretold the destiny of the Christ child; the would be a king, the frankincense that he would be a high priest, and the myrrh that he would be a healer and martyr. 
In Germany and Austria, boys go in groups of four on the Epiphany, one carrying a star and the other three dressed as kings. In Spain, children go out to the gates of the city with cake for the kings, figs for the servants, and hay for the camels; looking for the kings silhouetted on the horizon. In many countries children receive their gifts on January 6th, either from the Three Kings or from their youngest camel. 
Two other gift givers, the Italian La Befana and the Russian Baboushka, are tied up in the legend of the Wise Men. As the story is told, La Befana refused to accompany the Magi to Bethlehem, and Babouska misdirected the visitors. Since then, both women wander on the feast of the Kings, leaving gifts for all children as they search for the Christ child. 
Santa Claus is a beloved symbol of Christmas to children of many cultures, especially northern Europeans and Americans. He was not always the jolly old elf of today. His first ancestor was probably the god Odin, from Scandinavia thousands of years before Christ. 
Legend has it that at midwinter, or solstice, Odin would ride an eight-footed horse through the world, bringing rewards or punishments to men. Odin's son Thor wore red and fought the gods of ice and snow at midwinter, conquering the cold and allowing the return of the sun. 
Saint Nicholas is the Christian predecessor to Santa. He was a kind-hearted bishop in Asia Minor in the 4th century. Legend has it that a poor nobleman had three daughters and no dowry for them. When the time came for the first daughter to marry, a bag of gold appeared overnight in his home. 
The same thing happened with the second daughter. When it was time for the third daughter to marry, her father kept watch and caught Bishop Nicholas dropping a bag of gold down the chimney, where it landed in a stocking hung over the fire to dry.  
News of the bishop's good deeds got out. and soon the stories grew into legendary proportions. The anniversary of his death was December 6th, and soon the legend merged with Christmas. 
In Holland, St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas, would come on a horse. Children would leave their shoes filled with hay for his horse, and he would leave them nuts and candies. In Lapland, the saint drove a reindeer sleigh. 
The Swedes wait for a gnome, Jultomten, with the goats of the god Thor pulling the sleigh. In Germany and Holland the influence of Odin remained, and Saint Nick carried a switch to dole out punishment for bad children as well as rewards for good ones. 
Americans created a kinder, gentler Santa. In 1809 Washington Irving wrote of a chubby man with a big smile. The most popular image of Santa Claus was in Dr. Clement Moore's "The Night Before Christmas." This poem contains all the modern elements--the flying reindeer pulling the sleigh, entry through the chimney, stockings hanging by the fireplace, a large sack of toys, and a fat, jolly Saint Nick. 
Certain common themes run through all the Christmas traditions, from the solstice festivals, to the pagan gods, to the Christian commemoration of the birth of Jesus. They all celebrate the return of light and hope to the world. The sentiments of the season are peace and goodwill, love and the spirit of giving.
Image above: Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights; The Story of the Christmas Symbols; by Edna Barth, Seabury Press, New York, 1971. 

The Seasons of the Senecas

© 1995 The Gobbler: Winter Thaw

by Linda Pascatore

Method of tapping trees, Grand River Reserve 

The local Seneca Indians here in Western New York had traditional celebrations for each season. They lived in close harmony with nature and the flow of the seasons. They were dependent on the natural environment to provide them with the basic necessities of their lives; food, clothing and shelter.

Their spirituality was also centered in nature. They called the earth Mother, the sky Father, the moon Grandmother, the sun Grandfather, and animals, trees and plants their brothers and sisters. It was natural for them to celebrate the changing seasons.

The Senecas were part of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois divided the year into four seasons which coincide with ours. Their new year was probably originally in the Spring, but after contact with Europeans they began to celebrate it around the time of the Winter Solstice as we do today. The names of the seasons, obtained from Chief David Key (Seneca speaking Onondaga) are;

Winter: gu sa' a gi, "the cold has arrived"

Spring: diyugwagaho' di, "it is time to plant or sow"

Summer: gana na' gi, "it red has come"

(a reference to red strawberries?)

Fall: ganana' ge hagwadi, "the red colours have come"


The local Native Americans found the twelve moons of the year more meaningful than our rather arbitrary system of months, which attempts to fit lunar months into a solar calendar (see our Gobbler version of a Solar/Moon calendar). The Iroquois named months after weather conditions or foods produced at that particular time of year. The names that follow begin with the first moon after the New Year. They were provided by John Gibson, historic chief of the Brant Reservation (near Silver Creek);

disgu' na: "principal mid-winter moon"

gana du' ha: "leaves falling into the water from such trees as the oak and beech, to which they have clung during the winter" 

gana du gu' na: "great falling of leaves under the water now" 

he sata: "bushes, shrubs, and plants begin to grow again" 

u hiaigu' na: "berries begin to ripen"

sisge' ha: "plants growing"

sisgegu' na: "almost everything growing up and bearing something"

gade' a: "food beginning to form"

gade a gu' na: "season when everything is bearing food"

dijutu' weha: "beginning of cold weather"

djutuwegu' na: "again it is cold greatly"

disa: "the sun is returning" (reference to lengthening days after the Winter Solstice)

The Iroquois celebrated eight major festivals each year. They often coincided with the seasonal availability of foods that were staples for area tribes. The dates varied with local conditions across the Iroquois territory. They were;

New Year

Tapping the Maple Trees

Maple Sugar Festival

Planting the Corn

Strawberry Festival

Bean Festival

Green Corn Festival

Gathering the Corn. 


At this time of year in early spring in the northeast, the native Americans would have been tapping the maple trees, as is still done today. Maple syrup is a local resource and true native food. The Iroquois used bark funnels as taps and wooden troughs carved from a tree trunk to hold the sap (see illustration). It was boiled down to make syrup and used in cooking. At the end of the maple syrup season, the Maple Sugar Festival was held.

The Iroquois festivals usually included ceremony, singing, dancing, and feasting. At this particular celebration, the soups were flavored with the new maple syrup. Making maple sugar seems a natural excuse for a party at the end of a dreary winter.

A modern Maple Sugar Festival at the Methodist Church in Mayville. We listened to the children of the parish sing while stirring hot maple syrup in anticipation of the sweet sugar crystallizing. Maybe some traditions are so ingrained in time and place that they cross the lines of culture to become common, shared human experiences.

Editor's Note: There is little written on the details of these seasonal events. The Native Americans used oral traditions; myths, legends and stories. Through the years, many of these ceremonies were incorporated into the Long House religion, which is a mixture of traditional native beliefs and Christianity. 

Currently, the Long House ceremonies are not shared with non-native outsiders. If there are Senecas, Iroquois or other natives in the area who would like to write something for us or just tell us some stories, please E mail us. I did find some valuable resources at Barbara Berry's Book Shop, on Route 394 and Stedman Road, in Stedman, New York. 

Warren Berry has an entire series of books which are reprints of historical writings on many aspects of Iroquois life. The sources used for this article are Myths of the Iroquois by E.A. Smith and Iroquois Foods and Food Preparation by F.W. Waugh; published by Iroqrafts, Ltd.; Ontario, Canada.


The Final Act

SUBHEAD: In 2019 the US budget deficit was more than a trillion dollars - 16% more than 2018.

By Dmitry Orlov on 19 December 2019 for Club Orlov -

Image above A tidal wave of debt failure heading for home. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: Hunker down for Merry Christmas... and as much as a Happy New Year as possible. Things may seem to be coming apart at the seams... but then again they always are - just as new things always come along and thrive. We are having our annual eggnog party tonight and we hope you find a glowing light in this darkest time of the year. In a couple of days the sky will be brighter, and isn't that is what Christmas time is all about. We know winter is coming, but there are signs it too will wane into spring.]

In processing the flow of information about the goings on in the US, it is impossible to get rid of a most unsettling sense of unreality—of a population trapped in a dark cave filled with little glowing screens, all displaying different images yet all broadcasting essentially the same message.

That message is that everything is fine, same as ever, and can go on and on. But whatever it is that’s going on can’t go on forever, and therefore it won’t. More specifically, a certain coal mine canary has recently died, and I want to tell you about it.

It’s easy to see why that particular message is stuck on replay even as the situation changes irrevocably. As of 2019, 90% of the media in the United States is controlled by four media conglomerates:\
  • Disney ABC
  • Viacom CBS
  • Comcast NBC-Universal
  •  AT&T Time-Warner
Together they have formed a corporate media monoculture designed to most effectively maximize shareholder value.

As I wrote in Reinventing Collapse in 2008, “...In a consumer society, anything that puts people off their shopping is dangerously disruptive, and all consumers sense this. Any expression of the truth about our lack of prospects for continued existence as a highly developed, prosperous industrial society is disruptive to the consumerist collective unconscious.

There is a herd instinct to reject it, and therefore it fails, not through any overt action, but by failing to turn a profit because it is unpopular.”

Two years earlier, in a slideshow optimistically titled “Closing the Collapse Gap” (between the USSR and the USA), I wrote: “...It seems that there is a fair chance that the US economy will collapse sometime within the foreseeable future. It also would seem that we won’t be particularly well-prepared for it.

As things stand, the US economy is poised to perform something like a disappearing act.” And now, 12 years later, I believe I am finally watching what amounts to preparations for that act’s final rehearsal; the ballet troupe is doing stretching exercises and the fat lady is singing arpegios to warm up…

Clearly, this final act is yet to be performed. The media replay loop continues to play, keeping the populace convinced that the future will resemble the past (except, perhaps, it will have more wind generators, solar panels and electric cars).

The populace continues to be persuaded to go out and shop for (or, more frequently now, order online) things it doesn’t need, to be paid for by money it doesn’t have.

Of course, there have been changes. The populace in the US has been doing progressively worse. Drug addiction and suicide rates have skyrocketed while rates of childbirth have plummeted. The purchase of a home is now out of reach for the vast majority of young couples.

Artificially rosy unemployment statistics hide the 100 million or so people who are considered “not in labor force” (because they lost their jobs some time ago and haven’t been able to find another one).

Uniquely among developed nations, life expectancy among white males—historically the most economically active and prosperous part of the population—has been dropping.

These are all negatives, but neither any one of them nor any combination of them adds up to anything that could cause the US economy to undergo a spontaneous existence failure.

Nevertheless, it is possible to build a convincing case that Rome is, to put it figuratively, burning. To continue with the metaphor, evidence that there is some fiddling going on is particularly compelling.

Overall, there is a steady backing away from addressing the substance of any problem and a concerted effort to maintain appearances at all cost.

Take the trade war with China, which has been going on since early 2018. Trump has recently declared a major victory in it, but upon examination signs victory are impossible to discern.

In 2017 the US ran a $750 billion trade deficit with China on $3.3 trillion of trade (22.7%). In 2018 it has jumped to $930 billion on $3.8 trillion of trade (24.4%).

China has found ways to parry each of Trump’s thrusts by imposing countertariffs. After two years of this sort of World War I-style trench warfare, in which the US has been slowly losing ground, it became clear that the US doesn’t have any means to put pressure on China.

And so Trump suddenly declares victory; not a full victory (that will have to wait until after Trump is reelected for his second term) but a victory nonetheless, because the Chinese have supposedly agreed to buy an extra $200 billion worth of US exports, $50 billion of them of agricultural exports from states that voted for Trump in 2016. But Trump is lying to his supporters.

Over the past two years the Chinese have imported roughly $24 billion of agricultural commodities from the US, and sources close to the trade talks have said that the Chinese have agreed to increase these imports by just $16 billion, putting the total $10 billion short of the $50 billion mark.

Even then, the US agricultural sector would have to rapidly scale up production by a factor of 1.6—and this is not at all likely.

The farmers will discover this only after they vote to reelect Trump, but that’s not Trump’s problem. Nor was it Trump’s problem when in 2017 the Chinese promised to buy $120 billion of US liquified natural gas exports and then the US wasn’t able to provide anywhere near that volume.

And now that Russia’s Power of Siberia pipeline is operational and ramping up volumes, while US fracking companies are going bankrupt left and right, the question has become largely moot.

The AG promise is just a replay of the LNG promise at a smaller scale. Appearances are all that matter, and appearances are what Trump delivers every time.

And if his voters want to believe—who’s to stop them? Even though it is clearly heading toward a defeat for the US as a whole, the trade war with China is definitely a huge positive for Trump: all he has to do to win personally is periodically deliver promises that others won’t keep—but that’s not his problem.

Another net benefit for Trump is the never-ending impeachment saga. It has kept him in the media limelight and has allowed him to pretend that he is prevailing heroically against great odds while making his opposition look ridiculous in the eyes of his supporters.

After the “Russian meddling” fable unraveled, an even more preposterous rationale for impeachment has taken its place.

An attempt to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation is in the process of failing, since anyone with more intelligence than a bucket of California penis fish should know that it is up to the courts, not up to the legislature, to resolve disputes between the legislature and the executive.

All that remains now is an alleged abuse of power by Trump. Apparently, it is a no-no for a US president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a US presidential candidate for a variety of crimes such as corruption, bribery and money-laundering.

This may all seem quite ridiculous, but it serves a purpose: it allows Trump to clean up on free publicity and to continue fiddling (tweeting, in his case) as Rome burns.

But what has set fire under Rome is not the decrepitating state of US society, or the permanent and permanently worsening trade imbalance with China, or the never-ending impeachment farce. It is the incipient failure of the US dollar.

 For those who have been paying careful attention, the surreal nature of the proceedings, and the fact that results no longer matter—only appearances do—have become perfectly obvious, but they are a tiny minority.

What has allowed the politicians and the media to exploit the general public’s innate normalcy bias and to keep the media replay loop going without too many people catching on to what’s really happening was (note the past tense!)... the ability of the US government (with the assistance of the Federal Reserve, which is a government-linked but essentially private entity) to paper over the gaping chasm in the nation’s finances by issuing debt, in the form of US Treasury paper.

The US Treasury has been able to exploit its “exorbitant privilege” to issue internationally recognized and traded debt instruments denominated in its own currency—the US dollar—which has been the world’s main reserve currency for many decades.

The reserve currency status has conveyed a certain aura of security and reliability (paper money is, after all, pretty much just a confidence game) and has supported the world’s largest and most liquid financial market.

Anybody anywhere could put up US Treasury paper as collateral for a loan and get a low interest rate because that paper was considered as good as “real money” (whatever that means). And then that scheme suddenly broke.

It is difficult to say what caused the confidence game to fail. It could be just the inexorable and ever-accelerating increase in US government debt. It could be the blatant decoupling between the growth rate of the US economy and the rate of increase of its indebtedness.

It could also be the fact that much of the world is making a concerted effort to walk away from the US dollar as a reserve currency and as a means of exchange in international trade (Russia has sold off almost all of its US debt; China’s hoard is much larger but it is also gradually selling it off).

It is unclear what was the ultimate cause, but what is clear is that in August of 2019 something finally snapped, and USTs went from “good as real money” to “stuff nobody wants to hold.”

I first wrote about this in September when it became clear that real trouble was brewing in the market for US debt. Now, three months later, the situation has gone from bad to worse, and it would appear that the market for USTs definitevely broke.

I will try to sketch out what that means for the US economy and society later on (spoiler alert: nothing good) but for now I just want to lay out some of what has happened.

In the meantime please take your normalcy bias and put it some place safe (in case you need it later, although I have no idea what for).

Previously, when it was clear that an overburden of bad debt could trigger financial collapse at any moment, the Federal Reserve (which is in charge of printing money) engaged in something it euphemistically called “quantitative easing” (“QE”).

It printed lots of US dollars in exchange for various bits of USTs, along with other financial garbage, with the goal of later selling the USTs while hiding the garbage, thereby preserving the appearance that USTs are sovereign debt supported by the full faith and credit of the US government rather than just some waste paper clogging up its vaults.

But when it declared “quantitative easing” to be over and tried selling the USTs, all hell immediately broke loose and it was forced to go right back to buying them up, in a scheme that has been sarcastically referred to as “not QE.”

 Euphemisms aside, what is happening is properly called “debt monetization”: it’s when a government “borrows” money not by selling its debt in exchange for money that already exists but simply printing the money using paper and ink, or magic digits inside a very secure computer.

Let’s go over some of the relevant details.

“Not QE” actually started well before it was announced and proceeded in stealth mode. Over six weeks starting in September 2019, the Fed monetized an average of $20.5 billion per week.

This rate is compatible with the extent of its previous efforts at “quantitative easing” at their height. It was forced to do so because the REPO rate on USTs spiked to ten times the rate set by the Fed.
Note: REPO stands for “repurchase agreement”; it is where one party borrows short-term from another party, using USTs (and other supposedly very safe debt instruments) as collateral, much as a pawn shop will give you money for a watch and then allow you to buy it back.
The huge spike in interest rates signaled that USTs were no longer seen as particularly safe collateral and the Fed had to step in and start throwing freshly minted dollars at the problem. And it never stopped.

In fact, the problem grew larger; so large, that now, at the year’s end, the Fed has committed $500 billion of printing press output to making sure that nobody runs out of cash.

It is commonly thought that the Fed’s action has to do with short-term debt, and is therefore a short-term problem, but that’s simply not the case. Since early August (the start of stealth-mode “not QE”) the Fed has vacuumed up $179 billion with of USTs, of which USTs with terms longer than a year made up $108 billion, or 60%.

Compare these numbers to the total borrowing by the US government over the same period, which amounted to $659 billion, of which $368 billion was short-term debt and $291 billion long-term.

Thus, over this period the Fed has monetized 29.4% of new long-term debt and 24.4% of short-term debt. This should help put your mind at ease if you suspected that this isn’t a short-term problem but weren’t sure. It’s a long-term, structural problem.

Next, let’s consider whether the problem is being solved or is getting worse. Rest assured, it is getting worse. Looking at the numbers for October and November, the Fed monetized over half (50.7%) of new US government debt.

A straight-line projection is that if it took the Fed to go from 0% to 50% in four months, then it will go from 50% to 100% in another four—by April Fool’s 2020. But who’s to say that the increase will be linear rather than exponential?

Whichever it is, the trend is unmistakable: the market in US government debt—once the deepest and most liquid market in the world—is dead. The only thing propping up the value of USTs is the Fed’s printing press. And the only thing propping up the value of the output of the Fed’s printing press is… what is it, exactly?


Let’s add one more salient detail. Over the course of 2020, $4.665 trillion of USTs will mature and will need to be rolled over into new USTs. This is an all-time record, and this is on top of new debt that will have to be issued in order for the US government to be able to stay open.

Over the past year the US budget deficit has amounted to $1.022 trillion, which is a 15.8% increase over the previous year. If this trend continues, the new deficit will be around $1.183 trillion. In order to keep the wheels of finance from grinding to a halt, over 2020 the Fed will have to monetize, or print, close to $6 trillion.

It appears likely that at some point over the coming months Fed chairman Jerome Powell will have to announce “not not QE,” and then “not not not QE,” and then “Milk-milk-lemonade, ’round the corner fudge is made!” and run for the unigender restroom sobbing inconsolably.

And then Donald Trump will be forced to channel Boris Yeltsin, who, on August 14, 1998, summoned all the presidential gravitas he could muster and spoke the following sage words:

«Девальвации рубля не будет. Это твердо и четко. Мое утверждение — не просто моя фантазия, и не потому, что я не хотел бы девальвации. Мое утверждение базируется на том, что все просчитано. Работа по отслеживанию положения проводится каждые сутки. Положение полностью контролируется».
“There will be no ruble devaluation. This is my firm and clear position. My assertion is not just a product of my fantasy, and not because I don’t want devaluation to happen. My assertion is based on the fact that everything is taken into account. The work on reassessing the situation is being conducted daily. The situation is entirely under control.” (My translation.)
And then three days later the Russian government declared sovereign default. The ruble dropped by 2/3 against the US dollar and the Russian economy, which was at that time extremely import-dependent, crashed hard. In a similar scenario, the US economy will crash much harder.

Like Russia in 1998, the US is extremely import-dependent. But here the US government is not the only large borrower: most of US corporations are zombified corpses bloated with debt.

For many years they have been borrowing at artificially low interest rates in order to buy up their own shares and prop up their value in a ridiculous effort to maximize shareholder value in the face of stalling economic growth.

If they become unable to roll over their debt at artificially low interest rates (which will go away once the Fed definitively loses control of the situation) then they will automatically be forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate.

If you want to maintain an optimistic outlook in spite of all of this, here is a book you might want to read.


A Crooked House

SUBHEAD: Revisiting a 1974 architectural theses project that laid out three Tiny Homes in a 8' wide 4D cube.

By Juan Wilson on 11 December 2019 for Island Breath -

Image above: Plan view of 8'x8' of Tiny Home and 8'x8' Tiny Yard. Home features single bed, kitchen counter with sink, work desk, shelving, cabinets, composting toilet with pass-thru panels connecting to other two homes. Click to enlarge.

Note: This is the initial posting of this work on our blog site and it will likely be upgraded and re-edited before it is finalized.

In the 1950's, when I was a teenager, I read short science-fiction story titled 'And He Built a Crooked House'. It is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, first published in Astounding Science Fiction in February 1941. It was reprinted in the anthology Fantasia Mathematica in 1958 and in the Heinlein collection The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag in 1959.

The story is about a mathematically inclined architect named Quintus Teal who has what he thinks is a brilliant idea to save on real estate costs by building a house shaped like the unfolded net of a tesseract. The title is paraphrased from the nursery rhyme "There Was a Crooked Man". See (

The form of this unfolded 4D cube (or tesseract) took was a four story house of stacked cubes with four additional cubes wrapped around an upper floor. 

At the time I had some interest in architecture and was fascinated by Heinlein's story. More than 20 year, while studying architecture at the Cooper Union in New York City I became interested in the representation of geometric objects through multidimensional space.

In 1973-74, as part of my Fifth Year Theses Project I investigated representing various 4D object concepts like "cube", "tube", "cup", "bottle" in drawing and model formats. One of my studies was a reevaluation of Heinlein's Crooked House architecture.

I decided to design a 4D regular cube that would be 8feet x 8feet x 8feet x 8feet. This hypercube would have there for have 8 8ft x 8ft x 8ft 3D volumes attached to one another as the "faces" of the 4D cube.

The eight 3D cube spaces include:

 - One 8' cube of Earth with a small hyper-dense central rock cor providing One G of gravity to adjacent spaces. The earth cube is living soil providing needed organic materials and minerals to support plants.

-  Three 8' cube Yards with grass and small tree rooted in the Earth cube. There is also a Welcome mat. The volume of the cube filled with breathable air.

 - Three 8' cube Tiny Homes with a door (each facing a Welcome mat in one of the yards). Units also feature a wall with a window (facing an adjacent yard) a ceiling with skylight with access to the roof. There are two adjacent walls in each unit that abut the other two units.These otherwise blank walls each have a 16"x16" pass-through door that allow exchanging items between the other Tiny Home units without going outside. One pass-through door is red and the other green.

- One 8' cube of Sky A space that is above the roofs of the three living units and above the yards. At the center of the sky cube is a small sun-like sphere that provide light and energy for units and yards. At the center of the sphere is a small black hole 16" in diameter that is the only way in and out of this small universe.

Image above: Isometric views of 8'x8' elements, or parts, of 4D Tiny Home project include Home, Yard, Overhead Sky and Underfoot Earth. 

The three Yard and Home cubes are arranged so that the six faces of the 8' Earth Cube supports the bottom of three Yards and three Tiny Homes.

It should be noted that the eight face cube volumes of a 4D hypercube are merely faces... much like the six faces of a empty cardboard box. It is usually what's inside the 3D space of the cardboard box that is the real prize.

Similarly the eight cube faces are merely the surface of the 4D cube. What is inside the 4D cube that is the real content... In this case maybe something to keep the Earth Cube fertile and the Yard Cubes breathable and moist and the Sky cube protective and a source of energy.

When the eight volumes of the tesseract are folded into the four dimensional hypercube the three Tiny Homes are abutted to one another and the three yards are contiguous.

Image above: Isometric views of eight 8'x8'x8' elements of 4 dimensional Tiny Home project arranged into tesseract (4D unfolded cube analogous to a unfolded cardboard box.

The three Yard and Home cubes are arranged so that the six faces of the 8' Earth Cube supports the bottom of three Yards and three Tiny Homes.

It should be noted that the eight face cube volumes of a 4D hypercube are merely faces... much like the six faces of a empty cardboard box. It is usually what's inside the 3D space of the cardboard box that is the real prize.

Similarly the eight cube faces are merely the surface of the 4D cube. What is inside the 4D cube that is the real content... In this case maybe something to keep the Earth Cube fertile and the Yard Cubes breathable and moist and the Sky cube protective and a source of energy.

Image above: Two views, each showing four "sides" of the Hypecrcube's eight volumes when they are folded into the fourth dimension. 

When the eight volumes of the tesseract are folded into the four dimensional hypercube the three Tiny Homes are abutted to one another and the three yards are contiguous. The two views above are analogous to looking at the opposite sides of a 3D dice, where you can only see the number of spots on 3 of the 6 sides of the dice. In the case of a 3D dice there are 8 unique views of 3 sides of the dice. In the case of a 4D cube there are 16 views of any four corner adjacent of the 8 volumes.

Image above:  Pencil drawing from 5th year architectural thesis year at the Cooper Union by Juan Wilson in 1974. Isometric view of unfolded 4D Hypercube showing four of its eight volumes.

Image above: Pencil drawing from 5th year architectural thesis year at the Cooper Union by Juan Wilson in 1974. Isometric view from one side of the Hypercube showing four of its eight volumes. 

Image above: Salvador Dali's 4D crucifixion titled "Corpus Hypercubus" from 1954. In his 1951 essay "Mystical Manifesto",Dali introduced an art theory he called "nuclear mysticism" that combined his interests in Catholicism, mathematics, science, and Catalan culture in an effort to reestablish classical values and techniques, which he extensively utilized in Corpus Hypercubus. From (


Video above: Animations of rotating four dimensional cubes, tetrahedrons and Spheres by Eugene Khutoryansky. From (