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It's all a jumble. But then, that's precisely what life is, and people are.

A lady visiting the warm climes of Palm Springs, while the ground "up north"- remains frozen, reported how she "just had to get home"---home for now being the pre-fab she's renting while here--"to see her program. It's on at 8:00."- The program: The Bachelor. Another program that's on her "must see"- list is Big Brother. Absent the first hint of embarrassment, she also reported how she was once attending a wedding reception, but had to leave early because one of her shows was on. However I cannot now recall which show she was referring to, I can safely report it was along the same lines as those just noted.

 

Yesterday, February 23, a mid-January Harris poll was released wherein Americans had ranked their "most admired of all time"-: 10.) Mother Teresa; 9.) Captain "-Sully' Sullenberger; 8.) President John F. Kennedy; 7.) Senator John McCain; 6.) President Abraham Lincoln; 5.) President George W. Bush; 4.) President Ronald Reagan; 3.) Martin Luther King, Jr.; 2.) Jesus; 1.) President Barack Obama. Remember: this list compiled by Americans across every demographic was THE ALL TIME MOST ADMIRED!

 

Are the two preceding paragraphs correlated? Well, in the words of Governor Palin, "You becha."

 

My reaction to the woman in the second paragraph was polite, yet terse. "Only under the most extreme torture would I ever have admitted that to anyone. But then, it explains so much."

 

Here's what we're facing. And by the contraction of "we" are, I'm bringing in not only the entire world, but the next immediate progeny of all alive today. Furthermore, following the next immediate progeny, things are likely to only get much, much, much worse.

Last evening, PBS ran a program, Petro-Apocalypse. The world is running out of oil. And by every indication, according to every engineer and scientist, it really does not and will not matter where we drill, or how deeply we drill, or how much we drill. The peak occurred sometime during the mid- to late 70s, and it's been down hill since. Demand simply continues to outstrip supply. Opinions differed as to when the real end would occur.

 

OPEC ministers claimed there was sufficient supply for another 100 to 150 years. Alternate, and less biased opinions, pointed out the oil producing countries have a real stake in trying to sooth world concerns: oil is all they have, and every effort the non-OPEC countries make to free themselves of the OPEC tether is adverse to the interests of the oil producing countries. They also pointed out that OPEC has never permitted their forecasts to be audited by anyone, and that look-backs at previously published OPEC estimates strongly suggest the current estimates overshoot supply at least by one-third. The predominant estimate put the day of worldwide reckoning from five to twenty years distant.   

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It's not just the gasoline and diesel and jet fuel with which the world fills the fuel tanks of its cars, trucks, and planes. It's all of that and the role oil plays in every aspect of modern life, from the transportation of food stuffs to retailers, to the fertilizers that are used to grow the food that truckers transport to retailers, to every implement along the way and outside the way; plastics, pharmacological therapies, everything that has anything to do with any facet of life!  

 

Whether it's five years downstream when crunch grows to horrific apocalyptic crash, or twenty, or thirty . . . Does it matter? Really?

It's irrelevant which state you hail from, or live in, you haven't a clue about agriculture until you've seen California agriculture. From the base of the Tehachapi north past Redding, between the Coastal range and the Sierra, it's mile after mile after mile beyond the horizon of produce that finds its way to America's grocery shelves. The Salinas Valley is called the "salad bowl of America." It stretches from the north-central Pacific coast near Monterey inland, the gentle hills roll almost forever in strawberries, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, artichokes. Gilroy, 30 miles south of San José, is renown as the garlic capitol of the world, just as Morgan Hill is famous for mushrooms. The Imperial Valley, 100 miles east of LA, is another major supplier of produce.         

 

And the state is running out of water. Drought has now plagued California for over a decade. Not only have out-of-control forest fires evolved from a seasonal threat to one that is year round, the snow packs in the Sierra and in the Rockies have turned so scant that the major metropolitan regions are now caught in virulent legal and social battles with the agricultural regions. Both rely on runoff from those two mountain chains for survival; survival that is now agreed by everyone to be tenuous.

A micro question that goes 100% to the macro: Would you feel confident about putting your paycheck in a checking and/or savings account at an institution you strongly suspected was tipping over the edge to insolvency and bankruptcy, if there was no FDIC to protect your funds? Even more consequent a query: Would you even bother going to work if you were going to be paid with a check you could not cash?

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Hate them all you wish, but we need a viable banking system almost as much as we need food to fuel our bodies. That's because, short of barter and absent a viable banking system, we have no means of exchange with which to buy the things--including food--that we need for survival. Banks are the hinge upon which those necessities of life swing. 

 

Last years' $350 billion TARP measure was intended to buy the "Toxic Assets,"- the "-T' and the "-A' in TARP, held by the financial institutions. On radio talk programs and on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, 7:00 am to 10:00am EST. viewer call-in program and on blogs and in op-ed pieces in the print and on the Internet, I've heard, seen, and read folks grousing over the failure of the government to spend the allocated sums, to purchase the toxic assets. Ain't at all that easy. Let's say John and Mary Doe bought or refinanced their home when the estimate of fair market value was $200,000. Since then, in addition to all the stresses that typify every market (divorce, death, etc.), the area is one in which major employers have thrown in the towel and put its workers on the streets, the result of which is an oversupply of homes for sale because they've been foreclosed, or are facing foreclosure.

 

"Market value"- is the maximum price in dollars that is necessary to purchase a given piece of realty, or its equivalent, at a given date in time. With an abundance of homes, all competing for scarce buyers, the prices sought, and for which a willing and able buyer can be found, just continue to spiral downward; from $200,000 to $175,000; $150,000; $125,000 . . . So, what is any toxic asset worth, or all of them together? How do you know? How can anyone know? The prices just keep falling and falling and falling, and on any given day there's the high probability that the purchaser will have paid too much. And you, as the taxpayer behind the government's efforts, are the buyer.

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An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."

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