Thursday, November 29, 2007

Recipes for the Collapse Step Two: Secure Sustainable Housing

By freeacre

Times are tough, and getting tougher. The housing boom has turned into a pimp job. One of the pimps, Henry M. Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, became the Secretary of the Treasury. Others will head up agencies like HUD, the CIA, go into consulting or become lobbyists. Many will continue their lucrative careers on Wall Street, despite the havoc they have created.

Is “pimp” is too harsh or vulgar a term? A pimp, after all, figures out a way to make you go out and work and then makes you give your hard-earned money to him. He does this by a combination of impressive clothing, ostentatious personal possessions, guile, seduction, bribery, intimidation, connections to power, and a ruthless devotion to his own personal profit. In return you get his “protection” that may, unfortunately, include the back of his hand. Re-visit the term once you find out that your 401K and/or your pension have been wiped out, and you find out that you have been … what’s the word? Pimped.

By now we all know what these miscreants have done in their no-holds-barred fantaz-o-rama scheme to create trillions of dollars worth of illusionary financial “vehicles” on the backs of the people with the least money to spend. Once enticed to sign their lives away on mortgages that would explode in two or three years and become impossible to re-pay, the gullible and the just plain slow-thinking were assured that they could re-finance (for a fee, of course) their home over and over again. Perfect! The financiers could then parlay the collective interest on all the loans, into hundreds of times the original value of the debt, make money on each new and incomprehensible transaction, and bestow upon themselves billions of dollars in bonuses on top of the exorbitant salaries and commissions they already collect - with no oversight from the government. Hell, the financiers RUN the government. What a country!

Free money for you, too, Jack and Mary! Places like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, et al, were thrilled to help you spend that re-fi money to re-model and re-furbish that dandy piece of investment property. You could put it all on your credit card from City Bank and Capital One. And, while you are at it, why not buy another one? “Flip that House!” the diamond-dripping real estate wizards advised. Yeah! Housing can only go up, so you can’t lose! Think big. Forget about that puny two bedroom Cape Cod that you grew up in. Now, it’s all about planned communities of 3,000 or 5,000 square foot McMansions with granite countertops, computer/ entertainment centers, hot tubs, fully equipped exercise rooms, and windows the size formerly reserved for cathedrals. So what if it costs a ton of money to heat or cool and the commute is an hour each way to work, and there isn’t a place to buy food or toilet paper for ten miles in any direction. It’s got a Starbucks and a Juicy Juice and three Mexican restaurants and an Outback practically around the corner. Not enough room to plant a garden on your lot, but what are you, a freaking farmer?

Meanwhile, that mortgage of yours was sold, bundled, and re-sold, and has morphed into a global financial Frankenstein monster that has turned on its perverse creator and is about to kill him in a tormented frenzy. (Well, one can wish. . .) Most probably, the overlords have already off-shored their money, secured a nice ranchero in Patagonia and some time share property in Dubai. Good riddance. See you in World Court.

The rest of us suckers, once the economy completely tanks, are looking at being thrown out of our homes, reduced employment, truly crippling inflation, mounting energy costs and scarcity on every level. To survive, we are going to need a roof over our heads. Not an investment vehicle, but a home. It’s going to need to be secure, sustainable, and affordable. To those of us facing foreclosure and owing more than the house is now worth, it may be better to embrace the foreclosure than to engage in drawn-out battle to keep the house. Save up as many payments as you can to be applied towards renting something affordable or purchasing a travel trailer or some other alternative. Let the investment class eat the loan and suffer the loss. They are the ones who manufactured this debacle and all you’ve paid on it was interest anyway. Once the housing bubble is history, the next home you buy will be more realistic.

In these changing times, our esteemed elder, Montana Freeman, has been known to ask, “What’s a motherfu**er to do?”

The greater culture herds us like cattle into differing stations to be milked, used as draft animals, medicated, fattened up, or slaughtered. Escaping the factory farm requires a serious flexibility of mind and behavior. It is going to require a cultivation of a sense of power and purpose. It is going to require motivation and inspiration beyond the bling of materialism and one’s status in the matrix. It is going to involve new and better ways to enjoy ourselves, raise our kids, and do our work.

There are going to be a million different answers for a million different situations. Depending on whether people are young or old, working or not, single, partnered, with children or without, urban or rural, the responses to an economic collapse are going to have to be tailored to your needs. Now is the time to amass money and survival supplies. That way, once the economy seriously tanks, you will have some money (or gold) to purchase larger ticket items that will be selling for fire sale prices.

As a general rule, though, single people will probably find it easier to keep a roof over their heads if they form communes, or at least team up to share rental expenses. This would also provide an opportunity to create new ways to live, help each other become free of debt, gain a better understanding of what is going on in the world, build trust, make friends, have fun, while developing a financial cushion.

Young and old may make new alliances. Old people might have a paid for place, but need some help when the money becomes practically worthless and the gas prices are prohibitive. They might be able to rent a room or two for a single parent and a child to live in who will agree to help out with gardening, chores, going to the store, etc. The homeowner could help with childcare. Find each other through classified ads, message boards at community colleges, senior centers, or churches.

My son is single and in his late twenties. He is thinking of purchasing a yurt. It could be placed on our property or it could be moved to another property once he has land of his own. One might want to purchase a travel trailer that could serve the same purpose. It could be placed on a property in exchange for services to the land owner – snow shoveling, landscaping, or a little rent. Land use policies will be difficult to enforce once thousands of citizens start bending the rules at once. Bunkhouses and mother-in-law units could ease the housing crunch. Port-a-potty rental companies could be a lucrative post-collapse business venture because there is a limit to the carrying capacity of rural septic systems.

Over the next couple of years, many residential and commercial properties will be foreclosed and vacated. Left unattended, they are looted and vandalized. People could team up and make a deal with the banks or whoever holds the deed to the homes that they will provide security and keep the place tidy in exchange for being able to live there until the places are sold. Once that place is sold, they can move on to another place that needs a house sitter.

It may be best to leave the country altogether, especially if one is of the age to be sucked into the service of the military/industrial complex. Who knows what it will look like in another five years? There could be Halliburton or Blackwater dormitories full of corporate goon squads composed of young people, previously hungry and unemployed, working for food, a bed and computer games. It may be better for you to book to Costa Rica, Canada, Chili, Argentina, Belize, or just about anywhere. Get a passport now.

I housed a homeless man for several months in my backyard in Tahoe one year. I didn’t have any spare rooms, but he used my tent. In the spring, he looked after my mom, who was getting senile. He just kept an eye on her so she didn’t get lost or set herself on fire or anything. It worked for both of us. Lots of companion arrangements could be made for the able-bodied to take care of the elderly or disabled in return for a place to live and some food on the table. Meaningful relationships can be established that enrich both parties as well.

Depending on how hard and fast the crash is, larger spaces like malls and Wal-marts might become habitable for larger associations of people. Imagine that a hundred people took over a Wal-mart building to live in. During the day, they might forage for tires, metals, plumbing supplies from abandoned buildings or other things to repair, barter or trade. They would help each other out with childcare and cook communally. They could drum and dance and tell stories and teach each other things at night. You might want to get going on a drum or a musical instrument just for fun. My son has learned to play the didgeridoo – way cool!

Right living is going to have to be tied into Right Livelihood eventually. But, it’s all going to require flexibility to experiment with new ways of doing things. It’s going to require that you shun the corporate messages to be fearful and hate-filled and suspicious of the person next to you. The Suits want you to see the guy on the street as your enemy and not your potential ally. It’s easier to funnel us into the feedlot one by one. If we stick together, we don’t fit so well into the tube. I have a feeling that when the fist of the Ruling Class has its grip relaxed by their newly established insolvency, there will be a great collective breath that the populace will then be allowed to take. It will begin to make all things new. Not that there isn’t going to be a lot of suffering, but at least it will be real. We have been living in a false world fabricated out of marketing injunctions and crass disregard of the well-being of our planet and all its living things. We have been made to feel helpless against the tide of greed and despair. We have been trying to mask our pain with products that never seem to do the trick. So we are advised to buy some more.

But, when it comes down to having a roof over our heads or not, suddenly the illusions and distractions will be blown away. The televisions will be turned off, finally. The prescriptions for Prozak will no longer be filled. Reality will jam us in the face, and some nimbleness of mind will be required. Pain and loss will be involved.

But, inspiration and joy, energy and exultation also spring from real life. Real pride rises from accomplishing difficult things. In five years, roof-top and patio gardens growing salads and vegetables for the residents of townhouses might become the norm. Tenants might get organized and buy the buildings they are living in. Home-based or building-based businesses might be established. Co-ops and collectives of every sort might be formed as they catch the wave of localization. Even those goofy yuppies might jump off their treadmills and actually jog to a farmer’s market!

Political parties, as usual, will be of no help. They seem to think we are supposed to support them, not the other way around. But, churches and civic associations might turn their considerable resources to organizing their memberships to develop places to live and grow food, just as a few radical churches are helping people get free from debt. (See “In Debt We Trust” documentary.) There is, after all, no shortage of homes – just the will to allow us to live within them.

The world will grow tired of these moribund old men (and dumbass younger ones) who have served us this disaster. Dollar signs are not a good substitute for our lives and our natural heritage. It is time for them to take that long walk towards the ice pack and leave us the hell alone. We need to clean up this mess and learn to take care of each other again. For so very long, the Earth was our home. Let’s get it back.


Saturday, November 24, 2007


Freeacre is running a series of essays on how to prepare for what sure enough appears to be some kind of collapse coming at us. At least, we can talk about what we are doing, what we read others are doing and what we see others doing. I want to talk about why the doing.

Over the time of this blog and campfire, we have talked rather extensively about the elitist control of populations, including ours. We have often speculated about just who are the top dogs on the block. Well, we can dig around and come up with names, but the important thing to me is to look at the positions they hold. It appears to me that the top dogs are the bankers, the really big ones. I think that in the end analysis, they have the ultimate final control over events nationally and internationally. Everyone else down the line is just some form and degree of banker flunky. The most visible of the flunkies are the politicians.

We really don’t hear a lot about bankers. The head of the Federal Reserve is the one we hear the most about, but the top dogs of the major international banks do not keep a high profile. These are the guys that are bending us over as a society and screwing the hell out of us.

It appears to me that there is more than one factor that will determine who has the power. But, the most obvious and most prolific determining factor is wealth. The more of that you have, the more power you got. Now this is not across the board relationship, but it sure is damned close. You know the old adage, ‘money is the root of all evil’. Well, while that is not across the board relationship either, it sure is close. What also is intrinsic to power is acceptance into the exclusive clubs of the rulers. The Ivy League schools, the country clubs and private eateries in Washington D.C., the Skull and Bones Society, the Bilderbergers, et al. Without acceptance, a person waving his money around is just asking for it to be taken.

One of the signs of power being exercised is control, and I mean control of everything that is controllable. Control of people; what they know and think, things, and most important I think, the environment. In all cases of environmental degradation, it is the money people that will win in a fight over some action. While a few skirmishes with the environmentalist have resulted in the money people backing off, (mostly because fighting the protesters cost more than they would make doing whatever is being protested) all of the really important environmental damage to this earth goes unchecked. Do you know there are over 2 million (yes, that’s right 2 million) dams in this country alone? A significant amount of them are in bad repair, no longer serve a useful purpose at all and all of them have negative impacts on the environment. If the dams on the major rivers are not removed soon, we are going to see more extinction numbers in the spawning fish species. Yeah, I know, but what about electricity. Without that, our standard of living goes down the tubes. Well folks, get used to the idea. Human kind has lived without electricity for about 5000 years that we have records for, and it has only been in the last 150 years that it was something other than an oddity. I think we as a species could survive no electricity and no dams. But, we can’t survive the extinction of the trees and the plankton in the oceans that provide our oxygen. We can’t survive a severe imbalance of flowers and insects, rodents, birds, or fish. We need them. They could get along without us just fine.

However, this obsession for control of the environment is the principle cause of the extinction of a reported 200 species a day. That number alone causes me to shudder. How much longer can this planet support that kind of killing? I have read diaries from the 1800’s where people would go out and kill passenger pigeons and load them into wagons and haul them off to be piled up and left to rot. There aren’t any of them around any more. Same with the buffalo. Hunters would go out and kill as many as they could and if there were enough hunters with guns, there would be thousands killed in a day. Some of the dead animals only had the tongues taken and the rest of the animal left to rot on the plains. During this time, the settlers were having some problems with the Indians who kinda resented this take over of their hunting lands and were causing some problems, like trying to kill off the encroaching invaders. So, as a matter of policy, the buffalo were slaughtered in order to kill off the Indian. Don’t spend the money to go to war, just starve them. This is an example of how controlling parts of the environment also serve the purpose of eliminating people that are in your way. And don’t even start to assume that is not going on today. In the North Western U.S., the Indian tribes traditionally depended on salmon the same way the plains Indians depended on the buffalo. Well guess what folks, building dams stops the salmon from reproducing, which not only sorta puts a damper on the main food source, salmon fishing, by the Indians, but it also drastically affects the rest of the environment also. I was surprised to learn that the forest land around what used to be spawning rivers is declining. That is from the huge salmon runs with millions of lbs of dead fish fertilizer that fed nearly 80% of the nitrogen demands of the forests. Of course, there also was all the other animal life that depended on the salmon. But, I guess that is called collateral damage and is best not talked about.

In the economics today, the power and control of economic system seems to be faltering. On 11-19, there evidently was a big sell off of gold stocks and the price plummeted $80/ oz. Wednesday the 20th, the price had recovered to back over $800 per oz. The best that seems to be happening right now is plunge control teams are only doing small bandage fixes to what ails the whole system. The predictions we are reading say that 2008 is the year of the obvious impact of a total collapse.

Now I have no idea if this is the desired outcome or unintended consequences to the years of power politics and capitalism. I would like to think that it was unintended consequences. We can speculate all we want on who wants what to happen, but we probably will never have enough information to really say we know. But, personally, I think it is unimportant. We know who the players are, or at least we should have a pretty good idea of most of them by now. We can see the decimation of this world due to their agendas and policies. I sure do hope that when TSHTF that anger is turned upon those that enforced the agendas and the policies that put us in this position, and not turned on our neighbors. It’s about time that the elites of this world got some of their own shit shoved up their collective noses and they reap what they have sown.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Recipes for the Collapse, part I

By freeacre

Assuming that you have escaped from the mental commercial feedlot that we are herded into by our dumbed down public school system and the global corporatist-controlled media, you probably recognize the fact that you, your family, country, and world are at great risk. Hopefully, you began to read Mike Ruppert a few years back on his “From the Wilderness” website. Ruppert wrote, taught, and ranted for years about Peak Oil, resource wars, the manipulated stock market, the complicity of the CIA with the drug trade, global surveillance of the internet, etc. and is now burned out, sick, and hopefully recovering in Canada or somewhere. Maybe you now go daily to the Breaking News on Matt Savinar’s site, “Life After the Oil Crash,” Kevin’s “Cryptogon,” George Ure’s “Urban Survival,” Carolyn Baker’s “Speaking Truth to Power,” James Howard Kunstler’s “Clusterfuck Nation” rant each Monday, or any of the excellent sites dedicated to following the political, economic, and resource debacles that are going on, and you have already begun to get out of debt and put aside some supplies for the impending emergencies.

Or, maybe not. Maybe you just lost your job because it was one of those that relied on housing, and now the housing industry is tanking. Or, maybe someone in your family has gotten sick and you have no insurance that will cover the expenses and you are in soul-sucking debt. Or maybe you retired after working your butt off for most of your life. You did everything you were supposed to do, and you just thought you could live to relax for a few years before you die, but now the money has devalued through inflation, and you find that you can’t make the ends meet. Or maybe you are young, just starting out on your own, and are finding it impossible to maintain the standard of living that your parents had at your age. Or, even worse, let’s say you are a working class black, white, or Hispanic veteran just out of Iraq, unemployed, your family just got dispossessed of their home due to the sub-prime mortgage rip-off, and your neighborhood is starting to look like Baghdad all over again…

All these scenarios are painful and challenging, but believe me, things can and will get worse. The world is on the brink of Peak Everything – oil, climate change, top-soil depletion, water, natural gas – even coal and uranium are in diminishing supply. The world as we know it, with “plenty” of exploitable resources and a bright future of happy motoring, is about to end. That is what is driving “the slow crash.” The “fast crash” would be initiated by natural disasters such as earthquakes, pandemics, fires, floods, volcanoes, an asteroid hit, or a man-made nuclear war.

So, what do we do? Prepare. Prepare on many levels. I don’t have all the answers. But, Murph and I have been preparing for collapse for about five years. We have and will continue to share some ideas that are working for us. If we pool our knowledge and pull together, we just might be able to survive in a style that is more satisfying and sustainable than our miserable, cruel, toxic, ignorant leaders who have been lying, manipulating, exploiting, betraying, and killing us from our first breath to our last, have been dictating that we do.

What I propose is to lay out some general areas of concern and some recipes for coping. What I’d like you to do, is expand upon my ideas in the Comments, so that we can share the experiences we have had – things that work, things that have not worked. The preparedness scheme involves the main elements of:

1) Getting free of or avoiding debt servitude.

2) Securing sustainable housing.

3) Stocking up on food and supplies for both an acute crisis and a long-term collapse.

4) Cultivating robust health and a sustainable trade or skill.

5) Reaching out to your community to promote localized food and trade.

6) Creating new and fun things to do that don’t feed “the man” including new ways to relate to our planet and its lifeforms.

What I am realizing is that covering all these aspects of preparedness is going to take a series of posts, not just this one. So, let’s start out with avoiding or getting out from under Debt Servitude:

Debt didn’t used to be particularly associated with servitude, once share-cropping and the “company store” fell out of vogue. A person went into debt to invest in a business that manufactured some sort of product. The product was sold, the debt was re-paid, and it was all good. Or, a person saved up for a down-payment for a home, qualified for a loan, took out a fixed-rate mortgage that required about one-fourth of his paycheck, and bought a home for the family in which to live for the foreseeable future. That was, of course, back in the day when jobs were listed in the classifieds under Male and Female, the money was backed up by gold, it took only one paycheck to raise a family, and Hershey bars were a nickel.

Then the banks began issuing credit cards. As long as you paid them off each month, servitude didn’t yet enter into the equation. That’s what we need to get back to. Now, however, the programming for debt servitude begins almost at birth. Degrees are given in Marketing to people who stay up nights just thinking of ways to convince you buy things you have never needed. .. until now. “ Buy it now, and avoid the rush!”

Babies listen to advertisements while nursing at their mother’s breast. The children’s programming is simply a vehicle for marketing toys, clothing, food, activities, and whatnots – all to build an identity based on what they own. The more the better. These little material mutants are then taught to query their anxious parents about their investment portfolios, diversification of assets, retirement plans and insurance coverage. Being a parent anymore has all the thrill of Mao’s Long March. You have to pay for child care or get prosecuted for neglect. You have to purchase kid paraphernalia like backpacks, car seats, soccer lessons, birthdays at Chucky Cheese, class trips to New York, iPods, cell phones, designer jeans, and sneakers, etc. etc. If you don’t, your darling offspring is considered a loser, lame, out-of-it, un-cool - destined for a career in the fast food industry or the video store. The pressures of both childhood and parenthood today are nothing less than brutal. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying through their teeth.

This would be bad enough by itself, but along the way, both parents are always in great danger of losing their jobs because the company is “cutting costs,” or moving to the Yucatan, or has just merged into some sort of conglomerate. The pressures of this societal gauntlet make a happy, supportive, loving, stable marriage almost impossible to maintain. Half the people divorce. Then it’s single-parenthood or merged families – bankrupting the emotions as well as the bank account. Now it’s time for the prescriptions for anti-depression medication, and, gee, high-blood pressure and heart disease are beginning to set in as well…

All the better. Big Pharma is waiting for you, Buddy. They’ve got it all planned. Hike up the costs of everything from doctors visits to surgeries, chronic illnesses, long-term care, medical tests, chemotherapy, absolutely no end to the procedures designed to leave us in chronic ill health and debt. This, of course, makes it very difficult to tell an employer to stick it where the sun don’t shine and quit your crappy job, because then you’ll lose your insurance. And, once it’s lost, you can’t get it back if you have a pre-existing condition, or are too fat by then. That’s the servitude part. And, don’t make waves, join a union, smoke pot, demonstrate in the streets, or in any way question the authority of the corporate overlords, or your job (and your health care) will be terminated, Butthead.

Meanwhile, your kids have somehow grown up and are going to college. From the time he or she graduated from high school, they were targeted by the banks. Deluged by credit card offers, mandated to pay exorbitant college tuitions and books and housing fees, the student trying to get ahead starts out $30 to $60 thousand dollars (in some schools double that) in the hole by the time they get out of there. Even more if they go to graduate school. Miss a payment on anything and the interest rates on all your cards go up to heights that only the mafia used to charge. Usury used to be illegal. Now it’s normal. The Mafia offspring grew up to become bankers, lawyers, insurance executives, and judges.

Why? Because debt itself now drives the economy. Just as the Service Economy requires servants, Debt requires debtors. That’s you and me, Marge. We serve the economy at the pleasure of the banks. Those loans formerly taken to bankroll manufacturing businesses now provide “liquidity” for financial “vehicles” because we don’t make anything here anymore. Our mortgage and credit card debts are bundled, and sold, then re-bundled and re-sold as “derivatives”. At each sale, fees are tacked on and extracted. Loans are made to enact the sales. Banks only have to carry a small percentage of reserve money to cover the loans. The dollars keep increasing because the Federal Reserve (a bank, neither “federal” nor holding our “reserves”) keeps printing more as the bankers need it, and charging us interest on it! This all adds up to Debt, Beavis! “Structured finance.” Huge, minimally taxable end of the year bonuses for the morally vacuous hedgefund managing ballsacks and financial pocket pool pundits to spend on private jets, second mansions, and off shore accounts. They’ve been drinking Champaign and dancing on the back of our necks since the Reagan era. What do we get? Inflation, Homer. Now your pension ain’t worth shit.

“Resistance is Futile” is the message from Wall Street.

Well, “Fuck that!” is what I say.

Resist! Resist! Resist! Resist the temptations of marketing malfeasance. Stop buying stuff on credit that you don’t have money to pay for all at once. Do not pay any interest payments to the frigging banks. Stop defining yourself or others by what you own.

But, wait. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Escaping from debt servitude requires a radical change in consciousness as well as lifestyle. You need to have the universe on your side. You need to become powerful. The way to do that is to be in integrity. Do not lie or bend the truth, even on your resume or tax forms. Do not say you’ll be someplace, then not show up and not call. Pay your bills on time, or call your creditors and make arrangements to pay them late. If things are going to turn around in your life, people need to be able to trust you and respect you. Your word becomes powerful. You know that you are worthy. Therefore, your self-image is no longer dependent on what you own or the envy of others. That’s for openers.

Now, make money while the sun shines, and reduce your expenditures so you can pay off your debts. The window of opportunity that Murph and I took advantage of (thanks to Michael Ruppert’s sound advice) is pretty much closed for the time being. We re-financed the home that I was buying in Tahoe, put the money into making it more marketable, and sold it at a profit before the rate adjusted and while the real estate market was sending prices sky-high. Then, we went to Central Oregon and bought the cheapest property available for cash money. It’s not the most beautiful part of Oregon (but it is the least expensive to live in) and it’s not the most beautiful home, either. But, it is cozy and paid for, so it feels very good to me. We began composting right away, put in a new septic and well. By spring, we had a garden started and in the fall, we purchased a greenhouse on sale. It’s taken awhile to figure out how to make this place sustainable, but in the two years hence, we’ve improved the soil organically, added seven chickens and now we’ve got a season’s worth of vegetables frozen and a years worth of food and supplies stored up. Optimally, I think one should attempt to store up enough food to last you until you can harvest your own.

How did I buy the original house in the first place? We got the news that my late husband was dying the week before we signed the final papers on the house. He had no life insurance. We had no savings. I was bringing home about $700 every two weeks – and the house payment was $1,250 a month. How could we buy the house? We took in boarders, rented rooms. Housemates can really help to cut costs whether one is buying or renting. It also provides ample opportunities to cultivate social skills and cheap entertainment. (I apologize for re-telling this story, to the ones who already know it.)

There are many, many tips on how to cut costs.

* Buy bread flour when it is on sale and bake your own bread. That cuts the costs to about half, depending on how fancy you get. A bread machine is a godsend. Often, you can buy one at a Goodwill Store. Be creative with recipes, it’s fun.

* Don’t buy anything in a box. Make cakes, pasta dishes, rice dishes, casseroles, from natural items. It’s cheaper and you won’t be poisoning yourself with additives. Buy ingredients at a discount Grocery Outlet or Costco or the equivalent (not Walmart, the pigs).

* Buy bulk teas and use a metal tea strainer that lasts forever. Celestial Seasonings, Bert’s Bees, Ben & Jerry’s, and other formerly cool alternative food companies have mostly been bought out by the mainstream corporations, and they overcharge.

* Do your own nails, color your own hair.

* Cut your own hair or your husband’s hair. I started doing this in Jamaica, where a white guy couldn’t get a haircut when we lived there.

*Stop drinking soda pop and diet drinks. Bad for health, waste of money, and uses up oil (plastic) and hurts the environment.

* Pack lunches. Don’t eat fast food – same reasons as above.

* Give spouses and friends massages – for free!

* Shop the thrift stores first for household items, clothing, gifts.

* Make homemade goodies for presents. Cheaper and more personal than retail.

* Get an espresso machine at a Thrift Store. You can make your own and it won’t cost $3.00 a pop for a late’.

* Get rid of your cell phone. Good God! They tether you to your job, hound you wherever you go, are obnoxious to others, dangerous when driving, cost like hell, and may give you brain cancer.

* Stop paying for cable or satellite TV. Get an antenna and put up with shitty reception, or just do without one. You don’t really want to watch that corporate programming and bullshit anyway. You can order movies and documentaries and your favorite HBO shows on Netflix a lot cheaper.

* Send the money you save from the cell phone and the satellite, and donate it to good sites on the Internet. Donating helps you to cultivate a sense of plenty and helps the people who support your well-being.

* Grow your own salads, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and whatever you can, depending on the growing conditions. Even apartment patios can grow an amazing amount if you put your mind to it. Can your jams and jellies. Smoke your own jerky – yum!

* Save on the cost of books and movies by going to the library.

* Eat out only on special occasions. Make good healthy meals at home and invite friends regularly for potlucks. Saves money, and is fun.

* Drive as little and efficiently as you can. Use a bicycle when feasible, or a moped or a motorcycle. Saves gas and money.

Well, you get the idea. And, more tips will be forthcoming on the Comments. The idea is to live frugally so that you can use your liberated money to pay off your bills and set yourself free. The money you save should partially be converted to gold or silver coins. Watch the charts for dips in the price. This is to stave off inflation, which is gonna get ever more brutal. (Disclaimer: This is not financial advise. It’s just the story of what we did.)

Remember – Your REAL VOTE is your money! You strengthen and encourage all that you put your money towards. Resist the corporate agenda that is impoverishing and poisoning you and the world by withholding your money. Fight back at the banks that want you to be a 21st Century serf! Do not pay them interest. Buy nothing on a revolving account. Watch the fallacious financial freaks fall into the dirt, for once. They have it coming.

OK, that’s it on getting out of debt. My next post will be on securing sustainable housing. One step at a time, folks, we will work to get our dreams fulfilled and deal with the challenges ahead.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Today we have another post from Spirit Across The Sea, (AKA Belgium.) I think we might consider voting Belgium in as the site historian and researcher. Murph

The Task of Condi Rice in Turkey

A Step in the Continuance of Empire Toward its Destination

A follow up from Murph’s previous post-- by Belgium.

The homogeneous community of Kurds didn’t fall out as lucky as that of the Jews in the lottery of life and so they have no national homeland of their own. The Diaspora of Kurds lies across several national boundaries and each country regards them differently. Generally, although they have lived under Arab rule since the 7th century they see the West offering more advantages, much to the chagrin of some of the Arab nations where they live. They have enough clout to be able to make themselves a nuisance to some of the nations whose territory they occupy and this is used mischievously by some to make alliances and cause divisions.

The countries and groups in play in this struggle for a Kurdish homeland and national identity are: the Kurds themselves; Turkey; Iran; Iraq; Israel and the USA. There is minor involvement or secondary support to some of the primary group members from Armenia; Azerbaijan; Syria and Saudi Arabia. Each of these has its own agenda and is trying to either play up or play down the situation to its own advantage. Let us have a look at them in turn and see what each is trying to get out of the situation.

The Kurds

The traditional homeland of the Kurds was overrun by the Seljuk Turks, the Mongols and the Safavid dynasty during the seventh century, which in the 13th century gave way to the Ottoman Empire. After this in turn collapsed at the end of WW1 the Treaty of Sèvres proposed an autonomous homeland for the Kurds but this treaty was never ratified. Instead it was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne, which no longer mandated Turkey to grant autonomy for the Kurds and whose traditional lands are designated as a ‘region’ crossing the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria. These have now expanded into parts of Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Over the years the Kurds have been on the losing end of many skirmishes uprisings and revolts but generally giving continued headaches to their host countries. In 1946 Mustafa Barzani founded the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) dedicated to the creation of an independent Kurdistan. This quarrelsome state of picking one nation off against another continued until in 1970 the Government of Iraq granted the Iraqi Kurds some self-rule but excluded the oil rich Kurdish region of Kirkuk. Another Kurdish uprising was then put down. In 1975, Jalal Talibani (Uncle Jalal) the then leader of the KDP left to found the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the infighting between the two groups gave the host countries some temporary respite.

Meanwhile in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, with others, founded the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) dedicated towards Independence for Turkish Kurds. In 1984 a PKK uprising was put down. In a separate campaign Iraq slaughtered thousands of Kurds and uprooted about 1.5 million from their homes for supporting Iran during the Iran / Iraq war which in turn caused a mass emigration into Turkey. Those who stayed behind had a seven year grumbling stand off with Saddam Hussein until, encouraged but not overly supported by the USA, they again rebel. They were harshly crushed whilst the UN sat on its hands and looked the other way. Eventually the famous No Fly zone was established which gaves virtual autonomy and breathing space to the regions 3 million Kurds. In Turkey, government detente granted the use of the Kurdish language, secondary language status but not for use in schools, broadcasts and other official settings.

In 1992, 10,000 Turkish military advance on PKK bases in Iraq. When they are engaged, Turkey suddenly produces an extra 60,000 troops and the Kurds are overwhelmed. This operation is repeated in 1995 with 35,000 Turkish troops.

In 1998 the PUK and the KDP agree to stop fighting each other and fight the perceived enemy instead.

In 1999, Abdullah Ocalan is captured and sentenced to death but fearing a backlash, the Turkish government kicked the whole matter upstairs to the International Court of Justice. In 2002 the Kurdish National Parliament reconvened after a six year break indicating a national unity within Iraq at least.

In 2003 the Kurds join the Gulf War on the USA & British side. Four Kurds are appointed by the US to the Iraqi Governing Council Including Barzani (son of Mustafa Barzani) and Talibani.

This single act has had the effect of uniting the majority of the Arab (Muslim) world against the Kurdish cause.

After 1300 years of living in other peoples lands, the Kurdish people want what was promised to them in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 and with a total population roughly equal to that of Texas, they remain the largest indigenous group in the world without a national homeland.


Everyone knows that what Israel wants, is what America does and what Israel wants are two things, which are easy to say but not so easy to achieve. Firstly, it wants all the oil it can take from the Kirkuk region of Northern Iraq and secondly it wants to break up the sea of Islam in the Middle East, by ethnic cleansing if necessary.

To this end there was a plan, proposed in 1990 by the fairly moderate Zionist Leslie Gelb. The nuts and bolts of this plan comprised a federal Iraq with a northern section for the Iraqi Kurds. Mosul and Kirkuk were to be shared with the Turkoman peoples. The rest of Iraq was to be shared between the Sunnis and the Shiite factions. Not long after the plan was agreed with Washington, Leslie Gelb Died and not long after that, the Turkoman part of the deal disappeared. All that Barzani and Talibani had to do to get their mini state in Iraq was to smash their fraternal brothers the KPP. This they did and received their reward. The DKP and PUK would be dumped in the blink of an eye once they had fulfilled their usefulness if it was not for the oil fields those wily pair are sitting on. The PKK however was down but not out and has now made a resurgence. This soft partition plan in a modified form is what the US Congress voted on last week. The original overall Gelb concept is still being played out and Washington still regards this as ‘nobody’s business’.


It is sometimes said that if you give people guns then sooner of later they are going to shoot themselves in the foot. This is what has happened to Turkey and now they are hopping mad. Although I am presenting this from each countries point of view these countries do not exist in isolation and the truth is an intricate complexity of alliances, temporary allegiances of convenience, crossings, double crossings and downright dirty double dealings. Turkey has blinked first and no matter what the merits of its case they are paying the price (for now). The reason they are in a rage is because Turkeys Prime Minister at the time, Turgut Ozal, was co-author of the Gelb Plan which has now come back to haunt them.

Turkey’s position regarding the Kurds is that since two thirds of them are scattered throughout the land and the rest fully integrated into Turkish society, they have no business dreaming about autonomy. In this, Turkey is taking a similar stance that the Chinese take regarding the Tibetans. The PKK carries out cross border attacks out of Iraq and now that Barzani and Talibani have got what they want, they are no longer interested in smashing anybody, especially their own sort for Turkey’s benefit. The thing that has really stuck in Turkey’s throat however is the position the US is taking. Last year The US gave the green light for Israel to go after Hezbollah in Lebanon after two of its soldiers were captured. Now the PKK have taken out 12 Turkish military and wounded 8 others then disappeared back into Iraq. The US administration is saying “Hold on a minute boys, let’s take it easy and think about this in the round for a minute. Hezbollah are ‘real’ terrorists, the PKK are well…… Is going after these rag tags what we really want to do”? This measuring with two sticks has caused the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to respond “In view of its strong determination to root out terrorism, Turkey is willing and ready to cooperate with any actor in its fight against the PKK” later adding, “We will launch an operation against the PKK whenever it will be necessary without asking for anybody’s opinion”. He is willing to make a pact with the Devil if necessary and fuck the US’s political capital. General Yasar Buyukanit added a new dimension to this in June saying “There is not only the PKK in Northern Iraq. There is Massoud Barzani as well. Turkey cannot afford an independent (oil and water rich) state on its southern border.

This is the real reason why Condi is in Turkey because the US doesn’t want anybody upsetting the nice apple cart it has laid out. Turkey however is in a mood to set fire to the oil she is pouring on its troubled waters although the oil has only to stay there long enough for the US to achieve its objectives in Iran and then Turkey can go to hell as far as it is concerned. Its ally will just be another casualty of war when the US will shrug its shoulders and walk away. Turkey knows this and is unlikely to blink first this time.


Now that the first part of the Iraqi soft partition has been virtually achieved and Bazani and Talibani have what they want, they do not want anybody taking it from them, particularly Turkey. After all they were only taking sides against the PKK to get what they wanted off the USA and Israel. Any benefit to Turkey was purely incidental. In response to Yasar Buyukanit’s statement above, Barzani replied with a startling and novel concept. “If Turkey invaded, we would deal with it as an Iraqi issue”. This warlord who can hardly stand to be in the same country as Malaki and the rest, would regard an invasion by Turkey to be firstly an attack on the Iraqi occupying forces to be resisted by General Petraus and secondly an attack on Southern Kurdistan. So they want to have their kebab and eat it; who do they think they are, Scotland? Whether or not the US has the resources to meet such an adventure is another thing, Turkey is in a mind to go anyway.


Kurds have expanded their territory over the Eastern Turkish border into Iran’s oil rich North Western states so far as lake Urmia (Orumigeh). The PKK now represents as much of a threat to Iran as it does to Turkey. By funding separatist movements, mainly by the Kurds, the Azeris and Ahwaz Arabs the USA hopes to keep the Iran administration busy enough to take its eye off the ball. It fully realizes that Iran is too big to be brought down this way but it hopes to weaken it enough for it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

It is interesting that in 1979 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared jihad against the Kurds denouncing their separatist claims based on ethnicity as un-Islamic. There was and never would be any such thing as Iranian Kurdistan. This at least brought him into agreement with the leaders of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Over recent history the Kurds have been playing a cat and mouse game in Iran. Whenever they are chased away and Iran gets busy somewhere else, they come back again, shaking spears and making claims.

The House of Saud is also very worried that soft partition of Iraq would give rise to a Kurdistan counterpart, Shiiteistan on its northern border which it fears, would be subservient to Iran.


So it comes to this, there are two sorts of terrorists, the ones who do what the USA likes and those who do what the USA doesn’t like. One sort is OK and the other sort not OK. The PKK are only minor terrorists, a mere bagatelle, hardly anything at all, nothing for anyone to really get upset over especially Turkey. And they will remain OK so long as they are useful to the USA and then they will be not OK.

The USA has demonstrated the adage of ‘my enemies enemy is my friend’ so often that it is now enshrined policy. This is clear in its funding of separatist movements within Iran. The problem in this instance is that you can’t say I am giving money to this bit of the PKK which is in Iran but we are not giving it to that bit of the PKK that operates in Turkey.

The big perplexing question for the USA is whether its desire to smash Iran is great enough to allow a war in Northern Iraq which will compromise both Israel’s oil supply and the Turkey / Iraq corridor through which 70% of US supplies to Iraq travel.

Here are some pertinent observations regarding the US’s foreign policy from Robert Higgs (a fellow of political science at the Johns Hopkins University).

”As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the
U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.

It would hardly do for our national leaders to announce the truth.

We have military power of a kind that allows us to do whatever we want, anywhere in the world. We intend to establish worldwide hegemony, baby. And while we're doing that, we and some of our best friends are going to get filthy, stinking rich. Guess what: most of the governing class is in on the scheme -- and there isn't a damned thing you can do about it.
No, that wouldn't do at all. So our leaders talk of "national interests," which can mean anything imaginable that serves the needs of the moment”.


The Kurds have been divided and are being ruled but both groups still have the power to cause continued trouble.

The USA finds both groups useful, the DKP & PUK to stabilize N Iraq and to supply oil to Israel and PKK to destabilize Iran and doesn’t want Turkey to Invade Iraq to start a war which will compromise both objectives. If achieving that goal involves dumping its ally Turkey then they will just be regarded as a casualty of war.