Tag Archives: Savannah River

Spotlight Therapy “You ask questions.”

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I dreamed awhile back that I was in a public meeting about the latest GoverCorp outrage (take your pick). I took my characteristic Spotlight Therapy stance, which involves turning the lights on to reveal triangulation tactics.

Afterwards, a 20s-something minority female, eyes shining, came up to thank me. “What for,” I replied. “I don’t accomplish anything.”

“Yes, you do.” she said. “You ask questions.”

“Triangulation” is a term applied to the strategy of playing both ends against the middle. You don’t confront the enemy directly, but go for things that are important to him.  When you turn the lights on, the previously hidden manipulators are exposed.

When the dot.com bubble burst on March 10, 2000, my stock value suddenly shrank below my mortgage debt. At that time I was naïve and inexperienced.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have sold the stock before the bubble burst and paid off the mortgage.  Instead, I trusted a banker and stockbroker who I thought worked for me.  They wiped me out instead.

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I believe it was intentional. This sounds paranoid, but the financial setback started me on a reading tangent that validated my suspicions.  Books like Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, The Robber Barons, The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve, Supercapitalism, Wealth of Nations, Alexander Hamilton, The Whiskey Rebellion, and None Dare Call it Conspiracy,* to name a few—as well as the US Constitution–opened my eyes, and I was horrified.  These writings revealed how boom and bust cycles are created on purpose to consolidate wealth and political power in the hands of relatively invisible insiders.

Desperate people are capable of desperate acts, to save themselves. Perhaps my banker and stockbroker were feeling the squeeze before the bubble actually burst, and trying to save their own skins.

But the practice of trapping individuals and nations in debt has a long history. It gives the lender—the presumed lender, anyway—a strategic advantage in terms of control.  Often the presumed lender, like a bank, is lending other people’s money, called “leverage.” Newspapers like the Wall Street Journal regularly inform their readers how many billions this or that hedge fund or individual controls.

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This is triangulation in action. Between the stock market and the mortgage market, individual wealth has been gutted by seemingly random events.  Don’t believe it.  Spotlight the Federal Reserve, the “lender of last resort,” which has no wealth of its own.  It creates money out of thin air to “lend” to the federal government, which then disburses it to pay bills and fight wars.  This from The Creature from Jekyll Island, which explains the history of money and banking.  It also reveals the secret beginnings of the Federal Reserve Act, which essentially put Congress in the debt-creation business, to trap taxpayers in un-repayable debt until the sun burns out.  In other words, the dollar is backed only by government promises to pay.

Now anyone who trusts government promises deserves to suffer, and those who believe the government has the right to promise unborn taxpayers’ future earnings, in order to repay the Fed for its fiat money “loans,” is living in LaLa Land.

taxarrow0406 What Creature does not say is that the income tax was also initiated in 1913, two months before the Federal Reserve Act, in order to guarantee perpetual interest income to the Fed.  The precedent for this double whammy was set by first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton introduced legislation for the Whiskey Tax and the first US central bank December 13 and 14th in 1790, for the same purpose—ostensibly to pay off Revolutionary War debts, but also to provide a vehicle for trapping the fledgling nation in a bottomless barrel of new debt.

In my case, debt would force me to work in a career I had come to detest, to feed the absentee bosses and other middlemen, who work behind the scenes to call the shots, yet take no personal risks.

These days, you can’t get away from news reports, politicians, and “economists,” who are bemoaning the state of “the economy,” the need to “create jobs,” and concerns about unstable stock markets and central banks around the world. The hidden truth behind all this hand-wringing is, as Ron Paul has tried to say, “The US is bankrupt.”  (His book End the Fed, is also well worth reading.)

It appears the balance has begun to shift, because everyone–individuals, corporations, and government—is maxed out on credit. Bills are coming due, without resources to pay.  As the Boomer generation (that’s me), approaches retirement, and Social Security payments can’t keep up with expenses, Boomers are withdrawing money from the stock market to make ends meet.  At the other end of the earning spectrum, the millennials are dealing with student debt, credit card debt, automobile debt, and maybe mortgages, too. Not only are there fewer of them than of seniors, but they don’t have money to invest in the stock market.

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But what’s good for “the economy” is bad for individuals. The “strong dollar,” is hurting exports, meaning Josie Taxpayer’s dollar has more buying power at home. Percentage-wise, she pays less in taxes, too.  This “deflation” that terrifies the money churners could have the effect of grounding the dollar at home, where it belongs.  Also, as people get out of debt–whether paying it off, writing it off, declaring bankruptcy, or walking away–the inflated money supply shrinks even more.  Interest on debt, as well as inflation (a “hidden tax,” according to Creature), reduce the buying power of the money. This is great for people who have no debt, and bad for “the economy,” which now is $19 trillion in debt, equal to the gross domestic product.

For example, on Thursday, February 18, 2016, The New York Times ran an article entitled “Oil Price Soars and Shares Rise.”  The assumption by the NYT and Wall Street Journal is that what’s good for stocks and raises prices is good for America.

This false assumption becomes easier to understand when you realize a goodly portion of America is heavily invested in stocks through “retirement benefits” like pension plans, including public pension plans. Hedge fund and pension fund managers can make significant waves in the stock market by moving those large pots of money around.  “Investors,” then, are not primarily the wealthy “one percent” that the public has been taught to hate.

“Investors” are the groups and individuals who make their money through managing other people’s money, people they assume want the greatest value for their money. Only trouble is, the most profitable stocks are issued by some of the most unscrupulous companies, often those with incestuous ties to the government, and are beneficiaries of large, cushy government contracts.

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As is my habit—and one of my favorite pastimes–I underlined and scribbled in the margins of the above-mentioned article. Here, we are informed that stocks climbed the previous day as “investors clung to hope for an international deal” to cut production.  “The price of oil rose sharply, as did the stocks of major energy companies like Chevron.”

“Who benefits by raising oil prices?” I wrote.  I know the State of Georgia benefitted mightily by low oil prices last summer, as Governor Deal signed a six-cent gas tax increase as soon as oil prices fell.  Now, the State of Georgia can expect even more tax revenues.  Already the accumulated excise and sales taxes on gasoline amount to over 50% of the customer cost.

Who is the greatest consumer of oil and gas? I don’t know for sure, but I believe it’s the military, which probably doesn’t pay the taxes and competes for the oil.  I applaud anyone who wants to research that.

When the NYT repeated that “investors’” hope for an “international deal that will cap or cut production,” I commented it doesn’t matter, as demand remains low.  I also asked if this “deal” to cut production also applies to US offshore well drilling, new oil pipelines, fracking, and other domestic eco-rape.

 

We are told that Chevron and Hess profited. We are also told that Kinder Morgan gained, too, on the news that Warren Buffet has acquired a 1.2 percent stake.

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Now Texas-based Kinder Morgan is a loaded kettle of fish. Founded by Richard Kinder, of Enron fame, it is in the process of appealing the state of Georgia’s denial of eminent domain for its Palmetto Pipeline.  Governor Deal did something right, for a change, when he denied Kinder Morgan’s request.  This would have set a dangerous precedent for publicly traded corporations to use state government to seize private property for a pittance.  Not only are oil prices low, and sales slow, but the pipeline is planned to run through 210 miles of coastal Georgia and to affect 396 landowners across 12 counties, only to transport gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and natural gas to the Savannah, Brunswick, and Jacksonville ports for export.  Kinder Morgan also expects to drastically enlarge its liquid natural gas storage facility on the Savannah River.  Meanwhile on the opposite side of the continent, Kinder Morgan is trying to trample Native American Tl’azt’en Nation’s native hunting and fishing lands in British Columbia.

I congratulate anyone who wants to investigate Kinder Morgan’s ethics and stock investors. I’m especially interested in public pension investments in Kinder Morgan, as well as its customers Marathon Oil and Marathon Petroleum, among others.  Remember that everyone in the decision-making “pipeline” from governor to judges to legislators and the United States Congress, state and federal levels of the Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Division, Department of Natural Resources—and the military—have taxpayer-funded pensions handled by managers for whom there is no bottom line—if they can get taxpayers to subsidize profits.

 

I abandoned Wall Street in early 2008, when it continued to abandon me. I advise anyone who has more sense than money to do the same.  Also, as any stock broker might advise, “Sell high.”

 

 

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*Authors and publication dates are listed in a previous blog, “Sell the TV and Read.”

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To Pay the Piper

Highest tide on record, Savannah, GA, October 27, 2015

Highest tide on record, Savannah, GA, October 27, 2015

I need $500 to pay the piper. Literally.  That’s the last of the $3000 bill for replacing my old water pump and clearing a calcium blockage out of the well shaft.

Dropping the new pump into the well. July, 2015

Dropping the new pump into the well. July, 2015

This isn’t just any old well. This well taps into the great Florida aquifer, source of water for South Georgia, Florida, and part of Alabama.  One of the most productive in the world, according to the US Geological Survey.  Its most predominant cations (positively charged ions) are calcium, magnesium, and sodium.  Most common anions (negatively charged ions) are bicarbonate, chloride, and sulfate.  Note these are elements, part of nature’s natural cycle.

When it comes to the Savannah River, we have a different story. The Savannah River floats atop the Florida aquifer, upstream from me. This puts me in direct line of fire should anything go awry with the much touted Savannah Harbor deepening project.

The Savannah River. Hutchinson Island and Convention Center at right.

The Savannah River. Hutchinson Island and Convention Center at right.

The Savannah River has a sordid history. It is rated among the ten most toxic rivers in the country.  It is full of human and industrial waste from the last 280 years.  We have an untold number of rusting and decaying pipelines running under the river, pipes that carry an unreported variety of potentially toxic chemicals. We also have the chemicals, litter, garbage, and human waste dumped along its navigable course, all washed downstream toward the ocean. We have the daily oil leaks and other pollution from the nation’s 4th largest port, exhaust fumes, and all the industrial muck generated by modern civilization.

The Savannah River supplies the city of Savannah’s drinking water. Beneath the industrial pipes and the river-bottom sludge lies the pristine Florida aquifer, source of my drinking water, as well as that of all points south of Savannah. Corporate giant International Paper also gets its water directly from the Florida aquifer, through its eight 6-inch wells.

The current Savannah harbor deepening project was initiated by the Department of Defense d/b/a the Army Corps of Engineers, to expand military capacity in the Southeast. This is not stated outright, but one need only look at the multiplicity of military bases located in the area, and the fact that deployments for our interminable foreign wars fly 200 feet over my house.

The harbor deepening, which has already begun as I write this article, has a few logistical problems ahead. A primary problem is where the Corps is going to dump six feet of river bottom sludge.  The Savannah Harbor is 17 miles inland, and the channel is about 500 feet wide.  There is separate funding for Tybee Beach “re-nourishment,” engineered simultaneously with some harbor deepening money by former US Representative Jack Kingston.

At the same time, retired Corps insiders worry about intrusion into the Florida aquifer, but this is not discussed in public meetings.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also responsible for the largest mosquito nest in two states. This site is the last AC of E dump site for dredged river muck.   This sits on the north side of the Savannah River, where international ships with their passengers and vectors float daily by.  (Point of reference:  The Savannah River was originally 12 feet deep.  It is now 42 feet deep with plans to deepen it to 48 feet.)

Hutchinson Island exit off Hwy. 17

Hutchinson Island exit off Hwy. 17

The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), the Georgia Ports Authority, the State of Georgia, local government, and the Corps have ganged up in support of the harbor deepening.   SEDA’s home is on Hutchinson Island, an earlier dump site for Savannah River dredging.  Hutchinson Island now boasts a SPLOST-funded convention center and a SPLOST-funded exit off Highway 17, to help bury value in toxic waste.

By further deepening the river and dumping toxic waste from the bottom of the river onto an as-yet-undetermined site, the Corps will further concentrate the toxins above land and breed more mosquitoes, now filled with lead, arsenic, and mercury.

“Yes, but it’s great bird habitat,” says a retired Corps employee.

My point exactly. These mosquitoes are eaten by birds, which are eaten by raccoons, hawks, and other creatures, and up the food chain the toxins go.  Remember that mosquitoes carry disease, like West Nile Virus, and a host of other mosquito-borne illnesses.

The United States Geological Survey has noted effects of metal contaminants in dredge material, including elevated levels of arsenic, copper, mercury, selenium, and zinc in birds and raccoons, as well as “significantly elevated” levels of cadmium, mercury, lead, and selenium in raccoons, with the bioaccumulation in their livers.

And then we have the rats, which carry fleas, eat through walls and wiring, and fill Savannah sewers. Their fleas spread bubonic plague, among other diseases.  Ships bring mosquitoes and rats as a part of their cargo.  There is no human being on the planet as smart as a rat.  If there is food, a rat will find it.  They have fleas to feed.

But this sexagenarian remembers when we still had lightning bugs and could see the north star at night. Over the years, she has observed the drainage ditches clogging, the mosquitoes growing bigger and meaner than ever, the streets flooding, and the rampant public safety hazards on public land.  Streets, sidewalks, curbs, and parking lots are concrete obstacle courses.

The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA), the Georgia Ports Authority, Southern Company, International Paper, Imperial Sugar and other mega-corporate air, water, and earth polluters, are fine with poisoning Savannah, since their shareholders live mostly out of town. It appears that since we are busy selling last year’s weapons to our past and future enemies, to stimulate “the economy,” we are heavily invested in suicide.

Local officialdom is all for this. Bureaucrats, who work behind the scenes but who manipulate the publically accountable elected officials, can’t be fired, and their tenures last through many elected mayors and county commissioners.  Bureaucratic pensions and benefits are also invested on Wall Street, the commodities markets, corporate bonds, and treasuries.

But, back to my pump problem . . .

My water pump died at six p.m. on a Friday in July. I saw it coming.  Water pressure dropped too fast, and the old pump was working too hard to re-fill the 120 gallon tank.

Last fall, the last time I needed pump service, Mr. Turner told me it was only a matter of time before I would need a new one. “The old pumps lasted longer,” he said.  “Now you can expect about a 20-year life span.”  He replaced the voltage regulator and used his air compressor to put a head of pressure in the tank.

He’s an octogenarian who has been in the business since the 1940s, along with his 76-year-old brother.   Mr. T. hoped to retire by the end of the year but despaired there was no one he could recommend to replace him.

So when the pump died this time, I tried calling Mr. Turner, but his number had been disconnected. I noticed a small display ad in my old 2011 telephone book yellow pages, for L&S Pump and Well Service.  The “24/7 service” notation jumped off the page.

At 6:30 p.m. on this particular Friday, I called Louis Smith of L&S. He said Mr. Turner had retired two weeks ago.  Louis (Loo-ie) said he would be happy to come to my house immediately, but he would have to leave his granddaughter’s birthday party.

I said my problem can wait until the morning. I have jugs of water stored for emergencies.  What time in the morning can you come?

“I like to sleep late on Saturdays,” says he. “At least until 6:30.”

We agreed to a 7:30 a.m. appointment. He was here by 7:20.  Yes, my pump was dead and needed replacement.  Yes, he would have to roll back the panel on my greenhouse above the well shaft.  Yes, he could do it today, but it would take some doing, as suppliers and crew take weekends off.  Yes it would cost $2000.  He doesn’t usually extend credit, especially to customers he has never met, but I’m land poor, living on Social Security, and can only pay half up front.

So he says he’ll do the job, and I say let’s wait until Monday. Enjoy your weekend.  I know how to make water last.

Typical Chatham County drainage ditch, August, 2015

Typical Chatham County drainage ditch, August, 2015

I also know how to make the most of a difficult situation. I have been particularly interested in water issues lately, everything from the river deepening to the mosquito nest, to Savannah’s clogged drainage ditches, to the nuclear power plants upriver from me.

The Savannah River site, home of an old nuclear bomb factory and nuclear power plants, near Augusta, GA and 100 miles upriver from my well, has been cited as the “most severely radiation-polluted place on Earth,” by brainz.org. There are rumors of tritium and other radioactive isotopes downstream as far as Savannah, but this has not been substantiated.

At the moment, Southern Company is busy building two new nuclear power plants at this site, the first new reactors approved in the United States in over 20 years. We are already paying in taxes and increased utility bills for this, despite the fact that energy usage is going down nationwide.  Southern Company is reporting cost overruns and wants more money.  This is a Fortune 500 company, mind you, that routinely reports huge profits and pays large dividends derived from its double-dip into taxpayer wallets.

Nuclear power plants use enormous amounts of water for cooling, a third of which evaporates, with the remaining heated water discharged back into—in our case—the Savannah River. Raising the temperature of the water unbalances the ecosystem and contributes to further problems with fish and wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, Atlanta is worried about its drinking water supply. Three states are fighting over water from Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, and the Chattahoochee River that flows out of it.  The state of Georgia is considering piping water upstream from the lower Savannah to supply Atlanta’s future water needs.

Can you find the drainage ditch? It is impassible.

Can you find the drainage ditch? It is impassible.

This validates my assertion that my individual problems are intimately connected to the world’s problems. Rather than clear the drainage ditches, including the one alongside my property, our local government purchases helicopters to dump malathion on our collective heads. The Corps pays local government to provide this overkill and to discharge its responsibility for its mosquito breeding grounds.

Apparently the Corps has forgotten what its own Walter Reed and William Gorgas discovered in the first Panama Canal project in 1900. Attending to drainage and destroying habitat for pests is far more cost effective and gentler on all of us than the pesticides dumped over the entire coast at random.

In an ideal world, common sense exists in the public domain. The drainage method for combating mosquitoes, reducing flooding, and potentially assisting irrigation, discovered by Gorgas and Reed in 1900 and thereabouts, successfully eliminated yellow fever and malaria in this country the first time.

Johnston Street flood. Savannah, GA. June, 1999

Johnston Street flood. Savannah, GA. June, 1999

Besides breeding mosquitoes within Chatham County, the clogged drainage ditches and stagnant water contribute to massive flooding, mold, mildew, and a variety of disease-producing microorganisms. The 12 inches of rain that fell during high tide in 1999 flooded my office on Johnston Street, across Abercorn from 12 Oaks Shopping Center.  The site of the flood is now home to two huge new developments, a Hilton, and some huge monstrosity where Konter Realty used to be.  This will only exacerbate the flooding problems in mid-town Savannah.

Local government, meanwhile, has now extended its water lines into the marshy part of the county where I live, and does whatever it can to discourage private wells. However, considering the high potential of flooding into the county water supply, this taxpayer prefers to keep her private well. Already, 20 years ago, the county was working to ensnare as many taxpayers as possible into dependency on government for water.  Even then the bureaucratic hassle for getting a well permit was a nightmare.

So back to my current saga, which ended with a sigh of relief, but not before we encountered an unanticipated $1000 problem.

Louis, left, and Roy at work. July, 2015

Louis, left, and Roy at work. July, 2015

On Monday, Louis and his helper, Roy, arrived at daylight. The weather was hot and muggy, already 83 degrees.  They worked quickly, unscrewing the fiberglass panel over the well shaft, pulling up the old pump, and putting the new one down.  Water gushed and stopped, gushed and stopped.  This happened repeatedly, at which point Louis finally determined there was a blockage in the shaft.  He rubbed his head and looked serious.

“You might have to get county water, after all,” he said. He added he might be able to clear the blockage, but he would have to find a welder to make a special bit to drill through the deposit, and that it would cost an extra $1000.

Knowing what I know about county government, and knowing it would cost at least that much to run a pipe from the county’s water line, I urged Louis to try to clear the blockage. He left for lunch and to find his welder, and I left for errands, wondering when, if ever, I would have running water again.

By the time I returned from errands, he and Roy had cleared  the well shaft, and water was gushing out of the well. They had removed a calcium deposit at 185 feet in the 300 foot shaft.  The water level was at 57 feet.  He showed me the bit, which was four inches in diameter, with teeth on three rollers that ground down the calcium.

But here’s the real kicker to this story. Louis looked confused when I mentioned his ad in the yellow pages.  It seemed he didn’t know what I was talking about, so I went to look for the ad and couldn’t find it.  I wondered if I had the wrong phone book, checking several pages, over and over, but the ad I so clearly remembered—and used to call him the first time—was not there.  His listing, I discovered, was on an entirely separate page from all the other well drillers and servicers, but there was no ad.   He had told me the phone company had done him dirty, and now I understand what he meant.  Lucky for me—and for him, I suppose, once I pay him off—that the phantom ad brought us together.

Universal Domain Technology and Patents

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A decent bike rack is hard to find in Savannah.

My reusable shopping bag collection

My reusable shopping bag collection

I have a future in product design.  I plan to specialize in universal domain technology, remain small and focused, invent things that I need, use all the potentially useful materials that clutter house, yard, and tool shed, and produce prototypes rather than patents.

Neither Benjamin Franklin nor Thomas Jefferson believed in patents.  I’m on their side.  Patents foster secrecy, such that everybody is so busy working alone and spying on “competition,” that we have a technological revolution of incompatible electronic equipment.

Above left is a bicycle rack, with my lone bicycle parked in it.  Above right is my reusable shopping bag collection, two of them hand-sewn by yours truly.  I used left-over drapery material to make the floral one.

The bike rack is part of a local campaign to embarrass our city and county government into making our streets and sidewalks more wheel friendly.  I’m also on a picture-taking campaign of public safety hazards on public land, planning to e-mail said pictures to those who are wasting taxpayer money on new highway construction and new schools where nobody lives.

Public safety hazards on public land abound in Savannah, where I live, but this appears to be a national problem.  Think of all the wheels that must traverse these areas.  Not only bicycles, but wheelchairs, rolling walkers, shopping carts, delivery carts, skateboards, roller skates, as well as cars and trucks.  In Savannah, tree branches hang in front of traffic lights and street signs.  High curbs, speed bumps, little islands of bushes at eye level prevent drivers from seeing small children and oncoming traffic.

Drainage is another major problem in this backwater burg.  The city and county do not maintain the drainage ditches, such that the mosquito problem is magnified.  When we have heavy rain and high tide together, downtown and midtown Savannah are prone to heavy flooding.

Our city parents (fathers and mothers) solve these problems by purchasing cute but loud little yellow jacket helicopters to dump malathion on the entire coast.  They purchase street signs to tell us the street is closed when flooded.  The helicopters pay special attention to the largest mosquito nest in Georgia and South Carolina that sits on the northern bank of the Savannah River.  This is site of previous Savannah River dredgings.  Our famous Hutchinson Island is an earlier site.  These toxic waste dumps come to us courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers, but the Corps pays Chatham County to control the mosquitoes with malathion.  They do not want to drain it, because it attracts birds, but the birds and racoons are showing dangerous levels of lead and other toxins.

Yet the Corps and the county and the state of Georgia are hot to deepen the Savannah River even more, from 42 to 47 feet, even though nobody knows where they will put the millions of tons of toxic waste accumulated over 250-plus years of industrialization.

This ambitious project to stimulate imports and exports comes at a time when the “global economy” is dying on the vine.  The dollar is strong right now, great for the domestic economy.  Domestic goods are cheaper, labor is cheaper.  Only the bankers, the governments, and Wall Street are suffering, because they are the profit-skimmers who produce nothing of value on their own.

How do I get from bike racks and reusable bags to the global economy?  It’s simple.  Anyone can make them.  No patents or patent attorneys required.  They give solid, dependable returns on time and money investment for years, and cost nothing in taxes.