Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Dinner Roll, by Richard Gleaves

Note: This parable of mine in praise of property rights has, ironically, been reprinted without attribution all over the web. It's now been read by millions and pops up regularly as e-mail spam etc. Here it is in its original form.

Once upon a time, I was invited to the White House for a private dinner with the President. I am a respected businessman, with a factory that produces memory chips for computers and portable electronics. There was some talk that my industry was being scrutinized by the administration, but I paid it no mind. I live in a free country. There's nothing that the government can do to me if I've broken no laws. My wealth was earned honestly, and an invitation to dinner with an American President is an honor.

I checked my coat, was greeted by the Chief of Staff, and joined the President in a yellow dining room. We sat across from each other at a table draped in white linen. The Great Seal was embossed on the china. Uniformed staff served our dinner.

The meal was served, and I was startled when my waiter suddenly reached out, plucked a dinner roll off my plate, and began nibbling it as he walked back to the kitchen.

"Sorry about that," said the President. "Andrew is very hungry."

"I don't appreciate..." I began, but as I looked into the calm brown eyes across from me, I felt immediately guilty and petty. It was just a dinner roll. "Of course," I concluded, and reached for my glass. Before I could, however, another waiter reached forward, took the glass away and swallowed the wine in a single gulp.

"And his brother Eric is very thirsty." said the President.

I didn't say anything. The President is testing my compassion, I thought. I will play along. I don't want to seem unkind.

My plate was whisked away before I had tasted a bite.

"Eric's children are also quite hungry."

With a lurch, I crashed to the floor. My chair had been pulled out from under me. I stood, brushing myself off angrily, and watched as it was carried from the room.

"And their grandmother can't stand for long."

I excused myself, smiling outwardly, but inside feeling like a fool. Obviously I had been invited to the White House to be sport for some game. I reached for my coat, to find that it had been taken. I turned back to the President.

"Their grandfather doesn't like the cold."

I wanted to shout- that was my coat! But again, I looked at the placid smiling face of my host and decided I was being a poor sport. I spread my hands helplessly and chuckled. Then I felt my hip pocket and realized my wallet was gone. I excused myself and walked to a phone on an elegant side table. I learned shortly that my credit cards had been maxed out, my bank accounts emptied, my retirement and equity portfolios had vanished, and my wife had been thrown out of our home. Apparently, the waiters and their families were moving in. The President hadn't moved or spoken as I learned all this, but finally I lowered the phone into its cradle and turned to face him.

"Andrew's whole family has made bad financial decisions. They haven't planned for retirement, and they need a house. They recently defaulted on a subprime mortgage. I told them they could have your home. They need it more than you do."

My hands were shaking. I felt faint. I stumbled back to the table and knelt on the floor. The President cheerfully cut his meat, ate his steak and drank his wine. I lowered my eyes and stared at the small grey circles on the tablecloth that were water drops.

"By the way," He added, "I have just signed an Executive Order nationalizing your factories. I'm firing you as head of your business. I'll be operating the firm now for the benefit of all mankind. There's a whole bunch of Erics and Andrews out there and they can't come to you for jobs groveling like beggars."

I looked up. The President dropped his spoon into the empty ramekin which had been his creme brulee. He drained the last drops of his wine. As the table was cleared, he lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He stared at me. I clung to the edge of the table as if were a ledge and I were a man hanging over an abyss. I thought of the years behind me, of the life I had lived. The life I had earned with a lifetime of work, risk and struggle. Why was I punished? How had I allowed it to be taken? What game had I played and lost? I looked across the table and noticed with some surprise that there was no game board between us.

What had I done wrong?

As if answering the unspoken thought, the President suddenly cocked his head, locked his empty eyes to mine, and bared a million teeth, chuckling wryly as he folded his hands.

"You should have stopped me at the dinner roll," he said.

Copyright May 31st, 2009 by Richard Gleaves

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A Trail of Breadcrumbs: The Resignation of Pope Benedict and the Great Financial Collapse

On Tuesday, February 12th, Pope Benedict  XVI shocked the world and his congregation with news that he was resigning the papacy; this is entirely unprecedented in the modern age. The last pope to resign, Gregory XII, did so only to solve a dilemma of leadership in the church. That was 600 years ago, and it hasn’t happened since. Every pope in 600 years has died in the arms of the church.

But not this pope. Regardless of what you believe, it is hard to fathom how, within the Catholic framework, he can justify rejecting the papacy theologically or practically. Despite the advantages of medical care and luxury, despite the prospect of remaining servant of God and meeting his creator as pope, he is rejecting his position in relation to God and walking away.

When something extraordinary happens, one must look for extraordinary circumstances. I think I can explain this sudden resignation, if the reader is prepared to follow a trail of breadcrumbs, link after link in a chain that connects five men. This is not a chain of five conspirators, necessarily, but is intended to show the links between our politics, our financial gurus, and our religious leaders.

First, Barack Obama. The president is bent on running the national debt to its limit. He is pushing to eliminate the debt ceiling, and calling for chump-change revenue while the government wastes trillions pouring cash down sinkhole after sinkhole of boondoggles, swindles and schemes. Every move he makes promises a parabolic curve of rising debt. Why? There are three opinions. Firstly, it is possible that he believes increased spending is the way to save the economy; perhaps his advisors have told him that the depressionary forces of the market must be countered by an inflationary monetary policy or else the economy will collapse. The second possibility is that he knows a collapse is inevitable and is buying time, either for noble motives (sparing Americans the pain in the hope that some last minute save appears) or venal (a shopping spree of spending while the reserve status makes it possible, to secure his constituency and reward his cronies). The third opinion is more sinister. Could Obama be running up the debt to cause the collapse? Who would stand to benefit? And what would happen afterwards? It is difficult to believe that this is the case. How would the man look in the mirror?
The second link is Paul Volcker. Volcker is former chairman of the Federal Reserve. He knows the dangers of monetary inflation, having fought back the post-Nixon Shock inflationary wave of the 70s. He was Obama’s advisor on the financial crisis until January, 21st 2011. On that date, he resigned his position, ceding it to G.E. CEO Jeffrey Immelt. What had he been working on in his last months? In September 2010, a self-appointed group convened at the grand Palais-Royal in Paris for what became known as the Palais-Royal Initiative. These men were former central bankers from around the world, acting (we are told) on their own. The group was assembled by Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, an Italian banker considered to be the “Father of the Euro”. (He is also adored by George Soros, who named his own Euro-solution the “Padoa-Schioppa plan”) The purpose of the Palais-Royal initiative? To create a framework for the next phase of monetary policy.

On December 18th, just before the penultimate meeting of the group, Padoa-Schioppa died, and the third man in our trail of breadcrumbs appears. The new leader of the Palais-Royal group: Michel Camdessus, French economist and former Managing Director of the IMF.  The group came to its conclusion. The report of the Palais-Royal Initiative, issued in January of 2011 (and revised the next month) calls for the creation of a supranational banking power, outside the control of any government, which would issue the global reserve currency in the form of SDRs, a unit of account created at Bretton Woods in 1944. Essentially, Camdessus’ old colleagues at the IMF (and the Bank of International Settlements) want to take over international finance. We can't blame them for trying, right? Camdessus presented the document to French President Sarkozy, and the report was disseminated on October 5th, 2011 among the papers of the G-20, appearing on the abstract as a paper written specifically for the G-20.

One may well imagine the response to this paper: "This new banking takeover might work, Monsieur Camdessus, but is it right? Is it moral?" And now the Vatican comes in. We come to our fourth name, that of Cardinal Peter Turkson. Turkson is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. On October 23rd, 2011 (18 days after the G-20 presentation) the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace surprised many by coming out with a proposal that damned “the idolatry of the market” and called for a supranational banking authority identical to the one recommended by the Palais-Royal group. What are the chances? Coincidence? Not when you look on the list of advisors to the Council. There among the names is Michel Camdessus.

And so we come to the last name on our list, full circle to Pope Benedict XVI. Why is he stepping down so unexpectedly? The answer is to be found, I believe, in the name of the man considered to have the best odds of being our next pope: Cardinal Peter Turkson. According to the Pope’s own brother, Benedict is tormented by the “Vatileaks” scandal, involving leaked Vatican documents indicating money laundering and corruption. This is not to say that Benedict himself is implicated, but he may well be resigning to protect the church, as acquiescence to someone’s threat to release more. Who would possess such documents? The financiers who are on the opposite side of the Vatican trades, naturally. Those financiers who want a new pope in power: Peter Turkson, who is fully on board, and who will declare the IMF schemes to be moral and just when the time comes, a man who is unassailable due to his skin color, who will be commanding the obedience of 1.2 billion Catholics.

If there is any truth to these speculations, whether you believe in a divinity or you don’t, I think you can appreciate and share the sentiment: God help us all.