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The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 1

The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 1

This is getting pretty ridiculous. For old times sake, we recently checked on the Federal debt level during the month we arrived in the Imperial City as a 24-year old eager beaver. That was June 1970 and the Federal debt held by the public was $275 billion.

Mind you, while that number wasn’t exactly diminutive, it had taken all of 188 years to accumulate. That is to say, Uncle Sam had borrowed an average of $28,000 per week during the 9,776 weekssince George Washington was sworn in as the nation’s first president.

We are ruminating about this seeming historical obscuranta because it just so happens that the US treasury this very week will be selling $258 billion of government debt.

That’s right. Uncle Sam’s scheduled debt emission this week will nearly equal his cumulative borrowing during the nation’s first 188 years and its first 37 presidents!

And, yes, there has been some considerable inflation since June 1970. And not the least because exactly 13 months later Tricky Dick Nixon decided to pull the plug on Bretton Woods and the dollar’s anchor to a fixed weight of gold.

Needless to say, the financial discipline of gold-backed money during that interval of guns and butter excess would most certainly have triggered a recession and a heap of inconvenience for Nixon’s 1972 reelection prospects. As it happened, the American economy got a heap of inflation and destructive financialization over the next half century, instead.

Accordingly, the price level today is 5X higher as measured by the GDP deflator. So in today’s dollars of purchasing power, the 1970 debt figure would be about $1.2 trillion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 5: The Flat Line Does Not Spell Recovery

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 5: The Flat Line Does Not Spell Recovery

The punk January industrial production (IP) report brought another reminder that the Fed has stimulated nothing at all on the output/employment prong of its dual mandate.

Indeed, as they celebrate a purported “mission accomplished” full employment recovery and confidently prepare to plow forward with an epochal pivot to QT (quantitative tightening), our Keynesian central bankers have remained absolutely mum on this stunning fact: To wit, there has been no recovery at all in US industrial production, and that’s as in nichts, nada and nugatory.

In fact, January 2018 output in the manufacturing sector was still 2.2% below its December 2007 level, and total industrial production has barely crept forward at a 0.19% annual rate. And if you don’t think that is close enough to zero for government work, just recall what a real historical recovery looks like on the IP front.

During the December 2000 to December 2007 cycle, for example, total IP grew at 1.4% per annum and manufacturing output rose by 1.9% per annum on a peak-to-peak basis. Prior to that during the 1990-2000 cycle, the figures were 4.0% and 4.6% per annum, respectively.

And if you want to dial way back in time to the Reagan-Bush cycle from July 1981 to July 1990, the peak-to-peak growth trend for total industrial production was 2.3% per annum and 2.8% for manufacturing output. And, by your way, that cycle also included a deep recession in 1982 that was only slightly less severe than the 2008-2009 downturn.

In short, when you don’t get anywhere on industrial production over the course of 10 full years—-the Great Recession notwithstanding—you are not succeeding. And while you are bragging, you at least ought to attempt to explain or rationalize what is otherwise a screaming aberration in the modern history of business cycles.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 4: The Folly Of 2.00% Inflation Targeting

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 4: The Folly Of 2.00% Inflation Targeting

The dirty secret of Keynesian central banking is that under current circumstances its interventions have almost no impact on its famous dual mandate—-stable prices and full employment on main street.

That’s because goods and services inflation is a melded consequence of global central banking. The capital, trade, financial and exchange rate movements which result from the tug-and-haul of worldwide central banking policies generate incessant shape-shifting impacts on the CPI; and the ebb and flow of these forces completely dwarfs FOMC actions in the New York money and bond markets.

In today’s world, there is no such thing as inflation in one country. In that regard, the traditional Fed tool of pegging the funds rate is especially obsolete, impotent and ritualistically mindless. After all, if the 2.00% inflation target is meant as a long haul objective, it was achieved long ago. The CPI index for January 2018 at 249.2 compared to a level of 169.3 back in January 2000, thereby representing exactly a 2.17% compound annual gain over the 18 year period.

So where’s the Eccles Building beef about missing its target from below—even if that wasn’t one of the more ludicrous notions of “failure” ever to arise from the central banking fraternity?

On the other hand, if 2.00% is meant as a short-run target, how much more evidence do we need? Since the Fed shifted to deep pegging at or near the zero bound in December 2008, there has been no inflation rate correlation with the funds rate whatsoever.

In the sections below we will resolve the inflation matter once and for all by demonstrating that the very idea of 2.00% inflation targeting (or any other target) is singularly stupid and destructive.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 1: Last Week Wasn’t An Error

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 1: Last Week Wasn’t An Error

Last week’s twin 1,000 point plunges on the Dow were not errors. Instead, these close-coupled massacres, which wiped out $4 trillion of global market cap in two days, marked the beginning of a bear market that will be generational, not a temporary cyclical downleg.

What hit the casino wasn’t an air pocket; it was a fundamental change of direction, signaling that the three decade long central bank experiment with Bubble Finance has now run its course.

Moreover, this epochal pivot is not tentative or reversible in any near-term time frame that matters. That’s because the arrogant but clueless Keynesian academics and apparatchiks who run the Fed think they have succeeded splendidly and that the US economy is on the cusp of full-employment.

So they’re now hell-bent on positioning the central bank for the next downturn. That is, they are reloading their recession-fighting “dry powder” thru interest rate normalization and a second giant experiment—-this time in shrinking their balance sheet by huge annual amounts under a regime called quantitative tightening (QT).

Needless to say, both the magnitude and the automaticity of this impending monetary shock are being completely ignored by Wall Street in favor of bromides like “the market knows” QT is coming because the Fed has been transparent in its forward guidance.

So what? Knowing the steamroller is coming doesn’t stop you from getting crushed if you remain in its path. In fact, the $600 billion annualized bond dumping rate incepting in October is a fearsome number; it’s larger than the entire $500 billion Fed balance sheet as recently as the year 2000.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two Elephants In The Room That The GOP Has Completely Forgotten

Two Elephants In The Room That The GOP Has Completely Forgotten

The US economy is threatened by two giant problems which cause all others to pale into insignificance. We are referring to a rogue central bank that has become an absolute enemy of capitalist prosperity and a fiscal doomsday machine that is hostage to the ceaseless budgetary demands of the Warfare State, the Welfare State and the Baby Boom’s demographic imperatives.

Needless to say, both ends of the Acela Corridor are completely oblivious to these twin menaces. Indeed, they are the proverbial elephants in the room, thereby giving rise to a considerable irony: To wit, the GOP party of the elephant, which is supposed to be the palladium of financial rectitude in American politics, has forgotten about them completely.

For instance, in his triumphalist SOTU, the Donald didn’t utter so much as a single syllable about the Fed, the budget, entitlements, the $1 trillion per year deficits looming ahead or the nation’s soaring public debt.  Yet after omitting virtually everything which counts, he went on to crow about how he is making America Great Again (MAGA) by making better trade deals and borrowing untold sums from future generations.

That is to say, when he did veer into fiscal territory it was to demand repeal of the sequester caps, which are the one thing that has slightly braked runaway spending, and to boast about his own favorite deficit financed twins: The $1.5 trillion tax cut already passed and the additional $1.5 trillion infrastructure boondoggle he proposed to lob on top.

Oh, and there was also his $33 billion Mexican Wall, 5,000 new border patrol agents (in  addition to 20,000 already) and Federalization of two purported crises—the opioid epidemic and gangs like MS-13—-which should be a matter for local government, if the latter have any purpose at all.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Flying Blind, Part 2: The Destruction Of Honest Price Discovery And Its Consequences

Flying Blind, Part 2: The Destruction Of Honest Price Discovery And Its Consequences

In Part 1 we noted that the real evil of Bubble Finance is not merely that it leads to bubble crashes, of which there is surely a doozy just around the bend; or that speculators get the painful deserts they fully deserve, which is coming big time, too; or even that the retail homegamers are always drawn into the slaughter at the very end, as is playing out in spades once again. Daily.

Given enough time, in fact, markets do bounce back because capitalism has a inherent urge to grow, thereby generating higher output, incomes, profits, wealth and stock indices. That means, in turn, investors eventually do recover from bubble crashes—notwithstanding the tendency of homegamers and professional speculators alike to sell at panic lows and jump back in after most of the profits have been made—or even at panic highs like the present.

Instead, the real economic iniquity of central bank driven Bubble Finance is that it destroys all the pricing signals that are essential to financial discipline on both ends of the Acela Corridor. And as quaint at it may sound, discipline is the sine qua non of long-term stability and sustainable gains in productivity, living standards and real wealth.

The pols of the Imperial City should be petrified, therefore, by the prospect of borrowing $1.2 trillion during the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2019) at a rate of 6.o% of GDP during month #111 through month #123 of the business expansion; and doing so at the very time the central bank is pivoting to an unprecedented spell of QT (quantitative tightening), involving the disgorgement of up to $2 trillion of its elephantine balance sheet back into the bond market.

Even as a matter of economics 101, the forthcoming $1.8 trillion of combined bond supply from the sales of the US Treasury ($1.2 trillion) and the QT-disgorgement of the Fed ($600 billion) is self-evidently enough to monkey-hammer the existing supply/demand balances, and thereby send yields soaring.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold and Silver Bullion Are Only “Safe Investments Left” – Stockman

Gold and Silver Bullion Are Only “Safe Investments Left” – Stockman

Gold and Silver Bullion Are Only “Safe Investments Left” – Stockman

– Gold is the “ultimate and only real money” – Former Reagan White House Budget Director David Stockman 
– Trump tax cuts will lead to a ‘fiscal calamity of biblical proportions’
 China downgrades U.S. over political ‘deficiencies’
– Expect a ‘huge reset in the bond market’ and a ‘massive drop in household wealth’
– ‘People will flee the stock and bond markets in favour of gold and silver
– Time to buy (gold and silver bullion) is ideal
– “Only safe asset left is gold”

‘There is nowhere to go from here’ are the words that ring in your ears after listening to a recent interview on USA Watchdog with former Reagan White House Budget Director David Stockman.

This might seem a depressing perspective to take but what Stockman is referring to is the fiscal and financial crisis that is on its way. The final straw of which is Trump’s massive tax cuts and the huge costs therein. It will contribute to a ‘thundering collision’ in the ‘bond market’ and the impending collapse of the third financial bubble in the last 17 years- arguably the largest bubble in world history.

For investors there is still somewhere to go, believes Stockman, and that is into gold and silver bullion:

‘If you have $10,000 to put in a safe place, put it into gold and silver not in the Wall St. stock and bond market,’ advises Stockman.

“Fiscal calamity of biblical proportions”

These quotes are taken from an interview Stockman gave at the end of December, on the very day the US Senate approved drastic changes to the US tax code.

Whilst Stockman has believed for some time that the gig is up when it comes to the current state of play, he expresses his concerns that the decision to implement major tax cuts will be the icing on the cake.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Real Bleep-Hole Moment—–$40 Trillion And Counting

The Real Bleep-Hole Moment—–$40 Trillion And Counting

You can call it the bleep-hole moment (per the Fox “family channel”) or the shit-hole moment (per the rest of the MSM), but what you can’t call yesterday’s contretemps in the White House is evidence that sentient adults are in charge of the Imperial City.

And, no, we are not getting down on the Donald for using a swear word—nor are we trying to out race-card Don Lemon as to the obvious implications of the President’s crude phraseology.

Indeed, even prior to yesterday’s outburst it was hard to deny that Trump is a semi-literate bully and that he never got (read) the memo on racial comity and respect. But we actually happen to think that the Donald’s potty-talk eruption resulted not from some dark place in his mind and heart, but from sheer frustration as the intractability of the immigration issue closes in on him.

What we mean is that neither party has its cards face up on the matter—-which goes way beyond the potential deportation of the 800,000 dreamers, chain migration, the diversity lottery and the Wall. Underneath it all there is a brutal, raging political struggle for dominance which is almost existential in import.

To wit, the sundry Dem caucuses want more immigrants, and the browner the better, because it’s their only route to electoral dominance. By contrast, the hard core GOP immigrant-thumpers are desperately attempting to hang-on to Red State rule in the face of the forbidding demographic math of the white population—and the fact that not many Norwegians want to come to America anyway.

It would not be too far-fetched to say that the partisan battle for office is morphing into a racial-ethnic war.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unhinged, Part 1: The GOP’s Fiscal Madness

Unhinged, Part 1: The GOP’s Fiscal Madness

The watchword for 2018 is: UNHINGED!

That refers to Wall Street, Washington, the Dems and the GOP, and all the far and near corners of the planet which are implicated in their collective follies.

The latter begins with the fact that Imperial Washington has become so dysfunctional that the most powerful government on earth can’t seem to keep its doors open for more than a few weeks at a time.

The next continuing resolution (CR) deadline is January 19 and the route thereto resembles nothing less than kick-the-can-alley. It’s strewn with $100 billion of unfunded disaster aid, defense and nondefense sequester caps fixing to be busted by another $100 billion, 700,000 dreamers waiting to be deported, 9 million poor children (CHAPS) facing termination of medical care and millions more ObamaCare recipients who have been promised that cost abatement subsidies to insurance companies will be funded forthwith.

And along with those major bouncing cans are countless more articles of graft and booty cued-up on Capitol Hill looking for a legislative gravy train (i.e. CR) to hop aboard.

Likewise, the casino gamblers on Wall Street complacently attempt to tag another record at 2700 on the S&P 500. Yet that would represent a nosebleed 25X LTM earnings heading into a bond market rout that is certain to result from soaring treasury issuance and the Fed’s impending bond dump-a-thon.

Worse still, the Donald insouciantly unleashes tweet storms about the alleged Trumpian boom when the next recession is statistically just around the corner. After all, the current so-called recovery will pass the existing 118 month record, which occurred under the far more propitious circumstances of the 1990s, in April 2019.

But when it comes to Unhinged, nothing tops the GOP’s disgraceful plunge into fiscal turpitude. The once and former party of fiscal rectitude and a constitutionally required balanced budget has unleashed a torrent of red ink, which under the circumstances, makes Barack Obama’s profligacy pale by comparison.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 2

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 2

During the 40 months after Alan Greenspan’s infamous “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996, the NASDAQ 100 index rose from 830 to 4585 or by 450%. But the perma-bulls said not to worry: This time is different—-it’s a new age of technology miracles that will change the laws of finance.

It wasn’t. The market cracked in April 2000 and did not stop plunging until the NASDAQ 100 index hit 815 in early October 2002. During those a heart-stopping 30 months of free-fall, all the gains of the tech boom were wiped out in an 84% collapse of the index. Overall, the market value of household equities sank from $10.0 trillion to $4.8 trillion—-a wipeout from which millions of baby boom households have never recovered.

Likewise, the second Greenspan housing and credit boom generated a similar round trip of bubble inflation and collapse. During the 57 months after the October 2002 bottom, the Russell 2000 (RUT) climbed the proverbial wall-of-worry—-rising from 340 to 850 or by 2.5X.

And this time was also held to be different because, purportedly, the art of central banking had been perfected in what Bernanke was pleased to call the “Great Moderation”. Taking the cue, Wall Street dubbed it the Goldilocks Economy—-meaning a macroeconomic environment so stable, productive and balanced that it would never again be vulnerable to a recessionary contraction and the resulting plunge in corporate profits and stock prices.

Wrong again!

During the 20 months from the July 2007 peak to the March 2009 bottom, the RUT gave it all back. And we mean every bit of it—-as the index bottomed 60% lower at 340. This time the value of household equities plunged by $6 trillion, and still millions more baby-boomers were carried out of the casino on their shields never to return.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

During the 40 months after Alan Greenspan’s infamous “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996, the NASDAQ 100 index rose from 830 to 4585 or by 450%. But the perma-bulls said not to worry: This time is different—-it’s a new age of technology miracles that will change the laws of finance forever.

It wasn’t. The market cracked in April 2000 and did not stop plunging until the NASDAQ 100 index hit 815 in early October 2002. During those heart-stopping 30 months of free-fall, all the gains of the tech boom were wiped out in an 84% collapse of the index. Overall, the market value of household equities sank from $10.0 trillion to $4.8 trillion—-a wipeout from which millions of baby boom households have never recovered.

Likewise, the second Greenspan housing and credit boom generated a similar round trip of bubble inflation and collapse. During the 57 months after the October 2002 bottom, the Russell 2000 (RUT) climbed the proverbial wall-of-worry—-rising from 340 to 850 or by 2.5X.

And this time was also held to be different because, purportedly, the art of central banking had been perfected in what Bernanke was pleased to call the “Great Moderation”. Taking the cue, Wall Street dubbed it the Goldilocks Economy—-meaning a macroeconomic environment so stable, productive and balanced that it would never again be vulnerable to a recessionary contraction and the resulting plunge in corporate profits and stock prices.

Wrong again!

During the 20 months from the July 2007 peak to the March 2009 bottom, the RUT gave it all back. And we mean every bit of it—-as the index bottomed 60% lower at 340. This time the value of household equities plunged by $6 trillion, and still millions more baby-boomers were carried out of the casino on their shields never to return.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold Only Safe Asset Left – David Stockman

Gold Only Safe Asset Left – David Stockman

Record high stock and bond prices are flashing danger signs to former Reagan White House Budget Director David Stockman. Stockman contends, “I don’t think we are going to have a liquidity crisis.  I think it’s going to be a value reset.  I think there is going to be a jarring downward price adjustment both in the stock market and in the bond market.  This phantom or phony wealth that has been created since the last crisis is going to basically evaporate.”

So, what asset is safe? Stockman says gold and goes onto explain, “I think the time to buy (gold and silver) is ideal.  Gold is the ultimate and only real money.  Gold is the only safe asset when push comes to shove.  They tell you to buy the government bond, that’s a safe asset.  It’s not a safe asset at its current price.  I am not saying the federal government is going to default in the next two or three years.  I am saying the yield on a 10-year bond of 2.4% is way below of where it’s going to end up.  So, the only safe asset left is gold.  This crazy Bitcoin mania has drained off what would otherwise be a demand for gold. . . . When Bitcoin collapses, spectacularly, which it will because it’s sheer mania in the markets right now.  When it collapses, I think a lot of that demand will come back into gold, as well as people fleeing the standard stock and bond markets for the first time in 9 or 10 years.”

What about the so-called Trump tax cuts? Stockman predicts, “I think it’s going to be a fiscal calamity of Biblical proportions.  I want to be clear.  I am always for tax cuts and shrinking the size of government, but you have to earn it.  You have to cut spending and entitlements and this massive defense budget.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Fantasy Time

Peak Fantasy Time

If you want to know why both Wall Street and Washington are so delusional about America’s baleful economic predicament, just consider this morsel from today’s Wall Street Journal on the purportedly awesome November jobs report.

Wages rose just 2.5% from a year earlier in November—near the same lackluster pace maintained since late 2015, despite a much lower unemployment rate. But in a positive signfor Americans’ incomes, the average work week increased by about 6 minutes to 34.5 hours in November…. November marked the 86th straight month employers added to payrolls.

Whoopee!

Six whole minutes added to a work week that has been shrinking for decades owing to the relentlessly deteriorating quality mix of the “jobs” counted by the BLS establishment survey. In fact, even by that dubious measure, the work week is still shorter than it was at the December 2007 pre-crisis peak (33.8) and well below its 2000 peak level.

The reason isn’t hard to figure: The US economy is generating fewer and fewer goods producing jobs where the work week averages 40.5 hours and weekly pay equates to $58,400 annually and far more bar, hotel and restaurant jobs, where the work week averages just 26.1 hours and weekly pay equates to only $21,000 annually.

In other words, the ballyh0oed headline averages are essentially meaningless noise because the BLS counts all jobs equal—-that is, a 10-hour per week gig at the minimum wage at McDonald’s weighs the same as a 45 hour per week (with overtime) job at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria that pays $80,000 annually in wages and benefits.

When the line is trending inexorably from the upper left to the lower right, of course, it means there are more of the former and fewer of the latter. Six more minutes of continuing worse—-is still bad.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mind the Junk—-This Ain’t Your Grandfather’s Capitalism

Mind the Junk—-This Ain’t Your Grandfather’s Capitalism

The financial system is loaded with anomalies, deformations and mispricings—-outcomes which would never occur on an honest free market. For example, the junk bond yield at just 2% in Europe is now below that of the “risk-free” US treasury bond owing solely to the depredations of the ECB.

Indeed, madman Draghi has purchased $2.6 trillion of securities since launching QE in March 2015, and during the interim has actually bought more government debt than was issued by all the socialist governments of the EU-19 combined!

Euro Area Central Bank Balance SheetOutrunning Europe’s deficit-addicted welfare states is quite a feat in itself, but that wasn’t the half of it. The ECB’s printing press became so parched for government debt to buy that it has ended up owning more than $120 billion of corporate bonds. In some recent cases, the ECB has actually taking down 20% or more of new corporate issues—an action that surely leaves the fastidious founders of its Bundesbank prodecessor turning in their graves.

In turn, the ECB’s Big Fat Thumb on the investment grade scale stampeded fund managers into the junk market in quest of yield, especially for BB rated paper which makes up 75% of the European high yield market. So doing, these return hungry managers have crushed the the yield on the Merrill Lynch junk bond index, driving it down from 6.4% in early 2106 to an incredible 2.002% last week.

That is to say, leveraged speculators in European junk have made 100% plus returns over the last 20 months on dodgy paper that should be yielding double or triple its current rate.

In fact, the current lunatic euro-trash yield is completely off the historical charts. Euro-junk rarely yielded under 5% in the past, and had spiked to upwards of 10% at the time of Draghi’s “whatever it takes” ukase, which, in turn, was modest compared to the 25% blow-0ff high during the depths of the financial crisis.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Yawning Debt Trap Proves the Great Recession is Still On

Yawning Debt Trap Proves the Great Recession is Still On

Published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US. Used to represent people piling up America's national debt.While David Stockman stated early this year with resolute certainty that the debt ceiling debate would blow congress up and send the nation reeling over the financial precipice, I avoided jumping on the debt-ceiling bandwagon. While I was convinced major rifts in the economy would start to show up in the summer, I was not convinced they would have anything to do with the debt ceiling debate. If there is anything you can be certain of this in endless recovery-mode economy, it is that the US will just keep pushing its bags of bonds up a hill until it can finally push no more. So, I figured another punt down the road was more likely.

The Debt Ceiling Debate that Didn’t Happen

The reason I didn’t think that debate would blow apart is that Republicans have more than once experienced the political reality that comes from taking the nation to the brink of default or of shutting down government. Each time that kind of thing has happened, it has hurt Republicans far more than it has hurt Democrats. I doubted establishment Repubs (the majority) had the stomach to take us through another credit downgrade, though I’ve noted such an event was possible.

Unsurprisingly to me, then, Congress did the only thing it seems to be capable of any more and just kicked that can a little further down the road with hardly a kerfuffle about it. Hurricane Harvey made things a lot easier for congress to kick the can again by providing a good excuse to dodge that unwanted debate on the basis of massive human suffering that truly did need tending to. Much-talked-about government shutdown put off for a better time

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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