El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Watch this video and you will know why we do not live in the USA anymore.......


Ecuador urges villagers on slopes of volcano to evacuate because of increase eruptions

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s government is urging four villages to evacuate because of increased activity in the Tungurahua volcano not far from the country’s capital.
Authorities in the South American nation say about 700 people live in the mainly farming communities on the slopes of the volcano in the Andes.

Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute says increased activity that began Sunday is billowing columns of ash, sending superheated clouds of gas down the slopes and cascading hot rocks from the summit.
The agency said Monday that it is recording a gradual accumulation of lava in the mountain.
The 16,480-foot (5,023-meter) volcano is in a sparsely populated area about 84 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Quito. It has been active since 1999.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How China will defeat America

Don’t expect spending on the pentagon to decrease. Not with our nation’s security at stake. And not with China posing an ever- greater threat.

An article by Yan Xuetong, translated from mandarin, tells “How China can defeat America.” The gist of Mr. Xuetong’s thought is that rising hegemons are a lot nicer than declining ones. Besides that, history is on the side of the rising power.

The US has become a tyrannical power, he insinuates, throwing its weight around wherever it can. China, on the other hand, is a helpful hegemon...a “humane authority.” While the US has military alliances all over the world...China has none. While the US has fought numerous wars over the last two decades, China’s military hasn’t been involved in conflict since 1984.

China has been preoccupied with her own internal issues...mostly related to employment and growth. But China’s economy grew 71 times faster than the US over the last 4 years. At that rate, it won’t be long before US output is actually lower than China’s.

Mr. Xuetong believes China should do as it did during the Tang dynasty, when it brought in foreigners as high ranking officials to help it take its place on the world stage.

No doubt there are other Chinese who are more hardnosed about it. Rarely does one empire give way to a successor peacefully. There are bound to be Chinese thinkers, whose works aren’t translated, who are speculating about how the Chinese can defeat the US in a real war. They’re surely devising a strategy...and developing new technologies...right at this very moment.

How could China defeat the US? Easy, it could spook US lawmakers into spending more money...wasting more military resources...and driving the nation into bankruptcy. In short, it could just wait.


Bill Bonner,
for The Daily Reckoning

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shock: 100 Million Americans In Poverty or Right on the Edge

We can play these “recovery” games in the media all we want, but the truth is starkly different from what our benevolent leadership would have us believe.
If the abhorrent unemployment numbers, the nearly 50 million on government food assistance, dwindling savings accounts, collapsing real estate values, and negative economic growth (when adjusted for inflation) are not enough to convince you that we are in a long-term depressionary cycle, then maybe these latest statistics of “near poor” Americans will:
Down but not quite out, these Americans form a diverse group sometimes called “near poor” and sometimes simply overlooked — and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood.
When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.
After a lost decade of flat wages and the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the findings can be thought of as putting numbers to the bleak national mood — quantifying the expressions of unease erupting in protests and political swings. They convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure.

“These numbers are higher than we anticipated,” said Trudi J. Renwick, the bureau’s chief poverty statistician. “There are more people struggling than the official numbers show.”
Source: NYT
One in three Americans are either below, or right at, the poverty line.
The scary thing is: We’re just getting started.
Things are not going to get better any time soon. This is a sustained downward depressionary environment and all of the key indicators for economic well-being suggest it’s only going to get worse.
One hundred million people are barely able to keep themselves fed, sheltered and clothed. Tens of millions more will join the ranks of the near poor over coming months and years.
As more people become part of the near poor, more debt will need to be issued. Coupled with rising prices in essential goods like food and energy, which are outpacing emergency assistance payments, there is simply no way to support everyone who needs help.
Government safety nets can only handle a finite amount of stress and weight before they experience complete failure.
As the nets unravel and fail we’ll be looking at catastrophic consequences for our social and economic systems as we know them today. The worst case hypothetical scenarios of debt driven currency collapse, food riots, and the degradation of law and order are very much becoming reality.

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: November 21st, 2011

“When I Bought a Home in Ecuador, I Hit the Jackpot”

By Darius Fisher
I was at the International Living Live and Invest in Ecuador Seminar 2011 that wrapped up about a week ago. I wish you were there, too. We learned why Ecuador makes so much sense for anyone looking to find a way to stretch their modest savings and social security checks...and yet enjoy a high quality of life.
One of my favorite presentations was from John Curran. Like many North Americans, he grew tired of the hustle bustle of modern life—“riding the merry-go-round,” as he calls it.
“I’ve never won anything. But after buying a home in Ecuador, I finally know what it’s like to hit the jackpot.”
John and his partner Sue were sick of spending thousands of dollar a month just to get by—on health care, on taxes, on food. They were tired of stress and traffic jams.
Put simply, they needed a change. So they finally did something about it…
At just 44 years old, John and Sue retired from teaching to the lush green mountains of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. And they’re happier, healthier and richer than ever.
Wouldn’t you be, too, if you could buy an amenity-packed, two-bedroom house (with a separate guest house) on 1.5 acres for five figures?
Get a gallon of gas for $1.48…
Grab a cold pilsner beer for 75 cents a bottle…
Enjoy world-class, English speaking, health care at bargain prices…
And pay just $62.52—a year—for property taxes?
John shared everything about his new life here in Ecuador…his monthly budget…his strategies for stretching his savings as far as possible… his favorite place to live…and his stories about what life’s really like, once you finally get the courage to hop off the “merry-go-round.” (Hint: It’s much, much more relaxing!)
But John also shared his #1 tip for success in Ecuador. It makes perfect sense to me and it will to you, too, when you learn what it is. Follow their lead and your life will cost far less and cause you much less stress indeed. (You can pick up a recording of his presentation here.)
When Sue got injured while riding a horse, she had to go to the ER.
An ambulance—with English-speaking medics—promptly picked her up and took her to the best private hospital in the area.
After getting world-class care, x-rays, CAT-scans, three delicious meals a day in a private room, and medication…the total bill came out to less than $800 dollars!
Compare that to back home—you wouldn’t even get able to get into the ambulance for less than $1,000.
If this low-cost, high-quality care doesn't have you thinking about packing up and starting a new life in Ecuador, I’m not sure what will.
In fact, there's so much that Ecuador has to offer that it should be at the top of your list. (It is International Living’s #1 retirement destination, after all.)
With the help and advice of people like John and our other experts—who’ve been there and done that—attendees at the Ecuador event got all the insider intelligence they needed on this beautiful country to make it their best place to live, retire or invest.

Celebrations in Ecuador more family-oriented than capitalistic

by Katie Moran,

Ecuador vs Panama, Which is for you? - The Ecuador Insider

Salsa music’s in the air.

Dominoes are being smacked down on almost every street corner by the older folks.

Mulattas, and Mulattoes dressed to impress traffic the cobblestone streets below my balcony.

This week, I’m checking in from Panama City, Panama.

So I thought I’d take the chance to compare life in Ecuador vs Panama

Here goes…

Money:  Both countries use the US dollar, which makes life MUCH easier for us greenback carriers.  The dollar can drop in value all it wants but the effect is minimal when in a “dollar” country.

Cost of Living: The essentials are cheaper in Ecuador… food, shelter, transportation, whereas consumer goods are cheaper in Panama.  Food is noticeably more expensive in Panama with lunches starting around $4 compared to Ecuador where lunches start around $2.  Rents for a 2 bedroom apartment in a nice area of Panama city start around $500 but often cost more compared to Ecuador cities where you can find similar rentals in livable areas starting around $300/month.

Real Estate:  Panama real estate is clearly on the down-swing following the general world crisis trend.  Since 2009, Ecuador is on its way up since mortgages became more accessible to locals and Ecuador began to be mentioned often by the International retirement press.  Panama already had their big boom when prices skyrocketed from 2005-2008.  Bottom line, it’s hard to find a decent apartment in Panama City for under $100k, in Ecuador that task is still very doable, especially if you know how to look.

Government stability:  Panama wins here as with each time I come here I am more reminded of Hong Kong.  Ecuador governmental policies seem to always be closing the doors (more on that in a future newsletter).

Public transportation:  In Panama most have cars while in Ecuador most people don’t!  Consequently, cars are a need in Panama with much fewer public transport options.  Taxi rides start around $2-3 here in the City but at rush hour you can see hundreds of people waiting in the streets for buses and trying to catch taxis making it VERY evident public transport is extremely lacking in Panama.

Food:  Food is clearly more expensive in Panama as I see prices only a shade below those of the US.  The local gastronomy is not nearly as diverse as that of Ecuador… you’ll see a typical Caribbean beans, rice and fried chicken plate in many of the local eateries.

Women/Men:  The women and men in Panama are mainly mulattoes similar to the Dominican Republic.  The people are attractive with nice figures, and friendly, and seem to treat foreigners well and are not as quick to overcharge them as I see elsewhere.  They are more animated and vocal.  Today a girl serving me food at a fast food joint struck up a conversation with and asked for my number… that rarely happens to me in Ecuador, people are a bit more reserved until you get to know them.

Safety:  In Panama I feel surprisingly safe, walking around at all hours of the day and at night although there are areas we should avoid.

Weather: It hasn’t stopped raining since I’ve been here.  From December to April is the sunny season, the rest of the year is quite rainy, typical for the Caribbean.  Also, the humidity, at least this time of year, is so thick at times I feel I have to walk with an extra zest just to push myself through the air, not so in Ecuador.

Airfare:  It is MUCH cheaper to get to Panama from the US with budget carriers like Spirit Air.

Visa Residency Requirements:  Both offer an investors visa but you need to invest a much larger amount in Panama to qualify.  In Ecuador invest $25-30k or up.  In Panama, $100-250k.  Pensioner visas are also available in both countries.

Banking:  Far easier in Panama for a foreigner to open a bank account and the banking system is more sound.  With $1000 deposit (that you can withdraw later) and a few bank and personal reference letters you can open an account in many of the banks here in Panama.  In Ecuador, unless you know someone, banks won’t open an account for you until you are a legal resident.

Overall:  I love Panama, and I'm going to miss the Panamanian ladies, but I’ll stick to Ecuador for the milder weather, lower costs of essential items, the food, the public transport and the business opportunity I see right now.

Domenick Buonamici
Investor, Entrepreneur, Manager

Ecuador president "gets death threats"

QUITO: Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said Saturday he had received death threats via the micro-blogging service Twitter, and had ordered an investigation.

"Have you seen how many death threats I received? Again someone on Twitter wrote 'Hail Caesar, we will kill you! Hail MashiRafael, who we will kill, we salute you!'" Correa said in his weekly address.

The president, who has used the Twitter handle @MashiRafael since July and currently has more than 141,900 followers, said he has asked Interior Minister Jose Serrano to investigate the threatening messages.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

More history from Bill Bonner.......

Center Can’t Hold
By Bill Bonner

Italy seems to have gone too far. Its 10-year bonds yields are back over 7%. It is “the beginning of the end” say analysts.

But the end of what?

When the going is good people have little patience for questions. They are too busy, earning and spending, buying and selling, and getting where they are going. But then comes a major turnaround, all of a sudden, and they develop the deep torments of a retarded poet in an unhappy marriage.

‘What really matters?’ they ask themselves. ‘And what the hell am I doing here?’

In the US, the “War Between the States” settled the matter. “We will agree to have a single, centralized state,” said Abraham Lincoln, or words to that effect, “or we will kill you.” Later, the federal income tax, the direct election of senators (which ended individual states’ participation in the federal government), interminable meddling, and numerous Supreme Court decisions further enlarged the power of the central government at the expense of “states’ rights.”

In Europe, several times, centralization was attempted. In his article in The Financial Times, on Wednesday, Martin Wolf called it “the dream of centuries.” It took big dreamers to think they could put together so many different tribes. Caesar...Bonaparte... Hitler. (For some reason, perhaps it was a slip of memory, Wolfe doesn’t mention Adolf.) But the most recent centralization cycle was agreed voluntarily. Europeans saw it as a way to prevent war and stimulate their economies. They appeared to be right on both points, for a while. Europe’s economies boomed during the “30 glorious years” following WWII. Then, when America turned to private debt, Europe financed further lifestyle enhancements with public debt, financed at low German rates. The periphery states flourished by borrowing and spending. Germany flourished by selling them things.

Now, they all must cut back. The rest is detail...and denial. Total un-payable debt may be in the trillions. Someone is going to suffer it. Whether it is the taxpayers or the lenders hardly matters, not the way the two are twined together. If the lenders are forced to take large haircuts, many collapse...and bring down Europe’s sovereign bonds...and its economies. If the burden of loss is put directly onto the general public, the result is much the same. Whether the austerity is voluntary, or forced, it is inescapable.

The authorities struggle to remain on course — towards a more powerful, more centralized, more bountiful state. But they may be fighting the tides of history as well as economics. The last 300 years have been marked by further and further centralization, first, consolidating the kingdoms, duchies, and principalities of Western Europe in the 18th century. Then, building the nation states of the 19th century. Finally forming the European Union in the 20th. All over the world, local dialects, local money, local customs, and local military power gave way. By 2007, most of the major states of Europe — and quite a few minor ones — used the same currency (the euro)...paid the same interest rates (low)...worshipped the same god (mammon)...and spoke a common commercial and diplomatic language (mid-Atlantic English). Almost the entire world embraced modern credit-enhanced capitalism as taught in the leading business schools. Mario Draghi went to MIT and worked for Goldman Sachs. Mario Monti went to Yale and worked for Goldman Sachs. Lucas Papademos went to MIT and worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. They are interchangeable parts of the same machine.

What caused such homogenization? Was it the availability of modern communications, which made centralization easy and convenient? Was it merely a further elaboration of the division of labor, where each region could do what it did best and depend on the others for what it lacked? Was it the invention of modern artillery? No castle walls were strong enough to protect a local fiefdom. Some thought that modern, democratic government — combined with guided capitalism — was simply a better, more productive system, an evolutionary improvement on all that had gone before. We don’t know.

But we know something. The worries that brought Europe together after WWII now pull it apart. Greek (and other) debtors can’t pay. German (and other) creditors can’t collect. The Germans call the Greeks layabouts and chiselers. The Greeks call the Germans ‘nazis.’

And the centrifugal forces don’t stop at the borders. Belgium has been without a central government for 16 months, and prospers. Thoughtful Italians of the North must resent Garibaldi as much as Monnet. And if the Germans of Hamburg are not willing to support the Greeks of Larisa, why would they want to support the Germans of Dresden?

Developed countries can’t continue to pay for lifestyle enhancements with debt. Total debt-to-GDP ratios already exceed 250% for almost all of them. Britain and Japan are near 500%. At 5% interest, it would cost 25% of total output just to pay for past spending — hamburgers eaten years ago...salaries paid in 1997...and bridges that already need repair! At Italy’s current yields, nearly a third of GDP would be required. As the cost of this past increases, there is less and less money available for voters in the here and now. The center cannot hold. It doesn’t even want to.


Bill Bonner,
for The Daily Reckoning

When America gets tough, the tough look offshore

By Jeff D. Opdyke, Editor, Th

America has become a country of deep philosophical chasms, and there now emerges the very real possibility the turmoil will tear the nation asunder.
Over the next 12 months, as America enters presidential-election season, the fight that is coming will determine whether the country swings decidedly right or left, because the winner will rightly claim a mandate to either continue on the current path into the dark night of socialist thinking ... or reintroduce morning in America.
The divisions in this country have already been brought into stark relief. For instance, 46% of Americans believe in a right to bear arms; 46% don’t.
44% believe marijuana should be legalized; 54% don’t.
45% of Americans support ObamaCare; 42% don’t.
No one can deny that during the past decade, America has changed for the worse... e Sovereign Individual

We’re Living in Orwell’s Dystopia

It is just over 10 years since that unforgettable day in September 2001, when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center in apocalyptic fashion and changed America forever.
In spite of what our politicians tell us, America did not recover from that hammer blow. Today, we are worse off - not because of the terror, but because sycophantic politicians wrapping themselves fraudulently in patriotism, and the Americans who pardon their antics, allowed Osama bin Laden’s act to undermine our freedoms, liberties and ideals.
Electronic strip-searches at the airport...
IRS reporting rules that require merchants to disclose transactions of $10,000 or more or which require you to report foreign financial accounts...
Warrantless electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens...
Secret searches and electronic eavesdropping on Americans by the National Security Agency (with the President’s blessing)...
It’s all an eerie manifestation of Orwell’s dystopian 1984.

But The Tragedy Doesn’t Stop There...

America ended 2000 with a budget surplus of $236 billion, yet today she’s technically bankrupt, addled by annual deficits exceeding $1 trillion and with no honest options for repair - and, worse, a political process that is broken, dysfunctional and self-serving.

We’ve depleted our national treasure on wars of personal revenge and vendetta, spending more than $1.2 trillion - and counting - on conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq that have accomplished little of national significance. Our accumulated debts now exceed $14 trillion, nearly 100% of GDP.

At The Sovereign Society, we know exactly how we would solve the debt crisis - but it would have nothing to do with Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s redux of Operation Twist, which aims to stimulate the economy by pushing medium and long-term interest rates lower.
Our solution is simple - though it is one the Keynesian-minded, wealth-destroying automatons in Washington refuse to consider.

Firstly, kill ObamaCare.

It’s unconstitutional - no government should force its citizens to buy any product under threat of financial penalty. Business executives are so uncertain about the financial impact ObamaCare will impose they have no desire to hire new workers. The added costs only serve to make American businesses less competitive in the global marketplace.

Second, throw away the entire 71,600-page U.S. tax code and start from scratch.

Ensure that everyone pays a little something for the right to live in the freest nation on Earth. There is no reason 51% of American taxpayers effectively pay no income tax - and even less reason why 30% of taxpayers made money off the tax system through credits.

Reduce corporate income taxes while you’re at it.

Kill the various exemptions that individual industries have lobbied for.
And incentivize companies to repatriate the tens of billions of dollars sitting in corporate bank accounts overseas.

Unfortunately, none of those suggestions are likely to happen.

Instead, we have increased inefficient regulation at every turn. Obamacare will doubtless make matters even worse and will continue to work to dampen the animal spirit of American capitalism.

The outcome of the forthcoming election will have long-term ramifications for America.

There is Only One Thing Left To Do

We urge you to think about your financial parachute. Now is the time to have money in banks and brokerage firms overseas ... and in gold and land. You might even consider the possibility of a second passport or residency in another country. Because if fundamental changes in our political priorities and monetary policies don’t happen soon, America is going to become a very tough place to call home for anyone who has even a modicum of wealth.

A possible escape hatch is Asia, where growth is springing forth. Just look at the exploding economies in places like Phnom Penh, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong.

Putting idle cash into EverBank’s Asian Currency Portfolio, for example, means you will inoculate yourself against the never-ending debasement of the U.S. dollar (a trend that has been ongoing for generations) by investing in currencies such as the Singapore dollar, Australian dollar, Indian rupee, Chinese yuan and Japanese yen - all of which consistently outperform the ailing greenback as Asia’s rising middle class fuels the growth of emerging-market economies.

There are a number of other countries that offer offshore banking, citizenship and tax haven opportunities.

Parts of South America - Uruguay in particular - can offer a nice golden parachute and soft landing. As Erika Nolan, Publisher of The Sovereign Individual, pointed out on earlier in the week, not only does Uruguay welcome the right people -- and clearly they are coming in steady numbers - it offers a delightful lifestyle and a myriad of real estate and land investment opportunities. At the same time, establishing Uruguayan citizenship is far from onerous.

In the event that life in the U.S. goes pear-shaped, we urge you to protect your future and the assets you have worked hard to accumulate for yourself and your family by going offshore.

Stay Sovereign,

Jeff D. Opdyke
Editor, The Sovereign Individual

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ecuador lawmakers reject tax bill, blow to Correa

QUITO: Ecuador's Congress rejected a proposal to hike taxes on Thursday, dealing a blow to leftist President Rafael Correa who has regularly counted on votes from a splintered opposition to pass laws.
The measure would have provided some $400 million a year in additional revenues for the government, whose budget calls for increased spending in 2012.

The ruling Alianza Pais political movement has never had a solid majority in Congress. But since Correa first took office in 2007, it has frequently rallied support from opposition lawmakers to pass legislation.

However, Alianza Pais lost sway in the unicameral Congress this year when several lawmakers switched to the opposition over differences with Correa, whom political rivals say is concentrating too much power.
Correa won a referendum in May over 10 reforms, including some aimed at overhauling the justice system. Critics say the changes threaten the balance of power because they give the government a bigger say on judicial appointments.

"The opposition is gaining ground in the assembly ... . Next year is an electoral year and I think lawmakers will be increasingly ashamed of voting in line with the government," said Vicente Taiano, who belongs to a conservative party.

Oil is Ecuador's main revenue earner, and high crude prices in the past few months have allowed Correa to boost spending on hospitals, schools and roads, which has boosted his popularity ahead of a general election set for early 2013.

Since defaulting on billions of dollars worth of foreign debt in 2008, Ecuador has relied on credits from multilateral lenders and loans from China to finance its fiscal deficit.

The bill had called for raising the tax on capital outflows to 5 percent from 2 percent. It also aimed to increase duties on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages and to impose a new "green tax" on vehicles.
"It's obvious that opposition lawmakers have defended the interests of the cigarette and beverage companies, the car importers," said Alianza Pais deputy Paola Pabon.

The Correa government had argued the changes would only affect the wealthy. Opponents said the tax measure would hurt the working class as well.
"Rafael Correa is making Ecuadoreans poorer and poorer with all these taxes," said opposition lawmaker Gilmar Gutierrez.

Monday, November 14, 2011

US Poverty Stats: Where the Feds Are At Fault

The Daily Reckoning Presents

Remember our report from yesterday: “Generation Jobless” was how The Wall Street Journal put it. Here’s more. From the blog “Economic Collapse:”

19 Statistics About The Poor That Will Absolutely Astound You.

#1 According to the US Census Bureau, the percentage of “very poor” rose in 300 out of the 360 largest metropolitan areas during 2010.

#2 Last year, 2.6 million more Americans descended into poverty. That was the largest increase that we have seen since the US government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.

#3 It isn’t just the ranks of the “very poor” that are rising. The number of those just considered to be “poor” is rapidly increasing as well. Back in the year 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty. Today, 15.1% of all Americans are living in poverty.

#4 The poverty rate for children living in the United States increased to 22% in 2010.

#5 There are 314 counties in the United States where at least 30% of the children are facing food insecurity.

#6 In Washington DC, the “child food insecurity rate” is 32.3%.

#7 More than 20 million US children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.

#8 One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.

#9 Today, there are over 45 million Americans on food stamps.

#10 According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly 15 percent of all Americans are now on food stamps.

#11 In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps.

#12 The number of Americans on food stamps has increased 74% since 2007.

#13 We are told that the economy is recovering, but the number of Americans on food stamps has grown by another 8 percent over the past year.

#14 Right now, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#15 It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all US children will be on food stamps at some point in their lives before they reach the age of 18.

#16 More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid. Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, approximately one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

#17 One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one government anti-poverty program.

#18 The number of Americans that are going to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased by 46% since 2006.

#19 It is estimated that up to half a million children may currently be homeless in the United States. Now, dear reader, we ask ourselves: how could the most sophisticated, most dynamic, best capitalized, high tech enhanced capitalism in history produce such an outcome?

The answer is simple: capitalism doesn’t give you what you want. It gives you what you deserve. And it usually does so with such a long delay that few people connect cause with effect.

Instead, they rant and rave. They blame the rich. They call for more regulation. More distribution. More handouts, subsidies, and bailouts.

They demand that the feds ‘do something!’...not realizing that the feds — more than anyone else — are responsible for their misery:

The feds tricked them into spending more than they could afford — with artificially low rates and EZ credit.

The feds loaded them up with mortgage debt — thanks to their federally subsidized mortgage industry.

The feds practically invented sub-prime mortgage debt; and directed lenders towards the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the society.

The feds enticed old people into complete dependence — with the Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare programs.

The feds led the young into debt too — with easy student loans that effectively transferred money from them to the education industry.

The feds jimmied the health system into such a mess that Americans now spend 45 times as much as Cubans...and have the same life expectancy.

The feds’ funny money system caused the export of millions of good jobs to emerging markets.

Rise up, ye debt-trodden masses! Rise up against your real enemy: the feds. You have nothing to lose but your chains

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Hoboken chef Maricel Presilla extols Ecuadorian chocolate at New York Chocolate Show

The world's largest chocolate event, this weekend's show offers the opportunity to discover new and hard to find brands from around the globe, including American Heritage Chocolate, a Hackettstown brand sold only at national historic sites, and Pacari, an Ecuadorian brand championed by Hoboken chef Maricel Presilla.

There's never enough time to learn what you're tasting," Presilla told the crowd as she took the stage Thursday afternoon, bowls of chocolate and giant Ecuadorian cacao beans laid out before her. "I believe Ecuador is becoming so important in the world of chocolate it requires a little seminar."

Presilla appeared at the show on opening day to lead a discussion of the Ecuadorian chocolate's flavor, the philosophy behind the biodynamic philosophy on their plantations, and the origin of the Pacari brand in particular, which traces back to an email she received nearly 10 years ago.
The Ecuadorian chocolatier was first interested in naming Pacari, "GranCacao," a Venezuelan name owned by Presilla. However, she believed the brand should have an identity true to its country of origin, and Pacari, or "nature" in the indiginous Ecuadorian Quechua language, was chosen. Years later Presilla sampled Pacari, unaware the chocolate was produced by the man who first approached her, and after admiring both its taste and ethic, she's traveled the globe championing the brand ever since.

It was only this summer when Presilla was making these presentations to small crowds of customers at her Hoboken shop Ultramarinos. Since then she's appeared at London Chocolate Week and Paris' Salon du Chocolat, finding a global audience amenable to the flavor of Ecuador.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Casa San Marcos, a house of treasures

We are posting this not just becuase it is a great place to eat and stay.....but it is right around from our house "Casa de Carondelet"  in Quito...historic San Marcos in Colonial Quito......


Casa San Marcos - a boutique hotel along what is slowly becoming a cultural corridor in central Quito - was, until recently, a house obscured by time.    But the passage of time has a way of not just hiding treasures, but also revealing them when the right person comes along.

The name Jose Jaime Ortiz was all but lost as the architect of Casa San Marcos until archives discovered in recent years revealed the hand behind the craftsmanship.  Ortiz is now recognized as  one of Quito's most formidable architects from  the turn of the 18th century and is credited with a dozen structures in Quito including the El Sagrario Church, the reconstruction of La Merced Church, and the tower of Santo Domingo Church.

Ortiz also designed and built  a number of residential houses in the San Marcos neighborhood, one of which is believed to be  Casa San Marcos.     But if he could see it today, he may not recognize it, at least initially, but his imprint is still visible inside, thanks  to owner Mayra Ribadeneira.

Ortiz designed the home with a very traditional, Spanish layout characterized by a central patio.  Over the years the house was acquired by different families and in 1920 an Italian architect, Antonino Russo, forever changed the traditional design, dividing the central patio in half with a wall.  He also destroyed the original façade and added a third floor along Junin Street.  Though the European influence is what visitors first notice, colonial elements still remain.

One of Ortiz's lasting touches   is the back patio, which was originally a garden and stable for the horses, but is now the hotel cafeteria, Quindi Huasi.  The cafeteria offers a stunning view of the Panecillo hillside, which is also seen from many of the rooms that overlook El Centro.   Dave Churchill, a recent guest at Casa San Marcos who had visited Peru before coming to Quito says, "This is fabulous.  I wake up, look out the window and see this virgin.  We stayed at the Hotel Monastery [in Peru] and it's supposedly a 5-star, but it didn't compare to this."

Perhaps the aspect of the house which most clearly offers a historical dialogue is the ceiling of the main salon, which is constructed above the original patio.  Its construction is known as "bajareque," a system of weaving together beams.  Ribadeneira takes the most pride in showing this to visitors.  "I would say that there is not one corner of this house that is not attractive, but if I had to choose, I believe the main salon is extraordinary…where there is not even one nail, [and it is] made with ties, with mastery by our indigenous ancestors."  It is an unexpected site.

Ribadeneira deserves the credit for re-discovering and putting on display the treasure that is Casa San Marcos.  Over a three year period she  restored the home "with minutia in order to return it to its glory from centuries past."  In doing so, she fully respected the intervention of Russo and the division of the house, creating a long corridor that runs from the front door to the back patio cafeteria.

What stands out about the Casa San Marcos as much as the ceiling, adobe walls, wooden floors, and stone columns, is what you find within and among them all.

Casa San Marcos began not as a hotel, but as the Art Gallery of San Marcos, an extension of the Exedra Gallery, formerly one of Quito's largest art showrooms, established by Ribadaneira.  She explains that, "After a year, many friends suggested that I  broaden the services of the gallery to take full advantage of the beauty of the house."   She opted for a boutique hotel, which continues to display all of the treasures Ribadeneira brought with her.

Casa San Marcos has six rooms available to the public, all decorated with antiques and treasures.  She says some are family heirlooms, including some of the bedroom furniture.  "For me, to have in the house the furniture where I slept as a child is something that fills me with emotion."  Other items are the remnants of her work as an art promoter for nearly half a century.

The Quindi Huasi Cafeteria is open all day. Meals require a reservation, but anyone wishing for something light may stop by anytime. For reservations call 02-228-1811 or 228-8997, or visit   www.casasanmarcos.com

Next to the art gallery, Ribadeneira has an antique shop, which is accessed only from within the hotel.  But throughout the house you will find treasures in the rooms, on the walls, and atop the furniture.  Some are for sale, making Casa San Marcos a "true boutique hotel."  Ribadeneira says, "If you desire, it is possible to acquire [the contents] from the towels to the pillows."

Restored homes like Casa San Marcos allow visitors to encounter different time periods. The house is rustic, European, colonial, modern, and contemporary. The best of past eras is on display and enjoyed with the conveniences of today, such as the contemporary bathroom facilities.  It is truly eclectic in every aspect and a privilege simply to tour the house.
With only six rooms available,  visitors are not overlooked.  Ribadeneira says, "In the hotel all guests receive special treatment.  They breathe art.  Nobody is anonymous and everyone feels as if the house is their own."  If only it was...

Casa San Marcos is located on Junin 655 near the corner of Montufar.  Nightly rates run from $138 to $250 per room.  Prices include taxes and breakfast. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Go Offshore to Regain Your Financial Freedom

By Bob Bauman JD, Chairman, The Freedom Alliance

A free and prosperous world through choice, markets and responsibility”
That’s the motto of Canada’s Frazier Institute, a respected free market think tank that studies the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on individuals and society.
But that agreeable motto bears little resemblance with what has happened to the United States economy... and Frazier offers proof.
Annually the Institute publishes its Economic Freedom of the World Report, which reviews the policies in each country that either support or harm economic freedom.
The basics measured are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of privately owned property.
The specifics include...
1) Size of government: expenditures, taxes, and enterprises
2) Legal structure and security of property rights
3) Access to sound money
4) Freedom to trade internationally, and
5) Regulation of credit, labor, and business.

Economic Freedom in America
is All But Gone

For 2011, Frazier reports that economic freedom has suffered around the globe. It’s worse for Americans...
In 2000 the U.S. was ranked 3rd in the world behind only Hong Kong and Singapore; in the 2011 report, the U.S. is ranked 10th behind countries such as Canada, Chile, Australia, and even the United Kingdom.
Certainly, four million American homes are in foreclosure, millions more are “under water,” the real unemployment rate is nearly 16%, George Bush, Barack Obama and a complicit U.S. Congress have wasted 10 trillion of our tax dollars on big business, union and bank bailouts, while Wall Street rewarded itself with an astounding $160 billion in bonuses the year after the global financial crisis they helped to create.
Economic freedom indeed!

And We Know Why

The Frazier Institute says the decline in U.S. freedom is due to massively higher government spending and borrowing, increased regulation and especially, less secure property rights.
Ballooning federal and state budget deficits have crowded out available private credit causing this particular rating to fall to 0.0 from 9.3 (out of 10) since 2000.
Asset forfeiture laws, eminent domain abuse, the overreaching wars on drugs and terrorism, the PATRIOT Act and warrantless wiretaps have also diminished the security of property and all other rights.
Under the current and past president, bailouts, debt crises, and political stalemates replaced balanced budgets, sound money, and privatization. Now Obama and his leftist allies blindly insist that free markets have failed, that trillions more be spent on government stimulus and subsidies, and that more regulations will somehow succeed when they have just proven to be abject failures.

What You Can Do

You didn’t cause the diminished economic freedom in America today. You shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences.
Second citizenship is one good solution.
The easiest and quickest way to acquire second citizenship is through your bloodline; citizenship resulting from the nationality of your father, mother or grandparents.
Ireland, Italy and Poland encourage foreigners to sign up for citizenship based on ancestors. All three are European Union member states, so their citizenship gives you the freedom to live and work in all 27 EU countries.
Take for example Ireland: citizenship is available to those with Irish parents or grandparents. If you were born outside of Ireland and either your mother or father (or both) was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, then you’re entitled to Irish citizenship.
The same applies if at least one grandparent was born in Ireland. An applicant must prove this claim of Irish descent by submitting an ancestor’s official marriage and birth certificates.
With three photographs, proper proof of Irish ancestry and legal residence in the country where you make your application, a 10-year renewable Irish passport will be issued in due course bearing the stamp of Ireland and the European community.
In Italy if you are the child or grandchild of former Italian nationals, you can qualify for citizenship if you meet certain criteria. In Poland if your parents or grandparents were Polish citizens, you may be eligible to obtain Polish citizenship based on that relationship.
So start thinking about acquiring another citizenship and with it, a second passport. Not only will this give you a better chance of economic survival, but it offers greater freedom and the hope of increased prosperity.
Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman JD
Chairman, The Freedom Alliance

Where Are Your Papers?

“Your papers!” In old movies, the demand is barked at trembling travelers by a Nazi with a guttural accent. If the demand is made in the opening scene, then the audience knows immediately that they watching a totalitarian state in which travelers are in danger.

“Your papers!” now rings out at every American airport and border crossing. The accent is different but travelers need to recognize with equal immediacy that a totalitarian state is playing out in front of their eyes, and they must be careful

A passport is where the security theater begins. Indeed, without a passport those who wish to fly or cross a border are not “allowed” to be scanned, searched, interrogated, or undergo a plethora of other indignities imposed by uniformed thugs. The hoops through which passport carriers jump are all prelude to “permitting” them to exercise a right belonging to every freeborn person: the right to travel.

Things were not always this way. It is important to remember that there once was a world in which people traveled freely across borders without paperwork to visit families, pursue education, conduct business, and mingle. Freedom worked once. It enriched the world economically, culturally, and psychologically.

European nations pioneered many if not most aspects of the modern passport. The passport as an official permission or protection, and not merely as identification, arose because of armed conflicts. In the 17th century, sea voyaging was key to trade, travel, and the maintenance of empire. With some frequency, war interrupted that flow. Therefore, neutral vessels were granted passports or “sea letters” from a port of departure, which permitted them to journey in safety.

By the mid-19th century, mandatory passports had largely disappeared from Europe and Asia, with Czarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire being prominent exceptions. The change was largely due to three factors. First, governments were pressured to open up borders so that goods and services could flow across an increasingly industrialized Europe. Second, the period between the last Napoleonic War (1815) and World War I was unusually peaceful. Third, railroads now dominated travel. Their speed and the sheer number of travelers made traditional methods of checking documents impractical.

Thus, with trade and peace, mandatory passports declined.

War brought them back to life. With World War I, European nations once more imposed requirements not only to identify “enemies of the state” (e.g., spies or the citizens of belligerents) but also to control the outward flow of skilled labor in order to maintain their own workforces. In short, passports once again became social controls and, like the United States, many European nations maintained their requirements after the War.

World War II made passports mandatory on a virtually worldwide basis. Although passport requirements loosened once more after the WWII, the war on terror in the wake of 9/11 has raised those requirements to unprecedented levels. The ebb and flow of passports is that of war itself.

The American passport was also rooted in war, specifically the American Revolution (1775-1783). The first one was issued in 1783; based on the French “passport,” it was designed and printed by Benjamin Franklin. It was a single page with a description of the bearer(s) and his or their signature(s). For example, when John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay acted as ministers plenipotentiary in traveling to Great Britain to seal the terms of peace, all three names were on one passport. It was addressed “TO ALL Captains or Commanders of ships of war, privateers, or armed Vessels...”

During the Articles of Confederation period (1783-1789), passports were issued but not required. When the US Constitution was ratified, creating a new government, passports continued to be issued but not required. Many American states and cities also issued their own “voluntary” passports until 1856 when the Department of State exerted a federal monopoly, ostensibly to eliminate confusion.

Nevertheless, passports were not mandatory except for a period during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and during World War I (1914-1918). The latter can be seen as the beginning of the current American passport. On December 15, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson issued Executive Order No. 2285, “[r]equiring American citizens traveling abroad to procure passports.”

This was followed in 1918 by an act of Congress granting the president authority to require passports during time of war. Passports remained mandatory until early 1921.

Thereafter, the United States continued its “no-passport-required” travel policy until another war: World War II (1939-1945). In 1941, passports became mandatory for travel abroad and remain so to this day. (Travel to Canada used to be an exception; until recently, proof of citizenship was all that was required to cross the border.)

Passports clearly function as an essential and effective means through which a state can control the person and property of its residents. Consider the United States. No one can legally leave without one.

And yet passports can be denied for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with being “an enemy of the state” but rest strictly on statutory grounds. Common reasons for denial include owing money to the IRS, a federal arrest, a state-criminal court order existing, a drug arrest, being on parole or probation. Law-enforcement databases are routinely checked against both passports and applications to weed out those who have committed such offenses as being more than $2,500 behind on child-support payments. Passports can also be revoked for several reasons, although revocation is far less common.

Those who meet the legal requirements for a passport move on to the next stage of social control. After handing over documents, a traveler is questioned about the reasons for travel, how much money he carries, his occupation, and virtually any other question a border agent wishes to ask. The traveler’s person and property are “searched” in various ways, including a strip search at the agent’s discretion. If the traveler questions or evinces disapproval, then he could be denied the “right” to board a plane, thus wasting an expensive ticket. Or he may be pulled aside for special treatment, including fines or interrogation by the police.

Requiring a passport as the key to freedom of movement is akin to gagging someone while maintaining that he retains freedom of speech.

The passport has grown into what is arguably the single most powerful tool of totalitarian America, second only to law enforcement itself. It no longer pretends to protect individuals; not a single terrorist has been apprehended as a result of passport checks. But it does cement the totalitarian state. The mandatory passport should be reviled and rejected as an abuse of human rights and common decency. A nation that requires one cannot be free.


Wendy McElroy,
for The Daily Reckoning