Friday, October 10, 2014

RE comments on Infinite Exponential Growth.

I've received a comment by 'Ron Waller' on my previous post on infinite growth, this is my response.
The anti-growthers are barking up the wrong tree. Whether or not a society has a sustainable economy based on renewable energy and recyclable materials depends entirely on regulations, not economic growth. The focus needs to be on convincing people to support green regulations and a green-energy economy.
I'll get to the points about a "green-energy economy" later. However "anti-growthers" I will address now. I am not "anti-growth", rather I simply don't believe in it, have faith in it, and have never seen any convincing cases that it is possible into infinity. We are seeing limits to growth all around us everyday.
Fact is we will create GDP growth transforming to a green economy whether we want to or not. Some ways to go greener: build mass transit systems; subsidize broadband internet (wired and wireless) to reduce need for high-energy-consumption travel; build green-energy power systems; change from combustible engine cars to electric cars; develop driverless cars which will change the nature of transportation; etc. All these activities create economic growth.

Whether we want to or not? Not quite. Utilizing all types of energy available and skirting regulation while central banks have kept monetary policy in emergency response mode to supposedly entice borrowing and drive liquidity hasn't exactly been working too well. It's now 6 years since 2008 and we're still "recovering".

As for the initial suggestions: The major problem I see with most of them is that you believe we can both simultaneously grow from our already engorged state which will require even more energy and resource consumption from that which we currently consume (it's been 100% proven there is a direct correlation to energy consumption and GDP growth) while also changing from what is a very dense high return energy source to a more diffuse one. The other problem is that technological changes at the top do not alter the fact that our entire technological base is founded on oil. Don't get me wrong, I'm very much in favour of sustainability, but real sustainability, you know the kind that.. sustains. Forever.

So for instance you mention electric cars: first of all electricity is not a power source, it must be generated from another power source and I don't know if you've compared the costs and power generation capacity of wind farms, or solar panels, but they certainly will not be powering everything we have now and the addition of 800,000,000+ electric vehicles all running on the grid. Second you are not accounting for the materials and energy consumption that is going to be required to replace 800,000,000+ cars on the roads today. It takes 7 gallons of oil to create a tire, 3 times the car's body weight in oil to produce a whole car. We have to mine metals, pave roads and run regular maintenance on all of it. We can barely keep up with road deterioration as is.

You're correct however in that "all of those activities create economic growth", that does not mean however that the economic growth generated by those activities will be enough to actually grow the economy in aggregate.

So like evolution in electronics (smart phones and TVs, for example,) there is a process of creative destruction going on that puts an emphasis on energy efficiency. As long as it's done responsibly (recycling materials) it is not only positive, but necessary. We need technological advancement to go green. For example, if we build arrays of wind turbines across the country and find ways to make them more efficient, we need to rebuild or upgrade them. Same with solar power arrays. Same with cars, homes and buildings. 
GDP (economic) growth means wealth creation. Wealth is created by people getting a return on their savings and investments (compound interest.) As long as all segments of society benefit from wealth creation, wealthier is always better. It provides the means by which a society can go greener. It provides the means by which people can realize their potential. Since health and education spending are measured as a percentage of GDP, GDP growth means we will have more money to invest in these and other areas. 
No, wealth is not created by people "getting a return on their investments" with compound interest. In fact compound interest, along with fiat currency (which represents debt or "wealth from the future"), and fractional reserve banking are all large parts of the problem which put society into a situation where infinite economic growth is required to service the status quo. Mike Maloney does a great series on how the modern monetary system actually works, I suggest you look at it. But for the purposes of this response I will say wealth is a return on energy invested. The more energy you get in return for the energy you expend the wealthier you are. We use currency to represent this stored energy.

The problem with compound interest and debt based currency is that because there is always more interest owing than there is currency in existence due to the fact that all currency is loaned into existence and has compound interest attached to it is that we make the assumption embodied in our monetary system that the future will always be larger than the past. We assume that we will always be able to increase production, exponentially, to pay off in real wealth the interest + principal of the outstanding loans and when that can't happen the whole system goes into a tailspin.

What precipitated the 2008 financial collapse? Oil at $147 / barrel and gas prices on the frontpage of every newspaper. The cost of everything skyrocketed, people had to use credit to afford their gas bills, and eventually when the credit ran out the missed payments began and the whole house of cards came down. Was the issue the banks? Yes, but it could have gone on longer had oil prices not dampened consumption and created a deflationary situation. Though had the banks acted proper "economic growth" would be nowhere near what we claim it is today, the overblown housing market created wealth out of thin air -- for awhile. As it is today too with the central banks and their ultra low interest rates, expensive energy, limited credit. Our inability to really get economic growth going is a direct result of an energy crisis, not a shortage but a crisis in the sense that we have it but it is becoming very expensive to produce and very expensive to consume due to the shrinking energy return on energy ratio we are getting for production.

So while we may be "swimming in oil" as the latest buzzword says, we're drowning in costs, and the central banks are trying to offset this by "creating wealth" through loans and returns to investors but currency itself is not wealth, its just paper, and printing more paper or creating more digital signals does not put food on tables - cheap energy does. We can print all the currency we like but the reality is it does not change our actual balance of excess energy which we utilize for economic production. The more energy we spend producing energy the less energy is available for "growth". It's simple math that if growth requires production of more energy than we had before, and our excess energy (that energy we do not spend extracting more energy) is shrinking, then growth is going to likewise shrink too. Contraction.
The real problem is free-market social Darwinism that allows a small minority of oligarchs (whether "democratic" or fascist) to hog up most of the wealth.
The anti-growthers don't realize their alternative to economic growth is some form of communism (full government control over the economy.) Historically, the cause tends to get lost in the revolution and a totalitarian dictatorship is created.
I don't know if you've realized this or not, but we're pretty much already there. All of the "democratic nations" have fully armed militarized riot police trained to put down the coming protests and riots as the economic situation around the world worsens. We saw them at the G20 in Toronto, we saw them in Ferguson recently. The oligarchs you speak of know that a major economic contraction is already in the works and are simply kicking the can down the road long enough until they're prepared to handle the result. It's not like it's going to be a voluntary thing either though, I am not against growth - I've simply accepted the reality that it is a mathematical impossibility. It's not going to be optional, but the further pursuit of it is only going to lead us into more dangerous territory. The more expensive the world becomes due to diminishing energy supplies, the more shortcuts were going to start taking, the more activities like fracking, and oilsands become appealing.

Another positive about GDP growth is that it created wealthy developed countries which have negative population growth. They only way to stop runaway population growth is to raise living standards across the globe and increase immigration to developed countries.
At this point I have to question if you really understand the concepts I'm talking about. It created wealthy countries during the cheapest energy era the world had ever seen. It's very easy to grow and raise living standards with lots of plentiful cheap energy, but its a much different ball game going from cheap energy to expensive energy. Yes, wind-farms and solar panels - relative to conventional oil - are very expensive and provide poor returns. They are also not nearly as mobile, depend on an oil based supply chain and advanced oil based technologies like micro-computers. They are not truly "alternative energy" but rather "derivative energy" as their production and operation depends entirely on an oil based supply chain.
In order to accomplish this we need to use the centrist mixed-market economy — which created modern living standards in the post-war era — on a global scale (it's a balance between free-market capitalism and communism.) Communism is not an option. Free-market ideology creates a balkanized globe and regulatory race to the bottom which is the cause of all our problems, economic and environmental.
In the post-war era energy was cheap, currency was sound and based on real money, and Ronald Reagan hadn't happened yet. The world economies today are a much different beast and also rely much more heavily on financial magic and market fraud to "balance the books". The system as a whole is much more unstable, much more dependent, and much less resilient. In the post-war era "farming" was still a viable career, today most people get their food from the grocery store. Comparing the two is like apples and oranges and the thing about economic growth is, if you don't grow then you're contracting. We can't go back in time and "do it right", we have a huge economy now and much of it is based on fraud and junk bonds and it must grow. The emergency financial measures, currency wars, trade wars, and resource wars that have broken out over the last 20 years are growing evidence that those with a vested interest in the world's resources are getting antsy. We'll likely blow ourselves up into instability long before the economic impacts take their logical course.
"How exactly do you produce more without utilizing more resources to do it? It's pretty simple, you don't."Physical goods can be produced without using more resources if they are created using renewable energy and recyclable materials.Of course, many of the goods and services being created are information based, which use very few (potentially renewable) resources in their creation, reproduction and transportation.

Actually, the resources required to run "the internet" are massive. Multitudes of servers, wires, and electronics which are produced, and reproduced at an alarming rate - giant server farms on the electricity grids. The internet is the single largest energy and resource consumer mankind has ever created.

What we really need to focus on is uniting activists around the globe to demand action that representational governments are unwilling to take (because they represent oligarchs, not people.)
Whether one believes in economic growth or not, the people need to unite to demand that: a) we put the right regulations in place to create a sustainable economy; b) we tax the rich (income taxes, wealth surtaxes, estate taxes, financial transaction taxes, etc.) so we can make the necessary investments to create a sustainable economy. 
I think its better to focus on what kind of regulations and investments are needed, because any which way you slice it, they are sorely needed.
I agree. The problem is that under the current economic model there is simply not enough capital to make the transition - the cheapest, biggest return will always win. Due to the dependence of advanced energy sources on older energy sources and an oil based supply chain it is incredibly unlikely derivative energy sources can become cheaper in terms of energy invested and energy returned than the energy and materials upon which the technology is based on and which have a much better rate of return. The fact that we're even willing to pursue projects like oilsands whose returns are dubious at best shows where we are in this energy story and how desperate we might get. We're not going to be making smart decision, we're going to be making what appear to be the cheapest solutions and that is reinforced by a GDP economy which demands growth. When a company needs to enact cost savings for growth they are usually cutting corners, or over working people, reducing quality, etc. This is not an avenue towards a better future, but rather a worse one.

Absolutely we need to go after the oligarchs. They are the bankers putting compound interest on the currency we borrow into existence and which we must pay back with our hard earned labour. I'm not exactly sure where you got the idea compound interest is providing returns for anyone but the oligarchs, for compound interest is one of the ways they rob us. I'm all for a sustainable economy, but sustainable and growth are not going to go hand in hand. Nothing sustainable grows forever, nothing.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Infinite Exponential Growth: The religion of modern "economics" and blowing steam up your ass

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of writing about the obvious limits to growth we're encountering is trying to clearly describe the difference between infinite exponential growth, and limited linear growth. True believers in the infinite growth model supposedly fuelled by infinite fiat currency often try to use linear models to justify their claims which might sound good until you fully examine exactly what it is they're saying, and exactly what it is they're claiming often to discover that the evidence provided doesn't back the claim.

The other day I came across an article by Paul Krugman where he uses an example of "slow steaming", a process enacted by cargo ships following the spike in oil prices in 2008, to attempt to show that you can indeed "produce" more for less. His example sounds great taken out of the context of the larger macro economic implications and ignoring externalities. Let's take a look:
After 2008, when oil prices rose sharply, shipping companies — which send massive container ships on regular “pendulum routes”, taking stuff (say) from Rotterdam to China and back again — responded by reducing the speed of their ships. It turns out that steaming more slowly reduces fuel consumption more than proportionately to the reduction in speed.

So what happens when you switch to slow steaming? Any one ship will carry less freight over the course of a year, because it can do fewer swings of the pendulum (although the number of trips won’t fall as much as the reduction in speed, because the time spent loading and unloading doesn’t change.) But you can still carry as much freight as before, simply by using more ships — that is, by supplying more labor and capital. If you do that, output — the number of tons shipped — hasn’t changed; but fuel consumption has fallen.

And of course by using still more ships, you can combine higher output with less fuel consumption. There is, despite what some people who think they’re being sophisticated somehow believe, no reason at all that you can’t produce more while using less energy. It’s not a free lunch — it requires more of other inputs — but that’s just ordinary economics. Energy is just an input like other inputs.
Interesting isn't it? I tell you, this is a doozy and for someone not versed in energy economics it probably sounds pretty convincing but let's take a closer look.
First of all, notice the huge jump in language: Here he is talking about shipping product - not producing product - yet his conclusion is "no reason at all that you can’t produce more while using less energy" yet examining the energy used in the actual production of the product being shipped is mysteriously missing. How exactly do you produce more without utilizing more resources to do it? It's pretty simple, you don't. But when it comes to his argument and the glaring holes in it this is just the tip of the ice berg and you don't have to be very "sophisticated" to figure this stuff out.
His second big glaring hole in his argument is where he then goes to say: "But you can still carry as much freight as before, simply by using more ships — that is, by supplying more labor and capital. If you do that, output — the number of tons shipped — hasn’t changed; but fuel consumption has fallen.". So you get that folks? If you go a little bit slower but deploy more ships, more capital, and more labour, you can carry the same amount of cargo. So three "mores" to get the "same" and supposedly this proves you can do "more" with "less"? Perhaps in terms of the energy consumption of each individual ship itself but when you aggregate all of the additional inputs required (such as the energy and materials to build even more ships to ship the same amount of cargo) you're not really doing more with less at all now are you?
Krugman dismisses this inconvenient truth by saying "It’s not a free lunch — it requires more of other inputs — but that’s just ordinary economics. Energy is just an input like other inputs.". Of course what he doesn't say is that all of those other additional inputs also require energy, at the end of every point in the supply chain is energy and resources so to say other inputs are like energy isn't very accurate as those other inputs likewise have their own inputs and at the very tip of all of them is energy. You must aggregate the energy demand from the entire supply chain to prove a gain. More capital, more labour, more materials translates to more energy required just simply coming from different places. As we discuss often on this blog, and as my readers should know, capital or currency simply represents spent energy. Your paycheque represents the energy you exerted during your working hours. All capital represents energy and all transactions are an exchange of energy thus "more capital" is directly equivalent to more energy that's either been already spent or has been borrowed from the future.
The third issue with his argument is he doesn't describe the scale of growth at all. His assertion is that should this shipping company want to continuously expand they will continuously find new energy efficiencies that either match or exceed the demand for growth which is of course a ludicrous assertion. The reality is you can only enact "slow steaming" once and once implemented the savings are made and all future demands for the company to grow will put more aggregate demand on their base energy usage thus for Krugman's assertion to be true for the company to scale infinitely larger their energy usage would have to scale infinitely smaller which is just pure insanity. Eventually the energy usage will be as efficient as efficient can be unless Krugman is also claiming that one day in the future we'll be able to ship many times the product we do today using no energy at all. At some point, even with energy savings, some energy must be spent to ship the product due purely to physics and when that point is reached any additional product the company would want to ship will add additional demand to energy usage and as mentioned before this example just covers the shipping of product already produced; for a shipping company to ship more product that product must exist which itself requires energy and resources to create.
The fourth issue with his argument is a little theory called "Jevon's Paradox".
In economics, the Jevons paradox (/ˈɛvənz/; sometimes Jevons effect) is the proposition that as technology progresses, the increase in efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.[1] In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal-use led to the increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.[2]

The issue has been re-examined by modern economists studying consumption rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given use, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which tends to increase the quantity of the resource demanded, potentially counteracting any savings from increased efficiency. Additionally, increased efficiency accelerates economic growth, further increasing the demand for resources. The Jevons paradox occurs when the effect from increased demand predominates, causing resource use to increase.[2]
So let's take the example of this shipping company and let's say you're in charge of it. Now that you have discovered slow steaming which (excluding the "other inputs") has reduced your operation costs, what do you do? Do you say "thanks for the savings we're going to keep shipping the same amount"? Or do you say "now that we can ship more for less we have gained additional capacity to ship more"? Well for the company, and economy, to have growth they're going to have to expand and thus any company interested in "growth" is going to redeploy those saved resources in their efforts to expand. If the company gets a 50% cost saving then they will have gained 100% more capacity now able to double the amount of product shipped with the same amount of inputs. Being that the economy demands expansion, which is growth, it is inevitable that any energy saved by increased efficiency will be spent by expansion.

This sort of example extends all the way down to households: let's say that out of nowhere the cost of food for you is cut in half, is it more likely that a household will cut its food budget in half, or is it more likely they will deploy the same amount of resources either on more food, or higher quality food? It's easy for a family to expand their lifestyle, not so easy to contract it, and expansion tends to be the default when the extra capacity for expansion is made available.

If you look at the last 100 years of human development this is very evident. We have gained incredibly in energy efficiency yet energy usage has never been higher, and the more efficient we become the more energy we use. Krugman's example doesn't examine the likely results of the energy gains simply assuming that the amount the company decides to ship will just stay the same forever (which isn't growth at all, now is it?).

The fifth problem in his argument is that claiming a little bit of energy efficiency translates to a justification of infinite growth ignores all of the other types of inputs required. It ignores the heavy droughts in California and Texas where entire towns no longer have drinking water and which is severely hindering agriculture and other industrial processes such as fracking. It ignores peak oil (and peak everything) where energy efficiencies being made come nowhere close to offsetting the rapidly rising cost of extracting the oil (and other resources) in the first place. It ignores the 99% fit between GDP growth and resource consumption as shown by Chris Martenson.

Finally, Krugman doesn't touch the exponential nature of GDP growth using an example of linear growth to justify it (increasing "production" directly relative to energy efficiencies gained). The nature of GDP growth is exponential, so when we say the economy grew "1%" last quarter it might not sound like much but that 1% is relative to the size of the economy. A multi-trillion dollar economy requires hundreds of billions to achieve even a small percentage increase in growth which can easily dwarf a multitude of total production from the previous years leading up to it.

I don't think you have to be very sophisticated to get this stuff as Krugman claims those who discuss limits to growth must be, you just have to have a very basic understanding that nothing in the history of the planet has ever grown forever so why on earth would we ever believe we can buck that trend now? It's a finite planet, with finite resources, claiming they won't run out (or more accurately that we will continue having the excess energy (aka. affordability) needed to extract them) is just stupidity. Krugman's "slow steaming" argument is just blowing steam up your ass.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Say goodbye to the "employee's market"

The 'employee's market' was perhaps one of the last saving graces of the middle class and workers in general. It was always inevitable that when wages stagnated allowing businesses to expand that eventually the labour market would have to balance out. Eventually demand for employment would outpace the availability of workers and in this event worker's were then given the upper hand. Expanding businesses and the resulting currency creation meant inflation would rise and inflation rising and the availability of jobs meant workers had the upper hand in negotiating their pay. Sooner or later any business that wanted to retain good labour was forced into a position where they would have to up the ante and the cycle would repeat.

But now - in what may be one of the final breaking points between crony capitalism and outright feudalism and usury - the government is working to ensure that the labour market remains an "employer's market", perpetually, forever and who better to examine as an example than Alberta's newest industry insider masquerading as a public servant, Jim Prentice.

So a few weeks ago Norwegian oil company Statoil called off one of it's Canadian startups for three years citing:
Statoil said it decided to delay construction because inflation was pushing up the cost of labor and materials, while tight pipeline space to the U.S. market was pushing down the price of its oil.  
"Costs for labor and materials have continued to rise in recent years and are working against the economics of new projects," Staale Tungesvik, Statoil's country manager for Canada, said in a statement. "Market access issues also play a role, including limited pipeline access, which weighs on prices for Alberta oil, squeezing margins and making it difficult for sustainable financial returns."
 Inflation? Hmm. Yet the governments and central banks all around the world have been insisting that "inflation is weak". Perhaps not *that* weak, it would seem. Take note of the problem here, it's not "market access" as Alberta has been claiming, these problems do not exist because of limited market access and up until recently limited market access hasn't been an issue. Market access was never a problem or was never even mentioned during the era of the "Alberta Advantage". No, market access is actually being promoted as a supposed solution for a different problem: Rising inflation which is pushing up material costs, labour costs, and isn't seeing a similar rise in the price of oil. That is the real problem here and the hope (and I can't stress that enough, that it is a hope without any data provided to prove that the claim is true) is that increased market access will increase the price Alberta receives for bitumen (which is not oil). Also take note Alberta was warned about this situation of increasing costs years ago and I've been warning about it longer.

When it comes to oilsands, and the economy in general which by the way is still on central banker life support with cheap currency pushing up inflation even more, this all derives from the real problem were facing as a society: energy is a fuck load more expensive than it used to be. Ok? Like, so many tons of fuck it's nearly unquantifiable especially in an economic environment which has not adjusted to nor has accounted for higher energy prices, and continues to bury it's head in the sand thinking if we just print a little more currency everything will be like it was when energy was cheap, it won't! We've gone from what used to be well over a 100:1 energy invested on energy returned ratio to what is now regularly around 5:1 (3:1 for oilsands surface mining, yippee!)

So, back to this Statoil thing.. Jim Prentice is very concerned.
"Underlying the kinds of capital investment that are being made in the oilsands is the needed assurance that we can access global prices," said Prentice. "If we cannot and people do not have a line of sight on infrastructure and tidewater access, it's going to start to affect our prosperity as a province."

Last year, Statoil president Stale Tungesvik said the company
might have to choose between developing projects in the Alberta oilsands and the offshore sites near Newfoundland due to the industry's rising cost.

The costs of oilsands projects are rising because of construction and labour costs, while the price of oil is
20 per cent lower than it was six months ago, making large investments less viable.
See what he did there? He didn't address the problem at all in his solution did he? remember back when oil was $40 / barrel and Alberta upped it's target price to $70? Then when we finally hit $70 it just wasn't enough either so the target was pushed up to $90? and so on? Alberta has always had this problem of the cost of production approaching returns and when that happens alberta always has a new excuse ready to go. When the price of oil still had upwards mobility that was a lot easier to accomplish, but now that it doesn't "access to global prices" has become the new tune. So when the cost of production due to ever rising inflation then approaches "global prices" what will be the next excuse? We need access to Martian markets? Universal prices? No, probably not.. Alberta's public relations is shitty, but not that shitty, but rest assured there will be a new excuse why the province's prosperity on the end of the stick keeps moving further and further away.

However, Prentice may be concerned, but he's also very excited for Alberta's "red hot economy" (you know, red hot as in project shutdowns are becoming a regular thing as the Alberta government was warned they would be).
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says time is becoming a critical factor in solving the temporary foreign worker shortage, but he dismissed criticism that an exploitative province is to blame.

“I’ve never agreed with the suggestion that really this is about Alberta business people trying to underpay. That is not my experience. That’s not what I’ve heard. That’s not what I’ve seen,” Prentice said in an interview.

“To be sure, there are always going to be people taking advantage of any government program.

“But by and large the employers I’ve met across Alberta just want hands and feet. They just want people to fulfil these jobs.

“They’re quite prepared in most of the cases I’ve seen to pay a premium to get people here. They just can’t find people given the red hot economy.”

Prentice plans soon to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss, among other issues, the temporary foreign worker changes that he says have hit Alberta’s roaring economy hard.
So on one hand you have Prentice concerned about project shutdowns that are directly related to "the rising cost of labour" and on the other you have Prentice claiming that Alberta's need for TFWs has nothing to do with employer's wanting to "underpay" employees, in fact they're willing to pay a premium! Bullshit. Companies are laying people off left, right, and center. Projects are shutting down one after the other. And all of them.. ALL OF THEM, cite rising labour costs as the reason which is the same reason provided to the Albertan government in the confidential memo back in 2012 that warned that projects would be shutting down due to inflation and the rising costs of labour. Hmm.

If the demand for labour is so high, then what the government is citing as a problem is the fact that the labour market is an "employee's market" and not an "employer's market", but why is this a problem? It's a problem because "growth" or what we now like to claim is growth has been completely financed by cheap loans and free currency to the top 1% but real consumer spending isn't moving. That's why the price of oil just can't manage to breach $110 / barrel and why when the market tries to "growth stalls" and the cycle repeats. We have ever increasing amounts of currency representing the same or perhaps even less wealth. You can cut a pie into 2 pieces, or 100 pieces, but at the end of the day you still have just 1 pie.

The government's focus on the "need" for temporary foreign workers is to perpetually tilt the market in favour of the employer's filling their pockets. An "employee's market" no more, and the changes to employment insurance and the government's "any job is a good job" attitude reflect that. This is deliberate, and orchestrated in an attempt to permanently stagnate the wages of Canadians to continue the status-quo and the illusion of growth. Sure, you might not believe me, but what I ask you is: can you really afford to find out?

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Change at last? Not likely. Pretentious Prentice is just another industry owned insider masquerading as a public servant

Well it seems Pretentious Prentice is the winner of the Albertan leadership race for the top position of Premier CEO though this should be no surprise as it was clear he was the status-quo's choice from day one. With his "expertise" Albertans can be certain that our benefactors, the oil and banking industries, will remain the top concern and beneficiary of all policy decisions - just as Albertans like it.

The expenses of cabinet and MLAs will surely be under a tight leash by a man that rationalized why MP expenses shouldn't be audited (which isn't exactly what the Auditor general thinks) alongside everyone's favorite failed politician Michael Ignatieff.
Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, a senior member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, had this to say about why Fraser shouldn’t get access to MPs’ books:

“There are a set of rules and the expenses are scrutinized through the Board of Internal Economy,” Prentice said. “We have a system that has been working.”

Asked whether there’s a double standard for members of Parliament, Prentice explained politicians’ spending is thoroughly inspected by staff who review the expenses, as well as the MPs on the committee.
Yep, this is the guy that is going to put to rest Albertan's anger over improper expenses by their government overseers, I can't wait to not see the results.

But, it's not all bad Albertans! Prentice, who was previously the federal government's "environment" (read: oilsands) minister will likely feel much more relaxed at the head of Canada's major oil producing province that is home to the major industries that lobbied him, as well as doing away with that pesky word "environment" in his public title which more often than not confuses environmentalists into believing that's the public official they should be talking to. Now as the head of a government that declared not too long ago that "opening new markets" is job #1 for them on behalf of the only industry they care about he can continue the status-quo and ensure that the government's foot remains "off the break" when it comes to unfettered growth and subsidization of the industry and it's dependencies. Jim Prentice will push for and enact existing policy - of the sort the "debt free" Albertans love - in the form of new additional debt to build the required infrastructure to support the new additional population being imported from all over the world needed to support the oilsands which the revenue from oilsands in over 30 years just isn't enough cover.

But Albertans shouldn't worry about an ever-growing mountain of debt to support an industry with tighter and tighter margins whose current level of bankrolling is really only possible due to record low interest rates and even then is just barely profitable as Prentice isn't just a public (/private partnership) "servant" but also a banker. Fresh out of his top-level job at CIBC presiding over an easy currency bonanza to prop up the housing and other asset bubbles caused collectively by the central bank "emergency measures" politicians and market movers have come to rely on Albertans can be confident that Prentice is a true believer in the practice of printing wealth out of thin air which can be seen in his confidence that 10, 15, 20 years down the road the debt Alberta takes on today at historically low interest rates will still be affordable and that the government and central banks under-reported version of inflation won't interfere with his pie in the sky forecasts of productivity and oil price.

Meanwhile as Albertans watch their cost of living rising dramatically, and producers watch their costs of production rising rapidly, CEO Prentice and pals were busy defending the calculated and deliberate wage stagnation caused by the temporary foreign worker program that is being used to work around the high rates of inflation the government and industry aren't reporting. Instead of costs going up, quality, quantity, and wages are going down or stagnating.

It's no wonder that Prentice is such a strong defender of the TFW program, being both a banker who has a vested interest in keeping people believing that "they're richer than they think" and an oil friendly politician rolled by his banker buds demanding returns from an industry where a stable oil price is causing their investments to evaporate. TFWs are nothing more than an elaborate, cheap, and classically feudalist subsidy gifted to industry to work around inflation that's putting ever greater demand on higher wages. Of course costs will always show up somewhere, such as in the safety of Canada's "ethical" industries.

It's actually to the point now where McDonalds is calling on Albertans to protest in favor of continued and ever greater wage stagnation so that they can continue buying cheap hamburgers, because you know, inflation is so low right?

So congratulations, Albertans, on more of the same.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Friday, August 22, 2014

When it comes to #oilsands a stable price is a low price no matter how high it is

Alberta's oil industry is having a serious cash crunch and the problem doesn't look to be reversing any time soon with the price of oil continually hitting a ceiling of affordability over the last few years. This ceiling has robbed Albertan oil companies and the government they own of all of the additional profit brought in by the "buy low, sell high" market mentality that they have been relying on for years. That market of rapid price gains in oil is now years into the rearview mirror and the reality of unsustainable and ever-mounting costs for low energy return on energy investment projects such as the oilsands, deepwater, and fracking are becoming very visible.

This situation is the exact situation I have been warning about for years being one of the few that have maintained that oilsands operations are not profitable at all once the subsidies, market volatility, and infrastructure to support the laborers were either stripped away or accounted for. Oil is at historical all time highs (when you discount volatile spikes like we saw in 2007/2008) yet still the Albertan government must borrow to pay for basic infrastructure upgrades and "cost cutting fever" is gripping oilsands players.

Cost-cutting fever grips oil sands players as economics called into question
Canadian oil companies are ruthlessly enforcing capital discipline as project costs creep up and shareholders pressure management to focus only on the most profitable ventures.

Suncor Energy Inc. announced a billion-dollar cut for the rest of the year even though the company raised its oil price forecast.

Others such as Athabasca Oil Corp., PennWest Exploration Ltd., Talisman Energy Inc. and Sunshine Oil Sands Ltd. are also cutting back due to a mix of internal corporate issues and project uncertainty. Cenovus Energy Inc. is also facing cost pressures at its Foster Creek oil sands facility.

Given that the low-bearing fruit have already been developed, the next wave of oil sands project are coming from areas where geology might not be as uniform,” said Dinara Millington, senior vice president at the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

The global oil industry is gripped with the cost-cutting fever amid shareholder pressure, but the oil sands are particularly vulnerable given their baked-in higher development costs, high wages, remote location and infrastructure challenges. In May, France’s Total SA shelved an $11-billion oil sands mine project planned with joint venture partners Suncor, Occidental Petroleum and Inpex Canada.

Oil sands are economically challenging in terms of returns,” said Jeff Lyons, a partner at Deloitte Canada. “Cost escalation is causing oil sands participants to rethink the economics of projects. That’s why you’re not seeing a lot of new capital flowing into oil sands.”

Existing in-situ oil sands projects in Alberta are produced at a break-even cost of US$63.50 per barrel on average, while integrated oil sands mining projects have a breakeven cost of US$60 to US$65, including a 9% after-tax return, compared to the Saskatchewan Bakken’s US$44.30 a barrel cost.

SAGD operations saw a 5.1% jump from 2011 to 2013 on average, while mining and extraction was up 6.1% and integrated mining and upgrading 7.9% during the period, CERI data shows. Last December, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and the Alberta government revised cost estimates of their 50,000-barrels per day upgrading project by 49%.

Costs in the oil sands are rising faster than general inflation, and it’s a culmination of many factors,” Ms. Millington said, adding that currently many producers are reporting a bit of a pause in new contract awards and backlog.

Indeed, large-scale developments present “material inflation risks,” RBC Capital Markets said in a June report.

Even “smaller SAGD projects like Sunshine’s West Ells or Pengrowth’s Lindbergh have announced cost increases while Athabasca’s Hangingstone has experienced modest scheduling pressure and delays,” Canada’s biggest bank by assets said.

The trend of cost rationalization is not unique to the oil sands and rippling across the global industry thanks to the “abundance” of assets, according to Barry Munro, oil and gas leader at Ernst & Young.

It’s not about scarcity of resources anymore. Companies are realizing they have far more assets than they are ever going to have capital to be able to exploit — they feel they have to structurally change their business model.”

Indeed, business plans are in a state of flux. Oil and gas deals in Canada rose 23% in the first half of the year, according to management consultancy Deloitte LLP, but much of the activity took place outside the oil sands sector.

“Deal activity has cooled in Canada’s vast oil sands reserves as producers have struggled with rising costs, in part because of stricter environmental regulations,” Deloitte said in a recent report. “Even with oil at more than $100 per barrel, some large producers have been cancelling projects because higher costs have crimped returns.”

Richard Grafton, chief executive officer of Grafton Asset Management, says oil prices may have to go higher for new investors to favour oil sands.

“Right now, the [price] band that we are in for a number of years is around $100, and frankly, may be we need at a higher price with access to global market, before we get excited about that [the oil sands],” Mr. Grafton told the Financial Post in an interview last week.

A recent report by London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative estimated that a number of oil sands projects would be economically impractical at oil prices below $130 per barrel.

RBC Capital, which is confident that the existing oil sands players will meet their production targets profitably, estimates the industry will require between $26-billion to $33-billion each year to maintain existing production and raise output by an additional 250,000-bpd annually till the end of the decade.

“Challenges and constraints exist such as pipeline capacity and technology development, however, financing is perhaps the biggest challenge facing development stage oil sands companies at this time,” RBC noted.
Perhaps the most interesting paragraph from this latest article is this one:
“It’s not about scarcity of resources anymore. Companies are realizing they have far more assets than they are ever going to have capital to be able to exploit — they feel they have to structurally change their business model.”
As anyone versed properly in 'peak oil' theory knows "running out" of oil is a physical impossibility because the extraction of energy requires energy itself to be accomplished (Energy Return on Energy Invested - EROEI). As we've covered on this blog several times currency (what we call 'money' today) translates to money as money translates to energy. Any trade of goods or services is a trade of energy required to produce the product or provide the service. Money is a physical representation or store of value of this energy, currency is a claim check on money (or at least it is supposed to be). So when one refers to the energy input of energy extraction this translates directly to the cost, or financing of a project. When the amount of energy required to input into the extraction process approaches the amount of energy you get from the output a project becomes economically unviable. We will never run out of oil because the economics of extracting much of the oil in the ground simply provide no return.

It is still very much about scarcity of resources but what few seem to realize is that until we reach the very end of the peak oil story the scarcity in resources is not going to show up in shortages of the resources themselves but rather in the available capital to finance projects and in the affordability of the resources themselves.

In example, here is an article I wrote awhile ago on Obama's claim that "energy efficiency" has resulted in a drop in fossil fuel consumption in the U.S. where as the reality is that it was the global recession depression that truly claims responsibility for the reduction in consumption.
Ok. Now, there is one part in particular that is true, but within the context he's using it is a complete lie: "Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth."

It's true, they have, want to see that in a chart form?

U.S. consumers did not willingly reduce their consumption rather the needed capital to increase their consumption didn't exist due to the resulting credit crisis. Being that currency is not itself a tangible resource but rather represents these resources it can be said that this is a form of resource scarcity. When we hit the limits of resource affordability credit collapses and capital vanishes which results in a significant drop in demand long before physical resource scarcity can take effect. It is important to understand that an economy that requires ever growing supplies of energy will fail before the supplies of energy themselves fail in fact it's unlikely we will ever see physical resource scarcity as the underlining extraction process requires a stable economy and supply chain which the coming economic shockwaves from resource scarcity will likely disrupt.

So the so-called "abundance of assets" really doesn't mean much at all, just as Alberta constantly touting that it's "total reserves rival Saudi Arabia" doesn't mean much at all. Until those reserves, those assets, are out of the ground they are worthless. If investors are noticing that the returns on these projects are barely worth the time invested, let alone the risk, then we are nearing that moment in time when the light finally goes on in their brains that there is no economic benefit to spending a barrel of oil to get a barrel of oil. None what-so-ever.

This story becomes even more economically depressing when you remember that we are in a historically low-interest rate environment. These projects are not just having trouble getting financing, they are having trouble getting financing at central-bank orchestrated artificially low interest rates which if they were to rise would make financing that much more difficult. The U.S. shale "boom" is experiencing the same problems and has likewise been just barely affordable due to the low interest rate environment.

As I've pointed out before it's not like the federal and provincial governments don't know this, they're very aware, and if you go back and look at their policies, their forecasts, and the economic results of the last few years with this knowledge that they know in mind you'll see there has been a clear strategy to keep Albertans and Canadians in the dark of the true risk and low rates of return. There is a very commonly held belief that the oilsands are providing incredible returns for Canadians - reinforced daily with government and industry funded propaganda -  when the truth couldn't be further from.

The reality is for years the government has been abusing Canadian tax dollars in everything from marketing campaigns to Olympic trains while gambling on market moves and taking credit as prudent fiscal managers the whole while. Albertans lately seem very fed up with the entitled attitude of it's provincial government but what they don't seem to understand is that the Alberta government's #1 job isn't governing the province but rather ensuring access for the oil industry and also ensuring Albertans don't realize they and their children who will be left with the resulting mess and no resources to address it, are being royally ripped off.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The stench of western hypocrisy is becoming hard to ignore

Another day, more western endorsed Gazan deaths. "Self defense", "Rockets", and "Human shields" are really getting old fast in terms of the excuses Israel is using to justify it's slaughter, and it is a slaughter, of what you must remember is a very very tiny occupied land. There is no where for these people to go. From Wikipedia...
Gaza has an annual population growth rate of 2.91% (2014 est.), the 13th highest in the world, and is overcrowded.[4][5] There is a limited capability to construct new homes and facilities for this growth. The territory is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi).[6] As of 2014, the population of the Gaza Strip was about 1.82 million people.[5] The large Palestinian refugee population makes it among the most densely populated parts of the world.[7]
"Rockets" and acts of aggression

ROCKETS!!! ROCKETS!!! THEY'RE FIRING FUCKING ROCKETS, proclaim the fancy propaganda memes spewed out of the IDFSpokesperson. Of course, since the battle started all talk of illegal Israeli settlements has all but vanished from the news even though just prior the European Union was "losing patience" with Israel over it's settlement policy.
The EU Ambassador to Israel has warned that a growing number of EU states are dissuading their citizens from doing business with companies registered in Israeli settlements; France, Italy and Spain have already joined the trend.
Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen told a business seminar organized by the Geneva Initiative on Friday that six European nations have already issued warnings to the Israeli government over expanding construction of settlements beyond the Green Line.

EU member states “are losing their patience with concerns not being treated [seriously]," by Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen said.

"The EU is more consistently implementing existing policy, and taking further steps to disengage from the settlements," said the ambassador, and warned that in case settlement construction does not stop, even more EU member states will issue an advisory not to do business with business in the settlements.

The governments of five of the largest EU economies: Germany,
France, Italy and Spain, UK, as well as the Netherlands have urged businessmen nationwide to stop investing into Israeli settlements in eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
The international community regards all Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land as illegal.
It's really, really, simple folks. You can not be engaged in what is clearly an act of aggression, in violation of international law, of a people you oppress and then cry every time they attack you. That's what oppressed people do, survival is a powerful motivator.

Speaking of illegal settlements and occupations, read this.
In April, Mr. Harper spoke out again: “When a major power acts in a way that is so clearly aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic, this represents a significant threat to the peace and stability of the world, and it’s time we all recognized the depth and the seriousness of that threat.” All nations had to be rallied “to understand that peace and stability is being threatened here in a way that has not been threatened since the end of the Cold War.”

From the outset Mr. Harper declared the presence of Russian troops in Crimea to be an “illegal military occupation” and said Canada would refuse to recognize the forthcoming referendum that Mr. Putin used to “legitimize” its seizure. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird chimed in to call the upcoming referendum “a Soviet-style tactic that’s unacceptable for a G8 country…” So it was.
Of course he wasn't talking about Israel, he was talking about the Ukraine. We're going to look more at the Ukraine in a bit.

Sure, Hamas is firing rockets aimlessly at civilian populations and "from" civilian areas (because all of Gaza is one overpopulated civilian area, duh). Those rockets are really all they have and they're rockets, not missiles, they don't have guidance systems. It's a point, shoot, and pray it hits something system. They're under a blockade and systematic isolation. You can not deny a people the right to have an army and then complain when they are forced to use Guerilla tactics, survival is a powerful motivator.

"Self defense" and the justification of dead children

Let's say for the sake of argument that Israel's "self defense" excuse were accurate (as in they were not actually occupying the land they're defending), it's being used as the reasonable justification for bombing civilians. Fine. But wait, just 1 year ago I remember another country that was under attack by foreign terrorists that was claiming self-defense in it's military campaign of "bombing their own civilians". That country was Syria. Let's check in with them...
But as the rockets and bombs fall, a deadlier war next door rolls on. The Syrian civil war has claimed 170,000 lives in three years; this past weekend's death toll in Syria was greater than what took place in Gaza. By some accounts, the past week may have been the deadliest in the conflict's grim history. Meanwhile, the extremist insurgents of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), have continued their ravages over a swath of territory stretching from eastern Syria to the environs of Baghdad, Iraq's capital; the spike in violence in Iraq has led to more than 5,500 civilian deaths in the first six months of this year.

Over the weekend, Islamic State militants battled forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a gas field in central Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some 700 people have died in just two days of fighting,
including employees working at the facility.
So basically, what western nations are saying, is that Israel is completely justified to kill as many civilians as they need to "defend themselves" from rocket attacks but Assad has no right to defend himself in the same capacity from what is turning out to be a very brutal, violent, western backed, terrorist force.

Dead civilians isn't our concern at all, only the western agenda of global resource domination is.

"Human shields" and the Israeli propaganda machine
According to Israel, everything about Gaza is "terror". They don't just build tunnels, they build "terror tunnels". Targets are "terrorist sites". The defending army are not soldiers, they're terrorists, thus not being awarded the international luxury of an "enemy combatant". Less than human. Their obvious usage of traditional military-grade propaganda to dehumanize the enemy has been working in overdrive. Meme after meme, cartoon after cartoon, contextless stat after contextless stat pours out of the IDF in a desperate attempt to win public opinion in favour of their slaughter. But bad vector art of hospitals they'd like to bomb don't prove anything in the face of the pictures of dead children and the interesting little details that leak out.
According to Alex Fishman, a military analyst writing in Yedioth Ahronoth: "The tanks, which serve as the heart of the assault force, received an order to open fire at anything that moved. The area and the targets are due to be seized by the morning hours. From here on, [the army] will start to clear the ground, in what could last for several days, depending on political developments."
Or the quickly deleted reports...
And then there’s the now deleted tweet from CNN’s Diana Magnay observing Israelis cheering as bombs rained down on Gaza: “Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong.’ Scum.” (CNN pulled her off the Gaza beat as a result).
For Israelis on Edge of Battle, Rockets Put On a Show
SDEROT, Israel — The women and children trudge up the dusty hill between dusk and sunset, some with dogs. The men stay long after dark, some with binoculars. It is the closest thing to a front-row seat for the war between Israel and the Gaza Strip, short of combat. Better than being stuck in a safe room somewhere watching those talking heads on television.

Overhead, they can see Israeli drones and planes beaming light onto the darkened battlefield. Below, across the road, Israeli tanks and troops are staging for entry. Beyond, an orange glow — could that be Shejaiya, the Gaza City neighborhood where
fighting has raged for three days? No, too far north: Probably Beit Hanoun, the border town that has faced intense artillery shelling since the invasion began.

Suddenly, shouts of “Ooh, ooh!” and everyone pointed up at two rockets soaring from Gaza into Israel about 9 p.m. on Tuesday. “Jerusalem,” a veteran hill-watcher said knowingly. They checked the Red Alert apps on their cellphones: Turns out it was Gedera, a town closer to the coast. When the Iron Dome system intercepted it, applause came from the crowd of perhaps 50.

“It’s like we’ve been having a very bad toothache with a pain that’s been accumulating for years,” said Shmuel Dahan, 51, a gardener who lives near the hill. “And we want to come and see the tooth being taken out.”
It should be a pretty key indicator when you see how hard Israel is working to keep popular opinion on it's side that there is likely a reason for that. Israel is never going to be peaceful. Peace doesn't buy you $3 Billion annually in military aid.

Alliances are forming

Facing a constant assault of western based propaganda Russia told Israel something very interesting..
Despite President Vladimir Putin's personal sympathy for Israel, which has remained neutral in the ongoing struggle between Russia and the West over Ukraine, Russia cannot openly support it in the Arab-Israeli conflict because of its other commitments in the region, analysts said.
And a few weeks prior to that China's president visited South Korea in what western media dubbed 'a snub to the North', at least until we heard what he had to say.
SEOUL — China’s visiting president, Xi Jinping, reminded South Koreans on Friday that their two countries had fought “shoulder to shoulder” against Japan more than four centuries ago, underscoring what analysts have called the main goal of his first official visit to the country: drawing South Korea away from Japan and the United States.
It should be no surprise these alliances are forming at the same time the BRICs announce their development bank intended to take on the U.S. dollar's primary reserve currency status.

The stench of western hypocrisy is becoming hard to ignore and sooner, rather than later, the world's going to be saying "that's enough of this shit".

Click here to recommend this post on and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Running Orders, by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of
war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
to nowhere.
It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.

Click here to recommend this post on and help other people find this information.

Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.