Sep 25, 2008

The Golden Calf Revealed

By Wilfred Hahn

The week ending September 19th was the week that was to be remembered. It was also a week that confirmed the future. How so? The true bias of the world’s systems and rulers—the key makers and shakers—were revealed in full color.

For those who may not know, world financial markets were flapping in the wind … investors and traders horrified and mortified at the prospect of systemic financial meltdown.

During a manic week, some stock markets fell as much as 17.5% in one day (Russia’s) only to surge upwards again by the end of the week. Reporting systems malfunctioned, traders were overwhelmed and money was desperately dashing for cover. The catch-22, of course, is that when everybody is trying to escape through a narrow exit, it becomes impossible for most. The trampled bodies soon obstruct the doorway. At some point during the week, fear ran so high that people where willing to accept negative interest rates on US Treasury bills. They, in effect, paid interest for the assurance that they would be able to have a safe store for their money. The last time we recall this occurring was in Japan in the 1990s. At that time it was for different reasons. Then, rather than fear being the cause, Japanese banks did not want to accept any overnight deposits as they there was a lack of borrowers.

But back to the present specter. We saw an abnormally high buzz of activity in the halls of power and money. Lots of big black limousines were ferrying around big “bulge bracket” elites to urgent meetings. On Wall Street, it was as if the famous scenes of John Piermont Morgan’s coordinated rescue of Wall Street (Panic of 1907) was being re-enacted. Key financial executives were being closeted together over entire weekends in order to construct coordinated schemes to plug the leaks in the dyke (whether faltering companies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and others) before markets opened on Monday morning. All semblance and decorum of rules and conventional practices went out the window for the high cause of stopping mass financial panic.

In Canada, all the heads of the big banks rushed to meet with the governor of the central bank in Toronto. In Russia, President Putin sent out the directive that all the key oligarchs (especially those that also held government positions) show up to help formulate a rescue plan (as well as put their money behind the cause). Even some of the oligarchs that had long decamped from Russia, such as Roman Abramovich, flew in for the meeting.

What we clearly witnessed is that the world’s most important people are its merchants. It parallels that future time when, “Your merchants were the world's great men.” (Revelation 18:23) They run the world and represent the ultimate levers of global power … at least at the present time.

Those who have studied societies of old know that it was not always so. In fact, this was rarely the case. More usually priests and philosophers were consider to represent the most elite rungs of society. If not, it was more likely the warriors. But merchants and money men? These were considered the most base functions in many ancient societies. The Bible also never provides an endorsement of societies that were intensely commercialized, associating such attitudes with idolatry. The maritime city-state of Tyre, the nexus of the then-known world trading system, is given high profile in the Old Testament. It is never commended.

In admonishment of anyone who thinks that economic growth is infinite, we read: “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: ‘Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a homer of seed only an ephah of grain’.“ (Isaiah 5:8-10) That is a prophecy still to be fulfilled in the future.

Speaking of Assyria’s economic rapaciousness, “Multiply like grasshoppers, multiply like locusts! You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more than the stars of the sky, but like locusts they strip the land and then fly away. Your guards are like locusts, your officials like swarms of locusts that settle in the walls on a cold day— but when the sun appears they fly away, and no one knows where.” (Nahum 3:15-17)

And, as mentioned, there are many indictments of ancient Tyre’s excesses in this area. For example: “By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud.” (Ezekiel 28:5) “Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.” (Ezekiel 28:16) “By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.” (Ezekiel 28:18) There are other similar such allusions in the Bible. We clearly see that all excessively commercialized, greed-infused systems or activities of mankind are either condemned or denigrated.

Returning to the current theatre of “hari kari” financial markets, by the end of the famous week that was, the hounds of high finance had sniffed out the real criminals: Short-sellers. (Briefly explained, this a term for investors who sell a stock they do not own, having borrowed it with the obligation of returning this holding.) There is little love lost for any class of speculative investor, however, there is an aspect to this edict that should not be missed by Christians and anyone who believes in the concepts of fairness and truth. George Orwell couldn’t have described this week any better. From henceforth, pronounced Christopher Cox, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “thou shalt not short.” (Actually, those are our words.) Quoting him directly, “The Commission is committed to using every weapon in its arsenal to combat market manipulation.” The SEC, effective Sept. 19th, banned all short-selling in 799 financial stocks for an interim period.

One wonders why market manipulation was not considered to be such a bad thing while an enormous, corrupt financial bubble was being inflated to bursting in the first place. It is only admitted to be a bad thing in the eyes of the public when it causes prices to drop to less inflated levels. By that time, of course, the smart money has long exited and the taxpayer’s money is being marshaled to fill in the black holes. The real culprits of the financial fiasco and systemic subterfuge have long ago run off with the huge profits, safely stashed in offshore accounts or liquid investments.

What some call the “pigmen” of Wall Street—this epithet really referring to the buddy network of corrupt power elites everywhere—have of course played an instrumental role. To be sure, a select few have suffered enormous losses. For example, Maurice Greenberg, former head of AIG and substantial shareholder, at one point will have suffered unrealized losses of as much as $20 billion (yes, billion). But, we do not propose to lay the blame on “pigmen” alone, although the disasters that have come upon America surely has required their complicity. Really, everyone is to blame, from homebody to priest.

If anybody, we would place the uppermost burden for responsibility on the wreckage of our idolatrous, value-distorted societies upon religious leaders and theologians. Of course, everyone carries personal accountability for their own actions. But, these are the people in the positions that the Bible invests with high accountability. ( Hebrews 13:17) Progressively, starting long ago, many have sold out or denied truths. They have gone the way of Balaam, selling their sophistries to the highest bidder in the here and now and busily teaching that “Did God really say?” not. (Genesis 3:10) In this regard, it would be hard not to yield to a special derision for the latest breed of “prosperity gospel” teachers. They have made a mockery of the eternal worth of the gospel. When the “golden calf” placed on the altar is material prosperity, riches and success, then philosophy and theology becomes malleable and subservient to this glittering god.

The seeds of future demise, often start with divine blessings. Can this really be true? This is not blame the blessings, but rather mankind’s eventual response. There comes a point, where the divine origin of prosperity is forgotten. Instead, it is attributed to the achievements and prowess of man alone. In time, the focus next moves to confidence which is based on the perceptions of mankind’s record of past achievement. Then, the object of fixation turns to prosperity itself. It then becomes the objective of prime focus. From this point and beyond, everything—truth, religion, justice—becomes a pliable utility to pursue wealth, whether real or fictitious.

While we hardly wish to argue the case for short-sellers, nevertheless, there are some aspects to their recent banning that should not be missed. The golden calf is clearly evident here. Truth, fair value and opinions are tolerable only so long as the growth of wealth is unobstructed. In this sense, the god of fecundity and increase is visible in recent policies. As Nebuchadnezzar insisted, you must bow down to the image of gold, sixty cubits high and six wide. (Daniel 3:5) The Babylonian numerical system of man — hexigesimal or based on 60 — plainly symbolizing mankind’s works and idolatries. If you will not bow, into the fire with you. There will not be allowed any contrary opinion to the elevation of Mammon.

There is evident a similar bias with respect to religious beliefs. All are tolerable and true (despite the mutual contradictions) except that which claims to be absolute Truth. In fact, if any beliefs are intolerant, it is those that limit choice, claiming that there is only one destination for all. No. That would be narrow minded. There are at least two—ultimately heaven or darkness (hell).

Meanwhile, while the Western world was staunching the gaping wounds in its so-thought “Bible-mandated” fractional-reserve banking system, in another corner of the world, the Gulf Cooperative Group (GCC) was furthering its plan for a common currency. The GCC, a group of rich Arabian Middle-eastern countries comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, is aspiring to launch a common currency by the end of 2010—the khaleeji. These nations are still economically modest in size relative to the rest of the high-income nations of the world—for example, the 30 member nations of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But, they nevertheless are a group to be watched. They have become wealthy and influential, still accumulating some $300 billion a year with oil prices in the $90 per barrel range. And, they will yet have some prominent roles to play in the future.

Again, back on our home continent, change is surely afoot. Change? … but what kind change? Says, one intrepid writer who writes anonymously as London Banker on RGE Monitor: “Once again in the name of crisis and expediency the laws are ignored, decisions are taken in secret, extra-judicial reapportionment of property and contract is mandated by executive fiat, and legislative review and judicial intervention are impossible. Over the past year every financial crisis has been met with lawless and Enron-esque innovation by the Federal Reserve and Treasury, and this week was arguably more extreme. In the name of exigency, they have all been sprung as fait accompli on a shocked financial community, and since been treated as unquestionable and unreviewable. Every initiative introduced as a temporary measure has become a permanent fixture. Not all catastrophic events were willful or anticipated, but all were used to force through an agenda that was pre-agreed by a powerful elite that stood to profit from a preferred course of policies that could only be pursued in the undemocratic atmosphere of crisis. Crisis prevents objective determination of the public interest. Crisis undermines both markets and democracy.”

And, that will also be true globally. Shrill voices again are calling for global laws and structures that will protect mankind from the financial lawlessness that has led to recent financial tremors. Said a columnist in the Financial Times, “That means more global governance: credible international rules.”

Take note: The advance of globalism has again received a shot in the arm.