After traveling across the United States and parts of Canada, Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, has set sail back to Europe.
This time, she’s hitching a ride with an Australian couple sailing around the world in a 48-foot catamaran called La Vagabonde, chronicling their travels on YouTube.
La Vagabonde will take roughly three weeks to reach Spain, where Thunberg hopes to arrive in time for the next round of United Nations–sponsored climate talks.
Without a doubt, Thunberg’s travels across North America, which included angrily lecturing world leaders at the United Nations, have gained her fame and notoriety. This is reminiscent of another child, anti-gun activist David Hogg, being elevated to celebrity status overnight. Both Hogg and Thunberg have been honored not because either has any insights, but because they are fresh faces useful in advancing leftist causes.
Thunberg’s case is the stranger of the two. She is not only a child leading the man-made climate change parade, but a mentally ill one at that. As Thunberg herself has repeatedly stated, she suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, classified as a mental disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), along with several other mental conditions.
In Greta Thunberg’s eyes, her mental illness is not an impediment to her analyzing the hard science behind climate. On the contrary, it’s actually an asset. She cites one advantage of Asperger’s syndrome is that it provides “remarkable focus and persistence.” Or in Greta’s case, could we perhaps say the “remarkable focus” is an obsession?
Thunberg is heralded as a visionary. Her mother, Melania Ernman, a noted opera singer in Sweden, says Greta “is one of the few people who can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how greenhouse gases pour out of our chimneys and rise into the wind, where they turn the atmosphere into a gigantic invisible garbage dump.” I would love to ask my old physics professor about that claim.
Thunberg’s fierce advocacy for worldwide action to assuage her global warming panic is a chicken-and-egg situation. That is, has the propaganda on climate change driven young Greta cuckoo, or was she unbalanced to begin with, which then made her susceptible to believe an Al Gore–type global warming hysteria? E. Michael Jones puts the blame on Thunberg’s mother and Sweden for so thoroughly abandoning the moral law.
In Jones’s telling, while Ernman was trekking about the world to applause and acclaim on the opera stage, Greta was home without a mother in a morally bankrupt Sweden. This unbalanced Greta. In her memoir Scenes from the Heart, Ernman makes a self-serving claim that the issue of climate change made Greta mentally ill just as she was entering puberty. Ernman traces the onset of Greta’s disorder back to a specific moment when “during one of her classes, Greta’s class viewed a film about ocean pollution. In the South Pacific, there is a floating island made up of plastic that is larger than Mexico. Greta bursts into tears during the film. Her classmates are moved to tears, too.”
Jones says climate change was an acceptable substitute for guilt on the part of the mother for not being there for Greta and hatred on Greta’s part for being abandoned. Both are at peace now that they have man-made global warming into the boogeyman. She writes that “it manifests itself in our neck of the woods [Sweden] in the form of stress illnesses, segregation, and ever longer lines in child and youth psychiatric clinics.”
Again, and for Ernman’s edification, it is not global warming per see that is driving the kiddies mad, it’s a combination of the deliberate hype about its dangers coupled with living in a secular, God-free world.
Clearly, as the West abandons God and religion as outmoded concepts, many more people will become lost and adrift in the valueless societies. Mental illness of one type or another has to follow, with current examples being gender confusion, Trump Derangement Syndrome, global warming, and the embrace of socialism.
A ‘Big Short’ Investor’s New Bet: Climate Change Will Bust the Housing Market David Burt was one of the few who predicted the 2008 financial crisis. He’s gambling that history is going to repeat itself soon.
In 2007, almost no one would admit what became obvious in hindsight: The housing market was on the brink of collapse and would take a good chunk of the U.S. economy along with it. Lenders were getting rich, giving home loans to people who couldn’t afford them, investment banks were making a killing by combining those shaky loans into securities, ratings agencies cashed in by certifying those securities as safe and millions of ordinary people got screwed when the whole thing came crashing down.
But David Burt saw it coming. The investor was a consultant at Cornwall Capital, the firm that shorted the subprime mortgage market and made $80 million as some of Wall Street’s biggest firms imploded around it. It was such a spectacular, farsighted bet against the conventional wisdom surrounding the housing market boom that Cornwall was profiled in Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short, and one of Burt’s colleagues was played by Brad Pitt in the movie adaptation. The thing, though, is that many of the risk factors leading up to the crash were fairly easy to spot if you weren’t earning massive profits dependent on ignoring them.
Now Burt thinks there could be another financial disaster growing inside the real estate market. But this time, the bubble is being inflated by climate change denial.
To understand the mechanics of this threat it helps to visualize the market for coastal real estate as a brand new condo tower on the beach. The foundations for this tower are built upon maps drawn by the federal government that seriously downplay the likelihood of sea-level rise and floods. The lower floors are filled with homeowners paying off mortgages on homes that could be chronically flooded within the next few decades. The penthouse is occupied by banks and other investors turning those mortgages into ever more complex investments. Though it’s hard to predict a specific event that knocks this tower to the ground—perhaps it could be a devastating $1 trillion Florida hurricane, or a stampede to the exits by investors once denial of climate dangers turns to fear—it’s clear to anyone paying attention that the entire structure is teetering in the ocean wind.
Mortgage crisis. Credit crisis. Bank collapse. Government bailout. Phrases like these frequently appeared in the headlines throughout the fall of 2008, a period in which the major financial markets lost more than 30% of their value. This period also ranks among the most horrific in U.S. financial market history. Those who lived through these events will likely never forget the turmoil. So what happened, exactly, and why? Read on to learn how the explosive growth of the subprime mortgage market, which began in 1999, played a significant role in setting the stage for the turmoil that would unfold just nine years later.
Unprecedented Growth and Consumer Debt
Subprime mortgages are mortgages targeted at borrowers with less-than-perfect credit and less-than-adequate savings. An increase in subprime borrowing began in 1999 as the Federal National Mortgage Association (widely referred to as Fannie Mae) began a concerted effort to make home loans more accessible to those with lower credit and savings than lenders typically required. The idea was to help everyone attain the American dream of home ownership. Since these borrowers were considered high-risk, their mortgages had unconventional terms that reflected that risk, such as higher interest rates and variable payments. (Learn more in Subprime Lending: Helping Hand Or Underhanded?)
While many saw great prosperity as the subprime market began to explode, others began to see red flags and potential danger for the economy. Bob Prechter, the founder of Elliott Wave International, consistently argued that the out-of-control mortgage market was a threat to the U.S. economy as the whole industry was dependent on ever-increasing property values.
As of 2002, government-sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had extended more than $3 trillion worth of mortgage credit. In his 2002 book “Conquer the Crash,” Prechter stated, “confidence is the only thing holding up this giant house of cards.” The role of Fannie and Freddie is to repurchase mortgages from the lenders who originated them,and make money when mortgage notes are paid. Thus, ever-increasing mortgage default rates led to a crippling decrease in revenue for these two companies. (Learn more in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac And The Credit Crisis Of 2008.)
In the up-trending market that existed from 1999 through 2005, these mortgages were virtually risk-free. A borrower, having positive equity despite the low mortgage payments since his home had increased in value since the purchase date, could just sell the home for a profit in the event he could not afford the future higher payments. However, many argued that these creative mortgages were a disaster waiting to happen in the event of a housing market downturn, which would put owners in a negative equity situation and make it impossible to sell.
To compound the potential mortgage risk, total consumer debt, in general, continued to grow at an astonishing rate and in 2004, it hit $2 trillion for the first time. Howard S. Dvorkin, president and founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc., a nonprofit debt management organization, told the Washington Post at the time, “It’s a huge problem. You cannot be the wealthiest country in the world and have all your countrymen be up to their neck in debt.”
The Subsequent Rise of Creative Mortgage-Related Investment Products
During the run-up in housing prices, the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market became popular with commercial investors. An MBS is a pool of mortgages grouped into a single security. Investors benefit from the premiums and interest payments on the individual mortgages it contains. This market is highly profitable as long as home prices continue to rise and homeowners continue to make their mortgage payments. The risks, however, became all too real as housing prices began to plummet and homeowners began to default on their mortgages in droves. (Learn how four major players slice and dice your mortgage in the secondary market in Behind The Scenes Of Your Mortgage.)
Another popular investment vehicle during this time was the credit derivative, known as a credit default swap (CDSs). CDSs were designed to be a method of hedging against a company’s creditworthiness, similar to insurance. But unlike the insurance market, the CDS market was unregulated, meaning there was no requirement that the issuers of CDS contracts maintain enough money in reserve to pay out under a worst-case scenario (such as an economic downturn). This was exactly what happened with American International Group (AIG) in early 2008 as it announced huge losses in its portfolio of underwritten CDS contracts that it could not afford to pay up on. (Learn more about this investment vehicle in Credit Default Swaps: An Introduction and Falling Giant: A Case Study Of AIG.)
By March 2007, with the failure of Bear Stearns due to huge losses resulting from its involvement in having underwritten many of the investment vehicles directly linked to the subprime mortgage market, it became evident that the entire subprime lending market was in trouble. Homeowners were defaulting at high rates as all of the creative variations of subprime mortgages were resetting to higher payments while home prices declined. Homeowners were upside down – they owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth – and could no longer just flip their way out of their homes if they couldn’t make the new, higher payments. Instead, they lost their homes to foreclosure and often filed for bankruptcy in the process. (Take a look at the factors that caused this market to flare up and burn out in The Fuel That Fed The Subprime Meltdown.)
Despite this apparent mess, the financial markets continued higher into October of 2007, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) reaching a closing high of 14,164 on October 9, 2007. The turmoil eventually caught up, and by December 2007 the United States had fallen into a recession. By early July 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average would trade below 11,000 for the first time in over two years. That would not be the end of the decline.
On Sunday, September 7, 2008, with the financial markets down nearly 20% from the October 2007 peaks, the government announced its takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a result of losses from heavy exposure to the collapsing subprime mortgage market. One week later, on September 14, major investment firm Lehman Brothers succumbed to its own overexposure to the subprime mortgage market and announced the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history at that time. The next day, markets plummeted and the Dow closed down 499 points at 10,917.
On the same day, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) announced that it was buying Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest brokerage company. Additionally AIG (NYSE: AIG), one of the nation’s leading financial companies, had its credit downgraded as a result of having underwritten more credit derivative contracts than it could afford to pay off. On September 18, 2008, talk of a government bailout began, sending the Dow up 410 points. The next day, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposed that a Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of as much as $1 trillion be made available to buy up toxic debt to ward off a complete financial meltdown. Also on this day, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) initiated a temporary ban on short-selling the stocks of financial companies, believing this would stabilize the markets. The markets surged on the news and investors sent the Dow up 456 points to an intraday high of 11,483, finally closing up 361 at 11,388. These highs would prove to be of historical importance as the financial markets were about to undergo three weeks of complete turmoil.
Complete Financial Turmoil
The Dow would plummet 3,600 points from the September 19, 2008, intraday high of 11,483 to the October 10, 2008, intraday low of 7,882. The following is a recap of the major U.S. events that unfolded during this historic three-week period.
September 21, 2008: Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), the last two of the major investment banks still standing, convert from investment banks to bank holding companies to gain more flexibility for obtaining bailout funding.
September 25, 2008: After a 10-day bank run, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) seizes Washington Mutual, then the nation’s largest savings and loan, which had been heavily exposed to subprime mortgage debt. Its assets are transferred to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM).
September 28, 2008: The TARP bailout plan stalls in Congress.
September 29, 2008: The Dow declines 774 points (6.98%), the largest point drop in history. Also, Citigroup (NYSE:C) acquires Wachovia, then the fourth-largest U.S. bank.
October 6, 2008: The Dow closes below 10,000 for the first time since 2004.
October 22, 2008: President Bush announces that he will host an international conference of financial leaders on November 15, 2008.
The Bottom Line
The events of the fall of 2008 are a lesson in what eventually happens when rational thinking gives way to irrationality. While good intentions were likely the catalyst leading to the decision to expand the subprime mortgage market back in 1999, somewhere along the way the United States lost its senses. The higher home prices went, the more creative lenders got in an effort to keeping them going even higher, with a seemingly complete disregard for the potential consequences. When one considers the irrational growth of the subprime mortgage market along with the investment vehicles creatively derived from it, combined with the explosion of consumer debt, maybe the financial turmoil of 2008 was not as unforeseeable as many would like to believe.SPONSORED
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