Next meeting:
January 8, 2006, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, 5 p.m.

At the end of last month's meeting, an earnest and most engaging discussion broke out about post-disaster reconstruction ("It is your concern when your neighbor's wall is on fire."—Horace), with occasional overtones of passive survivability. As it turned out, we had someone with recent post-disaster reconstruction experience right in our midst, and her name was Amanda.

We did some arm-twisting, and at this month's meeting we're looking forward to an informal presentation (with pictures) about post-disaster reconstruction in Thailand using compressed earth blocks made with human power.
To: BANG list
From: Sarah Machtey <mudhome [at] netzero [dot] net>
Subject: BANG this Sun: reconstruction in Thailand - compressed earth blocks

Hi All,

One of the new people at our December meeting [she found out about us at David Eisenberg's presentation] was an architect named Amanda who was recently in Thailand designing compressed earth block houses for Habitat for Humanity's post-disaster reconstruction. So, of course, we sucked her into putting together a little presentation for our next meeting. George helped her scan in some pictures for us, though he and Andrea will be away in India during this meeting (and the next). It will be this Sunday, January 8th in the basement of the Brattleboro Savings & Loan at 5pm. As always, the bank wants the outside doors kept locked. If you get there late, ring the bell at the back door and someone will come up and let you in, then please listen for the doorbell and go up and let the next person in, and ask them to do the same for the person after them.

Please bring anything you have to share on the subject of disaster reconstruction.

Though there isn't a local vernacular of earthen construction here, that doesn't mean it's completely inappropriate. In the Finger Lakes region of New York, there are adobe houses (and at least two cob ones) from the 1800s that are still happily occupied. Sarah and I tracked down a dozen or so of them back in April '04: some pictures and info here. If there's interest, maybe we could have Sarah reprise the presentation she gave at the 2004 Colloquium East sometime.

Head over to the back door of the Brattleboro Savings & Loan, at 221 Main St., on Sunday, January 8 (the second Sunday of the month), and join us! Things will get rolling at 5:00, and we have the room until 9:00 for anybody else who likes to straggle as much as some of us do. (There's no obligation, though.)

The bank wants the outside doors kept locked. Ring the bell at the back door and someone will come up and let you in. Then it's your turn: go up and let the next person in when the bell rings—and ask them to do the same for the person after them. Arriving by 5:00 is an act of kindness.

Last month, there was a message posted about an Earthen Plasters for Urban Renovation workshop that Jonah Vitale-Wolff was giving in Albany, NY. The newspaper there subsequently ran this article: "Work of Albany builder is all natural."

Since posting the preceding, Jonah gave a call to let us all know that he's looking into organizing some kind of natural building thing at the 32nd Annual NOFA Summer Conference (August 10-13) at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Maybe an earthen oven, or an alis mural, or something. Details as they develop.

Chris Martenson will be repeating his four-part presentation about money and the economy at some point beginning in January. Highly recommended.
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 11:44:36 -0500
From: Chris Martenson
Subject: Next lecture series and a few updates

The next economic series is being planned in the Brattleboro area for January; probably the same set-up (a four part series)... location & time are still undecided. I will inform you of the particulars as soon as they are available, and will commit to at least a 3 week heads-up.

A 'Fiscal Hurricane' on the Horizon
Economists Say Unchecked Spending Will Trigger Recessions and Worse
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON (Nov. 15) — The comptroller general of the United States is explaining over eggs how the nation's finances are going to hell. "We face a demographic tsunami" that "will never recede," David Walker tells a group of reporters. He runs through a long list of fiscal challenges, led by the imminent retirement of the baby boomers, whose promised Medicare and Social Security benefits will swamp the federal budget in coming decades.

The breakfast conversation remains somber for most of an hour. Then one reporter smiles and asks, "Aren't you depressed in the morning?"

Sadly, it's no laughing matter. To hear Walker, the nation's top auditor, tell it, the United States can be likened to Rome before the fall of the empire. Its financial condition is "worse than advertised," he says. It has a "broken business model." It faces deficits in its budget, its balance of payments, its savings—and its leadership.

Walker's not the only one saying it. As Congress and the White House struggle to trim up to $50 billion from the federal budget over five years—just 3% of the $1.6 trillion in deficits projected for that period—budget experts say the nation soon could face its worst fiscal crisis since at least 1983, when Social Security bordered on bankruptcy.

Without major spending cuts, tax increases or both, the national debt will grow more than $3 trillion through 2010, to $11.2 trillion—nearly $38,000 for every man, woman and child. The interest alone would cost $561 billion in 2010, the same as the Pentagon.

From the political left and right, budget watchdogs are warning of fiscal trouble:

� Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, dispassionately arms 535 members of Congress with his agency's stark projections. Barring action, he admits to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in coming decades. That's when an aging population, health care inflation and advanced medical technology will create a perfect storm of spiraling costs.

� Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, sees a future of unfunded promises, trade imbalances, too few workers and too many retirees. She envisions a stock market dive, lost assets and a lower standard of living.

� Kent Conrad, a Democratic senator from North Dakota, points to the nation's $7.9 trillion debt, rising by about $600 billion a year. That, he notes, is before the baby boom retires. "We're not preparing for what we all know is to come," he says. "We're all sleepwalking through this period."

� Stuart Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation projects a period from now until 2050 in which tax revenue stays stable as a share of the economy but Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending soars. To avoid big tax increases, he says the government has to "renegotiate" the social contracts it made with its citizens.

� Alice Rivlin and Isabel Sawhill of the centrist Brookings Institution put their pessimism into a book titled Restoring Fiscal Sanity. Rivlin, who became the first director of the Congressional Budget Office in 1974, says it will take an "economic scare" such as the 1987 stock market crash to spur action. Sawhill likens the growing gulf between what the government spends and takes in to a "Category 6 fiscal hurricane."

Read more.
Taken together, all the signs are indicating that this spring the Federal Reserve is anticipating some heavy-duty action that will require them to literally "print up a mountain." Should this happen, and the world revolts against this unwanted flood of US dollars, things could easily get, um, interesting.

The key to it all will be to watch the interest rates. They are the core of the US bubble 'reactor.'

All the best,
Chris & Becca

Chris is an engaging speaker who can translate the language of the financial world for us normal people, unraveling the mysteries of the monetary system. He's not selling anything. He doesn't claim to predict the future. He's not a wacko. He's really smart. And it's a lot more interesting than it might sound. For more details, email him at

Promo stuff:
If you are concerned about the direction of the economy, or simply want to know more about how our financial and economic systems actually function, you should attend this four part series.

"Did he say economics zzzzZZZzzzz...?"

Don't worry! This will be a brain twister, for sure—but not because it will be droll or boring.

Rather, you will find yourself stunned and asking "Holy cow, how can this be? How can the situation be this dicey without any sort of national discussion from either party?"

Dicey, he says?

Luckily, you don't have to take my word for it:

The economy of the United States is, in the words of former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volker, "skating on increasingly thin ice." From a former fed chairman these are powerful words and, unfortunately, all too true.

Poorly taught in school, and even more poorly covered by a complacent US press, it is little wonder that a working understanding of our economy is hard to come by.

We will fix that.

WHAT: Four sequential (and additive—best if you can attend all of them) economic presentations and discussion sessions covering the following:
1. What is money? How is it 'created'? (This is much more profound than you might imagine.)

2. History and Consequences of US Monetary Policy (subtitle: "uh oh").

3. Recent data—consumer & government debt, energy (oil, refined products, & NatGas), housing, stocks, & bonds.

4. Scenarios and options—"what might happen, when, and what steps should be taken?"
WHO: Dr. Chris Martenson has an MBA from Cornell and PhD from Duke, worked in corporate finance for a fortune 50 company, invests extremely actively, and has led this economic lecture twice in the past receiving excellent feedback. Dr. Martenson follows a wide variety of financial markets on a daily and often minute-by-minute basis.

COST: Your time only.

Why is he doing it? Because it's important.

photos by Mark Piepkorn
and Sarah Machtey