Saturday, February 6, 2010


"In individuals, insanity is rare,
but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule."

(Nietzsche, 'Beyond Good and Evil')

With the latest of the last two recent major smackdowns of gold and silver, the fall of "Dr.Copper", the breakout of the sagging US$ past 80 on the exchange index, the tanking of equities and the surprising resilience of the unprecedented sale of soaring yields of long term U.S. treasury debt, Kushmonster has taken a couple of necessary steps back (much like Au and Ag), scratching the head in general disbelief and a certain measure of dismay. Having taken an obligatory crash course in hard knocks economics 101 over the past year like a lot of people, we can't help but stand in utter astonishment at the continuing unprecedented spectacle of socio- economic devastation and as a consequence marvel at the efforts to regressively restore the persona of a fractured and fragmented financial order based on what Jim Sinclair has dubbed MOPE or Management of Perception Economics. A reiteration of the Nazi propaganda minister Goebbel's famous quote is also instructive in this regard:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

The economic indicators referred to are, at the least, expressive of a volatility which reveals an underlying highly unstable substrata. Though the long term indications seem clear, namely the eventual devaluation of the US$(along with all fiat currency) and the consequent parabolic rise of the precious metals, the shorter term shakeout is less sure. Even though the effects of this colossal upheaval cannot be understated and permeate even the most obscure interstices of the social fabric, an elemental disagreement exists concerning the origins and the ultimate outcome of the crisis. What we are ultimately dealing with is a crisis of confidence: in government, in the private sector, in the viability of social and economic institutions, and most importantly, in ourselves. The crisis we are experiencing today reflects on the one hand a deep seated and pervasive mistrust of government and on the other hand and more predominately an unwavering acceptance and trust in state power. The flux and flow between these two antipodes will largely determine the political direction of the country. Whatever its policies may be, a government cannot maintain its standing without the confidence of a significant majority of its varied constituencies. Lacking the necessary support that confidence inspires, government must either necessarily fail or use force to maintain the power once freely granted to it by its people. Some have suggested that this critical juncture has already and perhaps long ago been reached, rendering such considerations as the above as gratuitous and irrelevant. Whatever the case, the struggle between the true state of affairs and the attempt to distort and misrepresent this truth has been with us over the millennia though it displays a distinctly sharper and threatening edge when our own societal and personal survival is at stake.

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the [public] is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."
– Edward Bernays

The disruptions, dislocations and disorder of millions upon millions of foreclosures and job losses have led to a growing and tangible disillusionment with the institutions of political and social governance. The resultant and ongoing corrosion of the assumed authority of these institutions has in turn led to a predictable retrenchment and re-investiture of the same with redoubled commitment to those implements which have always been the first and last resort of flawed, failed policy- treachery and violence. Thus the two great levers-in this particular instance the hyperbolic largesse bestowed on the grandees of the financial institutions coupled with the interminable and obscene subsidy of the predations of the military establishment have effectively interdicted not only any hope for the future but have seriously undermined the mere subsistence of the present as well laying the groundwork for an anarchic social breakdown. What can only be called a national schism is fast developing, an ever growing and deepening fissure in what remains of the social discourse composed of two diametrically opposed views This dichotomy finds an unambiguous clarity of expression in the battle over gold and the much debated fate of the US$ world reserve currency.
A recent survey of the years 2004 /2008 shows the US$ and gold have moved in inverse proportion as exemplified in the following chart:

Another revealing chart shows a similar inverse relationship to the stock market during the gradual decoupling of Gold from paper currency with the significant watershed of the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913:

both courtesy of the excellent and informative site http://goldversuspaper.blogspot.com
[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

AU versus US$

The antipathetic relationship existing between Au and the US$ and indeed all fiat currency is of course expressive of the gradual abandonment of the gold standard begun with the creation of the Federal Reserve and followed two decades later by the confiscation of of gold by Roosevelt in 1933 and in turn by the Bretton -Woods Agreement of 1944, which established an international floating rate of exchange and finally completed during the Nixon Administration in 1971 with the de facto establishment of the now free floating US$ as the world reserve currency and the cessation of bank exchanges of gold for currency.

As we have often said the turning point for the dollar and the American economy was on 8/15/71, when the US abandoned the gold standard. That was followed by de-industrialization, free trade, globalization, offshoring and outsourcing, which ripped the industrial heart of America, sending our companies and jobs to foreign lands, so that transnational conglomerates could be, enriched tax-free. The result since 1972, due to inflation, is that two incomes per family are needed to financially survive. A very sad commentary, and the direct result of the actions of government, Wall Street and banking. They ended sound money and gave us corporatist socialism, also known as fascism.-Bob Chapman

In direct response to the very real possibility of a massive run on the banks by citizens seeking to exchange their federal reserve notes for gold, Roosevelt's dictatorial appropriation of the gold of private citizens and the subsequent revaluation of gold upwards from $24 to$35 and the devaluation of the dollar was nothing short of theft and the first step towards a gradual upward transfer of the nations wealth which has culminated recently in the massive looting of the treasury by the international banking cartel in collusion with Congress beginning in September 2008. This process, either by design or necessity will be completed only when the US$ finally reaches zero, a denouement regarded as inevitable by many, including the economist Marc Faber.

It has been estimated that less than 2% of the American populace have ever held a gold coin in their hand., a most unsettling, disturbing and strange outcome given the fact that the U.S. was in possession of some 75% of the worlds gold reserves prior to World War II, a fact which many suggest led to the greatest world wide economic expansion in history. Now more than 60% of US dollars are presently circulating or held in deposit outside the United States and it is suspected that gold reserves in the COMEX and its English counterpart, the LBMA are seriously overstated due to the gold carry trade. This decades long fraud involving the"leasing" of bullion at 0% interest and investing the cash in high yield U.S. Treasuries has resulted in the disappearance of physical inventories from the vaults. Evidence of massive fraud is surfacing in the bullion markets as gold bars originating in the U.S. sold to China are found to be gold plated tungsten forgeries. Record long contracts on ETF gold paper certificates are expiring, demanding physical delivery. Instead the investors are being offered 25% cash premiums. All the while speculation centering on possible gold confiscation is being aired, without due diligence being given to the fact that a defacto stealth confiscation is well underway. 1933 Roosevelt redux 2009. Meanwhile these bogus gold (and silver) paper contracts are being used by JPMorgan Chase, Goldman, HSBC et al. to frontrun the gold market with illegal naked short selling. As a matter of fact the price of gold that we see on the Kitco charts is literally denominated in paper per the gold paper contracts on the COMEX. The true inflation adjusted dollar denominated gold price in gold would be closer to $6500! The dollar itself, though technically weighted to a basket of currencies would more realistically be pegged to the price of oil. We recently received an e-mail from an acquaintance of ours, an unemployed artisan who is down to his last 50 cents, is desperately clinging to his gold and silver and is thereby weighted almost 100% in gold in his "portfolio". His rudimentary analysis of the the gold trade is deceptively simple and yet provides some basic insight into a very complex phenomena. He wanted us to know that "his truck is paid for".

"there is a great deal of manipulation going on in equity and commodities markets which simply put 1) tend to inflate and thus overvalue the stock market and the U.S. dollar and 2) to deflate and thus undervalue the price of gold very radically. This is basically due to accounting tricks which value assets not at mark to market value but at the aforementioned inflated value (mark to model) which has no real sound economic basis. This kind of accounting is a big reason we're in this economic quagmire in the first place. The price of AU on the other hand is being manipulated downwards by the short sellers at COMEX, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and various banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase and HSBC in London. This has a lot to due with gold derivatives and the gold carry trade where bullion banks lease their reserves at ridiculous rates of 1 or 2% or less which the lendees then invest in U.S. Treasuries, in the process reaping very handsome dividends. The whole process depends on keeping the price of gold artificially low. A lot of this kind of trading is carried on with paper gold certificates which thus mandates a certain amount of trust as the gold is never actually delivered. When the contracts on these trades expire the physical gold must be delivered. A greater and greater percentage of these gold futures are being allowed to expire, expressly demanding delivery. And this is catching a lot of banks on the short end, as their reserves cannot meet demand for delivery. Thus when the European Central Bank, during the recent G20 meeting, sold 37 tons of gold to an unnamed buyer(not on the open market) many analysts speculated that the recipient was Deutchebank of Germany which had been caught short of reserves when the futures demanded delivery, threatening collapse of the German flagship bank and many others in its wake. This is an example of the risk to which these short sellers are being exposed. Only so many armored car deliveries of emergency bullion reserves can be made to these banks before the house of cards(or paper) collapses. The immediate result though was that some more time was bought, the price of gold was stabilised for the time being, and the bankers breathed a sigh of relief. This can only go on for a "short" while longer. At some point, as the reserves are depleted and the mining concerns themselves, whose unmined gold itself, still in the ground, subjected to ever costlier extraction processes, and above all, already under paper contract in the bullion banks, necessarily curtail operations, the simple laws of supply and demand will inevitably take over, investment will take place, and the price of gold... well, I'll let you figure that one out for yourself.

The US$ and its debt instrument, the US Treasury bond and their relative recent assimilation and appropriation by the banks of foreign governments, notably China and Japan has guaranteed not only the easy access to domestic credit, the most significant feature of the now collapsing housing bubble, but also and more importantly the unprecedented expansion of the U.S. military and corporate interests throughout the world. At the same time, this debt expansion, in its incipient stages allowed for an equally unprecedented growth in the Japanese economy, which itself came grinding to a halt in the early 80's after the gratuitous paving of the island in a tsunami of cement in the form of endless bridges to nowhere and offshore island airports. The ensuing so called "lost decades" of Japan, characterized by negative interest and a massive debt deflationary spiral, prefigured the collapse of the U.S. economy two decades later, just as the hyper inflationary hurricane now bearing down on the land of the rising sun foreshadows the same approaching and not distant catastrophe in America.

Jim Sinclair

Ever since the strategic initiative culminating with Nixon's visit to in 1972, China has made steady and significant strides in economic and industrial development which has resulted in the remarkable emergence of the Middle Kingdom onto the world stage as a major power.Largely as a result of the outsourcing and exportation of American industry and technology over the past four decades, China has of late been accorded the mantle of newly crowned world economic sovereign. Its banks are now the largest in the world and it recently surpassed Germany as the world's largest exporter. Such financial eminences as Jim Sinclair and Jim Rogers, now a globetrotting American expatriate resident of Singapore, never tire of their endless promotion of the economic miracle of Chinese industrialization and development. The legendary "gold guru" Sinclair, Chairman and CEO of Tanzanian Royalty Exploration Corporation, owner of 121 prospecting licenses in an area comprising 2,154 sq. miles in Northern Tanzania, excoriates the corruption of Wall Street bankers and the COMEX as he waxes eloquent on the great virtues of the eminently wise and resourceful Mandarins as in the following, taken from his website-jsmineset.com.

1. China is going to build a major consumer based economy. About that there is no question.
2. China is going to lead the world in time in technology because of the cost thereof.
3. China invented money.
4. China has a millennium plan, and works that plan.
5. The Chinese do not just do something as a reaction to unforeseen circumstances like the West. China acts within the confines of long term planning.
6. Their long term plan is to be the most powerful nation on the planet.
7. That will require the strongest money on the planet.
8. As predicted in the book "Boom" in the early 90s, they will succeed.
9. This is why friends of China in Africa with world class leadership are investment opportunities in every category of business.

Of course Sinclair's fulsome hagiography conveniently omits some questionable steps on the path to greatness such as the Moaist genocidal purges of the 50's which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions, the draconian one child policy which through preferential abortions of females has left an entire generation of the country a lopsided male enclave. Add to this the brutal occupation of Tibet. And let's not forget the Tiannemen Square massacre, the most widely publicized among many other atrocities too numerous to mention. Mr. Sinclair like so many other 20th century entrepreneurs before him simply finds the domestic rigors of totalitarian regimes an irresistibly friendly climate for business, along with the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Schiffs, Warburgs et al. Needless to say, Mr. Sinclair's experiences in the gold mining industry in the Lake Victoria Greenstone Belt must have acquainted him with the need to "crack some eggs to make an omelet" as the saying goes. It is also certainly no coincidence that his friends in the PRC have established economic and military liaisons with the Tanzanian leadership which Sinclair expects to result in the creation of "one of the strongest armies in Africa". Sinclair, who is fond of quoting the poetic epigrams of ancient Chinese military strategist and general Sun-Tzu, author of "The Art of War", might benefit from a study of a work concerning more contemporary Sino stratagems, Mao-Tse-Tung's "Little Red Book", in which the author states in more prosaic terms, "Political power grows out of the end of the barrel of a gun"

Of course there are other economic theorists who are not quite as sanguine as Sinclair in his conviction of the uber- ascendancy of the PRC and who see in China a kind of super Dubai waiting to happen. Indeed China has recently put the brakes on its own super overheating economy and its requisite inflated provincial GDP numbers with tightened credit and escalating bank reserve requirements. With its famous ghost city of some million+ non residents whose empty high rise offices and unoccupied residences are nonetheless heavily invested in by its elite class and its Three Gorges Dam project which displaced uncounted millions of peasants from their now submerged villages, the PRC has indulged in its own orgy of hyper- development, not to speak of its expanding military footprint throughout south Asia to the horn of Africa and into the mother continent itself. (see "The Precipice and the Abyss" on Kushmonster). With its still burgeoning supply of U.S. treasury foreign reserves and the cushion of growing surpluses China seems well equipped to weather the economic storms now sweeping the West. The question remains whether the Mandarins and their South Asian partners can avoid the fate which now looms large over the struggling sovereigns who have followed the Western Anglo American economic paradigm on its inevitable road to ruin.

Mr. Sinclair's deep involvement with the Chinese is emblematic of the increasingly important role that country is playing in the world economy and the resurgence of the gold bull market over the past three decades. China's recent purchase of roughly 400 tons of IMF gold was matched by India's only weeks later of some 300 tons, a massive call option thought responsible for building the present floor of support at the "psychologically significant" $1000 level. Sinclair expects the price of gold to surge even higher, surpassing the recent high of $1200 and continuing on to $1650 and then on to Elliot Wave specialist Alf Field's numbers which are really stratospheric, approaching $10,000. It is noteworthy that after the last parabolic blowout of gold in 1979-80, Sinclair is reported to have sold off $15 million worth of bullion after the top in early 1980, correctly predicting the precipitous drop which occurred only months later. Some wags attributed this uncanny prescience to Sinclair's devotion to the charismatic and controversial Indian sage Bhagavan Shri Sathya Sai Baba, who rewarded the Connecticut gold magnate's extraordinarily lavish donations of some $600 million with divine omniscience. At that rate the 15 mil. is so much chump change, but we are guessing that every little bit helps. But why even bother playing the markets when you're at the top of the A list with the incarnated godhead who produces gold watches out of ash heaps and changes water into gasoline. click (Yes, I kid you not).

Lindsey Williams

And this brings us to an altogether different kind of esoteric wisdom, that of an old Southern Baptist preacher who was the chaplain on the Trans -Alaskan pipeline. His name is Lindsey Williams and he achieved fame when he correctly predicted that the price of oil was going to fall from its all time highs of some $150/barrel to $45/barrel. Williams attributes his apparent clairvoyance to confidential information supplied to him by one of the many "elites", as he calls them, involved in the exploration and production of vast oil reserves on the Alaskan north slope. He had gained the man's confidence during his ministerial activities with the corporation building and administering the pipeline. This particular individual, advanced in years and in the terminal stages of a fatal illness, informed Williams of the concerted efforts of the oligarchy to manipulate the price of oil. According to the informant, the price of oil as well as most other key commodities including gold had nothing to do with supply and demand but were determined by investment bank traders in front of computer terminals in New York City(Goldman Sachs?).

According to Lindsey Williams, the latest manipulation of the oil price downward was designed to undermine and ultimately crash the economies of the oil exporting Gulf states whose expanding economies depend on a price per barrel of oil of, at the minimum $80/barrel. Any default in the Gulf would necessarily exert pressure on the banks of the European Union, especially the UK, which were heavily invested in the hyper development in the gulf and especially the emirates. The recent default of Dubai World and the impending sovereign defaults of several member states of the European Union at the least lend considerable credibility to Williams' claims. The recent speculative short raids on the floundering Greek economy by George Soros and Goldman Sachs not only reinforce the assumption of predatory economic practices by the clandestine agencies that Williams refers to but also presages similar attacks on the European sovereigns as well as the increasing number of states in the American union facing default.

William's forecast for the future is dire. He warns that the global elites' designs include the engineered collapse of the American economy, a process that has been planned for decades. This strategy is in its final stages of its completion and will culminate with the absolute impoverishment of the United States citizens within the next two years. The devaluation and complete collapse of the US$ is imminent and he advises investment in gold and silver as the only protection against the coming hyperinflation which will result in a personal economic catastrophe for all those with only US$ holdings. When one considers that only two to three % of Americans are in possession of gold and silver this exceedingly bleak scenario becomes critical. Indeed, Williams suggests that the elites are "laughing" at the purblind and pathetic American populace who they are leading into feudal serfdom. "The money of the elites is gold and silver and always has been" he says, adding that they mock the plebeians whose recourse to their highly taxed and steadily devaluing FRN debt coupons have rendered them impotent bond-slaves on the land that their forefathers conquered.

Even though the elites' plans for the control of the world's resources and its inhabitants partake of a decidedly evil impulse we should not mistake the fact that the elites do serve a "higher power" and consequently have an ethos. As the implementation of their nefarious designs necessarily partakes of an attempt to disguise their ultimate purposes, this "ethic", according to Williams, obliges them at the same time to forewarn the hoi polloi in thinly veiled and symbolic allusion of their otherwise deeply concealed designs. This is accomplished by various devious methods in keeping with the occult nature of the various secret societies in which they participate, lest the conspiratorial workings of this malign cabal bound by oaths of secrecy be too much revealed.

Mr. Williams also refers to the parabolic spike in gold prices in early 1980, which Jim Sinclair worked so much to his advantage, suggesting that the elites did some extremely profitable front running with their Arab clients in whom they confided supposed privileged inside information concerning a future rise in the price of Au, compellingly urging the the house of Saud in particular to buy vast quantities of gold with their suddenly burgeoning supplies of petro-dollars. The Saudi promptly had "train cars"loaded up with bullion and had it shipped to the Hijaz. Having accomplished this, at an appropriate juncture the investment bank traders with their bullion bank allies promptly withdrew their bids on the COMEX and plunged the price of gold, reaping windfall profits from the huge short positions taken out at the top of the Saudi "bull run".

The obvious question then becomes if Sinclair might himself have been privy to some valuable inside information in this regard. Indeed, though he constantly attempts to portray himself as the avowed enemy of the "mega-rich" even to this very day, his significant holdings in TREC and his high level connection with the Red Chinese government certainly speak otherwise and might make him a prime candidate for inclusion into the elite circles of which Mr. Williams speaks. His association with Sai Baba raises even more serious questions of a deeply metaphysical and occult nature the significance of which have been explored at some length by Fritz Springmeier concerning the connections of Masonry with atavistic eastern religions which have spawned "new age" movements throughout the west and laid the groundwork for the "Novus Ordo Seclorum." (click here for Sinclair/Sai Baba)

The Legacy of Well Intentioned Illusions
In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.

From these considerations it can be argued that the commodity, equity, bond, real estate and credit markets are all the subject of significant manipulations by investment bankers, politicians, hedge funds , monetary funds, government agencies and certainly the Federal Reserve. The free play of market forces if it ever did indeed exist, has certainly been seriously compromised. At the very least the complexities of modern electronic trading with black box high frequency trades and algorithmic programming triggering automatic buy and sell stops have long ago taken the game out of the hands of the traders and replaced it with preprogrammed robotic controls. The question is: who is doing the programming? If the testimony of the preacher Lindsey William is to be given any credence and his track record suggests that it should be, the economic machinery of the nations is in the control of a select group of elites, a cadre of immensely wealthy oligarchs operating behind the scenes pulling the hidden levers of power, creating and destroying governments, installing and removing their heads of state like so many pieces on a grand chessboard.

Although most people would be unwilling to admit such a state of affairs, consigning such speculations to that convenient and ever at hand dust bin of "conspiracy theories", such a dismissive attitude is most often the result of an inability or disinclination to explore the relevant information, most of it a part of the public record. Here again we come to the core of the issue. Are the significant failures of modern society in almost every arena of human activity merely the result of ignorant incompetence and lack of foresight or, as Mr. Williams and so many other suggest, or are they due the preplanned agendas of nefarious clandestine agencies operating outside the purview and the capacities of limited human awareness.

I suppose the answer to this question would demand an open and honest and unbiased assessment of the nature of our understanding and would thus entail at the very least an acknowledgment of an inherent inhibition in our human nature which prefers the comfort, warmth and security of the herd to the rigors, risks, and personal challenges of independent inquiry in "foro interno" which is the source not only of human inventiveness in the arts and sciences but also of the wellsprings of a self understanding, the necessary prerequisite for any attempt to penetrate the veil of illusions and misconceptions which keep us from the truth.

The unfolding panoply of manifold crises that will only grow with astonishing and destructive force will compel us to profound changes the nature of which we can only guess at. What has become apparent though is that most will simply be caught unprepared and unawares as their world comes crashing down around them with the unchallengeable and devastating effects of a natural disaster. In the context of our present study the relative stability of our economic and social structures have been incrementally undermined over decades in a such a way that the monstrous and far reaching extent of the future devastation is hard to apprehend. In the all important economic sphere it is evident that this will be manifested in a destroying global hurricane of hyper-inflationary depression which will dwarf the Weimar episode, engulfing one nation after another in its unrelenting cataclysm and the subsequent descent into chaos and mere anarchy. Though most persons are naturally resistant to the compelling and multiplying evidences of these hard facts, approaching events will unerringly force them most painfully to a realization of this truth and a once in a lifetime up close and personal view of those mortal perils to which we are all heirs.

Fate and Fiat

While the foregoing must remain largely in the realm of conjecture and speculation, what is generally accepted is the fact that the road to economic ruin has been paved with the illimitable supply of fiat currency dispensed by the electronic printing presses of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury and multiplied through the magic of fractional reserve banking. Add to these debt bearing notes the relatively recent creation of the complex financial instruments of OTC derivatives and multiple variants by the economic wizards at JPMorgan Chase under the aegis of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan during the Clinton regime and you have the basic underpinnings of the heady effervescence of years of the economic expansion which seemingly eliminated the national debt and produced an actual surplus, all the while inflating the housing and asset bubbles which ultimately led to the September economic meltdown of 2008. The essential question of whether this boom and bust cycle, which is generally recognized as the logical and inherent concomitant of capital expansion, is rather a phenomena engineered by an elite cabal or simply the result of natural market fundamentals still remains. Indeed the manipulation of markets by flash trading, frontrunning, and naked short selling by the large brokerage houses (now banks) such as Goldman Sachs has become a very serious question.

The widespread practice of after hours trading on the exchanges by the so called Plunge Protection Team(PPT) as well as the suspicion that the Federal Reserve is engaged in the clandestine purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds through the agency of foreign central banks and other third party agencies leads inevitably to the conclusion that the federal government is extorting tax monies from its citizens for the express purpose of supporting its own ongoing criminal enterprises. That this opinion has come to be held by a growing number of recognized economists, business owners and entrepreneurs and some members of Congress itself, including a potential presidential candidate, indicates that the confidence of the citizenry has reached such a low ebb that it may never be restored even given the vague possibility of an economic recovery the real nature of which itself is constantly being called into question. This is primarily due to the suspicion that certain leading economic indicators such as recently released Q4 GDP figures indicating 5.7% growth were greeted with immense skepticism hopelessly skewed as they are by the admission of such factors as accumulated inventories etc. Employment figures for 2009 were recently revised downward by more than 800,000 jobs. This is but one example of how notorious birth/death ratios are the most obvious evidence of the statistical manipulation of data to represent a much lower % of real unemployment than really exists. The constant efforts to misrepresent the severe nature of the economic and social malaise by the media combined with obvious evidence of covert government actions in the bond and stock and gold markets will inevitably lead to the undermining of what little and rapidly evaporating confidence remains.

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