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Archive for Junho, 2020

Our Finite World

[8] What our strategy should be from now on is not entirely clear.

Clearly, one path is straight into collapse, as happened after the Black Death of 1348-1352 (Figure 1). In fact, the carrying capacity of Britain might still be about 2 million. Its current population is about 68 million, so this would represent a population reduction of about 97%.

Other countries would experience substantial population reductions as well. The population decline would reflect many causes of death besides direct deaths from COVID-19; they would reflect the impacts of collapsing governments, inadequate food supply, polluted water supplies, and untreated diseases of many kinds.

If a large share of the population stays hidden in their homes trying to avoid COVID, it seems to me that we are most certainly heading straight into collapse. Supply lines for many kinds of goods and services will be broken. Oil prices and food prices will stay very low. Farmers will plow under crops, trying to raise prices. Gluts of oil will continue to be a problem.

If we try to transition to renewables, this leads directly to collapse as well, as far as I can see. They are not robust enough to stand on their own. Prices of oil and other commodities will fall too low and gluts will occur. Renewables will only last as long as (a) the overall systems can be kept in good repair and (b) governments can support continued subsidies.

The only approach that seems to keep the system going a little longer would seem to be to try to muddle along, despite COVID-19. Open up economies, even if the number of COVID-19 cases is higher and keeps rising. Tell people about the approaches they can use to limit their exposure to the virus, and how they can make their immune systems stronger. Get people started raising their vitamin D levels, so that they perhaps have a better chance of fighting the disease if they get COVID-19.

With this approach, we keep as many people working for as long as possible. Life will go on as close to normal, for as long as it can. We can perhaps put off collapse for a bit longer. We don’t have a lot of options open to us, but this one seems to be the best of a lot of poor options.

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Tom Gara, BuzzfeedNews

 

More than 40 million people lost their jobs [in USA]) in the last few months, in the fastest and deepest economic slowdown ever recorded. More than half of all households with low incomes in the United States have experienced a loss of earnings, as have a quarter of all adults. The numbers are grim — but as bad as things look today, they’re on track to get much, much worse.

The US economy right now is like a jumbo jet that’s in a steady glide after both its engines flamed out. In about six weeks, it will likely crash into the side of a mountain.

What’s kept us in the air so far is an extraordinary government relief effort. In most states, evictions have been temporarily banned, preventing a mass homelessness crisis. Most federal student loan payments have been put on hold, removing one of the largest recurring monthly expenses that millions of people face. Banks were ordered to give their customers a six-month break on mortgage payments if requested.

Most importantly, and counterintuitively, household income sharply increased in April as hundreds of billions of dollars in lost wages were replaced by trillions in government spending. The government sent out more than 159 million stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per adult (more if you have kids), and more than 20 million unemployed people became eligible for an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. The result, according to Bloomberg, was the largest monthly increase in household income ever recorded.

This happened in April, when there were far fewer things to spend your money on; shops and restaurants were closed, nobody went to the ball game or took the kids to a theme park, and a shaggy nation longed for a haircut. Meanwhile, the prospect of a massive economic crash meant that Americans who were still on the job were more likely to tuck money away that they might otherwise have spent. So the national savings rate — the share of people’s income that is saved rather than spent — hit 33%, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, also the highest level ever recorded. In the same month that we reached the worst mass unemployment in living memory, Americans saved a total of $6.15 trillion — up by $4 trillion from the month prior.

The massive interventions that made all this possible will soon come to an end — but the unemployment won’t.

On July 31, the $600 federal unemployment payments going to unemployed people every week will end, and there’s no sign they’ll be replaced with anything nearly as generous. In fact, many Republicans want to replace them with nothing at all — and there’s also little sign that another round of one-time stimulus checks will get mailed out. So income for tens of millions of households is likely to nose-dive in August.

That will coincide with evictions returning after being put on hold for months. This month, about one-third of renters were unable to pay their rent in full or at all, despite all the stimulus money. A federal law that bans evictions in any properties financed by federally backed mortgages — more than a quarter of all households, according to one estimate — expires on July 25, just a week before millions of people’s main economic lifeline is pulled away. Unless they are extended, statewide orders banning all evictions in places that have been hardest hit by the unemployment crisis will also expire around then: Florida’s on July 1, California’s on July 28, and New York’s on Aug. 20.

As millions of people experience a sudden collapse of their income at the very moment their landlords are allowed to start kicking them out, other bills will also come due. Payments on millions of paused student loans will begin again at the beginning of October; the more than 4 million homeowners who received a six-month pause on their mortgage after April’s mass layoffs will need to start making payments again at the end of October.

Few seriously expect the US economy to recover as fast as those bills come due; the federal government’s own projections expect unemployment will remain frighteningly high well into next year, even as people return to work as the lockdowns are lifted. Many companies will only rehire workers as quickly as consumer demand returns, and in labor-heavy industries, such as restaurants, entertainment, and travel, nobody expects things to go back to normal anytime soon.

And across the economy, big employers will use this moment as a kind of workforce reset button — a chance to rethink how many workers they really want, outsource some jobs, offshore others, and eliminate some entirely. By some estimates, more than 40% of all the job losses of the last few months could be permanent, not temporary.

(mais…)

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Jim Rickards

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Artur Nunes

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Why are we seeing so much violence recently? One explanation is that people are sympathizing with those in the Minneapolis area who are upset at the death of George Floyd. They believe that a white cop used excessive force in subduing Floyd, leading to his death.

I believe that there is a much deeper story involved. As I wrote in my recent post, Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament, the problem we are facing is too many people relative to resources, particularly energy resources. This leads to a condition sometimes referred to as “overshoot and collapse.” The economy grows for a while, may stabilize for a time, and then heads in a downward direction, essentially because energy consumption per capita falls too low.

Strangely enough, this energy crisis looks like a crisis of affordability. The young and the poor, especially, cannot afford to buy goods and services that they need, such as a home in which to raise their children and a vehicle to drive. Trying to do so leaves them with excessive debt. If the affordability problem changes for the worse, the young and the poor are likely to protest. In fact, these protests may become violent. 

The pandemic tends to make the affordability problem worse for minorities and young people because they are disproportionately affected by job losses associated with lockdowns. In many cases, the poor catch COVID-19 more frequently because they live and/or work in crowded conditions where the disease spreads easily. In the US, blacks seem to be especially hard hit, both by COVID-19 and through the loss of jobs. These issues, plus the availability of guns, makes the situation particularly explosive in the US.

Let me explain these issues further.

[1] Energy is required for all aspects of the economy.

Energy is required by governments. Energy is required to operate police cars. Energy is required to build schools and to operate their heating and lighting. Energy is needed to build and maintain roads. Tax revenue represents available funds to buy energy products and goods and services made with energy products.

Energy is needed for any type of business. Operating a computer requires electricity, which is a form of energy. Heating or cooling a building requires energy. Growing food requires solar energy from the sun; liquid fuel is used to operate farm machinery and trucks that transport food to the locations where it is sold. Human energy is used for some of these processes. For example, human energy is used to operate computers and farm machinery. Human energy is sometimes used to pick the crops, as well.

Wages paid by governments and businesses indirectly go to buy energy products of many kinds. Food is, of course, an energy product. The heat to cook or bake the food is also an energy product. Metals of all kinds are made using energy products, and lumber is cut and transported using energy products. With sufficient wages, it is possible to buy or rent a home, and to purchase or lease an automobile.

Interest rates indirectly reflect the portion of goods and services produced by energy products that can be transferred to parts of the system that depend on interest earnings. For example, banks, insurance companies and those on pensions depend on interest earnings. If interest rates are high, benefits to pensioners can easily be paid and insurance companies can charge low rates for their products, because their interest earnings will help offset claim costs.

Interest rates are now about as low as they can go, indicating a likely shortage of energy for funding these interest rates. The last time interest rates were close to current levels was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Figure 1. Ten-year and three-month US Treasury interest rates, in chart made by FRED.

[2] When there is not enough energy to go around, the result can be low commodity prices, low wages and layoffs.

This is not an intuitive result. Most people assume (low energy = high prices), but this is the opposite of what actually happens. The problem is that the amount workers can afford to pay for finished goods and services needs to be high enough to make to make production of the commodities used in making the finished products profitable. When affordability falls too low, the system tends to collapse.

We are really dealing with a two-sided problem. The prices of commodities such as oil, wholesale electricity, steel, copper and food tend to fluctuate widely. Consumers need these prices to be low, in order for the price of finished goods made with these commodities to be affordable; producers need the prices of these commodities to rise ever-higher, to cover the cost of deeper wells and more batteries, to try to partially offset the intermittency of solar and wind electricity.

Most people assume that the situation will be resolved in the direction of commodity prices rising ever higher. In fact, commodity prices did rise higher, until mid 2008. Then, something snapped; commodity prices have been falling ever-lower since mid 2008. In fact, ever-lower commodity prices have been a world-wide problem, causing huge problems for countries trying to support their economies with export revenues based on commodity production.

Figure 2. CRB Commodity Price Index from 1995 to June 2, 2020. Chart prepared by Trading Economics. Composition is 39% energy, 41% agriculture, 7% precious metals and 13% industrial metals.

Even before the lockdowns, low commodity prices were leading to low wages of those working in commodity industries around the world. These low prices also led to low tax revenue, and this low tax revenue led to an inability of governments to afford the services that citizens expect, such as bus service and subsidized prices for certain essential goods/services. For example, South Africa (an exporter of coal and minerals) was experiencing public protests in September 2019, for reasons such as these. Chile is a major exporter of copper and lithium. Low prices of those commodities led to violent protests in 2019 for similar reasons.

Now, in 2020, lockdowns have led to even lower commodity prices. At times, farmers have been plowing their crops under. Oil companies are laying off workers. The trend toward lower commodity prices had been occurring for a long time; the recent drop in prices was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” If prices stay this low, there is a danger of falling production of commodities that we depend on, including food, metals, electricity, and oil. Businesses producing these items will fail, and governments with falling tax revenue will be unable to support them.

[3] Historical energy consumption data shows that violence often accompanies periods when energy production is not growing fast enough to meet the needs of the growing population.

(mais…)

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The Purse-Seine

Poem by Robinson Jeffers (1937)

Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark
of the moon; daylight or moonlight
They could not tell where to spread the net,
unable to see the phosphorescence of the
shoals of fish.
They work northward from Monterey, coasting
Santa Cruz; off New Year’s Point or off
Pigeon Point
The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color
light on the sea’s night-purple; he points,
and the helmsman
Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the
gleaming shoal and drifts out her seine-net.
They close the circle
And purse the bottom of the net, then with great
labor haul it in.

I cannot tell you
How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible,
then, when the crowded fish
know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall
to the other of their closing destiny, the
phosphorescent
water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body
sheeted with flame, like a live rocket
A comet’s tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside
the narrowing
floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up
to watch, sighing in the dark; the vast walls
of night
stand erect to the stars.

Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top
on a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light:
how could I help but recall the seine-net
gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how
beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible.
I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together
into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now
there is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable
of free survival, insulated
From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all
dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet
they shine already. The inevitable mass-disasters
will not come in our time nor in our children’s, but we
and our children
must watch the net draw narrower, government take all
powers–or revolution, and the new government
Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls–or anarchy,
the mass-disasters.
These things are Progress;
Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keeps
its reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow
In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria,
splintered gleams, crackled laughter. But they are
quite wrong.
There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew
that cultures decay, and life’s end is death

 

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[CENSURADO PARA SUA PROTECÇÃO]

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Strategic Culture

Germany’s federal government and mainstream media are engaged in damage control after a report that challenges the established Corona narrative leaked from the interior ministry.

Some of the report key passages are:

  • The dangerousness of Covid-19 was overestimated: probably at no point did the danger posed by the new virus go beyond the normal level.
  • The people who die from Corona are essentially those who would statistically die this year, because they have reached the end of their lives and their weakened bodies can no longer cope with any random everyday stress (including the approximately 150 viruses currently in circulation).
  • Worldwide, within a quarter of a year, there has been no more than 250,000 deaths from Covid-19, compared to 1.5 million deaths [25,100 in Germany] during the influenza wave 2017/18.
  • The danger is obviously no greater than that of many other viruses. There is no evidence that this was more than a false alarm.
  • A reproach could go along these lines: During the Corona crisis the State has proved itself as one of the biggest producers of Fake News.

So far, so bad. But it gets worse.

The report focuses on the “manifold and heavy consequences of the Corona measures” and warns that these are “grave”.

More people are dying because of state-imposed Corona-measures than they are being killed by the virus.

The reason is a scandal in the making:

A Corona-focused German healthcare system is postponing life-saving surgery and delaying or reducing treatment for non-Corona patients.

Berlin in Denial Mode. The scientists fight back.

Initially, the government tried to dismiss the report as “the work of one employee”, and its contents as “his own opinion” – while the journalists closed ranks, no questions asked, with the politicians.

But the 93-pages report titled “Analysis of the Crisis Management” has been drafted by a scientific panel appointed by the interior ministry and composed by external medical experts from several German universities.

The report was the initiative of a department of the interior ministry called Unit KM4 and in charge with the “Protection of critical infrastructures”.

This is also where the German official turned whistleblower, Stephen Kohn, work(ed), and from where he leaked it to the media.

The authors of the report issued a joint press release already on Mai 11th, berating the government for ignoring expert advise, and asking for the interior minister to officially comment upon the experts joint statement:

“Therapeutic and preventive measures should never bring more harm than the illness itself. Their aim should be to protect the risk groups, without endegearing the availibilty of medical care and the health of the whole population, as it is unfortunately occurring”

“We in the scientific and medical praxis are experiencing the secondary damages of the Corona-measures on our patients on a dialy basis.”

“We therefore ask the Federal Ministry of the Interior, to comment upon our press release, and we hope for a pertinent discussion regarding the [Corona] measures, one that leads to the best possible solution for the whole population”

At the time of writing, the German government had yet to react.

But the facts are – sadly – vindicating the medical experts’ worries.

On Mai 23 the German newspaper Das Bild titled: “Dramatic consequences of the Corona-Measures: 52,000 Cancer Ops delayed.”

Inside, a aeading medical doctor warns that “we will feel the side-effects of the Corona crisis for years”.

Shooting the Whistleblower. Ignoring the Message.

As Der Spiegel reported on Mai 15th: “Stephen Kohn [the whistleblower] has since been suspended from duty. He was advised to obtain a lawyer and his work laptop was confiscated.”

Kohn had originally leaked the report on May 9th to the liberal-conservative magazine Tichys Einblick one of Germany’s most popular alternative media outlets.

News of the report went mainstream in Germany during the second week of Mai – but already in the third week media and politicians alike stopped discussing the issue by refusing to comment upon it.

Emblematic was the approach taken by Günter Krings, the representative for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer – the whistleblower’s boss:

Asked it he would treat the document seriously, Krings replied:

“If you start analyzing papers like that, then pretty soon you’ll be inviting the guys with the tin foil hats to parliamentary hearings.”

Men in tin foil hats – Aluhut in German – is a term used to describe people who believe in conspiracy theories.

Indeed one article by Der Spiegel adressing the Corona protest movement and the consequences of the leaked report contained the word “conspiracy” no fewer than 17 times!

And no discussions of the issues raised by the report itself.

Outside Germany the news has virtually gone unreported.

The Protest Movement – or “Corona-Rebellen”.

Germans begun demonstrating against Lockdowns as early as April.

And thousands of citizens keep showing up at demos every week-end, even as the government is easing the restrictions.

The demos are not merely against restrictions, which have actually been comparatively mild compared to many other Western countries.

The demos question the entire Corona Narrative, and even more its principals, especially the role Bill Gates is playing, as the WHO second biggest donor (the first one since Trump suspended U.S. contribution).

Indeed the biggest such demos took place in Stuttgart on May 9th, where tens of thousands people assempled to say no – to the NWO.

Germans are saying no to any orwellian solution the government might one day impose out of a questionable “emergency status”, from mass surveillance Apps to mandatory vaccinations.

The leaked report has proved their fears to be well founded.

At least as far as the fake nature of the “Corona pandemic” is concerned.

The rest might soon follow.

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