Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disintermediation and the Bear Market

Looking ahead to survival strategies when the Bear rears its vicious head again, the following story - and especially the headline - got my attention:

DIY Laser Market Exploding, Cosmetic Surgeons Not Happy
by Alexis Madrigal, Wired Science Blog
Want to get rid of some unsightly hair, but don’t want to spend the big bucks for electrolysis or a laser clinic? Now, you can buy your own laser and do it yourself.

And people are...

...Other cosmetic procedures appear to be taking place at home, despite dubious legality. One website, discountmedspa.com purports to sell its clients Botox, which is a prescription drug, over the internet. Wired Science was able to proceed through the order form on the website up to the method-of-payment details without being asked for a prescription...

Laser tech (applications from secure communications to medical uses to entertainment) and Biotech (from "fabbing" chemicals and even materials using biological reactors to homebrew medicine to all the potential horrors of bioterrorism) and all the massive leverage you get by using microchips to give dumb machines "brains" - it is has been eroding competitive advantages for years and in my opinion, the pace will only quicken as times grow tougher.

We in the West have been wealthy enough and secure enough to ignore the vast potential to hack these now-common technological advances for fun, profit and survival. We haven't needed to. It is hard to learn to crack code and it takes work to cook up your own home system to run a drip-irrigation system for an in-home greenhouse to supplement your food supply and we haven't needed to hack microwave ovens to build weapons to fend off mob attacks.

But the potential is there.

The U.S. has a vast pool of talent in technology and a deep and rich history of tinkerers and home inventors. Much of that talent is currently sedated by internet porn, teevee and texting, but when the collective "we" wake up from our stupor and that percentage of the population that loves to tinker and fix and invent bumps up a few percentage points - then an already weakened corporate economy is going to be eaten up from below by black market products, local "unauthorized" production sites and all sorts of violations by what is currently referred to as intellectual property law.

The guilds have fallen, one by one, to the disintermediation that technology affords the common folks. As more and more turn their talents to using what they have on-hand to survive and thrive, watch for a huge hole to be blasted in current property laws, patent laws and the current methods of deriving income from licensing and sales. This has been coming for a long time and many are aware of the potential. That potential energy is going to be converted to kinetic energy as the Bear slashes away at the complacency induced by the old system.

Figure out where you are in the chain of production. Look at how you might get your butt disintermediated. Take action.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Low Level Minions Always Suffer First - and Worst

UPDATE: Mexican citizens are taking direct action as well - and kicking things up a notch.

Note that it was not Angelo Mozillo getting the vigilante treatment, nor any Wall Street Bankster or Goldman-Sachs part-owner of the Executive Branch. It was a couple of small time scam artists or, if not outright scammers, then no-results paper-pushers who were on the receiving end of this outburst:

5 charged with beating, robbing loan agents
By Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times
A La CaƱada Flintridge couple trying to save their home from foreclosure were arrested along with three others on suspicion of beating, torturing and robbing a pair of loan modification agents they believed had done nothing to help them rescue the residence.

Daniel Weston and Mary Ann Parmelee, both 52, allegedly sought mortgage assistance from Lamond Dean and Luis Garcia, two loan modification specialists, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Authorities said the homeowners thought agents had taken their money and done nothing to help them.

On Oct. 20, the agents were lured to a meeting in Glendale where Weston and another man, Gustavo Canez, 36, allegedly beat and robbed them, prosecutors said.

Authorities said a handgun and wooden knuckles were used in the attack...

This is the ugly tip of the iceberg, in my opinion. I've said before - read up on the French Revolution if you want a flavor of what is coming.

Also, always keep in mind that the key elites are rarely savaged at first. The low-level flunkies or truly innocent minions (cops on the beat, bureaucratic functionaries, code enforcement agents, etc.) are out there, exposed to the wrath of the mob when social mood turns against order and the old system.

If you or a loved one serve in some capacity like that, just be careful. Explosions of anger, especially mob anger, won't be a reasoned affair, complete with due process and civil manners. The dam is breaking apart. This is the just the early flotsam that is visibly breaking loose. The whole thing is primed to come down. I don't know when, but I do think it will be catastrophic when it goes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hope

"... Perhaps it's time to redefine "hope" in the greater social sense of the word. To me, hope is not synonymous with "wishes fulfilled." In fact, hope should not be about wishing at all. Hope should be based on confidence that the individual or group is reliably competent enough to meet the challenges that circumstances present. Hope is justified when people demonstrate to themselves that they can behave ably and bravely. Hope is not really possible in the face of patent untruthfulness. It is derived from a clear-eyed and courageous view of what is really going on. I don't think that defines any of the behavior in the United States these days. We've become a self-jiving nation intent on playing shell games, running Ponzi schemes, and working Polish blanket tricks on ourselves..." - James Howard Kunstler

Another One Suicided

I'm going to have to start a spreadsheet if these big money playerz keep dropping. I'm sure it was natural causes, but the trend is not their friend. If I am State Farm or some other insurer, I may have to raise my rates on high net work individuals...

Death of Madoff Friend Raises Questions
from The Deal (a must-read every day, by the way, FJ)
Florida investor and philanthropist Jeffry Picower, alleged to have extracted billions dollars in his long time friend Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, died Sunday after he was found at the bottom of his swimming pool, according to local reports. Palm Beach police are investigating the death as a drowning, but have not ruled out anything on the cause of death. The former New York lawyer and accountant had been a friend of Madoff for decades...

At least he wasn't suicided out of a window. And speaking of that creepy/odd/nothing-to-see-here death (and the one from the same building a few months back) - I had considered a gig with IAEA last year and would have been working in an office near where the CTBT guys are. Interesting. I wonder what his computer systems were picking up with CTBT's massive monitoring network?

These deaths will probably wind up being either from natural causes in Picower's case, to a tragic suicide or criminal action in Mr. Hampton's case. That said, odd things seem afoot in the world of finance and in the typically staid world of nuclear arms control.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Satire, the Snarky Cousin of Anger

Laugh or cry. You choose.

Original FT link

"...It's nice to know that no matter how stupid and incompetent I am, it's not going to make any difference..."

h/t zerohedge

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yet More Anger

When Mr. Ratigan got his own teevee show, I expected more of the same, maybe not quite a Crameresque comic opera, but it seems like he has picked up on the anger and death-to-Goldman-Sachs meme that is spreading quickly:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


"Culture of corporate communism" - it has a catchy ring.

More to come, I'm sure.

h/t zerohedge

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dancing on the Precipice

"[Primary] Wave 2's peak will be the last time that society feels this optimistic for years to come." - R. Prechter, Elliott Wave Theorist, October 18, 2009

Know that we are social creatures, swimming in a sea of mass mood and complex social interactions. The plunge is there, just beyond our fingertips. Soon it will embrace us with the wrenching grasp of a Grizzly.

Remain aware that you do have the free will to act independently of the herd - though you can still be trampled through bad luck or poor planning. Hold this thought fast in your mind in the coming years - as ugly and angry as the times will become - you can act, you can create, you can make things happen, for good or for ill. These will years for serious actions and serious behavior. Glitz, glam, shallow foolishness - they will be present in abundance, but the easy way will not be the path for you.

Times of crisis allow for new directions in society. Be one of the independent actors pushing for a better world. And if you must move with the mob, well, move fast and make sure that if you are among those who would rise up against the king, make sure you strike him down...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Book on the Meltdown

I'm passing along an offer from Elliott Wave International. They have released a 2nd edition of Conquer the Crash. This book was immensely influential on me when the original version came out and because I think it saved me from a lot of mistakes, I have decided to pass along the EWI sales offer.

Note: I am not an Amazon or B&N affiliate, so I get no credit from book sales. This is an FYI only - an FYI I think you should consider seriously.

From EWI:

Mark Hulbert's Sept. 11, 2009, column for MarketWatch.com says, Robert Prechter "came the closest … to forecasting what was about to take place." One thing the noted financial columnist left out was that many of Prechter's forecasts still lie in the future. The long-awaited second edition of Prechter's bestseller, Conquer the Crash, is finally here! Prudent investors should read his prescient insights, what he believes is still ahead and what you can do to protect your wealth today. Learn more about the special pre-order offer for Robert Prechter's bestseller,Conquer the Crash, Second Edition.


Greetings,

Today's financial and economic tribulations were a long time in the making. Many people ask, "Why didn't someone see it coming?"

But a New York Times bestselling book did see it coming. More than 100,000 people read it in time to protect their wealth.

They read this about real estate:

What screams 'bubble' – giant, historic bubble – in real estate today is the system-wide extension of massive amounts of credit to finance property purchases.... Many people have been rushing to borrow the last pennies possible on their homes. They have been taking out home equity loans so they can buy stocks and TVs and cars and whatever else their hearts desire at the moment. This widespread practice is brewing a terrible disaster.

And this about stocks:

...the number one precaution to take at the start of a deflationary crash is to make sure that your investment capital is not invested in stocks, stock mutual funds, stock index futures or any other equity-based investment.

About Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

Investors in these companies’ stocks and bonds will be just as surprised when [Fannie and Freddie's] stock prices and bond ratings collapse. Most rating services will not see it coming.

About junk bonds:

Don't think you will be safe buying bonds rated BBB or above. If you have invested in municipal bonds, consumer debt, real estate debt, junk bonds or anything other than top-grade paper, sell it at today’s lofty prices.

All these observations are from Robert Prechter's Conquer the Crash, first published in early 2002, when the Dow was above 10,000 and the financial world was partying around-the-clock. Fast forward to today: The average U.S. homeowner has suffered a decline of 30% to 40% in property value. Stocks and commodities had their biggest fall since 1929-1932. Fannie Mae is a zombie corporation under the government’s protection.

If Prechter thought a whole new book would help, he'd have written one. But Conquer the Crash is a book-length forecast that's still coming true-- only some of the future has caught up with the specific predictions he published back then. There is much more to come. And that means more danger but also great opportunity.

The same authorities who said "the worst can't happen" now claim that "the worst is over." That's one of the many reasons why Prechter is choosing now to put out a second edition of Conquer the Crash.

Conquer the Crash, Second Edition, offers you 188 new pages (480 pages total) expanding Prechter’s unique deflationary argument and escorting the reader through the stock market’s manic climb to the 2007 peak. (If you think you remember this period, wait till you read Prechter’s description.) And it still includes all the original forecasts and recommendations that make the book as compelling and as relevant as the day it published.

In every disaster, only a very few people prepare themselves beforehand. Think about investor enthusiasm in 2005-2008, and you'll realize it's true. Even fewer people will be ready for the soon-approaching, next leg down of the unfolding depression.

Prechter warns that the doors to financial safety are closing all over the world. Prudent people need to act while they still can.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Out of the Ashes

For those of you following this blog over the years (and the growing number of new readers), we’ve pondered a variety of scenarios on how this enormous Potemkin Village of brain dead finance, corrupt politics, hypersensitive factions in government and society, as well as the gutting of household balance sheets will handle the coming conflagration of anger, fear and default.

The short version: badly.

As we scenario plan our way up to the edge of the abyss of the Great Collapse, dystopias abound.

Recalling Nietzsche’s warning to those who stare too long into the abyss, let’s raise our eyes over the yawning chasm into which the hopes and delusions of an entire culture raised up in the warm sunshine of a Grand Supercycle Bull Market will plunge, screaming, and look towards that undiscovered country where those of us that survive the coming decade may find ourselves.

The Challenges

What kind of society will emerge from the hordes of dropouts that will have chosen, or been forced, to go off the grid, to become vagabonds, to go bando (and not this kind of bando, brought to my attention by WL)?

What is the “art of the possible” in working with existing local/county/state government structures to provide some minimal level of services when states and localities will be functionally bankrupt?

What is the nature of your local government? By that I mean, if you and your neighbors team up to install water catchments or move in to “farm” park areas or take over maintenance of abandoned houses – how will the Sherriff’s department or the local cadre of inspectors and enforcement agents respond?

Many of the highest-growth areas in the United States are in formerly “extreme” environments, such as Phoenix, Southern California, the Old South, etc. Without cheap energy and cheap water, how sustainable are those areas?

The fractional reserve system in place since the founding of the Old Republic and its solidification under the Federal Reserve system has required continuous, solid growth for it to thrive. We are entering a long, deep bear market. Can fractional reserve banking survive a long period of slow to no growth? What can replace it?

What sorts of big decisions by entities like the U.S. Armed Forces, FEMA, state National Guards, etc. will be made in the heat of the moment that could later be solidified into ongoing social structures? I use the example of the decay and eventual collapse of the Western Roman Empire – numerous decisions were made, allowing for legions and auxiliaries to draw upon the locals for food and supplies, to house them, etc. that eventually morphed into European Feudalism.

There will be thousands more – everything from the stresses inherent in growing more food locally, to the types of militias that will spring up in response to the waves of violence that are coming our way, to attitudes of the returning soldiers and marines when the U.S. can no longer fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere (hint – they are already angry and they won’t, in general, be fans of civilians).

Some Assumptions

I will make the following assumptions. Many, especially strict Peak Oilers will take issue with some of the technological assumptions probably. I am going on the assumption that the human “death wish” is way overblown and, once the initial die-off occurs, there will be plenty of motivation and resources available for an intermediate “age” where we can use much of our current technology to sustain and eventually propel a new cycle of growth.

  • The initial die-off will consume the most vulnerable, especially the elderly, as Big Pharma products become tough to get due to budget constraints and supply chain disruptions – this will amount to up to ten million people in the U.S. over an 18 month period, once Primary Wave 3 (per the current EWI count) arrives in force
  • The banking and finance system as we have known it will be shattered, along with the stock/commodity/derivative investment “industry”
  • The U.S. government will default on its debt, converting all short term notes to 30 year bonds, forbidding any transfer of monies offshore and renege on many social “entitlements”
  • Violence against U.S. interests, pipeline bombings, natural depletion of wells, anti-U.S. sentiment and eventually the collapse of the dollar will make access to inexpensive oil (from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Mexico, Venezuela, et al) prohibitive. The U.S. still produces significant amounts of oil and natural gas, but not enough to provide for the vast petrochemical complex, the ag sector and our car-addicted nation. The supply chain will suffer greatly. Harvests and food distribution will suffer as well. Get ready to eat a lot more local produce. “Grow your own” will take on a whole new, and urgent, meaning
  • Most currently illegal “drugs” will be legalized
  • Several states will attempt to secede during the Great Collapse
  • Ethnic violence will polarize many communities
  • Local violence will increase. Depending on the part of the country you are in, the reaction will be either very strict gun control and regimentation of society by police and paramilitary forces, or a proliferation of personal carry options for handguns and firearms in general as well as a rise in local militias
  • Large segments of the population will “check out” in the early stages of the crisis and never quite recover. They will not be able to mentally handle the vast changes in store for us all. I think a lot of this will be focused in the white collar “work” force
  • All kinds of motivated individuals will quickly begin leveraging technology and playing around with “open source” technologies – and breaking currently proprietary codes open for use. During the crash phase, the true creative destruction that computer processing allows will be felt in force as businesses find ways to bootstrap codes and create new ways for systems to work together – without all those pesky licensing fees imposed by big, centralized corporations
  • Corporations themselves may come under attack as a structure for deploying capital. We could see a reversal of the Supreme Court cases that made corporations such a force during the latest Grand Supercycle Wave III up
  • Walls, fences, hedges, etc. will make a big comeback, both for local protection against non-military types of threats, as well as part of a psychological reaction to the mass wave of negative mood
  • Many formerly very wealthy families will have been persecuted during the Great Collapse and much of their land and property redistributed during the revolution phase
  • Whether from lack of funds, strategic blunder or corruption that eats away at the ability to respond to adversity, the U.S. military will suffer and tremendous setback in either Iraq or Afghanistan. A possible scenario would be an attack on Iran that leads to a backlash in Iraq that isolates U.S. forces for weeks on end, leading to major casualties and possibly withdrawals from some bases. The ongoing budget crisis on top of military setback leads to major withdrawals from most U.S. bases worldwide

This is just a sampling. I think we are in for quite a ride, folks.

Out of the Ashes

Society and culture springs up amongst groups of humans to meet the many challenges we face when dealing with a hostile and brutal world. All eco-ninny crap aside, the natural world is meaner than the streets of Detroit and harsher than the most radical wingnut. We’ll get to re-learn all the old wisdom that serves as the bedrock for strong cultures and build up a new society when the ashes finally settle about us and the smoldering coals die down in the ruins.

The rebound will come, limping out of the darkness of war and poverty.

A society wracked by polarized politics, war overseas, civil war, riots, famine and disease finally finds its feet somewhere around 2017 - 2020. Much has changed in the intervening years.

The borders of the United States have changed, possibly radically. Portions of the former U.S. Southwest have been sheared off to form the quasi-state of Aztlan are not officially recognized as having been lost, but the facts on the ground prove otherwise. Negotiations continue with the Kingdom of Hawai’i, mainly over reparations to the few Anglo survivors of the reinstitution of the kapu system and its zealous enforcement by vigilantes lead by a former UFC champion. Alaska is little more than a series of city-states worried about piracy, with the north slope little more than a series of corporate fortresses guarding the oil production facilities.

What remains of the Union after the Second Constitutional Convention is more akin to the government of the Articles of Confederation – a thin patina of federal governance covering an increasingly vital group of states and free cities.

Some of the states, especially those nearest the smoking ruins of Washington, D.C. – where rebuilding efforts will be ongoing for another decade – and still in reach of the few remaining active Army Divisions have turned to a regimented solution to the troubles. The federal capital shifts between Atlanta in the winter and New York City in the summer, in an attempt to keep the Original 13 stitched together more tightly than the rest of the country west of the Appalachians.

Corporations run most public services in the Original 13. Public co-ops, set up in response to abuses by the corporate entities form a counterbalance in local safety nets and provide for open markets and private money that is backed by agricultural commodities and exchangeable with other co-ops up and down the East coast. The corporate campuses which rose up in the early days of the Great Collapse are no longer Fort Apaches built up to control local resources or protect corporate assets. Some are dwindling as there is no longer a mass “consumer” to profit from. Others, which have managed to secure rapid and secure transportation networks via shipping, air and heavy-lift dirigible thrive and expand, learning to work in a multi-currency and barter world. New currencies have arisen, but most are shunned. After the Great Inflation of 2012, trust in paper money will take decades to rebuild. Local property taxes have been beaten back to allow for small-holders to survive on small plots of land and not be evicted for lack of payment. Local governments have become creative and are allowing payment in kind via hours of service to the community, acceptance of agricultural products at a fixed rate and other creative means of serving their public, not acting as a parasite on it.

Other states, especially those west of the Mississippi were forced by necessity to let the locals devise solutions to their problems. The Second American Revolution was particularly fierce in the Midwest and many major landowners suffered greatly. The vast holdings of the late Ted Turner are still being parceled off as part of the New Frontier program and a lot of former white collar workers are still suffering to learn how to farm and ranch, even with the suite of technological tools and the re-education cadres assigned to assist them.

The Northwest, especially west of the Rockies, is a sea of experimental communities, armed camps and bustling cities. Localized manufacturing has taken off around the world, dampening shipping of manufactured goods to near non-existence. Agricultural products are spurring the rebirth in globalized trade and specialty items are again flowing to Japan, Singapore and the city-states along the Chinese coast. Seattle has rebounded from the early rioting that shook and, along with Vancouver, is serving as a hub of entrepreneurial efforts in North America. Most of these are focused on open-source technology systems to leverage the new wave of local manufacturing operations.

Life is harder for most people, but in many ways, more fulfilling. The “back to the land” movement imposed by most of the state governments has weeded out the weak and incompetent. Former tax accountants and social service administrators are now learning to intensively cultivate the 50 acres deeded to them during the Great Collapse as part of the efforts to cut urban populations in half.

Reclamators are still thriving, harvesting the copper, aluminum, steel and brick from long-abandoned strip malls and office parks. They still come up against armed bands of Greens, who fight to keep vast areas in a “state of nature”. Large battles happen all up and down the Mississippi River valley as river transport has returned to prominence, but the vast network of levees and ditches fell into disrepair during the Collapse and swamplands and cypress forests have reclaimed hundreds of thousands of acres. Much of Memphis, Tennessee, is an urban waterworld, a wet wasteland home to gangs and river pirates that prey on the increasing shipping that plows up and down the Mississippi.

The tech clubs are still important features in communities, though some of the passion has flamed lower since the recovery began. The huge wave of innovation that sprung up during the Revolution and the Collapse is now in the consolidation phase and ability to efficiently manufacture goods locally, as well as to process almost any plant material into edible substances is well-established. With the great corporations broken, the networks of co-ops have stepped in to reclaim America’s reputation as an agricultural and manufacturing powerhouse.

Transportation is still expensive. More and more people live more and more of their lives in a 30 mile radius of their towns. Much focus is still placed on local clubs and service. Local sports teams are beginning to travel again, though the great baseball and football stadiums are still in the hands of local Committees of Public Need and still serve as huge gardens for local produce – vast green bowls of fruits and vegetables that still serve as monuments to the early uprisings against the Man.

Education is widespread and vibrant. The educational system is a tattered shell of the institution it once was. The proliferation of electronic delivery of lectures, of the ability of skilled teachers to build their own content and deliver it to students, of educational forums and online resources have shattered the high school-college model prevalent up until the Great Collapse. Efforts are underway to codify much of this learning and the ossifying efforts of committees to sanction some learning and not others are still strong, though not yet ascendant.

Careers are a thing of the past. Many communities provide large tracts of allotments for local production of food supplies – memories of the Great Famine of 2013 die hard. Local taxes have withered to payment in kind or volunteer service and many people can go weeks without using money to exchange for goods. Much of this is community based and many live in fear of being run out of town – and cut off from the community’s supply of food, medical attention and support. Large areas are still lawless and vagabonds and drifters are not looked upon favorably.

Mercenaries still control the Port of New Orleans, the Port of New York and many of the West Coast ports, extracting taxes to make payments to international bond holders who formed the Gang of Ten back in 2012 to force the U.S. to make good on their treasury obligations. The bombings of the mercenary compounds are few and far between these days and since most don’t worry about foreign commerce, the duties imposed upon good shipped out is just lumped into the general feeling that “they” are still out to get “us,” though the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Dubai are starting to fade a little in the memories of most, though not for former soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, especially the work crews forced into labor battalions by the U.N. to clean up the radioactive ruins of Tehran.

The empire has fallen. A new day is dawning.

Thoughts?

The country I know best is the U.S., so this “thought experiment” on What Comes Next was focused on the situation in the U.S. For those of you in India, Canada, the U.K., South Africa and the other countries that I get hits from – all I can say is find what applies to your country and take what you can and apply it to your local situation.

This is more of a thought-experiment-in-progress. Please do feel free to point out holes in my assumptions and suggest better alternatives. Many minds make easier lifting of the rubble of the old System that is collapsing on top of us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quote of the Day for Monday 12 October

Good advice from SurvivalBlog:

"The coming years will be difficult ones, globally. If you are at risk of a layoff, then hedge your bets by developing a second stream of income, now. And if you are laid off, do not hesitate. Do whatever it takes to find steady work, even if means moving, or taking a lower-paying job. Don't just wallow in self-pity and draw unemployment insurance. Be proactive and do something!"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trust Continues to Disintegrate

Imagine what it will be like six months from now...

Belligerent Bosses: National Study finds Employee Trust Sacrificed in the Financial Crisis
from Resumark Blog
A national study finds bosses use threats and intimidation during the financial crisis. Employees complain of a “culture of fear” and eroding trust.

...Increased belligerent behavior and eroding employee trust are disturbing leadership trends in the financial crisis, according to the study’s researchers, Dr. Ruby Rouse and Dr. Richard Schuttler. Employees repeatedly described threatening communication: “Be thankful you have a job,” “You can be replaced,” “There are lots of qualified people on the street who would love your job.” Such statements remind workers their jobs are on the “chopping block.” According to Rouse, some supervisors seem to purposefully foster a “culture of fear” to maintain control during the financial crisis. “Several people believe employers are using the crisis as an excuse to ‘throw people under the bus,’” she said...

Not to get all "workplace consultant" on you, but once eroded, trust is very hard to recapture in an organization.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Excuse for Release of Anger?

I've held off on the whole Iran-Israel thing for quite awhile now, hoping it would devolve into a continuing sideshow used to distract attention from the unfolding economic crisis here in the U.S. and as a sinkhole for anger and polarization that ultimately would help siphon off the building rage under the surface, but not lead to any real military confrontation.

The problem is, the U.S. looks like it is getting "boxed in" by some of the recent rhetoric on the topic of Iran and the new enrichment facility under construction near Qom.

The always compelling Fabius Maximus lays out a recent article from Stratfor on why we may be moving from jabber to an actual shooting war:

Stratfor: “Two Leaks and the Deepening Iran Crisis”
...It would seem to us that the United States and Israel decided to up the ante fairly dramatically in the wake of the Oct. 1 meeting with Iran in Geneva. As IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran, massive new urgency has now been added to the issue. But we must remember that Iran knows whether it has had help from Russian scientists; that is something that can’t be bluffed. Given that this specific charge has been made — and as of Monday not challenged by Iran or Russia — indicates to us more is going on than an attempt to bluff the Iranians into concessions. Unless the two leaks together are completely bogus, and we doubt that, the United States and Israel are leaking information already well known to the Iranians. They are telling Tehran that its deception campaign has been penetrated, and by extension are telling it that it faces military action — particularly if massive sanctions are impractical because of more Russian obstruction...

I still think this "issue" will remain little more than a rhetorical battle, but let's be clear - in my personal opinion, a strike against Iran and the resulting blowback in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and who the hell knows where else could be THE big excuse or label put on the upcoming Primary Wave 3 downdraft.

What do I mean by blowback? Iran crushed and even if the only weapons used by Israel and eventually the U.S. are conventional, the possible spread of radioactive contamination across Iran and into Pakistan or down over the Persian Gulf (depending on the prevailing winds during the strike). If we or the Israelis use nuclear bombs as bunker-busters to make sure we hit deep and hit hard, then radioactive fallout would ravage Iran, Pakistan and possibly Western India - just think about the international consequences of that. An Iranian response to flood the Persian Gulf with mines, mass-launches of anti-ship missiles against U.S. warships and oil tankers, possible large attacks on U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq through Shia proxies, terrorist strikes across the globe, etc.

I still think and hope it is all just for show, but if the bombs start dropping on Iran - get up from your desk or from your couch, fill up your gas tank (get out there immediately, while others are glued to the TV), get any supplies you think you'll need for the short term and get ready for an extended period of international chaos and polarized recrimination in the U.S. as the unintended consequences hammer down on the most vulnerable.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Get Your Surfboard Ready...

...time to surf the huge waves of mass anger and negativity that are rolling our way.

I should be working on about ten other things, but I must admit I'm distracted, waiting to see if we are going to plunge off the cliff in the next month or so or if the markets and credit system will poke along in a more complex corrective pattern, drawing the last few suckers back into the financial markets before guillotining them all.

While waiting (and of course working diligently at my day job...), I've been trying to think up a variety of "crash businesses" to get into should this collapse wipe out said day job.

The recent issue of The Socionomist and George Ure's warning that 25 October could mark the beginning of a serious credit and banking lockdown have helped add both urgency and, hopefully, a little creativity to the search for a "crash business" or, as will be more likely, a variety of enterprises that can fill different niches as this ginormous bear market unfolds in its fury and grandeur. I think long-term careers doing the same tasks over and over will be very rare in the coming Bear Market world. Extreme flexibility will be called for. You must be ready to play the role of both worker and facilitator - we all need to become small business owners. That will be hard transition for many. Don't be one of 'em.

Art as Crash Business?

This month's Socionomist gets artsy on us, with a discussion of music trends in bear markets. The theme itself is not radically new for those of us who have followed socionomics over the years, though the extra detail and insight from authors Lampert and Wilson is very useful - and not just to the artistic folks out there.

If you think art and music trends are useless in the coming environment, think again. Art, music, movies, various web and computer art trends (video games, flash animation, viral videos, etc.) are a key spice to life for many, many people. Providing a venue and forum for new, cutting edge, art can help provide you with some sort of small income and, just as importantly, provide a nucleus for a coming wave of new - and almost certainly disturbing - art and expression.

Here is what I am thinking: Do you have access to a building or even an option on vacant commercial property? Make ties with any local artists (or, as is far more likely, local wannabe artists - the real thing is hard to find) and offer it up, be it for concerts, art shows, plays, etc. Maybe find a core group of more reliable artist types and offer the building as a place to live and work in exchange for upkeep and some sort of compensation. Yes, I know this will violate about fifty local and county ordinances - that is just part of living in the Chump Phase of this decline. Figure it out.

For those of you interested in memeering as well, art is - in my opinion - not just an expression of underlying social mood, but a strong vector for reinforcing the underlying mood trends. If this type of manipulation interests you, now would be a time to see what you can do with it. Edit a magazine, experiment with computer content - don't just lock yourself into electronic versions of magazines or newspapers - play with incorporating video, music, animation, etc. Be prepared to deal with shocking material. Be ready to publish on conspiracy theories and radical topics (I think the Goldman Sachs beat will be crowded with angry muckrakers, so I'd suggest finding another avenue to travel - maybe the ten richest families in America and their holdings or something like that).

I would just ask that you also consider using whatever venues you operate as a local influence for a better society. Even if your artists or writers "rage against the machine" you can focus on doing good works locally and harnessing the energy and radicalism into everything from guerrilla gardening (stick it to Big Ag!) to local currencies (stick it to the criminal kleptocracy!) to co-ops (screw Wall Street and the market manipulators!) to technology that radically localizes production (screw Big Industry!).

If you focus solely on anger, hate and rage, you can certainly prosper in the coming environment for a little while - but those emotions burn hot and almost always consume those who fan the flames in a conflagration that burns them, and those around them, to a cinder. Strong local communities can weather storms much better than an angry, Mad Max landscape of fear and hate (note - the whole "Mad Max" paradigm that pervades a big segment of "survivalist" and "end of days" thought is just an artistic trope that resonated strongly and has held in place for decades - art matters). This is selfish self-preservation here folks - if you must focus on an enemy, make it a far away enemy and build up you and yours as best you can.

The foreign boogeyman can, of course, lead to separate catastrophes - I am thinking Israel vs. Iran here - but when the sea of mass mood are dark and stormy, you do the best you can to surf the waves.

Again, nothing radical here. Just remember, you are going to have to be nimble and courageous. Teams and networks will be worth more than a portfolio of corporate bonds and shares of GE by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.