Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mood and Dow 13,000 Again, and Again, and Again...

The DJIA continues to chop along here at 13,000, a mirror to a population growing frantic in the search for things to be optimistic about (or, as may be more likely, frantic in its efforts to not face up to the ugly facts that surround them in terms of a corrupt finance and political organism, massive indebtedness by the public and their elected governments, and Europe's slow motion implosion).

Culture Notes

As Friend of FutureJacked, WL, pointed out to me, cultural signs continue to abound that we are topping out in terms of optimism.  Grasping at icons that bring back the fond memories of earlier positive mood eras, people have flocked to Whitney Houston, after her death, Madonna got scheduled for the SuperBowl and the Material Girl, along with the Beach Boys, are going back on tour:

Grammys 2012: More Beach Boys, less Maroon 5, Foster the PeoplePop and Hiss, the LA Times Music Blog
The surviving members of the Beach Boys, who will tour this year in honor of the band's 50th anniversary, gave fans a sneak preview at the 54th Grammy Awards. Though the lead-in with Foster the People and Maroon 5 was puzzling at best and cringe-inducing at worst, the Beach Boys' run-through of "Good Vibrations," while not an exalting return to the stage, was borderline heartwarming...
Madonna set for first Australia tour in 20 years
ABC News
Madonna is set to tour Australia for the first time in 20 years, exciting fans who were left devastated when the Queen of Pop bypassed the country on her last world tour...

Politics

President Obama has clawed his way back in the approval ratings from 38% to as high as 49% approval in recent days (according to Gallup), recovering along with the market averages.  Mitt Romney, perceived as a very "safe" candidate on the Republican side, continues to pile up victories while potential "radical" opponents such as Ron Paul are consigned to the margins.  In my opinion, as go the markets, so goes Obama's chances in November.

European markets and political leaders continue to be given more rope with which to hang themselves as mood in European core countries continues to hold up in the face of the coming Greek default.

War

The recent spate of attacks in Iraq, along with the riots that have accompanied the Qur'an "burning" incidents in Afghanistan, along with the recent reactivation of MEND activities in Nigeria point to a slowly boiling pot, but it does not have a feel of some out of control steamroller of war.  Yet.  That comes with the attack on Iran...

Preps

I've continued to puzzle over just how best to prepare, assuming the decline in mood, markets, social cohesion, and individual liberty will be one for the record books in many ways.  I've suggested, many times, such things as:

  • You should acquire quality gardening tools, plant a small plot and get a feel for the growing of your own food, even in the most limited manner.  It is productive work and while I don't expect you to be raising all your caloric needs via intensive gardening, it is one of those skills necessary to navigate hard times.  A green house might not be a bad idea either.
  • You should build ties with neighbors and be ready to partner with them.  If you have land, consider solutions that allow unemployed males of work/military age to use to grow, build, or otherwise occupy (ha ha) the land for productive purposes. 
  • You should get a side business going that might have some chance of survival in a credit-starved, angry world.

Unfortunately, the more I think about these "resilient community" type solutions, the uglier the reality gets, especially if we think about implementing things like this in the early days of the next wave of the decline.  If you build too much garden, many of you in Surburbia will get pounced upon by a Homeowners Association.  If you (are allowed to) build a greenhouse, that will have tax consequences in many communities as you have improved the land.  If you build a substantial greenhouse and consider selling produce, expect a mountain of junk fees, regulation nightmares, and local petty bureaucracy to try and strangle your ideas in the crib.

If you have acres of land and want to let a family build a modest place on your land, or otherwise "improve" it, then expect your property taxes to jump.  If you want to employ local youths to do labor in exchange for meals or other in-kind work or a little cash to have in their pockets, consider that the various taxing authorities will be all over you for how that labor is treated for tax purposes, or that wage you are paying them is accounted for, etc.

Ditto the agony of starting a small business in an environment of significant local taxation and regulation.  We won't even mention the coming credit crunch and what that will do to marginal business opportunities.

Now, many of these things will "work themselves out" over time - as you get strong and, shall we say, spirited opposition to the things holding us back from finding a bottom and beginning the recovery, but it will be painful, and many people who want to do things we regard as good - such as help their neighbors or run a business, will get tagged as criminals between here and the there of recovery.

I don't have good advice, other than to be aware and do the best you can.  The longer we levitate this thing, the uglier the fall is going to be, in my opinion.  We are setting ourselves up for the the Mother of All Plunges, and with nothing to cushion the fall - no network of small family farms to absorb productive talent, no resilience built into our energy use patterns, no national bank account to draw from or to use as collateral for new credit.  Have a lot of popcorn on hand.  Watching this thing unwind is going to be the biggest horror show in 200 years...

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