Jul 092020
 


Berenice Abbott Columbus Circle, Manhattan 1936

 

US COVID19 Cases Rise By Over 60,000, Setting Single-Day Record (R.)
The US Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself (MoA)
53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently (RD)
United Airlines Sends Furlough Warnings To 36,000 Workers (R.)
US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End (ZH)
US Coronavirus Stimulus Reignites China’s Criticism Of Dollar Hegemony (SCMP)
China’s Market Euphoria Trumps Political Risk In Hong Kong (R.)
Some US Government Officials Want To Depeg Hong Kong Dollar (IBT)
Surging Demand for Hong Kong Dollars Underscores Beijing Support (BBG)
UK Judge Orders Christopher Steele To Pay Damages To Russian Bankers (RT)
John Solomon: Indictments Coming In Russia Investigation (WND)
Top US Commander Unconvinced By ‘Russian Bounty To Taliban’ Intel (RT)
Most Americans Believe Russia Targeted US Soldiers (R.)

 

 

COVID, Hong Kong, Russiagate, they’re all familiar subjects. Now come ICU shortages and what can only be called a collapse in US -and international- retail, hospitality and travel industries.

We’re just getting started but everyone wants to think we’re almost done.

The US set a record for new cases, and the world missed it by a hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah?!

US COVID19 Cases Rise By Over 60,000, Setting Single-Day Record (R.)

The United States reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the biggest increase ever reported by a country in a single day, according to a Reuters tally. The United States faces a bleak summer with record-breaking infections and many states forced to close parts of the economy again, leaving some workers without a paycheck. In addition to nearly 10,000 new cases in Florida, Texas reported over 9,500 cases and California reported more than 8,500 new infections. California and Texas also each reported a record one-day increase in deaths. It was the second day in a row that U.S. deaths climbed by more than 900 in a day, the highest levels seen since early June, according to the tally.


Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah all had record daily increases in new cases, and infections are rising in 42 out of 50 states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. The U.S. tally stood at 60,020 late on Wednesday, with a few local governments not yet reporting. The previous U.S. record for new cases in a day was 56,818 last Friday. The United States has reported over 3 million cases and 132,000 deaths from the virus, putting President Donald Trump’s pandemic strategy under scrutiny.

Read more …

ICU shortages coming up in multiple locations.

The US Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself (MoA)

Yesterday the United States registered more than 60,000 new Covid-19 cases. As the number of new cases continues to increase unabated about two weeks from now it is likely to reach hundred thousand new cases per day. The increase of testing is not the cause of higher new case numbers. The rate of people among those who were tested and were found positive has also increased. In Florida, which yesterday had nearly 10,000 new cases, the positive test rate has reached nearly 20%. That means that the epidemic is still accelerating. This did not need to happen. Yesterday Germany, at a quarter the size of the U.S., had 279 new cases. It does 1 million tests per week and the positive rate is decreasing.

China has defeated a new local outbreak in Beijing by testing more than 10 million people. The last two days it reported zero new cases. Many of those who test positive, especially the younger ones, will not fall ill with severe symptoms. But some 10-15% are estimated to need medical support. How many of them will die depends on the quality of care that can be given to them. Some thirty hospitals in Florida have already run out of space in their intensive care units. That is the point where the real emergency begins. Six months after the disease was discovered more is known of how to care for Covid-19 cases. The death rate per cases has therefore decreased. But this only holds when there are sufficient beds, doctors and staff available.


At the current U.S. rate that will soon no longer be the case. We do know that the hospitalization curve follows the testing/symptoms curve by some 10-14 days while ICU admittance follows the above curve with some 15 to 20 days delay. The eventual recovery in an ICU bed takes up to four weeks. A bed once occupied will not be available for quite some time.

Read more …

The changes will be gigantic. So will the misery. We just don’t want to know.

53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently (RD)

New research from Yelp shows that as of June 15, there were nearly 140,000 total business closures on the website since March 1. When compared to similar research released in April, which showed more than 175,000 business closures, these latest numbers indicate that more than 20% of businesses closed in April have reopened. In March, restaurants had the highest numbers of business closures listed on the app compared to other industries, and the rate of closure has remained high. Of the businesses that closed, 17% are restaurants, and 53% of those restaurant closures are indicated as permanent on Yelp. Retail, however, is the hardest hit overall.

During the peak of the pandemic, the number of diners seated across Yelp Reservations and Waitlist dropped essentially to zero. In early June, numbers of diners seated are down 57% of pre-pandemic levels. Predictions about the restaurant industry’s fate in a post-pandemic world have been abundant throughout the crisis. The National Restaurant Association estimated that 15% of restaurants could close, while Barclay’s estimate is more optimistic, predicting approximately 10% of restaurants will shutter permanently. Though it’s hard to find a silver lining in Yelp’s data, some predictions have been more dire still.


In May, OpenTable said one in four restaurants were at risk for closure, for example, though those numbers focus on restaurants that use the reservations platform. Casual or fine dining sit-down restaurants and mom-and-pop concepts that are not well capitalized are expected to experience the brunt of this crisis. The Independent Restaurant Coalition, for example, forecast that as many as 85% of independent restaurants could permanently close by the end of the year. Yelp’s data does illustrate how some restaurants have been able to weather the storm, however, reporting a 10-fold increase in searches for takeout since March 10, for example. Takeout and delivery searches are up 148%, with Yelp predicting this off-premise trend could be here to stay.

Read more …

Retail, travel, hospitality. Much of it will never be back.

United Airlines Sends Furlough Warnings To 36,000 Workers (R.)

United Airlines said on Wednesday it was preparing to send notices of potential furloughs to 36,000 U.S.-based frontline employees, or about 45% of staff, as travel demand hit by the coronavirus pandemic struggles to recover. United shares lost 3.3% in midday trading. Not everyone who receives a notification will be furloughed, United said, with the final number depending on how demand evolves and how many employees accept early exit packages and temporary leaves. The furloughs would begin on Oct. 1, when a government-imposed ban on forced job cuts by airlines that accepted billions of dollars in federal payroll aid expires.


“The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson said in a statement. The Chicago-based airline continues to burn through about $40 million of cash every day, with a number of efforts to cut costs and raise liquidity failing to compensate for the drastic drop-off in travel demand as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States. The furlough warnings vary by work group. Flight attendants are among the hardest hit, with about 15,000 of roughly 25,000 set to receive notifications. United is working with the different unions on options to mitigate the final furlough number.

Read more …

Said it a few days ago: A state holding company modeled after Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End (ZH)

The unprecedented implosion of U.S. commercial real estate during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to get worse as newly delinquent CMBS loans are surging as the list of retail store closures continues to rise. Trepp’s June CMBS remittance report showed CMBS delinquencies hit a high of 10.32%, not seen since 2012. It was noted that that retail CRE loans were in rough shape. Many retail shops are heavily indebted, some have already declared bankruptcy, while others are quickly shrinking their operating size, by reducing store footprint to rein in cost as the virus-induced recession, blended with a plunge in consumption, along with a shift to online, is resulting in a rapid acceleration of the retail apocalypse. Coresight Research’s latest forecast has upwards of 25,000 retail stores could close by year end.


Forbes has released an updated list of confirmed store closures. So far, it looks like 8,708 store units have or will shutter operations this year, and could quickly surpass 2019 totals of 9,302, in a matter of months. With thousands of retail stores closing and the economy contracting, the next conversation Wall Street will have is about deep economic scarring and permanent job loss. Already, 3 million jobs have been eliminated from the economy, some of which have come from the closure of retail stores. The bad news about permanent job loss is that it’s a consumption killer, resulting in less spending at retailers, suggesting an even greater amount of store closures beyond anyone’s wild guess could be seen over the next 12-24 months.

Read more …

They can’t do a thing. They don’t even have the guts to let the yuan float.

US Coronavirus Stimulus Reignites China’s Criticism Of Dollar Hegemony (SCMP)

The US economic policy response to the coronavirus crisis and the threat of financial sanctions on China have reinvigorated criticism in Beijing over the US dollar hegemony, but few analysts see a viable alternative currency emerging any time soon. Chinese officials have recently taken aim at the unprecedented coronavirus stimulus in the United States, which has seen American debt levels balloon and stoked concern in Beijing about the devaluation of the US dollar assets held by Chinese financial institutions. Threats by the US to sanction China over its imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong have also ratcheted up anxiety about being cut off from the US dollar-dominated SWIFT international payments system.

[..] Though the attitude in Beijing may be increasingly wary, few Western economists believe Washington is abusing the power of the US dollar with its coronavirus response. Others point out the impact on exchange rates has so far been relatively mild. “The Federal Reserve, like every other central bank, makes its monetary policy decisions mostly on the basis of domestic considerations,” said Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division and now a trade professor at Cornell University. The fact its actions “reverberate around the world” are simply a consequence of its policy mandates, which are purely domestic in nature, Prasad added. Continued expansion of US monetary policy amid a protracted global recession is also likely to be positive for the real world economy, and particularly for economies with current account deficits and significant amounts of US dollar-denominated debt, according to analysts.

“Given the US dollar shortage that emerged with Covid, a weaker dollar is still good for the world, relieving funding pressures in both developed markets and emerging markets,” said Steve Englander, global head of North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered Bank. Reform of international monetary policy is likely to take a back seat to efforts to stabilise the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic. But even in the long-term, it is not clear what shape that would take. “In fact, the Fed’s apparent magnanimity in allowing other countries to have access to dollar financing collateralised by their holdings of US Treasuries will pull countries even deeper into the clutches of the dollar,” Prasad said.


A major obstacle is still the absence of an alternative reserve currency, Prasad said. China’s own push to internationalise the yuan has faltered over the past decade, despite its growing economic clout. The most recent figures from the SWIFT system showed that the Chinese currency accounted for just 1.66 per cent of international payment transactions in April versus 43 per cent for the US dollar. Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said last month that China’s ability to reduce its reliance on the US dollar would be greatly enhanced if it can boost the international usage of the yuan. A debate about the merits of the US dollar as the major reserve currency is likely to re-emerge after the coronavirus, according to Englander, especially when the liquidity was no longer needed. “[But] the question is which currency do you trust to replace it and what improvement would that make.”

Read more …

PBOC is still buying. A lot. Question: with what? Their dollar reserves? They don’t have a lot of those that they can use freely

China’s Market Euphoria Trumps Political Risk In Hong Kong (R.)

The country’s blue-chip CSI300 index hit five-year-highs in recent sessions on a state-endorsed rally and a retail trading frenzy. But Chinese investors and brokerages say they are increasingly drawn by Hong Kong shares, whose gains have been more modest. “Elephants are dancing (in mainland China), but in Hong Kong, many stocks are lying on the floor,” Shen Weizheng, senior advisor at brokerage Direct Access, said during an online pitch to mainland investors on Wednesday. “Buy more Hong Kong stocks. You don’t lose money buying bargains.” Mainland-listed A-shares are on average 35% more expensive than their Hong Kong-listed peers, also called “H-shares” widening from 23% just a month ago.


Share prices of the same company often differ vastly in the two markets. A growing number of U.S-listed Chinese internet companies, including NetEase and JD.com, have chosen to float in Hong Kong through secondary listings amid heightened Sino-U.S. tensions. New York-listed Alibaba, which completed its Hong Kong listing last year, could get the greenlight to enter the benchmark Hang Seng Index .HSI next month. “Capital is flowing into the city. The more intense the rivalry between the U.S. and China, the more unique Hong Kong will be as a centre to welcome back leading Chinese companies listed in the U.S.,” said Hao Hong, managing director at BOCOM International.

Read more …

With China seemingly hell-bent on conquering Hong Kong, why would they not?

Some US Government Officials Want To Depeg Hong Kong Dollar (IBT)

Some aides to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have suggested that Washington could punish China by compromising the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. dollar. Tensions between the U.S. and China have been escalating for months, worsened by Beijing’s imposition of new security laws in Hong Kong that some think will eliminate the city-state’s autonomy. Bloomberg reported that one way to undermine the Hong Kong dollar peg would be by restricting the ability of Hong Kong banks to purchase U.S. dollars. The matter has been discussed with Pompeo but not yet with senior members of President Donald Trump’s White House staff.

Hong Kong has linked its currency to the U.S. dollar since 1983 and has generally performed well trading within a narrow band. The proposal would also face obstacles among other U.S. government officials who fear it would just hurt Hong Kong banks and not mainland China itself. Last month, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, Paul Chan said that if the US slapped sanctions on the city-state, then China’s central bank could supply it with American dollars. Eddie Yue, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong’s de facto central bank, said that the 36-year old dollar peg predates the 1992 U.S-China Policy Act which features a provision permitting the U.S. dollar “to be freely exchanged” with the Hong Kong dollar.


Yue suggested that the unlikely event of Trump blocking Hong Kong’s access to U.S. dollars would amount to an “apocalyptic” scenario that could backfire on Washington. “With Hong Kong’s financial system closely integrated with the global economic and financial systems, any move that hits our financial system would also send shockwaves across the global financial markets, including the U.S.,” he said. “Confidence of international investors in using the [U.S. dollar] and holding U.S. financial assets could also be undermined.”

Read more …

Again, the PBOC is buying.

Surging Demand for Hong Kong Dollars Underscores Beijing Support (BBG)

Demand for Hong Kong dollars is intensifying in the face of an increasingly politicized environment, with mainland buying helping to buoy both the pegged currency and local stock market. The city’s de facto central bank sold a combined HK$15.8 billion ($2 billion) to purchase the greenback on Wednesday, the biggest intervention since it started defending the peg on the strong end of the trading band in late April. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has now spent almost $12 billion this year to keep the currency from strengthening further. Wednesday’s intervention came shortly after news that some Trump aides are considering plans to undermine the peg mechanism in retribution for Beijing’s crackdown on civil liberties in the former British colony.


Mainland-based investors showed their support for the city through buying more than $1 billion worth of Hong Kong shares on the day. The events show how the city’s financial system is increasingly being caught up in the rivalry between Washington and Beijing. For now, Hong Kong’s markets seem immune to the tensions. Red-hot Chinese equities, a stronger yuan and low valuations have helped push Hong Kong stocks into a bull market. Mainland purchases of local equities since Beijing first announced plans for Hong Kong’s controversial security law are now nearing $9 billion. “Bullish sentiment is pushing short-term funds and liquidity into Hong Kong,” said Banny Lam, managing director at CEB International Capital Corp. “China’s stock market is very hot and you see a lot of people using the stock connect to buy these shares. All these factors are attracting liquidity.”

Read more …

Shouldn’t this be big on CNN?

UK Judge Orders Christopher Steele To Pay Damages To Russian Bankers (RT)

A London judge has ordered former British spy Christopher Steele to pay thousands of pounds in damages for not verifying the claims he included in his scandalous Russian dossier, which alleged Donald Trump’s ties with Moscow. Steele was taken to court by Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, Russian bankers from Alfa Group, who contested one of the key allegations in the paper – that they were responsible for delivering “large amounts of illicit cash” to President Vladimir Putin in the 1990s. Justice Mark Warby of the High Court of England and Wales ruled on Wednesday that Steele’s claim against Fridman and Aven was “inaccurate and misleading.”


Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, violated British data privacy law as it “failed to take reasonable steps to verify the allegation,” and will now pay £18,000 pounds (around $22,600) in damages to each of the bankers, Warby said. Fridman said in a statement that he was “delighted” with the outcome of the trial. He has insisted that the dossier’s claims that Alfa Group was somehow a link between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election were absolutely groundless. “Ever since these odious allegations were first made public in January 2017, my partners and I have been resolute and unwavering in our determination to prove that they are untrue, and through this case, we have finally succeeded in doing so,” Fridman said.

Read more …

The MSM will present it as a poltical ploy. All they think they need to do is lift it over the election, and then throw it out.

John Solomon: Indictments Coming In Russia Investigation (WND)

Investigative reporter John Solomon says there’s a “lot of activity” in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal investigation of the Obama administration’s probe of now-debunked claims of Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election. “My sources tell me there’s a lot of activity. I’m seeing, personally, activity behind the scenes [showing] the Department of Justice is trying to bring those first indictments,” Solomon said [..] “And I would look for a time around Labor Day to see the first sort of action by the Justice Department.” Solomon said he’s seeing “action consistent with building prosecutions and preparing for criminal plea bargains.”

“Until they bring it before the grand jury you never know if it’s going to happen. I’m seeing activity consistent with that.” Top former officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan, are said to be targets of the Durham investigation. But Attorney General William Barr has said he doesn’t expect Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to be subjects of a criminal investigation. “There is overwhelming evidence in the public record now that crimes were committed,” Solomon said. He cited “falsification of documents, false testimony, false representations before the FISA court.”


Solomon said he is hearing from defense lawyers and people “on the prosecution side” that complications with the coronavirus pandemic are “slowing down” the grand jury process. WND reported this week Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Durham should launch any prosecutions before the November election. [..] A report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz found at least 17 “significant” errors or omissions related to the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions against Trump.

Read more …

How is this still a topic?

Top US Commander Unconvinced By ‘Russian Bounty To Taliban’ Intel (RT)

Intelligence claiming Russia paid Taliban fighters to target US troops in Afghanistan lacked evidence, the top US general in the region has said. His account crushes yet another sensational media report based on anonymous sources. General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia as the head of US Central Command, told reporters on Tuesday that unverified reports about Russia having placed “bounties” on American soldiers in Afghanistan have yet to be substantiated. “The intel case wasn’t proved to me – it wasn’t proved enough that I’d take it to a court of law – and you know, that’s often true in battlefield intelligence,” the senior commander said. According to McKenzie, “there wasn’t enough there” to consider the intelligence credible.


He described the reports as “worrisome,” but stressed that there was no “causative link” to support the notion that an alleged bounty program had led to US deaths in Afghanistan. McKenzie’s remarks come a week after an assessment by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) concluded that the intelligence community has reservations about the allegations leveled against Russia. The memo said that the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center had “medium confidence” in the reports, while the National Security Agency (NSA) and other spy agencies expressed “lower confidence.” [..] Responding to the allegations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t mince his words, blasting the unverified US media reports as “100 percent bulls**t.”

Read more …

It doesn’t matter what the top commander thinks, or even what US intelligence admits. The public has been indoctrinated. And that is the goal.

Most Americans Believe Russia Targeted US Soldiers (R.)

A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday. The national opinion poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday shows that the American public remains deeply suspicious of Russia four years after it tried to tip the U.S. presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, and most Americans are unhappy with how the president has handled relations with the country.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll follows a series of reports, including several by Reuters, that Russia had been rewarding Taliban-affiliated militants, possibly by offering them bounties, to attack and kill U.S. troops in the region. Moscow denies the allegations. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that several American soldiers were believed to have died as a result of the bounties. Trump said last week he was not told about the reported Russian effort, because intelligence officials were uncertain about its veracity. The New York Times reported that the president received written briefings about the program earlier this year, and it was also included in a widely read CIA report in May.


Overall, 60% of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be “very” or “somewhat” believable, while 21% said they were not credible and the rest were unsure. Thirty-nine percent said they thought Trump “did know” about Russia’s targeting of the U.S. military before reports surfaced in the news media last month, while 26% said the president “did not know.” Eighty-one percent of Americans said they viewed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a threat to the United States, including 24% who saw him as an “imminent threat.” Only 35% said they approved of Trump’s handling of Russia, compared with 52% who disapproved.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 222018
 


Winslow Homer Mending the nets 1881

 

Yes, it’s 10 years ago today, on January 22 2008, that Nicole Foss and I published our first article on the Automatic Earth (the first few years on Blogger). And, well, obviously, a lot has happened in those 10 years.

For ourselves, we went from living in Ottawa, Canada to doing a lot of touring starting in 2009, to support Nicole’s DVDs and video downloads. We visited Sweden, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Austria, Denmark, US of course, with prolonged stays in France, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, times that I miss a lot here and there, to now with Nicole settled in New Zealand and my time divided between Athens, Greece and the Netherlands.

We met so many people both online and in the flesh in all these countries it’s impossible to remember everyone of them, and every town we found ourselves in. Overall, it was a humbling experience to have so many people share their views and secrets, especially since we never stayed at hotels (or very rarely), we were always invited to stay with our readers. Thank you so much for that.

Since we started publishing 8 months before the fall of Bear Stearns, and we very much predicted the crisis that followed (we had been doing that before as well, since 2005 at the Oil Drum), we were the first warning sign for many people that things were going off the rails.

There are still to this day people expressing their gratitude for that. Others, though, not so much. And that has to do with the fact that governments, media and central banks came together to create the illusion of an economic recovery, something many if not most people still believe in. Just read the headlines and the numbers, on housing markets, stocks, GDP, jobs. Unfortunately, it was an illusion then and it still is now.

 

To get back to 10 years ago: Nicole and I decided to leave the Oil Drum because they didn’t want us to write about finance. Given what happened with Lehman while we were leaving, and as said with Bear Stearns later, it would appear that finance was indeed the hot issue back then, more than peak oil or associated themes.

The main reason we wanted to focus on finance was that we realized it was the most imminent of all the crises mankind faced and still faces. Energy and environmental issues are real and threaten our way of life, but before they hit us, the mother of all financial crises will.

What has changed, and increased, a lot over the past decade is the media. They have moved, more than before, into a kind of la la land where narratives are invented and presented with the express intention of keeping people feeling good about themselves in the face of all the distortion and disasters they face.

The big move in energy is not so much peak oil, but a meme of moving away from oil. ‘Renewable energy’ is all the fad, and it works, because it holds the promise that we can maintain our levels of energy consumption, and our lifestyles in general, pretty much up to some undefined moment in the future. For all you know, a seamless transition.

It’s a nonsense narrative, which originates not just in wishful thinking, but much more than that in widespread ignorance about what energy actually is and does, and what qualities oil and gas bring to the table that no other energy source can.

We must have written a hundred articles about such themes as energy return on energy invested (EROEI), and that the EROEI on renewables doesn’t allow for our present complex societies to continue as they are. Renewables are not useless by any means, but switching to them from oil will mean a huge simplification from our present lives. More than anything, probably, we have to ask if that would be such a bad thing.

But that is a question we avoid at all costs, because it is a threatening one. It implies we may have to do with less, and that’s not what we’re hardwired to do. Like any other species, we always want more. This is so ingrained in our world that our economies depend squarely on a perpetual need to strive for more tomorrow than we have today. Not as individuals, perhaps, but certainly as a group.

More trinkets, more gadgets, more energy. And for a -relatively- long time, more people. Relatively, because population growth is a recent phenomenon. It started at the very moment we began to have sources of ‘free’ or ‘surplus’ energy. Give any species a source of ‘surplus’ energy, and it will use it up as fast as it can, and proliferate to achieve that, until the surplus is gone. We are no different.

 

Of course, as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics holds, the use of energy produces waste. More energy use produces more waste. One source may be slightly less polluting than another, but it’s thermodynamics that dictates the limits here. No energy source is fully renewable, and clean energy is just an advertizing term. And with an energy return too low to run complex societies on, those are hard limits. The only way out is to use less energy, but our economic models are geared towards the opposite, as are our brains.

Meanwhile, we’re saddling our children with the consequences of our prolific use of energy. Species extinction runs a hundred or a thousand times faster than is ‘natural’, ever more of our arable land is too polluted or wasted to produce food, and the grand mass of plastics in our oceans exceeds that of the living creatures that fed us for a very long time, taking the numbers of these creatures down so fast our grandchildren will have to eat jellyfish.

Ironically (and there’s lots of irony in the story of our tragic species), we produce more food per capita today than ever before, but its distribution is so warped that one group of us throw away more than we consume, while another goes hungry. And to top it off, much of what we eat lacks nutrition, and is often even downright toxic for us; it makes us fat and it makes us sick.

Then again, our entire environment is also fast becoming toxic. We’re a bloated, obese, asthmatic, allergic and cancer-riddled species, and yet we call ourselves a success. It’s all about the narrative.

 

But as Nicole and I said 10 years ago, and still do, it’s finance that will be the first crisis to hit. It will hit so hard it’ll make any other crises, environment and energy, feel like an afterthought. Pension plans across the board will prove to be a Ponzi, housing will collapse, shares will crumble, scores of people will lose all their savings and their jobs, their homes.

This is because, in an ostensible effort to ‘save’ our societies and economies, our -central- bankers and politicians decided to put everything on red, and loaded another $20 trillion into the upper shelf of the financial world, the very shelf that was most rotten to begin with in more than one sense of the word. And they’re not the ones paying the heftiest price for this stupidest bet of all times, you are.

 

All in all, the only possible conclusion we can draw is that in the past 10 years, things have indeed changed. Thing is, they have changed for the worse. Much worse. And the recovery narrative can’t and won’t hold. Question is who realizes this, and what they are planning to do with the knowledge.

Friend of the Automatic Earth Nomi Prins said recently that in her view, the Fed is scared to death of causing a global financial crash. I think they may have recognized the inevitability of that crash quite a while ago, and they’re working to minimize the impact on themselves and their buddies and masters.

A global central bank tightening looks an easy sale now that people have swallowed the recovery myth whole. The crash that will lead to might take long enough to develop for them to deny any responsibility.

And then we’re all on our own. The political ramifications will be gigantic. Because the incompetence and corruptness of incumbent politicians will be exposed, and governments overthrown.

Nothing we couldn’t have, and didn’t, see coming in January 2008. Best advice today, as it was back then: get out of debt.

And thank you so much for 10 years of reactions, responses, comments, your hospitality, and all other forms of support -including financial of course.