Category Archives: Collapse

Eurozone Whistles Past its Biggest Threat, by Don Quijones

The Italian financial system is in deep trouble and will crash without a large infusion of funds, undoubtedly from Europe’s beleaguered taxpayers. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

 

Italy’s Multi-Headed Hydra Predicament.

For the last three years, the political establishment in Italy and beyond have had a field day attacking, ridiculing, and vilifying Beppe Grillo’s 5-star movement. Europe’s media have tarred him with the brush of populism. In 2013 The Economist labelled him a clown on its front cover. Yet his party still leads the polls. And that lead is growing.

A new Ipsos poll in Corriere della Sera newspaper has put Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement on 32.3% – its highest ever reading. It placed 5.5 points ahead of the governing PD, on 26.8%, after the PD dropped more than three percentage points in a month, as former prime minister Matteo Renzi battles to reassert his authority following a walkout by a left-wing faction.

Internal political battles are nothing new in Italy. The country enjoys a hard-earned reputation for political instability and paralysis, having seen 63 governments come and go since 1945. The problem this time around is that internal weakness and strife in Italy’s traditional center-left and center-right parties could end up gifting the next election to a party that refuses to play by the book.

If it wins the next elections, which could be brought forward to as early as June this year, 5-Star Movement has pledged to hold a referendum of its own — albeit a non-binding one — on Italy’s membership of the euro. As polls have shown, there is much broader public apathy toward the single currency than in just about any other euro zone nation. Grillo’s plan could also receive the backing of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who is determined to pull off a political comeback and is talking of restoring the Italian Lira.

As Reuters reports, such a scenario could spook financial markets “wary of both the 5-Star’s euroskepticism and the threat of prolonged political instability in Italy,” which boasts a public debt burden of over €2 trillion (133% of GDP). In any normal situation that would be a problem. But Italy is not in a normal situation; it is on the cusp of a potentially very large financial crisis that, if mishandled, could bring down Europe’s entire financial system.

To continue reading: Eurozone Whistles Past its Biggest Threat

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Watch These Geopolitical Flashpoints Carefully, by Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith highlights the dangers ahead. From Smith at alt-market.com:

Anyone who has been involved in alternative geopolitical and economic analysis for a decent length of time understands that the establishment power structure thrives according to its ability to either exploit natural crises, or to engineer fabricated crises.

This is not that hard to comprehend, but for some reason there are a lot of people out there who simply assume that global sea-change events just happen “at random,” that the elites are stupid or oblivious, and that all outcomes are a matter of random chance rather than being directed or manipulated. I call these people “intellectual idiots,” because they believe they are applying logic to every scenario but they are sabotaged by an inherent bias which causes them to deny the potential for “conspiracy.”

To clarify, their logic folds in on itself and becomes faulty. They believe themselves objective, but they abandon objectivity when they staunchly refuse to consider the possibility of covert influence by organized special interests. When you internally dismiss the possibility of a thing, no amount of evidence will ever convince you of its reality. This is how the “smartest” people in the room can end up being the dumbest people in the room.

In the survivalist community there is a philosophy – there is no such thing as a crisis for those who are prepared. This is true for prepared individuals as much as it is true for prepared communities and prepared nations. The only way a society can fall is when it becomes willfully ignorant of potential outcomes and refuses to organize against them.

By extension, it would make sense that by being prepared for a particular crisis or outcome an individual or group could not only survive, but also profit. It is not crazy or outlandish to entertain the idea that there are groups in power (perhaps for many generations) that aggressively seek to predict or even force particular outcomes in geopolitics for their own profit. And, by profit, I do not necessarily mean material wealth. In many cases, the power of influence and psychological sway over the masses might be considered a far greater prize than money or property.

To continue reading: Watch These Geopolitical Flashpoints Carefully

The Divided Deep State is a Symptom, Not the Disease, by Charles Hugh Smith

Remember the movie Skyfall and the story about rats turning on themselves and eating each other? The Deep State is doing the same. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

If we understand the profound political disunity fracturing the nation and its Imperial Project, we understand the Deep State must also fracture along the same fault lines.

I’ve been writing about the divided Deep State for a number of years, most recently in The Conflict within the Deep State Just Broke into Open Warfare. The topic appears to be one of widespread interest, as this essay drew over 300,000 views.

It’s impossible to understand the divided Deep State unless we situate it in the larger context of profound political disunity, a concept I learned from historian Michael Grant, whose slim but insightful volume The Fall of the Roman Empire I have been recommending since 2009.

As I noted in my 2009 book Survival+, this was a key feature of the Roman Empire in its final slide to collapse. The shared values and consensus which had held the Empire’s core together dissolved, leaving petty fiefdoms to war among themselves for what power and swag remained.

A funny thing happens when a nation allows itself to be ruled by Imperial kleptocrats: such rule is intrinsically destabilizing, as there is no longer any moral or political center to bind the nation together. The public sees the value system at the top is maximize my personal profit by whatever means are available, i.e. complicity, corruption, monopoly and rentier rackets, and they follow suit by pursuing whatever petty frauds and rackets are within reach: tax avoidance, cheating on entrance exams, gaming the disability system, lying on mortgage and job applications, and so on.

But the scope of the rentier rackets is so large, the bottom 95% cannot possibly keep up with the expanding wealth and income of the top .1% and their army of technocrats and enablers, so a rising sense of injustice widens the already yawning fissures in the body politic.

To continue reading: The Divided Deep State is a Symptom, Not the Disease

The Useful and the Useless, by Robert Gore

 

USEFUL

USELESS

The battle lines are forming.

You’re standing on the prow of an ocean liner cutting through the icy waters of the North Atlantic. A huge iceberg looms dead ahead. You’ve seen it for some time, but now it’s too close, and the liner too big and fast, to avoid the collision. You quietly make your way to the lifeboats, knowing they’re the only chance for saving yourself and your loved ones. Below decks, an orchestra plays a waltz and oblivious revelers dance.

Most people don’t foresee the world’s inevitable collision with the iceberg of unsustainable fantasy. When it happens, they’ll respond predictably, with panic and cowardice. Those who’ve seen it coming and moved to the lifeboats will experience their own roiling emotions, attenuated by recognition of the logic behind the disaster. While the forewarned have dreaded impact, many will also welcome it, in the way one welcomes an unpleasant medical procedure: let’s get it over with. The motive is not malice, but conviction born of experience that actions have consequences and there’s no escaping them. After seemingly inexplicable and interminable delay, consequences shall arrive, amplified by the tawdry stratagems that promoted delay.

It will come as a surprise to many, but governments cannot suspend reality. Their arsenal, when things break down, comes down to their arsenal: the capacity to coerce. Violence or its threat enables governments to exact compliance. Proponents of government power invariably see themselves exercising it. Once the ship hits the iceberg, it will be obvious that governments’ guns are not wands, freeing citizens from the necessity of producing as much or more than they consume. They cannot compel innovators to innovate or producers to produce. While coercive power comes from one end of a gun, none of the powers that produce progress (and the gun) magically materialize at the other end.

It is said that America is a society divided. True enough, but the important question is: along what lines? Crisis and social breakdown will provide clarification: it’s governments and their beneficiaries versus producers. In other words, those who don’t do useful things versus those who do.

Huge shifts in social mood and direction are presaged. President Trump’s election presages the coming division. Among the analyses of the election, few noted an obvious dividing line. Trump’s supporters by and large do useful things, or are angry because they’re prevented from doing useful things. They build, engineer, manufacture, plant, grow, operate, maintain, repair, transport, and sell the things we find useful or essential. When we ram the iceberg, their skills, brains, and adaptability will be sorely needed.

Politicians and bureaucrats and the millions dependent on them for their fake jobs, income, food, shelter, transportation, and medical care will find little demand for their skills, such as they are. The useful may well conclude that keeping them alive is more trouble than it’s worth. There will be those who are too young, old, or infirm to produce, but whom the useful will support out of friendship or kinship. However, it would be surprising if they felt anything but contempt for the faceless hordes demanding that someone, anyone, take care of them.

Take away the undeserved from the undeserving and you get a tantrum. Steal the earned from those who earned it and you get righteous rage. One’s a firecracker, the other a volcano. The game has been to impress upon the useful a moral obligation to support the useless, but the volcano’s about to blow, burying that obscene morality in lava and ash. Given the staggering levels of accumulated debt and promises, the useful know their talents, skills, hard work, productivity and futures have been mortgaged for the useless. This is the salient and intractable social division. No reconciliation is possible between the useful and those who believe themselves entitled to their enslavement. The Trump fissure will become a yawning chasm when the Good Ship Profligate Government collides with the iceberg.

Centralization serves the needs of government and its dependents. Honest production and exchange require little government, perhaps none at all. Those who believe current arrangements should persist have to believe that the useful who support those arrangements will provide more and more while receiving less and less. The implicit premise has to be that when it all finally breaks down, the useful can be brutally subjugated—but kept producing—while receiving nothing more than their subsistence. Slavery cannot support the police state necessary to impose it, much less a modern economy. Those who believe any outcomes other than destruction and death are possible are delusional. If those are the outcomes they anticipate and desire, they’re homicidally and suicidally psychopathic.

Governments will have their surveillance apparatuses, police, militaries, prisons, torture chambers, concentration camps, killing fields, and the like. The useful will have their minds. Totalitarian accounting is daunting. All that money going out for suppression, so little coming in from a populace whose best and brightest have been imprisoned or murdered, or who produce the minimum necessary to survive. The day comes when the policeman, soldiers, and guards can’t be paid with anything of value and all hell breaks loose. Or, less colloquially, centralization gives way to decentralization.

To what depths governments will descend and how long they will survive as agents of repression is unknowable, but their dissolution is foreordained. They cannot commandeer the resources necessary to sustain the current level of tyranny. The useful will vote with their feet and if that’s not possible, bullets will be their ballots. They will establish enclaves and protect themselves from the tantrums, chaos, and depredations of the useless. (Useful in such a context may require nothing more than a willingness to work hard.) The useless depend on the useful, who of course don’t need them at all. The useful will eventually triumph, if the species survives (not a sure thing). Tragically, the butcher’s bill is likely to be exorbitant.

THEY REALLY ARE BASTARDS

AMAZON PAPERBACK

KINDLE EBOOK

 

 

Full Speed Ahead for Murphy’s Law, by James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler asks if the United States will continue to be a nation. The answer is not as clear cut as most people assume. From Kunstler at kunstler.com:

You might not know it, given all the ambient noise of the moment, but beyond the torments of news and propaganda there is still something called the nation. It’s more than just a political compact. Until not long ago it was also a culture, an agreed-upon set of values, practices, and customs that amounted to an identity: I’m an American. If you canvassed the crowd in Yankee Stadium one summer afternoon in 1947, I imagine each person would answer that way rather than saying I’m a wounded war veteran, I’m a WASP, I’m an oppressed housewife, I’m a negro, I’m Italian, I’m a Jew, I’m a union member, I’m a communist, I’m queer, I’m a rape victim….

These days, the hardships of history are shattering the nation and our response politically has been to take refuge in a matrix of rackets. Most of these rackets are economic, because it’s the essence of racketeering to extract the greatest benefit possible from the object of your racket at the least cost to the racketeer. In plain English, it’s an organized way of getting something for nothing. The identity politics of our time is another form of racketeering — extracting current maximum benefits on claims of mistreatment, often bygone, specious, or only imagined.

And so one of the truly existential questions of the moment is whether we’ll continue to be a nation, even geographically, and a lot of sentient observers aren’t too sure. Apparently we’re not too sure we even want to be. This is why the campaign slogan of Hillary Clinton, “Stronger Together,” rang so false when the Democratic Party worked so diligently in 2016 to construct separate identity fortifications and then declared culture war on the dwindling majority outside the ramparts. And you’re surprised that Donald Trump won the election?

To continue reading: Full Speed Ahead for Murphy’s Law

 

Deepening EU Banking Crisis Meets Euro-TARP and Taxpayers, by Don Quijones

The European banking crisis (and make no mistake, European banks are in a crisis) will follow the same story line as all banking crises: with taxpayers bailing out the banks. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

If the ECB scales back stimulus, banks face even greater risk of collapse. But now there’s a new solution.

Events are moving so fast in Europe these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up. While much of the attention is being hogged by political developments, including the election in the Netherlands, Reuters published a report warning that the European banking sector may face even higher bad loan risks if the ECB begins to scale back its monetary stimulus programs, something it has already begun, albeit extremely tentatively.

The total stock of non-performing loans (NPL) in the EU is estimated at over €1 trillion, or 5.4% of total loans, a ratio three times higher than in other major regions of the world.

On a country-by-country basis, things look even scarier. Currently 10 (out of 28) EU countries have an NPL ratio above 10% (orders of magnitude higher than what is generally considered safe). And among Eurozone countries, where the ECB’s monetary policies have direct impact, there are these NPL stalwarts:

Ireland: 15.8%
Italy: 16.6%
Portugal: 19.2%
Slovenia: 19.7%
Greece: 46.6%
Cyprus: 49%

That bears repeating: in Greece and Cyprus, two of the Eurozone’s most bailed out economies, virtually half of all the bank loans are toxic.

Then there’s Italy, whose €350 billion of NPLs account for roughly a third of Europe’s entire bad debt stock. Italy’s government and financial sector have spent the last year and a half failing spectacularly to come up with a solution to the problem. The two “bad bank” funds they created to help clean up the banks’ toxic balance sheets, Atlante I and Atlante II, are the financial equivalent of bringing a butter knife to a machete fight. So underfunded are they, they even strugggled to hold aloft smaller, regional Italian banks like Veneto Banca and Popolare di Vicenza, which are now pleading for a bailout from Rome, which in turn is pleading for clemency from Brussels.

To continue reading: Deepening EU Banking Crisis Meets Euro-TARP and Taxpayers

U.S. About to Hit $20 Trillion in Debt: Here’s How It Affects You, by Shaun Bradley

If the US government does not get a handle on its debt, it will eventually blow apart your savings and your retirement, perhaps sooner rather than later. It’s just that simple. From Shaun Bradley at theantimedia.org:

As the vulture pundits in the mainstream media pick apart hollow political scandals, the essential bankruptcy of the federal government looms just ahead. The national debt is creeping toward 20 trillion dollars, and the United State’s largest problem is once again staring the world in the face.

Just before the government was slated to shut down in 2015 (as it did in 2013), Congress was able to pass a delay on the debt ceiling decision until March 15th of this year — Wednesday of this week. Recurring uncertainty caused by events like this has implications that extend far beyond our own borders. The amount of leverage in the current system has already forced foreign holders of U.S. debt to question the real value of America’s full faith and credit.

2016 was a record-setting year for the liquidation of foreign-held U.S. bonds, topping out at nearly $405 billion. The selling was led by China, America’s second-biggest creditor, which currently holds over $1 trillion of U.S. debt, almost 28% of the total held by foreign central banks. They weren’t alone, though, and even the U.S.’ number one lender, Japan, has rolled back their positions to protect themselves as the reality of U.S. insolvency comes into focus. A gradual change has been set in motion, and the global superpower status of the United States may be systematically eroded — not militarily, but economically.

If the government does shut down again, the Treasury Department reportedly has as little as $66 billion in reserves and just enough income from taxes to meet its essential obligations. Entitlements like social security and Medicare will likely be unaffected, but if lawmakers can’t collaborate to pass some kind of resolution, the power to allocate additional federal spending will largely be turned over to President Trump. The initial hiring freeze on federal employees that was implemented shortly after his inauguration could be just a taste of what’s to come.

To continue reading: U.S. About to Hit $20 Trillion in Debt: Here’s How It Affects You