Thursday, August 23, 2018

Rome Burns

Economic Participants,

The truth is this economic system has always been on fire. The terrifying object at the end of the extraction economy is the devastating and total incineration of almost everything we know and love. This is the only endgame in the extraction economy — it is what happens when a model dependent on infinite growth is played out on a planet with finite resources.
The extraction economy is an extinction economy, or maybe more accurately an extinction machine. It has always burnt everything in its path. That is what it’s designed to do. The people and living things on the periphery have always felt it first.
But now in a world of global climate disruption, the match has burned down to our fingers. There is no periphery and no centre. Just one interconnected and interdependent world – on fire, together.

Charles Hugh Smith: The Telltale Signs of Imperial Decline (Hey, I resemble that remark!) and also these added bonus signs:Sir John Glubb listed a few others in his seminal essay on the end of empires The Fate of Empires, what might be called the dynamics of decadence:
(a) A growing love of money as an end in itself: Check.
(b) A lengthy period of wealth and ease, which makes people complacent. They lose their edge; they forget the traits (confidence, energy, hard work) that built their civilization: Check.
(c) Selfishness and self-absorption: Check.
(d) Loss of any sense of duty to the common good: Check.
Glubb included the following in his list of the characteristics of decadence:
-- an increase in frivolity, hedonism, materialism and the worship of unproductive celebrity (paging any Kardashians in the venue...)
-- a loss of social cohesion
-- willingness of an increasing number to live at the expense of a bloated bureaucratic state

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange's mother, Christine Assange, tweeted - and then deleted - what many believe to be a suggestion that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich "leaked docs proving corruption."
In response to the question "why did Julian publish damning docs against Hillary at such a crucial time which gave Humpty Dumpty Trump the upper hand?" Christine Assange replied "Its the duty of media to inform citizens about corruption," adding "a #DNC #Bernie supporter disgruntled with rigging leaked docs proving corruption."
"What should Wikileaks should have done? Hold on to them till after the election to advantage #Hillary?" she continued, adding "You are shooting the messenger!"

Dmitry Orlov was there for the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and gives perspective:
All empires follow a certain trajectory. Over time they become corrupt, decadent and enfeebled, and then they collapse. When they collapse, there are two ways to go. One is to slog through a millennium-long dark age—as Western Europe did after the Western Roman Empire collapsed. Another is for a different empire, or a cooperating set of empires, to take over, as happened after the Ottoman Empire collapsed. You may think that a third way exists: of small nations cooperating sweetly and collaborating successfully on international infrastructure projects that serve the common good. Such a scheme may be possible, but I tend to take a jaundiced view of our simian natures...
What everyone seems to want is a humble, low-budget, cooperative global empire, without all of the corruption and with a lot less life-threatening militarism...
But it is doubtful that these attempts will work. The EU has been too slow in recognizing just how pernicious its dependence on Washington has become, and will take even more time to find ways to free itself, but the process has clearly started. For its part, Washington runs on money, and since its current antics will tend to make money grow scarce even faster than it otherwise would, those who stand to lose the most will make the Washingtonians feel their pain and will force a change of course. As a result, everyone will be pushing in the same direction: toward a slow, steady, controllable imperial collapse. All we can hope for is that the rest of the world manages to come together and build at least the scaffolding of a functional imperial replacement in time to avoid collapsing into a new post-imperial dark age.  

Beating that horse even deader, here is Jim Kunstler on the current and future imperial rulers and hoy-ploy.
The one thing he has truly accomplished is driving his opponents in the overclass out of their gourds with loathing and resentment. (The term, overclass was minted, I believe by the excellent essayist Michael Lind.) It’s a wonderfully inclusive term in that it describes basically everyone who is not in the underclass — that now-dreadful realm of tattooed diabetics moiling in the war memorial auditoriums and minor league ball parks for their hero and leader to descend like Deus ex Machinain the presidential helicopter to remind them how much they’re winning.
Meanwhile, the class of former winners-turned-losers — the Silicon Valley executives, the Hollywood movers and shakers, the Brooklyn Hipsters, the Ivy League faculties, the Deep State guideline writers, the K-Street consultants, the yoga ladies of Fairfield County, Connecticut, the acolytes of Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Warren — resort to righteous litigation in their crusade to restore the proper order of rule in this land. When they come to power, the shining city will be at hand….
I kind of doubt it. The truth is, all current winners and losers are living in the shadow of a financial system that doesn’t really work anymore, because it doesn’t represent the reality of wealth that is no longer there. The consolation, perhaps, is that there will be plenty for all those who survive the collapse of that system to do when the time comes. But it will be in a disposition of things and of power that we can’t possibly recognize from where we stand these days.

More on the consortium of American political "winners" and "losers" from Tom Luongo, via Tom K. 
Y'all may recall how the "Dixiecrats" used to be a thing, the party of-not-Lincoln in the south, until Kennedy and Johnson advanced civil rights and did away with Jim Crow, against the working southern whites "deplorable" class of that day. Since George Wallace could never make the jump to the White House, but had consolidated a lot of voters, Richard Nixon worked his "Southern Strategy" and the "Party of Lincoln" became the party of status-quo-racial-stratification. It was way watered down from Jim Crow, but it was the option provided, and Texas went Republican after Johnson. 
In recent years, the Democratic Party has felt that it "owned" black votes, and could have some token black Democratic Party officials as "thought leaders". speak politically correctly, complain about Republican racism, and do what it pleased with global multinational corporations to gut jobs for black working people and small farmers. "Mission Accomplished!". Donald Trump is offering some things that appeal to industrious non-corporate blacks as much as they appeal to industrious non-corporate whites. Unbiased-deplorable-appeal-Trump... 
Rasmussen released a bombshell report on Friday stating that Trump’s support among black voters is now a whopping 36%.
This versus 19% a year ago. Go back to Trump’s polling with black voters just a few months ago and you’ll see numbers in the 17% range.
Today 36%.  That, my friends, is crossing the chasm in a big way.

And it’s typical.  Italy’s Northern League ‘crossed the chasm’ in January and doubled support in six months.

Greeks have government debt of 190% GDP, no way to service it, and all their "assets" have been sold to foreign corporations. Greece has been collapsed, but the Greeks have the breath of life in them. What avenue will present itself? (I like the idea of Greece and Turkey aligning for a "New Byzantium" or something.) Eleni sends this from (Southerner) Paul Craig Roberts:
The declaration that the Greek crisis is over is merely a statement that there is nothing left to extract from the Greek people for the interest of the foreign banks. Greece is sinking fast. All of the income associated with sea ports, airport, municipal utilities, and the rest of public property that was forcibly privatized now belongs to foreigners who take the money out of the country, thus further driving down the Greek economy.

​The $US is the solvent that the Empire uses to extract wealth from the periphery, and keep it weakened.​ Will it be borrowed widely in 2020?
Despite all efforts of Russia, China, Iran and other countries to shift away from US dollar dependence for international trade and finance, the dollar remains still unchallenged as world central bank reserve currency, some 63% of all BIS central bank reserves. Moreover almost 88% of daily foreign currency trades are in US dollars. Most all oil trade, gold and commodity trades are denominated in dollars. Since the Greek crisis in 2011 the Euro has not been a serious rival for reserve currency hegemony. Its share in reserves are about 20% today.
Since the 2008 financial crisis the dollar and the importance of the Fed have expanded to unprecedented levels. This is only now beginning to be appreciated as the world begins to feel for the first time since 2008 real dollar shortages, meaning a much higher cost to borrow more dollars to refinance old dollar debt. The peak for total emerging market dollar debt falling due comes in 2019, with more than 1.3 trillion dollars maturing.
Here comes the trap. The Fed is not only hinting it will raise US Fed funds rates more aggressively later this year into next. It is also reducing the amount of US Treasury debt it bought after the 2008 crisis, so-called QT or Quantitative Tightening.

​Germany proposes a non-dollar Global Payment System​:

Wait! What do I think about all this? Let me check Facebook... Oh, OK. Glad that's handy.
The FireEye report Facebook acted on notes:
FireEye has identified a suspected influence operation that appears to originate from Iran aimed at audiences in the U.S., U.K., Latin America, and the Middle East. This operation is leveraging a network of inauthentic news sites and clusters of associated accounts across multiple social media platforms to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests. These narratives include anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). 
...Based on an investigation by FireEye Intelligence’s Information Operations analysis team, we assess with moderate confidence that this activity originates from Iranian actors.
The evidence FireEye presents is quite thin. The purpose of its inquest and report is obviously self-promotion.
Moon of Alabama is also promoting anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes. It supports the JCPOA deal. This is, according to FireEye, "in line with Iranian interests". It may well be. But does that make Moon of Alabama a "suspected influence operation"? Is it an "inauthentic news site"?
Is the @MoonofA Twitter account showing "coordinated inauthentic behavior" when it promotes the pieces presented on this site? We, by the way, assess with high confidence
​ ​
that that this activity originates from a German actor. Is that a reason to shut it down?

​Arguably Deplorable​

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