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Papers Please!

Papers Please!

For those who may not know, Mrs. Cog and I live in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, near the intersection of the three poorest counties in the Commonwealth. While that fact doesn’t directly affect us, either financially or physically, it does for many who live within our local community.

The area is basically poor farming country, with many locals still scratching out a living raising cows and calves on steep hilly terrain suitable mostly for livestock grazing and, occasionally, assorted cash crops such as cabbage, corn or even hay.

But for the most part, those who must pay the bills work for others outside the immediate area and for relatively low wages. Worse, they travel many miles to make their keep, often 30-50 miles one way on poorly maintained country back roads. This makes for very long days to match those rather short paychecks.

The point is, many who live here must travel long distances for meager wages. Take away their vehicle or impede their travel and many would quickly fall into abject poverty up here on the mountain. That said, it’s not much different from any other rural American community with an aging and declining population.

Last week the governor of Virginia escalated his two week earlier ‘stay-at-home’ declaration, moving it from voluntary to mandatory, with prejudice I might add. Meaning ‘official’ enforcement. As in at the point of a gun, if the ‘authority’ present at the scene of the infraction deems it necessary.

At the very least, there is the implied threat to use significant force if compliance is slow or missing entirely. That gun on his or her hip is not a non-functioning uniform decoration, but a lethal weapon wielded by the state to compel compliance and obedience.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s Why the Economy Won’t Recover–and No, It’s Not Covid-19 or the Lockdown

Here’s Why the Economy Won’t Recover–and No, It’s Not Covid-19 or the Lockdown

When reality and truth become the sworn enemies of society’s political and economic elites, the society is well and truly doomed.

The risks of Covid-19 and the lockdown have been explored across a wide spectrum of opinion. To hit just a few of too many to count:

— Permanent loss of civil liberties under the guise of “pandemic controls.”

— Failure of control measures to limit the pandemic in any sort of economically manageable manner.

— Schemes for ID Cards identifying those with antibodies may fail as immunity might be fleeting, or low antibody counts may not confer immunity.

These visible risks arise directly from the pandemic and efforts to control it, but the reasons why the economy won’t recover were in force long before the pandemic:

1. Unsustainable dependence on expanding debt to fund consumption as earned income stagnated.

2. Unsustainably high costs imposed by cartels, monopolies, insider-skims/scams, institutionalized fraud, hyper-financialization, exploitation, etc. (Please see What’s Collapsing Can’t Be Saved: Our Fraudulent Economy)

3. The economy-wide creation of self-serving simulations of trust, credibility, transparency and accountability as substitutes for actual trust, credibility, transparency and accountability.

This ceaseless spew of simulacra to cloak self-serving corruption is hidden from view lest the truth–that authentic trust, credibility, transparency and accountability have been dismantled because they inhibit the profiteering and exploitation of insiders and elites– undermine the entire status quo.

And so “success” (as in maximizing profits) in America is now a game of creating believable facsimiles of what was once authentic. Like all mammals, humans retain a sixth sense–commonly referred to as the “sniff test”, i.e. something doesn’t feel right–and so the simulacra are only partially successful in making us believe institutions are trustworthy, credible, transparently operated and governed in a way that enforces accountability.

As a result, the more all our dominant institutions press their claims of legitimacy, the more they erode their legitimacy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Far Will the U.S. Economy Plunge During Lockdown?

How Far Will the U.S. Economy Plunge During Lockdown?

“Three times deeper than the Great Recession?”

No one has ever been through an economy where enormous shifts have occurred, from one day to the next, shutting down part of the economy but also generating sectors that are vastly more vibrant than ever before. Monthly or quarterly economic indicators leave us in the dark because they lag too far behind and are at the moment largely useless. What we need is high-frequency data – daily and weekly that track this shifting economy in near-real time.

For example, there has been an enormous boom in ecommerce – but we won’t get ecommerce data for Q1 until mid-May and for Q2 until August. Best Buy reported last week that its online sales had surged by 250% but that it would furlough 51,000 hourly store employees as stores were closed to customers, allowing only for curbside pickup. That duality that is now widespread impacts the economy in strange ways.

Grocery store and supermarket sales – which are normally the epitome of slow and steady growth tied to inflation and population growth – are suddenly booming. Kroger reported a 30% surge in “identical retail supermarket sales without fuel.”

Anything having to do with working-at-home, including hardware sales, is booming. Everything and anything that is online is booming — as are the sectors that make it all work, including delivery services. And there are other sectors that are suddenly hot.

But other parts of the economy have essentially collapsed, with near-zero revenues, such as sit-down restaurants, sports & entertainment events, or the entire travel and accommodations industry, including airlines and hotels.

Some manufacturing plants are operating, but many others are not. Much of the construction industry has shut down. Housing and auto sales are still ongoing, but at far lower levels.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Earth Day 50, Under Lockdown

Earth Day 50, Under Lockdown

April 22 was supposed to be a day of global celebration and protest. Fifty years ago, up to ten percent of Americans participated in thousands of local events on the first Earth Day. That mass action, which would have been widely commemorated this year, propelled early environmental policy victories that, in the U.S., included the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), as well as the passage of the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Endangered Species Act (1973).

But nature threw a curveball—a virus that has us all huddling indoors and physically distancing ourselves when we occasionally venture out for food or exercise. Instead of massing in parks and at city halls on a spring day, North American nature lovers will be clicking and swiping to attend online digital Earth Day events.

A revival of interest in this annual occasion was long overdue. The past five decades saw early policy successes fade gradually into an apathetic status quo. New regulations, passed in the 1970s up through the ’90s, had reduced sulfur dioxide pollution from coal power plants, cleaned up rivers, and greatly reduced the smog in big cities like Los Angeles. Pro-business commentators took this as evidence that the world’s environmental problems were essentially solved. But most pollution had just moved overseas to China and India, where so many of our products are now manufactured. On the whole, Earth is far more polluted today than it was in 1970. Indeed, so much plastic is accumulating in the oceans that, by 2050, it may outweigh all the fish.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How effective is a hard lockdown against the COVID epidemics? The data say not so much

How effective is a hard lockdown against the COVID epidemics? The data say not so much

Data about the mortality of the coronavirus epidemic start being available. Above, a list of mortality rates for European countries taken from theInstitute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington. It is not the complete data set, only Western Europe and the US. The data are ordered by the projected number of deaths per million inhabitants. In addition, I built a “lockdown score,” also based on the data reported by IHME (except for the US, where different states chose different options). It would be difficult to say that these data support the idea that a “hard” lockdown that includes a stay home order is more effective than a looser kind of lockdown. (for a live version of the table, write to me at ugo.bardi(whirlette)unifi.it)

Your friend has a headache. She takes a pill and, after a while, she feels much better. And she is sure that it was because of ot the pill. Maybe, but how does she know that the headache didn’t go away by itself? Was the pill a homeopathic medicine? In this case, you could tell her that she ingested pure sugar, unlikely to cure anything. But, if you ever tried something like that, you know that it is nearly impossible to un-convince someone who believes to have been healed by the miraculous powers of homeopathy or the like. It is a typical problem of medical studies: how do you know that a treatment is effective? That’s why there exist precise rules defining how you can test a new drug or treatment.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s Not Just Toilet Paper, Seed Shortages Spread As Locked-Down Americans Turn To Growing Their Own Food

It’s Not Just Toilet Paper, Seed Shortages Spread As Locked-Down Americans Turn To Growing Their Own Food 

Americans are panic hoarding plant seeds as the coronavirus outbreak confines millions to their homes, crashes the economy, and disrupts food supply chains. This has resulted in people questioning their food security.

A Google search of “buy seeds” has rocketed to an all-time high across the US in March to early April, the same time as supermarket shelves went bare. 

We’ve done a pretty good job of documenting the evolution of panic hoarding over the last several months. Americans started buying 3M N95 masks in mid-January, then non-perishables in February, followed by toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and guns.  

U.S. Facing Meat Shortage In Grocery Stores

Now apparently, plant seeds are the next big thing…

Seed companies who spoke with CBS News said they have stopped taking new orders after unprecedented demand. George Ball, chairman of Pennsylvania-based Burpee Seeds, said the recent increase in new orders is “just unbelievable.” The company will start accepting orders again on Wednesday after it stopped taking new ones for several days to catch up on the backlog.

Americans in quarantine are becoming increasingly concerned about their food security. What has shocked many is that food on supermarket shelves that existed one day, could be completely wiped out in minutes via panic hoarding. Some people are now trying to restore the comfort of food security by planting “Pandemic Gardens.”

“If I had to put my thumb on it, I would say people are worried about their food security right now,” said Emily Rose Haga, the executive director of the Seed Savers Exchange, an Iowa-based nonprofit devoted to heirloom seeds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Panic-Buying to Lockdowns of Eateries & Manufacturing: Truckers, Railroads Face Supply Chain Turmoil, Spikes & Plunges

From Panic-Buying to Lockdowns of Eateries & Manufacturing: Truckers, Railroads Face Supply Chain Turmoil, Spikes & Plunges

“There has been a clear divide between winners and losers.”

Panic buying in late February and March was followed by a sudden shift in consumption in mid-March away from restaurants, schools, college campuses, office buildings, other work locations to supermarkets, warehouse clubs, and ecommerce. For weeks, brick-and-mortar retail supply chains failed to keep up, and bare shelves in some product categories became a common sight. But the supply chains at the other end of the spectrum ground to a halt, stuck with goods that had no place to go.

This divergence has shown up in the trucking business. March was busy for truckers hauling dry-van trailers and refrigerated trailers (reefers). The Van Load-to-Truck ratio in the spot market surged by 56% from February and by 84% from March last year, according to DAT Trendlines. The Reefer Load-to-Truck ratio surged by 45% from February and by 91% from March last year.

But in April so far, all this has unwound. In the week ending April 12, the Van Load-to-Truck ratio plunged 44% from a week earlier. For the past two weeks, “Van spot freight volumes lost 20%,” DAT reported, “and national average rates lost 8¢ per mile, to $1.78, reflecting declines all over the country.”

“Reefer trends weren’t much better,” DAT said. The Reefer Load-to-Truck ratio plunged 42% over the week ended April 12, compared to a week earlier. “It’s been an up-and-down kind of market for reefer equipment,” DAT said in a blog post on April 9. “We’re not talking about a gentle rise and fall – more like a giant roller coaster.”

But it’s a very dynamic market, with reefers getting switched from the shut-down food services industry (such as restaurants and schools), to haul produce for the grocery supply chain:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

PERU EXTENDS LOCK-DOWN ALONG WITH MEXICO: An Estimated 40% Of Global Silver Mine Supply Now Offline

PERU EXTENDS LOCK-DOWN ALONG WITH MEXICO: An Estimated 40% Of Global Silver Mine Supply Now Offline

Now that the Peruvian Government announced an extension of the country’s state of emergency until April 26th, the world’s first and second-largest silver producers have taken 40% of global silver mine supply offline for a month.  Actually, Peru first announced its national quarantine on March 15th.  So, the country’s mines will be shut down for more than a month when the state of emergency is projected to end on April 26th.  But, will it?

According to the Reuters article, Peru’s Vizcarra extends state of emergency to April 26th; thecountry will remain on lockdown for an additional two weeks:

Including Mexico’s state of emergency issued on April 2nd to last until the end of the month, the total estimated silver production lost from these two countries could be 28 million oz (Moz).  That is 40% of global mine supply. But, what if additional mines have been shut down in other countries?

As I stated in previous articles and my Youtube video updates, we could see between 100-150 Moz of global silver mine supply lost this year.  However, if we just consider the estimated 28 Moz of silver production lost from Mexico and Peru, that would equal 28,000 of the 1,000 oz wholesale silver bars.

With the continued surge in demand for silver bullion pushing availability of products back weeks and for months, it has also impacted the 1,000 oz wholesale silver bar market. How will the reduction of 28,000 wholesale 1,000 oz silver bars impact the market in the next few months??  Good question.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The COVID-19 “Lockdowns” Are What Twenty-First-Century Mob Rule Looks Like

The COVID-19 “Lockdowns” Are What Twenty-First-Century Mob Rule Looks Like

mob

As of April 6, forty-one states have statewide “stay-at-home” decrees in place. These orders vary widely from place to place. In some states, there are long lists of exempted industries including marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores, hardware stores, and of course, grocery stores. In some states with these edicts, public lands, state parks, and beaches remain open. In some states, city parks are more crowded than ever as local residents, with little else to do, attempt to recreate. In other places—such as California—one can be arrested for paddleboarding all alone in the ocean.

Yet in all of these places, the current regime of rule by decree will have—and already has had—a devastating effect on many small and medium-sized businesses and their employees. As governments have created new arbitrary definitions of what constitutes an “essential” business, some businesses find themselves forced to close. Employees have lost these jobs. The owners of these enterprises will likely lose far more as debts mount and business investments are destroyed. As unemployment and poverty increase, the usual pathologies will arise as well: suicides, child abuse, and stress-induced death.

Yet the politicians—mostly state governors, mayors, and unelected bureaucrats—remain popular. In New York State, where the lockdown orders are among the most draconian in the nation, it is now claimed that 87 percent of those polled approve of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the situation. As Donald Trump’s administration has recommended ever harsher government limits on the freedom of Americans, his poll numbers have only improved. 

Meanwhile, among critics there appears to be a misconception of these lockdowns (which are very often only partially imposed or enforced) as being imposed over the howls of the local population, which is being silenced and cowed by jackbooted local police.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blain’s Morning Porridge – April 9 2020 – C-19 is the McGuffin

Blain’s Morning Porridge – April 9 2020 – C-19 is the McGuffin

“And all I ask is a tall ship, and the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and white sail’s breaking….”

Another day in lockdown begins. A moment of distraction, if I may…

4 days of Easter! Yay! I’m not going to open a newspaper, I’ll try to ignore the news, and dish emails about coronavirus. I’m going to focus on three of us here in the house, anticipate She-Who-Is-Mrs-Blain’s marvellous cooking, while she continues her efforts to teach No1 Son, Jack to cook. While his sister starves up in London, he is getting good. Last night’s mushroom pasta was superb. 

The downside is I can’t go sailing – which is beginning to become an issue… I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax……  Instead I am compiling a viewing plan of great Sailing Films. It my way of coping..

It started last night with Maiden, a wonderful tale how a young lady, Tracey Edwards, got peeved at Girls being denied the opportunity to race around the World. She formed her own crew of girls, restored an old yacht, and did very well, confounding critics who didn’t think a crew of girls would even get out the Solent. Practical Feminism! It’s well worth the watch – and I most strongly recommend it to all my City Female Friends for inspiration, and to everyone else, even if you don’t care a fig for boats. 

Tonight, I am scheduling Wind, possibly the worst and best sailing film of all time.. Bring out the Whomper!

****

When they come to make the film of this crisis, it will quickly become apparent the Virus is just the McGuffin, the plot device behind the most massive economic calamity of all time. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How To Protect Yourself From Long Term Pandemic Lockdown

How To Protect Yourself From Long Term Pandemic Lockdown

It has been only two weeks since widespread pandemic lockdowns were implemented in the US and as expected the public is not handling the idea very well. Within one week there were already frantic demands for the economy to reopen by Easter (spurred on by Donald Trump), and mass delusions have developed that this is still going to happen despite the fact that lockdown guidelines have been extended to at least April 30th. People desperately want to believe that this will all be over in a matter of weeks.

Many governments continue to perpetuate this fantasy by using very carefully worded terminology. For example, the phrase “two weeks of hell” is being consistently repeated by the media after Trump uttered the notion a few days ago. In Italy, a Milan official sees lockdowns now continuing for 2-3 more weeks. In Spain, the public was left with the impression that two solid weeks of quarantine and lockdowns would help stave off infections, yet the government extended the restrictions for…yes, you guessed it…another two weeks.

Why are these announcements always in two week intervals? I suspect it is because this the maximum amount of days before the average person begins to register the passage of time in their minds in a new situation. After two to three weeks of going without certain comforts and habits, people tend to adapt and find different ways of doing things. And, after two to three weeks of crisis, they might wake up and recognize the situation is not going to get better.

Governments and establishment elites are seeking to keep the public as passive and docile as possible by continually feeding them the notion that the worst of the pandemic will be over in a matter of weeks. And, every two weeks they will reassure us that we are “only two weeks away” from salvation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Won’t Be Getting “Back to Normal.” Not Soon. Not Ever.

We Won’t Be Getting “Back to Normal.” Not Soon. Not Ever.

When will we get back to normal?

If you yearn for the days before COVID-19 swept across the planet, I regret to inform you that those days are gone.

This isn’t a warm and fuzzy blog post telling you that everything is going to be all right. If you’re looking for reassurance that “we’ve got this,” I’m afraid I can’t provide it. This article wasn’t written to console or coddle you, so if that’s what you’re seeking, you’re going to want to stop reading right now.

If, however, you want a reality check on what I believe we’re really facing, I’m not going to hold back. You’ve been warned.

We’re not even halfway through.

You may have seen some optimistic reports recently that the “worst” is behind us. It would certainly be lovely if that’s the case, but in my opinion, this ordeal is just getting started. I wrote an article previously about how long we could expect our current state of lockdown to last using the timelines of China and Italy as points of comparison, and based on that, we are 17 days in as of the writing of this article on April 8.

The lockdown of Wuhan is expected to last 77 days. If our own timeline continues to echo that of China, then we’re not even halfway there. We have at least 2 months left and this doesn’t include any new clusters when the lockdowns are totally lifted or any second waves. We’ve barely begun living in our current state of purgatory and this will continue (and most likely worsen) for quite some time.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

States Use “Purge” Sirens, Fines And Arrests To Force People To Comply With Stay-At-Home Orders

States Use “Purge” Sirens, Fines And Arrests To Force People To Comply With Stay-At-Home Orders

Historically speaking, it is hard for American’s to see how their liberties have been taken away. With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the country, hopefully that will no longer be the case.

In Crowley, Louisiana police are using “Purge” sirens to warn people to stay indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In an effort to alert residents to the parish-wide curfew in Acadia Parish, Crowley Police rode around town broadcasting an alarm signal at 9:00 last night, but it’s not what anyone expected. In a video provided to KATC, the audible alarm from Crowley Police is actually the alarm sound from the successful film franchise The Purge”.

 Crowley Police will ticket people for going outside without documentation.

“After several days of this, the police department says they will begin giving out citations to violators. If you are headed to work or leaving work, you must have documentation from your employer.”

In Louisville, Kentucky a judge has ordered that people who ignore stay-at-home orders to wear GPS ankle bracelets.

“A judge has ordered one resident to stay at home after refusing to self-quarantine. CNN affiliate WDRB reports that the person, identified as D.L. in the court order, is living with someone who has tested positive for the illness and another person who is a presumptive case, according to an affidavit from Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the health department.”

In Vermont, the Attorney General’s Office ordered police to stop setting up checkpoints and roadblocks to detain motorists who do not comply with stay-at-home orders. In Maine, a Franklin County Sheriff said they will not arrest motorists who do not comply with stay-at-home orders, “this is not Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia where you are asked for your papers.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Lockdown Wouldn’t Be So Devastating If Our Economy Wasn’t So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive

The Lockdown Wouldn’t Be So Devastating If Our Economy Wasn’t So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive

An economy of rackets designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many is brittle because self-serving rackets snuff out competition, accountability and transparency.

What’s remarkable about the lockdown isn’t the hue and cry about the economic damage–it’s the absence of any critical curiosity as to how our economy became so fragile that only the wealthiest contingent can survive a few weeks on savings or rainy-day funds.

A healthy, resilient economy would be able to survive a few weeks of lockdown without a multi-trillion dollar bailout of every racket in the land. A society that wasn’t threadbare financially and socially would be able to function and accept individual sacrifices for the common good.

Rather than being organized to serve the common good, our economy and social order is little more than overlapping rackets: rigged “markets” operated by quasi-monopolies to enrich the few at the expense of the many; brittle bureaucracies bound by thousands of pages of mindless “compliance” and exploitive neofeudal structures in which debt-serfs are paid just enough to service their debt but not enough to afford skyrocketing costs for housing, healthcare, higher education, childcare, junk fees and taxes.

While everyone is busy screaming about the damage done by the lockdown, nobody’s asking why costs are so high that few can survive a few weeks on their own means. Nobody dares look at the soaring costs imposed by cartels and monopolies (including government and government-funded rackets such as healthcare and higher education) because it might shine a light on the money-trough they’re feeding from. (Crush every racket but mine…)

If costs weren’t so crushing, more households and enterprises might have savings. Empires don’t collapse because everyone ran out of money; they collapse when the costs exceed earnings.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“All The Jobs Are Gone” – Africa Facing ‘Complete Economic Collapse’ As Virus Spreads

“All The Jobs Are Gone” – Africa Facing ‘Complete Economic Collapse’ As Virus Spreads

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns across the African continent could trigger an economic collapse, according to one United Nations (UN) official, who spoke with Associated Press (AP). 

Ahunna Eziakonwa, the UN Development Program regional director for Africa, warned that the pandemic would likely result in job losses for millions of people, many of whom are already low-income, have no savings, and have no access to proper healthcare. 

“We’ve been through a lot on the continent. Ebola, yes, African governments took a hit, but we have not seen anything like this before,” Eziakonwa said. “The African labor market is driven by imports and exports and with the lockdown everywhere in the world, it means basically that the economy is frozen in place. And with that, of course, all the jobs are gone.”

We’ve warned over the last month that a virus crisis looms in Africa. A little more than half of the continent’s 54 countries have imposed lockdowns, curfews, and or travel bans to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Places like South Africa, where the military has enforced “unprecedented” Martial law-style lockdowns through mid-April, is an attempt to thwart social uprisings as 370,000 jobs have likely been lost.  

For the 1.3 billion that inhabit the continent, widespread lockdowns are triggering vicious economic downturns, couple that with a public health crisis, and it could be a perfect storm that results in social unrest. 

Eziakonwa said unless the virus spread can be controlled – then up to 50% of all estimated growth for Africa’s travel, services, mining, agriculture and the informal sectors could be lost. An extended period of subpar economic growth could be seen across the continent in the quarters ahead.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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