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  1. #106
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    One of the signs of a collapsing society is a dismantling of the social safety net and increasing poverty at the bottom, with all wealth increasingly going to the top. The UK, under Tory leadership, has been a prime example of that. Ever since the Global Financial crisis catapulted them into power, the Tories have been dismantling the welfare state piece by piece, justifying it with the catchphrase "austerity".

    If you wonder who the Tories are, they're basically like Republicans in the US, with posh accents and aristocratic-sounding names, except, on the evidence of what's going on with Brexit right now, much stupider. On the plus side, they have smashed the myth once and for all that upper-class gits with posh accents and private educations are in any way smarter than the general population. Clearly, all that in-breeding has made them much stupider. On the negative side, the UK, once a wealthy, respected and powerful country, is collapsing before our eyes. Political and Social collapse seems to be leading the way, but I'm sure that financial, commercial and eventually cultural collapse aren't far behind.

    I won't bore you with the details of the Brexit clusterfuck, all the papers and news outlets are plastered full with the sorry show anyways, but the below article provides a cautionary tale on how so-called conservatives can dismantle an entire welfare state and social safety net in just a few short years, blaming it on austerity, whilst their pals spirit away their earnings to the Cayman Islands, not paying a penny of tax in the process.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/u...-a8636901.html

    UN condemns UK government's 'mean-spirited and callous approach' to poorest, in damning report

    'I have spoken with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future,' says UN special rapporteur

    The United Nations has condemned the British government's "punitive, mean-spirited and often callous" treatment of the country's poorest and most vulnerable, in a damning report.

    The UN's special rapporteur said policies and drastic cuts to social support were entrenching high levels of poverty and inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world, adding that Brexit was exacerbating the problem.

    “The United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union poses particular risks for people in poverty, but the government appears to be treating this as an afterthought,” said the UN's expert on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, at the end of a 12-day visit to the country.

    The report goes on to document a series of findings which combine to present a withering assessment of Britain's approach to its poorest citizens, detailing a predicted 7 per cent rise in child poverty, a 60 per cent increase in homelessness since 2010 and exponential growth in the number of food banks.

    “During my visit I have spoken with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future,” Mr Alston said.

    “I’ve also met young people who feel gangs are the only way out of destitution, and people with disabilities who are being told they need to go back to work or lose benefits, against their doctor’s orders."

    He said successive governments had overseen a systematic dismantling of the social safety net, suggesting the introduction of universal credit and significant reductions to support had undermined the capacity of benefits to relieve poverty.

    “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach,” he said.

    “As a ‘digital by default’ benefit, universal credit has created an online barrier between people with poor digital literacy and their legal entitlements. And the ‘test and learn’ approach to the rollout treats claimants like guinea pigs and can wreak havoc in real peoples’ lives.”

    Delivering the report in London on Friday, Mr Alston said “not nearly enough” was being done to address the challenges and described a “state of denial by ministers” regarding the state of poverty in the UK.

    He added: “[Ministers] have an overriding set of objectives to cut the welfare system, cut what they see as dependences. I cannot believe that they are as happy with the system as they told me they were.”

    Referencing reforms to the benefit system, the UN rapporteur said universal credit was a "sudden tonne of bricks approach" that is "utterly inconsistent with the essential underpinnings of not just human rights, but the whole British sense of community and the values of justice and fairness".

    He added: "The system epitomised by universal credit, but not limited to that, is in fact driven by the desire to get across a simple set of messages: the state does not have your back any longer. You are on your own.

    “The government’s place is not to be assisting people who think they can’t make it on their own. The government’s place is an absolute last emergency order, and what goes along with that is a sense that we should make the system as unwelcoming as possible.

    “The command and control approach reflected in universal credit is that sanctions should be harsh, immediate and painful – and yet all of the evidence that I’ve seen indicate that sanctions are usually counter-productive, that they create fear and loathing among claimants and they impose immense hardship."

    When asked about the kind of future the UK faces, Mr Alston said: “Britain is heading towards an alienated society where you have pretty dramatic differences between the upper classes and the lower classes.

    “The era of connectivity, social media and so on make it much less sustainable to have these two dramatically different societies - of people living the high life but people on the other hand not able to afford a tin of banked beans.”

    Describing the state of affairs for poor groups on a local level, he said local authorities, which he said performed a "vital role" in providing a social safety net, had been "gutted" by a series of government policies.

    Mr Alston added: “The public land that is being sold off, the libraries that are being closed down, the youth services that are being sized down. Soon, there will be nowhere for them to go.

    “They will find themselves living in an increasingly hostile society because community roots are being broken. There is real reason for concern.”

    When asked by The Independent to what extent the government's immigration policies contributed to poverty, Mr Alston condemned the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK and urged ministers to consider giving people seeking asylum the right to work.

    “Expecting asylum seekers to survive without any access to government services on £37 a week is unrealistic and very punitive. Enabling those people to seek work is a minor concession that should be contemplated,” he said.

    Responding to the findings, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood urged the government to listen to the people being pushed into poverty by its policies.

    “Universal credit is failing miserably, leaving families in debt, rent arrears and at risk of becoming homeless. Three million children are growing up in poverty despite living in a working household," she added.

    “Labour will stop the roll out of universal credit, end the benefit freeze and transform the social security system so that it supports people instead of punishing them.”

    In a series of recommendations, Mr Alston said the government should ensure local governments have the funds needed to tackle poverty at the community level, conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of reforms to sanctions introduced since 2012, and immediately explore less punitive approaches to encouraging compliance.

    He said the five week delay in receiving benefits under universal credit should be eliminated, separate payments should be made to different household members, and weekly or fortnightly payments should be facilitated.

    His final recommendation states that, as the country moves toward Brexit, the government should adopt policies designed to ensure that the brunt of the resulting economic burden is "not borne by its most vulnerable citizens".

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  3. #107
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    ...how so-called conservatives can dismantle an entire welfare state and social safety net in just a few short years, blaming it on austerity, whilst their pals spirit away their earnings to the Cayman Islands, not paying a penny of tax in the process.

    Gee, that sounds familiar. 50% of our wealth is now in the hands of three people I believe. And our Prez got his money through tax evasion while he himself has been evading taxes for...ever?

    Right after the '07 collapse the remedy was austerity. We had to bail out the "too big to fail" banks with TARP and then suffer austerity on top of that.

    Because...

    Many people in America still extoll the trickle-down nonsense. In spite of a century's worth of evidence that it doesn't happen.

    We have buses that travel around giving people free health care. And it's not just the homeless.
    Last edited by Dreamtimer, 17th November 2018 at 13:15.

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  5. #108
    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    Hey Chris,

    What's up with this European political sh*t anyway...just kidding... I find it interesting to see the parallels that obviously exist. Traditionally, it was watch Europe (Britain) to see what would be happening in the U.S. a few years down the road...now, it almost seems reversed. Probably the damn internet's fault (it's a conspiracy to control the world).

    It might seem like the West has seen its day...let's hope not...Supremacy/Primacy is an outmoded concept in modern society. The stresses are very real...it's make or break time. It's time for social consciousness to start keeping pace with the other foundational legs of humanity...science and spirituality. Science it could be argued convincingly is the source of the dysfunctional money flow. Money sucks...Hubbert suggested that humanity be paid by its level of energy expenditure, not rank, not prestige, not inherited hierarchy. Those guys sitting in their boardrooms smoking cigars, drinking champagne, trading wives, cadillacs, and diamonds would not be worth much.
    "We are one thought away from changing the world!"

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  7. #109
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    Quote Originally posted by NotAPretender View Post
    Hey Chris,

    What's up with this European political sh*t anyway...just kidding... I find it interesting to see the parallels that obviously exist. Traditionally, it was watch Europe (Britain) to see what would be happening in the U.S. a few years down the road...now, it almost seems reversed. Probably the damn internet's fault (it's a conspiracy to control the world).

    It might seem like the West has seen its day...let's hope not...Supremacy/Primacy is an outmoded concept in modern society. The stresses are very real...it's make or break time. It's time for social consciousness to start keeping pace with the other foundational legs of humanity...science and spirituality. Science it could be argued convincingly is the source of the dysfunctional money flow. Money sucks...Hubbert suggested that humanity be paid by its level of energy expenditure, not rank, not prestige, not inherited hierarchy. Those guys sitting in their boardrooms smoking cigars, drinking champagne, trading wives, cadillacs, and diamonds would not be worth much.
    Hey NAP,

    Well, the sad truth is that signs of collapse are everywhere, it really isn't just the US. Some countries and regions are doing better than others obviously, but there is a general sign of decay and decline, at least in the West. I still maintain that this is largely due to our energy predicament and financial and political shenanigans are just a symptom of our inability to grow the economy with cheap energy. Since conventional oil production peaked globally in 2005, it probably wasn't a coincidence that the whole financial system, or house of cards as our leaders at the time so memorably put it, almost went belly up just a couple of years later. There is still plenty of oil to be found in the ground, but what remains is the difficult to extract and thus expensive stuff. Shale oil in particular looks like a ponzi scheme.

    Asia seems to be growing still, but much of that growth is predicated on Chinese and Indian coal, supplemented with Middle Eastern and Russian oil. Australian coal is also significant. They have built thousands of coal-fired power plants since the 1980s and this has kept their economies growing at the expense of the environment of course, which has become unliveable, much like England's was in Victorian times. They are paying a very high price for all that "development" and it makes me wonder whether civilisation can actually survive in large parts of Asia.

    As for money, I'm sort of neutral towards it, I'm not aware of any workable alternative to a monetary system, though it should be controlled by elected representatives, rather than private banks, there is an obvious conflict of interest going on there. I also wonder whether there is something to Tracy Twyman's Babylonian Money Magic theory, maybe that's what's the root of our problems.

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  9. #110
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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    Gee, that sounds familiar. 50% of our wealth is now in the hands of three people I believe. And our Prez got his money through tax evasion while he himself has been evading taxes for...ever?

    Right after the '07 collapse the remedy was austerity. We had to bail out the "too big to fail" banks with TARP and then suffer austerity on top of that.

    Because...

    Many people in America still extoll the trickle-down nonsense. In spite of a century's worth of evidence that it doesn't happen.

    We have buses that travel around giving people free health care. And it's not just the homeless.
    The interesting thing is, that there is no evidence whatsoever that trickle down works. My own country is sometimes brought up as an example of a place where slashing taxes has actually increased tax revenues and grown the economy, but Hungary is a special case. We had the second highest tax rates in the world, where the average person payed more than half his (official) income in taxes, which was clearly choking the economy. Slashing tax rates and instituting a flat tax did actually help grow the economy and increase tax revenues, however this was because people and businesses alike where avoiding paying taxes altogether and with a lower-tax simplified regime, the incentive to do so was considerably lessened. The situation in the US is different, overall tax rates are already at historic lows, they were much-much higher during the fifties for instance. I really don't know what would work for the US, but it is worth studying other examples from around the world. The fact Remains though, that the super-rich and the biggest global corporations in the world pay little or no tax at all and that is probably a primary reason for austerity all over the world.

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  11. #111
    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    My take on taxes.

    The big money has the wherewithal to move the economy. If they are taxed at a sufficient rate and subsequently feel that their 2nd yacht is jeopardized by a lack of funds...they will move the economy. This is really what I think. Need is a perception and their perceived needs are astronomical. Without that characteristic considered the fiscal calculations don't seem to add up. That alone is one of the BIG ways that we are having the wool pulled over our heads.
    "We are one thought away from changing the world!"

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  13. #112
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    Interview with Dmitry Orlov on the five stages of collapse.


    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oHtd7An4MI


    The original essay is worth reading, I have found this concept to be groundbreaking and extremely useful when studying various ongoing collapses:

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2008/0...-collapse.html

    Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the five stages of coming to terms with grief and tragedy as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and applied it quite successfully to various forms of catastrophic personal loss, such as death of a loved one, sudden end to one's career, and so forth. Several thinkers, notably James Howard Kunstler and, more recently John Michael Greer, have pointed out that the Kübler-Ross model is also quite terrifyingly accurate in reflecting the process by which society as a whole (or at least the informed and thinking parts of it) is reconciling itself to the inevitability of a discontinuous future, with our institutions and life support systems undermined by a combination of resource depletion, catastrophic climate change, and political impotence. But so far, little has been said specifically about the finer structure of these discontinuities. Instead, there is to be found a continuum of subjective judgments, ranging from "a severe and prolonged recession" (the prediction we most often read in the financial press), to Kunstler's "Long Emergency," to the ever-popular "Collapse of Western Civilization," painted with an ever-wider brush-stroke.

    For those of us who have already gone through all of the emotional stages of reconciling ourselves to the prospect of social and economic upheaval, it might be helpful to have a more precise terminology that goes beyond such emotionally charged phrases. Defining a taxonomy of collapses might prove to be more than just an intellectual exercise: based on our abilities and circumstances, some of us may be able to specifically plan for a certain stage of collapse as a temporary, or even permanent, stopping point. Even if society at the current stage of socioeconomic complexity will no longer be possible, and even if, as Tainter points in his "Collapse of Complex Societies," there are circumstances in which collapse happens to be the correct adaptive response, it need not automatically cause a population crash, with the survivors disbanding into solitary, feral humans dispersed in the wilderness and subsisting miserably. Collapse can be conceived of as an orderly, organized retreat rather than a rout.

    For instance, the collapse of the Soviet Union - our most recent and my personal favorite example of an imperial collapse - did not reach the point of political disintegration of the republics that made it up, although some of them (Georgia, Moldova) did lose some territory to separatist movements. And although most of the economy shut down for a time, many institutions, including the military, public utilities, and public transportation, continued to function throughout. And although there was much social dislocation and suffering, society as a whole did not collapse, because most of the population did not lose access to food, housing, medicine, or any of the other survival necessities. The command-and-control structure of the Soviet economy largely decoupled the necessities of daily life from any element of market psychology, associating them instead with physical flows of energy and physical access to resources. This situation, as I argue in my forthcoming book, Reinventing Collapse, allowed the Soviet population to inadvertently achieve a greater level of collapse-preparedness than is currently possible in the United States.

    Having given a lot of thought to both the differences and the similarities between the two superpowers - the one that has collapsed already, and the one that is collapsing as I write this - I feel ready to attempt a bold conjecture, and define five stages of collapse, to serve as mental milestones as we gauge our own collapse-preparedness and see what can be done to improve it. Rather than tying each phase to a particular emotion, as in the Kübler-Ross model, the proposed taxonomy ties each of the five collapse stages to the breaching of a specific level of trust, or faith, in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift. It is something of a cultural universal that nobody (but a real fool) wants to be the last fool to believe in a lie.

    Stages of Collapse

    Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in "business as usual" is lost. The future is no longer assumed resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.

    Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that "the market shall provide" is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

    Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that "the government will take care of you" is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

    Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that "your people will take care of you" is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

    Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for "kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity" (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes "May you die today so that I die tomorrow" (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.

    Although many people imagine collapse to be a sort of elevator that goes to the sub-basement (our Stage 5) no matter which button you push, no such automatic mechanism can be discerned. Rather, driving us all to Stage 5 will require that a concerted effort be made at each of the intervening stages. That all the players seem poised to make just such an effort may give this collapse the form a classical tragedy - a conscious but inexorable march to perdition - rather than a farce ("Oops! Ah, here we are, Stage 5." - "So, whom do we eat first?" - "Me! I am delicious!") Let us sketch out this process.

    Financial collapse, as we are are currently observing it, consists of two parts. One is that a part of the general population is forced to move, no longer able to afford the house they bought based on inflated assessments, forged income numbers, and foolish expectations of endless asset inflation. Since, technically, they should never have been allowed to buy these houses, and were only able to do so because of financial and political malfeasance, this is actually a healthy development. The second part consists of men in expensive suits tossing bundles of suddenly worthless paper up in the air, ripping out their remaining hair, and (some of us might uncharitably hope) setting themselves on fire on the steps of the Federal Reserve. They, to express it in their own vernacular, "fucked up," and so this is also just as it should be.

    The government response to this could be to offer some helpful homilies about "the wages of sin" and to open a few soup kitchens and flop houses in a variety of locations including Wall Street. The message would be: "You former debt addicts and gamblers, as you say, 'fucked up,' and so this will really hurt for a long time. We will never let you anywhere near big money again. Get yourselves over to the soup kitchen, and bring your own bowl, because we don't do dishes." This would result in a stable Stage 1 collapse - the Second Great Depression.

    However, this is unlikely, because in the US the government happens to be debt addict and gambler number one. As individuals, we may have been as virtuous as we wished, but the government will have still run up exorbitant debts on our behalf. Every level of government, from local municipalities and authorities, which need the financial markets to finance their public works and public services, to the federal government, which relies on foreign investment to finance its endless wars, is addicted to public debt. They know they cannot stop borrowing, and so they will do anything they can to keep the game going for as long as possible.

    About the only thing the government currently seems it fit to do is extend further credit to those in trouble, by setting interest rates at far below inflation, by accepting worthless bits of paper as collateral and by pumping money into insolvent financial institutions. This has the effect of diluting the dollar, further undermining its value, and will, in due course, lead to hyperinflation, which is bad enough in any economy, but is especially serious for one dominated by imports. As imports dry up and the associated parts of the economy shut down, we pass Stage 2: Commercial Collapse.

    As businesses shut down, storefronts are boarded up and the population is left largely penniless and dependent on FEMA and charity for survival, the government may consider what to do next. It could, for example, repatriate all foreign troops and set them to work on public works projects designed to directly help the population. It could promote local economic self-sufficiency, by establishing community-supported agriculture programs, erecting renewable energy systems, and organizing and training local self-defence forces to maintain law and order. The Army Corps of Engineers could be ordered to bulldoze buildings erected on former farmland around city centers, return the land to cultivation, and to construct high-density solar-heated housing in urban centers to resettle those who are displaced. In the interim, it could reduce homelessness by imposing a steep tax on vacant residential properties and funneling the proceeds into rent subsidies for the indigent. With plenty of luck, such measures may be able to reverse the trend, eventually providing for a restoration of pre-Stage 2 conditions.

    This may or may not be a good plan, but in any case it is rather unrealistic, because the United States, being so deeply in debt, will be forced to accede to the wishes of its foreign creditors, who own a lot of national assets (land, buildings, and businesses) and who would rather see a dependent American population slaving away working off their debt than a self-sufficient one, conveniently forgetting that they have mortgaged their children's futures to pay for military fiascos, big houses, big cars, and flat-screen television sets. Thus, a much more likely scenario is that the federal government (knowing who butters their bread) will remain subservient to foreign financial interests. It will impose austerity conditions, maintain law and order through draconian means, and aide in the construction of foreign-owned factory towns and plantations. As people start to think that having a government may not be such a good idea, conditions become ripe for Stage 3.

    If Stage 1 collapse can be observed by watching television, observing Stage 2 might require a hike or a bicycle ride to the nearest population center, while Stage 3 collapse is more than likely to be visible directly through one's own living-room window, which may or may not still have glass in it. After a significant amount of bloodletting, much of the country becomes a no-go zone for the remaining authorities. Foreign creditors decide that their debts might not be repaid after all, cut their losses and depart in haste. The rest of the world decides to act as if there is no such place as The United States - because "nobody goes there any more." So as not to lose out on the entertainment value, the foreign press still prints sporadic fables about Americans who eat their young, much as they did about Russia following the Soviet collapse. A few brave American expatriates who still come back to visit bring back amazing stories of a different kind, but everyone considers them eccentric and perhaps a little bit crazy.

    Stage 3 collapse can sometimes be avoided by the timely introduction of international peacekeepers and through the efforts of international humanitarian NGOs. In the aftermath of a Stage 2 collapse, domestic authorities are highly unlikely to have either the resources or the legitimacy, or even the will, to arrest the collapse dynamic and reconstitute themselves in a way that the population would accept.

    As stage 3 collapse runs its course, the power vacuum left by the now defunct federal, state and local government is filled by a variety of new power structures. Remnants of former law enforcement and military, urban gangs, ethnic mafias, religious cults and wealthy property owners all attempt to build their little empires on the ruins of the big one, fighting each other over territory and access to resources. This is the age of Big Men: charismatic leaders, rabble-rousers, ruthless Macchiavelian princes and war lords. In the luckier places, they find it to their common advantage to pool their resources and amalgamate into some sort of legitimate local government, while in the rest their jostling for power leads to a spiral of conflict and open war.

    Stage 4 collapse occurs when society becomes so disordered and impoverished that it can no longer support the Big Men, who become smaller and smaller, and eventually fade from view. Society fragments into extended families and small tribes of a dozen or so families, who find it advantageous to band together for mutual support and defense. This is the form of society that has existed over some 98.5% of humanity's existence as a biological species, and can be said to be the bedrock of human existence. Humans can exist at this level of organization for thousands, perhaps millions of years. Most mammalian species go extinct after just a few million years, but, for all we know, Homo Sapiens still have a million or two left.

    If pre-collapse society is too atomized, alienated and individualistic to form cohesive extended families and tribes, or if its physical environment becomes so disordered and impoverished that hunger and starvation become widespread, then Stage 5 collapse becomes likely. At this stage, a simpler biological imperative takes over, to preserve the life of the breeding couples. Families disband, the old are abandoned to their own devices, and children are only cared for up to age 3. All social unity is destroyed, and even the couples may disband for a time, preferring to forage on their own and refusing to share food. This is the state of society described by the anthropologist Colin Turnbull in his book The Mountain People. If society prior to Stage 5 collapse can be said to be the historical norm for humans, Stage 5 collapse brings humanity to the verge of physical extinction.

    As we can easily imagine, the default is cascaded failure: each stage of collapse can easily lead to the next, perhaps even overlapping it. In Russia, the process was arrested just past Stage 3: there was considerable trouble with ethnic mafias and even some warlordism, but government authority won out in the end. In my other writings, I go into a lot of detail in describing the exact conditions that inadvertently made Russian society relatively collapse-proof. Here, I will simply say that these ingredients are not currently present in the United States.

    While attempting to arrest collapse at Stage 1 and Stage 2 would probably be a dangerous waste of energy, it is probably worth everyone's while to dig in their heels at Stage 3, definitely at Stage 4, and it is quite simply a matter of physical survival to avoid Stage 5. In certain localities - those with high population densities, as well as those that contain dangerous nuclear and industrial installations - avoiding Stage 3 collapse is rather important, to the point of inviting foreign troops and governments in to maintain order and avoid disasters. Other localities may be able to prosper indefinitely at Stage 3, and even the most impoverished environments may be able to support a sparse population subsisting indefinitely at Stage 4.

    Although it is possible to prepare directly for surviving Stage 5, this seems like an altogether demoralizing thing to attempt. Preparing to survive Stages 3 and 4 may seem somewhat more reasonable, while explicitly aiming for Stage 3 may be reasonable if you plan to become one of the Big Men. Be that as it may, I must leave such preparations as an exercise for the reader. My hope is that these definitions of specific stages of collapse will enable a more specific and fruitful discussion than the one currently dominated by such vague and ultimately nonsensical terms as "the collapse of Western civilization."

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    From the Guardian:

    Steve Bannon’s political operation to help rightwing populists triumph in next year’s European parliamentary elections is in disarray after he conceded that his campaign efforts could be illegal in most of the countries in which he planned to intervene.

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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    From the Guardian:
    Yes, I read that article. He actually plans to help my PM, Orban win more seats in the EP elections. Trouble is, that would very clearly be foreign interference, which is supposedly illegal. Apparently when the other side does it, it's ok.

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  19. #115
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    actually Chris, it's not the other side...it's the same side...
    "We are one thought away from changing the world!"

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  21. #116
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    Quote Originally posted by NotAPretender View Post
    actually Chris, it's not the other side...it's the same side...
    What I meant to say is that Soros gets lambasted for supporting the Left in Hungary (despite the fact that he is in fact Hungarian and has never rescinded his citizenship, so he would be within his rights to participate in Hungarian politics), but when Bannon announces that he will do the same with Orbán in Hungary (which is clearly illegal, since he is a foreigner with no ties whatsoever to Hungary), he gets a free pass. I have not seen a single article here in the MM in Hungary that criticises Steve Bannon for his open support of Orban and pledging to help him win an election. I think that points to double standards.

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  23. #117
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    James Howard Kunstler's latest take on current events. As always, another small piece in the overall collapse puzzle. Once you put the pieces together, it will add up to one almighty tumble.

    http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nati...to-the-rescue/

    Murphy’s Law to the Rescue!

    What can go wrong will go wrong. It’s so fundamental to the operation of the universe that Sir Isaac Newton should have installed it between his 2nd and 3rd Laws of Motion — but he had his hands full losing a fortune in Britain’s South Sea Bubble circa 1721, after muttering to a colleague that he “could calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of the people.” Note to all you hedge fund cowboys out there: Old Isaac was probably smarter than you (and all the algos you rode in on.)

    Was it a fretful Thanksgiving this year, a family feud of political recrimination with a lot teeth gnashing through mouthfuls of candied sweets? Well, yes, coming after the extraordinary fiasco of the Kavanaugh hearings and the disputed midterm elections, but the glide path to Yuletide looks kind of bumpy, too, so here’s a short bill or particulars of things tending to go wrong:

    Ukraine verges on martial law after a naval incident with Russian ships in the waters off Crimea. Say what? Martial Law? They might as well declare a Chinese Fire Drill. Details of the actual incident in the Straits of Kerch between the Black Sea and the lesser Sea of Azof remain murky besides the fact that two Ukrainian gunships and a tug disobeyed orders from Russian ships to stand down in Russian maritime waters and shots were fired. Who knew that Ukraine even had a navy, and how can they possibly pay for it? But now NATO is trying to get into the act, meaning the USA will get dragged into just the sort unnecessary and idiotic dispute that kicks off world wars. Note to the Golden Golem of Greatness (aka Mr. Trump): this dog-fight is none of our goddam business. Russia, meanwhile, asked the UN Security Council to convene over this, which is the correct response. What could go wrong?

    Yesterday, about five hundred Central American migrants rushed the border at Tijuana. The US Border Patrol tear-gassed them and they backed off. Bad optics for those trying to make the case for open borders. Naturally, The New York Times portrayed this as an assault on families, defaulting to their stock sob story, though the mob assembling down there is overwhelmingly composed of young men. Complicating matters, a new Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, takes over next Saturday, a Left-wing populist and enemy of Trumpismo. Tijuana is now choking on the thousands of wanderers who were induced to march north to test America’s broken immigration policies. What could go wrong?

    Congressional Democrats are said to be “loading the cannons” with subpoenas for Trumpsters to get raked over-the-coals in a circus of committee hearings when they take over the majority in January. They’ll be matched by Senators firing back in hearings controlled by Republicans, setting up the worst political pissing match since the Civil War. In a fair universe, enough dirt would come out on either side to disable the most sinister forces of the Deep State — especially the seditious “intelligence community.” But life is unfair, as Jimmy Carter once observed and the exercise will only fan the flames of already-extreme antipathy. What could go wrong?

    The engine pulling that choo-choo train of grievance is Robert Mueller’s Russian Collusion investigation. I expect him to produce mighty rafts of charges against Mr. Trump, his family and associates, and anyone who ever received so much as a souvenir mug from his 2016 campaign. But I doubt that any of it will have a bearing on Russian election “meddling.” And in that case, the charges will be met by counter-charges of an illegitimate investigation, meaning welcome to that constitutional crisis we’ve been hearing about for two years. That’s a mild way of describing anything from a disorderly impeachment to troops in the American streets. What could go wrong there?

    Finally, there’s the elephant in the room with the 800-pound-gorilla riding on its back: the economy and its diabolical engine the financial markets. Anyone notice on the lead-up to Thanksgiving and Black Friday that the markets have been going south (and not on holiday to Cozumel)? Stocks are roaring back up again as I write. The TBTF banks and their ringleader, the Federal Reserve, have had a few days to engineer a rally, and the sharper it goes up, the more remaining “greater fools” will get roped in for eventual slaughter. Bond rates are charging back up too, meaning the price is skidding down. Bad combo. The poison cherry-on-top is Bitcoin, which has plunged about 40 percent in ten measly days to a 3000-handle and is headed to zero. So sad, as The Golden Golem might put it. It seemed like such a sure thing less than a year ago. What could have gone wrong?

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  25. #118
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    Dmitry Orlov's latest take on political collapse and Headless Chickens. Fair warning regarding the usual pro-Russia bias, but it is rather mild in this particular article and I appreciate his take on the Ukraine Martial Law situation, I have not read this from anyone else so far and it seems genuine.

    read:http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2...s-chicken.html

    The Flight of the Headless Chicken

    When I was five and spending the summer in a small village a couple of time zones east of Moscow I witnessed the execution of a rooster. My brother and I walked over to a neighbor’s house to pick up some eggs. Just as we arrived the neighbor finally caught the rooster and chopped his head of. The now headless rooster then put on quite an aerobatic performance that was quite amazing. After doing an unlimited takeoff he repeatedly soared and plummeted, executed several touch-and-gos (more like crash-and-goes, actually) and was undeterred by what previously would have been head-on collisions. I was by then quite familiar with the poor aerodynamic qualities of barnyard fowl and was duly impressed with the energetic and breathtakingly erratic behavior of a bird liberated from the mental straitjacket of its brain. Unfortunately, the performance only lasted for a minute or so. A word to the wise: I later learned that it is possible to prolong the show, should the need ever arise, by heating up the hatchet so as to cauterize the severed neck. More recently, I have learned that such sans-tête aerobatics are not restricted to chickens.

    Figurative birds, of the mechanical variety, can exhibit something similar. A prime example is the greatest boondoggle in the history of military aviation, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It too is liable to losing its head, in the sense of the pilot blacking out. In addition to being ridiculously expensive (over $1.5 trillion in projected project costs) and plagued with problems (only half of the built planes are considered ready for any sort of mission and there are over a thousand known defects that haven’t been fixed, including ones that make it useless for air-to-air combat or ground support) F-35 pilots often report feeling sick and there have been many incidents where they lost consciousness, probably due to oxygen starvation and circulation problems.

    In response, the fatally flawed jet’s maker Lockheed Martin, whose motto seems to be “One boondoggle deserves another,” has decided to add a subsystem. Called Auto-GCAS (for Ground Collision Avoidance System), it takes over automatically if it detects the danger of ground collision and the pilot fails to respond to the alarm and take corrective action. Auto-GCAS then throttles up and directs the plane upward, pulling a maximum of five g’s. What does that do to a pilot who is already feeling sick or is unconscious? Once a safe altitude is reached, the plane levels out and Auto-GCAS shuts off. If the pilot happens to be offline for good, the process repeats until the plane runs out of fuel and crashes. I hope that you are impressed with the sheer brilliance of the plan. A show designed to impress was recently staged at an airfield in Utah, where 35 F-35s took off, one right after the other. It has not been independently verified how many of them landed. Auto-GCAS is slated to be ready for use by 2024, but Pentagon’s planners are hoping to accelerate the process.

    All of this made me wonder about the general behavior to be expected of hierarchically organized, centrally controlled systems once they are deprived of their control module. Auto-GCAS is by no means the worst case. For instance, there is the Russian Perimetr system, a.k.a. Dead Hand. If it detects that the Russian military leadership has been incapacitated by a nuclear strike, it will launch an all-out nuclear attack, obliterating the aggressor. This may seem like a really bad plan, but then attacking Russia is a really bad plan too, and one bad plan deserves another. What makes this plan bad is that it doesn’t elicit the right response. The right response is: “Oh, we see, attacking Russia is sheer suicide, so let’s not do that.” But where’s the money in not planning to attack Russia? And so instead the “One boondoggle deserves another” crew sets forth to build anti-ballistic missile systems (which don’t work) and deep underground bomb shelters stocked with years’ worth of supplies (which is gold-plating; a large shallow grave to jump into when the time comes would work just as well).

    And yet as far as planning for decapitation goes, Dead Hand is state of the art. Most other large-scale centrally controlled systems are woefully unprepared for the loss of their command modules. For instance, look at finance. After the financial collapse of 2008 it quickly became obvious that nobody competent or responsible was in charge. The “solution” was for central banks to start blowing financial bubbles by zeroing out interest rates and flooding the world with new debt. Debt that expands much faster than the economy is garbage debt, and it gave rise to various other kinds of garbage: garbage energy from shale and tar sands, garbage money in the form of cryptocurrencies, garbage real estate investment schemes, garbage corporate balance sheets bloated with debt used up in stock buybacks, a large crop of garbage oligarchs gorging themselves on all of this garbage “wealth” and much else. Things look good while all this garbage is packaged up in financial bubbles, but once they pop (and as all children know all bubbles pop eventually) everyone will end up wearing the garbage.

    There are plenty of examples of political auto-decapitation as well. In the US, Trump realized that he can become president simply by insulting all of his competitors (who richly deserved such treatment) and so he did. But now the hive mind of Washington is deeply at odds with the bumblebee-mind of Trump, and neither qualifies as any sort of a head, except perhaps in a strictly symbolic sense. Things are no better in Europe. In the UK, an anti-Brexit team is in charge of negotiating Brexit, struggling to make it as anti-Brexit a Brexit as possible. That doesn’t seem like any sort of “headedness.” In Germany, Merkel is on her way out, and her replacement has the unenviable task of hammering together a governing coalition out of parties that are too busy knocking heads with each other. The multi-headed bureaucratic hydra in Brussels is not exactly popular with anyone. What is the recourse? Emperor Macron of France, perhaps? Is Europe ready to be headed by a diacritical character? (A macron is a horizontal line you place over vowel letters to represent a long vowel: Mācron.)

    There are systems that are properly headless: flocks of birds, schools of fish, communes of anarchists, etc. They are anarchically structured and individuals within them take on temporary, task-based leadership roles as the situation demands and can only expect to be obeyed in accordance with their competence in executing the tasks. But most of the human systems we have are hierarchically structured and require to be headed by someone. Democratic elections are but a recent innovation, and a most uncertain one. For instance, during the 2016 election in the US, the establishment trotted out an entire array of craven, feckless, corrupt opportunists, and Trump knocked them all out with a feather, not because he is any sort of proper leader, but because it was so easy.

    For an even more amazing example of democratic failure, look at today’s Ukraine—the most recent experiment in Western democracy. There, a constitutionally elected, though remarkably corrupt and indecisive president was violently overthrown in 2014 in a US-managed coup and replaced with an American puppet so unpopular that yesterday he was forced to introduce martial law—just in order to be able to cancel the elections scheduled in three months and to remain in office de facto. To produce a rationale for declaring martial law he sent some small boats on a truly idiotic mission. The boats sailed into a Russian-controlled high traffic zone in the Black Sea, refused to respond when hailed and then pointed weapons at Russian border patrol. For this they were duly arrested and hauled off to jail, and their boats confiscated. Previously, an ongoing civil war instigated by this same president resulted in some fifty thousand casualties, but no martial law was ever deemed necessary. What’s different now? Oh, the elections, of course!

    If these are the fruits of democracy, perhaps the Ukrainians should consider going back to a monarchy. Dynastic succession has worked much better and for much longer periods of time. For instance, at the time of its annexation by Russia in 1783, Crimea was ruled by Shahin Girei, a descendant of Genghis Khan who was born around 1155. That one dynasty, spanning 628 years, ruled the largest empire that ever was. At one point it included all of China, most of Russia, Korea, Persia and India, plus many lands in between. Genghis had decreed that no part of the Mongol Empire could be ruled by anyone who wasn’t a direct descendant of his, and so it was. The Mongol Empire ended peacefully, with Shahin Girei abdicating his throne and accepting protection from Catherine the Great. Maybe that’s the plan, then: install a Ukrainian Emperor and immediately have him abdicate his throne and accept protection from Putin the Great. Then Putin will turn the heat and the hot water back on, the armed thugs will be marched off to someplace safe for disarming and de-thugging, and the nuke plants will stop breaking down.

    Since we seem to be headed (no pun intended) for unstable and disrupted times, it bears pointing out that while democracy may be very nice when everything is going along according to plan, it is not particularly resilient in the face of severe disruption. And what is the plan now—in the US, or in the EU (or what will be left of it)? We have some truly ghastly examples of the fruits of democracy in the form of the Weimar Republic in Germany or the Interim Government between February and October of 2017 in Russia. If you don’t fancy being ruled by headless chickens, consider picking a leader using whatever ad hoc procedure that works. The idea is to avoid any more Robespierrian Reigns of Terror, Reichstag fires or October Revolutions—because we already know what those are like.

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  27. #119
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    A sobering assessment of the complacency entrenched in the people of Britain by seven decades of prosperity. Few people are as Ill-prepared for the collapse of their current political, commercial and financial arrangements as the British. I think this will come as a huge shock to them come next March and if you live in the UK, I would urge you to start preparations now, as no-deal Brexit is currently looking like the most likely outcome.

    Using Dmitry Orlov's Five stages of Collapse as a template, I expect the Brexit crisis will start with a commercial collapse as trade between the UK and the EU
    come to an almost complete halt. This will result in a financial collapse down the road, which in turn will collapse the political system of the entire UK. As a political entity, I don't expect the UK to survive very long, it is already bursting apart at the seams and in danger of splintering, even before the Brexit crisis has happened.

    This is just a likely outcome, not a certainty. Yet. But time is running out and the political will to solve this situation does not seem to be there.

    read:https://www.theguardian.com/com...tain-crisis-uk

    Brace yourself, Britain. Brexit is about to teach you what a crisis actually is

    Seven decades of prosperity have lulled the UK into thinking we’re special – that disasters only happen to other people

    Keeping calm in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire: ‘The idea that we’re protected, we’re exceptional, is not articulated … but it’s there.’

    Most British people don’t have the first inkling of what a crisis is. They think it’s a political thing. “Government in crisis”, and so on. Whatever happens at the top, life will go on as ever. There will be food in the shops, medical supplies in the hospitals, water in the taps and order on the streets (as much as there usually is). Anyone who warns you otherwise is a catastrophist, a drama queen, a scaremonger, a Cassandra.

    That’s what a seven-decade period of general peace and collective prosperity does for you. It makes you think it’s normal, rather than a hard-won, fragile rarity in history. It makes most people complacent, and turns a small but unfortunately influential number into the kind of adolescent romantics who think you can smash up everything in the house and stick two fingers up to Mummy and Daddy because, no matter what you do, they will always be there to make it right in the end. Mummy and Daddy won’t let anything too bad happen to us.

    The idea that we’re protected, we’re exceptional, is not articulated or usually even conscious. But it’s there. That this is who we are. Disaster – mass, national disaster – happens to other people, in other places.

    But there is no such rule. No such guarantee. Mummy and Daddy won’t always come to bail us out. And if you’ve ever lived in one of those other places, chances are you will have seen how quickly what you thought was an orderly society can disintegrate under pressure. If you’ve never known gunfire and mobs on the streets, or empty taps and empty shelves, or power that’s off more than it’s on, or morgues full of the victims of racial, political or tribal violence, you don’t have a clue how easily that can happen.

    I experienced all these things when I was growing up in Kenya. Some were routine; the more severe, mercifully less so. Branded on my memory from an attempted coup d’état in 1982 is the sound of automatic rifle fire along the road; the crowds surging like waves; confusion and misinformation crackling from the radio; most of all, hearing the account of my late father, a doctor, of the aftermath of what I can best describe as a pogrom, unleashed by the breakdown of order, against the Asian people of Nairobi, his hospital full of the dead and grievously wounded people, many of them children no older than I was.

    Britain is not Kenya. It is, in the ordinary run of things, much better protected against such convulsions than a country such as Kenya. But do away with the ordinary run of things, and any place in the world can suffer as Kenya did then. You don’t have to look too far back at European history to see it, nor do you have to look away from home. The British people I know who most swiftly grasped and vividly understood the implications of present events as they began to unfold are Northern Irish. There’s a reason for that.

    Democratic institutions, the rule of law, civic infrastructure, a culture of local and national governance in which corruption, while ever present, is exceptional rather than institutional: these things, flawed as they may be and ever improvable as they are, take generations, even centuries to build. But once they topple, they can topple at terrifying speed and with terrifying effect. Britain has forgotten what that’s like.

    All the talk about the “Blitz spirit” comes from people who have never known what it is to truly fear everything crashing down around you. In liberal democracies enthusiasm for a revolution usually comes from people who have known nothing but the safety and freedom of the “system” – which is to say the imperfect protective structure – that they abhor. Talk to anyone who has experienced the glories of such upheaval and they are generally not quite so keen on it.

    To be, politically speaking, a grownup is something to be sneered at these days. It means you’re lacking in imagination, in boldness of vision, in belief in a better country or a better world. That’s a view held invariably by people who would, without grownups running things, have been lucky to survive long enough to articulate it. Similarly, a contempt for expertise is inevitably expressed by those who, without experts contributing to society as they do, would be lucky to have a voice to speak with, let alone a platform on which to use it. Expertise, like democracy, is far from infallible; each, however, is always preferable to the alternative.

    When the grownups fail, as they periodically do, and badly, what you need is better grownups. Awful things have happened, and do happen, in this country, chiefly as a result of bad policy and worse enactment. We don’t need to have homelessness, dependency on food banks or deprived areas ruled by criminals and bullies. We can afford to act against these evils, but we let them happen all the same. That shames us. Hand the keys and the controls over to eternal teenagers – populists of either stripe – and what you’ll get is a situation where that choice is gone.

    We’re not special. If, in a deluded fit of national self-harm that ever more resembles the drift into war in 1914, we allow ourselves to wreck the complicated machinery that underpins our everyday lives without us ever having to think much about it, nobody will be coming to rescue us. Cassandra, as Cassandras are always ready to remind you, was right.

    • David Bennun is the author of Tick Bite Fever, and of British as a Second Language

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    The gap has been getting wider...


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