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The Trends to Watch For in 2014

Government overreach, economic stagnation & civil discontent
Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 2:11 AM

At the beginning of this year (2013), I identified eight key dynamics that will play out over the next two to three years (2013-2015): 

Trend #1:  Central Planning intervention in stock and bond markets will continue, despite diminishing returns on Central State/Bank intervention

Trend #2:  The omnipotence of the Federal Reserve will suffer a fatal erosion of confidence as recession voids Fed policy and pronouncements of “recovery"

Trend #3:  The Mainstream Media (MSM) will continue to lose credibility as it parrots Central Planners’ perception management

Trend #4:  The failure of what is effectively the “state religion,” Keynesianism, will leave policy makers in the Central State and Bank bereft of policy alternatives

Trend #5:  Economic Stagnation will fuel the rise of Permanent Adolescence

Trend #6:  Income, the foundation of real economic growth and wealth-distribution stability, will continue to stagnate

Trend #7:  Small business—the engine of growth—will continue to decline for structural reasons

Trend #8:  Territorial disputes will continue to be invoked to distract domestic audiences from domestic instability and inequality

I know it may strike some as “cheating” that my forecast is for these trends to be consequential within a three-year window rather than by a specific date, but note these are trends, not events, and trends tend not to matter until suddenly they do. This is the nature of Pareto Distributions, in which trends are inconsequential until they reach a critical mass of 4% of the populace, at which point the “vital few” exert outsized influence on 64% of the populace.

Let’s see how the trends developed in 2013:

Trend #1:  Intervention yielded outstanding returns on corporate profits and stocks, but diminishing returns on employment, household incomes for the bottom 80%, and growth, all of which are historically subpar:

Trend #2:  The Fed’s members are still regarded as heroic demigods who benignly manage the Earth’s economy. When (not if) the stock market rolls over in 2014-15, Fed omnipotence will suffer.

Trend #3:  This one is difficult to track, but anecdotal evidence (declining circulation of many mainstream print media, declining viewership in some cable news channels, etc.) may reflect rising disenchantment with the media’s coverage of key issues.

Trend #4:  I think it is quite clear that the Fed and its posse of experts have no alternatives to ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) and QE (quantitative easing).

Trend #5:  This one is difficult to monitor. If we use the percentage of young people still living at home and the rise of “selfies” (photos taken of oneself), then perhaps a case can be made that this trend is already visible.

Trend #6:  Median household income has edged up, but I suspect this is the result of higher incomes for the top 10% rather than widely distributed gains. Since the top 10% collect 51% of all income, it stands to reason that increases flowing to the top will boost median income even if the bottom 90% sees declines in income:

Trend #7:  The unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act have yet to fully play out.

Trend #8:  China’s recent invocation of a “defense zone” that includes the Senkaku Islands suggests this trend is definitely in play.

I also listed eight outcomes:

Outcome #1:  The counterfeiting of risk-free assets will continue to be a primary policy of the Status Quo.

Outcome #2:  Risk will continue to be transferred en masse to the public.

Outcome #3:  Democracy in America is officially dysfunctional.

Outcome #4:  Incentives will continue to be structurally perverse, and the rule of law will continue to be bent by individuals, enterprises, and the government.

Outcome #5:  Health care (a.k.a. sick care) will continue to be an enormous drag on the economy as diminishing returns, fraud, complexity, and defensive medicine add costs without equivalent improvements in health.

Outcome #6:  The costs of complying with Obamacare will act as an inflection point in the decline of small business

Outcome #7:  The trend of the Status Quo “solving” perceived problems by adding layers of immense complexity to systems already suffering from marginal returns will continue.

Outcome #8:  The informal cash economy will continue expanding, as those who choose to opt out of the Status Quo and those who must opt out as a survival mechanism do so.

Without going into detail, I think a self-evident case can be made that each of these outcomes is already visible at the end of 2013.

Additional Trends to Watch in 2014

Since the trends listed above are still operant, these eight are additional rather than replacement trends:

Trend #1:  The Number One growth industry in the private sector will increasingly be lobbying the government for favors.  When the State selects the winners and losers throughout the economy, then companies are essentially forced to make their case for special dispensations via campaign contributions and unrelenting lobbying. Elected officials benefit from their centralized powers as the line of corporations anxiously pressing campaign cash on them lengthens in direct proportion to the expansion of State power.

This is the essence of what some call the Corporatocracy that effectively governs the U.S.A. and what I call the Neofeudal Cartel/State system, as the State and its chosen cartels dominate the economy and society in a fashion that can only be described as neofeudal.

Since organic growth from increases in wages and purchasing power are limited to the top 10%, the only sectors that can possibly gain growth from rising sales are Porsche dealerships and other luxury outlets that cater to the top 10%.  But since the number of households adding income is a thin 10 million out of 121 million households, moving more luxury goods offers little growth opportunities for the rest of the economy, which is stagnant at best.

As a result, lobbying the central State for favors is the default “growth industry.”

Trend #2:  The difference between anemic growth and recession will increasingly be semantic. This is another “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” debate in which Ivory Tower/State economists parse juiced or manipulated data to conclude the economy is “growing slowly” or slipping into negative growth; i.e., recession.

Experientially, if purchasing power and discretionary income (what’s left after paying taxes, rent, mortgages, food, utilities, etc.) are both declining for 90% of households, the “growth” in inventories, exports, and other factors that feed into gross domestic product (GDP) are not reflecting the economy we actually inhabit.

Trumpeting what amounts to signal noise as “steady growth” is adept perception management (i.e., propaganda), but if it doesn’t include increases in purchasing power and discretionary income for the bottom 90%, it’s a propaganda embarrassment, like the Fed official hyping the declining cost of tablet computers while someone in the audience shouts, I can’t eat an iPad!

Trend #3:  The decline in local government services will accelerate as rising pension/healthcare costs squeeze budgets.  Local governments (city, county, state) have avoided the politically combustible collision of rising pension/healthcare costs and angry taxpayers tired of service cuts by accounting trickery and jacking up fees and taxes. Crunch-time has also been put off by rising home values that pushed property tax revenues higher.

These solutions are running out of rope: Property values have topped out, and accounting trickery hasn’t solved the fiscal impossibility of maintaining services and meeting pension obligations in a stagnant economy. When push comes to shove, services must be cut, either by bankruptcy or by negotiation. Since the likelihood that taxes will drop is zero, taxpayers will get fewer services for their taxes.

Trend #4:  Middle-class income, purchasing power, and discretionary income will all continue to stagnate.  Unless you define “middle class” as those households earning $150,000 and up (9.1% of households)—and if you define the top 9% as “middle” class, your definition has lost all meaning—what’s left of the middle class will see real and discretionary income continue to stagnate. The causes of this decline in labor’s share of the economy are structural and cannot be remedied by lowering interest rates to zero or jacking up the stock market: Zero-interest rates have deprived households of income, and few in the bottom 90% own enough stock to affect their wealth. (Source: The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class)

Trend #5:  Junk fees will continue to replace legitimate taxes.  Fearful of blowback from ever-rising taxes, local governments have turned to junk fees as the preferred method of “revenue enhancement.”  These include sharply higher fees for recreation, parking tickets, permits, etc., and a multitude of add-ons to property taxes and other existing tax structures. Local authorities are counting on the taxpayers to sigh but do nothing as long as the fee increases are small enough to avoid triggering political resistance.

In our small California town, the city has raised the fees for trash pickup by more than 100% in recent years—ironically, their reason is that recycling (which they encourage) has reduced the amount of trash being collected.  This sort of nonsensical rationalization for radically higher fees will join the usual justifications; i.e., We can no longer fill potholes and pave streets unless we raise your taxes.

How did they manage to perform these basic services 10 or 20 years ago with much smaller budgets? The answer: See Trend #3, skyrocketing pension and healthcare costs.

Trend #6:  The African oil exporting nations will move from the back burner to the front ranks of geopolitical flashpoints, joining the South China Sea, the Mid-East, and North Korea. I recently discussed The Scramble for Africa's Oil and the “resource curse” that is fueling the potential for conflict over Africa’s untapped oil wealth:

Trend #7:  Americans will continue to passively accept the rise of the Police/National Security State. This may eventually change, but for the next few years the existing motivations for passive acceptance of increasing centralization of power will continue to hold sway.

The first is complicity: The 49% of all Americans—156 million out of 317 million—who receive direct transfers/benefits from the Federal government see little reason to rock the boat or put their cash from the government at risk.  (Source)

The second reason is a rational fear of State power: fear of getting tear-gassed and arrested should you join a protest, for example, and a generalized fear of putting whatever you still have at risk by confronting a government given to secrecy and retribution against whistleblowers, protesters, etc.

Trend #8:  The Federal government will quietly absorb the rising losses from defaulting student loans rather than reveal the bankruptcy of the entire Higher Education/Student Loan Cartel.  There are myriad ways to quash the recognition that the Higher Education/Student Loan Cartel is failing to provide useful education while it burdens younger generations with $1+ trillion in high-interest debt: quietly forgive some defaulted loans, stop enforcing collection of defaulted loans, etc.  The Federal government doesn’t want to call attention to its management of this powder keg, as widespread recognition that the system is broken will unleash calls for a general debt amnesty that will blow the big-debt-for-worthless-degrees system wide apart.

In Part II: Outcomes to Bet On in 2014, we’ll forecast the most likely consequences of these trends. With such understanding comes the opportunity to position ourselves in front of them for protection and/or profit.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

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27 Comments

Hrunner's picture
Hrunner
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Posts: 243
Watching Snow on a Cornice

Charles,

Very nice overview of trends, Charles.

No need to be apologetic, I feel like, as in 2013, we are watching the snow accumulate on the cornice of a building.

Will we be able to detect the tiny tremors before the collapse?  Maybe.

Or, to extend the metaphor, we could do what I think you and Chris and Adam have been promoting- have the conversation, make a rational plan and take the snow off in a controlled way:

From the interesting side angle department, did you know that snow forms collapsible cornices all by itself?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_cornice

Best of wishes and prosperity for your families and all PPers in 2014!

H

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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Speaking of perception management....

About Trend #3, the decline of trust in mainstream media (MSM) as its perception management techniques become laid bare for the cheap propaganda efforts they mainly are....when even Conan is mocking you, you have trouble.

Or, more accurately, puts together a piece that lets the MSM mock itself.

Note that the stations represented are not from a single network...somebody is writing national copy.  I wonder who?

thebrewer's picture
thebrewer
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Puppet Gallery

Thanks for the post Chris! Having cut the umbilical cable from my TV some years back I tend to miss the occasional comedy gems that appear on late night. 

This is certainly something to consider as we move into the new year. 2014 may be a better year or it may not...I'm hoping for the former, but I suggest to all that you open your eyes going forward and evaluate your surroundings for yourself.

Wishing a Happy New Year, health and prosperity to all in the PP family!

Doug's picture
Doug
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please...

make...it...stop!!  :^(

Stan Robertson's picture
Stan Robertson
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Point #2

The chart below shows that each of the last seven recessions has been preceded by the ten-year minus three-month yield spread going negative. The whole article by Matthew Kerkhofffrom which the chart was taken is here. This inversion certainly seems to be sufficient warning of impending recession. If it is also a necessary condition, one wonders when and how the FED might lose control of short-term interest rates.

Nate's picture
Nate
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uncharted waters

Stan Robertson wrote:

..... each of the last seven recessions has been preceded by the ten-year minus three-month yield spread going negative. This inversion certainly seems to be sufficient warning of impending recession. If it is also a necessary condition, one wonders when and how the FED might lose control of short-term interest rates.

Mauldin and Tepper cover this in Code Red.  They go on to state "Central banks are not only distorting the level of government yields, they're distorting the shape of the yield curve."  The ten-year minus three-month yield spread going negative is no longer the predictor it once was.

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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LOST SIGNALS

Nate wrote:

Stan Robertson wrote:

..... each of the last seven recessions has been preceded by the ten-year minus three-month yield spread going negative. This inversion certainly seems to be sufficient warning of impending recession. If it is also a necessary condition, one wonders when and how the FED might lose control of short-term interest rates.

Mauldin and Tepper cover this in Code Red.  They go on to state "Central banks are not only distorting the level of government yields, they're distorting the shape of the yield curve."  The ten-year minus three-month yield spread going negative is no longer the predictor it once was.

I quite agree that whatever historical signaling utility that the yield curve had cannot be trusted at this point.

The Fed, et al., have distorted it so badly, who knows what it means anymore?

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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On Valuable Education.

I advise any young adult to concentrate on Agriculture. The Limits to Growth report says that we will be forced to divert money (resources) from industry to agriculture in order to feed ourselves on badly degraded soils (and climate, my add).

Anything that enhances soils will be in high demand. Study Mycelia, young person.

charleshughsmith's picture
charleshughsmith
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excellent points

Thank you, everyone, for adding to the discussion--the snow on rooftops analogy is a perfect example of systemic fragility increasing, sight unseen.  Good points on the yield curve--now that it can be manipulated, forecasting correlations have been disrupted (on purpose, no doubt). Ditto a host of other previously valid correlations....

The timing of Conan's grilling of the MSM couldn't have been sweeter--

A focus on ag is always timely. Let's start measuring "wealth" by the pleasure gained from one's garden/orchard....

Charles

Quercus bicolor's picture
Quercus bicolor
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cmartenson wrote: About Trend

cmartenson wrote:

About Trend #3, the decline of trust in mainstream media (MSM) as its perception management techniques become laid bare for the cheap propaganda efforts they mainly are....when even Conan is mocking you, you have trouble.

Or, more accurately, puts together a piece that lets the MSM mock itself.

Note that the stations represented are not from a single network...somebody is writing national copy.  I wonder who?

Google "retail association" and I bet one of the top hits is the culprit.  "It's OK to buy things for yourself this holiday season.  Go ahead.  Your friendly anchor person says there is no need to feel guilty."

Phaedrus the younger's picture
Phaedrus the younger
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Trends & Survival +

Charles,

your essay today was a nice supplement to my reading of Survival + primer.  (Good golly man, where do you find the time to generate all of this well articulated material?)  I was particularly struck by your observation in Survival + of the small, but growing numbers of people who 'get it' that are rejecting the status quo to set a new example of how we can change for the better.   Seems like a few of those might be members of this PP community!

Keep up the inspiring work.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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Yin and Yang

There a series positive trends as well which mirror the collapse of the "conventional" economy.  About a third of American households now participate in some way in growing their own food.  About 1 in 7 of those grow organically.  TV viewing is in sharp decline along with conventional news print media.  Understanding of global climate change continues to increase.  GMO legislation is starting to gain a foot hold.  The escalation of the war in Syria was stopped.  Consumer demand for organically grown food continues to increase leaps and bounds.  Demand for alternative energy sources continues to grow, PV panels production has grown 40% per year since the year 2000.  Transition town movement now has 146 town/cities that have official initiatives in the US, there are 470 initiatives world wide. A couple of national chains that used to account for over half of teen clothes sales are now down to the 10% range of market share.  Permaculture, which used to a real fringe phenomenon is now entering University curricula.  Demand and interest in the Passive House low energy or net zero energy houses is booming.  Interest and participation is sites like this are growing leaps and bounds. Just to name a few items off the cuff.

Predicting the decline of the existing paradigm is a little like shooting fish in a barrel.  I know that there are those who believe that we are all dead anyway, I'll still go down fighting, standing up with my boots on.  When will we reach that 100th monkey, is it already to late? If I may be so bold, I would love to see a discussion that embraces the yin and the yang and an interplay between to the two.  I think propaganda from Corporatocracy will continue to the end, even when society has shifted beneath them.  When do we start to reach a cultural typing point, how virulent will the reaction be from the PTB and what forms will it take.  We are starting to see the counter attacks step up, the misinformation is getting more subtle and sophisticated.  It is fascinating to watch. Has anybody noticed similar trends?  In front of the Keiser Report there are now adds from Exxon Mobile, etc. etc.  What is next?d

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Question for CHS

With great appreciation, and inspired by the piece above, I am enjoying "Survival+" this fine New Years day.  

1.   Do you feel that the Global War on Terror is part of Illusion (or simulacrum narrative) building process?

For background for other readers, quoting from chapter 2:

A truthful accounting would reveal that the entire status quo system benefits the rentier- financial Plutocracy and the high-caste class of State employees and corporate technocrats at the expense of the rest of us .....

Maintaining this illusion is the key to maintaining the Plutocracy and the State's share of the national income. This explains why the Plutocracy and the State (two sides of one coin) are obsessed with creating simulacrum structures and narratives designed to lull the citizenry into the comforting illusion that they are the beneficiaries of:

-- democracy (when 98% of incumbents win re-election, can that be authentic democracy?) 
-- a free press (when a handful of corporations own the vast majority of the print/broadcast/radio/web media and the State manipulates statistics without media challenge, can that be an authentic "free press"?) ..... 

Do you view the Global War on Terror as one of these simulacrum narratives?  I would love to hear your understanding of this.   When you are ready to share them.

2.  You refer to the Plutocracy/State as self-organizing group but not a formal or semi-formal conspiracy.  (And this may well turn out to be correct.)  Quoting again:

Thus in describing a Plutocracy I am not positing a semi-formal conspiracy but simply a financial elite which controls some 2/3 of the productive wealth of the U.S. .... people with similar self-interests naturally band together in self-organizing networks and groups to protect those interests, and since information is power then the inner workings of various self-organizing groups are confidential as part of that self-protection.

Several actions show significant coordination implying organization.  Two examples readily come to mind:

A.  The above posted video from Conan where multiple "independent" "news" stations say the same words,

B.  The duration and breadth of the (formerly) secret NSA data gathering process.  (The first reports I heard of were from San Francisco in 2002 (or 2003?) at the AT&T routing station where an employee reported seeing a splitter on the main truck.)  This implies that over a decade ago the program had already been in development for a long time by the early 2000s.

Does the Plutocracy have a planning committee?  A long term strategy division?  How you you envision these coordinated and long term programs emerging from a loosely organized Plutocracy/State?

Thank you for your thoughts.

earthwise's picture
earthwise
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Farms replacing subdivision golf courses

Treebeard,

Here's an example of what you describe:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/17/251713829/forget-golf-courses-subdivisions-draw-residents-with-farms

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Sandpuppy, Ecclesiasticus

They way I see it is as a homogenized blend of four main ingredients

Conspiracy (Plan) 20%

Cock-up (50%)

Cluelessness  ("Wha' ??")  (10+ %) &

Circumstances. Overpopulation, resource depletion pollution etc.

How I envy the Clueless group.

In much knowledge is there much sorrow, and much sorrow in much knowledge

Ecclesiasticus

Read the rest of the sayings- it will raise the hair on the back of your head.

.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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The Depths

In sorrow there is also great beauty, it is there that we plumb the depths of what it means to be truly human.  It is there that we connect with all things, do not envy the ignorant.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Source, please?

About a third of American households now participate in some way in growing their own food.  About 1 in 7 of those grow organically.

Would that that were true, treebeard. According to the National Gardening Association in 2012, the year they have the most recent statistics, only 41 million Americans are growing ant of their own food at home. With a population of 350 million, that's less than 12 percent of us. Granted, 20 percent of them are first-time gardeners (same source) and so it's trending up, but nowhere near the one third you quote.

treemagnet's picture
treemagnet
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Coming to America?

I agree sadly with #7 of the '14 predictions, but around the world people have stood up and fought against impossible odds - as they are currently.   Game theory says 5 percent of a group can decide for the group...I think about that and an image from the history channel program showing of hundreds of Jews being led to their death by just four nazi soldiers with weapons.  The PP site is about resilience mostly to me, and I think that dovetails nicely with this article from Brandon Smith. 

http://www.alt-market.com/articles/1911-violence-in-the-face-of-tyranny-is-often-necessary 

I like touchy topics that get addressed with class.  I read this piece and feel reassured and spooked about the consequences, as well as the very fact that every ISP address on this site is being tracked.  I think Brandon Smith would be a great guest for a multi-part podcast.  I know some don't care for him here (shocker), but his point is real, relevant, and tangible - especially how the premise hinges on PP topics of resiliency.   Even hints and references around PP about this topic are made, inferred, referenced, etc., why not just take it 'head on'?  Please read it and post your thoughts.  Also wondering, if Chris or Adam or other are reading this, what is your take on this "Liberty Movement"?

MarkM's picture
MarkM
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treemagnet wrote:...I think

treemagnet wrote:

...I think about that and an image from the history channel program showing of hundreds of Jews being led to their death by just four nazi soldiers with weapons. 

I think about that image often. Amazing that a group of people can get so beaten down that they will not take a stand even knowing the fate that awaits them. It is human nature, yet there are so many that think "it can't happen here" even when the obvious parallels are drawn. We are being set up for the same sorts of control, little by little.

I don't disagree with a word from your link. The example of the Finns in the Winter War needs to be thrown up to everyone that says that our Leviathan could never be taken on. The numbers quoted there are an example of what determined people with nothing left to lose can do.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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I checked the history

of my searches and couldn't find the source, it was a mother earth news type site and I think that their parameters were extremely broad, if you had an avocado plant in your NYC apartment you were counted.  I have a feeling that the figures from the National Gardening Association are more accurate.

Curious on your thoughts about the broader point, it seems that there are positive trends that are accelerating.  There is something much deeper that is going on that I was also trying to point to which transcends surviving within the current paradigm.  There is a different narrative that is building on a different set of values that is gaining strength.

When the PTB tried to infiltrate the occupy movement, they kept asking who were the leaders.  Well there were no leaders and there was no fixed agenda, for which the "movement" was soundly criticized for.  My own theory about this is that occupy is not an ecological movement, social or even political movement.  It is the outgrowth or symptom of a deeper change in consciousness that can not be manipulated, coerced, or eradicated by force or propaganda.  Force whether for or against is irrelevant.

If insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results then that certainly describes the current narrative. The gift here is that when something is finally done that does create different results it spreads virally and uncontrollably. A new wave of awareness has been unleashed, whether it is "to late" and doomed to failure remains to be seen. It is expressing itself in thousands different ways in seemly conflicting aspects (tea party vs. occupy). Each portion of our culture is waking up in its own way.  

treebeard's picture
treebeard
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Coming to America?

I don't know how this fallacious "relationship" between the Soviet Union and Nazi German manages to sustain itself and continues to grow legs. Japan and Germany signed the anti-comeintern pact (which Finland amongst others was later a signatory to BTW) whose expressed intent was:

"recognizing that the aim of the Communist International, known as the Comintern, is to disintegrate and subdue existing States by all the means at its command; convinced that the toleration of interference by the Communist International in the internal affairs of the nations not only endangers their internal peace and social well‑being, but is also a menace to the peace of the world desirous of co‑operating in the defense against Communist subversive activities"

Japan and Germany were virulently anti communist and had China and Russia in their sites.  Russia saw the writing on the wall and repeatedly reached out to the west in an attempt to reach a mutual protection treaty, but to no avail.  In a last ditch effort to stave off the impending German invasion signed a nonaggression treaty with their impending adversary which turned out to be useless.  The eastern front saw tank battles on a scale the world had yet to see and has not seen since.  The majority of German losses were on the eastern front and much of the Soviet Union was destroyed.

Meanwhile the west behind the scenes is funding and supporting the Nazi's, Britton turns over the sovereign savings of nations invaded and taken over by the Nazi's.  German generals planning a cout de ta plot against Hitler fails because support from the west does not materialize.  The financial powers in the west were fully behind the Nazi anti communist agenda (some may take that farther, that is open for debate).

Somehow out of all this the diametrically opposed Soviets and Nazi's get put in the same box and the Nazi sympathizing Axis member Fins get painted as heroes?  I don't get it.  Fascism is coming to America?! too late!

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davefairtex
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nazi sympathizing finns?

Somehow out of all this the diametrically opposed Soviets and Nazi's get put in the same box and the Nazi sympathizing Axis member Fins get painted as heroes?  I don't get it.

Finns sympathizing with the Nazis?  Now why would they do that?  Oh right, there was the small matter of the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland in 1939.  That might have made the Finns more sympathetic to the Nazis than they might otherwise have been in 1941.  Or did we forget about that event?

Enemy of my enemy and all that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_War

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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thanks for checking

Thanks for clarifying, Treebeard. I got my figures from the National Gardening Association via my Clemson University Master Gardener course.

To answer your question about the shifting paradigm, I am going to start with a literary quotation. In the book, The Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits get back to the Shire at the end of the third book, they have to clean out some ruffians who have taken over. Now, if you recall, Sam--Frodo's friend and servant--stuck with Frodo through all sorts of horror and danger: giant spiders, hordes of goblins, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, temptation, betrayal, and evil. Yet when he gets home and they have to deal with a bunch of vagrants, his girl asks Sam why he had left Frodo just when things were getting dangerous (the vagrants). Sam thought to himself that this would take a week's answer, or none, and just went off to deal with this final minor crisis with no explanation.

I feel as if you've asked me a question that will require a week's answer, or none.

Curious on your thoughts about the broader point, it seems that there are positive trends that are accelerating.  There is something much deeper that is going on that I was also trying to point to which transcends surviving within the current paradigm.  There is a different narrative that is building on a different set of values that is gaining strength.

If by "a different narrative" you mean that people are beginning to realize in large numbers that keeping up with the Joneses and consumer culture are a broken narrative, I think you are correct. However, people in Western industrial civilization are coming to this realization from different start-points and different generations. Many of their philosophical conclusions have similar end points but they come from a variety of backgrounds. I speak here of American culture, because that's the one I know, but it affects the Western world.

The greatest generation, WWI, my parent's age, are of two minds. They remember the Great Depression--they were children then, and it scarred their psyches. They also see that our money is worth 100-times less than when they were children. In my anecdotal experience,  most of them blame the devaluation of our purchasing power on debt, which the Depression taught them to avoid, and on leaving the gold standard. They did work hard for their retirement, and try very hard not be be a burden - most of them. But some of them got caught up in a display of wealth that was more consumer-oriented than others and got an entitlement mindset. At this point, most of the Greatest Generation are elderly, tired, and dependent on Social Security and socialized medicine for the elderly. They are too old and tired, as a rule, to be part of the solution. And if they have any brains, they are frightened for their future, If they have a heart, they are frightened for their children and grandchildren. Their entry point into the new paradigm is their concern for their children's future. Their proposed solutions usually involve a return to basic values: live simply so you can stay out of debt, work hard, family first.

The Baby Boomers, which I am a part of (age-wise), really seem to have bought into the materialist mindset with a will. This is the generation of "he who dies with the most toys wins" and I blame television and movies and advertisers for stoking the flames of materialism to a fever pitch. And here's what a lot of people miss about them: they thought money could buy happiness, and most of them did not make enough money to find out if that was true (it's not). So this generation is bitter that they did not "get theirs." New flash - most people just get by - money is not the root of all evil, the love of money is. This was also the generation of hippies and a counter-culture that threw out the baby with the bath water, threw out the good parts of their parent's lifestyles with the bad. At this point in their lives they are to a large extent disillusioned and--unless they became tech-savvy-- irrelevant to an economy that is no longer industrial, but knowledge-based and information-aged. These are the generation that are most likely to invoke "growth" as a blanket solution, since they lived their whole lives in an era where fossil-fueled growth was the norm. To them, growth is "normal." Their proposed solutions usually invoke this unquestioned belief in growth. Boomers who see through this lie seem to be turning to simpler lifestyles, but whether they do so out of necessity or cheerfully is a very individual thing.

Generation X is the tech-savvy generation who grew up with computers in the Information Age. As a group, they seem to have seen the two basic paths of their parents--consumer culture without morals or counter-culture without sense--and see them for the dead-ends they are. Rather than dog-eat-dog competitors, my experience with Gen Xers is that they are more likely to look for cooperative solutions. They've had to become more cooperative to survive in a much more difficult economy. They, as the old Beatles song goes, "Get by with a little help from their friends."  Their proposed solutions are high-tech and cooperative, and often have no profit motive. A simpler lifestyle has bee foisted on them by fate, so they don't get credit for shunning a materialistic lifestyle so much as ignoring it as unattainable.

The Millennials really are getting the short end of the stick, in my opinion. The hard work of their great grandparents is no longer rewarded in a meaningful way, the industrial work of the grandparents is pretty much gone due to global competition, and the few high-tech jobs the Gen-Xers left them are not enough to keep body and soul together. They see materialism as what killed their future, not realizing just how much of that was due to debt: individual, corporate, banking, and nations are drowning in several generations of debt. Much of this recent debt was supposed to be a temporary stop-gap measure until "things got better." The Millennials realize that things are not going to get better. This is the generation that identifies with The Hunger Games, that sees the present system as immoral. What absolutely terrifies me is that they seem ripe for a revolution, but are not schooled in the dangers of the wrong revolution.

Your word-choices tell me that you are somewhat more "American liberal" than I am and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We can share solutions off the usual playing field here by being positive, solutions-oriented and listening to those we would normally not interact with. Bluntly, my fear is that you hope for a socialist revolution, which perhaps you think is more "fair" but--historically--has led to institutionalized poverty and merely a different elite class.  We've not had real capitalism in this country for 100 years, and yet many blame corporations and free-market capitalism for the woes of state-ism.

100 years ago that a gigantic anti-capitalist measure was put into effect: the Federal Reserve System. For 100 years, government, not the free market, has controlled money and banking. How’s that worked out? How’s the value of the dollar held up since 1913? Is it worth one-fiftieth of its value then or only one-one-hundredth? You be the judge. How did the dollar hold up over the 100 years before this government take-over of money and banking? It actually gained slightly in value.

Laissez-faire hasn’t existed since the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. That was the first of a plethora of government crimes against the free market. (source)

I think a consensus is forming that we need to reject STATE capitalism via rejecting the federal reserve. We cannot afford the things we once thought of as normal, but shopkeepers should not be demonized for contributing to the economy in the same way multinational banking corporations like JP Morgan are, rightfully, demonized. My person opinion is that we need to stand up to the powers that be so that no one is above the law. When the John Corzines of this world are jailed for their crimes, things will improve. But the average Joe on the street is basically clueless to the fact that his money and future are being stolen right under his nose. In waking up from this lambs-to-the-slaughter mentality, I worry that they will be manipulated by a demagogue into a future that is even worse than the train-wreck we already have.

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treebeard
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Posts: 390
More Complicated

I don't think that it quite as simple as enemy of my enemy:

In 1999, Martti Ahtisaari’s Finnish government supported official government plans to honor and to commemorate Finland’s Nazi Waffen SS violunteers during World War II. The Finnish government plan was to mark the graves of Finnish Nazi Waffen SS volunteers who had been killed in the Soviet Union. Finland had over, 1,400 Finnish volunteers in the Nazi Waffen SS, 300 of whom were killed in the Ukraine and in the Caucasus. Finland concluded a secret agreement with Nazi Germany before the invasion of the USSR that would allow Finland to secretly send Finnish volunteers to Heinrich Himmler’s Waffen SS forces. Himmler formed a Finnish Waffen SS Volunteer Battalion from these Finnish troops called “Nordost”. This Finnish Battalion was attached to the “Nordland” Waffen SS Regiment of the 5th SS Division “Wiking”, one of the most brutal and fanatical Nazi SS Divisions of World War II, commanded by Felix Steiner.

Finnish Nazi SS troops formed the vanguard and spearheaded the German Wehrmacht assault against the Stalingrad and Caucasus regions in 1942 and advanced to the Grozny oil fields in Chechnya. This was the farthest Nazi advance into the Soviet Union by the Axis, spearheaded by Finnish Nazi Waffen SS volunteers. It is important to remember that the Finnish government of Risto Ryti sent the Finnish Nazi SS volunteers. There was government action on the part of Finland. Ryti should have been prosecuted for war crimes and for genocide. But he never was. Finland’s Nazi past and role in the Holocaust was blurred and obscured by Finnish propaganda.

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treebeard
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Posts: 390
Personal

Thanks for the long and thoughtful response. I do think that this change is intensely personal yet at the same time universal.  Each generation certainly has shifting expectations based on the ongoing economic decline as you noted in detail.  Based on our individual experiences and generational perspective, each of us has a unique gift to give in the ongoing transformation and evolution of the human spirit.

I agree that the nature of the topics the day require a lot time and effort to discuss thoughtfully than we have time to commit often, but even these few bits and pieces are worth savoring.  Often times I feel that labels are a way feeling a sense of control in a seemingly chaotic world, but can do us a disservice if we hold on to them to tightly.

I guess I would call myself an American, our family has been here for over 400 years.  I am one of the many decedents of one of the Ancient Planters, as they were called, who were granted 200 acres for the efforts in establishing the Jamestown settlement back in 1608. Not so sure about the label liberal.  I do believe that this world will change when each of says to ourselves, "I am the problem, I must change", not the government, the ruling elite, the fed, congress what have you. When that happens, it will be the easy downhill coast from there.  Lots of work, but the quality of things will be transformed.

I can't stand the idea of someone hanging around waiting for something to turn up.  The appropriate response, "how about your damn sleeves".

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treemagnet
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In the saddest of ironies,

that same program stated that 30% of the nazi war machine was paid for with assets seized from the jews.  Not that this fact really matters in the end, but talk about 'salt in the wound'.  I'm not a jew, and frankly don't understand the never ending conflict in the middle east....or elsewhere.  But it'd be impossible to deny that wheel keeps turning throughout the ages, and it sure seems....or feels,  like something is comin' round again and soon.

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smb12321
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Joined: Nov 19 2011
Posts: 10
Wendy,  Attitudes toward

Wendy, 

Attitudes toward wealth and work mirror a society's trajectory.  Declining societies manipulate value and inevitably those with wealth are attacked.  Rising societies -  India, China, early US, pre WW1 Europe, early Rome, had positive attitudes toward wealth and work. Perhaps when aspirational societies devolve into welfare states with centralized power and corruption it happens. I remember the aspirational society.  We all wanted to be "rich" with a big home, pool and car.  But these folks were also benefactors - members of the community who built pools and libraries, bestowed scholarships, were the major employer, helped the less fortunate, etc.  They would be mystified by the unconnected lifestyles of our super-rich. 

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