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Darkening Skies

Market threats are multiplying
Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 6:31 PM

Chris is busy finishing up a meaty report on the accelerating friction between the West and Russia, so I'm stepping in to make some quick notes on today's meaningful developments.

As readers know, we've been cautioning about a serious market correction for a long time. Valuations have been so far divorced from fundamentals for so long that we are frighteningly overdue for a drop -- likely a large one -- in asset prices. » Read more



Something's Fishy With The US 'Data' on Ukraine, Russia

The 'evidence' is surprisingly weak
Monday, July 28, 2014, 10:51 AM

For weeks now I've been patiently waiting for the US to release some (any!) definitive data about the Ukraine situation, including the MH17 shoot-down.  After all, as everybody knows, the US has intensive satellite and electronic scanning technologies in place around the globe, and therefore should be able to provide some serious intelligence to make its case.

Frankly, the US needs to provide much harder evidence for its current claims to be credible. » Read more



Off the Cuff: Do Geopolitics Matter Anymore?

Because the markets sure don't seem to care
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 3:37 PM

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Charles discuss:

  • Do Geopolitics Matter Anymore?
    • No conflict is seemingly too great for the markets to ignore
  • The Marginal Value of A Barrel of Oil
    • Even the loss of a few % of total supply could vastly impact the US
  • Zombie Markets
    • No weapon seems to be able to stop this bull market
  • Bass-Ackward Foreign Policy
    • The West is pursuing a strategy that makes no sense


How The Nature of Work Is Changing

And how to (re)position your career for it
Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 10:48 AM

Executive Summary

  • The Matrix of Work & the 5 Forms of Value Creation
  • The essential elements of the future's ideal work environment
  • How mobility creates career security
  • How to start switching from "work" to "work that matters"

If you have not yet read Part I: Escaping the Rat-Race available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In Part 1, we reviewed the forces of structural change in the economy and the nature of work.  In Part 2, we’ll cover the matrix of work (how to create value in the age of automation) and discuss specific strategies for building a resilient career you control.

The Matrix of Work

In the traditional capital/labor model, labor is paid by the hour to perform routine work.  In the emerging economy, routine work is increasingly performed by machines or outsourced.  In this environment, the premium for human labor arises from creating value and solving problems.

The tool I use to understand this premium is the matrix of work, which is the overlay of the five forms of value creation: non-process-based work, high touch, non-tradable work, sensitivity of the output to mastery and flexibility.

Let’s start with commodification:  when goods or services can be traded interchangeably across the globe, these become commodities, as opposed to one-of-a-kind goods and services unique to one small-scale producer. A Fuji apple from Washington State is the same as a Fuji apple from overseas in terms of its tradability and retail value.

Labor can also be commoditized:  if human labor is being sold as time performing basic skills, then the time and basic skills can be bought and sold interchangeably around the world.

Work that is process-based is easily automated or commoditized, meaning that it can be performed anywhere by interchangeable laborers.  Process-based work can be broken down into tasks that take a specifiable input and yield a specifiable output.

One way to avoid being commoditized out of a job is... » Read more


Chris Martenson/Martenson Garden July 2014

Humans Making Bad Choices Is Why I Garden

Behold, the era of Peak Soil
Monday, July 21, 2014, 7:35 PM

As long as you're curious and read somewhat widely, if you're one of those readers who digs a bit further now and then, it's pretty much impossible to avoid the conclusion that humans are living unsustainably.

We're using up energy sources that took approximately 350 million years to accrete in a single 350-year-long orgy of consumption. » Read more


Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Off the Cuff: The Fed Is Very, Very Scared

Confidence in its omnipotence is waning
Friday, July 18, 2014, 1:16 PM
  • The Fed's Nightmare
    • Bedlam will ensure if/when the market loses confidence
  • Age of Anomalies
    • Fed-induced market distortions are shaking that confidence
  • Pump & Pray
    • Does the Fed have any better game plan?
  • Central Planning Fault Lines
    • Rifts among allies are increasing the risks


Reducing Your Risk To A Grid-Down Event

Small steps today can make a huge difference tomorrow
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 10:38 PM

Executive Summary

  • The most likely forms of cyber attack the national grid is vulnerable to
  • The evidence that shows malicious attacks on the US grid have been attempted multiple times
  • The low level of integrity in the current grid's defenses
  • A checklist of backup systems at the home level every concerned citizen should work to have in place

If you have not yet read Part 1: The Electrical Grid May Well Be The Next War's Battlefield available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Cyber Attacks, Hacking, and Malware

The other main threat we should concern ourselves with centers on the highly automated nature of the electricity grid combined with the human propensity for mischief. As with everything these days, computer-controlled devices are at the heart of the entire electrical generation and distribution system.

Again from the same Peak Prosperity member quoted earlier:

Combine this with the known vulnerabilities of the SCADA [Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition] systems controlling the power grid and you have the recipe for a real coordinated and manufactured disaster.

US researchers have identified 25 zero-day vulnerabilities in industrial control SCADA software from 20 suppliers that are used to control critical infrastructure systems. Attackers could exploit some of these vulnerabilities to gain control of electrical power and water systems, according to

Nine of these potential exploits have so far been reported to the suppliers concerned and the US Department of Homeland Security.

In theory, an intruder could exploit the vulnerabilities simply by breaching the wireless radio network over which the communication passes to the server.

Unlike the "heartbleed" zero-day bug that could be more or less addressed by software server patches, the SCADA systems are hardware boxes sitting out in the field. It's quite possible they are not upgradeable, or they were made by companies no longer in business, or whose programmers no longer support the system any more. "Uh, you want me to come up with a patch for THAT old system? Really? The guy who knew that code retired 10 years ago. I'm not even sure we have the source code anymore - or if it compiles - or if our build system can even compile for that CPU-type. And then we have to test it. We don't have any of those boxes to test it on anymore. And once tested, how exactly do we deploy this patch?"

If you've ever worked in a software organization, you'll know what I'm talking about.

No need to launch any supersonic missiles. If the US power grid is down, the US Navy won't be projecting power anywhere, since we'll be so busy trying to keep our people alive (and/or deploying what forces we have available into our own cities to prevent all those people who can't use their EBT cards anymore from tearing the place apart) to worry about what Russia is doing in their own backyard.

So - yes, asymmetric warfare. A coordinated cyber-assault supported with a kinetic attack on a select group of substations will...


On Creating a World Worth Inheriting

Our current actions will define our future
Monday, July 14, 2014, 2:52 PM

We all know that the current paradigm is unsustainable over longer time frames. Here are a few of the ways in which we can express that concept more specifically: » Read more



Off the Cuff: To The Moon And Back

They higher we go, the farther the fall
Thursday, July 10, 2014, 1:51 PM

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Mish discuss:

  • Highs And Lows
    • How high will the markets climb? And how fast/far will they fall?
  • The Magic Fed
    • The backstop of last resort. But what will happen when it fails?
  • It's Net Energy, Stupid
    • The measurements for our economic decisions are all wrong
  • Prostitutes & Drugs
    • The lengths we go to fool ourselves

On The Fast Track to Crisis

Until we prioritize truth over comfort
Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 12:08 PM

Executive Summary

  • Understanding the broken narratives we are telling ourselves about:
    • Energy
    • The Economy
    • Our Education system
    • Financial markets
    • Western exceptionalism
  • And why we will continue to hurdle farther off course until we decide to look at our situation truthfully

If you have not yet read Part 1: Reality-Optional Economics available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

It is in the interest of healthy adults to remain sane, even when the powerful matrix of society is going crazy around them. I don’t think you can overstate the capacity of societies to go crazy. We still marvel at the murderous cruelty of Germany and Russia in the mid-20th century, the sickening slide into industrial barbarism, and the technical proficiency they achieved in pursuit of their lunatic ends. And what provoked those terrible journeys into collective madness? Isn’t it part of the horror that no explanation seems to suffice. They were both losers in the First World War. Boo hoo. Many societies sober up when they lose a war. Both opted for organized mass murder instead. Joseph Stalin summed up Russia’s collective psyche in that period when he said, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” The regime that promoted that particular view of the human condition lasted seventy years and then dissipated like a mere bad dream, an extremely fortunate outcome for Russia, and not so easy to account for, either.

And so what of us in this new century, faced with the gravely serious problems of resource scarcity, ecocide, climate uncertainty, demographic stress, cultural breakdown, and financial bedlam? How do we... » Read more