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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Party's Over -- The Oncoming Economic Tsunami

I was at a going away party recently, and it was borderline surreal for me at a personal level, a kind of animated, wine and hors d'oeuvres, guitar playing, coastal South American vignette, as synecdoche for the broader, kaleidoscopic, global scene, zoomed in close on a tight hybrid-impressionist-cubist focus, the whole thing scrutinized in technicolor and surround sound by a reeling man tumbling head over heels to Earth.

I can only say that distilled to its essence, I felt, and will feel for a very long time, a tremendous sense of loss at the departure of the guest of honor, for whom I have deep affection, and that is more than sobering enough for me, emotionally overwhelming actually, even if we were living through normal days, but we are not, and it is all made ever so much harder by the sure realization and clear vision of what is looming up just ahead on the horizon. And heaping hard on hard, my friend, whom I will sorely miss, has flown far away, right into the teeth of that oncoming storm.

But enough about me, and my perceptions and deep sense of personal loss and concern for the well being of my friend, because you all know what I'm talking about. You know exactly, you who are living in Europe, or even worse, in the USA and Canada, or still worst of all, in Japan.

Because lots of people, things and situations that you love dearly, that mean the world to you, that you may care for even more deeply than life itself, are about to depart. You will mourn their passing, that is a guarantee, you will weep bitterly until you have no more tears to shed and the numbness and bottomless silence set in, but you won't be able to stop it, not most of it, because the global train of events that has been set in motion on this planet by darkly large forces will not come to a rest until it has run its entire karmic course and plunged off the rails and over the edge of the cliff into the jaws of the yawning abyss.

And then, and only then, will what comes next have the opportunity to sprout up, flourish and yield the sweet fruit of What Is To Come.

I would suppose that by now most everyone in the world has read or heard about the earthquake, tidal wave and ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. But with the passage of time, and the diminution in the level of news coverage by the international mass media about what is happening in Japan, public attention to the gravity of the affair has substantially waned. This decrease in the information flow is carefully calculated to lull the global populace into a false sense of complacency.

By analogy to the characteristic action of a tsunami, you could compare this lull in the news flow from Japan to the way the tide first runs way out, then comes rushing back with a vengeance when a tsunami barrels ashore with all of its destructive fury.

The fact is that we are now in a sort of holding pattern where the world markets are assessing the impact of the multifaceted Japanese catastrophe. But have no doubt: the chickens will very soon be coming home to roost in a major way.

To begin with, the melting down nuclear reactors in Japan have not been stabilized. They continue to emit radiation directly to the environment, and will do so for several months to come, at the least. (1) That is the absolute best case scenario and it is grim. The worst case scenario is that there may be further explosions that scatter massive amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere and sea, or the cores may melt down all the way through the reactor containment vessels and containment structures and escape directly to the environment. The point is that the nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan remain out of control and will constitute a menace to the whole world for a very long time to come, venting radioactivity to the sea and the atmosphere. Have a look at the following websites for an idea of how the radiation will be circulating in the northern hemisphere.

Radiation Spreads throughout the Northern Hemisphere

Dynamic map of northern hemisphere Japanese radiation transport;region=NH

If that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what will. Of course, this all has huge international economic and ecological implications. Meaning that billions of people will be impacted to one degree or another. Realistically, a lot of people are going to die from cancers and radiation poisoning in the coming years.

Before the crisis Japan was the third largest economy in the world, exporting products to the entire world. But all of that is in jeopardy now. The triple whammy of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis has rocked Japan back on its heels. Japan's just in time, industrial supply chain has been severely disrupted with attendant negative effects on the economy. The Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned of “very high uncertainty” for Japan's future, (2) while the Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, has explicitly warned that the Japanese economy is in a “severe state.” (3)

Evidently, the global financial firm of Morgan Stanley has arrived at the same conclusion as the IMF and the BOJ, because just a few days ago one of its property funds walked away from a $3.3 billion real estate investment in Tokyo. The Morgan Stanley fund defaulted on its debt payments and turned in the keys to a 32-storey office tower in downtown Tokyo, which includes Microsoft Japan among its tenants. This is the biggest default in Japan's history. (4) Unquestionably, this is a case of cutting losses and getting out while the getting is still good.

And doing so at the bargain basement price of a paltry $3.3 billion.

Why would Morgan Stanley do that? Because, among other things, the radioactive contamination issue is huge and it will not go away. It will have a powerfully negative impact on Japan's economy, and that definitely includes Tokyo and the Tokyo real estate market. If you doubt that, all I can say is: wait.

To be sure, the Japanese government is keenly aware of the problem that the radiation issue poses for Brand Japan. To allay fears of radioactive products being exported to international markets the Japanese government has accordingly announced that it will measure radiation levels on ships leaving Tokyo bay.(5)

But even to take this step is to explicitly underscore that there is a radioactive contamination issue for Brand Japan. The point was buttressed by the recent arrival of a shipment of radioactive Japanese cars in the Russian port of Vladivostok. (6) You might say that the word is now out on the street, in a manner of speaking. Who wants to own or to drive a radioactive car?

The problem for Brand Japan is therefore glaringly evident and it will persist for a very long time. This matters, because up until last month Japan had the third largest economy in the world. But that was then, and now is now, and things have decisively changed.

I agree with George Ure at that the economic fall-out from the Japanese crises will begin to be felt in a major way in another couple of months or so, say sometime in June. In large measure this will be due to problems with the just in time delivery, international supply chain, as it begins to experience delays and shortages due to problems with Japanese manufacturing capacity and exports.

These effects will ripple globally through the international system. The impact will be felt in the USA, in the Euro Zone, and all over the world when you get right down to it.

And all of this building chaos and confusion that is headed full steam our way is taking place against a back drop of the systematic take down of the economy of the USA, for several decades now the largest economy in the world. Recent headlines foretell the coming collapse of the American system with surprising forthrightness.

One headline says: “Dollar Weakens Against Most Major Currencies.” (7) Another warns of the possibility that the USA government might default on the national debt: “S&P Lowers Its Outlook: Could U.S. Default On Its Debt? ” (8)

Yet another asks: “$6 Gas? Could Happen if Dollar Keeps Getting Weaker.” (9) If you live in the USA, can you afford to pay $90 to fill up your gas tank? Will you be able to commute to work at those prices? And if you cannot, will that cause you to lose your job? And if you lose your job, what will you do for income? What will happen in large, sprawling cities such as Phoenix, Los Angeles and Houston, with their endless miles of commuter clogged freeways and thoroughfares?

Meanwhile, the debt of the USA government is on pace to exceed its legally mandated limit within the next week. (10) And all of this is happening at the same time that fewer than 46% of Americans have jobs. (11)

That loud creaking and cracking sound you can hear gaining intensity in the middle distance is soon to become a thunderous roar as the whole fake, criminally corrupt system known as The American Way spectacularly crashes to Earth. Are you ready for that? Because the ripple effects will be felt widely, all over the world.

Look, I'm not telling you anything radical or seditious here. I'm calling it like it is, straight down the middle. Trouble is on the way and it will hit you hard, real hard, you and most everyone else you know and care about. Privation and deprivation are coming to those who have never ever experienced lack in their lives, who have never wanted for anything.

Even the World Bank president is publicly warning that the world is, “One shock away from crisis.” (12)

Amazingly, even with all of these in-your-face headlines and warnings of the economic tsunami that is imminently going to slam the global system, there are still people who just do not get it. One man I know recently mentioned to me that the world situation seemed to him as though it were “just the usual madness.”

It seems that some people are so deeply asleep that, even if they were to be slugged hard between the eyes with a two by four, they still just would not get it. In the immortal words of Forest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

There have even been some people who criticized me for being negative, and not offering positive solutions to the public.

To which I can only remonstrate, “Have we fallen so low as a species that the average person cannot even summon the effort of will to rub two neurons together and make a simple plan for survival in tough times?”

Isn't it obvious that with hard times on the way you should store extra food and water? Get an emergency first aid kit together? Stock up on simple barter supplies that you could exchange for needed goods and services in the event of a currency crash?

Or that if you are able you should have a flock of chickens for eggs? Put in a garden for fresh vegetables? Have a milk goat or milk cow? Maybe buy some bullion silver or gold coins as a hedge against the collapse of the money economy? Get extra medications that you may need, in the event of a disruption in supplies?

And so on? Aren't these things obvious?

And so it is that we rapidly approach a sort of Event Horizon in the course of human affairs on this planet. It will be chaotic at times, even extremely chaotic. In many ways, how well you fare in the coming days, months and years will have more to do with “how” you are in the essential core of your being, than “who” or “where” you are, in an external sense.