29 December 2008

Change is in the air - Can you sense it? Can you believe it? Can you do it?

Well, another frantic holiday season is coming and going, and the dark clouds of larger issues remain despite all attempts at overconsumption, distraction and amusement. It's been interesting to have conversations with a wide variety of people over the past few weeks hypothesizing on what's in store for us as individuals, regions, nations, and cultures in 2009 and onward. Many people seem to believe that things will start recovering and that we'll be able to merrily carry on as we have for the past x years after the inconvenient bumps in the economic and ecological roads are passed and subsequently forgotten. A tenacious minority continue to believe that we're still being fed only a small portion of the truth as to the scale and spread of the problems we're facing and that things are going to continue getting markedly worse as we go forward into the new year. Any turnarounds that appear to be the recovery will be short-lived and temporary in the irreversible decline of our economy to a more reasonably-scaled and sustainable level, that is if the timing of everything goes right, otherwise it might end up at a level far below that.

I know I am one of many who doesn't really know what to do next. Everyone is maintaining a 'sit-and-wait' position because indicators are giving no clear suggestion of what would be the best course to take to recover income and investments lost, retain gainful employment, effectively steward our environment and set ourselves up for an economic reality in the future that may not look like anything we have been accustomed to and have accepted as normal and real over the past half-century. There is no will by any institutional leadership to tell the truth like it is...there is too much perceived power loss at stake therefore it is just easiest to maintain the status quo as long as possible until it is obvious that there are problems. By that time the leaders hope they are long gone from their prominent positions that someone else has to take the blame.

There is no doubt that our situation is complicated and convoluted. There is also no doubt that what we're facing collectively from an economic, ecologic, social and cultural standpoint is something as a species and civilization we've never had to deal with before -- at least not at the unprecedented scale of integrated global activity and consequence we see today. Things just can't be contained in a nation or region anymore. A ripple in the water in one area affects the whole pond now.

Personally, I've been going through an existential crisis of sorts for the past few months. I've been reading many differing viewpoints on what we might be heading into in the future for quite a few years now (thank you INTERNET - the best thing we've invented since the bicycle) and it seems to me that many of the viewpoints that were formerly considered to be on the pessimistic side of things (and were considered doom-and-gloom nonsense at the time) are now coming to fruition. This is why I think the more critical thinkers who are the ones that are bringing the more dour side of analysis to light are the ones that are probably confronting the truth more honestly than the talking heads who are only spokespeople for those who have the most to lose by leaving the status quo behind and finding a way forward that is more sustainable, humane and socially- and culturally-relevant.

A helpful way to look at the big picture is to realize that none of what has been stated as reality is neither doom-and-gloom or dour; it's simply the way things are. Happy or sad endings have no bearing on reality. It's just that humans don't like bad news and we are resistant to change because it is uncomfortable and risky, and we don't like either of those things. By denying that certain things are actually occurring or that they aren't monumentally challenging is only making matters worse because the conclusion is unrealistic; this can be very dangerous if we're at a point in time where there's no turning back or we lose control of the situation.

Take for instance the ecological problems we face today. It all boils down to too many people consuming too much stuff too quickly. This is taking an unprecedented toll on the global ecosystem because the changes are happening much too quickly for the natural systems and cycles to absorb and adapt to. As we technologically progress, we also find ways to monitor, measure and trend the things that are happening much more accurately, thus the information we have uncovers realities about our effects on our planet and the consequences of our behaviours in the past and present that we most likely had no awareness of even a few years ago or that were downplayed at the time because an accurate understanding of the scope wasn't fully realized at the time.

But if over-population, over-consumption and over-growth are the overriding issues effectively causing all other issues, why are we so afraid to have honest wide-scale dialogue about them? We cling to what we deem familiar reality even if it might kill us and everything else in the process. Talk about psychopathological addiction!

I think it is hard for some people to accept theories of climate change as being realistic because they are basing their understanding of the world on things that were considered fact and proof only a few years or decades ago (or were sorely lacking in understanding) but no longer apply or are no longer accurate because techniques for substantiating proof for one theory over another have become much more accurate and plentiful enough to substantiate one belief over another. This allows for acceptance and indoctrination of new beliefs different than what was understood as reality not very long ago. In human scales when considering technological advance and accumulation of knowledge, 30 years is a huge period of time, but in biological, meteorological and geological scales, this is merely a blip in the passage of time.

If there is almost complete unanimity among climatologists, paleontologists and biologists (um? hello? the experts talking here?) that anthropomorphic climate change is well on the way to radically changing the surface of the planet, why are there still those that deny it is happening? We should be far past this conversation already!

Cultural acceptance of something is also heavily based on the belief system of the people who have the power. Since the 1970s the media, political and economic leaders have been the ones who have maintained that unregulated free markets and an unrestricted economic growth model will decide what's best for the common good of humanity and the planet. It is only recently that we have collectively realized that maybe this model isn't perfect; that due to our growth and numbers we are reaching limits in many areas and that restrictions to growth are soon going to be inevitable. It is only recently that we have begun to realize that the economic systems we've had in place for well over a century were designed when limits to what the planet could provide free-of-charge were inconceivable. The entire system is built on the foundation that there are no limits (other than labour, right Adam Smith?) and somehow we're able to grow infinitely in a system that is effectively a closed one. Flawed from the start, but designed at a time when the consequences were minimal. And these tenets were taken as the undeniable truth. Not so much anymore, eh? It's hard for some people to grasp reality when the foundations have been shaken out from right underneath them. There are some new variables that desperately need to be written into the equation now.

I think there is a grassroots understanding of these fundamental flaws and that the only way to go forward is to re-vamp the rules we use to play the game, however the ones holding all the cards are the ones who are most heavily invested in ensuring that things remain the way they are.

Corporatism is sociopathological, psychopathological, and anti-human and the sooner we collectively realize this, the better. We have sacrificed so much of who we are and what we have as common heritage and birthright in order to achieve a perceived sense of security, bounty, power, control, and benevolence. The foundations for this path were laid many, many years ago. But is it too late to clean up the mess and alter course before the planet takes care of everything in its own way in its unyielding movement towards equilibrium? History carries on; it doesn't care whether anything in the path towards balance flourishes or flounders.

Systems theory states that as a system gets more specialized and complex, it loses flexibility and resiliency in addition to becoming more entropic. This is very poignant to what you see happening with the financial system problems and credit crunch. The system has become more and more dependent on geopolitical stability and consistent energy supplies at low costs in order to properly function. The oil price spike of last summer was probably the needle that poked the hole in the latest balloon, thus causing spectacular systemic deflation although the bubble occurring in the first place is the underlying issue. For the past fifteen years our economy has gone from one bubble to the next in order to prop up and sustain a faltering system that has a definite end point just a little bit longer. As we start over the side of undependable and fluctuating energy supplies, too many mouths to feed, and an entitled expectation of being able to get whatever we want whenever we want from a vast global production line, the system itself becomes undependable, erratic, and potentially terminal.

This can be akin to a couple of examples -- first, a natural one -- the polar bear. As much as I hate to see what is happening to this majestic species, they are extremely specialized and dependent on a stable ecosystem in one particular cycle of states. With the lack of ability for much adaptation, the demise of their stable environment will be closely followed by the demise of the species itself.

A technological example would be our insatiable desire for miniaturization of electronics. The parts that make up these components become more and more energy and production intensive to design, create, run, and distribute, and they have shorter and shorter lifespans because as one part fails, there is no resilience or redundancy in the system whatsoever and they suddenly become very expensive but effective paperweights or doorstops as soon as the weakest component in the unit fails.

"But what's wrong with that?" say the proponents. "Just buy another one!"


That is one of the big argument points of the intelligentsia today. Considering the natural world or the financial system or many of our social constructs, some believe we are far past tipping points in many areas with our only recourse to try to clean up some of the mess before everything falls apart; others believe we still have time to act to minimize the effects of our destructive ways. The argument is ridiculous. I don't think it really matters - either way, isn't affecting creative, thoughtful change (as opposed to panicked, reactive solutioning) modeling natural systems that have endured for eons going to be better move in the long run? Should we not collectively accept that prudent action is better than no action at all, no matter how dire the situation has become, whether it is obvious to us or not?

I write this all from a privileged narcissistic Western viewpoint. The people and societies of the Third World have been facing the realities of environmental and economic degradation for decades. Very few people will associate the resource-driven and culturally-divided upheavals in Africa and the Middle East for the past few decades to the fact that the foundations of our existence as a civilization have been deteriorating for some time now. The West has largely dictated the direction of this ship for the entire planet since the eras of colonialism and merchantilism. The past few decades have seen the trajectory of this activity and growth start to go exponential with worldwide impacts. It's only because the Third World (yet another Western construct) is more vulnerable and less elastic to these losses that it is happening to them first. In the 1960s and 1970s, the nations of Africa were players in the game of international energy and economic distribution and consumption but since then they have been priced out and have been forced to fold their cards. The Western nations forget about them because they aren't at the table anymore so they are forced to deal with the horrific after-effects on their own. What we see happening there should be a harbinger of things to come for us soon if we don't take action to change the things that are fundamentally flawed and/or unaccounted for in our civilization. It's only a matter of time before we will see similar problems in the 'civilized, affluent' Western societies. We need to find a better, more equitable, more sustainable, more humanitarian, more representational way to do things going forward.

What truly brings value and joy to human existence? Is it unyielding consumerism? Unending growth and transformation of our natural ecosystems? Is it one-upmanship on everyone else? Or is it our social connections? The way we negotiate our relationships with the people closest to us? The people that we love, the people that love us, the communities we are involved in that we have a desire to foster and nurture because healthy communities mean healthy people? The natural world and all the beauty, harshness, and awe it provides us while keeping us alive?

When considering our communities and our natural environments that sustain us, we are part of them and they part of us whether we want it to be that way or not. To make them better only makes us better. The hollow pursuit of material gain, hoarding and collection, and concentration of wealth is a misallocated zero-sum game and certainly not one of the central things that bring us identity, meaning, joy and fulfillment.

That was a lot of writing to get to a few points. I think many of us that are curious and critically analytical probably understand everything that I've just written. We also have a uneasy feeling and an sense of realization that things just aren't right anymore. What does that mean exactly? What is 'right'? Our belief that the way we've done things previously was the correct and justified way to achieve our end goals? I think we can all agree we have a sense that the tried-and-true that has worked rather well in the past isn't going to cut it going forward. We are constantly running faster and faster just to maintain our current position.

The hard part is trying to make sense of it all on a personal level. I've said many times that we are individually intelligent but collectively we're incredibly dense. In that light, I've also realized that there is no comfort (to me anyways) to depend on anyone else or any other institution to attempt to get myself to a point where I feel things are on the right path again. As I had stated earlier, I've found 2008 to be a very difficult year from an existential standpoint because I have been going through a renaissance of sorts, starting to realize that everything I understood as being acceptable and desirable in the past (and what I thought would make me happy) may be a complete ruse/deception or at least not the best way to approach life. The system indoctrinated me into believing that achieving this or that is what defined me as successful or as a contributing citizen therefore not meeting these narrow criteria meant I was not as valuable as another person playing the same game in the same system. It is only over the past few years that I've realized that those criteria are effectively what are the source of the problem and that what is deemed as success in our society is the opposite of (or at least conflicts with) those things that we accept bring us the most happiness and fulfillment as human beings.

I'm realizing that what brings me the most happiness are the intangibles -- maintaining my relationships with my family and my friends. Achieving personal excellence and satisfaction in my hobbies. Hearing the song of sparrows and bluebirds while on a bike ride in Springbank or the Bow Valley with no vehicles or subdivision building sites around. The smell of fall while running along the Elbow River. The deafening silence of a windless winter night and the unbelievable expanse of stars in complete darkness when visiting the family farm in Manitoba. Crossing the finish line at a race after putting my best effort into it. A picture-perfect summer day at a lake or park. A song that puts shivers down my spine and makes me want to dance. Doing work or completing commitments that are self-satisfying and I know are making a positive difference for myself, others or the world in general. These are the things that make me happy and fulfill me.

It seems simple to achieve these things, but I think I speak for many of us when considering that the system is on an incessant path to tear them all down, we obviously have got something wrong that needs to be corrected. To realize that everything you accepted as normal is precisely what is taking joy and fulfillment out of your life is a hard pill to swallow.

That is why I want 2009 to be a year of reckoning for me. I've anguished over the things that are wrong in my life for so long now that my friends don't want to listen to me talk about them anymore. It is time to put my words into action. We're all going through the same shit and only positive changes are going to be heralded as success. I intend to put the things that don't fulfill me or bring me happiness behind me. This is certainly going to be a challenge.

First off, set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. This approach has worked marvellously in the past specifically in my racing history and could very well be applied to all other facets of my life. I've noticed that over the past six months I've really lost my way, not been able to define any goals and thusly become more and more lost to the point where I am now - not sure what to do next in almost all facets of my life.

From a selfish perspective, things like my career which is based on a corporate model that does not care for my feelings or lack of enthusiasm due to its sociopathic nature need to go, but when considering that the last decade of my life has been an investment into what I'm doing now, it's a truth that certainly takes some actualization and reflection. Can I simply leave everything I've believed in and worked towards behind me to start something new that I believe will be more fulfilling and inspiring, yet is still fraught with risks and possible failure? Time to start gambling, taking some chances. I know I've never felt as little commitment or pleasure in what I've been doing in my career as I do at this particular point in time.

To absorb all of this takes time. I'm still a hairless ape deep down that is slow to change and the older I get the slower it gets. The problem is that I might not have much time to change before I'm forced to change. I'd rather have some control over the outcomes on a personal level than to have them dictated to me, and I think that's the mantra we all need to accept to affect the changes that are desperately required personally and collectively.

In my experience, change is a challenge but almost always results in a better outcome than theorized and certainly forces me to reflect on what I've done and what I'm about to do rather than become complacent with what I'm doing in the present and not think about the consequences of my decisions and how they might be affecting me in the present and the future. Especially if during the whole ordeal I'm not satisfied, happy, or fulfilled. What the hell am I doing?

The career thing scares me. I know I need a change if only for my mental state, yet I don't know what I want to do next. I could stay in I.T. but it would need to be in a capacity that is much more locally focused and team-oriented. I am trying to figure things out with that perspective in mind and have yet to figure out what to do. Eventually I will get the impetus to soul-search in earnest; I guess I just haven't gotten to that point of desperation yet. Part of me thinks that holding on to what I'm doing now in this time of confusion and insecurity is the most prudent thing to do until something clearly signals that a shift is mandatory (I also have a sense that if things get worse, a nice layoff package would be in the equation, but there's that ridiculous sense of entitlement rearing its ugly head again!). I also now that my distaste towards what I'm doing now is affecting a lot of other aspects of my life. It's not just the career either, there are a lot of interconnected things in my life that require some change, modification, or complete rebuild.

I'm trying to get my head around the risks associated with this type of hesitant thinking too....look at how our reluctance to see early signs of environmental degradation for what they are have gotten us to our current situation. I'd rather be (and up to now always have been) on the front-side of change when change was required because I took the signs seriously.

On a personal level and all levels above, I don't think the writing on the wall has been more clear. It's time to get involved with a community garden and re-learn how to grow fresh produce, time to 'consume', participate in, and support all things local and regional rather than national or global. Time to eat less meat. Time to consider waste as a part of the consumption cycle rather than an afterthought of it.

In this season of reflection, there is no better time to make plans, set goals and work towards a higher level of consciousness, a better, more effective way of doing things and approaching life. I plan to make 2009 a very important year for myself by moving myself onto a better path towards self-actualization and fulfillment shaped by the things I deem important in my life. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and despair causing inaction, I plan to effect change rather than wait for it to happen to me against my will. I know myself and everything around me will be better off for it!

Good luck to you all as you pursue figuring out your own path in this time of madness. Make 2009 the year you empowered yourself and realized there are much better ways to do things and achieve your goals.

19 December 2008

Clocky Must Die

What an annoying piece of shit this is. That's what makes it the best. alarm. clock. ever.

12 December 2008


Senate to Middle Class: Drop Dead

Friday, December 12th, 2008


They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers start building only cars and mass transit that reduce our dependency on oil.

They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers build cars that reduce global warming.

They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers withdraw their many lawsuits against state governments in their attempts to not comply with our environmental laws.

They could have given the loan on the condition that the management team which drove these once-great manufacturers into the ground resign and be replaced with a team who understands the transportation needs of the 21st century.

Yes, they could have given the loan for any of these reasons because, in the end, to lose our manufacturing infrastructure and throw 3 million people out of work would be a catastrophe.

But instead, the Senate said, we'll give you the loan only if the factory workers take a $20 an hour cut in wages, pension and health care. That's right. After giving BILLIONS to Wall Street hucksters and criminal investment bankers -- billions with no strings attached and, as we have since learned, no oversight whatsoever -- the Senate decided it is more important to break a union, more important to throw middle class wage earners into the ranks of the working poor than to prevent the total collapse of industrial America.

We have a little more than a month to go of this madness. As I sit here in Michigan today, tens of thousands of hard working, honest, decent Americans do not believe they can make it to January 20th. The malaise here is astounding. Why must they suffer because of the mistakes of every CEO from Roger Smith to Rick Wagoner? Make management and the boards of directors and the shareholders pay for this.

Of course that is heresy to the 31 Republicans who decided to blame the poor, miserable autoworkers for this mess. And our wonderful media complied with their spin on the morning news shows: "UAW Refuses to Give Concessions Killing Auto Bailout Bill." In fact the UAW has given concession after concession, reduced their benefits, agreed to get rid of the Jobs Bank and agreed to make it harder for their retirees to live from week to week. Yes! That's what we need to do! It's the Jobs Bank and the old people who have led the nation to economic ruin!

But even doing all that wasn't enough to satisfy the bastard Republicans. These Senate vampires wanted blood. Blue collar blood. You see, they weren't opposed to the bailout because they believed in the free market or capitalism. No, they were opposed to the bailout because they're opposed to workers making a decent wage. In their rage, they were driven to destroy the backbone of this country, not because the UAW hadn't given back enough, but because the UAW hadn't given up.

It appears that the sitting President has been looking for a way to end his reign by one magnanimous act, just like a warlord on his feast day. He will put his finger in the dyke, and the fragile mess of an auto industry will eke through the next few months.

That will give the Senate enough time to demand that the bankers and investment sharks who've already swiped nearly half of the $700 billion gift a chance to make the offer of cutting their pay.

Fat chance.

Michael Moore

Indecision Oh-Eh?

If you didn't get a chance to watch the hilarious episode of the Daily Show on Monday, here is a link to it.

"I didn't know Celine Dion had a sister!"

08 December 2008

Thoughts on Oil and Finance and the Future

I was looking back through my posts over the past year and had to laugh a bit at the amount of coverage the oil spike this summer saw vs. coverage of the financial crash and the resulting problems with that. Neither issue has resulted in anything good and the oil spike is a big part of the trigger that started everything that has happened up until now.

I'm still convinced that we are near the max production rates of a lot of things in our civilization and our ecosystem and to add any more population or growth to the whole thing is going start to make things worse, not better. The oil thing is going to get crazy - big ups, big downs in the price and availability until we can wean off of the stuff, somehow. We have to really start thinking about making an effort to do things smarter. We are capable of many great things in very creative and flexible ways; it's unfortunate that the thing that motivates us to take action collectively in the quickest fashion is fear.

What baffles me most about the past six months is not that oil has come back down in price with the slowdown of the economy and the lowering of general demand, but how low how quickly the price has gone down. Is it even possible that before the spike we were paying more than we are now? Has the economic situation already gotten that bad this quickly that the prices are adjusting accurately, or have speculators taken control of the bottom of this price slide too? It's all head-spinning.

It's also true there are no winners in this current situation. As much as I'd still like to buy a house this year with the market softening, most of my marvellous downpayment was dependent on investments that aren't so marvellous anymore. I may be thankful that I didn't buy in the Calgary market in the past couple of years, but it's quite likely I won't be able to buy in the next two either.

Despite it all, I sure do lead a pretty privileged life. There's no doubt about that. I read a story today about life in the shanytowns of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and how this might be a situation that is going to get more more prevalent and commonplace around the world. Very scary and sad. Abidjan was a place that held so much promise when times were good in the 1980s and has very quickly become an economic and environmental nightmare with the capitalists and Western civic and political leaders pulling out and leaving the local and indigenous populations to fend for themselves. So many unemployed men with nothing to do.

My main resolution in 2009 is to change my attitude to the more positive and uplifting one. It may or may not do anything good, but happy and optimistic is always better than sad and pessimistic, despite what reality throws and you (and what you interpret that reality to be).

That's it for now.

Eep...the Christmas parties start this week...


I love my Zune! It rocks! The software leaves a little to be desired, but you know Microsoft will eventually get that fixed up. It doesn't like static electricity and it sometimes doesn't handle too many requests at the same time. These cause the O/S to reboot, which only takes a few seconds. I can't believe I've already got close to 85GB full! It's awesome and very easy to use. So portable, so awesome.

The 'D' Word

Jobs: a new storm in the economic crisis

Canada's job market is being slammed by the worsening US recession, and is now poised for a hit from slumping energy prices. The year-old recession in the US has entered a more serious phase that is likely to drag on for another year, as massive job losses piled up much more quickly than forecast. Over half-a-million jobs disappeared in November, the biggest drop since 1974 and the 11th month in a row for job losses that seem to be picking up speed. The deteriorating job picture is a clear sign, many economists said, that the recession will be worse than expected. "This is almost indescribably terrible," said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics. "The pace of job losses is accelerating alarmingly." Canada suffered its biggest monthly job losses last month since the recession of 1982 as 70,600 positions disappeared. Ontario's manufacturing sector is taking a direct blow from collapsing demand in the US, claiming about half of the November job losses. Unemployment crept up to 6.3%, still near historical lows but also half a percentage point above the beginning of year. And the US is far from the only weight on Canada's job picture. The services side of the economy, which is more isolated from US demand, also shed 38,000 jobs in the month - a sign that the sources of Canada's economic weakness are not just the US, but also a deceleration in consumer spending, business investment and the housing market, economists said.

Even the silver lining of the current job numbers, the remarkably low unemployment rates in Alberta and Saskatchewan at 3.4% and 3.7%, is at risk. As energy prices fall, Western Canadian companies are scaling back their capital budgets and cancelling and postponing major projects, and some economists are warning that the oil and gas sector will see slumping employment as prices continue to skid. Crude oil prices fell to US$40.81 a barrel in New York yesterday, down 25% on the week and touching their lowest level since December 2004. Prices could fall below $25 if China's economy stumbles and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries fails to sufficiently rein in production, said economists at Merrill Lynch. And Canada's manufacturing sector's woes are far from over, with more pain to come in the auto sector. General Motors of Canada will lay off 700 employees at its Oshawa, ON, car plant in February amid poor sales and a massive, North America-wide production cutback in the first quarter. On both sides of the Canada-US border, the job numbers added a new level of urgency for leaders already under pressure to take decisive action on the struggling economy. Unless the new US administration acts decisively, the recession risks becoming a more intractable depression, said Peter Morici, economist professor at the University of Maryland. "This was much worse than was expected and represents wholesale capitulation," he said of the job numbers. "The threat of a widespread depression is now real and present." The difference, he explained, is that a recession is self-correcting, while a depression is not. Policy measures can soften the blow or shorten a recession, but generally, recessions resolve themselves on their own. Depressions, on the other hand, require governments to take bold measures to fix the underlying causes. Other economists point out that in the Great Depression, unemployment in the US was running around 30%, and today is 6.7%. No US recession since the 1930s Depression has lasted longer than 16 months, but the current downtown seems destined to eclipse that.
(Globe and Mail, National Post 081206)

For most of us, this is looking to be the toughest period of economic duress we've ever experienced. Even the people who have a vested interest in pretending it isn't happening are starting to admit that the worst is coming.

03 December 2008

02 December 2008

Stuff Splattering in Every Direction

Even Bernanke can't say what's next

The bad news is that the US has already been in recession for nearly a year. Worse still, the bottom isn't yet in sight, prompting another massive selloff yesterday on Wall Street. The rout came amid fresh evidence that factory activity is in retreat, and a grim acknowledgment from Federal Reserve Board chief Ben Bernanke that even he doesn't know how long this will last. "The uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook is unusually large," he said. The National Bureau of Economic Research - the official arbiter of US recessions - made it official by declaring that the post-2001 expansion ended abruptly in December 2007, and the economy has been in retreat ever since. "The committee determined that the decline in economic activity in 2008 met the standard for a recession," the NBER said in a statement. A recession is typically marked by two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product, which hasn't happened yet. But the NBER looks at an array of economy-wide measures. These include GDP, payroll employment, gross domestic income, real personal income, real manufacturing sales, wholesale and retail sales, factory output and household employment. The news confirmed what economists have been saying for months, based on analyzing previous slumps. Still unclear is how much longer and deeper the economy will slide.

There is new, disturbing evidence that worse may still be ahead, even a year into the recession. A key measure of manufacturing activity in November fell to its lowest level in 26 years. The Institute for Supply Management's monthly manufacturing index fell to 36.2 from 38.9 in October, the worst reading since the 1982 recession. The index was dragged down by a steep reported drop in factory orders. "The current reading reaffirms the emerging consensus that the current slump will be one of the harshest in the post-World War II era," said economist David Resler of Nomura Securities. Bernanke suggested the central bank would do whatever it takes to stop the spillover effect from the financial crisis to the broader economy, including shielding large financial institutions from collapse. He pointed out that with the Fed's key short-term interest rate already at 1%, there's now limited room to cut more. The Fed meets again Dec. 16 and most analysts expect another rate cut of half a percentage point. But Bernanke said the bank will continue to use unconventional means to keep money coursing through the banking system, including buying up longer-term Treasury bills as well as the debts of mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Down the road, Bernanke said the Fed would have to worry about the inflationary impact of all that liquidity, but not now.

In related news, CIBC World Markets has said that as the US faces its biggest budgetary deficit since the end of the Second World War, taxpayers will be faced with years of future liabilities and inflation that will drive down the value of the US dollar. Yet the stimulus measures that are the prime source of this expanded deficit will do nothing to restore the deeply troubled North American auto industry to long-term viability, said CIBC World Markets chief economist Jeff Rubin. Even before a substantial stimulus package expected from president-elect Barack Obama, the US Treasury market will need to finance US$1.5 trillion of new debt, if not more, pushing the federal deficit to 11% of the country's total economic output. The tempting shortcut will be to "reflate" the US economy by pumping money into the system, Rubin said in the report, titled The Printing Press. "The resulting higher inflation allows the government to pay off bondholders with coupons that have less and less buying power every year," said Rubin. "And while the bonds mature at par, inflation will have eroded much of their real value." Government bailouts won't cure the auto industry, however, whose problems run far deeper than being able to compete with imports, the CIBC report said. The end of cheap credit and rising gasoline prices are fundamentally altering the domestic market, which is geared to produce 15 to 20 million vehicles for a market where demand is falling to 10 million units.
(Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail 081202)

UN: Global stimulus needed

The United Nations called for governments around the world to undertake massive stimulus packages in order to deal with the impact of a global economic downturn. The world body's economists forecast in a new report that the dollar and world per capita income will continue to drop in 2009. The report predicts that export growth and capital inflows will decline and borrowing costs for developing countries increase in 2009. The Global Outlook Report calls for “massive economic stimulus packages that are coherent and mutually reinforcing on a global basis, and linked with sustainable development imperatives.” The packages “should come on top of the liquidity and recapitalization measures already undertaken by countries in response to the economic crisis,” the report added. The report also proposed “stronger regulation of financial markets and institutions, adequate international liquidity provisioning, an overhaul of the international reserve system and a more inclusive and effective global economic governance, to prevent against any future repetition." According to the report, output of developed countries will decline 0.5%, compared with an average growth rate of 5.3% in emerging economies and 4.6% growth in developing countries. Overall global growth will probably not exceed 1% in 2009, compared to 2.5% in 2008, and rates varying between 3.5 and 4% in the four previous years. In the US GDP growth will decline by 1%, the euro zone will drop by 0.7% and Japan by 0.3%. Growth in India, Brazil and Mexico are projected to reach 7%, 2.9% and 0.7%. But the report warns that “given the great uncertainty prevailing today, a more pessimistic scenario is quite possible.”
(Journal of Commerce 081201)

Holy crap. I already have had a bad feeling about everything for some time, but geez the news is getting grim. Prepare for the worst, everyone. The guys in control will be the last to admit how truly dire the situation is, and if they're already conceding that things are rough and only going to get rougher, you can bet that we're in for a world of hurt over the next couple of years - at a minimum.....

Not that they will manage anything properly though. They are all too busy power posturing in Washington and Ottawa to spend any time on real issues.

01 December 2008

Look out Iceland, our turn's next to f*&k it up...

Alberta floats idea of financial hub

The Stelmach government has launched exploratory talks with banks big and small on establishing a western-based "financial hub" that clusters more of the operations of the banking sector in Alberta and turns the province into a global financial powerhouse. While the province looks for ways to shift some of the financial sector's influence away from Eastern Canada, a new government-commissioned report recommends a series of fiscal reforms that would see Alberta and British Columbia create a joint pension plan. While both moves would require sweeping systemic changes, the Alberta government and major financial players are already crafting a plan that would see the province snare more control of the financial sector and station it in their own backyard. Finance Minister Iris Evans met recently with Alberta-based officials from the major banks and other organizations to discuss how they can concentrate more of the financial sector in the province and be more responsive to the region's banking and investment needs. Evans said major banks based in Toronto often don't understand the financial needs of the energy industry and other emerging sectors and it would be in the province's best interest to create its own investment hub. She hopes to attract more banking institutions to the province and said the strategy would work in concert with the government's plan to retain its provincial securities regulator, rather than proceed with a single national authority.
(Calgary Herald 081201)

As much as Alberta's power-trip leaders want complete dominance over the world, is it really such a good idea to let these goons control that which wrecked the financial industry based out of Toronto and New York? Albertan leaders are even more wreckless and short-sighted than the ones in the East....watch as they make Alberta a bigger financial basketcase than Iceland....have you seen how financing for everything half-built in downtown Calgary has suddenly dried up? Yikes.