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Sunday, 9 January 2011

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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Links for 2011-01-07 []

Failed Predictions Don't Stop Apocalypse Forecasters


If a group of fundamentalist Christians is right, you won't live more than another nine months. Harold Camping, leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, has concluded after careful study of the Bible that the world will begin to end on May 21, 2011. It will actually take several months for the process to be complete, but Camping is certain that by October it will all be over, and his group is...

30 Reasons Why 2011 Is Going To Be Another Crappy Year For America’s Middle Class


Do you think that 2011 will be a good year for America's middle class? Well, you might not be so optimistic after you read the 30 statistics posted below. The truth is that 2011 is going to be another crappy year for America's middle class, and there is not a whole lot that you or I can do about it. Sadly, what we are facing as a nation is not just a short-term economic downturn. Rather, there are some very serious long-term economic trends that are absolutely ripping apart the U.S. middle class. For example, did you know that even though our population has been growing at a brisk pace we have lost about ten percent of our middle class jobs over the past decade? The vast majority of jobs that have been created have been low paying service jobs. We now have hordes of highly educated young people that are waiting tables and that are welcoming customers to Wal-Mart. Without good paying jobs there is no middle class, but today American corporations are actually creating more jobs overseas than they are inside the United States. This has helped pad the profits of the big corporate fatcats, but it has been devastating for middle class communities across the United States. Every time a factory gets closed down in America and gets set up in some other country instead, it means that the U.S. middle class is shrinking just a little bit more. The new "global economy" has been good for the bottom line of the largest U.S. corporations, it has been great for countries like China and India, but it is absolutely wiping out the U.S. middle class.

If you still have a good paying middle class job you should be very thankful. The total number of those jobs is rapidly decreasing. Millions of those that have lost their jobs over the last several years have been forced to take lower paying jobs or even part-time jobs in an attempt to fill the void. Millions of others have not been able to find a job at all.

Meanwhile, the price of everything is going up. Have you been to the supermarket lately? The price of food is going up substantially. Many analysts are already talking about $5 a gallon gasoline in 2010. Utility bills are going through the roof. Health care premiums are soaring. Many state and local governments are seriously hiking up taxes and fees.

Tens of millions of American families are going to be forced to make what they do have stretch even farther in 2011. But for many American families the breaking point has already been reached. An all-time record number of Americans is on food stamps. An all-time record number of Americans is living below the poverty line. Personal bankruptcies and mortgage defaults continue to hover around record levels.

The U.S. economy is shaking like a leaf, and the people that are feeling it the most are the hard working American families that just want to make an honest living, pay the mortgage and feed their families.

Unfortunately, 2011 isn't going to be any easier for those families. As a nation we continue to pursue the exact same economic policies that have allowed these horrible long-term economic trends to develop. Things are not going to change until our country starts moving in a fundamentally different direction.

The following are 30 reasons why 2011 is going to be another crappy year for America's middle class....

#1 We are bleeding middle class jobs at a pace that is staggering. Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.

#2 In particular, the United States is absolutely hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs. Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

#3 The decline of manufacturing in America has only accelerated over the past decade. The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#4 Deindustrialization is creating ghost towns in some areas of the United States. Even some of America's biggest cities are now only a shadow of what they used to be. Since 1950, the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has declined by more than 50 percent. In Dayton, Ohio 18.9 percent of all houses now stand empty.

#5 We have literally seen tens of thousands of American factories close down permanently over the past decade. Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factories have closed down for good.

#6 U.S. companies now create more jobs overseas than they do in the United States. Over the past year, American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas but less than a million jobs here at home.

#7 When Americans lose their jobs these days they typically end up having to take new jobs that do not pay as much. According to one recent study, the majority of unemployed Americans that have been able to find new jobs during this economic downturn have been forced to accept a cut in pay.

#8 The overwhelming majority of the jobs that the U.S. economy is creating now are low paying jobs. In fact, more than 40% of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.

#9 The number of long-term unemployed continues to skyrocket in this country. As 2007 began, there were just over 1 million Americans that had been unemployed for half a year or longer. Today, there are over 6 million Americans that have been unemployed for half a year or longer.

#10 For those who are out of work, the wait can be excruciating. It now takes the average unemployed American over 33 weeks to find a job.

#11 Millions of Americans have become extremely depressed as they have discovered that they simply cannot find any work at all. In August 2009, only 10 percent of the unemployed had been out of work for 2 years or longer. Today that number is up to 35 percent.

#12 Meanwhile, the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to grow. According to one recent report, the wealthiest one percent of all U.S. households have an average of approximately $14 million in assets, while the average U.S. household has assets that total about $62,000.

#13 In fact, those at the very top of the income scale seem to be doing better than ever. Between 1950 and 1989, the top 1% usually earned around 7 or 8 percent of all national income. Today that figure is getting very close to 20 percent.

#14 Some of the income inequality statistics are almost too outrageous to believe. For example, the top 20 percent of U.S. working families take home approximately 47 percent of all income and earn about 10 times the amount that low-income working families bring in.

#15 Sadly, most American families are now living week to week. According to a survey released very close to the end of 2010, 55 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

#16 The U.S. real estate market continues to stagnate. During the third quarter of 2010, 67 percent of all mortgages in Nevada were "underwater", 49 percent of all mortgages in Arizona were "underwater" and 46 percent of all mortgages in Florida were "underwater". So what happens if home prices go down even more?

#17 For millions upon millions of middle class families, their number one financial asset is their house. Unfortunately, many analysts are now projecting that U.S. housing prices will fall much lower than they are now. For example, Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital says that home prices in the United States are going to decline at least 20 percent and possibly even more.

#18 But even though home prices have declined significantly, the truth is that they are still too high for most American families. Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

#19 Most American families have found that their economic situations have significantly deteriorated over the last several years. In fact, 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since December 2007.

#20 As tens of millions of Americans barely scrape by, saving for retirement has become an afterthought. Today, 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.

#21 The truth is that incomes all across America are going down. In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.

#22 So is anyone doing better? Well, one group is. In 2009, the only group that saw their household incomes increase was those making $180,000 or more.

#23 Most Americans are scratching and clawing and doing whatever they can to make a living these days. Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#24 Millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all that they could get. The number of Americans working part-time jobs "for economic reasons" is now the highest it has been in at least five decades.

#25 Some of the people that have been hit the hardest by all this have been children. According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.

#26 If all of the above was not bad enough, now we are not even living as long. According to one recent report, the United States has dropped to 49th place in the world in overall life expectancy.

#27 The sad truth is that our country is in decline and it is getting poorer. Ten years ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. In 2010, the United States has fallen to seventh.

#28 Our young people are supposed to be the hope of the future, but most of them are up to their eyeballs in student loan debt. Americans now owe more than $875 billion on student loans, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.

#29 Life is getting harder and harder for those on the low end of the income scale. The bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

#30 On top of everything else, the price of oil is skyrocketing again. John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, believes that American consumers could be shelling out 5 dollars for a gallon of gas by 2012. If that actually happens, it is going to absolutely devastate millions of middle class American families.

So are you depressed yet?

Well, don't be. There is a whole lot more to life than just money.

Times are hard and they are going to get harder, but that doesn't mean that you can't thrive in the middle of all this. Hopefully we can all take this as a wake up call. We all need to work harder, become less wasteful, become more independent and stop living as if the good times are going to last forever.

So what do you think 2011 is going to hold for the U.S. economy? Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below....

It’ll Be Unstoppable, the Speed of It Will Leave Most People Waking Up to the Danger After It Has Already Happened


Well known investment adviser and forecaster Doug Casey of Casey Research recently joined International Speculator’s Louis James for an interview about the globe’s goings on. Mr. Casey discusses a variety of different topics, focusing first on the protests in Belarus and then shifting his thoughts to the coming financial and economic catastrophe that will engulf the majority of the world.

Yesterday we suggested that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has confirmed what some already know: We’re Literally On the Brink of Catastrophic Collapse. Doug Casey tends to agree with our sentiment and provides some of his views on why a complete collapse is unstoppable, what we can expect once it happens and steps to take to protect yourself:

Doug: You know I’ve been saying for years that the coming crash is going to be even worse than I think it’s going to be. The correction in 2008 was very scary, but minor by comparison. A warmup. Minor trembling in the ground, just before Krakatoa blows.

That the world financial system will have to face a reckoning day has been pretty much a given since the U.S. took the dollar, the world’s reserve currency, off the gold standard. Since then, decades of profligacy, not just in the U.S., but all around the world, have distorted the global economy to the breaking point. It’s only lasted as long as it has because of the great increases to productivity the computer and other wealth-creating technologies have created, and the fact that many individuals still produce more than they consume and save the difference – even as governments have stepped up their efforts at wealth confiscation.

I thought things might go over the edge in 1980, but I was early. I underestimated how much wealth there was left in the world for the politicians to plunder. But now, while there is more physical wealth in the world, in the form of factories, homes, powerful technologies, etc., there is also massively more debt. Governments – first-world governments, not just banana republics – are sliding towards default, and in the West most individuals have little or no savings. In the East, many have savings tied up in a deflating gargantuan real estate bubble.

For all the reasons we’ve discussed in many different ways, the Greater Depression we’re sliding into is going to be catastrophic for the old world order.

Uneconomic patterns of production and consumption are going to be liquidated – they have to be – and that’s going to smash a lot of people’s rice bowls. In today’s richest societies, people won’t be able to move back to the family farm the way they did in the 1930s; there’s no farm left in most families. There’s not even that much family left in many families – instead of extended families that care for their elders, who educate the young while the able-bodied adults work, we send our elderly to fade away in institutions and our young to be indoctrinated in other institutions, and we barely know what our brothers and sisters are doing, let alone our other relatives. What happens to the huge masses of such people when unemployment benefits can no longer be extended?

Yes, “It can happen here,” and it’s going to. Maybe not this year, maybe not for several, but when the real crash gets underway, it’ll be unstoppable, and it will destroy the status quo with a speed that will leave most people still waking up to the danger after the harm has already been done.

Louis: Sounds like a sci-fi horror film…

Doug: I know, and it’s unsettling to sound the alarm. People dismiss you for being a Chicken Little. But the plain truth is that we’ve already gone beyond the point of no return. There is simply no way the U.S. government can pay all its obligations without defaulting or destroying the dollar – which is just a different kind of default. The same goes for a lot of other governments. There is no way out that does not force a lot of people to make painful adjustments.

Louis: Are you talking blood in the streets or something more like a chapter 13 bankruptcy, where everything gets sold off to satisfy creditors? Do you see the world of Mad Max ahead, or are we all going to work for the Chinese?

Doug: Both could happen, but I’m leaning toward the latter. I think most of the world’s wealth will still exist, but it will change hands. Better start learning Mandarin. You’ll need it to do business in the new world after the crash – or to get a job as a houseboy, working for those who do learn to do business in the world after the crash.

Louis: How else do we prepare, besides learning Mandarin?

Doug: You know my mantra: liquidate, consolidate, speculate, and create. To which I add and must emphasize again: diversify your political risk. I truly believe that increasingly desperate states will be the greatest risk to your wealth, going forward. The swelling masses of have-nots are going to turn their increasingly hungry eyes on the haves, and the politicians are going to pander to them – and these days, if you have any net worth at all, you’re a have. When the food riots start in New York, LA, London, Paris, etc., I want to be good and far away.

Source: Lew Rockwell

If things keep going in the direction they are, with more people dropping off of unemployment insurance benefits monthly, tens of thousands consistently being added to food stamp rolls, and jobs permanently disappearing across the country, then it is only a matter of time before we have riots in the streets.

While the majority of Americans may not believe that it can happen here, one organization that is preparing a response for a cataclysmic meltdown is our very own US government, which is Actively War Gaming ‘Large Scale Economic Breakdown’ and ‘Civil Unrest’.

For those with the ability to do so, get out of the city. If it were up to Doug Casey, he’d suggest getting out of the country altogether. While this is likely not possible for most of our readers for a variety of reasons, there are most certainly things you can do to blunt the impact of financial, economic, political and societal calamity.

We continue to recommend that you diversify your available assets and get busy preppin’:

  • Get out of the city - the last place you want to be is in the middle of a food riot or dealing with a situation where martial law has been declared because of rampant crime or violence.
  • Store basic needs like food, water, toiletries in the event of a rapid spike in prices
  • If funds are available, you should consider investing in emergency preparedness goods as a hedge against rising prices. Some ideas: bulk wheat, rice, beans, and other foodstuffs.
  • Build up skills that may be useful during a severe depressionary environment. Office cube jobs will be few and far between. Learn to labor with your hands and produce physical goods or meaningful services. Be prepared to take work outside of your current training.
  • Contemplate a home defense and self defense plan. This may include acquiring some SHTF armaments and personal defense skills (e.g. martial arts, krav maga, etc.)
  • Have access to hard currency. In a hyperinflationary meltdown, things like food and ammo will become barterable goods, as will small denomination silver coins (e.g. junk silver pre-1965 half dollars and quarters).
  • Prepare yourself emotionally, spiritually and physically for unexpected occurrences. If the worst were to happen, no one would be spared.
  • Get informed. Read this web site regularly (shameless plug) and pick up some reading material online to give you an idea of the different scenarios that may play out. Some recommendations include Patriots by James Rawles, One Second After by William Forstchen, and preparedness guides like the Top 10 Survival Downloads You should Have (available free).

Prepare now - or pay the price later.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Surviving the Stress in our Modern World



The term ‘modern survival’ can encompass many different topics such as being prepared for a disaster or becoming more self sufficient to name a few. Preparing, storing and becoming more in tune with the events around you are some of the things that come to mind when I hear ‘modern survival’.

Another meaning of ‘modern survival’ that comes to mind, is surviving the stress on a day to day basis in this modern world we live in, which is so different than the world our parents knew. Today in most households, both spouses have to work full time just to make ends meet. Long days at work, and long commutes make for exhausted people when they do get home. And due to the current recession, for many people, their work days have gotten even longer.

So many businesses have laid off workers to help cut costs and save money, but the ‘work’ has not necessarily gone away. Instead, many of us out there are left to ‘pick up the slack.’ We are EXPECTED to work longer hours to ensure the same amount of productivity, but with fewer workers. Many are afraid of losing their job if they don’t work the overtime. So, not only do we have longer work days plus our commute time, but many people are trying to deal with the added pressure of the stress we are under. This makes for a mentally exhausted, as well as, a physically exhausted person that eventually walks through the front door of their home sanctuary at the end of a day.

Part of what helps me through some of my high level stressful days at work, is a little ‘visual’ technique, or ‘visualization‘. When I am in one of those stressful moments, I stop for a few seconds and I picture myself putting the key to my front door in the lock, turning it, and walking through the door. Closing the door behind me, I am in my sanctuary, where work can no longer ‘get me’. It stays outside. Our mini Dachshund, Sampson, greets me with such enthusiasm and kisses, once again, all is right with my world.

Another thing I visualize is my evening at home. What will I prepare for dinner? The meal I am about to prepare is going to be made with the rest of my family in mind. Even if I lived alone, the feeling would still be the same. The exercise of preparing my evening meal has taken on a ‘therapeutic’ ambiance. I think the key to remember here is I am now doing something for myself, not my employer!
When I first started gardening years ago, I first viewed it as a ‘labor of love’, or sometimes a ‘chore’ to be done. As our day to day worlds in corporate America got crazier and more stressful, I began to notice a change in how I viewed gardening and what tending my garden did for me.

When I came home from work, I would start tending our garden first. I began to notice the feeling of calm that came over me as I watered my plants. I came to look at them as my babies, since after all I started them from seed. It was amazing to me the subtle changes I could notice from one day to the next. Perhaps it was a whole new sprout or a new bloom.

The mindless tasks of watering and weeding began to erase the pressures of my day. Soon my mind was filled with thoughts of my babies. By the time I was finished and walked into the house, my thoughts were more like those of a proud parent than a stressed out employee. My babies were growing and would soon bear fruit of their own. Fruit (and vegetables) that would be so delicious on our table!
How you reduce stress is a personal thing and what you visualize is up to you.

Find what calms you and go there often!
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