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New Delhi’s Dystopic Dilemma
From:
Albert Goldson --  Cerulean Council Albert Goldson -- Cerulean Council
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Saturday, May 8, 2021

 



The dystopic perfect storm is unfolding in India withrecord-breaking daily new Covid cases and deaths that may continue unabated throughthe rest of 2021 buffeting the South Asian country of 1.4 billion inhabitants.

A little over a year ago on 17 April 2020 I published anarticle entitled IndiaBracing for the Covid-19 Viral Contagion which articulated the multitude ofpowerful interwoven factors that will compound the pandemic’s spread, depth andduration which are being played out as forecast resulting in untold humansuffering.

This present-day article reintroduces those factors with updatedsupporting charts and documentation to provide a comprehensive overview of thiscalamity. The factors discussed are as follows:

·        Socio-Economic Demographics

·        Healthcare Primer

·        Pollution

·        Food Insecurity

·        India’s Civil, Political & Press Freedoms

·        Dystopic Socio-Political Fallout

 

Socio-Economic Demographic Primer

According to the 22 February 2020 IMF report, India has theworld’s 5th largest economy as measured by nominal GDP. Nonethelessit faces a daunting task in containing Covid-19 virus because of its socio-economicprofile, public health infrastructure, shortfall in medical preparedness, pollutedenvironment and government whose policy and decision makers are politicalloyalists rather than experienced technocrats and specialists.

According to the June 2017 report India’s Smart Cities Missions these are some critical data. Of the totalpopulation of 1.4 billion:

·        380 million are urbanized (31%).

·        833 million are rural (69%).

·        632 million live in poverty – 25% of the world’spoor.

·        Almost two-thirds of statutory towns in Indiahave ‘slums’ and a total of 13.75 million households live in them.

·        About 36 per cent of households in thesesettlements do not have basic facilities of electricity, tap water, andsanitation within their premises.

·        India also records the world’s largest number ofhomeless persons (at least three million in urban areas according toindependent estimates).”

·        Historically there is a large rural to urbanmigration in search for work.

Water scarcity [especially potable] and urban density by thelower socio-economic classes including many migrant workers, make it difficultto maintain sanitary conditions, good personal hygiene and social distancing.

Health Care Primer

The following are key points discussed which I paraphrasewith respect to India’s health care dilemmas from 12 June 2019 article entitledIndia’sAiling Health Sector in the publication The Diplomat:

·        Over 50% of healthprofessionals in India — including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and midwives —do not have proper qualifications while 20 percent of adequately qualifieddoctors are not part of the current workforce. Of the currently working healthprofessionals, around 25 percent do not possess the necessary qualifications aslaid down by professional councils.

·        The geographical distribution is a problem with two-thirds ofdoctors, nurses, and midwives working in urban areas where only 29 percent ofIndians live. In many villages, the density of healthcare professionals lagsbehind many African countries.

·        India’s low spending on healthcare. Despite being the world’s fifthlargest economy, public health spending has languished at under 1.5 percent ofGDP, one of the lowest rates in the world. For comparison, the United Kingdomshelled out 9.6 percent of its GDP in 2017 on health. The United States’ healthexpenditure is 18 percent of GDP.

·        The high cost ofmedicines in which an overwhelming 70 percent of healthcare expenses in Indiaare paid by Indian patients out of their own pockets, one of the highest ratesin the world.

Not only has the paucity of testing kits and testing resultedin the grossly under-stated numbers of infected, there are fewer medicaldoctors per 1,000 inhabitants despite India having the world’s 5thlargest GDP and few health equipment & supply resources to grapple with theviral conflagration.

Far more embarrassing is that India is the leading producerof generic vaccines yet is having enormous difficulties in producing enoughanti-Covid vaccines for domestic distribution which will unnecessarily prolongthe crisis. At present only 3% of the population has been inoculated.

The following 19 March 2019 chart entitled TheCountries with the Highest Density of Doctors provided by OECD highlightsthe dearth of doctors in India per 1,000 inhabitants:

Pollution + Novel Virus = Lethal Combination

India’s high pollution serves as an accelerant for thespread of Covid-19 amongst a wider demographic. According to the IQAir Report, India has 14 of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world.In the following chart entitled Study:Pollution Kills 8.3 Million People Annually from the Global Alliance OnHealth and Pollution published 20 December 2019.

The high Covid-19 infection rate for infants and youngpeople should not be a mystery to the medical establishment and researchersbecause for decades from birth the autoimmune systems of Indian urbanites hasbeen compromised manifesting in underlying health issues such as hypertensionand respiratory problems.

Specific to cities the following chart provided by IQAir is entitledIndia Has The Most Polluted Cities on Earth of which 14 are Indian, 3 arePakistani and two are Chinese.


The explosive conflagration how Covid-19 is spreadingthroughout Asia can be viewed in the following chart entitled NewCoronavirus Waves Sweep Through Asia provided by John Hopkins Universityvia Our World in Data:

This viral conflagration specificto India vs the world can be contributed to the aforementioned environmentaland healthcare shortfalls. The following chart entitled IndiaEmerges as the World’s Covid19 Hotspot, provided by Our World in Data providesa powerful visual image of the present-day trend

Food Insecurity

India’s food supply chain is a double-edged sword. Indiarequires millions of highly labor-intensive work for harvesting andtransporting foodstuffs. However the methods in combatting a pandemic throughlockdowns and social distancing threatens India’s ability to feed itscitizenry. The Wall Street Journal article 8 April 2020 India’sFood Supply Chain Frays as Workers Stay Home, provides a background summaryon how India feeds itself:

·        India’s food industry is highly fragmentedconsisting of millions of small farmers, selling through millions of middlemenwho then deliver to millions of tiny shops.

·        Every food industry is labor intensive includingthe wheat industry, high mechanized in western countries.

·        Already there are fewer farm workersparticularly for the current wheat harvest), fewer trucks arriving to load anddeliver foodstuffs to distribution warehouses and fewer warehouse laborers tounload and reload foodstuffs for local delivery.

·        The entire process is labor-intensive becausewheat is harvested by hand, sacks of foodstuffs are unloaded and loaded ontrucks using lines of men not forklifts, and local deliveries of perishableitems are done by bicycle, not refrigerated trucks.

In summary the pandemic has made a robust food industry thatprovides employment to millions into a fragile one - an industry dependent onmillions of people for face-to-face transactions making social distancingimpossible to maintain.

With hundreds of thousands infected and additional prolongedlockdowns, it begs the question as to not only how India will feed itself butagainst a commodity price “super cycle” which has dramatically raised the priceof food stuffs.

Suppression of Democratic Freedoms

In the world’s largest democracy by population, PrimeMinister Modi’s government is trying to suppress criticism of the government’shandling of the pandemic by using emergency powers laws. They are specifically targetingTwitter because of its extensive use in India for communication. Acomprehensive overview of the battle between government and freedom ofexpression is in the Reuters article dated 26 April 2021 entitled IndiaAsks Twitter To Take Down Some Tweets Critical Of Its Covid-19 Handling.

According to Freedom House, India was classified as only“partly free” with respect to state of freedom for access to political rightsand civil liberties. The following chart entitled TheState of Freedom in the World provides a global view.

In lockstep with the deteriorating state of freedom is thedeteriorating state of press freedoms including social media. Thefollowing chart provided by Reporters Without Borders entitled The State ofWorld Press Freedom classified India as a “difficult situation”, a profoundfall from grace for India unlike Russia and Brazil which have the sameclassification but that are far younger democracies still hobbled by longhistories of autocracies and dictatorships.


Dystopic Denouement

The most disturbing trend is indicated in those last twocharts in which state freedom is classified as “partly free” and press freedomsare classified as “difficult situation” which represent just one step from awayfrom the classification of autocratically ruled China. This means that the democraticprotections afforded to the Indian citizenry and the press have been degraded tothe point of being a whisper away from de facto autocratic rule.

As the viral surge worsens Modi, the quiet megalomaniac, isalready losing popular support. According to Morning Consult, a US data group,Modi’s approval rating has declined precipitously from 74% in late March to 65%as of 4 May. If such a trend continues then Modi’s re-election odds for the2024 national elections will decrease considerably. For this reason he may imposedraconian measures to retain his political power in the form of an indefinitestate of emergency or worse.

Already the underlying dystopic elements are in play totrigger a potential violent socio-political fallout – perhaps widespread civilunrest - particularly against the backdrop of the Modi administration’s aggressivepre-pandemic discriminatory policies against non-Hindus and enthusiastically enforcedwith violence by a de facto militia of true believers.

If India should collapse into the depths of autocracy, alongwith China’s 1.4 billion population, the two autocracies would represent almost40% of the global population of 7.4 billion and leave few countries in Asia,notably Japan, Taiwan, Australia and Singapore as strong democracies.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that providesprescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments ongeopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

 

Image from Time Magazine
Demographics | Minorities Defined

For the purpose of this article on workforce diversityperspectives, the word “minority” will be used to describe any worker who is anon-Caucasian and/or female of any racial/ethnic background, non-heterosexual andhandicapped.

Workforce Diversity | Failure to Launch

Despite the ground-breaking 1960s legislation that legallyprovided greater opportunities for minorities to obtain higher education andconsideration for employment in private industry, the comparative present-day,21st century figures are abysmal by any measure. If the governmentprovided an equally favorable financial or tax-based legislation for any otherreason and a private entity was unable to markedly increase profits and marketshare, the CEO and upper-management would have been fired.

The Curse of Educational Finance

When one barrier is lowered, such as formerly discriminatoryadmissions practices in higher education, another is erected such risingcollege tuition that is unaffordable to most minorities except withhard-to-secure generous scholarships or fellowships.

The following chart entitled Average Total Debt ofGraduates Who Took Out Loans provided by US News, provides the disturbingincrease in tuition costs over a 10-year period from 2009-2019.

Supporting the challenges of paying for a US universityeducation the following chart entitled TheUS Has The Highest Tuition Fees provided by the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development (OECD) and provided by Statista, an onlinestatistical firm:


 

Furthermore there has been an emergence of a different typeof student loan financing entitled “income-share agreement”. As articulated in TheNew York Times article dated 25 March 2021 entitled ANovel Way to Finance School May Penalize Students from HBCUs, Study Finds,the loan is paid through the deduction of a pre-established percentage of astudent’s income after graduation for a fixed period of time. In thisunregulated field the interest rates are not determined by the individualstudent’s ability to pay rather based on the collective of students in theircommunity which means an African-American student might pay more interest thanhis Caucasian counterpart even if they have the same paying job.

For this reason many minorities have no choice but to pursuean undergraduate degree from less known and less prestigious universities withconsiderably lower tuition rather than apply to an expensive top-tieruniversity. The post-graduation reality is that top companies strongly prefergraduates from top-tier universities which eliminates a large pool of intellectuallyqualified minorities.

Tuition costs represent almost insurmountable financialpeaks. If one managed to climb Mount McKinley for an undergraduate degree, K2is the graduate program. The number of scholarships and fellowships are so fewas to be meaningless to make a difference. Let’s not forget the scandal inwhich wealthy Caucasian parents, many of them celebrities, paid far more to a“coach” to get their children into elite universities than the tuition itself.The practice is probably more widespread than reported.

For this reason, the pipeline of qualified minoritycandidates for upper management positions are dramatically dropping to atrickle because a graduate degree is a perquisite for the next level. It’s notthat there’s a lack of minority candidates with experience and brains, rather thepipeline has already been deliberately sabotaged at the source.

As Dr. WPS Sidhu, Clinical Associate Professor at NYU Schoolof Professional Studies for Global Affairs, and panelist stated in the 7February 2021 in the “Confronting Race & Colonialism in World Affairs”webinar, “Inclusive in what? Classrooms are a place of privilege.”

The Corporate Serpent’s Silver Tongue | “Divide &Conquer”

It’s an open secret from the street to the penthouse that thereare highly educated and experienced minority employees whose progress up thecorporate ladder and careers have plateaued disproportionately to their Caucasiancounterparts because private industry has deemed it so.

Even the definition of “minority” has widened the field toinclude the physically handicapped (of all races) and women. Insidiously this hasincreased the pool of Caucasian candidates under this revised definition andeffectively “crowded out” and considerably reduced the odds forAfrican-American and Hispanics because of the limited available upper-levelpositions. For this reason a Caucasian female and Caucasian handicapped or Caucasiantransgender person “qualifies” under this definition leaving African-Americanand Hispanics on the outside looking in through an agonizingly transparentbulletproof glass ceiling.

The pool of non-Caucasian talent was never lacking ratherthe composition. For several decades the influx of thousands of Chinesestudents – over 200,000 in the US – has been a lucrative cash cow for highereducation institutions who pay the full tuition price. As a double bonus these highereducation institutions can statistically claim that they are achieving theirobjectives of minority enrollment. Meanwhile American-born students,specifically African-American, Native American and Hispanics without such sovereignstate financial support are still in the back of the bus.

The failure of diversity programs has statistical support througha study by The Financial Times in their 1 April 2021 article entitled Shareof Black Employees In Senior Us Finance Roles Falls Despite Diversity Push,as presented by the media platform Remarkboard. [The above link also includes apodcast of the article]. In brief “African-Americans account for 13% of allfinance staff and the sector’s biggest ethnic minority.” However in senior jobstheir share fell from 2.9% to 2.6% from 2007 to 2018. Meanwhile there are moreexecutives of Asian descent in senior manager positions even though there are50% more African-Americans workers in this sector.

The definition of “minority” is more inclusive which hasincreased the pie, but there are thinner slices for certain minorities specificallyfor African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans because corporations arefavoring certain minorities over others.

Like the Covid-19 virus variants, higher education andprivate industry have their legal variants – a rebranding - to maintain thestatus quo and blatantly use “diversity theater”, the tactic of recruiting,hiring and promoting “the best & brightest” amongst minority candidates. Thesefarcical beau geste public relations campaigns have historically beenreactive and legally defensive, never proactive and socially progressive afterprotests on discriminatory practices began literally knocking on their doors - andsometimes smashing their windows. Symbolically the exterior windows of theirvenues are often broken and replaced but the interior bulletproof glassceiling never cracks.

This is why corporate have disingenuously supported BlackLives Matter (BLM) shamelessly after-the-fact by tasking their behavioralspecialists in public relations to construct a customized social umbrellaliability policy with the intensification of protests, destroyed property andpossible boycotts. This damage control campaign featured slick public relationsproductions brimming with mostly smiling non-Caucasian faces that supposedly confirmtheir commitment to diversity.

High profile positions occupied by minorities such as formerPresident Obama and select Fortune 500 CEOs are notable but merely an illusionand clever imagery misdirection as signs of progress towards a nation of meritocracy.But composition of minorities in the “bread & butter” governmental and corporatedecision-making positions are unchanged while controlling the trickle ofqualified minority candidates for top level consideration.

Because the spigot of this pipeline restricts the number ofqualified minorities available to vie for upper-level positions, the present-dayfew in number is not a threat. Those that don’t make the cut to the C-suite are“kettled” into pre-designated departments established as the new corporatediversity work camps, highly paid but with no decision-making “teeth” orresources to accomplish the department’s mission in search of not just unicorns,rather purple unicorns.

The creation of diversity positions and departments is anadditional administrative layer for the purposes of misdirection andobfuscation of the corporate personnel structural problem.

Even when those minority candidates get on the so-called“short list” for final interviews, final selection at this level isqualitative, not quantitative because those on the “short list” are alreadyqualified. A perfect case study is the exquisite theater of the absurddemonstrated by the continued hiring of Caucasian NFL coaches despite thesurfeit of qualified and experienced minority candidates.

For this reason the simmering frustration and anger ofminorities continue unabated and spillover to the streets as the pandemic hasexposed the blatant and open governmental and private industry discrimination, corruptionand record-breaking inequities as quantified by the Gini-index.

WORKPLACE | MINORITIES’ DOUBLE BIND

One standard practice for discouraging minority promotionsto the upper-management ranks is unethical and discriminatory practices that aredifficult to prove. It’s the corporate practice similar to law enforcement’stactic of arresting a suspect who’s a minority under dubious circumstances. Althoughhe’s eventually acquitted of all charges, he now has an indelible arrest recordwhich prevents him from future employment consideration.

In the corporate work this creation of obstacles forpromotions begins at the lower levels which represent the double binds. On onehand the supervisor gives a minority worker an assignment with a specificobjective. During the project the worker takes the initiative and achievesbeyond the objective of the project without utilizing more resources thanallotted and well within any financial or legal risks.

Instead of congratulating the worker, the supervisorreprimands the worker not for exceeding the objective, rather bynot following instructions and halting at the original objective. A slightvariation is reprimanding the worker for trying to “reinvent the wheel” as thepresent system operates fine.

This perceived micro-“insubordination” might be communicatedon performance reviews stating with the misleading comment that the workerdoesn’t follow instructions despite the huge corporate benefits provided by theworker.

On the flip side the same minority worker who reaches theobjective and halts is “reprimanded” because he didn’t take theinitiative and achieve more with the allotted resources and within thefinancial and legal risks. Again the variation on this undeserved criticism bythe supervisor is that one can’t continue to do things the same way and must becreative and innovative to achieve a greater competitive edge.

Once again this micro-“insubordination” is memorialized inthe performance review stating that the worker is intelligent but fails to takethe initiative. You can feel the discriminatory presence but cannot provide adefinitive legal proof.

The performance review has always been an onerous and fatallyflawed politically-laden tool, even when contested, that determines theemployee’s company-specific and often career path. The performance reviewdocument, counter-signed by management at various levels, is the most hated andodorous pile of corporate excrement ever created.

This is one of many clever tactics that enables upper-managementto forcibly sabotage the career trajectory of talented minorities. Instead theyshuffle minorities laterally between departments, a perverse corporatepurgatory, which is a far easier practice to justify nowadays as corporationshave flattened their hierarchy thus conveniently reducing availableupper-management positions.

The No-Win Double Bind Challenge | Career Check Mate

Quite a number of these minorities have professionally anddiplomatically challenged their supervisor’s judgements by requesting them toexplain the differences. Supervisors are flummoxed and tongue-tied becausethey’ve never been challenged in this manner. Just by engaging in thisprofessional query is a career killer within the organization which takesvarious forms such as being sent off to corporate Siberia – literallyphysically set apart from everyone else – assigned to less challengingassignments. These are the consequences one pays for greasing the corporatemask that falls off and exposes their unfiltered and brutally ugly intentions.

CORPORATE OBJECTIVES

The reality is that the corporate supreme priority is notprofit rather power & control which goes against the interests of theshareholders, customers and community. Profit is important but is incorporatedinto the shadows of power & control in a way that they’re almostindistinguishable. But when forced to make a distinct choice, power & controlis the priority since profits can be regained later – a near-term cost of doingbusiness on their terms - while loss of power & control is far moredifficult to recoup.

Corporations maintain the status quo by engaging in creativepersonnel accounting by shuffling minorities to the back of the bus (backoffice) while including them in the overall head count to assuage governmentsand activist groups. If they hold up in public audits and demonstrate somemeasure of “best efforts” through recruitment then legally they’re protectedeven though they’re breaking the spirit of the law.

Cagey Corporate Conspiracies

The pitch-black side of diversity is when a corporationappears to be enlightened by hiring a minority at the highest level such as CEOat the tipping point when the corporation is about to face a crisis such as asuddenly turbulent marketplace.

This pandemic period is a perfect example of extreme stressand turmoil creating the ideal environment for a political set-up. A minority candidateis provided the opportunity to succeed yet lacks the usual resources andsupport in the pre-pandemic era to right a sinking ship which compounds thepossibility of failure. When the firm crashes and burns the minority CEO suddenlybecomes the fall guy and conveniently removed. This trend was astutely articulatedin The NY Times article entitled Womenin Power Are Set Up to Fail, published on 12 December 2008.

The Big Tech Terror on Diversity

Big Tech has become a powerhouse in an astounding shortperiod of time dominating the early 21st century. Its exponentialgrowth and demands for highly-skilled technical workers has resulted in apaucity of minority workers. As with the corporate finance sector, minorityworkers are heavily represented by those of Asian descent.

Interestingly one might assume that the Millennial agedleadership would be more progressive than earlier leadership generations whowere unaccustomed to working and living amongst non-Caucasians Fascinatingly, theMillennial leadership mindset is little altered because minorities are disproportionatelyrepresented possibly lower than during pre-Civil Rights corporate America.

The broader picture and dramatical increase ofdissatisfaction among all tech workers can be viewed in the following chartentitled TechWorkers Unite! provided by Collective Actions in Tech and presented by Statista.

The perverse irony is that Big Tech aggressively marketstheir products & services as unifying and egalitarian yet which are increasinglyprivacy-invasive. Further their steep prices are out of reach of manyminorities particularly during the pandemic when many of these minoritystudents were unable to attend school remotely. For this reason they fell evenfurther behind their counterparts.

How It All Plays Out

Against the backdrop of explosive governmental debt, businessbankruptcies, restructurings and downsizing, there will continue to beconsiderably fewer available middle to-senior level positions for minorities tocompete. The snail’s pace increase in workplace diversity continues to lag furtherbehind the faster paced demographics of a growing educated minority populationin America. This means that the social pot will continue to boil at dangerouslevels while big business waits for sufficient economic recovery and businessconfidence to create opportunities.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that providesprescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments ongeopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

 

Image from CNN International
The Calm Before the Storm

First the good news. Distribution hiccups vaccinations arecontinuing along while the loosening of social distancing restrictionsthroughout the country results in more commercial openings. Furthermore the newadministration is behaving normally (aka reasonably predictably) while thestock market is enjoying a powerful record-setting upward surge.

Now the bad news. These positive trends represent the calmbefore the storm as powerful undercurrents threaten to derail the economicrecovery as America strives to achieve a modicum of pre-pandemic (new) normalcy.The troika of potential trigger-point events are as follows:

1.   Political Stability: a newly electedelderly president whose mental acuity has been justifiably questioned as farback as his nomination.

2.   Urban Security: the George Floyd trial isa lightning rod for potential urban explosiveness on America’s streets thatmight last for months.

3.   Food Insecurity: this fragile logisticalsystem continues to function under enormous stress and any compromise orbreakdown can result in civil unrest throughout the country.

POLITICAL INSTABILITY

When President Joe Biden officially took office in Januaryhe became the oldest US president in history at 78 years old. Even to anuntrained observer, it’s doubtful that President Biden’s mental acuity meetsthe requirements of a Commander in Chief particularly during the mosttumultuous period of American history since the Civil War. Managing a present-dayhydra-headed crisis would be taxing even for the youngest, most intellectuallyand psychologically robust of former US presidents.

This is not a criticism of Biden’s experience and ability tolead particularly as Obama’s Vice President for 8 years. Rather he’s not theBiden from 12 years ago. His recent physical missteps in boarding Air Force Oneare symbolic of his health concerns. As the elderly elder statesman his abilitymay soon be limited to that of a cardboard cutout, which is not what Americaneeds today. To put it bluntly, he’s the wrong man in the wrong place at thewrong time.

The unspoken truth is that the Biden-Harris duo are notparticularly popular nor widely adored – and this is just among Democrats.Their attempt to recapture former President Obama’s rockstar credibility, statusand magic amongst the Democrats is not forthcoming and never will. Without it,they will struggle mightily to galvanize support and healing amongst America’s badlyfractured political and societal elements.

Because of his elderly condition it would not beunreasonable that Vice President Kamala Harris could assume some or most ofBiden’s responsibilities soon than later. It would not be surprising if the present-dayPresident-Vice President dynamic was initially pre-planned as a dual-leadershipdynamic while Harris undergoes an accelerated succession grooming program.

Should Harris rise to the presidency, whether in a temporaryor permanent capacity, she will face a series of daunting problems, none ofwhich has anything to do with the pandemic or economic recovery:

·        A woman (misogyny).

·        A woman of color (racism).

·        A woman whose parents were immigrants (more racism,nationalism) – accusations that she’s a foreign agent at the highest levels – aTrojan Horse to replace Biden at a moment’s notice.

·        A woman whose husband is Jewish (racism,anti-Semitism) and supported by any number of ludicrous Jewish conspiracytheories.

With respect to the far-right and nationalists, formerPresident Obama was an unacceptable aberration. Should Harris assume the presidencyor assume presidential tasks, her mere presence for the aforementioned reasons wouldsend them over the edge.

Dieppe in DC

How this scenario might play out leads back to the Januaryinsurrection at the Capitol building. Tactically the assault was an overwhelmingsuccess in breaching security and merely a warm-up for things to come. Thelessons learned by the mob which included many experienced (ex)-military, lawenforcement and other security professionals parallels the Allies’ August 1942Dieppe raid in France against Nazi German defenders.

In an historically little-known amphibious operation, the objectivewas to send 10,000 mostly Canadian troops to the northern port of Dieppe,France, hold it for 24 hours, disrupt German operations and return to the UKfor the purposes of intelligence gathering particularly how the Germansrespond. Although many men were lost in this limited pre-Normandy operation,valuable intelligence was obtained on German defenses than enabled the Alliesto adjust and successfully launch D-Day 2 years later.

This doesn’t mean a future assault on the Capital building especiallysince security has been fortified and placed on high alert, rather on any othermunicipal, state or federal building with organized assaults and long-termoccupation. Law enforcement has been struggling with on-going security “operations”on the Northwest urban battlegrounds where the more disenchanted members of thecitizenry are now well-versed and experienced in violent tactics.

GEORGE FLOYD TRIAL | AMERICA’S WEIMAR GERMANY GENESIS

The trial of police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused ofmurdering George Floyd, is heading full speed on the “road to perdition” as yetanother American Shakespearean tragedy potentially on a massive scale. Althoughthis is legally a local matter, the trial has powerful domestic and residualinternational implications that puts the American justice system on trial whichis viewed or perceived as a moral bellwether.

As fictional hedge fund owner Bobby Axelrod in the TV series“Billions” explained, “No one leaves a negotiation happy.” Whatever the verdictall sides will claim that a gross injustice has been perpetuated by the fascistor Communist cabal of elites.

Protests on an unprecedented scale will follow throughoutthe country overwhelming law enforcement, and inevitably the National Guard,lasting for months throughout the summer and early fall.

The new trend is that there may be larger and more directconfrontations between large groups of politically diametrically opposed groupsrecreating a 1920s Weimar Germany in America with an aging late 70s PresidentJoe Biden just as late 70s German President Paul von Hindenburg.

FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN | THE DELICATE LATTICE

This is the proverbial elephant in the room, an emergingdilemma that impacts everyone. The emerging confluence of fragile supplychains, dramatic food price increases far exceeding inflation and food waste againstthe backdrop of massive job losses creates a desperate situation for Americans.The February month-on-month employment figures comparing 2020 to 2021 indicatesthat the US is still short 9.5 million jobs which makes making food purchases amatter of survival, not just clever budgeting.

Global and domestic supply chains woes will continue withstark vulnerabilities despite vaccinations and easing of restrictions. It wasjust as fragile for many years before the pandemic thanks to demands forgreater cost efficiency in providing highly-competitive pricing through “justin time” deliveries.

Disruptive forces such as a pandemic and record-setting meteorologicalstorms severely compromise this delicate lattice of logistical operationscausing extensive delays, increased costs, and eventually a considerable dragon economic recovery.

Back in the day, robust and efficient logistics weretraditionally America’s strength however within a couple of decades it hasbecome it’s Achilles heel.

According to the UN Food Security WorldFood program food insecurity in developing world nearly doubledto 265 million citizens in 2020. Not only are millions of Americans lining upat food banks but also in Western Europe, notably France, Europe’s secondlargest economy after Germany. The societal and health & safetycrisis now parallels those same dilemmas in emerging countries.

The following chart entitled Global FoodPrices on the Uptick provided by the Food & Agricultural Organizationof the UN (FAO) and presented by Statista, an online statistical firm,underscore the shocking spike in food prices which are devastating to thosesuffering through job losses and with limited income.

Furthermore the above chart supports my prescient article ondramatic food price increases published 15 October 2020 entitled TighteningFood Supply Chain to Spike Prices.

Food price increases have been running well ahead ofinflation, often into double-digits. More disturbingly food companies have shrunkthe quantity of food within the same packaging with unchanged prices, far fewerchoices and stubbornly low inventory. The inevitable meteorological disasterssuch as droughts in the food belt and wildfires in California pushed foodprices upward even further. Finally the crisis is exacerbated by store closuresdominated and dictated by agricultural behemoths turning food deserts intowastelands, areas where food availability was unaffordable and now could beunobtainable.

The following chart entitled TheEnormous Scale of Food Waste provided by the United Nations EnvironmentProgram (UNEP) to which the US is behind China and India.


Although China and India occupy the top two positions, itmust be noted that they are the world’s most populous countries each with 1.4 billioncitizens. The more revealing statistic (the figures highlighted in yellow) isthe estimated food waste per capita. For the US when one converts 59 kgs to lbsthe US wastes 130 lbs of food per capita.

Additional figures not in the chart but included in the FoodWaste Index Report 2021 by the UNEP is that the US food service sectorwastes 141 lbs of food per capita and 35 lbs per capita in the retail sector.

For this reason we see the disturbing disconnect betweenAmerica as the world’s breadbasket while millions of Americans suffer from foodinsecurity while still wasting food. It’s like filling your vehicle’s gas tankwith outrageously priced fuel with a leaky gas tank.

Against a landscape of food insecurity privateagribusinesses and its affiliates are a de facto oligopoly providingdonations and often directly or indirectly operating food banks. These are the samecorporations that influence food prices and ironically force many low-incomeand newly low-income consumers to become dependent on food banks from which theseagribusinesses receive exceptionally generous governmental tax benefits.

Because of the conflicting economics the food supply &demand formula fails as a predictive indicator of price and level of riskbecause food supply & demand are “managed” by the private-publicpartnership. For this reason, this arrangement erases any credibility ofso-called official projections or assurances by private industry and government.

This flawed and technically corrupt operational and economicmodel endangers the public health & welfare and requires an overhaulrequiring political will, something rarer than a do-do bird. These factors area witch’s brew that could provoke violent civil unrest regardless of politicalaffiliation as underscored in my article originally published almost a year agoon 28 April 2020 entitled ImpendingFood Shortage to Provoke Civil Unrest. The vaccines will assuage the fearof Covid-19 itself, but not the aftermath of a parallel man-made crisis

 

© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that providesprescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments ongeopolitical dynamics and global urban security with counter-intuitivesolutions.

 

Background

Recently an Ice Age-like storm consumed Texas and pushed itselectrical grid to the precipice. If not for the rapid reaction of energy operatorsto shut down these systems, Texans would have found themselves in a perilous MadMax landscape.

Despite this near miss, operationally Texas was transformedinto a temporary failed state leaving 14 million residents without safedrinking water whose source comes from 1,000 public water systems whilemillions more had no electricity. Shockingly with a bit of clever editing byeven rank video amateurs, one could swear the photos of suffering Texans were citizensin war-torn Syria.

Mother nature took down the grid more effectively than anyrogue or state sponsored hacker or terrorist. The destruction to infrastructurefar exceeded Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Sandy (2012) which were impactedmore harshly because they were coastal communities from ocean-borne storms.

For this reason, Texas, as America’s energy mecca, in apresent-day world of surfeit oil and natural gas inventories due to a paucityof economic activity, was unable to deliver limited energy within the stateitself. It’s analogous to the scene in the iconic movie Chinatown (1974) whenthe coroner quipped to private investigator Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) theirony of the water commissioner drowning during a drought.

The following chart entitled TexasStruggles Amid Crippling Blackouts provided by PowerOutage.us and presentedby Statista, an online statistical firm, is a state-by-state comparativeanalysis of customers disconnected during the nationwide winter storm.


Self-Made Energy Alamo

Texas’ electricity grid is called the “TexasInterconnection” of which 75% of its electricity is managed by the gridoperator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot). Texas is the only statewhich does not have inter-state electrical connectivity, a status which Texansdecided since the early 20th century. For this reason their gridrequires no federal oversight. Furthermore this meant that like the infamous battleat Alamo that began 23 February 1836, the winter storm which ironically beganaround the same time on 14-15 February 2021, no one could come to their rescue.

Because of deregulation Texas residents receivecompetitively retail priced electricity, slightly below the national average.However, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) the average Texasresident’s electric bill is higher than the national average becausetheir average monthly consumption is higher than the national average. Theaverage nationwide monthly electric bill is $115.49 versus the average monthly Texan’sbill of $134.07.

For the purposes of understanding the breadth of the crisisthe following is a chart entitled HowTexas Generates Its Electricity provided by Ercot and presented by Statista.

 

Texas-Size Psychological Stress | “Houston, We Have a Problem”

Rarely mentioned specific to Texas is the elevated severepsychological stress. Texans are more accustomed to blistering heat waves andthe ensuing energy problems rather than severe cold. Extreme weather hot orcold can cause the same energy outages but the former is far betterexperienced. Finally, far fewer Texans are properly prepared with Arcticconditions to cope with respect to winter clothing, blankets, etc. For example withrespect to large urban cities the average winter temperature range in Dallas isbetween 41-61 degrees Fahrenheit and for Houston it’s between 45-60 degreesFahrenheit.

“The Limits of Control”

In defense of utilities, even an unlimited budget willalways be surpassed by unlimited meteorological power. In a world of stupefyingself-entitlement and psychological snowflakes, there’s an utopian illusion thatthere exists the perfect business model, blessed by government, enabling thecommunity to withstand any force majeure event and cover everycontingency while providing uninterrupted level of service at competitiveprices.

On a personal level, imagine yourself falling heads overheels over an affordable property located in a well-known historical floodzone. You know the risk and are willing to purchase the property along with morethan enough flood insurance. Furthermore you’re also informed that historicallythere are mild earthquakes that occur once every 50 years so you buy earthquakeinsurance – at a far cheaper premium because of its low probability ofoccurrence. Wouldn’t you know it a massive earthquake hits causing damage thatexceeds your earthquake insurance.

Well a similar event happened in Texas. Increasingly brutalheat waves are the historical norm however extreme winter storms occur far lessoften, the last occurring in February 2011 and the one before that in 1989. Canyou imagine the press and public outrage over the millions spent on the “winterization”of facilities if there are no winter storms but severe heat waves? It’s akin topurchasing a goose-down coat for that occasional freakish cold snap as aresident of a Caribbean island instead of more SPF protection cotton shirts,pants and hats. Whether governmental, private or personal, it’s budgetary realpolitik.

Sclerotic Status Quo

How will Ercot and Texas political leadership mitigatepresent-day, near and far-future infrastructure vulnerabilities?

·        The long-term multi-billion dollar requirementto upgrade and harden an aging infrastructure against particularly againstwinter storms which occur infrequently will be discussed but never undertaken.Why?

·        A technical bankrupt state and deeply politicallydivided federal government which nullifies such funding.

·        Accepting “free” federal money, if offered and available,would establish a lethal political precedent with respect to federal governmentmandates and inevitably open the floodgates to future federally-mandated andcontrolled projects. In others words a loss of independence and control calledstate sovereignty.

·        Texas is one of the reddest of red states beforeit was red. Even if it was blue, Texas is Texas and always will be –independent and answerable to no one. State sovereignty plus.

·        Ercot will craft a brilliant, non-binding plan intheir public relations campaign without doing anything operationally substantive,perhaps only changing/modifying crisis management protocols, because of theaforementioned reasons and guaranteed negative return on investment - acorporate pushback.

In other words, nothing will be done even if Texas, or hell,whichever comes first, freezes over. Literally. Going forward for Texas andeverywhere else, it’s not a question of solving the problem, rather containingthe crisis.

“Brace for Impact” | Economic Vulnerabilities

 

The implications when the grid andother systems collapse will be catastrophic. The magnitude of the Texaselectrical grid failing for an extended time is mind-boggling. Consider thefollowing: 

·      Texas’ gross domestic production (GDP) of $1.887trillion qualifies as the world’s 9th largest economy behind Italy’s$2 trillion and ahead of Brazil’s $1.8 trillion. Furthermore the 2020 arrivalor expansion of operations from Amazon, CBRE, Tesla, HP and Oracle to Texas hasconsiderably increased the size of Texas’ economy. Its collapse will crush theAmerican economy in a myriad of ways along the efficient yet vulnerable supplychains which rely on energy.

·        Texas is America’s energy mecca and energyproducing powerhouse that was left temporarily impotent by mother nature. Americawent from energy self-sufficiency to energy-dependent on imports overnight. Aneconomic contagion would spread almost immediately.

·        These vulnerabilities are not unique to Texasbut are now manifesting into economy-killer events that occur in states withessential, country-size powerhouse economies. We are in a cycle of more severeand frequent storms which will adversely impact an aging infrastructure whoseseries of blackouts, brownouts and other outages are an added burden toAmerica’s economic recovery.

“Brace for Impact” | CrowdControl Chaos

·        According to Ercot executives Texas was minutesaway from a total grid collapse which would have resulted in limited or nopower for months until replacement parts were installed in a myriad ofelectrical substations and other facilities. The B-movie “just in time” rescueprevented an inevitable societal collapse. Imagine a population of almost 30million residents – similar to that of Ukraine - with no power, no electricity,no fuel, useless supply chain for food deliveries – a monumental humanitariancrisis would ensue.

Texan society would revert to a “frontier” survivalistmindset and a violent one at that as citizens would devolve to their primalinstincts for survival armed with lots of firepower and the formation ofneighborhood militias directed by local warlords. Imagine a Texan version ofthe original apocalyptic movie Mad Max (1981) that interestingly took place inAustralia, a similar geographic landscape.

For this reason a prolonged state of emergency situationcould ignite a powderkeg. The link to the following chart entitled GunOwnership by State (2021) presented by the Pew Research Center providesnationwide gun ownership. Gun ownership from Texas’ population of almost 40million is 35.7%. This translates to 10.71 million gunowners averaging 18 gunsper gun owner. Total registered guns are 588,696, the key word being“registered”.

Probably no one can sum up the dire possibilities of a gridfailure anywhere in the US better than the late yet prescient George Carlin’sskit of a world without electricity. Carlin mentions it would take twoyears for us to return to the Stone Age but the darker truth is that it wouldtake a mere two weeks.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that providesprescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments ongeopolitical dynamics and global urban security with counter-intuitivesolutions.

 


Apple Pie Origins

The “Made in America” Weimar Republic-like chaotic violence lastspring and summer reached a crescendo of intensity with the dramatic assault andoccupation of the US Capitol building in early last month with the temporary“planting” of the Confederate battle flag. Notwithstanding the followingweek the Inauguration was held, a lawful and peaceful transition but under apolice state level of security underscoring the present-day brittleness ofAmerican democracy.

Because the impossible has become the plausible, certain present-daygovernments must be shaking in their boots fearing a surge of social upheavaland threat to their control. If the US, a beacon of political stability andcivilized democratic practices, can come to the brink of implosion with theurging of elected political figures at the highest levels, then such aninsurrection is not only likely, rather inevitable elsewhere. Think of thissituation as the 21st century domino effect with its genesis originatingin the US.

France and Germany | Turning Point Elections

The US, a democratic empire with respect to dwarfing everyother nation in economic and military might and a longer and deeper runningdemocracy, fissures are appearing in its socio-economic-political model. Europeandemocracies such as Germany and France have their respective growing legitimatelyelected ultra-conservative political parties which are making dramatic gains ingovernment representation and have gained a certain level of respectabilitywith the mainstream.

For ultra-conservative and perhaps radical politicalelements, America’s beacon of light has a darker and more sinister hue that hastacitly “legitimized” the next level of political aggressiveness because it iseither silently supported or not challenged by their well-educated mainstream demographic.

And like their American counterparts who reach back to a delusionalrevisionist past chanting the mantra, “Make American Great Again”, European homegrownradicals and sympathizers espouse their own version of an undemocratic,ruthless and racist era such as the Third Reich and France’s colonial empire.

The political crossroads for Germany and France are loomingon the horizon. Germany has major federal elections this fall. France’s presidentialelections are scheduled to take place in May 2022. With the departure ofGermany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, there is no dynamically strong incumbent toserve as an anchor for democratic principles against ultra-conservative partieslike the Alternative for Germany.

In France Marine Le Pen’s popularity is surging andaccording to several highly regard polls, she’s within striking distance ofseriously challenging President Macron to whom she lost in a landslide in 2017.Keep in mind that President Macron was an unknown who came from nowhere informing his own party and within a year of its formation had captured theElysee.

The ultra-nationalists in both countries are gainingtraction because of the pandemic-induced recession and deteriorating economies notto mention draconian lockdowns. Without a strong and noticeable economicrecovery in the near future public sentiment will doubt the ability oftraditional centrist parties and seek the alternative light, albeit a dark one,in the form of torches.

Russia | Krashing the Kremlin

Although many illiberal democracies and autocratic governmentsmight be reveling in glee over the siege at the US Capitol building thatcounters the US pro-democracy advocacy, only the most near-sighted of themcan’t ignore that those mob scenes may be a preview that could occur amongtheir own citizenry. If such an insurrection could occur in Washington, DC onlarge scale and come within a whisker of harming high-level governmentofficials, then anything is possible.

In the past weeks protests have swelled across a wide political-socio-economicdemographic swath in 100 cities from Moscow to Vladivostok despite brutallycold weather. This has compelled Russian law enforcement to arrest and detain thousands,more than the “usual suspects” including over 80 journalists.

Nonetheless it’s not the thousands unarmed protestors thatkeeps Putin & Company up at night. Though visually impressive, the numberof protestors doesn’t come close to threatening the present-day leadership. RatherPutin fears the erosion of political power in the upcoming legislativeelections in September 2021 for the 450 seats in the State Duma of which UnitedRussia the ruling party has 343 seats.

Strangely Putin is manifesting his own Twilight Zone déjà vudemise in the potential disintegration of his personal empire in the same wayhe witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The sentencing of his political nemesisAlexi Navalry for 2½ years makes it difficult to determine how this will playout with future protests. But like all ultra-nationalists, the tighter thegrip, the more brittle the control.

With respect to security, five years ago Putin had CassandraComplex-like foresight to establish special National Guard as a counter-measurefor such contingencies. My article entitled Putin’sSS – The Kremlin’s Bodyguards published 30 December 2016 described theconsolidation of several security services to form a 350,000 man force based exclusivelyin Moscow under his direct command.

Turkey | Overlooked and Under-Appreciated

The country that the mainstream media frequently overlookswith respect to their socio-economic situation is the crushing poverty that thepandemic has caused the general population, pushing many in the middle classinto poverty for the first time in generations. This situation is creating andstoking a potential social unrest tinderbox that Erdogan’s government isill-equipped to resolve economically with some form of relief funds.

According to a 2019 Income and Living Conditions Survey of the TurkishStatistical Institute (TUIK) 17million Turks live below the poverty line in a population of 81 million. Thesurvey’s definition of “poor” is when incomes are 60% less than the medianincome. In Turkey that translates to 21.5 million poor families.

The 2020 survey, whichwould encompass pandemic related issues, won’t be released until this upcomingSeptember. For this reason the present-day economic suffering is anecdotalrather than quantitative. Although Turkey’s presidential and generalelections for the 600 member Grand National Assembly aren’t scheduled until2023, popular discontent is growing rapidly and can boil over well beforehand.

Instability in Turkey is a critical concern for the rest ofEurope because Turkey is a buffer between Europe and the anarchistic situationin the Middle East not to mention the hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Copycat Chaos

The burning questions is, “What are we in for?” The clumsy, uncoordinated,haphazard and incompetent efforts by vaccine manufacturers and governments to distributethe vaccine and continued imposition of draconian lockdowns serve as a catalystfor conspiracy theories of a masterplan orchestrated by a shadowy elite. It’sperfect public relations fodder for opposing political groups who realize thatthey won’t have a better opportunity than now to challenge and replace thepresent-day governments whether at the ballot box or otherwise.

The depth of the discontentment among a wide & deepswath of the mainstream demographic in many countries is articulated in The Atlantic’sarticle entitled TheCapitol Rioters Aren’t Like Other Extremists, published 2 February 2021. Insum the majority of the protestors are first-time protestors, middle age professionals,with no affiliation with ultra-conservative or radical groups.

Similarly in Russia the demographics of the protestorsinclude many first-time protestors who are middle age across the politicalspectrum from Stalinists, nationalist and urban professionals, not the stereotypicalnarrowly defined reckless youth.

Worldwide discontent occurring simultaneously in keycountries that will compel these governments to batten down the hatches andfocus their efforts domestically making international cooperation moredifficult. Finally international cooperation on a myriad of issues will beexacerbated should there be a dramatic change in political parties in theaforementioned countries.

 

© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that providesprescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments ongeopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

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