Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Supply Chain's Troika of Trouble


Image from Post and Courier
The global supply chain in transporting goods relies on three inextricably linked types of transportation: maritime, rail freight and trucking. Each one can be considered a bridge from one to the other over hard infrastructure which allows goods to be transported from manufacturer to its final destination.

In the present-day landscape all three are alarmingly weak and vulnerable. It has been extensively reported and documented that the maritime and trucking industry have difficulty in securing enough equipment and personnel to meet new demand because of extensive furlough of personnel, shortage of trained personnel and imbalance of availability of equipment.

Little mentioned and equally critical to these links is freight trains which is an indispensable component in hauling imported goods from ports to major cities and distribution points as well as the domestic transport of agricultural products.


Ocean freight consists of 85% of total global trade which makes it the most critical “bridge” of this troika. Even during the best of times there has always been port congestion and shortage of containers, however because of the extreme supply & demand imbalance, these mundane industry problems have been extraordinarily exacerbated.

The Financial Times article on 10 August 2021 entitled Ports Face Biggest Crisis Since Start of Container Shipping provides a comprehensive overview and challenges of the status of the container industry.

To paraphrase the issues in this article, ports worldwide pre-pandemic have dealt with congestion and delays. For this reason investment is required to increase capacity and change the layout configuration to accommodate the super-sized container ships, deeper docks and bigger.

The largest container ships, the super-size category can carry 20,000 20 ft containers that when laid side to side would stretch beyond the distance from Paris to Amsterdam or 315 miles. The process in normal times of ordering and installing of a new crane to expedite their unloading can take 18 months.

With respect to congestion in the US, container ships are waiting 33 hours in 2021 for a berth for unloading vs 8 hours in 2020.


 The following article 11 Incredible Facts About the $700 Billion US Trucking Industry, in Markets Insider, 3 June 2019, provides a comprehensive perspective as to the criticality of truckers’ role in America’s economy and security.

 In 2017, the US trucking industry posted revenues greater than the GDP of more than 150 nations.

  1. Approximately 5.8% of fulltime jobs are related to trucking.
  2. Walmart alone employs 8,600 truckers.
  3. Trucks move more than 70% of goods transported around the USA.
  4. More than 40% of all trucking jobs are held by minorities, 6% by women.
  5. Not one of the regulators charged with overseeing the trucking industry was ever a trucker.
  6. Most grocery stores would run out of food in three days if there was no long-haul truckers stopped driving.
  7. Many experts believe that the trucking industry needs to hire 900,000 more drivers.
  8. Most truck drivers earn less than most Americans in annual income.
  9. The average professional long-haul driver logs more than 100,000 miles per year (vs the average American motorist who travels 13,500 miles annually)

Truckers’ Demographic Dilemma

 According to the figures a trucker’s average age is 55 in a profession whose working conditions don’t encourage a healthy lifestyle which in turn aggravates underlying health conditions. According to the article published by MSN Money 12 March 2020 How Coronavirus Could Hit America’s 1.8 Million Truck Drivers 38% of truck drivers lack health insurance with unhealthy lifestyles which are considerably higher than the average population encompassing obesity, morbid obesity, cigarette smoking and diabetes. The shortage of qualified truck drivers has persisted for many years.

 This has compelled some trucking companies to offer generous signing bonuses up to $8,000. But as observers noted, these bonuses are not attracting “new blood” rather encouraging current drivers to jump too other companies because the profession is demanding with limited upside.

 The aforementioned dilemmas are almost identical in Europe and Asia (except Africa) making it a global problem that will not be resolved in the near future.


 Rail freight has received far less publicity than their transportation associates yet face the same operational dilemmas. The Wall Street Journal article 22 July 2021 entitled Shortage of Railroad Workers Threaten Recovery discusses the shortage of railroad workers affecting operations.

 To paraphrase the article freight companies are running fewer trains with more freight cars because of higher than expected attrition and deeper personnel cuts. This change in operations was initiated by Canadian railroad companies called “precision scheduled railroading” in 2017. It entails running fewer trains, longer distances, tighter schedules which require fewer locomotives, workers and facilities.

 With respect to experienced personnel, freight companies are trying to ramp up by recruiting, often with monetary incentives and training. The present-day employment level below pre-pandemic levels currently at 47,444 vs 51,800 according to the Standard Transportation Board.



 Crumbling Bridges

 Even with improvements in maritime, trucking and rail freight, the infrastructure they must traverse has also been on a downward trajectory for decades. The proposed infrastructure bill falls far short of the required repairs financially and technically.

 The Wall Street Journal article dated 17 June 2021 entitled One Failed Bridge in Memphis is Costing Business Millions underscores the decades of negligent inspections of America’s infrastructure. According to the article the Arkansas DOT inspections in 2019 and 2020 missed a crack in the 50-year old bridge which carries 40,000 vehicles daily and Memphis a critical distribution hub. For this reason that vehicles must use an alternate, narrower bridge that crosses the Mississippi River resulting in massive congestion while repairs are made.

 A superb example as to the criticality of even a small bridge was entertainingly explained by actor Stanley Tucci in the movie Margin Call (2011) about a financial firm at the brink of a meltdown. He brilliantly articulated with a short storytelling narrative on the impact of the role of a small bridge he designed in Middle America:

The following chart entitled Where America’s Bridges Are Crumbling provided by the American Road & Transportation Building Association (ARTBA) gives a startling quantitative figure and areas of extreme need of structurally deficient bridges in 2020:


 In their assessment ARTBA stated, “Infrastructure by finding that more than 220,000 American bridges need repair work. 45,000 of them were deemed structurally deficient and Americans cross them 171.5 million times daily. At the current rate, it would take more than 40 years to fix all of them and cost an estimated $41.8 billion. The good news is that the number of structurally deficient bridges has declined for the past five years but that trend has been tempered by more bridges being downgraded from good to fair condition.”

 Furthermore, “Out of all U.S. states, Iowa has the most structurally deficient bridges, 4,571 or 19.1 percent of its total bridges. Pennsylvania comes second on the list with 3,353 of its bridges falling into the same category, along with 2,374 in Illinois. West Virginia has the highest share of bridges classified as structurally deficient at 21 percent while Nevada has the lowest at just 1.4 percent.”

 The trend for increasingly severe weather has also accelerated decrepitude of these infrastructures in terms of shutdown or collapse.

 Although a mammoth bipartisan infrastructure bill has passed, the following chart entitled Infrastructure: The US is Falling Short on Investment provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers, shows the astounding investment gap between funded and unfunded. Whether the newly approved monies for this new bill will be spent in the correct areas – historic mismatch of funding based on politics than engineering and economic need.

According to The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) its report on 17 major infrastructure categories on a range of criteria such as capacity, condition, funding and public safety scoring A to F, USA score climbed from D+ in 2017 to a C- in 2021, the first time out of D range in two decades. Nonetheless the overall improvement was uneven in which 11 of 17 categories were still graded D.

Dammed If You Do

In an area where the US is eliminating an expensive infrastructure maintenance cost is dams. According to the UN Institute for Water, Environment and Health, the US is the world’s leader in dam removal because of the burdensome risk and cost. In the past 30 years the US has decommissioned 1,200 dams. About 18% of US dams are high hazard risk. Texas has the most dams. Most were constructed to provide irrigation to water scarce regions. Only 3% of the dams are for hydroelectrical purposes.

The following chart entitled Where Dams Have Reached “Alert” Age provided by the UN Institute for Water, Environment and Health shows average age of large dams worldwide.

In an era of severe drought this may not seem urgent however there are huge costs and manpower in decommissioning dams.

Infrastructure Bill Provisions

Included in the Senate-approved $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill includes the following for ‘hard’ tangible projects such as roads, bridges, etc. projects:

Hard Projects

Senate Approved Amount (in billions)

Roads & bridges


Rail: Amtrak and national network


Public Transport


Airports: runways and terminals


Airports: air traffic control


Ports & waterways


Power Grid upgrade


Grand Total




Lacking the Brick & Mortar Know-How

America’s failure in the educational sciences to graduate engineers and other technical professionals fall short of personnel regardless how much money is thrown at these infrastructure problems. We’ve spawned a new generation that excels at writing virtual software but not for repairing brick & mortar hardware. America’s multigenerational degradation of math and science technical education and paucity of American students pursuing those fields creates a national security problem.

To eliminate the shortage of experienced professionals and technicians, planners, engineers and the blue-collar operations manpower is a multi-generational endeavor under the best of circumstances. The government can always print more money but is unable to create more qualified technical people as fast.

As the adage goes, “A chain is as strong as its weakest link” which neatly applies to the supply chain and the infrastructure it utilizes. Even of two of the three supply chain bridges were magically brought back to pre-pandemic service, smooth world trade would still depend on every component working in harmony.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

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

Friday, July 30, 2021

Party Like It’s the Summer of 1939



It’s the summer of 1939 as the looming darkening clouds engulf Europe. The last gasps for peace have vanished as Nazi Germany is at the cusp of unleashing its fearsome blitzkrieg and plunge the world into yet another world war far more devastating than the first.

Unlike 1939, there is no one specific, tangible sovereign enemy in 2021 against whom to defend and counter-attack, rather a series of decades-old emerging and sadly preventable threats that include the Pandora’s Box deluxe collection of pandemics, climate change with severe resultant worldwide droughts, floods and heat waves, fragile supply chains, food shortages, inflation and stupefying socio-economic inequity all which can trigger a global economic implosion of poverty, starvation and subsequent social unrest.

Behind Closed Doors of the New Normal Urban Landscape

Many analysts have provided their macro academic predictions and perspectives in general terms as to what the “new normal” will look like. However few have dared to describe the prolonged, daily dystopian dark & gritty world most citizens will inhabit on the streets and behind closed doors after the economic downfall takes place before the end of the year.

Violent Crime

This summer wildfires are everywhere most notably the 80-plus wildfires in 13 western states a heat provoke the equivalent intensity in the form of social unrest in the urban jungle. Millions of law-abiding citizens risk homelessness and will not hesitate to resort to violent methods to feed themselves and their families. Housing moratoriums are ending at the same time food prices are rising because of shortages which are pushing everyone to the economic and psychological brink.

For this reason the present-day increase in shoplifting will morph rapidly into mass shoplifting and eventually into outright looting, specifically on food stores in the absence of social unrest by easily overpowering and overwhelming unarmed, minimum wage guards.

There are no more urban sanctuaries from crime whether one lives in a well-to-do neighborhood or a modest one hidden, far from the urban center enclave, the infamous “sordid underbelly” is coming to your neck of the woods marking the end of societal stability & civility.

The Cavalry Is Not Coming

The emergency number 911 is nothing more than the vanishing dummy crossing button on street corners which serves as nothing more than a prop. The crisis is so serious that not even ubiquitous surveillance cameras serve as a deterrent to the desperate from committing crimes. The diminished presence of law enforcement can be summed up with the dramatic change in NY Police Department personnel similar to what has occurred with law enforcement throughout the country as follows:

Present-day: 36,000 officers

2020: 2,767 retired

2014-2019: Less than 1,800 retired in each year

We Are All The Omega Man

In anticipation of this growing crime rate many businesses are closing early, even well before sundown during the long summer days. Like Charlton Heston in the prescient sci-fi movie The Omega Man (1971), who takes an experimental drug to survive after a China-USSR germ warfare has decimated the world’s population, Heston must return to his urban redoubt before sunset when the slow-dying but still active & violent mutants wake up.

A disturbing example can be found at the Dunkin Donuts at Astor Place located at the busy crossroads between NYU and the popular East Village in NYC that changed their operating hours and close at 4 pm every day. Dunkin Donuts is the quintessential comfort food, takeout hole-in-wall venue nationwide near that doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages. Summer closure hours before sundown in an active, hip, neighborhood is disturbing. Despite being a franchise business that thrives on selling donuts & coffee, they perceive themselves as a target during social unrest.

More business establishments have established before sundown closing times. Furthermore the social unrest threat is so acute that some stores may close permanently not because of lack of demand for their goods & services rather their location where it’s susceptible to sustained high crime and social unrest.

One could define this as part of a de-gentrification process where formerly edgy NYC neighborhoods revert back to their 1970s and 1980s “personalities” such as Bed-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Lower Eastside but with continuing sky-high rents. It’s the economic twisted irony of living in an increasingly unaffordable  yet at the same time high-crime neighborhood as a college-educated resident with a white collar job. 

Generational Coping 

The Boomer generation is in a difficult position. Some are in denial. Others identify this emerging period as triggering their psychological anti-bodies acquired in young adulthood experiences to prepare and brace for impact. Regardless as senior citizens of the societal herd they’ve been profiled and targeted members by predators. The savvy Boomers are able to identify threats well before their offspring generation but because they are out of shape they will find it physically difficult to escape or defend themselves as during their youth.

The younger generations such as the Millennials, Generation X and Y are like younger, coddled animals brought up in the soft Disneyworld bubble. In a ruthless “eat or be eaten world” although they are better able to physically escape, they are unable to recognize the threat until it’s too late. This means that both Boomers and the young generations are equally vulnerable.

Domestic Violence & The Brothel Next Door

With the progressive ending of housing moratoriums throughout the country the homeless population will explode. For this reason those fortunate enough to have shelter may be more vulnerable to domestic violence because there will be far fewer housing alternatives.

Firstly married women in a cohabiting arrangement may be forced to tolerate infidelity for purposes of survival.

Secondly many people who have no family or friends to accommodate them are loathe to becoming homeless. Single women living alone who are desperate, unemployed or under-employed, including many middle age, formerly well-paid white collar professionals, will seek cohabiting arrangements. This desperation will manifest through dating sites, a verifiable cyber-cesspool filled with sexual predators, seeking clients or sugar daddies creating the brothel next door.

There will be far more women competing for fewer clients and sugar daddies who themselves are suffering financially and will eliminate or cut back on “entertainment” expenses as their lifestyle and lucrative cash flow is under threat.

Cybercrime | All in the Family

Expect an explosion in cybercrime internally from family, friends and roommates desperate for funds to either survive or maintain a modicum of their pre-pandemic lifestyle. This scenario is akin to what unfolds in many action movies in which the hero makes a phone call to the villain whose henchmen desperately try to trace to location of the call. Suddenly the henchman’s techie yells to the astonishment of the crew, “He’s in the building!” and then all hell breaks loose because the hero has penetrated their inner defenses. Because of the proliferation of cybercrime, financial institutions are reluctant to reimburse lost account monies and will abide by the letter of their policies and law before making any payments particularly if an account has been inactive for as little as 30 days.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse

The searing psychological pressure of no job or under-employment, cessation of governmental benefits, no savings, no medical coverage for medications, personal debt and no access to loans because of cancelled credit lines, plunging credit score, and maxed credit cards will push many Americans to the brink.

This trend is disturbingly articulated in the following chart entitled Historic Spike in US Drug Overdose Deaths provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as overdoses surged almost 30% from 2019 to 2020. Controlled substance demand is robust as demonstrated by the open drug market in NYC’s Washington Square Park.


Citizens are losing their jobs, then their residence (owned or rented) and often their minds. If they believe that their personal financial recovery is impossible then the suicide rates will spike especially amongst the vulnerable “little guys” – owners of independent, family-owned businesses, gig workers, young people with high debts (student loans, mortgages), and the elderly on fixed incomes.


Canines and citizens are pack animals whose group living arrangements have served them well for centuries. These group bonds are genetic, thus unaltered and unbreakable, and always manifest far stronger in a crisis environment.

Abandoned Pets Forming Wolf Packs

As citizens struggle to feed themselves and their families, the heartless will abandon their pets on the streets. During the initial spring 2020 lockdown many Americans acquired comfort pets so the resultant abandonment because of unemployment and food insecurity will be much worse.

Because dogs are natural pack animals the desperate survivors – breeds that adapt best in an urban or rural environment - will become dangerous competitors for food as lethal dumpster divers with the homeless as Fluffy’s genes revert to her ancestors’ prehistoric mode as a wolf.

Gangs of New York Redux

The urban gangs never disappeared even throughout the Disneyland 1990s into the 21st century rather just operated low-key and underground. Sadly like abandoned pets this abandoned youth were already on society’s periphery because of dysfunctional families. And because humans are pack animals like dogs, the gangs’ membership will surge and morph into America’s newest fast growing terrorist group that will jack up the crime rate.

Parallel Societies

Equivalent homeless as in emerging countries or even western countries such as Brazil and Argentina, will become a long-term fixture on urban and rural streets, shantyvilles and favelas with its own informal governing laws, government and security.


Regardless of the historical depths of depravity, citizens still want to have a good time. Expect parties like a 21st century version of Studio 54 in the 1970s but far edgier as if there’s no tomorrow because there may not be one. The dystopic parties, depraved and overflowing with alcohol and drugs, will be “too big to raid” creating a de facto off-limits zone from law enforcement. They will be similar to the uninhibited dance bacchanal scene in the Matrix Reloaded in the face of probable annihilation after attendees were informed that the machines were burrowing furiously towards Zion.


As millions of Americas descend into poverty, they may have to take lessons from the present-day average Lebanese citizen who struggles mightily every day simply to survive with hyper-inflation. The following short YouTube report released June 2021 provides an overview of their daily struggles.

The Elite of the Elites

If you’re curious as to how will the elite of the elites will weather the socio-economic storm, here’s a chart entitled To What extent Do US CEOs Outearn Their Workers? provided by the AFL-CIO. According to the AFL-CIO report the average S&P 500 CEO made $15.5 million in 2020, 299 times the pay of the median worker which certainly doesn’t endear the employees to go “above & beyond” in their job performance.


The Dystopic Urban Jungle

Governmental sources are engaged in a public relations full court press utilizing the word “transitory” to describe inflationary pressures and other problems as a normal occurrence during an uneven post-pandemic, re-opening economic recovery. However the citizenry is well aware that rising prices tend to stay elevated for extended periods of time and for his reason they consider these official statements as meaningless.

As some states reimpose mask wearing edicts, even amongst the vaccinated, to slow down the new supposedly more highly contagious Covid variants, we face the possibility of near future possible imposition of lockdowns as in many other countries.

Shortages, inflationary prices and tightening restrictions are placing the citizenry in an ever-shrinking territory making everyone more vulnerable to the predators within them. This means that literally, as the adage goes, “Only the strong will survive.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

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

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Predatory Preppers in Mad Max America



Image from DeviantArt
Setting The Stage

Against the illusion of an economic recovery with pre-pandemic levels of citizens out & about during these summer months provide is the illusion of entering an acceptable new normal way of life. However the dark underbelly of government and big business are pre-positioning themselves for the inevitability of an economy that could be described, using the decades-old Wall Street adage, “An elephant on chicken legs.”

Impacting the common man is a policy change issued by some major banks which have suspended or eliminated personal lines of credit regardless whether their credit rating is superb. Everyone at this level is cognizant that there is no more road for the Fed to kick the can as they batten down the hatches for the arriving day of reckoning and its consequences.

What does this mean at the street level for the average citizen? A dangerous world in which the cavalry won’t be coming whatsoever.

The Targets

The dominant messages from urban and rural preppers have focused on food, safety & security along with adjusting one’s mindset with respect to the greater risk of a worst-case scenario. Translation: Mad Max in America.

Whatever level of preparedness, these individuals are targets by the unprepared zombies who will aggressively steal their survival motherlode.

Furthermore regardless how assiduously careful one has acquired and guarded their survival goods, the curse of technology has probably already betrayed them long ago. Their dependency on the internet has resulted in dozens of individuals who are quite familiar with both the prepper and non-prepper’s socio-economic profile, assets and recent purchases. In other words they have already been identified, profiled and targeted.

The most insidious and dangerous type of predatory prepper is the ones you know. A quick summary list includes package and food delivery services, sanitation, postman and other service individuals not to mention family, friends and neighbors. Any or all of them who live and work amongst us and probably know us better than we know ourselves can overnight transform themselves into ravaging barbarians under the right circumstances willing to “aid and abet.”

With respect to food security a target rich demographic are shoppers at high-end venues such as Whole Foods. In a somewhat different but still lucrative category are shoppers at stores like Costco who buy in bulk and who most likely own homes and have families.

Potential online predatory predators include consumer services, banking and other financial services from which there have been anecdotal tales of customer service representatives maintaining a list of particular clients for sale to the highest bidder.

The New Barbarians in the Mad Max Landscape

Should things devolve into chaos the urban and rural jungle will roar to life and unleash various types of predators ranging from lions, wolf packs, hyenas, wild dogs crocodiles to solitary predators such as tigers or snakes. The assaults on businesses, families and individuals will not be random because these predators have done their “due diligence” to determine the juiciest targets whether based on the specific neighborhood, block, home, family or individual. Make no mistake - everyone has been profiled and targeted at some level. The actual assault will be contingent on priority and ease of access with Ocean’s Eleven precision.


A cinematic analogy to this process is the heist movie entitled “The Anderson Tapes” (1971) starring Sean Connery, Martin Balsam, Garrett Morris, Dyan Canon, Alan King and a young Christopher Walken. The plot in a nutshell: thieves plan to rob an entire Fifth Avenue building of wealthy residents during the Labor Day weekend.

Life’s Double Standard Stacked Against the Small Guy

Undoubtedly you’ve already correctly guessed that the mastermind and leader of the crew is Sean Connery as Duke. He’s just released from a long prison stint and wants to hit it big-time right away. Duke’s bitterness to life’s double-standards and that justifies his robbery scheme has the same urgency as 21st century thugs who are waiting for societal breakdown in the aforementioned video.

Bird Dogging the Wealthy’s Golden Cage

A key component is the assessment and targeting of each client to identify high value items for rapid retrieval. For this reason Duke recruits an old friend and antique shop owner played by Martin Balsam to perform social engineering while bird dogging the residences under the cover as an interior decorator.

Guiltless & Remorseless Robbery

Duke’s recruitment of diverse specialists include an electronics security expert who convinces him, a young Christopher Walken, that there’s no guilt in ripping off Big Business and the wealthy. The movie is already 50 years old but human nature never changes.

Highway Bandits on the Mad Max Roadways | American ISIS

The greatest fallacy of escaping a societal breakdown is the dash from the burning cities to the idyllic rural sanctuaries. It’s a deeply flawed assumption because violent crime has surged everywhere. Mainstream media has focused this trend on the urban areas but anecdotally these same trends are occurring in those supposed safe communities. Taking the quote from the 17th century poet Jean de le Fontaine, “A person meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.”

Because those fleeing the urban areas are wealthier than their lower-class neighbors, the thugs will simply “follow the money” and probably already know the locations of their safehouses. Furthermore, the rural areas are an illusion of safety & security. Wealthier residents in a far less dense population environment are target rich will have far less law enforcement to protect them and who would be out-numbered and low firepower against a mini-convoy of thugs. It wouldn’t be surprisingly that some thugs have already taken residence in their redoubts as violent squatters.

For those with a choice the question is whether to remain in urban cauldron or rural frontier each one defined by their particular tribalism whether it be racial, ethnic, socio-economic, or just a familiar regular face.

Taking a logistical page from ISIS, these thugs will use SUVs in convoys just as ISIS used signature white Toyota trucks to terrorize small towns in the Middle East and Africa. For this reason there’s the perilous high risk of traveling or commuting between sanctuaries like the impala, gazelle or zebra crossing a river filled with crocodiles yet who still have to face wild dogs on the other side.

Finally there’s no safety in rural paradise since some of the dangers can be internal with long-time residents and even local law enforcement who can politely “shake down” those part-time or recently arrived residents with those easy smiles. Rural communities can have their “sordid underbelly” just as New York, Baltimore or Portland.

Automotive Criminal Anarchy

Furthermore car thefts and car jackings will probably soar for hard to acquire and expensive spare parts. Present-day it’s catalytic converters and soon it may be tires because of a rubber production shortfall in Asia where 93% of the world’s natural rubber is produced.

Additionally the automotive targets won’t be your typical high-end luxury vehicles rather any vehicle. In other words the drivers of 10-15-20 year old economy cars are just at risk of a carjacking attempt as the drivers in a Maserati.

Militarized Thuggery

Law enforcement has been militarized for years but now criminals have upgraded their firepower through the illegal acquisition of more powerful firearms. The following chart entitled 1,900 US Military Firearms Were Lost or Stolen in the 2010s provided by the Associated Press’ own investigation, shows a breakdown of the weapons unaccounted for during this period:


Furthermore it wouldn’t be inconceivable that the de facto warlords of these groups are battle-hardened ex-military and personally familiar with utilizing military weapons with accompanying home invasion tactics.

Social Breakdown Tripwires

There is a myriad of factors that can provoke a degradation of quality of life whether the degradation takes place over several months, weeks or overnight can trigger a bad case scenario:

·         A severe spike in inflation especially food leading to actual physical shortage.

·         Progressive end of rent moratoriums resulting in hundreds of thousands homeless.

·         Cyber incident on critical infrastructure - electrical grid, pipeline, food production.

·         A more severe and sustained series of meteorological events.

·         Political risk upheaval and instability in government leadership due to scandal or incapacitation.

·         Stock market crash or a brutally grinding decline that forces the government to declare a Bank Holiday which freezes financial accounts for days.

In sum there are no safe havens, only the degree of risk. Regardless your personal preparation plans should continue unabated with the psychological acceptance and adjustment to a grim reality. Finally maintain as small a footprint as possible with respect to your social media profile and communications to protect your prep readiness.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

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

Friday, June 11, 2021

Meat | America’s Culinary Second Amendment


Photo from Vox

The Meat of the Matter

Unquestionably global food prices are skyrocketing as worst-case scenarios are colliding simultaneously. Since WW II meat consumption by all socio-economic classes entered America’s culinary DNA with steakhouses representing the apex red meat temples, the literal “High-Table” where big business discusses big deals over bigger steaks paid for by big expenses accounts.

Since then for most Americans a meatless lifestyle is unpatriotic. It’s an American’s culinary Second Amendment “right” to affordable red and other meats particularly during the holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the endless open BBQ buffet Memorial Day through July 4th and Labor Day weekend as plentiful leftovers are de rigueur. Meat consumption is unabashedly the “American way of life”.

The Convenient Inconvenience

The brief and conspiratorially “impeccably timed” JBS USA shutdown earlier this month represents ‘cancel culinary culture’ that triggered elevated meat prices.

While the US west is suffering through its version of Dante’s Inferno with severe drought, limited irrigation and potential firestorms, the production of beef is the ‘thirstiest’ of foods. According to the following chart entitled How Thirsty is Our Food? provided by the Water Footprint Network, bovine meat requires 15,415 liters of water to produce one kilogram of meat; or 4,072 gallons to produce 2.2 lbs of meat! [One liter equates to 0.26 gallons; 1 kilogram equates to 2.2 lbs.].

The blame for this environmental Armageddon in the making has ceaselessly been exclusively heaped on manmade climate change. Historically there have been cycles with drought and severe drought in the region, however the crisis was not as dire back in the day because the US had a pre-WW II in 1940 of 132 million, a country emerging from the Depression where few people could afford to eat meat regularly.

Fast forward to the year 2020 with an America with almost triple the population with 331 million, extensive development and population concentration in those present-day drought areas with historically scarce water resources.

Furthermore the USA is far more prosperous with a soaring demand for meat and meat-products which require evermore water resources. For this reason this creates the inevitable train wreck with droughts and water shortages.

This severe crisis was delayed because of agribusiness science through potent pesticides and genetically modified crops which in turn has placed greater stress on the land for decades against a global warming trend.

This trend has continued for decades and now mother nature wants to put us on a prolonged fast with her scorched earth policy through droughts.

The following chart entitled The Biggest Producers of Beef in the World provided by the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization and the US Department of Agriculture indicates the US as the #1 beef producer which, according to the aforementioned chart, would require substantial amounts of water.

What naturally follows is that the US has the highest consumption of meat per capita according to the following chart entitled The Countries That Eat the Most Meat provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Culinary Counter-Point | Consumers’ Insatiable Meat Appetite

Throughout history meat was a luxury. As prosperity became global, regions where meat consumption was affordable only for the upper class, is part of a regular diet in China, India and Africa whose combined population is 3.8 billion or 50% of the world’ population. The resources (water, land, feed) required for what has been labeled, “the largest ramp-up in human history” has stressed and degraded the global ecological system.

Domestically the American consumers’ insatiable hunger and thirst has unfairly labeled agribusiness as the sole villain in this spiraling problem. For this reason I prefer to label them as merely an enabler responding to consumer demand in an increasingly more prosperous capitalistic society.

As disposable incomes increase consumers become more demanding for “the finer things in life” as agribusiness responds accordingly by becoming evermore creative by increasing food yields through science. For example in 1925 it took a chicken 150 days to grow to an adult. Today it takes a mere 47 days. The foods and drugs that are forcibly administered to present-day chickens to become so plump so quickly will make your stomach turn.

The question is whether exploding food, particularly meat, prices will be enough to alter Americans’ eating habits. As inflation continues unabated, meat will become unaffordable except for the economically well-heeled.

The public outcry on meat production shortfall and exploding prices is more symbolic of several generations’ “right” to plentiful and affordable meat rather than admit meat is neither essential nor a survival food. Nonetheless this change is the uncomfortable symbolism of the downfall of a slice of American way of life.

Cyber-Terrorists’ Next Target

The cyber-attack on mega-meat producer JBS may be one of subsequent cyber attacks on food & beverage producers. The one class of producer that will impact Americans in far more insidious ways than meat is alcohol – yet another item under America’s second culinary amendment.

Traditionally consumed as a social “lubricant” it has many dark functions such as a psychological painkiller that has resulted in alcoholism, broken families & relationships, violence, road deaths and alcohol related illnesses.

This trend has grown exponentially before the Covid lockdowns as indicated in the following chart entitled Then & Now Deaths From Alcohol in the US provided by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


The trend translates into a 4% increase every year for 18 years!  With respect to demographics Caucasian women accounted for the greatest increase in deaths.

Furthermore according to a report entitled “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research” alcohol was deadlier than illicit drugs including opioids in 2017 with 72,224 drug overdoses, 334 less than deaths related to alcohol!

Reducing the availability of alcohol and inevitable rising alcohol prices would deprive many Americans of their ‘fix’ which has exploded since the Covid lockdowns and which continues with many households under financial stress. For family breadwinners with alcohol-related problems, despite higher prices they may follow the Russian story as follows:

The father comes home and tells his children, “I’m sorry kids but the factory has reduced the pay of all workers.” The children then ask the father, “Does that mean you’ll drink less?” to which the father replied, “No. That means you’ll eat less.”

Otherwise it will simply be Plan B in which Americans will seek other sources such as controlled substances to satisfy their cravings.

In other words the withdrawal symptoms are radically different for each item. Remove meat from the American diet and you have a healthier citizenry. Remove alcohol from the American diet and you have chaos.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

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



Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Blowtorch Summer: A Prelude to a Dark Winter II


Source: Wallpaper Flare
Evermore people are enthusiastically embracing greater freedom of movement with the arrival of warm weather and nationwide loosening of restrictions in public venues due to increased vaccinations and falling Covid positive rates. For these brief few blissful weeks it might seem like the Old Normal good old days déjà vu even amongst the “rubble” of a plethora of permanently closed businesses and leisure venues.

As the pandemic recedes to the background of mainstream media and inoculated people’s consciousness, the emerging brutal reality is that certain dynamics are converging that will define this New Normal post-pandemic era for the next several years.

Hyper Inflation & Meteorological Madness

The “super cycle” price surge in raw materials and commodities are raging through the system and are already adversely impacting the cost of all consumer items due to a severe supply & demand imbalance.

With respect to food emerging severe droughts globally will continue to super-charge food prices not only for this spring and summer rather through 2022 because droughts are impacting next year’s planting season.

The following comparative charts presented by the US Drought Monitor underscores the severity of the crisis-in-the-making that could lead to a national crisis. The year-on-year chart provides disturbing comparisons of drought conditions in May 2021 (first chart) to May 2020 (second chart) – a mere one year apart.


Drought conditions in the US May 19, 2020:

In North America these severe droughts are adversely impacting the bread baskets of the US and Canada. According to US Drought Monitor, drought has adversely impacted 88% of the US West in 2020 compared to 40% in 2020 against limited water irrigation.

The California snowpack is a mere 4% or normal and the big reservoirs are at less than 50% capacity. Furthermore the West, particularly California, is vulnerable to another season of severe firestorms, nature’s scorched earth policy.

The severe drought crisis is global causing agricultural havoc. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN 6 May 2021 reported the 11th consecutive month of food price increases.

One overlooked fact is that climate change has been used as a convenient excuse for water insecurity which has increasingly imperiled California and the US West for decades. Historically this region has experienced dry seasons and droughts. But the region’s dwindling water supplies are due to the explosive economic development through population and industrial growth that ranks California en par with the same population and GDP as Italy.

Hurricane Season

On the opposite end of the meteorological spectrum the Atlantic Meteorological Oceanographic Library, the research laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration organization, has provided their assessment of projected and intensity of hurricanes this season as depicted in the following chart entitled Unpredictable Danger: Hurricane Seasons Since 1967.

According to their forecast they predict 6-10 hurricanes this year with 3-5 of them to be become major hurricanes rated Category 3 or higher.

Ironically the onset of the hurricane season provides a deluge of rainfall in most areas that don’t suffer from water insecurity - nature’s perverse gross misallocation of resources.

These intense storms will also disrupt the fragile supply chain for goods & services as highways, roads, regional power grids will be compromised.

Starvation in the Bread Basket

The following are dynamics that will exacerbate the explosive increase in food prices with actual food shortages, not just logistical problems.

The continuing labor shortages at food processing plants and truck drivers to haul these food goods to supermarkets present another kink in the supply chain’s critical path. Furthermore some drivers refuse to haul goods because higher gas prices have resulted in loss of revenue for the haul. Exacerbating the risk is the shortage of spare parts.

Many large agribusiness companies such as Kroger are closing food stores in the midst of increased food insecurity for millions of citizens. According to their spokespersons, the closings are due to those supermarkets’ poor financial performance. Interestingly not only are those supermarkets located in poor communities, their elimination will create additional food deserts forcing the community either to spend monies for transportation in search of healthy food or purchase junk food from local businesses.

An alternative source for these poorer communities is food banks. However they are close to the breaking point in meeting demand and will collapse should food sources dry up.

In a potential prescient scene from the dystopic classic film almost a half century ago Soylent Green (1973) we could see riots at these food banks and distribution centers sites when there is an announcement that the food inventory is exhausted.

For the wealthy, well-prepared or the clever, one can still enjoy a natural, healthy meal as depicted in Soylent Green with Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson.

New Army of Homeless Families | End of Eviction Protections

On or about 30 June many states are issuing eviction proceedings against residents who have not paid rent. This might create a new army of homeless people and families whose only fault was working in the ‘wrong’ industry and job when the pandemic arrived. The following article entitled Emergency Bans on Evictions and Other Tenant Protections Related to Coronavirus provide a comprehensive explanation and charts by state concerning this matter.

Grid Vulnerability

Most people think of power grids becoming overloaded during extreme meteorological conditions combined with high demand and more recently cyber-attacks. However physical attacks have occurred as far back as 2014.

The Wall Street Journal article dated 5 February 2014 entitled Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Domestic Terrorism when a San Jose substation was attacked for almost 20 minutes by a group of gunmen. The short embedded video within the article provides a comprehensive overview of the attack and subsequent follow-up investigation that went nowhere.

Officials have revealed that a physical attack on a substation is far more effective in bringing down the grid than a cyber-attack because it involves the destruction of hard to replace specialized equipment.

Chokepoints are Choking Economies

·         In February a freakish arctic storm literally froze Texas operations, a leading energy producer and hub, for several days.

·         In March there was the unprecedented short-term blockage of the Suez Canal by a super-size container ship, a critical global commercial waterway.

·         In May a cyber-criminal group held the US East Coast hostage with a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial pipeline.

The next major event may not be short-lived or immediately recoverable as the aforementioned ones. For this reason it could result in an urban security crisis, a different type of pandemic that cannot be resolved with a vaccine. It may be a merely question of time that another event could break the proverbial camel’s back.

Violent Crime

The following chart entitled 2020 Saw Unprecedented Murder Spike in Major US Cities provided by New Orleans crime analyst Jeff Asher, compares the percentage change in homicides from 2019 to 2020.

The report added: “The U.S. also experienced its most violent year in decades with an unprecedented rise in homicides. The Gun Violence Archive reported that more than 19,000 people died in shootings or firearm-related incidents in 2020, the highest figure in over two decades.”

Updates for America’s two largest cities by comparing the first quarter of 2020 to 2021, shooting victims rose 43% in Chicago and 78.6% in New York with just the borough of Bronx increasing 165.7%!

The following chart provided by the FBI entitled How Americans Are Murdered (2019) examines the particulars of how Americans are murdered with firearms, not surprisingly, dominating the methods used:

As the economy worsens the most disturbing upward trend on the “street” level will be the following:

·         Mass Shootings: As jobs shrink those who are laid off are at risk of becoming homeless, distraught or mentally unstable (with or without their medications due to lack of health benefits) and violently take out their frustrations in the most heinous ways at their former place of employment and/or residence.

·         Domestic Violence: The cracking of the already fragile family unit will result in greater physical violence, including murder, in the home. Because of the worsening economy women will be unable to afford to leave and move elsewhere unless they can seek sanctuary with family and friends.

·         Random Street Violence: The reduction in public health services will result in evermore citizens unable to secure medications and other social services. Cast adrift on the streets, their mental instability will only worsen as they become desperate and aggressive.

·         Petty Crime/Shoplifting: Although there are jobs available for the unemployed they pay minimum wage or slightly above which doesn’t allow them to rent a cheap apartment. With “food & shelter” unaffordable the homeless population increases exponentially.

Disincentives to Work with Incentives to Riot

This may seem contradictory yet the government’s generous extension of unemployment benefits on top of stimulus monies disincentivizes the working population to seek employment. For this reason businesses are suffering from worker shortages. For certain industries such as warehousing, they are already aggressively installing high-tech automation which not only maintain operations but replaces most workers while maintaining a much lower overhead. Once the unemployment benefits end far more workers will be on the short end of the employment musical chairs game and fuel the upward crime trends.

Summer Blowtorch Weather | Mob Mindset

After the short-lived party, hot and probably hotter than normal weather will push desperate people to do desperate things. The vintage-aged and vulnerable grid could result in blackouts, rolling blackouts and brownouts. Food will become a luxury for many including the dispossessed middle class who’ll join their lower socio-economic brethren and engage in whatever activities necessary for the purposes of survival.

When it comes to survival, even the good citizens will resort to extreme violence if challenged coming between them and whatever they need particularly food. In 1906, Alfred Henry Lewis, an investigative journalist, lawyer and novelist, stated, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.”

From a demographic perspective the coddled Millennials, Generation X and Y have no real-life experience of the street violence and warped economies of the 1970s and 1980s. Self-absorbed and entitled, psychologically soft vs earlier battle-hardened generations they are disconnected from the advice of their Boomer parents and relatives who are the living memories of that arduous era.

Furthermore even the mainstream and social media will not be immune as journalists fall into that youngish demographic by failing to communicate the daily and long-term challenges to their readership. In other words without a reference of how to harden one’s mindset the psychological stress to cope will be enormous.

Globally local enforcement has been overwhelmed by increasingly violent protests. Domestically they are legally neutered by recently passed laws that make them personally liable for any lawsuits claimed by a civilian. Depending on the country security reinforcement whether the military, National Guard or National Police, greater firepower, more lethality. For example France’s National Police is answerable directly to the Minister of Interior. Finally, protests can be triggered by faraway incidents such as global protests over George Floyd’s death.

Initiating Your Prepper State of Emergency

The government and mainstream media have aggressively pushed forward the narrative that the worst is over and that the New Normal will not be that different from the Old Normal while eschewing economic red flags such as inflation, real estate bubbles, rising violent crime, among others. The simultaneous growth of these trends represent an unstoppable momentum that will not disappear in the short-term.

The surfeit amount of information provided by the long-term, pre-pandemic, online prepper community to the general public has not gone unheeded however far too many people are in denial that chaos is dancing on the precipice and can be triggered by either a domestic or international incident.

From a personal perspective preparedness is key going forward not only through this spring and summer rather well into the winter months. Your personal state of emergency should always proceed the government’s state of emergency because the only person ultimately responsible for you and your family’s safety is you.


© Copyright 2021 Cerulean Council LLC

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