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.

TARGETING PRIMER | THE ANDERSON TAPES

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.

 


 

 

 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

New Delhi’s Dystopic Dilemma



The dystopic perfect storm is unfolding in India with record-breaking daily new Covid cases and deaths that may continue unabated through the 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 an article entitled India Bracing for the Covid-19 Viral Contagion which articulated the multitude of powerful interwoven factors that will compound the pandemic’s spread, depth and duration which are being played out as forecast resulting in untold human suffering.

This present-day article reintroduces those factors with updated supporting charts and documentation to provide a comprehensive overview of this calamity. 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 the world’s 5th largest economy as measured by nominal GDP. Nonetheless it faces a daunting task in containing Covid-19 virus because of its socio-economic profile, public health infrastructure, shortfall in medical preparedness, polluted environment and government whose policy and decision makers are political loyalists rather than experienced technocrats and specialists.

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

·         380 million are urbanized (31%).

·         833 million are rural (69%).

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

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

·         About 36 per cent of households in these settlements do not have basic facilities of electricity, tap water, and sanitation within their premises.

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

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

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

Health Care Primer

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

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

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

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

·         The high cost of medicines in which an overwhelming 70 percent of healthcare expenses in India are paid by Indian patients out of their own pockets, one of the highest rates in the world.

Not only has the paucity of testing kits and testing resulted in the grossly under-stated numbers of infected, there are fewer medical doctors per 1,000 inhabitants despite India having the world’s 5th largest GDP and few health equipment & supply resources to grapple with the viral conflagration.

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

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



Pollution + Novel Virus = Lethal Combination

India’s high pollution serves as an accelerant for the spread of Covid-19 amongst a wider demographic. According to the IQ Air 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 On Health and Pollution published 20 December 2019.



The high Covid-19 infection rate for infants and young people should not be a mystery to the medical establishment and researchers because for decades from birth the autoimmune systems of Indian urbanites has been compromised manifesting in underlying health issues such as hypertension and respiratory problems.

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




The explosive conflagration how Covid-19 is spreading throughout Asia can be viewed in the following chart entitled New Coronavirus Waves Sweep Through Asia provided by John Hopkins University via Our World in Data:



This viral conflagration specific to India vs the world can be contributed to the aforementioned environmental and healthcare shortfalls. The following chart entitled India Emerges as the World’s Covid19 Hotspot, provided by Our World in Data provides a powerful visual image of the present-day trend



Food Insecurity

India’s food supply chain is a double-edged sword. India requires millions of highly labor-intensive work for harvesting and transporting foodstuffs. However the methods in combatting a pandemic through lockdowns and social distancing threatens India’s ability to feed its citizenry. The Wall Street Journal article 8 April 2020 India’s Food Supply Chain Frays as Workers Stay Home, provides a background summary on how India feeds itself:

·         India’s food industry is highly fragmented consisting of millions of small farmers, selling through millions of middlemen who then deliver to millions of tiny shops.

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

·         Already there are fewer farm workers (particularly for the current wheat harvest), fewer trucks arriving to load and deliver foodstuffs to distribution warehouses and fewer warehouse laborers to unload and reload foodstuffs for local delivery.

·         The entire process is labor-intensive because wheat is harvested by hand, sacks of foodstuffs are unloaded and loaded on trucks using lines of men not forklifts, and local deliveries of perishable items are done by bicycle, not refrigerated trucks.

In summary the pandemic has made a robust food industry that provides employment to millions into a fragile one - an industry dependent on millions of people for face-to-face transactions making social distancing impossible to maintain.

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

Suppression of Democratic Freedoms

In the world’s largest democracy by population, Prime Minister Modi’s government is trying to suppress criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic by using emergency powers laws. They are specifically targeting Twitter because of its extensive use in India for communication. A comprehensive overview of the battle between government and freedom of expression is in the Reuters article dated 26 April 2021 entitled India Asks 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 rights and civil liberties. The following chart entitled The State of Freedom in the World provides a global view.



In lockstep with the deteriorating state of freedom is the deteriorating state of press freedoms including social media. The following chart provided by Reporters Without Borders entitled The State of World Press Freedom classified India as a “difficult situation”, a profound fall from grace for India unlike Russia and Brazil which have the same classification but that are far younger democracies still hobbled by long histories of autocracies and dictatorships.


Dystopic Denouement

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

As the viral surge worsens Modi, the quiet megalomaniac, is already 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 the 2024 national elections will decrease considerably. For this reason he may impose draconian measures to retain his political power in the form of an indefinite state of emergency or worse.

Already the underlying dystopic elements are in play to trigger a potential violent socio-political fallout – perhaps widespread civil unrest - particularly against the backdrop of the Modi administration’s aggressive pre-pandemic discriminatory policies against non-Hindus and enthusiastically enforced with violence by a de facto militia of true believers.

If India should collapse into the depths of autocracy, along with China’s 1.4 billion population, the two autocracies would represent almost 40% 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 provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Corporate Diversity Policies | The Illusion of Inclusion

 

Image from Time Magazine
Demographics | Minorities Defined

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

Workforce Diversity | Failure to Launch

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

The Curse of Educational Finance

When one barrier is lowered, such as formerly discriminatory admissions practices in higher education, another is erected such rising college tuition that is unaffordable to most minorities except with hard-to-secure generous scholarships or fellowships.

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



Supporting the challenges of paying for a US university education the following chart entitled The US Has The Highest Tuition Fees provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and provided by Statista, an online statistical firm:


 

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

For this reason many minorities have no choice but to pursue an undergraduate degree from less known and less prestigious universities with considerably lower tuition rather than apply to an expensive top-tier university. The post-graduation reality is that top companies strongly prefer graduates from top-tier universities which eliminates a large pool of intellectually qualified minorities.

Tuition costs represent almost insurmountable financial peaks. If one managed to climb Mount McKinley for an undergraduate degree, K2 is the graduate program. The number of scholarships and fellowships are so few as to be meaningless to make a difference. Let’s not forget the scandal in which 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 minority candidates for upper management positions are dramatically dropping to a trickle because a graduate degree is a perquisite for the next level. It’s not that there’s a lack of minority candidates with experience and brains, rather the pipeline has already been deliberately sabotaged at the source.

As Dr. WPS Sidhu, Clinical Associate Professor at NYU School of Professional Studies for Global Affairs, and panelist stated in the 7 February 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 there are highly educated and experienced minority employees whose progress up the corporate ladder and careers have plateaued disproportionately to their Caucasian counterparts because private industry has deemed it so.

Even the definition of “minority” has widened the field to include the physically handicapped (of all races) and women. Insidiously this has increased the pool of Caucasian candidates under this revised definition and effectively “crowded out” and considerably reduced the odds for African-American and Hispanics because of the limited available upper-level positions. For this reason a Caucasian female and Caucasian handicapped or Caucasian transgender person “qualifies” under this definition leaving African-American and Hispanics on the outside looking in through an agonizingly transparent bulletproof glass ceiling.

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

The failure of diversity programs has statistical support through a study by The Financial Times in their 1 April 2021 article entitled Share of Black Employees In Senior Us Finance Roles Falls Despite Diversity Push, as presented by the media platform Remarkboard. [The above link also includes a podcast of the article]. In brief “African-Americans account for 13% of all finance staff and the sector’s biggest ethnic minority.” However in senior jobs their share fell from 2.9% to 2.6% from 2007 to 2018. Meanwhile there are more executives of Asian descent in senior manager positions even though there are 50% more African-Americans workers in this sector.

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

Like the Covid-19 virus variants, higher education and private industry have their legal variants – a rebranding - to maintain the status quo and blatantly use “diversity theater”, the tactic of recruiting, hiring and promoting “the best & brightest” amongst minority candidates. These farcical beau geste public relations campaigns have historically been reactive and legally defensive, never proactive and socially progressive after protests on discriminatory practices began literally knocking on their doors - and sometimes smashing their windows. Symbolically the exterior windows of their venues are often broken and replaced but the interior bulletproof glass ceiling never cracks.

This is why corporate have disingenuously supported Black Lives Matter (BLM) shamelessly after-the-fact by tasking their behavioral specialists in public relations to construct a customized social umbrella liability policy with the intensification of protests, destroyed property and possible boycotts. This damage control campaign featured slick public relations productions brimming with mostly smiling non-Caucasian faces that supposedly confirm their commitment to diversity.

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

Because the spigot of this pipeline restricts the number of qualified minorities available to vie for upper-level positions, the present-day few 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 corporate diversity work camps, highly paid but with no decision-making “teeth” or resources to accomplish the department’s mission in search of not just unicorns, rather purple unicorns.

The creation of diversity positions and departments is an additional administrative layer for the purposes of misdirection and obfuscation 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 is qualitative, not quantitative because those on the “short list” are already qualified. A perfect case study is the exquisite theater of the absurd demonstrated by the continued hiring of Caucasian NFL coaches despite the surfeit of qualified and experienced minority candidates.

For this reason the simmering frustration and anger of minorities continue unabated and spillover to the streets as the pandemic has exposed the blatant and open governmental and private industry discrimination, corruption and record-breaking inequities as quantified by the Gini-index.

WORKPLACE | MINORITIES’ DOUBLE BIND

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

In the corporate work this creation of obstacles for promotions begins at the lower levels which represent the double binds. On one hand the supervisor gives a minority worker an assignment with a specific objective. During the project the worker takes the initiative and achieves beyond the objective of the project without utilizing more resources than allotted and well within any financial or legal risks.

Instead of congratulating the worker, the supervisor reprimands the worker not for exceeding the objective, rather by not following instructions and halting at the original objective. A slight variation is reprimanding the worker for trying to “reinvent the wheel” as the present system operates fine.

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

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

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

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

This is one of many clever tactics that enables upper-management to forcibly sabotage the career trajectory of talented minorities. Instead they shuffle minorities laterally between departments, a perverse corporate purgatory, which is a far easier practice to justify nowadays as corporations have flattened their hierarchy thus conveniently reducing available upper-management positions.

The No-Win Double Bind Challenge | Career Check Mate

Quite a number of these minorities have professionally and diplomatically challenged their supervisor’s judgements by requesting them to explain the differences. Supervisors are flummoxed and tongue-tied because they’ve never been challenged in this manner. Just by engaging in this professional query is a career killer within the organization which takes various forms such as being sent off to corporate Siberia – literally physically set apart from everyone else – assigned to less challenging assignments. These are the consequences one pays for greasing the corporate mask that falls off and exposes their unfiltered and brutally ugly intentions.

CORPORATE OBJECTIVES

The reality is that the corporate supreme priority is not profit rather power & control which goes against the interests of the shareholders, customers and community. Profit is important but is incorporated into the shadows of power & control in a way that they’re almost indistinguishable. But when forced to make a distinct choice, power & control is the priority since profits can be regained later – a near-term cost of doing business on their terms - while loss of power & control is far more difficult to recoup.

Corporations maintain the status quo by engaging in creative personnel accounting by shuffling minorities to the back of the bus (back office) while including them in the overall head count to assuage governments and activist groups. If they hold up in public audits and demonstrate some measure of “best efforts” through recruitment then legally they’re protected even though they’re breaking the spirit of the law.

Cagey Corporate Conspiracies

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

This pandemic period is a perfect example of extreme stress and turmoil creating the ideal environment for a political set-up. A minority candidate is provided the opportunity to succeed yet lacks the usual resources and support in the pre-pandemic era to right a sinking ship which compounds the possibility of failure. When the firm crashes and burns the minority CEO suddenly becomes the fall guy and conveniently removed. This trend was astutely articulated in The NY Times article entitled Women in 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 short period of time dominating the early 21st century. Its exponential growth and demands for highly-skilled technical workers has resulted in a paucity of minority workers. As with the corporate finance sector, minority workers are heavily represented by those of Asian descent.

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

The broader picture and dramatical increase of dissatisfaction among all tech workers can be viewed in the following chart entitled Tech Workers Unite! provided by Collective Actions in Tech and presented by Statista.



The perverse irony is that Big Tech aggressively markets their products & services as unifying and egalitarian yet which are increasingly privacy-invasive. Further their steep prices are out of reach of many minorities particularly during the pandemic when many of these minority students were unable to attend school remotely. For this reason they fell even further behind their counterparts.

How It All Plays Out

Against the backdrop of explosive governmental debt, business bankruptcies, restructurings and downsizing, there will continue to be considerably fewer available middle to-senior level positions for minorities to compete. The snail’s pace increase in workplace diversity continues to lag further behind the faster paced demographics of a growing educated minority population in America. This means that the social pot will continue to boil at dangerous levels while big business waits for sufficient economic recovery and business confidence to create opportunities.


© 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.