French presidential elections – final forecast

BBC

I watched the bulk of the French election debate on Wednesday evening. Overall, I felt that Marine Le Pen (MLP) edged in overall performance, coming across as softer, more human and focused on the economic and cultural suffering of the working to lower middle classes.

President Macron, was aloof, arrogant, technocratic and in his own way brilliant. He understands numbers, holds his own in highly technical debates and during certain policy debates, clearly had the upper hand. What he lacked was empathy towards ordinary people and it shined through over and over again. He performed ok, he didn’t implode but nor did he help his image as a president of the rich.

The snap polls suggested that Macron had won the debate. Well, I’m not so sure about that, but did the debates move the needle sufficiently to get MLP the final votes to win the election? Probably not in my view.

Reviewing the final polls, one out suggests that Macron is extending his lead against MLP.

The most successful pollsters in the 1st round, the polling firm, Odoxa, who captured the MLP vote the best, have published their final poll.

It’s within the margin of error, but one has to include that the clear and likely winner is Emmanuel Macron, in line with my forecast at the beginning of the year.

There is a chance that she can pull off the political shock of the 21st century but it strikes me as unlikely. For the record, I cashed out of my MLP bet a few days ago based on the fact that all pollsters have shown a consolidation of support for Macron and away from MLP.

My overall forecast is that Emmanuel Macron will win the French presidential election, probably narrowly.

French presidential elections – final forecast

French elections: short update

Financial Times

The 1st round of the French presidential elections are coming this weekend and I thought I will give a short update on the state of play.

I predicted, at the beginning of the year, with a moderate degree of conviction, that Emmanuel Macron will narrowly win the election in the 2nd round. However, I noted that there was a good chance that Le Pen could win against the odds given the fact that she was within striking distance of winning according to the polls back in January 2022.

Well since then, the polling has tightened further, and the most recent set of polls show Le Pen within the margin of error in the late 40’s versus Macron in the early 50’s in 2nd round polling. Indeed, one poll, on Thursday from a very reputable and reliable pollster, shows Marine Le Pen defeating Macron by 50.5% to 49.50%!

That may, or may not be a rogue poll, we shall see, but it is looking very likely that Le Pen will face off Macron in the 2nd round elections in two weeks.

Right now, the election is too close to call and whilst I will stick with my forecast of a Macron win, the chances of a Le Pen upset grow by the day as ordinary French voters, crushed by inflationary price surges triggered by the war and the Western sanctions on Russia turn on Macron.

On a final note, those who took my advice and placed a exchange bet on Le Pen’s odds will be laughing now. I got in at 12 to 1 odds and these have now shrunk to nearly 4 to 1. I am already sitting on a modest profit and that should grow should Le Pen get into the 2nd round this Sunday.

French elections: short update

A Requiem to an old world

Getty

I was brought up as a child of the 1990s and I can just about remember the Berlin Wall coming down in 1990 (my parents told me history was happening. The 5-year-old version of me barely registered it at the time).

The collapse of Communism heralded a new, post-Cold War era where the West was dominant, liberal and democratic values spread around the world and in the industrialised world at least, we lived in a largely peaceful and prosperous time.

Of course, there were wars and as discussed on my blog before, the living standards for the majority in the industrialised world were slowly declining, leading to the political revolts of the 2010’s. But, in historical terms and compared to the situation in the majority of the world where famine, civil war, revolutions and dictatorships are more common, it was a golden age to be growing up.

I first became aware of the wider issue of peak oil, resource scarcity and Limits to Growth in the early 2000s, around the time of the Iraq War. I came to a realisation that this strange, rather ahistorical moment of peace and abundance was not going to last forever. Indeed, the LTG BAU model suggested that after 2020, it would start to fall apart as resources declined, food costs soared and economies crumbled under the pressure of worsening fossil fuel scarcity.  

FI

We also know, from history, that as critical and strategic resources get scarcer, the risks of wars increase. Therefore, you don’t need to be a genius to work out, looking at the LTG graph, that the probability of conflicts, whether internal (different factions of a population or elites fighting over a stagnant or shrinking economic pie) or external (countries fighting over water, fossil fuels or arable land) was always going to increase.

On a personal note, I loath war and as a child of the post-Cold War era, find it personally hard to imagine a world of endless bloodshed and wars in the future. I certainly hope we can avoid such an outcome, even if it is the historical norm.

On an intellectual level though, the recent invasion by Russia of Ukraine hasn’t come as a huge shock to me. The Russians have certain strategic objectives and President Putin has decided, that invading Ukraine is the only way to achieve these strategic goals.

Peter Zeihan, a top geopolitical writer, has published before why successive Russian Tsars and Soviet era dictators have pursued the same geopolitical goals. In the map below, he explains why Russia will always seek to reach defensible borders and control the gaps between these to ensure the internal security of the Russian heartland.

Zeihan on Geopolitics

Now, there is a legitimate debate, within Russian circles, on the best tactics to achieve these goals, and clearly there are some factions within the Russian elite who think Putin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine is reckless. But the overall concept that Russia secures its borders from any current and future invasion threat would be a core of any Russian foreign policy, irrespective of whether President Putin was leader or not.

Not only that, Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and fertiliser, strategic commodities that literally feed the world population. A neo-Russian Empire that controls a quarter of the world’s wheat production would be a serious global player in a world of rising food scarcity.

In terms of the actual conflict, I broadly agree with this analysis, click here and here, on the conflict. My view is that Russia made some tactical mistakes at the beginning of the war, underestimating the Ukrainian resistance, but they are now regrouping, and will use to the maximize their military capability to seize key areas of Ukraine, encircle the major cities and force the Ukrainian political leadership to surrender.

In other words, Russia will win the war (albeit at high cost both reputationally and in terms of casualties). In terms of sanctions, clearly, they will have a negative impact on the Russian economy but I don’t think it will “move the dial” fundamentally. You won’t hear it much from the Western media, but the majority of the world has not imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

Daily Mail

US allies, including India, UAE, Saudi Arabia and even Israel have refused to impose crippling sanctions on Russia. These countries have their different reasons to continue to engage with Russia and do not want to be dragged into what some view as an intra-European war.

This is just one example of how Western influence and ability to impose their will on the rest of the world is shrinking fast. Something that John Greer comments in his latest blog post.

What I want to focus on today, is not so much the war itself, which I have outlined above my view on the outcome (a Russian victory with the majority of Ukraine neutralised over the coming weeks and months) but the wider impact.

Peter Zeihan has recently posted about the impact on global agriculture from this war. It is worth quoting his words in full; “Keeping the global population alive requires global peace and global supply chains. In the former Soviet world, that peace and those supply chains are gone forever. I’ve long said that we will never reach a global population of 9 billion. That future deglobalization will result in the death of a billion people by starvation. The future is here. The leading edge of the famines of tomorrow begin in 2022.
 
The breaking of trade relationships, spasms in energy pricing, and most certainly the Ukraine War will limit sharply what is possible in the world of agriculture, and do so more quickly than I have ever feared.” 

Zeihan on Geopolitics

And this Bloomberg article on the impact of soaring fertilizers costs of farmers in America. The short version, there will be less food next year. The same dynamics are happening across the world. Costs are soaring and production is going to slump, leading to hundreds of millions dying of starvation this decade.

Already, the UN is warning that millions in Afghanistan are starving and that was before the outbreak of war in the Ukraine and the ending of wheat and fertilizer exports. The most vulnerable countries are in the MENA region, already under growing pressure due to water shortages, loss of arable land and climate change caused extreme weather. Egypt is one to watch.

The last time food price soared was in 2010, which triggered the mass unrest, revolution which the Western media rather naively called the “Arab Spring”. There is a risk that something similar could happen again. Should soaring food prices tip large parts of the developing world into famine, expect to see massive social and political upheaval across the world.

Within a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if new and far bigger waves of migrations start to impact the southern borders of the European Union. This is the nightmare facing the increasingly vulnerable core of European states surrounded by a growing sea of chaos. Europe chose to effectively disarm since the end of the Cold War and is now incredibly vulnerable to military incursions from any serious state actor, whether that is Russia, Turkey or even Egypt. That isn’t a prediction, but a statement of fact. Without American military support, European countries are unable to defend their countries (with the exception of France, Switzerland, UK and probably Poland).

The war in Ukraine is a wake-up call to the Europeans to get serious about their defence. In that sense, the announcement by Germany to spend billions in re-arming is a good thing and we are likely to see similar moves by other European countries. But I fear that it is all too little, too late given the worsening global security situation facing the world.

North America, protected by the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, is in a far more secure place to handle the massive challenges coming down the line. John Greer has warned in previous posts that western and central Europe, will by the end of this century, be a demographic, cultural and military extension of the Maghrib region of North Africa.

The states of Eastern Europe will likely be within the sphere of influence of a revived Russian Empire. In other words, Western Europe is doomed to collapse, fuelled by massive waves of armed invasions from the global south in the coming decades just as the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed.

For those readers of this blog who are based in Europe, we face a terrible choice. Do we stay, hope for the best and go down fighting if the worst happens? Or, do we, like those wealthy elites who fled Europe before Hitler invaded during World War 2, pack our bags and quietly flee before the horror, death and destruction visits our friends, family and neighbours.

It is something that myself and my wife are now talking about. We have provisionally agreed that the United States is the most logical place to prepare our second home, should Europe descend into savage warfare and violence in the decades to come. Other people are certainly thinking along the same lines.

If history is any guide, the signals build up over years – and only a few take the hint and make their plans to escape – until the dam breaks and mass panic occurs. For those interested, I recommend my blog post on how the wealthy survived (or in some cases didn’t) the brutal wars of the World War 2.

A Requiem to an old world

The Aftermath

Flickr

Hope you all had a great New Year and an enjoyable Christmas!

It is that now traditional rite of passage where I review last year’s predictions and grade myself on how well I did.

Looking back at my post, which you can read here, the thing that struck me was how cautious I was about the prospect that the mass vaccination would return us to a 2019 world without restrictions, lockdowns and public health rules through vaccine induced herd immunity.

As I wrote at the end of my blog post, “So, to summarise, 2021 will probably “feel” more like 2020 than 2019. Lockdowns in many parts of the world till Spring, a semi-normal Summer and the risk of things going terribly wrong again in the war against Covid during the second half of the year.”

Given that, large parts of Europe are in quasi-lockdown, and in the Netherlands case, an actual March 2020 style lockdown, that seems like a remarkably prescient prediction. The prospect of herd immunity once 60%, then 70% and then over 80% of the population were vaccinated faded away as breakthrough cases surged and vaccine resistant variants become dominant across the world by the end of 2021.

Whilst thing have improved substantially, and the vaccines seem to be holding the line, so far, in terms of protecting the vulnerable populations from severe illness or death, in terms of everything else, they have proved a failure. They have failed to achieve the grand hope of herd immunity and therefore even Bill Gates is now talking about the need for 2nd generation vaccines.

The great elephant in the room is vaccine related adverse reactions in 2021. If you wish to read some of the heart breaking stories, you can at this website here.

My own view is that the authorities, the media and the bulk of the population consider a certain degree of vaccine caused injuries and deaths from a fast-tracked vaccine approval process a price worth paying for getting us out of the nightmare of lockdowns, restrictions and overwhelmed health systems. That does not mean they want to acknowledge or know about those who have suffered or died.

The treatment of those and their families who have suffered, in some cases terribly, from the heart attacks, life-changing injuries, accelerated cancers and autoimmune diseases triggered by the DNA/mNRA vaccines has been shocking.

The closest comparison I can make is the treatment by European societies after the Great War of those physically, mentally damaged or disabled by the wars. Just think about those poor young men left physically disabled, disfigured or unable to live normally after the horrific experiences of the trenches. They were effectively left to rot by post-war societies that just wanted to forget the war and enjoy the Swinging Twenties.

BBC

I think the same will happen to those unlucky enough to get injured, permanently sick or die from the mass vaccination programmes of 2021 (a prime example being the tragic case of 12 year old Maddie De Garay, permanently disabled after taking part in the Pfizer trial). So far, the numbers impacted, even based on the figures modelled by the vaccine-hesitant community – e.g., Jessica Rose – are a relatively small fraction of the overall vaccinated population. Although these numbers continue to surge higher and will certainly get even higher in 2022 now that we have had a 3rd booster vaccine programme.

Fox News

In terms of what we can reasonably assume, medically speaking about the DNA/mRNA vaccines, I strongly recommend reading this blog post by a scientifically trained researcher called Mark. It’s a fair assessment, after 1 year, of the vaccine rollout and he does acknowledge for those over-70’s, that it still makes sense to get vaccinated given the risks posed to the elderly of Covid.

I have also covered the issues developing, specifically the bio toxic nature of the spike protein and the growing issues around immune dysfunction among the vaccinated, in my last post here.

What we do not know is how bad it will get in 2022; given that the majority of the vaccinated have now had a 3rd shot of the genetic spike-protein based vaccines over the last few months. I will attempt to forecast this once I get into my 2022 predictions later on in this post.

In terms of my 2021 forecasts, my first prediction was swiftly proven wrong. The Republicans failed to keep their majority in the Senate and the Democratic managed to win on tiny margins in the end. The irony is that in the end this doesn’t seem to have made much difference as the conservative Democratic Jo Manchin has prevented the more radical elements of the Biden Administration agenda from getting through the Senate.

Given how quickly the poll ratings for President Biden are collapsing, there is even less incentive for Manchin and his fellow conservatives to surrender to the increasingly electorally toxic progressive wing of the Democrats.

My second prediction, that an approved Covid-19 vaccine would be withdrawn for safety reasons has been partially proven correct. Many countries partially or fully stopped the usage of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns about rare blood clots. Similar issues bedevilled the US Johnson and Johnson vaccine that uses the same technology as AstraZeneca.

Other countries have more recently restricted or banned the usage of Moderna given the rates of myocarditis among vaccinated younger men. So, overall, I will give myself a win for this prediction.

My final prediction was that ether, the second largest crypto after bitcoin, would soar in 2021 to $1,500. Well, this proved a bullseye as prices actually went far beyond that during the bull market in crypto-assets after their collapse in March 2020 with Ethereum reaching the heights of $4,735. We saw substantial institutional funding going into Ethereum in 2021 and this trend is likely to surge in 2022 as more family offices, hedge funds, private equity, venture capital and HNW individuals start investing in the crypto space.  

coinmarketcap

So, what is my prognosis for 2022? Overall, I think that from a purely Covid pandemic perspective, the worst is probably over now that omicron is sweeping the planet. We appear to be getting closer to herd immunity via waves of natural infections as well as, to a lesser extent, vaccinations.

My first prediction is that countries will start downgrading their public health approaches to treating Covid from an emergency to an endemic approach, similar to how we treat winter flu. That means, in practise, an end to mass testing, mandatory quarantines, domestic vaccine mandates to access bars, restaurants and larger scale events and to a lesser extent a removal of much of the red tape and testing required for international travel. Vaccinations will be voluntary and targeted at the vulnerable e.g., the elderly and immune-compromised.

I suspect the United Kingdom will be the first country to go down this path, and others, particularly those countries that depend upon mass tourism, will follow (like Spain, Turkey and Greece). Not all countries will embrace this libertarian approach to Covid and I’m sure other parts of the world, whether zero-Covid China, Australia and parts of central Europe will deviate from this path.

My second prediction is that President Macron will, just, win the French presidency in April 2022. This has been a hard call to make. If you look at the opinion polls on 2nd round voter preferences, the centre-right President Macron is consistently ahead in the polls. However, he is not overwhelmingly ahead, and is only 10% ahead of Marine Le Pen (MLP), for example. Should MLP get into the second round of the presidential race, she only needs to gain 5% or so of the electorate to just win the election.

Wikipedia

So, whilst my official prediction is that President Macron will win, I do not discount the possibility of a shock loss to either the Republican candidate Pecresse or MLP. The betting odds online have completely given up on MLP winning in 2022, probably due to her implosion in 2017 with her odds being 12 to 1 to win the presidency. Given she is consistently around 45% in the polls, this looks like mispriced odds that a calculated gambler might take advantage. For the record, I have placed a small bet on MLP winning the presidency on betfair exchange, which allows me to sell with a profit should those odds compress in the next few months.

If MLP gets into the 2nd round, and her polling remains in the high 40’s, I’m sure those 12 to 1 odd will dramatically shrink and I can exit with a modest profit, even if she doesn’t end up winning the presidency. Of course, it might be the case that MLP will out-perform the clearly abysmal expectations during the debates, TV interviews and wider campaigning and prove a stronger than expected challenge to President Macron. One to watch is whether MLP will pick up civil liberties vote from the unvaccinated and double jabbed population that refuses to get the booster shot. Should Macron extend the definition of fully vaccinated to include 3 shots to the rest of the population prior to the election, that could exclude a substantial chunk of the population from society.

If enough of those voters, and even those who are triple jabbed but dislike the vaccine mandates, switch or vote for the first time for MLP, that could theoretically push MLP over the 50% line. It’s the wildcard factor that could unexpectedly influence the presidential election and one to watch in the coming months.

My third prediction is the grimmest and one I fervently hope I’m proven wrong. I expect to see rising mortality rates in highly vaccinated populations that have used the DNA/mRNA vaccines on their populations. Cases of cancers, strokes, clots, autoimmune diseases are going to rise among the vaccinated populations and potentially, other viruses or diseases will cause unusual levels of mortality in 2022 should they circulate among the population.

Hopefully the numbers should not be that huge, and I’m sure when it is covered by the mainstream media, it will either be ignored or written off as an impact on the two-year Covid measures that prevented or put of people from going to hospitals. The possibility that it is caused by the vaccines will be ignored by the medical, media and political establishments even if word of the potential negative impact of the immune system will circulate more and more among the population.

If the pressures on healthcare systems are severe enough, there is a risk that burnt out healthcare staff will struggle to cope this winter and countries may face the difficult choice of re-imposing restrictions on society to help buckling healthcare systems.

My fourth prediction revolves around the increasingly dire supply crunch in key raw materials and energies impacting the global economy. It is my long-term assertion that our globalised economy has already peaked in 2020 and we are now in a long-term economic contraction which John Greer calls the Long Descent but can also be considered the Greater Depression.

The financial markets are increasingly cottoning on to the fact that energy shortages are imposing increasingly dire impacts on globalised supply chains and industries. I expect to see oil to surge at some point in 2022 above 100 dollars given these supply constraints. Oil won’t be the only resource to see price spikes and scarcity, but it is the big driver of our industrial civilisation and therefore the one to watch.

So, there you go, those are my predictions for 2022.

I look forward to your feedback and comments.

The Aftermath

The Experiment

Forbes

“I do not subscribe at all to “vaccines are making people sicker than they’d be if they’d gotten COVID”. However – some very hard truths are beginning to emerge – this is an organic from the ground up kind of thing and will take months/years to sort out. I was at a medical staff meeting at my own hospital in the past week. We all on the medical staff know that we have been very very busy in the early fall. Usually that time of year is very quiet around here. But we were all horrified to learn that the actual numbers of the patients in the hospital for non-covid non-OB non-peds related issues had literally gone up by double digits – many of the diagnoses had increased by upwards of 50%.

These included all the bread and butter medical problems, like CVA, MI, CHF, PE, DVT, pneumonia and most prominently – a huge surge in type I diabetes and other diabetic complications. These numbers on all of these diagnoses were literally off the chart compared to 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017. The abstractor had even done a population based per capita study – and the numbers held.

Very strange that all of these diagnoses would be astronomically increasing all at once in OCT 2021.

That kind of across the board increase would be unique in my entire career at any hospital. The cancer registry is also through the roof – interestingly we are having a major increase in malignant melanoma and renal cell carcinoma. Again – no obvious explanation. Breast cancers were also really elevated compared to their incidence in past Octobers. There had been a slow gradual increase in all of these issues during the months of July August and September – but October blew it out of the water.

The abstractor herself noted that this increase could NOT be attributed to the old line of “people were just holding on to things and not going into the doctor because of the pandemic.” That is just not the case – that may have been true a year ago – but we can tell by office and ER visits that were completely normal since SEP of 2020 that this is no longer the case.”

IM doctor (who works in a major US hospital), naked capitalism

I have been planning to write an update on the vaccine situation for months now, but each time I felt I was nearly ready to put pen on paper, new developments would emerge that would postpone the inevitable act.

Well, the good news, after reading a vast amount of medical literature, listening to podcasts of worried scientists and lurking on the internet sites that cater to those worried about the impact of the mass vaccination programmes, I am now ready to write where I think we are and more importantly where we are going.

I will be the first to admit that as someone without a scientific/medical background I could be wrong in my prognosis on where we are going on this. However, unlike the vaccinated colleagues, friends and family members who know very little about the vaccines they have injected themselves with, I have done a huge amount of reading and learning over the last 12 months so think I have a certain degree of layman knowledge now.

For those who struggle with the notion that some people may get sick or die in the coming years, I strongly advice that you don’t read any further. This article is for those brave and strong enough to contemplate the potentially horrifying impact of these vaccines.

So, what do we know so far? As discussed in my last post, the VAERS US database of adverse vaccine events recorded by doctors and nurses across the country is our best system to identifying concerning side effects of the vaccines.

Dr Jessica Rose last published her review of the data – that she collects weekly – on this YouTube recording in August 2021.

Her findings are consistent with the earlier data coming back in April 2021 that I referenced in my last blog post. There has been a sustained and shocking rise in cardiovascular, neurological and immunological adverse event (AE) reactions as the mass population was vaccinated with the 1st and 2nd shots of either the DNA/mRNA vaccines (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna).

Dr Jessica Rose has also, using Pfizer’s own trial data, tried to work out the real rate of AE in the population, which she has calculated as a multiplication factor of 31.

Using that conversion ratio, as at August 2021, she was able to calculate the potential real rate of the various type of AE’s occurring in the wider population.

I think you can agree that these numbers are starting to look quite scary, and the actual numbers will have grown since August. The fertility/reproductive cases are particularly alarming and those who wish to read more about the potential link between vaccines and the spike in miscarriages and fertility issues will find the articles here and here interesting.

What appears to be happening is that prolonged spike protein exposure from repeated vaccine shots and immune suppression/dysregulation are causing harm as shown in the numbers above.

The spike protein is driving the blood clots, heart attacks and miscarriages among the vaccinated.

And if that isn’t bad enough, the gene-based vaccines also appear to be messing with our immune system and making the vaccinated more vulnerable to viruses and diseases, including autoimmune diseases. This medical paper focuses on the potential link between the disabling of the immune system, post-jabbed, that allows cancerous cells to spread.

If you read, again, the report from the IM doctor based in the US, you can see that rates of cancer are starting to soar now across the United States. This is likely to be driven by vaccine caused AE.

The negative impact of the DNA/mRNA vaccines on the vaccinated immune system has also been identified by other medical/scientific experts.

This doctor warned of the alarming results he has been seeing at his clinic recently, see here.

He explains, in the short video, that the impact on the immune system is like Reverse HIV.

Dr Vincent Giampapa, speaking in this podcast, was nominated in 2014 for a Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking-research into cellular restoration technology, as well as the Edison Award for the Healthycell nutritional supplement for cell health.

In this recording, which you can watch from 13 minutes onwards for 5 minutes, Dr Giampapa discusses how the DNA/mRNA vaccines will destroy, over time should we get repeated boosters, our immune system. And, it also could destroy the ability of the child rearing age population to have children over time, if repeatedly vaccinated.

What Dr Giampapa describes is happening to the vaccinated population is equivalent to Reverse HIV and warns that he is very worried about the impact on the vaccinated population over the next 2 to 5 years.

The twitter analyst John Paul, who is not to my knowledge a scientist, does extensively reference scientific papers though, and has a twitter thread explaining Reverse HIV/AIDs as he calls it.

To summarise, Reverse HIV/AID’s is where the multiple vaccinated immune system is progressively destroyed by the DNA/mRNA vaccines, making them effectively immune-compromised and vulnerable to any type of virus or disease circulating in society. That means those that are impacted by Reverse HIV/AID are highly vulnerable to getting seriously ill or dying.

The tipping point where a vaccinated individual immune system tips into dysfunction will vary between one individual and another. Those that had a robust and strong innate immune system may find that they will take longer to succumb than an already immune-compromised individual with existing underlying health conditions.

For what its worth, John Paul thinks the trigger point for Reverse HIV/AID’s for the mass of the vaccinated kicks in after a 4th vaccine but it’s a guessing game at this point.

The growing evidence indicates that the DNA/mRNA vaccines are damaging the immune systems of the jabbed and each successive booster campaign increases the risks of widespread illness and mortality among the vaccinated populations in the coming years.

In my previous post I discussed the risks of Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE). ADE is a risk but so far, with 12 months of data to go on, there is no evidence that ADE is occurring among the vaccinated population to my knowledge.

That indicates that this risk is diminishing as a factor to be worried about in this mass vaccination rollout. However, I would be much more confident asserting this time next year, given that it remains a possibility and something that Dr Geert Vanden Bossche has recently warned about. You can read his full interview here but he is concerned that a rollout of an omicron-specific vaccine could trigger ADE among the vaccinated population.

Dr Bossche has had a reasonably good record of forecasting the evolution of this virus – in March he was predicting that the vaccination rollout would lead to more infectious variants – something, that has been proven right with Delta and Omicron.

Dr Bossche warnings that ADE remains a risk should be something we are mindful of but if, after a rollout of a 4th booster campaign targeting the omicron variant, we see no evidence of ADE, the chances of it happening will look increasingly implausible.

So, to summarise, my outlook – and I could certainly be wrong – is that in the developed world, where we have only used spike protein-based DNA/mDNA vaccines, we will continue to see a continued rise of the vaccinated exhibiting the AE issues shown in the VAERS, Yellow Cards and other equivalent databases in Europe over the coming months and years.

At the same time, the majority of the public, fearful of the virus and unaware of the scale of the side effects and deaths being triggered by these vaccines, will continue to get their booster shots in 2022, increasing the odds of a disastrous medical blowback on the vaccinated population.

A rising tide of sick and dying vaccinated patients will put intolerable pressures on a crumbling healthcare system already on the brink from vaccine mandates, exhausted staff and patient demands. There is a very real risk, and to a certain extent we are already seeing it in the Netherlands lockdown, that every winter going forward, national lockdowns will be required across the developed world to avoid to a total collapse of our healthcare systems.

Should a significant portion of the multi-vaccinated start getting seriously ill or die from the horrendous cocktail of diseases mentioned in the VAERS database, that will increase the pressures on healthcare staff.

There is a very real risk that our key infrastructure in the West, maintained by largely vaccinated employees, will collapse should enough workers get sick or die. That includes our logistic and supply chains, healthcare, IT, transport and electricity systems.

I strongly recommend that you start preparing for shortages and temporary disruption of key goods important to you in the future.

It’s impossible to know how bad its going to get from here. We may find that it is the more immune-compromised and vulnerable populations that are worst affected by what is coming, those who are elderly, ill or in the margins of our society.

Or, it will develop in waves, with the clinically vulnerable worst hit next winter, but the greater (and previously healthy) mass vaccinated population getting ill and, in some cases, dying, in the winters of 2023 to 2025.

My advice to you, whether you are vaccinated or not, is to do whatever you can to naturally boost your immune system. Take vitamin supplements, exercise, embrace a healthy diet and drink moderately. If you are overweight or obese, do whatever you can to get to a healthier body shape.

Whether you choose to take any further vaccines will depend upon your individual situation and perceptions of your risk of Covid. But if you are worried about the longer-term side effects, hopefully some of the links I have provided may be of interest to you. And if you think I’m being alarmist, that’s fine with me. I certainly hope you are right and I am wrong, but time will tell.

The Experiment

Welcome to Greer’s world

Economist

“The energy market suggests that the hard reality of supply constraints will overwhelm the Green agenda before it gets started.”

Asian Times, “Green bubbles threaten to pop stock markets”, 2nd October 2021

“The energy crunch is the threat few saw coming for China as 2022 approaches. Blackouts in the globe’s No 2 economy – or sudden bursts of inflation – could shoulder-check a world economy trying to regain its footing.”

Asia Times, “Bad timing for an energy crisis in China”, 8th October 2021

Reading the headlines today is a slightly surreal experience for me. Ever since 2003, I have been aware of the impending crisis facing our industrial civilisation as we used up the economically viable fossil fuels like a drunken sailor on a night out in town.

The classic peak oil books warned that, at some point in the future, the supply crunch in oil, gas, coal and other key resources vital to the functioning of our highly complex industrial civilisation would cause spikes in prices, shortages and blackouts across the world. Well, that world has arrived.

The most recent Economist weekly magazines refer to the new “Shortages Economy” and “the Energy shock” facing the world. It wasn’t so long ago that the chattering classes and so-called experts were saying that the big crisis facing the world was peak oil demand, as the world transitioned to renewable energies. The great fossil fuel giants, Big Oil and the oil and gas exporting states like Qatar, Russia and Saudi Arabia were facing economic disaster with their “stranded assets”.

Well, they aren’t saying that anymore as Chinese and Indian citizens experience blackouts, factories are forced to close across the developing world due to coal shortages with even wealthy Europe facing massive increases in the price of gas.

Long-standing readers of this blog are well aware that I follow closely the writing and forecasts of John Greer closely. To me, he is the most perceptive and knowledgeable of the “peak oil” era writers on the sheer scale of the crisis facing us. The depth of his historical understanding and use of the cycles of history to forecast the likely fate of our own civilisation never ceases to amaze me.

It was thanks to John’s historical knowledge and insights that I had the confidence to forecast Donald Trump’s victory in early 2016 when the vast majority of commentators considered his candidacy a bad joke.

So where are we going from now? Well, unlike the economists and central bankers who think the recent bout of inflation is merely “transitory” and supply issues are a temporary bug of the lockdowns, my view is radically different. We are in the early stages of the collapse of the globalised supply chain networks that have underpinned the entire globalisation phase since the 1980’s.

Even if one issue gets resolved within the next 18 months, other problems will arise, causing cascading disruption across the global supply chains that keep our economy going. So, prepare for worsening shortages, reduced supply and rising costs this decade. Try to build resilience into your life, stockpiling key supplies when they are available and look to local alternatives for other goods and services you need or enjoy. For those with jobs that are plugged into a functioning industrial economy, be prepared for the worst e.g. closure or redundancies as companies struggle to survive.

The other thing we can all try and do is cultivate a “household economy” lifestyle, for example brewing your own beer, growing your own food in the garden or allotment and so on. The more you do at home, within the household, the less dependent you are on the wider industrial economy to provide you with your critical needs and wants. All this is widely documented in John’s books on the Long Descent, the term he uses to talk about the era we have now entered.

I have discussed before the trajectory facing our civilisation, using the Limits to Growth business-as-usual model as the key template. This decade is the unravelling of our existing globalised economy, a process that you are witnessing in its early stages right now.

Limits to growth

Around 2030, is the key point that our global economy effectively collapses, global population peaks and a more serious unravelling of our industrial civilisation progresses.

Today, this blog post is aimed at those lucky enough to either have enough assets (e.g. shares, bonds, cash, real estate etc) already or think they will be in a position to this decade whilst the global economy staggers on.

This can be a sensitive area, as John Greer has himself written in a recent post, that the whole concept of owning assets is an increasingly pointless exercise in an era of contraction. For me, as an asset holder in a selection of tokens and shares primarily, this is a particular challenge. Whilst developing skills, investing in renewable technologies and so on are all excellent ideas, I still think that there is still a space for thinking about asset allocation in an era of the Long Descent.

On this, I am heavily influenced by the writings of the Elliot Theory (ET) analyst Avi Gilburt who has a superb track record in forecasting stocks and tokens through the Elliot theory analysis. Now, I don’t pretend to fully understand how ET works, but having reviewed their forecasts going back years, they do have a good track record.

What Avi and his team are forecasting is a melt-up rally of the main US stock market, the S&P 500, into 2022 and 2023 before it collapses after late 2023 into the mid-2020’s. He doesn’t explain why the US market collapses but that is what his analysis is expecting. Their long-term ET analysis suggests that a long bull market in stocks that commenced in 1941 is nearing its end, and after 2023, we are entering a dark time in what Avi refers to as the Greater Depression.

Avi Gilbert

I’m not aware that Avi or his team have ever heard of LTG – indeed, most people don’t – but his analysis certainly seems to broadly match the wider trajectory forecast in the LTG model. According to a recent interview he did, Avi said that for his own family, he was planning to move substantially into cash around October 2022, when he expects the S&P 500 to hit the 5,500 area in preparation for the looming crash.

That strikes me as sensible advice and I will be doing the same, at least with my US-centric technology stocks which are clearly already very highly valued compared to other sectors of the market. Avi also warns the listeners to not rely on traditional “safe havens” like real estate or gold in the coming economic crisis. The best place to park your assets is in cash and wait for the right to invest in something suitable.

As you can see from the above long-term stock market chart, a serious crisis is looming, with the S&P 500 bottoming out around 2025, before a partial rally in the markets – on the back of central bank monetization? –  into the end of this decade.

In regard to crypto-assets, Avi’s charts suggest that we will see a peak in bitcoin and other cryptos in late 2023, before BTC crashes by nearly 80% or so, into mid-decade. Smaller and more illiquid altcoins will probably face even more devastating losses, with virtually all the notional value wiped out during the crypto bear market.  My strong advice is to start selling out of tokens from late 2022 onwards, as BTC surges beyond $100k in anticipation of the end of the bull market within 2 years or so.

So, let’s say that Avi’s chart is right, and the US stock markets collapse, tokens collapse and other foreign stock markets drop significantly as well (if not quite as bad as the US). You are sitting on cash. What to do next.

Well, if Avi’s analysis is correct – which is a big if – there will come a time to start investing again, once the bottoming out process is confirmed. The S&P 500 is likely to double in value from mid to late 2020’s so clearly there are opportunities to invest some of that cash into something that can deliver capital and income growth for a few years at least.

You might consider investing in commodities, specifically companies that mine critical resources for our civilization, for example uranium, lithium, rare earth metals, copper, graphite and so on. Alternative, or as a supplement to that investing approach, consider investing in agricultural companies and those that sell phosphates and potash to the world. Both are key to fertiliser and we need those inputs to feed the world population.

I would be more careful about tech type stocks, or indeed any company that is dependent upon the elaborate infrastructure of the global internet. A recent report by Bloomberg highlighted the fact that at current projected growth rates, around a quarter (!) of Ireland’s electricity demand will be consumed by data energy centres by 2030. These are the energy hungry data centres that store the data held online by the big tech giants.

Is that sustainable in an era of blackouts and energy shortages? I don’t think so. Will governments, at some point, start rationing internet usage, or impose costs on internet companies who will, in turn, pass them on to consumers? Probably. Greer is on record stating that the internet is not, in its current form, a sustainable way of doing things and will fade away as the Long Descent worsens in the coming decades.

As a general rule, I would focus my energies on investing into companies that cater to the very real needs of a society in an era of economic contraction and are well managed given the risks of widespread corporate defaults as growth fizzles out in the years ahead.

If Avi’s chart is correct, a second economic crash will loom at the end of this decade, as the markets belatedly realise that they really are facing the collapse of the global economy. The collapse looks frankly terrifying and starts in October 2029, a spooky 100 years on from the 1929 financial crash that heralded the Great Depression, the rise of the Nazi’s in Germany and World War 2.

If history is any guide, something similar will happen to our civilisation in the 2030’s and 2040’s as chaos and war plunges our industrial civilisation into a death spiral. I have written before on the lessons of that last dark period in human history to us today, with a particular focus on the wealthy. You can read it here.

My main takeaway from the 2030’s is first of all, cash out by the late 2020’s in your stock positions and sit out the financial collapse in the global markets and consider investing in super-defensive arable farmland and only the most quality real estate in the 2030’s. These assets are the most likely to preserve wealth in a Greater Depression.

You must also consider the geopolitical chaos of a civilisation in a protracted decline, with mass migrations, internal conflicts and rise of dictatorships around the world. None of those things are conducive to the rule of law, property rights or the functioning of stock markets. So be careful about where you invest your assets and ensure that you are diversified.

The most important thing is to stay safe and look after your health. It really is the most important thing, far more important than stocks and bonds. I will be discussing that topic further in my next post, with a focus on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

As always, please respond with any feedback and subscribe to my blog if you want updates emailed directly to your inbox.

Welcome to Greer’s world

The Gamblers

Financial Times

“Export prices rose 1.3% in July. YOY they’re up 17.2%. The 2021 gain is 13.5%, which annualizes to a shocking 23%. It’s likely that prices of goods we don’t export rose by a similar percentage. 23% is a more honest measure of inflation than the CPI. It’s worse than the 1970’s!”

Peter Schiff tweet 13th August 2021

“Current Covid-19 vaccines (either mRNA or viral vectors) are based on the original Wuhan spike sequence. Inasmuch as neutralizing antibodies overwhelm facilitating antibodies, ADE is not a concern. However, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants may tip the scales in favour of infection enhancement. Our structural and modelling data suggest that it might be indeed the case for Delta variants.”

Journal of Infection, « Infection-enhancing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies… », 9th August 2021

I am currently writing this blog post in the rarefied world of a 5-star Hilton development in an ultra-exclusive enclave in Costa de Sol. Surrounded by infinity pools, tennis courts and Michelin starred restaurants, it is hard to imagine that there is anything wrong in the world. Certainly, the rich, beautiful young things that float around the enclave don’t appear to have a concern in the world.

In the real world, outside the shrinking circles of privilege encapsulated in the temporary Hilton home of mine, problems are building up as we start the Long Descent of our industrial civilisation.

I am to cover two key areas where our governing elites have taken a series of gambles that could prove brilliantly right or disastrously wrong. The first is the inflation bogie that is starting to rear its ugly head again. Official inflation rates are soaring across the developed world. Our central bankers solemnly tell us that these inflationary pressures are “transitory” and that there is no need to panic. However, some of the wise old birds in the economics profession, who still remember the stagflationary 70’s, are warning that if our monetary authorities carry on printing money it will risk a descent into the inflationary era last seen in the 70’s.

Inflation is a form of hidden tax that destroys the value of most forms of capital. If the inflation rate is 6%, you need to make a return of more than 6% to make a real return. Should the cash remain in a current account “earning” 0.01% interest, you are losing 6% of your capital a year. Should we see an extended period of inflation, you could see significant capital destruction. I have written about this in my recent book review on how the wealthy survived the mid-century disasters that bevelled Europe.

All the signs are that our central bankers will carry on the existing set of policies, even though the data coming in indicates growing supply disruption issues, costs rising and budding inflationary forces in the economy.

Individuals need to start inflation hedging themselves, and think about how they will cope with rising costs of basic inputs, including food and petrol, as well the generalised impact of disruptions of goods and services in the future. Investors would be wise to consider, as I have explored here, how to protect their wealth should our central banker gamblers get it wrong, and we see a return of inflation this decade.

Our global elites are also making a massive gamble right now through their pandemic response; specifically using experimental vaccines on a mass scale where we do not know the long-term health consequences. Having done a lot of recent reading on this complex area, it appears to this layman that there are two principal risks in the current mass vaccination strategy.

The first is the potentially severe long-term negative health consequences of the mass rollout of the Covid vaccines on the population. Whilst the authorities have acknowledged the rare risks of heart inflammation among younger people (Pfizer) and blood clots for J&J and AstraZeneca, there are concerning signs that this is the tip of the ocean.

The VARS database is the US Government database where potential adverse reactions to any vaccines are recorded. Studies suggest that the VARS system only captures between 1% and 10% of actual adverse events that happen in the wider population, so the numbers listed are probably a gross under-estimate. However, it is a vital way of picking up early data that things might be going wrong.

SWPRS

The above graph shows the recorded adverse reactions going back decades. And yes, that straight line up in 2021 is the Covid-19 vaccines, e.g., Pfizer, Moderna, J&J and AstraZeneca. It’s surprising to say the least, that this hasn’t attracted more (or any) media coverage or indeed the equivalent spike in recorded adverse reactions in the UK and Europe. The mainstream media aren’t interested in this story it seems.

Dr Jessica Rose broadcast on YouTube a fascinating if rather harrowing video on the early trends within that data set up to the month of April.

The most alarming trends are the apparent connection between the Covid 19 vaccines and miscarriages of pregnant woman as well as the rise of autoimmune diseases. This fits into the warnings of some very experienced scientists that the way the spike protein targeting Covid vaccines work leads to the spread of spike proteins around the body, including the ovaries among females, which could trigger cancer or autoimmune diseases among those jabbed. These risks appear particularly high for those jabbed with the revolutionary vaccines Pfizer and Moderna.

It goes without saying that the longer-term consequences for those populations jabbed with the Covid 19 vaccines could be disastrous. The young and fertile age groups, could face serious ‘Long Vaccine’ legacy in the years to come. I, for one, is sufficiently concerned by these early data signals to make the decision not to get jabbed with the currently available set of vaccines around. Its possible that the 2nd generation of vaccines in the pipeline – Valneva and Novavax – will prove safer and more effective but we will see what the trial data says.

The second big risk, apart from gambling with the potential long-term health of the younger generations, is the risk of ADE. What is ADE? ADE is Antibody Dependent Enhancement. In very simple terms, a vaccine works when the antibody effectively neutralises the virus. In some viruses, if a person harbours a non-neutralising antibody to the virus, a subsequence infection by the virus can cause that person to elicit a more severe reactions to the virus due to the presence of the non-neutralising antibody.

The bad news is that ADE is common to the family of coronaviruses, which Covid 19 is part of. The probability of ADE happening is therefore quite high. Should ADE occur in an individual, their responses to the virus can be worse than their response if they had never developed an antibody in the first place.

The respected vaccine expert Dr Robert Malone is warning that we may already be seeing the signals of ADE in the data. If that is the case, the repercussions will be huge.

These vaccines, rather than making us safe, have placed millions at risk of getting more ill should a “wild” variant of Covid resistant to the existing suite of Covid-19 vaccines becomes prevalent in the population. We would need to return to soft lockdowns, strict border controls and the emergency review of what existing drugs could be used to avoid massive death among the vulnerable.

This is something known to the medical experts and if the ADE fears are proven wrong, a case can be made that the vaccination rollout gable has proved a success. If the darkest fears of those like Dr Malone are proven right than the gamble will have potentially disastrous consequences for us all.

Let’s hope they are wrong…

The Gamblers

Book review of Barton Biggs Wealth, War and Wisdom

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I would like to announce that going forward, I plan to regularise my posts from a monthly to a two-monthly cycle. There are a number of reasons for this shift, the first that I struggle to find the time to write blog posts but more importantly, having covered so many topics over the last 5 years in great detail, I struggle to find the material to publish a post every 4 weeks or so.

Now that we have got that out of the way, I plan to discuss one of the most recent books I have read. Barton Biggs Wealth, War and Wisdom.

The book is quite simply a tour de force, going through the performance in real terms of equities, bonds and real assets like land, property and gold over the last century. The author focuses on select countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan but touches on other places during the fascinating journey.

I found his writings on what happened to the German wealthy particularly fascinating. The Germans had a traumatic century, with hyperinflation, depression, Nazi rule and war, followed by a brutal post-war era and Communist expropriation and occupation of the east. Those wealthy Germans that physically survived the Nazi era and the 2nd world war that slaughtered millions also had to navigate the destruction of German government bonds, Communist seizure of real assets in the East and the collapse of the German stock market in real terms.

Even in the Allied countries that won the war, wealthy people in the UK and the US faced challenging times preserving wealth in an often politically toxic environment. Some of you may wonder why a book about the fortunes of the wealthy from decades ago would be relevant now.

I would argue that this book should be made compulsory for any wealthy family who wish to preserve and pass on their family wealth to future generations. It covers geopolitical risk, the huge threat posed by inflation and why it is critical to diversify your wealth internationally and into different asset classes.

The long era of globalisation that has so enriched the upper echelons of society across the developed world has now ended. We are in a new era of border controls, trade barriers and the shift back to domestic supply chains and manufacturing hubs. Government interventionism is back in vogue and we are not going back to 2019 again.

So the key lessons for me from reading the book are as follows:

Government (and to a lesser extent corporate) bonds are poor asset classes for preserving wealth in the long-term. Inflation usually destroys the real value of capital invested in bonds and we are probably in the early stages of a new inflationary cycle that will ruin a generation of bond investors again.

Equities are generally better stores of value, long-term, than bonds and should be a core part of anybody with a long-term investment horizon. During particularly dark times, the equities often collapse in value or become largely illiquid, if not closed like the Nazi regime did after Stalingrad. So, whilst equities, long-term do prove a better store of value, don’t rely on them when you need food to eat or energy to keep the lights on.

Hard assets, particularly properties, land and rare assets like fine wine, antiques and even art (Old Masters) can be valuable assets to hold. However, they are often illiquid, difficult to sell and prey to destruction, theft or government seizure. The best approach is to diversity, globally, your ownership of these types of assets to mitigate those risks and try and hold them in secure places.

Gold, particularly where it is stored in neutral places like Switzerland, proved lifesavers for some of the individuals mentioned in the book (including a very rich French Jew who escaped death thanks to wealth held in Switzerland). One of the lesser known aspects of WW2, which I didn’t know until I read the book, was that black (i.e. illegal) marketeers were one of the few financial winners from the whole grim period (assuming they didn’t get executed).

These entrepreneurial individuals risked life supplying highly demanded rationed goods on the black market during the war and the post-war years. Many got fabulously rich by the end of the war across occupied Europe and Asia, and converted their wealth into gold, primarily, and waited out the initial post-war years. Biggs notes that many of the successful industrialists who acquired and developed businesses from the 1950’s in places like France, Italy and Germany derived their capital from their black marketeering during the war.

The darkest chapters in the book talk about the plight of European Jewry. Whilst not documented in this book, I am aware that some super-rich German Jews fled Germany prior to Adolf Hitler getting into power in 1933. They sensed the danger and decided, sensibly, that the best thing to do was sell their assets and leave Germany when they could freely do so.

Biggs book covers those wealthy Germany Jews that decided to stick it out and stay in Nazi Germany. Some convinced themselves that the anti-Semitism was just political talk and that things would return to normal over time. Others were too wedded to Germany and the idea of leaving their homeland was unthinkable.

Unfortunately for those wealthy German Jews that stayed, the wealth consequences alone were horrendous. The Nazi regime imposed an exit tax on Jews which in practise meant that by the time a family sold their wealth at discounted prices, paid the exit tax and managed to leave the Third Reich, they often preserved only a fraction of their original family wealth.

And those that did manage to escape were lucky. After 1939, that prospect ended and tragically death awaited those still stuck in Germany and in occupied Europe. The lesson from it all is be prepared to move to safer jurisdictions if required and follow politics closely.

My FI blog was set-up, in part, because I wanted to explore the likely future geopolitical environment and how individuals, whether wealthy or not, can navigate it in the years to come.

This book is a timely reminder of just how challenging that may be for some of us in the future.

Book review of Barton Biggs Wealth, War and Wisdom

Stagflation and the dynamics of economic contraction

Bloomberg

“The word for this is “stagflation” — we had a lot of it back during the 1970s. Shortages, supply chain disruptions, rising prices in an environment of unadmitted economic contraction — it’s a familiar landscape.

“We’re in the opening stages of a major speculative bubble, and so people are investing in anything they think will gain in price. Cryptocurrencies are tailor-made for such a situation, as they can be manufactured freely and their only value is what someone else will pay for them, so they’re as popular now as investment-trust shares were in the runup to 1929.”

March 2021 post, John Michael Greer

Apologies for the extended delay in posting on the blog, it has been a very busy start to 2021! But I’m back with an update on where we are and this month’s post will focus on the economy.

Before I start, I thought it would be good to discuss the vaccine rollout which, so far, is going well with the vaccines apparently safe to the wider population.

As discussed in my earlier post, the question remains about the potential longer-term adverse side effects triggered by this mass vaccination rollout. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough data yet to know whether these risks are theoretical or real and, if so, how many people would be impacted.

I have tried looking into when you see serious long-term impacts, after a vaccine is rolled out, but it is not always clear. The Thalidomide scandal, where tens of thousands of children were left horribly deformed after pregnant mothers were given Contergan in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s took a few years to emerge. According to Wikipedia, the medication was authorised in 1958 but only withdrawn in 1961 in the United Kingdom, after birth defects were reported.

It is for this reason that pregnant mothers are generally excluded from vaccination programmes, given the potential risks to the unborn.

The 2009 swine flu vaccine – which I discussed in this post – was initially considered safe and approved for wider public use in September 2009. It looks like the first people to be vaccinated was in October/November 2009 but it was only in August 2010 that the European Medical Agency suspended the use of Pandemrix, given the reported triggering of narcolepsy.

So, to summarise, it took approximately 9 months before a vaccine that was given to 30 million Europeans was withdrawn due to safety concerns. Given that most of these vaccines have only been given since December/January 2021, a 9-month time-frame would mean any serious late side effects might become apparent by September 2021.

I have also read that scientists find the first 2 months of a mass vaccination rollout as the most critical, as it is likely that any serious side effects would be reported within those crucial 8 weeks. You can also argue, as John Greer does, that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are a revolutionary type of vaccine – mRNA – that we don’t have a track record unlike the more “traditional” vaccines like AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

Ultimately it is the individual’s choice on whether they wish and indeed when, they choose to take a vaccine.

Moving on from vaccines, let’s discuss the state of the global economy.

The global economy contracted in 2020 and economists are predicting some kind of economic recovery this year, on the back of a fading virus and vaccination programmes. This doesn’t get us back to February 2020, economically speaking for the majority of countries, and it is likely to take years to get back to that 2020 peak according to the economist models.

I would argue that we will never, globally, return to that peak in economic condition and any recovery – which I’m sure there will be – will only partially take us back to a pre-pandemic level. Or, to put in more bluntly, we are now on the other side of the Long Descent, past the peak, and now in an era of economic contraction.

I agree with John Greer, who has recently written on his blog that the world is now entering into an era of stagflation; rising energy prices functioning as a tax on all economic activity, and drove the seeming paradox of inflation concurrent with high unemployment.

My parents, who were young professionals in the 70’s, remember fondly the days of high inflation and interest rates. They were able to acquire properties in London, and with their secure jobs, benefited from rising prices and inflation eating away at the real value of their mortgage debt. After the 70’s, the housing market boomed even further and they were able to trade up the housing ladder into the 4-bedroom house they own now.

For those with secure incomes stagflation can be a good decade, as my parents can testify. But for those who suffered from mass unemployment and relied on state benefits, I can imagine that the era of high inflation was grim and difficult. So be wary of taking on excessive personal debt in the years to come as it may come back to bite you.

In 2019, in one of my posts discussing the eventual economic Dark Ages, I made a series of recommendations on how to navigate these times.

I would still go along with this advice but would be more specific about equity allocation. In real terms, the stock market in the 70’s did badly as galloping inflation crushed the real value of stock portfolios.

The sectors of the stock market that did well during that decade were defensive stocks like utilities, healthcare and infrastructure along with commodities and gold miners. This article here goes into further detail the pros and cons of various stagflation investment plays.

A sensible portfolio would probably have a focus on healthcare, blue-chip defensive stocks and quality commodity resource companies.

The other hard asset that usually does well in these times is arable farming land and properties in quality locations.

Those Americans that brought discounted properties in California during the 1970’s would be laughing now, given the sky-rocketing rise in value properties over the last fifty years. The key is to buy properties in places that are likely to grow in real terms in the coming decades, something easier said than done.

I also agree with John Greer that crypto-currencies are in the early stages of a speculative bubble that is likely to inflate further as the Biden stimulus cheques start arriving in millions of Americans accounts in the coming months. A small number of cryptos are quality tokens with huge long-term potential, but there is no denying that it is a highly volatile asset class that tends to go through cyclical bulls and busts. Right now, we are in a bull cycle, that is likely to carry on for a while longer, but at some point, it will reach that manic phase, after which the bubble will burst.

For those readers, like me, who are invested in this exciting if highly speculative market, I suggest that once you sense that we heading into the late stages of a bubble, to sell and get out and invest the profits into something I have suggested in that list above (not crypto!).

Overall, my thesis remains that we are broadly tracking the Limits to Growth megatrend, and we peaked in global economic activity in 2020.

2021 will be a story, like most years going forward, of economic contraction amid a broader macro environment of supply chain disruptions, geopolitical tensions and rising prices. The crypto and stock markets are enjoying the “sweet spot” of the central bank money printing bonanza, but the party can’t go on forever.

I expect that the Biden stimulus cheques, along with a re-opening of the US economy, will drive a mini-economic boom in 2021. The optimism generated by this will drive the stock market (and crypto market) into mania territory towards the latter end this year.

If I am correct, this is likely to be a good time to crystalise profits, get out and ensure that you have a comfortable safety net as the stagflationary forces of higher prices, interest rates and mass unemployment come down the road.

Stagflation and the dynamics of economic contraction

A long hard slog

“It takes one to two years of repeated tests and long-term assessments to figure out if a vaccine is safe and effective, and the Pfizer vaccine—the first one approved in the US and Britain—got a total of eight weeks of hurried testing before it was approved for sale. It’s quite common for problems with pharmaceuticals—even horrific problems—to take months or years to surface, and the Pfizer and Moderna products belong to a type of vaccine—mRNA vaccines—that have never before been successfully used on human subjects, so no one anywhere knows what will happen when millions of people take them.”

John Michael Greer, “Into the Unknown Region” 

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Hope is a powerful but dangerous emotion.

Right now, millions are hoping that the arrival of the vaccines will restore the pre-2020 world back, after the nightmare of lockdowns, restrictions and job losses.

The truth is, nobody knows for certain whether the vaccines will allow a return to normal or not. Politicians, investors and businesses have premised the hope of a better 2021 on the assumption that the vaccine rollout will be successful and the virus conquered.

Whilst I am not a scientist and certainly not an expert of infectious diseases, I have been doing a lot of reading around the subject to get a sense of 2021’s trajectory. Let’s start by discussing some of my initial forecasts of Covid in 2020. Whilst on the one hand, my early thinking that the virus would have largely faded away by early Summer proved correct (at least in Europe), I got the Second Wave horribly wrong.

My thinking was that the authorities would successfully contain any second return of the virus in the winter months, and factoring in the massively increased number of tests, making it more of a ripple rather than a wave. Initially, this seemed to be reasonable enough, particularly with hospitalisation and death rates remaining low in Europe during September and October.

Unfortunately, my ripple thesis blew up in November and December, after soaring rates of sick people with Covid forced government after government to impose new lockdown style measures. And in case there was any lingering doubt, the soaring death rate across Europe and the United States in December makes it clear that we are in the midst of a Second Wave.

An interesting question is how much the more transmissible “Kent” variety of the virus is responsible for this massive surge in cases. Either way, I clearly under-estimated the lethality and adaptability of the virus despite all the measures governments have imposed to get control of it.

For me, that’s a sobering thought as we now collectively dare to hope that the worst is (nearly) over.

The best-case scenario is that all the vaccines approved are safe, effective, have no medium-longer term health effects and will be rolled out speedily to a population prepared to take them by October 2021 in sufficient numbers that herd immunity is reached. After that, we can return to normal.

The risks to this best-case scenario, which is the de facto base case for the majority of governments, businesses and markets, are manifold.

Assume that the vaccines are safe, effective; what happens if governments mess up the logistics of rolling them out to populations or that insufficient numbers are prepared to take the vaccines? So far, the vaccination rollout for many countries has been shambolic with significant numbers of the population like in France seem determined not to take any vaccine. That’s just one risk.

Should one of the vaccines have serious longer term health implications, and this is only discovered after millions have been vaccinated, it could discredit the entire global vaccination programme amid public outcry. Even those vaccines that are safe could be crushed amid the uproar.

Another risk is the virus successfully adapts to the vaccines, and returns with a vengeance in the Winter months in a more lethal form to kill hundreds of thousands more vaccinated folk. Unlikely? Well, scientists are already worried that the South African mutation may prove immune to the existing vaccines and we are barely into the new year.

The mainstream media, like everybody else, wants to think that the vaccines will get us out of this nightmare. The media, are after all, like the rest of us. Hope is a powerful emotion but can blind us to unpalatable realities. And my fear is that serious concerns about these vaccines are being ignored by the mainstream media and we may only find out when it is too late.

So, for those who wish to know more, I recommend reading here and here in regard to concerns relating to the Pfizer vaccine. For the Moderna vaccine click here. And for the Oxford vaccine this article here is a very good read.

Moving on, let’s review my forecasting performance last year (you can read my forecasts here).

My first prediction was that Sir Keir Starmer would win the Labour leadership election (with a 75% probabilistic rating). Got that one spot-on. Sir Keir won in a landslide in the end and vanquished his rivals.

My next prediction was that Donald Trump would win the US election (60% probability). Whilst I have covered this before in my post-election analysis here, it is worth reminding what I wrote at the beginning of the year, before Covid reared its ugly head.

“Should Biden become the Democratic Party candidate the prospects of a Democratic victory in November increases (at least compared to his rivals), however, on the balance of probabilities I would predict that President Trump is more likely than not to get re-elected for a second term in office.

The reason for my call is that Trump has managed to erase much of the once mighty Biden lead in battlefield states and we are still in the early days of this presidential campaign. The booming economy in the “flyover states” and the wider cultural weaknesses of the Democratic Party suggest that enough voters will hold their noses and vote for the Donald again.”

Well, we all know what happened to that booming economy in the heartland states, it crashed with the advent of the Covid pandemic in Spring. Without that pandemic, I am reasonably confident that Trump would have pulled off a win.

The cultural weaknesses of a woke-obsessed bicoastal Democratic Party were shown in the poor performance of the party in the November elections. They lost seats in the House, failed to win a clear majority in the Senate and performed poorly in governor and state level elections across the country.

A fair point is that I should have adjusted my forecast in the light of the pandemic rather than doggedly sticking to my probabilistic forecast that Trump still had a likely narrow edge in the election.

So, to conclude, this is one where I got wrong, but in my defence, I always took seriously a Biden challenge, reflected in my 40% probabilistic chance of him winning the election.

My final forecast was also on the bullseye; that Britain and the EU would agree a shallow good-based trade deal prior to 31st December 2020 (70% probability).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to a deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, in line with my forecast at the beginning of the year.

So, overall, a solid performance, even if I did get the US presidential election wrong.

Now let’s look into 2021.

The Republicans keep control of the Senate (70% probability)

My first forecast, which we will hopefully find out if I’m correct or not soon, is whether the Republicans manage to win one of the two Georgia senatorial races to keep the Senate in GOP majority hands.

Despite a recent surge in support for the Democrats, my forecast is that the Republicans will manage to win at least one of the seats in the Senate. There are sufficient number of conservative voters, many of them who may have voted for Joe Biden, who don’t trust the Democratic Party with control over the Senate, House and the White House.

A narrow Republican majority in the Senate will keep Biden on a conservative, centre-right and sensible governing path.

An approved Covid vaccine will be withdrawn for safety reasons (50% probability)

This is a forecast that I really hope I’m wrong. However, having widely on the subject, I think there are genuine safety concerns relating to the Covid vaccines fast tracked through, specifically but not only the Pfizer vaccine.

It is therefore my forecast – with a 50% probability – that at least one approved vaccine will be withdrawn at some point should sufficiently numbers of people die or get severely ill after being vaccinated.

The political and economic backlash, should this occur, would be enormous.

In the medium-longer term, I do think that despite the long hard slog ahead of us, we will eventually conquer the pandemic, through a mix of reaching effective herd immunity, the use of existing and widely available drugs, such as Ivermectin to reduce the Covid death rate and Covid vaccines being rolled out.

Ether becomes the new Bitcoin (80% probability)

Back in 2017, I discussed the early signs how institutional money was starting to dip their toes into crypto-assets.

Well, after a tough bear market, crypto assets, in particular bitcoin, soared in 2020. Big Money, whether hedge funds, pension funds, insurance companies or high-net-worth billionaires, have been pouring capital into bitcoin and enjoy the rich returns.

I expect this trend to continue in 2021, but the focus will start to switch away from bitcoin to the second largest crypto asset, Ether. My specific prediction is that at some point in 2021, the price of Ether will reach $1,500.

If it hadn’t been for the SEC regulatory move against Ripple, it is quite likely that Ripple (or the XRP token) would have also benefited from the “wall of money” cascading into the crypto asset space.

Fortunes will be made in 2021 in this exciting if volatile asset class and if you choose the right tokens, big returns can be yours in the months ahead.

So, to summarise, 2021 will probably “feel” more like 2020 than 2019. Lockdowns in many parts of the world till Spring, a semi-normal Summer and the risk of things going terribly wrong again in the war against Covid during the second half of the year.

The economy will rebound to a certain extent, but with Covid and the related lockdown measures impacting the developing world in particular, it looks likely that we will continue that descent from the peak in early 2020.

We have only started the Long Descent journey, from the peak of industrial civilisation to our eventual fate of a deindustrial Dark Ages centuries ahead.

Time to toughen up and prepare for the shocks, expected and unexpected, that will come our way in the decades to come.

A long hard slog