We would wish you a Happy New Year, but far be it from us to tempt fate.
There’s a lot riding on 2021, but then again it doesn’t have far to go to improve on 2020. We would even take a sort of mid-90s-esque year, when the best we could hope for was a new Nickelback album and not to kill our Tamagotchi.
That said, it does feel psychologically healthy for all of humanity to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate the end of a year which was universally rubbish. Dreadful to different levels for each of us; the idea of 2020 as ‘the great leveller’ is of course incredibly typical of the type of bollocks that those of us whose suffering went as far as a couple of lost holidays tell ourselves to make us feel better about food poverty. But crap for all, and although we’re in for an incredibly tough few months ahead, it is important to fortify ourselves with a little optimism.
The fireworks, lasers and drones above the skies of London told a rather beautiful story of resilience, hope and thanks, worth a watch if you haven’t done so already. (And yes, we did notice a remarkable amount of yellow and blue colours of the EU flag in there…)
So here’s to 2021, hopefully one that ends better than it starts.
Happy All-New KIA Sorrento!
Whilst 300 drones in London formed the gently beating wings of a dove amid spectacular fireworks and lasers, New York experienced what can only be described as the most bizarre, and perhaps saddest New Year celebration the world has yet witnessed.
The infamous ball dropped above a clock with a background of a constantly looping 20-second video clip of the all-new KIA Sorrento, centred on a KIA logo, above a gigantic LED screen wishing you a Happy New Year from KIA with the all-new KIA Sorrento. Whilst the tiny assembled crowds were hemmed into small pens made of KIA branded fencing, guarded by an army of whacky-waving-inflatable-arm warriors courtesy of Planet Fitness.
Presumably the giant, branded KIA hats sported by the handful of watchers-on contained some sort of mind-control device that encouraged them to dance and sway with the sort of enthusiasm of a hostage at gunpoint told to “dance monkey, dance!”, whilst the KIA monolith ejaculated a series of dejected party-poppers.
Like a weary, wheezing death-rattle of late-stage American capitalism, it was very much the Four Seasons Total Landscaping fiasco of New Year celebrations. The whole thing was so hilariously cold and corporate I am actually entertaining the possibility that we all just missed the point, and it was in fact an elaborate piece of performance art, commenting on the shocking levels to which advertising will sink in order to envelop our entire lives.
You can marvel at New York very much dropping the ball in full here.
RIP MF DOOM
Also, RIP MF DOOM. The news of his untimely passing at the age of 49 last October was broken on Friday January 1st 2021. In addition to being a quality lyricist and producer, MF DOOM was known for wearing masks on stage (before it was cool and “mainstream”).
So how’s that Vaccine Rollout going?
Operation Warp Speed, you know which country is responsible for that, is proving underwhelming compared to its promises. Bearing in mind that a Warp Drive is a fictional (or ‘theoretical’ if you want to be pretentious) means of moving space around an object in order to help it move faster than light… So it suddenly seems like a tongue in cheek jab at the populus from those behind an operation named as such, once you stop to think about it. Trump et al. are coming under fire for not distributing vaccines as quickly as promised.
With 2.8 million doses already administered, of 14 million sent out across the states, the purported aim of 20 million doses within 2020 has not even been 10% achieved. Bottlenecks in the distribution process are proving pretty severe at this point – the doses exist, they’ve been made, they just aren’t finding their way into people’s blood quickly enough. Only a quarter of those sent to Florida have been used at this point, due to the reserving of stock for high-risk groups. If you’re going to delay the rollout for the sake of ensuring the old folks get them, then the logistics need to be fine tuned, else the argument for having the *social butterflies* (or at this point, *dickheads*) vaccinated first starts to seem pretty compelling, since it’s much more sensible than leaving the vaccines in expensive cold storage while the ICU beds continue to fill up.
While it’s true, generally speaking, that ‘not much’ work gets done over Christmas, we might hope to be able to make an exception for this tremendously demanding vaccine rollout. Some local governments are being put in a perilous situation due to a shortage of funds. Seattle, for instance, is potentially facing having to close testing sites in order to free up funds for rolling out millions of vaccine doses.
“The federal government spent more than $10 billion to speed COVID-19 vaccine development but has so far disbursed little funding for distribution, even as it pushed the responsibility of actual immunizations onto state and local governments.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vaccines-distribut/local-funding-crisis-threatens-u-s-vaccine-rollout-idUSKBN295135
Knock, Knock. Who’s That? Santa and his Elves, drop the weapon and get the fuck on the ground!
You know what drug-enforcement raids need? More dressing-up!
Police in Peru conducted a house raid a couple of weeks ago on a drug dealer whilst disguised as Santa and a group of Elves, because, why not? Probably going to cause some challenging conversations with any young children nearby though.
A Hot Reception
As the Yemeni civil war drags into its 6th year a new government has recently been appointed and their arrival in Yemen from Saudi Arabia did very little to inspire confidence, to characteristically understate a war-crime.
Crowds had gathered on the tarmac to welcome the new cabinet. Twenty two people were killed including a number of International Committee of the Red Cross members when explosions punctuated their arrival. At least two explosions, probably resulting from mortar shells, are being blamed on Iranian backed Houthi rebels. There’s footage of one of the projectiles coming down, from the perspective of someone on the runway.
Christmas is Over, Now Let’s Ruin Your Christmas Tree
This week in Christmas-themed invisible side-effects of global capitalism smacking you in the face: do you know where the seeds for your Christmas tree came from? Remarkably the seeds for 50% of the Nordmann Firs sold in Europe are collected by hand from the top of trees up to 50m high in Georgia (the country not the state).
Whilst some now use harnesses and safety equipment, the payments of $0.40-1.50 per Kg of cones encourage many to work without to speed up the process resulting in frequent life-changing or fatal injuries.
Inflation for the Digital Nation
The M2 metric is essentially one of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s means of measuring the amount of money out there that is spendable cash or could soon be spendable cash.
As we see below, the rate of increase of M2 accelerated (meaning money being created more quickly) in March of this year – around about the time the world seemed to be on the brink of ending and the CARES act was passed on March 27th.
Among many things included in the CARES act, the Fed pledged to buy up a whole mess (~$3.5 trillion through to the end of 2020) of government issued securities. So the government issues bonds, which the fed (also basically the government) then buys from the government… and that’s how money is born!
Seriously though, this increase in the supply of dollars, at a time when production is pinched, as supply chains completely disintegrated, not only helps to cause spending and recovery, it also leads to devaluing the dollar.
Intriguingly, Bitcoin has pretty consistently increased in price since March as people seek to mitigate risk that their things denominated in USD might become less valuable…. One obvious long-term problem being, BTC is also denominated in USD: it’s increasing in price as the dollar inflates, though it’s unclear if it’s rate of increase in dollar value will exceed the rate at which the dollar is devalued by inflation, make sense? Didn’t think so.
I’m basically saying that in the imminent Mad Max style post-apocalypse, unless you can trade BTC for food with your fellow gnarled survivors, it ain’t gonna’ be very useful.
If you think we’re being hyperbolic, very perceptive of you. Additionally, I will point out that the Federal Reserve was created in 1913 with the explicit function of helping manage financial risks. The Great Depression was ~1930. So they’re quite capable of catastrophically dropping the ball.
In the current pseudo-apocalypse, however, Bitcoin’s price increase is partly a function of traditional financial institutions opening themselves up to many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exposure to Bitcoin.
The similarity between the two charts is pretty wild, especially when you zoom in to see 2020 on the M2 chart.
Brexit, the story that never goes away, it just keeps on giving…
Oh shit. It’s over.
At 23:00 on New Year’s Eve the transition period came to an end, finally terminating membership of the bloc for good. We start 2021 as a smaller nation, having chosen to abandon our relationship with the continent of which we are part, and volunteering to make trade with our largest customer much, much harder.
To be fair, I’ve barely looked at the deal that was signed into law at the very last possible minute, after all it has been Christmas and frankly I couldn’t be f*cked, but there are some saving graces in the lack of tariffs being introduced which should help prevent any huge price increases on the supermarket shelves. There are of course huge non-tariff barriers to trade in the form of customs declarations, bureaucracy and the abandoning of the CE marking scheme (a health, safety and environment standard enabling the sale of goods in the European Economic Area) for goods sold in the UK.
It’s going to make trading much more difficult, but we will adapt and overcome.
The real tragedy that I am personally mourning is the loss of free-movement. As Britons, the authors just lost the incredible privilege of being able to visit, live, work and love in 30 countries without visa requirements. Why? I mean, seriously, I know I sound like a broken record but immigration from European states to the UK always showed a net-gain to our state coffers.
So as we get used to being out on a limb, I don’t think it will be long before the campaign to rejoin takes root.