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Question Everything, Believe Nothing – Chapter Two – Group Think and the Hive Mind | Two Ice Floes

Question Everything, Believe Nothing – Chapter Two – Group Think and the Hive Mind | Two Ice Floes.

There is a pretty common ‘belief’ among many that to ask questions of some ‘things’ that others consider settled or ‘true’ is a sign of weakness, of someone who is weak minded, indecisive or one who just can’t be trusted when the nitty gets gritty. They ‘believe’ that the very act of questioning something that is obviously correct implies instability, doubt, hesitation, uncertainty, etc. They ‘believe’ that these people, the shameful Doubting Thomas’s, cannot be trusted and must be viewed with suspicion and distrust. You are either with the herd or you are against the herd.

Group think is most prevalent in the conditioned mind, a phenomenon that is completely invisible to the group members who truly believe they are thinking independently. The irony of group think is that each member is afforded just enough wiggle room with which to modify or mold the groups common ‘beliefs’ so that each member can call it their own original thinking. Does this sound familiar? No two members of the same political party are of exactly the same mind, yet they all pull the same political lever as one with the herd.

The hive mind is most certainly capable of great feats of strength and perseverance precisely because it is narrowly focused and of ‘one mind’. A common argument in favor of the hive mind is the great feats of human engineering that are part of our daily life. I do not argue that the results can be quite spectacular. In fact I am somewhat of an engineering geek and marvel at today’s ships, planes, bridges, buildings, technology and so on.

But I do not accept the premise that these co-created ‘things’ would only be possible under the direction and control of the coordinated hive mind. From my point of view it is a marvel that they actually exist considering all the truly cruel and destructive effects of the hive mind. War and genocide come to mind as something that can only be accomplished by way of group think and the hive mind.

This state of mind is the antithesis of awareness and perspective, of true compassion and empathy, the act of actually transferring yourself emotionally and spiritually into someone else’s shoes rather than simply believing yourself to be in their shoes. Believed empathy is telling someone you feel their pain dawg. True empathy is doubling over in pain and nausea as wave after wave of the shared agony crashes over you.

Those who claim they have a flexible mind often have the least and those who worry they don’t have enough flexibility usually have the most. The same applies to those who ‘believe’ they have questioned their beliefs enough and found them sound, and those who continuously question what they believe precisely because there appears to be no doubt. There is nothing more certain than the certainty that our perception of reality has been seriously distorted and we do not, and cannot, perceive clearly now.

Distortion

Personally I have no substantial problems with questioning certain fundamental ‘truths’ that I have believed in the past were unassailable, yet still carry them with me to use until I have something better to replace them with………or I just decide to discard them altogether. Rather than flee in terror from this Cognitive Dissonance because it might undermine the very basis of my existence, I welcome the opportunity to cast off the binds that tie my mind to the hive.

For the hive mind though, this is a true paradox that sends the mind reeling and the stomach spinning. Having never begun an inward journey to locate the true source of their power, or if so, then quickly abandoning it as obviously too dangerous to the ‘self’ to continue, ‘certainty’ is the only force that group think has to propel itself forward. Remove that and the mind freezes, the body falters and the resolve quickly melts away.

For the conditioned mind there is no other fuel source to tap other than those resources supplied externally by group think and the hive mentality. This is why any approach to life other than slightly modified group think is seen as dangerous to the hive’s existence and must be repelled at first sight and expelled if found to already exist. Independent thought, let alone action is as dangerous to group think and the hive mind as Gold or any other ‘real’ substantial foundational basis is to ‘faith and belief’ central bank fiat.

To question everything and believe nothing is not an all or nothing proposition, a dead ended process of a lost soul endlessly chasing its own mind. To the contrary it is a fearless moral, spiritual and emotional self examination, an inner exploration that yields as much, if not more, from the process of journeying than from actually arriving at any particular destination. In fact if one allows their ‘self’ to believe they have actually arrived at enlightenment, most likely they are standing face to face with their carefully concealed ego.

Here’s the rub though. How does one even achieve enough sanity to begin questioning everything while simultaneously surrounded by, and interacting with, an insane world? Worse, how can we trust anything we might discover when we have finally accepted that deliberate deception runs ten layers deep and we haven’t even penetrated level one?

The question is similar to walking into a clothing store and not knowing your size or even what you like. What do you do? The answer is simple; proceed slowly and try on many different garments for size, shape and feel. Most of all trust your intuition and gut. Equally important, before starting, be settled in the knowledge that you will make many mistakes and that this is entirely expected. Navigating a maze while blindfolded is not an easy task and managing your own expectations and disappointments is paramount to moving forward.

As well we must recognize that because we were conditioned from an early age, a time when our vulnerability was the greatest because we had no real ability to differentiate between programming, propaganda and believed ‘truth’ (nor did most of our familial programmers), we enter this examination process with our cup full of beliefs and our mind convinced in ways we haven’t even begun to explore that there are unassailable truths. These ‘unassailable truths’ are thus the most difficult to question, let alone shake, and shouldn’t be the first to be challenged.

While our ego might insist we charge directly into the valley of death, understand that the ego, the supreme expert in the manipulation of our ‘self’, is sending us into a psychological trap, a sort of reverse psychology deception by luring us in with false bravado and confidence, only to put us at cliffs edge staring down into the depths of the black abyss.

The Edge Of The World

Having little to no experience in these matters, many (including myself on several occasions) are quickly overcome by vertigo and scurry back to the safety of terra firma and our familiar self deceptions. Knowing what we have just done, our ego, the master puppeteer, then skillfully encourages us to bargain with what we have just seen to assuage our shame and remorse and to settle for just another comforting version of the original lie.

Instead of pealing back another layer of the onion, tragically we have successfully added yet one more deposit, this time deeply set in stone by our own frightened hands. If we ever venture back down this path again this self created monolith will mock us in ways we can only imagine. Best to travel carefully as if walking a crumbling sandstone path then to delude ourselves into thinking we are surefooted mountain goats.

How arrogant we are to think we could quickly and easily challenge decades, centuries, of pre-conceived group think notions,‘beliefs’ really since they can be termed nothing else without a thorough examination, without losing our footing and skinning our knees or (perish the thought) breaking some cognitive bones.

I remember well the cold sweat that formed on the back of my neck when I realized I had been criminally deceived into believing the ‘official’ story of nine eleven. Why then, after such a disorienting blow to the egoic mind, would I not expect whiplash when the dawning realization finally sweeps over me that I actually enabled The Big Lie, that I wasn’t quite the helpless victim I had comfortingly conceptualized?

The cognitive problem is never a difficulty in learning about new people, places and things, but in letting go of the old ‘certainty of belief’. We are attracted to the perceived ‘order of certainty’ because our conditioning compels us to seek it out precisely because that empowers outside forces, external author-ities (those who create or ‘author’ their own right to receive/take our power) to supplant our own inner knowing. By rejecting the certainty of belief we are confronting the complete ‘self’ destruction, a rebuilding from the foundation up and then the reordering of all that we ‘believe’ constitutes ‘me’.

Once the curtain is pulled back just a smidge to expose the wizard and his motley crew, our world begins to fly apart as if ravaged by centrifugal forces greater than the human mind can withstand. It is ‘we’ who find ourselves swimming naked when the tide goes out. Worse, we are the gravitational force that determines when, and if, the tide actually ever recedes. The pain we feel when balanced at the cliff’s edge is entirely of our own making and completely within our control to extinguish. All we need do is to abandon the certainty of belief that is presently stuck in our craw.

Contrarian

Our identity, our ‘self’, our very basis, all that we think ‘we’ are, is called into question when we seriously question everything, then look within for some real honest answers. It all comes back to one of the questions I posed at the beginning of this piece. Who, or more accurately, what are ‘you’ if very little of substance differentiates ‘you’ from ‘us’? This is the stark reality we face when we find ourselves beached naked as a jay bird after being blissfully ignorant nearly our entire life.

Consider just for a moment that we carry around with us, on our backs if you will, a huge pack stuffed to the gills, crammed with all our suppositions, assumptions, beliefs and precious ‘truths’ we hold so dear to ‘us’. That in a nut shell pretty much describes each one of us once we are released from the primary school indoctrination machine, competently instructed in the ways of the beast (these days more like trained as disposable shock troops) and ready to make our mark upon the ‘real’ world.

Now consider how much more that backpack has been stuffed after twenty or thirty years of ‘real’ life experience and imagine what a burden, what an absolute impediment, it must present to real substantial organic growth, the type that nourishes from within, that frees the mind and spirit rather than furthers our enslavement.

Is it really so hard to recognize that ‘belief’ is just another tool we may use, one of dozens we can employ at any time we wish to transport our ‘self’ from one way station to the next as we work our way through life? Instead, when unsettled or directly challenged, we desperately grasp for our beliefs with the ferocity of a drowning swimmer, our backpack clutched to our bosom with a death grip, certain beyond belief that we are identified by our beliefs rather than condemned by them to be chained to a life of spiritual stagnation and decay on every level. Either we sink to the bottom firmly anchored to the herd’s beliefs or we rise to the surface and beyond buoyed by true freedom of thought, mind and conscious spirit.

If I were to hold my hammer, chisel or even my chain saw with the same death grip I hold my beliefs I would soon find myself maimed for life, if not pushing up daises six feet under. Fortunately any and all damage done by the mishandling of my beliefs by my ‘self’ can be undone in mere minutes with a decision born of desperation or determination, it matters not, that I am not my beliefs, that it is my beliefs that control me and not the other way around.

This is why it is advisable to hold the contents of my backpack as I would a butterfly rather than the anvil it so often is. If I view my certainties as fragile and fleeting rather than anchored and immovable, much less effort is required when displacing one for another. Or better yet, to simply discard as no longer need or wanted, as outmoded and useless, what previously I could not imagine living without. Cut the ties, one by one, that binds our mind to the hive. This is the true genesis of substantial original organic life fulfilling growth.

 

03-06-2014

Cognitive Dissonance

 

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Question Everything, Believe Nothing – Chapter Two – Group Think and the Hive Mind | Two Ice Floes

Question Everything, Believe Nothing – Chapter Two – Group Think and the Hive Mind | Two Ice Floes.

There is a pretty common ‘belief’ among many that to ask questions of some ‘things’ that others consider settled or ‘true’ is a sign of weakness, of someone who is weak minded, indecisive or one who just can’t be trusted when the nitty gets gritty. They ‘believe’ that the very act of questioning something that is obviously correct implies instability, doubt, hesitation, uncertainty, etc. They ‘believe’ that these people, the shameful Doubting Thomas’s, cannot be trusted and must be viewed with suspicion and distrust. You are either with the herd or you are against the herd.

Group think is most prevalent in the conditioned mind, a phenomenon that is completely invisible to the group members who truly believe they are thinking independently. The irony of group think is that each member is afforded just enough wiggle room with which to modify or mold the groups common ‘beliefs’ so that each member can call it their own original thinking. Does this sound familiar? No two members of the same political party are of exactly the same mind, yet they all pull the same political lever as one with the herd.

The hive mind is most certainly capable of great feats of strength and perseverance precisely because it is narrowly focused and of ‘one mind’. A common argument in favor of the hive mind is the great feats of human engineering that are part of our daily life. I do not argue that the results can be quite spectacular. In fact I am somewhat of an engineering geek and marvel at today’s ships, planes, bridges, buildings, technology and so on.

But I do not accept the premise that these co-created ‘things’ would only be possible under the direction and control of the coordinated hive mind. From my point of view it is a marvel that they actually exist considering all the truly cruel and destructive effects of the hive mind. War and genocide come to mind as something that can only be accomplished by way of group think and the hive mind.

This state of mind is the antithesis of awareness and perspective, of true compassion and empathy, the act of actually transferring yourself emotionally and spiritually into someone else’s shoes rather than simply believing yourself to be in their shoes. Believed empathy is telling someone you feel their pain dawg. True empathy is doubling over in pain and nausea as wave after wave of the shared agony crashes over you.

Those who claim they have a flexible mind often have the least and those who worry they don’t have enough flexibility usually have the most. The same applies to those who ‘believe’ they have questioned their beliefs enough and found them sound, and those who continuously question what they believe precisely because there appears to be no doubt. There is nothing more certain than the certainty that our perception of reality has been seriously distorted and we do not, and cannot, perceive clearly now.

Distortion

Personally I have no substantial problems with questioning certain fundamental ‘truths’ that I have believed in the past were unassailable, yet still carry them with me to use until I have something better to replace them with………or I just decide to discard them altogether. Rather than flee in terror from this Cognitive Dissonance because it might undermine the very basis of my existence, I welcome the opportunity to cast off the binds that tie my mind to the hive.

For the hive mind though, this is a true paradox that sends the mind reeling and the stomach spinning. Having never begun an inward journey to locate the true source of their power, or if so, then quickly abandoning it as obviously too dangerous to the ‘self’ to continue, ‘certainty’ is the only force that group think has to propel itself forward. Remove that and the mind freezes, the body falters and the resolve quickly melts away.

For the conditioned mind there is no other fuel source to tap other than those resources supplied externally by group think and the hive mentality. This is why any approach to life other than slightly modified group think is seen as dangerous to the hive’s existence and must be repelled at first sight and expelled if found to already exist. Independent thought, let alone action is as dangerous to group think and the hive mind as Gold or any other ‘real’ substantial foundational basis is to ‘faith and belief’ central bank fiat.

To question everything and believe nothing is not an all or nothing proposition, a dead ended process of a lost soul endlessly chasing its own mind. To the contrary it is a fearless moral, spiritual and emotional self examination, an inner exploration that yields as much, if not more, from the process of journeying than from actually arriving at any particular destination. In fact if one allows their ‘self’ to believe they have actually arrived at enlightenment, most likely they are standing face to face with their carefully concealed ego.

Here’s the rub though. How does one even achieve enough sanity to begin questioning everything while simultaneously surrounded by, and interacting with, an insane world? Worse, how can we trust anything we might discover when we have finally accepted that deliberate deception runs ten layers deep and we haven’t even penetrated level one?

The question is similar to walking into a clothing store and not knowing your size or even what you like. What do you do? The answer is simple; proceed slowly and try on many different garments for size, shape and feel. Most of all trust your intuition and gut. Equally important, before starting, be settled in the knowledge that you will make many mistakes and that this is entirely expected. Navigating a maze while blindfolded is not an easy task and managing your own expectations and disappointments is paramount to moving forward.

As well we must recognize that because we were conditioned from an early age, a time when our vulnerability was the greatest because we had no real ability to differentiate between programming, propaganda and believed ‘truth’ (nor did most of our familial programmers), we enter this examination process with our cup full of beliefs and our mind convinced in ways we haven’t even begun to explore that there are unassailable truths. These ‘unassailable truths’ are thus the most difficult to question, let alone shake, and shouldn’t be the first to be challenged.

While our ego might insist we charge directly into the valley of death, understand that the ego, the supreme expert in the manipulation of our ‘self’, is sending us into a psychological trap, a sort of reverse psychology deception by luring us in with false bravado and confidence, only to put us at cliffs edge staring down into the depths of the black abyss.

The Edge Of The World

Having little to no experience in these matters, many (including myself on several occasions) are quickly overcome by vertigo and scurry back to the safety of terra firma and our familiar self deceptions. Knowing what we have just done, our ego, the master puppeteer, then skillfully encourages us to bargain with what we have just seen to assuage our shame and remorse and to settle for just another comforting version of the original lie.

Instead of pealing back another layer of the onion, tragically we have successfully added yet one more deposit, this time deeply set in stone by our own frightened hands. If we ever venture back down this path again this self created monolith will mock us in ways we can only imagine. Best to travel carefully as if walking a crumbling sandstone path then to delude ourselves into thinking we are surefooted mountain goats.

How arrogant we are to think we could quickly and easily challenge decades, centuries, of pre-conceived group think notions,‘beliefs’ really since they can be termed nothing else without a thorough examination, without losing our footing and skinning our knees or (perish the thought) breaking some cognitive bones.

I remember well the cold sweat that formed on the back of my neck when I realized I had been criminally deceived into believing the ‘official’ story of nine eleven. Why then, after such a disorienting blow to the egoic mind, would I not expect whiplash when the dawning realization finally sweeps over me that I actually enabled The Big Lie, that I wasn’t quite the helpless victim I had comfortingly conceptualized?

The cognitive problem is never a difficulty in learning about new people, places and things, but in letting go of the old ‘certainty of belief’. We are attracted to the perceived ‘order of certainty’ because our conditioning compels us to seek it out precisely because that empowers outside forces, external author-ities (those who create or ‘author’ their own right to receive/take our power) to supplant our own inner knowing. By rejecting the certainty of belief we are confronting the complete ‘self’ destruction, a rebuilding from the foundation up and then the reordering of all that we ‘believe’ constitutes ‘me’.

Once the curtain is pulled back just a smidge to expose the wizard and his motley crew, our world begins to fly apart as if ravaged by centrifugal forces greater than the human mind can withstand. It is ‘we’ who find ourselves swimming naked when the tide goes out. Worse, we are the gravitational force that determines when, and if, the tide actually ever recedes. The pain we feel when balanced at the cliff’s edge is entirely of our own making and completely within our control to extinguish. All we need do is to abandon the certainty of belief that is presently stuck in our craw.

Contrarian

Our identity, our ‘self’, our very basis, all that we think ‘we’ are, is called into question when we seriously question everything, then look within for some real honest answers. It all comes back to one of the questions I posed at the beginning of this piece. Who, or more accurately, what are ‘you’ if very little of substance differentiates ‘you’ from ‘us’? This is the stark reality we face when we find ourselves beached naked as a jay bird after being blissfully ignorant nearly our entire life.

Consider just for a moment that we carry around with us, on our backs if you will, a huge pack stuffed to the gills, crammed with all our suppositions, assumptions, beliefs and precious ‘truths’ we hold so dear to ‘us’. That in a nut shell pretty much describes each one of us once we are released from the primary school indoctrination machine, competently instructed in the ways of the beast (these days more like trained as disposable shock troops) and ready to make our mark upon the ‘real’ world.

Now consider how much more that backpack has been stuffed after twenty or thirty years of ‘real’ life experience and imagine what a burden, what an absolute impediment, it must present to real substantial organic growth, the type that nourishes from within, that frees the mind and spirit rather than furthers our enslavement.

Is it really so hard to recognize that ‘belief’ is just another tool we may use, one of dozens we can employ at any time we wish to transport our ‘self’ from one way station to the next as we work our way through life? Instead, when unsettled or directly challenged, we desperately grasp for our beliefs with the ferocity of a drowning swimmer, our backpack clutched to our bosom with a death grip, certain beyond belief that we are identified by our beliefs rather than condemned by them to be chained to a life of spiritual stagnation and decay on every level. Either we sink to the bottom firmly anchored to the herd’s beliefs or we rise to the surface and beyond buoyed by true freedom of thought, mind and conscious spirit.

If I were to hold my hammer, chisel or even my chain saw with the same death grip I hold my beliefs I would soon find myself maimed for life, if not pushing up daises six feet under. Fortunately any and all damage done by the mishandling of my beliefs by my ‘self’ can be undone in mere minutes with a decision born of desperation or determination, it matters not, that I am not my beliefs, that it is my beliefs that control me and not the other way around.

This is why it is advisable to hold the contents of my backpack as I would a butterfly rather than the anvil it so often is. If I view my certainties as fragile and fleeting rather than anchored and immovable, much less effort is required when displacing one for another. Or better yet, to simply discard as no longer need or wanted, as outmoded and useless, what previously I could not imagine living without. Cut the ties, one by one, that binds our mind to the hive. This is the true genesis of substantial original organic life fulfilling growth.

 

03-06-2014

Cognitive Dissonance

 

Canada's Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says

Canada’s Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says.

The number of ultra-rich Canadians is set to boom over the next decade, according toa new report from real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

The company’s annual report forecasts the number of “ultra-high net worth individuals” (UNHWIs) in Canada will grow 19 per cent between 2013 and 2023, to a total of 5,068 individuals.

UHNWIs are defined as people who have at least $20 million in assets, not including their primary residence.

Toronto will lead the way, with a 23-per-cent jump in ultra-rich people to a total of 1,456 by 2023. Montreal will see an 18-per-cent jump, to 613 people, the study forecast.

Only data for Canada’s three largest metro areas — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — was broken out in the survey.

Vancouver is forecast to be the laggard, with only a 9-per-cent increase in ultra-rich, to 278. That might be bad news for the city’s wildly expensive high-end real estate market.

The total growth in UHNWIs in Canada mirrors growth rates in other parts of the developed world, such as the U.S. (up 21 per cent by 2023), Japan (up 15 per cent) and Switzerland (up 19 per cent).

But those growth rates are far below those forecast for the developing world — that’s where the real boom in the ranks of the super-rich will take place, Knight Frank says.

Vietnam and Indonesia will see the number of super-rich more than double (166 per cent and 144 per cent growth, respectively), while China will see the number of billionaires there grow by 80 per cent.

Even at that growth rate, China won’t be able to beat the U.S. for highest number of billionaires by 2023, with the U.S. sporting 503 of them compared to China’s 322.

The number of super-rich people in the world grew by 3 per cent last year, the report said, with nearly 5,000 people joining their ranks. The total number of these people now sits above 167,000.

Their ranks grew by 59 per cent over the last decade, with the Middle East, Latin America and Africa all seeing at least a doubling of the number of super-rich.

Canada’s Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says

Canada’s Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says.

The number of ultra-rich Canadians is set to boom over the next decade, according toa new report from real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

The company’s annual report forecasts the number of “ultra-high net worth individuals” (UNHWIs) in Canada will grow 19 per cent between 2013 and 2023, to a total of 5,068 individuals.

UHNWIs are defined as people who have at least $20 million in assets, not including their primary residence.

Toronto will lead the way, with a 23-per-cent jump in ultra-rich people to a total of 1,456 by 2023. Montreal will see an 18-per-cent jump, to 613 people, the study forecast.

Only data for Canada’s three largest metro areas — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — was broken out in the survey.

Vancouver is forecast to be the laggard, with only a 9-per-cent increase in ultra-rich, to 278. That might be bad news for the city’s wildly expensive high-end real estate market.

The total growth in UHNWIs in Canada mirrors growth rates in other parts of the developed world, such as the U.S. (up 21 per cent by 2023), Japan (up 15 per cent) and Switzerland (up 19 per cent).

But those growth rates are far below those forecast for the developing world — that’s where the real boom in the ranks of the super-rich will take place, Knight Frank says.

Vietnam and Indonesia will see the number of super-rich more than double (166 per cent and 144 per cent growth, respectively), while China will see the number of billionaires there grow by 80 per cent.

Even at that growth rate, China won’t be able to beat the U.S. for highest number of billionaires by 2023, with the U.S. sporting 503 of them compared to China’s 322.

The number of super-rich people in the world grew by 3 per cent last year, the report said, with nearly 5,000 people joining their ranks. The total number of these people now sits above 167,000.

Their ranks grew by 59 per cent over the last decade, with the Middle East, Latin America and Africa all seeing at least a doubling of the number of super-rich.

2 Charts Explain Slowest Economy In History – STA WEALTH

2 Charts Explain Slowest Economy In History – STA WEALTH.

Written by Lance Roberts | Thursday, March 06, 2014

Earlier this week I discussed the expectations for an increase in reported earnings of 50%over the next two years:

“Currently, according to the S&P website, reported corporate earnings are expected to grow by 20.26% in 2014, and by an additional 20.28% in 2015.  In total, reported earnings are expected to grow by almost 50% ($100.28/share as of 2013 to $147.50/share in 2015) over the next two years.

However, as I also noted, the rise in corporate profitability has come from accounting magic and cost cutting along with a healthy dose of share buybacks.  Since there is “no free lunch,”the drive for greater corporate profitability has come at an economic expense.  Since 1999, the annual real economic growth rate has run at 1.94%, which is the lowest growth rate in history including the “Great Depression.”  I have broken down economic growth into major cycles for clarity.

GDP-Growth-ByCycle-030614

As I discussed previously:

“Since 2000, each dollar of gross sales has been increased into more than $1 in operating and reported profits through financial engineering and cost suppression.  The next chart shows that the surge in corporate profitability in recent years is a result of a consistent reduction of both employment and wage growth.  This has been achieved by increases in productivity, technology and offshoring of labor.  However, it is important to note that benefits from such actions are finite.”

The latest report on unit labor costs and productivity produced the following two charts which underscore this point and suggests that the current rate of economic growth is unlikely to change anytime soon.

stated previously, that in in 2013 reported earnings per share for the S&P 500 rose by 15.9% to a record of $100.28 per share.  Importantly, roughly 40% of that increase occurring in the 4th quarter alone.  The chart of real, inflation adjusted, compensation per hour as compared to output per hour shows a likely reason why this occurred.  The sharp increase in output per hour combined with the sharp decline in compensation costs is a direct push to bottom line profitability.

Productivity-employment-030614

However, it was not just a decrease in compensation costs but in total labor costs as well which includes benefits and other labor related costs.  This suggests that the drop off in hiring in the 4th quarter was more than just “weather” related.

Compensation-UnitLaborCosts-030614

Labor costs are one of the largest detractors from net profitability on any income statement.  The problem with cost cutting, wage suppression, labor hoarding and stock buybacks, along with a myriad of accounting gimmicks, is that there is a finite limit to their effectiveness.

I say this because of something my friend Cullen Roche recently pointed out:

We’re in the backstretch of the recovery.  We’re now into month 47 of the current economic recovery.  The average expansion in the post-war period has lasted 63 months.  That means we’re probably in the 6th inning of the current expansion so we’re about to pull our starter and make a call to the bullpen.  The odds say we’re closer to the beginning of a recession than the beginning of the expansion.  That puts the Fed in a really odd position and not likely one where they’re on the verge of tightening any time soon.”

This is a very important point.  While the Fed’s ongoing interventions since 2009 have provided support to the current economic cycle, they have not “repealed” the business cycle completely.  The Fed’s actions work to pull forward future consumption to support the current economy.  This has boosted corporate profitability at a time when the effectiveness ofcorporate profitability tools were most effective.

However, such actions leave a void in the future that must be filled by organic economic growth. The problem comes when such growth does not appear.  With the economy continuing to “struggle” at an anaemic pace, the effects of cost cutting are becoming less effective.

This is not a “bearish” prediction of an impending economic crash, but rather just a realization that all economic, and earnings, forecasts, are subject to the overall business cycle.  What the unit labor costs and productivity report suggest is that economic growth remains very weak.  This puts current forward expectations of accelerated economic and earnings growth at risk.  With asset prices extended, valuations rich and optimism at extremes, such a combination has historically become a rather toxic brew when exuberant expectations fail to align with reality.

Canada-South Korea Free Trade Deal Imminent: Sources

Canada-South Korea Free Trade Deal Imminent: Sources.

canada free trade

CP
Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a bilateral meeting with South Korea President Park Geun-hye during the APEC summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on Monday, October 7, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The Harper government is set to sign a long-sought trade deal with South Korea early next week, despite entrenched opposition by some in Ontario’s critically important auto sector, sources close to the talks say.

Preparations are underway for a signing ceremony in Seoul early next week, ending nearly 10 years of on-and-off talks that one of Canada’s biggest industries has long prevented from reaching the finish line.

Cracks began to appear in the Canadian auto industry’s united front last month when the association representing Japan’s automakers in Canada came out largely in favour of a deal, saying it would complement the agreement signed in the fall with the European Union and ease talks with Japan.

Another impetus was introduced when Korea was able to successfully complete deals with Canada’s two largest trading partners, the United States and the European Union, leaving Canada out in the cold.

Government officials in Ottawa refused to confirm the agreement Thursday.

The deal, coming on the heels of an historic pact with the EU, will go a long way towards cementing the Harper government’s expansionist trade agenda, and its stated goal that it wants to be a serious economic player in Asia.

Still, significant opposition remains. Ford of Canada chief executive Dianne Craig recently called the 2012 Korea-U.S. agreement a “disaster” for the sector — even though Ford, along with the General Motors and Chrysler, initially supported the pact.

At issue for Canada is a 6.1 per cent tariff on car imports. Critics fear once it’s removed, it will further skew the automotive playing field between the two countries, with Korean-made brands Hyundai and Kia selling about 90,000 units in Canada annually in direct competition with Canadian-assembled vehicles. Korea also assembles autos in the U.S., which it exports into Canada duty free.

Ontario’s economic development minister, Eric Hoskins, said Korea out-exports Canada 50 to one in autos. Hoskins said nothing he has heard from Ottawa so far has eased his concern that Canada’s automakers won’t be even more outgunned once tariffs are removed.

“We want a free-trade agreement that’s good for all sectors, but on autos particularly it’s disadvantageous,” he said. “I haven’t been given information to suggest that the improvements that we’ve asked for have been addressed.”

In particular, Ontario and the industry has asked for a slower phase-out of tariffs and a “snap-back” provision allowing Canada to re-impose tariffs if there’s evidence Korea is not meeting its obligations.

With the deal, Canada hopes to arrest the deterioration in exports to Korea since the U.S. agreement went into effect, particularly in the agricultural sector.

But Jim Stanford, chief economist with the Unifor union, which represents Canadian auto workers, says in effect Canada has traded off “billions of dollars” in the auto sector to win over “tens of millions” in more pork and beef exports.

“It’s a trade of cars for pigs and cows,” he said. “The government is willing to sacrifice autos, which is by far the largest trade item with Korea, in order to make some gains in agriculture and that’s all about the government’s political base in the West.”

Rudy Husny, a spokesman for Trade Minister Ed Fast, said Canadian exports to South Korea had fallen by $1.5 billion — or about 30 per cent — since the U.S. agreement went into effect.

“We will only sign an agreement that’s in the best interest of hardworking Canadians including though the elimination of Korean tariffs and creation of effective tools to counter non-tariff barriers to trade,” Husny said via email.

The data is not clear cut, however. According to U.S. trade numbers analyzed by Washington-based Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, the U.S. has also seen the monthly average of exports to Korea fall 10 per cent from prior to the deal. The U.S. Department of Commerce, however, has noted that Ford has increased its export of vehicles into Korea since the deal.

Aside from the auto sector, most business groups in Canada will welcome the breakthrough, particularly if it is the first step to greater economic penetration into the fast-growing economies of Asia.

“Undoubtedly the Canadian-based auto assemblers are concerned, as they rightly should be, but you can’t make trade policy based on only one sector,” said John Manley, who is head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the country’s most influential business lobby group.

“It’s important from an offensive point of view, but it’s also important defensively because, frankly, the United States got in first and they have been methodically taking market share from Canadian producers.”

An agreement will be particularly welcomed by the Canadian agricultural sector, which has complained that Korea’s agreements with other nations has put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Gary Stordy of the Canadian Pork Council said it’s been a straight line down for pork shipments since the Korea-U.S. deal of about two years ago, with exports falling to about $70 million in 2013 from $223 million in 2011.

South Korea is currently Canada’s seventh largest merchandise trading partner and third largest in Asia after China and Japan. But the relationship has been decidedly one-sided, with Korea exports totalling $6.3 billion in 2012 while Canadian shipments totalled $3.7 billion.

The Russian Perspective: "There Will Be War In Ukraine" | Zero Hedge

The Russian Perspective: “There Will Be War In Ukraine” | Zero Hedge.

With Ukrainians living in the Crimea region voting to join Russia, the West calling for sanctions (well some of the West), boots still on the ground, and markets apparently of the belief that all is well in the world once again, we thought the Russian perspective on the next steps was useful…

Via Sergei Markov of The Moscow Times,

The current crisis is not about Crimea. It is about the rights of Russian-speakers throughout Ukraine whom the Kremlin wants to protect from violence and discrimination. Russia does not want a military intervention in Crimea and does not want to take Crimea from Ukraine.

There is a political solution to this crisis.

First, create a coalition government in Kiev composed of all parties, including those from the east and south of the country. The current government is dominated by anti-Russian extremists from western Ukraine.

Second, Ukraine needs to draft a democratic constitution that has guarantees for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population that would grant official status to the Russian language and establish the principle of federalism.

Third, presidential and parliamentary elections must be held soon. Independent election observers must play an active role in ensuring that the elections are free and fair. There is a real danger that they will be manipulated by the neo-Nazi militants who de facto seized power in a coup.

If these democratic and peaceful solutions to the crisis in Ukraine are rejected by the opposition forces that have seized power in Kiev, I am afraid that Russia will have no other choice but to revert to military means. If the junta leaders want to avoid war, they need to adopt Moscow’s peaceful and democratic proposals and adhere to them.

Those currently in power in Kiev are carrying out a political strategy that is not so much pro-European as it is anti-Russian, as evidenced by the surprisingly heavy-handed tactics the U.S. and European Union  have employed in Ukraine. In the end, a minority executed a violent coup that removed the democratically elected and legitimate president of Ukraine.

The Kremlin believes that the current Ukrainian leadership will manipulate the elections planned for May 25 to install a single leader or coalition government functioning much as former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili did in Tbilisi. A “Ukrainian Saakashvili” will unleash an even more repressive campaign of intimidation against Russian-speakers, one that over several years would stoke anti-Russia hysteria among the general population.

After that, Kiev may evict Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol and purge Crimea of any Russian influence. Ukraine could easily become a radicalized, anti-Russian state, at which point Kiev will fabricate a pretext to justify taking subversive action against Moscow. This looks especially likely considering that ruling coalition members from the neo-fascist Svoboda and Right Sector parties have already made territorial claims against Russia. They could easily send their army of activists to Russia to join local separatists and foment rebellion in the North Caucasus and other unstable regions in Russia. In addition, Russia’s opposition movement will surely want to use the successful experience and technology of the Euromaidan protests and, with the help and financial support of the West, try to carry out their own revolution in Moscow. The goal: to remove President Vladimir Putin from power and install a puppet leadership that will sell Russia’s strategic interests out to the West in the same way former President Boris Yeltsin did in the 1990s.

The official census puts the Russian minority in Ukraine at 16 percent of the total population, although that number was falsified. The actual number is closer to 25 percent. Surveys indicate that 45 percent of the country’s population speak Russian at home, 45 percent speak Ukrainian and 10 percent speak both languages. In the most recent Gallup survey, when asked in which language they would like to be polled, 83 percent of respondents chose Russian. Taking into account the rural population in western and central Ukraine, about 75 percent of the people, probably speak Russian. Of that 75 percent, only about 10 percent are those in Kiev and a few other major cities who supported the protests. This means that only 35 percent of the population are attempting to impose its will on the remaining 65 percent, using a violent coup to achieve their goals.

Putin made the right decision: He did not to wait for that attack and took preventative measures. Many in the West say the Kremlin’s reactions were paranoiac, but Germany’s Jews also thought the same of leaving the country in 1934. Most of them chose to believe they were safe and remained in Germany even after Hitler came to power. The infamous Kristallnacht took place five years later, one of the first early chapters in the “Final Solution.” Similarly, just four years remain until Russia’s presidential election in 2018, and there is a strong risk that subversive forces within and outside Russia will try to overthrow Putin, in part using their new foothold in Ukraine.

Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict. Russia is prepared to move its forces into southern and eastern Ukraine if repressive measures are used against the Russian-speaking population or if a military intervention occurs. Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already. At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy.

The Russian Perspective: “There Will Be War In Ukraine” | Zero Hedge

The Russian Perspective: “There Will Be War In Ukraine” | Zero Hedge.

With Ukrainians living in the Crimea region voting to join Russia, the West calling for sanctions (well some of the West), boots still on the ground, and markets apparently of the belief that all is well in the world once again, we thought the Russian perspective on the next steps was useful…

Via Sergei Markov of The Moscow Times,

The current crisis is not about Crimea. It is about the rights of Russian-speakers throughout Ukraine whom the Kremlin wants to protect from violence and discrimination. Russia does not want a military intervention in Crimea and does not want to take Crimea from Ukraine.

There is a political solution to this crisis.

First, create a coalition government in Kiev composed of all parties, including those from the east and south of the country. The current government is dominated by anti-Russian extremists from western Ukraine.

Second, Ukraine needs to draft a democratic constitution that has guarantees for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population that would grant official status to the Russian language and establish the principle of federalism.

Third, presidential and parliamentary elections must be held soon. Independent election observers must play an active role in ensuring that the elections are free and fair. There is a real danger that they will be manipulated by the neo-Nazi militants who de facto seized power in a coup.

If these democratic and peaceful solutions to the crisis in Ukraine are rejected by the opposition forces that have seized power in Kiev, I am afraid that Russia will have no other choice but to revert to military means. If the junta leaders want to avoid war, they need to adopt Moscow’s peaceful and democratic proposals and adhere to them.

Those currently in power in Kiev are carrying out a political strategy that is not so much pro-European as it is anti-Russian, as evidenced by the surprisingly heavy-handed tactics the U.S. and European Union  have employed in Ukraine. In the end, a minority executed a violent coup that removed the democratically elected and legitimate president of Ukraine.

The Kremlin believes that the current Ukrainian leadership will manipulate the elections planned for May 25 to install a single leader or coalition government functioning much as former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili did in Tbilisi. A “Ukrainian Saakashvili” will unleash an even more repressive campaign of intimidation against Russian-speakers, one that over several years would stoke anti-Russia hysteria among the general population.

After that, Kiev may evict Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol and purge Crimea of any Russian influence. Ukraine could easily become a radicalized, anti-Russian state, at which point Kiev will fabricate a pretext to justify taking subversive action against Moscow. This looks especially likely considering that ruling coalition members from the neo-fascist Svoboda and Right Sector parties have already made territorial claims against Russia. They could easily send their army of activists to Russia to join local separatists and foment rebellion in the North Caucasus and other unstable regions in Russia. In addition, Russia’s opposition movement will surely want to use the successful experience and technology of the Euromaidan protests and, with the help and financial support of the West, try to carry out their own revolution in Moscow. The goal: to remove President Vladimir Putin from power and install a puppet leadership that will sell Russia’s strategic interests out to the West in the same way former President Boris Yeltsin did in the 1990s.

The official census puts the Russian minority in Ukraine at 16 percent of the total population, although that number was falsified. The actual number is closer to 25 percent. Surveys indicate that 45 percent of the country’s population speak Russian at home, 45 percent speak Ukrainian and 10 percent speak both languages. In the most recent Gallup survey, when asked in which language they would like to be polled, 83 percent of respondents chose Russian. Taking into account the rural population in western and central Ukraine, about 75 percent of the people, probably speak Russian. Of that 75 percent, only about 10 percent are those in Kiev and a few other major cities who supported the protests. This means that only 35 percent of the population are attempting to impose its will on the remaining 65 percent, using a violent coup to achieve their goals.

Putin made the right decision: He did not to wait for that attack and took preventative measures. Many in the West say the Kremlin’s reactions were paranoiac, but Germany’s Jews also thought the same of leaving the country in 1934. Most of them chose to believe they were safe and remained in Germany even after Hitler came to power. The infamous Kristallnacht took place five years later, one of the first early chapters in the “Final Solution.” Similarly, just four years remain until Russia’s presidential election in 2018, and there is a strong risk that subversive forces within and outside Russia will try to overthrow Putin, in part using their new foothold in Ukraine.

Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict. Russia is prepared to move its forces into southern and eastern Ukraine if repressive measures are used against the Russian-speaking population or if a military intervention occurs. Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already. At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy.

High-Probability Of Russian Assault Overnight, Ukraine Pravda Says | Zero Hedge

High-Probability Of Russian Assault Overnight, Ukraine Pravda Says | Zero Hedge.

On the heels of the Russian navy intentionally sinking a vessel blocking the Ukrainian navy from entering The Black Sea, Ukraine Pravda reports that it is “most probable that Russian troops will assault units in Ukrainian Crimea overnight continuing to the weekend.” Citing a source in the uniformed services, Ukraine Pravda warns that “despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks,” and maintain “peak readiness.”

Via Ukraine Pravda (via Google Translate),

On the night of Thursday to Friday a great opportunity to assault Ukrainian part of the Russian special forces.

This “Ukrainian Pravda” reported a source in the uniformed services.

Despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks. Could maintain peak readiness by the end of the weekend,” – said the source.

“The most probable that the assault would take place that night, but the danger will persist to the end of the weekend” – source added.

“There are three scenarios. First – this air strike,” – said the source.

He said that if Russian troops will withdraw from parts of the Ukrainian, that would mean this version.

“Helicopters are already relocated, and it is possible that they will do exactly helicopters,” – said the UP.

“The second option – a special operations force for disarmament,” – he said.

The interviewee said that in the Crimea are Russian special forces “Alpha”, “Vympel” and “Zaslon.”

“The third option: they can come up with ryazhenymy Cossacks, as with a living shield. Example is happening” – he added.

He also reminded that the Russian troops flooded his ship to block the path of Ukrainian courts.

According to the source, impacts may not be in all parts, but only by those who are the most combat-ready, including Sevastopol and Feodosiya.

And this follows the sinking of a ship to block the Ukrainian Navy

An anti-submarine boat may have been the first casualty of the Russian incursion into Crimea, but it was hardly an act of violence, much less war: The Russian navy sank one of its own, junked vessels to create an obstacle, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

The sinking was the latest in a series of moves by Russian naval forces in the area that were jangling the nerves of Ukrainian officers… the mouth of the bay was blocked by 10 Russian vessels including the formidable guided missile cruiser Moskva.

High-Probability Of Russian Assault Overnight, Ukraine Pravda Says | Zero Hedge

High-Probability Of Russian Assault Overnight, Ukraine Pravda Says | Zero Hedge.

On the heels of the Russian navy intentionally sinking a vessel blocking the Ukrainian navy from entering The Black Sea, Ukraine Pravda reports that it is “most probable that Russian troops will assault units in Ukrainian Crimea overnight continuing to the weekend.” Citing a source in the uniformed services, Ukraine Pravda warns that “despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks,” and maintain “peak readiness.”

Via Ukraine Pravda (via Google Translate),

On the night of Thursday to Friday a great opportunity to assault Ukrainian part of the Russian special forces.

This “Ukrainian Pravda” reported a source in the uniformed services.

Despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks. Could maintain peak readiness by the end of the weekend,” – said the source.

“The most probable that the assault would take place that night, but the danger will persist to the end of the weekend” – source added.

“There are three scenarios. First – this air strike,” – said the source.

He said that if Russian troops will withdraw from parts of the Ukrainian, that would mean this version.

“Helicopters are already relocated, and it is possible that they will do exactly helicopters,” – said the UP.

“The second option – a special operations force for disarmament,” – he said.

The interviewee said that in the Crimea are Russian special forces “Alpha”, “Vympel” and “Zaslon.”

“The third option: they can come up with ryazhenymy Cossacks, as with a living shield. Example is happening” – he added.

He also reminded that the Russian troops flooded his ship to block the path of Ukrainian courts.

According to the source, impacts may not be in all parts, but only by those who are the most combat-ready, including Sevastopol and Feodosiya.

And this follows the sinking of a ship to block the Ukrainian Navy

An anti-submarine boat may have been the first casualty of the Russian incursion into Crimea, but it was hardly an act of violence, much less war: The Russian navy sank one of its own, junked vessels to create an obstacle, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

The sinking was the latest in a series of moves by Russian naval forces in the area that were jangling the nerves of Ukrainian officers… the mouth of the bay was blocked by 10 Russian vessels including the formidable guided missile cruiser Moskva.

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