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89% of Venetians Vote for Independence

89% of Venetians Vote for Independence

Inspired by Scotland’s hopes for independence and hot on the heels of Crime’a 95% preference for accession to Russia, 89% of the citizens of Venice voted for their own sovereign state in a ‘referendum’ on independence from Italy. As The Daily Mail reports, the proposed ‘Repubblica Veneta’ includes the five million inhabitants of the Veneto region and has been largely driven by the wealthy ‘who are tired of supporting the poor and crime-ridden south’ (Venice pays EUR71bn in taxes and receives only EUR21bn in services and investment). The ballot appointed a committee of ten who immediately declared independence from Italy. Venice may now start withholding taxes from RomeWonder why the US, Europe, and Japan have not announced the referendum “illegal” and announced sanctions yet?

Via The Daily Mail,

Venetians have voted overwhelmingly for their own sovereign state in a ‘referendum’ on independence from Italy.

Inspired by Scotland’s separatist ambitions, 89 per cent of the residents of the lagoon city and its surrounding area, opted to break away from Italy in an unofficial ballot.

The proposed ‘Repubblica Veneta’ would include the five million inhabitants of the Veneto region and could later expand to include parts of Lombardy, Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Wealthy Venetians, under mounting financial pressure in the economic crisis, have rallied in their thousands, after growing tired of supporting Italy’s poor and crime ridden Mezzogiorno south, through high taxation.

Campaigners say that the Rome government receives around 71 billion euros  each year in tax from Venice – some 21 billion euros less than it gets back in investment and services.

The ballot also appointed a committee of ten who immediately declared independence from Italy. Venice may now start withholding taxes from Rome.

Campaigner Paolo Bernardini, professor of European history at the University of Insubria in Como, northern Italy, said it was ‘high time’ for Venice to become an autonomous state once again.

‘Although history never repeats itself, we are now experiencing a strong return of little nations, small and prosperous countries, able to interact among each other in the global world.’

‘The Venetian people realized that we are a nation (worthy of) self-rule and openly oppressed, and the entire world is moving towards fragmentation – a positive fragmentation – where local traditions mingle with global exchanges.’

‘We are only at the Big Bang of the movement – but revolutions are born of hunger and we are now hungry. Venice can now escape.’

So how long will it before Barosso, Van Rompuy, Obama, Abe and th rest declare this referendum “illegal” and seek sanctions against the people of Venice…

Cassandra’s legacy: Gold and the beast: a brief history the Roman conquest of Dacia

Cassandra’s legacy: Gold and the beast: a brief history the Roman conquest of Dacia.

 

Roman soldiers bringing civilization to Dacia (from the Trajan column in Rome). The Roman empire invaded Dacia at the beginning of the 2nd century AD seeking the control of the Carpatian gold mines. 

The ascent of the Roman Empire is best understood if we think of it as a beast of prey. It grew on conquest, by gobbling its neighbors, one by one, and enlisting them as allies for more conquest. By the first century AD, the Roman Empire had conquered everything that could be conquered around the Mediterranean sea; that for good reasons the Romans called “Mare Nostrum”, “Our Sea.” But the beast was still hungry for prey.

And what a beast that was! Never before, the world had seen such a force as the Roman legions. Well organized, trained, disciplined, and equipped, they were the wonder weapon of their times. The great innovation that made the legions so powerful was not a special weapon or a special strategy. It had to do, rather, with a concept dear to the military: command and control. In the Roman system, command and control was based on gold (and silver). The Roman had not invented coinage, but they used systematically gold and silver coins to pay their soldiers. So, the size of the Roman army was not limited by the Roman population: almost anyone could enlist either as a legionnaire or as an auxiliary fighter; his reward was simply money. Gold was, in a sense, the secret weapon of the Roman Empire; it was the the blood, the lymph, and the nerves of the beast of prey.

Because of its command and control system, the Roman army could grow in size by means of a self-reinforcing mechanism. The more gold the Romans had, the larger their army could be. The larger their army, the more gold they could raid from their neighbors. Also, the more gold the Romans had, the more they could invest in extracting more gold from their Spanish gold mines. The beast kept growing bigger and, the more it grew, the more food it needed.

But even the mighty Roman legions had their limits. With the 1st century AD, the Spanish mines started showing signs of depletion. At the same time, the Empire had reached practical limits to its size and, with that, to the amount of gold it could loot from its neighbors. Already in 44 BC, the legions had been stopped at Carrhae in their attempt to expand in the rich East at the expense of the rival Parthian Empire. And in Teutoburg in 9 AD, a coalition of German tribes had inflicted a crushing defeat on the legions, stopping forever the attempt of the Romans to control Eastern Europe. There were no other places where the empire could expand: in the West, it faced the ocean; in the South, the dry Sahara desert. Confined in a closed space, the beast risked to starve.

Not only the Roman Empire couldn’t get any more gold; it couldn’t even keep the gold it had. The Roman economy was geared for war and it couldn’t produce much more than grain and legions, neither of which could be exported at long distances. At the same time, the Romans had a taste for expensive goods that they could not produce: silk from China, pearls from the Persian gulf, perfumes from India, ivory from Africa, and much more. The Roman gold was used for pay for all of that and, slowly, it made its way to the East through the winding silk road in central Asia and from Africa to India by sea. It was a wound that was slowly bleeding the beast to death.

With less and less gold available, the legions’ power could only decline. That the Empire was in deep trouble could be seen when, in 66 AD, the Jews of Palestine – then a Roman province – took arms against their masters. Rome reacted and crushed the rebellion in a campaign that ended in 70 AD with the conquest of Jerusalem and the burning of the Jewish Temple. It was a victory, but the campaign had been exceptionally harsh and the Empire had nearly gone to pieces in the effort. Nevertheless, the empire had managed to bring home a considerable amount of desperately needed gold and silver. The beast was eating itself but, for a while, it was satiated.

With the gold plundered in Palestine, the Roman Empire could gain some time, but the problem   remained: where to find more gold? It was at this point that the Romans turned their sight to a region just outside their borders: Dacia, an area at the North-East of the Empire that included Transylvania and the Carpatian mountains. The beast was smelling food.

We don’t know much about Dacia before the Roman conquest. We know that it was a thriving society that was expanding and that, probably, had ambitions of conquest of its own; so much that the Roman empire had agreed to pay to the Dacian kings a tribute. We know that the Carpatian region had been producing gold already in very ancient times and there is evidence (Bogden et al.) that, at the time of the Roman conquest, the Dacians were mining gold veins in the mountains. It may well be that they had learned new mining techniques from the Romans themselves. So, Dacia was probably experiencing a gold mining boom. It was a prey in the making.

The Dacians may have had plenty of gold at that time, but they were still building up their economy and their technology. The only gold coins that can be said to have a certain Dacian origin are a curious mix of Roman iconography and Greek characters spelling the term “Koson“, whose meaning is uncertain. We don’t know if these coins were actually minted in Dacia, although they were surely used there. It is possible that the Dacians had sent some of their  gold to Rome, to have it transformed into coins and brought back in Dacia – not unlike what oil producers are doing today when they send their oil to the United States to be transformed into dollar bills. The Romans were surely happy to work the Dacian gold, but they must have noticed that the Dacian mines were producing it. So, it was clear that a military conquest of Dacia could pay for itself. The beast had sighted its prey.

In the year 101 AD, a young and aggressive Roman Emperor, Trajan, invaded Dacia. It was a bold attempt, given the difficult terrain and the strong resistance of the Dacians. Surely, the nightmare of the Teutoburg disaster of nearly a century before must have haunted the Romans but, this time, the legions overcame all obstacles. After two campaigns and five years of war, the gamble paid off and Dacia was transformed into a Roman province. The beast had made another kill.

We have no reliable data on how much gold and silver the Romans looted in Dacia, although it had to be a considerable booty. We also know that the Romans invested in the Dacian mines, probably bringing in their expert miners from Spain. However, the overall effect of this inflow of gold seems to have been small on the Roman economy. If we look at the data for the silver content of Roman coins (data from Joseph Tainter) there is no evident effect of the Dacian conquest. We see an increase in silver content at about 90 AD, but that’s a decade before the Dacian campaign and we may attribute it, rather, to the inflow of precious metals deriving from the conquest of Palestine. The Dacian mines, apparently, couldn’t match the wealth that the Spanish mines had been produced in their heydays. The beast had become too huge to be fed just with crumbles.

But the content of silver in coins doesn’t depend only on the looting of foreign countries. It depends also on the policies of the government. So, if we look at the graph above, we see that both the Palestinian and the Dacian campaigns correspond to drops in the silver content of coins. That makes sense: of course the Roman government would see the advantage of debasing a little their currency when it was question of having to pay large numbers of troops. Trajan, indeed, didn’t stand still after the conquest of Dacia and, in 113 AD, he attempted another bold project: that of expanding in the East, attacking once more the Parthian Empire after the failed attempt at Carrhae, in 44 BC. But the task was too much even for an expert commander as Trajan. After some initial successes, the Romans simply had to stop; possibly they understood that the campaign had become too expensive. Asia was just too big for them to conquer. The beast had found a prey too big to swallow.

With the death of Trajan in 117 AD, the new emperor, Hadrian, took the decision of stopping all attempts of the Empire to conquer new territories, a policy that was basically kept by all his successors. In a sense, it was a wise decision because it prevented the Empire from collapsing. But the final result was unavoidable as gold continued to bleed away from the Roman territory and could not be replaced. The Western Empire, which included the city of Rome, disappeared forever after a few centuries as an impoverished shade of its former self. The beast was to die of starvation, slowly.

And Dacia? Over nearly two centuries of Roman rule, it was “romanized”, in the sense that it adopted Roman customs and the Latin language – at least in the cities. However, it was also one of the first Roman provinces to lose contact with the central government when, around 275 AD, the legions abandoned it (for comparison, Britannia was not abandoned before 383 AD). We have no data on gold production in Dacia during this period but the simple fact that the Romans decided to abandon the province means that the Dacian mines had been thoroughly depleted, just like the Spanish ones. There was no food left for the beast.

From then on, we have scant data. For sure, Dacia was exposed to all the invasions that were to sweep through Europe in the period we call “The Great Migrations”. Apparently, however, the region maintained its Roman roots better than Britannia. However, we have no records of a Dacian King who bravely fought the invaders, as King Arthur did in Britannia, and we don’t have to think that Dacia always remained a Roman fortress. Indeed, the earliest records we have of the Romanian language go back only to the 16th century and we have no clear evidence that its origin went back all the way to the times of the Roman colonization. However, it is a fact that, still today, the region we call “Romania” – the land of the Romans – is a Latinized island in a Slavic sea. Were the gold mines still producing some gold during this period? We cannot say but, if they did, it may be possible that the wealth they generated, even though modest, helped to maintain the cultural and social unity of Dacia.

This brief survey tells us a lot of how important is gold in human history. For the region that we call Romania today, the gold mines located in Roșia Montană, in the Carpatian Mountains, have been a fundamental element. Exploited from remote times, these mines have periodically experienced new waves of exploitation as technological improvements made it possible to recover lower and lower grade gold ores. And with these cycles of boom and bust, there went invasions, migrations, kingdoms, and empires. The cycle is continuing today with a project to restart exploiting these ancient mines using the last technological wonder in gold mining: the cyanide leaching process. But getting more gold from the exhausted Carpatian mines is costly and the damage it could do to the land is tremendous. The drop in gold prices of the past few years may soon make these new gold mines too expensive even to be dreamed of. Even existing gold mines may have to be closed.

So, it looks like the beast of prey that, today, we call “Globalization” is facing the same problem that the old Roman Empire was facing in its times: the disappearance of the vital minerals it is preying upon (and gold is just one of them). Since today there are no perspectives of conquering unexploited lands, it is an unsolvable problem. The globalized beast will have to die of starvation, or it will survive only if it will accept to change its diet.

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): This Graceless Age…

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): This Graceless Age….

This Graceless Age…

Leaves nothing left to believe in, beyond its demise.

The consumption-oriented lifestyle could in no way scale across 7 billion people, so this was always a zero sum game between haves and have nots.

Global policy-makers saved the globalized ponzi scheme from itself in 2008. Now having squandered all resources, the odds that they can save it again are somewhere between zero and impossible. The first melt-down to weaken the model. This next one to kill it, for good…


The New Rome
Worthless political thought dealers. Vacuous media buffoons. Country club CEOs hell bent on liquidating their own country. Wall Street greed idolators. Self-important billionaires sprinkling their Central Bank-inflated wealth on the indolent masses. Hollywood’s fake gods and goddesses saving the world one comic book remake at a time. Steroid-bloated millionaire athletes pimping factory slave made sneakers to poverty-stricken inner city youth at $150 a pair. Testosterone-depleted boy-men running around like refugees, incapable of anything beyond their own immediate self-gratification. Idiocratic masses, stewing in a lethal cauldron of junk food and junk culture – too stoned to realize how stoned they are.

Life Without SUVs: Inconceivable
Third grade math indicates that the consumption-oriented lifestyle is in no way scalable across 7 billion people. In the U.S. alone, 5% of the world’s population consume 20% of global resources. It’s a tale of moral and intellectual bankruptcy that today’s thought dealers would allow so much legacy industrial assets to be liquidated just to propagate the fundamentally unsustainable for a few years longer. Despite doubling 229 years worth of national debt in just the past 7 years, today’s dumbfucked leaders, clueless academics, and the Idiocracy at large just can’t face the idea that their overriding mission to consume this planet, is now ending.
MELTDOWN IS INEVITABLE
Anyone who reads this after-the-collapse, must come to terms with the fact that they were financially bludgeoned merely because they took all of the above decadence for granted – “business as usual”. And the fact that they were incapable of third grade math or otherwise had their heads buried straight up their own ass. Even at this late stage, the vast majority are totally bought in to the status quo and its inherent exploitation-based mentality. It’s totally unquestioned. 

What to tell the grandchildren? 
“Yeah, we thought it was odd – trying to borrow our way out of a debt crisis. And we really felt bad about bankrupting your generation, but those shopping sprees were fantastic. Personally, I was skeptical trusting the same morons with the global financial system after they crashed it in 2008, but then Bernanke gave them a free bailout and a lot more gambling money, so they seemed happy. I was really taken aback when the Chinese stopped lending us their money – after all, we’d been paying them $.10 on the dollar in wages. Totally ungrateful. Overall though, I’ll be honest, I was too busy watching the Dow, the NFL and Faux News, so I really had no clue what the hell was going on in the real world…”.
Losing My Religion

And now, we just learned, 400 Priests defrocked by the Pope over a two year period, for child molestation. A thousand plus years of shameful secrets disgorged in one exhale. Do we really believe that this is all a modern problem? That this legacy of sexual abuse has not been secretly propagated for centuries? Of course not. Suffice to say, This is a bad time to be left faithless, going into what will very likely be the most deadly period in human history. 

The New Dark Ages
Christianity was conceived (literally) near the height of the Roman Empire. This nascent religion challenged the Roman ideals of the time and was violently repressed. Over hundreds of years, Christianity spread quietly and unobtrusively until it became the de facto religion of the late stage Roman Empire, by then removed to Constantinople. And when that Empire collapsed into the Dark Ages, and was eviscerated by barbarians – Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Huns etc., it was the Christian Church – the Holy Roman Empire that maintained order during the darkest depths of those Dark Ages. It was a time when people actually lived according to the central tenets of Christianity – quiet piety and self-less altruism – as opposed to counting their hours spent in church only to recycle their guilt for another week of Ayn Rand-worthy exploitation.
Does anyone honestly believe that today’s crippled church(es), riddled with their own corruption, will provide stability in the days to come? Will the masses turn to the dominant religions of today i.e. the ones who turned a blind eye to all of today’s iniquities and madness? Will the church have any moral authority left to play such a role? Will credit card collecting Televangelists become our new beacons of hope? With their perma-smiling sociopathic charisma which would be selling used cars if it wasn’t selling religion? Highly doubtful. As we all know, Profit Killed that Prophet a long time ago.
Barbarians At the Gate: Medieval Taliban
The Taliban have essentially rolled back their Islamic beliefs to the Middle Ages. They are ahead of the curve. No one would want to live that way, but it’s working for them. They have an ideology they can cling to and that is gathering adherents constantly. One can argue that the various radicalized Islamic factions, left to their own devices will eventually annihilate each other, and we can only hope so. However, more than likely at least a couple of these factions will arise intact and stronger than ever. Granted, predictions of this sort are no more than mere parlour games, however, it seems clear that the Taliban have been preparing for the decline of the current world order and are prepared across multiple dimensions. Back in 2001 right after 9/11, B-52s carpet bombed the Taliban in Afghanistan for over a month straight. I know, because they flew over my house every night at 1 am. It sounded like the end of the world – on their way to Diego Garcia for the hop to Tora Bora. After that, we all thought the Taliban were ancient history. Now they’re running around like they never left the place. Unbelievable.
 
Neo-Marxism
I’ve noticed a nascent increase in references to Marxism recently. It’s not showing up in Google Trends yet, but it will, on the other side of the reset. As we see below, there was a spike in search relevance for this term during 2008 and we can expect a much larger sustained spike in interest in the days to come.
 
Google Trends “Marxism”

 
Faith In Capitalism
The words faith and capitalism should never be used in the same sentence. That said, after 2008, no surprise, faith in capitalism declined significantly, including here in the U.S. Back in 2010, only 59% of Americans felt that “free markets” were the best system for the world economy. That was down from 80% in 2002. Meanwhile, all of these types of polls show that high income earners generally evince strong faith in capitalism while low income earners evince low faith in capitalism. Go figure. In 2010 only 44% of low income Americans had faith in the system.
 
Put that above dichotomy in the context of Mitt Romney’s mythical 47%. Vulture capitalists laid off half of the country and then scorned people for not being able to find jobs. If that “dependency” figure is 47% now, what does that portend on the other side of the reset? Elitists call this impending scenario, the “tyranny of the masses”. i.e. wherein the majority vote for a system that is in theirbest interests for a change, rather than in the best interests of billionaires who sold their country to foreign interests. If rule by majority is “tyranny of the masses”, then surely the current system is tyranny of the jackasses.
Which gets me to my point. If, as die-hard Libertarians tell us constantly – this current system, attendant with outsized profit margins, record billionaires, and minimalistic labour protections is NOT in fact true capitalism i.e. if this is not Ayn Rand’s wet dream (even though it is). Then it seems that the burden of proof is on today’s apologists to invent a better version pronto, while there is still time and (albeit minimal) credibility left. Because on the other side of the “reset” that line above is going to spike upwards in direct inverse correlation to the Dow. And at that point in time, no one is going to give a flying fuck what today’s apologists for capitalism have to say about their model.In A Real Economy Supply Is Demand
I highly doubt that the U.S. would ever turn full blown communist – let’s face it, today’s phony Obama-socialism is nothing more than foodstamp-based riot control while billionaires complete the estate sale. Those Americans who honestly think that the U.S. is on the verge of socialism, need to take their first-ever trip outside of the U.S. and get some fucking perspective. That said, there are several well known countries where opinions are turning decidedly against capitalism, not the least of which is Japan. Suffice to say, the age of Sociopathic Corporations run by sociopathic frat boys is coming to its inevitable bad ending.

Life After Extend and Pretend
What difference can one man make in all of this madness? I’ve met enough good people in my lifetime to know that they are out there. They are just few and far between. Therefore the hope is that the impending “reset” bludgeons today’s amoral self-absorbed jackasses and their dumbfuck ideas into abject oblivion, all while keeping enough of decent humanity still intact to rebuild upon. 

I realize that’s a stretch, but it’s all I’ve got…

P.S. Scroll down. My new blog background reflects the end of a graceless age and the (eventual) promise of a new and better one. Not the end. The beginning. 

Or it might just be the stronger Prozac. Who knows?

Mainstream Economists Finally Admit that Runaway Inequality Is Hurting the Economy Washington’s Blog

Mainstream Economists Finally Admit that Runaway Inequality Is Hurting the Economy Washington’s Blog.

But Bad Government Policies Are Making Inequality Worse By the Day

AP reported Tuesday:

The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals.

It’s hurting the U.S. economy.

***

“What you want is a broader spending base,” says Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.”

***

“The broader the improvement, the more likely it will be sustained,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

***

Economists appear to be increasingly concerned about the effects of inequality on growth. Brown, the Raymond James economist, says that marks a shift from a few years ago, when many analysts were divided over whether pay inequality was worsening.

Now, he says, “there’s not much denial of that … and you’re starting to see some research saying, yes, it does slow the economy.”

As one example, Paul Krugman used to doubt that inequality harmed the economy.  As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote in 2010:

Krugman says that he used to dismiss talk that inequality contributed to crises, but then we reached Great Depression-era levels of inequality in 2007 and promptly had a crisis, so now he takes it a bit more seriously.

Krugman writes this week in the New York Times:

The discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal.

They’re wrong.

The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn’t it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?

Well, no. First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

Start with the numbers. On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie. Which mattered more? The answer, amazingly, is that they’re more or less comparable — that is, inequality is rising so fast that over the past six years it has been as big a drag on ordinary American incomes as poor economic performance, even though those years include the worst economic slump since the 1930s.

And if you take a longer perspective, rising inequality becomes by far the most important single factor behind lagging middle-class incomes.

Beyond that, when you try to understand both the Great Recession and the not-so-great recovery that followed, the economic and above all political impacts of inequality loom large.

***

Inequality is linked to both the economic crisis and the weakness of the recovery that followed.

Indeed – as we noted in September – a who’s-who of prominent economists in government and academia have now said that runaway inequality harms economic growth, including:

  • Former U.S. Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich
  • Global economy and development division director at Brookings and former economy minister for Turkey, Kemal Dervi
  • Societe Generale investment strategist and former economist for the Bank of England, Albert Edwards
  • Deputy Division Chief of the Modeling Unit in the Research Department of the IMF, Michael Kumhof
  • Former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Policy Development, and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department,  Bruce Bartlett

Even the father of free market economics – Adam Smith – didn’t believe that inequality should be a taboo subject.

Numerous investors and entrepreneurs agree that runaway inequality hurts the economy, including:

Indeed, extreme inequality helped cause the Great Depression, the current financial crisis … and the fall of the Roman Empire .  And inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in Tsarist RussiaGilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republicsin Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America. (More stunning facts.)

Bad government policy – which favors the fatcats at the expense of the average American – is largely responsible for our runaway inequality.

And yet the powers-that-be in Washington and Wall Street are accelerating the redistribution of wealthfrom the lower, middle and more modest members of the upper classes to the super-elite.

 

Italy’s “Pitchfork Movement” Mapped | Zero Hedge

Italy’s “Pitchfork Movement” Mapped | Zero Hedge.

From Stratfor

Since Dec. 9, the Pitchforks Movement has been staging rallies across Italy, blocking highways and rail and subway stations and protesting in front of public buildings. The protests are relatively small, comprising a few thousand people in each city, but they are widespread, stretching from Italy’s poor south to its wealthy north. The Pitchforks Movement first gained notoriety in Sicily in January 2012 when a group of agricultural producers and trucking companies blocked highways on the island for nine days to protest rising fuel and fertilizer prices, a result of austerity measures instituted by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Originally, the Pitchforks Movement had a heavy Sicilian element; it criticized the central government in Rome and sought greater autonomy for the island. Over the past year and a half and for various reasons, the movement has expanded beyond Sicily. The Pitchforks Movement is part of a growing trend in Europe. As the unemployment crisis lingers, the traditional representative institutions — political parties and trade unions — are proving incapable of channeling social unrest. In turn, groups that originally represented specific sectors are increasingly receiving support from other parts of the population. In several European countries, such as France and Spain, these groups are gaining popular support and participation from already disgruntled youths, workers, retirees and the unemployed. The emergence of groups like the Pitchforks Movement will likely become more common, since the economic crisis in Italy is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Their biggest challenge is becoming coherent enough to produce a lasting impact.

 

Italy anti-austerity protests draw thousands to Rome – World – CBC News

Italy anti-austerity protests draw thousands to Rome – World – CBC News. (source)

Anti-austerity protesters in Rome threw eggs and firecrackers at the Finance Ministry during a march Saturday to oppose cuts to welfare programs and a shortage in low-income housing. Police said 11 people were detained.

More than 4,000 riot police were dispatched to maintain order as some 25,000 protesters marched through the capital on Saturday. There were moments of tension when demonstrators passed near the headquarters of an extreme-right group, but police intervened when a few bottles were thrown.

Later, demonstrators threw eggs, firecrackers and smoke bombs outside the Finance Ministry. Police reacted by dispersing the protesters, detaining 11 of the demonstrators. There were no reports of injuries.

Ahead of the march police detained some anarchists believed to pose a security threat.

The protests were accompanied Friday by a 24-hour nationwide strike that caused disruptions for travellers. Train service was guaranteed in most cities for morning and evening commutes, but airports in Rome, Naples, Milan and Bologna had to cancel some flights. Some school and health workers also went on strike.

The USB and COBAS unions organized Friday’s strike to protest austerity measures reducing transportation budgets. USB union co-ordinator Pierpaolo Leonardi accused the Italian government of imposing EU directives without concern for the impact on workers.

A smaller protest of about 600 workers was held in Milan.

 

The punctuated collapse of the Roman Empire

The punctuated collapse of the Roman Empire.

The punctuated collapse of the Roman Empire

by Ugo Bardi, originally published by Cassandra’s legacy  | JUL 15, 2013

 

I defined as the “Seneca Cliff” the tendency of some systems to collapse after having peaked. Here I start from some considerations about whether the collapse could be smooth or an uneven process that we could define as “punctuated.” I am taking the Roman Empire as an example and showing that it did decline much faster than it grew. But the decline was surely far from smooth. 

The idea of an impending collapse of our civilization is already bad enough in itself, but it has this little extra-twist that collapse may be given more speed by what I called the “Seneca Cliff,” from the words of the Roman Philosopher who had noted first that, “Fortune is slow, but ruin is rapid“. The concept of the Seneca Cliff seems to have gained some traction over the Web and many people have been discussing it. Recently, I found an interesting comment on this point by Jason Heppenstall on his blog “22 billion energy slaves”. He summarizes the debate as:

“In the fast-collapse camp are the likes of Dmitry Orlov (who bases his assessment on his experience of seeing the USSR implode) and Ugo Bardi, who expects a ‘Seneca’s Cliff’ dropoff. James Kunstler, Michael Ruppert and any number of others can probably also be added to the fast-collapse camp.

By comparison, the likes of John Michael Greer reckon we are in for a drawn-out era of terminal decline punctuated by serious crises which, at the time, will seem rather severe to all involved but which will give way to plateaux of relative stability, albeit at a lower level of energy throughput.”

Actually, the two camps may not be in such a radical disagreement with each other as they are described. The idea of the fast (or Seneca-like) collapse does not necessarily mean that collapse will be continuous or smooth. The model that describes the Seneca effect does give that kind of output, but models are – as usual – just approximations. The real world may follow the curve in a series of “bumps” that will give an impression of recovery to the people who will experience the painful descent period.

So, collapse may very well be “punctuated: a series of periods of temporary stability, separated by severe crashes. But it may still be much faster than the previous growth had been. I discussed this point already in my first post on the Seneca Effect, but let me return on this subject and let me consider one of the best known cases of societal collapse: that of the Roman Empire.

First of all: some qualitative considerations. Rome’s foundation goes back to 753 BC; the end of the Western Empire is usually taken as 476 AD, with the dethroning of the last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustus. Now, in between these two dates, a time span of more than 1200 years, the Empire peaked. When was that?

The answer depends on which parameter we are considering but it seems clear that, whatever choice we make, the peak was not midway – it was much later. The Empire was still strong and powerful during the 2nd century AD and we might take the age of Emperor Trajan as the peak (he died in 117 AD) as “peak empire.” We may also note that up to the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (who died in 180 AD), the empire didn’t show evident signs of weakness, so we could take the peak as occurring in mid or late 2nd century AD. In the end, the exact date doesn’t matter: the Empire took around 900 years to go from the foundation of Rome to the 2nd century peak. Then, it took just 400 years – probably less than that – for the Empire to wither and disappear. An asymmetric, Seneca-like collapse, indeed.

We also have some quantitative data on the Empire’s cycle. For instance, look at this image from Wikipedia.

It shows the size of the Roman military over the Empire’s span of existence. WIth all the uncertainties involved, also this image shows a typical “Seneca” shape for both the Western and the Eastern parts of the Empire. Decline is faster than growth, indeed.

There are other indicators that we can consider about the collapse of the Roman Empire. In many cases, we don’t have sufficient data to say much, but in some, we can say that collapse was, indeed, abrupt. For instance, you can give a look to a well known image taken from Joseph Tainter’s book “The Collapse of Complex Societies

The figure shows the content of silver in the Roman “denarius” which by the 3rd century AD, had become pure copper. Note how the decline starts slow, but then goes on faster and faster. Seneca himself would have understood this phenomenon very well.

So, the Roman Empire seems to have been hit by a “Seneca collapse” and that tells us that the occurrence of this kind of rapid decline may be commonplace for the entities we call “civilizations” or “empires”.

It is also true, however, that the Roman collapse was far from being smooth. It went through periods of apparent stability, interrupted by periods of extremely fast descent. The chroniclers of the time described these periods of crisis, but none of them seem to have connected the dots: they never saw that each crisis was linked to the preceding one and leading to the next one. Punctuated collapse seemed to be invisible to the ancient Romans, just as it is for us, today.

 

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