Winter Forecast: “Energy Lockdowns”

  • “Lockdowns might be revived”
  • Ukraine and censorship: Power trippers stop pretending
  • What could make the supply-chain snags even worse?
  • World War III averted (for now)
  • Beemers and subscription fees: “Dystopia, here we come!”

“There is a not insignificant chance that lockdowns might be revived,” writes Izabella Kaminska at the UnHerd site — “not just as a knee-jerk reaction to cope with a prevailing health crisis, but also, troublingly, an economic one.”

Ms. Kaminska is giving voice to everyone who ever worried that COVID lockdowns would “normalize” extreme limits to freedom of commerce and even freedom of movement.

“The slow beat of pro-lockdown messaging is beginning to circle again in the mainstream media,” she observes from her post in the United Kingdom.

“For now, the public remains far from receptive. But this could change as soon as energy shortages and supply chain issues begin to bite this winter, which they surely will. The public has already been primed to believe that lockdowns were great for generating energy savings…

“In the face of late Soviet-style chaos on the streets, unconstrained inflation, not enough electricity to heat the homes of the vulnerable, the prospect of order emanating from the ‘temporary’ suspension of a market economy might seem appealing.

“It’s even easy to predict the messaging that might feel compelling: ‘Stay Home. Don’t queue. Save Energy.’”

Ms. Kaminska isn’t some rando on the internet. Until earlier this year, she was the editor of “FT Alphaville” — the Financial Times’ daily commentary aimed at financial pros.

And to be clear, she stands foursquare against this concept of energy lockdowns. “Planned economies are what got us into this mess to begin with.” She’s on our side against the control freaks and power-trippers.

But she’s also plugged into the vibe of the power elite. She’s giving us a warning.

With Kaminska’s warning as the backdrop, let’s spin a dystopian scenario from the near future — next winter.

Say you own a small business that’s been deemed “non-essential” for purposes of an energy lockdown. Stuck at home again, you launch a YouTube channel in which post short videos denouncing the folly of lockdown policy. You build a loyal following, and pretty soon you’re actually pulling in a decent little stream of income to help tide you over.

Until YouTube “demonetizes” your channel as punishment for your dissent.

“Censorship in the United States has reached such a level beyond anything in my lifetime,” opines the linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky.

And it’s a long lifetime he’s lived; Chomsky is 93 now.

What prompts his observation is censorship of any dissent over the war in Ukraine — censorship at “such a level that you are not permitted to read the Russian position. Literally.

“Americans are not allowed to know what the Russians are saying,” he says in an interview at CounterPunch. “Except, selected things. So if Putin makes a speech to Russians with all kinds of outlandish claims about Peter the Great and so on, then you see it on the front pages. If the Russians make an offer for a negotiation, you can’t find it. That’s suppressed. You’re not allowed to know what they are saying. I have never seen a level of censorship like this.”

Some of the most outrageous examples that come to mind…

  • Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary Ukraine on Fire — we recommended it a few days after the Russian invasion — was booted off YouTube. In time, it returned — but with a requirement to sign in and confirm your age because “this video may be inappropriate for some users”
  • As we chronicled in May, PayPal cancelled the account of the venerable alt-news website Consortium News, as well as the newer MintPress News site. Both have been critical of U.S. intervention in Ukraine
  • In April, a billionaire-funded nonprofit called the “Tech Transparency Project” issued a report calling out several accounts on the Amazon-owned Twitch site for “actively fueling Russian propaganda.” After the Financial Times contacted Twitch to present the “findings” of the report, Twitch banned those accounts — including that of Los Angeles-based streamer Jackson Hinkle.

Hinkle was subsequently cut off by PayPal and Venmo. Over the past month, YouTube permanently demonetized his channel — eliminating 80% of his income. Now his account is under review for violating “community guidelines.”

“YouTube is combing through my old videos,” Hinkle tells journalist Matt Taibbi, “and taking them down one by one.”

As outrageous as COVID censorship was (and is), Ukraine censorship is even worse.

There’s no pretense here about public health or lives at risk or anything like that — as the Australian media critic Caitlin Johnstone observed three months ago.

caitlin tweet

Taibbi agrees: “Unlike previous ‘content moderation’ controversies involving everything from Russian disinformation to COVID-19 policy to Canadian Trucker Protests, there’s been very little partisan blowback to Ukraine-based deletions or even confiscations by firms like PayPal, which makes the significance of this campaign obvious: Ukraine is destined to legitimize internet censorship for Middle America. [Emphasis ours.]

“This censorship doesn’t claim to be about saving lives, preventing ‘threats to democracy’ or even, really, about ‘misinformation.’ As has been made clear in a variety of episodes, including the one involving Ukraine on Fire, even true information that runs counter to prevailing narratives is regularly excised.”

Now do you see how in the face of an “energy lockdown” this winter, anyone who objects too loudly online could be faced with censorship?

And not just having a YouTube account demonetized or banned. In a worst-case scenario, dissenters might get the Canadian trucker treatment — their banks ordered to freeze their accounts with no due process.

This possibility is what really underscores the dangers of a central bank digital currency — or as our Jim Rickards calls it, “Biden Bucks,” a trackable “spyware” version of the dollar.

“Every ‘digital dollar’ will be programmed by the government,” Jim explains. “That means they will be able to ‘turn on or off’ your money at will.”

The good news is you’re not completely helpless in the face of this scheme: In this presentation, Jim promises to show you “the only way I trust to protect your money and your freedom from Biden’s new surveillance machine.”

Jim calls it “Asset Emancipation” — and the only place to learn about it is at this link.

The market action today is — again — all about inflation and the Federal Reserve’s likely response.

On the heels of yesterday’s consumer inflation figures, the Labor Department issued the wholesale numbers this morning. They’re horrendous: Producer prices jumped 1.1% month over month and 11.3% year over year. Both of those figures were higher than the highest guess among dozens of economists polled by Econoday.

With that, traders in fed funds futures are now pricing in a 63% probability the Fed will jack up short-term interest rates a full percentage point at its next meeting in 13 days.

And it’s not just Fed policy in play here: Higher producer prices manifest in time as either higher consumer prices… or as thinner profit margins if producers choose to eat some of their higher costs… or some combination of both.

And so the stock market is taking a meaningful tumble.

The Dow is taking it worst today — down 1.5%, or 458 points, to 30,313. The S&P 500 is off 1.4% at 3,749. The Nasdaq is off 1.2% at 11,113. That said, all the major U.S. indexes remain comfortably above their lows of four weeks ago.

Adding to the gloom is the “official” start of earnings season: JPMorgan Chase registered a 28% drop in second-quarter profit, mostly because it’s setting aside additional cash to cover losses from soured loans. (Uh-oh.) JPM shares are down nearly 4% on the day. Morgan Stanley’s numbers also disappointed.

Interest rates continue to flash “recession” — the 10-year Treasury yield at 2.98% and the 2-year yield a full 20 basis points higher at 3.18%.

Crude is down $2.40 to another three-month low at $93.90. Precious metals are getting crushed — gold at $1,704 and silver breaking below critical support, now $18.34.

What could make the supply-chain snags even worse? How about a nationwide freight rail strike?

“For the past two years, 12 rail unions have been negotiating with major freight railroads to agree to a new national labor contract,” writes Ryan Erik King at Jalopnik. “The union has demanded a 47% wage increase over five years and safer working conditions for the benefit of both workers and bystanders.

“The National Mediation Board (NMB), the independent government agency tasked with meditating airline and railroad industry labor-management disputes, decided to release both sides from mediation in mid-June. This motion began a 30-day cool-down period where unions would be legally allowed to strike at its conclusion if no federal action is taken.”

That period expires next Monday. Then it’s up to Joe Biden to either appoint a Presidential Emergency Board to begin binding arbitration… or stand aside and let a potential strike go forward.

Whelp, we’ll see what happens in light of the president’s campaign promise to be “the most pro-union president” in U.S. history.

“Anything else that impacts the supply chain,” the National Retail Federation’s Jonathan Gold warns the Financial Times, “would shut down the supply chain essentially.”

OK, how about a glimmer of good news? Diplomacy has tamped down the potential for World War III to break out — at least for the time being.

As we mentioned last month, NATO member Lithuania had announced it would bar the shipment of sanctioned goods through its territory between Russia and Kaliningrad — the sliver of Russian land that’s cut off from the rest of the country. In response, Russia threatened unspecified “action to protect its national interests.”

Now the European Union has stepped in to tell Lithuania “not so fast.”

According to Reuters, Lithuania will reverse its decision as it applies to rail transport. Shipping sanctioned goods by road is still forbidden.

This is a good outcome. Way better than a pointless provocation by a small NATO country dragging the rest of the alliance into full-on confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia. Cooler heads have prevailed…

“If someone buys a car, it belongs to them,” says the first of several reactions to your editor’s discomfort with automakers having the ability to disable certain features remotely — even if it’s something as trivial as heated seats on a BMW unless you pay a monthly fee.

“If they want to repaint it psychedelic green and pink metallic, hack the seat heaters for complete freedom and brag about it with a prestige ‘IN-HEAT’ license plate, that’s the right their purchase yielded. Just don’t violate any federal safety standards (what’s with all the blue headlights lately?).”

“I fully agree with you, but ‘comes the Revolution’ as they say,” a reader writes.

“I suspect that all privately owned vehicles will have a mandatory, tamper-proof means for the gubmint to shut them down for whatever reason: DUI, speeding, exceeding your rationed mileage, voting for the wrong party, you name it.”

The 5: We’re already far down that road. Under the “infrastructure” bill that passed Congress last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must develop rules for some sort of technology to prevent drunk people from putting the vehicle in “drive.” It could be in all new cars by 2026.

Of course, there are built-in breathalyzer interlocks for convicted drunk drivers… but this is something for everyone and the design would be “entirely passive,” according to Alex Otte of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “For those being safe,” she told The Washington Post last November, “it won’t change the relationship with their car in any way.”

Yeah, that doesn’t make us feel any better. NHTSA has three years to draw up its rules, and then automakers will have two years to implement them.

“I couldn’t help seeing the parallel between plans to remotely disconnect a driver’s ability to turn on the seat heat and what Jim Rickards says will be standard MO for CBDCs,” says our final correspondent — “where the government can turn off access to your money remotely at any time.

“Also, this is yet another example of the creep toward the world of ‘You will own nothing and you will be happy.’ If the World Economic Forum has its way, by 2030 no one (except the elites) will own a car. All cars will be self-driving vehicles owned by either the government or the manufacturers who will control not only how much you have to pay for the privilege of having a vehicle, but also where you can direct the car to take you.

“I can see it now: ‘Your car ignition has been locked because your destination is on your local bus route.’

“Dystopia here we come!

“Love The 5. No buts.”

The 5: As awful as the Davos crowd’s plans are… we suspect plenty of second-order effects and unintended consequences will make themselves apparent before these schemes can fully come to life.

Hey, who says we’re all doom-and-gloom around here?

Best regards,

Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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