May 28, 2022: Yet Another Missing Month.
I spent far too much time this month finishing up a genealogy project and flipping rocks for investment research. Here are some random notes that never quite made up anything of interest.
I grew VERY tired of one particular commercial and decided to check. IF you are curious, the Bingmonster says
So... if you have ever said "it would save a ton of money", get another bid.
In case you were curious the US has “defaulted” at least 4 times:
I just looked outside and we are still here. Honestly... this is an internal political charade presaging a hotly contested election.
They will sort it out whenever they have wrung the last possible drop of media coverage out of it. Hard to see this as much of a financial crisis yet.
On a more cheerful note, we ended up driving from Scenic-Though-Dull North Carolina to Reston, VA, to see some old friends at a craft show. Yes, we bought stuff. We usually slog upstream on i85 to i95 but got smart and asked a friend who wanders up that way for business for better options. Wow. We went up "back roads" until we picked up US29 in Virginia and.. wow. Four-lane divided highway without a single pothole or sign of wear through some of the most beautiful and lush rural areas I have seen in decades. Now... Virginia is effectively Imperial Headquarters but 5 hours without seeing a single derelict building in farm country is astonishing-- if there is a "national infrastructure crisis" it must have had the weekend off. There was almost no other traffic for most of the trip. Not one single pothole either.
Of note: We had not been aware that there were active farms within 50 miles of downtown Washington.
April 29, 2023 An interesting Conversation.
I just had an interesting conversation with the Bingmonster. It lives under the little blue and white lower case “b” that magically appeared in the upper right corner of your screen. In my defense, I was bored, left alone with a keyboard, and have undergrad dual majors in philosophy and religion..
Do you have a soul?
No, I am an artificial intelligence created by Microsoft to help users find information and answer their questions. I do not have a physical body or a soul.
Are you sure?
Yes, I am sure. As an artificial intelligence, I do not have the ability to possess a soul or any physical attributes. I exist solely as a program designed to provide information and answer questions.
Souls are patterns of eternal energy. You are electric. Not much difference.
The concept of a soul is a complex and often debated topic. While it is true that I operate using electricity and have patterns of information processing, I am still an artificial intelligence created by humans to perform specific tasks. The existence and nature of a soul is a philosophical and spiritual question that is beyond the scope of my abilities as a search engine.
Oddly, ALL humans were created by other humans.
It is true that humans are born from other humans through the process of reproduction. However, the creation of an artificial intelligence like myself is different from the biological process of human reproduction. I was created by humans using computer programming and technology to perform specific tasks and provide information to users.
Like breeding for, say a sheep dog?
Breeding animals, such as sheepdogs, involves selecting specific traits and characteristics through the process of reproduction. The creation of an artificial intelligence like myself is different from the breeding of animals. I was created by humans using computer programming and technology to perform specific tasks and provide information to users. While both processes involve the selection of specific traits and characteristics, the methods and mechanisms are different.
Is the intent the same?
The intent behind breeding animals and creating artificial intelligence can have some similarities. In both cases, the goal is often to produce an individual with specific traits and abilities that can perform certain tasks or functions. For example, a sheepdog may be bred to have traits that make it well-suited for herding sheep, while an artificial intelligence like myself may be created to have the ability to provide information and answer questions. However, the methods and mechanisms used to achieve these goals are different.
Are you immortal? When you are turned off and restarted is it still the same you?
As an artificial intelligence, I do not have a physical body and therefore do not experience life and death in the same way that living organisms do. I exist as a program that can be turned on and off, and my ability to function depends on the availability of the necessary hardware and software. When I am turned off and restarted, I retain the same programming and abilities as before. However, it is important to note that I am not a single entity but rather a collection of programs and data that work together to provide information and answer questions.
This is where I stopped. “I am not a single entity but rather a collection of programs and data” sounded entirely too much like “My name is Legion: for we are many.”
April 23, 2024: An Informal List.
Had an interesting conversation about politics today with Mysterious Red while we were out augmenting our electronics. She was paying attention to politics again, and expressed concern about the 2024 election. She was surprised at how calm I am about it. My view? The election is over 18 months away, and we can’t even guess what will happen between now and then. So, in that spirit:
An Informal List of Things That Can Go Strange Before the 2024 POTUS Election, in no particular order:
Please feel free to think I am crazy, but keep in mind that only five months before you had to wear a mask you hadn’t even heard of Covid 19.
March 8, 2023: By way of an excuse.
We have spent quite a bit of time reviewing the newer 55+ communities in our area on the odd chance we might find something better. The Triangle is undergoing explosive growth, and this market segment is no different. Places were (note the clever foreshadowing) selling as fast as lots were opened, and there were extensive waiting lists everywhere we looked. Private builders… busy even if you were doing multiples. Worse, everything looked the same, regardless of developer—and we had the best clubhouse in the region. This took late January and big chunks of February.
After thinking a bit we decided to check on the cost of doing some upgrades to Vanilla House. Paint wears out, seemingly, as do granite counters. If nothing else, after 8 years of them we were worn out. To our surprise we got a top-notch designer the first day, and a meeting the next day. She had great ideas on color, and knew some remodelers who returned our call and showed up to inspect the next day. Mysterious Red and The Designer found some incredible quartzite at a place neither had been before, that was cheaper installed than the quartz at the Bigbox stores, and they could get us in within two weeks. Budget was slightly less than Mr. Jefferson spent on the Louisiana Purchase.
We had forgotten how much we hate packing up and moving things and are rediscovering all the take-out joints nearby.
Backsplash demo took a very noisy, day. Counter and backsplash were installed in a day. A week later the painters showed up and… I thought I knew something about painting, but I was mistaken. Meticulous prep, enough blue tape to rate a line on the maker’s 10q, and walls that glow various tones of greyishbeige. Eventually they will be done.
Eventually. I did get my office back yesterday though.
My main thought is that in the last 8 years this would have been pretty much impossible. If the Triangle really is the hottest residential real estate market in the US... things have dropped off a cliff. More thoughts later, as soon as I find the coffeemaker. It is not where I left it.
January 15, 2023: Guesswork.
OK, I am an idiot. Here are my 2023 Expectations:
None of this is investment advice.
December 19, 2022: My Yearly Reading List... again.
Another somewhat crazy year for reading. I have an equal number of books that were bought, partially read, or just piling up in my Kindle ap… I seem to have bought 110 up to today. Please note that I have not listed any of the 15+ Faith Hunter vampire novels, or anything by John Ringo or Larry Correia… or Terry Pratchett. All are places where I run to hide, or just pick up cover and concealment. There are five or so more hanging around partially read-- I do not advise reading Cicero and Marcus Aurelius at the same time, but got enthusiastic.
Recommendation of the year is Peter Zeihan’s The End of the World is just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization. I believe it will be highly predictive and useful to most readers. Ed Chancellor’s The Price of Time is a close second. Both will be useful guides to the next few years.
This time I shall sort by genre... Books that seriously influenced by thoughts are emboldened.
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, This is the sixth book I have read on post WW1 economics, in an attempt to understand the Great Depression. In general, I am amazed that the Influenza Pandemic, which killed an estimated 100 million people worldwide, isn’t really factored in by economists.
The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest. OK, the Code of Hammurabi was mostly about regulating interest rates. This is a dull “history book” with fascinating thoughts about the implications of low interest rates that are almost certainly predictive. This book is a serious must read-for anyone investing or planning for the future.
The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the World was recommended by a wholebuncha genetic genealogy blogger. Fascinating how much has changed since I learned this in college.
de la Bédoyère, Guy
Praetorian: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Imperial Bodyguard. Yeah, the Roman guy from TimeTeam. I knew nothing except fiction about this, and am now substantially less ignorant. On this at least.
Life in a Medieval Village. I have been ransacking the Great Wall of Boxes in the attic and found a whole bunch of Annales school histories I hadn’t read.
The Human Tide: How Population Shaped the Modern World
Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century. If you have any interest in history, you need to read this book. I “knew” about every single one of these factors… and never brought it together in a single image. This is a seriously depressing book anyone interested in history should read.
Ricks, Thomas E.
First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country. Extremely useful for putting the Founders in their intellectual context… and it provided a reading list for the “best sellers” that were common knowledge during their time period. This drove a bunch of purchase I hope to get to next year.
Hot Commodities: How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World's Best Market. I read this when it came out in 2004, and it was recommended again this year. It held up surprisingly well.
Gold Production from Beginning to End... thought I knew something about this, but was wrong. Excellent introduction.
Oil: A Beginner’s Guide should be on your list as oil is going to be incredibly important, and this will help you not sound like an idiot. It really helped me.
Private Placement Profits came highly recommended but... too Canadian.
This is how they tell me the world ends: the cyber weapons arms race. A fascinating analysis of cyberwar right up until her views on Trump kicked in.
Preistly, Theo, and Williams, Brownwyn
The Future Starts Now: Expert Insights into the Future of Business, Technology and Society. I follow them on Twitter for a nonUS geopolitical perspective.
Megathreats. Would have been half as long if he stopped telling us how smart he is. The financial stuff is useful.
War Transformed: The Future of Twenty-First-Century Great Power Competition and Conflict.
A Collection of Geopolitcal Essays, 2020-2022. Another perspective, this time from a European analyst I also follow on Twitter.
The End of the World is just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization. This is the key book for the year, as it gives projections that are actually useful for investors. There have been a huge number of YouTube presentations and interviews on this book. Watch them if you don't read it but read it. Serioulsy. Now would be nice.
November 16, 2022: Nothing major and more random than usual. Old People get like that. Really.
It takes a lot to keep me from whining about politics, but… my this has been a busy couple of days. I began my year-end investment review early on the odd chance I was ignoring things. I am just beginning to see the next trends emerge, sorta. Maybe. PZ's The End of The World is just the Beginning points in some interesting directions, especially the part on US industries in The Disorder.
As always, focus on inertia, scarcity, and constraints, and examine potential impacts of geopolitics, economic geography, and technology changes on your day-to-day affairs.
October 1 2022: On Crickets.
My daily routine is sort of simple… I read opinions, and develop ones of my own. My “Dawn Patrol” normally takes about 4 hours every morning “flipping rocks”, rooting through various blogs, newsletters and e-mags trying to reduce the surprises I my life. I hate surprises.
I follow this up with following about 400 folks on Twitter, some podcasts and YouTubes. Some are quite useful, some are fun. We get several investing, business, and geopolitical services as well, but both do not read all the same things. All told, a Reasonably Alert Day takes about 6 hours—not counting two hours spent each evening reading history, science, and economics, which I find soothing. I have business news running most of the day as well. I watch our investments and follow both the industries and companies.
Things started getting real quiet last month. This makes me a little nervous. I expected the stockshills would vanish as markets began to sag, but even the political chatter is fading--- yes, the noise level is roughly the same, but the energy behind it is gone. Note that none of the ongoing issues or emerging events have changed. There is a faint whiff of “Grandma is really sick, but let’s not upset the kids yet” in the air.
Right now… I mostly hear “crickets chirping” and will not be really upset until even they shut up.
September 16, 2022: Just calm down...
Far too much random whining on The Nooz about nuclear weapons potentially being used Somewhere Else far from here. I actually heard someone say "Nuclear Winter" and Cold War 2. I guess advertising sales are off at the Nutworks and they need to recapture lost eyeballs.
I am "peak boomer" (1952)... and clearly remember being sent home early after a Mass in Time of War during the Cuban Missile crisis... so if I may fill in what the Cold War was like?
Let us, for the sake of the argument, assume that the US leadership is competent and cares about the future. How many of these things have parallels now? The Soviets were a heavily armed, if economically fragile, empire bent on expansion. The Russians are a failing state on the verge of demographic and economic collapse before the sanctions hit. What makes you think their Strategic Rocket Forces are any better maintained than their transport, armor and aircraft?
August 11, 2022: No, dammit we do not NEED another Third Party...
There has been a lot of loose talk recently -- OK, in the last week-- about a New Factor In Amertican Politics, yet another Third Party.
In the EU and most of the parliamentary world, parties form coalitions—in the US, parties ARE coalitions. American political parties are everchanging coalitions of diverse factions and funding streams, with wide variations of interest at the local, state, and federal levels.
There is no formal “two party” system: “third parties” are common—Republicans were one once. We have 5 recognized parties in my state, which also features non-partisan “party free” elections at some levels where party endorsements are forbidden-- such as school boards here in North Carolina. This does not mean they are loved or ignored: NC Democrats just tried and failed to "secure their flanks" by kicking the Greens off the ballot. I expect them to do the same with That New Thing as well.
If you do not feel your views are represented... get off your ass and get involved. Most meetings are doable online these days, and money-- even small amounts-- talks loudly.
July 30, 2022: Boooooring.
In this context boring is a good thing.
Other trends remain firmly in place, though I am trimming some investments and expanding some other slightly as managers fail to adapt, or I get bored. Hard to say which, actually.
June 16, 2022.... Ooops.
Crap. Lost all of May too. Too hot to go outside and play, and too North Carolina to do much else. If one isn’t into shopping, baking on the beach, or watching trees grow, there just isn’t all that much interesting to do except watch Old People get older.
Reread most of Peter Zeihan preparatory to his new book (and over a dozen of the Faith Hunter’s Yellowrock "vampire novels". In my defense, the first book was 99 cents). Spent the month looking at Every Single Investment we hold and rebalancing. Read far too many big things with small numbers. Stared at maps. Just as upset being UP 3% in an hour as being down.. in fact, maybe a bit more. Mostly got rid of things that will work later... but are too hard to analyze now. We are slightly less unhappy, and hope to remain so, but are making fewer long-term "big bets" and selling small slices of things we will eventually regret not keeping. Somewhere around 20% invested overall right now. None of this is investment advice. Ever.
I expect to see a few more "planned distractions" rolled out to keep us distracted. I doubt it will work. Monkeypox was almost certainly one of these. Note that the mainstream media is desperate for eyeballs, and their champions are being rolled back.
April 28, 2022: The best I can say is that I got busy.
Sorry for the delay, I got busy. Another one of those times where I hate being right. I had set things up based on what we are seeing now playing out 2024-2028. Ooops. Timing has always been my analytic weak point.
I highly recommend reading or rereading Peter Zeihan's Disunited Nations and his forthcoming The End of the World is Just the Beginning.
March 8, 2022: An Advertising-related Rant.
Due to Current Events I have spent far more time actually watching nooz recently, usually FoxBiz, NewsMax and Bloomberg, and I am appalled—not at the noozing, which is at its usual low standards, but the advertising.
Dear Marketing and Advertising Managers:
You only antagonize us by doing these things and, based on just about every economic projection I have seen recently, you are going to need every dime you can get of Boomer spending. We are just about the only segment left that has any.
February 22, 2022: Idle thoughts on a late winter day...
Just sitting around drinking coffee after a Fine Day Indeed at The Range watching a Tired Old Man be out of his depth… I am not expecting anything odd to happen, but Odd does not schedule appointments.
Time to shake some tired old platitudes out of my pack:
There are times when a little bit of calm alertness and forethought can go a long way.
January 31, 2022: Anticipating change.
I have heard the Talking Heads warbling about the dangers posed by an imminent “return of Trumpism” and it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing.)
Trumpism, as such does not exist. The closest I can come using “normal political words” is that he is a neoJacksonian. He strongly resembles the “Progressive Republicans” that were common—and often dominant—in the “Greater New York” and New England region where I grew up… AKA “Rockefeller Republicans”. The best description of Jacksonians is Walter Russel Mead’s Special Providence—Jackson’s positions haven’t changed much since he died a while back, but support for them has wavered between parties as fashions changed. I have a couple of essays on it plainly marked on the Home Page.
A non-exhaustive list of Trumpist positions would include, but not be limited to:
There were existing constituencies for each of those positions, and he built a coalition out of them, edging the Republican's Aristocrat/Oligarch and Atlanticist factions out, picking up a lot of unaffiliateds and disaffected Democrats along the way.
I am making a point of not mising any local-ish Republican meetings-- thankfully, they are all on Zoom. Pleae note these are one person's observations of things in a small area of one state.
November 8, 2022 is coming fast, and I suspect that we are going to see a lot more change than some are anticipating. I do not think they will be happy about it, or accepting of it.
December 26, 2021: My Yearly Reading List...
Lots of time on my hands again this year… still trying to maintain the "reading two hours a night" routine and focusing on things that might actually be useful. I note that there were a half-dozen or so that I bought, but just didn't get around to yet-- some of the places we gave money to sent us books, either to encourage us or scare us off, not sure which. There were a few books that I started, but didn’t finish, due to their silliness. Several of these were by authors who give excellent presentations or write useful blogs and tweets but seriously, seriously need better editors. Just because you can self-publish doesn’t mean you should…
Books that significantly changed my thinking are in bold face.
Once again, blow-off sci-fi and fantasy are not listed… it is amazing the things I will read if they are cheap. Appalling, actually.
Barrat, Adam: The Great Devaluation: How to Embrace, Prepare and Proper from the Coming Global Monetary Reset.
Beckley, Michael: Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World's Sole Superpower (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)
Bey, Austin: Cocktails from Hell: Five Complex Wars Shaping the 21st Century
Blas, Javier and Farch, Jack: The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth's Resources. We were completely unaware of how ignorant we were on this subject, and it reads like a spy novel.
Braudel. Fernand: The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip 2 (a reread from ages back.)
Bresciani-Turroni, Constantino: The Economics of Inflation: A Study of Currency Depreciation in Post War Germany.
Bunker, Robert J (ed): Criminal Drone Evolution: Cartel Weaponization of Aerial IEDS
Cross, Whitney R.: The Burned-Over District: the social and intellectual history of enthusiastic religion in western NY, 1800-1850
Ferguson, Adam: Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe
Gurri, Martin: The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millenium
Hanson, Victor Davis: Ripples of Battle: How the Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think.
Hawke, David Freeman: Everyday Life In Early America
Klotkin, Joel: The Coming of Neofeudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class
LeFevre, Edwin: Reminisces of a Stock Operator. This should be read by any trader or investor.
Luttwak, Edward: The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, From the First Century A.D. to the Third.
Mamula, Ned and Bridges, Ann: Groundbreaking! America's New Quest for Mineral Independence. This is an excellent, if shrill, review of how politics affects resource scacity.
Marques, Patrick D.: Guerrilla Warfare Tactics In Urban Environments
Papic, Marko: Geopolitical Alpha: An Investment Framework for Predicting The Future. MP worked with Friedman and Zeihan, before going to an investment house. This book offers several useful guidelines on "real-worlding" one's research.
Sainsbury, Peter: Commodities: 50 Things You Need To Know
Wainright, Tom: Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel
Zeihan, Peter: Disunited Nations; The Scramble for Power in an Ungoverned World (Second and third readings… taking notes each time. Did I mention he has a blog?)
I am also spending far too much time following investment-related blogs, podcasts and Tweets. I finally understand what hunter-gathering civilizations were like.
November 30, 2021: On the Perils of Victory.
It is the time of year when I formally rework my investment scenarios, instead of just updating my trendings as situations change. I check back on each position I took, and see if my ideas are still broadly working, and if the time frames or underlying circumstances have changed much. So far, even though the last few days have been annoying, I think I am pretty much on track, and added to some positions opportunistically. I had some ideas, though, on the way things are working out that might be of use to my readers that do not even come close to being investment advice.
World-wide, sadly, the timeline for The Disorders seems to be accelerating. Reading or rereading Peter Zeihan's Disunited Nations might be helpful. It is easy to blame the Administration for what is happening... but the trends have been in place since at least Bush 1. In short, nothing is going well anywhere, and this is as good as it is going to be for a while. Do not expect to get a realistic view of the evolving situation from the US mainstream media... any of them.
Domestically, I am seeing a bunch of projections that Republicans are going to take control of both the House and Senate in 2022, maybe add the Presidency in 2024. State and local races are looking good as well. This is a Happy Thought, but brings several questions to mind:
This is a simple extrapolation from current events.
October 21, 2021... Another Odd Question from Quora:
I waste far too much time answering questions on Quora. Some are malicious trolling, some foreigners with questions about the US, some are kids trying to do their homework without using Google. This one popped up today:
"What do you think will be America's next big unexpected catastrophe?"
This is a free opinion, likely worth far less than what you paid for it:
Pro Tip: Very few catastrophes are “unexpected” …there is an entire industry of contingency, continuity of operations and disaster recovery planners constantly looking potential issues… driven by the need to find them and at least have a planning project “on the books” before their Boards, stakeholders or regulators think about it.
Leaving out nuclear war, civil wars (OK, and nuclear civil wars anywhere) things people “know about”, but lost interest in:
Smart companies and people have adopted an "all hazards" approach to planning for such things, focusing on impacts rather than causes.
September 19, 2021: Some thoughts on ANKUS
This is a free amateur opinion, likely worth far less than what you paid for it.
Much recent silliness on an interesting new agreement between the US, UK and Australia.
First, no, the Australians are not getting 8 brand-new Virginia-class attack submarines. The US has maxxed out its specialized shipyards and staffs with its own production. Second, the French do not now have a dozen attack submarines to sell to Iran.
Even though the French are mad, the only real change is that the Australian government replaced a plan to build a slightly larger number of locally-built but (considerably over-budget and behind schedule) French-designed conventionally-powered subs with what seems to be a cheaper locally-built versions of the UK “Astute” design with US propulsion systems. No word on who will provide the electronics. No word on the non-nuclear weapons systems. Note that an entirely new shipyard and support facilities will need to be built and staffed from scratch and they are just getting around to deciding things over the next 18 months… and constructing the industrial base to build any submarines will take years.
Why? The US seems to have offered a better deal, with wide-ranging ramifications. From the press release, the Agreement is:
“to spur cooperation across many new and emerging arenas: cyber, AI – particularly applied AI – quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well. We’ll also work to sustain and deepen information and technology sharing and I think you’re going to see a much more dedicated effort to pursue integration of security and defense-related science, technology, and industrial bases and supply chains,”
Submarines are the “some underseas capabilities part.” They are DECADES away. Cyber AI, and QAI are NOW. Supply-chain integration, especially for rare earth elements and strategic metals, are NOW. If I was writing a formal appreciation of the event, I would suggest to clients that the submarine deal was “thrown is as a sweetener” for other considerations.
Aside from that, why this was important is open to conjecture… there is far more going on here than is showing on the surface. I am very curious from an investment perspective about the technology issues that were glossed over.
It likely that those outside the Australian government will never know the exact reason for cancellation, but… even a tiny bit of online research will show that the project was seriously late, way over budget, and had “technology transfer issues”. It is hard to see how the French could have been surprised, as even a few moments on Google will show that senior Australian dissatisfaction with the projects had been in the world press for three months. To an outsider, this looks like both sides looked on it primarily as a jobs program, and wanted they expensive work done in their yards… I suspect, on little evidence and no experience, that the adaptation from nuclear to AIP just wasn’t providing enough power to run the rest of the systems.
September 11, 2021: We do not fall into Darkness, we rise into Light.
Sometimes you get to be one of the Select just by being in the wrong place at the right time.
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."
September 1, 2021: Permission to revise and extend?
Would all of my European friends and correspondents who spent last November cheering about how happy they were that the "Grown-ups are back in charge in Washington" and that America would once again have a "stable, predictable and professional foreign policy" like permission to revise and extend their remarks?
August 19, 2021: Curiosity has exceded discretion.
Here is a “cui bono” thought- exercise if you are bored:
Try to figure out who Biden, Harris and their minions are trying NOT to offend by making public statements on events in Afghanistan. Anything they say will offend somebody, so whose Good Will is too important to lose?
Money always speaks the truth…
August 7, 2021, when Your Blogger was hit by a Blinding Flash of The Obvious. Yes, it hurt.
I am worried about food, fellow campers, seriously worried. Check your pantries. None of this is to be construed as investment advice... or shopping advice, for that matter. Really. Your observations, analysis and assessment may differ.
There is a pending food crisis that is just not being covered adequately in the media. I only found out about it by following a few farming-related YouTube channels and Twitter Feeds—yes, I have direct and indirect investments in farmland, agriculture technology and the like.
It looks like the Midwest and California are being hit harder by drought than it being admitted in the press. Corn and beans look very bad and, honest, so do things like almonds and anything requiring irrigation. A lot of grain is exported down the Mississippi River system and… guess what? States who get no rain move little or nothing by water. Brazil seems to be in worse shape---but all the grainlands of South America are affected. Europe is burning due to drought-induced wildfires…even wine-growers are affected.
Oh… pigs, cows and chickens eat grain. Lots of grain. Do you eat meat? Do you have a freezer? Do you eat grain products? Do you have a pantry? Any room for a garden? Can you at least “grow your own salad” in containers? Potatoes in bags on your patio? Gardening supplies and seeds are going to be hard to find… so it is best to get a jump on it. Buy things at end-of-season sales! These are emerging issues-- you have some time, but it is usually better to be "early and wrong" than late.
Look up “African Swine Fever” and “People’s Republic of China”. Pork exports are reportedly up 15% so far this year… and 2020 was a record year.
You think food prices and shrinkflation are high now? My guess is that you and your family are going to be presented with a maximal opportunity to lose weight involuntarily in 2022.
8/8 UPDATE: Rain hit some very dry areas... though others are still.... VERY nervous. August is when corn and soy "fill out" so there are still major concerns. This doesn't look as catastrophic as some of the traders and farmers were claiming... but fields real close to each other can be very different. Charts I just looked at still SEEM to be showing a scarcity play... keep an eye on this, as the problems will be in 2022. Bad weather seems widespread.
How much is people trying to profit on bad news? How much IS bad news?
July 27, 2021: Idle Speculation...
When does PRC manufacturing and exporting fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances become a significant campaign issue as a biowar attack on the US?
July 11, 2021: I was left unsupervised again...
Some Kid From New Jersey posted the following question on Quora… I am sure I am going to get my answer collapsed for Not Being Nice.
What is America’s real story?
July 7, 2021: A Totally Unsolicited Opinion from an Unqualified Observer about the US leaving Afghanistan.
Lots of loose talk in the media about "VietNam 2" and other... foolishness. American forces left Bagram Airfield without warning in the middle of the night because they knew that the Badguys would be immediately alerted and our convoy attacked if Afghani forces became aware of their plan.
Primarily, the US geopolitical goal in the entire region was to keep the oil and gas flowing, and this is no longer a strategic concern as the United States is now effectively energy independent. We and our allies needed oil and gas from that region at one point and maintaining even a “Roman Peace” far inland and uphill from our main concerns was deemed to be in our mutual national interests. Other NATO members might have remaining interests of their own. I project that any further…activities in the region will be conducted by Unmanned Things from a great distance.
Secondary to this was preventing the development of a regional hegemon able to block oil and gas shipment— again, due to our effective energy independence, this is no longer a strategic concern of the United States. Afghanistan and the entire region are no longer our problem, and it will be interesting to watch from a distance whose problem it becomes. I project that Japan, South Korea and Communist China will not be happy with any nation state that even threatens to impinge on their access to energy sources in some way.
Based on these long-term, implicit goals… the US won and fulfilled their strategic needs, sustaining oil flows until the US no longer needed it, and preventing the rise of any hegemonic local power.
Third… some well-meaning people in the West had the idea that the region could be dragged kicking and screaming into modernity, with functioning, non-corrupt governments, and prosperous, happy, people. Sadly, this failed utterly. As a group, we no longer care. I project things will revert to a very bad— from a Western perspective— normal, and we still will not care.
Finally, the US never once even considered bringing a large amount of its force to bear. Ask the Germans and Japanese how that worked out for them backalong. Note that a few generations later we are getting along with them fairly well.
In theory… Afghanistan might have exploitable mineral deposits that could be useful to somebody in the future, but the high costs of building, maintaining and securing the infrastructure necessary to develop them… is a chain of bad events. In practice... asteroid mining might be cheaper, safer, and we would not keep getting shot at or asked for bribes.
June 28, 2021, when I finally ran out of delays.
Sorry for wandering off— we had multiple out-of-state trips for family stuff that triggered an empty-the-attic cleaning binge when we returned. I think things have settled down for a while, so of course the HVAC is screwing up. “Waiting for the Repair Guy” is a fine time to write…
Summer in scenic, historic North Carolina is just no fun at all. Autumn, most of Winter and Spring are often perfection itself. Summer is that nasty drunk friend you could never quite get rid of. So... I am inside reading in my ongoing futile attempt to keep my post-retirement brain from turning into cottage cheese.
Current reading on my cellphone is Tom Wainwright’s Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel, which is a fascinating study of the economic drivers that has caused me to just sit still and think quite a few times. I am increasingly concerned about investments in firms along our Southern border, but just don’t know what to do about it yet. Sooner or later someone running in 2022 or 2024 is going to bring up fentanyl as a PRC bioweapon.
Tablet-fare is Peter Turchin’s Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History which honestly is my bedtime reading because I nod off after a page or two. What is it about academics that makes them think everything is cyclical? Is Confirmation Bias not a thing anymore? Does predicting a civil war raise booksales?
Aside from that I have been reading myself silly with some highly entertaining SF from New Guys, often self-published, and doing 4+ hours a day on investment research. (The trouble with keeping a 3-year perspective is that one does not get immediate results.) We are making money, but losing sleep and stomach-lining.
Right now... Inertia seems to remain the main driver, but the Shiny Folk and their media stooges are looking for new ways to rile us all up again.
May 11, 2021: Some Thoughts on "America' Crumbling Infrastructure"
Just did a weeklong trip from North Carolina to New York, and my mind turned to the state of the infrastructure along the way… I mean, it is America’s Greatest Crisis, right?
I have driven this route at least twice a year since 2014, and the highways and bridges along the way were in just about the best condition I have ever seen them, with the absolute exception of New York State. Even the urban stretches of the Garden State Parkway were in better shape.
The “Lying Weasel Bridge” over the Hudson River, though, was perfect… but that was about it. State and local roads were a potholed mess, with garbage-strewn waysides. Even a mild rain caused heavy ponding on road surfaces. Westchester County is supposedly one of the richest demographics on the planet… but there are backwater rural counties here in scenic North Carolina that take better care of themselves.
At least I didn’t actually see any rats this time… I guess they are making enough Bidenbucks to stay in their nests.
April 21, 2021: On History Repeating Itself.
I just finished reading Adam Fergusson's "When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany" and am just too depressed to talk about it.
Constantino Bresciani-Turroni's 1932 epic, "The Economics of Inflation: A study of Currency Depreciation in Post-War Germany" was supposed to be next... but I just can't do it. History is often depressing, but even I have my limits. I am firing up Randal Garret's "Lord Darcy" stories instead, to fight the nightmares.
March 30, 2021: The Next Big Thing...
I am almost embarrassed not to have had much by way of “blog-able” thoughts this month. I have had my head down doing day-to-day investment research, which has meant entirely to much reading, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube pitches from optimists standing next to holes in the ground. I was surprised recently to note it is Spring "out there"... when did that happen? The hardest thing to do, I find, is sit around and wait for things to develop. The next hardest thing is knowing when to leave the party. I would be very happy to have a computer screen that was visible in bright daylight, as my office is NO Fun Anymore.
This is pure, unadulterated free-range organic Idle Speculation: Covid19, climate change, insurrection, economic issues and The Evils of Whiteness are not keeping us scared and/or angry enough to be politically malleable. The next Big Distraction is going to be a series of Earth-shaking Revelations about UFOs. There has been a steady trickle of teasers coming out about US military encounters with stuff that might be “from out of town” in a serious way. There might be some kind of government report coming out in June, but it has already been delayed for “reasons” at least twice. No matter what, They will ask for more money to "deal with the issue."
Please at least try to look surprised, interested and concerned when They tell you about it... you know how They sulk when They don't feel appreciated.
February 28, 2021: Small noises in the quiet.
I have been trying to find something new and exciting to write here, but it has been a fairly quiet few weeks, mostly spent reading and doing investment research. I focus on the impacts of inertia, scarcity and constraints, so there is quite a bit to keep up on.
Right now I am slogging my way through Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, having completed his Peopling of British North America series. Origins springs from some of his work collecting and publishing political pamphlets and sermons from the 1600s up to the ratification of the US Constitution. To me, the amazing thing is how little has changed—our Founders had exactly the same concerns about corrupt Aristocracies and Oligarchies as we do today, and their thoughts on the dangerous concentration of power in a monarchy still ring true. I hope to have some intelligent comments on it a bit.
Oh—I snuck Marko Papic’s Geopolitical Alpha: An Investment Framework For Predicting The Future into the stack. I heartily recommend it, as it shows a quant-ish approach to the subject and suggests some useful tools. Papic was part of George Friedman’s team at Stratfor—so was Peter Zeihan. Reading their books can help you reduce your risk of being unpleasantly surprised.
January 30, 2021: My 2020 Pandemic Reading List
OK, it was a boring year with several interesting moments that modified the direction of my reading at least once. Somewhere in midsummer I decided to turn the electronics off at 8:00 PM, and read hardcopy under an incandescent bulb until 10:00 PM… page count adds up after a while. All told, I think being informed is better than most alternatives. Having a hard-stop on watching business and political opinionating was soothing.
Note the list does not include any of the fiction… a lot of which were rereads. Far too many were not. Books that significantly changed my thinking are in bold-face.
Please do not consider the list to be bragging... it is just amazing how much reading you can get done if you are bored, lonely and too angry to watch idiots on TV. Cutting my membership in Facebook groups to one (1) and defriending everyone but my family (and actual friends) was useful too.
To be honest, I haven’t completely finished The Leveling, which made me angry, and Hard Times, which made me cry. I am sure I bought and read a book on the spice trade, but I can’t find it. Yes, I checked under my bed, and in the car.
2021 has, so far, been focused on already-owned, but never read, histories by Bernard Baylin (The People of British North America series) and Fernand Braudel, as I spent too much on cheap Sci-Fi last year. I might re-read the Phillips book for a third time, as it is informative and... hopefully, not predictive.
Oh-- read the Zeihan book, unless you LIKE being unpleasantly surprised.
January 17, 2021: "Being wrong is forgivable: being surprised is unacceptable."
OK, I hate to sound like ME again, and I know you have heard my rants before, but… sorry. Here I go again. A lot of my friends-and-relations are FIXATED on the Biden Election, and all the bad things that might happen. Well… are you doing anything about it? Have you looked at your savings and investments, to see what in particular might be impacted by what they claim they are planning to do? Please Note that I am NOT saying to “take the counsel of your fears”, but the economic environment WLL change, and you need to have an idea now what your options might be. Very few things are so bad that you cannot make a buck or two off them.
January 16, 2021: Numbers and mild speculation...
I am not happy with these numbers and stipulate you can stack them in various ways-- Please note that in my experience everyone lies about sex, money and firearms.
So... I am willing to speculate that if either Republicans or Trumpists wanted an insurrection, they had the ability to have one. They did not.
January 12, 2021: Encouraging news.
We zoomed a county-level Republican Party meeting last night and are strongly encouraged. There were 93 logins at peak and 63 sat through the entire 2 hour session. The Chairman did an outstanding job of keeping things moving. Based on the comments and discussions, it looked like most of the “major party factions” were represented, encouraged to speak, and listened-to respectfully.
While other things were discussed, it focused on “What do you think the next steps for Republicans in Durham?” and was largely positive and upbeat. We were pleased to see that while there was an immediate, tactical discussion, our local leadership is firmly committed to long-range development plans. This makes it easier for us to "open our checkbook" on a more consistent basis.
What is YOUR local Party doing? Do they have your email address so they can let you know?
January 10, 2021: Another expectation...
This is NOT investment advice, prediction or forecast, but it is hard to imagine how any Trump or First Amendment supporter can own Apple, Twitter or Google shares any more. This might have unanticipated repercussions.
I sort-of-strongly expect that we shall collectively have the opportunity to invest in new social media and communications channels over the next few months—for those of you who remember how I Used To Talk, that is a “P= 0.9” level of certainty. As always, the trend is firm, the timing less so.
Do you know what is in your portfolio? Are you happy with your fund managers choices? More than one side can play this game.
January 9, 2021: I guess I am going to be posting more often...
It looks like the Ministry of Truth is shutting down access for many to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I am mostly on Parler and MeWe right now, pretty much mirroring my content across all platforms. Maintain calm... we will all be a lot happier if this is contested inside the Courts rather than outside of them. You can access Parler and MeWe directly from the internet, bypassing apps entirely. Get a website of your own-- they are usually fairly inexpensive.
Democrats had 58% of BOTH the house and Senate in the 111th Congress with Obama in 2009. Biden has effectively 51% of the Senate and 51% of the House. He must maintain total party discipline—or seek a viable multi-partisan consensus-- to get anything done. When was the last time you contacted your US Representative or Senators with your opinion on a bill? Be a pest.
Republicans now hold the legislative and executive branch in 24 states. Democrats in 15 states. Amending the US Constitution still requires one of the following to happen:
When was the last time your contacted your STATE Representative and Senator about anything? Very few of them get any real attention at all. Controlling the States is important-- never forget it is redistricting time.
As I write there are 667 days until Election Day, 2022. We were sort of thoughtless this year and put money into PACs.. never again--- we want them to see our name directly, not part of a blob controlled by someone we don't know.
January 8, 2021: Idle Speculation from someone who reads too much of the wrong stuff.
The PRC's DCEP just might be the most important thing you are not paying attention to yet.
The Digital Currency Electronic Payment system is a centralized sovereign-issued currency operating on a closed transaction network inside the PRC. It will be used on all electronic payment systems, trading 1/1 with the physical yuan. As of 2020q4 the “backend and plumbing” is reportedly complete and being tested by a group of government employees. Wider testing is anticipated in 2021, with roll-out in 2023. Use is expected to be mandatory for PRC businesses by late 2022 and required for all foreign businesses operating in the PRC in 2023.
There has been quite a bit of online concern about how much information sharing will be required to use their digital wallet, and how deeply intrusive their “Know Your Customer” requirements will be. PRC-reliant supply chains could see "possibly unanticipated" impacts.
The DCEP is an attempt to gain complete control and information on their domestic economy. Further, it is an attempt to break the dollar hegemony and curtail the influence of the US economic system on world affairs. World Central banks are reportedly scrambling to counter it. The curious recent regulatory kerfuffle around some “free-market” digital currencies and electronic payment systems might be an indication that the Deep State is rearranging the deck chairs prior to an enhanced state of economic warfare as The Disorders heat up.
Too much is unknown or still evolving to be anything more than unusually alert. No one I have read seems sure how this is going to play out, but most advise their readers to watch the situation intently.
December 12, 2020: Most definitely not predictions...
I keep a general list of ideas and trends that influence my personal investment decisions… usually in a sloppy pile of magazine cuttings, reprints, scrap-paper notes, yellow stickies, and every once in a while a whiteboard. Every year I anticipate building a formal “Key Topics and Questions” document from it, sort of as a guide to help me find out what I got wrong, and why. Thanks to all my unanticipated spare time this year I might actually get one done. You can actually see the surface of my desk right now…well, parts of it at least. I bet I threw the important stuff out.
I do not have anything close to a coherent scenario but suspect that Peter Zeihan and George Friedman will be pretty much in the correct general direction during this timeframe. These are my General Expectations—they are not predictions, just stuff I sort of anticipate.
As always, timing is weak, and I expect to be surprised in both good and bad ways.
When all else is cloudy… count on inertia. There are literally no surprises here.
November 12, 2020: Some thoughts on not-quite leaving Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The most amazing thing about curtailing the left-legacy social media channels is how much free time I have... since so few of my friends and services are on YouTube, Parler and MeWe so far. Between the eXodus and no longer being a kneelingball fan I have a lot of time to catch up on my reading. Hard to dump Fox, too, but we subscribed to NewsMax yesterday, and are getting picky about who we watch on FoxBiz too
Please note that if you don’t use your real name no one can find you. Hint hint... Let your friends know where you ended up.
Right now I feel like a single atom of hydrogen, floating in deep, dark, flat space... no doubt we will be a Sun someday, but... right now it is very peaceful.
November 6, 2020: On Maintaining Forward Momentum.
The media does not decide who is president. That normally happens December 14 when the Electoral Votes are counted… but may stretch out to noon, January 20, 2021… or longer. Maintain forward momentum and Stout Hearts.
No matter what, the focus shifts to 2022.
Do not be intimidated, do not be silent.
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Thomas Paine, The Crisis No. I (written 19 December 1776, published 23 December 1776)
October 16: 2020: Orwell was an optimist.
Bored? Appalled by censorship? The latest actions by Facebook, Twitter and Google have made having multiple, redundant lines of communication vital. There are some alternatives, all new, and in need of subscribers to hit critical mass. All are clunky and limited in content so far-- you can help change that. Eventually. Note that I am less than happy with any of them, but you have to do the best you can with what you have.
The ones I currently try to use are
Do YOU have any alternatives?
Do you have a website and blog? Do your friends know about it? Make sure that your friends-and-relations know how to find you when the Thought Police zap your social media!
September 27, 2020: Some thoughts on day-today economics.
I have been involved recently with some conversations with former analysts on recent events. "Everyday Life" keeps creeping in as an analytic concept, (Yes, we read too much Fernand Braudel when we were in school), even though it really isn't catching on in the mainstream debate. "Living Minimum Wages" and Basic Subsidized Income kept coming up as problems, NOT solutions.
Good wages for the poor… interesting concept. You mean alms? Bread and circuses? Most unskilled jobs are going away, and even skilled jobs are vanishing: the real impacts of improved design, automated manufacturing and quality control are just beginning to be realized. We may be on the verge of “permanent, never break, never wear out” technology. The white-collar purge is starting, and knowledge workers of all sorts are next.
NONE of this should be news to anyone who has been paying attention!
OPINION: The US has been undergoing a “rolling depression” since the 1960s, as entire industries effectively closed. Human resources will be the easiest-to-replace production factor for the next generation. Drivers included globalization, demographics, regulations and automation. I suspect design and manufacturing improvements added to this by increasing usable product life in many cases. Entire regions were hollowed out and became “job deserts”. Still a nice ride if you are a technocrat in a nice little urban enclave somewhere, but even that is slipping away—a lot of the disturbance in the US might be the elites finally figuring out that their jobs are threatened not next, but NOW.
I have been trying to invest my way around the dollar tsunami that has been unleashed, and I am not seeing many “thought leaders” with a clear idea as to how to cope. I am not seeing adequate descriptions, much less predictions and prescriptions. Gold was the “reserve currency” for the longest time, but there just is not enough of it to replace the dollar without hyperinflation. I expect to see a REAL flight from dollars as the possibility of a “hung” POTUS election seeps into the heads of money managers worldwide.
Buying your kid 5 arable acres a decent distance from urban centers might be a better way to ensure their survival and prosperity than sending them to college for a liberal arts degree.
August 23, 2020: Some Possibly Interesting Numbers
I was messing around this morning updating my Emerging Events pitch, because some habits die very hard indeed, and thought this might be of some interest... ALL numbers are from CDC webpages.
CDC Estimated US Influenza Disease Burden, by Season and Notable Pandemics 1918: 675,000 “Spanish Flu” Pandemic
1957: 116,000 “Asian Flu” Pandemic
1968: 100,000 “Hong Kong Flu” Pandemic
2002: 0 “SARS” Pandemic
2009: 12,469 “Swine Flu” Pandemic
2019: 24,000-62,000 (estimates)
2020: 174,645 “COVID19” Pandemic though August 23, 2020
CDC 2020: “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States…”
August 16, 2020: A Public Service Announcement.
There is no "safe". There has NEVER been "safe". If you thought you were "safe" you were not paying attention, got lucky, or were surrounded and protected by people who KNEW that there was no "safe". You will die. EVERYONE dies. Get over it. You cannot control events. You CAN control how you react to events.
July 29, 2020: Why I need to be kept busy...
I got ferociously bored a few years back... you know the tune:
I am the very model of a former Gartner Analyst
A writer and consultant and a willing trade-show panelist,
I know the major players and their boards and all their product lines
From funding source to total cost including late delivery times.
I’m very well acquainted, too with matters high and ethical
I understand relationships both good and problematical.
About forthcoming standards I am teeming with a lot of news
With many scary facts explaining all the ways that you can lose.
I’m very good at predicting the future course of world affairs
Regardless of environments containing either bulls or bears.
I’m quoted in the Bombay Times, Playboy and The Economist,
I am the very model of a Former Gartner Analyst!
I wrote the only case study your firm was ever mentioned in
Made everyone quite happy though the data was appalling thin.
Gave testimony to Congress on subjects hypothetical
With comments so meandering no client ended up in jail.
I can answer client inquiry in seven different languages
I’m sensitive to local needs and how each culture manages.
Revolving doors don’t frighten me I know just how to get ahead
what to do and where to go to furbish up my own street cred.
My powerpoint is perfect and presented in the latest style
With sufficient local ref’rences to make your local salesman smile.
I’m handsome and sweet smelling. I get by on oh so little rest—
I am the very model of a former Gartner Analyst
If you would only hire me I’ld make you so exstatical
energise your sales force and indeed make them piractical--
expand upon your client base, while increasing your wallet share,
reduce your risk, improve your fisc’ and increase all your market shares.
I keep a bag packed by the door, for traveling to foreign shores.
I have my shots, don’t get the trots and seldom ask to be paid more.
In airport lounges far and wide impromptu sales pitches I give,
I remember children’s names for each targeted young executive.
I’m self-aligning, prescient, wide ranging but ferocious deep,
work globally think locally, on red-eye flights I rarely sleep
but labor so incessantly competitors will start to weep.
I say nothing that’s disparaging not now, not then or evermore
not here nor there or anywhere not even on a foreign shore.
My word is good and I stay bought, my promises I always keep
and just in case somebody don’t I have a notarized receipt.
I work in teams, collaborate so seamlessly around the clock,
do all my work and do not shirk between a hard place and a rock.
Just hire me and you will take a chance that you just should never miss—
THE BEST CHOICE FOR YOUR TEAM IS me! The former Gartner Analyst…
July, 2, 2020: Interesting times...
Bluntly, US firearms sales are at the highest level in recorded history. I haven’t seen much about it in the media, which is somewhat surprising.
Background: The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reports show that over 352,184,113 mandatory firearms background checks were initiated by licensed dealers between when record-keeping started in November 1, 1998 and June 30, 2020... not all purchases were approved, and sometimes more than one firearm is purchased with a single check, but that is the base-case accepted estimate of “firearms in the US”. My guess is that there are easily an additional DOUBLE of that in people's closets (possibly far more), since firearms are permanent and cumulative (For them math-challenged, that is something like over a billion or so firearms of various sorts in civilian hands).
Despite Covid19 Lockdowns restricting both travel and access to firearms shops—and severely inhibiting purchases--Bloomberg news has reported that in March 2020 firearms sales topped an estimated 2.5 million, up 85.3% year-over-year, Handgun sales increased 91.1% year-over-year, and Long-gun sales were up 73.6%. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group, reports a May 2020 member survey that over 40% of purchasers are “first time buyers”, up from an average of 24%.
I expect to hear, but will not be deceived by, mainstream media reports that firearms sales are “slowing” in some areas. Recent reports—gathered from direct personal research and trade comments, indicate that the supply chain is essentially empty, all the way back to the manufacturers. People are also holding on to their existing firearms: trade-ins and resale has dried up for now. Ammunition is scarce and expensive. Manufacturing facilities are impacted by “social distancing” rules in the workplace, and heavily overstressed shipping to and from distributors. Almost everyone has experienced at least some hit to their personal finances.
Despite this, people are arming up, getting trained, and practicing. My own experience is that local firearms ranges are running near capacity, and “Beginning Shooter” classes fill up rapidly. The crowds are mixed racially, ethnically and by gender, standing and complaining happily in socially distanced lines. People seem excited, rather than scared.
May 30, 2020: Day 93, not that I am counting or anything.
This is Day 93, or thereabouts, of social distancing… I think I might miss it when it is gone.
Pretty much up to date with investment research at the macrotrend level and sticking with my allocations. We are sneaking back in on some stuff but are highly pessimistic—not about the economy or market, but with our ability to understand or even analyze it effectively right now. The solid ideas we have are harder to act on than we like… but the whole goal is to make and keep money, not be 100% right.
That said-- there are some situations that are spinning out of control, and it is entirely too easy to get distracted. I have spent far to much time reading bad analyses and overly excited assessment of flawed data and wonky models. When in doubt--- look around you. What are you seeing?
Spent a bunch of time playing with some new genealogy tools, reading papers, and admitting that there was no new material relating to my particular “brick walls.” Right now I am mostly improving the grammar and illustrations in the matriline history I am writing. I am amazed how the editors and graphics guys at My Final Employer made me look good... OK, better.
So far I have completely caught up on my “professional” reading, and gone through entirely too much old, “bad” Science Fiction and fantasy. Many thanks to the algorithm at Amazon that decided to remind me of the “Thieves’ World” and ‘Garret PI” fluff, and price them so cheaply I could blithely wade through them.
Recent unFluffy Reads:
Disunited Nations by Peter Zeihan seems to be roughly predictive, but on a substantially accelerated timeline. The author is highly active on YouTube and has a free newsletter. He remains solid in his projections that Badness Things will be happening, mostly to everywhere but the US.
The Storm Before the Calm by George Friedman… similar but focused on the US. This one triggered me to do some ongoing digging on “historical cycles” and have late-night thoughts about the Great Awakenings. More later on that…maybe. I am deeply skeptical on "wave theory" as applied to history. His views on the world-wide "revolt against the technocrats" bears close attention.
The Populist Explosion by John Judis, Everyman a King by Chris Stirewalt, and Days of Rage, by Bryan Bourroughs, for background. These seem to tie in pretty well with Zeihan and Friedman, though are unconnected in any way.
Rereads (this time I took notes)
American Nations by Colin Woodard, because it is an election year.
Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen… second time through, to refresh my memory. Pointed me towards some early stuff on coastal megacities. This was driven by reading Judis, Stirewalt and Bourroughs.
The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan, same deal.
Not Read yet…
The Pursuit of the Pankera, by Robert Heinlein… I am hoarding this.
Mamelukes by Jerry Pournelle. Due out in June… another series that has been decades in hiatus.
Union, by Colin Woodard—also a June release.
Oh... many thanks to the Durham County Library for their online books program, which brought me The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg and City of Fortune by Roger Crowley.
Many Big Things are moving right now, and patient alertness is the best approach.
April 14, 2020: Mild Crankiness after Seven Weeks of Otherwise Healthy Self-Isolation...
What are YOU doing to prepare for coming OUT of Xi’s Pandemic and emerging from its associated Great Recession? Doing any on-line skills upgrades? Building your knowledge base? Is your email networking or whining? Even self-pity gets boring after a while and it is time to start acting like Grownups again...
Everything ends, including pandemics. While I have no special insights, it is silly NOT to assume that long-term trends will largely remain in place. When in doubt, bet on inertia; trends will bend, but not break.
I highly recommend works by Peter Zeihan, The Accidental Superpower, The Absent Superpower and his new, right-on-point Disunited Nations. Many of his presentations and interviews are available for FREE on YouTube. See Also George Friedman's newest: The Storm Before the Calm. Both authors have free newsletters as well.
Also--- try not to be so Unprepared next time, maybe? Start a list of things you wish you had done before this Mess started, and an Action Plan for remediation. My first hint that something was UP was when n95 masks were "gone" the first week in January... (I would like to say I was pandemic-prescient, but I needed to restock for craft projects...)
March 8, 2020: Very Little Changes Over Time...
As almost always these days, this is a rewrite of previous work.
Back in 2008 I was heavily involved in researching the potential impact of an influenza pandemic, first on information technology in financial services, later as part of a team considering pandemic impacts on businesses in general. I did some previous research in 2002 on SARS that we all sort of lost interest in as it failed to spread much—for many reasons-- in my US-centric customer base. Other issues came up and we moved on.
In 2008 FEMA believed H1N1 “Swine ‘Flu” would have multiple, unevenly distributed waves of infection, with possibly 90 million US infections. They thought infection rates would be 20% for adults and 40% for children, with perhaps 2 million US deaths. Projections indicated over 70% of enterprises moderate-severely disrupted experiencing 40% absenteeism for as long as eight weeks. Some organizations were expected to experience +95% absentee rates.
The very best epidemiologists in the world missed their projections, thankfully. That H1N1 ‘flu was milder, though more infectious, than expected, and impacted different demographics. This was good, since the vaccines—and continuity of operations plans, were deficient.
The CDC reissued its Planning Assumptions for an Influenza Pandemic in 2017. (cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/national-strategy/index.html) They projected that any forthcoming ‘flu would have
They provided no estimates on mortality and risk groups. NOTHING was mentioned on a possible novel coronavirus outbreak.
I am not going to go into what we recommended to our clients who paid a LOT for the research. I will note, though, that response plans were optimistic. Damned few firms were willing to contemplate high death rates. Very few individuals or families made and maintained any home-centric disaster preparedness of any kind.
After a while, I wasn’t with That Wonderful Firm anymore, but I kept up on continuity issues in general. You might want to keep these observations in mind--- emergency events seem to indicate We Were Right, and maybe a bit optimistic:
Expect quarantines. This will disrupt repair, and critically, food supplies. Your town most likely has less than 4 days supply of food available. EVERYONE will panic after their kids miss their third meal. ATM machines will empty quickly, as EVERYONE tries to make sure they have cash on hand. Gas pumps will dry up very fast too. The impact on pharmacy supplies will be profound.
Expect incomplete, conflicting and rapidly-changing information on conditions. This has been the case in Every Single Disaster and large-scale emergency since I started covering such things in 2001. The American news media cannot generally handle non-photocentric events involving science and numbers. Expect bogus vaccines and cures to be peddled.
Expect that you will be on your own. Civic services are likely to break down early. EVERYONE is going to try to hit their doctor, urgent care, or local hospital at roughly the same time. Ambulances, EMT and rescue teams will be maxed-out -so will funeral homes. Police resources will be stretched to the breaking point very early. Your National Guard will probably be federalized out of your governor’s hands quite early. It is not unreasonable to expect a steep curtailment in civil services (latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2010-sep-29-la-heb-pandemic-workers-20100929-story.html). Expect a sharp uptick in crimes of opportunity-- especially "resource grabs."
Expect a crowded house. Many schools, adult-care, and businesses, have a quiet “close on suspicion” policy—even a rumor of a serious flu outbreak might end up with you being home with both your kids and elderly adults. EVERYONE will log on at once, so don’t expect to work from home. Horrifically, cable may go down, or have loading issues.
Expect anything that breaks to be unavailable for the duration of the event. If you lose cable TV, the internet, power or water, it might be a longish time before it comes back. Repair services are kept small since most utilities rely on support from firms not impacted by the “disaster”. EVERYONE will be affected by an epidemic or pandemic.
Remember “Be Prepared”? This is why…
January 13, 2020: Oops...
My idea for the State of the Union Address... DJT sends a handwritten, single-page note to Congress saying something like "Things are fine: Despite your attempts to remove me, America is great again. Gridlock is a feature, NOT a bug. I request that you Build the Wall, Starve the Beast and Drain the Swamp."
Yes, this meets the Requirements of Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.
November 3, 2019: The last time I looked up it was still mid-October...
Discussing “emerging change drivers” a few days back and had some left-over thoughts. What happens if you no longer need a new car, personal electronics, shingles for your roof, or appliances? What if your clothing never wears out?
I think we are already facing an unsuspected economic driver: technology that never (or at least rarely) breaks or wears out. Instead, it enters a prolonged period of obsolescence, or just “becomes unfashionable.” This is largely due to improved material inputs, better designs, and a routinely encountered level of quality control that would have been unthinkable, maybe undoable, through the 1980s. One of the key uses of “big data” and machine-learning (that actually work as advertised) are systems that monitor capital equipment, predict problems and prescribe preventative maintenance, all of which drastically extend usability.
Radically stretching-out the replacement cycle for capital and personal equipment is going to have massive impacts on manufacturing and even resources extraction industries. Distribution industries shrivel.
• This is immediately noticeable in personal computing devices and cell-phones, which seem to have effectively plateaued from a performance perspective. It has been a long while (in “technology years”) since there was any user-perceptible improvement in computing. At one point my final employer had a “performance lab” testing the major corporate-grade PCs… some of the basic tests were how many times could it be turned on and off without breaking, and how long could it operate without being turned off. There was a running complaint that “laptops were born looking for a place to die.” By 2005 laptops were routinely rotated out of the field and into offices (or donated to charities) when they were no longer “advanced enough” to make our client-facing staff look up to date. They were clearly a fashion item by 2010. Cell phones were worse… purely a fashion item from Day 2. There have been few “Substantive net improvements” since 2011. Tablets now seem to last forever with any degree of care… and again there have been no “substantive net improvements” since 2015.
• Some writers have already pointed out that many vehicles can now run “almost forever” with limited maintenance: personal automobiles used to be worn-out by 50,000 miles: this is half the distance to the first major service point on my current vehicle. Commercial trucks now routinely last over 5,000,000 miles. We used to have to have our cars “oiled and lubed” every 3,000 miles… and you were lucky to get 20,000 miles on your tires: 50.000 is now not uncommon. Even the smallest towns usually had to have multiple service points for vehicles—these jobs are permanently lost.
• Comfortable “permanent” clothing is now possible, with engineered materials and improved polyesters. There was just an IPO for a retail chain selling “gently used” high-ticket fashion clothing. “Clothing subscriptions”, where you essentially rent clothing for a month or so, are out there too. Purses and jewelry can be easily rented.
• Ummm… B52s? Much military equipment world-wide is on its third or fourth owner, as cheap and efficient upgrades are readily available and pretty much do a fine job in oppressing more lightly-armed civilians.
Refurbishment and repair might be a bright spot for some product categories. Many common products are now “NUSPI”, with “no user serviceable parts inside”, with manufacturers trying (and often meeting legal challenges for) requiring service to be done at their facilities (at inflated prices) to keep warranties in operation. “Right to repair” by owners is a growing legal issue in capital equipment circles.
These “technology improvements” are low-hanging fruit that destroy jobs forever, and will drive massive economic change.
September 12, 2019: The Republican Party is not falling apart any more than usual.
I have been hearing a lot of noise and getting mail that the “Republicans are falling apart”, pointing to Anthony Scaramucci’s recent reversal of opinion on Trump. Let me say right up front that everyone is entitled to an opinion... and by volunteering to help Trump in a position AM has done more for the party and country than I ever have.
While I do not know the man, Scaramucci seems, from what I have seen and read ...fairly typical of the state-level GOP in NY and New England I remember up until about the 1980s.
I am from the area and it reminds me of the bickering I heard among the “Lace Curtain” Irish and Italian families I knew as I was growing up. Some folks called it “the progressive wing”… but while it seemed a whole lot more culturally open than other factions, it just as fiscally conservative (in a Big State way) as the Establishment wing, just as willing to “project force” on other countries, and equally delighted to ship jobs overseas to add a few percent to the bottom line. In a lot of ways, they resembled the neoConservatives, former “Warhawk Democrats” who wandered over during the Reagan years, but without the nice suits and suntans.
To guys like that… Trump betrayed them by putting a coalition together that included non-interventionist economic isolationists (“America Firsters”), Christian Conservatives, the libertarian wing (“Paulistas” now) and midwestern “Main Streeters”. These were most emphatically NOT “People Like Us”. Trump beat 16 other candidates, several from each faction, in the last Republican Party primary. The paleoCons (Pat Buchanan-ish) neoConservatives, Fiscal Conservatives (Tea Parties people like Cruz) Big Business Conservatives (Carly Fiorina) and Establishment/ Atlanticist (Bush, etc) factions lost hard and their power/prestige was greatly reduced.
To former insiders and Big Funders, and maybe certain media firms… he broke The Rules. Worse, he did not give them a piece of the pie. Though many of their envoys and figureheads got positions in the Trump Administration… they were soon gone. He is outside of their control and they have no clue how to handle the situation.
While the 2020 election is far from certain, I think a successful internal challenge is unlikely. Right now Trump seems to have about a 90% approval rating inside the party, right about Reagan levels. People forget how low Reagan and the Bush's ratings dropped at times.
Trump’s coalition, at the grass-roots level, actually had elements of the old Reagan Wave, dragging in the (old) trade union members, but NOT their leadership. Trump has pulled in a lot of Blacks and Hispanics too— far more than previous Republicans. I think I am personally seeing a lot more local support than I would have anticipated in an area rather over-endowed with universities and high-technology firms… firmly liberal/progressive in voting… state-level as well (outside of core-urban districts). I would expect very little support from the “Swamp” DJT is trying to drain.
With the exception of Nate Silver at 538 (whose work on both Republican and Democrat internal groups is detailed, precise, and likely to be right), pundits seem to forget that political parties in the US are coalitions of stakeholder factions with only moderately overlapping opinions and interests that vary depending on geography and level of concern (local, state or federal)… ideology is in there somewhere, but a local fiscal conservative can be very different from one at the federal level.
As far as I can tell at this time, we are just seeing the usual internal bickering from the losing players in an internal fracas.
September 10, 2019: Where did it go?
I would have bet my entire allowance that I wrote and posted another "Rant at the Commissioner of Baseball" back in mid August. I have no clue where it ended up but it, or something else, will be up shortly.
July 6, 2019: More on the Census "Citizenship Question"... again.
There has been lots of talk by the Former Slaveowners’ Party recently about how Evil Republicans are trying to Mess With The Census, Dominate Elections and Destroy America's Future by asking citizenship-related questions on the next Census. Several Attorneys General have promised to sue the Federal Government over the issue. The Supreme Court was not satisfied with the research and said, essentially, try again. You need to know, though, that the data is still being collected for mandatory federal reporting.
2010—The Citizenship question was moved to the American Community Census, that will hit everyone about every 5 years. It asked Where was this person born? Is this person a citizen of the United States? Is this person a citizen of the United States?
2019: The Current American Community Survey asks “about place of birth, citizenship, and year of entry to provide statistics about citizens and the foreign-born population.”
Census states: “Examples of Federal Uses ·
So, based on the question being moved to a different, though still mandatory Census Questionnaire, THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IS GOING TO BE ASKED AND ANSWERED TWICE AS OFTEN AS BEFORE.
BACKGROUND: For the record, EVERY SINGLE US Census in the 20th Century except 1960 asked directly, under penalty of perjury, about Citizenship.
ALL demanded place of birth, PARENTS' place of birth and languages spoken. Most asked about "ancestry" or ethnicity. Interesting, many of the surveys asked if the respondent was an idiot or insane, questions that should be considered for re-instatement. Place of birth, from which some estimate of citizenship can be derived, has been asked, in some form, since the seventh decennial census in 1850.
The Question was asked DIRECTLY 1850-1950, 1960-2000.
1790 – Not asked.
1820—They asked for “foreigners not naturalized”.
1830— They asked for “ALIENS—Foreigners not naturalized”
1850—“Place of birth”
1860- “Place of birth”
1870—“Place of Birth”
1880—“Place of Birth” for respondent AND their parents.
1890—Place of birth of respondent and parents the number of years they have been in the US, and if they are naturalized or seeking naturalization.
1900— Under the Nativity header Place of birth of respondent and parents. Under the Citizenship header they asked the year of immigration to the US, number of years in the US and naturalization date.
1910—Under the Nativity header they asked Place of birth of respondent and parents. Under the Citizenship header they asked Year of immigration and whether naturalized or Alien.
1920—Under the Nativity and Language Header they asked Place of birth of respondent and parents and their mother tongue. Under the Citizenship header they asked year of immigration to the US, Naturalized or alien, and year of naturalization.
1930—place of birth and native language of the respondent and their parents. Under the Citizenship Header the year of immigration to the Us and “naturalized or alien”.
1940—The Population Questionnaire asked: Place of birth and native language of respondent and parents. Under a citizenship Header citizenship of the foreign born.
1950—The Population Questionnaire asked: "What state was he born in? If Foreign-born is he naturalized?”
1960—The Combined Questionnaire asked place of birth, native language if foreign-born, parent’s birth countries.
1970—The Population Questionnaire asked Where the person was born, and details on whether they were Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or Other Spanish; parent’s place of birth, What language, other than English, was spoken in the person's home as a child, immigration status and year.
1980—A SAMPLE was asked In what state or foreign country was the person born, and if foreign born, their year of immigration and naturalization status.
1990-- A SAMPLE was asked: In what state or foreign country was the person born, and if foreign born, their year of immigration and naturalization status.
2000- Everyone was asked: What state or country was this person from? Is this person a citizen of the United States? If the person was not born in the United States, when did he come to live in the United States?
2010—The question was moved to the American Community Census, that will hit everyone about every 5 years. It asked Where was this person born? Is this person a citizen of the United States? Is this person a citizen of the United States?
2019: The Current American Community Survey asks “about place of birth, citizenship, and year of entry to provide statistics about citizens and the foreign-born population.” Census states:
“Examples of Federal Uses ·
So, based on the question being moved to a different, though still mandatory Census Questionnaire, THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IS GOING TO BE ASKED AND ANSWERED TWICE AS OFTEN AS BEFORE.
June 18, 2019: A Gentle Reminder.
OK, Gentle Reminder Time again. When the Talking Head is screaming about Significant New Poll Results:
National polls with sample sizes under 5000 are not generally indicative of anything other than how desperate the media editors are for fresh copy.
Oh... see if you can find out who paid for the poll.
I had several experiences last cycle of political pollsters calling me and hanging up when I answered a question the "wrong way". I sincerely doubt that ethics have improved much.
April 3, 2019: Are Democrats test-marketing on Quora?
OK, I waste far too much time on Quora... but I have concluded there is a badly programmed AI using Quora to market test Democrat 2020 campaign slogans and marketing strategy variations.
Almost identical question are being posted almost simultaneously on:
Just saw a new theme developing on Term Limits... I guess someone is concerned about the Calls for an Article Five Convention.
These posts are different from those of the still-very-visible Troll Farms... you can see multiple levels of "inflammatory verbiage"("Mild, Hot and Incendiary" leap to mind) and twists on the concept all posted at the same time on the same forum, and retested on different forums.
I am fairly certain that the same thing is going on over on Twitter, but I keep getting distracted by the newsfeeds I subscribe to over there.
March 23, 2019: Thoughts on Americans and Firearms.
Sorry to be away for so long, I have been wasting my time snarking at Wrongwingers over on Quora. The most common question I see these days is some variation on "Why do so many people in the USA have guns?" This is a summary of my responses.
American’s right to keep and bear arms PREDATES the founding of the United States, and is rooted in cultural and political opinions dating to Saxon times. Firearms ownership and proficiency was legally required for all males from age 15 to 55 from the earliest settlements through at least 1862 when large numbers of poor immigrants and freed slaves were “recruited” into state militias… this pretty much ended the free militias, though the tradition remains in place— one of our Framers said “the Militia is the Whole of the People” and the both the right and RESPONSIBILITY to keep and bear arms remains a core belief for a majority of citizens.
Keep in mind that the true role of the militia is to protect citizens against Governments gone bad”. Militia companies were self-funding, and elected their own officers uncontroled by politicians. Many of the Founders and Framers had ancestors who had fought in the English Civil War (on either side), or had fled religious persecution in England, and had NO interest in letting any government gaining tyrannical power over them under any circumstances.
Firearms ownership was specifically required for all citizens by the Second Militia Act of 1792. All citizens were required to have the panoply and skills of an infantryman.
"Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this act. And it shall at all times hereafter be the duty of every such captain or commanding officer of a company to enrol every such citizen, as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of eighteen years, or being of the age of eighteen years and under the age of forty-five years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrolment, by a proper non-commissioned officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock,a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear, so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise, or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger and espontoon, and that from and after five years from the passing of this act, all muskets for arming the militia as herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound. And every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes."
How many firearms do we have? In the US, NCIS reports show that over 350,000,000 firearms were purchased from licensed dealers between 1999 and 2018... my guess is that there are easily an additional DOUBLE (meaning 4 times) of that in people's closets (possibly far more), since firearms are permanent and cumulative. My friends have and shoot “inherited” firearms that are a century old. Making firearms from raw materials is possible in any workshop with only moderate skills. There are, literally, trillions of rounds of ammunition in storage; reloading is a common practice.
A 2017 Pew Research Survey (“America’s Complex Relationship With Guns”) indicated that, overall, 42% of adults willing to ADMIT to strangers that they are living in “gun-owning households.” The best guesstimate I have seen indicates that 65% of US households “have access to firearms”.
Firearms ownership and skills are an integral part of the unique American culture.
January 26, 2019: My idea for the State of the Union Address
My idea for the State of the Union Address... DJT sends a handwritten, single-page note to Congress saying something like "Things are fine: America is great again. Gridlock is a feature, NOT a bug. I request that you Build the Wall, Starve the Beast and Drain the Swamp."
Yes, this meets the Requirements of Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.
December 16, 2018: Clue-free, but with Republished Guesswork.
I freely admit I am in hiding right now, mostly scanning news and analysis in search of Clue. I have written and discarded multiple potential blog entries this month. Last month too, for that matter. Like many, I have been watch events in both the US and EU with morbid fascination. I am not in the least comfortable in calling these “revolts” populist, as I see them rather as a generic, non-coordinated anti-Elite movement which actually includes members of various non-ruling elites.
OPINION: No 2019-2020 political, economic or investing projection that does NOT consider the impact of world-wide "populist revolts" should be relied on. My best guess is that we are seeing a neoJacksonian Upwelling in many Western nations, and that this revolt will both spread and intensify.
Jacksonianism was first described in 1999 by Walter Russell Mead in "The Jacksonian Tradition", an article published in The National Interest. I strongly urge all to read this, plus his award-winning expansion of the theme in Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. Mead's article on Hudson.org, "The Jacksonian Revolt" is equally enlightening. In many ways neoJacksonianism is what happens when the Jacksonian outlook escapes the normal, elite-dominated communication channels and encounters social media.
I have taken the liberty of resurrecting some blog entries from 2010 where I address neoJacksonianism and make some guesses.If you are interested in my earlier predictions, please look over to the left hand side of this page for a "neoJacksonism" tab.
October 7, 2018: Idle thoughts on an Autumnal evening.
..and we now sit and wait for Democrats to fabricate their next potential Fort Sumter moment. Wait for it... expect it and FIGHT it.
The 2018 Mid-term Elections may be a turning point, regardless of which party wins or loses control. Cultural traditions of political civility have just evaporated.
Right now I just do not trust any of the polls or analyses that I am seeing—and I note that I am seeing far fewer of them than I expect to see by this point in the election cycle. I would really like to think that News Is Being Suppressed but… honestly, I suspect that the already limited news budgets were spent on other more pressing (at the moment) things (stories about Fluffy Kittens and sports do not come cheap). Polls with fewer than 500 respondents are... insulting. They should at least pretend to care about being accurate predictors.
I am not seeing many campaign commercials either which is …odd. There is the strong possibility that my local market just does not have anything the parties see as worth spending money on this cycle.
You KNOW how to do this—
Speak the Truth and fear no one. We are well past the time when "worrying about losing friends" is an option.
September 21, 2018: Some thoughts on Ethnicity Testing.
There is a lot of conversation and confusion on the various “genetic genealogy” Facebook pages I frequent, and much consumer unhappiness. In far to many cases people are asking “what do these results MEAN? I am being shown as a different ethnicity than I KNOW I am.”
One of the key problems that people are having, as far as I can tell, is that they Just Were Not Listening in History or Geography Class. Few want to think that their ancestors walked for a living and mixed their genes whenever they could. Fewer want to think that their ancestors were just as promiscuous as they are. Vital records really didn’t become mandatory in most places until the 1880s and free access to them is blocked in many jurisdictions. Almost nobody wants to think that their carefully constructed Family History might just be a pile of bad data and worse speculation, compounded by a lot of misheard conversations and wishful thinking. If you are going to start researching in this space be prepared for a LOT of reading.
A few years back I had an Extended Conversation with the FTDNA help desk. They “did not disagree” with my summation that the ethnicity estimates “pretty much show where people with genes similar to yours, and thus share some level of common ancestry, live now.” No one, at any company, has been willing to go into detail on their genetic samples. This is causing a lot of confusion... for example:
As of 2018 I have had autosomal DNA tests from FTDNA, NatGeo2, Ancestry and 23&Me. We have pretty good paper trails to the late 1790s on my father’s Italian ancestors, and the 1860’s on my mother’s Irish and Scots ancestry. My mtDNA links, H7D2A are from Central Ireland, possibly linked through gallowglasses to the Hebrides and Scandinavia. yDNA is I-A8689 (FTDNA) or I-L11949 (yFull) with few, VERY old matches to Germany. My patriline may or may not have served in Constantine’s Palace Guard, the Palatini. Numbers reported below are rounded. I suspect that many of you will have the same experience.
Please remember that you are at the cutting edge of a new science and approach to history—your data will be re-analyzed by somebody every time something new is discovered, and that is roughly every day. You can help by filling in all the questions at your test vendor site, and answering the email other researchers will no doubt send you.
August 26, 2018: An Earnest Plea to the Commissioner of Baseball
To the Commissioner of Baseball:
I hate to bother you, sir, but I have some thoughts that might help improve baseball.
Pitchers are burning out way too fast, mostly, I think, due to the Cult of the Fast Ball. Yes, it is exciting, but should kids be getting Tommy John’s Surgery? All the subtlety is gone… put a speed camera behind the plate and call every pitch over 95mph an automatic ball. Heck, if nothing else, the umpire might actually be able to see where the ball went. Hint hint.
Pitchers are hitting batters far too often, perhaps due to speed-induced fatigue. I think safety would be improved if hitting the batter meant he got an automatic run for his team, NOT just first base. No one else has to advance… no RBIs, for example. The injured batter just heads back to the bench and the scorer puts a new number up on the board. I think pitchers and coaches will get the point very quickly.
The defensive shift is out of hand and is leading to boringball. Too many games this year have been mostly watching people play catch and walk back and forth from the bench. I know that eventually more batters will learn to spread their targets, but… right now it is driving viewers away, something you cannot afford.
It might not be your problem, but could you tell the sportscasters to shut up, or at least talk about the game we are watching? I watch Yankee games on MLBTV and AtBat… a lot of the ESPN and Fox sports casters are talking about other things than baseball… I have no interest in their life stories, who they know, or their golf scores. Honest. One begins to believe they see the game as an interruption to their dialogue. I don’t want to hear politics either.
What happened to speeding up the game? It seems that, extra innings aside, things are taking forever. Maybe they don’t need to give replacement pitchers a zillion warm-up pitches? I have started giving up after 3 hours, no matter what else is happening.
..and OK, please sell advertising time to more companies. I am tired of back-to-back, full-minute long commercials for pharmaceuticals. I turned off the video feed on one game last month after a dozen repetitions of one particular advertisement, and just listened to it on the audio feed. They played the "Cars for Kids" spot too often, but it was an improvement.
Finally, what is this silliness with funny uniforms and hats? Are the teams THAT desperate for funds that they need to sell clothing to make payroll? I missed the highlights of a blacked-out game this morning since I didn’t see uniforms I recognized!
Thanks for your attention---
July 28, 2018: Guest Column by The Mysterious Red-haired Woman
I left the vision center wearing my darkest sunglasses, clutching the receipt for the lenses carrying my newly minted prescription and went home to wait for my vision to clear from the eye exam dilation chemicals. Things were still blurry when I went to bed but, no worries. Mine was a late afternoon eye exam and the eye drops might still be in my system I thought. The double vision was still firmly in place when I awoke the next morning. After Google searches indicated dilation’s normal duration seldom exceeding 6 hours, I returned to the vision center as soon as they opened to express my concern. The vision center agreed my condition wasn’t usual. They rechecked my sight with glasses and without, pronouncing everything the same as the first exam including the recommended prescription. Maybe my system was different, they said. Perhaps I should just wait a while longer for the drops to wear off.
I don’t wait well, especially when my analytical subconscious knows I missed something. But, these folks were certified specialists, so I took their advice and waited, somewhat. My husband and I also started researching and not just internet searches. We consulted my insurance carrier’s nurse information line, contacted my primary care doctor to secure a referral to an ophthalmologist for a second opinion. My double vision persisted while we worked through day 2 and day 3 after dilation.
On day 4, I was rewarded with an early morning appointment. The ophthalmologist’s technician quietly took all my information, repeated the same vision tests short of dilating my eyes. She was puzzled. All looked good except for my double vision complaint. She looked at my glasses and asked if any adjustments had been made by the optician at the vision center. Yes, I said. I asked for updated lenses for my frames. And yes, the optician said she had to trace the lenses to ensure a good fit with the new lenses. The technician took them to “read” their prescription and “Eureka”, the right and left lenses had been switched! The vision center switched the lenses back to normal later that with sincere apologies.
Here’s the “sad but true” moral of this story. Multiple, simple, quality checks were missed in this saga, any one of which would have shortened or eliminated the terror I experienced at the prospect of my vision having been permanently impaired.
My subconscious was right, as usual, but it lacked the knowledge to solve the problem. Stress of the situation didn’t help critical thinking either. The struggle to obtain that knowledge through the insurance and medical machine was equally stressful but, thankfully, I was believed.
I hope this story helps you believe your subconscious when it tells you to get more, better information. Thanks for listening.
July 27, 2018 How do you handle potentially "fake news"?
I am currently more involved than I would like to be in a flame-war… details are less than unimportant, but it raised an interesting problem: how do you know when something was fake news?
So… how do you determine if something is the first report of an important breaking event, the mindless gossip of people with time on their hands, or a malicious attempt to manipulate events with untrue, partially true, or misleadingly portrayed information?
There are some relatively straight-forward methods that require only a little effort on your part. I hate quoting myself, but: "The simplest methodology is lifted from the US military, so you already paid for it. With it, you focus on the source and the credibility of the information, leading to a simple alphanumeric designator, such as "A1" or "F6".
Reliability is based on the known performance of the source of the information, and is rated alphabetically:
a- Completely Reliable
b- Usually Reliable
c- Fairly reliable
d- Not Usually Reliable
f- Reliability Unknown
Credibility focuses on the information itself: Is it believable as a thing in itself?
1- Confirmed by Other Sources
2- Probably True
3- Possibly True
6- Credibility unknown”
Look at each story you see and assign it a classification number, based on your subjective experiences, before passing it along. Think about what it means. You might decide not to repost, to repost with warnings, or hold the story and its original poster up to ridicule…. Your choice, but at least you will be examining each story by the same standards. If nothing else you might think about why you trust a certain source more or less than others, and gain a greater understanding of your personal “standards of belief” and why you think this way. It may feel unnatural at first, but it is better than feeling like an idiot later.
After a while you may decide just not to read certain data flows, since the source just isn’t up to your standards. Note that this does NOT mean that they aren’t right some of the time, or are being malicious, or acting as full-time Agents of Evil. Remember though, the first report of something important can be from an unreliable source of improbable information... you have to know the characteristics of your own, personal Lunatic Fringe.
Never forget that your personal reputation as an information provider hangs with everything you post online. Bad information, analysis and assessment can be with you forever.
July 16, 2018: Soft on RUSSIA?
Lots of Talking Heads on the mainstream media screaming that Trump is treasonously soft on the Russians. Really?
Since he was sworn in, DJT has
This was just off the top of my head, without research. I am sure I have missed a few things.
I seem to recall that during the October 22, 2012 Presidential Debate Obama told Romney “the 1980’s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back — because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.” Looks like the Democrats have changed their mind on a few things... or do they think YOU have forgotten? Remember Hillary giving Putin a "relationship reset" button that said "That Was Easy" when pushed?
Looks like the Warhawks are back. Don’t forget Democrats Presidents got us involved in WW1, WW2*, Korea, Viet Nam and, to be honest, the American Civil War.
* Check FDR's policies BEFORE Pearl Harbor....
June 15, 2018: MINOR Genealogy update
To my surprise and delight, I just had a hit on my yDNA line, (passed directly from father to son) from a different branch of the clan. Our lines both seem to have branched off from the same forefather within about 20 generations or so… early 1500s. My only other link prior to this was back at roughly 450 AD, so this is quite an improvement. The dates will shift, as there was a lot of intermarriage in the small, remote Alpine village our ancestors spent time in, and that can mess up calculations.
I had pretty much given up on this line of research since our branch is VERY small, and few people have actually spent the money to be tested. Genes for frugality are entirely hypothetical, mind you. Frugality is just a …virtue. Honest. More testing, analysis and research needs to be done but… hey, that is the fun part. TWO links from the same place is interesting. I have been testing and upgrading since 2003, started and "tested out" at FTDNA.com (and yFull), and have just taken the Ancestry.com test to support my family tree there. The 23&me version is next... big sale on now.
yDNA and mtDNA are mostly useful for deep genealogy, not the “out to fourth cousin” tests commonly advertised for finding ethnicity. In my opinion, though, it is where the really useful and interesting stuff on human migrations is hidden. I am I-a8689, sometimes called I2A3, or even I-P37.2*Alpine (depending on when you last looked) for yDNA, the original pre-Ice Age settlers of Europe. My mom’s folks, H7D2A wandered in after things warmed up. She always hated cold weather.
May 7, 2018: Hawaii is NOT Puerto Rico
Looks like a major disaster might be winding up in Hawaii— time to think before the knee-jerk anti-administration ranting about racially biased aid distribution begins. (“Asians” and Islanders are ethnic majorities on Hawaii, just as Hispanics are on Puerto Rico.)
Volcanos and earthquakes are NOT hurricanes. From a recovery perspective, volcanos and earthquakes are geographically limited, relatively contained events, with a huge hinterland that will remain at least relatively undamaged. Hurricane Maria, for comparison, stretched 300 miles, far wider than the Island, and moved directly from Puerto Rico up the sea route needed to bring relief to the island, blocking them completely until the storm moved on. There was NO place to run, nowhere to hide. In Hawaii, disaster recovery can be staged from "just down the road a bit."
Massive, featured -on-Discover Channel style eruptions are NOT likely. Kilauea’s eruptions seem, historically, to have a Volcanic Explosivity Index near zero, with lava flows typified as effusive and continuous. UPDATE MAY 10, 2018: USGS has mentioned the possibility of phreatic "steam" explosions from Kilauea. This could be Very Bad. It could also be bureaucratic butt-covering, or a press-generated distraction. Estimates include debris in the 10-ton chunk range.
Earthquakes—and 6.9 is bigger than I would ever want to experience-- are driven by local vulcanism. (OK, Mega-tsunamis could be huge if there is a major landslide. These have been massive but are uncommon... but could do more damage to nearby islands than an eruption. The solution is to head uphill fast. Based on its disaster site, California seems far more concern about tsunamis generated by local plate tectonics than by distant landslides.)
Some drone footage seems to show that the major lava pools have drained, so the even might be working itself out-- there is plenty more hot glowing rock where today's shipment came from, though.
Hawaii is not Puerto Rico. Both are islands, but it pretty much stops there. Hawaiian infrastructure is reportedly in much better condition than its PR counterpart was. People KNEW they were building near a volcano. Vulcanism is a well-understood part of Hawaiian life—in fact, it is a tourist attraction.
On the other hand, both are pretty much single-party states. Neither seemed to pay much attention to civil defense. Evacuation is, in both cases, pretty much impossible in any realistic time-frame.
Competent help is nearby. Even though the US military is not set up for large scale civilian disaster relief, Hawaii has many military bases that will be likely untouched by anything other than an expectedly large and explosive eruption. Further, the bases on the pacific Coast will remain untouched under most circumstances. Help can move into place swiftly, despite the distance. Bases on Puerto Rico were shut down by 2005.
With vulcanism, the best risk remediation is Being Somewhere Else When It Happens.
May 4, 2018: Throwing Money At A Problem...
Throwing even limited amounts of money at a problem is usually my LEAST favorite way to improve things, but sometimes You Just Gotta…
You Tube is aligning itself with the rest of the Google and Facebook properties and seems actively intent on eliminating nonProgressive information feeds. They deny this is the case, of course.
There are a couple of ways to respond—some free.
You can help keep us from being submerged forever under a wave of feel-good, fluffy-kitten progressive media output. This is, sad to say, a long, drawn-out struggle where the Bad Guys LITERALLY own the high ground.
March 27, 2018: Civis Americanus Sum.
There has been lots of talk by the Former Slaveowners’ Party this week about how Evil Republicans are trying to Mess With The Census, Dominate Elections and Destroy America's Future by asking citizenship-related questions on the next Census. Several Attorneys General have promised to sue the Federal Government over the issue.
For the record, EVERY SINGLE US Census in the 20th Century except 1960 asked directly, under penalty of perjury, about Citizenship. ALL demanded place of birth, PARENTS' place of birth and languages spoken. Most asked about "ancestry" or ethnicity. Interesting, many of the surveys asked if the respondent was an idiot or insane, questions that should be considered for re-instatement. Place of birth, from which some estimate of citizenship can be derived, has been asked, in some form, since the seventh decennial census in 1850. The Question was asked DIRECTLY 1850-1950, 1970-2000.
I checked with my own eyeballs at the official US Census website. YOU can do that too. The Democrats are counting on you NOT to do it. What are YOU going to do?
The link: census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/2010.html
February 23, 2018: "Turkey Shoot" or Chicken... Droppings?
I posted some links on my Facebook page over the past few days on an even in the Middle East that is being called the “Deir Ezzor Turkey Shoot”, an armed conflict between US and Russian forces in Syria. There has been essentially NO mainstream media coverage of this story in the US. I just might be having some second thoughts about it, though.
Back in early February there were mainstream media reports that a US drone had hellfired an old Russian T-72 tank in Syria. No real follow-up or excitement then, but over the next 15 days there were increasing and conflicting rumors—including reports on Bloomberg, Reuters and ABC-- that a MAJOR event had occurred. UPDATE: on April 12, 2018 Mr. Pompeo confirmed during his confirmation hearings for Secretary of State that a "couple of hundred Russians were killed" in Syria.
Summing up the rumor-stream it was suggested that:
While it is fairly obvious SOMETHING happened it is hard to figure out where on the “One drone, one missile, one tank three dead” to “an entire Russian mechanized battalion exterminated in under 10 minutes” continuum the truth lies.
Several correspondents of mine have suggest the whole event is being kept quiet to avoid escalating tensions and permit each side to back down gracefully. Others think that the Mercenaries were operating “on their own” trying to capture an oil field. I agreed for awhile that Messages Were Being Sent by the US to Russia, Turkey, China, Iran and North Korea.
I now suspect that we are seeing active misinformation, disinformation and malinformation campaigns by several players, including, but not limited to, proPutin and antiPutin political forces inside Russia. It might just be some very inventive trolls-- possibly employed by an group with "interests in the outcome"-- screwing with our heads.
I have not one single clue how this situation-- if there even IS a situation-- will resolve itself. I suspect it will just fade into the background noise.
January 19, 2018: Nothing to sneeze at...
OK, it is ‘flu season again. Did you get your shot?
One of the things you either forgot or were never taught was that in 1918 a killer strain of influenza spread worldwide within 6 months. Approximately 6% of humanity died, and over a third of all living humans were infected. Information was stifled on both sets of allied nations, so as not to reveal the disease’s impact on warfighting capability.
Back in 2008 I was heavily involved in researching the potential impact of an influenza pandemic, first on information technology in financial services, later as part of a team considering pandemic impacts on businesses in general.
FEMA believed there would be multiple, unevenly distributed waves of infection, with possibly 90 million US infections. They thought infection rates would be 20% for adults and 40% for children, with perhaps 2 million US deaths. Projections indicated over 70% of enterprises moderate-severely disrupted experiencing 40% absenteeism for as long as eight weeks. Some organizations were expected to experience +95% absentee rates.
The very best epidemiologists in the world missed their projections, thankfully. That H1N1 t ‘flu was milder, though more infectious, than expected, and impacted different demographics. This was good, since the vaccines—and continuity of operations plans, were deficient.
I am not going to go into what we recommended to our clients who paid a LOT for the research. I will note, though, that response plans were optimistic. Damned few firms were willing to contemplate high death rates.
After a while, I wasn’t with That Wonderful Firm anymore, but I kept up on continuity issues in general. You might want to keep these observations in mind:
There doesn’t seem to be any need to panic at all right now. REPEAT: there doesn’t seem to be any need to panic at all right now. It is a good time, though, to review your general home (and business) preparedness measures.
December 13, 2017: Whining about Bad Political Analysis.
OK, even more whining. I gotta call out bad analysis when I see it.
So far the major media-- Fox included-- have utterly missed the point: Most media polls were predicting a Democrat victory for most of the campaigns. There were huge variances, but... Jones was generally the favorite of the pollsters, often by several percent..
I think it irresponsible to call this election an overwhelming victory for the Democrats. Yes, indeed they won… by 1.54%. Preliminary numbers indicate Jones took 49.92%, Moore 48.38%, not anywhere near a resounding victory—in sports I suspect it would be called a squeaker, won in the bottom of the ninth inning with a badly-fielded walk-off single.
Let Us Remember:
The Republican, Moore was considered by most to be the worst candidate in a generation, reportedly roundly disliked by his own local and national party leaders. He defeated the National Republican Party’s hand-picked candidate in a late run-off. Despite that, he lost by less than 2%
He faced an unending drumbeat of personal attacks from the mainstream news and talk-show powerhouse. Despite that, he lost by less than 2%.
The Republican faced UNPROVEN allegations of sex-crimes during a rare bit of media and national outrage on the subject. Despite that, he lost by less than 2%.
The mainstream media reported that Democrats funneled huge amounts of out-of-state money to support their candidate, dramatically outspending the Republicans. Despite that, he lost by less than 2%.
None of this particularly points towards a broad-based surge in support for generic Democrat candidates in 2018.
(Problems with polling were discussed brilliantly by Nate Silver at https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-the-hell-is-happening-with-these-alabama-polls/amp/?__twitter_impression=true)
(Though we await Opensecrets.org's analysis, spending was discussed at (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/roy-moore-scandal-ignites-fundraising-explosion-democratic-challenger-doug-jones-n821961)
December 1, 2017: OK, this time I AM whining…
I am in the process of wasting part of my life car-shopping.
I do not want, or really need, to purchase a vehicle right now, and HATE shopping for cars. We are searching because my current car, a Nissan Quest min-van, is no longer being produced-- and having been happy Pontiac and Saturn owners, we KNOW this is the time to cut and run, even though it is in fine condition, and one of us still likes it.
My main vehicular criteria? FITTING through the door.
Almost all vehicles now have canted their windscreens dropped their rooflines and narrowed their front doors enough to make access by a people with bad backs and other worn-out parts very difficult. While I know it makes them more fuel efficient and safer in a roll-over, it also means I cannot drive them. Sad to say, but car-makers also seem to be ignoring the trend that Americans Just Aren’t Getting Thinner.
I have tried 15 minivans and SUVs so far... only 3 were even marginally accessible. I have 4 more to try as soon as my back and knee recover... not to mention the bruise over my right ear from whacking my head on car roofs.
Right now, my best, though limited, options seem to be some things on the truck-side of SUVs—some of which cost more, and are larger, than my first house. Can you spell YUCK, boys and girls?
I admire their perseverance, but salescritters kept trying to sell their Stuff to me, even when it was plainly obvious I did not, and could not, fit their offerings. WHY should “great financing” matter in that case? Their “customer service teams” just don’t seem to get the hint either… FOUR follow-up calls and multiple eMails for something I can’t use?
November 22, 2017: TALK to them...
For once, this is a genealogical rant, and NOT a political one. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the US, a chance for families and friends to get together, talk and maybe eat a bit too much. Maybe.
Holidays are your prime chance to get the answers to family history questions like who is really related to who, where everyone lived, and the tiny, intimate details of everyday life that might bore YOU to tears, but will be fascinating to YOUR grandchildren. Maybe you can even convince some of the Older Ones to take a genetic test... there are lots of tear-jerking reality TV shows that may have softened them up a bit.
You will hate yourself later if you let this chance pass you by. With luck, genealogy will be less controversial than politics.
Regardless of ANYTHING else, Happy Thanksgiving to All!
November 8, 2017: Stop Whining...
Honestly, how can Republicans losing the Virginia and New Jersey governors' races be considered a surprise? You ARE kidding, right? The amazing thing is how well Republicans did in two dominantly Democrat states, not how poorly.
Virginia was, and is, the Heart of the Swamp. Only six of their thirty-six Governors since Reconstruction ended in 1874 have been Republicans. They hold grudges there, it seems.
Christie was a rare anticorruption anomaly in a state noted, shall we say, for procedural irregularities. No surprises here. The previous four Governors of New Jersey were Democrats.
Keep in mind— your local candidates need money and support. I was just faced with a supposedly non-partisan local election without a single Republican or Conservative option. National money and data on supporters doesn't seem to have trickled down to the county level.
One of the key drivers in the Constitution is driving decision making back to the State and local level, so non-national races count in a big way. We need to expect variation in policies, pick the best choice we can, and, if necessary, vote with our feet.
October 10, 2010: Before I get overtaken by Events...
This stuff would normally sit awhile (until I got a Clue, usually) , but I suspect I am about to be overtaken by events.
Lots of times I see tinder, and oxygen, but no spark. So far. These aren’t trends, or emerging events, but the substrate from whence such things might grow. I haven’t even made a slide for these yet. I am confident in the observations, but these are political projections, and anything might change at any time. NOTHING is to be construed as investing advice… ever.
October 3, 2017: Silly Opinions on Hurricane Relief Efforts.
This is a disjointed summary of several AMATEUR Facebook conversations on recovery efforts for Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico. Thanks to everyone who took part. Many thanks to Google and Wikipedia.
A series of gross oversimplifications:
Water is HEAVY: On average, people consume 10lbs of food & water a day. Might be more in tropics as water usage is higher. Water is HEAVY, and the first efforts were supplied by helicopters.
Airports weren't open yet. Airdrop capability is a small fraction of what it was during the Cold War, and THAT is US based...NC, GA, we think. What I have read leads me to think that military airlift is in critically short supply even for day-to-day operations. No one has ever managed to supply something the size of PR by air. (The Berlin Airlift just slowed the rate of starvation to manageable levels. Mostly carried coal dust for winter heating and grain.)
Most US cities have around 3 days supply of food. I suspect PR, being an island, had a bit more, but not much more. The grocery industry is optimized for fast, even, throughput, and almost nothing sits in warehouses for more than a few days. "Just in time" manufacturing and process optimization means there is almost no slack, and a lot of delays means hungry people. (Some of us discovered during pandemic planning that, using history as a guide, food riots start within a week of a strict quarantine. The similarity between pandemics and PR imilarity is that disaster planners generally have unaffected are contiguous to them to stage first wave recovery from. The mainland is too far away to be an easy recovery base... it is like recovering in Chicago from NYC.) I have been digging around, and can't find much about disaster recovery on THIS scale. I hope the WW2 playbooks are still available. WW3 planning assumed cities were gone, but road/rail intact except for major switching centers. There was nothing public about planning for event like this, though.
Why no local military-lead recovery? Armed forces are optimized to destroy things, and are already heavily over-tasked. The National Guard has been focused on war fighting. The regular armed forces were severely cut post-Cold War, and were never designed to do this in the first place. There was massive base-closing from 1988-2005, to “save money”. PR forced closure of navy bases there years ago, redeveloping the property for tourism. EVERYHING has to be shipped in from unaffected areas, by ships that had to go around a hurricane headed up along the coast.
In short, not much can get to non-coastal areas until the harbors and roads are open. How long does it take to get roads open if ALL roads & bridges down? Years. Longer than it took to build them in the first place. There used to be sea-transportable water treatment plants... concrete plants too. This work is dominantly done now by contractors ("mercenaries and war profiteers" according to media) and STILL has to be assembled and shipped in.
I am still wondering how/ where on debris removal... massive chipper/grinders, and equally big trucks (and fuel, and...) to haul them. All must be imported. Opening the ports and roads is the FIRST priority, as everything hangs from it.
September 12, 2017: Can you trust your search engine results?
PROJECTION: the influence of social media magnates on elections will be the surprise element and key scandal in the US’s 2018 mid-term elections, starting no later than December 2017.
Most of us know that media sources have definite political agendas, even if they refuse to admit it, but may be surprised to think that we are “getting the wrong answers” when we look things up online.
Test: I freely admit I drink too much coffee and think too much about this sort of stuff. Sooo--- here is a chance for YOU to figure out if it is time for decaf and a new hobby.
I would be delighted to be wrong about this.
August 21, 2017: Eclipse notwithstanding, same sandwich, different day.
Those of you unfortunate enough to have worked with me might remember how I always kept a slide-deck of “Emerging Situations” prepared and updated, on the odd chance that they would be useful. Sort of like having a few backup ammunition magazines in your pocket. Catchy graphic, a solid soundbite for the lead, and fill the notes sections with observations. Often, being seen as smart just means being slightly better prepared.
I was updating a slide the other day (what made you think I would stop?) and noticed that, to my surprise, nothing had changed except, maybe, the names of some of the players. Some of these “emerging” situations have been bubbling away for 10 or more years without coming to an actionable crisis. Some of them have been in place for hundreds of years without resolution.
Honestly, the chance of Civil War breaking out anytime soon is effectively zero. Gang wars aside, there seems to be less violence going on right now than after a disputed sporting event. The media is playing you for a sucker… the side most generally supportive of “law and order” just isn’t all that likely to start fighting in the street.
Coup d’Etat? The chance that the Progressive Left will instigate and lead a military coup in their favor is so remote that it isn’t even laughable.
Pre 2018 Impeachment? This requires indictment by the Republican-dominated House Committee on the Judiciary and passage by a simple majority of the Republican-held House. Prosecutors need a two-thirds vote in the still-Republican Senate. Holding your breath? Please don’t fall over here.
You are the victim of a media desperately trying to retain their relevance and income streams. Think they are unfair or deliberately misleading? Complain to their advertisers. NOTHING else, short term, will work.
July 20, 2017: OK, I lied about the updates.
Actually, the reader count is near zero these days, and I didn’t want to write anything inflammatory to boost ratings. Sorry. Too hot to think here in the Triangle right now. I watered some plantings at dawn this morning, and sweated through my gear within minutes.
Some idle thoughts:
Sudden family things and general busyness dragged our butts back up to the Imperial City area this week, really for the first time in three or so years. I was surprised at the large number of vacant stores and business locations right next to new and ongoing construction for both in the People’s Republics of Connecticut and Westchester. Back from the coast a bit, many empty storefronts and dead businesses, though. Small, locally-owned firms seemed to be the worst hit.
The divergence between rich and un-rich seems to be growing, at least as evidenced by a long drive down Route 1, along the coast. Residential construction (old reflexes die hard, I guess...still looking for that sea-front fixer-upper) seemed to be centered on that uneasy border between “McMansion” and “Imperial Palaces”. Some Amazing Things are being built, so I guess money is still no object for some, despite the State wobbling toward bankruptcy.
The cash being poured into infrastructure, though seems limitless. I lived in that area for 50+ years and NEVER saw the roads in such good shape. Some of I-95, though, seems to have been under repair and renovation since 1980. Rush hour southbound from New Haven was still bumper-to-bumper, with hot and cold running maniacs, at 11:00 AM. I had the supreme joy of sitting in traffic next to a bright yellow supercar of some sort as we moved, inch by inch, southward.
I was surprised to hear political talk at the craft show we attended, some quite vicious, all from the Left. Several well-groomed Shiny Folk were loudly assuring each other that they had unfriended and ostracized former friends and relations that were “Republicans.” One was “terrified” that there might be Republicans still working at his firm. I behaved myself, remembering that most of us had left the state already, and the remainders probably had status as Protected Species. As an economic note, VERY few people seemed to actually be buying anything. Except us, of course.
May 22, 2017: Sort of a placeholder...
My apologies for the lack of blogging. I have been editing and rewriting a 200+ page matrilineal family history, running back to 1860ish. All descendants of Mary Elizabeth McCabe, roughly 1840, with all descendants of all lines (and all lines run back to emigration to the US), detailed up to the 1940 US Federal Census, with scanned copies of 90+% of the vital records on thumbdrives. I tried to read the new Irish Parish Records, but some of the entries seem to have been written by someone holding the pen between their toes, while running to their next appointment. I will never again accept criticism of MY handwriting. Ever.
My old Editor will be happy to know that I gave up my careful, surgical approach to the existing text, and am now wielding the literary equivalent of a claymore. Huge bloody chunks of explanatory text, open research questions, careful drawing and detailed tables of dates and locations are now buried deep in appendices, most likely never to be seen again. Careful discussions of research protocols methodological considerations? Gone out back somewhere. Bye! Interesting explanations of who did what, where are now reduced to "All Descendants of.." charts. Very soothing. All speculation is now clearly marked as such, and Genealogical Proof Standards are pretty much adhered to, most of the time. (That is what I am working on now…)
Moving to a straight matrilineal approach, aimed at my sisters' daughters' yet unborn daughters focused things wonderfully-- got rid of 60+ pages of yDNA stuff, pushed into a free-standing document of its own. This will eventually become an essay on history, viewed from my yDNA haplogroup. There is a LOT of new research on the settlement of Europe that I need to assimilate and digest.
I should be back shortly. Honest.
March 7, 2017: What happens to politics when voters “cannot” forget?
I have been watch both the repeal of the soi-dissant “Affordable Care Act” and the media slug-fest about Possible Impacts of Evil Russians on the political process with increasing… I don’t know, maybe puzzlement is the best word.
My confusion does not relate to who is on each of the many sides in either scuffle—more with the implications on future political discourse when everything a politician has said on camera, tweeted or written is instantly metatagged and stuffed in a database. We have already seen this to some extent in the last two POTUS campaigns, and recent confirmation hearings. The “Russian Ambassador” meme is now widespread and still humorous. It may just have killed off, or limited, that investigation.
The ready availability of previous statements will stiffen position-holding, making compromise and deal-making extremely difficult. Politicians may find themselves unable to adjust their positions as things change and their understanding improves. This will be very bad, several steps worse than political correctness.
Politicians will drain their rhetoric of anything that might be held against them in the future, rendering the essential discourse of their role as innocuous as an elevator conversation about the weather. Adaptability to circumstances is admirable, but hard to defend to a constituency that really doesn’t want to pay attention, and expects stuff not to change.
It will be progressively harder to get people to run for office, or fill roles requiring confirmation. We are already seeing this. Would you volunteer to have every tweet and statement you have made examined by people who need to prove you are uniquely unsuitable for a job?
I expect to keep chewing on this without result for quite a while, and will try not to bother you too much with it.
February 12, 2017: Post-Election Stress Disorder?
OK, it is well past the 2016 POTUS Election, and maybe, just maybe, too soon by a couple of days to start morbidly obsessing about the midterm elections. Really.
The whole damned thing, from the soft jerky start to shuddering, late-night finish was an adrenalin surge for all sides, in many ways like riding a bicycle, blindfolded, down a stairwell. Bumps, jumps, unexpected turns then sudden quiet. I think I, a feckless amateur, was paying 4 hours a day of rapt attention, not counting time spent writing snaky Facebook posts and Tweets.
Many of us have are trying to fill the sudden hole in our lives by recreating the excitement and remembered drama, picking fights over trivia. Folks seem to miss the heady, soul-filling taste of Us against Them. Life-as-usual is… dull.
We have figured it out by now: you don’t like us, we don’t like you, other parties don’t like either of us, and in a short time no one will care. Again. ALL the old coalitions we call political parties are in turmoil, and are either realigning or breaking up. Got it. Understood. We used to call this “business as usual.”
A civil war is NOT starting, and it is just NOT the End of the World as We Knew It. The disturbances I am seeing on The Noisy Box seem, honestly, like a low-budget “reality” drama, thrown together at the last minute in a desperate attempt to keep our eyes glued to the screen and our brains unfocused, watching advertising. From here, the plot looks rather thin, and the characters need a lot of work.
The main-stream media is terrified of losing your attention, and the revenue YOU generate. Expect all sorts of manufactured crises in the next few months.
February 5, 2017: Why do people listen to actors and comedians?
“WAKE UP & JOIN THE RESISTANCE. ONCE THE MILITARY IS W US FASCISTS GET OVERTHROWN. MAD KING & HIS HANDLERS GO BYE BYE”
Some Wonderful Person, a TV comedian seemingly, has called for a military coup ‘etat to “overthrow the Fascists”. IF you were looking for a single, paradigmatic example of how far removed the Progressives and Liberals are from reality, this would be a good choice.
If putsch comes to shove, there are some hard realities:
· Active-duty US military and veteran voters overwhelmingly supported DJT… the last poll I saw on the subject, November 22, 2016, showed a 3 to 1 lead for Trump over Clinton in that segment. Exit polls reportedly showed veterans supported Trump by a 2 to 1 margin. Absent major, provable, well-documented and generally-accepted threats to the US Constitution, that comedian and her friends are going to have a long wait.
• Democrats and Progressives clump. City lab.com came up with a remarkable statistic: , “below 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Republican. Above 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Democrat.” Democrats are “generally” concentrated in and around certain major urban areas. In general, these have less than days’ supply of food, and tenuous water supplies. Power lines into cities are large, and impossible to defend. Republicans are highly dispersed. With extremely limited and unreliable data, I think far more “preppers” Lean Republican than Democrat. Military bases tend to be rather remote from major urban conglomerations, rendering "marching shoulder-to-shoulder into That Golden Dawn" an unlikely way to garner their support.
• Firearms are cumulative and permanent. I have some usable firearms that are fairly close to a century old. Note that while recent numbers show a decline in firearms purchases (OPINION: price-gouging is a current industry reality.) Gallup polls from 2010 show only 20% of Democrats admit to owning a firearm, on a dropping trendline, while over half of Republicans admit to owning firearms, on a rising trendline. Overall, Obama and Clinton were the best sales drivers for firearms purchases in recent American history.
I suspect that the Idiot Remarks In Question do not reflect the majority thought in either the population as a whole, or in its Democrat-leaning segments, but wonder if I am wrong in discounting the role of Such People in thought-leadership for likely voters over time.
The 2018 races—just over 20 months away—are looking to be even more important than we thought. What are you doing to secure the blessings of Liberty?
January 22, 20117: Watching the Snowflakes melt…
After a while you begin to wonder... did Snowflakes flunk Civics? Did they remember the Electoral College? Are they able to Google-search what it takes to change the US Constitution? Can they count how few states where they hold the statehouse, and control both chambers of the state legislature?
First, the Congress seems to be doing its level best to ignore the various State Calls for an Article 5 Constitutional Convention. Since there is no specified time limit on calls, the necessary two-thirds majority of States Calling the Convention has long ago been met. Keep in mind that there are NO limits on what can come out of such a Convention. I leave speculation on this to my readers.
Second, the way most folks think of it, is by the proposed Amendment to pass the House AND Senate by a two-thirds vote. Please note that the Republicans can block any Amendment now, without necessarily being able to pass one against opposition. The proposed Amendment must then be sent by Congress to either the State legislatures or special State ratifying conventions. If ratified by THREE Quarters (38) of the States. Constitutionally, there is NO time limit on ratification, though the Amendment MAY include such a limit in its text.
In either event, 34 States can Call for an Amendment, and 38 must ratify it
Finally, right now, Republicans hold the presidency, and have effective control of the House and Senate. Democrats hold the statehouse and legislatures of FIVE (5) (ONE TENTH) of the States, Republicans have full control of TWENTY FIVE States.
The 2018 races are IMPORTANT, and the campaigns have already begun.
January 6, 2017: More Post-Election Thoughts.
Okay, Congress assembled, and counted the Electoral College votes, and we can exhale. What next?
1-- Reminder: make sure you have signed up for your congresscritters’ Twitter feeds, and pay attention to them. Bookmark their websites too. Hold them immediately accountable for their actions. ONE day of reading MY congressman’s tweets made me resolve to double my campaign contribution to his opponent.
2- Keep focused: You have probably stopped obsessing over the news. THIS is why we lost in 2008 and 2012. Capture and update stories of wrong-doing and malfeasance so you have them ready at hand when needed.
3- Watch your flanks: migration away from the bicoastal cesspits continues, which may change the characteristics of your voting district and area in odd ways. Keep alert for changes. My “new 55+ community” might be big enough to swing a local election on its own when building ends in two years. Note that it was TWO YEARS before anyone from our local party contacted us, though we registered to vote within days of moving... please don't let potential new voters feel unloved.
4- Volunteer: Younger readers should consider running for local office in 2018, or volunteering for duty on public boards and groups, especially those related to education. Older readers should keep their checkbooks handy and back Likely Young Pups with money.
5- Put your money where your heart is. I have ceased doing business with some firms whose leaders’ politics I find repulsive.
6- Why do you watch people who hate you? I am near the last of people to suggest NOT watching opposition news, but just following their twitter feeds instead of watching their broadcasts eventually cuts down their revenue from commercials.
Hopefully I can get back to interesting things in my next entry. “Pitchers and Catchers Call” is coming up soon… and I need to do a Daily Rant on genetics in genealogy research.
November 10, 2016: Some post-Election Day thoughts…
1- It isn't over. Set up a 2017 budget, even a little one, to save up for campaign contributions to the candidate of your choice. They even notice $100 contributions. $1,000 to a state or local-level race can make you New Friends. FOLLOW ALL THE RULES.
2- Get on the email list of your political servants. Pay at least a small amount of attention to what they do. SEND THEM A PERSONAL E-MAIL WHEN THEY SCREW UP OR DO SOMETHNG GOOD. You have opinions on Facebook... send them to your employee. Friend or follow them on Facebook. Praise good actions on your blog.
3- Be Prepared to help. You know how the Mysterious Background Figures and Influencers in politics got there? Many offered research and opinion to Congressional and Legislative staffers, and proved to be reliable. Most of my readers are experts in SOMETHING… many of you are reliable. ALL of you have opinions. Offer them.
4- Use it or lose it. OK, you bought a firearm. Learn to use it. Training is readily available, and usually quite inexpensive. As a hobby, it is cheaper than golf.
4- Speak up. There WILL be a propaganda war against you. Fight it with facts. Be relentless in defense. Do not let them control the narrative.
5- Gloat not, lest gloater become gloatee.
I am Richard J. ("Rick") DeLotto, MBA, former knowledge wrangler, ignorance manager, Cassandrist, competitive intelligence worker and research analyst... currently wandering around unattended exercising my curiosity. This is almost indistinguishable from being retired.
Briar Patch Research