Sunday, December 30, 2012

Enslavement, Freedom, Re-Enslavement, Singularity/Freedom?

 As a young man I went through a period of OCD fascination with all things American Civil War ("ACW"). It was the mid-1980's and Gore Vidal's "Lincoln" found its way into my hands (as a teenager I raided my mother's "library" and came away with Vidal's "Burr" which set me off as a "Revolutionary Generation" groupie).

I won't bore you with my sense of the ACW here. Suffice it to say that it conforms with about 80% of the accepted narrative. I would only remind you that history is written by the victors with little consideration paid to the "victims"- the individuals used (killed, wounded, sickened) to further the political interests of the powerful. The term "survivor bias" is usually used in business, particularly for mutual funds, but I think the term's best use would be in the description of war.

Using the popular narrative that the ACW was fought to end slavery and to further freedom, that freedom did not long last on American Soil. The decades following the ACW were followed by years of "economic recession" and stagnation. This malaise was fertile ground for the "revolution" of 1913 - the enactment of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing Congress to levy a tax on income.  That same year, 1913, saw the U.S. enact the Federal Reserve Act ("FRA").  This was not a coincidence.

So let me cut to the chase: The U.S. fought the ACW (accepted narrative) to further the interests of Liberty, enacts the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in 1864, finds the following period's economic environment unsatisfactory, and re-establishes slavery with the 16th Amendment and the Federal Reserve Act.

Yea, I know... this is sort of a simple minded assertion - until you think about it. WWI and WWII (really one war with a 2 decade armistice. And what was Germany's, really all of Socialism's, motivation? To end the debt system) were fought for a great many reasons, or so our Western Intellectuals tell us (Chomsky often derides "intellectuals" as bright folks that need to make things complicated so they can sound smart by simplifying... seems to me he has a point), but to my mind these Wars were fought over bond (debt) payments - and all of the bleeding was done by folks that owned no bonds.

But back to the re-establishment of slavery in the U.S. by expanding the debt system, by enacting the income tax, and by establishing "Social Security".  The U.S. KILLED well over 1 million people (those during the ACW, those that died of their wounds in the years following the ACW, the dependent women and children that died as a result of the loss of a provider that was killed in the ACW) for the purposes of ending slavery, but how else can the life of modern "Debt Slave" ("DS") be described (this is not to make light of the living conditions of Slaves in the Pre-ACW South)? True, today's DS is not subject to beatings, rape, and violence - unless he does not pay his taxes (and winds up in prison), doesn't pay his mortgage (and winds up on the street), does not pay his car payment (winds up a pedestrian in a world constructed around the automobile), or does not pay his student loans (and as a result lives a penniless existence).

OK. For those that reject that line of reasoning regarding the use of "Slave" in "Debt Slave" please feel free to use "Indentured Servant" ("IS").

And here comes the Technological Singularity ("TS"). Or maybe just TS Light. Stuart Staniford has this excellent essay on TS posted at his blog.

I have nothing to add to the discussion on what TS or TS Light means, but the exponential increase in computer processing power is going to accelerate the automation and robotization in the labor market. Yesteryear saw ATM's put bank tellers out to pasture, along with gas pump operators, telephone receptionists, and check out clerks. Today, lawyers in the paper pushing business have gotten bushwhacked. Liberal Arts Colleges and College professors are freaking doomed,                         (who needs to be physically present to listen to a person repeat a lecture over and over again? Can't we record the lecture once and watch it forever on youtube? For free? This is was always such horse sh#!. The history of the "lecture" in education has at its base the fact that in previous times most people were illiterate. The only way they could learn was to be lectured. Literate people can read the material of the lecture (you know, books? Essays? Dare I say "blogs"?) at their own pace and take the material where they wish at the pace that suits them, the customer/student. Technical educations will still need those pesky labs... but really, how much of your undergrad time was spent in doing labs? A couple hundred hours total? WTF do we need to sit around for 4 years for? Because these people are in business, and their business needs you to pay for "The History of Rock and Roll", "Gender Discrimination in America", "Practical Uses for Yoga" credits in order to "graduate". And why is it all or nothing? Isn't education incremental? Wall Street got rid of fractions on the 1990's. Universities can get rid of "degrees". A numerical representation of academic accomplishment would be ever so much more practical as well as accurate)          
as are truck drivers, taxi drivers, pilots, ship captains, specialty surgeons, infantry soldiers (drones), police officers (cameras)... there is no end that I can see.  What robots did to manufacturing they are going to do to every other sector.

The implications are freaking staggering. Consumer demand would plummet, to my mind, with the slack to be made up by government demand. Run your mind around that for a moment.

And share with me what you see.

To be continued....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Micro proposals/Micro Solutions

Please read this depressing article about the unsettling economic prospects of Generation Y professionals.

I read with great interest the writings of the Great Minds of our day (as well as the musings of lesser mortals) holding forth about solutions to such world wide problems. These folks make some really great points and string their ideas together nicely - all condensed into the internet's written article equivalent of the 3.03 minute pop song. To be fair, far greater minds than mine have addressed these issues... but they were all wrong. If you want to know the real deal, listen up.

Just kidding.

Seriously. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I have asserted and maintained that there really are no macro "solutions" to whatever "problem" confronts "us", not the least of which is due to the fact that it is freaking impossible to define "problem", "solution", and "us". I don't have any answers for how "we" (that is an American centric "we") are going to do about employment, the political reality of our Federal Deficits, the mathematical necessity of the exponential growth of our entitlement programs and military budgets, et al... - and neither do any of our political, economic, social, and intellectual leaders. Oh, a bunch of them can vocalize some of the "problems", but, and this is going to be brutal: very, very few of them have their own house fully in order.

How smart can you really be if your health is not the best you, personally, can arrange (some things are beyond our control) for it to be? How smart can you be if you have arranged your life in such a way that your kids don't speak to you? How smart can you be if you have arranged your life in such a way that you have trouble falling asleep at night?

I regularly hear absolutely brilliant people waxing forth about system wide solutions to some overwhelmingly intractable problems and who just can't seem to get the oil changed in their car - even though they are so broke their car "issue" should be consideration numero uno on their list.

(That reminds me of a great quote from Warren Buffet: "Wall Street is the only place where people travel to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from people that went to work by subway". Everybody loves to quote Buffet. Personally, I am sick of listening to the media's worship of the man but I love this particular quote.)

The system's complexities compounded by an insanely confiscatory tax environment and modern consumerism have conspired to make current expectations both unrealistic and self destructive. That's a hard combination to achieve - but we sure seem to have accomplished just that. (When pointing out that the U.S. has low income taxes when compared to the Socialist European Model American Liberals are being just a tad disingenuous. In America, property taxes are much higher than in Europe, and when ALL taxes, especially payroll taxes, are considered they nearly level the playing field.)

I feel for young people like those mentioned in the above linked article. The collective "system" is not going to relinquish its throttle grip on their individual necks. Me thinks it impossible for any individual to overcome this system, ergo its better to avoid its strangle hold at all costs.

The individual needs new paths to "success" or "security". The idea that one can "stay in school" until 30, shop around for Mr./Mrs. Right for 5 or ten years, drop a kid or 2 in their 40's and be financially secure by their 50's is such an outrageous farce that it is hard to believe so many bright people fell for it. (That lie is almost as egregious as "50 is the new 30". When it comes to lies, damn lies, and Whoppers, well, that one tops Whoppers.)

In the final analysis, while our possessions enslaved us, it was our educations that made many, even most, of us poor! Of course, the vast majority of those 30 something M.S. and PhD holders don't know that yet. Most of those in their 40's are just coming around to the brutal truth.

The "Greatest Generation" had mortgage burning parties in their 50's. This generation has foreclosure/short sale/bankruptcy parties. Good thing this generation is sooooooo much more educated than old grampa and gramma. Some might find that a  LOL! moment, but there is nothing funny about this. The Left's propaganda machine continues to pump out material that the overwhelming concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% is some how the result of those Evil Right Wing Bankers. Right Wing Bankers!!?? How that is possible when we all know that Republicans are nose picking, gun totting, White Male racists from the Red States in the Old South is beyond me. Does anybody know a single Wall Street fat cat that grew up in a trailer park in Arkansas? Whose first job was selling used cars? Quite a leap from that used car lot to the World Financial Capital, wouldn't you say?

The Financial system is run by the Federal Reserve for the benefit of Harvard Business School Alums running the U.S. Treasury/Goldman Sachs. Yea, a couple of very lucky guys have gotten tremendously wealthy out in Silicon Valley, but they don't hold much sway over this system. This unholy triumvirate, our modern day Anti-Christ, is hardly composed of Chamber of Commerce Republicans. So why do some of the smartest people I know believe otherwise?

(Because they need to. To believe otherwise would violate a belief system stretching back to their childhood and nourished by the Main Stream Media. Heck, 40% of Americans believe in the "End of Times" pitch of the Fundamentalist Right. These people are, for the most part, not voting for BHO, and they are not the people running Goldman Sachs - trust me.  And speaking of the Media... It is my experience that Americans believe that their media "experience" is a real life experience. That "cat call" scene/racist scene/anti-Semetic/poverty scene, et al people saw via some entertainment product is so real to them that it has become fact. After all, they said it on TV!)

Geologist Euan Mearns wrote this excellent assessment of the Oil potential for Iraq in general and Kurdish Iraq in particular. I think an excellent piece that pretty much undoes the doomer argument for the moment, and likely changes the short term story for world Oil exports somewhat. But read a little deeper in that... can any thinking person really draw any other conclusion than that the Iraq War was all about Oil? And before the nitwit-true-believers start ranting about Neo-Cons and GWB: How many Lefties ceased to drive a car? Stopped heating an oversized home? Only consumed local food? Stopped flying to "climate change conferences"? Wanted the economy to contract so that the Republicans could blame BHO (and the U.S. would emit less CO2)? Not very many, indeed. The meat eater and the butcher are on the same moral level, me thinks.

Does the Mearns story usher in a new era of low prices and plenty for oil? I rather doubt that, but it does mean that we can't count on resource constraints to solve our environmental/climate change problem for us - and that ain't good. There is no political arrangement on this planet that can withstand the temptations of Keynesianism (the other half of the counter cyclical Keynesian argument is to run surpluses during the good years. Anybody seen many surpluses around the OECD?), and there is no political arrangement that can withstand the lure, temptation, and seduction of Oil.

But I digress.

The machinations of the post-industrial, post-credit inflation, information/robotic economy have left no magic buttons to push in order to address the changes confronting the next generation of workers - knowledge or no. Things have changed, but the credential selling bodies standing guard at the bottle neck are determined to extort their pound of flesh.

The unfortunate 30 something lawyer in the link at the top of this post spent $175K and 3 years of her life attending "Law School". Abraham Lincoln never attended "Law School". Abraham Lincoln never attended college. Abraham Lincoln didn't even go to High School, let alone graduate. Yet, somehow, he passed the Bar Exam, was elected to Congress, and then some think he did rather well as President of the United States.

Go figure.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hog Slaughtering and Salt Curing

Today we slaughtered a hog (my son does the work and I take pictures) and are preserving the meat by salt curing.  The hog weighed about 275 pounds and had been raised on pasture, corn and a daily dose of 2 gallons or so of fresh milk from our cow, Elizabeth. This post is a DIY guide for self-reliant types.

Warning! Somewhat graphic.

Disclosure:  While we do raise animals for slaughter, they lead stress-free lives out on pasture with sunshine, shelter, water, plenty to eat, and the company of other animals of their kind. The end comes swiftly; the animal has no idea what is about to happen and experiences no pain.

1: You will need lots of hot water. This is to scald the skin of the hog so that the fur/hair and upper layer of skin comes off when scraped. We have a 100 quart (25 gallon) pot for the purpose. A friend of mine taught me some welding and we made the fire stand in the photo.

2: I use the following tools. The rounded skinning knife is indispensable, IMHO. The sharpening stone is also indispensable - knives dull quickly and the job goes much faster with one person sharpening and the other working. Not pictured is a dull machete that I use to scrape the hair and upper skin from the hog after the scald.

3: Dispatch the hog.

4. Lay the hog on a (very sturdy) table or platform (or the ground, if you have nothing else) and cover it with an old towel. Take the boiling water from the pot using a small pot, metal bucket (we use a stainless steal milking pail) and pour it slowly onto the towel. The towel will hold the scalding water against the hog's skin. After a couple of pours, you should be able to pull the hair off with your thumb and fingers. If so, you are ready to scrape.

5: Meticulously scrape the entire hog removing the hair and upper layer of skin. This is the hardest part of the job. It took over an hour to scrape this hog clean. After scraping, rinse thoroughly with a hose.

When scraped, the hog should look something like this. I don't worry about scrapping the hog down to its toes, as you can skin the lower legs (with a skinning knife) for soup bones. The lower legs are not going into the salt. The hair on the lower extremities has been singed with a propane torch.

6: Disembowel and decapitate the carcass. If you can, suspend the hog from something. I use this device (not sure what it is called. I purchased it from in their deer processing section) using a boom on the back of my tractor to raise the hog. I keep the kidneys, liver, and heart - they are delicious and nutritious. The remaining offal goes to the chickens - they love it. Little to nothing goes to waste. Bones go into soups, fat gets rendered, ribs get frozen, and everything else gets salted.

7: Split the hog down the spine with a meat saw. This is about as much effort as sawing through a 2 x 4.

8: Quarter the hog. On the left is a ham that has been removed from the carcass. The bacons are under the ribs. I remove the shoulders, hams, and bacons from the ribs and backbone. These will go into the saltbox. The ribs and tenderloin will go into the freezer. That white stuff in the stainless steel bowl is "leaf lard" - that's the fat around the hog's kidneys. This is the fat that Parisian bakers prize for baking their delicate pastry. I also take the "fatback" (that's the fat under the skin and above the spine) for rendering. We use it for cooking. Since the hog has been raised getting most of its calories from grass fed milk the lard should be heavy in oleic acid - the "good stuff" in olive and canola oils. Or so I am told!

9: Wash and put the parts in the salt. I keep 50 pound bags of salt in the garage for days like today. I put the salt in a cooler and bring the cooler out to the processing platform. As soon as they are separated, I roll the hams, shoulders, and bacons in this salt. Notice that the hide has been left on. The risk of spoilage will be around the bone, so make sure that the "meat" side is well salted and then store in a cool to cold place. I check the weather to find a week of cold weather and slaughter then.

10: Pack the meat - here is the final product in the "salt box" (a cheap plastic tub from one of the big box stores). I put a top on and check it every day for the first week to make sure that they stay covered with salt. After 5 weeks in salt, I wash them off and hang them. When hanging, I cover them with an old pillow case to keep insects off of them.

After 5 weeks in salt and a couple months of hanging, they are ready to go. Sliced thin and eaten with grapes, cantaloupe, strawberries, or honeydew mellon, et al, the meat is out of this world!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Propaganda Never Sleeps

"Jeffers Media Theory" states that no article makes its way into the mainstream media without being bought and paid for. I can only imagine who is paying for these articles and WTF the EIA is up to:

"U.S. rethinks security as Mid-East Oil imports Drop"

Oil imports into the U.S. continue to contract - right on schedule. In 20 years or less, Oil imports into the U.S. will be, with the possible exception of Canada, essentially zero. The slow grind of Peak Oil is here for the OECD. It may have schmooshed (that's a technical term used daily on Wall Street) Europe first but I think it is pretty clear that the air is leaking out of the U.S.'s tire. We have been fortunate to be able to increase domestic crude production by a whopping 600k BPD and 900k in ethanol which went directly into gasoline. (Of course, the mathematically and technically inclined will recognize that 900k BPD in ethanol = 600k in petroleum equivalent. Ethanol contains 1/3 less energy per unit of volume.)

So, the U.S. is going to replace the Middle-East/North Africa ("MENA") with "Tight Oil" from the shale regions? Who writes this SH#!? Who paid them to write this SH#!? And why do "educated" people believe such nonsense??? 

From the article:

The United States is now producing more of its own oil. Plus, it's getting more from Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

While true in Canada's case, Mexico's exports have been in decline for years and Brazil is not a net exporter of Petroleum products (exporting crude and importing gasoline does not make you a major export power!) 

So why does Reuters say such nonsense?

Good question (if I do say so myself), but there is more to this story. The examination of China's position in all of this simply stands U.S. policy outcomes on its head in the land of unintended consequences.

We fought war after war after war, killing and maiming millions of the world's people and several million American dead and horribly wounded to contain communism and maintain the flow of Oil while the domestic socialist/Statist BASTARDS/SCUM back home in the U.S. have demolished the family, enslaved those that actually work, and murdered 60 million unborn children?

And then rejoice at the re-election of a failed president (but who does give good teleprompter) who supports that policy agenda?


And now the propagandists are telling you that "TIght Oil" (for those that don't know what "Tight Oil" is: Despite the propaganda that the U.S. is producing "Shale Oil" or Oil from Shale, the truth is is that we, that is the U.S., has not produced a single drop of the Oil squeezed from Kerogen rocks, otherwise known as "Shale". What we have done is use horizontal drilling technology to access small pockets of conventional oil locked in "Tight" formations contained within the Shale. Oil from Shale? Zero. Conventional Oil from Tight Oil deposits? The U.S. has increased production of this resource from ZERO in 2004 to 600,000 BPD today. The EIA expects peak Tight Oil production sometime next decade of 1.2 million BPD and then to decline thereafter) is going to replace U.S. Oil imports??!! 

Mashuga! (That's crazy) But every day, I get email from well meaning folks linking me to an article like this one, tacitly telling me that Reuters is correct, I am an incompetent alarmist, and all is right with the world - and that average Oil prices for 2012 were a new record is an anomaly; we invaded Iraq to bring freedom to the Iraqi people; and if we would just amend the Constitution to ensure the Right of every woman to kill her unborn child, and recognize that White Men are evil, everything will be right with the world!

The other side of the Propaganda coin is "America is going to run on Frac Gas".

I gotta tell ya... sometimes I think I am the only normal person left.

Here is a historical graph of Nat Gas production from the U.S. Department of Energy. There is good news here. The good news is that it is extremely unlikely that Nitrogen fertilizer supply shortages will lead to a severe food shortage (had Fracking not worked out so well, and conventional Nat Gas production continued its decline, that outcome was an entirely reasonable outcome to worry about. If you are unfamiliar with the relationship between Nat Gas and Fertilizer, and Fertilizer and Food production please feel free to Google). There is also good news for the costs and availability of space heating fuel in the U.S., the environment, and the cost of electrical generation.

With all of that good news - how did the U.S. economy do? Do we have Nat Gas infrastructure for the installed auto fleet? Has all of that Nat Gas production increase replaced coal? (Think about that for a moment... when Nat Gas replaces all coal for electricity generation you will know that the Nat Gas glut is a permanent fixture and solution to the American Energy Crisis.) Can the production companies turn a profit from Fracking at these prices? How about double these prices? If not, stand by and watch the bottom fall out of Nat Gas production.

(The market will move equipment and make investment where there are profits to be had. If Fracking Nat Gas is profitable, why are the number of rigs drilling for gas plummeting?)

Wall Street, the Office of Management and Budget, the Federal Reserve, the IRS, and a few other massive institutions are in need of the above mentioned propaganda, and they have done a masterful job of "kick the can" over the past 4 years. Yet the American economy is still moribund and 1/6 of its citizens requires food assistance from the Federal Government - nearly double the rate of just 5 years ago.

I find it hilarious that U.S. policy makers are taking credit for the U.S.'s soon to be status as "Energy Independent! That circumstance had nothing to with anything the U.S. - and everything to do with the fact that Oil Exporting Nations are running out of available Oil to export. Peak Oil Imports (if not Peak Oil) is killing Europe and slapping the U.S. economy around - it could have been a lot worse. Increases in Ethanol and Tight Oil supplies helped the U.S. avoid Europe's fate (so far), me thinks. Maybe exponential growth in wind and solar will make up the difference in time - and maybe not. So far, I would have to bet the "Don't Pass" bar on that one - but I reserve the right to change my mind in a freaking instant if the data changes.

More soon (on the economic outcomes resulting from that input).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Industrial Deception - Alternatives

In my previous post I began speaking about strategies for not getting the debt hook set deep into ones mouth (when speaking of this I am really speaking to young people. Folks over 35 or 40 are where they are and should take what joy they can and adopt any measure that will help, but it is hard for them to get completely out of the line of (Debt) fire). The opportunities are only limited by your imagination.

More than half of America's population has settled within an hour's drive of the shore, perhaps less (given no traffic and a straight highway).  These areas have high property costs, high property taxes, and higher insurance premiums (the improvements, the actual structure, might also cost more because of higher wages for construction labor in these areas).

If you have been reading my blog you know I have posted endlessly on the damage high property taxes will do to a property owner over the long term. I used to live in Sleepy Hollow, NY, just north of New York City. I have friends living there now. The taxes on my house there (I sold it in 1998) are about $25,000 per year. Ergo, if I wanted to retire there and expected to live 20 years I would have to fork out $500,000 (plus annual increases, but let's just call this constant dollars) over my retirement for the privilege of paying New York State's outrageous income taxes on my income. What do I get for my money? More than half of that money goes to pay the pensions of retired municipal employees... so not very much.

(So, take a mid-level, working Wall Street schlep with $15 in life time earnings will have paid 45% or so to Federal, State, and City income taxes, taking home $8.25 million over the course of a career. If he was a great saver, and retired with a net worth of $3 million, $2 million in a 401k and a $1 million mortgage free house he can't sell - this would be less  than the gross income a retired police officer could expect! Over his remaining lifespan: 25% of his cash savings, $500k, goes to pay the property taxes! $500k is the expected health care costs for he and his wife post-65. He has to pay taxes on the withdrawal from his 401k... and viola! He and his wife are eating human dog food in order to make ends meet... after life time earnings of $15 MILLION??!! Yep.)

Meanwhile, all of the land/property from 30 miles east of the Atlantic to 30 miles west of the Pacific (fly-over-land) is going begging and can be had for roughly nothing (compared to NY or San Fran prices). Seems to me that if I were a young person I would not put my mouth into the Lion's Jaws... financial security is to be had by having low overhead. Somehow, I think a bright, ambitious, non addict could do very well in flyover land - especially when compared to the absolute guaranteed outcome of living in New York, California, or Taxachusetts.

(You just gotta love the Big, True Blue states. They have all manner of natural benefits from their position at the water's edge and yet they absolutely destroy the well being of their citizens at every step.)

The migration to these coastal cities is ooooovverrrrrr.  Demographics and confiscatory property tax policy have combined to end it (do they have property taxes in China? If so, I think I could work up a formula for when the migration from the country to the city ends). Peak FICA (Social Security & Medicare) taxes already happened (that's what Obama is fighting for - the extension of the "Bush Tax Cuts"... the tax policy of the guy that the Left gnashes its teeth over). Peak property taxes/municipal services in the Blue State Coastal Cities has already happened. The people there do not make enough new babies to replace themselves, and neither do the people from the hinterlands. The GDP growth is not there for it, and the population growth is not there for it. Worse, for the people living in those places and depending on the continued destruction of their fellow man via financialization of the economy and increasing The People's debt levels the pay back is going to be a biach

Automation and digital information is wreaking havoc with the Legal Business, Healthcare, Finance, etc... the "industries" that drive the economies on the coasts.

And just wait... one day soon the market is not going to let Amazon trade at 100x earnings (for a low margin retail business) or let any other "technology" business  trade for 100X earnings, for that matter. Ford, GM, Kodak, were all cutting edge "technology" companies in their day. Eventually, today's winners will crash and burn, too. The Ocean of liquidity these valuations are floating on is not going to be here forever. I have been to this movie - the Butler Did It!

James H. Kuntsler often longs for a resettling of the landscape (see the last paragraph in this week's post. I wish I had writing talent like that instead of having been born so darned good looking). Me thinks that this will happen in due time. First movers will benefit here as they have with every major development in the history of the Industrial Revolution.  The intricacies of money creation in a fractional reserve system, capital, labor, demand, and politics will make this inevitable. We may not like it. We may wish the flow would remain in the same direction and pace. NAFC.

Peaks in financial markets happen when the market runs out of net buyers (well, sort of). Bottoms occur when things look their bleakest and there is little left to sell. The same principal applies here, me thinks. National Geographic et al have been running stories about "the city solution". To me, that means we have reached peak city. Also peak Progressiveism/Liberalism. Our society simply cannot tolerate the level of abortions given the demographics. Knuckleheads on the Left blame births for overpopulation. They should look under the hood. That may have been true a generation or 2 ago. Population is soaring because of increased life expectancy - not increased fertility. Let me ask you a simple question: Is the U.S. (and the rest of the OECD) average age going down - or up? If population gain was from fertility, the average age would be going down; if population gain is from life increased life expectancy, the average age would be going up - and with it come terms like "the greying of America (Japan/Europe)" and "the 4-2-1 problem" (4 grandparents, 2 parents, supported by 1 working adult offspring). This is not up for debate. The demographic time bomb is going off and nothing can stop it.
In the middle of all of this the absolute worst thing an individual could possibly do (in addition to enslaving themselves with a high property tax bill) would be to take on debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy - student loans. There is simply nothing worse that you could possibly do to your self financially; well, with the possible exception of a felony conviction or some sort of really nasty addiction.

The best thing, to my mind, would be to live in a low tax/cost of living environment, enter into commerce, and acquire productive assets and property with judicious use of savings and debt - in short, get rich slow. If possible, do it in a community (remember that concept?) of like minded folks. After all, I have already shown you that making millions of $$ in New York or San Fran won't cut it below, say, the $30 million mark (counterintuitively, it does work out for those poor police officers, teachers, firemen, etc...), and making that kind of money is rare - to do it you will have to sell your soul, unless you are incredibly lucky, and even then it is very hard on your family; harder by far, I think, than being working class (something I know a thing or 2 about). I know so few genuinely rich people whose kids are not a complete mess. Seems hardly worth it.

Millions and millions of Americans are responding to these inputs and stimuli by not doing much of anything - and this makes a tremendous amount of sense.

People are not stupid. Bloggers and media know-it-all's use the term "sheople"to describe a sheep like acquiescence of the population. I don't think so. Ever read Sun Tzu? The people on the receiving end of all those social programs and War-on Poverty distributions are simply following Tsu's admonition:

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting".

Or in this case, working.

Since we are all going to wind up broke in any event, why go through all of the ageda? Sleepless nights, missed parties, foregone sexual dalliances, etc... do not make a great deal of sense if you are stuck in a crumbling city with no way out and a sh#!tty ending is in the offing. If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

Staying put in the Big-True-Blue States and collecting from the government while working the black market market is an entirely reasonable (if unethical) plan. So is moving to a low cost, low tax environment and trying to get ahead by engaging in commerce and building a lifestyle that can be sustained throughout your entire lifetime.

One cannot "age in place" without a great deal of money in the Big Blues. Take one look at the retirement mecca's of Florida and Arizona - these did not come into existence in a vacuum. The tax and pension policies of the Big Blue States absolutely guarantee continued migration patterns that demolish family continuity and any transfer of intergenerational wealth.

Just thinking out loud on some alternatives to waiting around in the slaughter pen. I am sure there are many more.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Industrial Deception - cont...

In my previous post I laid out the imbalances and inconsistencies with the impacts of the Industrialized/Financialized economic system on our personal lives. So? So what should "we" do about it?

In short, nothing. "We" should do nothing. Everything "we" have done is what got "us" here. This is beyond the Gordian knot. The complexity that has evolved is beyond anything that I can envision. It would take so much time that by the time anything was solved we would all be long dead. No, there is no macro solution. There is no going back to the Gold Standard, or 1950's America, or Woodstock America, or the Greatest Generation... Ben Franklin might need revision: The definition of insanity is taking time from your beautiful life to try and impose "solutions" on 7 Billion complete strangers - or believing some puffed-up-blow-hard-stuffed-suit of a politician can solve everyone's problems for them.

I think it was on Stu Staniford's excellent blog that I read that average lifetime earnings for those with a graduate degree is $3.5mm or so. High School grad's average lifetime earnings came in around $1.2mm. (I wonder what the median was, but that is not really important for our discussion here.)

In order to catch the brass ring of $3.5 million in lifetime earnings, an individual would had to have navigated the U.S public educational system, then the expense and time of an under-grad program, and then the Law School/Med School/MBA Grad program.

This analysis does not take into consideration the expense of that education AND all of the foregone interest, dividend, and appreciation potential of the capital required to pay for this education nor the "expense" of the family circumstances that give rise to achievement. I guess "they" assume all things are equal and every student has family resources for the $300k to $600k to pay for all of this (and its only that cheap if every student went to a public high school). If the analysis took into consideration the $500k to $1mm in principal and opportunity cost of the education, the different outcomes do not appear all that different (and granted, there is a big difference for a small percentage of these "professionals". Hedge fund managers, investment bankers, specialty surgeons and trial lawyers regularly have several individual years in their careers where they make more than the life time average of all professionals).

Especially when you take into consideration the necessary expenses "professionals" find required (impaled on?) of them.

Private schools for the kids, expensive McMansions, property taxes, marriages and divorces (high school grads don't seem to bother marrying anymore), country clubs, vacations, etc... and at the end of a career, these professionals (unless they are tenured professionals, government employees, or other recipients of pensions that have enslaved others) find himself/herself at the end of their career in exactly the same position as our average high school graduate - broke.

The entire "Financial Security" pitch is a complete farce.

$3,500,000 in lifetime earnings - educational expenses and interest, $500k; home purchase $400k; Interest on home mortgage $800k; property taxes on the home $200k (at $6k per year. Try paying $6k for property taxes in metro NYC); 8 cars $200k to $500k... we have not paid taxes or fed the kids yet.

So our average professional cannot get by on $3.5mm with a family, so both spouses have to work - or they have to forego having a family.

Having met thousands of duel income professionals in my career on Wall Street, I never met a single couple making $7 million in lifetime earnings that bought a $400k house or paid $6k in property taxes annually. Such couples invariably lived in far more expensive digs, paid much more in property taxes, and spent $500k or more on childcare before the kids were grown, paid taxes in a higher bracket... and wound up just as broke at age 60.

Think about it. Here this couple makes $250k+ per year per year for 30 years... leading to that $7 million in life time earnings and at the end of that 30 years very few of these couples have even $1 million in savings. And if that million is in an IRA or 401K it is really only worth about $650k in after tax money... Out of pocket medical expenses in retirement is about $250k per person...

Now, in order to navigate a path to the "good life", our average professional had to stress through a million academic tests, entrance exams, and applications, then state board and licensing tests, and all of the usual stress and trauma that goes with an "average" professional career. This cannot be over emphasized: How many nights did our "average" professional lay his/her head down on their pillow in the complete absence of stress and anxiety? Not many.

Now, this is the outcome if everything goes absolutely perfectly. Throw in a divorce, a serious illness, an onerous lawsuit... and the outcome goes from the best possible arrangement - at the end of the career of our $7 million earning couple is $650k in savings and a fully paid off $400k home (in constant dollars) -  to disaster. This is the outcome for the top 5% of the population (by achievement). For everybody else, the outcome sucks and the trip there sucked, too.

There is an alternative, and the lifestyles are, again, in stark relief.

The lifestyle described above is arranged around maximizing income.

One alternative would be to arrange ones life around minimizing expenses.

Just for fun, let's take all of this and turn it on its head.

What if our professional stopped class room education at 14 and was then put to work being economically productive and using his wits?

Rather than pay for an under grad degree in gender studies or English Literature our subject's parents gave their offspring $50,000 in land and $50,000 in building materials, tools, livestock and other productive assets? And then expected their child to build this only larger and with at least one productive outbuilding.

Don't think little Jimmy could do it? Of course he could, if that was what was expected of him. People do it all them time (18 year old soldiers in a POW camp in Nazi Germany tunneled 100 yards to freedom using a f***ing soup spoon. Trust me, little Jimmy could be himself a house). I respectfully submit that after accomplishing this task that little Jimmy can claim to be a highly educated individual - far more so than some Ivy League slapped ass that knows how and when to use "there", "their", and "they're" consistently.

Let's go a step further. Let's say that little Jimmy was expected to save $50,000 over 5 or 6 years working laborious jobs and learning how to do such practical things to contribute to the project with nothing coming from his parents.

Of course, why would a single young man need a house? He wouldn't. A young couple would, though, and with their combined savings they could do this without any input from their parents. Then the 2 of them could work together, learn to get along and cooperate, suffer the consequences of not doing so, and build a productive home place for themselves and their children. Instead of watching TV with their free time, they could read the great works, think the great thoughts, and learn the proper use of there, their, and they're just like their "educated" counter parts. Only now, they would own a home debt free, and instead of a consumer product POS suburban home they might own a productive property from which they might engage in commerce and family scale food production.

Let's go through the things that they wouldn't need: They wouldn't need to "meet the mortgage". They wouldn't need to pay student loans. They wouldn't need 2 cars to commute with, the gas to power them, or the insurance on that second car. They wouldn't need a nanny or housekeeper (the home would be of a size as to manage themselves, thank you). This means low property taxes. They wouldn't need a closet full of suits and the money to dry clean them. Their income tax bill would be next to nothing. If they lived in the country wood heating would be more than sufficient, and with a small home, the summer cooling season would be very inexpensive (we live in the South and the increase in electric consumption for the 3 month cooling season is a whooping $300! Or about $80 per month, with a little play for heat waves. In last summer's heat wave (some days the temp reached 109F. Not humidity indexed or "feels like" - straight up 109F - the increased bill was $120 for that month). The benefits of a small, energy efficient house are many.

And when this imaginary couple laid their heads down at night on the pillow in their mortgage free home they'd be asleep in minutes and they would sleep like babies. They would be done raising kids before they were at risk of falling and breaking a hip, and they might not only get to meet their grandchildren but be young enough to have an impact on their grandchildren's lives. This is not a common outcome in the lives of our "average" professional.

 Can you imagine what would happen to our political system if people behaved this way? Instead of only the privileged having "financial security" (I define "financial security" as having a home that you own, rather than the bank, and the ability to feed yourselves. You know - food and shelter?) nearly everyone would. The implications for The Powers That Be are rather interesting, if you think about it - but that is another discussion.

Somewhere along the line the model became sending kids to go to college so that they could commute great distances in a dangerous car to work in an office moving bytes around a screen and getting fat and unhealthy by foregoing fresh air, sunshine, and exercise - and winding up broke. To my mind, something in all of that just lacks a certain appeal.

A couple percent of these kids might escape the above mentioned fate and grow up to be Doctors, Lawyers, Investment Bankers, and Indian Chiefs, running triathalons and then returning home to their mansions with the hot tub filled with champagne, jump in and exclaim "Ta Da!". Everybody else is going off to a salt mine somewhere. These folks would be better off in a different model.

I go through this mental exercise in my own mind reasonably often because I am a concerned parent and I would hate to see my kids sentenced to the life of a Corporate Lemming. Corporations are very, very good to a very few people. Everybody else gets kicked out in their 40's with a watch, 2 kids in college, a mortgage, and $400k in severance and 401k - and they are flat broke by 50.

This outcome has happened to most corporate people. Our typical professional had a better outcome, but it was hardly ideal.

There are better models.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Industrial Deception and Fractional Reserve Banking Misconception

For most of my career I worked in "Financial Services" (what an oxymoron that one is). Of course, what we we sold was in the interests of the financial system and the industrial revolution's elite. The idea that any significant percentage of The People could be made financially secure by investing in our current system was one of The Great Lies.

(Nearly) Everything, or every concept, in our financial system is either designed (if you tend toward conspiracy theories) or has evolved by phenomenon (my way of thinking) to enslave (most of) The People.

And now many people 50 and up have no "retirement savings".

The pension system is a perfect example: The beneficiaries of pensions extort that money from younger workers. Why else would pensions exist? If the older worker's production was such that it could support and sustain them for 20 or 30 years of idleness, their pay would reflect that fact and they would save that money for that time in their life. Anyone with even rudimentary math skills (but in America that is roughly 2% of the population) understands the certainty of this, and anyone with just a modicum of common sense can make the connection that government workers have enslaved non-government workers to fund the public employee pensions.

In my capacity as a Wall Street broker/salesmen I had a bird's eye view of the financial circumstances of the non-elite 1%. See, Billionaire's are not the 1%. The 1% are working stiff professionals with $350k plus incomes with a couple of million $$ net worths. And in my experience, I can think of very few that were not completely enslaved by their mortgages, car leases, property taxes, and insurance bills. Invariably they were one job loss, a divorce, an illness or injury away from penury - despite having lifetime earnings of $10 to $30 million-freaking-dollars.

There was no difference in the security level of these high earners and more pedestrian earners.

We were trained to dress well, use the right fork, put our napkins in our lap and request fresh pepper on our salad so that we might go forth and sell the 1% financial solutions to give them "financial security and peace of mind". In my 25 years I don't think I, or anybody else working in the industry, succeeded in giving our customers any such thing - and not that it was our fault. It was not. That's just the system.

The truth was that the "financial security" we were selling could not be had by anything that the vast majority could buy. In fact, security would lie in the direction of not buying. Not buying a house with high property taxes or an extra bathroom. Not buying a ski house. Not buying an expensive car. Not buying expensive jewelry/clothes/vacations. Not eating out. Not paying $20 for a martini.

People sold their freedom for the chachkas (link provided for the Yiddish challenged) mentioned above - The Great Chachka Enslavement.

While personal freedom is to be had with a modest house and an old car, or better yet - no car - the system cannot tolerate this, and hence the system cannot abide your personal freedom. Accordingly, it has evolved to enslave you for its own purposes:

The Industrial Deception and the Fractional Reserve Misconception.

The system needs you to be in debt, and it requires this for 2 very basic reasons: First, money is created in our system by being lent into existence - no lending = no money supply. (Since going off of the Gold standard World GDP has increased by 5 or 6 fold - and total debt has increased by 65 fold. Is there any wonder that Americans consume anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications the way they do?) Second, the system needs you to work yourself to death. If you don't the 1% will not be able to enjoy those private jets, and today's elderly (but not you when you are old) will not have 25 years in idle retirement with nearly free healthcare and a monthly stipend coming in - far in excess to anything that they contributed to. (And people under 30 voted overwhelmingly for Obama? The younger generation either has rocks in its head or it is complete unable to run a few, short, and simple financial calculations... but they can text with both thumbs so they got that working for them.)

All of that money creation has had 2 entries (like everything else financial) on the Balance Sheet of Life. Your debt is somebody else's asset. Same with the government's debt. That huge deficit? You owe it and the 1% owns it.

Do you get that? The deficit has been run up in order to buy your vote through elections cycles over the past 40 years, only you didn't actually get anything for selling your vote. What you got was enslaved.

I am sure you are starting to see what I am asserting here: The government's debt has enslaved you. Your home and mortgage has enslaved you. Your car, your refrigerator, your dish washer, clothes washer, dryer, the toaster, the f***ing blender, et al, have conspired to enslave you. Your engagement ring. Your expensive wedding and even more expensive divorce... the grand sum of all of these inputs is that you are financially insecure, anxious, sleep deprived, and fat. Did I mention your family circumstances? Either you don't have kids, or you are raising kids in a broken home, or you resent your spouse for working so many hours to meet that mortgage and those car payments, and providing for you and the kids you do have - and in almost every circumstance you do not really have any money or any sort of financial security.

But you want your kids to go to college, get a "good job", and repeat this ferkakta process?

Is (formal) "education" the answer? It is for those with professional licenses (engineers, lawyers, physicians, dentists) and regulations that create barriers to entry.

(Take my favorite - fill and drill dentists. How long do you think it would take someone to become a "Dental Hygienist" in reality. A week? 2? How long before any relatively bright person could drill and fill a cavity? A few weeks, TOPS. Yet in 48 states a person cannot even open their own "Dental Hygienist" practice. They must be overseen by a "Doctor".

The result is over 100 million American's receiving absolutely no dental care because the Dental lobby has succeeded in complicating the subject in order to keep their incomes high. We urbanites look down our long noses at people with holes where teeth should be, and what is keeping those teeth from being there are the very people that claim to care about our dental health.

The U.S. Army will take a high school graduate and within 16 weeks he is a trained medic capable of all manner of field surgeries - emergency traches, spine stabilization, vents, wound care - with bullets and shrapnel flying around.... but it takes 12 years to train a guy to repair your torn ACL? 12 years??!! To do minor carpentry and elementary seamstress work?

Did I mention healthcare professionals kill more people than they save? After all, seat belts cause people to drive with less care. Want people to drive really, really safely? Put a dagger pointing at their chest on the steering wheel - in the aggregate you will save far more lives and prevent far more injuries, as sensible people would drive only when necessary and when they drove they would do it with great care. Wanna bet the same would be true in a deregulated healthcare environment? Making healthcare affordable is as easy as 1,2,3. Eliminate health insurance. Of course, the system does not want affordable healthcare any more than it wants affordable housing.)

But outside of professionals... do retail managers "need" a $200k education, and 4 years of not earning? Police officers?  Kindergarten teachers? Nope. But they are getting it - and they are getting it good. And hard.

And everybody is broke. Anxious. In debt. On medication. Fat.

It ain't a coincidence.

You can think for yourself. It takes courage and b@!!$ but you can think. And act.

I have a friend of mine, "C". "C" has no formal education past 8th grade. He went to work at 14, and saved every dime. He never drank or smoked. Never gambled. Never owned a car. Never wasted money on gold teeth or tattoos. By 20 he had enough money saved to buy some land, and enough experience to "G.C." the construction of his own house. Though he never had a steady "job" (he worked at odd jobs, construction, and farm work), he bought the land for cash with money he had saved by working the previous 6 years. He bought the building materials for cash, and he built himself a home. He was 23 when he and his wife finished the home and already had 2 children.

He is 55 now and has never been in debt. Although he has 11 children (and 45 grandchildren), "C" has a net worth in excess of $500,000 and his monthly need for cash is less than $2,000 because he lives in a rural setting with very low property taxes, he grows and raises most of his food, and he refuses to buy insurance of any kind. He did all of this while living his entire life off-grid.

No one in his family has ever been arrested; ever used drugs; ever took an anti-depressant. ever been divorced; ever died in a car accident or by violence.

Maybe you don't want to live like "C". You don't have to, but you can take instruction from people that have arranged their lives differently. "Steal" their good ideas, if you will.

"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity" - Ben Franklin

American policy waged a war on poverty in the 20th century - and now has 1/6 of its citizens receiving food assistance from the government.

American policy was to keep the Oil flowing out of the Middle East/North Africa at all costs - and now its economy cannot function in the absence of 240 million automobiles and far flung suburban sprawl... all the while destroying the environment with those hunks of metal and obnoxious McMansions.

American policy was to recreate the European "Safety Nets" that have left all of us unsafe, insecure, and broke.

American policy was to make everything fair and now we have an entrenched and permanent underclass and an out and out WAR between the sexes.

American policy was to "educate" (indoctrinate?) our young people with college for all. So we credentialized "Play Ground Supervisor", "Massage Therapists", "Political Scientists" (SNICKER!!!!), and, my personal favorite, "Women's Studies Professors" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHALOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!! Eh... Heh... Sorry. That got away from me), and now we have over $1 TRILLION in student debt that will never, ever be repaid.

There is a better way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Time to Purge

The elections are over and, as expected, Mitt Romney lost.

Or did he?

Romney was the better man representing the lesser (worser?) party. While I think Romney, under most circumstances, would have made the better president I am not sure about under the present circumstances.

The Republicans should have run Ron Paul. The Republicans should have embraced the message from the Libertarian wing of the GOP and of the Independents.

They did not - and they have suffered the consequences.

Good. Because it is time to purge. 

Energy and debt constraints will force the U.S., over time, into either Statism or Libertarianism. It matters little how the Statist groups call themselves - Republican, Democrat, Green, Red, Blue - this is one of those glaringly black and white issues in an otherwise billion shades of grey world.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt loosed the evils of Constitutional tampering and gaming upon our nation - and we have never recovered. History is written by the victors.

FDR's rejection of Individual Rights in favor of Special Interest Rights/Group Rights and rejection of personal freedoms and personal responsibility beginning with his addicting social programs and culminating with the absolute worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court (and that it beats some of the Slave decisions says a great deal) - Wickard vs Filburn - set us on the road that has brought us here.

(I highly recommend that thinking people that might be constrained for time watch the reasonably historically accurate 1980's movie "Reds" directed and starred in by Warren Beatty. It is on Netflix now. While long (3 hours) and windy, every thinking person should get an idea of where the American Left comes from. And not that the Left of that time was entirely without merit as is the Left of our time - which is another thing that makes the movie worth watching.)

We live in a plantation economy. The banks enslave us with debt and the Fractional Reserve Banking System concentrates wealth in the hands of Banking, Media, and Entertainment Industries. These people control the Democratic party. The Republicans control nothing. Goldman Sachs and Wall Street? Democrat (how the Left convinces the masses that New York's establishment industry, and with New York the most Liberal bastion in the U.S., is somehow controlled by Christian Conservatives is simply beyond me... a better example of the power of propaganda I cannot imagine). Hollywood? Democrat. New York Times? Democrat. Republicans? Nothing. Zip. Zero Nada. Actually that's not true... they controlled the Defense Industry. The funny thing is is that the guy that got this ball really rolling for the Left was a Republican - non other than the Left's favorite man to hate: President Richard M. Nixon.

Since taking the U.S. off of the Gold Standard (and this is NOT a plea for a return to the Gold Standard) the world's GDP has grown by 5 or 6 fold. The world's aggregate debt in that same time period has increased some 60 to 70 fold. This is NOT a coincidence. And cui bono? Who benefited from this expansion (explosion) of debt? The banksters in New York. Not "Wall Street". New York.

(New Yorkers kill me... Liberal, "true blue", they bleed blue... and are completely deaf, dumb, and f***ing blind about their contribution to CO2 emissions & climate change via their manufacturing of debt enslavement of the world's people and their funding of the U.S. military/industrial complex and social programs. After all, without the world's largest military to enforce US$ hegemony the U.S. (and the other OECD countries, which simply operate as protectorates of the U.S) would not be able to fund its massive budget deficits - and that's the end of the social programs. They whine for the "poor", when it is their opulence that creates the relative deprivation between themselves and the poor bastards in fly-over-land which they profess to care for but truly despise. Ignorance truly is bliss.)

Not that its a conspiracy - it isn't. Its just the evolution of some incredible phenomenon. Americans were displaced from the countryside to the cities from 1925 to 2000 as the "machines" (industrialized farm equipment) took over their jobs in agriculture. Then the "machines" (robots) displaced these people on the factory floors of Detroit, et al. Now computers and other advances of automation are replacing these people in their jobs in cubicles moving bytes around on a screen. All of the Labor Union gnashing of teeth and blaming China, Japan, India, whoever...  is not going to undo the machines.

Of course, this is creates a very, very serious problem for the Fractional Reserve Banking System of money creation. Machines may cause some capital investment, but as they become more efficient both in producing and being produced that capital investment continues to decline, and; as the machines displace people, demand from those being replaced goes down like a rock in a pond leading to "jobless recoveries" - and further concentrating wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Think about the implications of this (unfortunately, if you do not understand money creation in our system all of the thinking in the world won't help. Wikipedia has an excellent primer). So the government stepped in and gave people "free" money in order to negate the effects of the machines on people's earnings and to prop up demand. There are no actions taken that do not generate unintended consequences - and the unintended consequences of this, along with some incredible demographic changes wrought by birth control/the Green Revolution/vaccines and anti-biotics have increased the population 3X in less than 75 years. The phenomenon increased their "free" time, but since they have crowded themselves together there is not much to do with that free time but watch TV and consume other media. Most of these (increased population) people are not happy just to be alive because the Media is constantly reminding them that they are not as rich/good looking/fabulous/interesting as the folks on TV... not to worry, because the government has funded healthcare to the point that it is now 18% of GDP, which combined with the unintended consequences of media exposure has 1/3 of American women over 40 now either on happy pills (anti-depressants) or deadening pills (anti-anxiety) to make them feel better about themselves after watching TV and reading beauty magazines, not to mention making over 50% of them obese. Men are about half as bad off when measured by happy pills and fat @$$es. Some argue that this is existential. To that I say: Donkey Dust!

Now, The People are by mathematical necessity "average" - and the complicated set of circumstances of our economy and political system is simply beyond the cerebral capacity of "average" people. In fact, it appears to be beyond the capacities of Nobel Prize Winners like Paul Krugman (this is not a backhanded insult to Krugman who I think is a bright and thoughtful man. The media worships him like a god, but I just don't find him infallible. In fact, I think his Keynesian indoctrination has created a permanent, critical flaw in his thinking - not that mine, or others, is perfect. Economics is not called the "Dark Science" for nothing). Should you doubt my analysis on The People's ability to understand the system I respectfully submit that if it were understandable that politicians and policy makers would be unable to get away with the copious lies and half truths that they seem to do, and; The People would be able to agree on things, or at least create a much more cohesive "center", to a much larger extent than they do now. Further, if The People understood the system, they would be able to exploit its production much more uniformly - yet they do not. I could go on forever with this line of thought but let's move on for now...

The U.S. has become the Tower of Babel. People shout past each other; there is little communication. The Web is now completely Balkanized, and crazy people are suggesting violent insurrection. How the F^&%$$ did we get here?

- to be continued...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My name is Greg Jeffers and I am a White Male

My name is Greg Jeffers and I am a "White Male" (mostly). (My wife is non-White. My kids are mocha-cappucino-with-whipped-cream-gorgeous. I mention this to stop some looney from interpreting this as some kind racist diatribe from a "White Male".) I have no idea what I have done as to be so despised as I have spent the last 30 years getting up at the @$$ crack of dawn working like a pack animal to provide a life for my family - but hated I am. My name is Greg Jeffers and I am a "White Male".

The Media is in all its glory with the re-election of a sitting president by 1% of the popular vote. They have declared victory for Liberalism and the Death of the Republican party and Conservatism. While I have little empathy for either Conservatism OR Liberalism, I do have great affinity for the idea that we need more than 1 political party here in the United States of America.

It seems that the media, in all its wisdom, has proclaimed the death of the 2 party system because the Republican party is the party of "Older White Males". Forget for a moment that we have not had a 2 party system in decades. Let's just go with the media narrative.

I am a "White Male". Worse, I am an "Older White Male". You know, the demographic that produced the most income/tax revenue per capita in the U.S., with the lowest criminal conviction ratio of any male demographic.

Let me tell you of my "Older White Male" experience. Contrary to the media narrative, like most "White Males" I was not born to privilege. Yes, a higher proportion of "White Males" are the sons of Doctors, Lawyers, and Indian Chiefs than is the case of Tan/Brown/Black/Red/ or pick the complexion that you, in your own personal narrative, do not define as "White", but most of us are the sons of bricklayers, janitors, truck drivers, carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, etc... and other non-professional, working class folk. In my case, I was the 5th son of a working class father. What education I have I worked for. What assets I have I earned. This is the case for 99% or so of us "White Males".

Let me tell you of our adult experience. We went to work. Most right after  High School, and for the privileged right after college and maybe grad school. But worked. I started working at 13, bought my first car for $298 (it had a blown head gasket and had seized up. Privileged guys and gals won't know what this means) at age 20 from money I earned digging irrigation sprinklers in the Summer Sun of South Florida in between my sophomore and junior year. I rebuilt the engine with borrowed tools and a $15 "Chiltons Auto Repair Manual". I had never worked on a car before in my life. So much for privilege.

But I digress.

We went to work. We got married (the other Male demographics did not for the most part). Can you imagine that? We thought we were doing the right thing, giving our children a home and a name and legitimizing our relationships - like our parents had done. Of course, we stepped right into the Feminist political attack on Men, Marriage, and Children (60 Million abortions since Roe V Wade and counting!) and its influence on Family Law, and many of us went through disgraceful divorces and the enslavement of asset seizure, "alimony", and "child support". (Wait... before you get your dander up on "child support"...). And still we married - for a while.

And we went to work (I know how much those literary Lefties like when I start sentences with "and"). We started businesses. REAL businesses. The overwhelming majority of businesses with over $1 million in revenue or $100k in net income (the kinds of businesses and revenue that can actually support and provide for a family)  were started by men, or should I say "White Males"? We "White Males" valued family, hard work, thrift and frugality, and respect for the law. Or at least we used to.

For the most part, we behaved ourselves. 2 Percent of the population commits 50% of the violent crime - and while this 2 percent is "Male" it is not comprised of "White Males".

We also had failures in business and our personal lives. I went broke twice personally. In recounting that to my older son his response was an incredulous "When? I don't remember that." That's because I was provident - like most "White Males" - and I picked myself up, brushed off the dust and hoof prints and tire tracks... and continued to provide for my children. This is somewhat unique to "White Males" in  our country and culture.

And went back to work. As the vast majority of us "White Males" have done since we were teenagers or young adults. Providing for our children. Providing for our wives. (Oh, I know a great many "White Females" work now - and many of these are childless or have an only child (I will cover the impacts of non-child bearing people later). What education or start they got likely came from a "White Male", though for some reason a small, but vocal (histrionic?) percentage of these "White Females" have come to hate the White Male that provided for them in their formative years (we can address Freud later).  You see, I am an "Older White Male". We coached little league. We taught our kids to swim and took our kids to the shore. We played catch. We taught our kids to ride a bike. We sat through tuba lessons, ballet lessons, spelling bees, and PTO meetings. We were home every night for dinner and we read books to our kids at bedtime.

Of course, not every child of a "White Male" had this as a formative experience though most do - but let me ask you a really, really brutal question. Do the children of "Non White Males" have this as their formative experience? How about the children of "White Females with No White Male in the Home?" The sad fact of the matter is that 1 of the 2 large minority groups in the U.S. is completely broken as a culture - a demographic dominated by fatherless homes, violent crime, addiction, requiring government assistance for shelter, food, healthcare... and overwhelming the criminal justice system. Yet "White Males" are the enemy of the enlightened. Go figure.

And we went to work. "White Males" paid the majority of Federal and State income taxes. The majority of local property taxes. The majority of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and any other tax you can think of - and "White Males" did this out of all proportion to their percentage representation of the population.

Despite all of our efforts and production the narrative has been somewhat different. Radical Feminists - for the most part "Gay White Females" - have convinced "Straight White Females" that "White Males" are the enemy. That "White Males" have declared War on Women ("White Females"), and they did it with Abortion. Think about that for a moment: "Gay White Females", a demographic that will likely never be confronted with pregnancy, have convinced "Straight White Females" that freedom can be had only by killing your unborn child when confronted by unplanned pregnancy (shows you what Gay White Females" know about pregnancy... most pregnancies are "unplanned") and that ANY questioning of this belief system is clear proof of a state of War existing between "Straight White Males" and "Straight White Females".

And never mind the facts on abortion! "Straight White Females" have far fewer abortions per capita than "Straight Non-White Females" (look, it ain't even close. "Black Females" abort 32% of their pregnancies according to the CDC - about 3.5 TIMES the abortion rate for "White Females"). Abortion in the "White Female" demographic is relatively low and getting lower - yet, temporarily at least, "Straight White Females" have bought into the argument of "Gay White Females" that "Straight White Males" (but not "Gay White Men") are waging war on "Straight White Females".

Yes. I make that assertion. "Gay White Females" dominate the Feminist narrative as well as the demographic. Think about that for a moment.  A demographic ("Gay White Females") that does not produce children and does not raise children is, temporarily, having a far greater influence over "Straight White Women" than their natural partners in life, society, and nature - "Straight Men of Any Shade or Hue". And look, I am a Libertarian in the extreme. Gays must have the same Right to self determination as Straight people. That does not make Gay people, or childless people, or people that have children that they do not care for, as productive or as desirable for society as people that have and raise and provide for their children. The male demographic doing that in the greatest numbers and percentages? You got it: "Straight White Men."

The Left is doomed here, as is the Right. The "Straight White Females" that had fallen for the "Gay White Female" argument are dying out as they simply did not reproduce. DNA wins all multi-generational arguments and political agendas; or, said another way, "Those Who Breed, Succeed" (politically). The new crop of "Straight White Females" actually LIKE "Straight White Males" and they are going to go off, pair up, and make lots of little "Straight White People" with the occasional "Gay White People".  Immigration into the U.S. is collapsing along with the collapse of fertility in Latin America and the decline of Oil imports into the U.S. 72% of America is "White". Americans will continue to intermarry (though it seems that for some reason this intermarriage has occurred overwhelmingly between whites and asians and whites and hispanics but not between whites and people of African descent. Not sure why that is) and assimilate. The resulting culture will be uniquely American and it will sort itself out, not in some multicultural fantasy but in an arrangement that best suits the bearing and raising of children - because those that breed, succeed. Those who do not, especially those that abort, die off.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Price of Convenience

There have been a number of very popular books, from the Bible's "Ecclesiastis" (B.C.) to "The History of Materialism and Criticism of its present importance" (Bertrand Russell, 1950) "Henry and the Great Society" (H.L. Roush, 1969) to "Fight Club" (Chuck Palahniuk, 1996). I am sure there are many more... these are just some that I have had the pleasure to have read.

I just recently finished "Henry" and while it was the least creative of the above mentioned books it did a great job of driving home hard data of the impact of "labor saving devices" on our lives. (Ever hear of the concept "Time and Motion Study"? I almost wish I had not. Once you understand the implications you will find it always and everywhere in your thoughts.)  Anyway... clearly, given my reading habits, I have been infected by this for some time.

When I commuted to work in New York, I couldn't help but resent the time spent on the train - about an hour each way. Of course, the schedule said 44 minutes, but who gets to the platform with 1 second to go before departure? Time waiting for the train PLUS time on the train PLUS time from the station to home or work equaled my commuting time. I was on the 6:301 AM express every day and got home everyday at about 7:10 PM. This is NOT an 8 hour day. Isn't that what all those "labor saving devices" were supposed to do? Free us from drudgery and overwork? So that we would have disposable income for luxury items (think McMansions)?  I went months without even seeing the sun. 

(I had back problems as a young man and I always attributed them to playing football in high school and college and heavy weight lifting. When I moved to Florida my back problems went away without any input that I was aware of. Of course, for the first time in years I was getting enough calcium via dairy and plenty of sunshine/vitamin D. At the time I did not make the connection, but recently I have come across studies showing a very high correlation between back pain and insufficient calcium intake and vitamin D blood levels. Of course, I can't know for sure that that was it. I can tell you that I make sure I get enough sun/vitamin D supplements, fatty fish, eggs, organ meat and calcium just in case). 

I had a beautiful house on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River in Westchester that I never enjoyed (or when I did I was too exhausted to notice the view), a gorgeous young wife I never saw (she worked like crazy, too), and a leased Range Rover in the garage that I never drove. I worked around the clock to pay for stuff I never used, didn't like, and didn't really want - but I didn't know that until after I bought it - and my weekends were taken up with all of the mundane things that needed doing but did not get done with my work schedule. This is what happens when you don't think for yourself. 

Think of all that was not - no car, no mortgage, no cable bill, no TV, no smart phone bill, no health insurance/life insurance/car insurance/whatever bill. All those labor saving devices, luxuries, conveniences, and bragging rights conspired to trap me (us) into a 12 hour day. So much for "convenience" and "labor saving".

Do you know how long a human being can keep that kind of work schedule? Not all that long. Somewhere in your 40's you simply cannot keep this pace, or worse your health deteriorates. Yet the system has kept you in school earning nothing (and going into debt) until your mid 20's giving you only 20 years to really feather the nest. Do you know how many people have a feathered nest by 50 today? How about being mortgage free, with a fat retirement account and money to educate the kids? Almost none. Government workers, specialty surgeons, trial lawyers, and investment bankers/brokers/hedge fund managers. Everybody else doesn't have 2 nickels to rub together - but they do have cars and smart phones and cable TV. The very things that were supposed to give people freedom and leisure have enslaved them.

The economy and the employment situation in the U.S. and Europe has been giving signals to people to rearrange their lives - rather than listen to those signals large portions of the population want the government/president/Congress/Tooth Fairy to "fix it". Fix what, exactly?

Entire industries were conceived to keep you in debt. Mortgage debt, auto debt, credit card debt - and now Educational debt. One cannot be in debt and be "financially secure". These are mutually exclusive events. Said another way, if you are in debt you are insecure - and the system likes it that way. Even if you - the individual - were to curtail your debt, the government would increase its debt to keep "demand" going and to "fix" the economy.

Entire industries were conceived to destroy the environment AND addict you to "labor saving devices" that, in truth, have only forced you to work yourself to ill health - and they did it "at one fell swoop". 

The financial system teetered and nearly ended (and Europe is doing its best to finish itself  off) from inappropriate levels of debt. What's the government's solution? More debt (which is exactly what you should do if you want to put off the day of reckoning; that is hardly a cure). While the climate models of Hanson, et al have not been terribly predictive of temperatures, the incidence of record new high temps is 10X the number of record new low temps, and the atmosphere's CO2 concentration does continue to climb. Can we prove the link? Not yet. When we can, we will be dead. So what do our leaders talk about this election season? How to drill more so that we can lower the price of gasoline and increase carbon emissions! Got that? Our leaders want you to have a "good job at a good wage" (so that you can go into debt) with nothing to show for it at the end of the month (or the end of your work life) but miles on a car you can't afford, driven to a house you never see (and can't afford to heat or pay the property taxes on), dragging around a bag for a belly because that "good job at a good wage" requires you to sit for 10 hours per day moving bites around a screen in the complete absence of sunlight, fresh air, and exercise... all so you can afford the "labor saving devices" in your life and the fossil fuels that will eventually kill you, your family, and everybody you know.

And this is what people want? What they are asking their political leaders for?

The economy Tee'ed it up for our political leaders, Intellectuals, educators, philosophers, ethicists, parents,  etc... to change the narrative. To end the enslavement to "labor saving devices" - and the debt incurred to buy them - that by all scientific accounts are destroying the life giving properties of our planet. Seems like a win-win, no? Yet all I see on the web for political debate are references to Women's Reproductive Rights (abortions) and Gay marriage (yawn). John Lennon famously quiped "If everybody demanded peace instead of another Television set, then there would be peace". Old John must be spinning around in his grave. We have too many T.V.'s, so now it is cell phones and note pads - yet another monthly bill that must be serviced in an environment of declining incomes. 

This is the non sequitur presidential election. NOTHING follows. Not a flippin' thing. They both want to expand drilling, coal production, the economy, employment, government spending... all of which requires forcing the population into debt (to increase money supply and demand) as well to increase the Federal Government's debt problem. This is exactly what we have been doing for 40 years or so since the end of the "gold standard". How's it working out for the "middle class" so far? (That was a rhetorical question. The middle class does not exist and never existed. They are merely members of the hand to mouth working poor.)

Sometimes I think I am the only normal person left.

In the final analysis, this is probably all just too complicated and entrenched politically and systemically to "solve" on a macro level. Ergo, it is all about you.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power Interruption Preparedness

I received a number of phone calls from friends up in New York about generators - how to use them, which was best - likely because they probably thought that I was some kind of nut living with guns and generators out in the wilds of Tennessee.

Yes, I have a generator. I use it for field welding, remote power tool use, and for when I have too many cows to milk by hand (though I solved that by selling a couple cows). I do not have a generator for backup electrical power to the house (although I am sure I could use it to keep the freezer cold, I probably won't because I have other plans... but you never know). Because we have young children and live in an area prone to wind/ice storms (not snow, this is the south) and have lost power often enough we have some experience in the matter of backup plans that have been "field tested" if you will.

Rather than spend $1000 on a generator that may or may not work after sitting in your garage or basement for 5 years and for which you may or may not be able to fuel consider this instead:

1 Kerosene heater - $109
2 Kerosene Hurricane Lamps - $50 (I like the "Jupiter" model. Once fueled it will go for a week) and a box of candles.
25 gallons of Kerosene (which will last forever in storage and unlike gasoline does not explode) $100
1 Browning propane camp cookstove (not needed if you have a gas range at home) $100
2 bottles of standard BBQ propane from Home Depot - $50
3 LED 200 lumens or better flashlights and batteries $20 at Costco. (I tell you to get this just for fun. The kids will have misplaced the flashlights and the batteries you bought will be dead and there will be no batteries in the stores. So curse loudly and stumble down to where you stored the kerosene lamps you previously fueled, hit them with a match that you bought along with the flashlights you can't find... and Viola! You have turned back the darkness.)
2 LARGE coolers. (If you have a big freezer put a block of ice in there now. If not, do your best to get ice in an emergency... but its not that easy, as any Floridian will tell you.) You don't have as much food in the fridge as you think. After 3,6, or 9 meals, it will all be gone.
Get some storable food or put some up yourself by learning how to can foods at home.
1 All American 21.5 Qt. Pressure Canner - $250 with shipping. (You can get the cheap ones at Walmart, but they have a rubber gasket. Guess when the gasket fails? Right when you are in the middle of a big canning job. The metal on metal with the screw tighteners are worth the extra money. We absolutely LOVE our canner. With reasonable care it should last for generations.) If you have a freezer full of food and you have a canner and jars with a little effort you can have a pantry full of canned food instead of very expensive and smelly garbage.

Hot showers can be had with one of these... but you will need a propane tank AND a 12 volt battery which may or may not work when you need it. A large pot of hot water warmed on your Browning stove and taken to the tub will get you clean enough.

Some good books (hardcopy) a chess board and some fine wine and you are good to go.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Henry and the Great Society'

I recently read "Henry and the Great Society" finally. Shame on me for not reading this sooner. It is the pacifist, agrarian version of "Fight Club" (the book, not the movie).

Here is a PDF copy that I found on the web (it is a religious site, but the story is not. Of course, it was written as a propaganda piece by someone.... if you can call truth and accuracy "propaganda") I have the book itself, and it is worth the investment to have this in hard copy.

I can't encourage you enough to take the time t0 read the first 86 pages of this book - the Story of Henry - the exhortations after page 86 may or may not be your cup of tea. The writing is not particularly clever, as the story is written to make a point to even the simplest of literary minds, and yet I cannot recommend it highly enough. Easily one of the most important books I have ever read.