Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Tyranny of Distance, III

The Oil Conundrum is doing its thing, reasonably on schedule.

The Leftist Media and the tenured political operatives would have you believe that Shale Oil & Gas has solved the energy issue for Americans and Westerners in general, and y'all can go back to going into massive debt for your education, homes, cars, vacations, cosmetic surgeries...

I always like to go to the video tape. When the end of "Peak Oil" was declared because of massive increases in domestic production in the U.S. I went and had a long look at the stock price behavior and earnings of the companies that should benefit from any such outcome. Low and behold, the market didn't think much of "Tight" Oil & Gas.

This was confirmed by the earnings reports from Big Oil last quarter. I mentioned this as being a highly likely outcome in a post back in March, 2013.

What has really caught me by surprise is how well "the rich" have made out in the midst of all of this. I underestimated the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury. Shame on me. The impact of zero interest rates on the liability side of the balance sheets of the 1% combined with the impact of QE 1, 2, 3, etc... on the asset side of the balance sheet of the 1% has brought the 1% through this relatively unscathed for now.

Of course, private demand contracted, and with it the labor participation rate, pretty much in line with total vehicle miles driven. It is still fun to watch the mainstream press go through their gyrations to explain the decline in driving.

I wrote this post back in November of 2006, nearly 6 years ago. While "the rich" can handle $100 per tankful gasoline, the 99% cannot. A 2 car family earning the American median family income of $52,762 must accept, or are being forced to accept, the realities of the "Tyranny of Distance". People earning $15 per hour, TWICE the minimum wage, simply cannot spend $1000 per month in total automobile costs. Unfortunately, our "typical"American two-income family needs 2 cars for those 2 (or more) jobs. Given the realities of child care and total auto expenses, the jig is up: The two income family for the 99% is kaput. Notice I said "family". The response has been to give up having kids - the American fertility rate of 63 children per 1000 women between the ages of 16 and 44 is a new all time low. The Media beat itself senseless trying to paint this as the bottom. Maybe. That remains to be seen. We have created an economic system here in America in which raising children without overwhelming inputs from the State is nearly impossible for the majority of the population.

How did this happen in a nation with 80% of the population living in an "urban" environment? (Wasn't urbanization the answer?)

Well, that's a good question with a very complicated, multi-part answer. In short, politics.

(Have you been following the "Naval Academy rape case"? How is it possible for a woman to drink too much, get into a car, drive the car, and be a criminal... but if that same woman has too much to drink, gets into a car, performs oral sex on a man... she is a victim of rape? How is it that she is capable of making a culpable decision to drive BUT NOT for performing oral sex? In what universe does that make sense? Can anybody make ANY sense out of that one? Welcome to the politics of the Feminist Left and their cohorts in the Education/Industrial Complex.)

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I sincerely doubt that the bottom half of the American income pool can afford higher Oil prices. Oil has become elastic for them at the volumes they consume Oil at these prices. I doubt that that is the case for the Chinese or Pacific Rim Oil consumer. It will be interesting to see if demand destruction curbs production (and prices) at the margin (Tight Oil) or if prices will continue higher. The price curve for Oil is in serious backwardation. I haven't seen $25+ backwardation since 2008... and we all know what happened then.

Which is why America is about to engage in another Act of War on a Middle East nation. Our government does not give a good fart about 400 dead children gassed in Syria. There are millions of starving children around the world we could be feeding. No, what we give a good fart about is not letting unrest spread to Saudi Arabia. That's it. That is our entire Middle East strategy. Now, I have no idea how our government arrived at the idea that launching cruise missiles at Syria is going to help with that strategy. Frankly, I don't know what any elected official is thinking of besides their next election (but its the lobbyist/regulator/security apparatus folks that scare the sh#! out of me in any event). Yet here we are, with a completely de-stablized Iraq, a de-stablized Af-stan, a de-stablized Libya, a de-stablized Syria... you get the idea.

An Arabia without the "Saudi" is not unfathomable. The impacts to the West are.






















Sunday, July 7, 2013

Peak Oil Will Not Be Televised

Before I get into my post, I wanted to share this article.

As gross as it is, considering my experience with C. Diff over the past (more than) several years, people should know just how important the bacteria flora living on and in your body is to your health.

I had occasion to reach out the Dr. Bonnie Bassler,  Princeton Biologist. Here is a link to Dr. Bassler's research on how bacteria in general, and how the good and bad bacteria in your body, communicate. The truly mind blowing thing about all of this is that the medical establishment is doing its level best to kill you with the help of the meat industry.

The C. Diff. epidemic did not spring out of nowhere. It sprung out of mainlining and feeding copious anti-biotics to our meat livestock and from physicians (and patients) that feel they need to do something. Well, that "something" that you thought could only help can kill you.

As it turns out, we might as easily have evolved to serve the needs of our bacteria flora as the other way around. Either way, we really need our flora. Once gone, that flora is not as easy to replace/replenish as one might think.

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So The Oil Drum is going dark.

I am quite sure that I have posted that the Oil revolution will not be televised. Peak Oil/Peak Oil Light/Peak Imports/Exports et al, is doing its thing - slowly grinding away. The rate of change has not been steep enough to keep everyone entertained - but depletion never sleeps. The ultimate resource recovery might have increased by 500 Billion Barrels (though I doubt it). That would push the peak of from 2005 to 2012 or so... and what year is it? And what does the shape of the graph of vehicle miles traveled per capita look like?

It looks like this.

So far, my estimate of 4,000 of VMT per capita in 2020 looks like it might be about right. From 10.1k to 9.3k in 8 years, how do I get a 50% plus drop over the next 7? Hey, it was just a guestimate, but my bet is that the rate of change for this data point is going to accelerate. Maybe I will be off by a few years... will it matter? Not even a little bit. Its the recognition of the outcome that will have the greater effect.

A new world is growing up, through, and around the old one - and that is a beautiful thing.




Monday, June 24, 2013

Why We Work Ourselves to Death

"Its the Economy, Stupid!" Was a famous campaign soundbite from a 1990's U.S. presidential election.

It seems today that everything is the economy. We worry about jobs, the "economy" (whatever that is), retirement, how to fund education (in order to make enough money so that we can participate in the "economy")... the key is, we worry.

LiveScience recently reported that only 1/3 of Americans described themselves as "happy". (Personally, I was impressed that the number was that high. I would not describe 1/3 of my Wall Street colleagues as "happy". I would not describe 1/3 of my former clients and partners as "happy". Of course, that's hardly empirical... readers can form their own opinion.)

In a politically charged society in which every Special Interest Group exists only to foment angst, anger, and resentment within their group I should think it would be very, very difficult to be "happy" while also being a "victim" - but there was something else going on, me thinks. That other thing I refer to personally as "the enslavement protocol", a programed format that has evolved (or if you are into conspiracy theories, and I am not, "was designed") to stop the individual from pondering the meaning of his/her existence and existing only for the purposes of participating in this thing called "the economy".

I have not read this book yet "Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream", by Benjamin Hunnicutt, only this excellent article in which the author answers a short series of questions, in which Hunnicutt poses the question "What Happened?" to the ideal of free time and personal examination in the United States that was blossoming in the early part of the 20th Century. Rather than calling it an "excellent article" I think that perhaps this article is, to my mind, one of the most important articles I have ever found on the Web because the article connects a couple of dots I have been pondering long and hard about but had been unable to connect.

From the article:


The book is about a mystery in U.S. labor history that I’ve been trying to unravel for 40 years. In the early 20th century, there was strong support for the “shorter hours” movement, and working hours were essentially cut in half as people began to embrace the possibilities of life beyond everyday work. In the 1920s and 1930s, people like [British economist John Maynard] Keynes suggested that by the mid 20th century—and definitely by the 1980s—we’d be working more like 2.5 hours a day! 
No one predicted that this process would stop. But after the Great Depression, working hours stabilized, and there has been no increase in leisure since. Even in the 1960s and 70s, there were predictions that the process would begin again—that there would be a return of short hours and increased leisure. But instead, there’s been a reversal. In 2005, Americans were working on average five weeks longer than in the 1970s. 
So what happened? Why did something that looked so inevitable stop? Why are we now working 10 hours a day rather than 10 hours a week? In the book, I explore various ways to explain this phenomenon, looking at the role of things like consumerism, government policies to stimulate the economy, and machines and technology in contributing to longer hours and reduced leisure.


I assert that what happened, Mr. Hunnicut, was the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution permitting the income tax (also of 1913), and the Federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (otherwise known as Social Security), Medicare, and the Student Loan Machine. The unintended consequences of these government programs were the enslavement of The People, the end of Free Time, and the Permanence of Stress - and all of it inflicted by debt. The crazy thing is that the Left get's the problem but can't see their role in all of it.

The increase in the velocity of money and the money supply that came with creating a mountain of debt has not freed us any more than all of the "labor saving devices" that were sold to us actually saved any labor.

What really happened to "free time" was the enslavement of the masses to our present system of debt, and it is going to be hard to stuff the shaving cream back into the can on a macro basis. Individually, this is a rather easy bullet to dodge, its just difficult to have the chutzpah to actually duck.

This is what the corportocracy has reduced us to. We are no longer individuals pondering the meaning of our existence but workers in a hive slaving for our corporate masters in complete denial of our own mortality. The frenetic pace of our existence is an absolute imperative of the corportocracy - otherwise me might have the time to sit and think.

And they can't have that.








Monday, June 17, 2013

Forecasting is Failure Prone


I have to admit that the U.S. Federal Reserve and the various central banks have pulled off what I thought was darn near impossible – they have been able to re-inflate the credit system and with it financial asset prices - and it only cost about $5 Trillion in increased debt and several Trillion (I am not committing to the amount of Fed Bond purchases – but it is well over $2 Trillion) on the Federal Reserve Bank's balance sheet to increase the equity market assets by $9 Trillion or so.

See, that’s the thing you never hear anything about – the “cost” of the “cost/benefit” analysis that should be done every time government agencies put the 99% further on the hook.

Remember, that $9 Trillion in increased U.S. equity market value went onto the asset side of the 1%’s balance sheet. That $5 Trillion of Debt? Well, over 90% of it went onto the liability side of the 99%’s balance sheet, and over 90% of it went onto the Asset side of the 1%’s balance sheet. That's how it works. In order to increase the Money Supply the Fed and the U.S. Treasury inflated equity prices to enable the 1% to borrow against their equity holdings (and to allow others to borrow in order to buy equities from the 1%). All that is required is steadily increasing asset prices and that system works like clockwork.

So… the Fed/Central Banks have kept the world safe for capitalism, and in the process have enslaved the 99% to the 1% more powerfully than any Constitutional amendment could have ever done. This is the power of the Federal Reserve Act and the U.S. Federal Income Tax.

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So what to do if you are an investor and you missed the rally in the U.S. equity markets? 

Well, that depends on a number of factors. If you are over 50, this is no time to be a hero. If you were not invited to the wedding, don’t go to the funeral. Yes, bond yields stink. Yes, bonds (paper maturing over 10 years) could blow up. Precious metals are not done killing people. Japan is no longer a bargain. China is an enigma. India looks pricey. Russia is too lawless for my tastes, and Brazil is the country of the future – and always will be.

So what to do? Rule 1: Don’t lose money. If you are going to trade, fine. But if you are wrong, you must be gone. I had the hottest run from 2000 to 2008 that a trader could have – and have been ice cold since  – but always I kept my personal motto in replay mode on my shoulder: “If you can’t be right, be liquid. If you can’t be right, be liquid. If you can’t be right, be liquid”, repeat ad nauseum... That means even when you are absolutely, positively “sure” you are right (snicker) you close out your positions when they are losing money. It is OK to miss the mother of all rallies - there are dozens of markets around the world, you are allowed to miss one. But losing capital defeats the purpose. So don’t do that.

And what about the US$? Well, if you are rich you should diversify. Dollars, yen, pesos, pounds, gold… but the inflationistas have been dead wrong. I don’t see them being right anytime soon.  So, if you are a “middle-class millionaire”, you know, those regular Joe’s with $2 to $10 million in assets, it is simply far more important to work on the cost side of your life.

More on that soon.

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According to the media Americans are facing a “retirement” crisis. This, despite the most gargantuan social program/transfer payment system in the history of civilization - so what’s up?

It is the very program itself that is responsible for half of the issue.

The other half is the unfortunate fact that while “we” have extended the human lifespan “we” have not expanded the human healthspan/productive span. People still living at the age of 50 can expect to live past 80 in the U.S. Unfortunately, people living at the age of 50 can expect to be limited in their activities from the age of 59 (at the latest) on. That makes for 25+ years for women and 20+ years for men of consumption without production. Given that people are starting to work later and later this works out such that people are productive for just a little over half of their “adult” lifespan (and are not productive for a little under 50% of their adult lifespan).  It is impossible in this tax environment to accumulate enough savings to fund either your personal needs or the program. The implications for the financial system, taxes, our mental health, et al, are impressive. Some writers and bloggers try to get this into the debate but they are shouted out by those that benefit from the current system.

Going back to my earlier assertion, that a large part of the problem is the program itself, let us go back to the late 70’s early 80’s. Social Security/Medicare finances were on the rocks financially. The policy response was to increase the percentage of income subject to the “tax” (really insurance premiums) and to increase the percentage of “tax” itself  - and from that moment onward U.S. savings plummeted and never recovered – even though corporate pensions were eliminated for the most part and replaced with saving incentive vehicles like the 401k and 403b plans.

Coincidence? Not even a little bit. And while any implied causation on the decline in the U.S. fertility rate is a bit more tenuous than the link to the savings rate I have to point out that the correlation is uncanny.

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So what about Oil?

The slow grind of Peak Oil/Peak Oil Light/Peak Oil Imports/whatever… is doing its thing. The U.S. increased domestic production by a couple of million barrels of Oil and ethanol since 2005. So why is Oil in the international markets over $100 per barrel?

The fact is that the late Matt Simmons and the Doomers got it wrong. Daniel Yergin and the Optimists got it wrong. The EIA and the IEA got it wrong (and my bet is that they will continue to get it wrong). That’s just par for the course. The international Oil marketplace is the mother of all markets. "Huge and complex" does not begin to do it justice. For myself I will always respect the opinions of markets in their totality over any individual. The Oil market tells me that we are close to a Peak in production but that market confidence is not what it was in the summer of 2008. In a 2.5 trillion barrel eventual resource recovery (+ or – 350 Billion barrels), with 30 Billion barrels per year being consumed, being off by 10 years either way is highly likely, but being off  by 20 years is not. We are 8 years into the bumpy plateau. As it turned out, there was a great deal more $100 per barrel Oil than many people thought. My bet is that there will be a heck of a lot more $200 per Oil than was contemplated... and that we will find that out in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, the "Tyranny of Distance" is already doing its thing to every American in the bottom half of median income. Driving 30 miles each way to a job that does not pay at least $X per hour/day is just not an option anymore. Hence the peak in per capita vehicle miles traveled. Some very smart people think "the Machines" are the reason that the labor participation rate is so low, and perhaps that is part of it, but I think the Tyranny of Distance is the larger contributor.

More soon!



Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Convoluted Story - Part 2

Liberal Super Hero Paul Krugman of Nobel fame continues to lead the Keynesian chorus for more deficit spending by the Federal Government. (I would like to point out that Krugman's Nobel prize was awarded for the study of historical economic data - not forecasting/predicting the future, something he is likely no better at than a relatively intelligent investor with commons sense and having his own money at stake. Well...  perhaps not quite that good.) Deficit spending always feels good in the short term, but let's look at this another way. As truly thinking people should.

Right now, the Federal Budget is financed 2/3 by taxes and 1/3 by deficit spending. The Krugman/Keynesian argument seems to me to be that we should spend whatever is necessary to keep The People from feeling any discomfort economically. Never mind that that is not a measurable outcome. My question is this: If we can finance the Federal Budget with 1/3 deficit financing for an extended period of time,

(which might turn out to be the case! If the last couple of years has taught us anything it is that Credit Deflation had some really unforeseen outcomes. The Inflationistas can argue all they like about inflation... but the 2 big inputs - wage and housing - have experienced disinflation or outright deflation for years and without the Government's "help" would have gone into a deflationary nose dive (which I think might have been a good thing in the medium and long term - certainly it would have been a good thing for the "99%" not receiving social program benefits because it would have forced a reset on that silly system - but nobody asked me). Massive deficits and Fed interventions did not result in much inflation)

why can't we finance the Federal Budget with 3/3 deficit spending? Why do we even need a Department of the Treasury and a Federal Income Tax and and Internal Revenue Service? If 1/3 deficit spending has no deleterious effects on our currency, wouldn't 3/3 deficit spending be just 3X more deleterious? Doesn't 3 X 0 = 0?

Look, I am being only 1/3 tongue-in-cheek here. If the U.S. used my 3/3 deficit financing proposal, we would gain all of the productivity lost by collecting documents and filing taxes. We would free up all of those data reporting people at the banks, your company payroll department, those nice people at the IRS, some of our "best and brightest" wasting away at CPA services, and a bunch of other folks to do productive work with lepers/burn victims/lost puppies. Right?

Gotta be. If 1/3 (deficit spending) is good, why isn't 2/3 (deficit spending) better and 3/3 (deficit spending) perfect?

See. That's the problem with those close minded Keynesians. They just can't seem to take it to the next level.

If you know a Keynesian that can explain succinctly to me how 1/3 is good, and that we need to be able to spend whatever it takes (which presumably includes 3/3), but 0/3 is "bad" - and make that presentation consistent with C02/environmental socialized costs as well as our ferkakta wealth distribution - I would very much like to have a conversation with that individual.

- To Be Continued

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Convoluted Story

"In the long run, we are all dead." John Maynard Keynes

I have been out of commission for a while but certainly not out of contemplation.

A number of important issues have been raised in the following articles and something nags at me to pull it together.

Actuary Gail Tverberg had this to say at her excellent blog.
Physicist Stu Staniford had this to say at his excellent blog.


California provides this excellent data on gasoline consumption in a state with 1/8 of the U.S. population.
EIA data on total net electricity generation in the U.S. by year (2003 to 2012. I forgot to add year data on x axis. My bad.)
Here we have declining gasoline consumption and electricity generation in the U.S. the past 5 years but 2012 GDP has exceeded the previous high set in 2007? Yep. GDP measures transactions, and transactions are, like our money, abstractions.

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one." - "When you call me you can call me Al"bert Einstein.

Given the plunge in Nat Gas and Coal prices, the electricity data surprised me a bit, especially given the reports on GDP. Perhaps it should not have, given that the U.S. labor participation rate is at its lowest point in 34 years.

Got that? Labor participation, electricity production, gasoline consumption are all down... yet GDP is up. Hey, whataya know?

There is a great deal going on here. But thinking that anybody at the policy level is giving this any more thought other than getting through the next election is faulty at best, which leads me back to my original thesis expressed early and often: There does not appear to be a macro solution to these issues - only micro (personal) solutions. The world isn't coming to an end, but expanding your family, preparing and providing for the future they will be dealing with will not be done using the model the Boomer's used.

- To Be Continued....





Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Water

Everything I read about "self-sufficiency" or "self-reliance" or "sustainable" seems to revolve around food. How to grow it, cook it, preserve it. All good stuff. A fair amount of folks talk about electricity/lighting/heating and off-grid solutions.

Nobody talks about water.

Water just seems to be ubiquitous, but it just seems that way. Turn off your water at the curb and your electric at the pole and you will find that you miss water a whole bunch more than electric. I learned some hard lessons last year during the epic drought we endured.

There is an economic component here as well. The annual water expense for our household is about $2,000 per year (and we have a septic system so this does not include sewage treatment costs). Not a staggering sum by any means, but I always like to look at my expense in 10 year increments.

$20,000 smackers for water service over the next 10 years. $60,000 over my expected life time (if I should live as long as my father. (Look, I ditched our cable TV service for a number of reasons... but the fact that it was $12,000 every 10 years did not help the cable company's cause in my household.)

After doing an examination of our household consumption, it turns out that we have old toilets that are 3.5 gallons+ per flush - over 50% of our water use is for flushing toilets! Ordering 1.3 gallon per flush toilets for the 2 main bathrooms was a no brainer - $550 for 2, self-installed, brought down water consumption 30%+. With a little attention to detail in other water use activities I expect to cut our usage nearly in half.

Now for that other half.

Even cut in half we use an awful lot of water. The same stuff that falls (most of the time) for free from the sky. (We do have a well. The water smells of sulphur. The animals don't seem to mind, but the well is electric and won't last forever so the less I use it the less likely I am to burn it out.) So I bought 3, 330 gallon water tanks, and a 375 livestock tank and rigged them to collect water from the livestock barn. (I figured 1,300 gallons would be enough for the livestock and vegetable garden (not the field veggies, just the raised beds: 8, 8'x4' and 3, 30'X4').


For all but high summer, this will probably end our dependence on the well. I can go 10 days to 2 weeks without rain (and we do have a pond that is wet most of the year but did dry up in the drought) and still have enough for all of the livestock (4 horses, 2 of them draft size; 8 head of smaller sized cattle (Dexter Bull with 3 dairy cows and their offspring), 5 pigs, and 10 goats) and give me enough to give the vegetable beds .75 inches of water per week (I think. I don't really know how much the livestock might drink in extreme heat but I had no shortage during the rainy winter. Of course, I did not need to water my garden in the winter). In order to ensure enough water in case of drought I will need to double or even triple this system at the barn. Alternatively, I could rig up a grey water collection system for watering the gardens but I don't think that that would be economic in our climate. These tanks and a couple of gutters are just too cheap.

The house is a different story.

Collecting enough water would require a really big cistern/tank or a radical reduction in usage. Even solving for that I would need some kind of pump for water pressure. Tanks can collect rain water downhill from the collection point (our roof), but then that water has to get back up to the kitchen and bathrooms.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.



Saturday, March 23, 2013

California Gasoline Consumption

I don't have a great deal of confidence in the IEA, EIA, or OPEC for accuracy. I think they are kind of close, but not spot on. I do have a great deal of confidence in net taxable gallon data from California. I also think that California is a pretty good proxy for the U.S., considering that it is 1/8 of the U.S. population.

Here is what California says about Peak Oil in the U.S.

An 8.2% decline in Gasoline usage/supplies over 6 years is not the kind of rate of change that will drop a country to its knees. This kind of decline pales in comparison to Spain, or (gag) Greece, where the year over year declines have been in the 5% to 10% and total decline is on the order of 30+%.

But that's history. What are the odds that the U.S. will see that kind of rate of change in consumption (supply) decline? Pretty high, actually. Crude & Condensate, the stuff that can actually be refined into gasoline and diesel, production has been essentially flat (it is reported to have grown .2% per year or so. Maybe. Maybe not. As I mentioned above, the data collection methods are far from perfect). What happens to the U.S. when World Crude & Condensate production actually declines?

That depends on a number of inputs - particularly from Solar & Wind - but my back of the napkin personal sense of it all says that the rate of the decline in gasoline consumption in the U.S. is likely to accelerate at some point in the relatively near future. When that comes to pass, demand from the private sector is going to go down like a rock in a pond irrespective of how many new Armored Personnel Carriers our peace loving Feds buy our local police forces (ostensibly to stimulate the economy).

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At the micro level all of the above does not matter even a little bit for average young Americans from average families living in flyover land. The system, as presently constructed, does not work for them. Yea, some kid that can throw a ball 100 mph, or sing on American Idol, or run the 40 in 4.3 seconds might do very, very well... but for the 99.99% of young kids the college/corporate job life plan is a suicide mission.

I was having breakfast at a hotel restaurant recently. There was some kind of corporate event/retreat going on at the hotel and I noticed a bunch of the twenty somethings to early thirty somethings running about bright eyed and bushy tailed. I wanted to stand on a soap box and share with them an observation I made to my desk partner at Bear Stearns when I was in my early 30's:

"Hey, Sam. Look around the floor (hundreds of guys staring intently at bytes on a screen with a phone in their ear). Where are all the guys that were sitting in these seats 10 years ago? How come nobody here has grey hair?"

I didn't see very many 40 somethings at this corporate shindig. Absolutely no 50 somethings. I wonder how many of the those young corporate servants noticed anything Logan's Run-like about their circumstances.

I wanted to stand up at my table and say "Hey kids! This corporation is going to put you out to pasture around age 40! Unlike your parents you will not get a gold watch, a pension, or even a  thank you. You will get whatever you saved in your 401k (which might cover your lifetime toilet paper bill) and 6 months of severance. You will have given up family, children, your health, and your youth. You will be scrambling to figure out what went wrong for the final 25 years of your work life, and you will be broke."

Of course there is a certain elite that gets all kinds of goodies from the corporate lifestyle. And that's the hook. That's what brings them in - and leads them to their doom.

I felt particularly badly for the young women. The men in that group will, for the most part, find wives and have children. The women in that group will, for the most part, not have children or become single parents of an only child. Hey, "Lien In"!!








Friday, March 22, 2013

Response to comments from "A Simple Life is not so Simple"

I have been up to my ears with my "Simple Life" of late and the blogging has been a bit light.

I did have time to read the comments on that post - simply excellent. Thank you, guys. I did invite a number of Left leaning people to comment but they did not. In fact, they never do.

One comment from Coal Guy is the thing that unnerves me about the entire problem:

In any case, the oppression that would be necessary to stop fossil fuel use would make Orwell blush. I'll take the climate disaster, thank you.

For my part I am disinclined to empower our government to do any such thing - especially since China and India will simply take up the slack. I still think that the Climate Change theory is more likely than not to be the case, but I think it will be what Stu Staniford called a "panic and repent" outcome at some time in the future.

And still I can find no one on the Left to discuss or debate the inconsistencies within their positions.

North Dakota TIght Oil by the numbers

Given the media's reporting on the increase in domestic Oil production for the U.S. I thought I would point out that the stock market does not think much of "Tight Oil/Shale Oil". The Oil Service Index, NYSE - OIH, has gone essentially nowhere during this dramatic increase in production and absolute BOOM in rigs and wells. ("Servicers" provide all of the actual drilling and pipe equipment for the "Producers/Exploration & Production" companies. The E&P companies are really engineering investment banks.)

The economics of Tight Oil production in the U.S. don't look so hot to me upon examination. Please feel to check my math.

South Dakota Oil production averaged 660,000 bpd in 2012. The average price for WTI in 2012 was approximately $85. That's $20.5 billion dollars worth of Oil per year - about half the annual revenue of G.E.

I estimate 60,000 people working directly or indirectly for the Oil industry (a yearly population increase of 12,000 for the past 3+ years and 24,000 workers living in "temp housing" not counted) in North Dakota. When I say "indirectly" I am not including government services or healthcare. It is almost certain that an additional 20,000 police, road crews, utility, nurses, etc... personnel were required to support the efforts of those 60,000 oil industry workers.

Revenue per industry worker = $341,000 if my estimates are correct.

Sounds pretty good, right? Especially compared to G.E.'s revenue per employee of $133,000.

I don't think so. In fact, I don't think the project is terribly attractive at these prices, and that would explain the end of growth in rig count. 100% of the N.D. workers are U.S. based, as opposed to G.E.'s 44%. Infrastructure spending by the N.D. oil industry is off the charts. Truck drivers are earning well into 6 figures. Entire towns are going up over night.

A conventional oil field yielding production of 660k bpd would need no more than 3000 and perhaps less than 1000 workers to service production.

I am trying to gather info on day rates for rigs in ND and other infrastructure expenses (if anybody has anything please let me know)... but my personal financial sense tells me that that expense is going to be several times greater than the labor expense, and never mind the environmental and water costs.

So what's up with the media? I am not sure. Every one of these stories/articles are bought and paid for by some very interested party, and my bet is that it is a politically driven.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"A Simple Life" is not so Simple

After buying the Farm, and being a city boy, I was in need of ideas and inspiration. I searched out blogs of other folks doing something like this to see what they were up to.

Most of those people have closed up shop and are no longer blogging. I suspect that they have found that the "back to the land"/"simple living" was not so simple. Mortgages, property taxes, car payments, health insurance... with the proceeds from a small family farm? NAFC.

Buying a farm is one thing. Stocking a farm is something else altogether. Fencing, tractors (or horse drawn equipment), and other equipment - like money - does not grow on trees. Most of the people I read about were disillusioned, middle class, college educated white kids ("DMCEWKs") with student debt and no grounding in reality. Starting a family farm with no firm commitment to "family", student debt, no social connections in the community, and a suburban childhood background is a recipe for a very short adventure in "simple living".

Here is a link to a fellow that seems more committed than most - and who, more importantly, has the right idea: NO OVERHEAD. While I have observed a near 100% failure rate with the DMCEWK's in their "simple living" quest, I have also observed a near 100% success rate in the Amish community near us (oh, they lose 15% to 20% of their young to the outside world, but those that stay seem to stick pretty well). I think this is do to the fact that the Amish people do not have insurance payments, car payments, a cable bill, an electric bill, a telephone bill, do not pay FICA taxes (the SCOTUS decided in their favor and they do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and do not collect benefits and divorce is unheard of. Hmmm... no health insurance, no social safety net... how do their life expectancy/homelessness rates compare to other other truncates in the population? Spectacularly. Gee... I wonder what would happen if The People could opt out of these "programs"?)

Got that? The fellow at the "Living a Simple Life" link above is living in a cabin without electric or running water. He heats with a wood stove. Good for him. Now, his wife has left him, he sees his son every other weekend... it won't be long before he is back living in a garden apartment and working in a cubicle and commuting to work - that is, unless he is some kind of hero/mountain man/lunatic. I am rooting for one of the latter. Or not. Living alone in a cabin just does not strike me as all that appealing.

The DMCEWKs that fled the "simple life" with their tail between their legs were all enlightened save the planet/nuke the whales/pro-choice/Prius driving/ vegetarian Lefties (Come on, no self respecting/nose picking/gun toting/meat eating/bible thumping Rightie would be caught dead in the "simple life"). People whose entire life is one big "Cause". So what happened? Simple economics happened. Sexual selection happened (well, personal economic and sexual selection are pretty much 2 sides of the same coin). How does the Left propose to order community given their success in devaluing the family unit?

I wonder how much attention the Left has given to the impacts of Sexual Selection on Carbon emissions. Other than me, the only person that ever brought this up anywhere that I am aware of was Nate Hagens in an excellent lecture he gave that can easily be found on the web. I was thrilled to hear that I was not the only lunatic to make this association.

So let me make another politically incorrect observation: I assert that Consumerism is driven by sexual selection, and; Consumerism is what is driving carbon emissions and climate change. How does the Left/the Environmentalists (and the Climate Change folks have won me over) propose to counter that?

The Left is ascendent in American politics . They might want to consider ending their castigation of the Right (they are as dead as fried chicken. Why does the Left continue with their propaganda?) and show the rest of us how they intend to address Climate Change given their Keynesian/Social Safety Net/Redistribute the Wealth mindset.

I am truly ALL EARS.

Because, frankly, the track record of the Left's elite is not so hot. Look at Bill Clinton and Al Gore: Darlings of the Left and formerly fire breathing in their suspicions of the profit motive, neither of these guys made a dime in their lives before the presidency/vice presidency - yet each has racked up 9 figure fortunes and personally pump into the atmosphere hundreds of times the Carbon that a nose picker like me does. Do I really have to go after Hollywood's enlightened morons and their private jets or New York's Liberal establishment and their debt enslavement machine? I'd rather not.  I am sending this to a number of Left Leaning individuals in the hope that they will explain to me how "we" are going to end CO2 emissions before we all starve or bake to death.

The Left championed the Climate Change issue. Good for them. They have convinced me. The Left as also championed massive social programs and safety nets that requires massive economies that burn mind boggling volumes of fossil fuels. These positions do not appear compatible to me.

And dear Left:

Please don't tell me we are going to do it by "conservation". Whatever I don't burn someone else will. Personal "Conservation" does not lower aggregate emissions, and it is the aggregate emission level that matters to the atmosphere - NOT which group or which individuals is doing the emitting.

Please also consider how your policy proposals/ideas will effect the economy's ability to fund those social programs and safety nets that the economy is already not funding (we are doing it with debt), and then explain to me how far, far lower carbon emissions are compatible with these programs. I will try and keep a straight face and I will be polite - but you will have to make sense and defend your assertions intelligently. Good luck.

So let's hear it. You have convinced me. Now what?


Saturday, March 2, 2013

"What's the Story with the Economy"? Oil! (and Keynesianism)

I was thrilled to see this article in the Washington Post.

Dear Washington Post:

I have published hundreds of articles regarding the impact on demand from declining Oil imports into the U.S. and other Western importing nations. Why not add me to the list of folks you called to explain what is going on?

(yea... I know that Oil production in the U.S. is up to 7 million barrels per day. What a blessing. Had that "tight oil" and ethanol not been there this would have been a far different story. That's the problem with forecasting - it is failure prone. That does not change the world wide picture for Crude & Condensate production - flat - and harder to produce, consuming more oil to produce it (lowering ERoEI), and requiring more "security" (military spending)).

From the article:
You can tell an inverted version of Warsh’s story through the economic models of another famous economist, John Maynard Keynes. That story holds, like Warsh’s story, that policymakers fumbled the response to the recession — but in this telling, the problem is that they didn’t do enough. The depth of the recession was so great, the effects of the financial crisis so dire, that the economy needed a huge dose of fiscal and monetary stimulus to regain all the lost ground and return to historical growth trends.
Since the stimulus that policymakers supplied wasn’t big enough, the economy hasn’t grown as fast as it could have, the Keynesian story goes. Janet Yellen, the vice chair of the Fed, gave voice to that story in a February speech. After boosting the economy in the first year after the recession, she said, fiscal policy “has actually acted to restrain the recovery. State and local governments were cutting spending and, in some cases, raising taxes for much of this period to deal with revenue shortfalls. At the federal level, policymakers have reduced purchases of goods and services, allowed stimulus-related spending to decline and have put in place further policy actions to reduce deficits.”
Got that? What we need are more local and state regulators, SWAT teams, police Armored Personnel Carriers, Drones, Fire & Rescue personnel and equipment (when was the last time you heard of a fire in your neighborhood, local school, or work place? We are pretty good at designing buildings that don't burn. That does not stop local "fire budgets" from expanding), code inspectors, et al...

Those of you that have been reading my stuff know that I have repeatedly said that as Oil prices and supplies does its thing to the Industrialized West that all of the Keynesian folks would be screaming that the problem is that we just were not Keynesian enough. That if we would have just "stimulated" more (went into further debt) we can get the economy "growing" again - and with sufficient growth to pay back all of that debt (public and private). Of course, as the past 4.5 (and 40) years bear witness to, there is not a shred of evidence to support that contention. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

(This is not to say that an all out effort to bring wind and solar technologies to bear will not replace Oil, and do so in time to avoid economic disaster. That absolutely could happen. I simply don't know enough about the rate of growth in that input. Ray Kurzweil and Stuart Staniford are of the opinion that that will happen, or come close to happening. Happen or not, that does not change the Keynesian cluster f***.)

But the Keynesians will never stop. I suspect this is part and parcel to the Keynesians' other political belief system(s), but why is not relevant. What is relevant is that we keep track of the promises and claims so that we can make accurate comparisons to outcomes - something that this article, and coming as it does from the Washington Post is certainly surprising, touches on (lightly).

To be fair, it is not just "Oil". Oil is a stressor, and what it is "stressing" is the impossible expansion of debt that the Keynesians thought could, and would, go on forever ("world without end, Amen". Keynesians are little different than other religious belief systems - they have their own chants and prayers with roughly the same efficacy).

From the article:
First, let’s review some facts. The U.S. economy grew by 2.2 percent last year, 1.8 percent the year before, and 2.4 percent in 2010. That was not enough growth to bring down unemployment speedily, which is why — three and a half years after the recession officially ended — 12 million Americans are still looking for work.

Uh... well, those are kinda/sorta facts. U.S. economic growth of 2% would be essentially all imputations, and; "12 million people are still looking for work"? Nonsense. Sheer and utter nonsense. The only metric that matters is the civilian employment participation rate. The number of people defrauding "disability" or dealing in the black market or too fat to do either is simply impossible to suss out of the data. How many people paying FICA taxes/the total population is not.

I was thrilled to see the article cite Milton Friedman's famous quote: "everything we know in economics we teach in Econ 1, and everything else is made up.” There are simply no truer words to describe the "dark (dismal) science" of economics - I don't give a good fart how the establishment dresses up so much of this nonsense with Nobel Prizes, Doctorates (Snicker), whatever, because all of that dress up B.S. has been designed by The Establishment for the benefit of The Establishment. Not one of these people (including me) is absolutely certain of what is going on with this massive system we call the "world economy" or the "U.S. economy". We have some intelligent thoughts, we string sentences together fairly well, wear a dark suit and a white shirt, and don't drool on ourselves in public - and suddenly we think we know WTF we are talking about, despite all evidence to the contrary. Go figure.

I particularly loved this:

When you miss so regularly on your forecasts, Altig says, “it’s easy to think we have to rethink everything we think we know.” But, he adds, “You can be wrong for a very long period of time and still have the underlying structure and story about the economy correct. That’s not crazy. I guess that’s where I would be right now. It’s not like you have to throw out how you think about these things. You just have to have the same humility you always have.”
He should have added "Provided that you continue to respect us as the learned people we most certainly are, deserving of tenure or some other absurd compensation program (my view of "oncologists" comes quickly to mind) stripped from the mouths of people that actually work at something productive" and I would have been satisfied.

Economists (Oncologists/Divorce Lawyers/Women's Studies professors, Bankers, et al) add sooooooo little value and we have soooooo many of them leaching off of the rest of us that it is hard for them to see what the real problem for The People truly is: THEM.

The Corporations and their mouth pieces (economists/education professionals/politicians) moved The People around like chess pieces on a board... but with no thought for tomorrow. Now normally, The People did their own thinking about that, but the system developed systems and protocols to overcome that. To stop people from thinking and questioning for themselves and their own future and the future of their family. The public school system and the education/industrial complex (that most unholy alliance between the university system and corporations that developed in the second half of the 20th century that convinced individuals that they needed to spend $100k, and give up 4 earning years on state school undergrad degrees in play ground supervision in order to work at Walmart stocking shelves for peanuts). Feminism (the Gay Women's Movement) came along and contributed mightily by helping to destroy the family unit, leaving straight women "independent" of (read: without) husbands and children and completely dependent upon their corporate masters and their corporate pensions to provide for them in their old age (oh, wait. Those corporations, after removing women from their homes and families by promising "independence" don't provide their workers with pensions any more. Seems the corporations did not want anyone depending on them, either. Has anyone looked at the financial health of all of those post 50 corporate/independent women? I have. They are destitute.).

It would be hard to make this stuff up! Truth truly is stranger than fiction (and with friends like the Feminists and the Corporations who needs an enema?).

Wrap your mind around this little stat: Median family income in the U.S. is $50K! MEDIAN. That means that half the families out there are living on less and half on more. I spend $17k per year on health insurance! Now take out FICA taxes. Yet they (nearly) all have cell phones, and nearly half of those in the under $50k per year income group has a smoker in the household ($1750 per year for a pack a day smoker). Is it any wonder that 1 in 6 Americans cannot afford to feed themselves or their children and rely on the government for Food Stamps (SNAP)?

Think about that: The government is, in effect, subsidizing the liquor, tobacco and cell phone industries while criminalizing "under age" tobacco & alcohol use (as well as drug use and prostitution). In what f***ing universe does that make  sense? Half of American women and a third of American men are obese - and the solution to people's health is to have them subsidize the healthcare industry by forcing Americans to buy health insurance?

Welcome to Keynesian thinking. How else does government "Stimulate" the economy but by deficit spending and subsidizing? And the Keynesian answer? To spend more. To addict people to programs and benefits that encourage them to "consume" tobacco, alcohol, tattoos, piercings, gold teeth, cell phones... hey, these items contribute to GDP, don't they? That's how GDP works, in our system. Go out tonight and have a massive heart attack and die = no benefit to GDP. Go out tonight, get sick and go to a hospital and get diagnosed with terminal cancer = $500k minimum for GDP.

That's the system, and it is not so deeply entrenched that it cannot be extirpated and ripped up by the roots, but it will require an end to the 2 Headed 1 Party system.










Friday, March 1, 2013

The Homestead

I interrupt my series of incessant bitching about the various systems that have developed (and which do not serve the vast majority of The People) in favor of some of my personal responses.

I (finally) got around to putting in a wood stove to heat the house, and; I (finally) got around to putting metal roofs on the barn and house so that I can collect rainwater without poisoning myself with asphalt shingle flavored water.

Our house is small so a single, large framed wood stove is sufficient for heat. When we bought the house there was a tacky, 1970's style propane fireplace in the corner of the family room/kitchen. I figured it would be there forever if I didn't get motivated and just tear the thing out and get a look at what was behind it:


There was a false chimney on the roof; really just a wood "chase" to hide the ugly chimney pipe and increase the odds of burning the house down. Welcome to 20th century construction practices.

I tore everything out and started from scratch (I did keep the brick) and put in the wood stove:


Since the stove went in I have had no use for the central heat system. Around here, wood grows on trees and we have plenty of storms so there is no shortage of "free" wood. (There is a bit of work involved. Just one more reason I don't have much use for a gym membership.)

The problem was clearance. The stove required 22" on the sides and 20" from the back, and I was short by an inch or so... so installed a heat shield (actually I now have 2 wrapped all the way around the stove). The pipe coming out of the stove is single wall but my insurance requires triple wall chimney pipe for the passthrough. Since I wasn't really comfortable with the clearance for the triple wall pass through, and even though I bought a ceiling/roof kit, I decided to put a metal roof on, and have the metal roof panel hold the triple-wall pipe (via a roof boot rated for high temps) for extra clearance from wood and other flammables. This served another purpose - I wanted to collect rain water for household use and asphalt shingles make for unsafe drinking water, so...


Here's the roof as it is going in. In the background is the barn with its new roof. I saved a great deal of money by doing it myself (I did have a helper but I was the GC, Foreman, Laborer, and Chief Slave Driver). None of it was rocket science although my valley cuts (they are behind me in this shot) were not first rate.

I installed a few (cheap) 300 gallon tanks around the barn for livestock and garden use, and I bought a broken 3000 gallon tank from a neighbor that I need to go get and repair. As always, I will scrounge and source used, broken, discarded, etc... equipment and make it work:


Water is an important, and increasingly expensive, resource. I am determined to end my dependence on city water.

On a separate note the hog that we slaughtered and salted is out of the salt and hanging in the garage:


I will cover the meat with old pillow cases soon - before fly season gets underway.

---------------------------------------------------------

Many of these projects got put off because of my run in with the C. Diff stomach bug. Now that I am feeling better I am able to get after it around here.

I bought some older mare draft horses from the Amish community in Ethridge, Tn.,  and rebuilt a bunch of horse drawn equipment for this year's hay season and garden work. Not sure that this is more practical than my old Ford 4000 diesel tractor, but I am enjoying them immensely... some people play golf; I drive draft horses. Here they are pulling a rebuilt hay mower. Last year I had very little use for our lawn mower - only around walk-ways - as the "Big Girls" mowed the big stuff and I scythed it in tight spots, and used all of the cuttings as animal fodder.

Video here.

It seems that everything that has worked for us here at the farm were ideas that we got from the Amish community up the road from us. I think we will heat entirely with wood (and the occasional use of a kerosene heater) and I think that we could get by without city water even if completely off grid. No, we wouldn't have luxurious hot showers and baths, but we would have enough hot water for personal hygiene, cooking, washing, and drinking. I went sort of "off grid" for a test recently when my wife and daughter were away for 2 days and it was just me and my younger son (I left the electric on for the freezers but everything else we did without electric). Piece of cake (though I am not sure that my DW would feel that way).




Sunday, February 24, 2013

Unable to grasp the root of any problem Cont. - Healthcare

Healthcare chews up nearly 18% of GDP here in the U.S., about 2X its take in the other major industrial economies in the West. What do we get for our "double the price"?

Ripped off, that's what we get. The very name - "Healthcare" - is definitely the greatest misnomer in common usage today. At best it is "Sickcare" and it is more fairly described as "extortion during illness care".

I am not a physician. I wouldn't know a cell membrane from a mell cellbrane. I do possess are radically enhanced ability to count. I had reason to do some research on the outcomes for the standard treatment of various cancers - and, unfortunately there is scant (no) data to support the idea that anything modern medicine does in the treatment of many cancers does anything to extend life by very much, especially in the case of solid malignancies. There is real evidence of life extension for just a few cancers: Hodgkins Lymphoma, Childhood Leukemia, Testicular cancer, Anal cancer, and a few other cancers.

(The Cancer industry has a tremendous advantage in their false promises and exaggerated claims campaign - there are no control groups. No one withholds treatment from a control group in order to make a scientific comparison between treated and non treated populations. However, even with this coup for their propaganda effort there is no hiding the outcomes.)



From the article immediately above:
But it would be wrong to ignore the government task force’s conclusions. Given that slow-growing cancers may not need to be detected early to be cured, and that fast-growing ones may be fatal regardless of when they are found, the fact that its review of the available epidemiological data shows that P.S.A. testing does not save lives from prostate cancer should not come as a huge surprise.
Many practicing physicians know this (or feel this) anecdotally. Read this piece on "Why Doctors Die Differently".

(Sorry to be supplying so many links. This is such a brutal/touchy subject that I felt it better to source every assertion.)

I think you have the idea. For many cancers it does not matter when we are diagnosed - they cannot be "caught in time". In these cases, our fate is ineluctable. No amount of "cut, burn, and poison" (surgery/radiation/chemo) will change the outcome (or the date of the outcome). In fact, these treatments might subtract months or years from our "healthspan", or the time we have to live life. Of course, the Cancer Industry would itself die a quick death if The People actually believed and understood the data (little chance of that happening. Hope springs eternal - especially for "free" healthcare services).

So if all of the above is true, why would the marketplace pay a median (the average is certainly higher) annual compensation of nearly $300k to American oncologists? They have no discernible value - why would we pay them? (A number of other specialty medical fields come to mind regarding no discernible value. Back surgeons, anyone? And their median annual compensation is much greater - about $800k). Well, partly because we have no "marketplace". For most, healthcare is "free" (insurance pays).

There is an old saying in business: "That which is not measured is not managed." For the most part, there is no independent/outside auditor measuring the outcomes of medical treatments. No one is minding the store. There is a never ending stream of propaganda/advertising. (Don't you love those photo layouts of brain scan/XRAY's in TV and magazine commercials? A couple of models are looking pensively at the lit up white board at the mass in your brain as if looking at it will somehow cure you and leave you living happily ever after... and why is it always some old, bald, white guy and a too young to be a physician/beautiful Asian woman as the models in these commercials? Cue the theme music and "GE, we bring good things to life!!!!" Just not to the patient's life.)

OK. This is where I am going with this... Got that? From the article:

Stephanie was then told by a billing clerk that the estimated cost of Sean’s visit — just to be examined for six days so a treatment plan could be devised — would be $48,900, due in advance. Stephanie got her mother to write her a check. “You do anything you can in a situation like that,” she says. The Recchis flew to Houston, leaving Stephanie’s mother to care for their two teenage children. 
About a week later, Stephanie had to ask her mother for $35,000 more so Sean could begin the treatment the doctors had decided was urgent. His condition had worsened rapidly since he had arrived in Houston. He was “sweating and shaking with chills and pains,” Stephanie recalls. “He had a large mass in his chest that was … growing. He was panicked.”

This medical practice took nearly $84k from a person at the most vulnerable moment in their life for a treatment that does not extend life? The family did not have enough money to stroke the check themselves... obviously, they don't have college/weddings/down payment on homes saved for their children. What resources the family does have is up 1 generation, and they are going to spend it on a treatment that has NO DISCERNIBLE BENEFIT. And Bernie Madoff got a life sentence while these people are "respected" professionals?

Am I the only normal person left?

The answer to all of this is to force people to buy health insurance?

This is what happens when innumerate people control the system and the dominant political party.

This is one of the great failings of technology. We get to know what is going to kill us so far before it does and we get to sit there and think about it while an industry springs up to take complete advantage of us at our most vulnerable moment. That industry is causing the real economic hardship and angst for The People. Any politician or administration that wants to survive the next election has absolutely no incentive to reign in Healthcare costs. Think about it. What would happen to the "economy" if Healthcare spending were suddenly dropped from 18+% of GDP to the 9% of GDP found elsewhere in the West? A contraction of 9% would be in line with the Great Depression and much worse than the Great Recession of 2008-09.

Hence Obamacare.










Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unable to grasp the root of any problem

The shrill cry from the Liberal Establishment about the environment, health, food, energy, education is deafening at times - and inaccurate most of the time.

A group that can clearly see the "root causes" of poverty and crime go deaf, dumb, and blind when it comes to the root causes of the above mentioned issues.

The problem of American obesity was caused by the food industry? No doubt this industry has its hand in the cookie jar at the end of a string of systemic constructs that conspired to make America overweight.

The problem, as it is envisioned in article after article, is all that nasty processed and fast food we are eating. A "no sh#1, Sherlock" moment if ever there was one ensues. It never occurs to the people promulgating these articles/propaganda (remember, Jeffers media theory... no article makes its way into the media without being paid for and then vetted by the Liberal establishment) that the food industry is responding to demand from the market place. A market place filled with people that work 8 or 9 hours per day (on average) and commute over an hour per day (on average). How does one shop (for a family, after all the article is talking about obese kids, right?) for whole foods (not the f***ing store. I am mean the thing that that corporation took as its name) that require someone to actually plan, acquire, cook, serve, and clean up afterward if one has left the house at 7:45AM and returned home at 6:00PM? It cannot be done. I don't give a good fart how many articles these same scum bags post titled "20 wholesome meals in 20 minutes!!" It is not humanly possible to shop for nutritious family dinners, bring the proceeds of the necessary shopping into the home, organize it, plan the meal, cook it, sit down with the family and eat it, and then clean up. What freaking planet does the schmuck with the 20 minute thing come from?

It is as simple as that. We have designed a system whereby most people cannot even afford to feed their children (look, 1 in 6 Americans are on Food Assistance from the Federal Government - nearly all of this goes to families with children), and in a system where both parents must work outside of the home in order to fund their future divorce, social security for their parents (notice I said for the parents of today's workers... the government is absolutely, positively going to default AGAIN by raising the age for benefits AGAIN. Raising the age of benefits (changing the rules AFTER taking someone's property) is the very definition of reneging and defaulting), health insurance (I will get to that cluster f**k in a moment), and property taxes (to fund the pensions that government workers have that The People will not have).

The Liberal Establishment refuses to delve into this as they simply must censure this discussion as it might lead to an examination of corporate servitude, the gender roles within the family, and the undoing of the family itself. If they do not censure this discussion their political base might well come to its senses and  the Liberal Establishment cannot have that.

(Americans NEED immigration because Americans cannot afford to raise children. Think about that assertion for a moment. The more educated and achieved an American is, the less likely they will procreate at the replacement rate (2.1 children per woman), but this decline in fertility has now spread to the lower middle class/working class/poor. Hence the never ending battle over immigration.)

While our "Lifespan" has been extended greatly in the 20th century, our "Healthspan" has not. People regularly live into their 80's now, but they do not regularly work unimpeded past 60 or so, the Healthspan of the average American. Oh, they may "work" but people that age are dramatically less productive than they were. Americans are entering the work force later and later, ostensibly for "education", but they do not get those years tacked on to the end of their careers for the most part (there are exceptions, of course) leaving less time to pay off that mortgage, raise those kids, and save for old age.

(I love that euphemism - "Retirement". Americans just can't say Old Age or TFO (Too F***ing Old) when the fact is that every person with good luck will eventually be TFO. The unlucky don't life long enough to worry about that. My father used to say "They make old fools and bold fools... they don't make old, bold fools". If you are lucky you will experience old age, not retirement.)

Our kids are fat, we are fat, for 2 very good reasons. There were not enough workers for the Corporations from the 60's until 2000. Women were dragged away from their families to work as Corporate Servants. Feminism claims responsibility (and I used to believe they were correct) for this, and considering how much I despise that group I am tempted to stick the blame tag on them... but it just ain't so. Feminism DID convince women that this was a good idea and that it was in their best interests, which was complete horse sh#!, but that is another story. The second reason is TV. Not just watching it as a sedentary slug but the influence it has on our lives.

Think about it. If women stayed home (I am NOT telling anyone what they should do! I am merely making an observation of our recent history and the outcomes attendant) and had and raised children there would not have been enough workers to staff the Corporations and the jobs traditionally held by women. Simple as that. By forcing the breakup of the family the corporations got their servants. Of course, no one was thinking about the impacts on the kids of the 1970's thru 2010 (there would be some delay for kids from the job surge of 1960 - 2000) and I think that the Obesity/Ritalin/Addiction/Incarceration spike in the population was simply an unintended consequence of millions and millions of unsupervised kids being fed copious volumes of junk and fast food, as well as being fed copious volumes of propaganda and bullsh#! from the TV/Media/Hollywood.

Now, here, in this time, post 2000... the Corporations do not have need of all of those workers. Somehow, it never dawns on the Left that the reformation of the family unit solves a number of problems caused by the Corporate Servant demand surge of the 1960 to 2000 period. We are not creating jobs sufficient to employ all of the new entrants into the labor force. If the system dragged women away from their families during that period of increased Corporate/Institutional servitude, perhaps recreating traditional roles will solve the unemployment and obesity problem in one fell swoop along with a number of other issues.

The American Left simply cannot survive without Feminism, The War on Men, and the Abortion issue. None of those can survive the revival of the family unit. This makes for one interesting battle.

BTW... this is not a hope for a revival of what has become the American Right. Those folks are easily as daft as the Left. I do hope for a revival of the individual and the family and a culture of personal responsibility with empathy and support for those that cannot care for themselves. In the best of all possible worlds those of us in the middle would drop kick the crazies at either end of the spectrum, and I think that that is at least as possible as anything else that will come out of the technological paradigm shift happening to the employment markets.

One can hope.

The Next Big Lie: Health and Health Insurance

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oil, Solar, Wind, Money, Life

Oil continues to do its thing to the U.S and Europe.

In the case of Europe it is doing its thing faster, harder, and deeper. The U.S. has had the benefit of the salubrious lubricating effects of "Tight Oil" production and ethanol. Still, those resources and the .2 miles per gallon per year gains in fuel efficiency were not enough to increase Total Vehicle Miles Traveled.

Will domestic production increase 700k bpd in 2013 over 2012? That's the EIA's position. Will that come to pass? I think a pretty good chance. Will it be enough to overcome the decline in imports? It should at least come close (for that year). Vehicle miles traveled might actually go up year over year 2012/2013. If so I would bet that that would be the last yearly increase for a while.

Either way, Peak Oil imports, and with it Peak Oil, likely came and went for the U.S. The question now is will the rate of change be slow enough to allow the increase in wind and solar electricity generation and battery technology to overcome the decline in Oil? To my mind, that is a far more important question than will the world's central banks over or under do whatever the heck it is that they are doing.

World Oil supplies are being contested for right now, with the productive societies out bidding the less productive societies. The Oil will flow to the most productive, and the less productive will have to get used to less and get more efficient (like Greece, Spain, and Italy are doing right now).

The thing is, I never concern myself with societies, or countries, or peoples, or however people divvy themselves up. I concern myself with No. 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5, (and "Gramma") along with my extended family of 6 through 50 or so. In order to look out for No. 1, it really helps to know what it is that No. 1 wants. This is a big thing. It is absolutely impossible to get to where you want to go when you don't know where you want to get to. Seems absurdly simple.

Oh, yea? Ask any college student what it is that they really want to do (exactly), where they want to live (exactly), what they expect to pay for housing/healthcare/automobiles/insurance over a lifetime, how many children they want to have, when they want to have them, how much money they think they need to save each year and at what compounded rate of return they expect... they have no freaking idea.

Why is that?

Now if you really wanna f**k with their heads, ask them what their plan "B" is just in case their non-existent plan "A" doesn't work out the way they are NOT thinking about.

We are at one of the largest inflection points - on politics, energy, technology, debt, war, health (obesity) - in the history of mankind - and many young people are operating without a plan.

This goes for grown ups, too.

"That which is not measured is not managed."

"1/4 by the end of the first quarter." For those people working on commission or in some kind of quota job this is self-explanatory. For young adults under the influence of the university-industrial complex this might not be self-anything.

Family/Household income in America is a disaster. So the Federal Reserve has been successful at re-inflating asset prices. That's great - for me and other Wall Street types.

Along with Household/Family income real household wealth is in the crapper, too. People cannot sell their houses for what they are "worth" and the value of their financial assets won't take them very far.

Columbia University Economics Professor Joseph Stiglitz had this to say today about the lack of economic mobility here in America. This is an incredibly bright and thoughtful guy that just cannot put 2 and 2 together. His conclusion is f***ing spot on. His "why' is just FUBAR. The U.S. has never spent more on "education". The U.S. has never had a higher percentage of college educated adults in its population. The result? Far worse mobility than at any time in our history. His recommendation? We need to spend even more on "education", despite the fact that 2/3 of the over $1TRILLION in student loan debt is in default or deferment (not paying down their loan balance). Stiglitz might be a brilliant economist but I can tell you he has obviously never managed an investment portfolio. You see, any investment that does not yield enough cash flow to cover debt service is to be avoided like the freaking plague. It never occurs to these guys that there might be something else going on. WTF??!! To be fair... I think this guy is pretty smart - but he works for Columbia and is writing for the New York Times. "No man can understand that which his salary requires that he not understand". Or something like that.

Dear Professor Stiglitz: What the U.S. economy needs is the termination of all barriers to entry for any and all services (and goods). Stiglitz mentions how mobile things were 100 years ago. Wanna know why? Nothing required a license from the State!! Want to be an "accountant"? 100 years ago you hung up a shingle and went to work, usually after working for another guy that called himself an "accountant". Same with dentistry, lawyering, electricians, doctors, plumbers, carpenters. Let the market decide if it wants to pay $50,000 for a medical procedure because you went to Harvard, rather than $5,000 to a guy that learned how take out Gall Bladders from his Dad. The result will be fast and furious repricing of all of the things The People cannot afford.

Do you know why we have so many toothless people out in rural America? Because the Dentists have a very powerful lobby that has priced millions of Americans out of the ability to pay for dental care. So now instead of a hygienest on every corner doing cleanings and drill and fill repair work (do you really think it would take more than 4 weeks to learn how to drill and fill a cavity in a tooth?) we have dozens of people on every corner with gaping holes where teeth should (and would be, if they could afford dental care) be. This is the case for every other occupation that requires a "license" to work.

So how the hell did I tie Oil and State contrived barriers to employment together? Easy. I got that kind of mind.

Just kidding.

Actually, it was the Oil issue facing the U.S. that got me to thinking about the "system". As it turns out, while the Oil situation is and has been a disaster to the U.S. economy (if Oil was still $20 per barrel and imports were continuing their multi decade growth patter does any one in their right mind think that the Household income, net worth, and employment would be the nightmare they are?) it has not brought the world to an end. It did, however, bring to an end the silly narrative that people born into poor and working class families were going to move up the economic ladder (by screwing up the economy) or that middle class people would achieve financial independence sometime before trying to figure out what Medicare, Part B meant to them personally... and, coincidently, combined with the incredible volume of knowledge and information now available at everyone's fingertips (not just ivy tower academics) thinking people are starting to question the very foundations of the "system" - The Federal Reserve. Income Taxes. Deficit Spending. Social Security & Medicare. Property Taxes. And more - and the conclusions they are coming to are most discomforting.

I have pointed out in excruciating detail why (and here, and here) even "rich" people will never, ever have financial security and can only ask why is it that they willingly waste 40 years of their lives striving for something that simply cannot be had? Giving up children & family, their health, their precious time on this earth... to concentrate their efforts on advancing in a system that concentrates all of the rewards in the top couple percent of the people? In what universe does that make sense (for the average individual)? And yet we do it.

We do it because the system has power over us. Food comes from the grocery store. Water from the tap. "Services" come from the government. We "need" insurance for Life, Health, and Liability - even though the combined take of this insures that we are stressed, unhealthy, and worrying about losing assets we don't really have. You can't make this stuff up. A Martian coming here and examining the lives and motivations of people living in the suburbs and commuting into Manhattan (or pick your city) would phone home wondering WTF is going on here.

Some of us will try to break free, but we won't make it. Our spouses, kids, friends, and extended families live in that universe, and some force akin to gravity wants us to live there, too. It pulls on us. It distorts.

But the garden is going in, the hams are hanging, and I put in a wood stove to heat the house and a cistern to supply our water. Maybe I can pull free... I wonder what the escape velocity (philosophy) of this particular gravitational field is?

You Grok?







Saturday, February 2, 2013

Financial (and Social) (In)Security

Saturday morning cartoons, nay, every kid media production, has evolved into one loooooong commercial to influence buying habits, influence votes, or to influence sympathies.

Sometime shortly after that unfortunate development that media strategy spread to adult media content. There is not single story written in the Mainstream Media that does not contain an agenda - even if that agenda only covers a by-line.

Read this article from Yahoo News about how Americans are being forced to put off "retirement" (defined as the day they quit working and sit around yelling at the TV).

Seems reasonable.

The writer's explanation:

The labor force has been getting older for decades for reasons that range from longer life spans and better health to companies' replacement of defined-benefit pensions with higher-risk 401(k) plans.
Also seems reasonable.

Of course its only partially correct. Yes, we are living longer and, yes, Corporations are no longer interested in being your lifetime provider. Nowhere does the article mention we have all become more and more financially insecure despite/because of decades and decades of tax creep from FICA taxes (Social Security/Mediacare payroll "taxes"). Nowhere does the article mention that our total career span is about the same - 35 years - and that we are starting later and finishing later - ostensibly to become "educated" (as if that only occurs under the watchful eye of someone else and only in your twenties). If one does not get serous about a career until 30, you know after a 5 year undergrad program, back pack Europe, and MBA, you will, by economic and mathematical necessity be required to work until at least 65. After all, you did not finish having children until your 40's, and you have a 30 year mortgage. Nowhere does the article mention that many of today's over 50 workers have sacrificed marriages and having children because corporations required that they be "educated" in order to work at jobs that required little training, weren't all that fulfilling, and resulted in the outcome that the article's featured hedge fund analyst has experienced at the end of his prime working years - not much money, no family, no home, no job.

And for this he slaved away in Wall Street salt mine?

The brutal reality is this: Funding Social Security and Medicare through FICA taxes and state income taxes (in the case of California) and/or property taxes (in the case of the Northeast Big Blue states) are the primary reasons that many people my age have no family (they could not afford children) and have no money. Yet Lefties like Senator Elizabeth Warren are worshipped for their deeply flawed research/writings/assertions on the subject. Go figure.

(Note that birth rates in the U.S have plummeted. This trend is nothing new. When I am bored I will graph the increase in FICA taxes per person and the fertility rate of Americans. I bet they correlate inversely 100%, not that that implies causation - except when it does.)

Not that FICA taxes and state income and property taxes (property taxes have enabled municipal workers to enjoy tremendous financial security at the expense of everybody else) are solely responsible. No, they are responsible for the preponderance of The People's financial insecurity. To be fair, there are some other (materialism/consumerism) contributing factors - but these other factors pale next to these. Well, sort of. The monthly bill from cell phones, internet access, and cable is really far more damaging than widely perceived.

Now the government has these people by the gishgas. This is how democracy/corporatocrocy works in 21st century America.

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Gasoline prices are at a record for this time of year. But imports are down buy 1/3. This is not the drag on the U.S. economy that it was just 5 years ago. Europe is a different story.

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I spent the last 2 weeks reading Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near". Stuart Staniford and Stephen B. recommended it to me. Fascinating. Peak Oil might well be just a "stressor", especially if Kurzweil's calculation on the development of Solar energy collection technology is correct, but The Singularity (or some sort of Singularity Light) might be something far, far more impacting.

I highly recommend the book.






Tuesday, January 22, 2013

U.S. Oil Production

It is difficult to wrap my mind around the incredible increase in U.S. production of Crude & Condensate.

As it turns out, there was a great deal more $100 per barrel Oil than nearly any one thought possible (int he U.S., anyway). I should think that there will be one heck of a lot of $150 Oil - if we ever even need to find out.

When the wind (or data) changes, one must tack to the wind. I am not interested in being long Oil at the moment.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Great MLK and the Defilement of his Legacy

Happy MLK day!

I am a huge MLK fan - so much so that I would be very, very happy to have his likeness replace Lincoln's on the penny and $5 bill. MLK was the real emancipator. Lincoln fought a war that didn't need to be fought and caused the violent/diseased death of well over 1 million people (the 660k quote of soldiers that dies during the conflict is almost surely a vast understatement, and to that one must add the deaths of those that died of their wounds in the years after the Civil War as well as the deaths of the orphaned children and widows of the deceased soldiers).

Of course, no one listens to me. Unfortunately, no one listened to MLK, either.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

While the Liberal media will be filled with propaganda today, I would like to offer an alternative view of the data. If I assert that MLK was the real emancipator, I would also assert that the "Black (only) Leadership", with a tremendous assist from The Left, has done its best to undo the achievements of the Late, GREAT, MLK.

African Americans have separated and segregated themselves from the larger society in a fashion unprecedented in history.



So much for a color blind society. I wish MLK could be here to see this, and to strip the bark off of the "Black (only) Leaders" for what they have wrought.

For those of you who actually ARE color blind/gender blind/faith blind, that reject the use of force to achieve political and social policy goals as well as the lie of multiculturalism, and who embrace the acceptance of us mongrel races, I wish you peace and salute the content of your character.

And to you, Martin Luther King, Jr. May your message take root and have a voice once again.