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Park The Quake Jitters for a While
Just in from 2012 researcher Patrick Geryl:
More, presumably on his web site a research continues, but (hopefully) no megaquakes this weekend...
A Word from Jas Jain
We don't normally get into editorial positions, especially on Friday with Miller time close at hand, and another weekend at long last in sight, but with the headline in the Washington Times that "Obama reverts to 2008 plan: Blame Bush." I thought we ought to clear the air on some of this tax breaks for the rich crap that gets circulated. Even my deflation pal (Dr.) Jas Jain sees through it:
While Jas and I disagree on some things, I never question his data. With a PhD in digital signal processing (and some of his work in most routers, FWIW) I have to take his criticism pretty seriously. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting to be us. America has only three ways out of the economic prison we're in:
We're tackling #3 and half-assing around #1. #2 is untouchable.
For now, thanks to the corporate complicity of both political parties, everyone's bitching about how we need to lower taxes, but nobody (as Jas points out) wants to address the hard-core economic reality: For a given lifestyle of government (spending on thus and such) you either pay more tax, or you load up more debt. Is that too complicated for voters? The republicorps thus become the More Borrowing party (lower taxes mean more borrowing) and the democorps become the Restrain Spending party...well, maybe, but if not, they'll be the "left holding the sack of sh*t party." Which would suit the other guys fine, since as we've said all along, politics isn't about being honest, it's about being elected. As any former house speaker would know,eh?
Since both sides lap the swill of the corporate trough, no one touches marginal tax rates. Hello?
When crash comes to shove, I'd appreciate it if you didn't say "It's all Greek to me..." because it isn't.
Our US Debt to GDP ratio is higher than Greece's and if the republicorps and democorps can't at least be honest with the public about their conspiracy to support the corporate coup in America, then both parties are undeserving of votes or money.
Not that it will stop them, of course, but it's a thought.
Ties That Blind
A lot of eyes are on the US-Latin America summit going on in Colombia.
Doesn't seem to me like a lot of summitting is required: They have energy, rare earth metals, cheap labor, hookers, and plentiful drugs. Our side of the equation is unquenchable energy demand, high tech mania, debt-driven spending, secret service agents, and a porous border. So: Do we really need to "summit" to figure this shit out?
Watch Bahrain & Britain
...figures our Canadian news analyst up near Winnipeg:
No, not surprising at all, given that as immigration of Islamic peoples has increased into the UK (the upper-crust Brits seem intent on large servant classes, not being bright enough that such policies circle-back and bite the ass) they stand to reap the consequences of a non-homogenous population, but you see, in the grand reality of 'Everything's a business model' that's where cameras on every corner and the rest of the UK terrornoia is coming from. Well done, old chaps.
Definition: Terrornoia: A psychological condition which drives organizations to monetize all aspects of crime imaginable. Also: Inability to distinguish between infractions, misdemeanors, crime, organized crime, racketeering, and terrorism.
Previous linguistic iterations lacking sufficient budgetary oomph included "subversives, gangs, mobsters, hoods," etc. Condition is terminal when "speeding" or having a joint in your pocket on a train is classified as act of "terrorism."
Similar to McCarthyism but with much larger budgets.
Memo to self: Stay home.
OK, yes, the CFTC announced:
But my question is still "WHY NO ACTION AFTER FOUR YEARS OF PROBING SILVER AND GOLD MANIPULATIONS?" Can't rush into these things?
Government Sterilization Programs
There's been a huge story percolating around Uzbekistan's reported female sterilization program over the past few days. Citing the country'spresident Islam Kaimov's orders (state-dictated sterilization) there's a huge backlash growing including now a site which has set up a petition for people to sign demanding change...a petition destined for SecState Hil Clinton.
Don't hold your breath on anything changing anytime soon but it is outrageous.
How Crazy is Medicine Getting Department
Looks like DNA is now obsolete...or, at least that's one possible take-away from the article "XNA is synthetic DNA that's stronger than the real thing."
Now, whether this kind of thing even qualifies for patent protection under my thesis that anything re-building the existing prior art is merely reassembling something into obvious iterations, is not the main concern. What is the main problem is where innovative and technically alien lifeforms can take the whole planet, willing or otherwise.
As the above story about sterilization demonstrates, we can't even manage the basic chemistry of estrogen and testosterone, the mechanics of economics, or agree to globally ban weapons of mass destruction, land mines, and goodies like that.
Still, with those obvious short-fallings all over the place (*check under the local freeway overpasses for more human sharing/caring victims) we toss people in jail for breeding better marijuana and honor those who propose patentable forms of life. Am I missing something, or have humans gone crazy/crazier here lately?
It's Bellingham's Fault
Up north of Seattle: Looks like some new fault line discoveries are showing how the Strait of Juan de Fuca was once (and may still be) something extensible
From Patrick Geryl:
That's OK, though. Only real question is in how it ends, isn't it? Global quakery or financial chicanery...might be leading to the same place anyway...
Decmocracy.info has a graphic on global derivative debt worth looking at here...be sure to scroll down.
Shoot, we're always willing to lend free marketing ideas. How about "Bitemein?"
Say, you don't think chickens are on the verge of becoming mammals, do you?
More after this...
Coping: Friday Morning Knowledge-Sharing
Much feedback on yesterday's column, and I thought you'd get a kick out of come of it...since much of it shows there are innovative, thinking Americans left...
Violates "Ure's Law of Income." If someone wants me to program a computer to do something, they need to pay me. Betas? Programming? Cross my palm!
The real answer to my keyboard pisstration is to find double-shot keyboards (a concept I'd previously only associated with vodka):
Now, that-there is useful knowledge to share, ain't it? Oh, and this, too:
Next up, in Care to Share, we have the little matter of black-boxes which I'm not terribly paranoid about...but some people are:
Which brings us to the Smart Meter problem...
We're not doing any farm animals at the moment, and the cats aren't laying eggs, though you can damn-sure bet I will report if they do...
I'm not thrilled about Smart Meters, either (I have one) although since we have a largish solar installation for the office, and I sent in my co-generation agreement a couple of years ago (though they never acknowledged it...hmmm....) I would expect there to be non-normal metering at our place.
Last time I checked, the "smart meter" here uses a 800 or 900 MHz radio link, and unless you want to rip trunking radios out of commercial vehicles, and get rid of 900-MHz phones around the house, pardon me while I don't get too worked up.
The FCC has pretty clear rules limiting human exposure to ionizing radiation, and even though they tend to be about twice as high as the European standard, they are not unreasonable, and remember the smart meter is not transmitting all the time.
I suppose, if a person (like me) really didn't like smart metering, the solution would be to decide to re-insulate my house with foil-backed insulation, which when grounded would be unfriendly to line-of-sight metering. And, if such an energy efficiency plan were undertaken by all your neighbors, then gosh, that might not be terribly friendly to such line-of-sight devices.
Our smart meter is a good distance from our bedroom, but I do feel a need to re-insulate that side of the house with good foil-backed insulation to increase energy efficiency. Come to think of it, the shop building may need insulating, too. Note on the Amazon discussion board that it seems to be disappearing, though.
But I need to think this through - since the idea of people coming through the property monthly is not particularly welcome, either. Just a matter of what your trade-offs happen to be.
Next, we have the little matter of whether a Carrington Event (solar electric grid buster) is a manageable problem.
Well, like I said, I'm not too worried about it...and YES we DO make transformers in North America, turns out, but is it enough? No:
But the best knowledge on this issue was in this email:
And like anything else, an ounce of prevention...which is why our vehicles have 12-volt TVSs in critical places and the solar system has a gob of 24 V TVSs and if you don't know what a TVS is, read over here and learn.
Last, but not least, there's the little matter of should your car have a data recorder in it? Well, back in my 9309 Porsche days I would not have said "No!" It would have been "Hell NO!" because I might have been jailed for doing some multiple of the speed limit, even at 70 and higher. Thanks to a) selling the Porsche and getting an older (bust faster) airplane, I am now content to drive slowly down to the local airport from whence I can drive anywhere at 135 MPH or faster.
Still, I am tempted to put one of these units in suggested by a reader: A cop-like video system for your car! Motion Detect Car Dash Video Camera Recorder DVR (About $45, Amazon) which also offers this one: 720P HD MOTION DETECT CAR DASH VIDEO CAMERA RECORDER DVR 64GB 2.5" TFT LCD 1280x720, 30fps (About $61). I had no idea. But check out his testimonial:
And, if the cop who pulls you over has a problem with your camera, I'd point out that any touching of your camera would be introduced as "willful destruction of evidence..." and are they sure they want to go through that?
Oh, and another reader said be sure to check out the Forbes story "Hate To Break It To You, But Your Car Likely Has A Black Box 'Spying' On You Already..."
America is still a land of two-way streets, long as we can keep them open.
What's a PDO?
As we wait to see if Patrick Geryl's quake correlation pays off, might also keep an eye on weather changes and specifically the PDO... A reader explains:
Even more interesting: Look at the January - numbers in the data and where they cluster: WW I, Korean War, Vietnam War...gulp. Coincidence, I'm sure...
Finally got the 46-year old Musketeer back from an extensive annual inspection that included every safety check ever required, which coming up one age 50 is a few, and having a new windshield (clear) and new side windows (solar gray) installed, new propeller, new tach, along with a vertical card compass (a joy to use!) and those micro vortex generators I mentioned a while back.
In case you've forgotten, these are baby shark-teeth looking things that go on the top of wings, bottom of rear stabilator and sides of the rudder. Those are micro-vortex generators which are Wiki'd here.
On an old single-engine plane like ours, they add to the wing's lift by keeping the air attached more closely (boundary layer control) and on a twin engine plane, they have some really amazing traits such as dramatically increasing rudder control which lowers the amount of rudder movement required in the event of a twin-engine pilot's worst nightmare: one engine power out on takeoff.
A couple of interesting notes from a conversation with MicroAeroDynamics' president Charlie White earlier this week: The company logged their 77th "your product saved our lives" phone call this week. And on the QT he hints that the company may offer additional µVG products down the road because it seems a plane can pick up 5-knots (or more) by simply adding VG's on top of the airplane behind the windshield a foot, or so, about over the top of a pilot's head.
What this does is smoothes out the airflow along the fuselage and thus, reduces parasitic drag, which means for the same throttle setting, you get more forward motion. The installation notes on how the STC'd wing VG installation was done on our Mouse are here.
The airplane has a completely different "feel" to it. How would you describe a feeling of "glued into a spot in the sky?"
Where before the Mouse was highly responsive - super-sensitive to even small control inputs to the point of almost being too responsive - the VGs give the plane a "solid, it's going where you tell it Big Plane" feel. Instead of bouncing around by normal sunny morning turbulence down low, the plane feels like it's glued to where it belongs in the sky.
Landing was just flat ridiculous. I only used one notch of flaps and came in on short final at 60 MPH and landed in about 550-feet or runway with an 8-knot breeze. No question in my mind that I could drop that down even further with full flaps and a slower approach speed of say 55 MPH and drop 50-75 feet off that. I'm after a dependable 640 feet including a 5' fence, which would make any farmer's 40-acre field a safe landing area...I think we're there.
Airplanes don't brake as well as cars. Braking distance for a car from 60 MPH is about 172 feet. A plane can't do that for a couple of reasons: First, being a tricycle gear, you've only got brakes on two wheels, but the second problem is that braking hard can't be done until the wing slows enough to transfer lots of weight on the wheels. Otherwise, your tires chirp and that's the sound of money burning off your tire tread.
Just as I made my first STOL landing on runway 18 at KPSN Thursday, wouldn't you know it? Taxiway Alfa was closed for paving? So I ended up having to taxi 3,000 feet down to the next exit. I could have landed a King Air with no flaps and made that one.... oh well.
Still, a way different feel to the plane - Sky Glue - far more stable and now it does "hands off" flying like it should, has a fair bit more nose-down attitude in cruise, and a ton more rudder and stabilator authority at low speeds (like landing flare and touchdown). A bit higher rate of climb, and a comfortable 120 MPH at 2,350 RPM.
Would I do it again? Hell yes. Anything you can do to stack the odds in your favor, boating, driving, or flying, or whatever risks you take, ought to be done. Life's too much fun to make an early exit because you cheap-out on the wrong things. People do it all the time, or course, but that doesn't make it wise.
And for our reader with an older Baron? Seems to me that lowering the minimum controllable airspeed by 10-knots for an engine outage might be a good investment, but we all get to set our own spending priorities.
Around the Ranch: Calendars
"Hi George, this is your dentist's office...reminding you Elaine has a 1:50 tooth cleaning Monday."
"Yep, she got the voicemail this morning....and I reminded here again about it."
"That's no nice you help each other like that..."
"You mean reminding here about what time on Monday?"
"Say, you don't happen to know what day this is, do you?"
Write when you break even: email@example.com
Of Interest to Readers:
Be Sure to Visit: The UrbanSurvival Amazon store. Books, computers, software, and outdoor gear. You're going to buy things on Amazon, so use this handy portal...
Now on our premium content site: www.peoplenomics.com:
A Round of Financial Golf
I've been looking for a way to teach personal finance lately, because our kids - like so many today - don't have much of a grubstake to get started with. So this morning I decided to put events into a much more accessible context - playing a round of "financial golf." Of course, like all golfers, we'll be focused before teeing off on the Rules of the Game and surprisingly, the golf metaphor works out nicely.
(Also) The "Flip-Side" of Virtual
In Wednesday's report on the future of virtual reality glasses, a new technology which I think had pretty good potential to "pop" (standing 10-feet from a virtual 102" screen is pretty snazzy stuff) which qualifies it as one of our serial get-rich-slowly paths, which usually seems to take years instead of days, but that's another matter. What matters this morning is that as a friend (Oilman2) told me this week, there's a really horrible side of virtual and he's been kind enough to share details of how virtual is getting ready to start whacking jobs down in the oil patch. As usual, before we wade into the grim, we can recap the market and some of the major week ending headlines to see where that points...
Safer Computing: Swearing Off Cookies
It has been a while since I roared the praises of the Maxa Cookie Manager which you can download and install for a free test drive by clicking here.
To upgrade from the demo to full working is still less than $30 (During their Spring Sale) and one heck of a bargain at that, if I do say so.
I am a high-reliability computing kind of guy - and near as I have it figured, the road to a hassle-free computing experience is (like flying an airplane) a matter of going through a proper checklist before popping onto the web:
Like anything in computers, updates are critical so before work every morning, the computer does its update ritual - Check of Maxa (5.3.02 is current) Avira, and Malware bytes.
Toss in a good bit of common sense (example: Don't open email purporting to be from UPS, IRS, the US Post Office, or anything else that even has a hint of fishy odor to it) and first thing you know, the internet's actually a useful tool.
"Live on $10,000" A Year
Having a hard time making ends meet? (Like who isn't, right?) A good starting point to better match up income with outgo is our $10 e-book "How to Live on $10,000 a Year...or less!"
It's an automatic download. It's written in an information dense style: The whole thing runs about 65 pages, but it gives you a vision of how to not only live on the cheap, but also how to migrate up the economic foodchain if you have a little hustle left. A bonus section called "How to Build Anything" should instill confidence if you've never taken on a home improvement/home creation project before, too..... Click here for the index and details.
Please pass along word of this site to your friends by simply clicking here to send 'em a short email. - Thanks!
Thursday April 19, 2012
Government's "Space Weather" Page
I'll admit that sometimes we get a little wonky, living as we do usually 10-minutes to 10-years in advance of many secular events, but more than one reader who thought we were a bit "over-the-top" on worries about Sun-based events like EMP and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are having to rethink a bit since the government's own Ready.gov site now featuresa a "Space Weather" Page.
As we have mentioned many times, and now the government site, too, mentions the Carrington event in September of 1859, and (again much as we have speculated on previously) the experts behind Ready.gov list pretty much the same kinds of threats that we see should a modern replay be at hand as Solar Cycle 24 peaks over the next year and a half:
None of which is unmanageable, except for the grid part, since large HV distribution system transformers don't grow on trees, and come to think of it, I don't know if we make many of them here in the former industrial power once called America.
My point for starting off on this sobering note is simple: As one reader said, "It's not a good sign when ready.gov is telling you to prepare for space weather."
We can skip all the Kafka-esque and double-binds that go with being a nutjob when I write about prepping on the one hand, while government's got pages like this up, on the other. I know there's a line between prepping and hoarding, but would someone please point me to the distinction in governese?
I think prepping is when it's well in advance of events and hoarding is in reaction to a specific event, but damned if I can find a CFR or federal policy guidance on that...which leaves an uncomfortably wide range open to interpretation, don'tcha think?
Another Dart on Market Crash
"It" starts over the next week. 'It" being the huge decline which, if I have the numbers right, should lead to a retest of the 2009 lows, and yes, I am 100% short with both dollars we have in markets.
I don't think I've mentioned the work of the "Economic Fractalist" for a while, but we still keep in touch and I don't think he'd mind me sharing this:
Now, as I told Peoplenomics readers yesterday, Robin Landry's work, specifically his weekly indicator, has rolled over, and the kind of timeframe we're talking here - with options expiration of index options today, and stock options tomorrow - could starting next week turn into one of the most ugly in history examples of "Sell in May and go away..."
We shall see, but when I peeked this morning, the US markets were firm, but after markets get through options, next week could get mighty interesting...This is not investment advice, although the 50-cents, or whatever it is we have in inflation-indexed Treasury bonds feels safe.
Another reader fills us in on the rumor mill:
Since the Baltic Dry is up to 1,000 and change, a reasonable outlook might include a May-June decline of some frightening size and then a rally into the September-October period in anticipation of elections. Then further declines become possible, but we will await hints in that direction from the BDI and other indicators.
About the biggest economic news, later today will be leading economic indicators (LEI) which we are guessing is an anagram.
Love of Double-Standards
Here a week ago, or so, the whole world was treated to speculation that North Korea was terribly oh, so dangerous, because they held a long-range missile test.
Yet here, this morning, we read how India has launched a missile which could hit Beijing. Nary a peep from the peaceniks about this one, though. Missiles which could target Pakistan seem to be OK, while those which could be pointed the other way, seem not. Check.
On the other hand, there's a report that China is not too happy with the NK's latest round of testosterone-driven missiling and nuke test planning. So much so, that China has stopped sending defectors back to North Korea...
And speaking of refugees, the number fleeing Syria is up to 160,000 which seems likely to grow.
While we're waiting to see if a Big One shows up this weekend in the 21-24 kind of range, you did notice that a volcano is popping off in Mexico? Also, lots of small quakes in the Puerto Rico area...so something is moving down that-a-way.
Open Mouth, Insert...
Ted Nugent made some comments at the NRA convention, reports the Washington Post this morning that has the Secret Service planning to chat with him.
Wonder if he could move the interview to Colombia?
Think Big Department
So, how does a small town in Illinois manage to lose an estimated $30-million? Details here, but like Madoff, seems to be proof again that there really is something to the magic of thinking big that doesn't have much to do with the morality of a thing...
Is there anyone left who still thinks that war was not about oil? ;-)
Misplaced Paranoia Dept.
A lot of press seems to be going to the story that come 2015, there will be car data recorders placed in vehicles.
I'm not sure why anyone should care: Having an electronic record of what happens is not a bad thing...unless you're in the wrong, of course. And, with actual firm data about the kind of impact speed and directional changes, there will likely be less "wiggle room" for the pain and injury lawyers, and that might reduce payouts which in turn could bring down rates. No, I didn't use the word likely did I?
Besides, having transportation systems with speed logging is also so wide-spread as to be ridiculous: Trucks are using electronic reporting to avoid long layovers at Weigh Stations, and if I get my altitude off more than 200-feet while flying the Mouse, ATC is going to ask me "12-Lima, what are you doing?" Air Traffic conversations are recorded, and I've even gone so far as to install a cheap digital audio recorder as a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) for both training and documenting in-flight decisions.
You do know that 9-1-1- calls are recorded, right?
So when I read stories about the use of data recorders with terms like 'big brother' in them, I gotta ask what such worriers are doing that they don't want Big Brother to find out about? Honest people have nothing to fear...at least for now. And as long as I manage the data to my benefit...WTF?
Like fear of "Smart Meters" we have simply got to hold out paranoia in check sometimes. If you really want something to worry about, consider that everything you buy at the grocery store with one of those discount cards lives in a computer somewhere - and so if someone ever wanted to (assuming they could get a warrant) you could find even your grocery bills revealing things like that jug of Chianti you bought last week...third one this month, wasn't it?
Besides, we hear from insiders that cars can already be turned off by satellite and we're just waiting for the federal law which will make it a crime to put foil over the nav-system antenna on cars...
So pill up and worry less. Besides, if all that ever changes, consider this next story...
The "Man Who Quit Money"
Good BBC Magazine piece if you have video....There really is another path, not one that's real appealing, but since we may all go there regardless... More in the book: The Man Who Quit Money over at Amazon -$10 bucks and change, also on Kindle...
I'm left pondering why the book on quitting money isn't free, but my mind just runs in those kinds of circles.
Coping: Dear Microsoft Support
I found out last year that I write more than most people, including writers, who near as I can tell average about 5,000-8,000 words per week. Not that this is entirely new...a software documentation writer I used to know told me once that 2-3 pages per day of good technical documentation is good.
My output runs about three to four times that, and between client work and so forth, I was running about 20,000 words per week last year, and last week, my workaholism screamed to north of 26,000 words.
Not to complain, though: I love what I do.
"What does this have to do with Microsoft support?" you're wondering...
Glad you're following along. Here's how it concerns Microsoft: This is a five month old wireless keyboard with Microsoft's name on it:
Say, I'm quite a right-thumb-spacer, aren't I?
A quick inspection shows that about half of the keys are now illegible and this is after only about four months of use. My traveling keyboard, of about the same vintage (I order your Microsoft 3000 V2.0 series wireless keyboards with matching mouse and dongle in pairs or threes every four months, or so and it's looking like it's getting to be that time again.
I got a few minutes of lost productivity last week because I couldn't remember where the R, E, and T keys were, and it was all part of a very complicated website logon very early in the morning when neither brain, nor eyes were completely engaged.
Which gets me to my first suggestion: Can Microsoft (please God?) make a keyboard with inlaid lettering which will not wear out until the keys themselves have been worn down to little nubbins? It's not that I mind the price Amazon gets for you Microsoft Wireless Desktop 3000 ($44 and change) which comes here with free shipping thanks to Amazon Prime.
What bothers me is that I think I have a reasonable grasp of business and figure that the increased cost of durable (last forever keys) would slow your repeat business, but isn't there a shred of "greenie" - good for the environment- up there in Redmond, these days?
I don't expect you to make any sacrifice...especially on profits...we all know that the bill of materials cost is about doubled by the retailers, so you guys are maybe out the door at $23 on these? And since the "out the door cost" is many such products is in the 2.3-2.5 times bill of materials (BOM), I'm just guessing you guys have about $10 bucks in parts.
Now, of this (stop me if this gets boring) I figure the key chicklets are going to be about 30-cents worth.
I'll grant you that a serious inlaid key would quadruple this, to say $1.20. but have I got a plan for you! Mark up the keys and include the profit you would have made on the lack of an additional keyboard sale.
Let me break it down for you: Quadruple the cost of the keys (making them truly permanent) to bring the BOM up 90-cents then add $8 pure profit for the lost replacement keyboard sale and you could then sell this out the door for $35-$40 to Jeff Bezos' guys across town.
Why not call it the 1300-GX Model? I just made up the number, but the GX just between us would be the George eXtended-wear model. A bold (fluorescent?) green line on it to denote it as a "Microsoft Green Line" product would be spiffy and help up-sell the kids. Pack those new lithium long-life AA batteries for the mouse so I don't have to make a trip to town for those.
Amazon could mark it up by the same margin, of course, and maybe get it out the door with free Prime shipping for only $80, instead of the double-the-price $90 of the basic 3000 model.
Why would they do that? Because I live in the boonies, want quality stuff, and they will save on their total shipping costs eliminating a Prime billing from UPS....you tracking with me? Think of the green angles to this...and the genuine savings over time. Don't tell the Amazon guys this, but we're so far off in the outback of East Texas that sometimes I'll order some bulky $5 do-dad with free shipping just so we can say "Hi!" to Brent our UPS driver. The only other regular human contact out this way is Harvey, the postman. Big doings here month before last when a strange car was seen, too.
But back to point, I just bet there's a boatload of high keyboard-use people around who would buy these longer-legible keyboards...paralegals come to mind, students, and so forth. DragonSpeak is fine for some, but not in cube-land or where other ears can hear...client confidentiality and such, right?
Thanks for your time...
P.S. When are you going to put a separate "copy" key and a separate "paste" key back on the left side like ya'll had on of your old media series keyboards? I realize it probably made far too much sense, but please put me on the list for that innovation, too. In a real work environment, the camera button, or the zoom-in/out keys are a waste. Think about a Skype key, too, and can you build a dongle for the Outlook calendar to run the coffeemaker? -G
Keep an Eye on Drought
Oh, sure, the drought has been banished from Texas for a while, but not everywhere. A reader up the road a short piece sends this:
We're actually running about two inches ahead of normal down here in East Texas, but I see the problem further uphill in the breadbasket.
One more thing to keep an eye on: My commodity guy, JB over at www.fortwealth.com says to keep track of China, which is moving in to buy corn now...
A Lesson in Southern Finance
Being as how we live in the South, there's a certain kind of joke that floats around involving the Good 'Ol Boys down this way. A fine lesson in "Southern finance" showed in the an email this morning:
OK, posting early today because I couldn't sleep....(I'll explain in tomorrow's column)...
Wednesday April 18, 2012
The Wednesday Reader Note
Future's are pointing to a fall-back of the market at the open, not surprising after yesterday's pop. But remember, new all-time highs are still almost a thousand higher than here. More in this morning's Peoplenomics report which starts like so...
The Retirement Planning & Preservation Problem
Elaine and I have been eyeing a very difficult problem - the ugly one spelled out over at the Strategic Living site this morning...that being whether people have lost the ability to retire, because it seems to me like we're not getting much closer to "the Dream." Worse, and as I spell out in "Working to Death" the numbers seem to be pointing toward a future where working to 70 - and well beyond - seems to be peeking out of the data. The role of Peoplenomics is "OK, what do we do about it?" We'll start tackling that one this morning with a few "get-started" thoughts, but this is a "toughie." Now, on to the earthquake problem where something new has popped up:
More on this here site in the morning usual time, yada yada...
Tuesday April 17, 2012
Lingering Questions About Housing
First, the long-term context: Remember that we have been looking at the reports on housing from Case Shiller/S&P and have been repeatedly warning that the prices could resume their downward move and get cheaper than the recently announced return to 2003 housing prices, right? Well, just out from Census today:
Smart money seems to think an increase in permits will mean things picking up this summer, but who's got money to buy a new how when there's so much REO out there? Quick check of Google shows all kinds of this and that's around foreclosure activity. Notably, a report that short sales are on the rise.
Fed industrial capacity and utilization due out later this morning, but no surprise expected. Markets look for an upward pop at the open.
Pacific Plate Watch
In lieu or our normal line of (economic) inquiry, we begin instead this morning by returning to a familiar theme lately: Whatzzup with the Pacific Tectonic Plate? Already today, there has 6.8 shaker down in Papua New Guinea, and a 6.7 temblor about a hundred miles north of Santiago, Chile,
In casde you haven't been paying attention, Patrick Geryl's video here about a possible earthquake windown April 21-24 if worth watching:
And a visit to his website, http://www.howtosurvive2012.com/ is always worth the effort. We still have five days to get into the window Geryl is talking about.
So is the data - and these latest quakes something to be worried about? Maybe. Our quake data-crunch reader shows what's going on in the 6.0 data since 1973 this way:
Which means we are tracking for 14 this month and that's before we get to this window this weekend. Not to spend to much energy on this, but having your earthquake preps up while you read "Quake Expert: Earth is Cracking Up."
About that time of the month for our West Coast Ports reality check. Long Beach had loaded inbound for the month up 18.27% but for the year they are still down almost 9%. Port of Los Angeles was up 9.34% compared with year ago, up only 3.23% for the year, though.
Up the coast a ways, Oakland was 8.2% on the inbound, while Seattle and Portland were tardy...no new data since Feb.
So, strategically, I'm looking for the the market to be sideways into options this week, a sell in May that will test first 1,340 on the S&P, then maybe down to 1,300 on the S&P, then a summer rally, possibly to new highs, and weakness into the fall and elections. Just darts, not investment advice.
Those GSA housing/relocation scandal hearings resume today - beats only some of the mid-day soaps. It would be outright entertaining except it's our tax money that was squandered.
March to War
Spain and Argentina have heated up the battle of words as a Spanish oil outfit in Argentina has been nationalized.
Hmmm...we'll take the oil outfit, half the Falklands, and whatever is behind Curtain #2, then...
Boulder Goes to Pot
Yes, the University of Bolder really is planning to spray (stinking) fish fertilizer in order to prevent the annual "smoke in" of de ganj boyz (and grlz).
Risk: 15-days of public housing and a $100-buck fine, per NORML. Plus whatever special "made up" charges come along. Remind me not to be in Boulder Friday.
Coping: FDA Backs Renting Your Life/Marketing Socialism
Had an interesting even happen recently: Remember my little gout episode of a week, or so back? Well, I got the doc to give me a prescript for colchicine.
Now, mind you I have been cursed by gout, which feels more or less like being kicked in the nuts for several days non-stop at whatever joint comes down with the cursed affliction, since age 25-old so. My son, the EMT healthy jogger, clean living kid had had it, too, so it's just one of those inherited DNA things and we cope. Luck of the draw, kind of thing.
Anyway, last time I bought colchicine it was something like 150-pills online for $56-bucks, but of this, fully $40 was for overnighting it in from Europe. Not bad, but ever since then I have been getting calls every two-days from some boiler room outfit in bum-buck India asking me to refill it.
Sick of the phone ringing (being a semi-recluse has its percs) I decided to source locally. Boy, was that a poopy idea. Damn pills 40-of them, set me back $232 and change.
"WTF?" I asked the dispenser of pills and bad news.
"Oh, there was some kind of patent deal I think and the generic is no longer available."
All of which gets me more than slightly hot under the collar: This is crazy. What should be in the $20-range is now 10-times that, which gets me to the point of this morning's review of the facts:
Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about this, shall we?
"What's really going on, you think, George?"
Personally? I think corporate interests have taken over the FDA and are instituting policies to extract as much money as possible from people in return for needed medication, even to the point out outlawing a perfectly good generic and allowing a company to get a generic off the market.
But I want to focus on the really dangerous part: How the FDA is allowing the variable tariffing of medicines!
Yes, the pharma outfit involved does have a web site which deals with the cost issue here.
And, to be sure, there are discounts...but sadly for me, I still get to pay $5.80 per pill for something that's a frigging generic, for cryin out loud. Do I get a break? Nope - I made too much money last year.
The dangerous chasm the FDA has crossed however, is - as I see it - playing into the whole "rent your life from corporate owners" migration path of that corporate interests of all stripes seem to be following and although exemplified here by allowing a pharmaceutical company to engage in variable pricing, there are broader implications.
Here's how it pencils out with drug pricing assistance (by income): Remember: As a generic, these pills had a cost of about 9-cents each.
This kind of regulatory malfeasance is unacceptable and Congress ought to reform the FDA with some very strict financial interest regulations, the first of which would be what I call "The Ure Amendment."
This would simply make it illegal for any government regulator to hold a position in any regulated company, or its suppliers, vendors, or consultants for a minimum of 10-years after termination of government service. Further, it would ban owning stock in any regulated company, or its suppliers, vendorts, or consultants and just for frosting, let's throw in reporting all historical involvement with all new companies coming to market for the 10-years prior to first regulatory event and 10-years after last day of government service.
That might clean up the "captive regulator" part. Got that in a number of areas, like the SEC, CFTC, and so forth. A simple Clean Up America Act.
You see, the danger of government-sponsored differential pricing is this: How would you like to walk in to the local Chevy dealership and buy a car only to discover than the price you paid for the car would depend on how much money you made? I'm gonna show you how this would work with the same price spreads used by the FDA in the colchicine anti-generic case:
Made only $20,000 of taxable income? Here's a nice economy car...free! "We know you need to get a job, and the car is necessary to get there....say, want some gasoline vouchers, too?"
Say you make $100,000: For you, same car, same terms of delivery and you get stuck for $40,000. Want the free oil changes for life for an additional $150?
In a higher income bracket? Oh, that car for that Ure guy? It's actually $696,278 for him. Yeah, sure, cheap economy car, but let's beat up George because he works 70-hours per week.
I shit you not, these are the kinds of spreads the FDA is allowing - but as I have warned many times before, there is what Buckminster Fuller called a Grunch/corporate game at a much higher level involved here. I call it corporate-marketing socialism and it's in play globally right now, before your very eyes. Poor? Need a cell phone voucher?
Here's how marketing socialism is evolving:
Fine, so where does this go next? Ah! Keep your eyes peeled.
We know, for example, that rampant socialism is already loose in higher education, too. The same college degrees, but depending on income while attending, the amount of student loan debt owed by the graduate at the end of college will be wildly different depending on income levels at the start. So take that as example number two in government-backed differential pricing.
I'm sure my colleagues in higher education will argue that the Pell Grant program, among others, is necessary to encourage low-income people to get into college - I have no problem with that. EXCEPT: What I do have a problem with is the point where "equality" is measured. Traditional academics, you see, measure at the beginning of the cohort (day one, year one) rather than measure and equalize the completing cohort (at graduation day). Good in poor, grant up, and graduate with less debt that someone who goes in middle income and comes out with four-years Pell Grant offset ($22,000 of free money under current regs).
Don't know as you've figured this out: I'm a real proponent of flat taxes, to. Don't mind paying taxes as they are, mind you, but I vote against anyone who's not a flat tax advocate, since equal protection demands flat taxes. Equal protection also says college debt ought to be equalized on the back end, and that I should have less than a buck a pill for colchicine, too.
If there's social change needed? So make it on the spending side...spends the same either way. One approach is more equal, however. Flat tax!
IF America is to go forward, I think we need a much crisper approach to measuring of access and equality...and in drugs, there should be breaks for low income people, of course. But they breaks shaould track closer to IRTS brackets, not what we've got going now.
In the case of my colchicine, a family of four can get it for $0.166 per pill, then a family at 2X that income level ought to pay proportionately $0.33 per pill...not a buck-something, and at 8X that rate, the limit ought to be 8X $0.166 per pill ($1.33 per pill) NOT the $5.80 I'm stuck with. I don't mind paying, but I don't do well with financial rape. Tend to get angry.
Is there a way to fight this? I think so - maybe - slim chance, though. One thought is for an interest group (AARP, you listening?) to consider a class action suit under the 14th Amendment's equal protections, since if all men are created equal (along with women, it goes without saying) how is it the FDA has taken on a Robbing Hoods of socialism role here?
A second avenue to bring back rational government would be for Americans to demand a simple Constitutional amendment which would prohibit the patenting of any aspect of any device, chemical, or life-form that existed first in nature.
You see, in the case of colchicine, the active ingredient in this particular gout medication was originally an extract of the Autumn Crocus plant. Copying Nature ought to be profitable, but non-exclusive! It's what the market will pay, dammit!
Think about it! Life ain't patentable - it's all prior art. All the lawyering and weasel-wording in the world doesn't change Prior Art. Unless you're a Big Corp, of course, fat checkbook ready and golden parachutes for captive reggers.
Sadly, we know all that...I'm just trying to (pardon this) Round-Up some data for you to consider, since we have a bright future ahead as a country if we can just get some lawyers and regulators to stand up for human interests over corporate interests. Unfortunately, we're the humans are the low bidders in this.
Oh, a last point: Is further colchicine study needed? PubMed shows 17,655 scholarly/doctorlies on this. So with this much data out there, I've have to side with the New England Journal of Medicine getting this part right, per that Wikipedia entry: "... the rewards of this legislation are not calibrated to the quality or value of the information produced."
Ab-so-frigging-lootly. At least the NEJM got good medicine right. Oh, and good economics, too. I'm thinking the colchine folks oughta at least offer a coupon for something to go with their stiff bills. A bottle of Astroglide, maybe?
Medicine is Nuts, II
"Warning! Warning, Will Rogers!" Since we all know the FDA is on the hip of Big Pharma, care to place any side bets on how long this one will be kept off the market in the US since there's so much drug money involved?
FMTT: I figure minimum 3-years, maybe five. As I see it, it's gonna come down to who's got more of a flash roll: The equipment makers or the druggies? Flash rolls at the ready?
This is the kind of thing where with good results already in, the new approach should be in clinicals next week and approved within a year. How long does emailing the treatmnent protocol take? 30-seconds?
But hey! What's a few more dead men? Give the druggies some time to reposition and obstruct....
Move the FDA to eBay is my next idea...Bet eBay could even set up a "Buy government" category to go with our previous idea...bidding on Congress.
40+ years of journalism experience suggests paradigm shifts not accompanied by some new money angle - don't happen.
Monday April 16, 2012
About Retail Spending
I have to admit to being a little nervous about the rate of retail sales, for two reasons, really. One is the recent Consumer Debt report from the Fed (which for marketing purposes they insist on calling "Credit") which shows that people are sitting on the wallets a bit more. The second reason is that word's out that growth in China is down to only 8.1% in Q1, down from 8.9% annualized in Q4.
OK, the envelope (or .PDF equivalent) please?
And the chart looks really sound and the market loves it as we head to an upside opening after last week's 2% decline for last week.
But wait! Here comes George in his Mr. Dog-in-the-Manger suit: "Notice, please, this is all about total dollars, not unit volumes?" At least in theory, we could see prices going up so fast that a decline in unit-volume sell-through could be masked. But that's the KIool-Aid served this Monday....yum. Grape?
Norway Killer Trial
...is on (care to guess where?) Says he did it, claims it was "self-defense" and that only leaves me with one question: How'd they figure this guy was sane enough to stand trial?
Filing deadline is tomorrow night at midnight. Normally it would fall on April 15th, but that was on a Sunday. And the reason it's not tonight as this is Emancipation Day...but if we have to file taxes tomorrow, sort of limits the scope of emancipation, doesn't it?
Battle For the 'Net
Interesting story about how the Russians are moving to clean off Western influences from the net in their country. Comes as speculation builds about the Chinese internet kill switch... Those outages are particularly interesting in light of the footwork going on behind the scenes as Party movers and shakers try to get footing ahead of Party power mchanges this fall...
In the wake of the 8+ earthquakes of last week, a reader sent me this:
Funny you should ask: Another reader sent this:
I forgot to pass on Patrick's latest note last week (buried, sorry) but here it is:
More on Patrick's www.howtosurvive42012.com website, but doggone interesting stuff going on...I mean if potential world-changing stuff is interesting to you...
Speaking of quakes, there was a small one (5.5 or so) in Greece this morning. We're not sure if this was a quake, or just the banks breaking...
Never Stop Selling Bad Policy
Might take ytou a few minutes to read and digest it, but go ahead, it's Monday, after all.
Reason being that with the re-election of Obama coming into focus, there's a sadly high probability of the republicorps trying to repackage and resell Supply Side economics. Never mind honest economic thinkers like former Budget Director David Stockman and others have figured it's wrong.
This being an election year, any old bandwagon (free lunches and lower taxes promised over this way...) will be hauled out by the political marketers. In politics, any more, it's not about being honest. It's all about being elected.
Speaking of Which
Lots of headlines around Dick Cheney saying president Obama is an "unmitigated disaster to the country" but hold on for a reality check here: What would you expect Cheney to say? That he loves the guy and the republicorps are wrong? Never gonna happen.
What was it my favorite writer said a second ago? Oh yeah: It's all about being elected, or in Cheney's case, getting the next republicorp guys in. But wait: has the ex-Veep Dick forgotten we've been running two-termers in the WH for how long now? He can't seriously think that's gonna change, can he?
Coping: With Patriot Paranoia Problems?
Very interesting thing, being pointed out in a new post today from my friend Gonzalo Lira - in the article "You are Free to Travel - If the IRS Lets You" and it's all about the little-noticed legislation pending in the form of Senate Bill 1813, which, as the Tea Party Tribune headlines it is about "...giving the IRS power to revoke passports and travel."
A trip to the Government Printing Office to see Whatzzup with that finds it initially sounds like anything but a police state full court press:
I mean, who's not gonna love progress when we're been surrounded by a lack of same since....Clinton time, wasn't it?
Anyway, the section which has people upset seems to read about like this:
Now, I don't claim to be a lawyer, but what the bill seems to say is that there's only very limited grounds for denial of a passport...and that would be someone who has gotten themselves into a major tax beef with the IRS and there being a payment question and potential flight risk.
So, let me give you an example: Suppose there's a major real estate fraudster who has claimed there's no tax owed on millions in gains, off-shores a bunch of dough, and IRS says no, this isn't allowable and they want their tax money (to match yours and mine, and the other millions who are going to file tomorrow, or have already done so.)
The question to me comes down to a pretty simple one: Should tax cheats be allowed to travel around the world, especially when by not coming home, they can skate on taxes due here? I don't think so. Seems to me they should have to pay their bills like anyone else.
But (and I have to send Gonzalo a note on this) This is NOT a case of allowing IRS indiscriminate authority "to keep you from travelling without any kind of judicial oversight"...it's about keeping people who are tax-flight risks from leaving with what amount to ill-gotten gains from being a tax cheat.
So this one, as least insofar as I read it doesn't apply in the general case. I may be wrong but I don't think so.
Since it's Monday, and I've been up seems like half the night playing referee with cats fighting on the screen porch, I'll simply post this one from Saturday's Peoplenomics report about a supposed government take-over of the website by [purported] US government agencies:
As of this morning, that site is back up. But there's something to be learned here.
We have to be very clear on something when it comes to government: It's perfectly fine to be neutral and skeptical about how government works. I consider myself in this camp. But it's another to make up patent untruths and lay it at the feet of government. Sorry, but that's when a group, or person, crosses the dangerous line to become anti-government.
A thoughtful person would likely remain neutral on government because, while on the one hand it's the most expensive thing in Life (costing people even more than their homes over a working lifetime, especially when you consider government actually orchestrates inflation (via monetary debasement and then pulls crappy tricks like refusing to allow an inflation adjustment to long term gains - a crooked and dishonest accounting which doesn't seem to get mentioned much) but in the main it's one of those necessary evils.
If you want the cops to come when you call, or the fire department, they you support tovernment. But, like my one-man crusade for inflation-adjustment of long term gains to take watering down the purchasing power of money into account, disagreeing on this point or that is fine.
But when people start to (pardon this) make up shit about government, then as I see it, the line is crossed and efforts become anti-government and such things go viral since I must have had 20-30 emails from non-Peoplenomics readers on this.
On the other hand, a couple of readers pointed out that the Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled a list of what they call "Active 'Patroit' Groups in the United States in 2011."
A quick look at the SPLC's "What We Do" page lists as their very first "do" point "We track the activities of hate groups and domestic terrorists across America, and we launch innovative lawsuits that seek to destroy networks of radical extremists."
Oh? Isn't that what DHS and those Fusion Center folks are for?
I'm a little confused, I admit by the SPLC list, since with this as a high priority task, is this saying that the "Active 'Patriot'" list membership is a judgment call that these are hate groups and domestic terrorists? No, not at all - since I note their list very carefully denotes: "Listing here does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist."
OK, if not, the why the list and why put them on it? Could it be putting little quote marks around the word 'Patriot' in a larger context pejorative be the agenda? I honestly don't know and you can read it as you will...
Like the ACLU, sometimes the SPLC does things I strongly agree with...but until the purpose of this list is clarified a bit, the question "Whatzzup with that?" has me stumped.
In our first example (tax cheats) I think there are some people who get folks whipped up on the wrong point. -1 point.
In our second example (laying false events at the feet of government) crosses the line an is anti-government. -1 point.
In the third case, why The List if list members don't advocate or engage? Fine lawyerly wording, I'll give them that, but I'd sure like someone to explain what the agenda is for creating such a list if the groups name have not done anything wrong? (No points - Awaiting input)
Tough issues, all of these, but it's what America wakes up to on another morning here in the Worker's Paradise....IF, that is, you pay your taxes, don't get sucked in by anti-government hoaxes, and don't get yourself or groups you belong to - on some kind of pejorative-tasting list.
Being a Patriot isn't a bad thing. Being paranoid is. And so the scrupulously balanced person does a little Criticism and Self-Criticism once in a while; though usually just long enough to remember where that came from.
Before the chart, a little background:
Once upon a time, a long while ago, I observed during my quest for 'truth' in economics, that the PowersThatBe, the talking heads on the teeve, and the other information sources that actively engage in the programming of humans not to think, had conveniently swept several trillions of dollars that disappeared in the Internet Bubble's bursting (since spring 2000) under the rug. Surely, it wasn't unnoticed by the thousands of people who called brokers and said "Where is my money?" "Gone, but hang in there as you're a long term investor!" was about all they heard back.
So one of our charts for Peoplenomics subscribers oughta be widely circulated - it shows that if you line up the peak of the Dow in January 2000 with the peak in early September of 1929, we're on a very very close replay track. Much closer than even the chart shows if you were to back out inflation, and put in the effects of 1929 deflation, but that'd be real work, and I'm sort of lazy if the truth be told.
No, it's not a perfect replay of 1929, but history doesn't repeat exactly, it only rhymes. So think of this as the rhymes and the crimes chart:
"George, that's only a coincidence!" your monkey-mind will protest.
Why sure it is...you bet. A 11-year long coincidence...yessir....just a coincidence, we're like SO sure... (Shhh...don't tell anyone that major Depressions are two-part coupled affairs like the linkage between 1920-21 and 1929, OK? Damn, dude...don't spoil it for the sheep...)
Oh...don't forget to "Write when you get rich!"
George Ure, The People's Economist
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