Running through nature is essential for mental health and happiness 

I felt absolutely amazing running today – made it nearly 3/4 of the way without alternating to a walking pace. I felt like sprinting and did some good sprints.

Then I noticed the sprinklers shooting straight into the sidewalk with others jogging around it. I sprinted straight into the sprinkler blast with a big wolffish grin on my face … I don’t know what it is, but I love to break with convention and let my freak flag fly.

When I got back to the car, I didn’t want to go home, so I went exploring. Neat trails, graffitied bridges, shopping carts full of who knows what, empty beer cans & cases, and a few tents.  

I turned back of course. It’s just fellow humans going through tough times, but I couldn’t help thinking it’s why I don’t go out running after sunset. That and its colder I suppose.

I hate to say it, but it does remind me of how truly blessed I am. Now I’m back at my place, ready to get some reading done in the yard. 

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Just a post

It’s been months since my last post.  What can I say, I’ve been busy.  Construction boom in LA, lots of work in tile right now.  As a project manager with all the change orders, submittals, RFI’s, etc. I can’t stand to look at a computer when I get home.  I long to write, I really do.  I’ve been reading a decent amount – mostly fiction lately.  The Trump stuff gets old … I get that the “status-quo” crowd lost because there are real, ignored problems in the country today, and I get that Trump won’t fix it.  It’s time to move on already- it’s old news.  We’re lucky to be in the US at a time when central banks are extending the market cycle to the extent that it destroys the working class with ever more minuscule gains for the paper wealth of the rich.  Most countries have a rich-poor divide far worse than ours – and every bit as self-righteous and abnoxious.  

Anyway, keep plugging away while there’s still work, one of these years it will evaporate as surely as it did in 2008.  The main question is will it be yet another step down where wages fall while costs rise, or will a real socialist hero come forth talking of things long forgotten- like a living wage, and housing for the middle class.  The alternative is the authoritarian type which merely consolidates his own power, but change will come.  Who knows when it will be safe to own a home, who knows when it will be safe to raise a family … the day will come, one way or another.  Those on top are insatiable parasites who would push all into slavery to increase the paper value of their assets, but a democracy like ours allows built-up pressure to create just enough change to prevent the bloody revolutions seen in more autocratic societies.  There’s hope for future generations at least, and our life isn’t so bad if you can give up on raising a family or meaningfully shaping the world.

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The real problem with voter fraud

Both the Trump camp before the election and  the Hillary camp after the election cried voter fraud.  Is this just modern politics?  To some degree yes – but there really is a problem with voter fraud in the US.

I wonder if Trump will bring back the idea of Voter ID requirements. The Bush administration pushed that for a while but ultimately they caved to media pressure as it was fought in liberal courts.

The Dems always block it claiming that minority’s can’t get ID’s or something, but minorities are just as American and just as capable as anyone else in this country.  

The real reason it’s routinely blocked is not minorities and has nothing to do with illegal immigrants either … Illegals are often poor, nervous, and careful – more worried about survival in a heartlessly treated underclass than political manipulation. 

So why block voter ID legislation?  Because the hardcore ends-justify-the-means liberals like to stuff the ballot boxes by voting multiple times. They do this all the time in big cities like my current hometown of Los Angeles. It’s two-faced and shameless behavior, but that’s our corrupt political system for you.  They believe it’s to protect the environment or for some media-hyped racial divide when the elites could care less about those issues and are merely using these people to fix elections so they can line their own pockets. 

When I voted in Los Angeles at the women’s center, the person in front of me asked if you needed ID to vote.  The person at the booth said no, and the next person had a list of names and asked his name.  He could’ve said any name he spotted on that list – it was right on the table for all to see.  I kept my mouth shut, moved on, and voted … It was late in the day and any protest would just cause me problems without solving anything. Will things change?  Probably not, but there’s hope.

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Is the Eurozone finally ready for long term solutions?

Will the Eurozone receive a wake-up call in the coming year of the rooster and finally come to a decision that allows its member countries to heal economically?  This may very well be the case.  

Tsipras has been pushing unpopular reforms devastating to many of his people, particularly poorer retirees, in order to keep ECB money flowing and so that Greek banks can function.  His popularity has naturally been dropping.  In order to try to ease the pain of some of the hardest hit, he provided one-time pre-Christmas payments to retirees making less than $800 euro per month.  

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/09/greece-under-fire-over-christmas-bonus-for-low-income-pensioners

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/14/greece-on-collision-course-with-lenders-as-esm-freezes-debt-relief

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/04/greece-must-reform-or-leave-eurozone-says-german-minister

Merkel has been struggling in regional elections as eurosceptic AFD has been beating her CDU party, with her CSU allies Still in the lead.  Though she’s likely to get another term next year, she can’t afford to be seen as lenient on Southern Europe. 

Italy meanwhile is having its own banking crisis – again – and Renzi has resigned as promised following his failed referendum.  You don’t talk about national bailouts when banks are solvent:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/12/italy-monte-dei-paschi-di-siena-rescue-banks

http://www.mauldineconomics.com/outsidethebox/italys-day-of-reckoning-is-coming

Of course French banks have been having their own problems and those of Deutsche Bank are becoming ever more apparent.  

Here’s tickle desiring some key election dates:  

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/02/year-of-electoral-tests-may-end-european-union-as-we-know-it

Essentially, the Eurozone is in a crisis.  Ever since the creation of the Euro as a currency, industrial production has been slowly collapsing in Southern Europe- particularly France, Spain, and Italy while it has been growing in Germany.  To make matters worse, Europe had followed the the ill fated financial deregulation started in the US by Bill Clinton, resulting in a lending/housing asset bubble far bigger than that of the US.  The similar “solutions” of never ending bank bailouts, quantitative easing, and low interest rates – which merely gut the middle class to pump asset values for the rich – have been even worse than ours as they went on the negative interest rates and direct corporate stock and bond purchases.

As a result, the employment situation is bleak as those fortunate enough to work have significant underemployment, stagnant wages, rising costs, decreasing benefits and often little job security.  Naturally this has a significant impact of family formation and birth rates among the locals.  In come a large influx of Muslim refugees with very different cultures and higher birth rates enabled by the acceptance of having children in difficult and overcrowded conditions with extended families in tiny apartments.  Not only does this supply a source of cheap labor pushing wages down further, but it makes many Europeans fear they are being replaced.  Will they sit quietly by and watch their cultures disappear as foreigners pour in while their educated youth are forced to seek employment elsewhere?

The idea of any type of Federal Europe complete with legal & fiscal Union and permanent wealth transfers becomes ever more remote, leaving the breakup of the Euro as the only real solution.  The Euro was known to be dysfunctional from the start, which is why the EU pushed so hard for an “ever-closer Union” despite its unpopularity among voters.  Unfortunately, leaving the Euro currency also means leaving the European Union, though that might change as the cold, hard reality sets in.  Regardless, the member countries are experiencing severe economic pain which can’t even begin to heal until the cause is removed.  Like surgery removing a poison bullet, this will cause it’s own discomfort but is nonetheless necessary.  Are they ready for real solutions?  I think so, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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The Eurozone may be nearing the point of long term solutions 

Will the Eurozone receive a wake-up call in the coming year of the rooster and finally come to a decision that allows its member countries to heal economically?  This may very well be the case.  

Tsipras has been pushing unpopular reforms devastating to many of his people, particularly poorer retirees, in order to keep ECB money flowing and so that Greek banks can function.  His popularity has naturally been dropping.  In order to try to ease the pain of some of the hardest hit, he provided one-time pre-Christmas payments to retirees making less than $800 euro per month.  

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/09/greece-under-fire-over-christmas-bonus-for-low-income-pensioners

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/14/greece-on-collision-course-with-lenders-as-esm-freezes-debt-relief

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/04/greece-must-reform-or-leave-eurozone-says-german-minister

Merkel has been struggling in regional elections as eurosceptic AFD has been beating her CDU party, with her CSU allies Still in the lead.  Though she’s likely to get another term next year, she can’t afford to be seen as lenient on Southern Europe. 

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Is it the time to re-think the use of economic sanctions?

It is fairly clear that our foreign policy will change significantly in the next year.  This leads to plenty of speculation about trade, alliances, and so on.  

How effective are economic sanctions in forwarding US interests?  There is no question that they can harm a lot of people and re-align both trade and cultural exchange between countries, but does this actually help us achieve our goals?  

If you think about it, vibrant middle class populations tend to be a moderating force in countries.  Middle-class people want to raise families, plan for the future, and tend to shy against radical change that could threaten to upheave their world.  Economic sanctions punish the middle class of a country while those in power use them to effectively shift the blame for a country’s problems squarely on the US.  The regime can then dig in with it’s offending behavior in defiance of the big US bully.  Remember that the countries on which we impose sanctions always have a large voice in and often significant control over of their own news agencies.  This merely creates a self-feeding cycle of anti-US behaviors and stances that make us less and less relevant to the country’s decision-making process.

After the Cold War, the US began to use economic sanctions much more often as a forceful approach to achieve diplomatic goals without the direct threat of war.  The article below has the interesting soundbite:  

The United States’ economic strength, combined with a reluctance to deploy its military force to address economic, moral, or political problems resulted in a sharp increase in unilateral sanctions. In 1998, one commentator estimated that “two-thirds of the world’s population [was] subject to some sort of US sanctions.”

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/sanctions

While economic sanctions can be effective in some situations, they do cause significant collateral damage and it is good to question their effectiveness particularly when they become long-term.  Below is a link to the government website listing all countries currently under economic sanctions by the US:

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/Programs.aspx

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Why central banks are the problem of the developed world, and how to fix them

When money is created, prices rise in total – in that there’s no question.  The question is where does the money go and what is it doing.

The CPI is a very flawed measure, excluding the main expenditures of the working class. Rent/housing is a fudge number, energy/gas, food, and ever-increasing health premiums are ignored. You can often see the CPI fall when rents and health premiums go up because the middle class has less to spend on other things that are in the CPI.

 When a central bank creates money – either through interest rate policy or quantitative easing, it is typically dispersed from the banking sector.  From there, it tends to artificially raise asset prices (housing, stocks, bonds) which benefits the wealthy while the middle class just sees rents rise while houses and retirement assets get further out of reach. 

 Even worse, central bank policy tends to give big business and artificial advantage over small ones, as startups tend to pay much higher rates.  When I created my own business using personal credit and the savings I had available, my APR averaged close to 15%. Meanwhile, fed rates were near zero and corporates borrowed at less than 4%. It also allows big companies to buy off their competition – which means losing a lot of “redundant” staff at a cost to middle class jobs and opportunities while the “savings” go to an ever smaller number of upper management and shareholders. Innovation is typically killed with reduced competition as companies start to farm sectors of the economy for cash rather than compete for market share.

In short, the central banks are the core problem of the developed world because they simply transfer ownership of the economy from the middle class to the asset-rich while stagnating growth through induced monopolization.  This is clearly seen as the GINI coefficient skyrockets, wages rise dramatically at the top while median incomes decline or are at best flat, and total debt levels go up exponentially.  

One thing that the political-economists have right is that this debt is a real problem.  What they never discuss is a realistic way of easing the cycle.  

There is a very simple solution to easing the debt cycle, which would tend to re-align the economy rather than push it off the rails, while at the same time losing the potential for rampant abuse.  

If the only inflation-fighting tool of the Fed, for example, was to create money and give it in equal amounts to all citizens then this would happen.  Think about it … the over-leveraged would use it to pay back debt with a much smaller crimp to growth, so the system would tend to de-leverage and right itself at less cost.  

The rich who run this country would be very reluctant to use this tool as they would readily understand how it would redistribute assets to the people and push them further from their goals of hoarding everything for themselves – so it wouldn’t be abused.  Today they treat the central banks as a fountain of free money, viewing the huge gains to their own net worth while increasingly blind to the problems of the middle class.  The sad part about the system today is that those in charge are hurting the people they like to think they’re helping, while fermenting their own demise as popular dissatisfaction creates ever larger political tidal waves, and at the same time destroying their own cultures by disrupting local family formation and replacing lost generations with desperate foreigners.
I realize this solution is nearly impossible politically – restricting QE so that it must to go to all citizens equally and curtailing the current method of trickling it though the top – but I’d like to see it at least discussed.

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