Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Fred Ain't Dead!

Several months ago, Fred Reed went radio silent. Given his age and health problems, I feared the worst. But instead of being dead, he had switched to a different platform. Woohoo! Fred is Back!

Friday, May 06, 2022

We're Here, We're Here, We're Here!!!

...and very little chance our little dust speck will get boiled. We are in Michigan and right now and it's a balmy 49 degrees. As I type this, I'm sitting in the cabin wrapped in blankets: my dust specks could certainly use a little boiling. The recent radio silence here was due to all the closing up of our Florida place and getting settled into my parents' cabin for the summer. It's amazing what you can forget in six months. The first couple days were just the two of us wandering around the cabin trying to find things we knew we had left here, but had no idea exactly where we had stashed them for the winter. 

Our sticker shock over food prices continues. Just when we think they cannot get any more absurd, they do. On our last foray into Sam's Club, we just cracked up laughing when we saw the packages of precooked bacon for nearly $18. And it wasn't even a full pound. It was some odd amount like 10.7 ounces. Like the stuff was some sort of rare and exotic meat harvested from the livers of new-born baby seals or some such. Incredible. Of course we stopped laughing a couple days later when gas jump 40 cents over night. It sure is a good thing this inflation is just transitory.

A while back I commented how the Federal Reserve had painted itself into a corner with near-zero interest rates (which means negative real rates when inflation gets factored in). If they left them where they were, inflation would keep screaming higher, but if they raised rates to tap the brakes on inflation, they would destroy all the various bubbles as well as crush anyone with large amounts of debt (which is pretty much everyone). Well, it looks like they chose door number 2 with a quick rate hike of .25 percent followed by another one for .5 percent just a few days ago. But that is just the opening act for another five or six more rate hikes by the end of the year. Anyone with a variable rate mortgage may want to start packing now and avoid the rush. 

It will be interesting to see just how much damage this will do to the economy. It will certainly bring an end to the huge bubble that's been blown in real estate. House starts have already taken a nose dive, and a similar crash in housing prices is sure to follow. We may also see more wild gyrations in auto sales. Higher rates may finally end the silly bidding wars that saw dealers getting thousands over sticker price, but may exacerbate the ridiculous prices in used cars, at least in the short term. That will likely end later in the year if the Fed follows through on its threat of even more rate hikes.

Not that any of this was unexpected or that getting interest rates back the something closer to sanity is a bad thing. Free money from the Fed is like pounding down a bottle of Jack Daniels. Sure it feels good for a short period of time, but then the puking starts and the fun is all over. Inflation clearing 8% with no end in site was our economy's response the to the alcohol poisoning of free money from the Fed. Next comes the long painful hangover of crashing prices in everything from stocks to houses, followed by a general contraction in economic activity as everyone resets to a lower standard of living.

One thing I love to watch is how gas prices going up over $4 dollars/gallon shoved Greta Thunberg and the rest of the merry band of climate change misfits right in the gutter. We're back to "Drill baby, drill!!" The Russia-Ukrainian war has caused huge price increases not just in oil, but natural gas and all the unpronounceable metals used in solar panels and windmills resulting in countries from Germany to Australia dusting off those old CO2-belching coal plants. It seems that when faced with the choices of freezing to death in the dark today vs. screwing up the climate 50 or 100 years from now, the world has decided to roll the dice on the second option. Not that solar panels and windmills were ever anything other than a technological gimmick to make a few high-income liberals feel a little less guilty about their own massive carbon footprint. I know I've said this before, but anytime you hear some rich dick helmet talking about reducing CO2, you need to chant the phrase, "CO2 is people!" over and over. And I mean that quite literally. Prior to humanity tapping into the earth's long-term carbon stores, there were maybe a billion people on the planet. Since we've started burning first coal, then oil and natural gas, that number has shot past 8 billion and looks to top 9 billion sometime in the next few decades, assuming the four horsemen stay in their stables. 

That currently looks to be a rather optimistic assumption. The red horse of war has, of course, been a regular feature of human history, but everyone is paying attention now that it involves white Europeans. Nobody gave a shit about refugees and dead children when they were just niggers, ragheads and coin slots (thank you Racial Slur Database; you really can find anything on the internets). But oh Good Lord have Mercy when it's white European refugees and dead children! The white horse paid us a recent visit with covid and the black horse looks to be stopping by this summer as world-wide food shortages start kicking in. Which means the pale horse won't be far behind and carbon emissions will fall. Isn't climate science fun? What was that faux-Chinese thing about living in interesting times?

Speaking of the red horse, can we stop already with the deification of Zelensky? He is absolutely not some Hero of Democracy. Even before the Russian invasion, he had placed the head of the opposition party under house arrest and had shut down and disappeared the heads of any media organization that dared to express even mild dissatisfaction with the Zelensky government. Imagine if Joe Biden put Trump under house arrest, shut down Fox News and had Suzanne Scott hauled off to some CIA black site. Not impossible, of course and the move would be wildly popular with our current crop of illiberal liberals. I mean, shit-damn-hell, Homeland Security just opened up a Ministry of Truth at the mere suggestion that Twitter's new owner, Elon Musk, may actually allow free speech. But regardless of likelihood, such a move could certainly not be seen as "defending democracy". Since the invasion, Zelensky has only gotten worse; outlawing all political parties other than his own and the Nazi parties, and nationalizing all the media. Why do Americans always have to paint every conflict as white hat vs. black hat? I mean, other than our general lack of intelligence and a collective memory that would embarrass a rather dull goldfish? There are no white hats here. Not us, not the Russians, not the Ukrainians, not NATO. And if we are so concerned for Ukrainian civilians, why are we doing everything we can to prolong the war? We are sending tens of billion of dollars in weapons and cash into a black hole. The Ukraine was a cesspool of corruption and grift before the war; why would everyone suddenly turn into angels? It's a safe assumption most of the weapons that manage to avoid being vaporized by Russian artillery or aircraft are going on the black market, not to front-line soldiers. And we already know from pallets of $100 bills disappearing in Afghanistan what happens to money in a war zone. All we are doing is giving false hope and guaranteeing even more (white) Ukrainians will get killed or be driven out of their homes. Stop the madness already.

Well, the sun's coming up which means I need to stop playing around here and get to work, work, work!