Saturday, October 16, 2021

New York City Earthquake

Just a reminder, New York City sits on a number of seismic faults.

From the hazard mavens at Verisk, August, 3, 2020:

Actually, It Can Happen To Us: The Big One… Hits New York?

Experience can sometimes be the best teacher. While COVID-19 remains a threat for today, the catastrophic impacts that it has wrought may serve as a risk management lesson in the years to come. Human nature may sometimes steer us to dismiss the potential for low frequency/high severity risks. But if the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us nothing else, it is that these once in a generation disasters may be the most important exposures of all.

This article is Part II of the ISO Emerging Issues team’s Actually, It Can Happen To Us series, an effort to identify low frequency/high severity risks that could be overlooked. Check out Part I of our series, which explains Solar Storms, here.

Upon the mention of the word “earthquake”, it would be natural for an American adult’s mind to immediately wander towards sunny California, the site of the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the Bay Area earthquake in 1989, and the blockbuster film San Andreas, which features The Rock doing The Rock things in the midst of an enormous California earthquake.

But how many of these people would then consider the Empire State Building or a concentration of residential walk-ups as the Earth beneath them shifted?

The truth is, unless you are 136 years old, you don’t know what Manhattan—or the outer boroughs—looks like in the aftermath of a significant earthquake. However, geography and science support the fact that not only can the Big Apple get hit with an impactful earthquake, but it may even be overdue for one.

Lay of the Land: New York

In a 2018 Long-term National Seismic Hazard Map published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), New York City, as well as the southeast corner of New York State and the northwest corner of New Jersey, are considered to be at “moderate” risk of an earthquake.

Perhaps a factor driving this categorization is that there are a handful of faults in, or at least in proximity to, New York City. According to NY1, here are some of the faults:

  • 125th Street Fault – The largest fault in New York City, it extends from New Jersey to the East River, while partially running to the northern tip of Central Park and extending to Roosevelt Island.
  • Dyckman Street Fault – Located in Inwood, crosses the Harlem River and into Morris Heights.
  • Mosholu Parkway Fault – North of both the Dyckman Street Fault and 125th Street Fault.
  • East River Fault – The top portion of this fault runs parallel to the western side of Central Park, it then turns horizontally on 32nd street all the way into the East River—where it stops just short of Brooklyn.
  • Dobbs Ferry Fault – This fault is located outside of New York City, in suburban Westchester.
  • Ramapo Fault – Similar to Dobbs Ferry, this is also not within the confines of New York City; it runs from Eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, less than 40 miles north of NYC. Of note, it is only a few miles northwest of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in New York State.

NY1 does state that New York is not close to a tectonic plate, and it is uncertain which one of these faults—if any—would be the source of a strong earthquake.

New York’s Seismic History

Nevertheless, despite this uncertainty, history does indicate that New York has been hit with impactful earthquakes, and that it will eventually happen again. According to NY1, researchers believe that New York is susceptible to a magnitude 5 earthquake once every 100 years, a magnitude 6 around every 670 years, and a magnitude 7 every 3,400 years.

Per the article, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake shook Manhattan back in 1884 and 1737. These instances are reportedly the only two known New York based earthquakes to register at least a 5, although a 4.9 did hit North Central New Jersey in 1783 and was felt in New York....


Here's the map, it looks like you should be okay in Queens and points east on Long Island except for the tsunami risk on the north coast and the hurricane risk on the south:

Map via the Daily Mail (2018) who point out that a 7.0 magnitude quake could bring down 6,000 older buildings.

How French "Intellectuals" Ruined The West (2017)

We've checked in with Foucault, Derrida and the rest of the gang a few times, most recently as a short intro to December 2017's "'Fake it till you make it': The Dark Side of Bro Culture In Silicon Valley":
Since around the turn of the century I've been trying to decide if the emphasis should be on the 'Sili' or the 'con' in Silicon Valley.

And, as I've mentioned elsewhere you can pretty much draw a straight line from Nietzsche's "There are no truths, only interpretations" through Derrida and the deconstructionists to the normalization of making shit up by postmodernist folks in the social sciences to today....
From Areo Magazine, March 27, 2017:

Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself.
That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist. However, there are consistent ideas at the root of postmodernism and understanding them is essential if we intend to counter them. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.

Postmodernism, most simply, is an artistic and philosophical movement which began in France in the 1960s and produced bewildering art and even more bewildering  “theory.” It drew on avant-garde and surrealist art and earlier philosophical ideas, particularly those of Nietzsche and Heidegger, for its anti-realism and rejection of the concept of the unified and coherent individual. It reacted against the liberal humanism of the modernist artistic and intellectual movements, which its proponents saw as naïvely universalizing a western, middle-class and male experience.

It rejected philosophy which valued ethics, reason and clarity with the same accusation.

Structuralism, a movement which (often over-confidently) attempted to analyze human culture and psychology according to consistent structures of relationships, came under attack. Marxism, with its understanding of society through class and economic structures was regarded as equally rigid and simplistic. Above all, postmodernists attacked science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois, western assumptions. Decidedly left-wing, postmodernism had both a nihilistic and a revolutionary ethos which resonated with a post-war, post-empire zeitgeist in the West. As postmodernism continued to develop and diversify, its initially stronger nihilistic deconstructive phase became secondary (but still fundamental) to its revolutionary “identity politics” phase.

It has been a matter of contention whether postmodernism is a reaction against modernity. The modern era is the period of history which saw Renaissance Humanism, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the development of liberal values and human rights; the period when Western societies gradually came to value reason and science over faith and superstition as routes to knowledge, and developed a concept of the person as an individual member of the human race deserving of rights and freedoms rather than as part of various collectives subject to rigid hierarchical roles in society.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says postmodernism “is largely a reaction against the philosophical assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically European) history” whilst the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy denies this and says “Rather, its differences lie within modernity itself, and postmodernism is a continuation of modern thinking in another mode.” I’d suggest the difference lies in whether we see modernity in terms of what was produced or what was destroyed. If we see the essence of modernity as the development of science and reason as well as humanism and universal liberalism, postmodernists are opposed to it. If we see modernity as the tearing down of structures of power including feudalism, the Church, patriarchy, and Empire, postmodernists are attempting to continue it, but their targets are now science, reason, humanism and liberalism. Consequently, the roots of postmodernism are inherently political and revolutionary, albeit in a destructive or, as they would term it, deconstructive way.

The term “postmodern” was coined by Jean-François Lyotard in his 1979 book, The Postmodern Condition. He defined the postmodern condition as “an incredulity towards metanarratives.” A metanarrative is a wide-ranging and cohesive explanation for large phenomena. Religions and other totalizing ideologies are metanarratives in their attempts to explain the meaning of life or all of society’s ills. Lyotard advocated replacing these with “mininarratives” to get at smaller and more personal “truths.” He addressed Christianity and Marxism in this way but also science.

In his view, “there is a strict interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics” (p8). By tying science and the knowledge it produces to government and power he rejects its claim to objectivity.  Lyotard describes this incredulous postmodern condition as a general one, and argues that from the end of the 19th century, “an internal erosion of the legitimacy principle of knowledge” began to cause a change in the status of knowledge (p39). By the 1960s, the resulting “doubt” and “demoralization” of scientists had made “an impact on the central problem of legitimization” (p8). No number of scientists telling him they are not demoralized nor any more doubtful than befits the practitioners of a method whose results are always provisional and whose hypotheses are never “proven” could sway him from this.

We see in Lyotard an explicit epistemic relativity (belief in personal or culturally specific truths or facts) and the advocacy of privileging  “lived experience” over empirical evidence. We see too the promotion of a version of pluralism which privileges the views of minority groups over the general consensus of scientists or liberal democratic ethics which are presented as authoritarian and dogmatic. This is consistent in postmodern thought.

Michel Foucault’s work is also centered on language and relativism although he applied this to history and culture. He called this approach “archeology” because he saw himself as “uncovering” aspects of historical culture through recorded discourses (speech which promotes or assumes a particular view). For Foucault, discourses control what can be “known” and in different periods and places, different systems of institutional power control discourses. Therefore, knowledge is a direct product of power. “In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one ‘episteme’ that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in theory or silently invested in a practice.”[1]

Furthermore, people themselves were culturally constructed. “The individual, with his identity and characteristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces.”[2]  He leaves almost no room for individual agency or autonomy. As Christopher Butler says, Foucault “relies on beliefs about the inherent evil of the individual’s class position, or professional position, seen as ‘discourse’, regardless of the morality of his or her individual conduct.”[3] He presents medieval feudalism and modern liberal democracy as equally oppressive, and advocates criticizing and attacking institutions to unmask the “political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them.” [4]

We see in Foucault the most extreme expression of cultural relativity read through structures of power in which shared humanity and individuality are almost entirely absent. Instead, people are constructed by their position in relation to dominant cultural ideas either as oppressors or oppressed. Judith Butler drew on Foucault for her foundational role in queer theory focusing on the culturally constructed nature of gender, as did Edward Said in his similar role in post-colonialism and “Orientalism” and Kimberlé Crenshaw in her development of “intersectionality” and advocacy of identity politics. We see too the equation of language with violence and coercion and the equation of reason and universal liberalism with oppression.

It was Jacques Derrida who introduced the concept of “deconstruction,” and he too argued for cultural constructivism and cultural and personal relativity. He focused even more explicitly on language. Derrida’s best-known pronouncement “There is no outside-text” relates to his rejection of the idea that words refer to anything straightforwardly. Rather, “there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring.” [5]

Therefore the author of a text is not the authority on its meaning. The reader or listener makes their own equally valid meaning and every text “engenders infinitely new contexts in an absolutely nonsaturable fashion.” Derrida coined the term différance which he derived from the verb “differer” which means both “to defer” and “to differ.” This was to indicate that not only is meaning never final but it is constructed by differences, specifically by oppositions....MORE
HT: MetaFilter

Here's another look that made it onto the blog as a "Climateer Line of the Day":

...From Daniel C. Dennett, the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Co-Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University, writing at Edge back in 2013.
...Postmodernism, the school of "thought" that proclaimed "There are no truths, only interpretations" has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for "conversations" in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster....
And then there was this odd little bit of Cold War history:
"The CIA Reads French Theory: On the Intellectual Labor of Dismantling the Cultural Left"

Lastly, "CIA Admits to Snooping On Noam Chomsky (and Richard Dawkins swings by)

Apparently There Was More Going On With Shatner's Trip To Space Than We Were Told

 Both prior to:

And during:

"Wealth Creators: The dynasties that gave birth to Silicon Valley."

 From Logic Magazine:

Ex nihilo is one of those concepts that makes you immediately suspicious. When someone claims to have made something out of nothing, there is almost always an inconvenient history that they intend to eclipse. The fantasy that before us there was nothing has a great deal of ideological power. The creator ex nihilo gets to claim some faint emanation of divine power—the wealth creator and the job creator are treated as distant cousins to the capital-C Creator. 

The same is true for the idea of terra nullius. When tech came to a stretch of Northern California along the San Francisco Bay, it reframed the world it found as a bunch of apricot groves, a rail line, and not much else. This kind of pioneering story abounds in Silicon Valley. It’s not just the architecture, which seems to pretend that nothing was there before whatever spaceship of an office park landed in a given lot. Rather, it’s the environmentalist facade of an industry whose dirty beginnings—above all, in the known carcinogen, trichloroethylene, long used to clean semiconductors—have dotted Santa Clara County with a record number of Superfund sites. It’s the way, looking at the names of the wealthiest people in the Valley, you get the sense of wealth that’s been created by this generation rather than inherited from previous ones. Of course, the Zuckerberg-Chan dynasty may one day amuse the Bay Area’s society columnists with their coke-fueled antics at the annual Cotillion Debutante ball. Maybe X AE A-XII Musk will one day run for governor of California like so many scions before him who were born on third base and think they hit a triple. 

But for now, this wealth feels new. And the newness is part of its allure, its legitimacy. Stories abound about how Silicon Valley’s newly rich don’t know how to spend their money, or how they spend it on absurd things. There is something reassuring about that framing, suggesting as it does that these protagonists are new to wealth and privilege, that wealth is foreign to them. 

Years ago, I became fascinated with the question of how “new” the money invested and made in Silicon Valley really is. It has fascinated me in part because it is on some level an unanswerable question: how do you decide whether money is really “new”? Even asking the question, asking where money came from, teases out some inconvenient continuities, and a different understanding of how this industry and the place it has made its home came to be. 

Supertankers of privilege

Silicon Valley is good at persuading people to accept its self-perception as fact—a useful tactic, since a lot rides on that perception. In 2014, Forbes ran an analysis showing that “the wealthiest people in the country are increasingly self-made, leaving behind an era when dynasties inherited and concentrated wealth.” The leading indicator, they pointed out, was tech, where “more than 94 percent of the tech billionaires created their fortunes themselves.” (The numbers were much lower for sectors such as manufacturing.)

How did Forbes determine tech wasn’t dynastic? The authors ranked Silicon Valley’s super-rich on a 1-10 scale. A “1” on their scale denoted “inherited fortune but not working to increase it”; a “4” meant “inherited fortune and increased it in a meaningful way”; a “7,” “self-made who got a head start from wealthy parents and moneyed background”; and an “8” was self-made but “came from a middle- or upper-middle-class background.” To rank a “10,” you basically had to be left in a basket on a river. 

The results of the analysis aren’t particularly surprising. It turns out tech is mostly, by these calculations, “8s.” After all, that’s what the methodology was basically created to deliver. Anyone involved in tech in the last forty years who wound up as a billionaire likely grew their fortune significantly. You’d have to be an idiot, or actively trying, not to. But even beyond that, the methodology is profoundly telling. There is the unspoken assumption that growing one’s wealth was somehow the opposite of being dynastic. There is also the idea that money only grows due to some immense effort—in fact, their one example of a “1,” Laurene Powell Jobs, is evidence of how hard it is to avoid growing your wealth once it’s reached a certain level of absurdity. And the suggestion that anyone “6” and above “truly made it on their own” is staggering. When a certain “billionaire” ex-president ranks in the middle of your scale, the off-ness of the scale seems to be the point. 

The most interesting questions about wealth transmission in America, however, happen within the “8s”—that is, among the twenty million millionaires as opposed to the 600 ro so billionaires in the US. Forbes set up their method around the idea that dynastic wealth and wealth multiplying from one generation to the next are mutually exclusive, as though taking an eighty million dollar fortune and turning it into a billion-dollar fortune is somehow the opposite of the dynastic transmission of capital. There’s one kind of story about capitalism being told when you highlight how Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard (and, um, Quibi), is a self-made billionaire who ran for governor of California as just “Meg.” And another when you think about the fact that she comes from two Boston Brahmin families, and one of her sons bears the almost comically dynastic name Griffith Rutherford Harsh V. (“Griff,” as he’s known, is the direct descendant of a revolutionary war general, so if anything the “V” is lowballing it.) 

Rather than a story of disruption and discontinuity, the story of Silicon Valley can be told as one of family legacies. Rather than upjumped kids in hoodies upsetting the staid operations of capital, it’s wealth doing what it always does—attracting more wealth....


As just one example, Marc Andreessen was pretty successful just based on the Netscape browser.
But marrying Laura Arrillaga, daughter of John Arrillaga Sr., who Fortune calls "The secretive billionaire who built Silicon Valley" took it to the next level.

For more on the decepticon that is the SillyCon origin story we have on offer:

For more on A16Z see:

And on inter-generational wealth transfer our most recent post was yesterday's "Not All Millennials​ | Generational Wealth and the New Inequality".

Xi Jinping Will Not Be Attending ClimateFest 2021 In Glasgow (despite ruling the world's largest emitter)

Despots are often afraid to leave their seat of power for fear someone else will be in the comfy chair when they return.*
Ditto for embezzling bank employees, which is why they must take a vacation at least once per year.

From ZeroHedge October 15:

COP-Out? World's Largest Polluter Won't Attend Climate Summit, Kerry Pessimistic On Progress

Update: As if to confirm the shitshow we expected below, just two weeks before a crucial summit in Rome, Bloomberg reports that the world’s major economies are gridlocked in their efforts to agree concrete steps to tackle climate change.

Preparatory talks between G-20 officials this week failed to end in an agreement to reduce coal subsidies and curb methane emissions. There wasn’t even a consensus on striving toward net-zero emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels, according to three people familiar with the matter.

China and India, two of the world’s biggest emitters and largest coal users, have failed to submit updated climate pledges.

One person described the negotiating round as a disaster.

Are they all suddenly realizing at once - amid the glorious FUBAR situation occurring in global energy markets - that their goals are a) infeasible, b) a giant waste of time and money without China's firm commitmentm and c) will create social unrest and lead to them losing their political power.

*  *  *

The imminent COP26 Climate Summit - heralded with the mighty goal of 2050 net-zero emissions - looks like being a giant nothing-burger (vegan of course).

According to the study co-authored by a former Obama admin climate policy official, energy modelers and emissions experts (just go with it), China is now responsible for 27% of total global emissions - more than the combined total produced by the United States (11%), India (6.6%) and the 27 EU member nations together (6.4%).

In fact, as we have noted previously, China's emissions exceed those of the United States and the rest of the developed world combined...

In 2019, China’s emissions not only eclipsed that of the US—the world’s second-largest emitter at 11% of the global total—but also, for the first time, surpassed the emissions of all developed countries combined (Figure 2). When added together, GHG emissions from all members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as all 27 EU member states, reached 14,057 MMt CO2e in 2019, about 36 MMt CO2e short of China’s total. -Rhodium Group

So it makes you wonder just what can be achieved given that Chinese officials have informed G-20 envoys that Xi does not currently plan to attend a summit in Italy later this month in person, and diplomats have said that means he’s unlikely to go to COP26 either.

Which is quite a change from his previous "commitment":

"We must be committed to multilateralism," Xi has said in the recent past.

"China looks forward to working with the international community, including the United States, to jointly advance global environmental governance."

With China in the middle of a serious energy crisis that sees it ramping up its coal production to meet energy demand (sending Thermal Coal prices to the moon), we suspect Xi is missing the Glasgow trip to focus on putting "China first"...

Finally, we note that even Bloomberg is admitting that in an interview with AP, US Climate Envoy John Kerry has already downplayed hopes of success, saying nations could fall short of a new agreement on more aggressive action on global warming. Specifically, he warned that two weeks of talks could end with countries still short of the emissions targets set by those pushing for more action on climate change.

“We will hopefully be moving very close to that,” he was quoted as saying.

“Though there will be a gap and … we’ve got to be honest about the gap, and we have to use the gap as further motivation to continue to accelerate as fast as we can.”

Greta is going to be so mad at you!!....

*October 6, The Guardian:
Idaho lieutenant governor bans vaccine mandates while governor out of state

Not saying the Guv is a despot, just that his absence from the state was seen as an opportunity by the Lt. Guv

So, What Are They Thinking About At Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute?

From Interesting Engineering, October 7:

The Singleton Hypothesis Suggests Humanity's Possible Future
Researchers say intelligent life on Earth will eventually form into a "Singleton."

What are the odds of an existential risk befalling humanity?

That's the question being studied by Nick Bostrom, a professor of Philosophy, and director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. In an attempt to explore this question, he has proposed the singleton hypothesis.

The singleton hypothesis supposes that, at some point in the future, a global government could form based on a world government, a super-intelligent machine, or a dictatorship  – and that it might be impossible to overthrow. From national territories to technology and taxation, this 'singleton' would control everything, and no other power in the world would be able to challenge its supremacy.

The singleton could be composed of a group of powerful politicians, an artificial intelligence-based machine, a resourceful corporate entity, or even a power-hungry dictator with a strong army at their disposal. Moreover, the outcomes of a singleton formation can be positive, negative, or even neutral, so there are several different possibilities. A singleton may either provide a positive form of stability to the world, or an authoritarian regime in which everyone was constantly being watched and no one was safe. 

Why singleton may overtake the world

Bostrom argues that situations could arise in which there could be broad support for either a technology, like an AI or a single government agency to take control of global society. Examples of such events include wars, pandemics, a failure of infrastructure caused by cyberattacks, technological dominance, or trade conflicts. The League of Nations, and then the UN – formed after World War I and II respectively – can be considered examples of limited forms of singletons created in response to world events. When such events happen, Professor Bostrom argues that human society tends to move towards a higher level of societal organization.

There was a time when humans lived as hunter-gatherers, then coalesced into different communities, cities, states, religions, and countries, and now we live in a globalized world. A singleton could be the next stage of our societal development where, instead of different superpowers, we might see the rise of a super-intelligent agency with unbridled access to knowledge (or data), modern technologies (nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, internet, etc), and military power that functions as a single world government....


Here are some of the FHI's publications, with links to the rest of the site. 

"Billionaires Eye Robot Weapons to Protect Themselves From the Rest of Us"

Trying to decide whether Elon Musk of Jeff Bezos first goes with the autonomous mechanical robot army. My guess is Bezos, he seems crabby since Musk passed him on the wealthiest-in-the-world leaderboard, caused in large part by, horrors, the valuation of SpaceX vs. Blue Origin.

As of Friday Forbes had Musk's net worth at 214.8 billion vs. Bezos at 197.8 billion.

From Consortium News, October 13:

Caitlin Johnstone warns of a not-too-distant future in which unmanned weapons systems are sought out by wealthy civilians.

So hey they’ve started mounting sniper rifles on robodogs, which is great news for anyone who was hoping they’d start mounting sniper rifles on robodogs.

At an exhibit booth in the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting and exhibition, Ghost Robotics (the military-friendly competitor to the better-known Boston Dynamics) proudly showed off a weapon that is designed to attach to its quadruped bots made by a company called SWORD Defense Systems.

“The SWORD Defense Systems Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR) was specifically designed to offer precision fire from unmanned platforms such as the Ghost Robotics Vision-60 quadruped,” SWORD proclaims on its website. “Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor allows for precision fire out to 1200m, the SPUR can similarly utilize 7.62×51 NATO cartridge for ammunition availability. Due to its highly capable sensors the SPUR can operate in a magnitude of conditions, both day and night. The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now.”

Back in May the U.S. Air Force put out a video on the “Robotic Ghost Dog” with which these weapons are designed to be used, showing the machines jogging, standing up after being flipped over and even dancing. All of which becomes a lot less cutesy when you imagine them performing these maneuvers while carrying a gun designed to blow apart skulls from a kilometer away.

At one point in the video a senior master sergeant explains to the host how these robodogs can be affixed with all kinds of equipment like communications systems, explosive ordnance disposal attachments, gear to test for chemicals and radiation, and the whole time you’re listening to him list things off you’re thinking “Guns. Yeah guns. You can attach guns to them, why don’t you just say that?”

The SPUR prototype is just one of many different weapons we’ll surely see tested for use with quadruped robots in coming years, and eventually we’ll likely see its successors tested on impoverished foreigners in needless military interventions by the United States and/or its allies.

They will join other unmanned weapons systems in the imperial arsenal like the USA’s notorious drone program, South Korea’s Samsung SGR-A1, the Turkish Kargu drone which has already reportedly attacked human beings in Libya without having been given a human command to do so, and the AI-assisted robotic sniper rifle that was used by Israeli intelligence in coordination with the U.S. government to assassinate an Iranian scientist last year.

And we may be looking at a not-too-distant future in which unmanned weapons systems are sought out by wealthy civilians as well.

In 2018 the influential author and professor Douglas Rushkoff wrote an article titled “Survival of the Richest” in which he disclosed that a year earlier he had been paid an enormous fee to meet with five extremely wealthy hedge funders. Rushkoff says the unnamed billionaires sought out his advice for strategizing their survival after what they called “the event,” their term for the collapse of civilization via climate destruction, nuclear war or some other catastrophe which they apparently viewed as likely enough and close enough to start planning for.

Rushkoff writes that eventually it became clear that the foremost concern of these plutocrats was maintaining control over a security force which would protect their estates from the rabble in a post-apocalyptic world where money might not mean anything. I encourage you to read the following paragraph from the article carefully, because it says so much about how these people see our future, our world, and their fellow human beings:....

....MUCH MORE   

Friday, October 15, 2021

"Not All Millennials​ | Generational Wealth and the New Inequality"

As promised while exiting Thursday's "The Mafia's Millennial Problem". 

From The Drift magazine:

Peddlers of self-help and pop-psychology are quick to assure us that we’re each our own toughest critic. In fact, it’s often our peers who will exact the harshest judgments, being best positioned to sniff out the social cues and latent hierarchies that are most legible within a shared milieu. Last year, Pete Buttigieg, the only millennial candidate in the Democratic Presidential field, failed to win the support of other members of his generation (which is also mine) — a February 2020 poll of 18-34 year olds placed him at a pitiful 6%. The résumé stacked with institutional achievement felt a little too polished, and he was widely regarded with the kind of disdain reserved for teachers’ pets. Columbia students called him “the old man’s millennial,” the kind of ideal young person that our parents measure us against: Harvard, Rhodes scholarship, military service, McKinsey, not quite so politically radical. 

Pitted against AOC for the title of Anointed Millennial Politician, he simply didn’t stand a chance. Setting aside the charisma differential, Ocasio-Cortez is an avatar of the leftist politics that has become de rigueur for a large chunk of our economically disenfranchised generation. Her commitment to progressive issues is the product of a lived experience that can’t be replicated by the shrewdest political strategists: famously, she was working as a bartender when she was elected to Congress; when she moved to DC, she struggled to afford rent. Critics have investigated the value of her childhood home and other such clues in an effort to challenge this narrative of precarity, but the specifics hardly matter. Where Buttigieg represents an outdated fantasy of meritocratic accomplishment, Ocasio-Cortez’s story is millennial realism. 

Our parents were born in an era of expansive American appetites — for global influence, for fossil fuels, for personal advancement — and presented with a broad horizon of individual and collective possibilities. They proceeded to mine the productive economy for everything it was worth and then sell it for parts, and millennials’ capacity for their brand of youthful optimism has been blunted by the historical rejoinders that followed. The crises that shocked the first decade of the 2000s — and then settled into a state of apparent permanence — shaped our era into one of contracting possibilities, scarcity, and skepticism about the future. 

Widening income and wealth inequalities, and millennials’ dim economic prospects, have led the media to reevaluate its initial verdict on the generation. First, we were entitled, distracted avocado toast addicts who couldn’t budget. But the past few years have seen an increasingly sympathetic shift, as even the bootstrap scolds have been forced to admit that structural factors might be impacting our generation’s failure to meet expected benchmarks of middle-class adulthood. Publications that were once obsessed with admonishing us became obsessed with declaring our economic prospects hopeless. “The Coronavirus Means Millennials Are More Screwed Than Ever,” wrote The Daily Beast in May, a month after The Atlantic declared, “Millennials Don’t Stand A Chance.” Definitively, from The Washington Post: “Millennials are the unluckiest generation in U.S. history.” 

Generational insiders have worked hard at narrativizing this predicament: Anne Helen Petersen most recently posited “burnout” as the dominant affective response to skyrocketing precarity and worsening prospects amid constantly multiplying demands on our time, attention, and labor in her viral article-turned-book Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. If our toothbrushes (Quip), mattresses (Casper), suitcases (Away), and novels (Sally Rooney) match, so too, we are given to believe, do our emotional states. “The weight of living amidst that sort of emotional, physical, and financial precarity is staggering,” she writes, describing a condition of exhaustion battling the steady impetus to do more. In 2017, Malcolm Harris’s Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials offered the most thorough accounting yet of the structures underpinning millennial psyches. He explains the way that the forces of neoliberalism, with its imperative to optimize profitability in every facet of life, have set millennials on an impossible and unending racecourse. His book is now frequently cited alongside Petersen’s; in The Nation in November, Jeremy Gordon wrote that the two “draw on a similar body of evidence to demonstrate how and why we got here, because the facts aren’t really up for debate.” Many bleak statistics, which hardly need repeating at this point, bear that sentiment out. Millennials control 4 percent of aggregate wealth, compared to the Baby Boomers’ 21 percent at the same age, and in the era of precarious employment (47 percent of millennials freelance either some or all of the time), we can’t and won’t earn our way out of that hole. 

These books, and the slew of accompanying articles, have illuminated the millennial experience and identified the structural barriers we face, drawing a direct line from our debts, wages, and shattered expectations to policy choices made in the last few decades. They have also been used in service of a flattening narrative that creates a frame around our generation and a shorthand for a shared experience that is frequently gestured at, even when it’s not necessarily earned. Last summer, Rachel Connolly put her finger on the way that a distinct “we’re all in this together” ethos papers over intra-generational class distinctions. “Those who stand to inherit substantial wealth will complain they are crippled by the high cost of rent,” she writes, “and those with rich and famous parents will speak, darkly, of “hustling” their way into the industries in which their relatives work.” I immediately recognized in her description the discreet millennial landlords and “broke” trust-funders I’ve met, and I’d venture to guess that I’m not alone.

The millennial social condition is analogous to the one that has arisen during the pandemic: despite a wildly unequal material reality, essential workers, the unemployed, and those with cushy remote jobs have all experienced a brutal lifestyle disruption, a severe narrowing of options, and a blow to mental health and happiness. Almost across the board, millennials will do worse than their parents, inheriting a harsher and more difficult world, but not all of us will experience this in the same way. For a generation that has developed a complex language and conceptual rubric for privilege, it’s curious that this phenomenon has yet to receive as much attention, that the authenticity tests we’ve administered to Buttigieg and Ocasio-Cortez have not yet translated to a broader reckoning with what’s coming.

Some millennials are already receiving financial help from their parents (in fact, many: the Times reported one estimate that “more than half (53 percent) of Americans ages 21 to 37 have received some form of financial assistance from a parent, guardian or family member since turning 21.”) Others can soon expect a life-altering infusion of cash, either in the form of posthumous bequests or transfers — like help with a down payment — made while parents are still alive. These gifts have become more significant than ever now that the wage labor market can no longer serve as a corrective to unevenly distributed parental wealth. Yet another group may see its economic position shift later in life: after struggling to pay the bills until age 50 or later, outcomes will suddenly diverge even among those who hold the same job. 

The financial industry is calling the coming shift a “great wealth transfer.” Morgan Stanley has referred to it as the “$30 Trillion Challenge” after one study specified that amount as the sum of wealth that will pass into millennials’ hands between 2031 and 2045. Their advisors are standing at the ready: “Morgan Stanley is committed to helping this generation prepare for its inheritance and achieve the amazing,” reads their website. CapitalOne/United Income predicts $36 trillion; Cerulli Associates places their estimate at $68 trillion; PNC Bank predicts $59 trillion; Wealth-X says $15 trillion by 2030. Regardless, The Economist wrote in October, “Wall Street will soon have to take millennial investors seriously.” Forbes wrote in 2019 that “Millennials Will Become Richest Generation In American History As Baby Boomers Transfer Their Over Wealth,” the same year that the Times asked, “A ‘Great Wealth Transfer’ Is Coming. What Will It Mean for Art?” ....


LA/Long Beach Port Pileup: The Rest of the Story

I've been debating whether to post this as I haven't found another source for the info, but.... has that ever stopped the New York Times? Hell no, let's go! From the Twitter feed of Trent Telenko


Dear Satan, If I Order Now Can You Guarantee Delivery By Christmas?

The guy in the red suit said he would only guarantee Christmas 2022.

From Reuters, October 14:

U.S. supply chain too snarled for Biden Christmas fix, experts say

President Joe Biden is pushing to ease supply shortages and tame rising prices in time for Christmas, but unsnarling U.S. supply lines could take far longer, experts told Reuters.

Biden brought together powerbrokers from ports, unions and big business on Wednesday to address shipping, labor and warehousing pain in the U.S. supply chain, and announced new around-the-clock port operations in Los Angeles.

As his Republican opposition seizes on possible Christmas shortages to connect Biden's economic policies to inflation, and try to stall a multitrillion-dollar spending bill in Congress in coming weeks, the White House's message Wednesday was that a solution is in sight.

"This is an across-the-board commitment to going to 24/7," said Biden, a Democrat. The port opening, and a promise from retailers like Target and Walmart to move more goods at night are a "big first step," he said. Now, he said, "we need the rest of the private sector chain to step us as well."

While more cooperation among the often competing, secretive players in the U.S. supply chain business is a plus, the White House's impact may be incremental at best, logistics experts, economists and labor unions warned.
"What the president's doing isn't going to really hurt. But at the end of the day, it doesn't solve the problem," said Steven Ricchiuto, U.S. chief economist at Mizuho Securities.

Americans, already by far the world's biggest consumers, have simply been buying a lot more stuff during the pandemic, much of it imported. Couple that with labor shortages, equipment shortages and a lack of space to store that stuff, nationwide.

Players from ports to retail chains are already working full-tilt to handle the pandemic-fueled surge in imports and get holiday gifts onto shelves and e-commerce centers in time for the Nov. 26 Black Friday kickoff of the 2021 holiday season.
Imports at the Port of Los Angeles - the No. 1 gateway for ocean trade with China - are up 30% so far this year over last year's record.

But that has left some 250,000 containers of goods stacked up on the docks due to delayed pickups, from chassis shortages and a lack of space in rail yards and warehouses. And that is causing dozens of ships to back up at anchor outside the port.

"The analogy would be the boa constrictor that ate the mouse. There's a lump in it and the lump is the constraint in the throughput of the supply chain, and it moves along each time you solve for a constraint," said Joe Dunlap global head of the supply chain advisory team at CBRE Group (CBRE.N), a commercial real estate services firm.

Frank Ponce De Leon, International Longshore & Warehouse Union Coast Committeeman summarized the problem at U.S. ports, which the Commerce department estimates handle 76% of all trade, during comments last week.

"You don't build a church for Christmas and Easter; you build it for a regular Sunday service," he said. "With the unprecedented influx of cargo, it's like Christmas and Easter on the docks every single day, with more ships coming in and the pews have been full for months, and there's nowhere left to sit - or stand."....


Related over the last 15 hours:

"The flaws behind Biden’s open-all-hours ports strategy" 

With Rail, Shipping, Trucking and Warehousing Collapsing, WHY iS THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTAION ON PAID LEAVE? 

"Rabobank: If Something Simply Isn't Available, Does That Make It Cheap Or Expensive?"

"Rabobank: If Something Simply Isn't Available, Does That Make It Cheap Or Expensive?"

See also our intro to September 18's "Restaurants Remove Crab From Menus Due To Skyrocketing Prices":

This is exactly what the Rabo analyst was referring to in "Rabobank: You Know Who Else Had Low(er) Reported Inflation But Nothing On The Shelves? The Soviets". If you just pull it from the shelves (menus) no trades take place et voilà, no inflation!

From Rabo via ZeroHedge, October 15:

By Michael Every of Rabobank

Yesterday’s US PPI report followed the Chinese one in seeing an increase in pipeline price pressures while still understating the degree to which they are actually soaring. Yes, when you are dealing with this many moving parts there is always room for statistical error: and when you are dealing with this many parts that aren’t moving, far more so. What if something simply isn’t available? Does that make it cheap or expensive? Some are running with the idea that ‘PPI has peaked’, ironically just as even the Fed, this time Bullard, is saying inflation is not looking so “transitory”. Ignore the ‘bullish’ PPI report: look at the actual economy.

China is already not exporting fertilizer; or refined fuels; and now it is cutting magnesium production, where it holds a near-total monopoly. It will no doubt serve the local market first, as with phosphates and fuel, but this will hit exports, and leaves EU car producers with stocks that will be depleted by end-November, after which factories likely grind to a halt. Note that in 2001, Europe was forced to close its remaining magnesium production as a consequence of dumped Chinese imports. In North America, Ford has already had to shutter a plant in Mexico due to a shortage of materials.

We also have warnings that US heating bills could be up 50% this winter if temperatures plunge. But in Europe, the surge in the price of natural gas also means fertilizer plants are shutting down - and 'Fertilizer Group Warns Europe Plant Shutdowns May Turn Permanent’, says Bloomberg. There are open warnings that if things don’t change fast, food production will be hit in 2022 – ‘Europe’s gas price surge is about to hit you in the belly’, says Again, the US is at the forefront, with the union at Jon Deere, a key producer of global farm and agri machinery, on strike for the first time in years.

Add that action to the long list of anecdotes pointing to an effective grass-roots revolt by workers who, post-Covid, won’t just slot back into their low-paid, under-appreciated, stressful jobs. They want Build Back Better, not rhetoric, long-term promises, and sharply declining real incomes. Even well-paid UK doctors say they don’t want to see patients in person again and would rather quit. What do you do if the supply of doctors dries up? Or truckers? Or anyone key? Goodness, this labor vs. capital thing looks *potentially* different to how we have understood it until recently!

The threat is also that any member of the US Navy who isn’t vaccinated by end-November will be thrown out of the service. I am sure the potential loss of a swathe of the men and women who maintain US military control of the oceans would in no way open up a window of opportunity for geopolitical adventurism that would then smash global supply chains completely. Interwebbish rumour is also that the White House may finally appoint a Maritime Administrator soon: just one with no logistics or military ‘sealift’ experience, which seems an odd choice when the US faces massive supply-chain problems and obvious tensions in the Indo-Pacific. To which we can add the Middle East, as even a White House negotiating team one would not want to be responsible for in a Souq --“I got that coffee pot, honey! It was a steal at $1,000! Hang on, it says Made in China underneath. Do you think that nice man will give me my money back?”-- seems to be grasping that Tehran may just be playing for time in talking about coming back to nuclear talks, while advancing along the path to being a de facto nuclear threshold state. Oh, and Lebanon may be falling apart as fighting breaks out between Hamas and Hezbollah.    

Of course, we saw another decline in long US Treasury yields yesterday with 10s down 4bp, and since Tuesday they have dropped 12bp, while 2-year yields have risen slightly. If this is supposed to be on the back of a peak in PPI inflation pressures, then I repeat my offer of a port in New Mexico at a special rate, just for you. However, if it reflects that structural price pressures are NOT going away soon, and yet we are probably going to see central banks tighten policy anyway, then the curve is doing a great job of shouting ‘POLICY ERROR!’ One shudders to think what the Michigan consumer sentiment sub-indices for ‘good time to buy a house/car’ will look like when food and energy inflation rises further. The October data are out today as a warm-up....


With Rail, Shipping, Trucking and Warehousing Collapsing, WHY iS THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTAION ON PAID LEAVE?

 From Politico's West Wing Playbook, October 14:

Can Pete Buttigieg have it all?


While U.S. ports faced anchor-to-anchor traffic and Congress nearly melted down over the president’s infrastructure bill in recent weeks, the usually omnipresent Transportation secretary was lying low.

One of the White House’s go-to communicators didn’t appear on TV. He was absent on Capitol Hill during the negotiations over the bill he had been previously helping sell to different members of Congress. Conservative critics tried (unsuccessfully) to get #WheresPete to trend and Fox News ran a story on October 4 with the headline: “Buttigieg quiet on growing port congestion as shipping concerns build ahead of holidays.”

They didn’t previously announce it, but Buttigieg’s office told West Wing Playbook that the secretary has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies.

“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. “He has been ramping up activities since then.” As he does that, Buttigieg will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” the spokesperson added.

That ramp has been steep this week, as Buttigieg reverts to his “go everywhere” media habits.

Since Oct. 7, Buttigieg has appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “MSNBC with Geoff Bennett,” CNN’s “New Day,” CNBC’s “Morning Bell,” Bloomberg TV’s “Balance of Power,” and the NPR Politics Podcast. He participated in virtual events to promote the infrastructure bill with the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Citizen Budget Commission of New York. He also attended a high-profile meeting with President JOE BIDEN Wednesday on supply chain bottlenecks.

In case reporters missed the flurry, the department blasted out an email to the press noting several of Buttigieg’s media appearances with the subject line, “ICYMI: Secretary Buttigieg Highlights Administration Efforts to Address Ongoing Supply Chain Disruptions."....


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Michael Pettis: «China Is Probably the Most Overvalued Property Market in the World. Evergrande is a Symptom of That»

From NZZ's The, October 11:

Beijing-based economist Michael Pettis sees the looming collapse of real estate developer Evergrande as a signal that China needs to fundamentally shift away from its investment-based growth model.

Few Western observers know the Chinese economic and financial system as well as Michael Pettis. The American has lived in Beijing for twenty years and teaches financial theory at the renowned Guanghua School of Management at Peking University.

In his view, the crisis of the property developer Evergrande confirms a thesis he has been advocating for years: China's economic growth was based far too heavily on investment. «There is a lot of fictional growth at play in China, overinvestment in all kinds of construction projects has inflated growth for years», he says.

Pettis does not expect a financial crisis; nevertheless, he says, China's economy is facing major upheavals that will affect the rest of the world. In an in-depth conversation with The Market NZZ, he explains what's at stake.

How dangerous is the looming bankruptcy of Evergrande for China’s financial system?

We have to see Evergrande not as one major event, but as one of a series of events that express the unsustainability of China’s growth model. I would argue that the latest series began in May 2019 with the government intervention in Baoshang Bank. Since then we’ve had a number of interventions, the most important of them being Huarong, where the regulators had Citic take over the obligations of Huarong. Another important crisis company was HNA. And now the rumors are very strong that Ping An would be the next one, which would be much bigger than Evergrande.

Within that sequence, what’s the importance of Evergrande?

Its importance, besides the fact that Evergrande is the most indebted property developer in the world, is that this company represents the excesses in the property sector. Most estimates put the contribution of the property sector to China’s GDP at between 25 and 30%, that’s two to three times what it is in other countries. Property investment alone is about 13 to 14% of GDP. In the US, it’s about 5%. The most worrying statistic of all is that homes represent about 80% of household wealth in China. In Japan, during the property bubble of the 1980s, it peaked at 65%. In most countries, it’s about 30 to 40%.

What does that tell us?
It tells us a couple of things. One, that property prices are very high in China; it’s probably the most overvalued property market in the world. Two, more importantly, it tells us that if property prices go down, there will be a significant wealth effect on households. If your wealth goes down, the way you react is that you spend less and save more.

Just to be clear: Are we talking about a speculative bubble here?
Yes. Because economically, it’s very hard to justify an economy that is two thirds of the size of the US, with having property that is worth twice as much as US property is worth. It’s not as if US property is cheap. It’s probably too expensive in the US too, which means it’s incredibly expensive in China. The amount of income it takes to buy an ordinary apartment in China is several times what it would take even in Switzerland.

You recently tweeted that a speculative bubble never corrects by going sideways. It has to keep growing, or it will collapse.
When you are in a fundamentally sound market, you buy an asset because it has a value to you, and that value is greater than the price you pay. But when you are in a speculative market, you buy an asset because you think its price will be higher tomorrow. In China, the market is extremely speculative. I have students that are 19 or 20 years old, whose parents buy them apartments, because by the time these students are 25, their parents fear they won’t be able to afford an apartment. That is the essence of speculative buying: You’re only buying because you know prices are going up.

What will happen when they stop going up?
When prices no longer go up, two things happen: One, a lot of the demand disappears, because the only reason people bought was because of ever rising prices. Two, many people have borrowed money to buy apartments, which they are not renting out, because rental yields are very low. Don’t forget: nearly a quarter of all apartments in China are empty. So when prices are not going up anymore, these people are losing money on their apartment. What would you do in that situation? You would probably sell it. So you’ll have less buying and more selling, and of course that drives prices down. You know, I was a bond trader before I moved to China, and that was one of my fundamental learnings: Once the market enters a speculative stage, it either goes up or it goes down, but it does not go sideways.

Baoshang, Huarong, HNA: These bankruptcies were all digested rather smoothly within China’s financial system, without triggering a crisis. Is that a blueprint the regulators will be able to repeat with Evergrande?....


Société Générale's Albert Edwards: "We Should Start Worrying About The Coming Recession"

From ZeroHedge, October 14:

One week ago, when looking at the surge in commodity prices, SocGen's Albert Edwards pointed out the eerie similarities between what was taking place in the energy sector today and crude prices in the summer of 2008 - right before Lehman collapsed - and said that "it's starting to fell a bit like July 2008." That prompted him to tell readers to "think hard about the likelihood that higher energy prices and bond yields will trigger a ‘wholly unexpected’ recession. For that is where the biggest risk might lie for investors."

It will hardly come as a surprise that, one week later, with more banks slashing their GDP forecasts (like Goldman) even as they hike their inflation forecasts (also like Goldman), the odds of a stagflationary recession keep rising, and sure enough in his latest note published today, Edwards finds another indicator suggesting that a recession may now be inevitable, and imminent. Pointing to the latest NFIB small business survey, the SocGen strategist first notes what even the Fed now knows, namely that wage pressures are stepping up to a new record high, making what may one have been transitory inflation fully permanent. But it is the chart on the right which is more troubling: it shows companies’ net % balance of those expecting a stronger or weaker economy. As Edwards notes, "this series has now fallen to levels where we should be worrying about recession. Last week we mused that near term recession risk was being underestimated. Maybe that’s what we should be really vigilant about?"

  (click to enlarge)

It's not just small business sentiment that is going haywire: pretty much everything in China is as well. According to Edwards, in addition to the impact on foreign investors resulting from the new policy of "common prosperity" and whether Chinese equities and bonds have become "uninvestable", but the tremendous macro uncertainty regarding China’s own energy crisis and collapse in property transactions - which we discussed extensively last Friday - that is a major concern.

The SocGen permabear also refers to two charts from the latest IMF Financial Stability Report, both of which address a point we have frequently made, namely that in the past it was always China's massive credit expansion that pulled the world out of the economic dumps. This time, however, no such thing is happening. To wit, the chart on the left shows how much more restrictive Chinese financial conditions are now relative to the west "in stark contrast to the post-2008 GFC when China was the engine of global recovery" which is shown on the right.

 (click to enlarge)

As for what China's current "financial conditions" tightness means for the future, we refer readers that what we discussed at the end of 2020 when we first warned that China's credit impulse was sliding. Edwards, who also is a firm believer in China's credit impulse as the key driver of reflationary (or deflationary) global flows points out that that IMF has also jumped onboard the "credit impulse thesis" and after "highlighting China’s crunch in financial conditions for some months now, it is nice to get confirmation from the IMF!" As for what it means in practical terms, one look at the charts below should concern everyone....


The House Fed has thwarted his House Stark at every turn.
Now he's getting ready to roll but it may be too late for him.

Climateer Investing: Société Générale's Albert Edwards: "How To Determine  If The Market Is Wrong"

"I fought. I lost. Now I rest. But you, Lord Snow… you'll be fighting their battles forever."
Albert addressing another standing room only investment conference crowd

Last seen in 2017's "Société Générale's Albert Edwards: Winter Is Coming".

The tragedy of Albert is that his equity analysis is a throwback to a more rational world, a world without negative interest rates or central banks buying equities. His understanding of credit markets is second-to-none.

Albert's twenty-year bullishness on bonds and what declining yields tell us about the underlying economy is why SocGen keeps him around.

And the reason pros keep listening to him.