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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Bonfire of the SPACs (S.P.A.C.-D.O.A.-R.I.P.)

 


We here in the blogosphere are constantly on the hunt for niche subjects to monopolize the edification of the masses about. It’s what we do. It makes us feel important and gains us a patina of uniqueness over and above the lamestream media.(1) Of late this blog’s search has lit upon the subject of SPACs, or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies. Although a brief reiteration of what said SPACs are might be in order at this point, it is more to my point to wax poetic about how much fun it would have been to be the informational hub of everything about them. What joy I would have taken in defining and refining the different classes and styles of SPACs and venturing guesses about the viability of each. My writing days would be mapped out for months in advance as I bloviate endlessly, a guru of the financial cutting edge like all of the crypto currency gurus.

Sadly, that’s exactly what it would be like. Just as crypto currencies are money issued by no one, SPACs are collections of money given in blind trust to someone who promises to make you rich by finding a going business to marry it into. The SPAC is then drained of all funds and you and the others in this collective now own a business, arguably still under the control of the person who promised to make you rich. This person then magically lists the business on the stock exchange and cashes you all out for oodles more money, as investors seek shares of your fine viable enterprise.

To date, at least part of the process has worked exactly once:

Grab Holdings, the largest ride-hailing and food delivery firm in Southeast Asia, clinched a merger on Tuesday with special-purpose acquisition company Altimeter Growth Corp securing a valuation of nearly $40 billion and paving the way for a coveted U.S. listing. The merger, the biggest blank-check company deal ever, underscores the frenzy on Wall Street as shell firms have raised $99 billion in the United States so far this year after a record $83 billion in 2020.

Cue stirring theme music and condor swooping animation. Opportunity has been sought and found! Just what the world needs… a combination of Grub Hub and Uber… in Southeast Asia, no less. Not exactly cold fusion, is it? Especially when one considers that the non-knock-off versions of both concepts have done nothing but bleed tranches and tranches of red ink here in the first world. I’m sure it will do just zingo business in a part of the world where they eat cats and drive bicycles. (2) Can’t wait for the NASDAQ listing. Oh, the vast promise of SPAC Land has the dreamers dreaming…

Frith expects more early-stage battery startups to go public through special-purpose acquisition companies, a trend currently sweeping through Wall Street, in part because management teams get the latitude to make future projections, unlike with conventional initial public offerings. If the secrecy in the battery industry remains as tight as it is now, you can expect more Scorpion Capital-style short seller attacks.

The above named Mr. Frith was deemed a bunko artist by a bunch of short sellers and is now envisioning MIGHTY SPAC as the savior for his venture. This is in opposition to the much dreaded path of actual financial transparency. Perish the freaking thought. Better to hide in a coop with birds of a feather.

And just as the story wends further, adding with complexity like a fine White Zinfandel, the spiked punch bowl is suddenly pulled. The Golden Age of SPACs is over…

SPAC mania has come to a screeching halt. Just last month, special purpose acquisition companies celebrated a head-turning milestone by breaking their 2020 issuance record in just three-month’s time. After more than 100 new deals in March alone, issuance is nearly at a standstill with just 10 SPACs in April, according to data from SPAC Research.

Kinda leaves the poor SPAC Research specialty prognosticator without a gun to holster or a bug to net. When, one wonders, did the whiz-bang consultancy have a chance to whip up a SPAC Research ™ wing in the first place? How much specialty experience can they have? From whence doth they cull their empirical data and seasoned insight? Lucky for those folks unemployment has been extended. Or you can accept being folded back into the Etherium Crypto Research pool at a junior level. Your call.

There’s trouble in SPAC land. (3) The SEC is mulling a new definition on the warrants given to SPAC insiders, a move that could weigh on the bottom line of these blank-check IPO mills.            

While SEC mullings have never stopped those truly inspired to blow money like drunken sailors, it ain’t good news. Bad mojo lurks in the fine print of the offers to those whose money is better than that of others. These halo-suckers (4) are often offered sneak peeks, tranche return protection, first pennies of every dollar collected or some sort of bonus dice blow--very little of which is kosher and none of which has ever prevented a dime’s worth of the catastrophic losses destined to inflict all. In short, warrants are come ons to start with, so exactly how shady they are is a matter of degree.

You will note that during the fly-like lifespan of the SPAC, the second cashing out phase never culminated. No one saw their pennies turned into IPO dollars nor bloated listings of equities on the NASDAQ. Which means that the 99 Billion dollars subdivided into 100 SPACs are now worth… wait for it… zilch. This clearly cannot be, since the SPACs themselves are simple balloons full of cash and should still have cash in them. Which can easily be returned. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn that you may buy with your returned SPAC funds.

During my first bout of opining and prognosticating on the wonderful SPAC Future I estimated that the originating parties numbered in the handful and that most of them were refugees from OTC pump and dump scams. I was close.

SPAC king. Former Facebooker and so-called king of the SPACs, Chamath Palihapitiya, has become the face of the great unraveling of these blank-check new issues. He raised billions for a series of SPACs which he regularly promotes on his social media channel. How are they doing? Per Bloomberg "Palihapitiya’s SPACs... have been among the worst bets."

By “Facebooker” our pals at Bloomberg are not referring to sub literates posting kitty photos and relationship updates in some sort of advertising supported internet garden. Nor are they actually referencing anyone who operationally works at Facebook. Instead, they are referring to a caste of people who became instant narco republic Richie Riches at the time Facebook became listed on the stock market. As I recall the investor pool’s story—which was made into a movie—most of these people were potential litigants against Facebook’s operator who took a piece of the action instead of suing the place into oblivion. Had they acted, there would be no Facebook, no Zuckerberg and they would have netted nothing other than goodwill assets (cups with the Facebook logo on it) and legal bills. In short, their qualification amounts to being ripped off by an internet start-up guy who stole their ideas and stole the money he was given to work on their projects and instead used all of it to start his own thing. Their improbable gain has been humanity’s loss. While I might want to rub one of these bozos for luck, their path to riches most resembles the one employed by Rodney King. Not the type of folks one should take advice from. (5)

In any case, I am going to have to find another niche to squander your attention with.

(1)  Lamestream Media: Also known as the press. To be distinguished from hate mongers and conduits for Russian disinformation or other social media rubes. An institution which has defended democracy world-wide, is professionally researched and deserving of trust.

(2) Massively unfair of me and racist. Still, if you could buy anything, why buy this? Why not buy a bunch of shoe stores. People actually need shoes.

(3) SPAC land. Also known by me as SPAC Land. Even though I did not coin the term, I insist that the Land itself be given its own prominence. At 99 Billion dollars it’s worth more than a lot of Lands out there.

(4) Halo-Suckers. Derived from the term Halo-Car, meaning a type of vehicle designed to bring people into the showroom, but which is seldom if ever purchased. A Halo-Sucker is an investor whose participation is attractive to other investors.

(5)  If Chamath Palihapitiya is so damn wise and prosperous, why is he peddling investments on a social media channel? Ditto Motley Fool and all of the other high profile investment touts. The answer to this question is both obvious and amazing.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Man Dreams and Science Provides


 

Greetings Blog Readers and Other Confused Lost Souls.

Amazing news has crossed our desk in regards to three topics this blog claims to cover. As usual, we are about two months behind the curve. It’s our obvious hope that you have been living in a cave,  unwilling to formulate an opinion until you have heard from us. That’s our target demographic. Our topics for this post are Flying Cars, Brain Damaged Fascists and New Dubious Methods Wall Street Has Devised To Make Your Money Melt Away. That makes our target demographic leftist hermits with a thing for tech. That explains our readership statistics in a nutshell.

My arm is currently swelling with a toxin I voluntarily allowed the infusion of. Said gunk is supposed to spare my skanky self from the plague we have been experiencing lo these many months. If it seems like a year ago that we were all consigned to lives of remote existence, it is only because it was. I and everyone who has had this shot may count ourselves amongst the world’s elite. Hopefully there will be more of us elitists in the coming days. The way mass production works is that things wedge in. As of this moment, the availability of the gift is limited to people near first-world distribution points on a scattershot basis. I was administered my dose in a Walgreens rather distant from my house while another person received a dose from the Walgreens close to my house even though he resides far away. In a week or two this stuff will be everywhere and the only people not receiving it will be those inclined to decline it regardless of availability. In the meantime, the willing play musical Walgreens. I know of a family of three who got theirs administered in three different places. Such is the randomness of the slating.

We are profoundly lucky. More than half a million of my countrymen did not make it to this point. And the body count still has a way to go. It may take some time to get things normal again. Without Trump in charge, it will take less time. As hope dawns, so does my desire to talk about something else.

Man dreams and science provides. This has been the story of the modern world. It has only occasionally been interrupted by outbreaks of calamity and need. If it wasn’t for WWII, we would have had television and photo offset printing as real industries ten years earlier than when they appeared. It’s a minor casualty, but who knows what this plague has delayed and by how long. I fear a wave of mass automation in the restaurant industry may be in the offing. People are starting to talk about life after this, to throw their nets widely. Our pal the Flying Car has made two recent sightings. To remind people what a Flying Car is, we will reaffirm our criteria in short form:

Definition of a Flying Car


In order to qualify as a 'Flying Car' a vehicle must encompass the following three concepts. 

1. Vehicle must be able to take off and land without a runway or dedicated external support facility of any kind.

2. Vehicle must be capable of conventional garaging.

3. The operation of a Flying Car may be no more complex than that of other conventional consumer commuter vehicles.

Hil-Gle has decided to take the lead in defining the flying car, mostly because no one else will. Even the manufacturers seem a little iffy on the concept. We use the term manufacturer with some hesitation. It’s not that no one has ever built one, but rather that they have been hand-crafted pieces even when offered for sale to the masses. There have been two makes and models of vehicles sold as flying cars thus far. Total production for both has been under 100 and there are no currently available examples for sale new. Not in decades. If any are still intact, they exist as curiosities exhibited at museums and air shows. In short, they did not do well. They did not revolutionize personal transportation. They were not breakthroughs to be emulated. They were just bad planes. Which brings us to the Terrafugia Transition.

We first reported on the Terrafugia April 21, 2012. Nine years later the same plane has changed names from the Terrafugia to the Terrafugia Transition, signifying that there is another model on its way out and that Terrafugia would now be the marquee (or make) of the aircraft and the un-trademark-able Transition would be the badge (or model). Other progress included:

Kevin Colburn, general manager of Terrafugia, said the company was “excited” to obtain the FAA certificate. He added that the group improved the Transition’s quality system, completed the critical design aspects, and built the vehicle. Terrafugia also delivered 150 technical documents to pass the FAA audit. “This is a major accomplishment that builds momentum in executing our mission to deliver the world’s first practical flying car,” he said.

The Transition, in airplane mode, will now be for sale for pilots and flight schools, but the driving side of its persona won’t be completed for another year. Colburn said the goal was to have the complete version legal in both the sky and on the roads in 2022.

That was in January. In February the company fired 100 or so of its workers (almost everyone) and said it was relocating operations to China. Its website never functioned that well and is currently in a state of dysfunction. So, don’t hold your breath. From what I can see they produced all of two actual Transition planes and had plans for a radical redesign, which they hoped to fund by selling you a copy of the plane they decided needed to be radically redesigned.

One wonders what they were doing for nine years. I fear the story covers all of our Flying Cars, Brain Damaged Fascists and New Dubious Methods Wall Street Has Devised To Make Your Money Melt Away topics in one elephant shaped car like thing scoop. Before I break bad on this cluster of MIT dreamers, a little time should be spent lauding the progress they did make.

The Terrafugia “Only Model We Actually Made” Transition is much more of an innovation than other flying cars have been. It didn’t use aviation fuel. You could get away with mere racing gas or high test. The difference in kerosene-like explosive properties is the one between merely having an insurance rider on your home and making whatever dwelling is adjacent to the plane’s garage uninsurable. There are lots of reasons planes are kept at airports and one of them is the properties of their fuel.

Second, its entirely possible to put the plane in a garage without dismantling it or leaving some important system lying back at the airport. The previously most successful Flying Car left its wings at the airport. And the Transition does transition from plane to car without undo overt mechanical manipulation. While the wings and tail don’t flower out and retract back, what configuring it does require is no worse than the set up of your standard sail catamaran. Thirty to ninety minutes of monkeying with the thing and you’re set to go.

Finally, they were working on making it a little more user friendly to actually fly. How is a bit of a mystery, but according to the now defunct website, you only needed a Sport Pilot’s license to operate the Transition. I don’t know where this falls in the spectrum of single engine prop certifications, however they were making a big deal out of it.

(Up With People People May Now Stop Reading. I am about to crack on them mightily.) Part of the problem with the Terrafugia was in how the vehicle appeared and what the manufacturer omitted in his pitch. What the prospective buyer saw when the plane was in the air was a two-seater with no cargo room and a 400 mile range. They highlight the 100 MPH airspeed, which is zippy indeed for a car but sort of Datsun 210 for a plane. Specifically, it’s sort of Piper Cub-like—a Piper Cub being a low-end two-seater single prop plane which retails for far less than the probable million all in that Terrafugia seemed destined for. (Last list price was $400k. It started at $140k.) True, the Piper Cub doesn’t come equipped with a parachute built into its frame as the Transition does, but it probably also doesn’t drop like a freaking stone when its motor shuts off. This doesn’t say anything horrible about the Transition. I’m sure the Piper Cub would drop like a stone too if its undercarriage were appended to a Mazda 6. The question was: what advantage did the Transition net over and above owning a comparable Cessna and a comparable car. At maybe three times the price.

Wait. Transition was said to have many luxury appointments. Only a leather interior is specified but it possibly also had a killer sound system. So there’s bling factor to consider—bling factor offset by a product which greatly resembles a Piper Cub being eaten by a Datsun 210. Not the thing of visions of George Jetson dancing in your head.

Finally, they made two. Two actual planes. Of a model they decided to entirely redesign between the production of Plane One and Plane Two. And they had 100 employees. To make two planes in nine years. Had I been given the parts and a salary, I could have made more than two planes in nine years. And I have problems screwing together IKEA furniture.

The Terrafugia people led a miserable existence by MIT engineering grad standards. Much of their time was spent pushing the plane from one tradeshow to the next. They had a two-fold task. Gin up free publicity and attempt to gain funding. In this, they were largely successful. But even P.T. Barnum can’t tour the same act for nearly a decade without the novelty wearing thin. They never got to the point where they could actually sell one to someone with money to buy one. Announcements about dates to make appointments to potentially buy a Transition came and went four times. And from what I can read, the FAA and other authorities granted them every exemption possible largely out of pity for the nearly decade old start-up. Money flowed into the thing in several batches, called tranches, each successive one having more onerous strings attached. The first investors are burning mad money and are willing to take a flyer on anything. Everyone after that is in the loan for a piece of the company game. Then you get to the final tranche, the people who know you are out of money and credit. They offer to bail you out at essentially the cost of all other investors. Heads, they get an outsized chunk of the venture, Tails they get all of it. Enter the Chinese.

In this case the Chinese are here in their guise as Volvo. It seems the Chinese bought Volvo through one of their special not really private enterprise funds and used Volvo to bail out Terrafugia. The idea is to net the R&D value of Terrafugia for a fraction of its cash pay in. You pony up enough for them to keep the lights on and then you wait. Either you wind up owning 49% of it as a going firm or you get all of it. In either case, it’s secrets are yours. It’s not a bad way to spirit off technology and the practice is neither new nor illegal. GM and GE and any number of amalgamations do it all the time. (It’s how GE bought and saved Xerox.) That said, GM is not a mass murdering totalitarian criminal enterprise out to rule the world.

If there is a bright side to this, I think the Chinese got rooked. This is not to say that the Terrafugia people are scam artist. I see no evidence of that. Rather they are what they seem to be: the kind of guys who build two planes and then scrap the idea for something better and hope the cash will keep coming. Sadly, even communists have a creeping belief in money at least as a capacitor of a nation’s potential energy, as a store of the worker’s efforts. There’s somebody in a rice paddy somewhere making all of this crap possible. The cold hard math of Terrafugia had to bubble up, even to designated techno privateers: 100 employees + 9 years = 2 planes. It took them two years, but the Chinese did finally pull the plug. If they were smart, they would cut their losses and just leave the two damn planes behind. I doubt they’re even worth the cost of transportation.

(One of the planes had to be retired last year because it was no longer safe to fly. This means that the Red Airforce netted one plane and a parts plane with parts that may not entirely be compatible. The two existent Transitions are not identical models. One is a proof of concept and the other is the model for production.)

Did the Red Airforce gain a flying car? No. It does not meet our criteria. If it functions, Terrafugia is an overly rugged bush plane with shallow range. That defeats the purpose. The Chinese have no need for a roadable aircraft, which is what the Transition is. If the Chinese want to take off and land on their own roadways, there’s certainly no technical reason they need a special plane to do so. I fear that the Terrafugia has transitioned in custody from MIT Grads playing Aviation Moguls to Commie Apparatchiks playing Spies. Our next entrant shows far more promise in becoming something akin to a flying car.

Billed as the “world’s first flying electric racing car,” the Mk3 is a full-sized, remotely operated eVTOL that’s reportedly capable of reaching speeds of up to 75 mph (120 km/h). It takes design cues from the classic F1 machines and features a svelte carbon-fiber frame and fuselage that’s light as a feather. In fact, the racer tips the scales at just 200 pounds (100KG) unmanned.

I want to avoid using the words FLYING COFFIN here. Mk3 is a roto drone, like the ones that are making aerial photography commonplace even in student film projects. It’s scaled up to roughly coffin size so that a prospective nitwit can sit in it. But that person is no more a pilot—or racer—than the monkeys on the Gemini rocket tests. These upscaled pizza delivery drones are ladled with programs which keep them from running into each other, keep them from violating God’s Laws of physics and keep them in relative formation. Any race involving such machines has all the real autonomy of marching band practice or slot car racing. It’s largely a spectacle and not a competition.

That aside, I think this is where the flying car concept is headed. No authority in its right mind is going to allow me to take my eleven minutes worth of flight time electric man zipper wherever I want. Doing such would place me in your powerlines and trees faster than it took me to unbox the thing. And that’s assuming constantly level flight magically happens and I immediately get the feel for the up/down, right/left and thrust controls. No matter how affordable you make the vehicle, you cannot graft fundamental concepts of three-dimensional movement into a critter that walks. Pilot is a graduated and stratified certification for a reason. In order for the Flying Car to work on any real level it needs some aggressive baby buggy bumpers.

It would be a largely auto pilot affair. The thing flies from its central charging station to that little granite pad you have on your lawn and waits. You kiss your wife, kiss your mistress, kiss the kids and then go out to the lawn where its majestic gull-wing doors lift at your chipper approach. After you plop your butt down and switch the station from Classical to Smooth Jazz, you hit the button for your destination. The gull wing doors fold down, sealing you in. The smell of honeydew melon fills the cabin, disguising the aerosol sedative which has just been administered. It heads up and then off to an imaginary preset avenue at a preset altitude and then whisks you into a line of other flying cars, all at preset spacing. You arrive shortly at Hedge Fund Control, your flying car circling with other flying cars as the flying car on the roof pad is unloaded. Eventually it is your turn to disembark. Once you are out of decapitation range, your craft seals and wings off on its mission to be recharged and fumigated. At about 5:15, after all of the presidents and directors have left but before the comptroller, you take the reverse flight home. It’s so commonplace you don’t think about it, you overstuffed pampered parasite.

I am not at all discounting the occasional rich guy who sat through 1000 hours of flight training being allowed to fly his flying car into my trees and powerlines. That happens with planes now. (Just last week I spotted a guy in one of those go-carts with wings buzzing over my house.) I fear the irresponsible rich will always be with us. And it is with only limited sadness that I consign the flying car to a fate as low end helicopter service for an emerging caste of low end helicopter slightly more responsible rich people. Before then I am sure we will see the flying car in use with the police or paramedics. So you may get to fly in one eventually, if you are supremely unfortunate. What I am sure of is that the first group of MIT grads who comes up with a model and a systematic approach to the flying car will have his or her (his) choice of SPACs to mate with.

What the heck is a SPAC? It’s a “Special Purpose Acquisition Company.” They are publicly-listed companies, but otherwise have no operations. They’re not making anything, selling anything or earning anything. They’re just a blank check. You might call a SPAC a host. They exist solely to find a mate—in this case, a private company, one with actual operations, that will reverse-merge with the blank check SPAC and, together, will flower into a publicly listed stock.

I want to be generous here. The generosity of my government and its capitalistic system has provided me with a shot that will keep me from dying in this plague. For that I am profoundly grateful. Nor is it the place for someone with a mind and perspective as profoundly small and narrow as mine to question the mechanisms by which my utopia has been delivered. It should be said that General Motors was not much more than a SPAC when it started. All you got for your GM stock originally was Flying Bill’s promise that he would buy companies in the automotive business and he would keep buying them until he ran out of people to buy his stock. And he wasn’t the only one. United Motors ran the exact same scheme. Together GM and United* founded two of the Big Three automakers. And they all lived happily ever after until they went broke 80 years later.

That said, GM and United at least gave you an idea of what they were buying. All the SPAC people have are condor logos and theme songs. The dream is that you are getting in on the floor of the NEXT BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY. No one says the word CONGLOMERATION or cites the NEXT ITT or the NEXT ENRON, because those are not great examples and would screw up the whole swooping condor with music animation. Nor is the slogan GIVE US MONEY TO BUY SOMETHING seem all that superlative in all of its accuracy. Not even when appended to a prefixed tag line along the lines of WE’RE REALLY SMART.

If I were a betting man, I would bet that the world of SPAC has many circles all surrounding just a few key players—many SPACs being offered by just a few parties with most SPACs eventually sharing the same salesmen and guides. And that many SPACs will one day merge with other SPACs just to keep the lights on. As opposed to Flying Cars, you will find your SPAC filled with the dregs of the always bloated commercial real estate world floating in a thick broth of HELOC** and secondary mobile home mortgages. Plus dead shopping malls redeveloped into dead office towers redeveloped into condos redeveloped into section eight housing, SPAC by bloody SPAC.  If it is any consolation, you will be providing a damn fine living to a very few undeserving and untalented white men. Who will have to go back to the OTC market where they belong once the SPAC thing has played its dismal self out.  Or are you unable to think that way?

The study’s lead author, Leor Zmigrod, told the Guardian that the variance was likely due to the black-and-white nature of how these individuals saw the world, making elaborate thought processes that much more difficult to execute. “Individuals or brains that struggle to process and plan complex action sequences may be more drawn to extreme ideologies, or authoritarian ideologies that simplify the world,” she said.

At HIL-GLE we hold these truths to be self-evident: People who promise you nothing deliver exactly that. While investing in ETFs and stocks and number 15 at Churchill Downs can all be dubious surrenders of your autonomy, it beats throwing money at beggars. Yeah, they’ll buy something. People willing to accept condor logos and parades as substitutions for complex explanations are the life’s blood of everything evil and wrong in the world.

(*) United went on to become Maxwell which went on to become Chrysler. It should be said that none of the other companies involved in the automotive sector were stock market animals. And I am not sure that the stock market was much of a boon to the industry at all.

(**) HELOC: Home equity line of credit or construction lines of credit loans.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Good Bye to All That! Happy New Year!


 

Having a dreadful year? So is everyone, worldwide. That is an unusual bit of commonality for the human race. If only there were some positive way that we could build off of this? We should in all probability settle on some small universal consensus, lest our musings drift off into hallucination.

The net consensus should be that whatever or whomever solves this plague is wonderful and due a worldwide parade at some point. Perhaps this was possible back before all of the researchers were hoovered up by corporate interests. You can’t really hold a parade for “Team Regenerex” or whichever lab coalition winds up with the biggest lift to our fates. The fact that so many cures were spewed out in such a short time itself says something about this moment in history. We could issue a general cheer for science and publicly supported higher education.

Thanks to the efforts of the above, the vast majority of us in the Western World will look forward to surviving this.  It is, however, something less than the egalitarian result ration might model. Somehow the rich and famous have placed themselves on the same priority tier with the healthcare workers, the currently infected and essential workers of all stripes. (What would we do without plutocrats and celebrities? One shudders to imagine it.) The Slave States are also splurging on doling out cures to their unfortunate client base. Quick, who wants to be first in line to help field-test the warp-sped medical innovations rolled out by Russia, Iran or China? Or the My Pillow dude, for that matter.

The aftermath on all this ruckus is anyone’s guess. Cataclysms usually presage a change in the world’s internal social orders. It’s not so much political orders falling or the last coming first, but it is an up-churning, usually involving new faces and ideas. Nothing is evident yet, except the losers.

My focus is trivial. I am not talking about the 300 thousand plus dead among us. I am talking about people who will survive this. I am talking about certain people who should never be taken seriously again. There’s a legion of them at this point, including everyone even tangentially involved with Wall Street and Big Data. Thanks for nothing, guys. All of your prognostications and corporate jingoism have amounted to self-aggrandizing diddly squat. Our salvation has come at the hands of good old fashioned government fiat powered academic research. The parts which have been handed off to industrialization and on-time logistics have been shamelessly botched. The researchers get an A. The MBAs get an F.

As I have mentioned previously, we need to keep score during this. Mostly because it is all we can really do. Beware the rewriting of history. It is incumbent upon all of us to hold this moment dear.

Sadly, the biggest loser is the United States. With the worst plague results in the Western World, American leadership, innovation, and internal organization will be questioned for decades. An election which reveals that nearly half of us are willing to abandon democracy for strong man happytalk devalues all of our works in an actionable manner.  It could only be worse if any other country had succeeded in dealing with the pandemic. But coming in DEAD LAST has a real price.

(We don’t know how things are going in Slave State Land because they lie about everything. That’s no comfort, though. Fucking up everything is what they do.)

At its core, the pandemic is the price China has exacted upon the world for its rise as a power. Its manifestation and spread are products of China’s internal mechanisms. Like the bird flu and ash beetle and Asian carp, it is Chinese Communism’s unique contribution to world culture.

Every time I sit down to conclude this, something weirder happens. An attempted coup of the United States took place. At the direction of the president of the United States. As with the above, my focus is trivial. The oddball rioters are being methodically tracked down. Not to trivialize the loss of three lives, but as counterrevolutions go, it was fairly minor. As riots go, it was well-contained. As a political demonstration, it was hideous. I question the game plan. What did this assortment of battle flag waving face painters in tac togs hope to accomplish? Ok, you kill Nancy and Pence and the Squad and then Arson Up. And then what happens? The jails are full of people who think this way.

Trump has met with the My Pillow Guy to strategize further. Thus far this impulsive line of thought has got him a second impeachment. I really thought I had retired my banner. Oh well…

 


While meeting with the My Pillow Guy to discuss his future agenda might be a fitting ending to the Trump Maximum Melodrama, I fear he may still have another parting shot. Reports are that Trump has effectively departed for Florida already and is scheduled to take one last Airforce One flight there well in advance of his defenestration. His last words may be a subscriber-only commentary screed second screen event coinciding with the impeachment trial. And special bonus Trump-themed criminal trials. To be followed by fundraising for the Feckless One’s senatorial run, a contest for the design of the Trump Library (1) and perhaps a raffle for Trump Tower itself! (2) It all ends with Rudy and him giving eulogies for each other. (3) I ask, with programming like this in the offing, is there any real reason to underwrite it with an actual impeachment vote?

I answer: yes. I do fear that a six-season situation comedy will be made of this administration otherwise. A few somber moments to remember the ruin to our national reputation are in order before this is reduced to fodder for laugh tracks. (4) Jailed toddlers and coddled dictators and hundreds of thousands unnecessary plague deaths and a failed coup are not a springboard for witty reverence. Let’s get the accounting straight for a change.

Take this with a grain of salt, but it seems as if Trump’s political demise coincided with the rational refuting of one of Conservatism’s favorite maxims:

Researchers at the London School of Economics and King’s College London looked at 50 years of tax policy favoring the rich across 18 OECD countries and found that the benefits remained with the wealthy while poorer citizens saw little improvement in the form of jobs or economic growth.

I know. Fake media, them London School of Economics people. (Most famous graduate Mick Jagger.) (5) Until lies about pollution being good or free will being an illusion can be concocted in pithy form, I fear the rich face a future of increased scrutiny, regulation, and taxation. Amen.

The near future is otherwise fuzzy. Picking winners and losers is a near short-term horizon thing in the best of times and a reason to evoke common sense against a hail of evidence to the contrary in the worst of times. I will close with two cases.

Case One: I seem to have written off the electric car a tad early. Innovation is true magic, the wet towel snap of sharp minds. Industrialization, by contrast, is a chore of numbers. In this in chore the electric car has failed miserably. I have seen more charging stations removed than I have electric cars in operation. The demand has not arrived, the cost has not diminished, and the number of actionable producers has remained fixed at one and that one is Elon Musk (who would rather blow weed.) Emerging from the mausoleum of past efforts are the green shoots of an industrial sector. With this have come the first benchmark.

$100 per kilowatt-hour, the lithium-ion storage battery’s magic number. At that point, the upfront cost for an electric passenger vehicle will be the same as—or less than—a similar internal combustion model. From there, the economics are clear, and other things (hopefully) fall into place: manufacturing happens in mass volumes; charging networks grow as needed.

That’s where Henry Ford started. Build a $400.00 car. Nothing else mattered. The Electric Model T’s price is now known. Hopefully this is the start of something. I don’t want to buy another pollution machine.

Case Two: Synthetic Finances. Full disclosure, I took a course on synthetic financial vehicles. My head is now waterfall tranche full of factoids deodorizing the obvious. There are no assets without recourse. Assets without recourse are empty promises, no matter how many of them can be traded for money money. It’s called a Tulip Bubble. Once the music stops, all of the Synthetic Financial vehicles become smoke. Right now Bitcoin’s lesser brethren are emitting whiffs of nonexistence.

Bitwise Asset Management is dumping what was the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency after Ripple Labs and its top executives were accused by U.S. regulators of selling more than one billion of unregistered virtual tokens.

And the number of classes of Synthetic Financial Vehicles to survive after a member of their class has turned up fraudulent is historically ZERO. So trade them Bitcoins in now. Just saying…

Note: We will return to our normal beats in a week or so, pending Trump not being involved in additional buffoonery. (Fingers crossed.)

(1)  My design for the Trump Library is a giant functional urinal. Inside there is a maze, with each twisting hall ending in a spectacular Trump Event themed dead end. Heading to the next section requires backtracking through all of the previous ones.

(2)  Word has it that Trump owes 300 large to the Germans. (Whose leader he presented with a bill for their defense.) Your awarded prize may be confiscated.

(3)  Although this technically isn’t possible, they could record the eulogies in advance.

(4)  If Trump does wind up in jail then it’s an HBO series.

(5)  Is Mick dead or is he planning his next Last Rolling Stones tour? He went on the first Last Tour when I was in high school. I am now 57.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Impeach Trump While the Impeaching is Good!


 I thought I was through with this. The guy only has two weeks left in office. How do you screw up two weeks?

By calling for an armed assault on Congress, that's how. 



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Coming Very Soon....

 Weird Detective Mystery Adventures Streamlined Unabridged Edition Cover Reveal



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Harmonic Convergence: We Have Elected A Crook.

 


Beats the looney we had. I somehow feel cheated by the process, but I should not feel that way. We inevitably get the politicians that we deserve. Feeling cheated just opens the door for politicians like Trump. If the whole bio system of politicos are crooked, why not try something else? Because the something else are a parade of cartoon characters. This has always been the case.

We cannot overwrite humanity. As we have piled on progress, complications have emerged to go with it. Almost all professions require a bit of specialized training and time in the saddle to get good at. Running the whole show, making sure that interactions between us are safe and fair, is damn complicated business. The people who are in that business are politicians. At the very least, you want a pro.

I think nearly every single word Trump said about Joe Biden is true. That said, this is a wonderful day. We’ve seen how amateur hour works and it’s not for us. We’ve seen how nepotism and loyalty above competence cronyism works and now it’s time for the blue-tinged technocratic hordes to ply away. Hopefully the whole plague thing will prove focusing. Nothing these save the world types like better than a world that actually needs saving.

I am old enough to remember a time when there were red-tinged technocratic hordes, too.  The Republican Brand was about good government, efficient commerce, promotion of innovation, law and order and a foreign policy based on realism. They were a counterweight to the Democrats regimes of inclusion as a qualification, rigged economic outcomes, redress through redistribution and a foreign policy based on European fads.

But those folks died. They were swamped by their Conservative brothers. I have mixed feelings about the Conservatives, having been one at one time. I don’t blame them for Trump. Trump is not a Conservative nor any type of political animal, vegetable or mineral. What I blame the Conservatives for is killing the red-tinged horde.

Today’s Republican Party is an amalgamation of bigots, gun loonies, bible thumpers, plutocrats and polluters. They’re not an attractive bunch. Of these, only the bigots aren’t flat out corrupt. They don’t want anything. They’re just against a lot of things.

Oh, yeah, and the Conservatives. They’re there. Drafting behind the polluters and the plutocrats. Quick to amen the fucktard evangelicals. (Literal interpretation of the bible. Great idea! A pity it didn’t occur to the people who wrote the bible.) The polluters and the plutocrats think they created Conservatism out of corporate agit-prop. And the Conservatives are willing to let them think that because (1) they have to get money somewhere; (2) even if true, it’s just a happy coincidence; (3) they’re convinced that market forces will somehow prevail and do the right thing before we are all buried up to our eyeballs in coal tar tailings. Time to smile and be in a picture with some goon in a baseball hat toting a machinegun. Conservatives have to believe that there’s some virtue just in the numbers of these freaks. If only they could be led.

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, their yahoo brethren literally believe that all government is bad government--which is not really aligned with the “government which rules least, rules best” mantra Republicans were previously pitching. At core, it isn’t government who these yahoos are pissed at, it’s reality. They’re just taking it out on civilization because they can comprehend the concept of civilization in commodified form as government. As long as these folks feel politically enabled, we can count on them backing the craziest motherfucker willing to stand for office. That’s their real orthodoxy.

Lucky for us, we outnumber all of these freaks by a wide margin in most places. And truth be told, the yahoos aren’t really good at anything—including staying focused. I believe this last election was the apex of genuine yahoo involvement. They liked Trump because he pissed off their betters. Now that he’s been swamped, there are stumps to blow up and beer to drink and signs to shoot holes in and the N word to shout at the television before they collapse into their Cheeto-and-lard enhanced stupors.

In short, we have one political party for a while. In my dreams I hope for a functional Green Party to contest with the Democrats. But that isn’t going to happen. The political divide in a rational universe is between the dreamers and the utilitarians. Just as the Democrats need to tame the Revenge For All Sins factions in their midst, the Republicans will crawl out from under the human filth they’re surrounded themselves with to preach a new doctrine of “Do No Harm” and “Pay as You Go” and “Pragmentism and Moderation are Virtues.” Let’s hope it isn’t a long wait, because silly season can get very silly very quickly, especially unchecked

Thursday, November 12, 2020

YOUR KITTY OUTFIT SUCKS!

 


Attention trick or treaters, members of Cats, strippers, casino hosts and comic book characters.  There is a strong likelihood that your kitty outfit sucks. If Taylor Swift can’t pull it off, why should you? And almost none of them are memorable. For everyone who isn’t Ertha Kitt or Julie Newmar, we have provided the following guide to making your attempt at feline adornment less of a travesty.

Rule #1: Props are key.


A big cat is the best prop.

 

Extra points are awarded for matching your feline companions.

All points are lost for flagrant mismatches. 

If you can’t match the cat, dress as something the cat would like to play with. 


Rule #2: You are dressing as a cat because you would rather be cute than original.

No cat outfit is all that scary.

If you want to be intimidating, choose another theme. 


Rule # 3: Cat outfits can be enhanced through nudity. However, if you are resorting to nudity, you can probably skip the cat outfit.

Rule # 4: The whole kitty routine can be overdone. 

 

Rule #5: Cat outfits are easy to screw up.

Avoid black. Pointed ears are better than floppy ears.


Avoid talking about your weaknesses.

Rule # 6: No matter how well executed it may be, a kitty outfit is just a kitty outfit.


 



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