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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.

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