Interest – Economics: Puerto Rico Bankruptcy Into the Unknown

I am fascinated by economics because this field is based upon math, markets and human behavior. Humans seems to be the most unpredictable variable in economics.  The stock market – if reduced to charts like Japanese Candlesticks – explain how humans will buy a commodity like rice (which originated Japanese Candlesticks 200 or more years ago) and bid it up and up.  And then it crashes with too much surplus.  Repeat.

Puerto Rico Enters the Unknown

The governor or managers of Puerto Rico shot themselves in the foot when they blew off creditors – and paid Christmas bonuses.  That is a callous mismanagement mistake.  “Sorry.  Don’t have enough to pay you back, bro.  But I bought this champagne.”   A slap in the chops to every creditor.

Dealing with Puerto Rico’s crushing debt has started to resemble a circular firing squad.

Simply put, the bankrupt island can’t pay everything it owes, so creditors are taking aim at each other as they squabble over who will get what’s left. But the debt’s size and the tangled process invented to rescue Puerto Rico mean there’s no established rule book to shape what comes next.

Holders of general-obligation debt have declared their right to be paid first, owners of sales-tax bonds are squabbling with one another over who deserves priority, and they’re all up against the commonwealth’s leaders, who want the cash for essential services. Amid this melee, Puerto Rico’s federal overseers will have to choose between paying U.S. hedge funds everything they’re owed or keeping schools, water and electricity running.

“There just isn’t enough money,” said Matt Fabian, a partner with Municipal Market Analytics Inc. in Concord, Massachusetts, who foresees a chaotic brew of lawsuits, federal interventions and politics. “Nobody has any idea what’s going to happen.”

Other cities are dealing with the fallout of mismanagement like Hartford, Connecticut that is undertaking a bankruptcy examination.

Eventually California Will Go Bankrupt

California is a horribly managed state.  Their legislative branches have no opposition from which to counter excessive or ridiculous legislation.  Their CALSTRS and CALPERS programs are underfunded by $1 to $1.4 Trillion Dollars.  That’s “Trillion” with a “T”.

Simply put, the union bosses in California approached politicians and filled their coffers with reelection money.  The union bosses then got very favorable – and completely unsustainable – deals for their members.  Pensions that are lavish by almost every standard.  Employees can rack up the last year of all their unpaid leave, unpaid vacation, work extras hours, etc., and jimmy up their actual pension by another 10-12-17% – far beyond the actuarial tables and projections of a pension fund.

Even the biased incompetents at major news outlets like the Los Angeles Times have to report the obvious.  Numerous cities are doing their 2017-2018 budgets and watching the pension costs rise precipitiously.  Many will have to go bankrupt.

The asshats in Sacramento will have to DOUBLE city contributions to the state.

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MIT Professor: Disconnect Me from the Internet

In this Day, when the internet supplies all the human needs, an MIT Professor suggest disconnecting from the internet.  He simply no longer trusts the internet.  I would not either in a number of ways.  The internet can act, in many ways, like a crutch.

If you don’t use it, you will lost it. 

This adage applies to muscles, tools (that get rusty without use) and our minds.  Example:

“What is your mother, father, brother or other family member’s phone number?”

Person:  “Well, it’s in the phone…”  Holding up their phone.

“Your phone is gone, destroyed, missing or not working with a tower.  But you have access to another phone.  How do you call them?”

Inevitably, 90% of people blink at me while about 10% (or less) know the Critical phone number.  A few people blink with realization that not knowing the phone number is wrong.  Whether they’ve taken action or not is debatable.

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Spam Tools for an Email World Gone Mad

Useful tools you may have overlooked if you run your own website and have access to CPanel.

I have been receiving far too much spam email and am now fighting back more and more.  The amount of time spent on this nonsense is ridiculous.  I have always said that a smartphone is ‘electronic opium.’  If so, then spam is the very, very bad heroin.

 

BoxTrapper

BoxTrapper is a spam blocking tool that that filters spam through a challenge-response verification. Thus, when someone sends you an email for the very first time, the tool will automatically send a verification email.

The sender will have to complete the verification process before his/her email can get into your inbox. Once the verification process is completed, the sender will be white listed. This means he/she won’t have to go through the verification process again.

Email addresses to which you send email are automatically white listed, even if you disable automatic whitelisting.

 

SpamAssassin

Another powerful utility that you can use to prevent spam email from reaching your inbox is SpamAssassin. This email utility screens incoming mail and tests them for spam characteristics.

SpamAssassin utilizes network tests coupled with Bayesian spam filtering to screen incoming email. This results in a score that SpamAssassin uses in determining whether it should discard a message.

To enable this function, simply log into cPanel then navigate the Mail section. Click on the SpamAssassin icon and click the Enable SpamAssassin in the gray box.  You will then receive a confirmation message on the following page that SpamAssassin has been activated.

As mentioned earlier, SpamAssassin examines every incoming email message and uses a test to determine its spam characteristics.  The tool considers messages with a score of 5 as spam by default. However, you can also adjust this spam score limit.

Oliver Stone Interviews Vladimir Putin

Director Oliver Stone remains a political dramatist and film director.  Many of his films contains political hot button issues, including his interview with Vladimir Putin.   The Assassination of American President John F. Kennedy with its conspiratorial plot.  He did films on Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.  He dealt with “Wall Street”, Central American rebellions and the recent Intelligence scandal of Edward Snowden.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Oliver Stone, he usually has something interesting to say.  In this case, he interviews Vladimir Putin who has been vilified in the press – possibly for 2016 Election Interference.  And, according to Stone, possibly not.

Putin Is a Chess Player

Putin served in the KGB and navigated the horrendous corridors of power in that organization, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.    Russia as a country is unusual in that it strives to be European (dictated by its geography west of the Caucasus), but feels both European and Asian.  Despite the best efforts of Peter the Great to shake off the ancient ruling class of kulaks and Alexander III’s freeing of the serfs, Russia remains an impenetrable culture to most Americans and much of the West.  Winston Churchill said that the Russians were a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Putin in KGB uniform, c. 1980

From Wikipedia:
In 1975, Putin joined the KGB, and trained at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. After training, he worked in the Second Chief Directorate (counter-intelligence), before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where he monitored foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad. From 1985 to 1990, he served in Dresden, East Germany, using a cover identity as a translator.According to Putin’s biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”[43] According to Putin’s official biography, during the fall of the Berlin Wall that began on 9 November 1989, he burned KGB files to prevent demonstrators from obtaining them.[44]

After the collapse of the Communist East German government, Putin returned to Saint Petersburg, where in June 1991, he worked with the International Affairs section of Saint Petersburg State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov. There, he looked for new KGB recruits, watched the student body, and renewed his friendship with his former professor, Anatoly Sobchak, the Mayor of Saint Petersburg.Putin resigned with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 20 August 1991,on the second day of 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin said: “As soon as the coup began, I immediately decided which side I was on”, although he also noted that the choice was hard because he had spent the best part of his life with “the organs”.   In 1999, Putin described communism as “a blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilization”.[48]

 

Putin As a Powerful World Leader

“It’s not a documentary as much as a question and answer session,” he says. “Mr Putin is one of the most important leaders in the world and in so far as the United States has declared him an enemy – a great enemy – I think it’s very important we hear what he has to say.”

Oliver Stone is correct in this admonition.  The West seems hell bent on characterizing its opponents as crazy madmen.   Of course, this characterization is much easier in the press, in quick conversations and as a cliche to place one’s enemies.  The dispute between Russia and Ukraine is very much in doubt in Oliver Stone’s mind.   He did a documentary which purports that the United States staged a coup against the freely elected Ukrainian president.

The film, called “Ukraine on Fire,” was featured on Russia’s REN TV Monday night, the second anniversary of the Maidan protests that sparked the Ukrainian revolution.

Stone interviews Russian President Vladimir Putin and ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in the documentary, which argues Yanukovych was the victim of a U.S.-inspired coup with the intent of pushing back against Russia.

“He was the legitimate president of Ukraine until he suddenly wasn’t on February 22 of this year,” said Stone in a Facebook post after his initial interview with Yanukovych in 2014. “Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions — with CIA fingerprints on it.”

The Crimea was conquered by Russians in 1783 and subsequently ‘given’ to the Ukraine in 1954 when Kruschev considered the Soviet Union an entity that would last forever.  He could not have foreseen the breakup of the Communist Empire in 1991.  But what Security Interest does the United States have in this faraway land?  Yes, we can deplore human rights abuses and the violence of war – but how does it involve American citizens and policy?

Oliver Stone’s documentary asserts that Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt engineered a coup against the Ukraine’s pro-Russian President.   If this is true, then how should Putin respond to an American coup on the Russia border which includes a critical Russian naval base at Sebastopol in the Black Sea?

 

Putin In Context

Headlines rage in the West over Putin’s alleged interference in the 2016 American Presidential Elections or roast him for the invasion of eastern Ukraine with the subsequent annexation of the Crimea.

 

“He talks pretty straight,” Stone says. “I think we did him the justice of putting [his comments] into a Western narrative that could explain their viewpoint in the hopes that it will prevent continued misunderstanding and a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.”

Oliver Stone discusses the blame placed by the Democratic party and its operatives against Russia and Putin for interfering in the U.S. Election.

“That’s a path that leads nowhere to my mind,” Stone says. “That’s an internal war of politics in the US in which the Democratic party has taken a suicide pact or something to blow him up; in other words, to completely de-legitimise him and in so doing blow up the US essentially.

“What they’re doing is destroying the trust that exists between people and government. It’s a very dangerous position to make accusations you cannot prove.”

 

Benjamin Franklin and Internet Publishing

Benjamin Franklin, “The First American,” would have loved the Internet. He was, first and foremost, a printer, author, and publisher. He established the Pennsylvania Chronicle firing up the Colonies against British tyranny. He made his fortune with “Poor Richard’s Almanack” and the Pennsylvania Gazette. “Almanack” sold 10,000 copies a year – equivalent to three million a year today. As a self-published author, Franklin controlled his own financial destiny.

Publishing Represents Freedom

Today’s digital publishing options hold the same lure of Freedom and Opportunity.

Publishing has shifted from faltering publishing houses to the author. Self-publishing has a significant heritage: Willa Cather, Pat Conroy, Stephen Crane, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot, Zane Grey, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Louis L’Amour, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allen Poe, Upton Sinclair, Henry David Thoreau. And Mark Twain. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is in more turmoil than the film industry. Getting an agent to read a script is absurdly difficult. Try getting one to read an 800 page manuscript. Traditional publishers offer no advance, little support and no flexibility. Remember that iTunes emerged from the Napster download world. Netflix bought Starz movies for internet streaming – labeled naive by media luminaries at the time – and now “visionary.”

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California’s Pension Crisis Climbs to a Cliff

The pension crisis in California grows precipitously in its two major pension funds.  CALSTRS and CALPERS. While the fund managers claim a growth rate of 7.5%, they only achieved 0.61% last fiscal year (June 2016).  Furthermore, these two major funds are sorely underfunded, meaning that they have two bad attributes.  Underfunded and poor performance.

Stanford Study on Pensions

A Stanford study shows that the pensions are underfunded by well over a trillion dollars.  $1.2 Trillion.

If a Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research’s estimate is accurate, public pension debt in California is even worse than feared. Preliminary calculations from a forthcoming SIEPR study peg the unfunded retirement tab for state and local government employees at more than $1.2 trillion, according to Insolvent Film, a website based on a documentary on government financial stability.

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Seal Team 6 Trains to Eradicate North Korean Dictator

U.S. and S. Korean forces are currently training on the Korean peninsula.  Specials Forces such as Army Rangers, Green Beret, SEALs and more are training.  Perhaps some with a mission to eliminate Kim Jon-Un, dictator of North Korean.  The same Kim Jong-Un who has shot loyalists on his own staff with an anti-aircraft gun for nodding off at ceremonies and less insults.

Of course, the internet comes through with the North Korean Uncovered Project which seeks to use satellite images to discover the buildings, structures and more in North Korean.

My Best Fourth of July Ever – Honoring a Veteran

February 26, 2017

Our Heroes are everywhere. They pass by us at the market. They work for us. They walk our streets. I’m talking about the men and women of our Armed Forces who serve and have served our country ably, courageously and without acclaim. We all know one such individual. They don’t talk much about it, except with hesitation and humility. And they believe that their unbelievably difficult sacrifices have been forgotten.

And they live across from us. One such Hero is Adolph Arujo who served in the Korean war as a medic in the 2nd Infantry Division in the Punchbowl. This area had some of the fiercest fighting of the war such as Heartbreak Ridge.

We have never spoken in detail about the War nor will we. Courtesy of Hollywood movies, I can imagine the devastation of a friend’s horrible death at your side. I can imagine the onslaught of an attack and gut-bending fear that does not deter one from duty. I can imagine the alienation between a soldier and civilian life. But, of course, I’m still just imagining and not living this role. My words are wholly insufficient. Their valor, courage and service is far too incomprehensible in my experience.

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