Sunday, December 30, 2018

Getting Rid Of The Penny Would Pay For Trump's Wall

The big news for Trump, America, and those in Washington is that by getting rid of the penny the President could rapidly save America enough money to pay for his wall and then some. Then to show a bit of goodwill he could start working towards a reasonable solution to solving our immigration problems, this is something that has eluded both Republicans and Democrats for well over a decade. This could end the shutdown and allow those we have sent to Washington to get back to work solving real problems instead of just grandstanding and making us ill. Since government workers will most likely be granted retroactive pay, politicians are stupid or silly if they think paying government workers to stay home over a few billion dollars in a 4.4 trillion dollar budget makes any sense.  

As for the penny, it is a blemish on the face of America, costly to produce, no friend to the environment and it wastes America’s resources while sapping our productivity. It cost our country billions of dollars, year after year. According to the “citizens to retire the penny” it cost the Country one hundred million dollars a year to produce the penny, and more then $15 billion dollars annually is wasted just in handling it. Coins are designed by the government to be a simple and efficient medium for the exchange of goods and services. For many years there have been discussions about discontinuing the penny which has become obsolete because of its minuscule purchasing value. The penny is a perfect example of our government's inefficiency and waste, and the cost is a burden carried by business. If an employee is paid $12.00 an hour they receive twenty cents per minute. Business simply cannot afford to pay an employee to handle and count pennies, the cost of the labor exceeds their value.

Best Use For Pennies Is A Bathroom Floor?
This is not the first time I have written about the lowly penny because it fails to pass that test. In March of 2012 Canada made the decision to do away with its puny penny coin, loved by some but an annoyance to many, it was withdrawn from circulation because it costs too much to make and had become a pecuniary pest. Ottawa said the penny retained only one-twentieth of its original purchasing power. Because it costs 1.6 cents to produce each one cent coin stamped out discontinuing the penny was expected to save around $11 million a year.

"It was just one of those no-brainer slam dunks. It's a place where we can save money," said legislator Pat Martin, who has long campaigned for the penny to be abolished. In the middle of 2014 the Toronto Sun reported that since circulation of the penny was discontinued on Feb. 4, 2013, more than four billion of the copper coins had been recovered, equivalent to a face value of approximately $40 million. The Royal Canadian Mint at the time estimated that approximately 6 billion pennies were in circulation when production of the coin ceased in 2012. I suspect the number has dropped substantially since then and its use has become non-existent. Once the distribution of the coin ceased vendors were no longer expected to return pennies as change for cash purchases and were encouraged to round purchases to the nearest five cents.

As for the issue of the American penny, simply put, the American penny doesn't make sense! Let it be decreed that the penny when weighed and measured is found lacking. Other nations have either ceased to produce or have removed low denomination coins the list includes Australia, Brazil, Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain, and as stated above Canada. By the time it was discontinued many Canadians considered the penny more of a nuisance than a useful coin. They often stored them in jars, threw them away in water fountains or refuse them as change. Financial institutions faced increasing costs for handling, storing and transporting pennies, and over time the penny had become a burden to the economy.

The Penny No Longer Makes Sense
To many people the penny has is simply a horrible little thing with no redeeming value that destroys vacuum cleaners when they accidentally suck one up.  Still, we find that not only does the government continue making the penny but over the years it has even made new versions of the penny. Voters need to remind Washington that it is not the job of the well-paid employees of the treasury to create collectibles or to pander to small segments of the population by designing coins commemorating or recognizing minor events.

The debate against continuing the penny is overwhelming, anyone still supporting it most likely has not given the subject much thought or is simply resistant to change, “the penny doesn't make sense".  From an environmental standpoint the penny is also a disaster when you consider all the energy used to make, transport, and distribute this useless coin. Currently, it costs the U.S. Mint 1.66 cents to make each one-cent coins, meaning that taxpayers are losing 0.66 of a cent for each one of the 9.1 billion pennies the Mint produces each year. That is a loss of $60,181,440 to produce pennies in 2016. The U.S. Mint makes an average of  21 million pennies per day which adds up to around nine billion pennies annually. If we just get rid of the penny, the U.S. Mint would cut its work in half. This figure does not include the time, fuel, expense, and hassle of carting all of those pennies around to the banks, merchants, etc.

If we stop making pennies we would also save all this cost associated with it. Remember the penny coin, has almost no purchasing power today and the cost of making the pennies is higher than face value. The melt value of pennies ranges from more than two cents for the pre-1982 copper pennies, to nearly a full cent for the zinc pennies. Logically, sooner or later the penny is destined to the dustbin of history. Ditching the penny would cost literally nothing and with a flourish of the executive pen create huge annual savings for business but such a move remains fiercely opposed by metal alloy industries and Coinstar, which makes millions each year by helping people get rid of their unwanted change.

According to the folks at RetireThePenny.org, the average American wastes 2.4 hours a year handling pennies or waiting for people who handle them. This statistic is the result of compiling several penny-handling related events. These events include the ubiquitous 30 second period we sometimes spend waiting for someone who has to dig through their pockets or purse to find that last cent so they can pay for something with exact change. They probably do this, so they don't get stuck with any more pennies. Still, we should not expect the government to take action anytime soon in our country so focused on pandering to those who fear change. It seems we may need some kind of push to bring about the penny’s final demise, because if we wait for those in charge of such things to do the logical thing we may be waiting until the end of time. Small things matter, if our politicians can’t get this right how can they ever deal with the more important issues facing our nation?


Footnote; Please feel free to reprint this article and share it with friends or the White House, thanks. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"Surveillance Justified" Expands Grip Of Orwellian State (part 2)

It is not uncommon for a government to keep an eye on its citizens, however, the growth of this sector of our government has been off the chart since 9-11. In response to the attack, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. With its ten-letter abbreviation expanded, the Act's full title is "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001." The attack gave America an excuse to reorganize its security agencies into a massive inclusive money eating monster. With both money and technology, this has allowed the government to collect and store far more data on each of us than it will ever need.

The Act with many provisions originally set to expire was renewed in 2006 and many provisions are now permanent under the renewed Act.
  • Section 202 — Authority to Intercept Wire, Oral, and Electronic Communications Relating to Computer Fraud and Abuse Offenses
  • Section 209 — Seizure of Voice-Mail Messages Pursuant to Warrants
  • Section 210 — Scope of Subpoenas for Records of Electronic Communications
  • Section 211 — Clarification of Scope
  • Section 212 — Emergency Disclosure of Electronic Communications to Protect Life and Limb
  • Section 214 — Pen Register and Trap and Trace Authority under FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)
  • Section 217 — Interception of Computer Trespasser Communications
  • Section 220 — Nationwide Service of Search Warrants for Electronic Evidence
  • Section 814 — Deterrence and Prevention of Cyberterrorism
  • Section 815 — Additional Defense to Civil Actions Relating to Preserving Records in Response to Government Requests
  • Section 816 — Development and Support of Cybersecurity Forensic Capabilities
We have been told that all the above provisions have been enacted to protect us and pose no danger to the average citizen. The reason more people are not petrified by the government intruding so deeply into their lives is that they have been seduced by the idea it will help create a safer and better world and have accepted the illusion it will come at little cost to their freedom. This ignores the fact that man tends to be intolerant and often loves bending others to his will, this is why past efforts to create a utopian society have failed time and time again as we run into the reality that  independent thought breeds a number of ideas as to what will bring us happiness and how we might choose to live.

Totalitarian is defined as, relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state, sadly, it appears that is where we are headed. Man has been proven flawed and his intolerant nature has created a conundrum that has haunted mankind for thousands of years. The answer has been to create stupid laws oblivious to the reality that stupid laws spawn and create stupid decisions. clearly, all of us can't be chiefs, some of us are destined to only be Indians, that being said, living in the herd without great responsibilities upon your shoulders has its allure until you find that like the sheep lead to slaughter you are being sacrificed for the delight of others. 

America was founded on the idea of freedom as our forefathers at great cost threw off the yoke of tyranny and freed themselves from English rule and being under the thumb of a distant monarch. This was done to establish a place where they could enjoy the benefits sovereignty bestows upon us. Today the foundation of these freedoms is slowly being chipped away, for example, free speech, the fact is, it is not free speech if you can only have the opinion but not say it. Not only is our every move being watched but censorship is on the rise as media claims the need to police the web and eliminate the "voices" it deems unsuitable.

A key issue is whether we have lost control of the giant part of our government that spies on us and spins out narratives that further it's agenda, another concern, is the monetary cost of this massive apparatus that added little to our quality of life. The thought of drones hovering in the sky above monitoring our every move should strike fear into the hearts of all who value their freedom and privacy. It is easy to imagine even drones zipping back and forth delivering goods being equipped with cameras storing away information on all that is occurring below but the issues go far beyond the obvious.

TSA Has Been Accused Of Over Stepping The Line
Confirmation of the expansion of surveillance creeping ever stronger is clear when we find out about taxpayer-funded government programs geared at watching our actions, the number of these has exploded. The TSA is running a wasteful ineffective surveillance program called "Quiet Skies" that involves monitoring people in airports who have not committed a crime or who are not on any watch list, but who are acting suspiciously. Even having yielded no evil doers the costly program that invades our privacy has continued. Now we find that those signs along the road that show you how fast you are driving may not only be there to remind you what the speed limit is but a part of a dystopian “Big Brother” spy network because even if you drive slowly and stop at every red light license plate readers and surveillance cameras are busy tracking your every move.

Today almost Orwellian technology enables the government to store and analyze data of every person in the United States beyond anything that we could have imagined. When coupled with the move towards a cashless society this gives those in control tremendous power over individuals. In the future, this sets the stage that if a massive number of people hit the streets in angry protest it is very likely that they will be beaten into submission for the greater good, possibly by robots that have little empathy but have been given the task to restore civil order. taking this one step farther, it also means those receiving assistance, guaranteed income or on the government dole may find they are at the mercy of a system where at any time benefits are canceled or cut.

In part-one of this series I wrote about China marrying Big Brother to Big Data and how going forward, every citizen will be watched and their behavior scored in the most ambitious and sophisticated system of social control in history. The system is currently far from being universally in place, however, the country's communist government has plans to rank all 1.4 billion citizens by 2020. Those who do not comply with the mores of the state risk becoming or declared persona non grata or disappearing into a re-education camp. An example of the power this yields is garnered from a report in The Telegraph that Chinese cities are launching a scoring system for dog owners where anyone found failing to care for their pets could be forced to pay a fine or even have their dog confiscated. This is already being enforced in the Chinese city of Jinan where people are permitted only one dog that must be registered with the police.

Over the last several years those watching us have gained the ability to monitor our conversations, read our Facebook posts, text messages, knows what you write, and know where we go. Fingerprint readers, eye scans, and voice recognition are no longer just the security methods of high-tech spy movies. Millions of mobile phone, bank, and investment customers now have these technologies at their fingertips. Schwab uses voice recognition, Apple uses fingerprints, Wells Fargo scans eyes, and biometric technology is rapidly growing as other companies are developing heartbeat or grip technology to verify user identity. What is lacking are laws protecting biometric information, thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our rights in the face of technologies and government programs that have little respect for privacy or freedom.

People Are Relinquishing Their Rights And Privacy
On a daily basis, we are relinquishing the most intimate details of who we are, our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.) to navigate an increasingly technologically-enabled world. Because of the government’s ongoing efforts to build massive databases Big Brother and his corporate partners in crime are becoming more invasive and intrusive. It is as if every dystopian sci-fi film and horror film ever made are suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous union between government, science and technology giving those in control the frightening ability to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.

To those valuing the idea of freedom we live in frighting times, it seems that much of the world is moving towards becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful. With each passing day. Big Brother with his corporate partners in crime keep getting more invasive, intrusive and controlling. When we look at all the ways "they" keep track of us it is easy to see freedom lovers are losing the war, every day 24/7 the government and its agents track, hunt, and adds to the data they have stored away. They know when we are sleeping, they know when we're awake, they know we are bad or good, so be careful for goodness sake because when push comes to shove it is checkmate and we have nowhere to hide.

To make matters worse every time we turn around we find the other chickens inviting the fox into the proverbial hen house rather than locking the door and standing united against the onslaught. The thought of drones hovering in the sky above monitoring our every move should strike fear into the hearts of all who value their freedom and privacy. It is easy to imagine even drones zipping back and forth delivering goods being equipped with cameras storing away information on all that is occurring below. The question we really face is whether we have lost control of the part of our government that spies on us and spins the narrative. Much of the problem we face centers around the growth in technology that enables the government to store and analyze the data of every phone and internet user, this has grown beyond anything that even Orwell could have imagined.


                                                                                 This blog is not written for money
                                                                                 or profit but as a way to share ideas
                                                                                 and thoughts. If you liked this post
                                                                                 feel free  to E-mail it to a friend
                                                                                 using  this link. E-mail to a friend

Footnote; This is part-two of a five-part series that delves into how we are slipping into a "One World Orwellian Society" that removes our freedoms and relegates the average person into being nothing more than the pawn of the elites. The links to both part-one and three can be found below.
https://Liberals And Conservatives Both Buy Into Orwellian Trend (Part-1).html

https://Propaganda Convinces Us It Is All For The Greater Good (part 3).html

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Vanishing Wealth - The Big Black Hole Of Paper Wealth!


Wealth Has Vanished Into A Big Black Hole!
Few people watch their investments daily but rather chose to peek at them every now and then. This is the main reason a lot more Americans are not waking up today sick to their stomach and in near panic from the devastation markets have wrecked upon their savings as trillions of dollars have vanished into a big black hole. Back in early 2017, I penned an article that delved into the subject of high-earning Americans, where their wealth came from, and just as importantly where it was stored. This got me thinking about the so-called wealth effect as well as how all that wealth was held. The really big earners in recent years have benefited greatly from the surging stock prices as much of their income has come from financial markets and gains in equities but this also holds true for the many working Americans that have invested in a 401K and other savings instruments.

The really big earners in recent years have benefited greatly from the surging stock prices as much of their income has come from financial markets and gains in equities but this also holds true for the many working Americans that have invested in a 401K and other savings instruments. Imagine the shock this morning of a fictitious couple named Joe and Jill Average that are nearing retirement with a net worth last month of around 250 thousand dollars when they check to see how they are doing after hearing "murmurs" the market has slipped. With three-quarters of it in the market, they will be horrified to find that the mere pullback of stocks in recent weeks has ripped away over 50 thousand dollars or 20% of their wealth. 

After close to a decade of rising stock prices many people have come to assume this is normal and the way things will continue and has become their hope for the future. When you have more than you need or want to put money away for a rainy day where do most of us store it? If you rated people on a "wealth chart" by how many tangible assets they owned you might be shocked to find much of the wealth people own is in paper and this can be full of risk. In our world today the possibility of cyber-crime or cyber-theft takes this to even a higher level but an even greater example of how wealth can rapidly vanish into a big black hole is evident in the recent stock market action where trillions of dollars are now simply gone.
Safely Storing Away Wealth Not Always Easy

In many ways "paper wealth" is merely the promise of future value. Unfortunately, this leaves much of society and many rich individuals vulnerable to rapid financial loss if the tides of fortune shift or if values rapidly change. Currently not only are we faced with banks paying little in the way of interest but we must also fear they or the government might reach in and seize part of our money. By forcing people to pull their money out of banks and other safe investments in search of higher yields we have driven up stock prices. Some of these stocks have reached unbelievable multiples.

People often do not understand money and wealth. Myths about both run rampant and become intertwined with deeply rooted personal feelings acquired or passed down from parents, these feeling often muddy and skew how people deal with wealth. An example would be anyone who felt deep down that money was the root of all evil would react to winning the lottery far differently than someone with the belief that you can buy happiness. I have even heard poor people say they didn't see much point in winning a lottery of  several hundred thousand dollars because "that's not much money." When the B word "billions" is so prevalent in society today it is understandable many people live with distorted values.

Truth be told most people are not overly endowed with discipline this includes many people that amass a fortune. This often means that many wealthy people tend to "misplace" or lose track of where they have placed their wealth. Sometimes it is simply put into a system that is on autopilot. Years ago I purchased a property from a doctor on contract. The doctor having also bought the property on contract had me just send the payments to the man he purchased it from so he would not be bothered. After many years I contacted the doctor to discuss a discount for a cash payoff and his accountant discovered the first seller had been paid off years before but continued taking the money he had no right to. The doctor was shocked and getting his money back proved difficult.

Annuities, pensions, stocks and such promises of future payment tend to dominate the list of favorite vessels in which to store wealth and many of these are leveraged to maximize returns and garner higher yields on our investment. Cash is another option but holding it in your possession leaves one open to theft and means the money will earn no interest. What is often missing or overlooked is tangible fully paid for items and things that are likely to hold their value and in the direct possession of the owner. People tend to avoid tangible assets in their control because they are often inconvenient. Valuables can be a pain to have about and they often need to be insured which also calls attention to their existence.

When you subcontract out control of your wealth or turn it over to a money manager you often get promises but no ironclad guarantee. Confidence in a money manager can quickly be dashed, all the people invested with Bernie Madoff discovered just how suddenly things can go south and promises turn hollow. While it has become both fashionable and common in recent years to let someone else who knows and specializes in financial planning and markets to control this segment of our lives I feel it is a big mistake and a dereliction of duty. Wealth should come with a warning notice saying "Holder Beware This Commodity May Vanish, Spoil, Or Grow Obsolete At Any Time!"

                                                                                    This blog is not written for money
                                                                                    or profit but as a way to share ideas
                                                                                    and thoughts. If you liked this post
                                                                                    feel free  to E-mail it to a friend
                                                                                    using  this link. E-mail to a friend

Footnote; I consider the massive flow of savings and wealth into paper instruments rather than tangible goods a key reason inflation has remained low since 2008. If you are interested in this subject I hope you will take the time to read a few of the post I have published on the subject by visiting the blog archive.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Liquidity Is Often The First Casualty In A Financial Crisis

Liquidity Is The First Casualty In A Financial Crisis
Banks have a way of failing us when we need them most and that is why liquidity is generally the first casualty in a financial crisis. A huge part of the problem is the same massive gains leverage brings, also showers us with huge losses that paralyze both individuals and financial institutions. This means that high yield bonds suffer, and anything, person or group with less than stellar credit finds they are unable to get new money and are forced to watch as even existing credit-lines are cut. Just the minor market pullback so far means it is very likely that new loan issuance will grind to a complete halt in 2019. The bottom-line is banks do not like to loan money to those that need it but prefer to line the pockets of those who dwell in their inner circle.

Many of the credit-lines that existed prior to 2008 have gone the way of the dinosaurs with banks claiming new government regulations are to blame for the way they do business today, this is especially clear in the commercial real estate market. CEO Chris Maher of New Jersey’s Ocean First Bank has already pulled back on refinancing transactions that let customers cash out on their debt, and has started reducing exposure to industrial loans,  told Reuters.
“In a downturn, industrial property is extremely illiquid,” he said. “If you don’t want it and it’s not needed it could be almost valueless.”
This is why even if we do not know what the future will bring in a financial crisis when liquidity drys up cash rapidly becomes king. To anyone doing a great deal of negotiating the one-word people wanting to reach an agreement don't want to hear is "IF"! This is why I will never call the holder of cash stupid unless it is during a long period of massive inflation. With this in mind, how well banks fare if assets retrench will depend a great deal on the collateral they have glommed onto. Falling oil prices are already putting pressure on a slew of oil patch loans and bonds and it is also important to remember historically banks have been poor managers of any tangible assets that require day to day care.

For years investors have been rather complacent to the risk they faced and because of this, leverage has slowly built up within the system. It is only in the last week that we have seen panic start to set in as traders began to realize the long-awaited Santa Claus rally was not going to occur and indeed the Fed and the plunge protection team were not going to or unable to stem the tide of selling in many markets. This, of course, does not mean a vicious rally is off the table in the near future but when and how high it will go has yet to be determined and if it does occur many traders will see it as an opportunity to sell. For those many bulls crushed this week in the rush to the exits, it is too late, which brings up the question of how long the current downtrend will last.

Much Of The "Smart Money" Has Already Exited
As usual, it is the slow movers and common folks that will suffer the brunt of a falling market. If the chart off to the left is correct, it seems much of the "smart money" has already exited the stock market in recent months. The biggest problem the bulls face is the carnage may be far from over this is exacerbated by the fact many shorts got out of the market long ago and today many traders are playing on borrowed money so the margin calls will be fierce.

In a recent article, I questioned whether we have entered the period that may someday be referred to as "The Great Reset" where values might be shaken to their core. In this particular case, it means that assets such as stocks could take it hard on the chin and not recover for decades when adjusted for inflation. The market surge since 2008 has reinforced the myth that stocks move upward and always recover if you ride out market tantrums, however, this is not true. All those owning shares of GE, GM, and a slew of other companies caught up in the last crisis will confirm that holding on to an investment does not always make you whole. Now that the markets have crossed into bear-market territory by retreating more than 20% from their peak market psychology has begun to change and "worry" is the word of the day.

The five FAANG stocks. Facebook, Amazon.com, Apple, Netflix, and Google/Alphabet together accounting for more than two-thirds of the Nasdaq-100's loss and when such high-flyers that are always being hyped in the news get whacked traders take notice. With liquidity on the wane and traders rather nervous this might be a bad time to try and catch a falling knife" a market axiom for trying to pick the bottom in a falling market, remember the market has climbed a long way in the last nine years without a major correction. While the idea of buying stocks when the market is out of favor sounds great pulling the trigger is difficult in an unstable market which causes many investors to alter their plans. Be careful out there, and remember capital preservation is job one!

   This blog is not written for money
                                                                                    or profit but as a way to share ideas
                                                                                    and thoughts. If you liked this post
                                                                                    feel free  to E-mail it to a friend
                                                                                    using  this link. E-mail to a friend

Public Transportation - My City's "Empty Bus" Boondoggle

The Tax Payer Is Being Taken For A Ride
Something is very wrong with a government that creates an expensive transportation system that carries few riders and occupies its time shifting around empty buses. In the city where I live the bus system that carries us about goes by the name of Citilink. The Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corporation that controls this system has a rather slick detailed website that gives a fair amount of information and some I hope you will find very interesting. If you think taxpayer-subsidized entities are efficient in accomplishing their missions then you will be disappointed. The whole point of the following article is to highlight how a quasi-government entity needs little accountability to be accepted into a community as a positive force. The article below is comprised of real numbers directly from the PTC annual report and these are numbers that are easy to get your head around.

Darkened Windows Mask Lack Of Riders
On the average day buses with darkened windows dart to and fro with the intent to provide safe, courteous, dependable public transportation, and at the most reasonable cost to our community. It is not uncommon to sometimes see as many as three or four buses in a small area. Citilink considers itself much more than a ride. In their words "more or less" it's about getting us where we want to be on many levels. They see as their claim and goal to contribute to the community in many ways including but not limited to revitalizing our neighborhoods, helping with developing the downtown area and contributing to economic development.

PTC brags and carries on about how local dollars are leveraged to match federal and state resources that are invested in mobility for Fort Wayne residents.  Annually, over $4.7 million dollars from outside our community support Citilink services. In addition, millions of dollars in discretionary federal funds help pay for new buses and transit facilities. They say on their website under the "about us" section listed as, board of directors and mission, that whether you ride it or not, public transportation benefits all of us. This point is driven home by a YouTube video. It is only when you look a little deeper into the annual report that shows the numbers behind this operation that reality begins to filter through.

Yes indeed, the picture painted by the numbers of the annual report is not pretty or impressive. With total expenses of $12,625,199 the revenue summary shows only $1,310,690 or about 10.4% comes from fare revenue. This means as shown the bulk of its operating money comes from the taxpayer and is listed as Local Assistance $5,891,916 State Assistance $2,048,372 Federal Assistance $2,661,868. When considering the city has a population of 256,496 people, this means assistance from each man, woman, and child represents $41.33. Again, it must be highlighted that when someone cannot or will not pay their portion the burden is transferred to those who will. Again, if you paid attention to the numbers most the money comes from close to home.

A glaring problem becomes apparent as we read the report and that is these buses are not darting about full of paying riders or non-paying riders receiving a free service, it is far worse than that. The numbers prove the buses are empty even after all the massive efforts to encourage ridership few people in the city have ridden a bus in decades. With a total vehicle operating expense of  $5.86 per mile the operating expense per passenger trip comes in at $7.09. This becomes clear when they state the number of passengers per vehicle mile traveled as a mere .83 or in layman terms this means a Citilink bus on average carries less than one passenger and its driver, this means if one bus has three passengers most likely two others have none.

It should be noted that many of the buses act as traveling billboards and are covered in advertising as a way to garner a few pennies of additional revenue. The most common theme sports the strength of a certain bankruptcy law firm, the city recycling program, a positive message related to local government or another entity subsidized in some way by taxpayer money. Colleges receiving state funding, local subsidized sports teams or their arenas, hospitals, and even the groups like Airport Authority tend to pony up money in this incestuous demonstration that they too care about the city.

Also, revealed on the website is the ugly reality as to just how badly the PTC spends our money. For example, I followed through to view one of the several recommended videos Citilink had produced and put on YouTube in January of 2015. The 19-minute video prepared in Spanish told someone how to ride the bus, since being placed on YouTube it had been viewed only 49 times. This means I boosted its audience by 4% when I kicked it on twice. Sadly, the bulk of the other viewers were most likely AdvncingTime readers guided there by a previous post or some in-house close associates of Citilink checking out their little gem before showering themselves with praise. It is clear this highly orchestrated production had to have cost thousands of dollars to produce.

PTC through Citilink goes to great lengths to spread the myth they are helping to make the city "green" and is ecologically friendly, but this claim quickly goes out the highly tinted windows of the buses, I contend the windows have been darkened more to mask the lack of riders than for their comfort. The fleet of buses consumed 361,787 gallons of fuel and traveled 2,153,575 miles. This is less than 6 miles per gallon or 5.95 to be exact. If this is any indication of the state of mass public transportation across much of the nation it would seem the word mass should be dropped as a misnomer, this is particularly true in areas finding parking is not difficult or expensive. Following the footnote is the link to three other cities which seem to be suffering from the empty bus syndrome.

Sadly, the corporation's reports show more taxpayer money is being spent and ridership is continuing to decline, this may be in part to the recent development of options such as Uber. When comparing the 2017 annual report to the 2013 report it becomes easy to make the case something is very wrong here. The catch phrase on the PTC website, "Come Along For The Ride" seems, in this case, to apply to not only their riders but the taxpayers as well. When looking at all the numbers it seems some scheme to subsidize payments for private taxi service for those needing transportation might cost us far less than maintaining this failing apparatus. As far as claims that jobs would be lost a case can easily be made that more taxi drivers would be needed if we had fewer buses.

                                                                                    This blog is not written for money
                                                                                    or profit but as a way to share ideas
                                                                                    and thoughts. If you liked this post
                                                                                    feel free  to E-mail it to a friend
                                                                                    using  this link. E-mail to a friend

Footnote; While this may seem like a rather "off topic" sort of post I think it is important to toss out such oddball subjects that all tend to flow into what makes up our modern culture. This helps to shine a light on where we may to failing or on the wrong path in creating a more sustainable future. Note, some of the links below seem to have gone a bit out of the way to baffle us with BS and mask what the numbers represent.

South Bend Indiana - http://www.sbtranspo.com/
Salem Oregon -  https://www.cherriots.org/media/doc/Revised_annual_report_pdf
Topeka Kansas - https://topekametro.orgAnnual-Report-FY2017.pdf

Friday, December 21, 2018

Liberals And Conservatives Both Buy Into Orwellian Trend


Liberals And Conservatives Have Embraced Big Government
As Americans profess to the world how they love their freedom they often seem ready to cast it away for the greater good or the promise that surveillance and more government control will make them safer when all is said and done. Neo-liberal Orwellian and neo-conservative Orwellian are terms that could be used to describe two rapidly growing power groups in America. Of course, neither of these groups would ever consider themselves as empowering the government to take away our rights and freedom." Sadly, under a, "it's not us it's them" mindset they do not see themselves as surrendering power to the state because they are so focused on allowing the state to control those with opposing views. 

The writings of George Orwell, especially about his dystopian account of a future totalitarian state in Nineteen Eighty-Four, has made "Orwellian" an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It points to an attitude and often a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson" which can take many forms. Whether it is a person that has been expunged from the public record and thus our memory or someone so restricted in movement and opportunity that they are shunned by society and having contact with them becomes dangerous to your social standing.

Orwell depicted how governments could take on a life of their own in his novels and criticized totalitarianism throughout his writings. Totalitarianism, the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism is a political concept that defines a mode of government, which prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. Political power in totalitarian states is generally held by one leader and an all-encompassing propaganda campaign, which is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media and is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy and restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism.

Hitler Has Been Made The Poster-boy Of Fascism
It is often conceived that conservatives are predisposed and lean towards keeping a close eye on the masses and are fascist by nature. Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian ultra-nationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and the economy. Hearing this term we often think about the governments in Europe which came to prominence in early 20th-century. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left-right spectrum.

What is more interesting is that liberals have also "drank the kool-aid" and allowed themselves to be swept along and convinced having big-brother watching over them is beneficial. Those allowing a situation of being monitored to move forward are generally dismissive of the negative baggage that accompanies totalitarian states. In many ways, the impetus driving the creation of an Orwellian state is about values and sadly forcing yours upon everyone else whether you are a conservative or a liberal is an attack on diversification and individuality. While diversity can be seen as a double-edged sword because it often means tolerating those that are different the world would be less vibrant and a bit boring without it. Exceptionalism is the child of mankind not restrained by the limits culture often imposes.

Facial Recognition - China Expands Its Control
Currently, China is marrying Big Brother to Big Data. Going forward, every citizen will be watched and their behavior scored in the most ambitious and sophisticated system of social control in history. ABC Australian news ran a piece showing how the Chinese people are justifying this extension of government power. Somewhere between the claims of creating a safer and more just society the idea that a just government can address the social ills that plague us gives hope to the progressive movement. This means that while people in general often hold distrust of what they consider corrupt conservative organizations including politicians and the police watching closer their activities, ironically allowing such acts are often viewed as a way to make these organizations more accountable to the people.

Liberals are often idealist and in search of "utopia." This term was coined by Sir Thomas More and the title of his best-known work published in 1516. It stands as More's blueprint for an ideal society with minimal crime, violence, and poverty. Unfortunately, surveillance of people are now leading us towards a place where digital algorithms decide our fate and nothing can be questioned. This kind of dystopian community or society is not only undesirable and frightening it is the opposite of what More described. Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. Dystopia is translated as "not-good place" and while politics often makes strange bedfellows this joining of both extremes willing to extend surveillance into every facet of our lives is both surprising and very troubling.

The course China has embarked upon should be raising huge cries of outrage across the world. This is happening in many countries such as Turkey, Iran, and even the UK where cameras watch and record everything and data is stored. The digital age has made it far easier for government to seize our computers and records to shape a case against anyone by massaging the data as they see fit. The reason we hear so little criticism of these actions from our government may be that we are next in line to have our freedom culled. Historian Robert Conquest describes "totalitarian" states as recognizing no limits to their authority in any sphere of public or private life and extending that authority wherever feasible. This is another way to say, power corrupts, "absolute power corrupts absolutely"


Footnote; This is part one of a five-part series that delves into how we are slipping into a "One World Orwellian Society" that removes our freedoms and relegates the average person into being nothing more than the pawn of the elites. The link below is to the ABC Australian news piece exposing how China has ramped up its "social rating program." This will give you an idea as to what we should expect.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eViswN602_k

Footnote #2; Part two and three of this series has now been published and can be viewed at the links below.
 https://"Surveillance Justified" Expands Grip Of Orwellian State (Part 2).html
 https://Propaganda Convinces Us It Is All For The Greater Good (part 3).html

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Great Reset, Long Overdue, May Now Have Arrived

The Great Depression Was An Economic Reset
In January 2016 we were told the election of President Trump would crash financial markets but instead, we witnessed a market melt-up proving his detractors wrong. The "Great White Hope" in this case turned out to be no other than Donald Trump, the very same man who was slated to lead us to financial ruin. The path an economy takes as it moves forward is never straight but full of twist and turns, since 2008 we have gone a long way but really not moved all that far forward. If this sounds a bit bizarre think of it as driving around in circles, where you use a lot of gas but end about where you started, simply put we have not addressed the true nature of our problems or undertaken the structural reforms needed to set the economy right in coming years.

If you are bullish and see higher markets ahead it is important to question not only where growth will come from, but also it's quality, government spending that creates massive deficits has never proven a long-term solution to creating sustainable growth. In recent months stock markets have been under a bit of stress but in reality, bears have merely taken a bit of icing off the top of the cake and have not gotten into the real heart of profits rolled up as the market surged to record highs year after year. America and countries all across the globe have postponed dealing with our real issues in what constitutes a massive failure on the part of leaders and political systems everywhere. True tax reform, real healthcare reform, real Social Security and pension reform, how to balance trade while increasing global competitiveness, as well as addressing long-term sustainability have all been subverted.

During the last two and a half years central banks and countries around the world have added more fuel to the fire which has postponed the day of reckoning. This has made all of us thinking the market was about to turn south looking rather silly and underscores the fact that trying to time or predict economic events is very difficult. Those of us skeptical of these markets never imagined the size and scope of the economic fraud that would take place as central bankers colluded to obscure the natural laws of economics with Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). I like many old-school economists reject this concept of controlling the economy and see it as a form of voodoo economics destined to fail.
This has become a worldwide problem. With all the distortions from things like computer-driven trading, dishonest economic data, and stock buybacks it is only logical that at some point in time reality will re-enter the picture and set things right.

The Great Reset, Has It Begun? (click to enlarge)
This bull market is long in the tooth by historical standards so with every market pullback as of late, we are again forced to wonder if this is the beginning of the end. Have we entered the period that may someday be referred to as "The Great Reset"? Have we started a major reset of asset valuations and if so how might this unfold? So far the market is more concerned and no panic has surfaced but some of us see this as the period where after decades of modern monetary theory the world reverts back to the tried and true. Over the years the valuations of many stocks and commodities have gotten out of hand driven higher by financial forces unleashed by monetary policy that has expanded both credit and debt to a level that a decade ago many economists would never have imagined.

The fact the numbers do not work means reality will be visiting us soon, this reset can develop in several ways and it will be interesting to watch how this unfolds as the market unravels. What will ultimately be declared the driving force behind its demise will be equally fascinating. During the bull market of the last nine years, it seemed that even bad news was good news in that markets would rally and rise indiscriminately. It often appeared that any indication things were not well was interpreted as proof the Fed and central banks across the world would soon step in to add a little fuel and give the economy a badly needed kick. When it comes to a falling market, however, the market can fall like a stone or in the case of a "realizing market" slowly grind its way downward as bone grinding action stretches on forever and a day with no respite.

Have We Ventured Into Bubbleville?
Over the years most investors have divided into two distinct camps with the bears thinking the bulls are delusional and the bulls thinking those constantly heralding the coming gloom and doom should pack it up and head home. Of course, each camp has fringe factions that vary in the degree of their convictions. Mega bulls continually point to the upside and how those not in the market will miss great opportunities, while mega bears preach caution, advise risk aversion, and warn of the coming financial Armageddon. It is easy to rationalize why those in power cannot afford to let financial markets to collapse, however, preventing such things is easier said than done. History is filled with examples where greed has guided investors down the path to Bubbleville and always they are encouraged to follow because they are told, "This time it is different." Sadly, again time will show that it's not different at all.

Often investor psychology and the behavior they display is based on recent trading patterns. In this case, many investors will react and "buy the dip". For years this reaction to each pullback has worked and garnered huge profits for many investors, but this trading strategy has the potential to cause them a fair amount of pain. Bulls trying to buy pullbacks and pick market bottoms time after time may soon find that more downside action exists. Ironically, more than once I have heard a person talk about how they plan to short this market when it tops, but the fact is they won't. It is very hard to pick a market top, but if anything they will probably assume the role of buying into a falling market and getting sucked into the vortex well before the fall has stopped.

Chart of A Bubble Market (click to enlarge)
The term "capitulation" which in market terms means to surrender or give up is often used to mark a top or bottom in markets. It is often important to ask not only who is capitulating, but why. Over the last several years it has been the bears and those who saw every morning a market ready to collapse under its own weight that have ended their day in tears. It is also these same bears with their tightly placed stop-loss orders that have paved much of the path this market has made to higher and higher levels. It will be interesting to see just how many of these beaten up souls still have enough fight inside to ride the markets lower when their time to shine does occur.

Throughout history, the world has witnessed and undergone many resets. The coming adjustment will come and it will most likely be ugly and often volatile. Market crashes generally are the result of panic and so far what we have seen is more on the level of "minor concern" resulting in a chorus of cries to buy the dip. It is only after the market blows through several more key support levels and starts making what some people view as crazy new lows that panic will set in, and by that time it will be too late for many investors to escape the carnage. As stated earlier, in recent months stock markets have been under a bit of stress but in reality, bears have merely taken a bit of icing off the top of the cake so when stocks really begin to tumble expect a ferocious stampede to the exits where the carnage will be fierce.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Trump, Is He Guilty And Does America Really Care?

Trump Was A Womanizer But does America Care
If his enemies can't get Trump on this, they will go after him on that. After month after month of back and forth, the question remains in the minds of many Americans as to whether President Trump had a closer relationship with Russia at any point prior to his election than he leads on. This runs directly up against the question of how much it really matters and whether America really cares? With respect for the media, politicians, institutions like the FBI and CIA in the cellar, we are left wondering who to trust but one thing is becoming clearer by the day that all of this is getting long in the tooth.

Now with what we call, new statements and "allegations" of misdoings on another more personal front having to do with Trump's sexual adventures we enter new territory. We can expect the current Washington sideshow to continue unabated with the mainstream media keeping us a "breast" of every salacious detail and even providing us with eye-candy suggestive photos of all lewd, crude, and improper conduct our current Pervert and Chief may have touched on. With everyone all a tither with speculation, the lobbyist should have plenty of time to go about their task of writing legislation which will give those they represent an edge. As for those who sent to Washington at great expense to the taxpayer they should just consider this as another excuse to add to America's dysfunctional political culture.

Circling back around as to how we got here, A big part of the problem is that Hilary Clinton the Democratic presidential candidate that ran against Trump is such a tarnished figure many Americans were left feeling they were forced to chose between the least of two evils. Still, for the lovers of gridlock, all this will go a long way towards allowing Washington not to concentrate on important legislation and reforms or trimming our soaring national deficit. It is a bit reminiscent of the saying, "A bad day fishing is better than a good day working" and guarantees we will see more of the same political grandstanding rather than politicians focusing on crucial issues of the day.

For those unable to meteorically pin the tail on the donkey or in this case, pin guilt on Trump, a man which ironically they also consider an ass, the game has shifted back to crimes of lust and payoffs. With Trump's attorney Michael Cohen now facing three years in prison and the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI), admitting responsibility for its role in a $150,000 "catch-and-kill" hush money payment to a former Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal, who alleged that she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Under a non-prosecution agreement, AMI admitted that it refused to publish Karen McDougal's claim to prevent it from influencing the election by damaging Trump.

These may or may not be crimes significant enough to merit Trump's ouster unless expanded into the world of technicalities and lies but they have driven the President's enemies into a feeding frenzy. This is a place where who knew what, when, or who said what often rule the day. Again, this brings us back to the question of whether Trump is guilty and does America really care? Then we get to the matter of what is "impeachable behavior" and if those in Washington should begin to move in that direction. The standard for removal from office on impeachment is seen as the conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The truth is even if Trump is cast out of Washington little will changa and our problems will remain.

As far as lies, and lying to the people, neither political party should want to go there. America is not alone when it comes to its rich history of politicians bending the truth whether it is in broken pledges or outright deceit. It is almost as if honesty is in the eye of the beholder and this is where terms like alternative facts come to mind. Two things for sure are that this contentious debate continues to stir the waters and polarize the nation while creating some rather strange alliances. Currently, a full-scale propaganda war rages with many Americans hellbent on convincing the rest of us what is really going on. Just as in the case of Russia's meddling in the election or if Trump colluded with the Russians, by now most people seem to have made up their mind as to whether they are either outraged, simply concerned or take the attitude this is all a big nothing burger or much ado about nothing.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

China's Human Rights Abuse Ignored - Conformity Rules

China Views Uighurs In Western As A Problem
Americans tend to overlook how China treats citizens that do not make an effort to march in step. The U.S. government assesses that since April 2017, Chinese authorities have indefinitely detained at least 800,000 and possibly more than 2 million Uighurs and other members of Muslim minorities in internment camps. A UN panel and human rights group have estimated it is up to a million people while Beijing has a very different take on this and both rejects and denies western criticism of its suspected use of mass detention and heavy surveillance claiming it protects the freedoms of its 55 ethnic minorities of Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang.

Chinese officials have admitted some citizens guilty of minor offenses were being sent to vocational centers to work. A general consensuses exist that people not charged with crimes can "disappear" in China and their families are left with little or no information as to where they have gone, in the past this has been used to control dissidents, people who oppose official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state, now it is being used to control Uighurs. While China claims Xinjiang faces a threat from Islamist militants and separatists it rejects all accusations of mistreatment and denies mass internment instead it takes the stand these training centers are a preventive measure to combat terrorism. Social stability is viewed as very important to the Chinese government and 22 months without an incident of violent terrorism is enough proof the program has merit in the eyes of officials.

A Chinese delegate from Xinjiang said Chinese authorities are “providing free-of-charge vocational training with a diploma after exams” to those who had been “coerced or lured” by extremist groups. The ruling Communist Party has depicted these "re-education camps" as an attempt to bring the largely Muslim minority into the “modern, civilized” world and to promote what the government calls “ethnic unity,” but in simpler terms the apparent goal is to force detainees to renounce Islam and embrace the Chinese communist party and an effort to fully control the hearts and minds of its population. China has gone so far as claiming Uighur Muslims are grateful to be detained in mass internment camps which make their lives more “colorful.”

Many Uighurs Are Held In "Re-education Camps"
One former inmate of one of the camps was less flattering and said Muslims were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party, as well as being made to eat pork and drink alcohol, acts which are forbidden in their religion. Until October 2018, Chinese authorities officially denied the existence of the camps but recently have taken to defending the secret camps. The governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, who is also the most senior ethnic Uighur in Xinjiang, claimed the authorities were providing people with lessons on Mandarin, Chinese history and laws which will allow them to better fit in within Society.

More can be learned from a woman who said she was tortured and abused at an internment camp where the Chinese government detained hundreds of thousands of people from religious minorities. In Washington, Mihrigul Tursun, 29, told reporters she was interrogated for four days without sleep, had her hair shaved, was electrocuted and was subjected to an intrusive medical examination following her second arrest in China in 2017. She was arrested three times and each time the treatment grew worse. “I thought that I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me,” she told journalists at a meeting at the National Press Club.

Since then, reports have noted malnourishment, numerous deaths particularly among the elderly and infirm, and the forced administration of psychiatric drugs. Tursun was raised in China but moved to Egypt to study English, there she met her husband with whom she had triplets. When she traveled back to China to spend time with her family in 2015 she was immediately detained and separated from her infant children. When released three months later she found one of the triplets had died and the other two had developed health problems, she said the children had been operated on. She was arrested for a second time about two years later and she was detained a third-time several months after that. Tursun spent three months in a cramped prison cell with 60 other women, they slept in turns and used the toilet in front of security cameras. Part of their time was spent singing songs praising China’s Communist Party.

Tursun also claims she and other inmates were forced to take unknown medication that made them faint, and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women and loss of menstruation in others. She said nine women from her cell died during her three months there. One day, Tursun recalled, she was led into a room and placed in a high chair, and her legs and arms were locked in place. “The authorities put a helmet-like thing on my head, and each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I would feel the pain in my veins,” she said and added, “I don’t remember the rest. White foam came out of my mouth, and I began to lose consciousness,” Tursun said. “The last word I heard them saying is that you being an Uighur is a crime.” Tursun was eventually released so that she could take her children to Egypt, when ordered to return to China she contacted U.S. authorities and was able to come to America and settled in Virginia.

Uyghurs Are Often Treated Harshly By China's Government
In a recent article East Asian affairs and Middle East expert Dr. James Dorsey argues that once mass detention allegations became increasingly proven that China is at risk of losing control of the situation. The bid to erase nationalist sentiment and counter militancy in an effort to create an ‘Uyghur Islam with Chinese characteristics could backfire and rekindle the idea of establishing a Muslim state in Xinjiang. History shows that toying with people and their culture can rapidly become a slippery slope. The actions being taken today are reminiscent of failed attempts to undermine Uyghur culture during China's the Cultural Revolution but we most likely will see more of such actions from governments in the future as a new wave of  Orwellian type surveillance expands.

China’s Great Fire Wall which is considered the largest, most extensive and most advanced internet censorship tool in the world censors content for a variety of reasons, often because it’s critical of the Chinese government or contrary to Communist Party policy. It is a key part of this suppression and is designed to wall the country off from free access to the Internet. In doing so, China hopes in Xinjiang to halt cultural exchanges with Central Asia such as political satire that could reinforce Uyghurs’ Turkic and Central Asian identity. Crackdowns such as these and forced assimilation are intended to reduce the risk of a flow of ideas and influences through the "open borders" needed for economic development.

It is seen as the only way China can cement the Xinjiang region into its framework of China’s infrastructure-driven Belt and Road initiatives that span Eurasia. Lessons learnt not only from recent Chinese history but also the experience of others indicate forced assimilation through stepped-up repression and intimidation often fails and creates a rather mean backlash, however, that has yet to be seen and only time will tell. While China is "not our monkey and not our circus" it is still important we recognize what is occurring there so that we do not allow ourselves to slip or be pulled into a similar trap.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

France And The Euro-zone Continue To Unravel

French Police Clash With Yellow Vest Protesters
It appears France and the Euro-zone are continuing to unravel as violent protesters have taken to the streets and many have engaged with the police directed to beat them into submission. The Yellow Vest protests which have gripped France for a fourth week have brought the country to a halt. This has even forced French President Emmanuel Macron to cancel his two-day trip to Serbia following the widely reported death of an 80-year-old woman trying to close a window in her apartment in the Southern France city of Marseille.  The elderly woman was fatally struck with a tear gas canister fired by police Saturday as demonstrations over fuel tax hikes raged outside her home, the BBC News reported she was taken to the hospital where she later died.

As an estimated 136,000 protesters marched in France yesterday. the BBC reported the Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire described the events taking place as an "economic catastrophe"  and called the situation "a crisis" for both democracy and society. With Paris security forces now deploying armored vehicles in anticipation of more extreme violence, it is difficult to say how long this will last. Adding to the mix and setting the internet abuzz was talk that the Macron administration had even deployed armored vehicles bearing the EU flag, this stoked concerns over whether it was the first sign of a much talked about EU Army. In early November, Macron told France's Europe 1 Radio that Europeans cannot be protected without a "true, European army."

A staggering 1,939 people were arrested on Saturday across France, including a few most likely very interested in getting the incident filmed and recorded to give them street creed as political reformers in coming years. Arrest in Paris alone stood at 1,082 at last count with 264 people injured as the anti-government protests turned ugly and widespread looting and violence marked the day. The 10,000 or so Yellow Vests who took to the streets of Paris on Saturday smashed windows, burned cars and looted shops. Most of the arrested were charged with acts of violence against a person in the custody of the public authority, "possession of explosive products," or "carrying weapons,"

The photo on the left is an example of the type of formidable armored vehicles the Paris security forces are now deploying. The Berliet VXB-170, also known as a "VBRG" is being strategically deployed in parts of Paris most likely to suffer violence or vandalism. It was designed in the 1960s, the 12 ton, 19-foot-long vehicles with 7mm thick armor and are capable of firing tear gas grenades and can also be equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun, and either a 37mm or 40mm grenade launcher.

All this, of course, flows into concerns that the protests could lead to a big drop in tourism. Paris a top travel destination was visited by more than 40 million visitors in 2017, a new record, according to the Paris Tourism Office. One thing that is very clear and that is the damage to the economy has been severe and continues. Before the most recent protest, Mr. Le Maire said, that the restaurant trade had declined by between 20% and 50% and on Friday, the French retail federation told Reuters news agency that retailers had lost about 1bn euros ($1.1bn; £900m) since the protests first began on November 17th. In addition and the authorities in Paris say that riots have caused millions of pounds of damage.

France Now Ranks Most Taxed (click to enlarge)
These protest started when Macron raised diesel taxes to pay for the global warming reduction effort that he campaigned for. Today France has gained the unglamorous title of being the "Most Taxed Nation In The World."  Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has warned that Macron could become the first president to give the order to open fire on his own people in 50 years. She said he should scrap increases in fuel duty, lower gas and electricity prices and end a freeze on the minimum wage and minimum pension. It is difficult to predict what will happen next, these protest could simply run their course and melt away or if a spark is injected into the mix morph into a nationwide violent melee which ultimately forces French President Emmanuel Macron to resign.

It is difficult to appraise just how much the mainstream media is covering this and how they are spinning events but similar to the problems in France unrest is growing in several countries such as Italy and Spain both suffering from weak economies and reeling from the inflow of migrants. Add to this Anglea Merkel's declining power in Germany and now we are hearing reports that even the Dutch are concerned about the Islamization in the Netherlands where there has been several attempted jihadist terrorist attacks in recent months. From the start, the Euro-zone was destined to be tolerated and accepted by its citizens if they could feel and see tangible benefits in their daily lives in exchange for surrendering parts of their own decision-making powers, and the sovereignty of their nations to the new power forming in Brussels. 

The Union is currently made up of 28 countries with Britain on a path to exit and it is important to realize many are hellbent on holding Britain's feet to the fire as a way to discourage other countries from moving in the same direction. Currently, Britain has looming before it a vote on a "dreadful exit package" which some people see as trapping the UK within the EU customs union indefinitely while giving them no say over the rules by which it must abide, this is a package they may reject which would put more pressure on all parties. Bringing all these different cultures and almost as many languages together and unify an area with such diversity has always been considered a challenge, it will be interesting to see whether it can endure the coming storms.