Saturday, April 30, 2022

Oil And Energy Shortages May Just Be Starting (Part 1)

When it comes to rising prices people tend to focus on what is in their face. This translates into gas prices taking focus away from the more important fact that all forms of energy are likely to take big price jumps during the next few years. For a mental exercise, assume estimates of how much oil remains under the ground here in America are wrong. If it is not there, we are in for a rude awakening. 

Recently Kurt Cobb of Resource Insights, wrote an article noting a new skeptical report on the future of U.S. shale oil and gas. In the article, he keys in on a report by J. David Hughes that questions the U.S. Government's forecast for shale gas and tight oil production. Shale gas refers to natural gas that is trapped within dense shale formations and tight oil is the crude oil contained in these rock formations. 

Earth scientist David Hughes contends the data behind the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest projections for shale oil and gas output is massively flawed and its long-term outlook is so biased, that it borders on fibbing. If Hughes is correct America's path forward when it comes to energy is about to become much more challenging.

Already, the new global energy crisis is directly responsible for a tremendous amount of pain at the pump for millions of average Americans. Since virtually everything that we buy has to be transported it is also a major contributing factor to the current surge in inflation. The staggering rise in fertilizer prices that we are currently witnessing also is signaling future food prices are going to be drastically higher and may even result in food shortages.

 OH No! Problems Ahead
Economist contends the politics of bashing fossil fuels and demanding aggressive decarbonization has led to under-investment in carbon-based capacity before renewable energy sources have reached a scale sufficient to smooth the transition. He goes on to predict this will feed into more sharp energy-price spikes. Roubini expects that as the price of energy rises, “greenflation” will hit prices for the raw materials used in solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles, and other clean technologies. 

Roubini is not alone in thinking physics and geology are against us on this one, even if can make some improvements in technology. Wind and solar won’t save us either, it would require a larger investment of materials and energy than we have. It doesn't take an expert to predict this will result in us soon paying much more to heat our homes. It also means that we are going to be paying much more to fill up our vehicles at the gas station as well as paying a lot more for food.

Circling back to Hughes, his take on the current situation contradicts the broadly accepted consensus and was put forth only after painstaking research. In a previous report on the U.S. shale oil and gas industry entitled “Shale Reality Check 2021” Hughes assesses and seriously undermines rosy long-term forecasts of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) shale forecasts in its Annual Energy Outlook 2021, these are widely used by policymakers, industry, and investors to make long-term plans. His detailed analysis finds that the EIA’s forecasts of tight oil and shale gas production through 2050 are “highly to extremely optimistic.”

The cost of energy permeates through the economy making the EIA’s forecasts extremely important. America is counting on shale for 69 percent of all U.S. oil production from 2020 to 2050 and 77 percent of all U.S. natural gas production in the same period. And, it matters to the world because between 2008 and 2018, growth in U.S. oil production accounted for 73 percent of the entire growth in global supplies. Since oil and gas constitute 71 percent of the current U.S. energy supply, if future oil and gas production disappoints, as Hughes expects, it will create a situation with huge ramifications for our future. 

Hughes assessed Canada’s coal and unconventional natural gas resources during his previous 32-year tenure at the Geological Survey of Canada. During this time, he analyzed data for thousands of individual tight oil and shale gas wells to see how the U.S. industry has been doing. Hughes bases his belief the EIA has greatly overestimated recoverable U.S. tight oil and shale gas on several things.

His conclusions based on commercially available drilling and production data indicate future production in America will likely be much lower than the EIA projects. He thinks we will be hard hit particularly in the latter part of the 2020 to 2050 period as the "sweet spots" responsible for most of today’s production give up the ghost. Considering U.S. energy policy and planning in such key industries as transportation, utilities and chemicals are based on the EIA’s forecasts. If they are wrong, we will all pay for this mistake.

Government forecasts often prove unreliable, years ago Hughes released a damning and prescient analysis of the Monterey Shale, an underground formation in California that the EIA touted as containing 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The following year the EIA stunned the industry, investors, and California officials with a 96 percent reduction in estimated tight oil resources for Monterey. Before the downgrade, Monterey comprised 60 percent of all U.S. tight oil resources.

The Future Of Oil And Energy is also being greatly affected by what many of us consider misguided government and central bank policies pushing a new green agenda geared at addressing political and environmental concerns about global warming and climate change. Several examples of this exist. While the Biden administration is panicking in an attempt to keep energy prices down, the House has slapped a "fee" on methane that is being called a "stealth tax" on natural gas. It results in an "escalating tax on methane emissions by oil and gas producers."

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal pointed out the tax will hit $1,500 per ton by 2025. This fee will get passed along to the consumer and result in even higher energy prices for consumers and industries that are already struggling. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) claims that half of U.S. households that heat with natural gas will pay 30% more this winter than they did last year and this methane tax could add another 17% to an average bill.

Another example of a misdirected policy that might add to our future energy woes is reflected in a recent New York City Council vote to ban the use of natural gas in new buildings as a way to reduce the city's carbon footprint. Once it goes into effect in 2027 all new buildings will be heated by fossil fuel alternatives, most likely electricity. Opponents to this plan point out that eliminating the direct use of natural gas in homes and businesses would simply shift the use of natural gas from inside the home to powering an already overburdened electric grid through natural gas and coal-fired power plants.

The crux of this article is that we should not rule out the possibility the U.S. Government's view of how much oil remains is far too optimistic. When this article became a bit long for my liking I divided it into two parts. The second part will expand on why Hughes may be right and the intrusions we are seeing on the energy complex by virtue signalers for what they call the greater good. The concern over such regulations flows more from unintended consequences and the agenda of those creating such policies. If those touting reform and re-configuring world global energy policies were sincere you would think they would occasionally utter the word conserve. 

The reality we face is that production from tight oil and shale gas wells falls quickly. Production from individual wells falls 75–90% in the first three years. This trend indicates a far different tale than the one the industry and the government are forecasting. This is not a prediction of doom but a warning of hard times and higher prices ahead. 


 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Living With An Older Parent Suffering From Dementia

Living with an older parent suffering from dementia is no cakewalk. It also will make a person rapidly aware of the fact these people need constant supervision and attention. While this is off topic from the economic issues I usually write about it is important, Today, dealing with the declining health of a parent is happening to a lot of people just as they are looking forward to retirement. To be clear, dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the loss of cognitive functioning, thinking, remembering, and reasoning to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. In short, often a person with dementia will not know where they are or much of anything else. At other times they may seem rational and sound.

This doesn't mean all dementia suffers are always sad or completely out of it but it does mean they can come across as bat-shit crazy and appear delusional, mistaking those around them as being someone other than who they are. This can lead to them becoming agitated or even combative. Convincing someone suffering from dementia they are home at 2 AM when they think otherwise is no easy task. 

When you add in the issue of fragility that comes from old age and how even a fall can be disastrous the problems are compounded. This means "child-proofing" your house and then doing it again. Everything becomes a potential danger point. Caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer's disease is akin to full-time babysitting without the luxury of being able to put them in a crib where they are contained. A side bonus to all this is that you can expect to hear the same story time and time again when they slip into their "halfway out of it" grove.  

Recently my ninety-three-year-old mother-in-law came to live with us and to say it has been challenging is an understatement. This happened after the man she married about ten years ago died. He had been taking care of her even though he was sick, this worked for them in that it seemed to give them both purpose. Near the end of his life, she had to have a so-called caregiver brought in at $26 an hour which is considered very reasonable for such care. What some people forget is that this is not for just during the day but 24/7. 

If you are looking for someone to come into the home and watch over them, the math becomes very ugly very fast. An hourly rate comes to around $625 a day, $4,375 a week, or round it off at about $13,500 a month. Also, you still have all the other living expenses that most of us have such as food utilities, and more. Another huge concern is the quality of care, it is difficult to convince me that all the people sent to her home were hard-working compassionate souls that made her their top priority. 

It is easy to envision them sitting on their asses playing games on their phone or pigging out on the food you have purchased. You must remember the agency hiring them takes a big chunk of that $26 fee and often hires people for as little as possible. Dementia suffers with multiple caregivers passing through their doors are open to all kinds of abuse. Just like the elderly placed in a home, it is not uncommon for their possessions to be pilfered through and valuables to come up missing. 

Cases Of Alzheimer And Dementia Expected To Rise  As for any help from government programs designed to help care for people with memory issues, don't expect much, most are so wrapped up in bureaucracy they are more of a nuisance than a help.
In a nutshell, no easy answer exists as to how society can make a person whole again after they have lost such a huge part of themself. Sadly, this affliction is a growing problem in modern society and one of the reasons I feel people should have the right to request ending their life with dignity rather than moving forward mentally impaired. This is particularly a problem for those with no love ones or family, many of these people end up living on the street. In the future expect the issue of euthanasia to be discussed and argued in great depth.

Circling back to the focus of this article, anyone having a parent suffering from dementia brought into their home should expect their life to be totally disrupted and a massive loss of freedom. They will most likely find the huge majority of family members bailing out of taking any responsibility for the care of their parents.

Expect the excuses of I'm too busy or not trained for such care to role forth. (spill out of their mouth) Still, even more annoying is their pathetic suggestion they slide by for a short visit thinking it might be fun and as a bonus eliminate their guilt. Yes, coming by for a "party" and a good time may make you a hero and saint in your eyes but it is a bit like taking credit for doing nothing. They best pray that as they age they are not also afflicted by the same disease, after all, it does run in families.  


Footnote; Following is the link to an article many people may disagree with. It appeared on AdvancingTime concerning the issue of euthanasia.

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Higher Interest Rates And Inflation Are Toxic For The Yen

Recently the yen has been falling in value and this is gaining the attention of currency watchers. The moment the Japanese stock market fails to rise enough to offset a falling yen and inflation this will turn into a tsunami of money fleeing Japan and constitute the end of the line for those left holding both Japanese government bonds and the yen. In July of 2020, an AdvancingTime article claimed the predictions of the dollar's demise are likely premature and overblown. I contend that for several years currencies have been trading in a hyper-manipulated state. It should be noted that fiat money is often sheltered from the storm of volatility by both politics and because it exists in a rather closed system. 
Wealth is contained within the system of fiat money by laws and rules that discourage freedom of movement. The coordinated collusion of the major central banks have allowed this charade too exist for far to long. The fact it has not been recognized or acknowledged does not alter or guarantee the system will continue. The failure or major repricing of any of the world's four major reserve currencies will destroy the myth that major currencies are immune to the fate that has haunted fiat money throughout history. When the nations granting these currencies prove unable to control their budgets history shows their currency is destroyed and crushed under the weight of debt.
The reason central banks have played this game is because the one thing the global economy doesn't need with all the uncertainty that is currently floating around is unstable currency markets. When you consider just how destabilizing currency swings can be it is easy to see how a strong dollar could obliterate the global economy. Over the years countries have become very adept at coordinating economic policy, currency swaps are only one of the tools they use, this has now even extended to investing in stocks. When the dollar began to soar back in late 2014, fear began to rise and concerns grew about the stress it was causing in countries that owed a great deal of debt that would have to be paid back in dollars rather than their own currency. This caused Fed Chairman Powell to attempt to navigate a course that doesn't cause the dollar to strengthen and devastate emerging markets. By doing so the Fed has created a situation that allows the dollar to be used as a global prop.
For years, many of us have been astounded by the Japanese yen's failure to fail. To consider the Japanese yen a "safe haven" currency flies in the face of reason. For years many economists have looked at Japan's economic path and predicted an economic crisis brought on by the growing debt of its government. The myth promoted by the central banks that a major currency cannot fail is accepted as fact by many people however, the rapid demise of either the yen or the euro is all that will be needed to reveal the truth and remind people everywhere that our system of fiat money is held together only by faith in the system and a prayer.

2016 Chart Of Japan's Huge Debt - Click For Larger Chart
In mid 2016, another AdvancingTime article dove into the subject of how over recent decades because of its size in the global economy the current Bank of Japan policy has quietly and systematically distorted financial markets across the planet. With super-low interest rates, it has become a key player in the carry trade. In recent years investors and the mega-banks have drastically reduced their Japan Government Bond (JGB) holdings. 
Much of the risk of who gets hurt in the case of a falling yen or a default has shifted from the private sector to the Japanese public since the BOJ has continued splurging on JGBs. As Japan continues down this path it is only a matter of time before the credibility of the BOJ is lost and the yen plunges. For a long time I along with many economists have taken a dim view of the yen and its value in coming years, however, the timing as to when it will succumb to economic reality has been interfered with due to how it is insulated and intertwined in world markets.

Demographics paint a bleak picture going forward because Japan is stuck with an aging and shrinking population that is increasingly expensive for the government to provide for. Adding to its woes the Fukushima nuclear disaster shuttered its nuclear power plants and forced the country to import more expensive energy alternatives. All in all neither monetary nor fiscal policy will adequately solve Japan's problems. Continuing to run fiscal deficits only means that government debt is pushed onward and upwards. Simply put, the fundamentals for Japan are lousy.  

It should be noted that Japan would be sitting in far worse shape if it were not for the wealth currently shifted from America to the small island nation each year. America spends billions each year defending Japan and puts much of this money directly into the economy. Another way America supports Japan is by purchasing many of the goods the country produces. The massive trade deficit America has with Japan feeds large amounts of money into Japan, without this money, massively indebted Japan would be in even more trouble.

For years it has been noted that a key strength that Japan holds is its ability to control its own economic fate and that it cannot be held hostage to foreigners because the people and institutions of Japan hold its debt. In the past we have seen outside creditors can wield a great deal of sway over a nation that is deeply in debt. Another source of its strength is rooted in the fact Japan has strong economic ties with China, the yen has even been used as a conduit to move wealth out of China.

Unlike many other leading economies, Japan has been battling deflation or falling prices for the best part of the past two decades. At some point expect this to change as reality takes hold. To support their stock market the BOJ has even gone to buying stock. When investors in Japan's government bonds begin to believe that inflation is about to return it would be logical for owners of  JGBs to move out of low-yielding securities and buy foreign bonds or equities. This has been a long time coming and I contend the slow cross-border flow of money and wealth leaving Japan is why some other stock markets have remained so resilient in our slow global economy. When Japan crumbles it will be felt across the world and add to doubts about the whole fiat currency system.  
(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Supply Disruptions Will Result In New High-tech Factories

As a result of recent supply chain disruptions, expect to see new high-tech manufacturing facilities popping up all across America. It can be argued the changes made during the Trump years on how we tax American companies has been a gift to the rich and added to inequality but some of them also pave the way for companies to build new facilities here in America rather than abroad. This was not the chief goal of the legislation but we should celebrate this small victory. In truth, the structural issues that haunt America's competitiveness still far outweigh the benefits of lower taxes. 

The ugly truth is American companies have little reason to bring jobs home, the logic that lowering corporate income tax will create a massive flow of jobs to our shore is flawed. The tax bill does little to level the playing field when it comes to issues such as healthcare costs and over-regulation. This means these factors continue to act as barriers to doing business in America. Still, a lot of reasons exist for American companies to locate manufacturing here. With automation and less need for human workers change is on its way. Over the last three decades, robots have become far more common in factories. In many manufacturing facilities, robots do most of the work.

Every Day We See More Robot Workers
Today, a typical factory may contain hundreds of robots working on fully automated production lines, often as it rolls by on a conveyor a product can be welded, glued, painted, and finally assembled at a sequence of robot stations. Robots have replaced humans in the assistance of performing those repetitive and dangerous tasks which humans prefer not to do or are unable to do due to size limitations. 
These robots can even work in places such as outer space or at the bottom of the sea where humans cannot survive the extreme environments. Industrial robots are also used extensively for placing products on pallets and packaging manufactured goods, for example for rapidly taking drink cartons from the end of a conveyor belt and placing them into boxes, or for loading and unloading machining centers. This is changing the way manufacturing is done and rapidly reducing the need for humans on the factory floor.

Capital Buys Machines To Reduce Labor
Many people blame the decline of manufacturing jobs in America and other rich countries on outsourcing and the movement of factories to countries where labor is cheaper. That has indeed been the case but with new less expensive robots entering the game even this "cheap labor" is being replaced by machines. The US like almost every other rich country on the planet manufactures more stuff than it ever has. The fact is by manufacturers replacing workers with machines they are now replacing labor with capital.

The big driver for free trade has always been big companies wanting to expand their markets and exploit ways to reduce labor costs. Factories have gotten spectacularly more efficient.  They produce more goods with fewer people, their "productivity" is rising.  Manufacturing employment is shrinking not mainly because jobs are moving "offshore", but because fewer workers are needed.  In most advanced countries, even those with strong export sectors, manufacturing's share of jobs has plummeted.  For example, from 1973 to 2010, manufacturing's proportion of employment fell from 22 percent to 10 percent in Canada.

As software and robots improve they will be able to expand the number of functions that they can perform.  It suggests that sooner rather than later, the only people working in factories in rich countries will be those who had the time and money to get college degrees.  In the past a large slice of America's middle class used to consist of people who started out working in factories, having only a high school degree and would learn on the job.  There are concerns about the increasing use of robots and their role in society.  Robots are blamed for rising unemployment as they replace workers in some functions.

What has happened in manufacturing is part of a larger paradox at the heart of the economy here in America but throughout the world. While more wealth is being, at the same time, millions of people are being left behind.  After adjusting for inflation, the median worker in the US is poorer now than in the mid-1990s. Still, not everyone is suffering, skilled workers, for example, are earning more than ever and so are the very rich. The big beneficiaries have been those who own the capital that can be put to work in the world's increasingly person-free farms, mines, and factories.

Automation Is Replacing Off-shoring!

China's largest private employer, Foxconn, which manufactures the iPhone and many other consumer electronics has been busy installing over a million manufacturing robots. This new wave of technology is leading to more automation and rapidly replacing off-shoring as the least expensive way to produce products.  Already, China is losing jobs to countries with even lower wages.  But eventually, "you run out of places to chase the (cheap) labor," says Rodney Brooks, chief technology officer of Rethink Robotics. Years ago, thanks to some very clever engineering, a robot named Baxter ran about $22,000. Today the price is falling and the Baxters of the world are getting better.

In the US, a person working full-time at a low-wage factory might make $20,000 a year. The biggest difference is that Baxter will work 24/7 whereas its human counterpart does not. Brooks argues that, in its current incarnation, Baxter isn’t capable enough to replace a human worker. “The robot is not a one-to-one replacement,” says Brooks. “We see it as a tool for ordinary workers to do better.” The goal of Rethink, says Brooks, is to bring manufacturing back to the US by replacing with automation some of the repetitive tasks that are currently shipped to China and other emerging markets. It’s not a bad thing when we get more stuff for less work, the issue is, can we reinvent and redesign our economic institutions to keep pace with this change so not all of the benefits accrue to a very small number of people?”

Simply put, this is the way of the future and the possibility of robot autonomy and potential repercussions that have been addressed in fiction are a growing concern. One thing is certain, robots are taking our jobs and learning new tricks far faster than we humans. Automation and improvements in robots are job killers, when you add in the dropping cost of replacing often unreliable human workers one must take a dim view of the employment picture going forward. Still, as a matter of policy, if robot factories are the future then let us be wise enough to try everything we can to encourage them to be located in America.   


 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Is Trade Becoming A Drag On The American Economy?

The world may have already hit peak globalization, much of which was promoted on the idea trade was good for all parties concerned. Today it has become clear that many supply chain problems revealed themselves due to Covid-19. Supply problems are now being exacerbated by a slew of Geo-political issues. In short, it is time to honestly look at the role of trade in the American economy. It has also caused a review of the importance of having dual suppliers and not becoming dependent on factors beyond your control. 

The reasoning that we are trading worthless dollars, currency, or paper for goods is a bit misleading. It might be more accurate to say we are trading away jobs, wealth, and even our future. Making your rivals stronger at your expense has always proven to be a mistake in the long run. The question we should ask is whether free trade is really a win-win?

The answer probably falls into a grey area based on the terms on which transactions are based. While the idea behind trade has a great deal of merit it is often given far more credit for economic growth than it should. There is a lot to be said for being self-sufficient. a strong case can also be made for favoring trade with nearby friendly neighbors rather than distant countries in that it improves the neighborhood. 

When economists talk about labor cost they tend to minimize other factors that affect the productivity of an area and its ability to produce products at competitive prices. The tax structure, work rules, energy supplies, and healthcare cost a country places upon a business also play into the cost of goods. The fact is, we can build it here and America is big enough to be its own market. This case is strengthened by the monetary cost of shipping and the toll it takes on the environment.

An example of knowing where your money is going was explored in an AdvancingTime post years ago. The money our neighbor to the south receives by way of trading with America quickly passes through Mexico and flows to Asia. It could be argued that when all is said and done we are still transferring our wealth to the far east only by the scenic route. The numbers indicate that in addition to the United States being a huge importer of goods from China, Mexico also ran a trade deficit with China in 2017 of around 64 billion dollars.

This does not mean all trade is bad. The very fact the dollar is the world's reserve currency means countries will want to sell goods to America to get dollars. Some people argue that a trade deficit should have virtually nothing to do with trade policy because it represents only part of the flow of investment funds into or out of the country. I beg to differ because it directly plays into the bigger issue of how much the people of a nation save and invest. This is strongly linked to incomes and the standard of living. This all has an impact on the value of our currency and our balance of payments which is the broadest accounting of a nation’s international transactions. While the link is tenuous at best it is best we should not underestimate its importance over the long run.

But Where Does The Money Go From There?
When you start thinking about all the money and jobs we shift into Mexico each year you would think by now Mexico would be rolling in cash. Interesting trade deficit data concerning Mexico reveal a fact most people miss. A bit of research quickly confirms that the money Mexico receives by way of trading with America quickly passes through its lands and flows to Asia. It could be argued that when all is said and done we are still transferring our wealth to the far east only by the scenic route.
The true size of our trade deficit with Mexico is difficult to get a handle on, some figures show it as around 102 billion dollars in 2019. What really stands out is where Mexico sends this trade income. The following numbers show that when it comes to trade in 2019 exports of goods and services made up about 39% of Mexico's GDP but even with a huge trade surplus with the United States, Mexico still ran an overall trade deficit. This is the reasoning behind substantially strengthening NAFTA but in a way that gives a great deal more value to the United States.
Once Wealth flows To Asia, It Stays There
For years the overspending of consumers here in the United States has allowed countries like China, South Korea, and Japan to sell as far more than we export. We have enriched them through what often seems like rather lopsided trade arrangements, and during that time we have watched them grow stronger as we have weakened.
 Those preaching the virtues of globalism and free trade point out that American consumers pay far lower prices because of this but overlook the fact that in the long run such an unbalance will not end well. The bottom-line is the United States not only directly but even indirectly is shipping wealth off to Asia, this means such trade poses a far bigger issue than what is seen as the imbalance with our NAFTA partners.

This article ties in with several others published on AdvancingTime. One delves into how China has not been fair in trading with America and how a very strong strategic dimension exists for NAFTA and a powerful regional trade bloc to compete in a changing global economy. The second explores the strong business relationship between Japan and China that has grown stronger since Japan imploded decades ago. This tight relationship is apparent each time trouble surfaces in China. It seems, the yen jumps in value as wealth in a stealth move flees China through business back-channels. This should not be misinterpreted as the yen strengthening, but rather a temporary bump before the wealth moves on to an even safer place. 
It is likely the controversy over just how much trade contributes to America's economic growth will be ramped up as growth slows. Trade between countries is given far too much credit for being a big driver of our economy. It pales next to factors such as government spending and credit expansion. The fact is if John needs to buy a wheelbarrow for work it does not matter where it is built. John needs and will buy a wheelbarrow. Where trade does fit into this has to do with what country employs workers to make that wheelbarrow and how much it will cost. While John may save money if the wheelbarrow was produced in a low-wage country trade has more to do with who benefits from commerce rather than a force driving our economy forward.

Trade Is Not A Big Driver (click to enlarge)
In many ways, trade should be seen as a way to increase access to a greater variety of goods at a better price but this only works over a long period of time if it is balanced. A county that constantly enjoys a trade surplus at the expense of its trade partners often reaches a position to exploit the weaker countries and generally does so. 
Throughout history, trade policies have had massive long-term ramifications on the strength of a nation's economy. The recent promise by politicians that increased trade will create new jobs has turned out to be largely a myth. Still, we hear the narrative spun by politicians playing the "fear card" with statements such as "We can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy.” This implies we will lose the power to control our own fate if we stand firm and protect what is ours.
The big driver for free trade has always been big companies wanting to expand their markets and exploit ways to reduce labor costs. This is where it is important to remember it is not all about human labor but technology is playing a greater role in production. If factories filled with mostly robot workers are the future then we should do all that we can to see that they are located in America. While they would not necessarily be a massive creator of jobs they would at least allow us to have control of our own manufacturing and reduce America's trade deficit. Fortunately, several events that have taken place since then have fed into an awareness of the vulnerabilities created by allowing control of production to flow into foreign hands.

Footnote; For more on this subject see the link below.
  http://Nafta And Regional Trade Better than Buying From China.html

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Friday, April 15, 2022

Censorship And Propaganda Threatens Our Freedom

Censorship is in many ways a reverse form of propaganda. It is not a mistake or oversight that many mainstream media outlets give their audience little ability to give feedback. They go out of their way to avoid anything that might dispute their narrative. While it could be argued the lack of a comment area or feature linked to an online format is often just an omission it could be something more and far more sinister. The lack of debate on whether America should be involved in the current dispute in Ukraine highlights how propaganda can dictate policy.

They Don't Want Your Opinion

Propaganda tends to become a self-feeding loop that plays a huge role in shaping public opinions. The lack of a feedback loop is a tool to reinforce the idea there is no objection or criticism of the article or statement and everyone accepts its conclusions. I contend the subtle omission of a comment section online is often to quell dissenting voices and not because it simplifies the format.

The definition of censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such views or material have been deemed objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments, private institutions, or corporations. This does include mainstream media. 

Censorship has a huge role in driving the fear of speaking out. By its nature censorship often implies those being silenced are trying to say something very wrong. I consider censorship and mainstream media's role in it as part of the self-feeding propaganda loop that plays such a huge role in shaping public opinion.  This tends to result in those in the leadership positions that control the media slowly hacking away at the constitutional rights of the individual by furthering the idea it is all "for the greater good."

The idea of having a press that is free to cover the news is linked to the idea it will be fair and such a freedom comes with a degree of responsibility. A common example is how freedom of speech should give someone the right to speak their mind but not scream fire in a crowded theater. This can slip into an argument as to the duty of the media in presenting as unbiased a view of events as possible. This is complicated by the fact many news outlets have moved more towards an entertainment format rather than presenting the cold hard facts and in that regard, sensationalism draws viewers.

Propaganda Shapes Public Opinion!

Call it what you want, propaganda or fake news, it is more or less the same thing and we are bombarded with it on a daily basis. This will continue to expand in the future considering the many new tools at the disposal of those wishing to both control and deceive us. Already fake news and false flags have left many of us having a difficult time deciding what is real. To make matters worse the rapidly growing ability of computers to generate human images is about to take this to a whole new level as this deceptive and potentially dangerous area of technology starts to become horribly abused. 

It could be argued, that mainstream media has become a polarizing force that stirs the pot of social unrest. By promoting polarization America's media has made it impossible for the people to unite and regain any control over Washington. I would not be surprised if those in control are not giddy over this and the problems Facebook has created by playing fast and loose with data from its followers. Facebook by crossing the line and abusing the trust of those with accounts and information posted on  its platform has taken a great deal of pressure off of the mainstream media to do a better job.  

The sad reality is that "Power To The People" is dead because we, as a people are so divided and unable to agree on anything. Still, even more unsettling is the relationship so many large companies have made with the government. Anyone who doesn't believe that countries use psychological warfare and propaganda to sway the opinions of people both in and outside of their country is naive. Sadly, this is a huge factor in our deployment of the military and the endless wars that benefit those building the weapons of death.

An Example Of The Lies We Are Fed

Propaganda is a powerful tool that has resulted in many wars that enrich those who make weapons at the expense of those called upon to give their blood. The fact that behemoth Amazon has intertwined business interests with the CIA, NSA, and several other "Deep State" government agencies is a monument to our having lost control of the massive part of our government that spies on us and spins the narratives to which we dance. The fact Amazon's former CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post, America's most influential newspaper, should send shivers down the back of those believing in freedom and limited government. Simply put, this has taken propaganda to a whole new level and unleashed a force that none of our institutions can resist.

Today many people get the majority of their news over the internet. While this has made a huge difference in how news is distributed and how we receive the news, the reality is that much of the content remains controlled by a few strong players that are driven by an agenda of self-interest. It could be argued that the media has a moral obligation to provide more of a "public forum" if they want the right to call themselves "free and balanced" but if anything the noose is slowly tightening around those wishing for such a voice. Banning certain ideas and speech only tightens governments' ability to control the masses.

Many of us out beyond the beltway in the backwaters and wilds of America have grown to feel the media has a casual relationship with the truth. In many ways, the media controlled by a few power brokers has become viewed more as a tool of the establishment than the protector of the people and defender of our rights. America's forefathers never intended such unholy forces to guide our opinions. This could explain why the press is often held in such low esteem by the very public that relies on them for information. Coverage filled with subtle digs or comments and even subliminal messages taints the premise media is fair. During interviews, we often get an opportunity to witness examples of just how badly you can treat a guest invited to answer questions when they resist the narrative being pushed. 

This often results in over-the-top efforts to put words in someone's mouth and take statements out of context. These words are then spun in the most harmful ways. If the guest represents views differing from the interviewer what we often see is an ambush. If a guest is favored or their views are endorsed it is often as though they had written the softball questions asked of them or as if they had been given the questions in advance or controlled the interview. All this can then be backed up by a series of scripted statements that all loop back around to support a hard or subliminal message.

With the biased coverage of current events being very common, it is little wonder that Americans question the honesty of the media whose ranks appear to have become filled with opportunists and bums dressed as a journalist. The fact is we often don't agree with everything we view or read so "implied agreement" is not valid. Even including a simple thumbs up or down box at the end of an article would at least give readers a place to weigh in. Next time you are boiling mad or disagree with how an article is characterizing an event I urge you to take the time to see if the source has provided you with an opportunity to present your view. I would not be surprised if they have not.

                                                                                 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.

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The Broken Supply Chain, Russia And China Will Continue To Cause Chaos

Those hoping the broken supply chain would rapidly begin to repair itself should prepare to be disappointed. In our complex interdependent world, we have found a broken link in a supply chain can have a major impact on both prices and the flow of goods. It now seems that for several reasons, the international supply chain crisis that impacted U.S. logistics firms, retailers, and consumers could intensify this summer.

The only good thing about the supply chain mess is that it gives politicians another thing to blame soaring inflation on. Of the several supply line factors now about to descend upon America is the possibility of a strike by the West Coast union dockworkers. Their contract is set to expire at the end of June. This means the 22000-union-workers at-29-west-coast-ports have a great deal of leverage.

The last time the union and shipping companies negotiated a contract was in 2014. At the time, a labor slowdown nearly brought activity at the Pacific ports to a standstill. A strike at this time would be devastating. With inflation currently soaring, they most likely will hold the feet of marine terminals to the fire when it comes to replacing their existing contract. 

On a recent podcast, Tom Luongo the voice behind the Gold, Goat’s ’n’ Guns blog and podcast put out the astute observation that China's shutdown of cities due to a few Covid cases could be another way for China to  support Russia without stirring America's outrage. Luongo also does an excellent job of verbalizing a few of the thoughts I have that spill over into the propaganda war now being waged upon America. 

An example he used is how the media is now referring to the cities in Ukraine by their Ukrainian names rather than the way we have always pronounced them. It could be argued this is to give more substance to Ukraine than it deserves and whitewashes over the fact Ukraine has always been a failed state. As for his view of the Biden Administration, he uses the term, "purposely incompetent." Here is the link to that podcast which is particularly interesting at the 48-minute area,

So far the lockdown in China imposed by CCP bureaucrats late last month has failed to halt the worst Covid outbreak in two years from spreading. The rise in cases has resulted in authorities expanding the scope of what was supposed to be a short-lived staggered freeze to cover entire cities. With the resurfacing of these lockdowns which last week were again massively expanded we should expect to see more stress on supply chains. 

The claim our so-called leaders are acting purposely incompetent could be based on the crazy and possibly hard-to-follow notion that the real goal of sanctions placed on Russia is to drive prices even higher. An article Authored by Kit Knightly via, delves into this idea being floated by some tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist. This is where the question of whether the real target of soaring oil prices, energy, and food crises is us. It is easy to argue even higher prices are on the horizon and we are in a full-blown economic war with currencies and trade being used as weapons. This signals a wild ride ahead, today, even the Russian ruble has already started recovering from the steep dip created by Western sanctions and has returned to almost pre-war levels.

Beneath the surface of geopolitical issues that continue to simmer we see the inflation blame game now in full play while the Fed is raising interest rates. While most people think the world elite, politicians, and such, are simply steering us forward, it is possible to make a case that this is all part of a bigger scheme to get the masses to agree to more control. As the masses get poorer from inflation they will be more inclined to go along with any half-baked scheme floated before them that promises any kind of relief.

It should be noted even before the war in Ukraine, the ECB had started to admit Europe has a serious inflation problem. After years of the central bankers claiming they wanted more inflation and flooding the economy and financial markets with credit, we now see them busy using covid and Putin as scapegoats for inflation. Historically, not just over the last decade but over the last fifty to a hundred years or so, it seems the bigger the role of government in the economy, the bigger the problems. Now it is becoming clear that too many bankers in the kitchen of global finance is also bad for us. 


Footnote: Peter Schiff goes off on an interesting inflation rant about 18:30 minutes into his podcast. The link of which is,    

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Biden's War, A Slow-Motion Train Wreck We Cannot Stop!

A great deal has been written about what is occurring in Ukraine, some of it true, much of it not. Unfortunately, two sides exist to most stories, and to those of us skeptical of the path Biden is hellbent on pursuing, it feels like we are watching a slow-motion train wreck. This is something that has taken on a life of its own and we are powerless to stop it. With each passing day we hear more about billions and billions of American taxpayer dollars being shipped off to the failed state known as Ukraine. Yes, we are talking billions!

Picture Of A Fool Playing With Fire recently reported, that instead of supporting negotiations between Ukraine and Russia that could lead to a ceasefire and an end to the bloodshed, Biden and the US government are actually escalating the situation. A prime example of Biden pushing forward the military conflict was evident during a key speech in Poland where he called for regime change in Russia with the words "this man cannot remain in power". 

Biden's words were not some off-the-cuff “gaffe,” it was part of, and the high note of a carefully choreographed, “legacy-defining” speech. Biden's comment caused such a violent reaction from across the world that the White House had to swoop in to clarify that Biden was condemning Russia's efforts to control the region and not altering the power structure within Russia itself. Even Secretary of State Antony Blinken had to step in and calm things down by clarifying "we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia."

All this was the second time in just a few days that Biden "let it slip" he wanted regime change in Russia thus creating speculation about whether he would be willing to let American boots on the ground become part of NATO's strategy. In short, this is Biden's war. It often appears everything the Biden administration does is geared at taking our eyes off the nightmare forming here in America from his disastrous inept leadership. How quickly he tries to forget the awful mess his incompetent administration made exiting Afghanistan. 

With the current full-fledged media assault Biden and mainstream Western media has unleashed upon Putin it is little wonder why Russia is slow to respond or so far has declined to engage in talks. Media coverage has become so one-sided and biased that it is impossible to know what the situation within Ukraine really is. Through all this, one thing is crystal clear, and that is the warmongers are coming out of the woodwork to bash Putin for finally saying enough is enough and finally taking action.

Well, they got what they wanted and that is another proxy war in an area of the world where most of the people just wanted to live in peace. It would be wise to remember that warfare has proven to be a pathetic option to bring about positive change. War may change things, but to what degree and for how long.  In this case, the signs of censorship and calling those skeptical of national policy traitors, all point to ushering in a world where few of us would want to live. A place ruled by the so-called New World Order, a place where our rights and wishes are ignored even more than they are today. 

The fact is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you consider Putin a thug and a bully may depend on if he agrees with you. Putin's biggest crime is that with blunt rhetoric he has refused to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world under a system drawn up by our politicians and business leaders. It could be argued that Biden is following Obama's playbook when it comes to Putin and America has adopted a foreign policy so stupid that it results in driving our chief adversaries into each other's arms. 

Many people consider the policy Obama employed to isolate Putin backfired and only enhanced his image. It also caused Putin to turn Eastward and expand economic ties with China. This pivot has resulted in a major shift in the world power structure. Demonizing Russia has been reinforced by a national security apparatus so entrenched in a cold war mindset they have lost all appearance of objectivity. Those with this bias are always pounding on the drums of fear and touting Russia, which is far from an economic power, as a major threat to America and our way of life.

This has made the world a far more dangerous place. By increasing tensions to an unnecessary level, we have increased the possibility of nuclear war. Like many people, I do not find what is known as the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD to be reassuring. What the world would look like following a nuclear war is very murky, yet today it seems many people consider nuclear weapons as just another tool or option for us to use in our defense if we are attacked.

History has time and time established that the loss of an individual life is often insignificant except to their loved ones. Also, one of the harsh realities of modern war is that it  has become a less personal way to die. In truth, the nuclear deterrent we hold is a hundred times larger than needed to stop anyone sane or rational from attacking America, and for anyone else, an arsenal of any size will be insufficient. 

Sadly, over the years, as nuclear proliferation increased, the threshold for using nuclear weapons seems to have fallen. Those of us growing up during the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis most likely remember the U.S. government’s civil defense film titled,  "Duck and Cover." Sadly, if enough nuclear bombs explode, dropping to the ground and covering your head will not prove a life-saving maneuver.  

                                                                                 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
                                                                                 or join to receive future articles.

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)