Meanwhile in the Socialist Paradise of Venezuela…

Remember when the Left – mostly the scolds from Hollywood – would make pilgrimages to Venezuela? They would parade down there to congratulate the dictators on how great socialism was. They haven’t been going much this year, now that it has become a country of starving children, dying women, and hyperinflation. 300,000 Venezuelan Children at Risk of Dying from Malnutrition, Catholic NGO Alerts

Around 300,000 children in Venezuela are at risk of death from malnutrition, according to Caritas, a humanitarian organization run by the Catholic Church. It estimated that between five and six children die from malnutrition in Nicolás Maduro’s country each week.

Pregnant women and new mothers are also at risk

Doctor Julio Castro reinforced the importance of Caritas’ figures. “Maternal mortality between 2006 and 2016 shows a year-by-year increase of 10 percent,” he said, “but in the last year, it shot up 65 percent due to hunger and a lack of medical care and (other) products.”

The world wants to send aid, but the government won’t allow any to enter the country. The problems are all the result of a “War on Socialism” waged by the US and EU.

In other news, the inflation rate (or maybe that should be the HYPERINFLATION rate) in Venezuela has come down off its all-time record-high. It is “only” 2875% in October. (And no, that is not a typo.) Hyperinflation: Much Talked About, Little Understood


Buying Real Estate is Complicated – OR – It is hard being an adult

Greater Houston homeowners are shocked about flooding. There was a warning about flooding on the official plat, which is the very definition of being in the public record. The plat IS the official public record. Or at least part of the public record. Texas homeowners: We weren’t warned about flooding risk

The official plat that covers some of the subdivisions in the greater Houston area, contains a notation indicating that there is a risk of flooding.

They say they didn’t know about a warning added more than 20 years ago to an obscure land record known as a plat. The warning says subdivisions near the Barker Reservoir could be subject to “controlled inundation.”

Every real estate contract I have ever signed includes a clause stating that I accept everything in the public record. That sort of implies that I know what the public record says.

If you rely on what your real estate agent tells you, then you are playing a game of telephone that goes back years. What the previous owner was told by their agent, who got the information from another agent who sort of remembers what the previous owner said 15 years ago.

Before I bought the house I currently live in, I went to the office of the County Recorder. I spent about an hour, with the help of a very nice clerk who worked their, going back though the records to see if there were any covenants and conditions on the property. And the only way to do that is to look through the record.

It isn’t as easy as doing a web search. You need to find the page in the record that shows that most recent entry for the property. (That you can find via a web search usually). That page will direct you the previous page, usually when the property was last sold, but in any event when the deed was last changed. Rinse and repeat.

For this property we went all the back to when this area was mapped by the US Army, which was sometime before the Civil War. (I really did not want to buy a property encumbered by Covenants and Conditions.) And I look at all of the Plats current and historical plats as well. Because I was going to sign a contract accepting all that was in those documents. Finding stuff out after the fact is not good.

Fort Bend County’s top elected official says homeowners have a right to be upset, but information about the flooding risk around the Barker Reservoir was available if they had done research.

Now homeowners are screaming that it’s not their fault.

The Tale of Two Cities – OR – What is Wrong With Chicago?

The 2 cities being Chicago (2.7 million residents) and New York City (8.5 million residents).

The comparison is on the number of homicides. First up: Chicago – Chicago marks 500th homicide of the year: ‘It’s never over’ – Chicago Tribune, which actually reflects about an 11% DECREASE from 2016. Then there is New York City. NYC May Have Historically Low Murder Rate This Year.

At least Chicago is not in danger of setting a record – in a bad way. Even last year was “only” the worst year in decades. The records were set in the early 1990s.

As for New York…

John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer, said economic growth may be fueling the drop in crime rather than any police action, the New York Daily News reported.

Is the economy in New York that much better than Chicago? Of course Chicago is doing everything possible to trash the economy – with high taxes that have to go up. (Because they can’t kick the pensions can down the road any farther.)

I hope someone can come with a solution for Chicago; it used to be a wonderful city.

NYPD Issues Obsolete Smart Phones – Has to replace them within months

Why does this not surprise me in anyway? Because .gov is stupid at every level. And incompetent. NYPD must replace 36,000 obsolete smartphones it gave cops

The Microsoft-based devices were purchased over the last two years as part of a $160 million NYPD Mobility Initiative Mayor Bill de Blasio touted as ‘a huge step into the 21st century.’

It bought smartphones that had no future. Everyone – expect the NYPD – understood that they had no future 2 years ago. The decision was the work of one person – who apparently throws a fit if she doesn’t get her way.

Blame is being cast on NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology Jessica Tisch, with one source saying, ‘She drove the whole process.’

‘Nobody purchases 36,000 phones based on the judgment of one person,’ a source said.

‘I don’t care if you’re Jesus f- -king Christ – you get a panel of experts.’

This isn’t something from years ago. They were issuing these phones just recently.

It’s only been months since the last phone was issued, and already the NYPD must replace all 36,000 of the devices, according to a source who spoke to The New York Post.

Your tax dollars being flushed down the drain.

Venezuela: A Dictatorship That Can’t Keep the Military Happy Won’t Last

So far the military has been sticking by the government. I can’t see them doing that if they are starving. Armed Venezuelan soldiers caught in Guyana begging for food | Miami Herald

Food is a crisis in the Socialist Paradise of Venezuela™.

Guyanese Police Inspector Christopher Humphrey said he’d gone to the border along the Amacuro river, which divides the two nations, to investigate reports that the Venezuelan military was stealing food from locals. But the three soldiers he encountered — two carrying military assault rifles — said they had come to beg for meals and hadn’t harmed anyone.

The Inspector said the men seemed to be very hungry – he didn’t use the word starving.

EMP: The Potential Disaster That Gets Ignored

The subject of EMP isn't covered in the mainstream press very often. And while The Economist isn't exactly mass-market, it isn't fringe either. The disaster that could follow from a flash in the sky

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is an effect of nuclear weapons. Detonate a nuclear bomb high in the atmosphere (40 km or so) and the result of pumping large amounts of gamma rays into the ionosphere is an EMP. Other things can generate similar effects on varying scales.

ON MARCH 13th 1989 a surge of energy from the sun, from a “coronal mass ejection”, had a startling impact on Canada. Within 92 seconds, the resulting geomagnetic storm took down Quebec’s electricity grid for nine hours. It could have been worse. On July 23rd 2012 particles from a much larger solar ejection blew across the orbital path of Earth, missing it by days. Had it hit America, the resulting geomagnetic storm would have destroyed perhaps a quarter of high-voltage transformers, according to Storm Analysis Consultants in Duluth, Minnesota. Future geomagnetic storms are inevitable.

An EMP would have similar impacts.

High voltage transformers are not something you order from Amazon. They take time to build, they are not commodities, and there are very few people building them. Without them, you would have NO electric power – except what you are able to generate on your own.

No electricity means no heat in the winter, (bet your oil-burner uses electricity to run,) no refrigeration. ATMs, electronic cash registers, computers, and the internet all stop working. Electronics in vehicles stop working, as do fuel pumps at gas stations. Which means goods delivery – including food – stops. Water treatment and pumping stops. Elevators stop. And it isn’t just that computers and smart phones stop working for a time. They are toast, and won’t work again. Same for the electronics in your home thermostat, refrigerator, oven, car, solar-power charging system, etc.

The expense of installing surge-blockers and other EMP-proofing kit on America’s big transformers is debated. The EMP Commission’s report in 2008 reckoned $3.95bn or less would do it. Others advance higher figures. But a complete collapse of the grid could probably be prevented by protecting several hundred critical transformers for perhaps $1m each.

The costs of not doing it, versus the cost of doing something seem to be the sticking point. That and who would pay for it.

The article isn’t long and is worth a look.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis – or when markets get it wrong

Electric vehicles may be the future. A lot of people think so. I haven’t seen an electric vehicle that both has the range I need and anything close to the towing capacity I want in a vehicle. (Some of us do more than run back and forth to the grocery store and work!) Electrocuted | Energy Matters

The referenced article is interesting, but the attached graph is what really caught my eye. Tesla’s market capitalization is nearly that of GM. But the number of vehicles they sold in 2016 is dwarfed by GM. And Ford. And everyone.

I saw this kind of thing in 1990s during the .com bubble. People – who were otherwise intelligent – told me that it was OK that internet companies were so small… they were building the future! Or something. But of course it does matter.

But then when you start to talk to them about the statement of cash flows, their eyes glaze over because they are only buying the sizzle. Do you know what a statement of cash-flows is, where to find it and how to read one? Are you familiar with the equation Assets = Liabilities + Owners Equity? (Do you know where you might see that equation?)

Maybe Tesla really is worth as much as GM. Maybe they have the secret sauce that will let their electric cars be so much better than the ones from Volvo, or Toyota, or Ford, or Honda, or anyone else, but in my humble opinion, there is something wrong with the way the markets are viewing Tesla.

For the basics on the Efficient-market hypothesis, see Wikipedia, but remember it is the Wiki. For an alternative view on the rationality of markets, the standard text is Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay, published in 1841. It details such things as the “South Sea Bubble” that hit England, “The Mississippi Scheme” that hit America and Tulipmania that hit Holland.