Good News About Unmitigated Awfulness


So there’s this small issue of the world being debt-ridden and nobody hiring and the delicate financial machinery of our country breaking down in a way that can only be called utterly embarrassing.

This is not altogether bad news. For those who have long been looking for their moment to escape a lifetime of professional drudgery, it is a chance to hit the reset button. Go back to university, take a master class in sculpture or become a Cordon Bleu chef. Our favorite course of late is this one.

Go to the desert and paint your masterpiece knowing you will be unmolested.

The great thing about no opportunity is this: if you remove yourself from the world to do what you want to do, as opposed to doing the fake thing you’re pretending to want to do, it comes with no opportunity cost. You will not be missing out on all the good jobs. There are no good jobs!

The best part is, after taking a year or two out to reposition yourself, the odds are you’ll be returning to a world of renewed opportunity. Maybe not of the milk-and-honey variety, but certainly superior to what you see today.

How can we presume this?

Looking at hundreds of years of financial crises, Carmen M. Reinhart of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Kenneth S. Rogoff of Harvard (co-collaborators on the definitive doomsday book, “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”) concluded that the typical modern financial crisis 1) prompts the unemployment rate to climb for more than four years and 2) adds 7 percentage points to said unemployment rate.

According to the prevailing economic data, the U.S. has hit nearly four years now and 5 percentage points.

Yes, the recovery drags on for years after that. But recovery is progress and there are signs we are already progressing. Chiefly, in my view, that those fortunate enough to still be gainfully employed on Wall Street have already forgotten there ever was a financial crisis and spending like greased jackrabbits on payday.

Hedge fund money also is flowing, with this year’s invite-only SALT Conference in Las Vegas drawing a rock-star crowd of what, in the parlance of our times, we like to call (cough, cough) “thought leaders”:  George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Gordon Brown, Stevie Cohen of S.A.C. Capital, Jon Corzine of MF Global, the senior adviser to Obama (still our president) David Axelrod, Michael Milken and, er, Thought Leader Rex Ryan of the New York Jets.

In fact, hedge fund inflows are expected to reach record levels this year in a survey conducted by Deutsche Bank. More money flowing is promising. While it will take awhile to roll downhill — as did the debt bomb — gravity and greed being what they are, it is inevitable.

There is opportunity in lack of opportunity. It is the opportunity you make for yourself. (Remember that kind?) It is the kind that built our country.

Let the doddering Thought Leaders take their time putting the world back together again. Given their learning curve, they’ll need it. And while they’re doing that, use your time wisely. It can be a time to impose your vision on the world instead of letting it have its way with you.

One thought on “Good News About Unmitigated Awfulness”

  1. The idea is optimistic and hope-filled. The trick is that those “thought” controlllers have a hoard of hungrier than ever Enronesque 30-50 somethings working day and night wordsmithing everything from settlement agreements to tomorrow’s evening news. They range from hungry grant-chasing physical scientists that confuse college kids with selected facts designed to meet grant requirements and mold [read twist] young minds with sort of text books. To social scientists bespeaking revisionist histories. To the cross-functional “teams” of chemists, patent lawyers, lobbyists, public relations, marketing and Indsian generic manufacturers put together to come up with a combination of chemical terms and process diagrams necssary to justify patents for re-inventing the same essential 50 year old off-patent drug. Cochicine comes to mind.

    Others try to create credible explanations why Boston and New Yorkers should pay the full cost [$15-20/MCF for starters] for natural gas that is “stranded” in monopolist Saudi Arabia [ie no ready market within pipeline distance], liquify it in multi-billion dollar facilities, using Indian slave wage workers, by processing and reprocessing 5-6 times to clean it and drop the pressure to minus 260 degrees, transport it in $500million ships built in Korea, operated with Philipine crews and Italian officers communicating with each other in broken English to carry this unpressurized methane from Arabia to NYC, Philly or the Gulf Coast without losing its cool, regassifying it and distributing it. in other words the only thing American was the equipment designer, the $$$$ paid, and the location of the payer.

    Versus say drilling a well 100 miles away and piping $5MCF gas to the point of consumption using Americans drilling 5000 foot deep holes using rigs, pumps and trucks made in Michigan, casing made in Alabama, and upstate American roustabouts—pipe laid in New York by lets guess, US labor using backhoes and trenchers made in Indiana. All of this latter generating severance taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll tax [thats negative, ie incoming, social security entitlement money to you DC types] and federal, state and local income taxes.

    Now of course there is no risk associated with slipping a 33 million gallon tanker of a liquid that would put shame to a gasoline explosion. The most volatile material this side of the hydrogen that made the Hindenberg dramatic enough to warrant a real life disaster film.

    But if you REALLY want a nice disaster film it would be the 1944 Classic Cleveland-based story “LNG-Tough Love”. Now this one was suppressed for many years by the oilcos with stranded gas reserves. it went something like this: Once upon a time there was a hilltop in a Cleveland urban neighborhood. a set of LNG storage tanks was erected on legs [to aavoid freezing the ground–loss of heat] on the hilltop overlooking the quiet patriotic working class neighborhood. It was War-time—do what you are told–ask no questions. A familiar refrain for ggovts doing stupid things. Well a small tiny crack occurred in the frigid steel, and a trickle of liquid methan ran down one leg. Well, you scientists and engineers are already jumping ahead on me [hard to understand why they did not in 1944], but the trickle of minus 260 degree liquid super-chilled the leg in about 30 minutes. Guess what happens to steel chilled to minus 260? Answer–it gets REALLY brittle–so brittle that it cannot carry the weight of the full tank. SOOOO over that tank topples when the leg gives way. A fllood of LNG pours across the ground engulfing two adjacent tanks’ legs. All three go down before the 1st wave hits the storm sewers. It flows hundreds of feet through the sewers and down the open street and backs up into hundreds of homes basements. There it gassifies as it was on the streets and meets a pilot light. BOOM. its hard to get pictures today—years ago I had to go to Plain Dealer. Think Hiroshima. One square mile of homes obliterated instantly in an inferno that was over in a few minutes methane being methane. About the only thing good to be said was that most of the 225 known dead were pretty much instantly incinertated—-but for the survivors Burn victims.

    Now admittedly this would seem like a lopsided fight —–LNG coming in humongous shiploads among busy traffic in a terror-scared area in the middle of a port surrounded by gasoline terminals and hazardous liquid storage but after 40 years of Cleveland being suppressed it was forgotten [revisionist history there]. Now cetainly all 600,000 residents of boston would not be consumed in this cataclism–and it wouldn’t be near as dirty aas Fukishima., but all in all one would think it would be that there would not be much of a contest between drilling wells in upsate New York rather than running this gantlet for the privilege of paying 3 times as much per MCF.

    Sorry—it underestimates the enginuity of those scores of Enronesque minions of the Great Thinkers. It looks like the PR machine has managed to convince about 99% of the population of two absolute fallacies.
    1) hydraulic fracturing is something new, and
    2) holes bottoming at 5000 feet in tight shale formations somehow communicate with groundwater. For those in the know, groundwater is typically above 200 feet deep in rechargeable aquifers –this side of the Great plains. water well drillers will tell you flat out almost anywhere this side of the mississippi that you risk ruining a water well the deeper you go past 100 feet because you likely will start to turn up salt water and traces of oil. ABANDON HOLE !

    Only if the casing is poorly cemented and sealed can the fracture fluid likely climb from its deep formation–and if it does it pretty much ruins the well–so its not exactly something the driller wants to see either–no matter how much of an oil pig. ABANDON HOLE!

    So if the people really were concerned they would be asking for close supervision in case the driller hires self-destructive morons that like destroying $250,000-500,000 holes. A second angle would be to dedicate a small severance tax to rural water system construction. More US jobs improving US lands. Not even necessary to guard the workers with contract mercenaries as in everywhere else the US builds energy infrastructure. [ie IRAQ etc]

    But no the great Thinkers thought 1st” Who at which enviro group can we get to buy into our lopsided argument and what is their price these days?
    Well times are tight, contributions are off–so enviros come even cheaper than academics. VOILA –locally produced gas is worse than saudi LNG.
    Then its nice to own the news networks too. WSJ predicts the collapse of the shale production because variously: it is too expensive to produce, it produces too fast, the enviros dont like it, it might contaminate groundwater [when the pigs take to the air on diaghranous wings]–and prices are too low because they produce too much. Aside from what lawyers refer to as internal inconsistencies, this tends to spook investors. Now the Saudis dont have that problem–they have no investors because who would place their energy fate in the hands of a huge facility in the middle of a war zone. I guess only Boston?

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