Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pepper Spray

It was a hot afternoon, and time to walk Jasper the dog. We headed out and started cruising the X Street corridor, not far from the homeless encampments under the W-X freeway.

I heard a woman screaming. She was sitting in the bushes on the other side of X Street against a chain link fence. Three men responded to her calls, carrying jugs of water to her. She was holding her forehead. I was worried she had just been hit by a car. A watching homeowner along X Street called the police.

"Where's my phone, bitch?" A thin man on a bicycle threatened from the other side of the chain link fence. Together with a friend, the woman came running across X Street. She was holding her forehead, in great pain. Apparently she had been pepper sprayed. The homeowner provided a hose with water to wash the stuff off her skin and from her eyes.

We had a discussion about whether pepper spray or mace is worst. Consensus was pepper spray is worst. We remained a long time as she washed her face and neck. Jasper looked bored. Worst walk ever, in his opinion.

Several of the woman's male acquaintances gathered around to help if they could. The thin man was now off his bicycle and approached on foot. The homeowner ran upstairs to retrieve his gun - he wasn't going to take chances. Jasper and I stood there. One of the woman's male friends ran interference and pulled the thin man aside. Apparently the thin man then called a Lyft or Uber. In a few minutes, a late-model car (maybe a white Sonata, 2016 or newer, license plate 8MUG730) pulled up. The thin man jumped out of the car's back seat, walked over, and took her belt pack. None of us resisted the brazen theft.

Cops drove right past and parked in a nearby parking lot. If they were responding to the case here, they clearly didn't care. I talked to the homeowner. He said things began getting worse along the X Street corridor in 2018. Authorities used to make the camps shift back and forth between 22nd and 23rd Street, but with the Covid crisis, that wasn't happening any more, and the camps were growing bigger, and more permanent. The homeowner was familiar with the city's plans, recently torpedoed by the Trump Administration. Well most of the city's plans. "I called bullshit on the homeless advocate at the last meeting and got thrown out," he said.

I encountered the woman and her friend again a couple blocks away. She was disappointed. "No one does anything," she said. "There are these tough guys in the homeless camps going around and robbing everyone, and nobody does anything." They started walking away when the cops came around and parked nearby. I told the cops they missed all the action. The cops said, "no we didn't." They said they were looking after a disruptive transient matter, and didn't know about anything going on on X Street.

Jasper and I headed home. Most of all, I was disturbed by the lack of police response.

By Bicycle: Midtown and My Neighborhood

Social distancing with the social distancing crowd at Gunther's Ice Cream parlor.
The fellow driving this car stuck cell phone covers all over it.
Surveillance state issues.
Eastbound ramp from 16th Street onto the W-X Freeway.
Just north of J Street at the railroad.
Gah! Train!
At K Street and the railroad.
At the Car Wash.
At Sacramento City College.
Covering all the angles.
Silly Walks.
Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.
Mural on the wall of P.F. Chang's - the building where Jerry Brown lived while Governor of California.
Peace Market.

The Infamous Boardinghouse On F Street

Bicycling around town, decided to stop by one of Sacramento's more-infamous landmarks, the boardinghouse on F Street where Dorothea Puente killed at least nine (maybe as many as 15, and convicted of three). Nice-looking place!

Superman statue up there. Curious....

The murders had an impact in popular culture. I like Tommy Lee Jones' musings in "No Country For Old Men." The details aren't right, but the general idea comes through loud and clear.

Friend Jetta Linda Ostrofsky played Dorothea Puente in a Travel Channel special. I see her silhouette at about 18 seconds here:

Jetta adds: "Yep I did, The room I was in was very cold the rest of the house was warm, you know what that means...."

More Strange Product Names At Target

Jasper Meets the Cute but Noisy White Dogs on 23rd Street

Not OK

On Alhambra Blvd. near X St. It’s about 2 blocks from a homeless encampment (entirely African American) and about 2 blocks away from a proposed homeless center in the early stages of construction that the malicious Trump Administration just torpedoed. So, there’s a lot Not OK about 2 blocks away, but things are pretty copacetic where the sign is.

So Embarrassed

Failed to set my brakes upon parking at Target. Left the vehicle; it rolled into someone else.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Twenty-Dollar Bill

This morning, Jasper, Max and I shuffled along a sidewalk not too far from the liquor store. Lying there on the sidewalk was a folded $20 bill. I was tempted, but in the age of Covid? I agonized, but finally decided to leave the bill on the sidewalk for the next victim.

Sunday Jamaican Dancehall Master Class

Really needed that - Dancehall Master Class on Zoom with LaToya Bufford and Catherine Marte. Folks participating on both coasts, in the UK, and even Trinidad and Tobago!

There is a kind of flow one gets when one dances - something like what the rock climbers talk about - and I think we kind of hit that on Sunday, particularly with these two songs:

(I really like Konshens)

Fresh Socks

I heard the shopping cart approach as I was walking Jasper (and guest dog Max) through the fringe of the Poverty Ridge neighborhood. The homeless man pushing the cart approached and offered me a bottle of water. I refused - I had no need of it. He insisted, and persisted. "For the dogs," he said. The dogs didn't need the water either, but I accepted (thinking not to touch anything else with my left hand until I had a chance to wash it, these Covid days).

I had trouble understanding his slightly-slurred speech. It wasn't because of his mask (which hung uselessly around his chin). He was about 35 years of age, with a mustache, and some slight walking disability. The impression I gathered was of a shambling, sweet, simple-mindedness.

I understood he was traveling to the vicinity of 21st and J Street. "They gave me the water and these new socks at SSU," as he waved the socks in the air. I didn't understand the acronym. He was moving in the opposite direction from 21st and J. Maybe I misunderstood. Maybe that's where he was coming from.

We had a shambling conversation, and he pushed on. He called out to a homeowner sitting out on his porch on the opposite side of the street and talked with him for a bit. Then the homeless man rolled back to my side to report on the conversation. "I asked him if he had a shovel, so I could dig my own grave," he said. Waving the socks again, he triumphantly said, "But at least I'll be in fresh socks!" He accidentally dropped his sacks of cans for recycling, then picked them up again, and moved on. I lost track of him around 24th Street and the W-X Freeway.

Roubini Sees The Forest For The Trees

The long view from Dr. Doom:
Well, first of all, my prediction is not for 2020. It’s a prediction that these ten major forces will, by the middle of the coming decade, lead us into a “Greater Depression.” Markets, of course, have a shorter horizon. In the short run, I expect a U-shaped recovery while the markets seem to be pricing in a V-shape recovery.

...That said, everybody agrees that there is the beginning of a Cold War between the U.S. and China. I was in Beijing in November of 2015, with a delegation that met with Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People. And he spent the first 15 minutes of his remarks speaking, unprompted, about why the U.S. and China will not get caught in a Thucydides trap, and why there will actually be a peaceful rise of China.

Since then, Trump got elected. Now, we have a full-scale trade war, technology war, financial war, monetary war, technology, information, data, investment, pretty much anything across the board.

...But suppose you take production from a labor-intensive factory in China — in any industry — and move it into a brand-new factory in the United States. You don’t have any legacy workers, any entrenched union. You are going to design that factory to use as few workers as you can. Any new factory in the U.S. is going to be capital-intensive and labor-saving. It’s been happening for the last ten years and it’s going to happen more when we reshore. So reshoring means increasing production in the United States but not increasing employment. Yes, there will be productivity increases. And the profits of those firms that relocate production may be slightly higher than they were in China (though that isn’t certain since automation requires a lot of expensive capital investment).

But you’re not going to get many jobs. The factory of the future is going to be one person manning 1,000 robots and a second person cleaning the floor. And eventually the guy cleaning the floor is going to be replaced by a Roomba because a Roomba doesn’t ask for benefits or bathroom breaks or get sick and can work 24-7.

...Millions of these small businesses are going to go bankrupt. Half of the restaurants in New York are never going to reopen. How can they survive? They have such tiny margins. Who’s going to survive? The big chains. Retailers. Fast food. The small businesses are going to disappear in the post-coronavirus economy. So there is a fundamental conflict between Wall Street (big banks and big firms) and Main Street (workers and small businesses). And Wall Street is going to win.

...What I’m saying is that once you run a budget deficit of not 3, not 5, not 8, but 15 or 20 percent of GDP — and you’re going to fully monetize it (because that’s what the Fed has been doing) — you still won’t have inflation in the short run, not this year or next year, because you have slack in goods markets, slack in labor markets, slack in commodities markets, etc. But there will be inflation in the post-coronavirus world. This is because we’re going to see two big negative supply shocks. For the last decade, prices have been constrained by two positive supply shocks — globalization and technology. Well, globalization is going to become deglobalization thanks to decoupling, protectionism, fragmentation, and so on. So that’s going to be a negative supply shock. And technology is not going to be the same as before. The 5G of Erickson and Nokia costs 30 percent more than the one of Huawei, and is 20 percent less productive. So to install non-Chinese 5G networks, we’re going to pay 50 percent more. So technology is going to gradually become a negative supply shock. So you have two major forces that had been exerting downward pressure on prices moving in the opposite direction, and you have a massive monetization of fiscal deficits. Remember the 1970s? You had two negative supply shocks — ’73 and ’79, the Yom Kippur War and the Iranian Revolution. What did you get? Stagflation.

Now, I’m not talking about hyperinflation — not Zimbabwe or Argentina. I’m not even talking about 10 percent inflation. It’s enough for inflation to go from one to 4 percent. Then, ten-year Treasury bonds — which today have interest rates close to zero percent — will need to have an inflation premium. So, think about a ten-year Treasury, five years from now, going from one percent to 5 percent, while inflation goes from near zero to 4 percent. And ask yourself, what’s going to happen to the real economy? Well, in the fourth quarter of 2018, when the Federal Reserve tried to raise rates above 2 percent, the market couldn’t take it. So we don’t need hyperinflation to have a disaster.

The Twin Hurricane Scenario

For the last 17 years I've been doing hurricane path forecasts for friends who retired to Tampa, Florida. Mostly through word-of-mouth, I've slowly built an underground following in Florida. Summer 2020 promises to be an unusually-difficult hurricane season, so I'll be busier than usual.

In the next several weeks we may see something unprecedented - a storm cross Central America, and strengthen! It's very difficult for storms to cross Central America - maybe once in a decade a storm will make the crossing - and the ones that do cross are so weakened they almost-invariably fail. Maybe not this time!


(As now being forecast by NVG and GFS models.)

The storm system passing over Florida right now - with showers currently east of the peninsula - is beginning to signs of development, but nothing will come of it. The system will move north and affect little.

The models are now suggesting a kind of nightmarish twin-hurricane scenario starting around May 30th, with trouble for Florida starting around June 7th. The scenario starts something like this:

Twin tropical depressions initiate around 10 degrees latitude north. The stronger system is to the west, developing in the Pacific south of El Salvador. The weaker system starts in the Caribbean just north of Panama.

The western storm slams into El Salvador, with much loss of life, but instead of disintegrating, the storm does a rare, once-in-a-decade thing, and crosses over to a different ocean, emerging into the Atlantic off the coast of Belize, and then marches north.

The eastern storm slowly strengthens, slams into Jamaica, and passes into the Atlantic between Cuba and Haiti.

By June 7th, the strong western hurricane starts hitting Florida from the south, following a kind of Irma-esque path.

Details are bound to change as we get closer to the end of the month, but that's how we're looking at the moment.