Beloved European and stubbornly non-European readers: I arrive in London (staying near St. James Park underground and Westminster Abbey) on Tuesday, October 4 (Airbus A380 from MIA!). On October 8, it will be time to move to Paris via the tunnel train. I will be there in the 7th arrondissement through the morning of October 15. I would love to meet up! Please email me (email@example.com) with a plan.
Readers: How is Europe so crowded with tourists? It is tough to get reservations for anything. The Chinese aren’t traveling, I don’t think, because they would have to spend two weeks in quarantine on returning. The Russians aren’t traveling. Who is filling up Europe’s hotels, restaurants, and museums/monuments in October 2022?
Here’s a photo from my most recent trip to Paris, in 2016:
It’s amusing to watch the media’s approach to the hurricane and Ron DeSantis. They pretty much have to put him on TV, discussing plans to evacuate, etc. But the contrast with this young, vibrant, competent governor speaking extemporaneously versus the decrepit old fossil in Washington squinting his eyes to read what somebody else put on the teleprompter must be driving them nuts.
Assuming that DeSantis is continuing to demonstrate competence and organization, the best way for the media to support Democrats would be to ignore him. This would be the flip side of featuring Andrew Cuomo during coronapanic so much that he won an Emmy and the hearts of Americans identifying as female (see “Hot for governor! Women confess they are developing ‘MAJOR crushes’ on Andrew Cuomo” and remember that, due to his masterful management of the virus, New York State had only 367 COVID-tagged deaths per 100,000, while Sweden’s radical “give the finger to the virus” policy resulted in a horrific 1,849 deaths (per million)).
At this point it is unclear that Ron DeSantis will be doing a lot of briefings. Maybe he is going to be busy managing the statewide response instead of getting in front of cameras. But if the DeSantis twitter feed fills up with briefings that aren’t shown on CNN, can we infer that CNN has its thumb on the scale?
Here’s this morning’s briefing:
Let’s compare to a recent press conference from Joe Biden:
Who wants to compare the two for cognitive function and apparent competence to manage? No fair if you’re a passionate Democrat or Republican! Maybe we should let the European readers judge.
How about the Democrat running to liberate Floridians from the hated tyrant? Here’s his Twitter profile this morning:
Without scrolling, it is all about fascism and abortion care, neither of which is going to de-flood Fort Myers and Naples.
At the end of September, BEA will update five years of U.S. gross domestic product and related statistics, as well as GDP statistics for industries and for each state.
Maybe we’ll get some insight into how badly we fooled ourselves in imagining that people sitting at home scrolling Facebook and playing Xbox were as productive as if they’d continued to go to the office. The latest from the BEA:
Speaking of fooling ourselves, let me recommend The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual – The Biggest Bank Failure in American History by Kirsten Grind, a Wall Street Journal reporter. The Collapse of 2008 has been covered at a high level in a lot of books, but this one manages to touch on all of the big issues in the context of a single enterprise and group of people. As with “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic,” a narrative about one company is more compelling and easier to follow than a story about the entire U.S. economy.
The book explains how our modern world of a handful of enormous banks came to be. When there are no limits on how big a bank can get, small variations in bank health lead to enormous concentration. Due to being slightly larger, WaMu might have slightly lower costs per customer than a smaller bank, e.g., with information systems being spread across a larger base, thus making an acquisition sensible on both sides. WaMu would buy banks after the CEO got sued for divorce, leaving the target without effective leadership while the CEO was defending the lawsuit. WaMu would ultimately buy banks to feed its own executives’ egos, particularly Kerry Killinger’s, regarding its size rank among U.S. banks (when you’re #4, the desire to become #2 or #1 becomes tough to resist).
The book explains the roots of the Collapse of 2008. At a high level, the book identifies the following culprits:
the federal government, starting with Bill Clinton, pressuring banks into lending big money to Americans with low income and bad credit history to serve a social justice goal of achieving a desire mix of skin colors among borrowers (regulators could simply shut down a bank that didn’t lend enough money to the groups of interest to the government)
Fannie Mae, which abandoned its insistence on high quality mortgages and, partly due to pressure from the government, started buying low quality mortgages issued to home buyers/flippers who could not be expected to pay back loans if house prices flattened
New York City, whose investment banks sold mortgage-backed bonds to investors worldwide and, also, those investors. The book describes people on the ground at subprime lenders, e.g., Long Beach Mortgage (acquired by WaMu in 1999), recognizing that the borrowers would never pay but assuming that if Wall Street kept buying the mortgages the investors must know something that they didn’t.
California, where most of the fraudulent practices originated.
the issuance of complex variable rate mortgages, such as Option ARM, to consumers who lacked the sophisticated or, in many cases the English language skills, to understand them (it didn’t help that these folks had the financial capacity only to pay the initial teaser monthly payments and were guaranteed to default if a house price didn’t go up enough to enable a refinance; Federal regulators at the Office of Thrift Supervision approved the practice of issuing a $4000/month mortgage to a consumer who could afford only the $1000/month teaser rate)
As in Bubble in the Sun book: even those with the best information can’t predict a crash, those on the inside did not always see crash coming. In early 2007, for example, as investors were fleeing from high-risk mortgages and as some of his junior executives warned of impending doom, Kerry Killinger tried to buy a huge California-based subprime lender, Ameriquest, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. Questioned regarding why he would want to pay for Ameriquest while the crash appeared to be underway, Killinger responded “They don’t ring a bell at the bottom.”
The book is a great lesson in what we might call “success disease.” Executives who take risks when everything is going up imagine that they have some special talents. Like individual investors in high-beta stocks, they don’t risk-adjust their high historical returns for the fact that they took a lot of risk and that it could easily have gone in the other direction.
The book answers the question Why did banks work so hard to lend money to people who obviously weren’t going to pay? Due to the higher interest rates on subprime, and the assumption that almost all of the low-income folks who took out subprime loans would actually pay, it was 5-10X more profitable to lend money to someone with no job than it was to lend money to a person with a job and a history of paying his/her/zir/their bills. The book doesn’t say so explicitly, but this also explains why banks couldn’t easily abandon their subprime practices in 2005 when the problems were already obvious. If they had done so, they would have needed to fire half of their employees (since the revenue from being a mortgage lender to those who could actually afford houses was such a small fraction of the subprime revenue stream).
Those passionate about social justice will be pleased to learn that the one voice of praise from a shareholder at the April 2008 meeting was from a Ph.D. economist who was also and employee. She expressed confidence in the Board and executive team, thanking them for their focus on diversity in hiring and lending to minorities (“community”). WaMu had recently rejected an $8/share buyout offer from J.P. Morgan Chase and also recently obtained $7 billion in smart money from the private equity geniuses (WSJ, Sept 2008 describes all $7 billion being lost). The private equity investors got half the company and let the Board and executives keep their jobs.
The book is also a cautionary reminder that it can take a while for bad decisions to work their way through the system. The California-style lending practices first reached the rest of the U.S. perhaps in 2003. It wasn’t until four years later that the subprime lenders began to go bankrupt, in mid-2007. And it was more than a year later before the broader U.S. markets and economy collapsed. If you think that U.S. economic policy has been misguided since March 2020 (as I do, because the rewards have been tilted in favor of those who don’t work or who engage in counterproductive activities), it could be a few years before the consequences of this policy become apparent.
Don’t forget that a disaster for ordinary folks, investors, etc. may be only a minor problem for the executives who caused the disaster. Kerry Killinger took so much money out of WaMu on the way up that he could pay off Wife #1 while also building and enjoying a dream lifestyle with Wife #2 that apparently persists to this day. The Latinx subprime borrowers lost everything, but Killinger still had his collection of $6 million houses (worth $20 million each today?). Killinger’s epic risk-taking would have been rational, even with full advance knowledge that it would render the bank’s shares worthless. If he had managed the bank conservatively, nothing dramatic would have happened either to the shares or to his own net worth.
Practicalities of evacuation from Florida’s west coast considered the possibilities open to my friend’s dad in Fort Myers. He’s in his 80s and elected to stay home. My memory of his neighborhood is that it is just across the street from a neighborhood of houses with docks (i.e., houses right at river level, which is to say sea level). Other than being on a barrier island, this is about as vulnerable to Hurricane Ian as it was possible to be.
I checked in with my friend this evening, now that the hurricane is mostly done with Fort Myers (I had previously offered to drive there and exfiltrate the dad and wanted to see if that was going to be the project for tomorrow.) It turns out that the experience was like a Hollywood movie. First the street filled with water. Then the yard filled with water. Then the garage filled with water to a depth of about 6″. The house is one step up from the garage and the water began to recede just before it reached the top of the step. The house was saved from flooding by literal inches.
The hero of our story did not have impact glass (slightly older house) and did not have the time/energy to put up the hurricane shutters. Nonetheless, none of the windows or big sliders were damaged.
That’s the good news! The bad news is that he has no power and, surprisingly, no tap water. Governor DeSantis has 42,000+ utility workers assembled to get the lights back on so we’ll see what happens on the power front.
From neighboring Alabama:
(Georgia is also in the path of wrath for Ian so it can’t be as liberal in offering assistance.)
Here’s a Sanibel photo from March 2022 when I last visited this family:
(The traffic on Sanibel is horrific and I’m hopeful that if the island gets a rebuild they will rethink the transportation infrastructure.)
While Ron DeSantis, the state and county workers, the 42,000 linemen, linewomen, and line-non-binary-people labor to get Naples and Fort Myers back after one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the United States, what’s President Biden doing? “Murphy will join Biden to raise money for Dem governor candidates in D.C. tonight” (NJ Globe): Gov. Phil Murphy is heading to Washington, D.C. this afternoon to join President Joe Biden at a fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association. The event at an undisclosed private residence, will help fund key Democratic gubernatorial candidates across the U.S. [See Joe Biden’s full agenda below]
Depending on a family’s financial situation, evacuating away from a storm can be costly.
“Many modest- to low-income households simply don’t have the cash or credit,” said Joshua Behr, research professor at Old Dominion University, in a 2018 interview with NPR.
Behr emphasized that the poorest may often wait until the last minute to evacuate, resulting in little to no availability for affordable hotel rooms.
The tragedy of inequality yet again and the obvious remedy is an expansion of the government that funds NPR so that enhanced transferism can be implemented.
As discussed in Practicalities of evacuation from Florida’s west coast, however, all of the quoted material from the NPR article is a lie. The county-run shelters near Fort Myers are (1) free, (2) pet-friendly, (3) equipped with backup generators, (4) stocked with free food and water, and (5) accessible via free transportation (Uber or government-run; summon via taxpayer-funded Obamaphone or wait for the flood and the knock on the door from the public safety crews). A poor person would actually save money by going to the shelter because he/her/zir/their food would be paid for. (The information regarding hotel rooms is also a lie; plenty were available starting at about $60 per night as of the day before the storm made landfall.)
Aside from lack of funds, what other obstacles could a person face in getting to safety?
And while many emergency warnings and notices are now printed in both English and Spanish, there’s still a gap when for those who speak other languages.
More than 400,000 households in Florida speak Haitian as their primary shared language, according to the Census Bureau. Tens of thousands of Floridians speak Portuguese, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Arabic, German, Russian, Italian or another language as their primary shared language at home.
“While looking at an evacuation map at a county in Florida, I saw they have it in both English and Spanish and thought ‘OK, that’s great.’ But also there are people there who may not speak either language,” said Cuite.
Cuite says alongside the language barrier being an issue for people, there are also different levels of literacy to account for.
“Some people may not be able to read, which makes things like finding their evacuation zone a challenge,” she said.
NPR has previously informed us that low-skill immigrants make a country rich. Today, NPR informs us that a substantial number of migrants can’t speak English or Spanish, are illiterate in all languages, and live in households in which all members are illiterate in all languages. Putting these two together, we can infer that this Army of the Illiterate will boost what we are told is the world’s most advanced economy.
Our neighborhood came through the overnight thunderstorms, which Mindy the Crippler did not appreciate. The phone shrieked a couple of times with a tornado warning and the federal government’s advice to Floridians to take shelter in basements (the nearest of which is in Atlanta?). There was heavy rain at times and some branches had come down from the palm trees. The neighborhood teenagers played football on the green (I also removed my shirt and a nice young lady paid me $100 to put it back on).
There have been no power glitches so far and no wind gusts above about 30 mph.
Today is my birthday and also the day that Hurricane Ian arrives on Florida’s west coast. Now that we’re quasi-coastal Floridians, what I want as a present is a machine that can stop hurricanes.
An Ivy League graduate recently suggested this idea. She consumes the New York Times and Washington Post, which assure her that humans are causing hurricanes by burning fossil fuels, failing to vote for Democrats 100 percent of the time, not growing the government to a sufficient size, etc. The natural inference from this media diet is that humans can easily stop hurricanes and, this Ivy League graduate made that inference, pointing out that “we really have to stop these hurricanes.”
Well… why not? Should we be discouraged by the fact that “during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs” (NASA)? I think not!
A hurricane has low pressure air in the middle. What about a big air hose pumping in air so as to create high pressure? Science v.1980 says that I’m right (Florida Today):
Not so long ago, the idea of bending a hurricane to our will wasn’t so far fetched or fringe science. It was the mainstream. Starting in the 1940s, Nobel Prize winning scientists such as Irving Langmuir, and even famed American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s older brother, Bernard Vonnegut, an atmospheric scientist, got in the mix of weather modification.
Believing man could stop or move hurricanes was mainstream science from the 1940s until a military program looking into matter went bust in the early 1980s.
If Bill Gates hadn’t made the mistake of getting married, he might have enough money to execute on his vision:
Even Microsoft founder Bill Gates weighed in on hurricane suppression a decade ago. He proposed using hundreds of huge ocean-going tubs to drain warm water from the surface to deeper water, through a long tube, weakening storms as they form.
What about robot barges that make ice and dump the ice into the ocean just ahead of the hurricane, thus robbing the hurricane of the warm water that it needs to thrive? If Elon Musk has a robot barge on which a rocket booster can land, why not ice-making barges?
“These are not acts of God,” says meteorologist Alan Gadian, senior scientist at the U.K.’s National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, “but a direct consequence of making the atmosphere more unstable due to seawater being warmer than average. They will occur again.”
One possible approach is “marine cloud brightening,” first proposed in 1990 by cloud physicist John Latham at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. The idea is to infuse clouds with particles of sea salt, around which water vapor would condense to form droplets. The more droplets in a cloud, the whiter it is and the more sunlight it reflects, cooling the sea below it.
Physicist Russell Seitz conceived “Bright Water” to cool the seas or reduce evaporation from freshwater reservoirs. In the case of hurricanes, he theorizes that ships pumping microscopic bubbles into their wake along tropical storm tracks could cool the water at lower cost than ships spraying the sky—and with less risk of affecting the weather elsewhere.
Readers: What is your best idea for keeping these pernicious human-caused weather systems away from the Caribbean and Florida?
What if we can’t stop a hurricane, how do we prepare? What’s actually more powerful than 10,000 nuclear bombs? As with meeting new friends at the bathhouse (“We have been aggressive in educating our clients through social media and in-house,” said a representative for The Cock, located in NYC’s East Village. “We continue to require COVID vax proof…”), the CDC says the best protection against a hurricane is to get a COVID-19 vaccination: “Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19. Staying up to date on vaccines makes it less likely that you will be sick with COVID-19 while sheltering or evacuating from a hurricane, and less likely to need medical services while hospitals are under strain from the natural disaster.”
Charge any device that provides light. Laptops, tablets, cameras, video cameras, and old phones. Old cell phones can still used for dialing 911. Charge external battery back ups. ( Glow sticks also provide light for a few hours. Stand them upright in a glass or jar to make a lantern.)
Wash all trash cans, big and small, and fill with water for flushing toilets. Line outdoor trash cans with trash bags, fill with water and store in the garage. Add bleach to sterilize. [But what if you have a pool? Plenty of chlorine-sterilized water!]
Fill every tub and sink with water. Cover sinks with Saran Wrap to keep it from collecting dust. Fill washing machine and leave lid up to store water.
Fill old empty water bottles and other containers with water and keep near sinks for washing hands.
Fill every Tupperware with water and store in freezer. These will help keep food cold longer and serve as a back up water supply.
Fill drinking cups with water and cover with Saran Wrap. Store as many as possible in fridge. The rest you can store on the counter and use first before any water bottles are opened. Ice is impossible to find after the storm.
Reserve fridge space for storing tap water and keep the sealed water bottles on the counter.
Cook any meats in advance and other perishable foods. You can freeze cooked food. Hard boil eggs for snacks for first day without power.
Be well hydrated before the storm hits and avoid salty foods that make you dehydrated.
Wash all dirty clothes and bed sheets. Anything dirty will smell without the A/C, you may need the items, and with no A/C, you’ll be sweating a lot. You’re going to want clean sheets.
Toss out any expiring food, clean cat litter boxes, empty all trash cans in the house, including bathrooms. Remove anything that will cause an odor when the A/C is off. If you don’t have a trash day pickup before the storm, find a dumpster.
Bring in any yard decor, secure anything that will fly around, secure gates, bring in hoses, potted plants, etc. Bring in patio furniture and grills.
Clean your environment so you have clear, easy escape routes. Even if that means temporarily moving furniture to one area.
Scrub all bathrooms so you are starting with a clean odor free environment. Store water filled trash cans next to each toilet for flushing.
Place everything you own that is important and necessary in a backpack or small file box that is easy to grab. Include your wallet with ID, phone, hand sanitizer, snacks, etc. Get plastic sleeves for important documents.
Make sure you have cash on hand.
Stock up on pet food and fill up bowls of water for pets.
Refill any medications. Most insurance companies allow for 2 emergency refills per year.
Fill your propane tanks. You can heat soup cans, boil water, make coffee, and other stuff besides just grilling meat. Get an extra, if possible.
Drop your A/C in advance and lower temperatures in your fridges.
Gather all candles, flashlights, lighters, matches, batteries, and other items and keep them accessible.
Clean all counters in advance. Start with a clean surface. Buy Clorox Wipes for cleaning when there is no power. Mop your floors and vacuum. If power is out for 10 days, you’ll have to live in the mess you started with.
Pick your emergency safe place such as a closet under the stairs. Store the items you’ll need in that location for the brunt of the storm. Make a hand fan for when the power is out.
Shower just before the storm is scheduled to hit.
Keep baby wipes next to each toilet. Don’t flush them. It’s not the time to risk clogging your toilet!
Run your dishwasher, don’t risk having dirty smelly dishes and you need every container for water! Remember you’ll need clean water for brushing your teeth, washing yourself, and cleaning your hands.
Put a small suitcase in your car in case you decide to evacuate. Also put at least one jug of water in your car. It will still be there if you don’t evacuate! You don’t need to store all water in the house. Remember to pack for pets as well.
Check on all family members, set up emergency back up plans, and check on elderly neighbors.
Remember, pets are family too. Take them with you!
Before the storm, unplug all electronics. There will be power surges during and after the storm.
Gas up your car and have a spare gas container for your generator or your car when you run out. 32 . Use plastic cups and paper plates. 👍 You need water to wash dishes….👎 33 . Also if you run out of water tap your hot water heater it can have up to 30 gallons stored in there. 34 . Put water in balloons and store in freezer.
After reviewing the above, my conclusion is that it is best to drive to Orlando and stay there!
Our neighbors have been working hard to prep. Here are some examples:
Hurricane Ian is now forecast to slam straight into Fort Myers, Florida.
A friend’s dad is in one of the low-lying surge-vulnerable areas covered by a “mandatory evacuation order,” but he’s refusing to leave. Will the National Guard pull him out? “There’s evacuation orders in place… our recommendation is to heed those evacuation orders,” says Ron DeSantis (still making some last-minute efforts to redirect the hurricane to Martha’s Vineyard).
What if dad wanted to evacuate to FLL or Miami (plenty of hotels available)? Fall of Saigon situation? Not according to Google Maps. The highways are green. Google calculates 2 hours and 8 minutes right now from Fort Myers to the hotels around FLL.
What if dad wanted to stay nearby, but in a county-/state-run shelter on high ground? It looks as though the schools and recreation centers have been set up as shelters (list for Lee County). What if he wants to bring a faithful dog? “All shelters are pet-friendly” says the county’s Facebook page:
Suppose that dad #persists in staying in his flood-vulnerable house and needs to be extracted by boat? The state has a collection of redneck airboats!
The power companies have assembled what looks like an invasion force.
It seems that thousands of crews have been driving in from other states. Helping out in Florida after a September hurricane is a lot better than helping out in New England after a February Nor’easter!
Not everyone from San Antonio went to Martha’s Vineyard:
To figure out how bad a risk is, I like to look at the insurance cost of protecting against the risk. In our area of the Florida Free State, annual insurance against a house being destroyed for all reasons, including hurricanes, is about 0.2% of the value of the house. In other words, if we discount the risk of fire to 0%, destruction by a hurricane is not expected more than once every 500 years.
Orlando is far enough inland that it is never seriously hammered by hurricanes, which require warm ocean water as fuel. Orlando is also 100′ above sea level, so it benefits from Obama having turned back the rising seas. The best insurance against personal risk from Hurricane Ian is a retreat to Orlando. I searched today on Orbitz, just 24 hours before Tampageddon begins in earnest, and found that a family can move into an Orlando condo or hotel room from tonight through September 30 for $100-200 per night.
What if a golden retriever intent on providing very late term abortion care to squirrels and rabbits in her jaw-shaped reproductive health care clinic needs to be included in the evacuation? Hyatt Regency time!
Prices were similar in the Miami area, expected to be almost entirely spared from this storm’s wrath.
Sometimes freedom-loving Californians and New Yorkers say that hurricane risk is holding them back from moving to coastal Florida. But it seems that setting aside $100 per year would be sufficient to avoid all personal risk (retreat to Orlando every 5-10 years). And, of course, one could always move to central Florida! Right next to Bok Tower Gardens would be my choice, which also happens to be convenient to Legoland.
The latest analysis from the Insurance Information Institute found Florida homeowners are paying an average premium of $4,231 for insurance, compared to the U.S. average of $1,544.
Florida as a whole had about 100,000 lawsuits against insurance companies last year, while other states combined had about 20,000. Insurance company CEOs have said these lawsuits are why so many companies are going bankrupt, raising premiums, and canceling coverage — sending more and more residents to Citizens.
There might be a minor issue with the above numbers, incidentally, because the average price of a house in Florida might not be the same as the average price of a house nationwide and the average in Florida is surely not the median due to all of the rich bastards in $20-100 million beach houses (not that I am envious).
The Artemis rocket was supposed to be launched right now (3rd attempt), but was once again subjected to abortion care. What’s the principal reason given for the abortion care? “to protect our employees”:
The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families
I.e., employees who live and work on Florida’s east coast have to address the needs of their families who live on Florida’s east coast… because a(n admittedly potentially severe) hurricane is forecast to hit Florida’s west coast, more than 100 miles away, roughly 48 hours after the previously scheduled launch.
In case Minitrue deletes the above, a screen shot:
Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party … could open the way for the Brothers of Italy to become the first far-right party to lead a major eurozone economy. For Europe and the country, it would be a truly seismic event.
Like other far-right parties across Europe, it is descended from a fascist or collaborationist original
Perhaps we will not all burn together in the fire. But if the far right takes over the government, in Italy or elsewhere, some of us surely will.
Italy’s election of a far-right governing coalition, … despite concern about their party’s fascist roots. … members of the Trump wing of the Republican Party embraced the rise of a nationalist whose party has roots in Mussolini-era fascism.
The National Alliance, formerly the Italian Social Movement, was unapologetically neo-fascist, formed by supporters of Benito Mussolini. … Now, the 45-year-old ultra-conservative … never wavering from a conservative agenda that puts in question LGBT rights, abortion rights and immigration policies.
A full-scale war had to unfold in Ukraine before the New York Times was prepared to call Vladimir Putin names, but Giorgia Meloni earned these monikers before taking a single official action. Maybe this means she will win the Nobel Peace Prize soon! (Barack Obama was nominated after 12 days of being in office.)