Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Docent's Memo (October 26, 2021)

 

Firearms/Shooting/Self-Defense:

It was at the American Pistol Institute that Cooper developed the modern technique of the pistol. This was his system for pistol combat. Without knowing what it's called or who invented it, much of it will seem familiar to you:
  • Large caliber, semi-automatic pistol: Cooper was an early advocate of the 1911 and a big caliber to go in it. At a time when most men favored wheel guns, Cooper believed there was simply no substitute for a semi-automatic with a big round like a .45 ACP.
  • The Weaver stance: Opinions vary on the best stance for combat, but Cooper was a strong supporter of the Weaver stance, developed by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver through his experiences in competitive shooting.
  • The draw stroke: Cooper preached the importance of the draw stroke. A holstered weapon doesn't do anyone any good. So Cooper drilled his students to consistently practice drawing their weapon with perfect form to be combat-ready.
  • The flash sight picture: Just as a holstered weapon is useless until drawn, so too is a weapon useless if not pointed in the right direction. The flash sight picture is a method of quickly targeting an attacker with sufficient accuracy. It is essential in life-or-death situations.
  • The compressed surprise trigger break: Considered the "secret" of quick and accurate shooting, the compressed surprise trigger break, which is a somewhat more sophisticated version of the "double tap." While Cooper did not invent the double tap, he systematized the training for such.
All of the above are basic combat training for civilians, military, and law enforcement alike. While Cooper didn't "invent" any of it, per se, he synthesized previously existing methods into a cohesive program of combat readiness just about anyone could learn.

    When I conceived the rifle, I wanted to explore the concept of somebody who is reasonably handy with tools building a precision rifle on the kitchen table or in the basement. I wanted an economy “bolt-together” rifle, with the idea to customize it with select parts and gear while staying within a working-man’s budget. The other important thing is it must shoot well enough to earn the title Precision Rifle.

The author began with a Savage 110 rifle due to the ease of replacing the barrel, added a precision chassis and barrel, topped off with a muzzle brake, with the total build coming in at right about $1,400--which I guess is "budget" if you are comparing it to a custom built rifle. In any event, there are other tools and a few other upgrades he recommends. If you are starting off with a Remington action, there is a company that offers a "Remage" conversion to allow you to use a barrel nut like that used for the Savage to make it easier to install (or replace) the barrel

    No need to go top shelf out of the gates. Invest in the right precision rifle upgrades you can take a base model and go the distance.

    What Are The Main Precision Rifle Upgrades You Should Focus On:

  • Trigger
  • Stocks
  • Bipods
  • Barrels

    I look at my rifles like a 350 Chevy—tons of aftermarket parts and the ability to modify it to my heart’s content. I have no problem replacing, modifying and adjusting the weapon system to meet my personal needs. After all, everyone is different; our needs change, so adjusting the rifle to fit the mission is essential in my mind.

    I have a lot of videos on YouTube that demonstrate this very fact. If you look at the comment section, you’d think nobody ever burned out a barrel or decided to change a factory stock. Sure, I tend to modify the rifles all at once versus over time. But I have the luxury of access (getting precision rifle upgrades for me is very easy). I’m not saying you have to change everything all at once— heavens, no. You can make any amount of changes over time, so let’s look at the top-line elements that don’t require a gunsmith.

  • Q: "What is the Greatest Defensive Skill?" by Sherriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated. A: heightened awareness.
  • "Skill Set: Post-Event Problems – Interviews and Reports" by Rich Grassi at The Tactical Wire. This article is about "post-operational disturbances of the physical and psychological sort," that "may have an impact on 'the story' you tell – and your credibility." A common one is time distortion--“tachypsychia” (the “speed of the mind”)--which can be a sense of everything happening in slow motion or its opposite, that everything happened too fast to perceive. There is also auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, and cognitive dissonance: "a cascade of information that jumbles the re-telling of the tale. This can present – and often does – as recalling the individual events of the encounter in a different order from which they happened." 
    Cognitive dissonance can also appear as an apparent over-concern with a trivial matter that occurred during a critical incident. The story often told is of an officer who’d been in a fight for his life that ended with the death of his attacker. The officer, shaken and injured, looked down and touched the knee of the rather expensive uniform trousers which had been ripped in the fight.

    “Damn,” he was reported to have said. “It’s hard enough to get uniforms out of this outfit and now I lost another pair of pants.”

    To say that while standing in proximity of the corpse of the person you had to kill so you could stay alive could be – and likely will be – repeated in a way to make you appear a callous SOB.

    These psycho-physiological changes affect your perception of the event – but don’t affect the crime scene. The apparent inconsistencies they create can affect your credibility throughout the phases of investigation.

Read the whole thing. 

    But due to consolidation within the industry, only a couple of incumbent companies have that ability to make it through low-demand periods. When demand surges, they are no longer forced to produce, but can focus instead on “efficiencies.” They can raise prices and generate shortages, knowing that no one else exists to meet the demand that they cannot or will not fill.

    Such refusals to invest in increased capacity can clearly be seen as Vista’s plan over the last few years. According to their annual reports, Vista is focused on “long-term shareholder value,” and when they have influxes of cash, they acquire more companies that “deliver top-line growth … within one year of purchase.” They do not build more plants, even though they project more long-term increased demand; building a plant to increase capacity is a long-term project, one that does not return a profit in a year, much less a quarter.
I’ve got good news for you, ladies and gents. The good folks at Ruger have done one even better than the P365 in the LCP MAX. If you need a smaller, lighter-shooting round than the P365’s 9mm, the Ruger LCP MAX gives you a gun that weighs 40% less, is 20% thinner and with a half-inch less in overall length. It will cost you about 33% less on the credit card, too.
    If you aren't familiar with the incident, last Thursday while on the set of a Western he is shooting, Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw and pointing a revolver at the camera when he apparently cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger, shooting cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza. "Hutchins was wounded in the chest then 'stumbled backwards, holding her mid-section and complaining she couldn't feel her legs', according to witnesses who were interviewed by sheriff's deputies afterwards. She was airlifted to the hospital but was pronounced dead a short time later. Souza was released from the hospital on Thursday night."

    Purportedly, Assistant Director Dave Halls handed Baldwin the gun, claiming it was "a cold gun". The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is described as being inexperienced. This was her first film as the head armorer. Apparently Gutierrez-Reed had a history of failing to check weapons: on the set of the upcoming Nicholas Cage film, “The Old Way”, she had handed an unchecked firearm to an 11-year old actress temporarily halting shooting.

    Sources indicate that the film crew had walked off set days before the incident because of complaints about the hours, working conditions, paychecks, and safety measures

    Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” set near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set.

    Three crew members who were present at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set on Saturday said they were particularly concerned about two accidental prop gun discharges.

    Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds Saturday after being told that the gun was “cold” — lingo for a weapon that doesn’t have any ammunition, including blanks — two crew members who witnessed the episode told the Los Angeles Times.

    “There should have been an investigation into what happened,” the crew member said. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”

    A colleague was so alarmed by the prop gun misfires that he sent a text message to the unit production manager. “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by The Times.

But there is more. The New York Post reported:

    The prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico movie set had been used by crew members offsite for fun, a new report claims.

    The gun, which was fired by Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie “Rust,” may have even been loaded with live rounds when it was used for what was essentially target practice, TMZ reported.

    Multiple sources connected to the production of the film told TMZ that the gun was fired at off-the-clock gatherings – which could explain how a live round found its way into the gun’s chamber.

Prepping/Survival:

  • "How we found our remote backwoods home"--Backwoods Home Magazine. This is a couple that had no real restrictions on where they could live, so they were trying to purchase homes in Alaska and British Columbia, before finally being able to get into a small house in rural Montana.
  • "Firewood for Survival – What You Should Know" by Tim Makay, Modern Survival Online. The author briefly discusses how important fires have been throughout human history, before moving on to his topic. The first thing he notes is that "[e]ven cut to the same size and seasoned for the same length of time, different species of wood can behave very differently when it comes to such characteristics as: Ignition temperature; Heat output; Smoke produced; Longevity; and Spitting, sparking and popping." Makay lists the best and worst firewood: black locust, hickory and white oak top his list of best; while the worst includes elm, aspen, and pine. I would also throw poplar into the "worst" category because it burns quickly, has low heat output, and is actually sort of stinky when it burns. On the other hand, it a great wood for getting a fire started because it burns so easily. Anyway, the article goes on to discuss whether you can burn green wood, how to cut and split wood, proper storage, and the legality of gathering wood. 
    • Related: "What Size Should You Split Your Firewood?" by Tim Makay, Modern Survival Online. Makay goes into detail on the subject, but his short take is: "For most applications, you’ll get the best results from your firewood if split into lengths measuring 12 to 14 inches long (30 to 35 cm), and three to five inches (7 – 12 cm) wide at its widest point."
  • "Real Life Survival Stories: The Mystery of The Third Man Factor"--Organic Prepper. This piece relates several instances of a not uncommon phenomena of people in an emergency receiving what appears to be miraculous assistance from "someone" whether it be a small, still voice they hear internally, what appears to be an audible voice, or, in some cases, a person that provides physical assistance, but disappears or can't be found later, generally not seen by anyone else. You might have experienced the intervention of a "guardian angel" yourself, or perhaps there is a family story. If you know of any, write them down so you can share with others in your family.


VIDEO: "Drug Companies Don’t Fund The Media! Stop Asking!"--Awaken With JP (10 min.)

Covid News:

  • The Othering: "Netflix Normalizes Violence Against the Unvaccinated" by Connor Tomlinson, The American Spectator (h/t Anonymous Conservative). Netflix apparently has a serial-killer/vigilante program called You where the protagonist hunts down criminals and other non-desirables. In this most recent season, according to Tomlinson, the protagonist seeks out an anti-vaxxer (meningitis not Covid, but you get the idea), whose failure to vaccinate his son has put the protagonist's son at risk. 

    As a man who’s had his MMR jabs, I was very uncomfortable watching the disturbing trend of world leaders’ anti-unvaccinated rhetoric translated into glorified violence in popular culture. President Biden and the Australian premier have blamed breakthrough cases on “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Scotland, Wales, Italy, and France have introduced vaccine passports to access nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Citizens of Canada, Queensland, and New York, as well as U.S. federal employees are threatened with unemployment due to vaccine mandates. The worldwide trend of authoritarian action in pursuit of an impossible zero-COVID utopia is instituting medical apartheid, at great profit to manufacturers with a history of unethical testing practices.

    The logic of the married murders is that Gil deserves to die because he “put [their] son at risk.” With the show making mention of lockdowns, this appeal to collective responsibility goes for more than just the MMR vaccines. You breaks the fourth wall to accuse its unvaccinated viewers of being walking bioweapons, despite the infinitesimal statistical risk COVID poses to healthy children. In fact, side-effects like heart palpitations from Pfizer and Moderna have caused pauses in usage in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. When You’s writers conflate concerns about COVID vaccines with skepticism of the safety of long-term-tested MMRs and the endangerment of children, they overplay their disingenuous hand.

VIDEO: "Port System Collapse: What to Expect Next"--City Prepper (19 min.)

Supply Chain Issues

    Food shortages were reported to be spiking across the country Tuesday as President Joe Biden struggles to resolve the supply chain crises crippling the nation.

    “People are hoarding [food],” CEO and founder of Saffron Road, a producer of frozen and shelf-stable meals,  Adnan Durrani told the Seattle Times. “What I think you’ll see over the next six months, all prices will go higher.”

    He spoke as evidence shows food costs have dramatically risen since 2020 with meats, poultry, fish and eggs increasing by 10.5 percent.

    The increasing food costs have impacted the ability of suppliers to meet the demands of retailers. Durrani warned he is “keeping about four months’ supply on hand instead of the typical one or two months.”

    In Denver, public-school children are facing shortages of milk. In Chicago, a local market is running short of canned goods and boxed items.

    But there’s plenty of food. There just isn’t always enough processing and transportation capacity to meet rising demand as the economy revs up.

    More than a year and a half after the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life, the supply of basic goods at U.S. grocery stores and restaurants is once again falling victim to intermittent shortages and delays.

    “I never imagined that we’d be here in October 2021 talking about supply-chain problems, but it’s a reality,” said Vivek Sankaran, chief executive officer of Albertsons Companies, who echoed the laments of other retailers. “Any given day, you’re going to have something missing in our stores, and it’s across categories.”

    Procter & Gamble, for example, announced that many of its prices will rise in the coming weeks since the cost of raw materials remains high, according to the Post. The company owns huge brands like Tide, Gillette and Crest.

    “We do not anticipate any easing of costs,” P&G chief financial officer Andre Schulten said. “We continue to see increases week after week, though at a slower pace.”

    The Post cited an interview Schulten gave to The Wall Street Journal, though the WSJ appears to have removed that specific quote.

    And this is not P&G’s first announcement of a price hike. Back in April, the company warned that many paper products would begin costing more, including essentials such as tampons, diapers and paper towels.

    And other corporate giants such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Mills have warned buyers throughout the year that costs will keep going up, according to CNBC.

    These costs keep climbing in the aftermath of the economic disruption of COVID-19, and now everyone is suffering from inflation.

    Right now, the mass congestion of empty containers is monopolizing space in nearby truck lots, blocking filled containers from getting moved, and crippling efficiency.

    In order to fetch a new order at the port, trucks must first return their previously-used container to the steamships – but with space at a premium, cargo operators are refusing to accept the empty containers.

    ‘What we’re seeing in [Long Beach and L.A.] is really an issue around productivity, not necessarily a lack of drivers,’ Schrap told DailyMail.com.

    ‘It’s a function of our inability to return empty containers back into the port to pull the important loads off the docks.’

    The empty containers aren’t just taking up space.

    They’re also preventing truckers from freeing up their chassis, a piece of equipment necessary to wheel loads of cargo onto modular trailers for delivery. 

    ‘It is extremely inefficient,’ Schrap said. ‘We are essentially moving containers around for the operational needs of the steamship lines and not being compensated for it.’ 

    To top it off, ship operators are charging trucking companies – stuck with storing the equipment on their own lots - a per diem (daily levy) of $40-to-$50 for failing to return them on time, Schrap said.

    ‘We have to be accountable for them if they're in our possession,’ he said. ‘We just have nowhere to keep them. So that's why they're literally on streets and they’re being graffiti tagged because they're sitting out there.’

The article continues:

    Governor Gavin Newsom on October 20 signed an executive order directing state agencies to find ways to alleviate congestion at the ports, including by identifying state-owned properties and other locations that could be used for storage.

    While TGS Logistics Inc chief operations officer Robert Loya welcomed the news, he said it wasn’t clear who would pay for storing the empty containers, or whether trucking companies would still be on the hook for per diems.

    ‘Will they take them off the chassis? Are they going to take the containers and put them on the ground so we can use the chassis?’ Loya told DailyMail.com. ‘There’s a lot of things that need to be worked out, and fingers are going to be pointing about who’s going to pay.’

    He said the extra operating costs being brought on by the steamships has driven some small trucking businesses out of business.

    ‘We operate on razor-thin margins,’ Loya said. ‘These small American companies are going under because these big foreign entity steamship lines are controlling the port and controlling our economy.

    ‘It's a shame.’

    The supply chain crisis is one unseen since World War II when 'there were submarines sinking commercial traders,' an expert has warned.

    And it's bringing disaster for shoppers as items are being resold for more than double their cost and shipping delays mean more barren shelves.

    First, containers that arrive at their destinations have to wait to be emptied, because warehouse space is limited and distribution channels are already overloaded.  ...  However, the supply pipeline that delivered it is still clogged with more containers being delivered.  How is the now-empty container to be returned for another load?

    That's a lot more complicated than it sounds.  Logically, one would expect that the next rail car or truck to offload its incoming containers would simply be reloaded with empty containers and sent back to a seaport.  However, there's such a backlog that those rail cars and trucks may have to sit, loaded, waiting for days, weeks or even months before they can be offloaded.  While they're sitting there, they can't carry more containers.  They've effectively been removed from the pool of available vehicles.  The untold thousands of empty containers awaiting return therefore can't be picked up - they have to sit and wait.  That creates immense storage problems for receiving depots and warehouses, which have dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of empty containers filling all available space, preventing them from taking delivery of more incoming containers.

    What's more, when a rail car or truck eventually becomes available, it may be nowhere near where the empty containers are waiting.  It might have to be sent back to the port very urgently, to collect the next shipment of incoming containers, even though that may mean leaving empty containers behind.  Time (in the form of storage fees for full containers, costs to distributors and retailers through delays in getting their products to market, etc.) may be more expensive than the price of a container these days.  If the vehicle is forced to wait to collect empties, some shippers are now adding surcharges to their rates to pay for the delay costs, plus the missed opportunity to load up with better-paying full containers.  In so many words, the longer a container remains at a distributor, the more it costs them in storage space, and the more it costs them to get rid of it.  They can't win.

    That also affects US factories and producers waiting for containers to load products for export.  The overloaded road and rail networks can't cope with their present burden.  When you add to that the need to ship an empty container from receiving warehouse A to manufacturer B, to be loaded there and then shipped to port C, you're adding in an extra leg of the journey - and there may not be enough vehicles available to cope with that.  They're all overloaded just dealing with the present situation, without any extra legs.  Hence, US manufacturers are complaining they're being short-changed because they can't get the empty containers they need.

    When the empty containers finally get back to a port, the harbor is faced with the dilemma of where to put them if there's no ship on which to load them. ...

Read the whole thing. 

 

Miscellany:

    Last week, Australian singer Clinton Kane posted on social media that robbers made off with more than $30,000 worth of camera equipment after they broke into his SUV, which was parked on the street while he and his crew dined nearby.

    They rushed over when they heard glass breaking and the robbers pointed guns at them.

    'They all pulled guns on us, it was two and two of my mates,' he told KGO-TV.

    'It was very weird, it was very scary having a gun held to my face.

    'I had so much adrenaline and confusions and shock and fear...I peed my pants. Not actually but in my head I was.'

    Kane, whose hit song I Guess I'm In Love has been streamed more than 100 million times, was visiting San Francisco to film a music video. He joked that he would not be returning to the city, though he insisted he would come back to perform a concert in December.

    But he says he doesn't plan on bringing anything expensive.
    Chicago is the latest city to be hit by rampant shoplifting and its Magnificent Mile, the once highly-populated retail destination, is now dotted with empty storefronts as businesses are being driven away by the brazen thieves.

    The city has been plagued by a string of robberies and a wave of crime in the past few months, as some say that the city's 'soft-on-crime' policies embolden the thieves. The issue may only grow worse as at least 50 cops have been put on unpaid leave for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Shoplifting cases grew more common following a December 2016 motion from State's Attorney Kim Foxx that mandated Chicago prosecutors only issue felony charges for theft of property over $1,000.
    When the stuff we want is so hard to get ahold of, why go to such great lengths to buy it? Consumers have the option to not order items manufactured overseas, to source things locally from small businesses or artisans. We also have a choice that eliminates the potential for shipping or supply chain mishaps: We can just buy less.

    We know that our collective consumption of consumer goods, from the creation of plastic toys to the fossil fuels that ship them to our homes, isn’t good for the environment. Yes, on a consumer level, our ability to control resource consumption is minimal, but that doesn’t mean there’s no good in a holiday season where gift exchanges don’t require an Amazon Prime account or transit via multiple shipping containers. Mindfulness has its own benefits, especially for affluent consumers, which includes America’s upper-middle class. The higher-income consumers among us use far more resources than the less well-off and are responsible for influencing shopping norms at large.
    In a stark assessment of its current state of trading, Evergrande said it had sold only 405,000 square metres of real estate throughout September and October so far - normally a peak period for sales.
 
    Contracted property sales totalled just 3.65 billion yuan ($571 million) - a near collapse on the 142 billion yuan it recorded in a similar period last year.
          Chinese developer Modern Land became the latest company to miss a bond payment, indicating that the country's property market remains in turmoil. 
       
          The Beijing-based developer, which is listed in Hong Kong, said in a statement on Tuesday that it had failed to repay a $250 million dollar bond that matured on October 25. 
       
          Modern Land blamed the missed payment on an unexpected cash crunch arising from a number of factors "including the macroeconomic environment, the real estate industry environment and the COVID-19 pandemic."
          The first test was disclosed earlier this week, when the FT quoted five intelligence sources who said that China had tested what appeared to be an orbital hypersonic nuclear missile some time in early or mid-August. 

          Beijing subsequently acknowledged the test, but said it had taken place on July 16. Intelligence sources now believe the test which the FT initially reported and the test acknowledged by the Chinese are different.

          The newspaper now reports that the first test took place on July 27, before a second test of the same technology a little over two weeks later, on August 13.   

          Observers say the weapon appears to be an update of Cold War-era Soviet technology called a 'Fractional Orbital Bombardment System' - or FOBS.

          Soviets developed the technology to get around powerful US radar arrays designed to detect the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) tipped with nukes, and defence systems designed to shoot them down.

          FOBS works by putting the nuclear warheads into a low-Earth orbit, allowing them to circle the globe and manoeuvre in flight before coming down on their targets.

          This makes the warheads harder to detect, track and destroy than those carried on board ICBMs. 

          China appears to have updated the concept by fitting the nuclear warhead on to a 'hypersonic glide vehicle', which is designed to travel faster and manoeuvre easier - making it even harder to stop.

          After the second test was disclosed, Hu Xijin - the editor of the state-owned Global Times newspaper - said the US needs to be 'rational' and accept the idea of 'mutually assured destruction'.

          'The US must abandon the crazy idea that it can strike China and Russia, but they can’t strike it,' Hu tweeted.

          However, he stopped short of confirming the test had taken place - describing it as 'speculation'.

          A follow-up editorial in the Global Times also stopped short of confirming the test, but said - if true - the development of hypersonic missiles would 'help contain the US strategic arrogance over China and further exclude the possibility that the US blackmails China with nuclear weapons.'

          The paper claims that US policy has been to develop nuclear weapons that will allow it to strike other nations while they cannot strike it - but calls this 'an unattainable mad idea' and says Washington must accept a reality in which all superpowers can strike one-another, describing it as a 'balance of nuclear terror'.

      The latter comments from Hu and the Global Times (the Chinese Pravda) are interesting. A weapon such as the Chinese are testing is not defensive, but is a first strike weapon ... unless China believes that the United States has a missile defense system capable of defending against a full-scale launch of missiles from Russia and/or China.  So, either China is completely lying about the "defensive" use of such weapons--and we know that China lies about nearly everything--or it is a tacit revelation that the U.S. has an effective ballistic missile shield.
          An analysis by Bloomberg on Knight's  fortune - estimated at $60 billion - discovered that he was able to take advantage of a financial tool called a grantor-retained annuity trust (GRAT). Knight set up nine GRATS, which enabled him to transfer $6.1 billion of Nike shares to loved-ones between 2009 and 2016 - without incurring any tax on them. 

          Gifts are taxable, but GRATS offer a loophole that allows the person who sets it up to designate others - such as heirs - as beneficiaries.

          Assets are then placed into GRATS, which repay their owner an annuity. If the value of a GRAT goes up, those gains can stay in the GRAT, with whatever is left then transferred to its beneficiaries - such as Knight's heirs - tax-free. 

          Knight has long-touted his commitment to eventually giving away all of his immense wealth to charity, but what lies beneath that promise is over a decade's worth of exploiting tax loopholes to inflate his fortune and pass it on to his heirs.

      Also:

          Another method that Knight has used includes charitable and split-interest charitable trusts, which can work similarly as GRATs in that they also give heirs the chance to profit on the trust's investments and are most effective when interest rates are low. 

          A major difference is that they must donate funds to a family foundation or another charity. According to IRS data, Knight already has one charitable trust, which contained assets worth $889 million in 2019.

          While your trust must donate to charity, the funds don't need to get there immediately and can flow in amounts you control. Knight has so far focused his philanthropy on a few places, including Stanford University, where he went to business school, and the University of Oregon, where he earned his undergraduate degree and ran track.

      The lesson here is that when you hear or read about a wealthy celebrity claiming that they won't be leaving an inheritance to their children, you should probably take such statements with a grain of salt.

      VIDEO: "The Vehicle That Will Win World War Two?" - WW2 Special (11 min.)
      The history of the Higgins Landing Craft.

      Bright Points:

          Unlike Hubble, which is just 340 miles above the Earth, JWST will orbit 930,000 miles from the Earth, in an orbit further from the sun than our planet. 

          It will sit in a point in space known as Lagrange point 2 (L2) where the gravitational force of the sun and Earth are balanced.

          After its launch, it will take about three days to reach lunar orbit, and another 27 days after that to get to its final orbit.

          When in position, it will peer deeper into the cosmos than possible with Hubble thanks to its larger mirror, which is 21ft in diameter compared to the 7.8ft mirror on Hubble. 

          However, JWST will focus more on the infrared wavelength, rather than visual light. 

          As well as giving astronomers the ability to see cosmic dawn (the birth of the very first stars 13.5 billion years ago), it will also reveal atmospheres of distant worlds.

      It will also likely spell the end of the Dark Matter charade, and maybe cause scientists to have to rethink much of what they thing they know about cosmology. 

      Monday, October 25, 2021

      What Will The World Look Like In 2040? Part 1--Demographics

      A recent Bombs & Bants Podcast revolved around the subject of what the world would look like in 2040. And while John Wilder, his wife and I had a great discussion, time limitations meant that the topic could not be explored to the depth that we would have wished. I would like to take a deeper dive into my thoughts concerning the matter.

          I am not a prognosticator. All I can do is consider what others have written and consider trends from which it might be possible to extrapolate future conditions. This doesn't mean that the trends will necessarily continue, but it is not an unreasonable supposition that they will continue over the next 19 years.

          The most important trends over the next decades will be demographics and declining fertility rates. While predictions of population vary according to the statistical models and assumptions, it is clear, no matter which model is used, that we will not suffer a runaway population as predicted by the "Population Bomb" doomsayers of the 1960's, 70's and 80's. 

          In his book, How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), David P. Goldman outlines the problem:

          Population decline is the elephant in the world’s living room. As a matter of arithmetic, we know that the social life of most developed countries will break down within two generations. Two out of three Italians and three of four Japanese will be elderly dependents by 2050. If present fertility rates hold, the number of Germans will fall by 98 percent over the next two centuries. No pension and health care system can support such an inverted population pyramid. Nor is the problem limited to the industrial nations. Fertility is falling at even faster rates—indeed, at rates never before registered anywhere—in the Muslim world. The world’s population will fall by as much as a fifth between the middle and the end of the twenty-first century, by far the worst decline in human history. 

          The world faces a danger more terrible than the worst Green imaginings. The European environmentalist who wants to shrink the world’s population to reduce carbon emissions will spend her declining years in misery, for there will not be enough Europeans alive a generation from now to pay for her pension and medical care. For the first time in history, the birth rate of the whole developed world is well below replacement, and a significant part of it has passed the demographic point of no return. 

          But Islamic society is even more fragile. As Muslim fertility shrinks at a rate demographers have never seen before, it is converging on Europe’s catastrophically low fertility as if in time-lapse photography. Iranian women in their twenties who grew up with five or six siblings will bear only one or two children during their lifetimes. Turkey and Algeria are just behind Iran on the way down, and most of the other Muslim countries are catching up quickly. By the middle of this century, the belt of Muslim countries from Morocco to Iran will become as gray as depopulating Europe. The Islamic world will have the same proportion of dependent elderly as the industrial countries—but one-tenth the productivity. A time bomb that cannot be defused is ticking in the Muslim world. 

          Imminent population collapse makes radical Islam more dangerous, not less so. For in their despair, radical Muslims who can already taste the ruin of their culture believe that they have nothing to lose.

      Unfortunately, it is not just Islamic countries that will be caught up with rapidly ageing populations, essentially becoming old before becoming rich. Fertility rates are already collapsing across much of the third world and will eventually even overcome Sub-Saharan Africa.

          The U.N. expects the world's population to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100. More specifically:

          The new population projections indicate that nine countries will make up more than half the projected growth of the global population between now and 2050: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States of America (in descending order of the expected increase). Around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country.

          The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double by 2050 (99% increase). Regions that may experience lower rates of population growth between 2019 and 2050 include Oceania excluding Australia/New Zealand (56%), Northern Africa and Western Asia (46%), Australia/New Zealand (28%), Central and Southern Asia (25%), Latin America and the Caribbean (18%), Eastern and SouthEastern Asia (3%), and Europe and Northern America (2%).

          The global fertility rate, which fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019, is projected to decline further to 2.2 in 2050. In 2019, fertility remains above 2.1 births per woman, on average, over a lifetime in sub-Saharan Africa (4.6), Oceania excluding Australia/New Zealand (3.4), Northern Africa and Western Asia (2.9), and Central and Southern Asia (2.4). (A fertility level of 2.1 births per woman is needed to ensure replacement of generations and avoid population decline over the long run in the absence of immigration.)

      But these estimates are based on a "Medium Variant" where the fertility rate of Sub-Saharan Africa remains above three through 2050, and stays above 2.1 through 2100. There is a "Low Variant" model which predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa's fertility rate will be roughly 2.5 by 2050, and at 1.67 by century's end. Under that model, the U.N. predicts a world population of  8.9 billion in 2050, and 7.3 billion by 2100, with the world population peaking in 2054. In November 2012, Spanish researchers used a novel way of projecting population that indicated that the "Low Variant" prediction was probably the more accurate. (You can see the abstract of their paper here). 

          What needs to be kept in mind, however, is that many countries and regions are already below the 2.1 replacement rate and have been for decades. Their populations are already declining. For instance, the overall fertility rate for Western Europe was only 1.45 (with some countries well below that). The population of Western Europe was 196 million in 2020. In 2040, it will be 189 million. 

          But this is more than just a reduction in overall population. Because of longer life expectancies but falling birth rates, we are seeing a transition from a young population to an older population. Most significantly for the purposes of political economy, there will be fewer people of working age supporting a growing number of pensioners. As Selwyn Duke explains in his 2009 article, "Empty Cradles, Demographic Destiny and the Death of the West":

          ... Normally, a civilization can be represented with a population pyramid standing right-side-up, with the youngest people at the bottom and the age increasing as you move up (okay, we'll forget pharaoh buried underneath).  So the aged would be at the very top, with lots of youngsters down below to do civilization's heavy lifting.

          When birthrates collapse, however, this pyramid is turned on its head, with the elderly outnumbering the very young.  This usually means hardship, as the young often have to care for their elders.  Specifically, though, in our nation it means that the burden of paying an ever-increasing social security bill will fall on ever-dwindling young shoulders.  Worse still, it can create a vicious circle: as the young pay progressively higher taxes, the financial strain makes it even less likely that they will have children.  It's a recipe for the winding down of a civilization toward the nadir of non-existence. 

          Yet there are problems even when social programs are removed from the equation.  The young and vibrant are the worker bees; they are the inventors, innovators and creators of wealth.  They drive the economy.  Of course, the elderly may take jobs out of necessity or boredom, but they can match the economic engine of a peak-working-years population little more than they could match it on the athletic field.  This is part of the reason why famed economist Adam Smith taught that decreasing population correlates with economic depression.

      VIDEO: "China’s economy: what’s its weak spot?"--The Economist (13 min.)
      The demographic consequences on China.

          Outside Europe, one of the hardest hit regions is north-eastern Asian: Japan, South Korea, and China. In 2014, Japan had a population of 127 million. This had fallen by approximately half a million by 2020. By 2050, this will have declined to 108.5 million. China will also feel this pinch. U.N. data indicates that China's population in 2020 was 1.44 billion. By 2040, this will have shrunk to 1.38 billion. By 2100, it will have further declined to 684 million--half what it was in 2020! Charlie Campbell, writing in Time Magazine in 2019, explained:

      If current trends continue, China’s population will peak at 1.44 billion in 2029 before entering “unstoppable” decline, according to a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences study released in January. The country will enter an “era of negative population growth,” the report says, warning that by 2065 numbers will return to the levels of the mid-1990s. Fewer people means less domestic consumption, and thus rapidly slowing economic growth. The ratio of young to old will be dramatically imbalanced by the rising ranks of the elderly, putting unprecedented weight on the ties that hold society together.

      He notes that the precipitous decline is primarily the consequence of China's one-child policy. China went to a two-child policy in 2016, but it didn't help. "After an 8% bump in 2016–mainly women who’d waited for years to have a second child–births then fell 3.5% the following year." But that is not the sole cause. Campbell observes:

      The trend is being exacerbated by China’s entry into the “middle income trap,” where rapidly developing economies stagnate as incomes reach median level and the emerging middle class start having fewer babies. Just like in the West, many Chinese women are prioritizing careers and stable home life over raising children, especially as the costs of living and education soar.

          Campbell also appears to believe that the results in China will probably be even more disruptive than in other industrialized countries.

      Many seniors in China reach retirement age without having obtained the necessary capital to fund their pensions, health care and lifestyle. According to a 2013 study by Peking University, only 3% of respondents had a commercial pension and 0.2% a private occupational pension issued by a private employer. Instead, the cost of elderly care is borne by families and the state–effectively shunted to the next generation of workers. As in many Western countries, the shrinking population means fewer young taxpayers are available to prop up an older generation that is living for an unprecedentedly long time.

          He also explains that due to the one child policy, a Chinese person from an upper-middle-class or wealthy family stands to do well when their grandparents die, inheriting assets from 4 grandparents and two parents (4-2-1 as the Chinese express it). But for the poor, not so much. In addition, he notes that marriage rates are declining as divorce rates increase. On top of this, there is a large disparity between women and men of marriageable age in China. 

      China has 34 million more men than women, because of a preference for male heirs and a history of selective abortions. By 2020, China will have 24 million single men of marrying age unable to find wives. Imagine the combined male populations of Texas and New York State were perpetually lonely, depressed and sexually unfulfilled. The consequences could be dramatic; multiple studies implicate gender imbalances in maladies including reduced consumption and real estate bubbles, and correlate with spikes in violent crime, spousal abuse, trafficking and prostitution.

      Conversely, hypergamy means that what women China has are going to be less willing to marry. Campbell writes:

      Although the highest echelons of the Chinese government are still exclusively male, women are outperforming men in education and increasingly in the workplace. Despite China’s gender imbalance and positive discrimination favoring male students, more women than men attend Chinese universities. Women are responsible for 41% of Chinese GDP–the highest proportion in the world. Some 7 in 10 Chinese mothers work. Eighty percent of all female self-made billionaires, globally, are Chinese.

      Campbell concludes:

      The result is a picture of China’s future that bears little relation to its leaders’ dreams of global supremacy: an increasingly unequal society of oppressed women and lonely men, many burdened by the care of elderly parents and grandparents, and an economy crippled by unsustainable debts. China’s pension shortfall could top $130 billion by 2020, according to Beijing’s National Academy of Economic Strategy, and China’s debt burden is already estimated at three times its GDP. But beyond social engineering, the government is failing to make preparations for the gray wave to come; pension reform, for example, has been torpid. “Perhaps we must wait for the next Tiananmen Square–level crisis in China for the government to finally act,” Leckie says.

          There are two major strategies countries have taken to stave off or reverse the trend toward declining populations: (i) boost fertility rates by paying women to have children and (ii) immigration. Japan has taken a third path: using robotics to make up the difference.

          Countries as diverse as Finland, Estonia, Italy, Japan, and Australia have taken to paying parents to have children or otherwise try to incentivize having children. Germany, for instance, offers paid childcare leave — up to $35,000 over the course of a year. Sometimes it works: for instance, Estonia saw birth rates edge up in 2019; in 2013, the Finish municipality of Lestij√§rvi, started offering women a “baby bonus” of $11,000 per child, paid over a period of 10 years, which doubled its birth rate; and France, which offers generous tax breaks and subsidies for having larger families, has a higher birth rate than much of the rest of Europe. But often the effect is temporary. The New York Times delved into this topic in a February 17, 2021, article, and noted that:

          ... Research from other countries shows that direct payments lead to a slight increase in birthrates — at least at first. In Spain, for instance, a child allowance led to a 3 percent increase in birthrates; when it was canceled, birthrates dropped 6 percent. The benefit seems to encourage women to have children earlier, but not necessarily to have more of them — so even if it increases fertility in a given year, it doesn’t have large effects over a generation.

          In addition to the international evidence, there is data on the effect of direct payments on parents in the United States. Alaskans get a payment each year, based on oil revenues. Because it varies annually and increases with the number of children, researchers have been able to examine its effect on fertility. Payments increased fertility, their studies have shown. A study that covered the years 1984 to 2010 found the increase was bigger for some groups: Alaskan Natives; those without college degrees; and unmarried women.

          “These groups had economic barriers to enacting their fertility goals, and this cash somehow was enough,” said Kiara Douds, a doctoral candidate in sociology at New York University who wrote the study with Professor Cowan.

          The Alaska data, like that of Europe, suggests that women had babies earlier, but most didn’t necessarily end up having more. The biggest increase in fertility was among people 25 to 34 and for first births, but there was little change in third births.

      The reason for this is because having children has become more an issue of a lifestyle choice than an issue of cost or other socioeconomic barriers. 

          Unlike in Europe and Asia, the United States has followed a policy almost wholly concentrated on increasing immigration; the idea being, I suppose, that bringing in workers from poor, underdeveloped countries with high fecundity rates will not only keep wages low but will also ensure a future supply of workers due to the number of offspring. The consequence is that the United States has more immigrants than any other country. For instance, in a 2020 Pew report, it was observed that "[t]he U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.8 million in 2018." Nearly a quarter of these are here illegally, according to the same source (the actual number of illegals may be much higher). Pew also states that "immigrants and their descendants are projected to account for 88% of U.S. population growth through 2065, assuming current immigration trends continue." Between 1965 (when immigration restrictions were lifted) and 2015, "new immigrants, their children and their grandchildren accounted for 55% of U.S. population growth," adding "72 million people to the nation’s population as it grew from 193 million in 1965 to 324 million in 2015." A 2015 article from Time Magazine relates:

      In 1965, 84% of Americans were non-Hispanic whites, 4% were Hispanic, and less than 1% were Asian. In 2015, the numbers are astonishingly different: 62% of Americans are white, 18% of Americans are Hispanic, and Asians count as 6% of the populace.

      However, as the New York Times article cited above noted, one of the reasons that the United States has continued to see declining birth rates is because birth rates have dramatically fallen among Hispanics and teens. 

          So why the decline? Urbanization, education and literacy (particularly of women) and modernization are all factors associated with declining child births. Although governments and NGOs tend to cite the cost of having and rearing children as a barrier--and it no doubt is--what they tend to ignore is that it is also a lifestyle choice. Educated women frequently choose careers over family. And younger generations are quite blunt that they prefer the "freedom" that comes from not having children. As Goldman puts it in his book, "[i]n the industrial world today, a prospective child has to compete against material pleasure, and the child is losing the competition." Moreover, there is no incentive to have children since "[c]hildless singles who spend their money on entertainment receive the same pension and medical benefits as people who raise big families." Children have essentially become a luxury good. Or a matter of faith.

          Goldman explains:

          Children in traditional society had an economic value, as agricultural labor and as providers for elderly parents; urbanization and pension systems turned children into a cost rather than a source of income. And female literacy is a powerful predictor of population decline among the world’s countries. Mainly poor and illiterate women in Mali and Niger bear eight children in a lifetime, while literate and affluent women in the industrial world bear one or two. 

          But what determines whether it is one child or two? Children also have a spiritual value. That is why the degree of religious faith explains a great deal of the variation in population growth rates among the countries of the world. The industrial world’s lowest fertility rates are encountered among the nations of Eastern Europe where atheism was the official ideology for generations. The highest fertility rates in the developed world are found in countries with a high degree of religious faith, namely the United States and Israel. And demographers have identified religion as a crucial factor in the differences among populations within countries. When faith goes, fertility vanishes, too.

      Thus, the groups we see bucking the trend are those with a high religiosity, where religion is more than attending a worship service once per week but is a lifestyle. Goldman observes, for instance, that "[o]nly a few pockets of the industrial world's population continue to raise six or more children, and they do so out of religious motivation--for example, the Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jews."

      That is why the world's population outlook is not as bleak as the forecasts make it appear. Two cultures are contending at the family level throughout the world: secular modernity and renewed faith. Secular families have few children and religious families have many. That means that in each generation, religious families will increase in number and secular families will diminish. We do not know how many children raised in religious families will cleave to the faith of their parents, to be sure; the blandishments of hedonism will always be there. But it is possible that self-selection will reverse the fertility collapse of the industrial world at least in those countries that have not passed a demographic point of no return.

      Interestingly, however, contrary to what you might hear in the news, the fertility rates in the majority of Muslim countries has collapsed over the last two decades, and is hardly more than in Europe. 

          Turning to the United States, a 2015 Washington Post article similarly reported:

      According to Pew's data, the average Mormon can expect to make 3.4 babies in his or her lifetime. Jews, Catholics, and most flavors of Protestantism have fertility rates ranging from 2 to 2.5. At the low end of the baby-making spectrum you've got atheists, with 1.6 kids, and agnostics, who average only 1.3.

      Nonetheless, the number of Americans identifying as "unaffiliated" have been increasing. "The unaffiliated share of the North American population is projected to grow over the next 40 years, according to an earlier Pew report," the Post observes. "But the unaffiliated share of the global population will decline, partially due to those low fertility numbers charted above."

          In short, in 2040, the Earth's population will be less than two decades from peaking. Japan and most European countries will have seen their populations decline versus today, with the corresponding increase in abandoned villages and properties--what native population remains will be more urbanized. China's population will have been in decline for over a decade. The increased numbers of elderly versus young workers will probably have stoked a political crises in China, the probable result of which will be the government having to take over more of a role in supporting and caring for the elderly. Whether it will be able to afford to do so is a separate question. One thing that is clear, however, is that a declining number of workers will drive up wages in China. We are already seeing industry moving to other countries in search of cheaper labor, and this trend will have greatly accelerated by 2040.

          In the United States in 2040, the population will probably still be increasing, but, like now, this will be the result of immigration not fecundity. Only, the surplus population that the U.S. will draw upon will most likely no longer be from Mexico (Mexico's share of immigration to the U.S. has already been declining) and Central America, but from Africa. Thus, I would anticipate that the proportion of the population that is black will start to edge upward by 2040. 

          I would expect that by 2040, there will be social upheaval in many countries to one extent or another when public pensions and socialized medicine become unaffordable. To compensate, many countries will have to increase taxes, which will be protested. Or cut benefits and further restrict medical care, which will be protested. Or increase retirement ages which, as we have already seen in European countries, will be protested. 

          In the United States, we will, by 2040, have seen many public employee pensions plans go bankrupt, as well as several large cities and, even states, declare bankruptcy or become insolvent--all over public employee pensions and elderly care. 

          Where populations are declining, we will see a continued decline in property prices in those areas where the young no longer want to live; primarily rural areas and outlying suburban areas, but also less desirable urban areas, such as we've already been seeing in Detroit over the last several decades. I expect that land will become very cheap in countries like Italy and Greece which have experiencing the greatest declines in fertility and will be rapidly shrinking by 2040.

      The Docent's Memo (October 26, 2021)

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