Change

A day ago the CPC told the Chinese army to prepare for war, the leader of Iran promised Trump that he would have him murdered him at some point, and in New York a new assembly bill (A416) has been tabled that will allow Cuomo to lockup anyone he wants to if he says he ‘suspects’ the person may have had COVID exposure. So internationally, adversarial governments are becoming more belligerent and domestically the encroachment on the Bill of Rights continues: When your governor can incarcerate you on a whim, you live under tyranny. And, what a wonderfully-productive development now in the midst: A group of Trump supporters fulfilled all the media and tech invective of the past 4 years that the people who voted for him consist of hate-driven racist white supremacists out to forcefully takeover the country. And they did so replete with the optics of a (old-fashioned military-style) federal coup, to boot – just brilliant ! These masterful strategists stormed and halted congress’ ratification session so that they could achieve their shrewd objective of running around in the chamber and in senators’ offices waving pistols & banners, climbing the walls, and displaying their costumes. Sadly, one protestor died of a gunshot wound. Nothing at all was achieved, and Trump did not step right out in front to immediately and categorically denounce the chaos – altogether a Neanderthal show. Neanderthals don’t play political chess strategy very effectively. Those people behaved like ANTIFA.

Its a stupid shame for several reasons: (1) So-far, it has been overwhelmingly the left that has resorted to violence, intimidation, rioting, arson, and mayhem while the rest of the population have endured it with admirable forbearance while the MSM has been oddly painting them as the more vicious faction (2) Rights and freedoms have been increasingly removed over recent months, and this provides a perfect opportunity for government to remove more, and with widespread acceptance and approval. To subject to sanction the tens of millions of people blacklisted for not voting democratic will now be viewed as a more OK and appropriate move, and second amendment rights will likely be targeted again. Politicians “never let a good crisis go to waste”, and when it comes to an invasion of their own supposedly-secure chamber, they are not likely to. (3) The democrats just gained control of the senate as well as the white house, so they can do what they want to. But now they don’t even have to walk their agendas and tactics for longterm control of government (stacking SCOTUS with more justices, annexing Puerto Rico and DC, granting amnesty followed up by voting rights to tens of millions of citizens of other countries, etc.) forward with artful delicacy. And likely the saddest thing of all is: (4) That the rule of law and the social order we’ve had in the USA which has bound people to operate ethically with respect and compromise toward one another is now well-broken. The left will neither accept nor hear anything the right wants, nor will the right respect the wishes of the left. And neither side will feel compelled to deal with the other with decency any longer. In countries where this breakdown in the social contract has become complete, what remains is a much more brutal landscape where it is no longer the quality of people, organizations, and ideas that end-up prevailing, but instead those who hold the power and might to bully other people into obeying them.

I should focus less about the political now, since there is no longer as much of it that is covert and unknown anymore, and more of it will likely be apparent and overt going forward. People who believe their eyes more than what they are told will see what is happening. Besides, there is no longer as much latitude to do anything about it anymore legally anyway. Trump is out, and everyone was tired of his big ego, bloviation, and erratic manner. Yet most of what I disliked about Trump I could easily rid myself of simply by not listening to him nor thinking about him. If that also proves to be the case with Biden/Harris, I will be thankful. And though (actually because) Trump was blunt, most of his big actions were things that he said early-on he was going to do. He would have never deflected nor dissembled on a question like whether he intended to stack the supreme court or not – he usually would say what he intended to do (and then not care if a lot of people objected to it). But now I think we’ll probably have to wait-and-see before we find out exactly what the meaning of “build back better” will be for the US. With a more European-style socialist agenda, the debt and economic situations, and what appears to be a likely go-along with the crazy objectives of the Great Reset and Agenda 2030, the American standard of life may change in a secular and meaningful way. There are no more preventative measures now, only reactive ones. For many people and companies the bottom-line question is how to maintain as much of what we have enjoyed so far. Some of the things that individuals (including wealthy and astute people) are doing now to prepare for the future include:

(1) Move increasingly out of debt (particularly treasuries) and other paper assets, including cash, into land, metals, food, agriculture, bitcoins (if you believe that government will let them continue), blue chip stocks, and other essential tangible assets. After the dollar’s performance in 2020, it’s clear that your investable wealth is now ‘exposed’ even when you park it in cash.

(2) Move out of urban centers that will be subject to more civil unrest and government suppression as more rounds of economic lockdowns put ever more intolerable pressure on the existences of ordinary people. If you are now working remotely and have the option to make that permanent, then the world is your oyster – pick a nice refuge and go.

(3) Move out of the country, including businesses, accounts, etc. This is hard for most people to do, and it’s late to do it (well) now. Besides, if you don’t renounce your US citizenship, you’ll still have to pay US taxes even if you never come back to America.

(4) Move to fiscally conservative states with pragmatic, controlled budgets, low taxation, and governors that focus more on keeping things running smoothly than forcing the public to go along with them on an experimental journey into their idealized personal agendas. My wife and I are moving from California to Idaho. Florida and Texas have more jobs and zero income taxes, but are as flat as an ice rink – Northern Idaho has mountains.

(5) Make your existence resistant to systemic failure or takedowns of social institutions and infrastructure (banking and cash, food energy & water supplies, etc.). Get close to and make yourself interdependently-useful to a local community of other self-reliant people that you can barter with for extra needs, (including security) if/when-necessary.

(6) Don’t be like me and spout your political and personal opinions openly – they are all being recorded and can be expected to be used to “sift” (categorize) people going-forward. The IMF has indicated that personal credit-scoring will no longer be based solely upon one’s record of making timely payments: “Fintech … taps various non-financial data … including one’s history of online searches and transactions … [to make an assessment] powered by artificial intelligence”. It lauds this advancement as enabling liquidity access to people previously unable to get it, but it does not state that utilization of this personal data will be limited to just this purpose.

(7) Consider doing a Roth conversion. If your retirement savings is in a 401K or a conventional IRA, you will be taxed on it when you draw from it in the future, and taxes will be almost certainly be higher then than now. But if you put those funds into a Roth IRA you will pay you taxes on them now at the present lower rate. Converting one’s entire life savings from a conventional IRA or 401K in one transfer results in a tax hit that most people cannot handle in a single year, but you can start rolling-over your savings in this way. How to optimize it is a question now: Since tax rates will probably change quite soon, there is not a lot of time to complete a rollover-by-increments now.

(8) Maintain wellness. Even when there’s a lot to pay attention to, staying fit, positive, resilient, with strong immunity by the usual means (hydration, diet, exercise, sleep, relationships, etc.) is necessary to operate.

(9) Move your banking from large commercial banks like Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase to a local community bank or credit union. These may remain insulated for longer from what I mention in the next paragraph, since they don’t engage in securities trading.

With regard to banking (4), the same IMF document indicates an increasing displacement of brick-&-mortar commercial banks by “platforms like Amazon, Facebook or Alibaba as they incorporate more and more financial services into their ecosystems, enabling the rise of new specialized providers that compete with banks in payments, asset management, and financial information provision. … as new players make banks less relevant for the financial system, central banks may need to adjust their monetary policy implementation toolbox, potentially allowing non-banks access to liquidity lines and incorporating them in their operations.” Many banks like Bank of America have permanently closed local branch offices during the COVID lockdowns and are continuing to. This may be largely due to the fact that they know that big government, as a big part of its switch-over to completely traceable electronic federal money, intends for big tech to takeover the banking industry, and so it plans not to bail out the commercial banks again in any future financial crisis.

There are hedge fund managers and other wealthy people who have off-grid “ranch retreats” setup for themselves and their families; a trend that started around the time of the mortgage crisis. I have a personal friend who was retired at 67, had his home 1000 feet above Laguna Beach paid off, and had been living in France and sailing the eastern seaboard with his wife over the course of three years. When his Facebook posts indicated that he was returning to Southern California, I visited to catch up with them on their adventures. I found out that the two of them came back to refurbish their house and sell it. They now own a big home on the western slope of the Colorado rockies overlooking the small town of Paonia.

After they bought it, they installed a rainwater collection system/cistern, thermal and photovoltaic solar power, some kind of plastic dome that allows them to grow veggies even when it’s cold, and are getting handy at fermenting, drying, and other longterm food storage methods. The couple is also getting in tight with the local community (which has its own water rights) and they are aiming to become able to produce enough food, power, and to build enough useful things in their metal shop, so that they can barter that stuff for other locally-originated goods and services (!)

At the time (just over a year ago) I thought that was a pretty drastic shift for a retired corporate guy, but I don’t view it like that quite as much now. In fact I would like to be able to afford to do most of that in one go myself. Because I can continue to go out to restaurants and to stores with money as long as that works, but if and when it ceases to, it would be awfully great to be independently secure and to experience any fallout effects only by watching them play out on TV at a distance from my country ranchito. To be able to forget about listening to directives to wear masks and to receive new vaccines sounds like an option with some value to me too. A successful young podcaster I listen to just bought over 100 acres in West Virginia woodlands with surface stream water (hard to find now). He is forming his own local community by inviting people he knows with various skills to come take plots in there to live on.

Barter obviously spawns black markets. Though in the USA we tend to think of them as the business squares for illegal drugs, arms, slaves, protected animal species, etc., they arise in countries whose governments have become confiscatory simply for the trading of ordinary necessities and conveniences. In graduate school, a friend and my girlfriend (his sister) were both natives of Jamaica. When we traveled there they both scoffed at the notion of going into a bank to exchange our USD because the exchange rate was richer on the street (and because they knew how to manage the risk of participating in the street FX market). My yoga teacher said that when India was substantially more socialist and things like rationing were part of life, communities formed their own local underground banking/lending networks.

But it appears that government will make it more difficult this time for this activity to arise: Since physical money looks to be eliminated, the traditional party-to-party “cash-&-carry” illicit transactions would have to be replaced; likely by means of some type of underground exchange. Direct barter is only practical locally and is still very cumbersome and limiting. Necessity being the mother of invention, people always find some way to setup black markets. Technical skill could produce the next prime operators.

Top hackers have relished the risk and challenge of defying both the law and the tech savvy of the institutions they targeted. A number of successful and very sophisticated attacks were carried out not to steal information, money, nor to cause mayhem, but instead to merely leave an electronic calling card saying “I found my way in here – Gotcha !”. Could rogue techies (the ones who don’t want to work on building-out government’s Orwellian tracking and control infrastructure) soon get their kicks out of answering a call to setup a truly dark pool (unregistered) barter exchange where people could anonymously trade in some type of secure crypto tokens representing value units that they could be redeem later (e.g. off of a USB drive) at some pickup ‘warehouse’ for hard goods ? The legal risk of running such an ongoing black market exchange is obviously higher than a single ‘in-&-out’ hacking caper. But someone may be willing to do it.

Ethereum smart contracts could be setup to scour the pool landscape for counter-parties to pair-up in multiple combinations assembled to form net-parity barter trade combos that could then be cleared – because if you are trading your software for food, your super-useful app may have to get paired-up with a side of pork, two chickens, two dozen eggs and a sack of potatoes, all from different providers, in order to meet your token price. Like I said, direct barter is cumbersome (reading ‘The Wealth of Nations’ makes for a greater appreciation of how our retail and spot markets have operated these last couple of centuries). Otherwise, new creative ways to launder CBDC money would have to be invented. But if anything like this is devised, it will still probably be available only to the richer people. We’ll see. I am not personally advocating this nor anything else illegal here.

PS – Don’t forget that the banks will be reporting on 1/15.

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