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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Musings]
2017-09-23 11:45 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 274 references
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A few random thoughts on my recent trip (with Sarah for her 21st birthday) on our trip through Canada, including the Niagara area, Toronto and Algonquin Park.

First, the welcome from the border agent at the Windsor crossing was amusing.  These guys and gals (by the way, all who we encountered on both sides of the border were guys) have an "interesting" job; they have to see hundreds of people per day, and only a few are worthy of more than a short list of questions and a look-see.  Figuring out which, so you spend the time on those who shouldn't come, obviously is a learned experience.  Nonetheless the one dude at the Windsor crossing who we drew was funny; after the usual questions as to where we were headed, how long we intended to stay, etc, he asked if we had any firearms or weapons in the vehicle.  "No" was the reply, of course, since we didn't.  He then continued: No mace or Bear spray?  I again said "No" and he remarked that since we were going to Algonquin we might want the Bear Spray, and after a nice pregnant pause he chuckled.

It was an interesting little quip on what is otherwise a necessary and amusing formality.

I haven't been to Canada since 9/11 when they imposed passport requirements (you used to be able to enter and return by land using just a driver license; not any more) and while I expected quite a bit more formal procedure than previously it was only slightly more time-consuming and we were waved through.

Out decision was to "glamp, sorta" -- in other words, tent camp in campgrounds with organized facilities.  Part of that is a money-saving issue, although around Niagara I doubt it saved much off-season (if anything) compared to cut-rate hotels.  On the other hand it was fun, I like sleeping outside, and as long as I have somewhere to ****, shower and shave it's pretty much like being in a hotel as far as I'm concerned.  The weather cooperated nicely; we had zero rained-out days.

I won't go into the details of our time there -- for that you need to head over to and check out Sarah's blog (heh, she'd like the ad revenue from the views!) but I will make some comments on Canada from a societal and functional point of view.

First is the border difference.  We put on a damn good show of a "more-secure" border but in fact we don't give a ****, and it's obvious.  The Rainbow Bridge at Niagara is one example; you can cross on foot there, and we did -- both ways.  The US side has razor wire on top of the fences.  The Canadian side?  Nope -- just a fence.  Both have the usual customs person interrogating you and checking passports, but there's one thing of note: Canada does not let in or tolerate all the illegal immigrants that the US does.  So while the Canadian border may look less-secure, it in fact is more secure because they give a **** about functionality instead of simply being for show.

Where does this really show up?  I saw a help-wanted sign in Canada for housekeepers at a motel: The wage offer was $17/hour.  Gee, I wonder why?  I also bet they get takers at that wage too.  Americans won't do the jobs the illegal Mexicans do eh?  The hell they won't -- they just won't do it at $5/hour.  And don't tell me about businesses being "unable to find workers"; they don't seem to have that problem in Canada.  Nor does it hit prices to any appreciable degree; yes, they're higher than in the US -- by roughly the exchange rate, although there were instances where I saw no difference of materiality between US and Canadian prices.

Sales taxes, however, are insane.  They call it "HST" and it's 13%.  The exception appears to be "essential" consumables (e.g. not-prepared food in a grocery store.)  This leads to a secondary problem which I've noted here in the US too -- all the hospitality places are including taxes in their "suggested tip" amounts.  That started a while ago in a few places here in the US but is now damn near everywhere and it's all over Canada too.  In fact I didn't see one "suggested" tip amount during this trip on either side of the border that excluded sales tax.

This is enough of a scam, especially in places with high sales taxes or where there is a secondary sales tax (e.g. "resort area" taxes) that I think it's time for people start intentionally zero-tipping everywhere until it stops and raising hell about it to management besides.  This is an outright fraud as exactly zero of the tax goes to the establishment or the server and it results in actual tip amounts that are ~2% higher than intended in high tax areas.

Let me be clear: This is not an indictment aimed at Canada -- it's everywhere now.  Every single place I saw on both sides of the border that presented a tab that had a "suggested tip" on it including the damned sales taxes in the suggested amount.




That's utter and complete horse**** and the only way we as consumers will stop it is to zero-tip everyone until management cuts that **** out and reprograms their systems to exclude tax from the suggested amounts.  This is an intentional fraud and it needs to be stopped -- now.

In the US this is going to start being good for complaints to the State Attorneys General everywhere I see it, and I suggest you do so as well.  This is flat-out consumer fraud folks, it's trivially documented and while the individual amounts stolen are small over the total amount of spend in these establishments it amounts to billions.

Second, gas prices are nuts.  I didn't find a single instance under $4/gallon.  Of course they price in liters, but I can do the math, and when it's over a buck a liter, and it was everywhere, well....  I also saw stickers on pumps showing the tax breakdown as well, and the reason for the crazy prices is simply taxes, not fuel costs.  If you're wondering if this dissuaded people from driving big SUVs and even big RVs, the answer is no.  Nonetheless when you stick $60 (!) into a sedan and barely fill it that gets your attention fast.

Third, use cash.  Why?  Exchange, basically.  Yes, virtually everywhere will take Visa or Master Card and some will take Discover, Amex or both.  Of them Discover was the most-friendly in terms of total cost, but still shaved a bit on the exchange rate.  Their lack of additional fee, however, made them the most-competitive by far -- after cash of course.  The problem is that only about 30% of places there will take Discover cards in my experience.  Speaking of which zero gas pump readers will take US cards in my experience but that's fine with me because cash is, as noted, the better deal.  The cross-bank ATM fee on reasonably-large withdrawals is rational (a couple of percent); of course on small amounts you get murdered exactly as you do here in the US.

Credit cards are handled in an interesting way up there.  Nobody touches them except you.  If you go into a restaurant or bar and want to pay with plastic the server comes to your table with a little wireless device that has a keypad, a card reader and printer in it.  The amount pops up, you input the tip, approve the amount, and stick your card in.  It authorizes, you pull the card and the receipt prints.  This utterly stops the practice of stealing magstripe or other data by servers and establishments.  I like it a lot and the US is vastly behind the times in this regard.

Let me repeat that: There was not once that I ever handed a plastic card to anyone to pay; they brought the little handheld terminal (which had a bank logo on it) to me.  These devices were everywhere; I saw them on checkout counters in the smallest trinket shops to bars, restaurants and similar.

I've had multiple instances over the last five years or so where I'm quite certain a server or other person at an establishment stole the magstripe, took a picture of the number on my card, or both.  The pattern of fraud was obvious when it happened and yet not once has any issuer done anything other than void the transaction and send me a new card (with a new number, of course.)  The idiocy of not stopping this crap at the source ought to be obvious.

One quick note if you like adult beverages: Drink beer, wine or buy liquor by the bottle at the LCBOs (state-owned and run liquor stores.)  We had repeated problems with shorted mixed drinks, including some severely shorted ones.  Two places that didn't short were the Loose Moose on Front Street in Toronto and a bar attached to a hotel in Niagara, but even there it was a problem in that Canada appears to have a rather interesting view of how much booze should go in a mixed drink.  Of course they can't short-pour your beer or wine, but if you don't like beer or wine you're ****ed and done and will be paying for liquor you are not getting.  This happened often enough that there's only one real defense, especially if you like "foofoo" drinks that are hard to taste the booze quantity in: Don't buy them.

There's a rumor that Cannabis will be legal next year in Canada; it's legal for medical use now, apparently, from the signage I saw around.  Around Niagara anyway it may as well be legal for recreational use already; the smell of it coming from vehicles passing by was, well, unmistakable -- and frequent.  This will get fun if and when Canada formally legalizes it and Americans decide to spend their hard-earned money on the other side of the border!

It's a beautiful nation up there, although I don't know if I could deal with the obvious white powder problems in the winter months, or the idea of $4+/gallon gas.  Nonetheless if you think that slamming the door on illegal immigrants here would cripple the economy this much is certain: There's zero evidence that it would, or will, to be found in the Canadian experience.

One of the more-interesting places was a "castle" that was the showpiece of a wealthy man who got well over-extended (gee, where have we seen that?) and blew himself up financially.  I've got a thing for old organs, and there's one in the castle, which appears to be in operational condition (the pipe set is there) that I found especially interesting.

Enjoy, and again, for pictures and a "touristy" view of the country head over here:; bookmark it as there will be multiple articles in the coming days and weeks, likely adorned with a lot of pictures as well (we shot a ****-ton of them.)

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2017-09-18 08:09 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 109 references
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No, not my art, and yes, I'm biased.  I think it's all extraordinary work....

Sarah's art.  She's selling some (nowhere near all) of her recent work, and you're invited to check it out and let her know what you'd like!

Please do drop over to her blog's post and check it out!

Thanks in advance!

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2017-08-08 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 438 references
[Comments enabled]  

There's been some attention paid to all the "screen time" that our kids get these days -- and that this "screen time" makes us less, rather than more, happy.

Ever think about it folks?

You should.

And then you should remove Facepig, Messenger and all the other social apps from your phone.


Think about it folks.  Look at Facepig and beyond all the ads, sponsored clickbait garbage (which I've written on repeatedly) and such what's on there?

Someone doing something fantastic, right?  Someone you know on a cruise.  Another person winning a race. A third person having a beer. A fourth on top of a mountain somewhere.  A fifth, sixth and seventh posting 500 pictures of their cute baby or child (who by the way most-certainly could not have consented to their visage being permanently stolen by Zucker****er).

Think about the image this presents to you as what life is supposed to be.

It's all smiles.

Now I want you to contemplate something: Have you ever seen someone take a **** on Star Trek - or any other TV show?  You've got eight Star Wars movies, and yet I don't recall one person having to stop and take a crap.  The only time you do see that is when it's a joke as part of the plotline -- like in Jurassic Park with the lawyer.

Now let's expand that a bit.

You've never seen anyone actually do laundry.  Nor have you seen someone do the dishes, or even unload the dishwasher.  You've never seen them sit in traffic for an hour commuting to or from work.

Why not? Because if you actually put someone's daily life on television you'd never watch it; 95% of it is the normal daily grind -- we get up, we make a coffee, we ****, shower and shave, we get in the car to go to work and listen to music while stuck in traffic, we buy groceries, etc.

What do you see on Facepig, Snapass and similar?  The 1%, all the time, which inexorably leads you believe that your life should be that 1%, all the time.

But it can't be.

Nobody lives like that.

Even a billionaire who has no care in the world for making another nickel, ever, and has a building full of paid servants still has to ****, shower and shave.  The kid in High School has to sit in class and then do his or her homework.  Even the retiree doesn't get to live like that; he's gotta go to the doctor and get poked here and there, cook dinner, etc.

So what are you doing when you are continually looking at Facepig or Snapping away?  You're engaged in someone else's -- and your own -- fantasy.  A fantasy that is guaranteed to make you miserable because nobody can live a life that consists of even five percent of the projected thing you are viewing.

The fact is that nobody takes a crap on Star Trek because nobody would watch the show -- or the movie -- if they did.  Yet if we ever do master faster-than-light space travel the people on board that ship are still going to spend 90% of their time doing things that amount to "****, shower and shave."

They do it now on the ISS, they did it on Apollo, in Gemini and Mercury and they will in the future just like you do now.

Zucker****er likes to talk about bringing people together and other similar tripe. It's crap.  In fact it's worse than crap, it's a knowing lie.  Zuckerpig knows that even if there was no clickbait, fake deals and other garbage on the site that you'd still be made miserable simply by being there because the "face" you see is one you cannot possibly live.  It therefore cannot bring you joy -- it can only bring you tears to some degree.

Don't tell me about how it helps you "keep up" with your 457 "friends".  You don't have 457 friends.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that you can count the number of people who you can legitimately call "friend" on your fingers.

If you assert that's not true then I will make a declaratory statement in reply: None of those people are actually your friends -- they're all acquaintances, every single one of them.

I recently heard that a record number of kids committed suicide last year in our local High School.  I'm willing to wager 100% of them spent a huge amount of time with their faces buried in a hand-held fantasy machine that made them miserable while stealing a record of everything they did to try to make a profit off that same misery.

Those kids are dead; their misery has ended but the profit still went in Zuckerpig's pocket.

Folks, there's no value here for you in any of these "systems."  It's all net negative and it gets even worse when the data is mined off and sold as I've pointed out repeatedly.  We put these little spying machines in our pockets but how many people will stick them on silent or ignore them when they ring say much less toss 'em in "Airplane" mode?

It wasn't that long ago that if someone wanted to talk with you they called your house and if you were home you could talk to them.  But only one person at a time could do so in said house because there was only one phone line.  If there were five people in your family and one of them was on the phone, the other four could not make or receive a call.  If you were out getting groceries or even just mowing the lawn there were no voicemails either; the phone just rang and nobody answered it.  There were no text messages, Facepig posts or anything else of the sort.  If you were separated by more than a few tens of miles of distance the long-distance charges made sitting on the phone for an hour at a time punitively expensive and nobody could afford it.  Your only reasonable answer to a desire to say more than a few sentences for a birthday or other major life event was to sit down and write an actual letter and stick a stamp on it, then wait days for delivery and a reply.  You only did it on any sort of regular basis if the person you were corresponding with was an actual true friend or more; acquaintances, even those you call "family", you spoke with for 5 minutes on the phone on a birthday or anniversary, and perhaps you saw them over the holidays for dinner when one or the other of you traveled.  Most people had two or three such correspondents and no more simply because you had to invest a material amount of time to write said letters and there were only a few people who were worth it.

The number of people worth it in your life has not changed folks; instead interaction has been cheapened to the point of worthlessness.

How many posts do you think I've made on my Facepig timeline this year?


One talking about Facepig's spammy ads and two more being single-sentence replies to someone else's post.

Let me count that again for you folks: THREE.

Yeah, I've made a handful of other comments, but in terms of timeline posts -- it's three and only one of substance.  The other two were the prototypical 2 minute pre-cellular phone call.

I'm not trying to expand my reach on the Internet for monetary gain.  If I was then yes, it would make some sense for me to post things on Internet sites; that's called advertising.  But I'm not.

I have zero interest in posting my "personal triumphs" and gloating about them on social media.  My ego is simply not that large.  If you're interested in knowing what I'm doing and whether I happen to take satisfaction in some accomplishment then you probably know how to get ahold of me personally and we can share that.  It might actually mean something to both of us in that case.

More to the point if you wish to call me friend then you won't expect me to find your events, triumphs or whatever on Facepig.  You'll think enough of me to call, recognizing that if I don't answer immediately it's not because I don't like you but because I might be having dinner, mowing the lawn or in the middle of one of the three Ss of life -- and if you choose to leave a message I'll call you back when I can devote some time to us.  Ditto with a text; I might reply right away, but if not it's as likely to be because I'm under my car changing the oil or cleaning the gutters on the house as anything else.  You know, part of that daily ****, shower and shave routine.

Do I look here and there at Facepig? Yes.  But what I see is what I talk about above.  Is it worth my "engagement" in the general sense?  No; I recognize that not one bit of that will ever translate into changing the necessity of my life which, just like yours no matter how rich or poor you are revolves around ****, shower and shave.

But what said "engagement" will do, if I embrace it, is make me less-happy and more-miserable.

It must, because by its nature it portrays a fantasy that nobody can actually live.  Zucker****er knew this originally and in fact had "girl rating" pages on his Haaaarrrrrvvvaaarrrddd site which were exactly as "nice" as you might expect they'd be.  You don't really think he forgot that, do you, nor their popularity with his "friends" -- right?  (BTW what's his wife think about that?  I bet a few billion dollars makes her not care and that tells me everything I need to know about her.)

No, what Zucker****er did was turn your increased misery and reduced happiness into billions of dollars for him.  The founders of Snap and all the other so-called "social media" have done likewise.  They don't even give a **** if the misery their "engagement" contributes to causes nine teens to kill themselves in one semester at a given local school.  What's even worse is that they've done all of that in concert with people like John Legere, the brash CEO of T-Mobile who, along with Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, charge you in both money and slower performance, never mine crappier battery life, to deliver ads for the sole purpose of capitalizing on your decreased happiness.  Any of those carriers could put a stop to a large part of it in an afternoon by putting in place a switch you can turn on in your account that blocks all common advertising domains.

This would not be a "net neutrality" violation since you would choose to turn it on, not them.

But none have, and none will.

They won't because misery is profitable.

People who are truly happy don't need to spend on "aspirational" things.  They certainly don't need $1,000 iFrauds to make them feel good.  Miserable people are another matter; that smiling face with a nice big fat $1,000 iFraudy phone is a "message" they can try to get you to bite on, with the hope that it might make you smile -- at least until you see someone on a cruise, at which point you're back to being unhappy because you need to ****, shower and shave while Jane is on Facepig with a $5,000 vacation smile and a fat Mai Tai in her hand.

None of these apps are on my phone folks.  If I want to look at Facepig I'll do it on a browser, which I can close when done so it can't root around in my device and steal information on whatever else I'm doing.  I don't do "messenger", Snap or any of those others for the same reason.

You shouldn't either, and if you stop doing all of them I predict you will smile more.

Oh, and you'll also pay less -- in both misery and money.

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