Any Chance of a Fair Election in 2016?

Although getting any sort of unanimity on political issues is impossible, you can come close when asserting the need that elections be free, open, and honest.  By that I mean that when someone casts his or her ballot for a particular candidate, that voter should have no doubt that the vote will be counted and counted accurately.  Even those candidates who might like the idea of rigging the ballot in their favor a bit will still publicly claim to support fair elections.

Without Fair Elections, Our System of Government is Sunk

This all makes sense.  After all, if the balloting process is corrupted and people find out, the winning candidates will lose legitimacy and their tenure in office will be under a cloud of suspicion.  None of this benefits the office holders, the voters, or our system of government.  Quite the opposite.  Office holders are then seen as usurpers, and thus their decisions are viewed as invalid even if followed.

All that aside, reality seldom matches the ideal.  So it’s reasonable to expect that when counting tens of millions of votes that there will be some errors.  And there will also be a few shady stunts pulled as well.  As long as the margins between the winning and losing candidates are large enough, irregularities are usually just brushed aside as unfortunate, but not enough to have impacted the outcome.  If the margin of victory is wafer-thin, then it’s a very different story.

Two Twentieth Century Elections as Examples

Restricting our discussion to the last half of the twentieth century, there are two presidential elections that stand out:  1960 and 2000.

1960:  Kennedy vs. Nixon

The 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon is instructive partly because of the alleged voting fraud in Chicago under the supervision of the Daley political machine.  In this case, the possible irregularities were significant since Kennedy’s vote tally in Chicago essentially awarded him the presidency.  It is also instructive because even with allegations of a rigged election and vote counting process, the country as a whole accepted the results of the election and the presidency of JFK as valid.

2000:  Bush vs. Gore and the Hanging Chads

The 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore is interesting for a very different reason.  The controversy that erupted on election night didn’t center on accusations of voter fraud by one of the campaigns, but rather on the inability of the ballot counting system to generate an accurate result.  So the election result was not called into question primarily because of fraud, but due to mechanical failure.  Hence we had the notorious case of the “hanging chad.”

For those who might have missed all of this, machine vote counting used in this election depended on each spot on the punch-card ballot being either left solid or punched cleanly through by the voter depending on his or her choice.  What went wrong was that some of the punch cards were not punched properly by the voters, leaving the intended choice of candidates in doubt as the machines couldn’t determine the voters’ intentions without cleanly punched holes in the ballot cards.

With the difference in the vote totals between the two candidates measured in the hundreds, and Florida being the state at that point that would decide who became president, the pressure became intense.  We can remember the images of election judges examining each punch-card in an attempt to determine how the voter actually intended to cast his or her ballot.  As soon as things get that subjective in counting the ballots that will decide who goes to the White House, the decision will wind up being determined in the courts.

With one recount barely favoring George W. Bush, the Supreme Court intervened and ruled against Al Gore’s claim and ended the recounting, effectively giving Bush the presidency with a majority of Electoral College votes while a minority of the popular vote.  It was a recipe for continuing controversy and accusations that Bush’s presidency would be illegitimate.  And that’s what Americans got.

Clinton vs. Trump

This election has been extraordinary for so many reasons.

Neither candidate has a positive popularity rating, and much of the disapproval approaches downright hatred.

Groups like WikiLeaks and Project Veritas have given an unprecedented look into the inside workings of the campaigns, especially the Clinton campaign, and have revealed what are, if accurately reported, criminal actions to rig the vote.

One candidate, Mrs. Clinton, as well as her associates, have been under a continuing investigation by the FBI for fraud.  The email scandal involves  allegations that Mrs. Clinton, during her tenure as secretary of state, stored and transferred classified materials using private, non-secure means which is a felony.

Her and Bill’s Clinton Foundation is also under investigation for influence peddling and “pay to play” schemes where large foreign donors to the Foundation were given preferred access to the secretary of state and other favors from Mrs. Clinton.

We also have the spectacle of the Clinton campaign hiring thugs to disrupt Trump rallies, and in particular to bully women who would dare to betray their gender by showing up to support Trump.  This isn’t a matter of theory, either.  Officials of organizations retained by the Clinton campaign have been fired when leaked emails and hidden videos recorded by Project Veritas revealed their perfidy.

The investigations are continuing through election day.

Mr. Trump has not been immune from damaging revelations either.  A tape turned up that was made eleven years ago revealing some highly offensive comments made at the time by Mr. Trump about women.  The effort may have been made to write it off as juvenile “locker-room” talk, but the damage was done.  Mr. Trump was portrayed as a man who had a pretty aggressive sexual appetite.

Not to be outdone in the sexual scandal arena, old allegations of sexual abuse and rape allegedly committed by Bill Clinton surfaced.  It is questionable just how much impact this had, but it did serve to remind voters of the sleaze that never seems to be far from Mr. Clinton.

I could go on and discuss things such as the bizarre sexual behaviors in which both John Podesta who is Hillary’s campaign chairman and Anthony Weiner who is the husband of Hillary confidant Huma Abedin have been implicated, but it’s safe just to say that this has been one of the sleaziest and most viciously fought campaigns in memory.  Campaign ads and statements by the candidates themselves only reinforce the negative opinion the majority of voters have regarding both candidates.

So Will There be a Fair Election in 2016?

I doubt it — and writing that does not make me happy.  Crooked elections are a disaster for the Republic, compromise the legitimacy of the winners, and humiliate the country in front of a world that closely watches what happens in America.  And bogus elections infuriate the voters.

There are already reports, in the mainstream media no less, of electronic voting machines flipping Trump votes to Clinton.  Officials might point out that these are problems that can and will be fixed, but you have to wonder why the reports are only of Trump votes flipping to Clinton and not the other way around. (The election is in progress as this article is being completed.)

And it’s unlikely that media outlets like CBS are only reporting the instances of Trump voters having trouble getting the machines to register their votes for their choice.  After all, these media organizations are much more likely to be supportive of Mrs. Clinton.  So if Clinton votes were being flipped by these infernal machines to Trump, reports of this would clearly be hitting the news sites.

How We Get a Fair Election

Honestly, I see really only one way that this year-and-a-half-long ordeal ends fairly.  And that’s if one candidate wins with such a blow-out total of electoral votes that all the problems with voting machines, illegal campaign tactics, and outright voter fraud are not large enough to make a difference.

On the other hand, if we have a close election, where the decision rests on one or two states with extremely close popular votes, we can expect legions of attorneys filing an equally unprecedented number of lawsuits that cast doubt over the results for perhaps weeks on end, much like we experienced in 2000.  It’s not a happy prospect with a happy ending.

May we be spared of that fate.

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Why Don’t Our Experiences Match Government Statistics?

If you buy groceries, you might notice a disconnect between what you experience at the store and the number you read in the news regarding inflation.  If you receive Social Security you may wonder why your benefits seem to buy less even though you get no increase because price inflation is supposedly extremely low.
The answer is simple.  Government economic statistics are wrong.  Or, at least, they don’t match the reality people experience.
The good guy who runs explains it all to us.  (I am a subscriber only and receive no benefits if you purchase a subscription.)
In a nutshell …
If you figure unemployment stats they way they were prior to 1980, the number would be about 22% which is almost Great Depression levels.
The reason we don’t see bread-lines in the streets is because almost 60 million are on food stamps which works out to about 1 in 6 in the United States.  Great economy you have rolling there Barak.
And inflation is deliberately massaged down using “hedonics” and other voodoo so the government doesn’t have to give Social Security recipients cost-of-living increases.
Can a nation thrive with all the fraud going on?  If so, how long?  I don’t know.
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Retirees Are the New Endangered Species

Sunday morning here in the Midwest sees the local iHop busy with folks just getting out of church. Many of those customers are senior citizens –  retirees. If I’m right, this will change over the next few years. Why and it what way are topics I plan to address in the coming months.

People underestimate the probability of things going terribly wrong for the economy or for their own finances. Maybe they don’t have the capacity to work through what they would do if their finances blew up. Perhaps they think that their pensions, 401k and IRA funds, and Social Security are secure. Perhaps they have no point of reference when it comes to mass failure of institutions on which they had placed their financial hopes.  Whatever the reason, the hope and confidence that millions have placed in financial intermediaries and governments for a secure retirement are going to turn to disappointment and despair.

Thing are already getting frayed at the edges. For example, how many members of the Teamsters Central States Fund expected to get a cut in retirement benefits by at least 60%?  Can other pension funds blow up?  Of course.  And they will.  We just don’t know who’ll be next and when.

Pension funds are massively underfunded, just like Medicare and Social Security.  Benefit cuts are assured.  Retirees need to have at least a Plan B if not a Plan C to implement in case they are determined to be “too wealthy” to continue to receive full Medicare or SS benefits.  Means testing is likely.

There is no agency that can backstop even a very small percentage of private pension funds if they go insolvent.  Well, the government could just print the billions or trillions needed and put the money into people’s bank accounts.  But we know what that would cause.

I’m not the first one to say it, “The most endangered species in the US is the retiree.”

Surviving this pension fund pile-up is more a matter of getting the underlying causes of market moves and disruptions right so the right strategy is employed at the right time.  Such information will likely not be provided to the retail investor by the brokerages.  I mean, did they issue the warning in 2000 or 2006-08?  Okay, so why would one think they would do so now?

So we all have to ask ourselves what we’d do if the value of the income we receive in our retirements were to drop by 50% or more.  What if the components of one’s IRA or 401k cratered and the government stepped in to “bail you out” by replacing the securities in your retirement fund with 30-year Treasuries earning 3% that cannot be sold or redeemed until maturity?

Maybe it won’t happen.  Maybe it will be worse.  Even if I were a world-class expert at analyzing macroeconomic data and government statistics, what good is that if the data is manipulated?

Those of us who are not yet retired need to get to work on this at once.  One possibility is creating a micro business that one can carry into retirement.  After all, there are only so many stores that need greeters.

I the pension disaster materializes as I expect, Grandma and Grandpa will be off to iHop one Sunday morning, but this time as employees rather than as customers.

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Russia, Israel, Iraq, Goldman, Sex and More

(The following is one of my “classics” that was written in July of 2014.  I post it now as a testimony to our government’s inability to fix the world since most of it reads like it could have been written today. See what you think.)

I feel compelled to write to you tonight. But on what topic shall I write? I’m pulled in so many directions. I try to avoid being classified as “doom enthusiast,” but it’s tough to ignore the things that are going wrong world-wide. Some of them might very well smack us right in our tail-ends. Let’s take a brief inventory and see if I can pick something out on which I can focus my meager analytical abilities.

  • Iraq is deteriorating into just about what one would expect: a failed state. Now this ISIS outfit seems to have reached Baghdad, and unconfirmed reports claim it has either taken or is shelling Baghdad International Airport. So much for trillions of dollars and a whole lot of injured or dead U. S. soldiers over the years. Not to mention the horrible conditions the people of Iraq have had to endure. The area is no stranger to religious wars, so what did the fools who started and perpetuated all this Iraq war stuff expect? World improvement is not a discipline in which governments have had many successes. But persist they will. Blockheads.
  • Closer to home, our southern border with Mexico is solid as a sieve. If there’s a policy for handling those streaming into our country, I sure cannot discern what it is. It’s not even clear who is responsible for dealing with the situation. I’m all for people having the opportunity to pursue a better life. In fact, I happen to be in that category. But this is out of control. And shouldn’t the leadership of Mexico be embarrassed by the fact that so many want to get out of their country?
  • Hamas is launching its notoriously poorly-directed rockets into Israel. I’ve never seen one of their rockets, but they must sort of be like jumbo-sized bottle rockets. You set the thing off and are just happy it doesn’t turn around and hit you in the butt. Israel has no such limitations. They have plenty of munitions that can hit the target. And they’re not afraid to use them. For some strange reason each fool who takes over the White House makes a magnificently futile effort to fix this problem between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s like some ritual they have to follow. Lemmings, the bunch of them.
  • President Putin made some remarks in the last day or so that could be considered to be distinctly uncharitable to the U. S. government. I recommend you read those remarks. I also recommend caution in dealing with him. Unlike Hamas, Mr. Putin’s weapons are unlikely to miss their targets. I actually have respect for Mr. Putin. Not that I’d want him as our leader, but he actually makes statements that sound like they make sense. And he hasn’t invaded Ukraine yet, and that makes me happy. So, at great risk to my reputation, I’m prepared to accept that he might not be a blockhead. Perhaps he’s being sincere. Or perhaps he’s just playing a very carefully planned game of chess. But I’m pretty sure he should not be ignored.
  • While on the subject of Mr. Putin, reports are that he’s trying to create an anti-U.S. dollar alliance of countries. Not that I blame him. Anyone who wants to sit on a pile of federal reserve notes or US treasuries is a lunatic in my opinion. The monetary and fiscal policies being pursued in the US are certainly not dollar positive. The great masses of US citizens are blissfully unaware of all of this. Although they are starting to figure out from their visits to the grocery store that something’s not right with the economy. I suspect they will be given plenty of additional evidence of the weakness of our economy in the near future.
  • I know very well what hyperinflation is. It’s not just jumbo-sized inflation, but rather a repudiation of the currency itself. The value of the currency drops so dramatically in so short a period of time that it collapses into worthlessness, devastating the country. I’ve been listening to well-educated and well-informed economists and investors predict hyperinflation for the US for some time. It seems like the date of its predicted inception keeps getting pushing into the future by these economists making us wonder how serious the threat really is. Since I’ve been accused of being a “doom enthusiast” I’m not going to declare the threat of hyperinflation to be just a phantom. I’m prepared to believe the threat is real — it’s just that timing problem again. Why do I believe the threat is real? Because many of the factors that have lead to hyperinflation in other countries are firmly in place here. John Williams seems like a level-headed and very bright economist. His site can be a big help for those exploring this disturbing topic.
  • Another disturbing topic is the current news about Goldman Sachs. They stand accused by a group of former female employees of, well, I’ll let you read an excerpt from the Bloomberg news story yourselves: “Women report a ‘boy’s club’ atmosphere, where binge drinking is common and women are either sexualized or ignored,” according to the [court] filing. While I abhor this behavior, if it did indeed happen, the lunacy of this is that of all the things Goldman could be accused of… You can finish that sentence yourselves.

See? Look what happens. I don’t even scratch the surface in making a list of the things gone haywire only to find that this blog post has gone on long enough. I clearly need to do a better job of planning what I want to say to you. I recognize the struggle it must be for you to plow through my musings. I only hope you are rewarded in some way or another for considering what I’ve laid out before you.

Thank you for reading. Peace.

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The US Government Hoarding Disorder

We’re all familiar with those poor souls who are plagued with what’s called a hording disorder. You’ve seen them on television specials, perhaps. Or maybe you live with one.  Their entire houses are often filled with junk that is remarkable in its volume and uselessness. And sometimes it gets so severe that it’s hard for family members to find any space even to live. I believe its one manifestation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD.

I have some friends who’ve had to deal with this illness, and it can have disastrous consequences.  The wife/mother kept so much junk that whole areas of the garage and basement not to mention closets were inaccessible.  Her case was relatively mild in that they did have rooms with enough free space that family members could have a bed and get some sleep.  But not much else.

The problem resolved itself, at least temporarily, when the house finally caught fire, effectively cleaning out her stash of junk.  Fortunately, no one was injured.  All in all it was a small mercy.  Insurance to the rescue.  However it remains to be seen if the house, now reconstructed, will once again get filled with useless items.  Unless her problem has been dealt with, the answer is probably yes.

It occurs to me that our federal government has the same problem.  Only instead of hoarding junk it hoards programs and departments that have no relevancy to current needs.  Unlike a room full of junk at home, maintaining useless programs and departments have a real financial cost.

The excuses are so similar.  “Well, it might come in useful someday,” would be one.  “You never know when we’ll need that and it would be awful to be without it,” is another.  Examples?

One would be the Selective Service System.  Right now a debate is raging as to whether the nation should register women as well as men.  What about a debate as to whether we still need an agency that has had nothing to do since the early 1970’s?  Do we really think a military situation is going to erupt that will require the rapid infusion of new draftees?  Especially when such a large portion of top military brass wants nothing to do with conscripts but vastly prefers volunteers?

I just happened to choose Selective Service since it’s in the news.  You can choose the programs and agencies you wish for further examples of Government Hoarding Disorder.  In fact, you should do that.  Not only you, but so should your friends and acquaintances.  Suggest it to them.

Why?  Simple.  People commonly have their “special programs” that they don’t think the nation can do without.  And if citizens have those preferences, you can guarantee that legislators, not to mention those leading those government agencies and programs, feel even stronger.

Assuming elected leadership agrees and wishes to satiate its limitless desire for growing the government, Government Hoarding Disorder will be yet one more contributor to national bankruptcy.

Of all the presidents who served within the collective memories of those living in the US today, Ronald Reagan is probably remembered as the foremost exponent of limiting the size of government.  In fact, in his campaign against incumbent Jimmy Carter, candidate Reagan criticized the Department of Energy as useless.  Yet, somehow, that department continues today.

If Reagan was unwilling or unable to get rid of a department he deemed useless, what’s the chance of one of the current contenders for the office of president doing so?  Nil.

Hence it may well be that our case of Government Hoarding Disorder will continue until our national financial house burns down.

By the way, who is it who said that there is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program?

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Yellen Calling

April 1, 2016

Gold is still stuck in this trading-range between 1210 and 1242. The drop today coincided exactly with the release of the non-farm payrolls report, bouncing right at support at 1210.30 before recovering about half of its daily loss, taking us back to where we were a couple of days ago. Once we get a good, solid close above 1250 that holds for a couple of days we should start to see some fireworks to the upside.

In the, “And you thought we had freely-trading markets” department, the Fed has released Yellen’s daily schedule. So happens that a few days ago she made two telephone calls, one to the president of the Bank of England and another call to the president of the European Central Bank. Each call was for 40 minutes. Just coincidentally, of course, the S&P 500 was in decline just before those two calls.  And again, just coincidentally, it rallied  substantially immediately after those calls were concluded.

Once manipulation destroys the price-discovery function that is what markets are supposed to be all about, you have a broken financial system with traditional analysis methods rendered much less useful. I don’t know how this all will end or when, but it’s not going to be good. On the other hand, maybe things will just continue with this phenomenon, just shifting from one market to another – seems hard to believe, though.

I have a hunch that the market will tire of being pushed around, and will rebel.  It’s going to be really interesting to see what that looks like – something I look forward to with great eagerness.

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A Safer Way to Lose All Your Money

January 31, 2016

I’m  wondering if there are consequences for the incredible increases in debt at all levels, but especially at the federal level, that have be incurred during the current administration and its predecessors. And if so, what those consequences will be. Seven years of next to zero-interest rates, and what’s the result? Could anyone have even proposed such a policy ten or twenty years ago without being written off as a nutcase? And I don’t think the Fed knows what to do.

To some degree, this is a referendum on the various schools of economics, although I doubt it will ever be widely seen as such. Let’s see if this rally in the S&P 500 that got such a boost on Friday has legs or whether it’s a head-fake. If it continues to build on strength over the next couple of weeks, then perhaps the bear case is repudiated or at least postponed. If it flops and we start seeing it close below around 1850 for a few days in a row, then I would be more concerned. Well, I would be if I had substantial long equity or bond exposure, which I don’t. So, personally, I’m just interested in the equity markets to the degree they affect the price of gold.

By the way, what are the equity guys doing over there? Major indices can’t get any traction. Any rebound seems to run into selling pressure. Selling the rallies instead of buying the dips is not what an equity bull wants to see. You aren’t getting ready to stage a major bear market, are you?

Equity markets sure didn’t like what Janet had to say today, although gold got a temporary boost. If the S&P 500 finishes out this week around 1,850 or lower there’s going to be a growing belief that the action over the past three months really has been the market putting in a top. Once that belief takes hold, rallies will be sold until the market proves otherwise. I’m not a perma-bear, but bear markets do happen – just normal events. The market will tell us if we’re entering one or not.

I’ve done better trading futures than I did with stocks. It’s kind of funny, though. Conventional wisdom is that trading futures is very risky. Well, futures are very volatile, and leverage does magnify any moves.

I guess the prevailing thought is that being in the wrong stocks at the wrong time is just a much safer way to lose all of one’s money than through trading futures. I’m thinking that because of the massive government intervention in the markets over the past couple of decades or so that people have forgotten how risky stocks can be. We’ll see if officials can permanently levitate equity prices, or whether Mr. Bear is still alive and capable of doing his work.

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Yellen, Putin, and Financial Insolvency

December 19, 2015

So, Yellen & Team targeted the Fed Funds rate a quarter-point higher. Got a lot of press. The amusing part of it all is that there are any people left who think that the Fed has any credibility or knows what it’s doing.

But the big story to me was the meeting Kerry had with the Russians. He comes out of the meeting and declares one more of Obama’s “red lines” gone. Apparently now Mr. Assad no longer needs to go – Obama has “seen the light?” Now we are in substantial agreement with the Russians concerning Syria’s and Assad’s future – that it is to be left to the Syrians. The amusing part of it all is that there are any people left who think that Obama has any credibility or knows what he’s doing.

Well, with regard to money and banking, here’s a guy who did know what he was doing – the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. He tells us, “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Human Action, Chapter XX: Interest, Credit Expansion, The Trade Cycle.

A nation cannot continue to expand credit forever to cover deficits as Mises tells us. Given that the US continues to expand its debt via legislation such as that passed under the leadership of Mr. Ryan with help from his partner Mrs. Pelosi, it looks like we are opting for a “final and total catastrophe of the currency system” as opposed to a more gradual adjustment from the voluntary abandonment of credit expansion – something our leaders have proven unwilling to do.

And I have to wonder if perhaps the Russians just explained the economic facts of life to Mr. Kerry. To wit, that if we want to screw with Russia and China that they will initiate actions that will bring the US economy to its knees. If I were the Russians or the Chinese and were fed up with the US, I would use the economic leverage the US government has given them via unprecedented US debt levels. Just speculation on my part.

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Merkel Makes Sense, for Once. Obama Makes Us Nervous.

It doesn’t take much effort these days to find crises in the world. In fact, it takes no effort at all. Just off the top of my head I could come up with several catastrophes already in progress or ready to blow. However, I’m  going to restrain my natural tendency or compulsion to start making another depressing list and get to the point.  I only wish the US government would restrain its compulsion to get involved in the majority of those crises.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel just took a swipe at Washington’s continuous efforts to achieve world hegemony with the statement, “Even a superpower can’t solve all of the problems alone anymore.” Correct. I  might almost find myself respecting her. And to further endear her to me, she made a list. A list of places that US government interference is neither needed nor wanted. Bravo! The only thing I can think of that would have improved her statement is to modify it to say that not only can a superpower not solve all the world’s problems, but that it should not even try.

The only argument I would have with Mrs. Merkel is that her list is way too short. I find it almost impossible to make an exhaustive list of places and conflicts in which Washington has no business involving itself. Yet I’ve got a hunch that list will eventually be made — if nowhere other than in the history books detailing Washington’s foreign policy failures.

I’ve got no particular love for Germany over, say, New Zealand or Canada. And Mrs. Merkel is a politician which automatically puts her on my list of potentially dangerous people. But, being the fair-minded soul that I am, I will admit when I agree with a politician, as painful as that is for me.

On the other side of the ocean from Germany, I find another politician babbling away, making a complete jackass of himself. Yes, sadly, it’s our own Mr. Obama. He’s still reading from the same playbook as his predecessor, Mr. Bush. While Merkel is making some sense, Obama just nauseates me with this zinger, “The United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.” Ugh. An open door to an interventionist foreign policy without any limits. Hubris gone wild. And an acceleration of our drive to utter financial ruin. And the man might actually get us into a real war with thinking like that.

No, Mr. Obama, the US government is not indispensable. And it is only someone consumed with arrogance who would stand up and make such an asinine comment. And if you’ve made the jump from the idea of indispensability to thinking that the government you lead is also virtually omnipotent in world affairs, then things just got really dangerous. Repeat after me, “We do not need nor want another war.”

Mrs. Merkel, would you please telephone Mr. Obama and ask him to take another vacation? If we can find a way to get the poor man to do absolutely nothing for the next couple of years, it would be a big help. And not just for America.

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A Hometown Sample of a World Gone Nuts

I try to write to you every few days. It’s almost like therapy for me. Which is strange because the things I cover are seldom the sort of topics that make for good bedtime stories. I stare face-to-face with a world gone nuts. Not that the world hasn’t gone berserk before. In fact, it’s hard to find an extended period of peace and tranquility in the history of this species.

I last wrote to you after attending a beautiful wedding. It is important to have encouraging things happening in your life. If you focus on the places where the world is coming unhinged and nothing else, your emotional equanimity will be in serious jeopardy. Even if you restrict your focus only on what might be called the “major” hot-spots without a reprieve, you’ll still be headed for mental problems.

I have been especially troubled these past few days over the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri. In saying that I’m not just jumping on the media bandwagon, allowing myself to be drawn to the crisis of the day. I’m not writing about it because it’s the thing to do.

See, Ferguson is my hometown. I grew up there in the 50’s and 60’s and it was a great place. I wish we could use the present tense in that previous sentence because I have so many fond memories of the place. And I wish that the current citizens of that once typical middle-class town could have fond memories, too.  Hopefully they will.

Of course, one shooting does not change the character of a city. But the riots that followed it showed humanity at its worst — and I’m really saddened that my hometown should be the focus of that despicable display.

No doubt in the weeks to come the sociologists, social workers, psychologists and others with similar qualifications will have much to say about this. Many of them will be well worth listening to. And I plan to do so.

No doubt in the weeks to come many politicians will also have much to say about these tragic events in our hometown. If you’ve read much of my material you’ll not be surprised when I say that I don’t expect much helpful from that crowd. I remain steadfastly convinced that what they say will have everything to do about reelection and nothing to do with helping the people of Ferguson recover and find a better way.

I’ll not comment on the appropriateness of the response of the police to all of this. Thankfully, law enforcement is not a career choice I made so I am far from an expert in such matters. That said however, I am deeply troubled by the presence of armored personnel carriers on the streets of American cities, whether needed or not. With protestors throwing rocks and police throwing tear gas grenades the place is starting to look like some middle-eastern cities I could mention. And the resemblance is unpleasant.

There is much happening elsewhere in the world that will impact our lives far more than what’s happening in Ferguson. The snag is that those crises are happening “over there” allowing us to be a bit more detached, while Ferguson landed right in our laps. On a much smaller scale to be sure, but still way too close to home.

I hope that by the next time I write to you the unrest in Ferguson will have settled down and I can focus on events that will have a profound and lasting effect on us. At least we can then be troubled by events occurring half a world away. Amazing, isn’t it? Events on the other side of the globe have more of an impact on our lives than what’s happening in our own hometowns. Maybe that’s for the best?

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