Howdy All, a few Interesting Items for your information. Enjoy –
In this issue –
2. Rare Earths
1. Trials. A pair of guilty verdicts in two very different trials from last week.
- Frist was the guilty verdict of Ghislaine Maxwell on 5 of 6 counts of sex trafficking for being Jeffery Epstein’s procurer. Epstein catered to the well-connected by fixing them up with underage sexual partners. Several of these testified against Maxwell, as did pilots. While there were many names dropped during the trial, the feds did not prosecute named Epstein’s clients. There was a brief flurry of tweets about the court sealing Epstein and Maxwell address books. I have seen both sides of this story and have yet to figure out how fake this news actually is. Most infuriating is the complete and utter failure of both the FIB and DoJ to go after Maxwell but not the people Maxwell did the procuring for. As the months continue to go by, the FIB looks more and more like a Praetorian Guard tasked with protecting the UniParty from all outside threats.
- Second trial was the conviction of former Minnesota police officer Kim Poter on two counts of first-degree manslaughter. Potter was in the process of an arrest when the perp attempted to drive away. She grabbed a firearm instead of the taser she was thinking (and yelling) she was grabbing, shooting and killing the perp. Andrew Branca writing in Legal Insurrection, refers to the conviction as a blatant miscarriage of justice. First, she was overcharged. Second, the definition of first-degree manslaughter requires that the State prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the risk created by Potter was one she was aware of and disregarded. At worst, what she did was negligence. The judge allowed the prosecution to diddle the definition of both first- and second-degree manslaughter during the trial and during her instructions to the jury. The prosecution never argued that Potter was aware she had a gun in her hand, which would have made her aware she was creating a risk and consciously disregarding that risk. The state created a new theory of manslaughter that has no basis in actual state law and the judge allowed them to get away with it.
2. Rare Earths. If you had created a defacto monopoly in the production and sale of rare earths and other related industrial metals, what is the first thing you start doing once you realize you now hold that monopoly? You start organizing to exercise and maintain that monopoly. Such is the case with the CCP, which has a couple stories last week about them exercising and organizing that newly created monopoly.
- First story is on the organizing side, where the CCP approved the merger of multiple companies and assets from a province into what they will call the China Minmetals Rare Earth Company. The company will be controlled by an arm of the Chinese government, ostensibly to “… optimize resources, ensure security, and enforce stricter rules relating to production quality as well as the export volume of rare earths.” Most of the language is Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy media BS. The important part is the last one, easier control of production and exports. Frankly, I am a bit surprised that their production was as fragmented as it claimed to be. But as we have seen in innumerable examples, withdrawal from a competitive marketplace will only result in making production of that product – any product – more expensive, less agile, and less competitive. No problem that, at least in the eyes of the CCP engineers, as we will use this big new shiny hammer on all our competitors overseas. Yeah, right. Tell that to DoD here in the US which actively advocated the consolidation of US aerospace companies for decades, leading to a couple behemoths that produce very expensive equipment in small quantities with varying degrees of effectiveness. My prediction is short term gain as they bluntly exercise their power in an arbitrary and capricious manner, followed by long term disaster as their former customers figure out how to do the same thing without the materials the CCP hopes to sell. Monopolies never work. Even for the CCP.
- Second story is an exercise of that newfound monopoly power, this one being a new limit on production of magnesium, which is banging on the supply chain. Today, about 85% of the metal is produced by China. The limits are blamed on an energy shortage which led to a government ordered shutdown of smelters and energy rationed to factories. China has a coal shortage which has led directly to an energy shortage. As the Soviets found out, it is really difficult to manage everything in an economy and expect it to work. One of the reasons China saw its stunning economic improvement over the last few decades was that they adopted free market principles. However, as he consolidates power, President Xi is going the opposite direction which won’t help. Do I think the energy shortage is real? Likely. Do I think they are simply exercising their newfound monopoly? Possibly. I really think it is both, as they are using the energy shortage as an excuse to do something they’ve wanted to do for a while to see what happens.
3. Salmon. A fun article from Craig Medred described how the melting glaciers here in Alaska are benefitting salmon returns. Here’s how it works. Salmon are gregarious. Though they generally return to whatever body of water they left as fry to spawn, there are an appreciable percentage of fish that don’t, choosing instead to nose into other rivers and streams to spawn. Over time, this exploration and spawning tends to establish runs in the newfound waters, spreading out the population, making it much more difficult to kill the species off. Here in Alaska, the most remaining glaciated part of the state is Southeast, the fjords, streams, islands, rivers, and glaciers of that part of the state. The bend near Glacier Bay National Park, Wrangell – St Elias has an ice cap with glaciers into the salt water. Since the end of the last Great Ice Age, that ice has melted (as usual), the glaciers melted back, exposing creek and riverbeds to inquisitive salmon. Unlike the breathless claims of the glo-warmers and climatistas, this time around, manmade global warming due to CO2 emissions (their term), is creating salmon habitat. Perhaps we ought to do more of it, providing we can figure out how.
4. Batteries. Don’t know if this is good news or bad news. Perhaps a bit of both, likely good news for the wrong reasons. Electrek reported last week that there at least 13 new battery factories, big ones, under construction and should be online by 2025. Jennifer Granholm’s Department of Energy issued a report that most of the new plants will be joint ventures between auto makers and battery manufacturers. The bad news is that this all falls out of the federal push toward electric vehicles, complete with federal dollars, rules, regulations, and all the graft associated with the green world (yes, that means you, Jennifer). The good news is that battery technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. How soon it gets to an operable electric vehicle remains to be seen. However, you can see the progress these days at your local Lowe’s, Home Depot or similar hardware store where the battery-operated power and garden tools are rapidly replacing the gasoline and plug-in tools. And nobody out of California is forcing that to happen (to the best of my knowledge). Whatever falls out of this improvement in tech, I do expect Elon Musk to be in the middle of pushing the technology.
5. Pills. Interesting dichotomy on FDA approval and disapproval of drugs and their distribution. Contrast if you will, the approval of the so-called morning after pill for over the counter sale without prescription in 2006, with the active collaboration between the FDA and USPS to block shipment of ivermectin here in the US. Those of us in the dietary supplement world are watching this closely, as it is only a small step from actively working to block sale and delivery of ivermectin, a drug the FDA does not agree with, to block sale and distribution of dietary supplements and vitamins, few of which have received official FDA study or approval.
6. Pronouns. Nothing like attention to your assigned mission to train and equip an effective fighting force. Last week, the wokesters in charge of the USAF authorized the use of personal pronouns in electronic signature blocks for official e-mail correspondence. The newly formed (after the Harris – Xiden inauguration) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning Initiative Team came up with this little gem to help “… identify and work to resolve issues that impede the success of LGBTQ(WTF) airmen and Guardians…” As of today, the use of these things are optional, which I don’t figure to last long. Once the thrice vaxxed SECDEF kicks his COVID, I do expect these things to be mandatory. Might be an interesting discussion when folks choose pronouns that aren’t on the approved list. OTOH, the dissidents might already have been purged by now.
7. FAA. The Harris – Xiden administration has become increasingly hostile to non-government spaceflight. Two examples from last week. First, the FAA changed the date of their environmental review for the next Starship launch from Dec 31 to Feb 28. The review is required before SpaceX launches again. The FAA claims they received over 18,000 comments and are taking longer than expected to complete their review. I wonder how many of these came from Bezos’ Blue Origin. Note also that there are some residents of the Boca Chica area that are not all that enamored with SpaceX and road closures during launch windows. The second story comes from Firefly Aerospace, which put its preparations for a second launch on hold pending a divestment request from the Committee on Foreign Investments. The request is for one of Firefly’s investors, Noosphere Venture Partners, a fund run by Ukrainian-born investor Max Polyakov, to sell his 50% stake in the company due to “national defense concerns.” The first launch in Sept successfully got off the ground, flew for a couple minutes before exploding. This is the second attempt to fly out of Vandenberg in California. Noosphere purchased Firefly in 2017 following its bankruptcy. Aerospace observers are starting to question the increase in regulator speedbumps thrown out by Harris – Xiden toward the end of the year.
8. DAO. A Directed Autonomous Organization (DAO) may be the Next Big Thing in management and organization of groups. It is defined as an organization represented by rules encoded as a transparent computer program, controlled by members, and not influenced by any other entity (like a government). It falls out of the blockchain world, intended to answer the question: How can we exchange values in a trusted environment? The organization has programmed rules, functions autonomously, and is coordinated through a consensual protocol. It is also decentralized. Bitcoin is referred to as the first fully functional DAO. I don’t think I understand much about this but find it sufficiently interesting to keep on the radar screen, for I think we are going to be hearing about these a lot more in the months and years to come. On a related note, anyone else note the complete collapse of the management books so popular in the 1980s – 1990s? Tom Peters, Jack Welch were two prominent authors. Why did they all go away? One answer from Scott Adams was the rise of Dilbert, which spent decades lampooning everything in these books, killing they off completely via a massive ridicule injection. Once the recommendations in those books were demonstrated to be garbage, people ended up going elsewhere.
More later –