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Mark's Market Blog

#429 7-12-17: Illinois. And friends.

By Mark Lawrence

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Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the banking system is "very much stronger" due to Fed supervision and higher capital levels and another financial crisis is unlikely "in our lifetime." Fund manager Richard Breslow replied, "She's delusional." The Fed has indicated they're interested in bringing down the stock market gradually; unfortunately their actions have had no affects, seemingly showing they've lost control of this monster.

S&P 500 January 4 2017 to June 30 2017

The US sent a destroyer into the S.China sea in areas we consider international waters and China considers theirs. China responded by sending two frigates and several aircraft into the area. China has recently put anti-ship missiles onto these islands. The area in question is between Vietnam and China, with both countries about 300 km away. Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, recently criticized China's activity in the region. "China is using its military and economic power to erode the rules-based international order. Fake islands should not be believed by real people." This situation continues to get more tense. To show his displeasure with China's half- hearted efforts on N.Korea, Trump sold a bit over $1 billion worth of military hardware to Taiwan. China is livid.

Trump, overriding most of his cabinet, wants orders prepared for import duties on several goods from China, Germany and others. I have mixed feelings about this: trade wars never benefit anyone; however I'm sick of the US being the importer of last resort for the world and exporting all our jobs.

Big day Friday. The Illinois legislature had until midnight to pass their first budget in three years, or have their bond rating reduced to junk. Connecticut has failed to pass a budget. Both states have been run by liberals for years; both have completely out of control pension plans that are bankrupting them; and both states are having businesses and wealthy people leaving the states in record numbers. The governor of Connecticut has signed an executive order taking control of spending. He's keeping the government open but cutting most other services drastically. Illinois' house and senate passed $5 billion in new taxes, but no budget cuts. Republican governor Rauner vowed to veto it. They have $15 billion in unpaid bills and have accumulated $800 million in interest charges. They're broke. And now, as of friday, a judge has ordered them to pay off the $3 billion owed to hospitals and providers for medicaid. They simply don't have this money. The judge could just as well have ordered me to pay off the $3 billion. "Socialism works until you run out of other people's money." Their universities are being cut to the bone, road repair crews are being laid off, lawsuits are flying left and right. Illinois is political moments away from being a failed state.

The governor of Maine has refused to sign his state's budget as it includes tax increases. The Maine government is in the process of shutting down. In a radio interview yesterday, Republican Governor Paul LePage warned he will reject any budget deal that does not cut income taxes. LePage said he would declare a state of civil emergency if a budget is not reached by midnight, which would keep state police, prisons, parks and tax collection services open but close most other aspects of state government. "I will tell you this: If they put a tax increase, get ready for a shutdown. End of story," LePage said on Maine's WGAN radio. "They're playing chicken at 100 miles per hour and I'm telling you something, you want to play chicken, let's play chicken."

Gov Christie has just refused to sign the new Jersey budget and partially shut down the nj gov. The fight is over health insurers. Gov Christie thinks excess profits should be returned to the nj gov. The nj speaker disagrees.

Science stuff: Elon Musk thinks we can send 1,000,000 people to Mars in the next 100 years. This is really not happening.

Once you pass the Earth's Van Allen belt, our protective magnet field, you are directly subject to all the worst radiation the sun and outer space can throw at you, and that's a lot. Just on the journey to Mars you would likely have a quarter or more of your DNA destroyed.

Mars has essentially no magnetic field, so no Van Allen Belt. You're getting hit by radiation just as bad on Mars as you were on the flight there.

Mars has a CO2 atmosphere, so you have to bring your own air. And a whole bunch of it: Mars has very very little in the way of atmosphere. The atmosphere at the top of Mt.Everest is 50 times as dense as the Martian atmosphere, and, trust me on this, you don't do very well at the top of Mt.Everest - even people with their own oxygen bottles frequently get altitude sickness.

Elon would like you to believe we can bring plants and make oxygen. Yah, that's not happening on a planet scale. Mars apparently has a fair bit of water, but it's all frozen, so you need to bring a few nuclear reactors to warm it and thaw it. Meanwhile, any water you set free either refreezes quickly or escapes the planet's gravity entirely. If you can keep a bit liquid, then you can breed photosynthetic bacteria - the same guys who turned our atmosphere from reducing to oxygen. It took them a billion years on Earth. Mars is colder and has less sunlight, it will not be done in a few months. Perhaps we can bio-engineer a nice tent around a small city, a city which has a nice nuclear reactor or two supplying heat and light; that's about it for quite a while. Meanwhile, you're still getting radioactively cooked in your little tent city.

Or perhaps there will be a nuclear tent city, but only bacteria and algae will live there. Meanwhile all the people will live a hundred feet underground. Lots of big screen TVs so you can see pictures of blue skies and mountains and oceans and such. But you're in the cave most of the time for the rest of your "natural" life. Hiking, skiing, bicycling, water sports, yah, forget all that stuff. Think stationary bicycles. And because of the low gravity, expect to spend a couple hours a day sweating away on one. Or lose most of your bone mass.

Perhaps we will send people to Mars, and perhaps even in the next 20 or 30 years. But current thinking is it will be a one way trip: no point bringing people back at a cost of perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars per person, just so they can die of some exotic cancer here on Earth just a few months after landing. Right now the thinking is you go to Mars, and you bring a personal Demerol overdose. A few years out, you give yourself a shot and meet your maker, a happy hero.

Don't fall for this sci-fi martian fantasy stuff.

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