Friday, January 3, 2014

The View from The LA Wall

Hello all, and Happy 2014!

I’ve been away, writing A Secret History of The American Crash. If all goes well, I expect to release it on February 28, 2014

The book is a collage of interviews with witnesses to the American Crash of 2014–2020, put together by a band of underground historians who are persecuted as “Information Terrorists” by the DHS and the Clinton Administration.

This first excerpt contains a bit from Chapter 2, describing the stock market crash of 2014, and life in Los Angeles in 2020.

If you like this first excerpt—or hate it—then say so in the comments section below.

GL

Update: Two things: One, here is a second excerpt from the Secret History, The Bombing of Gachsaran Oil Fields; and two, here is the Facebook page for the novel I set up, with all sorts of cool doodads. Go visit it!

Cheers,

GL
§

Los Angeles: Bryce

A lifelong Angeleno, Bryce* is a 47 year-old, tall, rangy blonde-haired fellow with a friendly smile beneath a well-groomed moustache, and guarded blue eyes that have seen a lot.

We are bicycling along Melrose Avenue in the spring of 2020. We are heading east, looking for a café to chat. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of other bikes and pedicabs are bustling along the busy street in both directions. Stores are open on both sides of the avenue, pedestrians walking along the sidewalks. The sun is shining bright and warm, the air smells of the sea, and everywhere is the incessant jingle of thousands of bicycle bells.

West Los Angeles, it’s clear, is a thriving city.

“It’s right up ahead, on Highland Avenue,” he tells me, as we approach The Wall. Even as we cross North Fairfax—twenty blocks away from it—it is clearly visible directly ahead of us: An enormous dusky brown austere structure towering over the other buildings, without a mark of graffiti on the side facing us. It is wide at the base, slowly tapering towards the top, with round watchtowers every 250 yards or so.

As we get to Highland Avenue, up close, The LA Wall is even more massive and frightening than in the pictures I’ve seen: A reinforced concrete wall averaging 150 feet in height, as tall as a fifteen storey building, perfectly smooth, slicing lengthwise right through the middle of Highland Avenue in a north-south direction.

“Ain’t it somethin’?” asks Bryce jocularly.

It certainly is. The Wall separates Los Angeles’ Westside from the rest of the city.

Bryce points north. “It runs from the Hollywood Freeway north, all the way south to Venice Boulevard,” he says, turning to point. “At Venice, The Wall turns south-west to La Cienega, where it continues south, coming parallel to the 405 freeway. Then at Imperial, it goes west, just south of the airport, all the way into the sea. Everyone east and south of The Wall cannot get in.”

And he’s right: There are no apertures in The LA Wall for its entire 20 mile length. Every 250 yards, there is a watchtower manned by a pair of soldiers behind bullet-proof glass. Their automated machine-guns are immobile: Motion detectors, radar and infrared sensors are constantly, relentlessly on the lookout for anyone on the Eastside and Southside trying to enter the no-man’s-land before The Wall. If any do—whatever the time of day or night—the automated machine-guns mindlessly swivel and fire with unnerving, unrelenting precision.

Four years since its completion, not one person from the east or south has managed to breach The Wall.

“It kept out all the zippits
[i.e., mobile indigent],” says Bryce, “and all the problems that the zippits brought with them: Lawlessness, d-grave [i.e., shigells gravis, antibiotic-resistant dysentery], race violence, class violence, random acts of terrorism—all of it. The prosperity we’re experiencing is because of The Wall. I know it’s the conventional wisdom, but it also happens to be true. The Wall has given the Westside the peace and safety to prosper once again.”

West Los Angeles is one of the five richest enclaves in the United States. Along with Manhattan, Miami Beach, the Peninsula in San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., West Los Angeles has regular access to potable water, electricity, municipal services (such as police, fire, garbage removal and urban repairs) and mobile telephony.

In fact, life in West Los Angeles seems little changed from ten years ago, except of course for the lack of gasoline-powered automobiles. Today, hundreds of thousands of bicycles and pedicabs flow through what was once the most car-friendly city in the world. West Los Angeles’ bike-sharing system is the largest on the planet. Apart from gasoline-powered military vehicles, the few automobiles that do cruise the streets of the Westside are all electric. “But with China shutting us out [of international trade],” explains Bryce, “those EV’s [electric vehicles] are beginning to disappear too. The rare-earth elements needed for their batteries are just not available anymore.”

We start biking south, parallel to The Wall to our left, as we begin to chat.

After graduating from the University of Southern California, Bryce became a certified investment advisor. Up until 2015, he used to work for Merrill Lynch in their Beverly Hills offices. “My office was not too far from my condo. I actually used to walk to work, for the exercise,” he says. “I was a confirmed bachelor. There were just too many beautiful boys in LA to settle down!” he adds with a laugh.

Then Bryce glances at me as we slowly bike in parallel. “I can be open about who I am in West LA,” he says. “In the East Coast, I’d get frowns. In the FC, I’d get shot.”

When I nod, he adds, “Things sure have changed, huh.”

I don’t know what to say to that.

We find a small organic café with outdoor seating. So we stop, get off our bikes, and sit down for our formal interview. I assure him that my recorder is non-compliant, and that his testimony will not be listened to by any government agent.

“Good,” he says. “I already have two NNC’s [Notices of Non-Compliance]. A third one and I’m in deep doo-doo with my Sector Commander.”



My clients were mostly retirees with investable assets in the mid-seven-figures—okay, that doesn’t mean anything now, granted, but what I mean to say is, these folks were fairly well-off at the time [mid-2014]; the equivalent today of between five and ten billion americans. Not mega-rich, no, but rich enough that they could afford a nice lifestyle without worrying too much.

The entertainment industry [is where most of my clients came from]; a very few actors [on my client list], but a lot of retired cinematographers, film editors, sound designers. They were the kind of people whose careers had often been feast-or-famine, which was good, because as investors, they didn’t panic at the first sign of market turmoil. Their professional lives had had so many ups and downs, as investors, they trusted me when I said that whatever was going on in the stock market would pass. Because it did—it had. Usually.

2008 had been horrible, what with the Global Financial Crisis and the sub-prime mess. Everything crashed [in 2008], and was in the doldrums in 2009, stocks, bonds, everything. But in 2010 things started turning around, and by 2011, ‘12, ‘13, early 2014, everything was booming along: Record highs on the NASDAQ and Dow Jones [stock price indices]. All the ground lost in 2008 had been more than made up.

Investing in those days wasn’t about buying some stock or bond and happily getting a steady dividend payment or coupon payment. The yield on investments was nothing—less than 6%, and after taxes, less than 3%.

So in that environment, you made money by asset appreciation. You bought a bond or stock at say 100, and you let it go up to 120, when you sold it, then bought something else for 100, and watched that go up in price. That 20 of profit? That’s what a lot of my clients were counting on to live. That was their “yield”.

And the best thing about it was, since it was considered a capital gain, it was taxed lower—a lot lower [than ordinary income]. So buying and selling stock was more advantageous from a tax-perspective than buying-and-holding and getting a decent yield from the dividend. And of course my bosses loved it when my clients bought and sold stock: A commission for the firm every time a stock was traded [by a client].

This was how we all had every incentive to ignore the yield on an investment—the stock’s dividend, the bond’s coupon—and only pay attention to how fast the asset rose in price.

That’s not investing. That’s speculating. That’s pump-and-dump. That’s buying something in the hopes it’ll go up—not buying something with the expectation that it’ll give you a good, safe, steady return on investment over the years.

That’s why asset prices were so high: That’s why companies like twitter had absurd valuations, even though they were literally not making any money. That’s why the art market was going crazy—a Norman Rockwell painting had gone for $42 million, a triptych of Francis Bacon painting had gone for $150 million. [In fact it sold in November 2013 for $142 million, the equivalent today of some ₳183 billion. —Ed.] Asset prices were crazy—asset prices were in a bubble—because of this speculative mania.

But I didn’t realize it, then—nobody did. To me, to everyone, it was just normal investing: Buy low, sell high—and it always went higher.

What everybody knows now is that those boom years—2010, ‘11, ‘12 and ‘13, and the first half of 2014—were booming because of QE [Quantitative Easing]. This was the Fed’s [Federal Reserve, the U.S.’s central bank] bond buying program. They literally came up with money out of thin air, and then used this new money to buy bonds on the open market, thereby putting a floor on the price of bonds, and driving up the prices of everything, including equities. That’s how the Fed gave everyone a false sense of security, a false sense of prosperity.

But it wasn’t real. No wait, it’s not that it wasn’t real—it’s that it couldn’t last. It was like a game of musical chairs—only there were fifty million investors, and only one single chair.

When the music stopped, it would get ugly—and it did!

[Laughs bitterly.]

Don’t you just hate it when you realize what’s really going on after the fact? When it’s too late? [Laughs ruefully.] I was right there with all the other lemmings, I want to kick myself now, but at the time, I believed just like everybody else that QE was just the Fed buying Treasury bonds on the open market, ho-hum. It sounds so smooth, now doesn’t it? “The Fed’s Treasury bond buying program.” Just trying to keep interest rates down so that the economy would restart, move along folks, nothing to see here.

The whole system was rigged: The Fed created money out of thin air, and used it to buy bonds on the open market. This kept interest rates low, so money chased returns by speculating in the stock markets. That’s how all the stocks were hitting these record highs. Even the low capital gains taxes: It encouraged people to speculate, ‘cause you were paying less taxes on your winnings from buying and selling [investable assets].

I bought into it hook line and sinker, and whenever I’d hear these people on Max Keiser, Washington’s Blog, Barry Ritholtz, Zero Hedge and so on, the people on the alt-fin-press [alternative financial media], all of them saying that QE was bad, that it would crash the dollar into hyperinflation, I dismissed them. The Tinfoil Hat Brigade. Asshatters, to me.

When the Israelis bombed the Iranian oil fields [see Chapter 1] and oil prices shot up—that’s when the music stopped.

But like a fool, I wasn’t worried. First of all, it was the Fourth of July [when Israel bombed Iran]. Nothing happens in the markets during July or August. I’m talking the equities markets, and the bond markets, where my clients had their money invested. No surprise, the only thing moving during the summer was energy. Oil, natural gas, coal, they all shot up. Some industrial commodities too, especially copper. And gold and silver, but not that much. I remember clearly that gold was up around $1,600 an ounce, which was much lower than the $1,900 peak of 2011.

But equities and bonds were standing pat. Everything seemed to be . . . okay. Y’know? July, August—oil prices went down from [$420] to around $320, $300 a barrel, so there was a feeling like oil might go back down like in 2007, where it’d shot up then come back down. Some commentators were even saying that higher oil prices were good, because it’d be a shot of inflation that would help reflate the economy and get it going again. You gotta remember, equities and bonds were going like gangbusters during 2010 through 2013 and into 2014, but the overall American economy was sort of apathetic. Just grinding along. Officially, unemployment was around 7%, but that was because the employment participation rate was down to something like 63% [of the working-age population]. The real [unemployment] number was closer to 10% or 11%. The Fed’s QE [program] had goosed equities and bonds, but not the economy itself. Core inflation [excluding food and fuel prices] [before mid-2014] was nothing, something like 3%.

But then September, right after Labor Day, you had these people basically raiding supermarkets—middle-class people, just emptying supermarkets like a hurricane was on its way. And those gas lines: Lines of cars literally miles long [at gas stations]. Then people fighting each other? Over gasoline? Those gas station shootings in Kentucky and Massachusetts? [see earlier Chapter 2]

It seemed so out-of-the-blue, it was on the news at first, ‘cause it was so weird. Killing people? Over food and gas? But it wasn’t affecting me. Wait, no, that’s not it, because it was affecting me: I’d noticed how groceries were all of a sudden a lot more expensive? And gasoline too? But I didn’t care that much, because food and gasoline weren’t that big a part of my budget. I didn’t drive that much, probably the only person in LA who walked to work. I ate out in restaurants almost every day, which in Beverly Hills were overpriced anyway, hello. And you don’t need heating oil when you got the famous Southern California weather. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I was well-off enough that food prices and energy prices going up didn’t really matter to me.

The quadrupling of the price of oil, that seemed severe, maybe even a market overreaction, but then I remembered 2007. In 2007, oil rose drastically, from $50 to $145 a barrel, almost tripling in less than six months, before fading back and finally falling under $40 a barrel in 2009. Nobody ever knew why it happened [in 2007], there wasn’t any bombing or anything it just sort of happened, and then it passed.

Then back in the ‘70’s, I don’t remember it myself, but my parents had always talked about gas lines during the 1970’s. But it had passed too, I knew that much.

So as I watched TV and saw all these lines for gas and groceries, I thought to myself, “We’re going through the same thing, like in the seventies, like in 2007. But it’ll come back down soon enough, it’ll work itself out, and then business as usual.” I even thought that it might be a good thing, a little inflation; restart the economy and all. After all, wasn’t that what the Fed wanted with QE? A little inflation to get everything moving again? So I wasn’t worried.

The Dow Jones [stock index] was at about 17,200, 17,300, upticking as usual during the summer [of 2014], NASDAQ the same at just under 4,500. Treasury bonds were rock solid, yields on the 10-year around 2.75%, nothing going on. The VIX [uncertainty index] was rock steady too.

Oil was up, severely, but gold and silver and platinum—the precious metals—weren’t doing very well. Again, weird. They seemed like those dangerous animals that have been sedated, you know? Like a tiger that’s stoned so they can remove its wisdom teeth. They were just sitting there, gold around $1,500 to $1,600, silver around $30, just drifting.

So I told my clients, “All’s good—relax.”

And they believed me.

But copper. I should have been paying attention to Dr. Copper. Copper was at $3.50 the pound at the start of the summer, and it just kept on rising until it was at $4.50 by Labor Day [of 2014]. That’s three months, it was up almost 30%.

I was like, WTF? They’ve always said that copper’s the only commodity with a Ph.D. in economics. I knew the economic data, after all it was my job: Even though house prices were up, new housing in the U.S. was stuck, and the big China real estate boom was dead, so the natural consumers of copper—construction—weren’t buying.

Yet copper was powering along, rising just about every day. It didn’t make any sense, and I had no idea why.

Then in very late August, agricultural commodities shot up—wheat, corn, soy—just blew up.

That’s when equities began to fall.

I remember it like yesterday: On Monday September 15, I woke up at 5:30 just like always, to check New York before showering and going to work—and at the opening bell, the Dow Jones was down 300 points. And it just kept on falling. And on the other side, commodities were all going up: Copper, wheat, corn, soy.

This wasn’t a total surprise. The first couple of weeks after Labor Day, the NASDAQ especially had been . . . weird. Facebook slipped from 65 to 45, then plateaued at 50. Apple had slipped 8%, down to 560. It was like . . . like a drunk guy making his way across ice, y’know? He’s slipping and almost falling, and you just know he’s going to take a bad tumble any minute now. It was only a matter of time.

That time came on September 15.

My clients were awake too, that morning—they were all screaming at me to sell. And these were people who like I said were pretty patient investors. But in 2008, when I’d told them to wait, that everything would come back up, I’d been right—but it had taken almost two years for prices [in equities] to recover. My clients now thought the same thing would happen—a fall and then a recovery—but they weren’t willing to wait two years. As one of them said, “If I sell now, even if it’s at a loss, when I buy back in, it’ll be a lot lower, so I’ll still make money when it comes back up.”

Who was I to argue.

Of course. I put my orders in from my bedroom, I was still in my skivvies while I was watching all this going on on my computer. Especially after those people panic-buying at the supermarkets and gas stations.

That day, September 15 [2014], the Dow Jones fell from 17,230 to 16,008—the largest single-day point drop in history, though percentage-wise, it wasn’t even in the Top 20. But that number, repeated on the talks shows—“Dow drops twelve-hundred points in one day! Dow drops twelve-hundred points in a single day!”—that put the fear of God in everyone.

No, precious metals were going down, which didn’t make any sense. I didn’t understand why they were going down, the Cross Committee hadn’t revealed how the networkers had manipulated gold and silver prices.

So I didn’t buy anything with that cash; my clients’ cash and my own personal cash. As an investment advisor, I always followed my own advice, I never told clients one thing while doing another. I sold out too, and parked everything in what I thought was safest place: Treasury bonds.

No no no no no, you don’t understand: Everybody was doing it. Everybody was getting into Treasury bonds during the equities sell-off.

They call it “Black September” for good reason: Every day [that month], it was like a war of nerves. Some days, the Dow and the NASDAQ just hung in there, some days they even rose a little bit. But then, like on September 25, uh-oh, here we go again—sell off, everybody selling absolutely everything.

By mid-October, the Dow was down to 11,000. From 17,300 to 11,000 in six weeks.

But that catastrophe—frightening as it was—wasn’t what was keeping me awake at nights. What kept me awake at nights were Treasury bonds.

They should have been at record highs, across the yield curve: They should have been on the moon—but they weren’t. The yield curve was severely inverted, as you’d expect after a big equities sell-off—but the 10-year’s yield was at 4.25%, the 30-year at 3.50%. Everybody—at least everybody I knew—was getting out of equities and going into the safety of Treasury bonds, especially long bonds—that’s where everyone thought they’d be safe.

But Treasury bonds were tanking. Every day, in the middle of the biggest equities sell-off ever—even as the yield curve remained inverted, just like it should—Treasuries were falling

No, not falling: Crashing. All through that fall and into the winter, that inverted yield curve kept rising.

[Shakes his head.]

Meanwhile commodities . . . who-o-o-o-a-a-a: Copper $6.50, gold $2,000, silver $45! Not just metals and precious metals, oil? Back up over $450, while agricultural commodities were all making record highs, with no end in sight.

But here came the event horizon in this death spiral: The January Gold Rush.

During October, November, December, everybody [was] rotating out of equities and bonds, and into commodities—any commodity.

But gold was just sitting there at $2,000, sometimes up to $2,200, but rapidly backing down. Silver the same, going up to $60, maybe even $65 an ounce, then backing off to $50 or $55. Prices in supermarkets and at gas stations were going out of sight—people understood that we were in a panic, so they were quickly getting out of equities and Treasuries [bonds] and going into commodities. But precious metals were not breaking out like you’d expect.

But then it happened: In January 2015, Sykes Gold—one of the big retail precious metals brokers, one of the top-five—was intervened by the Justice Department. Skykes’ customers’ accounts were frozen, just like MF Global back in the day.

It turned out customers had started asking to take physical delivery [of their precious metals]—and Sykes didn’t have enough gold. Not just gold in stock, gold period. All the quote-“gold” it had been selling was actually just gold certificates backed by nothing but their word.

That caused the January [2015] Gold Rush: All of a sudden, everybody wanted physical delivery of their gold. Not only gold, but every precious metal—and then every commodity. They wanted actual, physical delivery—didn’t matter if it was gold, silver, wheat, oil, even natural gas—everybody wanted actual, physical delivery of their commodity. Because nobody trusted anybody anymore. A complete breakdown in trust in the system.

Of course, that’s when the age-old dirty-little-secret of the commodities markets—all the commodities markets—came out with a bang: Brokers had sold more commodities [to customers] than actually existed.

Eeesh!

That’s when prices really took off: Gold to $5,000 an ounce, silver to $175, $200, copper way up to $12 a pound.

And oil? A cool $1,000 a barrel.

That’s when hyperinflation started for real. That’s when America started to crash.


When we finish our interview, and after I have thanked him, Bryce says out of the blue, “Would you like to see the view from the top of The Wall?”

Bryce has a relationship with his Sector Commander, so he arranges for me to visit The Wall. (Bryce promises me he will not mention why we know each other. But as the Sector Commander has to register me in order to grant me permission to climb up The Wall, I realize what Bryce has done: Just as he has incriminated himself with me as a potential Information Terrorist, he has now registered me with his SecCom. If I betray him, he has the ability to betray me as an editor of the
Secret History. I realize this maneuver only after the fact.)

That evening, as the sun is setting at our backs, Bryce and I are atop one of the circular watchtowers embedded in The LA Wall. We look to the east.

Unlike on its west side, where it is wide at the base and then tapers towards the top, The Wall is straight down on the eastside, and perfectly smooth; impossible to climb. There is a no-man’s-land fifty yards wide cleared out before The Wall on the eastside, and then empty and destroyed buildings spreading out in all directions beyond; many of those buildings are burned out and pockmarked by bullet holes. In the distance, the ruin of Los Angeles’ downtown is eerie and frightening. Glass buildings have windows broken as jaggedly as broken teeth. Sporadic fires burn from the direction of South Central Los Angeles, downtown, East Los Angeles.

Everything east of The Wall is a complete and utter wasteland as far as the eye can see. Even with high-powered binoculars: Everything is gray and dead, without a single intact windowpane. But even so, there are some people making their way through the desolation. How people can survive in such a wasteland is a mystery.

In the no-man’s-land at our feet, there are a few corpses lying about, in various stages of decomposition. Not many, perhaps four or five immediately beneath our watchtower. The corpses lie there, unclaimed, rotting. Near one corpse, that of a woman of indeterminate race (her decaying skin on her face is a shrunken gray, her eyesockets empty black holes), there is a foursome of dead coyotes lying around her, their brains blown out, their thin bodies decomposing along with the woman’s corpse. I don’t need to ask to realize that the automated machine-guns on the watchtower picked off the coyotes. Whether they shot the coyotes automatically, or to prevent them from devouring the corpse of the dead woman, it’s impossible to say.

Though 150 feet tall, The LA Wall no longer seems particularly massive or secure. On the contrary, standing on the watchtower, looking at the death and destruction for endless miles from The Wall, it seem puny and insubstantial against this rot—barely enough to keep this desolation at bay.


§

Hope you liked this first excerpt.

I’ll be posting additional sections of the book over the next few weeks, in the lead-up to publication. It will be released first in ebook formats, both Kindle and ePub; a print edition will follow.

If you liked it, then sign up to the dedicated mailing list I’ve set up for this project. Not only will you get alerts when I post new excerpts, you’ll also get a price-break when I publish the complete novel next Friday, February 28:





Thank you for your support.

—GL

38 comments:

  1. Hello Gonzalo,

    Nice work - I want to read more.

    FYI I only found one (1) typo:

    In "They call in “Black September” for good reason" - "in" should be "it" - otherwise it was flawless in my opinion and a damn good read. In terms of structure the historian from the future relating events that have transpired between now and that future through interviews is a great conceit and worked well for Mel Brooks' son in his World War Z. What I like about your concept is that it makes me feel smart (or at least clever) for catching various alt-fin-press references and shout-outs plus, of course, it resonates with my own pessimistic outlook - as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, we'll all be on the east side of that wall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Typo corrected—thank you.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Sign up for the mailing list, if you want more excerpts and a price-break when the book comes out.

      BTW, which cover did you like most?

      GL

      Delete
    2. I am partial to the upside-down empty highway cover - that one really grabbed me - running second is the bleak horizon (with foreground sand dunes?) punctuated only by an empty but defiantly bereft mountaintop.

      Delete
  2. This section was confusing:

    I assure him that my recorder in non-compliant, and that his testimony will not be listened to by any government agent.

    “Good,” he says. “I already have two NNC’s [Notices of Non-Compliance]. A third one and I’m in deep doo-doo with my Sector Commander.”

    I'm guessing that it should be "my recorder *is* non-compliant. But then, why does he say "good" if this would in fact make a third non-compliant? Maybe more is explained elsewhere, but that left me scratching head.

    Other than that, fun read. Too many of our apocalypses are supernatural - asteroids, zombies, global warming. We are certainly capable of manufacturing our own.

    Looking forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Typo corrected—thank you.

      In other parts of the book, the whole concept of compliant vs. non-compliant recording devices is explained. Stay tuned for more excerpts.

      I especially liked what you said about how “[t]oo many of our apocalypses are supernatural - asteroids, zombies, global warming. We are certainly capable of manufacturing our own.”

      I completely agree—hence this book.

      GL

      Delete
  3. I prefer the first cover, the upside down road, over the other two.

    Interesting, but why show the 2nd chapter and not the opening?

    What is this about? Two men walk through the relatively affluent and now walled-off West Los Angeles after a national (international?) economic and social breakdown, and muse over what happened while looking at the devastation on the other side of the wall.

    The other thing to ask (an impartial person, not a friend or a family member) is where do you stop reading? That is the place where it gets boring and/or confusing. Then you figure out why, and how to fix it.

    You should be commended for completing the manuscript--something most people could never do. That is a real accomplishment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks . . . I think? But as you probably know, I’ve already published a couple-three novels, like this one.

      Like I mentioned at the top of the post, this is an oral history, like Studs Terkel specialized in, though speculative, like the brilliant “August 1985: The Third World War” by Sir John Hackett. So Bryce’s testimony is just one in a mosaic.

      Further shards of this mosaic will come shortly.

      GL

      Delete
  4. A real cheerful Harry Potter alternative. I will buy it and read to my 5 year old at bedtime.

    ReplyDelete
  5. another typo... the oil shot up in 2007 THEN (instead of them) shot back down

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Typo corrected—thank you.

      Now, tell me what you think. What did you like, what did you hate, what bored you, what did you want to find out more of, etc.

      Thanks.

      GL

      Delete
  6. A very enjoyable read, I was not bored for a second. I very much like the detailed and very believable scenario of second semester 2014 and how it is presented through the eyes of a financial advisor. As far as covers are concerned, my choice would go to the upside down road, more memorable than the others in my view.

    There are two things that bother me somewhat.

    1. First, while setting a scenario with dates certainly gives a realistic feeling to the text, it strikes me as risky. While the steps of your scenario are very believable and the tipping point (Israeli strike on Iran) is as good as any, dates are obviously not predictable. If such events as you describe happen two or four years later than this year, will your book remain as enjoyable to the reader having to mentally make the gymnastics of "Yeah this is 2015 and I know no such events happened last year, but what if they are for next year?". For a public already largely convinced about the hyperinflation risk, like most commentators on your blog myself included, the drawback is manageable, but what of those who are not convinced: would they not tend to think "One more fearmonger who was proven wrong" and then drop the book?

    At the same time, a scenario without precise dates would have the drawback of feeling less concrete, so I guess it's better to put some dates in this scenario.

    One way of solving the conundrum might be to insert a couple "close calls" steps before the "big one" which would be shifted two or three years in the future. Close calls might be a lot of things from further troubles in Eurozone to banking crisis in China or strong inflation in Japan and what have you. The objective would be to suggest that the situation remained "on a rollercoaster but not broken" during more years with additional crisis events before eventually reaching a collapse point. This in my opinion is also a possible scenario of how it might turn out, and the advantage would be that the scenario of the book would run far less risk of being seen as invalid, at least not for a long time:
    - Obviously, if the "big one" is put in 2016, that cannot be invalidated before 2017
    - Moreover, even if it still has not happened January 2017, it's a safe bet that 2014-16 won't have been all quiet and boring, so the argument of the book will be understood as "the series of crises that has been going on since many years will eventually reach a collapse stage" which remains credible even if the date was not correctly predicted: the reader will recognize the series of crises therefore he will think that at least the first part was correctly predicted, meaning that the second may still be correct, only a bit farther in the future.
    The only thing that would be problematic for the book would then be three quiet and prosperous years 2014 to 2016... which - unfortunately - is everything but a big risk.

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  7. 2. The second thing is less important, but a bit annoying to an engineer with an experience of big projects like myself: there is no way the LA Wall could be built within the timeframe and under the conditions you describe.

    The Wall is 45 meters high, many tens of kilometers long, complete with towers and automated machine guns. It is built in your story in less than two years (it is four years old in 2020), which is very close to impossible in a normal period, and absolutely not credible in conditions of economic collapse.

    Yes, I do understand the Wall is a symbol, and as a litterary figure it is indeed potent. But it would probably not be difficult to give a more reasonable time for completion of that Wall: moving the main time of the story farther than 2020.

    As to what might be a reasonable time, I will take the example of Israel's west bank barrier, which is planned to be 700 km long, only 10% of that length being a concrete wall (the rest is fences), has not yet been completed after more than a decade of works, and was built by a country with an advanced economy, not a collapsed one. I am not saying being quicker is impossible, but not by an order of magnitude.

    The concrete part of that barrier is by the way less than 10 meters high, which is more than enough to stop attacks by groups of people with light weapons. 45 meters would be a waste of scarce resources.

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    1. Point well taken.

      However, the symbolism is worth the anachronism.

      Best part of your comment? You wrote, “I was not bored for a second.”—music to my ears.

      As to the cover, the inverted highway seems to be a favorite. Next excerpt, I'll put out some other possible covers.

      Thanks for your comments, they were very much appreciated.

      GL

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  8. You forgot to mention how Bitcoin would play a role in all of that!

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    1. Actually, wait until you get a load of the "new" currency that replaces the hyperinflated dollar, the american (symbol ₳): A compliant currency that Keith Alexander loves . . .

      GL

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  9. Great story thus far!

    Gotta say, I like speculative stories with dates in them. Risky, yes -- especially if you're planning sequels. But it can't be a future history without them.

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  10. I liked it, the beginnings of a good horror story that is more real than zombies, sort of Stephen King meets Tom Clancy. Hopefully in 6 years we'll all be chuckling about the predictions over a glass of whiskey instead of inserting the book's pages under our jackets as extra insulation.
    @joegremlin

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  11. You write well, and your description of the financial fall is scary plausible.
    Your technical and political predictions - not so much.

    Understand that this is not my opinion, but the general consensus among the many authors who have addressed the subject since the modern world
    began its incredible climb toward its inevitable fall.

    'When the Machine Stops', when the US, and the rest of the world falls,
    there will be no surviving centers of power on the coasts, or in the big
    cities across the nation, because they cannot survive the interruption
    of their essential services which will occur.
    Those who rebuild the world will rule the world, and will have the good
    sense to minimize the scope and maximize the power of government;
    Few rules, strong enforcement, no Police State. 'As Easy as ABC'

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  12. So far, so good. I'll buy one when finished. A hint of Jack London's "The Iron Heel" is evident, which makes me want to find out the ending. Clever work.

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  13. No terrorist organization could damage American as much as Obama and his hangers-on are doing now.

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  14. Loved it. Thanks for posting it. Looking forward to the complete story.

    I did find a typo:
    "They wanted actual, physical deliver—didn’t matter if it was gold, silver, wheat, oil, even natural gas—"

    'deliver' should be 'delivery'

    Thanks again!

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  15. Outstanding. Gripping, plausible, scary. I am sure my copy will be read in a single sitting.

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  16. 150 ft wall to keep the riff-raff out.
    i'm sure it will keep fukushima radiation out just as easily.

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  17. Setting 2014 as the financial D-day is probably ill-advised. From a practical standpoint, it is here already and it will take some time for your work to become more widely read...perhaps making it appear dated. I suspect the Fed can keep these unsustainable plates spinning longer than we think. Sadly.

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  18. (1) "Unlike on its west side, where it is wide at the base and then tapers towards the top, The Wall is straight down on the eastside, and perfectly smooth; impossible to climb"

    Like a financial chart showing a slow rise before a crash? Maybe you can get a artist/designer to design something stylized for the book cover that fuses those two concepts.

    (2) Come to think of it, a 150' high wall that spans for miles like that would be something of a almost infeasible construction marvel. Thirty feet would be more than adequate; 50' would be extravagant. Do you have a plot line for massive Keynesian work projects in the future, or highly developed technology that would make this possible?

    (3) Also, these commodity spikes make me wonder how guys in North Dakota or Alaska will be making out. Some sectors of the US would probably be making out very well in this scenario.

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    1. Re. the shape of The Wall, you wrote, “Like a financial chart showing a slow rise before a crash?

      Glad someone spotted that.

      GL

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  19. Liked it! Especially liked the way the narrator slipped in references to things which have already happened (2013 or earlier). Made the Crash scenario more plausible.

    Question: Who were the men (MEN!) who built that wall in record time? Not the cyclists of West LA, for sure. The people with the skills and work ethic to build that wall live in East LA today. What price did the Beautiful People pay to those "rough men" to make them safe?

    What is the economy of the West LA enclave based upon? They have ocean access and could trade with the world for food & fuel; but they would have to make goods of some kind to trade. In happier times, LA made steel, ships, cars, planes, computers. Surely the people of West LA would have had to return to those productive roots -- or starve? The Enclave needs fewer organic cafes and more factories -- and more factory workers, getting the respect they deserve.

    Presumably all those kinds of questions will be addressed in the completed book. I definitely intend to buy a copy!

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  20. It looks like a good story, I have signed up for updates and look forward to seeing the book.

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  21. You may want to write in your book about what happens to the US citizens that bought a second home in other countries to get away when the SHTF.
    I believe that they will be blamed by the "natives" for the collapse of the dollar and hung from the nearest tree.

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  22. Interesting. Not understanding the situation in the rest of the US. Who is supplying the food (with high oil prices)? The water to West LA? How is the electricity being generated? Is D.C. still in charge of places like Iowa? I'm sure much of this is in the rest of the book. I'm not a financial guy but a nice change from the rugged individualist gun owner of much survival fiction. Will buy a copy.

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  23. Crap, we will prevail.

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  24. While this part was a pretty good read, I am surprised how much political correctness you sprinkled in there. Bicycles good, cars bad, gays good, hat tip to Israel's security perimeter wall (as your depiction clearly resembles it more than the former Berlin wall), rednecks in FC (I assume Flyover Country) bad.
    So if no one can afford to drive, are there still trucks running to deliver goods? Do the coffee houses boil their water on wood stoves or is the electricity generation miraculously unaffected? And WHO actually how built the somewhat resource-intensive wall?? If they can do that, can't they (re-)open the mines to extract rare earth metals in North America as well??
    And beyond materialistic questions, any mention in your story how the (very typical Left Coast) do-gooders came up with the idea that now only a few miles wide stretch on the Left Coast is worthy being "preserved," f**k the rest?
    In a reply you mention “August 1985: The Third World War” by Sir John Hackett. I have read that book long ago as a still teenager and even though it was readable, I was severely put down by the lack of fantasy on possible events plus the obvious illogical script. So the USSR overruns most of West Germany by pure force of its tank divisions? (Even back then, talk about always fighting the last war...) And then an exchange of a single nuke from each side ends the Third World War? Hilarious.
    Back to your story:
    While I can't make a call so far, I currently tend to not buy your book, sorry!

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  25. Not going to make any "editorial" comments. I don't own a red pen. haha. I like the story and the message so far. I'm looking forward to more.

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  26. Thanks for the preview. Good stuff. I'd buy the book.

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  27. Excellent work....... Want more..... ;)

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  28. I'm afraid I have to side with the engineer (and others) re: the overly large wall - it really sticks out. Such an imposing, sturdy ediface seems to make the residents within impervious to external threat. If the veil between them and the outside rot was shorter, more transparent, (ie. part fence) wouldn't that serve to make their existence seem more precarious and doubtful? Put the guards atop tower sections from repurposed decomissioned wind turbines and it'll give it the feel of having been cobbled together in artisinal desperation. Put the odd angled butress inside the fence/wall and you can preserve your 'stock chart' analogy. Just saying... kill your darlings... (And I can't wait to read it!)

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  29. Like the excerpt very much, though at one point the financial "report" felt a bit overlong. Perhaps the information presented as an actual conversation between interviewer and interviewee, rather than a straight monologue, would lighten it up a bit and make it more accessible. Really like the desolation presented; it reminds me of a book I read not long ago and really liked, "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi. Looking forward to more.

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Whether you agree with me or not, thank you for your comment.

If you liked what I wrote—or if it at least made you think—don’t be shy about making a payment. The PayPal button is there for your convenience.

If you have a question or a private comment, do feel free to e-mail me at my address expat229@gmail.com.

GL