Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Welcome to my revived NEWSLETTER!!!, with a few questions answered


A few of you may remember two different iterations of this newsletter — during the early 1990s and later in 2003-4. My workdays have changed significantly in the past few weeks with a new job. As I don’t have the time to put out lengthy features, I’m going back to this writing model for now — brief segments covering a wide range of news and topics without a publishing schedule. 
A shout out to loyal readers of
my newsletters --
please keep the comments and
 suggestions coming in.
  

Will Green Auto Market continue being published?

It’s on hold for now. You can see the latest edition in its present state with a little bit on why I’m putting it on hiatus; and another item on the popular and controversial Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. 

Will this newsletter replace the blog?

Not really. Just a collection of short writings on subject matter I find fascinating and amusing.

Will there be a place for guest columns?

Absolutely. The last version of this newsletter that finished up about 16 years ago featured regular guest columns by friends of mine. They were quite good, and covered topics like how to do some good fishing out at sea, a writer who shared his theory of love, and poems and essays on whatever topics they were passionate and obsessed with at that time.  

Is there another book coming out?

Yes. More on that one later. I really don’t know when it will be coming out, as my life is a bit hectic right now; and writing, editing, publishing, and promoting a book is a really big, demanding project — as I found out with Tales of UberMan

What’s your new job?

More on that one later. As for now, you get to make a guess from the following list:
—Editor of a transportation newsletter
—Communications manager at a Cal State university campus
—Public safety dispatcher at a law enforcement agency
—Manager at a Tesla retail store and service shop
—Market analyst at a consulting firm in Orange County

What can I read about in this issue of the newsletter?

—My favorite conspiracy theories during a very big year
— Looking for a place to rent or buy? Opportunities will soon be rising for ominous reasons as housing gets hit hard
—Did you ever get hooked on writing?
—Planet of the cats
—Fun stuff, at least for me

My favorite conspiracy theories during a very big year

Aside from Covid-19, anti-racism protests, and a hard-hit economy, conspiracy theories have been getting a lot of attention this year. But why are conspiracy theories like Qanon, Pizzagate, and accusations China created Covid-19 as a biological weapon, such a hot commodity this year?

Well, it could have something to do with our president tipping his hat to some of them in his tweets and stump speeches during an election year. But it’s really much bigger than that — and it goes back 200 years in American history and culture. 

A good friend of mine and two of his buddies are experts on conspiracy theories. They don’t believe in all of them, but they certainly are obsessed with the subject matter. I just about wince when I hear them explain the ideology behind most all of it — based on very harsh, stark, and bleak assumptions about what some human beings are capable of doing to fellow humans. Giving attention to these stories for very long would drive me into depression and hopelessness; and I suspect that’s the case with a lot of people out there. I’ve always thought this overwhelming period of change we’re living through now has had much to do with the popularity of these stories in recent years. Pressures increase to make a decent living with longer, stressful hours; climate change keeps getting worse; and the world continues transforming into new social realities — people having transgender surgeries, marriages and parenthood continues across racial, ethnic, and religious lines, and much more that can get a lot of people rattled.

As for the 200-year backstory, you can read all about what was going in the early days of democracy, such as the 1828 fight for the presidency between Andrew Jackson and President John Quincy Adams. Administration officials accused Jackson’s supporters of plotting a coup d’état if their candidate lost to Adams; and there were other conspiracy theories spread during their second battle for the presidency. 

I’ve been fascinated with conspiracy theories, cover-ups, murder mysteries, cults, and related tragedies, since I was a child. My first memory of watching TV news came during the Watergate hearings in Congress. My mother had the TV on all day. Then there was the mysterious Son of Sam serial killer during the summer of 1977. The following year, the Jonestown massacre occurred in November and the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by disgraced former Supervisor Dan White took place later that month. 

There was plenty more to ponder and obsess over. Who killed Jimmy Hoffa? Did JFK have another shooter up on the grassy knoll? Former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter — and its updated 25th anniversary edition with evidence of even more murders the Manson family had done before and after the arrest and infamous trial of 1970 — grabbed my attention and gave me a few nightmares. And don’t forget the Zodiac Killer, Hillside Strangler, and Ted Bundy.

When I meet with my friends and hear the latest distressing conspiracy theories, it makes me ponder which ones I actually do believe in — at least to some degree. Here’s my list………..

UFO sightings gaining more credibility. 
For those of us hooked on The X-Files in the 1990s, it was a wonderful era for stories about Roswell, NM, Area 51, abduction phenomenon, crop circles, and so much more. The strange thing is that in recent years, unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings have taken on a lot more credibility. More recently, a lot has happened giving more credibility to the entire premise. Former Democrat Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is one of the biggest names to even suggest that it has credibility. He’s so engaged with the subject matter that he instigated secret UFO programs in the Pentagon. Asked why he was saying that “there’s some evidence that still hasn’t seen the light of day,” Reid insisted, “I’m saying most of it hasn’t seen the light of day.”

Another big one was a Navy official stating that three reported incidents depicting UFOs, including one near San Diego in 2004, actually happened. Joseph Gradisher, a spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, told The Black Vault, a website that investigates declassified government documents, that the events shown in videos taken by Navy pilots depict "unexplained aerial phenomena" or "UAPs."

Jeffrey Epstein.
How much will we be learning about financier and child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book that contains some very big names? How long will it take for his business partner Ghislaine Maxwell to have details worked on getting a fair trial? How much will she be able to reveal in the courtroom? The best conspiracy theory I’ve heard is that Epstein and Maxwell were actually agents in Israel’s security agency, Mossad. Then there was Little St. James Island, in the US Virgin Islands, a property owned by Jeffrey Epstein with plenty of creepy stories. Whether any of it is true, what we do know about Epstein beats all the other conspiracy theories, as far as I’m concerned. It’s horrible and it’s happened. And 60 Minutes dug into another fascinating part of Epstein's story in January 2020. He may not have committed suicide by hanging himself in August 2019 in his prison cell. He may have been set up to be murdered. 

Conspiracy theory experts. 
Several of these “alternative news” sources that have broken Qanon and other big stories may very well be networking and sharing information with each other to keep their tragic tales interconnected and consistent. How did they become such an influential new media source for millions of people? That could take place through group emails forwarded to unsuspecting readers, Twitter posts, Facebook groups, blogs, Youtube channels, Reddit and other forums, 4chan and 8chan message boards, and webpages for these influential groups. The best known of them are some of the most effective marketers of our era, doing it all low budget.

Trump and Big Oil. 
The Trump administration is doing much better than opponent Joe Biden’s team when it comes to raising campaign funds from the oil-and-gas industry. Trump and outside groups aligned with him have raised nearly $13 million from individuals at oil-and-gas companies, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics. That knocks out the $976,000 the industry has sent to Biden. Trump has been criticizing Biden for flip flopping over hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) that extracts quite a lot of domestic gas and oil from mainland USA — while the Trump administration has thrown away any regulations that succeeded in making fracking safer and cleaner during the Obama years. There’s a lot more Trump is doing to help Big Oil and natural gas make vast profits, mostly through dismantling environmental regulations on offshore oil drilling, stripping away protection of natural resources, and many other actions (some of them clandestinely) bringing back the gilded age for the profit hungry over those with serious concerns over climate change and destruction of the planet. Trump's conspiracy with fossil fuels is far from being a theory.


Looking for a place to rent or buy? Opportunities will soon be rising for ominous reasons as housing gets hit hard

Housing is considered to be one of the key elements of a stable and prosperous economy developing across the US; and it’s also a key sign of what can be approaching if it goes awry with no sign of Covid-19 coming to an end anytime soon. So far evictions and foreclosures haven’t reached crisis mode, but the numbers are starting to show signs of trouble approaching. Paying the rent or the mortgage is getting tougher for households that have experienced job loss and diminishing available hours for independent contractor work as their employers struggle to stay afloat. It’s being felt the most by people with little-to-no savings to tap into; and don’t forget the homeless or those that will probably be joining them in the near future.

So what do the key market indicator numbers have to say?
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that federal and local eviction moratoriums have protected many  Americans from losing their homes this year, but they’ll be expiring soon. Renters will be on the hook for missed payments — which is expected to reach $7.2 billion by the end of the year, based on a study by the Federal Research Bank of Philadelphia. Renters missing payments will be meeting up with homeowners missing mortgage payments; analysts predict mortgage foreclosures could reach into the tens of million of people potentially caught in debt — far exceeding the 3.8 million homeowners foreclosures during the economic crisis of 2007-2010.
  • More than 2.3 million homeowners – five times the number entering 2020 – remain 90 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure as of Sept. 30, 2020, according to Black Knight, Inc., a real estate data and analytics company. 
  • Early-stage delinquencies have been showing improvement recently, but it’s not looking like a real improvement overall for the market. Both foreclosure starts and foreclosure sales continue to remain muted given the widespread foreclosure moratoriums still in place, and that will be changing soon. Those moratoriums will also be lifting for renters by state governments, as you can see in the next table. 
                                    States that have placed a hold on tenant evictions

State

Hold on Evictions 

Arizona

Until 10/31/20

California

Until 2/1/21

Colorado

Until 11/20/20; but Denver has hot placed a hold on evictions

Connecticut 

Until 1/1/21

Hawaii

Until 11/30/20

Illinois

Until 11/14/20

Kansas

Until 1/26/21

Massachusetts

Not overall in state, but Boston has a hold until 12/31/20

Minnesota

Until 11/12/20

New Jersey

Until emergency, plus two months

New Mexico

Court has allowed residents to file claim for their hold being extended

New York

Until 1/1/21

Oregon

Until 12/31/20

Vermont

Until end of emergency (11/15/20)

Washington

Until 12/31/20


                     Source: Nolo

  • All the other states have not put a hold on evictions of delinquent tenants. For those that have done so, the hold will be lifted very soon, primarily from November through January.
  • Another study shows that Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida have been feeling the impact. In Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, Phoenix has the highest eviction total in the study since Covid-19 began, at 13,760 filings since March 15, 2020. Houston followed at 13,207, and then Memphis at 7,024, Ft. Worth, TX, at 6,623, and Tampa at 4,619.
  • Arizona residents are protected by an eviction moratorium, but that will be changing soon. Recent analysis by the global consulting firm Stout Risius Ross calculated that in the absence of an eviction moratorium 365,000 Arizona renters could face eviction by November, or about 40 percent of all renter households, which is in line with the national average.
  • The cities represented in the university’s Eviction Tracking System (ETS) are cities that have the data infrastructure that allow the lab to track evictions on a weekly basis. The Eviction Lab expects once the temporary eviction moratoria have passed, millions of renters will owe significant amounts of back rent. For many people, the displacement and eviction crisis will fall hard on them in the shadow of the public health crisis. 
How it all works
  • So how long does it usually take for foreclosures and tenant evictions to take place? Several months for homeowners, with mortgage holders receiving a notice of default 30 days after missing the fourth monthly payee. The borrower then has two-to-three months to reinstate the loan and stop the foreclosure process. So we’re talking six months to a year for those missing mortgage payments to have to walk away from their house.
  • In actuality, an eviction is usually a lengthy legal process. It starts with an eviction notice, frequently in the form of a Pay or Quit Notice, and if necessary, culminates in an Unlawful Detainer, which is carried out by local law enforcement. Depending on the state, eviction can take place in as little as two weeks and up to three months in states where the process has many more steps; but we’ve all heard stories of that eviction taking much longer as the rental unit sits there for several months with a sheriff’s notice taped across the front door, but without the owner entering the apartment to start preparing it for the next renter. 

Homelessness on the rise, especially for baby boomers
  • Baby boomers have enjoyed much better financial status than their parents, but not all of them. Those born in the later generational years have faced much tougher competition in the workplace and less opportunity for those good-paying jobs and early retirement — following the huge population surge just a few years ahead of them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2026, 30 percent of 65-to-74-year-olds will still be in the work force, up from 17 percent in 1996.
  • Quality of life will be getting worse for many, according to a recent study by a team of researchers led by Dennis Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a recognized expert on homelessness. Over the next 10 years, the number of elderly people experiencing homelessness in the US could nearly triple, as a wave of baby boomers who have historically made up the largest share of the homeless population ages further.


Did you ever get hooked on writing or another creative discipline?

You may get the impression that I’m fascinated with the process of writing. Here’s a few thoughts on my experience with it over the years…………

I know what it’s like to start writing for 15 minutes, and then it’s somehow three hours later. Getting a flash of an idea, and having to pull over my car to write it down or dictate it into the recording app I had to put on my iPhone. 

Big bucks, bestsellers, fame, Hollywood scripts, guest columns, and radio/podcast interviews, have evaded me. 

        If you do get hooked on writing, you'll need
to keep it going -- or else writer's block sneaks in
.


But I keep on keepin’ on. Since I learned how to type on mother’s typewrite as a child, and started keeping my first journal as a teenager, I have written millions of words. Some of it published, or self-published, and much of it sitting in a text document and stored away. I’ve co-authored a book with other writers, I’ve self-published one of my own, I’ve had editor jobs, and hundreds of freelance articles published. 

Financially, it hasn’t been enough and I’ve taken a career turn in a big way. (More on that later. I can’t stop writing, right?). 

Who’s to be blamed, and occasionally thanked, for getting me here? 

There’s my mom. Being a writer herself (a newspaper reporter during WWII and a secretary before and after), typing up her kids’ school papers, including mine on the history of ancient Greece, perhaps the best third grader school paper ever; for getting me to read and discuss mystery novels with her, and for genetically passing on character traits.


And you can blame/thank my sister Ellen. As a young college student getting ready for becoming a fifth-grade teacher, she got me to learn hour to read by age four so I could earn a toy alien. You could see the alien’s brain through his transparent scalp, and it was my very first earning as a writer.


And you can blame/thank my partner Susan.  She started calling me Writer Monkey, and then Super Writer Monkey in text messages when she wants me to do something for her. And it works!  Plus, she’s been pretty much patient when I get absorbed into my writing. As for the monkey reference, that goes back to early childhood when I had three stuffed monkey friends that were fairly close to looking like chimpanzees — Mimmy, Zip, and Wilbur. It also might help explain to you why I have the illustration in my blog of the chimpanzees typing away, with one in the center who finally typed up his novel.

Long after the stuffed chimps, and learning to write, and starting into my journal, I discovered writer’s block. That’s where you just can’t do it, and anything you handwrite or type is just horrible and has to be crumbled/deleted. What’s the secret to getting through that tough time? I make myself write at least one sentence before I get to leave the room. Then I go back and do the same the next day, only this one has to be two sentences. On and on, until the dam bursts and I almost need to be airlifted away from the keyboard to stop writing.

Writing is my favorite activity and discipline. For me and many others here on Planet Earth, It’s not just writing. What’s it been like for you?

What about golfing? Playing guitar? Writing songs? Surfing? Practicing tai chi? Singing in a choir? Drawing cartoons? Doing stand-up comedy? Trying out for a part?

That being the case, I would imagine you’ve had a lot of experience with creativity, practicing the art, and stick-to-it-ness. Then there’s the part about giving it up — getting a busy job, commuting in heavy traffic, taking on another project, burning out on the creative process, and checking out with TV and gaming on your smartphone. 

If I don’t write, it will bug me, nag me, eat at me. Depression will appear. Ideas pop up, and I have to write them down. That book manuscript sitting still for so long gets reopened and dabbled with. A freelance opportunity appears, and I need to give it a go. 


Planet of the cats

How did cats end up in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ ad campaign that went viral? Biden’s tweet reads, “We’ve got to come together to defeat Donald Trump –– Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and yes, even Demo-cats.”

Is it because cat ownership has been slowly creeping up on dog lovers in the US? It’s not all about “cat ladies” who have 18 felines and a house that reeks from their urine, is it? Are cats adored more by Democrats than Republicans?
I’ve seen one or two TV programs on cat lovers and what it’s all about — one of them on cats being ideal for people needing roommates, such as retirees, that meet some of their needs for companionship but are far cheaper and easier to live with than fellow humans and dogs. It doesn’t take much to care for them, at least until they start aging (maybe at age 15) and needing medical care. 

Why would Democrats have chosen cats over dogs to get more votes from their commercial? There are more dogs than cats in the US. Who knows, but I do see a lot more cat lovers out there than I used to; and hear some great stories at a party. 
While I used to be more of a dog lover, in recent years I’ve joined the community of those whose lives can be dominated by their cats. No matter what they do, or don’t do, we love them. For me and my partner Susan, it’s helped that we got to adopt two cat brothers, Sparty and Niko, who you can view in the photos (Sparty being gray and cream colored, and Niko black and cream colored). While they’re pictured next to each other, they’re about as different as you can imagine. Sparty has hunted for, killed, and brought into the house, many rats and mice; and occasionally other creatures — lizards, birds, and a near-fatal attempt to attack a raccoon. During all of this, and anything else that raises his fears, Niko will dive under a bed or find any possible hiding place in a room — sometimes with his butt and tail sticking out and his head hidden away. But he is as assertive as his brother about getting what he wants, which could mean laying on your lap even on a warm day. 

We do what we can to keep them at bay, but the cat brothers end up winning out, getting their way. It helps that they’re cute and can be very sweet and loving, purring away and coming over to visit you on even your worst day. Be careful if you go to hug them; they’re not dogs. You’ll get scratched and shredded if you try to force them to do anything. 

I occasionally wonder if there’s some kind of conspiracy behind all of it. What if these two cats are agents from another planet? A cat planet? Sent here to subjugate us to slavery, and to gradually love every minute of it! They are quite adorable.

Pierre Boulle did very well with his book Planet of the Apes. Perhaps I will write Planet of the Cats


Fun stuff, at least for me

It is possible to do fun activities during Covid-19, it turns out. Months ago, nothing was happening and I was looking for a solution. Then friends started organizing get togethers and everyone was okay with it, feeling safe. Here’s a few of my favorites………


Whale watching:  If you live near Balboa Island in Newport Beach, there are trips you can schedule where you’ll sit separated from other passengers as the staff takes you out on the bay and then out to sea. The last time I did it, back in February, there were no whales to see. It was still fun to take the boat ride and hang out with seals and dolphins. This one will be better, we hear. 

Meeting friends and family:  Of course, there’a always a zoom meeting, which can be fun. But there could be a good, safe restaurant to visit. Ask around and see what’s being send on Yelp. 

Scenic drives:  Where do you live? Anything really fine to see? I feel that way about where I’m blessed to live (Long Beach) —- close enough to drive two hours and see anything you can think of — desert, mountains, ocean, rivers and lakes, big city, suburbs, old buildings restored, Disneyland, Malibu, Crystal Cove, and more. Go meet friends and family in a park for a picnic, wearing masks and washing hands as needed.

Favorite games:  You can play some really good games on your phone now. My favorite lately has been Spider Solitaire, which takes a bit longer than regular solitaire. Then there’s one with a strange name: Pooking — Billiards City, which is the best electronic pool-shooting game I’ve ever played. Smartphone games are certainly much better than they were years ago. Just don’t do it while driving, or become so obsessed with it you can’t stop playing. 




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