4 October 2014
I imagine the leaves are now rapidly decaying, turning if you wish, in the East. Autumn is a grandiose time of year in your neck of the woods. I particularly miss the purple, red, yellow and orange mountain collages reflecting above the methodically flowing half empty autumnal streams. We are beginning to see some changing colors in the Missoula region. The Larch in the upper elevations are expressing their yellow hue, almost jaundiced like against the forest’s green and brown, fall’s renewal. I rode to the Stuart Wilderness boundary last night (Wednesday) after a quick trip up Wallman. As Missoula is a Cross town, I was relatively certain the mountains would be silent, others being drawn to the weekly circuit. Not being able to ride bicycles in the Wilderness in America, Periwinkle, is a grotesque overreach by our Federal Government. Horses are as hard on the trails as bicycle tires and many fine minds would argue actually that horses are much more destructive. I don’t have a problem with horses and outfitters (lobbyists and all), just the simple fact that mountain bikes have not been allowed in the Wilderness. Imagine riding in the Selway or throughout the Pintlers? Not to sound too acrimonious, as I enjoy the quietude while trekking as much as anyone, but I’m certain proper cyclists, this being most of us, would not hinder this environment. At any rate, on the route up three grouse flushed and near the uppermost section a cow elk came across the trail just ahead of me. I’ve seen very few elk while riding in the Rattlesnake over the years, making this a surprising and pleasant experience. I know their there, just evasive and knowledgeable avoiding the fat tyre riders. The native forest shrubs along the floor are now a deep red, contrasting with the higher standing yellow and green backdrop above the brown single track. An almost frost like snow spread its first light blanket among the stands and trail near the Boundary line. Fingers and toes now chilled, I crept into the wood to look upon the distant fields and scree slopes below high granite walls and peaks to the west, a scene similar to our Parks in the North only right amongst Missoula’s outer edge, our backyard. I thought of the coming ski season as I ate a couple of bloks while putting on the shell for the decent. What is it about the mountains, Periwinkle? I know you experience it as well. Invigorating Joy. It was gently snowing and near dusk, wildlife stirring as is often the case during such periods. The serene atmosphere brought forth the naturally occurring impression of the season of harvest. It’s in one’s bones this time of year, an almost pulse like late August sensation particularly felt in the morning when going out the door for the newspaper or riding the bicycle down the hill to work. I came across one other rider as I was descending, smartly clad in long lycra wear and wearing glasses, not quite stopping we said hello to one another just above the Snowbowl Overlook junction. He’s ascending quite late, I thought to myself while both bouncing over small wet roots and taking in nature’s all encompassing painting. During evening descents I am wary of the Mule Deer and Whitetails as to not find myself crashing through the forest, jerking off of the single track to avoid a collision. As has always been the case during such soirees in the mountains, I occasionally drifted off, considering the general state of affairs. This was particularly acute during this ride as I left my cell at the house and there being no shortage of global subject matter to ponder. Nature’s music filled the void, blending in with cogitations. Harmony at its finest. Clarity enhanced given the harsher elements and my being somewhat underdressed for the damp, cold weather.
Periwinkle, you have to understand that it is best for men and women to lead by example. Further, it’s paramount for one to search his inner depths, letting the given compass guide him in his actions. I do sense that men have been given an instinctive moral map which they can either heed or disregard. Granted the map may be and often is influenced as one experiences life’s journey, yet the undaunted even keel still exists. Though much debated, one has been given free will. This does not curtail the notion that one’s actions may be or have been foreordained. I hear you saying to yourself, Periwinkle, But one’s environment often impedes such latitude. The truth is, one often has to have the fortitude to remain in a state beyond his environment, focused on what his innate sense conveys as good. This is not a simple matter and may require one to go against the grain. Perhaps you’ve been in such a situation? It may be the case that one’s environment temporarily swallows the whole. What then?
I have allowed my faith to wane, Periwinkle, simply to see how it might pan out. Well, that’s to say ‘pan out in the flesh’ as who’s to say how such thinking may ‘pan out posthumous?’ This is an interesting process, letting go. I believe one may go through such trials during many periods in his or her lifetime. If this is incorrect, one should further study one’s self to note reality. A senior driver of this period of consternation has been the strife ridden role religion has played over the centuries. The insanity remains great in scale today. Death and bankruptcy dwell in her ranks. I’ve taken to reading a compilation of H.L. Mencken’s many astute and well articulated articles and letters. The passages in H.L. Mencken on Religion exude his unique satirical approach, taking religion of all sects to task. “The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. Its evil effect must be plain enough to everyone. All it accomplishes is (a) to throw a veil of sanity about ideas that violate every intellectual decency and (b) to make every theologian a sort of chartered libertine. No doubt it is mainly to blame for the appalling slowness with which really sound notions make their way in the world.” Mencken writes in Immune in 1930, a piece for the American Mercury. For further emphasis in the same vain, I’ve also been delving a shade into Marx and Engel, whose economic philosophies lead ultimately to dictatorial planning fiefdoms. Both men felt religion to be suspect. The irony is, of course, that being away from a certain postulation can have the effect of drawing one back with stronger convictions than when one initially let it go as an addict back to his pain alleviating opium. Or, one may depart altogether from dogmatic theological leanings as one drops a bad habit, pick your poison… The written word is indeed filled with many contradictions, conflicts, paradoxes and indecipherable mysteries. The Christians’ guidebook, the Sermon on the Mount, remains perhaps the highest piece of ethical postulation ever expounded. If one does not believe in the incomprehensible, God incarnate or say the resurrection, one can still read the Sermon on the Mount and find the message of peace and love; as laid down by humility incarnate, if you will. It is because of this simple message that one may struggle to drop matters altogether. The problem arises when one raises his Religion as a sword (recall ‘those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword’) and wields it forth as his justification for war. Pick the religion of your choice in this regard, each at the fringe guilty. Taken in the deepest religious context, how would extreme crimes such as beheadings be handled? ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…’ Do such crimes, committed under a malformed religious guise, justify the invasion of a state without its authorization and without Congressional approval? Prudence. Has religion always been the root of all evil? I believe the average American is tired of war, greatly questions the role of religion in the world and is more concerned about the honest economic underpinnings of the country. Now more than ever, many of the country’s founders look to have been sages attempting to keep matters separate.
Speaking of economics, Periwinkle, winter is approaching. Japan and Western Europe are going to face larger heating bills complements of deflation, disinflation, declining currencies and an unfortunate need to import their fuel. Frankly, matters have the feel of precariousness at the moment. Russia’s energy retaliation against Western Europe due to the sanctions will have a chilling effect on the West’s economies. I read last night in an Austrian paper their vegetables are piling up and rotting, no longer exported to their east. The good news on this front may mean cheaper produce for Western Europe but at what future cost? We are witnessing the pangs of over indebtedness, now yielding its natural state in the form of currency erosion. This is being expressed in Japan and Western Europe at the moment though China and the US have the same dilemma. We are fortunate to have a sound resource extraction industrial base, easing our energy burden. Thus far, given relative competitive circumstances and somewhat of a recovery, our greenback has remained in vogue. Quite frankly, going forward this will be heavily reliant upon fiscal Congressional action, though some would incorrectly argue that as we move to tightening mode, our income related assets and currency will remain in demand. This will be a short term phenomena. Natural patterns will work their course, Periwinkle. It’s the same old saw. There is something occurring globally in established economies that is quite concerning, namely the real decline of the Middle Class. This is partially a result of too much overall indebtedness coupled with declining currencies. Resources are being directed to servicing overburdened states, inefficient entities and unsuccessful programs. Further, the truth is that policy makers need to get into the heads of business owners and better understand their world. Why are incomes not rising? There is real misery being experienced by the average family as food, energy, health care premiums, college expenses, medicine and other basic living requirements (inelastic goods in economic speak) continue their march higher. Monetary policy has been quite accommodative to businessmen with prime at 3.25%, greatly incentivizing entrepreneurial risk taking, investment and expansion. The businessman, however, is going to focus on revenues, demand. If he feels things are uncertain or soft, he will be less willing to take advantage of attractive rates. If there continues to be a large pool of job candidates, he is less concerned about employee retention, benefits and compensation. I read in Friday’s jobs release that the labor participation rate hit a 36 year low, close to only 60 percent. This is not simply a phenomena of the Boomers retiring, a popular discourse of the academics. One is quite tempted to ask how long this can go on? How are these people sustaining themselves? Are individuals incentivized to seek employment? Are they perhaps disincentivized? Are we morphing into the age of Great Apathy? At any rate, the country’s employers have choices and therefore no immediate need to raise compensation. Further pressures on the average business owner, daily in his head, are competitive forces from abroad with which he must contend to survive. Markets should remain liberal and open, as this benefits the population especially during a time of minuscule returns on their savings; however, the employer has little recourse given his contention with regulations and comparatively higher tax rates other than to keep wages in check. Imagine circumstances were the country more reliant on imports for inputs? Middle Classes are being squeezed significantly harder in other established economies globally. Technology is making it more difficult for workers to get ahead as well, retiring occupations, mandating higher education levels and specialized training. The fact of the matter is, Periwinkle, that attempting minute reforms, such as raising the minimum wage, will have little impact and in the case of the minimum wage, may worsen the outlook for new entrants into the jobs market. Therefore, what’s to be done to better the dilemma of all workers? Improve the operating environment of the average business owner, making him more competitive in the global market. Lessen the role of government in the economy. Pay down the nation’s obligations to protect the balance sheet, our standing in the world and the dollar. Correct the present budget crisis and reform entitlements. Risk not getting reelected, allow there to be a small amount of temporary discord in the interest of the country’s longer term health. Central bankers are not going to correct the underlying issues, only providing time for the elected to get their act together. The country should be managed as responsible citizens manage their household. Prudently managed households do not borrow more when their compensation declines. Well, this used to be the case at any rate, maybe matters have changed here as well. Rates are quite low and vehicles are offered again at zero percent interest. There you have it.
I’ll close out today simply stating that the war winds blowing in the world today are seriously troubling. I’m not merely alluding to the Middle East which is difficult to resolve due in part to the above dialogue, but to the larger states and present strains. It’s as if those running matters are not capable of seeing what is staring them in the face. Trade, not war, is the answer. The global economy will be in tatters should matters worsen along Russia’s Western Front or should Asia become more disjointed. These are larger issues as the US has become less dependent on energy imports. Jinping, Abe, Putin, Obama, Merkel and Cameron need to keep their egos in check and focus on what is best for their citizens. Jinping should continue to economically reform and maintain his country’s present passive approach to the protests in Hong Kong. It may be the case that Chinese political reforms follow. The West has to accept that Hong Kong is part of the mainland. Putin needs to end his incursion bent. Think trade and growth. Deterrence remains relevant today, maintaining order. States still exercise sovereignty and hegemony. International Organizations and Bodies, contrary to certain thinking, are waning in influence. Keep in mind, Periwinkle, most political leaders are only in office for a set period. It would be best for their records to reflect improving economic conditions rather than bankruptcy and global impoverishment caused by unnecessary conflict and strife.
Drop us a line shortly with photos of the foliage, I remain
Very Truly Yours,