Chaco Canyon

The Bonner family run out of water when out hiking…there are lessons here for the whole family. Enjoy!

"Nobody knows where they came from…the original pueblo people. They are referred to as the ‘Anasazi’ or ‘ancient ones.’ They are part of the great diaspora of tribes that apparently came over from Siberia about 12,000 years ago."

Elizabeth was imparting knowledge. She was explaining to the rest of the family how the ruins in Chaco Canyon came to be there.

At least a dozen conglomerations of houses, storerooms, workrooms and religious chambers have been found in the Chaco Canyon. Some of them include hundreds of rooms, built of stone – not higgledy-piggledy, but finely crafted according to a design that seemed to have been worked out in advance.

It must have been a wetter period in the region, for now the place is as dry as a pharoah’s tomb. It does not seem possible for it to support even a dozen people, let alone 5,000.

"The Siberians were not the first to arrive in America," Elizabeth continued. "A few bones have been discovered that belonged to a much earlier race. But there are not enough of them to come to a conclusion. They are a bit of a mystery and a source of argument."

The Navajo, Pueblo, Apache and other tribes in the area refer to themselves as ‘native American.’ They didn’t like the term ‘Indian,’ the handle imposed upon them by the first European explorers – who thought they had arrived in the East Indies.

Anasazi: Non-Native Americans

"How come they call themselves ‘native Americans?’ Henry wanted to know. "Didn’t they immigrate to America just like white people, only earlier?"

Henry was right. The first appellation was a mistake, but the second is a lie. "Native Americans" are immigrants – just like the rest of us. And like the rest of us, they probably hunted, exterminated, infected or simply beat out the locals – an earlier group of immigrants of whom little trace remains.

"They were in New Mexico at least 12,000 years ago," our tour guide continued. "They’ve found the remains of a huge, extinct bison with arrow points in the bones. They carbon- dated the bones…and besides that species has been extinct for about 10,000 years.

"The first inhabitants of this area were hunter-gatherers for a very long period. But they seem to have had contact with other people from the south and gotten from them a type of grass seed…and later, corn. Gradually, they planted more and more and hunted less and less. They lived in caves at first and then built houses of stone – about 1,000 years ago."

We explored ‘Pueblo Bonito,’ the most impressive of the Anasazi towns and then headed up into the rocks for a hike around the mesa. The trail led up over and around the hills and then up between two immense boulders, a defile so steep and narrow, it could have guarded the gates of heaven.

Once at the top, we gazed down on the ancient pueblo…clearly able to see the outline of the rooms and exterior walls – including the round ‘kivas’ in the center – from the height of several hundred feet. We set off on what was to be a hike of 5.2 miles.

"Do we have to do this," Jules asked. The desert sun in August had made us tired even before we started out.

"Yes," came Elizabeth’s reply. "It’s good for your character. Let me tell you more about this place…"

Anasazi: Stupid Tourists

In the parking lot, we had heard another group of tourists discussing the ruins.

"They built this 1,000 years ago," said one.

"When was the Roman Empire?" asked a second.

"Maybe it was about the time of the Egyptians," said a third.

"And there were Greeks too," replied the first.

"Oh my God," Elizabeth was disgusted. Here were people who had not been improved; people to whom the vital knowledge of our history and pre-history had never been imparted. Here were philistines, know-nothings, and dumbbells. These people should be ashamed of themselves. Everybody knows the Romans crucified Christ. And this is the year 2004, AD. Duh… So the Romans were around 2,000 years ago, not 1,000. And the Greeks and Egyptians were even more ancient.

"This town was built about the same time that William, Duke of Normandy, conquered England…and a little after the cathedral of Notre Dame was built."

"Mom," Jules took up for the dumbbells. "So they didn’t know what was going on 1,000 years ago. Big deal. What difference does it make? You feel so superior because you remember a few dates and a little history."

"It’s not that," his mother replied. "It’s just that you need a little basic knowledge and culture or you can’t understand who you are or where you’ve come from. Let’s get going…"

We set out over the rocks. Pater Familias led the way. Elizabeth did the talking.

"This civilization peaked out in about between the 10th and 12th centuries. The climate seems to have become hotter and drier. The land could no longer support so many people. There is also evidence that the pueblos were attacked and burned by invaders from the north. Other tribes came into the area – the Athabascans from Canada, who were more warlike. They’re the ancestors of today’s Navajo and Apache tribes.

"Recently, they’ve found evidence that the ancient pueblo Indians were cannibals. They’ve found human bones with butchers’ marks on them…and human DNA in human feces. But their descendants don’t appreciate the insight; it’s become very controversial…"

"Why would they want to come all the way down here from Canada to attack the Indians around here," Henry asked.

"Well, I’m sure they didn’t come for that purpose. But it is really amazing. The whole continent was practically empty. Still, for some reason, men will go out of their way in order to attack other men. Remember when there were only two tiny European colonies on the entire Atlantic Coast. In the early 17th century. We visited one of them, remember…the French fort at Port Royale, Nova Scotia? An English expedition from Jamestown, Virginia sailed all the way up the Atlantic seaboard just to burn it down. War just seems to be part of our genetic makeup."

Anasazi: Renounce Preemptive War

From time to time, humans kill each other on a grand scale. They always have a reason that seems good at the time. But when historians look back on it, the reasons are almost always absurd.

Every once in a while, usually after the misery of the last tussle has been forgotten, war fever sets in. Watching the Democratic National Convention a couple of weeks ago, we thought we saw temperatures rising. Even the Democrats seem to want war…or, if they don’t want it, they seem to accept it as inevitable. John Kerry was put forward as a gifted, reliable leader for the great patriotic war that lies ahead. He’s a man who you can trust when the going gets rough, said his supporters…a man who will report for duty when his country needs him.

None of the lame brained speakers suggested that killing Iraqis was a bad idea. None thought we should get out of the Middle East and mind our own business. None proposed renouncing preemptive war as national policy. None doubted that the U.S. was under attack (though none said why). None questioned the merits of the ‘war on terror;’ they merely thought that their man Kerry would do a better job of it.

"For one reason or another – it might have been drought, or maybe war…or maybe disease – the Anasazi abandoned these cities just before the Spanish arrived. They migrated down to the Rio Grande, where water was more reliable."

By this time, we had been hiking over the hot rocks for nearly two hours. Water was on our minds.

Whether it was good for Jules’ character or not, we don’t know. But after a couple of hours of vigorous hiking, we began to be concerned for his health. Jules’ face had turned red. None of us were used to the altitude or the temperature. The desert sun had wicked the moisture right out of us.

"Drink some more water," we advised Jules.

"There isn’t any water left."

"What? How could we be out of water so soon?"

We opened up the backpack. There was only one bottle with any water left in it. And it had only enough for one gulp each. The family of Parisians had greatly underestimated how much water it needed. If it continued on its present course, it was likely to end up as a candidate for the Darwin Awards, the prize given, posthumously, to those who cleanse the gene pool in some particularly moronic way.

"We have to go back now," we told the group.

"Yeah, but we have a long way to go," said Jules, thinking about his own bones bleached by the side of the trail.

"And Mom," Jules went on. "Remember those tourists who didn’t know when Rome was around? Well, at least they knew enough to bring water."


Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning
August 13, 2004

"Things are getting better all the time, and if they’re not, we’ll fix it."

The words of Michael A. Ledeen brought a malicious smile to our face. So many people seem to have been born yesterday…the hospitals must have run out of diapers.

How are we going to ‘fix’ a half-a-trillion trade deficit? How are we going to ‘fix’ another half-a-trillion federal deficit? How are we going to ‘fix’ a debt to GDP ratio at the highest level in history? How are we going to ‘fix’ a real estate market where the typical house is so expensive the typical house buyer can’t afford it? How are we going to ‘fix’ an oil market…when nearly half the world’s oil – formed over billions of years – is used up by two or three generations? What’s the ‘fix’ for the American consumer – who earns less and less each year…but goes further and further into debt…while approximately 5,000 Asians stand ready to do his job at 1/10th the price?

Some problems – like old age – can’t be fixed. The best you can do is to reckon with them…to endure them…to face up to them…and live through them.

Other problems, such as a debt problem, can be fixed, temporarily – by providing more credit at lower rates. It will appear to work, for a while. Later, the real problem will be worse than ever.

Alan Greenspan has tried to fix America’s economy by making it easier for people to borrow. Time after time, he’s faced up to crises by providing more credit and lower interest rates. Now, the U.S. economy has gotten used to it…and lives on the savings of the rest of the world.

That problem can’t be fixed because no one in the Federal Reserve or the U.S. government has the courage to fix it. The system would not tolerate a real fixer. What politician is going to cut services and raise taxes? What Fed governor is going to stiffen up interest rates enough to cause a recession?

No…some problems cannot be fixed. Instead, they fix themselves. Painfully.

More news from Tom:


Tom Dyson, from the corner of Georgia and Hornby…

– "Are you okay?" We didn’t know what else to say. I mean, what do you say? We felt so helpless.

– Addison had invited us to breakfast yesterday morning. We were going to the Elbow Rooms, a restaurant that makes its franchise out of being rude to the customers.

– We had just stepped out of the hotel, and turned the corner onto Hornby St. when the sound of shrieking rubber interrupted us. A young girl had just been hit by a car, and was now lying in the street, virtually at your editors’ feet. The girl had whacked her head on the car’s windshield with such force that the glass has smashed.

– She was okay, she said, sitting up and scratching her head. She had a look of utter befuddlement. It was as if she didn’t quite realize what had happened. The driver too…he just stood there with a dopey expression on his face. And soon more people arrived…they all formed a circle around her and stood gawking. "Are you okay?" They repeated. No one knew what to do with themselves.

– Are you okay? Steve Sjuggerud gave a speech at the Agora Wealth Symposium yesterday afternoon. He told a story in which he posed a similar question to a group of high- powered figures in the Indonesian central bank, only he didn’t express it quite like that.

– He was really enquiring how these men intended to deal with the their country’s severe economic problems. He wanted to know how they were going to pay the debts, reduce the deficits and restore faith in the currency. After a long pregnant pause, the most senior of the three men looked up at Steve and said: "Got any ideas?"

– Steve gave a great speech…this is a man with plenty of ideas. One of his more controversial ideas – especially to readers of The Daily Reckoning – centers on bonds. He thinks interest rates could possibly still go much lower for much longer.

– Are you okay? The audience might have been wondering about Steve’s mental disposition. After all, isn’t the U.S. government so extraordinarily indebted? Isn’t inflation boiling up? Aren’t China and Japan going to dump their dollar denominated debt when they realize how financially irresponsible the U.S. administrators are? Hasn’t the bond market already begun to crumble?

– "Maybe not," says Sjuggerud. "Everybody hates bonds these days and they think yields can only go higher…but that maybe a dangerous attitude."

– To illustrate his point, Steve produced a couple of charts. On the first, he had overlaid the graph of Japanese 10-year interest rates from the late ’80s with U.S. 10-year rates beginning in the late ’90s. He set the two graphs so that they are lined up by the dates of the respective stock market peaks, showing that U.S. yields are following a path uncannily similar to that traced by Japanese yields 10 years ago.

– On the second chart, Steve showed U.K. government bond yields from 1720 to the present day and U.S. 10-year government bond yields from 1795. The long run average is 4.7%. "This," says Steve, "shows that, historically speaking, bond yields are not remarkably low."

– Yesterday, bond yields dipped a couple of basis points, settling at 4.25%, only 45 basis points below the long run average. And for the second day in a row, markets were weak. The Dow shed 124 points, and is now down on the week. The Nasdaq continues to plummet putting your editor’s $50 in serious jeopardy. It fell 30 points to 1,752. Readers may recall that, last Friday, we bet a colleague that the Nasdaq would finish higher exactly one week later. The vicious sell off last week made us think the market was oversold. Apparently, it wasn’t. Could this signify the end of the year’s range-bound trading? Your editor thinks it does.

– And speaking of losing money by betting against colleagues, it’s always a bad idea to take the opposite side of a trade with Steve Sjuggerud. As we told readers last week, your editor is short T-bond futures. And despite the danger of taking the opposite side on a Sjuggerud trade, we will keep our position…for now. [Ed. Note: Dr. Steve Sjuggerud is a market sage. The man is brilliant.


Bill Bonner, with more from the road…

*** Is the world really running out of oil? Byron King answers:

"Yes, we have been "running out of oil" since about 1859, shortly after Col. Drake dug his first well near Titusville, Pennsylvania. It has all been downhill since then. The battlefields of predictive geology are littered with the corpses of wise men who reviewed the discovery rates and the production data, and determined with empirical certainty that, by such-and-such date, we all would be up the creek without a paddle and freezing in the dark. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong some more. And wrong again."

"Until a geologist from Shell Oil Company, named M. King Hubbert, predicted in 1958 that by 1971 the production of oil in the U.S. would "peak," and then commence an irreversible decline. Which is exactly what happened in 1971 and thereafter. Hubbert lived long enough to be vindicated, although it took about 20 years of hindsight clearly to see the "peak" in the rear-view mirror.

Was he lucky? Or was he good? Or was he both lucky and good? Whatever he was, he was correct. You can’t beat being correct, especially when you predict an event and a time frame. That is the kind of thing that people want to take to the bank.

"In the past few years, the Hubbert analytical methodology has been applied to a world-wide data base. It is problematic, because the world is a very big place and the data is not always all that good. "But we know enough about planetary geology, the arrangement of sedimentary basins within the crust, and the formation and entrapment and preservation of oil to know a few things.

"We (that is, the very smart people who work in the geology biz and the petroleum industry) know where the sedimentary basins are. The rest of the crust is basalt or other "hard" stuff with zero petroleum potential.

"We (id.) are pretty sure we understand what it takes to form and entrap petroleum, not the least of which is many millions of years of a very specific type of geologic activity. (Forgive me for not going into detail just now. That is a lunchtime discussion.)

"We (id.) are pretty sure that we know how much petroleum we have found, and we know how much has been produced over the past 145 years.

"We (id.) are pretty sure we know where to look for more petroleum, and about how much there is to find.

"We (id.) have identified about 90% of all the recoverable oil that we will ever find, and about half of that has been produced and consumed. "The world is presently at or near the "peak point" of oil production, currently about 81 million barrels per day, all of which are being consumed. About 20+ million of those daily barrels are consumed by the U.S.; a lot of it up in smoke as people are idle in traffic jams (another lunchtime discussion). It is highly unlikely that the total world production will ever exceed that number of 81 million.

Using Hubbert methodology (lucky and good, recall), total world oil production is about to enter a phase of irreversible decline. Demand will have to decline as well, in the face of reduced availability. "The price of oil will rise (noticed anything lately?). The biggest demand growth has been in China, which has tripled its oil consumption in the past 15 years. China is now a significant oil importer, sucking up essentially "all" of the incremental increase that comes onto the market.

And demand for oil in China is growing. "’What if we can sell a gallon of oil to every man in China,’ asked John Rockefeller of Standard Oil Company, over 100 years ago. ‘What if they all buy one?’ is the question for today. The trends are not out friends. "Some day you will tell your grandchildren, ‘Yes, I remember a time when we would burn oil to power ships and to drive cars.’

" "They will say, ‘Wow, grandpa, you mean you burned that precious resource as just plain old boiler or motive fuel?’ "And you will say, ‘Yep. I remember one time, a bunch of my friends and I jumped into a car and drove 150 miles just to go to a restaurant to eat steak.’ "And they will say, ‘Wow, grandpa. What’s a steak?’"

*** "I’m 94 years old," said a man at the LAX airport.

He didn’t look 94. We asked for proof. He took out a driver’s license. Sure enough, he was born in 1910.

When the old, the dead, and the near-dead talk, we listen.

"This is a great country," he said.

"How do you mean?"

"I’m 94 years old," came the reply.

"Well, yes…but in what way is this a great country? What did you mean by that?"

"You don’t believe it? Here…didn’t I show you my driver’s license?"

Again, he offered his proof.

"No, I was just asking what you meant by saying that this is a great country," we yelled.

"I came here after the war. You know, [of course, we did not…] that I speak 5 languages? I came here from Czechoslovakia. I was an engineer.

"This is a great country…but it’s not that great…truth is, I’d like to go back to the old country…you know, where I came from…"

"What do you mean…why do you say the U.S. is ‘not that great?’"

"I’m 94 years old…want to see my driver’s license? It proves it."

"No, we believe you. But you don’t look a day over 93." [By now we realized that he may have spoken 5 languages, but he couldn’t hear a single one.]

"The trouble with this country is it has too many politicians. Better to have just a few…good ones. Even a good king is better than a lot of bad politicians. I’ve seen them all. Bush and Kerry, both of them are stinkers. Still, this is a great country…"

The Daily Reckoning