Author Archives: Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

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A Tale of police brutality New America: it’s just entertainment unless we act.

Summary: Today we have another story of bold police brutality, with racial overtones. Like the revelations of massive NSA surveillance, these stories produce excitement before we relapse into apathy. They show the construction of a New America rising on the ruins of the old regime.  What will it take to spur us to action? {1st of 2 posts today}

Are these proud words from an era now ending?

Police: To Protect and to Serve

This is New America, where the police act boldly to establish their dominance over the proles and outer party (they’re deferential to the inner party). As Floyd Dent found: pulled over, beaten up, and then charged with resisting arrest and drug possession (dropping one of their handy dime bags of dope). The charges provide deflectors to the police against the inevitable brutality charge. Here’s his story (there will be another next week, or tomorrow): “Detroit-Area Cops Shown Beating Black Man During Traffic Stop“, NBC, 25 March 2015 — Excerpt:

“Why you beating on me like this?” the driver, Floyd Dent, 57, asks after police pull him to the hood of a cruiser.  Accounts of the incident from Dent and from Inkster police — all of whom in the video appear to be white — are wildly different:

  • Police said Dent attempted to flee the police car, but the video appears to show Dent maintaining a consistent speed and then pulling over safely across the street from a police station.
  • Police say Dent threatened to kill the officers. Dent says he didn’t — and none of the 6 officers’ microphones were turned on at the beginning of the incident to substantiate their claim.
  • One officer said Dent bit him on the arm. Dent said he didn’t, and the officer didn’t seek medical attention or photograph his injury to support the allegation.
  • Police said they found a bag of crack cocaine under the passenger seat of Dent’s car. Dent, who has worked for Ford Motor Co. for 37 years and has no criminal record, said officers planted the cocaine. A post-arrest blood test showed no drugs in his system. Inkster Police Chief Vicky Yost said that “appropriate action” would be taken if the investigations found the cocaine possession charge to have been manufactured.

A judge dismissed all charges involved in the physical confrontation with police after watching the video obtained by WDIV. Dent’s lawyer said he was offered a plea deal resulting only in probation on the cocaine possession charge, but Dent turned it down, telling the station he wouldn’t plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit.

See the dashcam video

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John Bolton reveals a serious threat to America

Summary: Since 9/11 our leaders have become increasingly militant, urging America to attack an even invade an ever-growing list of nations for flimsy or imaginary reasons. We’re powerful but not omnipotent. War is a game that cannot be played forever with painful consequences. Eventually we’ll attack someone (a nation or group) who either retaliates irrationally but severely, or we’ll spark growth of a coalition of nations determined to restrain our military adventures. Our leaders work to make such disasters happen. A little bad luck and they will get their way.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Flames

An op-ed in today’s New York Times shows what might be the greatest threat to America: “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” by John R. Bolton. It’s another volley in the well-funded multi-decade propaganda campaign to involve America in an endless series of foreign wars, a program that no series of failures and revealed lies can derail. Let’s review the high points.

… the president’s own director of National Intelligence testified in 2014 that they had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program. There is now widespread acknowledgment that the rosy 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which judged that Iran’s weapons program was halted in 2003, was an embarrassment, little more than wishful thinking. Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.

Bolton’s acknowledgement that there is no proof is the only fact in this essay. He offers no evidence of the “widespread acknowledgement” about the 2007 NIE. Bolton’s statement about Clapper’s testimony is incorrect since he does not say that Iran has a “nuclear weapons program”, let alone that it’s “progressing” (international agreements allow Iran — like other nations — to have a civilian nuclear program). Clapper said:

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Climate news poorly reported in the news, about things you should know

Summary: Today we look at arctic sea ice and tornadoes. While they tell us important information about our world, how the news tells us about them tells us even more. As we become isolated into tribes our news becomes dominated by targeted clickbait. So it is with climate change, among our most serious issues but often grossly misrepresented by both Left and Right. Yet the climate agencies tell us what we need to know, if we’d only listen.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

The 2015 record low maximum of arctic sea ice

The media overflow with hype about small changes in climate metrics, often records with some combination of narrow criteria, little importance, and influenced by factors in addition to temperature. Putting big labels on these tends to mislead more than illuminate climate trends. These records produce clickbait for websites advertising to the Left, alarming stories given without vital context.

The latest story is about this year’s record low in the maximum arctic sea ice extent, producing the usual alarmist headlines. For reliable information we should first check with the NASA statement about it by scientist Walt Meier (red emphasis added):

“Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover … With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases, it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.

“The winter maximum gives you a head start, but the minimum is so much more dependent on what happens in the summer that it seems to wash out anything that happens in the winter” …

There is more valuable context to this story, as shown by a few pictures. Look at the record low seasonal maximum extent vs other years.  This shows the past 5 years; blue is 2015. A record by a small amount.

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Economics gets interesting as the economy darkens while stocks bubble

Summary: These economic status reports grow more interesting as the data shows slowing while the stock market bubbles. It’s nothing like 2007, except in our blindness to events and disinterest in preparing for obvious risks. When the recession arrives (we can’t know when), I believe it will mark the start of a new economic order. The next generation will listen with astonishment to tales of these days.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“In a nutshell: Things are looking better — in fact, they’re looking downright good. The economy is showing solid momentum and there’s good news in virtually every sector. I expect U.S. growth to be about 2½% in real GDP. I see the continued improvements in the economy pushing wages and prices up, and inflation moving back toward its target.  I expect to reach full employment by the end of the year.”

John C. Williams (President of the San Francisco
 Fed), 23 March 2015. Be very afraid when you hear such things while the indicators tumble.

Economy

Contents

  1. One of the big indicators: new orders durable goods
  2. GDP on recession watch
  3. Stocks: bubbling again because we don’t learn
  4. A bear market will wreck the investment biz
  5. For More Information

(1)  One of the big indicators: new orders for durable goods

The February numbers were weak, as they have been so often during this long slow expansion. The big picture is that they have been flat during the past 2 years (easily missed if you read the news by the hyperventilating over the little swings). They’re the same level as September 2006, and 5% below the pre-crash peak of December 2007. Almost unchanged from a year ago, any breakdown from here will warn of an imminent recession.

New Orders for Durable Goods: February 2015

(2)  GDP on recession watch

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Why don’t our dreams of a better world inspire us to act?

Summary: In this chapter of our search for a better America we examine our stories and myths. Do they show a path to the future — inspiring us to act —  or are they just dreams of salvation by gods?  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Phoenix

In our future lies a better America.

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.

— John Adams’ Letters to John Taylor (1814).

I’ve written hundreds of posts describing how our passivity and apathy have allowed the 1% to gain power as our representative institutions decay, so that now the Republic itself is at risk. I’ve written 50+ posts about ways to reform ourselves and rebuild America’s politics. Unfortunately the diagnostic posts are more convincing than those about cures. Readers agree, as the posts about the problems get far more clicks than do those about ways to reform (there is another, darker explanation, which I’ll pass over today).

In these cases I turn to our myths for inspiration. Let’s review some of the good futures described in our literature, films, comic books, and TV shows.

Looking at our dreams

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see….”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford … “nothing so simple. Nothing so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they assume that the government they’ve voted in approximates the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”

— Douglas Adams, in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984).

The Space Patrol in Robert Heinlein’s future history series (e.g., Space Cadet, 1948) is an autonomous military organization maintaining the peace by its monopoly of nuclear weapons. They are aware of that the Patrol could become tyrants, and it had one almost-successful internal coup d’état (“the Long Watch”). This is the most realistic of the visions described here, although the stories themselves imply their improbability.

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Economic status report: good news plus chaff from doomsters.

Summary:  Today we look at the latest economic data, drawing an important conclusion — listening to doomsters leads to mistakes. You’ll learn little from them, and can never recover those lost minutes of your life. The economic picture remains mixed. I forecast slowing with some chance of confusion. A recession looms in the distance, still beyond our sight but too close to ignore.  {2nd post of 2 today.} Economics

Contents

  1. Fearful World Trade numbers?
  2. Another day, another Fed survey
  3. Are new homes crashing down on us?
  4. A blizzard of PMIs
  5. One Indicator to rule them all
  6. Conclusions
  7. For More Information

(1)  Fearful World Trade numbers?

Tweet by Stockman about trade ZeroHedge echos with their usual dark spin: “Global Trade Volume Tumbles Most Since 2011; Biggest Value Plunge Since Lehman.” They refer to the invaluable CPR World Trade Monitor for January. Trade volume was -1.4% in January; but December was +1.3%. That’s why the CPB staff warns that the monthly numbers are volatile and not seasonally adjusted, and so suggests that people focus instead on the 3 month moving average.  See the below graph of YoY changes in the 3-month average. Like so many economic indicators, it’s growing at a slow steady rate.  Ignore the doomsters. Continue reading

A clarion call to prepare for cyberwar. But what’s the threat?

Summary:  American professionals writing about national defense are intelligent and well-educated, usually with distinguished careers. But their writings should be datelined “from Oz”. Today we examine another example, about the law of cyberwar.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

CyberCrime

 

Preparing for Cyber War: A Clarion Call

By Michael Schmitt (bio here).
Posted at Just Security, 23 March 2015.

Excerpt:

In every War College in the world, two core principles of military planning are that “hope is not a plan” and “the enemy gets a vote.” Any plan developed without sensitivity to these two maxims is doomed to fail. They apply irrespective of the mode in which the conflict is fought, the nature of the enemy, or the weapons system employed. Unfortunately, some states seem to be disregarding the maxims with respect to cyber operations. They include certain allies and friends around the world, states that the United States will fight alongside during future conflicts. The consequences could prove calamitous, especially in terms of crafting complementary strategies and ensuring interoperability in the battlespace.

… Many states have no position, confidential or public, on when the right of individual or collective self-defense provided for in Article 51 of the UN Charter and customary law applies. Some have yet to maturely grapple with the question of whether international humanitarian law (IHL) applies to cyber operations at all, and for those that have, important questions remain unanswered. These include whether civilian data qualifies as a civilian object enjoying IHL {international humanitarian law} protections, when a cyber operation is an attack in the context of IHL’s assorted targeting rules, and under what circumstances civilians who engage in cyber operations lose their IHL protections from — and during — attacks. Very few states have even considered whether and when a cyber only conflict qualifies as an “armed conflict,” international or non-international, such that IHL applies. This actuality is problematic, since a failure to understand how international law limits or allows cyber operations is a bit like playing football without knowing the rules.

This is sad to read, like so much writing by Americans about geopolitics. It’s not even wrong.

The US (probably with Israel and perhaps other allies) has already made a first strike cyberattack in an undeclared war, on a civilian target (albeit, like so many industrial targets, with dual-use capability). The author ignores this recent history, giving the article an air of unreality — like discussing “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” .

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