Another day in America, another exaggerated threat: about EMP weapons

Summary: A new day, a new fear barrage on America. Today we’re told to wet our pants in fear of North Korea or terrorists detonating a nuke to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to burn out our weapons (as opposed to using it to destroy a city). The threat-mongerers exaggerate the danger, but more interesting is how experts debunking the threat are filtered out of the new media. It’s worth looking at this process. Perhaps understanding it can help us resist the propaganda and more successfully see the world.   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The time left to prepare against EMP attacks is running out — as it has been since 1982.

EMP attack

America has experienced a fear barrage that might be without precedent in history. Every week the face of another existential threat looms out of the news. We’re urged to wet our pants and fund — but not question — the Deep State, the only force that can save us.

Today’s fear barrage is an oldie from the early 1980s: “The Threat to Melt the Electric Grid“, Henry F. Cooper & Peter Vincent Pry, op-ed in the WSJ, 30 April 2015 — “An electromagnetic-pulse attack from North Korea or another U.S. enemy would cause staggering devastation.” Cooper is the former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (another boondoggle). Pry is executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security (a privately funded group; we can guess at by whom). Their websites are here and here.

The threat of EMP’s has been debunked many times. But only in the back pages. Experts know that speaking against the fear narratives gets one blackballed from the defense gravy train and blacklisted by journalists. Only the threat mongers, the warmongers, get attention.

The Wall Street Journal shows how the propaganda narrative works. There is a large body of analysis showing that the EMP threat is grossly exaggerated, especially versus the serious ones we face. For details see these posts about EMPs: Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons, generating waves of fear in America for 20 years and Renowned Physicists Cast Doubt on Gingrich’s Far-Fetched Scenario about EMP weapons. None of this appears in the WSJ, who give only the warnings. Some examples…

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Tips for preventing conflicts with the police

Summary:  We interrupt our on-going series to bring some practical information about dealing with police. A previous post gave the good advice to Beware of the police — and especially not talk to talk with them until you have an attorney present. That does not help in more casual or early stage encounters; this post gives some tips for these occasions.  This post was suggested by Joe Bonham.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Danger: Police in Area

Today’s advice for life in New America comes from “5 ways to manage conflicts with cops in a medical emergency” by David Givot at EMS1 (a website for the emergency medical services community). Givot has decades of experience as a paramedic, director operations for paramedics, and as a defense attorney. This was written for EMTs, but much of it can help regular citizens.

1. Don’t waste your breath! Police officers are trained to be aggressive, assertive, controlling, and correct in all situations. Going head-to-head is not a winning strategy and going toe-to-toe is not going to end well, either for the patient or for you. Don’t waste your breath telling them how much they don’t know or why they are wrong.

Calmly state your case. Make it their idea to let you go.

5. Stay calm! Do not let your frustration or fear spin you out of control. Your interaction should remain cool, calm, and professional. If the officer escalates or attempts to escalate, don’t fall for it.

Remember: you are an innocent citizen and these are your streets. Let nothing shake you. This is essential. If you cannot do so, then answer only necessary questions. Otherwise stay silent. Next Givot explains why police tend to act as they do.

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Does America have the best military in the world?

Summary: As we begin yet another cycle of wars, we owe it to ourselves and even more to our soldiers to ask why the best soldiers in the world keep losing? Here is one answer, stark and contrarian.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

FM Laws #1: all discussions of 4GW, the wars we actually fight, get derailed into discussions about hardware for theoretical conventional wars. More fun! Less scary!

The Atlantic cover: Jan-Feb 2015


  1. Fallows describes the problem.
  2. Are we the cause?
  3. Rephrasing the problem.
  4. Another example.
  5. Other post in this series.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Fallows describes the problem

I consider James Fallows to be one of the most perceptive journalists of our day. So when the Jan/Feb copy of The Atlantic arrived with his article on the cover, I eagerly turned to it. The provocative title, “The Tragedy of the American Military“ predisposed me to like it, as I’ve written much about this during the past decade.  Much of it presented — brilliantly, as usual, the critique developed by the military reform community during the past 20 years (with nil effect on the Pentagon). Here’s the core problem, shown in this excerpt…

Ours is the best-equipped fighting force in history, and it is incomparably the most expensive. By all measures, today’s professionalized military is also better trained, motivated, and disciplined than during the draft-army years. … Yet repeatedly this force has been defeated by less modern, worse-equipped, barely funded foes. Or it has won skirmishes and battles only to lose or get bogged down in a larger war. Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion … Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned.

(2)  Are we the cause — the reason why America can’t win these wars?

So what causes this inability to win wars in the 6 decades since Korea? Fallows gives a compelling analysis of the problem (with which I agree) then blames the American public.

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The key things to know about the great American bubble machine

Summary: It’s increasingly obvious that the US economy has become locked into a low-growth, bubble-driven, boom-bust mode. This post provides a brief description, an antidote to the news media’s superficial coverage of this important dynamic. If readers are interested, future posts will provide a deeper analysis.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Box of Bubbles


  1. Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere.
  2. San Francisco: America’s bubble factory.
  3. What pops bubbles?
  4. Is it different this time? Yes.
  5. Other posts in this series.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere

The bubbles are everywhere. The best place to see them is on the pages of Zero Hedge, whose contrarian cynicism provides a good perspective for analysis of this madness; for example, see them dissect Tesla. Twitter’s results need no such analysis; they are self-explanatory, with its valuation (and executives’ pay) grossly disproportionate to its growth (and lack of profits). An earlier post looked inside the biotech bubble (spoiler: there’s nothing there).

Bubbles are consensual hallucinations. However absurd, we want to believe. We don’t look at internet advertisements, yet believe the stocks selling htem are like gold mines. We complain as the supply of internet advertising skyrockets — the “virtual economy” scrambling for money like a dying man digging for water at a desert mirage — yet we don’t see that the supply of net advertisements will always expand faster than corporations’ demand for them, and so ad prices will decline in price to the marginal cost of production (the virtual economy being too close to “perfect competition” for the hoped-for high profits).

Worse, the massive growth in social media traffic comes from underpricing its product. If investors forced these companies to price their products for immediate profits (as was the norm until the late 1990s), many would evaporate.

Worst of all, even the highest-quality internet advertising might not work well. So far companies ignore warning signs (see these articles in Quartz and in Slate).

So we naively believe. But the people blowing the bubbles are not naive.

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What do we learn from conservatives’ fake quotes?

Summary:  Today both Left and Right in America are dysfunctional, but they are neither equivalent nor equal in power. Today we look at the Right’s revealing love of fake quotes. {2nd of 2 posts today}

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”
Jonathan Swift, The Examiner (1710).

Obama: "American brought down"

An exceptionally dumb fake, but popular.



One astonishing aspect of today’s America is our credulity, our willingness to believe whatever matches our tribal prejudices — without the slightest evidence, no matter how improbable.

The bogus obsessions of the Right highlight this — Obama was not born in the USA, Obama is Muslim, and Benghazi Benghazi BENGHAZI!  But a more common mode of propaganda is the fake quote, preferably with a nice picture attached. These memes are launched daily, spread by gullible conservatives by email and social media.

It makes these people easy to manipulate (lousy citizens, but good followers). The Right talks big about responsibility, but apparently it does not apply when passing on information — no matter how slanderous. Or, as you’ll see from many of these quotes, idiotic.

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Review of Skyfall: an old Bond for a tired franchise

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Skyfall. It’s one of his best reviews. “There’s no energy to the entire endeavor that doesn’t feel borrowed, and while the movie keeps moving, it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere.” But his review is really about the difficult process of reinventing myths for a new generation. Star Trek, Batman, James Bond — each has to make this jump, and we can see how America has changed by how this complex cultural constructs adapts to us. The Bond franchise has become exhausted. How will it change? We’ll see in the next few films.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Skyfall poster

It’s Not You, Mr. Bond, It’s Me

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
12 November 2012. Reposted with his generous permission.

Skyfall is a good movie. It’s a good action movie. It’s a good Bond movie. Fans of action movies and Bond movies will love it. It’s already made a lot of money at the box office, and it will continue to make a lot more in the coming weeks. You should go see it. You’ll most likely be very entertained.

As for me, I found myself bored right through the backs of my apathetic eyeballs and all the way down to my detached and disinterested toes. Yes, it was all very well done by director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road), stolidly grimacing star Daniel Craig, and especially the always-brilliant cinematographer Roger Deakins.

So we can only conclude that I no longer care much for action films or Bond films. That realization threatens to nudge my reaction to and assessment of Skyfall from the realm of film criticism and into navel-gazing personal therapy, but I’ll do my best to steer toward the former and keep the latter to a minimum.

Even if Skyfall’s basic plot (from a script by regular Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, plus John Logan) spins on a couple all-too-familiar axes (a disgruntled former M16 agent has stolen a list of undercover spies… yawn) and serves up the usual off-puttingly blatant product placement (hai, Heineken!), there are still oodles of pleasing set pieces, lots of big stunts, far-flung locales, and morally compromised femme fatales.

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Taylor Swift shows us love in the 21st century

Summary: We spend too much time seeing the world as abstractions. As polls, statistics, satellite photos, arrows on maps — dry and lifeless data. Here we also show culture in motion by our popular art. It gives us a living mirror to see who we are in real time. Today Taylor Swift explains how women deal with men in the new world of the 21st century. She speaks to her peers, which has made her one of the top singers of her generation. This is another in a series exploring this new world.

Gender Roles


  1. Beta males: use ’em and dump ’em
  2. Alpha males: bad but fun
  3. The game is fun but doesn’t work
  4. For More Information

(1)  Beta males: use ’em and dump ’em

Taylor Swift gives us a brutally honest account of beta male’s role in the new gender economy, providing high status women with ego boosting light entertainment. Betas are the warm-up act before the real action. AKA, they’re exploitable fools, wining and dining a girl while she waits for a booty call. Here we see why “hook ups” replace dating, and the genesis of the blowback known as game.

“The Way I Loved You” (2008)

He is sensible and so incredible
And all my single friends are jealous
He says everything I need to hear and it’s like
I couldn’t ask for anything better
He opens up my door and I get into his car
And he says you look beautiful tonight
And I feel perfectly fine

But I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain
And it’s 2am and I’m cursing your name
You’re so in love that you act insane
And that’s the way I loved you
Breakin’ down and coming undone
It’s a roller coaster kinda rush
And I never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you

He respects my space
And never makes me wait
And he calls exactly when he says he will
He’s close to my mother
Talks business with my father
He’s charming and endearing
And I’m comfortable

He can’t see the smile I’m faking
And my heart’s not breaking
Cause I’m not feeling anything at all
And you were wild and crazy
Just so frustrating intoxicating
Complicated, got away by some mistake and now

And that’s the way I loved you oh, oh
Never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you

(2)  Alpha males: bad but fun

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