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It’s not too soon to worry about the US economy. There are things worse than slow growth.

18 September 2014

Summary: Here’s another status report on the US economy.. Most economists expect faster growth. Perhaps so, but there are dark spots in the picture. Concerns about unsustainable auto sales, weakening exports, and (the big one) the mini-housing boom rolling over.

Slow Economic Growth


Expectations run high for the US economy, an acceleration from the 2%/year GDP growth we’ve had since the crash. Surveys record optimism among purchasing managers, builders, and consumers. Manufacturing remains strong, with hints of the long-awaited capital expenditures boom.

There are several engines driving the slow growth of US economy. Large among them are automobile sales, housing (both new and existing home sales), and exports. Export growth might fade as the US dollar rises (decreasing competitiveness of US goods) and the Japanese and European economies slow. Automobile sales are driven by mad long-maturity loans to sub-prime borrowers — a boom almost certain to end badly.

Now perhaps its the turn of housing. Top real estate analyst Mark Hanson has been warning since late last year that the housing markets were rolling over — as described in this post, and at his website. Now a second voice speaks up.

Joshua Pollard was Goldman’s lead US housing analyst from February 2009 to March 2013. He’s written a forecast for the US housing market in the form of a letter to the President. It can be downloaded from his website. He has some disturbing conclusions. It’s deeper and more complex analysis than Hanson’s, but comes to similar conclusions.


House prices are 12% overvalued today. They have already started to decline. Today’s misvaluation matches the excess of 2006-07, just before the Great Recession. Since World War II home prices have been tightly correlated to income and mortgage rates (R2 = 96%). Investors/cash purchasers, which make up 50% of home sales, have driven real estate volatility to unrivaled levels in trackable history. As public policy makers debate seminal decisions on “forward guidance” and unconventional monetary stimulus we note that each 1% increase in rates drops home valuations by another 4%; at a 2% fed funds rate, where fed offi­cials and investors expect to be by the end of 2016, the overvaluation equals 20%.

Respectfully, the United States cannot afford another housing driven recession. The facts and correlations – the tenets of probabilities – suggest it is more likely than not that home prices fall 15% in the next three years.

It’s a complex analysis. A top-down view, unlike Hanson’s ground-level perspective. It’s worth reading in full. If Hanson and Pollard are correct, then America might start a downturn from a position of weakness unique since WW2. Now for the bad news…

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Today’s crop of fear-mongering. Watch and enjoy, but don’t succumb.

17 September 2014

Summary: Our news media overflows each day with a new crop of fear-mongering It should disturb us that both Left and Right seek to persuade us through fear. To manipulate us. These are skilled political engineers. They know us better than we know ourselves, and they obviously see us as fearful sheep. It’s our choice: When we wish to become men and women, like our ancestors, we will do so. Until then, they’ll spin stories of imminent doom from which only unquestioning obedience can save us.

“If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”
— Calvera, bandit leader in the movie “The Magnificent Seven” (1960)


(1)  Jon Stewart looks at the Nightmare on Graham Street

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Why are we so fearful? Have we become cowards?

16 September 2014

Summary:  As I have shown so often, both Left and Right have adopted fear-mongering as one of their major methods of communicating with the American public. Both sides employ competent professionals, so there must be good reasons for doing so. Perhaps we have become fearful. Perhaps we have become cowards. However and for whatever reasons this has happened, recognition of the problem is the first step to the cure. We need not be like this.

“Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful — horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember…”
— An insight from a demon (they know us well), from The ScrewTape Letters, by C. S. Lewis (1959)


Today’s fear-mongering (one of an endless series I run on Twitter):

“When I look at the map that the General Keane described, I think of the United States. I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorist ability to operate in Syria and Iraq.”
— Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC, member of the Armed Services Committee) on Fox News Sunday, 10 August 2014,  Transcript here.


Our relatively few sober analysts look at the news and produce a stream of debunking analysis. Like this: “America’s most terrified senator: Lindsey Graham’s never-ending doomsday visions“, Simon Maloy, Salon, 15 September 2014 — “Lindsey Graham says ISIS can destroy entire American cities and kill all of us. A look at a very scared man.” But there’s never enough such people, and they tend to target political opponents. So their work, however valuable, is functionally indistinguishable from the poo-throwing that is American political discourse.

There are a few people willing to ask the painful question. Such as Michael Krieger: “The American Public: A Tough Soldier or a Chicken Hawk Cowering in a Cubicle? Some Thoughts on ISIS Intervention“, Liberty Blitzkrieg, 10 September 2014 — Opening:

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The shame of Alaska: vast wealth, but little spent to protect its people

15 September 2014

Summary: When urban Americans think of rural life, we often think of Mayberry RFD and placid law-abiding life seen on countless other TV shows. Community values; people who are salt-of-the-Earth, living in Libertarian paradises free of big government. There is a test case of this vision. We call it Alaska. Read these accounts. I hope you feel shame for our nation.

As always, the question is action. Are these news stories for citizens, or entertainment for subjects? If you live in Alaska, will you do anything? Are you passengers or crew of America?

Martin Luther King: Injustice



  1. The bad news about rape in Alaska
  2. The worse news
  3. For more information
  4. Fantasy does not help


(1) The bad news about rape in Alaska

Let’s do this in two steps. First the bad news.

First in a series of articles revealing the third world-like conditions in our midst: “Why is Alaska the rape capital of the US? Because we allow it.“, Carey Restino, op-ed in The Arctic Sounder, 5 April 2013 – Opening:

The statistics are sickening. One in every four women in Alaska will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The Alaska rape rate is 2.5 times the national average, and the child sexual assault rate in Alaska is close to six times the national average. For the Native Alaska population, the numbers are even rougher. One out of every three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped during her life, and three out of every four American Indian and Alaska Native women will be physically assaulted. Three out of four.

Eventually this has come to attention of the national media: CNN’s series on rape in America: looking at Alaska, 4 February 2014 — Opening:

“Alaska has an epidemic,” Gov. Sean Parnell told me. It’s not bear attacks or deadly roads. It’s rape and violence against women. Reported rape is more common in Alaska than any other state, according to 2012 FBI crime estimates. The per capita rate is about three times the national average. In America’s “Last Frontier” state, nearly 80 incidences of rape are reported per 100,000 people, the data show. Nationally, the rate is 27 per 100,000.

… A 2010 survey shows 59% of adult women in Alaska experience intimate partner violence, including threats, and/or sexual assault. And 37% suffer from rape or sexual violence.

(2)  The worse news about rape in Alaska

Now for the worse news, because “why” is often the most important question: “Why Rape Is Much More Common In Alaska“, Erin Fuchs, Business Insider, 26 September 2013 — Excerpt:

Read more…

Thor vs the Dark World – a fun film about a war against evil

14 September 2014

Summary:  Today we have another guest post by film critic Locke Peterseim, reviewing Thor: The Dark World, a fun break from his series of reviews about serious insights found in our modern films. It’s a light film about a war fought by gods against evil, which shows the glossy manufactured product blockbusters have become. Post your comments about the film — and this review!

Thor: the Dark World


Theriously, Whath’s Up With Thor?

By Locke Peterseim

Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly
12 November 2013

Reposted here with his generous permission


When you stop and think about it, little about Thor the Comic-book Superhero makes sense. By that I mean little about Thor the character makes sense — nothing at all in the Thor movies makes sense, but we stopped expecting narrative sense from our superhero movies around about Batman Forever. Or maybe we can trace it back to when Superman reversed the spin of the planet and turned back time instead of causing massive tectonic destruction.

If sometime around WWII costumed superheroes became our modern gods, Thor is the vestigial tail, the Missing Link. The Marvel character is either (if you go by the comics) a real Norse god who, for reasons known only to his style team, dresses like a pro wrestler, or (if you go by the new movies) he’s a cosmic alien whose people inspired Earthly Norse mythology. Either way, he sticks out like a Thor thumb. (I couldn’t resist — I’m weak.)

The original trademark of Stan Lee’s Marvel Universe was that the heroes were all-too human — flawed and failed; sometimes arrogant, sometimes haunted, sometimes both. And for a long while in the comics, Lee and co-creator and artist Jack Kirby made the notion of a Freakin’ Norse God in a Red Cape fit into their new “fallible heroes” pantheon by (almost as a cruel joke) strapping the deity to the frail body of puny human Dr. Donald Blake.

When, half a decade ago, Marvel Entertainment began what future pop-culture historians will surely see as its Great March Toward Avengers Cinematic Domination, there was no doubt much hand-wringing over What to do with Thor.

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More good news about climate change from the IPCC: no sign yet of the methane apocalypse

14 September 2014

Summary:  Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and a favorite hobbyhorse of alarmists. It’s also an example of how they’ve abandoned the IPCC — the “gold standard” of climate science consensus. The IPCC’s most recent report, AR5’s Working Group I, is quite clear that methane levels in the atmosphere have grown more slowly than projected by their models — and that the risk posed by methane is real but not yet extreme. This is a follow-up to Some good news about our changing climate. Enjoy it, for it might not last long.


The report of Working Group I of the IPCC’s AR5 is quite explicit about the risk of methane emissions.

  1. Models’ projections of the growth in methane levels range from small to large.
  2. These projections have come down in each IPCC report.
  3. Methane levels have increased more slowly than in any of their projections.

You can read a hundred alarmist articles about methane and global warming — and never see this information from the IPCC.

Such complex stories are typical of many key questions about climate change (it’s science, not accounting), which is why we need the IPCC to put these things in a context understandable by laypeople.  It’s not that the consensus is always right (it’s not), but rather that the science is not settled.

Let’s start with figure 1.6 from Chapter 1. This shows methane levels in the atmosphere in parts per billion (i.e., very small amounts), over time — compared with several generations of models’ projections.

AR5 WG1: Figure 1.6 of methane

AR5 WG1: Figure 1.6 of methane

Observed globally and annually averaged CH 4 concentrations in parts per billion (ppb) since 1950 compared with projections from the previous IPCC assessments. Estimated observed global annual CH4 concentrations are shown in dark blue. The shading shows the largest model projected range of global annual CH4 concentrations from 1950 to 2035 from FAR ( IPCC, 1990); SAR (1996); TAR (IPCC, 2001); and from AR4 (2007). The bars at the right-hand side of the graph show the full range given for 2035 for each assessment report.

The full story is told in Chapter 2 (citations omitted; red emphasis added):

Read more…

Law professors justify Obama’s illegal wars; more fuel for the Constitution’s pyre

13 September 2014

Summary: Today’s essay by David Cole looks at Obama’s justifications for the next phase of the long war. In a wider sense it shows how the role of professions changes as the Republic-that-once-was dies and the imperial New New America rises on its ashes. Today we look at attorneys, many finding careers serving the government — dissembling the Constitution word by word in service of the President. Justifying the President’s actions, no matter what they are. Dismantling the structure of international law America built after WW2, which we hoped would in part justify the blood shed. Once proud professionals, now they’re the equivalent of the crew at the end of a parade, cleaning up after the elephants.

It’s a widening rot. Our geopolitical experts justify our wars. Anthropologists betray their canons, studying foreign societies for our Army. Doctors aid torturers. Economists become cheerleaders for our central bank. it’s the smooth track to success in New America.

“Get busy and fix it up so that it’s legal, will you?” Kamens said.
“You know, Delos, it would be a lot more honest if you did it at the point of a gun.”

— Client to attorney conversation in Robert Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon” (1939)

America's Constitution

Only formally still in effect


  1. “Obama’s Unauthorized War”
  2. Legal justifications for Obama’s illegal war
  3. About the author
  4. For More Information

Obama’s Unauthorized War

by David Cole, New York Review of Books
11 September 2014
Posted with their generous permission.


In his address to the nation Wednesday night, President Barack Obama set forth a four-part strategy for dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS or, in President Obama’s usage, ISIL. He spoke of continuing airstrikes in Iraq and extending them into Syria, training Iraqi forces and supporting Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, general counterterrorism operations, and humanitarian aid. But he did not put forth his strategy for dealing with the US Congress. And the Constitution demands that he obtain support from Congress if he wants to engage in what could potentially be a long war with a new terrorist group.

President Obama announced that he intends to carry out a sustained military campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, a campaign that his own military has said could last many years; it is nearly thirteen years since we set out to degrade and destroy al-Qaeda, and there’s no end in sight yet. In his speech, President Obama avoided the word “war,” but that is the more common word for the kind of sustained military campaign he described. And under our constitution, the president cannot go to war without congressional approval except in narrow circumstances not present here.

Last year, when Obama was contemplating military strikes against the Assad regime in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, he put the question to Congress, as the Constitution requires. Americans had no appetite for fighting another war over what they viewed as someone else’s problems, and Congress declined to authorize military force. Properly, the president backed down, and instead entered a negotiation brokered by Russia that ultimately led to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, without the use of force.

Read more…

Some good news about our changing climate. Enjoy it, for it might not last long.

12 September 2014

Summary: A people can be shaped by controlling their information, altering their perception of the world by filtering what they learn. We see that today in the debate about one of the potentially largest challenges of the 21st century.  Climate scientists differ on their forecasts of future weather, which range from large to calamitous changes. Some activists find these inadequate, and resort to exaggerated claims about extreme weather today — and suppression of the good news. Today we look at the good news you might know. All these trends will change (that’s what climate does). But before we look ahead, let’s clearly see the world of today.

See the follow-up: More good news about climate change: no sign yet of the methane apocalypse.

Extreme Weather

We don’t know what lies ahead


  1. Few hurricanes, weak hurricanes
  2.  It’s a slow year for wildfires (again)
  3. Another slow year for tornadoes
  4. Arctic sea ice rebounds
  5. The pause continues
  6. About trends in extreme weather
  7. For More Information

Click on the graphs to enlarge them.

(1)  Few hurricanes, weak hurricanes

No Named Storms First Time Since 1992 at Hurricane Peak“, Bloomberg, 10 September 2014 — Excerpt:

The statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season has arrived and for the first time since 1992 there isn’t a named storm in the basin. … In records going back to 1851, Sept. 10 is the day when the odds are greatest there will be at least one tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic.

… There have been times when quiet years have shown up in the midst of active eras, Phil Klotzbach, lead author of Colorado State University’s seasonal hurricane forecast, said from Walnut Creek, California. Last year produced 13 named storms, one more than the 30-year average, yet the power of those systems was so weak it is considered a relatively quiet season.

Using an index called the accumulated cyclone energy, 2014 has only had 45% of  the activity that it should have produced by this time, Klotzbach said. “But we are still ahead of the ridiculously quiet season of 2013,” he said. “I would say that we need at least one more quiet year to really be convinced that we are heading into an inactive era.”

The last major landfall on the US was Wilma in October 2005; cyclone activity is also low in Australia. Global tropical cyclone energy has fallen from its peaks of 1994 – 2006, per this graph from WeatherBell.

Global tropical cyclone activity, 31 August 2014

Ryan N. Maue, meteorologist, WeatherBell

Read more…

Eco-activists benefit from white privilege. Black protesters get gas & tasers.

11 September 2014

For a long time I was not a fan of the “white privilege” concept. But years of evidence proved me wrong. Stories like this “Bristol DA drops charges, says protesters were right“, Boston Globe, 8 September 2014 — Excerpt:

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

We should have listened to them


Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter knew the law. He also understood the threats posed by climate change. So for days he grappled with what to do about the two environmental activists facing criminal charges for blocking a 40,000-ton coal shipment last year to the Brayton Point power plant in Somerset.

Just as the trial was about to begin Monday, Sutter decided to drop all charges. Then, in a dramatic appearance at Fall River District Court, he said he empathized with the stance of Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, who said they were acting to reduce harm to the planet when they used the lobster boat Henry David T. to block the shipment to the coal-burning plant.

“Because of my sympathy with their position, I was in a dilemma,” Sutter said afterward. “I have a duty to go forward to some extent with this case and to follow the applicable case law, but they were looking for a forum to present their very compelling case about climate change.” He added: “I do believe they’re right, that we’re at a crisis point with climate change.”

Protests by Blacks are met by tear gas and tasers. They’re arrested, with no mercy from DA’s. Protests by affluent whites often get respectful treatment by the DA.

This is the equivalent, conceptually, of the police killing a black man holding a gun in a Walmart — while open carry demonstrations by nice white folk get deferential treatment by police. As we saw when the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (MDA) was terrorized by “Open Carry Texas”, after which the Open Carry group sent MDA an email:

Read more…

One day in America shows our eagerness for war. We’ll get what we want.

10 September 2014

Summary:  As we approach the 25th anniversary of the article that started research about 4GW, our newspapers give daily demonstrations that we’ve learned nothing since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WW2. Worse they show  our unwillingness to learn from failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our belligerence — even eagerness for war. Perhaps we see foreign war as a distraction from our political decay and mounting internal problems, kicking ass in the emerging nations to show that we’re still men.

Here is one day’s craziness in American geopolitics: six articles about our next round of wars published on September 8. We can do better. Laughter and mockery of this nonsense would make a good start.


Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid


(a) Upholding America’s honor in a dangerous world“, Jonah Goldberg, op-ed in the Los Angeles Times — Rational geopolitics, with logical reasons to wage war? Not here. To mention just one of Goldberg’s fallacies, Iraq is by most measures worse off than before we “liberated it” (without invitation).

Then, some jihadi punks beheaded two Americans and taunted the U.S. in the process. The same jihadis conquered and enslaved territories Americans fought, bled and died to liberate. They boasted that they beat us in a war and vowed — ridiculously — that their flag would fly over our White House.

Attitudes, particularly among the very patriotic and pro-military tea party crowd, suddenly and predictably shifted. This time last year only 18% of Republicans told pollsters for the Pew Research Center that the U.S. does “too little” abroad. By last week that number more than doubled and will probably keep rising. A YouGov poll in September 2013 found 62% of Americans opposed military force in Syria. Only 20% supported it. Now, 63% favor intervention in Syria and only 16% are against.

(b) Another way to defeat IS“, editorial by the Christian Science Monitor –They hope that Arab societies reform themselves. How is this us “defeating” IS? Muddled thinking.

“Arabs need a hopeful model of progress if they are to rally behind the US in ‘destroying’ the Islamic State group. Such a democratic model is coming along well in Tunisia, the original home to the Arab Spring.”

(c) Blind to the world’s ‘broken windows’“, Richard Cohen, op-ed in the Washington Post — To Cohen America is the world’s cop (albeit an unpaid and illegitimate cop), the President is the world’s emperor — responsible for maintaining order, and the world is just like Boston.  These mad beliefs can have only ugly consequences for us. Excerpt:

Read more…


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