The Right urges us to blame Obama & directly fight ISIS. Will we repeat our mistakes?

Summary:  As ISIS (grandly calling itself the “Islamic State”) expands, the Right blames Obama and calls for more direct military involvement by America. Their arguments rely on our amnesia about the past and delusions about the nature of modern war. Learning from experience is a vital skill for a nation hoping to navigate the rapids of 21st C geopolitics; so far we refuse to even try.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”
— French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne in a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan.

Let's make a choice!

Our grandchildren will marvel at the obtuseness of our foreign policy. Future generations of historians will discuss the causes of our inability to learn from experience in our post-9/11 wars. Not only do we appear determined to repeat painful mistakes, we continue to take advice from the people who guided us into these failed wars — ignoring the clear lessons of post-WWII history — rather the people whose warnings proved prophetic.

Can any nation, no matter how rich and power, survive such a combination of amnesia, blindness, and arrogance?

The fall of Ramadi was avoidable” by Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, op-ed in the Washington Post, 18 May 2015. She is president of the Institute for the Study of War. He is a Director at the American Enterprise Institute. Despite being consistently wrong, our wars have been good for them — although not so good for America, for our troops that fight them, and for the nations we seek to help.

Learning From Mistakes” by David Brooks, column in the New York Times, may 2015. Our wars promoted Brooks from neocon hack at the Weekly Standard to mainstream respectability at the NYT. Simon Maloy at Salon eviscerated Brooks’ “learning” in “David Brooks’ sickening Iraq apologia“. “How the New York Times hack just rewrote history. The conservative New York Times columnist explains what he’s learned from his Iraq war boosting: largely nothing.”

Continue reading

About our slowing GDP: are we near a recession? are the models accurate?

Summary: Some good news about the US economy, and a cautionary note about popular investment advice. It’s a bit technical, but explains important matters seldom mentioned.  (1st of 2 posts today.)

World Models

Investment experts bombard America with forecasts, picking from the flood of data those tidbits that fit their views, often shown without context. It’s motivated reasoning, an easy path to plausible and entertaining but false reasoning.  For example, the weak Q1 GDP has excited the bears, as has the Atlanta Fed’s GDPnow model’s forecast of only 0.7% SAAR GDP in Q2 (since it’s giving bearish forecasts, bears have deemed the GDPnow model the next Einstein). That’s far below the consensus guess of 2.5%, per the Fed’s May 15 survey of professional forecasters.

In his May 13 report Ethan Harris, economist for Bank of America, explains the situation, discussing the difficulty of forecasting GDP, the various models economists use, and the consensus confidence that US growth will accelerate from the near-zero Q1. Excerpt…

Hot hand

For the second year in a row, economists have come into the first quarter forecasting 3% GDP growth, then lowered their forecast to about 1% by the end of the quarter, only to see a roughly flat official release. By contrast, the GDPNow model from the Atlanta Fed “nailed” the latest quarter, predicting almost exactly the 0.2% advance estimate. Looking ahead, the model predicts just 0.8% for 2Q, compared to a 2.9% consensus. Should we be worried?

The short answer is: “not really.” The GDPNow model actually has a slightly worse forecasting record than both BofAML and the consensus over the last several years.

Casting for a better forecast

In recent years economists have developed increasingly sophisticated models for
estimating GDP in real time. … The Atlanta Fed takes a more high tech approach. Without boring the reader, their initial forecast each quarter is based on a “Bayesian Vector Autoregression (BVAR)” — basically an elaborate extrapolation of recent trends in the data. They then feed in hard data for the quarter as it is released and modify the forecast accordingly. While their model was spot on in the latest quarter, its real-time forecasting record is slightly worse than both our own and the consensus. …

Continue reading

News about the battle for women’s equality in our armed forces

Summary: The military has become one of America’s petri dishes for social policy experiments, and the integration of women into the front line fighting forces has introduced stresses far greater than anything they’ve experienced before (the faux revolution from letting people out of the closet has produced a false sense of confidence in the outcome of this far greater change). Here we briefly review the state of the action today.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

GI Jane


The tides of change have hit the US military as it adapts to equal roles for women, with massive effects that we as yet can only dimly see.

One result has been to start a slow-mo purge in the officers corps. “At least 30% of military commanders fired over the past 8 years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships” (per AP). The scalps include those of senior officers. They might look with envy at Congressmen whose office policies (illegally) protect them at against charges of improper behavior (it’s as delicately written an article as any in a Victorian era newspaper).

War is perhaps the most complex and demanding of social activities, made more so by its rapid rate of evolution during the past 150 years. Adding women to the formula makes it far more complex. What gets dropped to make mindspace for these new concerns? What would Clausewitz or Patton make of this: “Lawmakers want clearer Army breastfeeding rules“?  Or this tidbit about women warriors from AP’s “Pentagon grapples with retaliation in sex assault cases“…

“… often victims believe they are being retaliated against if peers no longer invite them to parties or if they are disciplined for illegal drug or alcohol use in connection with the assault.”

Continue reading

Women moving on top of men in America

Summary:  Long-time readers have seen some stunning but accurate predictions during the past 7 years. The secret to this track record: predicting things that have already happened, but that our preconceptions prevent us from seeing. Here’s another.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Woman in Charge



  1. See the future by looking at the present.
  2. Women as leaders.
  3. Hollywood shows us the future.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. For More Information.
  6. Poor Castle, a beta in his own show.


(1)  We can see the future if we look at the present

What will America look like if current trends continue putting women on top of men? I (and others) have written about this for 5 years, yet the narratives of women’s oppression remained so strong that the facts have only recently penetrated to public awareness — and few have yet considered their implications. Enrichment programs for women, scholarship programs for women, job programs for women — all adding to the growing gap in women’s performance over men’s.  People are beginning to notice: “Women’s Participation in Education and the Workforce“, Council of Economic Advisers, 14 October 2014.  Some of their observations, about which they draw no conclusions (wisely, too inflammatory)…

  • Women’s college going has surpassed men’s in recent decades and has continued to increase. Women are more likely to go to college and graduate school and more likely to graduate from when they go. In 2013, 25-34 year old women were 21% more likely than men to be college graduates and 48% more likely to have completed graduate school.
  • Women now account for almost half of students in JD, MBA, and MD programs, up from less than 10% in the 1960s.
  • College-educated young women are now as likely to be employed as doctors, dentists, lawyers, professors, managers and scientists as traditionally female-dominated occupations such as teachers, nurses, librarians, secretaries, or social workers. … The share of occupations in which women are at least 80% of all workers has remained relatively constant.
  • Men and women with professional degrees have similar earnings in their 20s.
  • Women earn more than men in 16% of all married couples and 29% of married couples where both spouses work. These shares have nearly doubled since 1981.

See the future in the relative graduation rates of women vs. men. More women have bachelor’s degrees; more women have some graduate school, and the gap is widening…

Continue reading

Our Burning Skull: The Dark, Brutal Ritual of Mad Max: Fury Road

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim pens the review you’ve been waiting for — Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s America as seen in the funhouse mirror.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Mad Max: Fury Road

Our Burning Skull: The Dark, Brutal Ritual of Mad Max: Fury Road

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
17 May 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Mention the Movie Summer of ’82 around fan boys of a certain age, and you’ll be met with a mix of ecstatic exhortations and hushed reverence.

Quickly someone will begin reciting the litany, the ode to what is considered the Greatest Geek Summer Ever: Blade Runner, E.T., Poltergeist, Conan the Barbarian, Rocky III, Tron, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron, Pink Floyd The Wall, The Thing, Night Shift, and of course, the summer ’82 American release of the 1981 Australian action-sequel The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2).

Imagine what that was like back then; getting off work from your crappy summer job and going to the air-conditioned theater every weekend to see another of those films for the first time. (Or later in the summer, for the second or third times.) (Or likewise, the Summer of ’83, as more homes started to get cable TV and premium movie channels for the first time only to find those Summer of ’82 films playing non-stop. A very important alternative for those geeks under 17 who lacked “cool” parents to take them to R-rated movies in the theater.)

If you talk to (mostly male) film critics and genre fans over the age of 35, they’ll effuse rightfully over the amazing quality, or at least daring and influence of those Summer of ’82 films. (The 30th anniversary a few years ago produced a tsunami of gushing blog ink.) They (myself included) will bemoan the fact that, coming as it did in a glorious cinematic DMZ between the fading independent American film spirit of the ‘70s and the coming Rise of the ‘80s Summer Blockbuster Franchise and the Dawn of the Soulless Excessive Blockbuster, 1982 was the last time you could see that many truly impressive, universally enjoyable films in one summer. A seeming last oasis before “popular entertainment” and “box-office hit” didn’t automatically equal “bland, branded, over-hyped and over-marketed commercial studio product.”

Continue reading

Choose your facts: learn about the El Niño from journalists or activists

Summary: Today we look at news coverage of the weather, another demonstration of our bad info diet. Friday’s post contrasted reporting about the new El Niño by NOAA with that by activists. Today we contrast reporting by climate alarmist (amateurs’ analysis) with that by the major news media.  (1st of 2 posts today.)

Graphic of El Nino


  1. Activists’ climate porn.
  2. Good journalism.
  3. Sound analysis.
  4. For More Information.
  5. What is an El Niño?

(1)  Activists give us climate porn

Like those on the Right, Leftists often get their information from tribal sources that filter the news, crafting it into stories that stoke the faithful. Such as “Super El Nino Likely as Huge Warm Water Wave Hits West Coast, Extreme Marine Die Off Developing” by George Birchard (geochemist; bio here), Daily Kos.

In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific … Last year the largest Kelvin wave ever seen in the Pacific ocean developed …

This has little resemblance to the reports from NOAA. He does not mention that records on El Niño only go back to 1950, and satellite records back to 1979 — brief periods as climate cycles go. No mention of the Spring prediction barrier, which make forecasts less reliable at this time. No mention that this cycle differs in many ways from those on record, making predictions less reliable. Nothing comparing the size of cycles during the past 60 years.

Those who prefer straight climate porn turn to Robert Marston Fanney (fantasy writer; bio here) at his blog RobertScribbler (“Scribbling for economic, social, and environmental justice”). Despite having no visible background in climate science, last year he ignited the Left’s hysteria about a monster super El Nino (which didn’t happen).

He tries again this year with “Summer El Nino on The Way; Long Range Models Are Still Freaking Out“. Although better than his bizarre columns last year about El Nino, it’s still vivid and misleading. Here’s an example…

Continue reading

Conflict in tomorrow’s offices: strong women clashing with each other

Summary: Three videos about Disney princesses show us the future of work in America, dominated by the clashing personalities of strong women.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

Disney Princesses

Imagine them fighting in your office.


As women move on top of men in America, conflict will increasingly take place between strong women, replacing the men-men and men-women clashes that dominate today’s work world (except in those fields already dominated by women). As women break free of the roles that govern their behavior, these conflicts might look strange to us — as will so many things coming soon.

This series describes the changing gender roles that will reshape American society in the next 2 decades, changes already baked into our future.  To help us prepare, this post has 3 videos of the new world. As in so many things, Disney shows us the future. These are made in fun, but …

“Many a true word is spoken in jest.”
— Ancient wisdom, first seen in “The Cook’s Tale” in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

Continue reading