Predictions: the misses

This page borrows a regular feature on Brad DeLong’s (Prof Economics Berkeley) website. These links go to my posts admitting I was wrong, and links to other sites disagreeing with my posts.  Please email me with additions:  fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (spam protected address).

“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”
Falsely attributed to Lord Keynes.

“I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.”
— Lincoln, in a letter to Major General Grant, 13 July 1863

Also see these FM reference pages:

  1. My predictions — waiting for results.
  2. Predictions – the successes.

(0) The most fun smackdown

I gave quotes from the Lawyers, Guns, and Money website suggesting that the Left was becoming inward-looking, even cultish, and so politically ineffective.

Their rebuttal: I’m a “clownish performative centrist”. The rebuttal validates my belief that they have become cult-like. Calling those who disagree with you a “performative centrist” is in-group jargon, with no meaning or logic to others. It is a perfect demonstration of how they have become politically ineffective.

(1)  The most important smackdown

My delusional optimism about the resilience of America’s political regime. I was wrong on the big one.  Very wrong the most important subject discussed here.  America’s political regime has deteriorated faster than I dreamed possible.  Our liberties melt away like winter’s snow.  Oldskeptic pointed that out in 2009, but I disagreed.  Here are two of the posts admitting that he was right and I was wrong.

(a)  Another nail put in the Constitution’s coffin, but we don’t care, 9 February 2010 — Excerpt:

In December Oldskeptic posted two prescient comments about America’s fading freedoms (here and here), which I said were exaggerated.   Even nutty.  I wish I was correct.  Unfortunately I was wrong and he was right.

(b)  Our fears are unwarranted.  America is in fact well-governed., 18 August 2011 — Excerpt:

I reviewed the posts on the FM website of the past eight years, mostly cutting edge predictions.  Comments show they were considered outre when written, but most look good in retrospect (picking the right experts was the key).  But on the two most important subjects discussed here I was wrong.

  1. The fate of America’s political regime:  My naive optimism now looks delusional, as the Second Republic (based on the Constitution) has sickened more quickly than in my worst nightmares.
  2. America’s society and economy:  I have repeatedly said that American society was defective, with a broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) loop.  Recent events reveal that to be false, in an operational sense.

(2)  Another important error:  America does not have high social mobility

Again Oldskeptic corrects my mistaken view:  A sad picture of America, but important for us to understand, 3 November 2008 — Oldskeptic corrects my happy but misinformed view.

This ugly graph tells a story contrary to a core American belief, immortalized in the books by Horatio Alger.  Social mobility probably was high in the past, when there was a frontier and far great rates of growth.  But the data shows today’s America has a low level of social mobility.  I did not know this until Oldskeptic corrected me (in comments here and here).

(3)  My delusional confidence about our wisdom

My most foolish predictions assumed that since it was obvious these wars were unwinnable, they would end soon:

(4)  Other corrections and admissions of error

  1. Forecasts for the American Expedition to Iraq, 30 November 2005 — Bush would wind down the Iraq War to avoid large Republican losses in the November 2006 elections.  Wrong.
  2. Keeping score: how well did 4GW theory predict events in Iraq?, 21 May 2008 — My forecasts about Iraq were mostly right; but here I misjudged which horse was best.
  3. Correction to my previous posts – not all citizen activism is good…, 16 October 2009 — Correction to my delusional optimism about mass movements.
  4. Predicting in December 2009 that Obama would lose in 2012. This included other predictions, wrong and correct (e.g., that the Democratic Party would lose strength under Obama).
  5. Update about the state of the Af-Pak war; my forecast was wrong, 1 March 2010 — My optimism about the effect of rational debate in America proves wrong.
  6. The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
  7. Another FM smack-down: chemicals are not causing earlier puberty, 22 August 2010
  8. Endgame for the affair Assange: a big win for the government, 27 September 2010 — Events prove (again) that the CIA can easily fool most Americans most of the time (which is good enough for them).
  9. This was very incorrect:  R.I.P., G.O.P. – a well-deserved end, 7 November 2008 — In February 2010 I realized my error, writing Republicans have found a sure-fire path to victory in the November elections.
  10. In April 2012 I predicted that the 2012 election would be close, with a win by Romney. In October I reported that most forecasts showed a tight election, with one model predicting a big win for Romney. Wrong. Obama won decisively: 332 electoral votes to 206, 51% of the votes to 47%.
  11. Did Robert Heinlein in 1961 predict the fall of the Soviet Union? In 2009 I thought so. In 2015 I realized that I was wrong.
  12. Trump won. I was wrong: Forecast: Clinton will crush Trump in November and The five reasons Trump will lose in November.

(5)  A 2 minute hate (bogus) by the Left on me

My post: The Left runs a Two Minute Hate on Nate Silver, his 538 website, Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder) resulting from their publication of  “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change”. And me, based on Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy. Read the following, and feel the hatred flow.

  1. Thursday Idiocy: Fabius Micromus” posted at Loyal to the Group of Seventeen, 27 March 2014. I posted a brief analysis in the comments. Quite interesting, in a silly way. He posts the comment thread with DeLong. He considers it “idiocy”, but doesn’t say why.
  2. Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) applauds Group of 17. DeLong doesn’t explain because true believers don’t ask questions during the Two Minute Hate.
  3. The Launch of and Climate Change Disaster Weblogging: (Trying to Be) The Honest Broker for the Week of March 29, 2014“. By “honest broker” Delong means misrepresenting what I said, and cosplay — pretending he’s a climate scientists, and substituting his judgement for the peer-reviewed literature about this issue. Plus lots of smears as rebuttal to the peer-reviewed literature.

They have fun! But they trample science underfoot.

(6)  Criticism on other websites

These are just those that I remember, or see mentioned in the FM archives.

  1. What Lefty Site Does Whinyus Maximus Hope Will Hire Him?, Smitty, The Other McCain, 20 April 2010 — Smitty screams because sometimes the truth hurts.
  2. Does Fabius Maximus Consider The Constitution A Delusion?, Smitty, The Other McCain, 26 March 2010
  3. The Ethical Case for War in Afghanistan (is Strong but Insufficient), Bernard Finel, 23 November 2009
  4. Follow and Kill Every Single Taliban, Herschel Smith, The Captain’s Journal, 26 July 2009
  5. Fabius Responds – Badly, Bill Quick, Daily Pundit, 19 January 2009
  6. Off the Mark, Bill Quick, Daily Pundit, 17 January 2009
  7. I wonder what forms of maneuver Fabius would not classify under surrender?, tdaxp, 18 February 2008
  8. Lessons Learned in Sports and War, 6 February 2008 — Differing opinions about the utility of after-battle analysis.
  9. Fierceness, Variations, and the utility of these concepts, tdaxp, 3 December 2007
  10. On Fabius Maximus’ warning concerning the Long War, Wolf Pangloss, 8 November 2007
  11. In search of a darwinian ratchet: the ANC, the PLO, and the RAF, tdaxp, 24 October 2007
  12. Rationality – Strength or Weakness?, Opposed System Design, 11 January 2007
  13. Fabius Maximus Offers Visions of Petro-Empires, 17 July 2006 — Only time will tell who is correct!
  14. Non-State Groups Have Vulnerabilities Too, Opposed System Design, 12 February 2006

13 thoughts on “Predictions: the misses”

  1. Thank you, praise indeed. Rather kindly you passed over my wrong predictions and analysis. I have made quite a few along the way naturally (cough, cough).

    The biggest problem is that long term trends that have been building for decades are, in some cases, going asymptotic now. So things are happening at a non-linear pace, which is hard to predict or even understand.

    Some deteriorations have caught, even a cynical skeptic like myself, completely off guard. Frankly I would never have predicted the EU meltdown, mainly because, if for no other reason, they had the experience of Sweden in the mid 1990’s to draw on (let alone Japan). Fixing their sort of problems is not technically difficult. The EU started on its disastrous path from a fairly strong position in economic terms. Yes they had some issues, yes they took some hits, yes there would be a bit of mild pain fixing it, but this mess is totally self inflicted.

    What even I didn’t expect was that the same neo-liberal/neo-cons that have destroyed the US were waiting in the wings and somehow managed to grab levels of influence.

    Bit like them grabbing power after 9/11 in the US. And how they did it, straight out of the Trotsky playbook. I followed Karen Kwiatkowski’s writings during that period and it was amazing how a very small group of people could subvert a whole system (she’s a personal favourite of mine, someone with strong moral courage). And she talked at an operational level, she actually witnessed what happened her area, she saw the people right up front.

    So I expect the whole EU fiasco is the same thing, just a very few people in the right places.

    And yes, things are going asymptotic, useless greedy fools are just piling on to the trend. Take Wall St, there are actually some people there with some brains. Take them out into the country for a week, decompress them and make them think a bit. And then ask the question “do you think war with (say) Iran is a good idea”. And they would be horrified.

    But within the hot house environment of their work, then it is “how can we make personal money out of this”. I can just imagine many of them hitting personal contacts right now in the Military, Govt, Israeli Govt, et al, trying to get an edge to speculate and make money out of disaster. Money changes hands (or promises made) for some insight. Disaster capitalism in all its glory*. No matter how bad things get “we can make money out of it, especially if we have an edge”.

    Can’t we just get rid of these people? The new DSM is out and can’t we add insane short term greed or hubris to the list of mental disorders? Makes sense to me.

    Anyway keep up the good work, but in realty the thing to think about is what happens AFTER the collapse. What sort of society do we want to have? What do we rebuild to, not the same as before (shudder), how can we make it better?

    The data and knowledge is all there about how to make functioning society that is economically reasonably well off, but is fairly happy, is healthy, well educated (in the true sense), just, honorable, fair and kind. The sort of place I’d like to live in, and you FM and most of your readers and commentators. That is fairly good and, at times, does some really good (even great) things.

    * I know you don’t like Naomi Klein but,as I have said before, she has a rare intuitive talent that she can pick trends from obscure data points, often well ahead of the curve. Not a great researcher, but intuitively she has hit the nail on the head many times. And a fair writer so she can explain things, which in itself is a rare talent.

    1. It is well-deserved praise.

      (1) “she has a rare intuitive talent that she can pick trends from obscure data points,”

      Perhaps so. But unfortunately she in effect broadcasts on a frequency I cannot hear, in that her description of the output of her intuitive sense usually makes no sense to me.

      (2) “but in realty the thing to think about is what happens AFTER the collapse. ”

      First, I don’t see what a collapse is certain. Possible, of course — the structure of society is in effect built anew by each generation. Second, as I have so often written, we appear to be heading towards a singularity. We cannot see beyond it; all we know is that on the other side lies a different world. Better or worse, but with too wide a range of alternatives for useful analysis at this time.

      We cannot see beyond the choices we have yet to make.

  2. Re ‘Collapse’. For a large minority of the population the US has already collapsed.

    When (say Dimitri Orlov) talks about societal collapse it really just means that for the majority of the population it has gone under. They have no money, short on food, no accommodation and no hope of ever getting these again. Basics like electricity or medical care are not available, either because you personally can’t afford it, or it is simply not available in your area and so on.

    But you can get a big bang collapse or a creeping one. The USSR was a fairly fast crash, the US is just a slower one.

    In the US what have you got now, 30%+ of the population, where for them, personally, society has collapsed. They have little or nothing, if they had something in the past it is gone now. And it will never come back. That will steadily grow to 40%+, then 50%+ and so on. As this goes on and municipal/county/State/Federal programs and spending and infrastructure crumble away then you are now a poverty stricken third world person living (?) in a crumbling third world society.

    Basically a slow motion train wreck. Take this for example: Is a Great Grey Exodus from America Starting?, Naked Capitalism, 22 July 2012.

    For those people society already has already gone under. So collapse is very much a personal thing, just when the % of the population gets high enough then we say the society as whole has collapsed.

    Could it be stopped and reversed? Yep sure. Will it? Nope. The consensus of the US ‘elites’ is that they are quite happy to throw (say) 70% of the population under a bus as long as they can keep their personal party going (not for much longer by the way, not that those kleptocratic sociopaths understand that).

    The US is already at the bottom of many societal indicators, compared to other ‘first world’ nations. Realistically you now have to start comparing it to 2nd World or even 3rd World nations now, because that is the life and prospects for a high, and rapidly growing, % of its population who have nothing and will never have anything.

    One day in the future historians will pick a year for when they say the US collapsed, but in reality it started a long while ago.

    1. “For a large minority of the population the US has already collapsed.”

      It’s easy for people with jobs to mock such statements, especially in the upper middle class — most of which is so far untouched by the great recession. But the numbers show the darker side of its effects, as in this note by the great economist David Rosenberg (working for the Canadian brokerage firm Gluskin Sheff), posted at Zero Hedge today:

      This is looking more and more like a modem-day depression. After all, last month alone, 85,000 Americans signed on for Social Security disability cheques, which exceeded the 80,000 net new jobs that were created: and a record 46 million Americans or 14.8% of the population (also a record) are in the Food Stamp program (participation averaged 7.9% from 1970 to 2000, by way of contrast) — enrollment has risen an average of over 400,000 per month over the past four years. A record share of 41% pay zero national incomes tax as well (58 million), a share that has doubled over the past two decades. Increasingly, the U.S. is following in the footsteps of Europe of becoming a nation of dependants.

  3. Talk about big errors! How are your accolades for Thomas Barnett’s effing stupid “The Pentagon’s New Map” strategy for the disguised Global Empire’s New Map working out for you, chump??

    1. Alan,

      Thanks for commenting! It’s always nice to hear from the Gamma Quadrant. Unfortunately, your comment is quite wrong on several levels. First, the US has not followed Barnett’s advice. His ideas were used as an excuse for interventions, then dropped by the US government.

      Second, I repeatedly mocked his plans. Perhaps my view was best stated in my review of “Why Joe Biden’s War Plan Spells the Rebirth of Al Qaeda“, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Esquire, 16 October 2009 — “Because you can chase the pests out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan all you want, but unless Obama really wants to clean up the world’s most decrepit apartment, the parasites are just going to come back. A call for continued nation-building.”

      “His work would less inimical effect if he didn’t write so well. Shinny in every way: brilliant, articulate, upbeat, confident. If there was an all-American team of geopolitical writers, Barnett would be quarterback. How sad that most of this is delusional folly.”

      For a more detailed rebuttal see “The Myth of Grand Strategy“.

      He’s a bright guy, and many of his individual insights have value. But his overall proposal is the exact opposite of what I’ve recommended since 2003.

  4. Alright, here’s the challenge: being that Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, Noam Chomsky, Anthony C. Sutton, Sibel Edmonds, anyone with the slightest modicum of common sense, anyone who can see the world without distorting preconceived notions and simple facts show, like this one, your government is now, always will be and with almost no exceptions always been a corporation and/or done nothing but serve corporate interests.

    What “spirit grown cold” are you trying to reignite? That of the people? The ones who ignorantly stood up for the corporate interests of those who engineered the Boston Tea Party? Or the ones who blindly aided the corporate interests by slaughtering the natives so their lands could be exploited? The ones who brought slavery to new heights? Or the ones who thought that that was never enough and created the KKK to fix this perceived imbalance?

    I ask these questions to point out that there is no need to worry. We are still slaves to corporations. Even voice like James Corbett and G. Edward Griffin say that there’s nothing wrong with owing all the money we work for to foreign corporations. Instead they focus on “The Gold Standard” as their red herring solution, without once ever connecting it to the problem, that someone is lending us the money we ourselves create.

    As for genocide, look no further than the Middle East. Slavery? The new for hire prison system that blacks are sent to for crimes whites are never even picked up for. And as for the KKK, well just because they wear badges instead of hoods doesn’t mean they don’t still exist. Just ask the families of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown… Id point you to ask of those people directly, but things being what they are and all…

    Seriously. Without the slogans and rhetoric. The nation and its people haven’t changed at all. Not one whit, not in the slightest.

    What are you about exactly? Because there are already plenty of websites out there that deny all of the above and what it really means. From those that blame all racism in the media on the Zionists who control it, despite the fact that White Americans had slavery and genocide before tv or radio existed to the ones that blame 12-year-old Tamir Rice for his own shooting death.

    At last count, it was every single website in existence that denied culpability on the White Majority and counting, all of them denying that White Americans ever killed an innocent, or denying that their “economic systems” designed to exploit every natural resource for the sake of a buck ever led to any harm. Why does anyone even need two such websites let alone the infinity of them in existence now? What does this one add to this discussion exactly?

    1. Michael,

      That’s quite a rant. I added paragraph breaks so that your unreadable block of text is a bit more viewable.

      “your government is now, always will be”

      That’s quite a prediction! Are you a supergenius or prophet?

      “The nation and its people haven’t changed at all. Not one whit, not in the slightest.”

      We abolished slavery. Granted universal sufferage to those without property and to women. Gay people are no longer criminals. This, and the many other changes, are obvious to most of us. But apparently not to you.

  5. The predictions:hits page is so funny. Does baby want a pat on the head for realizing the Iraq war was bad 4 years after it started? Good job predicting the 2008 recession after it happened, Nostradamus! You deserve all the credit.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “Does baby want a pat on the head for realizing the Iraq war was bad 4 years after it started?”

      Amnesia much? That was an extremely unpopular prediction in 2003 – the year that President Bush made his “Mission Accomplished” speech. My posts were direct responses to news articles describing how we were winning in Iraq and Afghanistan. My posts were discussed at the Small Wars Council – to overwhelming boos. I was kicked off in 2008 due to my pessimism. They reinstated me in 2009 (and added the FM website to their blogroll).

      The consensus that we were winning remained solid for roughly 8 years after I began writing about the Iraq War.

      “Good job predicting the 2008 recession after it happened”

      Did you read this post, or just the headlines? To repeat what I said: “As seen in the articles cited — and the hostile comments — this was controversial, even as late as June 2008.” The June 2008 post was a rebuttal to widespread belief that the economy was fine.

      The official declaration about the recession’s state date was made by the National Bureau of Economic Research in December 2008.

      1. What planet are you living on? There were massive protests around the world before the Iraq war even began. World leaders called it criminal, presidential candidates like Howard Dean based their campaign on opposing the war. Fahrenheit 9/11 was released. Even Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf criticized the Iraq campaign. All of this happened in 2004 or earlier!! Plus thousands of articles from alternative media that spoke out against the war. But hey that post from 2006 where you said the war was a disaster sure was brave and timely.

        It takes a special person to completely ignore all of the anti-war activity of the era and then think what’s really noteworthy was your epiphany that State Department press releases are often dishonest. And getting banned from some forum. Whoopty doo. All you did was pop out a handful of tepid ‘scorecards’ that vaguely said insurgents weren’t going to disappear overnight. Wow dude. I’ve never seen such pompous self-congratulation over such mundane observations.

        And lmfao you did not predict the recession. And the article you include on your ‘hits’ has this incredible prediction:

        Summary: How will this recession end? My guess: with re-balancing of the global economy and a decline of the US dollar so that the our goods and services are again competitive. No more trade deficit, we can pay our debts, and there will be no serious outflow of jobs.

        What an absolute joke.

      2. Larry Kummer, Editor


        So far everything you’ve said has been wrong. But you want to play again.

        “There were massive protests around the world before the Iraq war”

        That’s quite a reading FAIL. I didn’t say the war was a bad thing. I said we were losing.

        “All you did was pop out a handful of tepid ‘scorecards’ that vaguely said insurgents weren’t going to disappear overnight.”

        So you didn’t read them. Try again.

        “How will this recession end? My guess:” Written as of 24 January 2008.

        OK, let’s see how those predictions have held up. This was written when few believed a recession had begun, and when nobody (that I’ve found) saw that it would be a global event. Me, neither.

        (1) “with re-balancing of the global economy”

        That was a bold prediction, and proved correct. The three giant imbalances in 2007 were …

        • China’s trade deficit: 8.7% of GDP in 2007, 1.7% in 2017.
        • Oil: $94 (WTI) at the end of 2007, $45 today.
        • The US housing market, esp residential mortgages) sucking in capital from around the world: too obvious to mention.

        (2) “a decline of the US dollar”

        That proved wrong because it was a global recession. Other nations reduced interest rates as much or more than we did (nominal rates were negative in some nations) and took drastic action to reduce the value of their currencies.

        (3) “No more trade deficit”

        It improved – almost by half – from a $59 billion in 2007 to $31 billion in 2009. The lack of strong policy action – esp compared with that of the other major nations – limited the improvement to a brief period.

        (4) “there will be no serious outflow of jobs.”

        That has proven correct. We’re back to full employment, with the unemployment rate at multi-generational lows. Now 3.5%, the previous time it was that low was 1969).

        “What an absolute joke.”

        Let’s see your predictions. or somebody else’s, from that time.

  6. Larry, you question how the USA is going to approach solving its problems.
    You know the answer is staring you in the face.
    This is a country built on the use of force and will try to maintain its power that way. It always look to a military solution – no matter how nonsensical and uneeded. At this point the halls of power know and understand NOTHING else.
    They’ll bring the troops home eventually…indeed.
    Inserting the cliche: Like the chickens coming home to roost.

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