That’s the condition my condition is in, regarding the latest public atrocity in London. Just – numb. Sorry for the unfortunate victims, obligatory silent prayers for the dead … but it has all become a kind of dreadful routine. The next numbers in the grand atrocity calculus are the usual – the on-the-spot memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears, the Book of Face meme to do something with your photo, the obligatory whines from the usual parties not to blame Islam (and the usual fears for an anti-Muslim backlash; although since there have hardly been significant non-fake incidents after the last couple of dozen or so public atrocities one wonders how long the usual parties can go on riding/flogging THAT particular pony), some heartbreaking stories about the victims, vows of eternal vigilance by the law-keeping and intelligence-supervising specialists … and then nothing much, until next time. I suppose this is what it’s like for Israelis; swab off the blood, fill in the divots, bury the victims and wait for the next high-velocity demonstration by representatives of the “Religion of Peace. ™
Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category
Posted by Mrs. Davis on 25th February 2017 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
I was reading Arthur Herman’s column in the WSJ Decoding the Zimmerman Telegram, 100 Years Later and I began to think about all the really, really dumb things Germany has done. And it’s not as if the Germans are dumb. A look at the Nobel prize list makes it clear that there are many brilliant Germans. But if we go back in history and look at the political decisions Germany has made, it is a cavalcade of catastrophe. In the 19th century, Germany was the cradle of socialism, not all the ideas, but certainly the movement. Then it decided to unite Germany, not a bad idea in and of itself; but it then led to the idea that it should conquer Europe. In the process, it threatened the US with invasion by Mexico, bringing the US into the war and onto the world stage. And to top it, they put Lenin in a rail car and sent him to St. Petersburg launching the Soviet Union. Hitler then rekindled the idea of conquering Europe, including the incredible decision to invade Russia and then declaring war on the United States directly, creating an enemy that might have sat out the European war.
After suffering a defeat as devastating to Germany’s people as the Thirty Years War, Nato was created to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down. And for 70 years it was a success. Germany started well by establishing an economic powerhouse. It succeeded in reuniting Germany after the cold war was won by the US in spite of German handicapping. But since then it has made decisions with terrible consequences, not only for Germany, but for much of Europe. It has used the EU and the Euro to peacefully achieve, with American connivance, what it twice failed to do by violence. And the consequences have become deleterious at best for the rest of Europe. The Energiewende has been a catastrophe, leading to more pollution by increasing the coal and biomass burned to create energy and the highest electricity costs in Europe. Germany’s refugee policy has invited invasion by unassimilabe masses inimical to European culture and values. And a policy of minimal defense expenditures has led the Americans to consider getting out and the Russians getting back in. And now China has become Germany’s largest trading partner.
I have long felt that the EUropeans were more than capable of defending themselves and we should pull out of Nato to force them to do so and to save money. Why should we allow them to freeload? But now with the Americans leaving, the Russians returning, and the Germans rising, I am having second thoughts as I consider the possible consequences.
Posted by Lexington Green on 13th February 2017 (All posts by Lexington Green)
But how dangerous is Putin to the USA? Or to our allies?
Putin presides over a crumbling country.
Meanwhile Trump, who some believe is under Putin’s control, is focused on driving down oil and gas prices and pushing NATO to increase defense spending, both of which are hard blows to Russia. Trump is also promoting pro-growth policies which will help fund a military buildup and modernization.
Russia has no prayer of matching this.
Putin has real problems, with no real solutions.
Trump is confronting Putin with challenges he cannot overcome, which will only grow worse over time.
The idea that Russia is capable of embarking on a new Cold War against the United States is laughable.
Russia is only considered to be a country of the first rank because of its nuclear arsenal. But that arsenal is useless, other than as a deterrent to invasion, or as a way to commit suicide. No one is going to invade Russia any time soon. More importantly, Putin and his cronies are not suicidal. Putin may even be the richest man in the world. Putin and his posse have a nice life, and a lot to lose. They likely want to enjoy the benefits of their despotism in peace, not see their dachas reduced to radioactive ash.
(Further, the Russian nuclear arsenal may be of diminished value if, as expected, Trump pushes forward on missile defense.)
China is the long term challenge, Islamic Terrorism is the acute, immediate challenge, to the USA and its allies. Russia faces a long-term threat from China, which seems destined to simply overrun the entirety of Asiatic Russia. Russia is also threatened by Islamic terrorism. The USA and Russia face the same serious threats.
Russia should be aligned with the USA with regard to both China and Islamic terrorism.
The current situation is absurd and should be resolved.
This does not mean the USA will become “friends” with Putin, or the Russians.
We will not trust Putin or the Russians.
We will not be allies, beyond allies of convenience, case by case, with Putin or the Russians.
We will not have shared values with Putin or the Russians.
We will simply recognize important common interests, including ramping down the hostility between our countries, cooperating where it is mutually beneficial to do so, and focusing on more important, mutual threats and challenges.
There is plenty of room for a deal here.
Nixon shook Mao’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 65 million victims.
FDR shook Stalin’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 50 million victims.
Trump will do what is best for the peace, prosperity and security of the United States.
That will likely include shaking the tyrant’s bloody hand.
Today is election day for the US. Tomorrow is the annual meeting for my homeowners association. I’m looking at a fraudulent proxy statement issued in my name for that HOA annual meeting.
We’ve gotten out of the habit of treating fraud seriously, depending on the high reputational penalties associated with getting caught doing such things in the first world.
My HOA’s budget is tiny, about an eighth of a million. The amount of energy being spent on controlling it is beyond foolish.
(A diversion from all the seriousness of this week; a brief excerpt for today – All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar, and commonly celebrated as one of the Days of the Dead in the borderlands – from Book 1 in the continuing series of the Chronicles of Luna City)
Day of the Dead
The dead are always with us – their memories, if not their actual presence. Some of the residents of Luna City do claim a casual speaking relationship with the dead, through some medium or other. Judy Grant claims to see auras and to sense otherworldly presences. The rest, especially those over a certain age – are acquainted with the dead. The oldest residents; Miss Letty McAllister, Dr. Wyler, Adeliza Gonzales, all of whom have passed into their eighth decade at the very least, are now in the curious position of having more friends among the dead than they do the living.
Such is the custom in the borderlands, which includes Luna City; there is a time to formally acknowledge those gone on before. In the Catholic Church, the first and second days of November — All Saint’s and All Soul’s Days – are set aside to honor and celebrate saints and martyrs, and then to remember all the others. Such orthodox Catholic rites and traditions of observing All Saints and All Souls merged, or were grafted onto more ancient customs. In Mexico, such observances merged with a traditional festival honoring an Aztec goddess of the underworld. It is believed that over the Days of the Dead, they are allowed to return for a visit to the living. It is considered a fond and courteous gesture to put out refreshments for those visitors, especially the deceased’s favorite food and drink. In Mexico and in the southern borderlands, the dead are honored with representations of skulls, and offerings of marigolds and special food and drink. Families visit the graveyard, and adorn the grave of a loved one with flowers, or build special private altars adorned with pictures of the deceased, with flowers, candles and significant memorabilia. It’s just one of those things. Read the rest of this entry »
I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)
The book project has a fair amount of my attention, as it touches on a local history matter featured in my own books – but in the interesting coincidence of the Tiny Publishing Bidness having published some of the local history books noted as sources, or citing local historians whom I have met or have had something to do with; the late Rev. Ken Knopp, James Kearney, and Jefferson Morganthaler, most notably – and referring to many of the sources that I read as research for the Adelsverein Trilogy. This book that I am working on now caps a series which can only be produced by a writer/researcher involved to the point of intense – yea, even fanatical interest – in a specific Civil War event. Seriously, Colonel Paul Burrier (USA, Ret.) has gone back into the archives of various establishments and re-published at his expense just about every relevant document there is to find in national and state archives regarding the locally infamous incident memorialized by the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas.
I’ve written here and there about the Nueces Fight/Battle/Massacre here, here, and there…and how the peculiar situation in the Hill Country of Texas – well-stocked with Abolitionist, pro-Union inclinations – generated a bitter civil war-within a civil war. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s Project Vote’s NY voter registration guide. The footnotes have been linked to the underlying laws and the federal court case.
Here is an excerpt
A. Are there restrictions on the voter registration drive offering something of value to a person in
exchange for completing a voter registration application?
It is a felony under New York law to pay, lend or contribute, or offer or promise to pay, lend or contribute any money or other valuable consideration to or for any voter, or to or for any other person, to induce such voter or other person to place or cause to be placed or refrain from placing or causing to be placed
his name upon a registration poll record.14
Federal law states that whoever pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years. 15 At least one federal appellate court has interpreted payment as intended to include forms of pecuniary value offered or given directly to an individual voter, and indicated the value should be based on an assessment of the monetary worth of an item from the perspective of the voter receiving the item. That case held that food vouchers could be payment.16
In Madison Square Garden, Madonna just offered oral sex to anybody who votes for Hillary Clinton.
The NY law violation is a misdemeanor, fine set between $100-$500 and/or imprisonment not less than one year.
The Federal law violation is a felony, fine set at not more than $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.
Posted by Mrs. Davis on 15th October 2016 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
There has been much gnashing of teeth over the past several weeks over what pathetic choices we have for president. And there has been much creative writing about what can be done to ameliorate the situation. One writer in the WSJ went so far as to propose that after his victory Trump voluntarily resign so that Pence could become President.
Yet the solution is right before our eyes in a document almost 230 years old. The Constitution does not give the power to elect the President to the People. Because the founders were not democrats and did not create a democracy. They believed a mixed form of government to operate as a republic would provide the best rule. As stated in the Federalist #68 regarding the selection of the President:
It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.
It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.
Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.
Alexander Hamilton didn’t get everything right.
The People are not about to elect a president. They are about to elect 538 electors who shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.
So the question becomes, are there enough patriots among the 538 electors to vote for someone other than the two deplorable and irredeemable candidates put forth by the non-constitutional political parties so that neither of them has a majority of the votes cast? And if so, who should receive the third highest number of votes?
My son just asked me if we can AirBNB our house while we evacuate for the hurricane (we’re currently leaning towards sticking Matthew out).
So a writer who hangs out in a blog that I follow had a very cogent point in a recent post – about calumny – and the moral crime of falsely accusing an innocent person of a crime, ranging from the mild social offense to the deeply hideous crime against God and humanity at large. He felt, if I read the post aright, that calumny is one of those deeply awful things – as it damages an innocent person ….
Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins … I think it worse than the crime or sin. Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. … And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly, the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever …
Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th September 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It has become something of a tradition for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific, Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war — the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri. See the link enabled list below —
2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years
2011 – Happy V-J Day!
Since that ceremony, a whole mythology about that period of history has grown, driven by various institutional and political imperatives following those events. And in particular, with regard to the use of nuclear weapons to end the war.
This year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration deals not with those myths, but with the war plans of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) from May thru August 1945. Too understand the use of the A-bomb in August 1945, you have to understand it in terms of the context of those May to August 1945 plans, not the institutional games that came after, games ably laid out in Michael Gordon’s recent WW2 book FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST — How World War II Became a Nuclear War”.
The short form was that the USAAF institutional leadership, Chief of Staff of the USAAF, General Arnold; operational commander US Army Strategic Air Forces (USASTAF) General Spaatz and Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) General Kenney were trying to win the war with conventional bombing via
1. The Small City Target Plan — Bombing out the smaller, 100,000 person or less, Japanese cities within range of Saipan to ‘induce’ a surrender;
2. The Transportation Plan — A massive two month (1 Oct – 30 Nov 1945) long campaign intended to destroy Japan’s rail system; and
3. Beach Preparations on Kyushu — The proposed B-29 carpet bombing of Kyushu beaches on 29, 30 and 31 October with 100 B–29 per beach per day.
Between the agenda of the USAAF bomber generals to form and independent air force and the coming merger of the Navy and War Departments into the Defense Department, much about these three plans never made it out of the secret files — particularly the use of the then high tech SHORAN radio navigation system — to the general public…until now.
(More at page 2)
Once in awhile, you see a gem of an internet comment that justifies taking the time to dive in. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the hope and prayer of us all. Buddygonzo wishes that going forward we will all have “common sense email control”.
Buddygonzo just won the Internet for today
Posted by Charles Cameron on 5th July 2016 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — questions relating to the ongoing CBz discussion, FBI Kills Rule of Law — Refuses to Indict Hillary Over Her E-mails — with a side dish of Tzipi Livni ]
photo credit: Greg Nash via The Hill
I’ll be socratic here, asking questions to illuminate my hunches.
I’m seldom fully convinced by anything that comes from the left and reads the way I’d expect the left to read, and seldom convinced by anything that comes from the right and reads the way I’d expect the right to read, so I don’t take the left’s assertions downplaying H Clinton’s security behavior with reflex belief, and on the whole I’m inclined to follow John Schindler, who — both as an ex-NSA analyst and as a regular at The Observer — takes a very hard line on Clinton’s security behavior, writing just a couple of weeks ago under the title, The Coming Constitutional Crisis Over Hillary Clinton’s EmailGate.
I also follow War on the Rocks, though, and was struck a while back by a post there from Mark Stout, drawing some interesting distinctions in line with its subtitle, “A former intelligence analyst who worked at both the CIA and the State Department explains how different approaches to classifying information sits at the heart of the scandal that threatens to undo Hillary Clinton.”
Which does somewhat complicate matters, while somewhat helping us understand them.
I’m neither an American nor a lawyer, and as someone who is generally inclined more to bridge-building than to taking sides in any case, I don’t feel qualified to debate the Comey-Clinton affair – but was interested to see emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler, whom I take to be leftish, coming out today describing Comey’s decision as an “improper public prosecutorial opinion”. She writes:
Understand, though: with Sterling and Drake, DOJ decided they were disloyal to the US, and then used their alleged mishandling of classified information as proof that they were disloyal to the US ..Ultimately, it involves arbitrary decisions about who is disloyal to the US, and from that a determination that the crime of mishandling classified information occurred.
Comey, in turn, seems to have made it pretty clear that “Secretary Clinton or her colleagues“ were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” – specifically:
.. seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters.
Is there, in your views, special treatment in this matter for persons of high rank present here?
And out of curiosity, if so, do you see a similar case of special treatment for persons of high rank over in the UK, known to be substantially less Israel-friendly than the US, where Scotland Yard wanted to question Tzipi Livni about alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza under her watch as Foreign Minister, and “after diplomatic talks” Livni was “granted special diplomatic immunity”?
On the one hand, I don’t like show-trials, trials-by-press, banana courts or mob justice, and far prefer just laws justly applied – and on the other, I can understand that the scrutiny those in high office find themselves under can render them legally vulnerable in ways that may unduly influence their decision-making – and justice may be platonically blind, but is not always uniformly applied in practice. Such, it seems to me, is the human dilemma.
What say you?
Posted by Trent Telenko on 5th July 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
FBI Director James Comey today in a Washington DC news conference confirmed what many have suspected.
The Rule of Law in America is now strictly a political football for those who are in power.
The FBI has refused to indict ex-Sec of State Hillary Clinton for multiple clear violations of Federal law by hosting an unsecured e-mail server with classified data off-site from the State Department. A server that was know to have been hacked by most of America’s foreign enemies.
Gatewaypundit has many of the details here —
Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics | 26 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th June 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
To commemorate D-Day, here is a current view of Omaha Beach from Wikipedia —
And here are a pair of columns I’ve written previously on D-Day in 2014 and 2013.
This is a review of three very good books on D-Day —
And this column is about the sacrifices of British Royal Air Force early warning radar unit, the 1st Echelon of 21 Base Defence Sector, that landed at the Les Moulins Draw, on Omaha Beach, Normandy about 5:30pm on 6 June 1944.
Royal Air Force at Omaha Beach
6th June 2013
Posted by Mrs. Davis on 29th May 2016 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (not behind paywall).
What caught my eye was this:
While the U.S. backed Arab monarchies and Israel, the Soviets sided with leftist regimes in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya and South Yemen, which became the Arab world’s only Marxist state.
Hmm…. what else do these places have in common? Is what is going on over there as much the death throes of communism as the birth of radical islamism? We can see what is happening in Venezuela. Cuba may be able to minimize the effects if it can find a way to generate the tourism and other industries Puerto Rico has not. North Korea will be worst. But the entire Soviet Bloc has not fallen, only the European part.
Russia was too busy trying to prevent the breakup of its own rump post-Soviet state, bloodied by separatist uprisings in Chechnya and other Muslim regions. Mr. Putin successfully pacified those borderlands
Well, if Russia created the problem, and Russia has demonstrated that it can fix the problem, what is the matter with allowing Russia to do so?
Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th May 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It isn’t often you see the death of a major worldwide industry. Last week I saw the death of the “Big Oil” economic model. It just died at the hands of Texas oil frackers who have developed a new “disruptive technology” that has made obsolete all the pillars of technology underpinning large, vertically integrated oil companies. More importantly, the same is true of all the petro-states that nationalized Big Oil’s assets in the 1960s to make all the state oil companies around the world today.
I found this out doing my day job last week as a Defense Department quality auditor visiting a mid-sized oil service company diversifying into federal contracts. The meeting was about issues with the contract they won and touched on others they have bid on. As a side bar at lunch the following points about their main business came up:
1. Oil field spending has died. Rig count in the USA is the lowest it has been since 1940.
2. One oil rig controller company these folks worked with saw a year over year drop of 72% in its business.
3. Another company they supplied had their “Cap-X” budget drop from ~$400 million for 2015-2016 to little over $30 million for 2016-2017.
4. One drilling company they supplied went from 120(+) new wells last year to _12_ this year.
5. This supplier sold a lot of copper tubing for “frack-log” drilling. That is the drilling of holes in good oil-bearing rock without fracking rock for oil immediately — and here is the new part — to take advantage of a new long-flow fracking technique.
While most of the points above are due to the Saudis’ oil price war on Texas frackers. An ex-Big Oil geologist I know put it this way —
The entire reason for the price drop was because the Saudis wanted to destroy fracking in the United States in order to keep us dependent upon them in order to keep them getting a free defense. The Saudis will have to diversify and start spending money on defense before the price goes back up, or they will be in serious trouble.
The technique in Point #5 above marks another “fracking revolution” that is of growing importance to the USA. This new fracking energy revolution will upend the world order as we know it. Political winds willing, America may well be a net hydrocarbon exporter in five to eight years.
Explaining why that is requires some background in Texas oil fracking.
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the burning social question of the moment has to do with transgender persons and bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities, both those for the convenience of the public and those dedicated for the use of school children. First and foremost, I will not believe that there can be all that many genuine transgender persons of any age wandering around, outside of a few very limited locations; very few and those who have not taken the plunge entirely would, I believe, not be all that damned flamboyant about it. It is remotely possible that I might have been in a public facility at the same time as an undecided or a totally committed transgender and been unaware of it, but frankly, I believe that my personal chances of having done so and knowing about it are about on par with my chances of being abducted by aliens.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Grurray on 29th April 2016 (All posts by Grurray)
Yesterday, the GDP figures were released for the first quarter of the year, and they showed that the economy is flatlining. We grew at only a pitiful 0.5%. Much of it was caused by a huge decline in business investment, which saw the biggest monthly drop since the recession.
This is mostly blamed on the troubles in the oil and gas industry, but output in other areas of the economy also showed weakness. Factory orders dropped and have remained flat the past several months. Car sales plummeted 2.1% last month, their biggest drop in a year. With gas prices low this is the one thing we should see rising. The car industry stumbling means there may be some other underlying problems.
The conventional wisdom, on the other hand, views this as just a blip. The winter season in the post-recession era has usually been the weakest time of year only to be followed by a rebound into the rest of the year. The exception was 2012 where the high hopes at the start gave way to the rising probability of an Obama reelection. The economic shock spread during the year, and the traditional holiday hangover came a little early in the wake of the electoral wreckage. This year, with the jobs market expected to stay strong and the Fed signaling it will put the brakes on further interest rate increases, the economy is seen bouncing back as the rough waters give way to the calm port.
It may very well turn out that way for all I know. My crystal ball has been a little foggy lately, so I wouldn’t venture a guess either way. However, there may be some other causes for concern further down the road. This week the McKinsey Institute just issued a research report on the stock market, ominously titled, Diminishing returns: Why investors may need to lower their expectations. In it they provide a detailed analysis of why the next 30 years will see lower stock market returns than the previous few decades.
Now admittedly, most analysts’ forecast for the next 30 days can usually be attributed to luck. A forecast for the next 30 years probably isn’t something you want to bet the whole farm on. A small corner of the barn maybe, but I would save the rest of the homestead to see how things actually unfold.
The report lays out in detail why the oversized returns between 1985 and 2015 were possible, and the reasons they say are because of four factors: low interest rates, low inflation, high productivity from technological advances, and favorable demographics from emerging markets entering the global economy. Nothing controversial there. The first three elements increased profit margins, and the last one provided cash influxes, which kept interest rates low, which in turn increased the others. Virtuous cycle – wash, rinse, repeat. They also include some calculations, but the self-evidence is apparent enough.
The wrench in the works is going to be the fact that those elements won’t have the effect that they once had. Interest rates are already rock bottom, and in some cases even below that. Squeezing more out of low yields is going to be tougher and tougher. In 1980 inflation was 13% and interest rates were 20%. Now they’re currently at 1.6% and 0.5% respectively. There’s nowhere to go but up. Sideways is always a possibility, but we’re still in the same boat. That won’t drive future growth either like it once did.
Demographic growth may still hold up. There’s still a whole lot of world out there with the potential to drive a modern global economy. The question is will they be capable of replicating what we saw in the recent past with hundreds of millions of Chinese rising out of the Maoist ashes and into the middle class? Any new emerging markets will have a lot more work to do. The report points out that the countries with the largest economies have seen slowing population growth, and that will continue to decelerate
In Western Europe, aging is more striking than in the United States. In France, for example, the share of the working-age population is expected to decline from 63 percent to 58 percent over the next 20 years. In Germany, the fertility rate has exceeded replacement rate in only seven of the past 50 years. Employment has already peaked in Germany, and its labor pool could shrink by up to one-third by 2064. Until the 2015 influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, the German population was expected to shrink by as much as 0.3 percent per year over the next 20 years.
Germany has decided to address their demographic collapse by welcoming in an unproductive culture. Either way they haven’t much left to contribute in preventing the forecasted shortfall.
McKinsey does hold out hope for some technological breakthroughs which could pick up the slack in productivity. Whatever it may be, they say it will need to have a bigger impact than the previous computer and internet revolutions because of the other headwinds. The best scenario would be in some combination with fast growing emerging market or industry. The problem with that happening is now that taxes and regulation are increasing, companies involved in fast growing sectors will tend to want to stay private, so equity returns will be elusive for only a select few.
Interestingly, one sector highlighted that will benefit from higher interest rates is insurance companies. The era of low to zero interest rates has made it difficult for them to make any money on annuities. Their annuities pay out guaranteed yields to customers, but ZIRP and NIRP keep profits low. Fixed income annuities in which insurers bear most of the risk will benefit from higher yields.
However, variable annuities where the customers share the risk have more exposure to equities, so they would be vulnerable to the lower growth/lower returns environment. Providers of variable annuities along with other asset managers will need to adjust their investment strategies:
To confront this, asset managers may have to rethink their investment offerings. One option would be for them to include more alternative assets such as infrastructure and hedge funds in the portfolios they manage. Such alternative assets already account for about 15 percent of assets under management globally today.
To chase returns, investors will be forced into riskier assets, possibly with dubious intentions, i.e. government boondoggles otherwise known as shovel ready infrastructure projects. We may already be seeing something like this with the imminent government takeover of financial advisors
The Department of Labor dealt a bit of a surprise blow to fixed indexed annuities in the final iteration of its rule, issued Wednesday, by lumping the annuities into a more complex and costly regulatory regime than they have presently, representing an about-face from the department’s original proposal.
Just like Obamacare pushes out the small to medium firms that can provide much needed innovation in order to capture the market, the new DOL fiduciary rules will push out small to medium sized advisors to replace them with automated puppets that will be programed to herd investors into investing in government programs.
There’s a good reason the Obama Administration is currently fighting so hard to keep these rules. It’s a template for taking over other industries. And with that it’s another impediment to productivity growth and innovation which reinforces the grim forecast of diminishing returns by McKinsey.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 4th April 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Jim Hoft over at Gateway Pundit has a guest post by Drieu Godefridi that is essentially a follow up to my March 24th, 2016 “Belgium — The Failed State in the Heart of Europe” piece.
It is unsurprisingly titled “Guest Post: More Terrorist Attacks Likely in Failed State of Belgium.”
Please go give Jim Hoft’s site some “linkie love” while checking out the full post, but before you go, this portion of that post bears immediate and close reading —
It is thus obvious that the Belgian government is in a shambolic state at every level, from the local to the federal, and from the executive branch to the judiciary.
Of course none of this would have been possible without the policy, in place now for 30 years, to open Belgian citizenship — and the borders — to hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. This open invitation has been extended mainly to Muslim countries, instigating the creation, ex nihilo, of huge Muslim communities in the cities of Brussels, Antwerp and every other Belgian city. Radicalized or not, fundamentalist of not, peaceful or not, these communities tend, in Belgium as anywhere else, to impose their political-religious credo.
A study by the WZB Social Science Center (Berlin), published last year in the “Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies”, indicates that half the Muslims in Belgium, France and Austria are fundamentalists, i.e. they think that Muslims should return to the roots of their faith; that there is only one interpretation of the Koran; and that Muslim law should supercede civil (or common) law, (“Religious Fundamentalism and Hostility against Out-groups. A Comparison of Muslims and Christians in Western Europe”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 41, N°1, 33-57). This Weltanschauung (or concept of the world) is irreconcilable with the rudiments of our Western civilization, or for that matter any society which is not strictly Islamic. To assert that Islam—which is much more than simply a religion—has nothing to do with the current spate of terrorist attacks in Europe is a psychotic denial of reality.
Denial of reality is at the heart of the “European Union” project, which has Brussels as its capital.
That is why the “Belgium — The Failed State at the Heart of Europe” meme is spreading. It is obvious to all this will not end well…but end it will.
And its passing will be marked with fire and blood.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have previously posted about Venter’s work with synthetic organisms.
While I was digesting this new material, Craig Venter was making the Gene VII book obsolete. He set up a new company to compete with the Human Genome Project The result is well described in The Genome War by James Shreeve who was given access to Venter but less to the government funded project. This year, Venter’s autobiography was published and his plans for the future are described.
The links are at the original article which is from 2007.
Now, his group has progressed to a synthetic bacterium.
Using the first synthetic cell, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 (created by this same team in 2010), JCVI-syn3.0 was developed through a design, build, and test process using genes from JCVI-syn1.0. The new minimal synthetic cell contains 531,560 base pairs and just 473 genes, making it the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in laboratory media. Of these genes 149 are of unknown biological function. By comparison the first synthetic cell, M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 has 1.08 million base pairs and 901 genes.
A paper describing this research is being published in the March 25th print version of the journal Science by lead authors Clyde A. Hutchison, III, Ph.D. and Ray-Yuan Chuang, Ph.D., senior author J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., and senior team of Hamilton O. Smith, MD, Daniel G. Gibson, Ph.D., and John I. Glass, Ph.D.
This is huge news and will take years to develop.
The most surprising result of their work—and perhaps the most sobering one for the rest of the field: The team still doesn’t understand what 31 percent of the essential genes do in even the simplest organism, to say nothing of a human genome. It’s a development Venter called “very humbling.”
“We are probably at the 1 percent level in understanding the human genome,” said Clyde Hutchison III, a distinguished professor at the Venter Institute.
That lack of knowledge isn’t standing in the way of entrepreneurs. Biology has been “hot and heavy” since the development of a molecular tool that makes gene editing easy, Hutchison explained. Scientists might be able to remove disease-causing genes or even determine a baby’s eye color. This technology, known as CRISPR/Cas-9, has alarmed many inside and outside the research community, who fear it may be used on the human genome before its effects are understood, with unforeseen results.
If he does another public seminar, I hope my friend Bradley can get me a ticket. I am now reading Lewin’s Genes XI, although he seems to be no longer the editor.
I hope I can wade through it. Sometimes, as knowledge progresses, it becomes simpler. I hope so.
“These cells would be a very, very useful chassis for many industrial applications, from medicine to biochemicals, biofuels, nutrition, and agriculture,” said Dan Gibson, a top scientist at both Venter’s research institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. Ultimately, the group wants to understand the tiny genetic framework well enough to use it as a biological foundation for more complex organisms that could address many of the world’s ills. Once each essential gene’s function is identified, scientists can build an effective computer model of it; from there, they can simulate how best to go about “adding pathways for the production of useful products,” they wrote.
I will be following this story closely, if I can only understand it.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 24th March 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Today in Europe, in the aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, a dark truth stands reveled about the nature of the Belgian state. Belgium is a failed state at the heart of Europe…and much of the rest of Europe is following.
Belgium quite literally lacks the military means to enforce the sovereignty of the Belgian state in the Muslim neighborhood of Molenbeek in Brussels, the Belgian Capitol.
The following is via John R. Schindler of The UK Observer:
We should expect more guerrilla-like attacks like Brussels yesterday: moderate in scale, relatively easy to plan and execute against soft targets, and utterly terrifying to the public. At some point, angry Europeans, fed up with their supine politi1cal class, will begin to strike back, and that’s when the really terrifying scenarios come into play. European security services worry deeply about the next Anders Breivik targeting not fellow Europeans, but Muslim migrants. “We’re just one Baruch Goldstein away from all-out war,” explained a senior EU terrorism official, citing the American-born Israeli terrorist, fed up with Palestinian violence, who walked into a Hebron mosque in 1994, guns blazing, and murdered 29 innocent Muslims.
When that violence comes, a practically disarmed Europe will be all but powerless to stop it. To take the case of Belgium, at the Cold War’s end a generation ago, its army had seven brigades with 18 infantry battalions, plus some 30 more battalions in the reserve. Today, Belgium’s army has only two brigades and six infantry battalions, some 3,000 bayonets in all. That tiny force would have trouble exerting control over even one bumptious Brussels neighborhood in the event of serious crisis.
Thanks to Belgium’s sovereignty collapse, Europe is now in the throws of an emerging decade plus Muslim insurgency spreading from Brussels…
…while E.U. Security Forces supporting the Belgians are more concerned with repressing local predominantly white citizens from striking back at terrorist inclined Muslim migrants than dealing with the Muslim problem to begin with.
And it gets worse, with hundreds if not thousands of trained terrorists arriving with the multi-million person Muslim Migrant wave that German Prime Minister Frau Merkel kicked off in 2015. The EU faces a situation where it will see a ‘major’ (Charles Hebdo, Paris, Brussels class) EU terrorist incident every 60 to 180 days for the foreseeable future. This leaves aside the worse than American urban ghetto crime and sexual assault rates these illegal Muslim migrants are now inflicting on EU citizens.
NB: The EU is now no longer tourist friendly, with all the economic fall out that means.
The political corruption — and ethnic tensions between the Dutch speaking Flems and French speaking Walloons — that dominates the Belgian state make it impossible to remedy the Muslim insurgency there.
Nothing short of Belgian territorial partition between France and Germany can bring effective enough military governance to end the Muslim Insurgency in Brussels.
Given that awful reality, Donald Trump’s idea of reducing America’s role in NATO (Or perhaps even getting out of NATO all together?) is the best thing the USA can do.
Both Vietnam’s and Shia Iraq’s lessons for America’s citizens are that it is a futile waste of American lives and treasure to try and protect people who don’t have either the will nor the means to protect themselves.
Posted by Grurray on 23rd March 2016 (All posts by Grurray)
From some recent readings on the Vietnam War
A bitter little story made the rounds during the closing days of the Vietnam war:
When the Nixon Administration took over in 1969 all the data on North Vietnam and on the United States was fed into a Pentagon computer – population, gross national product, manufacturing capability, number of tanks, ships, and aircraft, size of the armed forces, and the like.
The computer was then asked When will we win?
It took only a moment to give the answer: ‘You won in 1964!’
Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ by Charles Cameron — on the necessary simultaneity of temporal and eternal perspectives ]
First as to glamour -– it may help to reflect that glamour, our word, comes not from Vogue but from the same origins as grammar (referring to languages) and grimoire (a book of spells, spelling also being a matter of language), and means something along the lines of “luminous illusion”. If we say terror is glamour, then, we mean that it “casts a spell” — and thus creates an appealing, indeed compelling, mirage. It lies, then, in the realm of magic, image, imagination, so ably delineated by Ioan Couliano in his great book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.
The best of contemporary advertising draws on precisely the same Renaissance principles of persuasion — principles of extraordinary power which we nowadays tend to dismiss as “magical thinking”.
Thus Virginia Postrel, in Terror Is Glamour:
Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows. All invite us to imagine escape and transformation.
From Achilles and Alexander to “national greatness,” the glamour of battle is remarkably persistent. So is the glamour of martyrdom, as any trip through a Western museum or perusal of a Lives of the Saints (or its Protestant equivalent) will demonstrate. Nor is martyrdom’s appeal to Christians merely historical, as Eliza Griswold reported in this 2007 TNR piece.
Glamour appeals to our desires, whatever they may be, and Jihadi glamour offers something for everyone: from historical importance to union with God, not to mention riches and beautiful women.
Postrel then quotes Egyptian cleric Hazem Sallah Abu Isma’il, indicating that the “beautiful women” in question are “black-eyed virgins” from a world conceptually above our own:
If one of these virgins were to descend to this world, her light would extinguish the light of the sun and the moon. That’s how beautiful she is.
Yet as Postrel comments, “glamour proves perishable”:
As Rushdie suggests, of course, glamour always leaves something out, in this case the literally gory details of the act .. Either aspirations change, entropy and boredom set in, or the audience learns too much, destroying the mystery and grace on which glamour’s beautiful illusion depends.
She concludes with a significant question and preliminary response:
How do we puncture the glamour of Jihadi terrorism? The first step is recognizing that such glamour exists.
That may seem like CVE 101, but the deeper our understanding of magic, imagination, image — and hence the power of glamour — the deeper our understanding of the deep problem that CVE presents will become.
Next we turn to Richard Fernandez, writing in A Bellyful of War, picking up the themes of war’s attraction, and the carnage its glamour omits from mention, and tying both to the notions of war as game and war as brutal reality:
William Tecumseh Sherman understood what many modern theorists have forgotten: war can be attractive to young men for as long as long as it remains a game. War in small doses is supremely thrilling, even glamorous. It is peace which can be routine and boring.
And so it goes until war stops being a game and the going gets really rough. “Its glory is all moonshine,” said Sherman. “It is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.” To Sherman a “bellyful of war” was ironically the psychological foundation of generational peace.
Not only is that last sentence a profound statement worthy of the contemplation of all who love peace – it is also far more subtly convincing than the old Strategic Air Command motto, Peace is Our Profession, which sounds more like one of Rochefoucauld’s tributes that vice pays to virtue than anything, and yet is presumably intended to convey the same insight.
Finally we have Plotinus, for whom – in a manner richly echoed by Shakespeare — life itself is a dream, a play, a sport, a game:
Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: the other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous Nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If Socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer Socrates.
Plotinus is correct, I would suggest, sub specie aeternitatis, just as is Sherman sub specie incarnationis — and it is the role of the artist to hold both visions, trivial and eternal, as Koestler suggests.
Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — on creativity at the intersection of the fleeting and the eternal ]
You know Lao Tzu’s “uncarved wood” (pu) — and Spencer Brown’s “Mark” or “first distinction? It is hard to speak of “the one and the many” without language itself favoring the many, the one being “one” and the many “another”. The Greek phrase “Before Abraham was, I am” attributed to Christ may be as close as we get.
The “uncarved wood” is not some definite -– named and thus defined -– “one” -– it is also “raw silk” (su), the simple -– the natural way or stream, from which things have not yet been separated out by naming.
There is delight, however, both in one becoming two and thus many, in the making of distinctions and naming of names, and no less in two (or the many) becoming one, in the resolution of paradox, the release of tension, peace after strife. In human terms, there is joy in both solo and collaborative achievement.
What better, then, than the perfect fit between disparate entities?
I have written often enough about Arthur Koestler and the place where two disparate spheres of thought link up — the centaur links horse and man in an indissoluble unity — there’s no question here of dismounting after a ride, giving the horse a rub down and some feed, then retiring to the verandah for a whiskey…
The mythological aha! we get from the centaur displayed in the museum hinges on the fit of horse and human skeletons, the perfection with which disparates are joined.
Thus far, whenever I’ve discussed Koestler‘s notion of bisociation, I’ve focused on the sense that it liea at the heart of creativity. Koestler himself takes it deeper. Here’s Nicholas Vajifdar, in a review titled Summing Up Arthur Koestler’s Janus: A Summing Up:
Koestler .. asserts that there are two planes of existence, the trivial and the tragic. The trivial plane is the stage for paying bills, shopping, working. Most of life takes place on the trivial plane. But sometimes we’re swept up into the tragic plane, usually due to some catastrophe, and everything becomes glazed with an awful significance. From the point of view of the tragic plane, the trivial plane is empty and frivolous; from the point of view of the trivial plane, the tragic plane is embarrassing and overwrought. Once we’ve moved from one plane to the other, we forget why we could have felt the way we used to.
That’s not just any old distinction between two realms, that’s the one Koestler himself prioritizes. And following his basic principle that a creative spark is lit when two disparate “planes of ideas” intersect, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find Vajifdar continuing:
“The highest form of human creativity,” Koestler writes, “is the endeavor to bridge the gap between the two planes. Both the artist and the scientist are gifted — or cursed — with the faculty of perceiving the trivial events of everyday experience sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity…”
William Blake made a similar observation in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, writing:
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
Finally, Vajifdar tells us why he finds Koestler’s definition of art maybe the best he’s ever read:
What I value in this definition of creativity is its emphasis on the subjective being of those who experience the work of art or scientific theory, a surer gauge than cataloguing formal properties or whether it's "interesting." Art has always seemed like a kind of sober drunkenness, or drunken sobriety. Most people probably have wondered whether the feelings they felt while drunk were more or less real than their sober feelings. Koestlerian art joins these seemingly irreconcilable feelings together.
Let’s just go one step further. In Promise and Fulfilment – Palestine 1917-1949, Koestler specifically singles out this intersection as an aspect of the experience of warfare:
This intense and perverse peace, superimposed on scenes of flesh-tearing and eardrum-splitting violence, is an archetype of war-experience. Grass never smells sweeter than in a dug-out during a bombardment when one’s face is buried in the earth. What soldier has not seen that caterpillar crawling along a crack in the bark of the tree behind which he took cover, and pursuing its climb undisturbed by the spattering of his tommy-gun? This intersecting of the tragic and the trivial planes of existence has always obsessed me in the Spanish Civil War, during the collapse of France, in the London blitz.