Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Michael Hudson on fictitious capital

Hudson has a new book out called The Bubble and Beyond. Based on the following interview, I would say the book is probably worth reading.

Iceland isn't the only country arresting banksters

For a while there, I was beginning to fear that only little Iceland had the courage to take on the criminal international bankers. The beginnings are still small but it looks like this movement could spread.

Media pigs

I have mixed feeling about the Olympics.  On one hand you see these really quite noble sentiments demonstrated by some of the world's most talented young people showing that years of intense preparation will lead to wonderful accomplishments.  On the other hand, Olympics sports are basically chosen for their proximity to war skills.  According to Veblen, one of the approved Leisure Class occupations is sport.  Being a Leisure Class activity, the Olympics must display copious amounts of conspicuous waste.  And nothing is more wasteful than the opening ceremony—this year's supposedly cost $42 million.

I missed the opening ceremony this time for good reasons, but I did not miss the controversy.  Of course, this being an NBC production, we were graced with the presence of the execrable Bob Costas—a man guaranteed to say something offensive about every other country on planet earth.  But the normal mindless chauvinism was topped this time by NBC's decision to drop coverage of a tribute to the victims of a London bombing that happened the day after they were awarded the games—only to replace it with a Ryan Seacrest interview of Michael Phelps.

The tribute was a lovely rendition of one of the most popular hymns in all of Christendom "Abide With Me."  (See it here)  In England where almost no one goes to church any longer, this hymn has become associated with sporting events.  Even so, it has been sung at millions of funerals.  In short, it was a perfect choice for a tribute to the dead.  I happen to love it—it was one of the first hymns that I learned to sing the bass part.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The math of climate change

This piece by McKibben had been recommended to me many times now.  I like McKibben a lot and recommend his writings pretty regularly.  But I wince when I see article like this one because I have been convinced on the science of climate change for almost 25 years now.  The subject should have LONG ago shifted to "What are we going to do about it?"  I'd like to think that is the subject of this blog.  But I DO encourage everyone to send the link to this article to anyone they may know who still cannot imagine the disaster that is climate change.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Unscheduled stops

One of the highlights of the trip to Iowa was a stop in Decorah.  We had been asked at the tourist info office in Harmony MN, when told we were on the road to Decorah, "Are you going to Nordicfest?"  Well obviously we were not but when we did get to the turnoff to go into the little village, my partner / driver basically asked, "Why not, we're already here?"  I come from the press-on-regardless school of road trips so I could have offered a dozen reasons for getting into drought country as soon as possible but the day was so nice (sunny and 78°F), what reasonable objection could I offer for not seeing a pretty town in Iowa celebrate it's Norwegian heritage?

And so we blew a couple of hours admiring the well-scrubbed little town of Decorah.  We saw this seriously attractive young woman play the Hardanger fiddle, we bought some lefse, and we got to meet the farmer who was so helpful for our search.  But the first question out my mouth to him was, "Does Luther College own the new wind turbine we saw coming into town?"  The reason I was curious is because in Sept of 2006, I posted a Youtube of a wind turbine being built at a sister college in Northfield MN.  I know for a fact that St. Olaf is very happy with their wind turbine so I am not a bit surprised their enthusiasm has spread.  I was assured that Luther did own the new wind turbine—and much more besides.

So the folks in Decorah didn't need this summer's drought to be convinced that climate change is a serious problem and that now is a good time to reduce our carbon footprint.  So while climate change denialism may get you elected Senator from Oklahoma, it's pretty clear that a pretty little college town in NE Iowa understands the problem.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Looking at the drought

Went to see the extent of the damage the drought has caused Iowa.  Some big impressions:
  • They planted a lot of corn this spring.  Without a doubt, if the weather had been good, this would have been the largest corn crop EVAH.
  • The damage in Iowa is spotty.  A field that looks fine can be less than a mile from one that looks wiped out.
  • Talked with an utterly charming farmer in Decorah who gave me some pointers of what to look for.  I'll get to the pointers in a second but start with his observation that even corn that still looks green from the road can be in serious trouble.  "Thirty years ago," he said, "a drought like this would have turned the corn brown and would have laid it down.  Now with modern genetics, corn is much more drought tolerant.  They must have snuck a ragweed gene in there somewhere."
This first picture is of corn near my house.  It is green all the way to the ground.  The silk has changed color indicating pollination has occurred.  The leaves are shiny.  And the tassels have popped open releasing the pollen.  These plants are over seven feet tall (215 cm).  (All these pictures have a full-sized version if you click on them.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

The cost of climate change

The evidence of climate change keeps piling up—this time from Greenland.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The corn belt drought (update)

New Rule: After this summer, anyone who can still believe that climate change is a hoax should be prevented from voting.

Of course, it's a damn shame we couldn't have started solving this problem in 1987 when James Hansen testified before the Senate that this subject was beyond reasonable debate.  This problem will take probably 50 years to solve once we get going and this summer shows those will be some seriously ugly years. And an interesting question is: Will the distressed populations turn on the paid liars of climate change denialism, and if so, will they turn violent?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

232 media executives control 90% of news in U.S.

Dave Johnson of Campaign for America's Future puts together two astounding and frightening statistics that clearly show the U.S. has become an oligarchy:

232 media executives control 90% of U.S. information sources.

196 people control 80% of political campaign spending in the U.S.

Read more.

The corn belt drought

This Friday, I have scheduled a road trip to the closest drought area (probably NE Iowa or SW Wisconsin) from my house.  We have had reasonably good rain and the locally grown corn on the cob was excellent.  But I have been assured that the disaster is not far from here.  I'll write more when I have some pictures.  In the meantime, this is what the Guardian has to say about our drought.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting reconnected

Now that we are living back in a place that is really too far from broadcast transmitters to get television over the air, we found ourselves back in the cable / satdish market if we were going to have television at all.  So we had three options but finally went Dish—mostly because the house had a Dish high-def receiver already installed on the roof.  But this move changes the reality I can access—we'll see what it does to my writing.

Some wind energy news from back in March and April

Sorry I missed these at the time.

At the end of April, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), issued its analysis of the U.S. electricity transmission, generation and distribution systems. ASCE found that current investment plans through 2020 of $566 billion, falls short by $107 billionof what is actually needed. "Without new investments in our electricity infrastructure, service interruptions and capacity bottlenecks will become more frequent and unpredictable, imposing direct costs to businesses and households." Read the report here: Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Energy Infrastructure.

Report: EU needs $137B worth of upgrades to integrate renewables
The EU will need to invest $137 billion in transmission upgrades to integrate renewable-energy production in national grids, according to a report from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity. More than 30,000 miles of extra-high-voltage power lines are needed across the region to achieve the goal of a pan-European grid capable of accommodating renewable-energy sources, ENTSO-E said. The proposed upgrades translates to $2 to $2.50 more per megawatt-hour, or "less than 1% of the total end-users' electricity bill," said Jean Verseille, chairman of ENTSO-E's system development committee. United Press International (3/5)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Death of an old-time Liberal

I went to a funeral / memorial Saturday to mark the passing of one of my tribe.  The guy's name was Merle Carlson and was an ordained ELCA preacher from the old Augustana (Swedish-American) Synod.  He graduated eight years after my father from the same seminary in Rock Island Illinois.  And the reason I knew him is because his son and I are good friends and share a need to compare notes on the subject of surviving a parsonage upbringing—which trust me, is a complicated subject.

Merle Carlson was the sort of clergyman we Swedes do not produce in enough numbers but like to point to when we claim that "our preachers are NOT like those morons you see on TV."  He grew up in the Swedish enclave of Jamestown New York and went to the University of Michigan to study aeronautical engineering before deciding on the ministry.

He was thoughtful, well-read, and lived his life as an educated man. He sent both of his sons to Harvard on scholarships.  Both of them recounted at the memorial how he made a habit of rising early, reading, writing, drinking a lot of coffee, and then waking his sons at 0600 so they could get in an hour of musical practice before school.  This allowed his sons to participate in after-school activities without neglecting their piano lessons.  Piano practice was done at church so in Minnesota, this meant going out in the darkness and cold for half the year to get to practice.  Middle class virtue met a very Lutheran manifestation of the Protestant ethic in the primacy of musical education.

For as long as I can remember, (Swedish) Lutheran clergymen have been politically much further to the political left than their congregations and Carlson was certainly no exception to that.  He wanted to go on a Freedom Ride in 1962 and missed getting his congregation's approval and financial backing by a handful of votes.  His attempts to integrate his church in North Minneapolis met with open hostility.  But he kept on and wound up with the sort of ministry so beloved by Luther Social Services serving the "least of these."

When my mother died, we had her cremated and had the memorial service a month later.  Give four preacher's kids four weeks and they can get VERY creative.  By contrast, the four Carlson children only had three weeks but they managed to produce quite a show including piano solos and original compositions, seven talks, and a commercial-grade 12-minute documentary on Merle Carlson's The Shepard of the Streets ministry shot in 1982.

This was a great funeral / memorial.  It used barely a word from the funeral service in the Lutheran hymnal.  The poor preacher was a very good sport about having his church and service hijacked by these children with a flair for the theatrical.  It lasted almost two hours and that was before the meal in the church basement.  Of course, I certainly approve of people re-inventing funerals.  And I most certainly approve of long and elaborate tributes to a life well lived.

One final note.  Just to understand where I come from, my parents were so much more creatures of the political left, they made Carlson look like a Republican.  And because perhaps the greatest of the legacies that guys like Carlson could leave behind were educated children with a social conscience, I took great pride in that memorial as one of the finest practices of my tribe.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The solar industry is now officially "mature"

Industrial policy.  Trade Wars.  The whole panoply of issues that come along when a technology becomes valuable enough to protect.

For many years, I advised people not to buy solar panels because quite frankly, most of them were unqualified to take on a high-maintenance piece of technology—especially if it were critical to their lives like a power source would be.  I told them of my "Home Depot" rule—if you can't buy a part for your home from a store like Home Depot, you probably are buying into a maintenance nightmare.  Consider all technology that cannot make this threshold "experimental" with all that implies about reliability.  Recently, Costco started selling PV panels so that hurdle has been breached.

Of course, the main argument against PV panels was cost.  But now we see solar panels as an object of trade wars.  Oh my!  My take is if China is subsidizing their production of PV panels, other governments should match THAT—not attempt to get China to stop.  The whole idea here is make PV panels as cheap as possible so as many folks as possible will want to own them.

Upcoming projects

Like a lot of you, I truly enjoyed Tony's post yesterday.  That sort of thing is a bunch of work so I am glad people appreciated it.  Thanks Tony!

I am currently fiddling with two topics that will probably make an appearance in the next couple of weeks.
  1. Since we now live in a world where an almost limitless information is instantly available (man, I love Google!) the big problem becomes, how does one evaluate this information?  This means the central subject of any education has become a sort of meta-epistemology.  
  2. The corn belt drought threatens to become one of the most significant economic events in history.  The USA has never really suffered a food shortage.  What if one develops?  How likely is it to happen? What happens if several billion people are priced out of a subsistence diet? What will happen to the speculators who will drive up the price of food without adding a single kernel to the food supply?  This drought is not far away—I intend to take pictures.
I am still moving into a house.  It had some issues.  They are not big ones but there seem to be a lot of them.  My SO and I are really good at this sort of thing but it takes energy.  I'll get to these big topics when some of these mini house projects get done.  We were hanging pictures the other day so we are getting close to the end.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

American Revolutionaries were "ashamed of success"

In response to President Obama’s rather inept explanation that nobody can build a successful business outside the supportive legal and physical environment created and funded by all the rest of us citizens of the republic, Mitt Romney declared that, “I’m convinced [the President] wants Americans to be ashamed of success.”

Well, that places Rmoney right in the very middle of a minefield full of historical pyrotechnics: from the beginning of our experiment in self-government, large accumulations of wealth have always attracted public suspicion, hostility, and censure. The issue is not really that someone is rich, but how they became rich.

In a 1973 book, The Foundations of American Economic Freedom: Government and Enterprise in the Age of Washington ( University of Minnesota Press), E.A.J. Johnson, explained that much of the Jeffersonian opposition to Hamilton’s proposals for encouraging and developing manufactures arose from fears that the new manufacturing interests that would be created would not be natural interests, but artificial and predatory ones. There was widespread fear that a new manufacturing interest, especially if it were organized as large corporations, would prove to be hostile and inimical to the interests of mechanics and craftsmen, and the republic in general. In his 1800 A Letter to the Citizens of Pennsylvania: On the Necessity of Promoting Agriculture, Manufactures, and the Useful Arts, George Logan, one of the first ten Senators to represent Pennsylvania, and founder of the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Agriculture. warned of “a Manufacturing Capitalist [who will] fill his coffers by paring down the hard-earned wages of the laborious artists he employs.” If the union-busting and job outsourcing of the past few decades doesn’t reek of “paring down hard-earned wages,” I don’t know what does.

LIBOR update (3)

As someone who sincerely believes that the greatest single economic error of the past generation was the insanely high interest rates that have prevailed since 1979, there is part of me that rejoices over the fact that banksters were actually colluding to lower them.  Just remember, no one got this upset when it was obvious that interest rates were being manipulated to keep them sky high.  But there is something almost blasphemous about banks colluding to keep interest rates low.  And once again we see poor Deutsche Bank acting as if they were too hopelessly stupid to be one of the really bad guys.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Killing our kids

Nothing, but nothing is more insane than the economic catastrophe that has been inflicted on the world's young people.  It is making it impossible for them to survive in any meaningful sense.  Not surprisingly, we are seeing suicide rates trending up in a demographic usually noted for their hopefulness.  Perhaps this is merely another example of "ignorance is bliss" because without significant economic change, they literally have no future.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Are the bankster myths collapsing

The evolving story of bankers as bad guys has been a work in progress for decades.  In 1978 when the bankers went on a capital strike in their attempt to get usury laws repealed, I was at a party full of Louis Rukeyser-watching yuppies.  When I suggested that if the bankers were successful, the middle class as we knew it was doomed, they looked at me as if I were a barking lunatic.  The moneychangers were considered both trustworthy and magical.  Their status was that of a Master of the Universe.  So it has been a long slide for them into their present status where a big-name economist like Roubini suggests that we need to see some banksters hanging in the streets.

So now we see a story of a small Iowa commodity brokerage the "lost" $220 million in customer money.  This was operating capital for agriculture that was stolen so this makes a big difference to the surrounding area.

Monday, July 16, 2012

LIBOR update (2)

The LIBOR scandal is important for two reasons: 1) It's size—this literally affects billions of people, and 2) It exposes the utter hypocrisy and deep meaningful bullshit that informs our fairy-tales about money.  Of course, LIBOR was being fixed!  I have been claiming that interest rates have been fixed ever since I discovered a tiny handful of people could run up the prime rate to 21% in 1981.

Of course this leads to the interesting question—whose ox is being gored.  When the freaking Economist starts calling the LIBOR scandal the worst of all time, you gotta know someone powerful lost a big pile.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Electricity from waste heat

Considering how much waste heat there is in various industrial processes, this is BIG news.  Consider that only 20% of the energy in your gas tank is converted into motion down the road—the rest is waste heat.  Consider that a very good electrical generating power station only converts 40% of the energy in coal into electricity—the rest is waste heat.

Remember, anything that passes the tests of thermodynamic efficiency will have a positive impact on the real economy.

Congratulations to all who made this work—if even only at the university lab stage.

Economics as a spin-off of moral philosophy

One of the very few actual benefits of growing up in a parsonage is that you grow accustomed to the sounds and patterns of religious speech and thought.  I like to claim as a result of this experience that I can smell religious BS in parts per trillion.  On the other hand, one of my attractions to the subject of economics was that it grew out of the study of moral philosophy—so my experience with religious types gave me a head start in understanding the economics profession.  Yet ironically, the main reason I became so attached to the writings of Thorstein Veblen is that they are the least like religious speech of any I have encountered—at least outside of a technical manual.

The following is a superb summary of why economics as it is currently taught actually resembles a weird cult like that of the Moonies.  And while I am perfectly happy to embrace the idea of economists as these strange cult-like creatures, I AM reminded of Gore Vidal's famous answer when asked the difference between a religion and cult said, "A religion is merely a cult that has been around so long it has gained political power."  Since neoclassical economics has indeed acquired a great deal of political power, Vidal's definition would indicate it has lost its cult-like standing and has become a full-blown religion.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wind Energy News Round-Up, June-July 2012

Report: China led rise in global clean-energy spending in Q2
Clean-energy investment worldwide climbed 24% to $59.6 billion in the second quarter, driven mainly by China, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China's investment in the sector during the period rose sharply to $18.3 billion, up 92% from the previous quarter. "These figures underline the pivotal role China is playing in the clean energy sector," said BNEF CEO Michael Liebreich. Reuters (7/11)

Saturday toons 14 JUL 12

Friday, July 13, 2012

Don't mess with Vikings

One of life's persistent questions that has occupied much of my "Instinct of Idle Curiosity" is: How did Vikings become Scandinavians?  Yes this question is all about me but I find it especially relevant because I am one of the peaceable Vikings—not the variety that terrorized Europe for about 400 years.

The simple answer is Christianity—especially the Lutheran variety.  Of course, Christianity is arguably the most bloodthirsty ideology in history so a lot of other things had to happen to turn Eric Bloodaxe into the denizens of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon.  This is a remarkable example of the power of culture considering both Vikings and Wobegonians are genetically nearly identical.

But while the culture of, say, North Dakota does not especially match those Viking characteristics of the Norwegians who settled there, it's not like those characteristics disappeared.  I discovered the phenomenon of "latent Vikingness" when I first went sailing.  Being on big water was not a part of my childhood—what with growing up in the center of a continent and all.  But standing on the foredeck of a 39' sloop plowing through some nasty swells on Lake Superior triggered the first of many moments in life when I felt what I can only describe as a "Viking rush."

Sailing I got on an almost molecular level!  Sailing in storms gave me my first sensation of fearlessness—good boats are DESIGNED to weather storms—its up to YOU to get them back to port.  Fearlessness was new to me.  My parents were expert worriers—a childhood during the Depression in the Midwest will do that to you.  I was taught to fear.  But for the first time in my life, I literally felt no fear.  Needless to say, I fell in love with sailing (which is not especially convenient for someone so perfectly landlocked.)  And suddenly I understood why Vikings went to sea in open boats for essentially trivial reasons—they did not fear the sea and so sailing across it became one of those good reasons to live.

Which partly explains why tiny little Iceland seems to be the only country that has decided to go after the criminal banksters.  They're Vikings, after all, and understand the sensation of fearlessness.  Well, lead on oh descendants of Eric the Red!  Show the rest of us what paper tigers the banksters are.

The one crucial question in the LIBOR scandal

Barry Ritholtz pointed to this graphic portrayal of the LIBOR scandal as a good explanation.

But, no one I know of yet has asked the question I think should be the crucial question in the halls of power and in public discussions: 

If markets can manipulate interest rates for private gain, wouldn't it be better to let governments manipulate interest rates for the common good?

We got SOME rain today

It wasn't a lot but it was probably enough to save the local corn crop (for now).  But there are still vast parts of Minnesota's "fertile crescent" that are in drought conditions.  Whoever is left with a corn crop this fall might get as much as $20 per bushel—so I may have relocated into a little pocket of prosperity in a corn belt worth of hurt.  Farmers with extra income tend to spend first on capital improvements—so this will help the local equipment dealers and some construction crews.  Because this will be the third year of agricultural prosperity, this probably will not buy so many pickups—that happened a couple of years ago and even a farmer with too much money thinks a two-year-old pickup is almost new.

What the farmer SHOULD be investing in is a meaningful response to climate change. Great idea Larson, but what exactly would that be—besides burying the power lines to his operation and other methods of lessening his exposure to collective energy infrastructure?  If his crops cannot pollinate when the air is too hot, or when it needs rain at specific times, all his investment in the equipment to grow those crops has been reduced to glorified lawn ornaments.  If the whole farm must be redesigned to operate in the new climate, this guy is going to need a LOT of good years—something not likely to happen when the crops are failing.

New Scientist has an excellent opinion piece on the need to adapt to the new climate.  Adapting to new conditions is the other side of rebuilding the infrastructure so as to reduce carbon emissions in the first place.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Negative interest rates

One of most significant economic events of my life occurred when Paul Volcker effectively shut down the global economy in 1981-82 when he raised interest rates to 21% prime.  As a result, the effects of interest rates figure prominently in Elegant Technology which was mostly written in the aftermath of this calamity to the real economy.

Essentially, my position was that the great religions were right—usury was such an evil that proclaiming it a sin was central to their moral teachings on economics.  But (being the centrist that I strive to be) IF you were to allow the charging of interest, it should at least have some relationship to the needs of the real economy.  This meant that there was a reasonable method for setting interest rates that didn't harm the real economy.  Those rates would be more like 0.25% than 21% and when conditions were appropriate, interest rates would actually turn negative.

Well, it took 30 years but we are beginning to see negative interest rates.  The plundering of the banksters has taken such a toll that there is almost no Producer activity left that reliably makes money—so positive interest rates these days are essentially absurd—because they killed the goose that laid the golden egg.  Of course, the next logical step after negative interest is for debtors to declare a moratorium on payments and watch the collection efforts become mired down in the flood of defaults.

Paul Volcker is NOT a good guy

Early in the Obama administration, we saw Paul Volcker hanging around the edges of the economic team trying to convince everyone that he was the "adult" in the room.  And in fact, he might have been—considering the generally absurd characters like Larry Summers who got to make economic policy.

And so we saw so-called "liberals" turn Volcker into some sort of minor hero—much to the disgust of those who remember what the man did to the country in the early 1980s.  I was involved in a start-up in 1981-82.  We had some great dreams.  We worked insane hours.  We were inventive enough to get a patent.  We produced a product that was quite beautiful.  And then the hammer fell.  Suddenly, in the name of fighting inflation, Volcker raised prime interest rates up to 21%.  It was like the economy had hit a wall.  If we had been well established, we might have survived this grotesque economic experiment but we were not and joined the other 300,000 businesses that were sacrificed to "fight inflation."

Volcker delivered a hit to the productive economy of USA that in many ways, we have never recovered from.  Oh sure, some economic indicators showed growth again but real wages would stagnate, small and medium-sized agriculture would never recover, and the great American economic muscle would be reduced to the "rust belt."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Climate change and food

This is beginning to look very VERY ugly.  The range of temperatures and rainfall for successful crop production is exceedingly narrow.  Tiny changes in climate can have huge effects on food production.  One of these days, climate change will produce a catastrophic world-wide crop failure.  The big question is, "Is this the year?"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

LIBOR update

This is NOT simply about Barclays Bank.  This is about systemic corruption.

It's official—it's getting warmer

This climate change deniers, is what the facts look like from NOAA.  The first half of 2012 were the warmest six months in recorded history.

Climate Highlights — Year-to-Date (January-June)

The January-June period was the warmest first half of any year on record for the contiguous United States. The national temperature of 52.9°F was 4.5°F above average. Most of the contiguous U.S. was record and near-record warm for the six-month period, except the Pacific Northwest. Twenty-eight states east of the Rockies were record warm and an additional 15 states were top ten warm.

The first six months of 2012 were also drier than average for much of the contiguous U.S., with a nationally-averaged precipitation total 1.62 inches below average. Drier-than-average conditions stretched from the West, through the Central Plains, into the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic. Fourteen states in total had precipitation totals for the six-month period among their ten driest.

Wetter-than-average conditions were present for the Northwest and Upper Midwest, where Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington had six-month precipitation totals among their ten wettest.

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was a record-large 44 percent during the January-June period, over twice the average value. Extremes in warm daytime temperatures (83 percent) and warm nighttime temperatures (70 percent) covered large areas of the nation, contributing to the record high value.

Climate Highlights — 12-month period (July 2011-June 2012)

The July 2011-June 2012 period was the warmest 12-month period of any 12-months on record for the contiguous U.S., narrowly surpassing the record broken last month for the June 2011-May 2012 period by 0.05°F. The nationally-averaged temperature of 56.0°F was 3.2°F above the long term average. Every state across the contiguous U.S. had warmer than average temperatures for the period, except Washington, which was near normal.  more

Monday, July 9, 2012

When you can no longer steal from the poor...

You gotta hand it to the banksters.  They have run up some serious "debts" playing their crooked games and still they believe that someone will make those debts good.  Well, there are two Euro countries that still have balance sheets worth looting and in both places, sensible people are telling the world that they don't like the idea of being looted one little bit.

Finland is especially interesting because her economy has taken a MAJOR hit recently.  Nokia was once, not so long ago, the shining symbol of her ability to foster an industry (mobile telephones) that could compete successfully on the world stage.  But the world of electronics changes rapidly and soon Nokia had lost its place on the low end of the market to the Asians.  Then Apple released its iPhone and soon, Nokia's position in the high end of the market was destroyed as well.  So some of Finland's best jobs are gone—likely forever.  Nokia was a large part of Finland's economy so I would imagine she is not at all excited about backstopping failed Italian (etc.) banks these days.

And so we see the Finnish Finance Minister blurt out an obvious truth only to be be overruled by some bureaucrat willing to state the officially approved "truth."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

This LIBOR scandal just keeps getting "better"

There is a LOT about the LIBOR scandal that just seems hopelessly arcane.  While the LIBOR rate is incredibly important and affects the daily lives of billions, how the rate is set, while hardly a secret, is not widely known either.  We at real economics will be focusing careful attention to this scandal because it affects so many people.  But I should warn everyone—the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal is not being reported because some poor suckers paid too much for their mortgages or credit cards.  No. No. No.  This has become a story because other INVESTORS got hurt, got cut out of ill-gotten gains, or whatever makes those people angry.

Of course, this inter-Predator fighting is precisely why the rest of us should be so interested.  The only time we little guys have ANY chance to get our agendas heard is when the big guys start beating up on each other.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Back online

Basically I have been without a Internet connection since June 28.  I did get access to a neighbor's unprotected LAN last Sunday but that didn't last long.  But at 5:00 pm this very afternoon, the indicator light turned green on my Airport Express.  I am now hooked up to my fastest connection ever.  YESSSS!

I know, I could have figured out how to borrow a laptop and go somewhere with a wifi connection, but many things conspired to prevent that from happening.  First of all, there were boxes everywhere and a major effort was needed just to walk around.  Getting a kitchen running was a priority.  Then, it was HOT outside—as in so hot, it makes you worry for the planet, hot.  The air conditioning worked and so staying on task was easier than running around.

But mostly, I kind of enjoyed the break from the reality I find cruising my favorite websites.  I went through a kind of withdrawal, mind you, but since I could do nothing about getting hooked up sooner, I used the occasion to explore the reality that I find most of my fellow citizens live in most of the time.  Please believe me, I don't want to live in that world, but I can better understand the appeal of being comfortably numb.

I did have the occasion to watch an interesting movie about the Revolution of 1911 in China.  Chinese cinema is going through some growing pains so I wasn't expecting an historically insightful gem.  It is, after all, a Jackie Chan movie complete with one signature flying kicks defeat of three would-be assassins.  But it turned out to be a pretty thoughtful historical account.  China obviously needed major change—2000 years of feudalism combined with roughly 300 years of European imperialism made for extraordinarily harsh living conditions for the vast majority of the population.  But why a revolution?  Why attack the armies of the Qing Dynasty?  And perhaps most interestingly and relevant for today—what was the role of international finance?

The reason I found this all so interesting is that it has become clear that the power of the banksters is as corrupt and damaging as the combination of 2000 years of feudalism and 300 years of imperialism.  More importantly, the banksters are preventing necessary solutions to critically important problems.  Like the Qing Dynasty, they are almost impossible to dislodge by peaceful means because the only skills they have are cunning and corruption and they don't intend to give up their cushy lives without a fight.

So they play their video games with money while the planet burns for lack of investment in better ways of living.  Unfortunately, if there is going to be a revolution, someone else is going to have to fight it.  As I see it, my assignment has always been to collect the information necessary to build the better world once the impediments of banksterism are removed.  Trust me on this, this is a big enough job for me!  But for those who want to go all Jackie Chan on some banksters, I am not about to get in your way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Higgs-Boson particle discovered

Over at Daily-Kos, a theoretical particle physicist explains for laymen the just announced discovery, by scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, in Geneva, of the Higgs-Boson particle. Includes a short, fascinating discussion of how the level of sigma determines if experimental results are merely evidence, or rise to the level of "discovery." 
A few minutes ago, one of the most important announcement in particle physics in the past 30 years was made by scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, in Geneva.  For decades, tens of thousands of physicists have been involved in an intense experimental search for the "holy grail" of particle physics, the Higgs Boson.    It has now been discovered.

Read more.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Welcome to the new normal

The "debate" over climate change has been an eye-opening lesson in the hazards associated with the social skills required to navigate human social structures.  We are told, for example, that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.  And when it comes to topics like favorite colors or music or a concept of a deity, tolerance of other's opinions is probably a good thing.  But when the subject is science, this social skill becomes a badge of purest ignorance.

Because if the climate is changing, it doesn't matter one whit what anyone believes is true.  This is one of those things that exists outside of opinion so whether Al Gore is an imperfect spokesman for climate change (he is) or some some plans for mitigation are ridiculous (carbon offset trading really IS the new practice of indulgences) or some of the climate scientists are ignorant, self-serving pricks does NOT change the facts on the ground.  Neither does calling the climate change community "carbonazis" or pointing out that Al Gore is an overweight hypocrite or noticing that carbon trading schemes are just another cynical method to enrich Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, the hard evidence that humans really HAVE altered the climate keeps piling up—along with the realization of how utterly fragile our infrastructure is when faced with such a profound change.  The latest climate change disaster hit Washington D.C.  I wonder how many of these it will require before those folks stop believing that the "truth" about climate change is just another matter of who can spend the most money on lobbyists.  The following is from the Guardian and was chosen mostly for the pithy comments that follow such a routine article.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Apparently, I didn't miss much

Moving really is an ordeal.  You spend weeks packing your worldly goods in boxes.  Then the big day arrives and three seriously strong young men stuff everything into a truck and proceed to unload it into the new space.  In spite of your best organizing efforts, key stuff goes "missing."  Eventually you find everything but for several days, you do without critical parts of your life.

But I now have a kitchen.  The shower works.  I can now walk through several rooms without encountering stacks of boxes.  I am still without an internet connection but thanks to a wonderful neighbor who has failed to lock down his LAN, I have finally gotten my email and this morning, the web works.

But honestly, outside of the Supreme Court's decision on Obamacare, not much has happened since I have been away from the Internet.  The weather is unbelievably hot but no one seems to be talking about climate change any longer.  The Euro is still a disaster area.  ETC!

I need some sleep!