Blog Archives

Will Our Grandchildren Wonder Why We Didn’t Build a Renewable Power Grid When It Was Still Affordable?

Anyone seeking clarity on the energy picture a decade or two out is to be forgiven for finding a thoroughly confusing divide. On the one hand, we have reassuring projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that assume current production of fossil fuels will remain steady for decades to come. Coal will continue to decline as a share of total energy consumption, and renewables will rise modestly. In other words, everything’s hunky-dory, there’s nothing to worry about.

The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 (64-page PDF) lays out the all-is-well, no-worries projections.

If you want to really dig deep into energy consumption, then the EIA has a treat for you: a detailed 390-page PDF report: Energy Perspectives 1949–2011 (link to 390-page PDF).

But just when you conclude fossil fuels will remain cheap and abundant until 2040 and beyond, you read this: Civilization goes over the net energy cliff in 2022,

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What’s Truly Progressive?

We know what fake-Progressives support: neocon-neoliberal policies and narratives that enable elite privilege, power and Imperial pretensions.

So what’s truly progressive? We can start with four things:

1. Focus on developing skills that build capital, not on issuing costly credentials controlled by cartels.

2. Accept that borrowing from future generations to pay today’s expenses is morally and financially bankrupt.

3. Fix healthcare by integrating medicine with the causes of illness– lifestyle, diet, fitness, agency and culture–and decentralized programs of prevention.

4. Accept that “growth” of consumption, debt, GDP, etc. is no longer the solution, it’s the problem: Degrowth is the solution.

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The Path to $10,000 Bitcoin

As my colleague Davefairtex observed recently, the paint isn’t quite dry on bitcoin and the expanding host of other cryptocurrencies. Initial enthusiasm for the latest cryptocurrency that’s going to eat bitcoin’s lunch generates outsized returns for early investors, but as glitches in the vision arise, the bubble of initial euphoria pops.

Differing visions of bitcoin’s future have divided its community of participants and miners, and hard forks have split other cryptocurrencies into competing camps.

Meanwhile, the spectre of outright bans on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies by nations such as China adds uncertainty to the entire sector. Many observers expect that China’s increasingly pervasive attempts to staunch the flow of capital out of China via capital controls will lead inevitably to strict limits on bitcoin or even a total ban on bitcoin transactions and mining in China.

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Dear Self-Proclaimed “Progressives”: as Apologists for the Neocon-Neoliberal Empire, You Are as Evil as the Empire You’ve Enabled

Dear Self-Proclaimed “Progressive”: I love you, man, but it has become necessary to intervene in your self-destruction. Your ideological blinders and apologies for the Establishment’s Neocon-Neoliberal Empire are not just destroying your credibility, they’re destroying the nation and everywhere the Empire intervenes.

While you squandered your political capital defending zero-cost causes like “safe spaces on college campuses,” the Empire was busy killing, maiming and making refugees of women and children in Syria. President Obama and his Neocon crew (former Secretary Hillary Clinton included) aren’t fools; they rely on drones and proxy armies to do their dirty work.

Neoliberalism is the Establishment’s core ideology, and by supporting Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, you furthered, defended and rationalized the Empire’s neoliberal expansion and exploitation. Neoliberalism’s Big Lie is transforming everything into a market makes everyone richer.

The dirty little secret of Neoliberalism is that the markets it creates are rigged in favor of Elitist cronies.

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We Can Only Afford One, So Choose Wisely: Social Security/Medicare, Cartel Cronyism or Inflation (Central Banking)

It’s easy to quantify the annual cost of Social Security/Medicare, and not so easy to calculate the cost of Cartel Cronyism and Central Bank-created inflation.Cartel cronyism is a hidden tax on the entire economy, as is Central Bank-created inflation.

That makes it easy for the financial-political Oligarchy to continue their skimming operations, because nobody says Cartel Cronyism cost us $1 trillion last year, and central bank skimming (inflation) cost us another $1 trillion.

The stark reality is there are limits on what we as a nation can afford in the long term. Borrowing trillions of dollars annually at low rates of interest creates a magical-thinking illusion that we can just tack on another $10 trillion, or what the hay, make it $100 trillion, and get away with it, because we’ve gotten away with it so far.

This leaves us an equally stark choice: we can only afford one of these three crushing costs:

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Trump Aims to Cut the Neocon Deep State Off at the Knees

I have long held that America’s Deep State–the unelected National Security State often referred to as the Shadow Government–is not a unified monolith but a deeply divided ecosystem in which the dominant Neocon-Neoliberal Oligarchy is being challenged by elements which view the Neocon-Neoliberal agenda as a threat to national security and the interests of the United States.

I call these anti-Neocon-Neoliberal elements the progressive Deep State.

If you want a working definition of the Neocon-Neoliberal Deep State, Hillary Clinton’s quip–we came, we saw, he died–is a good summary: a bullying, arrogance-soaked state-within-a-state pursuing an agenda of ceaseless intervention while operating a global Murder, Inc., supremely confident that no one in the elected government can touch them.

Until Trump unexpectedly wrenched the presidency from the Neocon’s candidate. The Neocon Deep State’s response was to manufacture a mass-media hysteria that Russia had wrongfully deprived the Neocon’s candidate (Hillary Clinton) of what was rightfully hers: the presidency. (The Neocons operate their own version of the divine right of Political Nobility.)

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Why Profits Are Faltering

The bedrock assumption of the Bull market is that corporate profits will keep rising indefinitely. Hiccups are allowed, but current stock market valuations are implicitly based on profits expanding.

The fly in the ointment here is corporate profits have been stagnating since 2014. Here is the St. Louis Federal Reserve (FRED) chart of pre-tax corporate profits:

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Prosperity = Abundant Work + Low Cost of Living

If we seek a coherent context for the new year, we would do well to start with the foundations of widespread prosperity. While the economy is a vast, complex machine, the sources of widespread prosperity are not that complicated: abundant work and a low cost of living.

When work is abundant, there are opportunities for many skill levels, and employers must bid for the most productive, reliable workers. This supports wages and widespread employment.

When the cost of living is low, even low-wage households can not only get by but put a little aside if they are prudent and thrifty.

This may seem obvious, but the conditions required for work to be abundant and the cost of living to be low are not so obvious. For work to be abundant, it must be easy to start a business, easy to operate the new business, easy to make a profit so the business can survive the first few years and easy to hire employees.

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Fragmentation and the De-Optimization of Centralization

Many observers decry the loss of national coherence and purpose, and the increasing fragmentation of the populace into “tribes” with their own loyalties, value systems and priorities.

These observers look back on the national unity of World War II as the ideal social standard: everyone pitching in, with shared purpose and sacrifice. (Never mind the war killed tens of millions of people, including over 400,000 Americans.)

But few (if any) of these nostalgic observers note that history has no rewind button or reverse gear. It is impossible to recreate the national unity of World War II, as modern war is either specialized or nuclear. Neither enable mass mobilization.

Few observers note that World War II set the template for the next 60 years: the solution is always to further centralize power, control and money to serve the goals set by centralized authority.

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Fake News, Mass Hysteria and Induced Insanity

We’ve heard a lot about “fake news” from those whose master narratives are threatened by alternative sources and analyses. We’ve heard less about the master narratives being threatened: the fomenting of mass hysteria, which turns the populace into an easily manipulated and managed herd, and induced insanity, a longer-term marketing-based narrative that causes the populace to ignore the self-destructive consequences of accepting the fad/ ideology/ mindset being pushed as “good” and “normal.”

In terms of “fake news,” it’s hard to beat the mainstream media and its handlers’ attempts to whip up mass hysteria via unsubstantiated claims that Russian hackers working for Putin deprived Hillary of the presidency. The campaign to spark mass hysteria was launched with great precision, unleashing the overwhelming forces of endless repetition (the marketer’s favorite tool) and appeals to national security authorities: The C.I.A., F.B.I, and all the other security agencies purportedly concur that Russia “hacked” (whatever that means) the U.S. election.

The intent of the campaign was painfully obvious: by wheeling out the big guns of authority without any actual evidence, the campaign’s designers hoped the public would automatically assume the bizarre, outlandish claim must be “true,” even though no evidence was submitted to substantiate this fact-free claim, and respond as planned, i.e. willingly join a mass hysteria herd in favor of discrediting the U.S.election results.

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A Tale of Two Housing Markets: Hot and Not So Hot

Though housing statistics such as average sales price are typically lumped into one national number, this is extremely misleading: there are two completely different housing markets in the U.S. One is hot, one is not so hot.

Just as importantly, one may stay relatively hot while the other may stagnate or decline.

All real estate is local, of course; there are thousands of housing markets if we consider neighborhoods, hundreds if we look at counties, cities and towns and dozens if we look at multi-city metro regions.

But consider what happens to average sales prices when million-dollar home sales are lumped in with $100,000 home sales. The average price comes in around $500,000– a gross distortion of both markets.

Here’s a real-world example of what has happened in hot markets over the past 20 years. The house in question is located in a bedroom community suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area metro area. The home was built in 1916 and has 914 square feet, no garage and a small lot.

It sold in 1996 for $135,000. This was a bit under neighborhood prices due to the lack of garage and small size, but nearby larger homes sold in the $145,000 to $160,000 range.

The house was sold in 2004 for $542,000, and again in 2008 for $575,000. It is currently valued at $720,000. The neighborhood average is $900,000.

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Grab-Bag of Resolutions for 2017

Here’s a grab-bag of resolutions with something for just about every persuasion.

1. I resolve to never utter or write the word “Trump” in 2017. (Good luck with that…)

2. Having watched bitcoin rise from $250 (or perhaps from $25 or even 25 cents) to $900+, I resolve to finally buy some bitcoin before it soars over $1,000. (Please file under “this is intended as bemused commentary, not financial advice.”)

3. I resolve to lose the weight I should lose by changing my entire mindset and way of life rather than by following a diet.

4. I resolve to accept the reality that the two political parties are devoid of productive ideas and solutions, because real solutions would hinder the parties’ primary purpose, which is vacuuming up contributions to fund their eternal grab for power.

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