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Opinion v Fact

COMMENT: Marty,

Each day I read reports from so called reputable people expressing what they think might happen given the backdrop today. It is laughable. Most do this based on superficial analysis or cursory comparisons with things that appear to line up, appear to rhythm, to paraphrase M Twain. What a joke.

I say this here because as I relearn what I once thought I knew, analyze my mistakes using real data…it brings me back to you and your marvelous study of history, your database, which is incomparable, and your willingness…let’s call it humility, to let Socrates make the call. Just remarkable.

What this has done for me is save countless hours reading nonsense and instead focusing on the data. Not trying to push my opinions on a trade and expect the market will follow, but respect what is there and not force things. Nothing is absolute, no one is always right. But today there are so many people who are flat out wrong, who claim to be right…just give them time, it explains why the government fails repeatedly…because these are the people who, like Keynsians or socialists claim…just give it more money…it will work. Right. History always seems to tell a different story.

MS

REPLY: Thank you. What I try to get across is what I have learned from my clients. Because I was perhaps the only international analyst in foreign exchange back in the 70s and 80s, we ended up with the largest client base that was so diverse that it compelled me to look at the world through everyone else’s eyes. I remember doing an institutional conference in Zurich probably around 1982-1983. People started flying in to attend from around the world. There were people from the USA and Canada as well as Germany who traveled to Zurich.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

un-Denial Manifesto: Energy and Denial

un-Denial Manifesto: Energy and Denial

Winners and Losers

Six years ago this essay launched and defined un-Denial.com. I’m featuring it on the home page to celebrate 500 posts.

This is the story of the two most important things that enabled the success and possible demise of humans: energy and denial.

Simple single cell (prokaryotic) life emerges as a gradual and predictable transition from geochemistry to biochemistry, in the presence of rock, water, CO2, and energy, all of which are found within alkaline hydrothermal vents on geologically active planets, of which there are 40 billion in our galaxy alone, and probably a similar number in each of the other 100 billion galaxies.

Simple life like bacteria and archaea is therefore probably common throughout the universe. Strong evidence for this is that prokaryotes appeared 4 billion years ago, as soon as the earth cooled down enough to support life, and never once winked out despite many calamities throughout geologic history.

LUCA (the Last Universal Common Ancestor), and all life that followed, is chemiosmotic meaning that it powers itself with an unintuitive mechanism that pumps protons across a membrane. This strange proton pump makes sense in the light of its hydrothermal vent origins. For a sense of the scale of life’s energy, consider that the human body pumps a staggering 10**21 protons per second of life.

The transition to, and existence of, complex multicellular life, like plants and animals, is much less predictable and certain. All of the complex life on earth has a common eukaryote ancestor, and it appears this ancestor emerged only once on Earth about 2 billion years ago. This is a vital but rarely acknowledged singularity in biology.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

2020 the “Worst Year Ever”–You’re Joking, Right?

2020 the “Worst Year Ever”–You’re Joking, Right?

So party on, because “the worst year ever” is ending and the rebound of financial markets, already the greatest in recorded history, will only become more fabulous.

Of the lavish banquet of absurdities laid out in 2020, one of the most delectable is Time magazine’s December 14 cover declaring that 2020 was the “worst year ever.” You’re joking, right? In history’s immense tapestry of human misery, it’s not even in the top 100 worst years.

Consider 1177 B.C., when many of the great civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea and Mideast collapsed, and the survivors struggled through a pre-modern Dark Ages. This book assembles what is known about this catastrophic era: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.

Then there’s 1644 A.D., when the Ming Dynasty was overthrown by the Manchu invasion, a series of self-reinforcing misfortunes stemming from extremes of climate (a.k.a. The Little Ice Age) that left millions hungry and vulnerable to disease and the predation of roving bandit armies.

The Little Ice Age and the famine, conflicts, civil wars, coups, revolts and rebellions it launched killed between a quarter and a third of Eurasia’s population. Entire villages melted away as starvation drove the survivors to desperation. The misery stretched from western Europe to China, and lasted for decades.

This fascinating history lays it all out: Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.

Though it is now relegated to a footnote in history, the Antonine Plague of 165 – 180 A.D. decimated the Mediterranean, Mideast, North African and Eurasian regions, toppling regimes that had endured for ages and very nearly brought the Roman Empire to an inglorious end. Roughly one-fourth of the population died as the novel disease was distributed along Rome’s numerous trade routes, which stretched from Northern Europe to Africa and India.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

This Was All Predicted 10 Years Ago

This Was All Predicted 10 Years Ago


In 2010, the scientific journal Nature published a collection of opinions looking ahead 10 years, i.e., where we are right now.

Nature then published a short response from zoologist Peter Turchin in its February 2010 issue.

Quantitative historical analysis reveals that complex human societies are affected by recurrent — and predictable — waves of political instability (P. Turchin and S. A. Nefedov Secular Cycles Princeton Univ. Press; 2009). In the United States, we have stagnating or declining real wages, a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees, and exploding public debt. These seemingly disparate social indicators are actually related to each other dynamically. They all experienced turning points during the 1970s. Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of looming political instability.

Very long “secular cycles” interact with shorter-term processes. In the United States, 50-year instability spikes occurred around 1870, 1920 and 1970, so another could be due around 2020.

We are also entering a dip in the so-called Kondratiev wave, which traces 40- to 60-year economic-growth cycles. This could mean that future recessions will be severe.

In addition, the next decade will see a rapid growth in the number of people in their 20s, like the youth bulge that accompanied the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s.

All these cycles look set to peak in the years around 2020.

Again, that was from 2010. Right on schedule, we are experiencing the “instability spike” Turchin says tends to come along every 50 years.

Why 50 years? It relates to the human lifespan.

Consider who was “in charge” during the period around 1970. Baby Boomers were all 25 or younger at the time. Managing the chaos fell on older generations, who remembered it well and spent the rest of their lives trying to prevent more of it.

But after 50 years or so, they are mostly gone. We who remain must learn the lesson again.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why am I feeling so anxious? The end of modernism arrives

Why am I feeling so anxious? The end of modernism arrives

A friend of mine quipped that it is one thing to talk about the end of modernism—as the two of us have been doing for over 25 years—and quite another to live through it. It might seem that such notions are far too abstract to account for the anxiety of our fraught times. But underneath all the disorder we see in our pandemic-plagued economic, social and political lives is the crumbling of key assumptions about what we call modernity, a period of “enlightenment” that has supposedly freed us from the past.

First, let me recount what I regard as four key assumptions of modernism—I’ve written about them before—which are being demolished every day right before our eyes with the help of an invisible virus.

  1. Humans are in one category and nature is in another.
  2. Scale doesn’t matter.
  3. History can be safely ignored since modern society has seen through the delusions of the past.
  4. Science is a unified, coherent field that explains the rational principles by which we can manage the physical world.

The next thing I need to remind you is that modernism is as much a religion as any other. In the not-too-distant past, whenever anyone raised questions about its basic tenets—directly or indirectly in one form or another—that person was quickly shushed. If the person persisted, he or she was then shamed. If shaming didn’t work, then that person was shunned or even unceremoniously ejected from the party.

Enter COVID-19.

The very first thing COVID-19 reminded us is that humans and nature are both in the same category, whatever you want to call it. (My favorite living French thinker Bruno Latour proposed the compound term “nature-culture” in his seminal book We Have Never Been Modern.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Poor Leadership can Create Collapse or Make It Faster: Lessons from European History

How Poor Leadership can Create Collapse or Make It Faster: Lessons from European History

The damage that a bad leader can generate is simply fearsome, especially if that leader has a lot of power and he is nearly impossible to remove from his position. If then that leader controls a large military apparatus, even including nuclear weapons, then the disasters that can happen are beyond the imaginable. If you, like me, doubt the competence of our current leaders, there is plenty to be worried about.

The problem seems to be that our system of choosing leaders guarantees to propel to the top all sorts of power-mongering psychopaths. And as the power we manage increases, going from nuclear weapons to the control of the Web, the chances for truly disastrous damage created by an incompetent leader also increase.

Maybe there should be a science of incompetent leaders that might be a branch of the more general “science of evil.” In this post, I propose a brief exploration of this field that starts with the idea that the past is the way to understand the future. So I repropose a theme that I had already examined: that of Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) (1808-1873) one of the best examples we have of an incompetent leader who ruined the state he was leading. At that time, fortunately, there were no nuclear weapons available and Luis Napoleon himself was not so aggressive and bloodthirsty as other famously bad leaders. Nevertheless, the damage he generated was considerable and we can learn something from his story.

Napoleon 3rd: how to destroy an empire in the making.  

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The ten worst predictions in history: learning from past mistakes

The ten worst predictions in history: learning from past mistakes

Ugo Bardi experiments with new predictive methods.

This post was inspired mainly by the shock I had with the various failed attempts to predict the outcome of the Covid-19 epidemic. It was truly a sobering experience: bad predictions, clueless politicians, arrogant scientists, idiotic journalists, and more. It made me doubt of the usefulness of models in general. I think we are doing several (too many) things wrong with the way we use models and (sometimes) we trust them. I’ll be discussing more on this subject in future posts, for the time being, here is a list of failed predictions that I think can teach us something.

1. Coronavirus Deaths. In 2020, the model developed in large part by Neil Ferguson at the Imperial College in London was the main element that led the British government to engage in a strict “lockdown” policy to avoid the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of deaths that the model predicted as a result of the COVID-19 disease. Most European States followed suit. It is still early to evaluate how the real world followed the model but, if we look at the result proposed in the “Report n. 9“, we see that the model was clearly overly pessimistic. The authors of the model defended their work saying that their prediction of doom was just one of several scenarios, which is correct, but weak as a defense. In the future, we’ll be able to say if Europeans truly wrecked their economies for nothing but, for the time being, the coronavirus experience can be seen as a sobering experience on the limits of the models as predictive tools.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Reinterpreting History – The Modern Version of Book Burning?

Reinterpreting History – The Modern Version of Book Burning?

They are going to remove the statue of Teddy Roosevelt, who ironically was a socialist, as they claim the statue is now racist because it portrays an American Indian and a black African. Teddy Roosevelt was certainly not a slave owner. The statue reflected the two continents being America (the American Indian), and Africa because Roosevelt had taken a year-long expedition to Africa. Is a statue depicting a black person representing Africa automatically racist?Video Player00:0001:20

If you look at the footage of various attacks on statues, you will notice that these are not purely blacks protesting. You will see a lot of whites in these movements. This is reflecting more civil unrest which is also frustration over the lockdown and losing jobs. The job losses have hit the youth very hard for they are often the people in service industries just getting states like waitresses and stock boys. With movies, plays, restaurants, malls, and small shops closed, it has been the youth thrown out of work with no unemployment for they were not full-time employees.

These protests are not really thought out. In some cases, this is the equivalent of the Taliban destroying the monumental statues of Gautama Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan. Then there were the museum raids by ISIS, who destroyed statues they disagreed with. This would be akin to blowing up the Pyramids because the Egyptians were pagans.

This is the statue in the Capitoline Museum in Rome depicting Romulus and Remus suckling a she-wolf based upon the myth of the founding of Rome. Should this statue now be removed because it represents somehow cruelty to animals?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can Too Big For Fed & ECB

CAN TOO BIG FOR FED & ECB

There are lies, damned lies, and economists. Whether these economists work for the government or a bank, they spend all their time on the computer extrapolating current trends with minor adjustments. 

If you want to understand the future, don’t spend your life preparing and constantly revising an Excel sheet with masses of economic data. Collective human behaviour is extremely predictable. But not by spreadsheet analysis but by studying history. 

HISTORY IS A BETTER FORECASTER THAN ECONOMISTS

There just is nothing new under the sun. So why is there so much time and money wasted around the world to make economic forecasts that are no better than a random job by a few chimps?

Instead, give some lateral thinkers a few history books and let them study the rise and decline of the major empires in history. That will tell them more about long term economic forecasts than any spreadsheet. 

After a 50 year decline of the US economy and the dollar, we still hear about the V-shaped recovery being imminent. 

On what planet do these people live who believe that a world on the cusp of an economic and social collapse is going to see a miraculous recovery out of the blue. 

This is the problem with a system that is totally fake and dependant on constant flow of stimulus even though it has zero value. Most people are fooled and believe it is for real.

ALL EMPIRES END WITH COLLAPSING CURRENCY AND SURGING DEBTS

We are now in the final stages of the end game. The end of the end could be extended affairs or they could be extremely quick. Most declines of major cycles are drawn out and this one has lasted half a century. During that time the dollar is down 50% against the DM/Euro and 78% vs the Swiss franc. And US debt has gone up 65x since 1971 from $400B to $26T. A collapsing currency and surging debts are how all empires end.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

History Tells Us to Own Gold When Central Banks Run Out of Control

HISTORY TELLS US TO OWN GOLD WHEN CENTRAL BANKS RUN OUT OF CONTROL

“Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” happen with regular intervals as Charles Mackay wrote about. It seems that the world experiences more delusions and madness than truth and sanity. 

The pattern is always the same. The economy is never in equilibrium but moves in cycles of boom and bust. If these cycles were allowed to take their natural course, they would move up and down in a steady rhythm without reaching extremes at the top or bottom. 

GOVERNMENTS’ PRIME OBJECTIVE IS TO BE REELECTED BY BUYING VOTES

But human psychology and hunger for power prevent these natural cycles from taking place. Most leaders, whether they are kings or presidents, all have fear of failure combined with illusions of grandeur. As the economy peaks and the good times come to an end, they know that the best chance of not being ejected is for the good times to continue. Today’s leaders’ primary objective is to hang on to power by buying votes. 

And how can they buy votes when the economy is turning down and the coffers are empty? Easy! You just print money out of thin air, as I discussed in my article a couple of weeks ago. The Romans did it, and so did the French, the Brits, Germans, Argentinians, and everyone else. 

PRICES DON’T GO UP – VALUE OF MONEY GOES DOWN

Initially, when a country prints money to extend the prosperity, nobody notices that it is fake. After all, they are still called dollars or pounds. But gradually things become more expensive. The popular interpretation of increasing prices is calling it inflation. Nobody actually notices or understands that it is not prices going up but the value of the money going down as more and more which has zero value is issued.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How catalytic events change the course of history: From the 9/11 attacks to the coronavirus pandemic

How catalytic events change the course of history: From the 9/11 attacks to the coronavirus pandemic

The 9/11 attacks of 2001 are classic examples of  “catalytic events” that change the course of history. They can be seen as triggers for “Seneca Collapses,” sudden and catastrophic, they are well described by Seneca’s words, “the way to ruin is rapid.” It is the way history moves: never smoothly but always in bumps. The most recent example of a catalytic effect of this kind is the current epidemic of coronavirus.

If you are a chemist, you know very well how catalysts work small miracles: you had been trying for some time to have a reaction occur without success, then you add a little pinch of something and things go “bang.” In no time, the reaction is complete. Then, of course, as a chemist you know that catalysts don’t really work miracles: all they can do is to accelerate reaction that would occur anyway. But that may be mightily useful, sometimes.

The concept of catalysis can be used also outside chemistry, for instance in politics. Let’s go back to the year 2000, when the group of American neoconservatives identifying themselves as the “Project for a New American Century” (PNAC) issued a document titled “Rebuilding American Defenses.” In that document, they argued that the American public could be led to accept a major shift of the available resources to military purposes only by means of “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

Surely, the PNAC members were highly successful with their plans, perhaps more than they themselves would have imagined. One year later, in 2001, the world saw the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and on other locations, providing exactly the “catastrophic and catalyzing event” they had invoked.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold: A Modern Investment Framework For An Ancient Asset

Gold: A Modern Investment Framework For An Ancient Asset

Gold no longer serves as an official money in the modern financial system, yet it is still considered an important asset due to its established diversification and store of value properties. But what framework(s) should we use to understand the role that gold should play in investment processes and policies? In Part I of this series, I present one useful framework which implies that gold is significantly ‘under-owned’ and, consequently, undervalued at present.

A Brief History of Gold’s Monetary Role

Most investors are familiar with the ancient use of gold and silver as money, and that gold still provided the monetary base for economies well into the 20th century. Indeed, less than a century ago, in the aftermath of WWI and associated large currency devaluations and hyperinflations in Europe, there were several international conferences held to try and strengthen gold’s role as a source of monetary and economic stability. 75 years ago the famous Bretton-Woods conference was held, formally re-establishing gold’s role at the centre of the international monetary system.

For investors of that time, gold held a central role in investment processes. It was the bedrock collateral of the financial system – the ‘risk-free’ asset – and the benchmark for measuring investment performance. Gold was also an instrument that the central banks of the day could use to help contain financial crises. In the event of a run on deposits or an interbank collateral squeeze, central banks could lend out their reserves (normally at penalty rates of interest) in order to buy time for the system to restructure and reorganise. For example, gold lending was one of the actions taken by JP Morgan to help contain the US Banking Panic of 1907. This provided a model for how the Federal Reserve was subsequently designed to act as a lender of last resort.[1]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

FK: What the CIA Hides

JFK: What the CIA Hides

Photograph Source: Abbie Rowe – Public Domain

When I launched JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in 2012, I was often asked by strangers, “So who killed JFK?”  “I don’t know,” I shrugged. “It’s too early to tell.” Given that the handsome liberal president had been shot dead a half-century before, my answer was a lame joke based on an apocryphal story. Henry Kissinger once said that when he asked Zhou Enlai, “What was the effect of the French Revolution on world history?” the Chinese statesmen replied, “It’s too early to tell.”

True to Kissingerian form, the story turns out to be not exactly true. Zhou was actually responding to a question about France’s political convulsions in 1968, not 1789. But Kissinger’s spin on the anecdote struck me as perceptive. The meaning of a great historical event might take a long time–a very long time–to become apparent. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions about the causes of JFK’s murder in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It’s still too early to tell. Fifty six years after the fact, historians and JFK researchers do not have access to all of the CIA’s files on the subject The 1964 Warren Commission report exonerated the agency with its conclusion that Kennedy was killed by one man alone.  But the agency was subsequently the subject of five official JFK investigations, which cast doubt on its findings.

The Senate’s Church Committee investigation showed that the Warren Commission knew nothing of CIA assassination operations in 1963. JFK records released in the last 20 years show the Commission’s attorneys had no real understanding the extensive counterintelligence monitoring of Lee Harvey Oswald before JFK was killed. We now know that senior operations officers, including counterintelligence chief James Angleton, paid far closer attention to the obscure Oswald as he made his way to Dallas than the investigators were ever told.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There Is No Normal

There Is No Normal


The wheel of time rolls forward, never retracing its path, but because it is a wheel, and we are riding in it, a persistent illusion persuades us that the landscape is recognizably the same, and that our doings within the regular turning of the seasons seem comfortably normal. There is no normal.

There is for us, at this moment in history, an especially harsh turning (so Strauss and Howe would say) as our journey takes the exit ramp out of the high energy era into the next reality of a long emergency. The human hive-mind senses that something is different, but at the same moment we’re unable to imagine changing all our exquisitely tuned arrangements — especially the thinking class in charge of all that, self-enchanted with pixeled fantasies. The dissonance over this is driving America crazy.

The wheel hit a deep pothole in 2008 turning onto the off-ramp and has been wobbling badly ever since. 2008 was a warning that going through the motions isn’t enough to sustain a sense of purpose, either nationally or for individuals trying to keep their lives together ever more desperately. The cultural memory of the confident years, when we seemed to know what we were doing, and where we were going, dogs us and mocks us.

The young adults feel all that most acutely. The pain prompts them to want to deconstruct that memory. “No, it didn’t happen that way,” they are saying. All those stories about the founding of this society — of those Great Men with their powdered hair-doos writing the national charter, and the remarkable experience of the past 200-odd years — are wrong! There was nothing wonderful about it. The whole thing was a swindle!

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The History Of The World, In One Video

The History Of The World, In One Video

Throughout the history of the world, many civilizations have risen and fallen.

You may be familiar with the achievements of prominent societies like the Romans, Mongols, or Babylonians, but, as Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins explains belowhow do all of their stories intertwine over time and geography?

Visualizing the History of the World

Today’s video comes to us from Ollie Bye, and it attempts to integrate the histories of all major civilizations known by historians into a single, epic video.

Similar to the Histomap, it’s pretty much impossible for a video like this to be perfect due to biases and a general lack of data. However, it’s still a compelling attempt at showing global history in a short and sweet fashion.

Let’s look at some specific moments on the video that particularly stand out.

750 AD: The Umayyad Caliphate

One of the largest empires in history, the Umayyad Caliphate peaked sometime around 750 AD.

Conquering most of North Africa, the Middle East, and even parts of Europe (including modern-day Spain, Portugal, and France), the Umayyads commanded a formidable territory with an area of 11,100,000 km² (4,300,000 sq. mi) and encompassing 33 million people.

1279: Mongol Dominance

No history of the world is complete without a mention of the Mongols.

Nearby societies have always been on edge when nomadic tribes in the Eurasian Steppe entered into organized confederations. Similar to the Huns or various Turk federations, the Mongols were known for their proficiency with horses, bows, and tactics like the feigned retreat.

Under the leadership of Temüjin ⁠— also known as Genghis Khan ⁠— the Mongols conquered one of the largest empires by land.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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