Archive for the 'business' Category

4 years and 2300 words ago

Monday, July 21st, 2014

An analysis in Forbes by a McKinsey specialist in banking and a professor at BU found fault with the Dodd-Frank finance bill, whose anniversary is today. It doesn’t cover the things it needs to cover with clarity and simplicity, and it includes micro-managing of everything from Congolese minerals to Chinese drywall:

Hello Dodd-Frank — the most comprehensive rewrite of financial rules since 1933. This 2,319-page colossus — 10 times the length of Glass-Steagall — took 1.5 years to produce and will cost $30 billion and many more years to implement. Will all this time and treasure make Wall Street safe for Main Street? No.

Dodd-Frank is a full-employment act for regulators that addresses everything but the root causes of the financial collapse. It serves up a dog’s breakfast covering proprietary trading, consumer financial protection, derivatives trading, executive pay, credit card fees, whistle-blowers, minority inclusion and Congolese minerals. Dodd-Frank also mandates 68 new studies of carbon markets, Chinese drywalls, and person-to-person lending, and many other irrelevancies.

None of this deals with the central problem — Wall Street’s ability to hide behind claims of proprietary information to facilitate the production and sale of trillions of dollars in securities whose true values are almost impossible for outsiders to determine…With no way to independently verify, in real time, the precise nature of financial firms’ assets and liabilities, they are all vulnerable to panics by investors, counterparties, and depositors, based on rumors and speculation as well as fact.

The resulting serial collapse of Wall Street behemoths, in turn, led Uncle Sam to step in and issue his own brand of increasingly hard-to-value securities — some $24 trillion (according to Neal Barofsky, Congress’ TARP watchdog) in contingent guarantees to all manner of financial companies. This is a colossal liability, almost twice U.S. gross domestic product. If another massive bank run hit Wall Street–say, next week–Uncle Sam would be forced to print trillions to cover these guarantees. The prospect of getting paid back in watered-down dollars might then lead people to run even faster to the banks, to get their money and buy something tangible before prices skyrocket. Ultimately, Uncle Sam’s guarantees are only worth what they are written on — paper.

So Uncle Sam didn’t lead us out of the woods; he led us deeper into the woods. While he (temporarily) saved Wall Street, he may have gravely endangered Main Street. Meanwhile, many major players on Wall Street have been laughing all the way from their banks.

“Dodd-Frank rulemaking by various agencies has already resulted in more than three million words in the Federal Register, though most of the 387 mandated sets of rules have not even been put forth.” You won’t be surprised to learn that the regs still are not complete.

That mysterious bond market rally explained

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

WSJ:

Investors wrestling with the mysterious U.S. bond rally of 2014 got a clue about where to look: China…The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has fallen to 2.54%, from 3% at the end of 2013…

The Chinese government boosted its official holdings of Treasury debt maturing in more than a year by $107.21 billion in the first five months of 2014…Japan, the second-largest foreign owner of Treasury bonds, increased its note and bondholdings by $9.56 billion… the Treasury report isn’t a complete picture because it doesn’t account for China’s holdings at third-party custody institutions in other nations, such as the U.K. and Belgium…

China’s foreign-exchange reserves currently approach $4 trillion, the world’s biggest in size. China doesn’t disclose the composition of the reserves, but analysts say most are denominated in U.S. dollars…

“The big picture is that China buying may be helping to keep bond yields lower than they should be ahead of the Fed moving closer to raising rates,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. “The market could wake up and get quite a shock…if China changes course.” The risk for the U.S. economy, said Mr. Rupkey, is that any slowdown in Chinese purchases could push U.S. bond and mortgage rates higher, which would put “the fragile housing recovery in jeopardy.”

There’s an economic reason for China to be doing this of course. But you do have to wonder if it’s part of another strategy as well. We’ve seen China jab and retreat in Vietnam, and then there’s Japan. Wheels within wheels is our guess.

Then and now

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Within the lifetime and personal memories of many Americans still living, most everyone knew farmers and soldiers. As late as America’s entry into World War I, over 42% of Americans still lived on farms. Your grandparents knew farmers and soldiers. It’s hard not to know a farmer or have spent time on a farm when 4 out of 10 of your countrymen lived their lives in agriculture.

Similarly, everyone knew soldiers not so long ago. WWI drafted 2.8 million Americans, when America only had 50 million men in total. WWII took 10 million draftees, and there were 3.4 million between Korea and Vietnam. One way of looking at Vietnam, for example, is that the draftees were as many as all boys in the United States who turned 18 in 1970 — a pretty large group of Baby Boomers. And none of these figures include the men who enlisted — surprisingly, perhaps, the total number of Vietnam veterans is over 2,500,000. So for a long time in America it has been true that most Americans knew something of farming and the military in a direct personal way.

No longer. As a statistical matter today, there are almost no new soldiers or farmers in America. Annual military recruits amount to 175,000 a year and decreasing in a country of over 300,000,000. And it’s even worse in agriculture. There are lilterally almost no new farmers in America today. At the time of WWII, farming still occupied 18% of the labor force – it’s less than 2% today. Every single year America loses more farmers than it creates. Many (perhaps most?) young Americans probably have not one single friend who becomes a farmer or soldier today. This probably won’t change on the agriculture side; however, with the way things are going in the world, with the chaos and the aggressive military budget cutting, it is possible. perhaps even likely, that things might happen to halt the trend on the military side.

Over at the book nook

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Here’s a review of The Jet Set by Liz Smith, who thought it was fabulous. Here’s one in the WaPo by Jonathan Yardley, who not only detested the book but said the much-published author, a friend of ours, “can’t write.” Stadiem isn’t the only one belittled by Yardley; so was “Juan Trippe, who constructed Pan Am out of whole cloth and eventually presided over its demise, though he was influential in opening international jet travel to those who sat in what he called ‘tourist class’.” In fact the fascinating and complicated pioneering airline Pan Am existed from 1927 to 1991; Trippe died in 1981. Ah well.

Update. On CBS Sunday Morning in an author roundtable, Lee Child mentioned Jet Set as a book he recently enjoyed; Bill said it produced a notable increase in sales on Amazon. The most dramatic recent example of this of course is when the clever use of the Costco kerfuffle sent America to number one overnight at Amazon.

Revisiting tulipmania

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Once again we return to the grooveyard of forgotten oldies to reproduce a piece, this time from the spring of 2008, when oil was approaching $147 a barrel. If the to-date highly successful maniacs in Iraq can figure a way to cause oil chaos, no doubt they will. So far the speculators are on the sidelines, meaning things will get pretty crazy if they all suddenly rush in on the same side of the trade. Stay tuned.

Back in 2008, Hedge fund operator Mike Masters’ Senate testimony on oil speculation, recommended for our review by Dan Dicker in the piece below, reads as quite an indictment of so-called Index Speculators. By the way, the Index speculators are “Corporate and Government Pension Funds, Sovereign Wealth Funds, University Endowments” and other investors who probably thought that sub-prime was the New, New Thing a few years ago. They are by far the largest participants in commodities trading now, though they were a small fraction of trading only a few years ago:

Commodities prices have increased more in the aggregate over the last five years than at any other time in U.S. history. We have seen commodity price spikes occur in the past as a result of supply crises, such as during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo…unlike previous episodes, supply is ample…What we are experiencing is a demand shock coming from a new category of participant in the commodities futures markets…Index Speculators…distribute their allocation of dollars across the 25 key commodities futures according to the popular indices: the Standard & Poors – Goldman Sachs Commodity Index and the Dow Jones – AIG Commodity Index…

Demand for futures contracts can only come from two sources: Physical Commodity Consumers and Speculators. Speculators include the Traditional Speculators who have always existed in the market, as well as Index Speculators. Five years ago, Index Speculators were a tiny fraction of the commodities futures markets. Today, in many commodities futures markets, they are the single largest force. The huge growth in their demand has gone virtually undetected by classically-trained economists who almost never analyze demand in futures markets.

Index Speculator demand is distinctly different from Traditional Speculator demand; it arises purely from portfolio allocation decisions. When an Institutional Investor decides to allocate 2% to commodities futures, for example, they come to the market with a set amount of money. They are not concerned with the price per unit; they will buy as many futures contracts as they need, at whatever price is necessary, until all of their money has been “put to work.” Their insensitivity to price multiplies their impact on commodity markets.

Furthermore, commodities futures markets are much smaller than the capital markets, so multi-billion-dollar allocations to commodities markets will have a far greater impact on prices. In 2004, the total value of futures contracts outstanding for all 25 index commodities amounted to only about $180 billion. Compare that with worldwide equity markets which totaled $44 trillion, or over 240 times bigger. That year, Index Speculators poured $25 billion into these markets, an amount equivalent to 14% of the total market…

One particularly troubling aspect of Index Speculator demand is that it actually increases the more prices increase. This explains the accelerating rate at which commodity futures prices (and actual commodity prices) are increasing. Rising prices attract more Index Speculators, whose tendency is to increase their allocation as prices rise. So their profit-motivated demand for futures is the inverse of what you would expect from price-sensitive consumer behavior.

You can see from Chart Two that prices have increased the most dramatically in the first quarter of 2008. We calculate that Index Speculators flooded the markets with $55 billion in just the first 52 trading days of this year. That’s an increase in the dollar value of outstanding futures contracts of more than $1 billion per trading day. Doesn’t it seem likely that an increase in demand of this magnitude in the commodities futures markets could go a long way in explaining the extraordinary commodities price increases in the beginning of 2008?

There is a crucial distinction between Traditional Speculators and Index Speculators: Traditional Speculators provide liquidity by both buying and selling futures. Index Speculators buy futures and then roll their positions by buying calendar spreads. They never sell. Therefore, they consume liquidity and provide zero benefit to the futures markets.

Masters’ recommendations to Congress are fairly sweeping:

Number One:…Congress should modify ERISA regulations to prohibit commodity index replication strategies as unsuitable pension investments because of the damage that they do to the commodities futures markets and to Americans as a whole.

Number Two: Congress should act immediately to close the Swaps Loophole. Speculative position limits must “look-through” the swaps transaction to the ultimate counterparty and hold that counterparty to the speculative position limits. This would curtail Index Speculation and it would force ALL Speculators to face position limits.

Number Three: Congress should further compel the CFTC to reclassify all the positions in the Commercial category of the Commitments of Traders Reports to distinguish those positions that are controlled by “Bona Fide” Physical Hedgers from those controlled by Wall Street banks. The positions of Wall Street banks should be further broken down based on their OTC swaps counter-party into “Bona Fide” Physical Hedgers and Speculators.

There are hundreds of billions of investment dollars poised to enter the commodities futures markets at this very moment. If immediate action is not taken, food and energy prices will rise higher still. This could have catastrophic economic effects on millions of already stressed U.S. consumers. It literally could mean starvation for millions of the world’s poor.

Some prefer a laissez-faire approach to market imbalances such as this. But it was the decoupling of futures markets from delivery acceptance obligations that caused tulipmania after all. Thoughtful regulation of futures markets is not in itself unreasonable, just as it is not in the stock market. Personally, we’d prefer public floggings of the offenders.

Res ipsa loquitur

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

NYT:

For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do. We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked. This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course. We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing. The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax. Few in the United States now pay to emit this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we all share. Putting a price on emissions will create incentives to develop new, cleaner energy technologies. It’s true that the United States can’t solve this problem alone. But we’re not going to be able to persuade other big carbon polluters to take the urgent action that’s needed if we’re not doing everything we can do to slow our carbon emissions and mitigate our risks. I was secretary of the Treasury when the credit bubble burst, so I think it’s fair to say that I know a little bit about risk, assessing outcomes and problem-solving.

This is the man who made the single most idiotic and near-catastrophic financial decision in the entire world since 1930. Feel free to follow his current advice.

China’s growth rate reconsidered again

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

WSJ:

Nearly every story about China’s extraordinary growth over the past 30 years asserts two things as a given: a). China has grown about 10% a year for 30 years and b). China’s long-term growth record in unsurpassed in modern history. A new report by the Conference Board says both of those assertions may be untrue. According to the report, written by economist Harry X. Wu, a senior advisor to the New York-based business research group, China’s economy grew at 7.2% a year between 1978 and 2012 — a rate far lower than what Beijing claims and nowhere near 10%…

What sets apart the Conference Board report is the length of time that Mr. Wu examines, which spans a number of rough economic patches for China. A great deal of the difference between the Conference Board data and official data reflects the years when China hit rough spots. In 2008, the year the U.S. financial crisis spread globally, Mr. Wu calculates that China’s economy grew 4.7% compared to China’s reported 9.6%. In 2012, when Europe was battered by recession, he estimates China’s GDP increased just 4.1%, compared to China’s reported 7.7%. The Chinese overestimates, he says, greatly affected the 30-year growth numbers. China’s statistics bureau didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Wu argues that China’s numbers especially diverged from reality after the country joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. That was a period, he says, in which “significant overcapacity was built in state-dominated and influence industries,” and localities competed fiercely to be top GDP dog and attract investment…

Mr. Wu argues that China overstates productivity growth and underestimates inflation, which tends to make inflation-adjusted GDP numbers –- the ones that get highlighted every quarter — higher than they otherwise would be. He also suggests that politics plays a big role, particularly the desire of local officials to exceed GDP targets, which have long been an important way to boost official promotion chances

No doubt the growth rate in China’s GDP has been impressive, no matter what the actual numbers are. However, always take note of the problems with PPP and bad loans, perhaps especially in the shadow banking system. Stay tuned.

Who knew?

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Mush:

Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense. That’s why, a year ago, I directed the Environmental Protection Agency to build on the efforts of many states, cities, and companies, and come up with commonsense guidelines for reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants. This week, we’re unveiling these proposed guidelines, which will cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot that threaten the health of the most vulnerable Americans, including children and the elderly. In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided

Smog, check. Soot, check. And now from a focus group near you we have carbon pollution, which is not smog or soot, so maybe it’s good old CO2. You know, the stuff that’s so plentiful and harmful in the atmosphere that 4 parts of it knock the stuffing out of the 9800 parts of oxygen and nitrogen in the air. Polar bears beware!

Final point: Bloomberg makes sense. Must be a leap year or something.

With friends like these….

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

NYT: “address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep”…WaPo: “at odds with every U.S. president in the past century.” And lest you doubt the friends part.

Meanwhile, from the handbasket department: “47% of births to women in the Millennial generation were non-marital, compared with 21% among older.” And more bad news on that front. Help!

Con and Con

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

NYT:

a large swath of the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely to be gone, its hundreds of trillions of tons of ice melted, causing a four-foot rise in already swollen seas…A full melt would cause sea level to rise 215 feet…changes in the earth’s climate have already reached a tipping point, even if global warming halted immediately. “We as people see it as closing doors and limiting our future choices,” said Richard Alley, a professor

Via PL:

at the new alarmingly increased level of ice melt it would take about 600 years for the purported 3 foot rise in sea level to obtain; the implied rise is 6 one-hundreds of an inch per year, or about 5.25 inches by the year 2100.

What are the chances of another little ice age somewhere down the line? And while we’re reviewing scary fraud, there’s this, from the department of self-fulfilling prophecies:

WSJ

The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists — of the 3,146 who responded to the survey — does not a consensus make.

Ah, the geniuses in our midst.

Decoration Day again

Monday, May 26th, 2014

This and that: We’ve read that Decoration Day didn’t officially become Memorial Day nationally until the 1960′s. A couple of years ago we bought the story of Louie Zamperini and it’s a heck of a thing. Robert Samuelson has a nice piece with some history going back to the end of the Civil War. Scott Johnson had some good reading in observance of the day several years ago, and he follows up this year with thoughts on a great movie for this day. Both Teresa Wright and Harold Russell give very moving performances. The film is on TCM of course. BTW, with all the crude nuttiness (e.g., here and here) going around, we half expect some group of wingnuts to try to have TCM taken off the air, given the values its films, for the most part, display.

Light and darkness

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

WSJ

During rehearsal, “We were joking around and looking at each other in joyful wonder that we all ended up in this movie,” said Mr. Gunton, who played the sadistic Warden Norton. Then it came out and nobody seemed to notice. Though the film received mostly positive reviews (some complained it was too long and corny), it brought in just $18 million at the box office. “Shawshank’s” participants cite a variety of reasons for the film’s early struggles, including a confusing title with religious connotations, no female roles and competition from the year’s two megahits, “Forrest Gump” ($330 million in domestic box-office) and “Pulp Fiction” ($108 million)…

every day, the 68-year-old actor says, he hears the whispers—from cabdrivers, waiters, the new bag boy at his neighborhood supermarket: “That’s the warden in ‘Shawshank.’” He also still gets residual payments—not huge, but steady, close to six figures by the film’s 10th anniversary in 2004. Since then, he has continued to get “a very substantial income” long past the age when residuals usually dry up…

If Andy Dufresne was the movie’s on-screen hero, off screen it was Ted Turner, whose Turner Broadcasting System had acquired Castle Rock in 1993. His TNT channel took the cable-broadcast rights to the film in 1997 and made “Shawshank” an anchor of its “New Classics” campaign. Over the next few years, TNT and other Turner channels ensured that “Shawshank” never again would suffer from a lack of exposure. “Mr. Turner, bless his heart, chose to show the movie every five minutes,” Mr. Darabont said. “Shawshank” was becoming that priceless entertainment property—a repeater. Viewers watched it again and again.

Turner did a good thing in TCM, and he did so again in this case. We heard a character on some TV show borrowing lines from Shawshank without attribution the other day; quite a few people got the joke no doubt.

Nice to have a positive on days of fraud and mayhem.

Let’s go to the movies and watch TV!

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Name the film: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Not.) Or: “Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen NSA tapes or given you clairvoyance enough to find Boko’s hidden fortress.” Media chorus: “We find your lack of faith disturbing.” And finally, soon healthcare will be like an episode of Queen for a Day, with a Maytag washer and dryer for the day’s most pathetic story. A nation of fools in record time — and we thought some of these fellows went to good schools. Hmmm, wrong major maybe.

Centralization plus lack of accountability equals paradise

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

The paradise of centralization minus accountability: immigration, VA medicine, etc. It’s so odd that in our age of near-universal decentralization (Google, phones, Amazon, apps, etc) of information and transactions, the most radical centralization of 15% of the economy is occurring (with predictable results of course).

Neither a borrower nor a lender be?

Monday, May 19th, 2014

The FT reported that PE firms in Europe are paying 10.4x EBITDA now, versus 9.7x in 2007. The US PE prices look to be about 9.1x versus 9.6x in 2007. Debt ratios are 5.6x versus 6.1x in the good old days. 2007, eh? We recall the Bear Stearns conference call back then, when virtually no one knew what was coming over the next 13 months. Compared to 2007, the economic fundamentals do not seem as good today. What do these high PE prices portend?

Science, Fiction, and CAGW

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Science:

66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW,

32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming…

In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers…Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.

Fiction:

Man vs. Nature is the predominant theme of the film, and I always tried to go back to that imagery. At the beginning when they find the fossils, it was important to me that they didn’t just find them—it was caused by our abuse of the planet. We deserved it, in a way. So there’s this rainforest with a big scar in the landscape with this quarry, slave labor, and a Western company. You have to ask yourself, “What does Godzilla represent?” The thing we kept coming up with is that he’s a force of nature, and if nature had a mascot, it would be Godzilla. So what do the other creatures represent? They represent man’s abuse of nature, and the idea is that Godzilla is coming to restore balance to something mankind has disrupted…

there’s a reason his name begins with “God,” I think. He is a god, really. He’s at the top of the food chain and probably King of the World, in a sense…the idea is that for all of time man has always found that there’s something out there for us to worship or fear

So two thirds of science papers took no position on AGW, let alone catastrophic AGW, but that’s not the headline, the 97% is. We thank the director of Godzilla for explaining why that is.

Guardian: “The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls…has shocked the world…Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade – and one reason is climate change.” We’re closer to the end than the beginning of this thirties-like vacation from history, when the bad things were all imaginary. But the fools continue to tilt at windmills

The pneumatikoi of today

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Reading Steyn this morning (here and here) and various things the other day reminded us of something from a long time ago. We have today a modern reincarnation of the Gnosticism of old. The pneumatikoi have knowledge that lesser beings do not possess. Perhaps Wikipedia should be updated.

Perseveration

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

There are real and serious problems in the world (here and here and here for example). And yet there are fairly sizeable groups focused on nuttiness and/or matters that affect a vanishingly small number of people — and they’re often very loud about these things. It reminds us of head-banging or a fellow running around shouting with his ears covered; all the better to block out unpleasant realities. But it doesn’t work for very long…

The Spectator has a pessimistic take on all this.

Well, what did you expect?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

WaPo editorial:

With a $1 billion oil rig the size of a football field, China has literally laid down a new marker in its ambition to dominate the South China Sea — and challenged President Obama’s “rebalancing” policy in Asia, only weeks after the president’s tour of the region. The rig is about 130 miles off the coast of Vietnam, in waters that Vietnam claims as an exclusive economic zone under international law. China’s claim is more tenuous, but it is backed up with a flotilla of some 80 ships that for a week have engaged in a dangerous contest of ramming and water-hosing Vietnamese vessels.

The message of the deployment is as simple as it is provocative: The regime of Xi Jinping intends to unilaterally assert China’s sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea without regard for the competing claims of five other countries or Mr. Obama’s newly restated commitment to uphold defense agreements with two of those nations. In that sense, the rig, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is a fundamental challenge to the international order the United States has tried to preserve since the end of the Cold War.

China’s ambitions are described by an audacious map, dating from the pre-Communist era, that claims some 80 percent of the South China Sea and a number of island chains or waters also claimed by Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Indonesia, in addition to Vietnam. For years Beijing has talked with those countries and others in Southeast Asia about establishing a code of conduct for the sea, and it discussed the possibility of joint development of oil and gas with Vietnam a few months ago.

The move of the oil rig appears to reflect a calculation that a more aggressive policy will not meet meaningful resistance from China’s neighbors or the United States.

Wretchard: “The West is transfixed, stunned by its own toxic cocktail of lies. That we will wake up is inevitable. The danger is that if we remain asleep too long, the world may already be burning by the time we look out the window.” For most of two generations, the universities have been obsessed with creating a strange alternative narrative of the US and western history. They teach rubbish and worse. With some exceptions, only the geezers know the real story, and they are now mostly shouted down and persecuted by know-nothings.

Religion in these times

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

NYT columnist:

They have used a big part of this fortune to attack the indisputable science on climate change, to buy junk scholars, to promote harmful legislation at the state level, to go after clean, renewable energy like solar, and to try to kill the greatest expansion of health care in decades. Money can’t buy love, but it certainly can cause a lot of havoc. Yet, while these billionaire industrialists may win in the short term — the Republican Party, their toady, is likely to pick up seats in the House and may take control of the Senate as well — in the larger fight against progress and modernity the Kochs have already lost. Clean energy is here to stay, and no sane political party would try to take away the health care of eight million fellow Americans. Check that — they’ll try in both instances. According to one study, the Kochs have already spent $61 million on various front groups dedicated to the flat-earth proposition that the globe is not warming. But so far, the only return on that investment is a cohort of people flopping around in the waters of stupidity. About 44 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Tea Party-leaning voters believe there is no solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer, according to the Pew Research Center. Now, this is not 70 percent who think Donald Duck is really a platypus, though in a way it is. This is 70 percent who have been convinced that the actual hard numbers, that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in this century, are a hoax. It’s like saying, No, it was not 75 degrees in Atlanta yesterday — that’s just your view. What this shows is that you can buy a lie, but you can’t make that lie the truth. Over the last nine months, three exhaustive studies have shown that climate change is happening now, and will continue to unfold in real time, with record droughts in the American West, rising seas along the Atlantic coast, and global megastorms so catastrophic they will divert CNN from the missing plane. The climate experts in these studies are the gold standard — from places like the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society

The “indisputable science.” Hmmmm. Perhaps the fellow is correct about his conclusion (not!), but he certainly has quite an attitude about himself and any who dare disagree. We wonder what his explanation would be about the disappearance of the Medieval Warm Period, courtesy of one of his co-religionists.