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"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."

Arthur Koestler 

Friday
Jan202017

Pogo Revisited: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

In an interesting article about modern and earlier responses to Fascism, John Pilger said this

According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day.  He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.

Every Tuesday — reported the New York Times — he personally selected those who would be murdered by mostly hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, along with those attempting to collect the body parts festooning the “terrorist target”. A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated, approvingly, that Obama’s drones killed 4,700 people. “Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that,” he said, "but we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al Qaeda.”

Like the fascism of the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent media whose description now fits that of the Nuremberg prosecutor: “Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically … In the propaganda system … it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.

Pilger's point is that Obama, and Clinton too, are not liberals. I suppose it depends on what your definition of is is. 

This argument also risks committing the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.  

The use of the term was advanced by British philosopher Antony Flew:

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again". Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing". The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, " No true Scotsman would do such a thing".[2]

When the statement "all A are B" is qualified like this to exclude those A which are not B, this is a form of begging the question; the conclusion is assumed by the definition of "true A".

So I would disagree with my friends who think Obama is a conservative. It is instead that liberals have adopted the conservative view of Foreign Policy, and the conservatives have adopted the liberal view of Foreign Policy—at least Trump has. So it is that conservatives who have not made the switch will say that Trump is not a "true" conservative, and liberals who have not switched either will say that Obama is not a "true" liberal. This is actually a return to the traditional views of liberals and conservatives from the 30's. 

So we live in a weird world where Obama is more "conservative" than Trump. Or as Weird Al said in song, "Everything You Know Is Wrong." 

Thursday
Jan192017

Trump Muzik

Who doesn't want a little Country Rap? Here is Trump Muzik.

(BTW, I am not suggesting you listen to all of this—or any of it really. As is typical in most Rap, it has marginal lyrics. The picture this song brings to mind is what I thought when Clinton called Trump supporters "deplorables." This was one of Clinton's many missteps in the election. I also doubt that Yellawolf is a Trump supporter. I assume this is a reference to subwoofers in the trunk.) 

Wednesday
Jan182017

Did Russia Hack? 

There were three separate hacks of various Democrat and Clinton emails. I have actually read almost nothing about the most important of these, the hacking of Hillary Clinton's email account. I find this rather odd. 

The hacking of Podesta's email gets the second amount of press. Anyone whose password is p@ssw0rd, almost deserves to get hacked. There is actually some evidence that Russian nationals were involved. It is not strong, but it does exist. If I was a Russian government hacker, I would not use a Russian IP address. So the much admired Russian government hacking group was incompetent, or it was someone else wanting to implicate Russia. I am open to either argument. 

What recieves the most press is the hacking of the DNC. If you believe Wikileaks, this was not a hack. It was a leak from a disgruntled DNC employee who was a Sanders' supporter. When you read the unclassified portion of the report of this leak, there is no evidence about who did it. Most of the report is about Russian TV—RT, Russia Today. It refers to programs aired several years ago and claims that this is proof of Russian interference in the US election. Most nations have propaganda arms, the US version is the Voice of America

If what was being said was along the lines of: The Russians are logical suspects in these hackings, I would have no objections, they are logical suspects. As is China, Israel and a guy living in his parents basement typing away on his computer in his underwear. 

If you want to hear a security expert, whose salary does not depend on what he says, watch this video. 

Sunday
Jan012017

My Predictions For 2017

In the spirit of the Amazing Kreskin, I offer my predictions for 2017. Or maybe it is in the spirit of the Amazing Criswell.

1. I think that China will have to make a hard choice this year, Either they will institute strong currency controls and not allow money to leave China, or the value of the yuan, their currency, will drop dramatically. Saxon Bank, in the spirit of their annual outrageous predictions, predicts this

China understands that it has reached the end of the road of its manufacturing and infrastructure growth phase and, through a massive stimulus from fiscal and monetary policies, opens up capital markets to successfully steer a transition to consumption-led growth. This results in 8% growth in 2017, with the resurgence owing to the growth in the services sector. Euphoria over private consumption-driven growth sees the Shanghai Composite Index double from its 2016 level, surpassing 5,000.

This seems unlikely. Trump will put considerable pressure on China. At the very least US tariffs on Chinese goods will be equal to Chinese tariffs on US goods. This will basically double the tariff rate. 

2. Putin will remarry. He will marry Melania Trump. 

3. I agree with the pundits that say the stock market is overvalued. I think about 30%. But that does not mean the price will fall in 2017. I think that stock prices will go sideways in 2017—probably going down 10%. 

The Witch will Die! 4. Juliette and Nick will get married in the 2016/2017 season. This means that Adaline will die, prob-ably heroically. 

5. ObamaCare will be tweaked, but not abolished. Trump will not be innovative enough to solve the healthcare crisis. The US cannot go on spending 17% of its GDP on healthcare when competitive countries spend 10%. This will be a major failure of the Trump Presidency. 

6. I will move to Russia. (Why? See Number 5.)

7. There will be a settlement in Ukraine because both the West and Russia want one. The Ukrainians would rather kill each other.

8. I will finally get around to doing a podcast, making the name of this blog actually make sense. 

9. The hard money crowd will continue to predict inflation, they will continue to be wrong. The Fed, as it did in December 2015 & 2016, will try to increase interest rates. While the interest rates will technically be higher in that the rate that the Fed will loan money to banks will go up, in reality the strong deflationary pressures will continue and there will be little increase in rates. I doubt the Fed will reduce reserves by the one trillion or so needed to actually increase interest rates. The dollar will continue to be strong. A lot depends on how big a tax cut and how big an infrastructure program Trump gets passed. My guess is that both will be modest. 

10. Rather than make a humorous prediction, I will relate a dream i had two nights ago. It was about a real estate development in which I was involved in some way. The government had changed the rules in the middle of development, causing the project to be unviable. The government officials seemed pleased with what they did, laughing at others misfortune. Everyone else was glum, especially the lawyers. In the dream, I proposed that everyone take a hit, and no one be held totally liable. We would divide whatever was sellable among the principals, and each would pay a share of the bills.  There was general agreement, but one vendor called me a blowhard. Apparently, even though he agreed, he would not be paid in full.  We walked though an uncompleted house to our cars. At the end of the dream there was one principle that seemed unfazed by the disaster. He rode around in his cadillac, smiling as he drove through the mud to his girlfriend's house. In the dream this seems to be my late father. This did not make sense as my father always paid his bills. 

So my interpretation of the dream is that we will have a financial crisis during the Trump administration, but not next year. It will be caused by structural governmental issues. Our "Father," the president, will somehow avoid most of the blame. He will just have to clean up his cadillac. We, the people, will have to pay our "fair" share of the crisis. The working man will be unhappy, but accept his lot. 

A crisis is inevitable. Dream or no dream, we as a nation cannot live beyond our means and not expect some karma. I do not believe in the predictive power of dreams, this was just a dream. I hope.

I will conclude with a long term prediction that combines the odd number approach, a serious prediction, with the even numbered predictions that take a more humorous approach. 

0. Ivanka Trump will more to Florida. She will be elected to Congress. Later she will run for president and get elected as the first woman and first Jewish president. 

Have a great and prosperous New Year. 

Saturday
Dec312016

My Predictions for 2016: Recap

I thought that going over my predictions for 2016 might be fun. 

1. Saxo Bank also does predictions and they expect the Russian Ruble to go up 20%. This is related to their prediction that oil prices will go back up and approach $100. This seems goofy to me. I predict that the Ruble will fall from the current 70 to the dollar to 90, a fall of 30%. On my first trip to Russia in 2001 it was 27 to the dollar. The fall in the Ruble is not so much because Russia is weak, but more that the "powers that be" want Russia to be weak. 

3. Oil will go down to $30 but then back up to $45. Russia is planning on $40 oil for the next 5 years. This will be bad for Russia, but not catastrophic because of the weaker Ruble. It will be bad for Saudi Arabia with its fixed exchange rate. Bonus Prediction: The house of Saud will fall within 5 years if low oil prices continue that long. 

The lowest price for oil in 2016 was $36 per barrel. The highest is right now at $53. Looks like I was close on this one. As for the Ruble, I was wrong. It did reach a high, which from a dollar perspective is a low, of 85 Rubles per dollar, but now it is 60. Saxo was wrong in all its predictions. 

5. Russia's adventure in Syria will not go well, but it won't go badly either. Putin feels he has no choice but to fight in Syria as a large portion of the ISIS fighters are ethnic Chechens from Russia. Russia lost the first Chechen War, but won the second. Putin does not want there to be a third. For an interesting discussion of why Putin is in Syria, click here

Russia did do better than I expected, but that is a function of who was elected US President. If Clinton had been elected, as I expected but did not predict, things would have gone much worse. I would rate this prediction as neither a hit nor a miss. Although the recent cease fire might tip the scale to a clear miss. 

7. There will be a settlement in Ukraine because both the West and Russia want one. The Ukrainians would rather kill each other. 

I was too early on this one. I will repeat it for next year as a President Trump will probably get this done. The framework is already in place for a settlement. 

9. The hard money crowd will continue to predict inflation, they will continue to be wrong. The Fed will, as it did on December 16, try to increase interest rates. While the interest rates will technically be higher in that the rate that the Fed will loan money to banks will go up, in reality the strong deflationary pressures will continue and there will be little increase in rates. I doubt the Fed will reduce reserves by the one trillion or so needed to actually increase interest rates. The dollar will continue to be strong.

I got this one correct and the next year will be more of the same. 

Note that my even numbered predictions were not intended to be serious. I will do the same for my predictions for 2017. 

So my scorecard for 2016 was 2 right, one wrong, one neutral, and one I was too early on. I hope to do better for 2017.