Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Is cheap oil a bad thing? And more science.

I cannot understand the markets’ panic over lower oil prices.  Sure, it hurts if you own Exxon or drilling-fracking services companies, or work for one, or if you are Saudia or Venezuela or Russia or Iran.  But for most of the world, it amounts to a spectacular tax cut and cost discount for all manufacturers, transportation and consumers of almost anything. See this article on much cheaper airline deals.

 Is this flood of spendable cash supposed to somehow… hurt us? For 50 years, steep rises in oil price sent us tumbling into recession and drops helped get us out.  What's different this time?  Pundits claim that it is because a larger fraction of the oiul we use is produced domestically, now.  But (a) that was true in the 1970s too, and the oil shock killed Jimmy Carter.  And (b) ...um... increased energy independence from foreign sources is... er,... bad news?


The plummet in stocks smells funny to me. I'd look closely at some of those petro state sovereign wealth funds.  Just sayin'.

Only now, a truly salient fact that will weave together with the others. 

== Does denial have any limits? ==


Two U.S. government science agencies announced that 2014, which had smashed the 1998 record as hottest year in human history, did not hold the top title for very long. It’s official, 2015 has topped even 2014’s torrid temperatures.  And the forecast is for 2016 to be hotter still.

But hey, let’s suppose 2016 dips slightly, as would be natural, as each year oscillates around a slope that has arced steadily higher for 50 years. What then? Expect to see Ted Cruz and other murdochians leaping to announce: “See? It’s going DOWN!”  

(They can no longer use their former lie-trick, pegging the El Nino year 1998 as their “before” comparison. That year, which shattered records across all of recorded human history, was left in the dust by hot 2014 and hotter 2015.)

There is only one response… to those of you out there who have bought into the Murdoch-Saudi-Koch-Fox propaganda and War on Science.  And I will append that message below. 

== Too late to stop sustainables ==

Well, the petro-price plummet might have really hurt us all, if it happened a few years ago, by choking solar and wind companies to death with floods of cheap oil. But it’s too late for that, now. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that 2015 was a record year for global investment in the clean energy space, with $329 billion invested in wind, solar panels, biomass plants and more around the world. (The number does not include investments in large hydroelectric facilities).


That’s 3 percent higher than the prior 2011 global investment record of $318 billion — and most striking is that it happened in a year in which key fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — were quite cheap.  “Measured in terms of electricity generating capacity, the world saw an additional 64 gigawatts of wind capacity added and 57 gigawatts of solar capacity, BNEF estimates. The most striking figure here is that while 2015 only saw about 4 percent more clean energy investment than 2014 (when $316 billion was invested), the growth in renewable energy generating capacity was much higher at 30 percent. This, again, signals declining cost.”

Sure, if oil had dropped five years ago, it would have been a disaster for the Earth by undermining and possibly destroying solar and wind etc. Now? They have huge momentum, are competitive even with cheap oil -- something denialist then claimed to be impossible -- and new techs are looming that will make the transformation epic.

At this point, cheap oil is only good news. It frees western nations from fretting to please petro princes, it boosts every industry except corrupt resource extraction, giving both producers and consumers in-effect a huge tax cut (a "tax" that had been going to Saudi Arabia). And it lets us cap the bitumen wells, the tar sand pits and other dirtier sources, reducing fracking, keeping those wells ready in case we need them in-future, a reserve-surge capacity that should keep prices down.  Which is exactly the right approach.


We lucked out. The princes kept oil high during the span when sustainables were being born. Now the infant is walking and starting to run. And the Carbon Age will taper off, perhaps even in the nick of time. Maybe.

Oh but timing is everything? Take this headline: Scientists say global warming has canceled the next ice age

Okay okay. I can just imagine the next denialist chant, after they are forced to move the goal posts yet again. Having to admit that science shows huge global warming due to human-generated CO2? The next riff will be:


 "Yay!  We polluters prevented an inevitable ice age!"  

That's one interpretation - (a moronic one) - of this scientific study that suggests - indeed - human activity 5000 years ago might have tipped the balance and prevented another glaciation.


In which case yay ancestors. Now let's be scientific and responsible and not wreck the place.


== Miscellaneous News Items ==

Robert Waldinger heads the 75 year continuous Harvard study of four score men and their families and what traits correlate with long or healthy or happy lives, in this fascinating TEDx talk. 

The Fixion? If they ever find a particle like this one, will they give a Nobel to the XKCD guy, despite his being a cartoonist?  

Stunning video closeups of a real-live giant squid near Tokyo. So cool.  


Researchers believe that we could manipulate genetic human intelligence and give human cognitive capabilities a boost, using a newly discovered network of genes directly associated with neuron and brain activity.

Crash Course is a YouTube Channel that adds to the list of cool sites that explain things clearly and well.           

Here’s an interesting site. “How We Do It” by Robert Martin, MD covers a wide of fascinating topics having to do with human reproduction, including of course sex. For example most mammal females have two womb chambers and so do a few, rare women. Why do human males have no penis bone?  Why do testicles have to “chill”?  And can warming them serve as a male contraceptive? Why must childbirth be so challenging?  Marin also has a book, How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction.  

And finally... The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a worm species 1 millimeter long with a nervous system containing just 302 neurons, is the perfect organism to model, on our path to understanding how neuron based nervous systems function. So far, these models have (for example) successfully run a LEGO mindstorms robot.  Now scientists have observed record the activity of 77 neurons from the animal’s nervous system in action, flashing in real time as the worm moves about. 

And if you don't yet think we live in cool times... well we do.


========= Addendum for you denialists =========


*You… are… science-hating morons.  Worse, you are fanatics who threaten the lives of our children. All children.  And when climate refugees flood the planet, they will be given your homes.  Hey... just... sayin'.


84 comments:

Dave Bowen said...

Re: Climate change

The recent NASA GISS data is pretty definitive:

http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20160120/

It helps if people actually dig in and read it, including how the data was modeled, instead of just skimming and trying to make it spin backwards.

BTW: My son ran peta-peta-petabytes of data on this for NASA working with massively-parallel processing systems. Yeah, I'm smilin'.

corinne said...

I work at a small county-funded museum in Wyoming, so for us (and anyone employed by the county), all the various fossil fuels getting cheaper is a disaster. Whole county's been told to cut their budgets by 30%. Of course, if we were capable of any rational thought maybe we'd invest in other things and not depend on fossil fuels for our entire income...

Mark said...

Krugman explains the issue with cheap oil:

But there is, I believe, something else going on: there’s an important nonlinearity in the effects of oil fluctuations. A 10 or 20 percent decline in the price might work in the conventional way. But a 70 percent decline has really drastic effects on producers; they become more, not less, likely to be liquidity-constrained than consumers. Saudi Arabia is forced into drastic austerity policies; highly indebted fracking companies find themselves facing balance-sheet crises.

Or to put it differently: small oil price declines may be expansionary through usual channels, but really big declines set in motion a process of forced deleveraging among producers that can be a significant drag on the world economy, especially with the whole advanced world still in or near a liquidity trap.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

I cannot understand the markets’ panic over lower oil prices. Sure, it hurts if you own Exxon or drilling-fracking services companies, or work for one, or if you are Saudia or Venezuela or Russia or Iran. But for most of the world, it amounts to a spectacular tax cut and cost discount for all manufacturers, transportation and consumers of almost anything. See this article on much cheaper airline deals.

Is this flood of spendable cash supposed to somehow… hurt us?


I also have trouble understanding the fall in stock prices due to cheap oil. But just now (literally as I type this), I came up with a theory. The value of all that oil still in the ground has been treated in the market as cash on hand. And at the moment, there is a lot less of it (value) than there was a few months or years ago. So falling oil prices might be literally recessionary--causing a shrinkage of the money supply.

David Brin said...

All four smart and cogent contributions to a good discussion, thanks. A commodities bust can be harsh on communities that boomed a few months earlier. And yes, the hurt felt by resource extractors can be recessive. Still, we are talking about maybe a trillion dollars in stimulus to other sectors.

Duncan Cairncross said...

From previous posting - Dr Brin said

Duncan what such theories need is my concept of “Horizon Expansion” in which how you define the group that has your loyalty can VARY according to your socialization and your levels of fear

I agree - this is one of the things I really enjoyed about this book - it does have a mechanism for that and some testable numbers
In fact that is probably the core of the reasons for cooperation/competition

Saying that the book was mostly about older history - the more recent times (last 400 years)are will be covered in a later book

matthew said...

I'm not as sanguine about renewable energy technology futures as this article. No, we are not seeing a dramatic reduction in capital funding and new project initiation with the advent of cheap oil. Not yet. The capital pipeline has a 2-5 year lag behind prices. The question is not how current projects are doing. The question is how will the current projects be doing in 3 years.

I do understand that we may have reached a tipping point in the price of alternative energies but I think that there is a non-negligent chance that this downturn in oil price will drive some essential next-generation energy technology out of the market.

All the more necessary to continue pushing the divest movement - all the smart money is leaving oil but someone is going to swoop in and buy, buy, buy when oil company shares are at all time lows. Humanity's goal should be to make sure that whomever does swoop in to make that short-term profit from oil's rebound dies a pauper from the decision. Divest. As long as the true costs of resource extraction are externalized, divest.
My opposition to TPP stems from this tree - if an energy company is legally allowed to seek compensatory damage from the implementation of environmental regulation or divestiture movements (as TPP would allow), we cannot drive the stake through the heart of the resource extraction industry.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

And yes, the hurt felt by resource extractors can be recessive. Still, we are talking about maybe a trillion dollars in stimulus to other sectors.


I'm not just saying that the Kochs will have less income to spend than they used to. I'm saying that built into all sorts of equities, mutual fund prices, corporate portfolios, retirement funds, etc was the value of all of that potential crude oil. And now, that value is much less than what was already "priced in" by the economy. In other words, the reason my 401k just dropped by 20% is that that much of its value was, indirectly, the value of a certain tonnage of oil.

It's similar to the revelation I once had when my dad tried to describe how the market crash of 29 caused formerly-rich men to jump off of high buildings. He thought that it was because someone who formerly had $10 million couldn't bear the thought that he now "only" had $1 million. As a high school math student, I finally put together how much worse it was than that. What would have happened in 1929 was that that rich guy's $10 million in stocks were paid for with $9 million dollars of borrowed money. If the stock dropped 10%, if his $10 million became $9 million, he was wiped out. If the stock dropped, say 20% before the margin could be called in, he was wiped out and owed an additional $1 million. That's not just "money saved by someone else"--that's money that someone was counting on but will never see.

I wonder if something analogous to that is happening with oil.

Tacitus2 said...

Agree that drop in oil prices should be overall great economic news. But there is likely to be lag time. Major oil users (thinkin' airlines here because I am ticket shopping) buy their product far in advance on contract. I think some are kicking themselves now for locking in a price early!

So, no 50% drop in air fares.....but maybe some relief in six to twelve months?

Tacitus

occam' comic said...

Here is a good article on the economic impact of reduced oil price

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2016/01/can-lower-oil-prices-cause-a-recession

here is a quote

"There are thus some reasons why a decrease in oil prices would be a boost to the U.S. economy and other reasons why it could even be a drag. A number of studies have looked at the effects of oil price decreases and concluded that these have little or no net positive effect on U.S. real GDP growth; see for example this survey. The price of oil fell from $30/barrel in November 1985 to $12 by July of 1986. U.S. real GDP continued growing throughout, logging a 2.9% increase overall for 1986, neither significantly faster nor slower than normal."

Catfish N. Cod said...

Larry, I don't really think the world is over-leveraged with oil money specifically. However it feeds into the bigger concern that many more commodities than oil are over-leveraged based on the high probability that the Chinese government's statisticians have been doing what servants of authoritarians always do everywhere and everywhen: cook the books to look better to their lords and masters. Since no one knows exactly *how* badly the books are cooked, no one knows how much China is likely to buy next year of various products... which makes uncertainty, which makes financial instability.

The fundamental honesty and integrity of the Gray Order is one of our nation's greatest unsung strengths. Our gracious host underlined this, in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH. And it was once the scintillating jewel of China's civilization too; they practically invented the modern concepts of civil service, that then spread by Mongol and Arab hands into the West. They can reclaim that tradition! But they have to get out of their Gilded Age phase first.

I'm more concerned about the short term knock-on effects on those who are over-leveraged... and none more so than Dr. Brin's bete noire, the House of Saud. Their execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric and 43 al-Qaeda at one fell swoop was not an accident. They're nervous. Their bribocracy is having cash flow problems.

locumranch said...


Cheaper Oil is concerning because it (1) serves to encourage additional oil consumption, (2) discourages investment in alternative energy, (3) suggests an imbalance between supply & demand, (4) reflects poor finance market liquidity & poor (global) economic health.

Case (1) is supported by a record increase in annual US automobile sales (up by 5.7%) as of December 2015;

Case (2) is supported the slew of investment advice that insists that cheap oil cannot & will not effect the stock value of renewable energy companies, even though (a)'80% of all investment advice is wrong' and (b) there is a well-documented direct correlation between low oil price & low energy industry investment;

Case (3) suggests that declining oil supply is either due to over-production (which will self-correct due declining oil industry investment as mentioned above), decreased oil demand (as supported by below target global economic growth), and/or both (meaning that things look bad for the global economy either way);

Case (4) is self-evident, especially if one acknowledges that (a) the modern financial system correlates most closely with an 'Oil Standard' and (b) the current 2015 oil price (of $30/barrel or less) is actually at historic lows when converted to 1986 dollars.


Finally, the claim that AGW has 'prevented another Ice Age' reflects the intellectual bankruptcy of the Climate Change Cultists who grasp at straws in order to rationalize the total failure of their short-term climatalogical predictions in terms of either global temperature or sea level rises.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

Stratfor keeps track of the break even price certain oil producing nations must charge to cover their social obligations. Failing to cover them creates risk of unrest and revolution, so it is a decent statistic to know. The Saudi's are reported to need prices near $100/barrel. Obviously, we aren't there so they are either dipping into reserves or borrowing.

I expect market corrections to show us when investors realize new realities. Shifts would be gradual if behaviors were uncorrelated, but 'realizations' are more like revelations. Investors will behave in a correlated way during those times.

Ioan said...

If you look at the link below, you'll notice that renewables (sans hydro) have beaten oil-generated electricity. Further, renewables+hydro have beaten natural-gas generation.

http://www.tsp-data-portal.org/Breakdown-of-Electricity-Generation-by-Energy-Source#tspQvChart

Alfred Differ said...

Cheap oil does not necessarily encourage additional consumption. Prices are signals. A low oil price tells us supply is too large and/or demand is too small. It doesn't say why. If the costs for other sources of energy are lower, it could be that demand for oil is dropping as people migrate. No additional consumption would be expected in that case.

We humans like to construct explanatory narratives for what we see in the market, but the wisest construct more than one and set them against each other to see which wins in a knife fight. It is very rare that only one narrative fits what is known and pretty rare that opposing narratives can be reasonably eliminated. The space of explanations has a huge number of dimensions, so it's also hard to know if a small sample of narratives is all that useful. Fortunately, uncorrelated market participants create MILLIONS of narratives for the knife fight. Some are better, but their owners aren't all that motivated to explain why. 8)

Jumper said...

In my view Tacitus nailed it: the lag. Energy enables us to DO things. The boom is set up to begin shortly.
Anyone whoever fed a bulldozer - or a big track hoe, or ran a trucking company, knows they live and die by the price of diesel.
Look at what happened right before the housing/building crash:
http://proadviser.com.au/blog/november-2014-share-market-update/
Solar can do things; it's my preferred energy source for the future, and the sooner the better. Think what this civilization could do with 1,000 quads a year - even if it's mostly available in the daytime / summer.

Dave Bowen said...

To Alfred Differ -

Your paragraph on market narratives is quite insightful. It correlates well with some of the narratives I believe about human behavior in general. I've saved it to refer back to if needed. It's the "something new" I learned today.

Sincere thanks!

Robert said...

There is a different reason why low oil prices is causing stock market instabilities.

The oil industry took advantage of high profit margins to bulk up on debt so to make further investments. This is especially true for companies using hydraulic fracture to recover oil and gas. This debt has not been paid off, and in fact is starting to come due.

If oil prices remain low, you will start seeing smaller oil companies go out of business. Larger oil companies are also up to their eyeballs in debt and cannot buy out the smaller ones. So you'll have business failures. And their wells will end up owned by the banks.

Without buyers for those oil wells, banks will start having significant liabilities. Even with the new regulations on how much equity banks need to possess, you will start seeing bank failures and stresses to the financial system.

Meanwhile, companies that invested in the oil and gas industry will find their stocks have lost value, and they have lost money. So pensions, hedge funds, and other groups will be losing money left and right.

What's more, the government will be required to take control of those oil wells... and use government money to shut down the wells. After all, the businesses that built them will be insolvent. Who will pay for the wells to be capped, the banks? No, that will be dropped on the laps of the taxpayers.

Thus you see market instability as a result of ultra-low oil prices. Sadly, I think Russia and the Sauds will win out over American frackers... but they won't win over the long term because the genie is out of the bottle and more wells can be fracked in the future when prices go back up. Saudi Arabia will never maintain its dominance on oil prices because of these technological innovations.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Dave Bowen: You are welcome.

The source material I’ve used in that narrative derives a bit from the Austrian economics model and a bit from a mathematics paper I happened across. Hayek pointed out that there is a strict limit on how much we can centralize knowledge for use by planners (Essay: Use of Knowledge in Society - http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html) while the math paper pointed out a result that some find surprising. The ratio of the volume of an N-ball to the N-cube it fits within becomes vanishingly small as N increases to very large numbers. Essentially… the corners of the cube dominate the volume when compared to the ball inscribed within it. The paper was reprinted in a “Best of Mathematics” book a few years ago.

Consider what it takes for a good planner to explore an unknown solution space. Make a guess and test the simulated result with a fitness function. Make another guess and repeat. Try it lots of times and one might learn enough of the space to start interpolating. This method has serious problems when N is in the millions or billions. A guess is a probe of the space. A slightly different guess might have a slightly different fitness. When the corners dominate, though, how close does one have to be to call two guesses as essentially the same? Uh oh.

When combined, the two topics suggest that not only do we have a hard time solving the resource planning problem (what planners do when they economize), but that we can’t even know when we are close to a viable solution. Our best option for finding ‘decent’ solutions is to have everyone act on what they think they know (part of that is relying on one’s neighbors to trim some of our delusions) and let the survivors teach as many of the next generation as they can to imitate them. This ‘genetic’ search method happens to be what we do in a free, open, well regulated market, but now we can justify it. We can reasonably argue about regulations, but the structure required in our markets is pretty clear. Let people be as much as possible, but do whatever it takes to ensure they are EDUCATED and FREE participants. Don’t let a previous generation of winners dumb down their children’s future opponents. Don’t let them coerce others either. It’s acceptable if winners are grossly better off, though, because that will draw losers to their solutions. As long as people are free, that movement WILL happen.

Tony Fisk said...

My guess is that 2016 will be shrugged off as 'an anomaly' for a couple of years until La Nina fades, then will quietly replace 1998 when arguing the World hasn't warmed.
(/cynic)

...It's OK, of course. By then, such folk will be talking to themselves.

David Brin said...

Alfred Hayek was correct to point out that markets can importantly discover errors when large numbers of participants are seeing past each others’ delusions. The hypocrisy of the right is to criticize 100,000 diverse, transparent and accountable civil servants for making economic decisions… while braying that 5000 inbred-incestuously conniving secretive and unaccountable members of a CEO caste circle jerk are much much better at “llocating” our resources, because they are “private.”

US auto sales had already been rising due to years of pent up demand because folks held onto their cars longer, due partly to the Bush Depression and also because auto quality has gone up, spectacularly. As have gas mileage and quality while prices have even declined. No industry shows capitalism working so well as autos.

Sustainables tech companies are doing fine. Also highly competitive and now able to stand up even to cheap oil.

But at least those were assertions parsed in some kind of reasoning. The following, OTOH is simple drooling jibbering barnyard sounds: “Finally, the claim that AGW has 'prevented another Ice Age' reflects the intellectual bankruptcy of the Climate Change Cultists who grasp at straws in order to rationalize the total failure of their short-term climatalogical predictions in terms of either global temperature or sea level rises.”

Rob H I am willing to pay more tax for oil workers to cap wells in ways that let them be opened later, if needed.

---

Alfred Differ said...

Hayek also pointed to the problem of correlation among members of the 'political' market, though it was a small comment easily missed by readers who don't go deep on some of his side topics. In one work he looked at the historical origins of liberalism and noted how the emergent order concept migrated from economics to biology. In that work he lamented (sort of) giving the franchise to people who would not act independently. He referred to the second and third sons of large families who never inherited lands or businesses. The industrial revolution enabled them to become wealthy enough to support families, but left them beholden to an employer. As voters, they were too likely to act in a manner that correlated with industry owners while their land owning (or business owning) brothers would remain the independent souls original liberal thinkers thought of as good voters/decision makers. The point he was driving was in widening the franchise we returned some power to the oligarchs through our sons they employed. It's a troubling idea, but one I've experienced as an employee. My boss' political opinions matter to me because his decisions could impact my livelihood. They influence my votes. That's a big part of why I have to be careful to distinguish my employer from my family. Too much correlation occurs if I don't.

Regarding the end of a possible Ice Age, I have to chuckle. It's actually an old idea. I saw it years ago when I was first studying the boundary between climate science and climate economics. I forget where I saw it, but some researchers would moderately convinced that cultivation of rice created enough green house gases to alter the climate just enough to beat a small icing event they expected in the data that didn't actually appear. The result was soft, though, because they couldn't deal with the case that icing HAD happened in some regions and not others. My take away lesson was that easy narratives were probably going to fit the data and error ranges we had, so falsification was going to be difficult to pursue. That was probably 20 years ago, though. The computer models are better nowadays. I wouldn't be shocked if rice cultivation CAN be shown to have a positive forcing on the climate today. My comment, though, would be 'big whoop'. We've gone SO FAR beyond that early methane impact that we'd be comparing ants and whales now.

Paul SB said...

Duncan,
I haven't had time to read too closely, but I did look at that Amazon link out of curiosity. They presented it as a very new idea and the "new science" of cultural evolution, which struck me as silly, since I was learning about cultural evolution when Iw as an undergrad, 25 years ago. Does the author reference Franz Boas? He was the fellow who started that idea just over a century ago. If the book is what it sound like, it's pretty much a statistical analysis based on E.E. Evans-Pritchard's Law of Segmentary Opposition from 1933. I don't remember him, or any of the people who expanded on the idea, like Marshall Sahlins, using the term 'horizons of inclusion,' but that's exactly what Segmentary Opposition is about.

Having said that, though, does not negate the value of a good statistical analysis with up-to-the-moment data. If it's new to most people and brings the idea into the general conversation, that would be a good thing.

locumranch said...


A quick aside about Zika Virus, the new cause for maternity panic, whose complications sound more like Folate Metabolism defects than a TORCH variant.

Then, there's this new gadget I want to sell you for only $29.95 that is guaranteed to prevent a New Ice Age due to its convenient shape & pleasing colour. It also does double-duty as the world's most effective Saber-Toothed Tiger repellent. Does not effect, modify or apply to seasonal weather & non-Pleistocene tiger variants. Offer not valid in New Jersey, Londonistan, or areas where the Scientific Method predominates.

Best

Anonymous said...

Cheap oil is of little relief to some locales, on account of the no jobs problem. How much of the recent economy was in service of the shale bubble? One might also recall that oil companies have burnt through trillions in capex to turn up, well, not much, and despite the drooling barnyard hype of new technology, shale doesn't sound profitable at $30. Such price volatility doubtless complicates future planning, and may be contrasted with the days when the Texas Railroad Commission regulated the market. And wasn't some FAA chief back then making optimistic pronouncements regarding the inevitability of commercial supersonic flights? Anyways, nanobots, or something, will doubtless save all sorts of bacon, provide an array of (probably Carbon-fired) Canutes to help keep Florida not damp, and in all ways allow the continuation of all such activities as (much as sitting is) enjoyed by a few folks today.

Meanwhile, one walking can barely hear the birds practising for Spring over the ear-damaging roar of the Interstate, adjacent. We must thank Robert Moses and his ilk for that gift...

Jumper said...

Not a pipe dream, wind and solar work well scaled up simultaneously:
http://www.colorado.edu/news/features/interstate-renewable-energy

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

My guess is that 2016 will be shrugged off as 'an anomaly' for a couple of years until La Nina fades, then will quietly replace 1998 when arguing the World hasn't warmed.


It snowed in Washington D.C. last weekend. Doesn't that prove global warming is a hoax?

My guess is that Ted Cruz will speak to the Iowa caucusers holding a fresh snowball as proof of same.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

The oil industry took advantage of high profit margins to bulk up on debt so to make further investments. This is especially true for companies using hydraulic fracture to recover oil and gas. This debt has not been paid off, and in fact is starting to come due.


That's what I was trying to suggest yesterday. At least that kind of thing.

Indirectly, anyway, equities were being traded at a value backed up (in part) by the presumed dollar value of all that oil in the ground. And now that the presumed value of that oil has gone way down, so has the value of the equities.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Late breaking news:

Slate: Donald Trump Will Make You Root for the Saudi Royal Family

No he won't.

Laurent Weppe said...

"No he won't."

I won't root for the house of Saud, but I'll certainly root for the Trump-Saud feud to keep on going: there's something deliciously decadent about rich guys hurling petty insults at each other like middle-schoolers vying for dominance over the schoolyard.

David Brin said...

Slate has jumped the shark by claiming "Donald Trump Will Make You Root for the Saudi Royal Family" -- because Trump pointed out that Fox News is co-owned and content-driven by the Saudis. Ridiculous! Trump may be saying outrageous things, but he has never harmed me. While the Saudis have carefully and deliberately financed the re-igniting of the American Civil War and their Fox-Madrassa has lobotomized 1/3 of my neighbors into zombiehood.

Mind you, I do believe Prince Alaweed that the pic with Megyn Kelley was photoshopped. She would not meet with him bare-shouldered. It shows how dumb Trump's tweet-person is. Still, his feud with Fox is the most hopeful thing to happen to American Conservatism since Ronald Reagan. To be clear, EVERY thing you are told by Fox is - at one level or another - a lie intended to ruin you as a functioning US citizen.

They mean us harm.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/01/28/saudi_prince_is_not_amused_by_donald_trump_s_itchy_retweet_finger.html

A.F. Rey said...

Here's another interesting thesis on why The Donald is still leading: he's dominating the polls because he is dominating his opponents (and Fox News). The "bitch slap theory of politics."

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-trumph-of-the-will

What is truly scary is that it fits the facts so well.

A.F. Rey said...

Snopes also confirms that the imagine is photoshopped--although they dispute that Fox is "co-owned" by the Saudis.

http://www.snopes.com/fox-news-saudi-megyn-kelly/

David Brin said...

Saudi money has helped Rupert Murdoch at every phase of his career. They "divest" a bit, now and then, in order to give fools a way to rationalize.

Go see the photos of GW Bush, who said "Prince Bandy just about raised me" kissing princes on the mouth. Literally and walking holding hands. Then tell me one time Saudi interests weren't the Bush Cheney absolute top priority.

Anonymous said...

Of course somebody who invests in a highly profitable company must have some EEEEVIILL ulterior motivation.

Jumper said...

The Saudi - I forget his name - sold a bunch of that Newscorp and owns much less of it now.
http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/04/media/prince-alwaleed-news-corp/

David Brin said...

The capacity of anonymous imbeciles to see conspiracies everywhere EXCEPT when it is blatantly their own people. Hey anon! Name for me one time across the Bush Cheney years AND Bush Senior when even one Saudi need went unmet, one Saudi desire unfulfilled, including Bush flying every Saudi national in luxury out of the country after 9/11 to prevent FBI questioning... at our expense. You dopes will screech "rag heads!" till you get to the oligarchs. Then it is just fine to kiss them on the mouth and to shrug off their relentless help to Rupoert Murdoch creating the American Madrassa.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the Saudis wanted drilling on the arctic national wildlife refuge, which would compete with their primary industry.

Robert said...

It is so amusing watching anarchists claiming that voting is political conformity and that by not voting, you are shouting at the politicians. When I pointed out that no, silence in fact is tacit approval of the politician and by not voting you give politicians power over you, they all cry foul. I even pointed out that if they don't like the politicians running, to run themselves.

You know, I thought of myself as lazy. But I have found those who make me seem quite energetic.

Rob H.

Larry said...

I believe that the reason why cheap oil is bad is because it is a sign of weak global demand, i.e. recession. If we had cheap oil together with economic expansion, that would be a good thing, and the market would think so too.

David Brin said...

g'lord, the Arctic oil would never amount to a fingernail's hangnail to Saudi output. It appeased other Big oil donors. BFD. The Bush family is a cadet branch of the house of ibn Saud. And you know it. And the only GOPpers who aren't wholly owned -- in that they would re-appoint the entire Bush-Cheney horde of owned factotums -- are Trump & Cruz.

The horse is angry and escaping the control of the rider.

Anonymous said...

I was providing a counter example. Bush did not act as mind-controlled zombie puppet. He maintained an existing alliance. Personally, I do not think we should ally with bad people like that but it is long standing U.S. policy. Would Saddam invading Saudi Arabia have been a good thing for the U.S.?

F.D.R. was good personal friends of Joseph Stalin. He probably gave Stalin a better deal at Yalta than he should have. This did not make him a soviet puppet.

Paul SB said...

- Of course somebody who invests in a highly profitable company must have some EEEEVIILL ulterior motivation.

I think you're forgetting the "Moo WAH HA HA HA!" You have to get it right!

https://karenvaxblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/snidely-whiplash.jpg

David Brin said...

Bull. Under that scenario, Bushes might have horsetraded some things from Saudia in exchange for putting every aspect of America at their disposal, rescuing them from Saddam, protecting them from Iran, safeguarding the straits, forgiving them for teaching radicalism to 16 of the 18 9/11 hijackers... do you doubt I could go on and on? They might gave been asked to stop subsidizing madrassas all over the world that teach Wahhabi radicalism... that Israelis should all die and that American civilization is evil and corrupt and should fall.

How about this for an alternative that fits occam;s razor far better. They envision themselves as future caliphs of all Islam, precisely as taught by Wahhabism. Only the radicalism they teach bore fruit too soon. Isis has now spoiled that brand. And cash is running out. And finally we have a president smart enough to do what Nixon did with China... make peace with Iran. And by doing so, we finally, finally have leverage to tell the petro princes to stop f**king with us and subsidizing america's ruin.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "It is so amusing watching anarchists claiming that voting is political conformity and that by not voting, you are shouting at the politicians"

As I often say: "Abstention, piège à cons"

***

* "They envision themselves as future caliphs of all Islam, precisely as taught by Wahhabism. Only the radicalism they teach bore fruit too soon. Isis has now spoiled that brand. And cash is running out"

The thing is, Wahhabism is clearly tailored after the Umayyad Caliphate: the corrupt, nepotistic dynasty that lasted only 90 years instead of the Abbasids, which lasted five centuries and instigated the islamic golden age, or the Osmans, which during the 16th and 17th century ruled over the most technology advanced civilization on the Planet.
They can't even do the "Nostalgia for Glorious Past Eras" schtick correctly.

Marino said...

I've read Dr. Brin also on Dave Neuwert's Orcynus blog, and also some comments in favor of Trump and fascism as beneficial to the working class posted by some Teaparty/White supremacist guys.
Now, I suppose that one thing to stress forth to blue collar people following The Donald and seeing fascism as benefitting the working class, that under the true thing, Italian fascism, workers worked longer hours and were paid less in 1939 than in 1922,due to the crushing of free unions and labor related parties, and that the protective tariffs enforced at the time damaged their purchasing power as they made basic food staples like wheat and sugar more expensive favoring Sothern Italian absentee landowners and the the sugarmaker's lobby (they historically supported rightwing groups since the end of 19. century).
And military preparedness of Fascist Italy on the eve of WW2 was far less than the one achieved in WWI by liberal Italy led by the "corrupt peacemongering coward" (as the rightwing media painted him) Giolitti (and it mirrors the "feckless Obama" meme)

Paul SB said...

- They can't even do the "Nostalgia for Glorious Past Eras" schtick correctly.

There's an old saying to makes hindsight 20/20, but in my years as a history student it became obvious that hindsight is rose-colored partisanship, mostly. Facts get conveniently forgotten or spun to mean something different than what they were.

I grew up about 60 miles from the scene of a historic massacre, when coal miners went on strike in 1917 and hired security mowed down their wives and children with machine guns. But I knew people who had twisted that story around to claim that it was the National Guard who had committed the massacre, even though the record shows the National Guard arrived days later to stop the fighting.If history doesn't tell the story they want to hear, people will make it up for themselves.

reason said...

Alfred Differ
I think is where you may have seen the speculation on agriculture and global warming, and yes I remember when it first came out.

http://www.w2agz.com/Library/Climate%20Change/Ruddiman,%20March%202005,%2016207527.pdf

But this in fact reinforces the point. Human caused global warming is so strong IN SPITE of influences going in the wrong direction. And I think Tim Flannery in the weather makers does speculate that humans have to take responsibility for climate in both directions. ("You broke it, you own it"!)

raito said...

The danger with the current cheap oil is that it creates an economic bubble. And since people seem to be short-sighted and short-memoried, they'll come too soon to build their own economy to count on that particular price without having any plan for what to do when the price changes.

And that applies to change either way. If the price goes up, their personal economy may not be able to cover the extra cost. If it goes down, they may not be able to compete with others whose assumptions are different.

Anonymous said...

> rescuing them from Saddam, protecting them from Iran, safeguarding the straits,
All part of standard Pax Americana package. The same package they got under Clinton and Obama.
> forgiving them for teaching radicalism to 16 of the 18 9/11 hijackers
Al quaeda is opposed to the house of Saud.
It's hard to extract concessions from somebody for doing things that are in your own interests. (The rise of Isis after the U.S. withdrawal was not in anybodies interests.)

We have not exchanged embassies with Iran. Their leaders will not stop calling us the devil.
Obama has not gone to Iran. What have we gained the ability to threaten the Saudis with?

You think there is a conspiracy to destroy America. Are you going to vote for Trump/Cruz to stop it? Or the wife of the man who didn't wring any concession from the Saudis when he was president?

David Brin said...

I love watching anonymous-coward squirm! He does it in the classic Fox fashion as he’s been trained to do - by glomming onto a half-true item of minutia and using it to yowl “Aha! Then everything I don’t like is false!” A tiresomely lobotomized practice we’re sick of, from the climate change denialist rants.

In this case, yes, Al Qaeda does oppose the House of Saud. So? They are utterly Wahhabis to the core and simply want to replace one branch of that extended family with another that is less patient and more ready to act on the very same dream. And ISIS is simply the next layer of Wahhabi-trained west-haters who are even more impatient than Al Qaeda! They all suckled exactly the same memes from exactly the same Saudi subsidized textbooks and madrassas.

Moreover you KNOW this to be true, A-C. And yet you squirmed anyway, trying (and failing) to quibble your way out of a huge, huge corner that the bushites painted us into. Just like Fox/Cruz/lunatics saying “1998 was hot! Therefor there was no warming for 17 years!!!”

Likewise, fool, your neocons claimed to be experts at “realpolitik” but only harmed US interests in every conceivable way, almost wrecking the US military, economy, alliances etc. Oh for right wingers who were at least smart! Even when they aere part-evil.

Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were savvy enough to see how stupid a situation we were in, to abide a triangle that favored the Soviets, with us hating on both the USSR and China and the Sovs getting to hold center position. Kissinger arranged a judo move in which WE became the ones talking to both sides and playing them off each other.

Obama has just pulled a Nixon by opening up better relations with Iran, allowing us to take that favorable position, playing Iran against Saudia. It is OBVIOUSLY the smart thing to do… once we coerced Iran to eliminate 25 tons of enriched uranium and to pour concrete into its plutonium reactor.And accept strong inspections.

But witness the Fox’ism!: “We have not exchanged embassies with Iran. Their leaders will not stop calling us the devil. Obama has not gone to Iran. What have we gained the ability to threaten the Saudis with?”

To which I reply: moron. Your foxisms are drivel. We do not need an embassy if two million Iranian expatriates start investing in their homeland, using economic leverage to help Rouhani and undermine the Guards, who are screaming in terror over that. We are still at the Kissinger phase, fool. And Mao called us devils till the day he died… while working with the US to scare the crap out of the Russkies.

Your minutiae-pointing does not work with people who are not fox-lobotomized. And that is why you fellows hate science-so.

===

PS... I spent this much time on the fool not for his (pathetically futile) chances of snapping out of it, but so you guys can get clear arguments to use. Sally forth.

David Brin said...

raito, so far there is a debt bubble but no inflationary bubbles. And what are citizens doing with their money saved on gas? Mostly using it to pay down credit cards and other debt. That is lower velocity than the fed would like. It doesn't stimulate right away. But paying down debt is a good thing, right?

Anonymous said...

I am not arguing that Bush's policy was optimal. I am arguing that he was not a puppet.

And, yes stopping Iran's nuclear program is a good thing. Yes, they might develop into a reasonable country in 30 years or so. (Though we are further away than when Nixon went to China. And China is not exactly our ally now.) How will this give us the ability to tell the Saudi royal family what to do with their own money?

Tacitus2 said...

To try and get back near the original topic...

I have to agree with David, and most others here, regards the Saudis. They were/are the spendthrift lottery winners of the geological jackpot. When a post WWII economy needed as much oil as could be found they were happy to drill the wells (oh, not in person, that would be done by foreign contractors and guest workers, natch) and cash the checks.

And like most lottery winners they went stupid. Not just tolerance of the poisonous Wahabi sect but generous subsidy of it. Not just prudent, subtle diplomacy but an imperious and cavalier one that forces others to kow tow, but creates long term ill will.

With wealth that would corrupt anyone they tried to simultaneously preserve a false golden age against all change...while flaunting their mastery of the modern world. Ice skating rinks in shopping malls, sheesh.

So the drop in oil prices, while having some down side, might demote the oil sheikhs to their previous status. Peripheral figures on the world stage. Spending down their Sovereign Wealth in a dry, dusky land.

If the Saudis want to try and choke off the West's new found energy security by selling below their costs and driving down the price I say, bring it on. There have long been suspicions that their reserves are not what they are made out to be. And out in North Dakota those capped wells would just need a bit of upkeep while we wait for the day when we turn the taps on again.*

Tacitus

*not opposed btw to alternative energy, we should have as many options as possible.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

That's correct for now. And yes, less debt is good up to a point (most economists appear to think that zero debt is not quite so good for the economy. In general I agree, though I'd personally rather have no debt.).

And there's less risk of an inflationary bubble with a price going down. Sure, that could raise prices of other things, because there's more money around to suck it up, but I think the chance is a bit less than with a price rising and carrying others with it.

I'm speaking of the next few years if the prices stay low. There will be dependencies on those prices, and that's where the danger is. Right now, when the prices have been low for a comparatively short time, the extra money goes to pent-up demand (in this case, demand to have lower debt).

This could be avoided by good planning. But I fear it might not.

Anonymous said...

@Tacitus2
Exactly! The House of Saud want to be rich people who can act with personal impunity while assuaging their consciences by donating to holy men of their ancestral faith.(Not a very nice faith.) They don't want to risk all that to for a chance to rule a neo-caliphate that would demand actual rejection of the pleasures of the world by the Caliph. (And more importantly not receive imports of those pleasures from the first world.) Spoiled trust fund kids, not evil masterminds.

The current low oil prices are because they were blindsided by the speed of innovation and are trying to convert their oil to other assets while it's still worth anything.

If the Sauds play their cards right they could could very possibly transition to a constitutional monarchy where they get undeserved respect and luxury forever with no political power.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

And finally we have a president smart enough to do what Nixon did with China... make peace with Iran. And by doing so, we finally, finally have leverage to tell the petro princes to stop f**king with us and subsidizing america's ruin.


But did you happen to hear Donald Trump last night at his non-debate event? He stated without need for further justifcation, as if it were plain as the nose on your face, that the Iran deal was "The worst deal I ever saw, ever!" And during the actual debate, Marco Rubio stated, again wihtout apparent need for justification, that he would throw ISIS fighters into Guantanamo because "...unlike our current president, I would keep America safe."

Wheter or not these guys are Saudi shills, they've drunk the kool-aid too.

LarryHart said...

Marino:

Now, I suppose that one thing to stress forth to blue collar people following The Donald and seeing fascism as benefitting the working class, that under the true thing, Italian fascism, workers worked longer hours and were paid less in 1939 than in 1922,due to the crushing of free unions and labor related parties, ...


Think of the "Right To Work" terminology. The right wing has convinced ordinary workers that they have the right to work longer hours for lower pay as a selling point as to why an employer should hire them.

David Brin said...

Still an anonymous coward, but actually displaying curiosity, instead of pat-fox-truthy-nostrums. In which case I’ll answer:
1) you think Iran today is worse than China in 1971? Really….? OMG… really?

2) China today is vastly better in the world and for the US than it would have been if they had not been drawn into the market and the world.

3) We can make clear that the current Wahhabi campaign to teach millions of muslim young men to yearn for our deaths is unacceptable. Iranian textbooks do not teach that, despite the death-to-america chants in the streets. We can make them afraid, sir. Let them know we are aware, and if Iran draws closer, becoming more democratic, as all the college educated Iranians want, then we don’t need to have presidents who kiss Saudi kings on the mouth.

Above all, we can defeat the Saudis’ US allies, the reborn confederacy, that has been fox-propelled to hate science and to undermine our energy independence at every turn (the true purpose of climate denialism). Too late, you confeds. Your obstructionism delayed energy efficiency and alternatives for 20 years, harming us all and sapping our country of trillions. But we are now increasingly energy independent. One more great security advance under hated "feckless" Obama.

===
"Feckless" guy who stole the entire Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence, stopped the Iranian bomb program, turned Iran into a counter-foil for the Saudis, restored all major US Army and Marine units from 0% readiness under Bush to 100% readiness, while cutting casualty rates by a factor of 20, while overseeing the most rapid modernization in US military history...

... and who killed Osama bin Laden. Yeah, THAT feckless one.

David Brin said...

Tacitus: Wise conservatism, my friend. But when you say: “*not opposed btw to alternative energy, “ you make very clear how rare your version of conservatism really is.

Oh… but he’s baaaaaack! Our anonymous coward who won't even sign with a code name.

“Exactly! The House of Saud want to be rich people who can act with personal impunity while assuaging their consciences by donating to holy men…”

What utter, utter, drooling drivel. Saudi textbooks and teachers and preachers in Wahhabi madrassas all over the muslim world preach nostalgia and fervor for restoration of past glory, re-establishment of caliphate and death to all of western civilization. Do you even bother checking ANY of your comfy-reassuring nostrums and assertions against facts, ever?

Silly me. Fox’d viewers are not only at war against science but every fact-driven knowledge caste in america, from teachers and civil servants to journalists, economists, professors, medical doctors… the new confederacy, following the plantation lords into battle chanting “Yes Marse Rupert!”

“If the Sauds play their cards right they could could very possibly transition to a constitutional monarchy where they get undeserved respect and luxury forever with no political power.”

Oy! And *I* and the one writing sci fi????

Larryhart: “Wheter or not these guys are Saudi shills, they've drunk the kool-aid too.”

The irony being that I don’t think Rubio or Trump actually believe such shit. But the fact that ALL republican voters do is stunning and sad. Those few candidates like Kasich, Pataki and (a bit) Paul, who have hinted at a less shrill rhetoric, haven’t even been able to gather appreciable niche followings.

Anabelle said...

Yes the Saudis are not very nice people. Yes, the country is in the grip of religious fanaticism. How does this prove they're the Illuminati? How is an Iran strategy going to make them stop? Why are they incapable of ever reforming?

Joel Greenwood said...

Some things, without getting drawn into anti-Iran or anti-Saudi screaming:

The reason paying down debt is bad is because your debt is my asset. Government debt is held by private corporations or private citizens. Your credit card debt is securitized in an Asset Backed Security. Your mortgage is securitized as an MBS. So paying it down is taking away a paying asset of someone else. Banks "suffer" when you pay down debts.

It's good of course, for citizens to not pay 20% interest on credit card debt on a micro-scale. Or pay off their mortgage early. Etc. On a macro-scale, it's horrendous and forces a change in asset allocation by somebody else.

Quantitative Easing was supposed to be inflationary but wasn't, because it wasn't adding to the debt. It was simply replacing a debt (held by private corps/citizens) with cash - who then have to bid up other assets in order to acquire some kind of return.

David Brin said...

Joel you are assuming that all uses of money are of equal value. But the entire premise of Supply Side (voodoo) economics was the confident forecast that increasing the available in-pocket cash held by the rich would translate into investments in productive capacity for increasing the supply of goods and services - tangible and taxable.

Adam Smith would have told you why this failed, utterly, across every single SS(V)E prediction ever made. Because the normal behavior of most rich folks is to do rent-seeking, generally finding investments that (1) require no hard work or entrepreneurship on their part and (2) can be amplified by using undue influence to give their investments favored treatment, (3) inflate bubbles.

Above all, the effect of cash infusions to the rich is low-velocity money. Money that just sits, sometimes being lent to producers, but not so much and certainly not being spent. In contrast, money that flows to middle class workers, especially lower middle, gets spent instantly with strong multipliers and high velocity. This is a BAD thing when inflation is roaring out of control. But under every other condition, it is the best form of stimulus...

...which is why the goppers in congress have made it their top priority to stymie spending on infrastructure, till bridges are in danger of collapsing around us. Because they did not want such stimulation to improve the economy on Obama's watch. (It has happened anyway, slower because of such outright and deliberate treason.)

Anabelle, envision you are a pampered prince - male - and flattered all your life. And told your family is destined to bring back the Will of God on Earth. Your question is answered.

LarryHart said...

Joel Greenwood:

Quantitative Easing was supposed to be inflationary but wasn't, because it wasn't adding to the debt. It was simply replacing a debt (held by private corps/citizens) with cash - who then have to bid up other assets in order to acquire some kind of return


Isn't the problem that that money is being "invested" in trying to bid up the sale price of assets rather than in actually producing new value?

It seems to me that capitalism no longer tries to involve itself in literally "making money" the way Ayn Rand uses the term. Instead, the goal is to bleed money out of an existing organization (a la Mitt Romney) or to grab existing customers away from a rival organization. In either case, the profit is zero-sum. Investment in a company is supposed to lead to new value being input into the system, but these days, that view seems hopelessly old-school.

Anabelle said...

David, you are absolutely right the House of Saud will probably not do the smart thing and will eventually get shot by their own people. Plenty of people in Saudi Arabia who would like not live in a theocracy too and eventually they'll get critical mass.

Didn't answer my first two questions at all.

Anabelle said...

Iranian textbooks:

https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-reports/discrimination-and-intolerance-irans-textbooks

They also preach Islamic world conquest.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "(The rise of Isis after the U.S. withdrawal was not in anybodies interests.)"

That doesn't mean its rise wasn't the logical consequence of every belligerent shortsightedly following their own interests without thinking about the consequences.

The Assad regime deliberately focused its wrath on the secular rebels, sparing the fundies to concentrate its fire on the Free Syrian Army.

Russia and Iran heavily subsidized the Assad dynasty, delaying its collapse.

The US decided that the deba'athification would concern not only the high-ranking members of Saddam's regime but also the low-ranking bureaucrats of the iraqi state, then gave its de facto blessing to the revanchist shiite Maliki administration.

All these deliberate policies gave Daesh the time & opportunity (What would coalesce into Daesh was mostly left to its own devices during the early stages of the syrian civil war) and the manpower (plenty of incensed former iraqi bureaucrats forsook their erstwhile proclaimed secularism and joined the organization that promised it would bring them back to prominence) to organize itself into a quasi-state and become the would-be expansionist empire we all know and love to hate today.

***

* "Obama has not gone to Iran"

I don't care: Rouhani is touring Europe and we're selling his country a lot of stuff: I don't care if the clerical aristocracy keeps calling the West the devil: it worked when the Shah and his cronies were the only ones enjoying the perks of the West's "friendship" while the rest of the population only saw us as the backers of a decadent and oppressive dynasty: once the Iranian population gets used to travel with french cars, french trains, french planes taken from airports built by french companies, taking french drugs for their cough and flu, drinking water brought to their houses with french pipes and eating french halal chicken, the reactionary mullahs' hateful preaching will fall on deaf ears.

***

* "Marco Rubio stated, again wihtout apparent need for justification, that he would throw ISIS fighters into Guantanamo because "...unlike our current president, I would keep America safe.""

The GOP's hopeful shtick can be summarized as "Vote for me because I'm a fucking Badass™. How can I prove that I am a fucking Badass™? Because I say that I am a fucking Badass™ and only fucking Badasses™ are fucking Badass™ enough to boldly claim that they are, in fact fucking Badasses™"

***

* "you think Iran today is worse than China in 1971?"

Pffffffffff, Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
Frankly, since it's a Sci-Fi author blog, may I suggest Anon read the early chapters of the Three Body Problem?

***

* "the entire premise of Supply Side (voodoo) economics was the confident forecast that increasing the available in-pocket cash held by the rich would translate into investments in productive capacity for increasing the supply of goods and services"

Which in theory could have been possible, if we had figured out how to make access to wealth a purely meritocratic affair without any dynastic transmission and nepotism poisoning the wheel

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

The GOP's hopeful shtick can be summarized as "Vote for me because I'm a fucking Badass™...


The Republicans don't really have "debates" as such, each outlining what separates them from the others. Rather, they each get up there to proclaim the exact same talking points, just each one saying he's better at being Ronald Reagan than are his opponents.


"the entire premise of Supply Side (voodoo) economics was the confident forecast that increasing the available in-pocket cash held by the rich would translate into investments in productive capacity for increasing the supply of goods and services"

Which in theory could have been possible, if we had figured out how to make access to wealth a purely meritocratic affair without any dynastic transmission and nepotism poisoning the wheel.


To agree with Supply Side economics, even as a theory, one would logically be expected to then also agree with this statement: "If you give unemployment benefits to poop people, they'll use the money to make themselves more employable and end up working at productive jobs, more than paying back the value of the money given to them." Because if you replace "poor people" with "the job creators", that's Supply Side in a nutshell.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Laurent

"Which in theory could have been possible, if we had figured out how to make access to wealth a purely meritocratic affair without any dynastic transmission and nepotism poisoning the wheel"

Disagree - rent seeking is an eminently sensible strategy from the point of view of the rich so if it really was a "meritocracy" they would do the same rent seeking only more efficiently!
which would make matter worse!
As it is the incompetence of the very rich is the main thing that limits their power,

David Brin said...

Anabelle I never said that the governing cult in Iran was any less radical than the one in Saudia. Nore was Mao’s China less radical than 1971 Moscow. What I said was that playing them off each other reduced the radical power of both. Which is what will happen if the moderate and educated classes in Iran push back hard against the Trump-Cruz-fundamentalists who have had power there since 1979.

I do not see Saudia as close to revolution. The population is more sparse and the males are deeply committed to machismo.

LarryHart: “poop people”? ;-)

Duncan, the Internet/space/tech billionaires who disapprove (mostly ) of supply side selfishness and aristocratism are, ironically, the ones who DO apply their wealth to investments in new productive capacity.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
I agree totally - the very smart ones go a stage further and realize that they need to apply their wealth to creating more wealth

But for the usual run of the mill billionaire heir rent seeking is the goal and their incompetence kind of helps the rest of us

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart: “poop people”? ;-)


Y'know, I used to disdain auto-correct. But is it just me, or have others noticed as well that in more recent versions of Microsoft Office, the keystrokes don't seem to land on the page in the same order as I am typing them.

Doesn't excuse that particular typo above, but just sayin'.

A.F. Rey said...

Don't apologize, Larry. It was just a Freudian typo, after all. :)

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Reposting comments I made on FB. Just a little something that occurred to me and which our resident anarchists can chew on and of course claim "but it's different!"

Anarchists and other anti-government sorts have been going on about how we don't need government and that anyone can build roads and other infrastructure and that if government didn't exist, corporations would be building them anyway.

Well, ignoring the fact that private roads would all be toll roads, and that without government there is no money so who'd be buying things and why would corporations exist... let's consider one other thing.

Corporations exist to maximize profits. If corporations had to spend their money to build roads and the infrastructure needed for commerce... they wouldn't have profits. In short, government is about people and businesses all spending a little bit of money in the form of taxes which is then used to build infrastructure such as roads, electrical grids, water pipes, and so forth that everyone can use... and so that companies can focus on generating wealth and maximizing profits instead of building the infrastructure needed for them to achieve profits in the first place.

Anti-government ultimately is anti-business. After all, without government, there is no police (corrupt as they may be), no protections, no laws, no money, and no civilization. It is a strong-man rules environment. And while anarchists love to claim "but it'd be different..." the fact is that infrastructure is needed for businesses to flourish, and everyone chipping in to build this infrastructure... is in fact government.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Well, ignoring the fact that private roads would all be toll roads, and that without government there is no money so who'd be buying things and why would corporations exist...


Without government, corporations can't exist, at least not in the sense of being legal persons. For one thing, who would grant or enforce their "limited liability" status?

To say corporations would exist without government is like saying children could exist without parents.

David Brin said...

Rob H, your responses to anarchist libertarian romantics are logical and futile. They have a magical incantation that their approach WOULD work better.

The better approach is to: (1) demand examples. Across 6000 years there have been periods of low taxes, fewer per capita civil servants, and when society's richest "job creators" were less hampered by bureaucratic regulation. In fact, almost EVERY other society qualified, including the 99% that were feudalist. According to their theory, all such societies should have performed better than ours, built better roads, schools, internets... instead of absolutely none of them coming close to ours, by maybe 6 orders of magnitude.

Who bears a burden of proof? How about those who assert that the best-performing civilization and economy in human history is a miserable failure compared to what would happen if, instead, we emulated failed feudalisms of the past.

In fact, it was in the 1950s and 1060s that we built the biggest share of the infrastructure that hypocritical ingrates use every day, and it was built at high, rooseveltean tax rates... which did not stifle business an iota, since that was also the glory days of building epic American successful companies.

Facts do not matter to cultist-dogmatists. Demand that they show the slightest awareness of actual history and their lower lips start to tremble.

2) Follow the money. The propaganda-koolaid that they suckle is fed to them -- by engorged nibble or intravenously - by Fox or radio-shockjocks or faux-academic "think tanks" all subsidized by a billionaire caste that just happens to benefit with every Supply Side or Flat Tax or "hate-all-government-all-the-time" convert. And especially tha campaign to hate science and all smartypants professions.

The coincidence, that the message happens to serve to particular self-interest of the ones paying for its promotion, ought to make any sapient mind stop and ponder.

Oh, but I said sapient. Never mind.

David Brin said...

LarryHart that is why Randians do not say "nogovernemnt". They want a government with a monopoly on force. They want it to be restricted to two functions, though. Defense and the enforcement of legal contracts. Including corporate contracts.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

that is why Randians do not say "nogovernemnt". They want a government with a monopoly on force.


Randians, perhaps, but many libertarians insist that there should be no government. They seem to want private courts and contracts enforced by enlightened self-interest, or maybe unicorns and flying ponies.


In fact, it was in the 1950s and 1060s that we built the biggest share of the infrastructure...


until William the Conqueror screwed everything up?
:)

Paul SB said...

William the Bastard of Normandy has nothing on Fingers, those Bastards of Typographic Error!

Jon S. said...

I have an occasional discussion with a user on another forum who likes Ayn Rand. He also has the magical belief that if the government weren't interfering, we'd all be able to work out our differences peacefully. He's even invoked both private police forces and taking contract violators to court, and appears to simply fail to understand when I try to point out the oxymorons he's spouting.

He's not stupid, he's not poorly-educated, and he's not a neo-Confederate, he just has a deeply flawed understanding of how government works, and how humans work.

LarryHart said...

@Jon S:
The Rand contingent is saying something in direct opposition to our Nietzsche-quoting poster on an earlier thread (I don't recall his name) who asserted that a dictatorial God was necessary in order to keep human beings acting in anything resembling a civilized manner.

I understand the gravitational allure of Rand's philosophy, having been fascinated by "Atlas Shrugged" in my late thirties. And I've been given to understand that her insights might have seemed even more fresh and exciting at the time her pieces were first published. But the thing is, Rand's argument is over how much of an individual's allegiance is owed to the commons and the culture and the society that protects and shelters him, allowing him to thrive as an individual. I could agree with a point that says that percentage is less than what was currently in vogue, especially in the Soviet Union of the time, when that percentage is 100%. But Rand insists that the percentage is 0%, and furthermore that that assertion is self-evident, backed up by pure Platonic logic.

Her intransigence is what I could not subscribe to, and what ultimately kept me from falling under her spell. I actually enjoyed the novel, but I enjoyed it as a juvenile-adventure comic book story, not as a manifesto.



David Brin said...

LArryHart yes our complex species of gregarious-yet-egocentric apes has many faces and imperatives. Indeed, this broad stance may turn out to be our greatest gift, enabling us to be more adaptable that sapients who were descended from - sa - obligate stalker carnivores, or pack carnivores, or solipsistic omnivores (bears), or herd herbivores...

Our broad stance allows for fringes that deny any need for group loyalty, all the way to cultists who demand 100% group devotion, and there are dozens of other spectra.

What I find works best with cultists is to point out the difference between "is true" and "oughta be." And the latter withers in the face of human history.

Jon S, ask your friend to name one moment in human history when his "natural laws" actually happened. One actual time when his revered flat-open-fair playing field happened without carefully tuned regulation, to prevent the inevitable cheating, when owner-oligarch-lords simply took everything. Then hired priests to proclaim that is was GOOOOOD for the king and his lords to control and own it all.

"Oughta-be" is the purest sign of a religious cult. And for dopes to ignore the plain fact, that feudal owner-lords were enemies of enterprise vastly more often than civil servants ever were, is as stupid as the fact that none of these guys have ever read Adam Smith, though they prescribe to us as if they were sages.

Again, for those who want ammo with Randians - http://www.davidbrin.com/aynrand.html

David Brin said...

And now onward

onward