Republicans Self-Destruct; Speaker Boehner Is Finished; Or Maybe Not

The Republican Party has exacted a pound of flesh from the people of New York and New Jersey.

It’s more than a slap in the face. It’s a kick in the teeth.   Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: Worcester County, MD, Warns of “Historic Flooding”

No one here is taking Hurricane Sandy lightly. The town of Ocean City and Worcester County, which is Maryland’s only oceanfront county, have ordered limited partial evacuations. Good thing the summer tourist season is over, or there’d be a lot more people to evacuate. For specifics, see the Ocean City Blog, AKA Maryland On My Mind.

A prolonged siege of rain, high wind, and flooding is expected. It’s raining now (1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon), with some very localized flooding already. But the worst is not expected until Monday afternoon and Monday night.     Continue reading

Five Warning Signs of Continuing Economic Collapse

It’s not Armageddon. But it’s not economic recovery. We’re not all going to live happily ever after.

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

We’ll not be returning to the status quo ante 2006. That’s gone forever. The assumption of endless growth and prosperity is over in America. The American Dream of the past half-century is cooked.

What about more jobs, jobs, jobs for American workers, like the politicians pretend they believe? They can’t deliver it. Not going to happen. Glimmers of recovery here and there, maybe; but it will be the exception, not the rule.

Reindustrialization of America? Maybe a little bit, but new industry won’t need factories filled with unskilled workers. Or any kind of workers. Automation, robotization, computerization. All signs point to fewer jobs, not more jobs.

The promise of more jobs and economic recovery is a lie, or at least a mirage. I have to believe that many knowledgeable people in high places are aware of the truth. But they dare not say it out loud. Too many Americans are still in denial.

In order for people to accept the loss of the endless growth and prosperity model, they have to be able to replace it with a substitute. Leaders of government and business have not been able to come up with a substitute. They don’t know what to do except dissemble, and hope for a miracle.

The signs of continuing collapse in the near term and medium term are all around. Here are five of the most important warning signs, Continue reading

The Black Swan And The Ebooks Marketplace

The Black Swan effect, which I’ve written about before, might be the single most consequential concept of the 21st century. Just my opinion. If you’re interested in the phenomenon, you could read all about it in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, The Black Swan. Subtitle: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Mr. Taleb suggests that most of the important events in history are Black Swan events, for example, the 09-11-2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. For my other previous posts on Black Swans, click here and here.

Many events of lesser importance, which nonetheless have momentous effects on nations, industries, and individuals, may also be Black Swans.

As Mr. Taleb explains, a bestselling book is a perfect example of a Black Swan, because it’s impossible to predict in advance which book will be a bestseller.   Continue reading

American Debt Crisis: The Black Swan Is Circling Washington

Another update on the Debt Crisis of 2011.

An ominous Black Swan is circling Washington, D.C., like a vulture, watching and waiting as the wise men and women of Congress argue over whether to resolve the Debt Crisis of 2011. Or not.

This is the most dangerous situation in Washington since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. I was in Washington on the weekend of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I remember it well. We didn’t know how close we came to the brink, until it was all over.

This Debt Crisis is surreal. The Cuban Missile Crisis was loaded with live ammunition. The Debt Crisis is loaded with stocks and bonds and hundred-dollar bills. No one knows what will happen if we pile up a lot of stocks and bonds and bills, and set off an uncontrollable chain reaction of unpaid debt. Never been done before. But we are about to go there.

There are three major schools of thought regarding the resolution of this debt crisis. You have your big fix, valued at around $4 trillions, and your little fix, $1.5 trillions to $2 trillions, give or take. (Or is it billions? I can never remember.)

And defying all logic, there is the “no fix” option, supported by the gentlemen and gentleladies from the Tea Party. (What kind of tea are they smoking at that party? Can I get some?)

Translation: Some folks want to fix the debt crisis for the long-term, so Congress can get on to other business.  Some folks will settle for a short-term solution. And some want to commit economic suicide on Aug. 2, rather than risk the chance of possibly serious complications down the road.

Hoo-boy! You think the rich and powerful are anxious about a little economic uncertainty? How are they going to respond to total economic chaos?

Remember the Black Swan? It’s a highly improbable disaster, resulting in unpredictable consequences of a catastrophic nature.  Have a nice weekend.

— John Hayden

Another Black Swan Lands — Super Storm In The South — How Much We Depend On Each Other

Farmer and sons walking in the face of a dust ...


The Black Swan has landed again, this time in the American South, a Super Storm that roared through Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The tornadoes that ran with this storm wrecked communities all along its path. The worst devastation appears to have been in Alabama.

When has America seen an inland storm of such magnitude? Our worst storms usually develop over water. In the East, the most powerful weather events are hurricanes. Other natural disasters in my memory are earthquakes, tsunamis, blizzards. Major flooding happens along inland rivers. But an inland storm like this? How often, if ever, has a storm system like this been seen in the history of North America?

The only comparison I can conjure is the Dust Bowl — famously “The Worst Hard Times” — of the 1930s. The worst coincidence of natural and manmade disasters in at least a  century, I would have to say, was the Dust Bowl, which coincided with the worst economic disaster, the Great Depression, which was immediately followed by World War II, the worst military-criminal disaster. I suppose it should be stipulated that the conditions for the Dust Bowl were created by human means.

To many people, it feels like disasters, both natural and manmade, are striking with increasing frequency and ferocity. In the past few years: Hurricane Katrina, earthquake in Haiti, the Gulf Coast oil spill, earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan, multiple wars in the oil region of the Middle East, and now multiple uprisings and civil wars.

We Need Civilization and Cooperation

The first thing people do in natural disasters of such proportion is look around to see what remnants of organized civilization remain standing. Assistance is called for, and expected, from local police and fire agencies, National Guard, Red Cross, and FEMA. Disasters remind us not only how fragile is human life, but also how fragile are human institutions, and civilization itself.

It is more than troubling to realize that millions of American citizens, and their elected representatives, are at this very moment hoping and planning — you might say, “plotting” — to bring down the government of the United States of America, and with it, possibly, the worldwide economy. That would indeed create the worst catastrophe, and the greatest suffering, since the combination of Depression, Dust Bowl, and World War.

It’s almost beyond comprehension, but it’s true. Many Americans now hate government so much that they would prefer anarchy. As police and shocked bystanders say after an especially heinous crime: “This must be the work of insanity or Evil.”

Can you think of another explanation?

— John Hayden

The Black Swan Visits Japan: 9.0 Earthquake, Tsunamis, Nuclear Power Plants

The Black Swan has landed in Japan.

Fair-use of Copyright cover from “The Black Swan” via Wikipedia.

The earthquake(s) and tsunami(s) in Japan, and their terrible consequences, are straight out of “The Black Swan,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The subtitle is: “The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE.” (No, we’re not talking about a ballet film.) If you plan to continue living in the unpredictable world of the 21st Century, you probably should read “The Black Swan.” Just my opinion. Mr. Taleb’s home page is here.

A Black Swan is an event that’s “outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility,” Mr. Taleb writes.

Continue reading