No Joke

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The Economic Collapse blog ponders the return of a variation on Yo Mama jokes:

Some of my favorites were “your Mama is so broke she went to McDonald’s and put a milkshake on layaway” and “your Mama is so broke your family ate cereal with a fork to save milk”. Unfortunately, the facts that I am about to share with you are not funny at all. In fact, they are quite sobering.

The whole thing is worth a read, as it provides a sweeping barrage of data points so fierce that it utterly obliterates the “recovery” lie and pulverizes it into a fine mist.
My personal favorite:

9. Americans are so broke that many of them can’t even afford to shop at Wal-Mart and dollar stores anymore.
Discount stores are slowly dying. Yesterday, Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar, a chain that is in the process of closing hundreds of stores and firing workers. Other discount stores have been struggling as well, writes Heidi Moore at The Guardian. Fashion discounter Loehmann’s filed for bankruptcy, while Wal-Mart’s sales have declined for the past five quarters. “There’s just not enough money deployed by American families to keep all the discount chains in business,” Moore writes.

When a significant portion of a population can’t even afford cheap crap, it’s just about time to call it curtains.

Coaching ‘Em Up

Ask Mama Cass about the terrors that lay hidden under the delicious folds of a cold ham sandwich.

Ask Mama Cass about the manifold terrors that lay hidden under the delicious folds of a cold ham sandwich.


As the border dissolves into an exercise in abstraction, and child gang members flood through at an unprecedented rate, it’s worth noting that the whole thing may not be the happenstantial affair catching our elected betters offguard that one would hope for.
To wit, the little shits are taking a crash course in sympathy pandering:

The teen identified as Saul told the Congressional Progressive Caucus during an ad-hoc hearing that his time at a border detention facility was “horrible,” describing it as “the worst experience” of his life after the unaccompanied minor crossed the border illegally in April.
“I walked 30 minutes to the immigration station where I was placed in a big room with 200 children aged 10 and up,” Saul told the caucus. “The room was very cold, I was shivering the whole time. There weren’t any beds. They gave us nylon which barely kept us warm and they gave us cold ham sandwiches twice a day. I was very hungry because it wasn’t enough food.”

The notable thing here is that all of this sounds like the horrors only the effete and the pampered would forthrightly think were egregious hardships meriting immediate and sweeping amnesty no-questions-asked as recompense.
To wit:

“This is different, because I have to include in my budget for the week – which is $77 – for transportation; my staff pointed out I have to add in dog food,” she says. “So – it’s gas, it’s the Metro; I’m not going to be able to pick up my cleaning this week.”

The unadulterated horror of it all.
All those considering that this whole damn thing is a rigged confidence game designed to replace one population with another, well, you can put this as a +1 in your column.

Of Economic Barometers, Large & Small

A-OK.

A-OK.


After five seasons of Recovery Summer, the green shoots are really paying off:

More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute. [...]The delinquent debt is overwhelmingly concentrated in Southern and Western states. Texas cities have a large share of their populations being reported to collection agencies: Dallas (44.3 percent); El Paso (44.4 percent), Houston (43.7 percent), McAllen (51.7 percent) and San Antonio (44.5 percent). Almost half of Las Vegas residents- many of whom bore the brunt of the housing bust that sparked the recession- have debt in collections. Other Southern cities have a disproportionate number of their people facing debt collectors, including Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.

Bad news, of course, for all those living in a big White House desperately praying to Allah to FLOTUS’ biceps for a tangible recovery, but the article goes on to note what it thinks is good news:

Only about 20 percent of Americans with credit records have any debt at all. Yet high debt levels don’t always lead to more delinquencies, since the debt largely comes from mortgages. An average San Jose resident has $97,150 in total debt, with 84 percent of it tied to a mortgage. But because incomes and real estate values are higher in the technology hub, those residents are less likely to be delinquent. By contrast, the average person in the Texas city of McAllen has only $23,546 in debt, yet more than half of the population has debt in collections, more than anywhere else in the United States.

The operative word that should be in there but isn’t for the denizens of places like San Jose is “yet.” Check back when all that mortgage debt persists while the value of those homes gets halved amid dwindling demand and rising interest rates.
Summer of Suck, yo.

Three Canaries In Search Of A Coalmine

The Sun sets on every empire, by and by.

The Sun sets on every empire, by and by.


Here are three stories that, each in their own way, all point in the same general direction.
First, meet the Honorable Judge Wade McCree:

Disgraced former Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree, who had an affair with a woman while presiding over her child custody case, got some good news from a federal appeals court this week: He can’t be sued by the child’s father. That’s what the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in a 24-page decision Monday, stating that while McCree’s actions were “often reprehensible,” he is immune from lawsuits under the long-held doctrine of judicial immunity.

[…]the child’s father, Robert King, […] is fighting for the right to sue McCree, alleging he denied him access to a fair and impartial judge: McCree was having an affair with his child’s mother, sexted her from the bench and gave her thousands of dollars.
The courts, meanwhile, have long held that judges can’t be sued by litigants.

Before long, such parties are going to stop trying to sue and pursue legal methods of recourse, favoring instead to avail themselves of recompense beyond the parameters of the law.
In a similar vein, let’s check in on the congressional representative of the District of Columbia, who has an interesting take on the relationship between the government and the governed:

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting congressional delegate for the District of Columbia, angrily sputtered during a congressional hearing Friday that the White House should not be held up to scrutiny, saying that there was no right to know what it was doing behind closed doors. “You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government,” Norton said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

In a way, she is absolutely correct – an individual or a group has no rights beyond what they are willing to continually re-establish force or the threat thereof. An opposition party without the spine to do anything more than issue subpoenas that have no consequence when ignored has no rights.
Onward to the growing worthlessness of America’s Widdle Class, as noted by the New York Times Business Desk:

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets. But much of the gain for many typical households came from the rising value of their homes. Exclude that housing wealth and the picture is worse: Median net worth began to decline even earlier.

I really don’t even need to add much to that one, since it illustrates how full of shit the pundits of the past decade were when they insisted that the numbers weren’t cooked six different ways, and that everything was sunshine and honeydew. For all those pining for the “good old days” of 2006 when everyone’s home was “worth” a million dollars or more, well, it was all a lie, a carefully orchestrated falsehood to get you plebes in the habit of purchase a shitload of depreciable goods to stop 2008 from occurring in 2003.
Congratulations.
You bought us an extra half-decade at considerably higher cost in terms of time, treasure and torment. One would think we’ve all learned a lesson from this, but of course we haven’t:

The flip is back. Despite a sluggish housing market and tight credit, hordes of short-term investors are once again raking in the profits, after scooping up, sprucing up and reselling properties. But this time, these sales aren’t so quick, and investors are doing a lot more work to earn their cash. Unlike the quick-turnaround sales made during the housing bubble, which most experts blame for inflating it, today’s flips require more than just a fresh coat of paint and new landscaping to justify a much higher price.

Okay.
Well, let’s just end this on a high note:

The study from Brussels think-tank Bruegel found 51 percent of jobs in Germany at the moment could be computerized and left to robots in the next two decades.

Keep pushing that $20 minimum wage, folks.

Good Music Friday

Well hey.
It’s Friday and I’m actually looking forward to it — because it came right on time.
Altered my schedule a little so that I could sleep more, skipping lunch so that I could still get home at a reasonable hour.
Folks, that has made all the difference.
Still, a little sad that waking up at 05:45 feels like “sleeping in” when in the good ole days, that was a respectable bedtime.
Curse of gettin’ older, I suppose.
Anyway, as always there’s a crapload of yardwork what needs doing this weekend, plus a couple of other projects. Everyone here’s bitchin’ about the heat, but they’ll miss it when its gone.
Have a good one and get ‘em in.

If I Should Fall From Grace With God
BBC Radio Sessions
The Pogues
Broadcast Performance | 1986

The Most Important Innovation In Human History

The beginnings of personal agency.

The beginnings of personal agency.


So I’ve talked a lot about “innovation” and human industry and all that quite a bit lately. An idea I’ve been tussling around in my head for a while now is the question of what is the most important truly innovative product of human ingenuity. The list of potentials is long; the internal combustion engine? The telescope? The assembly line? The nuclear reactor?
A case can be made for every one of those, but for the breadth and depth of an innovation’s impact on the course of human civilizational development, I’m going to make a case for an invention far more humble but ubiquitous.
The small firearm.
While it’s probably not a hard sell to the readership here, it bears noting that the pistol is, hands down, the most influential innovation in human history. Without it, we likely wouldn’t have developed any semblance of the concept of individual liberty, personal agency or institutional domain over ourselves and our effects – the Magna Carta and its ensuing revisional charters really didn’t have much in the way of teeth until “free men” could arm themselves.
For thousands of years, the strong subjugated the weak through physical strength; a king’s agents tended to be the strongest warriors in the land. For a man to be “armed” meant little without both extensive training and a select set of physical attributes. You needed strength, agility, a high reflexive response and a measure of endurance to successfully wield a sword in defense from an aggressive and experienced transgressor. The physically weak and diminutive, for most of the course of human history, were always at the mercy of the physically strong to such a degree that the idea of every individual being possessed of personal agency was laughable. You did what the bigger guy with the sword commanded, or you got to watch your intestines slither out of a slice in your gut, coiling neatly onto the ground below. A weak man with a sword is simply no match for a strong man with a sword 99 times out of 100.
The pistol changes this dynamic drastically, and the proliferation of small arms coinciding with the development of institutional due process for all men – even the serfs – is inextricably linked. The tenants of the magna carta didn’t really have teeth until the pistol allowed the weak to protect themselves from the strong with no more strength than is necessary to pull a trigger. The formation of the individual will follows right along with the development of the matchlock, the flintlock, the musket and the revolver.
I’ve heard many supposedly bright people wonder why all of a sudden human civilizational development shifted from a rather static status quo suffered through for thousands of years to one that quickly developed the ideas of due process, habeaus corpus, individual property rights and self agency.
It’s because of the gun.
Without it, the past 500 years would have been a whole different story.

When The Mayans Were Almost Right

The sun wants you dead.

The sun wants you dead.


So a funny thing happened in 2012 — for all the derisive scorn and laughter directed at the long conquered and dead Mayan Empire, their “predictions” for the END OF THE WORLD may have been much closer to occurring than you’d think.
They missed it by about a week:

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.
“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

So why weren’t we toast?

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

Ah, blind stupid luck.
Okay, then.
But say the CMEs had struck us.
What then?

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid. NASA offers this sobering assessment:
Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

Well, good thing we dodged that bullet then.

Perhaps the scariest finding reported in the article is this: There is a 12 percent chance of a Carrington-type event on Earth in the next 10 years according to Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

Well fuck it then, I’ll be in the basement.
But seriously, have a Goddamn plan for when this type of thing occurs, a plan that broadly contemplates what a few months with limited or no power would look like.
In addition to food, water and the other usuals, scope out the neighborhood and note where your local electrical towers and transformers are, and where the nearby wires run. Make sure that nothing near you catches fire or poses an immediate danger if you suddenly see the sky light up like the aurora borealis. Chances are pretty high that from the outset, you will no longer have access to TV, radio, telephone or Internet. It’s just going to be you and your community almost immediately, and in something like this, help isn’t going to come from the next town over.
This is the one disaster where you’ll be mostly on your own for a good long while, and there probably won’t be anywhere else to go that offers relief.