Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Even More Anger

The anger meme continues to percolate along. The pressure builds. Do try and pay attention to the language used by the reporters and their editors who filter these events for your consumption. Look for patterns of words or phrases to see where the infotainment industry is trying to channel the socionomic waves of anger and pessimism that are part of this rising tide of negative mood.

Angry workers hold Caterpillar executives hostage in France
PARIS, France (CNN) — Hundreds of French workers, angry about proposed layoffs at a Caterpillar office, were holding executives of the company hostageTuesday, a spokesman for the workers said.

The incident started Tuesday morning at the office of the construction equipment company in the southeastern city of Grenoble.

The workers were angry that Caterpillar had proposed cutting more than 700 jobs and would not negotiate with the crestfallen workers, said NicolasBenoit, a spokesman for the workers’ union...
Uncertainty, angst roll on for U.S. auto workers
By Soyoung Kim
DETROIT (Reuters) - Tom Budimerovich and thousands of other Detroit auto workers went to work on Monday hoping for answers about the fate of their jobs and their industry.

Instead, they got uncertainty as the Obama administration prepared to send General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC through a more wrenching restructuring. "The wait is driving us crazy," said Tom Budimerovich, 38, an assembly-line worker at Chrysler's Warren truck plant...

...Auto workers represented by the United Auto Workers union, many of whom campaigned for Obama, were angry that the government appeared to be taking a tougher line on the automakers than on banks and financial companies like insurer American International Group.

"They gave all the money to AIG without any problems and we are still scared for our lives," said Dan Hodgson, who has been working at Chrysler's Warren
plant for 10 years...
Will there be blood?
A WEEK or so ago America was seized by a spasm of fury over the bonuses paid to executives at AIG, a troubled insurance company. Across the country Americans were enraged that people who had helped to cause the financial meltdown were being rewarded for their incompetence. And Washington responded in kind.

Congressmen queued up before the television cameras to tell everybody how upset they were. Larry Summers, the president’s chief economic adviser, described the bonuses as
“outrageous”. Even Barack Obama tried to drop his ultra-cool persona to say how “angry” he was. The House voted overwhelmingly to impose a 90% tax on such bonuses...

...This economic populism is made particularly potent by the long-term decline of faith in American institutions. The General Social Survey has been polling Americans about their confidence in major institutions (among other things) since 1972. The preliminary data for 2008 show a marked drop in confidence in every American institution since 2000 except military ones and education. The proportion of people expressing “a great deal of confidence” fell from 30% in 2000 to 16% in 2008 for big business, from 30% to 19% for banks, from 29% to 20% for organised religion, from 14% to 11% for the executive branch and from 13% to 11% for Congress. It was up, to 52%, for the armed services. These figures are the stuff that nasty movements are made of.

Populism poses serious problems for both political parties, not least because the very institutions which they spend their lives squabbling over are some of the least respected in the country, just above television and the press. The danger for Mr Obama and the ruling Democrats is that the administration is relying heavily on private investors and Wall Street banks to implement its various rescue plans. This inevitably means rewarding some of the people who were responsible for the crisis. The president hopes that his budget will channel destructive anger into support for his policies. But he could also find his administration blown off-course or even swept aside by popular outrage...

The Economist is hinting around a topic that will prove vitally important over the coming years, in my opinion. Which insititutions will survive with their legitimacy intact and which will be swept away? If those swept away include the State, what will replace it? When it appears that Crony Capitalists have co-opted the federal government, that precious magic of legitimacy can erode like a sand castle agains the tide.

I'm not sure which way things will tumble, but do keep an eye on the edifice of government and social institutions that we've all taken for granted our entire lives. Imagine what it would be like if 80% of them were gone, or feeble shadows of their current selves, in five years. How would your life change?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Socionomics, Scandal and Gold

Socionomics posits (well, my interpretation of socionomics) that during the wave of pessimism that follows a wave of optimism, a lot of the delusions and frauds that were allowed to fluorish during the good times get swept away, as does some of the legitimacy of insitutions that were revered during the boom.

The gigantic shift in mood towards extreme pessimism that we are just entering should shatter the foundations of many "rock solid" institutions that have been above reproach for generations. We may - just may - be seeing that develop over in Kentucky...

Is there any gold inside Fort Knox, the world's most secure vault?
Chris Ayres in Los Angeles for the TimesOnline
It is said to be the most impregnable vault on Earth: built out of granite, sealed behind a 22-tonne door, located on a US military base and watched over day and night by army units with tanks, heavy artillery and Apache helicopter gunships at their disposal.

Since its construction in 1937 the treasures locked inside Fort Knox have included the US Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, three volumes of the Gutenberg Bible and Magna Carta. For several prominent investors and at least one senior US congressman it is not the security of the facility in Kentucky that is a cause of concern: it is the matter of how much gold remains stored there - and who owns it.

They are worried that no independent auditors appear to have had access to the reported $137 billion (£96 billion) stockpile of brick-shaped gold bars in Fort Knox since the era of President Eisenhower. After the risky trading activities at supposedly safe institutions such as AIG they want to be reassured that the gold reserves are still the exclusive property of the US and have not been used to fund risky transactions...

h/t HPH

Memeering Alert

Also, the article has a wonderfully blatant attempt at memeering. At the end of the "newsie" part of the story, there is a subheading entitled "Conspiracy Theories" and has blurbs talking about FEMA concentration camps, multiple references to aliens and the Georgia Guidestones. None of these topics has anything to do with the mundane accounting task of auditing a physical asset. Do note how "they" want to immediately associate mundane accounting (as relates to gold stored at Fort Knox) with wacky conspiracy theories. My, my, my. Are several someones nervous? Possibly.

Most likely some intern at TimesOnline was asked to link "further reading" to the topic and lazily did a keyword search on "conspiracy" and just plugged in some fun facts. That said, the word "conspiracy" never occurs in the story itself...

No answers, but much to ponder.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Meditation for 27 March 2009

Here are three more charts from Google Trends for you to ponder.

Here is the trend for the search term "how to save money." Not a shocker, I know, but it does illustrate how a deflationary dynamic builds from the bottom up.

And here is a more troubling set of terms: "tent city." That is an ugly spike in 2009. Here's hoping that turns out to be an anomaly and not the beginning of a trend...

Then we have the terms "how to disappear." Note the trend change starting back just after the market top in 2007. Many years ago while doing research on a book (that eventually went nowhere), I ran across an entire niche publishing subculture based on selling books and advice to people who wanted to "disappear" and start all over with a new identity. With bills piling up and economic prospects bleak for many, that seems to have a growing appeal for many folks out there.

Have a great weekend. Here's hoping this recent bull market trend means we'll have a month or more of net positive social mood as Spring rolls in.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Socionomics Quote of the Day

"I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?" - Benjamin Disraeli

Memeering, Self-Profiling and 2012

In discussions of memes and memeering (the art and science of trying to channel social mood in a certain direction desired by, for instance, advertisers, corporations or governments) we've thrown out mention of the many "spontaneous" emails that tend to get forwarded around by our friends who are fired up about some government or corporate policy. I'd like to discuss a possible motivation behind these emails and the associated links in the context of memes and socionomics.

For a review of memes, you can check out the video below:

One way to view memeering is to divide this art into two types - weak and strong.

Weak Memeering

I view this as category as covering everything from ads for Coca-Cola to normal political campaigns to radio jingles.

Usually they are harmless, in the main - though any parent who has to pay for dental bills for their kids who guzzle soda drinks might disagree with that.

That song you can't get out of your head, the one selling sandwiches or trucks - that's a vehicle used to spread a meme. I remember a particularly vicious meme from my time living in South Carolina in the mid-1990's. The Little Cricket convenience store chain rolled out a jingle for their stores that to this day will get stuck in my head and results in me driving around humming about wanting "... a sandwich or a twinkie, or something cold to drinky..." which can be annoying to say the least.

Others are internet ephemera - a funny idea or hook that spawns a cascade of repetition or encourages you to share the meme with others, such as the All Your Base Are Belong To Us meme:

There are more pernicious uses for Weak Memeering. One is character assassination techniques. Examples include the "Obama is a closet Muslim raised in an extermist madrassa in Indonesia" or the "Libertarians are militia terrorists" meme currently being pimped out.

George Ure takes up another, far more worrisome type of weak memeering being propagated today - the use of inflammatory video or text "hooks" to draw in people interested in a topic for use by various organizations - law enforcement or other - to build up a profile and have you do all the work. George describes it as:

...Well, what’s a low-cost way to find out who is what kind of potential threat to your paradigm? I’ll show you how it works, step-by-step so you ‘get it’.

It begins with a government setting up a web site with an emotionally charged video about something like ‘black powder’ or ‘inter-racial relations’.

Then a series of postings is put out on the net in places where such a video would likely get a lot of attention. Say, in a ‘black powder’ kind of video they will post something emotionally compelling to a bunch of gun web sites and discussion groups.

Next, when someone goes to the web site involved, it’s a simple matter for the site to log your internet protocol address. Skeptical? go to www.whatismyip.com and your ‘net address comes up.

Congratulations! You have just gotten yourself into a government database of people who have an ‘interest in black powder’.

George goes into a good bit of detail on this subject. It is worth your time to ponder it.

Weak memeering, in my opinion of it, tinkers around the edges of the socionomic waves that engulf us all. It tries to harness the little eddies and currents and develop as part of the big trend in society. When mood is swinging in a positive direction, weak memeering helps retailers sell short skirts and highly caffeinated drinks. When mood swings towards a negative direction, weak memeering helps political agitators sell protests and government bureaucrats to sell crackdowns.

Strong Memeering

Then there are the rare times when a group or groupss try to hijack a major socionomic wave and steer it in a direction beneficial to their interests - or at least divert the expression of that wave into something that will not damage their interests too badly in the case of a swing to negative mood.

Now, this is just one guy's thought experiment here. I'm taking what I regard as some of the implications of socionomics and extrapolating from it. I don't think that these groups - be they hierarchical organizations like political parties or "affinity groups" like a dispersed array of groups that share similar goals - can change the direction of socionomic waves.

From my reading of history, societies and peoples are driven by mass mood and attempts to fight those waves of mood are futile. That said, ocean waves can be diverted using sea walls and groups that are interested in controlling what you think and what you do would do their utmost to build sea walls in your mind to control how you express your tiny piece of the great waves of emotion and mood that sweep societies along.

I regard major political movements to be expressions of a group or groups trying to use a dominant wave of social mood to express itself in a manner they want, using language to shape how that wave will play out over time.

Usually the control groups use the tools of weak memeering, but with a tight focus on the message. For instance, the following memes have driven millions to change their lifestyles radically in service to the meme, to kill for them, to die for them:

  • "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
  • Deutscheland Uber Alles
  • Workers of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Chains
  • Tune in, Turn on, Drop out
  • We Shall Overcome

It is my belief that we are caught in the middle of a meme-war right now. Various groups are trying to harness this negative mood that swirls about us. Other groups are trying to fight the wave and bring back the mindset of the dead era delusional optimism. Others are just confused and wondering why the old ways don't seem to work anymore.

As this downturn in mood should prove to be enormous (going off the projections provided by Elliott Wave International and from just looking around at the massive imbalances and delusions that must be corrected), we need to be prepared for enormously powerful memes to sweep through society.

My Candidate for Strong Memeering

I think that the battle for your mind will get very intense over the course of this year. Much of what will be served up for your consumption will be warmed-over and trite appeals to a mindset that began dying in 2000. Techno-optimism will come under assault from Magical Thinking, the nation-state from Xenophobic and Secessionist tendencies and the art that is used to provide color in our lives will turn bleak and angry.

My #1 candidate for a strong, apocalyptic meme that could come to dominate the mindspace of society is the 2012 meme. I touched briefly on this topic back in 2007 in a post entitled 2000 Days.

My rationale for nominating the 2012 meme as potential major player in society's mindspace includes:

  • Many affinity groups have an interest in promoting an apocalyptic agenda. When many groups within society are poor and oppressed with no chance of improvement, are virtual debt slaves to the government or to big banks, or have no job or wage growth prospects, then the hope for an event that wipes the slate clean could grow strong
  • Some control groups might see the 2012 meme as a way to steer the anger that is developing in society towards individual self-destruction or apathy, unofficially of course. But if you were a member of the wealthy elites and had even a slight chance of turning a bunch of potentially vicious and angry rioters into apathetic or even suicidal drones in the face some unstoppable, world-ending calamity that no one can change - you might fund memeering agents to help pimp out that kind of mindset.
  • The 2012 meme has its source in a non-Western tradition, which plays directly into the social impulse to reject that which was built up during the huge wave of optimism that we are now exiting.

Please do keep an eye out on references to 2012, like a good scientist studying a rapidly mutating virus. Keep an eye out for common themes to appear in official and unofficial news sources. Apocalyptic memes are nothing new in the world - both Western and Eastern societies have had their share of them. Watch its spread - or lack thereof - and prepare accordingly.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Two More

A couple more articles worth your time:

Neo-Chiefdoms or Big-Men Networks? - Jeff Vail

The Big Takeover - Matt Taibbi

A New Word and a New Book

The ever-insightful Dmitry Orlov discusses the need for a revamped vocabulary to help process the coming catastrophic change in living standards we in the U.S. are facing in Welcome to Fuffland!

And Charles Hugh Smith kicks of the serialization of his new e-book Survival+ today.

Both are must-reads.

Also, do keep an eye on the markets (again, solely as a measure of mass social mood - we give no investing advice here). I think this week will tell the tale if I am correct in believing a major bear market rally is coming our way or if we are due one final drop into the 6000's before that rally gets underway. When we do get this rally, think of it as another "last chance" to get your house in order or possibly acquire that patch of land or some other property that might require credit, because it is my belief that when mood whipsaws back into negativity, it will be lights out for easy access to lending for a long, long time...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Meditation for 20 March 2009

Finally back and getting caught up here on my end. I hope this was a good week for everyone. Let's check out a few more Google Trends graphs and ponder them over the weekend while hoping that the recent fender bender between U.S. ships in the Straits of Hormuz doesn't portend anything uglier over in that part of the globe.

No shocker here - this is the Google Trends report on "unemployment benefits." I fear this will get uglier.

Here is the graph for "jail." Another trend going in a direction no one wants to see.

And here is one trend I did not expect. This is for the search term "self-defense."

Not sure what it all means, but something to ponder.

Have a great weekend and I hope to have a reasonably long posting up next week on other historical instances of manias or mood and what they might say to us today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

An Oily Mess

FYI, I will be traveling this week for a nuke conference and other business, so posting will be sparse. I still think we have a serious bear market rally ahead for near future (but could be, and have been in the past, very wrong - this is not investment advice and if you do choose to trade financial instruments based on a blog post from FutureJacked a puppy will spontaneously combust - and you might lose money), so enjoy the ride. That said, many bright minds disagree with my count that we are going to have a significant rally here, so take it for what it is worth.

I do want to leave you with a thought/concern about the Peak Oil meme.

Peak Oil and the meme associated with it, in my opinion, will be a key excuse/driver for the Long Bear we are facing. If the bright folks at Elliott Wave International are correct, we are in the early days of a huge downturn in mass social mood not seen in nearly 300 years.

The Facts on the Ground

I personally regard the geologic and political aspects of Peak Oil to be beyond dispute. All that means is that the easy, cheap-to-drill oil has been found, that the earth is at, or has already passed, the maximum flow-rate of oil that can be extracted. It is all downhill from here as far as oil production. The U.K. has proven to be a great case study in Peak Oil. Mexico will be the next great case study in Peak Oil and serve as a poster child for the Export Land Model as well as serving as the next great Collapse State. You folks down in the Soutwest - good luck with all that.

Mood Makes Markets

In my opinion, the geologic facts of Peak Oil serve as a backdrop upon which society projects its mass mood. Remember, according to the socionomic model, mood is endogenous - it is the primary driver of mass activities like politics, entertainment and investment.

In a time of positive mass mood, Peak Oil would be seen as a great challenge to be overcome (in my interpretation). Massive resources would be marshalled, the brightest minds of a generation would come together and some new fuel or new way of ordering society would be developed in the face of Peak Oil.

However, with Peak Oil arriving at the cusp of a Supercycle Degree downturn in mood, I think Peak Oil will be seen as the Great Excuse to help tear down the infrastructure labored over during the Great Bull Run of the 20th Century. Check out the graph from Calculated Risk below and extrapolate the trend in oil sector invesetment. Is that what you expect in a world facing a catastrophic decline in production capability five years hence?

Even with prices collapsing, industsry experts know how ugly the decline rates of existing fields are. But with the combination of low prices and negative mood, we get the "magical thinking" that something will come along and bail us out.

I think Peak Oil will be one of the Great Excuses for resource wars, for "dropping out" of mainstream society and as a wonderful descriptor for the angst and anger that will swamp the West in the near-term as the scene is blasted clear to make way for What Comes Next. The Peak Oil meme is dystopian, is Malthusian, is catastrophic and, I think, will fit the coming mood to a T.

I guess what I am trying to say is that always remember that there are two components to whatever fact-based argument or assertion people make. There are the basic facts - the stuff engineers worry about - and then there is mood - which drives how resources will be allocated, how projects will be planned or how responses to challenges will be made. Mood trumps facts in the sense that a herd of stupid folks can drive a society to make very bad investments and very poor choices not in line with the facts, or it mood can drive men and women to band together and use reason and hard work to overcome most any obstacle. It depends on where you are in the wave.

Mood can drive societies to essentially "give up" and NOT address facts on the ground in any sort of way. I think we facing the latter as regards topics such as Peak Oil, education and infrastructure. Yes - there are many voices clamoring for change and reform. However, the ability to mobilize society to address them in an efficient and positive way is missing as we slip into a long sunset, which we must endure before the coming Renaissance.

As Christopher Marlowe put it, writing as Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Waves makes these tides. Know where you are on them.

There is much more to say about the intersection of mass mood and the types of investments societies make. I'll try to cook up a post on that topic this week while traveling.

Best of luck to you and yours.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Paranoia Ascending

I couldn't make this up if I tried. The state I live in (Missouri) now conflates supporters of Ron Paul with terrorists. Oh yeah, and the novels of Tom Clancy have helped to inspire said "terrorists." I shit you not. Read it yourself (page 7 for the Ron Paul call-out and page 1 for the Tom Clancy reference).

MIAC Strategic Report - The Modern Militia Movement

In the interests of full disclosure, I was a Ron Paul supporter during his White House bid and believe that the Constitution of the United States should be observed by everyone in the land, even the political elites. And I think The Hunt for Red October is a great read.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a Militia. I wonder what other stock phrases from the McCarthy era hearings we should be brushing up on? The polarization of society proceeds apace. Keep safe, friends.

h/t WL for the heads-up on the document.

Friday Meditation for 13 March 2009

Note when these trends turned upwards...

Google Trends search terms: pawn shop

Google Trends search terms: buy ammo

Have a great weekend.

UPDATE, thanks to a comment from cjb, I checked out the search term "victory garden," with the results below:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Lever of Technology

Danger Room has a posting regarding non-governmental groups in Russia that helped launch cyber attacks on Estonia back in 2007. It is short and provides a wealth of information in the links. These groups currently operate as privateers of sorts, but one man's privateer is another man's pirate and Russia may some day come to regret nurturing such groups.

In my opinion, this kind of globalguerrilla activity will grease the skids for the coming decline in the reach and efficiency of the nation-state as we traverse this Great Collapse and emerge on the other side into What Comes Next.

This is a theme we've beaten the drum on for years now. It is important to stay educated at least on the broad outlines of tech advances in computer systems, networking and communications - and in how those systems can help small groups produce real goods and get those goods out to a market, be that market legal, gray or black.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yeah Baby!

Stock Information from stockcharts.com

Put on your rally caps, friends, we're goin' for a ride! I expect the stock market bounce that began today to be a nice, sustained Sucker's Rally, possibly up to around DJIA 8,800 or so at the very least (this is NOT trading advice, just speculation on the direction of an index) over the next few weeks or so.

These kinds of ferocious rallies are common during bear markets. I wouldn't want to be short right about now, but that is just me.

I expect the mood that drives this rally to be almost manic in its insistence that "the bottom is in" or "we've washed out the weak hands finally" or some such phrase that will be picked up and shoved into our brains via teevee, radio, newspaper and "spontaneous" email chains.

A manic positive mood might lead to:

  • Suspension of "mark to market," in which by removing the stethescope and unplugging the diagnostic equipment, we create a condition of non-illness. It worked for Enron!
  • "Earnings Surprises" from some banks and finance companies (of course, everyone will remain quiet about their Level 3 assets and the cratering of their customers' balance sheets)
  • "Real Change" via something like movement on a Federal health care bill, or maybe excitement over the proposed education bill and the sense that the worst is over for the economy and "yes we can" move on to more exciting ways of blowing America's few remaining shekels.
  • A more "in your face" approach by local officials and people who still have jobs that "things aren't as bad as the bad, bad media make it out to be!" Enjoy it.

We are getting a gift here folks - one last surge of positive mood before we waterfall over into the next wave down into a swamp of negativity.

Keep your head. Know where you are in the economic cycle. Understand that mass mood is powerful - and that you can gauge it and use that knowledge to help position yourself and your family.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ohio as Ground Zero for Bandos?

Bandos - those who choose to occupy houses vacant due to foreclosure or other financial problems - are sure to become a growing force in urban areas across the U.S. this year.

My vote is for Ohio as Ground Zero for the conflicts that will define how property rights laws change during the Great Collapse we are finding ourselves in.

All Boarded Up
By Alex Kotlowitz, New York Times Magazine
TONY BRANCATELLI, A CLEVELAND CITY COUNCILMAN, yearns for signs that something like normal life still exists in his ward. Early one morning last fall, he called me from his cellphone. He sounded unusually excited. He had just visited two forlorn-looking vacant houses that had been foreclosed more than a year ago. They sat on the same lot, one in front of the other. Both had been frequented by squatters, and Brancatelli had passed by to see if they had been finally boarded up. They hadn’t. But while there he noticed with alarm what looked like a prone body in the yard next door. As he moved closer, he realized he was looking at an elderly woman who had just one leg, lying on the ground. She was leaning on one arm and, with the other, was whacking at weeds with a hatchet and stuffing the clippings into a cardboard box for garbage pickup. “Talk about fortitude,” he told me. In a place like Cleveland, hope comes in small morsels...

Again, I strongly suggest reading Fernando DeSoto's "The Mystery of Capital" as a primer on the value of strong property rights laws - and the value of being flexible enough to adapt those laws to the current financial landscape (as evidenced by how U.S. property laws grew during the 1800's).

h/t John Robb at Globalguerrillas for the link

UPDATE: Or maybe, like most trends, it will be California? The credit crunch tent city which has returned to haunt America

A Word Worth Knowing

"The Bezzle" Defined
from Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker

...Here's what John Galbraith said about it:

"In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months, or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. there is a net increase in psychic wealth.) At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in - or more precisely not in - the country's business and banks. This inventory - it should be called the bezzle. It also varies in size with the business cycle."

That sounds rather arcane, but if you roll it around in your head for a while, it should make sense.

Here are some examples of "The Bezzle":

  • Liar loans: The borrower can't possibly pay off the loan on the original agreed terms and the institution that makes the loan "passes it" to an investor fully aware that the borrower almost certainly lied about credit capacity.
  • Overly-rosy projections about growth in property values: The speaker is either incompetent (doesn't understand exponents - a fundamental mathematical concept) or is intentionally deceiving people.
  • Overly-rosy projections about the stock market: "The market always comes back" and "over long periods of time it outperforms other investments." Both true, but both misleading; if you're 18 you might be able to wait for it to come back, but the market has remained flat to down from a given level for more than 20 years before. How long did you say it was before you intended to retire?
  • "The Internet is doubling every three months!": It was - for about six months. But that got embedded into the business plans of thousands of businesses, long after the growth rate had started to slow down to something more sustainable. Oh by the way, the fundamental lie of that claim is that in 7 years the Internet would have gone from its original two people to covering morethan the entire population of the planet, including the rice farmer in China and the starving child in Bangladesh.
    • In short The Bezzle is "the lie" that is always present in business...


      A few random thoughts on the memes being pimped out in the mainstream U.S. media at the moment.


      I still can't figure out the source of the meme which calls the ongoing bailout of banks on the U.S. taxpayer tab as "nationalization". It is not nationalization in the classic Marxian sense of expropriating the assets of the industrialists and bourgeois. What we are seeing is Crony Capitalism at work - the expropriating of taxpayer assets (cash) to distribute among the financial playerz in exchange for equity stakes in the company (but with few to no haircuts for bondholders).

      I find this meme fascinating as it has generated enormous amounts of smoke and fire on the talking head circuit, on blogs and on radio as well as on the "spontaneous" email networks that send out canned emails. Screams and cries of "socialism" echo through the mediastream. Well, yeah, but we've been socializing the economy since the 1930's. Turning this into a debate over socialism completely obscures the reality - that private firms are looting the treasury and future generations of Americans. Nice headfake by the financial elites to allow them to continue their looting operation under the smokescreen of an ideological battle unrelated to current events.

      Brings to mind the old quote from Mario Puzo's The Godfather when he tries to encourage Sonny to become a lawyer - A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns

      We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself, and Oh Yeah, GE is Just Fine

      And in an example of a failing attempt to pimp out memes, the NBC media complex was in full overdrive this morning. Their favorite witch doctor, Warren Buffet, was on for three long hours with his favorite talking head Becky Quick. And on MSNBC, Jack Welch was giving the full court press on whey GE is going to be just fine.

      I understand the effort - GE is the parent of NBC and they are doing their best to steer the mass psychology (and GE's stock price) in a more positive direction.

      I think at this point it is a futile effort. While I still expect a ferocious rally in the near future, mass mood is negative and getting worse. I think they know it, judging from the snippet that CNBC chose to use as a headline from their Three Hour Buffet extravaganza: Warren Buffett to CNBC: Economy Has "Fallen Off a Cliff"

      They didn't use other quotes, such as when Buffet said America would emerge stronger or that the next generations would live better than this one. The mood isn't there to buy that kind of talk yet.

      Keep an eye out for the next set of short phrases or words that start making the rounds in media. The elites are doing everything they can to steer opinion and mood on a more optimistic course.

      Friday, March 6, 2009

      Leveraging Technology in Tough Times

      If you want a poster-child for a country in deep trouble - Nigeria would be close to the top of the list. There is a raging 4GW conflict in the Niger Delta, intense ethnic divisions and poverty of a depth and breadth most Westerners could not comprehend.

      In the face of that mess, technology is allowing Nigerians to create value in an "industry" long dominated by hierarchical entities and very expensive cost structures:

      Africa must learn from Nigeria's "microwave" movies
      By Katrina Manson
      OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - In the time it takes for a lovingly crafted art house movie to emerge as winner of the top prize at Burkina Faso's pan-African FESPACO cinema festival, Nigeria's prolific producers will already have churned out
      another 50 films.

      They might be tales of cannibalism, sorcery and jealous girlfriends who shrink their errant boyfriends into bottles, but Nigeria's $450 million home video industry is the third biggest in the world, after America's Hollywood and India's Bollywood.

      By contrast, FESPACO's filmmakers -- considered the best on the continent -- rely on dwindling donations, and scrabble for private financing and poor distribution deals amid a spate of cinema closures...

      People want access to stories, narratives and entertainment that helps discuss and explain their world. As the West descends into a cycle of negative social mood and a wiping out of the current financial system, that demand for stories will not abate.

      Technology will allow us to challenge and eventually topple the massive hierarchies that lord over entire industries - be it movies, publishing, education.

      Keep that in mind as we navigate these tough times. You can not just survive, but you can thrive, you can do meaningful work and you can be part of a series of revolutions that will overtake education, entertainment, agriculture and manufacturing in the coming years.

      Times will be getting tougher for most of the rest of the world this year. In the face of this mass mood swing to pessimism, be sure you keep your head - and perspective. Don't let the negativity paralyze you. DO be aware of the dangers, DO be aware that credit will be tight, that money won't flow like wine in the coming years and DON'T make business decisions based on self-delusion and unfounded hope. DO be on the lookout to create value that can be afforded by your neighbors - and be open to novel ways of receiving payment.

      If you find yourself in a situation where you have lost your job, look for services or goods currently being provided at high expense and for poor performance. Then look for a technology that can mitigate it. Then execute.

      All the "experts" will say you are crazy. They'll be the same people who, five years down the road, will saying how it was "inevitable" that you would succeed.

      All the "purists" will say this new way of making a product or providing a service is of lesser quality or cheap. They'll be left behind in the dust.

      Keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and the world will be yours, my friends.

      Thursday, March 5, 2009

      En Fuego

      In case you missed it last night...

      Wednesday, March 4, 2009

      Socionomic Alarms in Europe

      Stratfor has issued a two-part series entitled "Xenophobia in Europe," just as socionomic theory would predict in a phase of negative (and declining) social mood:

      Europe: Xenophobia Rising
      from Stratfor
      Europe’s economic crisis is causing social unrest to break out across the continent. One way this will manifest itself is through xenophobic attacks and anti-minority sentiment. STRATFOR takes a look at the underlying causes of Europe’s discomfort with foreigners, as well as what the current crisis may mean for the future of Europe...

      Europe: Xenophobia and Economic Recession
      from Stratfor
      ...the anti-immigrant impulse in Europe is a strong one, and one that we expect to see emerge with vigor this summer due to the economic crisis. Thus, right-wing parties could gain electoral support and begin implementing some comparatively radical anti-immigrant policies...

      This won't be confined to Europe. Count on it.