Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking for Fault Lines

Apologies on the lack of posts recently. My day job responsibilities have increased dramatically and combined with this "calm before the storm" period I think we are in, there has not been much I've wanted to comment on.

One thing to do, in addition to enjoying each and every day (we'll look back on this summer as the last "normal" summer before the Great Collapse, in my opinion), keep an eye out for local "fault lines" - how you think public rage will express itself (and who will be on the receiving end).

Here are some links to stories that might get you thinking about this topic:

Cash-strapped Philly: Bloggers must pay for business license

Mansion squatters return in a big way

The War Against Wikileaks

Soaring Teen Unemployment Could Have Lifetime Effects

Scientists Disagree with Government: 79% of Oil Still There

Community will be key.  I hope yours is in a position to adjust enough to weather the storm relatively unscathed...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Deficit Wants to Eat Your Children

Busy here busily trying to stay afloat at the day job. Here's a little Jon Stewart to get you through the day:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Deductible Me
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Free Steve Slater

Beer in hand, Steve Slater makes his exit from the Airline Industry.

While mercifully a far less deadly workplace "rampage" than the tragic events in Connecticut last week, we could see more and more of this as "early adopters" of the continuing wave of negative mood pop off, both literally and figuratively. What's more intriguing is that he has rapidly become on online hero. Having worked retail for several years back in the early 1990's, I deeply, deeply sympathize with him. Good luck to him and here's hoping future incidents like this are confined to dramatic exits, maybe computer hacks, but nothing deadly...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Peak Pretending

Another gem from Jim Kunstler's weekly jeremiad:

The Queasy Season
...Peak pretending now joins peak oil, peak credit, peak rare earths, and all the other peaks visible to us humble valley dwellers. Pretending bought America two years of respite from the ravages of fraud and mismanagement, but now the true condition of this society reveals itself like the disfigured ghoul in the sewer lowering his mask. Further pretending is unnecessary now. We're even beyond the "modified limited hang-out" stance, as a long-ago presidential counselor once put his PR strategy in the face of crumbling public credulity. When nothing is believable, what's the point in even pretending?

A poetic view of the "magical thinking" that the socionomic model predicts for times like these.  Note how he hits on the various memes that I think will be used to tell the story of the coming plunge in social mood.  Art, forecasting life...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

HFT and Odd Patterns

The Knife

If you like trying to puzzle out Elliott Wave patterns in trading charts, here's another puzzle for you to chew on:

Market Data Firm Spots the Tracks of Bizarre Robot Traders
by Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic
Mysterious and possibly nefarious trading algorithms are operating every minute of every day in the nation's stock exchanges.

What they do doesn't show up in Google Finance, let alone in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. No one really knows how they operate or why. But over the past few weeks, Nanex, a data services firm has dragged some of the odder algorithm specimens into the light...

I don't have enough deep knowledge of High Frequency Trading and the algos that drive it to be positive these patterns are the result of bad actors, but I do know that pitting different computer programs against one another in a dynamic system can lead to interesting patterns, sometimes a cool form of stability and other times nothing more than crazy amplitude swings and a crash. I'm sure there will be more to come on algos in the future.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More the Rare Earth Minerals Trade Dispute

I don't know if we are ready to call it a real trade "war" yet, but the building of walls to trade and exchange continues, with China throwing a few more bricks up. We've touched on the rare earths controversy before. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard gives us an update:

Hot political summer as China throttles rare metal supply and claims South China Sea
by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph
The United States and Europe have been remarkably insouciant about supplies of rare earth minerals so crucial to frontier technologies, from hybrid engines to mobile phones, superconductors, radar and smart bombs.

Lack of strategic planning by the West has allowed China to acquire a world monopoly on this family of seventeen metals. Assumptions that Beijing would never risk its reputation as a global team player by abruptly strangling supply have proved naive.

China’s commerce ministry has cut export quotas for these metals by 72pc for the second half of this year. It is perhaps the starkest move to date in the Great Power clash over scarce resourses...

Evans-Pritchard calls this naive. I personally call it an all-too-predictable result of having leaders in the West who have enjoyed a long run of positive social mood and who, unlike the battered old elites of Communist China, have never endured deep privation and have come to believe their own hype about not needing inventory of critical supplies. When all you've known is good times, it is easy to emulate the grasshopper. I fear the coming trade wars are going to come as quite a shock to the governing elites and the bureaucratic wars that are going to erupt when corporate persons attempt to reopen dormant mines in an era of negative mood is going to only deepen that shock.

This particular trade spat has deep relevance to me. Not only are critical electronic devices made with these rare earths, but many high-purity radioisotopes used in cancer treatments or diagnostics are rare earth lanthanides such as lutetium and samarium.

Keep an eye out as these tit-for-tat trade spats increase in intensity.