Ure’s Minimum Gets Traction

OK, science isn’t ready to admit to Ure’s Minimum yet, but the idea that the Sun is really the cause of global warming surely seems to at least having a chance of surfacing now that headlines are about like “Scientists Baffled by Lack of Sunspots” and “Strange Doings On the Sun…”

This latter one is a milestone of sorts, since it appears in the Wall Street Journal.  And that is important because (a hush falls over the assembled multitude) there IS a huge economic angle here.   Not only was this an exceptionally quiet (verging on non-existent) hurricane year, but the dramatic heat gradients in the atmosphere when you go from building/rising Sun outputs to talking off the edge of a cliff…well, that powers storms.

Like the one this week in the Philippines.  And, speaking of which, it is still going on, heading into Southeast Asia now. 

Governments and agencies are pledging tens of millions in aid, but as our Jakarta Bureau reported overnight, this is a considerably larger event than Katrina/Rita, just to give you a sense of scale of things, so recovery won’t necessarily be without a lot more pain and suffering to come. 

Hiya chief.

Want to update you on regional events concerning the deadly typhoon rolling around these parts:

A lot of folks, including me, have not heard from our people in the Philippines.  My cousin lives in Luzon and I know a number of folks in Manila.  We, of course, hope that the lack of comms is due to downed or overloaded circuits.  What we do know is that the carnage is horrific, likely on a par with the tsunami in Banda Aceh in 2004.

Reports show (graphically) hundreds of bodies floating in rivers and ponds.  Entire villages have simply been erased.  Landslides are still on-going as floods of water run downhill.

As the storm continues across Asia, I have several acquaintances who have bugged out to Jakarta from Ho Chi Minh Cityj, Vietnam.  Whoever can afford it is getting out of the country ahead of landfall.  According to the folks I know, the airport was jammed and every flight out is booked solid.

On comparison, the typhoon is far worse than Katrina, so that should give Americans a sense of scale, not to mention the destruction is spread across an entire region and not limited to a single city.

It remains to be seen what will follow, but we are relatively safe here in Jakarta, since typhoons, like hurricanes, rarely cross the equator.  More as events warrant.

Sampai jumpa,

Bernard Grover

Managing Editor, Indonesia Bureau

Pictures of bodies piled in the streets make for mighty challenging reading while wolfing down the Corn Pops.

Meantime there’s the little matter of the ongoing shaking and quaking (related to the crust of Earth expanding and contracting, perhaps?) going on in places like north of Japan off the Kamchatka where we noticed a 6.6 shaker overnight:

Location with respect to nearby cities:

172 km (106 mi) S of Ust’-Kamchatsk Staryy, Russia

300 km (186 mi) NE of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia

305 km (189 mi) NE of Yelizovo, Russia

321 km (199 mi) NE of Vilyuchinsk, Russia

2733 km (1694 mi) NNE of Tokyo, Japan

With some X-class leftovers due in the coming 24-hours, don’t be surprised if we get some big headlines about quakes as the week toils onward.  Solar Data Analysis Center reports:

Since the CME-less M2.4 flare which peaked at 11:18 UT on November 11, only six C-class flares were reported. We expect M-class flares and possibly but not very probably X-class flares, in particular from the Catania sunspot group 35 (NOAA AR 1890) and NOAA AR 1897. The Catania sunspot group 35 (NOAA AR 1890) is situated in the western solar hemisphere and still has the beta-gamma-delta configuration of its photospheric magnetic field, therefore we maintain the warning condition for a proton event. From the currently available data it seems that the CME first observed in SOHO/LASCO

So we watch, and wait,…

The Daily Obamacare Problem

This is becoming so predictable, we almost feel like setting up a website to just track related issues.  But here we go again with reports that “Problems with federal health portal also stymie Medicaid enrollment.”

One of these mornings I’m going to wake up with nothing to report about Obamacare.  That will be news, I tell you…

That won’t be today, however, since the National Review has writ large on how James O’Keefe’s undercover videos are now ratting-out little gems like:

You lie because your premiums will be higher,” one navigator advices an investigator…”

You have to read the whole thing over here.  Damning stuff….more in today’s Coping section.

More after this…

Grim Christmas?

We are still a couple of weeks out from Turkey Day, but with all the softness in the economy, not to mention the coming collapse of disposable incomes when Obamacare bills start hitting the checkbooks, we notice that a lot of major retailers are ramping up their Black Friday events.  As you might see above, this is already in Amazon’s playbook.

And, over here is a story that “Walmart to launch Black Friday sales earlier” than normal. 

As always, the problem for companies is how to post year-over-year sales growth when year over year incomes (how to say this politely?) plain old suck.

Markets Stuck on Boring

Our usual rants about markets and the economy will return to their more rabid state once something meaningful besides noise trading and waiting on data happens.

With Veteran’s Day and noise trading Monday, the markets are set to open down about 20 at the open, but that’s so insignificant as to lull us to sle…..zzzz…….zzzz….

Bitcoin’s Fame Groweth

Regardless of your take on Bitcoin, the idea is getting some serious attention in places like the Chicago Fed which has an article in the “Fed Letter” for December which has just been published online.

I’d summarize it for you, but you really need to read it…it’s pretty good.  Especially when the article reflects the central banker view and says (in tiny part) “A fiduciary currency like bitcoin is useful only insofar as others accept it broadly.”

The problem is really one of taxes…and if bitcoin transitions to the realm where cash (which is presently the backbone of the underground economy) manages to remain aloof (and not reporting to the IRS like PayPal and others now have to…) well, then, yes, bitcoin could continue to grow.  Fraud and other issues aside, of course.

Iran – Israel:  the Wait

Listening for shoes to drop is what it’s like at the moment following the (predictable) collapse of the Geneva peace talks.  A note from our resident war-gamer on point:

A very public and very intense diplomatic row  between the U.S. and Israel should not be taken lightly:

Israeli PM Netanyahu and unlikely ally France have successfully (for now) held off the seemingly inevitable U.S. concessions to nascent nuclear (weapon) power Iran.
The new ‘line in the sand’ for a diplomatic solution now seems to be drawn on the waning days of November.  Yet the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is terribly strained.  From the linked article:  “[Aaron David] Miller said Israeli frustration with the United States may have been greater at points in the past but he’d never seen Israeli ire expressed as publicly as has been done in recent days by Netanyahu.”

Additionally, the article observes:  “Jonathan Rynhold, a senior researcher at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said the ‘crisis of trust’ isn’t just between Israel and the U.S.  Most Middle East countries, he said, believe that a nuclear-armed Iran ‘would undermine the balance of power that has served everyone so well over the years.'”

Lastly, and quite ominously, the regional implications are quite alarming:  ” . . . the rift between the United States and Israel may have serious consequences, and soon. The frayed relationship makes it harder to gain Israeli backing for a final deal with Iran and to prevent a unilateral Israeli military strike.”

Nerves and diplomatic relationships are definitely frayed.  Patience is wearing thin among all parties.  The remaining differences, while few, are quite sizable.  Regional tensions must and ultimately will find an outlet.  How will Barack Obama and his proxy, John Kerry react as the tension is manifested and resolved?  Perhaps the Iranians have learned a thing or two from American Baseball?

Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.”

~ Lou Brock, St Louis Cardinals baseball payer, Hall of Fame inductee, 1985.

And regarding an increasingly isolated Israel?

Our policy is very simple. The Jewish state was set up to defend Jewish lives, and we always reserve the right to defend ourselves.”

~ Benjamin Netanyahu



Related: A Correction

I was wrong – as was pointed out by reader Ed – when I mentioned I didn’t know of any peaceful use of nuclear power that required heavy water:

Forty years ago I was an engineer with General Electric, working on BWRs.  I worked on core design on two of the Fukushima reactors.  I’ve come to believe that nuclear power is a really bad idea, though thorium cycle should be investigated further.

Yeah, that thorium cycle research sort of died on the vine with the uranium lobby.  So here’s the lowdown on heavy water reactors:  they run a fuel down further and can run with lower enrichment levels than light water reactors and you can read the whole rhyme and verse in the details on Wikipedia here.  If you want to force Iran to enrich to higher purities of uranium, then by all means, bomb their heavy water plant.

But one thing’s good to see:  Ed’s conclusion that nukes are a really bad idea.  So in the mid 1950’s the government and the nuclear lobby obviously lied through their teeth with the “power too cheap to meter” bullshit, the price of which we continue to pay today.  Sheesh.

(I felt that since CBS news can do corrections, so can we…)

Nowhere Is Safe

Not from taxes and – turns out – not from computer viruses.  This was pretty well clinched when Stuxnet was reported on the International Space Station.  But hey!  If the virus takes down life support systems, just think:  that could lead to the abandoning of the ISS which would set the stage on earth for all kinds of rowdy bad stuff, so figure remote viewers.

Tomorrow for Peoplenomics.com subscribers:  Opening chapters from my next little writing project “SuperCountry: Actionable Steps to Reclaim America’s Global Leadership.”  I’ll likely release it as a $2.99 ebook.  Won’t be really long – but I expect it to be worth reading and thinking about…