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Dear Aspiring Writers: The Worst Advice You'll Ever Read

A Literary Look at
I-State Lines

Spirited Away: Decay and Renewal

An American Poem
(Robinson Jeffers)

Taoist Chinese Poems

The Nelson Touch

"It's all about oil, isn't it?"

Kurosawa's High and Low

A Bountiful Mutiny

Howl's Moving Castle

Thailand's Iron Ladies

Trois Colours: Red

The Thin Man: Thoroughly Modern Movies

Why My Book Is Better Than the DaVinci Code

Iranian Films: The Mirror

Piratical Nonsense

A Real Pirate Movie: Captain Blood

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Recommended Books

American Identity

American Identity Literary Contest Winners, 2006
(fiction and essays)

Hapas: The New America

Can You Tell What I am? Part I

Can You Tell What I am? Part II

Only in America


Your Tattoo in 50 Years

The American House and Frank Lloyd Wright

Cultural Commentaries
On Hatred and Anti-Americanism

Part 2

Part 3


Germany: We All Have Problems, But...

Kroika! Chronicles

This Blog Sells Out

Doom and Gloom Sells

The Kroika Mascot-"Auspicious Pet"

Wal-Mart and Kroika

Kroika and Starsbuck Take a Hit

Kroika Ad 1

Kroika Ad 2

Kroika Ad 3

Kroika Ad 4

Kroika Makes Bid for Oreo (April 1)

Unfolding Crises: Asia

China: An Interim Report

Shanghai Postcard 2004

Corruption and Avian Flu: China's Dynamic Duo

Exporting the Real Estate Bubble to China

Is the Bloom Off the China Rose?

China Irony: Steel, Marx & Capital

Curing The U.S. and China's Dysfunctional Relationship

China and U.S. Inflation

Trade with China: Making Out Like a Bandit

Whither China?

Will the Housing Bust Take Down China?

China's Dependence on Exports to U.S.; Is China About to Pop?

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Battle for the Soul
of America

Katrina, Vietnam, Iraq: National Purpose, National Sacrifice

Is This a Nation at War?

A Nation in Denial

Why Is This Such a Tepid Time?

That Price Isn't Cheap, It's Subsidized

The Most Hated Company in America

U.S. Fascists Seek Ban on Cancer Vaccine

The Truth About Christmas

American Dream or American Nightmare?

2006 Sea Change

Obesity and Debt

Immigration Ironies

U.S. Healthcare: Working Toward a Real Solution

A Drug Industry Running Amok

Where There Is Ruin

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Financial Meltdown Watch
What This Country Needs Is a... Good Recession

Are We Entering the Next Age of Turmoil?

Why Inflation Appears Low

Doubling Down on 5-Card No-See-Um

A Rickety Global House of Cards

Are Japan and Germany Truly on the Mend?

Unprecedented Risk 2

Could One Rogue Trader Bring Down the Market?

Worried about Inflation? Stop Measuring It

Economy Great? Bah, Humbug

Huge Deficits and Huge Profits: Coincidence?

Who's The Largest Exporter?

Three Snapshots of the U.S. Economy

Loaded for Bear

Comparing Nasdaq to Depression-Era Dow

Who's Buying Treasury Bonds? And Why?

Derivatives: Wall Street Fiddles, Rome Smolders

Financial Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Is the Stock Market on the Same Planet as the Economy?

The Housing-Recession-Oil-Healthcare Connection

Could We Have Deflation and Inflation At the Same Time?

What We Know, What We Can Safely Predict

Bankruptcy U.S.A.: Medicare, Greed and Collapse

Sucker's Rally

A Whiff of Apocalypse

Where There Is Ruin II: Social Security

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Planetary Meltdown Watch
The Immensity of Global Warming

Sun Sets on Skeptics of Global Warming

Housing Bubble Watch

Charting Unaffordability

A Monster of a Housing Bubble

A Coup de Grace to the Economy

Hidden Costs of the Housing Bubble

Housing Bubble? What Bubble?

Housing Bubble II

Housing Bubble III: Pop!

Housing Market Slips Toward Cliff

Housing Market Demographics

Housing: Catching the Falling Knife

Five Stages of the Housing Bubble

Derailing the Property Tax Gravy Train

Bubbling Property Taxes

Have You Checked Your Property Taxes Recently?

Housing Bubble: Where's the Bottom?

Housing Bubble: Bottom II

The Housing - Inflation Connection

The Coming Foreclosure Nightmare 1

How Many Foreclosures Will Hit the Market?

Housing Wealth Effect Shifts Into Reverse

Housing Bubble Bust Will Take Down the Global Economy

The New Road to Serfdom: A Negative-Equity Mortgage

The Housing-Savings-Recession Connection

After the Bubble: How Low Will It Go?

After the Bubble: Rents and Housing Values

Why Post-Bubble Rents Matter

After the Bubble: How Low Will We Go, Part II

Housing: 10% Decline May Trigger Financial Ruin

How to Buy a $450K Home for $750K

Inflation and Housing: Calculating the Bust

The Growing Financial Risks of the Housing Bubble

Construction Defects: The Flood to Come?

Construction Defects
Part II

Who Gets Hammered in the 2007 Housing Bust

Real Estate Bust: The Exhaustion of Debt

What Happens When Housing Employment Plummets?

One More Hole in the Housing Bubble: Insurance

Financial Kryptonite in a "Super-Strength" Housing Market

Three Secrets to Unloading Property Today

Welcome to Fantasyland: Housing's "Soft Landing"

Why Is the Median House Price Still Rising?

Why Median Prices Appear to be Rising?

The Root Cause of the Housing Bubble

Housing Dominoes Fall

Twilight for Exurbia?

Phase Transitions, Symmetry and Post-Bubble Declines

Housing's Stairstep Descent

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Oil/Energy Crises

Whither Oil?

How much Is a Gallon of Gas Worth?

The End of Cheap Oil

Natural Gas, Naturally High

Arab Oil Money and U.S. Treasuries: Quid Pro Quo?
The C.I.A., Oil and the Wisdom of Crowds

The Flutter of a Butterfly's Wings?

A One-Two Punch to a Glass Jaw

Running Out Of Oil vs. Running Out of Cheap Oil

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Outside the Box
How to Make a Favicon
Asian Emoticons

In Memoriam: Winky Cosmos

The Wheeled Vagabonds

Geezer Rock Overload

Paying for Web Content

Light-As-Air Pancake Recipe

In a Humorous Vein
If Only Writers Had Uniforms

Opening the Kimono

Happiness for Sale: Jank Coffee

Ten Guaranteed Predictions for 2010

Why My Book Is Better Than the DaVinci Code

My Brand Management Stinks

Design Follies

The New Jank Coffee Shop

Jank Coffee, Upscale Tropic Style

One-Word Titles



Keys to Affordable Housing

U.S. Conservation & China
Steve Toma, Me & Skil 77s: 30 years of Labor

Real Science in the Bolivian Forest

Deforestation and Sustainable Forestry

The Solar Economy (book)
The Problem with Techno-Fixes

I Love Technology, I Hate Technology

How To Blow off Web Ads and More

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Health, Wealth & Demographics

Beauty of the Augmented (Korean) Kind

Demographics and War

The Healthiest Cold Cereal: Surprise!

900 Miles to the Gallon

Are Our Cities Making Us Fat?

One Serving of Deception

Is Obesity an Inflammatory Response?

Demographics & National Bankruptcy

The Decline of Europe: A Demographic Done Deal?

Are the Risks of Obesity Overstated?

Healthcare: Unaffordable Everywhere

Medication Nation

The New Disease We Just Know You've Got

Can You Can Tell Which Pill Is Fake?

Bankruptcy U.S.A.: Medicare, Greed and Collapse

The 10 Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Selling the Landscape

The Downside of Density

Building Heights and Arboral Roots

Terroir: France & California

L.A.: It's About Cheap Oil
The Last Redwood

Airport Walkabouts

Waimea Canyon, Yosemite, Camping & Pancakes

The French Village Bakery

What Is Happiness?

Our Education System: a Factory Metaphor?

Understanding Globalization: Braudel

Can You Create Creativity?

Do Average People Know More Than Their Leaders?
On The Impermanence of Work

Flattening the Knowledge Curve: The "Googling" Effect

Human Bandwidth and Knowledge

Iraqi Guangxi

Splogs, Blogs and "News"

"There is no alternative to being yourself"

Is There a Cycle to War?

Leisure, Time and Valentines

Is the Web a Giant Copy Machine?

Science Matters
Anti-Missile Defense: Boost Phase Vulnerability

The Strolling Bones: Rock of Ages

Bad Karma: Election Fraud 1960

Hiroshima: First Use

All the Tea in China, All the Ginseng in America

Friday Quiz

Pet Obesity

The Origins of Carbonara

Organic Farms

Oil and Renewable Energy
Human Diseases

Wine and Alzheimers

Biggest Consumers of Chocolate

2005-06 archives
2007 archives

Essential Books

The Misbehavior of Markets

Boiling Point (Global Warming)

Our Stolen Future: How We Are Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival

How We Know What Isn't So

Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future

The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

The Future of Life

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak

The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies

Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy

The Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future

The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Cures

Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated.

The Fourth Turning

Recommended Books

More book reviews


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What's New, 2/03 - 5/05

This Week's Theme: The Rot Within II

The Slow Strangulation Death of a False God: Debt-Based "Prosperity"

September 28, 2007

Nothing in the "news" persuades me that borrowing more money and easing credit standards will save the worshippers of a false god: cheap, easy credit. Americans have slavishly worshipped at the feet of this golden idol for seven long years, and if you'll forgive the Biblical reference, these seven "fat" years of gorging on debt are about to be followed by seven "lean" years (or maybe 14 years, the crystal ball is hazy on that point) in which debt is repudiated and people begin saving out of fear for their future.

Astute reader Lindy A. shared these thoughts recently:

Your September 20th comments are timely and deadly accurate. Indeed, my family and I have thought for some time:

  • "Bread and circuses" are the order of the day

  • Those seeking elected office are not doing so for the common good

  • The "statistics" on inflation are obviously misstated --- one wonders why they bother continually repeating them

  • and now --- reducing rates and guaranteeing the devaluation of our currency to appease those who caused the crisis, accomplishing nothing

  • Our economy has been placed in the hands of others, we have fomented a war, we have gradually been encroached by ever increasing taxation, charges, fees and the like. (again, your analogy so apt, the frog in the water).

    A sorry situation. We can, however, at least voice our thoughts, (so far), and take what individual steps are possible to give reality to our own lives.

    Not having any TV service was our first step in the right direction. Moving was another. Honing various skills, downsizing all things; giving the "finger" to the exhortations to "buy" "buy" "buy".

    Oops, there's the catch, isn't it? Now THAT'S what "THEY" are afraid of. A nation of individuals who say, "We don't need this "stuff".... both figuratively and literally.

    Wow, then we'd have to have a rebirth of a culture more dedicated to intellect, internal satisfaction, ethical standards, and industry focused on actual needs. Ho ho hooooo. Sounds like something the framers of our Constitution would have approved.

    Thanks for your sense and sensibility.
    In contrast to this common sense (thank you, Lindy), here is the typical standard-issue status quo economist (as quoted in Barrons): Fear Seems to Be Fleeting by Michael T. Darda, chief economist, MKM Partners:

    FORWARD-LOOKING FINANCIAL-MARKET INDICATORS are all pointing up: The Treasury curve has steepened considerably, risk spreads have come down significantly from peak levels, commodity prices are melting up again, and equity markets are moving higher.

    We think this means that any patch of bad data that may develop during the months ahead will be transitory and temporary. Indeed, the equity market seems to be looking ahead to sustained earnings growth and stronger pricing power next year despite mixed economic data.
    In other words: blah blah blah. Everything's great! The future's so bright we gotta wear shades! No recession, equity markets will go up strongly a sixth year in a row with endlessly growing profits and stock prices!

    Meanwhile, back in reality, this is what I see with my own eyes:

  • Food prices skyrocketing, with projections for 10+ years of higher prices (Wall Street Journal 9/27/07) Soaring Demand For Grain Roils World Markets

  • House sales drop 50% in Los Angeles. Gee, do ya reckon supply now exceeds demand?

  • A year ago, I would stop my bicycle by the railroad tracks and watch dozens of railcars loaded with lumber heading south to L.A. Recently, the trains haul no lumber whatsoever; instead the train hauls tanker cars full of ethanol (see item one above about grain demand)

  • Our friends who once had a family income of $150,000 a year are now facing bankruptcy due to severe medical costs (yes, they have typical "corporate employer" insurance, but their share of the costs already exceeds $100,000).

  • Another high wage earner ($120,000/year) just put $10,000 of dental work on a credit card. Yes, she has corporate insurance, but the dental coverage is a joke. (It costs $500/year and pays out a maximum of $500/year. This is typical of "phony insurance" which pays little more than it costs--standard practice in the U.S. No wonder Buffet owns insurance companies.)

  • A friend in the video production/TV commercials business reports that auto sales have fallen off a cliff in September at his new car dealership clients.

  • Friends with $75,000 a year household income and two kids live paycheck to paycheck, and they rent their apartment. They do not own new cars and have no mortgage or car loans. This is standard nowadays: people take vacations with credit cards. They have no savings.

  • Note that these are not people with subprime mortgages which are re-setting--these are high wage earners with standard expenses in a "secretly inflationary" "tax the living heck out of the high-wage earner" economy.

    Please spare me the gobblydigook about rate spreads and all the statistics and indicators. Let's stick to simple fundamental facts:

    1. 70% of the U.S. economy is consumer spending.

    2. U.S. consumers are either strapped, heading for bankruptcy or about to get strapped.

    But complacency reigns supreme, as evidenced by this chart of the VIX
    (a.k.a "fear index")

    Is this a chart of complacency reigning supreme forever, or complacency about to be shattered by reality in October? Let's wait for auto sales, inflation numbers, gasoline prices, profit warnings, retail sales and all the other bogus/manipulated numbers for September. Maybe even the spinmeisters will be unable to mask the rot as the false god of ever-rising debt and "easy terms" borrowing by individuals, corporations and government alike topples under its own weight.

    Thank you, Steve A., ($50) for your second generous donation to this humble site. I am greatly honored by your contribution and readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

    Doom-and-Gloom trumps complacency any day, so why not--

    The Slow Strangulation Death of a False God: Debt-Based "Prosperity"
    (September 28, 2007)

    Production Versus Consumption: Incentives, Soulless Work and a FIRE Economy
    (September 27, 2007)

    Credit Markets: Unregulated and Pathologically Addicted to Lying
    (September 26, 2007)

    Privatizing Profits, Socializing Risk: Hypocrisy and Housing
    (September 25, 2007)

    Homeowners, Defective Houses and Big Builders: Justice Is Not Blind
    (September 24, 2007)

    The Grateful Dead Inflation Index
    (September 22, 2007)

    Surprise Air Attack Destroys Syrian Nuke Site
    (September 21, 2007)

    1984 + 23 = 2007
    (September 20, 2007)

    Something Has Changed (Northern Rock)
    (September 19, 2007)

    The Closing of the U.S. Home ATM Dooms the Global Economy
    (September 18, 2007)

    The Rot Within (or: We Are The Frog in the Pot)
    (September 17, 2007)

    The Millionth Visitor--You (and: Stock Market Hat Trick)
    (September 14, 2007)

    Trade Imbalances and the Dollar
    (September 13, 2007)

    A Culture of Deception and Fantasy
    (September 12, 2007)

    Will Foreign Owners Dump U.S. Stocks and Bonds?
    (September 11, 2007)

    The Home ATM (a.k.a. Equity Extraction) Is Broken
    (September 10, 2007)

    The Big One Just Hit
    (September 8, 2007)

    What Can We Do About Peak Oil?
    (September 7, 2007)

    Who Wins in the Housing Bust?
    (September 6, 2007)

    The Moral Argument Against All Bailouts
    (September 5, 2007)

    Why Any Real Bailout Is Impossible
    (September 4, 2007)

    Poor Diet and The Poor
    (August 31, 2007)

    Living in Extraordinary Times (Peak Oil)
    (August 30, 2007)

    A Quick Glance at Gold
    (August 29, 2007)

    Seeking Relative Outperformance
    (August 28, 2007)

    Financial Extinctions: The Subprime Meteorite Has Hit
    (August 27, 2007)

    To view August entries, go to weblog August 2007.


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    wEssay noun, combination of 'web' and 'essay,' denoting a short online essay which exploits the hyperlinks, interfaces and interactive capabilities of the World Wide Web; coined by Charles Hugh Smith on May 1, 2005, in Berkeley California.

    Aphorisms I like:

    "Economic history is a never-ending series of episodes based on falsehoods and lies, not truths. It represents the path to big money. The object is to recognize the trend whose premise is false, ride that trend, and step off before it is discredited." (George Soros)

    "The way of the Tao is reversal." (Lao Tzu)

    "Chance favours the prepared mind. (Louis Pasteur)

    "It is neither necessary to hope to undertake, nor to succeed to persevere." (French proverb)

    "You must have a willingness to do something when everyone else is petrified. You must learn the lesson of following logic over emotion." (Warren Buffett)

    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

    "May a fair road always be open to you." (CHS, April 2, 2006)

    All content and images copyright © 2006 - 2007 Charles Hugh Smith, All rights reserved in all media, unless otherwise credited or noted.


    click here for all RJ
    current issue 9/07

    This Month's commentaries:




    This Month's Journal Essays

    Icons of my youth: Thomas Hardy Protagoras

    Icons of my youth: Sailing to Byzantium Protagoras

    In Praise of the Standing Lug Protagoras

    RS archives:

    August 2007

    July 2007

    June 2007

    May 2007

    August Essays

    The Economic Significance of Unlimited Derivative Works in the Software Business
    by Protagoras

    In praise of the Santoku knife
    by Protagoras

    A Transcontinental Journey
    John Joss

    Kissing Frogs: The Greatest Risk
    (An author on writing)
    John Joss

    Peak Oil and Soil
    by Eric Andrews

    The Great Unraveling
    by Chuck D.

    The TQM Diet (satire)
    by Protagoras

    July Essays

    Loyalty, Impeachment and 'Supporting the President'
    by Harun I.

    Icons of my youth: Frank Leavis
    by Protagoras

    Equal Killing Rights (satire)
    by Protagoras

    June Essays

    Global Warming:
    Our Story So Far

    Michael Goodfellow
    The Hockey Stick Breaks
    by Protagoras

    Love in the Time of Syphilis
    by Protagoras

    May Essays

    What to do about Health Care?
    Michael Goodfellow
    Memo to the next UK Prime Minister
    by Protagoras

    Political Elites & Some Predictions
    Michael Goodfellow
    The Fort Dix Terror Plot
    by Harun I.

    The French Presidential Elections
    by John Kinsella

    Wal-Mart, disequilibria, and global economic dislocation
    by Harun I.

    The Recent UK Elections
    by Protagoras

    The Evolution of Social Behaviour by Protagoras

    Is Everybody Happy?
    Michael Goodfellow
    Memories of Lana'i by Bill Murath

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    Mortgage Lender Implode-o-Meter
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    California Housing Forecast

    Dr. Housing Bubble (SoCal)

    View from Silicon Valley

    Credit Flow Investor

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