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Posts from 2011 August

By Brendan Loy

Katia, the storm that took Katrina’s place on the name list, is now officially a hurricane as of 11pm EDT, with winds of 75 mph. Hurricane Katia is expected to keep strengthening — to 100 mph in 1 day, 110 mph in 2 days, 115 mph in 3 days and 120 in 4 days (and it would hardly be shocking if she got even stronger, faster). It remains uncertain whether she’ll ever seriously threaten the U.S., though on balance, the more likely answer at this point seems to be “no.” But it’s just too early to say with a reasonable degree confidence. Any possible approach to the East Coast would likely occur no earlier than the weekend of 9/11, which is still an awfully long way off to be trusting computer models.

That said, if the current model tracks do roughly hold (a huge, huge “if” with such long-range forecasts), Bermuda could be under the gun sometime late next week. Here’s the prediction by one computer, the excellent European model, for a week from today:

ec850uva_17
There’s Hurricane Katia in the middle. But what about the storm at left? That would be Lee, currently known as “93L,” which the computer models have been predicting for several days now, and which the NHC is now watching, giving it a 60% chance of development in the next 48 hours. It’s unclear whether “proto-Lee” will become a serious hurricane threat to someplace along the Gulf coast, or just a big rainmaker, possibly in areas that could really use it. (Rick Perry’s prayers answered, perhaps?) The models are still vacillating wildly from run-to-run at this early stage.

Lastly, long-range models like the 16-day GFS are calling for Hurricane Maria to form in 7-10 days, and basically follow Katia’s path near Bermuda and out to sea. Florida State meteorologist (and provider of these wonderful maps) Ryan Maue calls it a “conveyor belt of ‘fish storms.’”

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Stay tuned, as they say.

1 Comment  |  Categories: Hurricanes

By Brendan Loy

Dude… it’s PajamasMedia.com.

I apologize to my LRT readers for having so little coverage of Hurricane Irene here, while I was blogging up a storm (pun intended) over at my Pajamas Media site, Weather Nerd. Ideally, I would have done more partial cross-posting — understandably, PJM doesn’t let me do full cross-posts, since they pay me for exclusive content, but I can do partial cross-posts — but I was just so busy that I didn’t have the time. With Hurricane Katrina, I could basically take a week off of life, skip my classes, cut out sleep, and blog, blog, blog. Now I’ve got a job and three kids, so it was a little trickier.

Anyway, I haven’t yet seen PJM’s stats for Weather Nerd’s traffic, but I’m told the numbers were “phenomenal.” I’m curious if I topped my Katrina record of 34,278 visitors in a day. I know there was a major impact on my number of Twitter followers, which had sloooowly climbed to 1,600 over the course of my three years on Twitter — then skyrocketed over the weekend to more than 2,200. Here’s a look at my Twitter stats, showing my total number of followers (dark orange line) and number of tweets per day (light orange bars) over the last three months:

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And to think, now all those new followers will now have to be indoctrinated into the cult of #PANIC, not to mention Karl Benson WAC jokes. :)

I also suspect that my Saturday-night tidal gauge post, which was simultaneously Instalanched and @fivethirtyeight’d, may have inadvertently contributed to the disruption of NOAA’s servers, causing all of the tidal gauges to simultaneously go offline for about an hour. I don’t know whether this is true, but the correlation was pretty strong, inspiring me to tweet: “Where were you when Brendan Loy and Nate Silver broke NOAA? #SuggestedAlanJacksonSongs”

(If it was my fault… um, sorry, NOAA!)

Obviously, outside the blogosphere and twittersphere, my coverage didn’t cause anything like the level of attention I got during Hurricane Katrina. But I did get mentioned by Reason magazine editor-in-chief Matt Welch on Fox Business News yesterday, as you can see in the video clip at the top of this post. Watch the whole thing if you dare, but be warned, it’s mostly absurd, conspiratorial, Obama-bashing, right-wing nonsense. Though Lindsey Piegza’s comments about what the media did “once we found out that the storm wasn’t as strong” are true, as I wrote over at Weather Nerd:

Was Irene overhyped? Well, yes and no. … As I wrote in my post about “misconceptions,” the mere fact that a worst-case scenario doesn’t occur is hardly proof that it should never have been considered a possibility, or that precautions taken against such a scenario were therefore unwarranted. That’s totally illogical. I’m sure NOAA officials and others would love to have access to the 20/20 Hindsight Computer Model that some commentators seem to possess, but absent that, I believe it was completely justified and necessary to evacuate the folks who were evacuated, given the uncertainties in the forecast at the time decisions had to be made (specifically with regard to the storm surge). It’s the nature of the beast, given the current limits of our forecasting ability, that most “alarms” will be “false alarms.” It’s simply impossible to know with certainty what a storm will do at the time when evacuation decisions must be made, so we have no choice but to “prepare for the worst,” knowing full well that, in most cases and in most places, the worst will not happen. Thus, the fact of a “false alarm,” without more, is not evidence of improper “hype.”

Yet overhype certainly exists, not so much in the forecasts or the precautions, but in the media coverage. “Preparation for the worst-case scenario makes sense,” writes the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, “and could have saved hundreds during Katrina. But the worst-case scenario was largely portrayed as inevitable.” That’s a big problem in the early stages of hurricane coverage: the tendency to filter out the uncertainties, and treat the worst-case possibilities as probabilities or near-certainties. This, in turn, feeds into a cycle of self-perpetuating hype, which at some point seems to pass a “point of no return,” after which any walk-back of the doomsday talk is seen as irresponsibly advising people to “let their guard down” — not to mention hurting ratings. That helps cause what I view as the primary problem, which I’ve observed many times over the years: the MSM’s failure to adjust the tone and substance of the coverage once it has become apparent that the worst-case scenario(s), despite having previously been realistic possibilities, have now become unrealistic. In other words, they fail to dial down the hype a notch when the hype, once reasonable, is clearly no longer justified. I tweeted Friday morning about this, stating: “Media must be careful today. Fine line b/w preventing complacency & overhyping a weakened Irene (which breeds cynicism and…complacency). Ideally, you communicate that Irene is a big deal that people should take seriously, but no longer likely to be an apocalyptic hellstorm. But that’s hard to do in practice, especially when MSM weather coverage generally has two settings: 1. #Ignore. 2. #OMGApocalypticHellstorm!” …

This pattern is dangerous, because it can breed both complacency and arrogance — the latter exemplified by Anne Thompson’s comment on the NBC Nightly News that New Yorkers had gained their “swagger” back because “New York took the best that Irene could give, and made it through.” That statement might make sense, if Irene had given New York anything close to “the best [it] could give.” But Irene didn’t do that. It’s absolutely critical to understand that this was nowhere near the worst-case scenario for NYC & environs, thanks to Irene’s limited strength. That scenario will occur come to pass someday; it just wasn’t today, thank goodness. But my fear now is that, when the eventual day of reckoning comes, folks won’t take it seriously because “they said that about Irene too.” Complacency caused by media overhype can kill, just as surely as complacency caused by people “letting their guard down” due to underhype. Finding the proper balance is very tricky, and impossible to do perfectly — but the media certainly needs to do better.

By the way, on the subject of “hype,” Irene’s death toll is now 40, the fourth-worst in the U.S. since 1980, according to Nate Silver. And its economic damage could end up being between $14 billion and $26 billion, which would rank somehwere between fourth and eighth since 1980 in inflation-adjusted terms. So it’s not like this was a non-event (as folks in Vermont and the Catskills will tell you).

Anyway… on to the next worst-case scenario! Tropical Storm Katia — bearer of the name that replaced “Katrina,” which was of course retired from the rotating six-year name list — has formed off the African coast, and is expected to steadily strengthen, eventually becoming a major hurricane. Some computer models have shown an eventual threat to the U.S. East Coast (we’re talking about something in the 10 to 14 day range, maybe around the weekend of 9/11), but the latest model runs, via Ryan Maue, seem to imply recurvature out to sea:

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Bottom line, it’s way, way, way too early to tell what Katia will do. But I’ll be watching. :) And I’ll just make this highly speculative, totally unfounded, irresponsible comment: if the storm that inherited Katrina’s spot on the hurricane name list hits New York and/or Washington on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I may conclude that Michele Bachmann was right. :P

1 Comment  |  Categories: Hurricanes, Website News
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By Brendan Loy

Sorry for the lack of updates here. I’ve been tracking Irene over at Weather Nerd for Pajamas Media (hey, they pay me!), and on Twitter… while also still, y’know, having a job and a family :) … so I just haven’t had very much time to post here as well.

But anyway, as I’m sure you all know by now, Hurricane Irene has weakened and is expected to hit the northeast as a minimal Category 1 or strong tropical storm, far weaker than feared. Even so, this remains a serious situation, with lots of real risks — primarily storm surge and inland flooding (not so much wind) — and folks need to be prepared for the worst. That means you, New Jersey beachgoers:

P.S. By the way, a bit of navel-gazing… in a sort of pale, Twitter-age echo of my blog’s rise to prominence during Katrina, I’ve seen my Twitter follower count absolutely soar in the last three days, from 1,598 on Wednesday to 2,102 now.

10 Comments  |  Categories: Hurricanes

By Brendan Loy

Sorry to keep posting these computer model maps, but they’re just so sensational, I can’t help myself. From the 0Z GFS:

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Over on Weather Nerd, I write:

Holy hell. That map is downright terrifying. (It’s even worse when viewed as an animation. Hat tip: Ryan Maue.) It represents something pretty darn close to the true worst-case scenario, the New York nightmare that experts have feared for years — a Category 2 hurricane, perhaps even a low-end Cat. 3, making landfall in New Jersey, and pushing a severe storm surge into New York harbor, with devastating effects.

I emphasize again that this is just one possible scenario among several, and probably not even the most likely. But such scenarios are always unlikely, right up until the point when they’re about to happen — at which point it’s too late to prepare for them! So everyone needs to prepare as if they’re going to suffer a direct hit, and not just by a minimal hurricane, but by a monster. (And if that preparation proves, in retrospect, to have been unnecessary, breathe a sigh of relief and know that you were right to prepare for the worst, not blithely assume the best.) … This is no mere hypestorm.

For those who remember me from Katrina, I’ll say that the “Get the Hell Out!” moment hasn’t arrived yet. But if we get to tomorrow night and things haven’t changed in the forecast… it may.

Stay tuned to Weather Nerd and my Twitter feed for updates.

2 Comments  |  Categories: Hurricanes

By Brendan Loy

It’s still way too early to focus on specific possible landfall points, let alone those indicated by individual model runs. Forecasts 4 and 5 days out have huge errors. These predictions can and will change. All that said, check out the 18Z GFS…

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Wow.

2 Comments  |  Categories: Hurricanes

By David K.

Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of the company he founded 35 years ago, and saved from the brink of collapse when he returned in 1997 with Apple’s aquisition of NeXT. No specific reason was given for the resignation, but Jobs had been on a partial medical leave for a while now. He has has bouts of pancreatic cancer and related health complications from it.

Jobs will continue to be employed by Apple and will serve as chairman of the board. Current COO Tim Cook, who in Steve’s absence both now and in the past has assumed the CEO duties, will be the new CEO of the company.

By Brendan Loy

The computer models forecasting Hurricane Irene’s track have shifted back west today, decisively ending the eastward “trend” of the forecasts, and bringing New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, and Southern New England very much back into the bullseye of the risk zone. This also increases the risk of a direct hit (rather than a glancing blow) in North Carolina, and significant impacts in the mid-Atlantic region. Don’t #PANIC, but #PREPARE. This could be a big, big deal.

Details at Weather Nerd and on my Twitter feed. Below, an image of the ECMWF (European), GFDL, GFS and HWRF 96-hour forecasts, as of this afternoon:

5 Comments  |  Categories: Hurricanes

By Brendan Loy

The 0Z GFS computer model shifts Irene’s landfall point to the east, again — from NYC/Long Island to Cape Cod. The rightward trend continues. This hurricane may yet stay out to sea, folks.

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By the way, I’m blogging at Pajamas Media’s “Weather Nerd” again, at least for the moment.

2 Comments  |  Categories: Hurricanes

By Brendan Loy

As if Hurricane Irene’s menacing approach wasn’t enough, an earthquake of preliminary magnitude 5.9 struck northeastern Virginia about 20 minutes ago, and — as is typical for earthquakes in the eastern two-thirds of the country — was felt far & wide, from Toronto to the Deep South. I haven’t heard any damage reports yet. (I just learned about this via a text message from my mother-in-law, of all people.) But an earthquake of that magnitude in that part of the country could, I would think, cause some actual damage. Don’t laugh, Californians.

East Coast readers, did you feel it? Was there any damage?

[UPDATE, 1:24 PM: There has been damage to the National Cathedral. Coverage here. Also, there are reports that the Washington Monument is tilting. Um, #PANIC!?! ... Oh, also, Gizmodo is collecting quake videos.]

P.S. Incidentally, this follows on the heels of Colorado’s largest earthquake since 1967, which hit near Trinidad (in the southern part of the state, near the New Mexico border) late last night, just about the time I was going to bed. It was a 5.3, and no, I didn’t feel it.

P.P.S. About the “felt far & wide” thing, here’s a bit more, from a 2008 blog post:

If you’re a Californian wondering how on earth [a relatively minor earthquake] could be felt so strongly, and in places [so] far afield … , it’s because, as explained here, “seismic waves in the East travel farther and pack more destructive punches.” The exact reason for this phenomenon is a topic of much debate among scientists, but “one explanation is that eastern geology is older and simpler, with fewer faults in the ground to slow the travel of quake waves.” See also here:

Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., although less frequent than in the western U.S., are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast.

That point is graphically illustrated here:

Charleston1895

Of course, [today's earthquake] is nothing compared to the Big One that will someday destroy Memphis and cause massive devastation all across the [central and eastern U.S.].

UPDATE: On phone with my parents. They felt it. Dad: “I was sitting at the computer table, and mom was in the kitchen. And the computer table starts to shake.” It felt like the way it would if mom was sitting at the table fidgeting and shaking it with her legs — but she wasn’t there. “Then I look and see the floor lamp is wobbling. ‘F***. Leanna, there’s an earthquake!’” Mom thinks shaking lasted 30 seconds, Dad thinks two minutes.

UPDATE 2: On the LRT Facebook page, a similar report from my friend Diane Krause in Hartford, CT: “Felt it!! Josh has some restless leg issues, so it’s not uncommon for me to accuse of him of ’shaking the house’ but this time he stopped moving entirely and the whole house really WAS shaking!! Only lasted a minute or two, we figured it was construction or something until I checked my facebook and saw all the quake statuses.”

P.P.P.S. I suspect, by the time the evening news rolls around, we’ll be hearing that the earthquake was “felt from Canada to Florida, and as far west as Illinois,” or something like that.

P.P.P.P.S. Some folks, in New York City and elsewhere, saw tweets about the earthquake before the felt the acutal earthquake, for reasons explained by Gizmodo here.

Meanwhile, it seems some folks want to be mayor of the earthquake.

UPDATE: Heh:

Police departments in greater Hartford said that the earthquake resulted in a flood of phone calls, although none reporting injuries or damage.

East Hartford police said that they received “about 9 million phone calls,” reporting the shaking, while West Hartford police said they were inundated with descriptions of ground shaking. In Glastonbury and Manchester, dispatchers were similarly tied up, taking call after call from residents eager to report the quake.

By Brendan Loy

…I’ve just had no time to blog for the last week-and-a-half. My evening free time is largely taken up holding a baby, and, well, it’s hard to type while you’re doing that. But hey, at least nothing newsworthy/blogworthy has happened during that time, like, oh I don’t know:

• Michelle Bachmann wins the Iowa Straw Poll;
Generic Republican drops out of the presidential race;
photo.JPG• America’s next president, Rick Perry, enters the presidential race (#PANIC!);
• Tripoli falls to the Libyan rebels, and Moammar Gadhafi’s reign appears to approach its end;
• Hurricane Irene forms, threatens to become the season’s first major hurricane and hit the Southeast U.S. (or perhaps the Northeast? NYC?!?);
• A tragic, weather-related accident during a Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair kills 7 people;
• Becky gets a new MacBook Air; I finally get us a legitimate TV;
• The SEC decides not to invite Texas A&M (yet), but A&M administrators get permission to go conference-hunting;
• The AP poll comes out, ranking Boise State #5 (bus!), Notre Dame #16 and USC #25;
• Miami’s athletic department is hit with the Tsar Bomba of sports exposés, led by this absolute gem of a paragraph:

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

As many as seventy-two players are implicated, not to mention, like, a half-dozen assistant coaches. Oh, and the athletic director who was overseeing the department through the “eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking”? None other the Paul Dee, the grotesquely hypocritical m***erf***er who chaired the NCAA Infractions Committee that gave USC near-historic sanctions for violations about 1 percent as bad as these, the man who responded to cries of “we didn’t know!” by declaring that “high-profile athletes require high-profile monitoring” … the man who now says of Shapiro, “We didn’t have any suspicion that he was doing anything like this. He didn’t do anything to cause concern. … In terms of kids getting close to him or him getting close to the kids, I have no knowledge of that and my staff had no knowledge of that.”

So…yeah…nothing’s happened. :)

5 Comments  |  Categories: Uncategorized

By Brendan Loy

Of all the things I tweeted during last night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa, none was more surprising — including to myself — than this one: “SANTORUM FTW.”

And I wasn’t being sarcastic. Rick Santorum, the archconservative also-ran from Pennsylvania, with whom I disagree about most everything — especially gay rights — thrilled me enough to bust out that unironic “FTW” (“For The Win”) because of this response to Michelle Bachmann’s (and Ron Paul’s!) ongoing cavalcade of sheer nonsense with regard to the debt ceiling:

He’s wrong, of course, about “focusing” on the Balanced Budget Amendment. But on the fantasy of never raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances, he’s dead on. Wonder of wonders, he actually does math, and throws some facts into the debate. Amazing!

As I tweeted afterward:

Rick Santorum actually does math, calls out Bachmann on “showmanship, not leadership” re: debt ceiling. THANK YOU!! #SantorumHaters4Santorum

Santorum did in 30 seconds what the bulk of the media failed to do for months. #ThankYouRickSantorum

Re: Bachmann, debt ceiling, facts & math, media should be utterly, deeply ashamed that RICK SANTORUM is doing its job for it. #4thEstateFAIL

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By Brendan Loy

Are we experiencing a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis? The New York Times explores the question. It’s a good overview; I encourage you to read the whole thing. I am inclined to side with the pessimists, but I hope I’m wrong.

More broadly, I fear we’ll look back at 2010 as a “dead cat bounce” rather than a genuine (if weak) recovery between recessions, and likewise we’ll view 2011 through whenever not as a “double dip,” but as part two of an ongoing Great Recession/Depression that started in 2007 and has not yet truly ended, and won’t for a while. The structural flaws in the U.S. and global economies that were thrown into sharp relief in 2008 and 2009, then masked by frantic government efforts to prevent a depression, have not actually been solved, even if analysts and investors spent much of 2010 and early 2011 ignoring them and trying to forget about them. The housing market is still in deep doo-doo; global trade imbalances are still massive; we still don’t have a plan for replacing excessive, debt-fueled consumer spending as the “engine of the economy”; and we’ve simply shifted a lot of debt from companies to governments, so instead of too-big-to-fail banks threatening the stability of the economy, we have too-big-to-fail countries doing so, with no one left to backstop them or bail them out (and no political will for additional bailouts of any kind anyway).

Frankly, I never really understood the optimism of 2010 — it always seemed like the argument for pessimism was detailed and nuanced and well-thought-out, while the argument for optimism was basically “meh, we’ll muddle through, somehow or other.” But I partially supressed my doubts because I recognize my own lack of knowledge in this area, and have little choice but to trust the experts. Yet those experts made a lot of valid-seeming points back in 2008-09 about the depth of the problems broadly underlying the crash, and I’ve never really understood the logic of expecting a lasting recovery, even a weak one, before we make more progress toward solving those problems. To make a college football analogy (P.S. THREE WEEKS TILL KICKOFF!!! WHEE!!!), the “recovery” of 2010 felt like a situation where a team is widely and reasonably expected to struggle, because it lacks a proven QB or a solid defense, but then it pulls a somewhat flukey upset in its first game, and suddenly it’s deemed a national title contender… even though it still lacks a proven QB or a solid defense. The pessimists still have the better of the argument, and will probably be proven right in the end.

All the hand-wringing about corporations hoarding cash, holding onto their record profits instead of investing or hiring, misses the possibility that these companies are just more clear-eyed than the rest of us, and recognize what I increasingly suspect is true: that we’re in for a very rough decade, and building up a rainy-day fund (or a rainy-decade fund) before the s**t hits the fan — again — might not be such a bad idea. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

By Brendan Loy

We interrupt the Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control Watch — STOCKS CRASHING! ECONOMY CRATERING! DEBT SOARING! OBAMA FLAILING! ENGLAND BURNING! BACHMANN’S EYES BULGING! — to bring you something else to #PANIC about… in the world of college sports! With bonus Rick Perry secessionist action! (No, not that kind of secession.)

The Texas A&M Aggies, a.k.a. the Brett Favre of the 10-team Big Twelve, are at it again. Rumors about an A&M move to the SEC — which would probably result, finally, in the disintegration of the Big XII, causing massive ripple effects across college sports, up to and including the formation of four 16-team superconferences, the end of Notre Dame’s independence, the destruction of the NCAA as we know it, and/or the Rapture — have resurfaced as a hot topic in the last 24 hours, with increasing numbers of respected journalists saying their sources are lending credence to the possibility of major news soon. Like, maybe an announcement on or around August 22?

And now, in the past hour or two, the topic has gone from “hot” to “surface-of-the-sun hot,” thanks to… wait for it… Rick Perry!!

Asked by The Dallas Morning News ’ statehouse reporters about SEC speculation regarding A&M, Perry responded: “I’ll be real honest with you. I just read about it the same time as y’all did. … As far as I know, conversations are being had. That’s frankly all I know. I just refer you to the university and the decision makers over there.”

The key phrase is “As far as I know, conversations are being had.” The response by the governor, a former Aggie yell leader and likely future presidential candidate, went beyond the Twitter and message board speculation that erupted in the last 48 hours.

Perry didn’t say if the conversations were strictly internal at this point or involved direct discussions with the Southeastern Conference.

Maybe Perry’s big announcement on Saturday isn’t that he’s running for president; it’s that Texas A&M is joining the SEC #WAR!!!!

In all seriousness, it’s not clear to what extent Perry is just regurgitating rumors, repeating things he “read about the same time as y’all did,” and to what extent he is actually relaying inside information. But the man is a former Aggie Yell Leader, and he’s been the governor of Texas for a decade, so he presumably knows everybody in all the relevant positions of power. This is causing lots of folks to take notice.

The best Twitter reaction to the news? That belongs to Luke Zim, who writes, “Rick Perry’s run for President just to get A&M in the SEC is the most elaborate college football fanatic move of all-time.”

By Brendan Loy

Hey, I needed a different title than #PANIC. Already used that one. And I’m saving #DOOM for a plunge of 800 points / 8% or more. (Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow!) Anyway…

I have a pet theory about this. Sometimes, I think Wall Street gets what it wants from politicians, expecting to feel reassured by it — but instead, investors realize, “wait a minute, I’m still freaked out,” and then they sell. I recall something like this happening after the stimulus passed and/or after TARP succeeded on take 2 (I can’t recall which, or if it was both). It happened last week after we averted default. And I think it might be happening now, with regard to the European Central Bank’s much-anticipated decision to buy Italian and Spanish bonds.

I know we Americans want to make this all about us, as per usual, but really, Europe is the primary risk at the moment, methinks. The S&P downgrade is mostly just a potent symbol; its substance is based on stuff everyone already knew. It alone shouldn’t tank the markets like this. But in combination with continued European fears, and broader economic anxieties? Yeah. This is a classic #PANIC.

[/armchair market analysis]

More pretty (ugly) charts after the jump!

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5 Comments  |  Categories: The Economy & Finance
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By Brendan Loy

As if recent events haven’t created enough cause for #PANIC already, I’ve recently seen a couple of charts of economic data that really put things into (scary) perspective.

One is the “real” monthly employment picture since 2009, subtracting out the 150,000 jobs that must be added per month just to keep up with population growth:

Yikes.

The other requires a bit more explanation. Nate Silver explains:

The rate of growth [in the U.S. economy] has in fact been quite steady over the long run: since 1877, the annual rate of G.D.P. growth has averaged about 3.5 percent after inflation. … I’ve plotted how far ahead or below of the long-term trend that the economy is at any given time. …

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Here, you can really see the effects of the Great Depression. In early 1933, G.D.P. was about 40 percent below what it “should” have been based on long-term growth rates. But the economy recovered at a rapid clip over the course of the next decade. In fact, G.D.P. temporarily overshot, exceeding the long-term trend during World War II as America employed all the industry and labor that it could get its hands on to help with the war effort.

By this measure, most post-World War II recessions are barely detectable. They look more like reversions to the mean after years of above-average growth.

The Great Recession, however, is highly visible. G.D.P. had already been a couple of percentage points below the long-term trend before it began, as the recovery from the 2001-2 recession was not particularly robust. But things got much worse in a hurry.

Looked at this way, in fact, not only is the worst not yet over — the situation is still deteriorating. Every quarter that the economy grows at a rate below 3.5 percent, it loses ground relative to the long-term trend. Although the economy grew at a 3.8 annual percent rate from fall 2009 through summer 2010, over the past year growth has averaged just 1.6 percent, putting us farther behind.

Right now, gross domestic product is about $13.3 trillion dollars, adjusted for inflation — when it “should” be $15.7 trillion based on the long-term trend. That puts us more than 15 percent below what we might think of as full output, by far the worst number since the Great Depression.

If the economy were to enter another recession and shrink by 1 percent over the course of the next year, we would wind up 19 percent behind the long-term trend. But even if it were to grow at 2 percent, we would still be 17 percent behind.

What we need, instead, is above-average growth — in fact, quite a lot of it. Even if the economy were to begin growing at a 5 percent annual rate, it would take until 2018 for it to catch up to the long-term trend.

Anyone think that’s gonna happen?

Realistically, we’re looking at that ugly red dip extending well into the 2020s. At some point, doesn’t such an extended period of economic difficulty start to approach a functional definition of “depression”? Or at least a “lost decade” or two?

By Brendan Loy

Some photos from my weekend in Beaver Creek:

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That last one was an unintentional snapshot as I moving the phone into or out of my pocket. I think it turned into a rather cool abstract photo.

More photos here.

2 Comments  |  Categories: Colorado, Photography, Travel

By Brendan Loy

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11 Comments  |  Categories: Uncategorized

By Brendan Loy

Doug Mataconis’s post on the infuriating FAA situation got me all fired up, and inspired me to do something I rarely do: write to my congressperson.

Congresswoman DeGette,

I am writing to express my absolute disgust with the ongoing situation surrounding the FAA’s lack of funding. I do not know your position on the issue, and thus do not presume to blame you personally. But in the larger picture, it is utterly disgraceful that Congress has gone on recess without resolving this issue, leaving as many as 74,000 citizens out of work because our government cannot even perform the basic functions of governance. This inexcusable behavior reflects extraordinarily poorly on members of both parties and both houses of Congress. For our legislative branch to take a month off, with pay, while stranding thousands of Americans for no discernible reason other than partisan bickering and brinksmanship, is beneath contempt.

Such actions by Congress cause the public to rightly question whether anyone in Washington deserves to be re-elected next year. The entire Congress, as a body, is failing this country in countless ways, with this being just the latest, most egregious example. Mind you, I am a Democrat, and I blame the extreme, intransigent Right for many things — for instance, they take the bulk of the blame for the recent absurd standoff over the manufactured debt-ceiling crisis. But I know better than to naively believe that Congress’s overall dysfunctionality, as exemplified by this FAA fiasco, is solely one party’s fault. Both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for getting us to this point, and both Republicans and Democrats must work to improve things. It is incumbent upon each member of Congress to exercise leadership and prevent this sort of nonsense from occurring. “Partisanship” is not a dirty word, to the extent the parties are arguing honestly about genuine, passionate policy disagreements. But when partisanship leads to situations like this, something is clearly amiss. I urge you to take a leadership role in moving Congress back from the brink and getting this situation resolved immediately.

I also believe it would be appropriate to pass legislation stating that, in the future, if any federal employees are furloughed, or federal contracting projects placed on hold, due to congressional budgetary inaction extending past the deadline at which action is required to maintain funding, Congress should be barred by law from taking a recess until funding is restored, and congressional salaries should not be paid for the unfunded period of time. I somehow suspect these ridiculous impasses would be far less likely to occur if such a law were on the books.

Sincerely,
Brendan Loy
Denver, CO

I think I’ll send it to Bennet and Udall, too.

UPDATE: dcl points out that my hastily conceived proposed legislation would violate the 27th Amendment. At least the salary part. Seems like they could do the recess part.

By Brendan Loy

Blah blah, debt ceiling, extortion, default, blah blah. Enough! It’s over! Look, a rainbow!

Rainbow

Taken in our neighborhood yesterday.

(Would’ve been prettier, if not for the Tea Party! … Sorry.)

P.S. Also… 30 days till college football starts! YAY!!!

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