Monday, August 15, 2011

Articulation on socionomics

For centuries, historians have grappled with the idea that there is an engine that drives the inexorable flow of history. Many believe there is one but is too complicated for the human mind to grasp. Others doubt that one even exists. But regardless of your opinion on the matter, the undeniable fact remains that there is a relationship between the overall social mood and events, and how these two influence the trajectory of history.

Conventional wisdom states that the social mood is determined by external events: that happy, cheerful music makes people more optimistic, and epidemics cause people to become fearful. But the intriguing new science of Socionomics dictates that the conventional wisdom has the casual relationship backwards: that it is the social mood that dictates events. Moreover, the relationship between mass human emotion and various trends such as fashion, music, epidemics, is far stronger than anyone anticipated. Consider this graph, for example:

Music buffs will notice that optimistic, upbeat music was popular during Bull markets (periods when the stock market goes up) and rough, angry, pessimistic music was popular during Bear markets ( periods when the stock market goes down). When the Stock market reached its peak in 2000, Britney Spears, Nsync and the Backstreet boys had number.1 albums. Unsurprisingly, the Stock market crash that followed the Tech boom made social conditions ripe for the emergence of rough, bearish bands like Linkin Park, Poppa Roach, and Limb Bizkit. And the latter two bands suffered a decline once the stock market rose in 2003-2007. In that period, positive social mood spawned the appearance and popularity of happy, upbeat bands. By 2004 hip hop outsold both pop and rock. Every no.1 song on Billboard singles that year went to either a hip hop or an R&B artist, marking the first time this has happened in nearly 50 years. Soon afterwards, Walt Disney launched the groups Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. Popular music maintained a positive tone in 2006 with hits like Justin Timberlake’s “Sexback”, Rihanna’s “SOS” Fergie’s “London Bridge” and Chamillionaire’s “Ridin.”

But music is not the only thing affected by social mood; fashion is as well. It is a well-documented trend that short skirts accompany bull markets, while skirts that fall closer to the floor are in style during bear markets. Here is a graphic illustration:


It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that with this correlative knowledge at hand, fashion designers and Music groups can predict what the next trendline will be, and use it to their advantage.

But such correlations are not solely confined to the fashion and music industries. Comics, too, shift in character according to changes in the social mood:

Bull market characters tend to be happy, carefree, heroic, frivolous and not sexually objectionable. Bear Market characters tend to be more sexually scandalous, mean, and somber.

Lets start at the beginning. The roaring 20’s, which witnessed a sky high bull market and tremendously optimistic mood, gave birth to Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s personality was carefree and prank-playing, representing the fun people have during bull markets. However, during the depths of the depression in 1932, social pressure caused Disney to change the character of its mouse. The frivolity was gone, and seriousness and menace fill the void. Instead of Mickey pulling pranks, he was now dealing with nightmares about Pluto being abducted, a doctor conducting a cruel experiment, and being chased by a saw blade. But once the pessimism of the Great Depression subsided, Mickey’s original personality made its dramatic comeback.

Interestingly, the concept of Natural Selection, usually applied to biological organisms, can be applied here. Felix, unable to change to the bearish environment, faded into obscurity during the depression. There have been many attempts to revive the figure, in 1936, 1958, 1991 and 1995, all in bull market times, but only to be swept away by the bear.

So proven is this overall correlation that it can be seen over almost a century:

Another way tastes of the social air blossom comic characters is their level of cuteness and grotesquness. Bull market characters are round and cute while bear market characters are sharp and grotesque. As the example of Woody Woodpecker shows:

As it happens, the social mood affects much more than these three things. It affects car muscleness, the health of the economy, unrest, riots, scandals and almost everything. Even Epidemics are affected by the social mood, more so than the other way around. Many people think that mass epidemics imbed fear, but it would actually be more accurate to say it is fear that causes epidemics.

Now that we have devoted so much attention to how mass human emotion affects external events, what drives the social mood? Are there patterns to the way social mood ebbs and flows? If we can answer that question, then we could finally solve the problem of history’s hidden engine. But that is a topic for another article.

None of this is original material, as it is the work of many socionomic and Elliot Wave theorists. Robert Prechtor is the foremost figure among them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

On the GOP debate

Full disclosure: I didn't watch the entire thing. I started ten minutes late and had to take a call in the middle of it. And towards the end, I couldn't refrain from going to the computer to read a bit, but I listened half-attentively in the background. So, if I happen to misrepresent what happened in the debate, that's why. In which, I can only hope the informed reader would not hesitate to correct any error I may have made.

The poll on the bottom showed that around 90% of the poll-voters were for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and yet only 20-30% thought Ron Paul did well in the debate[UPDATE: apparently Ron Paul did very well in the polls, as the Fox News Poll on who won the debate had him as the landslide winner. Either I didn't read the poll that flashed on the screen right, or those things are totally unreliable] despite the fact that his anti-war stance is almost unique to him among the candidates. Oh well, it's not exactly surprising to learn that most people are cognitively inconsistent.

Tim Pawlenty's character proved to be of an even more slimy substance than I thought. His repeated attempts to smack Bachmann and Paul because of their failed leadership in the Congress is hilarious. You are 1 person out of 435 unthinking old geezers. Leading them to vote against something they inevitably would vote for is no more an indication of poor leadership than a fitness trainer stuck with chronically unmotivated and morbidly obese people who won't go to the gym who fails to get them to lose a significant amount of weight.

Against every grain in my system to avoid reiterating what the Fox News commentators said, Newt Gingrich did very well. He appeared more professional, intelligent and more well-read than most of the other candidates - which he is. I still don't think he has a chance, but I wouldn't be surprised if is numbers hike by a few points.

Who is this Huntsman guy? He was good orator, but of literally no substance. He's running for President with no articulated economic plan? I could have easily constructed one in the amount of time he used to insist that "[he] loves [his] country, [he] is willing to do anything to serve [his] country." Is it just me, or are patriotic cliches really annoying?

I don't understand how Romney can possibly be the frontrunner even though nobody likes him. Even the media doesn't like him. The percentage of the viewers that approved of Romneys performance was around 25 %. Around the lowest among his competitors. My only guess as to why this is the case is that most people really hate him while around a quarter vote for him because he's the guy everybody knows about, not to mention his hair and looks.

, I was genuinely surprised that the Federal Reserve and the need to audit it came up, even if the discussion barely scratched the surface. Could this be a sign that your humble narrator is well ahead of the highly-motivated, unmatched caliber that serves as the cloth of our political elite? Bloody shame the mainstream media and its elect didn't exert its force when it counted. But then again, I only heard Paul, Gingrich, and possibly Sanatorium (I can't remember exactly) utter these words of sanity. No Romney, no Cain, no Pawlenty.

For some reason watching the debate, I half- consciously imagined Rick Perry chilling backstage. He seemed like one of those Alpha Males who gets talked about without even having to do anything.

Overall, I thought the debate was pretty good. They are certainly better than the abysmal lot that the 2008 primaries were consisted of. And if the principles of small and limited government are the chorus of our times, then they have sung our song in tune. Whether they will materialize their rhetoric or not, we'll have to see.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to improve your lifestyle - Primal Style

People sometimes express amazement about my interest in the theoretical and abstract. Among my collegues, my understanding of economics and philosophy is unmatched. Other areas where I have dug my head in are health, fitness, dating, politics, religion, sociology, and, of course, mathematics.

Many think my intense interests are nerdy, and perhaps they are. But they don’t stem so much from a desire to burry myself from the social world as they do from an inveterate ambition to improve myself in all aspects of my life. Knowledge is Power, says the great Francis Bancon. I may add that the corollary to that pithy aphorism would be that ignorance is impotence.

And yet, while there are a great many dorks out there who know all about quantum mechanics and how many transistors there are on the latest Intel processor that are nonetheless inept in the game of life, it is true that these seemingly irrelevant and nerdy endeavors can make material improvements upon your everyday life. And not just enrichen your mental life, although it certainly does that.

To give an example, there is a way that your can vastly improve your life and health by knowing what pre-history humans did during the Paleolithic era. The whole idea is to do what the human body was designed and adapted to do. Its called Going Primal.

Going Primal (or paleo) will necessitate that you will ditch many civilized inventions that were designed to help you but really actually hurt you by being contrary to the way your body was designed. So, I’ll give you a bullet point list to inform you what you have to do to go primal.

  • Ditch the shoes. When I was younger, I used to wonder how the Native Indians were able to run around barefoot without managing to get the joint problems that I was getting with my coushened, arch-support Nikes. The reason is because running barefoot is what your body is designed to do. Without that padding, you are forced to run with proper form. And that is to run on your toes. Take a stroll in your neighborhood and watch all the various runners – from the fat wobbling whale to even the most advanced runners – you will find that they all –literally all – will land on the heels and transition to their toes. Such heelstricking is cringeworthy to anyone who has gone primal. And its really not that hard to figure out why you shouldn’t heelstrike. Try running on your heels barefoot. You can’t; it hurts like crazy because it is a direct pound on the ground with no physiological absorption. The pressure goes straight into your heels and through you knees and hips and back. Moreover, the severity of this pounding can be illustrated by the way that you can actually tell if the person is heelstriking without even looking at their feet, because you can see the thump, thump, thump, throughout their entire body. In contrast, running on your toes allows your foot to act as a spring, eliminating the pound by having your arch, Achilles tendon and calf absorb the pressure as you heel comes down. You can still run on your toes with shoes on, but you will not strengthen your feet muscles like you would if you ran with minimalist shoes or barefoot. It may be of interest to note that the absurd phenomenon of people who are not even 5”10 but wear size 12+ shoes is the result of shoes flattening their arches by weakening the muscles in the feet. A shoe is like a cast on the foot, or, as someone else as said, a footcoffin.
  • Adapt the paleo diet, which consists primarily of meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. That’s what the human body evolved to eat before the agricultural revolution introduced wheat and grains to his diet. But, as loads of empirical evidence demonstrates, grains make you fat. Skip the processed foods, they’re even worse for you than you probably think. They not only make you gain weight by spiking insulin levels, but are detrimental to the brain and can mess with your concentration levels. Blame the explosion of ADD victims to processed foods.
  • Try not sleeping with a pillow. For most of human history we have not slept with pillows. Once you get used to it, it is surprisingly comfortable. You don’t have to roll around as much either. One caution, your shoulders may get sore, so your mileage may vary on if you want to do this one.
  • Instead of sitting in chairs, sit Indian style on the floor with your legs crossed. Asians do this all the time and they don’t get the back problems that westerners do.

There are many other ways that you can integrate the Primal Way into your lifestyle. This is just a brief sketch to get you started.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Realizing the obvious

Earlier this morning, I was in the church bathroom, doing what everyone else does in there. Once I finished my business and proceeded to the sink, I made eye contact with an older man. Reflexively, he gave me a "hey." To be polite, I smiled and asked "hey, whats going on?" He gave a quick chuckle and uttered " I don't know, but if I did I would be rich." I laughed because he gave a reference to something totally irrelevant and yet I knew precisely what he was talking about.

The financial markets, you think?

Everybody knows something drastic is going on. The stock market plummeted deeper last week than any other week since October 2008. People can smell a faint, but ominous odor in the air.
One may not be able to detect the particulars of that odor, or when its toxic levels will drive them to shelter. But the stench of 2008 is back - not that the economy has made any material improvements since then. Whether the upcoming months will proceed in Fall-2008 fashion is unknown at this point. But what is known with almost axiomatic certainty is that the economy will look a whole lot worse before it gets better, the inevitable debt-deleveraging process guarantees that.

See, what has become increasingly obvious to the causal observer has been predicted by numerous professional and amateur economists of the contrarian blogosphere and other nonmainstream outlets that care more about truth and preparing people for the future than muddling their "animal spirits" or "consumer confidence."

But in the meantime, get ready for the downswing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On the debt ceiling

There should be no surprise that Congress decided to raise the debt ceiling. The drone soldiers that pass for politicians have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not there to do what must be done, but to continue the charade of central planning and a government propped up economy. Even the TEA Party freshmen, all their conservative rhetoric notwithstanding, are not willing to grab their nuts and make some legitimate spending cuts.

But the purpose of this article is not to rehash what has been obvious for quite some time now, but to examine the implications of the new debt ceiling deal that was announced on August 1, the day before the ceiling would be breached, in the a straightforward, simple and honest way that has seem to elude the mainstream media in examining this issue.

To find out what lies in the deal, we turn to the Wall Street Journal: “The agreement, struck late Sunday, raises the debt cap by up to 2.4 trillion in three steps. It cuts 917 billion in spending over 10 years and creates a congressional committee to close the deficit by an additional 1.5 trillion.

Now then, this is really nothing new as it is very similar to the various deals proposed months ago. However, notice the trickery woven into the narrative. When I first read that they would cut 1 trillion over ten years, I merely assumed they would cut somewhere around 100 billion every year for ten years. But since I am both reasonably good at math and economics, after a few minutes reflection I concluded that this is simply not the case. Note that they said they will cut SPENDING by a trillion, not reduce reduce the ANNUAL BUDGET by a trillion. If you think about it, all that would have to be done to “cut” 1 trillion of spending over ten years would be to lower the budget by 100 billion, and then keep it flat for the next nine years, and so in total you would have spent 1 trillion less than you would have in the ten years. But putting it in the actual numbers makes it seem far worse.

Annually, government spending is a little over 3 trillion. Without any changes in the budget, the government will spend approximately a total of 30 trillion in 10 years. So, a trillion dollar cut would reduce it to 29 trillion. 29 instead of 30, what a tremendous deal! And the majority of so-called tea party conservatives voted for this?

But moreover, the cuts are actually smaller than it appears. Because the Government assumes a growing economy and thus more revenues, it makes planned projections about how much it will spend in the following years. So if it spends 3 trillion this year, it plans on spending closer to 3.1 trillion next year, and 3.2 the year after. ( These are raw estimates; I’m to too lazy at the moment to dig up the actual figures, but they should suffice to demonstrate the point) As it happens, simply not spending as much as the planned increase is considered a “cut.” So if the government keeps its expenditures flat the next year instead raising it to the expected increase, it would be considered a 100 billion dollar cut. In light of these unscrupulous accounting methods, the government can actually increase spending while saying it is cutting it!

Of course, we don’t even know that they will make these meager cuts. The price of procrastination is future delegation. In the bill, spending cuts were pushed over to a committee that doesn’t even exist yet. And most of the cuts will be initiated after 2013, with a different congress. Don’t let anyone fool you, this congress has no authority over the next one. By kicking the can down the road, our current congressmen have merely relied on the votes of the future ones.

It was pretty obvious why they felt they had to raising the debt limit. Thanks to the contraction of the private economy, the government has had to take unprecedented measures to keep the overall economy from plummeting. The 2010 deficit was 1.7 trillion, this year’s one should be similar. If the Government ran into its ceiling and was forced to balance its budget, there would be an instant 1.7 trillion reduction in GDP. That’s over 10% over the Gross Domestic Product, which would put us well into depression levels. By raising the ceiling, congress has bought the economy some time. But sooner or later it must stop; it mathematically must stop.

This is precisely why we must hit the ceiling now and take the pain that goes with it. President Obama and Chairman Bernanke think they are averting a depression, but they are simply moving its appearance to a future date, thereby ensuring that it will be even bigger once it arrives. Oh let it be known, the Great Recession will turn into another Great Depression. Don’t let the optimists deceive you. Their mindless cheerleading only serves to maintain “consumer confidence.” But the problem is much bigger than that.

I don’t pay much attention to politics, except for when I’m in those rare moments in which I am fettered by self-insecurity. Watching these elites meander ineptly in the dark, it allows me to rest secure in the knowledge that while the light may be elusive, my stumbles simmer in comparison to the trainwreck that the central planners have almost flawlessly navigated.

But there is no reason to lower your head over this. It is not always the happy-go-lucky times that testify to the truth of ourselves; it is the difficult times as well. Many men and women have relished the heroic opportunities presented by arduous times such as these. And out of the ashes may there emerge a bright and magnificent Phoenix. A creature that builds rather than destroys. With every problem there is always an opportunity to fix it. It may be an incredibly risky and dangerous endeavor to do so, but it is almost always worth taking.