Category Archives: satire

Building the Death Star

Since being sworn in as President of the United States, Donald Trump has devoted considerable energy to reversing many of his predecessor in office Barack Obama's actions.

But perhaps the most surprising reversal might come from undoing a January 2013 action by President Obama to reject a popular petition for the U.S. to build a working Death Star. For an administration seeking to expand the military capabilities of the United States, where the President has proposed creating a "space force", the Trump White House might soon revisit what would be the nation's largest ever defense infrastructure construction project.

Advances in production technology and fabrication methods for space-based structures stand to make the project much more feasible and cost effective than in President Obama's day, as the following video demonstrating how a Death Star could be practically manufactured demonstrates (HT: Core77):

It's really not that much different from assembling an International Space Station. And it would certainly be a lot easier to see from the ground. For a nation whose private sector can launch a Tesla into space, how hard can it be for the government to do?

Yes, the second video is real!

How U.S. Turkeys Predicted 2015’s Global Market Crash

Last Thanksgiving, we presented a chart featuring a spurious correlation between the average live weight of U.S. farm raised turkeys and the MSCI World Stock Market Index, in which we showed how U.S. turkeys predict global stock market crashes. Here's what we wrote at the time....

As you can see in our carefully calibrated chart above, whenever the value of the MSCI World index has exceeded the equivalent live weight of an average farm-raised turkey in the U.S., the index went on to either stagnate or crash. And in 2014, the value of the the MSCI World Stock Market Index has once again exceeded that key threshold, which can only mean one thing.... The climate for investors has changed, and it's time to sell!

And if they try to tell you that doesn't make any real sense, you should hold firm and tell them that the correlation is really strong (the R² is 0.9616), which means that the science is settled and that they really shouldn't want to be some kind of climate change science denier.

Speaking of which, the rising live weight of U.S. farm-raised turkeys also is strongly correlated with global warming. Believe it or not, the correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperatures is not very strong at all (other factors do a much more coherent job in explaining actual temperature observations).

Say what you will about the science, but you cannot deny that by using tips like this, you can make the conversation around your Thanksgiving dinner table a lot more lively this year!

The correlation between the live weight of U.S. farm-raised turkeys and global stock prices is still spurious, and yet amazingly, our prediction based upon it has largely come true in the past year, as the worlds' stock markets did indeed go on to either stagnate or crash.

And with those stock prices still above the live weight of U.S. turkeys, we can't as yet say that global markets are finished stagnating or crashing as yet.

Spurious Correlation: Average Live Weight of U.S. Farm-Raised Turkeys and MSCI Global Market Index, 1970-2015 (Year To Date)

If it seems irrational to link the weight of U.S. turkeys and global stock prices, just remember the old saying: the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent. Do you really feel lucky enough to bet against the birds?

U.S. Farm Turkeys - Source: -

Data Sources

MSCI. MSCI - World Stock Market Index. (End of Day Index Data Search). [Online Database. ]. Accessed 23 November 2015.

National Turkey Federation. Sourcebook. [PDF Document]. October 2013.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Turkeys Raised. [PDF Document]. 30 September 2015.

What Is Ironman’s Politics?

Not long ago, in an e-mail exchange with an individual who accused us of being "likely in the the top 5-10%" (which we are, definitely, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more!), and therefore of being "clearly unable to understand the lives or plight of the lower 50%", into which group they placed themselves (hey - they're the ones who self-identified!) They also accused us of being "someone from the conservative side of the political spectrum".

Today, we're going to clear up exactly where we fall on the political spectrum. Via John Whitehead, we've taken "The World's Smallest Political Quiz". Here is a screen shot of our first-time-ever results:

Ironman's World's Smallest Political Quiz Results

We played around with the quiz, tweaking some of our answers slightly to account for some of the inherent vagueness in how to interpret the various options for each of the questions asked, but only managed to move the dot marking our location in the political spectrum one square to the left or one square up from our natural positions on the issues presented, when we managed to move it at all.

(Meanwhile, John Whitehead, tie-dye wearing hippie - at least, as compared to us - reports that one can achieve a 100% libertarian status in the quiz by agreeing with each proposition.)

Still, we appreciate that many of our readers might think that we fall much further to the right in the political spectrum. We suspect that impression has a great deal to do with our approach to the positions we take on the topics we cover, where we have two overriding principles:

  1. Data wins. We don't take any political position unless we have real world data and objective analysis that clearly supports it.

  2. Competence matters in performance. We have little to no tolerance for displayed incompetence.

This combination of principles largely accounts for our negative assessment of President Obama's tenure in office and his preferred policies, which many of the President's most ardent and not uncoincidentally unthinking supporters perceive as meaning that we're very much on the right of the political spectrum. Instead, the truth is that we're right in the center, the only place where people can be truly fair and objective.

We suspect that is perhaps what really upsets such mindlessly hate-filled and jealous people so greatly, because that combination of principles gives us the super power of being able to accurately see the world as it is, which makes it possible for us to be right so much more often than such negatively-affected extremists can ever hope to be.

But then, maybe that's just our perspective from actually being in the center of the political spectrum. We just don't see the point of spending any part of life in such an inadequacy-driven rage, because the data says that's no way to live.

In Which We Provide Forward Guidance to the Fed

Of all the things we never expected to find ourselves doing, providing policy guidance to the Federal Reserve is probably at the top of the list.

That's all the more unexpected because we've never had any contact with any official at any level of any branch of the U.S.' central banking institution.

NASA - Source:

And yet, if you listen to the things that a number of the Fed's most influential officials have been saying, you'll find our fingerprints all over them.

It all begins with some key observations and insights we've offered over the years. On that count, our having quantified how the action of investors collectively shifting their forward looking focus from one discrete point of time in the future to another point of time in the future can influence otherwise inexplicable changes in stock prices is likely our major contribution, followed by our observation that the Fed was using stock prices to assess the effectiveness of its monetary policies.

Those two things together allowed us to identify and quantify mistakes made by top Fed officials as they attempted to provide forward guidance to markets. And that, in turn, allowed us to describe how they could repair the damage and more effectively use forward guidance as a monetary policy tool by emphasizing the timing of when the Fed will implement changes using its more traditional arsenal of tools.

The Fed was listening. Now they're applying the lessons they've gleaned from our observations and suggestions.

Over the last several weeks, we've been observing, with increasing frequency, the statements of highly influential Fed officials who have gone out of their way to set the expectation that the Fed will begin hiking short term interest rates above its current 0-to-0.25% level by the end of the second quarter of 2015.

And we know that forward guidance has been effective because of the trajectory that U.S. stock prices has taken during these last several weeks, which becomes even more clear after our simple adjustments to account for the past volatility of U.S. stock prices, which we use as the base reference points from which we can otherwise project future stock prices within a relatively narrow range of noise.

Alternative Futures for S&P 500, 2015Q1 Likely Trajectories for Stock Prices When Investors Are Focused on Indicated Future Quarter

Provided, of course, that we know just how far investors are peering into the future when they make their investment decisions today, which is why we show each of the likely trajectories for investors focused on any of the next four quarters ending in the future. And that's where the Fed's forward guidance efforts come into play, because the Fed's outsized ability to affect interest rates can affect how far forward in time investors look from the present, which then tells us which future trajectory to follow. At least while investors aren't distracted by the alternative futures.

Guide Right Forward March - Source:

The way that works is that when the Fed says it is going to do something by the end of a certain time period, investors will adapt their investments to be consistent with the expectations for the investment returns that associated with that period of time in the future. We can then tell from the actual trajectory that stock prices follow how tightly investors have set their forward looking focus on the quarter that coincides with the anticipate action on the part of the Fed.

That's the way in which the Fed's forward guidance has been shaped and made more effective, even at the so-called lower zero bound, by our insights and what the Fed has absorbed from our guidance of how to better employ this tool. As long as the Fed's action is considered to be credible given the current state of economic affairs, the Fed can use the model we've developed of how stock prices work as a means of assessing the degree to which markets have bought in to the Fed's preferred policies.

Here, the greater the deviation from the projected trajectory associated with the future point of time to which the Fed has directed investors, the more statements or actions using the other tools the Fed has available to it will be needed to bolster the credibility of its preferred policy. If the gap can't be closed after all that, that provides the indication the Fed needs that it should pursue a different, and more credible, policy.

The best part? It doesn't matter if you've never heard of us or even believe any of what we've just described is possible. It is the way the world works, whether you like it, understand it, or not.

As for what good this does, if you happen to be an investor or just someone who needed more economic stability before you could justify proceeding with plans to expand your business or investments in today's world, you've benefited from the Fed's more effective implementation of its forward guidance policy. As for us and our role in providing guidance to the Fed in implementing those forward guidance policies since mid-2013, you're welcome.

Islam versus Satire = Murder

“Allahu Akbar” was the cry being heard from the gunmen who slaughtered 12 people in their attack on a newspaper’s offices in Paris this morning.  There is something seriously poverty-stricken and sickening about any religion whose adherents respond to the printed word, or image, with a murderous attack.  Their God reveals his smallness, meanness and brutality in the actions of such apostles, but perhaps after all “Allahu Akbar” is the empty slogan of already spiritually dispossessed people. 

I write this as news is still developing about the attack on the Paris offices of satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, and much is still unknown about it.   Given that the magazine has lampooned the Prophet Muhammed and radical Islam (along with nearly every other religion as well) it currently seems a fair bet that the attackers were indeed Islamic adherents.  They represent a brand of Islam incapable of rational operation in the modern world.  My own knowledge of the Koran is too limited to allow any comment on whether such action as that taken today can be justified in its pages, or whether it represents an apostasy of Islam.  If it is the latter, of course we look forward to the vigorous denunciations of anyone who uses Islam to further a murderous aim from the leaders of that religion.

In the meantime, the Charlie Hebdo tragedy illustrates the awful problem faced by liberal, western societies.  Journalists, writers and illustrators are in the front-line of maintaining, upholding and simply symbolising that rational liberalism, but as this morning’s events show, such attitudes are red rags to the closed minds of the religious fanatic.  And it is lamentably easy for the fanatic bent on murder to wreak his havoc in a liberal state.  The number of gunmen whose courageous crusade took them to the killing zone of unarmed men and women working at computer screens may only have been two, but the resultant havoc has been immense.  And the danger is that the very thread of liberty itself becomes taut, and in places broken, by the fall-out of such an event.

All credit to President Hollande – not a man who has covered himself in glory during his mishappen presidency so far – for his rapid visit to the Charlie Hebdo offices and his clear reassertion of France’s ‘liberty’.  The deaths caused by the “Allahu Akbar” shouting murderers are tragedies; but I wonder if the response to such senseless hatred may well be a ratcheting up of a determination by writers and publications and others to overtly attack such monstrosity, question the ideas and theology behind it, and vigorously assert the superiority of liberty and rationalism.  In taking their action today, the gunmen have already shown that they have lost.  It is a gaping wound that their defeat is so costly.

UPDATE: French Islamic leaders have been quick to condemn the attacks, saying that "They have hit us all. We are all victims".

UPDATE 2: The Spectator's editorial about this attack quotes Muslim writer Irshid Manji's words in an article last year -  “The Qur’an states that there should ‘no compulsion in religion’. (2:256). Nobody should be forced to treat tradition as untouchable, including traditions that result in the messed-up Muslim habit of equating our very human prophet with an inviolable idol.”

It becomes as imperative as ever that Islamic leaders and followers take a lead in condemning the attacks, in order to make the case for Islam as a religion of tolerance.