Saturday, January 19, 2013

Great moments in bad predictions

From Anthony Watts, comes this collection of bad predictions:

While searching for something else, I came across this entertaining collection of grand predictive failures related to resources and climate change, along with some of the biggest predictive failures of Paul Ehrlich. I thought it worth sharing.
Exhaustion of Resources
“Indeed it is certain, it is clear to see, that the earth itself is currently more cultivated and developed than in earlier times. Now all places are accessible, all are documented, all are full of business.  The most charming farms obliterate empty places, ploughed fields vanquish forests, herds drive out wild beasts, sandy places are planted with crops, stones are fixed, swamps drained, and there are such great cities where formerly hardly a hut… everywhere there is a dwelling, everywhere a multitude, everywhere a government, everywhere there is life. The greatest evidence of the large number of people: we are burdensome to the world, the resources are scarcely adequate to us; and our needs straiten us and complaints are everywhere while already nature does not sustain us.”
  • In 1865, Stanley Jevons (one of the most recognized 19th century economists) predicted that England would run out of coal by 1900, and that England’s factories would grind to a standstill.
  • In 1885, the US Geological Survey announced that there was “little or no chance” of oil being discovered in California.
  • In 1891, it said the same thing about Kansas and Texas. (See Osterfeld, David.Prosperity Versus Planning : How Government Stifles Economic Growth. New York : Oxford University Press, 1992.)
  • In 1939 the US Department of the Interior said that American oil supplies would last only another 13 years.
  • 1944 federal government review predicted that by now the US would have exhausted its reserves of 21 of 41 commodities it examined. Among them were tin, nickel, zinc, lead and manganese.
  • In 1949 the Secretary of the Interior announced that the end of US oil was in sight.
Claim: In 1952 the US President’s Materials Policy Commission concluded that by the mid-1970s copper production in the US could not exceed 800,000 tons and that lead production would be at most 300,000 tons per year.

Data: But copper production in 1973 was 1.6 million tons, and by 1974 lead production had reached 614,000 tons – 100% higher than predicted.
Claims: In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb and declared that the battle to feed humanity had been lost and that there would be a major food shortage in the US. “In the 1970s … hundreds of millions are going to starve to death,” and by the 1980s most of the world’s important resources would be depleted. He forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980-1989 and that by 1999, the US population would decline to 22.6 million. The problems in the US would be relatively minor compared to those in the rest of the world. (Ehrlich, Paul R. The Population Bomb. New York, Ballantine Books, 1968.) New Scientist magazine underscored his speech in an editorial titled “In Praise of Prophets.”
Claim: “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For BiologySeptember 1971.
Claim: Ehrlich wrote in 1968, “I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971, if ever.”
Data: Yet in a only few years India was exporting food and significantly changed its food production capacity. Ehrlich must have noted this because in the 1971 version of his book this comment is deleted (Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource, Princeton: Princeton Univesity Press, 1981, p. 64).
The Limits to Growth (1972) – projected the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and natural gas by 1993. It also stated that the world had only 33-49 years of aluminum resources left, which means we should run out sometime between 2005-2021. (See Donella Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: New American Library, 1972.
Claim: In 1974, the US Geological Survey announced “at 1974 technology and 1974 price” the US had only a 10-year supply of natural gas.
Data: The American Gas Association said that gas supplies were sufficient for the next 1,000-2,500 years. (Julian Simon, Population Matters. New Jersey: Transaction Publications, 1990): p. 90.
Population and Poverty
In the mid 1970s the US government sponsored a travelling exhibit for schoolchildren titled, “Population: The Problem is Us.” (Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population, San Francisco: CA, Ignatius, 1988, p. 21.)
In 1973, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s vote in Roe v. Wade was influenced by this idea, according to Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong: “As Stewart saw it, abortion was becoming one reasonable solution to population control” (quoted in Newsweek of September 14, 1987, p. 33.).
In 1989, when the US Supreme Court was hearing the Webster case, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor brought the idea of overpopulation into a hypothetical question she asked of Charles Fried, former solicitor-general, “Do you think that the state has the right to, if in a future century we had a serious overpopulation problem, has a right to require women to have abortions after so many children?”
World Bank president Barber Conable calls for population control because “poverty and rapid population growth reinforce each other” (Washington Post, July 16, 1990, p. A13)
Prince Philip advises us that “It must be obvious by now that further population growth in any country is undesirable” (Washington Post, May 8, 1990, p. A26)
37 Senators wrote President Bush in support of funding for population control (Washington Post, April 1, 1990, p. H1)
The Trilateral Commission and the American Assembly call for reduction in population growth (U. S. News and World Report, May 7, 1990)
Newsweek‘s year-ending cover story concluded that “Foremost of the new realities is the world’s population problem” (December 25, 1990, p.44)
The president of NOW warns that continued population growth would be a “catastrophe” (Nat Hentoff in the Washington Post, July 29, 1989, p. A17)
Ted Turner (Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wed. Dec. 2, 1998) in an address to the Society of Environmental Journalists in Chattanooga – blamed Christianity for overpopulation and environmental degradation, and argued that the people who disagree with him are “dummies.” He stated in part, “The Judeo-Christian religion says man was given dominion over everything, and his salvation was that he was to go out and increase and multiply. Well, we have done that … to the point where in Calcutta, it’s a hellhole. So it’s not an environmentally friendly religion.”
Ellen Goodman laments “People Pollution” (Washington Post, March 3, 1990, p. A25)
Herblock cartoon shows that the U. S. neglecting the “world population explosion” (Washington Post, July 19, 1990, p. A22)
Hobart Rowen likens population growth to “the pond weed [which] grows in huge leaps” (Washington Post, April 1, 1990, p. H8).
Newsweek “My Turn” suggests giving every teen-age girl a check for up to $1200 each year that she does not have a baby “in order to stop the relentless increase of humanity” (Noel Perrin. “A Nonbearing Account”, April 2, 1990, p. 9).
Climate Change
Claim Jan. 1970: “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” Life MagazineJanuary 1970. Life Magazine also noted that some people disagree, “but scientists have solid experimental and historical evidence to support each of the predictions.”
Data: Air quality has actually improved since 1970. Studies find that sunlight reaching the Earth fell by somewhere between 3 and 5 percent over the period in question.
Claim April 1970: “If present trends continue, the world will be … eleven degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.” Kenneth E.F. Watt, in Earth Day, 1970.
Data: According to NASA, global temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1970.
Claim 1970: “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” Paul Ehrlich, speech during Earth Day, 1970.
Claim 1972: “Artic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000.” Christian Science MonitorJune 8, 1972.
Data: Ice coverage has fallen, though as of last month, the Arctic Ocean had 3.82 million square miles of ice cover — an area larger than the continental United States — according to The National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Claims 1974: “… when metereologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age. Telltale signs are everywhere–from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice int eh waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data fro the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadia Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.”
Later in the article, “Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip teh climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years.”
Source: “Another Ice Age,” Time Magazine, June 24, 1974.
Claim 1989: “Using computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide two degrees by 2010.” Associated Press,May 15, 1989.
Data: According to NASA, global temperature has increased by about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1989. And U.S. temperature has increased even less over the same period.
Claims: “Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.”
“Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and … are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters–which scientists are attributing to global climate change–produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.”
“London’s last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.” “Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community.”
According to Dr. David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” and winter snowfall will be “a very rare and exciting event.” Interviewed by the UK Independent, March 20, 2000.
“David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow.”
See “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” The Independent. March 20, 2000.
Data: “Coldest December Since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10 C bringing travel chaos across Britain.” Mailonline. Dec. 18, 2010.
Claim: “[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots … [By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.” Michel Oppenheimer and Robert H. Boyle, Dead Heat, St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Oppenheimer is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. He is the Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy at the Wilson School. He was formerly a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, the largest non-governmental organization in the U.S. that examines problems and solutions to greenhouse gases.
Data: When asked about these old predictions Oppenheimer stated, “On the whole I would stand by these predictions — not predictions, sorry, scenarios — as having at least in a general way actually come true,” he said. “There’s been extensive drought, devastating drought, in significant parts of the world. The fraction of the world that’s in drought has increased over that period.”
However, that claim is not obviously true. Data from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center show that precipitation — rain and snow — has increased slightly over the century.
How could scientists have made such off-base claims? Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of “The Population Bomb” and president of Stanford University’s Center for Conservation Biology, told that ideas about climate science changed a great deal in the the ’70s and ’80s.
Ehrlich told that the consequences of future warming could be dire.
Source: University of Georgia, Terry College of Business. Economics 2200, Economic Development of the US, David B. Mustard

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hurricane experts admit they can’t predict hurricanes early

OTTAWA — Two top U.S. hurricane forecasters, famous across Deep South hurricane country, are quitting the practice of making a seasonal forecast in December because it doesn’t work.

William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say a look back shows their past 20 years of forecasts had no predictive value.

The two scientists from Colorado State University will still discuss different probabilities of hurricane seasons in December. But the shift signals how far humans are, even with supercomputers, from truly knowing what our weather will do in the long run.

Colorado State has been known for decades for forecasts of how many named storms and hurricanes can be expected each official hurricane season (which runs from June to November.)

Last week, the pair made this announcement:

“We are discontinuing our early December quantitative hurricane forecast for the next year … Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill even though the hindcast studies on which they were based had considerable skill.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

The End of Snow Again

From Britain's Independent in March 2000:

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London's last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.

Fast forward to 2010.

Christmas travellers are facing severe disruption as heavy snow falls across many parts of the UK.

Airport closures have hit thousands of passengers. Heathrow expects some flights to depart from 0600 GMT, while many Gatwick flights remain cancelled.

Roads, railways and airports are affected across the UK, amid severe weather warnings for many areas.

Airports in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands are also suffering cancellations and delays.

The snow is forecast to continue in many parts of the UK, with up to 25cm expected in some areas of England, and a number of severe weather warnings are in place.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter in England

From March 2000:

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

 By Charles Onians
Monday, 20 March 2000

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.
However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.

January, 2010:

Britain in grip of coldest winter for 30 years

Press Association

Friday, 8 January 2010

Britain remained in the grip of the coldest winter for more than 30 years today, with conditions set to feel even more icy in the coming days.
Temperatures were already on a par with the South Pole after the country suffered its coldest night of the winter so far.
There will be little respite, with more snow in eastern England today and temperatures likely to be pegged at or below freezing in all areas.
Over the weekend an easterly wind will move from the south of England across the country, bringing with it a biting chill factor as the coldest spell for more than three decades grinds on.
The mercury sank to minus 22.3C (8.1F) in Altnaharra in Scotland this morning - close to the minus 22.9C (minus 9.2F) currently at the southernmost part of the globe.
Manchester and parts of the Brecon Beacons in Wales saw temperatures fall to minus 16C (7F), with Glasgow reaching minus 8C (18F), Cardiff minus 5C (23F) and London hovering just below zero (32F).
As the UK remained bitterly cold, there was yet more disruption on the roads, trains and at airports, with hundreds of schools shut again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Experts Predict (Fun with the NYT Archives)

[NY Times September 15, 1948, Wednesday]
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 -- Scientists took stock here today of what science had wrought in the past hundred years and visioned a dark outlook for the human race in the next century. They linked this outlook to overpopulation and the dwindling of natural resources, both of which are the direct consequences of progress in science and technology.

[NY Times June 23, 1955, Thursday]
WASHINGTON, June 22 -- Three top scientists called today for a halt in the mass vaccination of children against poliomyelitis with Salk vaccine. They urged an immediate concentrated effort on producing a "safer" vaccine with regularity.

[NY Times November 8, 1936, Sunday]
WORLD POPULATION HELD NEARING PEAK; Johns Hopkins Scientists Say 2100 A.D. Will See High Point of 2,645,500,000.

[NY Times July 27, 1972, Thursday]
Scientists Say Tidal Waves Will Hit West Coast in 1973

[NY Times July 15, 1928, Sunday]
DES MOINES, Iowa, July 14.--The present Presidential campaign will signalize in American history the collapse of the two-party system and the birth of a new system of smaller parties, according to the opinion of ninety political scientists, expressed at the close of the annual Commonwealth Conference at the University of Iowa, Wednesday.

[NY Times May 26, 1934, Saturday]
Science Will Liberate All Mankind In Next Century, Leaders Predict; In Chicago 'Preview,' Summoned by Sloan, Industrialists, Scientists and Doctors Foresee 70-Year Life Span, Ground-Powered Planes, Sunlight Motors, Slumless Cities and World Television. Marvels of Science Forecast for the Next Hundred Years .

[NY Times July 14, 1924, Monday]
PHILADELPHIA, July 13. -- A prediction that some time, in the not far distant future New York. City would be shaken by an earthquake more terrible than the one which wrecked Tokio last Summer was made today by Professor David Todd, professor of astronomy at Amherst College. 

[NY Times February 5, 1980, Tuesday]
RECENT studies by resource and population scientists reveal that many of the earth's resources that enable the human race to feed, shelter, transport and clothe itself have passed their peak production years.

[NY Times December 24, 1977, Saturday]
ENERGY AGENCY SEES STABLE OIL PRICES; Experts Predict a World Glut Lasting Until 1981 or 1982 Glut Expected to Last Until 1981 Minor Increases Not Ruled Out
[The price of a barrel of West Texas Crude at the end of Dec, 1977 was $14.48, by the end of 1981 the price was $35.82, a rise of 147% - JH]

[NY Times January 3, 1957, Thursday]
RECORD FORECAST FOR U.S. ECONOMY; 14 Experts Predict 4% Gain This Year in the Gross National Product Shift Is Noted

This is likely to be the best business year in history in the opinion of fourteen economists polled by the National Industrial Conference Board.
[The actual rise in GDP for 1957 was 2%, the average GDP growth from 1945-1956 - JH]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 Market Quotes

While not all are technically 'predictions' here is a collection of market quotes from the past year:

--"A very powerful and durable rally is in the works. But it may need another couple of days to lift off. Hold the fort and keep the faith!" according to Richard Band, editor, Profitable Investing Letter, Mar. 27, 2008.
At the time of the prediction, the Dow Jones industrial average was at 12,300. By late December it was at 8,500.

--AIG "could have huge gains in the second quarter." said Bijan Moazami who is an analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey on May 9, 2008.
AIG wound up losing $5 billion in that quarter and $25 billion in the next. It was taken over in September by the U.S. government, which will spend or lend over $150 billion to keep it afloat.

--"I think this is a case where Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are fundamentally sound. They're not in danger of going under I think they are in good shape going forward." Proclaimed Barney Frank (D-Mass.), House Financial Services Committee chairman on July 14, 2008.
Two months later, the government forced the mortgage giants into conservatorship and pledged to invest up to $100 billion in each.

--"The market is in the process of correcting itself." Explained President George W. Bush, during a March 14, 2008 speech.
Given that the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 11,951 that day in March, it appears that the market continues to correct and correct and correct.

--"No! No! No! Bear Stearns is not in trouble." Jim Cramer of CNBC told his television audience on March 11, 2008.
Five days later, JPMorgan Chase was basically forced to acquire Bear Stearns with almost total government help, nearly wiping out shareholders.

--"Existing-Home Sales to Trend Up in 2008" read a headline from the National Association of Realtors in a press release dated December 9, 2007.
On Dec. 23, 2008, the same group said that November sales were running at an annual rate of 4.5 million, down 11% from a year earlier in the worst housing slump since the Depression.

--"I think you'll see (oil prices at) $150 a barrel by the end of the year" predicted T. Boone Pickens on June 20, 2008.
Oil was then around $135 a barrel. By late December it was below $40.

--"I expect there will be some failures. I don't anticipate any serious problems of that sort among the large internationally active banks that make up a very substantial part of our banking system." This comment from Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman February 28, 2008.
In September, Washington Mutual became the largest financial institution in U.S. history to fail. Citigroup needed an even bigger rescue in November along with many other banks who were forced to take capital infusions whether they wanted them or not.

--"In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules." According to Bernard Madoff, money manager on October 20, 2007
Madoff's hedge fund turned out to be a huge Ponzi scheme that collapsed leaving investors with almost complete losses.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Year 2000 as seen in 1999

Here are a few of the more overwrought Y2K quotes (selected from this site):

"We are heading for a disaster greater than anything the world has experienced since the bubonic plague of the mid-14th century."
Gary North, "Blind Man's Bluff in the Year 2000"

[Y2K will] be known as the greatest social, political, and financial crisis mankind has faced since the great plagues of the 14th century that wiped out one-third of Europe."
Bruce Tippery, Gary North's publisher

"If we don't have electricity, nothing else works. On New Year's Eve 1999, let me suggest three places you don't want to be: in an elevator, in an airplane, or in a hospital."
Sen. Christopher Dodd, (D-Conn.), 06/12/98

"Currently I believe there is a 70 percent chance of a global recession as severe as the one that occurred in the 1973-74 oil crisis. Just as that recession was caused by the disruption in the supply of oil, I believe the disruption in the flow of information could be equally as disruptive."
Edward Yardeni, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, North America, 08/19/98
[Wrong by his own admission, 01/05/2000, I actually debated Ed about this in a meeting we had at Credit Suisse in mid 1999 - JAH]

"The more I uncovered, the more I realized how extraordinarily vulnerable the system is. The writing is on the wall: it is not only possible, but probable that there are going to be food shortages."
Geri Guidetti, biologist and Y2k alarmist

"Americans cannot escape the inevitable risks of Y2K. Like characters in The Decameron fleeing a medieval plague, they can run to the hills if they want, as some doomsayers are doing, but the bug eventually will catch them, frustrate their best-laid plans and cost them dearly for years to come."
--Duncan A. MacDonald, IntellectualCapital.COM, 12/03/98
Duncan A. MacDonald is a retired general counsel for Citibank's card programs for Europe and North America. He is currently advising banks on Y2K, alternate dispute resolution, antitrust law, privacy policy and plain language.

"Based on what I learned at DistribuTECH '98, I am convinced that there is a 100 percent chance that a major portion of the domestic electrical infrastructure will be lost as a result of the Year 2000 computer and embedded systems problem. The industry is fiddling whilst the infrastructure burns."
--Rick Cowles, reports on the electric utility industry

"Severe long- and short-term disruptions to supply chains are likely to occur [due to Y2K-related system failures]. ... The Y2K problem still has the potential to be very disruptive, necessitating continued, intensive preparation in the time remaining,"
--U.S. Senate Committe on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, 09/22/99

"Problems will start to bubble up and by the second quarter [of 2000], there will be a big mess."

--Lynn Edelson, principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's operational and systems risk management group in Los Angeles, 08/02/99, quoted in

"In spite of all these clues the only thing a rational person can conclude is that somehow, someway, it is highly probable that something bad will happen either because of Y2K or on behalf of Y2K. Problems and violence will either be born of lunacy or rationalized planning, of a foreign or domestic nature, and on either a small or large scale, but you can bet -- say the experts -- that something will happen."
Jon E. Dougherty, World Net Daily, 07/12/99
[Empasis in the original.]

"Whether by bombing a jetliner or attacking crowds in (New York's) Times Square, it's almost certain the Year 2000 will be ushered in with a major terrorist attack. ... [There will be a] violent upsurge in guerilla violence [against America]."
--Neil Livingstone, ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"For the first few weeks of 2000, you'll probably see gas prices shoot up drastically. I would not be surprised to see a 50 percent rise in prices."
--Bruce Webster, Co-chair, Washington D.C. Year 2000 Group, 03/15/99

The Year 2000 as seen in 1900

Here's a collection of predictions made in The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900 about life in the year 2000. Quite a few are not so bad, but I include the entire list for completeness with a few editorial comments:

Prediction #1: There will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America and its possessions by the lapse of another century. [not bad] Nicaragua will ask for admission to our Union after the completion of the great canal. Mexico will be next. Europe, seeking more territory to the south of us, will cause many of the South and Central American republics to be voted into the Union by their own people.” [er, no]

Prediction #2: The American will be taller by from one to two inches. His increase of stature will result from better health, due to vast reforms in medicine, sanitation, food and athletics. He will live fifty years instead of thirty-five as at present – for he will reside in the suburbs. [pretty good, actually didn't go far enough] The city house will practically be no more. Building in blocks will be illegal. The trip from suburban home to office will require a few minutes only. A penny will pay the fare. [er, no]

Prediction #3: Gymnastics will begin in the nursery, where toys and games will be designed to strengthen the muscles. Exercise will be compulsory in the schools. Every school, college and community will have a complete gymnasium. All cities will have public gymnasiums. A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling. [not quite]

Prediction #4: There Will Be No Street Cars in Our Large Cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits. In most cities it will be confined to broad subways or tunnels, well lighted and well ventilated, or to high trestles with “moving-sidewalk” stairways leading to the top. These underground or overhead streets will teem with capacious automobile passenger coaches and freight with cushioned wheels. Subways or trestles will be reserved for express trains. Cities, therefore, will be free from all noises. [F]

Prediction #5: Trains will run two miles a minute, normally; express trains one hundred and fifty miles an hour. To go from New York to San Francisco will take a day and a night by fast express. There will be cigar-shaped electric locomotives hauling long trains of cars. Cars will, like houses, be artificially cooled. Along the railroads there will be no smoke, no cinders, because coal will neither be carried nor burned. There will be no stops for water. Passengers will travel through hot or dusty country regions with windows down. [C]

Prediction #6: Automobiles will be cheaper than horses are today. Farmers will own automobile hay-wagons, automobile truck-wagons, plows, harrows and hay-rakes. A one-pound motor in one of these vehicles will do the work of a pair of horses or more. Children will ride in automobile sleighs in winter. Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known. There will be, as already exist today, automobile hearses, automobile police patrols, automobile ambulances, automobile street sweepers. The horse in harness will be as scarce, if, indeed, not even scarcer, then as the yoked ox is today. [B+]

Prediction #7: There will be air-ships, but they will not successfully compete with surface cars and water vessels for passenger or freight traffic. They will be maintained as deadly war-vessels by all military nations. Some will transport men and goods. Others will be used by scientists making observations at great heights above the earth. [B]

Prediction #8: Aerial War-Ships and Forts on Wheels. Giant guns will shoot twenty-five miles or more, and will hurl anywhere within such a radius shells exploding and destroying whole cities. Such guns will be armed by aid of compasses when used on land or sea, and telescopes when directed from great heights. Fleets of air-ships, hiding themselves with dense, smoky mists, thrown off by themselves as they move, will float over cities, fortifications, camps or fleets. They will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts. These aerial war-ships will necessitate bomb-proof forts, protected by great steel plates over their tops as well as at their sides. Huge forts on wheels will dash across open spaces at the speed of express trains of to-day. They will make what are now known as cavalry charges. Great automobile plows will dig deep entrenchments as fast as soldiers can occupy them. Rifles will use silent cartridges. Submarine boats submerged for days will be capable of wiping a whole navy off the face of the deep. Balloons and flying machines will carry telescopes of one-hundred-mile vision with camera attachments, photographing an enemy within that radius. These photographs as distinct and large as if taken from across the street, will be lowered to the commanding officer in charge of troops below. [B+]

Prediction #9: Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later. Even to-day photographs are being telegraphed over short distances. Photographs will reproduce all of Nature’s colors. [A]

Prediction #10: Man will See Around the World. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span. American audiences in their theatres will view upon huge curtains before them the coronations of kings in Europe or the progress of battles in the Orient. The instrument bringing these distant scenes to the very doors of people will be connected with a giant telephone apparatus transmitting each incidental sound in its appropriate place. Thus the guns of a distant battle will be heard to boom when seen to blaze, and thus the lips of a remote actor or singer will be heard to utter words or music when seen to move. [A]

Prediction #11: No Mosquitoes nor Flies. Insect screens will be unnecessary. Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated. Boards of health will have destroyed all mosquito haunts and breeding-grounds, drained all stagnant pools, filled in all swamp-lands, and chemically treated all still-water streams. The extermination of the horse and its stable will reduce the house-fly. [F]

Prediction #12: Peas as Large as Beets. Peas and beans will be as large as beets are to-day. Sugar cane will produce twice as much sugar as the sugar beet now does. Cane will once more be the chief source of our sugar supply. The milkweed will have been developed into a rubber plant. Cheap native rubber will be harvested by machinery all over this country. Plants will be made proof against disease microbes just as readily as man is to-day against smallpox. The soil will be kept enriched by plants which take their nutrition from the air and give fertility to the earth. [B, maybe A after a few more years of genetic research]

Prediction #13: Strawberries as Large as Apples will be eaten by our great-great-grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence. Raspberries and blackberries will be as large. One will suffice for the fruit course of each person. Strawberries and cranberries will be grown upon tall bushes. Cranberries, gooseberries and currants will be as large as oranges. One cantaloupe will supply an entire family. Melons, cherries, grapes, plums, apples, pears, peaches and all berries will be seedless. Figs will be cultivated over the entire United States. [C]

Prediction #14: Black, Blue and Green Roses. Roses will be as large as cabbage heads. Violets will grow to the size of orchids. A pansy will be as large in diameter as a sunflower. A century ago the pansy measured but half an inch across its face. There will be black, blue and green roses. It will be possible to grow any flower in any color and to transfer the perfume of a scented flower to another which is odorless. Then may the pansy be given the perfume of the violet. [C]

Prediction #15: No Foods will be Exposed. Storekeepers who expose food to air breathed out by patrons or to the atmosphere of the busy streets will be arrested with those who sell stale or adulterated produce. Liquid-air refrigerators will keep great quantities of food fresh for long intervals. [C]

Prediction #16: There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other. Russian will rank second. [F]

Prediction #17: How Children will be Taught. A university education will be free to every man and woman. Several great national universities will have been established. Children will study a simple English grammar adapted to simplified English, and not copied after the Latin. Time will be saved by grouping like studies. Poor students will be given free board, free clothing and free books if ambitious and actually unable to meet their school and college expenses. Medical inspectors regularly visiting the public schools will furnish poor children free eyeglasses, free dentistry and free medical attention of every kind. The very poor will, when necessary, get free rides to and from school and free lunches between sessions. In vacation time poor children will be taken on trips to various parts of the world. Etiquette and housekeeping will be important studies in the public schools. [B+]

Prediction #18: Telephones Around the World. Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn. By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a “hello girl”. [A]

Prediction #19: Grand Opera will be telephoned to private homes, and will sound as harmonious as though enjoyed from a theatre box. Automatic instruments reproducing original airs exactly will bring the best music to the families of the untalented. Great musicians gathered in one enclosure in New York will, by manipulating electric keys, produce at the same time music from instruments arranged in theatres or halls in San Francisco or New Orleans, for instance. Thus will great bands and orchestras give long-distance concerts. In great cities there will be public opera-houses whose singers and musicians are paid from funds endowed by philanthropists and by the government. The piano will be capable of changing its tone from cheerful to sad. Many devises will add to the emotional effect of music. [A]

Prediction #20: Coal will not be used for heating or cooking. It will be scarce, but not entirely exhausted. The earth’s hard coal will last until the year 2050 or 2100; its soft-coal mines until 2200 or 2300. Meanwhile both kinds of coal will have become more and more expensive. Man will have found electricity manufactured by waterpower to be much cheaper. Every river or creek with any suitable fall will be equipped with water-motors, turning dynamos, making electricity. Along the seacoast will be numerous reservoirs continually filled by waves and tides washing in. Out of these the water will be constantly falling over revolving wheels. All of our restless waters, fresh and salt, will thus be harnessed to do the work which Niagara is doing today: making electricity for heat, light and fuel. [D on scarcity of coal, B on waterpower, C overall]

Prediction #21: Hot and Cold Air from Spigots. Hot or cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house as we now turn on hot or cold water from spigots to regulate the temperature of the bath. Central plants will supply this cool air and heat to city houses in the same way as now our gas or electricity is furnished. Rising early to build the furnace fire will be a task of the olden times. Homes will have no chimneys, because no smoke will be created within their walls. [A]

Prediction #22: Store Purchases by Tube. Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with the private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes. Great business establishments will extend them to stations, similar to our branch post-offices of today, whence fast automobile vehicles will distribute purchases from house to house. [B-, Fedex and UPS instead of Tubes]

Prediction #23: Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today. They will purchase materials in tremendous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking. Food will be served hot or cold to private houses in pneumatic tubes or automobile wagons. The meal being over, the dishes used will be packed and returned to the cooking establishments where they will be washed. Such wholesale cookery will be done in electric laboratories rather than in kitchens. These laboratories will be equipped with electric stoves, and all sorts of electric devices, such as coffee-grinders, egg-beaters, stirrers, shakers, parers, meat-choppers, meat-saws, potato-mashers, lemon-squeezers, dish-washers, dish-dryers and the like. All such utensils will be washed in chemicals fatal to disease microbes. Having one’s own cook and purchasing one’s own food will be an extravagance. [B+]

Prediction #24: Vegetables Grown by Electricity. Winter will be turned into summer and night into day by the farmer. In cold weather he will place heat-conducting electric wires under the soil of his garden and thus warm his growing plants. He will also grow large gardens under glass. At night his vegetables will be bathed in powerful electric light, serving, like sunlight, to hasten their growth. Electric currents applied to the soil will make valuable plants grow larger and faster, and will kill troublesome weeds. Rays of colored light will hasten the growth of many plants. Electricity applied to garden seeds will make them sprout and develop unusually early. [B+]

Prediction #25: Oranges will grow in Philadelphia. Fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea will bring delicious fruits from the tropics and southern temperate zone within a few days. The farmers of South America, South Africa, Australia and the South Sea Islands, whose seasons are directly opposite to ours, will thus supply us in winter with fresh summer foods, which cannot be grown here. Scientist will have discovered how to raise here many fruits now confined to much hotter or colder climates. Delicious oranges will be grown in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Cantaloupes and other summer fruits will be of such a hardy nature that they can be stored through the winter as potatoes are now. [A]

Prediction #26: Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great great grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence. Raspberries and blackberries will be as large. One will suffice for the fruit course of each person. Strawberries and cranberries will be grown upon tall bushes. Cranberries, gooseberries and currants will be as large as oranges. One cantaloupe will supply an entire family. Melons, cherries, grapes, plums, apples, pears, peaches and all berries will be seedless. Figs will be cultivated over the entire United States. [They seem overly obsessed with giant fruit]

Prediction #27: Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of that organ itself. Drugs needed by the lungs, for instance, will be applied directly to those organs through the skin and flesh. They will be carried with the electric current applied without pain to the outside skin of the body. Microscopes will lay bare the vital organs, through the living flesh, of men and animals. The living body will to all medical purposes be transparent. Not only will it be possible for a physician to actually see a living, throbbing heart inside the chest, but he will be able to magnify and photograph any part of it. This work will be done with rays of invisible light. [B-]

Prediction #28: There will be no wild animals except in menageries. Rats and mice will have been exterminated. The horse will have become practically extinct. A few of high breed will be kept by the rich for racing, hunting and exercise. The automobile will have driven out the horse. Cattle and sheep will have no horns. They will be unable to run faster than the fattened hog of today. A century ago the wild hog could outrun a horse. Food animals will be bred to expend practically all of their life energy in producing meat, milk, wool and other by-products. Horns, bones, muscles and lungs will have been neglected. [F]

Prediction #29: To England in Two Days. Fast electric ships, crossing the ocean at more than a mile a minute, will go from New York to Liverpool in two days. The bodies of these ships will be built above the waves. They will be supported upon runners, somewhat like those of the sleigh. These runners will be very buoyant. Upon their under sides will be apertures expelling jets of air. In this way a film of air will be kept between them and the water’s surface. This film, together with the small surface of the runners, will reduce friction against the waves to the smallest possible degree. Propellers turned by electricity will screw themselves through both the water beneath and the air above. Ships with cabins artificially cooled will be entirely fireproof. In storm they will dive below the water and there await fair weather. [A-]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Medicare Costs

From 1965 Advisory Council Report:

Again let us adjust the 2000 estimate for inflation, which would make the estimate contribution total from workers and employers $20.6 billion. The actual 2000 figure for is $128 billion (not including supplementary medical insurance which tacks on another $89 billion. It's not clear from the Advisory Council report whether the Supplementary insurance is included in the above estimate, but I couldn't find a separate estimate for it).

Only off by a factor of 6.

Social Security Costs

From the 1941 Social Security Trust Report:

Annual benefit payments may be expected to increase from an average of about $0.3 billion for the first 5 years to almost $1 billion for the second 5 years. After a 40-year period, average annual benefit payments may have risen to a magnitude of about $3.5 billion and, after a 50-year period to over $4 billion. A further rise after that period may be expected because of the anticipated increase in the number of persons qualifying for benefits and in the average benefit payments.
Let's assume that these numbers are not inflation adjusted (and there was a serious bout of inflation between 1941 and 1991). The $4 billion estimate for social security benefits in 1991 would be equivalent to $38 billion in 1991 dollars.

The actual amount paid out in social security benefits in 1991 was $387 billion.

Off only by a factor of ten.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Crash of '29

1."We will not have any more crashes in our time."- John Maynard Keynes in 1927 [NB: The authenticity of this one is a little suspect]

2."I cannot help but raise a dissenting voice to statements that we are living in a fool's paradise, and that prosperity in this country must necessarily diminish and recede in the near future."- E. H. H. Simmons, President, New York Stock Exchange, January 12, 1928 "There will be no interruption of our permanent prosperity."- Myron E. Forbes, President, Pierce Arrow Motor Car Co., January 12, 1928

3."No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time. In the domestic field there is tranquility and contentment...and the highest record of years of prosperity. In the foreign field there is peace, the goodwill which comes from mutual understanding."- Calvin Coolidge December 4, 1928 "When the financial and business history of 1929 is finally written, developments of the past fortnight will occupy a prominent place in what will doubtless be the chronicle of an exceptionally brilliant twelve month period."- The New York Times, July 1929 "It becomes increasingly evident that, in many respects, 1929 will be written into the commercial history of the country as the most remarkable year since the World War in point of sustained demand for goods and services."- The New York Times, August 1929:

4."There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash."- Irving Fisher, leading U.S. economist , New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929 "Stock prices will stay at high levels for years to come, says Ohio economist"- The New York Times, II, Page 7, Col. 2, Oct 13, 1929

5."Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher than it is today within a few months."- Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in economics, Oct. 17, 1929 The market went into decline until Monday, October 21st, 1929 "He dismissed yesterday's break in the market as a 'shaking out of the lunatic fringe that attempts to speculate on margin.'" - Irving Fisher, The New York Times, Oct. 22, 1929 "security values in most instances were not inflated""The nation is marching along a permanently high plateau of prosperity""any fears that the price level of stocks might go down to where it was in 1923 or earlier are not justified by present economic conditions" - Irving Fisher, speech to a banking group, Oct. 23, 1929 "This crash is not going to have much effect on business."- Arthur Reynolds, Chairman of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago, October 24, 1929 Flashback to "Black Thursday," Oct. 24, 1929:
Stocks opened moderately steady in price, but traders whose margins were exhausted began selling heavily... at one o'clock the stock ticker was recording prices from half past eleven... stocks dropped 11% intra-day... After a bankers' consortium sent NYSE Vice President Richard Whitney to the stock exchange floor to offer to purchase in the neighborhood of twenty or thirty million dollars' worth of stock at the previous selling price [most likely above their quotations], the market eventually closed with only a 2% loss. Ref: Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920's, Frederick Lewis Allen, Chap. XIII. Not long after, the stock market plummeted in two days of panic: October 28 became known as "Black Monday" (13.47% decline in the Dow), and October 29 as "Black Tuesday" (11.73% decline in the Dow). Between October 23rd and November 13th, 1929, the Dow fell by 39%. "There will be no repetition of the break of yesterday... I have no fear of another comparable decline."- Arthur W. Loasby (President of the Equitable Trust Company), quoted in NYT, Friday, October 25, 1929 "We feel that fundamentally Wall Street is sound, and that for people who can afford to pay for them outright, good stocks are cheap at these prices." - Goodbody and Company market-letter quoted in The New York Times, Friday, October 25, 1929 "The fundamental business of the country, that is production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis."- President Herbert Hoover, October 25th, 1929 "They have lost a few tail feathers but in time they will grow again, longer and more luxurious than the old ones." - The Wall Street Journal, between Oct 24 and Oct 29, 1929 "The investor who purchases securities at this time with the discrimination that as always is a condition of prudent investing may do so with confidence."- New York Times, October 28, 1929

6."This is the time to buy stocks. This is the time to recall the words of the late J. P. Morgan... that any man who is bearish on America will go broke. Within a few days there is likely to be a bear panic rather than a bull panic. Many of the low prices as a result of this hysterical selling are not likely to be reached again in many years."- R. W. McNeel, market analyst, as quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929 "Buying of sound, seasoned issues now will not be regretted" - E. A. Pearce market letter quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929 "Some pretty intelligent people are now buying stocks... Unless we are to have a panic -- which no one seriously believes, stocks have hit bottom." - R. W. McNeal, financial analyst in October 1929

7."The decline is in paper values, not in tangible goods and services...America is now in the eighth year of prosperity as commercially defined. The former great periods of prosperity in America averaged eleven years. On this basis we now have three more years to go before the tailspin."- Stuart Chase (American economist and author), NY Herald Tribune, November 1, 1929 "Hysteria has now disappeared from Wall Street."- The Times of London, November 2, 1929 "The Wall Street crash doesn't mean that there will be any general or serious business depression... For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game... Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before." - Business Week, November 2, 1929 "...despite its severity, we believe that the slump in stock prices will prove an intermediate movement and not the precursor of a business depression such as would entail prolonged further liquidation..." - Harvard Economic Society (HES), November 2, 1929

8."... a serious depression seems improbable; [we expect] recovery of business next spring, with further improvement in the fall." - HES, November 10, 1929 "The end of the decline of the Stock Market will probably not be long, only a few more days at most." - Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics at Yale University, November 14, 1929 "In most of the cities and towns of this country, this Wall Street panic will have no effect."- Paul Block (President of the Block newspaper chain), editorial, November 15, 1929 "Financial storm definitely passed."- Bernard Baruch, cablegram to Winston Churchill, November 15, 1929

9."I see nothing in the present situation that is either menacing or warrants pessimism... I have every confidence that there will be a revival of activity in the spring, and that during this coming year the country will make steady progress." - Andrew W. Mellon, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury December 31, 1929 "I am convinced that through these measures we have reestablished confidence." - Herbert Hoover, December 1929 "[1930 will be] a splendid employment year."- U.S. Dept. of Labor, New Year's Forecast, December 1929

10."For the immediate future, at least, the outlook (stocks) is bright." - Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in Economics, in early 1930

11."...there are indications that the severest phase of the recession is over..." - Harvard Economic Society (HES) Jan 18, 1930

12."There is nothing in the situation to be disturbed about." - Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, Feb 1930

13."The spring of 1930 marks the end of a period of grave concern...American business is steadily coming back to a normal level of prosperity." - Julius Barnes, head of Hoover's National Business Survey Conference, Mar 16, 1930 "... the outlook continues favorable..." - HES Mar 29, 1930

14."... the outlook is favorable..." - HES Apr 19, 1930

15."While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst -- and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us." - Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, May 1, 1930 " May or June the spring recovery forecast in our letters of last December and November should clearly be apparent..." - HES May 17, 1930 "Gentleman, you have come sixty days too late. The depression is over."- Herbert Hoover, responding to a delegation requesting a public works program to help speed the recovery, June 1930

16."... irregular and conflicting movements of business should soon give way to a sustained recovery..." - HES June 28, 1930

17."... the present depression has about spent its force..." - HES, Aug 30, 1930

18."We are now near the end of the declining phase of the depression." - HES Nov 15, 1930

19."Stabilization at [present] levels is clearly possible." - HES Oct 31, 1931

20."Executive Order 6102 Forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion and Gold Certificates By virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 5(b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended by Section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, entitled "An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency in banking, and for other purposes", in which amendatory Act Congress declared that a serious emergency exists, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said section to do hereby prohibit the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations and hereby prescribe the following regulations for carrying out the purposes of the order... All persons are hereby required to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, to a Federal Reserve bank or a branch or agency thereof or to any member bank of the Federal Reserve System all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates now owned by them or coming into their ownership on or before April 28, 1933, except the following: 1. Such amount of gold as may be required for legitimate and customary use in industry, profession or art within a reasonable time, including gold prior to refining and stocks of gold in reasonable amounts for the usual trade requirements of owners mining and refining such gold. 2. Gold coin and gold certificates in an amount not exceeding in the aggregate $100.00 belonging to any one person; and gold coins having recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins. 3. Gold coin and bullion earmarked or held in trust for a recognized foreign government or foreign central bank or the Bank for International Settlements. 4. Gold coin and bullion licensed for the other proper transactions (not involving hoarding) including gold coin and gold bullion imported for the reexport or held pending action on applications for export license..." Franklin D. Roosevelt The Whitehouse April 5, 1933

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Peace in Our Time

"My good friends this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time."

Voice over Wires

"A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires." News item in a New York newspaper, 1868.

I Love the Smell of Mimeograph Fluid

“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.” — IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.

The Movie Fad

“The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” -– Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916

The Horse is Here to Stay

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

The Cooling World

Newsweek: April, 28th, 1975:

There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas – parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia – where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree – a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be highly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth’s average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras – and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average. Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the “little ice age” conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 – years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. “Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data,” concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. “Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions.”

Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short-term results of the return to the norm of the last century. They begin by noting the slight drop in overall temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases – all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.

“The world’s food-producing system,” warns Dr. James D. McQuigg of NOAA’s Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, “is much more sensitive to the weather variable than it was even five years ago.” Furthermore, the growth of world population and creation of new national boundaries make it impossible for starving peoples to migrate from their devastated fields, as they did during past famines.
Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

—PETER GWYNNE with bureau reports