Morning Ed: United States {2016.06.08.W}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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74 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    Go Thiel.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Damon says:

      I’m divided on this. On one hand, it seemed to be a perfectly reasonable lawsuit, and if a lawsuit is perfectly reasonable and the plaintiff is in the right, it’s probably good news if some benevolent billionaire will help pay for it. On the other hand, lawsuits need not be perfectly reasonable to ruin somebody, and a billionaire can afford to create an endless supply of them, independent of their merit.

      I suppose it ultimately depends on how this neat new trick shakes out in the real world. If it generally results in bad actors losing fair lawsuits over reasonable complaints, that’s fine. If the general result is a proliferation of frivolous suits and a lot of companies going out of business without having done anything wrong that’s pretty bad. If neither one of those things happens but media companies tread even more carefully around billionaires than they already do, that’s probably a bad thing too.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        You don’t need to be a billionaire to be a perpetrator of unjust lawfare.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          No, but it certainly helps to be able fund dozens or hundreds or thousands of lawsuits rather than just a few. Ruining people with frivolous lawsuits that don’t recover any damages is ultimately expensive work best cut out for people with a lot of cash to burn.

          There’s also an ‘announcement’ effect that comes with it. That was an interesting aspect of the Thiel / Gawker situation: Gawker might have been able to easily raise funding to pay for the lawsuit damages, but it has the shadow of future Thiel-funded lawsuits hanging over it. That makes it a tough sell for any outside investor. Might as well stay out of the fray and let Gawker die. That’s a trick I couldn’t pull off with my private accounts, even if I was very public about my intention to spend my last dime hurting Gawker in court.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

            True, which is where stuff like Anti-SLAPP laws come into it. Especially if they let me petition for costs should my Anti-SLAPP motion succeed.Report

            • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Yeah. Even there are better examples of slides down that particular slippery slope, like the VanderSloot lawsuit against Mother Jones in Idaho from about a year back. It’s less lurid, and the nutjob billionaire with a vendetta isn’t a Silicon Valley quasi-celebrity[1], so it doesn’t get the same kind of attention.

              [1] Also, I gotta say, Thiel’s a nutjob, but that doesn’t mean his beef with Gawker isn’t totally legit.Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I’m a big fan of anti-SLAPP laws, but they’re not universal, and they only cover certain types of suits. This is another reason why a third party with deep pockets can be so especially damaging: If I want to go after you myself, I have to come up with some conceivable wrong you’ve done to me and I can’t necessarily shop for favorable jurisdictions. A deep pocketed lawsuit funder just has to wait for any conceivable damage anywhere, and he can specifically look for it in jurisdictions or types of complaint where the protection from that type of abuse is limited.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


                Problem is, threading the needle between a rich guy pursuing a vendetta and an org pursuing justice through the courts is not an easy task.

                Here’s a hypothetical – Perhaps, after Gawker pissed off Thiel, he started a Privacy Advocacy group that filed lawsuits on behalf of people whose privacy was invaded. If that group had, at Thiel’s suggestion, helped Hogan go after Gawker, would we be having this conversation?Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’d be much more comfortable with it if it happened that way. At least it narrows down the number of things a victim company could be sued over to a narrow range of behaviors. In fact, I’m quite sympathetic to the possibility that a legitimate advocacy group may cross swords with the same company over and over again. Gawker probably ultimately deserved to be sued out of existence sooner or later anyway.

                The more general concern would be if it went the other direction and Thiel was funding lawsuits over use of parking lots, web site trademarks, noise pollution from the Gawker office, Gawker’s corruption of our precious bodily fluids, etc. At that point, it’s clearly not principled advocacy over and issue but rather an obvious vendetta against one company, and I don’t know of any law that prevents it from going in that direction. The only protections that I’m aware of are that nobody has really tried doing it yet and that there aren’t that many crazy billionaires in the world.

                Unfortunately Gawker makes a bad test case because it ran afoul of the same legally actionable issues over and over again. As long as it’s confined to that, it seems to me like this isn’t a terrible development. But given that there’s no practical limiting principle, I doubt we’ll see the last of it, and there are almost certainly going to be cases that don’t look anything like issue advocacy.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Yeah, the whole Mother Jones suit is a much better case for this topic.

                Ideally, I’d like to see an expansion of Anti-SLAPP types of laws (covering more than just free speech issues), at the state & federal level, or, absent that, rules that grant defendants a stronger claim for attorney fees from weak suits (I know there are laws that allow for the recovery of fees, but my understanding is that there is something of a high bar for getting fee awards).Report

      • Damon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Thiel wouldn’t have had the ability to nail Gawker if Gawker hadn’t screwed up and opened themselves to liability.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Damon says:

          A couple of problems with that:

          1) That’s simply not true. Any lawyer will warn you on your way into a lawsuit that people who should win on the merits of the case lose all the time. It’s a roll of the dice. Even if total travesties only happen 1% of the time, Thiel has enough cash to roll those dice until he wins and you die.

          2) You don’t need to win to put a company out of business or make it impossible to function. My last company sold for pennies on the dollar due to an interminable lawsuit in which we spent ungodly sums of money fighting off claims that were pure fantasy. The legal battle went on with no end in sight and every report to investors hat two things in it. First, our legal expenses were a huge portion of our quarterly budget. Second, we had the potential for a bankruptcy-inducing judgment against us hanging over us constantly.

          We got lucky in that case because we ended up selling and making a profit for at least some of the shareholders. The company that bought us bought both litigants with the implicit understanding that whoever capitulated first would be used as a cudgel to beat the other one to death in court. The outcome generally sucked, but it sucked slightly less than bleeding out legal costs until we went under.Report

  2. Richard Hershberger says:

    Regarding North Dakota and oil, this story is absolutely inevitable. If oil prices were high and the oil fields booming, that would merely delay the story a few years before the fields were tapped out. If your economy is based on an extractive industry, then at most it will keep going until whatever you are extracting is gone. If your economy is based on a single commodity, then you are screwed. Prices might be high today, but they will come down at some point.

    The people I feel sorry for are the ones who have been there all along, and whose families have been there for generations. They were going along making a living, and the oil industry descended upon them. If it were simply a matter of waiting the oil industry out a few years that would be one thing. But the oil industry, and extractive industries in general, are notorious for not cleaning up after themselves. The area may never recover.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I don’t know how long the ND oil fields would last, but I do know that fracking is expensive, and the price of oil has to be high to support it. As soon as the price started dropping, this was inevitable.

      And attitudes like that of the governor show a real lack of even basic economics.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I thought one of the benefits of fracking was that it was cheap. Did I misunderstand this? Was the cost misrepresented? Or are there other benefits to the practice that make it attractive?Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

          It’s cheap compared to any other way of getting the same oil. It’s more expensive than getting oil in a place where fracking isn’t the cheapest way to get it.

          So you have oil in Joe’s Basin. Fracking is the only way for oil accumulation in Joe’s Basin to be affordable. It’s cheaper than any other method. However, oil from Mike’s Basin requires no fracking. They can just drill. So if oil prices fall, Mike still has business, but everything stops at Joe’s.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

            Why would it be cheaper to frack Joe’s oil but cheaper to drill Mike’s?Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

              Because Joe’s is harder to reach.

              It’s sort of like whether it’s cheaper to fly somewhere or drive there depends on the distance. Flying is economical for distant places but not near ones. Fracking is more economical for hard to reach oil, but unnecessary for the easy.Report

            • J_A in reply to Kazzy says:

              Danger: Non STEM person in the room!

              We picture oil reservoirs like a big underground bubble of oil. You pierce it and oil jumps upwards. Some basins, like Mike’s, are like that. It just needs a drill downwards.

              And then you get more convoluted configurations. Earth faults might be in the way, horizontal drilling might be needed. The movie style drill is not enough. Costs go up.

              At some point you need to add pressure to pump the oil up, for instance, injecting natural gas so that the pressure lifts the remain g oil. Add expenses for a compressor.

              There is a point here there s still a lot of oil in the ground but you can’t drill it or pump it up. Twenty years ago that oil wasn’t recoverable. Fracking is a technology developed to recover hard to get oil. It is quite expensive to do fracking, probably around 60 $/bbl. but 100 $/bbl crude was ample margin, and Joe’s basin is now economically profitable.

              But at 40$/bl, fracking is operating at a loss. You continue pumping whatever you have under explotation, but for sure you don’t bury (pun intended) any more money in the ground for new wells.Report

    • Per the blurb, all beautiful things must die, though absent the oil price collapse they had at least another decade or two. And when oil prices go back up (and stay there), they’ll have it again (environmental laws pending). Not that it’ll do the current governor much good.

      Existing residence of West Dakota had the opportunity to sell out, which would have been the wise move unless they could get in on the boom somehow. Otherwise, it’s not a bad deal to sell your $100k home for a million bucks, and it’s not something you want to wait out. I remember our cross-country move, and by far the least pleasant place we stayed at was Dickinson, North Dakota.

      So if they find a bunch of oil where you live, it’s time to move out and make room for people who want to come in.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

        It’s pretty much the same story as that rare-earths mine in Nevada we keep hearing about. Producers decide to constrict supply and keep prices and profits high, but they aren’t careful about it and alternate production sources become economic.

        It’s really surprising that people don’t understand this. People kept wondering why the Saudis didn’t cut production even though oil prices were low. Amusingly, these were the same people who are utterly certain that Wal-Mart intentionally undercuts local shopowners, operating at a loss in order to drive them out of business and capture the market.

        Of course, the people saying this also think we shouldn’t be using oil anyway (apparently unaware of the source of all those plastic things in their lives) so they would probably take pride in this particular bit of ignorance.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

          It’s actually a bit baffling that people don’t understand that oil prices are…exactly where the overseas oil producers want them.

          A while back, it looked like we slowly weaning ourselves off oil, so they dropped the price, let Americans buy a bunch of gas guzzlers. Then slowly raised the price.

          Oh, wait, a bunch of fracking places have shown up because it’s now competitive. So now they rock-bottom the prices, watch all those places collapse.

          As soon as they do, the prices will racket back up. Eventually more idiots will invest in domestic production, and do well…until the prices go back down and everyone is *completely surprised*…and start buying SUVs again.

          None of that is the least bit confusing. What *is* confusing is that Americans appear confused by it.

          Of course, the people saying this also think we shouldn’t be using oil anyway (apparently unaware of the source of all those plastic things in their lives) so they would probably take pride in this particular bit of ignorance.

          Oh, it’s not just one group of people that don’t understand. Absolutely *no one* seems to understand it. Just look at the complete idiotic correlation of gas mileage in purchased cars to oil prices. Herp derp, gas is now $2 a gallon, let me buy a giant SUV! *three years later* Gas is too expensive! I’m going to sell my SUV and this time buy a car with good gas mileage. *three years later* I should get an SUV this time! Gas is cheap!

          Hey, dumbasses. Gas is always going to be priced exactly where the major oil producers want it, which means it will vary between low (So they can get you to make oil-using investments based on said low price, make non-oil alternatives look like a bad investment, and drive other oil producers out of the market) to high (So they can make a lot of money.). Up and down, up and down.

          They. Are. Doing. That. On. Purpose.

          You. Morons.

          EDIT: Or to put it another way, whenever anyone asks my why gas prices have gone up, I ask ‘Well, you’re still *buying* gas, aren’t you? The question you shouldn’t be asking is why they’re so high, since the gas clearly still sells at this price…the question is *why were they ever lower*?’Report

          • Kolohe in reply to DavidTC says:

            You’re missing that the US oil production rate has nearly doubled since Obama took office, and CAFE standards more or less kept fuel economy standards constant since the glut, and total vehicle miles traveled has only started to creep up this past year after years of stagnation – and that’s as much.the employment situation as it is low gas prices.Report

            • DavidTC in reply to Kolohe says:

              You’re missing that the US oil production rate has nearly doubled since Obama took office,

              Putting us almost at 10% of global production!

              And I don’t know why you said I was missing that. The entire premise of my post was that OPEC was watching that carefully, and deliberately stepped in to undercut that.

              Hell, it’s entirely possibly they waited so long *deliberately*. If they’d just dropped prices when production started to increase, people would have held back…but doing it this way, letting entire industries get built up and dependent on higher pricing, and then *slash*, prices tumble and entire [EDIT:local] economies falter….

              …they’ve probably scared investors to death. I’d be amazing if, next time oil prices rise enough to where fracking is theoretically competitive, if investors aren’t a bit more hesitant to go for it.

              and CAFE standards more or less kept fuel economy standards constant since the glut

              I don’t see why you think that’s relevant.

              and total vehicle miles traveled has only started to creep up this past year after years of stagnation – and that’s as much.the employment situation as it is low gas prices.

              Your theory is that, because demand was *low*, prices were higher, and now that demand is back up, prices have *dropped*?


              I think what you said sorta proves my point: Increasing demand as the recession ends should have caused an *increase* in gas prices…except gas prices, being mostly controlled by a cartel, do not actually follow the law of supply and demand. The cartel decided gas prices would drop, ergo, gas prices dropped.

              People just seem to get confused because they seem to think market distortions always lead to higher prices. Which is just weird economic illiteracy…market distortions by trusts or monopolies will lead to whatever the trust or monopoly wants, and often they want to undercut competition, which leads to lower prices…at least until everyone has been scared out of competition with them.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

            A while back, it looked like we slowly weaning ourselves off oil, so they dropped the price, let Americans buy a bunch of gas guzzlers. Then slowly raised the price.

            Oh, wait, a bunch of fracking places have shown up because it’s now competitive. So now they rock-bottom the prices, watch all those places collapse.

            This is what I meant by the governor showing a lack of understanding of basic economics. You would think the governor would have gotten the 8th grade level primer on how oil extraction works in OPEC countries and in his state, and the economics of it all. His idiotic bluster was not useful.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Or maybe the governor needs one of those liberal arts history majors to patiently explain the history of the American West to him, how most of the economies depended on resource extraction, and a pattern of boom and bust as commodity prices rose and fell, and how the American taxpayers subsidized the extractors with sweetheart deals then the profits were privatized, then the taxpayers again always had to come in and pay for the cleanup afterward…

              Then again, maybe he knows that lesson too well.Report

          • Mo in reply to DavidTC says:

            Of course, the people saying this also think we shouldn’t be using oil anyway (apparently unaware of the source of all those plastic things in their lives) so they would probably take pride in this particular bit of ignorance.

            If the only thing we needed oil for was plastic, demand would drop like a rock and it would cost about $20/b again.Report

          • j r in reply to DavidTC says:

            It’s actually a bit baffling that people don’t understand that oil prices are…exactly where the overseas oil producers want them.

            As someone whose job it is to speak with “overseas oil producers,” I can say that statement is unequivocally false.

            The Saudis were unwilling to drop their own production because they’ve been through a few cycles and won’t sacrifice market share for the sake of the high cost tight oil producers. Just about every other oil producing nation pumps as much oil as they can, because they want/need the money.Report

            • DavidTC in reply to j r says:

              The Saudis were unwilling to drop their own production because they’ve been through a few cycles and won’t sacrifice market share for the sake of the high cost tight oil producers. Just about every other oil producing nation pumps as much oil as they can, because they want/need the money.

              I have no idea how you’re disagreeing with my comment, unless it’s to claim it’s the Saudis *specifically*, not ‘overseas oil producers’. As I said elsewhere in my comment, I was really talking about OPEC, not, I dunno, Norway.

              Yes, there are countries out that there pump as much oil as possible, all the time. The people not part of OPEC. They are also not the people setting the price.

              It is Saudi Arabia, sitting on a huge supply of oil with the ability to ramp up or down production, that sets the prices. Along with the top-producing other OPEC nations.

              I have no idea what you mean by ‘Saudis were unwilling to drop their own production’. WTF would they want to do that? They’re getting *exactly* the outcome they wanted from high production/low prices, in that it’s blowing up the companies that just started more expensive extractions.Report

              • j r in reply to DavidTC says:

                Saudi Arabia is really the world’s only marginal oil producer. They didn’t cut production because they want to retain market share, don’t want to help the tight oil producers, and can’t be sure that a cut would bring he price back up anyway. They don’t want the price where it is. Right up until prices started falling, their official line was that the fundamentals support oil at about $100/barrel.

                No other OPEC country wants the price where it is. And no other OPEC country really has the willingness or ability to move production unit down. As for OPEC as an organization, they haven’t had a working quota system in years.

                Your comment would have some validity if you wrote it in the ’70s, but in 2016 it is factually incorrect.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I don’t know the detailed chemistry of it, but my understanding is that most of US plastics are made with chemicals that come from natural gas extraction/processing rather than oil. Not that that makes a big difference WRT to the larger point.Report

    • We know — now — that the break-even price for tight oil runs from about $60/bbl to about $90/bbl, depending on details. For North American comparison purposes, Canadian oil sands break-even price runs from about $40/bbl to $60/bbl. The break-even price when Ghawar in Saudi Arabia was opened up was about $10/bbl (present day dollars). An acquaintance in the business who negotiates deals between land owners and drillers says no one will loan the companies who specialize in tight oil a dime until the price hits $80/bbl and stays there for 18 months.

      The governor appears to be an idiot. The permanent staff at the ND Dept of Mineral Resources has been saying all along that the party ends in ~2040 when the drillers run out of places worth drilling. Longer, of course, if there’s a couple of boom-and-bust cycles to stretch that out.

      The Peak Oil crowd is mostly right on the one critical thing — long-term production will decline, but it will be a bumpy ride — but wrong about it being the end of civilization. The critical energy component is electricity, not oil. To that end, things will be interesting when the tight gas companies get into the same kind of trouble and natural gas prices start heading up sharply.

      Colorado’s oil and gas drilling has also largely stopped. That’s a bad thing for some parts of the state. Not so much for the state as a whole, because the economy includes so many other things.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Does the Peak Oil crowd think this is the end of civilization? The Peak Oil stuff I have read talks a lot about transitioning to other energy sources, and how smooth or rough that transition will be, and how to make is smoother rather than rougher. The anti-Peak Oil commentary I have read, on the other hand, seems to be predicated on the assumption that recoverable oil is infinite (or, in the alternative, sufficient for our lifetimes, and fuck the kids) and therefore all this talk of other energy sources is a bunch of hippie crap.Report

        • My understanding of those who reject the Peak Oil thesis is that the market will drive more and more extensive searches for oil. Shale oil extraction is the example I’ve heard — at the moment, it’s not economically efficient to extract petroleum from shale oil because the process is too expensive and other sources of oil elsewhere in the world are easier to get and therefore cheaper to extract. So it’s not like we’re always going to have fifty-dollar-a-barrel crude oil, but the idea that we’re going to run out of oil in our lifetimes is wrong — we might run out of easy-to-extract, near-the-surface oil, yes, but we’re going find petroleum elsewhere, there’s still enough for generations to come.

          …Or so the theory goes. When I’ve explicated the non-Peak Oil theory to others in the past, I’ve been surprised that the vituperation I’ve received in exchange for simply saying those words out loud, as though I were positing the Cathar Heresy. I am, for the record, agnostic on the issue of whether Peak Oil is, or is going to be, a thing. Thing-agnostic.Report

          • J_A in reply to Burt Likko says:

            For what it’s worth, I think your understanding is correct.

            Also, 50-100 years from now, the value of oil should be less as an energy source and more as plastic feedstock (so says the optimist me)Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I consider myself a Peak Oil skeptic. Not because I believe it’s never going to happen, but because I don’t believe it’s sufficiently close on the horizon to warrant policy intervention. Largely on the grounds you state. And I do favor moving to other forms of energy anyway, for tangential reasons. To whatever extent possible, I’d like to not rely on dragging stuff from out of the ground, and concerns over global warming. My timetable differs from environmentalists’, though, to a pretty significant degree, as do the policy interventions I do favor (which include things like revenue-neutral carbon taxes, but not things like leaving it in the ground until or unless its redundant).Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko says:

            When I said I was Thing-agnostic I was told to talk the the hand. Then I believed.Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

            It occurs to me that there are two types of non-Peak Oil people: a strong version and a weak version.

            The strong version is that recoverable oil is essentially unlimited. There was a crank geology theory floating around a few decades back that petroleum is not in fact fossil remains of earlier life, but the stuff the earth is made of. The earth’s crust, in this theory, is more or less floating on an ocean of oil. This was obvious crankery to anyone who was both honest and non-stupid, but some non-honest and non-non-stupid people seized on it to justify their hippie-bashing opposition to solar and the like.

            The weak version is to acknowledge that yes, Peak Oil is potentially a thing, but we aren’t there yet. This is a sensible position, but the devil is in the details.

            This shades, in practice, into the strong version the further away you think it is. If you think that we are talking a century or two down the road, then it makes sense not to worry about it. Who knows what the circumstances will be when the time comes? How could we sensibly plan that far out?

            In the other direction, the sooner you think Peak Oil might be, the more this looks like the straight-up Peak Oil crowd. If we aren’t there yet, but we are talking the same time span as a home mortgage, then we certainly should be taking this into account in our policymaking.

            FWIW, this last is where I (inexpertly) fall. It seems likely that extraction technology will continue to develop, as well as exploration, but something’s gotta give. And even if we aren’t talking about any sort of hard cap on oil production in the near future, we are talking about rising prices. If we can develop alternatives that will be cheaper than those future high costs, even if they aren’t now, then that is all to the good, and we should enact policies to encourage said alternatives.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          This is the opposite of my experience. I hear the Peak Oil people talking about the End of Days—economic devastation, resource wars, and worse—and the skeptics pointing out that increases in the price of oil will a) render more expensive extraction technologies economically efficient, mitigating the price increases, and b) drive the development of alternative sources, mitigating the price increases.Report

          • I get different sorts of projections from different sorts of people. Most frequently along the lines of “The end is near, but we can avoid this if we stop living so sinfully and make some reasonable adjustments in energy sources and lifestyle… otherwise you have no idea how royally screwed we are.”

            Since the oil glut, though, the end being near has not been a part of the discussion nearly so much. Or rather, the face of the end has shifted increasingly to Climate Change rather than us simply running out. Combined with seeking policy adjustments that would move up the date in which we can’t extract any more oil.

            I’ve long viewed these as unintentionally conflicting. It’s harmonious if we switch to alternatives in time. But before the oil glut when people were talking about running out, I think they were underestimating the extent to our addition. Peak Oil wouldn’t just mean a switch to alternatives, but if the alternatives are not available in sufficient quantity it also means utterly tearing up the earth to get every last drop.

            “Drill, Baby, Drill” was never more popular than when oil prices were high. Lower reserves would drive prices up, which in turn makes the argument stronger, with more environmentally deleterious methods being explored and accepted by the general public. It does not paint a pretty environmental picture.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I don’t think ‘Peak Oil’ is quite being used correctly here.

        Peak oil is the theory that, there is some point in time, we will not extract more, or even the same, amount of oil from the ground after that moment. I.e., there is a point that will be maximum extraction rate, and after that the extraction rate will only decline.

        Unless there is an infinite amount of oil, and we have an infinite amount of time on this planet, ‘peak oil exists’ is actually a tautology. Assuming a finite amount of oil is removed from the ground, there, by definition, has to be some maximum high point of oil extraction, after which it near reaches that point again.

        What people actually seem to be arguing about is how close it is, or if any specific decline in the extraction rate, or even decline in the *increase* of the extraction rate, means we are about to reach that point.

        And they’re also arguing if we’ll even actually realize it at the time. Is it going to be a mountain peak with a sharp dropoff, or is it going to smooth slope up and down, and only afterward can we look back and say ‘The point right there was the highest point’.

        They are also, furthermore, arguing about what hitting peak oil would *mean*. Some people seem to think, after peak oil, that oil prices can only increase.

        But that doesn’t make much sense to me…they probably *will* start increasing, due to the supply being reduced, but we’re already making strides to reduce demand, and nothing stops the demand from reducing faster than the supply during that time, causing prices to drop. (I think there’s some sort of ‘hoarder’ theory there, that if the supply of oil was seen to be finite, producers would hold on to it…but, OTOH, if everyone had realized oil was running out and thus was rapidly transitioning away from oil, I can equally see some sort of panic as people try to offload their oil before everyone stops using it, at least near the end.)

        I’m not actually convinced the idea of ‘peak oil’ brings much to the table…but we will, at some point, hit peak oil. (Even if oil is somehow magically infinite, at some point the sun will explode and we will no longer be able to increase oil production.)Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to DavidTC says:

          No basic disagreement.

          However, 15 years ago, Peak Oil (with caps) meant precisely the impending peak of production, followed by a very rapid decline (with TEOTWAWKI following shortly thereafter). To give some credit, there’s evidence that conventional crude production did peak and begin a steady decline in 2005. To take that back, the doomers completely misjudged how many partial substitutes were possible: natural gas liquids, very heavy crude, bitumen mixed with solvents, light tight oil, oils/alcohols from plant matter.

          Myself, I think there will be a steadily declining amount of oil/equivalents available as exports from the producing countries over the next couple of decades. And that the consequence will be the physical world getting “bigger” in terms of the time and money needed to move things from one place to another. That’s not a disaster, but it will result in changes.Report

  3. J_A says:

    Related to the Oxford Journal link, you can learn a lot about racial attitudes by looking at the prison gangs in Texas and other nearby states. Texas based white supremacist gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas rule that state’s prisons and have methastazed to other states. They are violently anti black, but, perhaps surprisingly, mildly favorable towards Hispanics, which get acepted in some gangs as quasi white (Hispanics have their own gangs too, of course).

    I think this attitude (Hispanics are almost white, like Irish and Italians before them) will be more prevalent in the future -and the white anti Hispanic racism you see in CA and AZ (plenty of CA transplants) will become the outlier. Regretfully, I’m afraid that the white-black divide will be long with us. And, more regretfully, adding the Hispancs to the white column will actually worsen the issue, if for nothing else, because the ‘Whites’ will again be a majority almost everywhereReport

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to J_A says:

      I mostly think you are right that Hispanics will eventually achieve the happy status of whiteness. But there is a proviso that the issue of blackness confuses the discussion. My guess is that this will be easier with Hispanics of European or Amerindian ancestry, the more European the better, and with little enough African ancestry that it can be overlooked. This describes a lot of the immigrants from Central America. But look to other parts of Latin America and there is a lot more African ancestry, which will affect peoples’ decisions about who gets to be white.

      On the principle that everything ties to baseball history, a classic dodge for American blacks trying to pass as close enough to white to play was to claim to be Cuban. There are some marginal cases of this working, at least a little, but mostly it didn’t. But we ended up with the curious custom of black teams having “Cuban” in their names.Report

      • You are probably 95% right in my book.

        But I want to raise one other issue that I don’t think has been explored much: the [alleged] antagonism between old time US blacks (descendants from antebellum slaves) and the newly arrived Afrocaribbeans and African immigrants. As far as I can tell there is little love between the two groups. Perhaps someone that knows better would agree to give his viewReport

    • LeeEsq in reply to J_A says:

      I’m not sure if whiteness will be expanded to include Hispanics and Asians because while physical appearance is only one of the aspects of determining whiteness in the United States, it is still an aspect. The fairer skinned Hispanics or Asisns might eventually get included but the more Native American looking ones and South Asisns won’t.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think a lot of it may come down to appearance. Hispanics who are light-skinned and/or intermarry with whites may become more “white” with time. They won’t even have to look completely white or anything, but enough to be on the spectrum closer to Mediterranean. And be whiter than average Hispanic, to whatever extent there is an “average.” When I lived in the southwest, there really was a spectrum. Intermarriage was very common, though, and a good chunk of the 3+ generation Hispanics were identifiable as such by their name as much as anything else. Some that weren’t were married to whites, so their children…

        I don’t really have any data on it or anything, but my general impression is that intermarriage is more common. Which, given likely-already-mixed-ethnicity vs race, would make sense.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to J_A says:

      “I think this attitude (Hispanics are almost white, like Irish and Italians before them) will be more prevalent in the future ”

      Indeed, George Zimmerman was white when we needed him to be.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to J_A says:

      “methastazed” is a term that’s better than the word that’s actually supposed to be there. Bravo.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    What is the big deal about spelling bees? They seem to be getting a bit of a revival lately because they are supposed to be about the inner-geek in us all but how are spelling bees a sign of intelligence? There is no real analysis or discussion. There is just rote memorization and in my mind that is not really education.

    But yeah, this is basically a story of children from immigrant families being driven to the middle-class or upper-middle class via education. This is what Jewish immigrants did with their children in the early and mid-20th century. They sent their kids to college and generally pushed them to declare more practical fields early. Or as the old Jewish joke states: “How old are your kids? The Doctor is Two and the Lawyer is Three.”

    What is more interesting to me is which middle class and upper-middle class parents still push their kids towards practical subjects and majors and which ones develop the attitude of “You are smart. You can study anything you want and someone will give you a job based on your intelligence.” When and why does this change happen?Report

    • J_A in reply to Saul Degraw says:


      “What is more interesting to me is which middle class and upper-middle class parents still push their kids towards practical subjects and majors and which ones develop the attitude of “You are smart. You can study anything you want and someone will give you a job based on your intelligence.” When and why does this change happen?”

      If I can play again the European card, in most universities outside the USA/UK (and less in the UK than here) you declare your major when you enroll or shortly thereafter (in my case before the end of the first of five years) and you stick to it, or start from scratch. The Oxbridge liberal arts concept of college as a rounding up of classical knowledge that all gentlemen should know to lead a gentile life is mostly lost outside the USA, but very much alive here.

      So when the first born generation goes to college they witness an experience that’s not like what their parents told them to expect. When the second generation goes to college, their parents expectations are now tinted by their own experience: follow your interests and be smart.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to J_A says:

        I think this is a part of it. How far removed from not going to college a particular is. My parents were first-generation college, and so they were interested in practicality. I am, too, but to a lesser extent. My daughter will probably be even less so.

        There is also a political and cultural dynamic. My mother-in-law has six siblings. You can predict what our generation majored in by the politics of the sub-family unit. The conservative siblings insisted on vocational, the liberal ones didn’t. The dynamic also held true for “Here are a list of state schools you can attend” versus “I’m so pleased you were accepted into that nice private liberal arts college.”

        (My wife is a little harder on all of this than I am. I say State U, but will make an exception for HYPS, or for a spectacular program in some school that simply can’t be replicated anywhere else. Similarly, if she does go to a top-flight school, I’m far more flexible on major and area of study. She, on the other hand, is pretty disinclined towards any exceptions under any circumstances.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

          I can understand on assisting on a practical major but I can’t understand on being against an elite university like HYPS even if you insist on a practical major. It’s like your kid wanting a career in science or engineering but not allowing them to go to MIT or Cal Tech even if they get in. These things can matter.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Well, a part of the idea is “If it’s that potentially lucrative, you should be able to get a scholarship or a student loan or something to cover the rest.”

            In the case of “which college” it’s mostly about expense, and to whatever extent they can cover expenses themselves, it’s a non-issue. Both are, insofar as if they get a free ride scholarship we really have no say in their area of study.

            Clancy went to a state university (out of state) in part because she got a free ride there, which in turn allowed her to have no parental oversight for anything. My grades weren’t good enough for anything like that, though “Go to college in-state” became a non-issue when I got an OOS tuition waver (though I didn’t end up going there).Report

      • Aaron David in reply to J_A says:

        I think this is mostly right, and conforms to my parents college experiences. My dad was the first in his family that actually got to go to college (his father was accepted to Stanford but couldn’t go due to family issues) and majored in crop science, eventually getting a PhD in genetics. In CA at the time, ag was a much bigger part of the economy. Mom was at least the third generation in her family to go to college, and got an art history degree. She came from a time and place where women didn’t often get hard science degrees, though she had an aunt who was an organic chemist.

        Many in my generation were told to just get a degree, everthing else would sort itself out, leading many I know to get degrees in Anthro or English, what have you. Not to become teachers, though that was the default for many. Those who I know got these degrees as they were semi-easy and allowed lots of partying. Then again, I grew up in a college town, so everyones perspective on education was a bit skewed.Report

      • scott the mediocre in reply to J_A says:

        I’m pretty sure you meant “gentle life”, not “gentile life”. The standard history is that (observant) Jews were admitted (to Oxbridge: there were occasional admits at other universities, e.g. Dublin, somewhat earlier) starting in 1871 (Universities Tests Act) and started being fairly broadly accepted in the late Twenties/early Thirties.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Just speculation, but it seems to me that the hiring criteria for “Because you’re smart but have no specific marketable skills” jobs are highly subjective, and after candidates meet a certain threshold probably come down to things like “Who do we like the best?” As such, people who are culturally farther away from the kind of people who do the hiring in those jobs are at a disadvantage, so their parents push them to get specific marketable skills.

      Edit: And of course the devaluation of the bachelor’s degree to the new high school diploma has made getting specific skills all the more important.Report

      • J_A in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        You are totally right about the “who do we like the best”. Hence my fondness for a charity a (female and black) friend -and Power Plant General Manager- sponsors: Dress for Success.

        Aim: Providing poor women with occasion appropriate clothing for job interviewsReport

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Potentially and partially but not always.

        I grew up in an upper-middle class town in New York. The town was mainly Jewish and Asian. I would say even in my town where almost all parents had professional degrees and we were mainly third gen Americans, it was still split.Report

  5. DensityDuck says:

    “On the plus side, rates of syphilis transmission dropped 16 percent statewide last year from the 2014 peak, state officials said in April.”

    And they say there’s no such thing as good news!Report

  6. Alan Scott says:

    My mathdar is making me suspicious of that Latino Marriage article. Ages that don’t hold up, charts that chop off the bottom sixty percent, citing statistics that don’t mean as much as they seem to.

    Not sure the broader thesis is wrong–it’s just presented in a way that sets off some brain alarms.Report