Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The country is gearing up for the State of the Union Address.  We’re going to be live blogging it here.  It’s scheduled for Tuesday and my plan is to live stream it from CSPAN. It’s bad enough to watch all that stupidity in  one place.  I don’t need the echo chamber on top of it all.  It’s actually something that’s demanded by the Constitution Article 2, Section 3.

[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…

If Senator Dick Durbin is to be believed, part of the speech will contain a New Obama Plan that is “part stimulus”.  I still keep hearing David Bryne speak “same as it ever was” over and over again. But, the links at Politico and here’s a taste.

“It’s part of a stimulus. but we’re sensitive to the deficit,” Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked by host Chris Wallace about the president’s expected plans to call for more spending for infrastructure, education, research in his State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.

Noting his support for the president’s deficit commission recommendations, Durbin said Congress should be cautious about large spending cuts until the economy is showing sustained patterns of growth.

“They said be careful,” he said citing the report.  “Don’t start the serious spending cuts, the deficit reduction, until were clearly out of the recession in 2013.  We’ve got to make sure this economy is growing with more jobs, more business success.”

I’m not sure which part of economics 101 and 102 these folks missed–given the took them at all–but the growth we’re anticipating during this ‘recovery’ is not enough to eliminate the current unemployment rate.  Mature economies do not grow very quickly.  Any growth rate of real gdp from about 1-4% would be healthy and normal for a developed, mature economy.  That’s not going bring down unemployment any time soon, let alone within a two year presidential election cycle.  Giving tax breaks to corporations that can head to markets over seas where there are actually customers is not going to create jobs here.   The only thing that is stopping this Democratic Death Wish is the fact that Republicans are BAT shit crazy and even then, they still managed to recapture the house.

Speaking of the Republicans, they’re all in for taxcuts to Billionaires, but any spending ascribed to help ordinary Americans still will get the wall of no.  At least that’s what Senator Mitch McConnell is saying.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Mr. McConnell countered that “The American public, as one pundit put it, issued a massive restraining order,” against government spending and excessive debt in November’s Congressional elections.

Indeed, Mr. McConnell seemed at times gleefully sardonic about President Obama’s efforts to depict himself as a centrist trying to find common ground with Republicans. The president, he said, has certainly moved to the enter , but mostly “rhetorically.”

“The president needs to pivot,” Mr. McConnell said. “He seems to be pivoting on virtually everything else, and I don’t put him down for that. I mean he obviously saw what happened in the November election and is trying to go in a different direction. He’s quit bashing business and is now celebrating business.”

“Well it’s about time,” Mr. McConnell added, “because the only way we’re going to get unemployment down and get out of this economic trough is through private sector growth and development. I think excessive government spending, running up debt, making us look like a Western European country is the wrong direction.”

I’m not sure which Western European Country he’s referring to here except maybe Ireland or Greece.  Most of the rest of them are growing at about the same level that we’re expected to grow with a few above and a few below.  Developed economies don’t really grow rapidly unless they get some kind of boost from a technological advance or something else.  Here’s some estimates from the CIA factbook. McConnell just says anything that serves his narrative, I swear.

Even if we do get some ‘normal growth’, I doubt we’ll see anything to kick us up a notch given this kind of education and research and development environment. Wonder where are priorities are?

  • U.S. consumers spend significantly more on potato chips than the U.S. government devotes to energy R&D.
  • In 2009, for the first time, over half of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies.
  • China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter.
  • Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the U.S.  Ten years later, that number had dropped to 74.
  • The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. #48 in quality of math and science education.

Here’s some good news that shows all hopes for science and reality may not be lost completely for the US.  You’ll see that it doesn’t come from registered Republicans however.

52% of GOP reject evolution; 36% reject creationism
Monkey Poll: More Americans believe humans evolved without God
More Americans today believe that human beings developed without any involvement of a higher power, according to a new poll.

Gallup reported that since 1982, the number of Americans believing that humans evolved over millions of years increased by seven percentage points.

The current figure – 16 percent – has trended upwards since 2000.

Since 1982, Americans who believe that humans evolved with God guiding the process haven’t changed (38 percent), while Americans who believe God created humans in present form has decreased four points to 40 percent.

That’s still spooky high from where I stand, but it least it’s moving in the right direction.  It’s unfortunate we can’t get better science and math education in this country.   We have no danger of being this over the top about education, however.  If you didn’t see the PBS Newshour on friday, here’s what too much educational stress does to the kids in South Korea. These kids not only go to regular school but they attend cram schools before and after school and on weekends and vacations.  The make the Japanese looked lay back. I’m going to send this off to youngest daughter next time I got told how rough things are at LSU.  She’s trying to get into a top MBA program at the moment so we’re all suffering with getting her through internships and her combined graduate/undergraduate courses.  She tells me that economics is the bane of her existence.

MARGARET WARNER: Twenty-five-year-old Kim Tae-hoon, a student at SDP, says his hard-charging mother had him, even as a young child, attending specialized cram schools every day.

KIM TAE-HOON, student: For a 10-year-old boy, that was big deal, and that was a big pressure for me. Throughout middle school and high school, the burden grew heavier. In my high school days, I had to go to school in the morning, like 6:20, and school ended up around midnight. So, I was, yes, stressed out.

MARGARET WARNER: High school is especially pressure-packed. College admission is seen as a make-or-break moment. Scoring well on the national entrance exams means a ticket to a better life.

Is it ever enough?

KIM TAE-HOON: I just feel like it is just ongoing and never-ending, and I have to study more and more, and I have to learn new things. But I never felt it’s enough.

Speaking of wonky economics things, I picked this up from Economist’s  View. I have sat through WAY too many seminars where the finance gods view the Rational Expectations and Efficient Markets Hypothesis as handed down during the original big bang and that Eugene Fama is infallible.  Please, notice the word hypothesis even though many people don’t treat it as one.  The link will take you to a session called “Life after Rational Expectations” with Roman Frydman.   There’s another bit up there with George Akerlof too.   The Ackerlof one is more interesting because it discusses if the last financial crisis was related to the failure of the EMH.  Akerlof won the Nobel (the real one not the aspirational one) in 2001.  Fama still has aspirations to get the Nobel for this hypothesis.  My guess is the events of 2007-2010 will deny him even a glimmer of hope.


Anyway, if you’d like to sit through a cram session with a Nobel prize winner, there you go on that Youtube.  If you want a better omen that they’re still smoking the stuff try this one from Bloomberg on the upcoming Davos meetings.  These folks are predicting a global ‘lift all boats’ economic boom.  I want what they’re smoking.

Global gross domestic product will swell to $143 trillion by 2030, allowing for inflation and market-exchange rates, from $62 trillion in 2010, with China and other emerging markets accounting for about two thirds of the rise, estimates Gerard Lyons, chief economist and group head of global research in London for Standard Chartered, which generates most of its earnings from Asia.Lyons and his colleagues predict a “super-cycle” of historically high growth that will last at least a generation and will be led by booming trade, investment and urbanization, according to a report published in November. He reckons such a cycle has occurred only twice since the end of the 18th century: the four decades before World War I and the three following World War II. He’s betting the new phase will contribute to a reversal in the three-decade decline for U.S. bond yields after 10-year Treasury notes lost an average 40 basis points a year since the early 1980s.

However, notice that the majority of the rise goes to the Asian region of the world.  This of course means good news to capital that can head off to any where it wishes.  The rest of the little people that earn their living from labor will probably continue to lose.  Here’s a little something on that from Dr. Stiglitz.

Talk of a super-cycle gets little support from Joseph Stiglitz, a Davos veteran and 2001 Nobel laureate. He contends that globalization and free trade may be stymied by unemployment in rich nations and the risk that more of these countries’ jobs will be lost abroad. The U.S. jobless rate has remained above 9 percent since May 2009.

“Standard Chartered works mostly in developing markets, and that shapes its world view,” said Stiglitz, an economics professor at Columbia University in New York. “If you work in emerging markets, you feel the energy. If you are in the U.S. or Europe, you see the numbers and it’s hard not to feel depressed.”

So, hope this gets you up for our State of the Union lecture tomorrow on why we should welcome our bankrolling Chinese overlords sort’ve like we already did last week.   But don’t worry, our paranoid right wing friends already know what the Chinese have up their sleeve.   We gave them our best food and jazz, and the play us with Chinese propaganda. (Complete wingnut warning on that last link.)

At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

If only take overs were that simplistic.  Sheesh.  There is one bit of breaking news that you must read.  Al Jazeera has gotten a hold of what it’s calling “The Palestine Papers”. May this truly be the century of whistle blowing on the powers that be.  If they are real, there’s going to be some shock to any middle east peace process. I’m switching to  UK’s The Guardian for this quote.

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel‘s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.

A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

The documents – many of which will be published by the Guardian over the coming days – also reveal:

• The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

• How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.

• The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.

• The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

• How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel’s 2008-9 war in Gaza.

Did the person who leaked this think it might jump start the process? Are there some bigger hostilities this may prevent?  I have no idea what to say at this point other than this looks like a very big deal.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

40 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    A few weeks in and I am already sick to death of looking and listening to these smug Right Wingers who keep telling us “what the American people want” along with describing “true Americans” as they drape themselves in the flag.

    Mitch “Prune Face” McConnell, along with Boehner and Cantor to name a few, have no idea of what the hell they are talking about since their sole aim is to make Obama a one term president.

    If this is their idea of where the time should be spent in addressing the ills of this nation, then we are in for even harder times. I am no fan of Obama, far from it, but if this is the objective for the Right Wing, I have no patience or interest in their agenda.

    These are not “politicians” but lobby friendly hacks who have few concrete ideas about governing. Power is their only aim and if it means lying, cheating, and subverting they show no qualms in using them.

    Shameless people to say the least.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Scalia to have private meeting with Tea Party Caucus today.

    How much longer are we going to put up with politicking by Supreme Court justices?

    • Woman Voter says:

      I think it has gone on longer than we have been aware of, but now that they believe they can take over every thing, it is being shown with total disregard. I always assumed the Justices only did speeches on general themes, never on subjects before the court and never taking sides, but rather being guided by the law and the protection of the citizens. I guess the new Constitution is the Patriot Act, because the Justices attending these events don’t seem to be bothered by it.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      How can these Justices get away with this stuff?

      • dakinikat says:

        They shouldn’t … I’ve never seen anything like this before. They’re out of control. You can impeach them. It’s about as difficult as impeaching a president however. There’s a clause in the constitution that talks about not holding the office with ‘good behavior’

      • dakinikat says:

        Impeachment trials can be very long, drawn out processes and happen rarely . Of all of the Supreme Court justices who have served, only one, Justice Samuel Chase, has ever been served with an impeachment. In 1805, Chase was found not guilty, and continued to serve on the court until his death in 1811.

        Including Chase, the House has only impeached 14 judges in its history. Seven were found guilty and removed from office, 4 were found not guilty, and 3 resigned before the Senate could rule.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        Exactly Dak, this behavior is unbelievable. I know nothing will be done to fix the situation. If some of the powers that be would actually put forth a shred of effort that they do for things like, tax breaks for the rich and abortion rights for women, perhaps the unethical justices could be removed from office. It is so damn maddening.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Jane Hamsher on the incident at Quantico yesterday in which she and David House were harrassed and illegally held and searched by military police.

  4. mjames says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand – and why I continue to conclude that the power elite know we’re done for as a country and have no qualms about wiping the rest of us out economically. Reducing the deficit is not going to give people jobs. Period. Any half-sentient being knows that. So the Dems will follow that feckless course and will naturally lose power (at least Congressional power) in 2012. The Repubs will continue to cut spending (non-military). That still won’t work. So they’ll be thrown out next time.

    If they (any of them) want to stay in power, why not follow a course of action that WILL work? Like investing in jobs. Public works. Easy to do, really, since all they’d have to do is reduce the military and stop engaging in wars (all of which are needless, futile, and immoral).

    No jobs for us peons? No corporate regulations? No environmental rules? No clean air or clean water? No safe food? Do they not think of the future for themselves – or their children or grandchildren? Do they really think they can find a safe place to live? The stupid, it burns real bad.

    Well, glad somebody else will listen to all the self-congratulatory hooting and hollering tomorrow night. My sympathies.

    • Woman Voter says:

      I agree! I also think the military spending and the ENDLESS WARS are driving this financial crisis along with all the PORK passed by Republicans from which they happy feed at the pork trough…a good example of this is Michelle Bachman:

      Bachmann and her husband own a Christian counseling clinic in Stillwater.[14][15] Bachmann also has an ownership stake in a Waumandee, Wisconsin family farm. From 1995 through 2006, the Bachmann family farm has received $251,973 in federal subsidies, chiefly for dairy and corn price supports.[16] Since the death of her father-in-law, the farm and its buildings are rented to a neighboring farmer who maintains a dairy herd on the farm.</blockquote
      So, she apposes loans and grants for students but was busy receiving tax money.

    • paper doll says:

      and why I continue to conclude that the power elite know we’re done for as a country and have no qualms about wiping the rest of us out economically

      I totally agree…the power elite have been cashing for some time…

      Oh and the state deficits will be used as a hammer to destroy the country as we have known it . If banks are too big to fail…how come whole states aren’t? …because there are pensions to tear up and social services to stop that’s why. I’d put another fork in us cause we are done, but I can find a spot without one already …

      US state budget deficits could top $140 billion

      The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats and Republicans have made it clear that there will be no federal bailout of the states and no federally funded jobs or public works programs to alleviate the crisis. These budget gaps threaten the jobs, pensions and benefits of hundreds of thousands of state workers, as well as the social services and programs provided to millions.

      Some Republicans have also floated the idea of altering laws that prohibit states from declaring bankruptcy, to make it easier for state governments to rip up workers’ contracts and attack pensions. A number of municipalities, which are not barred from seeking relief in the courts, have already initiated bankruptcy proceedings and have threatened to default on loans

      Shock and awe anyone?

      • votermom says:

        If banks are too big to fail…how come whole states aren’t?
        Did those states have the foresight to make hefty political donations to the decider in chief? Well, there’s the problem, then. Quid pro bailout, baby.

      • dakinikat says:

        I know. I wrote on this awhile back… it’s the new war against civil servants. They’re trying to disrupt the last of the effective unions with that and the last of the defined benefits.

        They’ll bail out organizations that give obscene bonuses, but not ones that give workers decent pension plans.

  5. votermom says:

    Apparently, Obama and Immelt are going to make sure that “We’re going to build stuff, and invent stuff.” so yay, we can all relax now.

    • dakinikat says:

      I can’t believe they think we don’t know that’s code for getting rid of worker’s rights, removing taxes for corporations, and dumping environmental and consumer protection. I can’t believe any one will think that will create jobs here. They’re still going to move the majority of them overseas. That’s so in the cards now, only tough laws and tax penalties would stop it.

      • votermom says:

        It’s like believing Immelt knows anything about creating American jobs. When has he ever done that?

      • dakinikat says:

        It’s a circus is for Immelt’s peers and Republicans … Obama needs campaign funds and eventually independent voters.

      • votermom says:

        It’s so very brazenly banana-republic like. Exactly like the country I left because of this kind of corruption. Big Business gives it’s favored candidate all the money and good press he needs to get elected. Elected pol gives Big Business strategic appointments and lucrative contracts. People starve, so what.
        This is probably all my fault. I probably have this jinx following me around that is bringing the USA down with it. Sorry, guys.

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    MJ touched on something above that should be a simple solution to the jobs issue. Public works, the country’s infrastructure is falling apart. There seems to be so many places that could use maintenance and major rebuilding. Not just roads and transportation sectors, but things like gas and water main systems, parks and rec…and lots of other “stuff” that could use overhauls. I do not understand why any of the elected officials do not push for some sort of work program to fix the nation’s infrastructure. It would have a positive effect on jobs and the nation. Maybe it is because there are no real Dems to stand up and actually demand something like this. Is it because of the elitist attitude that screams: who gives a shit about the real American people?

    And it isn’t just the Jobs thing. All the talk about cutting social security and other “like” programs is bullshit. Then you got these GOP idiots who want to put an end to any remaining rights a woman has over her own body. Yet these same jerks get so sensitive when anyone mentions “messing” with their rights to bare arms. Big money and lobbies control the government. Banks and big business get bailouts and the people get foreclosed on. This country is going to hell in a gilded hand basket. (By gilded I mean the upper 1% are taking us to hell, and they sure won’t do it in a piece of shit hand basket.) It all is so unreal, and frustrating.

    I thought at one time we had a chance, maybe to build up some sort of wave of action. Now I don’t think we have any “out” left. Moving to another country with better opportunities is not an option for lots of us. It makes that final step off the cliff all the more easier to take. You know the one that lands a person in survivalist mode…complete with hording food and supplies.
    -end rant

    • mjames says:

      That’s why I continue to think they are total idiots. No foresight. There are no jobs. So let’s cut Social Security and Medicare. What? What sense does that make? How is the ordinary ex-worker supposed to live? Especially after 60. Who is hiring 60-year-olds, pray tell?

      • votermom says:

        There is always some nice private island somewhere, and they will have gated communities guarded by blackwater when they do have to come to “town”.

      • mjames says:


        That’s part of my point. There are only so many islands. There is only so much water.

      • paper doll says:

        How is the ordinary ex-worker supposed to live

        …like they give a rat’s ass …. The faster the 60 year old ex-worker dies off , the better ,as far as they see it. They sure as hell aren’t paying
        squat to help that ex-worker out …but you know all this .

    • Branjor says:

      these same jerks get so sensitive when anyone mentions “messing” with their rights to bare arms.

      Arms are indecent. They should definitely be covered at all times.

      Sorry, MM. I just couldn’t resist.

    • NW Luna says:

      there are no real Dems to stand up and actually demand something like this.

      Spot on. Here in the Pacific NW there are hundreds of miles of trails built by the WPA (many still traveled, too many unmaintained and overgrown), buildings built by the WPA (still standing, much-used and loved). What a incredibly useful program the WPA was. Putting people to work building things to last for decades. Infrastructure. And yes, so much needs re-building or maintenance now.

      You’d think the re-building of infrastructure would be the painfully obvious goal of gov’t. But we have no FDR, and jellyfish for the Ds in Congress.

  7. vtrucs says:

    Just a little economic factoid here – Canada’s dollar is once again at virtual parity with the U.S.’s. I’d guess that their huge wasteful laziness-inducing social safety net (/sf) isn’t nearly as damaging to their economy as America’s “Austerity for thee, but not for me” working class squeezes are to ours.

    Even given Steven Harper and faux Liberals like Gordon Campbell, it seems they’re doing something right. (Probably left over momentum from Jean Chretien’s tenure. Biased much? 🙂 )

  8. dakinikat says:

    Michele Bachmann needs a padded room, but instead she’s in Iowa:

    And so, we come to contradiction #1 in Bachmann’s world view. This is the one where she loudly proclaims that her ancestors did not come to this country for handouts, welfare and socialized medicine, but for mere opportunity. Oh, and free land. Yes, the free land had much to do with it. So they didn’t come here for handouts, but they came with their hand out for that free land. And eventually, for the farm subsidies that came with farming in the Midwest during the 20th century. The Bachmann family farm received $252,000 between 1995 and 2006 in farm subsidies, which I think might qualify as a “handout”.

    They’ve got her on video there and notice she’s sporting a familiar hair-do.