Tuesday Reads: Utter Exhaustion Edition

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Good Morning!!

I finally arrived in Boston yesterday after driving for three days. With the days so short, and the nights so dark, I ended up having to stop for the night earlier than I would have in the summer. I was tired last night, but I’m even more exhausted this morning. Everything hurts, and my brain isn’t working properly. I’m supposed to drive up to New Hampshire for Christmas, and I have no idea how I can do that.

I’d like to write a beautifully organized post, but I don’t think I’m capable of it. So here are some news stories that caught my flawed attention this morning.

Another police officer gets away with murder, this time in Milwaukee. From the Journal-Sentinel:

In one of the most highly anticipated legal decisions in recent memory, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Monday that former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.

Chisholm determined that Manney’s use of force was justified self-defense.

Hamilton’s family has repeatedly called for Manney, who has since been fired, to face criminal charges.

Speaking to supporters outside the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Hamilton’s brother Nathaniel said he and the other family members would not waver in their determination.

“We deserve justice,” he said. “Justice is our right.”

As you’ve probably already guessed, Dontre Hamilton was a black man, and Christopher Manney is white. This is getting to be a regular thing, and it’s really getting old. The police unions can complain all they want. The simple truth is that police officers are killing a hell of a lot of black men.

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The NY Daily News reports that the Department of Justice will review the shooting to determine whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated.

There’s been some pushback on the claims by police unions that protesters of police-involved deaths like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and government officials who sympathized with their families are responsible for the recent murders of two NYPD police officers in Brooklyn. Here’s an essay by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Time Magazine: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.

According to Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” For me, today, that means a time to seek justice and a time to mourn the dead.

And a time to shut the hell up.

The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.

At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.

More at the link.

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The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have each editorialized on the issue.

WaPo: The blame game over police deaths in New York goes too far.

LA Times: Protesters didn’t cause slayings of New York police officers.

The Daily Beast: The NY Police Union’s Vile War with Mayor De Blasio.

And from HuffPo: Police Unions ‘Standing Down’ After Controversial Comments In Wake Of NYPD Shooting.

Despite all the complaints about Obama’s leadership from Republicans, the economy is growing; and wealthy Americans sure seem to be doing okay.

The Hill, GDP grows by 5 percent as US economy picks up strong pace.

The economy grew at a 5 percent rate from July to September, the fastest pace in 11 years.

The strong growth recorded by the Commerce Department adds to the sense that the economy is approaching full speed for the first time since the recession of 2008 — and since President Obama was first elected….

The government found consumer spending grew by 3.2 percent from July to September, compared to 2.5 percent in the previous quarter.

The Commerce Department also shifted its estimate for the second quarter, finding strong growth of 4.6 percent between April and June. That’s up from its previous estimate of 3.9 percent.

Reuters, Dow Tops 18,000 for First Time on Upbeat GDP Report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 18,000 for the first time Tuesday, propelled higher by a better-than-expected report on the economy in the third quarter. If the Dow closes above 18,000, it will have taken the index only six months to climb there from 17,000.

It took only seven months to get from 16,000 to 17,000.

The independent living in chula vista has been good news for Americans who own shares, including the wealthy, corporations, financial firms and workers with retirement funds and pensions invested in stocks. For those who don’t own shares, it could mean a widening wealth gap, however.

How much wider can it get?

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But there’s also good news for us ordinary folks. From CNN, 89 straight days of lower gas prices.

The streak, the longest on record according to AAA, has shaved nearly $1 off the national average price of regular gas, taking it to $2.38 a gallon for the first time in five years. September 25 was the last day prices were higher for drivers. That day they increased by only a tenth of a cent. Prices have tumbled 36% since the high of the year, which was back in late April.

Not only have they been falling, but the plunge in gas prices has been picking up speed, tumbling nearly 2 cents between Monday and Tuesday.

Prices were 15 cents higher only a week ago and 44 cents higher a month ago. In numerous cities — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Topeka, Kansas — the average price now stands less than $2 a gallon, according to AAA. Springfield, Missouri became the first state to break the $2 average price last week. Missouri drivers are enjoying the lowest statewide average price at $2.05 a gallon.

The plunging price of oil — a 50% drop off the cost of barrel of crude since April, is the main driver in the gas price slide. But there are many other factors also affecting prices. Weakening economies in Europe and Asia, as well as more fuel efficient vehicles worldwide, have all cut demand for gasoline.

Unfortunately, I can testify that gas prices on the New York Thruway are still very high, with regular priced at close to $3.00 a gallon.

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North Korea suffered a major internet breakdown yesterday. Was the NSA responsible? The CIA. If so, good work! From Reuters, North Korea’s Internet links restored amid U.S. hacking dispute.

North Korea, at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures, experienced a complete Internet outage for hours before links were restored on Tuesday, but U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

U.S.-based Dyn, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure, said the reason for the outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures said the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyberattack, which he blamed on North Korea, “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

Dyn said North Korea’s Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline. Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, and the possibilities for the outage could be attacks by individuals, a hardware failure, or even that it was done by North Koreaitself, experts said.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that North Korea’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count”.

Almost all of North Korea’s Internet links and traffic pass through China and it dismissed any suggestion that it was involved as “irresponsible”.

So what happened then, I wonder . . . . ?

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Here’s a story that should please JJ: Dish Network dumps Fox News, setting off social media war on Facebook.

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network dropped the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network on Saturday night after the companies couldn’t come to terms on a new distribution contract, reports TVNewser.

According to Fox Executive Vice President of Distribution Tim Carry, contract talks have broken off and nothing is happening, depriving Dish’s 14 million subscribers of Fox News’ “fair and balanced” approach to current event coverage.

“Our phone line is open, we’re willing to talk,” Carry said. “Am I negotiating right now? I’m not.”

Executives at Dish say Fox is playing hardball with them by attempting to use the news channel as  leverage to increase fees for their sports and entertainment channels normally covered by separate contracts.

“It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish Network’s Senior Vice President of programming. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract.”

Hahahahaha! The Fox fans in Banjoville must being going nuts. But at least they can watch Turner Classic Movies.

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And here’s some even more scary news for racist Southerners. From Raw Story: Southern whites have more black DNA than whites in the rest of US: study.

Some of the states with the most racially charged attitudes towards African-Americans are also the states where the most whites have black ancestors, according to a recently released study.

Researchers examined 145,000 DNA samples provided to genetic testing company 23andme for ancestry analysis to determine that at least six million Americans who called themselves white had 1 percent or more African ancestry.

The study published this month in the American Journal of Human Genetics found that whites in the South were far more likely to have at least 1 percent black ancestry than any other part of the country.

“European Americans with African ancestry comprise as much as 12% of European Americans from Louisiana and South Carolina and about 1 in 10 individuals in other parts of the South,” the authors wrote….

And black Americans living in the South also had more African ancestry than any other region of the country. African-Americans in West Virginia and Oregon had the lowest percentage of African ancestry.

So . . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Like We Need More Austerity …

Too bad we can't buy some stock in soup kitchens ...

U.S. Economic Growth did exactly what most economists expected during the first quarter of 2011, it slowed substantially. There is some hope that the low rate was due to temporary factors like bad weather and political unrest in the MENA region that’s contributed to higher gas prices.

Of these various economic menaces, the most enduring is probably higher commodity prices, which reduce the amount of pocket money that households and businesses have available to spend on other purchases and, in the case of companies, hires. Gasoline prices have shown little sign of falling in recent weeks, and have nearly neutralized the 2011 payroll tax cuts that were intended as a stimulus.

“Consumers are spending more, but it’s getting soaked up in higher gas prices and higher food prices,” the chief economist at RDQ Economics, John Ryding, said. “That’s not leaving nearly as much left over for discretionary spending.”

Declines in government spending will continue to drag on the economy throughout the year, as strapped state and local governments cut back and the federal government tries to cut down on nonmilitary spending. Last quarter’s steep drop in military spending, which tends to be volatile, will probably reverse itself later in the year, economists said.

It’s pretty easy to tell who is experiencing the worst end of this lackluster recovery.  Hint:  It’s not the wealthiest Americans.  But, if you had any doubts, Wal-Mart reports their shoppers are “running out of money”.  Again, there’s low overall inflation but higher gas and food prices make up a large portion of the family budget for ordinary Americans.

Wal-Mart’s core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday.

“We’re seeing core consumers under a lot of pressure,” Duke said at an event in New York. “There’s no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact.”

Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in.

Lately, they’re “running out of money” at a faster clip, he said.

“Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year,” Duke said. “This end-of-month [purchases] cycle is growing to be a concern.

This would explain the results of this Gallup Poll where “More than Half Still Say U.S. is in a Recession”. This amount of consumer depression in an economy driven by 70% household spending cannot bode well for future GDP growth.  Businesses are expanding overseas and will not create any jobs or businesses here unless they see customers.  This, in the Keynesia mold, calls for increased government spending.  What we have been getting is decreases in taxes to people whose investments and job creation efforts are going outside of the country.  It’s not hard to see why most citizens do not think we’re in any kind of recovery other than a technical one.

More than half of Americans (55%) describe the U.S. economy as being in a recession or depression, even as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) reports that “the economic recovery is proceeding at a moderate pace.” Another 16% of Americans say the economy is “slowing down,” and 27% believe it is growing.

Meanwhile, every one within the D.C. beltway continue to eye the dwindling American safety net with greedy eyes.  This has elicited comments from all over but none is perhaps more  jaw-dropping than a pronouncement from Former Dubay Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill who likened Republicans threatening to block the increase in the debt ceiling to Al Qaeda Terrorists.  It does indeed seem that Republicans would like to bring on a great depression rather than find middle ground on spending and taxing priorities.

“The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really,” O’Neill, Treasury secretary in the Republican administration of George W. Bush, said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.

“They’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk,” O’Neill said.

It’s as if our elected officials are deliberately sabotaging the country.  The details in the National Income and Spending accounts are given here at the BEA.  You can see that we’re not getting stimulus from either Federal Spending, Business Investments or Exports.  (There’s a pretty much a wash when you look at Net Exports or you subtract Imports from Exports.)

Real exports of goods and services increased 4.9 percent in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 8.6 percent in the fourth. Real imports of goods and services increased 4.4 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 12.6 percent.

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 7.9 percent in the first quarter, compared with a decrease of 0.3 percent in the fourth. National defense decreased 11.7 percent, compared with a decrease of 2.2 percent. Nondefense increased 0.1 percent, compared with an increase of 3.7 percent. Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 3.3 percent, compared with a decrease of 2.6 percent.

The change in real private inventories added 0.93 percentage point to the first-quarter change in
real GDP after subtracting 3.42 percentage points from the fourth-quarter change. Private businesses
increased inventories $43.8 billion in the first quarter, following increases of $16.2 billion in the fourth
quarter and $121.4 billion in the third.

None of this is good news when coupled with the still high rates of unemployment.    Despite all these tax cuts, the business sector is clearly not going anywhere.   Here’s a link to some further analysis and nifty graphs from Econbrowser.  This analysis is particularly germane to our conversation.

Inventory rebuilding and a gain in exports made positive contributions, but these were essentially undone by increases in imports and decreases in government spending. Perhaps the most disappointing detail was investment spending by businesses, which had been making solid contributions to growth the previous three quarters, but was essentially flat for Q1. Housing remains stuck at very low levels, but at least it’s no longer a significant factor dragging the level of GDP down.

But until housing and business investment start making a positive contribution, we’re likely to be disappointed by the employment and GDP reports.

It’s pretty obvious that fiscal policy in this country has gone to VooDoo land because we’re still in deep DooDoo. What we have here is fiscal policy malpractice.  Too bad we can’t all join in a massive lawsuit and sue the Congress.  Thanks a lot SCOTUS!!!


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

I thought I’d start the day off with some new topics given we’ve spent the weekend following world events unfold.   One of the major complaints of the Egyptian people is their high unemployment rate. It’s basically the same as ours.  They also have seen rising food and energy prices.  Our overall price inflation is well under control at the moment, but there are world events that have made food and energy prices more volatile than usual.  The Egyptians have experienced GDP growth rates that are twice ours, but like our country, the income improvements have advantaged the very few instead of the many for many of the same reasons.  One of the guys that skedaddled on that airplane was the big telecom industry captain.  We have many huge corporations–like GE–that exist on no bid government contracts that they never lose, even when they’ve been found endlessly maleficent.

I thought I’d start with Tyler Cohen who has been riffing on themes relevant to his for sell on line pamphlet  The Great Stagnation.  His NYT article this weekend buried one of the themes of the SOTU.  It’s called ‘Innovation Is Doing Little for Incomes’.

The income numbers for Americans reflect this slowdown in growth. From 1947 to 1973 — a period of just 26 years — inflation-adjusted median income in the United States more than doubled. But in the 31 years from 1973 to 2004, it rose only 22 percent. And, over the last decade, it actually declined.

Most well-off countries have experienced income growth slowdowns since the early 1970s, so it would seem that a single cause is transcending national borders: the reaching of a technological plateau. The numbers suggest that for almost 40 years, we’ve had near-universal dissemination of the major innovations stemming from the Industrial Revolution, many of which combined efficient machines with potent fossil fuels. Today, no huge improvement for the automobile or airplane is in sight, and the major struggle is to limit their pollution, not to vastly improve their capabilities.

Although America produces plenty of innovations, most are not geared toward significantly raising the average standard of living. It seems that we are coming up with ideas that benefit relatively small numbers of people, compared with the broad-based advances of earlier decades, when the modern world was put into place. If pre-1973 growth rates had continued, for example, median family income in the United States would now be more than $90,000, as opposed to its current range of around $50,000.

You can find more discussion at Marginal Revolution. The Economist weighed in on the booklet tonight.

improvements in rich world living standards may, for the moment at least, come from the capture of policy low-hanging fruit. In other words, the rich world should focus on getting rid of blatantly foolish and costly policies. Moving from taxes on goods, like income, to bads, like traffic congestion, would be a good start. Not spending so much on medical treatments with dubious benefits would be another possibility. Cutting out policy foolishness like agriculture subsidies and the mortgage-interest deduction would be another positive step. Amid rapid growth, really silly policy choices could be tolerated, since surpluses continued to rise. As growth rates slow, the failure to cut out bad policies will mean continued stagnation or declines in living standards for some.And it’s a little amusing to focus on the implications of the spread of cheap-to-free internet amusement. As Mr Cowen notes, the availability of good, free internet entertainment has allowed a lot of people hit hard by falling incomes or recession-induced joblessness to maintain relatively high levels of utility (though this available substitute has also made it easier to cut down on physical consumption, with nasty effects on GDP).

Paul Krugman agrees here.   Robert Reich struck a similar chord on stalled incomes in his response to the SOTU.  Reich focuses on one of our topics. That would be the important list of what the president didn’t say.

What the President should have done is talk frankly about the central structural flaw in the U.S. economy – the dwindling share of its gains going to the vast middle class, and the almost unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at top – in sharp contrast to the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.

Although the economy is more than twice as large as it was thirty years ago, the median wage has barely budged. Most of the gains from growth have gone to the richest Americans, whose portion of total income soared from around 9 percent in the late 1970s to 23.5 percent in 2007. Americans kept spending anyway by using their homes as ATMs but the bursting of the housing bubble put an end to that – leaving them without enough purchasing power to reboot the economy. So the central challenge is put more money into the pockets of average Americans.

This narrative would be politically risky (opening Mr. Obama to the charge of being a “class warrior”) but at least honest. And it would allow him to connect the dots – explaining why his new health-care law is critical to reducing medical costs for most working families, why tax reform requires cutting taxes on the middle class while raising them on the rich, why the Bush tax cuts shouldn’t be extended for the wealthy, why deficit reduction must not sacrifice education and infrastructure (both important to rebuilding middle-class prosperity) and why any cuts in Social Security or Medicare must be on the backs of the wealthy rather than average working families.

I still can’t believe we have a President that doesn’t run a counter narrative to the Republican Voodoo economic fantasy.  I guess it’s left to those of us in the blogosphere to hammer home traditional democratic values.  So, speaking of some of the worst of the worst, there’s a movement afoot to UnCloak the Kochs.  Those John Birch Society Billionaires that want to bring down social security have been taking up some virtual ink in left blogistan.  Here’s something from the New York Observer:  ‘7 Ways the Koch Bros. benefit from Corporate Welfare’.

Now that we’ve heard about their charitable giving, David’s 240-foot mega-yacht and role as patrons of the Tea Party movement, it’s time to ask a more serious question: How libertarian are they?

The short answer…not very.

Charles and David Koch, the secretive billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, the largest private oil company in America, have spent millions bankrolling free-market think tanks and pro-business politicians in order, as David Koch has put it, “to minimize the role of government, to maximize the role of private economy and to maximize personal freedoms.” But a closer look at their dealings reveals that for the past 35 years the brothers have never shied away from using government subsidies to maximize their own profits, even while endeavoring to limit government spending on anything else.

These guys are a veritable bankroll for so-called think tanks that spout more tank than think.  Some one should let them know that their businesses are hardly shining examples of a free market.  These guys are card carrying members of the crony capitalist set.

In 1977, Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute, an influential libertarian think tank, with the aim of injecting free-market ideas into the mainstream. The Kochs would go on to establish and fund a vast network of overlapping think tanks, institutes, foundations, media outlets, and lobby groups that would vilify centralized government and promote laissez-faire capitalism as the only route to economic prosperity. The Mercatus Center, Americans for Prosperity, Reason Magazine, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation are just a few of the right-wing organizations that run on Koch cash today.

David Dayen has a post up at FDL about protests organized to protest these bloated trust fund babies and their plutocratic friends.  These guys  are manufacturers of stupidity like climate change denial.  Common Cause organized the protest.

After a litany of speakers – including Jim Hightower, Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, and Common Cause President and former Illinois Congressman Bob Edgar, the entire group of protesters moved to the setup across the street from the resort. Police helicopters buzzed overhead. After a while, the police agreed to shut down Bob Hope Drive, and the protesters streamed across the street and directly in front of the resort, just a few inches away from the phalanx of riot cops. The usual protest chanting and raising of banners ensued. More cops were brought in, traipsing over the flower beds. And 25 protesters were taken away in a paddy wagon. The protests were generally peaceful, and the police professional.

The protesters generally decried the Koch Brothers’ influence over American democracy, in particular their use of the Citizens United ruling to spend corporate money in elections. Koch Industries’ funding of climate denialism and other conservative causes was on the minds of the protesters as well.

You can read some of the dirty deeds that pay others to do dirt cheap in the NYT article on the Tea Party targets. Here’s the list of who is in their ‘surveyor’ marks for the 2012 Senate elections.   Evidently, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar is one of the guys they’re after.  Here’s some more making their unclean, impure list.

In Maine, there is already one candidate running on a Tea Party platform against Senator Olympia J. Snowe. Supporters there are seeking others to run, declaring that they, too, will back the person they view as the strongest candidate to avoid splitting their vote. In Utah, the same people who ousted Senator Robert F. Bennett at the state’s Republican convention last spring are now looking at a challenge to Senator Orrin G. Hatch.

The early moves suggest that the pattern of the last elections, in which primaries were more fiercely contested than the general election in several states, may be repeated.

They also show how much the Tea Party has changed the definition of who qualifies as a conservative. While Ms. Snowe is widely considered a moderate Republican, Mr. Hatch is not. Mr. Lugar, similarly, defines himself as a conservative. He argues that he has consistently won praise from small-business groups, supported a balanced budget amendment and pushed for a reduction in farm subsidies and the closing of agricultural extension offices as part of an effort to reduce unnecessary spending — all initiatives that fall under the smaller government rubric of the Tea Party.

Guess that means there’s more bat shit crazy folks waiting in the wing to mangle and destroy American history and the constitution.  Do you suppose we’ll see any more “I am not a witch” ads?

So, last week I posted something sent to me from BostonBoomer about the rise in violent attacks in prisons due to cost cutting measures and outsourcing to private firms.  BB’s found another more horrible link.  CNN reports the death of a correctional officer in Washington who had made a complaint to her union steward that she feared for her safety.

Jayme Biendl, 34, was discovered late Saturday night after workers at the Monroe Correctional Complex noticed her keys and radio were missing, according to a statement from the Washington State Department of Corrections. Staff at the prison immediately went to where she worked and found her unresponsive, it said.

Emergency responders declared Biendl dead at the scene shortly before 11 p.m. PT, the department said.

She had been strangled, according to Chad Lewis, a department spokesman.

So, it’s monday morning, I spent all weekend rewriting an article on Venture Capital.  As long as you don’t have anything to say about that, because I’ve frankly reached my fill on the subject , I’d like to know …

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


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.

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Keyboard Cat plays off Okun’s Law

I’ve been teaching Okun’s Law in my principles level Macroeconomics courses since 1980. It’s been the policy rule of thumb since the Kennedy years on how much GDP needs to change to get a movement in the unemployment rate. Here’s the Wiki explanation which is as good as any.

In economics, Okun’s law is an empirically observed relationship relating unemployment to losses in a country’s production. The “gap version” states that for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate, a country’s GDP will be an additional roughly 2% lower than its potential GDP. The “difference version” describes the relationship between quarterly changes in unemployment and quarterly changes in real GDP. The accuracy of the law has been disputed. The name refers economist Arthur Okun who proposed the relationship in 1962 (Prachowny 1993).

I’ve mentioned recently that we’re seeing some fundamental changes in that relationship. This WSJ article talks more about how we’re breaking away from the historical pattern studied by Okun back in the 1960s. This has incredible ramifications for fiscal policy makers. Again, I think the Obama economic advisers appear to be ignoring some really important changes in the fundamentals. We’re much more oriented towards imports, service jobs, and capital than we were back in the Camelot days.

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