Lazy Saturday Reads

Woman Reading by a Window Gari Melchers – circa 1905

Good Afternoon!!

I’ve been trying to find out where Trump is this weekend. I haven’t heard anything about him going to Florida, and I’m afraid that may mean there will be more chaos in the White House over the weekend. Will Scott Pruitt lose his job? Or will Trump really try to use him to replace Jeff Sessions? Is Trump really preparing to talk to Robert Mueller, as CNN reports?

Exclusive: Trump begins informal prep for potential Mueller interview.

President Donald Trump has begun the initial steps of preparing for a possible interview with the special counsel, a White House official and a person familiar with the situation said Friday, a sign the President’s legal team is intensifying its deliberations over whether to allow him to come under Robert Mueller’s questioning.

One source familiar with the proceedings stressed the preparation efforts is “in its infancy.”
The preparations have been short and informal and included going over potential topics with the President that Mueller would likely raise in an interview, the people said.

The President has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller.

But word of early preparations is the clearest sign yet that Trump and his team remain open to an interview with Mueller, despite concerns from some people close to the President that such an interview could expose him to possible charges of perjury.

According to Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair, Trump is now targeting one of his last “adult” advisers: Running Out of Punching Bags, Trump Turns on Mattis.

Drinking Coffee And Reading In The Garden Painting by Edward Killingworth Johnson

Until recently, Donald Trump’s campaign to purge naysayers had spared the Pentagon. In the absence of more proximate targets, however, it appears the president has turned his attention to foreign policy, jeopardizing his relationship with perhaps his only remaining sane adviser. Indeed, in the past week, Trump has made James Mattis’s job nearly impossible by declaring that he would send the military to guard the border with Mexico (the White House later clarified that he meant the National Guard), and insisting that the U.S. pull out of Syria (something Mattis promised last year would not happen), leading to a spectacular showdown on Tuesday, when the conflict between Trump and his generals reportedly boiled over during a meeting of top aides in the Situation Room.

According to the Associated Press, Mattis argued “that an immediate withdrawal” from Syria “could be catastrophic and was logistically impossible to pull off in any responsible way,” and offered a one-year timeline as an alternative—to which Trump responded that five or six months ought to do the trick, and “indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer.” A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that attendees left Tuesday’s meeting “beside themselves,” arguing that Trump’s lack of desire to put together any sort of recovery plan for Syria—restoring basic needs such as water, power, and roads—would most certainly tip the country back into ISIS’s hands. “It is a huge gamble that ISIS is not going to come back and that we are going to rely on others to stabilize Syria,” an official said.

The same official noted the hypocrisy in Trump’s choice: “The president blasted Obama for a timeline in Iraq, but that is in essence what we have been given.”

From the AP article:

It wasn’t the result top national security aides wanted. Trump’s desire for a rapid withdrawal faced unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community, all of which argued that keeping the 2,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Syria is key to ensuring the Islamic State does not reconstitute itself.

Adolfe Monet reading in the garden, by Claude Monet

But as they huddled in the Situation Room, the president was vocal and vehement in insisting that the withdrawal be completed quickly if not immediately, according to five administration officials briefed on Tuesday’s White House meeting of Trump and his top aides. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations and requested anonymity.

If those aides failed in obtaining their desired outcome, it may have been because a strategy that’s worked in the past — giving Trump an offer he can’t refuse — appears to have backfired.

Rather than offer Trump a menu of pullout plans, with varying timelines and options for withdrawing step-by-step, the team sought to frame it as a binary choice: Stay in Syria to ensure the Islamic State can’t regroup, or pull out completely. Documents presented to the president included several pages of possibilities for staying in, but only a brief description of an option for full withdrawal that emphasized significant risks and downsides, including the likelihood that Iran and Russia would take advantage of a U.S. vacuum.

Ultimately, Trump chose that option anyway.

Will Mattis resign if Trump insists on pulling the U.s. military out of Syria? Or will Trump fire him? John Bolton is expected to begin his job as National Security Adviser on Monday. Will he agree with Trump’s newly formed foreign policy?

Chief of Staff John Kelly has also lost influence on the newly “emboldened” Trump according to CBS News: Trump freezes out chief of staff John Kelly, says he’s “tired of being told ‘no.'”

When President Donald Trump made a congratulatory phone call to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, White House chief of staff John Kelly wasn’t on the line. When Mr. Trump tapped John Bolton to be his next national security adviser, Kelly wasn’t in the room.

And when Mr. Trump spent a Mar-a-Lago weekend stewing over immigration and trade, Kelly wasn’t in sight.

Oscar Bluhm In the Pergola, 1892

Kelly, once empowered to bring order to a turbulent West Wing, has receded from view, his clout diminished, his word less trusted by staff and his guidance less tolerated by an increasingly go-it-alone president.

Emboldened in his job, Mr. Trump has rebelled against Kelly’s restrictions and mused about doing away with the chief of staff post entirely. It’s all leading White House staffers and Trump allies to believe that Kelly is working on borrowed time….

Mr. Trump recently told one confidant that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly and has instead chosen to simply not tell Kelly things at all, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The stock market isn’t happy with Trump’s push for a trade war. Yahoo News (AP): Stock Market Plummets After Trump Explores $100 Billion in New Chinese Tariffs.

Another increase in trade tensions has stocks falling sharply Friday as the U.S. considers an even larger set of tariffs on imports from China and the two countries exchange pointed statements. Technology companies and banks are taking some of the worst losses.

Stocks have changed direction again and again this week as investors tried to get a sense of whether a trade dispute between the two nations will escalate, an outcome that could have major consequences for the global economy. The market didn’t get any help from a March jobs report that was weaker than expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell dropped 581 points, or 2.4 percent, to 23,916 as of 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. Earlier it fell as much as 620 points.

The S&P 500, which many index funds track, lost 53 points, or 2 percent, to 2,608. The Nasdaq composite slid 135 points, or 1.9 percent, to 6,940. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 29 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,513.

The Dow average, which contains numerous multinational companies including industrial powerhouses Boeing and Caterpillar, has swung dramatically this week, with about 1,300 points separating its highest and lowest marks. It fell as much as 758 points Monday, then recovered all of those losses, and late Thursday it was up as much as 519 points for the week. It’s down 0.7 percent for the week.

CNBC: Trump’s tariff gamble with China could be catastrophic for the economy, the GOP — and his own presidency.

Reading in the garden, 1915 – Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

Donald Trump has decided to gamble his presidency on the idea that he can threaten big tariffs on China and force the world’s second-largest economy to back down.

If he fails — and the odds are that he will — the fallout from a tariff battle with China could derail an otherwise strong U.S. economy, threaten Republican majorities in the midterm elections and turn the second half of Trump’s first term into a dismal slog to avoid impeachment votes.

So far, the exact scenario that free traders inside the White House and on Capitol Hill feared is playing out. China scoffed at Trump’s initial $50 billion in threatened tariffs and announced their own, aimed directly at Trump’s red-state base with levies on agricultural and manufactured products.

Although Trump has repeatedly bragged about stock market gains since he has been “president,” Bloomberg reports that Trump is now in 8th place in rankings of presidential success with the markets:

The Republican president’s renewed ramblings on trade dominated U.S. equity markets this week, with a tweet-induced swoon on Friday leaving the S&P 500 Index 1.4 percent lower than where it started on Monday. The gauge swung wildly, notching four moves of at least 1 percent in the five days, and the Cboe Volatility Index spiked above 20, nearly double its level for the past year.

All of which has dented Trump’s reputation as the stock market president.

The numbers from Axios:

Dow Jones Industrial Average return, if you invested in that basket of stocks, for a president’s first 444 days (ranked since 1900,) per Bloomberg:

FDR : 70.4%
Reagan: 41.4%
Teddy Roosevelt: 37.4%
Obama: 32.5%
Bill Clinton: 32.2%
George H.W. Bush: 21.4%
Trump: 20.7%

BTW, according to Think Progress, Trump doesn’t want his trade war to interfere with his daughter’s self-dealing: Ivanka Trump’s clothing company will be spared from tariffs, thanks to her dad.

U.S. officials say they used an algorithm to determine which goods to exclude from new tariffs. According to the Washington Post, the list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” ensuring goods like clothing and toys were excluded so as not to raise the cost on domestic consumer goods.

Reading Man in Park — August Macke 1915

Exempting clothing from the tariffs provides a big break to American clothing companies that hold trademarks in China. One of those clothing companies belongs to the First Daughter of the United States, Ivanka Trump.

A recent report by the Huffington Post found that the president’s daughter and closest adviser rakes in a total of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization while still working at the White House.

Her dual role as adviser to the president and private business executive has continuously raised ethical red flags. No one can be entirely sure that public policy by this administration isn’t being driven by business motives, or whether countries may pursue business deals with the Trump family as a means to curry political favor with the administration.

Once again, I’ve barely touched on all the important news that has broken over the past couple of days. I’ve reached the point of having to shut down for part of every day, because I’m so overwhelmed. Of course I’m not alone it that. In this vein Brian Klaas asks at The Washington Post: Can democracy survive information overload?

Last month, President Trump floated the idea of executing drug dealers; got sued by a porn star and a Playboy model; repeatedly attacked the FBI, his own attorney general and the Justice Department; instigated a trade war that punished long-standing U.S. allies; explicitly praised authoritarian consolidations of power in China and Egypt; “joked” about becoming “president for life”; congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning a sham election and reportedly invited him to the White House right after Russia’s government allegedly attempted to murder a former spy on the soil of the United States’ closest ally.

He also bullied a journalist for his physical appearance; boasted about making up statistics in meetings with Canada’s government; live-tweeted his favorite TV show; fired his secretary of state on Twitter; lost his Veterans Affairs secretary, national security adviser, chief economic adviser, communications director and a personal aide whose reported gambling habit was deemed a security riskhired a new national security adviser who has repeatedly called to bomb North Korea and Iran; lashed out at the special counsel, who is investigating the president for potential crimes; and threatened to beat up the former vice president of the United States until he cried.

Woman Reading in a Garden by Harold Harvey

That’s just a small selection of news from March 2018: one crazy month of one crazy presidency.

This inescapable, overwhelming and disorienting flurry of activity, which has become the new normal since Trump’s inauguration, begs two simple but profound questions: Can democracy survive information overload? And can it survive a president who knows how to use the resulting chaos to dodge democratic accountability?

Authoritarian rulers have long understood that controlling and manipulating information are crucial to subverting democracy and getting away with breaking the rules. That’s why dictatorial governments such as China and Russia not only work overtime to control media and censor inconvenient facts but also use troll armies to spew out 24/7 torrents of disinformation. Despite Trump’s obvious envy of such methods, he’s stuck with American democracy, so he has innovated out of necessity. He can’t shut down the press or censor Democrats, but he can blind the American electorate with a steady smokescreen of bewildering stories pouring out of the White House.

From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, any one of those stories above would have captivated national attention for weeks, or more likely, months. But with Trump, even the most scandalous topic soon disappears into a never-ending flow of revelations. By the time the morning news shows end, it’s on to the next spectacle of dysfunction. We’re living in a chronic state of whiplash.


Monday Reads: The Adulting Blues

adultingGood Morning!

Well, today’s the kind’ve day that makes me want to hide under the covers and have my mother do all my laundry and cooking. Well, actually my Dad used to do all the cooking but you know what I mean.  It’s been like that for at least a few days as my car’s battery gave out in a very inconvenient location on Thursday night and my bills are bigger than my latest paycheck.  A lot of my ennui and accompanying stress has to do with the uberhype of the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which for a lot of us is an ongoing process of things becoming more undone than they were before.  

Then, there’s just the constant barrage of news–none of which is particularly good–which includes ISIS destroying an ancient wonder. You know what an armchair archaeology buff I am. It’s just so easy to deal with dead civilizations rather than live ones. Trump continues to belittle any one in his path, and every one in the Republican primary is unleashing misogyny and racism. I’m going to focus on the racism today because I think both BB and JJ have given the current misogyny binge complete justice.

My friend Peter has actually written exactly what I’m feeling on this dreadful week where they’re actually pulling out parades and doing “resilience tours” to hype the city and its survival.  Like I said, we may have survived Katrina, but I still have my doubts about our surviving the hipsters, the gentrification, and our elected overseers who have forced us to privatize things that weren’t working before but now are worse and to capitalize on things that turn us into a Disaster Minstrel Show. Again, this is not my writing but Peter’s but I could’ve written it word for word except I obviously don’t have his wife!

I am dreading the influx of disaster tourists who will surely be showing up in town this week. Some of them will be sincerely motivated and others will be of the “I volunteered once with Habitat for Humanity after Katrina so I know what it was like” variety. No, you don’t. You don’t know what it’s like to be barred from your home for 6 weeks and have to sneak in like Dr. A and I did. You don’t know what it’s like to have a bad case of survivor’s guilt because you didn’t fare as badly as other people in town. You don’t know what it’s like to have to re-tell your “Katrina story” over and over again. You don’t know what it’s like to be having dinner and have do-gooders burst in to save your pets because you didn’t, or couldn’t, wash the marks off your front door. Actually, neither do I but it happened to some friends of mine. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase putting on the dog…

The aftermath of the storm was a very painful period in the lives of New Orleanians. We’ve lived it day-in and day-out for 10 years at varying levels of intensity. That’s why I’m not enthusiastic about rehashing those days regardless of whether it’s done by resilience tour types or the krewe of “we’ve gone to hell in a designer handbag.” I wish they’d all piss off and leave me alone. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Yes. I feel that way. Piss off and leave me alone.  Unfortunately, my neighborhood has turned into the mini-Quarter and I can’t even walk the dog around the block or have a beer without either bumping into seven bridesmaids giggling, six film crews taping, and five fucking Air BnB parasites.

This headline from WAPO actually made me scream:  A ‘resilience lab’.  They’ve obviously bought into the Mayor’s hype. This is the paragraph that’s described my reality.  Every day I walk out of my house and feel like screaming “WTF  are you doing here? Why don’t you go back to the hell realm you came from instead of bringing it here to me?”  No east coast newspaper article on New Orleans is complete these days without telling people that the place to be is my freaking neighborhood, the Bywater. I have fewer and fewer neighbors all the time. My neighborhood has been completely overrun with people hoping to redefine and cash in on cool.

He smiled at first. It looked so charming, all those people driving slowly down Burgundy Street through the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, pointing cameras.

Then it dawned on Keith Weldon Medley: These folks weren’t tourists or architecture buffs. They were shoppers. And on their shopping list was almost everything that could be had in these neighborhoods, a collection of Creole cottages, shotgun doubles, warehouses and small manufacturers at a humpback bend of the Mississippi River.

In the evolution of post-Katrina New Orleans, few phenomena have been more striking than the dramatic demographic shift of places such as Bywater from majority black to majority white. One census block group in Bywater dropped from 51 percent African American before Katrina to just 17 percent afterward; the largest went from 63 percent to 32, according to a Washington Post analysis of U.S. census data.

“You saw all these white people. Obviously they were displacing black people who were here before,” said Medley, a historian who lives in the house where he grew up in the Marigny.

My daily mantra is “I see fucking stupid White People.”

So, I really don’t intend for this to be my Katrina post. I’ve been there and done that.   Let me post a few more things that are pissing me off today.

There’s an obvious asset bubble bubbling away here so the market’s correcting and the Fed is going to start bringing up interest rates. This blog has an interesting take on what’s going on which is particularly relevant to my field of research as a currency bloc and international economist.

Global stock markets are in a 2008ish kind of crash today and I really don’t much time to write this, but I just want to share my take on it.

To me this is fundamentally about the in-optimal currency union between the US and China. From 1995 until 2005 the Chinese renminbi was more or less completely pegged to the US dollar and then from 2005 until recently the People’s Bank of China implemented a gradual managed appreciation of RMB against the dollar.

This was going well as long as supply side factors – the opening of the Chinese economy and the catching up process – helped Chinese growth.

Hence, China went through one long continues positive supply shock that lasted from the mid-1990s and until 2006 when Chinese trend growth started to slow. With a pegged exchange rate a positive supply causes areal appreciation of the currency. However, as RMB has been (quasi)pegged to the dollar this appreciation had to happen through domestic monetary easing and higher inflation and higher nominal GDP growth. This process was accelerated when China joined WTO in 2001.

As a consequence of the dollar peg and the long, gradual positive supply shock Chinese nominal GDP growth accelerated dramatically from 2000 until 2008.

However, underlying something was happening – Chinese trend growth was slowing due to negative supply side headwinds primarily less catch-up potential and the beginning impact of negative labour force growth and the financial markets have long ago realized that Chinese potential growth is going to slow rather dramatically in the coming decades.

As a consequence the potential for real appreciation of the renminbi is much smaller. In fact there might be good arguments for real depreciation as Chinese growth is fast falling below trend growth, while trend itself is slowing.

The market has rebounded but the financial markets are obviously still shaky. China is the world’s largest economy now so anything house after katrinathat happens there is bound to ripple around the world.

The global whiplash underscored investors’ shaken confidence in China’s slowing economy and central bank. The world’s second-largest economy is now reeling over what China’s state media is calling “Black Monday,” during which its markets just recorded their biggest one-day nosedive in eight years.

But the mid-morning bounce off deep trading lows led some analysts to question whether financial markets had already finished their fall. Tech giant Apple, which begun the morning down 13 percent and dipping below $100, was trading 2 percent higher by the afternoon, at about $107.

The dismal opening marked a worrying continuation of last week’s free fall. The Dow’s blue-chip index plunged more than 500 points on Friday, capping its worst week since 2011 and entering what Wall Street calls a correction, having tumbled 10 percent from its May peak.

The sell-off bruised every industry, wiping out gains in rapid order after a year of mostly steady trading. Some of America’s biggest companies shed tens of billions of dollars in market value in only a few days, and the markets’ early gains have yet to restore those losses.

S&P 500 companies lost more than $1 trillion in market value last week, and the Dow and other indices are on track to record their dreariest month since February 2009.

On Friday, China reported its worst manufacturing results since the global financial crisis, following shortly after Beijing earlier this month surprised investors by announcing it would devalue the nation’s currency.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index has fallen by nearly 40 percent since June, after soaring more than 140 percent last year. Markets in Europe also plummeted, and Asian shares on Monday hit a three-year low.

Economist gadfly and miserable human being Larry Summers is pearl clutching about the rate hikes.  He seems to be on a search to be relevant again but on a very wrong path. This article alone ought to make you very glad that he’s not the Fed Chairman since he seems completely oblivious to the asset bubbles that I see in assets around the country including houses once again.

Like most major central banks the Fed has put its price stability objective into practice by adopting a 2 per cent inflation target. The biggest risk is that inflation will be lower than this — a risk that would be exacerbated by tightening policy. More than half the components of the consumer price index have declined in the past six months — the first time this has happened in more than a decade. CPI inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices and difficult-to-measure housing, is less than 1 per cent. Market-based measures of expectations suggest that, over the next 10 years, inflation will be well under 2 per cent. If the currencies of China and other emerging markets depreciate further, US inflation will be even more subdued.

Tightening policy will adversely affect employment levels because higher interest rates make holding on to cash more attractive than investing it. Higher interest rates will also increase the value of the dollar, making US producers less competitive and pressuring the economies of our trading partners.

Please check out housing and stock prices Lala and then try again.

Republicans continue to show they have no idea about the reality of black people in this country. Trump attacked Martin O’Malley for sensitivity to the Black Lives Matter Campaign.

Appearing on Fox News over the weekend, Donald Trump admitted to being completely ignorant about the Black Lives Matter movement. “I know nothing about it,” the billionaire real estate developer said.

Of course, his lack of knowledge didn’t prevent him from harshly criticizing the effort. Trump said that he’s “seeing lot of bad stuff about it right now.” He said Martin O’Malley, a contender for the Democratic nomination, was a “disgusting little weak pathetic baby” for apologizing to Black Lives Matter activists earlier this year.

katrina_five_18Huckabee played the MLK card and completely confused King’s Son.

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, said he was “perplexed” by GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s comments last week suggesting that his father would be “appalled” by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think dad would be very proud of young people standing up to promote truth, justice and equality,” King said during an interview on SiriusXM radio. “I was perplexed by the comments, but people attempt to use dad for everything.”

King’s comments come in response to a CNN interview last week in which the former Arkansas governor spoke out against the Black Lives Matter movement, saying racism is “more of a sin problem than a skin problem.”

If you look at the picture of flooded New Orleans and the view over the flooded lower ninth ward towards city, you’ll see a cluster of white tallish buildings sitting right on the river in the middle of that photo.  Just a hair to the right is where my house still stands and where I’m there right now with a pillow pulled over my head trying to block out the world of adults.  I don’t want to be one of them at the moment.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Tuesday Reads: Utter Exhaustion Edition

exhaustion2

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.

dog-tired

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.

sleepy kitty

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?

exhausted puppy

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.

exhausted-cat_244724-422x_large

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 . . . . ?

4995519-306596-exhausted-man-sleeping-on-bench

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.

exhausted-woman1

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!


Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat has arrived safely in Seattle, where she’ll be visiting with her father, her sister, and her elder daughter Jean. I’m going to fill in for her tomorrow morning, but she’ll be back to her regular blogging schedule soon.

I have no idea what’s happening in the news, because I spent last night watching two PBS shows on the JFK assassination. I’ve still been plowing through JFK books too. But RalphB posted a very interesting link last night that I want to highlight. From Jonathan Cohn, via Bob Cesca, Jonathan Cohn explains How to Interpret Obamacare’s Low Enrollment Numbers for October.

According to HHS calculations, 846,852 people have used the site to complete applications. That means they have created accounts and submitted information to see whether they are eligible for federal programs or tax credits. Those applications include people applying for households with multiple members. In total, it represents 1,509,883 people. The federal government has processed applications for the vast majority of them—98 percent, or 1,477,853 people. Of those, about a third have actually selected a health plan or been deemed eligible for a program like Medicaid. That’s 502,466.

How does that half million break down? About four out of five (396,261) are in Medicaid. The rest (106,185) of them have picked private insurance plans. These numbers include both those who enrolled through the website that the federal government is maintaining (healthcare.gov) and those who enrolled through sites that states like California, Kentucky, and Connecticut are running on their own. The majority (three-fourths) of the people getting private insurance have done so through state sites. Just a quarter, or 26,794, have enrolled through the federal site.

But because the media narrative is that the the Obamacare rollout is “failed,” “botched,” and “worse than expected,” all we’re hearing is the 106,185 figure–as if getting people covered by Medicaid doesn’t count. Tell that to the previously uninsured families who will now be able to take their sick kids to a doctor! By the way, in the first month of the Massachusetts health care exchanges, only 123 people signed up. As Bob Cesca puts it,

because there’s an “Obamacare is a Failed Policy” script that must be serviced, the lowest number of the batch has to be quoted. That’s why you’ve been reading about 106,000 rather than 1.5 million.

Have I told you lately how much I think the corporate media sucks?

secret service badge

At a time when many Americans are remembering the JFK assassination and the lax security that contributed to his death, we’re learning about another scandal in the Secret Service. From The Washington Post: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct.

A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.

The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses….

The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.

In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.

The misconduct wasn’t reported to the inspector general until the end of October after the WaPo had started investigating the incident, but

According to the Secret Service’s internal findings, Zamora was off duty when he met a woman at the hotel’s Off the Record bar and later joined her in her room.

The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in. Zamora identified himself to hotel security as a Secret Service agent.

The report apparently didn’t explain why Zamora took a bullet out of this gun or why the woman refused to let him back into her room. We’ll all have to draw our own conclusions.

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen, Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, will be appearing before the Senate Banking Committee today for her confirmation hearing.

US News and World Report lists “three things to expect” from the hearing: 1.) Republicans talking about inflation, 2) “measured reassurances” to nervous Republicans about nonexisitant inflation from Yellen, and 3) “a jumpy stock market.”

USA Today offers “five things to watch for”: 1) “can she handle a national stage,” 2) “Will she sound like Greenspan or Bernanke?” 3) “How will Yellen reconcile the Fed’s dual mandate to boost employment while keeping inflation low with her own economic philosophy?” 4) “Will she drop clues on tapering?” 5) “How will she handle questions about “too big to fail” banks?”

If Yellen were a man, would USA Today be asking if she can “handle a national stage?” As for question 2, she’ll sound like Bernanke obviously. Read USA today’s speculations at the link.

On the stock question, markets are responding favorably so far. From the WSJ: U.S. Stock Futures Inch Higher.

U.S. stock futures held steady near record levels, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman nominee Janet Yellen helped offset disappointing results from some blue-chip companies.

European markets rose as sluggish euro-zone growth figures suggested accommodative monetary policies would remain in place for some time….

Investors will be keenly focused on Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate banking committee, starting at 10 a.m. In her planned opening statement, released late Wednesday, Ms. Yellen said that because unemployment is still too high, and inflation is running below target levels, the Fed is using its monetary-policy tools, even unconventional ones like asset purchases, to promote a more robust recovery.

“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.

Investors will be listening to the question-and-answer period for any clues on when she might expect to start winding down, or tapering, the $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program.

From Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Says U.S. Performing ‘Far Short’ of Potential.

“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”

Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, voiced her commitment to using bond purchases known as quantitative easing to boost growth and lower unemployment that remains above 7 percent more than four years after the economy began to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

“Her approach is, ‘Let’s do more QE now to get the job done faster,’ ” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “Yellen is repeating her commitment to getting the job done.”

In three pages of prepared remarks for the 10 a.m. hearing, released yesterday, Yellen, 67, said unemployment is “still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential,” and that inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s 2 percent goal. She also highlighted areas where the economy has improved, saying housing “seems to have turned a corner” and the auto industry has made an “impressive comeback.”

bodies

The situation in the Philippines is still desperate, according to the NYT: Traumatized City in the Philippines Begins to Bury Its Dead.

TACLOBAN, the Philippines — Pausing occasionally to dodge driving rains by hiding under loose scraps of plywood, a group of firefighters lowered unidentified bodies into a mass grave here Thursday, six days after the city was largely destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan.

For days, the bodies had sat in public. First they were uncovered on roadsides; then they were placed in body bags. After that, they were collected, and nearly 200 were stored at the biggest site, a government office. In the nearby City Hall, the center of local government relief efforts, the stench from the bodies could be powerful when the wind blew off the harbor….

The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorized officials. The visually confirmed bodies are those readily visible from roadsides, as relief crews have yet to start digging through towering piles of debris, much of it studded with nails.

There are also 3,000 injured, by the official tally, and 194 people for whom the paperwork has been completed for them to be declared missing.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Up in Canada, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still refusing to step down:

It’s clear now, amid more damning allegations and public embarrassment, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has no intentions of relinquishing his post.

City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday’sdramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.

He faces yet another challenging day at City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor’s erratic behaviour.

Ford, however, has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..

“I can’t change the past,” he said in council Wednesday. “All I can do is move on and that’s what I’m doing.”

It’s like a family intervention played out in public; but the target of the intervention is in control of a large city. “He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers,” says city councilman  Anthony Perruzza.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson

I’ll end with some feel-good news. I’ve been following the Ryan Ferguson story for a few years now. Ferguson is a young Missouri man who has been in prison for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Yesterday he was finally freed. If you aren’t familiar with the case, here is some background from CBS News and a timeline of the case from KDSK.com.

From The New York Daily News:

Ferguson — who was serving 40 years for the 2001 murder and robbery of Kent Heitholt, an editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune — said he was still dealing with the shock of walking out of the clink.

“When I finally realized it was actually over, it was incredible relief because I was afraid,” he told the news station. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. They don’t really tell you a whole lot. It was a sensation like no other, and seeing my family right there and hugging them, and knowing that we were going to go home together — it was amazing.”

A state appeals court vacated Ferguson’s conviction after the panel found he did not receive a fair trial.

The panel found that prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys and managed to get a conviction from two witnesses who later recanted their testimony.

Ferguson was arrested after his friend, Chuck Erickson, told cops in 2003 that the pair attacked Heitholt during a night of drinking. A night janitor, Jerry Trump, also said during the trial that he saw the two teens near the parking lot where the editor was killed.

Erickson later admitted that he lied about what happened the night Heitholt was killed and Trump told a courtroom years later that he was coached by prosecutors before he testified. Trump could face perjury charges.

So…. those are my picks for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Libyan rebels, who have taken over the capital city, Tripoli. From the NYT:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule.

In the city’s central Green Square, the site of many manufactured rallies in support of Colonel Qaddafi, jubilant Libyans tore down green flags and posters of Colonel Qaddafi and stomped on them. The leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting the Libyan leader had surrendered and that they controlled many parts of the city, but not Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership compound.

The National Transitional Council, the rebel governing body, issued a mass text message saying, “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

Officials loyal to Colonel Qaddafi insisted that the fight was not over, and there were clashes between rebels and government troops early on Monday morning. But NATO and American officials said that the Qaddafi government’s control of Tripoli, which had been its final stronghold, was now in doubt.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next. I hope it will mean the U.S. pulling out of there, but that’s probably a vain hope. After all, Libya has oil and gold.

Business Insider: AFTER QADDAFI: Oil Prices Will Tank, Stock Prices Will Soar

Watch what happens to oil prices if and when the Qaddafis lose and leave.

In short order, Libyan oil production will ramp up. As it does, oil prices in world markets will fall and oil futures markets will reflect the expected increase in production of oil from Libya. The key prices to watch are those trading in Europe, like Brent. US oil prices (WTI) are no longer the leading indicator of world prices intersecting with world supply/demand. Excess inventory at Cushing, OK is complicating the pricing structure.

We expect oil prices to fall when highly desirable, sweet Libyan crude production is fully resumed and enters the pipeline. Maybe, they are going to fall by a lot. This will come as a much-needed boost to the US economy and to others in the world.

Remember: the oil price acts like a sales tax on consumption. To clarify this relationship we convert crude oil prices to gasoline prices and then estimate what a change in gas price will mean for the American consumer. Roughly, a penny drop in the gas price per gallon gives Americans 1.4 billion more dollars a year to spend on other than gasoline. That is a huge stimulant to the economy. The ratio is different in Europe because the gas taxes are so much higher there. Nevertheless, it is still significant.

In other news, President Obama is still on vacation, and unemployment is still soaring. From the SF Chronicle: Obama keeps full vacation day after Libya briefing

In between briefings on Libya, President Barack Obama packed golf, beach time, a stop at a seafood restaurant and a visit to a wealthy friend’s seaside compound into his Martha’s Vineyard vacation Sunday….

Then Obama and his family headed to dinner at the house where White House adviser Valerie Jarrett is staying.

Earlier, Obama spent about an hour at the home of Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts after playing golf with some buddies. The golf foursome included Obama’s Chicago pal Eric Whitaker, UBS America executive Robert Wolf and a White House aide. Obama spent the morning at the beach with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia.

From the LA Times: Congresswomen hear economic, unemployment woes at Inglewood event

…hundreds of people from Los Angeles-area communities…gathered Saturday to share their stories of hardship and to urge local members of Congress to push corporations to help fix the economy and devise ways to put people back to work. Three Democratic U.S. representatives attended the event: Maxine Waters and Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Laura Richardson of Long Beach….
The recession has slammed Los Angeles County, where 1 in 4 workers are jobless or underemployed, according to Good Jobs LA. This summer, L.A. businesses announced 5,700 layoffs, the jobs advocacy group said.

At the same time, corporations are hoarding almost $2 trillion in cash but failing to invest in jobs, the advocacy group said. The group also cited skyrocketing bonuses for many chief executives and big tax breaks for some of the nation’s largest companies.

Warren Buffet recently asked President Obama to raise taxes on the rich for the good of all. Another multi-billionaire, David Koch, disagrees with Buffet that rich Americans should sacrifice anything for their country.

America’s current tax system forces people making $50,000 a year to pay a higher rate than hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour. Warren Buffett penned an op-ed last week declaring that America’s super-rich have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Lamenting the numerous tax loopholes and special breaks afforded to billionaire investors, Buffett noted that in his entire career, even when capital gains rates were as high as 39.9 percent, he never saw anyone “shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.”

Charles Koch, head of the massive petrochemical, manufacturing, and commodity speculating Koch Industries corporation, has responded to Warren’s call for shared sacrifice: “No Thanks.” In a statement to right-wing media, Koch states:

Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.

Yeah, like supporting wingnuts like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan is good for our country. I’d like to see Koch’s fortune confiscated. Maybe we need to bring back the guillotine?

Romney's home in La Jolla, CA

Speaking of rich A$$holes, Mitt Romney has decided that his $12 million mansion in La Jolla must be enlarged–he wants the already huge house to be four times as big.

LA JOLLA — GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, scheduled to attend a series of fundraisers this weekend in San Diego, is also working on plans to nearly quadruple the size of his $12 million oceanfront manse in La Jolla.

Romney has filed an application with the city to bulldoze his 3,009-square-foot, single-story home at 311 Dunemere Dr. and replace it with a two-story, 11,062-square-foot structure. No date has been set to consider the proposed coastal development and site development permits, which must be approved by the city.

The former governor of Massachusetts purchased the home three years ago. According to a description from the listing agent, the Spanish-style residence at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac is sophisticated and understated in its décor, “offering complete privacy and unsurpassed elegance.”

Tentative plans call for new retaining walls and a relocated driveway, but would retain the existing lap pool and spa.

Just how many homes does this man own anyway? Slate Magazine says “just” two. He had a huge house in Massachusetts, not too far from where I live, but he sold it in 2009 for $3.5 million.

I guess after he used (screwed) our state to set up his run for President, he decided to clear out and move his con man act to California. He also sold a “$5.25 million, 9,500-square-foot ski villa in Deer Valley, Utah,” according to Slate. Time calls that “the new frugality.” He’s hanging onto a home in New Hampshire apparently. Where’s that guillotine?

In science news, from Clive Cookson at the Financial Times: Life on earth came from space

The existence of amino acids in space has already been proved by the analysis of meteorites that have struck earth, and comet samples collected in space during Nasa’s Stardust mission. It has been harder to prove that traces of nucleobases found in meteorites were not the result of contamination after they arrived – but the new study seems to do so, while showing that nucleobases reach earth from space in greater diversity and quantity than scientists had thought.

The Nasa team analysed samples of 12 carbon-rich meteorites, including nine found in Antarctica (a rich collecting ground), and detected guanine and adenine, two of the four nucleobases that make up DNA. They also found three related molecules known as nucleobase analogues, a discovery which provides confirmation that the organic compounds in meteorites come from space.

“You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogues if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they’re not used in biology,” says Michael Callahan, lead author of the study, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “However, if asteroids are cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, because of the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid.”

Further confirmation came from an analysis of Antarctic ice, taken from near where the meteorites were collected, which showed no trace of the compounds.

Wait…. you mean life didn’t originate in the Garden of Eden?

In related news, a court has ruled that a teacher who made fun of creationism and Christianity cannot be sued for expressing her opinions.

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a California teacher could not be sued for criticizing Christianity and Creationism during a college-level European history course.

“This was a really important ruling for academic freedom,” University of California constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who took on the case pro bono, told The Orange County Register. “There has never been a precedent set for something like this before. Teachers should be able to criticize religion just like they can criticize government, business and similar groups without the fear of being sued.”

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a lower court’s decision, which held that teacher James Corbett violated a student’s First Amendment rights by making comments during class that were hostile to religion in general, and to Christianity in particular….

Corbett said during his class that serfs opposed social, political and economic [sic] that were in their best interest because of religion, compared Creationism to “magic,” and made twenty other comments that then-sophomore Chad Farnan alleged were disparaging to Christians.

Oh, did I mention this was a college course? Good grief!!

That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Egyptians Take the Streets, Mubarak Fires Ministers, Obama Speaks (live blog)

US President Barack Obama is preparing for a press conference and statement following Egyptian President’s Hosni Mubarak’s earlier TV appearance on Nile Television.   No questions for Mubarak.  How about Obama?

markknoller Mark Knoller

Pres. Obama willl be making his statement with the famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the wall behind him.

Other US reactions:

Equity Markets fall while Oil Prices rise.

Crude oil prices spiked Friday as anti-government protests in Egypt sparked concerns over regional stability.

Prices settled just shy of $90 a barrel, for an increase of more than 4%.

Clinton Urges Egypt to Seize Moment `Immediately’ for Reforms

The Obama administration is ramping up pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to address the grievances of the Egyptian people and said the government’s response to protests may affect U.S. aid.

“The people of Egypt are watching the government’s actions, they have for quite some time, and their grievances have reached a boiling point and they have to be addressed,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington. The U.S. will be looking at its “assistance posture” toward Egypt, Gibbs said.

Starting with an early afternoon statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. today toughened its criticism of Mubarak’s methods in suppressing protests that pose the biggest challenge to his 30-year rule over the Arab world’s most populous country.

“For the U.S., any effort on our part to provide support for Mubarak is going to be read in Egypt as support for a crackdown and support for an undemocratic regime,” said Steven Cook, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “We need to be forward looking for this.”

More than 80 percent of U.S. aid to Egypt, or $1.3 billion, is in the form of military assistance, according to data supplied by the U.S. State Department. With President Barack Obama in power, military aid has stayed unchanged and economic assistance has been cut to $250 million from $411 million in 2008 with the phasing out of democracy-linked programs.

The amount of money Egypt receives from the U.S. is exceeded only by Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel, based on the State Department’s budget request for the current fiscal year.

Senator John Kerry is talking on AJ right now.  He’s encouraging Mubarak to make changes.  He’s also saying it’s not constructive right now to focus on negatives but positives.  He’s saying Mubarak has opportunities.  Wonder if this will be what Obama says …

ON NOW … 6:31  EST.  It’s on CNN, etc.

UPDATE:  President Obama’s statement via MSNBC.

AJ has a front row seat to this via a bureau there.  BTW, take a look at how many silly Americans are leaving best wishes comments to Egyptians on this media outlet that is headquartered in Doha, Qatar and run/owned by folks from there. Such a geography #FAIL.  On top of that, Egypt can’t get access to the internet right now.  (Palm meet forehead!)

Live blog from Al Jazeera

Live Streaming Al Jazeera


Economist Heidi Shierholz: “There’s never been a pool of missing workers this large”

Economics isn’t my area of expertise, but I can read, and the top story at Huffpo right now is pretty disturbing. Author Lila Shapiro spoke to some economists, including Heidi Shierholz, about the December jobs report, which came out today.

Although the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent in December, bringing the total number of officially unemployed Americans to 14.5 million, only 103,000 jobs were added in December according to the Labor Department’s BLS report — a number significantly lower than expected. (The Wall Street Journal reported that many Wall Street analysts were predicting “at or above 200,000” new jobs.)

The news gets worse: less than half of the drop in unemployment rate can be attributed to new job creation — the other half came from 260,000 Americans who have dropped out of the labor force altogether.

This brings the percentage of Americans who are either employed or actively looking for work down to 64.3 percent, what economist Heidi Shierholz calls “a stunning new low for the recession.”

[….]

“We have now added jobs every single month for a year,” Schierholz said. “So you would think that there would be labor force growth, these missing workers starting to come back in. Not only is that not happening, it’s actually starting to go in the other direction. There’s never been a pool of missing workers this large. It’s not clear to me when they’ll come back.”

That can’t be good, no matter what the White House and CNN try to get us to swallow.

At the Wall Street Journal the reaction to the jobs report doesn’t make things sound much better. One headline reads: Markets Whipsawed After Jobs Report. Here’s the gist:

Investors hoped that the jobs report would confirm expectations that a robust recovery was finally filtering through to long-stagnated labor markets. But after traders positioned aggressively this week on lofty expectations of a strong payrolls figure, the disappointing data had a relatively muted impact.

[….]

The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy created 103,000 new positions last month, far below market consensus expectations for a 150,000 gain. In November, the economy added 39,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell sharply to 9.4% from 9.7%.

Sustainable job creation has been elusive in an economy that is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. As a result of the troubled job market, analysts think the Federal Reserve is likely to continue full steam ahead with its controversial $600 billion plan to reinflate the economy.

Dakinikat can give us her expert take on this, but as a layperson, I think it’s obvious that the country is on the wrong track and some one needs to light a fire under the President and his incompetent economic advisers.

HEY VILLAGERS! WE NEED JOBS!!!