Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Meanwhile, In Australia

Meanwhile, in Australia:

A LOCAL council has banned the construction of a synagogue in Bondi because it could be a terrorist target, in a shock move that religious leaders say has caved in to Islamic extremism and created a dangerous precedent.
The decision, which has rocked the longstanding Jewish community in the iconic suburb, was upheld in court this week as the nation reeled from the alleged airline terror threat and debate raged over increased security measures at airports and other public places.
The Land and Environment Court backed the decision by Waverley Council to prohibit the construction of the synagogue in Wellington St, Bondi — just a few hundred metres from Australia’s most famous beach — because it was too much of a security risk for users and local residents. Jewish leaders are shocked the decision appears to suggest they cannot freely practice their religion because they are the target of hate by Islamist extremists — and that the council has used their own risk assessment of the threat posed by IS against it.

William Gibson once said something along the lines of the future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed. Given the path followed by the West since 9/11, this was inevitable sooner or later. And the social consequences of the path we’ve followed has economic implications as well. A lot of them could have been forecasted reasonably well in Sept 2011. Following Gibson’s comment, there are other things that would piss off Islamist extremists too: churches, strip clubs, gay bars, banks that charge interest, anyplace where women walk around uncovered and unescorted, etc. There is also an older dictum than Gibson’s: the pendulum swings. Between Gibson and the pendulum, where do you see society in 16 years?

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Rasmussen poll shows GOP losing midterms in a wave

Rasmussen poll shows GOP losing midterms in a wave

I like K.I.S.S. methods, and I have decided that the easiest K.I.S.S. guide to the midterm elections is likely to be Rasmussen’s “net strong disapproval” spread.  The theory is that while voters who even weakly approve or disapprove of a President are likely to come out and vote in the Presidential election years, only those with strong opinion — a substantially smaller number — come out to vote in midterm elections.

Here’s what Rasmussen’s net disapproval and net strong disapproval looked like during the Obama years:

Obama had a 1:1 approval vs. disapproval spread on Election Day 2012 (vertical red line), and managed to win re-election.

But on Election Days 2010 and 2014, for every 100 adults who strongly disapproved of Obama, there were only 60-65 and 55 adults who strongly approved of his performance — enough for a GOP wave in each case.

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Apartment vacancy rate improves, but “rental affordability crisis” at worst level ever

Apartment vacancy rate improves, but “rental affordability crisis” at worst level ever

Over three years ago HUD warned of “the worst rental affordability crisis ever,” citing statistics that

About half of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, up from 18 percent a decade ago, according to newly released research by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Twenty-seven  percent of renters are paying more than half of their income on rent.

This is a serious real-world issue. I have been tracking rental vacancies, construction, and rents ever since.  The Q2 2017 report on vacancies and rents was released last week, so let’s take an updated look.

After stopping for a year, in the second quarter median asking rents zoomed up over 5% from $864 to $910.  Meanwhile, surprisingly weekly wages declined from $865 to $859.. The combined effect is that rent has become more unaffordable than ever.
The big jump in median asking rents in the second quarter can be easily seen in the below graph:

Here is an updated look at real. inflation adjusted median asking rents, showing that after abating a bit for a year after Q1 2016, rent pressures on household budgets spiked in the second quarter:

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What is Socialism (contagion from Twitter)

So @atrios tweeted asking for a definition of socialism in 140 characters or less. Being a fool, I tweeted “Means of production controlled by people elected with one person one vote”

Many people objected that all states which say they are socialist are also not democratic. I need more than 140 characters to explain my definition & impose on your patience.

First a definition must be true of all examples of the set defined & not true of any exceptions. Whatever socialism might be, it is a fairly new concept (I cite the infallible Pope and the encyclicl “Rerum Novum” literally “new things” & all about socialism). Any absolute monarch owns everything including all of the means of production. Ramses II was not a socialist. I think any reasonable definition of socialism implies that “democratic socialism” is redundant.

Some commenters asserted that democratic socialism is impossible, so, by my definition, socialism is impossible. I concede for the sake of argument that they are correct. So what ? I could also define “perpetual motion machine” or “pegasus”. Defining a word does not imply the assertion that it names something which has actually existed or could exist.

Others assumed that, by defining socialism as democratic, I must be advocating it. in fact, I think that socialism is a bad approach to managing the means of production.

From that concession a very polite and intelligent tweeter concluded I was a libertarian. I said I prefer a mixed system which is not socialist but is closer to socialism than, say, the current USA (an aside why am I talking about a country 3000 miles away — well I am looking at a petrochemical plant built which isn’t actually producing anything, built with public subsidies to a crooked businessman who paid the second largest bribe in Italian history and damnit I’m on vacation and I will. not. think. about the Italian economy or how a mixed economy can get all mixed up.)

So to conclude. It makes no sense to define socialism as state control of the means of production. That would imply that all absolute monarchs are socialists. One can define something as democratic without praising it (electing Ronald Reagan was clearly democratic). One can define something without asserting it is stable or can last for a long time in the real world. I think socialism is utopian and I don’t agree with Paul Ryan.

I am addicted to twitter but have profound doubts about a medium in which the concepts explained above are too complicated to express.

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“We Need You to Cooperate . . .”

Go to 1:30 minutes into this clip and please watch the whole event.

Jail and/or prison is not a fun experience and it was never meant to be. People are taken there for court determined reasons. I have heard my share of stories from reliable sources of what goes on there and how some who are charged with guarding the population take it to the next level. There is much talk about prison reform and I applaud the thought of it. However, the action must come before people even get into jail or prison.

85% of all cases are plea bargained. In some instances a person signs away their right to appeal a conviction because of a plea bargain. The AEDPA also makes it difficult for a federal court to rule on, reverse a state court’s decision, or remand back to state courts for a different ruling.

The man in the later part of this is suing Cheatham County Correction Deputies of deprivation of civil rights, citing the use of excessive force and failure to protect after he was repeatedly Tasered in the jail. I guess this goes along with Trump telling the police not to be so gentle with suspects.

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Understating Trump’s “Achievements”

Understating Trump’s “Achievements”

I regularly hear and see on media and the internet that Trump “has accomplished nothing in six months” or variations on that, with some of these remarks focusing more on his legislative agenda, with discussions about whether it is “dead” or not here after only six months, which is either a very long time or a very short time.   I think this rhetoric is both unwise and inaccurate. It is unwise because it suggests that we want his agenda to be passed, to the extent we know what it is (specifics for large parts of it are missing). Such talk simply encourages the Trujmpisti to push harder to pass all their awful plans.  Thus we should be glad that Obamacare is still in place and not encourage the bums to continue to try to replace it with one of  their half-baked plans that will throw lots of people off their  health  insurance.

As for inaccuracy, while it is true that a lot of big ticket items on the legislative agenda remain stalled, notably in the areas of health care, tax “reform,” financial sector “reform,” and infrastructure, in fact Trump has done much damage with his executive actions, mostly involving undoing Obama regulatory actions, quite aside from getting Neil Gorsuch on the SCOTUS, which is very important and has already led the SCOTUS to partially support his awful Muslim ban.  In any case, while withdrawing from the Paris climate accord is mostly symbolic, he and his underlings have made many moves in the environmental area, none of them good, making it easier for companies to pollute and redirecting research towards fossil fuels and much more. His moves in the immigration area have been awful, although Obama did a lot more deporting than we remember. Nevertheless, although supposedly he was going to focus on deporting criminals, the focus of Obama, he is deporting any illegal immigrant he can get his hands on, and the implementer of his draconian immigration policy is now his chief of  staff.  Prison reform is out the window for now, even though this was an area where liberals and conservatives have agreed in recent years something should be done.  His cutting back on public parks and monuments and the crazy stuff coming out of his education dept, well,the list goes on.

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SOCIAL SECURITY AT BERNIESTOCK

by Dale Coberly

SOCIAL SECURITY AT

BERNIESTOCK

Last Sunday I gave a very short talk about Social Security at a political rally and outdoor party called Berniestock in Lebanon, Oregon.

It was not a venue conducive to detailed explanations or suggesting ways people could try to tell what was true from what was pretending to be true, so I suggested that those interested in learning more should come to Angry Bear where we could explore the issue more carefully.

The purpose of this post is to give anyone who follows up on my invitation at least a place to start if they login to Angry Bear within the next few days.

What I said at Berniestock was limited to telling them that Social Security is paid for by the workers themselves and has nothing to do with the Federal government debt. Nor can Social Security borrow money…or acquire debt… on its own. So all the claims that Social Security was somehow responsible for a huge “looming deficit” were not true.

But, I told them, Social Security does have a problem of its own, which fortunately is easy to fix.

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