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

Economic Cycles

Economic Cycles

Even with the rebound in second quarter growth, first half growth was still under 2%. Moreover, newly revised real GDP data reports even slower growth over the past few years. For some five years the consensus has forecast stronger growth right around the corner, despite the fact that it has consistently been too optimistic. This has clearly been the weakest economic expansion on record. On the other hand, the expansion is now 73 months old, which ties it with the early 2000s expansion as the fourth longest on record. The longer ones were the 1960s expansion of 106 months; the 1980s one of 92 months and the 1990s one of 119 months.

economic expansions













Comments (29) | |

Is there any limit on Judges power to impose their will under threat of prison ?

I am too upset to summarize the facts of the case or even choose a link from this google search, but I think that Judge Randall Rogers has just launched an assault not only on the US Constitution but on any limit on his power whatsoever. I think it is vitally important that we resist his declaration of absolute power by all legal means.

I am not a lawyer, but I think that the sentence is not merely stupid. I think it is a direct assault on the US constitution including the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and, of course 14th amendments. Angry bears who are actual lawyers are authorized to delete this post if it is an embarrassment to the blog.

First it seems to me to be obvious that if a judge is allowed to sentence someone to copy from the Bible, then Christinity has been established as a state religion (or Judaism if copying only from the old testament is allowed). I think that, if this sentence is allowed to stand, that there is no logical basis for any limit of the power of judges to impose the practice of the judges preferred religion on penalty of incarceration.

Second, imposing marriage is plainly a violation of the 4th amendment right to privacy as currently interpreted. Notably there is no basis for limiting this power to cases in which the alternative sentence is 15 days in jail not say life without parole. Nor does the judge have any authority to decide who should marry whom. In this case, he kindly ordered boyfriend and girlfriend to marry, but I see no logical basis to limit judges powers to compel marriage to such cases. He could have told the defendant to marry a woman chosen at random or to, gasp, compel the defendant (under threat of incarceration) to marry another man. I think that if the sentence is allowed to stand, forced gay marriage will no longer be a joke. I see no reason why the precedent if allowed to stand, doesn’t give a judge to order one man to marry another on the grounds that he, the judge, thinks it would be good for them.

But finally, the sentence is imposed on Elizabeth Jaynes as well as Josten Bundy — if he must marry her she is compelled to marry him. Jaynes was not a defendent and not accused or suspected of any misdeed. The judge presumes to have authority over her life choices. He threatened to lock up her boyfriend. The gross assault on the constitution would be achieved even if the judge had not specifically expressed his intention to cause Bundy to be fired if he didn’t obey (by not granting him permission to inform his employer that his absense from work was due to the outrageous misconduct of a judge).

I think that Jaynes can sue to have the sentence overturned on the grounds that she is being punished without any trace of anything like an indictment (amendment 5) without a trial (5) assistance of an attorney (6) and is deprived of something worth more than $20 dollars without a trial (7th).

I can’t imagine that even a Texas court (other than the one in question) could find a way to reject that appeal.

here I note that the bit in the 5th about grand juries has not, until now, been considered to apply to state courts. However, extreme cases make bad law. I do not think the relevant precedents must be overturned as the current case is so utterly outrageously extreme that it can be assumed that it was not imagined in the worst nightmares of the Supreme Court justices who decided that that clause (alone in the bill of rights) was not imposed on state courts too via the 14th amendment.

I think that it would be good for the Constitution and the country if Bundy and Jaynes seperately sought relief (if they don’t get it in Texas, I can’t imagine how even the Roberts court could deny it).

The alternative is to abandon not only the bill or rights but all limits whatsoever on the absulute tyrannical power of judges. If a judge can do this, what can’t a judge do ? Would there be any logical basis for any limit at all on judges other than their judgement of what is good ?

I also think the judge Rogers should be impeached for gross misconduct (I don’t know about Texas judges but federal judges can be impeached for misconduct short of a crime unlike all other federal employees). I also think he should be disbarred.

Finally I think all those not ready to bow down to the absolute power of each and every judge should contribute to two separate legal defence funds one for Bundy and one for Jaynes.

Comments (20) | |

Libertarianism Simplified: the Three Proper Powers of Government

In your basic Austrian style Libertarianism Government only has three proper functions: External Defense, Internal Policing, and Enforcement of Contracts.

Or we could simplify all that as: Protection of Private Property, Protection of Private Property, and Protection of Private Property.

It really is that simple, at least once you define private beliefs and personal freedom as property. And property does mean “pertaining to me, my own”. A neat circle.

“Middle English propre proper, own, from Anglo-French, from Latin proprius own”

“Amour propre” French for “love of self”

Tags: , Comments (41) | |

CBO Aug 7, 2015: Monthly Budget Review for July

Monthly Budget Review for July 2015
Bolding mine:

The federal government’s budget deficit amounted to $463 billion for the first 10 months of fiscal year 2015, CBO estimates. That deficit was $2 billion larger than the one recorded during the same period last year. If not for shifts in the timing of certain payments (which otherwise would have fallen on a weekend), the deficit for the 10-month period would have declined by $41 billion. On the basis of the government’s revenues and spending so far this fiscal year, CBO expects that the annual deficit will total about $425 billion, which would be less than the $486 billion that the agency projected in March. CBO will publish new multiyear budget projections later in August.

Hmm. $61 billion improvement over four months. Pretty significant however you slice it. And maybe puts some context on 75 year projections put out either by SSA or CBO.

Tags: , Comments (7) | |

Republican Debate After Report; Because You Can’t Have a Post-mortem if Nobody Dies

Well I didn’t watch the debate (no TV right now) but I did follow two live-blogs, one from the NYT and the Guardian, and two Twitter feeds from Digby and TBogg as well as periodic check ins on news sites so got the overall reaction. My conclusion? Little to no winnowing of the field, at least from the Grownup Table.

Consensus seems to be that Carly earned a promotion from the Kid’s Table while Jindal, Santorum, Graham and Perry got a ‘meh’ and Gilmore and Pataki got a sub voce “who invited those guys?”.

But who makes room for Carly at the Grownup Table? My take is that Trump, Walker and Bush all lost something but more like a dip than a dive. That is I would not be surprised if all stayed at or above 10% with Trump probably above 15%. On the other hand everyone else seemed to do enough to maintain their own respective niches. So who gets kicked off the island to make room for Ms. Fiorina? My guess is Chris Christie. But maybe that is because I despise the guy and he has a main platform item of cutting Social Security.

Anyone else have thoughts here? I really expected some flame-outs and a possibility of only seven or so survivors from the main even and one or two from the JV warmup. But maybe we do have 11 or 12 still clinging to life.

Comments (17) | |

Hiroshima and the Elided Moral Question

Today is the 70th anniversary of the first deployment of a nuclear weapon against humans. Something that was followed three days later by the second and so far last such deployment. Which raises any number of moral questions. One is there something particularly immoral about nuclear warfare that does not apply to other methods, for example fire bombing of Tokyo and Dresden with conventional weapons? But rather than starting the debate from that perspective there seems to be an insistence that the use of the atomic bomb was entirely unnecessary and cruel which in turn rests on the assertion that Japan was defeated, knew it, and was prepared to surrender. But were they? And did the allies know that? If not the moral calculus starts from a totally different spot. My own position is that Hiroshima was necessary but that Nagasaki was a war crime, that the former served to save millions of lives on net while the latter was the result of cynical and cruel calculation and all about post-war positioning. Neither conclusion stemming from a starting point that has nuclear weapons being a moral evil in and of themselves. Instead the moral question then and now was whether dropping the first bomb ended the war or not. To me those who see Hiroshima as an act of evil have one challenge: show that it was more evil than best information alternatives. Until that is settled all else is hand waving.

I start from the perspective that War is a War Crime. That you can be forced into a Just War but you can never wage a Just War. As a popular poster said in my youth during the hottest stages of the Vietnam War “War is not Healthy for Little Girls. And Other Living Things.” A slightly different wording here:
War is not Healthy
Was World War II avoidable? If not the moral calculus involves bring the war to as just an end as possible while killing the fewest little girls. Did Hiroshima meet that test?

Tags: , , Comments (44) | |

Swedish Privatization of Education Fails

This is important. Amazingly, socialist Sweden attempted radical partial privatization of its schools with about one fourth of students now attending publicly financed privately managed schools (roughly charter schools). This daring reform was followed by a dramatic decline in scores on the PISA international standardized test including the largest decline in math scores of all PISA countries.

It is very odd that Sweden tried this. It is important that it failed. I have long argued that even if something works in Nordic countries, it is irrational and nordtopian to believe it will work elsewhere. If charter schools failed in Sweden presumably because of moral hazard and a lack of team spirit, then they can fail anywhere.

Also, as in the case of health insurance and Medicare vs Medicare advantage, these data cast doubt on the widespreadd presumption that the private sector is always more efficient than the public sector.

Tags: , , Comments (17) | |