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

Is Bitcoin A Bubble?

Is Bitcoin A Bubble?

 We have all thought so, with no income and nothing backing it, and it went zooming from nearly nothing to over $19,000, only to fall back hard down to around $3000, where it more or less hung out for a couple of years with the occasional up  to $6000 or so.  But recently it has moved up to over $18,000, near its previous peak, and some other cryptocurrencies have also moved up sharply, with #2 Ethereum essentially doubling in price in the last month or so.  So, is this another round of bubble speculation that will be followed by another crash?

I note that some other non-monetary assets have been moving.  After long sitting around $1200 to $1300 per ounce, with reportedly the Chinese central bank keeping it above $1000 whenever it occasionally headed down in that direction, gold this year has also moved up to near its old high.  It is now over $1800, not far from its previous high of over $1900.

Oil is not anywhere near a high, but just in the last week or so has suddenly been moving up. While hanging our around $40 per barrel for both Brent crude and West Texas crude for a long time, and even down almost to the mid-30s not too long ago, Brent as of today is at $48.70, pushing 50 for the first time in a long time, with WTI a few dollars behind.

Some are saying all this is due to a fear that the US dollar will collapse.  Maybe, although I do not know.  It is not screamingly obvious why that might happen now more than at other times.  Pro Trumpers might push this, but they were pushing the stock market would collapse if Biden won.  And, heck, the announcement of allowing transition to Biden sent the Dow over 30,000 for the first time ever, not exactly a collapse, although Trumpers say this is all due to the vaccine hopes, and all that is due to Trump.  Sure.

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Yemen: More Damage To World Peace And Security Due To Trump Wrecking Everything As He Exits

Yemen: More Damage To World Peace And Security Due To Trump Wrecking Everything As He Exits

Michigan certified its vote results for Biden, and now crucially Emily Murphey at the GSA has agreed and now recognized officially that at least Joe Biden should be allowed to transition properly as has always happened in the past normally.

But in his lame duckery, still denying his obvious loss, Donald Trump is trashing everything in sight.  Very serious matters of foreign policy are part of this. One of these has been discussed in comments here previously, the removal from the Open Skies Treaty, which right now I am watching Rachel Maddow report that DOD is destroying the planes US used for this. Ack!!!
But for this post I am noting another awful thing they are doing along a bunch of others.  This involves Yemen, long one of the worst humanitarian disasters on the planet, horrible, but so in place for so long that most people pay no attention anymore because, bore, been there done that snore. But it continues to be a place of ongoing civilian deaths from bombs and economic deprivation.
So, just to make things “better,” the Trump admin has decided to declare that the Houthi group who rule not only most of northern Yemen, but also its capital, Sana’a, to be officially a “terrorist group.” The immediate result of this ruling is that all kinds of humanitarian aid that has been going to people in the parts of Yemen they live in will no longer receive it.  This is morally awful and just plain stupid.
So this is part of Trump frustrated in his anti-Iran policy.  He exited the Iran nuclear treaty, leading to a massive increase in enriched uranium there.  Ooops! He killed a top general from there to stop attacks on US forces in Iraq by Iranian militias.  But those continue, with more political support in Iraq. Duh.

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Janet Yellen Will Be Treasury Secretary

Janet Yellen Will Be Treasury Secretary

 I have long been a great fan of hers as well as knowing her and her husband, George Akerlof, personally.  Back in 2009 I was the first person to call for her to be named Fed Chair. I am very pleased with this appointment.  This is as good as it gets. (For those who wanted Lael Brainerd, we need her at the Fed where all the current governors are Trump appointees other than her).  Elizabeth Warren also would have been good, but Mass has a GOP governor who would appoint her successor, not so good. Yellen is the best pick and will be great.

Barkley Rosser

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The New Coup Attempt

The New Coup Attempt

 OK, I thought that the collapse of Trump’s lawsuits and the flight of his top lawyers was going to do in his coup attempt.  But we now see a far more desperate effort going on, although with Trump still trying to stay at least marginally within legal boundaries, although not by much, and clearly trying every single thing he can do to block Biden’s victory.  It is getting down to blocking certification of results in enough states so that even if he cannot get legislatures to approve pro-Trump electors, highly unlikely as illegal in all the swing states actually, but to have the situation undecided so that nobody goes from enough states so that when Electoral College votes on Dec. 14, Biden falls short of the necessary 270, which would then throw it to the House of Representatives, where Trump would win because a majority of the states have majority GOP representation, and the voting is by state. The last time the House determined the outcome was in 1824, when second-place John Quincy Adams defeated first place in both popular and electoral votes, Andrew Jackson, as Henry Clay threw his support to Adams in return for being appointed Secretary of State.

The sign of how desperate Trump has become is that even though GOP Sec of State in Georgia Raffensperger has certified that Biden won Georgia, in the face of calls for his resignation and death threats, that needs to be signed by the GOP Governor Kemp, whom apparently Trump is calling and pressuring not to sign off, again, the effort to simply have things unresolved as of Dec. 14.

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Biden Won Because Of White Men?

Biden Won Because Of White Men?

 OK, I confess I am mystified.  An article in The Guardian by Musa al-Gharbi looks at the data now available on voting patterns in the US presidential elections of 2016 compared to 2020.  Almost all groups moved towards being more pro-Trump, including both Black men and women, Hispanic men and women, Asian men and women, and white women.  The only group that moved away from Trump was white men, with his margin declining from 31% to 23%.  It is true that the minority groups overall supported Biden more than Trump, but they did so by smaller margins than they supported Clinton over him in 2016.  Some sub=groups of minorities actually favored Trump, including Cuban Americans and Vietnamese Americans.  The only sub-group moving away from Trump was Japanese Americans.

In terms of swing states, the move of Hispanics toward Trump gave him Florida and Texas, and the move of Blacks toward him gave him North Carolina. However, the flips of Michigan and Arizona were led by shifts of white men.

As I opened, I really do not know what is going on with all this, although the article noted that most of these trends have been going on for some time, if not especially noticed before.

Barkley Rosser

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New Reasons To Believe Trump Will Not Attempt A Coup

New Reasons To Believe Trump Will Not Attempt A Coup

 Officially Trump continues to hold a hard line of denying he has lost, with most GOP officeholders continuing to support his denials publicly, and he is likely to continue to not officially concede in various ways, including such as blocking official support for the transition process to a future Biden admin, which is potentially damaging in various ways.  Nevertheless, after some important developments in the last day or so and Trump’s presser today (well, technically yesterday as it is now early morning on Saturday, Nov. 14), I think there is good reason to believe that whatever irresponsible and damaging things he may yet do, I think it is now seriously unlikely that he will attempt a coup to block the transition.

I think the most important development that has triggered this is one I did not foresee: the sudden withdrawal of law firms supporting his legal efforts to demand ballots to be thrown out and to block certification of results, with those efforts becoming less able to overturn the electoral results given the calling of both Arizona and Georgia for Biden. A crucial part of the scenario I posed was Trump piling on endless lawsuits, however frivolous and vacuous, in various crucial states in a way to block clear certification of results in those states, leading ultimately to a confused or contested outcome when the Electoral College votes in mid-December, all of this opening the door for him to refuse to step down while bringing in various forces to support him.

What I did not know is that courts can punish attorneys for bringing clearly ridiculous lawsuits, especially repeatedly, with judges able to actually throw them in jail for contempt of court, not to mention them possibly losing their licenses to practice.  Add all this to just more general public embarrassment as these suits became increasingly absurd, we have now seen several major law firms that were making these suits for Trump decide to withdraw from doing so.  This has crucially undercut Trump’s strategy, such as it was.  He has always liked to sue and sue and sue, but I do not think he has ever so overdone it that his own lawyers have abandoned him.  But they have been doing so now, and I think this is the bottom line fatal development for any coup effort by him, with others supposedly under his authority in various parts of the government beginning to openly refuse to do his bidding.

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Is Trump Going To Attempt A Coup?

Barkley Rosser, Econospeak Blog, “Is Trump Going To Attempt A Coup?

I realize that Joe Biden just held a press conference where he basically dismissed the refusal of Trump and a lot of other Republicans to concede the presidential election to Biden as “embarrassing,” laughing at Secretary of State Pompeo who earlier today talked about a transition to a second Trump term, and said it will all be over and fine by Jan. 20. Maybe, but I am somebody who has taken seriously for a long time words from people like Michael Cohen and more recently Mary Trump who have said he simply will not go willingly and will continue to refuse to accept defeat. I have watched various commentators supporting him from time to time thinking, “Will they support him if he declares martial law?” Unfortunately, I think a lot of them will.

He certainly is laying the groundwork for making an attempt. The obvious such sign was yesterday’s firing of SecDef Esper, reportedly because Esper made it clear in June he would not order US troops to move on peaceful civilian demonstrators in Washington. Rumor has it he is about to replace the FBI and CIA directors also. And the Undersec of DOD is also out. It certainly looks like he is trying to stock the top levels of the military and intelligence establishment with total toadies who will do his bidding. If he makes the move and invokes the Insurrection Act or simply declares a National Emergency, which, frankly, is in his legal power. Will these newly installed flunkies stand up to him? Who will?

I am seriously worried about this, and the more I see people like Mitch McConnell and Sean Hannity just spouting rank lies about the election, my concern grows. I hope I am wrong, but I am now afraid we may be facing a very serious showdown over this, and I see the refusal of certain foreign authoritarian leaders friendly to Trump, such as Putin, not accepting the result, as a sign that they would support him if he made such a move, and we know he really likes and admires those guys. This is a very bad situation.

Barkley Rosser

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Visiting Charlottesville On The Day Biden-Harris Declared Victors Over Trump-Pence

Visiting Charlottesville On The Day Biden-Harris Declared Victors Over Trump-Pence

 Really, it was not planned with politics in mind.  In Harrisonburg, VA we are an hour drive from Charlottesville, VA, and we have in the past maybe about 2 times every 3 months or so go over there to shop, eat, hang out, etc.  I used to go to UVa to the library or to see people I know, but all that has faded away to nothing over time.  In the pandemic, we have cut it way back, and it had been several months since we had been there.  But today the weather was nice, clear, and in the 70s, with the leaves just past max over there, so time to go, not to mention picking up some holiday stuff.  We had been planning it for several days, again, nothing to do with politics at all.

The word of the Biden-Harris victory came just before we left to go there, but we still did not think about political implications. Indeed we initially did some upscale grocery shopping elsewhere before we went down to the Mall, where 4th Street crosses, where Heather Heyer was killed by a white nationalist, and where the statues of both Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan Jackson (that is what is no the base of it) still stand, probably to go in the not too distant future finally.

I had thought nothing of all that as got there, although we did see the statues as we drove up and discussed their status.  We parked several blocks away, but it was only as we got within a block of the Mall, oh about 3 PM, that it finally dawned on me.  People were randomly breaking out into cheers. Music was playing, and people were clearly celebrating vigorously and with great pleasure.  We would eat at a funky restaurant sitting on the Mall, and regularly people coming by would start shouting and cheering, and everybody would join in (or most of them anyway), and the place was packed on this gorgeous afternoon.  It was a massive and total spontaneous celebration.

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Whining Pundits

Whining Pundits

 As I write this the outcome of the presidential election remains uncertain, although the trends seem to be heading steadily in Biden’s favor and it seems very unlikely he will lose, but the hanging on of this is beginning to get to many of us.  Most other races have been decided, although some of those are still up in the air.  In any case, although it is near certain Biden will win, it will be by a substantially lower margin that forecast by the main polls, with him not taking several states he was forecast to take.  This is also mirrored in Congressional (and some state legislative) races, with it unlikely, although not completely out of the realm of possibility, that Dems will control the Senate as had been forecast as a 2 to 1 likely outcome by 538, and instead of gaining seats, the Dems lost some in the House while retaining control, with the exact number of losses also still a bit uncertain.  In short, Trump and the Republicans did much better than generally forecast, and this has lots of people upset and lashing out at each other, including, reportedly, Dem members of the House.

No, I am not going to join the mob howling at the pollsters, nor am I going to join the mob howling at Schumer and Pelosi.  I shall look at how I think the pollsters got it wrong, although I think they have been doing their best and trying to avoid certain errors they made in 2016, when they also underpredicted how well Trump would do.  Nor am I going to join those dumping on Schumer and Pelosi. I think the Congressional outcomes have a big fat zero to do with anything either of them have done or said or not done or not said.  It was all about the down-ballot GOPs gaining from the underpredicted surge of Trump supporters coming out to vote for him, the phenomenon that needs to be understood.

Who I am going to pick on, although not too much really, are some reporters and commentators I shall simply label as pundits, “whining pundits” to be precise.  To name three who all appeared in the Style section of the Washington Post, not the editorial page, I note Monica Hesse, Hank Stuever, and Margaret Sullivan, roughly in order of how annoying and hypocritical I find their whining.

 

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Biden Narrowly Leads In Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin (last night)

Biden Narrowly Leads In Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin

 Several months ago I forecast that “He who wins Prairie du Chien wins the White House.”  I also argued more generally that SW Wisconsin would determine Wisconsin.

As of right now Trump is leading by about 2% in Wisconsin, and he seems to be ahead in most of the counties of SW Wisconsin, although Milwaukee has not yet come in.  And the county Prairie du Chien is in, Crawford Trump is leading 4620 to 3953.

But, for what it is worth, in the City of Prairie du Chien itself Biden is ahead 1303 to 1223.  So we shall see.

BTW, I think this is all the votes for that area, but I am about to go to bed, waiting to see Trump make a statement, but I am not going to wait up for the Milwaukee or other long counts.

Barkley Rosser

 Several months ago I forecast that “He who wins Prairie du Chien wins the White House.”  I also argued more generally that SW Wisconsin would determine Wisconsin.

As of right now Trump is leading by about 2% in Wisconsin, and he seems to be ahead in most of the counties of SW Wisconsin, although Milwaukee has not yet come in.  And the county Prairie du Chien is in, Crawford Trump is leading 4620 to 3953.

But, for what it is worth, in the City of Prairie du Chien itself Biden is ahead 1303 to 1223.  So we shall see.

BTW, I think this is all the votes for that area, but I am about to go to bed, waiting to see Trump make a statement, but I am not going to wait up for the Milwaukee or other long counts.

Barkley Rosser

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