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

Student Loan Debt Crisis Town Hall – November 20, 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020 3:00 PM (EST)

Student Loan Debt Crisis

Panelists include:

PAUL GRONDAHL – Director New York State Writers Institute (host)

MATT TAIBBI – Author, Rolling Stone Magazine, Reporter (moderator)

Michael J. Camoin – Videos For Change Productions, SCARED TO DEBT (filmmaker)

ALAN COLLINGE – Founder of StudentLoanJustice.Org (activist)

CATHERINE AUSTIN FITT – Investment Advisor (former Sallie Mae )

THOMAS BORGERS – Wall Street Banker, Financial Investigator

I have known Alan probably a decade or so and am familiar with his efforts and organization to change the laws governing bankruptcy for student loans. Alan has worked tirelessly on this issue which impacts tens of thousands of younger people who can not get the same relief as businesses and other citizens have through bankruptcy. Our president-elect has played a major role along with other political and financial interests in denying any type of relief for student loan debt.

Along with Alan, the list of participants to this Town Hall should make this interesting. I will be watching it and listening to the conversation. Perhaps, you can join too?

Calling Pennsylvania

I promised myself not to forecast. I promised you that I would call Pennsylvania when I could. I get Trump ahead by about 700,000 and 2,000,000 absentee ballots to be counted. Assuming independents split (generous to Trump) Dem-Rep on absentees is about 50% so … I call Pennsylvania for Biden.

(I may delete this post tomorrow).

But I promised.

Networks finally call Pennsylvania more than 3 days and 8 hours after I did

told ya so.

Dearly Beloved

Our beloved Constitution has flaws. Only a very few, but these few have cost the Nation dearly, and, unless corrected, will continue to do so. It is very possible that unless corrected, they will lead to the Nation’s demise. These flaws have been and are being taken advantage of by the worst among us, and used against the rest of us. The electoral college, that most undemocratic of bodies, has, in just sixteen years, seated two of our most incompetent presidents, both of whom have greatly damaged the nation. The Senators from states with less than one-million population have as much say in our nation’s affairs as do those from states with forty-million population. The structuring of the Senate has from our early days allowed abhorrents like Mitch McConnell to extort the nation and stuff the courts with right wing ideologues. Presently, we have a supreme Court majority that would use the Constitution to deny some of our citizens the right to vote. A Court that has recently interpreted the Constitution as allowing for gerrymandering and other forms of voter suppression. In the face of such flaws, the ratifying of amendments is nigh on to impossible. Amendments have not, can not correct these flaws. Not some but all native born and naturalized citizens must have equal rights in every way, and know full and equal representation.  We know well of the difficulty of the bargaining, fault not those who bargained; but it is time to save all the good and great parts of our constitution and rid it of those few that paid paeanage to colonial governments, wealth, and slave holders in the barter for votes of ratification. Amendments can not adequately append modern concepts of personage and rights to the Constitution’s august body. There can be no full solution for these structural problems other than direct addressment of their cause. It is time to appoint a constitutional commission to list and correct these known flaws.

Vaccine Progress

Guest Author at Angry Bear is Professor Joel Eissenberg. Dr. Joel Eissenberg is a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and is probably a good person to ask questions concerning pandemics and bringing new vaccines to market. Ask questions  .  .   .  I am sure he will answer the same as he has commented in the Comments section. He also reviewed my layman’s piece on Moderna’s mRNA. I am hoping he will contribute at Angry Bear on healthcare from time to time.

The Moderna trial has reached its enrollment goal of 30,000 subjects and at least 75% have already received both injections. This is not a challenge trial, but it is expected that many subjects in the vaccine and placebo arms will be infected and these will be tracked. Power calculations suggest that only a few dozen infections are necessary to determine whether there is a benefit to the vaccine over placebo. So far, the number of infected subjects is at or ahead of what they expected. The trial lasts two years, so there is plenty of time to collect data. There is, of course, understandable urgency to push out some vaccine ASAP.

I’m in the Moderna trial, which tests the efficacy of injecting the messenger RNA for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (the surface protein that gives coronaviruses their corona) directly into muscle. The protein is made in muscle cells and then (a) secreted and (b) presented to immune cells to stimulate the adaptive immune system. Technically, it is a double-blind trial, but so far, everyone in the vaccine arm experiences the short-term vaccine syndrome of headache, mild fever, muscle and joint ache after the booster. I did, and was able to get an antibody test confirming a robust response (IgG). I’ll continue to social distance and mask as before; I have no interest in testing just how effective the vaccine is or isn’t with my own body.

Calling Pennsylvania On November 3rd

It is very likely that the candidate who wins Pennsylvania will become president. A problem is that the election officials are not allowed to look at absentee ballots before November 3rd. It is likely that Trump will lead the in person vote and try to declare victory.

However, the party registration of absentee voters is public.
The US Elections Project 2020 General Election Early Voting Statistics webpage is fascinating.

It shows the amazing early voting turnout. One fault is that it has a list of states with detailed data and a map of states showing early votes cast so far as a fraction of total votes in 2016. This currently shows Pennsylvania with a relatively low ratio of early votes = 27.8 % of the 2016 vote.

The page for Pennsylvania shows that (so far) 69.7% of those early votes have been cast by registered Democrats and 20.8% by registered Republicans. This is an extraordinary imbalance. Assuming voters with no party affiliation split equally (which is generous to Trump given polls) this suggests a 49.7% of all early votes lead already booked by Biden. So about 13.3% of the 2016 turnout. Even with very high 2020 turnout that has to be over 10% of 2020 votes.

It will also be possible to do this election night.

I hope that this calculation will make it possible to call the election before the absentee votes are counted. I also hope TV networks do this (no reason not too — the call is always a forecast based on exit polls and models).

How Far Will Repubs Go???

Not a fan of Fox News. This clip of Senator Tom Cotton was easy to install. Briefly and you can listen to the clip, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo states three Repub Senators are fighting COVID-19 infections.

Senator Cotton starts off with thanking Maria for the question and then states “I am doing fine” as if someone asked how he was feeling. This Senator is on the same plane as Ron Johnson for intelligence and which we will address later. Listen to the clip and you will hear and see why (a grinning Cotton), why I am suggesting these people are on the lowest plane for intelligence.

Herr Cotton suggested they can wheel Senators who are sick from Covid on to the Senate floor in order to vote. After all, Dems did such with an ailing 92 year old Senator Byrd who was not contagious. So why not Covid-contagious senators?

Both Lee and Tillis were at the Rose Garden on September 26 when Associate Justice nominee Amy Barrett was introduced by President donald trump and where it is believe many were exposed to Covid.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson announced Saturday he tested positive for COVID-19, the results of which came after attending a GOP fundraising event in Ozaukee County on Friday. After being tested, he decided to attend the fund raiser while he waited for the results because he did not have symptoms and the test was supposedly precautionary. Apparently, his chief of staff tested positive. Somehow, Johnson came into contact with his Chief of staff? “Quelle Surprise!” After being exposed to someone who tested positive, one quarantines themselves, something federal guidelines advise.

Oh and Senator Ron Johnson had this to say also:

1. “I’m not in favor of mask mandates, I think that’s up to individuals to be responsible. The jury is out. I think they’re helpful, but it’s certainly not a panacea, it’s not a cure-all.” “Key word here is think.”
2. “I’m not sick, I have no symptoms. I certainly didn’t anticipate testing positive, so there was no reason to quarantine.” No one anticipate a positive result and you do not have symptoms in the beginning to be contagious.

As a precaution, one should stay away from any Republican politicians. Johnson really sets the bar low for ignorance.

Tom Cotton: COVID-infected Senators Will Be ‘Wheeled In’ , Crooks and Liars, David, October 2020

“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842

“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842

The red death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the madness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress, and termination of the disease were incidents of half an hour.

But Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his crenelated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.

They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions, the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death.”

Ponzi Finance II: quid pro quo

The real story revealed by the New York Times Trump tax returns bombshell is not that Donald Trump paid no taxes in 10 out of 15 years or that he paid $750 in 2016 and 2017. The real story is that he doesn’t have net income to service his debt. There is nothing inherently illegal about that. He did it before in the 1980s and when real estate prices stopped rising in 1990, his creditors were left holding the bag.

Hyman Minsky wrote about Donald Trump’s investment strategy in a 1990 talk, “The Bubble in the Price of Baseball Cards.”

One of the puzzles of the 1980s was the rapid rise in the financial wealth of Donald Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, and what else. Trump’s fortune was made in real estate. Many large fortunes have been made in real estate, since real estate is highly leveraged. Two factors made Trump somewhat unique — one was the he developed a fortune in the period of high real interest rates, and the second was that the cash flows on most of Trump’s properties were negative.

Trump’s wealth surged because the market value of his properties — or at least the appraised value — was increasing faster than the interest rate. Trump obtained the funds to pay the interest on his outstanding loans by increasing the draw under what in effect was a home equity credit line. The efficiency with which Trump managed these properties was more or less irrelevant — hence Trump could acquire the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City without much concern about the impacts on the profits of the two casinos he already owned. Trump was golden — he had a magic touch — as long as property prices were increasing at a more rapid rate than the interest rate on the borrowed funds.

The puzzle is that the lenders failed to recognize that the arithmetic of his cash flows was virtually identical with that of the developing countries; in effect Trump was Brazil in drag. In the short run Trump could make his interest payments with funds from new loans — but when the increase in property prices declined to a value below the interest rate, Trump would become short of the cash necessary to pay the interest on the outstanding loans.

The increase in U.S. real estate prices in the 1980s was regional, and concentrated in the Northeast and in coastal California; for the country as a whole, real estate did not increase relative to the price level. The regional dispersion in the movement in real estate prices more or less paralleled the changes in personal income. Real estate prices dipped in the oil patch, climbed modestly in the rust belt, and surged in those areas that benefitted from the rapid increases in incomes in banking and financial services — sort of a derived demand from the financial success of Drexel Burnham. In effect, those individuals with high incomes in financial services — and with the prospect of sharp increase in incomes — set the pace for increases in real estate prices

 

Who Is Replacing Justice Ruth Ginsburg?

DAILY KOS’s Joan Mc Carter gives an excellent rundown on trump’s two dumpster candidates (Amy Coney Barrett and  Barbara Lagoa) for SCOTUS to replace Justice Ruth Ginsburg. Putting their names in the same  sentence as Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s should not diminish her but it does not preclude how low Repubs will stoop to achieve their goals as their power continues to diminish. Trump’s Supreme Court short list includes member of the sect that inspired the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’. The author takes care to assign a name to each detailing their character.

Amy Coney Barrett, “representing The Handmaid’s Tale as societal model wing

 She belong to an extreme, charismatic wing of the Catholic Church called People of Praise, which actually did serve as the inspiration for Margaret Atwood in her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The book was published in 1985 after Atwood “delayed writing it for about three years after I got the idea because I felt it was too crazy,” she told The New York Times Book Review in 1986. “Then two things happened. I started noticing that a lot of the things I thought I was more or less making up were now happening, and indeed more of them have happened since the publication of the book.” Specifically: “There is a sect now, a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect, which calls the women handmaids. They don’t go in for polygamy of this kind but they do threaten the handmaids according to the biblical verse I use in the book—sit down and shut up.” Yeah, that’s Barrett’s church. Except they’ve dropped the “head” moniker for male leadership and “handmaids” title for women who keep their fellow women in line because the television series based on the novel forced a change. They are now all called “leaders,” who direct such intimate life decisions of members as who they marry, where they live, and how they raise their children.

Barrett:  a “legal career is but a means to an end and to that end, is building the Kingdom of God.” She’s also written that judges shouldn’t necessarily be held to upholding Supreme Court precedents like Roe v. Wade, which she almost certainly would vote to restrict out of existence. Barrett’s religion came up briefly in her confirmation hearing for her current position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein mentioned: “The dogma lives loudly within you,” and the entire Republican world erupted, accusing Feinstein of trying to impose an unconstitutional “religious test” on nominees. The issue pretty much ended there. It can’t end there in hearings should Trump nominate Barrett. That is, if McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham don’t just decide to forego hearings and send her straight to the floor. At this point, McConnell could probably get 51 Republican senators to do anything for Trump.

Dr. Anthony Fauci kicks some Dr. Rand Paul butt

The lies and politics in this are so deep, it defies explanation. How can someone defend Rand’s decision? I sit and listen to this and then I listen to McConnell say the Repubs will appoint a new SCOTUS Justice shortly disallowing a new president from doing so. There is no honor in these people. They would just as soon sell us into slavery if it allows them the status to maintain their position. How will history judge these liars?