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

Justice Stevens Shoots At Gun Decision

Justice Stevens Shoots At Gun Decision

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, now 99 years old, has written a book, The Making of a Justice: My First 94 Years. Apparently he considers the  District of Columbia versus Heller decision to be the worst of all those that was made during his time on the Supreme Court, that one on  a 5-4 vote.  That decision upended the interpretations of the Second Amendment that had been in place since the amendment was adopted, with Stevens noting that in fact this longstanding interpretation reflected gun laws from even the colonial era.  That interpretation allowed for gun control legislation for civilians as it was always assumed that the opening phrase about “maintaining a militia” (by state governments) meant that the second phrase about “the right to bear arms shall  not be ingfringed” only applied to those in the military.  The Heller decision undid that, making the right to bear arms disconnected from the business about militias and essentially absolute.

Clearly Stevens feels guilty about what has happened since then, most clearly the epidemic of mass murders with high-powered weapons that were actually banned for civilian use for a decade after 1994, during when such mass murders happened at a lower rate than before or after.  That law was allowed to lapse, when instead the US should have extended it and followed a policy more like what Australia did by buying up outstanding such weapons, which was followed by a dramatic decline in gun-related homicides.   As it is, the US now has a far higher rate of per capita gun ownership than any other nation, more than twice as many as Serbia, the nation with the next highest such rate.

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We Already Passed a Constitutional Crisis into Presidential Autocracy

I don’t think we have entered a constitutional crisis. I think for all intents and purposes we are already past it, because of the ineffectual response to Trump’s autocratic behavior.

On February 15, he brazenly abrogated Congress’s appropriations power with this diversion of funds for his “border wall.” Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border.

On March 15, he vetoed Congress’s downvote of that emergency. Trump Issues First Veto After Congress Rejects Border Emergency.

On March 26, the House failed to override Trump’s veto: House fails to override Trump veto on Southern Border Emergency.

The House did not file suit until April 5. It requested an injunction to stop the President from acting unilaterally. SCOTUS did not “fast-track” the request for injunction. Trump responded to the House’s request last week asking the court to reject the House Lawsuit. Trump Administration Urges Judge to Reject House Lawsuit on Border Wall.

We are now three months past the emergency declaration and action to stop Trump is on the proverbial slow boat to China. By the time the Supreme Court rules, the 2020 election will probably have already passed.

So, tell me, exactly why should any President whose party controls at least 1/3 of either House of Congress simply bypass any Congressional opposition to anything by declaring states of emergency?

Future democratic Presidents might still refrain from doing so, but it is crystal clear to me that, the precedent having been set, future GOP Presidents will pursue this route at will. Such actions are what makes up an autocracy.

We also have the specter of GOP Senators openly telling a witness to ignore a subpoena issued BY ONE OF THEIR OWN PARTY’S SENATORS. Graham Tells Don Jr. To Ignore Senate Intel Subpoena: “You Don’t Need To Go.”

And, of course, Trump is simply refusing to honor any subpoena issued by the House.

Again a future democratic President might play nice; but once again the precedent having been set, future GOP Presidents will simply employ this strategy across the board.

Bottom line we are not “approaching” a crisis, we are in crisis. The precedents for future GOP Presidential autocracy have already been set and they will be followed. We are passing out of the Constitutional rule of law right now.

The burden may rest with John Roberts who cares about his legacy as Chief Justice and has shown such in previous decisions. He will have to decide whether he wants to go down in history as the Chief Justice who cast the deciding vote to de facto end the American Republic.

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What if Trump does not leave If He Loses in 2020?

There is a number of comments and commentary about the 2020 election and what if Trump refuses to leave. I put up a few and also a good article from Vox.

– A comment (ken_lov) stolen from another site I frequent and read from time to time:

“From time to time on other websites I’ve outlined a scenario where the Supreme Court agrees with Trump that the 2020 election was irreparably tainted by fraud and interference from abroad, and consequently issues an injunction ordering the electoral college not to meet. The constitution provides no guidance about what should happen in such a situation. Trump would therefore be free to act more or less as he saw fit, especially if Republicans had a majority in at least one chamber of Congress and resolved that he was the lawful president.

It’s disappointing how many liberals refuse to take this seriously, based on nothing more than faith in American institutions. I would have thought the last 19 years should have shaken that faith beyond repair. It’s terrifying that the survival of constitutional government may depend on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ability to live another 18 months.”

The comment does raise unanswered questions in how a nation would react to Trump defiance and a right-leaning SCOTUS might decide. The issue is whether the left as Ken_lov suggests takes this scenario seriously. Pelosi has already commented on the topic. Perhaps, we have answers or know better?

Vox’s Aaron Rupar:

Trump joked about serving “10 or 14 years” during his rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Thursday. It wasn’t the first time he said something like that during a speech.

Trump: “This was an illegal coup attempt on the President of the United States.” Dan Bongino on @foxandfriends True!

Trump: “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD”

Trump: “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!”

The ground work appears to have been laid by Trump.

– Pelosi: “We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Citing her concern as a reason Democrats should strive to “own the center left and own the mainstream” during their 2020 campaigns. And forgo the Green Deal and Medicare-For-All.

“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election. He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people. … We had to win. Imagine if we hadn’t won — oh, don’t even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.”

Are we too naïve and trusting?

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Credit Card Interest Rates

Marquette Nat. Bank of Minneapolis v. First of Omaha Service Corp., 439 U.S. 299 (1978). In a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision, the court held states anti-usury laws regulating interest rates unenforceable against nationally chartered banks based in other states.

Justice William Brennan: It was the intent of Congress when it passed the National Banking Act, nationally chartered banks would be subject only to federal regulation by the Comptroller of Currency and the laws of the state in which they were chartered, and that only Congress or the appropriate state legislature could pass the laws regulating them.

This was one of the more important decisions by SCOTUS as it allowed banks chartered in one state to have the same interest rates in other states, offer credit cards nationally, and beat out the bank competition in other states who might be subject to stricter regulations.

At the time Justice Brennan felt congress would act to allow states to have more freedom in regulating banks within their borders by changing the National Banking Act. “This impairment may in fact be accentuated by the ease with which interstate credit is available by mail through the use of modern credit cards,” he allowed. “But the protection of state usury laws is an issue of legislative policy, and any plea to alter [the law] to further that end is better addressed to the wisdom of Congress than to the judgment of this Court.”

Of course, it did not happen. And who said Congress had any wisdom or care for their constituents?

Perhaps, someone can point to another time when Congress has altered the National Banking Act. The only other time I can recall was when Congress repealed Glass-Steagall and altered the National Banking Act to allow Sandy Weil’s Citibank to acquire Travelers Insurance and move into investing on Wall Street.

More recently, Bernie Sanders has introduced new legislation. In the past, Bernie had introduced legislation in 2009 to cap interest rates which went “no-where” quickly. There are probably other Senate or House members who have also attempted to cap interest rates and ran thee banking gauntlet opposing any such change to their usurious interest rates and other charges.

In a joint statement;

“The American people are sick and tired of being ripped off by the same financial institutions they bailed out ten years ago. If we are going to create a financial system that works for all Americans, we have got to stop financial institutions from charging outrageous interest rates and fees.”

Both Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are teaming up on a bill to cap credit card and payday loan interest rates at 15%. In some cases, this is 50% lower than what is being offered today for what is termed as riskier loans or short term payday, etc. types.

Moving on and considering other presidential candidates who may have a difference of opinion than Sanders. It is no secret Delaware Senator Joe Biden has been a big supporter of banks since the seventies and has sponsored and helped to put into play many new laws which prevented students from getting relief or declaring bankruptcy to them from the signature loans made to them. When then President Obama spoke out against credit-card lenders calling them “‘outrageous’ and ‘looked forward to reviewing additional legislation that caps interest rates,'” VP Joe Biden was silent on the issue. Joe knew which side his bread was buttered on then and for that matter today also. Constituents can expect no help from Joe Biden.

When a similar bill capping credit card interest rates at 15% was introduced, half of the Democrats joined Republicans in 2009. It lost 60 to 33. This gives you an idea of how deep the politics run between Banks and the conservative Republicans and Democrats. Consider for a moment how long it took for either party to make this an issue or at least one party. Since 1978 . . .

In particular, I am eager to see how Joe Biden responds to Bernie Sanders proposal to cap interest rates. “Biden is more reliant on the kinds of big donors and high dollar events Democratic primary voters frown upon.”

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Top 100 economic blogs

 

Econospeak (Barkley Rosser, pgl, Peter Dorman, Tom Walker) is in the financial section along with  Bonddad blog (New Deal democrat) and  Capital Ebbs and Flows (Joseph Joyce), and I am proud to say have a direct connection to Angry Bear (under general blogs…).

Dear Dan,

I wanted to let you know that your blog, Angry Bear Blog has been featured in the Top 100 Economics Blogs of 2019

One of the significant changes this year has been the removal of newspaper blogs such as Bloomberg View and Real Time Exchange to focus on more niche blogs. The lack of female economist (and bloggers) has been a common criticism of this list. I’ve made an effort to include more female bloggers, but if you have any suggestions, I can consider them for the 2020 list.Economics Blogs 2019

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April jobs report: great headlines, signs of fraying around the edges

April jobs report: great headlines, signs of fraying around the edges

HEADLINES:

  • +263,000 jobs added
  • U3 unemployment rate declined -0.2% to 3.6% (new expansion low)
  • U6 underemployment rate unchanged at 7.3%

Leading employment indicators of a slowdown or recession

 
I am highlighting these because many leading indicators overall strongly suggest that an employment slowdown is coming. The following more leading numbers in the report tell us about where the economy is likely to be a few months from now. These were strongly positive on a m/m basis, but several showed deceleration YoY.

  • the average manufacturing workweek was unchanged at 40.7 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI. It is down -0.6 hours from its peak during this expansion.
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by 4,000. YoY manufacturing is up 204,000, a big deceleration from last summer’s pace.
  • construction jobs rose by 33,000. YoY construction jobs are up 256,000, also a big deceleration from last summer. Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, however, actually declined by -2500, a signal that the housing slowdown from last year has finally bled through into jobs.
  • temporary jobs rose strongly by 17,900. YoY these are up +53,500.
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less declined by -222,000 from 2,126,000 to 1,904,000.  This is a new post-recession low.

Wages and participation rates

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Senate Democratic Jackasses and Elmer Fudd

The Blue Dogs suddenly have remorse over supporting the nomination of what’s-his-name . . . Elmer Fudd or was it William Barr?

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) The most vulnerable Democratic Senator up for reelection next year, said he is “’greatly, greatly’ disappointed in what I am seeing in the attorney general.” While Barr did follow through on releasing a redacted version of the Mueller report and did not quash the investigation, Jones now has much deeper concerns.

“I thought he would bring this institutional stability to the Department of Justice — and not be the president’s personal lawyer. And he seems like he is moving and has moved toward a less independent role. That bothers me for the 12 remaining investigations out there.”

He is a Republican and for Republicans it is party over country blinkity, blink you frickin hmmmm fool.

Does he regret his vote? “I’m getting close to that. I haven’t said that yet. But it sure is so disappointing. I’m getting close. You might want to check tomorrow”

So disappointing Senator Jones . . .

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) “Absolutely, I have buyer’s remorse. I would have made a big mistake.” In retrospect, Democratic mannequin Manchin may think he will lean on Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to bring Mueller in for a hearing even though Graham has said he has no plans to do so.

Do not hold your breathe Manchin. Graham is not going to do squat and as a result you will walk. Another faux Democrat . .

“It’s troubling, absolutely. The difference between the interpretation between what Mueller really meant and what he intended. And he thought he didn’t present it properly. And Barr said he basically did represent properly,

“We’ve got to get that cleared up. And I would encourage my friend Lindsey Graham to bring Mueller in as quickly as possible.”

Graham is a wuss and afraid of Trump.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Senator Sinema has requested a meeting with Barr about the discrepancies between his view of the special counsel’s report and Mueller’s. She is new. One can only hope. Maybe she can show the other two how this is done.

Barr was only the man who blessed the Contra-Affair as the AG for Bush I.

“In August 1992, Safire wrote about Barr’s refusal to appoint an independent counsel to investigate what he (Safire) called Iraqgate – the shadowy diversion of funds that Saddam Hussein used to build up his military after the Iran-Iraq War. It is now a nearly forgotten chapter of history, but Safire lasered in on what he thought was ‘the Bush Administration’s fraudulent use of public funds, its sustained deception of Congress and its obstruction of justice.’”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in rejecting the House Judiciary Committee’s call for a prosecutor not beholden to the Bush Administration to investigate the crimes of Iraqgate, has taken personal charge of the cover-up.

The document that will be Exhibit A in a future prosecution of obstruction of justice is an unsigned 97-page apologia that accompanied Mr. Barr’s unprecedented refusal to recognize a “political conflict of interest,” as called for in the law.

Read it for yourself; though intended to explain in detail why Congress does not understand the intent of Congress, Barr’s Apology does the opposite: its strained defensiveness will cause any objective reader to say “something smells fishy here.”

Safire: “Barr’s clear strategy has been to stall past Dec. 15, when the law authorizing independent counsel expires; Republicans recently filibustered its extension to death.” Whoever won the 1992 election, “no autonomous prosecutor could then be named; Iraqgate might then become a matter between departing and incoming Presidents, and bygones could be bygones, and that is pretty much what happened.”

Continuing Barr had one more misadventure left. He was one of the driving forces behind what Safire called the “Christmas eve massacre” of the Iran-contra probe. Barr pushed hard for last minute pardons for six individuals caught up in the investigation which included former defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. The dramatic move on December 24, 1992, aborted Weinberger’s trial, which was slated to begin the next month, “virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986.”

Walsh denounced the pardons as part of the cover-up that “has continued for more than six years.” The decision to issue pardons, he said, “undermines the principle that no man is above the law. It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences.”

Barr is going down the same road. Thank you Blue Dogs.

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The John Bates Clark Award And Me Getting Old

The John Bates Clark Award And Me Getting Old

Yes, this is going to all be about me! 🙂

So, before getting to me, me, me, let me congratulate Emi Nakamura of the UC-Berkeley economics dept for receiving the John Bates Clark Award. It seems to be well deserved for her innovative and influential work on looking at high frequency detailed micro data sets to get more accurate estimates of macro variables, including both inflation rates and fiscal multipliers.  At 38 she is young enough (one must be under 40).  She is also now a coeditor of the American Economic Review.  I have seen some grumbling that her frequent coauthor and husband, Jon Steinnson, did not share in it or get it himself.  He is now too old at 42, and while her three most cited papers are coauthored with him, many others of hers are not, and several important papers of hers are sole authored.

As for how this relates to me, the really important part of this post, :-), I have never met her.  However, I know her mother, Alice Orcutt Nakamura, an economist at the University of  Alberta, who just happens to be the first woman ever to publish in the American Economic Review back in 1979. She was also the first woman president of the Canadian Economics Association in 1994-95.  She has done  lots of work on econmetrics, labor markets, and, interestingly, in the sort of micro studies of price changes that have since become a major focus of her daughter’s highly influential research.

 

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FoxConn, Jakarta, and Refugees

FoxConn, Valerie Bauerlein. Microsoft News

“Six miles west of Lake Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin lies a cleared building site half again as big as Central Park and ready for Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion liquid-crystal-display factory. Contractors have bulldozed about 75 homes in Mount Pleasant and cleared hundreds of farmland acres. Crews are widening Interstate 94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line to accommodate driverless trucks and thousands of employees. Village and county taxpayers have borrowed around $350 million so far to buy land and make infrastructure improvements, from burying sewer pipes to laying storm drains.”

The only thing missing to make this site a reality is “Foxconn.” In what could still turn out to be one of the biggest fraud ever, Foxconn has backed away from the table and then came back.

“President Trump and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou hatched the factory plan in 2017. Both participated in last summer’s gold-shovel groundbreaking in Mount Pleasant located just 20 miles south of Milwaukee.”

As of December 2018, the Taiwanese based supplier to Apple has spent 1% of its promised investment in the new US manufacturing facility . . . $99 million. Along with the disappearing promised investment could go the 2080 jobs planned for 2019. The same as any Township Planning Commission might do, Mt. Pleasant is waiting for the factory building plans to be supplied by the hard to find Foxconn contractors. Meanwhile the Mt Pleasant and Racine County are far out on a financial limb in supplying the necessary land needed and other requirements to make the site viable.

“In January, Foxconn said it was backing out of the plan to build an LCD factory in the village, citing high U.S. labor and material costs. Days later, after a phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Gou, Foxconn reversed course and said it would go ahead with the facility making small screens, adding some other functions.”

The local population of 27,000 remain skeptical it will ever be completed.

The first of Many to Come? As Indonesia plans to move its Capital, Yessenia Funes, Microsoft News

On several occasions, I have been to Jakarta to conduct meetings at a plant just outside of the city. The area is beautiful and tropical near the plant. We did not stay but two days at a time as Jakarta is not a friendly place for Americans in general. Monetarily, the exchange rate is relatively high with regards to Rupiahs to the dollar. We elected to use credit cards as we would never be able to get rid of the local money.

Indonesia has decided to move its capital from Jakarta as the city is slowly sinking and will be overwhelmed by the ocean by 2050. Jakarta has dropped 13 feet in the last 30 years and the ocean is expected to rise 20 inches by 2050. The city is home to 10 million people, is congested as many of the cities in Asia are today, and suffers from pollution and global climate change. The drawing of fresh water for human use has caused the land to drop and compact over the years also.

The expected cost of moving the capital from Jakarta will be $33 billion. Jakarta will remain as a city while the capital moves inland.

The US has a history of turning people away whose lives are endangered in their home lands.

A State Department telegram to the people on MS St. Louis: “passengers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.” The message to people fleeing for their lives from terrorism and the threat of death has not changed much over the years. During WWII, the Nazis exploited the unwillingness of other nations to admit large numbers of Jewish refugees to justify their anti-Jewish goals and policies both domestically in Germany and in the world at large. The MS St. Louis returned to Europe and landed in Antwerp. The Jews aboard ship were split amongst 4 countries. Many succeeded in getting US Visas or were able to hide from the Germans. 254 did die in concentration camps.

The man depicted in the picture is Otto Richter who was deported from the US after illegal entry. Protesting a return to Germany, it was reported he either went to Belgium or Mexico. He was fleeing persecution by the Nazi.

11 months earlier the Trump administration separated Byron Xol from his father David after they arrived from Guatemala. It was done under the zero tolerance program. David Xol was deported back to Guatemala despite requesting asylum. Byron was left in the United States and in custody due to not having any relatives or known sponsors. A lengthy court fight ensued with the Sewell family hiring an attorney to represent their interests in Bryon. The Sewells talked with David (father) and both he and his wife agreed to allow the Sewells sponsor Bryan in the US.

As it was Byron’s father David was an evangelical Christian. He had requested asylum for both he and Bryon. According to a court document, David Xol was attacked and tortured and Byron’s life was threatened by MS-13 gang members in 2017 because Xol preached to his co-workers about his religious beliefs and against leading a life of crime.

Some things just never change when it comes to refugees and freedom.

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Nailed it!

Nailed it!

Three weeks ago I wrote No, the Meuller report ***DID NOT*** “find no collusion!” in which I lambasted and parsed Barr’s conclusory snippet of the Mueller report, to wit, that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

I pointed out that:

 … the bracketed [T] in Barr’s quote of Mueller is doing a lot of work. Because it means that there was a first part of the sentence that was omitted. Put that together with the fact the Mueller’s quote then specifically references that “the investigation did not establish …” and there is compelling evidence that the first part of the actual sentence was a qualifier. …. Almost certainly the first part of the sentence is something like “Although…’” “Since …’” or “Despite …” followed by “the investigation…”,  or a formulation like “The grand jury’s work is incomplete, and so the investigation …”

(Emphasis added)

Now that we have (most of) the actual Mueller report, we know that the complete sentence reads:

Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

(Emphasis added)

Exactly as I thought, and said. The first part of the sentence Barr quoted severely qualified the portion he chose to highlight.

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