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

Climate Change Report

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Via Bill McBride at Calculated Risk:

Climate Change Report

This is a critical threat and should be a nonpartisan issue.

Here is the Fourth National Climate Assessment. An excerpt on the economic impact:

In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains. Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts. With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.

 

 

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Healthcare and….

Via Naked Capitalism and Lambert Strether:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. –Corinthians 13:13

I posted this letter in Links, but I found I could expand on it. Spectrum Health Care’s letter to Hedda Martin speaks for itself, and for what our health care system has become under neoliberalism:


View image on Twitter

Dan Radzikowski@DanRadzikowski

(The provenance: I started with AOC, who hat-tipped @DanRiffle, who linked to the original poster, @DanRadzikowski, quoted above. From Radzikowski’s thread, Hedda Martin: “This is me”; Martin’s GoFundMe, which was successful.) In this post, I’ll focus on two things: the intriguing backstory of Spectrum Health, the institution that denied Martin care until she could raise $10,000; and the weaknesses of GoFundMe as a solution. Before I get to the main part of the post, however, I’ll point out that Hedda Martin’s example is not exception…

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“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running”

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running”

Two years ago in a post entitled “Those who cannot see must feel”, I wrote:

That’s the translation of an old German saying that I used to hear from my grandmother when I misbehaved.  It is pretty clear that, over the next four years, the American public is going to do a lot of feeling ….  The results will range somewhere in between bad, disastrous, catastrophic, and cataclysmic, depending on how badly foreign affairs are bungled ….

I have some hope … because both China and Russia are smart enough to figure out that they can get what they want by bribing Trump without resorting to armed conflict.

Although I never published it here, below is the conclusion of an email I sent to several correspondents six months ago:

Ever since Trump’s election, the lyrics of Al Stewart’s song about the 1937 Spanish Civil War, “On the Border,” have been going through my mind:

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running …”

and I have thought that 2019 is the time of maximum peril to Taiwan and Ukraine.

The midterms were less than three weeks ago. Today Russia blocked the Kerch Strait, entrance to the Sea of Azov, effectively cutting off one of Ukraine’s ports. Ukraine says its navy is leaving port.

Between now and the end of 2019 is the most dangerous time, because any potential U.S. Foe will want to have any aggressive move be a fair accompli by the time the 2020 U.S. Elections are underway, let alone by the time a replacement for Trump can be inaugurated.
Good luck to us all.
[UPDATE: In case you’ve never heard it, here’s a link to the song.]

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Squanto — A Sad Thanksgiving Tale

Squanto — A Sad Thanksgiving Tale

I do not know how widely it is still taught or how, but when I was in elementary school in Ithaca, New York, I was taught about the “First Thanksgiving,” an event that happened in October, 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, following a good harvest after the pilgrim colony, founded in 1620, had a hard year that saw half their population die (about 50 people, mostly of starvation).  It was a joint feast of the pilgrims with neighboring native Indians of the Pokenok tribe of the larger Wampanoag confederacy, led by Massasoit.  Crucial to the event was the assistance of Squanto, who taught the colonists how to grow corn (maize) and several other crops, including the use of fish for fertilizer, thus becoming the model of a “good Indian” who helped European, especially English, colonists in what would become the United States.  Much of this is true, although much is murky, such as what exactly was eaten aside from the deer brought by Massasoit’s people (probably not turkey).

The problem with the tale is more about what is left out rather than any outright falsehoods such as claims that what was eaten was what is now the standard set of dishes consumed at modern Thanksgiving dinners.  It was not even the first Thanksgiving on US soil, with previous ones in St. Augustine, Florida in 1585 and at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia in 1619, although both of these were simply major thanksgiving prayer sessions that did not involve either food or participation by neighboring native Indians, with indeed the Berkeley colony being completely wiped out by a native Indian attack in 1622 that also nearly wiped out the nearby Jamestown colony.  But there are more important things left out, with some of them disturbing and sad.

I found out about this stuff as I investigated this matter this year anticipating having Thanksgiving dinner with my niece, Erica Werner (who writes for the Washington Post), and the extended family of her husband, Bill, and their adorable two young daughters, Lucy and Olive.  As it was, both because there were too many grownups talking about this and that as well as them being clearly fully occupied with other matters, I did not get around to telling the tale there.  So I am telling it here, an addition to the old tale I and many others were taught in school at some time or other.

The most important detail is that the pilgrims were far from being the first English people to have dealings with the various tribes of the Wampanoag confederacy in what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island (where Massasoit had his home base).  There were at least two previous attempts to start colonies in the area, in 1602 and 1605, both failed as the English insulted the natives and provoked them into hostilities, as well as failing to figure out how to produce food.  More egregious than just trying to impose Christianity and treating them as inferiors was that beyond these two failed efforts, English traders and explorers would regularly raid the tribes, outright stealing goods, and more importantly, kidnapping tribal members.  This is where the story of Squanto begins: he was kidnapped by a Captain Tom Hunt in 1614.

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A Vicious Place

The world according to Trump — notice a trend here?

Reporter: “Who should be held accountable?” [for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder]

Trump: “Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very, very vicious place.” — November 22, 2018.

The world is a vicious and brutal place. We think we’re civilized. In truth, it’s a cruel world and people are ruthless. They act nice to your face, but underneath they’re out to kill you.” Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life, Donald Trump & Bill Zanker, 2007, p. 71.

“Life is not easy. The world is a vicious, brutal place. It’s a place where people are looking to kill you, if not physically, then mentally. In the world that we live in every day it is usually the mental kill. People are looking to put you down, especially if you are on top. When I watched Westerns as a kid, I noticed the cowboys were always trying to kill the fastest gun. As a kid, I never understood it. Why would anyone want to go after the fastest gun?

“This is the way it is in real life. Everyone wants to kill the fastest gun. In real estate, I am the fastest gun, and everyone wants to kill me. You have to know how to defend yourself. People will be nasty and try to kill you just for sport. Even your friends are out to get you!” Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life, Donald Trump & Bill Zanker, 2007, p. 139.

“Well, not all people. But it’s a vicious place. The world is a vicious place. You know, the lions and tigers, they hunt for food, we hunt for sport. So, it can be a very vicious place. You turn on the television and you look at what’s happening.” Interview with John Barton, Golf Digest, October 13, 2014.

This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it’s full of lies, deceit and deception. You make a deal with somebody and it’s like making a deal with– that table.” Interview with Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes, October 15, 2018.

“This is a r– this is a vicious place. Washington DC is a vicious, vicious place. The attacks, the– the bad mouthing, the speaking behind your back. –but– you know, and in my way, I feel very comfortable here.”
Interview with Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes, October 15, 2018.

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House Democrats are Backing off on Nancy Pelosi

Most recently, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) gave his support for Pelosi for a major infrastructure bill early in the next Congress and a commitment to let Higgins lead the charge on a proposal to let Americans buy into Medicare at age 50. I am hoping they design the Medicare buy-in as it is not cheap in its present form and doses not include vision or dental.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) abandoned her quest to be the House Speaker. Instead, Fudge will head up the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections which Pelosi will recreate and Fudge will chair. Marcia Fudge:

“Leader Pelosi has granted me the opportunity to create the record necessary to satisfy the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, so that the protections of the Voting Rights Act will be reinstated and improved. She has also assured me that the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic party, Black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table. I am now confident that we will move forward together and that the 116th Congress will be a Congress of which we can all be proud. I now join my colleagues in support of the leadership team of Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn.”

An important role considering what has happened in Florida since 2000 and in Georgia recently with striking voters from the rolls by then Secretary of State Kemp who was also running for Governor.

As PGL pointed out Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has backed Nancy Pelosi.

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NYT video series on Fake News. Worth the watch

I had heard about a video series on NPR’s Fresh Air regarding the origin and current issue with the concept of Fake News via Russia.  You can listen and read the interview of the author, Adam Ellick here. 

There are 3 videos of 15 to 17 minutes each.  The series is titled: Operation Infektion,  Russian Disinformation: From Cold War to Kanye You can watch them here.   It begins with the AID’s hoax that it was a biological weapon developed and released by the US Military and how the KGB planted it and got it to spread such that it was ultimately reported on a US national news broadcast.  This hoax still has it’s believers.

We learned about propaganda from our experience with Nazi Germany.  With the advent of the internet, propaganda has become a more effective and a less costly means of waging war.  Based on the reporting in the last episode of this series the US is vastly behind the curve when it comes to protecting our self from the harm it causes.

This really is an issue as large and significant as any of those most directly effecting us such as health care, climate change, income inequality.  Unfortunately unlike those whose effects are directly experienced, propaganda/fake news has a virtual reality cover.  Which leads to me to the question: What happens as humanity becomes more accustom to experiencing life via virtual reality than naturally?  I suspect we become more susceptible to the intent of propaganda/fake news.

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October housing permits and starts flat vs. trend

October housing permits and starts flat vs. trend

This morning’s report on housing permits and starts will do nothing to stop the now-received wisdom that higher interest rates, higher prices, (and the impact of the cap on the mortgage tax deduction) has caused this most important cyclical market to cool. On the other hand, they aren’t evidence of any intensifying downturn.

While we wait for FRED, here’s the Census Bureau’s graphic representation of permits, starts, and completions:

Here are the basic important numbers:

  • single family permits  down -0.6% m/m -0.6% YoY
  • total permits -0.5% m/m -6.0% YoY
  • total starts -+1.5% m/m -2.9% YoY
  • 3 month average of total starts +1.0% m/m +3.2% YoY

 

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