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

Interesting stuff

by David Zetland    (One handed economist)

Interesting stuff

  1. Biohacking life” — a physics geek gets into our metabolism
  2. Governments are printing money to “get out of the crisis”, but they are probably sowing the seeds of the next crisis (of inflation? fiscal collapse?)
  3. An incredibly interesting dive into Japanese cosmology
  4. The American Press Is Destroying Itself (under pressures of political correctness)
  5. This is the governance article (good/bad responses to C19 as a function of government quality) I’ve been looking for!
  6. Excess deaths really explain the damage from C19: NYT and Economist
  7. Some techniques for reaching consensus on difficult topics
  8. Humans have used technology to help women to have 8 billion babies
  9. Massive glaciers are melting in Antartica in front of researchers’ eyes.
  10. A VC guy on big tech monopolies, inequality and race

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New and continued jobless claims level off, as spreading secondary impacts and job recalls balance

New and continued jobless claims level off, as spreading secondary impacts and job recalls balance

Weekly initial and continuing jobless claims give us the most up-to-date snapshot of the continuing economic impacts of the coronavirus on employment. Three full months after the initial shock, the overall damage remains huge, with recalls to work roughly balanced with spreading new secondary impacts.

First, here are initial jobless claims both seasonally adjusted (blue) and non- seasonally adjusted (red). The non-seasonally adjusted number is of added importance since seasonal adjustments should not have more than a trivial effect on the huge real numbers:

There were 1.433 million new claims, which after the seasonal adjustment became 1.508 million. This is “only” 58,000 less than last week’s number – the smallest weekly decline since the worst reading in April but nevertheless is the lowest so far since the virus struck.


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Do BLM Protests Prove No More Pandemic?

Do BLM Protests Prove No More Pandemic?

It has become a widespread meme that the many protests over the murder of George Floyd and other racially based police brutality will show that it is fine to end all shutdowns related to the pandemic and end all rules about social distancing and wearing face masks.  Here we are reaching two weeks since these protests with thousands of people involved, supposedly all violating those rules, and we are not seeing a surge of Covid-19 cases coming out of the locations where these big protests have happened.

Well, it turns out, that while the reports are scattered, apparently at many of the protests many people wear face masks, not only that, there is apparently a lot of trying to keep some distance from each other as well, although based on the performance of nations in East Asia, it is pretty clear that the wearing of face masks is the most useful.  Among other cities with large protests where this has been observed is Philadelphia. But in many places there has been much urging of this.

It is a mere anecdote, but I can report that I attended one such protest, admittedly in peaceful Harrisonburg, VA where I live where we have a black mayor and a black police chief.  But I attended a peaceful protest with over 1000 people.  Almost everybody was wearing a mask, and most people were keeping distance from each other.  There has been a lot of this.

So, this meme widely spouted with great arrogance by many observers is just misleading.  It is quite likely we shall see no spike of cases following most of these protests, although possibly in some locations.  But that does not mean this will hold for places where reopenings coincide with lots of people imitating our president and not wearing face masks or maintaining social distancing.  And indeed, we are seeing surges of cases in many such states, with the vast majority of those being where we have seen such attitudes and policies.

Barkley Rosser

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Angry Bear “Again” On List Of Top Economics Blogs For 2020

Angry Bear “Again” On List Of Top Economics Blogs For 2020

Intelligent Economist has again put out its annual list of the top 100 economics blogs, with some new ones and some gone, although two of those were due to retirements, especially the  Economists View of Mark Thoma.

Closely connected Econospeak , Bondadd blog ,  and Capital Ebbs and Flows also were named to the top 100 economic blogs.

Thanks all commenters, readers, and writers for your support.

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SCOTUS Blocks Census Citizenship Question

Writing for the Majority (5-4):  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.” Justice John Roberts did leave open the possibility of change if the Administration could provide an adequate answer.

Executive branch officials must “offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public. Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”


USA Today has a good version of the SCOTUS decision. John Roberts and the liberal block rule against 2020 census citizenship question (for now) handing Trump administration a major defeat. Others have said there will probably not be another submission to SCOTUS on the Citizenship question. The only one who might change their “yea” vote would be Roberts if a reasonable answer was supplied by the Administration.

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Coronavirus dashboard for June 17: the second wave of the tsunami comes ashore

Coronavirus dashboard for June 17: the second wave of the tsunami comes ashore

As of yesterday, there were 2,137,731 total documented coronavirus infections in the US. Total known deaths were 116,963.

As I have stated several times in the past month, I believe that coronavirus infections and deaths will wax and wane around the April-May plateau of roughly 20-25,000 new daily infections and 500-2000 daily deaths, at least as long as Trump remains President. This is because, absent competent Federal leadership, the US lacks the political and social will to do what is necessary – distancing + mask-wearing + tracing – in order to “crush the curve” as almost every other industrialized European and Asian country has been able to do.

The current situation in the US is divided by region. In the early hard-hit areas of the Northeast and Midwest, effective measures were put in place and have been relaxed more gradually. As a result, the infection rates there have continued to decline. By contrast, in the Confederacy, the High Plains, and the Southwest, lockdowns were put in place late if at all and lifted early without any meaningful restrictions. As a result infection rates have begun to rise, in a few States at an exponential rate.

Yesterday the COVID Tracking Project finally released graphs for each region per capita, shown below:

In the Northeast and Midwest, the 7 day moving average of new infections has fallen to roughly 40 and 45 per million, respectively. In the South and West, it has risen to 89 and 76 per million, respectively.


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Might There Be A V-Shaped Economic Recovery After All?

Might There Be A V-Shaped Economic Recovery After All?


This is a matter where if it happens, I shall be proven wrong.  I have mostly emphasized how much uncertainty and lack of knowledge we face about the pandemic as well as the economy in this situation, and have as a result largely stayed away from making specific or definite forecasts on those matters.  However, here and in other places on the internet, I have made a lot of forecasts that the time path of GDP is likely to look like a “lazy J” or “whoosh,” a pattern of slow recovery after the very rapid decline, with a possible W if a second wave of the pandemic hits hard.  What I often dismissed, sometimes rather pompously to people who seemed to push it for blind political or ideological reasons was that there might be a rapid bounceback, a V-shaped recovery.  Now that it looks like it might happen, or at least a modest version of it, so I may be wrong on my past forecasts.

Curiously, as noted in a fairly recent post, I was one who was not surprised by the net increase in employment in May, given the evidence noted in still earlier posts of a likely turnaround in GDP that probably dates back even into late April and probably not later than early May, looking at figures on gasoline demand and carbon emissions.  It seemed not surprising that this turnaround would lead to some new hiring, even as further layoffs were clearly happening.  But most of this data seemed consistent with the Whoosh scenario, with these renewed increases occurring at rates much lower than the rates of preceding decline.  So the net increase in hiring in May was only 2.5%, large for normal time, but only beginning to offset the double-digit plunge that had happened before it.

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The Coronavirus Recession may already (technically) have ended: sales and production both increased in May

The Coronavirus Recession may already (technically) have ended: sales and production both increased in May

 – by New Deal democrat

Sales and production are two of the four things that economists look for in gauging whether the economy is in expansion or recession, and this morning both of them – retail sales and industrial production – were released for May.

So it’s true: as defined by the NBER, the Coronavirus Recession may have only lasted two months, from February through April. That’s because, just as February was the peak of economic activity before the coronavirus hit, April may well have been the trough. And recessions technically end, not when the economy becomes objectively “good” or “fair,” but simply when the level of activity is less awful than before. If the trajectory is positive, and activity goes from really awful, to slightly less really awful, the recession has ended, even if the economy is still, well, awful.

To the graphs! First, here are retail sales, both nominally and as adjusted for inflation:

Both increased 17.7% in May, after declining over 14% in April. Both are also slightly higher than their levels in March. Clearly the “reopening” of the economy in large portions of the country led to a splurge in spending.


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This article by Ezra Klein is excellent.  I can’t do it justice in a blog post, but here is a bit:

This is the often neglected heart of nonviolence: It is a strategic confrontation with other human beings. It takes as self-evident that we must continue to live in fellowship with one another. As such, it puts changing each other’s hearts at the center of political action, and then asks what kind of action is likeliest to bring about that transformation. That its answers are radical and demanding does not make them untrue.

“King thinks human beings are sacred,” says Brandon Terry, a Harvard sociologist and co-author of a volume on King’s political philosophy. “We need, above all else, to avoid preventing them from changing for the better. That’s what the whole ethos is about: trying to see in other people what we see in ourselves — the capacity for growth, self-correction, and change.”

And another:

That violence begets violence is more than a dorm room slogan: It is a much-replicated research finding. A study by the US Justice Department of 11- to 17-year-olds, for instance, found that being the victim of violence was an extraordinarily powerful predictor of subsequently being the perpetrator of violence. “Violent victimization,” they concluded, “is an important risk factor for subsequent violent offending.”

There is much the state does that is meant to protect citizens from violence, including policing, which really does work to reduce crime. But there’s also much the state does that inflicts violence — and that is nowhere more true than in the state’s cramped, self-defeating definition of justice. As Danielle Sered writes in Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair, decades of studies find four key predictors of violence in individuals: “shame, isolation, exposure to violence, and a diminished ability to meet one’s economic needs.” Those are also, as it happens, the definitional features of prison. “As a nation, we have developed a response to violence that is characterized by precisely what we know to be the main drivers of violence,” she writes. “We should not be surprised, then, when the system produces exactly the results we would expect.”

And one more:

In restorative justice, the focus is not on what perpetrators have done but on what victims need. In some cases, that is imprisonment. But far more often, it is answers, amends, the kind of visible transformation in a perpetrator that leads to a continued feeling of safety. Sered, who directs the remarkable nonprofit Common Justice, tells the story of a man robbed at gunpoint. Asked if he preferred imprisonment or a restorative justice program, he asked whether the perpetrator could get life without parole for the crime. Told that he couldn’t, the man chose restorative justice. “If he can’t be gone forever, then I’d rather he be changed,” he said.

meta-analysis of 84 evaluations of restorative justice programs focused on juveniles found better outcomes for both offenders and victims. Another analysis of 22 studies examining particularly rigorous restorative justice programs concluded, “restorative justice programs are a more effective method of improving victim and/or offender satisfaction, increasing offender compliance with restitution, and decreasing the recidivism of offenders when compared to more traditional criminal justice responses.”

As they say, read the whole thing!

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