Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for June 7, 2019

Very bad!

Natural gas flaring hits record high in Q1 in U.S. Permian Basin

… the two oil fields on a yearly basis are burning and venting more than the gas demand in countries that include Hungary, Israel, Azerbaijan, Colombia and Romania ….

This next one is not my usual fare, but I found it helpful in reminding one not to depend too heavily yet on vehicle technology replacing human driving awareness and actions and reactions.

Everything You Need to Know about Car Safety Features

It’s amazing to think that the industry is still in its infancy. A decade from now will probably see vehicles that can definitely drive better than the average human, perhaps even better than an expert human driver. The risk will be in software bugs and hacking vulnerabilities, but let’s pray technology vastly improves on those fronts as well.

I must say that Elizabeth Warren is the most detail-oriented domestic-policy wonk who’s ever been a high-profile candidate for US President. (Disclosure: I agree with her approach if the context is the mixed-economy ideology of FDR’s New Deal. Many of today’s youth are well to the left of FDR.) Many of her proposals spill hugely over into the foreign-policy sphere and in good ways too.

She could use more foreign-policy advice. We’ll have to wait to see if she asks the right people for it.

Linking to her article is not an endorsement of Warren for President.

She’s risk-management oriented: My Green Manufacturing Plan for America, by Elizabeth Warren

This one discusses her position: ‘No loyalty or allegiance to America’: Warren targets multinationals in economic platform

I completely agree with France’s position on this.

France to ban destroying unsold goods, targeting Amazon, luxury brands

Based on hidden camera footage, the documentary on the M6 channel showed containers of unsold or returned products at an Amazon warehouse being sent for destruction under agreements signed between the online giant and third-party retailers.

Students stage ‘die-in’ climate protest in German parliament

For the borrow-a-box scheme, customers will pay a £5 deposit which is refundable when the container is returned. A frozen pick and mix section initially selling fruit such as blueberries and mango will encourage shoppers to bring in their own containers.

Sell the refillable containers.

Waitrose launches packaging-free trial

Too slowwwwwwww:

Powell says the Fed will ‘act as appropriate to sustain the expansion’

Powell began a speech Tuesday in Chicago by addressing “recent developments involving trade negotiations and other matters.”

“We do not know how or when these issues will be resolved,” he said in prepared remarks. “We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near our symmetric 2 percent objective.”

“In short, the proximity of interest rates to the ELB has become the preeminent monetary policy challenge of our time, tainting all manner of issues with ELB risk and imbuing many old challenges with greater significance,” he said.

“Perhaps it is time to retire the term ‘unconventional’ when referring to tools that were used in the crisis. We know that tools like these are likely to be needed in some form in future ELB [effective lower bound] spells, which we hope will be rare,” he said.

I can’t stand it that these people still do not understand that creating “room” to reduce rates causes the need to reduce rates. Just reduce them. Use the other “tools” too. Do not try to create room.

Reducing the rate will help to get price inflation to 2%. Waiting in the face of the tariff war with China will never get it there. Other things might, but you, the Fed. can’t predict them. We need a hotter economy.

We still have too many unemployed people and way too many people with way too little power due to way too low wages.

I’m for the guaranteed living income, but until then ….

Not a bad overview:

Homeowners insurance: 7 things to know about what hurricane-related damage is covered

China’s New World Media Order

Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square massacre [alleged; we really don’t know what happened, though I highly suspect many people died as a result of the Democracy Movement], China’s regime is proudly promoting its model of authoritarian capitalism around the world. The new world media order that it is trying to build is less well-known than the Belt and Road Initiative, but just as ambitious.

PARIS – Since the Tiananmen Square massacre 30 years ago, China has achieved extraordinary economic development. Yet, contrary to the expectations [alleged, as I believe many knew China would not become democratic just because it would get rich; I knew it for instance] of many Western leaders and analysts, the country has not gradually embraced press freedom or respect for civil rights. On the contrary: as a recent Reporters Without Borders(RSF) report shows, China today is actively working to build a repressive “new world media order” – an initiative that poses a clear and present danger to the world’s democracies.

With its media-repression campaign, China is capitalizing on divisions within the world’s democracies. It is finding the cracks in societies’ commitment to democratic values, such as tolerance and openness, and attempting to rend them open with propaganda promoting its own political tenets. Its leaders know that, when journalists are silenced, the alternatives to authoritarianism are gradually extinguished. After all, it is impossible to foster constructive political debate when questioning the official view is a punishable offense.

The world’s democracies must move beyond their myopic competition for China’s favor and come together to resist its alternative authoritarian vision. This means mounting an ambitious, persistent, and coordinated response that defends the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Why the Fed’s Rethinking Its Toolkit (It’s Broken)

Is inflation dying?

That’s the question. No one really knows why it has failed to return. Possible causes include globalization, which has brought millions of low-wage workers into labor markets, along with market concentration and the decline of labor unions, both of which undermine the power of workers to demand higher wages. Some critics worry that central bankers preoccupied with lowflation will keep interest rates too low for too long and fuel bubbles in financial markets. Others think central banks are being too timid, and should be cutting rates to goose growth enough to produce the wage gains that are inflation’s fuel.

“No one really knows why it has failed to return.” Hogwash. It failed to return because we’ve suppressed the economy with insufficient Fed action and insufficient fiscal stimulus.

Mounting Climate Change Fears Push Investors to Assess Geographical Risks

… ESG investors are increasingly judging companies based on what sort of physical risks they will face as global temperatures continue to rise and storms become more severe.

The risks of physical damage, liabilities or business disruptions from climate change do not currently factor into ESG-ratings by index-providers, which often shape the investable universe for fund managers or exchange-traded funds.

Brian Ellis, portfolio manager of the Calvert Bond fund and the Calvert Green Bond fund, said his fund is increasingly focusing on the geographical footprint of companies, ranging from retailers to hotel operators to real estate investment trusts that may be concentrated in areas that could get hit by severe storms or high temperatures.

Millennials More Likely to Buy Flood Insurance Than Baby Boomers

… 41% of respondents agree or strongly agree that flood insurance is a “good idea” but only 17% say they have purchased flood insurance, and even that response may be based on a misunderstanding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that only about 3% of homeowners have flood insurance.

“This disparity perhaps reflects the common, though incorrect, assumption that homeowners insurance covers flooding,” said Eric Cioppa, NAIC president and Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance.

A 500-year floodplain is so 2018. If you want to feel somewhat safe from flooding, you might want to think about a 5,000-year floodplain.

I’m not being completely flippant about it. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen if we don’t clamp down really hard and very quickly on carbon burning. It could actually turn out much worse than the worst-case models are currently showing.

We need to take every clean approach to ending carbon burning and sequestering what’s already been released.

Flood Clean Up Begins in Oklahoma; Arkansas Awaits River Crest

Cold is the hottest new real estate investment

Because as the grocery segment grows, the perishables are poised to profit, and so are those investing in really cold properties.

AP FACT CHECK: Trump didn’t set records on clean air in US

The State of Global Air 2019 report by the Health Effects Institute rated the U.S. as having the eighth cleanest air for particle pollution — which kills 85,000 Americans each year — behind Canada, Scandinavian countries and others.

On water, Yale University’s global Environmental Performance Index finds 10 countries tied for the cleanest drinking water, the U.S. among them. On environmental quality overall, the U.S. was 27th, behind a variety of European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia and more. Switzerland was No. 1.

The following is profoundly inaccurate:

It is widely understood to hold that countries with a sovereign currency (such as our Pound Sterling) can print as much money as they like to meet spending commitments, without any adverse consequences occurring, because the central bank can always print more money.

Why Labour doesn’t support Modern Monetary Theory

“It is widely understood …”? It is widely misunderstood! MMT always, and I mean always, has recognized resource constraints. MMT never modeled an economy were runaway money creation is the right choice. Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury should have studied MMT before shooting himself in the foot.

The China Battle Has Just Started

Long-term, intense economic competition between China and the United States is inevitable. It’s simply a result of China’s new economic size. It’s about wealth and power, not political systems or ideology. Forget these two countries per se. Take any country that has been an uncontested economic leader for decades, add a rapidly rising country that is becoming an economic threat, and watch the battle for markets, trade, and intellectual property unfold.

The current trade negotiations could get uglier and derail. But even if they don’t, both sides will likely feel they did not get what they needed, and future rounds could get worse. There’s almost never a situation where the two leaders in a market don’t get locked in a protracted, high-stakes struggle.

It is not simply about population. It is about proper strategic choices made in a timely manner. Brains can outdo numbers. I’m not against the Chinese People. I’m against the Chinese totalitarian dictatorship. If the US will form proper alliances and will bring forth the Green New Deal and more, it can far outdo China’s Xi.

Summer Maintenance Tasks for Your Rental Property

Unusual Timber-Construction Apartment Building Tops Out in Clinton Hill

The following is nonsense:

The verdict on Keynes’s vision today is far from settled. The Chicago school of monetarists say that his counter-cyclical policies are bound to fail since their effects will be anticipated, either immediately or after a short lag. The influential Harvard economist Robert Barro argues that future tax rises to pay for government deficit spending are figured into long-term interest rates by investors and savers. This process will lead to higher rates in the future and make government borrowing more expensive and the budget deficit less affordable. [Source: What Keynes can teach us about government debt today]

First of all, the fiscal stimulus of about $800 billion shortly after the onset of the Great Recession is exactly what kept that recession from being worse than the Great Depression. It worked. It wasn’t large enough, and Keynes would have said so. Secondly, there was a multiplier effect. The stimulus more than paid for itself.

New York inches closer to universal rent control with state lawmakers’ support

The package is aimed at protecting tenants, and includes nine bills that could end vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus, close the major capital improvements (MCI) and individual apartment improvements (IAI) loopholes, close the preferential rent loophole, and prohibit eviction without “good cause.”

It will be interesting to see if landlords can still make a decent living under the measures.

This article really sells the idea.

Colorado wants to spark move to electric vehicles in a big way — with buses, trucks, fleets

100% clean energy bills are snowballing in the states

… what exactly is ‘100 percent clean power’?

It means when we switch on the lights, none of the electricity making that possible comes from carbon-emitting sources. That means no coal, oil or natural gas (unless, in some cases, if it’s used with carbon capture and storage technology).


Buildings Can Be Designed to Withstand Earthquakes. Why Doesn’t the U.S. Build More of Them?

5 U.S. Cities That Potentially Could Run Out of Water

Are “unsolicited advertisements by text” an “invasion of privacy”? If you think so, then you may agree with the judge’s ruling. I include this because it can help non-insurance professionals understand that broker’s opinions are subject to many variables. Many insurance consumers want cut-and-dried answers. Sometimes, the broker simply can’t or shouldn’t give one. At the very least, the consumer should be aware that answers are qualified even if all of the qualifiers aren’t specifically named. After all, who knows everything that might come up in a decision and whether that decision will be overturned, etc.?

Privacy Exclusion Protects Insurer from $60 Million Class Action

A federal judge in Florida has ruled that a policy exclusion for invasion of privacy claims relieved an insurer of any responsibility for a $60 million settlement against a Boca Raton company for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Liberty International Underwriters, a division of Liberty Mutual, was granted a summary judgment against plaintiffs looking to collect on a class action settlement they obtained from iCan Benefit Group for violating the TCPA by sending them unsolicited advertisements by text.

U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg determined that the question for the court was whether the underlying complaint, or some component of it, is a claim, which arose out of an invasion of privacy.

The court also considered whether the entire iCan claim is excluded from coverage or whether just those aspects of the underlying case that involve invasion of privacy are excluded. The court noted that the plaintiffs expressly alleged invasion of privacy as a basis for their lawsuit and thus the claim includes allegations that the iCan plaintiffs suffered the harm of invasion of privacy. But even if the broad definition of claim did not preclude coverage over the entirety of the underlying action, the plaintiffs failed to allocate the settlement agreement between covered and uncovered claims as required by Florida law, Rosenberg added.

Environmentalists Say West Virginia Coal Mines Not Penalized for Polluting Waterways

Several West Virginia coal mines, including some owned by the governor’s family, have released many times the allowable amounts of pollutants into nearby waterways in recent years without being penalized by regulators, according to environmental groups citing state data.

The environmental groups said the companies had violated the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and that there was no evidence that state or federal authorities had penalized them or sought to bring the facilities back into compliance.

Repairing Homes After Disasters Requires Planning, Patience Even with Insurance

“We’ve been studying home improvement for 25 years and losses from national disasters haven’t been on the radar. Suddenly, we’re seeing this pop up as a significant share,” said Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling future program at the Harvard center.

… An inadvertently checked box on a form meant the contents of their house were not covered. So they were out more than $100,000 for furniture, clothing and housewares, and lost all their appeals to have those covered.

It was four months before Linebaugh won an appeal with his business insurance policy to cover losses based on an inland marine clause, which worked for him because the damage started with water coming in through a bathroom drain.

Insurance is not to be seen as a panacea. It’s a helper. It’s there for catastrophes. It cannot completely rebuild your life. It can’t prevent or undo all stress, etc. It can, however, help to mitigate it. Regardless, you are better off gambling with insurance than without.

Make sure you are extremely careful when buying coverage. “An inadvertently checked box on a form meant the contents of their house were not covered ….” Mistakes happen, but do your best to remain focused when completing an insurance transaction. Read your policy after you get it. If you didn’t receive coverage for something you thought you selected or are sure you selected, follow up on it. Policies can often be amended via “endorsements.” Sometimes you don’t get the coverage you select because you don’t qualify for it in the end. The underwriting process often needs to run its full course before that can be known for sure.

As for flood coverage due to water coming in a drain, that’s a possible sewer-backup issue (typically excluded but often available via endorsement for an additional premium amount). I wouldn’t give a blanket answer but would have to research the particulars: the policy, the jurisdiction, case precedents, etc.

If it had been up to me, we would have started in earnest ending the coal industry almost 50 years ago. We would have been done some 40 years ago too and without leaving people in the coal industry without adequate incomes.

Study: Extensive Coal Ash Detected at Bottom of North Carolina Lake

The concentrations of lead, cobalt and other heavy metals detected in the sediment of the lake next to Duke Energy Corp.’s Sutton power plant equal or exceed the pollution from the country’s worst coal-ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008 ….

Why the U.S. economy is worse than it seems

Much has been made lately of the hot economy, a narrative driven largely by a long run of strong jobs numbers. But this enthusiastic story line is ignoring a few disturbing structural problems that suggest that the economy is not as strong as those numbers suggest. Underneath the hood, problems persist, including earnings below what families need to get by, stark inequalities in wealth and income, an increasingly jittery stock market, an affordable housing shortage, damaged fiscal accounts and slower growth on the horizon.

…The current annual supply of new housing units is running an estimated 300,000 below the trend for new housing demand. The increasing shortfall of housing supply is pushing up house prices and rents, particularly in areas that offer better jobs, education and health care, as demand increasingly vastly outstrips supply. …

The dynamics we’ve described — low wages, income and wealth inequality, a shortage of affordable housing, increasingly nervous investors — all create head winds for growth. The momentum from the deficit-financed tax cut has thus far proved strong enough to overcome them, but that momentum is slowing, raising the prospect of a stalled economy still struggling with a host of deep structural problems.

As I said above:

It’s tempting for the Fed to move slowly. That would be a grave error.

The best way to take out recession or slowdown insurance would be for the Fed to cut interest rates by 50 basis points over the summer and by more, if necessary, in the fall. … It is clear in retrospect that the Fed was too slow in responding to gathering storms during 2008 as the Great Recession took hold and in 2000 when the Internet bubble collapsed.

Given that monetary policy operates with substantial lags and that downturns develop momentum once they start, monetary policy delay is always problematic when recession is a risk.

Warnings of world-wide worm attacks are the real deal, new exploit shows

“It means all it takes is one unpatched system to lead to an infection of patched systems,” Rob Graham, the Errata Security CEO who conducted the above-linked Internet scan, told Ars.

In my last post, I told you Firefox is headed in the opposite direction of Chrome. Here’s a good Firefox article on just one thing Firefox is up to.

Next steps in privacy-preserving Telemetry with Prio

Costco Officially Announces It Will Not Be Selling Monsanto RoundUp This Season

The following linked article is long but may help one to better understand consumer trends, which involve renting decisions, and why they’re happening.

The consumer is changing, but perhaps not how you think: A swirl of economic and marketplace dynamics is influencing consumer behavior

… the consumer hasn’t fundamentally changed, but to the extent they are changing is because the environment around them is evolving, characterized by economic constraints and new competitive options. They’re changing because of the financial constraints they find themselves in. This, in turn, has been triggered by a rise in nondiscretionary expenses such as health care and education and the growing bifurcation between income groups.

There is no doubt whatsoever that MMT is winning the debate against the neoliberal crowd and will continue doing so.


… MMT not only threatens powerful vested interests in our societies, but also challenges the hegemony of mainstream macroeconomists who have been able to dominate the policy debate for decades using a series of linked myths about how our fiat monetary system operates and the capacities of currency-issuing governments within such a system.

MMT allows us to break out of the illusory financial constraints that for too long have hindered our ability to imagine radical alternatives and to envision truly transformational policies, such as the Green New Deal, in the knowledge the issue is not whether we can ‘afford’ a certain policy in financial terms but only whether we have enough available resources–and political will–to implement it. This is a massive paradigm shift.

Even though it doesn’t directly address the article above, “Why Labour doesn’t support Modern Monetary Theory,” that I debunked, it might as well have.

The reason MMT is winning is because every single naysayer always, and I mean always, gets MMT wrong. I find it astoundingly ignorant on the naysayers’ part. They complain that MMT is difficult to understand or that MMTers can’t explain MMT and on and on. MMT is not difficult to understand at all, never has been, and the MMTers explain MMT perfectly well.

I’m not an MMTer though I don’t disagree at all with their model of how things actually happen in the economy. I’m not against MMT’s model being widely and openly discussed because I see it as leading to awakening the democratic economist in the common person.

We don’t need governmental borrowing. Governmental borrowing actually rewards people for doing nothing positive. In fact, the entire scheme of lending and borrowing and paying interest is completely counterproductive and misleading. We also don’t need taxes, though I’m not opposed to leveling wealth and income provided it’s high enough for everyone, which it easily could be.

Four things matter for the creation of the best economy possible:

  1. transparency
  2. direct economic-democracy
  3. planning, and
  4. resource timing (which implies patience).

If done correctly, which is possible, the sky’s the limit.

All so-called experts in economics who claim otherwise are shilling whether they know it or not. They have a vested interest in continuing the current system in which the innocent downtroddened are kept down on purpose for the sake of the plutocrats who benefit themselves via anti-democratic neoliberal economics. It’s a very shortsighted, retarding approach to economics.

‘It is horrid’: India roasts under heat wave with temperatures above 120 degrees

… 11 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2004.

They don’t have much in the way of refrigeration either.

Councilmembers say other cities sending homeless residents to LA

“If we’re going to end this crisis once and for all,” said Buscaino Wednesday, “all cities need to step up and do their part to provide housing and services for their most vulnerable residents, not just push them out.”