Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 25, 2019

What Chinese Citizens Have (and Haven’t) Learned About Hong Kong’s Protests

Photos and information about the biggest protests since the handover of the former British colony are being systematically wiped from China’s internet.


Would you trust Facebook with your money? What Libra cryptocurrency means for users

I’ll pass. I think it’s a really, really stupid idea.


Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot

Townhomes, duplexes and apartments are effectively banned in many neighborhoods. Now some communities regret it.

… If, as expected, a regional council approves it this year, duplexes and triplexes will be allowed citywide on what are now single-family lots.

Oregon’s bill would allow options as dense as fourplexes across cities larger than 25,000 people and within metropolitan Portland, and it would permit duplexes in towns of at least 10,000. Portland has spent several years planning its own zoning changes to single-family neighborhoods, amid opposition by homeowners.

Many Minneapolis blocks today date to before the 1920s, with duplexes or small apartment buildings next to single-family homes. For years, those older buildings have been considered “nonconforming,” as the law changed around them. Under Minneapolis’s new plan, that distinction will end, too.


Blackstone Looks to Cash In Its Massive Recession-Era Win


EU and Russia Reportedly Agree to Ditch Greenback in Bilateral Transactions

Naturally, the US won’t take this lying down. There are inherent risks of war baked into these sorts of decisions and moves.

However, I think Keynes’s Bancor will continue getting a rehearing until something similar comes into existence.


The Growing Risk of a 2020 Recession and Crisis

On the fiscal side, most advanced economies have even higher deficits and more public debt today than before the global financial crisis, leaving little room for stimulus spending. And, as Rosa and I argued last year, “financial-sector bailouts will be intolerable in countries with resurgent populist movements and near-insolvent governments.”

The truth is, taxes on the rich could be suddenly and dramatically raised while taxes on the poor could be slashed or completely eliminated. Fiscal spending could still go way up without too much trouble because interest rates would be near zero.

Roubini sounds too neoclassical in his thinking.


Texas Housing Program Aims to Rebuild Faster after Disaster

Desperately looking for a permanent place to live, Jones was approached by organizations behind the housing program known as Rapido, Spanish for fast. Under the program, a temporary modular core unit made up of interlocking wall, roof and floor panels would be built. Jones, her 10-year-old son Nyjel, who is disabled, and 12-year-old daughter Nnaji would live there while the rest of the house was built around them. The core is about the size of a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer. The process took about eight months, and Jones and her children now have a new, three-bedroom home, which looks like any other house.


After Lawmakers Abolish State Plumbing Licensing Board; Texas Governor Revives It

The plumbing board was among a group of state agencies this year up for sunset review, a process in which lawmakers periodically assess the efficiency of state entities and decide whether they should continue to exist. A bill that would’ve extended the plumbing board unexpectedly died on the House floor near the end of the legislative session.


Google to invest $1 billion in San Francisco Bay Area housing amid regional expansion

Nonprofits focused on homelessness and displacement will get $50 million, and $250 million will go toward an investment fund for developers specifically to build affordable housing.


Gravitational Solves IoT Security Pain Points with Privileged Access Management Solution

Teleport customer, TriNetX, a global health research network that optimizes clinical research, has numerous appliances installed in hospitals around the world. These appliances have no direct network access to them, so using Teleport IoT is the only way to access them.


Who Bought the Nearly $1 Trillion of New US Government Debt over the Past 12 Months?

… the total gross national debt soared by $960 billion, to a tad over $22 trillion. And the share of the US debt held by foreign holders dropped to 28.8%, down from the 34%-range in 2012 through mid-2015: ….

Of course, it’s not yet the percentage that matters as much as does the total foreign holdings indexed to inflation.


Fed stands pat on rates, signals it’s prepared to cut if trade war intensifies

The trade standoff is the chief reason for the uncertainty, but Powell also cited a sluggish global economy, weak business investment, inflation persistently below the Fed’s 2% target and a disappointing 75,000 job gains in May.

“We’re monitoring the impact of all these developments,” Powell said at a news conference. Citing solid consumer spending, he added, “So far this year, the economy has performed relatively well” and “the baseline outlook is a good one.”

But he added, “In the weeks since our last meeting, the crosscurrents have re-emerged.

I would have voted to cut.


Elizabeth Warren is running the year’s most substantive campaign. What does that say about everyone else?

Matt Bai has missed the point on Warren’s policy proposals and her campaign (at least concerning what I’ve said about them). It’s not that nobody ever issued policy proposals. It’s that nobody has issued so many in such a timely manner and campaigned on them in detail the way Warren has (where she’s gotten so much credit for it, where’s she’s focused on it, where’s she’s gotten the masses revved up on the details). The others cited by Matt did it more out of expectation to please the “pundits” and “journalists” and not with the expectation of getting it done. She’s serious about her plans. Also, Gore’s and Bradley’s plans weren’t nearly as radical (bold) as Warren’s.

I’m certainly not saying that Warren will sail through the campaign cycle unchallenged. It’s early yet.

I posted the following on June 7, 2019 and stand by it (qualified by my statement above):

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.

Please note that I did say “domestic-policy,” as she doesn’t have the foreign-policy experience and knowledge other candidates have had.


Storms bring tornadoes, floods, power outages across the US

Have you ever seen a heavy tree fall? If you’ve been close enough, what you remember is hearing the thud and even more so, feeling the ground shake. A large tree landing on a house, as you know, or should, can crush it.


What are we going to do?

The One Percent Have Gotten $21 Trillion Richer Since 1989. The Bottom 50% Have Gotten Poorer.

… even Scandinavia’s social democracies feature far more inequitable distributions of wealth than Americans think to be fair, according to Ariely and Norton’s survey. What’s more, it will take a lot of redistribution just to prevent America’s current wealth gap from growing even larger. …

Nothing short of progressively redistributing ownership of capital assets could bring our nation’s wealth distribution into alignment with its values. For the moment, neither Warren nor Sanders has released a detailed plan for doing that on a large scale. Their current platforms would be less likely to significantly reduce wealth inequality than to merely slow its growth.

Perhaps “we should adopt redistributive policies and institutions that are common throughout Western Europe, so as to prevent the one percent’s share of national wealth from rising too far above 40 percent” sounds like an extreme proposition to you. But the alternative — or at least the alternative’s implications for wealth inequality — would strike the average American as far more radical.


Bosses pocket Trump tax windfall as workers see job promises vanish

“The evidence continues to mount that the Trump-GOP tax cuts were a scam, a giant bait-and-switch that promised workers big pay raises, a lot more jobs and new investments, but they largely enriched CEOs and the already wealthy,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness.

He noted only 4% of the US workforce saw any sort of pay increase or bonus from the tax cuts. Meanwhile, data collected by ATF shows corporations have cut thousands of jobs since the tax cuts were passed, while using tax windfalls to buy back $1tn of their own stock, which primarily benefits corporate executives and wealthy investors since half of all Americans own no stock.


This would not be bad for landlords but just the opposite.

Julian Castro calls for surge in federal spending to end homelessness

A former mayor of San Antonio, Castro, 44, said he would quadruple the size of the federal Section 8 rent voucher program, which subsidizes the housing of nearly 5.3 million Americans in low-income households.

The program serves only 25% of eligible households. Castro called for expanding it to the remaining 75%, transforming the program to “a fully-funded entitlement program” similar to food stamps or Medicaid.


The IRS will not accept it. The US banking industry that runs on the US dollar will complain that Facebook will be undermining the sole legal tender of the US.

If we are going to create a more stable economy with greater, deserved equality, we need to have one currency.

Bitcoin Basher Nouriel Roubini Labels Facebook’s Libra a ‘Monopoly Scam’

… the mission of the cryptocurrency is to ‘’enable a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.’

As previously reported, Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be available to users of its other apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger.

Users of Facebook’s other apps will also get to use Libra

Initially, the cryptocurrency had been touted as being primarily aimed at the peer-to-peer payments market. Facebook has now made it clear it will be targeting businesses in future:

The first version of Calibra will support peer-to-peer payments and a few other ways to pay such as QR codes which small merchants can use to accept payments in Libra. Over time there will be many others including in-store payments, integrations into Point-of-Sale systems, and more.

FDIC insures deposits in regular US banks. What will back Facebook?

Facebook’s Libra will be an asset and a liability. Who will “own” it when it’s in the Facebook system? If Facebook goes down, bankrupt, etc., what will happen to the Libra?


This is correct:

Launching a Global Currency Is a Bold, Bad Move for Facebook

The way we structure money and payments is a question for democratic institutions, not technology companies.


Himalayan glacier melting doubled since 2000, spy satellites show

… serious consequences will be felt by those who rely on the great rivers that flow from the peaks into India, Pakistan, China and other nations. “It’s the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” said Philippus Wester, at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, who led the February study and said the new work was very convincing. “Increasingly uncertain and irregular water supplies will impact the 1 billion people living downstream from the Himalaya mountains in south Asia.”

“To stop the temperature rises, we have to cool the planet,” he said. “We have to not only slow down greenhouse gas emissions, we have to reverse them. That is the challenge for the next 20 years.”

Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Will Face ‘Regulatory Hurricane,’ Canaccord Analysts Say

Bruno Le Maire already called upon the Group of Seven central bank governors to prepare a report on Facebook’s project for the upcoming July meetings. Expressing a latent anxiety about the disruption of national currencies for the Euro, he said:

“It is out of question” that Libra “become a sovereign currency… It can’t and it must not happen.”

Markus Ferber, a German member of the European Parliament, was also concerned about Facebook’s supranational spread, adding to the conversation that with more than 2 billion users the tech-giant could become a “shadow bank.”

“Multinational corporations such as Facebook must not be allowed to operate in a regulatory nirvana when introducing virtual currencies,” he said, sounding the alarm for regulators.


Putin’s Warning: We are running out of time …

In 2021 – the last treaty that exists to regulate nuclear weapons expires. What then?

Putin poses some very serious and utterly important questions that simply are not getting nearly enough coverage in the US and West in general.


Could Household Debt Cause the Next Recession?

Colorado State economist Steve Pressman thinks so: in the next few years rising interest rates could squeeze household spending, and depress the economy.


Billions Stolen From Black Families by Predatory Lending [red lining]

White Collar criminologist Bill Black analyzes the new study, “The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago,” opening the way for a fruitful conversation about reparations and our future.


Blocking Robocalls: 4 Things to Know as New Rules Take Effect


Mom-and-pop landlords push investor share of home purchases to 19-year high


Infamous landlord to pay $3M in tenant harassment settlement

Under the settlement, an independent monitor will supervise Toledano’s real estate business to ensure he doesn’t engage in fraud or harass tenants. He will also be barred from directly interacting with tenants and required to hire an independent management company for his properties.

All told, Toledano will have to shell out $3 million in damages and penalties, but if he violates the terms of the agreement that figure could climb to $10 million ….


Global money-laundering watchdog launches crackdown on cryptocurrencies

Financial Action Task Force (FATF), set up 30 years ago to tackle money laundering, told countries to tighten oversight of cryptocurrency exchanges to stop digital coins being used to launder cash.

The move by FATF, which groups countries from the United States to China and bodies such as the European Commission, reflects growing concern among international law enforcement agencies that cryptocurrencies are being used to launder the proceeds of crime.

Countries will be compelled to register and supervise cryptocurrency-related firms such as exchanges and custodians, which will have to carry out detailed checks on customers and report suspicious transactions ….

I see zero point in simply not banning them altogether. The entire idea behind them is criminal and to undermine government regardless of that government, regardless of how democratic it is.


Agreed:

Frank Luntz vs. Grover Norquist: the GOP’s climate change dilemma in a nutshell

As for Democrats, they will face their own choice soon. If they take power in 2020, there will be many voices in Washington counseling them to bargain themselves down to the flawed and inadequate policy being put forth by the retired Republicans of the CLC. After all, it’s “bipartisan,” which automatically makes it the preferred option of knee-jerk “centrists.”


Sit Out the Treasury Rally at Your Own Risk

The U.S. Treasury is scheduled to sell a combined $131 billion worth of two-, five- and seven-year securities in the days ahead.

The sales should proceed smoothly, Cabana said, given recent strong demand for U.S. debt, but he’ll be watching to see if the auction yield is higher than the prevailing market rate for the securities at the times bids close — known as a tail.

“If they consistently tail, especially the two-year auction, then it might be a sign of investor fatigue,” Cabana said.

Obviously, I’m posting this not for or against buying Treasuries but because of the impact rates have on real estate and the general economy.


Exactly:

Data analytics company Chainalysis, among others, has warned that instead of more transparency, the now-official rule would spur services to shut down or drop off the radar.

All Global Crypto Exchanges Must Now Share Customer Data, FATF Rules

I don’t trust government leaving the door open to these cryptos. Why are they really doing it? Are there people in government who want to leave it so that the darkside can still use crypto?


A radical legal ideology nurtured our era of economic inequality

Law and economics in fact revives an earlier legal ideology that also cast an affirmative preference for hierarchy and inequality as non-intervention. The infamous Lochner v New York decision of 1905 has come to represent this ideology. In that case, the US Supreme Court overturned a maximum-hours law for bakery workers on the grounds that it violated principles of ‘freedom of contract’. But of course this sort of judicial action is in fact intervention by government in private affairs or in ‘the market’: it’s simply a particular type of state action. …

Following neoclassical economic theory, law and economics suggested that society’s resources are best allocated by permitting competition to set prices, and that market ordering through legislatures or workers’ organisations interferes with this optimal ‘natural’ process. Few other social scientists believe this, and a growing number of economists do not believe it either. …

The ideology of law and economics revolves around the concept of competition – suggesting to the world that this is the main value it seeks to promote, thus also seeking to limit governmental intervention with that process. But competition does not take place in a vacuum: it always requires rules, from property to contract to antitrust, that are themselves, logically speaking, limits upon competition. …

Competition law makes the affirmative decision to organise economic coordination primarily through traditional capitalist firms, rather than through alternative forms. These alternatives might include looser forms of producer associations that are more dispersed in ownership and more democratic in decisionmaking. Since the 1970s’ takeover by law and economics, antitrust law and institutions have intensified this preference for hierarchy and concentrated ownership. The unsurprising result is that economic coordination is increasingly accomplished through the mechanism of large, powerful firms, while economic cooperation among smaller players is increasingly disfavoured. These choices are fundamental to the policy prescriptions made by the law-and-economics approach. Again, we find ourselves with a choice that is necessarily moral and political: we can allocate coordination rights in a way that exacerbates imbalances in economic power, or in a way that ameliorates them. What we cannot do is pretend not to make the choice.


The following is highly charged politically, but it’s an extremely important risk-management, even existential, issue. That’s why I want to address it here a bit.

Trump says ‘I don’t care about the Europeans’ after questions on Iran crisis

“Yeah, John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay? But that doesn’t matter because I want both sides.”

When asked about arms deals with Saudi Arabia, the president said: “I’m not like a fool that says, “We don’t want to do business with them.” And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese … Take their money. Take their money, Chuck.”

President Trump is being honest about John Bolton being a hawk’s hawk. “If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay? But that doesn’t matter because I want both sides.”

John Bolton is not simply someone to hear so one knows, for whatever reason, what a hawk of hawks thinks. Bolton is the National Security Advisor. Trump doesn’t need Bolton in the position for Trump to know what the most hawkish view is. The most hawkish view is always to attack left, right, and center anything that moves in any manner that’s contrary to the neoconservative empire-building of the US.

Trump appears, and has appeared all along, to simply be using Bolton as the barking dog Trump can pull back at will. Bolton’s the bad cop to Trump’s sometimes good cop. Bolton is a negotiating tactic. It’s a bad idea because 1) the world has viewed the US with more than great suspicion for a long time and 2) the situation is only worsening. Foreign diplomacy is so deliberately erratic that other nations are beginning not to want to deal. At the very least, more and more of them are conjuring up ways to undermine the US. Such has always been the case, but the efforts are more determined than ever.

Concerning the Saudis, Trump says he’s “not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.'” That’s as bad or worst than his position on Iran.

Trump doesn’t understand moral hazard. He’s informing the world that if anyone wants the US to look the other way, just pay us enough and we will. Trump is treating foreign policy as nothing but cutthroat, sociopathic capitalism.

Let me be clear. Not everyone who calls himself or herself a capitalist promotes cutthroat or sociopathic tactics. They hold some things as being more important than money accumulation.

Khashoggi wasn’t very leftist. He was simply writing things moderately critical of the Saudi government. For that, he was murdered. Also, all those weapons Trump is for the Saudis buying from the US are turned against those who don’t want the Saudis interfering with their internal affairs. Yemen is the prime example, where the Saudis have indiscriminately attacked and cause widespread, undeserved pain and suffering, etc. To top it off, the Houthis are predominately democratic. They are not Iranian theocratic cutouts.

Let’s not forget that the Saudis have been the biggest promoters of the most extremely militant form of supposed Islam throughout the Middle East and world. It’s ironic when one thinks about how al Qaeda and others denounce the Saudi monarchy. Perhaps it’s the perfect example of why one shouldn’t support what one opposes. Have the Saudi “royals” simply been appeasing the al Qaeda types by helping to spread the same strain of militant Islam?

The real solution: The sooner the US and the rest of the world gets off oil, the sooner the Saudis’ money will dry up. They won’t have money to buy Russian or Chinese weapons. Regardless, the US should take a consistent global position, not treating the weak rich with kid gloves while knocking the poor all about.

The US has been driving Russia toward China while criticizing Russia for being authoritarian while China is an absolute dictatorship and Saudi Arabia is too. This is all on account of worshiping money rather than what’s truly right. Money over what’s right is still evil.

Trump’s setting US foreign policy up on evil grounds. There’s no other honest way to view it.

Who’s really being the fool, Donald?


Hotel owner sues insurance company after Vegas mass shooting


Fundamental error in thinking by Robert Reich:

America is a democracy and China is a dictatorship, right?

True, but most Americans have little or no influence on public policy – which is why the Trump tax cut did so little for them.

Forget China – it’s America’s own economic system that’s broken

Let’s be honest, shall we. America is a democracy in name only, not in practice. The so-called democracy in the US has always been a system so limited, so rigged, that the People have never had the final say. America is a corporatocracy under a plutocracy. America is a dictatorship of the plutocrats calling all the shots of the dominant corporations, which have bought enough of the politicians’ cooperation to serve the plutocrats’ needs and wants over the needs and wants of the rest of the people. What the US and China both need is democracy. The rest is distracting noise.


I’ve never supported the indirect method of cap-and-trade. It’s too slow. We have a global warming emergency to deal with. We need direct investment in clean alternatives and to subsidize that throughout the entire global economy.

Militia threat shuts down Oregon Statehouse amid walkout

Those opposed to the cap-and-trade plan say it would exacerbate a growing divide between the liberal, urban parts of the state and the rural areas. The plan would increase the cost of fuel, damaging small business, truckers and the logging industry, they say.

Democrats say the measure is an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities’ ability to adapt to climate change.


These are the world’s healthiest nations

The US, where life expectancy has been dropping partly as a result of opioid overdoses and suicides, is ranked just 35th on the list. That’s five places lower than significantly poorer Cuba, with its long history of investment in publicly funded healthcare and emphasis on preventive medicine.


Facebook should never be too big to be allowed to fail. Facebook should never be bailed out. Facebook should never be allowed to risk the common people’s wealth.

Facebook’s Libra Must Be Stopped

Should Libra ever face a run, central banks would be obliged to provide liquidity.

Facebook is barreling ahead as if Libra was just another private enterprise. But like many other financial intermediaries before it, the company is promising something that it cannot possibly deliver on its own: the protection of the currency’s value. Libra, we are told, will be pegged to a basket of currencies (fiat money issued by governments), and convertible on demand and at any cost. But this guarantee rests on an illusion, because neither Facebook nor any other private party involved will have access to unlimited stores of the pegged currencies.

Given these massive risks, governments must step in and stop Libra before it launches next year. …

Silence in response to Facebook’s announcement this week is tantamount to endorsing its dangerous new venture. Governments must not allow private, profit-seeking parties to put the entire global financial system at risk. If banks are “too big to fail,” then states definitely are. If governments fail to protect us from Facebook’s latest act of hubris, we will all pay the price for it.


You’ll often read or hear neoliberals pointing to Sweden as proof that social democracy can’t but fail. They claim Sweden cast off it’s social (strong wellfare-state) underpinnings. It’s not true.

Sweden is a top performer on well-being. Here’s why

Sweden is known for its progressive social policies, albeit paid for by high taxes that fund a robust social safety net, generous parental leave and publicly funded healthcare and education.

There’s even a Swedish word that describes the concept of the state looking after everyone, whether rich or poor: Folkhemmet, or “people’s home”.


So, you think socialized anything is bad? Think again.

How does Finland’s top-ranking education system work?

It is considered one of the best education systems in the world. It routinely outperforms the United States [emphasis added] in reading, science, and mathematics. And it has been a top performer since the first Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) triennial international survey back in 2000.

But ask someone what’s so great about Finland’s schools, and you’ll typically be supplied with a factoid or three. They have shorter school days. They don’t do standardized tests. They all must be smart because the Finnish language is a nightmare.

While these facts are true — except for that last one — they miss Finland’s well-raked forests for its trees. Finland’s education system works because its entire structure has been around several core principles. First and foremost, equal access to education is a constitutional right. Another important principle is that one should be allowed to choose their educative path, which should never lead to a dead end.


The following is a solid update:

Back when the US was the largest net-importer of crude oil in the world, any increase in the price of oil siphoned most of this money out of the US economy to oil-producing countries. As consumers and businesses had to shift spending dollars from US products to products based on imported oil, a big surge in oil prices – the “oil shock” – could trigger a recession.

This picture has now completely changed. And Fed Chair Jerome Powell made note of it during the post-meeting press conference on Wednesday.

If the price of WTI goes back to $75 or $80, there will be a flood of new investment in the oil patch in the US. This spending would flow into manufacturing and services. It would flow into wages. It would flow into trucking and tech. It would ricochet around the US through the multiplier effect. Now that the US is the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world, higher prices for these products are actually beneficial to the overall US economy, just like they are beneficial to OPEC. This is a new experience for the US.

Wolf Richter: Bring on Higher Oil Prices: They’ll Boost the US Economy. Powell Sees it Too. A New Experience for the US

However, that does not mean that switching as rapidly as possible to clean, alternative energy is not better than higher oil prices for the general US economy. Switching is still better by far.


A. Gary Shilling is one of the best, if not the best, at this sort of analysis.

Get Ready for 1% Bond Yields

I’ve been predicting chronic low inflation, if not deflation, for years. Worldwide supplies of almost everything exceed demand, pushing prices down. Globalization has restrained U.S. wages despite the 3.6% unemployment rate as Western technology is combined with cheap Chinese and other Asian labor. Uber Technologies Inc. and other on-demand businesses also depress labor rates while Amazon.com reduces all prices to the lowest offering.

The Fed may cut its policy rate in coming months, but equity investors who view this possibility as bullish are neglecting the central bank’s reason—the slipping economy and likelihood that, once again, its earlier credit-tightening has precipitated a recession. By my count, in 12 of the 13 attempts by the Fed in the post-World War II period to simply cool what it saw as an overheating economy, a recession followed. The only soft landing was in the mid-1990s.

As I’ve said before, the Fed is behind the curve, as usual. It will take fiscal stimulus, just like the last time. However, this time, the deficit hawks will have no clothes because they cut corporate taxes and increased the deficit. Besides, interest rates will be near, at, or even below the ZLB (zero lower bound).

So far, I don’t see a deep or long recession. That could change depending upon a whole host of variables.


As EPA Continues To Shield Fossil Fuel Industry, Report Warns Of Future Filled With Hazardous Waste

The EPA recognized in internal memos that this kind of pollution was “one of the largest failures in U.S. history to supply clean drinking water to the public.”

Still, the agency has allowed itself to serve the interests of industry rather than correct loopholes that enable exponential increases in pollution as oil and gas projects expand despite the looming threat of climate chaos.

“Even if we stop all new drilling and fracking immediately, the flood of toxic waste streams will continue to grow for decades,” declared Melissa Troutman, the lead author of the study. “In spite of industry claims of innovation, the risks from oil and gas waste are getting worse, not better.”


Many state governments have been passing laws forbidding counties and local governments from protecting citizens from corporate and industrial practices. Many higher courts reverse the decisions of lower courts that uphold local laws. Even the federal government passes laws restricting state, county, and local governments from protecting their citizens and others beyond federal protections. This is one reason that from the top down, from the federal government down, we need as much pure/direct democracy as we can manage. The more needed protections and enforcement actions we have, the lower our insurance premiums will be. That’s only one cost reduction among many others.

Judge Tosses Suit over Northwest Iowa City’s Odor Ordinance

City administrator Glenn Anderson said the plant’s operation has improved and the city hasn’t cited the company for an odor violation since April 2018.


Fact: Not seeking to slow, stop, and reverse human caused global warming due to carbon burning is a deficiency that if left in charge, will lead to widespread mental trauma. Each person needs a working conscience and should not wait for something to happen directly to him or her to develop a real sense of not only sympathy but also empathy for those already, and those soon to be, directly negatively impacted by the rise in sea levels and other results of global warming.

Mental Stress on Rise as Coastal Towns Confront Climate Threats

In the United States, a range of coastal communities are currently planning to move, from indigenous villages in Alaska to others in Louisiana.

… with the United States only starting to grapple with climate-induced retreat, the notion that it will bring about a unique set of mental health issues is barely on the map ….


The United States is far from leading in the right direction away from global warming. At best, the US government is dragging its feet for the sake of further enriching those whose business is destroying our environment. It’s the real tragedy of the commons. Unbridled corporate pollution is the biggest environmental tragedy so far in human history.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Must Be Halved by 2030 to Avoid 3C Warming: Scientists

… energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were at a record high last year and new renewable power capacity has stalled after years of strong growth.

At the same time, methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, has risen in recent years due to oil and gas production, including fracking.


Flooded Nebraska Homes to Be Razed, but It’s Uncertain Who Pays the Bill

A suburb of Omaha, Nebraska, has condemned 195 flood-damaged homes, but it’s unclear who will be paying the expected bill of more than $1 million to raze them.


Sanders Calls For 21st Century Bill of Rights

Bernie Sanders’ 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights:

A Bill of Rights that establishes once and for all that every American, regardless of his or her income in entitled to:

The right to a decent job that pays a living wage
The right to quality health care
The right to a complete education
The right to affordable housing
The right to a clean environment
The right to a secure retirement

The first should be modified to “The right to 1) a decent, non-make-work job that pays a living wage or 2) a living income if no decent, non-make-work job is readily available.”

The others could be modified to add clarity as to coverage and definitions.

There are those who don’t like economic rights at all, other than for the “capitalist” class (the owners of the means of production). I don’t understand why they can’t see the overall benefits to everyone if economic rights are extended to everyone. It’s very shortsighted and selfish of them.

Some of them have gone so far as to say that because the USSR had some of these rights in it’s constitution, the Sanders plan must be Stalinistic, as in dictatorial. They don’t say anti-democratic, however. That’s quite telling considering Sanders has pointed out how many billionaires are for socialism for themselves. The libertarians call it crony capitalism. The Koch brothers (who claim to be libertarians) practice it as a dark art.

One needs to be perfectly clear. Stalin was anti-democratic. Stalin was opposed to democratic socialism. Bernie Sanders is completely for democracy. He is not, and never has been, a Stalinist. No where has Sanders called for the end of capitalism. He is only in favor of public administration and/or public ownership resulting from the free and fair vote of legal voters.

I’m not endorsing Bernie Sanders for President here. I’m simply dispelling false statements and notions about the policies and practices he’s calling for.


Shocking if true. Also if true, we must fix it.

After the 1898 Spanish-American war the US colonized Cuba and Puerto Rico, as well as the Philippines. The US invaded Mexico in 1914 to support the oligarchy against the nationalists.

The US refused to recognize Haiti’s government until 1862, even though it had gained independence from France in 1804. The US militarily occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. During the Spanish Civil War, the US supported the fascist dictator Franco.

Some of the most notorious dictators that the US has backed are Batista in Cuba, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Pinochet in Chile, Noriega in Panama, and “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti.

During the 1980’s the US sponsored death squads in Central America.

The US backed the French in Indochina and Africa, the British in the Middle East and the 1982 colonial Falkland Island War.

The US backed Suharto of Indonesia in his genocidal invasion of East Timor.

The US backed apartheid South Africa, and had Nelson Mandela on its terrorist list until 2008. Is this the picture of a country that loves democracy and human rights?

Just as the US overthrew a democratic government in Guatemala in 1954 for United Fruit Company, the US is now trying to overthrow a democratic government in Venezuela for the benefit of US oil companies, and Canadian mining companies. And just as neocon Elliot Abrams was in charge of the death-squads in Central America during the 1980’s, he is now Trump’s special envoy for Venezuela. To believe that the US wants to “restore democracy” in Venezuela takes cognitive dissonance.

What drives US foreign policy is the quest for absolute military superiority, preservation of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, maintaining the capitalist world order, controlling the world’s natural and human resources, promoting a stable business-friendly environment for Western transnational corporations, and seeking opportunities for windfall profits for cronies.

In other words, the US wants to control the whole world. If that means overthrowing non-compliant democratically elected governments and supporting military coups and dictators, killing millions of people, then as far as the US is concerned, so be it. That is criminally insane.

… how does the US square what it now says is its concern for democracy, when the US tried to overthrow the government in 2002, regardless of it being a democratically elected government? The US’s fallback argument is that an adversary is never democratic enough, as Hook explained. It is the same answer the US gave in 1954 when it overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz.

It is the same answer the US gave in 1973 when it overthrew and assassinated Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.

It is the same answer it gave in the 1980’s when it was backing the Contras in Nicaragua. It is the same answer the US gave when it overthrew the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 1994, and then overthrew him again when he was elected in 2004. It is the same answer that the US gave when it backed the military coup in Honduras in 2009. For the US, an adversary is never democratic enough, and it must go.

Maduro must go because he is costing US and Canadian corporations and banks money. …

International law is meaningless to the US, and that is not new with Trump. The US has a long history of ignoring international law. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton have a vision of the world as the wild west, with no international law, just anarchy. It is the cynical view that might-makes-right, and that the US is above the law.

It was the Bill Clinton administration that coined the phrases American exceptionalism and the indispensable nation.

That was the polite way to say that the US is above the law. It is just that Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, and Abrams do not have good manners. That is not a policy change, it’s Trump stepping into an imperial presidency that was left to him by Bush and Obama.

Oh, the Trump administration still speaks out of both sides of its mouth with platitudes that the US is a force for good in the world, and that its values are democracy and human rights. Only fools believe that anymore.

US and Canada Back the White Supremist Minority in Venezuela

To have the very best environment and economy worldwide, we must radically change direction away from elitism and racism toward democracy. It’s required. It’s fundamental. Anti-democracy is beyond an existential threat. It’s species suicide.


The following matters concerning health insurance among other things.

New York State Reaches Landmark Deal On Green New Deal-Style Climate Bill

Once passed, the legislation would make New York the sixth state to adopt a 100% clean electricity target after Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington. Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., set similar targets.

… the bill’s scope is more ambitious than the 100% clean energy bill California passed last year. The Golden State’s legislation set a 100% zero-emissions electricity goal by 2045, and an executive order from the governor broadened the vision to include climate pollution from transportation, the biggest source by sector.

The CCPA goes further, requiring New York to generate 70% of its electricity from renewables by 2030, and completely eliminate utility emissions by 2040.


Genetically Engineered Farm Animals: Regulators Rush to Keep Consumers in the Dark

If the biotech industry has its way, the meat, eggs and milk on your plate could soon come from genetically engineered farm animals—and without laws requiring these products to be labeled, you’ll never know.

… “pharm” animals—animals genetically engineered to produce drugs—have been around since for more than two decades. But the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption—GMO salmon—was only recently approved. More are on the way, at an alarming pace, and without adequate testing and consideration for the impact these GMO foods will have on human health and the environment, much less for the animals themselves.

… scientifically-flawed notion that single genes have single functions and that genes are like Lego bricks where you can simply replace a red brick with a yellow one without consequence.

… a common variant of the gene SLC39A8 decreases a person’s risk of developing hypertension and Parkinson’s disease, but increases their risk of developing schizophrenia, Crohn’s disease and obesity. Its influence on many other diseases and its interactions with other genes and with the environment, they said, remains unknown.

… when Chinese researchers engineered rabbits to make them meatier, the animals developed enlarged tongues; similar experiments on pigs led some to develop an additional vertebrae.

Sheep gene-edited to produce a particular colour of wool had more spontaneous abortions; calves in Brazil and New Zealand, genetically engineered to be less vulnerable to heat stress, died prematurely.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of these adverse effects is that they aren’t unique to genetically engineered livestock.

Genetic selection for high milk yield is the major factor causing poor welfare and health problems in dairy cows. Breeding hens to produce more and more eggs causes osteoporosis creating a substantial risk of fractures, as well as lameness. Likewise, breeding pigs for rapid growth leads to leg disorders and cardiovascular malfunction.

Our system for producing livestock is very broken. But instead of fixing the system, genetic engineering aims to better adapt the animals to crowded, filthy and inhumane living conditions and further entrench a factory farming system that is not fit for a humane and sustainable society.


‘Now We Know Oil Is More Toxic Than We Thought’ (CounterSpin interview with Riki Ott on Exxon Valdez spill)

Janine Jackson interviewed Riki Ott about looking back on the Exxon Valdez oil spill for the March 27, 2009, episode of CounterSpin—an interview that was reaired for the June 14, 2019, show. This is a lightly edited transcript

… now we know that oil is more toxic than we thought.

And where is the news on this? This should be tied into the debates right now on global climate crisis. Do we need to get off oil, not only for the sake of the planet, but also that this stuff is much more toxic than we thought in the 1970s, when we passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act? We’re talking 1 percent of a child’s lung capacity for every one year of their life, just by breathing urban air that the federal government regulates as safe and is not. Bush administration standards are now being challenged by Obama. And this is the fine soot standard, this is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the fraction of oil that we now know causes long-term harm, in wildlife and in people.


The Advent of Truth-Destroying Technology

Why is it that tech geeks take pride in developing technology that makes truth even harder to find? What is wrong with their character as humans that they create methods of destroying the ability to know truth? How is this different from releasing an undetectable substance into the air that wipes out life?

The only use of this technology is to allow the police state complete control. It is now possible to put words and deeds into the mouths and actions of anyone and use the faked evidence to convict them of the simulated crime.

Without truth there is no liberty, no freedom, no independent thought, and no awareness. There is only The Matrix.


The One Percent Have Gotten $21 Trillion Richer Since 1989. The Bottom 50% Have Gotten Poorer.

… both Warren and Sanders have cribbed their signature policies from European nations. As the 2018 World Inequality Report demonstrated, policy choices do matter — and income inequality is much lower in Western Europe than it is in the U.S.

But even Scandinavia’s social democracies feature far more inequitable distributions of wealth than Americans think to be fair ….

Nothing short of progressively redistributing ownership of capital assets could bring our nation’s wealth distribution into alignment with its values. For the moment, neither Warren nor Sanders has released a detailed plan for doing that on a large scale. Their current platforms would be less likely to significantly reduce wealth inequality than to merely slow its growth.

Perhaps “we should adopt redistributive policies and institutions that are common throughout Western Europe, so as to prevent the one percent’s share of national wealth from rising too far above 40 percent” sounds like an extreme proposition to you. But the alternative — or at least the alternative’s implications for wealth inequality — would strike the average American as far more radical.


Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada

Prior to the wide-mouth pipelines of toxic Alberta crude planned through BC mountains, lands and waters to US processors, oil has to be extracted from the tar-sands first. This demands a continuous gargantuan depleting and polluting of the great Athabaska Lake, River and watershed to steam-boil the tar out of the vast open-pit mines. The immense open-pit mines are not formed or pumped out of desert as in the Middle East. They are torn in state-size chunks out of the earth’s mantle by monstrous wrecking machines ripping out the boreal forest lands by the roots to destroy the carbons sinks and water-hold stabilization they provide in the Northern region as well as pump out ever more climate-changing gases.

To boil the tar out of the endless open-pit mines already demands the equivalent of twice the amount of water the entire City of Calgary uses and recycles in a year. But water consumed by the tar-sand boiling is permanently polluted and wasted, and its fresh- water take from the great Athabaska watershed will only increase as the tar-sands ‘development’ is maximized, accessible oil fields are exhausted and prices rise. So too the annihilation of the boreal forests acting as a sink for carbon and holding the watershed together will be permanently lost.

Yet this is only the beginning of what ends up being the biggest single point-source of carbon pollution and climate destabilization in the world. It pollutes 2.5 times more carbon gases than natural oil. Extraction mechanisms cost almost 8-times more fossil fuels than natural oil, and use overall almost as much energy as is produced!


Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.


United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education

Despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, the IMF’s findings expose how fossil fuels continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding. The report explains that fossil fuels account for 85% of all global subsidies and that they remain largely attached to domestic policy. Had nations reduced subsidies in a way to create efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015, the International Monetary Fund believes that it “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.”

The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.

… with the continued drop in the costs of renewable energy, private entities are taking over and ensuring that the clean energy transition continues despite the unwavering support the fossil fuel industry receives from both governments and businesses.

Renewable energy is set to overtake fossil fuels as the energy source of the future, with or without the subsidies paid out for coal, petroleum and natural gas.


Obviously, Bernie Sanders has no intention of being outdone by Elizabeth Warren in the race to be the next FDR.

Bernie Sanders unveils plan to forgive $1.6 trillion in student loan debt

We really do need to wipe out all of that debt and make college free.


Details behind the details behind the details: The Ivory Tower team of wonks behind Warren’s policy agenda

As I said, she’s into the real details more than any politician in my lifetime. She’s not just spitting out policies to please the media, etc. She wants the people to rally around her detail orientation and ability to simplify/explain.


Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 18, 2019

If you haven’t heard of Warren’s plan, read this first: “economic patriotism.”

Elizabeth Warren’s Radical Plan to Fix the Dollar

The reality is that China and about 20 other nations …. By using public capital to purchase huge quantities of United States government securities over the past two decades, they have driven up the value of the dollar to make their own exports supercompetitive.

And it worked. Overseas currency manipulation by central governments made American exports more expensive all over the world. And it made products manufactured in China and other countries cheaper in comparison. It’s the primary reason America’s trade deficit soared over the last 20 years, wiping out almost five million manufacturing jobs, roughly 90,000 factories and the livelihood of thousands of the nation’s farmers.

Wall Street didn’t object to the dollar gaining value. It enabled a flood of cheap imports, and has driven huge profits for the companies that sell them, especially Walmart, Amazon, Nike and Apple. It also led to a reduction in wages for 80 million American workers competing with countries whose labor has been cheapened by these undervalued currencies.

… currency misalignment — driven by large flows of private foreign capital into the financial markets — is still lifting the dollar higher. And this misalignment is blunting the effect of President Trump’s China tariffs. Beijing has reduced the value of its currency by 9 percent in the last year, which has offset the president’s tariffs by lowering the cost of all of China’s exports.

The president gives lip service to complaints about the strong dollar. He says that China has given itself a “tremendous” competitive advantage by weakening its currency. But his administration, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — a Goldman Sachs alum — and a team of Wall Street veterans, does nothing in response.
… an overvalued dollar is now the primary drag on America’s global competitiveness. This currency problem has been ignored for too long, and it’s a growing problem for America’s workers and domestic industries. Wall Street’s self-interest should not be allowed to stand in the way of finally fixing it.

The easiest way to reduce the value of the dollar is to create enough dollars, issuing no US Treasuries, but releasing the new dollars directly into the Main Street economy. Give the money to the poor and lower and lower-middle classes first, who would pay off debts, save, and spend first on necessities followed by discretionary goods and services. This would not only reduce the international value of the US dollar but would also heat up the domestic economy while substantially reducing poverty.


New Orleans to Elevate Houses That Flood Repeatedly

The city of New Orleans is using a $12.5 million grant to elevate more than 50 houses that have experienced repeated flooding.


The Decline of American Journalism Is an Antitrust Problem

As a former antitrust enforcer, I believe that the starving of journalism and the disinformation crisis are in good part monopoly problems. I’ve been writing about antitrust and tech platforms since the summer of 2016, when I noticed that the tech giants—Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple—were doing the same types of things Microsoft had been sued for nearly 20 years earlier. They were leveraging their market power to make fair competition impossible.

News is not just any commodity. It’s a social good that is essential to hold power to account. It was a journalist named Ida Tarbell that took down the most notorious monopoly in US history, Standard Oil.


Stage Set For a Dovish Shift

The University of Michigan measure of long-run inflation expectations fell to a record low in June while the 5-year, 5-year forward expected rate of inflation remains mired below 2%.


Some people claim there’s no such thing as fractional-reserve banking. However, the Fed pays banks interest on excess reserves. Excess reserves are reserves above the percentage required. Required reserves are also known as regular reserves. None of this could exist or happen without there being fractional-reserve banking.

The Brave New World of Monetary Policy Operations

Today, banks must hold significant liquid assets to back various sorts of short-term liabilities. The details of the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) are complex, but the basics are simple: banks need to hold some combination of reserves and U.S. Treasury securities to guard against deposit outflows in times of stress. That is, prior to going to the Fed to borrow, these new regulations envision that banks will use the liquid assets they have on hand to meet withdrawals.

In practice, it turns out that banks prefer to hold reserves than securities to insure against the possibility of outflows. There are several reasons for this. First, if securities―even U.S. Treasuries―are sold quickly, it can drive prices down (something that banks’ own liquidity stress tests may assume). Second, everyone finds out when someone is selling securities under stress. If a bank uses reserves to meet withdrawals, only the Fed knows. The mix of liquidity considerations and the stigma from large Treasury sales makes reserves very attractive.


DNS hijacking grabs headlines, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg

“As routers get more RAM, more processing power and more storage space, they become more appealing to cybercriminals,” Tanase says. Victims often don’t know they are hit. “They have an antivirus installed on their computer and think they are safe. Truth is, their router could be hacked, or the router of the ISP, or the DNS of the TLD.”

Tanase says hackers use plenty of techniques, some of which take advantage of the growth of the internet of things. He mentions DNS rebinding attacks on IoT networks, in which a malicious web page makes visitors run a script that targets other machines on the network. There are also DNS amplification DDoS attacks, in which vulnerabilities in the DNS servers are exploited to turn small queries into larger packets that flood a victim’s servers.

The researcher has also seen hackers who used DNS queries to communicate with command-and-control servers. “Why? Because sysadmins often fail to log DNS requests,” he says. “Cybercriminals buy a domain, and they set up a DNS server so that it accepts requests for any subdomain of that domain. Then, they use encrypted commands as subdomains to communicate with command and control servers.”


I see so many articles by Westerners who are supporting Xi and claiming that the Tiananmen crackdown has been wildly exaggerated in the Western MSM and that China was simply protecting itself from the US empire they claim was completely behind the entire Democracy Movement in China and that the movement was really a capitalism movement and not a democracy movement.

Well, if all of that’s true, why is China’s Xi afraid of releasing the actual data, video, etc., that the Chinese government has on what really happened? We’ve only been granted tiny bits and pieces.

Some of it makes pro-democracy protesters look bad, but we have those here in the US too. In my view, it’s no reason to badmouth the entire pro-democracy movement.

I think an independent investigation is exactly right, but how can anything in China be handled independently considering China is a totalitarian dictatorship? An independent investigation that can’t get into China and can’t look at the documentary evidence in China won’t convince enough of the world about what really happened and why.

Chinese activists seek U.N. investigation into Tiananmen crackdown

The anniversary remains taboo in China. Beijing has not held a public inquiry nor permitted an independent investigation, the statement said.