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.


Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 17, 2019

The Mega-Profit Potential of Apartment Syndication (Double Your Money!)

The above chart shows an equity multiple of 1.9X, which means that I can expect to almost double my investment in a span of five years. An IRR of 15.2 percent means that I will be earning an average of 15.2 percent annual return.

Additionally, the 15.2 percent annual return here is far greater than a 15.2 percent return through stocks. This is due to the tax benefits associated with real estate—perhaps even greater than a 20 percent annual return in stocks.


Private Money: How to Choose the Perfect Lender

The bottom line is the way you vet a private lender is to ask lots of questions and make sure you structure win-wins. High interest rates and lots of points are not wins for you. Lots of hurdles for you to jump through, weeks or months it takes to get the closings are not wins for you.


Some YubiKey FIPS Keys Allow Attackers to Reconstruct Private Keys

… all customers who own a YubiKey FIPS Series device and haven’t yet been contacted by Yubico are advised to review the advisory in its entirety and to go to Yubico’s YubiKey FIPS Series Replacement Portal to order a replacement free of charge.

Yubico is not the first vendor to recall security keys this year, with Google doing it for its Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Titan Security Keys with a T1 or T2 code just last month.

Microsoft is now also blocking the recalled Titan Security Keys and Feitian Multipass (Feitian CTAP1/U2F Security Key) from pairing and connecting to Windows 10 computers as shown in Redmond’s ADV190016 Bluetooth Low Energy Advisory issued yesterday.


Hackers Infect Businesses with CryptoMiners Using NSA Leaked Tools

A common thing for all infected computers in this campaign is a Diagnostics.txt document present in the main Windows folder which is, in fact, a ZIP archive containing the NSA-leaked exploits and several other malicious tools used in the attacks.


Hardware Security Keys Keep Getting Recalled; Are They Safe?

Despite the flaws and recalls, we do still recommend physical security keys. Yubico experienced an issue with randomness in one line of products specifically for the government and replaced it. Google ran into trouble with Bluetooth, but even that problem could only be exploited by attackers within 30 feet of you. Even a flawed Bluetooth Titan key definitely protected you from remote attackers.

These keys still meet high standards of security. The fact that both Yubico and Google are proactively disclosing flaws and offering free replacements of affected hardware is encouraging. The problems have never affected any standard USB or NFC-based security keys for regular consumers.

The biggest problem with these keys is the problem with all two-factor authentication. With most online services, you can simply use a less-secure method like SMS to remove the security key. An attacker who pulled off a phone port-out scam could gain access to your account even if you have a physical key attached. Only very high-security services—like Google’s Advanced Protection program—can protect you against that.

I like the Time Based One-Time Password method of 2FA.


Not a pretty picture:

Anti-State Statism and Slumlord Capitalism


Expanding Multigenerational Housing Options

Because of the high demand for multigenerational housing arrangements, communities have good reason to create and encourage housing options that accommodate such households.


Five Strategies to Help America’s Renters

America’s affordable housing crisis has fueled national concern about rental housing and affordability. A renter working 40 hours a week and earning minimum wage cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment in any US county, according to the the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

As part of the Urban Institute’s 50th anniversary, we are exploring evidence-based solutions to pressing public policy problems, including what can be done to ensure quality, affordable housing for all.


More worry for China as industrial growth disappoints

China’s economy showed further signs of weakness last month, with industrial output posting its slowest growth in 17 years….

… the overall downward trend gives Xi little room to fight back forcefully against the US, which is using tariffs as leverage to try to force China into opening up its economy.


Unless the one-party dictatorship by the Communist Party of China falls, I don’t see how Hong Kong will be able to hold out. The democrats may be able to slow things down, but how will they keep the dictators from finally invading whenever the dictators feel like it?

Hong Kong braces for huge rally after leader climbdown

“The pro-democracy group will not stop at this point, they want to build on the momentum against Carrie Lam,” political analyst Willy Lam, told AFP. “They will keep the heat on and ride the momentum.”


Big businesses paying even less than expected under GOP tax law [cached: https://web.archive.org/web/20190623183424/https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:G66EvCmazt0J:https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/13/big-businesses-pay-less-tax-law-1364591&strip=1&vwsrc=0]

The U.S. Treasury saw a 31 percent drop in corporate tax revenues last year, almost twice the decline official budget forecasters had predicted. Receipts were projected to rebound sharply this year, but so far they’ve only continued to fall, down by almost 9 percent or $11 billion.

Though business profits remain healthy and the economy is strong, total corporate taxes are at the lowest levels seen in more than 50 years.

At the same time, overall taxes paid by individuals under the new tax law are up so far this year by 3 percent, thanks to higher wages and salaries, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Last year tax payments by individuals went up 4 percent.

Overall corporate revenues last year amounted to 1 percent of GDP, a level they’ve dipped to only twice since 1965. Both of those previous instances, in 2009 and 1983, came in the wake of recessions, when business profits had cratered.


Why the Dutch Hate Bankers

The crisis sparked a host of regulations such as capital requirements 25% higher than the European average. Dutch banks face a special tax to cover the costs of their bailouts, whereas France and Germany scrapped similar levies after Brussels set up an EU-wide fund for the same purpose. They can’t deduct the full amount of interest costs from taxes, as banks in most other countries can. New rules allow companies to claw back bonuses if performance suffers. And bankers must sign an oath that they’ll always put customers’ interests first, won’t abuse confidential information, and will acknowledge their “responsibility to society.”

The biggest battleground is pay. Bonuses in the Netherlands can’t exceed 20% of fixed compensation, whereas elsewhere in the EU they can equal a worker’s base salary.


Rent Regulations in New York: How They’ll Affect Tenants and Landlords

“This legislation fails to address the city’s housing crisis, and will lead to disinvestment in the city’s private sector rental stock, consigning hundreds of thousands of rent-regulated tenants to living in buildings that are likely to fall into disrepair,” said the Taxpayers for an Affordable New York, a coalition of four real estate groups.

We’ll just have to wait to find out. One thing that would be foolish would be to deliberately fail to make affordable repairs just to make the new law look bad.


This one also gives both sides of the argument.

Tenant advocates and real estate insiders react to New York’s rent law reform

Most low- and moderate-income tenants live in very old buildings. These buildings have suffered from the most wear and tear and have antiquated building systems. They have the greatest need for upgrades of ancient bathrooms, kitchens, electrical wiring, and HVAC systems. Which investors will seek out opportunities to invest where their returns will be nonexistent or relatively minuscule compared to other alternative investments?

If we don’t have social housing, we must subsidize developers and landlords to supply affordable housing.


Arctic’s Melting Permafrost Will Cost Nearly $70 Trillion, Study Finds

… melting permafrost and sea ice “are two known tipping elements in the climate system” that could trigger a cycle of unstoppable global warming.

… “We have the technology and policy instruments to limit the warming but we are not moving fast enough.”


Humans are not off the hook for extinctions of large herbivores – then or now

… in the sea of bad news of ongoing extinctions and habitat degradation, there are some islands of hope that all is not lost. At the southern end of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is witnessing a renaissance of biodiversity, with populations of elephants, hippos and other mammals actually increasing. Gorongosa shows us that with long-term planning and collaboration with local populations it is not too late to allow degraded ecosystems to recover and that – if given the opportunity – nature has an astonishing capacity for resilience.


Renewable Energy Is Now The Cheapest Option – Even Without Subsidies

For many years, financing entities perceived renewables as risky because of high cost, leading to high lending rates for individuals and businesses that need funding for renewable power generation. As the IRENA report depicts, this trend has been on the decline since the early 2000s. The worldwide weighted average cost of electricity from solar power concentration fell by 26%, that of bioenergy reduced by 14%, solar photovoltaics, geothermal, onshore, as well as offshore wind, fell by 14%, and hydropower by 12%.

These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry.


Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 14, 2019

Hong Kong Authorities Bow to Beijing, Determined to Ignore a Million Protesters

Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets to protest against the growing influence of mainland China over the city. But, the protests are falling on deaf ears, says Prof. Sean Starrs.


Taking heat from critics, Bernie Sanders defends democratic socialist views

Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal policies, which included public works jobs, strong banking and financial regulations and the Social Security retirement program, made huge progress in protecting the needs of working families, Sanders said.

“Today in the second decade of the 21st century we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion,” he said in a speech at George Washington University designed to fight back against critics including Trump who have attacked him as an extremist for embracing the socialist tag.

Sanders … said Republicans were more than happy to exercise their own version of socialism by bailing out Wall Street and corporate interests that helped line their own pockets.

“We must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country basic economic rights,” he said, including quality healthcare, education, a decent job, affordable housing, a secure retirement and a clean environment.

“This is what I mean by democratic socialism,” he said.

I don’t know why Bernie Sanders insists on incorrectly defining democratic socialism. What Sanders is for, at most, is a watered-down version of social democracy, not socialism, per se. He’s definitely for the welfare state, but that’s not a liberal or progressive invention. It’s a conservative invention designed to ward off socialism. It’s referred to as appeasement via compromise.


Is Labour’s fiscal policy rule neoliberal?

Most of the time, I think things degenerate into counter-productive hairsplitting. Let me say, however, that the those who trashed MMT who aren’t full-on Austrian School started it (the argument).

MMT is not new. It’s true. Keynes knew everything MMT claims today. I also understand a New Keynesian taking some exception to being called a neoliberal (a so-called neoclassical economist: market-oriented and laissez-faire). Nevertheless, there is no doubt that New Keynesians are way too close to the neoclassical.


Green Groups Sue Trump Administration for Gutting Offshore Oil Safety Rules

There was a time in the US when a Deepwater Horizon oil leak would have seen all offshore drilling stopped forever. That was before fake libertarians took over crony capitalism.


Near-Record ‘Dead Zone’ Forecast off Gulf Coast

The nutrients in the fertilizers feed algae that die, decompose and deplete the water of oxygen, the Louisiana scientists said.

Sewage run off, caused by the spring floods, also add to the problem, National Geographic reported.


Massachusetts Construction Industry Confronts Drug Addiction Among Ranks

The construction industry’s struggles with addiction aren’t unique to Massachusetts, either. In Ohio, construction workers were seven times more likely than other workers to die from an opioid overdose between 2010 and 2016, an analysis by the Cleveland Plain Dealer found in 2017.

“We have to take care of each other,” said Lyle, the laborers’ union recovery specialist, who has been sober for nearly a decade after struggling for years with addiction to prescription painkillers and later heroin. “This is tearing our industry apart.”


Study Debunks Theory That Legalized Marijuana Helps Prevent Opioid Deaths

When the new researchers included data through 2017, they found the reverse: States passing medical marijuana laws saw a 23% higher than expected rate of deaths involving prescription opioids.

Legalizing medical marijuana “is not going to be a solution to the opioid overdose crisis,” said Chelsea Shover of Stanford University School of Medicine. “It would be wonderful if that were true, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that it is.”


Standing Rock Fights On: Tribal Activism Goes Solar

While the Green New Deal and United Nations climate reports make regular headlines, a less publicized push for renewable energy has been blazing across Native American communities. On South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation aims to “overpower intergenerational poverty” by building a sustainable community largely powered by solar. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has already installed 400 kilowatts of solar with plans for more, and the Forest County Potawatomi in Wisconsin have developed several arrays under a strong pro-green initiative. “Solar energy is spreading like wildfire through tribal nations right now,” says Robert Blake, a member of Minnesota’s Red Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians and founder of a solar installation company called Solar Bear. Solar energy, says Blake, can bring jobs and economic development to tribal communities, and tackle problems like poverty and addiction by giving people purpose. …

… In July 2014, one million gallons of oil-industry waste spilled from a pipeline and into a ravine that drains into the tribe’s main reservoir for drinking water. Duke University researchers revealed in a 2016 paper that the spill laced the land with heavy metals and radioactivity. “It leaked for the whole July 4th weekend,” says DeVille. “Did it get into our creek? Did it get into our water intake? We don’t know, these are all the questions I’ve been asking.” Two Bears says one Fort Berthold community recently contacted him, eager to install a solar array.

“There is a story in our culture about a group of medicine men that had a meeting long ago,” says Kendrick Eagle, a leading voice in the climate change youth movement, and Director of a group called Indigenized Youth. “They prophesied how in seven generations young people would stand up all around the world and create a movement and spark change — that is us.”


Toxic PFAS Chemicals Found in Maine Farms Fertilized With Sewage Sludge

All sewage sludge recently tested by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was contaminated with PFAS chemicals, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. The state tested the sludge, solid waste that remains after the treatment of domestic and industrial water, for the presence of three “forever chemicals”: PFOA, PFOS, and PFBS. Of 44 samples taken from Maine farms and other facilities that distribute compost made from the sludge, all contained at least one of the PFAS chemicals. In all but two of the samples, the chemicals exceeded safety thresholds for sludge that Maine set early last year.

The evidence of widespread sludge contamination comes just days after a Food and Drug Administration study revealed that PFAS chemicals were also found in food. The investigation, which was conducted by FDA chemists but made public by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Environmental Working Group, detected 16 PFAS chemicals in food samples collected from grocery stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Among them were PFOS, which was in almost half of the meat and seafood products (ground turkey, tilapia, and shrimp had particularly high levels); PFBA, which was found in pineapple; and PFHxS in sweet potato. A slice of chocolate cake with icing was found to have extremely high levels of a chemical called PFPeA.


What’s Worrying the Plastics Industry? Your Reaction to All That Waste, for One

In an interview, Johnson said industry leaders are starting to recognize sustainability is part of their social license to do business.


Rancher Refutes Impossible Burger Criticisms of Regenerative Grazing, Invites CEO to Leave His Lab and Visit a Real Farm

Will Harris, a fourth-generation farmer-rancher in Bluffton, Georgia, called out Impossible Burger for claims the company made today that regenerative grazing is “not sustainable at scale,” and that grassfed beef “generates more GHGs than feedlot beef.”

“As an independent professional rancher, who has practiced regenerative land management on our family farm for more than 20 years, I can state unequivocally that Impossible Burger’s claims about regenerative grazing are incorrect. Not only is our business financially successful on a large scale, but we are accumulating data showing that our practices are enhancing the carbon sequestration potential of the soil on the lands we manage.”


The Permafrost Nightmare Turns (More) Real

Gradual permafrost thaw is now passé: “Turetsky and an international team of researchers are looking at something very different: Rapid collapse of permafrost that can transform the landscape in mere months through subsidence, flooding and landslides,” Ibid.

Based upon observations as recorded by the Turetsky research team, a climate crisis has already set in. It is here now: “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years,” said Turetsky.


I think Xi is a terrible leader unfortunately being followed by other leaders and even being lauded by many self-styled “progressives.”

Xi Assailed on All Fronts as Hong Kong Adds to Trump Pressure


This will change after a higher tariff-rate kicks in.

Import prices drop 0.3% in May — cost of Chinese imports falling amid tariff fight


This next one was from June 5th. It’s already quite out of date. We’re certainly living in volatile times.

U.S. Recession Fears Spike As Market Sentiment Shifts In ‘Dramatic Fashion’

“The sharp escalation in US-China tensions has clouded the global economic outlook and is contributing to a slowing pace of economic activity in a number of economies, including the US and China,” said Elena Duggar, associate managing director at Moody’s, in a statement.

“In the event that trade tensions with China escalate into further rounds of tariffs, we would expect the Fed to cut rates by 25 to 50 basis points in order to support the economy.”


It’s amazing that they are just now doing this. I’d have done it decades ago. Of course, I’m still pushing the insurance industry to get on board with the Green New Deal or better (yes, better).

Natural disaster risk now considered in mortgage-backed securities ratings

The adjustment would add a new penalty to existing risk metrics. The hope is that it will better distinguish mortgage pools with high exposure to natural disaster risk, particularly those with high concentrations in Florida and California, said Bailey.

Last year, Hurricanes Florence and Michael caused a combined $49 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wildfires in California cost a record-breaking $24 billion, displacing the prior record for losses due to wildfires set in 2017.


U.S. Core Inflation Cools, Bolstering Case for Fed Rate Cut

… inflation is showing signs of firming by another measure that the Fed prefers. That core price gauge — linked to spending and excluding food and energy — firmed in April for the first time this year, though remained below the Fed’s 2% target. It tends to run slightly below the Labor Department’s CPI.


PCE and CPI Inflation: What’s the Difference?

There are two common measures of inflation in the US today: the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index (PCE) issued by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The CPI probably gets more press, in that it is used to adjust social security payments and is also the reference rate for some financial contracts, such as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and inflation swaps. The Federal Reserve, however, states its goal for inflation in terms of the PCE.


I’m no fan of carbon offsets or carbon credits.

More U.S. businesses making changes in response to climate concerns

… companies, for example, have directed more of their energy purchases toward wind and solar, especially as those sources become cheaper than fossil-fuel-driven power.

CDP said that 225 of the world’s 500 biggest companies say that climate change could generate more than $2.1 trillion of potential new business. More than half of that money would flow to financial institutions, which can move money into low-carbon projects and manufacturing. And more than a quarter of the money could flow into manufacturing ventures, such as electric-car makers.


How Young Buyers Are Redefining ‘Luxury’

Concerning the IoT, security, security, security!


Wealthy, older Manhattanites benefit most from rent regulation: report

In Manhattan, median regulated rents are 53 percent lower than median market rate rents. The Journal notes that many renters in the borough, particularly those who are 65 and older and haven’t moved in decades, have lower median regulated rents owing to some protections put in place through rent regulation laws, and therefore have a larger discount from market rate rents that helps create the large disparity.

Real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller says the proposed law awaiting Cuomo’s signature “will be a sea-change for multi-family real estate in New York,” with a potential byproduct of the law being a jump in rental to co-op conversions (made more difficult by a contingency that would require 51 percent of tenants to agree to a conversion, up from 15 percent.)

Miller continues: “This insures that insiders will be given significant discounts from market price to ensure conversion. This might result in fewer affordable rental apartments, but more cheaper co-op apartments.”


Wow! What a huge mess. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Better solve global warming ASAP!

Surveying the ‘existential threat’ posed by New York’s massive storm surge barrier

Like many waterfront advocates, Waxman is in favor of a response that includes more green infrastructure and natural measures. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to create oceanside topography that breaks up wave action, and that could eat up the energy of a storm surge, than it would be to build giant mechanisms which we are going to have to maintain and replace?” he says. “Unfortunately, we are taking a very American tack with this, which is building a machine to do something which nature would do better.”

The USACE storm surge gate proposals represent a pivotal moment for the future of New York City—and for those who know the waterfront best, the consensus appears to be that these proposals are inherently faulty. “The fatal flaw of the entire Corps study is that they are not proposing designs that would work for both sea level rise and storm surge flooding, and for that reason the entire study is fatally flawed,” says John Lipscomb, the vice president for advocacy at Riverkeeper, an organization which has been working to protect the Hudson River watershed since 1966.

“Either those communities are going to flood as sea level rises, or they are going to close the gates and the degree of contamination is just going to go up and up and up. And all our efforts at restoration are going to be made meaningless,” says Lipscomb. “To me, the only thing that is going to work for storm surge and sea level rise are a combination of shoreline protections, like floodwalls and levees and dikes, combined with strategic retreat. You can’t protect everything.”


Cool!

Millennials are transforming African farming

Africa has 65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, an abundance of fresh water and about 300 days of sunshine each year, according to the ADB.

Yet in 2017, African nations spent almost $65 billion importing food. “This is unsustainable, irresponsible, and unaffordable. It is also completely unnecessary,” says ADB President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

Although Africa produces almost three-quarters of the world’s cocoa beans, for example, it receives just 2% of revenues from global sales of chocolate. Dr. Adesina says that if African farms were to achieve their potential, the continent could become a major food exporter, with significant economic benefits.


Ayn Rand is on my short, short list of people I consider most evil.

Ayn Rand — a perverted psychopath


Symposium | Beyond NeoliberalismBuilding Post-Neoliberal Institutions

Some ideas that were considered laughable a few short years ago but are now part of day-to-day conversation—most notably proposals for far higher wealth and capital taxation, and ambitious public efforts to combat climate change or to expand public programs like free college and Medicare—are distinctly not neoliberal. Post-neoliberals are beginning to break through.

Neoliberalism’s vision for society made the market the prime organizing mechanism. By privileging markets above all other institutions, neoliberalism created a confusing, and contradictory, but ultimately extremely effective view of government. On the one hand, neoliberalism denigrates government. Anything that strays from market centrism is at best dismissed as inefficient and woolly-headed, and at worst demonized as collectivist socialism. On the other hand, neoliberalism is hardly anti-state. Neoliberals, as the historian Quinn Slobodian argues, built their project by using the state to “encase” markets in order to protect them from democratic challenges. …

Today, it is post-neoliberalism that is in an exciting, almost-out-of-the-wilderness, arguing-with-ourselves phase. We agree on plenty: the economic, social, and moral failure of market fundamentalism; the need to resurrect democracy against domination and to understand the democracy fight and the economic fight as one and the same; and the need for common values as part of our own statement of aims.

As was true for the neoliberals of 1947, we also have our own tensions. Are we in favor of more decentralization and community control (the Dakota Pipeline fight, 350.org) or more centralized decision-making (Green New Deal industrial policy focused on the transformation of our energy grid)? Should we focus on more worker democracy and ownership (collectivists and network pragmatists) or more modern, sectoral, and inclusive federal labor law (a Wagner Act for the twenty-first century)?

… real-world policy and political shifts: A new focus on antitrust and monopolies in federal politics has Democratic candidates on the left and in the middle railing against the strictures of the consumer welfare standard and calling for breaking up Big Tech, industrial agriculture, and pharmaceuticals. Some lawmakers are calling for public banking, massive public investment in green infrastructure, and publicly provided health insurance. These are all post-neoliberal proposals, and they have become increasingly commonplace.

… Neoliberal institutions remain strong exactly where post-neoliberal (or at least non-neoliberal) institutions are weakest. Large, profitable, often extractive private corporations hold more market power than ever. Any hope of countering this with public power will first require digging out of a ditch decades in the making.

The court system, from the Supreme Court on down, holds to a doctrine that is clearly pro-business and anti-labor. The Department of Justice Antitrust Division, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission, the Treasury Department, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, the White House National Economic Council: All of these government agencies and institutions are certainly, in the Trump Administration, neoliberal. But even in previous administrations, Democrat and Republican, neoliberal beliefs about the primacy of the private sector and the secondary (at best) role of workers, consumers, and citizens dominated. The “consumer welfare standard” held that only price—and not worker well-being, community well-being, or long-term investment—matter in making merger and acquisition decisions. Split decision-making power across the DOJ, the FTC, and a range of sector-specific agencies (Department of Transportation for airlines, Department of Agriculture for livestock, etc.) make for diffuse, ineffective decision-making, and the five-member FTC structure makes split voting, and status-quo outcomes, the norm. Consumer voice and input is muted at best, and worker and citizen voice is nonexistent.

… When Franklin Roosevelt built the New Deal, he started more than 100 new government agencies. Today, that is startling. Some of Roosevelt’s institutions have disappeared into the mists of time: the Federal Theater Project, the Civilian Conservation Corps. But some remain: the National Labor Relations Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission. How will we use or remake existing government entities, and what will our new institutions be?

… any new institutions must be alert to the realities of power: the importance of countervailing power, and of stewarding power well. Politics, after all, is about power at its core. Neoliberal intellectuals tried to assume away power, and built an entire discipline and way of thinking that competes power away. But neoliberal real-world actors used that as a vacuum to build vast institutional networks that are about nothing but power—the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity—while at the same time marketizing government such that most of its decisions are made in the service of private actors—large corporations with armies of lobbyists—rather than in the public good. To get better economic and social outcomes, government simply must be structured to do its job, and led by people who understand what that job is and don’t act as handmaidens for an increasingly rent-seeking corporate sector.

… subsidies, vouchers, and tax credits, which we know are all neoliberal and insufficient in terms of delivering actual results. Our new institutions, and the norms embedded within them, should begin with realities of challenging for power (and not a “not red America, not blue America, but one America” ideal that sounds terrific but ends up, when legislation is actually on the table, negotiating against itself). Stewarding power well is essential. But imagining that it does not exist is naïve, and ultimately foolish.


Bayer Dangles $5.6 Billion Olive Branch to Roundup Critics

Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto, known at the time as the “Most Hated Company in the World,” will go down in history as one of the dumbest buys ever made. It’s right up there with this one by Bank of America.


I guess “love of nature” is not his strong suit. Nevertheless, we have to reach people starting with something to which they can relate.

Talk of Managing Earth as an Asset Wins Over Congressional Climate Change Skeptic

“I did not expect to come and be inspired, but I really have been,” Woodall said. “Dr. Shiang, it was your testimony about managing the climate—managing the Earth—as an asset that got me started in the right place, because I think that’s something we can agree on, up and down the ideological spectrum. We all understand managing assets.”


Washington Insurance Fraud Cases Result in Guilty Pleas

Two insurance fraud suspects pleaded guilty and one suspect entered a diversion program after investigations by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s Criminal Investigations Unit.


It’s my understanding that those in Britain who decided to use the cladding were informed that it should not be used on buildings taller than 40 feet. We’ll have to see how this turns out.

Lawsuit Filed for ‘Defective’ Products Linked to London’s Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster

Three U.S. companies have been slapped with a wrongful death and products liability lawsuit for manufacturing products linked to London’s Grenfell tower fire. The fire, which has been called the worst UK residential fire since the 2nd World War, killed 72 people and injured many others on June 14, 2017.


Climate Change and the Reinsurance Implications

The litigation landscape has been changing, which in turn has implications for the reinsurance industry, especially those transacting commercial general liability, D&O and property business. And reinsurers as investors must appraise their investment strategy, including fossil fuel and renewable energy companies, to help mitigate the projected impact of climate change, according to the paper.

The paper notes that 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural catastrophe events, with $344 billion in global economic loss, of which 97 percent was due to weather-related events, while insured loss estimates from natural catastrophes totaled $140 billion in 2017.

A 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that global economic damages by 2100 would reach $54 trillion with a 1.5-degrees Celsius of warming of the planet, $69 trillion with 2 degrees Celsius of warming and $551 trillion with 3.7 degrees Celsius of warming.


If we don’t reverse global warming, which we could have already started, as in a real war-footing against excess greenhouse-gasses, we can expect more and more challenging choices where one way or another some large group will be hurt.

Mississippi Requests Pumps from Federal Govt. to Ease Flooding


The following linked-article doesn’t mention climate, warming, weather, or carbon. It’s Texas: the oil state.

Texas Governor Signs Disaster Relief, Preparedness Bills


Unfortunately, “conservatism,” as today’s usage dictates, is synonymous with shortsightedness. Consider the irony in the following title: Australia approves vast coal mine near Great Barrier Reef.

Coal mining leads to coal burning leads to global warming leads to ocean acidification leads to bleaching and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s money now over a habitable planet in the not too distant future. What’s doubly sad is that more money could be had without coal mining.


Carnival Cruise Ship Fleet Pollutes Almost 10 Times More Than All Cars in Europe: Study

This statement arrived days after Carnival agreed to a $20 million fine and undergo increased scrutiny of its plastic and sewage disposal practices, which included dumping both directly into the ocean in large quantities. Carnival allegedly tried to hide these activities from regulators by falsifying records or pressuring the United States Coast Guard to relax the terms of its environmental compliance agreement.

Despite automobiles releasing a significantly smaller proportion of harmful emissions than cruise ships, European regulators are taking to the law books to reduce the environmental impact of all transportation.


Late Edition: Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 10, 2019

Dallas Crane’s Computer Will Reveal Conditions at Time of Fatal Collapse, Expert Says

Giant construction cranes are designed to withstand winds up to 140 mph, Tom Barth, owner of Barth Crane Inspections, told weather.com.

When high winds are expected, crane operators can release a swing brake so the giant boom can freely spin. It’s called “weathervaning.”

If that turns out to be the cause, one should think computers on cranes would be hooked up to anemometers and that the computers would unlock the swing brakes when winds reach speeds where the brakes should be released.


Banks should never have been allowed to buy insurance companies or stock brokerages! Insurance is vastly better regulated than banking. “Wall Street” is a mess. Regulators went soft or absent on banking because of the banks’ mergers and acquisitions of “Wall Street” type entities. That didn’t do the insurance industry any good at all.

Wells Fargo Agrees to Pay $385 Million to Settle Insurance Scam

In the car insurance litigation, Wells Fargo was accused of bilking millions of dollars from “unsuspecting customers who were forced to pay for auto insurance they did not need or want,’’ pushing almost 250,000 of them into delinquency and resulting in almost 25,000 vehicle repossessions, according to the lawsuit filed in 2017.


Job and Wage Growth Slow Sharply in May

While the slower job growth reported for May is discouraging, probably the most disconcerting aspect of the report is the evidence that wage growth is actually slowing in spite of the 3.6 percent unemployment rate. …

This report provides serious grounds for concern about a weakening recovery. … the weaker job growth, coupled with the slowing of wage growth, indicate that the labor market is not nearly as tight as the 3.6 percent unemployment rate would indicate.


Pompeo’s promise to intervene against Corbyn should surprise no one

Of course the idea the “Jewish leaders” harbor any real fear that Jeremy Corbyn (Jeremy Corbyn!) is going to make life “difficult” for British Jews if elected is simply risible. They know, just as every moderately informed person knows, that that’s absurd. They know Corbyn has no wish to make life difficult for anybody – except possibly the uber wealthy and the profiteer class.

They know the “antisemitism” fear is just a cover for the very very real fear that a Corbyn government will break the unwritten rules of modern western governance and reject the agenda of austerity, exploitation and perpetual war that has been creating huge profits and ideological thrills for the blessed few over the last twenty years.

To the WaPo – and many of its readers – there’s nothing intrinsically either wrong or surprising in the idea a US secretary of state should be overtly promising to interfere in the democratic governance of another country.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have an anti-Semitic bone in his body. He simply wants the poor to be lifted up and for the world to be at peace. Those who are against those two things are dangerous and a matter for risk management.


Vietnam: China companies using fake ‘Made in Vietnam’ labels


How good is the food? You won’t know by checking Yelp.

The restaurant owner who asked for 1-star Yelp reviews


Hong Kong plunged into political crisis after huge protest against extradition law

Schoolteacher Garry Chiu joined the protest with his wife and one-year-old daughter, saying: “It is no longer about me.”

“I need to save my daughter. If the law is implemented anyone can disappear from Hong Kong. No one will get justice in China. We know there are no human rights,” Chiu added.


Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 10, 2019

Cross-Laminated Timber Will Save Time, Labor Costs On Local Commercial Construction Projects

“Drop ceilings and suspended ceilings are not permissible in mass timber design,” he said. “As a result everything is exposed: sprinkler lines, wiring, suspended light, air vents. There is a key opportunity to really coordinate well from an engineering perspective to arrive at an interior design product that doesn’t look thrown together.”


Google Confirms Android Smartphone Security Backdoor

The Android system images were infected through “a third-party during the production process,” Siewierski explained. When a device manufacturer wants to include features that aren’t part of the Android Open Source Project itself, and Siewierski uses the example of face unlock here, it might engage a third-party to develop this and so sends the entire system image to them for that development process.

This is how the backdoor came to be pre-installed on straight from the factory smartphones. It’s a classic supply chain attack. …

… Google Play Protect also tracks, and removes, Triada and any related apps it detects [on] user devices.


From Glyphosate to Front Groups: Fraud, Deception and Toxic Tactics

The Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is used by corporate backers to counter public health policies. Its members have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels. It is, however, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity. The ILSI describes its mission as “pursuing objectivity, clarity and reproducibility” to “benefit the public good”. But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Bocconi University in Milan, and the US Right to Know campaign assessed over 17,000 pages of documents under US freedom of information laws to present evidence of influence peddling.


Industrial methane emissions are underreported, study finds

Using a Google Street View car equipped with a high-precision methane sensor, the researchers discovered that methane emissions from ammonia fertilizer plants were 100 times higher than the fertilizer industry’s self-reported estimate. They also were substantially higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate for all industrial processes in the United States.

“We took one small industry that most people have never heard of and found that its methane emissions were three times higher than the EPA assumed was emitted by all industrial production in the United States,” said John Albertson, co-author and professor of civil and environmental engineering. …


What?

Russia-China: a Strategic Alliance for the 21st Century

… the alliance being consolidated by Russia and China is one that offers renewed hope in a progressive and peaceful future for the planet.

China progressive, peaceful? Even Russia isn’t progressive. China, though, is about as far from progressive as is gets. As for peaceful, ask China’s neighbors if they feel threatened by China’s pronouncements concerning the South China Sea and Taiwan. Ask the progressives in Hong Kong if China is progressive and has peaceful intentions.

This is an economic issue and a risk-management issue of the highest order. Xi of China wants the world to become authoritarian, anti-democratic. In their zeal to condemn mistakes made by US administrations, some people build up enemies of the People, such as Xi.


This is not what affordable insurance is designed to cover or could ever cover:

Our Dying World

The altered climate will cause multiple catastrophes, listed in Wallace-Wells’ table of contents: heat death, hunger, drowning, wildfires, out-of-control weather – typhoons, tornadoes, floods and droughts – a fresh water drain, dying oceans, unbreathable air, the spread of plagues not seen in millennia and of tropical diseases throughout the world, climate wars and more.


Here’s another one on China. This one blurs all sorts of lines that are otherwise quite clear. First of all, it makes the false claim that the Democracy Movement wasn’t for or about democracy but capitalism. Second, it speaks of the Chinese one-party dictatorship as if it was, and still is, some benevolent entity rather than a totalitarian dictatorship that tolerates no dissent. Also, just because there were shortsighted Americans spitefully using some Chinese people in the Democracy Movement does not in any manner prove that the Movement was not genuine. Third, it paints a picture of the demonstrators as sheer evil and the Chinese military as the victims even though the Chinese People have never been allowed to vote for those they might want to lead. The military did crush the Movement and did so not for the People but for the dictators. It’s ironic that China is state capitalism while the dictator’s sympathizers point to those who wanted capitalism in China as villains.

Well, I remember reading the Democracy Wall writings at the time, and the vast, vast majority of those demonstrating were calling for grassroots democracy, not “free markets,” not libertarian capitalism.

Tiananmen: The Massacre that Wasn’t


As I did, Chris Williamson also found problems with Jonathan Reynolds’ critique of MMT.

The economic virtuous circle at the centre of MMT

The notion that an FCR would be flexible is moot, to say the least. Although the FCR states that it could be suspended in the event of an economic shock, the decision to do so wouldn’t be taken by the democratically accountable Chancellor of the Exchequer. In fact, the FCR explicitly states that: “Only the [Bank of England’s] Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) can make this decision.” In other words, it would be the MPC who would determine whether the conditions were met for suspension, and their threshold on when to suspend could be very different to the threshold preferred by an elected Labour government.

It is that unnecessary straitjacket that could force a future Labour government to implement unpalatable austerity policies. If that happened, it would do lasting damage to Labour’s reputation, just as Denis Healey did when he needlessly went to the IMF in 1976, which paved the way for Thatcherism.

Assisting people to achieve an MMT understanding will inevitably shift the Overton window and help to usher in a new era where the public insist that the economy works for the many not the few.

That’s why we need a political rather than a fiscal credibility rule to ensure we are always focused on serving the interests of the people rather than the elites.


As I posted on June 8, 2019, the Employment Situation is stagnant.

Dollar whacked as economic slowdown spreads to U.S. jobs data

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 75,000 jobs last month, falling below the roughly 100,000 needed per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

Tepid employment added to lackluster data on consumer spending, business investment, manufacturing and homes sales suggesting the economy was losing momentum in the second quarter. Growth has cooled as the stimulus from last year’s tax cuts and spending increases fades.

“Unlike a lot of the reports we’ve seen where the headline is strong and the details are soft, or vice versa, this is just soft. Headline is soft, details are soft,” said Anderson, noting that the average duration of a spell of unemployment rose substantially and the employed share of the population fell.

Don’t let the lower dollar concern you, though. It’s actually a good thing. A weaker dollar makes imports more expensive but exports cheaper to sell. It also drives more Americans to buy American. Loans are easier to pay off with a weaker dollar too. Meanwhile, the US remains the safe-harbor currency/bond for the world.


Will a recession fix LA’s housing crisis?

Regardless of whether the next recession makes housing more affordable, says United Way homeless initiatives director Chris Ko, it’s clear the recent bull market hasn’t benefitted LA’s poorest residents.

“There are more ways than one to grow and prosper,” he told reporters Tuesday. “And I think the one we have chosen socially right now leaves people behind.”


Everything You Need to Know About Modern Monetary Theory

Five Republican senators have responded by introducing a resolution condemning MMT on the grounds that it “jeopardizes the United States’ economic security.”

Those senators were responding to the common caricature of MMT that every problem can be solved by printing money. Many others who ought to know better have made the same mistake. Bill Dudley, the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, blamed MMT-like policies for hyperinflation in Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela. Larry Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, called MMT “ludicrous,” “fallacious at multiple levels,” and a “recipe for disaster.”

These criticisms miss the mark. MMT is actually grounded in old and uncontroversial economic ideas, and its appeal is neither ideological nor partisan.


Want to learn a few things or lots of things depending upon how much you already know about macroeconomics? Read Ann Pettifor’s statement at the “Lessons from the Great Financial Crisis” event of the the TUC’s Economics and Social Affairs department.

International coordination saved the finance sector, but not the world

Lessons were not learned from the crisis.

Instead policy-makers resorted to the deflationary policies of the 1930s. Monetary radicalism was coupled with fiscal conservatism. …

Fiscal contraction and austerity transferred the burden of adjustment on to those innocent of the crisis – the 99%. This in turn led to rising inequality, popular unrest and the rise of nationalisms around the world, and even fascism in parts of Europe.

Ten years after the crisis Europe, and much of the world are experiencing social insurrections and political crises reminiscent of the inter-war years – the 1920s and 30s.

Higher interest rates aimed at vast bubbles of debt pose a real threat to the global economy, as they render debt unpayable. In this sense the Fed is repeating the errors of both the gold standard era, and the Greenspan era. Between 2003-6 the Fed had steadily raised interest rates intending to take away the ‘punchbowl’ from financiers ‘drunk’ on debt. Instead higher rates took the form of a ‘dagger’ aimed at, and then bursting a vast bubble of debt.

So no, madam Chair, we have not learned the lessons of history, or of the last financial crisis. And John Maynard Keynes’s monetary theories and policies for a stable international financial framework aimed at international recovery based on public, not private authority, have been firmly killed off by Thomas Lamont’s successors on Wall St and in the City of London.


The end of the Arctic as we know it

Less oxygen and ice, more acid and heat. Jonathan Watts joins an expedition studying what this means for the planet

Together, millions of these species form an oceanic pump, says Mattias Cape, a biological oceanographer with the University of Washington. Phytoplankton help the oceans produce more oxygen than all the world’s forests. They also sequester carbon dioxide more effectively because copepods and the bigger creatures that eat them take the gas down to the depths, where it can be stored for hundreds of years. Nowhere is this pump more effective than near the poles – the zooplankton here are bigger, so they sink deeper.

But this is changing. When Cape observes the zooplankton through a microscope in the hold of the ship, he can see that the chubby Arctic copepods have competition from their slimmer and shorter Atlantic counterparts. This invasion has been recorded in other parts of the ocean. “We see a shift from big to small, which is a concern, because it will make this pump action weaker,” he says. …

… Wagner speculates that when this calming barrier melts away, the swells will churn the ocean and bring warm water to the surface, which could further accelerate the fragmentation of the polar cap. It is yet another potentially grim area of study, but he views it – like other signs of the Arctic’s demise – with professional composure.

“Emotionally, I detach myself,” he says. “The Arctic is an object of study. It’s like a doctor observing a patient to see how sick they are.” He is reluctant to offer a prognosis without a longer-term study, but he says the physics make a recovery extremely unlikely.

“I have to hurry up or my science will become archaeology,” the 34-year-old jokes. “There will still be sea ice during the winter, but in the summer it will probably disappear. It won’t be the death of the Arctic, but will be the end of the Arctic as we know it.”


1 killed, 5 injured when crane topples on Dallas apartments

A construction crane buffeted by high winds during a storm toppled on a Dallas apartment building Sunday, killing one woman in the building and injuring five other people, two of them critically, a fire official said.

… Earlier, he had said that six people were injured but said the figure would likely change.


Recession Anxieties, June 2019

What about Leamer’s thesis of the business cycle as housing cycle? In the last recession, investment and real house prices peaked about two years before the onset of the recession. Real investment peaked in 2018Q1. Real housing prices, on the other hand, have not yet peaked.

The Case-Shiller indices only go up through March. Looking at the monthly Zillow price indices, which extend through April, one can see an apparent peak: March for nominal, February for real.

Moreover, in the top 12 home markets, 11 are experiencing decreasing prices from March to April (the largest — New York city — is flat).

Interestingly, the Zillow index (which differs from the Case-Shiller, see discussion here) peaks one year before the recession. If we get a repeat performance, the recession begins in February 2020.


Why Universal Basic Income Is a Bad Idea by Daron Acemoglu – Project Syndicate

… UBI is a flawed idea, not least because it would be prohibitively expensive unless accompanied by deep cuts to the rest of the safety net. In the US (population: 327 million), a UBI of just $1,000 per month would cost around $4 trillion per year, which is close to the entire federal budget in 2018. Without major cost savings, US federal tax revenue would have to be doubled, which would impose massive distortionary costs on the economy. And, no, a permanent UBI could not be financed with government debt or newly printed currency.

“… could not be financed with … newly printed currency ….” That’s nonsense. Notice he doesn’t offer anything as to why he makes the statement/claim. Of course it could be financed with new currency. The question is whether too much money would be in the economy chasing too few goods and services. That’s why a guaranteed living income would have to be planned. However, most of the people who need the income have debts to pay down, especially student debts. Paying those down wouldn’t be price inflationary. Only after they are paid down or off would income be freed up to buy goods and services. There again, many if not most people would choose to save rather than excessively spend.

… a more sensible policy is already on offer: a negative income tax, or what is sometimes called “guaranteed basic income.” Rather than giving everyone $1,000 per month, a guaranteed-income program would offer transfers only to individuals whose monthly income is below $1,000, thereby coming in at a mere fraction of a UBI’s cost.

I’m not for setting the line at $1,000. It’s way too low to help enough. It would be better than nothing, which is what we have now; but, we could do much better without causing runaway price-inflation or wage inflation.

I’ve been using the terms “universal” and “guaranteed” interchangeably. I do see the distinction. My personal preference is to target those at the bottom, not the top. The amount of money could go down on a sliding scale indexed to the cost of living. Millionaires and billionaires don’t need it and probably shouldn’t get it because of the undo influence of money in politics and against democracy.


Critically Important News & Analysis, June 8, 2019

The employment situation is pretty stagnant. The Green New Deal (GND) will take care of that.

I called for a GND plank-by-blank but not by that name shortly after the first Earth Day in 1970, when I was 16, long before the Greens (in Europe) announced their GND platform in 2006. I read Rachel Carson’s, New York Times bestseller, Silent Spring. The “conservatives” hated it.

It’s interesting to note that conservation is exactly what Rachel was about: being conservative but also restorative and protective. The “conservatives” who hated Rachel’s book were the radicals: radically dangerous. Look at all the destructive “prosperity” they’ve wrought.

It hasn’t been creative destruction in the positive but negative. Their externalities aren’t external to anything. We’re living with them, those “externalities” and often right within us, in our bodies as toxins damaging and killing us prematurely.

We can take care of the planet, ourselves, our loved ones, our entire race, the Human Race, and our entire planet’s economy all at the same time and rather quickly. It requires vision and bringing that to fruition.

It’s been a very long slog because of the selfish forces arrayed against us. However, the time to break through and win has come. Things had to get much worse before enough people woke up. That’s a shame, but it’s better late than never.

People had the right vision in 1970 and before, but they were ignored and then fought against by laissez-faire capitalists, who always put their shortsighted, selfish goals before everyone and everything else.

Envision a world without unemployment, poverty, pollution, global warming, war, etc. Envision the “Employment Situation” being reported as perfect rather than the stagnant situation we hear about over and over for decades.

We shouldn’t have been living with systemic unemployment now since the 1970’s. We have been living with it because the wrong people have been in power bringing forth the wrong policies and practices. Many of them have wrongly called themselves liberals and progressives and conservatives.

We need a hugely liberal fiscal policy where our government creates and doesn’t borrow money. We need progressive policies and practices to restore us back to what should have been conserved in the first place: a clean and healthy planet.

The stagnant Employment Situation Summary.

We can easily pay for it all: The Monetary-and-Banking-Democratization Platform for The United States of America.


How about building a receiving room into the housing? There was an experimental company that delivered groceries to a refrigerator with two doors, one on the outside of the house and one on the inside for the residents. I’d rather have the deliveries dropped off in a portion of the house or apartment that doesn’t allow the delivery personnel to have access to anywhere else.

Walmart Will Put the Groceries in the Fridge While You’re Out


Federal Crews Begin Assessing Ohio Tornado Damage

The survey crews will tally up the damage to determine if Ohio qualifies for federal disaster assistance.


10 Democratic Candidates Support Fracking Ban. Biden Stays Mum.

Candidates Bernie Sanders, Jay Inslee, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Peter Buttigieg, Bill de Blasio, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Messam and Eric Swalwell all support a ban on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” according to a survey updated Monday by The Washington Post. Several other candidates, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Beto O’Rourke, would not ban fracking but support tougher environmental regulation of the oil and gas industry. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris did not respond to the survey.

Biden released his much-anticipated climate plan on Tuesday, but it says nothing about fracking. …

The anti-fracking positions taken by a number of prominent Democrats stand in sharp contrast to the Trump administration, which has declared itself the oil and gas industry’s “best friend” and feverishly rolled back environmental protections and federal efforts to respond to the climate crisis.

Widespread fracking and the disposal of fracking wastewater has been linked to water contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes. The industry has rapidly expanded its infrastructure as a result of the fracking boom and a glut of cheap natural gas, forcing communities to contend with new pipelines, oil and gas storage depots, petrochemical refineries, plastics plants and other potential sources of pollution.

It is still early in the primary season, and many Democrats have yet to solidify their energy and climate agendas. Senator Booker, for example, supports a fracking ban but also supports expanding nuclear power plants as a source of carbon-neutral energy, a position that puts him at odds with many environmentalists. Biden has taken heat from opponents on his left for approaching climate change with a “middle ground” energy policy that would likely embrace fracking. The debate is expected to center around the term “net-zero emissions,” because carbon offset programs, cap-and-trade schemes, carbon capture and other forms of climate mitigation would allow the fossil fuel industry to continue fracking and drilling for decades.

For the record, I opposed fracking before it even came on line. I had said it will cause earthquakes and damage property, not to mention contaminate ground water. It’s also increased air pollution.


Scathing attack on the US healthcare system:

The Neoliberal Disaster of US Healthcare

In 2018 the UK spent 18% (£145.8 billion) of the total government budget in order to provide free universal health care.

By contrast, in 2018 the US spent 28% ($1.5 trillion) of the total government budget in order to apparently subsidise a woefully inefficient private health care sector.

The US government spends 55% more than the UK government on health care: yet somehow fails to be able to offer free universal health care for all its citizens.

It would appear that in relying upon private sector health care provision the US taxpayer is getting spectacularly bad value for their tax dollars.

Indeed anyone looking at this spending difference would assume that the country spending 28% of its budget was the one providing free health care and the country spending 18% was more likely using the private sector model.

The whole article is well worth reading. Just because I’m in the insurance industry doesn’t mean I support the private health-insurance portion of the sector. I’d rather everyone be fully covered and have zero out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare than for anyone in the private health-insurance industry to be rich by keeping the US from having a National Health Service (NHS) even better than the one in Britain.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m completely for private insurance in this mixed economy. What I mean is that I’m for private coverage over none. Plenty of people providing private coverage are fine people, ethical people who fully empathize with those needing care. I’m not disparaging the insurance industry, per se, though I’m far from saying it’s perfect. What I am saying is that we can, should, and, frankly, must provide quality healthcare to everyone at no out-of-pocket costs to them and do so without pulling the financial rug out from under those in health insurance.

By the way, the “horror” stories you might hear or read about the NHS in England are due to privatizers undercutting funding and not due to anything inherently bad about the program.

I’m always against the greedy under funding or taking away from the poor what’s working. The NHS works very well and should be receiving more funding, not less.


Fed uses Chicago conference to signal it will use quantitative easing aggressively to fight next recession

“The next time policy rates hit the effective lower bound [i.e. zero] — and there will be a next time — it will not be a surprise. We are now well aware of the challenges the ELB presents, and we have the painful experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath to guide us,” Powell said in a speech opening the conference.

“Our obligation to the public we serve is to take those measures now that will put us in the best position deal with our next encounter with the ELB,” he said.

He better start talking up fiscal stimulus. The ground needs to be prepared for a stimulus that will make the last one look like a drop in the bucket.


Gas surges globally as green groups cry foul

The IEA told AFP that gas consumption in 2018 prevented the burning of around 60 million tonnes of coal, which produces around 40 percent greater emissions.

“In a world where millions of lives and livelihoods are already being destroyed by rising global temperatures, there is no future in fossil fuel growth.”


Jo Michell didn’t like Richard Murphy’s article on James Meadway’s anti-MMT campaign for the Labour Party.

Jo Michell is missing the point. Richard’s point is that Labour’s “fiscal rule” is a self-inflicted (neoclassical/neoliberal) wound that will severely hamper Labour’s ability to deliver. Richard is completely correct. I think John McDonnell knows it too and that Labour will not retain its “fiscal rule” once it gets in the way of Labour delivering. Perhaps the US will have to beat Labour to it via MMT so Labour can have cover by pointing to how well the US is doing bringing forth the Green New Deal.


California Senate Shelves Bill Tying Affordable Housing to Climate Crisis, Public Transit

Senate Democrats have removed SB 50 from the docket for the 2019 legislative session. Aiming to tackle housing, public transit and wildfires, it came under fire for loopholes and weak mandates, but policy conversation now proceeds in other venues.


‘Grenfell inquiry taking too long’ – North Kensington resident

“With the inquiry, everything is taking so long, that when we look at the Hackitt Report and we look at recommendations… It’s too long” – Melanie Wolfe, North Kensington resident, Campaigner, as the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire approaches.


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).


Interesting:

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.

For MMT

… 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.”


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for June 3, 2019

Before reading Ann Pettifor’s article and understanding it, it is required to know that 1) austerity is never the right approach to a deflationary recession (the Great Recession was a deflationary recession) and 2) the neoliberal-touting politicians mostly knew it but used austerity to shrink the cure (fiscal stimulus: government) so the Austerians (Austerian School of Economics and austerity) could grab more of the pie. In other words, austerity was a ruse, a sham, a con game. Were you taken in, or do you think it’s a fair game in capitalism, as in all’s fair in love and war and capitalism is war: cutthroat competition in which nice guys finish last?

The metaphors of economics and austerity

It is of course not my purpose to criticize the use of metaphor or other rhetorical techniques in economic discourse – especially since, as we have known at least since Lakoff and Johnson opened our eyes to the metaphors we live by, our whole human world is structured by metaphor. But what is important is (a) to work to identify and make public the means of conceptual manipulation used by the powerful to maintain control or denigrate any policy of a progressive character, and (b) ensure that the hidden, or not so hidden, biases or assumptions of economists are made explicit. After all, as Keynes remarked in the General Theory:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”


EDITORIAL — For the neighbors, there is no justice [alternate link: https://web.archive.org/web/20190609234421/https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:772A5WfZNDYJ:https://www.panews.com/2019/05/27/editorial-for-the-neighbors-there-is-no-justice/]

… Bronnon and others would purchase homes through a “straw” buyer, provide them with down-payment money, give them money to buy insurance, then cause the structures to be destroyed or damaged by fire or water.


Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Puts Hold on Policy Cancellations

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready on May 24 issued a bulletin directing insurance companies to keep coverage in effect for storm victims for the next 30 days.


State of Emergency Declared in Ohio; Insurers Asked to Allow Deferred Payments

The bulletin requests that companies allow their insureds to defer premium payments coming due and extend any and all provisions imposing time constraints within which insureds must take certain action.


Arkansas Imposes 60-Day Insurance Cancellation Moratorium for Flood Victims

… policyholders must request the extension offered by the moratorium from their insurance carrier.


California Commissioner Wants Insurers to Extend Living Expense Coverage for 2017 Wildfire Survivors

The California Department of Insurance issued a notice to insurers requesting they extend additional living expense coverage by a full year to survivors whose additional living expense benefits will expire within months.

… The CDI has received complaints from policyholders who chose to relocate that their insurer deducted the estimated land value of the new home from the overall replacement cost payment, leaving policyholders with less than the full amount of their benefits they would have been due if they rebuilt the home.

The policyholders paid premiums for the limit of insurance. If the insurance companies turn around and also cover the land value, the insurance companies will be taking on an unexpected expense not averaged out across all policyholders and investment earnings (if any) on investments made by the insurance company. If a policyholder wants to relocate, the policyholder can still sell the policyholders existing land (though likely at a loss). If this becomes a trend where Departments of Insurance require land-value coverage, that expense will then be built into the premium. I should think it would be an optional additional coverage. Frankly, I think that would be a good idea to have such an option.


Texas Would Lose Billions if Another Major Storm Hits Coast, Report Says

With a barrier in place, economic losses would be considerably less, the study found. Gross State Product would still be reduced after a 500-year storm, but only by 2%. Housing sales would fall by 2%, while petroleum output would be cut by 3% and chemical output by 5%.

There would also be less environmental damage from oil and chemicals, not that the artificial barriers would be environmentally neutral.


IBHS Chief Wright Urges Congress to Consider Tax Credits for Climate Resilience

… allow a business-related tax credit for a specified portion of the cost of commercial and residential buildings that comply with resilient construction requirements in a federally-declared major disaster area.

The bill defined “resilient construction requirements” as buildings that are designed and constructed to: (1) resist hazards brought on by a major disaster; (2) continue to provide their primary functions after a major disaster; (3) reduce the magnitude or duration of a disruptive event; and (4) have the absorptive capacity, adaptive capacity, and recoverability to withstand a potentially disruptive event.

Rep. Doug Dubitsky, a Republican from a rural Connecticut district, who helped to lead an hours-long filibuster, said some “very credible” scientists dispute the reality of climate change.

I think Anthropogenic Global Warming is a litmus test on scientific credibility. My personal view is that any climate scientist who disputes AGW is not credible by definition. Regardless, certain politicians cite a tiny minority of scientists who are often not even expert in climate science and do so because of donations and other support and promises made by the carbon-fuel industry.


New Hampshire Sues 3M, DuPont, Other Chemical Companies

New Hampshire has sued eight companies including 3M and the DuPont Co. for damage it says has been caused by a class of potentially toxic chemicals found in pizza boxes, fast-food wrappers and drinking water.

The substances – known collectively as PFAS – have been used in coatings meant to protect consumer goods and are commonplace in households across the United States.

“We are taking a big first step on behalf of the country,” Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said of the lawsuits.


Los Angeles County Files Suit Against Bayer’s Monsanto over PCBs

The most populous U.S. county, which has about 10.1 million people, said the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in products sold by Monsanto many decades ago has caused widespread environmental contamination, forcing it to spend money to retrofit its stormwater systems and prevent further damage.


Fire Suppression, Drought Increasing Mortality Among Trees

… junipers on the High Desert have become more fragile in recent decades, thanks to fire suppression policy. Periodic fires thin forests and improve the health of existing trees. When fires do not occur, forest density increases, resulting in more competition for water and space to grow.

… “If nothing is done, such as prescribed burns, this will be compounded in the future according to climate change models.”


Critical Vulnerability Patched in Popular Convert Plus Plugin

Vulnerability disclosures are an unfortunate necessity, and it’s important that they’re handled appropriately by all parties involved. In recent disclosures, we’ve seen a variety of responses from the developers we’ve reached out to. For example, in January we received no response at all from a disclosure regarding the Total Donations plugin. More recently was this week’s Slick Popup vulnerability, which had been acknowledged by the developers but remains unpatched.

Conversely, the response from Convert Plus’s team was an excellent example of how to handle a vulnerability disclosure. They responded quickly to our contact, and issued a patch for the flaw within just a few days. Once the patch went live, they published their own blog post alerting their users that an important update was available. They even highlighted the update on the plugin’s CodeCanyon page.


We the People have been paying rich bondholders for nothing of value in return. It’s been a scam all along and needs to be ended.

The Bankers’ “Power Revolution”: How the Government Got Shackled by Debt

When the Fed holds government securities, it returns the interest to the government after deducting its costs; but the private buyers of these securities will be pocketing the interest, adding to the taxpayers’ bill.

This issue goes way, way back.


Risk management naturally covers political risk. Political-risk management is often concerned with the relative safety individuals may or may not have within a given jurisdiction or political area. Places where press freedom is severely limited are typically vastly riskier. It is with that in mind that I include the following link.

Tide of Public Opinion is Turning in Assange’s Favor

Since the Trump administration has crossed the red line criminalizing what establishment journalists do all the time, establishment journalists have come full-square against the indictment and behind Assange.

Someone must hold governments accountable. In order to even begin to do that, we must know what those governments are up to. If governments can simply deem everything they do a state secret, those governments can then do whatever they want no matter how immoral or unethical and do so while feigning democracy and transparency.


Rental market is heating up, so say goodbye to all those freebies and perks [in some places]

Rent prices are gaining steam in 36 of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan housing markets. Austin, Texas, showed the highest gains, followed by Phoenix and San Jose, California.

But some rental markets are offering more perks than a year ago, for a variety of reasons. Concessions have more than tripled in Orlando, Florida, and more than doubled in Atlanta, Boston and San Jose.


Which Core to Believe? Trimmed Mean Versus Ex-Food-and-Energy Inflation

Since 2005—when real-time trimmed mean data were first calculated—quarterly headline PCE inflation has averaged 1.77 percent, while real-time quarterly trimmed mean inflation has averaged 1.78 percent. Real-time quarterly ex-food-and-energy inflation has averaged 1.61 percent.


Malspam Campaigns Use HawkEye Keylogger to Target Businesses

The malspam campaigns which disseminate the keylogger are actively targeting business users in an effort to steal both accounts credentials and sensitive data that could be later put to use as part of account takeover or business email compromise attacks.


1 Million Windows Systems Remain Vulnerable to ‘Wormable’ Flaw

A security update addressing CVE-2019-0708 was released on May 14 2019, but recent public reports indicate nearly one million computers are still vulnerable.


What is buffer overflow, an old vulnerability that’s causing new problems?

Crafty hackers find subtle ways to cause buffer overflow errors and use them to manipulate the behavior of applications for malicious purposes. For instance, a hacker might be able to exploit a buffer overflow vulnerability to alter a sensitive piece of memory, such as user privileges or the address of the recipient of a payment.

A well-placed stack buffer overflow attack can alter return addresses, effectively enabling the attacker to force a program to jump to an arbitrary sequence of instructions, such as a set of commands that download and install a malicious app on the device.


How a quantum computer could break 2048-bit RSA encryption in 8 hours

These guys have found a more efficient way for quantum computers to perform the code-breaking calculations, reducing the resources they require by orders of magnitude.
Quantum code cracking

Consequently, these machines are significantly closer to reality than anyone suspected. The result will make uncomfortable reading for governments, military and security organizations, banks, and anyone else who needs to secure data for 25 years or longer. …

… security experts have developed post-quantum codes that even a quantum computer will not be able to crack. So it is already possible to safeguard data today against future attack by quantum computers. But these codes are not yet used as standard.


The following is right or almost right?

Thus, my modest proposal is that unless someone wants to advocate government ownership of the means of production, it’s more productive to drop “socialism” from the conversation. Instead, talk about the specific issue and the mixture of market and government actions rules that might address it, based on whatever evidence is available on costs and benefits.

Why Call it “Socialism”?

The term government also requires defining. Where, for example, does employee ownership fit in? When does it actually constitute “government”? Personally, I define employee ownership of a dollar-market enterprise in an otherwise dollar-market national economy as collective capitalism and not general government, per se. Frankly, the absence of a “dollar-market economy” is a better definition of socialism. The dollar is replaced by one-person, one vote in deciding what gets produced or served up.


Shocking News About Beans, Peas and Potatoes

Genetically engineered foods are not the only source of glyphosate in your diet. Most conventional, non-GE crops are also contaminated, as are some organics, as glyphosate is widely used as a desiccant or drying agent to speed up harvesting.

As for how it ends up in many organic products is anyone’s guess. Drift from nearby conventional and/or GE crop fields is one possibility. Contamination during processing is another. Outright fraud, where a nonorganic crop is sold as organic is also a possibility.


The following is not an endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President. I include the link here because AGW is real, as are all the other issues raised in the linked article. We can and must tackle all of them. We do not have the luxury of endless time. We must act decisively and now.

Bernie Joins the Regeneration Revolution

In the last presidential election cycle in 2016 there was little or no discussion of what has now metasticized into a climate emergency. Nor was there any serious discussion of the industrial, corporate-controlled food, farming and land-use practices that are major drivers of global warming, deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, species extinction and increasingly toxic air and water.

Fortunately, the conversation is evolving. The climate crisis now ranks as a leading concern among registered voters. …

For the first time in decades we will have the opportunity in 2020 to elect a president and a Congress that support family farms and organic, regenerative climate-friendly food and farm practices. For the first time ever we can elect a majority, at all levels of government—local, state, and federal—who recognize that we must stop and reverse global warming before our Climate Emergency morphs into climate catastrophe. The situation is dire, but there is still time to turn things around.


Climate Change Is Intensifying Food Shocks

The rain and floods that have plagued the Midwest since March have wreaked havoc on agriculture. In Nebraska alone, farmers lost an estimated $440 million of cattle. They’re still recovering from the blizzard–flood combination, as well as the sand left behind once the waters subsided—up to 10 feet deep in some areas. The effects weren’t limited to the region: Washed-out infrastructure meant that feed wasn’t making it to California farmers, causing an increase in local feed prices. The rain has also put many farmers far behind their planting schedules (see the #NoPlant19 hashtag on Twitter), which could further affect the ag market and rural economies.

On the other side of the globe, northern Queensland’s seven-year drought was broken by welcome rain—which quickly turned into epic flooding. Rainfall in the region measured 50 inches in 10 days, and with high winds and low temperatures. Across the area, loss estimates have totaled nearly 700,000 cattle, 48,000 sheep, 10,000 kilometers of fence, and 15,500 kilometers of private roads. The financial total is eventually expected to reach AUS$2 billion (about U.S.$1.4 billion).

… Food shocks can occur because of political unrest, policy change, and mismanagement, but the biggest factor is extreme weather.

Regenerative farming, rotational and mob grazing, reducing tillage, agroforestry, and soil improvements are all means to help mitigate the effects of extreme weather, and the resulting food shocks. These techniques all help create resilience against climate change. Healthier soil, for example, recovers quicker from droughts and floods. Rotational grazing gives pasture areas the opportunity to recuperate while animals are feeding elsewhere, and agroforestry blends the benefits of carbon sequestration with shade cover for crops and animals and nitrogen enrichment.


Thousands of seabirds starved to death in the Bering Sea — and scientists see evidence of climate change

… 2018 marked the third year in a row that scientists documented “massive” seabird die-offs in the Bering Sea region, according to the National Park Service. It was the fifth consecutive season of mass mortality events in the North Pacific, the fourth consecutive year of these die-offs in Alaska, Parrish said.


World’s rivers ‘awash with dangerous levels of antibiotics’

The research team is now planning to assess the environmental impacts of antibiotic pollution on wildlife including fish, invertebrates and algae. They expect severe effects. The drug levels in some Kenyan rivers were so high that no fish could survive. “There was a total population crash,” Boxall said.


5 Reasons THIS Market Is an Ideal Place to Invest in 2019

There’s an old saying that by the time it makes the headlines, it’s too late. However, the pattern of planning is what to watch for before it makes the headlines. You won’t recognize the pattern unless you read about it after the fact to start with. However, is it really too late already in Thornton, Colorado? I doubt it.


Chrome and Firefox are going in opposite directions. Chrome is going to block ad blockers. Firefox is building ad blocking and anti-tracking into Firefox’s core software. Disclosure: Firefox is my workhorse browser. I’m not opposed to ads but tracking.

Google quietly ruined Chrome, and we almost missed it


How many of your tenants have trouble making rent because the IRS makes things too difficult for them and even withholds money due?

It’s Getting Worse: The IRS Now Audits Poor Americans at About the Same Rate as the Top 1%


Recession or not, there will be pain: Coping with corporate bonds

… there will be pain.

A large and growing share of corporate debt is “speculative debt”—either leveraged loans used to acquire target companies and burden them with high debt levels or high risk junk bonds. Many companies with high levels of speculative debt on their books were acquired by private equity in a leveraged buyout, meaning the PE firm used high amounts of debt to buy them. This is debt the target companies, not their private equity owners, are obligated to repay.

… Long term, the solution lies in limiting the ability of private equity firms to load the target companies they acquire with excessive amounts of debt and strip them of resources.

It should not be legal to load an operating company with debt in excess of six times earnings, whatever the source of the loans—banks, private equity firms, hedge funds or real estate investment trusts. A company’s private equity owners should not be allowed to take dividends from the company for several years after acquiring it. The private equity firm should be required to make public the monitoring and transaction fees it charges the companies it owns so that investors in its funds and creditors considering lending the company money can judge the risks to the company’s viability of this transfer of resources. At the moment, the PE firm has no obligation to inform either its PE fund investors or its creditors about the amount of money it extracts annually from the company.

Bankruptcy reform, so that workers actually collect what is owed them, is also critical. At present, workers are at the end of the line in a bankruptcy when it comes to collecting back pay, vacation pay, WARN Act payments or other money the company owes them. Legislation introduced in 2017 would define workers’ claims as administrative expenses, moving workers to the front of the line in a bankruptcy and assuring that they would be paid in full, just like the investment bankers, consultants, lawyers and others hired to advise the company through the bankruptcy process.


Summer of Fear May Push U.S. Yield to 1.5%, Ignite Yen Rally

The lower the yield, the lower the interest rate. Lower interest rates are dis-inflationary and can help to ramp up demand. Trump wanted lower rates. He’s forcing what will cause them.


A Green New Deal for the UK

Just as the US GI Bill gave education, housing and income support to every unemployed veteran returning from the Second World War, the next Labour Government will guarantee that all energy workers are offered retraining, a new job on equivalent terms and conditions covered by collective agreements, and fully supported in their housing and income needs through transition.

The significance of these words was to commit Labour to putting the needs of workers front and center in making the radical transformations needed to achieve our low-carbon future.


Rent cap bill approved in California Assembly

The Mercury News reports that “because of an 11th-hour handshake deal” with the California Association of Realtors, the rent caps proposed under Assembly Bill 1482 are now higher: 7 percent, plus the rate of inflation, which averages about 2.5 percent in California.


Trade Groups Pressure Congress on NFIP Extension

A coalition of housing, insurance and mortgage industry trade associations is pushing Congress to override objections from two members of the House of Representatives and move forward with legislation that would extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through September.


Settlement in Downtown LA homeless property rights case limits city’s ability to seize items on sidewalks

The settlement, which had already been approved by the Los Angeles City Council earlier this year on a contentious 10-2 vote, stems from a 2016 lawsuit brought by homeless residents who claimed that police officers had confiscated and destroyed their personal possessions, including blankets, tents, and medication.

I’ve always opposed kicking the poor. Some people simply want them out of sight. I’d rather house them in truly decent housing. The cycle of sustaining poverty, which is a deliberate public policy, is nothing short of pure evil done for the sake of the insatiable egos of the hyper greedy.


Tacoma’s housing market is now the hottest in U.S. — and Seattle knows why

… 49.7% of homes sold in Tacoma in May went for more than the asking price, compared to 37.8% in Seattle and 23.8% nationally, according to a Redfin analysis of local data from the Multiple Listing Service.

The median home in Tacoma was on the market just eight days — the shortest period of any U.S. metro — while the supply of homes for sale is just 1.3 months, the lowest in the United States.


Not sustainable: … Southern California home prices rising 4 times faster than wages


Top reasons to invest in single and small-family rentals


5 steps that could end the plastic pollution crisis – and save our ocean

… the New Plastics Economy, which advocates shifting from a take-make-dispose model to a circular economy in which nothing that’s made becomes waste.


What Property Owners Should Know About Rental Losses


Putting money over human rights:

People’s Republic of China

Until the accession of the PRC to the World Trade Organization in December 2001 the PRC was covered by the provisions of Jackson-Vanik. Although the President of the United States, starting in the late 1970s, used the waiver provisions of the amendment to grant normal trade relations trade status, the existence of the amendment meant that there was a congressional effort to overturn this waiver each year, creating a yearly controversy especially during the 1990s after the Tiananmen protests of 1989. Congress specifically removed the PRC from coverage by Jackson-Vanik in the late 1990s as part of its entry into the World Trade Organization, as the provisions of Jackson-Vanik were inconsistent with WTO rules.


Microsoft Azure Being Used to Host Malware and C2 Servers

“It’s evident that Azure is not currently detecting the malicious software residing on Microsoft’s servers,” says David Pickett of AppRiver.

One of the samples, ‘searchfile.exe,’ was indexed by VirusTotal scanning service on April 26, and Windows Defender detects it.


4 Tips to Decrease Tenant Turnover in Your Rentals

Tenants who cause extensive damage, disrupt other tenants on the property, or fail to report important maintenance issues will end up costing you more money if they continually renew their leases. The best way to find and keep quality tenants is by properly screening potential tenants ….


Smart move:

Colorado city to become one of the first in US to run completely on renewable energy

Glenwood Springs will join six other cities that are already running on 100 percent renewable energy. The cities include Aspen, Colo.; Burlington, Vt.; Georgetown, Texas; Greensburg, Kansas; Rock Port, Mo.; and Kodiak Island, Alaska, according to the Sierra Club.


The following misses the point perhaps intentionally.

130 Percent of Trump’s China-Tariff Revenue Is Now Going to Angry Farmers

China tariffs, meanwhile, have so far brought in just over $19 billion in tax payments from U.S. importers—$6 billion less than authorized farmer payments.

Going forward, Trump’s tariff deficit shows no sign of shrinking—quite the reverse. Just this week, China announced it will, once again, halt purchases of U.S. soybeans—a move that will further devastate the U.S. farm sector. This move, in turn, is likely to trigger further farm bailouts.

If, as the president claimed in 2018, “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” this one is being badly generaled.

Look, 10% on some products was a beginning. 25% on all goods is perhaps also only a stepping stone. China is hurting more from the tariff fight than is the US, and it will remain that way.

Why are all the neoliberal globalists running down the effort? The question answers itself. Neoliberal globalists have their own agenda, and it’s not about the USA but their own personal estates. They want to make money and don’t care whether the bottom in the US survives.

I’m not saying that Trump is focused on the bottom in the US. He’s clearly not. However, slowing or stopping China’s Xi is a good thing for the bottom in the US regardless of Trump’s motives or even the exact outcome of his tariff war. After all, we don’t know exactly where or when he’ll end it. He could stop well short of what really needs to be done.

What is that, what really needs to be done? China needs to be rolled back to before it was accepted into the WTO. In fact, China never should have received any waivers from any US President under the Jackson–Vanik Amendment, which Amendment never should have be accepted.

The US made a huge error moving to neoliberal-globalist economics. It was the dumbest economic move the US ever made. The more it is rolled back, the better.

I’m not saying I’m against bilateral or multilateral economic agreements, far from it. I’m simply totally opposed to the neoliberal variety. Any agreement the US enters into should be 100% progressive for both or all sides. Also, whether a nation is or isn’t a non-market economy should be completely irrelevant.


Concerning this next one, I don’t link it with China at all. It’s a completely different matter and is not surprising. Trump is using tariffs as a form of sanctions. The US has been sanctioning nations left and right for quite some time now. Trump’s just widened the reasons.

My personal position is that the US should do everything possible to help the nations that are bleeding refugees so those leaving will rather stay for all the right reasons. I’m confident Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is completely in sync with me on that.

I like Obrador, always have. I remember him as the Mayor of Mexico City. His politics were good then and are good now. He’s not perfect, but who is?

Am I for open borders? I’ve addressed that before. I am for open borders that come as a result of healing everywhere. Our goals should be tackled in the right order. First we should help fix problems where they are rather then simply opening the doors to anyone and everyone with no questions asked.

Emergencies are different. We can’t refuse people fleeing wars, devastation, persecution, and such. That’s already international law. We should abide by it. It’s good law.

Mexican president says confident that US will negotiate on tariffs


How Monsanto manipulates journalists and academics

Over the past year, evidence of Monsanto’s deceptive efforts to defend the safety of its top-selling Roundup herbicide have been laid bare for all to see. Through three civil trials, the public release of internal corporate communications has revealed conduct that all three juries have found so unethical as to warrant punishing punitive damage awards.


Controlled burns not only help forest health but human health, study finds

California’s efforts to prevent dangerous wildfires through controlled burning have long stumbled on the issue of smoke, with residents, doctors and pollution regulators worried that such burns create too much unhealthy air.

A first-of-its kind study published Thursday, however, suggests this may not be the case. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine report that the health impacts of controlled fires are less than those of wildfires that rage out of control.


Exactly:

‘It’s a miracle’: Helsinki’s radical solution to homelessness

“We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions.”

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

“We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”


Massive Google Outage Turned Smart Homes Into Zombies

Sometimes clunky tech even becomes a human rights issue. In May, elderly residents in a Manhattan apartment building won a settlement in a lawsuit against landlords who installed smartphone-enabled smart locks in the building. Some residents, including a 93-year-old, said they almost never left home after the locks were installed, because they did not own smartphones. Others objected to an 84-page smart lock contract that surrendered all the residents’ smart lock data to the landlords.


Explainer: Why Google has a target on its back in Washington

It is rare to break up a company but not unheard of, with Standard Oil and AT&T being the two biggest examples.

Perhaps the most famous case is the government’s effort to break up Microsoft Corp. The Justice Department won a preliminary victory in 2000 but was reversed on appeal. The case settled with Microsoft intact.


Real estate, risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 30, 2019

After Reading This Article About The Danger Of GMOs, You Will Probably Never Want To Eat Genetically-Modified Food Again

… consider what scientists discovered when they fed genetically-modified soy to rats…

The experience of actual GM-fed experimental animals is scary. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks — compared to a 10% death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had problems getting pregnant.

When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color — from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm. Even the embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA. Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.

Could this be a clue as to why there is a “fertility crisis” in the United States today?

Researchers have also discovered that livestock experienced similar issues when they were fed genetically-modified crops…

Reproductive problems also plague livestock. Investigations in the state of Haryana, India revealed that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died. In the US, about two dozen farmers reported thousands of pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn.

If this is what the hard science is telling us, why in the world are we doing this to ourselves?

In the end, it all comes down to greed.


Glyphosate Exposure Linked to Fatty Liver Disease in Humans, Adding Weight to Earlier Animal Studies

Last week, I watched from my window (closed) as the lot next door was sprayed and saturated with a herbicide to kill the wild blackberry bushes. Over the days, the bushes have withered. It rained. So the herbicide was washed off lots of leaves and stems but also into the ground. I don’t know which herbicide was used, but the men spraying were not wearing any protective anything. “Glyphosate is degraded relatively quickly by soil microorganisms ….” What does it do to those organism?


My Biggest Property Management Nightmare


Rescuers search for survivors after Oklahoma tornado kills at least two


Industrial policy: is there a paradigm shift in Germany and what does this imply for Europe?

… Michel Barnier. He called for a ‘sustainability pact’ for the EU’s new policy cycle, as important in some respects as the stability and growth pact. As Barnier put it, ‘Our ecological debts are no less a cause for concern than our fiscal debts.’

The pact would require concerted action on climate, trade, tax, agriculture and innovation—and massive investments. According to European Commission estimates, quoted by Barnier, the EU will need €180 billion ($203 billion) in additional investment each year to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement.

An interesting proposal for financing ambitious green policies was recently made by Paul de Grauwe. He proffered a model in which the European Investment Bank is entitled to finance environmental investments. The EIB would issue bonds refinancing these investments. The European Central Bank could buy these bonds at a pace dictated by the expiry of the old bonds on its balance sheet. The ECB could thereby create ‘green money’ without fuelling inflation.

In a nutshell, Altmaier’s paper is important because for the first time it has led to a lively discussion on industrial policy in Germany.


Just to be clear, Stephanie Kelton is not a socialist and MMT is not socialism. MMT is a model of how capitalist and socialist economics works.

Renegade Inc: MMT – Letters from America

It was Victor Hugo who said that all the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come. In the US, inequality and collapsing capitalism means the idea of embracing a socialist politician is gathering momentum.

The cynical stock response to how socialism can deliver on its economic promises is to ask, ‘but how do you pay for it?’ Economists advocating Modern Monetary Theory say it is the way to fund vital public services.

Host Ross Ashcroft travels to New York to meet with Bernie Sanders economic adviser, Professor Stephanie Kelton, to ask what MMT can deliver and if America is ready for a new socialist American dream.


Tornadoes in Ohio leave at least one dead, widespread damage

The tornado was the third in a week to rake the central United States.


I keep saying, “Patience.”

Trade war roils US, China, but it means jobs for rest of Asia

Both the U.S. and China are projected to face economic damage if current tariffs stay in place for the rest of 2019 and 2020, according to the ADB. China is expected to be hit hardest, with a 1.03% reduction in GDP ….


The old saying is, “Necessity it the mother of invention.”

China dangles a potentially harmful new threat in trade war

Scott Kennedy, director of the project on the Chinese economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Chinese might benefit even less if they try to weaponize rare earths again.

First, users of rare earths have stockpiled the minerals for a “rainy day.” Second, they also have figured out how to “use less rare earth to achieve the same results” in such products as lasers and magnets. And third, different minerals and chemicals are increasingly being used as rare earth substitutes.


Your paltry savings from the Trump tax cuts

About two-thirds of Americans got a tax cut in 2018, but most of the gains went to the highest earners. That’s partly because they pay the most in taxes. The law, which passed with only Republican votes, could have kept the top brackets intact instead of lowering them, while directing larger tax cuts toward the middle class. But it didn’t, with the bill’s backers arguing more money in the wallets of the wealthy would stimulate spending and growth. Many economists dispute such “trickle-down” theory, and the CRS report finds no such stimulus in 2018 …

[As predicted on this very blog] The biggest effect of the tax cut in its first year was a record-breaking surge in corporate stock buybacks.


GOP Tax Law Doing Little For The Economy, Even Less For Workers: Congressional Study

… 0.3% of GDP growth in 2018 was a result of the law.

With that level of restrained growth, the analysts say the tax law will fall well short of paying for itself ….

… it would be “premature” to say businesses are reinvesting capital any more than they already would have been.

“To date this pattern has not been observed,” they said.


Trump’s tax cut law barely boosted growth or wages and is not paying for itself, independent congressional report finds

… 95 per cent of the increased deficit was not offset by the additional growth.


At Least 8 Tornadoes Have Been Reported Every Day for the Last 12 Days

The severity of the tornadoes pushed the National Weather Service to issue notice of a tornado emergency.

This is a tornado EMERGENCY!

If you live in these areas take shelter now!

If you are driving pull over to a sturdy building and take shelter now!

If you are at work, stay there and take shelter now!

Best shelter is lowest level in the most interior room!


Wow! This is scathing:

SEC Even Less Interested In Collecting Fines Than It Is In Levying Them


Modern U.S. antitrust theory and evidence amid rising concerns of market power and its effects

The decline in antitrust enforcement in the United States has been a project of conservatives for decades. Since the 1970s, the range of conduct that would be condemned by courts as anticompetitive has decreased significantly, and the evidence required to prove any particular anticompetitive harm has increased appreciably, resulting in much more freedom for business to seek profit through anticompetitive means. The conservative goal of freeing business from the constraints of antitrust law was, in theory, to obtain productivity growth that would benefit consumers through lower costs and new products. That motive—even if it characterized some of these adherents of the so-called Chicago School—has been joined, or perhaps overtaken, by support from some companies and some think tanks that want to see companies earn higher profits unconstrained by the antitrust laws. Without regard for good research or scientific evidence—as the literature review below shows—today, many continue to claim a benefit for consumers from a limited enforcement agenda.


Good!

Legislative Package Introduced to Encourage Employee-Owned Companies

Broad-based employee ownership has been proven to increase employment, productivity, sales and wages in the United States. Employee ownership boosts company productivity by 4 percent, shareholder returns by 2 percent and profits by 14 percent, according to a Rutgers University study.

Nationally, there are already over 7,000 employee-owned businesses which employ roughly 10 million people.


This is why raising the interest rate was a mistake.

Three Fed Cuts on Bond-Market Radar as Curve Inversion Deepens


Why Martin Wolf Is Wrong on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)

… Wolf also makes some very basic errors. For example, he says:

[O]nly inflation sets limits on a government’s ability to spend. But, if inflation emerges, the government has to tighten demand, by raising taxes.

This is not what MMT says. MMT does not say inflation imposes a limit on government spending. It says using all available resources – effectively available labour – imposes that limit. Then it says inflation follows if expansion continues. And it only says that is an issue if it is decided that the resulting inflation rate is too high. Inflation, per se, is not a limit. I suspect Wolf chose to get this wrong, deliberately. His narrative does not work if he noted correctly what MMT said.

Oh, that’s wrong. Wolf is correct. He was simply speaking in shorthand. There’s nothing wrong with that. The logical conclusion of “using all available resources – effectively available labour – imposes that limit. Then it says inflation follows if expansion continues” is that inflation sets limits, as Wolf said. Naturally, Wolf was referring to price inflation and understands fully that resource constraints in the face of too much demand is the cause of the unacceptable rate of price inflation.

But his real disagreement is that whilst MMT is correct (subject to his own misconceptions) he thinks the policy implications are wrong. He says:

This analysis is correct, up to a point. It also has implications for policy. A sovereign government can always spend in order to support demand. Again, expansion of the central bank balance sheet does not make high inflation likely, let alone inevitable. Some believers in MMT argue that the power to create money should be used to offer a universal jobs guarantee or finance programmes such as the Green New Deal proposed by Democrats in the US. But such ideas do not follow from their analysis. These are just suggestions for where the state should spend.

Again, this is misunderstanding, whether deliberate or otherwise, by Wolf.

No, that’s wrong again. “… ideas do not follow from their analysis. These are just suggestions for where the state should spend.” Wolf is likely referring to the MMT model, which is, in fact, policy neutral, as often stated by the likes of L. Randall Wray and other founders of MMT.

MMT people doing policy doesn’t mean MMT the model states the policies but only that the most popular policy suggestions are perfectly feasible, which they are.

The article goes on to critique other aspects of Wolf’s views. That’s fine. I disagree with Wolf’s fears.

We have endured structurally feeble private demand for a decade now. And we need a Green New Deal. We could deliver that GND without problem precisely because there is structurally feeble private demand without there being a shortage of resources or inflation. But when a central bank is told it may not deliver such a programme it is an impediment to progress. The result is we need to sweep away the central bank and the independence it has that is this impediment to progress. Or we, at the very least, need to change its mandate.

Agreed wholeheartedly.


Here’s how the SECURE Act could impact your retirement savings

Nearly 35 percent of individuals who work less than 35 hours each week have access to a 401(k) or pension plan at work, while 46 percent of workers at businesses with fewer than 100 employees had access to only a 401(k), according to BLS.

That’s a major part of what the bill seeks to address, Kelly says.


Real estate, risks, economics: links & commentary for May 25, 2019

First American Financial Corp. Leaked Hundreds of Millions of Title Insurance Records

The Web site for Fortune 500 real estate title insurance giant First American Financial Corp. [NYSE:FAF] leaked hundreds of millions of documents related to mortgage deals going back to 2003, until notified this week by KrebsOnSecurity. The digitized records — including bank account numbers and statements, mortgage and tax records, Social Security numbers, wire transaction receipts, and drivers license images — were available without authentication to anyone with a Web browser.


The Global Insurance Industry’s $6 Billion Existential Threat: Coal Power

… the U.S. insurance industry’s financial stake in fossil fuel goes beyond insuring new coal plants and mines. The top 40 U.S. insurance companies hold more than $450 billion in coal, oil, and electric utility stock – making them more leveraged in fossil fuel than the average index fund.

By investing customer premiums in fossil fuels and enabling new coal-fired power plants, U.S. insurers are accelerating the damages they insure against and doubling down on financial risk by undermining efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“Imagine a world where the same company that you purchase fire insurance from also actively insures and finances rogue teams of arsonists,” wrote Insure Our Future Senior Strategist Ross Hammond. “Ironically that’s more or less what the insurance industry is doing when it comes to climate change impacts and underwriting fossil fuel expansion.”

Regulatory scrutiny is helping build the economic case against insuring fossil fuels. By getting out of the business of insuring coal-fired power, U.S. insurers and their global counterparts could invest in their own future – as well as a safe global climate.

It’s a gamble concerning when to get out, not if. The longer the industry waits, the more liable it too will be, regardless of insurance-policy language. Public policy can change retroactively.


I’ve been saying this for decades.

Why the world is due a revolution in economics education

… we need renewal on a much broader front: a new approach to economics education, one which does not hide behind the self-imposed limits of 19th century physics-style modelling, but instead considers the societal role of economists seriously. We need an economics which focuses on the entire economic system and which acknowledges all relevant sources of knowledge, rather than apprehensively clinging to statistical data. And one which addresses the issues that are most pressing for society, not those that comfortably fit within its mainstream method.


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 24, 2019

Explainer: China’s rare earth supplies could be vital bargaining chip in U.S. trade war

Nebraska-based Rare Earth Salts is taking old fluorescent light tubes and recycling them for their rare earth elements, which comprise about 20 percent of the bulb, according to the Association of Lamp and Mercury Recyclers.

I remember before people knew any better when fluorescent light tubes were deliberately schattered so they’d fit in dumpsters.


Trump unveils $16 bn aid for farmers hurt by China trade war


Photos tell some of the story.

Violent tornado rips through Missouri

A powerful tornado swept across Missouri, killing several people as it knocked down power lines and trees, smashed windows and left streets strewn with debris, officials said on Thursday.


Shun Merkel party over climate at EU vote: influential German YouTubers


Calif. Appellate Court Affirms $1 Million Bad Faith Judgment Against Geico

Appellate attorney Scott Tillett said the decision reaffirms an important principle of California insurance law: Insurers are not supposed to negotiate claim as if they were haggling to get a low price on a used car.

GEICO’s regional liability administrator, Lon Grothen, authorized a settlement offer of only $1,000, an amount that Tillett called “insulting.” The insurer increased that offer to $13,800 nine months later, then to $18,000, and then to $18,887. That was its final and highest offer.

It was that pattern that suggested haggling rather than valuing the actual claim.


Unceasing Midwest Rains Add to Wettest 12 Months Ever for U.S.

The past 12 months ending in April have been the contiguous U.S.’s wettest yearlong stretch on record, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. Parts the Mississippi and other rivers have been at flood stage since last fall. The deluges have killed dozens of people, forced others from their homes and had severe consequences for agriculture, transportation and energy.


Senate Passes $19.1 Billion Relief Package for Natural Disasters


Parties Differ on Data Privacy Legislation Over Liability, Duty of Care

… duty of care ….

… provide “reasonable” security for data and promptly notify individuals of breaches involving sensitive information.


EPA Begins Rewrite of Rules on Costs, Benefits of Environmental Regulations

Federal agencies undertake formal analyses of regulations to assess the potential compliance costs for businesses and consumers, as well as the financial value of their benefits, whether reducing asthma attacks or electric power demand. In a 2017 executive order, Trump directed his agencies to identify regulations that “impose costs that exceed benefits.”

“… the financial value of their benefits ….” How much is not having an asthma attack worth to someone having one? Who’s putting the price tag on it as the government and why at the level he or she determines? Will the costs to businesses be given a significant and unjustified weight over the health of children? It’s not as easy as it’s made to sound.


South Dakota Judge Sides With Liberty Mutual in Bad Faith Dispute


Texas Environmentalists Plan Pollution Lawsuit Against Valero

The lawsuit would be filed under a provision of the Clean Air Act that allows citizens to sue in federal court when government agencies have failed to halt pollution.


Cost of Flood-Prone Home Buyouts in Missouri, Elsewhere: $5B and Rising

“When people take the buyouts, sometimes the money they are given on their home is not enough to buy a comparable home in a lower-risk area,” said McGhee, who now works as a coastal management specialist for an engineering and consulting firm.


Alaska City Votes to Adopt Climate Action Plan

Many spoke about the evidence of climate change observed in their lives such as warmer winters, worsening tree pollen, invasive insect species and heightened wildfire conditions.


The China trade war is leading to lower mortgage rates for American homebuyers

Low interest rates helped fuel the surge in home prices over the last four years, but price gains have been shrinking since less summer, when rates started rising. If rates fall to new lows, and stay there for a while, home prices could turn higher again.


China is driving growth in Asia’s real estate market despite trade war headwinds, report finds

“We talk about logistics in China, it’s the real darling of the real estate industry at the moment, again because of that very growing middle class and domestic consumption story,” Crow added.

However, he acknowledged that if the U.S.-China trade war drags on, there will be “some diversification” of real estate investment into other markets like Vietnam.


The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich

The Triumph of Injustice, to be published by W.W. Norton & Co. early next year, focuses on how wealth disparity can be fought with tax policy. The tools Zucman has identified to date challenge a series of assumptions, fiercely held by many economists and policymakers, about how the world works: That unfettered globalization is a win-win proposition. That low taxes stimulate growth. That billionaires, and the superprofitable companies they found, are proof capitalism works. For Zucman, the evidence suggests otherwise. And without taking action, he argues, we risk an economic and political backlash far more destabilizing than the financial crisis that sparked his work.

His own graduate work in Paris saw him compile evidence that the world’s rich were stowing at least $7.6 trillion in offshore accounts, accounting for 8% of global household financial wealth; 80% of those assets were hidden from governments, resulting in about $200 billion in lost tax revenue per year. …

None of it was easy. Tax collectors such as the IRS generally require taxpayers to report income, not wealth. And much of the world’s wealth is held in forms—homes, art, retirement accounts, non-dividend-paying stocks—that produce no income prior to a sale. A real estate mogul with a billion-dollar property portfolio and billions more in cash stashed overseas can still report a tiny income. …

… As Ronald Reagan was winning the White House, the top 0.1% controlled 7% of the nation’s wealth. By 2014, after a few decades of booming markets and stagnant wages, the top 0.1% had tripled its share, to 22%, a bit more wealth than the bottom 85% of the country controlled.

… In April, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, called the widening U.S. economic divide a “national emergency” that, left unaddressed, will lead to “some form of revolution.”

When Reagan cut the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 28% across eight years, and later, when Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush slashed tax rates for investors, they were doing so on the advice of economists. The prevailing belief, backed by theoretical models, was that lower taxes on the wealthy would stimulate more investment and thus more economic growth. The real world hasn’t been kind to those theories.

… “The pie has not become bigger” in the U.S., Zucman says. “It’s just that a bigger slice is going to the top.”

The actual effect of lower taxes on the rich, he argues, isn’t to stimulate the economy but to further enrich the rich and further incentivize greed. In his analysis, when the wealthy get tax breaks, they focus less on reinvesting in businesses and more on hiring lobbyists, making campaign donations, and pursuing acquisitions that eliminate competitors. …

The scope of the possible started widening after the financial crisis, as the U.S. and then the European Union moved to crack down on offshore shelters. The Panama Papers, a leak of millions of documents from a Central American law firm, pushed policymakers further. “We’ve won the argument,” says Alex Cobham, CEO of Tax Justice Network, an independent international advocacy group. “More or less everyone thinks banking secrecy should be finished.”

In recent months, Zucman has devoted a great deal of energy to the question of how multinational corporations avoid taxes. He’s produced papers and policy briefs showing that U.S. multinationals shift almost half of their overseas profits to five havens—Ireland, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, and the Greater Caribbean, which includes Bermuda. “That is a huge problem for the sustainability of globalization,” he says. Countries and territories are engaged in a race to the bottom, Zucman argues, offering ever-lower corporate rates in the fear that companies will shift their profits elsewhere. He proposes to “annihilate” such competition by apportioning profits based on where sales were made.


Google inadvertently thwarts Baltimore’s battle against ransomware attack

Officials have said hackers using the ransomware variant RobbinHood demanded the city pay the equivalent of $76,000 in bitcoin, which Mayor Bernard Young says won’t happen. The deadline for payment was May 17.

Last year, the City of Atlanta was targeted in a ransomware attack that impacted a number of its systems.

Attacks have taken place across the U.S. Hackers, for example, targeted the port of San Diego in a ransomware attack that disrupted the agency’s IT systems. An Alaskan borough also had to dust off its typewriters following a major ransomware attack.

In 2017, a major ransomware attack forced the shutdown of a host of IT systems at Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Also in 2017, a hacker targeted Sacramento Regional Transit, deleting 30 million files in a ransomware attack. Officials worked to restore the data from backup files.

In 2016, a Los Angeles hospital paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in bitcoins to hackers who infiltrated and disabled its computer network.


You see, negative interests rates do not always refer to charging people on their savings. They often mean you pay back less than you borrow. In other words, you are paid to borrow. The bank say, we’ll give you $100K. You give us $90K back to pay off the loan.

For one-year adjustable-rate mortgage bonds, Nykredit’s refinancing auctions resulted in a negative rate of 0.23%. The three-year rate was minus 0.28%, while the five-year rate was minus 0.04%.
..
The negative rates have so far done little to revive inflation in Denmark, which has hovered around 1% for well over a year. The monetary environment has, however, padded Danes’ finances, as asset values have risen while consumer price growth has remained subdued.

Bankers Stunned as Negative Rates Sweep Across Danish Mortgages

Given enough time and sufficient negative rates, inflation would result. That’s what I was writing before anyone even tried such negative rates. After that, almost all of the criticism was leveled at charging savers interest on their accounts, as if that is the only use of the term “negative.”


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 23, 2019

Oklahoma Reels, Missouri Declares State of Emergency from Storm

Dozens of people were rescued from rising floodwaters and felled trees that smashed homes and blocked roadways in Oklahoma, as severe storms unleashing tornadoes and heavy rain roared through the central United States on Tuesday.


Do you have welding going on in your fix-ups and maintenance projects?

More Evidence Welding Fumes Raise Lung Cancer Risk

When researchers looked only at data from studies that accounted for both smoking and asbestos exposure, welding was still associated with a 17 percent higher risk of lung cancer.


Bogus hurricane damage claims net one guilty plea, another arrest

Sheila Ruffin, 50, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of disaster fraud related to the Hurricane Matthew recovery effort conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, authorities said.


Many people rah-rah China’s industrialization; however, industrialization has come with huge concerns over insufficient regulation and enforcement.

Chemical Multinationals Must Stop Cutting Corners in Sourcing: Report on China Blast

… IPE said international firms had created a “powerful engine for continued irresponsible operations around the country” and they must ensure they buy only from factories that meet safety standards.


What’s wrong with the following statement?

… we shouldn’t assume that technology can replicate the function of human knowledge itself. Just because a computer can know everything there is to know about a car doesn’t mean it can drive it.

Well, what part of a self-driving car isn’t part of a robot?

Brad DeLong seems unaware that software is already here that can devise language we can’t understand. Researchers actually shut such software down out of fear that the software could get up to things the software developers simply couldn’t know because those developers couldn’t speak the language. That was after letting the software run just a day or so.

The idea the computers won’t be designing and developing (manufacturing) newer generations of computers is amusing and rather quaint.

It’s really cognitive dissonance. People don’t want to deal with what’s coming. Many of them hate the idea that they are replaceable by computers in terms of work. They also get paid to protect the status quo of the plutocracy. They don’t want any of us thinking about a Universal Living Income, where no manual or other labor for money is required anymore of any human being.

I, on the contrary, can hardly wait. I wish it were already here.


Origins of “Microeconomics” and “Macroeconomics”


New Zero-Day Exploit for Bug in Windows 10 Task Scheduler

… SandboxEscaper focused on the Task Scheduler utility and uses it to import legacy tasks from other systems. In the days of Windows XP, tasks were in the .JOB format and they can still be added to newer versions of the operating system.

What happens is that Task Scheduler imports a JOB file with arbitrary DACL (discretionary access control list) control rights. In lack of a DACL, the system grants any user full access to the file.

The researcher explains that the bug is exploitable by importing legacy task files into the Task Scheduler on Windows 10.

Oh and I have 4 more unpatched bugs where that one came from.
3 LPEs (all gaining code exec as system, not lame delete bugs or whatever), and one sandbox escape.

If any non-western people want to buy LPEs, let me know. (Windows LPE only, not doing any other research nor interested in doing so). Won’t sell for less then 60k for an LPE.

I don’t owe society a single thing. Just want to get rich and give you *** in the west the middlefinger.

Lovely.


Rogue Security Researcher With Grudge Against FBI Goes On Windows 10 Exploit Spree

There are clues in the SandboxEscaper blog as to the real reasoning, and they are not subtle either: the motivation would seem to be getting back at the U.S. for a perceived injustice. The most telling is the confession that she has “most definitely given portions of my work to people who hate the U.S.” because “that’s what happens when the FBI subpoenas my google acc and intrudes my privacy.” SandboxEscaper goes on to suggest that the people who have access to the exploits “are going to use those bugs to get back at U.S. targets,” before finishing with, “an eye for an eye.” It’s not just the FBI and the U.S. that are on the receiving end of this apparent hatred, some of it is reserved for the information security industry itself. “F*ck this shitty industry. I don’t plan to make a career in it anyway,” SandboxEscaper writes, “I hate all the people involved in this industry.”

Amoral. More than the FBI and the cybersecurity industry could be harmed.


GetCrypt Ransomware Brute Forces Credentials, Decryptor Released

A new ransomware called GetCrypt is being installed through malvertising campaigns that redirect victims to the RIG exploit kit. Once installed, GetCrypt will encrypt all of the files on a computer and then demand a ransom payment to decrypt the files.


Windows 10 (but not the Home edition): Turn on device encryption

I suggest you research BitLocker first. It has had issues in the past.


IMF admits ‘notable failures’ in bailout programs deepened Greece’s recession

It is the third time the IMF admits failures, errors and mistakes in handling with the Greek crisis. So, now what? Will it hand out some extra money to the thousands of impoverish Greeks? Admitting mistakes is not enough for those who indebted their lives until the end of their days.

It was all predicted on this blog by this poster.


This made me laugh out loud. We might be better off if Facebook, Instagram and Twitter vanished: Sen. Josh Hawley

I laughed when I got to the bottom and saw, “Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, is on the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Follow him on Twitter: @HawleyMO”

Look, I’m not faulting him. I just thought it was funny. I’m not thrilled with “social media” either, but this post will be posted to it. That’s about all, though. I can’t remember the last time I actually went on social media to “interact.” I just quit one day and have never looked back. I haven’t missed it for a second. I don’t regret trying to spread the word via it but did quit when I realized spreading the word was being way too marginalized. Social media has become a propaganda tool for propaganda most of which I find repugnant.


Everything You Know About Tariffs and Inflation Might Be Wrong


Why Workers Without College Degrees Are Fleeing Big Cities

For the first time in at least a decade, 4,868 more people left King County, Wash. — Amazon’s home — than arrived from elsewhere in the country.

Santa Clara County, Calif., home to most of Silicon Valley, lost 24,645 people to domestic migration, its ninth consecutive annual loss.

The trend is becoming widespread. Eight of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country, including those around New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, lost people to other places in 2018. That was up from seven in 2016, five in 2013 and four in 2010. Migration out of the New York area has gotten so intense that its total population shrank in 2018 for the second year in a row.

Today it makes a lot of sense for a lawyer to move to Silicon Valley from the South. The additional pay will more than compensate for the higher cost of housing. But a janitor moving from, say, somewhere in Alabama to Cupertino could see her household income, after paying rent, fall by more than half.


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 22, 2019

At points in this video, I literally winced.

If you are anti-regulation or anti-enforcement, anti-strong-enough government, but rather just plain laissez-faire (anything-goes capitalism), this is what you end up with:

Deadly Waters (RT Documentary)

Citarum: Indonesian river keeps textile industry’s dirty secrets

The Citarum river in Indonesia is known as the world’s most polluted river. In some places, the water turns from murky to black and resembles a bubbling witches’ brew of domestic trash, sewage and industrial waste from hundreds of factories along the Citarum’s banks. Locals, aware of the contamination and health risks, continue to use it for drinking and other daily needs, as manufacturers keep dumping toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the river. An RTD crew travels to Indonesia to witness the river’s degradation and meet environmental activists on a mission to stop it.


Bucks socialite Claire Risoldi sent to jail, ordered to pay $10.4 million in insurance fraud scheme

“This defendant masterminded a multimillion-dollar insurance fraud scheme to fund her own excessive lifestyle,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement Friday. “Insurance fraud harms all Pennsylvanians — the costs trickle down to consumers and inflate rates for everyone else.… This is unacceptable.”


Man admits to $1.7 million insurance fraud using fire and water to damage homes

In total, nine fraudulent fire claims, three fraudulent water damage claims, and two fraudulent theft claims were filed with various insurance companies on nine different addresses, totaling approximately $1.7 million in fraudulent payments.


Here’s how to build a hurricane-resistant house — not as expensive as you may think

“We put probably 100, maybe 200 Simpson hurricane clips up there,” he said pointing to the third-floor ceiling as he walked through the home. “All this cross-bracing is new. All that foam, it’s new, that happened last month. All these light fixtures here, they’re all going away, every one of them.”

He is also breaking up much of the concrete on the ground, because the tidal surge caused it to push up against the pillars, cracking them during the storm. He said he will likely add stone pavers, which have spaces in between, and will therefore not push up against the columns.

He pointed all this out, just as his next-door neighbor’s home was being bulldozed. It was built two years ago to the highest local code, but it was a total loss.


How inequality makes us poorer

Roland Benabou gave the example (pdf) of how egalitarian South Korea has done much better than the unequal Philippines. And IMF researchers have found (pdf) a “strong negative relation” between inequality and the rate and duration of subsequent growth spells across 153 countries between 1960 and 2010.

Correlations, of course, are only suggestive. They pose the question: what is the mechanism whereby inequality might reduce growth? Here are eight possibilities: …

… the Gini coefficient has been flat for years (which is true if we ignore housing costs) is like saying that because the bus has stopped moving we need not care about the man who has been run over by it. It misses the main point.


Seeing all of these in one place makes one wonder how Facebook is still standing.

Top 10 epic Facebook fails


Don’t read the following unless you want to feel sick; however, read the following if you want to know what’s really going on and aren’t afraid to stand up to the powers that be to force through the right policies and practices throughout society and throughout the entire world.

Revealed: air pollution may be [is] damaging ‘every organ in the body’

Air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body, according to a comprehensive new global review.

The research shows head-to-toe harm, from heart and lung disease to diabetes and dementia, and from liver problems and bladder cancer to brittle bones and damaged skin. Fertility, foetuses and children are also affected by toxic air, the review found.

The systemic damage is the result of pollutants causing inflammation that then floods through the body and ultrafine particles being carried around the body by the bloodstream.

Air pollution is a “public health emergency”, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 90% of the global population enduring toxic outdoor air. New analysis indicates 8.8m early deaths each year – double earlier estimates – making air pollution a bigger killer than tobacco smoking.

Most air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, heat homes and power transport.

“We need to work on these factors in a very dramatic way,” said Neira.


180 countries — except US — agree to plastic waste agreement

IPEN umbrella group science adviser Sara Brosche said: “For far too long developed countries like the US and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean.”

… Today, 2 billion people live in areas without garbage collection. “The poorest of the poor suffer the most,” said Müller.


MuddyWater Hacking Group Upgrades Arsenal to Avoid Detection

The MuddyWater threat group has been updating its tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to include a number of new anti-detection techniques designed to provide remote access to compromised systems while evading detection as part of a new campaign dubbed BlackWater.


BlueKeep Remote Desktop Exploits Are Coming, Patch Now!

Security researchers have created exploits for the remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services, tracked as CVE-2019-0708 and dubbed BlueKeep, and hackers may not be far behind.

While the vulnerability inspired some playful users to create fake proof-of-concept code intended for rickrolling, it is no joke. As Remote Desktop Services is commonly exposed to the public so that users can gain remote access to their internal computers, successful exploitation could allow access to an entire network.

Microsoft released a patch for the flaw on May 14 and described it as being “wormable” – not requiring user interaction, and allowing malware to propagate to vulnerable machines “in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017.” The severity score of the flaw is 9.8 out of 10, which makes it critical.


I’m not at all interested in Bitcoin, never have been; but, many people are staking their hopes on “smart contracts,” as if blockchain is impregnable.

Blockchain Systems: Known Attack Vectors And Countermeasures

There is no bulletproof digital network, and blockchain doesn’t stand out from the rest in this regard.


Why so hostile? Busting myths about heterodox economics

Heterodox economists are Just Lefties Upset with Neoliberalism

Often, the mainstream of the field is described as neutral, while the heterodoxy is described as ideological. Those believing in such a statement would be surprised to learn from Myrdal (1953) that the development of economic thought has always and everywhere been political, as politics and economics are closely intertwined. There’s a recognition within all heterodox schools of thought that Economics is inherently political. This does not mean all heterodox economists will agree on politics, but they will usually agree that market solutions do not lead to “natural” or “optimal” outcomes.

Dismissing heterodox Economics as a political project is common, which completely covers up the politicalness of mainstream Economics, and it assumes motivations among heterodox economists that they cannot prove or validate.This assumption leads The Economist journalists to conclude that heterodox economics is more of a “tantrum” than an actual rigorous intellectual alternative to the mainstream.

However, much of the heterodox critique of the strong bias towards market-based theory and policy runs deeper than a tantrum against neoliberalism or mainstream economic. It boils down to challenging the idea that the market can always lead to the best outcome. Why is the market solution to economic problems the only game in town and everything deviating from it about market failure? This question relates to the long-standing debate on whether or not economics is value free and how it is possible to best promote positive analysis over normative. …

… core aspects of heterodox economics, ranging from power and conflict between labour and capital, to inequality and the role of institutions have been systematically neglected. It is, therefore, not a surprise to see the heterodox critique of neoliberalism overlapping with critique of mainstream economics.

With the above considerations in mind, it becomes clear not only that choosing one theoretical framework and excluding others is political, but also that every theoretical framework is political, including neoclassical economics. Since class conflict is a core element of much of heterodox economic theory, you will find heterodox economists being more explicitly political, as they are more likely to challenge the ethics of distribution within the system of social provisioning. However, as pointed out by Jo and Todorova (2015), most heterodox economists do not actually practice politics.


Raising the tax right now is a really bad idea. They regretted it last time and will again if they do it.

Japan Lawmakers Fret Over Looming Tax Hike in Weak Economy

Raising taxes before Japan has shaken off deflation is “incomprehensible,” Shouji Nishida, another LDP lawmaker who has publicly opposed the increase, said in a video on his website. Nishida is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory, which argues that countries with their own central banks and borrowing in their own currencies can’t go broke, and don’t need to worry about overspending so long as it’s not generating high inflation.

“If you understand this, you will realize that it’s not true to say Japan’s in a fiscal crisis,“ said Hiroshi Ando, another LDP advocate of MMT.


Real estate, cybersecurity: links & commentary for May 21, 2019

There’s a whole lot of real estate that’s being freed up for other uses.

CVS, Payless and Victoria’s Secret are just some of the brands closing stores in 2019


This is what’s happened since China banned taking materials for recycling that didn’t meet China’s new standard. The same thing will happen if the Trump tariffs against China continue.

China’s ban on scrap imports a boon to US recycling plants


If progressivism is so terrible, why did U.S. News & World Report rank the most progressive state in the US as the best state?

Map: The United States of America, ranked from best to worst

The American rankings and analysis website factored in health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment to create its annual list of the best and worst U.S. states.

They ranked Washington as the best. It’s also the most progressive overall. The laissez-faire crowd calls it the socialist state.

Washington is not perfect. It’s not even close. It does, however, lean more progressive, particularly in the Seattle area, than other states.


Just an aside: If I never hear about Brexit again, it’ll be too soon. Talk about beating it to death! Maybe that’s actually gumming it to death.


Who’s lying? How are we supposed to know?

China’s tech transfer problem is growing, EU business group says

Cases of European firms forced to transfer technology in China are increasing despite Beijing saying the problem does not exist, a European business lobby said, adding that its outlook on the country’s regulatory environment is “bleak”.

China’s top Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said on Saturday that Washington’s complaints on the issue were “fabricated from thin air”.


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 20, 2019

How Homes Are Being Built, Raised to Withstand Extreme Weather

Cost remains key for homeowners. The hurricane-strong house, as Azaroff has labeled it, is about 7% to 9% more expensive to build. But with energy and insurance savings, the upgrades should pay for themselves in 8-10 years, according to Azaroff.


California May Go Dark This Summer; Most Aren’t Ready

Canning said his community is working on its own solution. He’s looking at developing a small network of microgrids consisting of solar panels and batteries, which would allow his community to function when PG&E pulls the plug.


Washington’s New Short-Term Rental Law Requires Liability Insurance


La. Supreme Court Upholds Forum Selection Clause in Insurance Contract

The company purchased insurance through a policy that included more than 100 properties in 20 states. Insurance brokers often build sell such pooled policies, linking unrelated insureds with common operations into risk groups, to obtain more favorable terms, according to a footnote in the decision.

Hughes said the cases that Johnson mentioned did not involve insurance contracts. Louisiana Revised Statute 23:868, unchanged for 66 years, specifically applies to insurance contracts and prohibits any provisions that deprive Louisiana Courts jurisdiction of action.

If Hughes is right, the court erred. Insurance policies are never supposed to trump valid statutory law. All insurance brokers, claims adjusters, and insurance companies are required to know that.


Cyber Risks to Exceed Natural Disasters for Insurers: Scor CEO

Kessler said the cyber risk could exceed $600 billion per year “in the worst case scenario.” That compares with the yearly cost of natural catastrophes, which he said is about $230 billion.


With Billions at Stake, Utilities Fight to Charge Coal-Ash Costs

It’s a high-stakes battle for utilities, which have so far escaped any shareholder wrath over cleanup expenses because investors assumed the costs would be baked into customers’ rates. …

This has become a common refrain from officials across states — that utilities are to blame for letting their own bad situation fester, and for pumping waste into unlined pits for years that could let toxins seep into groundwater. Cleanup costs, therefore, should be borne by the companies and their shareholders ….

I’m on the side of the consumers. Making the consumers absorb the cost is bailing out companies that employed bad environmental practices. Shareholders should not have their bets guaranteed by consumers.


San Francisco May Ban Police, City Use of Facial Recognition

Joel Engardio, vice president of grassroots group Stop Crime SF, wants the city to be flexible.

“Our point of view is, rather than a blanket ban forever, why not a moratorium so we’re not using problematic technology, but we open the door for when technology improves?” he said.

Such a moratorium is under consideration in the Massachusetts Legislature, where it has the backing of Republican and Democratic senators.

Civil rights are extremely important but so is real crime-prevention and catching the truly guilty.


Researchers Find Low Integrity CEOs Cost Firms Money

Some CEOs view paying for unethical practices as a mere cost of doing business. Their businesses end up making an overall profit, as many unethical practices are never found out. Even auditors have been shown to cooperate with the unethical practices.


Vulnerability Reduction Scorecard Helps Cities Save Lives and Resources

There are three phases within the scorecard process:

Assemble all relevant community plans that guide development decisions in hazard areas by creating a digital map with overlapping layers where the plans are “stacked” one on top of the other.
Evaluate and analyze the stacked map to identify geographic areas or populations that are most vulnerable.
Score the different areas of the municipality based upon their level of hazard vulnerability and degree of integration of hazard mitigation methods.

“The genius of the Resilience Scorecard tool is that looking over the stacked overlays, one can easily see the areas that have been targeted for capital investment and redevelopment, but are unfortunately right in the crosshairs of severe repetitive loss from recurring flooding disasters,” Berke said.


Georgia Insurance Chief Suspended As He Fights Fraud Charges

The indictment alleges Beck stole more than $2 million through ‘‘an elaborate invoicing scheme,’’ BJay Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said Tuesday.

The indictment says the scheme lasted for five years, until last August, after Beck won the Republican primary for insurance commissioner. Pak said none of the alleged fraudulent activity occurred after Beck took office.

Thousands of dollars of the alleged fraudulent payments went to Beck’s campaign fund, Pak said. Other money went to personal expenditures, investments and the payment of taxes, he added.


Stay or Go? As Weather Gets Wilder, States Urged to Prepare for Displacement

Figures released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva on Thursday showed disasters had caused an average of 24 million new displacements each year since 2008, more than three times the number for conflict and violence.

In a report, the IDMC said extreme weather accounted for more than 87 percent of all disaster displacement, warning the problem was likely to get worse.

Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is causing millions of displacements. How long will it be before they become permanent refugees? We need to end AGW.


Lenders Scolded for Climate Ignorance in ‘Insane’ Florida Deals

Florida’s economic crash could begin with banks or home-buyers worrying that annual insurance policies in some places will become prohibitively expensive, or disappear completely, Glendon said. That would shake the housing market and hurt property tax revenue, leaving Florida without an obvious way to pay for infrastructure to replace what’s literally or figuratively under water.

Similar warnings are starting to reverberate among other financial institutions. BlackRock Inc. last month published a 20-page explanation of how climate-risk has become a necessary assessment in understanding shifting levels of risk and value.

The report concludes that 58% of U.S. metropolitan areas will face climate-related damages amounting to 1% or more of GDP by 2060-2080, and that “a rising share of muni bond issuance over time will likely come from regions facing economic losses from rising average temperatures and related events.”


X Prize Developing Wildfire-Fighting Contest


Why Less Data May Be More for Employers Using Wearables in Workplace

This is a deep dive.

While many risk managers are aware of the potential privacy risks, they may not be considering other potential landmines involving litigation, labor contracts, accommodations for disabled employees, sharing of medical information, reputational damage, incorrect data, even injuries from the devices themselves, they said.


National Labor Board Memo Says Uber Drivers Are Contractors, Not Employees

The general counsel said in the memo that Uber drivers set their hours, own their cars and are free to work for the company’s competitors, so they cannot be considered employees under federal labor law.

I disagree that those are the parameters for determining whether someone is or isn’t an employee. Flexible hours are often allowed of employees. Many pizza delivery people own their own cars but are still employees. “Moonlighting” for a competitor is allowed unless there’s a contract for employment barring it.


New Washington Law Requires Plan for Statewide Disaster Resilience

Smart move.

“This is a crucial first step in being prepared to mitigate disasters that we face in Washington state, including earthquakes, wildfires and flooding,” Kreidler said in a statement.


A.M. Best Warns of Ratings Downgrades If Terror Reinsurance Act Not Renewed

… A.M. Best said it will compile a list of rated insurers in mid-2019, and ask those with “material terrorism exposure” as well as “significant reliance on TRIPRA” to show in detail how they’ll mitigate their exposure if TRIPRA is not renewed.

Insurers that would be significantly hit by TRIPRA’s absence and don’t present a plan to reduce terrorism risk exposures will face ratings downgrades by the end of 2019.


Milliman: Hurricane Katrina Litigation Could Cause Spike in Mississippi Homeowners Rates

“The basic allegation in each complaint is that insurers underpaid, partially denied, or denied wind claims by classifying them as flood claims,” the report states, noting that insurers did so with the knowledge that the HAP program would likely reimburse damage identified as flood “because of the insufficient flood insurance on the properties, and that the existence of HAP would lower the chance that policyholders would take action against their insurers for underpaying or denying the claims.”

It will be interesting to see if the complaints prevail. The article didn’t say what evidence has been alledged.


Arrest Made in Arson Fires to Homes Owned by South Carolina Gov

McMaster and his wife own 20 rental homes around Columbia and rent many to students at the University of South Carolina. Tax records show the couple earns about $300,000 a year from the rentals, according to the Post and Courier.


Bills Proposing Climate Change Studies Stall in Texas Legislature

Abbott, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, didn’t respond to requests for comment on why requiring for state-level climate change planning isn’t a priority for them.

Recent polling by the University of Texas and the Tribune found that 48 percent of Texans say the U.S. government should be doing “a great deal” or “a lot” about climate change. Twenty-one percent said the government should be doing nothing.

Obviously, politicians are beholden to the oil and gas sectors.


ZombieLoad Attack: Watch out! Your processor resurrects your private browsing-history and other sensitive data

After Meltdown, Spectre, and Foreshadow, we discovered more critical vulnerabilities in modern processors. The ZombieLoad attack allows stealing sensitive data and keys while the computer accesses them.

Can I detect if someone has exploited the ZombieLoad attack against me?
We do not have any data on this. The exploitation might not leave any traces in traditional log files.

Can my antivirus detect or block the ZombieLoad attack?
While possible in theory, this is unlikely in practice. However, your antivirus may detect malware which uses the attacks by comparing binaries after they become known.

Not very comforting.


Red Balloon Security, Inc. is disclosing two vulnerabilities affecting the products of Cisco Systems, Inc. (“Cisco”). [https://www.redballoonsecurity.com/; the https://thrangrycat.com site is part of Red Balloon Security]

While the flaws are based in hardware, 😾😾😾 [yes, the Pouting Cat Faces are in the original. They = “Thrangrycat,” which is the suggested name of the exploit; cute?] can be exploited remotely without any need for physical access. Since the flaws reside within the hardware design, it is unlikely that any software security patch will fully resolve the fundamental security vulnerability.

An attacker with root privileges on the device can modify the contents of the FPGA anchor bitstream, which is stored unprotected in flash memory. Elements of this bitstream can be modified to disable critical functionality in the TAm. Successful modification of the bitstream is persistent, and the Trust Anchor will be disabled in subsequent boot sequences. It is also possible to lock out any software updates to the TAm’s bitstream.

This vulnerability affects Cisco products with an FPGA based TAm. Cisco released the following list of more than 100 product families with this vulnerability.
….
We chose to communicate 😾😾😾 through a visual representation of symbols, rather than “words.” Naming vulnerabilities using emoji sequences instead of other pronounceable natural languages have several advantages. First, emoji sequences are universally understood across nearly all natural languages. Choosing 😾😾😾 instead of a name rooted in any one language ensures that the technical contents of our research can be discussed democratically and without latent cultural or linguistic bias. Second, emojis are indexical to the digital age. Third, clear communication is the foundation of friendship, and such a foundation must begin with proper ontological agreement. Just as the universal language of mathematics is largely expressed through interlinguistic symbology, so too is 😾😾😾. Fourth, cats are seen as almost paradoxical beings. While they exist in our lives as the ultimate creatures of leisure, cats are also fierce predators. “Cats are the most highly specialized of the terrestrial flesh-eating mammals. They are powerfully built, with a large brain and strong teeth. The teeth are adapted to three functions: stabbing (canines), anchoring (canines), and cutting (carnassial molars).” (Lariviere, Serge; Stains, Howard James. “Feline.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Feline). For an incomplete list of felines in various mythologies, see this webpage.

Okay.


Advisory: Security Issue with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Titan Security Keys

This issue affects the BLE version of Titan Security Keys. To determine if your key is affected, check the back of the key. If it has a “T1” or “T2” on the back of the key, your key is affected by the issue and is eligible for free replacement.


published_time” content=”2019-05-14T09:55:00″ WhatsApp Finds and Fixes Targeted Attack Bug

WhatsApp is urging its global users to update their app after fixing a serious remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability which was being exploited in a highly targeted attack, potentially by a nation state.

The Facebook-owned mobile comms giant, which has over 1.5 billion users, rolled out a fix on Friday [May 10th] for the buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP stack.


Wanna know more?

One call on WhatsApp is enough to establish surveillance

A recently discovered zero-day vulnerability in the world’s most popular messenger — WhatsApp — allowed hackers to eavesdrop on users, read their encrypted chats, turn on the microphone and camera, and install spyware that allows even further surveillance, such as browsing through the victim’s photos and videos, accessing their contact list, and so on. What’s even worse, to exploit the vulnerability, all the hacker needs to do is call the victim on WhatsApp.

Our best suggestion at the moment is to make sure your WhatsApp is up to date. To do that, go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, look for WhatsApp and hit Update. If there’s no “Update” button, but you see the “Open” button instead, that means you have the latest version of WhatsApp, and it is already patched against such attacks.

Yep, I got behind on my cybersecurity reading. I was too busy doing cybersecurity (among other things).


A deeper dive, well-written:

New Intel firmware boot verification bypass enables low-level backdoors

By replacing a PC’s SPI flash chip with one that contains rogue code, an attacker can gain full, persistent access.

While the attack requires opening the laptop case to attach clip-on connectors to the chip, there are ways to make it permanent, such as replacing the SPI chip with a rogue one that emulates the UEFI and also serves malicious code. In fact, Hudson has already designed such an emulator chip that has the same dimensions as a real SPI flash chip and could easily pass as one upon visual inspection if some plastic coating is added to it.

Such a physical compromise could occur in different ways, for example in an Evil-Maid-type scenario where a high value target, like a company’s CEO, travels to a foreign country and leaves their laptop unattended in their hotel room. Bosch tells CSO that replacing the SPI memory chip with a rogue one designed to execute this attack would take 15 to 20 minutes for an experienced attacker with the right equipment.

Another possibility are supply chain attacks or the so-called “interdiction” techniques where computer shipments are intercepted in transit, for example by an intelligence agency, are backdoored and then resealed to hide any tampering. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the NSA uses such techniques, and it is likely not the only intelligence agency to do so.

Some devices do have tamper-evident seals or mechanisms, but someone with the right resources and knowledge can easily bypass those defenses, Bosch tells CSO.


Blocking Hyperlink Auditing Tracking Pings with Extensions

As Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox developers feel that this tracking feature is a performance improvement, they have all decided to enable this feature by default without a way to disable it. They feel that if they disable this feature, site owners will switch to JavaScript trackers, which are worse for performance.

With most popular browsers now enabling this feature by default, with Firefox doing so in the future, the only way to disable hyperlink auditing is through the use of browser addons and extension.

uBlock Origin can do some heavy lifting if you delve into it and set it up correctly.


Linux Kernel Prior to 5.0.8 Vulnerable to Remote Code Execution

Linux machines running distributions powered by kernels prior to 5.0.8 are affected by a race condition vulnerability leading to a use after free, related to net namespace cleanup, exposing vulnerable systems to remote attacks.


“secure by design and secure by default” I like that. Security standard for surveillance cameras set for launch

“The standard includes ensuring that passwords have to be changed from the manufacturer default at start-up, and that the chosen passwords should be of sufficient complexity to provide a degree of assurance, placing controls around how and when remote access should be provisioned.


A very deep dive, very informative:

A Cisco Router Bug Has Massive Global Implications

Cisco is announcing a patch for the IOS remote-control vulnerability the Red Balloon researchers discovered. And the company says it will also provide fixes for all product families that are potentially vulnerable to secure-enclave attacks like the one the researchers demonstrated. Cisco declined to characterize the nature or timing of these fixes ahead of the public disclosure. It also disputed that the secure boot vulnerability directly impacts the Trust Anchor. According to its security bulletin, all fixes are still months away from release, and there are currently no workarounds. When the patches do arrive, Cisco says, they will “require an on-premise reprogramming,” meaning the fixes can’t be pushed remotely, because they are so fundamental.


Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Routers Leak Info of Connected Devices

Mursch says that there is still good news even though Linksys might not want to fix the flaw seeing that 14,387 of the total of 25,617 vulnerable routers “currently have automatic firmware updates enabled.” This means that if the company will patch the vulnerability in the future, over 14K of them will receive the security update and will be protected automatically.

There’s also bad news too though, since “typical recommendation of keeping your router’s firmware up-to-date is not applicable in this case as no fix is available,” as Mursch concludes.

Additionally, “Disabling remote web access as a workaround is not an option because Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers require it for the Linksys App to function.”


Microsoft Patches ‘Wormable’ Flaw in Windows XP, 7 and Windows 2003

Microsoft today is taking the unusual step of releasing security updates for unsupported but still widely-used Windows operating systems like XP and Windows 2003, citing the discovery of a “wormable” flaw that the company says could be used to fuel a fast-moving malware threat like the WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017.


Over 12,000 MongoDB Databases Deleted by Unistellar Attackers

More to the point, the two most important measures which will prevent the attacks are to enable authentication and to not allow the databases to be remotely accessible.


This is a different issue from the Cisco one above.

Cisco Upgrades Remote Code Execution Flaws to Critical Severity

Cisco upgraded three remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities impacting the web management interfaces to critical severity with a CVSS base score of 9.8 after initially rating them as high with a base score of 8.8 when the advisories were first published on May 15.

Cisco Prime Infrastructure (PI) and Cisco Evolved Programmable Network (EPN) Manager are network management tools used by administrators “for provisioning, monitoring, optimizing, and troubleshooting both wired and wireless devices.”


How to design a stimulus package

As most modern research on business-cycle stabilisation has focused on monetary policy, not much is known about the properties of an adequate stimulus package. Indeed, because the Federal Reserve has been in charge of stabilisation for several decades, the design of optimal monetary policy has attracted an enormous amount of research, while the design of optimal stimulus packages has been relatively neglected.

Several properties of a well-designed stimulus package stand out – because they challenge existing preconceptions. The first is that the size of the stimulus does not follow the bang-for-the-buck logic often invoked in policy discussions. Instead, the relationship between multiplier and stimulus spending is hump-shaped – stimulus spending should be zero for a zero multiplier, increasing in the multiplier for small multipliers, largest for a moderate multiplier, and decreasing in the multiplier beyond that.

This sounds like it’s based upon a counterfactual analysis. We didn’t have a large stimulus, so how is it known that it would have resulted in diminishing returns to the extent suggested? Wouldn’t as much or more depend upon exactly how the money is spent? How was the stimulus targeted? Was it long enough for one?

How is GDP measured? What counts? Does the coal industry? The coal industry is nothing but externalities. Every single ounce of effort going into it could easily be diverted to outputs that are at least constructive on balance. The coal, oil, and gas industries are all net losses. They subtract from real GDP. They cost more than they return.

Naturally, there would be a limit to the positive impact of simply flooding the economy with new money due to resource constraints; however, it seems more variables and more historical data are needed.

Regardless, proper planning can bring demand on right along with the ability to supply.


Europe and the class cleavage

… the European Union, as built in recent decades, is based on widespread competition between countries, on fiscal and social dumping in favour of the most mobile economic actors and functions objectively to the benefit of the most privileged. Until the European Union takes strong symbolic measures for the reduction of inequalities, for example a common tax which impacts the richest, enabling the taxes of the poorest to be lowered, this situation will continue.

… there is no reason why present-day Europe should remain imbued with a Hayek-type vision. Today the European banner serves the interests of those whose aim is to impose their class politics. But it is up to us to remind people that Europe could be organised in a different manner as was already the opinion of Wooton, Beveridge or even Robbins almost 80 years ago.


The Disconnect between Inflation and Employment in the New Normal

Governor Lael Brainard

At “Certain Uncertainty: Tax Policy in Unsettled Times” National Tax Association 49th Annual Spring Symposium, Washington, D.C.

The emerging contours of today’s new normal are defined by low sensitivity of inflation to changes in labor market slack, a low long-term neutral rate of interest, and low underlying trend inflation.

While low inflation and low interest rates have many benefits, the new normal presents a challenge for the conventional approach to monetary policy, in which the Federal Reserve could rely on changes in the level of the federal funds rate to achieve its inflation and employment goals. …

… the overall labor force participation rate has remained constant despite the long-term aging of the population that would otherwise be pushing participation lower.

Given that the large majority of working-age households, those at the middle and lower ends of the income distribution, rely primarily on wage income, advancing our employment mandate has served the country well. In today’s new normal, with the low responsiveness of inflation to labor market tightness, there appears to be little evidence so far of a tradeoff with our price-stability objective. The sustained strengthening of the labor market also adds to the productive capacity of the economy by attracting people on the sidelines to join or rejoin the labor force and move into employment.

Of course, there are also risks. The past three downturns were precipitated not by rising inflation pressure, but rather by the buildup of financial imbalances. Extended periods of above-potential growth and low interest rates tend to be accompanied by rapid credit growth and elevated asset valuations, which tend to boost downside risks to the economy.9 It is not hard to see why a high-pressure economy might be associated with elevated financial imbalances, especially late in the cycle. As an expansion continues, the memory of the previous recession fades. Profits tend to rise, experienced loss rates on loans are low, and people tend to project recent trends into the future, which leads financial market participants and borrowers to become overly optimistic. Risk appetite rises, asset valuations become stretched, and credit is available on easier terms and to riskier borrowers than earlier in the cycle when memories of losses were still fresh.

One tool other central banks have been using to help temper the financial cycle is the countercyclical capital buffer (CCyB). The CCyB provides regulators with the authority to require large banks to build up an extra capital buffer as financial risks mount.10 Although the CCyB was authorized as part of the post-crisis package of reforms, so far, the Federal Reserve has chosen not to use it. Turning on the CCyB would build an extra layer of resilience and signal restraint, helping to damp the rising vulnerability of the overall system. Moreover, because the CCyB is explicitly countercyclical, it is intended to be cut if the outlook deteriorates, boosting the ability of banks to make loans when extending credit is most needed and providing a valuable signal about policymakers’ intentions. This feature proved to be valuable in the United Kingdom in the wake of the Brexit referendum.

Finally, let us turn to the apparent softness in underlying trend inflation. One hypothesis for the flat Phillips curve is that central banks have been so effective in anchoring inflation expectations that tightening resource utilization is no longer transmitted to price inflation.11 [That is not the reason.] Another possibility is that structural factors such as administrative changes to health care costs, globalization, or technological-enabled disruption have been dominant in recent years, masking the operation of cyclical forces.12 Regardless, because inflation is ultimately a monetary phenomenon, the Federal Reserve has the capacity and the responsibility to ensure inflation expectations are firmly anchored at—and not below—our target.

Of course, it is not entirely clear how to move underlying trend inflation smoothly to our target on a sustained basis in the presence of a very flat Phillips curve. One possibility we might refer to as “opportunistic reflation” would be to take advantage of a modest increase in actual inflation to demonstrate to the public our commitment to our inflation goal on a symmetric basis.17 For example, suppose that an unexpected increase in core import price inflation drove overall inflation modestly above 2 percent for a couple of years. The Federal Reserve could use that opportunity to communicate that a mild overshooting of inflation is consistent with our goals and to align policy with that statement. Such an approach could help demonstrate to the public that the Committee is serious about achieving its 2 percent inflation objective on a sustained basis.


I sometimes disagree with Jeffrey D. Sachs. Not this time. The following two paragraphs are the two best paragraphs I’ve ever seen from him.

A majority of Americans are neither happy with the way things are going in their country nor naive enough to believe that the 2017 tax cut is a solution to their woes. Unlike many macroeconomists, they know there is more to life than a short-run increase in GDP growth or decline in the unemployment rate. These are at best blurred snapshots that neglect the future, overlook inequalities of outcomes, and fail to reflect the high and rising anxieties of Americans living with overpriced healthcare, massive student debts, and lack of job protection. Nor do they reflect falling life expectancy and the rising burdens of substance abuse, suicides, and depression.

It’s time that economists, pundits, and politicians start looking holistically at life in our times, and take seriously the long-term structural changes needed to address the multiple crises of health care, despair, inequality, and stress in the US and many other countries. US citizens, in particular, should reflect on the fact that many other countries’ people are happier and less worried, and are living longer. In general, those other countries’ governments are not cutting taxes for the rich and slashing services for the rest. They are attending to the common good, instead of catering to the rich while pointing to illusory economic statistics that hide as much as they reveal.

Here’s the full article: America’s Illusions of Growth


When American Capitalism Meant Equality

… I looked at how American leaders handled the financial crisis of rolling bank runs occurring from 1929-1933, which was the last time we dealt with such a profound political challenge. What I noticed were profound ideological differences that played out in the response to the crisis. In short, in the 1930s New Dealers broke up banks and restructured the economy. This time, we didn’t.

My conclusion, after researching how New Dealers thought about the world, versus how the New Democrats surrounding Obama thought about the world, led me to the observation that the meaning of American capitalism changed. We transitioned from a relatively egalitarian New Deal state to today’s unequal and concentrated corporate apparatus. This change was accompanied by a parallel shift in how Americans thought about themselves as economic and political actors.

“The balance of political power,” Dutton wrote, had gone “from the economic to the psychological to a certain extent—from the stomach and pocketbook to the psyche, and perhaps sooner or later to the soul.” In 1975, a generation trained on these ideas arrived in the Democratic Party. This was Bill Clinton’s generation, the so-called Watergate Babies. In 1978, the Republican version of the Watergate Babies came into office in the form of the New Right (a class which included a young Newt Gingrich).

From 1975 until the early 1980s, these new, increasingly dominant factions of both parties restructured politics around the view that concentrated financial power—monopoly power—was mostly inevitable and efficient. Jimmy Carter changed rules in finance, trucking, airlines, and telecommunications, allowing private concentrated capital to regulate these spheres of the economy rather than democratic institutions. Reagan continued this trend, which came to be known as ‘deregulation.’ Reagan also eliminated antitrust enforcement. Democrats noticed the government cuts and attacks on unions, but they largely missed the shift in antitrust.

… The Reagan and Carter deregulatory efforts, along with the removal of New Deal era rules on finance, opened the door Milken walked through. Just the prospect of takeovers changed the way corporations operated. Between 1984-1985, 398 of the 950 largest companies in North America restructured—only 52 in response to actual takeover bids—mostly by loading up on debt.

… Barack Obama was asked why America hadn’t taken over the banks and restructured them, like Sweden had in the early 1990s, when it suffered a similar banking crisis. Sweden based its bank resolution model on what FDR had done in the 1930s. When Obama was asked this question, people were talking about the idea of Too Big to Fail banks as the first popular anti-monopoly slogan put forward since Brandeis’s Other People’s Money.

Obama said that Sweden’s plan was a good idea—for Sweden. But there was a problem. Sweden was a small country with a small number of banks. America, by contrast, is really big.

Besides, he added, “We also have different traditions in this country.”

“Too Big to Fail” was widely used concerning American Motors when Lee Iacocca was in his hay day. It was the argument put forth for bailing out the company.

As for Obama, he also said he didn’t want to look back. He said that in terms of not prosecuting banksters. However, I’m sure it applied in terms that he didn’t want to take on the banks.

FDR took them on and convinced them that the country needed the New Deal, which it did. They didn’t like it but went along for their own survival.

Obama was no FDR. I say that as one who believes FDR didn’t go nearly far enough.

Anyway, Matt’s article is chalk full of history you should at least be exposed to. Most people are way too young to remember the general moods Matt discusses. I remember when the New Deal was still sacred. It was amazing to me when people such as Milton Friedman were actually taken seriously. We ended up with the Great Recession/Depression, which vindicated my thinking all along.

I dipped my toe in libertarian economics but always pulled it back out before losing my economic mind.


10 Smart Tips for Finding Cheap Houses (Yes, They Still Exist in This Country)

I would have said “inexpensive” rather than “cheap,” but that’s the salesman in me coming out.


Rental Property Numbers So Easy You Can Calculate Them on a Napkin (With Real-Life Example!)

Repairs: Again, this is an estimate, but it should not be left out. Just like with vacancy, I err on the side of conservative. If a house is a turnkey property or recently rehabbed and gets a good report from the inspector, I use 5% of the monthly rent. If the property is not in top shape, conservative could mean closer to 25%. Use your judgment on deciding what percentage to use for your estimate, but don’t overestimate the quality of your property and estimate too low.


Why Buying Into Section 8 Myths Is Leaving (Big!) Money on the Table [With Photo Tour]

I buy properties in relatively safe, quiet, and peaceful neighborhoods. Most of my Section 8 tenants are escaping neighborhoods that are quite the opposite.

Therefore, a housing voucher is their golden ticket to a neighborhood free of drugs, gangs, and other negative influences. Their voucher is a gateway to a better quality of life for the entire family. So when they move into one of my houses, they usually stay for many, many years.


Want to Pay Less in Taxes? You Need This Designation (& May Already Qualify!)

… cost segregation reduces tax liability by using the depreciation captured as a written loss on your taxes. Cost segregation losses are considered passive losses (real estate losses) and can only be used to offset passive income. However, if you are a REP, you can use cost segregation’s losses against ordinary income!


Trump’s Plans for Protecting Polluters Have Been a Devastating Success

At the EPA, a 2017 memo signed by the agency’s former director for civil enforcement instructed regional enforcement officers to seek permission from Washington before ordering certain air and water pollution tests. These tests are often necessary to determine whether companies violated environmental laws. The result was to clog the case-building pipeline, causing such fact finding activities to decline in at least two of the agency’s most active regional offices. The messaging has caused confusion and dampened spirits among many of the agency’s investigators. The agency additionally inspected fewer industrial facilities during 2018 under Trump than at any time in the preceding decade.

All administrations shuffle enforcement priorities, and some observers have posed contextual quibbles over the data documenting the decline. But the overall scale at which the Trump administration is pulling back on enforcement actions against corporate actors, banks, and polluters would be shocking under any other administration. As fewer cases gestate within the agencies’ ranks, companies will be emboldened to violate with greater impunity laws meant to protect public health, safety, and financial well-being. That’s bad news for all of us.


415.26 parts per million: CO2 levels hit historic high

The last four years were the four hottest on record and, in spite of the Paris deal and increasing public awareness of the problem, mankind continues to break its own emissions records, year on year.


Single-use plastics a serious climate change hazard, study warns

“With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse.”

The key actions which the authors say are required are:

• Immediately end the production and use of single-use, disposable plastic.

• Stop development of new oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure.

• Foster the transition to zero-waste communities.

• Implement a system where polluters pay for the impact of their products – known as extended producer responsibility.

Forty per cent of plastic packaging waste is disposed of at sanitary landfills, 14% goes to incineration facilities and 14% is collected for recycling. Incineration creates the most CO2 emissions among the plastic waste management methods.

Refining the material is the most greenhouse gas intensive part of the plastic lifecycle, and major expansions in the US and elsewhere will accelerate climate change, the report says.

In 2019 the lifecycle of global plastic production – from extraction to disposal – was equivalent to the impact on the climate of 189 500MW coal-fired power stations. By 2050, the report predicts, the global plastic footprint will be equivalent to 615 coal plants running at full capacity.


Tornadoes, High Winds Destroy Homes in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana

Severe thunderstorms continued to rumble across parts of the U.S. Sunday, damaging buildings in Louisiana after spawning reports of tornadoes through north-central Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Saturday.


These States Have Had the Most Violent Tornadoes Since 1950

Less than 1 percent of all tornadoes were assigned the EF4/F4 or EF5/F5 rating from 2000 to 2010.

Despite their infrequency, tornadoes that produce this extreme damage account for more than half the deaths from all twisters.


Spring’s Record-Late Arrival in Parts of the U.S. Has a Serious Consequence

Snowmelt and heavy rainfall brought significant river flooding to parts of the Plains and Midwest in March. Many farming fields were ruined and will not be planted this year, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).


It’s the Most Favorable Time of Year For the Most Violent Tornadoes in the U.S.

We examined NOAA’s tornado database from 1950 through 2017 for the 628 violent (F/EF4+) tornadoes to see if there is a peak time of year, and found there’s a broad peak from April through early June.


Europe Is Now a Bigger Trade Villain Than China

The reduction in China’s external imbalance has been dwarfed by the emergence of a new glut emanating from Europe. Measured in dollars, Italy’s excess production in 2018 was larger than China’s. Excess output from the 19 members of the euro area is now worth about 0.6% of world production—a half-percentage point higher than in 2007.

Add in Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden, which have broadly similar policies, and Europe’s total surplus has been bigger than China’s ever was since 2013. (China’s neighbors, meanwhile, have maintained their large collective surplus.)

The sustained increase in Europe’s external surplus has little to do with “competitiveness” or “reforms.” Instead, it is a function of the region’s battered domestic economies: Consumption and investment fell, which depressed imports, while exports rose in line with global demand.

Many ideological problems emanate from Europe, but China still poses the bigger hurdle in that regard. Due to the excesses of deregulation in the US, increased laissez-faire capitalism has given democracy a bad reputation. Many people are thinking incorrectly that democracy doesn’t work. They point to the rising, harmful rate and degree of inequality as their reason for thinking so. However, it was the weakening of democracy that allowed the deregulation that led to the inequality. The cure is stronger democracy, not the totalitarianism of China. Statistically and historically, democracy is better for overall economic and societal success and health. Dictatorships hit a plateau proper democracies don’t.


Fed Challenged Over View That Leveraged Loans Won’t Cause Crisis

The leveraged lending market — a subset of almost $1.2 trillion in borrowing that often funds mergers and acquisitions involving heavily indebted companies — grew 20% last year. The Fed, in a report issued last week, pointed to decreasing protections for lenders, with the risk typically passed on to investors in the form of collateralized loan obligations.

Global regulators are trying to learn more about who is buying CLOs that could suffer in a downturn, Quarles said, but he reiterated that U.S. banks aren’t very exposed. At the same time, he and others have noted that bank regulators have limited say in the riskiest end of the market, pointing to nonbanks as the lenders making the most hazardous deals.


SF’s homeless population breaks 8,000

The initial estimate of San Francisco’s most recent Homelessness Point-in-Time Count, conducted in January, reveals that SF’s homeless population swelled by more than 500 persons since 2017, for an overall estimate of more than 8,000.

This is a direct reflection on our system. There’s no good reason for not housing everyone in decent housing.


A Major Coal Company Went Bust. Its Bankruptcy Filing Shows That It Was Funding Climate Change Denialism.

In 2016, Greg Zimmerman, an environmental activist, stumbled upon a presentation titled “Survival Is Victory: Lessons From the Tobacco Wars.” The slide deck was the creation of Richard Reavey, a vice president for government and public affairs at Cloud Peak Energy, and a former executive at Phillip Morris. Reavey argued that fossil fuel firms, particularly coal, should emulate the tactics of big tobacco, which similarly spent decades battling scientists and regulators over claims that its product harmed public health.

In the New York Times coverage of the episode, Reavey told the paper that his firm “has never fought climate change — never fought it, never denied it or funded anyone who does.” The bankruptcy filing from last week, however, suggests otherwise.

The longer we allow global-warming denial to interfere with making the right political decisions, the more it will cost all of us in money, health, and safety.


Loads of stats:

Explained, the economic ties between Europe and Asia

Asia and Europe are now leading trade partners, with $1.5 trillion of annual merchandise trade, overtaking each continent’s trade with the United States. A new study gathering an unprecedented range of bilateral data between country pairs pinpoints the economic, social and political ties between 51 Asian and European countries.

… Sustainable connectivity is the new name of the game.

… better connected countries are also associated with larger impacts on the environment, which translates into higher greenhouse gas emissions and domestic material consumption. Policy-makers are faced with the challenge of minimizing the environmental impact of connectivity, and ensuring that its benefits are inclusive for all members of society.


James Bullard Discusses Nominal GDP Targeting

I think the question about both nominal GDP targeting and price-level targeting is whether the additional gains that you would get are going to be that big compared to what you already are getting from inflation targeting.

It’s the kind of thing where you might say, “OK, we switched to nominal GDP targeting.” Nobody notices in the entire economy. No one pays any attention, and you don’t get any of these effects at all. I think that would be the kind of thing that is very practical and could possibly happen, because private-sector people might say, “Well, I don’t understand it,” or “I don’t see what the difference is between this and inflation targeting. It’s all too subtle.”

Pointless. They translate into the same thing.


This simple trick could make it a lot harder for corporations to skip out on their tax bill

Donald Trump and his Republican entourage promised big benefits to workers from their massive corporate tax cut of 2018—but many workers discovered they ended up paying more than they had in previous years.

What’s more, the investment boom projected by the tax cuts proponents have utterly failed to materialize. “The good news is that there is a way to tax multinationals in a way that addresses both tax competition for real activity and for paper profits,” Zucman writes.

Individual countries can avoid profit-shifting by taxing the consolidated profits of firms proportionally to where they sell products.

“Concretely, if Apple AAPL, -0.57% sells 20% of its products in the United States, the U.S. federal government would say that 20% of Apple’s global profits are taxable in the United States,” the economist argues.
Can’t move your customers

“This would put an end to profit shifting because firms cannot affect the location of their customers (they can’t move their customers to Bermuda; and if they try to pretend that they make a disproportionate fraction of their sales to low-tax places, this form of tax avoidance is easy to detect and anti-abuse rules can be applied),” Zucman says.

“This would also put an end to competition for real activity, because in such a system there is no incentive for firms to move capital or labor to low-tax places; the location of production becomes irrelevant for tax purposes,” he says.

I like it.


This one reinforces my point above concerning China, laissez-faire-leaning economics, and the reputation of democracy.

Inequality driving ‘deaths of despair’

Widening inequalities in pay, health and opportunities in the UK are undermining trust in democracy, says an Institute for Fiscal Studies report.

The think tank warns of runaway incomes for high earners but rises in “deaths of despair”, such as from addiction and suicide, among the poorest.

It warns of risks to “centre-ground” politics from stagnating pay and divides in health and education.

The report says such widening gaps are “making a mockery of democracy”.


Disclaimer: I’ve always been a strong advocate of a national industrial policy.

A New Paper from IMF Researchers Puts Industrial Policy Back in the Limelight

To achieve their high growth rates, the “Asian miracles” relied on what development experts call industrial policy, in which governments encourage the growth of certain industries ahead of others, and sometimes even certain firms ahead of others, because they have higher future growth potential. …

If nothing else, the paper is a reminder that economists at the IMF, often perceived as ideologically homogeneous, can sometimes disagree with one another quite vigorously.

The IMF regularly advises developing countries to adopt policies that hew close to its “standard growth recipe” — macroeconomic stability, privatisation, and so on. Cherif and Hasanov’s paper says that those same policies “constitute the lowest gear” of growth models, or “the snail crawl approach” to development.

Still, the IMF’s receptivity to economic models outside the usual frameworks shouldn’t be overstated. Professor Wade cautioned that Cherif and Hasanov are employed in a marginal part of the IMF, and that their paper may have next to no readership among the rest of the IMF staff, let alone any influence on thinking.

“The neoclassical paradigm is very well-defended,” he said, “and most of the debate Minouche refers to is well within the bounds of the neoclassical paradigm.”

What the article misses is that people outside the IMF read these things and then cite them, as you can see right here. That helps to spread non-neoclassical models and ideas. I am squarely opposed to the neoclassical model and always have been. It was a huge mistake for the US to have ever gone down that path. We’ve been paying for that mistake now for a good four decades.


This is pointing out the obvious that most people completely miss.

Economics from the Top Down

If you’re a free market ideologue, you need to wrestle with this growth of hierarchy. No society on earth has industrialized using small-scale competition. Instead, concentrated power seems to be the name of the game.

… imagine that Walmart is purchased by a free market ideologue. Utterly convinced that the market knows best, the ideologue dismantles Walmart’s hierarchy and replaces it with a free market. In the new Walmart, each of the 2 million employees become private contractors. These contractors bid for every task and obey only the highest bidder. There is no CEO, no chain of command, no formal positions of any kind. Every task and every responsibility is up for auction.

How long will the new Walmart last? You probably agree, not very long. Without the chain of command, Walmart would probably [not probably but would definitely] collapse. …

I’ve assumed here that the ‘free market’ is equivalent to small-scale competition. I’ve characterized the ‘free market’ as a sea of individuals, each bartering and trading with one another. But the savvy reader likely knows that the phrase ‘free market’ is often used in an Orwellian sense.

You’ll here billionaires like the Koch brothers praise the ‘free market’. Their language evokes pleasant images of entrepreneurs and small businesses. But in reality, the Koch brothers (and other free-market advocates) usually seek policies that benefit big business (i.e. large hierarchies). So the term ‘free market’ is doublespeak for the unfettered power of large hierarchies.


Where are we in the economics of industrial policies?

A new generation of work has been moving us beyond the largely ideological debates of the past to a more contextual, pragmatic understanding. The most recent strand is rooted in two developments. One of these is the indisputable economic success of China, a country that has made liberal use of a diverse array of industrial policies: cheap loans, public ownership, local-content requirements, export subsidies, and technology-transfer requirements. The other is the dissatisfaction with Washington Consensus-type policies, which in Latin America and elsewhere produced weak returns in terms of structural change and productive diversification.

… Consider a setting where market imperfections are widely distributed throughout the economy. An implication of second-best theory is that reducing the distortion in industry A may make things worse if industry B is a general-equilibrium substitute for it and also has a large distortion. That is because expanding industry A results in a contraction of industry B. But when industry A is an input (an upstream industry), it will tend to be a general-equilibrium complement to other distorted industries. So reducing the distortion in A makes things better for B (and C, D, E, etc.) as well, since it leads to an expansion of all those industries. This is a case where the second-best interactions magnify the original gain rather than countering and reversing them. Therefore, the more upstream an industry is, the more beneficial it is to support it.

Liu (2017) formalises and generalises this intuition to show that it rationalises industrial policies that subsidise more upstream industries. He then applies the framework to South Korea during the 1970s and contemporary China. He finds in both cases that industrial policies were in conformity with the first-order implications of the theory.

This has clear implications for the Green New Deal (GND) in terms of avoiding and mitigating resource-constraint issues. I’ve advocated for the GND and said that proper planning is the key. In arguing as such, I’ve clearly stated that proper planning must start with the first inputs in the entire supply chain in order to arrive at the proper outputs where supply and demand are balanced via democratic choices in the first place and adequate funding in the form of monetary financing, which is printing money with no governmental borrowing.

Rather than people only voting with dollars in laissez-faire price discovery, we’d actually primarily vote with our votes for what we want collectively. Proper planning is key, but complete transparency is key to that. We can’t have the best economy if things are hidden from us by private corporations and captured governments.


Low Inflation Cloaks Consumer Pain Inflicted by Trump’s Tariffs

“The costs of the tariffs have fallen entirely on U.S. businesses and households,” [hogwash] Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists wrote in a recent note, where they made similar calculations about the levies’ impact on inflation.

Meanwhile, Trump has sought to enlist the Fed in his trade fight, urging policy makers Tuesday to “match” what he said Beijing would do to offset the hardship caused by U.S. tariffs.

That’s exactly what I said in my post of May 13, 2019, that the Fed should do. “Should the Fed turn on a dime with every increase or decrease in tariffs on Chinese goods? Yes.”


“There is no reason for the U.S. consumer to pay the tariffs,” Trump tweeted Monday. Tariffs can be “completely avoided if you buy from a non-tariffed country, or you buy the product inside the USA (the best idea). That’s zero tariffs.”

Trump often points to the China trade deficit — or the disproportionate amount of imports from the Asian nation — as a reason for the duties. China is the No. 1 trading partner with the U.S., with $659.8 billion of total goods being traded between the two countries in 2018, according to USTR data. Exports, however, totaled $120.3 billion, while imports totaled $539.5 billion. That brings the goods trade deficit with China to $419.2 billion.

The laissez-faire camp is dreading Trump’s tariffs actually working. They trot each other out to make “expert” statements against the trade war. Meanwhile, they avoid like the plague any positives associated with the tariffs, whether short or long term.

They hate the idea of thinking of the US as one. They don’t want a unified all-American approach. That’s because that approach is governmental. You see, if the government does anything right and does it concerning something the private sector could never do, then the People will get the right idea that the government can do things right that the private sector could never do.

The laissez-faire crowd only thinks collectively when it suits them. For instance, it suits them that the huge entity Amazon is treated as a person under the law. It suits them that Amazon is completely hierarchical rather than a free market internally. However, when it comes time to view the US as one and China as one, they hate it. It doesn’t work to their individual advantage.

Therefore, they only tell negative stories about trade wars via tariffs.

Look, we the People of the United States are already paying a “tax” on what we import and buy from China. We are paying the $419.2 billion quoted above. We are paying in many other ways all associated with the “free traders” having taken high-paying, middle-class jobs from the US to other places, especially China. We are paying for it by a China that’s being extremely belligerent concerning the South China Sea and Taiwan, etc., and a China that’s telling the world that democracy is evil.

You decide. Do you want low priced items from China that hide all the costs you don’t usually think about, or do you want to get this trade war over with, with China having capitulated so that we’re actually free from the machinations of the Chinese dictatorship?

Is Trump taking all the right stances and getting Europe and the rest of the world on board via arguments that can’t be refuted? Unfortunately, no. Will he get wind of this? Yes.


Fantastic, short article:

3 Things More Important to Trade Than Tariffs, by Matthew C. Klein

Tariffs are only one of many forces that affect the relative prices of goods and services. In practice, currency movements, concessional financing terms, and the labor share of income are often far more important, yet receive far less attention from ostensible trade experts.


Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a libertarian idea to do away with welfare programs. Progressives have always been for a Universal Living Income (ULI), which is substantially above the poverty line. I’m getting the impression that the UBI is being morphed into the ULI by progressives. They are co-opting the term and redefining it.

Something the article doesn’t mention is that John McDonnell has acknowledged that taxes would not have to go up to pay for it. The government (the central bank) could simply issue the money.

Universal Basic Income: The UK May Host One of the Biggest Trials Yet


Multifamily lenders balk at N.Y.’s proposed tenant-friendly reforms

The goal of the proposals is not to make it harder for landlords to conduct maintenance or make large capital improvements, but to root out bad actors who created business models based on evictions and subsequent rent hikes, Weisberg said.

It’s a tightrope.


Privatizing public power is a terrible idea!

Trump Wants to Sell Public Power Agencies to Wall Street

Trump’s A Budget for a Better America asserts that “Reducing or eliminating the Federal Government’s role in electricity transmission infrastructure ownership, thereby increasing the private sector’s role, and introducing more market-based incentives, including rates, for power sales from Federal dams would encourage a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigate risk to taxpayers.”

The budget provides zero factual support for these claims.

Privatizing would drive rates way up, hurting average payers while further enriching the already rich. Trump knows it. So, why does he want to do it? Backing and donations.


I want one.

GE’s Record-Breaking 12MW Offshore Wind Turbine Wins Backing of Swedish Utility Vattenfall

Swedish utility Vattenfall announced plans to deploy GE Renewable Energy’s 12-megawatt Haliade-X offshore wind turbine at future projects in Europe — a big win for the world’s largest wind turbine, and for GE’s otherwise lagging offshore wind business.

First announced last year and due to begin commercial deliveries in 2021, the Haliade-X will be capable of generating enough power from a single turbine to supply 16,000 European households, or an estimated 67 gigawatt-hours per year if sited in typical conditions in the German North Sea, GE said.

Haliade-X will use 107-meter blades, the longest ever manufactured.


Trump’s tariffs are equivalent to one of the largest tax increases in decades

However:

… consumers and businesses can reduce this tax hit by substituting away from high-priced goods and Chinese production. Some of that production could come back to the U.S. or simply move to other countries.


Employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance: Evidence from 1.8 million employees

The work presented here is suggestive of a strong, positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance. The evidence-base is steadily mounting that this correlation is, in fact, a causal relationship (running from wellbeing to productivity). …

… Interventions aimed at raising productivity should target the key drivers of wellbeing at work, such as social relationships, making jobs more interesting, and improving work-life balance ….


Stimulus needed:

Why printing money makes sense (Note: this is from October 12, 2010)

… suppose that we had a super-effective counterfeiter: someone who could make near perfect copies of $50 or $100 bills. Suppose this person printed up $2tn of counterfeit money and began to spend it on all sorts of items. Our counterfeiter buys up houses and cars. They pay for incredibly lavish parties and trips. They hire all sorts of servants, groundskeepers and investment advisers.

What would be the effect of this counterfeiting scam on the economy?

In the current situation, it would provide an enormous boost to GDP and create millions of jobs. After all, everyone thinks the money is real. It is no different whether the counterfeiter and his underlings spend $2tn of counterfeit money or if firms suddenly start investing their hoards of cash or households begin to spend again as though the housing bubble had never collapsed.

That may sound troubling, but this is because the current economic situation is so extraordinary. In normal times, the economy is, at least partially, supply-constrained. Collectively, we want more goods and services than the economy is capable of producing. If our counterfeiter manufactured his $2tn in normal times, it likely would cause a serious problem of inflation. There would be more demand for cars, houses and other goods than the economy was able to supply. This would push up prices and wages, leading to a cycle of inflation that would persist until policy measures were taken to slow the economy – or the counterfeiter was caught.


The 5 Percent New Grocery Store Rent Premium

Citing the oft-observed “Whole Foods effect”, whereby the presence of the grocer increases real estate values in the vicinity, Newmark Knight Frank has released an analysis of how the introduction of a new grocery store raises rental rates in nearby apartments.


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 14, 2019

China Exporters Reel as U.S. Tariffs Imperil World’s Supply Hub

… exports to the U.S account for around a fifth of China’s total and Deutsche Bank AG estimates that China’s industrial output overall has only a five percent exposure to the U.S. market.

Chinese production serving the rest of the world is five times more important than the supply chain serving the U.S., Deutsche Bank China economist Zhang Zhiwei in Hong Kong said last year. The key issue is whether U.S. tariffs drive out supply chains from China that serve other countries ….


New security flaw in Intel chips could affect millions

They’re not giving out much info on it I suppose to not tell hackers on how to exploit it.


The Shale Boom Is About To Go Bust

The shale industry faces an uncertain future as drillers try to outrun the treadmill of precipitous well declines.

It’s all the more reason to get on with the Green New Deal.


Trump’s Trade War Escalation Will Exact Economic Pain, Adviser Says

“It’s pretty likely that the tariff revenue is going to fall,” Mr. Weinstein of Columbia University said, as firms find themselves unable to shoulder the higher rates and stop importing from China. “We’re going to see a lot of supply chains shifting around.”

That means Chinese companies will also lose out as businesses buy more American-made goods or continue turning to other low-cost producers outside China, like Vietnam and Malaysia.

Look, would it have been a good idea to simply leave China alone and let it do whatever it wants? I don’t think so. In addition, look at all the same people who are complaining now who said the 10% tariffs would cause extreme general/average damage. It didn’t happen.

I think Trump is right to take a longer view of it all. I think the American public should be vastly more patient and stop thinking in terms of yearly quarters.

It’s true that we’ll need to help different people to get through things, but what’s wrong with that? We haven’t been helping each other nearly enough for decades now.

We’re going to be making more things ourselves and buying more from other than China. All things being considered, those are good things on balance.


Speaking of other than China:

Asian Economies Set to Dominate 7% Growth Club During 2020s

India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines should all meet that benchmark, according to a research note Sunday from Madhur Jha, Standard Chartered’s India-based head of thematic research, and Global Chief Economist David Mann. Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire are also likely to reach the 7% growth pace, which typically means a doubling of gross domestic product every 10 years. That’ll be a boon to per-capita incomes, with Vietnam’s soaring to $10,400 in 2030 from about $2,500 last year, they estimate.


Cryptocurrency laundering as a service: members of a criminal organisation arrested in Spain

Honestly, how long is it going to take for governments to shut this whole cryptocurrency thing down? It’s never been any good for anything other than crime.


ADU legislation can move forward after clearing appeal

Single-family zoning in Seattle is currently extremely permissive. While it has height limits (25 to 30 feet), there’s no limit to floor-area ratio (FAR)—that is, the size of the home in relation to the lot—as long as the giant home that results is only one home. Under the legislation, single-family zones could get a FAR limit of .5, so, for example, a single-story house could only have a footprint of half the lot. O’Brien said the council plans to carve out some small exemptions for additions or planned remodels to existing houses, although, since ADUs wouldn’t be included in the FAR limit, homeowners could build in a mother-in-law unit to get around them.

The major idea behind ADU reform is around affordability: ADU reform was among the recommendations of the Housing Affordability and Livability committee (HALA) in 2015, although reforms have been underway since 2014.

They’re going to be rented out. If two are allowed, it will turn the property into a triplex.


The Best Performing Opportunity Zones For Real Estate Investors

The top of the list found Gowanus in South Brooklyn going from having only 0.3% of households earning over $200,000 in 2000 to 21.6% of households reaching that level 17 years later.

Of course, that’s past tense. Some zones that haven’t done well at all yet may still take off.


The Return of Fiscal Policy

… these arguments lead to a straightforward conclusion: in the future, we will have to rely more on fiscal policy and less on monetary policy to achieve stable and equitable growth.


Real estate, risks, & economics: links & commentary for May 13, 2019

Why tariff war threatens Beijing’s global economic ambitions

China’s intensified tariff war with the Trump administration is threatening Beijing’s ambition to transform itself into the dominant player in global technology.

Good!


Obama’s overtime rule was better for Michigan residents

In March, the Department of Labor announced a proposal to set the salary threshold under which American workers are entitled to overtime pay to $35,308 a year. The Trump administration is touting the rule as a way to bring “common sense, consistency, and higher wages to working Americans.” However, the adoption of this new rule will actually leave behind 192,000 Michigan workers who would have gotten overtime protections under Obama administration guidelines that would have raised the threshold to $47,476 for a full-year worker in 2016 and indexed it to wage growth going forward.


As Uber Investors Prepare to Make Billions, Drivers Strike Over Low Pay and Poor Conditions

On May Day, the New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo published an op-ed lambasting the approaching Uber initial public offering as a moral stain on Silicon Valley: “In the years since [its founding], Uber skirted laws and cut corners to trample over regulators and competitors. It accelerated the start-up industry’s misogynistic and reckless hustle culture. And it pushed a frightening new picture of labor — one in which everyone is a contractor, toiling without protection, our hours and our lives ruled by uncaring algorithms in the cloud.”

I’ve never hidden that I can’t stand the Uber model. I think it represents everything that’s wrong with our economy. Laissez-faire is where Uber came from, and it’s been awful.

How many of your tenants are Uber drivers simply because we don’t have good labor-laws and regulations in the USA? How tentative are their rent payments because of it?


10 expensive cities where salaries are rising faster than housing costs

Wages in the United States have been mostly stagnant over the past few decades, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. And since 1999, incomes for middle class families, specifically, have actually shrunk in all but two states, another study found.

At the same time, housing costs keep increasing.

Still, there are some cities where incomes are rising faster than housing costs. To determine exactly where, financial website Magnify Money used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to compare workers’ incomes in the nation’s 100 largest metros to the cost of housing in those same areas.

Here are the top 10 U.S. cities where incomes are outpacing housing.

That’s nice, but wages aren’t salaries.


Rate Cuts Are About Stocks Not Inflation

Most exceptional economy ever needs an emergency 1% rate cut? Sounds odd, doesn’t it? How can you have a robust economy creating over 200,000 jobs per month with nominal wages growing faster than any time in the cycle and then beg for not only a 1% emergency rate cut but also QE4? Is the argument really about inflation?

It’s not low inflation. It’s about the stock market.

For the Fed, rate cuts are not simply about stocks. Rate cuts are about a sinking economy regardless of stock prices. Stocks are just one of now probably dozens of factors used by the Fed to model and try to predict the economy’s direction.


Labour pledges £10 minimum wage for under-18s

Speaking at a party gathering in Birmingham on Saturday, Mr Corbyn said: “Equal pay for equal work is hardly a controversial idea, so why are we discriminating against young people?

“You don’t get a discount at the shops for being under 18.

If you read the arguments against Corbyn’s position, you’d think they’re talking about high-skilled wages being set at minimum wages. Don’t they give raises over there above the minimum?


Arguably, after the media, Trump has railed hardest against the Federal Reserve. The rates and an economy that has grown at an annualized pace above 3% for three of the past four quarters and unemployment is sitting near 50-year lows. The 12-month moving average of non-farm payrolls is above 200k, a full decade since the economy troughed during the Great Financial Crisis. Despite this, and the fact when adjusted for inflation, interest rates are only a little above zero, Trump has called for the resumption of the asset purchase program and 100 bp cut in interest rates. His senior economic adviser has called for an immediate 50 bp cut.

The economic logic is elusive, but the political motivation is obvious. Just like the investment bank that suggested that based on economic growth and unemployment forecasts thought the odds favor Trump’s re-election, Team Trump recognize that should the economy weaken so will the re-election chances. An amped-up economy also gives the President the latitude to be Disruptor in Chief.

“The economic logic is elusive, but the political motivation is obvious.” That “logic” is flawed. “… should the economy weaken ….” is the weakness in that “logic.” Trump’s team knows the economy will weaken due to the falling off of the impact, what little there was, of the massive corporate-tax cuts and the tariff war with China (which tariff war I’m for).

Like Mexico is going to pay for the wall, Americans have been told by the President that China is paying for the tariffs. In practice, the situation is more complicated. The importer pays the tax to get access to the goods. As the Fed’s Bostic explained last week, the companies he spoke with were willing to absorb the 10% tariff but the 25% tariff they will have to pass on to their customers. The initial tariffs were on capital and intermediate goods, which also helped minimize the direct impact on consumers. Consumer goods account for around a quarter of the $200 bln of goods that will be subject to a 25% levy instead of 10%. One study by an economist at the University of California, cited by NPR, estimated that last year’s tariffs cost the average American consumer about $760 last year and the new tariffs will cost an extra $500 a year.

“… the 25% tariff they will have to pass on to their customers.” That means fewer Americans will be paying for Chinese products unless China itself reduces what it charges for those products. That’s the whole point behind the tariffs. If it were not going to work, China would laugh it all off and tell Trump to raise the tariffs to 100% or 10,000%. Naturally, that’s not what China is doing. China is afraid, and many Chinese businesses are already reeling. That’s what will get China to cave. Unfortunately, it won’t get them to democratize because Trump isn’t holding out for that. He doesn’t care about it.

The article then goes on to somewhat affirm my positions. Go figure.


Trump Warns China to Act on U.S. Trade Deal or Face Worse Terms

In a wide-ranging interview with Chinese media after talks in Washington ended Friday, Vice Premier Liu He said that in order to reach an agreement the U.S. must remove all extra tariffs, set targets for Chinese purchases of goods in line with real demand, and ensure that the text of the deal is “balanced” to ensure the “dignity” of both nations.

Harsh but true: Dignity is code for China fearing losing face. Those days are over. Welcome to the world of hyper-capitalistic competition. Trump doesn’t give a damn about your face. He cares about making money. You want to save your face? You should have thought about that before engaging in competition with the US over money.


An Experiment with Basic Income

Writers such as Dickens exposed the appalling conditions in which the poor were living both inside and outside workhouses. But they were deliberately created by well-meaning people convinced of the virtue of work, any work, however demeaning and however poorly paid.

We have come a long way since the days of Dickens. Let us not go back there again.


FHA Offers Incentives for Multifamily Developers in Opportunity Zones

The FHA announced it will reduce application fees paid by property owners applying for certain multifamily mortgage insurance programs for the development or rehabilitation of current or proposed apartment units located in Opportunity Zones. This will involve the switch from the current $3 per thousand dollars of the requested mortgage amount to $1 per thousand dollars of the requested mortgage amount, which the FHA said will result in an average cost saving to applicants of approximately $28,000. For ‘market rate’ and ‘affordable’ transactions, FHA will reduce application fees from $3 to $2 per thousand dollars of the requested mortgage amount, which the FHA said will create an estimated average cost savings of $14,000. The agency is also dispatching teams of senior underwriters to review these applications to prioritize processing.


Money talks: Investor pressure is key to tackling climate change

The Bank of England’s Sarah Breeden told us that many regulations came from looking “in the rear-view mirror at what has happened but climate change is, by definition, a forward-looking risk”. The impression I get is that the Bank is open to a debate; Ms Breeden herself told me that climate change was “an unprecedented challenge”.


Even with unemployment at 50-year low, Kashkari says it’s not the time to raise interest rates

Since becoming Minneapolis Fed president at the start of 2016, Neel Kashkari has repeatedly expressed a reluctance to raise interest rates. And the reason he cited most was that the U.S. job market wasn’t as strong as the steadily falling unemployment rate made it seem.

On Friday, a week after the nation’s unemployment rate reached its lowest level in 50 years, Kashkari said the job market is still not as tight as the rate indicates. The central bank should look at wages instead, he said.

“Historically we believe, and the evidence shows, the unemployment rate was a pretty good proxy for measuring slack in the labor market,” Kashkari said. “But it has really failed us in this recovery and it continues to send off faulty readings.”

That’s where I’ve been all along, long before he joined the Fed. Nevertheless, Neel Kashkari has the best sense and feel of it of anyone at the Fed today without doubt.


Trade tensions push mortgage rates lower for second week in a row

Should the Fed turn on a dime with every increase or decrease in tariffs on Chinese goods? Yes.


Trump May Redefine Poverty, Cutting Americans From Welfare Rolls

The chained-CPI concept is junk. It’s a scam and not about helping the poor at all. What it really is, is substituting dog food for steak. That’s inhumane.


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 10, 2019

The Trouble with Argentina’s Economy

When the current government, led by President Mauricio Macri, took office in December 2015, it said that its economic policies would attract foreign direct investment and lead to sustained increases in productivity. The currency crisis that erupted in April 2018 underscored the failure of its policy approach.

In response, the government turned to the International Monetary Fund, secured a $57 billion stand-by loan – the largest in the IMF’s history – and agreed on a new approach to address the country’s macroeconomic imbalances. But the terms of the loan agreement have kept changing as investors remained nervous.


Private lending can be a good — if risky — way to invest in real estate

… this can be risky investing, but you can drastically reduce the risk if you know what you’re doing; and, lending money to a flipper is (typically) much less work, risk and stress than buying a property yourself. Another benefit is that the flipper usually brings money to the deal, which gives the lender more cushion.


The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2019
… these debt slaves [student-loan borrowers] now owe $4 trillion that they must pay interest and principal on for all times to come. And inflation won’t help them because rising inflation will cause these rates to rise, and our debt slaves will just have to work that much harder to deal with their debts.


Ten Years Later—Did QE Work?

Our paper reveals that the impact of QE1—an increase in commercial banks’ mortgage refinancing activity—had effects on local consumption and employment in the nontradable goods sector, but no overall employment effects. In contrast, QE3-driven increases in commercial and industrial lending and home mortgage originations translated into sizable growth in overall employment. The main results are best illustrated in the chart below, which plots the average growth of employment in two sets of counties: those whose banks had high MBS exposure and those whose banks had low MBS exposure. While there is virtually no differential effect after QE1 and QE2, there is a substantial difference after QE3.


Miami’s housing affordability crisis is dire. A new report reveals possible solutions.


Trump Administration Floating Changes to Poverty Measure That Would Reduce or Eliminate Assistance to Millions of Lower-Income Americans

The Trump Administration yesterday floated a proposal to use a lower measure of inflation when adjusting the poverty line each year. Consistent with other policies the Administration has pursued, this policy would over time cut or take away entirely food assistance, health, and other forms of basic assistance from millions of people who struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and see a doctor when they need to. The reductions in assistance that this proposal would produce stand in stark contrast to the Administration’s 2017 tax law, which conferred large new benefits on the highest-income households.

If the poverty line is altered in this fashion, fewer individuals and families will qualify over time for various forms of assistance, including many who work hard but are paid low wages. That’s because using a lower measure of inflation like the chained CPI to adjust the poverty line each year would make the eligibility thresholds for various programs that serve people in need lower and lower over time, compared with what the thresholds otherwise would be. This, in turn, would lower the income eligibility limits for programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and Medicaid, which are tied to the federal poverty line.

… the Department of Education says that more than 1 million school children were homeless in the 2016-2017 school year, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that 15 million households faced food insecurity in 2017, meaning that they experienced difficulty affording food.

… Labor Department data show that costs for rental housing, which low-income people rely on disproportionately, have been rising faster than the overall CPI.

The Trump administration suggests that the plan would force people to try harder to find and hold jobs. However, wages are so pathetically low. More people fighting for them would keep them low, too low. It would not lift people or give them the dignity claimed by the wealthy. There are vastly better ways to help people to work than slashing existing benefits so the rich can keep paying slave wages.


I read a great deal of international business and economics news, and the analysis (in the video below) by Richard Vague is very good. His point about R&D has been an issue of mine for decades. We used to really emphasize it. We used to give major tax breaks exactly for it. Ever since we stopped, we’ve been sliding down.

Instead of imposing additional tariffs, which will hurt the Chinese and U.S. economies, the U.S. should have its own research and development strategy, says Richard Vague, author of The Next Economic Disaster.

I don’t agree with no tariffs against China. However, my reasons for tariffs has to do with the total lack of democracy in China, not simply “trade” issues.


Affected Nebraska Residents Get Bad News About Dam Failure

State law limits the power district’s liability to $1 million per individual court-proven claim per occurrence and $5 million, total, for all such claims, Domina said. Knox County, which was one of four counties affected, already estimates that it suffered more than $17 million in damages.


Hackers Selling Access and Source Code From Antivirus Companies

Yelisey Bogulsavskiy, AdvIntel’s director of security research, told BleepingComputer that Fxmsp reportedly compromised the Active Directory (AD) of at least one company and established persistence through an external Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) server.

AD is the most critical part of a Windows network, as the server is responsible for authenticating and authorizing all users and computers on the network; it is also where security policies are defined for all the systems it manages.

This tactic has been used by the Carbanak gang against banks across the world. It was discovered by Kaspersky threat researchers at a bank in Russia.


Android Q Hardens Security, Adds Better Encryption


Minnesota lawmakers weigh tighter safety rules for toxic mine waste storage

Brazil’s National Mining Agency, for example, has banned construction of new “upstream” tailings dams following the collapse of the Brumadinho tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in January. The giant mudflow killed at least 200 people.

Upstream tailings dams are the most common type of dam — and the type planned by PolyMet Mining in its proposed mine.

The International Council of Mining & Metals in London reacted to the Brazilian catastrophe by launching an independent review of standards for managing tailings dams.

Minnesota needs to engage in that conversation, Maccabee said.

“For computer security, would we take a playbook that was written in 1993?” she said.

The proposed rule changes are modeled on similar reforms Montana lawmakers passed in 2015. That industry-led effort was a response to the disastrous collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam in British Columbia in 2014, which spilled more than 20 million tons of mining waste into streams and lakes.

The panel that reviewed that dam failure recommended a shift to storing mining waste in a safer dry or drained form, instead of wet tailings.

So called “dry stack” or drained tailings storage is more expensive.


Wolters Kluwer takes services offline after malware attack


Great Lakes Water Levels at ‘Precipice of a Disaster’ With Flooding Occurring or Imminent in New York, Ohio and Michigan

It’s a remarkable turnaround from early this decade, when lake levels were slumping and some hit record lows.

“These events are quite consistent with what scientists have been expecting with long-term climate change patterns,” Drew Gronewold of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability told the AP. “The challenge is that it’s very hard to forecast when those extremes are going to occur and when the transition between them might occur.”

The central U.S. has been the target of numerous heavy rain events this spring, which have filled Great Lakes tributary waters and churned up big waves that are eroding shorelines, Guy Meadows, director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University, told the AP.


Possible Tornado Tears Roof from Arkansas Apartment Complex

Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said there was extensive damage to buildings, and four injuries at the apartment.


Flash Flooding in Texas Leaves 1 Dead in Austin

In the West Texas town of Merkel, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Abilene, Police Chief Phillip Conklin told KTXS-TV of Abilene that seven people were rescued Wednesday from floodwaters. Three were rescued from an apartment complex, two from flood-stranded vehicles and a couple from their home.


14 Counties Added to Emergency Declaration in Oklahoma

… the counties have experienced flooding, severe storms, tornadoes and straight-line winds over the past week.


It’s not possible for China to win a tariff war with the US.

Chinese companies brace for tariff hike: ‘If the tariffs rise to 25%, then we’re done for’


UN: Plastic waste pact approved with US among few holdouts

The framework “is historic in the sense that it is legally binding,” Payet said. “They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures.”

The agreement is likely to lead to customs agents being on the lookout for electronic or other types of potentially hazardous waste more than before.

“There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said.

Now that’s good news!


Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks: links for May 8, 2019

Trial to Determine Army Corps’ Liability for Harvey Flooding

Banker and others who live upstream of the reservoirs allege the federal government violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property can’t be taken for public use without just compensation. Their lawyers say structures upstream of the reservoirs were built in areas known as flood pools, where water collects as the dams fill up.

Their attorneys say the federal government doesn’t own all the land that encompasses this flood pool and a portion of the flood pool is on private property.


Mozilla will block Firefox add-ons that contain obfuscated code

“We will be blocking extensions more proactively if they are found to be in violation of our policies. We will be casting a wider net, and will err on the side of user security when determining whether or not to block,” she noted.

“We will continue to block extensions for intentionally violating our policies, critical security vulnerabilities, and will also act on extensions compromising user privacy or circumventing user consent or control.”

A block means tha the add-on is disabled in Firefox and users are unable to override it and continue to use the extension.


Researcher Finds CSS-Only Method to Track Mouse Movements

“Aside from mouse tracking there’s a lot of other CSS selectors that could give away analytics for browsing behavior. :focus, for instance should be able to monitor which elements the user has active focus on, and the [value] selector has been known for a while to be able to effectively query input element. The rules around [value] changed to make it less powerful, but it can probably still be used just to tell if the user has started typing or has changed something (haven’t PoC’d that yet, but it should be possible)”


A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley

Although lithium-ion batteries currently dominate the electric vehicle market, they face competition from an array of new, more affordable and environmentally safe technologies in development, said Parans Paranthaman, group leader of the chemical sciences division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

“Lithium-ion batteries, which were developed in 1991, are the most viable in the near term,” he said. “But beyond lithium, there will soon be zinc, sodium, magnesium and potassium batteries, among others.”


IBM-Backed Project Creates Wi-Fi Network For Natural Disasters

Once the devices are connected, an emergency Wi-Fi network appears on smartphones directing users to a portal where they can send messages to first responders and civil defense teams.


Construction Cybercrime Is On the Rise

A cybercrime is often a trigger to action. In March 2016, a Turner employee fell for a phishing email and sent tax information on current and former employees to a fraudulent email address. “We notified federal, state and local law enforcement and involved legal, law enforcement, information technology and security experts,” says Chris McFadden, vice president for communications. “We secured identity monitoring services at no cost to all impacted employees, including their spouses or partners, for an original term of ten years. Since then, we expanded coverage to all Turner employees, who now have access to identity protection services, which are designed to recognize signs of unauthorized use of personal information and help our people respond.”

Turner also has put in place an employee resource site with answers to commonly asked questions, data security tips and links to training material and available external resources on the subject of cybersecurity and protecting personal information. The company also has a cybersecurity awareness outreach program for companies it does business with to arm them with information.

… the first six of CIS’ top critical security controls, which include making an inventory and securing control of hardware and software, continuous vulnerability management; controlling the use of administrative privileges; securing the endpoints; and maintaining, monitoring and auditing network activity.

But Villasenor adds, “You have to enforce cyber awareness training. One of our biggest threats is our own people. They can become victims very easily.”