08/01/2011 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 China blames unrest on Pakistan-trained ‘terrorists’

By Marianne Barriaux, AFP

8 mins ago

China on Monday blamed Muslim separatist “terrorists” trained in neighbouring Pakistan for an outbreak of deadly violence and imposed heavy security in a bid to prevent further unrest.

Nineteen people, five of them suspects, were killed in two separate incidents in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar at the weekend in the latest wave of violence to hit the Xinjiang region, home to a mainly Muslim Uighur minority.

Two more suspects, both of them Uighurs, were “executed on the spot by police who were in the process of capturing them” on Monday, the Kashgar local government said in a statement.

Or you could put up a Debtors Prison

Just to answer my rhetorical question from today’s Monday Business Edition, things are very bad indeed.  I particularly like this piece because it’s got lots of crunchy numbers.

Recession Took Bigger Bite Than Estimated

By Alex Kowalski, Bloomberg News

Jul 29, 2011 8:30 AM ET

Gross domestic product shrank 5.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2009, compared with the previously reported 4.1 percent drop, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The second-worst contraction in the post-World War II era was a 3.7 percent decline in 1957-58.

Meaning this is the worst since the Great Depression.

(T)he jobless rate doubled, climbing from 5 percent at the start of the downturn to a 26-year high 10.1 percent in October 2009. The strongest quarter of the recovery is now the first three months of last year. Growth decelerated every quarter thereafter.

The improved GDP reading for 2010 belies a marked slowdown over the year. After expanding at a 3.9 percent annual pace in the first three months, now the strongest quarter of the recovery, growth cooled until reaching a 2.3 percent rate from October through December.

The economy expanded at a 1.3 percent annual rate from April through June of this year, less than forecast, the Commerce Department’s advance report for the second showed. Growth in the prior three months was revised down to 0.4 percent from 1.9 percent. … GDP has yet to surpass the pre-recession peak.

So what’s a State or Community to do to create economic growth?

How about host a Nuclear Waste Dump?

Volunteer Towns Sought for Nuclear Waste Sites, Panel Says

By Brian Wingfield, Bloomberg News

Jul 29, 2011 5:07 PM ET

U.S. communities should be encouraged to vie for a federal nuclear-waste site as a way to end a decades-long dilemma over disposing of spent radioactive fuel, a commission established by President Barack Obama said.

A “consent-based” approach will help cut costs and end delays caused when the federal government picks a site over the objections of local residents, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future said today in a draft report to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Did you hear that?  Blue Ribbon!  How could they recommend anything bad?

The 15-member commission set up by Obama in 2010 is weighing options for disposing of waste from U.S. nuclear power plants. Chu named the panelists after Obama canceled plans to build a permanent repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Las Vegas. The Yucca site was opposed by politicians from the state, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.

The panel recommended that a new federal corporation run the disposal program, taking over the task from the Energy Department. It also called for designating permanent and interim storage sites, supporting research and overhauling the Nuclear Waste Fund, which has $24.6 billion from fees paid by utilities.

And they’re going to privatize it!  No icky bureaucrats.  What could possibly go wrong?

Japan’s nuclear disaster this year focused new attention on the issue. Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant suffered meltdowns and radiation leaks after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, prompting concerns about the safety of spent fuel in cooling pools.

So we’re going to concentrate it!  Too bad for you New Mexico.

The Blue Ribbon Commission cited as a “success” the U.S. Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, which has accepted and disposed of some defense-related nuclear waste for more than a decade. The defense-waste plant shows that “nuclear wastes can be transported safely over long distances and placed securely in a deep, mined repository,” the report said.

With the right incentives, “there will be a great deal of support” for a waste site near the New Mexico facility, former Senator Pete Domenici, a Republican from the state and panel member, said in an April 19 interview.

Who needs caves when you have Barack Obama in charge?


Herr Doktor Professor

What Would I Have Done?

August 1, 2011, 11:01 am

I would have made a statement declaring that giving in to this kind of blackmail would constitute a violation of my oath of office, and that my lawyers, on careful reflection, have determined that there are several legal options that allow me to ignore this extortionate demand.

Now, the Obama people say that this wasn’t actually an option. Well, I hate to say this, but I don’t believe them.

It’s much, much too late for Obama and co. to say “Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” My reservoir of trust is now completely drained. And I know I’m not alone.

Where’s My Relief Rally?

August 1, 2011, 11:05 am

Weren’t we supposed to have a big rally in the stock market now that the threat of default was past and our deficit was on the way to being solved?

Um, well.

Dow down 77 at the moment. And long-term interest rates – a barometer of hope or lack thereof in recovery – have fallen to 2.73 percent.

Mr. Market is apparently underwhelmed.

Meanwhile, in the Global Economy

August 1, 2011, 11:37 am

Bad news all over. In the US, Manufacturing growth hits lowest level in 2 years. In Europe, my favorite current indicator of the eurozone crisis, the Italy-Germany bond spread, has blown out again. And while part of this is due to falling German rates – which, like falling US rates, reflect growing pessimism about growth – the Italian bond rate is once again at 6 percent, a level that invites a self-fulfilling debt spiral.

Oh, and in Britain, poster child for wonderful expansionary austerity, we have this:

For the fifth consecutive month, the manufacturing sector has disappointed expectations. In the past six months, the headline composite index has crashed by 12.5 points, a record only exceeded post-Lehman in 2008. Output has been slightly better behaved over the past few months, but July’s 2 point decline to 50.6 leaves it slightly below May’s trough. Worryingly, the temporary supply-chain disruptions that depressed output in May appear to have eased, indicating that July’s weakness might be more structural.

I’m so glad we have a deal that will bring the confidence fairy to our rescue!

If I Were In The House

August 1, 2011, 11:55 am

I guess I have to be explicit at this point: yes, I would vote no.

(T)he people who claim that terrible things would immediately happen in the markets also claimed that there would be a big relief rally once a deal was struck. Not so much: the Dow is down 121 right now.

(T)he idea that a temporary disruption would permanently damage faith in US institutions now seems moot; if you haven’t already lost faith in US institutions, you’re not paying attention.

This guy knows nothing.  It’s only a fucking Nobel Prize in Economics.

Barack Obama has a Peace Prize!  So there.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: The President Surrenders

A deal to raise the federal debt ceiling is in the works. If it goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

New York Times Editorial: To Escape Chaos, a Terrible Deal

There is little to like about the tentative agreement between Congressional leaders and the White House except that it happened at all. The deal would avert a catastrophic government default, immediately and probably through the end of 2012. The rest of it is a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists. It will hurt programs for the middle class and poor, and hinder an economic recovery.

It is not yet set in stone, and there may still be time to make it better. But in the end, most Democrats will have no choice but to swallow their fury, accept the deal and, we hope, fight harder the next time.

Jacob S. Hacker and Oona A Hathaway: Our Unbalanced Democracy

OUR nation isn’t facing just a debt crisis; it’s facing a democracy crisis. For weeks, the federal government has been hurtling toward two unsavory options: a crippling default brought on by Congressional gridlock, or – as key Democrats have advocated – a unilateral increase in the debt ceiling by an unchecked president. Even if the last-minute deal announced on Sunday night holds together, it’s become clear that the balance at the heart of the Constitution is under threat.

The debate has threatened to play out as a destructive but all too familiar two-step, revealing how dysfunctional the relationship between Congress and the president has become.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: From the debt debate to a hostage revolt

In the melodrama that is consuming Washington this hot summer, featuring the spectacle of how much Tea Party Republicans will be able to extort for agreeing not to blow up the economy, the values and priorities of most Americans were early casualties. That reality will drive – no matter what the resolution this week – new, independent citizen mobilizations challenging both Republican zealotry and Democratic cravenness.

The debt-ceiling debate has lasted long enough for most Americans to start paying attention and to realize just how divorced both parties are from basic common sense. With the economy faltering and 25 million people in need of full-time work, most Americans want Washington focused on how to create jobs and get the economy going, not on slashing spending for the rising number of poor children while sheltering tax havens for millionaires.

John Nichols: GOP’s Debt-Ceiling Games Have Raised the Prospect of a “Crunching Global Recession”

U.S. markets trended downward all last week, as congressional Republicans refused to get serious about raising the debt ceiling.

Now, international markets are jittery. And as the August 2 deadline for resolving the issue looms, there is growing concern about a radical response to the political meltdown that occurred when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the House Republican Caucus decided Friday to abandon realistic negotiations to resolve the debt-ceiling standoff.

There is suddenly talk, serious talk, that the faked up crisis created by Republicans who are refusing to allow a Democratic president to do what Ronald Reagan and George Bush did repeatedly — borrow the money needed to pay for spending approved by Congress —  could cause a “crunching global recession.”

Robert Freeman: We Must Destroy the Government in Order to Save It

A certain, macabre phrase came to personify the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” The colonel who uttered it was doubtless oblivious to both the psychotic irony and the larger surreal symbolism that the phrase represented. Savage destruction was perfectly consonant with ideologically-intended salvation, just so long as both were issued by the same sanctimonious American official. Indeed, in some perverse medieval rendering of modern imperial justice, salvation could only be achieved through destruction.

The phrase might just as well be a rallying cry for the Tea Party Republicans and their holy jihad against government and the cooperative society that government represents: they must destroy it in order to save it. For that is unquestionably what the debt ceiling debacle is really about.

Let’s dispense once and for all with the fiction that the debt ceiling debate is anything but a contrivance to destroy government and the shared aspirations to civility that government represents.

How bad is it?

Monday Business Edition

G.D.P. Shocker: U.S. on Verge of Double-Dip Recession

Posted by John Cassidy, The New Yorker

July 29, 2011

When healthy, the American economy grows at an annual rate of close to three per cent. The Commerce Department’s latest report on the gross domestic product (pdf) shows that between April and June, it expanded at an annual rate of 1.3 per cent, and between January and March it grew at an annual rate of just 0.4 per cent. The first-quarter figure is particularly stunning. Previously, the Commerce Department had estimated growth in the period at 1.9 per cent. What is to prevent a similar downward revision to the second-quarter figures? Nobody can say.

Consumer spending, which is the driving force of the American economy-it makes up more than two thirds of G.D.P.-has stalled badly. After expanding at an annual rate of more than two per cent for the previous year and a half, it was essentially flat in the second quarter. Unless consumers spend more readily in the second half of the year, there is no prospect of an economic rebound. But with gas prices still high, unemployment ticking up again, and their elected representatives in Washington paralyzed, it seems unlikely that American families will be flocking back to the malls anytime soon.

Retail sales hardly grew at all in June. Wall Street analysts who had been predicting growth of close to three per cent for the rest of the year are now busy trimming their estimates. Industrial production, the other item that the N.B.E.R. watches closely, has also been showing weakness. The Fed’s index of industrial production declined slightly in April and May, before rising slightly in June. Manufacturing, the biggest component of industrial production, had its weakest quarter since the previous recession ended in mid-2009.

In one sense, the new G.D.P. figures are even worse than they seem. Bear in mind that they are all annualized. This means the government statisticians take the actual growth rate in the quarter and (roughly speaking) multiply it by four. Reversing the process (dividing by four) reveals that the economy expanded by just 0.1 percent in the first quarter and by roughly 0.3 per cent in the second quarter. These figures are so small as to be trivial.

Zandi (no Keynsian he) has predicted a loss of 1.1 million jobs from current policy, an analysis reinforced by Goldman Sachs.

We know what happens from implementing austerity policies in a Lesser Depression from the examples in Britain-

British Economy, After Austerity, at Zero Growth in the Past Nine Months

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Tuesday July 26, 2011 8:15 am

What’s amazing about this debt limit debate, and the headlong rush to austerity, is that we have empirical evidence of what can result, in this kind of economy, when you massively roll back spending. We even know what happens when you do that amid the threat of a debt downgrade rather than the fundamentals of the financial markets. All you have to do is look to Britain, which has never been the same since their austerity package was unveiled by the Tories.

Britain rolled back demand during a time when the economy was already weak, and they are suffering through the consequences. Instead of looking at this as a problem to be avoided, US policymakers are on the verge of emulating it. And not even in a good way: the British plan was at least somewhat balanced, with tax increases along with the spending cuts. This shows that the idea of a “balanced approach” is still flawed, because either way, you’re reducing demand during a time with a demand shortfall.

And in States

Conservative Budget Cuts Bad for State Economies

  • Bigger State Spending Cuts == Higher Unemployment Rates
    • Each 10% Cut == .04% Increased Unemployment

  • Bigger State Spending Cuts == More Private Employment Losses
    • Each 10% Cut == 1.6% Lost Private Employment

  • Bigger State Spending Cuts == Weaker Economies
    • Each 10% Cut == 1.6% Economic Contraction

State spending data are adjusted for inflation using the GDP price index. National changes have been removed from data on state unemployment rates, private payroll employment, and inflation-adjusted GDP growth to more clearly identify state-level economic performance. The analysis in the three charts weights each state’s data by population size to give a better reflection of a national average effect of cutting state government spending on economic performance. Weighting the analysis as such does not materially change the significance or size of the effect of cutting state spending.


Sure Cure for the Debt Problem: Economic Growth


Published: July 30, 2011

Before its economy crashed, Ireland was a star of this sort of debt reduction. In the 1980s, Ireland’s debt dwarfed its economy. Over the next two decades, though, that debt shrank to about a quarter of gross domestic product, largely because the economy went gangbusters.

“Ireland went from being, you know, the emerging market in a European context, to a very dynamic economy,” says Carmen Reinhart, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and co-author of “This Time Is Different,” a history of debt crises.

The same happened during the prosperous 1990s, which began with deficits and ended with surpluses. Former President Bill Clinton is often credited for that turnabout, as he engineered higher tax rates. But most economists attribute the surplus years primarily to extraordinarily rapid growth.

While it may be difficult or impossible to grow our way out of debt, the G.D.P. figures announced on Friday suggest that we could quite possibly shrink our way into bankruptcy. The austerity measures that Congress is debating would almost certainly slow growth further. That, in turn, might actually worsen the debt problem – the exact opposite of what their proponents suggest.

The problem is that reducing spending or raising taxes just now would hurt the already fragile economy. Another recession would not only be painful for ordinary Americans but would actually worsen the debt problem by reducing tax revenue.

Don’t believe it? Consider this: Of the $12.7 trillion in additional federal debt that was accumulated over the last decade, about a third came from the souring economy.

Back in the Great Depression, Washington tightened its belt with disastrous results. Congress severely reduced spending in 1937, plunging the economy back into the hole. Ultimately, that meant even more federal borrowing.

Leaving aside the moral bankruptcy of starving the poor and elderly to death while leaving the wealthiest one tenth of one pecent untouched and accelerating their robbery of the middle class, this is bad, bad, bad economic policy.

And Barack Obama and the Democrats know it.  The People know it too.

Obama Approval Drops to New Low of 40%

Similar to his approval rating for handling the debt ceiling negotiations

by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup

PRINCETON, NJ — President Obama’s job approval rating is at a new low, averaging 40% in July 26-28 Gallup Daily tracking. His prior low rating of 41% occurred several times, the last of which was in April. As recently as June 7, Obama had 50% job approval.

Though Americans rate Obama poorly for his handling of the situation, they are less approving of how House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are handling it. Gallup does not include ratings of Congress or congressional leaders in its Daily tracking, and thus, there is no overall job approval rating of Boehner, Reid, or Congress directly comparable to Obama’s current 40% overall job approval rating.

Obama’s job approval rating among Democrats is 72%, compared with 34% among independents and 13% among Republicans. In the prior three weeks, his average approval rating was 79% among Democrats, 41% among independents, and 12% among Republicans.

Americans’ Ratings of the Economy Also More Negative Amid Stalemate

The debt crisis may be contributing to a generally sour mood for Americans that stretches beyond political ratings. For example, Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index, which is also tracked daily, averaged 49 July 2628, down 8 points in the last week and down 19 points since early July. The current index score is the worst Gallup has measured since March 2009.

The index consists of two questions, measuring Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions and their assessments of whether the economy is getting better or worse. Currently, 52% say economic conditions are poor, the highest since August 2010. And 75% of Americans say economic conditions are getting worse, a level not seen since March 2009.

Electoral victory my ass.

On This Day In History August 1

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 1 is the 213th day of the year (214th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 152 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1981, MTV, Music Television, goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel, which initially was available only to households in parts of New Jersey. MTV went on to revolutionize the music industry and become an influential source of pop culture and entertainment in the United States and other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Latin America, which all have MTV-branded channels.

In MTV’s early days, its programming consisted of basic music videos that were introduced by VJs (video jockeys) and provided for free by record companies. As the record industry recognized MTV’s value as a promotional vehicle, money was invested in making creative, cutting-edge videos. Some directors, including Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Three Kings) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), worked on music videos before segueing into feature films. In the 1980s, MTV was instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played in heavy rotation.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for July 31, 2011-


Pique the Geek 20110731: Yeasts, Interesting Beasties

When the term yeast is used, most people think of freshly baked bread.  Many people will also think of a cold, foamy headed beer.  Both are made possible by yeast, but there are many more applications.

Yeast has been used to raise bread and make beer and wine since prehistory, and the work is very ancient.  It comes to us in modern English via the Old English gyst, which in tern derived from the Indo-European word yes, meaning quite literally to bubble.  Thus the word is very much older than our understanding that yeasts are living things, dating from the 1850s due to the work of Louis Pasteur.

When we think of yeast, we normally are referring to a single species (out of around 1500, give or take), Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  This single species is responsible for raising bread, making wine and much of the beer that is drunk, as well as alcohol for beverage and industrial purposes.  Unless I qualify, when I use the term “yeast” this is the species to which I refer.

Sunday Train: Open Thread

Spent too much time this week trying to help save the CBD rail line in Newcastle, NSW ~ this is an open thread to talk about what living transport system you want to see.

No debtmagadden, please.

Midnight Oil ~ River Runs Red