This is the first of two installments about saved comments from January 2016. I was traveling during the first two weeks of the month, so I saved my comments on my laptop, then transferred them to my desktop. Good thing I did; apparently the video card on that has failed. On the one hand, it confirms my feelings of urgency about posting my saved comments here, as they were driven by anxieties of hardware failure. On the other, I was hoping the laptop would remain functional longer so that I could post the comments I saved on it. Sigh.
I'm going to keep my comment on "Link round-up for 3 January 2016" at Infidel 753 above the cut, as it has a wider appeal for my readers here on Dreamwidth than the comments behind the cut. That's because it's about all three trilogies of the Star Wars saga.The New Republic is right about the Star Wars saga being a multi-generational tale of a dysfunctional family. However, I wouldn't call it bad parenting, at least in the first two trilogies. I'd call it absentee parenting combined with bad foster parenting (except in the case of Leia; I think the Organas were actually good parents). Obi-Wan screwed up with Anakin and was supplanted by Palpatine, who was even worse. Lars tried, but he wasn't suited to deal with his nephew by marriage, who had the family curse of being destined for greatness.
It wasn't until the current movie that a combination of an unruly child with parenting not up to the task became apparent. Leia, Han, and Luke all tried with Kylo Ren, and all failed. Smoke (sp.?) took over the Palpatine role and ended up being the evil foster parent. Thank you, J.J. Abrams for making crystal clear what George Lucas only implied.
The good news is that the foster parents can redeem themselves. Obi-Wan, with Yoda's help, succeed with Luke where they failed with his father. Anakin himself finally did the right thing by his son, although it took Palpatine doing his best to kill Luke to do it. I wouldn't be surprised if Luke and Leia do the same for Kylo Ren and Rey by the final film of this trilogy. There is a formula to these films, after all.
( Comments from Kunstler's and Greers blogs plus the old Michigan Liberal about energy, the economy, and the election behind the cut. )
Death to All Zombies!
“A zombie is a terrible thing to behold, but a zombie holding a bag of dog-shit is like unto the end of the world.” No, a zombie holding a bag of dog shit is funny. All that needs to make it funnier is setting the bag on fire. Of course, the zombie will still try to eat your brains, but you’ll get a good laugh out of it. Just don’t step on the burning bag once you shoot the zombie in the head.
( Comments left at Greer's and Kunstler's blog about progress, the economy, and the election behind the cut. )
Follow-up to the first and second summaries of Nablopomo: Play on Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
- Space and astronomy stories for the week of the annular eclipse
- Two environmental videos from Accuweather
- Sustainability news from campuses on the campaign trail for Mother's Day Weekend 2012
- Warmest spring in metro Detroit history predicted
- A very warm April, 2012, and past 12 months in the U.S. and worldwide
- Sustainability and austerity news from Reuters yesterday
- Student sustainability video festival, part 4: biodiversity
- Sustainability education news from campuses on the campaign trail
Stock market tumble
Investors flee economic gloom, policy paralysis
Wall Street suffers worst selloff in two years
Gold eases below lifetime high; investors cover losses
Stocks are falling again on more fears of economic weakness in the U.S. and Europe's debt crisis.
More at The financial markets think it's a Satan Sandwich, too and WXYZ has local reaction to yesterday's and today's stock plunge on Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
One of the favorite anti-tax memes that conservatives use is that "the government thinks it knows better how to spend money than individuals/the people do." I think that meme has it exactly backwards. First, the government in a democratically elected government is the people. Second, what government is doing when it spends is paying salaries of people and contracts to businesses, who then pay it to people. Those people now have more money to spend than they did before. As a result, government spending gives most people more power to make decisions over how they spend their money that they got from the government.
There is one exception to the above. Progressive taxation in support of government spending shows that the government thinks it knows better how to invest money than the wealthiest Americans for the greater good. The justification for keeping the tax rates low on the wealthiest Americans is that they will use that money to create jobs. They generally don't. Instead of hiring people for their own businesses, they use that money to blow speculative bubbles, whether in stocks, bonds, commodities, or real estate. Yes, those bubbles may create jobs while they're inflating, but they destroy jobs when they pop.
The last pair of bubbles was especially pernicious, as it first inflated people's home values then, as they started to collapse, leaving Americans owing more than their assets were worth, inflated commodities, making food and energy cost more just when Americans could no longer withdraw money from the "home ATM." Both of those bubbles harmed people financially even before the panic in the stock market and contraction of the economy threw people out of work. Now we're left with vacant houses, people who can't sell their houses to move to where there are jobs, and a government that has to borrow a trillion dollars a year to maintain the spending it's already doing to pay people the money they need to make more decisions with what is now their own income.
So, I think raising taxes, particularly on the wealthiest 2%, is a good idea. They're not doing much useful with that money other than trying to increase their own wealth by blowing asset bubbles. What the economy needs is demand, and the other 98% of Americans will gladly provide that demand if they have money to spend. Paying them that money shows that the government has faith that individuals do know how to spend their own money!
Originally posted to Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
WTNH on YouTube: On Thursday, Borders will ask a judge to begin liquidation of the company.Reuters has even more details.
Borders Group Inc, the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain, said it has canceled an upcoming bankruptcy auction and will close its doors for good.As someone who lived in Ann Arbor from 1989 to 1999 and hung out in Ann Arbor regularly until earlier this year, spending much of that time in the Ann Arbor flagship store, I find this very sad for me personally, as you can see by my previous two posts on the subject at my LiveJournal.
The company said in a statement Monday it was unable to find a buyer willing to keep it in operation and will sell itself to a group of liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources.
Borders' roughly 400 remaining stores will close, and nearly 11,000 jobs will be lost, according to the company.
"We are saddened by this development," Borders President Mike Edwards said in the statement. "We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time ... have brought us to where we are now."
More at Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Borders Books 1971-2011.
Remember that sustainability is about more than the non-human environment. It's also about the economy and society. In that spirit, I present to you an excerpt of an article from Bloomberg Business Week about the financial crisis by Hernando de Soto in which the author presents a unique perspective on the event.
The Destruction of Economic Facts
Renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues that the financial crisis wasn't just about finance—it was about a staggering lack of knowledge
When then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson initiated his Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in September 2008, I assumed the objective was to restore trust in the market by identifying and weeding out the "troubled assets" held by the world's financial institutions. Three weeks later, when I asked American friends why Paulson had switched strategies and was injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into struggling financial institutions, I was told that there were so many idiosyncratic types of paper scattered around the world that no one had any clear idea of how many there were, where they were, how to value them, or who was holding the risk. These securities had slipped outside the recorded memory systems and were no longer easy to connect to the assets from which they had originally been derived. Oh, and their notional value was somewhere between $600 trillion and $700 trillion dollars, 10 times the annual production of the entire world.That's only the middle of the article. For the beginning and end, I recommend you read it in its entirety at the link in the headline.
Three years later there's still plenty to be concerned about. Governments have worked to enact major financial and regulatory reforms, such as the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ushered through Congress in 2010 by former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Dodd-Frank has sought to move derivatives into clearinghouses where more data about them can be collected. It's a step in the right direction. But if you believe in the value of public memory and economic facts, the reforms leave a number of problems outstanding.
First, various groups of derivatives end users, such as nonfinancial companies and sovereign wealth funds, are likely to be exempted from the clearing process—from 40 percent of them, according to Craig Pirrong of the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business, to 70 percent, according to Michael Greenberger, a former Commodities Futures Trading Commission director. Second, the information collected would be available only to regulators because certain business data are considered "proprietary." Third, the $700 trillion worth of derivatives that ignited the recession are not covered by Dodd-Frank. Warren Buffett successfully lobbied for their exclusion, saying it would be tantamount to rewriting old contracts and would force healthy derivatives players such as his own Berkshire Hathaway to post collateral on old deals. Fourth, the clearing system is not likely to be fully operational for another 5 to 10 years. Fifth, many clearinghouses do not have the kind of complete information required by traditional public memory systems: incentives for recording that asset owners can't resist; standard classifications to facilitate identifying and governing the assets; universal access to the information; integration or linkages with other recording systems; provisions to protect third parties from negative externalities; identification of all asset holders and interested parties; limited liability provisions to improve accountability.
That's a lot of failure to digest in a single paragraph. So let's look sector by sector at the sorry state of facts in the financial system.
Maybe the legislators and regulators will listen to what de Soto wrote.
Above originally posted at Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
Just as I started last month on Crazy Eddie's Motie News with a good news post based on a press release that assumed Business as Usual (BAU) will return, so I ended last month with a post based on another optimistic BAU press release, this time from one of my alma maters.
University of Michigan: Oakland economy is in the early stages of sustained recovery
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—After posting modest job losses last calendar year following an abysmal 2009, the Oakland County economy should add nearly 29,000 jobs over the next three years—the best years since 2000, say University of Michigan economists.
That looks really good, doesn't it?
In their annual forecast of the Oakland County economy, George Fulton and Don Grimes of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy say that Oakland will add nearly 11,000 jobs this year, another 8,000 next year and more than 9,700 in 2013.This year looks like the best of the three and next year the worst of the three. If you're a politician up for re-election in 2012, that may not be the best news, but at least the projection isn't for job losses that year, either.
Last calendar year, Oakland County lost less than 1,200 jobs after losing nearly 60,000 jobs in 2009, and is currently adding jobs—the majority in sectors most tied to the New Economy.
Now does adding 29,000 jobs in three years look that good? Not when you realize that more than twice as many were lost in one year.
( Even so, the good news continues. )
A few days ago, I described how oil prices dropped and stocks went up on news of bin Ladin's death. I also said that it wouldn't last, a view shared by Kunstler.
This morning, Bloomberg is putting out a story that the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil dropped - from $113 to 112 - because Bin Laden was tossed into the sea. How long will that state of affairs last, I wonder. Through eleven o'clock in the morning, Eastern time?He called it, at least in the short run, as West Texas Intermediate rebounded to its Friday levels by noon. However, that price drop now looks like a preview of coming attractions.
Reuters: Oil crashes 10 percent in record rout
By Matthew Robinson
NEW YORK | Thu May 5, 2011 5:40pm EDT
Oil collapsed into free-fall on Thursday, diving as much as 10 percent and sending U.S. crude back under $100 a barrel as investors staged a nearly unprecedented stampede for the exits.
This could be interpreted as good news, as it means that gasoline prices are likely to drop soon. However, it isn't entirely good news, as it is a sign that the market became worried that the price was getting high enough to impede expansion.
Weak economic data from Europe and the United States fed concerns that have battered commodities all week. German industrial orders fell unexpectedly in March while U.S. weekly jobless claims hit eight-month highs, sparking a fourth day of profit taking in early trade.
The oil markets have been doing this dance for a year now. Just about every time oil's share of U.S. GDP starts to pass 4%, Hamilton's magic number for contraction, the price drops. The traders are acting as if they know what that 4% share (or the 6.5% of personal income spent on energy) means and they sell off.
But the onslaught of selling went far beyond any single cause.I've also heard and read that the projected end of the second round of quantitative easing has let the air out of commodities, although Krugman disputes that it's just the dollar. He even points out that the recent price rise in Euros has been even higher in percentage terms than it has been in US Dollar terms with the following graph.
Speaking of Europe, Brent crude also followed suit.
Brent crude plunged more than $12 at one point -- exceeding the sell-off that followed Lehman Brothers' collapse.
That's even better news for lowering gas prices, as a lot of the gasoline in the U.S. is refined from oil priced as Brent, not WTI.
So, how long will this trend last?
0"The longer-term bull cycle is still in place, but this correction may have a life span of several months, as weaker economic data is fueling this correction to a large part," said Sterling Smith, senior analyst for Country Hedging Inc in Minnesota.Just long enough to the economy to expand some more, that's how long. If I were Obama, I'd hope oil prices and the U.S. economy keep doing their dance until November of 2012. Maybe they will.
Above originally posted to Crazy Eddie's Motie News, along with videos about the effects of higher gas prices on the Detroit economy, both good and bad, and gas rising above $4.00/gallon for the first time since 2008.
Detroit News: Empty homes dot Oakland County's upscale suburbs
Last Updated: April 07. 2011 5:47PM
Numbers don't lie: They tell unpleasant stories, including new census numbers pinpointing high vacancy rates in some of Oakland County's most elite suburbs.Those of you from metro Detroit reading this entry should understand exactly what this means. For those reading who are not familiar with the area, these two towns are very upscale suburbs, the equivalent of Beverly Hills and Westwood/Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Imagine those areas with 9-10% vacancy rates. That would be very distressing.
The half-secret behind many of the well-maintained facades and manicured lawns of some of the area's most lavish properties is that nobody's home.
Birmingham (9.4 percent) and Bloomfield Hills (10.2 percent) showed vacancy rates significantly higher than 10 years ago. Those rates are similar to Detroit's vacancy rate a decade ago.
Tiny Lake Angelus, with 132 households in north Oakland County, is historically a pocket of the county's wealth. Always private, the census takers also found that 13.2 percent of the residences were unoccupied. Vacancies in Farmington Hills were 6.8 percent, up from 3.3 percent in 2000.The first one--eep! This enclave of Richistan is not doing well at all! The second shows that things are bad, but that areas that are more solidly middle-class instead of rich, people are staying in their homes if they can.
"One of the striking things is that the foreclosure crisis has hit parts of Oakland County that we would have thought are untouchable," said Andy Meisner, Oakland County treasurer.This is one of the signs that things are not business as usual (BAU), nor are they going to be for the foreseeable future. Too bad. In a BAU climate, I'd be very optimistic about an economic recovery around here. There's nothing a lot of energy for economic activity wouldn't fix. But this isn't BAU, so I'm not very optimistic about BAU solutions.
Back to the article.
Vacancy is a distress signal and communities try to hide the red flags of emptiness. Owners — even banks — maintain the lawns and exteriors, and when they don't, neighbors call the city.Snerk You wish. Also, let's see how long that lasts.
"Even our blight is better," quipped Annabel Cohen, a Bloomfield Township homeowner who hasn't noticed any deterioration.
Others aren't as chipper, saying that as the crisis goes on, homeowners are more likely to be as distressed as their unsold properties.Lots more at the link in the headline. I will pass on on one bit of advice from the article before moving on--watch the lawns this summer to see which houses are really occupied, and which are just being kept up to look that way by the bank. Also, keep in mind that those figures are from a year ago. Things could be worse by now. Or, they could be better.
( The Detroit Free Press has more articles about the real estate situation here in Metro Detoit. I'll give the good, the bad, and the ugly. )
Above originally posted as The Census on vacancy rates plus the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about March 2011 real estate in Metro Detroit on Crazy Eddie's Motie News along with Earth Day in the National Progressive Press.
Detroit Free Press: Indoor shrimp farming could grow into big industry for Michigan
To ramp up the automotive industry in Michigan, Henry Ford built the Rouge Plant -- a manufacturing infrastructure that could produce everything needed, from glass to steel, to make cars.There is a photo gallery.
Today, Russ Allen is looking for a way to build a shrimp Rouge Plant -- a pollution-free, recirculating facility that could breed, grow, process and ship a million pounds of shrimp a year.
It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Allen, who spent 23 years establishing outdoor shrimp farming in Central and South America, has been raising shrimp indoors in Okemos since 1994 at his Seafood Systems research facility.
"This could be the start of an entirely new industry for Michigan, a clean industry, with new jobs," he said -- if he can find the $10 million he needs to build a commercial plant.
People talk a lot about Detroit as a center for urban agriculture, but this is the first story I've seen about urban aquaculture here. Honestly, I have to say I find this one to be a complete surprise to me. As for his idea, it will most likely work (he already raises 25,000 pounds of shrimp a year in Okemos), although I wonder how sustainable it really is. Shrimp are tropical and require a lot of heat.
Associated Press via Detroit Free Press: Environmental rule on large factory farms upheld
For various reasons, I don't quote AP articles. However, I will link to them if I find them worth reading. This one is, as it describes how factory farms have to abide by water quality standards.
And now, someone worth watching, or keeping an eye on, depending on your perspective.
Detroit Free Press: In Detroit, urban farming waiting to take root
When Detroit's city council approved the sale of 20 parcels of land to the proposed Hantz Farms project this month, it looked like commercial urban agriculture might be about to start in the city.Last year, my neighbor showed me a newspaper clipping about Hantz and asked me what I thought about him and his idea. I think the idea has merit, but I'm not sure about him. The article mentioned that he was inspired by the ideas of Ayn Rand. I really don't care for Rand or her followers and think anyone who thinks favorably of her could be real trouble.
But the council imposed restrictions on the sale of the land, which lies behind a warehouse owned by businessman John Hantz at 17403 Mt. Elliott. Hantz Farms, a subsidiary of the larger Hantz Group of financial service firms, cannot grow crops or sell any produce from the site without the city's permission.
Instead, Hantz Farms will beautify the roughly 5 acres of blighted land behind the warehouse with landscaping, either with grass or some small plants, as a demonstration of how it can clean up an abandoned site, said Michael Score, the president of Hantz Farms and a former Michigan State University agricultural extension worker.
Hopefully soon, Score added, the city will allow Hantz Farms to farm the site and others in the city.
There are 99 comments on this article. I suggest you read them; you'll get a good idea of the controversies around this project, and the range of agendas and concerns that people have about urban agriculture.
Video reports on Hantz Farms and the non-profit organization Urban Farming along with news about Detroit's water system and municipalities in metro Detroit coping with the economic crisis at Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
Crazy Eddie Motie News: Weekend News Linkspam--Midwest University News
By virtue of having a week's worth of news as green as its school colors, Michigan State managed to have yesterday's linkspam pretty much all to itself. Now, the rest of the Midwestern public research universities get their turns.
University of Michigan: The Population Bomb: How we survived it
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—World population will reach 7 billion this year, prompting new concerns about whether the world will soon face a major population crisis.I think someone is being too optimistic. Then again, it's an economist saying this, not an ecologist.
"In spite of 50 years of the fastest population growth on record, the world did remarkably well in producing enough food and reducing poverty," said University of Michigan economist David Lam, in his presidential address at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America.
Lam is a professor of economics and a research professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The talk is titled "How the World Survived the Population Bomb: Lessons from 50 Years of Exceptional Demographic History."
In 1968, when Paul Ehrlich's book, "The Population Bomb," triggered alarm about the impact of a rapidly growing world population, growth rates were about 2 percent and world population doubled in the 39 years between 1960 and 1999.
According to Lam, that is something that never happened before and will never happen again.
University of Michigan: Personal income up, but are we better off?
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Although U.S. personal income per capita has risen 5.7 percent since 2000, an increase in tax-exempt benefits provided by the government and employers accounted for all of the income growth in the past decade, says a University of Michigan economist.See this graph from Calculated Risk for personal income minus transfer payments:
Thanks to these nontaxable transfer payments, which include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance, unemployment, welfare and disability benefits, inflation-adjusted personal income per capita rose nearly $2,200 since 2000, despite America's worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
But when growth in transfer payments and employer-paid benefits are excluded, U.S. taxable income per capita actually decreased 3.4 percent from $32,403 to $31,303, says economist Don Grimes of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Economics, and the Economy.
"Last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released preliminary personal income statistics for all states and the data shows that personal income per capita in the United States increased," Grimes said. "But, why don't we feel better off? Because the personal income per capita data includes 'spending' that we don't recognize as contributing to our economic well-being.
"Most people are not going to feel better off if their employer has to pay higher health insurance premiums, even if to government statistics experts it is the appropriate way to measure our well-being, which strictly speaking it is."
No, we're not back to where we were before the recession.
News from Wisconsin, Purdue, and Ohio State at Crazy Eddie Motie News.
Continuing with selecting news posts with a common theme out of last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday, I am posting three news items about Food. I'm planning on passing them out to my Global Politics of Food class tomorrow as current events and research to discuss. Why not get double duty out of them? After all, I was able to convince my department chair that compiling these articles was a form of professional development. :-)
( Articles from Michigan State University and Purdue University about Food Deserts, the causes of the rising prices of food, and the effects of overfertilizing corn grown for ethanol behind the cut. )
I have at most a week on my free paid user trial on LJ. I'd better load up that "all your bouillabaise are belong to us" icon that I'm using here on Dreamwidth there before it runs out. I could use a food icon, there, too.