More Censorship

    I wrote most of this post a few days ago. Since then we have seen even more from Mr Trump indicating he only wants good coverage. He is willing to blame the media for anything not matching his version of reality….even protests against his Presidency. Rather than go to the media with a press release or news conference, he’s taken to Tweeting just like during the campaign. The latest direct attempt to squash the First Amendment:

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

4:55 AM – 29 Nov 2016

Never mind that was settled back in 1989 Supreme Court decision, Texas v. Johnson, said burning the flag is a protest protected by the First Amendment. 

    But outside these obvious events there is much more. Mostly subtle but effective in marginalizing the media, blackballing reporters who may not describe things the way Mr Trump perceives himself, and bombarding the public with false statements like this Tweet about winning the popular vote:

In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”

1:30 PM – 27 Nov 2016

    Unsupported fiction but consistent with what we’ve seen thus far, and an important trend to make the public disbelieve the media and believe him, him alone. Throughout Trumps’ campaign and continuing today he has been calling/labeling them crooked media. It’s been sadly effective in making his followers ignore the facts and evidence put directly in front of them by responsible investigative reporters. Consider the work done by David Fahrenthold proving the Trump Foundation was involved in self dealing and violating federal law. Trump denied it, and his followers ignored the evidence citing the “crooked media” out to get their candidate. With the election over the foundation has filed their taxes indicating they had indeed engaged in self dealing. So with the votes now in Trump has openly admitted self dealing, a clear violation of federal law. Yes 29.8% of the electorate voted for a known crook.

    Also seen in this Presidential campaign is the alternative news with their reputation for using bits and pieces of information turning it toward a dramatic headline. The story rarely supports the headline or narrative, and more rare references supporting the headline or story. Prominent examples: Breitbart, Drudge Report, Allen West, all versions of strongly bent far right and often racist position.

On top of all that we now have completely fake news stories propagating on social media filling the void for (alleged) information now that trust in reporters has been undermined. These stories are written with no factual basis whatsoever. Completely made up with names and towns and events that don’t exist, never happened, but they are passed on to the tune of millions of hits. Stunning propaganda machine bending the minds and hearts of those too too lazy or unwilling to look it up. Perhaps don’t want any facts to come into conflict with their preconceived beliefs. On a personal note, I have experienced a discussion with an old classmate. She is self described as very religious but continued to pass on without apology fake story after fake story….even after being approached by friends with facts disproving her position. As one of my friend asked: at what point in religion has it become OK to knowingly and willfully lie? Clearly it is about the hearts and minds.

    So strong is the concern Christiane Amanpour, one of the top foreign correspondents stated that her “blood ran cold” when Donald Trump tweeted out that those who were protesting in the streets after his election win had been “incited by the media.” She has expressed concern for journalists and journalism in the US just as in many countries around the world today. I recommend reading her comments on CBS NEWS World 

    As I mentioned last blog we need to be on watch to not allow our rights to be encroached or lost completely. We lose that, and we have lost our democracy.

Censorship, We should all be Scared

    Last week we saw a small dust-up over the appearance of our Vice President Elect Mr Pence at Hamilton. First he was booed by the audience, then the cast addressed him with a message.

We hope you will hear us out. …We, sir, we, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who played Aaron Burr, read to audience cheers. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf all of us.”

    This message was neither threatening nor offensive. It did not nor did anyone or anything else impact the show, detract from the performance, or impede the audience experience in any way. This ladies and gentlemen is what we Americans call Freedom of Speech. It is dear to our democratic government and protected by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But immediately afterward we saw a Tweet from our President elect:

The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016

    So Trump demands an apology. For what? Exercising their First Amendment Right of Free Speech. Imagine if the theater had erupted in cheers instead of Boos. We wouldn’t be having this conversation at all. The effect here is that the President elect (not technically elect until the Electoral College votes) is demanding only positive media and social information. Freedom of speech is protected by our first amendment yet right now we’re seeing it squeezed and deliberately marginalized, more on that later.

    For now just think about the impact of a President attempting to squash one of your rights. The right of an investigative reporter to research and report . Our right to be informed, and our right to share our conclusions with each other, our legislators, and our President. We lose that, and we have lost our democracy. We all need to be on watch.

    So where have I been? I just completed a term on the Board of Directors for a non-profit organization. I became concerned about both my time and the potential for conflict of interest. If anyone actually missed this blog, sorry. But today is new and there is much to talk about. I will do my best to keep the keyboard rolling and to solicit works and inputs from others. Meanwhile as for media censorship, even if it IS the President elect, sorry bud, as the NRA faction likes to make point on a similar constitutional right, you’ll have to pry my free speech from my cold dead lips.

Debt?

Nice to see congress finally raise the debt ceiling without the usual “strings” attached. Meanwhile there is more on the fictional impacts of the debt ratio done by Reinhart and Rogof. Could the hysteria finally be over?

“I’m pretty sure that the Reinhart and Rogoff “study” is the worst empirical research ever undertaken. They simply lumped together data of questionable verity taken across 800 years and 66 countries to get ratios of debt to GDP and growth rates. They summed across debt types, taking almost no notice of the exchange rate regime or the denomination of the debt. In other words, to R&R it makes no difference if a country pegs to gold or dollarizes, or if it issues debt in foreign currency. Further, at least in their public presentations, they habitually assumed that correlation is causation—ignoring the possibility that slow growth raises debt ratios. Their work was ideologically-driven: they wanted to stoke the deficit hysteria used as a justification for austerity”. – See more at: http://www.economonitor.com/lrwray/2014/02/14/new-imf-paper-shows-yet-again-that-reinhart-and-rogoff-results-are-erroneous/#sthash.NqSjC7K1.dpuf

 

 

 

We Just Don’t Understand

…how great the divide really is between the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”. Let’s not even look at the top few percent. Let’s look at someone we all know, teachers.

I saw these figures a while ago, intended to post. Life overtook writing and now Paul Krugman has done it for me….and better.

It’s all very well to talk vaguely about the dignity of work; but the idea that all workers can regard themselves as equal in dignity despite huge disparities in income is just foolish. When you’re in a world where 40 money managers make as much as 300,000 high school teachers, it’s just silly to imagine that there will be any sense, on either side, of equal dignity in work.”

Quite the perspective, good to keep in mind while we listen to the talk leading up to the 2014 elections. Maybe we can sort out who’s for adding to the burden of the poor, yet maintaining capital gains at 15%, subsidies to fossil fuel giants, and tax loopholes large enough to drive whole corporations through.

 

 

 

Income Inequality–Even the Right is in Agreement these Days

After all the writing and all the talking but none of the action required to fix this problem, here are some excerpts from Barry Ritholtz–54% of Republicans Say We’ve Got Too Much Inequality

“In fact, there are at least 5 solid conservative reasons – based upon conservative values – for reducing runaway inequality:

(1) It has now finally become widely accepted by economists that inequality drags down the economy. Conservatives like economic growth;

(2) Inequality increases the nation’s debt Conservatives don’t like debt;

(3) Runaway inequality leads to social unrest and violence. Conservatives like stability and order;

(4) Much of the cause of our soaring inequality is bailouts for the big banks and socialism for the buddies of the high-and-mighty at the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and White House.   The government has consistently picked Wall Street over Main Street, and virtually all of the big banks’ profits come from taxpayer bailouts. The Fed is still throwing many tens of billions a month at the big banks in “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time”, which sucks the wealth away from the rest of the economy.  Conservatives don’t like bailouts or socialism; and

(5) One of the biggest causes of runaway inequality is that the big banks are manipulating every market, and committing massive crimes.  These actions artificially redistribute wealth from honest, hard-working people to a handful of crooks.  Conservatives hate redistribution … as well as crooks.  In addition, religious leaders have slammed the criminality of the heads of the big banks; and the Bible teaches – and top economists agree – that their crimes must be punished, or else things will get worse. On the other hand, if the crimes of the bankers are punished, inequality will start to decline, because a more lawful, orderly and even playing field will be reestablished.”

“This is an area of agreement between people of good faith on the left and on the right. As Robert Shiller said in 2009:

And it’s not like we want to level income. I’m not saying spread the wealth around, which got Obama in trouble. But I think, I would hope that this would be a time for a national consideration about policies that would focus on restraining any possible further increases in inequality.

If we stop bailing out the fraudsters and financial gamblers, the big banks would focus more on traditional lending and less on speculative plays which only make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and which guarantee future economic crises (which hurt the poor more than the rich).”

What we have is once again politicians not representing their constituents, but representing themselves. Time for action.

 

Future Inflation?

In the long-going inflation discussion, I keep hearing the same junk about “currency debasement” and the continual “It’s just around the corner’. I can hardly wait until one of my friends…after being wrong for now five years says “see, I told you so” at the first inkling of a rising, however small,  inflation index.

Like a Stu Glazer quote about playing the blues “if you hit a wrong note, just hold it till it gets right”. Fine idea when it’s fun and entertainment, not so at all when setting policy. Dangerous in fact, bad for economic growth, bad for jobs, and clearly we now have proved austerity policies have deepened and prolonged the recession.

Here is a piece from yesterday specifically on the future of inflation. Well done by EconoMonitors’ James Picerno.

“Let’s begin by recognizing the US dollar has strengthened over the last two years. The idea that the currency was headed for the ash heap of forex history looks foolish at the moment. The trade-weighted measure of the greenback against the major currencies has been trending higher since 2011 and is roughly unchanged from the months preceding the start of the Great Recession. So much for debasement.”

dollar_23dec2013

 

 

It is Not Heartwarming

To realize the U.S Government post 911 bestowed  private domestic policing powers on the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, including the New York Fed. You have to read about it here, just thinking about it makes me sweat. Remember the Fed is not really Federal…it is private. In essence we have the guys who seek market intelligence and make buku dollars every day off market intelligence, security trades, and equity markets policing themselves. Then the high ranking fed boys and girls move off to make the REALLY big bucks with the wall street firms. Suppose there is any insider information going back and forth there?  Anyone else perceive a major conflict of interest?

Devaluing the Dollar

Since yesterdays video about how the Fed makes (literally) money I’ve seen a few questions. On top of recent discussion of how and why we are not seeing inflation…thought I’d bring this recent piece from Barry Ritholtz to the tank. In 2010 Reminder: QE = Currency Debasement and Inflation he points to the long and (then) distinguished list of “experts” who wrote to the Fed Charman claiming how Quantative Easing (QE)  would debase the dollar, cause inflation, etc. It is interesting to me how many people I know, smart people to be sure, who believed this…some still do in spite of history proving them wrong.

QE has continued, pumped money into a weak economy creating jobs and keeping the system solvent. Like I said before it is not the best plan, that would have been direct government stimulous out of Congress. But some truely smart people credit QE with keeping us out of a full blown depression in spite of congressional efforts to allow, perhaps even make the economy worse. Yet as Ritholtz makes the point, none of the signitories on this letter, nor the others claiming inflation and currency debasement, have had no concequences in spite of being so wrong for so long. And here’s Krugman’s take, expectedly much more pointed, What to do When You’re Wrong.

Reader comments are interesting. One in particular points to the various signitures  “A Who’s who of the right wing, with a strong whiff of dead Rand…”

Yup, and they are just not learning.

 

 

Fed Tutorial

Perhaps some interest here on how the Fed actually creates money. Nothing earthshattering, simply helps describe how and why it is doing what it is doing. http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/11/the-official-video-from-the-federal-reserve-on-how-it-creates-electronic-money/

A Litttle More Non-Inflation

Two links to posts here today. First by Ed Dolan: Falling Gasoline Prices bring Inflation to a Four Year Low.  See this chart.

Inflation per BLS

Well compare that to what I’ve said here. We see again (and again and again…) the folks yelling inflation have been wrong for years, are still wrong,and I surmise will be wrong over the next few more. It’s really OK to be wrong, after all it’s economics and sometimes things become a bit different than we expect. But truely smart people can usually learn from the mistakes and data. Not everyone.

Todays second winner is a takedown of the inflation hawks claiming the dollar has lost huge value in the past couple years. We know differently. Barry Ritholtz hammers them with facts: Has the Dollar Really Lost 97 Percent of Its Value? in this Bloomberg winner.

 “One of the favorite tropes of the “End the Fed” crowd is the “falling purchasing power of the U.S. dollar.” Google that phrase, and you will be rewarded with 91,100,000 results. (drop the “U.S.” and it doubles to 187,000,000 results).

The problem is, nearly all of these arguments are wrong.

As Matt Busigin of Macrofugue points out (echoed by Joe Wiesenthal of Business Insider), measuring the buying power of cash by functionally burying it in Mason Jars in the backyard is a misleading and inappropriate metric.”

But why can’t the wrong at least be quiet for a bit…maybe allow Congress to govern on the data, not the hope of a few.