The Market Shock No One is Ready For

Josh Brown – The Reformed Broker:

A large portion of the country has lost its mind. If you told these people three years ago that they would be rooting for the KGB to defeat the FBI, for a millionaires’ tax cut subsidized by the middle class, and for a child molester to win a seat in the US Senate, they’d have laughed in your face. But here we are.

Brown is my go-to wiser financial head in a storm. His assessment of our current political situation and his prognostication for the short-term future is a bracing wake-up for a Saturday morning.

#JoshBrown #ReformedBroker #Trump #authoritarianism #powerGrab #Mueller #Moore

∴ Martin Luther King’s Hate Mail Eerily Resembles Criticism of the Black Lives Matter Movement

David Matthews – Splinter:

In the last year or so, as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken off, the cause has been criticized by (mostly) white people asking, “Yeah, but what about this?”

It turns out that this argument has been in style for at least half a century.

Indeed, this type of discourse is nothing new, as we can see when we examine the hate mail that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Surprising virtually no-one. Yeah, but what about … is joined by we’re all equal before the law as a dodge, a means of distracting attention and changing the subject away from simple facts.

How recently after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 have lenders charge predatory interest rates to people of color? 2010, 2009, 2014. By paying exorbitant interest rates for purchase of depressed properties in segregated neighborhoods, black borrowers are denied the common practice of forming wealth by home equity – the rate and time to foreclosure on black-owned properties is both high and short – and therefore the transfer of generational wealth does not happen in these communities. Each successive generation struggles, but does little better than the one before.

Ask about that, and the common wisdom among white Americans will point you to successful, accomplished black Americans. What about Colin Powell, or Robert Johnson, or all those millionaire football/basketball/baseball players?

Ask the wrong questions, get useless answers, continue living in the dream of whiteness. A better question is, why do you know about those successful black individuals? Because they’re an exception to what’s common. Why is that? The black middle class is a smaller fraction of the greater black community than is the white middle class in white America. Meanwhile, the working poor and those in poverty make up a much greater fraction of the black community that do those in the white community. Why is that? This has something to do with it.

Now we’re getting somewhere, and we haven’t even addressed police violence in black neighborhoods, the very cause that called Black Lives Matter into being.

Read. Learn. Open your mind.

#whiteness #BlackLivesMatter #predatoryLending #unequalJustice #willfullyBlind #redLining

GE Misses on Earnings and Pares Back Lives

Charisse Jones – USA Today:

General Electric’s earnings tumbled in the third quarter, missing Wall Street’s expectations as the company said that it will pare $20 billion in businesses within the next two years to make its operations more efficient.

Miss a quarter, shed $20 billion in subsidiary businesses. What do you suppose happens to the people working in those subsidiaries? Do you believe anyone trading GE shares cares?

Shit like this is what got Trump elected.

(Yeah, I changed the headline. More to the point.)

#American #greed #GE #financial

Wind and Solar in March Accounted for 10% of U.S. Electricity Generation for First Time

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):

For the first time, monthly electricity generation from wind and solar (including utility-scale plants and small-scale systems) exceeded 10% of total electricity generation in the United States, based on March data in EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. Electricity generation from both of these energy sources has grown with increases in wind and solar generating capacity. On an annual basis, wind and solar made up 7% of total U.S. electric generation in 2016.

Seems a big deal.

#electricity #energy #alternative #fuels

Merkel, After Discordant G-7 Meeting, Is Looking Past Trump

So’s the rest of Europe, Vladimir Putin must hope.

Alison Smale and Steven Erlanger – The New York Times:

Clearly disappointed with Mr. Trump’s positions on NATO, Russia, climate change and trade, Ms. Merkel said in Munich on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as steadfast as they once were and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests “and really take our fate into our own hands.”

“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” Ms. Merkel added, speaking on the campaign trail after a contentious NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a Group of 7 meeting in Italy. “This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

Ms. Merkel’s strong comments were a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations. With the United States less willing to intervene overseas, Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.

One early verdict in what we had in President Obama, and what will become part of his legacy, was the last act of Pax Americana – the final act of the 20th century superpower. Mr. Trump will preside over the tipping point into a long, international US decline for his ignorance of America’s rightful place in the world.

Europe has awakened to not only its own strengths, but the necessity of them. In Donald Trump’s America they can no longer trust. This is a good thing in one sense: we as a nation may no longer see the need or the desire by others for our “world’s policeman” role. On the other hand, American influence will wane. That’s a clear danger not only to our own interests, but those of other liberal democracies, as well.

#Trump #long #term #consequences

Climate of Complete Certainty

Bret Stephens – The New York Times:

As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

I read this column, Stephens’ first for the Times, while wearing a “Science doesn’t care what you believe” t-shirt. The only point worth considering about climate science is the science itself. What you think, what you believe, what you desire to be true does not matter a whit.

We can see the polar ice melting, we can measure the sea ice extent annually. Two-thirds of Americans care not at their own peril.

If you live near a coast, you’ve been warned. Move.

If you live in Tornado Alley, you’ve been warned. Move.

If you deplore high temperatures, humidity, and wildfires in the forests, well, you’re pretty well SOL. Ask your Republican Congressmen what to do.

Hillary Clinton’s hubris and failure is not linked in any way to the “debate” over global warming. Repeat that to yourself if you don’t believe it, while the world warms until you can no longer deny the obvious.

#climate #science #politics

∴ Republicans’ Fiscal Discipline Wilts in Face of Trump’s Tax Plan

Binyamin Applebaum, Alan Rappeport, and Nicholas Fandoms – The New York Times:

when Republicans take charge, their fiscal rectitude sometimes starts to waver. The broad Republican support this week for President Trump’s plan to sharply reduce taxes suggests that those who hang on to austere concerns about debt will now be facing former allies who want to chase economic growth.

Funny how reducing the deficit is always priority one when there’s a GOP majority in Congress, but a Democrat in the White House. “Tax-and-spend liberals,” they say. “Deficits will kill growth,” they say.

A major brou-ha-ha erupted over whether the federal government should do more deficit spending to stimulate the economy during the Great Recession. Loud, angry, Republican Congressmen waived around and quoted a since-discredited economics paper purporting to show that economic growth is cut roughly in half in countries whose deficit exceeds 90% of GDP. They’ll endorse just about anything to discredit the other party’s policies, even a paper based on a math error that, when corrected, completely nullified the paper’s impact.

We’ve come full circle, now. A nominal Republican is sitting in the White House, talking up tax cuts and spending increases that will balloon the federal deficit through the end of the decade, increasing the federal debt. From the article:

Some Republicans are rallying around the idea that less taxation is more important than less debt, just as they did during the Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. That shift is a break with the die-hard hawks of the anti-deficit industrial complex, who have long warned of calamitous consequences to the American economy.

Reduce taxes, increase spending. Then magic happens, revenues increase and we all live happily ever after. This, from the party that took the country to the brink of default by refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling more than once during the Obama administration.

There’s a word for this. Hypocrisy.

Today’s American Republican party is intellectually bankrupt. Its party leader, the president, has accomplished largely nothing beyond alienating citizens and allies alike during his first one hundred days in office. The opposition party is on fire, with grass roots candidates lining up to run for Congress next year.

It may be true that Donald Trump was the best thing to happen to the Democratic party. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy was evidence of the need for core change in the party’s candidates and platform. A stunning, perhaps temporary setback in 2016 may indeed turn to a rout of the GOP in the coming two election cycles if the incompetence and hypocrisy of the current administration and its Congressional enablers continues.

#GOP #fraud #Trump #grass #roots #politics #economics

Rising Waters Threaten China’s Rising Cities

Michael Kimmelman – The New York Times:

The rising South China Sea and the overstressed Pearl River network lie just a meter or so below much of this new multitrillion-dollar development — and they are poised to drown decades of progress, scrambling global supply chains and raising prices on a world of goods like smartphones, T-shirts, biopharmaceuticals and even the tiny springs inside your ballpoint pens.

Fascinating read about China’s burgeoning, colliding urban centers. Click through and scroll down for a time-lapse graphic of the region’s disparate population centers merging into a sprawl as climate change inundates these riverine communities.

These places possess some of the most beautifully articulated architecture, which becomes another world painted in light after dark.

Residents and manufacturers are being flooded out with increasing frequency each year.

#climate #change #China #Guangzhou #Pearl #River #flooding

∴ Think on This

I’m thinking on the work of two writers, both of whom lay blame for the rise of authoritarian extremism in America on economic decline rather than bigotry alone.

Umair Haque – Medium:

The great gift of accepting that racism has a material factor which can cause it to explode — stagnation — is that then we can do something about it. Then and only then. If we moralize, we can’t, remember? When we accept that bigotry and hatred are unleashed by despair and frustration, in every human heart — not just “theirs”, but even in ours, should we be so unlucky — then and only then can we begin to act to prevent it, mitigate it, stop it.

Bigotry, Haque claims, is the moral cause of extremism, lit by the match of stagnation (and the ever-present fear of change, I’d add). He makes financial economy and racism co-equal, leading lock-step to authoritarian extremism.

Who couldn’t agree? A slow or stalled economy gives way to “me first,” and in a mixed ethnicity culture such as America’s, that becomes “us first.” In our present political distress, “America first.”

Thank you so much for giving voice to our baser instincts, Mr. Trump.

Assigning stagnation to the roll of instigator means we should also see racism in most or all of the towns blighted by the close of factories and other manufacturing facilities. We should see isolated pockets of minority communities, trapped by the too-high cost of joining other neighborhoods. And we do.

Yet there’s little evidence of greater bigotry and racial conflict in those communities than, say, functional economic centers like New York, Chicago, and Houston. There’s little evidence that the communities that supported automobile manufacturing in the north and cattle herding and exchange in Texas and Oklahoma harbor more racism than, say, leftist communities such as Berkeley, Boston, and Atlanta.

Remember that, as Michael Gerson phrased it for George H. W. Bush, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” flowed like honey from the best-intentioned liberal enclaves. There’s not a little benefit to be had from being the only hand up for struggling minority Americans.

Bigotry is a child of many fathers. Anyone can find reason to throw shade at black, immigrant, Muslim, atheist (add your group here) Americans, and have, and continue to do so when it’s convenient or expedient.

Economics has kept many a minority man and woman down. “You can’t work here” greeted those emerging from the Jim Crow South last century. It’s not the only cause of racial and ethnic hatred.

Often, bigotry is simply a fear of people who don’t look like us, bow to other gods, speak with an accent. How many families were denied access to housing in neighborhoods where they weren’t welcome? These were people who could afford the cost of living in these places, and those denying them entry weren’t suffering economic depression themselves.

Haque’s thesis is a partial explanation of why we are where we are in 2017 America.

Spend time reading through Chris Arnade’s work about the underclass – those out of work, undereducated and without much hope of improvement – to see the seeds of stagnation and hopelessness. Arnade’s trigger, like Haque’s, is economic.

Those who value education, knowledge, employment and are willing to move and earn a college degree (the “front row kids”) are politically pitted against those who value hometowns and well-paying lifelong jobs, the kind available with a high school diploma (the “back row kids”). A bigotry emerges among those who valued the move, the work, the career, looking back and down upon those who stayed behind. (The Guardian):

America has changed fundamentally over the last 35 years, and I saw and heard the impact of those changes. America had finally started upending a longstanding and ugly racial hierarchy, removing legal barriers that had made the playing field anything but level. For this, minorities overwhelmingly supported the new system, despite still suffering economically and socially more than white Americans.

Yet we replaced that system with one based on schooling, building a playing field that was tilted dramatically towards anyone with the “right” education. The jobs requiring muscle decreased (many going overseas) while the jobs requiring school increased. Compounding the pain from this, we started giving the winners a much larger share of the profits.

Arnade’s underclass isn’t a racial or ethnic group per se, but those stuck in communities our economy has forgotten. Facing stagnation, these communities turned out for Mr. Trump.

But generations of Americans have picked up and moved in search of better than they could find in their home town. What happened in America after the 1990s? How many of the successful, “front row kids” actually had advanced degrees, vs. a simple willingness to move, to act, to do whatever was necessary to succeed? How many had the singular motivator of a parent’s firm prod?

In short, if America isn’t working for people in a community, what happened to voting with your feet?

I get the argument. I don’t get the not doing something about it for oneself.

Name every form of hatred you’ve seen or read of in the ascendance of the extreme Mr. Trump.

Bigotry, avoiding rental of his New York City properties to blacks in the 1970s.

Misogyny, claiming to unpenalized sexual assault of women: “grab them by the pussy.”

Xenophobia, his executive order blocking immigrants from entry to the United States as he promised during his 2016 campaign.

Add in narcissism, his insatiable need for adulation and success.

If you agree with Haque’s thesis, stagnation lit the match that led to Trump. We had a tough stretch of it 2007-2009. Unemployment blossomed 2007-2010.

According to Arnade, those living in communities “left behind” by off-shoring of jobs in the 1980s and 1990s, and the rise of automation in the workplace in the 2000s and beyond found themselves in a dead end. Little opportunity at home, and apparently little effort to move where there was.

Behold, the sparks of extremism in America.

I have a hard time buying into the full thesis, though.

How many actually listened and acted, rather than scoffed, when candidates Clinton and Gore campaigned on retraining the American workforce? How many followed through?

In short, how do we delineate between economic stagnation and intellectual stagnation, and how much credit should we assign willingness and action to better oneself?

We can begin at first principles. A bigot stuck in dead end America, or living it up in a penthouse, is still a bigot. Putting others down to feel better about oneself is a losing game. Living through hard times need not make you hate your fellows, even if they’re doing better than you. There is no denying the economic and cultural violence done to people of color in the centuries before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and after.

My tentative take for now is that we’re seeing two long-run effects: of institutionalized racism and oppression, an unacknowledged history of America that’s always been right in front of us, and of stagnated minds and effort in a generation or two of Americans who’ve found their champion in a man besieged by personality disorder and enabled by opportunists.

America is not blameless, not its people, its politics, nor its polity. Scratch the bottom of the barrel and there’s more there than the weight of the rest of the culture bearing down on it. There’s inertia, there’s intellectual laziness evolved into distrust of intellect, there’s what Asimov famously remarked on:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”

No it isn’t, and those who believe it is are reaping what they sowed by believing it so. They will be the first to feel the sting of Mr. Trump’s ignorance.

I don’t have the full answer, yet. I’m thinking on it, reading, working my way to something. Economics and racism igniting authoritarianism makes some sense. Not all.

We’ll find it; we always do. May it not come too late. Cultures and governance do have their limits.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ChrisArnade #arnade #UmairHaque #haque #extremism #bigotry #stagnation #culture #unemployment