Showing posts from March 20, 2014

The Emptiness of Data Journalism

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[How do you decide between Joe Friday and your Dutch Uncle? I disagree with Nate Silver, yet he raises a point I also struggle with. To what extent is "news" equal solely to new, confirmable information and to what extent is it equally important to provide "analysis" (i.e., considered and, hopefully, informed and experienced opinion)? The answer is that there is no answer - it must be a mix of both if we are to make sense of the world, and we all draw the line in different places in terms of what is worth reporting. *RON*]

Nate Silver could learn a lot from those op-ed columnists he maligns

By Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic, March 19, 2014

I wish to say a word or two in defense of “bullshit.” That is Nate Silver’s meticulously chosen term—he does nothing imprecisely—for opinion journalism. “Plenty of pundits have really high IQs,” he announced to New York magazine, “but they don’t have any discipline in how they look at the w…

Bloomberg Hints at Curb On Articles About China

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[Basically he's saying that the role of the news media is to self-censor, not upset authoritarian governments, and be a cheering section for corporations' bottom lines - presumably Edward R. Murrow is spinning nicely in his grave. *RON*]

By Neil Gough and Ravi Somaiya, New York Times, March 20, 2014

HONG KONG — The chairman of Bloomberg L.P. said in a speech here on Thursday that the company should have reconsidered articles that deviated from its core of coverage of business news, because they jeopardized the huge sales potential for its products in the Chinese market.

The comments by the chairman, Peter T. Grauer, represented the starkest acknowledgment yet by a senior Bloomberg executive that the ambitions of the news division should be assessed in the context of the business operation, which provides the bulk of the company’s revenue. They also signaled which of those considerations might get priority.

Acknowledging the vast size of the…

Just 11 Pct. of US Long-Term Unemployed Find Jobs

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[Then many of these people will be in real need of welfare; but welfare is constantly being cut and reduced... *RON*]

By Josh Boak, Associated Press, on CNS News, March 20, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study documents the bleak plight of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months: Just 11 percent of them, on average, will ever regain steady full-time work.

The findings by three Princeton University economists show the extent to which the long-term unemployed have been shunted to the sidelines of the U.S. economy since the Great Recession. The long-term jobless number 3.8 million, or 37 percent of all unemployed Americans.

"The long-term unemployed are more than twice as likely" to stop looking for a job than to find one, according to the paper co-written by Alan Krueger, formerly President Barack Obama's chief economic adviser. "And when they exit the labor force, the long-term unemployed tend to say they no longe…

Conflict in Ukraine Could Be a Boon for Big Gas

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[One of the commenters states that it would be uneconomic to export gas to the EU, but he does not say how he knows this to be true (I've asked him about this). Although it's not gas, this is certainly this is not the case for dilbit, since export is the whole point of Keystone XL. *RON*]

By Cole Stangler, These Times, March 19, 2014

A slew of bills in Congress would expedite permits for liquefied natural gas exports.

But the boom has been restricted to domestic markets, which now wrestle with overproduction and oversupply. So in recent years, producers have set their sights on foreign soil, where American-drilled gas could fetch far higher prices than it does at home.

The mounting tensions in southeastern Ukraine may hand the American natural gas industry one of its biggest policy victories in years.

Citing the Kremlin’s nefarious energy influence over Ukraine and Europe at large—Kiev gets about 60 percent of its gas supply from Russia, the…

Raw Data: Inflation Continues To Be Really, Really Low

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[A major tenet of neoliberal economic policy is to keep inflation artificially low (because inflation corrodes the value of existing capital), while keeping unemployment artificially high (in order to keep labour at the constant - and grateful darn it! - beck and call of capital). *RON*]
By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, Thu Mar. 20, 2014

Apropos of nothing in particular, here's a chart that shows the inflation rate over (a) the past three decades and (b) the past three years. This is just to remind people that although the headline unemployment number has declined, there's really no sign yet of labor market tightness. No matter what your preferred measure of inflation is, it's (a) lower now than it has been for a long time, and (b) still on a downward path. Inflation is simply not a problem right now, and inflationary expectations continue to be well anchored.

The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.

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[New documentation appears to show, unsurprisingly, that Koch Industries is, via circuitous machinations, a substantial player in the Tar Sands. *RON*]

BY STEVEN MUFSON AND JULIET EILPERIN, Washington Post, March 20, 2014
You might expect the biggest lease owner in Canada's oil sands, or tar sands, to be one of the international oil giants, like Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell. But that isn't the case. The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres -- an area nearly the size of Delaware -- in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry so…

Austerity is not working

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By Bernadette Ségol, secretary-general ETUC, Brussels, European Voice, March 20, 2014
Daniel Gros is right when he writes that structural reforms imposed by the ‘troika' have led to no real improvement in Greece (“What makes Greece special”, 13-19 March).

But he is wrong to cite growing exports to paint a more positive picture of economic prospects for Ireland, Spain and Portugal. Rising exports are practically the only positive trend in these economies.

Unemployment remains shockingly high, poverty and inequality have increased unacceptably, young people are leaving in droves, and there is a real risk of deflation due to high debt and falling revenue (already a reality in Greece and Cyprus). Mr Gros writes approvingly of wages being ‘adjusted' but the reality behind this bland-sounding phrase is serious cuts in living standards for ordinary workers and families.

That is what I will tell Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy when I meet them at the T…

New Report: Fortune 100 Companies Have Received $1.2 Trillion in Corporate Welfare Recently

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[We need an OpenBooks project in Canada! *RON*]

By Aaron Cantu, AlterNet, 20 March 2014
Military contractors, oil companies and banks are the biggest 'welfare queens' around.

Most of us are aware that the government gives mountains of cash to powerful corporations in the form of tax breaks, grants, loans and subsidies--what some have called "corporate welfare." However, little has been revealed about exactly how much money Washington is forking over to mega businesses.

Until now.

A new venture called Open the Books, based in Illinois, was founded with a mission to bring transparency to how the federal budget is spent. And what they found is shocking: between 2000 and 2012, the top Fortune 100 companies received $1.2 trillion from the government. That doesn't include all the billions of dollars doled out to housing, auto and banking enterprises in 2008-2009, nor does it include ethanol subsidies to agribusiness or tax breaks for…