Showing posts from July 6, 2017

Today's Trumpery

[Welcome to the monkey house. A daily pastiche of Trumpisms and responses thereto. *RON*]

Betsy DeVos Heads to North Korea to Reverse Its Progress in Math and Science, New Yorker [humour]
18 States Sue Betsy DeVos Over Student Loan Protections, New York Times [Sadly, not humour]
Russia-born dealmaker linked to Trump assists laundering probe, Financial Times
Trump breaks 25-year tradition, doesn’t visit Warsaw Ghetto memorial during Poland visit, Think Progress [His second insult to holocaust survivors]
Alternative fact of the week: Trump's uncertainty principle, Baltimore Sun [Pushback on "Nobody really knows"]
US government ethics chief resigns, with parting shot at Trump, The Guardian [Appropriately, the post is now vacant]

U.S. Military Spending: The Cost of Wars

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[Mind-bogglingly large numbers. The level of accounting uncertainty is also appalling. You can download the full report by clicking on this link. *RON*]

Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 26 June 2017

One of the striking aspects of American military power is how little serious attention is spent on examining the key elements of its total cost by war and mission, and the linkage between the use of resources and the presence of an effective strategy. For the last several decades, there has been little real effort to examine the costs of key missions and strategic commitments and the longer term trends in force planning and cost. Both the Executive Branch and the Congress have failed to reform any key aspect of the defense and foreign policy budgets to look beyond input budgeting by line item and by military service, and doing so on an annual basis.

The program budgeting and integrated force planning efforts pioneered t…

The End of Economics

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[Good read. John Maynard Keynes was too brilliant and persuasive for his own good, presenting economics as a scientific solution to the problems of the world, raising the status of economics beyond its deserved level. "Keynes offered crucial justifications for elevating and expanding the roles economic experts play in statecraft. In return, he expected them to abandon their most specious claims to positivism and their providential faith in laissez-faire. His successors welched on their end of this bargain, to put it mildly." *RON*]

Matt Seybold, Los Angeles Review of Books. 3 July 2017

TIRED AND SLIGHTLY TOASTED after a long and draining dinner party, Virginia Woolf nevertheless kept a promise to her diary, recording her impression of the evening while it was still fresh. Fellow novelist Elizabeth Bowen arrived very late — “rayed like a zebra, silent and stuttering” — leaving Woolf the lone woman at a table ringed with notoriously self-a…

Government supporters attack Venezuelan congress, injure opposition lawmakers

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[Something for all politicians to contemplate: what an extraordinarily surprised politician looks like. *RON*]

Mariana Zuñiga & Nick Miroff, Washington Post, 5 July 2017

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan lawmakers who oppose President Nicolás Maduro were beaten and bloodied in the halls of congress Wednesday as a pro-government mob stormed the building, apparently facing little or no resistance from security guards.

The attack left at least 15 people injured, according to opposition leaders, including one lawmaker who was rushed to the hospital with broken ribs and a head wound.

Scenes of the melee shared on social media showed masked pro-Maduro assailants kicking and punching lawmakers in the chambers of congress and in the streets outside. Reporters inside the building were also attacked and robbed of their equipment.

The assault appeared to mark a dangerous new escalation of violence against opponents of the leftist government, although it was …

Easing Of Quantitative Easing

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[I'm starting to see stories about governments in the US and the European Union talking about putting the brakes on quantitative easing (QE). Canada is similarly talking about raising interest rates. I think we'll hear more about this over the next while. This is a pretty good blog entry on the general implications of QE. See: The Fed's US$4.5-trillion question: How to handle the Great Unwind?; Canada's long ride with rock-bottom interest rates appears to be ending; ECB considered abandoning vow to accelerate QE. *RON*]
Patrick Stoy, WilmingtonBiz Insights, 30 June 2017

In a move that signals growing, widespread confidence about the strength of the national economy, the Federal Open Market Committee voted last week to increase the target range for interest rates and to decrease the rate at which it purchases treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

According to a recent press release from the Fed, the committee will begin reduc…

Volvo to ditch combustion engines, switch to electric by 2019

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[A good example of consumer-driven positive change. The Swedish company said Wednesday that the decision was prompted by the wishes of customers, describing it as “one of the most significant moves by any carmaker.” *RON*]

Jack Ewing, New York Times / Toronto Star, 5 July 2017

FRANKFURT—Volvo Cars on Wednesday became the first mainstream automaker to sound the death knell of the internal combustion engine, saying that all the models it introduces starting in 2019 will be either hybrids or powered solely by batteries.

The decision is the boldest commitment by any major car company to technologies that currently represent a small share of the total vehicle market but are increasingly viewed as essential to combating climate change and urban pollution.

While most major automakers offer hybrids and battery-powered options, none of them have been willing to forsake cars powered solely by gasoline or diesel fuel. On the contrary, U.S. automakers have con…