Stephen Roach asks: Is this the last chance for Japan?

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Japan is the petri dish for the struggle against the secular stagnation that is now gripping most major developed economies. And, notwithstanding all of the fanfare surrounding “Abenomics,” Japan’s economy remains moribund. In the six quarters of Shinzo Abe’s latest stint as prime minister, annualized real GDP growth has averaged just 1.4% – up only slightly from the anemic post-1992 average of 1%.

Abenomics, with its potentially powerful combination of monetary and fiscal stimulus, coupled with a wide array of structural reforms, was supposed to end Japan’s “lost decades.” All three “arrows” of the strategy were to be aimed at freeing the economy from a 15-year deflationary quagmire.

Unfortunately, not all of the arrows have been soaring in flight. The Bank of Japan seems well on its way to delivering on the first one – embracing what it calls quantitative and qualitative easing (QQE). Relative to GDP, the BOJ’s monetary-policy gambit could actually far outstrip the efforts of America’s Federal Reserve.

And that’s pretty much what happened in Japan over the last 24 hours – with an appropriately positive response from world stock markets.

But the flight of the other two arrows is shaky, at best. In recent days, Abe has raised serious questions about proceeding with the second phase of a previously legislated consumer-tax hike that has long been viewed as the linchpin of Japan’s debt-consolidation strategy. Abe has flinched because the economy remains weak, posing renewed risks of a deflationary relapse. Meanwhile, the third arrow of structural reforms – especially tax, education, and immigration reforms – is nowhere near its target.

Abenomics, one might conclude, is basically a Japanese version of the failed policy combination deployed in the United States and Europe: massive unconventional liquidity injections by central banks (with the European Central Bank apparently now poised to follow the Fed), but little in the way of fundamental fiscal and structural reforms. The political expedience of the short-term monetary fix has triumphed once again.

All the fixes left undone by the end of Barack Obama’s first term became impossible during his second term. The Republican strategy of doing nothing – was implemented and increased in the heart of the worst recession in decades. As if they cared?

The problems of dying infrastructure remain. The only tax structure revisions possible over the remaining two years of Obama’s second term would be in response to corporate demands – with a few sops thrown in for Democrat election campaigns in 2016. Even education at the broadly collegiate level is starting to crumble.

We grow closer to the Japanese model of self-destruction month-by-month. Stephen Roach’s article is as cogent as ever. Though his prime area of expertise is Asia – he may as well apply the same analysis to the United States.

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Bobby Jindal leads Republican pack in stupid Ebola policies


Governor Jindal announcing policies for health care workers

Louisiana has a message for many of the scientists and medical experts studying Ebola and aiding efforts to fight the deadly virus in West Africa — stay away.

The state sent a letter to members of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which is holding its annual conference in New Orleans next week. If they’ve recently been to any of the West African countries where the virus has infected more than 13,000 people, they shouldn’t attend the meeting…

The society of researchers, medical professionals and scientists dates back more than a century, according to its website, and has members around the world.

The letter disinvites any registrants who’ve cared for people with Ebola in the last three weeks…

There are 3,588 people registered to attend the meeting, though the society doesn’t know how many have recently been in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone, where the outbreak is located.

Current U.S. policy suggests that people who’ve cared for Ebola patients but haven’t been exposed to the virus monitor themselves for three weeks. The White House has said that mandatory quarantines of health workers from outbreak zones, such as those implemented by New York and New Jersey, aren’t based on science and may discourage relief workers from volunteering…

Tropical diseases thrive in warm, wet, rural conditions that often have poor sanitation, said Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University in New Orleans…“We want people to be able to come back from these regions and discuss and share what they’ve learned,” Garry said in a telephone interview. “That’s what these meetings are all about.”

I expect scare tactics, fear-mongering, ignorance and opportunism from Republican politicians. It’s been their stock in trade for more than a half-century – or longer. But, the addition of STUPID as the leading edge of anti-intellectualism, anti-science ideology really is something new.

The saddest part I fear is that their success at diminishing America’s education system – capability, capacity and modernity – has laid the groundwork for an electorate doing their level best to vote against every rational self-interest.

Uncle Sugar continues to fall behind in affordable broadband

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America’s slow and expensive Internet is more than just an annoyance for people trying to watch “Happy Gilmore” on Netflix. Largely a consequence of monopoly providers, the sluggish service could have long-term economic consequences for American competitiveness.

Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection. In Los Angeles, New York and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege, according to The Cost of Connectivity, a report published Thursday by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

The report compares Internet access in big American cities with access in Europe and Asia. Some surprising smaller American cities — Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kansas City (in both Kansas and Missouri); Lafayette, La.; and Bristol, Va. — tied for speed with the biggest cities abroad. In each, the high-speed Internet provider is not one of the big cable or phone companies that provide Internet to most of the United States, but a city-run network or start-up service.

The reason the United States lags many countries in both speed and affordability, according to people who study the issue, has nothing to do with technology. Instead, it is an economic policy problem — the lack of competition in the broadband industry…

For relatively high-speed Internet at 25 megabits per second, 75 percent of homes have one option at most, according to the Federal Communications Commission — usually Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T or Verizon. It’s an issue anyone who has shopped for Internet knows well, and it is even worse for people who live in rural areas. It matters not just for entertainment; an Internet connection is necessary for people to find and perform jobs, and to do new things in areas like medicine and education.

In many parts of Europe, the government tries to foster competition by requiring that the companies that own the pipes carrying broadband to people’s homes lease space in their pipes to rival companies. (That policy is based on the work of Jean Tirole, who won the Nobel Prize in economics this month in part for his work on regulation and communications networks.)

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission in 2002 reclassified high-speed Internet access as an information service, which is unregulated, rather than as telecommunications, which is regulated. Its hope was that Internet providers would compete with one another to provide the best networks. That didn’t happen. The result has been that they have mostly stayed out of one another’s markets.

Unforeseen consequences is often the excuse offered by the corporate pimps in government. Whether getting direct kickbacks – “campaign donations” – or being obedient little trolls while awaiting the promised job opening in private industry, ain’t much to be gained by working on behalf of us ordinary working folks.

New America’s ranking of cities by average speed for broadband priced between $35 and $50 a month, the top three cities, Seoul, Hong Kong and Paris, offered speeds 10 times faster than the United States cities. In my neck of the prairie I have the choice of two of the national ISP’s. One gets me 26mbps download max for $75 all in. Their “competitor” charges about half that amount – for 7mbps.

Competition American style.

Thanks, Mike

Baltimore Police CCTV catches cop beating a civilian

A Baltimore police officer faces misdemeanor assault and perjury charges after an incident with a suspect was caught on video.

Officer Vincent Cosum Jr. was captured on a city surveillance camera on June 15, repeatedly punching Kollin Truss in the face with other officers present. He faces perjury because in his police report he said Truss assaulted him first, a claim not supported by the video evidence.

Truss is now represented by attorneys, who say charging Cosum alone is not adequate.

“The other officers participated,” Truss attorney Tony Garcia told CBS Baltimore. “They held his arms back. Our client was knocked unconscious on his feet.”

Truss’s attorneys have filed a $70 million lawsuit against the city.

The beating prompted a call from city officials and the public to look into complaints against the city’s police department. The mayor has asked the Department of Justice to investigate.

I hope he gets every penny. Corrupt cops only exist with the collaboration of corrupt government. And vice versa. The DOJ is reaching the point where they may as well ask for a separate seat in the Presidential cabinet to deal with the range of corruption from tickets issued as police fundraisers, police brutalization of minorities and young people in general, theft and collaboration with gangs and gangsters.

I’m more and more impressed with CCTV when it’s used to catch cops as well as civilian miscreants.

Sweden recognizes the state of Palestine

Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, Stockholm’s foreign minister has said, less than a month after the government announced its intention to make the unprecedented move.

The Palestinians cheered Thursday’s move, while Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden for consultations…

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement that the recognition was “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination”.

We hope that this will show the way for others,” she said in remarks published in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the “brave and historic” move to officially recognise the state of Palestine, his spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Sweden is the first EU member state in Western Europe to recognise the Palestinian state.

Seven EU members in eastern European and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state – Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Romania.

Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so…

The United States expressed dismay – from their usual position next Israel in bed. Nothing new. They only know one position.

Our government’s willingness to ignore historic professions of support for national liberation, anti-colonialism, opposition to oil-based imperialism reaches new depths of hypocrisy.

IRS seizes accounts on suspicion, no crime required

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up…

“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”

On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances…”

The new policy will not apply to past seizures.

RTFA. Contemptible policies made all the worse by their spread throughout our government. The NSA and FBI meet the same lowlife standard. Not that they’re copycats. They’re just behaving like the rest of the phony/law enforcement/foreign legion scumbags in our government. Regal, self-serving hypocrites.

Like so many police agencies in American government, they’re above the law.

Thanks, Mike

Tim Cook: “I’m Proud to be Gay”


Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

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Pumpkin Patch Pranking

Halloween, celebrated on Oct. 31, originally started as nothing more than an autumn harvest festival. Today, the holiday is associated with ghosts, costumes and, of course, candy. It has long been thought that Halloween is the one day of the year the dead can return to earth.

Halloween was actually a Celtic holiday. It was originally called Samhain meaning “end of summer”. In ancient Celtic Ireland, October 31st marked the official end of summer.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

School officials sued for banning girl – they were afraid of (you guessed it) Ebola


Connecticut’s Democrat governor proves he can be as dumb as any Tea Party Republican

A Connecticut father sued a school district for barring his daughter from class because of fear she may be infected with Ebola after a trip to a family wedding in Nigeria, in what may be the first such U.S. lawsuit over the virus.

Stephen Opayemi said he and his 7-year-old daughter, who is in the third grade, returned to the U.S. Oct. 13. He was told by Milford School Superintendent Elizabeth Feser that his daughter would be removed by the police if she went to school Oct. 20, according to a complaint filed yesterday in New Haven federal court.

Actually…on Oct. 20, Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization after no new cases were reported in 42 days…

Opayemi said his daughter didn’t have a fever or other symptoms of Ebola, and that he offered to have them both tested for it. He accused the school district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying access to an education. He seeks damages for her emotional trauma and an order allowing her to return to school immediately.

Feser denied the suit’s allegations, blah, blah, blah!

Throughout the GOUSA, the safe qualification for school administration continues to be ignorance.

It helps when you’re backed up by an governor who has “quarantined” more people than any other US official. Even when they’ve tested negative for ebola.