Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SOLAR ENERGY - 2017

The development of solar energy continues its parabolic increase.



(Click on figure to enlarge)

I include the figure below because it shows no new coal mines introduced for energy for two years (2015-2016) and a very small number in 20014


http://webmailb.juno.com/webmail/new/5?session_redirect=true&userinfo=8b254f2f4f26b1dc56d8fe41da329a7b&count=1502898396&cf=sp&randid=1380375327
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/business/energy-environment/solar-trade-tariffs-imports.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/us-solar-market-grows-95-in-2016-smashes-records

Monday, August 14, 2017

WOULD ROBERT E. LEE HAVE APPROVED?

First of all, did the Unite The Right Group (White Separatists such as KKK and antisemites_and others who want to Take Our Country Back Again) have a permit for the demonstration at Emancipation Park where the statue of Robert E. Lee has stood only since the 1920s?  Actually they did not.  Their permit was only for the demonstration to be held at McIntyre Park.  They wanted it at Emancipation Park because of the "symbolism of the Robert E. Lee statue."

The organizers have a profound misunderstanding of Robert E. Lee.  He actually was against secession.  He only agreed to side with the South if Virginia was attacked.  Obviously Lee was conflicted.  I find it interesting that though Lee was loyal to the Union and didn't want to see it broken up, he was more loyal to Virginia.

So far as I can tell, Lee never owned slaves himself.  His wife Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who came from a very wealthy family, is said to have had 2 or 3 house slaves.  When his wife's father died (George Washington Parke Custis), Lee took over the job of executing the will that included freeing Custis's many slaves after five years.  This he did in a conflicted manner (please see the reference for details.*).

When Texas seceded from the Union in February 1861, ... Lee went back to Washington and was appointed Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry in March 1861. Lee's colonelcy was signed by the new President, Abraham Lincoln. Three weeks after his promotion, Colonel Lee was offered a senior command (with the rank of Major General) in the expanding Army to fight the Southern States that had left the Union.*
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A key source cited by defenders and critics is Lee's 1856 letter to his wife:[68]
... In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.
— Robert E. Lee, to Mary Anna Lee, December 27, 1856*
Would Robert E. Lee have approved of what happened in Charlottesville, at the University of Virginia?  A resounding NO.  After the war, Lee became the president of Washington University (later renamed Washington and Lee University)
In his public statements and private correspondence, Lee argued that a tone of reconciliation and patience would further the interests of white Southerners better than hotheaded antagonism to federal authority or the use of violence. Lee repeatedly expelled white students from Washington College for violent attacks on local black men, and publicly urged obedience to the authorities and respect for law and order.[131] In 1869–70 he was a leader in successful efforts to establish state-funded schools for blacks.[132] He privately chastised fellow ex-Confederates such as Jefferson Davis and Jubal Early for their frequent, angry responses to perceived Northern insults, writing in private to them as he had written to a magazine editor in 1865, that "It should be the object of all to avoid controversy, to allay passion, give full scope to reason and to every kindly feeling. By doing this and encouraging our citizens to engage in the duties of life with all their heart and mind, with a determination not to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fears of the future, our country will not only be restored in material prosperity, but will be advanced in science, in virtue and in religion."[133]*

The question might be raised whether it was right for anti-demonstrators  to block the way  of the Unite The Right Group?  Since the location the Unite The Right Group chose to congregate was not approved , perhaps one can respond yes.  We do have free speech in this country, no matter how disagreeable, but there are limits such as the case of yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater.

Many, many of the Unite The Right Group came fully prepared for battle with helmets, military uniforms, shields, and arms (Virginia is a Right to Carry State).  One group also wore body amour.  Many of the anti-demonstration group were also dressed for a battle with helmets and what looked like bullet proof vests.

It was a very scary situation from the get go including the torchlight gathering the night before.  So far as I can tell, there was no gun fire, but there was the incident of the car ramming people and killing one.

On Sunday, the demonstrators had left, but Jason Kessler (the organizer of the Unite the Right Group) tried to speak, he was physically assaulted.  This sort of action certainly was unjustified, but is common in this age when anything judged to be politically incorrect can be physically assaulted.

From my readings on Robert E. Lee, I think he would have agreed to removal of his stature from the park as he tried very hard after the War not to be a focus of attention (see the quote above).

Note added (August 15, 2017): On Sunday there was a protest march in Seattle, WA.  In this case, the police kept the counter protesters separated from the demonstration so there was violence.  As a result, there was little coverage by the news media, and the only clips I saw were of the police restraining the anti-protesters..  This brings to mind a thought.  If there is a demonstration and there is no news coverage, is the demonstration worthwhile?**.


* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee
**  http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/far-right-rally-goes-ahead-seattle-despite-violence-virginia-n792271
http://q13fox.com/2017/08/13/police-arrest-3-confiscate-weapons-as-hundreds-protest-peacefully-in-seattle/

Thursday, August 10, 2017

JOB OPENINGS HIT RECORD - JUNE 2017

There are more signs of a good economy (also see : Taxes: America Versus The World.*)

The number of openings was at 6.2 million on the last business day of the month, a record high, the report from the Labor Department said. This represents an increase from 5.7 million on the last business day of May.88
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The Labor Department noted that the hiring rate was little changed at 3.7 percent in June, representing both total private and government hiring. Hires decreased for educational services by 29,000, but were little changed for all other industries.

We may be getting to a level where consumers can't keep up their pace of aiding the economy, however, as credit card debt is also at a record high.
"America's credit card balances have never been higher, but there's no reason to think they won't just keep climbing," says Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "Combine that with steadily rising interest rates and you have a potentially volatile mix."***

The credit card debt is the only blemish I see for the foreseeable future (but it could go higher), other than President Trump  be able to talk down the economy with his statements like attacking Northern Korea with a  "fire and fury like the world has never seen"****   Oh the nostalgia of it all.  remember "Shock and Awe" back in March of 2003 in Iraq?  Oh, the Good Old Days are here again.  The market was due for some sort of correction anyway.
In the longer term tax reform could be damaging but probably won't happen this year.

* http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2017/08/taxes-america-versus-world.html
** https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/08/job-openings-hit-6-point-2-million-in-june.html
*** https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/08/credit-card-debt-reached-a-record-high-heres-how-to-pay-it-off.html
**** This reminds me that this is the anniversary of the Nagasaki atom bombing.  It is also the anniversary of President Nixon resigning from office and 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Financial collapse (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/09/a-former-trader-recalls-the-day-the-credit-crunch-hit-commentary.html).

Sunday, August 6, 2017

DONALD TRUMP, STAND UP COMEDIAN

Donald Trump is arguably the best comedian ever at what they call stand up.  After all, how many comedians have been able to pack an arena time and again like a rock band?

He's got his routine down and now even reads it from prompters almost like Obama.  He is getting pretty good at it too.  Last year he was kind of stiff using prompters but no longer.  Even so, the attendees love the oldies and never seem to get tired of them.

He's got his "call and response" routine down too.  He says "Who will build the wall (between the U.S. and Mexico)?"  The crowd enthusiastically responds: "Mexico!"
He says, Hillary's 33,000 missing e-mails, and the crowd responds "Lock her up, lock 'er up, lock 'er up!."
He could add to this.  For example when he says the Russian thing is a hoax, the crowd could respond, "Fake news, fake news, fake news!"  He's missing out.  It would be a good one (Donald, it is all right to steal this one from me).

But the crowd misses some of the old-time jokes like, "Punch him in the mouth," "I'll pay the legal bills," and "In the old days, they would carry him out on a stretcher."  Of course, for some groups the jokes just don't go over, such as when he said to the police gathering, "Throw the suspect into the back of the Paddy* Wagon," and "Let the suspects bang their heads getting into the back seat of a police car."  Some people just can't take a joke.  His stand up routine didn't go over well with the management of the Boy Scouts either. (Though the scouts seemed to like it.)  Donald, you've got to know your audience.

So after an evening of cheering and waving placards, sometimes even before the joke is over (the oldies are the goodies), the faithful go home, smiling, one more time after an evening of fun.

* What is the origin oft the name Paddy Wagon?  A nickname given to a vehicle police use to transport prisoners. The name came from the New York Draft riots of 1863. The Irish at the time were the poorest peoplein the city. When the draft was implemented it had a provision for wealthier people to buy a waiver. The Irish rioted, and the term Paddy wagon was coined. (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=paddy%20wagon)
Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_van

Thursday, August 3, 2017

U.S. ECONOMY CONTINUES ITS IMPROVEMENT - JULY 2017

The economy of the nation purrs along.  So far President Trump or congress hasn't done anything to ruin the economic recovery from the Great Recession.  In fact, some of his deregulation may help some companies with time, but it is too early to expect anything now.

Factory goods orders jumped 3.0 percent, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was the largest gain since October 2016 and followed two straight monthly declines. May's data was revised to show orders falling 0.3 percent instead of the previously reported 0.8 percent drop.*

Jobless claims continue their great string of weeks below 300,000, something not seen since 1970.  In fact, if you look at jobless claims per 100,000 workers, the current string is a great record because of so many more workers.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 126 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at 4.4 percent.**
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Retailers have accounted for 245,616 of the 556,493 new jobs that have been announced so far this year, according to Challenger tracking. Online retail giant Amazon plans to hire about 50,000 workers this month at its warehouses and sorting centers.**
Note that re retailers are doing net hiring although many companies are shedding workers.
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The four-week moving average of continuing claims edged up 750 to 1.96 million, remaining below the 2 million mark for the 14th consecutive week.


(click on figure to enlarge)
Note that the overall trend in jobless numbers seems to be on a slight downward trend.

Meanwhile, wage growth continues to increase at a modest, sustainable pace;
(click on figure to enlarge)

So long as President Trump and congress keep their hands off the economy, it will do well for the foreseeable future.  I would support a 10% drop in the corporate maximum tax rate to see if it will pay for itself.  This means the average company would pay around 18-19% without taking away any tax aids.

Note added August 4:  The preliminary July jobs report was bullish:
The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department, well above the expected gain of 183,000.
(https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/04/us-stocks-jobs-report-beats-fed.html)

* https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/03/june-factory-orders.html
** https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/03/us-weekly-jobless-claims-july-29-2017.html

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

STATE DEPARTMENT VACANT DESKS?

From last May:As President Trump begins his first foreign trip, seven of the nine senior State Department roles under Secretary Rex Tillerson remain vacant, including his top deputy. The only two officials in senior roles were appointed by former President Obama and have been kept on.*  

If you believe the news media, there are all sorts of desks at the State Department with no one sitting at them.  Rest assured that someone is at those desks, except they are staffed probably by experienced Civil Servants with the title "Acting" before their names.  Actually I think that President Trump has no intention of staffing those desks with political appointees, and, if truth be known, things at State are probably working better with the Acting staff

One exception is the Deputy Secretary of State who actually runs things..  Tillerson's choice was black balled by the White House and remains vacant.

So all of the nine Associate and Assistant Secretaries of State are being held by competent people,not by political appointees who don't know what they are doing and are only there to get something on their resumes.  Two of the positions are held-over by Obama appointees (a surprise), but the other seven are vacant.

In a case like this, usually everyone moves up.  Somewhere near the bottom there are probably some things not getting done (lower priority), but they aren't urgent.

Things are any better on ambassadorships.:
There are roughly 200 positions at the State Department that require Senate confirmation, including key ambassadorships, the vast majority of which remain unfilled more than 100 days into the new administration.*

It may not be well known, but many ambassadorships are held by Civil servants because, well, people don't want to go there.  among the missing are:
The United States lacks ambassadors to NATO, the European Union, France, Germany, and Russia, Smith noted. For some of these diplomatic positions, Trump has yet to officially name nominees.*

The above statement is somewhat out of date because Jon Huntsman has been nominated as Ambassador to Russia in mid-July.  Huntsman is a former Utah governor, Ambassador to China under Obama, and presidential candidate for the Republican Party.  Former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was nominated for Ambassador to NATO as of the end of June.  Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Miami Marlins baseball franchise, is expected to be nominated as Ambassador to France.  Also Woody Johnson (owner of the New York Jets football franchise) was nominated as Ambassador to the UK as of late June.  I guess these sports team owners were big donators to to Trump's cause. So far as I know, none of these have been confirmed as of early August.

If I was a Republican, I would be very mad that the plums of victory are not being filled.

http://thehill.com/policy/international/334327-worries-mount-about-vacancies-in-trumps-state-department

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TAXES: AMERICA VERSUS THE WORLD

Late last July, President Trump talked about taxes:
At a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said that, in America, "we have the highest taxes in the world." In reality, the United States has average or below average taxes compared to similar economies.*
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Regardless of how you measure the tax burden, the President's claim is not borne out by the facts. As measured by percentage of GDP, numerous European countries that provide more social services tax their citizens more heavily than the U.S. does, the BBC reports: "In 2015, the U.S. tax take came in at 26.4 percent of GDP, well below countries such as Italy at 43.3 percent, France at 45.5 percent and Denmark at 46.6 percent."*
You can see this reflected in a chart by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in 2016, which uses slightly different numbers. By their calculations, Denmark comes in at over 50 percent. But the U.S. remains steady at 26 percent, significantly below the average of 34 percent. As such, America is actually "among the lowest-taxed countries in the OECD."*


(click on figure to enlarge)


(click on figure to enlarge)


* https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/26/trump-claims-america-has-the-highest-taxes-in-the-world.html?recirc=taboolainternal