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Member since: Fri Nov 6, 2015, 07:20 AM
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Stock market plunge dents Democratic narrative

Obama's upbeat economic assessment is followed by a dramatic sell-off, with Clinton's fate in the balance.


Wall Street collapsed again on Friday, extending a brutal market rout that threatens to dent Democrats’ chances in 2016 and give a boost to Republicans who say the world is an increasingly dangerous mess. The Dow dropped 390 points on Friday amid falling oil prices, weak U.S. economic data and more fear of a major slowdown in China. The blue chip index is off over 8 percent so far in 2016, fueling arguments from Republicans that despite consistent job growth, the U.S. economy is in deep trouble.

The stock market is not a direct reflection of the underlying economy, but volatility and major declines tend to add to economic anxiety and make it harder for the incumbent party to hold onto the White House. Americans’ views about the direction of the nation are already dismal, and a collapsing stock market is not likely to help, analysts say.

This certainly weakens the upbeat narrative that President Obama offered earlier this week in the State of the Union that things have turned around. That’s a much tougher case to make now,” said Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments. “It’s already tough for one party to retain the White House for three terms. And if Hillary Clinton is hoping to run on the fact that things are clearly getting better, that is also now a tougher case to make for her. Average Americans see regular declines of this magnitude and that’s deeply unnerving to them.”

The hope among Democrats is that the current stock market chaos will prove short-lived and fundamentals of the underlying U.S. economy — including strong job growth, low gas prices and a resurgent auto industry — will assert themselves as the year unfolds to ease voter anxiety. But market experts say the terrible start on Wall Street — which is now the worst opening to a year on record — could persist for months and strongly benefit Republican candidates like Donald Trump who paint a very grim picture of the nation’s direction.

“The eighth years of an incumbent’s term in the White House have all been pretty horrible for markets with the exception of 1988 when Ronald Reagan was leaving office,” said Jeff Hirsch, editor of the “Stock Trader's Almanac” and an expert in market history. “And the first five months of an election year are generally very telling. If you’ve got a down year, that’s usually indicative of the incumbent White House party being ousted. That clearly puts a damper on Clinton’s prospects. The stock market is a voting mechanism.”

The dark mood on Wall Street plays directly into the hands of Republicans who used Thursday night’s GOP debate to mock Obama’s upbeat State of the Union address in which the president said anyone who is saying the U.S. economy is in decline is “peddling fiction.”

“The president tried to paint a rosy picture of jobs. And you know, he's right. If you're a Washington lobbyist, if you make your money in and around Washington, things are doing great,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. “The millionaires and billionaires are doing great under Obama. But we have the lowest percentage of Americans working today of any year since 1977. Median wages have stagnated. And the Obama-Clinton economy has left behind the working men and women of this country.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/01/stock-market-dow-drop-democrats-217855#ixzz3xSAo64ze

The ultra-violent origins of gold ("explosive" would be a better word-choice, IMO)


As far as we can tell, the age of the universe is about 13.82bn years, and that of the solar system is about 4.6bn. The sun is not one of the first generation of stars born in the universe.

The hot, dense moments after the Big Bang produced protons, and a few small clumps of at most seven protons and neutrons bound together - that is, the elements hydrogen, helium and a tiny bit of lithium. These elements came together under gravity, ignited under their own pressure as fusion reactors – the first generation of stars – and produced the heavier elements. The heaviest elements were produced in the final stages of the stars’ life, as they ran short of helium and hydrogen and eventually exploded, distributing oxygen, carbon, silicon and the rest into space. Eventually some of that condensed again, with more hydrogen and helium, forming not just the next generation of stars, but also planets and, on at least one of them, life...There’s a problem with making heavy elements in stars. Stars burn because fusing light elements together releases energy. But this only works as far as nickel and iron, with 56 or so protons and neutrons. To get heavier elements than those – such as gold, for example, with nearly 200 protons and neutrons – energy has to be put in. This is understood in terms of the balance of the forces which hold nuclei together, and it is the reason that nuclear power stations can release energy by breaking up heavy elements – fission – while stars (and terrestrial fusion reactors, if we ever work out how to build them) release energy by fusing them together. Both are moving along the energy curve toward iron and nickel. If you want to do anything to change iron or nickel – fission or fusion – you have to put energy in.

This all means that in ‘normal operation’, stars won’t make anything heavier than iron. Heavy elements can, however, be made in the maelstrom of a supernova, when a star finally explodes and there is so much energy around that zooming up the nuclear energy curve is no problem. But it turns out there’s another way, which is probably more important...Of the many weird things going on in space, gamma ray bursts are one of the weirder. These are short bursts of high-energy photons² which are detected fairly frequently and come from beyond our galaxy. The best guess as to their cause is the merging (that is, catastrophic ultra-violent collision) of two neutron stars. Neutron stars are the superdense leftovers of supernovae. Quite recently, astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope zoomed in on a gamma ray burst detected by the Swift satellite, and spotted an infrared afterglow – essentially a hot dot, in the place where the burst had occurred.

Studying the pattern of this radiation – the wavelength and brightness, and how they changed over time – fitted the “neutron star” hypothesis very well. It also implied that in the process of these collisions, heavy elements were being made. In fact, if the estimates of the masses involved and the rate of these events are right, they are the main source of heavy elements. Including gold, platinum and uranium...

Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders Strengths, Allies Say By PATRICK HEALY, NYT

More importantly, the Clinton campaign grossly ignored its candidate's weaknesses; refusing to do anything about them. Those weaknesses have been touted as her strengths, even!


Advisers to Hillary Clinton, including former President Bill Clinton, believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement that has now put him within striking distance of beating Mrs. Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish. They have asked her advisers about the strength of the campaign’s data modeling and turnout assumptions in Iowa, given that her 2008 campaign’s predictions were so inaccurate.

As the Democratic rivals prepare for what is likely to be a contentious televised debate on Sunday night, the Clintons are particularly concerned that her “rational message,” in the words of an aide, is not a fit with a restless Democratic primary electorate. Allies and advisers of the Clintons say Mr. Sanders is clearly connecting with voters through his emotional, inspiring rallying cry that the American economic and political systems are rigged for the wealthy and powerful. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton has been stressing her electability and questioning the costs of Mr. Sanders’s ideas.

Most Clinton advisers and allies would speak only on the condition of anonymity to candidly assess her vulnerabilities and the Clintons’ outlook on the race. This article is based on interviews with 11 people — campaign advisers, outside allies, friends and donors — who have spoken to the Clintons about the race....

but of course! It's safer that way. let the cannibalism begin!


Opinion: The stock market is freaking out about Trump and Sanders By Brett Arends


Political uncertainty and the prospect of outsider candidates are panicking Wall Street..Donald Trump wants to slap tariffs on China — and maybe Japan. He’d build a wall with Mexico. He promises a more pugnacious American posture in the world, and probably a lot more unilateralism. Bernie Sanders wants to jack up the federal minimum wage, tax short-term stock market trading, and probably raise other taxes and regulations as well.

Both men are rising in the polls. And as they’re going up, the stock market is going down.

Surprised? Don’t be. Stock markets hate three things in this world. The first is anyone who dissents from the orthodoxy of MBA economics. The second is anyone they can’t control. The third is uncertainty. And both Trump and Sanders are offering all three. We’re talking Wall Street Nightmare Bingo. It may be no coincidence that the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked on Friday, the day after another Republican debate. Trump confirmed his commanding lead in the race, while Jeb Bush went under for the third and, surely, final time.

Yes, of course, there are lots of reasons why stock markets are down so far this year. People are worried about the slowing Chinese economy. They’re worried about falling oil prices, rising interest rates and the dangers of overpriced stocks. But as a money manager explained to me over lunch this week, he and his clients are also focusing now on a fifth worry: politics.

Even in Wall Street’s best-case scenario, the parties will only pick establishment candidates after months of bruising primary battles. In a worst-case scenario (for investors, at any rate): They’ll pick one or two heterodox outsiders who will threaten to turn everything upside down. The political establishment — in places like New York, Washington and Los Angeles — has been waiting for months for the Trump movement to flame out of its own accord. In the past few weeks they have finally woken up to the shock that this may not happen. Voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire in a few months.

and again, Bernie gets slighted....sigh

National Association of Counties: Only three Michigan counties have recovered from Great Recession

That many?


If county economies are the building blocks of state economies and ultimately the national economy, 2015 brought reasons to celebrate and reasons for concern.

The good news is "close to half the counties saw growth across all indicators in 2015, a 15 percent increase over the previous," wrote Dr. Emilia Istrate, research director for the National Association of Counties, and Dr. Brian Knudsen, research analyst, the authors of a new study of county economic wellbeing.

The bad news is that only 7 percent of all counties in the United States have returned to pre-recession levels of economic vibrancy.

In Michigan, only three counties have bounced back from the Great Recession of 2009 – all of them clustered around Grand Rapids....

Of course, the Chosen People

Notable Quotables from Information Clearing House Jan. 15, 2016

"The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means.": Georges Bernanos

"Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose": Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

"We Americans have no commission from God to police the world": Benjamin Harrison, address to Congress, 1888

"It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true." --Henry Kissinger

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure. If today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us' but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't." : Abraham Lincoln.

"The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not." - Philip K. Dick - How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

Weekend Economists Mourn David Bowie 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016 (1/15/16)

Where does one begin, regarding the passing of David Bowie, extraordinary man?

I begin with "The Labyrinth", my introduction to his art. We watched this film on laserdisk, my sister and I, so the entire visual and auditory effect was overwhelming. The producer thought to dumb it down enough for children, I suppose. Perhaps the idea was that the deeper stuff would go right over the heads of the younger kids; youngish teens would get more of the meaning. It wasn't like anything else (until the recent vampire and zombie movies and the Hunger Games). It was scarier than Wizard of Oz!

This film, released the year before I was born, was both very dark (when the people were talking) and very silly (when the Muppet-puppets were at it). The story was Freudian, and so was the Goblin King, as portrayed by Mr. Bowie. And that might just sum up his entire oeuvre: dark, silly, scary, deep. Bowie was no romantic lead in his public life.

He was born David Robert Jones, and was an English singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, painter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, and was considered by critics and other musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s.

Born and raised in south London, Bowie developed an interest in music while at Burnt Ash junior school and showed aptitude in singing and playing the recorder. When he left school he studied art, music and design, and became proficient on the saxophone, forming his first band that year at the age of 15. He embarked on a professional career as a musician in 1963, and received his first management contract shortly afterwards. "Space Oddity" became his first top five entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by his single "Starman" and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved to be one facet of a career marked by reinvention, musical innovation and visual presentation.

In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the electronic-inflected album Low (1977), the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno later known as the "Berlin Trilogy". "Heroes" (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise. After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its parent album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), and "Under Pressure", a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let's Dance, which yielded several successful singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. He also had a successful but sporadic film career. His acting roles include the eponymous character in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Major Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos.

Bowie's impact was enormous; he changed the nature of rock music, and changed his own approach repeatedly. During his career, he sold an estimated 140 million records worldwide. In the UK, he was awarded nine platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and in the US received five platinum and seven gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Bowie stopped concert touring after 2004, and last performed live at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, he returned from a decade-long recording hiatus, remaining musically active until his death from liver cancer three years later.

Rest in peace, Mr. Jones.

Russia Breaking Wall St Oil Price Monopoly By F. William Engdahl


...In the period up until the end of the 1980’s world oil prices were determined largely by real daily supply and demand. It was the province of oil buyers and oil sellers. Then Goldman Sachs decided to buy the small Wall Street commodity brokerage, J. Aron in the 1980’s. They had their eye set on transforming how oil is traded in world markets.

It was the advent of “paper oil,” oil traded in futures, contracts independent of delivery of physical crude, easier for the large banks to manipulate based on rumors and derivative market skullduggery, as a handful of Wall Street banks dominated oil futures trades and knew just who held what positions, a convenient insider role that is rarely mentioned inn polite company. It was the beginning of transforming oil trading into a casino where Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP MorganChase and a few other giant Wall Street banks ran the crap tables.

In the aftermath of the 1973 rise in the price of OPEC oil by some 400% in a matter of months following the October, 1973 Yom Kippur war, the US Treasury sent a high-level emissary to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1975 US Treasury Assistant Secretary, Jack F. Bennett, was sent to Saudi Arabia to secure an agreement with the monarchy that Saudi and all OPEC oil will only be traded in US dollars, not Japanese Yen or German Marks or any other. Bennett then went to take a high job at Exxon. The Saudis got major military guarantees and equipment in return and from that point, despite major efforts of oil importing countries, oil to this day is sold on world markets in dollars and the price is set by Wall Street via control of the derivatives or futures exchanges such as Intercontinental Exchange or ICE in London, the NYMEX commodity exchange in New York, or the Dubai Mercantile Exchange which sets the benchmark for Arab crude prices. All are owned by a tight-knit group of Wall Street banks–Goldman Sachs, JP MorganChase, Citigroup and others. At the time Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reportedly stated, “If you control the oil, you control entire nations.” Oil has been at the heart of the Dollar System since 1945...

this is a "must read" article! and it's long...

Fossil fuel burning 'postponing next ice age'


Climate change is altering global cycles to such an extent that the next ice age has been delayed for at least 100,000 years, according to new research identifying Earth’s deep-freeze tipping point...Showing that human activity, via climate change, can alter global processes like ice ages is compelling evidence that the planet has entered a new geological epoch, dubbed the Anthropocene, according to the scientists.

Other recent research listed evidence from plastic pollution to the mass extinction of wildlife to show that the Earth has entered the Anthropocene.

The new research also shows that a major ice age was narrowly missed just before the industrial revolution , probably because the development of agriculture had nudged the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere just above the tipping point.

“The bottom line is we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented,” said Andrey Ganopolski, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany and who led the research. “It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it.”


Democratic, Republican Identification Near Historical Lows


In 2015, for the fifth consecutive year, at least four in 10 U.S. adults identified as political independents. The 42% identifying as independents in 2015 was down slightly from the record 43% in 2014. This elevated percentage of political independents leaves Democratic (29%) and Republican (26%) identification at or near recent low points, with the modest Democratic advantage roughly where it has been over the past five years.

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