September 14, 2018

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America's Record Middle-Class Earnings Exposes the 'Imaginary Hobgoblin' of Income Inequality: Americans are, by and large, more prosperous than they've ever been without being noticeably less equal. (Mark J. Perry  , 9/14/18, FEE)

Median household income last year of $61,372 was an increase of 1.8% from 2016 and brought median income for US households to the highest level ever, above the previous record level last year of $60,309. The income gain last year was the fifth consecutive annual increase in real median household income starting in 2013, following five consecutive declines from 2008 to 2012 due to the effects of the Great Recession. The last period of four consecutive gains in annual median household income was during the late 1990s at the end of the longest economic expansion in US history (120 months from March 1991 to March 2001).

That $12,000 annual increase in real household income translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American.

Although it doesn't get as much attention as median income because it's influenced by outliers on the high-end, average household income also increased to a new record level last year of $86,220, which was an increase of 1.5% from 2016 and the seventh consecutive annual increase starting in 2011.

Also notable is the fact that the average size of US households has been falling steadily for the last 70 years (or more) and was 2.54 persons in 2017, up slightly from 2.53 persons in 2016, a record low. The 2.54 average members per household last year was down by 0.50 persons from the 2.94 average in 1975 and down by more than one full person since the 3.56 average persons per household in 1947 (not shown above).

Income adjusted for household size is calculated and presented below, but it should be obvious that a comparison of median household incomes over time is distorted because the average size of US households has been declining. It's almost important to note that the typical US household in 2017 had an annual income of $12,464 more (in 2017 dollars) than the typical household in 1975--that's more than $1,000 in additional income every month for the typical household today compared to 42 years ago.

And when you consider that the cost of most manufactured goods and many services including clothing, footwear, appliances, electronics, TVs, household furnishings, sporting goods, airline travel, telephone service, computers, and automobiles have become cheaper and more affordable over time (relative to increases in overall consumer prices and incomes), along with the increased availability of services that are now almost free (GPS, music, cameras, Craigslist listings, Wikipedia information, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), that $12,000 annual increase in real household income since 1975 translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American today compared to a generation ago. [...]

The top chart above shows the shares of total income earned by the top 20% and top 5% of US households from 1993 to 2017. In 1993, 48.9% of total income went to the top quintile of US households, and 24 years later in 2017, the share of income going to the top 20% of households has increased to only 51.5%. Likewise, in 1993 the share of total income going to the top 5% of US households was 21.0%, and that share had increased to only 22.3% last year. Interestingly, the 22.3% share of income earned by the top 5% of households last year was lower than the share that group earned in 2016 (22.6%) and 2001 (22.4%), and the same as in 2006, 2011, and 2012. Over the last two decades, the income shares of the top 20% and top 5% have been remarkably stable at about 49-51.5% and 21-22.6% respectively, and there has been no statistical evidence of significant "rising income inequality" according to these measures.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


NJ Teacher 'Greens' Her Class By Wearing Same Dress 100 Days In A Row (HANK BERRIEN, September 14, 2018, Daily Caller)

A New Jersey art teacher determined to impart an environmental lesson to her students has chosen to wear the same dress for 100 school days.

Levi's CEO explains why jeans should never go in the washing machine (Ashley Lutz Jul. 15, 2014, Business Insider)

Earlier this year, Levi's CEO Chip Bergh revealed that he hasn't washed his jeans in more than a year. [...]

In a post on LinkedIn called "The Dirty Jeans Manifesto," Bergh explains that he keeps his jeans out of the washing machine in order to save water.

"We learned that an average pair of jeans consumes roughly 3,500 liters of water -- and that is after only two years of use, washing the jeans once a week," Bergh writes. "Nearly half of the total water consumption, or 1,600 liters, is the consumer throwing the jeans in the washing machine. That's equivalent to 6,700 glasses of drinking water!"

He also says that not washing the jeans helps them last longer.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Trump Wants $200 Billion in China Tariffs Despite Talks, Sources Say (Jennifer Jacobs , Saleha Mohsin , and Jenny Leonard, September 14, 2018, Bloomberg)

But an announcement of the new round of tariffs has been delayed as the administration considers revisions based on concerns raised in public comments, the people said. Trump may be running low on products he can target without significant backlash from major U.S. companies and consumers, two of the people said.

The threat of fresh tariffs roiled financial markets. U.S. stocks erased gains, dropping to session lows, while the dollar strengthened versus the Chinese offshore yuan by the most in two weeks. Technology shares led declines, with Apple Inc. falling as much as 1.7 percent. The iPhone maker last week warned that new tariffs could increase the cost of its products.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Federal prosecutors weigh charges against Democratic powerbroker in Manafort-linked probe (Erica Orden and Evan Perez, 9/14/18, CNN)

Federal prosecutors in New York are weighing criminal charges against former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig as part of an investigation into whether he failed to register as a foreign agent in a probe that is linked to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to sources familiar with the matter.

In addition, these sources said, prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York are considering taking action against powerhouse law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where Craig was a partner during the activity under examination. Prosecutors are considering a civil settlement with the firm or a deferred prosecution agreement with Skadden, these sources said. Democrats who actually do something illegal get investigated and charged...

Posted by orrinj at 3:33 PM


Has Putin's Popularity Bubble Burst? (NINA L. KHRUSHCHEVA, 9/14/18, Project Syndicate)

[T]he World Cup that began soon after took a toll. By bringing over 700,000 international visitors, the tournament changed Russians' perception of what matters - and of their leader. An ungracious host, Putin stood under an umbrella during the final post-match ceremony, while the presidents of Croatia and France got soaked by the pouring rain.

Meanwhile, the Russian people impressed the world with their happy hospitality. The bar owners, train conductors, and English-speaking volunteers welcomed visitors warmly. Russians realized that they didn't need to win at all costs; they could be great without the Kremlin's militaristic say-so.

Then the pension reform was announced, spurring a string of protests that drove Putin to pledge to soften the measure, while asking for Russians' understanding. Yet, as of September 3, 53% of the population said that they were ready to protest further. And on September 9, while local government elections took place, tens of thousands of Russians joined protests organized by the anti-corruption lawyer and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, defying the prohibition of "political agitation" on election days.

Navalny himself couldn't attend the event, after being arrested for a previous unsanctioned demonstration. But that didn't stop at least 2,500 protesters from showing up on Moscow's Pushkin Square, where they stood up to merciless police, waving signs emblazoned with slogans like "No Way" (a play on Putin's name: "put" means "way" in Russian) and "Putin, it's time to retire" (he is 65).

Protesters included many young people, who are angry not just about the pension reform, which will not affect them for a long time, but about the Putin regime's wider failings. Many believe that even if Putin has restored Russia's status as a "great power," that does not compensate for rampant corruption and a lack of opportunities at home. Young people view the regime as outdated, and Putin himself as an obstacle to the changes - such as increased investment in social programs - needed to raise living standards.

But it is not just young people who are souring on Putin. Russian businesspeople are frustrated by the effects of sanctions and angry about planned tax increases. Like young Russians, entrepreneurs are questioning whether Putin's assertive foreign policy of militant nationalism, which won him so much domestic support in the past, is worth the price, including the actual cost of Russia's military activities and the impact of Russia's increasing economic and political isolation from the West.

Putin surely knows that his position is shaky.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Manafort's Cooperation Deal Will Make a Trump Pardon Way More Unlikely (Alberto Luperon, September 14th, 2018, Law & Crime)

Even if there were clemency for Manafort, it may not keep him from talking. We also asked Bill Thomas, another attorney and former federal prosecutor, about the effect of a possible pardon, and he said it wouldn't do anything to stop Manafort from testifying. Quite the opposite.

"It seems to me that a pardon would have little effect on the investigation other than to reduce Manafort's willingness to cooperate," he told Law&Crime in an email. "A pardon may take the case out of the federal criminal arena as it relates to a conviction and punishment, it does not however relieve one of the obligation to be a witness if he were subpoenaed to the grand jury or at trial. He would still be obligated to give testimony. This is particularly true since under the scenario you posed -- a hypothetical pardon --- he would have no criminal liability (given that he has already been tried and convicted) and likely no ability to meaningfully assert the 5th Amendment."

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 PM


The Alarming Findings of a New Study on Transgender Teens and Suicide (Kelsey Harkness, 9/14/18, Daily Caller)

One in every two transgender adolescents who are born female but identify as male has attempted suicide in the past year, according to a new study.

The study, "Transgender Adolescent Suicide Behavior," was published in Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It raises serious questions about how families, schools, doctors, government, and the media should grapple with the increasing number of children and teens who self-identify as transgender.

In addition to the alarmingly high rate of suicide attempts among transgender boys, the study reported an attempted-suicide rate of over 40 percent for adolescents who identify as gender nonconforming (neither exclusively male or female) and nearly 30 percent for transgender girls (children and teens who were born male but identify as female).

Posted by orrinj at 3:09 PM


Thousands of scientists publish a paper every five days (John P. A. Ioannidis, Richard Klavans & Kevin W. Boyack, 9/14/18, Nature)

Authorship is the coin of scholarship -- and some researchers are minting a lot. We searched Scopus for authors who had published more than 72 papers (the equivalent of one paper every 5 days) in any one calendar year between 2000 and 2016, a figure that many would consider implausibly prolific1. We found more than 9,000 individuals, and made every effort to count only 'full papers' -- articles, conference papers, substantive comments and reviews -- not editorials, letters to the editor and the like. We hoped that this could be a useful exercise in understanding what scientific authorship means.

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


New York Elects Its Next Anti-Trump Warrior: Tish James is now set to become one of the most influential public officials in the country. (MATT FORD, September 13, 2018, New Republic)

By winning the Democratic primary to be New York's next attorney general, Tish James is now virtually guaranteed to become the state's top legal officer this November. That position will almost immediately make her into a national figure--and perhaps the most influential state official in the country who isn't a governor.

James, who currently serves as the public advocate of New York City, trounced three rivals to capture the Democratic nomination. The race saw strong challenges from her left flank by Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor known for her anti-corruption work, and Sean Patrick Mahoney, a sitting congressman. New York's status as a Democratic stronghold means that the party's primary is the de facto election to office, and her victory in November is all but certain.

It's no slight against other states to note that James will wield slightly more power than the typical attorney general. Other big blue states are home to strong attorneys general, too: California's Xavier Becerra, for example, is a leading figure in litigation against the Trump administration. (The state budget even set aside more money for him to fight the White House last year.) But it's hard to compete with New York. After all, it's easy to become a national figure when your jurisdiction includes the nation's preeminent urban metropolis and the nerve centers of American media.

...a powerful black woman.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


US journalist says he warned Israel's envoy that Keyes 'posed a risk to women' (RAPHAEL AHREN, 9/14/18, Times of Israel)

Israel's Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was reportedly warned by a prominent American journalist that David Keyes "posed a risk to women," after his appointment as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesperson for the international media in 2016.

Bret Stephens, then of the Wall Street Journal, said he contacted Dermer on November 2, 2016, after a conversation with an Israeli reporter, to tell him that "Mr. Keyes posed a risk to women in Israeli government offices," the New York Times reported. Keyes was announced as Netanyahu's pick for international spokesperson in March 2016. [...]

Stephens, who now works for the New York Times and previously edited The Jerusalem Post, also said that in 2013, Keyes was barred from the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal after employees said "he propositioned several women there."

Employees of the Journal, including some of the four who said he propositioned them, told the New York Times that Keyes's behavior led to his ban from the office "to insulate them from his advances."

Stephens said he rebuked Keyes for his behavior at the time, calling him a "disgrace to men" and "a disgrace as a Jew."

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM

CONFUSION TO THE ENEMY (profanity alert):


Yesterday, Bob Woodward's publisher Simon & Schuster announced that Woodward's new book, Fear, has sold more than 750,000 copies and is on its way to a ninth printing. A CNN poll released this week showed Trump's approval rating plummeting to 36 percent. With the midterm elections less than two months away, the West Wing is girding for Republicans to lose the House and even the Senate, sources said. Ivanka Trump is even worried about impeachment, a source close to her told me. "It's just horrible," a former White House official said.

As the parade of former allies and employees who've turned on him gets longer, Trump is increasingly embittered. According to sources, Trump has been furious at former economic adviser Gary Cohn and staff secretary Rob Porter for their apparent cooperation with Woodward's book. "Trump thinks he took Gary in and gave him a job when he was going nowhere at Goldman," a Trump adviser told me. According to the adviser, Trump let it be known to Cohn and Porter that he would attack them publicly if they didn't disavow the book. (On Tuesday, they both did.) "The president has had it," a former West Wing official said. "When books like this come out, he tends to shut down and calls up people he sees on TV saying good things about him."

But Trump's anger over Woodward's book is dwarfed by his continuing fixation on the anonymous New York Times op-ed. Sources told me Trump is "obsessed," "lathered," and "freaked out" that the leaker is still in his midst. His son Don Jr. has told people he's worried Trump isn't sleeping because of it, a source said. Meetings have been derailed by Trump's suspicion. "If you look at him the wrong way, he'll spend the next hour thinking you wrote it," a Republican close to the White House said. Much of what's fueling Trump's paranoia is that he has no clear way to identify the author.

On The Remnant this week, Jonah Goldberg both confessed confusion about what Anonymous hoped to achieve and predicted this achievement, which answered his own question.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Why Democrats Love Democratic Socialism (SAMUEL HAMMOND, September 13, 2018, National Review)

Whether politicians such as Nixon, AOC, or Salazar understand the first thing about the fellows they've chosen to travel with or are just trying to be au courant is not immediately clear. To hear Sanders talk, socialism apparently means becoming more like Denmark -- an embarrassing conflation of "democratic socialism" with "social democracy," presumably thanks to the large number of letters they have in common. It's a distinction with a difference. While democratic socialists seek to abolish capitalism through worker control of the economy, social democracies are countries that supplement capitalism with redistribution and the public provision of certain goods or services -- such as health insurance -- that markets often fail to provide effectively.

Denmark's prime minister made this point directly on a visit several years ago, not-so-subtly chiding Sanders in the process. "I know that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism," he told his audience at the Harvard Kennedy School. "Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."

And not just any market economy. Nordic social democracies routinely rank at the top of indexes designed to measure economic freedom, making them some of the freest markets in the world. Without the productive powers of unfettered capitalism, it's hard to imagine them affording their generous welfare states in the first place.

First Way means for Second Way ends.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Paul Manafort = Evidence of Collusion (Ryan Goodman, June 15, 2018, Just Security)

1. Manafort proposes to Putin-linked, Russian oligarch a plan to "greatly benefit Putin," and they get to work (2005-)

In 2005, Manafort sends a memo to Russian oligarch and Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, pitching him on a project. Manafort writes: "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success." The proposal is to help influence politics, business dealings and media coverage in the United States, Europe, and former Soviet-bloc countries. Deripaska hires Manafort on a $10 million annual contract. How aligned is Deripaska with the Kremlin? Deripaska once told the Financial Times, "I don't separate myself from the state. I have no other interests."

2. Manafort joins Trump Campaign and stays in frequent contact with a Kiev-based operative with active ties to Russian military intelligence (March 2016-)

Manafort joins the Trump Campaign and soon becomes campaign chairman. During the entire time on the campaign, Manafort is in frequent contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who has worked with Manafort for over ten years. The FBI assesses Kilimnik has active ties to Russian intelligence during this period, according to two court briefs filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (Kilimnik has since left Kiev and now reportedly lives in Moscow.)

According to Politico, "Manafort said he and Kilimnik discussed an array of subjects related to the presidential campaign, including the hacking of the DNC's emails, though Manafort stressed that at the time of the conversations, neither he nor other Trump campaign officials knew that Russia was involved in the hacking." What is now significant in light of that statement is that Manafort and other campaign officials were alerted to the Russian involvement before it was made public. (Also the first public report of the hacking attributed the operation to Russia from the outset.)

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Latin America's 'Pink Tide' Recedes (Hampton Stephens, Sept. 3, 2018, World Politics Review). 

It wasn't very long ago that Latin American voters, in country after country, began electing leftist presidents. The new crop of leaders that rose to power over the past few decades occupied a wide range of positions along the ideological spectrum, advocating leftist policies that varied mightily--from mild income redistribution projects to aggressive nationalization programs. But the trend toward leftist governments in Latin America was unmistakable. Some dubbed it the "pink tide." That tide is now receding with as much force as it came ashore. 

The movement's high-water mark came during the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan firebrand who tried to build, rally and finance a coalition of leftist leaders across the hemisphere. Roughly a decade after Chavez came to power in 1999, leftist politicians had scored impressive victories, capturing the presidency in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Now that long list is dwindling.

Despite maneuvers that have allowed several--though not all--of these leftist presidents to erode democratic norms, often by dismantling term limits and taking control of electoral boards, the number of leftist governments in Latin America is growing shorter. And just as significantly, some of the presidents who remain in office after moving to secure multiple terms are facing the wrath of a public fed up with the reversal of their country's democratic progress.