Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s news conference on November 2 included the admission that the Fed is depending on hope and patience to see if its continuing strategies of Operation Twist and zero interest rates will grow the economy out of recession. In his session with reporters, Bernanke defended Fed actions in the face of increasing criticism from both the left and the right.
Three years after the Federal Reserve's massive and continuing interventions in the financial markets, Bernanke was forced to admit that “recent indicators point to continuing weakness in overall labor market conditions and the unemployment rate remains elevated ... and consequently [the Fed] anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually.... Moreover, there are significant downside risks to the economic outlook.” He added that “we did underestimate the pace of recovery for some fundamental reasons,” including the continuing declines in the real estate markets and “a certain amount of bad luck.”
Bernanke was forced to reduce further his estimates about the rate of economic growth, now predicting that the U.S. economy will grow at only 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent in 2011, and that 2012 growth will range between 2.5 percent and 2.9 percent, nearly a full percentage point below his previous estimates. He also sees unemployment remaining sticky at between 8.5 percent and 8.7 percent, higher than the 7.8 percent predicted in June. What little growth he has seen in the last month amounts to nothing more than consumers' reaction to the decrease in gasoline prices and Japan’s recovery from the earthquake and tsunami last spring.
The European Commission has requested information on patents from smartphone powerhouses Apple (makers of the immensely popular iPhone) and Samsung. While Apple is not itself a target of the EC’s patent protectors, it has been asked to voluntarily submit critical information regarding its use of 3G technology. Samsung, on the other hand, is being investigated.
"The Commission has sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector," read the statement released by the EC, the agency of the European Union tasked with monitoring potential violations of Europe’s antitrust laws. "Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the Commission to establish the relevant facts in a case."
According to a report published in the Wall Street Journal:
Standards-essential patents are patents which cover an area that is crucial to compliance with an industry standard, such as 3G or WiFi. Unlike regular patents, they must be licensed on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis a standard known as Frand. This means infringement can't lead to injunctions on use, or extraordinarily high royalty payments.
There was precious little good news in the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for October. Employment rose by 80,000, less than economists expected, and much less than the 250,000 needed to begin to bring down the unemployment rate significantly.
But inside the numbers there was a little good news: The unemployment rate dropped slightly to 9.0 percent, the number of long-term unemployed declined by 365,000 and private-sector employment increased by 104,000. At the same time government payrolls have been decreasing, reducing slightly but inevitably the drag on the private sector that ultimately pays for that government overhead. In fact, according to the BLS, “employment in both state and local government has been trending down since the second half of 2008,” having shrunk by nearly 500,000 jobs. The August and September private-sector employment numbers were revised upwards as well, showing that sector struggling but making some progress in putting people back to work in real jobs.
In the meantime President Obama’s “jobs bill” continues to be excoriated as being nothing more than show and tell for his political purposes. His flawed infrastructure plan couldn’t even get past the Democrat-controlled Senate as more are recognizing that dumping more money into the economy by taking it from the productive sector is counterproductive, to be kind about it. And his “executive proclamation” establishing the Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia, was touted to generate as many as 3,000 jobs in the area.
After spending the entire weekend trying to sell his company, MF Global, Chairman Jon Corzine finally capitulated, and his board declared bankruptcy on Monday morning, October 31. It was during negotiations with a potential suitor for the business, Interactive Brokers (IB), that word leaked out that customers’ monies were missing, and IB left Corzine to fend for himself. A board meeting was hastily called and ended Corzine’s dream of building another Goldman Sachs with other peoples’ money.
Only days before Solyndra’s bankruptcy, the Obama administration mulled over a last-minute bailout plan that would have granted the federal government part ownership of the solar panel-maker. The financial rescue would have infused cash into the company and delegated a new board of directors, two of whom would have been appointed by the Energy Department. The bailout plan was orchestrated by the investment banking firm Lazard, which was paid one million dollars to analyze the company’s financial options — and whose Vice Chairman is a major Democratic donor who contributed more than $2,000 to Obama’s 2008 campaign. However, the plan was ultimately rejected by the Energy Department.
E-mails released in early October showed that the Obama administration restructured the loan guarantee in February after revelations of Solyndra’s financial woes. Because private investors agreed to contribute only if the repayment terms were modified, the restructuring plan allowed $75 million in private investments to be shuffled before taxpayers’ financial interests if bankruptcy ensued.
With the discovery of huge oil fields off the coast of Brazil in the fall of 2007 came estimates of just what impact they would have on Brazil’s already booming economy. Prior to the discovery of “pre-salt” reserves estimated to be the size of Florida and in excess of 120 billion barrels, Brazil’s economy was already considered to be the 7th largest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the CIA.
But as the resources are developed, to many observers Brazil is a cinch to take over 6th place by replacing Great Britain in the size of its economy. It’s economy in 2004 was one-third that of Great Britain’s but by 2007 it had grown to half. With the great recession costing the United Kingdom 20 percent of its GDP between 2007 and 2010, and Brazil’s continuing to grow apace by nearly 52 percent, the IMF now estimates that Brazil will take over 6th place by the end of this year.
The technological challenges facing Petrobas, Brazil’s main oil producer, are immense. In order to reach the oil, it will have to drill through four miles of ocean and rocks and a thick layer of salt. And then retrieving it and turning it into a profitable revenue stream will be the next challenge. Brazil’s politicians are already calling it “the pot of gold at the bottom of the ocean” and are considering how the revenues might be used to further the government’s endless list of priorities.
The ideologies and demographics of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been obscured by disorganization and media rhetoric, but emerging surveys and analyses are attempting to decipher the defining attributes of the rooted crowds in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and in other cities across the country. Who are these protesters? What are their political ideologies? Are they educated? Do they have jobs? In a poll conducted by Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York, a team of 15 researchers ventured out to survey 301 New York protesters to find the answers to these questions.
"We’ve had a lot of speculation about who these people are," the professor commented, adding, "Some of what we found reinforced what many already believed, and some results were surprising." In the survey, Panagopoulos and his team focused on characteristics relating to the movement’s demographics and political beliefs to better understand the catchy, but somewhat esoteric, signs and slogans that have painted the media headlines over the past several weeks.
The poll, sponsored by Fordham’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy, found that New York’s OWS movement is 68 percent white and 61 percent male. While 28 percent of the protesters are unemployed, most are college graduates and 22 percent hold advanced college degrees. Of those who are currently employed, 30 percent claim to work full-time and 18 percent work part-time.
One of the great advantages to being an octogenarian is having lived through a great deal of history. That gives one a perspective on life that the young — everyone under 60 — does not have. I remember the days when I would look around and find myself perhaps the youngest person in the crowd. I took great delight in that. Today I look around and I am usually the oldest.
But I know that God has kept me around for a purpose, and I suspect that He wants me to keep doing what I have been doing for the last 40 years: writing mainly about education and promoting homeschooling.
How different is education today from what it was when I first attended a public school back in New York City in the early 1930s! That was during the Great Depression, but I don’t remember anyone I knew being depressed. My father was in the produce business; thus, we always had plenty of food on the table. My mother actually made her own noodles for chicken soup. She also made her own gefilte fish (stuffed fish), which tasted a lot better than the bottled variety they sell in today’s supermarkets. I was also able to walk to school and come home for lunch, which consisted of a fried egg sandwich and a glass of milk. I remember admiring the smiling policeman who stopped traffic so that we could cross the avenue on our way to the neighborhood school.
On Saturdays my friends and I went to the movies. Price of admission? Ten cents. In those days a penny could get you a Tootsie Roll, a package of gum, a bun. Five cents could get you a great tasting hotdog.
In various cities across the country, mobs of mostly young, mostly incoherent, often noisy and sometimes violent demonstrators are making themselves a major nuisance. Meanwhile, many in the media are practically gushing over these "protesters," and giving them the free publicity they crave for themselves and their cause — whatever that is, beyond venting their emotions on television.
Members of the mobs apparently believe that other people, who are working while they are out trashing the streets, should be forced to subsidize their college education — and apparently the President of the United States thinks so too.
But if these loud mouths' inability to put together a coherent line of thought is any indication of their education, the taxpayers should demand their money back for having that money wasted on them for years in the public schools.
Sloppy words and sloppy thinking often go together, both in the mobs and in the media that are covering them. It is common, for example, to hear in the media how some "protesters" were arrested. But anyone who reads this column regularly knows that I protest against all sorts of things — and don't get arrested.
Although his commitment to “limited government” is unsurpassed, establishment Republicans in both politics and the so-called “conservative media” labor incessantly to discredit Texan Congressman and GOP presidential contender, Ron Paul. On its face, who couldn’t judge this phenomenon, the phenomenon of the most vocal champions of liberty ridiculing and trivializing the most vocal champion of liberty, as anything other than bizarre? Any remotely curious observer couldn’t resist the impulse to inquire into the roots of this enigma.
We needn’t dig too deeply to discover that the establishment Republican’s apparently irrational conduct toward Paul stems from his angst regarding Paul’s foreign policy vision. Paul, you see, rejects in no uncertain terms the notion that Big Government is not only permissible, but desirable, as long as it is non-American citizens abroad upon whom our government’s designs would be brought to bear. Loudly and unapologetically, he rejects the idea that “social engineering” is a good thing as long as it is other societies that our government seeks to “engineer.” Paul makes no secret of his utter contempt, a contempt born of his passion for liberty and individuality, for the belief that policies rooted in utopian fantasy are worthy of pursuit as long as it is not America, but the world, that our government seeks to perfect.