The Briefing: March 5th, 2014

Today we begin the use of randomized categories. Also note that there is a news item that I’m extremely angry about below. It takes a lot to rile my temper on news but hopefully you’ll understand why when you read the one in question. Also, the briefings of late have been a bit Ukraine heavy but I hope that’s understandable enough. Enjoy this week’s briefing. 


The Miscellaneous

  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court just acquitted a man accused of taking pictures up a girl’s skirt because state anti-peeping laws apparently only protect women in dressing rooms or bathrooms, but not in public. Nobody, not a single person, would ever accuse these justices of overzealous activism if they ruled otherwise but apparently they saw fit to ignore any rational expectation of privacy. They (barely) saved a smidgen of face by saying that such actions should be illegal and thankfully, the lawmakers on Beacon Hill immediately responded by promising to update the statutes. The worst part of this isn’t even the ruling; it’s the fact that the defendant’s lawyers said that such photographs are apparently free speech…and to think there are still people idiotic enough to believe misogyny and sexism are dead in America.

  •  The United States Energy Department is seeking a budget increase of $534 million to modernize the aging nuclear arsenal. While it is certainly true that, if for no other reason than saftey, the nuclear arsenal needs upgrades and adjustments, there are huge concerns surrounding the enormous budgetary costs for such investments. To top it off, with no apparent progress being made on global disarmament, we seem to be stuck in this endless funding-request loop for the immediate future.

The Economy

  • Representative Joe Crowley (D) has put forward a proposal to provide all newborn children in the United States with a savings account funded with three sources: initial seed capital, the Child Tax Credit, and private funds. The $2 billion proposal has potential bipartisan backing especially since both sides have highlighted the importance of savings in their economic platforms.

  • Mt. Gox, the world’s largest so called Bitcoin exchange, has officially filed for bankruptcy in the wake of several issues including failing to comply with U.S. money service regulations, shoddy operational practices, losing 750,000 bitcoins, and a breach of contract lawsuit. The failure highlights that bitcoin firms are just as vulnerable to the kinds of shocks and failings that have traditionally brought down mainstream financial firms.

  • President Obama has put forward his yearly budget proposal valued at $3.9 trillion and he slowly seems to trending back towards liberal budgetary aims. The proposal drops any attempt at Chained-CPI; it also offers an expansion of the EITC, and increased discretionary spending in pre-K, education, research, etc. Surprisingly, it also calls for an overhaul of the tax code thereby shifting the tax burden on to wealthier Americans.

  • Quartz is out with an excellent series of economic indicators from Russia that may affect its upcoming actions and biases in the Ukraine crises. The markets have already punished Russian stocks and the Ruble but its unclear at this point how the government will respond, indeed if it will respond.  It’s also unclear as to the magnitude of the mentioned indicators.

  • A Marginal Revolution blog post found several points on which to criticizes Paul Ryan’s new welfare proposals; what makes it so interesting is that MR is actually leans libertarian in most of its economic postings. Disregarding the various liberal criticisms (which will be touched on in future posts), even from a conservative perspective, the proposal is far too focused on program specifics and fails to prioritize desirable market solutions like immigration or cash transfers through programs like the much lauded EITC. It’s worth a read.

The International

  • Foreign policy officials from the United States, United Kingdom, French, German, and Russian governments are currently engaged in talks held by President Francois Hollande. Early consensus in the West seems to revolve around the need for international observers and for direct mediated talks between the Russian and Ukrainian governments. Meanwhile, the EU is considering a $15 billion dollar aid package for Ukraine just as two other missile sites have been seized by the Russians and an administrative building in Donetsk repeatedly changes hands.

  • The term, environmental refugee, is taking on new meaning in China as wealthy residents in the cities are fleeing abroad or to rural Chinese regions to avoid the suffocating industrial pollutants in the air. The pollution is being pushed east by prevailing winds and even affects the West Coast here.

  • NPR points out that, for a myriad of economic reasons, several key European players might be dissuaded from punishing Russia with economic or trade sanctions even though they have spoken out strongly against Russian intervention.


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