Softpanorama
May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)

Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Neoliberalism as a New, More Dangerous, Form of Corporatism

Neoliberalism = Casino Capitalism = "Transnational elites, Unite!"
(It is a neoTrotskyism with the word "proletarians" substituted by the word "elites"
 in famous "Proletarians of all countries, Unite!" slogan
and "Color revolutions" instead of Communist  "Permanent revolution"  )

Version 6.1

Skepticism and Pseudoscience  > Who Rules America > Neoliberal Brainwashing

News An introduction to Neoliberalism Recommended books Recommended Links Neoliberalism war on organized labor Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Globalization of Financial Flows
Brexit as the start of the reversal of neoliberal globalization Neoliberal rationality Neoliberal "New Class" as variant of Soviet Nomenklatura Neoliberalism and Christianity Key Myths of Neoliberalism Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Anti-globalization movement
Zombie state of neoliberalism and coming collapse of neoliberalism Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism  Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure Definitions of neoliberalism Neoliberal Brainwashing Neoclassical Pseudo Theories  US Presidential Elections of 2016 as a referendum on neoliberal globalization
Media-Military-Industrial Complex Neocons New American Militarism Casino Capitalism Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism War is Racket Inverted Totalitarism
Financial Crisis of 2008 as the Crisis of Neoliberalism and shift to neo-fascism Neoliberal corruption Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy Corruption of Regulators "Fight with Corruption" as a smoke screen for neoliberal penetration into host countries   Deconstructing neoliberalism's definition of 'freedom' Resurgence of neofascism as reaction on crisis of neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization
Alternatives to Neo-liberalism Elite Theory Compradors Fifth column Color revolutions  Key Myths of Neoliberalism Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners"
If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths IMF as the key institution for neoliberal debt enslavement Gangster Capitalism Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA Neoliberalism and inequality Blaming poor and neoliberalism laziness dogma Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime
Peak Cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump The Deep State Predator state Disaster capitalism Harvard Mafia Small government smoke screen Super Capitalism as Imperialism
The Great Transformation Monetarism fiasco Neoliberalism and Christianity Republican Economic Policy  In Goldman Sachs we trust: classic example of regulatory capture by financial system hackers Ronald Reagan: modern prophet of profligacy Milton Friedman -- the hired gun for Deification of Market
Libertarian Philosophy Media domination strategy Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few YouTube on neoliberalism History of neoliberalism Humor Etc


Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare. “There’s class warfare, all right, "Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."

- New York Times

Make no mistake, the neo-Liberal fuckers are just as bad as the Stalinists

May '68 and its Afterlives [Review]

GB: once a great cultured nation, now a poorly-educated gangster mafia state, ruled by oligarchs and inhabited by soccer hooligans

The Kremlin Stooge

Neoliberalism is a very interesting social system which by-and-large defeated and replaced both New Deal capitalism and socialism (and facilitated the dissolution of the USSR). It is the only social system in which the name of the system is somehow is prohibited by MSM to mention.  It is also unstable social system which led to impoverishment of lower 80% of the society and the rise of far right nationalism. After approximately 40 years of global dominance is shows cracks. Backlash against neoliberal globalization became really strong and demonstrated itself in Brexis, election of Trump is defeat of Italian referendum.

It can be defined as "socialism for the rich, feudalism for the poor" or, more correctly "Trotskyism for the rich"("Elites of all countries unite !"  instead of “Proletarians of all countries, Unite! ...). Due to the size the introduction was moved to a separate page --  Neoliberalism: an Introduction


Top updates

Softpanorama Switchboard
Softpanorama Search


NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

(Research materials to the paper Neoliberalism: an Introduction)

Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2017 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2016 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2015 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2014 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2013 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2011 Neoliberalism Bulletin 2009 Neoliberalism Bulletin 2008

[May 25, 2017] Wow, Trump just hasnt been the same since he touched that orb by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... Wow, Trump just hasn't been the same since he touched that orb ..."
"... I talked to Sauron, tremendous guy, very bright, he's great. ..."
May 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The Twitter went wild on the orb. I liked this one:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Cyrus the Great was buried with a sceptre of tremendous power. I, king of the New World, command my people to find his tomb & recover his sceptre. None
shall sleep until the sceptre is found!

■ Pixelated Boat

@pixelatedboat

Wow, Trump just hasn't been the same since he touched that orb

5:43 PM-21 May 2017

3,365 V 8,882

And this one:

Nick Greene @NickGreene 21 May

Trump During the Campaign: "I will NEVER touch The Orb, even though its mysterious glow seduces and beguiles."

Trump Today: pic.twitter.com/eWoaDeXj8n

Boo

@TheSpaceHamster

@NickGreene

Spicer:the president has not and will never use the orb to talk to sauron

45: I talked to Sauron, tremendous guy, very bright, he's great.

3:30 PM-21 May 2017

There was also a very good one for Sanders which now I can't find, but Twitter's search function is what it is, and Google thinks I want to search on "orbital sanders." So it goes.

[May 24, 2017] All Power to the Banks!

This is not a new trick, but still it was impressive. Macron played his hand well and brought extreme neoliberals to power using threat of fascism, while his neoliberal views might be even closer to neo-fascism then LePen's.
"Divide and conquer" and "bait and switch" proved again very effective tools. In other words Macron victory is another neoliberal coup after Argentina and Brazil. Neoliberal zombies do not want to die. The power of neoliberal propaganda is still substantial -- the population can be brainwashed despite the fact that must now understand that neoliberal promised are fake and the redistribution of wealth up destroys middle class and impoverishes lower 60-80% of population
Notable quotes:
"... Les Républicains (LR), ..."
"... In reality, both have adopted neoliberal economic policies, or more precisely, they have followed European Union directives requiring member states to adopt neoliberal economic policies. Especially since the adoption of the common currency, the euro, a little over fifteen years ago, those economic policies have become tangibly harmful to France, hastening its deindustrialization, the ruin of its farmers and the growing indebtedness of the State to private banks. ..."
"... The most thoughtful reaction has been to start realizing that it is the European Union itself that imposes this unpopular economic conformism. ..."
"... To quell growing criticism of the European Union, the well-oiled Macron machine, labeled "En Marche!" ..."
"... The destruction of the Socialist Party was easy. Since the "Socialist" government was so unpopular that it could not hope to win, it was easy to lure prominent members of that party to jump the sinking ship and rally to Macron, who had been economics minister in that unpopular government, but who was advertised by all the media as "new" and "anti-system". ..."
"... Fillon still cared about preserving France, and favored an independent foreign policy including good Canard Enchainé ..."
"... These "civil society" newcomers tend to be successful individuals, winners in the game of globalized competition, who will have no trouble voting for anti-labor measures. Macron is thus confirming Marine Le Pen's longstanding assertion that the two main parties were really one big single party, whose rhetorical differences masked their political convergence. ..."
"... Macron won in part because older voters in particular were frightened by his opponents' hints at leaving the European Union, which they have been indoctrinated to consider necessary to prevent renewal of Europe's old wars. But only the hysterical anti-fascist scare can explain why self-styled leftist "revolutionaries" such as François Ruffin, known for his successful anti-capitalist movie "Merci Patron", could join the stampede to vote for Macron – promising to "oppose him later". But how? ..."
"... Later, after five years of Macron, opposition may be harder than ever. In recent decades, as manufacturing moves to low wage countries, including EU members such as Poland and Rumania, France has lost 40% of its industry. Loss of industry means loss of jobs and fewer workers. When industry is no longer essential, workers have lost their key power: striking to shut down industry. Currently the desperate workers in a failing auto-works factory in central France are threatening to blow it up unless the government takes measures to save their jobs. But violence is powerless when it has no price tag. ..."
"... The Macron program amounts to a profound ideological transformation of the French ideal of égalité ..."
"... Macron is sufficiently Americanized, or, to be more precise, globalized, to have declared that "there is no such thing as French culture". From this viewpoint, France is just a place open to diverse cultures, as well as to immigrants and of course foreign capital. He has clearly signaled his rejection of French independence in the foreign policy field. ..."
"... Macron echoes the Russophobic line of the neocons. He broke tradition on his inauguration by riding down the Champs-Elysées in a military vehicle. A change of tone is indicated by his cabinet nominations. The title of the new foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who served as defense minister in the Hollande government, is "Minister of Europe and of Foreign Affairs", clearly giving Europe preference in the matter. Sylvie Goulard, an ardent Europeist who has remarked that "she does not feel French", has been named Minister of Armies and Minister of Defense. Clearly national defense is an afterthought, when the main idea is to deploy the armed forces in various joint Western interventions. ..."
"... Mélenchon ran a spectacularly popular campaign, leaving the Socialist Party far behind (the party he personally left behind years ago). Initially, as he seemed to be taking votes away from Le Pen as well as from the Socialists, he got friendly media coverage, but as he came closer to making it to the decisive second round, the tone started to change. Just as Le Pen was finally knocked out as a "fascist", there is little doubt that had Mélenchon been Macron's challenger, he would have been increasingly denounced as "communist". ..."
"... La France Insoumise ..."
"... categories populaires ..."
"... Marine Le Pen would have tried to enact measures to save French industry and the jobs it provides, provide various benefits for low-income people, withdraw from NATO, and even promote a peaceful world, starting with friendly relations with Russia. She would even have begun to prepare her compatriots for escape from the euro. ..."
"... A "color revolution" was ready to be stirred up. The deep state is vigilant in NATOland. ..."
May 24, 2017 | www.unz.com
A ghost of the past was the real winner of the French presidential election. Emmanuel Macron won only because a majority felt they had to vote against the ghost of "fascism" allegedly embodied by his opponent, Marine Le Pen. Whether out of panic or out of the need to feel respectable, the French voted two to one in favor of a man whose program most of them either ignored or disliked. Now they are stuck with him for five years.

If people had voted on the issues, the majority would never have elected a man representing the trans-Atlantic elite totally committed to "globalization", using whatever is left of the power of national governments to weaken them still further, turning over decision-making to "the markets" – that is, to international capital, managed by the major banks and financial institutions, notably those located in the United States, such as Goldman-Sachs.

The significance of this election is so widely misrepresented that clarification requires a fairly thorough explanation, not only of the Macron project, but also of what the (impossible) election of Marine Le Pen would have meant.

From a Two Party to a Single Party System

Despite the multiparty nature of French elections, for the past generation France has been essentially ruled by a two-party system, with government power alternating between the Socialist Party, roughly the equivalent of the U.S. Democratic Party, and a party inherited from the Gaullist tradition which has gone through various name changes before recently settling on calling itself Les Républicains (LR), in obvious imitation of the United States . For decades, there has been nothing "socialist" about the Socialist Party and nothing Gaullist about The Republicans.

In reality, both have adopted neoliberal economic policies, or more precisely, they have followed European Union directives requiring member states to adopt neoliberal economic policies. Especially since the adoption of the common currency, the euro, a little over fifteen years ago, those economic policies have become tangibly harmful to France, hastening its deindustrialization, the ruin of its farmers and the growing indebtedness of the State to private banks.

This has had inevitable political repercussions. The simplest reaction has been widespread reaction against both parties for continuing to pursue the same unpopular policies. The most thoughtful reaction has been to start realizing that it is the European Union itself that imposes this unpopular economic conformism.

To quell growing criticism of the European Union, the well-oiled Macron machine, labeled "En Marche!" has exploited the popular reaction against both governing parties. It has broken and absorbed large parts of both, in an obvious move to turn En Marche! into a single catch-all party loyal to Macron.

The destruction of the Socialist Party was easy. Since the "Socialist" government was so unpopular that it could not hope to win, it was easy to lure prominent members of that party to jump the sinking ship and rally to Macron, who had been economics minister in that unpopular government, but who was advertised by all the media as "new" and "anti-system".

Weakening the Republicans was trickier. Thanks to the deep unpopularity of the outgoing Socialist government, the Republican candidate, François Fillon, looked like a shoo-in. But despite his pro-business economic policies, Fillon still cared about preserving France, and favored an independent foreign policy including good Canard Enchainé to be revealed at a critical moment in the campaign. The uproar drowned out the issues. To an electorate already wary of "establishment politicians", these revelations were fatal. The impression that "politicians are all corrupt" played into the hands of Emmanuel Macron, too young to have done anything worse than make a few quick millions during his passage through the Rothschild Bank, and there's nothing illegal about that.

In France, the presidential election is followed by parliamentary elections, which normally give a majority to the party of the newly elected president. But Macron had no party, so he is creating one for the occasion, made up of defectors from the major defeated parties as well as his own innovation, candidates from "civil society", with no political experience, but loyal to him personally. These "civil society" newcomers tend to be successful individuals, winners in the game of globalized competition, who will have no trouble voting for anti-labor measures. Macron is thus confirming Marine Le Pen's longstanding assertion that the two main parties were really one big single party, whose rhetorical differences masked their political convergence.

The Macron victory demoralized Republicans. Weakening them further, Macron named a Republican, Edouard Philippe, as his Prime Minister, in a government with four Socialist and two Republican, alongside his own selections from "civil society".

Transforming France

Macron won in part because older voters in particular were frightened by his opponents' hints at leaving the European Union, which they have been indoctrinated to consider necessary to prevent renewal of Europe's old wars. But only the hysterical anti-fascist scare can explain why self-styled leftist "revolutionaries" such as François Ruffin, known for his successful anti-capitalist movie "Merci Patron", could join the stampede to vote for Macron – promising to "oppose him later". But how?

Later, after five years of Macron, opposition may be harder than ever. In recent decades, as manufacturing moves to low wage countries, including EU members such as Poland and Rumania, France has lost 40% of its industry. Loss of industry means loss of jobs and fewer workers. When industry is no longer essential, workers have lost their key power: striking to shut down industry. Currently the desperate workers in a failing auto-works factory in central France are threatening to blow it up unless the government takes measures to save their jobs. But violence is powerless when it has no price tag.

Emmanuel Macron has said that he wants to spend only a short time in political life, before getting back to business. He has a mission, and he is in a hurry. If he gains an absolute majority in the June parliamentary elections, he has a free hand to govern for five years. He means to use this period not to "reform" the country, as his predecessors put it, but to "transform" France into a different sort of country. If he has his way, in five years France will no longer be a sovereign nation, but a reliable region in a federalized European Union, following a rigorous economic policy made in Germany by bankers and a bellicose foreign policy made in Washington by neocons.

As usual, the newly elected French president's first move was to rush to Berlin to assert loyalty to the increasingly lopsided "Franco-German partnership". He was most warmly welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanks to his clear determination to force through the austerity measures demanded by the Frankfurt budget masters. Macron hopes that his fiscal obedience will be rewarded by German consent to a European investment fund for stimulating economic growth, but this implies a degree of federalism that the pfennig-pinching Germans show little sign of accepting.

First of all, he has promised to complete the dismantling of the French labor code, which offers various protections to workers. This should save money for employers and the government. For Macron, the ruin of French industry and French farming seem to be welcome steps toward an economy of individual initiative, symbolized by startups.

The Macron program amounts to a profound ideological transformation of the French ideal of égalité , equality, from a horizontal concept, meaning equal benefits for all, to the vertical ideal of "equality of opportunity", meaning the theoretical chance of every individual to rise above the others. This is an ideal easily accepted in the United States with its longstanding myth of the self-made man. The French have traditionally been logical enough to understand that everyone can't rise above the others.

Horizontal equality in France has primarily meant institutional redistribution of wealth via universal access to benefits such as health care, pensions, communications and transportation facilities, allocations for families raising children, unemployment insurance, free education at all levels. These are the benefits that are under threat from the European Union in various ways. One way is the imposition of "competition" rules that impose privatization and favor foreign takeovers that transform public services into profit-seekers. Another is the imposition of public budget restrictions, along with the obligation of the State to seek private loans, increasing its debt, and the loss of tax revenue that all end up up making the State too poor to continue providing such services.

Very few French people would want to give up such horizontal equality for the privilege of hoping to become a billionaire.

Macron is sufficiently Americanized, or, to be more precise, globalized, to have declared that "there is no such thing as French culture". From this viewpoint, France is just a place open to diverse cultures, as well as to immigrants and of course foreign capital. He has clearly signaled his rejection of French independence in the foreign policy field. Unlike his leading rivals, who all called for improved relations with Russia, Macron echoes the Russophobic line of the neocons. He broke tradition on his inauguration by riding down the Champs-Elysées in a military vehicle. A change of tone is indicated by his cabinet nominations. The title of the new foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who served as defense minister in the Hollande government, is "Minister of Europe and of Foreign Affairs", clearly giving Europe preference in the matter. Sylvie Goulard, an ardent Europeist who has remarked that "she does not feel French", has been named Minister of Armies and Minister of Defense. Clearly national defense is an afterthought, when the main idea is to deploy the armed forces in various joint Western interventions.

The Divided Opposition

Unless the June parliamentary elections produce stunning surprises, the opposition to Macron's catch-all governance party appears weak and fatally divided. The Socialist Party is almost wiped out. The Republicans are profoundly destabilized. Genuine opposition to the Macron regime can only be based on defense of French interests against EU economic dictates, starting with the euro, which prevents the country from pursuing an independent economic and foreign policy. In short, the genuine opposition must be " souverainiste ", concerned with preserving French sovereignty.

Two strong personalities emerged from the presidential election as potential leaders of that opposition: Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. But they are drastically divided.

Mélenchon ran a spectacularly popular campaign, leaving the Socialist Party far behind (the party he personally left behind years ago). Initially, as he seemed to be taking votes away from Le Pen as well as from the Socialists, he got friendly media coverage, but as he came closer to making it to the decisive second round, the tone started to change. Just as Le Pen was finally knocked out as a "fascist", there is little doubt that had Mélenchon been Macron's challenger, he would have been increasingly denounced as "communist".

Mélenchon is intelligent enough to have realized that the social policies he advocates cannot be achieved unless France recovers control of its currency. He therefore took a stand against both NATO and the euro. So did Marine Le Pen. Mélenchon was embarrassed by the resemblance between their two programs, and contrary to other eliminated candidates, refrained from endorsing Macron, instead calling on his movement, La France Insoumise , to choose between Macron and abstention. Finally, 25% of Mélenchon voters abstained in the second round, but 62% voted for Macron – almost exclusively motivated by the alleged need to "stop fascism". That compares with the final total results of 66% for Macron and 34 % for Le Pen.

That vote confirmed the impossibility of forming a unified souverainiste opposition and allows Marine Le Pen to strengthen her claim to be the leader of a genuine opposition to Macron. She has admitted her own mistakes in the campaign, particularly in her debate with Macron, who beat her hands down with his arrogant performance as the economic expert. But despite her mere 34%, she retains the most loyal base of supporters in a changing scene. The problem for Mélenchon is that his electorate is more versatile.

Despite his loud appeal to "youth", Macron was elected by France's huge population of old people. Among voters over 65, he won 80% against 20% for Le Pen. Marine Le Pen did best with the youngest age group, 18 to 24, winning 44% against Macron's 56%. [1] According to poll of 7,752 representative voters by Le Figaro/LCI,

The differences were also significant between socio-professional categories. Macron won a whopping 83% of the votes coming from the "superior socio-professional categories" – categories where the "winners" in competitive society are largely ensconced. But in what are described as " categories populaires ", a French term for ordinary folk, with less education, the vote was 53% in favor of Le Pen. And she confirmed her position as favorite candidate of the working class, winning 63% of workers' votes.

Note that the "superior socio-professional categories" are where the significance of these results will be defined. Individuals from that category – journalists, commentators and show business personalities – are all in a position to spread the word that this vote indicates that the workers must be "racist", and therefore that we have narrowly escaped being taken over by "fascism".

One of the many odd things about the latest French presidential election is the rejoicing among foreign "leftists" over the fact that the candidate of the rich roundly defeated the candidate of the poor. It used to be the other way around, but that was long ago. These days, the winners in the competitive game comfort themselves that they morally deserve their success, because they are in favor of diversity and against racism, whereas the less fortunate, the rural people and the working class, don't deserve much of anything, because they must be "racist" to be wary of globalization.

The fact that Paris voted 90% for Macron is natural, considering that real estate prices have pushed the working class out of the capital, whose population is now overwhelmingly what is called "bobo" – the bohemian bourgeoisie, many of whom are employed in various branches of the dominant human rights ideology fabrication business: journalists, professors, teachers, consultants, the entertainment industry. In these milieux, hardly anyone would even dare speak a positive word about Marine Le Pen.

What if Marine Le Pen had won?

Since politics is largely fantasy, we may as well try to imagine the unimaginable: what if Marine Le Pen had won the election? This was never a realistic possibility, but it is worth imagining.

It could have had one, perhaps only one, extremely positive result: it could have freed France from its paralyzing obsession with the nonexistent "fascist threat". The ghost would be exorcised. If the word has any meaning, "fascism" implies single party rule, whereas Marine Le Pen made clear her desire to govern by coalition, and selected the leader of a small Gaullist party, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, as her prospective prime minister. Poof! No fascism. That would have been an immeasurable benefit for political debate in France. At last genuine issues might matter. Real threats could be confronted.

Another advantage would have been the demise of the National Front. Since Marine Le Pen took over the notorious party founded by her reactionary father, it has kept a precarious balance between two opposing wings. There is the right wing in the southeast, along the Riviera, the bastion of the party's founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a region represented in the outgoing parliament by his conservative granddaughter Marion Maréchal Le Pen. In the old industrial northeast region, between Arras and Lille, Marine Le Pen has built her own bastion, as champion of ordinary working people, where she won a majority of votes in the presidential election.

This is not the only time in history when an heiress has gone away with the heritage to join someone of whom her father disapproves. All those who want to cling to their comforting hatred of the left's official Satan have trouble believing that Marine Le Pen broke with her reactionary father to go her own way (just as U.S. hawks couldn't believe in Gorbachev). This change owes everything to her encounter with Florian Philippot, an intellectual who gave up on the ability of the Socialists to face the real issues. Marine has the personal qualities of a leader, and Philippot provided the intellectual substance she needed. Marine has decisively chosen Philippot as her advisor and co-leader, despite grumblings by Jean-Marie that she has been led astray by a gay Marxist. Had Marine won, her left wing would have been strengthened enough to enable her and Philippot to scrap the National Front and found a new "Patriot Party". However, by scoring below 40%, she has weakened her authority and must try to hold the troublesome party together in order to win seats in the new parliament – which will not be easy.

Marine Le Pen would have tried to enact measures to save French industry and the jobs it provides, provide various benefits for low-income people, withdraw from NATO, and even promote a peaceful world, starting with friendly relations with Russia. She would even have begun to prepare her compatriots for escape from the euro.

But not to worry, none of this "fascist" program would ever have come to pass. If she had won, bands of protesting "antifascists" would have invaded the streets, smashing windows and attacking police. The outgoing Socialist government was preparing to use the resulting chaos as a pretext to stay in power long enough to manage the parliamentary elections, [2] "Si Le Pen avait été élue le plan secret pour 'protéger la République'", Le Nouvel Observateur, May 17, 2017 , ensuring that President Marine Le Pen would be held in check. A "color revolution" was ready to be stirred up. The deep state is vigilant in NATOland.

Diana Johnstone is co-author of " From MAD to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning ", by Paul H. Johnstone, her father. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

[May 24, 2017] Universities serve as finishing schools for the ruling class by Rob Montz

May 23, 2017

Originally from: Why Colleges Fold to Students' Anti-Intellectual Hysterics The American Conservative

Middlebury College just completed its final round of disciplinary hearings for students involved in March's violent disruption of a lecture by Charles Murray, the influential but controversial social scientist.

The punishments to date have been laughably lax. Guilty students have been presented with non-official "probation" letters that'll vanish upon graduation .

This toothless response reflects a deeper rot. Middlebury, like many prestigious colleges, has steadily gravitated away from its core educational mission and now serves primarily as a sort of finishing school for the ruling class. Professors and administrators alike are simply expected to shower students with affirmation-and then hand over a degree securing smooth entry into America's elite. College has become four years of expensive fun. This is what parents and students now demand.

This change-from institutions of learning to institutions of affirming-threatens the nation's future as colleges foster a vicious strain of anti-intellectualism.

At over $60,000 a year, Middlebury's tuition buys much more than books, lodging, and classes. Students also get a campus-wide square dance , dining halls that host culinary " world tours ," lavish fitness facilities, and an annual winter carnival complete with fireworks, a hot chocolate bar, and snow sculptures.

The student body is ultra-affluent. Middlebury is among a small handful of schools with more students from the top one percent of the income distribution than those from the bottom 60 percent . And on graduation, newly christened alums are typically funneled right back into their elite enclaves, taking jobs at places like Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and Amazon .

... ... ...

Rob Montz is a fellow at the Moving Picture Institute. Find his work at: RobMontz.com. Check out his interview with TAC executive editor Pratik Chougule at Fearless Parent Radio: http://fearlessparent.org/free-speech-controversy-us-elite-universities-episode-104/

[May 24, 2017] Exxon Mobil has gone on a binge of share buy backs and dividend payments that combined with the shifting marketplace led to a credit rating downgrade last year:

May 24, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Larry , May 23, 2017 at 7:10 am

Not to be lost in the shuffle is the amount of financial engineering that goes into creating unsustainable debt levels at fossil fuel companies. Exxon Mobil has gone on a binge of share buy backs and dividend payments that combined with the shifting marketplace led to a credit rating downgrade last year:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-26/exxon-mobil-loses-top-credit-rating-it-held-since-depression

a different chris , May 23, 2017 at 8:47 am

..and share buybacks/dividends is what you do when there isn't anything else useful you can see to do with the money . or at least it was until predator capitalism became the thing. But for government-owing behemoths like Exxon-Mobile that is still true.

And actually it probably is predator capitalism because what I am talking about is a wind down of the assets existing in the firm, but as you point out they seem to be borrowing money to do this.

[May 24, 2017] Our collective response to global challenges such peak oil and global warming has been to bury our heads firmly in the sand and gamble our future on the comforting delusion

May 24, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Temporarily Sane , May 23, 2017 at 4:00 am

Unless you are extremely wealthy or have connections to people who are, your wellbeing probably won't be on the list of "necessary purposes" if a doomsday scenario like the one the article discusses plays out.

After decades of bigging up consumer capitalism as the only "good life" worth living the reality of global warming now requires us to dismantle the system of gratuitous consumption if we are to avoid seriously compromising our species longevity (non-human life forms are even more threatened by extinction).

Our collective response has been to bury our heads firmly in the sand and gamble our future on the comforting delusion that consuming our way out of the crisis is possible until some awesome technology comes online at the 11th hour to save the day.

Part of the problem is climate change is framed as something that may happen in the future and that "innovation" and "creativity" will invent nifty new technologies that will save the day, no compromises required! (We won't think about the "issues" that will face the global south as the atmosphere heats up.)

Neoliberalism and its co-opting of the state, which prevents governments from passing legislation that does not benefit the capitalist class, is a massive stumbling block. The oligarchs and their enablers had no qualms throwing Greece under the bus and even less exploitng earthquake ravaged Haiti, as a well known former presidential candidate knows all about.

Neoliberal kleptocrats teaming up with neocon Blofeldian fantasists to save the world what could possibly go wrong?

HBE , May 23, 2017 at 8:01 am

gamble our future on the comforting delusion that consuming our way out of the crisis is possible until some awesome technology comes online at the 11th hour to save the day.

+10 agreed. Wunderenergie is one of the biggest collective delusions of our time.

justanotherprogressive , May 23, 2017 at 10:19 am

Lets be realistic here. You can interpret what I said any way you want, but as yet, there is no alternative to kerosene for airline travel ..so whether or not we stop using oil for other reasons, we are still going to need some for the airlines.

Sooo ..what are your ideas for fueling air flight? Because if you want to completely stop the use of oil, you'd better have some No, we are never going to nuclear power plants for airplanes.

Or maybe you think we will get rid of airplanes?

I would love it if we stopped using fossil fuels – I don't think we can do that entirely, but we can certainly cut back on their use with other actually CLEAN energy sources ..remember as with everything it is the dose to the environment that counts

[May 24, 2017] We turn away from nuclear at our peril. Right now, it's the only carbon-free technology that we actually know will work.

Notable quotes:
"... While many modeled scenarios have been published claiming to show that a 100% renewable electricity system is achievable, there is no empirical or historical evidence that demonstrates that such systems are in fact feasible On the basis of this review, efforts to date seem to have substantially underestimated the challenge and delayed the identification and implementation of effective and comprehensive decarbonization pathways. ..."
May 24, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
PlutoniumKun , May 23, 2017 at 5:30 am

I think the key thing to take from that article you link to is the demonstration that there has been massive investment in compact nuclear technology by the military (indeed, by several major miltaries) for nearly 70 years now. And its failed. The latest nuclear subs are still using pretty much the same basic reactor technology as the Nautilus 60 years ago, and almost all modern reactors are essentially scaled up versions of the same thing. The Soviets got closest in the 1960's with their lead bismuth reactors for the Alfa Class subs, but they couldn't make them reliable and cost effective.

So remember this next time someone starts arguing that the latest thing in smart, modular nuclear power is going to save the world – it doesn't matter whether its pebble bed reactors , thorium based fuel, sodium modulated cores, or whatever – countless billions of dollars, pounds, francs, yuen and roubles have been thrown into that technology by the military research establishments for many decades, with nothing to show for it.

In the meanwhile, wind and solar, with, in comparison, small change invested in research, has been advancing in cost and output terms in leaps and bounds and is proven practical in almost all environments.

Grumpy Engineer , May 23, 2017 at 9:38 am

Wind and solar are proven practical in almost all environments? Hardly. They're deeply impractical on any cold winter night with low wind. That's the real problem with wind and solar. How do you deal with the intermittency?

An all-renewable power grid can actually be accomplished when 70%+ of it is hydro. [Hydro actually has some controllability because you can let water pile up behind the dam for a later release.] But if hydro only provides 7% of your power needs (like it does in the US), the grid interconnection and ENERGY STORAGE requirements become deeply problematic.

Check out the following paper: Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems . To quote:

" While many modeled scenarios have been published claiming to show that a 100% renewable electricity system is achievable, there is no empirical or historical evidence that demonstrates that such systems are in fact feasible On the basis of this review, efforts to date seem to have substantially underestimated the challenge and delayed the identification and implementation of effective and comprehensive decarbonization pathways. "

When I read articles claiming that 100% renewables is feasible, the first thing I look for is a description of the energy storage requirements. Specifically, how many gigawatt-hours. If that information isn't described, their analysis is incomplete. Do you know how many GW-hr it would take for renewables to supply all of US electricity? Do you know how large the biggest battery energy storage system is in comparison? The answers are NOT pretty.

We turn away from nuclear at our peril. Right now, it's the only carbon-free technology that we actually know will work.

Knot Galt , May 23, 2017 at 11:45 am

The SCALE at which we currently live is wasteful and unnecessary for survival. Our current thinking of energy needs is based on our capitalistic consumer based life style and economy. Therefore, your assumption on energy needs is based on maintaining the current economic models which we all know to be falling apart at the seams.

It is obvious no matter how many of us dig in that this next level of change is unstoppable. What may be left will be the random outcomes that exist with survivability. Feasible will be what ever gets you to the next day?

Grumpy Engineer , May 23, 2017 at 12:30 pm

The "scale" at which we live is indeed wasteful and unnecessary for survival, but people LIKE it. People don't want to live in 250 square-foot "microhomes" and bicycle to work every day regardless of the weather. And how would we prevent people from doing otherwise? Seize and scrap their cars? Kick people out of their 3500 square-foot McMansions and tear them down? It would be the largest forced migration in human history.

Given that people LIKE the modern lifestyle, I see that we have three choices:

[1] Let people live their lives and watch carbon pour into the sky because we can't get enough renewables online to make a meaningful difference. Wait to see if it all crashes.

[2] FORCE people to embrace a leaner existence. At gunpoint if necessary.

[3] Let people live their lives and use low-footprint, carbon-free energy technology that actually works (like nuclear) to minimize the impact on the environment.

Population levels in developed countries are stabilizing. If we quit growing food for biofuels, we could actually let a lot of farmland revert to a natural state. I don't think we're doomed yet, but as of today we're heading down path #1.

This is why a number of environmental activists have embraced nuclear:
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/pro-nuclear-power-environmental-movement

Vastydeep , May 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm

@Grumpy Engineer: " we have three choices:"

What do you mean "we" kemosabe?

I agree that we are currently heading down path #1. The problem is, long before things get mandatory-Jimmy-Carter-cardigan-sweater unpleasant, the climate will have changed enough that crops will start failing. Maybe not huge failures, but if you're subsisting now, you won't be then. When masses of people start starving, #1 turns into #2 pretty quickly. The 4 Horsemen travel together

"Some are born lean, some achieve leanness " We need to get serious about #2 before we have "leanness thrust upon us."

[May 24, 2017] I would argue that current stock market prices based on speculation, in the way that RE prices were during the RE bubble

May 24, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
"Class Struggle Still Gets the Goods" [ Jacobin ]. "Piketty's account of how wealth builds over time centers on savings. In his telling, the capitalist is prudent, dutifully investing large amounts of his income every year into capital goods. As these investments steadily accumulate, so too does the national wealth (which, according to this account, is the sum of all the previous years of savings minus depreciation). When the quantity of total past savings becomes very high in relation to the country's annual income, the seemingly permanent 5 percent rate of return on wealth drives up the capital share. The problem with Piketty's story, which Naidu and his peers get at in various ways, is that it doesn't match reality. Assets like real estate, equity, and debt are not assessed according to the quantity of savings that go into creating them. They are assessed according to the expectations of how much income those assets will deliver to their owners in the future. Put simply: asset values are forward-looking, not backward-looking. "

Jim A , May 23, 2017 at 2:37 pm

"They are assessed according to the expectations of how much income those assets will deliver to their owners in the future."-That is one of the three main ways of valuing assets. If you are a "buy and hold" investor, looking to bank your dividends or rents, that is what you use. Another is the "salvage value." If you cut up the asset and sell the parts what are they worth? That is what is often used when judging a business as collateral for a loan. A third is the speculative value. A price based on an anticipated higher future selling price for the asset, irrespective of future dividend/rents or the underlying salvage price of the asset.

I would argue that current stock market prices based on speculation, in the way that RE prices were during the RE bubble. I would further argue that this is in great part due to the increasing concentration of wealth. Basically, rich people are putting more money into Wall Street's hands because they have it, and this is raising asset prices DESPITE the fact that the companies involved aren't actually selling more product in aggregate. It's the classic case of inflation, more money chasing a fixed supply of "

[May 23, 2017] Rahm Emmanuel for Dems rescue

God help the Dems because this man certainly will not
Notable quotes:
"... three House Democrats involved in mapping out the party's strategy to win in 2018 are going to make a pilgrimage to Chicago to seek out the advice of none other than Mayor Rahm Emanuel" [ Fusion ]. Please kill me now. ..."
"... It seems to me that both the AEI comment and Rahm Emmanuel case are evidence of the same basic problem. In both cases the parties or party establishments have actually lost their ability to understand people outside of them. While there was some initial hope that the Trumpquake would shake things up it appears that in both cases the establishments have hardened their navel gaze. ..."
May 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

"DNC reports worst April of fundraising since 2009" [ Washington Examiner ]. True, these things fluctuate, but DNC fundraising should be through the roof, right? Idea: Focus more on Putin.

"In a break from recent tradition , the Democrats are planning to widely expand the number of districts they plan to contest in the 2018 midterm elections. But, in a sign that not every tried-and-true Democratic instinct is being thrown out, they're planning on dumpster diving for help doing it, with Politico reporting that three House Democrats involved in mapping out the party's strategy to win in 2018 are going to make a pilgrimage to Chicago to seek out the advice of none other than Mayor Rahm Emanuel" [ Fusion ]. Please kill me now.

( Some fun Rahm anecdotes here , including the one where he calls "liberals" - that is, anybody to his left - "f*#king retards." So, phase one would be to unify the party, phase two would be to get the left out on the trail campaigning for the Democrat Establishment, and phase three would be to kick the left, which is just what Rahm did after the last wave election (Pelosi, too).

"Florida Democratic Party Exec: Poor Voters Don't Care About 'Issues,' Vote Based on 'Emotions'" [ Miami New Times ]. "Last night, the party's new second-in-command, Sally Boynton Brown, spoke in front of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County. And throughout the exchange, she steadfastly refused to commit to changing the party's economic or health-care messaging in any concrete way .

Brown, the former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, was hired last month to take over for the outgoing executive director, Scott Arceneaux. Last night was her first encounter with local progressives, who are already disgruntled after Stephen Bittel - a billionaire real-estate developer, gas station franchiser, environmental dredging company executive, and major political donor - was elected to serve as party chair earlier this year.

Many progressives accused him of buying his way into the job via campaign donations." Read the whole thing. It's vile.

L , May 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm

It seems to me that both the AEI comment and Rahm Emmanuel case are evidence of the same basic problem. In both cases the parties or party establishments have actually lost their ability to understand people outside of them. While there was some initial hope that the Trumpquake would shake things up it appears that in both cases the establishments have hardened their navel gaze.

Consider the AEI. While we have come to expect dismissal of sick people as just numbers or the "perhaps 1-2 million" this misses the greater points. First is it not merely "1-2 million" but likely much larger given the broad definition of "pre-existing condition" that is in the actual bills. Second that is >1-2 million people who have families and friends and communities who up until now have often been picking up the slack, or trying to. And third, we are stuck quibbling about the cost of a few million "uninsured" and never ever considering whether or not insurance is even the right mechanism.

As to the Democrats, they are still sending me emails from James Carville so compared to that Rahm Emmanuel is practically young hip and in touch.

And as to Rahm Emmanuel, forget the hippie punching isn't Homan square enough? What will he be in charge of minority outreach?

Left in Wisconsin , May 23, 2017 at 5:10 pm

I believe "perhaps 1-2 million" is AEI-speak for "let em all die." Not real math, more an expression of contempt.

jawbone , May 23, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Or, better for their purposes. "Let them all hurry up and die."

[May 23, 2017] Populism organizing political principle was a moral fight between the common man and a few moneyed elites who exploited the masses for personal gain

"Universalist Democrat"="Neoliberal Democrats" or Clinton wing of the party.
Notable quotes:
"... Rhetorically, universalist Democrats often end up appealing for a party that offers a space for everyone to voice their concerns. Hillary Clinton is a great example of this ..."
"... Populists, according to Gerring's categories, were the dominant force in national Democratic politics from 1896 to 1948. ..."
"... Their organizing political principle was a moral fight between the common man and a few moneyed elites who exploited the masses for personal gain. Populists often targeted trusts. They used moral language, explicitly calling policies "right" or "wrong" and believed that the government was the only force strong enough to restrain big business, ensure that the basic needs of citizens were met and bring people into a state of true equality." ..."
May 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

[ RealClearPolitics ] Interesting ideological formulation:

"Gerring writes that universalism started to take hold in the Democratic Party in the postwar era as national Democrats shifted away from an anti-elitist, populist message and toward rhetoric centered on unity, peace and prosperity.

Universalists tend to see abstract concepts rather than specific people or institutions as problems - think of the efforts to stop poverty, end racism or reduce income inequality. Universalist Democrats cast themselves as managers of the welfare state rather than crusaders against a powerful elite, and they often championed the rights and causes of a wide array of individual groups.

Democrats' focus on LGBT rights, civil rights protections for African-Americans, comprehensive immigration reform, women's rights and more can all be thought of as part of as a universalist commitment to the particular needs of groups.

Rhetorically, universalist Democrats often end up appealing for a party that offers a space for everyone to voice their concerns. Hillary Clinton is a great example of this" .

"Sanders, however, doesn't ultimately trace his policy positions to a fight with poverty or for better health care, but to a fight against Wall Street bankers or pharmaceutical companies. His economic narratives have clear and present antagonists . In these ways, Sanders is more of a populist than many modern Democrats. Populists, according to Gerring's categories, were the dominant force in national Democratic politics from 1896 to 1948.

Their organizing political principle was a moral fight between the common man and a few moneyed elites who exploited the masses for personal gain. Populists often targeted trusts. They used moral language, explicitly calling policies "right" or "wrong" and believed that the government was the only force strong enough to restrain big business, ensure that the basic needs of citizens were met and bring people into a state of true equality."

[May 23, 2017] Why Trumps First Trip Is Focusing on Faith

Attempt to reverse the fact that the USA invasion of Iraq strengthens Iran regional influence by forging "Sunni NATO"
May 23, 2017 | nationalinterest.org

The administration has made it increasingly clear that, in addition to the goal of annihilating the Islamic State as an organized state, it will also seek to contain Iranian regional ambitions in the Middle East. This has been graphically underscored with two unprecedented air strikes against the Assad regime in Syria. The first one, in April 2017, seemingly took Syrian use of chemical weapons off the table. The second one, on May 18, 2017, targeted Syrian (and possibly Hezbollah) ground forces that threatened Syrian rebels tied to the United States and Jordan. These Syrian rebels are trying to race to the Euphrates as ISIS weakens, in a possible precursor to setting up some sort of safe, liberated zone in eastern Syria, controlled by pro-Western rebels.

A key part of this anti-ISIS, anti-Iran equation that the administration has attempted to highlight, albeit in inchoate ways to date, is that this fight has an ideological dimension that the previous administration ignored or minimized. This concern, reportedly controversial even within the White House, and which has been often crudely depicted in the media as mere "Islamophobia," actually is an avowal that men are motivated by more than economics and comfort, and that ideas and identity still have power, and need to be understood.

The second "deliverable" concerns Israel. Despite some questions on focusing on the Arab-Israeli peace process, the new administration has already sought to differentiate itself from the Obama administration in openly and aggressively standing with Israel and the Netanyahu administration, whether at the United Nations or on other issues, such as the Iranian threat. The general expectation is that, whatever the spin, this administration will be much more outspokenly pro-Israel than the previous one.

[May 23, 2017] CIA, the counerstone of the deep state, might have agenda that is readically differrent from the US national interest and reflect agenda of the special interest groups

CIA is actually a state within the state as Church commission revealed and it has an immanent tendency to seek control over "surface state" and media. In other words large intelligence apparatus might well be incompatible with the democratic governance.

"In the long run, the CIA can't deceive the Chinese government without also deceiving, in some way, the American public. This leaves us with an obvious problem: Should we believe anything the CIA says?" [RealClearWorld]. "It's a tough question for a democracy to answer. Trust is built on the tacit agreement that the "bad things" an agency does are good for the country. If the public believes that that is no longer the case – if it believes the agency is acting out of self-interest and not national interest – then the agreement is broken. The intelligence agency is seen as an impediment of the right to national self-determination, a means for the ends of the few."

  1. Huey Long

    RE: Hall of Mirrors/Believing the CIA

    The CIA has a track record of acting out of self interest since its inception and should not be believed.

    That being said, the public is almost completely unaware of the agency's misdeeds. I think the reason folks like Manning, Snowden and Assange are so reviled by the agency is because they are a threat to the CIA's reputation more than anything else.

[May 23, 2017] I would argue that current stock market prices based on speculation, in the way that RE prices were during the RE bubble

May 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
"Class Struggle Still Gets the Goods" [ Jacobin ].

"Piketty's account of how wealth builds over time centers on savings. In his telling, the capitalist is prudent, dutifully investing large amounts of his income every year into capital goods. As these investments steadily accumulate, so too does the national wealth (which, according to this account, is the sum of all the previous years of savings minus depreciation). When the quantity of total past savings becomes very high in relation to the country's annual income, the seemingly permanent 5 percent rate of return on wealth drives up the capital share. The problem with Piketty's story, which Naidu and his peers get at in various ways, is that it doesn't match reality. Assets like real estate, equity, and debt are not assessed according to the quantity of savings that go into creating them. They are assessed according to the expectations of how much income those assets will deliver to their owners in the future. Put simply: asset values are forward-looking, not backward-looking. "

Jim A , May 23, 2017 at 2:37 pm

"They are assessed according to the expectations of how much income those assets will deliver to their owners in the future."-That is one of the three main ways of valuing assets. If you are a "buy and hold" investor, looking to bank your dividends or rents, that is what you use. Another is the "salvage value." If you cut up the asset and sell the parts what are they worth? That is what is often used when judging a business as collateral for a loan. A third is the speculative value. A price based on an anticipated higher future selling price for the asset, irrespective of future dividend/rents or the underlying salvage price of the asset.

I would argue that current stock market prices based on speculation, in the way that RE prices were during the RE bubble. I would further argue that this is in great part due to the increasing concentration of wealth. Basically, rich people are putting more money into Wall Street's hands because they have it, and this is raising asset prices DESPITE the fact that the companies involved aren't actually selling more product in aggregate. It's the classic case of inflation, more money chasing a fixed supply of "

[May 23, 2017] The fact that the US's status as reserve currency in large part due to oil, ensures the oil industry will not be phased out or collapse from internal pressure

Notable quotes:
"... Actually the US position of being able to control the world reserve currency is due to its having been able to maintain military dominance over the rest of the world.. And the primary role of the armies of the Empire has been to maintain access to the world oil supply by simply printing money and using it to keep the oil flowing into our SUV tanks. ..."
"... No amount of bloodshed can change the fact that a finite resource that is in high demand will eventually become scarce. In the case of an energy source the measure of impending scarcity is decreasing EROI. Cooking oil out of tar sands, drilling from floating platforms 10,000′ above the sea bed, squeezing oil out of shale rock, and trying to build platforms in icebound arctic seas-- could there be more graphic signs that the end is nigh? ..."
May 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
HBE , May 23, 2017 at 8:16 am

I believe the fact that the US's status as reserve currency in large part due to oil, ensures the oil industry will not be phased out or collapse from internal pressure.

It is too integral to the hegemon's status to be allowed to fail, ever.

The US is shortsighted enough that the geopolitical and economic benefits of an oil backed reserve currency, will likely outweigh the negative midterm effects of climate change and environmental instability.

The most likely scenario is, oil isn't going anywhere until climate change gets so bad the US (nor anyone else) can play hegemon.

craazyboy , May 23, 2017 at 8:31 am

Oh, dunno 'bout that. Has the perfect combination of re-flation and depressionary cost increase due to currency being whacked 50-75%. Neo dreamlike quality stuff. Cut 100% of the 99ers purchasing power combined with depressed economy and increased job dependence to pay off debt overhang.

Black donut hole economics – without any human intervention necessary. The Neolibcon World runs itself – hands off! Self driving global economy. WW3 as a jobs guarantee. But no one shows up because gas costs too much. Stagflation sets in. Everyone waits it out in Flyover Camp. Malls start doing well.

a different chris , May 23, 2017 at 8:59 am

>oil isn't going anywhere

I do agree that the US will be a big problem.. but it's less than 5% of the world's population. So when you say "oil isn't going anywhere".. that might just be exactly the problem.

It won't be going into the Chinese/Indian's/Europeans suddenly non-existent gas tanks. It may literally not go anywhere at all just sit in Oklahoma until our government finds a way to force feed it down our (again, 320million/7+billion) American throats.

Thor's Hammer , May 23, 2017 at 2:35 pm

"US's status as reserve currency in large part due to oil"

Actually the US position of being able to control the world reserve currency is due to its having been able to maintain military dominance over the rest of the world.. And the primary role of the armies of the Empire has been to maintain access to the world oil supply by simply printing money and using it to keep the oil flowing into our SUV tanks.

No amount of bloodshed can change the fact that a finite resource that is in high demand will eventually become scarce. In the case of an energy source the measure of impending scarcity is decreasing EROI. Cooking oil out of tar sands, drilling from floating platforms 10,000′ above the sea bed, squeezing oil out of shale rock, and trying to build platforms in icebound arctic seas-- could there be more graphic signs that the end is nigh?

Moneta , May 23, 2017 at 8:18 am

which can now generate more energy than oil for every unit of energy invested .
--
I doubt all energy inputs were included. Our entire economic system runs on oil and the development of new technology depends on the entire system. Huge sunk costs.

No big technological developments without transportation which is oil intensive something tells me they are not including the energy requirements of all global infrastructure that permits the development it these new technologies.

Also, I thought they were starting to see problems with the supply of silicon

Normal , May 23, 2017 at 8:54 am

problems with the supply of silicon

Sarcasm? I couldn't tell from the context.

Moneta , May 23, 2017 at 10:34 am

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/29/the-world-is-running-out-of-sand

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/04/economist-explains-8

[May 23, 2017] CIA, the counerstone of the deep state, might have agenda that is readically differrent from the US national interest and reflect agenda of the special interest groups

CIA is actually a state within the state as Church commission revealed and it has an immanent tendency to seek control over "surface state" and media. In other words large intelligence apparatus might well be incompatible with the democratic governance.
www.aim.org

"In the long run, the CIA can't deceive the Chinese government without also deceiving, in some way, the American public. This leaves us with an obvious problem: Should we believe anything the CIA says?" [RealClearWorld]. "It's a tough question for a democracy to answer. Trust is built on the tacit agreement that the "bad things" an agency does are good for the country. If the public believes that that is no longer the case – if it believes the agency is acting out of self-interest and not national interest – then the agreement is broken. The intelligence agency is seen as an impediment of the right to national self-determination, a means for the ends of the few."

[May 23, 2017] The recent news as for Rich Seth murder might take Trump probe in a somewhat different direction and put additional pressure of neoliberal, Pelosi-Clinton part of the party leadership

Notable quotes:
"... the recent news as for Rich Seth murder might take Trump probe in a somewhat different direction and put additional pressure of neoliberal, Pelosi-Clinton part of the party leadership. If half of what was recently reported is true, Clapper-Brennan "Intelligence assessment" looks more and more like Warren Commission report. ..."
"... ... Then, Newt Gingrich, on Fox News, says: " (Rich) was assassinated at 4 in the morning after having giving Wikileaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments. Nobody's investigating that. And what does that tell you about what is going on?" ..."
May 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC -> Fred C. Dobbs, May 23, 2017 at 08:27 AM
If Trump goes, Pence becomes president.

Pence is worse than Trump. And he is more likely to get two terms.

In the meantime, nothing gets fixed.

Anyone who wants single-payer, better jobs, etc. should focus on the 2018 elections and work for people who can oust people like Nancy Pelosi in the primaries and Republicans in the general.

libezkova, May 23, 2017 at 08:52 AM

"Pence is worse than Trump. And he is more likely to get two terms.In the meantime, nothing gets fixed."

True. Also the recent news as for Rich Seth murder might take Trump probe in a somewhat different direction and put additional pressure of neoliberal, Pelosi-Clinton part of the party leadership. If half of what was recently reported is true, Clapper-Brennan "Intelligence assessment" looks more and more like Warren Commission report.

http://dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/3559/A-Seth-Rich-Chronology-Part-1.aspx

Also at

http://www.unz.com/mwhitney/seth-rich-craig-murray-and-the-sinister-stewards-of-the-national-security-state/#comment-1880788

... Then, Newt Gingrich, on Fox News, says: " (Rich) was assassinated at 4 in the morning after having giving Wikileaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments. Nobody's investigating that. And what does that tell you about what is going on?"

Well, we know that Kim's chances of attracting Congressional interest was just about nil, but then Sean Hannity invited Dotcom to discuss his evidence in the Seth Rich case on his shows.

Stay tuned. Public invitation Kim Dotcom to be a guest on radio and TV. #GameChanger Buckle up destroy Trump media. Sheep that u all are!!! https://t.co/3qLwXCGl6z

- Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 20, 2017

Most recently, he tweeted:

Complete panic has set in at the highest levels of the Democratic Party. Any bets when the kitchen sink is dumped on my head?? https://t.co/Zt2gIX4zyq
- Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 22, 2017

[May 23, 2017] Why America Can't Do What It Wants to Stop Assad The National Interest Blog

May 23, 2017 | nationalinterest.org
0x7be 6 days ago US has already did what it wanted - destroyed Iraq and Lybia and prompted the spawning of ISIS. Do we really need one more try? see more 11 Reply Share › + R. Arandas 6 days ago Assad is not a saint by any means, but the West has been consistently supporting the Syrian rebels against his regime, and the civil war has only worsened and intensified in the years since. We need to stay out of the Middle East. see more 8 Reply Share › + wootendw R. Arandas "Assad is not a saint..."

No, he is not a saint but he is a far more decent person than most members of Congress or any of the previous four presidents. Assad is not a dictator. He has been elected at least twice, most recently in 2014. Last April (2015) elections were held to Syria's parliament and Assad's party won a comfortable majority.

Assad is an Alawite and an ophthalmologist but his highly educated British wife is a Sunni in a country where Sunnis are in the majority. Most Sunnis in Syria support their leaders as do Christians and Assad's fellow Alawite. Both husband and wife speak multiple foreign languages and could live comfortably in many countries. They committed themselves to reforming Syria and, if they were to go into exile as the US government wants, abandoning their people, tens of thousands more Syrians would be slaughtered but the US government would blame Assad.

The West opposes Assad not because he is bad but because he is good. It truly hurts 'our' foreign policy establishment for a backward country like Syria to have a president more intelligent and more decent than our own leaders. That's why they want to destroy him. chris chuba 4 days ago I'm glad the posters here aren't buying it. The State Dept. state had the usual weasel words 'probably' and couldn't deny that it might just be a heating system. Snow melt proves it's a crematorium? Since we have fancy infrared satellites, how about showing pictures of it operating during summertime, that would be suspicious, not snowmelt.

Ah .. but crematorium conjures up images of the Holocaust which is etched into our psyche for the information war against the Assad govt. see more

5 Reply Share › Comments continue after advertisement + Dennis Boylon 5 days ago Anti Assad proganda from US war mongers. We heard all this BS before. Nobody is buying it. I hope Assad stays in power and protects his country from the destruction seen in Iraq and Libya. see more 4 Reply Share › + Paul Zx 6 days ago Syrian war is like any other war, from atrocities against civilians to third parties involvement. Nothing new here. see more 3

[May 22, 2017] Key points of TIME magazine cover story on the Russian takeover of America

Notable quotes:
"... TIME magazine has just published a cover story on the Russian takeover of America: Inside Russia's Social Media War on America . The cover image shows the White House turned into the Kremlin. I will list some of the key points below with quotes from the article: ..."
May 22, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

Petri Krohn | May 18, 2017 8:57:21 PM | 71

TIME magazine has just published a cover story on the Russian takeover of America: Inside Russia's Social Media War on America . The cover image shows the White House turned into the Kremlin. I will list some of the key points below with quotes from the article:

1) Social media has become a danger to democracy.

The vast openness and anonymity of social media has cleared a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government."

2) Democratic society must isolate itself from public opinion.

Russia may finally have gained the ability it long sought but never fully achieved in the Cold War: to alter the course of events in the U.S. by manipulating public opinion.

3) Russia spies on you.

The Russians "target you and see what you like, what you click on, and see if you're sympathetic or not sympathetic."

4) America is losing the cyberwar.

As Russia expands its cyberpropaganda efforts, the U.S. and its allies are only just beginning to figure out how to fight back.

5) Russia has clever algorithms that America lacks.

American researchers have found they can use mathematical formulas to segment huge populations into thousands of subgroups... Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior.

6) Russia has huge troll farms.

Putin dispatched his newly installed head of military intelligence, Igor Sergun, to begin repurposing cyberweapons previously used for psychological operations in war zones for use in electioneering. Russian intelligence agencies funded "troll farms," botnet spamming operations and fake news outlets as part of an expanding focus on psychological operations in cyberspace.

7) You must trust mainstream media.

Eager to appear more powerful than they are, the Russians would consider it a success if you questioned the truth of your news sources, knowing that Moscow might be lurking in your Facebook or Twitter feed.

8) Russia invaded Ukraine in April 2014 .

Putin was aiming his new weapons at the U.S. Following Moscow's April 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

9) Hillary Clinton did not murder Seth Rich.

That story went viral in late August, then took on a life of its own after Clinton fainted from pneumonia and dehydration at a Sept. 11 event in New York City. Elsewhere people invented stories saying Pope Francis had endorsed Trump and Clinton had murdered a DNC staffer.

10) The evidence:

Russia plays in every social media space. The intelligence officials have found that Moscow's agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda. "They buy the ads, where it says sponsored by–they do that just as much as anybody else does," says the senior intelligence official. (A Facebook official says the company has no evidence of that occurring.) The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia, has said he is looking into why, for example, four of the top five Google search results the day the U.S. released a report on the 2016 operation were links to Russia's TV propaganda arm, RT. (Google says it saw no meddling in this case.) Researchers at the University of Southern California, meanwhile, found that nearly 20% of political tweets in 2016 between Sept. 16 and Oct. 21 were generated by bots of unknown origin; investigators are trying to figure out how many were Russian.

[May 22, 2017] Medical insurance coverage is measure of social security for nearly everyone amd as such is close to Four Freedoms that were articulated by FDR

Notable quotes:
"... Being able to access care is an important freedom as well ..."
"... Trump as candidate promised no cuts to Medicaid. But then he had to get the Paul Ryan seal of approval so it is a massive cut that will leave 10 million people uninsured: ..."
"... Republicans have been using free lunch economic theory to make increasingly bigger promises leading to Trump promising universal health care with no taxes or mandates that will give everyone many more choices on getting far more health care with it costing much less. Trump won by being more extreme and explicit in the free lunch promises the Republican started making with Reagan. ..."
"... It's just standard Reaganomics... the same propaganda (trickle-down & rising tides) & standard tax cuts for the rich based on supply side b.s. ..."
May 22, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Sanjait, May 22, 2017 at 11:36 AM

This is an important concept that has been fought for but hasn't been well articulated by Dems since Four Freedoms.

ACA is an example. It provides insurance coverage for many and a measure of security for nearly everyone. It reduces the risk of living as an American, nominally limiting the "freedom" to benuninsurednor buy crappy insurance in exchange for giving everyone enhanced ability to access preventative and major medical care, even if low income or stricken with a pre-ex medical condition.

Being able to access care is an important freedom as well .

Dems really face planted politically trying to sell this notion, but now that it is under threat of being taken away, Americans suddenly realized they like it and think it is right that people should have this access.

pgl - , May 22, 2017 at 11:50 AM
Exactly. I wonder if the folks have this captured in their little freedom indices.
ilsm - , May 22, 2017 at 03:32 PM
my freedom index has nothing to do with hospital insurance, or NCA. DNC (as good as Cato's) freedom index very far right of Thoreau!
DrDick , May 22, 2017 at 03:32 PM
For conservatives, freedom means the freedom of the rich and corporations from taxes and restrictions on their actions and nothing else.
pgl , May 22, 2017 at 11:53 AM
Trump as candidate promised no cuts to Medicaid. But then he had to get the Paul Ryan seal of approval so it is a massive cut that will leave 10 million people uninsured:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-to-propose-big-cuts-to-safety-net-in-new-budget-this-week/2017/05/21/62c01f44-3e34-11e7-adba-394ee67a7582_story.html?utm_term=.01d130c2f913

More tax cuts for the rich! That is their entire agenda.

mulp - , May 22, 2017 at 12:44 PM
Progressives see conservatives as winning by hijacking the Republican Party and being more and more radical, making Congress totally incapable of doing anything and increasingly popular, and getting Trump elected with a minority of the vote to an environment where he can accomplish even less that very moderate Obama and a Democratic majority, and they want Democrats to become more like Republicans:

able to win power, but unable to deliver on anything.

Republicans have been using free lunch economic theory to make increasingly bigger promises leading to Trump promising universal health care with no taxes or mandates that will give everyone many more choices on getting far more health care with it costing much less. Trump won by being more extreme and explicit in the free lunch promises the Republican started making with Reagan.

Progressives want a Bernie elected making big free lunch promises.

It's not about delivering, but about winning.

TANSTAAFL

Longtooth , May 22, 2017 at 03:38 PM
It's just standard Reaganomics... the same propaganda (trickle-down & rising tides) & standard tax cuts for the rich based on supply side b.s.

[May 22, 2017] The current divisions in Washington seem to turned into the Soviet system under Brezhnev. They dont align with the political parties and the mostly stage-managed elections. The domestic federal bureaucracy, the government contractors, the intelligence surveillance sector, the overseas military, Wall Street, are calling the shots and operate outside election cycle.

Notable quotes:
"... The real relations and divisions in Washington seem to turned into the Soviet system under Brezhnev. They don't align with the political parties and the mostly stage-managed elections anymore. The domestic federal bureaucracy, the government contractors, the intelligence & surveillance sector, the overseas military, Wall Street, they're all playing power-circle games. ..."
"... The nomenklatura were a category of people within the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in the bureaucracy running all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc., whose positions were granted only with approval by the communist party of each country or region. ..."
"... These are the functionaries and apparatchiks of a stagnating system, which is what's been going on in the U.S. for awhile now. Trump was just too much of an outsider to be accepted by the insiders, and his threats to change the status quo led to the current situation. ..."
"... This is exactly how leadership selection in the old Soviet Union went on, too. And Trump is no master of bureaucratic infighting, unlike say, Putin. He's just flailing at this point. ..."
www.moonofalabama.org

nonsense factory | May 18, 2017 4:58:30 PM | 56

Anon

The real relations and divisions in Washington seem to turned into the Soviet system under Brezhnev. They don't align with the political parties and the mostly stage-managed elections anymore. The domestic federal bureaucracy, the government contractors, the intelligence & surveillance sector, the overseas military, Wall Street, they're all playing power-circle games. This is how the system has operated - Cheney ran it under Bush, Clinton ran it under Obama, it's all bureaucractic infighting. If you read about Soviet history you see the same thing:

The nomenklatura were a category of people within the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in the bureaucracy running all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc., whose positions were granted only with approval by the communist party of each country or region.

These are the functionaries and apparatchiks of a stagnating system, which is what's been going on in the U.S. for awhile now. Trump was just too much of an outsider to be accepted by the insiders, and his threats to change the status quo led to the current situation. Pence, they figure, will be far more amenable to control. Even though Trump has been going along with the standard Republican domestic agenda, he's just viewed as too unpredictable for their tastes. This is exactly how leadership selection in the old Soviet Union went on, too. And Trump is no master of bureaucratic infighting, unlike say, Putin. He's just flailing at this point.

I'm not concerned about it though, if the grossly corrupt federal government is locked up with this nonsense for the next four years, that's fine. Perhaps state governments can step up and work together to solve problems while Washington gnaws its own belly, that's about the best we can hope for.

[May 22, 2017] Th>e best technique of obtaining soundbytes and posturing for neoliberal elite is based on so-called wedge issues

Notable quotes:
"... Calibrate your position so it is a good scrap of meat for your "base" while it drives the adversaries to conniptions, the conniptions provide talking points and together, drive the clueless in your direction. Wash, repeat. ..."
www.moonofalabama.org
Piotr Berman | May 18, 2017 10:04:50 PM | 77
"Donald Trump used alt-right messaging to get into the White House but he and his third-rate staff haven't the slightest clue of what gave rise to the deplorables in the first place and how to address the root despair of the western working class." VietnamVet

I do not know how highly rated the staff was, but it was sufficiently high. If the opponent has fourth-rate staff, it would be wasteful to use anything better than third-rate. Figuring what gave rise to the deplorable is a wasted effort, sociologist differ, and in politics the "root causes" matter only a little.

And all authorities suggest to exploit the despair with soundbites and posturing. Granted, this is a platitude, but how to obtain compelling soundbites and posturing? I think that the best technique is based on so-called wedge issues.

A good wedge issue should raise passions on "both sides" but not so much in the "center", mostly clueless undecided voters.

Calibrate your position so it is a good scrap of meat for your "base" while it drives the adversaries to conniptions, the conniptions provide talking points and together, drive the clueless in your direction. Wash, repeat.

[May 22, 2017] Making Russia a scapegoat for political tension connected with the crumbling of the neoliberal society due to austerity, inequality and impoverishment of the lower 80% of population

Notable quotes:
"... "Corporate media and the intelligence community are united in making the Russia Federation the scapegoat for the crumbling of the West that is due to austerity, inequality and impoverishment. If a world war breaks out, that is it." ..."
"... Donald Trump used alt-right messaging to get into the White House but he and his third-rate staff haven't the slightest clue of what gave rise to the deplorables in the first place and how to address the root [causes of] despair of the western working class. ..."
May 22, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

libezkova, May 22, 2017 at 03:58 PM

A comment from MoA contains an insightful observation

"Corporate media and the intelligence community are united in making the Russia Federation the scapegoat for the crumbling of the West that is due to austerity, inequality and impoverishment. If a world war breaks out, that is it."

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/05/the-special-council-investigation-will-be-bad-for-trump.html#c6a00d8341c640e53ef01b7c8f9d50c970b

VietnamVet | May 18, 2017 9:19:08 PM | 75

This is tragic. Corporate media and the intelligence community are united in making the Russia Federation the scapegoat for the crumbling of the West that is due to austerity, inequality and impoverishment.

If a world war breaks out, that is it. Donald Trump used alt-right messaging to get into the White House but he and his third-rate staff haven't the slightest clue of what gave rise to the deplorables in the first place and how to address the root [causes of] despair of the western working class.

They will blunder about in lost befuddlement until they vanish.

[May 22, 2017] Economists View Links for 05-20-17

Notable quotes:
"... In any case Trump proved to be a very bad follower of Trumpism :-(. I have no further hopes for him. But still for me neocons remain the worst and the most dangerous enemies of humanity as they are open instigators of WWIII. So they still are even worse. ..."
"... Looks like Trump is not a leader and never has been one. He is a second rate showman and salesman. That's it. Looks like he already have burned every bridge and squandered every opportunity for non-interventionist policy of the USA. Saudi visit is just icing on the cake (he got a gold medal from the king who by his position is a Supreme leader of Wahhabies -- KSA official religion -- can you imagine that ? ) ..."
"... I like Ann Coulter's analogy: It's as if we're in Chicago, and Trump says he can get us to L.A. in six days; and then for the first three days we're driving towards New York. He can still turn around and get us to L.A. in three days. But, says Ann, she's getting nervous. And frankly chances at this point for a turn are slim to non-existent. Now Trump has all chances to became Republican Obama -- betrayer of his voters, another master of "bait and switch" maneuver. ..."
May 22, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Fred C. Dobbs, May 21, 2017 at 08:20 PM
Trump Reaches Out to Sunni Nations, at Iran's Expense https://nyti.ms/2rHXZLi
NYT - BEN HUBBARD and THOMAS ERDBRINK - MAY 21

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had "fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror."

That nation was Iran.

In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests.

At the same time, he rejected the path taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama engaged with Iran to reach a breakthrough nuclear accord, which Mr. Trump's administration has acknowledged Iran is following.

Mr. Trump has presented the shift as a reinvestment in historical alliances with friendly nations in order to fight extremism and terrorism. But the juxtaposition of the election in Iran and the gathering in Saudi Arabia seemed to highlight a reality of the Middle East that presidents have long wrestled with: how to choose partners and seek American interests in a region torn by sectarian splits and competing agendas.

Iran and its proxies have effectively found themselves on the side of the United States in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, while in Syria, they have been adversaries in their support for the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia has at times undermined the United States' efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

"We are picking one side in this geopolitical struggle, and there is very little room for gray," said Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Sectarianism is a byproduct of this geopolitical rivalry, and we are inadvertently picking one side in this sectarian struggle."

The two scenes - dancing in the streets in Tehran and Sunni leaders gathered in an opulent hall in Riyadh - also pointed to a complicating reality in the Middle East: There is often a disconnect between the leaders and their people.

In his remarks, Mr. Trump signaled his intention to end engagement with Iran, suggesting that it does not encourage change from inside the country.

But in Iran, many were pushing for change. Emboldened by the election results, crowds of Iranians in the capital, Tehran, demanded what they hope President Hassan Rouhani's second term will bring: the release of opposition figures, more freedom of thought and fewer restrictions on daily life.

Mr. Rouhani's supporters also expect his victory, with 57 percent of the vote, to bolster his outreach efforts to the West and the pursuit of more foreign investment to lift Iran's ailing economy.

For those who voted for Mr. Rouhani, there was a feeling of tremendous relief that his challenger, the hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who criticized the nuclear deal with the United States and other Western powers, had lost.

"Bye-bye, Raisi," the crowds chanted during the street gatherings.

"He faces a difficult task," Fazel Meybodi, a Shiite Muslim cleric from the city of Qum, said of Mr. Rouhani. "Now he must provide more freedoms, break the hard-line monopoly on the state-run radio and television, and increase freedom of press."

To achieve all that, Mr. Rouhani must persuade the hard-line-dominated judiciary and security forces to change their outlook, Mr. Meybodi said. "If he fails to deliver on at least 70 percent of those promises, his future is dark," he added.

For decades, Saudi Arabia and Iran have competed for religious leadership and political influence across the Muslim world and beyond.

Saudi Arabia, the Sunni monarchy that controls Islam's holiest sites, sees itself as the natural leader of the Muslim world and has used its lavish oil wealth to spread its austere version of the faith.

Iran, meanwhile, is the world's largest Shiite nation and is led by clerics who seek to export the ideology of political Islam that brought them to power in 1979.

Each country accuses the other of sowing instability.

Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of spreading an intolerant creed that fuels terrorism and threatens minorities. Saudi Arabia says Iran works through nonstate actors to weaken Arab nations.

In his speech on Sunday, Mr. Trump, a guest of the Saudi monarch, spoke of a stronger alliance with mostly Sunni Muslim nations to fight terrorism and extremist ideology and to push back against Iran.

"From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region," Mr. Trump told dozens of Muslim heads of state. "It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this very room."

That pointed to a departure from the policies of Mr. Obama, who pushed Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia to move toward greater self-sufficiency in defense while pressing for the agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program.

Proponents of that approach hoped that engagement with Iran would lead to greater moderation among its leaders, paving the way for its eventual reintegration into the world system.

But the nuclear deal angered gulf nations, who felt that it rewarded Iran for bad behavior while doing nothing to constrain its destabilizing activities in Arab countries.

For them, Mr. Trump's return to America's traditional allies was a great relief.

"The most important thing is that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States is built on vision and numbers, not on slogans. They are building on shared interests," said Ghassan Charbel, the editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned newspaper. "It shows that the majority in the Arab and Islamic worlds will be close to the United States if it chooses to engage."

The Arab nations hate Iran for using nonstate actors in Arab countries. Iran was fundamental in the creation of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party that now has Lebanon's strongest military force. More recently, Iran has sent military aid to help Mr. Assad fight rebels seeking his ouster, while also supporting militias in Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.

But there is a gap between Iran's older, ruling clerics and the ambitions of its people, as was made clear when Iranians came out in force to dance and protest in the streets this weekend, breaking Islamic rules and political taboos, in celebration of Mr. Rouhani's re-election.

The election outcome was widely seen as evidence that Iran's society has changed radically. Influenced by satellite television, cheaper international travel, the internet, waves of migration to big cities and access to higher education, most of Iranian society now adheres to middle-class values.

This collided with the anti-Western ideology and strict interpretation of Islam represented by Mr. Raisi and promoted by state organizations.

Some used the election's success to criticize Mr. Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia.

"Iran - fresh from real elections - attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation," Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote on Twitter, speaking of Saudi Arabia.

Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst, said of Mr. Trump, "This man just wants to sell American weapons and use Iran as an excuse."

In deepening the United States' alliance with gulf countries, Mr. Trump is bringing it closer to nations that share few cultural values with the United States and have sometimes acted against its interests. ...

libezkova - , May 21, 2017 at 09:52 PM
"In deepening the United States' alliance with gulf countries, Mr. Trump is bringing it closer to nations that share few cultural values with the United States and have sometimes acted against its interests. ..."

Being anti-war puts me in "oppressed minority" position here, but may I humbly suggest one thing: may be he is not a Russian agent like many pro-Hillary commenters here for some strange reason assume, but a closet Wahhabi stooge and a special prosecutor should be assigned for a different investigation ;-)

In any case Trump proved to be a very bad follower of Trumpism :-(. I have no further hopes for him. But still for me neocons remain the worst and the most dangerous enemies of humanity as they are open instigators of WWIII. So they still are even worse.

It would be nice to prosecute them all for treason (instead of this useless witch hunt for Russian agents that neocons instigated for their nefarious purposes), but as they are in power this possibility is pretty remote :-)

Looks like Trump is not a leader and never has been one. He is a second rate showman and salesman. That's it. Looks like he already have burned every bridge and squandered every opportunity for non-interventionist policy of the USA. Saudi visit is just icing on the cake (he got a gold medal from the king who by his position is a Supreme leader of Wahhabies -- KSA official religion -- can you imagine that ? )

I like Ann Coulter's analogy: It's as if we're in Chicago, and Trump says he can get us to L.A. in six days; and then for the first three days we're driving towards New York. He can still turn around and get us to L.A. in three days. But, says Ann, she's getting nervous. And frankly chances at this point for a turn are slim to non-existent. Now Trump has all chances to became Republican Obama -- betrayer of his voters, another master of "bait and switch" maneuver.

That does not make neocon warmonger Hillary any better, but still to understand that we have had no choice between two equally despicable swamp creatures is depressing. Looks like 100% authentic "Back in the USSR" story.

[May 21, 2017] The Connection Between Finance and Politics Has Been Under-Researched for Years by ProMarket writers

Notable quotes:
"... GR: Then in the beginning of the 2000s comes the beginning of your work with Professor Raghuram Rajan on "rules of the game." You looked at who's setting the rules of the game, who is influencing the rules ofthe game, and what we learn. ..."
"... GR: For decades, economists and other scholars dedicated a lot of intellectual energy to look at the relationship between companies, shareholders and executives, and between shareholders and boards. Maybe there's not enough intellectual energy going into the question of who sets the rules of the game that determine the outcomes and the dynamics in finance? ..."
"... GR: When it comes to politics, many times data aremuch more complicated and debatable, and ambiguous in many ways. When you deal with numbers and with asset prices, maybe it's easier to go with the data than when you go into the realms of politics. ..."
"... GR: Let's talk a little bit about the research that will be presented in this conference. I'll start with the most politically-sensitive paper that we have, a very interesting paper looking into the Obama administration and more than 2,000 meetings that President Obama and his chief aides had with businessmen over the last eight years. I don't know if you could call it crony capitalism, but whatever is happening out there didn't start in the Trump administration. ..."
"... GR: Another paper looks again at the United States and the way that decisions on bailouts of banks were decided after the financial crisis. Can you elaborate a bit on that? ..."
"... GR: When you're ignoring politics, the outcome many times would be to give more power in the market of ideas and in policies to vested interests, to the powerful? ..."
"... GR: Luigi Zingales, thank you very much. ..."
May 19, 2017 | promarket.org

Ahead of the Stigler Center'sconference on the political economy of finance, we interviewed Stigler Center Director Luigi Zingales about the motivation behind the first-of-its-kind conference.

On June 1-2, the Stigler Center will host a first-of-its-kind conference focusing on the role of politics in finance research. In the last twenty years, political considerations have played an increasingly important role in financial economics: from the design of the rules that make financial markets viable to politically-motivated changes in bankruptcy law, from political connections in firms to the effects of political uncertainty on investments. Yet up until now, no conference has been dedicated to it.

Ahead of this conference, we interviewed University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor and Stigler Center Director Luigi Zingales [also, one of the editors of this blog] about the motivation behind it and the political economy of finance.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/jB1b2T0QtFk

The following is a transcript of the interview, slightly edited for clarity:

Guy Rolnik: I was surprised to understand that, actually, there are not many conferences on the politics of finance.

GR: Why is it that there aren't many conferences on the political economy of finance? You would think that politics has a lot to do with finance.

LZ: I think historically, people have not looked at that aspect a lot. I would like to divide the brief history of the academic field of finance into three periods: I would call the first one-that started in the late '50s-the Modigliani and Miller period. Modigliani and Miller, to simplify to the extreme, said that the way you slice a pizza does not change the size of the pizza. This is a period in which basically finance is irrelevant, and the only frictions that matter are probably only tax frictions.

Then, starting with the '70s, people realized: "Wait a second. If you start to divide a pizza before you produce the pizza, maybe this will have some impact on how the pizza is produced." This is what in jargon goes under "agency," or "asymmetric information." Essentially, the way you allocate the cash flows of the firm has some impact on the way the firm is run.

However, all this is in the context of, "The external rules are fixed. We're in a very predetermined society and the rules are fixed. That's what we do."

Starting with the '90s and then the 2000s, people realized that the rules are not fixed, that actually the changing nature of the rules is very important, and of course, political gain is what makes the rules change.

GR: So this is where the 2008 financial crisis comes in, and after the financial crisis people started to develop a lot of interest in the role of politics in financial crises and the role of politics in finance.

LZ: To be honest, I think things started before the financial crisis. I think probably the intellectual origin of all this is the theory of incomplete contracts developed by Grossman and Hart, where because the cash flow is bargain ex post, then the rules are more fluid. Then this call for renegotiation, or re-discussion, which is to a large degree about politics, comes into the game.

One of the early papers about this is a paper by Patrick Bolton and Howard Rosenthal-a finance guy and a political scientist-looking at how renegotiation of debt and the rules for bankruptcy change dramatically with the business cycle. Every major financial crisis in the United States had the bankruptcy rules restated to some extent, or reshaped.

Traditionally, finance people thought about bankruptcy as a given. Now [they] realize it is not a given, that the rules change. How do they change? They're politically determined. Of course, for the misbeliever, the financial crisis brought this to an attention that could not be ignored.

We've seen the work by Amir Sufi and Atif Mian and Francesco Trebbi looking at the political determinants of the intervention on TARP, and the work that Amit Seru and co-authors have done on the politics around regulation and how ineffective regulation is because of political constraints.

I think that by the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, politics has become mainstream and was overdue to have a conference dedicated to it.

GR: Then in the beginning of the 2000s comes the beginning of your work with Professor Raghuram Rajan on "rules of the game." You looked at who's setting the rules of the game, who is influencing the rules ofthe game, and what we learn.

LZ: I think that in the late '90s and early 2000, there was a big interest inwhy countries are not more financially developed. Thanks to the work of Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny and others, there was this importance of the law as a major factor.

Raghuram and I asked the very simple question: if it is as simple as importing a code from another country, why don't more countries do it? It cannot be just a lack of technical expertise. Lawyers are expensive but can be imported. In fact, Russia did import the best lawyers from the United States. I'm not sure it was a big success.

The conclusion was, no, it's lack of political will. We started to open the debate for, say, "Look, finance does benefit most people, but hurts others." So there is a political economy even with [the] introduction of financial laws.

GR: For decades, economists and other scholars dedicated a lot of intellectual energy to look at the relationship between companies, shareholders and executives, and between shareholders and boards. Maybe there's not enough intellectual energy going into the question of who sets the rules of the game that determine the outcomes and the dynamics in finance?

LZ: I think that the role of conferences like the one here at the Stigler Center is to bring together scholars who work in a certain area, and also give confidence that this area is important, and attract more research.

You're absolutely right, people tend to research where the data are. The famous old joke about economists, that they look where the light is, not where they lost the key, has some element of truth. In finance, there are things that we can observe very well and compensation is one. You're going to have a lot of papers about managerial compensation.

But I think what is important is that even data are endogenous, in a sense. Compustat ExecuComp, which is the primary data source to study this stuff, was created in the early '90s as a result of academic interest in executive compensation.

Going back in history, CRSP, the Center for Research in Security Prices here at Chicago, which is the main data source for security prices research, was created by Jim Lorie, a faculty here, who saw people like Eugene Fama and others interested in this topic and said, "We have to create a data set to analyze."

The role of academia is, in a sense, to open new avenues and then have a data provider follow.

GR: When it comes to politics, many times data aremuch more complicated and debatable, and ambiguous in many ways. When you deal with numbers and with asset prices, maybe it's easier to go with the data than when you go into the realms of politics.

LZ: There are two aspects: one, there are fewer data coming from thepolitical world than from the asset pricing world, even from corporate finance. Even those data tend not to be disclosed and available as much as data on companies. Data on lobbying now start to be widely available. Data on campaign contributions start to be available. The data on corporate donations tend to be more difficult. They're not as established.

Then there is a more difficult problem to tackle: in a sense, politics is much more fluid. Whenever data are available, the deals move somewhere else. As researchers, we're always fighting the last war because we look at what happened in the past, but politics run ahead.

GR: Let's talk a little bit about the research that will be presented in this conference. I'll start with the most politically-sensitive paper that we have, a very interesting paper looking into the Obama administration and more than 2,000 meetings that President Obama and his chief aides had with businessmen over the last eight years. I don't know if you could call it crony capitalism, but whatever is happening out there didn't start in the Trump administration.

LZ: Certainly. I think it's actually very healthy, and one of the goals of this conference is to bring this research from analyzing foreign countries to analyzing the United States. It's much easier to point fingers toward other people. When Ray Fisman wrote the first paper on the political connections of Suharto, everybody clapped. Why? Because it's Indonesia and corruption in Indonesia is something that we think is granted.

Now, when people apply the same technique to the United States of America, a lot of people [are] up in arms and say, "Oh, it's impossible. This is not corruption." But if it worked as a technique for Suharto, why can't it work for Trump, or for Obama, or for people before?

I don't think that these results are specific to the Obama administration. I think that the data are better in recent years, and so, the paper analyzed that rather than analyzing George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton.

GR: Another paper looks again at the United States and the way that decisions on bailouts of banks were decided after the financial crisis. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

LZ: Again, I think that it's not surprising to international scholars that the allocation of aid, the allocation of credit, and particularly the allocation of bailout credit to banks is very politically-determined.

This research is showing that surprise, surprise, without a doubt, in the United States the same happens. I think it's a good example [that]what we've learned analyzing countries around the world can be applied to the United States.

GR: We do look internationally at this conference, and we have an interesting paper on Chile. Chile is a very interesting case for many reasons. One of them, of course, is that for many decades, Chile was the "poster child" of a successful market economy in South America. Recently, people have been looking into the details of what's happening in this economy, and they see some other perspectives on Chile that were not as salient as before.

LZ: I will distinguish two things: First of all, I think that Chile is a fantastic example of the difference between being pro-market and being pro-business. I think that Chile has been very much pro-business, but there is no doubt that it was a huge success in terms of growth. On the other hand, I think there is not enough antitrust policies, or attention to political connections. The result is that the income distribution is extremely unequal, and this really puts, in my view, bounds on future growth.

I think one needs to reconsider the limitations of looking only at micro-measures of market flexibility, and not at the political economy of the country.

In addition, like in many countries, [in Chile] we have a phenomenon where privatizations on the one hand improved efficiency-because the government is not very good at running things-but were probably done to the benefit of some people. One of the major mines was sold to the then son-in-law of Pinochet who now, ironically, was found to [have] actually [paid] money to the son of the current president, [Michelle] Bachelet. This shows that it's not right or left, it is basically crony capitalism.

GR: And China?

LZ: China is a phenomenal example. There is a very exciting paper looking at the way loans are made, and the political incentives, not only the economic incentives, that are present in China.

We tend to look at China with too much of a Western view, not realizing that in China, in every major company there is a representative of the Communist Party who basically oversees the company. These guys tend to have political incentives that are different than the standard market incentives. I think understanding better the interaction between the two is a fascinating topic.

GR: To sum up our discussion: politics is key when it comes to finance, and we should research the relationship between the political world and finance more. Are there any specific things that you think are under-researched today, or over-researched? From a societal point of view, what would be the right research agenda when it comes to finance today?

LZ: First of all, it's very difficult to ask an academic what is the right research agenda because most of the people will answer what they're doing this moment, so I don't want to fall into this trap. In general, the connection between finance and politics has been under-researched for years, and the goal of this conference is precisely to motivate more research. I think there is a need to apply more creative and different approaches.

I think that generally in academia, what tends to be overdone is research that's based on data that areeasily available, with techniques that are fairly well-established, because the cost of production is low, the value added is also low, but also, the risks tend to be low.

I think that what good researchers should do is to be more ambitious, take more risks-especially after you get tenure, there is no justification not to take more risks.

GR: Do economists need help from other disciplines when they're going into the realm of political economy of finance?

LZ: I think economists need help in other disciplines regardless. There was a long period in which economists were sort of colonialists, and they were moving to other fields, ignoring, or not really understanding the other fields, but just trying to grab some of those questions.

I think that those times, by and large, are gone. I think there is a lot of good research interacting psychology with economics. I think that is less so, for example, in sociology. I think that sociologists and economists tend to not interact a lot, and I think there are great opportunities there.

I think also with political scientists, there are more economists acting as political scientists-there is a bit less of an integration. I think that would be helpful, especially in areas like finance. I think if you are in the political economy section of an economics department, you naturally interact with political scientists.

When you come to business school, and you do finance, or you do IO, you tend to be less well-integrated.

GR: Some economists shy away from politics for many reasons, but correct me if I'm wrong: the deeper we go into the political economy of finance, we'll see that politics has a lot of influence on the outcomes of the financial markets, and it will force us to think much more about politics.

LZ: I would also say the opposite. I think that economists, and academics in general, have a huge impact on what happens in the political world. Not immediately, not individually, as they had in academia by themselves, but the academic thinking isa crucial part in shaping politics.

It's very hard to do lobbying without some ideas to support the lobbying. My fear is that academics are not sufficiently aware of their impact. Jean-Paul Sartre used to say you cannot not choose because not choosing is choosing not to choose. I would like to paraphrase and say you cannot ignore politics because ignoring politics is choosing a particular political perspective of ignoring it. You are announcing a particular view, you're not abstaining from it.

The attitude of many academics that say "I do science, I have nothing to do with politics"-they are doing politics in another way.

GR: When you're ignoring politics, the outcome many times would be to give more power in the market of ideas and in policies to vested interests, to the powerful?

LZ: I think that that could be an outcome. It's not necessarily an outcome, but that could be an outcome. I'm just saying that you should be aware of the consequences of your actions because not acting is an action.

GR: Luigi Zingales, thank you very much.

LZ: You're welcome.

Disclaimer: The ProMarket blog is dedicated to discussing how competition tends to be subverted by special interests. The posts represent the opinions of their writers, not those of the University of Chicago, the Booth School of Business, or its faculty. For more information, please visit ProMarket Blog Policy .

[May 21, 2017] Neoliberal Democrats seek to create the same tribablist/identity voting block on the left that the republicans have on the right

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberal Democrats seek to create the same tribablist/identity voting block on the left that the republicans have on the right. The is why people like sanjait get totally spastic when progressives criticize the party. ..."
"... Problem I have with the corporatist democrats is they're trading away the working class gains of the new deal in order to appease the centrist Republicans. Meanwhile the Centrist Republicans are breaking towards the fascist right wing of the party. ..."
"... Corporatism and financialization are the cornerstones of wealth consolidation and political capture on the one hand and reduced competition, wages, and innovation on the other hand. ..."
May 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Gibbon1 - , May 19, 2017 at 04:59 PM

The current Democratic Party was handed two golden opportunities and blew both of them. Obama blew the 2008 financial crisis. And Hillary Clinton blew the 2016 election.

If you have a tool and the tool it broken you try to fix it. One doesn't pretend there is nothing wrong. The difference between neoliberal democrats and progressives is they differ on what's wrong.

Neoliberal Democrats seek to create the same tribablist/identity voting block on the left that the republicans have on the right. The is why people like sanjait get totally spastic when progressives criticize the party.

Progressives seek to create an aggressive party that represents the interests of working class and petite bourgeoisie. That is why you see progressives get spastic when the corporate democrats push appeasement policies.

Gibbon1 - , May 20, 2017 at 12:38 PM
Problem I have with the corporatist democrats is they're trading away the working class gains of the new deal in order to appease the centrist Republicans. Meanwhile the Centrist Republicans are breaking towards the fascist right wing of the party.

So not only are working class people losing their gains, but those gains are being traded away for nothing.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron - , May 20, 2017 at 02:27 PM
My problem is that and more. We should have been headed in the opposite direction these last fifty years.

Public daycare and universal pre-K would have been a good idea in the sixties.

Now they are so long overdue that it is pathetic.

Corporatism and financialization are the cornerstones of wealth consolidation and political capture on the one hand and reduced competition, wages, and innovation on the other hand.

[May 21, 2017] What Obsessing About Trump Causes Us To Miss by Andrew Bacevich

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Yet the U.S. maintains nuclear strike forces on full alert, has embarked on a costly and comprehensive trillion-dollar modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and even refuses to adopt a no-first-use posture when it comes to nuclear war. The truth is that the United States will consider surrendering its nukes only after every other nation on the planet has done so first. How does American nuclear hypocrisy affect the prospects for global nuclear disarmament or even simply for the non-proliferation of such weaponry? ..."
"... Declassified CIA leaks from the DNC indicate these trees actively made maple syrup for terrorists. This gives terrorists big muscles, like Popeye, and reduces urges to eat human organs. ..."
"... The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history - having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon's plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end? ..."
"... Well, looks like I missed the war ending .but with the war ended, one would think we wouldn't have to be dropping the world's biggest bomb ..."
"... I'm thinking the bigMFing bomb was more a marketing theater driven initative rather than Afgan Strategic Theatre driven. ..."
"... Some great questions here. Recently I was at a Town Hall with my representative to Congress and asked him if our government, or even just the Democrats, had a long term strategy for peace in the Middle East. The answer was basically, No. ..."
"... Bacevitch needs to be a little more critical about all the claims about US energy. The US may be exporting some oil and oil products, but it is importing more. We have no prospect of "energy independence" in the forseeable future, unless there is a drastic cutback in consumption. When it comes to energy forecasting, top governmental agencies have had an abysmal record. Independent experts like David Hughes and Art Berman regularly expose the wishful thinking and poor analysis of the economists at these agencies. ..."
"... Instead he invites us all to assume the Soviets were acting and the West was reacting. In my view this genuinely childish view of international relations is the template for American exceptionalism and, unless we break free of it, a logic of privileged exceptionalism will continually assert itself. The Trump era offers us a chance to raze this mythology and seriously confront how market-oriented imperatives, not devils and angels, drive international conflict. ..."
"... Is it because a self-perpetuating top-heavy military bureaucracy was never properly demobilized after the Second World War, and only promotes the sort of sociopathic, narcissistic, borderline personalities who are relentlessly able to bully the groveling toadies and wussies who make up our perpetually campaigning political-climber class? ..."
"... Andrew Bacevich needs to study more deeply about Syrian history and politics, since his description of Syrian president Bashar Assad as a brutal dictator fits as a description of Bashar's father Hafez Assad but is inaccurate in relation to Bashar Assad, who seems to have a rather gentle personality and is actually one of the more benign leaders in the Middle East. ..."
"... Under that new constitution, in 2014 he ran in a free election observed by international observers against two other politicians and was reelected president. He has promised that if he loses the next election he will step down. ..."
"... Nevertheless Assad has been systematically demonized by the governments and MSM of the US, UK, and France, as well as by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Demonization is a technique that is often used to prepare the way for regime change, and it is not based on objective analysis. ..."
May 08, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
May 8, 2017 by Yves Smith By Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular , is the author of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History , now out in paperback . His next book will be an interpretive history of the United States from the end of the Cold War to the election of Donald Trump. Originally published at TomDispatch

If only it were so. How wonderful it would be if President Trump's ascendancy had coincided with a revival of hard-hitting, deep-dive, no-holds-barred American journalism. Alas, that's hardly the case. True, the big media outlets are demonstrating both energy and enterprise in exposing the ineptitude, inconsistency, and dubious ethical standards, as well as outright lies and fake news, that are already emerging as Trump era signatures. That said, pointing out that the president has (again) uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position to which he had previously sworn fealty requires something less than the sleuthing talents of a Sherlock Holmes. As for beating up on poor Sean Spicer for his latest sequence of gaffes - well, that's more akin to sadism than reporting.

Apart from a commendable determination to discomfit Trump and members of his inner circle (select military figures excepted, at least for now), journalism remains pretty much what it was prior to November 8th of last year: personalities built up only to be torn down; fads and novelties discovered, celebrated, then mocked; "extraordinary" stories of ordinary people granted 15 seconds of fame only to once again be consigned to oblivion - all served with a side dish of that day's quota of suffering, devastation, and carnage. These remain journalism's stock-in-trade. As practiced in the United States, with certain honorable (and hence unprofitable) exceptions, journalism remains superficial, voyeuristic, and governed by the attention span of a two year old.

As a result, all those editors, reporters, columnists, and talking heads who characterize their labors as "now more important than ever" ill-serve the public they profess to inform and enlighten. Rather than clearing the air, they befog it further. If anything, the media's current obsession with Donald Trump - his every utterance or tweet treated as "breaking news!" - just provides one additional excuse for highlighting trivia, while slighting issues that deserve far more attention than they currently receive.

To illustrate the point, let me cite some examples of national security issues that presently receive short shrift or are ignored altogether by those parts of the Fourth Estate said to help set the nation's political agenda. To put it another way: Hey, Big Media, here are two dozen matters to which you're not giving faintly adequate thought and attention.

1. Accomplishing the "mission" : Since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States has been committed to defending key allies in Europe and East Asia. Not long thereafter, U.S. security guarantees were extended to the Middle East as well. Under what circumstances can Americans expect nations in these regions to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs? To put it another way, when (if ever) might U.S. forces actually come home? And if it is incumbent upon the United States to police vast swaths of the planet in perpetuity, how should momentous changes in the international order - the rise of China, for example, or accelerating climate change - affect the U.S. approach to doing so?

2 . American military supremacy : The United States military is undoubtedly the world's finest. It's also far and away the most generously funded , with policymakers offering U.S. troops no shortage of opportunities to practice their craft. So why doesn't this great military ever win anything? Or put another way, why in recent decades have those forces been unable to accomplish Washington's stated wartime objectives? Why has the now 15-year-old war on terror failed to result in even a single real success anywhere in the Greater Middle East? Could it be that we've taken the wrong approach? What should we be doing differently?

3. America's empire of bases : The U.S. military today garrisons the planet in a fashion without historical precedent. Successive administrations, regardless of party, justify and perpetuate this policy by insisting that positioning U.S. forces in distant lands fosters peace, stability, and security. In the present century, however, perpetuating this practice has visibly had the opposite effect. In the eyes of many of those called upon to "host" American bases, the permanent presence of such forces smacks of occupation. They resist. Why should U.S. policymakers expect otherwise?

4. Supporting the troops : In present-day America, expressing reverence for those who serve in uniform is something akin to a religious obligation. Everyone professes to cherish America's "warriors." Yet such bountiful, if superficial, expressions of regard camouflage a growing gap between those who serve and those who applaud from the sidelines. Our present-day military system, based on the misnamed All-Volunteer Force, is neither democratic nor effective. Why has discussion and debate about its deficiencies not found a place among the nation's political priorities?

5. Prerogatives of the commander-in-chief : Are there any military actions that the president of the United States may not order on his own authority? If so, what are they? Bit by bit, decade by decade, Congress has abdicated its assigned role in authorizing war. Today, it merely rubberstamps what presidents decide to do (or simply stays mum ). Who does this deference to an imperial presidency benefit? Have U.S. policies thereby become more prudent, enlightened, and successful?

6. Assassin-in-chief : A policy of assassination, secretly implemented under the aegis of the CIA during the early Cold War, yielded few substantive successes. When the secrets were revealed, however, the U.S. government suffered considerable embarrassment , so much so that presidents foreswore politically motivated murder. After 9/11, however, Washington returned to the assassination business in a big way and on a global scale, using drones. Today, the only secret is the sequence of names on the current presidential hit list , euphemistically known as the White House "disposition matrix." But does assassination actually advance U.S. interests (or does it merely recruit replacements for the terrorists it liquidates)? How can we measure its costs, whether direct or indirect? What dangers and vulnerabilities does this practice invite?

7. The war formerly known as the "Global War on Terrorism" : What precisely is Washington's present strategy for defeating violent jihadism? What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success? If no such strategy exists, why is that the case? How is it that the absence of strategy - not to mention an agreed upon definition of "success" - doesn't even qualify for discussion here?

8. The campaign formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom : The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history - having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon's plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end? On what terms?

9. The Gulf : Americans once believed that their prosperity and way of life depended on having assured access to Persian Gulf oil. Today, that is no longer the case. The United States is once more an oil exporter . Available and accessible reserves of oil and natural gas in North America are far greater than was once believed . Yet the assumption that the Persian Gulf still qualifies as crucial to American national security persists in Washington. Why?

10. Hyping terrorism : Each year terrorist attacks kill far fewer Americans than do auto accidents , drug overdoses , or even lightning strikes . Yet in the allocation of government resources, preventing terrorist attacks takes precedence over preventing all three of the others combined. Why is that?

11. Deaths that matter and deaths that don't : Why do terrorist attacks that kill a handful of Europeans command infinitely more American attention than do terrorist attacks that kill far larger numbers of Arabs? A terrorist attack that kills citizens of France or Belgium elicits from the United States heartfelt expressions of sympathy and solidarity. A terrorist attack that kills Egyptians or Iraqis elicits shrugs. Why the difference? To what extent does race provide the answer to that question?

12. Israeli nukes : What purpose is served by indulging the pretense that Israel does not have nuclear weapons?

13. Peace in the Holy Land : What purpose is served by indulging illusions that a "two-state solution" offers a plausible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? As remorselessly as white settlers once encroached upon territory inhabited by Native American tribes, Israeli settlers expand their presence in the occupied territories year by year. As they do, the likelihood of creating a viable Palestinian state becomes ever more improbable. To pretend otherwise is the equivalent of thinking that one day President Trump might prefer the rusticity of Camp David to the glitz of Mar-a-Lago.

14. Merchandizing death : When it comes to arms sales, there is no need to Make America Great Again. The U.S. ranks number one by a comfortable margin, with long-time allies Saudi Arabia and Israel leading recipients of those arms. Each year, the Saudis (per capita gross domestic product $20,000) purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. weapons. Israel (per capita gross domestic product $38,000) gets several billion dollars worth of such weaponry annually courtesy of the American taxpayer. If the Saudis pay for U.S. arms, why shouldn't the Israelis? They can certainly afford to do so.

15. Our friends the Saudis (I) : Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudis. What does that fact signify?

16. Our friends the Saudis (II) : If indeed Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing to determine which nation will enjoy the upper hand in the Persian Gulf, why should the United States favor Saudi Arabia? In what sense do Saudi values align more closely with American values than do Iranian ones?

17. Our friends the Pakistanis : Pakistan behaves like a rogue state. It is a nuclear weapons proliferator . It supports the Taliban. For years, it provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Yet U.S. policymakers treat Pakistan as if it were an ally. Why? In what ways do U.S. and Pakistani interests or values coincide? If there are none, why not say so?

18. Free-loading Europeans : Why can't Europe, " whole and free ," its population and economy considerably larger than Russia's, defend itself? It's altogether commendable that U.S. policymakers should express support for Polish independence and root for the Baltic republics. But how does it make sense for the United States to care more about the wellbeing of people living in Eastern Europe than do people living in Western Europe?

19. The mother of all "special relationships" : The United States and the United Kingdom have a "special relationship" dating from the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Apart from keeping the Public Broadcasting Service supplied with costume dramas and stories featuring eccentric detectives, what is the rationale for that partnership today? Why should U.S. relations with Great Britain, a fading power, be any more "special" than its relations with a rising power like India? Why should the bonds connecting Americans and Britons be any more intimate than those connecting Americans and Mexicans? Why does a republic now approaching the 241st anniversary of its independence still need a "mother country"?

20. The old nuclear disarmament razzmatazz : American presidents routinely cite their hope for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. Yet the U.S. maintains nuclear strike forces on full alert, has embarked on a costly and comprehensive trillion-dollar modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and even refuses to adopt a no-first-use posture when it comes to nuclear war. The truth is that the United States will consider surrendering its nukes only after every other nation on the planet has done so first. How does American nuclear hypocrisy affect the prospects for global nuclear disarmament or even simply for the non-proliferation of such weaponry?

21. Double standards (I) : American policymakers take it for granted that their country's sphere of influence is global, which, in turn, provides the rationale for the deployment of U.S. military forces to scores of countries. Yet when it comes to nations like China, Russia, or Iran, Washington takes the position that spheres of influence are obsolete and a concept that should no longer be applicable to the practice of statecraft. So Chinese, Russian, and Iranian forces should remain where they belong - in China, Russia, and Iran. To stray beyond that constitutes a provocation, as well as a threat to global peace and order. Why should these other nations play by American rules? Why shouldn't similar rules apply to the United States?

22. Double standards (II) : Washington claims that it supports and upholds international law. Yet when international law gets in the way of what American policymakers want to do, they disregard it. They start wars, violate the sovereignty of other nations, and authorize agents of the United States to kidnap, imprison, torture, and kill. They do these things with impunity, only forced to reverse their actions on the rare occasions when U.S. courts find them illegal. Why should other powers treat international norms as sacrosanct since the United States does so only when convenient?

23. Double standards (III) : The United States condemns the indiscriminate killing of civilians in wartime. Yet over the last three-quarters of a century, it killed civilians regularly and often on a massive scale. By what logic, since the 1940s, has the killing of Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Afghans, and others by U.S. air power been any less reprehensible than the Syrian government's use of "barrel bombs" to kill Syrians today? On what basis should Americans accept Pentagon claims that, when civilians are killed these days by U.S. forces, the acts are invariably accidental, whereas Syrian forces kill civilians intentionally and out of malice? Why exclude incompetence or the fog of war as explanations? And why, for instance, does the United States regularly gloss over or ignore altogether the noncombatants that Saudi forces (with U.S. assistance ) are routinely killing in Yemen?

24. Moral obligations : When confronted with some egregious violation of human rights, members of the chattering classes frequently express an urge for the United States to "do something." Holocaust analogies sprout like dandelions. Newspaper columnists recycle copy first used when Cambodians were slaughtering other Cambodians en masse or whenever Hutus and Tutsis went at it. Proponents of action - typically advocating military intervention - argue that the United States has a moral obligation to aid those victimized by injustice or cruelty anywhere on Earth. But what determines the pecking order of such moral obligations? Which comes first, a responsibility to redress the crimes of others or a responsibility to redress crimes committed by Americans? Who has a greater claim to U.S. assistance, Syrians suffering today under the boot of Bashar al-Assad or Iraqis, their country shattered by the U.S. invasion of 2003? Where do the Vietnamese fit into the queue? How about the Filipinos, brutally denied independence and forcibly incorporated into an American empire as the nineteenth century ended? Or African-Americans, whose ancestors were imported as slaves? Or, for that matter, dispossessed and disinherited Native Americans? Is there a statute of limitations that applies to moral obligations? And if not, shouldn't those who have waited longest for justice or reparations receive priority attention?

Let me suggest that any one of these two dozen issues - none seriously covered, discussed, or debated in the American media or in the political mainstream - bears more directly on the wellbeing of the United States and our prospects for avoiding global conflict than anything Donald Trump may have said or done during his first 100 days as president. Collectively, they define the core of the national security challenges that presently confront this country, even as they languish on the periphery of American politics.

How much damage Donald Trump's presidency wreaks before it ends remains to be seen. Yet he himself is a transient phenomenon. To allow his pratfalls and shenanigans to divert attention from matters sure to persist when he finally departs the stage is to make a grievous error. It may well be that, as the Times insists, the truth is now more important than ever. If so, finding the truth requires looking in the right places and asking the right questions.

DH , May 8, 2017 at 11:36 am

Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow" has many of the answers to the questions about why the MSM is the way it is. People are hard-wired to react to sound bites, especially potential pleasure or terror. The MSM is very good at that. Populist politicians feed off of the same.

B.J.M. , May 8, 2017 at 2:58 pm

"What would be far more useful than a specialised list of inadequately reported topics would be to analyze this MSM behaviour, explore how it comes about and how it has evolved, to reveal some of the darker connections to power, and put up some strategies for slowly reversing it."

Sorry MoiAussie, but the analysis has already been done, unfortunately nobody really cares.

Propaganda and the Public Mind
Necessary Illusions

witters , May 8, 2017 at 6:01 pm

"What would be far more useful than a specialised list of inadequately reported topics would be to analyze this MSM behaviour, explore how it comes about and how it has evolved, to reveal some of the darker connections to power, and put up some strategies for slowly reversing it. In a nutshell, how to foster thriving independent media with broad reach that expose MSM stenography and resist censorship?"

Well, yes. Except the behaviour you are analysing is, presumably, among other things, the behviour involved in inadequately addressing these topics.

cat's paw , May 8, 2017 at 1:57 am

One can sleep soundly tonight safe in the knowledge that not even the pretense of a nonreply to Bacevich's questions will be forthcoming.

oho , May 8, 2017 at 8:45 am

stop fighting about identity politics (i'm not holding my breath for either side)

elements of both sides want to return to a non-interventionist US foreign policy, except there is always a fight about something else that serves as a distraction.. like cats and shiny toys.

Norb , May 8, 2017 at 9:18 am

The only thing one can do is persistently bring important issues forward to friends and colleagues. In other words, become in many respects a social pariah. Challenging the status quo by definition makes you an outsider.

The strategic effectiveness of this dissent becomes manifest when you actually change how you live your life. You become an example for others to follow.

Any successful movement building must follow this path. The strategic plan is to live and think like a socialist in a crumbling capitalist world. The rising levels of inequality must surely bring this about, one way or another.

Socialism or Barbarism. How many working people could disagree with that? It needs to be repeated over and over. That spirit needs to be reflected in individual life in order to survive.

B.J.M. , May 8, 2017 at 2:47 pm

" But it raises the question, what can individuals do to change the behavior of the media?"

We can continue to ignore them and opt for the following: Naked Capitalism, CounterPunch, ZeroHedge, Liberty Blitzkreig, ContraCorner, Truthout, Consortium News, The Unz Review, Tom Dispatch, Democracy Now, Pando Daily, The Intercept, etc, etc. That is the mainstream media's worst nightmare.

The only reason to check the NYT or Washington Post is to see what meme is being promoted by the deep state; then you know what not to believe.

I find this whole debate about fake news to be somewhat laughable. Americans have been subject to fake news for decades, they just didn't know it. Noam Chomsky has been writing about this for 40 years. His books: Propaganda and the Public Mind, Deterring Democracy, Manufacturing Consent and Necessary Illusions are all excellent and contain extensive research and details to support his claims. Of course part to the fake news strategy has been to ignore people like Chomsky. Instead we get intellectual clowns like Tom Friedman telling us how the world works.

Now that we have some real news, the fake news mainstream media has gone into panic mode and its strategy is to label the real new as fake news. Orwell and Huxley must be rolling in their graves with laughter.

Enjoy the show!

optimader , May 8, 2017 at 11:18 am

True, the big media outlets are demonstrating both energy and enterprise in exposing the ineptitude, inconsistency, and dubious ethical standards, as well as outright lies and fake news, that are already emerging as Trump era signatures. That said, pointing out that the president has (again) uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position to which he had previously sworn . "uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position.." a new development in POTUS behavior ushered in by DTrump??

craazyboy , May 8, 2017 at 2:05 am

Ok, so the USG has 24 issues. Let's not be nit-picky.

On this one, we've had a bit of progress.

"8. The campaign formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom: The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history - having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon's plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end? On what terms?"

We dropped a $30 million BMF'ing bomb on an undefensible, open plain. Killed 67 trees and terrified Afgan flora from border to border. Egyptian cotton kids refuse to migrate there on their little parachute thingies because they are terrified !

Declassified CIA leaks from the DNC indicate these trees actively made maple syrup for terrorists. This gives terrorists big muscles, like Popeye, and reduces urges to eat human organs.

This is appreciated by other terrorists in camp and they sleep better , too.

However, the Fava Beans and Olive Oil have been spilled. Unemployed tree hugger reporters report that the BMF'ing bomb caused the tree sap to instantly turn to maple sugar candies and the candies are now enclosed in a depleted uranium candy tins. Fake research scientists believe the bomb casing was made of the depleted uranium. Could happen, opines Krugman, now minority owner of the NYT, and seconded by Chelsea, whom did the secret HS science project back in the 90s in Yugoslavia. She drew a cute picture of Daddy on the bomb's belly, but a lot of Very Serious Men In Black Suits did everything else.

As to when the entire Afgan issue ends, we know the war becomes fiscally irresponsible when the USG runs out of new trees to bomb and the maple sugar candies no longer can fund the onslaught.

Krugman is working on the macro analysis and will send the Noble Prize people an advanced copy for editing, puffing up, and general focus grouping. One area of neglect is developing a universal political correctness language – the semantics are daunting and definitions have to be dynamic, yet synchronized with meanings according to domestic needs. That's a tough one.

Then people have to learn it, instead of lazily doing what they do now. Which I think may involve much use of sign language.

An advance against the reward money is expected, and a pic of the statues with Kruggies name on it would signal good faith and seal the deal. Bully to Trump!

fresno dan , May 8, 2017 at 11:12 am

craazyboy
May 8, 2017 at 2:05 am

"The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history - having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon's plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end?"

Apparently, the Afghanistan war has ended. It makes me feel a little less stupid, although I have a lot of excess stupid in reserve, to know others missed it as well ..

fresno dan

After dropping its largest conventional bomb ever used in combat in Afghanistan on 13 April, the US military said the massive ordnance air blast, or Moab, was a "very clear message to Isis" that they would be "annihilated".

Defence secretary Jim Mattis said the bomb was "necessary to break Isis". The Afghan government claimed the bomb killed 94 Isis militants, while harming no civilians.

======================================================================= http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2014/12/29/afghanistan-war-officially-ends/21004589/

Well, looks like I missed the war ending .but with the war ended, one would think we wouldn't have to be dropping the world's biggest bomb

optimader , May 8, 2017 at 11:22 am

its now a police action!

fresno dan , May 8, 2017 at 2:26 pm

optimader
May 8, 2017 at 11:22 am

the military takes more and more "police actions" while the police use more and more military equipment and tactics ..
Considering all the "surplus" stuff that goes to the police, how soon before the police drop the biggest "anti-criminal suppression device" i.e., the mother of all bombs???

optimader , May 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm

how soon before the police drop the biggest "anti-criminal suppression device" i.e., the mother of all bombs???

low yield Neutron bomb.. don't damage what left of the domestic infrastructure, the REIT managers would go crazy!

The backhanded criticism that the MFing bomb didn't do enough damage is related to where it was used.
Try a barometric pressure bomb in a place like Manhattan and it would be a much different outcome than say on the other end of the spectrum, at a latitude/longitude in Nevada where the before and after pics would be identical.

A dark side of the media criticism of the MFing Bomb is that it may well goad the MIC/Pentagon Product Managers into a do-over. Afterall, who likes their handiwork criticized?

DTrump told them I want something big and flashy while Xi is in town and that's what they came up with..

Back to the Product Development Group. Just need to tweak the neutron emission!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device)

DH , May 8, 2017 at 2:29 pm

They are just suppressing protests. In the US they are limited to tear gas but in Afghanistan they can use MOAB since the ACLU is weak there.

DH , May 8, 2017 at 2:38 pm

"The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." Mao Zedong

The cool thing about guerilla warfare is it largely eliminates the concept of civilians since anybody could be a soldier, even children. That is why civilian casualties are frequently so low, because pretty much anybody over the age of 6 is a combatant. it also increases the enemy combatant body count which makes it clear that the government forces are winning, as was so ably shown in the Vietnam War.

optimader , May 8, 2017 at 12:09 pm

I'm thinking the bigMFing bomb was more a marketing theater driven initative rather than Afgan Strategic Theatre driven.

It was so DTrump could be at the breakfast table before the President of China and to greet him with.. Wow, sorry I had to cut out before Dessert last night, had some things to take care of, how was the Chocolate cake.. the Cake?" ( he like to repeat things)

DH , May 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm

I view the use of MOAB on ISIS as the equivalent of giving an antibiotic shot so that the in-country Taliban immune system can wipe out the remaining ISIS bacteria. I don't think the Taliban wants ISIS there since it focuses too much US attention on the area, so they may be willing to mop up the remaining ISIS fighters.

Dick Burkhart , May 8, 2017 at 2:21 am

Some great questions here. Recently I was at a Town Hall with my representative to Congress and asked him if our government, or even just the Democrats, had a long term strategy for peace in the Middle East. The answer was basically, No. A few weeks later I actually got a phone call from his office on this very question, yet the answer was still basically No. He did say that Kerry had sought a UN brokered regime change in Syria (opposed by Russia), after I suggested something like this.

However Bacevitch needs to be a little more critical about all the claims about US energy. The US may be exporting some oil and oil products, but it is importing more. We have no prospect of "energy independence" in the forseeable future, unless there is a drastic cutback in consumption. When it comes to energy forecasting, top governmental agencies have had an abysmal record. Independent experts like David Hughes and Art Berman regularly expose the wishful thinking and poor analysis of the economists at these agencies.

DanB , May 8, 2017 at 7:49 am

"Independent experts like David Hughes and Art Berman regularly expose the wishful thinking and poor analysis of the economists at these agencies." Thanks for pointing this out.

Toolate , May 8, 2017 at 2:24 am

This truly is an appalling list. One wonders how many Americans have ever considered even one of these ?

Temporarily Sane , May 8, 2017 at 2:42 am

It's great to see people from across the ideological spectrum who served in the military, intelligence services and in various administrations, speaking out. Hindsight is 20/20as the cliche goes. Now if only people who are currently serving in those institutions would step up to the plate and speak truth to power. At what point does it become unconscionable for good people to do nothing? Or, rather, when does critical mass kick in and make resisting the insanity that reigns in our institutions more than just a flash in the pan and career suicide?

John Wright , May 8, 2017 at 10:55 am

The past is not encouraging, war hero Eisenhower could only warn of the MIC as he was exiting.

The economic footprint of the MIC + think tanks + academia + security agencies is huge (maybe a trillion/year)

A lot of people depend on the defense budget staying large as the MIC is a jobs program throughout much of the USA,.

I remember CA Senator Boxer, one of the few senators who voted against the AUMF in Iraq, fighting to keep the local (to me) Mare Island Naval Shipyard from closing in 1996.

The adjacent city, Vallejo, subsequently went through bankruptcy.

One illustrative MIC family is the Kagan-Nuland family,

Victoria Nuland was Hillary Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and seemed to be in charge of stirring up trouble in the Ukraine.

Her husband is noted neocon (he prefers "liberal interventionist") Robert Kagan of the Bookings Institution, and his brother, Frederick, is at the American Enterprise institute.

Frederick's wife, Kimberly, heads up the "Institute for the Study of War" funded by Raytheon, General Dynamics, DynCorp and others.

One might suggest this family gets meaning, purpose and income through USA military action.

One could posit there many other similar families.

It is difficult to be optimistic that much can be done.

Mel , May 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

These aren't independent issues (and, ultimately, there's no reason they have to be.)
Like, what's preventing the solution of #1 (expecting nations in these regions to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs?) #17. When the Pakistanis have to deal with huge problems on the other side of the invisible line, they aren't so reliable about sticking to the script. Especially a script that has written out all the huge problems.

I guess that is the point. 45 seconds with this list pastes two items together and makes the framework for a story. But the run of stories that appear are like Captain America saw a bad guy and punched him in the face. Makes a good comic panel, and, when the press has been taught the true meaning of "profitable", it makes a good newspaper page too. Right.

A working State Department could do interesting things with this list too, but - Captain America.

oho , May 8, 2017 at 8:50 am

the US hasn't fought a peer nation since 1945-even then the USSR did a lot of the heavy lifting. the US still hasnt beaten the Taliban.

US full spectrum dominance could be propaganda for all we know--with our vaunted carriers and fighters sitting ducks to swarms of cheap first-world missiles.

in any fight with China or Russia, theyd only have to play defense. The US would be the ones without home field advantage, likely in a war with limited domestic support as the fight probablyt would not be about an existential issue to the US homeland

DH , May 8, 2017 at 11:46 am

If a group like the Taliban has indigenous support, then you pretty much are left with destroying the village in order to save it as the only military option. Putting a corrupt mafia in charge of the country is not the appropriate alternate civilian political approach to win hearts and minds.

In the 1990s nobody cared about the Taliban except when they were blowing up big Buddhas. Their fatal error was allowing bin-Laden to launch major attacks against the US home soil. My guess at this time is that the Taliban have been inoculated against spreading terror overseas. If the US left Afghanistan, the Taliban would probably take many of the valleys back and kick ISIS out so that they don't have to worry about the US coming back in to deal with 9/11 terrorists again. Afghanistan would probably be fairly "peaceful" at that point in a fundamental Muslim way, kind of like the fundamental Christian utopia that Mike Pence tried to create in Indiana.

hemeantwell , May 8, 2017 at 8:55 am

Bacevich's indictment suffers from an inability to explain how this genuflecting celebration of American intentions degenerated into what he goes on to elaborate.

Accomplishing the "mission": Since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States has been committed to defending key allies in Europe and East Asia. Not long thereafter, U.S. security guarantees were extended to the Middle East as well.

The beginning of the Cold War continues to be shrouded in assumptions about Soviet aggressiveness and American and British benevolence. Otherwise critical thinkers become kool aid dispensers when they are obliged to reference it. Bacevich skates over questions such as the division of Germany - was it because the US wanted to allow Germany to quickly reindustrialize and the Soviets were afraid of yet another invasion? - and whether city-destroying nuclear weapons would be internationally controlled or remain a US monopoly.

Instead he invites us all to assume the Soviets were acting and the West was reacting. In my view this genuinely childish view of international relations is the template for American exceptionalism and, unless we break free of it, a logic of privileged exceptionalism will continually assert itself. The Trump era offers us a chance to raze this mythology and seriously confront how market-oriented imperatives, not devils and angels, drive international conflict.

Whine Country , May 8, 2017 at 10:16 am

You must have missed this yesterday:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/05/war-and-empire-the-american-way-of-life/

Some are trying to deal with the issue you raise. Oliver Stone had a lot to say on the subject in his "Untold History of the United States".

JEHR , May 8, 2017 at 9:10 am

I would like to see CNN or any other channel begin a series of TV presentations where each one of these items is discussed by the relevant people. (When no officials show up for the program, then the producers will know they are on the right track.) A great idea for a series of investigative reports by journalists also.

However, would such a program make any difference in how things are done?

DH , May 8, 2017 at 11:48 am

It might if the Kardashians were invited to participate in the debate.

Lil'D , May 8, 2017 at 9:24 am

It's systemic. Journalism is a business of delivering eyeballs to advertisers. These important issues don't sell. Get more flashy drama in the framing of the story and you might have a chance

B.J.M. , May 8, 2017 at 3:03 pm

exactly, it is "systemic"! Until one understands that the mainstream media's core business is not news; it is selling audiences to advertisers, one will never properly understand the problem.

Felix_47 , May 8, 2017 at 11:29 am

Could it be that our leadership in Washington has no idea why we are still in Afghanistan either? Could it be that our allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, like the idea of the US military sitting at the back door to Iran? Could it be that we are getting the best foreign policy Saudi and Israeli money can buy? And the MIC is glad to oblige.

Art Eclectic , May 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm

My assumption is that everything inexplicable is ultimately explained by money if you dug deep enough.

JTMcPhee , May 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm

String theory? Dark matter? Why my dog still pees right inside the patio door?

witters , May 8, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Why not? See Richard Rorty's "Consequences of Pragmatism".

Susan the other , May 8, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Well we can certainly speculate on 1 – 24. In almost every case there is an implied answer: We aren't quite finished yet establishing and maintaining our control. Over finance and power.

And even though war is too expensive and we have resorted to a kind of high-tech guerrilla warfare, we still need boots on the ground. That is because we live in a material world and goods are manufactured, transported and trafficked.

An even more stubborn war is going on in international finance (Hudson) – that's the one I'd like to see reporters understand. Colonel Wilkerson said it is all about finance and power and we will be in Afghanistan for 50 years. What's going on right now really seems like never ending pointlessness. So maybe we should discuss exactly what we want to achieve control for – what's the plan? In detail. Starting with the health of the planet and sustainable civilization.

Tom Stone , May 8, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Y U H8 'Murika?

templar555510 , May 8, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Andrew could have headed his piece " Analysis of an Empire ' and then added the sub-heading ' A Tale of Vested Interests ' because that is surely why these atrocities ( yes that's right ) continue ad infintum, ad nauseum . And these same interests are those that sell us soap, automobiles, liquor etc, etc, maybe not directly, but the interconnections are now so complete as to make distinctions irrelevant.

Sluggeaux , May 8, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Is it because a self-perpetuating top-heavy military bureaucracy was never properly demobilized after the Second World War, and only promotes the sort of sociopathic, narcissistic, borderline personalities who are relentlessly able to bully the groveling toadies and wussies who make up our perpetually campaigning political-climber class?

Gen Dau , May 8, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Andrew Bacevich needs to study more deeply about Syrian history and politics, since his description of Syrian president Bashar Assad as a brutal dictator fits as a description of Bashar's father Hafez Assad but is inaccurate in relation to Bashar Assad, who seems to have a rather gentle personality and is actually one of the more benign leaders in the Middle East.

Bashar Assad had planned to be a doctor, and he studied medicine for two years in the UK before being ordered to return to Syria by his father after his elder brother died in an accident. Although there were some excesses by the police in 2011, Bashar Assad quickly relaxed some old security laws and pushed for a new democratic constitution, which was promulgated in 2012. Under that new constitution, in 2014 he ran in a free election observed by international observers against two other politicians and was reelected president. He has promised that if he loses the next election he will step down.

Nevertheless Assad has been systematically demonized by the governments and MSM of the US, UK, and France, as well as by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Demonization is a technique that is often used to prepare the way for regime change, and it is not based on objective analysis. Although Assad is often called a butcher who gasses his own people, experts such as Theodore Postol of MIT and others have shown that not a single allegation of gassing by the Syrian government under Assad has ever been proven. In addition, many of the excesses by the Syrian police against demonstrators in 2011 seem to have been initiated by armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda in Syria, who quickly infiltrated the demonstrations. There have even been allegations that jihadi sharpshooters on rooftops shot demonstrators in false-flag attacks. Similar tactics were used in Ukraine in February 2014 by ultranationalist Right Sector sharpshooters, who were seen shooting Maidan demonstrators. The deaths of the demonstrators were then blamed on the police. In the case of Syria:

"Syrian-based Father Frans van der Lugt was the Dutch priest murdered by a gunman in Homs . His involvement in reconciliation and peace activities never stopped him from lobbing criticisms at both sides in this conflict. But in the first year of the crisis, he penned some remarkable observations about the violence – this one in January 2012:

"'From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.'

"In September 2011 he wrote: 'From the start there has been the problem of the armed groups, which are also part of the opposition The opposition of the street is much stronger than any other opposition. And this opposition is armed and frequently employs brutality and violence, only in order then to blame the government.'"
https://www.rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011/

For an objective overview of the context of the events of 2011 in Syria that led to the international war against the elected Syrian government, see Stephen Gowans, "The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn't."
https://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/the-revolutionary-distemper-in-syria-that-wasnt/
Also see Gowans' well-researched 2016 book 'Washington's Long War on Syria.' The US has been demonizing and trying to overthrow the Syrian government for several decades now, above all because it is the only remaining semi-socialist nation in the Middle East and has single-payer national health insurance, support for the elderly, and free college education for all. Assad is no saint, but he is one of the more democratic and forward-looking leaders in the Middle East today.

Westley Wood , May 8, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Thugs committing heinous acts " and some had opportunity to squeal " S. Crane

[May 21, 2017] Now we have a government dominated by Banking and Distribution, think Goldman Sacks and Walmart

Notable quotes:
"... Over the last thirty years the power of the Manufacturing and Infrastructure concerns has fallen dramatically. So now we have a government dominated by Banking and Distribution, think Goldman Sacks and Walmart. ..."
"... According to former CIA director Richard Helms, when Allen Dulles was tasked in 1946 to "draft proposals for the shape and organization of what was to become the Central Intelligence Agency," he recruited an advisory group of six men made up almost exclusively of Wall Street investment bankers and lawyers. ..."
"... Dulles himself was an attorney at the prominent Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell. Two years later, Dulles became the chairman of a three-man committee which reviewed the young agency's performance. ..."
"... So we see that from the beginning the CIA was an exclusive Wall Street club. Allen Dulles himself became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence in early 1953. ..."
"... The current Democratic Party was handed two golden opportunities and blew both of them. Obama blew the 2008 financial crisis. And Hillary Clinton blew the 2016 election. ..."
"... Neoliberal Democrats seek to create the same tribablist/identity voting block on the left that the republicans have on the right. The is why people like sanjait get totally spastic when progressives criticize the party. ..."
May 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Gibbon1 , May 19, 2017 at 04:24 PM

Among the rich I think there were three groups based on where their wealth and interests laid.

Banking/Insurance industry.
Distribution/logistics.
Manufacturing and Infrastructure.

Over the last thirty years the power of the Manufacturing and Infrastructure concerns has fallen dramatically. So now we have a government dominated by Banking and Distribution, think Goldman Sacks and Walmart.

libezkova - , May 20, 2017 at 09:03 PM
"Over the last thirty years the power of the Manufacturing and Infrastructure concerns has fallen dramatically. So now we have a government dominated by Banking and Distribution, think Goldman Sacks and Walmart."

This trend does not apply to Military-industrial complex (MIC). MIC probably should be listed separately. Formally it is a part of manufacturing and infrastructure, but in reality it is closely aligned with Banking and insurance.

CIA which is the cornerstone of the military industrial complex to a certain extent is an enforcement arm for financial corporations.

Allen Dulles came the law firm that secured interests of Wall Street in foreign countries, see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30605.htm )

According to former CIA director Richard Helms, when Allen Dulles was tasked in 1946 to "draft proposals for the shape and organization of what was to become the Central Intelligence Agency," he recruited an advisory group of six men made up almost exclusively of Wall Street investment bankers and lawyers.

Dulles himself was an attorney at the prominent Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell. Two years later, Dulles became the chairman of a three-man committee which reviewed the young agency's performance.

The other two members of the committee were also New York lawyers. For nearly a year, the committee met in the offices of J.H. Whitney, a Wall Street investment firm.

According to Peter Dale Scott, over the next twenty years, all seven deputy directors of the agency were drawn from the Wall Street financial aristocracy; and six were listed in the New York social register.

So we see that from the beginning the CIA was an exclusive Wall Street club. Allen Dulles himself became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence in early 1953.

The prevalent myth that the CIA exists to provide intelligence information to the president was the promotional vehicle used to persuade President Harry Truman to sign the 1947 National Security Act, the legislation which created the CIA.iv

But the rationale about serving the president was never more than a partial and very imperfect truth...

Gibbon1 - , May 19, 2017 at 04:59 PM
The current Democratic Party was handed two golden opportunities and blew both of them. Obama blew the 2008 financial crisis. And Hillary Clinton blew the 2016 election.

If you have a tool and the tool it broken you try to fix it. One doesn't pretend there is nothing wrong.

The difference between neoliberal democrats and progressives is they differ on what's wrong.

Neoliberal Democrats seek to create the same tribablist/identity voting block on the left that the republicans have on the right. The is why people like sanjait get totally spastic when progressives criticize the party.

Progressives seek to create an aggressive party that represents the interests of working class and petite bourgeoisie. That is why you see progressives get spastic when the corporate democrats push appeasement policies.

[May 21, 2017] CIA is the cornerstone of the military industrial complex and, to a certain extent, an enforcement arm for financial corporations

May 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

DrDick, May 19, 2017 at 04:23 PM

The same as every other Republican since Eisenhower, lie to them.
Gibbon1, May 19, 2017 at 04:24 PM
Among the rich I think there were three groups based on where their wealth and interests laid.

Banking/Insurance industry.
Distribution/logistics.
Manufacturing and Infrastructure.

Over the last thirty years the power of the Manufacturing and Infrastructure concerns has fallen dramatically. So now we have a government dominated by Banking and Distribution, think Goldman Sacks and Walmart.

libezkova, May 20, 2017 at 09:03 PM
"Over the last thirty years the power of the Manufacturing and Infrastructure concerns has fallen dramatically. So now we have a government dominated by Banking and Distribution, think Goldman Sacks and Walmart."

This trend does not apply to Military-industrial complex (MIC). MIC probably should be listed separately. Formally it is a part of manufacturing and infrastructure, but in reality it is closely aligned with Banking and insurance.

CIA which is the cornerstone of the military industrial complex to a certain extent is an enforcement arm for financial corporations.

Allen Dulles came the law firm that secured interests of Wall Street in foreign countries, see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30605.htm )

According to former CIA director Richard Helms, when Allen Dulles was tasked in 1946 to "draft proposals for the shape and organization of what was to become the Central Intelligence Agency," he recruited an advisory group of six men made up almost exclusively of Wall Street investment bankers and lawyers.

Dulles himself was an attorney at the prominent Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell. Two years later, Dulles became the chairman of a three-man committee which reviewed the young agency's performance.

The other two members of the committee were also New York lawyers.i For nearly a year, the committee met in the offices of J.H. Whitney, a Wall Street investment firm.ii

According to Peter Dale Scott, over the next twenty years, all seven deputy directors of the agency were drawn from the Wall Street financial aristocracy; and six were listed in the New York social register.iii

So we see that from the beginning the CIA was an exclusive Wall Street club. Allen Dulles himself became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence in early 1953.

The prevalent myth that the CIA exists to provide intelligence information to the president was the promotional vehicle used to persuade President Harry Truman to sign the 1947 National Security Act, the legislation which created the CIA.iv

But the rationale about serving the president was never more than a partial and very imperfect truth...

[May 21, 2017] The Connection Between Finance and Politics Has Been Under-Researched for Years

May 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

likezkova, May 20, 2017 at 11:22 AM

A very interesting and important article: The Connection Between Finance and Politics Has Been Under-Researched for Years (https://promarket.org/connection-finance-politics2/ )

That was my point for a long time. Inability to challenge the underlying assumptions of the neoclassical economics and current neoliberal polices (such as Washington consensus) sooner of later backfire both in economics and politics, because politics and economics are intrinsically connected.

to the extent that "pure economics" is a pseudo-science (with bunch of complex mathematical masturbations, much like geocentric theory of movement of planets; which actually did predicted certain movements of plants accurately. using overcomplicated math stuff -- epicycles)

But political posturing often prevent such a reevaluation, even when people understand that something is wrong with the current state of economics.

Much like that fact that the USA pretentions of the world hegemony make deviations from pre-existing policies a sign of "weakness". But is a dialectical way, the obsessive desire to project strength is a serious weakness in itself ;-)

And it looks like this inability and lack of desire to challenge the fundamental assumptions is a very serious problem not only with the US elite, but with the American society as a whole.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104257/quotes

Col. Jessep: [from the witness stand] *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Col. Jessup: [from the witness stand] *You can't handle the truth!*

Emong other things it led to the economic policies that on "being disastrous" scale are probably close the policies that led to Iraq war (remember neocons boasting before this war that we will be greeted with flowers and the cost will be minimal and democracy will flourish in Iraq). The results of outsourcing of manufacturing is very similar to the real result obtains due to the Iraq war.

So there is an important question that the article missed. Can the American elite face the truth?

That answer is: "No". That's why neoclassical economics while discredited as a theory remain dominant as a civil religion of neoliberalism, indoctrination into which is a prerequisite to obtaining an academic degree, and students are indoctrinated into this this bunch of mathiness each year. Compare with Steve Keen "Debunking economics" ( https://www.amazon.com/Debunking-Economics-Revised-Expanded-Dethroned/dp/1848139926 ). Much like Marxism was obligatory in the USSR and can't graduate without passing exams on Marxist political economy.

But, truth be told, neoclassical economics has a strong political undercurrent because historically it emerged (like neoliberalism in late 30th early 40th) as an alternative to Marxism. And to certain extent it did has its value while Marxism and Marxist theory of value were not discredited (that means up to late 40th, early 60th).

Another point is that the US neoliberal elite demonstrated willingness and ability to engage in self-defeating behavior because they do not want to look weak or challenge the postulated of neoliberalism. That's the same behavior the Politburo was engaged in the USSR.

I would shy from using the term "decline od neoliberalism" because it has a flavor of "doom and gloom" (and haw we can speak about decline if a realistic alternative does not exist?), but neoliberalism really faces the crisis of confidence. Neoliberal myths such a "Greed is good", "Casino capitalism is virtuous", "Entrepreneurship is the ultimate value and the source of material reward", "free market", "free trade", "labor market", "poor are guilty of their own fate because they lack responsibility", "rising stock market tide lifts all boats", etc are dispelled.

Promises of "prosperity for all" are not delivered (at least to the lower 80% of population.)

Basically the same situation that existed with Brezhnev socialism in the USSR with the communist ideology stating with 70th.

Instead of the USSR alcoholism epidemic we have opioids and meth epidemic with the same or similar social roots.

Add to this several wars (or more correctly occupations of the countries) going on and resources wasted on those (mostly unwinnable) wars (with the recent myth that "counterinsurgency" tactics will bring the USA the success in Afghanistan -- David Petraeus' myth -- http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/12997-how-petraeus-created-the-myth-of-his-success, https://www.scribd.com/document/67519776/Puncturing-the-Counterinsurgency-Myth-Britain-and-Irregular-Warfare-in-the-Past-Present-and-Future ) which also nobody in the establishment has the courage of challenging and you get the picture. It's not pretty.

That worldview had derived from this conviction that American power implies commitment to global hegemony, and this commitment expressed the nation's enduring devotion to its founding ideals of freedom and democracy.

That also means that election of Trump will not result in proper actions that can change the course of "battleship America" and can rectify the current difficulties. Much like the election of Barack Obama before him.

[May 21, 2017] Note how quickly the price of oil fell, when the objective was to economically harm revenues of the gas station masquerading as a nation

Notable quotes:
"... Note how quickly the price of oil fell, when the objective was to economically harm revenues of the "gas station masquerading as a nation" (as McCain called his enemy), Russia. They wouldn't do that to benefit ordinary Americans, though they could have, long ago. ..."
"... And how quickly they were ready to export our own domestic oil surplus, and ordered laws be passed to do it, rather than have it accrue to the Americans to whom it really belongs. ..."
"... No, those "American Interests" are not the same as the interests of the millions of American people. ..."
"... Believe it or not, the CEOs of Exxon-Mobil, Shell or any other multinational hyper corporation don't consider what our opinions are, in the least, unless it creates a PR nightmare, in which case lawyers and liars are dispatched to distract ..."
May 21, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Fran Macadam, May 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm

"'Nor are these US interests that are of such geopolitical importance to politicians, congruent with the interests of hundreds of millions the actual American people.

"Unless those people want 'cheap' oil ?"

Note how quickly the price of oil fell, when the objective was to economically harm revenues of the "gas station masquerading as a nation" (as McCain called his enemy), Russia. They wouldn't do that to benefit ordinary Americans, though they could have, long ago.

And how quickly they were ready to export our own domestic oil surplus, and ordered laws be passed to do it, rather than have it accrue to the Americans to whom it really belongs.

No, those "American Interests" are not the same as the interests of the millions of American people.

Believe it or not, the CEOs of Exxon-Mobil, Shell or any other multinational hyper corporation don't consider what our opinions are, in the least, unless it creates a PR nightmare, in which case lawyers and liars are dispatched to distract.

[May 21, 2017] This week US bombed militia in Syria linked to Iran, Trump got a medal for providing air support for al Qaeda from their contributors.

Notable quotes:
"... In Riyadh, Mr. Trump is viewed as a refreshing change from President Barack Obama, who was viewed with disdain in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal that Mr. Obama brokered in 2015. ... ..."
May 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs, May 20, 2017 at 09:46 AM

Trump Gets a Gold Medal as Welcome From Saudi King https://nyti.ms/2rCfpc5
NYT - MICHAEL D. SHEAR and PETER BAKER - MAY 20, 2017

... .. ...

Flanked by Saudi military personnel standing at attention and alternating Saudi and American flags, Mr. Trump and the king exchanged a brief handshake and a few pleasantries as trumpets blared, cannons boomed and seven Saudi jets streaked through the sky, streaming red, white and blue smoke.

"Very happy to see you," the king said. "It's a great honor," Mr. Trump replied, before he was offered a bouquet of flowers from Saudi girls.

The two leaders posed for photos while seated in the Royal Hall at the airport's terminal before getting into a motorcade to head to a series of meetings. Aides said Mr. Trump had spent most of the flight from Washington, which took 12 hours and 20 minutes, meeting with staff, reading newspapers and working on his speech. He got very little sleep, they said.

In Riyadh, Mr. Trump is viewed as a refreshing change from President Barack Obama, who was viewed with disdain in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal that Mr. Obama brokered in 2015. ...

Related:

With Harleys and Hamburgers, Saudis Salute US on Trump's Visit https://nyti.ms/2qF569M
NYT - BEN HUBBARD - MAY 20, 2017

(cycle parade video at link)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - There was neither beer, nor tattoos nor women at the biker rally in Saudi Arabia's capital on Friday night. But among the hundreds of men riding on roaring Harley Davidsons and sporting leather vests, there was overwhelming excitement about the incoming visitor: President Trump. ...

Saudi Arabia prepared an enormous reception for Mr. Trump, who landed in the capital, Riyadh, on Saturday morning on the first foreign trip of his presidency. Billboards with his face next to that of King Salman, the Saudi monarch, adorned highways around the capital, miles of which were lined with Saudi and American flags.

The Saudis planned such an opulent greeting for Mr. Trump to emphasize the depth of their commitment to the United States and to persuade him to deepen the partnership to fight terrorism, confront Iran and enhance economic ties. ...

ilsm, May 20, 2017 at 12:46 PM
This week US bombed militia in Syria linked to Iran, Trump got a "medal" for providing air support for al Qaeda from their contributors.

[May 21, 2017] Taibbi on Hillary

Notable quotes:
"... Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration's fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha's Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales. ..."
"... Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn't want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one. ..."
"... But that's faulty thinking. My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, "The Republicans are worse!" for so long that they've begun to believe it excuses everything. It makes me nervous to see Hillary supporters like law professor Stephen Vladeck arguing in the New York Times that the real problem wasn't anything Hillary did, but that the Espionage Act isn't "practical." ..."
"... Young people don't see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can't even see it anymore. ..."
"... "new Democratic Party" is lined up with the neocons. ..."
"... Bill put Strobe Talbot and Mrs Kagan in senior positions in 1993! Hillary voted comfortably with Paul Wolfowitz ands her internal neocon. While Obama used his peace prize speech to tell the world he would decide who should run sovereign nations. 26000 bombs in 7 diverse countries in one year when the US is not in any declared war. ..."
"... "new Democratic Party" is neocon foreign policy and $500B for the pentagon each year not counting the bombing costs. "new Democratic Party" also armed ISIS until they "went off the ranch" and broke the promise they made to the US' spooks 'not to shoot at people US liked.' ..."
May 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Christopher H. , May 20, 2017 at 10:39 AM

You linked to Matt Taibbi's on Roger Ailes.

Here's Taibbi on Hillary. Make sure you read all of it.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-young-people-are-right-about-hillary-clinton-20160325

Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton
Listening to the youth vote doesn't always lead to disaster

By Matt Taibbi
March 25, 2016

... ... ...

.. the millions of young voters that are rejecting Hillary's campaign this year are making a carefully reasoned, even reluctant calculation about the limits of the insider politics both she and her husband have represented.

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration's fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha's Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.

Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn't want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.

It was a classic "we can't be too pure" moment. Hillary gambled that Democrats would understand that she'd outraged conscience and common sense for the sake of the Democrats' electoral viability going forward. As a mock-Hillary in a 2007 Saturday Night Live episode put it, "Democrats know me . They know my support for the Iraq War has always been insincere."

This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.

Take the mass incarceration phenomenon. This was pioneered in Mario Cuomo's New York and furthered under Bill Clinton's presidency, which authorized more than $16 billion for new prisons and more police in a crime bill.

As The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander noted, America when Bill Clinton left office had the world's highest incarceration rate, with a prison admission rate for black drug inmates that was 23 times 1983 levels. Hillary stumped for that crime bill, adding the Reaganesque observation that inner-city criminals were "super-predators" who needed to be "brought to heel."

You can go on down the line of all these issues. Trade? From NAFTA to the TPP, Hillary and her party cohorts have consistently supported these anti-union free trade agreements, until it became politically inexpedient. Debt? Hillary infamously voted for regressive bankruptcy reform just a few years after privately meeting with Elizabeth Warren and agreeing that such industry-driven efforts to choke off debt relief needed to be stopped.

Then of course there is the matter of the great gobs of money Hillary has taken to give speeches to Goldman Sachs and God knows whom else. Her answer about that - "That's what they offered" - gets right to the heart of what young people find so repugnant about this brand of politics.

One can talk about having the strength to get things done, given the political reality of the times. But one also can become too easily convinced of certain political realities, particularly when they're paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.

Is Hillary really doing the most good that she can do, fighting for the best deal that's there to get for ordinary people?

Or is she just doing something that satisfies her own definition of that, while taking tens of millions of dollars from some of the world's biggest jerks?

I doubt even Hillary Clinton could answer that question. She has been playing the inside game for so long, she seems to have become lost in it. She behaves like a person who often doesn't know what the truth is, but instead merely reaches for what is the best answer in that moment, not realizing the difference.

This is why her shifting explanations and flippant attitude about the email scandal are almost more unnerving than the ostensible offense. She seems confident that just because her detractors are politically motivated, as they always have been, that they must be wrong, as they often were.

But that's faulty thinking. My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, "The Republicans are worse!" for so long that they've begun to believe it excuses everything. It makes me nervous to see Hillary supporters like law professor Stephen Vladeck arguing in the New York Times that the real problem wasn't anything Hillary did, but that the Espionage Act isn't "practical."

If you're willing to extend the "purity" argument to the Espionage Act, it's only a matter of time before you get in real trouble. And even if it doesn't happen this summer, Democrats may soon wish they'd picked the frumpy senator from Vermont who probably checks his restaurant bills to make sure he hasn't been undercharged.

But in the age of Trump, winning is the only thing that matters, right? In that case, there's plenty of evidence suggesting Sanders would perform better against a reality TV free-coverage machine like Trump than would Hillary Clinton. This would largely be due to the passion and energy of young voters.

Young people don't see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can't even see it anymore.

They've seen in the last decades that politicians who promise they can deliver change while also taking the money, mostly just end up taking the money.

And they're voting for Sanders because his idea of an entirely voter-funded electoral "revolution" that bars corporate money is, no matter what its objective chances of success, the only practical road left to break what they perceive to be an inexorable pattern of corruption.

Young people aren't dreaming. They're thinking. And we should listen to them.

ilsm - , May 20, 2017 at 12:42 PM
"new Democratic Party" is lined up with the neocons.

Bill put Strobe Talbot and Mrs Kagan in senior positions in 1993! Hillary voted comfortably with Paul Wolfowitz ands her internal neocon. While Obama used his peace prize speech to tell the world he would decide who should run sovereign nations. 26000 bombs in 7 diverse countries in one year when the US is not in any declared war.

"new Democratic Party" is neocon foreign policy and $500B for the pentagon each year not counting the bombing costs. "new Democratic Party" also armed ISIS until they "went off the ranch" and broke the promise they made to the US' spooks 'not to shoot at people US liked.'

Sadly, Bernie would be no George McGovern!

[May 21, 2017] Speech of Lavrov at the Military Academy of the General Staff

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Unilateral economic sanctions are definitely a declaration of war, no doubt about it. An information war is underway when slander becomes a mandatory condition for the media. This is an objective fact. These days we talk a lot about Syria. Allegedly, there is a non-governmental organisation called the White Helmets funded by several Western countries and countries in the Persian Gulf. ..."
"... A film about this organisation won the Oscar for best documentary this year. They present themselves as a humanitarian agency helping people attacked by bombs – particularly, in Syria. On several occasions, they were caught lying and showing staged video clips. For one such clip, they painted a girl with red paint and on camera she was sitting down and allegedly suffering from Russian and Syrian bombs. Several days ago in Geneva, an American journalist presented research in which he proved that the White Helmets are fake and that they only deal with developing falsified and provocative news, while dragging Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and armed forces through the mud. ..."
"... He also proved that they are providing direct assistance to terrorists and extremists, including medical supplies and equipment, and treating injured members of extremist groups. ..."
"... Those dealing with information and sharing experience are trying to convince each other that the media must be used not for provocation but to reconcile people. When it comes to the economy, it should be understood – and many have come to realise this – that unilateral sanctions will come back like a boomerang and hit the countries that joined them, especially small countries ..."
Apr 02, 2017 | thesaker.is
Speech of Lavrov at the Military Academy of the General Staff The Vineyard of the Saker

Question: The traditional definition of war is "war is nothing more than an extension of state policy by alternate means." We usually understand "alternate means" as military violence and therefore claim that war always involves military action. Do you think it would be correct to say that the nature of war has changed in contemporary circumstances, that is, now the term includes measures for information, economic, political and psychological impact?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, in the West they coined the term 'hybrid war.' As a matter of fact, this is the concept they seem to be forming based on their experience. Unilateral economic sanctions are definitely a declaration of war, no doubt about it. An information war is underway when slander becomes a mandatory condition for the media. This is an objective fact. These days we talk a lot about Syria. Allegedly, there is a non-governmental organisation called the White Helmets funded by several Western countries and countries in the Persian Gulf.

A film about this organisation won the Oscar for best documentary this year. They present themselves as a humanitarian agency helping people attacked by bombs – particularly, in Syria. On several occasions, they were caught lying and showing staged video clips. For one such clip, they painted a girl with red paint and on camera she was sitting down and allegedly suffering from Russian and Syrian bombs. Several days ago in Geneva, an American journalist presented research in which he proved that the White Helmets are fake and that they only deal with developing falsified and provocative news, while dragging Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and armed forces through the mud.

He also proved that they are providing direct assistance to terrorists and extremists, including medical supplies and equipment, and treating injured members of extremist groups. This is just one example. But anywhere you go, when I just try talking to my Western colleagues, the White Helmets are exempt from any criticism and seem to have a monopoly on the truth. There are many other tricks like that. Certainly, in a wider perspective, cyberspace is an area where there is a material possibility to inflict potentially very serious harm. Cyber forces were created and, apparently, they have some significance. This is exactly why we need forums where these things can be discussed as a single package. The military discusses purely military issues, which now extends to cyberwars.

Those dealing with information and sharing experience are trying to convince each other that the media must be used not for provocation but to reconcile people. When it comes to the economy, it should be understood – and many have come to realise this – that unilateral sanctions will come back like a boomerang and hit the countries that joined them, especially small countries. It is very short-sighted to impose unilateral sanctions on a country like Russia, with its huge potential, human and natural resources. By encouraging dialogue in each of these areas to build a general understanding, mutually beneficial and generally acceptable approaches, we need a forum where all these issues can be considered in their relation to each other because they all affect the general status of international relations. Except for the UN, there is no other framework like this. This is a very topical issue and we have no doubt that it will be in the centre of very heated and engaging debates for the foreseeable future.

[May 20, 2017] Outsourcing higher wage work is more profitable than outsourcing lower wage work

Notable quotes:
"... Baker correctly diagnoses the impact of boomers aging, but there is another effect - "knowledge work" and "high skill manufacturing" is more easily outsourced/offshored than work requiring a physical presence. ..."
"... That's what happened with American IT. ..."
May 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
cm, May 20, 2017 at 04:51 PM
Baker correctly diagnoses the impact of boomers aging, but there is another effect - "knowledge work" and "high skill manufacturing" is more easily outsourced/offshored than work requiring a physical presence.

Also outsourcing "higher wage" work is more profitable than outsourcing "lower wage" work - with lower wages also labor cost as a proportion of total cost tends to be lower (not always).

And outsourcing and geographically relocating work creates other overhead costs that are not much related to the wages of the local work replaced - and those overheads are larger in relation to lower wages than in relation to higher wages.

libezkova -> cm... May 20, 2017 at 08:34 PM

"Also outsourcing "higher wage" work is more profitable than outsourcing "lower wage" work"

That's what happened with American IT.

[May 20, 2017] Demand, Secular Stagnation and the Vanishing Middle-Class

Notable quotes:
"... The anger and despair crystalized into a 'groundswell of discontent' among those left behind, which likely helped to propel Donald Trump into the White House on the promise of 'making America great again'. ..."
"... That's my feeling too about one of the key factor that propelled Trump -- "the anger and despair". For some, voting for Trump was a showing middle finger to Washington establishment. ..."
"... Thus, the battle lines between neoliberal and a "social contract" approach to employment are clearly cut. So far Wall Street, the City, and other worldwide "epicenters for free-market discipline," are winning the battle. According to "free market discipline" dogma, if you are hired at below living wave (as in Wall Mart or other retail chain) it's your own fault. Very convenient theory. The fact that it produce strong desire to shoot or hang all neoliberal economists notwithstanding ;-) ..."
May 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Christopher H., May 20, 2017 at 10:36 AM
From INET in today's links.

https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/the-new-normal

The New Normal

By Servaas Storm

MAY 19, 2017

Demand, Secular Stagnation and the Vanishing Middle-Class

The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 deeply scarred the U.S. economy, bringing nine dire years of economic stagnation, high and rising inequalities in income and wealth, steep levels of indebtedness, and mounting uncertainty about jobs and incomes

. Big parts of the U.S. were hit by elevated rates of depression, drug addiction and 'deaths of despair' (Case and Deaton 2017), as 'good jobs' (often in factories and including pension benefits and health care coverage) leading to careers, were destroyed and replaced by insecure, freelance, or precarious 'gigs'. All this is evidence that the U.S. is becoming a dual economy-two countries, each with vastly different resources, expectations and potentials, as America's middle class vanishes (Temin 2015, 2017).

The anger and despair crystalized into a 'groundswell of discontent' among those left behind, which likely helped to propel Donald Trump into the White House on the promise of 'making America great again'.

likezkova, May 20, 2017 at 12:35 PM

"The anger and despair crystalized into a 'groundswell of discontent' among those left behind, which likely helped to propel Donald Trump into the White House on the promise of 'making America great again'."

That's my feeling too about one of the key factor that propelled Trump -- "the anger and despair". For some, voting for Trump was a showing middle finger to Washington establishment. When jobs are gone, people are essentially put against the wall. Neoliberal politicians, be it "DemoRats", or "Repugs" do not care, as under neoliberalism this is a domain of "individual responsibility". The neoliberal stance is that you need to increase your value in the "job market" so that you will be eventually hired on better conditions. Very convenient theory for capital owners.

Thus, the battle lines between neoliberal and a "social contract" approach to employment are clearly cut. So far Wall Street, the City, and other worldwide "epicenters for free-market discipline," are winning the battle. According to "free market discipline" dogma, if you are hired at below living wave (as in Wall Mart or other retail chain) it's your own fault. Very convenient theory. The fact that it produce strong desire to shoot or hang all neoliberal economists notwithstanding ;-)

Academic prostitution is not that different and probably less noble that a regular one.

[May 20, 2017] Rosenstein Joins the Posse by Patrick J. Buchanan

After just 100 days in the office Trump already has a special prosecutor.
Notable quotes:
"... Without consulting the White House, he sandbagged President Trump, naming a special counsel to take over the investigation of the Russia connection that could prove ruinous to this presidency. ..."
"... Rod has reinvigorated a tired 10-month investigation that failed to find any collusion between Trump and Russian hacking of the DNC. Not a single indictment had come out of the FBI investigation. ..."
"... Yet, now a new special counsel, Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI, will slow-walk his way through this same terrain again, searching for clues leading to potentially impeachable offenses. What seemed to be winding down for Trump is now only just beginning to gear up. ..."
"... Why did Rosenstein capitulate to a Democrat-media clamor for a special counsel that could prove disastrous for the president who elevated and honored him? Surely in part, as Milbank writes, to salvage his damaged reputation. ..."
"... Rosenstein had gone over to the dark side. He had, it was said, on Trump's orders, put the hit on Comey. Now, by siccing a special counsel on the president himself, Rosenstein is restored to the good graces of this city. Rosenstein just turned in his black hat for a white hat. ..."
"... Democrats are hailing both his decision to name a special counsel and the man he chose. Yet it is difficult to exaggerate the damage he has done. As did almost all of its predecessors, including those which led to the resignation of President Nixon and impeachment of Bill Clinton, Mueller's investigation seems certain to drag on for years. ..."
"... Recall the famous adage that a competent district attorney could successfully indict a ham sandwich. ..."
"... Political trials are infamously witch hunts, and there isn't a witch hunt that couldn't miraculously find any number of witches to burn. ..."
"... One has to hand it to the Democrats. This strategy to get the ruling elite class back in both houses of congress and bring forth a shining night in armour for their next candidate is well crafted. The Clintons messed up the Obama Hope and Change Rhetoric. ..."
"... From the very outset of his presidency, U.S. President D.J. Trump either hired people who were against his presidential campaign all the time of last year or cozied up to perpetual political opponents while distancing himself from the very patriotic people who gave him the electoral college victory last November. ..."
"... Like Pres. Dick Nixon did, U.S. President D.J. Trump will also politically kill himself with one political misstep after another by giving his political opponents whatever they demand until it will be too late to reverse the course. ..."
"... "The real power in this country doesn't reside within the ballot box After months of leaks coming from the intelligence agencies, who bitterly oppose the new policy, and a barrage of innuendo, smears, and character assassination in the media, the will of the people has been abrogated: the Deep State has the last word. The denizens of Langley, and the career spooks within our seventeen intelligence agencies, have exercised their veto power – a power that is not written into the Constitution, but is nevertheless very real. Their goal is to not only make détente with Russia impossible but also to overthrow a democratically elected chief executive No matter what you think of Trump, this is an ominous development for all those who care about the future of our republic What we are witnessing is a "regime-change" operation, such as our intelligence agencies have routinely carried out abroad, right here in the United States This pernicious campaign is an attempt to criminalize dissent from the foreign policy "consensus." It is an effort by powerful groups within the national security bureaucracy, the media, and the military-industrial complex to stamp out any opposition to their program of perpetual war The reign of terror is about to begin: anyone who opposes our interventionist foreign policy is liable to be labeled a "Kremlin tool" – and could face legal sanctions. ..."
"... If Trump wasn't a narcissistic idiot, he could be well on the way to leading a takedown of establishment politics. Should have left Comey in to go nowhere, but Trump is a narcissistic idiot who does not read and his presidency is and will continue to be a miserable failure. Donald J. Trump is a Loser and a Laughingstock, plain and simple. There's nothing to see here. Does he have the ability to do better? Yes. Will he? Doubtful. Firing Comey is not impeachable or even wrong, it's just a blunder of monumental proportions. Trump's continued incompetent "explanations" of the decision raised red flags. This is not Trump Steaks Inc. This is the Presidency of the United States of America. ..."
May 20, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

"With the stroke of a pen, Rod Rosenstein redeemed his reputation," writes Dana Milbank of The Washington Post .

What had Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein done to be welcomed home by the Post like the prodigal son?

Without consulting the White House, he sandbagged President Trump, naming a special counsel to take over the investigation of the Russia connection that could prove ruinous to this presidency.

Rod has reinvigorated a tired 10-month investigation that failed to find any collusion between Trump and Russian hacking of the DNC. Not a single indictment had come out of the FBI investigation.

Yet, now a new special counsel, Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI, will slow-walk his way through this same terrain again, searching for clues leading to potentially impeachable offenses. What seemed to be winding down for Trump is now only just beginning to gear up.

Also to be investigated is whether the president tried to curtail the FBI investigation with his phone calls and Oval Office meetings with FBI Director James Comey, before abruptly firing Comey last week.

Regarded as able and honest, Mueller will be under media pressure to come up with charges. Great and famous prosecutors are measured by whom they convict and how many scalps they take. Moreover, a burgeoning special counsel's office dredging up dirt on Trump and associates will find itself the beneficiary of an indulgent press.

Why did Rosenstein capitulate to a Democrat-media clamor for a special counsel that could prove disastrous for the president who elevated and honored him? Surely in part, as Milbank writes, to salvage his damaged reputation.

After being approved 94-6 by a Senate that hailed him as a principled and independent U.S. attorney for both George Bush and Barack Obama, Rosenstein found himself being pilloried for preparing the document White House aides called crucial to Trump's decision to fire Comey.

Rosenstein had gone over to the dark side. He had, it was said, on Trump's orders, put the hit on Comey. Now, by siccing a special counsel on the president himself, Rosenstein is restored to the good graces of this city. Rosenstein just turned in his black hat for a white hat.

Democrats are hailing both his decision to name a special counsel and the man he chose. Yet it is difficult to exaggerate the damage he has done. As did almost all of its predecessors, including those which led to the resignation of President Nixon and impeachment of Bill Clinton, Mueller's investigation seems certain to drag on for years.

... ... ...

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever . MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR

Wilfred , says: May 18, 2017 at 9:58 pm
Any way we can get a Special Counsel to investigate Hillary?
Fran Macadam , says: May 18, 2017 at 11:56 pm
Recall the famous adage that a competent district attorney could successfully indict a ham sandwich.

Political trials are infamously witch hunts, and there isn't a witch hunt that couldn't miraculously find any number of witches to burn.

Cal , says: May 18, 2017 at 11:58 pm
Trump set up his own demise -- all the Jews like Rosenstein that he has appointed would really rather have the rabid evangelical Israel supporter Pence as president.
William Dalton , says: May 19, 2017 at 12:23 am
The appointment of former director Mueller to take charge of an investigation too hot for Rosenstein or anyone in his department to file a report on, particularly if no prosecution will be recommended, does not presage this affair will continue interminably. Months of work have already been put into the matter by the FBI. Mueller may arrive, ask those agents for a summary of what they have unearthed, say, "I don't see anything here. Do you think further work by you will uncover more?", and if they respond, "No", Mueller might very well take what he is given, file a report saying no prosecution is warranted, just as Jim Comey did in the Clinton matter, and go home.

The man is retired with honor. He doesn't need to make a name for himself with this or any other case. The last thing he wants to find out is that there is evidence that might result in the impeachment and criminal prosecution of the President of the United States.

StrategyK , says: May 19, 2017 at 2:59 am
Wasnt pat a happy supporter of the special counsel investigating Clinton? Now suddenly he is against such counsels? How about some priciples Mr buchanan?
StrategyK , says: May 19, 2017 at 3:13 am
And here is a hat tip for you aggrieved folks here. Trump brought this on himself. He could have avoided it all by simply letting Comey do his job. If there really is nothing in the Russia story, then Comey would have come up with nothing.

Trump has been used to running a family business all his life and a fake TV show as well where his and only his word runs. That is not how the government functions and nor should it be. What happened to the famous negotiator? The one who could make great deals? Who would learn quickly how to navigate the waters and make things happen. This person seems non existent. Lets see some of that please.

John Gruskos , says: May 19, 2017 at 8:57 am
Justin Raimondo correctly explains the significance of this development:

http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2017/05/18/the-special-counsel-comes-to-town-its-the-moscow-trials-revisited/

Liam , says: May 19, 2017 at 9:16 am
Wall Street swooned *not* because Trump's "populist" agenda is endangered but rather because Alt-Trump's bait-and-switch pro-Wall Street agenda is endangered. That Pat Buchanan cannot distinguish these is stunning to behold.
elizabeth , says: May 19, 2017 at 10:22 am
And if Hillary Clinton had been inaugurated in January, there wouldn't be a dozen Congressional committees pursuing specious investigations, egged on by right wing media? (Even this comment thread carries one such demand, and she is not in office.)

This is one outcome of a poisoned body politic. Roger Ailes was there at the beginning, and we are all sickened by his legacy.

Jack , says: May 19, 2017 at 10:40 am
Unfortunately, Buchanan seems to have ignored the fact that Rosenstein's decision to appoint a special prosecutor was sparked by Trump's precipitous and unnecessary decision to dismiss Comey. It was a foolish decision and now he's paying a price for it.
Dan Green , says: May 19, 2017 at 10:53 am
One has to hand it to the Democrats. This strategy to get the ruling elite class back in both houses of congress and bring forth a shining night in armour for their next candidate is well crafted. The Clintons messed up the Obama Hope and Change Rhetoric.
ukm1 , says: May 19, 2017 at 10:55 am
U.S. President D.J. Trump is himself 100% responsible for the political and legal debacles where he is in now and will be in for any foreseeable future!

From the very outset of his presidency, U.S. President D.J. Trump either hired people who were against his presidential campaign all the time of last year or cozied up to perpetual political opponents while distancing himself from the very patriotic people who gave him the electoral college victory last November.

Like Pres. Dick Nixon did, U.S. President D.J. Trump will also politically kill himself with one political misstep after another by giving his political opponents whatever they demand until it will be too late to reverse the course.

Kurt Gayle , says: May 19, 2017 at 10:57 am
John Gruskos (8:57 a.m.) is right. Justin Raimondo's column today is a "must read":

"The real power in this country doesn't reside within the ballot box After months of leaks coming from the intelligence agencies, who bitterly oppose the new policy, and a barrage of innuendo, smears, and character assassination in the media, the will of the people has been abrogated: the Deep State has the last word. The denizens of Langley, and the career spooks within our seventeen intelligence agencies, have exercised their veto power – a power that is not written into the Constitution, but is nevertheless very real. Their goal is to not only make détente with Russia impossible but also to overthrow a democratically elected chief executive No matter what you think of Trump, this is an ominous development for all those who care about the future of our republic What we are witnessing is a "regime-change" operation, such as our intelligence agencies have routinely carried out abroad, right here in the United States This pernicious campaign is an attempt to criminalize dissent from the foreign policy "consensus." It is an effort by powerful groups within the national security bureaucracy, the media, and the military-industrial complex to stamp out any opposition to their program of perpetual war The reign of terror is about to begin: anyone who opposes our interventionist foreign policy is liable to be labeled a "Kremlin tool" – and could face legal sanctions.

http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2017/05/18/the-special-counsel-comes-to-town-its-the-moscow-trials-revisited/

Bob K. , says: May 19, 2017 at 11:05 am
You tell it like it is, Pat! Once someone has sold his soul to the "dark side" his own reputation with it comes before the welfare of the Nation!
David Smith , says: May 19, 2017 at 11:37 am
What goes around, comes around. The Republicans did the same thing to Bill Clinton. Remember, if you can do it to them, they can do it to you. Be careful about the precedents you set.
Adriana I Pena , says: May 19, 2017 at 11:57 am
Has anyone considered that the opposition from career bureaucrats is due to their past experience as to what works and what doesn't? They can recognize a half-baked plan, concocted by someone who has only a hazy idea of what goes on (the guy who managed to admit that health care was "complicated" after touting on the campaign trail that it was easy). Add to it stubborness and unwillingness to learn, and those bureaucrats may think that they are staring at an accident waiting to happen.

What would you do in their place?

Mac61 , says: May 19, 2017 at 12:18 pm
If Trump wasn't a narcissistic idiot, he could be well on the way to leading a takedown of establishment politics. Should have left Comey in to go nowhere, but Trump is a narcissistic idiot who does not read and his presidency is and will continue to be a miserable failure. Donald J. Trump is a Loser and a Laughingstock, plain and simple. There's nothing to see here.

Does he have the ability to do better? Yes. Will he? Doubtful. Firing Comey is not impeachable or even wrong, it's just a blunder of monumental proportions. Trump's continued incompetent "explanations" of the decision raised red flags.

This is not Trump Steaks Inc. This is the Presidency of the United States of America. He will be held to a higher standard until such time as he realizes he cannot run this world's most powerful country like some sham casino operation he let fall into bankruptcy. And @Cal, this is not a Jewish conspiracy. If you can't see that Trump is an incompetent idiot narcissist, you can't see anything.

[May 19, 2017] Centrist Macron Yes, a dead-center insider for global capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... The media says what??? Hillary Clinton complains about the media? Which media says that? Give us ONE single example Hillary! Just one where the media says you can't talk about that. Just pure hypocrisy ..."
"... Superficially, there is a semblance of variance from the political establishment. Macron formed his En Marche (Forward) movement only a year ago. He has never held elected political office. And until three years ago hardly anyone had ever heard of him. ..."
"... Paradoxically, Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, congratulated the French people for "choosing liberty, equality and fraternity, and saying no to fake news." Paradoxical because everything about Emmanuel Macron's "meteoric rise" through elite banking and his equally stellar crossover to politics smacks of fabrication and fakery. ..."
"... Former banking colleagues recall that he wasn't particularly capable in his four years at Rothschild's while on a multi-million-euro income. But he "mastered the art of networking." In a Financial Times profile published before the election, a senior banker is quoted as saying: "What Mr Macron lacked in technical knowledge and jargon at first, he made up for with contacts in government." Other sources recall that "it was never quite clear who Macron worked for." ..."
"... Macron's En Marche does not have any members in parliament. His government will thus likely be comprised of patronage and technocrats selected from years of networking in the financial and Élysée Palace establishment. ..."
May 10, 2017 | www.eutimes.net

Everything about France's new president Emmanuel Macron suggests a theatrical production of hype and illusion. He is being "sold" to the masses as an "outsider" and "centrist", a benign liberal.

In reality, enter the economic hitman who will blow French society apart in the service of the oligarchy.

At age 39, Macron has been described as a "political wonderboy" and France's "youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte." The former Rothschild banker who reportedly once had the nickname "the Mozart of Finance" is now promising to renew France and bring the nation together, where people will no longer "vote for extremes."

Fittingly for the Mozart of Finance, the new president used the "grandest of backdrops for entrance on the world stage," when he made his victory speech on Sunday night in the courtyard of the Louvre, noted the Financial Times. His dramatic walk to the stage through the world-famous museum courtyard took a full four minutes. The night lights and shadows played with Macron's unsmiling, stoney face as he strode purposely forward amid the strains of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. The choice of the European Union's national anthem, rather than France's, is a harbinger of Macron's political project and the globalist interests he serves.

The media says what??? Hillary Clinton complains about the media? Which media says that? Give us ONE single example Hillary! Just one where the media says you can't talk about that. Just pure hypocrisy

Geographically, the Louvre is situated midway between the traditional political venues of the Place de la Concorde for the right, and La Bastille for the left. Here was Macron intimating once again, as he did during his campaign, that he represents neither right or left. He has vowed to overturn the bipartisan structure of French politics, creating a new "centrist" movement. Just like his other moniker of being an "outsider," however, this image of Macron is a deftly manicured illusion.

Superficially, there is a semblance of variance from the political establishment. Macron formed his En Marche (Forward) movement only a year ago. He has never held elected political office. And until three years ago hardly anyone had ever heard of him. Now he is to become the eighth president of the French Fifth Republic.

Paradoxically, Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, congratulated the French people for "choosing liberty, equality and fraternity, and saying no to fake news." Paradoxical because everything about Emmanuel Macron's "meteoric rise" through elite banking and his equally stellar crossover to politics smacks of fabrication and fakery. With his elite education at the Ecole National Academie (ENA) where future French political leaders are groomed, to his precocious elevation in investment banking, followed by his seamless entrance into top-flight government politics, Macron is evidently a person with powerful guiding forces behind him.

Former banking colleagues recall that he wasn't particularly capable in his four years at Rothschild's while on a multi-million-euro income. But he "mastered the art of networking." In a Financial Times profile published before the election, a senior banker is quoted as saying: "What Mr Macron lacked in technical knowledge and jargon at first, he made up for with contacts in government." Other sources recall that "it was never quite clear who Macron worked for."

As the Financial Times noted: "At the bank, Mr Macron navigated around the numerous conflicts of interest that arise in close-knit Parisian business circles, making good use of his connections as an Inspecteur des Finances - an elite corps of the very highest-ranking graduates from ENA."

After quitting private finance, Macron joined the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande, where he at first served as a "special advisor." In 2014, Hollande appointed him as economy minister where he drew up a draconian program to undermine French employment rights in favor of corporate profits. Macron resigned from his ministerial post only last year when he set up his own political party in anticipation of contesting the presidential election.

Macron's En Marche does not have any members in parliament. His government will thus likely be comprised of patronage and technocrats selected from years of networking in the financial and Élysée Palace establishment. What little is known about Macron's policies is his stated commitment to more stringent economic austerity, promises to slash €60 billion in public spending over the next five years and axe up to 120,000 state sector jobs. He is also setting to drive through more "business friendly" changes in labor laws that will allow bosses to more easily hire and fire employees. He is giving companies license to negotiate increased working hours and lower salaries outside of statutory law. So, the notion that Macron is some kind of benign "centrist" is an insult to common intelligence. He is a "centrist" only in the sense of illusory corporate media branding; in objective terms, Macron is a dedicated economic hitman for global capitalism.

Whatever one might think of his defeated rival Marine Le Pen of the Front National, she certainly had Macron accurately summed up when she referred to him as the "candidate of finance." Independent Socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was narrowly knocked out in the first round of the election on April 23, predicts that Macron will be a "disaster" for French society, blowing apart economic inequality and social contracts to turn the country into the kind of poverty-wage slavery seen in the US and Britain.

There is sound reason why the French and European political establishment exulted in Macron's victory. He is no outsider, overturning the status quo for a more democratic outcome. He is in fact a consummate insider who will pursue policies pandering to elite interests, at the expense of the great majority.

Macron's "centrist [sic] victory brought joy to Europe's political establishment," reported the New York Times, while the BBC informed of "palpable relief among European leaders." Outgoing President Francois Hollande – the most unpopular French leader ever – warmly congratulated Macron, as did incumbent prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve and other senior government figures. Macron had been endorsed by Hollande's so-called Socialist Party and the center-right Republicans. So much for his vaunted "outsider" image. Macron was also endorsed prior to the weekend vote by former US President Barack Obama and European leaders, including Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The irony of such brazen "electoral interference" is of course that this was what such Western leaders have accused Russia of. Again, it also shows that Macron will be a "centrist" in more ways than is meant. He will serve as a "dead-center" advocate of the transatlantic politics of Washington-led neoliberal capitalism and NATO militarism. The French President-elect published a political autobiography earlier this year entitled 'Revolution'. The only thing "revolutionary" about Macron's victory is that the political establishment has invented an image for itself that upturns reality.

The intense media marketing of Macron as a "centrist outsider" is a coup against the meaning of words and plain language. It is also worth noting that over 16 million French voters abstained or spoiled their votes against the 20 million who opted for Macron. French society, as for other Western nations, is riven by the ravages of global capitalism. And now here comes the "Mozart of Finance" to allegedly bring harmony from the appalling discord he and others like him have sown.

Source

[May 19, 2017] Notes From an Emergency Tech Feudalism

Notable quotes:
"... ByMaciej Cegłowski, a painter and computer guywho livesin San Francisco and runs a bookmarking site called Pinboard. Originally published at Idle Words ..."
"... This is the text version of a talk I gave on May 10, 2017, at the re:publica conference in Berlin. ..."
"... The emergency I want to talk about is the rise of a vigorous ethnic nationalism in Europe and America. This nationalism makes skillful use of online tools, tools that we believed inherently promoted freedom, to advance an authoritarian agenda. ..."
"... Facebook is the dominant social network in Europe, with 349 million monthly active users. Google has something like 94% of market share for search in Germany. The servers of Europe are littered with the bodies of dead and dying social media sites. The few holdouts that still exist, like Xing , are being crushed by their American rivals. ..."
"... And so Trump is in charge in America, and America has all your data. This leaves you in a very exposed position. US residents enjoy some measure of legal protection against the American government. Even if you think our intelligence agencies are evil, they're a lawful evil. They have to follow laws and procedures, and the people in those agencies take them seriously. ..."
"... But there are no such protections for non-Americans outside the United States. The NSA would have to go to court to spy on me; they can spy on you anytime they feel like it. ..."
"... A very cleverly designed trap, and one in which the cattle to be slaughtered all believe they are choosing their own destiny even as they are herded inexorably closer to the slaughterhouse. ..."
May 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on May 19, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. This is a wide-ranging, lively, sobering talk about the implications of tech feudalism and what we can do about it.

ByMaciej Cegłowski, a painter and computer guywho livesin San Francisco and runs a bookmarking site called Pinboard. Originally published at Idle Words

This is the text version of a talk I gave on May 10, 2017, at the re:publica conference in Berlin.

The good part about naming a talk in 2017 'Notes from an Emergency' is that there are so many directions to take it.

The emergency I want to talk about is the rise of a vigorous ethnic nationalism in Europe and America. This nationalism makes skillful use of online tools, tools that we believed inherently promoted freedom, to advance an authoritarian agenda.

Depending on where you live, the rise of this new right wing might be nothing new. In the United States, our moment of shock came last November, with the election of Donald Trump. The final outcome of that election was:

65.8 million for Clinton
63.0 million for Trump

This was the second time in sixteen years that the candidate with fewer votes won the American Presidency. There is a bug in the operating system of our democracy, one of the many ways that slavery still casts its shadow over American politics.

But however tenuously elected, Trump is in the White House, and our crisis has become your crisis. Not just because America is a superpower, or because the forces that brought Trump to power are gaining ground in Europe, but because the Internet is an American Internet.

Facebook is the dominant social network in Europe, with 349 million monthly active users. Google has something like 94% of market share for search in Germany. The servers of Europe are littered with the bodies of dead and dying social media sites. The few holdouts that still exist, like Xing , are being crushed by their American rivals.

In their online life, Europeans have become completely dependent on companies headquartered in the United States.

And so Trump is in charge in America, and America has all your data. This leaves you in a very exposed position. US residents enjoy some measure of legal protection against the American government. Even if you think our intelligence agencies are evil, they're a lawful evil. They have to follow laws and procedures, and the people in those agencies take them seriously.

But there are no such protections for non-Americans outside the United States. The NSA would have to go to court to spy on me; they can spy on you anytime they feel like it.

This is an astonishing state of affairs. I can't imagine a world where Europe would let itself become reliant on American cheese, or where Germans could only drink Coors Light.

In the past, Europe has shown that it's capable of identifying a vital interest and moving to protect it. When American aerospace companies were on the point of driving foreign rivals out of business, European governments formed the Airbus consortium , which now successfully competes with Boeing.

A giant part of the EU budget goes to subsidize farming , not because farming is the best use of resources in a first-world economy, but because farms are important to national security, to the landscape, to national identity, social stability, and a shared sense of who we are.

But when it comes to the Internet, Europe doesn't put up a fight. It has ceded the ground entirely to American corporations. And now those corporations have to deal with Trump. How hard do you think they'll work to defend European interests?

The Feudal Internet

The status quo in May 2017 looks like this:

There are five Internet companies-Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Together they have a market capitalization just under 3 trillion dollars.

Bruce Schneier has called this arrangement the feudal Internet . Part of this concentration is due to network effects, but a lot of it is driven by the problem of security. If you want to work online with any measure of convenience and safety, you must choose a feudal lord who is big enough to protect you.

These five companies compete and coexist in complex ways.

Apple and Google have a duopoly in smartphone operating systems. Android has 82% of the handset market , iOS has 18%.

Google and Facebook are on their way to a duopoly in online advertising. Over half of the revenue in that lucrative ($70B+) industry goes to them, and the two companies between them are capturing all of the growth (16% a year).

Apple and Microsoft have a duopoly in desktop operating systems. The balance is something like nine to one in favor of Windows , not counting the three or four people who use Linux on the desktop, all of whom are probably at this conference.

Three companies, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, dominate cloud computing. AWS has 57% adoption , Azure has 34%. Google has 15%.

Outside of China and Russia, Facebook and LinkedIn are the only social networks at scale. LinkedIn has been able to survive by selling itself to Microsoft.

And outside of Russia and China, Google is the world's search engine .

That is the state of the feudal Internet, leaving aside the court jester, Twitter, who plays an important but ancillary role as a kind of worldwide chat room.

Google in particular has come close to realizing our nightmare scenario from 1998, a vertically integrated Internet controlled by a single monopoly player. Google runs its own physical network, builds phone handsets, develops a laptop and phone operating system, makes the world's most widely-used browser, runs a private DNS system, PKI certificate authority, has photographed nearly all the public spaces in the world, and stores much of the world's email.

But because it is run by more sympathetic founders than Bill Gates, because it builds better software than early Microsoft did, and because it built up a lot of social capital during its early "don't be evil" period, we've given it a pass.

Security

It's not clear that anyone can secure large data collections over time. The asymmetry between offense and defense may be too great. If defense at scale is possible, the only way to do it is by pouring millions of dollars into hiring the best people to defend it. Data breaches at the highest levels have shown us that the threats are real and ongoing. And for every breach we know about, there are many silent ones that we won't learn about for years.

A successful defense, however, just increases the risk. Pile up enough treasure behind the castle walls and you'll eventually attract someone who can climb them. The feudal system makes the Internet more brittle, ensuring that when a breach finally comes, it will be disastrous.

Each of the big five companies, with the important exception of Apple, has made aggressive user surveillance central to its business model. This is a dilemma of the feudal internet. We seek protection from these companies because they can offer us security. But their business model is to make us more vulnerable, by getting us to surrender more of the details of our lives to their servers, and to put more faith in the algorithms they train on our observed behavior.

These algorithms work well, and despite attempts to convince us otherwise, it's clear they work just as well in politics as in commerce. So in our eagerness to find safety online, we've given this feudal Internet the power to change our offline world in unanticipated and scary ways.

Globalism

These big five companies operate on a global scale, and partly because they created the industries they now dominate, they enjoy a very lax regulatory regime. Everywhere outside the United States and EU, they are immune to government oversight, and within the United Statesl the last two administrations have played them with a light touch. The only meaningful attempt to regulate surveillance capitalism has come out of the European Union.

Thanks to their size and reach, the companies have become adept at stonewalling governments and evading attempts at regulation or oversight. In many cases, this evasion is noble. You don't want Bahrain or Poland to be able to subpoena Facebook and get the names of people organizing a protest rally. In other cases, it's purely self-serving. Uber has made a sport of evading all authority, foreign and domestic, in order to grow.

Good or bad, the lesson these companies have drawn is the same: they need only be accountable to themselves.

But their software and algorithms affect the lives of billions of people. Decisions about how this software works are not under any kind of democratic control. In the best case, they are being made by idealistic young people in California with imperfect knowledge of life in a faraway place like Germany. In the worst case, they are simply being read out of a black-box algorithm trained on God knows what data.

This is a very colonial mentality! In fact, it's what we fought our American War of Independence over, a sense of grievance that decisions that affected us were being made by strangers across the ocean.

Today we're returning the favor to all of Europe.

Facebook, for example, has only one manager in Germany to deal with every publisher in the country. One! The company that is dismantling the news industry in Germany doesn't even care enough to send a proper team to manage the demolition.

Denmark has gone so far as to appoint an ambassador to the giant tech companies, an unsettling but pragmatic acknowledgement of the power relationship that exists between the countries of Europe and Silicon Valley.

So one question (speaking now as an EU citizen): how did we let this happen? We used to matter! We used to be the ones doing the colonizing! We used to be a contender!

How is it that some dopey kid in Palo Alto gets to decide the political future of the European Union based on what they learned at big data boot camp? Did we lose a war?

The lack of accountability isn't just troubling from a philosophical perspective. It's dangerous in a political climate where people are pushing back at the very idea of globalization. There's no industry more globalized than tech, and no industry more vulnerable to a potential backlash.

China and Russia show us that the Internet need not be a world-wide web, that it can be subverted and appropriated by the state. By creating a political toolkit for authoritarian movements, the American tech giants may be putting their own future at risk.

Irreality

Given this scary state of the world, with ecological collapse just over the horizon, and a population sharpening its pitchforks, an important question is how this globalized, unaccountable tech industry sees its goals. What does it want? What will all the profits be invested in?

What is the plan?

The honest answer is: rocket ships and immortality.

I wish I was kidding.

The best minds in Silicon Valley are preoccupied with a science fiction future they consider it their manifest destiny to build. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are racing each other to Mars. Musk gets most of the press, but Bezos now sells $1B in Amazon stock a year to fund Blue Origin. Investors have put over $8 billion into space companies over the past five years, as part of a push to export our problems here on Earth into the rest of the Solar System.

As happy as I am to see Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos fired into space, this does not seem to be worth the collapse of representative government.

Our cohort of tech founders is feeling the chill breath of mortality as they drift into middle age. And so part of what is driving this push into space is a more general preoccupation with 'existential risk'.

Musk is persuaded that we're living in a simulation, and he or a fellow true believer has hired programmers to try to hack it.

Peter Thiel, our most unfortunate German import, has built a survival retreat for himself in New Zealand .

Sam Altman hoards gold in Big Sur .

OpenAI, a religious cult thinly disguised as a research institution, has received $1B in funding to forestall the robot rebellion.

The biggest existential risk, of course, is death, so a lot of money is going to make sure that our big idea men don't expire before the world has been received the full measure of their genius.

Google Ventures founded the very secretive life extension startup Calico , with $1.5B dollars in funding. Google loses $4B a year on its various "moon shots", which include life extension. They employ Ray Kurzweil, who believes we're still on track for immortality by 2045 . Larry Ellison has put $370M to anti-aging research , as anybody would want to live in a world with an immortal Larry Ellison. Our plutocrats are eager to make death an opt-out experience.

Now, I'm no fan of death. I don't like the time commitment, or the permanence. A number of people I love are dead and it has strained our relationship.

But at the same time, I'm not convinced that a civilization that is struggling to cure male-pattern baldness is ready to take on the Grim Reaper. If we're going to worry about existential risk, I would rather we start by addressing the two existential risks that are indisputably real-nuclear war and global climate change-and working our way up from there.

But real problems are messy. Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven't been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people's lives.

The tech industry enjoys tearing down flawed institutions, but refuses to put work into mending them. Their runaway apparatus of surveillance and manipulation earns them a fortune while damaging everything it touches. And all they can think about is the cool toys they'll get to spend the profits on.

The message that's not getting through to Silicon Valley is one that your mother taught you when you were two: you don't get to play with the new toys until you clean up the mess you made.

The circumstances that have given the tech industry all this power will not last long. There is a limited time in which our small caste of tech nerds will have the power to make decisions that shape the world. By wasting the talents and the energies of our brightest people on fantasy role play, we are ceding the future to a more practical group of successors, some truly scary people who will take our tools and use them to advance a very different agenda.

To recap: the Internet has centralized into a very few hands. We have an extremely lucrative apparatus of social control, and it's being run by chuckleheads.

The American government is also being run by chuckleheads.

The question everybody worries about is, what happens when these two groups of chuckleheads join forces?

The Winter

For many Americans, the election was a moment of profound shock. It wasn't just Trump's policies that scared us. It was the fact that this unserious, cruel, vacant human being had been handed the power of the American presidency.

Scariest to me was how little changed. No one in the press or in social media had the courage to say "we fucked up." Pundits who were stunned by the election result still made confident predictions about what would happen next, as if they had any claim to predictive power.

After the election both Facebook and Google looked at the mountains of data they had collected on everyone, looked at the threats the Trump Administration was making-to deport 11 million people, to ban Muslims from entering the country-and said to themselves, "we got this."

The people who did worry were tech workers. For a moment, we saw some political daylight appear between the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the tech sector, and the small clique of billionaires who run it. While the latter filed in to a famously awkward meeting with Trump and his children at the top of his golden tower, the former began organizing in opposition, including signing a simple but powerful pledge to resign rather than help Trump fulfill one of his key campaign promises: barring Muslims from the United States.

This pledge was a small gesture, but it represented the first collective action by tech workers around a political agenda that went beyond technology policy, and the first time I had ever seen tech workers come out in open defiance of management.

A forest of new organizations sprung up. I started one, too, called Tech Solidarity, and started traveling around the country and holding meetings with tech workers in big cities. I had no idea what I was doing, other than trying to use a small window of time to organize and mobilize our sleepy industry.

That feeling of momentum continued through when Trump took office. The Women's March in January brought five million people out onto the streets. America is not used to mass protests. To see the streets of our major cities fill with families, immigrants, in many cases moms and daughters and grandmothers marching together, that was a sight to take your breath away.

Hard on the heels of it came the travel ban, an executive order astonishing not just in its cruelty-families were split at airports; in one case a mom was not allowed to breastfeed her baby -but in its ineptitude. For a week or two lawyers were camped out at airports, working frantically, sleeping little, with spontaneous efforts to bring them supplies, get them funding, to do anything to help. We held a rally in San Francisco that raised thirty thousand dollars from a room of a hundred people. Some of the organizations we were helping couldn't even attend, they were too busy at the airport. It didn't matter.

The tech companies did all they could to not get involved. Facebook has a special ' safety check ' feature for exactly this kind of situation, but never thought of turning it on at airports. Public statements out of Silicon Valley were so insipid as to be comical .

Employees, however, were electrified. It looked like not only visitors but permanent residents would be barred from the United States. Google employees staged a walkout with the support of their management; Facebook (not wishing to be left behind) had its own internal protest a couple of days later, but kept it a secret. Every time the employees pushed, management relented . Suddenly top executives were going on the record against the travel ban.

People briefly even got mad at Elon Musk , normally a darling of the tech industry, for his failure to resign from the President's advisory council. The silent majority of tech employees had begun to mobilize.

And then nothing happened. This tech workforce, which had gotten a taste of its own power, whose smallest efforts at collective action had produced immediate results, who had seen just how much sway they held, went back to work. The worst of Trump's travel ban was blocked by the court, and we moved on. With the initial shock of Trump in office gone, we now move from crisis to crisis, but without a plan or a shared positive goal.

The American discomfort with prolonged, open disagreement has set in.

When I started trying to organize people in November, my theory was that tech workers were the only group that had leverage over the tech giants.

My reasoning went like this: being monopolies or near-monopolies, these companies are impervious to public pressure. Boycotts won't work, since opting out of a site like Google means opting out of much of modern life.

Several of these companies are structured (unusually for American corporations) in such a way that the board can't control the majority of votes. At Google and Facebook, for example, the ultimate say goes to the founders. And since Google and Facebook are the major online publishing outlets, it's unlikely that the press would ever criticize them, even if journalists were capable of that kind of sustained attention.

So that leaves just one point of leverage: employees. Tech workers are hard to find, expensive to hire, take a long time to train, and can have their pick of jobs. Tech companies are small compared to other industries, relying heavily on automation. If even a few dozen workers on an ops team acted in concert, they would have the power to shut down a tech giant like Google. All they had to do was organize around a shared agenda.

Workers seemed receptive to the argument, but confused about how they could make collective action a reality. Trade unions in the United States have been under attack for decades. There is almost no union culture in technology. Our tech workers are passive and fatalistic.

So here I am in Europe, wondering, what on Earth can we do?

And I keep coming back to this idea of connecting the tech industry to reality. Bringing its benefits to more people, and bringing the power to make decisions to more people.

Closing the Loop

After Communism collapsed in Poland, I started visiting the country every eight months or so. Even in the darkest period of the 1990's, it was striking to see people's material standard of living improve. Suddenly people had cars, phones, appliances. These gains were uneven but broad. Even farmers and retirees, though they were the hardest hit, had access to consumer goods that weren't available before. You could see the change in homes and in public spaces. It was no longer necessary for office workers in Kraków to change their shirts at lunchtime because of soot in the air. The tap water in Warsaw went from light brown to a pleasant pale yellow.

For all the looting, corruption, and inefficiency of privatization, enough of the new wealth got through that the overall standard of living went up. Living standards in Poland in 2010 had more than doubled from 1990.

In the same time period, in the United States, I've seen a whole lot of nothing. Despite fabulous technical progress, practically all of it pioneered in our country, there's been a singular failure to connect our fabulous prosperity with the average person.

A study just out shows that for the median male worker in the United States, the highest lifetime wages came if you entered the workforce in 1967 . That is astonishing. People born in 1942 had better lifetime earnings prospects than people entering the workforce today.

You can see this failure to connect with your own eyes even in a rich place like Silicon Valley. There are homeless encampments across the street from Facebook headquarters . California has a larger GDP than France , and at the same time has the highest poverty rate in America , adjusted for cost of living. Not only did the tech sector fail to build up the communities around it, but it's left people worse off than before, by pricing them out of the places they grew up.

Walk the length of Market Street (watch your step!) in San Francisco and count the shuttered store fronts. Take Caltrain down to San Jose, and see if you can believe that it is the richest city in the United States , per capita. The massive increase in wealth has not connected with a meaningful way with average people's lives even in the heart of tech country, let alone in the forgotten corners of the country.

The people who run Silicon Valley identify with progressive values. They're not bad people. They worry about these problems just like we do; they want to help.

So why the failure to do anything?

Like T.S. Eliot wrote :

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

As I said earlier, the tech industry hates messy problems. We'd rather dream up new problems we can solve from scratch.

One reason nothing happens is a culture of tax evasion. There's a folk belief in American business that if you pay full taxes, you're not doing your fiduciary duty, and your board will fire you.

Apple now has a quarter trillion dollars offshore that it refuses to put into direct productive use in the United States. Apple boasts that its products are designed in California-they will sell you a $300 book called Designed By Apple In California . But they do their damndest to make sure that California never sees a penny of their overseas profits.

You in the EU are all too familiar with this brand of tax evasion. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft have all been under investigation or in court on charges of evading European taxes.

Another reason good intentions don't translate is that capitalism, especially venture capital, doesn't work very well when there is vast wealth inequality.

The richest 20 people in tech control a fortune of half a trillion dollars in personal wealth, more than the GDP of Sweden.

This small subculture of wealthy technophiles promotes investment into luxury goods for rich people, or into "mom as a service" types of companies that cater to spoiled workaholics in the tech industry. And so we end up with things like a $120M juice squeezer , or three startups competing to deliver organic baby food .

Silicon Valley brings us the worst of two economic systems: the inefficiency of a command economy coupled with the remorselessness of laissez-faire liberalism.

One reason it's been difficult to organize workers in the tech industry is that people have a hard time separating good intentions from results. But we have to be cold-blooded about this.

Tech companies are run by a feckless leadership accountable to no one, creating a toolkit for authoritarianism while hypnotized by science-fiction fantasy.

There are two things we have to do immediately. The first is to stop the accelerating process of tracking and surveillance before it can do any more harm to our institutions.

The danger facing us is not Orwell, but Huxley. The combo of data collection and machine learning is too good at catering to human nature, seducing us and appealing to our worst instincts. We have to put controls on it. The algorithms are amoral; to make them behave morally will require active intervention.

The second thing we need is accountability. I don't mean that I want Mark Zuckerberg's head on a pike, though I certainly wouldn't throw it out of my hotel room if I found it there. I mean some mechanism for people whose lives are being brought online to have a say in that process, and an honest debate about its tradeoffs.

I'm here today because I believe the best chance to do this is in Europe. The American government is not functional right now, and the process of regulatory capture is too far gone to expect any regulations limiting the tech giants from either party. American tech workers have the power to change things, but not the desire.

Only Europe has the clout and the independence to regulate these companies. You can already point to regulatory successes, like forcing Facebook to implement hard delete on user accounts. That feature was added with a lot of grumbling, but because of the way Facebook organizes its data, they had to make it work the same for all users. So a European regulation led to a victory for privacy worldwide.

We can do this again.

Here are some specific regulations I would like to see the EU impose:

With these rules in place, we would still have Google and Facebook, and they would still make a little bit of money. But we would gain some breathing room. These reforms would knock the legs out from underground political ad campaigns like we saw in Brexit, and in voter suppression efforts in the US election. They would give publishers relief in an advertising market that is currently siphoning all their earnings to Facebook and Google. And they would remove some of the incentive for consumer surveillance.

The other thing I hope to see in Europe is a unionized workforce at every major tech company. Unionized workers could demand features like ephemeral group messaging at Facebook, a travel mode for social media, a truly secure Android phone, or the re-imposition of the wall between Gmail and DoubleClick data. They could demand human oversight over machine learning algorithms. They could demand non-cooperation with Trump.

And I will say selfishly, if you can unionize here, it will help us unionize over there.

If nothing else, we need your help and we need you to keep the pressure on the tech companies, the Trump Administration, and your own politicians and journalists, so that the disaster that happened in the United States doesn't repeat itself in Germany.

You have elections coming soon. Please learn from what happened to us. Please stay safe.

And please regulate, regulate, regulate this industry, while you can.

Thank you.

DJG , May 19, 2017 at 10:20 am

Definitely worth reading and reading again. What popped on first reading is the description of the rise of income in Poland and the stagnation of income in the U S of A. What pops for me on seccond reading is these paragraphs about tax evasion and income inequality: >>

One reason nothing happens is a culture of tax evasion. There's a folk belief in American business that if you pay full taxes, you're not doing your fiduciary duty, and your board will fire you.

Apple now has a quarter trillion dollars offshore that it refuses to put into direct productive use in the United States. Apple boasts that its products are designed in California-they will sell you a $300 book called Designed By Apple In California. But they do their damndest to make sure that California never sees a penny of their overseas profits.

You in the EU are all too familiar with this brand of tax evasion. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft have all been under investigation or in court on charges of evading European taxes.

Another reason good intentions don't translate is that capitalism, especially venture capital, doesn't work very well when there is vast wealth inequality.

[Tax evasion isn't just a folk belief: It is taught in U.S. law schools and in business schools, along with union busting.]

Jef , May 19, 2017 at 10:52 am

What the author inadvertently points out is that capitalism, particularly the so called consumer capitalism that we have is like a board game;

It has a begining when anything is possible.
A middle when a broad spectrum of players prosper and there is extra money for infrastructure and public amenities.
Then an end where wealth is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and the waste stream has taken its toll.

justanotherprogressive , May 19, 2017 at 10:23 am

A long but brilliant article that everyone should take the time to read! I want all the techies in my family to read it because it points out some of the uneasiness even techies feel about the their industry.

My favorite paragraph (although there were many close seconds):

"But real problems are messy. Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven't been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people's lives."
Yep .

Thomas Williams , May 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

Nice piece: Two things to note

– The Clintons, Bush & Obama presided over this mess and aided in it's creation but the albatross of abuse is being hung on Trump.

– He shares an enormous egotistical blind spot common to tech workers. He wants unionization and strength for tech workers but seems to advocate for a globalized work force. More than anything else, foreign workers are responsible for wage suppression in the US. Is he saying 'Tech workers are special and should be pampered but others should work for $1.85 per day"?

– The above points are not germaine to his central theme, which is important and well written. But it does raise questions about his values.

Jacobite_In_Training , May 19, 2017 at 11:11 am

" Boycotts won't work, since opting out of a site like Google means opting out of much of modern life ."

Good .Opt out of modern life. Now. Get as far away from it as you possibly can. You'll be the better person for it. There was a time I felt 'modern life' was the place to be .Now the older me realizes 'modern life' is a sham, an illusion, and a trap.

A very cleverly designed trap, and one in which the cattle to be slaughtered all believe they are choosing their own destiny even as they are herded inexorably closer to the slaughterhouse.

Amusingly, although my younger naive and idealistic self had a significant part to play in the great tech revolutions and evolutions through the 90's and early 2000's (for which I will be eternally regretful and ashamed, given how the creations we labored on have been whored out by the pimps in the oligarchy and government) I was also incredibly lucky to have grown up on a farm and learned how to use a hoe, a hand powered washing machine, how to gather eggs and grow things.

Real things, things that can feed people. But more importantly .how to grow things like spirit and independence that do not rely on any flow of electrons to come to glorious fruition.

I also so much better understand what that prophet Edward Abbey was trying to warn us about all those decades ago .

" Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell "

Tom , May 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

Indeed. The promise of technology has devolved into Clickbait Nation - where millions mindlessly click on endless deceptive headlines like rats pushing levers in a giant Skinner box.

[May 19, 2017] What the author inadvertently points out is that capitalism, particularly the so called consumer capitalism that we have is like a board game; only at the beginning anything is possible

Notable quotes:
"... What the author inadvertently points out is that capitalism, particularly the so called consumer capitalism that we have is like a board game; It has a beginning when anything is possible. A middle when a broad spectrum of players prosper and there is extra money for infrastructure and public amenities. Then an end where wealth is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and the waste stream has taken its toll. ..."
"... Tell me, when where these good old days, of "true" capitalism? Back when we were enslaving Africans? ..."
"... workers fail to ..."
"... Yeah, it's really a pity that author of such a well-written piece confuses GDP with living standards. If that was the case people wouldn't vote for nationalist and populists. ..."
"... serving their own interests; ..."
"... In our imperial system, it does not matter to the people whether they vote, or how; it matters, occasionally, to the contestants' position in the power structure, but nothing more than that. ..."
"... there are rumors that the Federal Liberal Party in Canada is exploring this. ..."
"... 8) Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose a duty upon: (a) A provider of an electronic store, gateway, marketplace or other means of purchasing or downloading software or applications to review or enforce compliance with this section by those applications or software; or (b) A provider of an interactive computer service to review or enforce compliance with this section by third-party content providers. As used in this paragraph, "interactive computer service" means any information service, system or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such services or systems operated or offered by libraries or educational institutions. (9) This section does not apply to general audience Internet websites, general audience online services, general audience online applications or general audience mobile applications, even if login credentials created for an operator's site, service or application may be used to access those general audience sites, services or applications. ..."
May 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
DJG , May 19, 2017 at 10:20 am

Definitely worth reading and reading again. What popped on first reading is the description of the rise of income in Poland and the stagnation of income in the U S of A. What pops for me on seccond reading is these paragraphs about tax evasion and income inequality: >>

One reason nothing happens is a culture of tax evasion. There's a folk belief in American business that if you pay full taxes, you're not doing your fiduciary duty, and your board will fire you.

Apple now has a quarter trillion dollars offshore that it refuses to put into direct productive use in the United States. Apple boasts that its products are designed in California-they will sell you a $300 book called Designed By Apple In California. But they do their damndest to make sure that California never sees a penny of their overseas profits.

You in the EU are all too familiar with this brand of tax evasion. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft have all been under investigation or in court on charges of evading European taxes.

Another reason good intentions don't translate is that capitalism, especially venture capital, doesn't work very well when there is vast wealth inequality.

[Tax evasion isn't just a folk belief: It is taught in U.S. law schools and in business schools, along with union busting.]

Jef , May 19, 2017 at 10:52 am

What the author inadvertently points out is that capitalism, particularly the so called consumer capitalism that we have is like a board game; It has a beginning when anything is possible. A middle when a broad spectrum of players prosper and there is extra money for infrastructure and public amenities. Then an end where wealth is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and the waste stream has taken its toll.

diptherio , May 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

Another reason good intentions don't translate is that capitalism, especially venture capital, doesn't work very well when there is vast wealth inequality.

The author does not understand that capitalism creates vast wealth inequality: that's the whole point. Inequality is a feature, not a bug, and so trying to save capitalism while eliminating vast wealth inequalities is working at cross-purposes, and only one of those aims can be successful and guess which one it always is?

justanotherprogressive , May 19, 2017 at 11:56 am

+100

Wisdom Seeker , May 19, 2017 at 12:39 pm

"capitalism creates vast wealth inequality: that's the whole point."

Not in Adam Smith's world, nor Henry Ford's. True capitalists prosper by creating wealth which improves the lives of everyone around them. Crony capitalists, the ones we have now, strip wealth from others. Witness today's bubble-and-bust cycles rather than the prior widespread economic growth.

The capitalism you see today is an abomination of the original concept, just as Mnuchin's claim to support "Glass Steagall" is an abomination. And don't get me started on the "Affordable" Care Act, or the "Patriot" act which gutted the Constitution

P.S. The original author's article is riddled with glaring factual errors, but he has the big picture right: it's time to restore Antitrust Law and apply it to the internet monopolists. And restore privacy rights and and it's a long list. Start fighting now, if you want anything to happen in your lifetime!

Carla , May 19, 2017 at 2:05 pm

The author's central thesis strikes me as correct: that Europe provides the only hope for applying any brakes whatsoever to the American tech sector. I hope someone over there is listening, as prospects here seem utterly hopeless.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Freedom means people should have reasonable alternatives, choices on any product, service or ideology. Today's internet experience lacks that freedom aspect quite a bit.

diptherio , May 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Hokum. The "theory" is that it benefits everyone, but the reality is quite different. Tell me, when where these good old days, of "true" capitalism? Back when we were enslaving Africans? Back when we were hanging Wobblies? Back when we had to put nets around our factories to keep the workers from committing suicide? Please the dictatorship of the proletariat worked out just fine in Marx's theory, too.

clinical wasteman , May 19, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Another one for the gallery of glaring factual errors: "capitalists prosper by creating wealth". Unless that was an epic typo for something like: " workers fail to prosper while creating wealth".

As for "the original concept" of "capitalism", in which district of the astral plane did you find that? Apart from his anthropological sci-fi about the origins of money in "barter", Adam Smith generally tried to write about the real world. Just like Marx, except that Smith was speaking for a different class interest, whose "moral philosopher" imagined himself to be. For that reason, "capital" and "capitalist"(n.) were important concepts for Smith and Marx alike, but "capitalism" - a sort of hybrid implying the social reality and the ideology cheerleading for it at once without ever really distinguishing between the two - is an abstraction that neither had much time for, and one that only really caught on once both were dead.

Wisdom Seeker , May 19, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Wasteman – for a start, unlike todays Cronyists, Adam Smith understood that capitalism would not function for the benefit of all unless monopolies were restrained by government:

"The interest of the dealers [referring to stock owners, manufacturers, and merchants], however, in any particular branch of trade or manufacture, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, and absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991), pages 219-220)"

See here for more details:
https://machineryofpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/adam-smith-on-the-crisis-of-capitalism-2/

Another interesting perspective is from J. K. Galbraith (sorry I lost the source) who pointed out that in an economy with healthy competition, profit margins are lower, but employment and wage income are necessarily higher.

diptherio , May 19, 2017 at 5:14 pm

And pray tell, who is it who will restrain the monopolists? Our elected officials, who just so happen to be under the control of those same capitalists? Which is possible due to the vast wealth inequalities that capitalism generates .

Capitalists, almost without exception, do everything in their power to avoid competition. The idea is to make a profit and competition is antithetical to that.

Lots of things are good in theory, like three-way relationships. Reality, on the other hand, feels no obligation to correspond with theory.

Vatch , May 19, 2017 at 3:27 pm

capitalism creates vast wealth inequality

Not exactly. Capitalism extends or expands existing inequality. It was the development of agriculture several thousand years ago that broke the approximate egalitarianism of the hunter gatherer lifestyle. Even that had some inequality, but not much. For more information, see the early chapters of The Great Leveler , by Walter Scheidel.

diptherio , May 19, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Hence the "vast" part. I'm not so silly as to think that before capitalism there was not wealth inequality. But not the type where a few hundred people control more wealth than a few billion. It would seem to me, on just a gut level based on a little reading, that whereas systems like feudalism were unequal but relatively stable*, i.e. the level of inequality stayed the same generation to generation, capitalism's dynamics have caused inequality to skyrocket, both nationally and globally.

*Or at least cyclically stable, as with regular debt jubilees in Sumer.

HBE , May 19, 2017 at 3:11 pm

"Living standards in Poland in 2010 had more than doubled from 1990." This sentence annoyed me to no end. Yes, the reason that is true is because every capitalist country in the world worked to smash and destroy communism without pause for its entire life and then internal and external oligarchs snatched up everything.

Living standards increased over that period in Poland but so did inequality and poverty. So the country got some shiny new consumer goods (which the author seems enamored by) while the populations poverty rate continues to climb. Thank god for privatization ("Suddenly people had cars, phones, appliances" and suddenly poverty surged as well), and the end of those no good dirty commies, right?

vlado , May 19, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Yeah, it's really a pity that author of such a well-written piece confuses GDP with living standards. If that was the case people wouldn't vote for nationalist and populists.

In any case, despite very good performance of Polish economy, its convergence to West Europe at least in terms of GDP (PPP) is questionable as the cases of Czech Republic and Slovenia show. See the article The convergence dream 25 years on in Bruegel

visitor , May 19, 2017 at 6:04 pm

There is a reason why people voted for the populist PiS and ousted the liberals who had made such a great job at bringing Poland into the EU and its "market society".

justanotherprogressive , May 19, 2017 at 10:23 am

A long but brilliant article that everyone should take the time to read! I want all the techies in my family to read it because it points out some of the uneasiness even techies feel about the their industry.

My favorite paragraph (although there were many close seconds):

"But real problems are messy. Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven't been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people's lives."
Yep .

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 19, 2017 at 2:28 pm

That popular vote comment is misleading as well.

A previous example was given about a hypothetical House vote, where, in yes-districts, voters are split 51-49 yes (assuming that is so lots of times, congress persons vote 'their conscience') and voters in no-districts are 90-10 for no. Yes votes win by one.

In that case, the popular vote actually is for No.

And that has nothing to do with slavery.

It's how the math works in a representative voting system.

PhilM , May 19, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Before responding to MLTPB, I'd like to voice my opinion that the OP article is thoughtful and reflects a decent level of awareness of the reality of the world, along with positive solutions that would be achievable in a polity that had the public good as its aim.

As for MLTPB's opinion on the vote, I beg to differ: it has everything to do with slavery. That's how the numbers work in our system, which is imperial, not representative. It's a bitch when instead of Augustus you get Caligula, but it doesn't change the basic reality of how the system works, and has worked since Ike. In our imperial system, it does not matter to the people whether they vote, or how; it matters, occasionally, to the contestants' position in the power structure, but nothing more than that.

Here is the reality: the people in any office in our federal government-basically everyone who lives in or around Washington DC-have the same relationship to American people as they have to Russian, Chinese, or Indian people: that of serving their own interests; predation, if you will; animal husbandry, if you prefer. They will act so as to extract the maximum value consistent with not-killing-the-goose-that-lays-the-golden-eggs from every person, wherever they are located, whatever their religion, whatever their nationality, as long as they are powerless, which means everyone who is a private citizen, however rich, or a small business; everyone who is not a Forbes 500 corporation.

The notion that the federal government is somehow tied to "Americans," or even to the geographical entity now known as the USA, much less to the values expressed in the so-called "founding documents," is a child's bedtime story.

It's amusing that it took the election of Trump to bring this realization about; but really, that is why some of us actually voted for Trump: to rub the idiots' noses in the reality of their political environment. (Not me, mind you; because I do not bother to vote: when I want something done, I write a check, like any experienced consumer of government services.)

There is a cure, but it is not changing the election mechanism so the choice of president results from the popular vote totals in a population of 300 million. No, it means changing it so there are 1000 presidents and 100,000 representatives and 1000 supreme courts, and 1000 republics. Those are the numbers that would achieve representative government the way it was designed to function by people who knew. Alternatively, you could reduce federal taxation to 1/10th of its current level, and assign all other taxation to the township, with a population limit of 20,000. Now you would have something that is no longer imperial.

But since most people since the dawn of history have lived under organizations that are imperial with perfect happiness, the appropriate course of action is not to struggle in futility for change, which would almost certainly do more harm than good, and result in an outcome that would just use up the world's resources more swiftly in the chaos of consumption and war. The optimum course is to watch reruns of amusing sitcoms and eat good food; to gratify the animal pleasures and such pleasures of the mind as remain to aging bodies mistreated by pharmaceuticals; and to die as quickly and painlessly as the authorities permit.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm

In our imperial system, it does not matter to the people whether they vote, or how; it matters, occasionally, to the contestants' position in the power structure, but nothing more than that.

In that case, the popular vote question is not a question anymore (with the current 1 president, instead of 1,000 setup), as you point out here:

There is a cure, but it is not changing the election mechanism so the choice of president results from the popular vote totals in a population of 300 million.

I have mentioned before that Rome had, at one time, 2 or 4 co-emperors. You suggest 1,000 presidents, as a solution. That's nothing to do with slavery, except in the sense that we're all serfs or slaves. It about making one's voice heard within a smaller group, having someone representing you along with fewer constituents.

The inherent problem of having representatives vote, versus direct voting, is still here, as in the example given above. The math scales up and down.

Thomas Williams , May 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

Nice piece: Two things to note
– The Clintons, Bush & Obama presided over this mess and aided in it's creation but the albatross of abuse is being hung on Trump.
– He shares an enormous egotistical blind spot common to tech workers. He wants unionization and strength for tech workers but seems to advocate for a globalized work force. More than anything else, foreign workers are responsible for wage suppression in the US. Is he saying 'Tech workers are special and should be pampered but others should work for $1.85 per day"?
– The above points are not germaine to his central theme, which is important and well written. But it does raise questions about his values.

Knot Galt , May 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Agreed. Trump = Chucklehead and the shadow in T.S. Eliot's poem

Jacobite_In_Training , May 19, 2017 at 11:11 am

" Boycotts won't work, since opting out of a site like Google means opting out of much of modern life ."

Good .Opt out of modern life. Now. Get as far away from it as you possibly can. You'll be the better person for it. There was a time I felt 'modern life' was the place to be .Now the older me realizes 'modern life' is a sham, an illusion, and a trap.

A very cleverly designed trap, and one in which the cattle to be slaughtered all believe they are choosing their own destiny even as they are herded inexorably closer to the slaughterhouse.

Amusingly, although my younger naive and idealistic self had a significant part to play in the great tech revolutions and evolutions through the 90's and early 2000's (for which I will be eternally regretful and ashamed, given how the creations we labored on have been whored out by the pimps in the oligarchy and government) I was also incredibly lucky to have grown up on a farm and learned how to use a hoe, a hand powered washing machine, how to gather eggs and grow things.

Real things, things that can feed people. But more importantly .how to grow things like spirit and independence that do not rely on any flow of electrons to come to glorious fruition.

I also so much better understand what that prophet Edward Abbey was trying to warn us about all those decades ago .

" Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell "

Tom , May 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

Indeed. The promise of technology has devolved into Clickbait Nation - where millions mindlessly click on endless deceptive headlines like rats pushing levers in a giant Skinner box.

justanotherprogressive , May 19, 2017 at 11:55 am

Is "opting out" really an option? Are we willing to opt out out of modern medicine too?
Whether we like it or not, we aren't opting out of using the internet, so we aren't opting out of anything this author talked about .

Sooooo ..wouldn't a better idea be to learn as much as we can about this technology and get involved in its decision making, so that we can control it and make it work for rather than against us?

Jacobite_In_Training , May 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I've had that debate before, people typically starting with the 'well, you are posting using the Internet so you aren't really opting out of anything', but thats a simplistic approach, and the process of opting out is a matter of degrees – it is never a binary on/off.

One can continue 'opting out' of aspects of society, and technology, to as extreme a position as you wish .even back to the stone age, should you choose. (sort of the ultimate boycott)

Tradeoffs are inherent to the process, no argument there .just be aware that the experience of opting out is itself liberating. You realize all these shiny objects, and expensive things, and
complicated processes that you have been raised to think of as critical necessities that cannot ever EVER be parted with .may not be so critical as you think.

Sometimes the tradeoffs will be negative, more often – in my experience – (once you have solved the problems presented by improvising/adapting/overcoming) you will find the 'tradeoffs' are a net positive.

You are, of course, a creature with free will and free to do what you choose . opt in, opt out .as you will. :)

Thuto , May 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Agreed, there are several gradations to this whole opting out thing. I for one am completely absent from any social media platform and feel no loss whatsoever because of this. It takes a committed group of independent thinkers to deconstruct and debunk this whole narrative that you're either "all-in" with these internet platforms or you opt out and life passes you by as you're consigned to an existence of irrelevance and ignorance about the world around you.

MoiAussie , May 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you are very selective about the social media in which you participate.

Thuto , May 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm

If by social media we are talking facebook, instagram et al, then I have never participated in any of those. To be sure, this is not meant to sound like I take a dim view on those who do, the point is the narrative is typically framed, at least in my part of the world, as an all-in/opt-out binary in which participation in social media platforms is a prime determinant in who "remains relevant" and who doesn't

Vatch , May 19, 2017 at 3:29 pm

I don't have a MyFace account.

I love saying that!

justanotherprogressive , May 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm

I'm not sure what you think you are opting out of. If you are on the internet, then you have to have a carrier – Verizon, Comcast, etc. Do you think their data collection systems are different than what Google, Facebook, or any other social media does?

jrs , May 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm

and least they aren't funding trips to mars? :)

jrs , May 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Yea I think the truly open minded probably try many of the internet platforms just to see what they are like and then delete their accounts (this does not need to entail posting one's entire private life there needless to say). Not a lot of open mindedness out there really though, it's all extremes: rigid abstinence from it all, or hopeless addiction to it.

I mean I understand a priori rejection of the majority of what capitalism produces (except if it's necessary to life then well), but it is a pretty uninformed position from which to criticize (as is being addicted to it really).

PKMKII , May 19, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Even if you opt out personally, you're still going to be interacting with a lot of people, businesses, governments, etc., that are dependent on the Five Horsemen. Pay cash at the local business, but travel down the supply chain that brought the goods there and you'll run into someone using cloud storage, social media, consumer surveillance data, etc.

Wisdom Seeker , May 19, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Regarding "get involved in its decision making" –

Ordinary folks have really only two ways to do this. One is in their consumer choices. Avoid or boycott companies that abuse their customers – hit them in their wallets. The other is in their voting and political participation push privacy rights, antitrust enforcement, etc. higher on the political agenda.

It's entirely possible to be comfortably social without "social media". Personally, I boycott Facebook, Twitter, and (as much as possible) Google and Ebay. Google is tough because they have infiltrated the schools with Google Classroom (which has value, but do we really want an internet advertising company to be gathering data on our children?). Microsoft is tough because of the Office monopoly, but just because I have to use it at work doesn't mean I need to pay them any money anywhere else in my life There are also ways to buy online without using Amazon.

lyman alpha blob , May 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm

There are other search engines, browsers, email services, etc. besides those operated by the giants. DuckDuckGo, protonmail, and the Opera browser (with free built-in VPN!) work well for me.

The problem is, if these other services ever do get popular enough, the tech giants will either block them by getting their stooges appointed to Federal agencies and regulating them out of existence, or buy them.

I've been running from ISP acquisitions for years, as the little guys get bought out I have to find an even littler one. Luckily I've found a local ISP, GWI, that I've used for years now. They actually came out against the new regulations that would allow them to gather and sell their customers' data. Such anathema will probably wind up with their CEO publicly flayed for going against all that is good and holy according to the Five Horsemen.

Mel , May 19, 2017 at 1:26 pm

There are two sides to opting out.
When net neutrality is gone, then capital and market concentration will transform the internet into what cable TV is now, and nobody will need it much.
Contrariwise the big tech companies are taking over the implementation of major social functions:
– if you can't vote without the internet
– if you can't spend your money without the internet
– if you can't contact your friends without the internet
– if you can't get news without the internet - this has already happened - just look at us all here.
– if you can't join a political party without liking it on your Facebook page and following it on Twitter - there are rumors that the Federal Liberal Party in Canada is exploring this.
As I said somewhere else, all this would amount to an uncontracted and unspecified public/private partnership (various ones, actually) and all entered into unexamined. Time to examine them while they're still easy to change.

HotFlash , May 19, 2017 at 5:58 pm

there are rumors that the Federal Liberal Party in Canada is exploring this.

Interesting. Are they going to get us all free internet? If not, I think they will find a big surprise.

jrs , May 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

To assume that workers in ANY Industry (including tech where we know the big players have rigged the labor market against tech workers) have more power than consumers seems pretty unrealistic to me. Of course consumer power is one dollar one vote and hardly democratic but at least consumers do have options and some power. The employee role is a powerless one in the U.S..

Kris Alman , May 19, 2017 at 11:40 am

We can either continue on the knowledge economy road, where our personal data is commodified. Or we could fight for a knowledge society, where we collectively access knowledge while protecting our identity and privacy. I vote for the latter.

Google would plant a chip in every child if they could. Short of that, they have insinuated themselves in public schools, hoping that every kid in America will consummate their relationship with this giant after they graduate from k-12. See this NY Times article from last weekend: How Google Took Over the Classroom

It's hard to mitigate their reach. In a landmark student privacy law passed in California (with an even weaker version passed in my state of Oregon), they built in what I call a Google exemption clause.

( 8) Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose a duty upon:
(a) A provider of an electronic store, gateway, marketplace or other means of purchasing or downloading software or applications to review or enforce compliance with this section by those applications or software; or
(b) A provider of an interactive computer service to review or enforce compliance with this section by third-party content providers. As used in this paragraph, "interactive computer service" means any information service, system or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such services or systems operated or offered by libraries or educational institutions.
(9) This section does not apply to general audience Internet websites, general audience online services, general audience online applications or general audience mobile applications, even if login credentials created for an operator's site, service or application may be used to access those general audience sites, services or applications.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Child and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy (a group with which I have worked) just put out a Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy .

Patient Privacy Rights has an upcoming international summit that is free. Stream it! See: https://patientprivacyrights.org/health-privacy-summit/

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 19, 2017 at 2:07 pm

We can either continue on the knowledge economy road, where our personal data is commodified. Or we could fight for a knowledge society, where we collectively access knowledge while protecting our identity and privacy. I vote for the latter.

When I am not accessing knowledge, I would still prefer to remain private.

For example, what videos I access for entertainment should private. It's not knowledge I access, just something to pass time.

That those activities should b protected as well.

Privacy-protected-society is probably a broader term than knowledge society.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 19, 2017 at 2:09 pm

And the Google exemption clause reads like a Facebook exemption clause as well (or Amazon or Warner Cable exemption clause).

[May 19, 2017] The Great Realignment and the New class

May 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

point , May 19, 2017 at 04:12 PM

Paul says: May 19, 2017 at 04:12 PM

"...Republicans ... went all in behind Trump..."

Well, maybe for those with selective memories. There was plenty of consternation among Repubs about lining up behind the guy.

libezkova , May 19, 2017 at 04:41 PM
Here is part of an insightful comment by William Meyer in which he made an important point about "great realignment" of the "New Class" (aka "the USA nomenklatura") with capital owners which happened in 70th.

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/11/13/on-the-alleged-failure-of-liberal-progressivism/#comment-698333

William Meyer 11.13.16 at 9:40 pm 4

My observation is that the New Class (professionals, lobbyists, financiers, teachers, engineers, etc.) have ruled the country in recent decades. For much of the twentieth century this class was in some tension with corporations, and used their skills at influencing government policy to help develop and protect the welfare state, since they needed the working class as a counterweight to the natural influence of corporate money and power. However, somewhere around 1970 I think this tension collapsed, since corporate managers and professionals realized that they shared the same education, background and interests.

Vive la meritocracy. This "peace treaty" between former rivals allowed the whole newly enlarged New Class to swing to the right, since they really didn't particularly need the working class politically anymore. And since it is the hallmark of this class to seek prestige, power and money while transferring risk away from themselves, the middle class and blue collar community has been the natural recipient. Free trade (well, for non-professionals, anyway), neoliberalism, ruthless private equity job cutting, etc., etc. all followed very naturally. The re-alignment of the Democratic Party towards the right was a natural part of this evolution.

I think the 90% or so of the community who are not included in this class are confused and bewildered and of course rather angry about it. They also sense that organized politics in this country – being chiefly the province of the New Class – has left them with little leverage to change any of this. Watching the bailouts and lack of prosecutions during the GFC made them dimly realize that the New Class has very strong internal solidarity – and since somebody has to pay for these little mistakes, everyone outside that class is "fair game."

So in that sense–to the extent that you define liberal as the ideology of the New Class (neoliberal, financial-capitalistic, big corporate-friendly but opposed to non-meritocratic biases like racism, sexism, etc.) is "liberalism", I think it is reasonable to say that it has bred resistance and anger among the "losers." As far as having "failed", well, we'll see: the New Class still controls almost all the levers of power. It has many strategies for channeling lower-class anger and I think under Trump we'll see those rolled out.

Let me be clear, I'm not saying Donald Trump is leading an insurgency against the New Class – but I think he tapped into something like one and is riding it for all he can, while not really having the slightest idea what he's doing.
Perhaps some evolution in "the means of production" or in how governments are influenced will ultimately develop to divide or downgrade the New Class, and break its lock on the corridors of power, but I don't see it on the horizon just yet. If anyone else does, I'd love to hear more about it.

[May 19, 2017] The witch hunt is an order of magnitude worse than during the runup to the Iraq War by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... Unfortunately, while identifying this past week as the proverbial 'beginning of the end' for Herr Donald's presidency isn't all that hard, untangling precisely why the President won't be able to weather this storm and will eventually be abandoned by the Republican Party is a little more difficult; especially in light of the fact that partisan mainstream liberals are still shouting objectively insane conspiracy theories about Russiagate even though Trump's total lack of respect for his job and fat f*cking mouth have all but handed them his political a** on a platter" ..."
"... The headline: "Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources" [ Reuters ]. The body: "The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far." Ah, the sources are "people." Excellent. We're making real progress, here. I mean, at least they aren't dinosaurs or space aliens. ..."
"... Leakers From the Deep State Need to Face Criminal Charges" ..."
May 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Lambert Strether of Corrente

New Cold War

Well, this ratchets up the hysteria a notch:

I'm genuinely amazed. The cray cray is an order of magnitude worse than the run-up to the Iraq War. Go ahead and read the article; the thesis is that Russian bots on the Twitter are a bigger threat to the United States than the fake stories the Bush White House planted in the press to start the Iraq War. As always, the scandal is what's normal. Oh, and when did James " Not Wittingly " Clapper emerge as a Hero of The Republic? Did I not get the memo? Presenting Clapper as a defender of "the very foundation of our democratic political system" (his words) is like presenting Jerry Sandusky as a defender of the value of cold showers.

"More than 10 centrist Republicans over the past 48 hours have criticized Trump for reportedly sharing classified information with Russian officials or allegedly trying to quash an FBI investigation" [ Politico ].

"Two moderate Senate Republicans suggest the need to consider a special prosecutor" [ WaPo ]. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). This happened well before the Rosenstein announcement; I'm guessing it was the crack in the dam.

"4 Reasons Why Robert Mueller Is an Ideal Special Counsel" [ The Nation ]. "[Mueller] was among the individuals in the Justice Department who assembled at Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bedside in 2004 to block the Bush White House's attempt to renew a surveillance policy that Mueller and others, including James Comey, deemed to be illegal." That's good, but 2017 – 2004 = 13 years. That's a long time for a halo to stay buffed (as we saw with Comey).

"Unfortunately, while identifying this past week as the proverbial 'beginning of the end' for Herr Donald's presidency isn't all that hard, untangling precisely why the President won't be able to weather this storm and will eventually be abandoned by the Republican Party is a little more difficult; especially in light of the fact that partisan mainstream liberals are still shouting objectively insane conspiracy theories about Russiagate even though Trump's total lack of respect for his job and fat f*cking mouth have all but handed them his political a** on a platter" [ Nina Illingworth ]. Maybe Nina will "untangle" this in a later post.

The headline: "Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources" [ Reuters ]. The body: "The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far." Ah, the sources are "people." Excellent. We're making real progress, here. I mean, at least they aren't dinosaurs or space aliens.

UPDATE "The Media Elite Is Indulging Dangerous Fantasies About Removing Trump From Office"

[ The Federalist ]. I don't often agree with the Federalist, but I think this is a good perspective. "The country is deeply divided. People have taken to attacking each other in the streets and threatening congressmen when they venture outside Washington. We're still recovering from a presidential election that actually ended marriages and tore families apart. Trump's election was, more than anything else, a giant middle finger to the political establishment, which has lost the confidence of the American people. If now seems like the right time for that establishment to launch an unconstitutional coup to remove the president through a specious application of the 25th Amendment, then I respectfully submit that you're underestimating the precariousness of national life at this moment." Another way of thinking about this: Who, exactly, makes the case to the American people? That somebody would have to be an elected official trusted by the great majority of the American people (and most definitely not a gaggle of long-faced politicians sitting at a big table). Who would that somebody be? Paul Ryan? Joe Lieberman? Jimmy Carter? Oprah? Walter Cronkite is dead. So is Mr. Rogers. So who, exactly? Some general? Which?

"Leakers From the Deep State Need to Face Criminal Charges" [ FOX News ] and "Kucinich: 'Deep State' Trying to 'Destroy The Trump Presidency'" [ FOX News ]. I juxtapose these to show the vacuity of the term "deep state." Can you imagine FOX saying "ruling class" or "factional conflicts in the ruling class"? No?

[May 19, 2017] Trump is just a one acute symptom of the underling crisis of the neoliberal social system, that we experience. So his removal will not solve the crisis.

Notable quotes:
"... When Trump becomes president by running against the nation's neoliberal elite of both parties, it was a strong, undeniable signal that the neoliberal elite has a problem -- it lost the trust of the majority American people and is viewed now, especially Wall Street financial sharks, as an "occupying force". ..."
"... That means that we have the crisis of the elite governance or, as Marxists used to call it "a revolutionary situation" -- the situation in which the elite can't govern "as usual" and common people (let's say the bottom 80% of the USA population) do not want to live "as usual". Political Zugzwang. The anger is boiling and has became a material force in the most recent elections. ..."
"... The elites also ran American foreign policy, as they have throughout U.S. history. Over the past 25 years they got their country bogged down in persistent wars with hardly any stated purpose and in many instances no end in sight-Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya. Many elites want further U.S. military action in Ukraine, against Iran, and to thwart China's rise in Asia. Aside from the risk of growing geopolitical blowback against America, the price tag is immense, contributing to the country's ongoing economic woes. ..."
"... Thus did this economic turn of events reflect the financialization of the U.S. economy-more and more rewards for moving money around and taking a cut and fewer and fewer rewards for building a business and creating jobs. ..."
"... ...Now comes the counterrevolution. The elites figure that if they can just get rid of Trump, the country can return to what they consider normalcy -- the status quo ante, before the Trumpian challenge to their status as rulers of America. That's why there is so much talk about impeachment even in the absence of any evidence thus far of "high crimes and misdemeanors." That's why the firing of James Comey as FBI director raises the analogy of Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre." ..."
"... That's why the demonization of Russia has reached a fevered pitch, in hopes that even minor infractions on the part of the president can be raised to levels of menace and threat. ..."
"... There is no way out for America at this point. Steady as she goes could prove highly problematic. A push to remove him could prove worse. Perhaps a solution will present itself. But, even if it does, it will rectify, with great societal disquiet and animosity, merely the Trump crisis. The crisis of the elites will continue, all the more intractable and ominous. ..."
May 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

libezkova, May 19, 2017 at 10:44 AM

Trump is just a one acute symptom of the underling crisis of the neoliberal social system, that we experience. So his removal will not solve the crisis.

And unless some kind of New Deal Capitalism is restored there is no alternative to the neoliberalism on the horizon.

But the question is: Can the New Deal Capitalism with its "worker aristocracy" strata and the role of organized labor as a weak but still countervailing force to corporate power be restored ? I think not.

With the level of financialization achieved, the water is under the bridge. The financial toothpaste can't be squeezed back into the tube. That's what makes the current crisis more acute: none of the parties has any viable solution to the crisis, not the will to attempt to implement some radical changes.

When Trump becomes president by running against the nation's neoliberal elite of both parties, it was a strong, undeniable signal that the neoliberal elite has a problem -- it lost the trust of the majority American people and is viewed now, especially Wall Street financial sharks, as an "occupying force".

That means that we have the crisis of the elite governance or, as Marxists used to call it "a revolutionary situation" -- the situation in which the elite can't govern "as usual" and common people (let's say the bottom 80% of the USA population) do not want to live "as usual". Political Zugzwang. The anger is boiling and has became a material force in the most recent elections.

I think Robert W. Merry analysis of the situation is pretty insightful. In his article in the American Conservative ( http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/removing-trump-wont-solve-americas-crisis/) he made the following observations:

At least Republican elites resisted the emergence of Trump for as long as they could. Some even attacked him vociferously. But, unlike in the Democratic Party, the Republican candidate who most effectively captured the underlying sentiment of GOP voters ended up with the nomination. The Republican elites had to give way. Why? Because Republican voters fundamentally favor vulgar, ill-mannered, tawdry politicians? No, because the elite-generated society of America had become so bad in their view that they turned to the man who most clamorously rebelled against it.

... ... ...

The elites also ran American foreign policy, as they have throughout U.S. history. Over the past 25 years they got their country bogged down in persistent wars with hardly any stated purpose and in many instances no end in sight-Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya. Many elites want further U.S. military action in Ukraine, against Iran, and to thwart China's rise in Asia. Aside from the risk of growing geopolitical blowback against America, the price tag is immense, contributing to the country's ongoing economic woes.

... ... ...

Then there is the spectacle of the country's financial elites goosing liquidity massively after the Great Recession to benefit themselves while slamming ordinary Americans with a resulting decline in Main Street capitalism. The unprecedented low interest rates over many years, accompanied by massive bond buying called "quantitative easing," proved a boon for Wall Street banks and corporate America while working families lost income from their money market funds and savings accounts. The result, says economic consultant David M. Smick, author of The Great Equalizer , was "the greatest transfer of middle-class and elderly wealth to elite financial interests in the history of mankind." Notice that these post-recession transactions were mostly financial transactions, divorced from the traditional American passion for building things, innovating, and taking risks-the kinds of activities that spur entrepreneurial zest, generate new enterprises, and create jobs. Thus did this economic turn of events reflect the financialization of the U.S. economy-more and more rewards for moving money around and taking a cut and fewer and fewer rewards for building a business and creating jobs.

...Now comes the counterrevolution. The elites figure that if they can just get rid of Trump, the country can return to what they consider normalcy -- the status quo ante, before the Trumpian challenge to their status as rulers of America. That's why there is so much talk about impeachment even in the absence of any evidence thus far of "high crimes and misdemeanors." That's why the firing of James Comey as FBI director raises the analogy of Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre."

That's why the demonization of Russia has reached a fevered pitch, in hopes that even minor infractions on the part of the president can be raised to levels of menace and threat.

... ... ...

There is no way out for America at this point. Steady as she goes could prove highly problematic. A push to remove him could prove worse. Perhaps a solution will present itself. But, even if it does, it will rectify, with great societal disquiet and animosity, merely the Trump crisis. The crisis of the elites will continue, all the more intractable and ominous.

IMHO Trump betrayal of his voters under the pressure from DemoRats ("the dominant neoliberal wing of Democratic Party", aka "Clinton's wing") makes the situation even worse. a real Gordian knot. Or, in chess terminology, a Zugzwang.

[May 19, 2017] Demorats and boiling anger of lower 80 percent of the US population

economistsview.typepad.com

libezkova - , May 17, 2017 at 07:10 PM

May 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
"Democrats have spent the last generation opposing cuts to the tax rates on the rich "

Did Bill Clinton opposed tax cut for the rich? While being in the pocket of Wall Street.

Pretty brave assertion that has no connection to reality...

EMichael - , May 17, 2017 at 08:42 PM
He raised taxes on them you Russian troll.
libezkova - , May 18, 2017 at 07:25 PM
He raised income taxes for the top 1.5% and dramatically lowered capital gain tax. As rich get bulk of their income from capital gains and bonds he lowered taxes for rich. Is this so difficult to understand ?

As for "Russian troll" label, that only demonstrates your level brainwashing and detachment from reality. Clinical case of a politically correct neocon. People like you, as well as "Washington swamp", underestimate how angry people outside, let's say, top 20% are -- angry enough to elect Trump.

This boiling anger is now an important factor in the USA politics. That's why the US neocons feels do insecure and resort to dirty tricks to depose Trump. They want the full, 100% political power back.

Even the fact that Trump conceded the most important of his election promises is not enough for them. Carthago delenda est -- Trump must go -- is the mentality. But if it comes to the impeachment, "demorats" (aka neoliberal democrats) might see really interesting things, when it happens. It might well be that this time neocons/neolibs might really feel people wrath. I might be wrong as psychopaths are unable to experience emotions, only to fake them.

We are definitely living in interesting times.

[May 19, 2017] The instrumental and transformation view of the benefits of imperialism is reflected in comments I once read by Charles deGaulle who, as I recall saw the massacre of the Gauls by Julius Caesar, and the integration of the Gauls into the Roman polity as an essential step towards the emergence of a modern Europe

Notable quotes:
"... An alternative and modern view is that imperialism and colonialism are unreservedly adverse for the "natives' in that it deprives them of the freedom to shape their own futures. So many of us from the old colonies would not agree that imperialism the best thing that happened to us. But this debate continues. ..."
"... He who pays the piper calls the tune. ..."
"... What you are saying, sociologically, is that the Roman military conquests spread enabling technology. Well, it certainly is hard to suggest a counter-intuitive, except Jesus Christ. ..."
May 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

JA, May 18, 2017 at 08:02 PM

The instrumental and transformation view of the benefits of imperialism is reflected in comments I once read by Charles deGaulle who, as I recall saw the massacre of the Gauls by Julius Caesar, and the integration of the Gauls into the Roman polity as an essential step towards the emergence of a modern Europe. [I wish I could find the reference].

An alternative and modern view is that imperialism and colonialism are unreservedly adverse for the "natives' in that it deprives them of the freedom to shape their own futures. So many of us from the old colonies would not agree that imperialism the best thing that happened to us. But this debate continues.

XXX, May 18, 2017 at 08:29 PM

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I suspect that your citation is reasonably accurate, historically. What you are saying, sociologically, is that the Roman military conquests spread enabling technology. Well, it certainly is hard to suggest a counter-intuitive, except Jesus Christ.

[May 19, 2017] Is neo-imprealism about which Branko Milanovic talks just neoliberal neocolonialism?

Notable quotes:
"... Installing compliant regime using the forces of internal "fifth column" of neoliberalism (which, is some cases, consists predominantly of former communists like happened in the USSR and China ;-). Actually, a step from communism to neoliberalism for Communist elite ("nomenklatura") was easy as neoliberalism is "Trotskyism for the rich." If necessary/possible it removes democratically elected governments from the power by claiming that election are falsified and the government is authoritarian (unlike the puppets they want to install). ..."
"... After puppets came to power they mandate austerity, burden the country with debt most of which is stolen and repatriated to the West. The only new idea that neoliberals introduced in the old scenario of colonization is that the crisis for financial and political takeover can be manufactured and instead of psychical occupation of the colony you can use "comprador" regime and rule the country indirectly via financial mechanisms. This is the essence of Washington consensus. ..."
May 18, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Is "neo-imperialism" the only path to development? [ in the current circumstances]

libezkova, May 18, 2017 at 08:55 PM

Yes, in a sense, "the rise of Asia" was a side effect of global neoliberal revolution. So the key here not imperialism per ce, but neoliberalism. Unfortunately it is missing from "questions to be asked" list and that diminished the value of the article.

"(whence the origins of this transformation? the role of the nation-state and imperialism? the role of the bourgeois-led independence movements?)"

Neo-imperialism (or, more correctly, neocolonialism) is intrinsically connected with neoliberalism and, by extension, with "casino capitalism" -- oversized role of financial sector under neoliberalism as the rent extraction mechanism (via "debt slavery"). It uses instead of old-fashion occupation of the country, political and financial takeover the countries in crisis.

Installing compliant regime using the forces of internal "fifth column" of neoliberalism (which, is some cases, consists predominantly of former communists like happened in the USSR and China ;-). Actually, a step from communism to neoliberalism for Communist elite ("nomenklatura") was easy as neoliberalism is "Trotskyism for the rich." If necessary/possible it removes democratically elected governments from the power by claiming that election are falsified and the government is authoritarian (unlike the puppets they want to install).

After puppets came to power they mandate austerity, burden the country with debt most of which is stolen and repatriated to the West. The only new idea that neoliberals introduced in the old scenario of colonization is that the crisis for financial and political takeover can be manufactured and instead of psychical occupation of the colony you can use "comprador" regime and rule the country indirectly via financial mechanisms. This is the essence of Washington consensus.

That make neocolonialism more sustainable as the illusion of sovereignty is preserved. For example for all practical purposes Greece is now a colony. But armed struggle against occupation forces will not happen as there is no physical occupation forces in the country. They are all virtual ;-)

"Regime change" favorable to neoliberal globalization is what the idea of "color revolution" is about. It can occur even in the country that already has a brutal neocolonial neoliberal administration. Like was the case with Yanukovich regime in Ukraine. That means that we can't separate neocolonialism and neoliberal globalization. They are two sides of the same coin.

Also the development is not equivalent to the growth of GDP, even if we use purchase parity method of calculation of GDP. Standard of living of population and the growth of GDP can be detached under neoliberalism. Thay are not the same thing.

Simultaneously, like under classic imperialism, the population of the "host" county (the imperial power) suffers too, because it carries the increasing burden of maintaining and expanding of the empire. The current situation in the USA is clear example of this trend.

We also clearly see the attempts to lower the level of income to subsistence level in the USA (Wal-Mart), so this part of Marxism still have some validity. It looks like neoliberalism is not that interested in maintaining "worker aristocracy" in the "host" country. It might be replaced by upper strata of "guard labor" and "national security parasites".

Industrialization of China was an interesting historical event -- the result to three very improbable events.

1. Voluntarily conversion of China leadership of Communist Party to neoliberalism ( Deng Xiaoping theory "It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice." )

2. The USA successful attempt to play China against the USSR and Warsaw block.

3. The neoliberal revolution in the USA itself, which removed the idea of sharing profits with working class (New Deal Capitalism), and opened the path to outsourcing first manufacturing and then services to the low wage countries, making China a very lucrative target for the transfer of manufacturing and wage arbitrage. Timewise it corresponded with retirement of the managerial class which fought in WWII and replacement of this generation with more technocratic and more "neoliberally brainwashed" boomers.

Another interesting nuance is that out of "Asian tigers", only China can be viewed as nominally sovereign nation.

Other countries are to various degrees vassals of the USA. And that puts strict limits to their growth. Actually Trump election might be a signal to those nations: "know you place".

The idea that "Thus the seeds of the idea that imperialism may undermine class struggle in developed countries were sown and that had far reaching consequences." presuppose the working class, in classic Marxist tradition, has "revolutionary potential", the energy and the desire to overthrow the existing order.

This part of Marxism proved to be false. It was the social-democratic parties which were key to mobilizing workers.

This idea of the tremendous importance of the party for the modern society and that one party rule can stimulate economic development was actually inherited from Marxism by national socialism. Mussolini was a former prominent Italian social-democrat.

The "iron rule of oligarchy" also severely undermined the Marxist idea of "socialist state" and the possibility of the rule of working class (and democracy as a political system -- Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy).

It is rumored that close to his death and seeing the emergence of "nomenklatura" as a new ruling class in the Soviet Russia Lenin exclaimed "My God, what we have done !".

[May 19, 2017] Is neo-imperialism the only path to development

May 19, 2017 | glineq.blogspot.com
As is well-known (or should be well-known) Marxism has gradually developed two approaches to imperialism. Marx's own position was (until the very last years of his life) essentially and unbendingly positive: imperialism, however brutal and disruptive, was the engine whereby more advanced social formation, namely capitalism, was introduced in and transformed more backward societies. Marx's own writings on the British conquest of India are fairly unambiguous in that respect. Engels' writings on the French conquest of Algeria are (as is usually the case when one compares Engels' and Marx's writing styles) even more "brutal". In that "classical" view, Western Europe, the United States and the "Third World" would all develop capitalistically, may relatively quickly come to the approximately same levels of development, and capitalism will then directly be replaced by socialism in all of them.

This view depended crucially on two assumptions: that (1) the Western working class remain at the low level of income (subsistence) which would then (2) assure its continued revolutionary fervor. Assumption (1) was common to all 19 th century economists, was supported until the mid-19 th century by the observed evidence, and Marx was not an exception. But towards the end of the century, Engels had noticed the emergence of "workers' aristocracy" which blunted the edge of class conflict in Britain, and possibly other advanced countries. The increase in wages was "fed", Engels argued, from colonial profits realized by British capitalists. Although the increases were mere "crumbs from capitalists' table" (Engels) they exploded the theory of the "iron law of wages" and, collaterally, the revolutionary potential of the working class in the West. Thus the seeds of the idea that imperialism may undermine class struggle in developed countries were sown and that had far reaching consequences.

Bill Warren's "Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism" (published in 1980; unfinished due to Warren's death) credits Lenin of the post-1914 vintage for the change (or rather criticizes him for it). In Lenin's "Imperialism " the monopoly capitalism having lost the vigor of free-market capitalism and having become "decrepit" was seen in need of foreign expansion (to maintain profits at earlier levels). This in turn led to imperialist struggle for territories that ended up in World War I. At the same time, working classes' relative material ease in developed countries made them abandon the revolutionary path and support "opportunistic" and nationalistic social-democratic parties (and their leaders, notably the "renegade" Kautsky). The struggle of the "peoples of the East" (as they were called in the first congress in Baku in 1920) against imperialism become integrated into an overall struggle against capitalism, and imperialism ceased to be seen as a dynamic precursor of the forthcoming socialism, but rather the extension of moribund capitalism. In Warren's words, "it is now not the character of capitalism that determines the progressiveness of imperialism, but the character of imperialism that determines the reactionary character of capitalism" (p. 47).

This change of position had far-reaching consequences for the thinking of the left that Warren excoriates. It led to the theories of "core" and "periphery", "structural dependency" etc. (Frank, Amin, Cardoso, Prebisch). These theories, Warren argues, were wrong because they predicted faster growth if countries were to disengage from the dominant global system (which all proved to have been illusions-Warren is less sanguine on that than we can be now), and they had nothing to do with workers' struggle in the emerging economies because they reflected the interests of nationalist Third World bourgeoisies.

Now, I wish I could write a very lengthy review of Warren's extremely stimulating book-which also contains many infuriating sections-but I will have to leave it for another time. (In the "infuriating area", Warren, for example, celebrates the increase of inequalities in developing countries such as the concentration of land ownership into the hands of latidundistas because he regards it as an indicator of adoption of more efficient capitalistic methods of production in agriculture, p. 207). His celebrations of inequality throughout the second part of the book-dealing with post-1945 developments-would make Friedman and Hayek blush!) But my point is not Warren's book as such but its very contemporary implications.

It is directly relevant for the understanding of the rise of new capitalist economies in Asia. Richard Baldwin's recent book (reviewed here ), even if Baldwin does not make any allusions to either the classical Marxist position or to the dependency theory, clearly shows that the economic success of Asia was based on the use of capitalistic relations of production and inclusion in the global supply chains, that is in active participation in globalization. Not passive-but a participation that was sought after, desired. It is thus no accident that China has become the main champion of globalization today. Therefore, Asian success directly disproves the dependency theories and is in full agreement with the classical Marxist position about the revolutionary impact of capitalism, and by extension of "neo-imperialism", in less developed societies.

This has enormous implications on how we view and try to explain dramatic shifts in economic power which have occurred in the past half-century (whence the origins of this transformation? the role of the nation-state and imperialism? the role of the bourgeois-led independence movements?) and how we see the developments ahead. I will not develop these issues now because my thinking is still evolving and I plan to lay it out in a book, but I think that, in trying to understand the changes in the modern world, the best we can do is to go to the literature and the debates from exactly one hundred years ago. (And Warren's book although of course much more recent has its roots in what was discussed then). Short of that I cannot see any broader narrative that makes sense of the epochal changes we are living through.

[May 19, 2017] We need to attack and defeat the neoliberal belief that markets are information processors that can know more than any person could ever know and solve problems no computer could ever solve

May 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Jeremy Grimm , May 17, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Phillip Mirowski challenged the left to directly attack and defeat the neoliberal belief that markets are information processors that can know more than any person could ever know and solve problems no computer could ever solve. [Prof. Philip Mirowski keynote for 'Life and Debt' conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7ewn29w-9I ]

Sorry for the long quote - I am loathe to attempt to paraphrase Hayek

"This is particularly true of our theories accounting for the determination of the systems of relative prices and wages that will form themselves on a wellfunctioning market. Into the determination of these prices and wages there will enter the effects of particular information possessed by every one of the participants in the market process – a sum of facts which in their totality cannot be known to the scientific observer, or to any other single brain. It is indeed the source of the superiority of the market order, and the reason why, when it is not suppressed by the powers of government, it regularly displaces other types of order, that in the resulting allocation of resources more of the knowledge of particular facts will be utilized which exists only dispersed among uncounted persons, than any one person can possess. But because we, the observing scientists, can thus never know all the determinants of such an order, and in consequence also cannot know at which particular structure of prices and wages demand would everywhere equal supply, we also cannot measure the deviations from that order; nor can we statistically test our theory that it is the deviations from that "equilibrium" system of prices and wages which make it impossible to sell some of the products and services at the prices at which they are offered."
[Extract from Hayek's Nobel Lecture]

This just hints at Hayek's market supercomputer idea - I still haven't found a particular writing which exposits the idea - so this will have to do.

Sorry - another quote from the Hayek Nobel Lecture [I have no idea how to paraphrase stuff like this!]:

"There may be few instances in which the superstition that only measurable magnitudes can be important has done positive harm in the economic field: but the present inflation and employment problems are a very serious one. Its effect has been that what is probably the true cause of extensive unemployment has been disregarded by the scientistically minded majority of economists, because its operation could not be confirmed by directly observable relations between measurable magnitudes, and that an almost exclusive concentration on quantitatively measurable surface phenomena has produced a policy which has made matters worse."

I can't follow Hayek and I can't follow Jason Smith. The first quote above sounds like a "faith based" theory of economics as difficult to characterize as it is to refute. The second quote throws out Jason Smith's argument with a combination of faith based economics and a rejection of the basis for Smith's argument - as "scientistically minded."

I prefer the much simplier answer implicit in Veblen and plain in "Industrial Prices and their Relative Inflexibility." US Senate Document no. 13, 74th Congress, 1st Session, Government Printing Office, Washington DC. Means, G. C. 1935 - Market? What Market? Can you point to one? [refer to William Waller: Thorstein Veblen, Business Enterprise, and the Financial Crisis (July 06, 2012)
[https://archive.org/details/WilliamWallerThorsteinVeblenBusinessEnterpriseAndTheFinancialCrisis]

It might be interesting if Jason Smith's information theory approach to the market creature could prove how the assumed properties of that mythical creature could be used to derive a proof that the mythical Market creature cannot act as an information processor as Mirowski asserts that Hayek asserts. So far as I can tell from my very little exposure to Hayek's market creature it is far too fantastical to characterize with axioms or properties amenable to making reasoned arguments or proofs as Jason Smith attempts. Worse - though I admit being totally confused by his arguments - Smith's arguments seem to slice at a strawman creature that bears little likeness to Hayek's market creature.

The conclusion of this post adds a scary thought: "The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight." It almost sounds as if Jason Smith intends to build a better Market as information processor - maybe tweak the axioms a little and bring in Shannon. Jason Smith is not our St. George.

But making the observation that there are no markets as defined makes little dint on a faith-based theory like neoliberalism, especially a theory whose Church encompasses most university economics departments, most "working" economists, numerous well-funded think tanks, and owns much/most of our political elite and so effectively promotes the short-term interests of our Power Elite.

[May 19, 2017] The suppliers of the intelligence that Trump told the Ruskies, want to control the US Intelligence Community.

Mr. Bill - , May 18, 2017 at 06:56 PM

May 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Joe Lieberman surfacing from the lowest portal of the swamp, is not good news. The suppliers of the intelligence that Trump told the Ruskies, want to control the US Intelligence Community.

How many nuclear weapons do they have and where are they pointed ? Anyone allowed to ask ?

[May 18, 2017] Toward a Jobs Guarantee at the Center for American Progress by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... By Lambert Strether of Corrente ..."
"... The Financial Times ..."
"... customer ..."
May 17, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on May 17, 2017 By Lambert Strether of Corrente

I had another topic lined up today, but this ( hat tip alert reader ChrisAtRU ) is so remarkable - and so necessary to frame contextualize immediately - I thought I should bring it your attention, dear readers. The headline is "Toward a Marshall Plan for America ," the authors are a gaggle of CAP luminaries with Neera Tanden leading and Rey Teixeira trailing, and the "Marshall Plan" indeed includes something called a "Jobs Guarantee." Of course, I trust Clinton operatives like Tanden, and Third Way types like Teixeira, about as far as I can throw a concert grand piano. Nevertheless, one sign of an idea whose time has come is that sleazy opportunists and has-beens try to get out in front of it to seize credit[1] and stay relevant. So, modified rapture.

In this brief post, I'm going to look at the political context that drove CAP - taking Tanden, Teixeira, and the gaggle as a proxy for CAP - to consider a Jobs Guarantee (JG), briefly describe the nature and purpose of a JG, and conclude with some thoughts on how Tanden, Teixeira would screw the JG up, like the good liberals they are.

Political Context for CAP's JG

Let's begin with the photo of Prairie du Chien, WI at the top of CAP's JG article. Here it is:

I went to Google Maps Street View, found Stark's Sports Shop (and Liquor Store), and took a quick look round town. Things don't look too bad, which is to say things look pretty much like they do in my own home town, in the fly-over state of Maine; many local businesses. The street lamps make my back teeth itch a little, because along with bike paths to attract professionals, they're one of those panaceas to "bring back downtown," but as it turns out Prairie du Chien has marketed itself to summer tourists quite successfully as " the oldest Euro-American settlement established on the Upper Mississippi River," so those lamps are legit! (Of course, Prairie du Chien, like so much of flyover country, is fighting an opioid problem , but that doesn't show up in Street View, or affect the tourists in any way.)

More to the point, Crawford County WI, in which Prairie du Chien is located, was one of the counties that went for Obama, twice, and then flipped to Trump ( 50.1% Trump, 44.6% Clinton ), handing Trump the election, although the CAP authors don't mention this. AP has a good round-up of interviews with Prairie du Chien residents , from which I'll extract the salient points. On "flipping," both from Obama (since he didn't deliver) and away from Trump (if he doesn't deliver):

In 2012, [Lydia Holt] voted for Barack Obama because he promised her change, but she feels that change hasn't reached her here. So last year she chose a presidential candidate unlike any she'd ever seen, the billionaire businessman who promised to help America, and people like her, win again. Many of her neighbors did, too .

In this corner of middle America, in this one, small slice of the nation that sent Trump to Washington, they are watching and they are waiting, their hopes pinned on his promised economic renaissance. And if four years from now the change he pledged hasn't found them here, the people of Crawford County said they might change again to someone else.

"[T]hings aren't going the way we want them here," she said, "so we needed to go in another direction."

And the issues:

[Holt] tugged 13 envelopes from a cabinet above the stove, each one labeled with a different debt: the house payment, the student loans, the vacuum cleaner she bought on credit.

Lydia Holt and her husband tuck money into these envelopes with each paycheck to whittle away at what they owe. They both earn about $10 an hour and, with two kids, there are usually some they can't fill. She did the math; at this rate, they'll be paying these same bills for 87 years.

Kramer said she's glad the Affordable Care Act has helped millions get insurance, but it hasn't helped her he and her husband were stunned to find premiums over $1,000 a month. Her daughter recently moved into their house with her five children, so there's no money to spare. They opted to pay the penalty of $2,000, and pray they don't get sick until Trump, she hopes, keeps his promise to replace the law with something better.

Among them is a woman who works for $10.50 an hour in a sewing factory, who still admires Obama, bristles at Trump's bluster, but can't afford health insurance. And the dairy farmer who thinks Trump is a jerk - "somebody needs to get some Gorilla Glue and glue his lips shut" - but has watched his profits plummet and was willing to take the risk.

And of course jobs (as seen in this video, "Inside the Minds and Homes of Voters in Prairie du Chien, WI," made by students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

So that's Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. CAP frames the electoral context this way:

While the election was decided by a small number of votes overall, there was a significant shift of votes in counties in critical Electoral College states, including Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

(I could have told them that. In fact, I did! ) And the reasons for the shift:

What was going on in these heavily white working-class counties that might explain support for Trump? Without diminishing the importance of cultural and racial influences, it is clear to us that lingering [sic] economic pressures among important voting blocs helped to create a larger opening for Trump's victory.

We do not yet know the exact reasons for the drop in turnout among young people and black voters. But with President Obama not on the ticket to drive voter enthusiasm, it is quite possible that lingering job and wage pressures in more urban areas with lots of young people, and in areas with large populations of African-Americans, yielded similar, if distinct, economic anxiety in ways that may have depressed voter turnout among base progressives. The combined effect of economic anxiety may have been to drive white noncollege voters toward Trump and to drive down voter engagement and participation among base progressives.

Either way, issues related to lost jobs, low wages, high costs, and diminished mobility played a critical role in setting the stage for a narrow populist victory for Trump.

(I could have told them that, too. In fact, I did! ) Note the lingering "Obama Coalition" / identity politics brain damage that casually assumes "base progressives" equate to African-Americans and youth. Nevertheless, mild kudos to CAP for fighting through to the concept that "economic pressures among important voting blocs helped to create a larger opening for Trump's victory." The CAP paper then goes on to recommend a JG as an answer to such "economic pressures."[2]

Nature and Purpose of a JG

Here's the how and why of a JG (though I wrote it up, I had the help of practioners):

How would the JG work from the perspective of a working person (not an owner?) Or from the perspective of the millions of permanently disemployed? The MMT Primer :

If you are involuntarily unemployed today (or are stuck with a part-time job when you really want to work full time) you only have three choices:

Employ yourself (create your own business-something that usually goes up in recessions although most of these businesses fail) Convince an employer to hire you, adding to the firm's workforce Convince an employer to replace an existing worker, hiring you

The second option requires that the firm's employment is below optimum-it must not currently have the number of workers desired to produce the amount of output the firm thinks it can sell. …

If the firm is in equilibrium, then, producing what it believes it can sell, it will hire you only on the conditions stated in the third case-to replace an existing worker. Perhaps you promise to work harder, or better, or at a lower wage. But, obviously, that just shifts the unemployment to someone else.

It is the "dogs and bones" problem: if you bury 9 bones and send 10 dogs out to go bone-hunting you know at least one dog will come back "empty mouthed". You can take that dog and teach her lots of new tricks in bone-finding, but if you bury only 9 bones, again, some unlucky dog comes back without a bone.

The only solution is to provide a 10 th bone. That is what the JG does: it ensures a bone for every dog that wants to hunt.

It expands the options to include:

    There is a "residual" employer who will always provide a job to anyone who shows up ready and willing to work.

It expands choice. If you want to work and exhaust the first 3 alternatives listed above, there is a 4 th : the JG.

It expands choice without reducing other choices. You can still try the first 3 alternatives. You can take advantage of all the safety net alternatives provided. Or you can choose to do nothing. It is up to you.

If I were one of the millions of people permanently disemployed, I would welcome that additional choice. It's certainly far more humane than any policy on offer by either party. And the JG is in the great tradition of programs the New Deal sponsored, like the CCC, the WPA, Federal Writers' Project , and the Federal Art Project . So what's not to like? ( Here's a list of other JGs). Like the New Deal, but not temporary!

Intuitively: What the JG does is set a baseline[3] for the entire package offered to workers, and employers have to offer a better package, or not get the workers they need. When I came up here to Maine I'd quit my job voluntarily and so wasn't eligible for unemployment. Then the economy crashed, and I had no work (except for blogging) for two years. There were no jobs to be had. I would have screamed with joy for a program even remotely like this, and I don't even have dependents to take care of. It may be objected that the political process won't deliver an offer as good as the Primer suggests. Well, don't mourn. Organize. It may be objected that a reform like the JG merely reinforces the power of the 0.01%. If so, I'm not sure I'm willing to throw the currently disemployed under the bus because "worse is better," regardless. Anyhow, does "democratic control over the living wage" really sound all that squillionaire-friendly to you? Aren't they doing everything in their power to fight anything that sounds like that? The JG sounds like the slogan Lincoln ran on, to me: "Vote yourself a farm!" [3]

So, what does the JG for the economy? MMT was put together by economists; from an economists perspective, what is it good for? Why did they do that? The Primer once more:

some supporters emphasize that a program with a uniform basic wage[4] also helps to promote economic and price stability.

The JG/ELR program will act as an automatic stabilizer as employment in the program grows in recession and shrinks in economic expansion, counteracting private sector employment fluctuations. The federal government budget will become more counter-cyclical because its spending on the ELR program will likewise grow in recession and fall in expansion.

Furthermore, the uniform basic wage will reduce both inflationary pressure in a boom and deflationary pressure in a bust. In a boom, private employers can recruit from the program's pool of workers, paying a mark-up over the program wage. The pool acts like a "reserve army" of the employed, dampening wage pressures as private employment grows. In recession, workers down-sized by private employers can work at the JG/ELR wage, which puts a floor to how low wages and income can fall.

Finally, research indicates that those without work would prefer to have it :

Research by Pavlina Tcherneva and Rania Antonopoulos indicates that when asked, most people want to work. Studying how job guarantees affect women in poor countries, they find the programs are popular largely because they recognize-and more fairly distribute and ­compensate-all the child- and elder care that is now often performed by women for free (out of love or duty), off the books, or not at all.

Enough of this crap jobs at crap wages malarky!

And here's the how and why of a JG, as described by CAP :

We propose today a new jobs guarantee, and we further expect a robust[3] agenda to be developed by the commission.

The low wages and low employment rates for those without college degrees only exist because of a failure of imagination. There is no shortage of important work that needs to be done in our country. There are not nearly enough home care workers to aid the aged and disabled. Many working families with children under the age of 5 need access to affordable child care. Schools need teachers' aides, and cities need EMTs. And there is no shortage of people who could do this work. What has been missing is policy that can mobilize people.

To solve this problem, we propose a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment-similar to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression but modernized for the 21st century. It will increase employment and wages for those without a college degree while providing needed services that are currently out of reach for lower-income households and cash-strapped state and local governments. Furthermore, some individuals may be hired into paying public jobs in which their primary duty will be to complete intensive, full-time training for high-growth, in-demand occupations. These "public apprenticeships" could include rotations with public and private entities to gain on-the-ground experience and lead to guaranteed private-sector employment upon successful completion of training.

Such an expanded public employment program could, for example, have a target of maintaining the employment rate for prime-age workers without a bachelor's degree at the 2000 level of 79 percent. Currently, this would require the creation of 4.4 million jobs. At a living wage-which we can approximate as $15 per hour plus the cost of contributions to Social Security and Medicare via payroll taxes-the direct cost of each job would be approximately $36,000 annually. Thus, a rough estimate of the costs of this employment program would be about $158 billion in the current year. This is approximately one-quarter of Trump's proposed tax cut for the wealthy on an annual basis.

With tis background, let's look at how liberals would screw the JG up.

How a CAP JG Would Go Wrong

Before getting into a little policy detail, I'll examine a few cultural/framing issues. After all, CAP does want the program's intended recipients to accept it with good grace, no? Let me introduce the over-riding concern, from Joan C. Williams in The Financial Times : "They don't want compassion. They want respect" :

Williams warns that Republican errors alone won't give Democrats back the WWC.

Or any part of the WC; as even CAP recognizes, although WWC disproportionately voted Trump, and non-WWC disproportionately stayed home.

While [Williams] agrees that the Democrats have mobilised their base since Trump's election, she has "one simple message" for the party: it needs to show the WWC respect, "in a tone suitable for grown-ups". Democrats must say: "We regret that we have disrespected you, we now hear you." She asks: "Is this so hard? Although the risk is that the response will be, 'Oh, those poor little white people with their opioid epidemics, let's open our hearts in compassion to them.' That's going to infuriate them. They don't want compassion, they want respect."

To show respect, it would really behoove liberals to deep-six the phrase "economic anxiety," along with "economic frustrations," "economic concerns," "economic grievances," and "lingering economic pressures."[4] All these phrases make successful class warfare a psychological condition, no doubt to be treated by a professional (who by definition is not anxious, not frustrated, has no grievances, and certainly no economic pressures, because of their hourly rate (or possibly their government contract).

To show respect, it would also behoove liberals to deep-six the concept that markets come first; people who sell their labor power by the hour tend to be sensitive about such things. Take, for a tiny example, the caption beneath the image of Prairie du Chein. Let me quote it:

A customer crosses the street while leaving a shop along the main business district in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, January 2017.

Really? A customer ? Does the human figure have to be a customer ? Why?

Along the same lines, drop the "affordable" crap; ObamaCare should have ruined that branding already; what seems like it's affordable to CAP writers in the Beltway probably isn't affordable at all to somebody making $10 an hour. Anyhow, if something like childcare or for that matter #MedicareForAll ought to be a universal direct material benefit, then deliver it!

To show respect, abandon the "Marshall Plan" framing immediately. Because it means the "winners" are going to graciously help the "losers," right? And prudentially, liberals don't really want to get the working class asking themselves who conducted a war against them, and why, right?

To show respect, make the JG a truly universal benefit, a real guarantee, and don't turn it into an ObamaCare-like Rube Goldberg device of means-testing, worthiness detection, gatekeeping, and various complex forms of insult and degradation, like narrow networks. This passage from CAP has me concerned:

Such an expanded public employment program could, for example, have a target of maintaining the employment rate for prime-age workers without a bachelor's degree at the 2000 level of 79 percent.

That 'target" language sounds to me very much like the "dogs and bones" problem. Suppose currently we have 6 bones and 10 dogs. The "target" is 7 bones. Suppose we meet it? There are still 3 dogs without bones! Some guarantee! The JG should be simple: A job for everyone who wants one. None of this targeting or slicing and dicing demographics. The JG isn't supposed to be an employment guarantee for macro-economists (who basically have one anyone).

To show respect, make the JG set the baseline for wages (and working conditions). This passage from CAP has me concerned:

Second, because it would employ people to provide services that are currently needed but unaffordable, it would not compete with existing private-sector employment.

This language seems a bit slippery to me. If Walmart is paying $10.00 an hour, is the JG really going to pay $9.50?

Finally, you will notice that the CAP JG is shorn of any macro-economic implications. Note, for example, that replacing our current cruel system of regulating the economy by throwing people out of work isn't mentioned. Note also that CAP also accepts the false notion that Federal taxes pay for Federal spending. That puts CAP in the austerity box, meaning that the JG might be cut back just when it is most needed, not least by working people.

Conclusion

I do want to congratulate CAP, and without irony, for this passage:

[The JG] would provide the dignity of work, the value of which is significant. When useful work is not available, there are large negative consequences, ranging from depression, to a decline in family stability, to "deaths of [sic] despair."

It's good to see the Case-Deaton study penetrating the liberal hive mind. Took long enough. Oh, and this makes the JG a moral issue, too. The pallid language of "economic anxiety" should be reformulated to reflect this, as should the program itself.

NOTES

[1] The JG originally comes from the MMT community; here is a high-level summary . Oddly, or not, there's no footnote crediting MMTers. Interestingly, Stephanie Kelton, who hails from the University of Missouri at Kansas City's MMT-friendly economics department, before Sanders brought her onto the staff at the Senate Budget committee, was not able to persuade Sanders of the correctness and/or political utility of MMT generally or the JG in particular.

[2] I guess those famous Democrat 2016 post mortems will never be published, eh? This will have to do for a poor substitute. Or maybe the Democrats just want us to read Shattered .

[3] In my view, "robust" is a bullshit tell. Back when I was a hotshot consultant, the operational definition of "robust" was "contained in a very large three-ring binder."

[4] Dear God. Are these people demented? Nobody who is actually under "economic pressure" would use these words. And so far as I can tell, "lingering" means permanent.

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism ("Because markets"). I don't much care about the "ism" that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don't much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue - and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me - is the tens of thousands of excess "deaths from despair," as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics - even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton's wars created - bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow - currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press - a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let's call such voices "the left." Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn't allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I've been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

ChrisAtRU , May 17, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Clive , May 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm

No, thank you!

Dead Dog , May 17, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Yes, a great essay. And thank you commentariat.
Of course, there is a potential conflict from those who want a basic income, but don't want to work. Such a position frames such people badly, but a basic income remains an essential part of a JG world IMO.
The JG would provide incentive if you didn't lose the safety net and could add to it by working in a JG program.
Most here in this place accept that a sovereign government can pay for programs which are not funded by taxes (or debt) and the JG and basic income concepts could be a way to test this in a controlled way.
The main reason I think that politicians continue to have blinkers (LA LA, CAN'T HEAR YOU) with respect to MMT is that they are scared witless of a government with unlimited spending powers. That's why we can't have nice things.

jrs , May 17, 2017 at 5:26 pm

don't want to work, hmm I don't even know if I could work in a job without a decent amount of slack (A.D.D. mind may not be capable of it or something and often not for lack of trying, though I do a decent amount of unpaid work in my precious leisure time). Or at least not the full 40 hours, so if the job guarantee bosses are slave drivers, I don't know, I'd probably be fired from my job guaranteed job period.

But what if a job was aligned with one's interest? Don't know, never experienced that.

But all that aside and never even mind unemployment, given how horrible the job circumstances are that I see many people caught in (and I definitely don't mean having slack – that's a good thing, I mean verbal ABUSE, I mean working endless hours of unpaid overtime etc.), any alternative would seem good.

nycTerrierist , May 17, 2017 at 6:19 pm

+1!

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The "target" language also makes me worry that they're defining optimal employment by the inflation-obsessed standards of Chicago-school economists, thus coming up short in the name of protecting the investor class.

Minor quibble: Does Maine constitute flyover country? Usually that term means the parts of the country that the well-to-do "fly over" from east coast cities to west coast ones, with perhaps an exception for Chicago. You wouldn't fly over Maine for any of those routes. Not to mention, Maine is a popular vacationing/summer home state for rich New Englanders, so it doesn't exactly have an "other" status for them the way rural Wisconsin would.

Huey Long , May 17, 2017 at 4:22 pm

I think Maine is legit flyover country as flying over Maine was once mandatory on the transatlantic route in order to Gander Airport in Newfoundland. I know, I know, it's a bit of a stretch but I'm trying here!

As for Maine's other status, you're spot on about "down east" (coastal) Maine and some of the lakes being popular with the landed gentry, but the interior of the state is sparsely populated, poor, white, and marginalized. Many of the paper mills have gone belly-up and the economy in many places consists of picking potatoes or cutting down trees.

Knifecatcher , May 17, 2017 at 5:06 pm

I used to do a lot of business travel to Nova Scotia. Hard to get there from the US without flying over Maine. But I think Lambert meant flyover in the pejorative "why would you live here when you could be an artisanal pickle maker in Brooklyn" sense.

Peham , May 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Thanks much! A JG as you describe plus nationalizing all our current rentier industries ought to just about do the trick.

Sutter Cane , May 17, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Are you still guaranteed a job if you happen to make any negative comments about Neera Tanden? (Asking for Matt Bruenig)

nihil obstet , May 17, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Matt Bruenig had other issues with the article: More Job Guarantee Muddle . While he points out that the jobs suggested in the article should be permanent rather than temporary jobs, I go on with my own little sense of discomfort that they all involve putting the otherwise jobless in charge of caring for the helpless. I don't find that a good idea. I've spent enough time both working with and volunteering in human service organizations to have observed that it's not really appropriate work for a lot of people, even for many good-hearted volunteers. It really dampens my enthusiasm for a JG that I have yet to see an argument for it that doesn't invoke child and elderly care as just great jobs that the jobless can be put to doing.

Just another quibble with this post. I first heard of a job guarantee and heard arguments for it in the U.S. civilian society from Michael Harrington in the early 1980s (guaranteed jobs have been a feature of the state capitalist societies that call themselves socialist throughout the 20th c.), so I don't find it particularly odd when the MMT community isn't mentioned as originating the idea. In fact, I tend to respond with "Hey, MMTers, learn some history."

jrs , May 17, 2017 at 7:06 pm

good points.

Susan the other , May 17, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for this article Lambert. Why should we trust CAP to handle this when they have done nothing toward this end in their entire history. In fact, in undeniable fact, if we don't do something about demand in this country we will have no economy left at all. For these guys to even approach a JG you know they are panicked. Nobody goes over this fact because it turns them all into instant hypocrites. I spent yesterday listening to some MMTers on U-Tube, Wray and some others. They all clearly and succinctly explain the systemic reasons for JG. Not nonsense. In fact, MMT approaches a JG as the opposite of nonsense on so many levels. As you have pointed out – these CAP people are a little late to reality. And their dear leader Obama is first in line for the blame, followed closely by Bill Clinton and his balance-the-budget cabal of bankster idiots. And etc. And these JG jobs could be just the jobs we need to turn global warming around. It could be the best spent money ever. It is a very straight-forward calculation.

Sue , May 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Dispel ambiguity. Call it LWUJG, Living Wage Universal Job Guarantee

Sandler , May 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm

I don't know how you even bother. America is so far away from this intellectually and culturally, there is no chance. Right now the "jobs guarantee" is get arrested for something bogus and be sentenced to prison to do forced labor for outsourcing corporations (yes this is real). Look where the GOP stands on basic issues which were settled long ago in Europe, they are in the Stone age. The Dems are right wing everywhere else.

With US institutions usually run horribly how do you expect this to be well run? Is the VA a shining example? I certainly would not have hope for this at the federal level.

Murph , May 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm

I feel the same way often but I've got to allow myself some hope once in a while. This development is at least turn in the right direction for the moment, nothing else. There's nothing wrong with being (aprehensively) pleased about that.

Sandler , May 17, 2017 at 5:29 pm

I'd like to get a basic unemployment welfare scheme going first. We don't even have that! We have an "insurance" program which requires you to first have held a job which paid enough for long enough, and then get fired, not quit. And it only pays for six months. Again, this was settled in other rich countries a long time ago.

Darius , May 17, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Swing for the fences, ladies or gentlemen. Throw incremental change overboard, along with Hillary, Tim Kaine and Neera.

Disturbed Voter , May 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm

There is a job guarantee in Castro's Cuba. So wonderful, people are swimming from Miami to Havana ever day.

Though you have it exactly right in the US the job guarantee is to be a felon on a privatized prison farm usually called a "plantation". I am looking forward to my neighbors finally being put to work. At least it is only building a Presidential Library for Obama, not a pyramid for Pharaoh.

witters , May 17, 2017 at 6:40 pm

"There is a job guarantee in Castro's Cuba. So wonderful, people are swimming from Miami to Havana ever day."

That is why Cuba will never last! It will die in minutes, without any outside help!

Mind you, here's a thought. Maybe the one's who didn't want to work, left for Florida!

diptherio , May 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm

My prediction: by the time this makes it through Congress, it will be a guarantee for no more than 15 hours per week at slightly below the minimum wage and you'll only be able to be in the program for nine months, total during your lifetime. Or am I being overly cynical?

Maybe we need to update that old saw: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they co-opt your idea and strip the soul out of it, then you kinda win but not really, but hey that's progress, right?"

Even though I'm cynical, I'm with Lambert in being for just about anything that makes us bottom-20%ers lives better, even if it is highly flawed. Heck, I'd even be for a BIG on that basis, even if Yves is right about the negative side-effects of that policy.

Huey Long , May 17, 2017 at 4:29 pm

they co-opt your idea and strip the soul out of it, then you kinda win but not really, but hey that's progress, right?"

SPOT ON!!!

This is EXACTLY what Bismark did in 1883 with his Staatssozialismus (state socialism) reforms.

Disturbed Voter , May 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm

In 1883, Germany still had hope it was only 12 years old!

Jeff , May 17, 2017 at 3:50 pm

If I understood correctly, Norway is running such a program since many years.
Basically, when you are out of a job, you get unemployment benefits (a low but decent salary, health care and other modern facilities unheard of is the US) – which last forever .
On the other hand, any public institution can call you in to help a hand: washing dishes at the school kitchen one day, waiting on the elderly the other day, helping out in the local library wherever hands are needed but not available.
So it is not really a JG, but you are guaranteed to help out your local community, and you are guaranteed a minimal income. That seems close enough to me.

Fred1 , May 17, 2017 at 4:27 pm

This is just positioning to defend against a challenger from the left who is promoting a genuine JG.

See we agree about a JG, I'm for it too and here is my 9 point proposal on my website.

robnume , May 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Thanks, Lambert, for a very interesting post. I combed through CAP's panel of "experts." I was not impressed.
I'm going to start my own think tank. Gonna call it CRAP: Center for Real American Progress.

lyle , May 17, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Of course in the north in the winter you could go back to shoveling snow with snow shovels (no machines allowed) and ban use by public employees of riding lawnmowers in the summer in favor of powered walk behind mowers. From what I have read this is what china did on the 3 gorges dam, partly making the project a jobs project by doing things in a human intensive way. (of course you could go back to the hand push non powered reel mower but then you have to worry about folks and heart attacks. (Or use those in their 20s for this. Growing up in MI and In this is how we mowed the yard. (in the 1950s and 1960) and for snow shoveling, my dad got a snow blower when I went off to college.
Now if you really want a low productivity way of cutting grass get one of the hand grass trimmers and set to work cutting it by that, it would employ a lot of folks and not have the exertion problem of a push mower (Again I used these in the 1960s in MI before we had the string trimmers and edgers etc. (also recall the old hand powered lawn edgers.)

craazyboy , May 17, 2017 at 8:19 pm

I'm partial to John Cleese Silly Walks. It would be creative and artistic. We need more art.

Samuel Conner , May 17, 2017 at 9:46 pm

It sounds like the CAP JG proposal is "top down" in that the "palette" of jobs to be funded is decided by the same agency (or an agency at the same level of government) as the fund disbursement authority, or is specified in the law itself.

IIRC, the JG concept proposed in the MMT primer would devolve the decision of "how to usefully employ willing underutilized workers" to local level. Funding would still be Federal. There would be some kind of "request for proposals/peer review" process to decide which locally-wanted projects would receive JG dollars (presumably in order to be a guarantee, enough projects would be approved for every locality to employ the available under-utilized willing workforce. If a locality only proposed one project, that would be funded)

It that right, Lambert? Is "top down" another way that centrists could screw up a JG? And might the "local devolution" aspect of the NEP/MMT Primer concept appeal to folks on the right?

washunate , May 18, 2017 at 12:13 am

Great write up. I obviously have a long-running disagreement on the policy prescription of JG, but I do find it interesting talking about how groups like CAP present it outside the specific confines of MMT (and, apparently, without even tipping the hat to them ?).

One concrete bit of info I would love to know is how they estimate 4.4 million workers for take-up. First, it's a hilarious instance of false precision. Second, it's remarkably low. $15/hr is approximately the median wage. Tens of millions of workers would sign up, both from the ranks of the crap jobs and from the ranks of those out of the labor force.

[May 18, 2017] Hayek and Neoclassicals Meet Information Theory and Fail

Notable quotes:
"... By Jason Smith, a physicist who messes around with economic theory. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in math and a degree in physics, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in theoretical physics. Follow him on Twitter: @infotranecon. Originally published at Evonomics ..."
"... The New Industrial State ..."
"... I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it's actually a thing that people on the left really should do - take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we're talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I'm a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic. ..."
May 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on May 17, 2017 by Yves Smith By Jason Smith, a physicist who messes around with economic theory. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in math and a degree in physics, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in theoretical physics. Follow him on Twitter: @infotranecon. Originally published at Evonomics

The inspiration for this piece came from a Vox podcast with Chris Hayes of MSNBC. One of the topics they discussed was which right-of-center ideas the left ought to engage. Hayes says:

The entirety of the corpus of [Friedrich] Hayek, [Milton] Friedman, and neoclassical economics. I think it's an incredibly powerful intellectual tradition and a really important one to understand, these basic frameworks of neoclassical economics, the sort of ideas about market clearing prices, about the functioning of supply and demand, about thinking in marginal terms.

I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it's actually a thing that people on the left really should do - take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we're talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I'm a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic.

Putting aside the fact that the left has fully understood and engaged with these ideas, deeply and over decades (it may be dense writing, but it's not exactly quantum field theory), I can hear some of you asking: Do I have to?

The answer is: No.

Why? Because you can get the same understanding while also understanding where these ideas fall apart ‒ that is to say understanding the limited scope of market-clearing prices and supply and demand – using information theory.

Prices and Hayek

Friedrich Hayek did have some insight into prices having something to do with information, but he got the details wrong and vastly understated the complexity of the system. He saw market prices aggregating information from events: a blueberry crop failure, a population boom, or speculation on crop yields. Price changes purportedly communicated knowledge about the state of the world.

However, Hayek was writing in a time before information theory. (Hayek's The Use of Knowledge in Society was written in 1945, a just few years before Claude Shannon's A Mathematical Theory of Communication in 1948.) Hayek thought a large amount of knowledge about biological or ecological systems, population, and social systems could be communicated by a single number: a price. Can you imagine the number of variables you'd need to describe crop failures, population booms, and market bubbles? Thousands? Millions? How many variables of information do you get from the price of blueberries? One. Hayek dreams of compressing a complex multidimensional space of possibilities that includes the state of the world and the states of mind of thousands or millions of agents into a single dimension (i.e. price), inevitably losing a great deal of information in the process.

... ... ...

The market as an algorithm

The picture above is of a functioning market as an algorithm matching distributions by raising and lowering a price until it reaches a stable price. In fact, this picture is of a specific machine learning algorithm called Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN, described in this Medium article or in the original paper ) that has emerged recently. Of course, the idea of the market as an algorithm to solve a problem is not new. For example one of the best blog posts of all time (in my opinion) talks about linear programming as an algorithm, giving an argument for why planned economies will likely fail, but the same argument implies we cannot check the optimality of the market allocation of resources, therefore claims of markets as optimal are entirely faith-based. The Medium article uses a good analogy using a painting, a forger, and a detective, but I will recast it in terms of the information theory description.

Instead of the complex multidimensional distributions, here we have blueberry buyers and blueberry sellers. The "supply" ( B from above) is the generator G , the demand A is the "real data" R (the information the deep learning algorithm is trying to learn). Instead of the random initial input I - coin tosses or dice throws - we have the complex, irrational, entrepreneurial, animal spirits of people. We also have the random effects of weather on blueberry production. The detector D (which is coincidentally the terminology Fieltiz and Borchardt used) is the price p . When the detector can't tell the difference between the distribution of demand for blueberries and the distribution of the supply of blueberries (i.e. when the price reaches a relatively stable value because the distributions are the same), we've reached our solution (a market equilibrium).

Note that the problem the GAN algorithm tackles can be represented by the two-player minimax game from game theory. The thing is that with the wrong settings, algorithms fail and you get garbage. I know this from experience in my regular job researching machine learning, sparse reconstruction, and signal processing algorithms. Therefore depending on the input data (especially data resulting from human behavior), we shouldn't expect to get good results all of the time. These failures are exactly the failure of information to flow from the real data to the generator through the detector – the failure of information from the demand to reach the supply via the price mechanism.

When asked by Quora what the recent and upcoming breakthroughs in deep learning are, Yann LeCun, director of AI research at Facebook and a professor at NYU, said:

The most important one, in my opinion, is adversarial training (also called GAN for Generative Adversarial Networks). This is an idea that was originally proposed by Ian Goodfellow when he was a student with Yoshua Bengio at the University of Montreal (he since moved to Google Brain and recently to OpenAI).

This, and the variations that are now being proposed is the most interesting idea in the last 10 years in ML, in my opinion.

Research into these deep learning algorithms and information theory may provide insight into economic systems.

An Interpretation of Economics for the Left

So again, Hayek had a fine intuition: prices and information have some relationship. But he didn't have the conceptual or mathematical tools of information theory to understand the mechanisms of that relationship - tools that emerged with Shannon's key paper in 1948, and that continue to be elaborated to this day to produce algorithms like generative adversarial networks.

The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight. Ideas that were posited as articles of faith or created through incomplete arguments by Hayek are not even close to the whole story, and leave you with no knowledge of the ways the price mechanism, marginalism, or supply and demand can go wrong. Those arguments assume and (hence) conclude market optimality. Leaving out the failure modes effectively declares many social concerns of the left moot by fiat. The potential and actual failures of markets are a major concern of the left, and are frequently part of discussions of inequality and social justice.

The left doesn't need to follow Chris Hayes' advice and engage with Hayek, Friedman, and neoclassical economics. The left instead needs to engage with a real world vision of economics that recognizes the limited scope of ideal markets and begins with imperfection as the more useful default scenario. Understanding economics in terms of information flow is one way of doing that.

JULIA WILLE , May 17, 2017 at 8:28 am

Is this just my lack of formal education or is this article very complicated? Honestly I did not understand it at all. Is there any way to explain this different? ( a link to a different way of describing informationtheory / free market theory)
Thanks Julia

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

To put it in more layman-friendly terms: price settings are based on information the suppliers gather regarding the market, both demand side and supply side (sales forecasts, commodity pricing, consumer confidence number, focus group information, etc). Demanders do the same. However, they can never have absolute, complete information for either side. So prices, and idea of what prices should be, in a free market never represent a true optimal price, but rather a best guess.

This pokes a few holes in neoclassical economic assumptions:

– Most obviously, prices cannot be optimal in a free market.
– Supply and demand changes cannot account entirely for changes in price, as refinements to the information flow can affect them as well.
– Information asymmetry corrupts prices, and can be used to exploit consumers.
– Information is dependent on a large enough sample size, so neoclassical economics is useless in markets with limited transactions. An easy example of this are those kind of items on shows like Antique Roadshow, where there's so few of the items out there that the expert says, "This is a guess, but really it could go for almost any amount at auction."

So the Left can use this to argue for non-market price controls (to account for the lack of free market price optimization) and for forcing corporations to have better fiscal transparency and more strict anti-trust laws (to increase information flow and to prevent information asymmetry).

JTMcPhee , May 17, 2017 at 11:04 am

Local prices for gasoline look a lot more like looting and chaos to me than any kind of correspondence to "markets." Yesterday at the RaceTrac at the end of my street, "regular" dropped four cents from morning to evening, reflecting the pricing at the two other "service stations" at the intersection. A month or so ago (I got tired of keeping a little record of the changes) the price jumped 25 cents overnight. None of these moves seemed to correspond with the stuff I was reading about in the market conditions around the planet and just in the US - supply and demand? More like the Useless Looters at BP and Shell and others just spin an arrow on a kid's game board to pick the day's price point (that sick phrase), or somebody in the C-Suite decided the "Bottom Line" needed a goose to pump the bonus generator up a bit.

The fraud is everywhere, the looting and scamming too. Seems to me that searching for some "touchstone" to make sense of It All is an exercise in futility.

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

Gasoline runs into a different limitation with free market economics, which is that consumers need to be able to freely enter and leave the market in question in order for the free market to function (which is why privatized healthcare doesn't work). Outside of a few urban areas with robust public transportation, most Americans are immediately dependent on gasoline in order to survive. Even those who do have access to a Metro are still dependent on the shipping that uses gasoline. So they can raise prices with a greater confidence that the number of consumers will not drop off as significantly as with other industries.

rn , May 17, 2017 at 12:54 pm

"This pokes a few holes in neoclassical economic assumptions:"

In neoclassical economics, these "holes" are pretty much understood as the prerequisites for "perfect competition", as opposed to imperfect competition or monopolies.

When politics is mixed with economics, these are ignored, as they are in the interest of the ruling class.

HBE , May 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Thank you for the laymans version PKMKII. I read it twice, but it only clicked after reading your comment.

LT , May 17, 2017 at 4:01 pm

https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-cold-war-led-the-cia-to-promote-human-capital-theory/

Vastydeep , May 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

PKMKII said it very well, and here's another way to look at it: Centrally-planned economies (say, some Politburo minister in the former Soviet Union) fail because a central bureaucrat cannot possibly guess the demand and distribution for all products (say, metal bathtubs) across an economy in a given year. He guesses, poorly, and either the shortages or the oversupply make our history books.

Market economics makes a better guess, because pricing gives a dynamic estimate of what the supply and demand really are. That this estimate is generally *better* has been (mis)represented as that this estimate is somehow PERFECT - the best estimate that can possibly exist! As the article describes, this assessment (that only a market economy can generate maximal wealth and optimal wealth distributions) is FALSE.

The economics underlying communist central planning failed because they couldn't provide the optimization that comes from valid pricing function. With Shannon's information theory and advanced analytics, it is possible to create a more optimal economy than our current, simplistic market/pricing function provides.

Ever since Samuelson's Economics in 1948, we've worshipped a market god based on scanty math. The first step in moving beyond Samuelson is recognizing that progress is indeed still possible, and then making the choice and determining the steps to pursue it.

Mel , May 17, 2017 at 11:22 am

Not just communist central planning. John Kenneth Galbraith's The New Industrial State makes a special space in society for industries in The Planning Sector. These were the very large businesses that worked with huge capital bases, long lead times, populations comparable to small nations. Planning, both input and output, was key to these businesses because there was too much at stake to risk losing it to the whims of any market. Communist societies were extreme examples, as they were betting the entire national economy, but the parallels with huge "private" firms were quite exact.
The Planning Sector businesses failed when they had to slough off all the activities that were too hard to plan; then they morphed into the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate Sector.

Brian G , May 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

I don't think it is a lack of formal education. It is simply written in a way that is not easy to understand. I have my master's in engineering, and I'm still not sure exactly what this passage is trying to say:
"If you randomly generated thousands of messages from the distribution of possible messages, the distribution of generated messages would be an approximation to the actual distribution of messages. If you sent these messages over your noisy communication channel that met the requirement for faithful transmission, it would reproduce an informationally equivalent distribution of messages on the other end."
From that point on I simply skimmed it and, if I'm not mistaken, the author also assigns positions to Hayek that seem to be a little more extreme than the positions he actually held.

I.D.G , May 17, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Will try to break that:

If you randomly generated thousands of messages from the distribution of possible messages, the distribution of generated messages would be an approximation to the actual distribution of messages.

You can only get to the true distribution assuming an infinite number of samples, everything else is asymptotic approximation to the true posterior distribution. This is true for any mathematical function approximated numerically were closed solutions are not possible to find (ie. not integrable). But this is relevant to the second phrase because:

If you sent these messages over your noisy communication channel that met the requirement for faithful transmission, it would reproduce an informationally equivalent distribution of messages on the other end.

A noisy communication channel introduces random bits of information which are not part of the original distribution, but because that noise is random, you would get a message that is an approximation of the true distribution of the original message being transmitted (is informationally equivalent) as the noise is distributed 'randomly' .

However, this is only true when the number of information bits approach infinity (for large numbers), BE WARE! Indeed that randomness can be very skewed for small samples. this is relevant and interesting because complex systems were you have a large number of variables are not easy to converge with, even when you are aware of the whole system variables (is a mathematically intractable problem).

You can think as market pricing (in an ideal world free of politics and power games, which is not) as a convergence to a complex multidimensional problem, and even though we know that we are NOT aware of all the variables at play for a given product, hence this supposedly God like attributes of market price discovery are unwarranted.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Looking at the signal gives you both information and a probability of being correct. Now we get to significance, which is defined as 95% probability.

When you get to 95% probability depends on the signal to noise ratio.

Any guesses as to the signal to noise ratio of the News Media?

Tim , May 17, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Actually that's just poor writing.

Jim Haygood , May 17, 2017 at 8:49 am

"Because the information flow from A can never be greater than A's total information, and will mostly be less than that total, the observed prices in a real economy will most likely fall below the ideal market prices."

Surely not. Post-industrial economies feature an asymmetry: individual consumers, catered to predominantly by large nationwide publicly-traded suppliers.

Because of the superior knowledge possessed by suppliers, further leveraged by advertising and publicity which exploits human psychological foibles such as peer pressure and herding, prices in the economy are almost certainly too high versus the ideal of complete information flow (while the price of labor is almost certainly too low).

Nowhere are prices higher than in the nonnegotiable, monopoly services of government. Not only does it charge astronomical property taxes which mean that there's really no such thing as secure property title without income, but also it compels hapless working schmoes to "invest" 15.3% of their income for their entire working lives at approximately zero return.

Mr Trump tear down these prices .

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Nowhere are prices higher than in the nonnegotiable, monopoly services of government.

Really? Care to discuss an example?

Such as the UK NHS v the US Health Care System? Better outcome at nearly half the cost.

Now how is your " prices higher monopoly services of government" doing?

Please post a counter example.

TG , May 17, 2017 at 9:34 am

With respect, it is not empirically incorrect that immigration lowers wages. The historical experience is quite clear, that when governments force population growth, whether through increased immigration or via incentives to increase the local fertility rate, wages for the many fall and profits for the few increase.

Sure more workers means more competition for jobs, but can also result in an increase in the number of jobs – BUT ONLY OVER TIME AND ONLY IF NEEDED INVESTMENTS ARE MADE AND THERE IS ENOUGH MARGINAL CAPACITY TO INVEST AND TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES ARE NOT ENTERING THE AREA OF DIMINISHING RETURNS. Which is not guaranteed, especially if the immigration level is massive and constantly increasing.

The United States from around 1929 to 1970 had very low immigration, and, starting from a low level, wages soared. Starting in 1970, the borders to the overpopulated third world have been progressively opened, and wages have started to diverge from productivity and are now starting to decline in absolute terms. Other nations that recently increased the rate of immigration and have seen significant falls in wages are: South Africa, the Ivory Coast, England, Australia, and Singapore – and even some provinces of India, where immigration from Bangladesh has been used to make certain that wages stay near subsistence. Yes immigration was not the only thing going on there, but when rapid forced increases in the supply of labor are always followed by falls in wages, well, the empirical evidence is hardly to be dismissed out of hand.

Remember, no society in all of history has run out of workers. When the headlines say that immigrants are needed to end a labor 'shortage' what is really meant is a 'shortage' of workers who have no option but to accept low wages. However, the only reason that workers can get high wages is that there is a 'shortage' of workers forced to take low wages. It is thus essentially tautological that when immigration is said to eliminate a labor shortage, it is lowering wages, because a labor 'shortage' is in fact what high wages are based on.

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 10:31 am

They're arguing that you can't empirically say that immigration decreases wages, because there are simply too many variables in an economy to be able to say definitively if it's a cause or a correlation, i.e. does the immigration decrease wages, or does another socio-economic factor simultaneously decrease wages and cause an influx of immigrants? This is why economics is treated as a soft science, as you can't remove variables in a lab setting the way you can with other sciences.

Ignacio , May 17, 2017 at 11:46 am

"BUT ONLY OVER TIME AND ONLY IF NEEDED INVESTMENTS ARE MADE AND THERE IS ENOUGH MARGINAL CAPACITY TO INVEST AND TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES ARE NOT ENTERING THE AREA OF DIMINISHING RETURNS."

Nope. Once immigrants arrive, demand increases instantly, even before they get a job.

H. Alexander Ivey , May 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

Wow. Just wow. A complete, through, and total BS assertion of some kind of economic theory. I am simply stunned at his verbal density of discourse, blithe refusal to explain, and simply name dropping facts, ideas, and concepts that are absolutely not related except in being part of the English language.

I know this is close to an ad hominum attack; I haven't given any specific rebuttal. But I don't have the tools at my disposal right now to avenge what I see as an assault on my analytic abilities.

Good night and good luck.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Perhaps you should do some reading or studying of math?

Vastydeep , May 17, 2017 at 1:46 pm

If not a specific rebuttal, what *kinds* of things in the article do you disagree with? Perhaps this posting is just a step to some greater knowing. Neoclassical Economics has been taught as "factual and beyond dispute" my whole career - I'm sure that Alchemy and Leechbooks were taught similarly in earlier ages. How might you suggest that we move forward to something better?

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." ~ Mark Twain

skippy , May 17, 2017 at 3:44 pm

"Wow. Just wow. A complete, through, and total BS assertion of some kind of economic theory. I am simply stunned at his verbal density of discourse, blithe refusal to explain, and simply name dropping facts, ideas, and concepts that are absolutely not related except in being part of the English language."

Yeah that is a pretty good summation of my experience wrt Austrians over almost 2 decades in a nutter shell[ ] kudos.

Now if only the neoclassicals would abandon the individual and consider vectors in distribution and how groups affect information.

disheveled .. throws toys out of play pen and hurrumphs away . victoriously .

Abate Magic Thinking but NOT Money , May 17, 2017 at 10:39 am

In my limited experience the prices we accept are more to do with contentment than information. We are aware that we can never have perfect information; bounded rationality being our situation*. So as buyers, we end up going with contentment or at least convenience; price too high, content to leave it on the shelf. Price too low and the reaction might be the same because it is too good to be true, or of suspect quality. You can have a bargain staring you in the face and, but you are content because of lack of interest or knowledge.

Good luck to those who try to quantify contentment!

.And then there is the tyranny of choice; not content!

Pip Pip!

* When it comes to the prices people are prepared to pay for products such as cosmetics and super-cars the rule seems to be unbounded irrationality, but hopefully contentment is achieved anyway.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Please do not confuse commodity price with perceived value.

Perceived value is clearly a signal injection into the information stream (an engineers view of marketing)

huh? , May 17, 2017 at 10:40 am

when it comes to the political application of this 'theoretical' argument I think it will be easily dismissed as more leftist academic pedantry, 'immanentizing the eschaton'- all the comments reflecting the advantages of imperfect information evidence.

SouthLooper , May 17, 2017 at 10:52 am

This is a wonderful, cogent explanation of a very mathematically complex subject, which is Information Theory, that has been used to make profound contributions well beyond telephonic communication for which Claude Shannon developed it, when he discovered it trying to code the English language, and which he failed to do.

R.A. Fisher was also brilliant. His work has had implications in probability, and statistics, economics, and perhaps most profoundly in genetics.

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 11:37 am

The neoclassical analysis also doesn't account for single supplier, multiple demand market situations. If blueberries both have the consumer market, but also an industrial market (dye purpose, maybe), then the blueberry supplier has to balance both of those demands, which may end up favoring one or the other, or some state that isn't ideal for either demand market. The universal example is the private property of the business itself. The owner isn't just in the market of whatever service or widget they make, but also in the commercial real estate market. This is especially problematic with housing, as high rents + vacancies create the impression of scarcity and value to prospective buyers.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 11:41 am

Good work. Now add the delays in information transfer, and fear and greed buying motivations based on multiple information streams, coupled with information conflicts (injected noise), and you are getting closer to the real world.

Information conflicts are the differing explanations of the Trump/Corey affair. There is much noise in the information stream.

Mel , May 17, 2017 at 12:47 pm

The example seems very sketchy:

Stable prices mean a balance of crop failures and crop booms (supply), population declines and population booms (demand), speculation and risk-aversion (demand)

This is a good example because it's easy to understand appealing, I fear, to our neoclassical prejudices.
It's a bad example because it doesn't seem very multidimensional; appealing to our neoclassical prejudices it collapses easily into "How many blueberry buyers?" and "How many blueberries?"
Trying to imagine something more multidimensional there might be a preference for big blueberries because they're big there might be a preference for small blueberries because people think that they're wild, so they must be tastier. If the markets were segregated, there could be a market-clearing price for big blueberries, and another for small blueberries. But the markets probably aren't segregated, and the prices would play back and forth against each other.
Maybe good too in dealing with prices of different goods, not just The Price. Neoclassical prices are meant to be the information that tells me whether to buy dish soap or a new overcoat instead.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Stable prices mean a balance of crop failures and crop booms (supply), population declines and population booms (demand), speculation and risk-aversion (demand)

There are no stable prices. With this analysis, the steps to include feedback is clear, and if the feedback is non-linear, non-linear feedback is a characteristic of chaotic systems.

Temporary stability only in a non-linear system, with tipping points etc.

UserFriendly , May 17, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Thank you for this, I found it very helpful.

Plenue , May 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Chris Hayes is an idiot. What kind of person can repeatedly visit the post-industrial wasteland of the rust belt for town halls with Bernie Sanders and then say "what we need more of is the philosophy of free-markets"?

But even with that being said, Hayes somehow is still by far the most worthwhile personality on MSNBC.

Left in Wisconsin , May 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it's actually a thing that people on the left really should do - take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we're talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I'm a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic.

While I agree with much of the argument Hayes is making – know thy enemy, etc. – he gets one huge thing wrong here that is very troubling: equating capitalism with markets. "Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me " I'm amazed at how often this trips up otherwise smart people. There is no capitalism in mainstream neoclassical economics (no government either, and you can't have capitalism without government). And get any business person talking freely and they will tell you that everyone in business hates super-competitive markets of the kind fetishized by economists, and that profitability is all about finding niches and other ways to avoid competition.

LT , May 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-cold-war-led-the-cia-to-promote-human-capital-theory
"Friedman had discovered in human capital theory more than just a means for boosting economic growth. The very way it conceptualised human beings was an ideological weapon too "

Ellis , May 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I think it's important to recognize where information theory and the principle of maximum entropy does succeed in economics and that is as a method of doing statistical inference in economics. For those interested, I would recommend looking at the increasing amount of information theoretic research coming out of the Economics Department at the New School for Social Research and UMKC. You can find many good working papers by myself, Duncan Foley, Paulo dos Santos, Gregor Semieniuk, and others on the NSSR Repec page https://ideas.repec.org/s/new/wpaper.html .

Larry Y , May 17, 2017 at 4:56 pm

At Bell Labs, plaques and a statue of Shannon occupy places of honor, in more prominent places than the tributes to other prominent people (including 8 Nobel Prize winners in science).

Here's a presentation by Prof. Christopher Sims of Princeton, at Bell Labs. "Information Theory in Economics" https://youtu.be/a8jt_TmwQ-U – critique of the optimizing rational behavior models, noting people are bandwidth limited ("Rational Inattention"). Non-gaussian! Brings up example of monopolist of with no high capacity limit vs. customers.

J ,

[May 18, 2017] We need to attack and defeat the neoliberal belief that markets are information processors that can know more than any person could ever know and solve problems no computer could ever solve

Notable quotes:
"... But making the observation that there are no markets as defined makes little dint on a faith-based theory like neoliberalism, especially a theory whose Church encompasses most university economics departments, most "working" economists, numerous well-funded think tanks, and owns much/most of our political elite and so effectively promotes the short-term interests of our Power Elite. ..."
May 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Jeremy Grimm , May 17, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Phillip Mirowski challenged the left to directly attack and defeat the neoliberal belief that markets are information processors that can know more than any person could ever know and solve problems no computer could ever solve.

[Prof. Philip Mirowski keynote for 'Life and Debt' conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7ewn29w-9I ]

Sorry for the long quote - I am loathe to attempt to paraphrase Hayek

"This is particularly true of our theories accounting for the determination of the systems of relative prices and wages that will form themselves on a well functioning market. Into the determination of these prices and wages there will enter the effects of particular information possessed by every one of the participants in the market process – a sum of facts which in their totality cannot be known to the scientific observer, or to any other single brain.

It is indeed the source of the superiority of the market order, and the reason why, when it is not suppressed by the powers of government, it regularly displaces other types of order, that in the resulting allocation of resources more of the knowledge of particular facts will be utilized which exists only dispersed among uncounted persons, than any one person can possess.

But because we, the observing scientists, can thus never know all the determinants of such an order, and in consequence also cannot know at which particular structure of prices and wages demand would everywhere equal supply, we also cannot measure the deviations from that order; nor can we statistically test our theory that it is the deviations from that "equilibrium" system of prices and wages which make it impossible to sell some of the products and services at the prices at which they are offered."
[Extract from Hayek's Nobel Lecture]

This just hints at Hayek's market supercomputer idea -- I still haven't found a particular writing which exposits the idea -- so this will have to do.

Sorry - another quote from the Hayek Nobel Lecture [I have no idea how to paraphrase stuff like this!]:

"There may be few instances in which the superstition that only measurable magnitudes can be important has done positive harm in the economic field: but the present inflation and employment problems are a very serious one. Its effect has been that what is probably the true cause of extensive unemployment has been disregarded by the scientistically minded majority of economists, because its operation could not be confirmed by directly observable relations between measurable magnitudes, and that an almost exclusive concentration on quantitatively measurable surface phenomena has produced a policy which has made matters worse."

I can't follow Hayek and I can't follow Jason Smith. The first quote above sounds like a "faith based" theory of economics as difficult to characterize as it is to refute. The second quote throws out Jason Smith's argument with a combination of faith based economics and a rejection of the basis for Smith's argument - as "scientistically minded."

I prefer the much simpler answer implicit in Veblen and plain in "Industrial Prices and their Relative Inflexibility." US Senate Document no. 13, 74th Congress, 1st Session, Government Printing Office, Washington DC. Means, G. C. 1935 - Market? What Market? Can you point to one? [refer to William Waller: Thorstein Veblen, Business Enterprise, and the Financial Crisis (July 06, 2012)

[https://archive.org/details/WilliamWallerThorsteinVeblenBusinessEnterpriseAndTheFinancialCrisis ]

It might be interesting if Jason Smith's information theory approach to the market creature could prove how the assumed properties of that mythical creature could be used to derive a proof that the mythical Market creature cannot act as an information processor as Mirowski asserts that Hayek asserts.

So far as I can tell from my very little exposure to Hayek's market creature it is far too fantastical to characterize with axioms or properties amenable to making reasoned arguments or proofs as Jason Smith attempts. Worse - though I admit being totally confused by his arguments - Smith's arguments seem to slice at a strawman creature that bears little likeness to Hayek's market creature.

The conclusion of this post adds a scary thought: "The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight." It almost sounds as if Jason Smith intends to build a better Market as information processor religion -- maybe tweak the axioms a little and bring in Shannon. Jason Smith is not our St. George.

But making the observation that there are no markets as defined makes little dint on a faith-based theory like neoliberalism, especially a theory whose Church encompasses most university economics departments, most "working" economists, numerous well-funded think tanks, and owns much/most of our political elite and so effectively promotes the short-term interests of our Power Elite.

[May 17, 2017] Demonization of Russia that neoliberal DemoRats enjoy is not a policy. This is an attempt to create an alibi for Hillary fiasco

May 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

pgl , May 17, 2017 at 11:28 AM

Paul Ryan shows zero interest in investigating whether Trump obstructed justice or is in bed with the Russian government. Why? He needs to get these massive tax cuts for the 1% and take away from the "moochers" first.
libezkova, May 17, 2017 at 07:12 PM
" in bed with the Russian government."

Are you a closet neocon ?

libezkova, May 17, 2017 at 07:37 PM
Demonization of Russia that people like PGL enjoy is not a policy. This is an attempt to create an alibi for Hillary fiasco.

And as any witch hunt this is an obstacle to thinking rationally, of having a rational discourse about proper role of Russia in enhancing American national security.

Which of cause is impossible with imperial pretension of Washington neocons.

In any case Clinton's attempt to colonize Russia failed and after Yugoslavia war the USA neocons are responsible for the deteriorating relations.

Taking into account complexity of modern weapon systems and the fact the USA has just 30 min and Russia 10-15 min for reacting to any emerging threat of rocket attack, my impression is that Washington is full of psychopaths, who enjoy walking on the blade edge. Kind of self-selection.

Public is so successfully brainwashed that even mentioning the fact that Putin probably does not vivisect kittens provokes a strong negative reaction.

Invoking Goodwin law there were already a country with the population brainwashed to the same extent.

See Professor Stephen F. Cohen comments at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-kovalik/rethinking-russia-a-conve_b_7744498.html

[May 17, 2017] Why Did the FBI Leak the Comey Memo naked capitalism

May 17, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that a memo written by James Comey states that President Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into General Flynn. Now, this was all about Flynn's contacts with the Russians. He had attended an RT � the Russian television network � dinner in Moscow, he apparently held some discussions there, he was paid for attending that dinner. He also did some lobbying on behalf of Turkey and was paid for that, and the investigation also has to do with whether Flynn has something to do with the alleged interference of the Russians in the American elections. And this is a big breach of etiquette for a president to More than etiquette, I suppose � protocol, even the law � to tell an FBI director not to investigate something. I guess that's illegal. Trump, of course, and the White House denies this.

But underlying all of this, and all the furor, is a fundamental assumption. It's a term that's used constantly in the media and by the various political pundits on the media, which is "Russia is our adversary." You have to basically assume that the adversary, Russia, has an antagonistic relationship with the United States, and then underneath all of that, then you have Flynn and Comey investigation and so on. Because if Russia isn't the great adversary, then it's unlikely there'd be such a to-do about all of this.

Now joining us to talk about the Comey affair, the Trump affair, and just what is the issues in terms of the US-Russia relationship, is Robert English. Robert is a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. He specializes in Russian and post-Soviet politics, US-Russian relations, and national security policy. He formerly worked for the US Department of Defense and the Committee for National Security, and has published widely in both academic and policy journals. Thanks very much for joining us, Robert.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Happy to be here.

PAUL JAY: Okay, so every day another storm, another drama. First of all, what do you make of Maybe the most interesting thing in all of this Comey thing today isn't Trump asking him to stop the investigation; that's not a great shocker. The more interesting thing is somebody at the FBI who has access to the Comey memo reads it to a journalist at the New York Times. There's a lot of people out to get Trump here.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Yeah, you're pointing to this larger problem, which is this chaos, this infighting, and not just in a sort of careerist bureaucratic way, but a kind of serious pitched battle between different factions � in this case, between those in the Trump administration who seem to want a fresh start with Russia, to try to begin cooperation on things like Syria, terrorism, and so forth, and those dead set against it, who are now using leaks and so forth to In part, to fight their battles. And so the bureaucratic, the nasty, the backstabbing, the leaking, is one area of issues, but you're pointing to this larger fundamental. Can we get along with Russia? Is it worth trying to reset relations? And even if he's not the best executor so far � and he's not � is Trump's basic idea of "We can get along with Russia, let's give it a try" a good one? And I happen to think it is; it's just being carried out awfully clumsily.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, I think one needs to separate the intent of Trump for wanting better relation with Russia, which one can analyze, and the policy itself. The policy of having a détente, although why there even needs to be a détente is kind of a question mark But why is so much of the American foreign policy establishment, the political class, the military leadership, the vast majority of that whole stratum wants to maintain a very antagonistic position towards Russia, and why?

ROBERT ENGLISH: You know, four or five reasons that all come together, pushing in this Russophobic direction. We've always had sort of unreconstructed Cold Warriors, people who never were easy with the new Russia, right? Zbigniew Brzezinski and people of that ilk, who wanted to just push Russia in a corner, take advantage of its weakness, never give it a chance. Then you have people in the military-industrial complex, for lack of a better term, whose vested interests lie in a continued rivalry, and continued arms-racing, and continued threat inflation. You have other people who normally would be liberal progressive, but they're so angry at Hillary Clinton's loss, they're so uncomprehending of how someone they see as vulgar and unqualified as Trump could get elected, that they're naturally unwilling to let go of this "the Russians hacked our election, the Russians got Trump elected" theme, and therefore, Russia is even bigger enemy than they would be otherwise. These and other strains all come together in a strange way. Some of this is the hard right, all right? Some of it is from the left, some is from the center. And across the board, we have ignorance. Ignorance of Russia.

PAUL JAY: Now, in an article you wrote recently, you went through some of the history, and we're going to do another segment that digs into this history more in depth, but when you look at the history of the '90s, and Yeltsin, and the whole role of the United States in helping bring down the Soviet Union, the whole point of bringing down the Soviet Union, and standing Yeltsin up, and interfering in Russian elections to make sure Yeltsin wins, and so on, was to open Russia for privatization for American oligarchs. I don't think the idea was to do it for Russian oligarchs, but that's how it turned out. Is that part of what is making this section of the American oligarchs so angry about it all?

ROBERT ENGLISH: You know, when people look at Russia today, they try to explain it in terms of one evil man, Putin, and that sort of conceals an assumption that if we could just get rid of Putin, everything would be better, and that Putin is the way he is � anti-American � because he's from the KGB. You don't need to go back to his youth or his time in intelligence to understand why he's very skeptical, why we have bad relations with Putin and all those around him. You don't have to go back to the '50s or '40s. You can go back just to the '90s, when we interfered in Russia, when we foisted dysfunctional economic policies on them, when we meddled in their elections repeatedly, and basically for an entire decade, we were handmaidens to a catastrophe � economic, political, social � that sowed the seeds of this resentment that continues to this day. It's a-

PAUL JAY: Yeah, you mention in your article that the consequences of the '90s depression in Russia far surpassed anything in the '07-'08 recession in the United States.

ROBERT ENGLISH: They far surpassed that. They even far surpassed anything in our own Great Depression of the early 1930s, of '29, '30, '31 � you know, the Great Depression, under Hoover and then Roosevelt. At that time, our economy contracted by about a quarter, and the slump lasted about three years before growth resumed. Russia's economy contracted almost by half, and the slump lasted an entire decade, and it resulted not just in widespread poverty, but millions of excess deaths, of suicides, of people dying of despair, of heart disease, of treatable illnesses caused by the strains, the This deep, unbelievable misery of that decade. It's no wonder that there is deep resentment towards the US, and this underlies a lot of the Putin elites' attitudes towards us. It's not something pathological, Putin being a bad guy. If you got rid of Putin tomorrow, the next guy who came along, the person most Russians would probably elect in democratic elections, wouldn't be so different. It wouldn't be another Yeltsin or pro-Western liberal, believe me.

PAUL JAY: Well, even if everything they say about Putin is true, and I doubt and Quite sure not everything is true. If he is such a dictator, United States foreign policy has never had any trouble with dictators, as long as they're our dictators, so the thing drips with hypocrisy.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Hypocrisy and double standards all around are what Russians see, okay? I mean, where do you begin? Look at the recent The vote, the referendum in Crimea to secede from Ukraine, and of course, then Russia annexed it into Russian territory, and we find that outrageous, a violation of international law, and the Russians say, "Yeah, and what did you engineer in Kosovo? You yanked Kosovo out of Serbia, you caused Kosovo to secede from Serbia with no referendum, no international law. How is that different? Right? When it's your client state it's okay, but when it's ours, it's not?" And of course the list is a long one; we could spend all afternoon going through them. So the first thing we need to do is stop the sanctimony, and deal with Russia as an equal great power.

But, you know, can I say one more thing about the '90s that connect it with what's going on today? In 1991, we had George Herbert Walker Bush in the White House. It was still the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was still in power for the rest of the year, and a warning came from our ambassador in Moscow, Jack Matlock, which was passed on to the White House. He had inside information from sources, from confidential sources, that a coup attempt was being planned. And, by the way, of course it happened in August of that year. That information came from our Ambassador Matlock, from his sources in Moscow, to the White House. George Bush had been instructed that this was highly sensitive, do not reveal the source of the information, keep it confidential. Bush fouled up, and within hours, he got on the phone to Moscow, a line that was open, monitored by the KGB, trying to reach Gorbachev, and he revealed the information, and he revealed the source, which went straight to the KGB. This was an unbelievable breach of confidentiality, dangerous, potentially deadly results, and the greatest irony is that George Herbert Walker Bush had been Director of the CIA before.

Now, why am I telling this story? Obviously, my first point is, presidents have fouled up, and have declassified unwittingly, or sometimes for political purposes, highly sensitive information all the time. I'm not excusing what Trump did � it looks like he was very sloppy � but the first thing to note is it's not unusual, this happens a lot. The second thing, and let's talk about this, is sharing information intelligence with the Russians. Guys, we've been doing this for nearly 20 years. After 9/11, the Russians offered us valuable intelligence on the Taliban, on Afghanistan, to help us fight back against bin Laden, and we've been exchanging intelligence on terrorists ever since. A lot of people wish we'd exchange more information; we might have prevented the Boston bombing. So this hysteria about sharing intelligence with our adversary, no, we are cooperating with Russia because we have a common enemy.

PAUL JAY: Now, I said in the beginning that I thought we should separate Trump's intent from a policy, which seems more rational, not to treat Russia as such an adversary, and try to work both in Syria and other places, negotiate more things out. But when you do look at the side of intent, I don't think you can negate or forget about the kind of historic ties that Trump has with Russian oligarchs. Some people suggest Russian Mafia. Tillerson's energy play, they would love sanctions lifted on Russia, and I'm not suggesting they shouldn't be lifted, but the motive here is they want to do a massive play in the energy sector. So it's not I don't think we should forget about what drives Trump and his circle around him, which is they have a very big fossil fuel agenda and a money-making agenda. On the other hand, that doesn't mean the policy towards Russia isn't rational. I mean, what do you I don't know if you agree or not.

ROBERT ENGLISH: You know, yeah, you're right, those are important points, and whether you agree or not with people ranging from Ron Wyden to Lindsey Graham, they're all saying "follow the money," and in this case, I think they're right. All these probes, and all these suspicions that the Trump team colluded with Russian intelligence to throw the election, that they were cooperating, even coordinating with the Russians on the hacking, and then the release, I don't believe it. It could be true � you know, I don't have access to the evidence � but to me, it seems much more likely that what will turn up instead are financial crimes or malfeasance. People taking speaker's fees, people consulting with oligarchs, people aiding You know, helping with the elections with shady people, and depositing the money in the Cayman Islands or in Cypriot banks, not declaring income. I think that's what we're likely to find; I think that's probably what Flynn is guilty of. But the more serious charge of collusion with an adversary, even of treason to undermine our election, I doubt it very much. You're right to look at the energy business money, and sort of big-business oligarchic efforts to just get rich together.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, because this is so much tied up with partisan politics. The Democratic Party leadership, you know, Schumer types, they just want to wound Trump any way they can, and this is a good way to cut some knives there, to get their knives out. But the real story is the financial shenanigans, and maybe Flynn was on to that. I'm not Excuse me, not Flynn, Comey. Maybe Comey was on to that, and maybe that's where this thing will lead. That's where Trump needs to fear, not the Flynn stuff.

ROBERT ENGLISH: I think you're probably right, and again, I can only infer what might be going on, what evidence there might be, based on the subpoenas that are going out, but what we've heard says yeah, financial records, all these documents, evidence of I mean, let's go back to this issue that was the scandal of the week about five scandals ago, which means five days ago, and that was that The reason that Flynn was fired, you'll recall that after the election but before the inauguration, he met with the Russian ambassador, and they discussed all kinds of policy issues, including the possibility of moving towards removing the sanctions. When he got back to the White House, apparently he told Pence that they talked about other things, but he didn't admit that the sanctions subject had come up. Therefore, he lied; therefore, he was fired. And Sally Yates, right, the From the Attorney General's office, has made an important point that she briefed the White House on this, she warned that Flynn had been compromised, because the Russians had something on him now.

Okay, technically they did, but come on, guys, hold on a second. Trump was about to be inaugurated, right? It wasn't as if he somehow � Flynn � could undermine a policy of Obama's when there were about five minutes left in the Obama administration. Secondly, the Russians and the Trump administration wanted openly � it was no secret � to move towards a removal of sanctions if they could find cooperation on Ukraine, cooperation on terror in the Middle East. There's no secret here. Therefore, what did the Russians have on Flynn that they could have blackmailed him with? How was he compromised? Yeah, because they'd caught him in a fib, but big deal. You see how these things are being exaggerated. No doubt Flynn broke the rules, he told a lie, but it's not a lie It's not the kind of information in the Russians' possession that's the equivalent of catching him in bed with another woman, or [inaudible 00:16:53].

PAUL JAY: And you have to even believe that he did tell the lie, because we're being told he didn't tell Pence. We don't know if he's falling on his sword to some extent here in order to protect Pence. I mean, who knows the truth of any of that? And the rest of what he did, as far as we know, with the Russians is all public. There's a video of him speaking at an RT interview in Moscow that took place at the same time as this dinner that he was paid to attend on the 10th anniversary of RT, where he sits near Putin. There's nothing secret about any of this; this stuff's been out on YouTube for, like, ages.

ROBERT ENGLISH: So what you have here when you add them up is a sequence of events or small misdeeds: telling a fib about this here, Trump leaking classified information there. None of them are of the magnitude that they're being portrayed with in the media, but when you string them together, it sounds like a hysterical series of

PAUL JAY: So I can understand the Democratic Party, but in terms of what people call the permanent state, the deep state, they're very engaged in this. The leaks from the FBI We still don't, I don't think, unless I missed something, this thing where he Trump talks to the Russian ambassador and the Foreign Minister, Lavrov, and gives this Reveals this intelligence. Well, how do we know that? I mean, who's in that room that leaked that? Or, apparently, after it took place in Washington, some White House staffers phone the NSA and the CIA. Well, you think they've got to call the heads of these organizations at this kind of level of information. So who's leaking that stuff? The state apparatus � CIA, FBI, maybe NSA � they're really antagonistic to this Trump administration. What is that about?

ROBERT ENGLISH: Again, that's where we started, with not only the battle over "Should we try to improve relations with Russia, or are they incorrigible foes?" That's one thing, but now this sort of bureaucratic infighting, the use of leaks, of innuendo. And again, Trump gives them the fuel to do so with these continual misdeeds and misstatements. That's another whole arena of battle, and it's not healthy, right, to have And it's his fault too. He went to war with the intelligence community on day one. But this is so dysfunctional. It's causing us much more harm than the Russians ever could, and

PAUL JAY: We're going to keep this conversation going in a future segment. I do want to add Anyone who watches The Real News knows this already. I mean, I think the Trump/Pence administration is going to prove to be more dangerous than the Bush/Cheney. I think it's extremely dangerous what they have in mind in terms of foreign policy. But all that being said, let's concentrate on the real stuff. Trump's in Saudi Arabia, and they're planning some bad stuff in the Middle East, and targeting of Iran, and back here, we're focusing on really what should be a sideline soap opera.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Yeah. The series, the daily scandals that we're talking about � the Comey letter today, the leak to the Russians yesterday, on and on � are kind of distracting us from the bigger picture. Not only the question of, you know, what are our common interests, if any, with Russia, and can we seriously work towards them, but also, what are we going to do in the Middle East, and what are we doing in East Asia? These pivotal foreign policy strategic issues aren't getting much attention because of the daily soap opera. You're absolutely right.

Let me just add at the end here � I know we're running out of time � I've noted the accidental clumsy careless leak that could've had tragic consequences of the first Bush president. We might also note that the second Bush presidency, that administration leaked like a sieve from, you know, exaggerated false intelligence on Iraq to the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, when it suited their purposes. And the Obama administration wasn't a lot better. People like McCain and others were furious at some of the leaks, whether it was the Stuxnet cyber war tactic that was used against Iran, to a whole series of other military facts that were leaked selectively by the Obama administration to serve their purposes. Let's just remember this context. Mistaken leaks, strategic leaks, dishonest leaks go on all the time in Washington, and against that backdrop, let's not fall off the cliff here over Trump sharing some intel about terror attacks with the Russians, about our common enemy, the Islamic State in Syria.

PAUL JAY: All right, thanks very much for joining us, and thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. Anonymous , May 17, 2017 at 2:09 am

Some issues that are not mentioned. First, the 100 billion dollar a year cost of sanctions which gives Putin and the oligarchs incentive to do a lot of things. Second, the track record of journalists, human rights advocates and attorneys being killed in Russia. Third, the funds paid to Trump from oligarchs via over priced real estate deals.
Guess they all fall into the "strategic issues aren't getting much attention".
If the Putin administration or oligarchs are found to have acted illegally in the US it will be a different discussion.

[May 16, 2017] America is still segregated. We need to be honest about why by Richard Rothstein

Notable quotes:
"... Growing inequality partly reflects a racial wealth gap. Middle-class white Americans are more likely to live in neighborhoods with rising home values (and thus, family equity) while their middle-class black counterparts are more likely to rent, or live in neighborhoods with stagnant values. ..."
May 16, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Growing inequality partly reflects a racial wealth gap. Middle-class white Americans are more likely to live in neighborhoods with rising home values (and thus, family equity) while their middle-class black counterparts are more likely to rent, or live in neighborhoods with stagnant values.

Hostile, sometimes fatal confrontations between police and African American youth might be rarer if the poorest young people were not concentrated in neighborhoods lacking well-resourced schools, good jobs and transportation to better opportunities. In integrated neighborhoods with substantial middle class populations, police perform as public servants, not as an occupying force.

We've done little to desegregate neighborhoods, believing their racial homogeneity is "de facto", tied to private prejudice, personal choices, realtor discrimination or income differences that make middle-class suburbs unaffordable to most African Americans. Under our constitutional system, if neighborhoods are segregated by private activity, we can do little about it.

Only if neighborhoods are segregated "de jure", by explicit government policy, is remedial action permitted. Indeed, the constitution requires remedies for de jure segregation.

In truth, de facto segregation is largely a myth. As my new book, The Color of Law, recounts, racially explicit government policy in the mid-twentieth century separated the races in every metropolitan area, with effects that endure today.

The New Deal created our first civilian public housing, intended to provide lodging mostly for lower-middle class white families during the Depression. The Roosevelt administration built a few projects for black families as well, but almost always segregated. At the time, many urban neighborhoods were integrated because workers of both races lived in walking distance of downtown factories. The Public Works Administration (PWA) demolished many such integrated neighborhoods – deemed slums – to build segregated housing instead, creating segregation where it had never before existed.

In his autobiography, The Big Sea, the poet and novelist Langston Hughes described going to high school in an integrated Cleveland neighborhood where his best friend was Polish and he dated a Jewish girl. The PWA cleared the area to build one project for whites and another for African Americans. Previously integrated neighborhoods in Cambridge, Atlanta, St Louis, San Francisco and elsewhere also gave way to segregated public housing, structuring patterns that persisted for generations.

During the second world war, white and black Americans flocked to jobs in defense plants, sometimes in communities that had no tradition of segregated living. Yet the government built separate projects for black and white citizens, determining future residential boundaries. Richmond, California, was the nation's largest shipbuilding center. It had few African Americans before the war; by its end, some 15,000 were housed in a federal ghetto along the railroad tracks.

By the mid-1950s, projects for white Americans had many unoccupied units while those for African Americans had long waiting lists. The contrast became so conspicuous that all public housing was opened to African Americans. As industry relocated to suburbs, jobs disappeared and public housing residents became poorer. A program that originally addressed a middle-class housing shortage became a way to warehouse the poor.

Why did white housing projects develop vacancies while black ones had long waiting lists? It largely resulted from a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program that guaranteed loans to builders of suburban subdivisions, on the explicit condition that black families be excluded and that house deeds prohibit resale to them. In the late 1940s, William Levitt could never independently have amassed capital to construct 17,000 houses in what became Levittown, east of New York City. He could do so only because the FHA relieved banks of risk in making development loans, provided homes were for whites only.

Urban public housing, originally for middle-class white Americans and later for lower-income African Americans, combined with FHA subsidized suburbanization of whites, created a "white noose" around urban black families that persists to this day.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act permitted African Americans to access previously white neighborhoods. But it prohibited only future discrimination, without undoing the previous 35 years of government-imposed segregation. In suburbs like Levittown that sprouted nationwide in the 1940s and 50s, houses sold for about $100,000 (in today's currency), twice the national median income.

FHA-amortized mortgages were affordable for working-class families of either race, although only whites were allowed. Today, these houses sell for $400,000, seven times national median income, unaffordable to working-class families. Meanwhile, whites who suburbanized with federal protection gained $300,000 in equity to use for children's college tuition, care for aging parents, or medical emergencies. Black families remaining as renters gained no such security.

Our belief in "de facto" segregation is paralyzing. If our racial separation stems from millions of individual decisions, it is hard to imagine the millions of different choices that could undo it. But if we remember that residential segregation results primarily from forceful and unconstitutional government policy, we can begin to consider equally forceful public action to reverse it. Learning this history is the first step we can take.