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Two Party System as Polyarchy and anti-Democratic mechanisms of "first past the post" elections

Version 2.4 (Nov  21, 2016)

The USA looks more and more like a single party state -- it is governed by  Neoliberal party with two factions
 "soft neoliberals" (Democratic Party) and "hard neoliberals"(Republican Party)

News American Polyarchy is not Democracy Recommended Books Recommended Links Crisis of legitimacy of neoliberal elite Demexit Democratic Party Neoliberals Monday morning quarterbacking The Deep State Donald Trump
The Iron Law of Oligarchy Neocons foreign policy is a disaster for the USA Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite Superdelegates at Democratic National Convention Anti Trump Hysteria Bernie Sanders Hillary "Warmonger" Clinton Did Obama order wiretaps of Trump conversations Do the US intelligence agencies attempt to influence the US Presidential elections ?
Neocons Obama: a yet another Neocon Resurgence of neo-fascism as reaction on neoliberalism Media-Military-Industrial Complex  New American Militarism Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Protestant church on danger of neoliberalism
Predator state Anti-Russian hysteria in connection emailgate and DNC leak DNC emails leak: switfboating Bernie Sanders and blaming Vladimir Putin National Security State  American Exceptionalism Libertarian Philosophy Nation under attack meme  Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners" Pluralism as a myth
Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few Corporatist Corruption Paleoconservatism Corporatism Ethno-linguistic Nationalism Hillary Clinton email scandal: Timeline and summary "Clinton Cash" Scandal: Hillary Clinton links to foreign donors and financial industry  Hillary role in Syria bloodbath Hillary Clinton and Obama created ISIS
Myth about intelligent voter Electoral College Non-Interventionism US Presidential Elections of 2012  Mayberry Machiavellians Politically Incorrect Humor Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc
"There is one political party in this country, and that is the party of money. It has two branches, the Republicans and the Democrats, the chief difference between which is that the Democrats are better at concealing their scorn for the average man."

-- Gore Vidal

“The Democrats are the foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves – and they both want to devour you.” So what does that make Libertarians? Avian flu viruses?”

-- Leonard Pinkney

The race is no contest when you own both horses. That is why no matter which political party is in power nothing really changes other than the packaging. The puppets who drink at the champagne fountains of the powerful do the bidding of their masters. The people are superfluous to the process.

-- Daniel Estulin

 

 

Due to the side an introduction was moved to the separate page Polyarchy, Authoritarianism and Deep State

Summary

I subscribe to Kantian idea of the dignity in human, the idea that everyone is entitled to survival as well as thriving beyond survival. But does everybody is entitled to equal participation in ruling of the state ?  Or  in election of state leaders? Which is what democracy means. Is the democracy possible, if elections use "the first after the post" rule?  Another important question is "democracy for whom". There are always part of society living under the dictatorship and excluded from the democratic process.

My impression is that the Communist Party of the USSR made a grave mistake by not adopting "the first after the post" election system. In reality it would just legitimize the permanent Communist Party rule, as two factions of the CPSU competing for power (let's call them "Democratic Communists" and "Republican Communists") would exclude any real challenge for the one party rule that was practiced in the USSR under so called "one party" system. Which, while providing the same results,  looks more undemocratic then "first after the post" system, and thus  less safe for the rule of oligarchy as it generates resentment of the population.  

The "first after the post" system provides a very effective suppression of any third party, preventing any chance of maturing such a political force.  No less effective the Societ one party rule, but more subtle and more acceptable to the population. Which is all what is needed to continuation of the rule of the oligarchy.  The same is true for the parties themselves. Iron law of olgarchy was actualy discovered by observing the evolution of the party leadership.

Revolutionary situation after 2008 is connected with discreditation of neoliberal ideology

The situation when the current ruling elite (or in less politically correct term oligarchy) experienced difficulties with the continuation of its rule and the existing methods of suppression and indoctrination of the lower part population stop working is called  "revolutionary situation". Some signs of this situation were observable in the USA in 2016 which led to the election of what was essentially an independent candidate -- Donald Trump.  It was clear that there is a widespread feeling that the current system is wrong and unjust. And when the people do not wont to live under the current system, and the ruling oligarchy can't continue to rule using the same methods and its brainwashing/propaganda does not work anymore " a rare moment when "the change we can believe in" becomes possible. Not the con that the king of "bait and switch" maneuver Obama sold to the US lemmings twice, but the "real" change; which can be for the good or bad. Stability of the society has its great value. As Chinese curse state it succinctly "May you live in interesting times".

 In such cases, often the ruling elite decides to unleash a foreign war and use "rally around the flag" effect  to suppress dissent and to restore the control (that's the real meaning of Samuel Johnson quote "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel"). The pitch level of anti-Russian propaganda in 2016 in neoliberal MSM suggest that some part of the US elite is not totally hostile to this solution even in nuclear age. As John Kenneth Galbraith noted “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”

In 2016 we saw an attempt by oligarchy to rig the elections despite growing populism, at all cost. Even by promoting a deeply criminal and candidate with serious health problems. The level of propaganda displayed in 2015-2016 election cycle by neoliberal MSM might well outdo the level achieved by communist propagandists in best days of the USSR.  And that happened because this time there is a slight chance that the election are not about choosing "soft neoliberal" vs. "hard neoliberal" but "soft neoliberal"  vs. (at least partially) "paleoconservative", who rejects the idea of neoliberal globalization and by extension the necessity of fighting constant wars for the expansion of the US led global neoliberal empire.   This heresy is not acceptable in the corridors of Washington deep state, and the hissy fit in neoliberal media and the just of intelligence agencies on an "avanscena" of political process (hackingate") were to be expected.

There is also an interesting question what kind of democracy the competition  of "Democratic Neoliberals" ("soft neoliberal/closet neocons) and "Republican Neoliberals: ("hard core" neoliberal/open neocons) in the USA demonstrates. And not only "democratcy for who" -- it is clera tha thtis is democracy for the top 1% or at best top 20% of population.

Also interesting were the methods of indoctrination of population which were borrowed by the USA neoliberals from the Soviet experience. They use university course in economics in the same (or more correctly slightly more subtle; using mathematics as smoke screen for indoctrination into neoliberal ideology)  way Soviet universities use the course of philosophy. In the USSR the courses of philosophy and political economy were obligatory for all university students and people did read both Marx and Lenin; but there were problem here -- as Marx famously said he was not a Marxist.  The same to a certain extent is true for Lenin, who was essentially a bridge between Marxism and national socialism.  This problem was solved by carefully pre-selecting "classics" works to only a subset that felt in like with Bolshevism.

But deteriorating economy and stagnation make this propaganda less effective, much like happened with neoliberal propganda in the USA in 2016. And people were listening to BBC and Voice of America at night, despite jamming.  Similar things happened inthe USA after 2008. Eventhoroughly brainwashed the USA population, who like member of high demand cult now internalized postulates of neoliberalism like dogmas of some civil religion, started to have doubts.  And like Soviet population resorted to the alternative sources of information (for example Guardian, RT, Asia Times, to name a few).

But still the general level  political education of US votes leave much to be desired and is much lower then it was in the USSR (due to obsessive emphasis on the works of Marxs and Lenin much like modern incarnations of Jesus Christ in Soviet state). Let's honestly ask yourselves  what percentage of US voters can list key proposition of paleoconservative political platform vs neoliberal platform. Or define what the term "neoliberal" means. It is difficult also because the terms "neoliberalism" and "Paleoconservatism" are expunged from MSM. Like Trotsky writings were in the USSR. Assuming that this might well be the key difference between two frontrunner in the last Presidential race, this is really unfortunate.

The myth about intelligent voters

That means the hypothesis that majority of voters under "popular democracy" regime (where all citizens have a right to vote) understand what they are voting for ("informed voters" hypothesis)  is open to review (see Myth about intelligent voter).  Otherwise identity politics would not be so successful in the USA, despite being a primitive variation of classic "divide and conquer" strategy. In any democracy, how can voters make an important decision unless they are well informed?  But what percentage of US votes can be considered well informed?  And taking into account popularity of Fox News what percentage is brainwashed or do not what to think about the issues involved and operate based on emotions and prejudices? And when serious discussion of issues that nation faces are deliberately and systematically replaced by "infotainment" voters became just pawns in the game of factions of elite, which sometimes leaks information to sway public opinion, but do it very selectively. All MSM represent the views of large corporations which own them. No exception are allowed. Important information is suppressed or swiped under the carpet to fifth page in NYT to prevent any meaningful discussion. For example, ask several of your friends if they ever heard about Damascus, AR.

In any case one amazing fact happened during this election: republican voters abandoned Republican brass and flocked to Trump, while Democratic voters abandoned Democratic neoliberals and flocked to Sanders (although DNC managed to fix primaries, and then engaged in anti-Russian hysteria to hide this criminal fact).  See Trump vs. The REAL Nuts for an informed discussion of this phenomenon.

Mr. Trump’s great historical role was to reveal to the Republican Party what half of its own base really thinks about the big issues. The party’s leaders didn’t know! They were shocked, so much that they indulged in sheer denial and made believe it wasn’t happening.

The party’s leaders accept more or less open borders and like big trade deals. Half the base does not! It is longtime GOP doctrine to cut entitlement spending. Half the base doesn’t want to, not right now! Republican leaders have what might be called assertive foreign-policy impulses. When Mr. Trump insulted George W. Bush and nation-building and said he’d opposed the Iraq invasion, the crowds, taking him at his word, cheered. He was, as they say, declaring that he didn’t want to invade the world and invite the world. Not only did half the base cheer him, at least half the remaining half joined in when the primaries ended.

But at the same time the struggle for political equality which is often associative with the word "democracy" is a vital human struggle, even if democracy itself is an unachievable and unrealistic ideal (see The Iron Law of Oligarchy).  In some sense too much talk about Democracy is very suspect and just characterize the speaker as a hypocrite with probably evil intentions, who probably is trying to mask some pretty insidious plans with "democracy promotion" smokescreen.

The same is true for countries.  Especially for those which use  "export of democracy" efforts to mask their imperial ambitions. As in the efforts to expand and sustain the global neoliberal empire led by the USA.  See color revolutions for details.  Actually that makes the USA very similar the USSR with its leaders dream about global Communist empire led from Moscow. Both in the USA and the USSR there was too much talk about democracy, while actually practice was decidedly undemocratic. It was oligarchic rule in both cases. In the USA the situation is further complicated by amazing level of brainwashing of population via MSM, which definitely exceed the level achieved by nomenklatura in Soviet Union outside of "Stalinism" period.  Can you imagine the situation in the USSR when members of the ruling communist party were prohibited to show their affiliation and the words "communist" and "communism" was "discouraged" and their usage is suppressed  in MSM including leading newspapers Pravda and Izvestia (roughly analogical to WaPo and NYT).   That's the situation we have in the USA now.

The term "neoliberalism" is effectively prohibited from usage in major US MSM and all political discussion is forcefully turned into "infotainment" -- the clash of  personalizes. In other words discussion of key issues facing the country (politics in real sense of this word)  was replaced under neoliberal regime by "infotainment" with slick and often psychically beautiful "presstitutes" instead of olitical analysts.   But like was the case in the USSR neoliberal brainwashing gradually lost its effectiveness because it contradicts the reality. and neoliberalism failed to deliver promises of "rising tide lifting all board", or trickle down economy which justified tremendous enrichment of top 0.1%. 

Neoliberalism divides the society in  two classes like in old, good Marxism

Politically neoliberalism. like Marxism in the past, operates with the same two classes: "entrepreneurs" (modern name for capitalists and financial oligarchy) and debt slaves (proletarians under Marxism) who work for them. Under neoliberalism only former considered first class citizens ("one dollar -- one vote"). Debt slaves are second class of citizens and are prevented from political self-organization, which by-and-large deprives them of any form of political participation. In best Roman tradition it is substituted with the participation in political shows ("Bread and circuses") See Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges.  In this sense the role of the election is not election of the candidate of people want but legitimizing the candidate the oligarchy pre-selected. . They  helps to provide legitimacy for the ruling elite. 

The two party system invented by the elite of Great Britain proved to be perfect for neoliberal regimes, which practice what Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarism. The latter is the regime in which all political power belongs to the financial oligarchy which rules via the deep state mechanisms, and where traditional political institutions including POTUS are downgraded to instruments of providing political legitimacy of the ruling elite. Population is discouraged from political activity. "Go shopping" as famously recommended Bush II to US citizens after 9/11.

But at the same time the struggle for political equality which is often associative with the word "democracy" is a vital human struggle, even if democracy itself is an unachievable and unrealistic ideal (see The Iron Law of Oligarchy).  In some sense too much talk about Democracy is very suspect and just characterize the speaker as a hypocrite with probably evil intentions, who probably is trying to mask some pretty insidious plans with "democracy promotion" smokescreen. The same is true for countries.  Especially for those which use  "export of democracy" efforts to mask their pretty much imperial ambitions. The efforts to expand and sustain the global neoliberal empire led by the USA.  See color revolutions for details.  Actually that makes the USA very similar the USSR with its leaders dream about global Communist empire led from Moscow. Both in the USA and the USSR there was too much talk about democracy, while actually practice was decidedly undemocratic. It was oligarchic rule in both cases. In the USA the situation is further complicated by amazing level of brainwashing of population via MSM, which definitely exceed the level achieve by nomenklatura in Soviet Union. Can you imagine the situation in the USSR when members of the ruling communist party were prohibited to show their affiliation and the words "communist" and "communism" was "discouraged" and their usage is suppressed  in MSM including leading newspapers Pravda and Izvestia (roughly analogical to WaPo and NYT).   That's the situation we have in the USA now.

Corporation as the role model for government under neoliberalism excludes the possibility of democracy

Everything should be organized like corporation under neoliberalism, including government, medicine, education, even military. And everybody is not a citizen but a shareholder  (or more correctly stakeholder), so any conflict should be resolved via discussion of the main stakeholders. Naturally lower 99% are not among them.

The great propaganda mantra of neoliberal governance is "wealth maximization". Which proved to be very seductive for society as a whole in reality is applied very selectively and never to the bottom 60% or 80%, or eve 99% of population.  In essence, it means a form of welfare economics for financial oligarchy while at the same time a useful smokescreen for keeping debt-slaves obedient by removing any remnants of job security mechanisms that were instituted during the New Deal. As the great American jurist and Supreme Court associate justice Louis Brandeis once said: “We can have huge wealth in the hands of a relatively few people or we can have a democracy. But we can’t have both.”

As under neoliberalism extreme wealth is the goal of the social system, there can be no democracy under neoliberalism. And this mean that pretentions of the USA elite that the USA is a bastion of democracy is plain vanilla British ruling elite style hypocrisy.  Brutal suppression of any move to challenge dominance of financial oligarchy (even such feeble as Occupy movement)  shows that all too well.

Like in case of communist regimes before, under neoliberalism we now face a regime completely opposite to democracy: we have complete, forceful atomization of public, acute suppression of any countervailing political forces (similar to the suppression of dissidents in the USSR in its effectiveness and brutality, but done in "velvet gloves" without resort to physical violence). That includes decimation of  labor unions and other forms of self-organization for the lower 80%, or even 99% of population.  Neoliberalism tries to present any individual, any citizen, as a market actor within some abstract market (everything is the market under neoliberalism). Instead of fight for political  and economic equality neoliberalism provides a slick slogan of "wealth maximization" which is in essence a "bait and switch" for redistribution of wealth up to the top 1% (which is the stated goal of neoliberalism aka "casino capitalism"). It was working in tandem with "shareholder value" mantra which is a disguise of looting of the corporations to enrich its top brass via outsize bonuses (IBM is a nice example where such an approach leads) and sending thousands of white-collar workers to the street. Previously it was mainly blue-collar workers that were affected. Times changed. 

The difference between democrats and republicans as (at least partially) the difference in the level of authoritarianism of two factions of the same "Grand neoliberal Party of the USA"

Both Democratic Party and Republican arty in the USA are neoliberal parties. So effectively we have one-party system skillfully masked as duopoly ;-). Communists could use the same trick, by having the part Socialist internationalists worker-peasants party of the USSR and Democratic internationalists peasant-worker party of the USSR, with leaders wet kissing each other behind the curtain as is the case in the USA. In the USA we have Cola/Pepsi duopoly that is sold as the shining example of democracy, although just the rule "the first after the post" prevents democracy from functioning as it eliminates minorities from governance. 

Political atmosphere at the USA since Reagan, when Republican drifted right and Democrats were bought by Wall Street really reminds me the USSR.  But still those parties reflect two different strata of the US population, which according to Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler book Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics in the level of authoritarianism (for example, as measured by F-scale.). Many Republican politicians can be classified as Double High Authoritarians.

If we assume that this is true, the the large part of "verge issues" that so skillfully played in each election, and using which allow the elite to avoid addressing any fundamental issues facing the nation, such as race, gay marriage, illegal immigration, and the use of force to resolve security problems -- reflect differences in individuals' levels of authoritarianism. This makes authoritarianism an especially compelling explanation of contemporary American politics.

Events and strategic political decisions have conspired to make all these considerations more salient. While the authors acknowledge that authoritarianism is not the only factor determining how people vote, it does offer a an important perspective : a large part (at least white Americans) flock to the particular party based on proximity to their own level authoritarianism and corresponding worldview of the party.  In other words  the percentage of authoritarian/non-authoritarian personality in the population allow to predict, at least in part,  voting behavior of the the USA "white block" electorate.


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[May 25, 2017] The electoral college was put in place to keep the major population centers from determining the vote

May 25, 2017 | www.unz.com

anarchyst , May 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm GMT

@Svigor

I keep trying to explain this "popular vote" thing: The Electoral College system is essentially mandatory voting: every person casts a vote via the electoral college, whether they actually fill out a ballot or not. Choosing not to fill out a ballot is a vote for "I'll go with the majority's decision."

The entire population of the United States of America is represented in this process: everyone is either a proxy (voter), or has his vote cast by a proxy.

The "popular vote" mantra is the scuzzbucket Democrat way of dismissing the legitimacy of the people who vote by proxy. It's Democrats' way of saying these people don't matter. And this from the party that claims to support mandatory voting!

The will of the people is expressed in the Electoral College. And in the 2016 election, that will very much favored Trump over Clinton.

geokat62 , May 22, 2017 at 3:31 pm GMT

The electoral college is the "equalizer" which forces the candidates to campaign in all 50 states

That's the theory. The reality is more like:

The electoral college is the "equalizer" which forces the candidates to campaign in all 15 battleground states

or better still:

The electoral college is the "equalizer" which forces the candidates to campaign in all 5 states (CO, FL, NV, OH, VA) that have been truly competitive over the last five presidential elections

Joe Franklin , May 22, 2017 at 6:47 pm GMT

@anarchyst The electoral college was put in place to keep the major population centers from determining the vote. Without the electoral college, the prospective presidential candidates would only have to cater to the major population centers and could safely ignore "flyover country", as the east and west coasts would have enough "clout" to determine the direction of the vote.
The electoral college is the "equalizer" which forces the candidates to campaign in all 50 states...

utu , May 22, 2017 at 3:32 pm GMT

@anarchyst The electoral college was put in place to keep the major population centers from determining the vote. Without the electoral college, the prospective presidential candidates would only have to cater to the major population centers and could safely ignore "flyover country", as the east and west coasts would have enough "clout" to determine the direction of the vote.
The electoral college is the "equalizer" which forces the candidates to campaign in all 50 states...

[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 23, 2017] Tulsi Gabbard: Citizens United worsened the crisis of dark money influencing our country. We need to get corporate money and lobbyists out of politics.

May 23, 2017 | www.unz.com

L.K , May 23, 2017 at 2:30 am GMT

Tulsi Gabbard‏ on twitter, May 19:

Citizens United worsened the crisis of dark money influencing our country. We need to get corporate money and lobbyists out of politics.

I've decided to stop accepting PAC/lobbyist $$. Bottom line: we can't allow our future to be driven and shaped by special interests.

It always amazes me so few zamericans seem to even discuss these basic themes; with such a completely corrupt political system, there is little chance even a solid, well meaning president could accomplish much.

In fact , such corrupt system hardly produces any good statesmen to begin with

[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 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] Faux populist model of governance

Notable quotes:
"... My thesis is this: both Obama and Trump are faux populists and are part and parcel of a 'faux populist model of governance'. Elements of this model are ..."
"... A craven narcisstic egotistic Leader (Obama, Trump) that is a willing tool because he/she intends to capture a future payoff for himself. ..."
"... Establishment-friendly VP as insurance. Both Biden and Pence are seen as 'reliable hands' by TPTB. ..."
"... crazy opposition that is intended to weaken a faux populist leader and energize apologists. I call them "enforcers". ..."
"... A compliant media ..."
"... This is a toxic mix because it sends the message that neither your vote nor your opinion matters so why waste your time seeking out truth? ..."
"... a sort of 5th column of folks working on behalf of 5th columnists, subverting government in favor of the lucrative process of policy misdirection itself. ..."
May 22, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

Jackrabbit | May 20, 2017 2:10:15 PM | 89

Anon @83

I think you misread or misunderstood what I wrote.

My thesis is this: both Obama and Trump are faux populists and are part and parcel of a 'faux populist model of governance'. Elements of this model are :

1. A craven narcisstic egotistic Leader (Obama, Trump) that is a willing tool because he/she intends to capture a future payoff for himself. They signal their willingness via:

> forgiving past abuses ("no-drama Obama"; Trump's not prosecuting Hillary)

> constraining their own power: Obama's bi-partisanship (termed "11-dimensional chess" by critics), Trump's brashness/recklessness that gives his opponents fodder ("tapes" on Comey, etc.)

2. Establishment-friendly VP as insurance. Both Biden and Pence are seen as 'reliable hands' by TPTB.

3. crazy opposition that is intended to weaken a faux populist leader and energize apologists. I call them "enforcers". By crazy opposition, I mean

> Obama: 'birthers' and smears like "socialist muslim".

Trump: Russia probe; smears like "the new Hitler"

4. apologists that take as a given that the President wants to fulfill the promises, both spoken and unspoken, that he has made to the people.

PS I wrote about this on my blog.
Jackrabbit | May 20, 2017 2:47:50 PM | 90
And, of course:
5. A compliant media
Other considerations: This is a toxic mix because it sends the message that neither your vote nor your opinion matters so why waste your time seeking out truth?
jfl | May 20, 2017 7:04:53 PM | 92
in what's termed the second of a series, someone named Jonathan Marshall makes the crucial point about the various 'lobbies' in the usofa ... How China Lobby Shaped America

In 1949, two members of Congress called for an investigation of the lobby's "brazen power." Rep. Mike Mansfield, a Montana Democrat who would later become Senate majority leader, accused Nationalist Chinese officials - who had fled the mainland for Taiwan that year in the wake of the communist revolution - of diverting U.S. aid to fund political propaganda in the United States.

Ironically, a timely dispensation of $800,000 from Nationalist Chinese officials in Taiwan to their New York office financed a successful campaign to squelch that proposed investigation.

... they are self-funding operations. once the money starts to flow a portion is set aside for kickbacks, bribes, and efforts to protect the mainstream funding itself. it is truly a parasitic operation that feeds on the fruits of its effort on others' behalf, and thus strengthens itself, becoming a stand-alone operation.

there are tens of thousands of people in ac/dc working in these operations, looking out for taiwan's interests, israel's interests, making sure that russia stays demonized ... all the various corporate issues ... but at base and before all else, looking out for number one.

a sort of 5th column of folks working on behalf of 5th columnists, subverting government in favor of the lucrative process of policy misdirection itself.

with a gang like that at the core of our government what, as they say, could go wrong?

[May 19, 2017] Did Seth Rich Contact WikiLeaks

Notable quotes:
"... The other story, however, is something our spooks don't want you to even know about. Fox News reported earlier today [Wednesday] that the private investigator hired by the family of Seth Rich – but paid for by a third party – is now saying there's solid evidence that Rich – a former DNC employee, embedded in their computer operations – was in contact with WikiLeaks. ..."
"... Rich was murdered in the wee hours of July 10, 2016. His wallet, his watch, and valuables were still on him, despite claims it was a botched robbery. Days later, WikiLeaks published the DNC emails. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of his murderers. ..."
"... "An FBI forensic report of Rich's computer – generated within 96 hours after Rich's murder – showed he made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time, the federal source told Fox News. "'I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,' the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department." ..."
"... Speaking of WikiLeaks: a largely overlooked email from John Podesta's leaked account has him saying: "I am definitely for making an example of a suspected leaker." It kind of makes you think, doesn't it? ..."
May 16, 2017 | original.antiwar.com

Two stories are now dominating the headlines: one is something the Establishment wants you to pay attention to, and the other is something they want to bury. First off, to the former:

The Washington Beltway is in an uproar over the latest Deep State attempt to tar the President of the United States as a Russian agent: they're claiming Trump gave super-duper Top Secret information –provided, it turns out, by the Israelis – to the Russians during a meeting with the Kremlin's Foreign Minister and their ambassador at the White House.

There are two problems with this story: if the anonymous former and currently serving "intelligence officials" cited by the Washington Post were really concerned about the damage done to our "sources and methods," they would never have leaked this story in the first place. Secondly, everyone in the room at the time, including National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, denies it.

Far from proving Trump is either the Manchurian candidate and/or is playing fast and loose with our national security, it merely shows – once again – that the "intelligence community" is out to depose him by any means necessary. Add to this Israel's amen corner, which is now screeching that Trump "betrayed" Israel.

The other story, however, is something our spooks don't want you to even know about. Fox News reported earlier today [Wednesday] that the private investigator hired by the family of Seth Rich – but paid for by a third party – is now saying there's solid evidence that Rich – a former DNC employee, embedded in their computer operations – was in contact with WikiLeaks.

Rich was murdered in the wee hours of July 10, 2016. His wallet, his watch, and valuables were still on him, despite claims it was a botched robbery. Days later, WikiLeaks published the DNC emails. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of his murderers.

Fox News is reporting that Rich's computer shows "44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between DNC leaders" passed between Rich and WikiLeaks. They cite not only Rod Wheeler , a former Washington DC homicide detective hired by the Rich family to solve the case, but also a "federal investigator" who corroborates Wheeler's claims:

"An FBI forensic report of Rich's computer – generated within 96 hours after Rich's murder – showed he made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time, the federal source told Fox News.

"'I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,' the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department."

Speaking of WikiLeaks: a largely overlooked email from John Podesta's leaked account has him saying: "I am definitely for making an example of a suspected leaker." It kind of makes you think, doesn't it?

I've said from the beginning that 1) There is no convincing evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC, or fooled John Podesta into giving out his email account password, and 2) It was most likely an inside job. While it may be an overstatement to say that this latest story confirms it, it certainly calls the Russian conspiracy theory into serious question.

Yet both the House and the Senate have launched investigations designed to prove "collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin – to say nothing of the FBI probe. Will the same attention be paid to the Rich-MacFayden correspondence?

Of course not.

The Rich family is denying that there's any evidence their son was in contact with WikiLeaks: but their official spokesman – yes, they have one – is one Brad Bauman , a self-described " crisis consultant " for the Democrats. Which is very appropriate, since these new revelations do indeed constitute a crisis for the Democrats, who have based their entire post-election strategy on a flimsy conspiracy theory that has been debunked by cyber-security experts (the ones who aren't in the pay of the DNC, that is)..

Wheeler says that a local police officer in Washington "looked me straight in the eye" and told him they had been ordered to "stand down" on Rich's case. As for the "mainstream" media, they don't have to be told to stand down – they're doing it instinctively.

But no worries! Antiwar.com was founded to blast through the "mainstream" media wall of silence. That's our job, and we've been doing it for over 20 years. But we can't continue to do it without your help. This Russia conspiracy theory is just plain bonkers, and is clearly the creation of political opportunists and Deep State spooks who have a vested interest in pushing it.

Well, we have a vested interest in the truth. And so do you. That's why supporting Antiwar.com should be near the top of your agenda right now: because a site like this has never been more necessary.

But it doesn't come free! We depend on you, our readers, to donate the funds we need to continue. So don't let the "mainstream" media pull the wool over America's eyes – make your tax-deductible donation today.

Postscript: By the way, the Fox News story on the Seth Rich-Wikileaks connection, by reporter Malia Zimmerman, went through several interesting iterations since its original publication. See here .

[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] I encourage at least skim some of these documents to get a better understanding of the kinds of sickening things perpetrated by the intel community in the past and then ask yourself if the veil of secrecy that surrounds them is to keep secrets from the enemy or to keep the American public from vomiting.

Notable quotes:
"... I found it an odd mix of straight-talk and naivete. The NSA can't spy on Americans without a warrant? Go ahead, pull the other one. ..."
"... This caught my eye earlier. Had to come back to it. Especially after reading Mike Whitney's latest http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/19/seth-rich-craig-murray-and-the-sinister-stewards-of-the-national-security-state/ . In it, he details how seriously Clapper, Brennan et al. take those "laws and procedures." ..."
"... Taking a recent and relevant example, remember the ICA, the "Intelligence Community Assessment"? Whitney quotes a Fox news article detailing the many ways in which it's production varied sharply from normal procedures. And of course there was all that "stove-piping" of "intel" that helped make the bogus case for the 2003 war of aggression against Iraq ..."
"... Glad you liked it. Lily Tomlin applies: "No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up." ..."
"... Excellent post, except for the bit, as some other readers have commented, about American intelligence agencies being law abiding. Europe, and much of the world, crumbled without resistance in the face of the tech juggernauts because of the PR fetishization of anything that came out of silicon valley. ..."
May 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Huey Long , May 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

This piece is absolutely fantastic! Not to nit pick, but I do disagree with the author about the following passage:

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.

We know from the Church and Pike committees that this is patently false, and I highly doubt that this has changed much since then, especially in light of Iran-Contra and the made-up intel used to justify the Iraq invasion.

I know I probably sound like a broken record as I often cite the Church and Pike reports in my NC comments, but they're just so little known and so important that I feel compelled to do so.

I encourage the entire commenteriat to at least skim some of these documents to get a better understanding of the kinds of sickening things perpetrated by the intel community in the past and then ask yourself if the veil of secrecy that surrounds them is to keep secrets from the enemy or to keep the American public from vomiting.

diptherio , May 19, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I found it an odd mix of straight-talk and naivete. The NSA can't spy on Americans without a warrant? Go ahead, pull the other one. Talking about the "collapse of representative government" as if we've ever had one. All very cute, and very silly.

His suggestions for putting the brakes on are good, but insufficient. My ideas as to how to go about, "connecting the tech industry to reality. Bringing its benefits to more people, and bringing the power to make decisions to more people," is here:

http://threadingthepearls.blogspot.com/2014/11/youre-doing-it-wrong-politics-as-if.html

Imagine a political party with no national platform-a party where local rank-and-file members select candidates from among themselves, and dictate the policies those candidates will support. [2] Imagine a political party whose candidates are transparent; one that guarantees every member an equal voice in shaping the actual policy proposals-and the votes-of their representatives. Imagine a political party whose focus is on empowering the rank-and-file members, instead of the charismatic con-artists we call politicians. Imagine a political party that runs on direct democracy, from bottom to top: open, transparent and accountable . we'll need an app maybe two

The app already exists, actually, and it's called Loomio. Podemos uses it, along with a lot of other people:

https://www.loomio.org/

JustAnObserver , May 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

I had the same reaction to that passage, at least initially. However what I think the author might mean by this is that to have the means to combat this evil 2 things are necessary:

o Laws and/or procedures that place limitations on the actions of these agencies – NSA, CIA, DHS etc.

o and, much much more important, the means to ensure those laws/procedures are *enforced* as to both statute and intent.

USians have at least the first part even if the second, enforcement, has rotted to the extent of being no more than a cruel joke. non-USian have neither.

Note that the lack of enforcement thing extends far beyond the IC agencies into anti-trust, environmental regulation, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc. etc.. Even the ludicrous botch called Dodd-Frank could work marginally better if there was some attempt to actually enforce it.

Wisdom Seeker , May 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm

"Dodd-Frank could work marginally better if there was some attempt to actually enforce it."

Unenforceable and unenforced laws are a feature, not a bug, and demonstrate the corruption of the system.

Bugs Bunny , May 19, 2017 at 2:14 pm

The USSR had laws guaranteeing freedom of expression.

Michael Fiorillo , May 19, 2017 at 5:35 pm

It's a fine and entertaining piece, but flawed.

That bit about tech workers defying management to protest Trump's travel ban seems demonstrably untrue, as the companies want that human capital pipeline kept open, and they can simultaneously wrap themselves in muliti-cultural virtue as they defend their employment practices.

Also, and I know people here will disagree or think it irrelevant, but the "They're not bad people," thing is wrong; I think people such as Thiel, Kalanick, Zuckerberg, Ellison, add-your-own-candidates, seem like pretty awful people doing a lot of awful things, whatever their brilliance, business acumen, and relentlessness.

Finally, while as a union guy I was pleased to see the importance he gave it, the idea of tech workers unionizing in this country seems like social science fiction, whatever their European counterparts might hopefully do.

TheCatSaid , May 19, 2017 at 3:18 pm

I, too, stumbled / choked when I read those paragraphs. They are provably false in so many dimensions I hardly know where to begin. It made it hard to read past.

I will try again because so many commenters are so positive. But the author's credibility sinks when a piece starts with such blindness or misinformation or pandering.

PhilM , May 19, 2017 at 3:41 pm

On the one hand, it's probably some pandering, because he knows he is being watched. We all throw that same bone once in a while. From Vergil, it is called "a sop to Cerberus." On the other hand, he is correct, too: it is a "lawful evil" because it functions using tax money, which is money extorted by force with the sanction of law, rather than "chaotic evil," which is money extorted by force or fraud without that sanction. So in that positive-law-philosophy way of thinking, he has a point, even if it's a pandering point.

knowbuddhau , May 19, 2017 at 12:16 pm

>>>"They have to follow laws and procedures, and the people in those agencies take them seriously."

This caught my eye earlier. Had to come back to it. Especially after reading Mike Whitney's latest http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/19/seth-rich-craig-murray-and-the-sinister-stewards-of-the-national-security-state/ . In it, he details how seriously Clapper, Brennan et al. take those "laws and procedures."

Taking a recent and relevant example, remember the ICA, the "Intelligence Community Assessment"? Whitney quotes a Fox news article detailing the many ways in which it's production varied sharply from normal procedures. And of course there was all that "stove-piping" of "intel" that helped make the bogus case for the 2003 war of aggression against Iraq .

I appreciate the author's point: it would be harder to surveil a particular American than a European. I'm sure rank & file people by & large respect law and procedure. But don't worry, if there's a political will to get you, there's a way. Ask Chelsea Manning.

Whitney concludes by quoting an especially apt question posed by Michael Glennon in the May issue of Harper's: "Who would trust the authors of past episodes of repression as a reliable safeguard against future repression?"

People who think they're immune to said repression, for one. Or who don't know or believe it happened/is happening at all. IOW political elites and most Americans, that's who. I think there's a good chance the soft coup will work, and most Americans would even accept a President-General.

So while I see the author's point, I see it this way. They take laws and procedures seriously like I take traffic laws seriously. Only their solution is to corrupt law enforcement, not follow the law.

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it's just a goddamned piece of paper!" - President George W. Bush

Silicon Valley elites apparently think the same.

TheCatSaid , May 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Mike Whitney's article you linked to was interesting. George Webb's ongoing YouTube series is going further still, as he is uncovering numerous anomalies with Seth Rich's death and the circumstances and "investigation". It turns out that nothing in this story is what it seems (the "school play" scenario).

Disturbingly, there are similarities and patterns that connect up with numerous other patterns discussed earlier in this 208-day (so far) odyssey, which started with looking at irregularities around oil pipelines and drugs shipments, and ended up including numerous additional criminal enterprises, all with direct links to high-up government staff and political staff from both major parties, with links among key participants going back over decades in some cases.

To return to your observation–knowing what I know now–personal as well as second-hand, I don't think it's harder to surveil an american than a european. The compromises of law enforcement, justice and intelligence and rogue contractors have no international boundaries. The way the compromises are done vary depending on local methods, and the degree of public awareness may vary, but the actuality and ease–no different overall.

knowbuddhau , May 19, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Glad you liked it. Lily Tomlin applies: "No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up."

TheCatSaid , May 19, 2017 at 4:31 pm

That says it all. The rabbit holes are many and deep. As a society we are in for many rude awakenings. I don't expect soft landings.

mwbworld , May 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Lots of great stuff in here, but I'll raise a slight objection to:

three or four people who use Linux on the desktop, all of whom are probably at this conference.

We're now up to easily 5 or 6 thank you very much, and I wasn't at the conference. ;-)

MoiAussie , May 19, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Make that 7.

HotFlash , May 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Eight, nine and ten in this household. I don't use any Google-stuff and have hard-deleted my Facebook account. At least they told me had, I should ask a friend to check to see if I am still there ;)

voislav , May 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

But we all know that a Linux user is worth only 3/5 of a regular user, so we are back to 6. Writing this from a 2003 vintage Pentium 4 machine running Linux Mint 17.

knowbuddhau , May 19, 2017 at 3:40 pm

8. Built this thing myself 5 years ago. It's a quad core on an MSI mobo. Or maybe I only count as a half, since it's a dual boot with Linux Mint 17.3/Win7 Pro.

Disturbed Voter , May 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm

A history lesson. The PC brought freedom from the IT department, until networking enslaved us again. The freedom was temporary, we were originally supposed to be serfs of a timeshare system connected to a mainframe. France was ahead of the US in that, they had MiniTel. But like everything French is was efficient but static. In Europe, like in the US, the PC initially liberated, and then with networking, enslaved. Arpanet was the predecessor of the Internet it was a Cold War system of survivable networking, for some people. The invention of HTTP and the browser at CERN democratized the Arpanet. But it also greatly enabled State-sponsored snooping.

We are now moving to cloud storage and Chrome-books which will restore the original vision of a timeshare system connected to a mainframe, but at a higher technical standard. What was envisioned in 1968 will be achieved, but later than planned, and in a round about way. We are not the polity we used to be. In 1968 this would have been viewed by the public with suspicion. But after 50 years later the public will view this as progress.

Huey Long , May 19, 2017 at 1:22 pm

In 1968 this would have been viewed by the public with suspicion. But after 50 years later the public will view this as progress.

50 years of being force fed Bernays Sauce will tend to do that to a people :-(.

LT , May 19, 2017 at 2:50 pm

One thing just as dangerous and limiting as the idealized past of the conservative mindset is the idealized sense of progress of the the liberal mindset.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

You have 'a little learning is a dangerous thing.'

Then you have the Andromeda Strain that is toxic within a small PH range.

That is to say, nothing is inherently good or bad. It depends on when, where, what and how much.

And so the PC brought freedom and now it doesn't.

I suspect likewise with left-wing ideas and right-wing ideas. "How much of it? When?"

duck1 , May 19, 2017 at 1:09 pm

SV tech owners (think about) . . . the cool toys they'll spend profits on . . . run by chuckle heads . . . identify with progressive values . . . they want to help . . . run by a feckless leadership accountable to no one . . .
Can't send them to Mars quick enough, I say.

Oregoncharles , May 19, 2017 at 1:13 pm

." 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."

This is standup comedy?

Huey Long , May 19, 2017 at 1:24 pm

This is standup comedy?

To the NCer, yes.

To the general public who have swallowed what I like to call the "Jack Ryan Narrative" of how things are at the CIA, no.

duck1 , May 19, 2017 at 1:47 pm

The real kneeslapper was. . . American government (also) run by chuckle heads . . . what happens when these two groups . . . join forces?
Knock me over with a feather, let us know when that happens. How many Friedman units will we have to wait?

Oregoncharles , May 19, 2017 at 1:19 pm

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

How can this be? I don't use it except very rarely; my wife does, but complains about it bitterly, and so do people here at NC, presumably tech-savvy. My wife is using it out of pure habit; what about the rest of them?

Phemfrog , May 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

I literally don't know anyone who doesn't use it.

Oregoncharles , May 19, 2017 at 1:28 pm

"Given this scary state of the world, with ecological collapse just over the horizon, and a population sharpening its pitchforks, "
And unfortunately, that's the likeliest solution. (The family blogging "L" on this keyboard doesn't work right, so make some allowances.)

Despite my nitpicks above, this is a very important speech and a frightening issue. In particular, I've long been concerned that so much organizing depends on giant corporations like Faceborg and Twitter. They have no reason to be our friends, and some important reasons, like this speech, to be our enemies. Do we have a backup if FB and Google decide to censor the Internet for serious?

Thuto , May 19, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Excellent post, except for the bit, as some other readers have commented, about American intelligence agencies being law abiding. Europe, and much of the world, crumbled without resistance in the face of the tech juggernauts because of the PR fetishization of anything that came out of silicon valley.

The laxity of lawmakers and regulators was partly because of their unwillingness to be seen as standing in the way of "progress". A public drunk on the need to be in with the new, "disruptive" kids on the block who were "changing the world" would have teamed up with the disruptors to run rough shod over any oversight mechanisms proposed by regulators. Hence the silicon valley PR machine always prioritises the general public as the first targets of intellectual capture, because an intellectually captured public loath to give up the benefits and convenience of "progress and disruption" is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of tech giants in their global war against regulation. And the insidious nature of the damage of overreach by these tech giants isn't just limited to online interactions anymore, but the real world is also now experiencing disruption in the true sense of the word with gig economy companies reshaping the dynamics of entire markets and squeezing the most vulnerable members of society to the periphery of said markets, if not pushing them out entirely. In my own city of cape town south africa, a housing crisis is brewing as locals are being squeezed out of the housing market because landlords profit more from airbnb listings than making their properties available for long term rentals. Asset prices are being pushed up as "investors" compete to snap up available inventory to list on airbnb. And city officials seem more interested in celebrating cape town's status as "one of the top airbnb destinations" than actually protecting the interests of their own citizens. Intellectual capture, and the need to be "in with the cool disruptive kids" is infecting even public sector organizations with severe consequences for the public at large, but the public is blind to this as they've binged on the "disruption, changing the world" cool-aid

Bill Smith , May 19, 2017 at 4:15 pm

"PR fetishization of anything that came out of silicon valley"

It had nothing to do with individuals thinking this stuff had value? Cell phones -> iPhone (smartphone) for example.

Thuto , May 19, 2017 at 6:03 pm

While individuals might derive value from "this stuff", the tech companies providing the stuff use said value, allied with massive amounts of PR spin to render regulators impotent in providing safe guards to stop the techies from morphing from value providers into something akin to encroachers for profit/power/control (e.g. encroaching upon our right to privacy by selling off our data). Providing value to the public shouldn't be used as a cloak under which the dagger used to erode our rights is hidden

LT , May 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm

In the links today, there is a Guardian story on Tesla workers with the quote: "Everything feels like the future but us."

I'm reminded of another Guardian article about an ideology underpinning the grievances in Notes From An Emergency. It's imperative to understand the that the system we find ourselves in is a belief system – an ideology – and the choices to be made in regards to challenging it.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/11/accelerationism-how-a-fringe-philosophy-predicted-the-future-we-live-in/
An excerpt:
"Accelerationists argue that technology, particularly computer technology, and capitalism, particularly the most aggressive, global variety, should be massively sped up and intensified – either because this is the best way forward for humanity, or because there is no alternative. Accelerationists favour automation. They favour the further merging of the digital and the human. They often favour the deregulation of business, and drastically scaled-back government. They believe that people should stop deluding themselves that economic and technological progress can be controlled. They often believe that social and political upheaval has a value in itself.

Accelerationism, therefore, goes against conservatism, traditional socialism, social democracy, environmentalism, protectionism, populism, nationalism, localism and all the other ideologies that have sought to moderate or reverse the already hugely disruptive, seemingly runaway pace of change in the modern world "

Be sure to catch such quotes as this:
"We all live in an operating system set up by the accelerating triad of war, capitalism and emergent AI," says Steve Goodman, a British accelerationist

That should remind one of this:
"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 ."

Oregoncharles , May 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm

"Boycotts won't work, since opting out of a site like Google means opting out of much of modern life."

I wish he wouldn't keep dropping into openly delusional statements like that. Granted, i use Google News, but there are alternatives.

jrs , May 19, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Yes I know, it's ridiculous. And we use them to "protect" us he claims. But about the only place where "protect" makes any sense in his whole argument is actually Amazon. It is pretty safe to buy from Amazon (or using Amazon-pay) if you fear a credit card being hacked from on online purchase. That much has some truth.

But how does using Facebook protect anyone? How does Google protect anyone? Ok Android security is a different debate, but I really don't understand how issues of "security" etc. applies to using a Google search as opposed to any other.

LT , May 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/11/accelerationism-how-a-fringe-philosophy-predicted-the-future-we-live-in

A long read, but gives some background on the "disruptors" a rebrand of "accelerationism."

(I thought I had accidently removed the link in the previous post)

begob , May 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

The right wing in Britain seems to have come up with an authoritarian solution: "Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online."

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/theresa-may-internet-conservatives-government-a7744176.html

David, by the lake , May 19, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Lost me right at the opening by bringing up the popular vote and the bemoaning of a "broken" system. We are a federal republic of states and I'd prefer to keep it that way. Ensuring that the executive has the support of the populations of some minimal number of states is a good thing in my view.

craazyman , May 19, 2017 at 7:39 pm

so much to read. so little time.

that's when I bailed too. What drek. If a reader has half a mind, they slip and fall on a greasy doo doo in the first 15 seconds? No way can I stand to wade through the rest of what seems like a tortured screed (although I did speed read it). Turns out, I may agree in a minor way with some points, but I'll never know. I have time to waste in the real world, and I can't waste it if I'm reading somebody's internet screed about Donald Trump. God Good almighty. Enough.

Authors watch your words. They matter! LOL. And always remember - sometimes less is more. Not NC's finest post evah. And post author's shouldn't refer to people's heads on pikes in their hotel room as being something they wouldn't object to. I mean really. That's not even junior high school humor. I give this post a 2.3 on a scale of 1-10. 1 is unbearable. 3 is readable. 10 is genius.

PKMKII , May 19, 2017 at 3:12 pm

The people who run Silicon Valley identify with progressive values

Nope. There are some true progressives in the industry, yes, but they're few and far between. Understanding the dominant mindset in Silicon Valley is vital to understanding why there hasn't been pushback on all this. Sure, they like their neoliberal IdPol as it appeals to their meritocracy worship (hence the protests against the travel ban), but not with any intersectionality, especially with regards to women (the red pill/MRA mind virus infects a lot of brains in SV). Socio-economics, though, it's heavy on the libertarianism, albeit with some support for utopian government concepts like UBI, plus a futurist outlook out of that Rationality cult; Yudkowsky and his LessWrong nonsense have influence over a lot of players, big and small, in the bay area. So what you get is a bunch of people deluded into thinking they're hyperlogical while giving themselves a free pass on the begged question of where their "first principles" emerged out of. It's not just their sci-fi bubble that needs a poppin', it's their Rothbardian/Randite one as well.

Sue , May 19, 2017 at 3:27 pm

+1,000
"The people who run Silicon Valley identify with progressive values"
True! I've seen some smoking weed while talking machine language and screwing half of humanity

Michael Fiorillo , May 19, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Better still, they micro-dose on psychedelics while coding our binary chains: how cool is that!

TheCatSaid , May 19, 2017 at 3:38 pm

The points you raise are accurate. And even long before those things existed, Silicon Valley arose as conscious, deliberate high-level government strategy (or beyond-government deep state).

The sources of new technology and funding have been deliberately obscured, at least as far as the general public debate goes. It has nothing to do with "innovation" and "entrepreneurship". It is amazing to see all countries around the world hop onto the innovation, let's-imitate-Silicon-Valley bandwagon, with no awareness that SV was no accident of a few smart/lucky individual entrepreneurs.

jfleni , May 19, 2017 at 4:12 pm

NOBODY has to join buttBook, review slimy effing GIGGLE, and especially use MICROSWIFT; ALTERNATIVES are easy and often more effective and especially annoying to the rich slime.

When Balmer was Billy-Boy's Ceo he actually preached that Linux was a nefarious plot to deprive clowns like him of their well deserved "emoluments". Fortuneately, all he has to do now is sell beer and hot dogs, and make sure the cheerleaders keep their clothing on. Good job for him.

Decide NOT to be a lemming; instead be a BOLSHIE and hit 'em hard. YOU and the whole internet will benefit.

ginnie nyc , May 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm

I think some of the naivete of this talk is based on a superficial knowledge of American history. Things like his remark about the Women's DC March – "America is not used to large demonstrations " Oh really.

The writer, though intelligent, is apparently unaware of massive demos during the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the anti-Iraq war marches, the Bonus March etc etc. Perhaps his ignorance is a function of age, and perhaps the fact he was not born here, vis a vis his name.

different clue , May 19, 2017 at 7:27 pm

I will reply to an almost tangential little something which Maciej Ceglowski wrote near the beginning of his piece.

" 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."

Really? A bug in the operating system of our democracy? That sounds like something a Clintonite would say. It sounds like something that many millions of Clintonites DID say, over and over and over again.

Clinton got more popular votes? She got almost all of them in California. So Mr. Ceglowski thinks Clinton should be President based on that? That means Mr. Ceglowski wants the entire rest of America to be California's colonial possession, ruled by a President that California picked. And don't think we Midwestern Deplorables don't understand exACTly how Ceglowski thinks and what Ceglowski thinks of us out here in Deploristan.

Some Clinton supporters are smarter than that. Some were not surprised. Michael Moore was not surprised. He predicted that we Deploristani Midwesterners would make Trump President whether the digitally beautiful people liked it or not. Did Mr. Ceglowski support Clinton? Did the "tech workers in short-lived revolt" support Clinton? And did they support NAFTA back in the day? You thought you would cram Trade Treason Clinton down our throat? Well, we flung Trade Patriot Trump right back in your face.

[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] 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 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] 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] Mark Ames: The FBI Has No Legal Charter But Lots of Kompromat

Notable quotes:
"... Today, it seems, the best description of the FBI's main activity is corporate enforcer for the white-collar mafia known as Wall Street. There is an analogy to organized crime, where the most powerful mobsters settled disputes between other gangs of criminals. Similarly, if a criminal gang is robbed by one of its own members, the mafia would go after the guilty party; the FBI plays this role for Wall Street institutions targeted by con artists and fraudsters. Compare and contrast a pharmaceutical company making opiates which is targeted by thieves vs. a black market drug cartel targeted by thieves. In one case, the FBI investigates; in the other, a violent vendetta ensues (such as street murders in Mexico). ..."
"... The FBI executives are rewarded for this service with lucrative post-retirement careers within corporate America – Louis Freeh went to credit card fraudster, MBNA, Richard Mueller to a corporate Washington law firm, WilmerHale, and Comey, before Obama picked him as Director, worked for Lockheed Martin and HSBC (cleaning up after their $2 billion drug cartel marketing scandal) after leaving the FBI in 2005. ..."
"... Some say they have a key role to play in national security and terrorism – but their record on the 2001 anthrax attacks is incredibly shady and suspicious. The final suspect, Bruce Ivins, is clearly innocent of the crime, just as their previous suspect, Steven Hatfill was. Ivins, if still alive, could have won a similar multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against the FBI. All honest bioweapons experts know this to be true – the perpetrators of those anthrax letters are still at large, and may very well have had close associations with the Bush Administration itself. ..."
"... Comey's actions over the past year are certainly highly questionable, as well. Neglecting to investigate the Clinton Foundation ties to Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments and corporations, particularly things like State Department approval of various arms deals in which bribes may have been paid, is as much a dereliction of duty as neglecting to investigate Trump ties to Russian business interests – but then, Trump has a record of shady business dealings dating back to the 1970s, of strange bankruptcies and bailouts and government sales that the FBI never looked at either. ..."
May 16, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Mark Ames, founding editor of the Moscow satirical paper The eXile and co-host of the Radio War Nerd podcast with Gary Brecher (aka John Dolan). Subscribe here . Originally published at The Exiled

I made the mistake of listening to NPR last week to find out what Conventional Wisdom had to say about Trump firing Comey, on the assumption that their standardized Mister-Rogers-on-Nyquil voice tones would rein in the hysteria pitch a little. And on the surface, it did-the NPR host and guests weren't directly shrieking "the world is ending! We're all gonna die SHEEPLE!" the way they were on CNN. But in a sense they were screaming "fire!", if you know how to distinguish the very minute pitch level differences in the standard NPR Nyquil voice.

The host of the daytime NPR program asked his guests how serious, and how "unprecedented" Trump's decision to fire his FBI chief was. The guests answers were strange: they spoke about "rule of law" and "violating the Constitution" but then switched to Trump "violating norms"-and back again, interchanging "norms" and "laws" as if they're synonyms. One of the guests admitted that Trump firing Comey was 100% legal, but that didn't seem to matter in this talk about Trump having abandoned rule-of-law for a Putinist dictatorship. These guys wouldn't pass a high school civics class, but there they were, garbling it all up. What mattered was the proper sense of panic and outrage-I'm not sure anyone really cared about the actual legality of the thing, or the legal, political or "normative" history of the FBI.

For starters, the FBI hardly belongs in the same set with concepts like "constitutional" or " rule of law." That's because the FBI was never established by a law. US Lawmakers refused to approve an FBI bureau over a century ago when it was first proposed by Teddy Roosevelt. So he ignored Congress, and went ahead and set it up by presidential fiat. That's one thing the civil liberties crowd hates discussing - how centralized US political power is in the executive branch, a feature in the constitutional system put there by the holy Founders.

In the late 1970s, at the tail end of our brief Glasnost, there was a lot of talk in Washington about finally creating a legal charter for the FBI -70 years after its founding. A lot of serious ink was spilled trying to transform the FBI from an extralegal secret police agency to something legal and defined. If you want to play archeologist to America's recent history, you can find this in the New York Times' archives, articles with headlines like "Draft of Charter for F.B.I. Limits Inquiry Methods" :

The Carter Administration will soon send to Congress the first governing charter for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The proposed charter imposes extensive but not absolute restrictions on the bureau's employment of controversial investigative techniques, .including the use of informers, undercover agents and covert criminal activity.

The charter also specifies the duties and powers of the bureau, setting precise standards and procedures for the initiation ,and conduct of investigations. It specifically requires the F.B.I. to observe constitutional rights and establishes safeguards against unchecked harassment, break‐ins and other abuses.

followed by the inevitable lament, like this editorial from the Christian Science Monitor a year later, "Don't Forget the FBI Charter". Which of course we did forget-that was Reagan's purpose and value for the post-Glasnost reaction: forgetting. As historian Athan Theoharis wrote , "After 1981, Congress never seriously considered again any of the FBI charter proposals."

The origins of the FBI have been obscured both because of its dubious legality and because of its original political purpose-to help the president battle the all-powerful American capitalists. It wasn't that Teddy Roosevelt was a radical leftist-he was a Progressive Republican, which sounds like an oxymoron today but which was mainstream and ascendant politics in his time. Roosevelt was probably the first president since Andrew Jackson to try to smash concentrated wealth-power, or at least some of it. He could be brutally anti-labor, but so were the powerful capitalists he fought, and all the structures of government power. He met little opposition pursuing his imperial Social Darwinist ambitions outside America's borders-but he had a much harder time fighting the powerful capitalists at home against Roosevelt's most honorable political obsession: preserving forests, parks and public lands from greedy capitalists. An early FBI memo to Hoover about the FBI's origins explains,

"Roosevelt, in his characteristic dynamic fashion, asserted that the plunderers of the public domain would be prosecuted and brought to justice."

According to New York Times reporter Tim Wiener's Enemies: A History of the FBI , it was the Oregon land fraud scandal of 1905-6 that put the idea of an FBI in TR's hyperactive mind. The scandal involved leading Oregon politicians helping railroad tycoon Edward Harriman illegally sell off pristine Oregon forest lands to timber interests, and it ended with an Oregon senator and the state's only two House representatives criminally charged and put on trial-along with dozens of other Oregonians. Basically, they were raping the state's public lands and forests like colonists stripping a foreign country-and that stuck in TR's craw.

TR wanted his attorney general-Charles Bonaparte (yes, he really was a descendant of that Bonaparte)-to make a full report to on the rampant land fraud scams that the robber barons were running to despoil the American West, and which threatened TR's vision of land and forest conservation and parks. Bonaparte created an investigative team from the US Secret Service, but TR thought their report was a "whitewash" and proposed a new separate federal investigative service within Bonaparte's Department of Justice that would report only to the Attorney General.

Until then, the US government had to rely on private contractors like the notorious, dreaded Pinkerton Agency, who were great at strikebreaking, clubbing workers and shooting organizers, but not so good at taking down down robber barons, who happened to also be important clients for the private detective agencies.

In early 1908, Attorney General Bonaparte wrote to Congress asking for the legal authority (and budget funds) to create a "permanent detective force" under the DOJ. Congress rebelled, denouncing it as a plan to create an American okhrana . Democrat Joseph Sherley wrote that "spying on men and prying into what would ordinarily be considered their private affairs" went against "American ideas of government"; Rep. George Waldo, a New York Republican, said the proposed FBI was a "great blow to freedom and to free institutions if there should arise in this country any such great central secret-service bureau as there is in Russia."

So Congress's response was the opposite, banning Bonaparte's DOJ from spending any funds at all on a proposed FBI. Another Congressman wrote another provision into the budget bill banning the DOJ from hiring Secret Service employees for any sort of FBI type agency. So Bonaparte waited until Congress took its summer recess, set aside some DOJ funds, recruited some Secret Service agents, and created a new federal detective bureau with 34 agents. This was how the FBI was born. Congress wasn't notified until the end of 1908, in a few lines in a standard report - "oh yeah, forgot to tell you-the executive branch went ahead and created an American okhrana because, well, the ol' joke about dogs licking their balls. Happy New Year!"

The sordid history of America's extralegal secret police-initially named the Bureau of Investigation, changed to the FBI ("Federal") in the 30's, is mostly a history of xenophobic panic-mongering, illegal domestic spying, mass roundups and plans for mass-roundups, false entrapment schemes, and planting what Russians call "kompromat"- compromising information about a target's sex life-to blackmail or destroy American political figures that the FBI didn't like.

The first political victim of J Edgar Hoover's kompromat was Louis Post, the assistant secretary of labor under Woodrow Wilson. Post's crime was releasing over 1,000 alleged Reds from detention facilities near the end of the FBI's Red Scare crackdown, when they jailed and deported untold thousands on suspicion of being Communists. The FBI's mass purge began with popular media support in 1919, but by the middle of 1920, some (not the FBI) were starting to get a little queasy. A legal challenge to the FBI's mass purges and exiles in Boston ended with a federal judge denouncing the FBI. After that ruling, assistant secretary Louis Post, a 71-year-old well-meaning progressive, reviewed the cases against the last 1500 detainees that the FBI wanted to deport, and found that there was absolutely nothing on at least 75 percent of the cases. Post's review threatened to undo thousands more FBI persecutions of alleged Moscow-controlled radicals.

So one of the FBI's most ambitious young agents, J Edgar Hoover, collected kompromat on Post and his alleged associations with other alleged Moscow-controlled leftists, and gave the file to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives-which promptly announced it would hold hearings to investigate Post as a left subversive. The House tried to impeach Post, but ultimately he defended himself. Post's lawyer compared his political persecutors to the okhrana (Russia, again!): "We in America have sunk to the level of the government of Russia under the Czarist regime," describing the FBI's smear campaign as "even lower in some of their methods than the old Russian officials."

Under Harding, the FBI had a new chief, William Burns, who made headlines blaming the terror bombing attack on Wall Street of 1920 that killed 34 people on a Kremlin-run conspiracy. The FBI claimed it had a highly reliable inside source who told them that Lenin sent $30,000 to the Soviets' diplomatic mission in New York, which was distributed to four local Communist agents who arranged the Wall Street bombing. The source claimed to have personally spoken with Lenin, who boasted that the bombing was so successful he'd ordered up more.

The only problem was that the FBI's reliable source, a Jewish-Polish petty criminal named Wolf Lindenfeld, turned out to be a bullshitter-nicknamed "Windy Linde"-who thought his fake confession about Lenin funding the bombing campaign would get him out of Poland's jails and set up in a comfortable new life in New York.

By 1923, the FBI had thoroughly destroyed America's communist and radical labor movements-allowing it to focus on its other favorite pastime: spying on and destroying political opponents. The FBI spied on US Senators who supported opening diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union: Idaho's William Borah, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Thomas Walsh of the Judiciary Committee, and Burton K Wheeler, the prairie Populist senator from Montana, who visited the Soviet Union and pushed for diplomatic relations. Harding's corrupt Attorney General Dougherty denounced Sen. Wheeler as "the Communist leader in the Senate" and "no more a Democrat than Stalin, his comrade in Moscow." Dougherty accused Sen. Wheeler of being part of a conspiracy "to capture, by deceit and design, as many members of the Senate as possible and to spread through Washington and the cloakrooms of Congress a poison gas as deadly as that which sapped and destroyed brave soldiers in the last war."

Hoover, now a top FBI official, quietly fed kompromat to journalists he cultivated, particularly an AP reporter named Richard Whitney, who published a popular book in 1924, "Reds In America" alleging Kremlin agents "had an all-pervasive influence over American institutions; they had infiltrated every corner of American life." Whitney named Charlie Chaplin as a Kremlin agent, along with Felix Frankfurter and members of the Senate pushing for recognition of the Soviet Union. That killed any hope for diplomatic recognition for the next decade.

Then the first Harding scandals broke-Teapot Dome, Veterans Affairs, bribery at the highest rungs. When Senators Wheeler and Walsh opened bribery investigations, the FBI sent agents to the senators' home state to drum up false bribery charges against Sen. Wheeler. The charges were clearly fake, and a jury dismissed the charges. But Attorney General Dougherty was indicted for fraud and forced to resign, as was his FBI chief Burns-but not Burns' underling Hoover, who stayed in the shadows.

"We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail This must stop."

With the Cold War, the FBI became obsessed with homosexuals as America's Fifth Column under Moscow's control. Homosexuals, the FBI believed, were susceptible to Kremlin kompromat-so the FBI collected and disseminated its own kompromat on alleged American homosexuals, supposedly to protect America from the Kremlin. In the early 1950s, Hoover launched the Sex Deviates Program to spy on American homosexuals and purge them from public life. The FBI built up 300,000 pages of files on suspected homosexuals and contacted their employers, local law enforcement and universities to "to drive homosexuals from every institution of government, higher learning, and law enforcement in the nation," according to Tim Weiner's book Enemies. No one but the FBI knows exactly how many Americans' lives and careers were destroyed by the FBI's Sex Deviants Program but Hoover-who never married, lived with his mother until he was 40, and traveled everywhere with his "friend" Clyde Tolson .

In the 1952 election, Hoover was so committed to helping the Republicans and Eisenhower win that he compiled and disseminated a 19-page kompromat file alleging that his Democratic Party rival Adlai Stevenson was gay. The FBI's file on Stevenson was kept in the Sex Deviants Program section-it included libelous gossip, claiming that Stevenson was one of Illinois' "best known homosexuals" who went by the name "Adeline" in gay cruising circles.

In the 1960s, Hoover and his FBI chiefs collected kompromat on the sex lives of JFK and Martin Luther King. Hoover presented some of his kompromat on JFK to Bobby Kennedy, in a concern-trollish way claiming to "warn" him that the president was opening himself up to blackmail. It was really a way for Hoover to let the despised Kennedy brothers know he could destroy them, should they try to Comey him out of his FBI office. Hoover's kompromat on MLK's sex life was a particular obsession of his-he now believed that African-Americans, not homosexuals, posed the greatest threat to become a Kremlin Fifth Column. The FBI wiretapped MLK's private life, collecting tapes of his affairs with other women, which a top FBI official then mailed to Martin Luther King's wife, along with a note urging King to commit suicide.

FBI letter anonymously mailed to Martin Luther King Jr's wife, along with kompromat sex tapes

After JFK was murdered, when Bobby Kennedy ran for the Senate in 1964, he recounted another disturbing FBI/kompromat story that President Johnson shared with him on the campaign trail. LBJ told Bobby about a stack of kompromat files - FBI reports "detailing the sexual debauchery of members of the Senate and House who consorted with prostitutes." LBJ asked RFK if the kompromat should be leaked selectively to destroy Republicans before the 1964 elections. Kennedy recalled,

"He told me he had spent all night sitting up and reading the files of the FBI on all these people. And Lyndon talks about that information and material so freely. Lyndon talks about everybody, you see, with everybody. And of course that's dangerous."

Kennedy had seen some of the same FBI kompromat files as attorney general, but he was totally opposed to releasing such unsubstantiated kompromat-such as, say, the Trump piss files-because doing so would "destroy the confidence that people in the United States had in their government and really make us a laughingstock around the world."

Imagine that.

Which brings me to the big analogy every hack threw around last week, calling Trump firing Comey "Nixonian." Actually, what Trump did was more like the very opposite of Nixon, who badly wanted to fire Hoover in 1971-2, but was too afraid of the kompromat Hoover might've had on him to make the move. Nixon fell out with his old friend and onetime mentor J Edgar Hoover in 1971, when the ailing old FBI chief refused to get sucked in to the Daniel Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers investigation, especially after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times. Part of the reason Nixon created his Plumbers team of black bag burglars was because Hoover had become a bit skittish in his last year on this planet-and that drove Nixon crazy.

Nixon called his chief of staff Haldeman:

Nixon: I talked to Hoover last night and Hoover is not going after this case [Ellsberg] as strong as I would like. There's something dragging him.

Haldeman: You don't have the feeling the FBI is really pursuing this?

Nixon: Yeah, particularly the conspiracy side. I want to go after everyone. I'm not so interested in Ellsberg, but we have to go after everybody who's a member of this conspiracy.

Hoover's ambitious deputies in the FBI were smelling blood, angling to replace him. His number 3, Bill Sullivan (who sent MLK the sex tapes and suicide note) was especially keen to get rid of Hoover and take his place. So as J Edgar was stonewalling the Daniel Ellsberg investigation, Sullivan showed up in a Department of Justice office with two suitcases packed full of transcripts and summaries of illegal wiretaps that Kissinger and Nixon had ordered on their own staff and on American journalists. The taps were ordered in Nixon's first months in the White House in 1969, to plug up the barrage of leaks, the likes of which no one had ever seen before. Sullivan took the leaks from J Edgar's possession and told the DOJ official that they needed to be hidden from Hoover, who planned to use them as kompromat to blackmail Nixon.

Nixon decided he was going to fire J Edgar the next day. This was in September, 1971. But the next day came, and Nixon got scared. So he tried to convince his attorney general John Mitchell to fire Hoover for him, but Mitchell said only the President could fire J Edgar Hoover. So Nixon met him for breakfast, and, well, he just didn't have the guts. Over breakfast, Hoover flattered Nixon and told him there was nothing more in the world he wanted than to see Nixon re-elected. Nixon caved; the next day, J Edgar Hoover unceremoniously fired his number 3 Bill Sullivan, locking him out of the building and out of his office so that he couldn't take anything with him. Sullivan was done.

The lesson here, I suppose, is that if an FBI director doesn't want to be fired, it's best to keep your kompromat a little closer to your chest, as a gun to hold to your boss's head. Comey's crew already released the piss tapes kompromat on Trump-the damage was done. What was left to hold back Trump from firing Comey? "Laws"? The FBI isn't even legal. "Norms" would be the real reason. Which pretty much sums up everything Trump has been doing so far. We've learned the past two decades that we're hardly a nation of laws, at least not when it comes to the plutocratic ruling class. What does bind them are "norms"-and while those norms may mean everything to the ruling class, it's an open question how much these norms mean to a lot of Americans outside that club.

Huey Long , May 16, 2017 at 2:33 am

Wow, and this whole time I thought the NSA had a kompromat monopoly as they have everybody's porn site search terms and viewing habits on file.

I had no idea the FBI practically invented it!

3.14e-9 , May 16, 2017 at 3:04 am

The Native tribes don't have a great history with the FBI, either.

https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/culture/thing-about-skins/comey-fbi-destructive-history-native-people/

voteforno6 , May 16, 2017 at 6:06 am

Has anyone ever used the FBI's lack of a charter as a defense in court?

Disturbed Voter , May 16, 2017 at 6:42 am

The USA doesn't have a legal basis either, it is a revolting crown colony of the British Empire. Treason and heresy all the way down. Maybe the British need to burn Washington DC again?

Synoia , May 16, 2017 at 9:46 pm

Britain burning DC, and the so call ed "war" of 1812, got no mention in my History Books. Napoleon on the other hand, featured greatly

In 1812 Napoleon was busy going to Russia. That went well.

Ignim Brites , May 16, 2017 at 7:55 am

Wondered how Comey thought he could get away with his conviction and pardon of Sec Clinton. Seems like part of the culture of FBI is a "above and beyond" the law mentality.

Watt4Bob , May 16, 2017 at 7:56 am

Back in the early 1970s a high school friend moved to Alabama because his father was transferred by his employer.

My friend sent a post card describing among other things the fact that Alabama had done away with the requirement of a math class to graduate high school, and substituted a required class called "The Evils of Communism" complete with a text-book written by J. Edgar Hoover; Masters of Deceit.

JMarco , May 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm

In Dallas,Texas my 1959 Civics class had to read the same book. We all were given paperback copies of it to take home and read. It was required reading enacted by Texas legislature.

Watt4Bob , May 16, 2017 at 4:47 pm

So I'd guess you weren't fooled by any of those commie plots of the sixties, like the campaigns for civil rights or against the Vietnamese war.

I can't really brag, I didn't stop worrying about the Red Menace until 1970 or so, that's when I started running into returning vets who mostly had no patience for that stuff.

Carolinian , May 16, 2017 at 8:35 am

We've learned the past two decades that we're hardly a nation of laws, at least not when it comes to the plutocratic ruling class. What does bind them are "norms"

Or as David Broder put it (re Bill Clinton): he came in and trashed the place and it wasn't his place.

It was David Broder's place. Of course the media play a key role with all that kompromat since they are the ones needed to convey it to the public. The tragedy is that even many of the sensible in their ranks such as Bill Moyers have been sucked into the kompromat due to their hysteria over Trump. Ames is surely on point in this great article. The mistake was allowing secret police agencies like the FBI and CIA to be created in the first place.

Katharine , May 16, 2017 at 8:37 am

Sorry, my initial reaction was that people who don't know the difference between "rein" and "reign" are not to be trusted to provide reliable information. Recognizing that as petty, I kept reading, and presently found the statement that Congress was not informed of the founding of the FBI until a century after the fact, which seems implausible. If in fact the author meant the end of 1908 it was quite an achievement to write 2008.

Interesting to the extent it may be true, but with few sources, no footnotes, and little evidence of critical editing who knows what that may be?

Carolinian , May 16, 2017 at 9:12 am

Do you even know who Mark Ames is?

Petty .yes.

Katharine , May 16, 2017 at 10:08 am

Who he is is irrelevant. I don't take things on faith because "the Pope said" or because Mark Ames said. People who expect their information to be taken seriously should substantiate it.

Bill Smith , May 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Yeah, in the first sentence

Interesting article though.

Fiery Hunt , May 16, 2017 at 9:21 am

Yeah, Kathatine, you're right .very petty.

And completely missed the point.

Or worse, you got the point and your best rejection of that point was pointing out a typo.

Katharine , May 16, 2017 at 10:13 am

I neither missed the point nor rejected it. I reserved judgment, as I thought was apparent from my comment.

sid_finster , May 16, 2017 at 10:50 am

But Trump is bad. Very Bad.

So anything the FBI does to get rid of him must by definition be ok! Besides, surely our civic-minded IC would never use their power on the Good Guys™!

Right?

JTMcPhee , May 16, 2017 at 9:21 am

Ah yes, the voice of "caution." And such attention to the lack of footnotes, in this day when the curious can so easily cut and paste a bit of salient text into a search engine and pull up a feast of parse-able writings and video, from which they can "judiciously assess" claims and statements. If they care to spend the time, which is in such short supply among those who are struggling to keep up with the horrors and revelations people of good will confront every blinking day

Classic impeachment indeed. All from the height of "academic rigor" and "caution." Especially the "apologetic" bit about "reign" vs "rein." Typos destroy credibility, don't they? And the coup de grass (sic), the unrebuttable "plausibility" claim.

One wonders at the nature of the author's curriculum vitae. One also marvels at the yawning gulf between the Very Serious Stuff I was taught in grade and high school civics and history, back in the late '50s and the '60s, about the Fundamental Nature Of Our Great Nation and its founding fathers and the Beautiful Documents they wrote, on the one hand, and what we mopes learn, through a drip-drip-drip process punctuated occasionally by Major Revelations, about the real nature of the Empire and our fellow creatures

PS: My earliest memory of television viewing was a day at a friend's house - his middle-class parents had the first "set" in the neighborhood, I think an RCA, in a massive sideboard cabinet where the picture tube pointed up and you viewed the "content" in a mirror mounted to the underside of the lid. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5onSwx7_Cn0 The family was watching a hearing of Joe McCarthy's kangaroo court, complete with announcements of the latest number in the "list of known Communists in the State Department" and how Commyanism was spreading like an unstoppable epidemic mortal disease through the Great US Body Politic and its Heroic Institutions of Democracy. I was maybe 6 years old, but that grainy black and white "reality TV" content had me asking "WTF?" at a very early age. And I'd say it's on the commentor to show that the "2008" claim is wrong, by something other than "implausible" as drive-by impeachment. Given the content of the original post, and what people paying attention to all this stuff have a pretty good idea is the general contours of a vast corruption and manipulation.

"Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or no."

Katharine , May 16, 2017 at 10:19 am

It is the author's job to substantiate information, not the reader's. If he thinks his work is so important, why does he not make a better job of it?

Edward , May 16, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I think the MLK blackmail scheme is well-established. Much of the article seems to be based on Tim Wiener's "Enemies: A History of the FBI".

nonsense factory , May 16, 2017 at 11:16 am

Interesting article on the history of the FBI, although the post-Hoover era doesn't get any treatment. The Church Committee hearings on the CIA and FBI, after the exposure of notably Operation CHAOS (early 60s to early 70s) by the CIA and COINTELPRO(late 1950s to early 1970s) by the FBI, didn't really get to the bottom of the issue although some reforms were initiated.

Today, it seems, the best description of the FBI's main activity is corporate enforcer for the white-collar mafia known as Wall Street. There is an analogy to organized crime, where the most powerful mobsters settled disputes between other gangs of criminals. Similarly, if a criminal gang is robbed by one of its own members, the mafia would go after the guilty party; the FBI plays this role for Wall Street institutions targeted by con artists and fraudsters. Compare and contrast a pharmaceutical company making opiates which is targeted by thieves vs. a black market drug cartel targeted by thieves. In one case, the FBI investigates; in the other, a violent vendetta ensues (such as street murders in Mexico).

The FBI executives are rewarded for this service with lucrative post-retirement careers within corporate America – Louis Freeh went to credit card fraudster, MBNA, Richard Mueller to a corporate Washington law firm, WilmerHale, and Comey, before Obama picked him as Director, worked for Lockheed Martin and HSBC (cleaning up after their $2 billion drug cartel marketing scandal) after leaving the FBI in 2005.

Maybe this is legitimate, but this only applies to their protection of the interests of large corporations – as the 2008 economic collapse and aftermath showed, they don't prosecute corporate executives who rip off poor people and middle-class homeowners. Banks who rob people, they aren't investigated or prosecuted; that's just for people who rob banks.

When it comes to political issues and national security, however, the FBI has such a terrible record on so many issues over the years that anything they claim has to be taken with a grain or two of salt. Consider domestic political activity: from the McCarthyite 'Red Scare' of the 1950s to COINTELPRO in the 1960s and 1970s to targeting of environmental groups in the 1980s and 1990s to targeting anti-war protesters under GW Bush to their obsession with domestic mass surveillance under Obama, it's not a record that should inspire any confidence.

Some say they have a key role to play in national security and terrorism – but their record on the 2001 anthrax attacks is incredibly shady and suspicious. The final suspect, Bruce Ivins, is clearly innocent of the crime, just as their previous suspect, Steven Hatfill was. Ivins, if still alive, could have won a similar multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against the FBI. All honest bioweapons experts know this to be true – the perpetrators of those anthrax letters are still at large, and may very well have had close associations with the Bush Administration itself.

As far as terrorist activities? Many of their low-level agents did seem concerned about the Saudis and bin Laden in the late 1990s and pre-9/11 – but Saudi investigations were considered politically problematic due to "geostrategic relationships with our Saudi allies" – hence people like John O'Neil and Coleen Rowley were sidelined and ignored, with disastrous consequences. The Saudi intelligence agency role in 9/11 was buried for over a decade, as well. Since 9/11, most of the FBI investigations seem to have involved recruiting mentally disabled young Islamic men in sting operations in which the FBI provides everything needed. You could probably get any number of mentally ill homeless people across the U.S., regardless of race or religion, to play this role.

Comey's actions over the past year are certainly highly questionable, as well. Neglecting to investigate the Clinton Foundation ties to Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments and corporations, particularly things like State Department approval of various arms deals in which bribes may have been paid, is as much a dereliction of duty as neglecting to investigate Trump ties to Russian business interests – but then, Trump has a record of shady business dealings dating back to the 1970s, of strange bankruptcies and bailouts and government sales that the FBI never looked at either.

Ultimately, this is because FBI executives are paid off not to investigate Wall Street criminality, nor shady U.S. government activity, with lucrative positions as corporate board members and so on after their 'retirements'. I don't doubt that many of their junior members mean well and are dedicated to their jobs – but the fish rots from the head down.

Andrew Watts , May 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm

As far as terrorist activities? Many of their low-level agents did seem concerned about the Saudis and bin Laden in the late 1990s and pre-9/11 – but Saudi investigations were considered politically problematic due to "geostrategic relationships with our Saudi allies" – hence people like John O'Neil and Coleen Rowley were sidelined and ignored, with disastrous consequences.

The Clinton Administration had other priorities. You know, I think I'll let ex-FBI Director Freeh explain what happened when the FBI tried to get the Saudis to cooperate with their investigation into the bombing of the Khobar Towers.

"That September, Crown Prince Abdullah and his entourage took over the entire 143-room Hay-Adams Hotel, just across from Lafayette Park from the White House, for six days. The visit, I figured, was pretty much our last chance. Again, we prepared talking points for the president. Again, I contacted Prince Bandar and asked him to soften up the crown prince for the moment when Clinton, -- or Al Gore I didn't care who -- would raise the matter and start to exert the necessary pressure."

"The story that came back to me, from "usually reliable sources," as they say in Washington, was that Bill Clinton briefly raised the subject only to tell the Crown Prince that he certainly understood the Saudis; reluctance to cooperate. Then, according to my sources, he hit Abdullah up for a contribution to the still-to-be-built Clinton presidential library. Gore, who was supposed to press hardest of all in his meeting with the crown Prince, barely mentioned the matter, I was told." -Louis J. Freeh, My FBI (2005)

In my defense I picked the book up to see if there was any dirt on the DNC's electoral funding scandal in 1996. I'm actually glad I did. The best part of the book is when Freeh recounts running into a veteran of the Lincoln Brigade and listens to how Hoover's FBI ruined his life despite having broken no laws. As if a little thing like laws mattered to Hoover. The commies were after our precious bodily fluids!

verifyfirst , May 16, 2017 at 12:53 pm

I'm not sure there are many functioning norms left within the national political leadership. Seemed to me Gingrich started blowing those up and it just got worse from there. McConnell not allowing Garland to be considered comes to mind

lyman alpha blob , May 16, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Great article – thanks for this. I had no idea the FBI never had a legal charter – very enlightening.

JMarco , May 16, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Thanks to Mark Ames now we know what Pres. Trump meant when he tweeted about his tapes with AG Comey. Not some taped conversation between Pres. Trump & AG Comey but bunch of kompromat tapes that AG Comey has provided Pres. Trump that might not make departing AG Comey looked so clean.

[May 16, 2017] ITT 2016 - Kevlin Henney - Seven Ineffective Coding Habits of Many Programmers

May 16, 2017 | www.youtube.com
Published on Nov 16, 2016

Habits help you manage the complexity of code. You apply existing skill and knowledge automatically to the detail while focusing on the bigger picture. But because you acquire habits largely by imitation, and rarely question them, how do you know your habits are effective? Many of the habits that programmers have for naming, formatting, commenting and unit testing do not stand up as rational and practical on closer inspection. Kevlin Henney examines seven coding habits that are not as effective as programmers believe, and to suggest alternatives. meridjal 2 months ago

Highly subjective and somewhat opinionated, it depends on the level of abstraction at which one is looking at code, but then people like Kevlin don't live in the real world.

Ki 2 months ago

this guy seems arrogant imo

Zoran Ravic 3 weeks ago

Best talk I've heard in a while. It really changed how I think about code.

Daniel Thomson 2 months ago

https://www.slideshare.net/Kevlin/seven-ineffective-coding-habits-of-many-programmers-42301681

Árpád Goretity 3 months ago (edited)

Excellent point about getters and setters. Objective-C uses the "no get for the getter" naming convention for properties, by the way. Also, FINALLY someone dares to declare what is THE visually correct way of arranging longish argument lists.

imAwesomeChris 2 weeks ago

Wonderful talk.

[May 16, 2017] The Real Meaning of Sensitive Intelligence by Philip Giraldi

Notable quotes:
"... what astonished me was how quickly the media interpreted its use in the hearings to mean that the conversations and emails that apparently were recorded or intercepted involving Trump associates and assorted Russians as "sensitive contacts" meant that they were necessarily inappropriate, dangerous, or even illegal. ..."
"... The Post is unfortunately also providing ISIS with more information than it "needs to know" to make its story more dramatic, further compromising the source. ..."
"... McMaster described the report as "false" and informed the Post that "The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly." Tillerson commented that "the nature of specific threats were (sic) discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods, or military operations." ..."
"... The media will no doubt be seeking to magnify the potential damage done while the White House goes into damage control mode. ..."
"... In this case, the intelligence shared with Lavrov appears to be related to specific ISIS threats, which may include planned operations against civilian aircraft, judging from Trump's characteristically after-hours tweets defending his behavior, as well as other reporting. ..."
"... The New York Times , in its own reporting of the story, initially stated that the information on ISIS did not come from an NSA or CIA operation, and later reported that the source was Israel. ..."
"... And President Trump has one more thing to think about. No matter what damage comes out of the Lavrov discussion, he has a bigger problem. There are apparently multiple leakers on his National Security Council. ..."
"... You have McMaster himself who categorically denies any exposure of sources and methods – he was there in person and witness to the talks – and a cloud of unknown witnesses not present speculating, without reference to McMaster or Tillerson's testimony, about what might have happened. This is the American Media in a nutshell, the Infinite Circle Jerk. ..."
"... I am more disturbed how this story got into the press. While, not an ally, I think we should in cooperation with other states. Because the Pres is not familiar with the protocols and language and I doubt any executive has been upon entering office, I have no doubt he may be reacting or overreacting to the overreaction of others. ..."
"... Here's a word. We have no business engaging n the overthrow of another government that is no threat to the US or her allies, and that includes Israel. Syria is not. And we should cease and desist getting further entangled in the messes of the previous executive, his Sec of State and those organizations who seem to e playing with the life blood of the US by engaging if unnecessary risks. ..."
"... And if I understand the crumbs given the data provided by the Post, the Times and this article, if one had ill will for the source of said information, they have pretty good idea where to start. ..."
"... In general I agree with you, but the media was NEVER concerned about the treatment of sensitive material from HRC! ..."
"... I think he needs to cut back on intelligence sharing with Israel. They do just what the hell they want to do with anything. ..."
May 16, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com
Intelligence agencies and senior government officials tend to use a lot of jargon. Laced with acronyms, this language sometimes does not translate very well into journalese when it hits the media.

For example, I experienced a sense of disorientation two weeks ago over the word "sensitive" as used by several senators, Sally Yates, and James Clapper during committee testimony into Russiagate. "Sensitive" has, of course, a number of meanings. But what astonished me was how quickly the media interpreted its use in the hearings to mean that the conversations and emails that apparently were recorded or intercepted involving Trump associates and assorted Russians as "sensitive contacts" meant that they were necessarily inappropriate, dangerous, or even illegal.

When Yates and Clapper were using "sensitive" thirteen times in the 86 page transcript of the Senate hearings, they were referring to the medium rather than the message. They were both acknowledging that the sources of the information were intelligence related, sometimes referred to as "sensitive" by intelligence professionals and government insiders as a shorthand way to describe that they are "need to know" material derived from either classified "methods" or foreign-liaison partners. That does not mean that the information contained is either good or bad or even true or false, but merely a way of expressing that the information must be protected because of where it came from or how it was developed, hence the "sensitivity."

The word also popped up this week in a Washington Post exclusive report alleging that the president had, in his recent meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, gone too far while also suggesting that the source of a highly classified government program might be inferred from the context of what was actually revealed. The Post describes how

The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said. The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump's decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

The Post is unfortunately also providing ISIS with more information than it "needs to know" to make its story more dramatic, further compromising the source. Furthermore, it should be understood that the paper is extremely hostile to Trump, the story is as always based on anonymous sources, and the revelation comes on top of another unverifiable Post article claiming that the Russians might have sought to sneak a recording device into the White House during the visit.

No one is denying that the president discussed ISIS in some detail with Lavrov, but National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, both of whom were present at the meeting, have denied that any sources or methods were revealed while reviewing with the Russians available intelligence. McMaster described the report as "false" and informed the Post that "The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly." Tillerson commented that "the nature of specific threats were (sic) discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods, or military operations."

So the question becomes to what extent can an intelligence mechanism be identified from the information that it produces. That is, to a certain extent, a judgment call. The president is able on his own authority to declassify anything, so the legality of his sharing information with Russia cannot be challenged. What is at question is the decision-making by an inexperienced president who may have been showing off to an important foreign visitor by revealing details of intelligence that should have remained secret. The media will no doubt be seeking to magnify the potential damage done while the White House goes into damage control mode.

The media is claiming that the specific discussion with Lavrov that is causing particular concern is related to a so-called Special Access Program , or SAP, sometimes referred to as "code word information." An SAP is an operation that generates intelligence that requires special protection because of where or how it is produced. In this case, the intelligence shared with Lavrov appears to be related to specific ISIS threats, which may include planned operations against civilian aircraft, judging from Trump's characteristically after-hours tweets defending his behavior, as well as other reporting.

There have also been reports that the White House followed up on its Lavrov meeting with a routine review of what had taken place. Several National Security Council members observed that some of the information shared with the Russians was far too sensitive to disseminate within the U.S. intelligence community. This led to the placing of urgent calls to NSA and CIA to brief them on what had been said.

Based on the recipients of the calls alone, one might surmise that the source of the information would appear to be either a foreign-intelligence service or a technical collection operation, or even both combined. The Post claims that the originator of the intelligence did not clear its sharing with the Russians and raises the possibility that no more information of that type will be provided at all in light of the White House's apparent carelessness in its use. The New York Times , in its own reporting of the story, initially stated that the information on ISIS did not come from an NSA or CIA operation, and later reported that the source was Israel.

The Times is also reporting that Trump provided to Lavrov "granular" information on the city in Syria where the information was collected that will possibly enable the Russians or ISIS to identify the actual source, with devastating consequences. That projection may be overreach, but the fact is that the latest gaffe from the White House could well damage an important intelligence liaison relationship in the Middle East while reinforcing the widely held impression that Washington does not know how to keep a secret. It will also create the impression that Donald Trump, out of ignorance or hubris, exhibits a certain recklessness in his dealing with classified information, a failing that he once attributed to his presidential opponent Hillary Clinton.

And President Trump has one more thing to think about. No matter what damage comes out of the Lavrov discussion, he has a bigger problem. There are apparently multiple leakers on his National Security Council.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

This article has been updated to reflect news developments.

Thymoleontas, says: May 16, 2017 at 12:33 pm

" The latest gaffe from the White House could well damage an important intelligence liaison relationship in the Middle East "

On the other hand, it also represents closer collaboration with Russia–even if unintended–which is an improvement on the status quo ante and, not to mention, key to ending the conflict in Syria.

Dies Irae , says: May 16, 2017 at 12:38 pm
You have McMaster himself who categorically denies any exposure of sources and methods – he was there in person and witness to the talks – and a cloud of unknown witnesses not present speculating, without reference to McMaster or Tillerson's testimony, about what might have happened. This is the American Media in a nutshell, the Infinite Circle Jerk.
MM , says: May 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm
Out of my depth, but was Trump working within the framework, maybe a bit outside if the story is true, of the Joint Implementation Group the Obama administration created last year with Russia?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/r/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/07/13/Editorial-Opinion/Graphics/terms_of_reference_for_the_Joint_Implementation_Group.pdf?tid=a_inl

Also, I recall reading that the prior administration promised Russia ISIS intel. Not sure if that ever happened, but I doubt they'd have made it public or leak anything to the press.

Brian W , says: May 16, 2017 at 12:57 pm
Apr 21, 2017 Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy

Author David A. Nichols reveals how President Dwight D. Eisenhower masterminded the downfall of the anti-Communist demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy.

https://youtu.be/FAY_9aQMVbQ

EliteCommInc , says: May 16, 2017 at 12:57 pm
Avoiding the minutia.

I think it should go without saying that intelligence is a sensitive business and protecting those who operate in its murky waters is important to having an effective agency.

Of course the Pres of the US has a duty to do so.

I have not yet read the post article. But I am doubtful that the executive had any intention of putting anyone in harms way. I am equally doubtful that this incident will. If the executive made an error in judgement, I am sure it will be dealt wit in an appropriate manner.

I do wish he'd stop tweeting, though I get why its useful to him.

I am more disturbed how this story got into the press. While, not an ally, I think we should in cooperation with other states. Because the Pres is not familiar with the protocols and language and I doubt any executive has been upon entering office, I have no doubt he may be reacting or overreacting to the overreaction of others.

Here's a word. We have no business engaging n the overthrow of another government that is no threat to the US or her allies, and that includes Israel. Syria is not. And we should cease and desist getting further entangled in the messes of the previous executive, his Sec of State and those organizations who seem to e playing with the life blood of the US by engaging if unnecessary risks.

Just another brier brushfire of a single tumble weed to add to the others in the hope that setting fires in trashcans will make the current exec go away or at least engage in a mea culpa and sign more checks in the mess that is the middle east policy objective that remains a dead end.

__________

And if I understand the crumbs given the data provided by the Post, the Times and this article, if one had ill will for the source of said information, they have pretty good idea where to start.

Cachip , says: May 16, 2017 at 1:12 pm
How do you know it wasn't intended as pure misdirection?
Brian W , says: May 16, 2017 at 1:20 pm
January 10, 2014 *500* Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent

No matter which government conducts mass surveillance, they also do it to crush dissent, and then give a false rationale for why they're doing it.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/500-years-of-history-shows-that-mass-spying-is-always-aimed-at-crushing-dissent/5364462

Johann , says: May 16, 2017 at 1:54 pm
Politics is now directly endangering innocent civilians. Because of the leaks and its publication, ISIS for sure now knows that there is an information leak out of their organization. They will now re-compartmentalize and may be successful in breaking that information leak. Innocent airline passenger civilians, American, Russian, or whoever may die as a result. Russia and the US are both fighting ISIS. We are de facto allies in that fight whether some people like it or not. Time to get over it.
EliteCommInc. , says: May 16, 2017 at 2:44 pm
Having read the article, uhhh, excuse me, but unlike personal secrets. The purpose of intel is to use to or keep on hand for some-other date. But of that information is related to the security of our interests and certainly a cooperative relationship with Russia is in our interest. Because in the convoluted fight with ISIS/ISIL, Russia is an ally.

What this belies is the mess of the intelligence community. If in fact, the Russians intend to take a source who provided information that was helpful to them, it would be a peculiar twist of strategic action. The response does tell us that we are in some manner in league with ISIS/ISIL or their supporters so deep that there is a need to protect them, from what is anybody's guess. Because if the information is accurate, I doubt the Russians are going to about killing the source, but rather improving their airline security.

But if we are in fact attempting to remove Pres Assad, and are in league with ISIS/ISIL in doing so - I get why the advocates of such nonsense might be in a huff. So ISIS/ISISL our one time foe and now our sometimes friend . . .

Good greif . . .

Pres Trump is the least of muy concerns when it coes to security.

Some relevant material on intel:

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/327413-how-the-intel-community-was-turned-into-a-political

http://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/intelligence-failures-more-profound-than-president-admits/

But if I were Pres Trump, I might steer clear of Russia for a while to stop feeding the beast.

Kurt Gayle , says: May 16, 2017 at 3:28 pm
Philip, back on July 23, 2014, you explained in "How ISIS Evades the CIA" "the inability of the United States government to anticipate the ISIS offensive that has succeeded in taking control of a large part of Iraq." You explained why the CIA had to date had no success in infiltrating ISIS.

You continued: "Given U.S. intelligence's probable limited physical access to any actual terrorist groups operating in Syria or Iraq any direct attempt to penetrate the organization through placing a source inside would be difficult in the extreme. Such efforts would most likely be dependent on the assistance of friendly intelligence services in Turkey or Jordan. Both Turkey and Jordan have reported that terrorists have entered their countries by concealing themselves in the large numbers of refugees that the conflict in Syria has produced, and both are concerned as they understand full well that groups like ISIS will be targeting them next. Some of the infiltrating adherents to radical groups have certainly been identified and detained by the respective intelligence services of those two countries, and undoubtedly efforts have been made to 'turn' some of those in custody to send them back into Syria (and more recently Iraq) to report on what is taking place. Depending on what arrangements might have been made to coordinate the operations, the 'take' might well be shared with the United States and other friendly governments."

You then describe the difficulties faced by a Turkish or Jordanian agent trying to infiltrate ISIS: "But seeding is very much hit or miss, as someone who has been out of the loop of his organization might have difficulty working his way back in. He will almost certainly be regarded with some suspicion by his peers and would be searched and watched after his return, meaning that he could not take back with him any sophisticated communications devices no matter how cleverly they are concealed. This would make communicating any information obtained back to one's case officers in Jordan or Turkey difficult or even impossible."

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-isis-evades-the-cia/

Notwithstanding how "difficult or even impossible" such an operation would be - and using the New York Times as your only source for a lot of otherwise completely unsubstantiated information – and admitting that "this is sheer speculation on my part" – you say that "it is logical to assume that the countries that have provided numerous recruits for ISIS [Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia] would have used that fact as cover to carry out a seeding operation to introduce some of their own agents into the ISIS organization."

Back to the New York Times as your only source, you say that "the Times is also reporting that Trump provided to Lavrov 'granular' information on the city in Syria where the information was collected that will possibly enable the Russians or ISIS to identify the actual source, with devastating consequences."

But having ventured into the far reaches of that line of speculation, you do admit that "that projection may be overreach." Indeed!

You go on to characterize the events of the White House meeting with the Russians as "the latest gaffe from the White House" – even though there is absolutely no evidence (outside of the unsubstantiated reports of the Washington Post and the New York Times) that anything to do with the meeting was a "gaffe" – and you further speculate that "it could well damage an important intelligence liaison relationship in the Middle East."

That is, again, pure speculation on your part.

One valuable lesson that you've taught TAC readers over the years, Philip: That we need to carefully examine the sources of information – and the sources of dis-information.

KennethF , says: May 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm
Yet again from Giraldi: the problem isn't that the POTUS is ignorant and incompetent; we should all be more concerned that the Deep State is leaking the proof.
collin , says: May 16, 2017 at 4:12 pm
In general I agree with you, but the media was NEVER concerned about the treatment of sensitive material from HRC!
charley , says: May 16, 2017 at 4:51 pm
I think he needs to cut back on intelligence sharing with Israel. They do just what the hell they want to do with anything.
Brad Kain , says: May 16, 2017 at 5:03 pm
Trump has now essentially confirmed the story from the Post and contradicted the denials from McMaster – he shared specific intelligence to demonstrate his willingness to work with the Russians. Moreover, it seems that Israel was the ally that provided this intelligence. The author and others will defend this, but I can only see this as a reckless and impulsive decision that only causes Russia and our allies to trust the US less.

[May 16, 2017] Trump facing shark tank feeding frenzy from military industrial media

Notable quotes:
"... What's your take on it? Is the media on to something big here? ..."
"... "sources and methods" ..."
"... 'Deep State' ..."
"... The mainstream media is going on little more than 'anonymous sources.' Could it have a hidden agenda here? ..."
"... "drain the swamp." ..."
"... "I am moving forward with my program." ..."
"... Do you think mainstream media is a part of something big and controlled all over from the top? ..."
"... The media has run with this. Are they on to something big here? ..."
"... Trump attacked Hillary Clinton as being unreliable with state secrets. Can the same now be said of him? ..."
"... The mainstream media is going on little more than 'anonymous sources'... could it have a hidden agenda here? ..."
May 16, 2017 | www.rt.com
There are elements of the 'Deep State' here who are very opposed to the things Donald Trump said during the campaign. They don't want to cooperate with Russia, Jim Jatras, former US diplomat, told RT. Political analyst John Bosnitch joins the discussion. US President Trump said his White House meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ranged from airline safety to terrorism. A Washington Post story, however, has accused the American leader of revealing classified information to Russian officials.

RT: What's your take on it? Is the media on to something big here?

Jim Jatras: To start with, again, this is from the Washington Post and an unnamed source. So you do have to doubt the accuracy of the information knowing the vendetta the Washington Post and other mainstream media have against the Trump administration and against President Trump personally and how much they want to disrupt any kind of cooperation with Russia against the terrorist threat. I would say that was the first thing.

'I was in the room. It didn't happen' - National Security Advisor H.R. #McMaster https://t.co/gVIHigqXaT

- RT America (@RT_America) 15 мая 2017 г.

Second, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy of National Security Adviser Dina Powell, who were both in the meeting, have stated since the Washington Post article appeared – there was nothing discussed with Mr. [Sergey] Lavrov and Mr. [Sergey] Kislyak that compromised what they call "sources and methods" that would lead to any kind of intelligence vulnerability on the part of the US. But rather this was all part of a discussion of common action against ISIS. Those are the first things to be noted

Let's remember that there are elements of what we call the 'Deep State' here who are very opposed to the things Donald Trump said during the campaign. They don't want to cooperate with the Russians; they don't want improved relations with Moscow. And let's be honest, they have a very strong investment in the various jihadist groups that we have supported for the past six years trying to overthrow the legitimate government in Damascus. I am sure there are people – maybe in the National Security Council, maybe in the Staff, maybe in the State Department – who are finding some way to try and discredit the Trump administration. The question is where is the investigation into these leaks? Who is going to hold these people accountable?

RT: The mainstream media is going on little more than 'anonymous sources.' Could it have a hidden agenda here?

JJ: Of course. In fact, I would even go further. I wouldn't be at all surprised if President Trump timed his firing with the FBI Director James Comey – what some people even pointed out – he himself in one of his tweets says "drain the swamp." One of the first elements was getting rid of the principals of the Deep State who have been trying to hijack his policy; that he did this precisely because he was meeting with Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kislyak the next day. He's shoving it in their face, saying: "I am moving forward with my program." And I think that's the reason we're getting this hysteria building around the Russians, the Russians, the Russians when what we need is to move forward on an America First national security policy.

'US policy today: Aircraft, where co-pilots try to override pilots' (Op-Edge) https://t.co/x153yPtqVS

- RT (@RT_com) 16 мая 2017 г.

RT: Do you think mainstream media is a part of something big and controlled all over from the top?

JJ: Absolutely. There is a whole structure of what people call the 'Deep State' establishment, the oligarchy – whatever you want to call it. Of course, the mainstream media is part of this. It includes all the Democrats, who were very easy on the Soviet Union when it was Communist. But now that it is not Communist under Russia, they have a deep, very deep hatred of Russia, and they don't want any kind of rapprochement with Russia. And unfortunately, there are Republicans who sympathize with this agenda, as well. I think we can say at this point that Mr. Trump is only partially in control of the apparatus of government. He does not yet have complete control and that there is a frantic effort by these elements to make sure he is not able to get control of the American government and carry out the policies he talked about.

#Trump says he had 'absolute right' to share data on flight safety & terrorism with Russia https://t.co/U6h9FW2ZKy pic.twitter.com/eFBIRhVaI3

- RT (@RT_com) 16 мая 2017 г.
The 'military industrial media'

The mainstream media of the US is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the military industrial complex. If you want to call it anything, you can call it the 'military media,' John Bosnitch , political analyst, told RT.

RT: The media has run with this. Are they on to something big here?

John Bosnitch: I wouldn't say so. I've worked in this field for three decades. I don't see a scrap of evidence here. But I do see like a shark tank of media feeding – no evidence.

RT: Trump attacked Hillary Clinton as being unreliable with state secrets. Can the same now be said of him?

JB: Trump is the chief executive officer of the United States of America. As the chief executive officer of the country, he has full legal and constitutional authority to use state secrets in the conduct of diplomacy. He's also the chief diplomat of the country. So there is a big difference between the chief executive officer deciding what information he can share in conducting of state policy, and Hillary Clinton deciding as a cabinet minister which laws she chooses to obey, and which ones she doesn't.

'You cannot reset:' No way for US & Russia to start over 'with clean slate' – #Tillerson https://t.co/vC71YbLpQL

- RT (@RT_com) 15 мая 2017 г.

RT: The mainstream media is going on little more than 'anonymous sources'... could it have a hidden agenda here?

JB: I don't see any other possibility, whatsoever. Let's not play the game of dividing the so-called mainstream media from its owners. The mainstream media of the US is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the military industrial complex. If you want to call it anything, you can call it the 'military media.' The military makes money by making war; they buy the media to promote war. They use the media to promote propaganda in favor of war. And that is where we get into the mess we're in today. Because we have a president who is a businessman and would prefer to make money, and would prefer to put people to work in any industry other than war. The military industrial media in the United States is depending on being able to speak to a captive audience of uninformed viewers The military controls the media because they own them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

[May 14, 2017] Classified America Why Is the US Public Allowed To Know So Little by Robert Koehler

Notable quotes:
"... And I have yet to hear a mainstream journo challenge or question that word or ask what could be at stake that requires protective secrecy even as the U.S. government seemingly threatens to collapse around Michael Flynn, America's national security advisor for three weeks, and his relationship to Russia. Is there really any there there? ..."
"... I'm not suggesting that there isn't, or that it's all fake news. Trump and pals are undoubtedly entwined financially with Russian oligarchs, which of course is deeply problematic. And maybe there's more. And maybe some of that "more" is arguably classified for a valid reason, but I want, at the very least, to know why it's classified. What I read and hear feels, instead, like collusion: journalists unquestioningly honoring bureaucratic keep-out signs as objective, even sacred, stopping points. Public knowledge must go no further because . . . you know, national security. But the drama continues! ..."
"... And this is troubling to me because, for starters, nations built on secrecy are far more unstable than those that aren't. ..."
"... The United States is engaged in endless war, at unbelievable and never-discussed cost, to no end except destruction in all directions. Those who have launched and perpetuated the wars remain the determiners of what's classified and what isn't. And Russia lurks silently in the background as a new Cold War gestates. And the media participate not in reporting the news but promoting the drama. ..."
"... Occasionally this has not been the case. Remember the Pentagon Papers? Daniel Ellsberg photocopied a multi-thousand-page secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971 and handed it over to the New York Times. It was classified! But papers printed it. And Sen. Mike Gravel later read portions of the text aloud at a Senate subcommittee hearing. ..."
"... "These portions," notes history.com , "revealed that the presidential administrations of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had all misled the public about the degree of US involvement in Vietnam, from Truman's decision to give military aid to France during its struggle against the communist-led Viet Minh to Johnson's development of plans to escalate the war in Vietnam as early as 1964, even as he claimed the opposite during that year's presidential election." ..."
"... Our own government, in short, is as untrustworthy as the governments of our allies and our enemies. Government officials left to operate free of public scrutiny – bereft of public input – have proven themselves over and over to be shockingly shortsighted and cold-blooded in their decision-making, and indifferent to the impact they have on the future. ..."
"... "It is nearly a truism," writes Jeffrey Sachs , "that US wars of regime change have rarely served America's security needs. Even when the wars succeed in overthrowing a government, as in the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Moammar Khadafy in Libya, the result is rarely a stable government, and is more often a civil war. ..."
May 14, 2017 | original.antiwar.com

Classified America: Why Is the US Public Allowed To Know So Little?

by Robert Koehler , May 13, 2017 Print This | Share This For a journalist – especially one covering government and politics – the most suspicious, least trustworthy word in the language ought to be: "classified."

As the drama continues to swirl around Russiagate, or whatever the central controversy of the Trump administration winds up being known as, that word keeps popping up, teasingly, seductively: "It appeared that there was a great deal more (former acting Attorney General Sally) Yates wished she could share," the Washington Post informed us the other day, for instance, "but most of the information surrounding everything that happened remains classified."

And the drama continues! And I have yet to hear a mainstream journo challenge or question that word or ask what could be at stake that requires protective secrecy even as the U.S. government seemingly threatens to collapse around Michael Flynn, America's national security advisor for three weeks, and his relationship to Russia. Is there really any there there?

I'm not suggesting that there isn't, or that it's all fake news. Trump and pals are undoubtedly entwined financially with Russian oligarchs, which of course is deeply problematic. And maybe there's more. And maybe some of that "more" is arguably classified for a valid reason, but I want, at the very least, to know why it's classified. What I read and hear feels, instead, like collusion: journalists unquestioningly honoring bureaucratic keep-out signs as objective, even sacred, stopping points. Public knowledge must go no further because . . . you know, national security. But the drama continues!

And this is troubling to me because, for starters, nations built on secrecy are far more unstable than those that aren't. Job #1 of a free, independent media is the full-on, continuous challenge to government secrecy. Such a media understands that it answers to the public, or rather, that it's a manifestation of the public will. Stability and freedom are not the result of private tinkering. And peace is something created openly. The best of who we are is contained in the public soul, not bequeathed to us by unfathomably wise leaders.

So I cringe every time I hear the news stop at the word "classified." Indeed, in the Trump era, it seems like a plot device: a way to maintain the drama. ". . . there was a great deal more Yates wished she could share, but most of the information surrounding everything that happened remains classified."

Stay tuned, and keep your imaginations turned to high! This is Russia we're talking about. They messed with our election. They "attacked" us in cyberspace. We'd tell you more about how bad things are, but . . . you know, national security.

If nothing else, this endless retreat behind the word "classified" is a waste of the Trump presidency. This administration's recklessness is opening all sorts of random doors on national secrets that need airing. It's not as though the country was sailing along smoothly and keeping the world safe and peaceful till Donald Trump showed up.

Trump could well be making a bad situation worse, but, as William Hartung pointed out: "After all, he inherited no less than seven conflicts from Barack Obama: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen."

The United States is engaged in endless war, at unbelievable and never-discussed cost, to no end except destruction in all directions. Those who have launched and perpetuated the wars remain the determiners of what's classified and what isn't. And Russia lurks silently in the background as a new Cold War gestates. And the media participate not in reporting the news but promoting the drama.

Occasionally this has not been the case. Remember the Pentagon Papers? Daniel Ellsberg photocopied a multi-thousand-page secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971 and handed it over to the New York Times. It was classified! But papers printed it. And Sen. Mike Gravel later read portions of the text aloud at a Senate subcommittee hearing.

"These portions," notes history.com , "revealed that the presidential administrations of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had all misled the public about the degree of US involvement in Vietnam, from Truman's decision to give military aid to France during its struggle against the communist-led Viet Minh to Johnson's development of plans to escalate the war in Vietnam as early as 1964, even as he claimed the opposite during that year's presidential election."

Our own government, in short, is as untrustworthy as the governments of our allies and our enemies. Government officials left to operate free of public scrutiny – bereft of public input – have proven themselves over and over to be shockingly shortsighted and cold-blooded in their decision-making, and indifferent to the impact they have on the future.

"It is nearly a truism," writes Jeffrey Sachs , "that US wars of regime change have rarely served America's security needs. Even when the wars succeed in overthrowing a government, as in the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Moammar Khadafy in Libya, the result is rarely a stable government, and is more often a civil war. A 'successful' regime change often lights a long fuse leading to a future explosion, such as the 1953 overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government and installation of the autocratic Shah of Iran, which was followed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979."

All of this, and so much more, preceded Trump. He's only the tail end of our troubles.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com . Reprinted with permission from PeaceVoice .

[May 13, 2017] Installing Macron as French president by way of simulated democracy demonstrated how trillioners like Rothschild can take over a country

See also : France has just been literally taken over by the banking mafia
Notable quotes:
"... My position is that Russia and Europe share the continent and one can hitchhike from Amsterdam to Moscow. One cannot hitchhike from New York to Amsterdam, right? I somehow cannot foresee that far-right is in Russian interest at all. ..."
"... A third of French voters voted Le Pen. In a civilized country with a free press you would then expect roughly a third of newspapers to be in favor of Le Pen, two thirds in favor of Macron. But coverage in favor of Macron was close to 100%. Newspapers, tv, web, the chancellors of the main universities, the french medical association, you name it: they told you to vote Macron. ..."
"... The US media etc was overwhelmingly anti-Trump and yet he won. I wish he hadn't, but he did. Enough voters chose him regardless of what they were told. In France, the voters were exposed to a similar barrage and chose to vote against the far-right candidate this time. Perhaps that's partly because Trump and the Brexiteers gave them a taste of what to expect; an indication of how half-arsed and hypocritical the far-right populists can turn out to be. ..."
"... Well it looks like to me that France just elected obomber 2.0. Please let me know in a few years how that hope and change thingy works in France. It didn't work in Amerika for us the 99% but was great for the 1%. ..."
"... Macron is the new and improved Obama marketing product/politician. Find a young person without defined policies, brand them in opposition to something "bad", throw the full support of media and elites behind them, and install them in office to continue austerity/financialization/war policy as per usual. ..."
"... "However, even if Marine Le Pen had won in the final round, the establishment would force her to follow the status quo agenda of the plutocracy, exactly as happened with Donald Trump in the United States." ..."
"... Macron but doesn't seem to be as odious and horrid as Clinton, ..."
"... Macron will continue to convert France into what Charles Hugh Smith calls a plantation economy: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogapr17/corp-plantation4-17.html This echoes the work of David Korten in his book "When Corporations Rule the World" and Michael Hudson in his book "Killing the Host" Macron's Tomorrowland world favors only the political class, rentiers of the Financial, Insurance and real estate sector (FIRE), extractive transnational corporations, and their media propagandists. ..."
"... Relevant to my # 39.... http://www.mediaite.com/tv/trump-gets-three-major-networks-to-broadcast-image-of-empty-podium-for-30-minutes/ No one else got this obscene spectacle. So much for the Kremlin influencing foreign "democracies". ..."
"... Bright? Quiet? Plese, this guy IS the establishment itself, he was pushed forward from nowhere by the media, apparently you have sucked up all their propaganda for him, similar to dupes that loved Obama when he was elected the first time. ..."
"... As someone who spent ten years on Wall Street, I can tell you with certainty that you don't go from updating excel models at a junior level to partner overnight. Someone extraordinarily powerful was pulling all sorts of strings for this guy. There seems to be little doubt about this. ..."
"... I just read Escobar's piece on the election. He makes some good points about today's post-Orwellian meanings of left and right - vastly different from earlier times. ..."
"... What French voters have – sort of – endorsed is the unity of neoliberal economy and cultural liberalism. Call it, like Michea, "integrated liberalism." Or, with all the Orwellian overtones, "post-democratic capitalism."A true revolt of the elites. And "peasants" buy it willingly. Let them eat overpriced croissants. Once again, France is leading the West. ..."
"... That link again: Emmanuel Clinton and the revolt of the elites Let them eat overpriced croissants. Nailed it. ..."
"... France just "elected" Western Europe's version of HRC. The Banksters are dancing in the streets, and France will STILL be the U$A's bitch. ..."
"... Somehow Macron is the smallest detail of what is going on. The old two major parties have imploded and the survivors are trying to fight for life by joining the new big centrist Macron-EU lobby movement. Everyday is about a new betrayal, a new U-turn on what has been signed or promessed by this or that party-member (Valls is the funniest to follow). The French politicians are and have been a mafia, Corsican type, ever since the 30s (or maybe before already?). Macron won't have much support in the coming parliament. Episode 2 is 18th June, results of the 2nd round of parliamentary election. ..."
"... The reason she is used first is to make her bigger against the other candidates. It worked this time against Mélenchon, who had initially better chances than her to win, and who might even have won against Macron (25 % abstention + 10 % blank votes is still a big reserve for anyone). But the Mélenchon was hailed "same as Le Pen", "friend of Putin and Castro", "supporting Syrian regime" etc. ..."
"... He was not elected by the people but through the electoral system. So the people didnt really took the opposite route of the media. ..."
"... Actually none of the above won 37% of the voters and Macron came in at 24% which is slightly above Le Pen at 21%. The rest voted against Le Pen by voting for Macron. ..."
"... This is one hell of a way to run an election and a country. The political divisions are terminal as in the US. The difference, is that the French allow their leaders to run things until they get few up and than throw a tantrum. In this case the cobblestones will fly and the transportation system will shut down. ..."
"... (Look at Ukraine for a perfect example - they believed the nationalists' lies just like you do.) ... ..."
"... Conflating the violent Putch in Ukraine with the stance of a France-for-the-French Nationalist is inane, to put it mildly. And as an Aussie, I can assure you that our Neolib, Turnbull, Totalitarian Capitalist, pro-middleman-itis, industry-destroying Govt could teach the French Swamp a thing or two about 'honeyed lies' and shameless betrayal by politicians - (whilst feathering their own ne$t$). ..."
"... The photoshopped image is funny. Good one. Hummvee, a.k.a. appeal to the reptilian brain. Does anyone know? I heard that Merkel has a PhD in physics (PhD in alemania is like a masters degree in amerika). So the imagery is maybe not so far from truth. ..."
"... I most certainly don't support neoliberals like Turnbull, Macron or whoever, but with the nationalists you'd get 'the same but more so', plus heightened conflicts between various groups in society, a.k.a. divide and rule. Look at history, and don't be fooled (again). ..."
"... More on the creation of Macron and the puppeteers behind him. It is a tangled web: http://www.voltairenet.org/article196289.html ..."
"... Juxtapose one against the other - and it's pretty clear that German strength is a mirror reflection of French weakness. Because both countries share the same currency, the only way for France to recover is for Germany to become sick. Therein lie the seeds of conflict. Far from invigorated partnership, one should expect gradual, yet unrelenting unraveling of Franco-German relations. Frustrated Macron will prove Germany's worst nightmare. It simply can't be any other way. ..."
"... is micron really petain in drag? ..."
"... Here's another excellent Monthly Review essay, this time by Henry A. Giroux: Trump's America: Rethinking 1984 and Brave New World , https://monthlyreview.org/2017/05/01/trumps-america/ ..."
May 13, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org
ALAN | May 8, 2017 1:43:09 AM | 1

Installing Macron as French president by way of 'simulated democracy' demonstrated how trillioners like Rothschild can take over a country.

Circe | May 8, 2017 2:00:29 AM | 2
What this Macron victory proves is that the French lean more Left to Centre, therefore the key was to support and promote a non-interventionist candidate on the Left opposed to Neoliberalism, like Melenchon instead of a radically rightist Le Pen who scared off half of France.

Let's just say that a country that has multiple parties on the Left is NEVER going to vote in a radical rightist populist, never. So the strategy to be free of Neoliberalism in a country that leans Left is to always throw all the support behind a leftist party that opposes Neoliberalism.

Supporting Le Pen only to get a change in French foreign policy was doomed from the start.

And here's another thing: a party that opposes Neoliberalism and has a non-interventionist foreign policy, should try to be more flexible on domestic issues not socialist to an extreme to grab the attention of wider public while playing down slightly their foreign policy UNTIL victory is achieved. This is how you wean the dumb masses. Once in power then it can go all the way to reverse interventionist foreign policy and weed out Neoliberal/Neocon agendas.

No one likes war except those who profit from it.

nmb | May 8, 2017 2:53:30 AM | 5
France has just been literally taken over by the banking mafia
jfl | May 8, 2017 3:07:35 AM | 6
Macron wins French presidency
Hollande's repeated invitations of Marine Le Pen to the Elysée presidential palace during his presidency played the same role as Macron's appeal to the FN in the name of national unity last night: to show that the PS and Macron view the FN as legitimate political partners.

Like Hollande, Macron appears to be cultivating the FN as a political base for his deeply unpopular program. He has pledged to use the PS' anti-democratic labor law to tear up contracts and social spending by decree, escalate defense spending, and reestablish the draft in preparation for an era of major wars.

Mélenchon appealed last night for voters to give UF a strong delegation in the National Assembly in the June legislative elections, which would strengthen his bid to become Macron's prime minister.

... the trots at wsws.org see a push by unsubmissive france into the vacuum created by micron as 'treasonous' ... of course. but something might come of it ... Mélenchon hit some of the same points that le pen hit and may garner support from her stalwarts on those points. he might make something of it. might temper the unmitigated disaster of micron and the franco-american-german eu-financial axis.

Krollchem | May 8, 2017 3:12:39 AM | 7
Monday the French will awaken and find they live on an Animal Farm where the local French pigs suppress the people for the benefit of the wild boars of savage globalism.

In truth the French deserve this fate as they chose the American "dream of comfort and conformity" that Alexis de Tocqueville described as democratic tyranny that "reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd". He attributed the rise of such "democratic despotism, to a benign form of social control by a centralized bureaucratic state supported by a weakened and isolated citizenry."

theimaginativeconservative.org/2017/01/equality-tyranny-despotism-democracy-remembering-alexis-de-tocqueville-timeless-patrick-deneen.html

For those who understand French the following provides a good analysis:
"Asselineau réagit gravement à la victoire de Macron"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp10kaf4Yj8

A French comedian recently pointed out that washing machines have more programs than Macron! Unfortunately, as Asselineau points out, Macron was brilliantly marketed to the French public as one would advertise a new detergent designed to clean up a mess!

The Marketing was led by Jacque Attali the Grand Vizier of the French establishment and Macron's mentor. Apparently, Attali's team published 17,000 articles promoting Macron in the last year. Attali also coordinated the combined assault on the other candidates by the media, banks and corporations that will now benefit from Macron's election.

Asselineau also suggests that the French read de Gaulle's memoirs, especially chapter 1 and 2. The 2015 book Soumission by Houellebecq plays off de Gaulle's warning.

The situation is grave and the French have been played by the best propaganda campaign since Hitler. Bernays, the author of the book "propaganda" and the inspiration for Hitler and modern marketing would be impressed...

sigil | May 8, 2017 3:13:25 AM | 8
I love how people here use the term 'installed' as if Macron wasn't elected. As if the French people desperately wanted a far-right leader, but somehow never got the chance to vote for one. As if Le Pen would do more for the French working class than Trump has done for the American working class. As if Le Pen would really pursue the kind of anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchical policies that Trump pretended to favour. As if putting the boot into muslims wasn't Le Pen's first, second and third priority.
ProPeace | May 8, 2017 4:20:05 AM | 12
Fake, or real?

Macron associate, Corinne Ehrel, dies unexpectedly hours after hacked Macron emails are published

laserlurk | May 8, 2017 4:47:16 AM | 13
Posted by: sigil | May 8, 2017 3:13:25 AM

I love how people here use the term 'installed' as if Macron wasn't elected. As if the French people desperately wanted a far-right leader, but somehow never got the chance to vote for one.

Very good observation.

As if Trump was installed and in general presidents are installed by the virtue of an "invisible hand" that manipulates the markets and currencies. That may (and did) happen in some small satellite 'allied" NATO countries and with the help of intelligence community steering the mindset, but not on the level of an obscure conspiracy group sitting in a dark room observing the world and manipulating it from afar.

People do vote here in Europe and they get what the current state of mind is.

Le Pen is out and for good as her win would be definitely the end of EU and a beginning of a very dark period for France through which UK is tunneling now.

Sad story is that today's general understanding of politics and a will to take a lead, we all are forced to choose between two varieties of stupidity and crookedness as the case was in USA. Here were two ideologies confronted and a really bad and evil one lost for good. Do not mention Russia, please, as we are all tired of hearing how Putin is evil and whatnot.

My position is that Russia and Europe share the continent and one can hitchhike from Amsterdam to Moscow. One cannot hitchhike from New York to Amsterdam, right? I somehow cannot foresee that far-right is in Russian interest at all.

So, I am actually happy for Trump, as he will put USA in its place by not knowing what is he doing or not doing what he doesn't know.

Naive and wishful thinking would be - is USA finally leaving the Europe for good, keeping UK under its skirts as a staging lapdance island outpost?

I certainly do hope so.

okie farmer | May 8, 2017 6:30:45 AM | 15
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corinne_Erhel

Born
3 February 1967
Quimper, Finistère, France
Died
5 May 2017 (aged 50)
Plouisy, Côtes d'Armor, France
Occupation
Politician
Socialist Party
Corinne Erhel (3 February 1967 – 5 May 2017) was a French politician. She served as a member of the National Assembly from 2007 to 2017, representing the Côtes-d'Armor department.

George Smiley | May 8, 2017 6:51:12 AM | 16
What clarity I see with most of this thread's posters. Its amazing anyone would put their faith in Le Pen - for a thousand different reasons but especially after Trump's showing. It scares me how some people are so latched onto this very narrow, far right 'critique' of globalism and see it as the world's salvation. How easily this faith can be manipulated too. Reminds me of those who were so energetic about (and facilitated) Mussolini's rise to power.

Not to say the EU stooge is much/any better but its nice to see a more nuanced view here for once.

passerby | May 8, 2017 7:08:56 AM | 17
#8 sigil wrote: "I love how people here use the term 'installed' as if Macron wasn't elected."

A third of French voters voted Le Pen. In a civilized country with a free press you would then expect roughly a third of newspapers to be in favor of Le Pen, two thirds in favor of Macron. But coverage in favor of Macron was close to 100%. Newspapers, tv, web, the chancellors of the main universities, the french medical association, you name it: they told you to vote Macron.

I'd like to draw an analogy: Imagine that, at the next presidential elections, newspapers attack the Democratic candidate for hiring his own wife, but stay mum when documents appear on the net which show corruption by Trump. That all newspapers, all tv stations, all web sites are in favor of Trump, and - apart from some of the seedier blogs on the web - none in favor of the Democratic candidate. That the Association of American Universities, the American Medical Association, and the National Academy of Sciences all ask you to vote Trump. That you get a letter jointly signed by the president of the National Council of Churches, the president of the US Council of Muslim Organizations, and the Chief Rabbi, asking you to vote Trump. Would you call this free and fair elections? I wouldn't.

So yes, I think "installed" is the right word.

Laguerre | May 8, 2017 7:20:07 AM | 18
So was that picture photoshopped, b? I couldn't be bothered looking up the source.

At any rate, I think you're going to be proved wrong rapidly. Macron's a bright guy, and ran a very good campaign. That is, he kept quiet, like May did. But he is really pushy, and evidently competent. I don't know whether that means good or bad. But lapdog he certainly isn't.

ger | May 8, 2017 7:48:43 AM | 19
It is like electing Jamie Dimon President of the USA and wondering why nothing changes.
sigil | May 8, 2017 7:51:59 AM | 20
Re 17:
The US media etc was overwhelmingly anti-Trump and yet he won. I wish he hadn't, but he did. Enough voters chose him regardless of what they were told. In France, the voters were exposed to a similar barrage and chose to vote against the far-right candidate this time. Perhaps that's partly because Trump and the Brexiteers gave them a taste of what to expect; an indication of how half-arsed and hypocritical the far-right populists can turn out to be.

In all these cases, voters exercised their choices. As did the doctor's associations and university administrators, when choosing who to endorse. No one was 'installed'. Endorsements aren't a violation of democracy, they're an aspect of it - as is the freedom to take endorsements seriously or not.

LXV | May 8, 2017 9:44:43 AM | 25
@24 - Uncoy

This is the website behind nmb's link. No new revelations, though, I wouldn't hold my breath...

jo6pac | May 8, 2017 9:57:19 AM | 26
Well it looks like to me that France just elected obomber 2.0. Please let me know in a few years how that hope and change thingy works in France. It didn't work in Amerika for us the 99% but was great for the 1%.
BRF | May 8, 2017 10:14:29 AM | 28
Both Merkel and Marcon are a couple of M&Ms in the hands of the central bankers and their controllers who call all the shots for both of these puppets. Politics beyond the local level are manufactured to appear democratic in origin while serving a plutocracy that controls all eventualities by commanding the life blood of human economics, the Ownership over the creation of all money and credit. So y'all can relax now until the German and British election cycle gets y'all wound up again over this dog and pony show as an illusion meant as a distracting deception for the rank and file of humanity.
WorldBLee | May 8, 2017 11:34:23 AM | 32
Macron is the new and improved Obama marketing product/politician. Find a young person without defined policies, brand them in opposition to something "bad", throw the full support of media and elites behind them, and install them in office to continue austerity/financialization/war policy as per usual.

It's a brilliant scheme when you consider Macron's "platform" is essentially continuing the failed austerity policies of Hollande, who is currently approved of by 4% of the French electorate.

The key test will be the parliamentary elections coming up. Can Melenchon put together any support? Can there be a left/right anti-EU, anti-austerity alliance wide enough to keep the Macron globalists and the traditional right of Fillon from continuing the downward slide of France?

karlof1 | May 8, 2017 11:43:11 AM | 33
Here's Pepe Escobar's take on the outcome--predictable, as was Macron's Russophobic response to the last minute document dump, which was certified as genuine by WikiLeaks, http://www.atimes.com/article/emmanuel-clinton-revolt-elites/
james | May 8, 2017 11:51:41 AM | 34
@8 sigil... installed... yeah, i think that's a good word for what it is... groomed by bankers (rothchild and etc) and coddled 24/7 in the msm which acts as the main propaganda lever in these so called democracy shams.. it has everything to do with plutocracy, kleptocracy and nothing to do with democracy.. democracy is used as the front, and nothing more.. sorry - someone had to say it... funny thing - i don't recall using the word installed, but i think it is a good word for where we are at presently.. certain 'regimes' will be supported more then others, lol...
ben | May 8, 2017 11:55:19 AM | 35
nmb @ 5: Thanks for the link.

A paragraph from that link, that mirrors my personal thoughts..

"However, even if Marine Le Pen had won in the final round, the establishment would force her to follow the status quo agenda of the plutocracy, exactly as happened with Donald Trump in the United States."

RUKidding | May 8, 2017 12:01:47 PM | 36
Although I've followed this recent French election, I confess to being somewhat ignorant of Macron beyond the basics. Le Pen I do know more about.

My very ignorant guess is that French voters looked across the Channel and the Pond and saw the clusterfecks in the UK and the USA and figured an Obama 2.0 might be the better "choice" under the circumstances. As I said, don't know much about Macron but doesn't seem to be as odious and horrid as Clinton, which is why we're stuck with Trump. IMO (and I was very much open-minded about Trump once he won) Trump is an unmitigated disaster. I believe Le Pen would've been the same or similar for France (and elsewhere).

Well the Bankers run the world, do they not? Unsure how to unravel that knot.

Krollchem | May 8, 2017 12:04:40 PM | 37
Laguerre @ 18

Macron will continue to convert France into what Charles Hugh Smith calls a plantation economy: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogapr17/corp-plantation4-17.html This echoes the work of David Korten in his book "When Corporations Rule the World" and Michael Hudson in his book "Killing the Host" Macron's Tomorrowland world favors only the political class, rentiers of the Financial, Insurance and real estate sector (FIRE), extractive transnational corporations, and their media propagandists.

Macron is a cardboard construct created much like Napoléon (Tolstoy wrote in "war and Peace" if Napoléon Bonaparte did not exist he would have to be created).

Tocqueville provided a strategy for the people to create a civil society that suppresses the psychopaths that wish to contol all aspects of society. Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations" is mostly about the civil contract among workers and the bosses and he lays out the three rules of contacts between nations which is actually opposite of the globalists.

I do not think you will be happy in the globalist world order that Macron supports.

Noir22 | May 8, 2017 12:06:12 PM | 38
Here Madonna supporting Macron. May be considered trivial, just one dopey star shootin' off random perso messages.

I don't think so. Look at these kids, asked to perform and complying clumsily ....for one pres. cand. far away, why? Why? This is not just random flickr. photos looking for +++ points from aunties.

https://twitter.com/Madonna/status/861297816190291968

ben | May 8, 2017 12:14:23 PM | 39
sigil @ 20 said "The US media etc was overwhelmingly anti-Trump and yet he won."

The truth is, the MSM only opposed Mr. Trump mildly, at best. Through most of Mr. Trump's run for the White House, his coverage was " wall to wall ". Up to, and including, coverage of a empty podium, while one Bernie Sanders was giving a major live speech at the same time.

ALL MSM is corporate, and they got just who they wanted, a pro-corporate hack that will do their bidding.

peter | May 8, 2017 12:22:16 PM | 40
Looks like the French don't read MoA. Maybe if they did things would be different. Instead, something like 65% were bamboozled by the goddam press and the elites. Isn't it awful when people's right to choose is denied them by these behemoths?

Maybe Trump's performance in his early days had some effect. Maybe his anti-globalist rhetoric that turned out to be pro-.01% in actual fact gave the French pause. Maybe the French like their world beating health system and standard of living. One of the reasons for the formation of the EU was to keep the French and Germans from going at it hammer and tongs every few years like they had since forever and so far it's worked. Could it be that they like the option of traveling freely within the union while enjoying the benefits they as if they were home? Benefits that certainly didn't come from living in an inward looking country contemplating its navel.

Now the same folks who waxed ecstatic over Trump's unlikely win have to eat some crow. The snowball effect they so confidently predicted sweeping European elections has failed to materialize. Who knew people could be so stupid to pass up salvation when proffered on a silver platter. First the Dutch, and now the French. When will people learn?

ben | May 8, 2017 12:33:11 PM | 41
Relevant to my # 39.... http://www.mediaite.com/tv/trump-gets-three-major-networks-to-broadcast-image-of-empty-podium-for-30-minutes/ No one else got this obscene spectacle. So much for the Kremlin influencing foreign "democracies".
ruralito | May 8, 2017 12:42:11 PM | 42

So much for the Kremlin influencing foreign "democracies".

Posted by: ruralito | May 8, 2017 12:42:11 PM | 42

smuks | May 8, 2017 3:21:04 PM | 43
Maybe the French are better at reading history books than the Americans.

This could explain why they didn't fall for Le Pen's lies - right-wingers like her always pretend to care for the 'common man (& woman)', but quickly turn out to be even more corporate-friendly/ pro-capital than their predecessors. If people are upset, well just offer them some patsy to blame, and laugh while the poor fight each other whites vs. blacks, Christians vs. Muslims or whatever division comes in handy.

T.'s 'about-face' is by no means surprising; it's standard procedure and was expected by many.

@peter 40
Good one, +1.

smuks | May 8, 2017 3:24:48 PM | 44
One thing:

I'd still appreciate if someone could explain to me what 'globalism' means.

The term doesn't make any sense to me, since an '-ism' usually denotes discrimination and classification of humans along certain lines - but everybody's from the same globe, afaik...(except Elvis, of course)

Outsider | May 8, 2017 3:40:48 PM | 45
According to Wikipedia the Gauls were worse at making good hard soap than the Celts and all the various Teutonic tribes ...or so the olive oil-scraping Romans said. I guess that little bit of knowledge explains a lot of "smelly" jokes and jibes against southern Europe in general; they really were.

Soap won't work on politicians but soap-making lye should. They say it's all very "green" but you need ash for the lye. Burn half of them? :P (what's a "shop"?).

France could get very interesting at any point in time without warning, probably more so than any other European nation and it has been that way for at least a year and a half already. Getting this poodle elected could be a big tactical error on the part of the powers that be.

I don't trust elections any more than I trust polls, there is no reason to, but it gave "us"/humanity Brexit, so there's that.

Hoarsewhisperer | May 8, 2017 4:02:43 PM | 46
Can't tell if b's Merkel-Micron pic is PhotoShopped but Pat Lang is on board with the concept (and context?) with this mid-campaign cite...

Le Pen quipped during the campaign that France would have a woman president no matter who won because the actual president would either be She or Angela Merkel.

canuck | May 8, 2017 4:20:33 PM | 47
Jim Stone contends that the election in France was stolen: jist = massive numbers of Le Pen's ballots were torn thus rendering them uncounted; Macron received half a million extra ballots; the media broadcast the scam that Macron was way ahead in all the polls; all media support was for Macron; reporting on Macron's dirty underwear was banned.
Fernando Arauxo | May 8, 2017 4:43:47 PM | 48
I get it, Sigil the lefty is happy. I'll go home now. Everything is going to be just fine in France. The French screwed themselves over, that's all their is to it. You guys had great chance to shake society to it's core but you blew it!!
Anonymous | May 8, 2017 4:56:03 PM | 49
Macron is just perverse as is his wife: Macron's wife was his...high school teacher https://www.thelocal.fr/20170506/whos-the-older-woman-in-presidential-hopeful-macrons-life
Anonymous | May 8, 2017 5:01:52 PM | 50
Laguerre

Bright? Quiet? Plese, this guy IS the establishment itself, he was pushed forward from nowhere by the media, apparently you have sucked up all their propaganda for him, similar to dupes that loved Obama when he was elected the first time.

blues | May 8, 2017 5:09:37 PM | 51
Any election system that uses anything other than strategic hedge simple score voting is nothing other than a placebo democracy. Party-free proportional elections can be achieved with simple score used with the parabolic proportional curve method. Without such simple methods, we only have simulated / fake democracy that just doesn't work.
MadMax2 | May 8, 2017 5:46:28 PM | 52
sigil @ 20 said "The US media etc was overwhelmingly anti-Trump and yet he won."

Sigil, if you hadn't noticed, Trump came out of the media-entertainment complex...pretty much born of it. That's what you are asking of Le Pen, to replace her 20 odd years of full tilt political life with self promotion for the sake of ratings.

If he wasn't POTUS, a chump like you would be watching Trunp TV™

karlof1 | May 8, 2017 6:31:19 PM | 56
Smuks @44--"I'd still appreciate if someone could explain to me what 'globalism' means."

The linked article by Joseph Nye is basically correct and provides a basis for discussion. The concept was also known as Internationalism; its advocates Internationalists; its antagonists Nationalists or Protectionists. After WW1 the debate over joining The League of Nations sparked a debate between advocates and antagonists within the Outlaw US Empire that affects us today given the smearing Pacifists got--Isolationists/Isolationism--as if there were no nuances or grey areas.

https://www.theglobalist.com/globalism-versus-globalization/

MadMax2 | May 8, 2017 6:32:18 PM | 57
@40 peter
I'll hazard a guess that you're not Greek then. Point re: a unified Europe via a tight Franco-German bond is well taken, but at what cost...? When do Eurocrats and ECBankers come up for re-election...? Hmm, we'll just have to settle for watching another puppet show I guess.

I wouldnt talk of the far right on series of losses in NL or FR either...the right is on an absolute roll, trending in only one direction. Seems the French jihadist economy is somewhat of a problem, they're importing more than they're exporting these days...but shhh...we're not allowed to talk about it.

France took the same old bullet to dodge a bullet, and it will be this way until what remains of the twisted left is reformed into something backable.

EdMOA | May 8, 2017 7:06:10 PM | 58
@Brooklyn Bridge 27, 29
Your method doesn't work on Google.
Go to https://unshorten.it/ and paste the short URL into the box there.
Tap on 'Unshorten it' at the end of the box.
Scroll down to the blue 'goto' button at the bottom of the page.
Right click on it and copy the link therein, which is the expanded URL.
Just Sayin' | May 8, 2017 7:23:50 PM | 59
In general URL shorteners stand for everything this website and its readers oppose (central government control, tracking, spyware).

=================

Anyone worried about that sort of stuff shouldn't even visit MOA , which uses Cloudflare

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13340281

Normal_gaussian 121 days ago

They receive a large amount of internet traffic and have the potential ability to fingerprint users and subvert privacy protections. AFAIK they don't do anything malicious, but I don't know they don't.

likklemore | May 8, 2017 7:38:39 PM | 61
@ Laguerre 18

So was that picture photoshopped, b? I couldn't be bothered looking up the source. At any rate, I think you're going to be proved wrong rapidly. Macron's a bright guy, and ran a very good campaign. That is, he kept quiet, like May did. But he is really pushy, and evidently competent. I don't know whether that means good or bad. But lapdog he certainly isn't.

"He is really pushy, and evidently competent."

Guess you missed reading some of his background. Worked as a Rothschild banker. Had no idea what is EBITDA? Oh my. Read the link and understand the Whys behind the photo image b posted. Macron was groomed created out of thin air

[Yet] it wasn't just a Rothschild sponsor who took the young Macron under his wing

What Mr Macron lacked in technical knowledge and jargon at first, he made up for with contacts in government, says Sophie Javary, head of BNP Paribas' corporate finance in Europe, who was asked by Mr Henrot to coach Mr Macron in the first year.

This is straight up bizarre. It appears Macron was so important to banking interests the had to form a consortium of firms to all pitch in to help him out. Yet it gets stranger still.

On the Atos deal, Mr Macron "had a fairly junior role at the time - he would be asked to redo the financial models on Excel, the basics," recalled an adviser. But a few days after the deal was announced, Mr Macron was made a partner. A few months later, he stunned colleagues and rivals by winning a role in Nestlé's purchase of Pfizer's infant food operations.

As someone who spent ten years on Wall Street, I can tell you with certainty that you don't go from updating excel models at a junior level to partner overnight. Someone extraordinarily powerful was pulling all sorts of strings for this guy. There seems to be little doubt about this.

Further hints that Macron is a total manufactured elitist creation can be seen with the following.

At the bank, Mr Macron mastered the art of networking and 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.

In 2010, he advised, for free, the staff of Le Monde when the newspaper was put up for sale. Journalists at the daily started doubting his loyalty when they happened upon him in conversation with Mr Minc, who was representing a bidding consortium that the staff opposed. They did not know that it was Mr Minc, a fellow Inspecteur des Finances, who had helped the young Mr Macron secure his interview at Rothschild.

A media executive who was part of the same consortium recalled: "It wasn't clear who Emmanuel worked for. He was around, trading intelligence, friends with everyone. It was smart, because he got to know everybody in the media world."

Indeed, who does he work for? I'm sure the French people would like to know.[..]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
sure he ran a very good campaign. It was so arranged for him – all that $$$$loot and more.

likklemore | May 8, 2017 7:42:00 PM | 62
me @ 61

EBITDA = Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, Amortization.

Grieved | May 8, 2017 9:20:54 PM | 63
@33 karlof1

I just read Escobar's piece on the election. He makes some good points about today's post-Orwellian meanings of left and right - vastly different from earlier times. I'm pretty sure he would agree with the word "installed" - in fact he alludes to much of the process. I love his writing for its sheer élan, but I have to quote the concluding paragraph:

What French voters have – sort of – endorsed is the unity of neoliberal economy and cultural liberalism. Call it, like Michea, "integrated liberalism." Or, with all the Orwellian overtones, "post-democratic capitalism."A true revolt of the elites. And "peasants" buy it willingly. Let them eat overpriced croissants. Once again, France is leading the West.

That link again: Emmanuel Clinton and the revolt of the elites Let them eat overpriced croissants. Nailed it.

ben | May 8, 2017 9:32:27 PM | 64
France just "elected" Western Europe's version of HRC. The Banksters are dancing in the streets, and France will STILL be the U$A's bitch.
smuks | May 8, 2017 9:45:32 PM | 65
@karlof1 56

Thanks, though I'm not much enlightened I'm afraid. Where would you place e.g. the Neocons? Nationalists to the bone, with global aspirations. 'Internationalism' is a very progressive concept, and mostly associated with the UN, e.g. some form of global democracy...would you say the same for 'globalism'?

Julian | May 8, 2017 9:57:18 PM | 66
Re: Posted by: smuks | May 8, 2017 3:21:04 PM | 43

You say this, but you must be happy because the Zionists have been defeated in France yes?

hopehely | May 8, 2017 11:16:08 PM | 68
Posted by: smuks | May 8, 2017 9:45:32 PM | 65

I think that globalism has a negative connotations mostly because of jobs outsourcing overseas. All those telemarketing and customer service call centers moved to India or Philippines, textile and manufacturing jobs to China and Bangladesh etc - OTOH we do not mind having cheap Chinese stuff to buy in dollar stores, but it is somewhat irritating when a guy from Mumbai is calling you to switch to another local phone or cable provider.

sigil | May 8, 2017 11:38:51 PM | 69
Re 63
It's a good article, but I can't see any implication that he believes the voters preferred Le Pen. Terms like 'manufactured' and 'installed' when referring to candidates have their role in drawing attention to elite machinations, but they shouldn't overshadow the banal fact that the voters really aren't ready to hand power to Le Pen. Most voters don't spend their days picking apart the tangled threads of Rothschild/NATO/AIPAC/CIA conspiracies, after all. Most voters still think that the euroliberal project can work, or at any rate, they think the right-wing populists have little to offer beyond thinly-disguised racism. Considering Trump and the Brexiteers, what other conclusion should they draw?
ben | May 8, 2017 11:59:46 PM | 70
From Black Agenda Report on French elections:

https://blackagendareport.com/africa_no_stake_french_election

Excerpt: "From de Gaulle in 1958 to Hollande in 2017, and for all members of the French establishment, the operational principle of the French towards Africa has been: "invade, intimidate, manipulate, install, antagonize, ingratiate, indemnify, expropriate." Nothing in this election will change that – only Africans can."

Hoarsewhisperer | May 9, 2017 3:11:25 AM | 72
Re 63
It's a good article, but I can't see any implication that he believes the voters preferred Le Pen.
...
Posted by: sigil | May 8, 2017 11:38:51 PM | 69

Me either, and he wasn't. He was attempting to hilight the components of the bamboozlement which the United Swamp inflicted on French voters. Imo, the Swamp's winning hand was pinning the (fearsome) Far Right label to Le Pen's forehead.

It's ludicrous when seen in the light of her policy platform but it seems to have worked. The following is the nuts & bolts condensed from an article by James Petras to which I posted a link on the last April Open Thread. There's nothing right-wing in it...

1. Remove France from NATO's integrated command.
2. End NATO's commitment to US directed global wars.
3. Reject the oligarch-dominated European Union and its austerity programs, which have enriched bankers and multi-national corporations.
4. Convoke a national referendum over the EU - to decide French submission.
5. End sanctions against Russia.
6. Increase trade with Rusia.
7. End France's intervention in Syria and establish ties with Iran and Palestine.
8. Adopt Keynesian demand-driven industrial revitalization as opposed to Emmanuel Macron's ultra-neoliberal supply-side agenda.
9. Raise taxes on banks and financial transactions
10. Penalise capital flight in order to continue funding France's retirement age of 62 for women and 65 for men.
11. Keep the 35 hour work-week.
12. Provid tax-free overtime pay.
13. Direct state intervention to prevent factories from relocating to low wage EU economies and firing French workers.
14. Increase public spending for childcare and for the poor and disabled.
15 Protect French farmers against subsidized, cheap imports.
16. Support abortion rights and gay rights.
17. Oppose the death penalty.
18. Cut taxes by 10% for low-wage workers.
19. Fight against sexism.
20. Fight for equal pay for women.

What makes it interesting is that it seems that the deluge of MSM hokum successfully discouraged the ppl who voted for Micron from examining and/or evaluating it.

Mina | May 9, 2017 3:40:09 AM | 73
Somehow Macron is the smallest detail of what is going on. The old two major parties have imploded and the survivors are trying to fight for life by joining the new big centrist Macron-EU lobby movement. Everyday is about a new betrayal, a new U-turn on what has been signed or promessed by this or that party-member (Valls is the funniest to follow). The French politicians are and have been a mafia, Corsican type, ever since the 30s (or maybe before already?). Macron won't have much support in the coming parliament. Episode 2 is 18th June, results of the 2nd round of parliamentary election.

If a clarification happens as to who the people should oppose, anti-EU parties will have to unite and take the fight to Brussels (which as always, includes sorting out the extreme-right xenophobes and anti-women rights), as Varoufakis already understood.

Mina | May 9, 2017 3:57:16 AM | 74
People here really don't understand how Le Pen functions. The way the MSM is dealing with her (differs from how it was played with the father, this was Mitterrand's business) is that she is everywhere, in a positive light, on a daily basis, and suddenly when an election happens, after she has been put up as credible etc they turn against her fascism at the last minute.

The reason she is used first is to make her bigger against the other candidates. It worked this time against Mélenchon, who had initially better chances than her to win, and who might even have won against Macron (25 % abstention + 10 % blank votes is still a big reserve for anyone). But the Mélenchon was hailed "same as Le Pen", "friend of Putin and Castro", "supporting Syrian regime" etc.

As to the 'programme' of Le Pen. She changed her tone when Philippot, a former help of Chevènement (socialist anti-EU, has quit the party but still very close to Hollande and Royal !) started to write her speeches. Through time, she simply borrowed stuff from the leftist unions (CGT), from Mélenchon, so far thay everyone notice the "social left" overtones of her platform.

But when asked precisely, there is nothing behind it but catching new voters. The basis of her voters, those of her father, are just very normal rightist liberal, with an open racist flavour, and the new mottoes are just to catch more people. Asked about all the 'borrowings' made by the FN to the extreme-left Mélenchon said that reading a FN tract nowadays looked like it was a CGT one, but that this did not cover that the fact they were just stealing it without any intention behind it.

The FN is ruling is a number of municipalities, they have 2 MP in the French parliament and 22 in the EUropean parliament. Please let me know of any 'social left' measure they would have suggested or agreed for?

Under Mitterrand, the Socialists used the FN as the perfect tool to reduce the weight of the right party. After him, the MSM understood it was the perfect tool to kill the marxists. ALL the media have kept saying "Mélenchon = Le Pen" in the latest months, especially after Mélenchon had a surge in the voting intentions. The guy is not perfect and would probably not do a good president, but his charism and pedagogical capacity made him get back some of the working class voters that had stopped voting for the Communists to vote for Le Pen (after the Communists were involved too often in compromising deals with the very corrupt Socialist Party) and he also managed to get some youth interested in politics again with his web platform and local organisations.

Heros | May 9, 2017 4:00:50 AM | 75
@11 Greg Bacon

"No way a banker's pet 'wins' 66% of the vote. That total must mean the bankers have some severe Greece-style austerity planned for France."

Actually the Rothschild banker won with 66.06% of the vote:

http://www.france24.com/en/20170507-frances-macron-beats-le-pen-win-presidency-toughest-tasks-come

The illuminists are informing their serfs and their enemies that they are in complete control and that this populist revolt stops now. It is in your face like Kushner's 666 fifth avenue building. The velvet glove is being removed from the steel fist.

Anon1 | May 9, 2017 4:05:16 AM | 76
Sigil -
He was not elected by the people but through the electoral system. So the people didnt really took the opposite route of the media.
Krollchem | May 9, 2017 4:54:37 AM | 77
@ Heros 75

Actually none of the above won 37% of the voters and Macron came in at 24% which is slightly above Le Pen at 21%. The rest voted against Le Pen by voting for Macron.

Macron wins – the 24% who voted for him rejoice, the rest sigh http://thesaker.is/macron-wins-the-24-who-voted-for-him-rejoice-the-rest-sigh/

This is one hell of a way to run an election and a country. The political divisions are terminal as in the US. The difference, is that the French allow their leaders to run things until they get few up and than throw a tantrum. In this case the cobblestones will fly and the transportation system will shut down.

Even the National police (CRS) assassins will not be able to hold the line. There must be a better way to elect leaders who will add to the wealth of nations rather than the "Masters of the Universe".

smuks | May 9, 2017 7:18:36 AM | 78
@hopehely 68

It's fascinating. Everybody has his or her very personal idea of what 'globalism' means - yours is the third answer I get on this forum, and the three are completely different!
What you refer to is 'globalization', which is a natural/ logical process in capitalist economy.

I thus get the impression that 'globalism' doesn't mean anything at all - which means it's a very bad idea to use it in any debate. Or, you have to define very precisely how you use it before doing so.

@Hoarse 72

Maybe you should learn a bit more about European politics rather than believe in fairytales.
It's strange how some people are disappointed by empty talk over and over, yet all it takes is some politician declaring herself 'anti-establishment' and they'll believe every word she says. That way, of course they're f*ckd time and again... Sad! ;-)
(Look at Ukraine for a perfect example - they believed the nationalists' lies just like you do.)

@Julian 66: Yeah, sure. And even better, the spiders from Mars didn't win either. lol

Curtis | May 9, 2017 8:03:47 AM | 79
Smuks

Globalism does have different meanings ... and uses. It can mean globalism by culture as in travel, communications, foods, celebrations, etc. It can also mean government level actions pushed by TPTBs like trade deals, border arrangements, regional combinations (EU, NAFTA), economic/currency deals, supranational organizations (WTO, GATT, EU). The fun is when you complain about the latter, you are smeared as being a xenophobe and against the former. Voluntary organization from below is one thing, forced from above is a different matter.

Hoarsewhisperer | May 9, 2017 9:32:39 AM | 80
...
@Hoarse 72

Maybe you should learn a bit more about European politics rather than believe in fairytales.
It's strange how some people are disappointed by empty talk over and over, yet all it takes is some politician declaring herself 'anti-establishment' and they'll believe every word she says. That way, of course they're f*ckd time and again... Sad! ;-)

(Look at Ukraine for a perfect example - they believed the nationalists' lies just like you do.) ...

@smuks | May 9, 2017 7:18:36 AM | 78

Can't argue with your first sentence, but you should have quit while you were ahead. Conflating the violent Putch in Ukraine with the stance of a France-for-the-French Nationalist is inane, to put it mildly. And as an Aussie, I can assure you that our Neolib, Turnbull, Totalitarian Capitalist, pro-middleman-itis, industry-destroying Govt could teach the French Swamp a thing or two about 'honeyed lies' and shameless betrayal by politicians - (whilst feathering their own ne$t$).

Mina | May 9, 2017 10:43:13 AM | 81
It is even worse than b imagines. Hollande was yesterday evening in Berlin for a "farewell dinner with Merkel"
http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2017/05/09/apres-la-victoire-de-macron-le-diner-d-adieu-offert-par-angela-a-francois_5124678_3214.html

and next week, Macron once inaugurated will do his first trip to Berlin to have dinner with Mutti.

Noir22 | May 9, 2017 11:04:44 AM | 82
The selection, crowning of Macron represents the ultimate effort within the 5th Republic to elect a 'prez' who promises, can, will be, effective. In what direction is not specified .mystery

Sarkozy was elected as a 'Républicain' (UMP then), an outsider nonetheless, a foreignor almost, a hyperactive, charismatic, posturing dude who agitated ppl from the right, provided a flattering mirror for many, and displayed an aura of determined, willful, 'renewal' while being 'conservative.' His wife Cecilia played a big part - another story.

Sark subsequently alienated swatches of the F who were becoming more impoverished, he almost destroyed the judiciary/ police/ repressive etc. organs in F (as he despised them personally) except prisons, that didn't go down well. Sure the 'Left' - aka local plutocrats belonging to the Le Zuper Klub des Zocialistes trying to get a bigger slice of the economic pie.. facing their now better entrenched competitors, went into valiant, sputtering, oppo.

Sark was the destruction of Lybia. Hollande was elected as a return to a 'normal' presidency, a-hmm reasonable, understanding, benevolent, a tad leftist stance. Hollande instored by decree the El Khomri law, as an ex., measures that Sark did not dare attempt. Hollande was militarily all over, not reported - see war in Mali for ex.

Macron embodies the 'not-left-not-right', the death to the creaky 'establishment' parties; a pragmatic 'renewal', a young brilliant guy, very French, very heart-felt, etc. Leading to a sort of 'technocratic, unity government' hmmm.

http://www.e-ir.info/2008/06/14/french-foreign-policy-under-sarkozy/

Roman T. | May 9, 2017 12:13:44 PM | 83
The photoshopped image is funny. Good one. Hummvee, a.k.a. appeal to the reptilian brain. Does anyone know? I heard that Merkel has a PhD in physics (PhD in alemania is like a masters degree in amerika). So the imagery is maybe not so far from truth.
smuks | May 9, 2017 1:28:24 PM | 84
@Curtis 79

What you describe is usually called 'globalization', which of course has cultural, economic, political etc. facets. Politics is always 'forced from above' to some degree, whether on a local, national or global level.

@Hoarse 80

While there was no coup in France, the nationalist ideologies are the same: Pretending to further the 'people's interests' to garner support, but in reality doing the oligarchs' bidding.

I most certainly don't support neoliberals like Turnbull, Macron or whoever, but with the nationalists you'd get 'the same but more so', plus heightened conflicts between various groups in society, a.k.a. divide and rule. Look at history, and don't be fooled (again).

Mina | May 9, 2017 1:59:25 PM | 85
The truth is.. people needed a change from Hollande. Isn't he a cuty? http://s2.lemde.fr/image2x/2017/05/09/534x0/5125000_6_e8b1_2017-05-09-c2acb99-9353-eu22j5-nm62prpb9_c3ce4e3f7e357bbe7514a05d0e522c5b.jpg
Krollchem | May 9, 2017 3:15:41 PM | 86
More on the creation of Macron and the puppeteers behind him. It is a tangled web: http://www.voltairenet.org/article196289.html
telescope | May 9, 2017 3:38:04 PM | 87
Germans will be disappointed by Macron's election. The force that is driving two countries apart are far bigger than thousands of macrons.
Here are two fascinating very recent headlines:

"French trade deficit widens to record in January"
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/french-trade-deficit-widens-to-record-in-january-2017-03-08

"Germany Posts Record Current-Account Surplus in March"
http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/05/09/germany-posts-record-current-account-surplus-in-march.html

Juxtapose one against the other - and it's pretty clear that German strength is a mirror reflection of French weakness. Because both countries share the same currency, the only way for France to recover is for Germany to become sick. Therein lie the seeds of conflict. Far from invigorated partnership, one should expect gradual, yet unrelenting unraveling of Franco-German relations. Frustrated Macron will prove Germany's worst nightmare. It simply can't be any other way.

jfl | May 9, 2017 4:29:20 PM | 88
It looks as though the south koreans will be much happier with their new president than the french will be with theirs. In france the next dates of note are 11 and 18 june, aren't they? all this talk of germany ... de gaulle's speech was on the 18th of june, wasn't it? is micron really petain in drag?
karlof1 | May 9, 2017 6:57:13 PM | 89
jfl

Here's another excellent Monthly Review essay, this time by Henry A. Giroux: Trump's America: Rethinking 1984 and Brave New World , https://monthlyreview.org/2017/05/01/trumps-america/

Most barflys will benefit from reading this.

[May 12, 2017] What Is America's Goal in the World

Notable quotes:
"... Engines of Innovation ..."
"... Harvard Business Review ..."
"... Sustainable Prosperity ..."
"... Journal of Strategic Management Education ..."
"... Sustainable Prosperity ..."
"... Business Insider ..."
"... Harvard Business Review Blog ..."
"... Harvard Business Review Blog ..."
"... Business Organization and the Myth of the Market Economy ..."
May 12, 2017 | www.unz.com

What Is America's Goal in the World? Pat Buchanan May 12, 2017 800 Words 7 Comments Reply Jump To... Content Top Bottom Section Prev Current Next Bookmark Toggle All ToC Remove from Library Add to Library Bookmarks
For the World War II generation there was clarity.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec 7, 1941, united the nation as it had never been before - in the conviction that Japan must be smashed, no matter how long it took or how many lives it cost.

After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, however, Americans divided.

Only with the Berlin Blockade of 1948, the fall of China to Mao and Russia's explosion of an atom bomb in 1949, and North Korea's invasion of the South in 1950, did we unite around the proposition that, for our own security, we had to go back to Europe and Asia.

What was called the Cold War consensus - that only America could "contain" Stalin's empire - led to NATO and new U.S. alliances from the Elbe to the East China Sea.

Vietnam, however, shattered that Cold War consensus.

The far left of the Democratic Party that had taken us into Vietnam had repudiated the war by 1968, and switched sides to sympathize with such Third World communists as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and the Sandinistas.

Center-right presidents - JFK, Nixon, Reagan - accepted the need to cooperate with dictators who would side with us in fighting Communism.

And we did. Park Chung-Hee in Korea. The Shah in Iran. President Diem in Saigon. Gen. Franco in Spain. Somoza in Nicaragua. Gen. Mobuto in the Congo. Gen. Pinochet in Chile. Ferdinand Marcos in Manila. The list goes on.

Under Reagan, the Soviet Empire finally fell apart and the USSR then disintegrated in one of the epochal events of history.

The American Century had ended in America's triumph.

Yet, after 1989, no new national consensus emerged over what ought to be our role in the World. What should we stand for? What should we fight for?

What Dean Acheson had said of our cousins in 1962: "Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role," was true of us.

What was our role in the world, now that the Cold War was history?

George H.W. Bush took us to war to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Soaring to 90 percent approval, he declared America's new role was to construct a New World Order.

Those who opposed him, Bush acidly dismissed in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1991, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor:

"We stand here today on the site of a tragedy spawned by isolationism. And it is here we must learn - and this time avoid - the dangers of today's isolationism and its accomplice, protectionism."

Neither Bush nor his New World Order survived the next November.

Then came payback for our sanctions that had brought death to thousands of Iraqis, and for the U.S. bases we had foolishly planted on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia - Sept. 11, 2001.

George W. Bush reacted by launching the two longest wars in our history, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and announced that our new role was to "end tyranny in our world."

The Bush II crusade for global democracy also fizzled out.

Barack Obama tried to extricate us from Afghanistan and Iraq. But he, too, failed, and got us into wars in Yemen and Syria, and then started his own war in Libya, producing yet another failed state.

What does the balance sheet of post-Cold War interventions look like?

Since 1991, we have lost our global preeminence, quadrupled our national debt, and gotten ourselves mired in five Mideast wars, with the neocons clamoring for a sixth, with Iran.

With the New World Order and global democracy having been abandoned as America's great goals, what is the new goal of U.S. foreign policy? What is the strategy to achieve it? Does anyone know?

Globalists say we should stand for a "rules-based world order." Not exactly "Remember the Alamo!" or "Remember Pearl Harbor!" A quarter century after the Cold War, we remain committed to 60-year-old Cold War alliances to defend scores of nations on the other side of the world. Consider some of the places where America collides today with nuclear powers: the DMZ, the Senkakus, Scarborough Shoal, Crimea, the Donbass.

What is vital to us in any of these venues to justify sending an American army to fight, or risking a nuclear war?

We have lost control of our destiny. We have lost the freedom our Founding Fathers implored us to maintain - the freedom to stay out of wars of foreign counties on faraway continents.

Like the British and French empires, the American imperium is not sustainable. We have issued so many war guarantees it is almost assured that we will be dragged into every future great crisis and conflict on the planet.

If we do not review and discard some of these war guarantees, we shall never know peace. Donald Trump once seemed to understand this. Does he still?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, out May 9, "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever."

Floda , May 12, 2017 at 6:55 am GMT

@Dave Shanken I disagree that only the Republican presidents defeated the Russian goal of world domination. All presidents from Truman to Reagan (with the possible exception of Pres. Carter) did what had to be done to defeat Russia without precipitating a nuclear holocaust.

Realist , May 12, 2017 at 10:13 am GMT

"What Is America's Goal in the World?"

Total domination.

Realist , May 12, 2017 at 10:14 am GMT

@Dave Shanken I disagree that only the Republican presidents defeated the Russian goal of world domination. All presidents from Truman to Reagan (with the possible exception of Pres. Carter) did what had to be done to defeat Russia without precipitating a nuclear holocaust.

Eustace Tilley (not) , May 12, 2017 at 11:12 am GMT

"The far left of the Democratic Party that had taken us into Vietnam "

"During his term, Eisenhower will greatly increase U.S. military aid to the French in Vietnam to prevent a Communist victory. U.S. military advisors will continue to accompany American supplies sent to Vietnam. To justify America's commitment, Eisenhower will cite a 'Domino Theory' in which a Communist victory in Vietnam would result in surrounding countries falling one after another like a 'falling row of dominoes'. The Domino Theory will be used by a succession of Presidents and their advisors to justify ever-deepening U.S. involvement in Vietnam."

http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/vietnam/index-1945.html

So, in complete honesty, who "took" us to Vietnam?

Pat Buchanan is not an historian. He is a propagandist with an agenda to persuade.

Source: Calculated from data downloaded from Standard & Poor's Compustat database.

The Weinstein-Teitelbaum focus on a GUI design to expand the supply of S&E PhDs ignores the transformations of corporate governance and employment relations that have decimated career employment for this group of workers over the past three decades. At the same time, the channeling of trillions of dollars of value created in U.S. nonfinancial corporations to the financial sector has opened up jobs on Wall Street that can provide quick income bonanzas for highly-educated members of the U.S. labor force, many of whom might have otherwise pursued S&E careers. Among the wealthiest of these Wall Street players are corporate predators-euphemistically known as "hedge-fund activists"-who have billions of dollars in assets under management with which they can attack companies to pump up their stock prices through the implementation of "downsize-and-distribute" allocation regimes and, even if it takes a few years, dump the stock for huge gains.15

In the case of Apple, we have shown how Carl Icahn used his wealth, visibility, hype, and influence to take $2 billion in stock-market gains by buying $3.6 billion of Apple shares in the summer of 2013 and selling them in the winter of 2016, even though he contributed absolutely nothing of any kind to Apple as a value-creating company.16 Apple CEO Tim Cook and his board (which includes former U.S. Vice President Al Gore) helped Icahn turn his accumulated fortune into an even bigger one by having Apple repurchase $45 billion in shares in 2014 and $36 billion in 2015-by far the two largest one-year stock buybacks of any company in history. Imagine the corporate research capabilities in which Apple could have invested, and the S&E PhDs the company could have employed, had it looked for productive ways to use even a fraction of the almost unimaginable sums that it wasted on buybacks.17 From 2011 through the first quarter of 2017, Apple spent $144 billion on buybacks and $51 billion on dividends under what it calls its "Capital Return" program. But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO. 18

A number of "hedge-fund activists"-Nelson Peltz of Trian, Daniel Loeb of Third Point, and William Ackman of Pershing Square are among the most prominent-have been able to put up one or two billion dollars to purchase small stakes in major high-tech companies, and, with the proxy votes of pension funds, mutual funds and endowments, have been able put pressure on companies, often by placing their representatives on the boards of directors, to implement "downsize-and-distribute" regimes for the sake of "maximizing shareholder value."19 In the summer of 2013, Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management bought DuPont stock worth $1.3 billion, representing 2.2% of shares outstanding. In May 2015 Peltz lost a proxy fight to put four of his nominees on the DuPont board, but in October 2015 DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, who had opposed Peltz, resigned, and the new management began to implement Peltz's plans to cut costs and hit financial targets, to be done in the context of a merger with Dow Chemical, which had fallen into the hands of another corporate predator Daniel Loeb. Meanwhile, in October 2015, Peltz bought 0.8 percent of the shares of General Electric (GE), and began to pressure another iconic high-tech company to cut costs and increase its stock price. GE was already a financialized company that had done $52 billion in buybacks in the decade 2006-2015 (see Table 2)-a massive amount of money for the purpose of manipulating its stock price. Undoubtedly responding to additional pressure from Peltz, during 2016, GE, with profits of $8.0 billion, paid out $8.5 billion in dividends and spent another $22.0 billion on buybacks. This financialization of U.S. high-tech corporations undermines, among other things, the employment of S&E PhDs.

We need research on this subject to quantify its impacts. I submit, however, that such a research agenda must focus on transformations of regimes of corporate governance and employment relations. Relying on the neoclassical economist's notion of a "natural wage rate" determined by the interaction of supply and demand, Weinstein, a mathematician, and Teitelbaum, a demographer, missed the transformations in corporate governance and employment relations that marked the late 1980s and early 1990s-and beyond-and as result, in my view, failed to understand the changing fortunes of S&E PhDs in the marketized, globalized, and financialized New Economy. Given the dominance of what I have called "the myth of the market economy"20 in the thought processes of economists, Weinstein and Teitelbaum were by no means alone in erroneously focusing on supply and demand on the PhD labor market while failing to recognize the centrality of corporate governance and employment relations in determining the earnings and career prospects of S&E PhDs. It is time for new economic thinking on these critical questions.

Footnotes

1 The Weinstein paper appears to have been published prior to the adoption of the American Competitiveness and Workforce

2 William Lazonick, Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? Business Organization and High-Tech Employment in the United States, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2009; ; William Lazonick, "The New Economy Business Model and the Crisis of US Capitalism," Capitalism and Society, 4, 2, 2009: article 4; William Lazonick, Philip Moss, Hal Salzman, and Öner Tulum, "Skill Development and Sustainable Prosperity: Collective and Cumulative Careers versus Skill-Biased Technical Change," Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution Working Paper No. 7, December 2014, at https://www.ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/research-papers/skill-development-and-sustainable-prosperity-cumulative-and-collective-careers-versus-skill-biased-technical-change ; William Lazonick, "Labor in the Twenty- First Century: The Top 0.1% and the Disappearing Middle Class," in Christian E. Weller, ed., Inequality, Uncertainty, and Opportunity: The Varied and Growing Role of Finance in Labor Relations, Cornell University Press, 2015: 143-192.

3 Almost all gains from exercising employee stock options and the vesting of employee stock awards are taxed at the ordinary income-tax rate, not at the capital-gains tax rate, with taxes withheld by the employer at the time that options are exercised or awards vest. Hence these stock-based gains are reported as part of "wages, tips, other compensation" on IRS Form 1040.

4 Matt Hopkins and William Lazonick, "Who Invests in the High-Tech Knowledge Base?" Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution Working Paper No. 6, September 2014 (revised December 2014) at www.ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/research-papers/who-invests-in-the-high-tech-knowledge-base

5 Rosenbloom and Spencer, Engines of Innovation . Richard Rosenbloom was David Sarnoff Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, while William Spencer was CEO of SEMATECH.

6 Ibid., pp. 2-3.

7 William Lazonick, "Profits Without Prosperity: Stock Buybacks Manipulate the Market and Leave Most Americans Worse Off," Harvard Business Review , September 2014, 46-55; William Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks: From Retain-and-Reinvest to Downsize-and-Distribute," Center for Effective Public Management, Brookings Institution, April 2015 at http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/04/17-stock-buybacks-lazonick.

8 Lazonick, Sustainable Prosperity , ch. 3. For an important case study that includes the fate of the once renowned Bell Labs, see William Lazonick and Edward March, "The Rise and Demise of Lucent Technologies," Journal of Strategic Management Education , 7, 4, 2011.

9 Lazonick, Sustainable Prosperity , ch. 5.

10 Ibid., ch. 2. Note that the H-1 visa for workers in specialty occupations was renamed the H-1B visa in 1990 after the H-1A visa was created specifically for nurses.

11 Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks"; Lazonick, "Labor in the Twenty-First Century."

12 Lazonick, "Profits Without Prosperity"; Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks."

13 Lazonick, "Labor in the Twenty-First Century": William Lazonick, "How Stock Buybacks Make Americans Vulnerable to Globalization," Paper presented at the Workshop on Mega-Regionalism: New Challenges for Trade and Innovation, East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, January 20-21, 2016, at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2745387

14 Lazonick, "Profits Without Prosperity."

15 Rachel Butt, "Here are some of the 10 biggest activist money managers and some of their most impressive bets," Business Insider , June 17, 2016, at http://www.businessinsider.com/top-10-biggest-activist-investors-2016-6. Matt Hopkins, William Lazonick, and Jang-Sup Shin are engaged in research on the methods and gains of these predatory value extractors.

16 William Lazonick, Matt Hopkins, and Ken Jacobson, "What we learn about inequality from Carl Icahn's $2 billion 'no brainer,'" Institute for New Economic Thinking Ideas & Papers, June 6, 2016, at https://ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/blog/what-we-learn-about-inequality-from-carl-icahns-2-billion-apple-no-brainer .

17 See William Lazonick, "What Apple should do with its massive piles of money," Harvard Business Review Blog , October 20, 2014, at https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-apple-should-do-with-its-massive-piles-of-money

18 William Lazonick, "Numbers show Apple shareholders have already gotten plenty," Harvard Business Review Blog , October 16, 2014, at https://hbr.org/2014/10/numbers-show-apple-shareholders-have-already-gotten-plenty

19 With Matt Hopkins and Jang-Sup Shin, I am involved in project on how the U. S. SEC has accommodated and even encouraged the corporate value extractors who call themselves "shareholder activists" or "hedge-fund activists."

20 William Lazonick, Business Organization and the Myth of the Market Economy , Cambridge University Press, 1991 0 0 0 0 This entry was posted in Economic fundamentals , Free markets and their discontents , Guest Post , Income disparity , Politics , Private equity , Technology and innovation , The destruction of the middle class , The dismal science on May 12, 2017 by Yves Smith .
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Subscribe to Post Comments 41 comments Tom_Doak , May 12, 2017 at 10:08 am

It was indeed a tough article to read to the end, but this nugget near the end was worth it:

"But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO."

Wow!

David McClain , May 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

As one who actually lived this process, I can tell you that the premise of this article must be basically true.

Back in the early '90s I set out to fill in the gaps of my own computer science background (I'm actually an astrophysicist). And my classes were filled entirely by people from Asia, except for myself and one other Anglo. Job ads in the journals were already beginning to ask for PhD level CompSci with emphasis on, e.g., voice recognition, for a pay rate of $26K (1992 !). That was definitely appealing to the foreign students and unappealing to American STEM students.

During that period, the only job market for native PhD STEM students became the American Defense and Intelligence agencies, because they required security clearances and US Citizenship. I found myself driven in those directions too.

Now, after many years doing my own thing, I look around at the STEM marketplace and I am shocked to find large numbers of compatriots being pressured into the GIG Economy, and pay rates are appalling by former standards. There is a serious lack of expenditure on research and development today.

tony , May 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

There is a serious lack of expenditure on research and development today.

From another perspective this is just over investment in education. Technology for the most part is just increasing complexity and increasing complexity has diminishing returns. With energy becoming less available, we probably need a lot less complexity.

flora , May 12, 2017 at 10:49 am

"American Defense". hmmm, wonder if sending the jobs and know-how to China and India in the belief both will always be the US's willing subcontractors is such a good idea (from a US national defense point of view).

Ranger Rick , May 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I wouldn't say that there is a lack of R&D - it just isn't done in-house any more. Gone are the Bell Labs and the Xerox PARCs; welcome to the brave new world of university partnerships and non-profit R&D shops (most famous: the Southwest Research Institute).

Altandmain , May 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

Basically the rich are waging class war. That's the problem no matter how you slice and dice this one.

This whole "New Economy" has been one big war on wages. I mean look at the collusion too between Google, Apple, and Intel to keep wages low.

https://www.wired.com/2015/01/apple-google-tech-giants-reach-415m-settlement-poaching-suit/

Considering how slap on the wrist this was, what incentive is there to not do it again? They know they can get away with this. Not to mention, this H1B and L1B program has become a way to keep wages low in the technology sector. In many sectors, there really isn't a "shortage" of Americans. Oh and for all the talk of these companies being "innovative", if they are prioritizing money on stock buybacks over R&D, that's not really innovative as much as it is trying to boost salaries by capitalizing on the huge cash reserves they get for being the dominant companies in their sector. Same could be said about Exxon. Not much being spent on R&D means that they are more about rent seeking rather than innovation. Perhaps not yet as blatant as those patent trolls, which are little more than shell companies that sue other companies over patents, but that is their ideal business model.

I think that at the end of the day, even though many engineers in the tech companies are in the top 10% in terms of income percentile, their interests are closer aligned with working class people. The other issue is that I bet when many of these engineers turn into their 40s, they are going to witness first hand the very real age discrimination that exists in the technology industry.

Basically it comes down to, the rich are really greedy. The issue right now for the rich is that they are desperate to keep the looting from happening, while people are increasingly aware that the system is against them. Bernie Sanders got a lot of support in the Valley and while it is a very Democratic leaning area, I cannot imagine that Trump's anti-H1B and L1B stance would have been opposed by the average employee. I think that the rich are not going to concede anything and that there needs to be some sort of solidarity union amongst all workers.

Expat , May 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

Is there a single person here who has worked on Wall Street (writ large) who can convince us that his job or his company had an overall positive effect on the US and/or world economy over five years, ten years, or twenty-five years?

I'll go first: three investment banks under my belt and one was a giant fnancial and moral sucking machine called Citi. The other two were wannabe's but certainly did not add value.

Sluggeaux , May 12, 2017 at 11:12 am

While "maximizing shareholder value" is the huge problem wrecking our economy, having watched the genesis of New Economic Paradigm through the experiences my wife and most of my friends going through the Silicon Valley start-up Tulip-mania from the mid-'80's through the first decade of th e 2000's, the author is hitting important points while over-simplifying and missing other equally important points, such as the role of the "Peace Dividend" in the collapse of aerospace and research funding, and the role of the Reagan and Clinton "tax reforms" in driving stock-based compensation systems.

Early on, the use of stock-based compensation drove down wage-based compensation and increased the role of financial speculators. Today, the speculators get the stock, but wages remain suppressed and only foreign workers will accept them. The author is correct: the causes are complicated, but the result drove down wages and job security for STEM workers.

mary , May 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

I got my Ph.D. in biology in 2000. It was absolutely the worst decision in my life. In fact, it actually destroyed my life, reducing me to near homelessness and starvation because-GASP--regular employers (like office jobs, retail etc.) will not hire Ph.D.s. There there is the lovely student debt that has grown exponentially, as my wages could not make the smallest dent. Convicted felons make more that I do. So to make a long story short, I started a small on-line business 9 years ago and got the FFFFF OUT of the rotten POS United States and moved to Ecuador, one of the most progressive countries in the world. I cannot believe how the US abuses its national treasures-is is truly a POS and I do not miss it for one day. I hope the US crashes and rots in hell.

JDS , May 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Good for you! I wish I could do the same that is, leave the country!

visitor , May 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Out of curiosity: what happened to your student debt when you emigrated?

fritter , May 12, 2017 at 11:40 am

Its not just PhDs. I know several Engineers who advise their children to do something else. It's just not worth the amount of effort that is required to be put into it and there is no future hope of a turn around. As bad as it is for graduates today, it's only going to get worse.

nycTerrierist , May 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

They're catching up with us arts and humanities majors.

Sad!

B1whois , May 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I am a civil engineer and one of my daughters is studying to become a structural engineer. I would not have advised her to go into engineering because of the problem with the H-1B visas.
But who am I to advise? Who can know the future? The world is just changing too fast now to really be able to advise our children on what careers to take. Besides, one of the advantages of studying engineering as you can work anywhere in the world.
I bought houses for each of my children and told them if they wanted to go to college they could trade the house in for the education. I personally think they should have considered keeping the house and working minimum wage jobs that they enjoy. But both of them are pursuing educations, my son to be history teacher!

cr , May 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Post WWII labor overplayed its hand by the 1970's. Corporations and their decided they had had it. Corps and management proceeded to change the rules of the game on everything–courts, trade, taxation and regulation. These countermeasures have had disastrous long term consequences. Corporations now run the country in a fascist manner. Government capture has created myriad problems beyond financialization, only one tool in the corporate quiver. Oligopolies across most to all industries comes to mind. Rail, air, health insurance, banking, defense, telecom, entertainment .

But this paper is also lamenting a lack of business capex, which is directly correlated to public investment. When you decided to offshore manufacturing and fail to invest in infrastructure you get a double whammy that hits business capex. Increasing regulation and taxation on small and midsize companies has lead to consolidation. Approximately 5000 public companies have likely been consolidated. Sarbanes-Oxley added millions to compliance costs making it highly uneconomical to be a public company with less than $300 million in revenue. Dodd-Frank has created increases in cost for financial firms that had nothing to do with the crisis. In fact, the big banks have benefited enormously from implementation of this legislation.

Vatch , May 12, 2017 at 12:20 pm

For anyone else who was confused by the terminology, as I was briefly, capex = capital expenditure.

Altandmain , May 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Not sure about the labor part overplaying their hand. They just wanted an even wage and productivity rise.

It is capital IMO that has overplayed its hand and the rise of neoliberal economics which has led to declines in public R&D spending. There isn't anything like the Space Race anymore.

tony , May 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Frankly, labour underplayed its hand. At one point it had capital by the throat, and should have finished it off then. If peace is not an option, you should utterly and permanently destroy your enemy.

Sluggeaux , May 12, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Labor did NOT overplay its hand after WW2 - Taft-Hartley was a HUGE smack-down to labor after the privations of the Depression followed by the war effort. The decent wages during the post-war period were part of a concerted effort to convince workers that they didn't need unions and to be complacent.

Labor leadership certainly became corrupt from all the money sloshing around without global competition due to war devastation of Europe and Japan, the Cold War, and the death throes of colonialism, but this was not due to "overplaying" their hand.

allan , May 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Reply to cr@May 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Sarbanes-Oxley Dodd-Frank

The trends described in the post predate by decades the communist tyranny [/s] imposed by those bills.
The wholesale closing or offshoring of corporate research labs already started in the 1980s,
driven in part by corporate raiders like Milken, Pickens and Icahn.
IBM, GM, Kodak, Xerox, GE they all had labs that provided jobs to STEM graduates
and a stream of discoveries and inventions to generate more jobs.
Now these are largely gone or substantially off-shored.
What has happened to corporate R&D shouldn't be used as an excuse to make life easier
for the Wall Street culture largely responsible for it.

Vatch , May 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Yes, any burdens imposed by Sarbanes Oxley are the fault of numerous unethical business executives over recent decades, and not the fault of people in government.

visitor , May 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm

When I was a student in IT, the shining stars at the firmament of industrial computer science and engineering R&D were Xerox PARC, DEC SRC, ATT Bell Labs and IBM Yorktown Heights.

They are gone or a shadow of their former selves.

Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Contrary to popular belief, in aggregate U.S. corporations fund the stock market, not vice versa. Note that almost all of the buybacks in the decade 1976-1985 occurred in 1984 and 1985 after in November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation.

William Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks: From Retain-and-Reinvest to Downsize-and-Distribute," Center for Effective Public Management, Brookings Institution, April 2015 at http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/04/17-stock-buybacks-lazonick .

See Lazonick's footnoted paper for many loving particulars. Especially note the details of how Rule 10b-18 offers no protection from abuse and (no news to NC readers) is a pillar of general corporate asset-stripping .

Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm

P. S. pages 10 and 11 of Lazonick's pdf lay out Rule 10b-18 in full.

David Barrera , May 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Thanks. Tremendous article!

Socal Rhino , May 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Engineering long-term career arc has been an issue since at least my father's generation (those born during WWI). Longer tenure (mid to late mid career) engineers were being eased out for young grads. When I was in a ChemE program in the 70s, advice was to follow the engineering degree with either law or a business degree because the odds of a long career doing engineering was not great. No one advised going for a PhD in engineering.

Arizona Slim , May 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm

My father had a PhD in chemical engineering.

When I asked him why he got the degree, which didn't seem necessary for someone who spent much of his career in industrial R&D, he said, "I'm like Mallory climbing Mount Everest. I got that degree because it is there."

So, there you have it. My old man getting that degree because he wanted to. And because my mother was willing to support both of them while he worked on it.

shinola , May 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm

To me, this is the money quote (literally):

"Many of America's largest corporations routinely distribute more than 100 percent of net income to shareholders, generating the extra cash by reducing cash reserves, selling off assets, taking on debt, or laying off employees the only logical explanation for this buyback activity is that the stock-based pay that represents the vast majority of the remuneration of senior corporate executives incentivizes them to manipulate their companies' stock prices "

This not only applies to the STEM sector, but nearly every large corp. in America. "Earnings quality" (i.e stock price) takes precedence over everything else leading to the crapification of products & services and devaluation of employees.

Thank gawd this type of thinking wasn't around when Jonas Salk was working on the polio vaccine.

nowhere , May 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Which begs the question: what discoveries are we missing out on now because of this short sighted approach?

Jim Haygood , May 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm

" In November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation. "

How can you have "looting" without lootees? The stockholders aren't complaining. If any party is being disadvantaged by borrowing to fund stock buybacks, it's existing bondholders. As David Swensen describes in an extended example in Pioneering Portfolio Management , managers compensated by stock options tend to treat corporate debt holders quite shabbily by piling on more debt, compromising the interest coverage ratio.

High tech companies use stock buybacks to offset their widespread granting of stock options which - absent Rule 10b-18 - would badly dilute existing stock holders over time.

Trying to paint the well-disclosed practice of stock buybacks as "looting" is histrionic ax grinding on Lazonick's part. Over-leveraged companies are going to regret it in the next recession. But that's a lamentable social phenomenon in a bubble-driven economy. Those who disagree with it are free to sell short over-leveraged stocks - perhaps a more meaningful way of expressing dissent than scribbling academic screeds.

Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

And political dissenters are free to emigrate.

fritter , May 12, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Well Jim, ponzi schemes work pretty well for those at the top. I suppose we shouldn't worry about it until we start getting complaints..

Actually though, watching the train wreck that is the outlook for the youngest generation today, provides some grim amusement. For instance noting that the "bubble-driven" economy composed of companies desperate to prevent their stock becoming "badly diluted" by having fire sales on capitol and expertise that probably took their predecessors decades to build can really only have one outcome. Depression, misery, socialism. Maybe we skip the Mao route this time, maybe not.

Alejandro , May 12, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Here's some related "histrionics" of your channeling D.D . an excerpt of a debate about "creative destruction" (emphasis mine) from 1991(context), chronologically, roughly following the tandem of Ronnie and Maggie.

Gregory Peck: "The Robber Barons of old at least left something tangible in their wake - a coal mine, a railroad, banks. THIS MAN LEAVES NOTHING. HE CREATES NOTHING. HE BUILDS NOTHING. HE RUNS NOTHING. And in his wake lies nothing but a blizzard of paper to cover the pain. Oh, if he said, "I know how to run your business better than you," that would be something worth talking about. But he's not saying that. He's saying, "I'm going to kill you because at this particular moment in time, you're worth more dead than alive."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJRhrow3Jws

Danny Devito: "Let's have the intelligence, let's have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future "Ah, but we can't," goes the prayer. "We can't because we have responsibility, a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?" I got two words for that: WHO CARES? Care about them? Why? They didn't care about you. They sucked you dry. You have no responsibility to them. For the last ten years this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, "We know times are tough. We'll lower taxes, reduce water and sewer."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kxPyNZF3Q

oho , May 12, 2017 at 1:29 pm

IBM. Poster child of everything wrong at the executive-level and the shareholder-level.

David Barrera , May 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Oho,
Yes, the IBM reference is interesting.The author gives an ordinal lead to IBM as a mover from the OEBM to NEBM. I ask myself if, from a mere one large corporation managing perspective, this was IBM's 11th hour response to the by then devastating rise of its competitors like Apple & Microsoft. Also the irony that it did not help IBM at least in the midterm. So, IBM was the prime mover to initiate some aspects of a model change -change which every major player adhered to- in response to a new technological disadvantage vs. competitors, and in turned did not seem to do much for IBM in the immediate years. Although, if I recall well, IBM was immersed in many political battles and internal problems, legal and otherwise. Nevertheless, I doubt there was a historic inevitability on IBM's ordinal force. Outstanding work by Lazonick

Trout Creek , May 12, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Let me quote a noted tech analyst on IBM :
"IBM is the poster child for shenanigans. Last month, IBM reported its 20th quarter in a row of declining year over year revenues .. a 13% drop in earnings, profit margins that declined in every business segment ( much worse than expected ), free cash flow that plummeted over 50% year over year and an earnings "beat" of 3 cents per share. How could this "beat" happen? .. a negative tax rate of -23% . This is why they pay the CEO Rometti the big bucks ( estimated at $50 to $65 million last year)."
And this is one of the Bluest of the Blue Chip companies in the world.

Sue , May 12, 2017 at 6:12 pm

I read IBM spent a fortune at that time defending itself against monopolistic claims litigation. This was happening while Microsoft and Apple were clearly consolidating their oligopolistic empires. I read reports stating Oracle initial breakthroughs were taken from IBM's research work.

Thomas Williams , May 12, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Really fine piece, thanks.

Also, the quality of the readers' comments is some of the highest I've seen in years of following NC

nowhere , May 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Not sure if anyone watches "Silicon Valley", but here is a quote that seems fitting:

Season 2 – Bad Money

Richard: Once we get a few customers and start a subscription-revenue model.

Russ: What? Revenue? No, no, no, no, no. No. If you show revenue, people will ask "How much?" And it will never be enough, but if you have no revenue, you can say you're pre-revenue. You're a potential pure play. It's not about how much you earn, it's about what you're worth. And who's worth the most? Companies that lose money. Pinterest, Snap chat No revenue. Amazon has lost money every fucking quarter for the last 20 fucking years, and that Bezos motherfucker is the king.

Wisdom Seeker , May 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Just wanted to point out that there is one more link in the chain to be followed: the financiers would not have such an easy time playing Nero with our economy, if the banking sector were still properly constrained by a gold standard (=limited supply of printed credit), the risk of bank runs by outraged consumers, the Glass-Steagall separation of commercial from investment banking, personal rather than corporate punishment for fraud and abuse, antitrust enforcement, etc.

In addition, the rise of 401(k) based investing, in which workers are tax-incentivized to buy in to the corporate stock scheming, but lack the normal shareholder voice in corporate governance, has taken the chains off the looters as well.

It's time to end the impunity. The government has been corrupted by the corporations, so only a populist uprising will produce reform. The uprising will require sacrifices of time, income, security. It will require boycotts of products that people like, but whose producers and vendors are evil. The products will not disappear while demand persists – but the producers and vendors must be brought to heel.

Consider the following inductees into the Corporate Hall of Shame:
Wells Fargo – customer abuse
United Airlines – customer abuse
UBER – employee abuse; legal system abuse
Mylan (Epi Pens) – Monopolistic price abuse
Hewlett Packard (spyware on laptops) – customer abuse

pick an industry, you'll find a Hall of Shame candidate. Hit them all in the wallet until they reform.

Smitty , May 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm

The impact on the Grads was secondary a byproduct of a larger agenda which included the transfer offshore and consolidation of "IP" of the entire American, EU and Asian industrial economies along with the withdrawl of capital, while at the same time intentionally sabotaging future innovations with the handicap of diversity.

Who got the loot and capital?

Usual suspects.

[May 12, 2017] How Financialization and the New Economy Hurt Science and Engineering Grads

Notable quotes:
"... Weinstein argues that the GUI agenda (inspired by Reaganomics) sought to prevent these salary increases. He contends that the legislation that enabled this oversupply was the Immigration Act of 1990 that expanded the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and instituted employment-based immigration preferences. ..."
"... As I show in my book Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? , the beginning of the end of CWOC was the transformation of IBM, the world's leading computer company, from OEBM to NEBM from 1990 to 1994. In 1990, with 374,000 employees, IBM still bragged about its adherence to the CWOC norm (calling it "lifelong employment"), claiming that the company had not laid off anyone involuntarily since 1921. By 1994 IBM had 220,000 employees, and, with senior executives under CEO Louis Gerstner themselves getting fired for not laying off employees fast enough, CWOC was history. Over the course of the 1990s and into the 2000s, other major Old Economy companies followed IBM's example, throwing out of work older employees, many of them highly educated and with accumulated experience that had previously been highly valued by the companies. ..."
"... The salaries of S&E employees tended to increase with years of experience with the company, with a defined-benefit pension (based on years of service and highest salary levels) in retirement. These types of secure employment relations, and the high and rising pay levels associated with them, were the norm among established high-tech companies in the mid-1980s, but, as exemplified by IBM's transformation, started to become undone in the early 1990s, and were virtually extinct a decade later, as Old Economy companies either made the transition to the NEBM, or disappeared.8 The culprit in the weakening in the demand for, and earnings of, S&E PhDs from the early 1990s was the demise of CWOC-a phenomenon that Weinstein (and Teitelbaum) entirely ignore. ..."
"... As exemplified by IBM in the 1990s and beyond, a company's stock price could be raised by laying off expensive older workers and using the resultant "free" cash flow (as the purveyors of MSV called it) to do stock buybacks. 12 ..."
"... "But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO." ..."
"... During that period, the only job market for native PhD STEM students became the American Defense and Intelligence agencies, because they required security clearances and US Citizenship. I found myself driven in those directions too. ..."
"... Technology for the most part is just increasing complexity and increasing complexity has diminishing returns. With energy becoming less available, we probably need a lot less complexity. ..."
"... I wouldn't say that there is a lack of R&D - it just isn't done in-house any more. Gone are the Bell Labs and the Xerox PARCs; welcome to the brave new world of university partnerships and non-profit R&D shops (most famous: the Southwest Research Institute). ..."
"... Basically the rich are waging class war. That's the problem no matter how you slice and dice this one. This whole "New Economy" has been one big war on wages. I mean look at the collusion too between Google, Apple, and Intel to keep wages low. ..."
"... Basically it comes down to, the rich are really greedy. The issue right now for the rich is that they are desperate to keep the looting from happening, while people are increasingly aware that the system is against them. Bernie Sanders got a lot of support in the Valley and while it is a very Democratic leaning area, I cannot imagine that Trump's anti-H1B and L1B stance would have been opposed by the average employee. I think that the rich are not going to concede anything and that there needs to be some sort of solidarity union amongst all workers. ..."
"... Is there a single person here who has worked on Wall Street (writ large) who can convince us that his job or his company had an overall positive effect on the US and/or world economy over five years, ten years, or twenty-five years? ..."
"... Its not just PhDs. I know several Engineers who advise their children to do something else. It's just not worth the amount of effort that is required to be put into it and there is no future hope of a turn around. As bad as it is for graduates today, it's only going to get worse. ..."
"... They're catching up with us arts and humanities majors. Sad! ..."
"... I am a civil engineer and one of my daughters is studying to become a structural engineer. I would not have advised her to go into engineering because of the problem with the H-1B visas. ..."
"... But who am I to advise? Who can know the future? The world is just changing too fast now to really be able to advise our children on what careers to take. Besides, one of the advantages of studying engineering as you can work anywhere in the world. ..."
"... Post WWII labor overplayed its hand by the 1970's. Corporations and their decided they had had it. Corps and management proceeded to change the rules of the game on everything -- courts, trade, taxation and regulation. These countermeasures have had disastrous long term consequences. Corporations now run the country in a fascist manner. Government capture has created myriad problems beyond financialization, only one tool in the corporate quiver. Oligopolies across most to all industries comes to mind. Rail, air, health insurance, banking, defense, telecom, entertainment . ..."
"... Not sure about the labor part overplaying their hand. They just wanted an even wage and productivity rise. It is capital IMO that has overplayed its hand and the rise of neoliberal economics which has led to declines in public R&D spending. There isn't anything like the Space Race anymore. ..."
"... Frankly, labour underplayed its hand. At one point it had capital by the throat, and should have finished it off then. If peace is not an option, you should utterly and permanently destroy your enemy. ..."
"... Labor did NOT overplay its hand after WW2 - Taft-Hartley was a HUGE smack-down to labor after the privations of the Depression followed by the war effort. The decent wages during the post-war period were part of a concerted effort to convince workers that they didn't need unions and to be complacent. ..."
"... Labor leadership certainly became corrupt from all the money sloshing around without global competition due to war devastation of Europe and Japan, the Cold War, and the death throes of colonialism, but this was not due to "overplaying" their hand. ..."
"... Contrary to popular belief, in aggregate U.S. corporations fund the stock market, not vice versa. Note that almost all of the buybacks in the decade 1976-1985 occurred in 1984 and 1985 after in November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation. ..."
"... Actually though, watching the train wreck that is the outlook for the youngest generation today, provides some grim amusement. For instance noting that the "bubble-driven" economy composed of companies desperate to prevent their stock becoming "badly diluted" by having fire sales on capitol and expertise that probably took their predecessors decades to build can really only have one outcome. Depression, misery, socialism. Maybe we skip the Mao route this time, maybe not. ..."
"... Gregory Peck: "The Robber Barons of old at least left something tangible in their wake - a coal mine, a railroad, banks. THIS MAN LEAVES NOTHING. HE CREATES NOTHING. HE BUILDS NOTHING. HE RUNS NOTHING. And in his wake lies nothing but a blizzard of paper to cover the pain. Oh, if he said, "I know how to run your business better than you," that would be something worth talking about. But he's not saying that. He's saying, "I'm going to kill you because at this particular moment in time, you're worth more dead than alive." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJRhrow3Jws ..."
"... IBM. Poster child of everything wrong at the executive-level and the shareholder-level. ..."
"... Yes, the IBM reference is interesting.The author gives an ordinal lead to IBM as a mover from the OEBM to NEBM. I ask myself if, from a mere one large corporation managing perspective, this was IBM's 11th hour response to the by then devastating rise of its competitors like Apple & Microsoft. ..."
"... Also the irony that it did not help IBM at least in the midterm. So, IBM was the prime mover to initiate some aspects of a model change -change which every major player adhered to- in response to a new technological disadvantage vs. competitors, and in turned did not seem to do much for IBM in the immediate years. Although, if I recall well, IBM was immersed in many political battles and internal problems, legal and otherwise. Nevertheless, I doubt there was a historic inevitability on IBM's ordinal force. Outstanding work by Lazonick ..."
"... "IBM is the poster child for shenanigans. Last month, IBM reported its 20th quarter in a row of declining year over year revenues .. a 13% drop in earnings, profit margins that declined in every business segment ( much worse than expected ), free cash flow that plummeted over 50% year over year and an earnings "beat" of 3 cents per share. How could this "beat" happen? .. a negative tax rate of -23% . This is why they pay the CEO Rometti the big bucks ( estimated at $50 to $65 million last year)." ..."
"... And this is one of the Bluest of the Blue Chip companies in the world. ..."
"... Amazon has lost money every fucking quarter for the last 20 fucking years, and that Bezos motherfucker is the king. ..."
"... In addition, the rise of 401(k) based investing, in which workers are tax-incentivized to buy in to the corporate stock scheming, but lack the normal shareholder voice in corporate governance, has taken the chains off the looters as well. ..."
"... The impact on the Grads was secondary a byproduct of a larger agenda which included the transfer offshore and consolidation of "IP" of the entire American, EU and Asian industrial economies along with the withdrawl of capital, while at the same time intentionally sabotaging future innovations with the handicap of diversity. Who got the loot and capital? Usual suspects. ..."
May 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

... By William Lazonick, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Lowell. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

How the U.S. New Economy Business Model has devalued science & engineering PhDs This note comments on Eric Weinstein's, " How and Why Government, Universities, and Industries Create Domestic Labor Shortages of Scientists and High-Tech Workers ," posted recently on INET's website.

At the outset of his paper, Weinstein argues that:

Long term labor shortages do not happen naturally in market economies. That is not to say that they don't exist. They are created when employers or government agencies tamper with the natural functioning of the wage mechanism.

The contention, written from the perspective of the late 1990s, is that in the first half of the 1990s an oversupply ("a glut") of science and engineering (S&E) labor that depressed the wages of PhD scientists and engineers was primarily the result of the promotion of a government-university-industry (GUI) agenda, coordinated by the National Science Foundation under the leadership of Erich Bloch, head of the NSF from 1984 to 1990. Beginning in 1985, the NSF predicted a shortfall of 675,000 S&E personnel in the U.S. economy over the next two decades. According to a study by the NSF's Policy Research and Analysis (PRA) division, quoted by Weinstein, salary data show that real PhD-level pay began to rise after 1982, moving from $52,000 to $64,000 in 1987 (measured in 1984 dollars). One set of salary projections show that real pay will reach $75,000 in 1996 and approach $100,000 shortly beyond the year 2000.

Weinstein argues that the GUI agenda (inspired by Reaganomics) sought to prevent these salary increases. He contends that the legislation that enabled this oversupply was the Immigration Act of 1990 that expanded the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and instituted employment-based immigration preferences. Given that most of these foreigners came from lower-wage (Asian) nations, it is assumed that they were attracted to work in the United States by what for them were high wages, whereas Americans with S&E PhDs began to shun S&E careers as the salaries became less attractive.1

There is a lot missing from Weinstein's perspective, which is also the perspective of demographer Michael Teitelbaum, who Weinstein cites extensively and who was at the Sloan Foundation from 1983 to 2013, rising to Vice-President in 2006. Weinstein and Teitelbaum view the salaries of scientists and engineers as being determined by supply and demand on the labor market ("the natural wage rate" and "the natural functioning of the labor market"). From this (neoclassical) perspective, they completely ignore the "marketization" of employment relations for S&E workers that occurred in the U.S. business sector from the mid-1980s as well as the concomitant "financialization" of the U.S. business corporation that remains, in my view, the most damaging economic problem facing the United States. This transformation of employment relations put out of work large numbers of PhD scientists and engineers who previously had secure employment and who enjoyed high incomes and benefits as well as creative corporate careers. The marketization of employment relations brought to an end of the norm of a career with one company (CWOC)-an employment norm that was pervasive in U.S. business corporations from the 1950s to the 1980s, but that has since disappeared. 2 The "financialization" of the corporation, manifested by massive distributions to shareholders in the forms of cash dividends and stock buybacks, undermined the opportunities for business-sector S&E careers.

The major cause of marketization was the rise of the "New Economy business model" (NEBM) in which high-tech startups, primarily in information-and-communication technology (ICT) and biotechnology, lured S&E personnel away from established companies, which offered CWOC under the "Old Economy business model" (OEBM). As startups with uncertain futures, the New Economy companies could not realistically offer CWOC, but instead enticed S&E personnel away from CWOC at Old Economy companies by offering these employees stock options on top of their salaries (which were typically lower than those at the Old Economy companies). The stock options could become extremely valuable if and when the startup did an initial public offering (IPO) or a merger-and-acquisition (M&A) deal with an established publicly-listed company.

The rise in S&E PhD salaries from 1982 to 1987, identified in the NSF study that Weinstein quotes, was the result of increased demand for S&E personnel by New Economy companies, with some of the increase taking the form of stock-based pay, which in the Census data drawn from tax returns is lumped in with salaries.3 Competing with companies for S&E personnel, the rise of the NEBM in turn put pressure on salaries at Old Economy companies as they tried to use CWOC to attract and retain S&E labor in the face of the stock-based alternative. By the last half of the 1980s, this New Economy competition for talent was eroding the learning capabilities of the corporate research labs that, in many cases from the early twentieth century, had been a characteristic feature of Old Economy companies in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries. 4

The CWOC norm under OEBM had provided employment security and rising wages from years-of-service with the company and internal promotion of S&E personnel (significant proportions of whom in science- based companies had PhDs). As I show in my book Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? , the beginning of the end of CWOC was the transformation of IBM, the world's leading computer company, from OEBM to NEBM from 1990 to 1994. In 1990, with 374,000 employees, IBM still bragged about its adherence to the CWOC norm (calling it "lifelong employment"), claiming that the company had not laid off anyone involuntarily since 1921. By 1994 IBM had 220,000 employees, and, with senior executives under CEO Louis Gerstner themselves getting fired for not laying off employees fast enough, CWOC was history. Over the course of the 1990s and into the 2000s, other major Old Economy companies followed IBM's example, throwing out of work older employees, many of them highly educated and with accumulated experience that had previously been highly valued by the companies.

Already in the early 1990s, the marketization of employment relations was responsible for a precipitous decline of employment at the corporate research labs that had underpinned the twentieth-century growth of Old Economy high-tech companies, of which IBM was an exemplar. In 1993, a conference held at Harvard Business School decried the "end of an era" in industrial research, with papers from the conference appearing in a volume Engines of Innovation , published in 1996.5 In the introductory chapter, entitled "Technology's Vanishing Wellspring," conference organizers and volume editors Richard Rosenbloom and William Spencer argued that industrial research (as distinct from product development) of the type that had been carried out by corporate labs in the "golden era" of the post- World War II decades "expands the base of knowledge on which existing industries depend and generates new knowledge that leads to new technologies and the birth of new industries." In the more competitive environment of the 1980s and 1990s, however, in the new industries of "biotechnology, exotic materials, and information products (and services based on them)", Rosenbloom and Spencer observed that it was more difficult for companies "to keep new technologies fully proprietary", and hence "research activities have been downsized, redirected, and restructured in recent years within most of the firms that once were among the largest sponsors of industrial research." 6

There is little doubt that S&E PhDs were major victims of this transformation. But the problem that they, along with most other members of the U.S. labor force, have faced is not simply the marketization of employment relations. For reasons that I have fully described in my publications cited above, the transition from OEBM to NEBM was accompanied by the "financialization" of the U.S. business corporation as, from the last half of the 1980s, U.S. boardrooms and business schools embraced the ideology that, for the sake of superior economic performance, a business enterprise should be run to "maximize shareholder value" (MSV). Instead of retaining employees and reinvesting in their productive capabilities, as had been the case when CWOC had prevailed, MSV advocated and legitimized the downsizing of the company's labor force and the distribution of corporate revenues to shareholders in the forms of both cash dividends and stock repurchases. 7

With the demise of CWOC, older employees were the most vulnerable, not only because they tended to have the highest salaries, but also because the shift from OEBM to NEBM was a shift from proprietary technology systems, in which employees with long years of experience were highly valued, to open technology systems that favored younger workers with the latest computer-related skills (often acquired by working at other companies). Under CWOC, older employees were more expensive not because of a "natural wage rate" that was the result of supply and demand on the S&E labor market, but because of the internal job ladders that are integral to a "retain-and-reinvest" resource-allocation regime. The salaries of S&E employees tended to increase with years of experience with the company, with a defined-benefit pension (based on years of service and highest salary levels) in retirement. These types of secure employment relations, and the high and rising pay levels associated with them, were the norm among established high-tech companies in the mid-1980s, but, as exemplified by IBM's transformation, started to become undone in the early 1990s, and were virtually extinct a decade later, as Old Economy companies either made the transition to the NEBM, or disappeared.8 The culprit in the weakening in the demand for, and earnings of, S&E PhDs from the early 1990s was the demise of CWOC-a phenomenon that Weinstein (and Teitelbaum) entirely ignore.

With the rise of NEBM, companies wanted employees who were younger and cheaper , and that was the major reason why at the end of the 1980s the ICT industry pushed for an expansion of H-1B nonimmigrant visas and employment-based immigration visas. It is not at all clear that an influx of PhDs from foreign countries via these programs was undermining the earnings of S&E PhDs in the early 1990s. Most H-1B visa holders had Bachelor's degrees when they entered the United States. At the same time, large numbers of non-immigrant visa holders entered the United States on student visas to do Master's and PhD degrees, and then looked to employment on H-1B visas to enable them to stay in the United States for extended periods (up to seven years).9 It was in response to the availability of advanced- degree graduates of U.S. universities that in 2005 an additional 20,000 H-1B visas were added to the normal cap of 65,000. Without the influx of foreign students into U.S. S&E Master's and PhD programs, many of these programs would not have survived. Through this route, the H-1B visa program has made more foreign-born PhDs available to corporations for employment in the United States. But I posit that it has been the demise of OEBM and rise of the NEBM, not an increased supply of foreign-born PhDs, that has placed downward pressure on the career earnings of the most highly educated members of the U.S. labor force.

Besides giving employers access to an expanded supply of younger and cheaper high-tech labor in the United States, the H-1B visa along with the L-1 visa for people who had previously worked for the employer for at least one year outside the United States have another valuable attribute for employers: the person on the visa is immobile on the labor market-he or she can't change jobs-whereas under NEBM the most valued high-tech workers are those who are highly mobile. This mobility of labor can boost the worker's pay package but is highly problematic for a company that needs these employees to be engaged in the collective and cumulative learning processes that are the essence of generating competitive products. Under OEBM, CWOC was the central employment institution for college-educated workers precisely because of the need for collective and cumulative learning. But it was the rise of NEBM, not the Immigration Act of 1990, that undermined CWOC. The growing dominance of NEBM with its open systems architectures then led employers to make increased use of H-1 and L-1 visas in the 1980s, prompting them to get behind an expanded cap for H-1B visas in the Immigration Act of 1990. 10

Once OEBM was attacked by NEBM, with its offer of stock-based pay, these corporations became fertile territory for the adoption of the ideology that a company should be run to "maximize shareholder value" (MSV). This momentous transformation in U.S. corporate governance occurred from the late 1980s, legitimizing the transition from a "retain-and-reinvest" to a "downsize-and-distribute" corporate- governance regime. In the 1990s and beyond, this corporate-governance transformation laid waste to CWOC across corporate America, knowledge-intensive companies included. 11 With corporate research eroding as high-tech personnel responded to the lure of stock-based pay from NEBM companies- including not only startups but also those such as Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco Systems that during the 1990s grew to employ tens of thousands of people, most of them with stock- based pay-senior executives at the Old Economy high-tech companies began to see their company's stock price as not only key to the size of their own stock-based pay packages but also as an instrument to compete for a broad-based of high-tech personnel. As exemplified by IBM in the 1990s and beyond, a company's stock price could be raised by laying off expensive older workers and using the resultant "free" cash flow (as the purveyors of MSV called it) to do stock buybacks. 12

As I have documented in detail, over the past three decades this legalized looting of the U.S. business corporation has only gotten worse. As shown Table 1, driven by stock buybacks, net equity issues by U.S. nonfinancial corporations were, in 2015 dollars, minus $4.5 trillion over the decade 2006-2015. In 2016 net equity issues were minus $586 billion. Net equity issues are new stock issues by companies (in this case nonfinancial corporations) minus stock retired from the market as the result of stock repurchases and M&A deals. The massively negative numbers in recent decades are the result of stock buybacks. I have calculated net equity issues as a percent of GDP by decade to provide a measure of the value of buybacks done relative to the size of the U.S. economy. In both absolute inflation-adjusted dollars and as a percent of GDP, buybacks have become a prime mode of corporate resource allocation in the U.S. economy. Contrary to popular belief, in aggregate U.S. corporations fund the stock market, not vice versa. Note that almost all of the buybacks in the decade 1976-1985 occurred in 1984 and 1985 after in November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation.

Table 1: Net equity issues of nonfinancial corporations in the United States, 1946-2015, by decade, in 2015 dollars, and as a percent of GDP

Decade Net Equity Issues,

2015$ billions

Net Equity Issues

as % of GDP

1946-1955 143.2 0.56
1956-1965 110.9 0.30
1966-1975 316.0 0.58
1976-1985 -290.9 -0.40
1986-1995 -1,002.5 -1.00
1996-2005 -1,524.4 -1.09
2006-2015 -4,466.6 -2.65

Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve Statistical Release Z.1, "Financial Accounts of the United States: Flow of Funds, Balance Sheets, and Integrated Macroeconomic Accounts," Table F-223: Corporate Equities, March 9, 2017, at https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/current/ .

Over the years 2006-2015, the 459 companies in the S&P 500 Index in January 2016 that were publicly listed over the ten-year period expended $3.9 trillion on stock buybacks, representing 53.6 percent of net income, plus another 36.7 percent of net income on dividends. Much of the remaining 9.7 percent of profits was held abroad, sheltered from U.S. taxes. Mean buybacks for these 459 companies ranged from $291 million in 2009, when the stock markets had collapsed, to $1,205 million in 2007, when the stock market peaked before the Great Financial Crisis. In 2015, with the stock market booming, mean buybacks for these companies were $1,173 million. Meanwhile, dividends declined moderately in 2009, but over the period 2006-2015 they trended up in real terms.

Among the largest repurchasers are America's premier high-tech companies. Table 2 shows the top 25 repurchasers over the decade 2006-2015. Among the companies that one would expect to employ large numbers of S&E PhDs are Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Pfizer, Oracle, Intel, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. We do not know the historical numbers of S&E PhDs at these companies, but I hypothesize that numbers would be much higher than they are if the companies were not financialized. Many of America's largest corporations

routinely distribute more than 100 percent of net income to shareholders, generating the extra cash by reducing cash reserves, selling off assets, taking on debt, or laying off employees.13 As I have shown, the only logical explanation for this buyback activity is that the stock-based pay that represents the vast majority of the remuneration of senior corporate executives incentivizes them to manipulate their companies' stock prices, leaving most Americans worse off. 14

Table 2: The 25 largest stock repurchasers among U.S.-based corporations, 2006-2015, showing net income (NI) stock buybacks (BB), and cash dividends (DV)

Source: Calculated from data downloaded from Standard & Poor's Compustat database.

The Weinstein-Teitelbaum focus on a GUI design to expand the supply of S&E PhDs ignores the transformations of corporate governance and employment relations that have decimated career employment for this group of workers over the past three decades. At the same time, the channeling of trillions of dollars of value created in U.S. nonfinancial corporations to the financial sector has opened up jobs on Wall Street that can provide quick income bonanzas for highly-educated members of the U.S. labor force, many of whom might have otherwise pursued S&E careers. Among the wealthiest of these Wall Street players are corporate predators-euphemistically known as "hedge-fund activists"-who have billions of dollars in assets under management with which they can attack companies to pump up their stock prices through the implementation of "downsize-and-distribute" allocation regimes and, even if it takes a few years, dump the stock for huge gains.15

In the case of Apple, we have shown how Carl Icahn used his wealth, visibility, hype, and influence to take $2 billion in stock-market gains by buying $3.6 billion of Apple shares in the summer of 2013 and selling them in the winter of 2016, even though he contributed absolutely nothing of any kind to Apple as a value-creating company.16 Apple CEO Tim Cook and his board (which includes former U.S. Vice President Al Gore) helped Icahn turn his accumulated fortune into an even bigger one by having Apple repurchase $45 billion in shares in 2014 and $36 billion in 2015-by far the two largest one-year stock buybacks of any company in history. Imagine the corporate research capabilities in which Apple could have invested, and the S&E PhDs the company could have employed, had it looked for productive ways to use even a fraction of the almost unimaginable sums that it wasted on buybacks.17 From 2011 through the first quarter of 2017, Apple spent $144 billion on buybacks and $51 billion on dividends under what it calls its "Capital Return" program. But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO. 18

A number of "hedge-fund activists"-Nelson Peltz of Trian, Daniel Loeb of Third Point, and William Ackman of Pershing Square are among the most prominent-have been able to put up one or two billion dollars to purchase small stakes in major high-tech companies, and, with the proxy votes of pension funds, mutual funds and endowments, have been able put pressure on companies, often by placing their representatives on the boards of directors, to implement "downsize-and-distribute" regimes for the sake of "maximizing shareholder value."19 In the summer of 2013, Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management bought DuPont stock worth $1.3 billion, representing 2.2% of shares outstanding. In May 2015 Peltz lost a proxy fight to put four of his nominees on the DuPont board, but in October 2015 DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, who had opposed Peltz, resigned, and the new management began to implement Peltz's plans to cut costs and hit financial targets, to be done in the context of a merger with Dow Chemical, which had fallen into the hands of another corporate predator Daniel Loeb. Meanwhile, in October 2015, Peltz bought 0.8 percent of the shares of General Electric (GE), and began to pressure another iconic high-tech company to cut costs and increase its stock price. GE was already a financialized company that had done $52 billion in buybacks in the decade 2006-2015 (see Table 2)-a massive amount of money for the purpose of manipulating its stock price. Undoubtedly responding to additional pressure from Peltz, during 2016, GE, with profits of $8.0 billion, paid out $8.5 billion in dividends and spent another $22.0 billion on buybacks. This financialization of U.S. high-tech corporations undermines, among other things, the employment of S&E PhDs.

We need research on this subject to quantify its impacts. I submit, however, that such a research agenda must focus on transformations of regimes of corporate governance and employment relations. Relying on the neoclassical economist's notion of a "natural wage rate" determined by the interaction of supply and demand, Weinstein, a mathematician, and Teitelbaum, a demographer, missed the transformations in corporate governance and employment relations that marked the late 1980s and early 1990s-and beyond-and as result, in my view, failed to understand the changing fortunes of S&E PhDs in the marketized, globalized, and financialized New Economy. Given the dominance of what I have called "the myth of the market economy"20 in the thought processes of economists, Weinstein and Teitelbaum were by no means alone in erroneously focusing on supply and demand on the PhD labor market while failing to recognize the centrality of corporate governance and employment relations in determining the earnings and career prospects of S&E PhDs. It is time for new economic thinking on these critical questions.

Footnotes

Tom_Doak , May 12, 2017 at 10:08 am

It was indeed a tough article to read to the end, but this nugget near the end was worth it:

"But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO."

Wow!

David McClain , May 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

As one who actually lived this process, I can tell you that the premise of this article must be basically true.

Back in the early '90s I set out to fill in the gaps of my own computer science background (I'm actually an astrophysicist). And my classes were filled entirely by people from Asia, except for myself and one other Anglo. Job ads in the journals were already beginning to ask for PhD level CompSci with emphasis on, e.g., voice recognition, for a pay rate of $26K (1992 !). That was definitely appealing to the foreign students and unappealing to American STEM students.

During that period, the only job market for native PhD STEM students became the American Defense and Intelligence agencies, because they required security clearances and US Citizenship. I found myself driven in those directions too.

Now, after many years doing my own thing, I look around at the STEM marketplace and I am shocked to find large numbers of compatriots being pressured into the GIG Economy, and pay rates are appalling by former standards. There is a serious lack of expenditure on research and development today.

tony , May 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

There is a serious lack of expenditure on research and development today.

From another perspective this is just over investment in education. Technology for the most part is just increasing complexity and increasing complexity has diminishing returns. With energy becoming less available, we probably need a lot less complexity.

flora , May 12, 2017 at 10:49 am

"American Defense". hmmm, wonder if sending the jobs and know-how to China and India in the belief both will always be the US's willing subcontractors is such a good idea (from a US national defense point of view).

Ranger Rick , May 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I wouldn't say that there is a lack of R&D - it just isn't done in-house any more. Gone are the Bell Labs and the Xerox PARCs; welcome to the brave new world of university partnerships and non-profit R&D shops (most famous: the Southwest Research Institute).

Altandmain , May 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

Basically the rich are waging class war. That's the problem no matter how you slice and dice this one. This whole "New Economy" has been one big war on wages. I mean look at the collusion too between Google, Apple, and Intel to keep wages low.

https://www.wired.com/2015/01/apple-google-tech-giants-reach-415m-settlement-poaching-suit/

Considering how slap on the wrist this was, what incentive is there to not do it again? They know they can get away with this. Not to mention, this H1B and L1B program has become a way to keep wages low in the technology sector. In many sectors, there really isn't a "shortage" of Americans. Oh and for all the talk of these companies being "innovative", if they are prioritizing money on stock buybacks over R&D, that's not really innovative as much as it is trying to boost salaries by capitalizing on the huge cash reserves they get for being the dominant companies in their sector. Same could be said about Exxon. Not much being spent on R&D means that they are more about rent seeking rather than innovation. Perhaps not yet as blatant as those patent trolls, which are little more than shell companies that sue other companies over patents, but that is their ideal business model.

I think that at the end of the day, even though many engineers in the tech companies are in the top 10% in terms of income percentile, their interests are closer aligned with working class people. The other issue is that I bet when many of these engineers turn into their 40s, they are going to witness first hand the very real age discrimination that exists in the technology industry.

Basically it comes down to, the rich are really greedy. The issue right now for the rich is that they are desperate to keep the looting from happening, while people are increasingly aware that the system is against them. Bernie Sanders got a lot of support in the Valley and while it is a very Democratic leaning area, I cannot imagine that Trump's anti-H1B and L1B stance would have been opposed by the average employee. I think that the rich are not going to concede anything and that there needs to be some sort of solidarity union amongst all workers.

Expat , May 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

Is there a single person here who has worked on Wall Street (writ large) who can convince us that his job or his company had an overall positive effect on the US and/or world economy over five years, ten years, or twenty-five years?

I'll go first: three investment banks under my belt and one was a giant financial and moral sucking machine called Citi. The other two were wannabe's but certainly did not add value.

Sluggeaux , May 12, 2017 at 11:12 am

While "maximizing shareholder value" is the huge problem wrecking our economy, having watched the genesis of New Economic Paradigm through the experiences my wife and most of my friends going through the Silicon Valley start-up Tulip-mania from the mid-'80's through the first decade of th e 2000's, the author is hitting important points while over-simplifying and missing other equally important points, such as the role of the "Peace Dividend" in the collapse of aerospace and research funding, and the role of the Reagan and Clinton "tax reforms" in driving stock-based compensation systems.

Early on, the use of stock-based compensation drove down wage-based compensation and increased the role of financial speculators. Today, the speculators get the stock, but wages remain suppressed and only foreign workers will accept them. The author is correct: the causes are complicated, but the result drove down wages and job security for STEM workers.

mary , May 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

I got my Ph.D. in biology in 2000. It was absolutely the worst decision in my life. In fact, it actually destroyed my life, reducing me to near homelessness and starvation because-GASP--regular employers (like office jobs, retail etc.) will not hire Ph.D.s. There there is the lovely student debt that has grown exponentially, as my wages could not make the smallest dent. Convicted felons make more that I do. So to make a long story short, I started a small on-line business 9 years ago and got the FFFFF OUT of the rotten POS United States and moved to Ecuador, one of the most progressive countries in the world. I cannot believe how the US abuses its national treasures-is is truly a POS and I do not miss it for one day. I hope the US crashes and rots in hell.

JDS , May 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Good for you! I wish I could do the same that is, leave the country!

visitor , May 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Out of curiosity: what happened to your student debt when you emigrated?

fritter , May 12, 2017 at 11:40 am

Its not just PhDs. I know several Engineers who advise their children to do something else. It's just not worth the amount of effort that is required to be put into it and there is no future hope of a turn around. As bad as it is for graduates today, it's only going to get worse.

nycTerrierist , May 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

They're catching up with us arts and humanities majors. Sad!

B1whois , May 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I am a civil engineer and one of my daughters is studying to become a structural engineer. I would not have advised her to go into engineering because of the problem with the H-1B visas.

But who am I to advise? Who can know the future? The world is just changing too fast now to really be able to advise our children on what careers to take. Besides, one of the advantages of studying engineering as you can work anywhere in the world.

I bought houses for each of my children and told them if they wanted to go to college they could trade the house in for the education. I personally think they should have considered keeping the house and working minimum wage jobs that they enjoy. But both of them are pursuing educations, my son to be history teacher!

cr , May 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Post WWII labor overplayed its hand by the 1970's. Corporations and their decided they had had it. Corps and management proceeded to change the rules of the game on everything -- courts, trade, taxation and regulation. These countermeasures have had disastrous long term consequences. Corporations now run the country in a fascist manner. Government capture has created myriad problems beyond financialization, only one tool in the corporate quiver. Oligopolies across most to all industries comes to mind. Rail, air, health insurance, banking, defense, telecom, entertainment .

But this paper is also lamenting a lack of business capex, which is directly correlated to public investment. When you decided to offshore manufacturing and fail to invest in infrastructure you get a double whammy that hits business capex. Increasing regulation and taxation on small and midsize companies has lead to consolidation. Approximately 5000 public companies have likely been consolidated. Sarbanes-Oxley added millions to compliance costs making it highly uneconomical to be a public company with less than $300 million in revenue. Dodd-Frank has created increases in cost for financial firms that had nothing to do with the crisis. In fact, the big banks have benefited enormously from implementation of this legislation.

Vatch , May 12, 2017 at 12:20 pm

For anyone else who was confused by the terminology, as I was briefly, capex = capital expenditure.

Altandmain , May 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Not sure about the labor part overplaying their hand. They just wanted an even wage and productivity rise. It is capital IMO that has overplayed its hand and the rise of neoliberal economics which has led to declines in public R&D spending. There isn't anything like the Space Race anymore.

tony , May 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Frankly, labour underplayed its hand. At one point it had capital by the throat, and should have finished it off then. If peace is not an option, you should utterly and permanently destroy your enemy.

Sluggeaux , May 12, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Labor did NOT overplay its hand after WW2 - Taft-Hartley was a HUGE smack-down to labor after the privations of the Depression followed by the war effort. The decent wages during the post-war period were part of a concerted effort to convince workers that they didn't need unions and to be complacent.

Labor leadership certainly became corrupt from all the money sloshing around without global competition due to war devastation of Europe and Japan, the Cold War, and the death throes of colonialism, but this was not due to "overplaying" their hand.

allan , May 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Reply to cr@May 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Sarbanes-Oxley Dodd-Frank

The trends described in the post predate by decades the communist tyranny [/s] imposed by those bills.
The wholesale closing or offshoring of corporate research labs already started in the 1980s,
driven in part by corporate raiders like Milken, Pickens and Icahn.
IBM, GM, Kodak, Xerox, GE they all had labs that provided jobs to STEM graduates
and a stream of discoveries and inventions to generate more jobs.
Now these are largely gone or substantially off-shored.
What has happened to corporate R&D shouldn't be used as an excuse to make life easier
for the Wall Street culture largely responsible for it.

Vatch , May 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Yes, any burdens imposed by Sarbanes Oxley are the fault of numerous unethical business executives over recent decades, and not the fault of people in government.

visitor , May 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm

When I was a student in IT, the shining stars at the firmament of industrial computer science and engineering R&D were Xerox PARC, DEC SRC, ATT Bell Labs and IBM Yorktown Heights.

They are gone or a shadow of their former selves.

Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Contrary to popular belief, in aggregate U.S. corporations fund the stock market, not vice versa. Note that almost all of the buybacks in the decade 1976-1985 occurred in 1984 and 1985 after in November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation.

William Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks: From Retain-and-Reinvest to Downsize-and-Distribute," Center for Effective Public Management, Brookings Institution, April 2015 at http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/04/17-stock-buybacks-lazonick .

See Lazonick's footnoted paper for many loving particulars. Especially note the details of how Rule 10b-18 offers no protection from abuse and (no news to NC readers) is a pillar of general corporate asset-stripping .

Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm

P. S. pages 10 and 11 of Lazonick's pdf lay out Rule 10b-18 in full.

David Barrera , May 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Thanks. Tremendous article!

Socal Rhino , May 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Engineering long-term career arc has been an issue since at least my father's generation (those born during WWI). Longer tenure (mid to late mid career) engineers were being eased out for young grads. When I was in a ChemE program in the 70s, advice was to follow the engineering degree with either law or a business degree because the odds of a long career doing engineering was not great. No one advised going for a PhD in engineering.

Arizona Slim , May 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm

My father had a PhD in chemical engineering.

When I asked him why he got the degree, which didn't seem necessary for someone who spent much of his career in industrial R&D, he said, "I'm like Mallory climbing Mount Everest. I got that degree because it is there."

So, there you have it. My old man getting that degree because he wanted to. And because my mother was willing to support both of them while he worked on it.

shinola , May 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm

To me, this is the money quote (literally):

"Many of America's largest corporations routinely distribute more than 100 percent of net income to shareholders, generating the extra cash by reducing cash reserves, selling off assets, taking on debt, or laying off employees the only logical explanation for this buyback activity is that the stock-based pay that represents the vast majority of the remuneration of senior corporate executives incentivizes them to manipulate their companies' stock prices "

This not only applies to the STEM sector, but nearly every large corp. in America. "Earnings quality" (i.e stock price) takes precedence over everything else leading to the crapification of products & services and devaluation of employees.

Thank gawd this type of thinking wasn't around when Jonas Salk was working on the polio vaccine.

nowhere , May 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Which begs the question: what discoveries are we missing out on now because of this short sighted approach?

Jim Haygood , May 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm

" In November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation. "

How can you have "looting" without lootees? The stockholders aren't complaining. If any party is being disadvantaged by borrowing to fund stock buybacks, it's existing bondholders. As David Swensen describes in an extended example in Pioneering Portfolio Management , managers compensated by stock options tend to treat corporate debt holders quite shabbily by piling on more debt, compromising the interest coverage ratio.

High tech companies use stock buybacks to offset their widespread granting of stock options which - absent Rule 10b-18 - would badly dilute existing stock holders over time.

Trying to paint the well-disclosed practice of stock buybacks as "looting" is histrionic ax grinding on Lazonick's part. Over-leveraged companies are going to regret it in the next recession. But that's a lamentable social phenomenon in a bubble-driven economy. Those who disagree with it are free to sell short over-leveraged stocks - perhaps a more meaningful way of expressing dissent than scribbling academic screeds.

Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

And political dissenters are free to emigrate.

fritter , May 12, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Well Jim, ponzi schemes work pretty well for those at the top. I suppose we shouldn't worry about it until we start getting complaints..

Actually though, watching the train wreck that is the outlook for the youngest generation today, provides some grim amusement. For instance noting that the "bubble-driven" economy composed of companies desperate to prevent their stock becoming "badly diluted" by having fire sales on capitol and expertise that probably took their predecessors decades to build can really only have one outcome. Depression, misery, socialism. Maybe we skip the Mao route this time, maybe not.

Alejandro , May 12, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Here's some related "histrionics" of your channeling D.D . an excerpt of a debate about "creative destruction" (emphasis mine) from 1991(context), chronologically, roughly following the tandem of Ronnie and Maggie.

Gregory Peck: "The Robber Barons of old at least left something tangible in their wake - a coal mine, a railroad, banks. THIS MAN LEAVES NOTHING. HE CREATES NOTHING. HE BUILDS NOTHING. HE RUNS NOTHING. And in his wake lies nothing but a blizzard of paper to cover the pain. Oh, if he said, "I know how to run your business better than you," that would be something worth talking about. But he's not saying that. He's saying, "I'm going to kill you because at this particular moment in time, you're worth more dead than alive." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJRhrow3Jws

Danny Devito: "Let's have the intelligence, let's have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future "Ah, but we can't," goes the prayer. "We can't because we have responsibility, a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?" I got two words for that: WHO CARES? Care about them? Why? They didn't care about you. They sucked you dry. You have no responsibility to them. For the last ten years this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, "We know times are tough. We'll lower taxes, reduce water and sewer."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kxPyNZF3Q

oho , May 12, 2017 at 1:29 pm

IBM. Poster child of everything wrong at the executive-level and the shareholder-level.

David Barrera , May 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Oho,

Yes, the IBM reference is interesting.The author gives an ordinal lead to IBM as a mover from the OEBM to NEBM. I ask myself if, from a mere one large corporation managing perspective, this was IBM's 11th hour response to the by then devastating rise of its competitors like Apple & Microsoft.

Also the irony that it did not help IBM at least in the midterm. So, IBM was the prime mover to initiate some aspects of a model change -change which every major player adhered to- in response to a new technological disadvantage vs. competitors, and in turned did not seem to do much for IBM in the immediate years. Although, if I recall well, IBM was immersed in many political battles and internal problems, legal and otherwise. Nevertheless, I doubt there was a historic inevitability on IBM's ordinal force. Outstanding work by Lazonick

Trout Creek , May 12, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Let me quote a noted tech analyst on IBM :

"IBM is the poster child for shenanigans. Last month, IBM reported its 20th quarter in a row of declining year over year revenues .. a 13% drop in earnings, profit margins that declined in every business segment ( much worse than expected ), free cash flow that plummeted over 50% year over year and an earnings "beat" of 3 cents per share. How could this "beat" happen? .. a negative tax rate of -23% . This is why they pay the CEO Rometti the big bucks ( estimated at $50 to $65 million last year)."

And this is one of the Bluest of the Blue Chip companies in the world.

Sue , May 12, 2017 at 6:12 pm

I read IBM spent a fortune at that time defending itself against monopolistic claims litigation. This was happening while Microsoft and Apple were clearly consolidating their oligopolistic empires. I read reports stating Oracle initial breakthroughs were taken from IBM's research work.

Thomas Williams , May 12, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Really fine piece, thanks. Also, the quality of the readers' comments is some of the highest I've seen in years of following NC

nowhere , May 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Not sure if anyone watches "Silicon Valley", but here is a quote that seems fitting:

Season 2 – Bad Money

Richard: Once we get a few customers and start a subscription-revenue model.

Russ: What? Revenue? No, no, no, no, no. No. If you show revenue, people will ask "How much?" And it will never be enough, but if you have no revenue, you can say you're pre-revenue. You're a potential pure play. It's not about how much you earn, it's about what you're worth. And who's worth the most? Companies that lose money. Pinterest, Snap chat No revenue. Amazon has lost money every fucking quarter for the last 20 fucking years, and that Bezos motherfucker is the king.

Wisdom Seeker , May 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Just wanted to point out that there is one more link in the chain to be followed: the financiers would not have such an easy time playing Nero with our economy, if the banking sector were still properly constrained by a gold standard (=limited supply of printed credit), the risk of bank runs by outraged consumers, the Glass-Steagall separation of commercial from investment banking, personal rather than corporate punishment for fraud and abuse, antitrust enforcement, etc.

In addition, the rise of 401(k) based investing, in which workers are tax-incentivized to buy in to the corporate stock scheming, but lack the normal shareholder voice in corporate governance, has taken the chains off the looters as well.

It's time to end the impunity. The government has been corrupted by the corporations, so only a populist uprising will produce reform. The uprising will require sacrifices of time, income, security. It will require boycotts of products that people like, but whose producers and vendors are evil. The products will not disappear while demand persists – but the producers and vendors must be brought to heel.

Consider the following inductees into the Corporate Hall of Shame:

pick an industry, you'll find a Hall of Shame candidate. Hit them all in the wallet until they reform.

Smitty , May 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm

The impact on the Grads was secondary a byproduct of a larger agenda which included the transfer offshore and consolidation of "IP" of the entire American, EU and Asian industrial economies along with the withdrawl of capital, while at the same time intentionally sabotaging future innovations with the handicap of diversity. Who got the loot and capital? Usual suspects.

[May 10, 2017] What seems to me to be most problematic for Flynn is not so much Russia but that he was getting paid by Turkey as a lobbyist while heading the NSA.

May 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Kim Kaufman , May 9, 2017 at 10:41 pm

CNN exclusive: Grand jury subpoenas issued in FBI's Russia investigation

By Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, CNN

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/09/politics/grand-jury-fbi-russia/index.html

What seems to me to be most problematic for Flynn is not so much Russia but that he was getting paid by Turkey as a lobbyist while heading the NSA.

[May 10, 2017] Globalization and the End of the Labor Aristocracy, Part 4 naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics and Chairperson at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This is Part 3 of a four-part article, published in the March/April 2017 special "Costs of Empire" issue of Dollars & Sense magazine. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are available here. here , and here , respectively. Cross posted from Triple Crisis ..."
May 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Globalization and the End of the Labor Aristocracy, Part 4 Posted on May 9, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. More and more news stories and academic studies confirm not simply that the middle class in the US has been shrinking and having its standard of living stagnate (at best). They are also showing that things have been decaying for longer than the pundits admitted. Consider what the Washington Post reports today, based on a new NEBR study :

America is getting richer every year. The American worker is not.

Far from it: On average, workers born in 1942 earned as much or more over their careers than workers born in any year since, according to new research - and workers on the job today shouldn't expect to catch up with their predecessors in their remaining years of employment .

While economists have been concerned about recent data on earnings, the new paper suggests that ordinary Americans have been dealing with serious economic problems for much longer than may be widely recognized.

The new paper includes some "astonishing numbers," said Gary Burtless, an economist at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution who was not involved in the research. "The stagnation of living standards began so much earlier than people think," he said

For instance, the typical 27-year-old man's annual earnings in 2013 were 31 percent less than those of a typical 27-year-old man in 1969. The data suggest that today's young men are unlikely to make up for that decline by earning more in the future.

By Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics and Chairperson at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This is Part 3 of a four-part article, published in the March/April 2017 special "Costs of Empire" issue of Dollars & Sense magazine. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are available here. here , and here , respectively. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, "Poorer than Their Parents? Flat or falling incomes in advanced economies" (July 2016) shows how the past decade has brought significantly worse economic outcomes for many people in the developed world.

Falling Incomes

In 25 advanced economies, 65-70% of households (540-580 million people) "were in segments of the income distribution whose real incomes were flat or had fallen" between 2005 and 2014. By contrast, between 1993 and 2005, "less than 2 percent, or fewer than ten million people, experienced this phenomenon."

In Italy, a whopping 97% of the population had stagnant or declining market incomes between 2005 and 2014. The equivalent figures were 81% for the United States and 70% for the United Kingdom.

The worst affected were "young people with low educational attainment and women, single mothers in particular." Today's younger generation in the advanced countries is "literally at risk of ending up poorer than their parents," and in any case already faces much more insecure working conditions.

Shifting Income Shares

The McKinsey report noted that "from 1970 to 2014, with the exception of a spike during the 1973–74 oil crisis, the average wage share fell by 5 percentage points in the six countries studied in depth" (United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden); in the "most extreme case, the United Kingdom, by 13 percentage points."

These declines occurred "despite rising productivity, suggesting a disconnect between productivity and incomes." Productivity gains were either grabbed by employers or passed on in the form of lower prices to maintain competitiveness.

Declining wage shares are widely seen as results of globalization and technological changes, but state policies and institutional relations in the labor market matter. According to the McKinsey report. "Swedish labor policies such as contracts that protect both wage rates and hours worked" resulted in ordinary workers receiving a larger share of income.

Countries that have encouraged the growth of part-time and temporary contracts experienced bigger declines in wage shares. According to European Union data, more than 40% of EU workers between 15 and 25 years have insecure and low-paying contracts. The proportion is more than half for the 18 countries in the Eurozone, 58% in France, and 65% in Spain.

The other side of the coin is the rising profit shares in many of these rich countries. In the United States, for example, "after-tax profits of U.S. firms measured as a share of the national income even exceeded the 10.1 percent level last reached in 1929."

Policy Matters

Government tax and transfer policies can change the final disposable income of households. Across the 25 countries studied in the McKinsey report, only 20-25% of the population experienced flat or falling disposable incomes. In the United States, government taxes and transfers turned a "decline in market incomes for 81 percent of all income segments into an increase in disposable income for nearly all households."

Government policies to intervene in labor markets also make a difference. In Sweden, the government "intervened to preserve jobs, market incomes fell or were flat for only 20 percent, while disposable income advanced for almost everyone."

In most of the countries examined in the study, government policies were not sufficient to prevent stagnant or declining incomes for a significant proportion of the population.

Effects on Attitudes

The deteriorating material reality is reflected in popular perceptions. A 2015 survey of British, French, and U.S. citizens confirmed this, as approximately 40% "felt that their economic positions had deteriorated."

The people who felt worse-off, and those who did not expect the situation to improve for the next generation, "expressed negative opinions about trade and immigration."

More than half of this group agreed with the statement, "The influx of foreign goods and services is leading to domestic job losses." They were twice as likely as other respondents to agree with the statement, "Legal immigrants are ruining the culture and cohesiveness in our society."

The survey also found that "those who were not advancing and not hopeful about the future" were, in France, more likely to support political parties such as the far-right Front National and, in Britain, to support Brexit.

Effects on Politics

Decades of neoliberal economic policies have hollowed out communities in depressed areas and eliminated any attractive employment opportunities for youth. Ironically, in the United States this favored the political rise of Donald Trump, who is himself emblematic of the plutocracy.

Similar tendencies are also clearly evident in Europe. Rising anti-EU sentiment has been wrongly attributed only to policies allowing in more migrants. The hostile response to immigration is part of a broader dissatisfaction related to the design and operation of the EU. For years now, it has been clear that the EU has failed as an economic project. This stems from the very design of the economic integration-flawed, for example, in the enforcement of monetary integration without banking union or a fiscal federation that would have helped deal with imbalances between EU countries-as well as from the particular neoliberal economic policies that it has forced its members to pursue.

This has been especially evident in the adoption of austerity policies across the member countries, remarkably even among those that do not have large current-account or fiscal deficits. As a result, growth in the EU has been sclerotic at best since 2004, and even the so-called "recovery" after 2012 has been barely noticeable. Even this lacklustre performance has been highly differentiated, with Germany emerging as the clear winner from the formation of the Eurozone. Even large economies like France, Italy, and Spain experienced deteriorating per capita incomes relative to Germany from 2009 onwards. This, combined with fears of German domination, probably added to the resentment of the EU that is now being expressed in both right-wing and left-wing movements across Europe.

The union's misguided emphasis on neoliberal policies and fiscal austerity packages has also contributed to the persistence of high rates of unemployment, which are higher than they were more than a decade ago. The "new normal" therefore shows little improvement from the period just after the Great Recession-the capitalist world economy may no longer be teetering on the edge of a cliff, but that is because it has instead sunk into a mire.

It is sad but not entirely surprising that the globalization of the workforce has not created a greater sense of international solidarity, but rather undermined it. Quite obviously, progressive solutions cannot be found within the existing dominant economic paradigm. But reversions to past ideals of socialism may not be all that effective either. Rather, this new situation requires new and more relevant economic models of socialism to be developed, if they are to capture the popular imagination.

Such models must transcend the traditional socialist paradigm's emphasis on centralized government control over an undifferentiated mass of workers. They must incorporate more explicit emphasis on the rights and concerns of women, ethnic minorities, tribal communities, and other marginalised groups, as well as recognition of ecological constraints and the social necessity to respect nature. The fundamental premises of the socialist project, however, remain as valid as ever: The unequal, exploitative and oppressive nature of capitalism; the capacity of human beings to change society and thereby alter their own futures; and the necessity of collective organisation to do so.

NOTE: Parts of this article appeared in "The Creation of the New Imperialism: The Institutional Architecture," Monthly Review , July 2015.

Thuto, May 9, 2017 at 6:50 am

While incomes in the developed world are flat, the outcomes globalization has imposed on labour in the developing world are even more dire. Lets face it, the global south is effectively a labour reserve pool that is used by trans-national corporations as a de facto income growth suppresant in the global north. This dynamic is particurlarly pernicious for global south workers because they enter labour markets at or near subsistence level wages, with upward income mobility nearly impossible as ill informed developing country governments, in their naive quest to create investor friendly environments, bargain away any protections that could ensure said upward income mobility. Furthermore, these trans-national corporations are running a globalized exploitation racket where developing nations are pitted against one another in a race to see who can enslave their labour force more fervently in service of global capital. This of course has the effect of, at best, depressing incomes in developed economies, and at worst, completely eliminating large swathes of jobs in many developed economy sectors

JTMcPhee, May 9, 2017 at 9:11 am

I'd offer that the corporate entities that pretty much rule us are more completely described as post- and supra-national than simply transnational. Creatures birthed like Aliens that ate their way out of the mothers that spawned them. Given life by legalisms born out of nation-states and other grafters of "franchise" and "legitimacy," now ingesting and digesting their parents and lesser siblings.

Also, that there's just too many people living off a declining carrying capacity of the planet. And what is with the notion that we all have some kind or reasonable expectation to be "richer" than our parents? Is that not part of the algo-rhythms that are killing us mopes, wracked with dreams of sugarplum carboconsumption and hyped with fevered visions of "innovation" and "progress" based on "disruption" and monetization? And thus willing (on the part of those who are aware of the vague shape of the Bezzle and hope to gain from it, against the well-being of our fellows) or are so oppressed and oblivious and Bernays-ized not to see it at all.

Immunity, impunity, invulnerability, the hallmarks of the looters. "Upward income mobility" except for the very few that by birth or other lucky happenstance can manipulate their way into the self-feeding gyre of wealth accumulation and attendant power, is an awful example of unobtainium dangled at the end of the carrot-stick

John Wright, May 9, 2017 at 9:24 am

The article points to the elephant in the room when it closes with "as well as recognition of ecological constraints and the social necessity to respect nature."

One can suggest that TPTB may recognize that climate change/ecological damage is quite real and continuing apace.

They know they have a "denominator/divisor" problem with respect to a growing world wide population and resource allocation.

TPTB are hoovering up all they can for their future use.

Austerity policies and encouragement of subsistence level wages delay the ecological day of reckoning as WW consumption is lower as a consequence.

Susan the other, May 9, 2017 at 11:01 am

as Wolfgang Schäuble and many others have said, We can't all trade our way out of this mess. If we carry that insight one step further it becomes, We can't all manufacture our way out of this mess. The problem with trying to invent an inclusive economy is that we don't know how to do so without industry and industry will soon end life on this planet. If the oceans collapse, it's over. So instead of using a mild form of identity politics and a new social contract for sharing the gains of capitalism/socialism we will have to confine ourselves to making and using/recycling what we need and nothing more. No surplus. No trade. No finance based on debt servicing. And in an overpopulated world that means no labor policies as we once knew them. For lack of imagination we are looking at a New Communism. What else?

DavidBarrera, May 9, 2017 at 1:15 pm

From Yves: "On average, workers born in 1942 earned as much or more over their careers than workers born in any year since, according to new research"
1942 makes Schumpeter come to mind. His book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy is the most celebrated Marxism's bashing to date. Schumpeter's reading of Marx or Marxism does not qualify as unfair; his was a non-reading activity. Here is an excerpt from Schumpeter, the visionary (my emphasis added)
"For the RELATIVE SHARE OF WAGES AND SALARIES IN TOTAL INCOME varies but little from year to year and is remarkably constant over time-it certainly does not reveal any tendency to fall"

Alejandro, May 9, 2017 at 6:03 pm

"creative destruction" has seemed mostly about breaking then remaking a social order that serves the "masters of mankind" not to mention, spinning the fodder that rationalizes an endless war racket, by their sycophantic apologists

"David" makes David Harvey come to mind "Neo-liberalism and the restoration of class power"

https://books.google.com.pr/books?id=Z7sS53uqTJoC&pg=PP3&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false

diptherio, May 9, 2017 at 3:55 pm

The new paper includes some "astonishing numbers," said Gary Burtless, an economist at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution who was not involved in the research. "The stagnation of living standards began so much earlier than people think,"

Who are these "people" to whom he refers? Some of us have known that since waaaaay before these numbers came out.

Pelham, May 9, 2017 at 6:19 pm

I wonder whether living standards have suffered much more than is typically documented. The stuff that we're forced to buy - housing, medical care, education - are all way up and, I suspect, make up a much larger share of the inflation-measuring typical basket of household goods.

And other items take a big and probably under-measured chunk of income as well. I've lost track of how many cellphones I've had to buy over the past 10 years, even though I hate them and try to keep my consumption of these toxic little marvels to a minimum (unfortunately, I'm required to have a smartphone for work).

McWatt, May 9, 2017 at 6:23 pm

On the flip side, from an owners perspective, I was able to hire 36 people in 1983 on a given business gross income and today I struggle to employ 2 on that same gross.

[May 10, 2017] Will Trumps Firing of FBI Director James Comey Be His Saturday Night Massacre? (Updated)

Notable quotes:
"... More specifically, whether true or not, the Democrats are likely to use this move to claim that Comey was fired for digging too hard into Trump-Russia connections ..."
"... The official story is that attorney general Jeff Session and his deputy attorney general Rosenstein wanted Comey's head. And since the FBI does report to the Department of Justice, Sessions is within his rights to demand the firing of the head of the FBI and expect the President to respect his request. So if this proves to have been a reckless move, it will reflect Trump's poor judgment in selecting Sessions as his AG, who was a controversial pick from the outset. ..."
"... I support the firing of Comey, and would have supported it if done by Clinton, Obama, Sanders or Trump. His actions wrt "intent" in handling classified information, and his unilateral (in public at least) decision on leveling charges against Clinton (which was not his job) render him unfit for office. ..."
"... Both the Right and the Left are disinclined to believe in or care about any scandal involving Russia. And it was actually the Clinton partisans who demanded Comey's head in the first place–and we all know the Clinton history with independent prosecutors. So the Democrats who whine about this or call for an independent prosecutor just end up looking like the partisan hypocrites they are. ..."
"... What this does, after a few days, is get the Russian hacking investigation out of the news, so everyone can focus firmly on debating how many people need to lose their health care to satisfy the tax-cut gods. ..."
"... I'm already seeing Twitter Dems doubling down on the Russia stuff. The Russia hysteria is setting us up so that there will be absolutely no political incentive for future Presidents to be friendly with Russia. I wonder if they don't know (or just don't care) that they aren't going to be able to put this genie back in the bottle after Trump is gone. ..."
"... All it does is reinforce existing bias. Dems are even more convinced about Russian ties, Reps are even more concerned the wheels are off, TrumpNation is even more convinced there's an evil plot out to get their guy. And the media has a click frenzy to drive ad rates. ..."
"... being anti Russian is in the very DNA of the repubs. Would the repubs turn on Trump because Trump isn't fervently anti Russian enough? I very much think so .they have a good repub vice president that I am sure ALL of them much prefer .. ..."
"... Its important to remember the disdain the country has for Versailles in general. Trump became President despite universal support for Hillary and to a lesser extent Jeb on the shores of the Potomac.The Republican Id is dedicated to hating Democrats. Bill Clinton and Obama could play Weekend at Bernie's with Reagan corpse and kill Social Security, and Republicans would still hate them. ..."
"... Communists and other boogeymen of the past are secondary to this drive. The Versailles Republicans, a different breed, could never deliver Republican votes outside of Northern Virginia for one simple reason their base despises Democrats more than they might hate Stalin. They will never give credit to a Democrat. Remember the liberal whining about how Republicans never gave Obama credit for his right wing policy pushes. ..."
"... The other key point to the GOP voter relationship is Trump WON. He beat Jeb and his sheepdogs and then he beat Hillary (Hillary and the Dems lost). Trump is the their winner so to speak. As long as Trump is denounced by the usual suspects for bizarre reasons, Trump will maintain his hold. ..."
"... fbi sorta sat on gulen charter school investigation and it would certainly help emperor trompe and prince erdo relationship if Fethu found his old self on an express flight to Ankara considering the bean "kurd" thing recently added on the takeout menu ..."
"... People are fed up. Savings & Loan mess & Iran Contra & & & & yawn Wall Street destroys the economy & no one goes to jail, Medical Industrial Complex management bloodsuckers insure that sickness leads to penury ..."
"... I am no fan of Comey. I think his self-righteousness makes him a dangerous FBI Director and a loose cannon. However, people who think this is going to hurt Trump are likely wrong. If Trump knows there's nothing in the Russia story, but he continues to string out the Democrats with it, then they're the ones who are going to look foolish after having invested so much political capital in it. ..."
"... Since you can't prove a negative, the innuendo can continue ad nauseam. ..."
"... I suspect the Democrats are unaware they are indirectly insulting the Trump voters by the Russian influence story.. They are in effect saying Trump voters were played by the "evil" Russians into voting for Trump, despite the 1Billion spend by Clinton and her considerable support in the US media. I don't imagine the Trump voters like this message. ..."
"... If Trump indirectly destroys both the Democratic and Republican parties, he might rank as one of our more important Presidents, quite unintentionally. ..."
"... Why doesnt he fire the top 10 layers of CIA instead? They are wreaking havoc for real everywhere domestically and abroad. ..."
"... If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. ( ) ..."
May 09, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on May 9, 2017 by Yves Smith Trump's sudden and unexpected firing of FBI director James Comey is likely to damage Trump. The question is whether this move will simply serve as the basis for sowing further doubts in the mainstream media against Trump, or will dent Trump's standing with Republicans.

Comey made an odd practice of making moves that were arguably procedurally improper in his handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation, but some favored Clinton while others were damaging, given an impression of impartiality to the general public via getting both parties riled with Comey at various points in time. And regardless of what one thinks of his political and legal judgment, Comey had a reputation of being a straight shooter.

And more generally, the director of the FBI is perceived to be a role above the partisan fray. Firing him is fraught with danger; it has the potential of turning into in a Nixonian Saturday Night Massacre, where the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox led the press and public to see Nixon as desperate to stymie an investigation into Watergate charges. It was the archetypal "the coverup is worse than the crime".

To minimize risk, Trump's would have needed to have engaged in a whispering campaign against Comey, or least have notified some key figures in Congress that this was about to happen and give the rationale for the turfing out. And it appears he did do that to at least a degree, in that (as you will see below), Lindsay Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made a statement supporting the firing. But given the surprised reaction in the press, it looks like any ground-sowing for this move was minimal. Caution and preparation don't rank high as Trump Administration priorities.

More specifically, whether true or not, the Democrats are likely to use this move to claim that Comey was fired for digging too hard into Trump-Russia connections .

We'll know more in the coming hours and days. The official story is that attorney general Jeff Session and his deputy attorney general Rosenstein wanted Comey's head. And since the FBI does report to the Department of Justice, Sessions is within his rights to demand the firing of the head of the FBI and expect the President to respect his request. So if this proves to have been a reckless move, it will reflect Trump's poor judgment in selecting Sessions as his AG, who was a controversial pick from the outset.

From the Wall Street Journal :

In a letter to Mr. Comey, the president wrote, "It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement thanked Mr. Comey for his years of service to the country but said that a change in leadership at the bureau might be the best possible course of action.

"Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation's interests," said Mr. Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

Note that Sessions himself had been fired from the attorney general's office in the Clinton Administration. Clinton's attorney Janet Reno, who was the first to engage in large-scale firings of attorneys in the Department of Justice, also fired the head of the FBI. From Bloomberg :

Comey, who has led an investigation into Russia's meddling during the 2016 election and any possible links to Trump aides and associates, is only the second FBI chief to have been fired. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno dismissed William Sessions.

Trump's decision means that he will get to nominate Comey's successor while the agency is deep into the Russia inquiry. The move quickly intensified Democratic calls for a special prosecutor.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Trump "has catastrophically compromised the FBI's ongoing investigation of his own White House's ties to Russia. Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened, and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken."

The Financial Times confirms that the Trump Administration didn't lay much groundwork with Congress :

Mr Comey's sudden dismissal shocked Republicans and Democrats. Brendan Boyle, a Democratic congressman, said the "stunning" action "shows why we must have a special prosecutor like our nation did in Watergate".

The proof of the pudding is whether Trump and Sessions will be able to ride out demands for a special prosecutor. Given how much noise and how little signal there has been, I would have though it was possible for Trump to tough this out. With the Democrats having peripheral figures like Carter Page as their supposed smoking guns, all they had was innuendo, amplified by the Mighty Wurlitzer of the media. But that may have gotten enough to Trump and his team to distort their judgment. Stay tuned.

Update 5/10, 12:15 AM . The Hill reports Dems ask Justice Dept, FBI to 'preserve any and all files' on Comey firing / Despite much howling for blood in the comments section, some readers there were able to provide what I was looking for, which is whether Congress had any basis for getting the info. Here are the two key remarks:

cm , May 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm

I support the firing of Comey, and would have supported it if done by Clinton, Obama, Sanders or Trump. His actions wrt "intent" in handling classified information, and his unilateral (in public at least) decision on leveling charges against Clinton (which was not his job) render him unfit for office.

Anyone opposing this firing should note they share opinions w/ John McCain, which ought to give any non-neocon pause

WeakendSquire , May 9, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Both the Right and the Left are disinclined to believe in or care about any scandal involving Russia. And it was actually the Clinton partisans who demanded Comey's head in the first place–and we all know the Clinton history with independent prosecutors. So the Democrats who whine about this or call for an independent prosecutor just end up looking like the partisan hypocrites they are.

What this does, after a few days, is get the Russian hacking investigation out of the news, so everyone can focus firmly on debating how many people need to lose their health care to satisfy the tax-cut gods.

Jim Haygood , May 9, 2017 at 8:01 pm

The Scream:

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) made the biggest impression, going to the Senate floor about an hour after the announcement to clearly outline the stakes.

"Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues," he told colleagues.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article149589289.html#storylink=cpy

Constitutional issues ? HA HA HA HA

What is "Senator" Durbin doing about the war escalation in Afghanstan and Syria? My point exactly.

We've got a problem in politics
So few Richards, so many dicks

screen screamer , May 9, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Interestingly, Fed directors have a term of ten years and since Hoover, there has been only one to make it the full term. That would be Mr. Mueller who went twelve years as director directly following 911.

I must confess that I do not know why the others were let go or retired. I think it would make an interesting study.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_of_the_Federal_Bureau_of_Investigation

NotTimothyGeithner , May 9, 2017 at 11:02 pm

FBI Director is one of those jobs where if you do a good job you should suffer burnout regardless of who you are. A 10 year term is bizarre if you expect a quality job. I would expect resignation and early retirement if the job is being taken seriously. Then you have to consider the quality of staff and team work arrangements at any given time and how much workload a FBI Director or Cabinet Secretary has to deal with.

Matt , May 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I'm already seeing Twitter Dems doubling down on the Russia stuff. The Russia hysteria is setting us up so that there will be absolutely no political incentive for future Presidents to be friendly with Russia. I wonder if they don't know (or just don't care) that they aren't going to be able to put this genie back in the bottle after Trump is gone.

jo6pac , May 9, 2017 at 8:29 pm

Thanks I love it and they just don't care and hoping the lame stream corp. owned media will carry their propaganda. Demodogs message is we didn't fail but those looser didn't vote for us the party of corp. Amerika. Double down

John Zelnicker , May 9, 2017 at 9:51 pm

@Matt – I don't think the Twitter Dems can conceive of the notion that there is a genie or even a bottle in this situation. They are so caught up in the Russia!, Russia! hysteria that there is no room in their thinking for any kind of rational thought or any consideration of consequences.

Matt , May 9, 2017 at 10:39 pm

You're more hopeful that I am. I think the more militaristic among them are so cavalier about conflict with Russia because of the Hitler-level delusions many of them have about the military capacity of Russia.

"Just kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come down"

"We'll be greeted as liberators when we defeat the tyrant Putin!"

Just look at that SNL sketch that aired a few months ago. They think these people are frozen, ignorant peasants.

marym , May 9, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Nixon Library weighs in: https://twitter.com/NixonLibrary/status/862083605081862145

RichardNixonLibrary‏2Verified account? @NixonLibrary
FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , May 9, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Nixon was smart enough to avoid Russia and the USSR, and instead, worked with China that would help suppress US wages for decades.

AbateMagicThinking but Not money , May 9, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Personally I would be no good at power. My reading has led me to believe that you need a very strong stomach to endure what you have to deal with, whether it be human gore, hypocrisy, or the dark side of any civilization. I don't have that stomach, and if you take Comey's words at face value neither does he.

So I think you can take that as a thumbs-up.

JTMcPhee , May 9, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Nah, ask Obomber. Once you get past a little queasiness, getting "pretty good at killing folks" is a piece of cake. It's just business as usual. Ask any Civil War or WW I general officer, or Bomber Harris, or Lemay or the young guy, farm boy from Iowa who was a door gunner I knew on Vietnam. Just no problem killing gooks. His moral line was killing the water buffalo. "I know how I'd feel if someone blew away my John Deere."

AbateMagicThinking but Not money , May 9, 2017 at 11:39 pm

Re: The youg guy with the agricultural machinery sensibilities:

Although he was the manipulator of terrible power, I see him as a victim (in the scheme of things), not a member of the power-elite. And the other military you mention, were they in the power-elite? Eisenhower should have been on your list, as he straddled the divide.

Occasional Delurker , May 9, 2017 at 8:49 pm

I'm curious how this will be interpreted by people who get their news mostly via headlines. (I also wonder what proportion of the voting population that is.)

The headlines I've seen so far, if they give a reason, just make reference to the Clinton email investigation. I sort of think this will be interpreted by many mostly-headline news gatherers as meaning that Trump fired Comey because he did not, in fact, lock her up. Indeed, even those who dig deeper may still believe that this is the real reason.

So, like so many things raged about in the media, I'm not sure this really hurts Trump amongst his voters. Probably helps, really.

And for something completely different, Snowden is not a fan:

https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/862069019301601281

Art Eclectic , May 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

All it does is reinforce existing bias. Dems are even more convinced about Russian ties, Reps are even more concerned the wheels are off, TrumpNation is even more convinced there's an evil plot out to get their guy. And the media has a click frenzy to drive ad rates.

Something for everyone.

fresno dan , May 9, 2017 at 8:54 pm

"Trump's sudden and unexpected firing of FBI director James Comey is likely to damage Trump."

How neutral or unconcerned with what the Establishment views as the requisite dogma regarding Russia is Trump? Articles about Trump being unhappy about McMaster gives the impression that Trump still believe he (Trump) is the boss.

Yes, the dems have ridiculous notions about Russians as an excuse for Hillary. But being anti Russian is in the very DNA of the repubs. Would the repubs turn on Trump because Trump isn't fervently anti Russian enough? I very much think so .they have a good repub vice president that I am sure ALL of them much prefer ..

Huey Long , May 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

You're right, the red party is a virulently anti-red outfit. I can see the die hard GOPers turning on the Trumpster, but will his base stand for it? The Trumpster does have a bit of a cult of personality going on in some circles.

NotTimothyGeithner , May 9, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Its important to remember the disdain the country has for Versailles in general. Trump became President despite universal support for Hillary and to a lesser extent Jeb on the shores of the Potomac.The Republican Id is dedicated to hating Democrats. Bill Clinton and Obama could play Weekend at Bernie's with Reagan corpse and kill Social Security, and Republicans would still hate them.

Communists and other boogeymen of the past are secondary to this drive. The Versailles Republicans, a different breed, could never deliver Republican votes outside of Northern Virginia for one simple reason their base despises Democrats more than they might hate Stalin. They will never give credit to a Democrat. Remember the liberal whining about how Republicans never gave Obama credit for his right wing policy pushes.

The other key point to the GOP voter relationship is Trump WON. He beat Jeb and his sheepdogs and then he beat Hillary (Hillary and the Dems lost). Trump is the their winner so to speak. As long as Trump is denounced by the usual suspects for bizarre reasons, Trump will maintain his hold.

Carolinian , May 9, 2017 at 10:13 pm

They still have to have a case to make and there is none. Impeachment is just as much a fantasy as it was several months ago. In fact they no longer even have the argument that Trump must be stifled and prevented from doing all his crazy promises since they don't seem to be happening anyway.

Frankly I say good for Trump rather than letting Comey go all Janet Reno on him. If this country is going to be run by the NYT and the WaPo and CNN then we are truly sunk. He had it right when he was attacking this bunch rather than kowtowing to them.

Huey Long , May 9, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Although the Mighty Wurlitzer is going to take this firing and run with it, I wonder if anyone's really going to care outside of folks that watch a ton of CNN and MSNBC. I think scalping him at this point in his administration is likely to generate more protests and demonstrations than not scalping him.

Alex Morfesis , May 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Well don trumpioni may have stepped in it although, maybe this has less to do with russia perhaps fbi sorta sat on gulen charter school investigation and it would certainly help emperor trompe and prince erdo relationship if Fethu found his old self on an express flight to Ankara considering the bean "kurd" thing recently added on the takeout menu

Can easily imagine potus & his not ready for prime time players wanting to use the hoover building as a bludgeon against people who dont fall in line the blob counterforce

comey the straight shooter methynx is a bit of a "legend" but even the most slick and corrupt have certain lines they wont cross

Huey Long , May 9, 2017 at 9:39 pm

Can easily imagine potus & his not ready for prime time players wanting to use the hoover building as a bludgeon against people who dont fall in line the blob counterforce

The FBI would be the preferred outfit for this sort of thing due to their many decades of experience bludgeoning those who don't fall in line.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO

alex morfesis , May 10, 2017 at 1:49 am

oh come one now that stuff never happened all you have is proof how can that stand up to narratives

oho , May 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

"Will Trump's Firing of FBI Director James Comey Be His Saturday Night Massacre?'

It would be interesting to take a poll on what percentage of citizens know that "Saturday Night Massacre" is not a horror film.

I'd be willing to bet a beer that this kerfuffle will be confined to the Beltway media and Sunday talk shows and will fade from the news cycle/Facebook feeds rather quickly.

People are tapped out mentally with political talk.

seabos84 , May 9, 2017 at 9:41 pm

People are fed up. Savings & Loan mess & Iran Contra & & & & yawn Wall Street destroys the economy & no one goes to jail, Medical Industrial Complex management bloodsuckers insure that sickness leads to penury

1973 was 28 years after 1945. 1973 was 44 years ago. The post WW2 psuedo consensus is looooooooong gone.

I thought we hated Comey cuz of what he did to HRC? Today we hate Trump cuz Comey was going after the Russians? Crap I hate missing the 2 minute hate.

rmm

Anonymous , May 9, 2017 at 10:23 pm

I am no fan of Comey. I think his self-righteousness makes him a dangerous FBI Director and a loose cannon. However, people who think this is going to hurt Trump are likely wrong. If Trump knows there's nothing in the Russia story, but he continues to string out the Democrats with it, then they're the ones who are going to look foolish after having invested so much political capital in it. It may be the Russian story will be proven to be nonsense about October, 2018.

DJPS , May 9, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Since you can't prove a negative, the innuendo can continue ad nauseam.

John Wright , May 10, 2017 at 12:30 am

I suspect the Democrats are unaware they are indirectly insulting the Trump voters by the Russian influence story.. They are in effect saying Trump voters were played by the "evil" Russians into voting for Trump, despite the 1Billion spend by Clinton and her considerable support in the US media. I don't imagine the Trump voters like this message.

It is truly remarkable, the Russians spend about 10% of what the USA does on "Defense" and are able to influence a US electorate that is largely unaware and unconcerned about world affairs.

I believe enough voters know that Clinton played fast and loose with the email server to avoid FOIA and the Clinton Foundation pulled in a lot of money from foreign governments as payment in advance to President Hillary Clinton..

The harping on the "Russia influenced the election enough to elect Trump" will bite the Democrats as they avoid the jobs, medical and economic issues that actually influenced the voters for Trump.

If Trump indirectly destroys both the Democratic and Republican parties, he might rank as one of our more important Presidents, quite unintentionally.

Loblolly May 10, 2017 at 1:11 am

That would require us to be rational actors rather than the cartoon idiots the media portrays us as.

djrichard , May 10, 2017 at 1:25 am

I've taken to using doge speak in my comments on Yahoo articles and WaPo articles. I figure that's about as much intelligence the publishers are investing into the articles and into the audience, that I therefore tune my intelligence accordingly.

Kim Kaufman , May 9, 2017 at 10:41 pm

CNN exclusive: Grand jury subpoenas issued in FBI's Russia investigation

By Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, CNN

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/09/politics/grand-jury-fbi-russia/index.html

What seems to me to be most problematic for Flynn is not so much Russia but that he was getting paid by Turkey as a lobbyist while heading the NSA.

Art Eclectic , May 9, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Nice. Team Trump managed to get out ahead of that story with their own. That's some ninja level media mastery.

readerOfTeaLeaves , May 9, 2017 at 11:53 pm

The plot thickens.

juliania , May 9, 2017 at 11:04 pm

If it has to do with the Russian electorial witch hunt stupidity, then yes, I think Comey ought to have been fired. For crying out loud, enough already! Delicate matters are being attempted in the Middle East, and there is no sense in pursuing that craziness. I don't understand why that shouldn't be a perfectly acceptable reason to change direction and start attending to real issues with someone in the office who would support Trump's legitimate claim (and Putin's) that there was no there there.

Wrong Letters , May 9, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Why doesnt he fire the top 10 layers of CIA instead? They are wreaking havoc for real everywhere domestically and abroad.

Huey Long , May 10, 2017 at 1:26 am

I would imagine the CIA/Intel guys are way harder to get rid of. To quote the late, great Sen. Frank Church:

If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. ( )

Toolate , May 9, 2017 at 11:27 pm

So not one poster here thinks the Russia story has any merit whatsoever? With those odds, the contrarian in me says hmmm

Yves Smith Post author , May 10, 2017 at 12:31 am

Because people here are smart enough to be skeptical of hysterical MSM headlines with no real goods, you act as if you are some sort of smart contrarian, when you are just echoing a Democratic party/media narrative?

You do not seem to recognize that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The idea that billionaire, who was already famous in the US by virtue (among other things) of having a TV show that ran for 14 years and got billions of free media coverage during his campaign, is somehow owned by Putin, is astonishing on its face. Trump had to have been the focus of extensive Republican and Democratic party opposition research while he was campaigning.

And perhaps most important, the night he won, Trump clearly did not expect to win. His longstanding friend Howard Stern stated a view similar to ours, that Trump ran because it would be good PR and the whole thing developed a life of its own. And before you try saying politics doesn't work that way, the UK is now on a path to Brexit for the same reasons.

All the Dems and the media have come up with are some kinda-sorta connections to Russia. Trump as a very rich man who also has assembled a large team of political types in short order, would have people who knew people in all corners of the world. "X has done business with Y" is hardly proof o of influence, particularly with a guy like Trump, who is now famous for telling people what they want to hear in a meeting and backstabbing them the next day.

We've been looking at this for months. The best they can come up with is:

1. Manafort, who worked for Trump for all of four months and was fired. Plus his Russia connections are mainly through Ukraine. Podesta has strong if not stronger Russia ties, is a much more central play to Clinton and no one is making a stink about that. And that's before you get to the Clinton involvement in a yuuge uranium sale to Russia, which even the New York Times confirmed (but wrote such a weedy story that you have to read carefully to see that).

2. Carter Page, who was even more peripheral

3. Flynn, again not a central player, plus it appears his bigger sin involved Turkey

4. The conversation with the Russian ambassador, which contrary to the screeching has plenty of precedent (in fact, Nixon and Reagan did far more serious meddling)

5. The various allegations re Trump real estate and bank loans. Trump did have a really seedy Russian involved in a NYC development. One should be more worried that the guy was a crook than that he was Russian. Third tier, not even remotely in the oligarch class. There are also vague allegations re money laundering. The is crap because first, every NYC real estate player has dirty money in high end projects (see the big expose by the New York Times on the Time Warner Center, developed by the Related Companies, owned by Steve Ross). But second, the party responsible for checking where the money came from, unless it was wheelbarrows of cash, is the bank, not the real estate owner. Since the NYT expose there have been efforts to make developers/owners responsible too, but those aren't germane to Trump since they aren't/weren't in effect.

So please do not provide no value added speculation. If you have something concrete, that would be interesting, but I've been looking and I've seen nothing of any substance.

Huey Long , May 10, 2017 at 1:07 am

+1 on the Time Warner Center

Very few condos there are occupied for more than a few days per year, and most of the residents I encountered during my tenure there were not US citizens.

We were all very entertained when the Times broke the story.

Just FYI, Ross does not own the TWC outright, he only has a stake in the place albeit a sizable one since aquiring TIme Warner's office/studio unit.

LT , May 10, 2017 at 1:50 am

Trump a crook, but not any other oligarchs? The old saying goes something like behind every great fortune is a great crime.

They clean up the image with a few rewrites and something like public office or foundations. The Presidency is Trump's ca-ching. And the pauses on the promises and the falling in line (bombs away!). He'll be right in the club.

George Phillies , May 10, 2017 at 12:40 am

Mr Comey also made some statements recently about Clinton emails and Mr Wiener, statements that seemed to be in need of significant reinterpretation. That might also have been the cause.

VietnamVet , May 10, 2017 at 12:56 am

Corporate Government messaging has fallen apart. The description of Anthony Weiner's laptop went from "explosive" to "careless but not criminal" to "just several" Clinton e-mails on it.

Democrats are generally supported by Wall Street, GOP by military contractors; but, together they are one war party. The new Saturday Night Massacre shows that with Donald Trump's triumph, the government has split apart into nationalist and globalist factions. No doubt the James Comey firing buries the Russian interference investigation. However, with the wars in Syria and Afghanistan re-surging; this episode shows that nothing the government says or the media reports is near the truth.

Loblolly , May 10, 2017 at 1:25 am

This is ostensibly the full memo from Deputy AG Rosenthal recommending the removal of Director Comey.

Link is to an imgur album consisting of three images.

[May 10, 2017] Link shorteners are really awefull and easily allow drive-by installation of malware.

Notable quotes:
"... When you paste the actual link shortner into a query with a search engine such as duckduckgo, it will usually return the actual link location as well as a warning should it be dubious. Not bullet proof, but then what is. ..."
"... All in all: never click a shortned URL and if a title is present and you deem it actually useful, copy paste the title in a search engine and it will probably land you on the proclamed web page. ..."
May 10, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org
Link shorteners are really awefull and easily allow drive-by installation of malware.

Sorry, should have been more presise. When you paste the actual link shortner into a query with a search engine such as duckduckgo, it will usually return the actual link location as well as a warning should it be dubious. Not bullet proof, but then what is.

xor | May 8, 2017 10:23:47 AM | 30
(on the link shortners)

Link shorteners are really awful and easily allow drive-by installation of malware. You could easily create a shortened link that directs the browser to your mallicious webserver, this server checks your browser/OS to see if it can install something or not and when it's done do a redirect to the intended website. All this is done within seconds so you'd never have noticed unless you scanned the in and outgoing traffic but it would already be to late then. There is no rocket science involved so any script kiddy could do this.

All in all: never click a shortned URL and if a title is present and you deem it actually useful, copy paste the title in a search engine and it will probably land you on the proclamed web page.

runaway robot | May 8, 2017 10:57:45 AM | 31
Thanks for the good advice, exclusive or!

[May 10, 2017] it looked like Trump was about to start wars everywhere but can this be a distraction for the establishment politicians and media?

Notable quotes:
"... The Trump show is becoming interesting. A short time ago it looked like Trump was about to start wars everywhere. US establishment seemed to all agree that made him very presidential. A distraction for the establishment politicians and media while Tillerson and Trump get a few things done? ..."
May 10, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

james | May 10, 2017 12:21:57 PM | 30

i can never understand why politics has to be so complex, but it is.. it could be a lot more simple.. so for those who want to understand why things happen, they have to go beyond the surface..

i agree with @4 ftb.. now, just cause someone says trump is done, doesn't mean he stops doing the crazy shit he is going continue to do.. but so far, none of it amounts to a hill of beans.. i can't see him doing anything relevant at this point other then bringing more trouble to the usa.. if he would step down prematurely, it wouldn't surprise me. he is out of his league and needs to stick to twitter..

Peter AU | May 10, 2017 2:24:06 PM | 43

The Trump show is becoming interesting. A short time ago it looked like Trump was about to start wars everywhere. US establishment seemed to all agree that made him very presidential. A distraction for the establishment politicians and media while Tillerson and Trump get a few things done?

In the last weeks there has been a meeting between Tillerson and Putin, Lavrov and Trump will be meeting soon. Comey in charge of the Trump/Russia investigation has now been sacked. In Syria, US has hardly moved towards Raqqa, agreed to the Russian de-escalation zones which free up Syrian forces for a drive on Deir Ezzor and possibly Raqqa. The other thing that has appeared in the news in the last couple of weeks is that the Trump white house has not approved any pentagon requests to run their so called freedom of navigation exercises against China.

Grieved | May 10, 2017 2:56:51 PM | 47

@43 Peter Au

Nice observation. Personally, I still hold off any judgment on who Trump is - there simply isn't enough roller-coaster motion yet to judge where the trend lines belong.

A lot of the things I see him get blamed for are actually only theater, including Korea - or else relatively minor actions that satisfy subordinate departments (such as the US Navy), and that appear to make waves but that don't actually capsize the big picture. It's an uncomfortable brinkmanship to watch if you believe it's real, but I'm not sure that Trump believes it's anything more than pre-negotiation sand in the eyes.

And a lot of other things that actually do happen domestically are part of the Republican and classical conservative agenda anyway. No organized force in the US exists anymore to combat these things, certainly not the sold-out Democrats and their long co-opted unions.

Meanwhile, as you note, the realities on the geopolitical ground globally proceed in a direction favorable to peace.

Peter AU | May 10, 2017 3:34:24 PM | 48
@ Greived

Tillerson may be the one to watch to see where the Trump roller coaster is heading? Trump distracts attention allowing Tillerson to get on with what they want to do?

menechem golani | May 10, 2017 1:55:11 PM | 39
very said day indeed
indeed
for usa usa and when israel is mighty oded yinon.
comey was the last man standing a modern day kevin costner elliot ness in a sea of nazi and evil doing al capones and ali akhbar oceans 11ish
we champions of anti semitismus and lgbt plus minus barbera lerner spector multiculralism frankfurt school must fight for are man
and woman and all the gender fluids in between.
so what if comey has a 5 million dollar home in the hamptons.
so what if he has a dossier for safe keeping and insurance .
so what if hsbc invested in him and andrew mcabe making them future proof.
we in the upper golan israeli oil and gas have too support and protect are assets if they be in the fbi or in the al nusra syriana.
mcabe will do a great job smashing more phones hammer tongs and bleachbit. stabilising this situation be assured mcabae will not rest until the ratlines drugs,arms slave and live organ trades are back up to peak bush obarmee levels.