Sunday, June 17, 2018

Charles Pierson — The Day the US Became an Empire

One could argue that the US has always been an empire. Thomas Jefferson called the US an empire, but an “empire of liberty” dedicated to spreading freedom around the globe. Tell that to the Native Americans killed and dispossessed by White Settlers. Tell that to the Mexicans. The US seized a third of their country through war. Still, it wasn’t until 1898 that the US acquired its first overseas colony.
Hawaii had been an independent nation. In 1887, American planters in the islands had forced a change to the Hawaiian constitution which largely disenfranchised ethnic Hawaiians to the benefit of wealthy Whites. By 1893, with US support, American and European businessmen on the islands had staged a coup d’êtat, overthrowing the monarchy,[1] and establishing a Republic of Hawai’i; from there, they maneuvered for Hawaii’s annexation in 1898. That same year, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam would be gathered into the fledgling American Empire, fruits of the US victory in the Spanish-American War....
"Thomas Jefferson called the US an empire, but an 'empire of liberty' dedicated to spreading freedom around the globe." This is the basis of liberal internationalism, liberal interventionism, and neoliberal globalization under American "leadership."

The Day the US Became an Empire
Charles Pierson

Michael Snyder - The Real Economic Numbers: 21.5 Percent Unemployment, 10 Percent Inflation and Negative Economic Growth

Maybe socialism in the 1970's wasn't so bad after all. KV 

In the USA, "the percentage of the population that is employed has barely budged since the depths of the last recession."
"According to John Williams, if honest numbers were being used the unemployment rate would actually be 21.5 percent today.

"The government has simply been moving people from the 'officially unemployed' category to the 'not in the labor force' category for many, many years.

"If we use the government's own numbers, there are nearly 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

"That is higher than it was at any point during the last recession."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Caitlin Johnstone — Mattis: Putin Is Trying To “Undermine America’s Moral Authority”

Hear, hear!

America needs no help in destroying its soft power and moral standing in the world. It's doing that just great all on its own.

Caitlin Johnstone — Rogue Journalist
Mattis: Putin Is Trying To “Undermine America’s Moral Authority”
Caitlin Johnstone

Publius Tacitus — DOJ IG, Horowitz, Fails to Admit What He Proves

IG Horowitz is adopting a very narrow legal interpretation while opting to give DOJ and FBI officials the benefit of the doubt. In other words, unless he was presented with "documents" or "testimony" that political bias was influencing decisions, Horowitz decided to assume that everyone was acting in good faith. I suspect this was introduced into his draft by DOJ and FBI reviewers who were alarmed at the obvious conclusion an objective reader would reach if they only read the facts-the DOJ and FBI were crooked…
When I worked with the CIA we used to call this No Shit Analysis. Thank you Captain Obvious. Why in the world would you assign the same people who were working on the Hillary Clinton investigation on the Trump/Russia Collusion investigation when both cases were still active? This is more than a problem of appearance. This is circumstantial evidence of an attempted political coup. I give Horowitz credit for at least putting this fact on the record. But his refusal to call this out for what it is can be attributed to his caution of not appearing to be partisan....
Sic Semper Tyrannis
DOJ IG, Horowitz, Fails to Admit What He Proves
Publius Tacitus

Anthony Patt — How Changing My Economic Model Made Me a Climate Change Optimist

Neo-classical economics doesn’t offer useful insights for disruption.
How Changing My Economic Model Made Me a Climate Change Optimist
Anthony Patt | Professor of Climate Policy at ETH Zurich, the author of Transforming Energy: Solving Climate Change with Technology Policy (Cambridge Univ. Press 2015), and a Coordinating Lead Author for Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Brian Romanchuk — Money Demand Has Very Little To Do With Recessions

One often encounters assertions that recessions are the result of an excess demand for money (or some variant), based on various equilibrium arguments. Although one could superficially interpret recessions in such a fashion, the issue is that this interpretation does not help analyse the business cycle. In other words, it is a non-falsifiable statement that offers no useful information. In my view, discussions involving "money" or "safe assets" provide us an example regarding the limited usefulness of mainstream economic theory for business cycle analysis.
Bond Economics
Money Demand Has Very Little To Do With Recessions
Brian Romanchuk

Matthew A. Benton — Revitalizing the Epistemology of Religion [or Economics]

Read this as though it were about economics rather than religion.

OUP Blog
Revitalizing the Epistemology of Religion
Matthew A. Benton |  Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Seattle Pacific University

FBI biased against Job Guaranty

Bias against guaranteed employment plainly evidenced in the report.  This from the IG report out this week where FBI Attorney tries to comfort FBI Attorney 2:

Trump's supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS that think he will magically grant them jobs for doing nothing. 

Don't be looking for any political support for the JG from the Deep State...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Pepe Escobar — The key word in the Trump-Kim show

Pepe gets this absolutely correct. Most US-centric analysts have missed the obvious. 

As I wrote previously, this is about the the US getting out of the way while North and South Korea work on a peace agreement and North Korea opens up to the world economy as China did under Deng. 

Kim has been wanting to do this for some time, but the US establishment and hardliners in South Korea have been obstacles. Those obstacles are receding under Moon and Trump. Peace in the area is actually in sight as long as hardliners in the US and South Korea don't manage to disrupt the process.

While the Kim-Trump summit did not produce a binding agreement, I would say that the outcome is somewhat similar to a letter of intent in business. It is an intent to begin a process of escalation on all sides. In it North Korea and the US affirm the Panmunjom Declaration that Kim and Moon signed on to previously. 

Hopefully, this will lead to formal agreements that will likely involve treaties, most importantly a peace treaty between the North and South that brings the Korean War to a close.

This was not actually negotiated by Kim and Trump at their summit. The negotiations had already taken place in the preceding weeks and the summit was just the political theater to "sell" it. 

It was important for Kim and Trump to meet, however, since they will have to work together with each other, as well as Moon, Xi, Abe and Putin since South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are interested parties in the outcome on the Korean Peninsula.

Asia Times
The key word in the Trump-Kim show
Pepe Escobar

Editorial — The Guardian view on the NHS cash boost: pay for it with deficit spending

Stephanie Kelton figures prominently. Short read.

The Guardian — Editorial
The Guardian view on the NHS cash boost: pay for it with deficit spending

Links — 15 June 2018

Not too much new going on in geopolitics, political economy or economics that is relevant or commentary worth citing.

So here are some links of interest for weekend reading and some listening, too.

It has successfully predicted many particles, including the Higgs Boson, and has led to 55 Nobels so far, but there’s plenty it still can’t account for….
Could the answers to those questions lie in extra dimensions, or string theory, or some other theory that hasn’t even been conceived yet? It’s possible, but without experimental proof, it’s easy to get carried away.…
… the 50th birthday party for the Standard Model was one not to miss. It made me wonder what sort of party will be organized for its 100th. Will the speakers lecture on the solution to dark energy, or laugh at our current ideas, or still be puzzling over the answer? Will gravity be brought into the Standard Model family, or remain an outcast? It will be interesting to see if even “the most successful theory ever conceived” will stand firm over the coming years, or whether physicists will find themselves modifying it in the future.
Scientific American
The Standard Model (of Physics) at 50
Yvette Cendes | astronomer at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto


It you are not already aware of Open Culture, it is a great resource.

I did not realize that Hildegard of Bingen was the first composer in the modern sense. 

She was world class in several other fields in addition to being a mystic. 

Hildegard was given the title of Doctor of the Church in 2012, joining Teresa of Avila (1970), Catherine of Siena (1970),  and Thérèse_of_Lisieux (1997)  among females thus honored, although the honor was conferred rather late.

Music was a sideline for her. Pretty amazing woman.

Open Culture
Experience the Mystical Music of Hildegard Von Bingen: The First Known Composer in History (1098 – 1179)
Josh Jones

A British elite challenged by large parts of the British population is rallying around trumped-up fear of Russia as a means of protecting its interests, as Alexander Mercouris explains.
Long and detailed. Could serve as an outline for a book.

It's also downloadable as a PDF. Scroll down to the bottom.

Consortium News
Letter From Britain: An Establishment Blinded By Russophobia
Alexander Mercouris


Greg Palast - Ignore A Postcard & Lose Your Vote!

Ohio’s Junk Mail Trick Led Supreme Court to Approve Jim Crow Vote Purge 

American stands as a beacon to the world for 'freedom, fairness and democracy' we are told, but the Republicans do everything they can to stop the democratic process.  The neoliberals, the Western ruling elite, do the same all over the world ensuring that Government by the People, For the People, never occurs. KV

Monday’s Supreme Court decision blessing Ohio’s removal of half a million voters was ultimately decided on the issue of a postcard.
Now that little postcard threatens the voting rights of millions—but it can be reversed.

The instant-news media, working from press releases, not the Supreme Court’s decision itself, said that Husted, Ohio Secretary of State v. A. Philip Randolph Institute was about whether Ohio has the right to remove voters who failed to cast ballots in two federal election cycles.


Even the Court’s right-wing majority concedes that federal law strictly forbids removing voters because they skipped some elections. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 states that a voter purge program “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person … by reason of the person’s failure to vote.”

But here’s the trick: In 2002, the George W. Bush administration ginned up the Help America Vote Act. When a Bush tells you he’s going to “help” you vote, look out. Yet naïve Democrats passed the act into law. The Help America Vote Act is filled with buried land mines that are still exploding.

Monday’s decision is one of those land mines. The Help America Vote Act, the Court concluded, blew open a giant loophole in the National Voter Registration Act's protections. The trick is that Ohio does not remove voters simply because they missed a few elections. According to the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito:

Ohio uses a registrant’s failure to vote [only] to identify that registrant as a person whose address has likely changed.

The Court takes note that Ohio claims it had evidence that, in 2012, a whopping 1.5 million voters—an astronomical 20 percent of its total voter base—had moved their residence out of Ohio or moved from their county voting area. The 1.5 million voters were sent postcards asking them to confirm their mailing address.

It was a voter’s failure to return the postcard that cost them their right to vote. The Court majority said that the Help America Vote Act trumps the National Voter Registration Act, arguing that act passed under George W. Bush "specifies that ‘nothing in [the National Voter Registration Act prohibition] may be construed to prohibit a State from using the procedures’—[such as] sending a return card.”

[An example of the postcard that was the center of the Supreme Court Ohio ruling. If you don’t return it, you lose your vote. The card was designed by Kris Kobach of Kansas—each GOP state using it can create a variant. This one, used in Georgia, is used by Secretary of State Brian Kemp to purge voters. Kemp is running against Democrat Stacey Abrams for Governor.]

The Justices ruled that a voter’s failure to return a postcard (which asks the voter to confirm their address) constitutes solid proof that the voter had left Ohio or moved to another voting district.

The plaintiffs, a coalition of voting rights groups, were gob-smacked.  Plaintiffs argued that there are many reasons folks did not return the postcard, most likely that they threw it away as junk mail or never received it in the first place. But the Court majority found that, without specific evidence, the plaintiffs’ claim that voters just threw away the cards was speculative and “dubious.”

Jim Crow Is in the Cards
Writing for the four dissenters, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the effect of the Court’s decision was to disproportionately wipe out the rights of "minority, low-income, disabled, homeless, and veteran voters." Sotomayor went on to cite an investigation revealing that Ohio’s purge operation had knocked out the registrations of 10 percent of African American-majority neighborhoods in downtown Cincinnati compared to only 4 percent of voters in a nearby suburban, majority-white neighborhood.

But that’s the point, Madame Justice.

But how? The Jim Crow result is in the cards.

I first discovered "purge-by-postcard" in 2014 while investigating mass attacks on voter rolls by GOP officials in a dozen states for Al Jazeera. I turned to direct mail experts, including Michael Wychocki, a Chicago-based adviser on mailing for Amazon and other companies that live or die by mail.

He directed me to the US Census Bureau’s massive study of mail return rates. Dig this:

-   While 90 percent of those 65 years of age and older return the Census form, only 55.4 percent of those 18 to 24 reply.

-   Homeowners are 32 percent more likely than renters to return forms .

-   Only 65 percent of Latino voters mailed back an initial Census form, as did 70 percent of Black voters—versus over 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

And crucially, according to the Census study, 12 percent of mailings simply go astray—especially, says Wychocki, in poor, urban communities, where the tenants hop between apartments in the same neighborhood. And let’s not even discuss students and the homeless.

Designed to Be Thrown Away?
And that’s the Census Bureau, which designs mailings to get the highest response possible. Not so for the purge-by-postcard programs used by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

I showed Ohio voting rights attorney Robert Fitrakis a postcard on which one’s voting rights hangs, and he gave, word for word, the same response I got from another direct mail expert, Mark Swedlund (whose clientele includes eBay and AT&T): “Looks like junk mail, you’d throw it in the garbage.”

Indeed, Wychocki inspected the cards, which are filled with blocks of small print with no images. He explained that the design violates every cardinal rule of direct mail solicitation. While Wychocki would not speculate on the designer’s motives, he said it looked as if the postcard was by someone who did not want the voter to respond.

And one such someone is Kris Kobach. According to documents obtained by the ACLU, Kobach provided Husted (and other GOP voting officials) a sample postcard to send to voters targeted for purge.
Sunday, Part 2:  The Supreme Court decision is NOT the final word.  Millions of voters’ registrations are threatened,  but I have joined with a team of attorneys, and we have come up with a way to stop the steal, stop the massive purge
And we really, truly need your support to build this massive action against not just Ohio, but 25 other states using the same vote purging trick.
Why? There are two groups of voters in that 500,000 whom Ohio purged based on “evidence” the voter has moved. Hundreds of thousands were purged who landed on the suspect list because they missed elections.  Second, there were those who supposedly have registered in another state.  Names of those identified as moving to another state were taken from the infamous Interstate Crosscheck list given Husted by Kobach, according to documents from Kobach’s office.

For example, in 2015, leading up to the presidential election, Kobach, secretary of state in Kansas, gave Husted the Crosscheck list, obtained by my Rolling Stone team, of 423,484 names of Ohio citizens who supposedly had registered in another state.  Kobach and Husted had originally sold the Crosscheck program to the public as a method of finding criminal “double voters”—those actually voting in two states.

But Kobach himself told me in 2016—when I confronted him at a GOP fundraiser in Wichita while working for Rolling Stone—that the primary use of his Crosscheck lists are to identify voters who have moved and registered in another state. Kobach’s office directs the national program to remove voters who fail to respond to a postcard, taking advantage of the nifty Help America Vote Act-shaped hole in the National Voter Registration Act.

That Kris Kobach led the way with the purge-by-postcard scheme is not surprising, given his long history of scams to disenfranchise voters of color, closely reported on by Truthout.

History of Vote Suppression
Which brings us to Sotomayor’s outrage that the majority “entirely ignores the history of voter suppression against which the [National Voter Registration Act] was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate.”

We don’t need to look at all of US history. Husted’s own long record of purging, blocking and not counting voters of color is a history lesson in disenfranchisement all by itself.

In 2012 and 2016, I filmed the single early voting station in Dayton, Ohio, where Black voters lined up for five hours to vote. I also filmed the lines in a white Toledo suburb. Well, actually, there were no lines: white voters had a gigantic field of machines to choose from—plus cookies and coffee served.

The long lines for Black voters resulted from Husted’s order closing all but one single early voting station in each county. That meant one polling station for the 13,000 residents and cows in Vinton County and one polling station for 1.3 million residents of Franklin County (Columbus).

Ohio attorney Robert Fitrakis says, bluntly, that Husted is purging voters of color to "make Ohio winnable [for Republicans] in the only way he knows how—by stealing American citizens’ votes. And he’s counting on bigotry to get away with it.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Moon of Alabama — The Real Results Of The Trump-Kim Summit - Freeze For Freeze (And Some Amusement)

Rational assessment of the lead in to the summit, the summit, the outcome, and the aftermath.

Moon of Alabama
The Real Results Of The Trump-Kim Summit - Freeze For Freeze (And Some Amusement)

Karl Fitzgerald - US Financial Imperialism – Protected by Academic Propaganda

I absolutely love Michael Hudson!  Here he says how many countries in the world are being driven work together because of American aggression, and even many members of the EU want to be rid of their reliance on the dollar standard.  He says how the world bank is an arm of the military-industrial complex whose job it is to ensure that third world countries never become self sufficient supplying their own food, etc, but to supply the US market instead.

I've never heard Micheal so direct, and he is normally pretty direct, but here he is even more forthright.  He states outright who it is that drives world terrorism and that Hilary was the neo-fascist candidate who promised WW3. The US election was fixed, he says, for Trump to win because the ruling knew Americans were never going to vote for their preferred candidate, Hilary.

He also says how Thatcher said that there was no alternative and that it is natural for the rich to get richer and richer while everyone else gets to live shorter and more impoverished lives.

Micheal Hudson is certainly angry here like so many of us are here too, but most people don't know whats going on and just put up with it.

I might add:

US capitalism is really like a game of monopoly where one person, or group of people - who Micheal Hudson calls monopolists - get to win everything in the world, and the wealthier they become, the more they can buy, and so people in foreign countries get to own nothing of their country's wealth, and maybe not even much of the land, with all of it instead being owed by Wall Street, the City of London, and their spin offs.

Microsoft and Google can draw the most talented scientists, mathematicians, computer software designers and engineers from all around the world and pay them top salaries keeping their companies at the front. In this way we have the self perpetuating rich whose offspring will for eternity never have to work and yet grow exponentially rich. You can see the philosophical dilemmas here?


Prof Michael Hudson joins to review his critique of US financial imperialism in light of recent events. From the WB, IMF through to deep state strategy, Hudson is the best in the business at tying the economic pressures in our lives to the geo-political forces at work. 

Renegade Economist 

Karl Fitzgerald - US Financial Imperialism – Protected by Academic Propaganda

Andre Vltchek: Why Venezuela and Syria Cannot Fall

Despite tremendous hardship which the Venezuelan people are having to face, despite the sanctions and intimidation from abroad, President Nicolás Maduro has won a second six-year term.
Two weeks ago, at the Venezuelan embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where I addressed several leaders of East African left-wing opposition, an acting Charge d’ Affaires, Jose Avila Torres, declared: “People of Venezuela are now facing similar situation as the Syrian people.”
True. Both nations, Venezuela and Syria, are separated by a tremendous geographical distance, but they are united by the same fate, same determination and courage.
During the Spanish Civil War, Czech anti-fascist fighters, volunteers in the International Brigades, used to say: “In Madrid we are fighting for Prague”. Madrid fell to Franco’s fascists in October 1939. Prague had been occupied by German troops several months earlier, in March 1939. It was the blindness and cowardice of the European leaders, as well as the support which the murderous fascist hordes received from populations of all corners of the continent, which led to one of the greatest tragedies in modern history – a tragedy which only ended on May 9, 1945, when the Soviet troops liberated Prague, defeating Nazi Germany and de facto saving the world.
More than 70 years later, the world is facing another calamity. The West, mentally unfit to peacefully end its several centuries long murderous reign over the planet – a reign that has already taken several hundreds of millions of human lives – is flexing its muscle and madly snapping in all directions, provoking, antagonizing and even directly attacking countries as far apart as North Korea (DPRK), China, Iran, Russia, Syria and Venezuela.
What is happening now is not called fascism or Nazism, but it clearly is precisely that, as the barbaric rule is based on a profound spite for non-Western human lives, on fanatical right-wing dogmas which are stinking of exceptionalism, and on the unbridled desire to control the world.
Many countries that refused to yield to brutal Western force were recently literally leveled with the ground, including Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. In many other ones, the governments were overthrown by direct and indirect interventions, as well as deceit, as was the case in the mightiest country in Latin America – Brazil. Countless “color”, “umbrella” and other “revolutions” as well as “springs” have been sponsored by Washington, London and other Western capitals.
But the world is waking up, slowly but irreversibly, and the fight for survival of our human race has already begun.
Venezuela and Syria are, unquestionably, at the frontline of the struggle.
Against all odds, bleeding but heroically erect, they stand against the overwhelmingly mightier force, and refuse to give up.
“Here no one surrenders!” shouted Hugo Chavez, already balding from chemotherapy, dying of cancer which many in Latin America believe, was administered to him from the United States. His fist was clenched and heavy rain was falling on his face. Like this, died one of the greatest revolutionaries of our time. But his revolution survived, and is marching on!
Off Guardian

William Lacy Swing — How migrants who send money home have become a global economic force

More people are on the move around the world than ever before. An estimated 258 million people are currently living outside their country of origin. Every migrant chooses to leave home for different reasons, but they all bring their life experiences, knowledge, culture and ambitions with them. As they settle into life in their host countries, they acquire new skills and know-how. And they contribute to their families and communities in their country of origin by sending money home.

Financial remittances have been recognized as an important developmental vehicle associated with migration. Financial remittance flows have steadily increased in volume from the 1990s to the present day. In 2017, migrants sent an estimated $466 billion to families in developing countries. Money sent home from abroad is shown to be more stable than both private debt and portfolio equity flows, and several times larger than international development aid.…

However, apart from financial remittances, transnational communities also contribute by way of 'social remittances' - the flow of skills, knowledge, ideas and values that migrants transmit home. The impact of social remittances was most strongly felt in areas such as education, health, employment, business and aspects of governance, found a study conducted by IOM in Tanzania in 2014. There is also a broader development effect, as the recipients of social remittances extend beyond the migrants’ immediate circle of relatives and friends to the wider community beyond.
Taken together, financial and social remittances have an important role to play in the achievement of individual family goals, community and national development priorities, and the achievement of the SDGs more generally. However, to leverage the true development benefits of financial and social remittances, there is still work to be done....
William Lacy Swing | Director-General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)

A different view of Africa. A ways to go, but longer the global backwater, looking hopeless as development challenge.
By 2025, 97% of worldwide growth will occur in the world’s emerging markets, many of which are in Africa. Africans are watching technology develop and evolve in ways never seen before. The continent leads the way in mobile payments, with money transfer service M-Pesa serving 30 million users across ten countries. Africa isn’t just driving technology change for Africa, but for the world at large. By 2025, the population of Africa will exceed that of India and of China. Shortly after that, about 40% of the world's working-age population will be in Africa, a continent of 54 countries.

Africa's inspiring innovators show what the future could hold
Njideka Harry
CEO, Youth for Technology Foundation

Morning Star — Right-wing militias committing ‘acts of terrorism’ in an effort to destabilise Nicaragua, police say

A source in the city of Esteli told the Star: “Here in Esteli now the opposition are marking the houses of people identified as Sandinista.
“We're all taking what precautions we can, but I don't think the opposition are in the least interested in dialogue. They are determined not just to oust the government but to destroy the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front].”...
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been leading attempts to secure peace and stability in the country since violence erupted in April.

However, Nicaraguan right-wing extremists are seeking regime change with the government suspecting US interference after the Trump administration made a series of threats against Mr Ortega....
Back to death squads to combat "socialism"?

A downside of using terror as a tactic is that it leads to total surveillance and a police state.
Even the most freedom-loving people will choose security over liberty when their lives are on the line.

Morning Star (UK)
Right-wing militias committing ‘acts of terrorism’ in an effort to destabilise Nicaragua, police say

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lawrence Wilkerson - Confronting America the Torturer

Despite Gina Haspel's promises, we are in real danger of further excursions into the dark side.

You sometimes wonder if there is any good in the world. After reading the all the stuff that I have read over the last few years I have been extremely shocked, that the ruling elite can cold bloodily start wars to make money shows they have no morality whatsoever. It is simply murder. But this article from The American Conservative is encouraging as it seems that there are many people on the left and right who are against torture. I believe most people are, even if they say flippantly to pollsters that they support it. KV

Later this month on June 26, the United Nation’s will observe a Day for Victims of Torture.
Before 2002, America would have heralded this day, joining in the remembrance and using the resultant global solidarity to advance even further the goal of stopping torture wherever it might occur. No longer. America is now one of the world’s chief, unrepentant, unapologetic, still-polling-positive-on…torturers.
Since President George W. Bush—under relentless pressure from Dick Cheney, his Machiavellian vice president—withdrew America from the Geneva Conventions in 2002, ostensibly so he could deal with al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s Taliban, the United States has operated “on the dark side.” Recently reaffirming that position, President Donald Trump nominated and the Senate approved torture’s disciple and supervisory practitioner Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

How did we get here?
After the tragic deaths on September 11, 2001, America went slightly berserk. Though both international and U.S. domestic law held that no condition, no matter how extreme, could justify the heinous crime of torture, America turned to it anyway. Initially—and perhaps understandably if not legally or ethically—we turned to torture under the misguided belief that it might save lives. After all, we had just suffered an attack worse than that on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
But as early as February 2002, we began to torture for another reason: to “verify” Iraqi complicity in the 9/11 attacks so we could go to war with Iraq (I went into greater detail on this for TAC in May). This rationale was more in line with practices in countries such as Egypt and Syria, where torture was—and still is—aimed at extracting confessions, not the truth.  
The al-Qaeda-Iraq complicity did not exist. But we tortured to produce evidence for war anyway via our lackeys in Egypt. Among those we tortured was Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who said afterwards he would have confessed to anything to stop the pain. Acting swiftly on Libi’s “evidence,” Colin Powell made a historic statement at the United Nations that linked al-Qaeda to Iraq.
We all know the rest of the story.
Could there be a more poignant and disturbing example of torture not working? Or, perhaps better said, of torture’s dangerous consequences even beyond its moral and ethical repugnancy and illegality?  
Let’s mark this day with a tribute to all those in the world who are opposed to torture, from Johannesburg to Auckland, from Vladivostok to Portland. Large majorities in almost all other nations are anti-torture, knowing it to be a tyrant’s tool to suppress dissent and manufacture false confessions.
Let’s tip our hats to those who man the centers for victims of torture the world over and to those who offer succor to such victims wherever they are found and who oppose torture wherever it might be practiced.  

Caitlin Johnson - Centrists Are Very Concerned That Donald Fucking Trump Isn’t Hawkish Enough

Yep, 'centrists' are really just extreme right wing hawks who don't hold traditional conservative values. What gets me is how they could be considered left. Charles Ortel is always referring to Hilary and her Democrats friends as the left.  KV
Today American centrists (who only get to call themselves that because plutocratic media control has made Orwellian neoliberal neoconservatism the dominant ideology in the US) are deeply, profoundly concerned that Donald fucking Trump is insufficiently hawkish.
This would be the same Donald Trump whose administration just facilitated the bombing of Yemen’s new cholera treatment center. The same Donald Trump who has increased US troops in Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The same Donald Trump who is openly pursuing regime change in Iran. The same Donald Trump whose administration committed war crimes in Raqqa. The same Donald Trump who has made many dangerous cold war escalations against Russia. The same Donald Trump whose administration has voiced a goal of regime change in Damascus and the intention of remaining in Syria indefinitely. The same Donald Trump whose air strikes are killing far more civilians than the drone king Obama’s did.
Centrist pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle are saying that this very man is being too soft and cuddly toward North Korea. These would be the same centrist pundits and politicians who loudly cheered both of the times this administration bombed the Syrian government, effectively sending the message that the only way this narcissistic president can win praise by the manufacturers of the mainstream narrative is by rejecting peace and embracing war. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Pepe Escobar — Putin & Xi Top The G6+1

All hell broke loose at the G6+1, aka G7, while the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) aimed at global integration and a peaceful multipolar order
Asia Times
Pepe Escobar: Putin & Xi Top The G6+1
Pepe Escobar

Tom Luongo — Trump Dangles Wooden Carrots at Russia over Crimea

Typically good analysis and assessment from Tom Luongo.

Strategic Culture Foundation
Trump Dangles Wooden Carrots at Russia over Crimea
Tom Luongo

See also

Also good.

DJT read this right. Brilliant on many levels. Even if this is all he accomplishes, he has secured his legacy and may emerge in historical reflection as a great president.
But this summit between what is surely the oddest couple in modern diplomatic history may well launch the most serious effort yet to end the U.S.-North Korean conflict.
To this I would add that a big reason that this is happening is that Kim and Trump are alike in key respects, enabling them to sense that a deal was in the making. 

For example, notice the dismissive way that DJT treated the other G-7 leaders and how he treats Kim, Xi and Putin. And it is not that they are fellow "authoritarians" either. This gives credence to the "great man" theory of history.
US Public Being Misled on Trump-Kim Summit
Gareth Porter

Moon of Alabama — First Thoughts On The Kim Trump Photo-Op Summit

There's a huge amount of stuff appearing on the Trump-Kim meeting, most of it fictive emotive babbling.

MoA presents a brief and balanced summary of the key aspects.
The losers, for now, are the hawks in Japan, South Korea and Washington who tried their best to prevent this to happen. The winners are the people of Korea, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. Special prizes go to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and to Dennis Rodman who did their best to make this happen.
Moon of Alabama
First Thoughts On The Kim Trump Photo-Op Summit

Thomas Piketty — The Transferunion fantasy

On Macron's proposals for EU reform.
It is almost as if the revolutionaries in 1789, instead of setting up a National Assembly enabling all privileges to be abolished immediately and a new fiscal system to be set up, had only announced that it would be a good idea to pause to reflect on the setting up of a commission to consider a long-term plan to save the Ancien Régime. It is the difference between doing something and empty rhetoric.
Thomas Piketty's Blog at Le Monde
The Transferunion fantasy
Thomas Piketty | Professor at EHESS and at the Paris School of Economics

Jason Smith — Women in the workforce and labor shar

Most stories told about this declining labor share of national income is about capital claiming it for themselves — and on the surface, that's essentially what is happening. A major surge in output in the 70s went disproportionately to capital instead of labor.

However, let's take a step back and think about the cause of that surge in output: women entering the workforce (see links here or here). If that's the cause, then the difference in the shock to NGDP and to wages could be almost entirely accounted for by the fact that women make on the order of 70% as much as men for the same job. As women entered the workforce, the same output growth would go towards more income for capital by pocketing that extra 30%. A back of the envelope calculation shows it's the correct order of magnitude (about 5 percentage points). It's not declining unions or deregulation, but rather simply adding more people that are paid less because of sexism behind the decline in labor share of national income. At least that's the hypothesis.
Information Transfer Economics
Women in the workforce and labor share
Jason Smith

Monday, June 11, 2018

Morgan Ricks, John Crawford, and Lev Menand — Central Banking for All: A Public Option for Bank Accounts

Currently, banks are allowed to have accounts with the Federal Reserve that come with a lot of privileges: higher interest rates, instant clearing, and the security provided by being nondefaultable. Authors Morgan Ricks, John Crawford, and Lev Menand argue for ending these exclusive privileges by offering “FedAccounts” to everyone. FedAccounts would be a public option for the unbanked and underbanked while also providing substantial benefits to businesses and our economy as a whole.
FedAccounts would provide the following features to all Americans, as well as American businesses: no fees or minimum balances; the same interest rate that commercial banks get; and no interchange fees for debit card payments. Also, payments between FedAccounts would clear in real time, and there would be no need for federal deposit insurance, as FedAccount balances would be sovereign and nondefaultable. The lack of fees and minimum balances would remove obstacles that exclude millions of Americans from our financial system, and the perks of central banking would greatly increase the cost and efficiency of transactions for businesses.
This report details the FedAccounts proposal and its benefits. It also discusses the merits of FedAccounts over other reform proposals like narrow banking, postal banking, and cryptocurrencies....
The Great Democracy Initiative
Central Banking for All: A Public Option for Bank Accounts
Morgan Ricks, John Crawford, and Lev Menand

Ellis Winningham — The Bond Market Doesn’t Control Anything; the Currency-Issuing National Government Does

More myth debunking.

Ellis Winningham — MMT and Modern Macroeconomics
The Bond Market Doesn’t Control Anything; the Currency-Issuing National Government Does
Ellis Winningham

Moon of Alabama U.S. Grants Approval For Genocide In Yemen

Another crime against humanity soon to be added to those already committed against Yemenis.

Moon of Alabama
U.S. Grants Approval For Genocide In Yemen

John Helmer — Defecation in Public – Was It Soft or Hard When White House Officials Did It on the Canadian Prime Minister? Is Chrystia Freeland Also Aiming at Justin Trudeau?

US-Canada relations and Canadian politics. 

Dances with Bears
Defecation in Public – Was It Soft or Hard When White House Officials Did It on the Canadian Prime Minister? Is Chrystia Freeland Also Aiming at Justin Trudeau?
John Helmer

See also
The G-7 summit once again made it clear that U.S. President Donald Trump is intent on treating America's allies worse than its enemies. Europe must draw the consequences and seek to isolate Trump on the international stage.
Spiegel Online
The G-7 Fiasco — It's Time to Isolate Donald Trump
Roland Nelles

Lars P. Syll — The Permanent Income Hypothesis

Milton Friedman's PIH disconfirmed.

Lars P. Syll’s Blog
The Permanent Income Hypothesis
Lars P. Syll | Professor, Malmo University

See also

On randomness and probability in economics

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Richard Murphy — MMT: economics for an economy focussed on meeting the needs of most people

David Howdle posted a commenton this blog in which he said:

Professor Murphy, thank you for your thoughts which I find most interesting. I share a lot of your blogs on pro Scottish independence Facebook group. I find that MMT resonates with many supporters. However, not with all by any means.In response to sharing this blog someone has said “Check his blog. Murphy is peddling a new-ish economic fad called Modern Monetary Theory. This controversial and untested approach is evangelised by small clique of left-leaning economists and intellectuals mostly in the US who are looking for an unsuspecting guinea pig. Step forward Scotland”.
Are you able to point me to something robust to show that MMT is not as he labels it? That is “untested”. I’d be most grateful.
I take the comment seriously. Modern Monetary Theory does suffer from being called a theory. It also suffers on occasion from being a little too dogmatic (I include myself in that criticism, perhaps). And sometimes it just needs to be explained for what it is.
The truth is that modern monetary theory is as much a theory about money creation as sexual intercourse is a theory of how procreation in humans happens. In other words, it's a description of what happens and not an explanation of what might be....
Tax Research UK
MMT: economics for an economy focussed on meeting the needs of most people
Richard Murphy