This week, I have been mostly writing essays and cursing the Australian higher education system. I also thought this was delightful:
- Donald Trump is like a biased machine learning algorithm — Cathy "mathbabe" O'Neil:
What that translates to is a constant iterative process whereby he experiments with pushing the conversation this way or that, and he sees how the crowd responds. If they like it, he goes there. If they don’t respond, he never goes there again, because he doesn’t want to be boring. If they respond by getting agitated, that’s a lot better than being bored. That’s how he learns.
This week, I have been mostly reading:
- Olivier Blanchard Is Worried About Inflation In Japan — Dean Baker, master of the political economy punchline, at CEPR (US):
Debt is just one way in which governments obligate their public to future payments. Patent and copyright monopolies commit the public to paying rents that greatly exceed the free market price for the protected products. In the United States these payments are approaching 2.0 percent of GDP ($360 billion a year) for prescription drugs alone. It is remarkable that public finance economists seem to almost completely ignore rents for patents and copyrights when considering the financial burdens of various governments.
- Young Iraqis Overwhelmingly Consider U.S. Their Enemy, Poll Says — Murtaza Hussain at the Intercept:
“For years, many have argued that Muslims and Arabs, like other humans, don’t appreciate being bombed or occupied,” says Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. “Finally, we have a study to confirm this suspicion.”
- What’s so Bad about the Gold Standard? — David Glasner:
The gold standard did play a major role in spreading the Depression. But the role was not just major; it was dominant. And the role of the gold standard in the Great Depression was not just to spread it; the role was, as Hawtrey and Cassel warned a decade before it happened, to cause it. The causal mechanism was that in restoring the gold standard, the various central banks linking their currencies to gold would increase their demands for gold reserves so substantially that the value of gold would rise back to its value before World War I, which was about double what it was after the war. […] The Great Depression was caused by a 50% increase in the value of gold that was the direct result of the restoration of the gold standard. […] the problem with gold is, first of all, that it does not guarantee that value of gold will be stable. The problem is exacerbated when central banks hold substantial gold reserves, which means that significant changes in the demand of central banks for gold reserves can have dramatic repercussions on the value of gold. Far from being a guarantee of price stability, the gold standard can be the source of price-level instability, depending on the policies adopted by individual central banks.
- Did Capitalism Fail? Looking Back Five Years After Lehman — Roman Frydman and Michael Goldberg at INET. As the title suggests, an oldie but a goody:
Market instability is thus integral to how capitalist economies allocate their savings. Given this, policymakers should intervene not because they have superior knowledge about asset values (in fact, no one does), but because profit-seeking market participants do not internalize the huge social costs associated with excessive upswings and downswings in prices. It is such excessive fluctuations, not deviations from some fanciful “true” value – whether of assets or of the unemployment rate – that Keynes believed policymakers should seek to mitigate. Unlike their successors, Keynes and Hayek understood that imperfect knowledge and non-routine change mean that policy rules, together with the variables underlying them, gain and lose relevance at times that no one can anticipate.
- The Market Fairy Will Not Solve the Problems of Uber and Lyft — Ian Welsh nails it:
These business models are ways of draining capital from the economy and putting them into the hands of a few investors and executives. They prey on desperate people who need money now, even if the money is insufficient to pay their total costs. Drivers are draining their own reserves to get cash now, but, hey, they gotta eat and pay the bills.The model generalises to any low-paid insecure work. You can't afford to say no to even the worst job. I did it for nearly ten years, working harder than I'd ever worked in my life, and am now massively in debt, for the first time in my life.
- The Zombie Doctrine — George Monbiot delivers some sublime ranting:
It’s as if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?
- Who do faculty “work for?” — Historiann:
There’s nothing like stupid from the central administration to bring a faculty together. I told my colleagues that I have a rule when it comes to any technology or software: it works for me, I don’t work for it. End of story.
- A British Bridge for a Divided Europe — Robert Skidelsky:
The eurozone has weakened the nation-states comprising it, without creating a supranational state to replace the powers its members have lost. Legitimacy thus still resides at a level of political authority that has lost those attributes of sovereignty (such as the ability to alter exchange rates) from which legitimacy derives. […] The EU has tried to achieve political union incrementally, because it was impossible to start with it. Indeed, barely hidden in the “European project” was the expectation that successive crises would push political integration forward. This was certainly Jean Monnet’s hope. The alternative – that the crises would have the opposite effect, leading to the breakup of the economic and monetary union – was never seriously confronted.
- Patently Absurd Logic On Budget Deficits and Debt — Dean Baker at the Huffington Post:
As much as folks may love the private sector, it was not going to make up the demand lost when the housing bubble crashed, or at least not any time soon. If we wanted to prevent a long and severe downturn like the Great Depression, it was necessary for the government to run large deficits. These deficits were not impoverishing our kids - they were keeping their parents employed. […] The fact that the deficit hawks can scream endlessly about the horrible interest burden on our children, but don’t even seem to notice the costs being imposed by patent and copyright monopolies, suggests that they are not really concerned about our children’s well-being. Alternatively, they may have a very poor understanding of economics. Either way, their whining does not deserve the public’s attention.
- Where Hope Goes to Die — Ted Rall:
This week, I have been mostly reading:
- Was the Financial Crisis Anticipated? — Ozlem Akin, José M Marín, and José-Luis Peydró at INET, on their CEPR (UK) working paper:
The paper finds that the top executives’ ex-ante sale of their own bank shares predicts worse bank returns during the crisis; interestingly, effects are insignificant for independent directors’ and other officers’ sales of shares. That is, effects are substantially stronger for the insiders with the highest and best level of information, the top five executives. Moreover, the top five executives’ impact is stronger for banks with higher ex-ante exposure to the real estate bubble, where an increase of one standard deviation of insider sales is associated with a 13.33 percentage point drop in stock returns during the crisis period. Our results suggest that insiders understood the heavy risk-taking in their banks; they were not simply over-optimistic, and hence they sold more of their own shares before the crisis.
- I’m With The Banned — Laurie Penny goes gonzo for Medium:
My new Spectator friend is as bewildered as I am by the way Americans take Milo and his ilk seriously, by their willingness to take pride in performative bigotry and call it strength. It works. It sells. It’s the unholy marriage of that soulless debate culture that works so well in Britain, transplanted to a nation with no social safety net and half a billion guns. It works, in part, because of the essentially cult-like nature of U.S. culture and the structured ignorance that accompanies it. America is a nation eaten by its own myth. The entire idea of America is about believing impossible things. Nobody said those things had to be benign.
- City Talk Pages — xkcd:
- Dana Milbank Tells Readers He Has an Incredibly Weak Imagination — Dean Baker, CEPR (US):
What is perhaps most incredible is Milbank's notion of irresponsible. His sole measure of responsibility is the size of the government budget deficit and debt, which are for all practical purposes meaningless numbers. (If the government puts in place patent protection that requires us to pay an extra $400 billion a year for prescription drugs, this adds zero to the budget deficit or debt and therefore doesn't concern Milbank. However, if it borrowed an extra $400 billion a year to pay for developing new drugs, he would be furious.)
- Now we’ve voted for Brexit, great British businesses like Southern rail, Byron burger, Lloyds bank and Sports Direct are finally set free — Mark Steel, whose voice you hear in your head as you're reading, in the Independent:
[T]he marvellous thing about privatisation is it introduces choice, so if customers trying to get from East Grinstead to London aren’t happy with their rail service, they can choose to use a different rail network, such as the one from Glasgow to Fort William, or the Trans-Siberian Express.
- Record Lows — Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
- Embarrassment for Christine Lagarde and IMF as Fund's own watchdog slams its eurozone record — Ben Chu at the Independent:
The IEO concluded the IMF had “lost its characteristic agility as a crisis manager” in the way it responded to the economic turmoil in the eurozone, which required unprecedented bailouts for several states shut out of the capital markets and looked like it was going to tear the single currency zone apart.[I don't know. They turned a disaster into an apocalypse in record time. If that's not "characteristic agility" I don't know what is.]
- Our attitude towards wealth played a crucial role in Brexit. We need a rethink — Stephen hawking in the Guardian:
One of the reasons I believed it would be wrong to leave the EU was related to grants. British science needs all the money it can get, and one important source of such funding has for many years been the European commission. Without these grants, much important work would not and could not have happened. […] Money is also important because it is liberating for individuals. I have spoken in the past about my concern that government spending cuts in the UK will diminish support for disabled students, support that helped me during my career. In my case, of course, money has helped not only make my career possible but has also literally kept me alive.
- How to be a writer — The Oatmeal:
- “Liberal” Economists Cheered the New Democrats’ Deregulation of Finance — Bill Black at NEP:
Bill Clinton and Al Gore were two of the most powerful leaders of the “New Democrats” – a group of Democrats determined to move the party strongly to the right on economics, budget, national security, regulation, and crime. The New Democrats’ policy apparatus was funded overwhelmingly by Wall Street but its ideological support came from economists who were “liberal” on some social issues. The Clintons and Gore delivered for Wall Street by embracing the three “de’s” – deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization that encouraged and allowed twin bubble to rapidly expand. The “dot com” bubble was the first bubble to burst. The housing bubble burst in late 2006, leading to the financial crises of 2008 and the Great Recession that began in 2007.
This week, I have been mostly… I don't know what I've been doing. Meanwhile, this happened in my sharply curtailed idle reading:
- Economic Rationality Explains Everything and Nothing — Geoffrey Hodgson, Evonomics:
Utility maximization can be useful as a heuristic modelling device. But strictly it does not explain any behavior. It does not identify specific causes. It cannot explain any particular behavior because it is consistent with any observable behavior. Its apparent universal power signals weakness, not strength.
- Everyone But the Media Saw Trumpism Coming — Ted Rall:
“We were largely oblivious to the pain among working-class Americans and thus didn’t appreciate how much his message resonated,” [New York Times journalist Nicholas] Kristof wrote. Most Americans are working-class. In other words, Kristof and his colleagues admit they don’t cover the problems that affect most Americans. Again: why does he still have a job?
- Is an Aussie debt crisis around the corner? — Leith van Onselen, Macro Business:
Admittedly, the real concern is that 40% of all mortgages are interest-only mortgages, which are more vulnerable […] Whether or not Australia is likely to experience some kind of financial crisis within the next three years is a moot point. But having one of the world’s most overvalued housing markets, combined with overly indebted households and an extreme reliance on offshore funding, is hardly a good situation to be in and the opposite of prudence.And…
- The seven countries most vulnerable to a debt crisis — Steve Keen, Real World Economics Review Blog:
They are, in order of likely severity: China, Australia, Sweden, Hong Kong (though it might deserve first billing), Korea, Canada, and Norway. […] Timing precisely when these countries will have their recessions is not possible, because it depends on when the private sector’s willingness to borrow from the banks—and the banking sector’s willingness to lend—stops. This can be delayed by government policy—as it was in Australia in 2008, via a strong government stimulus, the restarting of the housing bubble by a government grant to first home buyers, and the boom in investment and exports set off by China’s own stimulus program. But the day when credit growth stops can’t be put off indefinitely. When it arrives, these countries—many of which appeared to avoid the worst of the crisis in 2008—will join the world’s long list of walking wounded economies.
- Are We Facing a Global “Lost Decade?" — Steve Keen, for the Private Debt Project [tl;dr: Yes.]:
The tragedy is that although there are methods by which we could escape the global private debt trap into which we have fallen we are nonetheless prisoners of an economic orthodoxy that will prevent us from employing them... The main barrier here is simply the ignorance of the supposed experts on economics about the nature of money. While mainstream economists continue to spout naïve arguments about money and banking, the politicians who rely upon them for guidance are unlikely to attempt anything other than the poorly targeted and largely ineffective policies that Japan has persisted with for the last quarter century. A global “Lost Decade” is entirely probable.
Jeremy Corbyn's leadership looked shakier than ever today, after it was revealed that his challenger boldly intended to make appearances in public prior to the interminable upcoming leadership election. "After nearly a year of dismal failure, Labour is ready for a return to it's roots," a spokesman for rising nonentity Owen Smith said. "Labour voters are uncomfortable with ideas, values, and character. What they are crying out for is a leader with a nice new haircut, sensible, focus-group-tested spectacle frames, and very, very sharp trouser creases."
Smith is rapidly winning support among the Parliamentary Labour Party. A source close to Tom Watson in a Stone Roses t-shirt said "The marvellous thing about Owen is, the moment he enters the room, you get this tremendous feeling that something's missing but you can't quite put your finger on it. Then, as soon as he leaves, you forget he was ever there. God, I miss Milliband."
However other Labour MPs are nonplussed. "I don't see any reason for a leadership election at all, frankly," says Jamie Reed. "I think Theresa May is the best leader we've had since Tony. Her pro-armageddon stance speaks to the values our party has stood for since it was founded twenty years ago. Anybody willing to get up every morning and goad the four horsemen of the apocalypse the way she does deserves our continued support."
Here's a plausible explanation for my chronic ennui:
"The Cynics need a nearby academy, if only as a place to throw their plucked chickens, but the academy needs nearby cynics too, if only as walking advertisements for philosophy as a serious study, reminders that this is a subject people fall in love with."
More pointless than a rebel without a cause, I'm a Cynic without an Academy.
This week, I have been mostly reading:
- Something Crazy Is Happening to Swiss Bonds, and It’s a Sad Sign for the World Economy — Jordan Weissmann at Slate:
Yields on government bonds from all around the world have been plunging thanks to anxious investors buying them for their safety. (Bond yields fall as prices rise.) And in many instances, the returns have cratered below zero. As Quartz reports Thursday, “around a third of all developed-country government debt—or more than $7 trillion, in terms of market value—is now trading at negative yields,” meaning that buyers are willing to pay more for these bonds than they will eventually get back if they hold them to maturity. […] The most mind-blowing example of this trend is Switzerland. Last week, yields on all of its government bonds, out to 50 years, turned negative.[A major qualification: Government bonds aren't loans. Governments with their own currency never need to borrow money in order to spend. Bonds are a mechanism to drain reserves held at central banks, in order to hit interest rate targets. The pessimism is real, though.]
- Corbyn: the summer of hierarchical things — Paul Mason in Medium:
By September, if Corbyn wins he’ll be in a position to go into the Labour conference exerting control: over the NEC, where a left slate looks likely to win; and over policy via conference, where the delegates will for the first time reflect the changed membership. After that, in any election called by the incoming Tory prime minister Theresa May, Corbyn’s supporters would be able to stage “trigger ballots” to de-select the MPs most hostile to Corbyn, leaving the leadership, the HQ, the policy and the parliamentary group aligned to the left.
- Donald Trump Understands the Nexus Between Trade and Immigration — a corker by Marshall Auerback in Naked Capitalism:
Historically, immigration law has concerned itself with many considerations, the most of which is the displacement of US workers. By contrast, advocates of free trade ignore this consideration, or blithely suggest that the resultant unemployment in a displaced sector (e.g., the automobile industry), is a “negative externality”, which is generally offset by the resultant gains in competitive efficiency, and lower cost goods. Cheap imports, then, outweigh the displacement of workers. But we do not extend this logic to immigration, or we would move straight to a policy of open borders.
- The murky world of industrial relations in the higher ed sector — Joanne Finkelstein in On Line Opinion:
The quality of universities' delivery to students is adversely influenced by the casual, less engaged and experienced academic. It is particularly evident in newer institutions which have been aggressive in developing new programs of study supposedly in response to market demands. […] in the higher education sector, such a culture has ensured a declining quality in teaching especially in the newer and regional universities – those institutions designed specifically to widen participation and increase social equity.
- Modern Money: The Basics — Geoff Coventry provides a really nice, concise summary I wish I'd written:
Money is a wonderful human invention – perhaps one of our greatest. Most nations have a monetary system designed to provide for private commercial needs, but also, simultaneously, to enable governments to access sufficient resources to create safe, just and ever-improving societies.
- Bernie Sanders’ connections with two UMKC economists run deep — Mark Davis at the Kansas City Star does a charming local news profile of Stephanie Kelton and Bill Black:
Kelton and Black are part of a team of economic advisers, including former labor secretary Robert Reich and James Galbraith at the University of Texas in Austin, who help the Sanders campaign develop policies. Randall Wray, a fellow UMKC economics professor, credits Sanders for embracing thinkers from outside the economic mainstream. “The mainstream is a complete disaster and a complete disaster for our country,” Wray said.[We can assume they won't be advising Clinton.]
- Note To Economists: Saving Doesn’t Create Savings — Steve Roth in Evonomics;another wonderfully concise explanation I wish I'd written:
When you spend money — transferring it to someone else in return for newly-produced goods and services — does it affect our collective monetary savings? In strict accounting terms, obviously not. Your money just moves from your account to someone else’s account; it doesn’t disappear. Your bank has less deposits; the recipient’s bank has more deposits. Aggregate monetary savings is unchanged by that accounting event. […] In three simple words: spending causes saving. Real, collective accumulation of real, long-lived stuff. Monetary saving — not-spending part of your income this year — doesn’t, collectively, create either real or monetary savings.
- How Democrats Created Liberalism of the Rich — Thomas Frank, Naked Capitalism via TomDispatch:
Boston is the headquarters for two industries that are steadily bankrupting middle America: big learning and big medicine, both of them imposing costs that everyone else is basically required to pay and which increase at a far more rapid pace than wages or inflation. A thousand dollars a pill, 30 grand a semester: the debts that are gradually choking the life out of people where you live are what has made this city so very rich. […] Professional-class liberals aren’t really alarmed by oversized rewards for society’s winners. On the contrary, this seems natural to them — because they are society’s winners. The liberalism of professionals just does not extend to matters of inequality; this is the area where soft hearts abruptly turn hard.
- Letter from US Senator Al Franken to Niantic, Inc., owners of Pokemon GO:
- Privatisation! Free trade! Shares for all! The great con that ruined Britain — Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail! (via Richard Murphy):
I am so sorry now that I fell for the great Thatcher-Reagan promise. […] I thought – this now seems especially funny – that private British Telecom would be automatically better than crabby old Post Office Telephones. I think anyone who has ever tried to contact BT when things go wrong would now happily go back to the days of nationalisation. Soviet-style slowness was bad, but surely better than total indifference.
- Is Competition the Cause of the Productivity Slowdown? — Dean Baker, CEPR:
My alternative explanation is that a weak labor market and low wages explain much of the slowdown in productivity. The argument is straightforward. When Walmart can hire people at very low wages, they are happy to pay people to stand around and do almost nothing. That is why many retailers now have greeters or sales people standing in aisles who contribute little to productivity.
I had to consult the local GP co-operative multiplex today, and as it was bloody cold indoors (defined hereabouts as anything below 20℃), and I had a teensy hangover, I resolved to set off early and have a restorative picnic lunch of fried chicken at Bogan Bay before my appointment. I set up camp at a picnic shelter, opened my laptop with a view to pursuing my lower higher education over lunch, and tentatively nibbled on a soggy chip. Almost immediately I was joined by a magpie.
Magpies are quite intelligent birds. I had been in this situation before, and I'm sure the magpie had been in this situation before. I therefore reasoned that repetition of some terse, likely recognisable phrases ("bugger off!", etc.) would clarify my position vis-à-vis the magpie's implied food redistribution proposal. The magpie remained unconvinced, so I began waving my hat at it, and then chasing it round and round the picnic shelter, until finally it perched on the barbecue in the middle of the shelter and made a great show of minding it's own business. Satisfied, I returned to my study and my junk food. The magpie began loudly warbling.
Soon I was surrounded by half a dozen magpies making menacing advances. I am not easily riled, but I have to say that being thus unfairly outnumbered I was positively livid. I began remonstrating with this gang in no uncertain terms, waving my hands about for emphasis. Which is how a nearby kookaburra, evidently watching proceedings with interest, came to see it's opportunity. It swooped into the now crowded picnic shelter, plucked the greasy piece of fried chicken from my hand, and sailed upward into the treetops to savour it's prize.
I like cities. I like slate paving stones, generous blocks of sandstone and granite, the odd bit of marble, and some concrete and glass if you must. I like street corners that have crossing lights, socialists, scientologists, and schizophrenics. I like wildlife — well, pigeons and rats — to be suitably circumspect and skittish when going about their business. The sooner we get this place comprehensively paved and fitted out with newsagents, railway stations, pubs, banks, dirty book shops, and cheerfully cheap asian eateries with plastic furniture, the better.
This week, I have been mostly reading:
- Psychologists Throw Open The “File Drawer” — Neuroskeptic:
Now, a group of Belgian psychology researchers have decided to make a stand. In a bold move against publication bias, they’ve thrown open their own file drawer. In the new paper, Anthony Lane and colleagues from the Université catholique de Louvain say that they’ve realized that over the years, “our publication portfolio has become less and less representative of our actual findings”. Therefore, they “decided to get these [unpublished] studies out of our drawer and encourage other laboratories to do the same.”
- Insanity — xkcd:
- Reform School — Malcolm Harris at The New Inquiry reviews Schools on Trial, by Nikhil Goyal:
In 1837, Horace Mann, the founder of American compulsory education, established the Massachusetts Board of Education, the first such agency and one which would become the model for the nation. But Mann didn’t want a more intellectually engaged population—literacy in the state already stood at 99 percent. Social control was a serious concern for Western elites after a series of failed revolutions, and Mann was very impressed by the system he saw on a visit to Prussia. He returned with a plan for public education. “Compulsory schooling evangelists,” Goyal writes, “which included many industrialists and financiers, in fact, wanted to ‘dumb down’ the American population to create docile followers, not potentially troublesome freethinkers who questioned authority.”
- Trade Treaty Propaganda Goes Into High Gear — Dean Baker, CEPR:
As far as the protectionism in the TPP, the deal is quite explicitly about increasing the length and strength of patent and copyright protection. Yes, that is "protection" as in "protectionism." Patent and copyright protection do serve a purpose in providing an incentive for innovation and creative work, but all forms of protection serve a purpose. The question that serious people ask is whether there is a better way to serve the purpose.
- 'I Love My Label': Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech — Audrey Watters:
As someone who works outside of academia, without an institutional affiliation, I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be unable to access journal articles. I always get so irked when I hear technology evangelists proclaim “You can learn anything you want on the Internet.” No, you can’t. Huge swaths of knowledge, art, science remain inaccessible; and it’s a loss for scholarship, which need not and does not only happen among those with access to a university research library or with log-in credentials to its online portal. That inaccessibility is a reflection of institutional culture, industry culture, corporate culture, copyright (that is, intellectual property laws), capitalism, and code. That is, when we talk about the future of something like “education technology” or even when we talk about the future of research and scholarship or teaching and learning, we must grapple with issues that are technological, sociological, and above all, ideological.
- The elites hate Momentum and the Corbynites - and I’ll tell you why — David Graeber, providing "opinion" for The Guardian, as opposed to whatever the hell you'd call the utter tripe they normally publish about Corbyn:
I’ve spent much of the past two decades working in movements aimed at creating new forms of bottom-up democracy, from the Global Justice Movement to Occupy Wall Street. It was our strong conviction that real, direct democracy, could never be created inside the structures of government. One had to open up a space outside. The Corbynistas are trying to prove us wrong. Will they be successful? I have absolutely no idea. But I cannot help find it a fascinating historical experiment. […] insofar as politics is a game of personalities, of scandals, foibles and acts of “leadership”, political journalists are not just the referees – in a real sense they are the field on which the game is played. Democratisation would turn them into reporters once again, in much the same way as it would turn politicians into representatives. In either case, it would mark a dramatic decline in personal power and influence. It would mark an equally dramatic rise in power for unions, constituent councils, and local activists – the very people who have rallied to Corbyn’s support.
- The Duncan Smith resignation: fundamentally shifting the economic debate — Neil Schofield:
'I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.' In other words, for the first time a key player in the post-2010 Conservative project has said, almost explicitly, that austerity is a political, not an economic choice. […] In other words, Duncan Smith’s resignation letter – and the events surrounding it – powerfully endorse the fundamental tenet of Jeremy Corbyn’s and John McDonnell’s economic programme: that austerity is a choice, not an economic necessity. It wholly destroys the intellectual underpinning of McDonnell’s opponents in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
- Peak Indifference — Cory Doctorow in Locus Online:
At a certain point, indifference to tobacco’s dangers peaked – long before actual tobacco use peaked. Peak indifference marks a turning point. […] That’s why it’s time for privacy activists to start thinking of new tactics. We are past peak indifference to online surveillance: that means that there will never be a moment after today in which fewer people are alarmed by the costs of surveillance.
- A world war has begun. Break the silence. — John Pilger:
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make "the world free from nuclear weapons". People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president.
- Budget accounting tricks — Simon Wren-Lewis:
One of the problems with fixed date deficit (or in this case surplus) targets is that they encourage playing around with the public finances to hit the target. Generally, but not always, this involves making a saving today by shifting costs into the future. Privatisation is an obvious example. It may be justified if the net present value of the sale is positive, or if privatisation really improves efficiency, but all to [sic] often it is a device to meet a short term target.Although a New Keynesian (Wren-Lewis will when pressed admit he subscribes to the superstition of "sound finance"), he makes a good point here. i.e. that, just as in the popular bugaboo where public deficits can be run up by unscrupulous pollies who "buy votes", those same unscrupulous pollies are more likely in the current neoliberal environment to buy a reputation as good economic managers by using fire sales of public assets (usually a bad thing) to hide deficits (rarely a bad thing).
- Get ready for a recession by 2017 — Steve Keen in the Australian:
Whichever party is in opposition at the time will blame the incumbent, but in reality this recession has been set up by the sidestep both parties have used to avoid downturns for the past quarter century: whenever a crisis has loomed, they’ve avoided recession by encouraging the private sector to borrow and spend. […] Australia’s most famous recession sidestep was during the GFC, when it was one of only two countries in the OECD to avoid experiencing two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth (the other country was South Korea). Since then, the private sectors of the advanced countries have collectively de-levered, reducing their debt levels from about 170 to 160 per cent of GDP. Australia, in stark contrast, has levered up.
- Tony Blair's spin unspun: how his claims compare with the Chilcot report — Andy McSmith, The Independent:
Mr Blair has claimed that he was promising the Americans his support as a way of influencing Washington’s decision making and getting them to seek United Nations approval before acting. Taking questions from journalists, he asserted that his support was not “unconditional”. But the opening words of that July note [to Bush] – “I will be with you, whatever” – do sound unconditional.
- I read the Chilcot report as I travelled across Syria this week and saw for myself what Blair's actions caused — Robert Fisk, The Independent:
When Blair can say, as he did the moment the Chilcot report was published, that it should “lay to rest allegations [sic] of bad faith, lies and deceit” – without a revolution in the streets against his bad faith, lies and deceit – then you can be sure that his successors will have no hesitation in swindling the public again and again. After all, what’s the difference between Iraqi WMDs that don’t exist, 45-minute warnings that are falsities, 70,000 non-existent Syrian “moderates” and a fictitious NHS windfall of millions if Britain left the European Union?
- To Save The Economy, We Have To Break Its One Sacred Rule — Jason Hickel, Co.Exist:
As soon as we start focusing on GDP growth, we’re not only promoting the things that GDP measures, we’re promoting the indefinite increase of those things. And that’s exactly what we started to do in the 1960s. GDP was adopted during the Cold War for the sake of adjudicating the grand pissing match between the West and the USSR. Suddenly, politicians on both sides became feverish about promoting GDP growth. GDP growth became a sacred rule. And we remain in thrall to it today.
- Mocked and forgotten: who will speak for the American white working class? — Chris Arnade in The Guardian:
America, and particularly the white working class, is dealing with a drug epidemic that is killing more people each year at a startling rate. Just in the past decade deaths from drugs has doubled. The National Review sees it as another sign of the flawed character of the poor. This is a common and moralistic trope those battling an addiction have long dealt with – that it is all the fault of their weakness. The reality is often far more complex. Addiction thrives in societies undergoing stress.
- Stopping Deflation? Dead Easy. So Why Isn’t It Being Done? — Ian Welsh:
If you let fixed costs have inflation above income increases, then everything else is going to have to suffer deflation, because it is discretionary. Gotta eat and have a warm place to sleep, first.
- The Tory leadership election is a sort of X Factor for choosing the antichrist — Frankie Boyle in the otherwise disgraceful, paper of choice for the discerning New Labour war criminal, The Guardian:
[The Parliamentary Labour Party] say they need a leader who knows how to oppose, albeit primarily their own party membership. The idea is that Corbyn is unelectable, and it’s just one of life’s sad ironies that none of the people who believe this will be able to beat him in an election. […] One of the PLP’s main worries will be that Labour’s vote will crumble to Ukip under Corbyn, who won’t produce enough racist mugs and mouse mats to reassure everybody. And, to be fair, it must be galling to a party that invaded Iraq, rendered Libyans to be tortured by Gaddafi and detained asylum seekers with Dickensian cruelty to lose voters on the race issue.
There is nothing so futile as speaking truth to bureacracy, but here I go again:
Walk into any "Job Services" provider and look at the services they actually provide. There are posters on the wall telling young people to dress smartly; men to polish their shoes and women to go easy on the make-up. Does anybody seriously believe that persistent, widespread unemployment is to any significant degree caused by an epidemic of poor fashion sense?
The huge parasitic industry that has been peddling such fatuous advice since the abolition of the Commonwealth Employment Service is designed to police, punish, and brainwash the unemployed into destitution and subservience.
The federal government could eliminate all unemployment in a matter of months, if not weeks, were we to demand they do so. The government's 1945 White Paper on Full Employment declared that "governments should accept the responsibility for stimulating spending on goods and services to the extent necessary to sustain full employment. To prevent the waste of resources which results from employment is the first and greatest step to higher living standards." The policies proposed in that paper worked, at least until the monetarists used the opportunity of the OPEC oil crisis to take control of the public debate and ransack everything that had been achieved.
You cannot train away the unemployment and underemployment of about a fifth of the working age population. There is useful work to do and people to do it. Refusal to mobilise the resources to put people to work is nothing but class warfare.