the post-racist society vs. donald j. trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/08/2017 - 3:10pm in

The central tragedy of America is the treatment of non-whites. From Indian wars, to slavery, to segregation, to internment camps, to deportations, to Guantanamo, American society has often betrayed its ideals. But the American story is also one of progress, not stagnation. From time to time, change does happen and it is good.

In my eye, one of the biggest transformations of American society was the de-legitimization of racism in the 1960s. Following a century of eugenics, Jim Crow and all other manner affront to human dignity, the Civil Rights movement managed to create one of the first modern societies where racism began to lose its legitimacy. Not only did African-Americans have their rights returned to them, but the culture around race started to shift as well. For the first time, it was no longer appropriate for public figures to openly disparage American blacks, and many other groups as well.

A while ago I called this new culture “the post-racist society.” Not because I believed race or racism were gone. But rather overt racism was illegitimate. You could be racist, but it had to be expressed in dog whistle politics. It was a submerged belief in the mainstream of American life. My belief in the post-racist society was initially shaken by the rise of Trump. For the first time in decades, a serious contender for the presidency was openly racist. My belief was shaken once again when he won.

But later, as I surveyed the evidence on how Trump rose to power, I realized that the death of post-racist society was greatly exaggerated. For example, Trump won on an electoral college fluke, not because a new nationalist majority propelled him to power. Another key piece evidence. Estimates of the GOP primary vote indicate that 55% of GOP voters preferred someone other than Trump (see the wiki for the basic data). Yes, there is a nationalist and racist strand within the the GOP and Trump essentially dominated that vote. But a causal reading of the GOP primary map shows that Cruz dominated the mountain states and split the Midwest. If you look at the vote tallies in many early states, Trump was winning with vote totals in the low 30% range. Not exactly a resounding victory.

After entering office, there has been no groundswell of nationalism or racism in this country. For example, approval ratings for Trump have been horrid and have sunk to historic lows. Obama’s approval barely dipped below 40% in the Gallup polls but Trump’s is already in the 30% range and has stayed there. Trump is not riding a giant groundswell of nationalism or expressing the outrage of a working class left behind. Rather, he’s an electoral accident propped up by the most recalcitrant elements of the Republican party.

Trump’s limited support in the American polity raises some interesting questions. If only 35% of people approve of Trump (mainly racists and loyal Republicans), then what is everyone else doing? As with many political things, a lot of people have sat out. But we are seeing other parts of the political system slowly respond to Trump.

Perhaps the most insightful example is Trump’s statement that he would ban transgendered individuals from the armed services. The response? The military essentially just ignored him. Just think about that. Another example – after Trump’s statements about the murder of a protester in Charlottesville, conservative GOP senators slowly criticized him and CEO’s started resigning from key committees. Then, of course, there is the disintegration of the GOP consensus in the Senate.

There is the usual resistance from the left that accompanies any Republican administration. I am sure that the events in Charlottesville will continue to mobilize people and surely Trump will offer the left more to be appalled at. His actions will likely sustain the groups behind the Women’s march and the march for science, as well as Obama era groups like Black Lives Matter. And of course, white supremacy groups have seen Trump’s election as a chance to come out of the wood works, which will trigger push back from the left.

One might attribute Republican softness and left resistance to Trumpian incompetence. Perhaps it wouldn’t exist with a more smooth, but equally racist, Republican politician. Maybe. But here’s another hypothesis – people in general aren’t ready to completely ready to ditch the post-Civil Rights cultural agenda. Segregation is not on the table and popular culture has not reverted to a stage where racial slurs are permissible. Black face is not on TV and will not be any time in the near future. We live in the world of Get Out, not Birth of a Nation.

So when white nationalist politicians, like Steve King or Trump, emerge in the GOP, they reflect the will of a sizable, yet limited, constituency. But that group is big enough to win elections in some rural areas, like Arizona or Iowa, and enough to push through a candidate in a split field. At the same time, it doesn’t indicate a slide back to the middle ages.

Does that mean that people should “just relax?” No. Rather, it means that it is possible to defend the post-Civil Rights social order. It is there and it is, haphazardly, pushing back. We need to do what we can to help it out. It’s hard, but it has to be done.

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The future of the mixed economy and fair markets is dependent upon tax justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/08/2017 - 5:50pm in

I made a comment during my Edinburgh talk yesterday that attracted some attention. What I said was that in a seminar of accountants and others earlier this year I had suggested to the assembled company that I was the biggest supporter of free markets in the room despite almost certainly being the most left wing person present. This required some explanation.

The first point I made clear is that I know of no one who has any serious political pretensions in the UK who is arguing for the abolition of the private sector. The fact is that right across the political spectrum there is agreement that there will be a mixed economy. The right want it very much more unmixed than the left, but there is no threat to the private sector’s survival. In that case the question that must be asked is how that activity is to be regulated.

And regulated it must be. As anyone who knows the slightest thing about market theory will be aware, it suggests there are some quite strict conditions that must be met if markets are to be what an economist might term efficient in allocating resources appropriately. These conditions include the absence of large market players who can dominate sectors and set prices; the availability of consistent and accurate information on the activity of all market participants to all who wish to engage in the market; access to capital for all who want to supply so that they have the chance of doing so and, of course, an absence of systemic bias that might favour any one participant over another, so giving them an unfair advantage.

As I pointed out, this may be what is required but it is not what we get. What we get is very different. We get enormous players who use monopoly to squeeze out competition. We get tax havens that some companies can use to provide secrecy on their activities. We get hopelessly biased capital markets horribly skewed in favour of big business. And we get tax cheating through the international tax system that biases enormously against new, nationally based and smaller companies.

What we also get is a business lobby dedicated to preserving these massive inefficiencies that they suggest are part of free market culture when they are the exact opposite. There is no better example than the Big Four accountants work in tax havens. Only available to the wealthiest individuals and largest companies this activity seeks to hide monopoly profit from tax behind a veil of secrecy that utterly distorts markets in favour of those already with an unfair competitive advantage in a way that can only increase inequality whilst destroying the opportunity for new market entrants. Their role is, in other words, intended to undermine free markets and not promote them. And it has to be said that they have been very good at doing this: as anti-market capitalists they probably have no peers. If they had instead been working in football the outcome would be that all the largest clubs would now play with fifteen a side and the smallest with seven, whilst the pitch would tilt heavily one way with the smaller club playing ninety per cent of the match at the lower end.

I then put tax justice into this scenario. We have sought regulation on monopoly to end its abuses. We have demanded that all companies and trusts, wherever they are, account for what they do on public record to make sure there is a level playing field in data. And we have challenged international tax abuse because it so undermines market fairness. Or to out it another way, we’ve sought to have a game where both sides have eleven players, transfer markets aren’t rigged for a few, the pitch is even and the halves are if equal length. The aim has been to make markets work and because this is not the natural outcome (as we have all too readily seen) we want regulation to achieve this goal instead.

So who are the true supporters of real free markets here? I would very obviously say it is the left and tax justice, whilst the right, and it’s tax haven supporters, are the arch-enemies of free markets.

I think the audience got the point. It’s a pretty important one to make because what it says is that future of the mixed economy that embraces the proper role of the private sector  is dependent upon the success of tax justice.

The Politics of Risk, Audit and Regulation – A Case Study of HBOS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/08/2017 - 3:54pm in

I’m pleased to share the following guest post by my friend Professor Atul Shah on his new book, out this week:

The Politics of Risk, Audit and Regulation – A Case Study of HBOS

The modern industry and professions of accounting and finance have gone awry. Greed continues to eat culture and ethics for lunch. Institutions with their gleaming towers and global brand names are finding ever more sophisticated ways of exploiting people, corporations and governments. Rules are used so they can be broken by skilled lawyers, bankers and accountants. Gaps are actively cultivated and exploited, without any conscience. Professions are busy legitimating this conduct and behaviour, even promoting it and exploiting it for their own profit. The City of London is now widely regarded as the harbinger of such evil, and the evidence is littered all around us, from tax avoidance and offshore secrecy, to banking and audit frauds which continue uninhibited. Mis-selling is not an aberration but a norm – firms just have to find ways of not getting caught doing it, using the rules and regulations to defend their actions. People directly involved in these decisions and actions never get caught or prosecuted, even after billions have been paid out by government rescues. Its white-collar fraud, disguised as cleverness.

My latest book on the HBOS failure, the largest corporate collapse ever in British history, microscopically exposes the above truths, by looking in detail at the leaders, the auditors, and the regulators – and the ideology which drove them. Author of the book on RBS failure, Ian Fraser, wrote the forward. It has detailed chapters on each of these themes, based on independent and objective research which also interviewed the HBOS whistle-blower Paul Moore who was fired in 2004. The fifth largest UK banking juggernaut, licenced by the state, was too powerful for anyone, including the regulators, to raise uncomfortable questions. A small number of people including the CEO and the Chairman colluded in bringing a several hundred years old institution to its knees in seven years. Investors rode the gravy train as they did not look behind the numbers, nor did they penalise the bad culture and hubris early on. The politics and revolving doors which sustained the misrepresentation are staggering, and deserve the fullest exposure to concerned students and defrauded customers. The book helps readers to understand that real finance is not about smart investment decisions and prudent risk management taught in the classroom, but about greed, deceit, accounting lies and investor bribery through dividends and share buy-backs. The City of London acts as a hub of collusion where people can become anonymous when they choose to, and pocket the profits long before anyone really discovers what was really done and who was behind it.

The book goes further than blaming people, to analysing the theory and ideology which sustains and even promotes this kind of behaviour and corruption. If politics is so critical, how come it is not taught in finance, nor discussed in the research theories and papers? If the truth is inter-disciplinary, how come researchers in finance create sharp intellectual boundaries for their discipline, and rarely engage with scholars outside their discipline? If the accounting profession is keen to defend its ethics and independence, how come it does not prosecute the biggest culprits which are so conflicted by their supermarket of services that they are driven primarily by profits and fees and do not deserve to be called professionals? These are the uncomfortable questions explored in the book, pointing to a massive reform of finance teaching and education, so that in time the culture and institutions of finance may be reformed. At present, culture and ethics are outside the finance syllabus, and whole PhD’s are granted without any mention of these. No wonder even the regulator the FCA tried to avoid a culture review of banking, even after Parliament demanded it so vehemently.

Reading the book will reveal to you how culture and ethics were destroyed at HBOS, and the ideology and false theories which helped to sustain this hubris. It will also show that specialisation into disciplines and sub-disciplines, especially in business, has major drawbacks. Experts can use the complexity and jargon to get away scot-free and to also protect their territory and expertise, profiting along the way. It raises major questions about what it is that drives the big professional firms, and the limits of their public interest and accountability. The story of HBOS weaves the tapestry of the City of London and its corridors of power and secrecy which really run British finance today. If only this behaviour were to Brexit, we would all be better for it. But there is no sign of it. And accountants and bankers still lie at the heart of this business. All this shows how urgently we need wisdom in finance, which was explained in my earlier book on Ethical Finance.

Atul K. Shah is Professor of Accounting and Finance at the University of Suffolk. The book is published by Routledge and available now.

The conceptual difficulties with wealth taxation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/08/2017 - 5:48pm in


Economics, Ethics

I mentioned  some particular answers to the problem of taxing wealth yesterday which had something in common. This was that all were transaction based. They were not, as a result, pure wealth taxes as such. This point is important, even if a little technical but is key to wealth (and other) tax design.

To understand this it has to be appreciated that the vast majority of taxes are levied on transactions. This is obviously true in the case of indirect taxes, such as value added tax. There a sale takes place and a tax is charged at that moment. The link is obvious.

But the link is almost as obvious in so called direct taxes. A sale subject to a direct tax takes place. It automatically gives rise to a potential tax liability, subject to whether or not allowable costs have been incurred to offset the income arising. The complication is no more than that: instead of the tax due being decided by a single event it is decided by two or more (or the aggregate of many thousands upon thousands) of events. But in fact those events have something totally in common with the event that gave rise to the indirect tax charge. A boundary was crossed: possession of goods or services changed hands and a potential tax liability was triggered as a result.

And the simple fact is that the vast majority of taxes are charged when title to goods or services changes hands. This is why, in my mind, there is little conceptual difference between direct and indirect taxes: both are in fact transaction based. All that differs is the degree of aggregation of those transactions before a liability is calculated. This, when understood, has profound consequences for tax design in my opinion. It does, for instance, mean that profit is a virtually meaningless concept in taxation, but the discussion of that is for another day. The point for now is that true wealth taxes are exceptions to this general rule of taxation because they are not transaction based.

Compare, for example, a land value tax (LVT)and the current English and Welsh council tax. To some degree (albeit approximately, and poorly at that) the council tax is a transaction tax. It has implicit within it a charge. That is why, for example, it is capped. There can be no other justification for that. LVT on the other hand has no such constraint. It is a tax on wealth. It does, therefore, impose a tax on the rental value of the undeveloped land i.e. the pure wealth element of ownership. And it does so without consideration as to whether or not the value has been realised. In other words, value can be assessed to tax without any transaction having arisen.

This is exceptional. A wealth tax is also exceptional for the same reason. Inheritance tax is charged on a transfer of title. It may be imperfect but it is quite clear why liability exists: the benefit of property has changed hands. But in a pure wealth tax that need not be the case. Possession of title, and not its transfer, is the basis of charge.

Indisputably this gives rise to conceptual difficulty in charging any such tax. One of course is how to atrribute value, although in practice this is rarely insurmountable. Another is how to reconcile the difficulty of having possession of title but incapacity to pay; i.e. how to address the liquidity issues such a tax can gI’ve rise to. But again, if roll up is permitted until title passes then this is, again, rarely insurmountable. So these are not the reasons for the conceptual difficulty. That lies in the fact that implicit in these charges is something much more philosophically difficult, and challenging, in assessing such changes because what they represent, in my opinion, is a tax on what might best be called economic deviance.

This is not a term widely used. Indeed, deviance is not a term generally used in economics, although quite familiar in sociology and other social sciences. Without wishing to discuss the theoretical derivation of this idea here, let me instead suggest what it means. Assuming any wealth tax is progressive (and I presume even an LVT would have that intention) then what is implicit in the charge is a belief that there is a sufficient, or normal level of wealth that will not just adequately, but quite possibly more than adequately, sustain a person in the society of which they are a member. It is then assumed that increasingly significant deviation from this norm then imposes a number of costs on society that are in need of correction through the tax system.

One such cost arises from the  control that significant wealth may create, which control may challenge the norm upon which society is constructed. This is particularly relevant in a democracy where the principle of each person  having value in their own right is implicit in the structure of society. When a peson’s control of wealth threatens this principle of broadly equivalent (and I stress the latitude that society appears to tolerate within that broad equivalence) personal value a wealth tax addresses the externalities that the deviation from the norm that a person’s wealth represents in terms of the restrictions that it might impose on others might create.

The second significant deviation is in cost. This cost arises in a number of ways. One is in terms of cost of capital: it is very clear that the person already in possession of fortune has a lower cost of capital than the one a person without capital will suffer. This is very obviously an externality  needing price correction.

Another is in terms of rate of return: in the modern, imperfect, economy rates of return to those with significant wealth have been much higher than those to people of lesser wealth because of tax abuse, market control through exercise of monopoly power and other reasons. A wealth tax corrects for that.

Next, there is an opportunity cost. As Brooke Harrington has explained in her book Capital Without Borders, a characteristic of modern capital accumulation has been it’s extreme risk aversion, which is a trait accentuated by the role of professional trustees and risk managers in the management of many modern portfolios. This has reduced the amount of capital exposed to entrepreneurial activity, with implications all too obvious in the world economy where, as I suggested in my book Dirty Secrets, this risk aversion is killing capitalism from within.

And perhaps last for now (although I am very open to persuasion that there are issues I have not listed) is the fact that those with wealth have, come what may, lower marginal propensities to consume meaning that society cannot be indifferent to the distribution of wealth beyond certain limits if it is interested in maximising well-being.

Put these together and personal wealth beyond a certain point does, precisely because of its deviance from the norm as established by the majority of the population, challenge collective well-being. It is this deviance that does, then, justify the tax charge in itself, and on a progressive scale in particular.

That said, the charge is not trying to necessarily elminate the deviance, but to reduce it. And precisely because the deviance is measured as being at a level where the wealth holdings is not necessary for the enjoyment of a high level of well-being then the liquidity issue can be assumed in many cases to be capable of being ignored: capital disposal to fund the tax payment (or, alternatively, to make settlement in kind) is an outcome considered acceptable within the parameters set by society. A progressive charge that is sufficient to maintain an orderly  market for capital realisation is obviously desirable in this situation: the possibility of suggesting optimal rates with this in mind is not hard to imagine.

There is, however, an inherent cause of conflict in this suggestion. It would seem that some who own what may be considered by the majority to be deviant levels of wealth are often unaware of that fact (as are most of those on very high earnings also usually apparently unaware of their good fortune). In other words, they do not share the perception of deviance. Alternatively, there are others who appreciate that the deviance exists but who are more than happy to justify it: it is their argument that society is dependent upon their aberrational wealth to provide the capital that it requires and that to destabilise this relationship would be to destroy the value on which society is built. In particular they argue that a majority cannot use democracy to impose their will to tax on  a minority who happen to be in possession of a fortune because that imposes a tyranny of taxation to which the consent of the owners of wealth has not been given.

Implicit in this difference of view is a prescription for conflict that is hard to avoid. This brings up the question as to why this has not been an issue of concern to date. Wealth taxation has, to date, been difficult for two reasons. One has been the practical problem of simply seeking to locate wealth that could until now all too readily, and at a moment’s notice, be relocated to a secrecy jurisidiction, never to be reliably traced again. That problem has now been tackled: automatic information exchange from tax havens is the beginning of the end for this abuse which will, no doubt, become progressively harder to undertake over the next few years as these systems become a familiar part of the tax landscape. The old conflict, between the tax authority and the owner of wealth to simply locate the assets to be taxed is going to be won by tax authorities.

But with that practical problem solved the conceptual issue of justifying the wealth tax charge becomes more readily apparent. I believe this impossible without a theory of deviance and resulting costs requiring correction by taxation. But that requires a clear ethical justification. This has to be human rights based. But it also has to be readily explicable to those not well versed in philosophy and ethics, and that means that a concept of fairness has to be use to underpin this. But that is not a fairness based on jealousy, because that is not an ethic at all. Instead it has to be based on positive regard. Such a principle is, thankfully readily available, and is that of treating others with the regard one would expect from those dealing with you. This principle, found in all major wisdom traditions as well  as Enlighemment thinking, has within it the principle  of reciprocity that can underpin the concept of deviance implicit in the basis of taxation of wealth that I suggest. But, and this is most important, that needs clear explanation and a robust defence to the challenge that far-right groups are used to bringing to all such debates.

Wealth taxation is essential if the challenges our world faces are to be addressed. And I think it fair to flag up that the transaction based approaches I suggested yesterday are a necessary first step. But that means that the actual intellectual challenge of developing real wealth taxation has to follow on from them, and that requires new undertsanding that’s a long way from being available off the shelf right now.

How Society Creates Ability

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 5:23pm in

Let’s start with biological sex and the differences between men and women.

There are obvious differences, in size and upper body strength. There are large differences in some of the senses, such as taste and smell (women tend to be far more acute).

Other differences appear biological, but this is not as clear cut as it seems, because socialization feeds into biology.

A simple example is that people raised under constant stress have differences in their brains from people who aren’t raised under constant stress.

So let’s take a simple claim: Men are better at math. Seems straightforward, quite robust, but it turns out that in Iceland, which is very egalitarian, young women are now outperforming young men.

There is a well-known effect in the social sciences that runs as follows: People who feel inferior, perform worse. This is quite robust. Tell someone they suck, or that they are lower on the totem pole, and they will do worse by pretty much every metric.

So, if you live in a society where men are widely considered superior to women (and let’s not pretend our societies aren’t like this), then that will have an effect. If this goes on as people grow up, it’s unlikely that this effect won’t get baked into brain and body.

Take another standard observation: Women are more prone to anxiety and neuroticism.

The problem with this is that women live in societies where they are less powerful than men, have less money, and are less violently proficient, when violence is often used as coercion.

Put more brutally: They live amongst a bunch of potential rapists who are larger and stronger than them.

So, they’re under constant stress, a point which I don’t think many men truly understand. That constant fear has effects on the brain and body; again, if you’re constantly exposed to stress, you actually become more sensitive to it.

The point here is that it is very hard to determine what is “natural” and what is “social.” We can say, “This is natural in this sort of society,” but that can’t be used as a reason not to change society.

What we do know, I hope, is that it sucks to be scared and it sucks to be told you’re inferior, and that underperforming not because you are inferior but because you’ve been told you are, is unfair and a stupid way for us to run our society.

This feeds into a lot of different things, but the simplest is the misunderstanding of fitness to mean “winning in the current scheme.”

IQ correlates well to success in our society, so we say, “They’re smarter, they deserve success.” But IQ correlates well to success in society because it correlates to two things: (1) academic success, which gates almost all the good jobs in our lives, and; (2) verbal and cultural fluency in the dominant culture, which are necessary to get ahead as well.

In other words, we’ve created a society which says, “If you have a high IQ, we will let you have good jobs.” Well yes, that’s how we made it, it’s not independent. (The getting along with the dominant culture may always be with us, but that doesn’t mean we should always approve of it as a necessity, nor try not to mitigate it.)

Fitness, in racial terms, is actually about being able to survive changes in the environment. Fit species are diverse, and able to adapt, and if a species loses diversity, it is less likely to survive changes.

Much of our environment, as humans, is social. But society changes. The cluster of skills which make up IQ weren’t always highly valued, rather the contrary. Brave-to-the-point-of-insanity dunderheads were what many feudal and aristocratic societies wanted (reading 19th century British colonial military biographies makes this clear). Right now, geeks rule, but when I was growing up they sure as heck didn’t (and their rule, today, is somewhat exaggerated).

These periods come and go. There was a time in the 19th and early 20th century when geeks (actual engineers and scientists) did very well, seeming to rule the roost. Edison is a good example. But as the industries they had invented became mature, they were forced out and down. This took time, but basically after about 40 to 80 years, the engineers become nothing but tools of management: The money men and social glad-handers will eventually take over.

What you’re good at is at least 50 percent due to a simple luck of the draw (arguably entirely, as you didn’t choose your parents, and thus when or where you were born). At that point any genetic endowment you may have (innate ability) meets the environment, and the environment has the final say, in almost all cases, about how well that endowment flourishes, and certainly about how well it is rewarded.

Most of what seems like merit, in other words, is luck. If you have it, be grateful. If it’s rewarded, be even more grateful.

And don’t assume you know exactly which is which.

Those who have been lucky, and thus have merit in a society or environment, should recognize their luck, and be humble, knowing how little it had to do with them. And if you want a metric upon which to measure your life, perhaps it could be how much good you have done divided by how much “merit” you have.

By this measure, the rich are rarely worth saving, because as studies show, the poor give more compared to what they have than the rich do.

That fact should be chewed on very carefully.

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The new CBA scandal and the business response (plus, cuckoo smurfing!)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 12:38pm in


Business, Ethics

Smurfing, sans cuckoos …

There’s a weird sort of dissonance in today’s Australian Financial Review.

On the front page, CBA CEO Ian Narev argues that CBA culture is “strong”.

Meanwhile, a detailed Neil Chenoweth feature breaks down how AUSTRAC thinks CBA was regularly breaching the very well-known legal requirement to report all cash transactions above $10,000. AUSTRAC has counted 53,506 breaches, an amount which in technical banking language is known as “a truckload”. Real crooks seem to have been behind a number of these breaches, using techniques such as “cuckoo smurfing“. And six of the breaches related to customers the bank itself had identified as posing terrorism risks.

The most damning aspect of the chronology is how long it took the CBA to react once problems in its systems became clear. The AUSTRAC account suggests that after realising its errors in April 2015, CBA went on failing to report suspicious transfers until January of this year. All this screams “governance failure”.

In The CEO Magazine today I suggest that this latest issue at an already scandal-prone bank poses a challenge to the broader business community. If that community wants its own claims taken seriously, it needs to have something to say about this sort of corporate misbehaviour. In this case, as in many others, that may not be easy, because investigations and legal action tend to be drawn out. But it needs to happen. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

(This and other CEO Magazine columns are here; follow me on Twitter @shorewalker1.)

Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/07/2017 - 11:00pm in

by David William Pear, July 20, 2017, The Real News Network It is all about the oil. Whatever else one hears about Venezuela, it is all about the oil. That is what one needs to know first about why the U.S. Empire has Venezuela under siege. It is about the oil. When President Trump says, “Venezuela is a mess; Venezuela is a mess, we will see what happens”, it is all about the oil. When the U.S. Empire imposes sanctions on Venezuela, it is all about the oil. When the mainstream corporate media (i.e. Fake News) cries crocodile tears about democracy, human rights and political prisoners in Venezuela, it is about the oil. When the U.S. calls into session emergency meeting of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, it is about oil. Venezuela has the largest known reserve of oil in the world, and Venezuela controls its own oil, not international corporations; and it uses its oil for the benefit of its people. The U.S. Empire instead wants to control that oil and …

Heyd Wins EMET Prize

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/07/2017 - 4:27pm in

David Heyd, professor of philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the winner of the 2017 EMET Prize for Art, Science and Culture in the Humanities category.

The EMET Prizes, which are sponsored by the A.M.N. Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Art and Culture in Israel in cooperation with the Prime Minister of Israel, are awarded annually “for excellence in academic and professional achievements that have far reaching influence and significant contribution to society” in five categories—the Exact Sciences, Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities and  Judaism, and Art and Culture. The winners, who must be Israeli citizens or permanent residents, share a prize of $1 million.

The Jerusalem Post, reporting on the award, notes that Professor Heyd is only the second philosopher to have won an EMET Prize:

Heyd is a nationally recognized scholar whose philosophical thoughts have had influence on national medical and legal-medical issues. He has taken an active part in public debates about—and the formation of laws and regulations on—a wide array of bioethical issues. He served as a member of government committees on surrogacy, euthanasia, organ donation and genetic technologies, and was a member of the National Council for Bioethics, Hadassah’s Helsinki committee, the ethics committee of the Israel Association of Fertility and head of the Ethics in Research Committee of the Hebrew University.

Heyd said the hardest question he ever had to answer was whether a child can sue his parents (or any third party) for having been given a wrongful life.

“Let’s say you plan to have a child and you find out that child is going to be born with a problem,” Heyd explained.

“But you are told if you abort that child and wait two years, the next child will be all right. You have the sick child. Can the child say you wronged him by bringing him into the word? What are our duties to future, nonexistent people?” Heyd’s conclusion, which has legal implications: People cannot regret having been born or cannot say not being born in the first place would have been better for them. This is now how the court of Israel rules.

Heyd is careful to admit he does not think philosophers should take the place of scientists and doctors when it comes to making medical decisions.

“I am an expert in moral philosophy, but not morality,” Heyd said.

However, he said having a philosopher at the table for medical ethics discussions provides a set of analytical tools that likely could not be put forth by people less trained in philosophy. Philosophers can map problems and examine possible implications of solutions without being involved in the matter at hand.

Further information here.

David Heyd

The post Heyd Wins EMET Prize appeared first on Daily Nous.

If the Trump gang had self-respect they would quit. But they don’t.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/07/2017 - 3:57pm in

“Bizarre” is too kind a word to describe the interview The New York Times conducted Wednesday with the man squatting in the White House. It was brimful of the narcissism, nastiness, and delusionary nonsense that we have come to expect from Donald J. Trump in his six months pretending to be the best president America has ever had. By […]

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017 - 3:23pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 18/07/2017 - 3:23pm in

I was just in the chemist shop, waiting for a prescription to be filled. I became aware of a customer behind me, asking an assistant if she had anything to help with insomnia. She said she was very, very stressed, and having trouble sleeping. I am not a psychologist (and in fairness nor was the shop assistant), but the lady was clearly not in a happy place, psychologically. So did the shop assistant at least suggest that the customer pop in to see her GP to find out if there was anything they might recommend?

Did she f***. She sold her some f***ing valerian pills!

It's like calling a crisis hotline and being told "It's probably nothing. Have you tried a nice cup of hot chocolate?"

It's bad enough that pharmacists are allowed to sell snake oil from the same shelves as real medicines. In a sane world any pharmacist caught doing this would be instantly deregistered. At the very least, staff should be instructed to err on the side of caution in the case of any ailment with a potential psychological component. The above conversation should have gone something more like this:

"Do you have anything for insomnia?"

"Yes, we do. This is a mild sedative. For anything stronger you'll need to see your doctor, which would be a good idea anyway if it's a persistent problem. And this here is a medieval folk remedy. Might do you some good. Might do you harm. No solid evidence either way. In fact I've no idea why we stock it. Given there's nothing to recommend it beyond uninformed heresay, you'd be a fool to try it."