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RT America’s Lee Camp Raises Questions about Starmer’s Connection to British Deep State

Mike’s put up a number of pieces discussing and criticising Starmer’s demand that Labour MPs abstain on the wretched ‘Spycops’ bill. If passed, this would allow members of the police and security services to commit serious offences while undercover. Twenty Labour MPs initially defied him and voted against it, with several resigning in protest from the shadow cabinet. The Labour whips’ office has also broken party protocol to issue written reprimands to the rebels. If they defy party discipline, they will face a reprimand period of six months, which will be extended to twelve if they continue to break the whip. These letters have also been shared with the parliamentary committee, a group of backbench MPs elected by the parliamentary Labour party and currently dominated by the right. This committee will decide whether or not to inform the rebel MPs’ constituency parties and the NEC. The information could then be considered if an MP seeks reselection in preparation for a general election. As one MP has said, it’s intimidation, pure and simple. And a number of those MPs, who received the letters, are talking to union officials.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/17/starmers-tory-supporting-crackdown-on-his-own-party-makes-him-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities/

Starmer’s conduct shouldn’t really be a surprise. He’s a Blairite, and Blair’s tenure of the Labour leadership was marked by control freakery as he centralised power around himself and his faction away from the party’s ordinary members and grassroots. But Starmer is also very much an establishment figure. He was, after all, the director of public prosecutions. In this video below, comedian and presenter Lee Camp raises important and very provocative questions about Starmer’s connections to the British establishment and the deep state. Camp’s the presenter of a number of shows on RT America, which are deeply critical of the corporate establishment, and American militarism and imperialism. The video’s from their programme, Moment of Clarity. The questions asked about Starmer are those posed by Mac Kennard in an article in The Gray Zone. RT is owned by the Russian state, as it points out on the blurbs for its videos on YouTube. Putin is an authoritarian thug and kleptocrat, who has opposition journalists, politicos, activists and businessmen beaten and killed. But that doesn’t mean that RT’s programmes exposing and criticising western capitalism and imperialism and the corrupt activities and policies of our governments aren’t accurate and justified.

Camp begins the video by explaining how there was a comparable battle in the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as there was in the American Democrat party over Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the presidency. Just as Sanders was opposed by the Democrats’ corporate leadership and smeared as a Communist in a neo-McCarthyite witch hunt, so Jeremy Corbyn – a real progressive – was opposed by the corporatists in the Labour party. He was subjected to the same smears, as well as accusations of anti-Semitism because he supported Palestine. Camp states that there are leaked texts showing that leading figures in the Labour party were actively working to undermine him. Jeremy Corbyn has now gone and been replaced by Keir Starmer, about whom Kennard asks the following questions:

1. why did he meet the head of MI5 for drinks a year after his decision not to prosecute the intelligence agency for its role in torture?

Camp uses the term ‘deep state’ for the secret services, and realises that some of his viewers may be uncomfortable with the term because of its use by Trump. He tries to reassure them that the deep state, and the term itself, existed long before Trump. It’s just something the Orange Generalissimo has latched onto. Camp’s not wrong – the term was used for the network of covert intelligence and state law enforcement and security services long before Trump was elected. Lobster has been using the term for years in its articles exposing their grubby activities. More controversially, Camp believes that the deep state was responsible for the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. JFK was supposedly assassinated because he was about to divulge publicly the deep state’s nefarious activities. This is obviously controversial because the JFK assassination is one of the classic conspiracy theories, and one that many critics of the British and American secret states don’t believe in. It may actually be that JFK really was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone gunman. But Camp’s belief in this conspiracy theory doesn’t on its own disqualify his other allegations and criticisms about the secret state.

2. When and why did Starmer join the Trilateral Commission?

The Trilateral Commission was set up in 1973 by elite banker David Rockefeller as a discussion group to foster greater cooperation between Japan, the US and western Europe. According to Camp, it was really founded to roll back the advances of the hippy era as the corporate elite were horrified that ordinary people were being heard by governments instead of big businessmen. They looked back to the days when President Truman could listen to a couple of businessmen and no-one else. The Commission published a paper, ‘The Crisis of Democracy’, which claimed that democracy was in crisis because too many people were being heard. Ordinary people were making demands and getting them acted upon. This, the Commission decided, was anti-business. They made a series of recommendations themselves, which have since been implemented. These included the demand that the media should be aligned with business interests. Camp states that this doesn’t mean that there is uniformity of opinion amongst the mainstream media. The various media outlets do disagree with each other over policies and politicians. But it does mean that if the media decides that a story doesn’t fit with business interests, it doesn’t get published. The Commission also wanted the universities purged of left-wing progressives. The Commission’s members including such shining examples of humanity and decency as Henry Kissinger and the former director general of US National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

3. What did Starmer discuss with US attorney general Eric Holder when he met him on November 9th, 2011 in Washington D.C.?

Starmer was the director of public prosecutions at the time, and met not just Holder, but also five others from the Department of Justice. This was at the same time the Swedes were trying to extradite Julian Assange of Wikileaks infamy. Except that further leaked documents have shown that the Swedes were prepared to drop the case. But Britain wanted him extradited and tried, and successfully put pressure on the Swedes to do just that.

4. Why did Starmer develop such a close relationship with the Times newspaper?

Starmer held social gatherings with the Times’ staff, which is remarkable, as Camp points out, because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch like Fox News in America.

Camp goes on to conclude that, at the very least, this all shows that Starmer is very much a member of the corporate establishment, and that the deep state has been working to assure that same corporate elite that he’s safe, just as they worked to reassure Wall Street about Obama. At the time Obama had only been senator for a couple of years, but nevertheless he succeeded in getting a meeting with a former treasury secretary. But now the corporate establishment in the Democrats and the Labour party has won. Jeremy Corbyn has been ousted and replaced with Starmer, while Sanders can’t even get a platform with the Democrats. This is because the Democrats have surrendered the platform to the Republicans because Trump contradicts himself so much they just can’t follow him.

While these are just questions and speculation, they do strongly indicate that Starmer is very much part of the establishment and has their interests at heart, not those of the traditional Labour party. His closeness to the Times shows just why he was willing to write articles for the Tory press behind paywalls. His role in the British state’s attempt to extradite Julian Assange and meetings with Holder also show why Starmer’s so determined not to oppose the ‘spycops’ bill. He is very much part of the British state establishment, and sees it has his role and duty to protect it and its secrets, and not the British public from the secret state.

As for the Trilateral Commission, they’re at the heart of any number of dodgy conspiracy theories, including those claiming that the American government has made covert pacts with evil aliens from Zeta Reticuli. However, as Camp says, his membership of the Commission does indeed show that he is very much a member of the global corporate elite. An elite that wanted to reduce democracy in order to promote the interests of big business.

As a corporate, establishment figure, Starmer very definitely should not be the head of a party founded to represent and defend ordinary people against exploitation and deprivation by business and the state. Dissatisfaction with his leadership inside the Labour party is growing. Hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s ousted in his turn, and the leadership taken by someone who genuinely represents the party, its history and its real mission to work for Britain’s working people.

The inner Groupthink camp is breaking up – paradigm shift continues

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/09/2020 - 1:11pm in

Tags 

Economics, Japan

Last week, there were some rather significant shifts in the public discourse surrounding macroeconomic policy and challenges made to the orthodox economics taboos that have been used to prevent governments from acting in the best interest of the citizens. First, the Australian treasurer broke away from the government’s previous obsession with fiscal surplus pursuit to announce that for the foreseeable future it was only going to concentrate on jobs and growth. In his statement, he basically refuted all the mainstream macroeconomic claims about fiscal deficits – higher interest rates, lower private investment, lower growth, lower private sector confidence etc. There is really nothing left of the mainstream position now and any politician or economist that tries to resurrect the ‘debt and deficit’ narratives of the past will find it hard gaining the same politician traction that they were able to garner some years ago at the height of the neoliberal period. And, if that was not enough, a former Federal treasurer attacked the ‘high priests’ of the central bank, demanding they buy up government bonds and help the government run “Mountainous” deficits to achieve full employment. The flood gates opened just a bit more after those interventions along the way to jettisoning all the mainstream nonsense that should have been abandoned decades ago.

I saw this headline last week in the UK Guardian (September 24, 2020) and tweeted accordingly.

We haven’t seen anything like this for years.

And remember this is a conservative Liberal government in Australia that is now abandoning the ‘deficit and debt hysteria’.

On September 24, 2020, the Federal Treasurer said in a – Speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce – in Canberra that:

Under the previous strategy our plan was to deliver budget surpluses of sufficient size to significantly reduce gross debt and eliminate net debt by the end of the medium term.

Unfortunately, in the face of this shock, this is no longer the prudent or appropriate course of action.

It would now be damaging to the economy and unrealistic to target surpluses over the forward estimates — given what this would require us to do in terms of significant increases in taxes and large cuts to essential services.

This would risk undermining the economic recovery we need to bring hundreds of thousands more Australians back to work and to underpin a stronger medium-term fiscal position.

It is getting Australians back to work and having profitable businesses hiring and investing that offers the greatest leverage in repairing the budget …

The first phase of our revised fiscal strategy is focused sharply on boosting business and consumer confidence and promoting jobs and growth throughout the economy …

… we will maintain our central focus on jobs and growth, combined with structural reforms that increase our economy’s potential …

Only through repairing the economy can we repair the Budget.

While the terminology is marginally problematic (for example, ‘repair’), this signals the end of the narratives we heard during, for example, the GFC.

The import of what the Treasurer is now saying:

1. Spending growth equals real output growth when there is idle capacity.

The IMF narratives of the ‘fiscal contraction expansion’ and ‘growth friendly austerity’ is categorically rejected by the Treasurer’s framing.

You cannot get growth without spending increasing.

2. When non-government spending is insufficient to maintain employment growth then there is only one game left in town – increased government spending.

3. The neoliberal lie that governments do not create jobs only markets do – is categorically rejected.

The Treasurer now admits that increasing the deficit is essential to “bring hundreds of thousands more Australians back to work”.

4. The mainstream economics claim that rising fiscal deficits drive up interest rates and ‘crowd out’ private investment is categorically rejected.

The Treasurer now admits the rising deficits are essential to “having profitable businesses hiring and investing”. In other words, rising deficits can crowd in private spending including business investment.

A far cry from the sort of rubbish that is taught in most undergraduate economics programs about loanable funds and crowding out.

Any time that you hear or read an economist say or write that fiscal deficits drive up interest rates and damage private investment you can conclude they are lying – deliberately or through ignorance.

5. The mainstream claims, characterised by the Ricardian equivalence proposition, that private firms and households undermine the expansionary impact of fiscal deficits by increasing saving to ensure they can pay for so-called future tax increases, is categorically rejected.

The Treasurer has acknowledged that one the positive impacts of abandoning the obsession with fiscal surpluses – “our revised fiscal strategy” – is to boost “business and consumer confidence”, which will promote jobs and private spending growth.

The exact opposite of what the mainstream try to claim is the reality.

6. The mainstream claims that you have to indulge in fiscal contraction/austerity first to provide for the conditions that improve the economic performance is categorically rejected.

The Treasurer notes that you get the economy right and the fiscal position will then take care of itself and withdrawing stimulus initiatives are appropriate.

The goal of fiscal policy is not to achieve some particular number but to support the non-government sector spending and saving decisions.

The Treasurer has finally conceded that context matters. The only way we can make sense of any particular fiscal position is to understand the strength of the non-government sector (including the external sector) and overall spending strength that is required to maintain full employment.

The fiscal position should be whatever is necessary in that context.

The neoliberal period has perverted that essential understanding, and, instead, diverted our focus to meaningless obsessions with particular fiscal outcomes, for which the government really cannot control anyway.

Remember, that the final fiscal outcome in any period is the product of the discretionary fiscal choices made by government (spending and tax parameters) and the spending and saving decisions of the non-government sector.

The latter drive overall activity and influence the fiscal outcome via the cyclical impacts on tax revenue and welfare spending

So, after the Treasurers concessions, what is left of the mainstream treatment of government fiscal policy?

Answer: Zip!

Any politician or economist that tries to resurrect the ‘debt and deficit’ narratives of the past will find it hard gaining the same politician traction that they were able to garner some years ago at the height of the neoliberal period.

They simply will be looked on with curiosity.

Because people will be observing as time passes and the very substantial fiscal deficits persist that all the dread outcomes predicted by my profession do not materialise or come to pass.

They will start to appreciate what we have observed in Japan for 3 decades. That even when fiscal policy parameters are pushed to previously considered limits and beyond the mainstream predictions fail.

We also saw last week another major brick in the neoliberal dam break.

The former Treasurer who became our Prime Minister, Paul Keating issued a letter last week which attacked the RBA for “indolence” and failing its responsibilities.

He was responding to a speech to the AI Group, given by the Deputy Governor of the RBA last Tuesday – The Australian Economy and Monetary Policy.

The AI (Australian Industry) Group is the peak employer organisation for large business in Australia.

Paul Keating – was the Labor Treasurer between 1983 and 1991 (whereupon he usurped Bob Hawke and became Prime Minister).

As Treasurer, he embraced the neoliberal obsessions with privatisation, outsourcing and fiscal austerity. His government ran fiscal surpluses in 1988, 1989 and 1990, before the economy crashed in the early 1990s on the back of the fiscal drag and the high interest rate environment that was pursued as the government and RBA embraced the mainstream monetarist ‘inflation first’ strategy.

When the government admitted the economy was in recession in 1990, after promising a ‘soft landing’, Keating claimed that it was the “recession we had to have”, thereby abandoning all empathy with the workers who had voted for his government.

His track record is thus questionable (in the extreme) and he now appears to be singing from a different song book.

After the Deputy Governor’s speech last week, Keating issued a press statement, which was a scathing attack on the mentality of the central bank – its conservative leanings and failure to use its currency capacity to generate generalised well-being.

The RBA like many central banks around the world has overseen inflation rates well below their lower-bound target range (2 to 3 per cent). So even in their own terms of meeting their inflation targets they have consistently failed over the many years now.

Defenders of the bank are thus on shaky ground if they suggest the RBA is meeting its legislative responsibilities.

And I remind everyone that the Reserve Bank Act 1959, Section 8 empowers the central bank “to buy and sell securities issued by the Commonwealth and other securities”, “to establish credits and give guarantees” and more.

Note also that under Section 10 Functions of the Reserve Bank Board, Clause (2):

It is the duty of the Reserve Bank Board, within the limits of its powers, to ensure that the monetary and banking policy of the Bank is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia and that the powers of the Bank under this Act and any other Act, other than the Payment Systems (Regulation) Act 1998, the Payment Systems and Netting Act 1998 and Part 7.3 of the Corporations Act 2001, are exercised in such a manner as, in the opinion of the Reserve Bank Board, will best contribute to:

(a) the stability of the currency of Australia;

(b) the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and

(c) the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.

In other words, the RBA is required by legislation to maintain full employment with price stability so that all people in Australia are prosperous and secure.

However, the RBA has been significantly influenced by the NAIRU concept and it conducts monetary policy in Australia to meet an openly published inflation target. The persistently high unemployment in Australia over the last 30 years, would suggest that the RBA is not working within its legal charter.

This was more or less the point that Paul Keating made in his press release following the Deputy Governor’s speech, which outlined what the RBA was doing.

But in doing so he went to the heart of one of the mainstream taboos – central bank purchase of government bonds and fiscal deficits.

He seemed to reject all his previous economic rhetoric by writing:

Knowing full well that monetary policy can now no longer add to nominal demand – something that now, only fiscal policy is capable of doing – the Reserve Bank is way behind the curve in supporting the government in its budgetary funding measures …

This is in the context of near zero nominal interest rates.

He continued:

For a moment, it showed some unlikely form in pursuing its 0.25 per cent bond yield target for three-year Treasury bonds and a low-interest facility for banks. But now, after 600,000 superannuation accounts were cleared and closed down, with 500,000 of those belonging to people under 35 – a withdrawal of $35 billion in personal savings, and further demands arising from the employment hiatus in Victoria – the deputy governor of the bank, Guy Debelle, yesterday strolled out with debating points about what further RBA action might be contemplated.

As history has shown, when a real crisis is upon us the RBA is invariably late to the party. And so it is again …

The problem about central banks, and this is true of the Reserve Bank of Australia, it has become a sort of deity, where lesser mortals might inquire, however respectfully, what the exalted priests might be thinking or have in mind for their prosperity or the country at large …

The only difference between the deity and those to be governed is that the governor and his deputies do not wear clerical collars and black suits. But that is the only difference in their comport and attitude.

Deputy governor Guy Debelle’s meandering thoughts yesterday about the bank and monetary policy is way not good enough. Not good enough for those likely to be unemployed.

Not good enough for those who have already lost their retirement savings. Not good enough for a government trying to fund a massive support program for an economy in distress.

And the RBA should “help the government meet the task of full employment”.

How?

And this is a major turning point in our public discourse:

The bank should be explicitly supporting the government so the country does not experience a massive fall in employment – impacting particularly on younger workers – those who have already been obliged to wipe out their superannuation savings to support themselves …

But instead of that, in funding a level of government outlays by buying appropriate levels of government debt and locking it away on its balance sheet, thereby making the government’s funding task much easier and support for the country better, the deputy governor conducts a guessing competition on what incremental step the bank might take to help.

It has to be remembered, these are the high priests of the incremental. Making absolutely certain that not a bank toe will be put across the line of central bank orthodoxy.

Certainly not buying bonds directly from Treasury — wash your mouth out on that one — what would they say about us at the annual Bank for International Settlements meeting in Basel?

Not even ambitiously buying sufficient bonds in the secondary market, like the European Central Bank or the Bank of Japan …

The Reserve Bank might do as it was set up to do — help the Government. Be a utility. Shoulder the load. And in a super-low inflationary world, that load is funding fiscal policy. Mountainous sums of it.

He was thus calling on the RBA to directly fund “mountainous sums” of government spending that will be necessary while capitalism is on state life-support systems.

He advocated the RBA buying all the debt that would be issued to match the large fiscal deficits that will be required to achieve full employment.

He also paid the RBA out over their reluctance to reduce interest rates in 1989 as Australia was heading into recession and said “The Reserve Bank is now having another one of its dalliances with indolence”.

The ABC article (September 24, 2020) – Paul Keating says the RBA is not doing what is needed to stop the COVID recession worsening – said that Paul Keating “appears to be siding with proponents of a school of economic thought called Modern Monetary Theory who have been arguing there is no need for the RBA to buy bonds from the secondary market to fund government spending measures.”

There is absolutely no need for the RBA to buy bonds indirectly in the secondary markets.

There is absolutely no need for the Treasury, via the Australian Office of Financial Management, a division of Treasury, to issue any debt to match the net public spending (deficits).

The charade the government and the bond markets play, pretending that the non-government sector provides the financial wherewithal to allow government to run deficits, is just an elaborate form of corporate welfare.

The funds that are used to buy the government bonds come, ultimately, from past government spending anyway.

Conclusion

Paul Keating is another person among many that are now crossing the line and calling out these neoliberal charades, that are buttressed by the ‘fictional world’ that mainstream economists create to give justification to what is an unnecessary sop to investment banks.

It is another sign that the paradigm shift in macroeconomics is underway.

The ‘high priests’ are hanging on for dear life but the challengers to the orthodoxy are increasing in number and profile.

Paul Keating’s intervention demonstrates that the inner camp is breaking up.

Article in latest issue of Australian Quarterly

The – Australian Quarterly – was established in 1929 and is “Australia’s longest running political science journal”. It has been a staple in my life and has always published progressive articles that providing challenging insights into the issues of the day.

I contributed to the latest edition that is just out.

Here is the front cover and the title is taken from my article. I urge people to support this journal.

Presentation for GIMMS, September 27, 2020

I have been doing a lot of Zoom workshops lately – mostly for private groups.

Last night, I did a Q&A with Dr Phil Armstrong which was organised by the Gower Initiative For Modern Money Studies (GIMMS) – in the UK.

The video will be available in the coming days but Christian Reilly and Patricia Pino took an audio stream and have made it available on their podcast.

It is – Episode 67 Phil Armstrong and Bill Mitchell: In Conversation.

We covered a lot of topics in the 100 odd minutes.

It was a late night for me but I am very thankful for the GIMMS team and Christian and Patricia for making these types of interactions possible in this era of no travel.

I must say, though, that I miss the face-to-face interaction.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Marxism, Black Nationalism and Fascism

Last week or so Sasha Johnson was thrown off twitter for stating that the White man would not be the equals of Blacks, but their slave. Johnson is supposedly one of the leading lights in the Oxford Black Lives Matter movement. She was filmed holding a bizarre paramilitary-style rally in Brixton. Standing in front of a uniformed squad of Black people, she compared the police to the Klu Klux Klan and declared that what was needed was a Black militia. Like the one that was standing behind her, no doubt. She also screamed ‘Black Power!’ and ‘Revolution!’ She then followed that by announcing that, as Black and Asian politicians like Priti Patel and David Lammy were all sell-outs, she was going to found a a new political party solely for Blacks.

Johnson has been called a ‘Black Panther’, though I don’t know whether it was by her admirers in the Black power movement, or by herself. It certainly seems that she’s trying to copy the Black Panthers, who were set up to defend American Blacks against shooting and murder by the police, and set up their own party. But to British eyes it also looks very much like other violent paramilitary movements, like the terrorist organisations in Ulster and White Fascist organisations, such the British Union of Fascists and the National Front.

Black Lives Matter as an organisation, I gather, is Marxist, and the Black Panthers are usually seen as radical left rather than Fascist right. But this passage from Noel Sullivan’s Fascism (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd 1983) may explain how Johnson was able to move from a Marxist position to racial supremacy, albeit one that privileged Blacks against Whites.

Sullivan’s a Conservative historian, who take the view that the origins of Fascism are to be found in the activist style of politics that emerged with the French Revolution. This demanded that the public take an active part in politics as against the older, feudal system in which politics was confined to the king and the aristocracy. This new activism also set up the nation or the people against an outgroup, identified as their enemy. For the French Revolutionaries, the people were the French middle class, and their enemies were the monarchy, aristocracy and clergy. Later in the 19th century, Karl Marx identified the people with the working class. However, that didn’t end the process. This was followed in the 20th century by Asian revolutionary socialists, beginning with Sultan Galiev, identifying their peoples as the oppressed working class and urging revolution against their White colonial oppressors. Sullivan writes

In spite of Marx’s belief that his redefinition of the ‘true people’ as the proletariat represented a scientific and therefore final stage in activist strategy, the subsequent course of twentieth-century intellectual history revealed that his own position was a unstable as the one which he had attacked. Consider, for example, the doctrine advocated by Sultan Galiev in 1919, in an article entitled ‘Social Revolution and the East’. Galiev was a Marxist, in the sense that he followed Marx in identifying the true people with the proletariat. He differed from Marx, however, in his definition of the proletariat itself. The trouble with western socialism, Galiev wrote, is that ‘the East, with its population of a milliard and a half human beings, oppressed by the West European bourgeoisie, was almost entirely forgotten. The current of the international class war bypassed the East and the problem of revolution in the East existed only in the minds of a few scattered individuals. For Galiev, the true proletariat now became the Muslim, Hindu and Chinese masses of the East, and the Marxist class struggle was accordingly transformed into one between the white and coloured races. Other non-European socialists rapidly took up this theme. For example, in 1920 Li Ta-chao, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, defined as class-struggle as racial conflict ‘between the lower-class coloured races and the upper-class white race’. In this struggle, ‘China really stands in the position of the world proletariat.’ In Japan, Ikki Kita also pursued the racial method of defining the true people as the populace of the third world, maintaining in his Outline for the Reconstruction of the Japanese State, 1919) that ‘There are self-contrictions in the fundamental thought of those European and American socialists who approve of proletarian class-struggle within a country but who consider international proletarian war as chauvinism and militarism.’ In recent decades, Frantz Fanon has been the best-known exponent of this particular variant of the new activist style of politics. (pp. 51-2).

Sasha Johnson seems to have made a similar transition, identifying the true people with Britain’s depressed Black population. In so doing, she’s moved from a socialistic Black radicalism to Fascism. She’s become Black Britain’s version of the White Fascists Nesta Webster and Rotha Orne Linton.

I also wonder how long she’ll be a figure on the public stage. She was determined to make herself notorious and a figure of public outrage and terror, like any number of angry young people before her trying to epater le bourgeois. I don’t think Black Lives Matter have done anything to censure her or reel her in, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. At the moment she’s a liability. They and the media have made a point of showing that Blacks and Whites, especially young people, are united in their support of the movement. BLM also released statements on placards stating that they were trying to start a race war. They were trying to end one. But that is precisely what Sasha Johnson wants to do.

My guess is that Black Lives Matter will now try and rein her in, if only for the sake of publicity. As for Johnson herself, she and her supporters come across as young, idealistic and stupid. 19th and 20th century history is full of similar young men and women, angry and radical, trying to threaten the establish order. Hopefully with time she’ll settle down and grow up.

Have Astronomers Found Traces of Life on Venus?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/09/2020 - 9:15pm in

The big story on Tuesday was that astronomers had discovered traces of a gas, phosphine, in the atmosphere of Venus. The gas is produced by living organisms, and so it’s discovery naturally leads to the possibility that the second planet from the Sun may be the abode of life.

The I’s edition for 15th September 2020 reported the discovery in an article by David Woods entitled, ‘Forget Mars, a startling discovery may mean there’s life on Venus’. This ran

Alien life could be thriving in the clouds above Venus: a team of astronomers detected a rare gas in its atmosphere, according to a study involving British researchers.

Venus, the second planet from the Sun, has a surface temperature of 500o C, and 96 per cent of its atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide. But the discovery of phosphine, around 31 miles (50Km) from the planet’s surface, has indicated that life could prosper in a less hostile environment.

On Earth phosphine – a molecule of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms – is associated with life. It is found in places that have little oxygen, such as swamps, or with microbes living in the guts of animals.

A group of British, American and Japanese scientists – led by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University – first identified Venus’s phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The presence of the gas was confirmed at an astronomical observatory of 45 telescopes in Chile. The discovery was published yesterday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Professor Greaves said: “This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity. I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’s spectrum, it was a shock.” Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder, a Royal Greenwich Observatory astronomer, who was part of the research team, added: “This was an incredibly difficult observation to make. We still have a long way to go before we can confirm how this gas is being produced but it is definitely an exciting time for science.”

The team is now awaiting more telescope time to establish whether the phosphine is in a particular part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. While the clouds above Venus have temperatures of around 30oC, they are made from 90 per cent sulphuric acid – a major issue for the survival of microbes.

Professor Emma Bunce, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, has called for a new mission to Venus to investigate the findings.

This reminds me somewhat of the excitement in the 1990s when scientists announced that they may have discovered microfossils of Martian bacteria in a meteorite from the Red Planet found in Antarctica. The above article was accompanied by another piece by Woods, ‘Nothing found since claims awed Clinton’, which described how former president Clinton had made an official announcement about the possibility of life on Mars when the putative microfossils were found. The article states that confirmation that these are indeed fossils is lacking. It also notes that 4,000 exoplanets have also now been found, and that some of them may have life, but this has also not been confirmed. Astronomers have also been searching the skies for radio messages from alien civilisations, but these haven’t been found either.

Dr Colin Pillinger, the head of the ill-fated Beagle Project, a British probe to the Red Planet, also argued that there was life there as traces of methane had been found. This looked like it had been produced by biological processes. In a talk he gave at the Cheltenham Festival of Science one year, he said that if a Martian farted, they’d find it.

A few years ago I also submitted a piece to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society suggesting that there might be life in Venus’ clouds. It was based on the presence of organic chemicals there, rather similar, I felt, to those on Saturn’s moon, Titan, which at one time was also considered a possible home of alien life. I got a letter stating that the Journal was going to run it, but in the end they didn’t. I think it may have been because another, professional astronomer published an article about it just prior to the proposed publication of my piece. I think I threw out the Journal’s letter years ago while clearing out the house, and so I don’t have any proof of my claim. Which is obviously disappointing, and you’ll have to take what I say on trust.

The possibility that there’s life on Venus is interesting, and undoubtedly important in its implications for the existence of life elsewhere in the cosmos if true. But I think that, like the Martian microfossils, there isn’t going to be any confirmation for a very long time.

History Debunked Refutes Ethnomathematics/Rehumanizing Mathematics

This is another video from History Debunked. In it, youtuber and author Simon Webb attacks Ethnomatics, sometimes also called Rehumanizing Mathematics. This is a piece of modern pseudo-scholarship designed to help Black children tackle Maths. The idea is that Blacks perform poorly compared at Maths compared to other ethnic groups. This is held to be because Maths is the creation of White men, and this puts Blacks off studying and mastering it.

The solution has been to scrutinise African societies for their indigenous Maths, especially the Dogon of Mali. They have been chosen as the chief model for all this, as they possessed extremely advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge. In the 1970s there was a book, The Sirius Mystery by Robert K.G. Temple, which claimed that they owed this advance knowledge to contact with space aliens. Apparently this claim was subsequently dropped 10 – 15 years later, and the claim made instead that they were just superlative astronomers and mathematicians themselves. But Dogon Maths is held to be different from White, western Maths because it’s spiritual. History Debunked then goes on to demonstrate the type of pseudo-scientific nonsense this has lead to by providing a link to an Ethnomathematics paper and reading out its conclusion. It’s the kind of pretentious verbiage the late, great Jazzman, Duke Ellington, said stunk up the place. It’s the kind of postmodern twaddle that Sokal and Bricmont exposed in their Intellectual Impostures. It’s deliberately designed to sound impressive without actually meaning anything. There’s a lot of talk about expanding cognitive horizons and possibilities, but History Debunked himself says he doesn’t understand a word of it. And neither, I guess, will most people. Because it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just there to sound impressive and bamboozle the reader into thinking that somehow they’re thick because they don’t, while the fault is entirely the writers.

I think History Debunked is a man of the right, and certainly his commenters are Conservatives, some with extremely right-wing views. He’s produced a series of videos attacking the pseudo-history being pushed as Black History, and apparently Seattle in America is particularly involved in promoting this nonsense. But he expects it to come over here in a few years. Given the way Black History month has jumped the Atlantic, I think he’s right.

There’s been a particular emphasis on find ancient Black maths and science for some time I know. For a brief while I got on well with a Black studies group when I was a volunteer at the slavery archives in the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. That was before I read their magazine and got so annoyed with it and its attitude to Whites that I sent them a whole load of material arguing to the contrary, and pointing out that in places like the Sudan, Blacks were being enslaved and oppressed not by White Europeans, but by the Arabs. I also sent them material about the poor Whites of South Africa, who also lived in grinding poverty thanks to Apartheid. This was stuff they really didn’t want to hear, and I was told that if I wanted to talk to them further, I should do so through someone else. They were also interested in finding examples of Black maths and science. I sent them photocopies and notes I’d made of various medieval Muslim mathematicians. These were Arabs and Persians, like al-Khwarizmi, who gave his name to the word algorithm, Omar Khayyam, best known in the west for his Rubayyat, but who was also a brilliant mathematician, al-Haytham, who invented the camera obscura in the 12th century and others, rather than Black. But they were grateful for what I sent them nonetheless, and I thanked me. This was before I blotted my copybook with them.

I’m reposting this piece because, although it comes from the political, it is correct. And you don’t have to be right-wing to recognise and attack this kind of postmodern rubbish. Sokal and Bricmont, the authors of the book I mentioned early attacking postmodernism, were both men of the left. Sokal was a physicist, who taught maths in Nicaragua under the left-wing Sandinista government. They wrote the book because they took seriously George Orwell’s dictum that writing about politics means writing clearly in language everyone can understand. And even if you believe that Black people do need particular help with maths because of issues of race and ethnicity, Ethnomathematics as it stands really doesn’t appear to be it. It just seems to be filling children’s heads with voguish nonsense, rather than real knowledge.

I also remember the wild claims made about the Dogon and their supposed contact with space aliens. Part of it came from the Dogon possessing astronomical knowledge well beyond their level of technology. They knew, for example, that Sirius has a companion star, invisible to the naked eye, Sirius B. They also knew that our solar system had nine planets, although that’s now been subsequently altered. According to the International Astronomical Association or Union or whatever, the solar system has eight planets. Pluto, previously a planet, has been downgraded to dwarf planet, because it’s the same size as some of the planetoids in the Kuiper Belt. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince discuss this in one their books,The Stargate Conspiracy (London: Little, Brown & Company 1999), which claimed that the American intelligence agencies were secretly preparing a fake UFO landing in order to convince everyone that the space gods really had arrived, and set up a one-world dictatorship. This hasn’t happened, and I’ve seen the Fortean Times and other weird magazines trying to explain their book as a high-level hoax which people took too seriously. I don’t believe this, as they seemed very serious at the time. The Dogon believe that the first human ancestors, and some of their gods, came from the sky. Hence Temple’s claim that they were contacted by space aliens. Picknett and Prince, however, sided with sceptics like Carl Sagan. They argued instead ithat the Dogon owed it to a French priest, anthropologist or colonial administrator, I’ve forgotten which, who visited them in the 1920s and who was extremely interested in astronomy. This seems to me to be far more likely than that they either got it from space aliens or that they far better mathematicians and astronomers than they could have been at their level of development.

The Dogon are fascinating as their homes and villages are laid out to be microcosms of the male and female human body and the universe. The book African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder, London: Hamlyn 1967, describes the layout of a Dogon house thus:

The shape of the Dogon house is symbolical. The floor is like the earth and the flat roof like heaven. The vestibule is a man and the central room woman, with store rooms at her sides as arms. The hear at the end is her head. The four posts are the man and woman entwined in union. So the family house represents the unity of man and woman and God and the Earth. This is accompanied by the elevation and ground plan of a typical Dogon house. (p. 49).

There’s also this diagram of an idealised Dogon village:

The caption for the diagrame reads:

Like the house, the Dogon village represents human beings. The smithy is at the head like a hearth in a house. The family houses in the centre and millstones and village represent the sexes. Other altars are the feet. (p. 51).

Truly, a fascinating people and I have no problem anybody wanting to study them. But it should be in anthropology, ethnography or comparative religion, not maths.

But it struck me that if teachers and educators want to enthuse and inspire young minds with what maths Africans were studying, they could start with ancient Egypt and the great Muslim civilisations of the Sahara and north Africa, like Mali. Aminatta Forna in one of her programmes on these civilisations was shown an ancient astronomical text from the medieval library of one of these towns, which she was told showed that Muslims knew the Earth orbited the sun before Copernicus and Galileo. I doubt that very much. It looks like a form of a combined helio-and geocentric system, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and then taken up by some medieval astronomers not just in Islam, but also in Christian Europe. In this system, all the other planets when round the Sun, which orbited the Earth. Close to the modern system, but not quite. But it showed that the Black citizens of that civilisation were in contact with the great currents of Muslim science, and that they would have had learnt and taught the same kind of Maths that was being investigated and researcher right across the Muslim world, from India to Morocco and further south to Mali. One of the Black educationalists would like to translate one of these books from Arabic, the learned language of Muslim civilisation, and use it as an example of the kind of maths that was also taught in Black Africa.

Or you could go right back to ancient Egypt. Mathematical texts from the Land of the Nile have also survived in the Moscow and Rhind mathematical papyri. These have various maths problems and their solution. For example, problem No. 7 of the Moscow papyrus is about various calculations for a triangle. This runs

Example of calculating a triangle.

If you are told: A triangle of 2 thousands-of-land, the bank of 2 of 2 1/2;

You are to double the area: result 40 (arurae). Take (it) 2 1/2 times; result [100. Take its square root, namely] 10. Evoke 1 from 2 1/2; what results is 2/5. Apply this to 10; result 4. It is 10 (khet) in length by 4 (khet) in breadth. From Henrietta Midonick, The Treasury of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Pelican 1965) p. 71.

It’s amazing to think that the boys at the scribal school were being taught all this millennia ago. It gives you a real sense of connection with the ancient schoolkids reading it. You can imagine them, hunched over with their pen and ink, busily cudgeling their brains while the teacher prowls about them. The Babylonians were also renowned as the pioneers of early mathematics. They even uncovered a school when they excavated Ur of the Chaldees in the 1920s, complete with the maths and other texts the schoolboys – female education didn’t exist back then, but I’m willing to be corrected – were required to learn. As a schoolboy character in the Fast Show used to say: ‘Brilliant!’ You don’t need to burden modern African societies like the Dogon with spurious pseudo-history and pseudo-science, when the real historic achievements of ancient Egypt and medieval Africa are so impressive.

It struck me that even if you don’t use the original Egyptian maths texts to teach maths – which would be difficult, as their maths was slightly different. Their method of calculating the area of a field of four unequal sides yields far too high a figure, for example – you could nevertheless inspire children with similar problems. Perhaps you could do it with assistance of a child or two from the class. You could bring them out in front of everyone, give them and ancient Egyptian headdress, and then arranged the lesson so that they helped the teacher, acting as pharaoh, to solve it. Or else pharaoh showed them, his scribes, and thus the class. This is certainly the kind of thing that was done when I was a kid by the awesome Johnny Ball on the children’s maths and science programme, Think of a Number. And every week, as well as showing you a bit of maths and science, he also showed you a trick, which you could find out how to do by dropping him a line. It was the kind of children’s programme that the Beeb did very, very well. It’s a real pity that there no longer is an audience for children’s programmes and their funding has subsequently been cut.

Here’s History Debunked’s video attacking Ethnomathematics. He also attacks a piece of ancient baboon bone carved with notches, which he states has been claimed is an ancient prehistoric African calendar. He provides no evidence in this video to show that it wasn’t, and says its the subject of a later video. If this is the one I’m thinking of, then that is a claim that has been accepted by mainstream archaeologists and historians. See Ivor Grattan-Guinness, The Fontana History of the Mathematical Sciences (London: Fontana Press 1998) p. 24.

If you want to know more about ancient and medieval maths, and that of the world’s many indigenous cultures, see the book Astronomy before the Telescope, edited by Christopher Walker with an introduction by the man of the crumpled suit and monocle himself, Patrick Moore (London: British Museum Press 1998).

This has chapters on astronomy in Europe from prehistory to the Renaissance, but also on astronomy in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, Islam, China, Korea and Japan, North and South America, traditional astronomical knowledge in Africa and among Aboriginal Australians, Polynesia and the Maori. It can be a difficult read, as it explores some very technical aspects, but it is a brilliant work by experts in their respective fields.

RBA governor adopts a political role to his discredit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 6:30pm in

Tags 

Japan, Politics

Last week, the Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, confirmed that the claim that the central bank is independent of the political process is a pretense. The Governor was adopting a political role and made several statements that cannot be analytically supported nor supported by the evidence available over many decades. He is insistent on disabusing the public debate of any positive discussion about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which, of course, I find interesting in itself. More and more people are starting to understanding the basics of MMT and are realising that that understanding opens up a whole new policy debate, that is largely shut down by the mainstream fictions about the capacities of the currency-issuing government and the consequences of different policy choices. People are realising that with more than 2.4 million Australian workers currently without enough work (more than a million officially unemployed) that the Australian government is lagging behind in its fiscal response. They are further realising that the government is behaving conservatively because it still thinks it can get back to surplus before long and so doesn’t want to ‘borrow’ too much (whatever that means). An MMT understanding tells us that the government can create as many jobs as are necessary to achieve full employment and the central bank can just facilitate the fiscal spending without the need for government to borrow at all. They are asking questions daily now: why isn’t the RBA helping in this way. The denial from the RBA politicians (the Governor, for example) are pathetic to say the least.

The occasion was the presentation of the RBA Annual Report 2019 to the – House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics (August 14, 2020).

The full exchange is available in – The Hansard.

Here is the – Opening Statement to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics – by the RBA Governor.

The RBA Governor is obviously under pressure given the scale of the damage being caused by the pandemic and the obvious shortfall in the fiscal response from the Australian government.

People are increasingly asking why is the RBA not using its infinite currency capacity to gave a speech where h

On July 23, 2020, he gave a very political speech along these lines, which I analysed in this blog post – RBA governor denying history and evidence to make political points (July 23, 2020).

I won’t repeat what I wrote there but I discussed the notion of a ‘free lunch’ and ‘inflation taxes’ and issues that the RBA governor raised again in his appearance before the House of Representatives’ Committee.

Here are some issues that arise from his appearance last Friday.

In his Opening Statement last Friday, the Governor chose to continue this deception, clearly aiming to avoid any Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) inference:

One monetary policy option that has been the subject of public discussion over recent months is the possibility of the RBA creating money to directly finance government spending.

For some, this offers the possibility of a ‘free lunch’.

The reality, though, is that there is no free lunch. There is no magic pudding. There is no way of putting aside the government’s budget constraint permanently.

As I spoke about in a talk last month, it is certainly possible for a central bank to use monetary financing to affect when and how government spending is paid for. Depending upon how things are managed, it can be paid for through the inflation tax, by implicit taxes on the banking system and/or higher general taxes in the future. But it does have to be paid for at some point.

I want to make it clear that monetary financing of the budget is not on the agenda in Australia. The separation of monetary policy and fiscal financing is part of Australia’s strong institutional framework and has served the country well. The Australian Government and the states and territories have ready access to the capital markets and they can borrow at historically low rates of interest.

So this is his repeating theme despite the fact that the RBA has already purchased $A45,250 million worth of Australian Government bonds under its so-called – Long-dated Open Market Operations.

I discussed this program in this blog post – The Australian government is increasingly buying up its own debt – not a taxpayer in sight (May 26, 2020).

The Government has not been saying much about this program for obvious reasons.

They don’t want the public to know that one arm of the currency-issuing government is accumulating a large proportion of the liabilities issued by another arm (Treasury) to follow the rise in the fiscal deficit.

If they explained what was going on in the real world to the public, it would become very clear that the central bank is effectively ‘funding’ a significant proportion of the increase in the fiscal deficit than any notion of some taxpayer account or the reliance on private bond markets.

It would also disabuse the public of notions that such coordination between the central bank and the treasury, which is at the heart of the understanding you get from learning about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), is dangerously inflationary.

In their information sheet – Supporting the Economy and Financial System in Response to COVID-19 – the Reserve Bank of Australia outlines a number of policy innovations they are pursuing to help protect the economy and the financial system.

Among these measures they write:

Provide Liquidity to the Government Bond Market

The Reserve Bank stands ready to purchase Australian Government bonds and semi-government securities in the secondary market to support its smooth functioning. The government bond market is a key market for the Australian financial system, because government bonds provide the pricing benchmark for many financial assets. The Bank is working in close cooperation with the AOFM.

You can also view their more detailed explanation of what they are doing in this regard at – Reserve Bank Purchases of Government Securities.

As I explained in the blog post cited above, the RBA is crediting bank reserves (the Exchange Settlement Accounts (ESAs)) in return for bond purchases.

These bonds have been issued in the primary bond markets and then bought and sold generally in the secondary market where the RBA buys them.

In its explanatory note, the RBA seems they need to set up the smokescreen in this way:

The Bank stands ready to purchase Australian Government bonds across the yield curve to help achieve this target. The Bank purchases Government bonds in the secondary market, and does not purchase bonds directly from the Government.

They could have added – ‘As if any of that matters’!

The point is that the primary bond dealers can reasonably anticipate that the RBA will purchase debt from them.

The complete data set is available via the RBA statistics – Monetary Policy Operations – Current – A3 – then go to the worksheet “Long-Dated Open Market Operations”.

What do we learn?

Since March 26, 2020, when the purchases began, the RBA has purchased a total of $A45,250 million million worth of Australian government bonds (at varying maturities and yields).

Here is the pattern of purchases of Australian Government securities by the RBA since March 26, 2020.

In his interaction with the House of Representatives Committee, the Governor repeated the point made in his introductory with a more specific reference to MMT:

One monetary policy option that has been the subject of recent discussion is the possibility of the RBA creating money to directly finance government spending—so-called MMT. To some, this offers the possibility of a free lunch. The harsh reality, though, is there’s no free lunch. There’s no magic pudding here and there’s no way of putting aside the government’s budget constraint permanently.

He then went on to say: “But, looking forward, there are limits to what more we can do. I think the main policy instrument we really have now is fiscal policy.”

He was asked whether this means that monetary policy has run its course and he replied:

I don’t think that at the moment we would get any traction from making adjustments …

And then proceeded to make a series of political statements outside of his official role as central bank governor:

1. Reforming industrial relations – read, further deregulation that has already dramatically undermined the ability of workers to share in productivity growth, created a working poor underclass, cut the wages of the lowest paid, and more.

2. Further deregulation – to reduce oversight on private infrastructure projects, reduce “planning and zoning restructions” (read: make it easier for greedy property developers to invade neighbourhoods and build more towers that later have to be abandoned due to shoddy construction techniques).

He was asked by one Committee member whether the RBA should provide the government with “zero per cent loans” to fund a full employment program, given the scale of the labour market disaster and the stated claim by the Governor that the key issue facing Australia was job creation.

Readers are also reminded that the – Reserve Bank Act 1959 – Section 8, empowers the central bank “to buy and sell securities issued by the Commonwealth and other securities”, “to establish credits and give guarantees” and more.

Also note that under Section 10 Functions of the Reserve Bank Board, Clause (2):

It is the duty of the Reserve Bank Board, within the limits of its powers, to ensure that the monetary and banking policy of the Bank is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia and that the powers of the Bank under this Act and any other Act, other than the Payment Systems (Regulation) Act 1998, the Payment Systems and Netting Act 1998 and Part 7.3 of the Corporations Act 2001, are exercised in such a manner as, in the opinion of the Reserve Bank Board, will best contribute to:

(a) the stability of the currency of Australia;

(b) the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and

(c) the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.

In other words, the legislative responsibility of the RBA is to maintain full employment with price stability so that all people in Australia are prosperous and secure.

The RBA governor replied to that question with this simpering nonsense:

There’s less cash flow expended in the short run; that’s right. You’re not paying interest on these bonds, and, if you issued in the market, you would have to pay interest. But now the central bank has an asset that’s earning no money, and then, over time, there will be lower profits at the central bank and lower distributions to government, and there will have to be a tax compensation for that. So it’s incorrect to think that providing this financing the other way ultimately lowers the total cost of finance. It doesn’t.

Which is a straight out lie.

This is right pocket of government talking to the left pocket of government stuff.

The RBA doesn’t have to earn money.

The RBA could pay the Treasury any amount it chose at any time.

There would not have to “be a tax compensation for that”. That statement assumes some rigid fiscal position has to be attained so that if the government doesn’t pay itself RBA profits as dividends it has to raise tax rates.

It never has to do that.

The discussion continued, with the Committee member demanding to know why the RBA wouldn’t just fund a full employment program.

The Governor replied:

I take issue with the idea that the government can borrow more cheaply through us. Certainly, the financing costs this year would be cheaper if we gave them interest-free loans. But, ultimately, that still has to be paid back, and there would have to be some adjustment in the system—there would have to be higher taxes or something—to compensate for that. Money creation doesn’t change the ultimate amount of resources the government has to raise to pay for its spending.

A lie.

The government’s right pocket could put numbers in the left pocket and not worry about ever being ‘paid back’. It could simply say that the numbers are a gift to the left pocket.

End of story.

The governor went on:

What gets people back into work is the fiscal spending. I agree with you that that is something we should be looking at—how much fiscal spending we have to get people back into work. I think where we disagree is on how that should be financed. I do not see monetary financing changing the total amount of resources that need to be raised by the government in the end …

A lie.

Right pocket puts a big number into the left pocket then when people are getting jobs, one day, decides to make the number that it recorded against the left pocket, zero.

End of story.

A totally different scenario to issuing bonds to the private investment market, which have to be paid back with interest.

Later in the session, the Committee Chair (a conservative politician) disgraced himself with this statement:

Just quickly going back to what you called the ‘financial trickery of modern monetary theory’—and I very much welcomed the comments you made in your opening statement which clarified that rather than having to go through a long line of questioning …

The question that followed was about inflation (obviously), to which the RBA governor went further into the mire of lies:

Monetary financing of the budget deficit can lead to inflation, and that has all sorts of problems. It’s not guaranteed that we end up in the high-inflation situation for monetary financing, but it’s certainly possible …

Do we think it is okay for an economic system to run in a way where the government has its objective to use fiscal policy to keep things on a very even keel? I would say the history of that in the past has not been particularly good. Neither has the history of governments being able to stop doing this when inflation starts to rise. That’s why we ended up with the monetary arrangements we have …

The best way for government to meet its spending commitments is to borrow in the market rather than going to the central bank, and we can do that.

The reality is that the “monetary arrangements we have” were reflecting the ideological attack on active fiscal policy that accompanied the abandonment of full employment and the neoliberal surge.

Unemployment became a policy tool rather than a policy target.

We haven’t come close to full employment since the government imposed these restrictions on itself in the 1980s.

The monetary arrangements we have undermine prosperity and have allowed national income to be redistributed away from workers towards capital.

The RBA governors comments here just reinforce the neoliberal ideology.

Perhaps the Governor should explain this data

The Bank of Japan has been trying to produce an ‘inflation tax’ for year through its various quantitative easing and QQE programs.

They have not been successful, which is the same experience that the ECB has encountered with its huge public bond-buying programs.

First, the next graph shows the Total assets held by the Bank of Japan as a per cent of GDP (blue line) and the proportion held as Japanese Government Bonds between the March-quarter 2000 to the June-quarter 2020.

In the June-quarter 2020, total assets stood at 125.4 per cent of GDP (and JGB holdings were 98.8 per cent of GDP)

This particular statistic doesn’t matter one iota and just reflects the Bank of Japan’s large government bond purchasing program over the last 20 years.

The fact that buying JGBs in large volumes hasn’t caused any acceleration in the inflation rate demonstrates how ineffective monetary policy is in influencing the path of the inflation rate, despite the massive increase in central bank assets.

Now study the following graph, which shows the growth in the monetary base in Japan, driven mostly by the quantitative easing programs, and the inflation rate (both indexed at 100 in January 1990).

The Bank of Japan’s quantitative easing history began in earnest in March 2001 (QE1) and this increased the BOJs monetary base by around 66 per cent.

The Bank terminated that program in March 2006, whereupon the Bank sold down some of its holdings of JGBs (also shown in the graph).

A second (QE2) program began in October 2010 and as time has passed it has become QE3 and QQE, which is a much larger scale intervention that that began in April 2013 and continues at a pace today.

The monetary base increased by 36 per cent during QE2 and by, wait for it, 279 per cent in QE3/QQE to date. Not a small number.

You would expect if the mainstream macroeconomics predictions were robust then they should have materialised by now given these relative policy extremes.

The graph shows the evolution of these indexes up to July 2020.

At that date, the monetary base index was at 1429.6, while the CPI was at 101.7 (hardly shifted).

The overwhelming conclusion is that there is no relationship between the evolution of the monetary base (driven by the Bank’s purchases of JGBS in large volumes) and the evolution of the inflation rate.

One could argue that the reversal of QE1 revealed a lack of commitment by the BOJ to really drive the inflation rate up. My assessment is that QE doesn’t work whether it is extended for lengthy periods or not.

The reversal that followed the introduction of QE2 just reduced the monetary base (and the total assets held by the BOJ).

The RBA governor referred to ‘liquidity’ – saying that Australia was “flush with liquidity”. Tied to the rejection of any larger bond purchases, he was rehearsing the standard mainstream line that ‘too much liquidity’ would be inflationary.

But ask yourself what would drive an inflationary spiral.

The answer is that if bank lending increased dramatically and the broad money supply increased, which was a reflection of private spending growth, then that might trigger such a spiral.

How?

By driving total nominal spending growth ahead of the capacity of the productive side of the economy to respond with increased production of goods and services.

The classic Quantity Theory of Money posits that if broad money growth rises, with stable turnover (velocity) of the money stock, then if the economy is at full employment then the only thing that will respond is the price level.

This is the classic Monetarist argument.

They also tie in central bank behaviour to the theory via the money multiplier, which posits that if the monetary base rises, then the broad money supply will increase by some multiple (that is determined by behavioural parameters).

The problems with this approach are many but for our purposes consider the following graph, which shows the growth of the monetary base since January 1995 and bank lending and the broad money supply measure, M2, also indexed to 100 at January 1995.

What do you see?

Nothing of interest in relation to the mainstream claim.

The point is that the massive increase in bank reserves during these QE and QQE episodes did not stimulate bank lending nor the broad money supply.

So while bank reserves have risen (increased ‘liquidity’) the broad money supply has not risen much at all (another measure of ‘liquidity’).

The RBA governor is thus in denial of this reality and is just rehearsing the tired mainstream arguments that haven’t ever been correct.

Conclusion

A sad intervention from the so-called ‘independent’ central bank.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Mauritius Oil Spill Tragedy: How and Why the MV Wakashio Ran Aground, and Aftermath

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 6:55am in

A mysterious course change, a birthday party, oil on the beaches, and a billion dollars in compensation (maybe).

The Overlord on Rumours that Mark Hamill Has Sold Image for Hollywood CGI Clone of Luke Skywalker

‘The Overlord’ is another YouTube channel devoted to news and views about genre cinema and television. It’s hosted by Dictor von Doomcock, a masked alien supervillain supposedly living at the centre of the Earth. And who is definitely not impressed at all at the state of contemporary popular culture, and particularly the way beloved film classics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who and so on are now being trashed by producers who have no respect for these series and their fans. And in this video he talks about the bizarre next step in this process: the recreation of favourite film characters like Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker through CGI, completely removing the need for human actors.

A website, WDW Pro, has claimed that Disney are looking for ways they can break the pause in filming imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. They are therefore looking at ways to do without human actors. They have therefore been looking at a technological solution to this problem, using the same computer techniques used to create the films The Lion King of 2019 and the 2016 film version of The Jungle Book, as well as the facial recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Rogue 1. Frustrated at the hold-up filming the third Guardians of the Galaxy flick, Disney will use the technology, Cosmic Rewind, to create a completely computer generated movie, but one that would be presented as using human characters. This is going to be an experiment to test the possibility of creating films without human actors and the need for their salaries. According to a rumour, which WDW Pro has not been able to confirm, the projected film is about Young Indy, and its effectiveness will be tested when a rollercoaster based on the film comes on as part of Disneyworld.

Lucasfilm has also apparently made a deal with Mark Hamill within the last 18 months in which he has signed over his image to them so that they can use it to create a CGI Luke Skywalker. This Virtual Skywalker may also be used in the projected Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars theme park. However, due to the project’s severe financial problems, this may not happen anytime soon. Disney are slowly moving towards using this technology to dispense with human actors so that they won’t have to suffer a similar pause in filming ever again, although they won’t move away from human actors altogether immediately.

Doomcock himself laments this development, and feels that it is inevitable in a world where Deep Fake technology has advanced so far that we don’t know if the people we see or the news we watch are real, or that the characters we see on the screen are brought to life by real actors using the skills and craft they have learned. He wonders what will happen to our civilisation – what we will lose – if everything we see on the screen is synthetic, and we are removed another step again from reality and anything that has ‘heart’. It might all be all right, but it seems to him that the more we remove the human element from art and culture and make it the creation of AIs, the more removed we are from our culture.

He also vents his spleen about the choice of subject for this putative movie, pointing out that there was a TV series about Young Indiana Jones years ago, and nobody wanted it. He recommends instead that if this grave-robbing technology is to be used, it should be used to recreate the mature Indy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom. He also criticises Hamill for what he sees as his poor judgement in making the deal with Disney. Hamill should know personally how a poor director can ruin a beloved legacy character, the actor’s own contribution and a favourite film franchise through his experience playing Skywalker in The Last Jedi. He famously wept on set during that movie and bitterly criticised the director’s decisions. He’s sarcastic about the respect Disney shows such legacy characters. It’s rumoured that George Lucas is returning to helm the Star Wars films, in which everything will be fine and we can look forward to a bright, new golden age. But considering the potential for abuse, Doomcock states that he is dismayed, flabbergasted and disgusted by Hamill’s decision and fearful for humanity’s future. As human culture becomes made by machines, hasn’t Skynet won? Who needs to launch nukes, when we have a CGI Skywalker dancing like a monkey in a bikini?

Here’s the video, but as Doomcock himself warns you, it isn’t for children. It has adult humour. Blatantly adult humour.

As you can see, there’s more than a little hyperbole in Doomcock’s argument, and some people will take issue at what he views as the humiliation of Luke Skywalker to push a feminist or anti-racist message, like Black Lives Matter. But his fears of the abuse of such technology aren’t unfounded, and have been around for quite some time. The possibility that actors would sell their images to film companies to recreate them Virtually, while making the flesh and blood person redundant, was explored a few years ago in the SF film The Congress by Ari Folman. This was loosely based on the Stanislaw Lem novel, The Futurological Congress, but is very different, and, in my opinion, inferior. For one thing, the Lem novel is hilariously funny, while the movie is grim and depressing. The movie is about a Hollywood actress, Robin Wright, playing herself, who makes precisely the deal Hamill is rumoured to have made. She then stars in a series of action movies, including one sequence that is definitely a tip to Kubrick’s Cold War masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. But this is all computer animation. The Wright herself isn’t remotely involved in their filming. Indeed, it is a condition of her contract that she not act at all, and live the rest of her life in a very comfortable retirement. These developments are followed by the discovery of a drug that allows people to enter a vast, consensual Virtual Reality, in which they can be and do anyone and anything they want. The world’s masses abandon reality, so that civilisation decays into a very grim, dystopia of ruin, poverty and misery. At one point Wright takes the drug, which will return her to reality, only to find herself in a food queue in a burned out, abandoned building. Unable to come with this, she returns to the Virtual world to search for the son she lost while in a coma as a result of a terrorist attack on the Las Vegas congress she was attending at which the hallucinogenic drug was launched. As I said, it’s a depressing film in which such illusions really are bringing about the destruction of humanity. And there is no escape, except into the Virtual world that has caused it.

The film follows a number of other SF works that have also predicted similar dystopias brought about by the hyperreality of mass entertainment. This includes John D. MacDonald’s short story, Spectator Sport, in which a time traveller appears in a future in which all human achievement has ceased as the public live out their lives as characters in VR plays. Another, similar tale is Good Night, Sophie, by the Italian writer Lino Aldani, about an actress in a similar world in which people live harsh, austere lives in order to escape into a far brighter, more vivid fantasy world of entertainment. Rather less pessimistic was the appearance of the SF film, Final Fantasy, all those years ago. This was supposed to be the first film in which all the characters were CGI, and who were supposedly indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood reality. The fact that further films like it haven’t been made suggests that, reassuringly, people want real humans in their movies, not computer simulations.

We’ve also seen the appearance of a number of computer generated celebrities. The first of these was the vid jockey, Max Headroom on Channel 4 in the 1980s. He was supposed to  be entirely computer-generated, but in reality was played by Canadian actor Matt Frewer under a lot of makeup. Then in the 1990s William Gibson, one of the creators of Cyberpunk SF, published Idoru. This was a novel about a man, who begins an affair with a Virtual celebrity. Soon after it came out, a Japanese company announced that it had created its own Virtual celeb, a female pop star. Gibson’s books are intelligent, near-future SF which contain more than an element of the ‘literature as warning’. The worlds of his Cyberspace books are dystopias, warnings of the kind of society that may emerge if the technology gets out of hand or corporations are given too much power. The creation of the Virtual pop star looked instead as though the corporation had uncritically read Gibson, and thought what he was describing was a good idea.

But going further back, I seem to recall that there was a programme on late at night, presented by Robert Powell, on the impact the new information technology would have on society. It was on well after my bedtime, and children didn’t have their own TVs in those days. Or at least, not so much. I therefore didn’t see it, only read about it in the Radio Times. But one of its predictions was that there would be widespread unemployment caused by automation. This would include actors, who would instead by replaced by computer simulations.

Computer technology has also been used to create fresh performances by deceased stars, sometimes duetting with contemporary performers. This worried one of my aunts when it appeared in the 1980s/90s. Dead performers have also been recreated as holograms, to make the stage or television appearances they never made in life. The late, great comedian Les Dawson was revived as one such image, giving post-mortem Audience With… on ITV. It was convincing, and based very much on Dawson’s own live performances and work. It was good to see him again, even if only as Virtual ghost, and a reminder of how good he was when alive.

I don’t know how reliable the rumours Doomcock reports and on which he comments are. This could all be baseless, and come to nothing. But I share his fears about the damage to our culture, if we allow our films and television to be generated by technicians and algorithms rather than flesh and blood thesps. Especially as the rising cost of movies mean that the film companies are unwilling to take risks and seem determined to rake over and exploit past classics rather than experiment with creating fresh material.

CGI’s a great tool. It’s used to create vividly real worlds and creatures. But I don’t want it replacing humans. Even if that means waiting a few years for new flicks to come out.

 

‘Mr H Reviews’ on the Casting of Robot Lead in SF Film

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 12:26am in

‘Mr H Reviews’ is a YouTube channel specialising in news and opinions on genre films – SF, Fantasy and Horror. In the video below he comments on a piece in the Hollywood Reporter about the production of a new SF movie, which will for the first time star a genuine AI. The movie is simply titled b. Financed by Bondit Capital, which also funded the film Loving Vincent, with the Belgium-based Happy Moon Productions and New York’s Top Ten Media, the film is based on a story by the special effects director Eric Pham with Tarek Zohdy and Sam Khoze. It is about a scientist, who becomes unhappy with a programme to perfect human DNA and helps the AI woman he has created to escape. 

The robot star, Erica, was created by the Japanese scientists/ engineers Hiroshi Ishigura and Hohei Ogawa for another film. The two, according to the Reporter, taught her to act. That film, which was to be directed by Tony Kaye, who made American History X, fell through. Some scenes for the present movie were already shot in Japan in 2019, and the rest will be shot in Europe next year, 2021.

The decision to make a movie starring a robot looks like an attempt to get round the problems of filming caused by the Coronavirus. However, it also raises a number of other issues. One of these, which evidently puzzle the eponymous Mr H, is how a robot can possibly act. Are they going to use takes and give it direction, as they would a human, or will it instead simply be done perfectly first time, thanks to someone on a keyboard somewhere programming it? He is quite enthusiastic about the project with some reservations. He supports the idea of a real robot playing a robot, but like most of us rejects the idea that robots should replace human actors. He also agrees with the project being written by a special effects supervisor, because such a director would obviously be aware of how such a project should be shot.

But it also ties in with an earlier video he has made about the possible replacement of humans by their Virtual simulacra. According to another rumour going round, Mark Hamill has signed away his image to Lucas Film, so that Luke Skywalker can be digitally recreated using CGI on future Star Wars films. Mr H ponders if this is the future of film now, and that humans are now going to be replaced by their computer generated doubles.

In some ways, this is just the culmination of processes that have been going on in SF films for some time. Animatronics – robot puppets – have been used in Science Fiction films since the 1990s, though admittedly the technology has been incorporated into costumes worn by actors. But not all the time. Several of the creatures in the American/Australian SF series Farscape were such animatronic robots, such as the character Rygel. Some of the robots features in a number of SF movies were entirely mechanical. The ABC Warrior which appears in the 1990s Judge Dredd film with Sylvester Stallone was deliberately entirely mechanical. The producers wished to show that it definitely wasn’t a man in a suit. C-3PO very definitely was played by a man in a metal costume, Anthony Daniels, but I noticed in the first of the prequels, The Phantom Menace, that a real robot version of the character appears in several scenes. Again, this is probably to add realism to the character. I also think that in the original movie, Episode 4: A New Hope, there were two versions of R2D2 used. One was the metal suit operated by Kenny Baker, and I think the other was entirely mechanical, operated by radio. Dr. Who during Peter Davison’s era as the Doctor also briefly had a robot companion. This was Kameleon, a shape-changing android, who made his first appearance in The King’s Demons. He was another radio-operated robot, though voiced by a human actor. However the character was never used, and his next appearance was when he died in the story Planet of Fire.

And then going further back, there’s Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mad plan to create a robotic Salvador Dali for his aborted 1970s version of Dune. Dali was hired as one of the concept artists, along with H.R. Giger and the legendary Chris Foss. Jodorowsky also wanted him to play the Galactic Emperor. Dali agreed, in return for a payment of $1 million. But he stipulated that he was only going to act for half an hour. So in order to make sure they got enough footage of the great Surrealist and egomaniac, Jodorowsky was going to build a robot double. The film would also have starred Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha, as well as Jodorowsky’s own son, Brontes, as Paul Atreides. The film was never made, as the producers pulled the plug at the last minute wondering what was happening to it. I think part of the problem may have been that it was going well over budget. Jodorowsky has said that all the effort that went into it wasn’t wasted, however, as he and the artist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud used the ideas developed for the film for their comic series, The Incal. I think that Jodorowsky’s version of Dune would have been awesome, but would have been far different to the book on which it was based.

I also like the idea of robots performing as robots in an SF movie. A few years ago an alternative theatre company specialising in exploring issues of technology and robotics staged a performance in Prague of the classic Karel Capek play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, using toy robots. I can see the Italian Futurists, rabid Italian avant-garde artists who praised youth, speed, violence and the new machine world around the time of the First World War, being wildly enthusiastic about this. Especially as, in the words of their leader and founder, Tommasso Marinetti, they looked ‘for the union of man and machine’. But I really don’t want to see robots nor CGI recreations replace human actors.

Many films have been put on hold because of the Coronavirus, and it looks like the movie industry is trying to explore all its options for getting back into production. However, the other roles for this movie haven’t been filled and so I do wonder if it will actually be made.

It could be one worth watching, as much for the issues it raises as its story and acting.

Peter Kuznick: Why Did Americans Accept Barbaric Slaughter of Japanese Civilians?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 11:55pm in

In 1939, Roosevelt decried targeting civilians as “inhuman barbarism”. In 1945, the U.S. firebombed Japanese cities and dropped nuclear bombs.

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