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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 4, 2019

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 4, 2019

This post is by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era

[MintPress, via Naked Capitalism 8-1-19]

Starting first with mob-linked liquor baron Lewis Rosenstiel and later with Roy Cohn, Rosenstiel’s protege and future mentor to Donald Trump, Epstein’s is just one of the many sexual blackmail operations involving children that are all tied to the same network, which includes elements of organized crime, powerful Washington politicians, lobbyists and “fixers,” and clear links to intelligence as well as the FBI.

Some of the worst memories of my community organizing days in the 1980s involve my trying to convince people that the US’s industrial base was being destroyed by takeovers largely financed with money from organized crime. People just did not want to hear the details. They especially did not want to hear that St. Ronnie’s political career had been promoted by the mob. Amazingly, the people most resistant to these facts were the “organized” leftists in CPUSA and SWP. The communists and socialists almost invariably dismissed the details of these organized crime connections, and wanted only to discuss impersonal theoretical forces like “historical materialism” and “capitalist accumulation.” I came to detest talking to them.
 
For three decades now, I have occasionally referred to this issue of organized crime taking over the US industrial economy, and hypothesized that one major effect has never been studied: Replacing competent industrial management with the criminal mentality and inclinations of the mob-financed corporate raiders. It was Jon Larson at RealEconomics who, about 15 years ago, pointed me to Thorstein Veblen’s (The Theory of the Leisure Class) explanation of how “Leisure Class” predatory elites are “barbarians: who gain power through force and fraud: ‘The traits which characterise the predatory and subsequent stages of culture, and which indicate the types of man best fitted to survive under the régime of status, are (in their primary expression) ferocity, self-seeking, clannishness, and disingenuousness — a free resort to force and fraud.’” Veblen explained how the rise of criminal predators to economic power creates a pecuniary culture.

GND – An Opportunity Too Big to Miss

“Modest (insipid) Green New Deal proposals miss the point – Part 2”

[Bill Mitchell], via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

“At the basis of the [standard neoclassical microeconomics] ‘solution’ is the belief that there is a trade-off between, say, environmental damage and economic growth (production). And the market failure skews that trade-off towards growth at the expense of environmental health. So all that is needed is some intervention (a tax) that will skew the trade-off back to something more preferable. The problem is that the whole idea that there is a trade-off between protecting our environment and economic production is flawed at the most elemental level.

There is no calculus (which underpins this sort of microeconomic reasoning) that can tell us when a biological system will die. The idea that we can have a ‘safe’ level of pollution, regulated via a price system, is groundless and should not form part of a progressive response. Carbon trading schemes (CTS) are neoliberal constructs which start with the presumption that a free market is the best way to organise allocation.”

Lamber Strether adds: ““Worth repeating: Mark Blyth says that ‘Markets cannot internalize their externalities on a planetary scale. They just can’t. It’s impossible.’” “
“Green New Deal: Candidate Scorecards”
[Data for Progress, via Naked Capitalism 7-31-19]

“Using a rubric of 48 essential Green New Deal components, we identify where each candidate: (1) addressed a component with a proposed federal policy or action; (2) acknowledged a component but lacked clear policy details, or; (3) did not include a component.” With handy chart.

Just 10 percent of fossil fuel subsidy cash ‘could pay for green transition’
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-2-19]

A Turning Point For US Power Generation
Global Risk Insights, August 03, 2019 [oilprice.com, via Mike Norman Economics]

For the first time in US history, renewable energies briefly generated more electricity than coal in April this year, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. This development is significant for US clean energy champions, environmental advocates, and a coal industry that has anchored US energy for much of the 20th Century. Renewable energy potential merits review of trends and evolving dynamics in a dramatically changing US energy sector.

New innovations and technologies, including large-scale shale extraction, has led to an abundance of domestic oil and gas. The cheap price of natural gas enabled it to surpass coal as America’s primary power source in 2016. Now, renewable energy sources (e.g., wind, solar, hydroelectric, and bioenergy) have shown capable of outperforming coal and are projected to bump it to third place for the long-term.

Natural gas and renewable energies are proving to be more efficient, cleaner and more cost-efficient than coal. Furthermore, the average US coal plant is approximately 40 years old, requiring costly maintenance and repairs. New coal plants are more expensive to build than renewable and natural gas counterparts…. Since 2014, six of the top ten US coal mining companies have at one time declared bankruptcy.

The Failure of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

“Ex-Corporate Lawyer’s Idea: Rein In ‘Sociopaths’ in the Boardroom”
Andrew Ross Sorkin [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-31-19]

“A longtime lawyer for the insurance giant American International Group, Mr. Gamble worked alongside Richard Beattie, Simpson Thacher’s chairman at the time, to advise A.I.G. during the financial crisis of 2008 and in the years of litigation that followed…. [Gamble] has concluded that corporate executives — the people who hired him and that his firm sought to protect — ‘are legally obligated to act like sociopaths.’ … “The corporate entity is obligated to care only about itself and to define what is good as what makes it more money,’ he writes in the essay. ‘Pretty close to a textbook case of antisocial personality disorder. And corporate persons are the most powerful people in our world.’… Companies, he suggests, should ‘adopt a binding set of ethical rules, approved by stockholders and addressing the key ethical dimensions of corporate life” … Once the rules are in place, he writes, ‘any shareholder could sue the board of directors for violating the ethical rules — just as any shareholder can today sue the board of directors for violating the maximize rule.’”

“The Ultra-Rich Are Ultra-Conservative” 
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-19]

“Billionaires are a politically active bunch…. Between 2001 and the end of 2012, 92 percent of the country’s hundred richest billionaires (combined wealth: $2.2 trillion) contributed to a political cause…. Yet they’re also eerily quiet…. As the trio of political scientists write, ‘many or most billionaires appear to favor, and quietly work for, policies that are opposed by large majorities of Americans’.”

Experts Say the DOJ Justification for T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Approval Is a Joke

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]The Dangerous Austerity Politics of the Washington Post

Dean Baker [FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

Predatory Finance

 

How Trump’s Political Appointees Overruled Tougher Settlements With Big Banks
[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 8-3-19]

 
GAO releases audit of Federal Reserve Board; now audit the New York Fed
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 1, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

On July 21, 2011 the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), released the first-ever government audit of the Federal Reserve in its 98-year history. The audit came about as a result of the determined efforts of Senator Bernie Sanders to force transparency on the secretive Wall Street bailout actions of the Federal Reserve during the 2008 financial crash and the years that followed….

Sanders issued a statement saying this on the day the findings were released:
“The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression…The Fed outsourced virtually all of the operations of their emergency lending programs to private contractors like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo. The same firms also received trillions of dollars in Fed loans at near-zero interest rates. Altogether some two-thirds of the contracts that the Fed awarded to manage its emergency lending programs were no-bid contracts….

But even after the GAO released its audit in 2011 showing that the Fed had sluiced over $16 trillion to a hodgepodge of Wall Street banks, foreign banks and hedge funds, there was still plenty of secrecy.

The GAO report notes on page two that the audit does not include the Fed’s loans made through its discount window during the financial crisis. Also, in a tiny footnote on page 2 of the GAO audit, there is this statement: “…this report does not cover the single-tranche term repurchase agreements conducted by FRBNY in 2008. FRBNY conducted these repurchase agreements with primary dealers through an auction process under its statutory authority for conducting temporary open market operations.” ….

The Levy Institute of Economics tried its hand at tallying up all of the Fed’s lending programs, including the single-tranche repurchase agreements (called ST OMO or single-tranche open market operations on the Street) and came up with a cumulative tally of $29 trillion.

“Goldman Sachs is spending $100 million to shave milliseconds off stock trades” 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

Lambert Strether: “No capital allocation issues in our economy, no sirree.”

Restoring balance to the economy

Applying the lessons from 1919 to today’s public banking movement
[Public Banking Institute 8-1-19]

Thomas M. Hanna and Adam Simpson write in In These Times that North Dakota’s triumphant story of a community determined to take control of its own economy holds many valuable lessons for today’s grassroots organizers. They highlight a key takeaway: the value of connecting the moral imperative — a more equitable and just world — to the desired outcome.

“In California and elsewhere in the country, public banking has very quickly moved from a fringe interest to a mainstream political issue. This is testament to both the long-term success of examples like the Bank of North Dakota and to the efforts of a new generation of activists and movement builders who, like their predecessors 100 years ago, understand how critically important control of finance and capital is to the hope of building a more equitable, just and democratic world.”

“When I joined my father on the building site, I saw a different side to him”
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

“It was on those building sites that, for the first time in my life, I saw a different side to my father. At home, my mother was not only the main breadwinner but also did practically all the cooking, cleaning and organisation. She was the engine of the family: paying the mortgage, asking me about my homework, remembering my friends’ names, picking up discarded socks and cooking dinner every night from scratch. My father was, at times, little more than a lodger. But at work, he suddenly turned into something like a figure of authority: intelligent, in charge, hard-working, exacting. He knew about things I had never even heard of, such as building regulations, damp-proof courses, rendering, load-bearing walls and lintels. He was patient, informed. He may have lost his pencil, hammer, spirit level and saw every 30 seconds, but he knew what he was doing. As I watched him briefing a bricklayer or discussing some finer detail of a knocked-through dining room with a plasterer, I saw someone who rarely came home. Since then, I have often suggested to friends struggling with parental relationships that might feel disappointing and strained to try meeting that parent at work, to visit them in situ, have lunch on their territory, watch them in action, and try to find this other side to someone with whom you are so familiar… Being a young woman on a building site, I also learned that the class system is alive and well in modern Britain. People I knew from school would fail to recognise me as they walked past the building site… There is nothing innately superior about life with a boardroom or swivel chair. The income discrepancy between so-called white-collar and blue-collar work is unfounded. …. work is work is work is work.”

States With High Minimum Wages Are Doing Just Fine 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 7-29-19]Trump’s cuts to food stamps are indefensible, economically and morally
[MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism 8-2-19]
Oregon vowed not to become California — and passed sweeping housing crisis legislation

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-19]

“In Portland, we’re just trying not to become San Francisco,” said Tina Kotek, the speaker of Oregon’s House of Representatives.This year, Kotek and her colleagues advanced the most ambitious response to housing affordability challenges in the country. Lawmakers passed a first-in-the-nation cap on rent increases and, in an effort to spur new homebuilding, became the only state to eliminate single-family-only zoning in many of its residential neighborhoods….

The issue came to a head during last year’s election after a measure to expand rent control in Oregon stalled in the prior legislative session.

Frustrated tenant activists and union leaders set their sights on Rod Monroe, a three-term Democratic state senator from eastern Portland and landlord who opposed the renter bill. They protested outside his home, hung banners advocating his ouster from highway overpasses and promoted former state Rep. Shemia Fagan to take his place.

Fagan, who on the campaign trail discussed visiting her homeless mother as a child, defeated him in the Democratic primary by more than 40 percentage points.

“This is a message election,” Fagan told the Willamette Week newspaper on election night. “And the message is that Oregonians are ready to deal with the housing crisis.”

Economics in the real world

“The Situation Is Crazy” – US Manufacturing PMI Plunges To 10-Year Lows
[Zerohedge, via Mike Norman Economics 8-1-19]

US manufacturing has entered into its sharpest downturn since 2009, suggesting the goods-producing sector is on course to act as a significant drag on the economy in the third quarter. The deterioration in the survey’s output index is indicative of manufacturing production declining at an annualised rate in excess of 3%.

Age of the housing stock 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

The age of the housing stock gives a fascinating insight into the development of settlement across the US. The predominance of pre-1939 settlement in North/Eastern corridor is striking.
(link: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/6g3jo8/what_period_of_time_plurality_of_houses_and/?st=J3PX5ZOF&sh=efde6285) reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comm…

Over half of USA housing is over 37 years old. This means there is enormous pent-up demand once we break the stranglehold of the one percent on the economy. It actually all comes together quite nicely: To stop climate change, one major task is to rebuild or replace every building to be carbon neutral. That puts tens of millions of people back to work. People who now have good paying jobs can afford to buy homes. Homes that are environmentally friendly. That restores the tax base of states and municipalities, allowing us to address the destruction caused by a half century of conservative / libertarian / neoliberal economic austerity. Climate change is NOT a problem too big to solve. Climate change is an opportunity too big to miss. 

Korean and Chinese shipyards merge to form largest shipbuilder in world
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 8-1-19]

“The world’s biggest shipyards are forging a new landscape for buying and building ocean vessels. The impending mergers of the shipbuilders in South Korea and in China will create two behemoths that will control around 46% of the global market among the world’s top 10 yards…. That will give the combined Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. and the merged China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. and China State Shipbuilding Corp. weightier control of the global market for ships over smaller competitors.”

South Korea’s shipbuilding industry is a clear example of the smashing success of ignoring the standard “free trade” theories of western economists, and following instead a national industrial policy. Simply put, South Korea was one of the world’s poorest agrarian economies after the Korean War and simply had NO capacity for building ships. Then the South Korean government decided it needed to build a steel industry — and a shipbuilding industry to use the steel. By the 1980s, this deliberate government policy of “picking winners and losers” had succeeded brilliantly, and initiated spillover effects in many other areas of the South Korean economy, including electronics and auto-making.

Climate and environmental crises

Heatwave: think it’s hot in Europe? The human body is already close to thermal limits elsewhere

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-19]

In a World With More and Intense Heat-Waves, a Review of What Heat Does to Us
[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 7-28-19]Living without water: the crisis pushing people out of El Salvador
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 7-31-19]Ethiopia Plants 350 Million Trees in a Day To Help Tackle Climate Crisis
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

The private sector would never be able to do something like this. Just one reason: who’s going to pay for it? You want to save the planet, it requires collective action. That means government. And the Kochs can go to hell. Another example of how the Green New Deal is going to put tens of millions of people to work. 

America is drowning in garbage. Now robots are being put on duty to help solve the recycling crisis
[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

The U.S. is facing a recycling crisis that is burying cities and towns in tens of millions of tons of garbage a day. The problem began last year when China, the world’s largest recyclable processor, stopped accepting most American scrap plastic and cardboard due to contamination problems, and a glut of plastics overwhelming its own processing facilities. Historically, China recycled the bulk of U.S. waste.

Contamination in the U.S. is high since recyclables are often dumped into one bin instead of multi-streamed or separated from the source. Now China has strict standards for recycling materials it will accept, requiring contamination levels in a plastic bale, for example, contain one-tenth of 1%….

To tackle this environmental catastrophe, U.S. companies and researchers are developing AI-assisted robotic technology that can work with humans in processing plants and improve quality control. The goal is to have robots do a better job at sorting garbage and reduce the contamination and health hazards human workers face in recycling plants every day. Sorting trash is a dirty and dangerous job. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to be injured on the job, according to a report at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. The profession also has high fatality rates.

“Boom Goes the Plastics Industry”
[Sierra Club, via Naked Capitalism 8-2-19]

“Facing intensifying global efforts to curtail the use of oil and gas for transportation and energy—and at the same time seeking markets for the torrent of oil and gas from the US fracking boom—the fossil fuel industry is looking to plastics as a lifeline. Today, 14 percent of oil and 8 percent of gas is used for the manufacture of petrochemicals, the essential feedstock of plastic production. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2050, 50 percent of the growth in oil demand will be related to petrochemicals… ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco, among the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, are betting big on plastics. … The American Chemistry Council reports that since 2010, plans for 333 new chemical-manufacturing projects have been announced in the United States, representing more than $200 billion in capital investments; the industry association notes that “much of the investment is geared toward export markets for chemistry and plastics products.’”

“Climate Change in a Coastal County: Think Global, Act Hyperlocal” 

[Pew Trusts Stateline, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-19]

“[T]oday, sea level rise in Dare County [North Carolina] is among the most precipitous in the nation, an average 0.18 inches a year in some parts, enough that scientists come from around the world to study the land… The resilience projects will carry the community only so far. Beach nourishment, for example, typically lasts five to seven years — though a single hurricane this fall could wipe out all the millions of dollars of new sand laid this summer. At some point, Nags Head and other Dare County communities will hit a tipping point and decide the return isn’t worth the investment. ‘I don’t know when that day is,’ said [Mayor Ben Cahoon, a Republican], the mayor. ‘But it’s out there.’ When that happens, [Reide Corbett, a coastal oceanographer and geochemist] said, communities will have to approach a final step in coastal resilience: retreat. Just move folks inland and out of danger entirely.”

EDGI: The New Digital Landscape: How The Trump Administration Has Undermined Federal Web Infrastructures For Climate Information (pdf)

[Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), via Internet Archive 7-30-19]

U.S. federal government websites are a key component of an infrastructure that supports environmental awareness and decision-making. The Trump administration has undermined environmental governance by disinvesting in website maintenance and restricting access to content on issues such as climate change. These website changes actively erode the digital bridge by which publicly-funded research is contextualized and shared with those in need of information, including the general public and decision-makers in state, local, and tribal governments.

GOP Florida Governor enlists new officer to prepare state for rising sea level
[The Hill, via Mike Norman Economics 8-2-19]

Health Care Crisis

“Cancer patients are being denied drugs, even with doctor prescriptions and good insurance” 

[Fresno Bee, via Naked Capitalism 8-2-19]

“Norma Smith was diagnosed with stage-three cancer in December… Smith, a retired special education teacher in Fresno, and her husband, Rodney, a retired school psychologist and director of special education, consider their ‘very expensive’ health insurance coverage to be ‘the best.’ But that insurance didn’t ensure Smith would get the drugs she needed when facing CVS Specialty Pharmacy – the pharmacy their insurance required them to use. Cancer drugs prescribed by Smith’s oncologist were denied because they didn’t follow the standard protocol sequence of medications that Smith’s pharmacy benefit manager, CVS Caremark, had in their guidelines. That means pharmacy benefit managers have the authority to trump a doctor’s medical judgment without seeing patients or knowing their full medical history, and without accountability for the consequences of what happens to sick people. Smith is among thousands of documented cases of patients who have been denied needed medications in this way. Doctors and other medical professionals say these denials are only expected to get worse as the country’s largest health insurance companies and pharmacies are increasingly joining forces. These elusive middlemen with the authority to deny doctors’ prescriptions based on company policies are sometimes referred to as PBMs for short. ”

An ObamaCare navigator speaks

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-19]


All On Medicare@AllOnMedicare

 · 

 

When did you become radicalized by the U.S. health care non-system?

erik@erikdstock

 

When I got a job as an ACA ‘navigator’ to help people who’d never had it sign up for & use health insurance, and the vast majority of them (myself included) could only afford the lowest-tier, most bare bones plans. Just disappointing people all day long.


80

12:40 PM – May 5, 2019
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The “When did you become radicalized by the U.S. health care non-system?” is an important archive of horror stories.

75% of rural hospitals have now closed in states that chose not to expand Medicaid
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

Andy Slavitt

@ASlavitt

 

NEWS: 75% of rural hospitals have now closed in states that chose not to expand Medicaid.http://gatehousenews.com/ruralhospitals/financialtroubles/ …

 


Rural hospitals in crisis

States that refused Obamacare in the worst shape

gatehousenews.com

 

Original Medicare took only a year to implement, back in the era of steam:
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

Michael Beschloss

 

@BeschlossDC

 

Harry Truman’s application card for Medicare, co-signed by Lyndon Johnson on same day he signed Medicare bill at Truman Library, today 1965:

View image on Twitter


2,486

8:53 AM – Jul 30, 2019
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Private Equity: The Perps Behind Destructive Hospital Surprise Billing

[Naked Capitalism 8-1-19]

…co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Eileen Appelbaum explained in an editorial in The Hill in May how private equity firms have bought specialist physicians’ practices to exploit the opportunity to hit vulnerable patients with egregious charges.

[Twitter , via Naked Capitalism 8-1-19]

Gabriel Zucman@gabriel_zucman

 

In 1980, life expectancy was the same in the US, UK, Germany, and France.Now it’s 3-4 years lower in the US, and it is falling.

That’s in a country that spends almost twice as much on health care than every other nation.

 

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Lithium Industry Buildup Is Outracing the Electric-Car Boom
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 7-30-19]

Wind, solar provide N.C. farmers with stability
[The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.), via American Wind Energy Association 7-31-19]

Farmers across North Carolina are hosting wind and solar projects as a way to offset volatile agriculture prices, weather concerns and other trends that hinder farming, writes Helen Livingston, a farmer in Robeson County. “Adding clean energy grows tax revenues and creates jobs for counties that need it the most,” she writes.

Total wind only requires .01% of US’ landmass
[CleanTechnica, via American Wind Energy Association 7-29-19]

Wind farms could power 100% of the nation’s primary energy needs while operating at 40% efficiency using a space of 470 square miles–or .01% of the nation’s landmass, writes TFIE Strategy Chief Strategist Michael Barnard. No one is suggesting the US switch entirely to wind, but the data shows how easily the feat could be accomplished, he writes.

Researchers Develop Speedy Soft Robot That’s More Robust Than a Cockroach

[IEEE, via Naked Capitalism 8-1-19]

This prototype robot measures just 3 centimeters by 1.5 cm. It takes a scanning electron microscope to actually see what the robot is made of—a thermoplastic layer is sandwiched by palladium-gold electrodes, bonded with adhesive silicone to a structural plastic at the bottom. When an AC voltage (as low as 8 volts but typically about 60 volts) is run through the electrodes, the thermoplastic extends and contracts, causing the robot’s back to flex and the little “foot” to shuffle. A complete step cycle takes just 50 milliseconds, yielding a 200 hertz gait. And technically, the robot “runs,” since it does have a brief aerial phase.

 

Disrupting mainstream politics

The Difference Between ‘left’ And ‘liberal’ – And Why Voters Need To Know

John Broich | Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University [The Conversation, via Mike Norman Economics 8-1-19]

Begins with a nice short explanation of the mid-1800s British origins of liberalism, which favor markets over governments. 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is squarely liberal in the mode of the Clintons. He was a supporter of NAFTA and championed the market-based Affordable Care Act over universal health care.

Other major contenders remain a bit of a mystery on where they stand on the liberal-left divide. Some observers thought Kamala Harris avoided tipping her hat in her recent biography; while Pete Buttigieg is also hard to pin down.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are left-leaning. They’re both in favor of a national health insurance, and call for an end to private health insurance to make the system work. They’re both for tax changes that would take more income from the wealthy in order to bolster Social Security and other welfare. They’re both for greater regulations on the banking and lending industry and the creation of post office banking.

Voters need to understand the fundamental differences between liberalism and leftism. It’s the difference between a candidate who believes capitalism, with just a little refereeing, will eventually provide what working people need, versus a candidate who believes serious intervention in the capitalist economy is necessary.

“DCCC in ‘complete chaos’ as uproar over diversity intensifies” 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-19]

 “POLITICO reported last week that black and Hispanic lawmakers are furious with Bustos’ stewardship of the campaign arm. They say the upper echelon of the DCCC is bereft of diversity, and it is not doing enough to reach Latino voters and hire consultants of color. In addition, several of Bustos’ senior aides have left in the first six months of her tenure, including her chief of staff — a black woman — and her director of mail and polling director, both women.”

“What the Left Must Do” 

Jeremy Toback [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 8-2-19]

“Sanders is building his campaign around a clear commitment to transformative universal policies, which create the solidarity necessary to win them. The others are not. Sanders is using his campaign infrastructure and volunteers to create solidarity on the ground with workers and unions. The others are not. Sanders is coalescing the movement necessary to win the fight against powerful, monied interests. The others are not. None of the DEM candidates allegedly in Sanders’s lane exhibit even the most rudimentary understanding of the scale of this fight or the political power needed to win it. Sanders has made political revolution a mantra.”

“The old Democratic trade paradigm is collapsing. Good riddance.”

[The Week, via Naked Capitalism 8-2-19]

“Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is now proposing a bold overhaul of how the U.S. conducts its trade negotiations. It’s only a matter of time before the old trade paradigm dies an ignoble and well-deserved death…. [Warren] would replace the current wildly business-slanted negotiation process with one that is carried out in the open, and prioritizes “labor rights, human rights, environmental protection, combating climate change, heading off international tax avoidance…. Critically, Warren would also include the welfare of other countries as part of the considerations.”

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How do student evaluations survive?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 4:52pm in

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Among the few replicable findings from research on higher education, one of the most notable is that student evaluations of teaching are both useless as measures of the extent to which students have learned anything and systematically biased against women and people of color. As this story says, reliance on these measures could lead to lawsuits.

But why hasn’t this already happened. The facts have been known for years, and potential cases arise every time these evaluations are used in hiring or promotion: arguably every time the data is collected. And student evaluations are particularly popular in the US, where litigation is the national sport. Yet no lawsuits have yet taken place AFAICT.

Maybe the zeitgeist is changing. I was going to write this post before seeing the linked article, which turned up in my Google search. Any lawyers or potential litigants want to comment?

MMT Macro Final (3/3) Entanglement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 10:32am in

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Previous posts (  MMT Macro Final 1/3 , and  MMT Macro Final 2/3 ) have covered questions 1-4 and 5-8. This post covers the last 4 question of the MMT based  Advanced Macro course I taught last semester at PIDE. The central methodological difference at the heart of my course was the principle of Entanglement: Theories cannot be understood outside their historical context, and history cannot be understood without understanding theories used by human agents to understand and respond to that history. This is one of the three methodological principles that I have extracted from a study of  Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation . This issue is discussed in the answer to question 11 below. Because of its central importance, I have also tried to explain it in greater detail in a separate 18 min video lecture. I recently came across a paper by Yair Kaldor on  The cultural foundations of economic categories: finance and class in the marginalist revolution which explains the birth of marginal utility theory in the historical context of emergence of finance and international trade as important influences on price, which were not compatible with traditional labor theories of value. The paper shows how strongly these emerging theories were influenced by the historical context, as well as by the point of view of the groups which created and spread these theories. This provides an illustration of the entanglement principle that history shapes theories, and also is shaped by theories.

ANSWERS to question 9-12 of MMT Macro Final Exam at PIDE in June 2019

9. Whereas it is commonly thought that Banks are financial intermediaries, collecting from depositor to lend to borrowers, the central business of banks is “Maturity Transformation”. Explain in detail, in context of modern economies.
Common belief about bank is that they act as financial intermediaries. It means that people who have extra money deposit it with banks who pays them return them on saving. Bank then lends this money to borrowers and charge interest (higher than saving rate) on lending. This higher return (difference in lending and saving rate) is their earning. Now it is possible that depositors want to withdraw their money while returns on lending starts later. For this it seeks loans from interbank market (if its own reserves are not enough for daily transactions) or from central bank (lender of the last resort). This is the wrong picture of how banking works, but this is widely taught and believed.
Banking actually works by maturity transformation. A thirty year mortgage loan is transformed into a sequence of one day loans. The simplest way to understand this is to consider a bank AA with ZERO assets, which makes a 30 year loan of $100,000 at 5% interest. The borrower withdraws the money and deposits it in another bank BB creating a liability which bank AA owes to bank BB. Millions of such transactions takes place everyday. Assume there is ZERO money in the system, in order to get clarity about how it works. Also assume that no one actually uses cash – everybody writes checks for every purchase, so all money created actually stays within some bank or the other. At the start of the day all banks made loans of varying maturities – say from one year to thirty years – by simply opening checking accounts in the name of people who borrowed. Then people wrote checks on these accounts to other banks. All the money got re-shuffled between the banks. A lot of liabilities for bank AA were generated when people wrote checks on their (empty) accounts, but also a lot of credits came in when people deposited checks from other banks into their accounts at AA. At the end of the day, bank AA will have either a net credit or a net loss. Overall, the entire banking sector will have net position of zero – no credit or loss. This is because no money has flowed into or out of the banking sector. So if some bank is down, then some other bank must be up. At the end of the day, inter-bank clearing takes place. Banks which are short of money borrow OVERNITE from those who have surplus at the Inter-Bank borrowing rate of 3%. Since the maximum they borrow is limited by the amount they have lent, they will always make profits on the differential between the overnite borrowing rate of 3% and the long run rate of 5%. This same process repeats every day for thirty years. So the bank AA finances a thirty year loan by daily borrowing everyday for the entire thirty years. This is maturity transformation – transformation of a thirty year loan into a sequence of one day loans over the period of the loan. Leakages of cash from the system only add some addition wrinkles which don’t matter much for the basic picture described above. See my post on Monetization, Maturity Transformation and Modern Monetary Theory. Note the dramatic difference between the Maturity Transformation and the Financial Intermediation picture of how banks work.

10. Explain the Job Guarantee Program, where the government becomes Employer of Last Resort. Explain why conventional economists think this will lead to inflation. Explain why a poorly designed JG can indeed lead to inflation but a well-designed program should not.
Minsky’s JG program suggests that govt. should act as the “Employer of the last resort”. It should give jobs to all those people who are looking for jobs according to their skills and area of expertise – as they are, where they are. Govt. should provide them on job training. Let us classify laborers as A, B, C, …, Z category according to their attractiveness to private firms, and therefore their employability. The goal of the job guarantee program is to tend to the bottom of the pool, to give jobs to Z-category workers first and then work up. The private sector has the opposite priorities and starts with A-category and work down. The government should provide a guaranteed minimum wage which anyone who wants a job can get. This should be low enough so as to not compete with jobs in the private sector. When the economy is doing well, the private sector will go down the rankings to lower categories and workers will shift out of the minimum wage government jobs to the better paying private sector jobs. In downturn the opposite will happen as workers laid off from private sector will go back to less well-paid government jobs. Full employment will be maintained throughout the business cycle.
Conventional Views: Mainstream economists find two problems with this scheme. One is: How will the government finance a massive job creation program? Where will it get the revenues for this? The MMT answer is that a sovereign government does not need to raise money. It creates money by fiat, and can just print as much money as is required for this purpose. After all, the USA government spent $29 Trillion to bailout the financial sector following the GFC without any obvious adverse effects. Many other examples throughout the world of Keynesian deficit financing and fiscal policy leading to good results are available. The second objection is that printing money and giving it to the workers will lead to inflation. The output produced in the economy will remain the same, but there will be a lot more money in the economy so prices will have to rise to achieve supply and demand equilibrium.
MMT Answers: If laborers are employed in non-productive jobs, so that they add nothing to the total output of the economy, then the conventional view is valid. If the Government hires millions of people who do nothing at all, then inflation would result, exactly as predicted by conventional theory. However, the key to the Job Guarantee program is to ensure that all people who are hired actually add to the output of the economy. By looking the least desirable and worst paid jobs in the economy, Minsky estimated that newly hired zero-skill and experience workers could contribute at least 5 times their salary in terms of production of new goods and services to the economy. Thus, additional money created to pay salaries would be counterbalanced by the additional output produced by the newly hired workers, so that there is no necessary inflationary pressure. More delicate inter-sectoral accounting is needed to ensure that this idea actually works in practice. If all new workers are hired in any one sector (like services), they will all generated demands for food, housing, education and other basic needs, leading to inflation in these sectors. So one part of the JG program involves balancing the job creation strategy in such a way that the additional demand generates is actually met by the additional production. For example, anticipating an increase in demand for food due to the JG program, we could allocate a sufficient proportion of jobs to the agricultural sector, so that additional food is created in sufficient quantities to meet the additional demand generated. Similarly, we can actually anticipate the additional demand which will be generated by using the detailed information from Household Income Expenditure Surveys and provide extra jobs and productive capacities in sectors which will receive the greatest additional demand. For more information, see “ Employment for All ”.

11. Explain the idea of “Entanglement” and illustrate the concept by showing how monetary policy in post-World War 1 era had opposite effects from those in the pre-World War 1 era, due to changed historical context.
The idea of entanglement suggests that theory and history are tangled with each other.Theories are based on attempts to understand and learn from a particular historical experience, and hence cannot be understood in isolation, separately from the historical context. For example, to understand Keynesian economic theory, we must understand the Great Depression. More complex is the other direction – we cannot understand history, without understanding the theories used by people to understand that history. This is because the response people made to historical events was governed by the theories they used to understand history. When the phenomena of poverty emerged and became widespread in England, and in European economies, people made an effort to understand this, in order to devise suitable policies to combat poverty. Most theories places the responsibility on external factors and hence recommended gentle and sympathetic treatment of the poor. However, Malthusian theories came to dominate the scene, and the English poor laws were designed in the light of these theories. Malthusian theories place the blame for poverty on the high birth rate of the poor, and recommend harsh treatment to control the population. Similarly, economic policy in the post-WW2 era in Western world was governed by Keynesian theory and this accounts for the widespread prosperity and full employment that was observed from 1945 to 1975 roughly.
The concept of entanglement is well illustrated by monetary policy in pre and post WW1 period. As the lecture on Global Financial Architecture Part II explains in detail, the same policies had different effects in the pre an post war periods. In the pre-war era, Central Banks were committed to stability of international exchange rates and prioritized this over the needs of the domestic economy. A temporary suspension of convertibility to gold was a stabilizing factor, where Central Banks sought time to borrow reserves to fulfill international obligations. Private actors assumed that Central Banks would seek to strengthen the currency and therefore moved to support the currency, in order to profit from the anticipated policy. In the post war period, Central Banks were more committed to restoration of war-ravaged domestic economies. In this period, a suspension of gold payments signaled a weakening of the currency and the currency was attacked in anticipation of further weakening. The same policy led to entirely different outcomes in the two periods because the historical context. This clearly illustrates how effects of policy depend on the historical context. To understand how policy shapes history, we can show that wrong policy, based on wrong theories about how money functions, was responsible for both World War 1 and World War 2, although the causes for the two wars were radically different.

12. Explain the sequence of events which shows how the Global Financial Crisis 2007 was the revenge of East Asia for the crisis created by over-investment by foreigners.
Atif Main and Amir Sufi explain the casual chain of GFC via East-Asia. In the beginning the East Asian emerging economies had high interest rates which attracted the foreign capitalists to invest here. They had strict controls over capital mobility but IMF and big financial investors persuaded them to remove these restrictions. They were offered the temptation that inflows of foreign capital would further enhance their growth, but they were unaware of the risks attached to this hot capital. A huge amount of foreign capital, seeking high returns, flowed into the East Asian economies. Inflow of foreign capital led to an asset price bubble in land and housing. The banks took loans with a promise to return in dollars. The bubble then burst, with a small disturbance in currency value leading to jittery speculators withdrawing huge amounts of foreign capital. Even though the ground realities of the economies remained solid, foreign investors refused to lend more money because of damaged expectations about the future. The East Asian banks did not have dollars to pay back, even Central Bank or govt. did not have enough dollars to pay back. This led to massive crises, so the countries had to go to IMF to borrow dollars. IMF imposed austerity policies on them which put them in deeper recession. The lesson they learnt was that to prevent future crises, Central Banks should have high reserves of dollars. Dollar reserve holdings at Central Banks throughout the world increased by trillions of dollars over the decade leading up to the Global Financial Crisis. Central Banks holding dollars reserves, and private institutions, wanted to hold dollars in safe liquid assets with highest possible returns. In U.S. in 1970, the rules were strict and only safe assets were securitized but this foreign demand put pressure on U.S. to securitize risky assets also in 1990’s. These extra savings or capital was put into U.S. mortgage and bond market which created house bubble. The certification agencies participated in fraud to make Mortgage Based Securities appear as AAA, almost as safe as US Treasury, even though these assets were actually very risky. Inflows of trillions of dollars of foreign investors created a bubble in US real estate and stock prices. Eventually the bubble burst, and foreign investors took out their capital and the financial sector collapsed, requiring a bailout amounting to $29 Trillion eventually. That’s why it is said that GFC was the revenge of East Asia.

Solow kicking Lucas and Sargent in the pants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 9:13am in

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from Lars Syll Professors Lucas and Sargent … have a proposal for constructive research that I find hard to talk about sympathetically. They call it equilibrium business cycle theory, and they say very firmly that it is based on two terribly important postulates — optimizing behavior and perpetual market clearing. When you read closely, they […]

Can capitalism feed the world sustainably and fairly?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 2:05am in

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from Ken Zimmerman In 1798, just before the beginning of the industrial revolution in the UK, Robert Malthus published “An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers.” The thesis for the book was simple. The […]

Open thread August 2, 2019

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/08/2019 - 9:40am in

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Boris Johnson’s Fake Radicalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/08/2019 - 3:12am in

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We hear much about Johnson coming to power as an iconoclastic figure willing to cut a swathe through the ranks of the Establishment and especially the Civil Service, aided by blue skies thinker Dominic Cummings.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. There has never been a Prime Minister more entrenched in and deferential to the London Establishment than Boris Johnson.

It may seem strange that Johnson’s very first executive decision on coming in to 10 Downing Street was to cancel the long delayed judicial inquiry into UK involvement in torture and extraordinary rendition. On the face of it, there were political attractions for Johnson in pursuing the issue. The policy of complicity in torture had been established by Tony Blair and Jack Straw, with as ever the active collaboration of Alastair Campbell. A judicial inquiry would hold them to account, and given they are not only New Labour but a leading Remainer posse, you would think Johnson would have pushed forward with the chance to expose them. Plus he likes to pose as something of a social liberal himself. So why was Johnson’s urgent priority to cancel the torture inquiry?

The answer is that scores of very senior civil servants were deeply implicated in British collusion in extraordinary rendition. Those directly guilty of complicity in torture include Sir Richard Dearlove, Sir John Scarlett, Sir William Ehrman, Lord Peter Ricketts and Sir Stephen Wright. It was Johnson’s fellow old Etonian, Sir William Ehrman, who chaired the series of meetings in the FCO on the implementation of the policy of getting intelligence through torture.

I testified on this subject, with documentary evidence, before the Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons in secret session. The Committee’s report commended me because without my evidence that series of meetings, which at Ehrmann’s instruction were held without minutes or record, would never have come to light.

130. This was not unique to the Agencies. Their sponsoring Departments appear to have adopted the same approach. We heard evidence from a former FCO official, Craig Murray, who suggested that “there was a deliberate policy of not committing the discussion on receipt of intelligence through torture to paper in the Foreign Office”.
In July 2004, when he was Ambassador to Tashkent, he raised concerns about the use of Uzbek intelligence derived from torture in a formal exchange of telegrams with the FCO. Mr Murray drew our attention to FCO documents from the same time, which we have seen, one of which referred to “meetings to look at conditions of receipt of intelligence as a general issue”. He told us that the meetings “specifically discuss[ed] the receipt of intelligence under torture from Uzbekistan” and “were absolutely key to the formation of policy on extraordinary rendition and intelligence”.
Mr Murray told us that, when he had given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about this, they sought the documents from the FCO which replied that the “meetings were informal meetings and were not minuted ”. He went on to say:
“the idea that you have regular meetings convened at director level, convened by the Director of Security and Intelligence, where you are discussing the receipt of intelligence from torture, and you do not minute those meetings is an impossibility, unless an actual decision or instruction not to minute the meetings has been given.… Were it not for me and my bloody-mindedness, … you would never know those meetings had happened. Nobody would ever know those meetings had happened.”

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

It was not concern for Blair and Straw that led Johnson to cancel the judge led inquiry. It was the knowledge that Establishment insiders like Dearlove, Ehrman and Ricketts would be forced to give public evidence of their wrongdoing and could be liable to criminal proceedings. The judicial inquiry was promised by Cameron but both Cameron and May blenched at the shockwaves it would send through the ranks of the mandarins who run the country. Johnson has now used the opportunity of his advent, when nobody was paying much attention to anything but Brexit, to try to bury the subject completely and protect the Establishment.

It is essential to the health of our society that the full and shameful truth of this disgraceful episode is told and the guilty are held to account. I hope that once this unconstitutional Johnson regime – which has no majority in the House of Commons for its major policy and was appointed by an abuse of monarchical authority – has fallen, the subject will be brought back both by a Corbyn government at Westminster and in Holyrood by the government of Independent Scotland.

I got sacked for opposing torture and extraordinary rendition. Of those that supported it and abetted it, Lord Peter Ricketts is now Strategic Adviser to Lockheed Martin, so reaping the cash from his role in promoting wars that killed millions of innocents. Sir Stephen Wright is Senior Adviser to Mitsui & Co. Sir John Scarlett is a senior executive for Rupert Murdoch. Sir Richard Dearlove is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of London and a member of the far right Henry Jackson Society, among other things.

The wages of sin appear not bad at all. As the only civil servant to have entered at the time a written protest against UK complicity in torture, I remain unemployable.

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The post Boris Johnson’s Fake Radicalism appeared first on Craig Murray.

Chain-weighting the base-year problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 11:13pm in

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from Blair Fix, Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler    To reiterate, the base-year problem leads to uncertainty in the calculation of real GDP. But instead of openly reporting this uncertainty, government economists have devised a “fix”. Rather than using a single base year, they “chain” together many adjacent base years. This is a bit like […]

Game Theory and Operations Research lacked substantiated applications in social, political and economic fields.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 9:13pm in

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from Richard Vahrenkamp Since 1945, the United States had experienced a unique innovation push with the computer, the nuclear weapon, new air combat weapons and the transistor within just a few years. These innovations were accompanied by Game Theory and Operations Research in the academic field. Widely–held is the view that computers supplemented the mathematical […]

VOICE Chat Testing Session #2: Jami

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 5:31pm in

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Here’s the testing report for VOICE testing session #2. TL;DR we tested with three people and had a pretty good voice chat, although figuring out how to get group chat going took a bit of experimentation. Thanks to Naughtylus (@Naughtylus@fosstodon.org) for the write-up.

As I mentioned in the report on the first testing session, VOICE (VOICE Organized Investigation of Chat Engines) is an informal app testing group, trialing free code apps to see how well they handle voice chat, especially with groups. We aim to have a group chat testing session at least once a month, on a Sunday, starting at 8:00 UTC, with the first Sunday of the month as the default. We are currently using a Matrix chat room to confirm the timing of testing sessions, as well as for discussion about available apps and related topics: #voicechat:matrix.org

VOICE Scheduled Testing Session #2

Sunday 21 July, 8:00 UTC

Candidate: Jami (previously known as GNU Ring)

Previous Session: Test Session #1

Comments by: @Naughtylus@fosstodon.org

VOICE (VOICE Organized Investigation of Chat Engines) is an informal app testing group, trialing free code apps to see how well they handle voice chat, especially with groups. We aim to have a group chat testing session at least once a month, on a Sunday, starting at 8:00 UTC, with the first Sunday of the month as the default. We are currently using a Matrix room to confirm the timing of testing sessions, as well as for discussion about available apps and related topics: #voicechat:matrix.org

For this second instance of our scheduled test sessions, we tried the distributed text, voice, and video chat app Jami. Jami is part of the GNU project, was previously known as Ring, and used SIP technology for voice and video calls. As of late, though, Savoir-faire Linux has begun shifting the technology stack of the app from centralised (using servers) to distributed (using peer-to-peer technologies), and rebranding it as Jami. The app currently features one-to-one text, video, and audio chat, as well as audio and video conferencing (but not text as of yet). Everything is encrypted by default (there’s not even an option to turn it off) and the only servers used are the bootstrap nodes for the DHT and those used to lookup users from their username, but both are configurable.

So we set out to test the audio conference feature, we would have liked to try the video as well, but one of us was staying at a hotel and didn’t have the bandwidth for it. While an audio call is simple enough to place in Jami (there are big buttons where you’d expect them), an audio conference (with more than two participants) is an other beast entirely. If @AmarOk@mastodon.social (one of the Jami devs) hadn’t asserted the feature was implemented I’m not sure we would have found it.

To set up a conference in Jami, first call one of the intended participants, then once the call is established, call a second one. That will put the first call on hold. At this point you have two ongoing calls, if you resume the first one, you’ll be able to hear and speak to the two other participants, but they won’t hear each other. That’s not what we want, so what you actually have to do, is drag and drop the first call onto the second one (or the other way around, we still haven’t figured that one yet). Now your UI should show two ongoing calls, but everyone is able to hear each other. On their end, though, their UI should display only an ongoing call with you, which prompts me to think your node is actually acting as relay and there is no direct connection between the other two participants.

In this experiment the longest conversation we’ve sustained was 22min long, with a 5min monologue with no noticeable delay and very few skips in audio, so an overall quality on par with what we previously tested with Jitsi in Riot. It should also be noted that some of us were 22 000 km apart from each other and that the major source of instability in the audio was the poor hotel wifi.

We also tried to mess around with the UI to see if and how we could break it, and it really wasn’t that difficult. First, if you’re hosting the call (that is if you’re the one that did the drag and drop voodoo), you can’t mute your audio, clicking mute on any of the two ongoing calls updates the UI but doesn’t do anything. (I’m not sure if that’s intentional, but I suspect it has to do with the host acting as a relay and piping the audio of the other participants. So muting would in effect mute them as well.) Second, putting any of the calls on hold when you’re hosting flat out breaks the whole conference, you can’t resume anything after that. Just don’t do it.

There was only three of us, so this is about the extent of what we were able to test, and I’m curious to see how it plays out with more participants.

So overall, impressive quality for a peer-to-peer solution, but the UI/UX could use some improvement.

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