Saturday, October 25, 2014

Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? (Parts 1, 2 and 3) — Chris Hedges interviews Sheldon Wolin

For many years now, Wolin has been perhaps Hedges’ most cited source in articles and lectures about the state and direction of American society. An intellectual peer of Noam Chomsky, albeit less well known, Wolin is the author of seminal books on contemporary political theory, including “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism,” and “Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought.” He is an enthusiastic proponent of popular participation in government. 
In part two of the conversation, which was produced by The Real News Network, Hedges mentions that Wolin wrote that he “doesn’t believe we have any authentic democratic institutions left.” 
Wolin responds: “I don’t. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but I think—in terms of effective democratic institutions, I don’t think we do. I think there’s potential. I think there’s potential in movements towards self-government, movements towards economic independence, and movements towards educational reform, and so on, that have the seeds for change. But I think that it’s very difficult now, given the way the media is controlled and the way political parties are organized and controlled, it’s very difficult to get a foothold in politics in such a way that you can translate it into electoral reforms, electoral victories, and legislation, and so on. It’s a very, very complex, difficult, demanding process. And as I’ve said before, democracy’s great trouble is it’s episodic.”
Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
Chris Hedges interviews Sheldon Wolin, Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University
Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

Dietz Vollrath — Scale, Profits, and Inequality

But if we take seriously the incentives behind innovation, then it isn’t simply the genius of the individual that matters for growth. The scale of the economy is equally relevant.
I would say that scale is much more relevant than innovation. Innovation is not new. What is new is population size and mass markets that serve either the entire market or major segments. There is still significant innovation in niche markets, but the innovators are not rewarded anywhere near like those who can capture market share in a mass market. It's the existence of mass markets (scale) that results in the level of inequality that prevails and promises to be become the norm as more an more niches are absorbed into conglomerates and smaller less efficient firms merged and consolidated. You know, "the economies of scale." Do we need unlimited inequality to incentive innovation in this environment? Why? Most of the gains are simply rents that are extracted because they can be.

The Growth Economics Blog
Scale, Profits, and Inequality
Dietz Vollrath | Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Houston
h/t Mark Thoma at Economist's View

Adam Curtis — HAPPIDROME - Part One

In the battle for Kobane on the Syrian border everyone talks about the enemy - IS - and the frightening ideas that drive them. No-one talks about the Kurdish defenders and what inspires them. 
But the moment you look into what the Kurds are fighting for - what you discover is absolutely fascinating. They have a vision of creating a completely new kind of society that is based on the ideas of a forgotten American revolutionary thinker. 
He wanted to create a future world in which there would be no hierarchies, no systems that exercise power and control individuals. And the Kurds in Kobane are trying to build a model of that world. 
It means that the battle we are watching night after night is not just between good and evil. It is also a struggle of an optimistic vision of the future against a dark conservative idea drawn from the past. 
It is a struggle that may also have great relevance to us in the west. Because the revolutionary ideas that have inspired the Kurds also shine a powerful light on the system of power in Britain today. They argue that we in the west are controlled by a new kind of hierarchical power that we don’t fully see or understand. 
There are two men at the heart of this story.…
Adam Curtis
h/t Andy Blatchford

Gilbert Doctorow — Twilight of the Gods: George Soros in Brussels

George Soros’s press conference in Brussels on Thursday, 23 October, had one unifying theme, his loathing of Russia.
Nominally it was to publicize his latest essay, “Wake Up, Europe” released several days ago on the online edition of The New York Review of Books and already republished in various world newspapers of record in local languages.
But both in his introductory remarks and in answers to questions from the floor Soros also went into a variety of side issues, making at times some genuinely newsworthy statements. In this short essay we will examine first what Soros said and second what was written for him.
Russia Insider
Twilight of the Gods: George Soros in Brussels
Gilbert Doctorow | Founder of the European office, Committee on East-West Accord

RJ Eskow — 7 facts that show the American Dream is dead

Vacations; an education; staying home to raise your kids; a life without crushing debt; seeing the doctor when you don’t feel well; a chance to retire: one by one, these mainstays of middle-class life are disappearing for most Americans. Until we demand political leadership that will do something about it, they’re not coming back.
Can the American dream be restored? Yes, but it will take concerted effort to address two underlying problems. First, we must end the domination of our electoral process by wealthy and powerful elites. At the same time, we must begin to address the problem of growing economic inequality. Without a national movement to call for change, change simply isn’t going to happen.
7 facts that show the American Dream is dead
Richard (RJ) Eskow | Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America's Future and is host and managing editor of The Zero Hour on We Act Radio

Edward Lozansky and Martin Sieff — Sanctions Policy Is a Massive Fail. Hurting Europe, Helping China, and Isolating... the US

Policymakers in Washington and Brussels continue in the delusion that they live in an “End of History” world where their shared liberal and democratic values are bound to win – and quickly – over every alternative economic and political system. 
However, the harsh truth remains that we live in a fragmenting world of 7 billion people where competing and very different centers of civilization and power have already emerged. It is the world predicted 21 years ago by the late American historian and geo-strategist Samuel Huntington. 
In Huntington’s multi-polar world, which, in fact, already exists, the West’s sanctions on Russia will certainly not bring Moscow to heel over Ukraine. They will backfire, creating instead the very nightmare that Washington and Brussels policymakers should avoid at all costs: The creation of a world divided between different trading and strategic blocs.
Economic sanctions are not isolating Russia: They are isolating the United States and straining the bonds of the European Union. Those outcomes are already clear.
Russia Insider | Opinion
Sanctions Policy Is a Massive Fail. Hurting Europe, Helping China, and Isolating... the US
Edward Lozansky, President of the American University in Moscow, and Martin Sieff, national columnist for the Post-Examiner online newspapers and a senior fellow of the American University in Moscow

Yves Smith — Adair Turner: The Consequences of Money-Manager Capitalism

Yves here. This is a terrific interview with Lord Adair Turner, former head of the FSA. Most of it focuses on the things missed in contemporary economics, particularly macroeconomics, and how some disciplinary “back to the future” would be desirable. 
A major topic of discussion is how wealth is becoming as concentrated as it was in the 18th century, and the driver then and now was the disproportionately large role real estate has come to play. Then, it was income-producing agricultural land. Now it is urban property, bid up by domestic and international elites who want to live in particularly prized cities. Turner points out the irony that access to cheap finance for housing, meant to help middle and lower income buyers, has instead contributed to rising wealth inequality. He also describes how the ability of banks and financial markets to supply virtually unlimited amounts of credit, against a limited stock of particularly sought-after locations, has the potential to create tulip-mania type results. 
Perhaps due to time constraints, Turner didn’t venture into the views of classical economists, that profiting from land, which they derided as rentier capitalism, was economically unproductive. As Michael Hudson has stressed, they urged heavy taxation of land as the remedy 
An aside: Turner has an extremely plummy accent which he normally uses to theatrical effect. It isn’t clear whether the recording quality flattened that or whether he decided to tune his intonation a tad for North American listeners (not sure why that would be a plus, since a British accent is worth at least 20 attributed IQ points here, and the more obviously Oxbridge, the better).
 Naked Capitalism
Adair Turner: The Consequences of Money-Manager CapitalismYves Smith

Thomas C. Frohlich — The most educated countries in the world

Russia on top with the majority having a college (tertiary) education. Say what, Russia is #1? 

Yahoo Finance
The most educated countries in the world
Thomas C. Frohlich

Misha Glenny — Chinese-Russian Relations Enter Cyberspace

The biggest winner to emerge from the nasty and damaging conflict in eastern Ukraine is not even a player in the game. China is sitting quietly and watching where the crisis is taking the more engaged participants. In the process, Beijing has been able to leverage the economic difficulties that Western sanctions have created for Russia by offering Moscow new, if less lucrative, markets for Russian energy products.
Unless the Ukraine conflict is resolved and relations between the West and Russia improve, such Sino-Russian cooperation could become a more permanent feature. That would have severe unexpected consequences.…
Carnegie Europe — Strategic Europe
Chinese-Russian Relations Enter Cyberspace
Misha Glenny | British journalist who specialises in southeastern Europe global organised crime and cyber security

Saker — Putin's speech at the Valdai Club - full transcript

The Vineyard of the Saker
Putin's speech at the Valdai Club - full transcript

Lars Syll — A Post Keynesian response to Piketty

Javier López Bernardo, Félix López Martínez and Engelbert Stockhammer, 
October 2014

Lars P. Syll’s Blog
A Post Keynesian response to Piketty
Lars P. Syll | Professor, Malmo University

Don Quijones — The Global Corporatocracy Is Just A Pen Stroke Away From Completion

Quietly, subtly, almost imperceptibly, the rules governing global trade and financial markets are changing. It is not happening by accident, but by wilful design. Despite the enormous impact it will have on all our lives, the public is not being consulted on any aspects of the process. Most people are not even aware it is happening.

The main driver of this change are the bilateral and multilateral trade and investment treaties being negotiated in complete secrecy and behind closed doors between corporate lobbyists, free trade activists and our own elected “representatives” (a term I use in the loosest possible sense, especially given the context). The ultimate goal of these treaties is to reconfigure the legal apparatus and superstructures that govern national, regional and global trade and business – for the primary, if not exclusive, benefit of the world’s largest multinational corporations.
Repost of a June, 2014 article.

Why is this so important other than for the obvious neoliberal "new world order" reasons? Because it threatens national sovereignty, and national sovereignty is presently the basis for legal rights, including civil liberties and human rights. Erosion of national sovereignty threatens civil liberties and human rights in the absence of international legislative, executive, and judicial institutions including courts to deal with them. What is more important, contracts involving property rights, or civil liberties and human rights?
Based on the draft copy recently released by Wikileaks, the treaty seeks to (among many other things): 
  • “Lock in” the privatisations of services – even in cases where private service delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water, energy, health, education or other services to public hands.
  • Restrict a government’s right to regulate stronger standards in the public’s interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations, licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal centres, power plants, school and university accreditation and broadcast licenses.
  • Specifically limit the ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry at exactly the time when the global economy is still recovering from a crisis caused by financial deregulation.
The trade treaties are not just about rewriting laws; they are also about enforcing them. As the author of Debt Generation, David Malone, explained in a recent talk on bilateral and multilateral trade agreements (essential viewing for anyone interested in the subject), what gives trade treaties such as TTIP and TISA their “claws and teeth” is the inclusion of an innocuous-sounding provision called the “investor-state dispute settlement.” This effectively allows private companies to sue entire nations if they feel that a law lost them money on their investment.
The outcome:
As I warned in early November 2013, the global corporatocracy is almost fully operational. The intentions of those negotiating the multiple trade treaties are now crystal clear: to place complete power and control over our economies in the hands of the largest global corporations, many of which bear the lion’s share of responsibility for the economic and environmental mess we’re already in. 
In the meantime, the clock continues to tick down. At any moment, a few quiet strokes of a pen behind the tightly closed doors of a luxury conference room could usher in a new age of corporate domination. With it will come a new kind of dystopia, bearing an uncanny likeness to the inverted totalitarianism foreseen by Sheldon Wolin.

Fred Lee — “Teaching Heterodox Microeconomics”

The following paper appeared in 2005 in what is now the Real-World Economics Review It is worth reading today no less than it was then.
Real-World Economics Review Blog
Fred Lee’s “Teaching Heterodox Microeconomics”
Edward Fulbrook

Also “Fred Lee’s departing words of wisdom”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cam Hui — How inequality may evolve in the next decade

Humble Student of the Markets
How inequality may evolve in the next decade
Cam Hui

Ghia Nodia — The Cold War and the Cold Shoulder

The Ukraine crisis has shattered key Western assumptions about Russia, and many analysts and policymakers have fallen back on the belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be acting irrationally. But it is Western assumptions that need to be questioned. In particular, what has made Russia so keen to undermine the current international order, first in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine now?
Project Syndicate
The Cold War and the Cold Shoulder
Ghia Nodia | President of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development in Tbilisi, Georgia

Alana Semuels — The Case for Trailer Parks

Houses made in a factory are a cheap and energy-efficient way for poorer Americans to become homeowners—plus, these days, the mass-produced units can be pretty spiffy.
They are called "modular homes" and "manufactured homes" now, and some can be "pretty spiffy" indeed. Companies generally offer basic units that are quite affordable, and these can be customized and upgraded to make them spiffier.

A big advantage is that they are relatively simple for just about anyone to do. The fist step is to secure a property, such as a vacant lot in a town, but many people prefer some acreage in the country. The next step is to decide on a manufacturer and negotiate a unit. Then the necessary foundation has to be contracted, as well as a driveway and garage, which are usually owner add-ons. The contracting is minimal. The only wait is usually on the foundation and garage if local labor is busy at the time That's often not an issue now, but it was at the height of the housing boom when the waiting lists were jammed.

There are several advantages to going this route. First, it's a way to get affordable housing with a new home of one's choice instead of being limited to inventory on the market. Most contractors don't usually build affordable homes on spec nowadays and they are reluctant to build smaller units to order, too, since profit is directly proportional to the cost. Contractors prefer big. So most affordable housing is older and smaller housing. Since the demand is high for these houses, the prices tend to be dear in terms of value.

Secondly, it gives everyone the opportunity to contract their own home even without construction expertise. This way it is relative simple for most anyone to get into the business, or to "build" one's own place.

The problem is that this type of housing can be difficult to finance since it is "unconventional." This varies by area, however, and it is becoming more acceptable with improvements in the industry. It is even possible to import modular housing at attractive pricing even with the shipping and 6% duty.

This fledgling industry took a big hit along with the rest of housing, but I predict a big comeback. It's an idea whose time has come. And as the article also points out, a lot of this construction is "green."

BTW, the old "trailers," that is, "single-wides," are still produced but they have largely been replaced with double and triple-wides and by RV's and tiny houses. In 2007, the average new single wide was $37, 100, about half of what the average new double wide cost. That's about what a new truck costs. Tiny homes are comparable in cost, but usually quite a bit smaller than single-wides, which can run over 1000 sq. ft. And the tiny house movement is reportedly growing.

Atlantic Business
The Case for Trailer Parks
Alana Semuels

DownWithTyranny! Conservatives Have Never Wanted Poor People To Have The Right To Vote-- And They Still Don't

History of voting rights in the US.

Pew — Political Polarization & Media Habits

Pew Research Journalism Project
Political Polarization & Media Habits
Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Jocelyn Kiley And Katerina Eva Matsa

J. Barkley Rosser — The Passing of Fred Lee: An(other) Old Wobbly Bites The Dust

Tribute to Fred Lee and a summary of his founding contribution to heterodox economics.

The Passing of Fred Lee: An(other) Old Wobbly Bites The Dust
J. Barkley Rosser

Janet Allon — Krugman Dismantles the Right's Hysterical Fear of Actual Democracy

Krugman concludes: "The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win."
Krugman Dismantles the Right's Hysterical Fear of Actual Democracy
Janet Allon

Also, Luke Brinker, Paul Krugman’s fear: “It’s by no means clear” whether democracy or plutocracy will prevail in America, at Salon.

Marshall Auerback — What Would Have Happened Had The UK Been In The Eurozone?

It is interesting to consider what would have befallen the UK had it been part of the Eurozone in 2008. To get a small sense of that, one should consider the period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the UK joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), which was the forerunner to the European Monetary Union. One major reason for the collapse of the UK economy in the early 1990s was the property bubble crashing/bursting, although it was also a product of the UK’s stupid entry into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), which meant that the Bank of England was conducting monetary policy with a view toward sustaining an increasingly overvalued exchange rate (which meant higher and higher prices, which in turn crushed demand and killed the property boom). The existence of the property bubble made the fall that much more calamitous. But in fact, George Soros did the country a huge favour when he led a speculative attack on the pound, forced it to leave the ERM and thereby gave the UK economy the flexibility to grow again through a combination of sterling devaluation (which boosted exports – much like Canada in the early 2000s) and giving debtors a relief from high interest rates, which were abandoned when sterling was allowed to float freely again.
Macrobits by Marshall Auerback
What Would Have Happened Had The UK Been In The Eurozone?
Marshall Auerback

Paul R. Pillar — Neocon Sabotage of Iran-Nuke Deal

Congressional neocons are determined to sink negotiations to constrain but not end Iran’s nuclear program – all the better to get on with bombing Iran at the heart of their agenda. They are now disguising their sabotage as a constitutional argument, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.
Regime change is the neocon goal and they won't settle for less in the march toward neoliberal globalization under oligarchic "democracy."

Consortium News
Neocon Sabotage of Iran-Nuke Deal
Paul R. Pillar | Visiting Professor for Security Studies, Georgetown University

Partial transcript of Putin at the Valdai discussion club in Sochi

Here is a partial transcript of Putin at the Valdai discussion club.

President of Russia
Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club

Is the CIA Running a Defamation Campaign Against Putin? — Russia Insider interviews The Saker

The day before another member of Putin's inner circle, Vyasheslav Volodin, made similar remarks, telling foreign journalists "an attack on Putin is an attack on Russia."

The logic, they argue, is that by defaming the leader of a country, you weaken his power domestically by undermining popular support for him, and internationally, by rallying popular opinion to support policies against that country. The ultimate goal, they argue, is to weaken the country itself. They also talk about regime change.

They argue that if one looks at the facts, that there is evidence of ongoing character assassination which cannot be explained by a vague popular zeitgeist in the West, but is more likely the result of a dedicated effort to introduce this defamation into the news flow.…
The issue of manipulation of news by intelligence services has been in the news recently with revelations that the CIA and German Secret Service (GSS) have long-running programs to influence how media executives and top journalists convey and interpret the news, including direct cash payments.
I came to a similar conclusion about at orchestrated attempt at regime change some time ago. It's either abysmal reporting or an organized campaign or some of both. I suspect some of both, with the planted messaging being picked up by the echo chamber without verifying facts or presenting other views, creating an impression of monolithic truth. What made me particularly suspicious was the obvious attempt to front-run the news and capture the news cycle. This likely explains Putin's strong choice of words in his address at the Valdai discussions.

The Vineyard of the Saker
Is the CIA Running a Defamation Campaign Against Putin?
Russia Insider interviews The Saker

From the comments there:
@Where-Wolf:So long as Putin and You believe Russia can help save the world from fascism I have reason to hope.

I don't think that Russia can save the world, at best Russia can save Russia, but by saving Russia Russia can indeed help others, such as the Ukraine and, frankly, even the USA. At the core, this is not about nations, nationalities or ethnicities, it is about politics: on one side - imperialism, violence, wars, aggression, lies, exploitation, deception, social degeneration, an ideology of profit and greed above all else, injustice, discrimination and hatred, hatred and more hatred. On the other, I see a very diverse constellation of different forces of resistance who in many ways are very different from each other, but who *accept* that diversity and refuse to turn the planet in a mix of a McDonald's and the Gulag in Gitmo. By refusing to be incorporated into the AngloZionist "Borg" Russia can, and does, lead the rest of the countries who dare defy our planetary overlords. And, to be honest, I am absolutely sure that we all will prevail. The question for me is at what costs. That is what keeps me awake at night and fearful for the future of my kids.
Kindest regards,
The Saker

RT — Putin at Valdai - World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules (FULL VIDEO)

Putin at Valdai - World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules (FULL VIDEO)
h/t The Saker

The Saker — Ukraine mini-SITREP: very ominous developments (follow up)

This post is a short follow-up to the Ukraine mini-SITREP: very ominous developments post I did a couple of days ago. 
Several of you have noticed what can only be called a declaration of war on Russia by one of the top figures of the AngloZionist international capital, George Soros who has declared that "Russia is an existential threat to Europe". First, Khodorkovsky, now Soros - it is pretty clear who is gunning for Russia and how, and it is equally clear that what these financiers are really admitting by their bellicose statements is that Putin is an existential threat to them. In the latter statement, they are actually 100% correct (proving one more time that those who say that Putin is an oligarchic puppet are just useful and manipulated idiots). 
Nuland, Soros, Khodorkovsky, Hillary, Friedman and the list goes on and on and on. The entire Neocon cabal is out for war and they are putting tremendous pressure on the rest of the planet to join…
The globalizers are getting concerned that things are not playing out as they wish and that some people have other ideas.

The Vineyard of the Saker
Ukraine mini-SITREP: very ominous developments (follow up)

TASS on Putin's address to Valdai international discussions club

Vladimir Putin on Friday addressed a session of the Valdai international discussions club
Putin: new serious conflicts involving world powers possible

Also RT, Politically-motivated sanctions see shift from dollar - Putin

The Super-Rich Are as Miserable as the Rest of Us

Story at Fiscal Times here.

Let’s agree right off the bat that $25 million is a lot of money. 
The number of American households with a net worth of $25 million or more — excluding their home — reached a new record last year, according to a recent report by wealth management research provider Spectrem Group. 
Yet the same survey found that those wealthy Americans still have plenty of financial concerns. Actually, they sound fairly miserable…and that’s in a survey taken well before the stock market took a tumble last week. 
They may travel more, go to ballgames or concerts, or buy nice jewelry, but 70 percent of those surveyed said they get more satisfaction out of saving and investing their money than from spending it. 
More than half said they worry about the next generation wasting the money they inherit.  And almost a quarter (23 percent) said they worry “constantly” — constantly — about their financial situation.

Boy, sounds like if we ever would impose a Picketty Tax, many of these people would probably have to just go get a gun and blow their brains out... but then we who would be remaining would all be more "equal" in financial terms.

Drone footage of Apple's new campus under development

Video below shot by a quad-rotor drone with on-board gimbal mounted GoPro camera of Apple Computer's new corporate property development in Cupertino, CA.

Pretty impressive development in creativity and scale.

It must be nice to work with an institution whose leadership doesn't think its "out of money!".

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Justin Ling — Canada considers 'preventative detention' in wake of Ottawa attack

Details of those new powers have yet to be released, but justice minister Peter MacKay indicated to reporters that they will include measures to allow the preventive detention of suspected would-be terrorists.
“We’re examining all those sections of the criminal code, and all measures under the law that will allow us, in some instances, to take pre-emptive measures,” he said.
The Guardian
Canada considers 'preventative detention' in wake of Ottawa attack
Justin Ling