Friday, December 15, 2017

A GOOD AMERICAN - a documentary about Bill Binney, an NSA whistleblower who says 9/11 could have been prevented

This video might not work in your country. On my first attempt YouTube said it was not available in my country, so I did another search and it said the same thing, then suddenly it shot up on my screen. It's very good.

Bill Binney resigned from the NSA in October 2001, after 30 years with the agency where he was viewed as one of their best analysts: he quit because he believed that Bush-appointed leaders in the Agency had chosen to respond to the challenge of electronic communications by building out illegal, indiscriminate mass-surveillance programs that left the country vulnerable to terrorists while diverting billions to private contractors with political connections.

After his resignation, Binney and his fellow whistleblowers faced retaliation from the NSA, as the agency prevented him from getting work as a private intelligence contractor and eventually staged a guns-drawn dawn raid on his home.

Binney has been a sharp, articulate, deeply knowledgeable critic of mass electronic surveillance ever since, refusing to be intimidated by the NSA despite the risks to himself.

In "A Good American," a new documentary that goes into widespread release today, director Freidrich Moser tells Binney's story from his early days as an intelligence analyst during the Vietnam War to his service as a codebreaker during the Cold War to his visionary program for conducting electronic surveillance with an emphasis on privacy and the rule of law. 

Binney and his fellow whistleblowers tell the story of how General Michael Hayden, then head of the NSA, sidelined their proposals in favor of a multibillion-dollar boondoggle called Trailblazer, which collapsed without ever shipping -- and how Hayden and his team refused to allow NSA analysts to work in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, literally locking them out of the building while they plotted ways to shift the blame for intelligence failures and use the attacks to build private, well-funded permanent civil service empires.

Oliver Stone called it a "prequel to Snowden," and that's true in more ways than one. Snowden cited the persecution of Binney as part of his rationale for taking his concerns to the press, rather than NSA channels.

Moser's documentary is riveting, enraging, and beautifully crafted, and it tells an important story. You can watch it today.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

ANDRE VLTCHEK - Capitalism reduced Indonesian cities to infested carcases

Andre Vltchek describes how the 1965 military/ Islamic coup in Indonesia wiped all traces of socialism replacing it instead with Western backed unbridled capitalism which has led to massive exploitation of the Indonesian people and their land. This once very beautiful country is now reduced to endless open mines, open sewers, masssive poverty, enormous pollution, where the extractive industries are run by local crooks and the Western elite. The Western media paints Indonesia as a thriving capitalist economy generating enormous profits and yet most Indonesians live in absolute squalor. 

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) won the election for Governor of Jakarta and he tried to improve the city for ordinary people but the ruling elite eventually put him in prison.  

The US ruling elite are now turning parts of America into a wasteland as well. People think of capitalism as mom-and-pop small business turning into larger businesses which helps regenerate communities, creating jobs, and where hard work is rewarded and towns become nice places to live, but social democracy, or even socialism, (as well as MMT) is much more likely to create this ideal world.   

 Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta’s posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he ‘had something urgent to tell me’, after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.

What he had to say was actually straight to the point and definitely worth sitting two hours in an epic traffic jam:
“No one will be allowed to build comprehensive public transportation in Jakarta or in any other Indonesian city. If a mayor or a governor tries and defies the wishes of the ruthless business community which is in fact controlling most of the Indonesian government, he or she will be dethroned, or even totally destroyed.”
These ‘prophetic’ words are still ringing in my ears, several months after the complete destruction of the progressive Jakarta governor, known as Ahok (real name: Basuki Tjahaja Purnama), who tried very hard to improve the seemingly ungovernable and thoroughly destroyed city, constructing new mass transit lines (LRT), restoring old train stations, cleaning canals, attempting to build at least some basic net of sidewalks, as well as planting trees and creating parks.
After Ahok’s first and extremely successful term in office, the opposition consolidated its forces. It consisted mainly of the Islamists, big business tycoons, and the military as well as other revanchist cadres (almost exclusively pro-business and pro-Western individuals) that are still controlling Indonesia.
‘Ahok’, an outsider and an ethnic Chinese, patently lost.
Instead of coming to his rescue, several ‘prominent’ but corrupt city planners and architects, most of them enjoying funding from abroad, shamelessly joined the bandwagon of ‘Ahok bashing’.
But even defeating Ahok was not enough. He had to be punished and humiliated, in order to discourage others from trying to replicate his socially-oriented example. Already during the election campaign, charges were brought against him, alleging that he had ‘insulted Islam’ during one of his public appearances. It was total nonsense, disputed by several leading Indonesian linguists, but in a thoroughly corrupt society (both legally and morally) it simply worked.
On May 9, 2017, ‘Ahok’ was sentenced to two years in prison, and unceremoniously thrown into the dungeon.
How much deeper can Indonesian cities sink? When are they going to become uninhabitable?
People are already dying; thousands are, unnecessarily – from cancer, from stress, from respiratory diseases.
Millions of human beings are wasting their lives. They are alive, but it is only a bare existence, not really life: they are moving mechanically, cutting through the filthy air on their scooters, eating junk food, constantly surrounded by decay and ugliness.
For how much longer?
The forests of Borneo, Sumatra and Papua are burning. All over this archipelago, everything is logged out, consumed by mines, ruined by monstrous pollution. The extraction and looting of natural resources is the only real economic ‘engine’ of today’s Indonesia.
The cities are not faring much better. They are actually not faring any better at all.
It is time to wake up, or it could get too late. But the nation appears to be in a total slumber. It does not notice, anymore, that it is really in freefall. It was conditioned not to notice. It was made to accept, even to celebrate its own collapse.
Those who forced Indonesia into all this will not tell. As long as there is at least something left, something that can be extracted, utilized, looted, they will be cheering this great Indonesia’s ‘success’ and ‘progress’.
I encourage all those people from all over the world who would want to see the true face of neo-colonialism, of savage capitalism and right wing disaster, to come to the Indonesian cities! Come and see with your own eyes. Come and take a walk; don’t hide in your comfortable cities full of leafy parks, concert halls, art cinemas, public transportation and theatres.
This is real. This is a warning to the world!
Come and see how cities look like in a country where Communism and socialism are banned, where a colony does not even realize that it being colonized, and where everything is served on huge silver plates straight into the gullet of that monster called fascism.
It found it hard for me to visualize how bad Indonesia was until i saw this film.

                                    The World's Dirtiest River | Unreported World

The World's Dirtiest River: Today we take you to the world’s most polluted river. 35 million people rely on the Citarum river on the island of Java, Indonesia, but it has become a toxic river of waste. Seyi Rhodes went to the island for this Unreported World classic in April 2014

The Guardian 2001 - 'CIA's bastard army ran riot in Balkans' backed extremists'

I always thought that it was probably a conspiracy theory that the CIA supported the Kosovo Liberation Army and started the war in Yugoslavia but I looked it up today and in Wikipedia it was all there, the drug trafficking, human body parts for transplants trafficking, organised crime running the KLA, and the involvement of BND, the German Secret Service, which is just an arm of the CIA because Germany is a vassal state of the US. 

The Guardian - Peter Beaumont, Ed Vulliamy and Paul Beaver

The United States secretly supported the ethnic Albanian extremists now behind insurgencies in Macedonia and southern Serbia.

The CIA encouraged former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters to launch a rebellion in southern Serbia in an effort to undermine the then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, according to senior European officers who served with the international peace-keeping force in Kosovo (K-For), as well as leading Macedonian and US sources.
They accuse American forces with K-For of deliberately ignoring the massive smuggling of men and arms across Kosovo's borders.
The accusations were made in a series of interviews by The Observer . They emerge as America has been forced into a rapid U-turn over its support for Albanian extremists in Kosovo seeking a 'Greater Kosovo' that would include Albanian communities in Serbia and Macedonia.
In the past week ethnic Albanian guerrillas have intensified their campaign of attacks in the two areas, threatening a new war in the region which last week put US troops in the firing line in the Balkans for the first time.
The accusations have led to tension in K-For between the European and US military missions. European officers are furious that the Ameri cans have allowed guerrilla armies in its sector to train, smuggle arms and launch attacks across two international borders.
One European K-For battalion commander told The Observer yesterday: 'The CIA has been allowed to run riot in Kosovo with a private army designed to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic. Now he's gone the US State Department seems incapable of reining in its bastard army.'
He added: 'Most of last year, there was a growing frustration with US support for the radical Albanians. US policy was and still is out of step with the other Nato allies.'
The claim was backed by senior Macedonian officials in the capital, Skopje. 'What has been happening with the National Liberation Army [which has been responsible for a series of attacks on Macedonia's borders in recent weeks] and the UCPMB [its sister organisation in southern Serbia] is very similar to what happened when the KLA was launched in 1995-96,' said one.
'I will say only this: the US intelligence agencies have not been honest here.'
The claims were given extra credence from an unexpected source - Arben Xhafari, leader of Macedonia's main Albanian party who tried to prevent the crisis on the border igniting an ethnic civil war inside Macedonia itself.
A US State Department official blamed the last administration. There had now been 'a shift of emphasis'.


 Later that year, the British weekly The European carried an article by a French expert stating that "German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the rebels with the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area. (...) The birth of the KLA in 1996 coincided with the appointment of Hansjoerg Geiger as the new head of the BND (German secret Service). (...) The BND men were in charge of selecting recruits for the KLA command structure from the 500,000 Kosovars in Albania."[23] Matthias Küntzel tried to prove later on that German secret diplomacy had been instrumental in helping the KLA since its creation.[24]

Tom Hickey taking a holiday break

It's getting cold in Iowa so we are headed southwest. Expect intermittent posting through the holidays. Things are usually relatively quiet from now through the new year anyway.

Wishing happy holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jason Smith — On these 33 theses

The other day, Rethinking Economics and the New Weather Institute published "33 theses" and metaphorically nailed them to the doors of the London School of Economics. They're re-published here. I think the "Protestant Reformation" metaphor they're going for is definitely appropriate: they're aiming to replace "neoclassical economics" — the Roman Catholic dogma in this metaphor — with a a pluralistic set of different dogmas — the various dogmas of the Protestant denominations (Lutheran, Anabaptist, Calvinist, Presbyterian, etc). For example, Thesis 2 says:
2. The distribution of wealth and income are fundamental to economic reality and should be so in economic theory.
This may well be true, but a scientific approach does not assert this and instead collects empirical evidence that we find to be in favor of hypotheses about observables that are affected by the distribution of wealth. A dogmatic approach just assumes this. It is just as dogmatic as neoclassical economics assuming the market distribution is efficient.
In fact, several of the theses are dogmatic assertions of things that either have tenuous empirical evidence in their favor or are simply untested hypotheses. These theses are not things you dogmatically assert, but rather should show with evidence:
I wonder whether economics should be taught as a science, especially since conventional economists seem to think that economics is more like physics than the social sciences.

There are problems with assuming that, which I won't repeat. But to my mind, the most obvious difficulty is well-known among the public. Perhaps the most powerful argument for "science" is demonstrated not in words, or through experiment, but rather in the success of technology that everyone uses all the time to change the world.

Is there anything like this with respect to economics? Not only no, but also the opposite in many cases.

The study economics is not even a required in most business schools, because business schools have discovered that time is better spent in getting results. If it got results, business schools would be hiring the top economists. They are not.

The teaching of economics needs to be rethought in light not only of the failure of economists to deliver results but also in their making bad situations worse. The dismal handling of the aftermath of the global financial crisis is a case in point. In addition, conventional economists and policymakers have literally laid waste entire European countries and their economies.

A lot of people are likely thinking, if this science we want none of it. Monkeys throwing darts could probably do better.

And ironically, Western economists and policymakers were put to shame by the positive result that China showed using a command economy to address the issues promptly and avoid contraction. But Western economists explain this by "cheating."

Information Transfer Economics
Jason Smith

Robert Kuttner — The Man from Red Vienna [Karl Polanyi]

Robert Kuttner reviews Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left by Gareth Dale (Columbia University Press).

The New York Review of Books
The Man from Red ViennaRobert Kuttner

Edward Harrison — Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis and the Fed’s reaction function

As the Federal Reserve meets today to decide how to communicate its messaging on future rate hikes and balance sheet reduction, financial stability will play a key role. Yesterday, I wrote about the Bank of International Settlements new warnings on financial stability. And just this morning, I read a piece from Goldman Sachs Asset Management EMEA division head Andrew Wilson, warning that the risk of overheating was real. So let’s put some framing around this issue and ask how the Fed reacts as the data come in down the line.
In the past decade on Credit Writedowns, I have had a lot of good commentary from different writers on financial stability. And most of it is based around Hyman Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis. As someone who used to work in debt capital markets and do financial models for private equity investing and corporate finance for mergers and acquisition, I find the Minsky analysis a huge benefit in thinking about the macroeconomy that standard macro modelling techniques don’t incorporate. So I want to use this as the prism through which to look at the Fed’s reaction function to predict future yield curve flattening and the resulting economic impact....
Randy Wray post follows.

Credit Writedowns
Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis and the Fed’s reaction function
Edward Harrison

Reuters — Ford to base Fusion production in China, ship to U.S. - sources

As with the Focus move, the decision to build the Fusion in China also signals a shift in strategy at Ford, which is responding to dwindling U.S. consumer demand for passenger cars in favor of more expensive and more profitable trucks and SUVs.
Last week, Ford said it plans to relocate production of a future battery electric vehicle to Cuatitlan, Mexico in 2020 to free up capacity at its Flat Rock, Michigan, plant to build self-driving vehicles in 2021.

The Washington Post Editorial Board — The West must prepare for a wounded Putin to become even more aggressive

The West also should not shrink from the destabilization of Mr. Putin’s regime.
Imagine if a paper of record in Russia had published an editorial like that about destabilizing the US "regime." Oh, right, the head of the US "regime" is Donald Trump, and the New York Times are trying to remove him, or failing that, neuter him.

The Washington Post — The Post's View
The West must prepare for a wounded Putin to become even more aggressiveEditorial

See also

Fred Hiatt is the editorial page editor of the Washington Post. He is a rabid neocon.
… in general, the Post responds to dangerous and complex problems with simplistic prescriptions. [Washington Post Editor Fred] Hiatt has created a foreign-policy fairy-tale land in which nasty authoritarian regimes can be magically transformed by American leadership into democratic ones. If only. And these illusions are by no means confined to the editorial page. Hiatt has hired a retinue of new columnists, including Jennifer Rubin, Robert Kagan, Michael Gerson and Marc Thiessen, who espouse a very hard line indeed. Last October, as Americans worried about the advances of the Islamic State and the spread of Ebola, Thiessen, a former Jesse Helms staffer and George W. Bush administration speechwriter, even conjured up a scenario of “Ebola terrorism” in which these “two threats converge into one.” He envisioned terrorists deliberately infecting themselves with Ebola and then traveling to the United States to use the virus as a bioweapon. It scarcely needs saying that this was a vision completely unmoored from reality.
There is no reason to think that any of this will change soon.
The National Interest (December 15, 2014)
The Washington Post: The Most Reckless Editorial Page in America
James Carden contributing editor at The National Interest served as an adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department, Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest

See also
An op-ed by the president of the right-wing human rights group Freedom House, published in the New York Times Monday (12/11/17)—later boosted by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker—warned of the menace of “commentators, trolls, bots, false news sites and propaganda,” and their negative effects on democracy. Missing from its analysis was any account of how the government that funds their organization—86 percent of Freedom House’s budget comes from the US government, primarily the State Department and USAID—uses social media to stir unrest and undermine governments worldwide.
NYT Prints Government-Funded Propaganda About Government-Funded Propaganda
Adam Johnson

Jan Oberg — Aleppo’s Liberation one year ago – Anybody ashamed today?

Remember the flurry about Aleppo and its "fall" to the regime from the "moderate opposition"?

Here is an eye-witness report from a journalist who was there that debunks it. Did any Western media report this? 
So much for the free Western media – proving excellently their place as the second M in the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – that is always ready to promote violence and omit or marginalise the voices of conflict understanding and peace....
Aleppo’s Liberation one year ago – Anybody ashamed today?
Jan Oberg

Gabriel Rockhill — The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was

American history.
The Establishment and its propagandists regularly insist that a structural aristocracy is a “democracy” because the latter is defined by the guarantee of certain fundamental rights (legal definition) and the holding of regular elections (procedural definition). This is, of course, a purely formal, abstract and largely negative understanding of democracy, which says nothing whatsoever about people having real, sustained power over the governing of their lives.…
“Multivariate analysis indicates,” according to an important recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination […], but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.”…
Indeed, if the United States is not a democracy today, it is in large part due to the fact that it never was one. Far from being a pessimistic conclusion, however, it is precisely by cracking open the hard shell of ideological encasement that we can tap into the radical forces that have been suppressed by it. These forces—not those that have been deployed to destroy them—should be the ultimate source of our pride in the power of the people.
In his rousing Gettysburg Address at the time of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln defined "democracy" as "government of the people, by the people and for the people." The definition is correct, but Lincoln misapplied it to the United States at the time, and that remains true today. In fact, the class hierarchy is more entrenched now than ever as shown by rising inequality of income and wealth, and the asymmetry of power.

The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was
Gabriel Rockhill, Franco-American philosopher and cultural critic (public intellectual), Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University, and founding Director of the Atelier de Théorie Critique at the Sorbonne

Alexander — Russia defies Western expectations; ends 2017 with minimal budget deficit, bigger reserves

The US thinks it can "bankrupt" Russia with sanctions.
Contrary to Western claims Russia in 2017 did not ‘run out of money’…
What is extraordinary is not that Russia has not run out of money. It is that supposedly serious people in the West ever thought it would.
The dismal truth is that no economic catastrophe in Russia is too farfetched to prevent some people in the West predicting it, whilst there is never any penalty for these people when regular as clockwork the predicted economic catastrophe fails to happen.
The problem for Russia is that the Russian government think that this is a possibility to be guarded against.

The obvious fact is that as currency sovereign, Russia limited in currency issuance only by the availability of real resources, which can also have an effect on the price level and exchange rate. The exchange rate is relatively meaningless, but inflation could be an issue. However, the trend has been a falling price level.

Russia needs to realize the policy space it has based on the increase in  fiscal space resulting from floating the ruble. Russia needs to increase public investment and social welfare, which would also result in stimulating the consumer economy through increased incomes....

Russia Feed
Russia defies Western expectations; ends 2017 with minimal budget deficit, bigger reserves

Reuters — U.N. expert says inmate U.S. torture continues at Guantanamo Bay

“By failing to prosecute the crime of torture in CIA custody, the U.S. is in clear violation of the Convention against Torture and is sending a dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the U.S. and around the world,” [U.N. special rapporteur on torture Nil] Melzer said in the statement.…
There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials in Geneva. 
U.N. expert says inmate U.S. torture continues at Guantanamo Bay
Tom Miles


U.N. expert says torture persists at Guantanamo Bay; U.S. denies
also from RT
The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.
The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.
The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.
Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world." …
The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."
Compare the Reuters report to the RT reporting and go figure why the US establishment hates RT.

US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

Andrew Gelman — Yes, you can do statistical inference from nonrandom samples. Which is a good thing, considering that nonrandom samples are pretty much all we’ve got.

To put it another way: Sure, it’s fine to say that you “cannot reach external validity” from your sample alone. But in the meantime you still need to make decisions. We don’t throw away the entire polling industry just cos their response rates are below 10%; we work on doing better. Our samples are never perfect but we can make them closer to the population.
Remember the Chestertonian principle that extreme skepticism is a form of credulity.
Making assumptions is necessary. However, it is also necessary to recognize and acknowledge limitations. Formal modeling is never more accurate for the math than the assumptions permit.

Reasoning is a tool of intelligence. It is not a magic wand. Taking reasoning for a magic wand because it is highly formalized is magical thinking.

It is important to distinguish necessity from contingency. Necessity is based on logic necessity (tautology) and logical impossibility (contradiction). These are purely syntactical, that is, based on applying rules to signs. Logical necessity is probability one; contradiction is probability zero. All description is contingent on observation.

Statistics is a reasoning tool for dealing with contingency. The formal aspect of the tool does not vary, but its application is dependent on assumption and measurement. Thinking that the results will be the same owing to the invariant formal aspect is a mistake. Results can never be more precise than measurements or more accurate than assumptions permit, no matter how rigorous the formal methods applied.

Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science
Yes, you can do statistical inference from nonrandom samples. Which is a good thing, considering that nonrandom samples are pretty much all we’ve got.
Andrew Gelman | Professor of Statistics and Political Science and Director of the Applied Statistics Center, Columbia University

Dani Rodrik — The great globalisation lie

Third way evangelists presented globalisation as inevitable and advantageous to all. In reality, it is neither, and the liberal order is paying the price....
The fundamental thing to grasp is that globalisation is—and always was—the product of human agency; it can be shaped and reshaped, for good or ill. The great problem with Blair’s forceful affirmation of globalisation back in 2005 was the presumption that it is essentially one thing, immutable to the way that our societies must experience it, a wind of change which there could be no negotiating or arguing with. This misunderstanding still afflicts our political, financial and technocratic elites. Yet there was nothing preordained about the post-1990s push for hyper-globalisation, with its focus on free finance, restrictive patent rules, and special regimes for investors. 
The truth is that globalisation is consciously shaped by the rules that the authorities choose to enact: the groups they privilege, the fields of policy they tackle and those they lay off, and which markets they subject to international competition. It is possible to reclaim globalisation for society’s benefit by making the right choices here.…
A world economy in which these alternative choices are made would look very different. The distribution of gains and losses across and within nations would be dramatically altered. We would not necessarily have less globalisation: enhancing the legitimacy of world markets is likely to spur global commerce and investment rather than impede it. Such a globalisation would be more sustainable, because it would enjoy more consent. It would also be a globalisation quite unlike the one we have at present.
Longish article with lots of history. Worth reading all of.

Dani Rodrik's Weblog
The great globalisation lie
Dani Rodrik | Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

The Guardian: Rita de la Feria - There’s a simple way to stop big corporations avoiding tax. Here’s how

If multinationals had to pay their dues where they make their sales, the kind of activities revealed in the Paradise Papers would be a thing of the past

Companies can set up their headquarters in tax havens and then they become difficult to tax, also, countries end up competing with each other to offer the lowest taxes to attract companies, but in 2008 two professors suggested a solution, impose a type of sales tax on the products sold in a country related to the profit the companies make. It might put the price of products up a bit, but, hopefully, competition will bring them down again. 

In our globalised economy, where production chains are spread across the world and highly movable, it is difficult to determine under existing rules where and how the profits of big firms should be taxed. In effect, we can no longer properly identify the countries that have both the legitimacy and ability to tax those profits.

There is therefore only one long-term means of effectively taxing corporations: we must remove the incentives to corporate mobility for tax reasons. How to achieve that is the key question. For years, people have advocated the introduction of a common method of taxing corporations – but political agreement, even within Europe, has proved exceptionally difficult. The likelihood of achieving that global agreement seems extremely low.
In 2008 a paper by professors Michael Devereux at Oxford University, Alan Auerbach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Helen Simpson at Bristol University came up with a new solution: what if we taxed profits in the country where the customers are? Their idea was to tax corporations at the least movable point of the production chain, at a point that corporations could not shift or manipulate.
The most common tax avoidance techniques rely on one crucial premise: that moving your headquarters or activities will affect where profits are taxed. If your patents are located in a country with lower corporate income tax rates, then the income they generate will be taxed at lower rates; if your management activities are located in that country, most of your profits may be taxed there. What these avoidance schemes have in common is their reliance on mobility: moving can result in a lower tax bill.
If we taxed at the destination, or sales endpoint, there would be no benefit in moving headquarters or patent registrations to a lower-tax country. Because customers are relatively immobile, a destination-based tax would remove mobility from the equation. At a single stroke, we could almost completely eliminate tax competition and avoidance. Crucially, although international cooperation would make that more effective, it could still work if only one country unilaterally moved towards a destination-based corporate income tax.

April Rinne — What exactly is the sharing economy?

When I first attended Davos in January 2013, I asked everyone I met if they’d heard of the term “sharing economy.” Ninety percent of people said no, 5% assumed I was talking about barter exchange, and the remaining 5% acknowledged new technologies and peer-to-peer networks were enabling emergent business models. It was difficult to find anyone who had used Airbnb or BlaBlaCar. Later that year I co-founded the Forum’s Sharing Economy Working Group with other Young Global Leaders, with the goal of building awareness, visibility and expertise throughout the Forum’s communities.
Fast forward to 2017 and the reality is vastly different. Not only is the sharing economy in the news daily, it also has spurred a growing – and at times mind-boggling – list of related terms. To many people, the sharing economy and gig economy are the same thing. But in fact, almost nothing could be further from the truth.
Unpacking the terms
As the sharing economy has grown, it has become a victim of its own success. Some people have charged that much of today’s sharing economy is not really “sharing”, an allegation that is partly right. While on the one hand, there are many platforms that espouse the true spirit of sharing – underutilised assets and building community – on the other hand, increasingly there is “sharewashing” going on: companies latching onto the term because it makes them part of a hot trend. Who doesn’t want to conjure up notions of community and cooperation?...
So what is the sharing economy? And how should we distinguish among the various “new economy” models in the headlines? Here is a summary list that will clarify the confusion and provide guidance to companies, policymakers, individuals and investors alike:
Cutting though the BS around one of the latest buzzwords.
The sharing economy is not black and white: it is a spectrum, and it is increasingly crucial to understand its different shades. Ultimately it will become simply part of the economy, without special terminology, but we are not there yet. Entrepreneurs, journalists, governments, and (perhaps most of all) users of and participants in these new-economy platforms have a duty to be clear about whether and what we are, and are not, sharing.
Most people don't do nuance well.

The World Economic Forum
What exactly is the sharing economy?
April Rinne, Shareable Cities

Kristin Houser — Why robots could replace teachers as soon as 2027

Many professions, including education and health care, will become increasingly automated. This won't eliminate the need for humans, however, since the social element is also a vital factor in many fields, especially education, which involves socialization.

The problem inherent in this article is difficulty thinking outside the box, in this case the traditional classroom. That model is obsolescent, and technology will soon make it obsolete. Then we will look back on it and wonder why it held on for so long in spite of the obvious limitations in addressing individualization through personalization.

Individualization and socialization need to be balanced in order to develop well-rounded people that have an optimal opportunity to develop and express their full potential as individuals, group participants ("team-players"), citizens, and authentic human beings.

World Economic Forum
Why robots could replace teachers as soon as 2027
Kristin Houser | Senior Editor at Futurism

Lars P. Syll — The DSGE quarrel

Quote by Silvia Merler/Bruegel mentioning Lars, with a shoutout to Brian Romanchuk.

Lars P. Syll’s Blog
The DSGE quarrel
Lars P. Syll | Professor, Malmo University

More from Lars

Economic history — a victim of economics imperialism

Empirical economics and statistical power

Bill Mitchell — Britain doesn’t appear to be collapsing as a result of Brexit

Do you remember back to May 2016, when the British Treasury, which is clearly full of mainstream macroeconomists who have little understanding of how the system actually operates released their ‘Brexit’ predictions? The ‘study’ (putting the best spin possible on what was a tawdry piece of propaganda) – HM Treasury analysis: the immediate economic impact of leaving the EU – was strategically released to have maximum impact on the vote, which would come just a month later. Fortunately, for Britain and its people, the attempt to provide misinformation failed. As time passes, while the British government and the EU dilly-dally about the ‘divorce’ details, we are getting a better picture of what is happening post-Brexit as the ‘market’ sorts what it can sort out. Much has been said about the destructive shifts in trade that will follow Brexit. But these scaremongers fail to grasp that Britain has been moving away from trade with the EU for some years now and that process will continue into the future. I come from a nation that was dealt a major trading shock at the other end of Britain’s ill-fated dalliance with Europe. It also made alternative plans and prospered as a result. The outcomes of Brexit will be in the hands of the domestic policies that follow. Stick to neoliberalism and there will be a disaster. But the opportunity is there for British Labour to recast itself and seize the scope for better public infrastructure, better services and stronger domestic demand. Then the nation will see why leaving the corporatist, austerity-biased failure that the EU has become was a stroke of genius....
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Britain doesn’t appear to be collapsing as a result of Brexit
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Ralph Musgrave — What’s the optimum amount of national debt?

Roger Farmer is out with an argument for the optimal level of public debt being 70% of GDP. Ralph provides the MMT answer. It is nicely succinct.

MMTers have solved this one. Others are still floundering, in particular Roger Farmer in this NIESR article on the subject, is all over the place far as I can see (1). So I’ll run thru this vexed question for the umpteenth time....
Farmer bills himself as a Keynesian. Ralph reminds us of the answer Keynes himself gave to the question of public debt optimality and how to determine it.
So, to return to the original question, i.e. what’s the optimum amount of national debt or more properly, PSNFA? The answer is “whatever brings full employment”. And that very much ties up with Keynes’s dictum: “look after unemployment, and the budget looks after itself”. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Edward Harrison — As the Fed meets, expect expansion through 2018, but problems thereafter


Credit Writedowns
As the Fed meets, expect expansion through 2018, but problems thereafter
Edward Harrison

Dustin Volz — Trump signs into law U.S. government ban on Kaspersky Lab software

This sets a precedence for banning products for national security reasons. It potentially has devastating implications for US tech companies that include backdoors for US intelligence agencies. This probably won't happen immediately but it is bound to happen over time as foreign nations, especially Russia and China, develop domestic capabilities. Being shut out of Russia would not be devastating perhaps, but being shut out of China would.

Foreign countries that the US designates as adversarial are already taking steps to isolate themselves from the US control international financial system that includes dollar hegemony, to counter the Western military alliances led by the US, and to guard against internal subversion aimed at regime change by controlling communications. China and Russia are in the lead on this under the rubric of multipolarism. They view unipolarism as the attempt of the US as in imperial power to impose its will on the rest of the world using hybrid warfare that included economic warfare.

Trump signs into law U.S. government ban on Kaspersky Lab software
Dustin Volz


Just think what they are worth now? This video is from 2013 but he must still be suffering.

If someone told you you just threw away over $6 million worth of bitcoins, well you wouldn't be too happy. You can imagine how James Howells from Wales felt when he discovered that he had thrown away his hardrive containing over 7,000 bitcoins. The value of Bitcoins has reached an all time high so now Mr Howells is frantically searching his local tip in the hope of retrieving his fortune

RICARDO VAZ - Yemen: a western-sponsored genocide

We soon intervened is Yugoslavia with our air force to take out the bad guys and put the war criminals on trail. The Western media cheered on Clinton and Blair for 'sending in the cavalry' and saving the innocents, but now Yemen is getting constantly bombed and millions might stave to death the western media under reports the tragedy. Why haven't we put sanctions on Saudi Arabia if we are the 'good guys' always intervening around the world to get the 'bad guys'? We got Saddam and Qaddafi -  although we had to kill hundreds of thousands before we rooted them out, and millions more have died since - and we nearly got Assad, although just as many innocent people died in the process, but there's only ever a brief mention about the 'wicked' crown prince Mohammad bin Salman

Almost three years have passed since Saudi Arabia announced it was intervening militarily, with its allies, in Yemen, to remove the Houthis (officially called Ansar Allah) from power after they had taken over the capital. Western analysts saw it as a bold move from recently-empowered (deputy) crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), weapons manufacturers and their political representatives were delighted. But what had been predicted as a swift military operation has turned into a humiliating stalemate. Unable to impose its will by force, Saudi Arabia and its bold prince have resorted to war crimes and collective punishment, imposing a humanitarian catastrophe on the Yemeni people.

The lack of media interest makes it seem like a crisis unfolding in slow motion. But that is only because outrage and compassion are now meant to be weaponised when they can be useful in justifying imperialist interventions. For the Yemeni people the agony is real and there is no escaping it. In what was already the poorest country in the region, the Saudi-led bombings of infrastructure and the blockade imposed on Yemeni ports have left millions on the brink.
According to UN estimates, 17 million Yemenis, more than 60% of the population, are in urgent need of food. Out of these, 7 million are facing famine. The destruction of infrastructure has also left 15 million without any access to healthcare and generated an unprecedented cholera outbreak, with 900.000 cases and thousands dead already. 50.000 Yemeni children have died in 2017 as a result of disease and starvation. There is no hyperbole needed, this is a humanitarian disaster that is beyond words. Only it is not a natural catastrophe. More than something that is being allowed to happen, it is something that is being deliberately imposed on the Yemeni people.

But the West wants to restore democracy in Yemen. 

In the beginning of the war we often heard that the war was about restoring Yemen’s legitimate, democratically-elected government. Dozens of journalists wrote that the backward kingdom of Saudi Arabia was launching a war to restore democracy without sensing that something was off. The articles usually mentioned that Yemen was emerging from decades of dictatorship under Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh had ruled Yemen with an iron fist, and had been a useful ally both for Saudi Arabia and the US, which has been drone-bombing everything in the vicinity of a cellphone that once belonged to an alleged terror suspect (3).
When massive protests starting in 2011 forced Saleh out, the US and the Saudis scrambled to salvage the situation. In the end they managed to get all parties, including the Houthis, to agree to a political transition. This included an election in which Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi ran as the only candidate. So he is the legitimate president to be restored, but the media never mention that he had been vice-dictator for 20 years. One election with no other candidates and voilà, you get all the stamps you need from the western press.
What the articles also forget to mention is that Hadi’s term was supposed to finish in late 2014, and it was only after he did not deliver on political and economic measures that the Houthis seized power. Now, after almost three years of a Saudi war imposing death and misery on the Yemeni people on his behalf, who can refer to Hadi as being internationally recognised? What is that recognition even worth? And to add insult to injury, it seems Hadi is now allegedly under house arrest.
The Saudis latest gamble involved getting their former friend Saleh to turn against the Houthis (4). Given their long history of oppression at the hands of Saleh and the fact that there had been previous armed uprisings, this alliance was always going to be fragile. Saleh thought there was an opening, and Saudi air cover, for him to make a move and restore normal subservience to the northern neighbour. But the move backfired, Saleh ended up killed and, according to reports, the Houthis regained full control of the capital. Otherwise the media rehabilitation of Saleh as the man who restored Yemeni democracy would be in full-swing by now.

TASS — Every second citizen favors amending Russia’s Constitution — poll

More than half of Russians (52%) believe certain amendments should be introduced to the country’s Constitution, a survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed on Tuesday.
"Every second Russian (52%) believes it is necessary to amend the country’s Constitution. Among the top issues, which, according to citizens, should be reflected in the Constitution, are wages, pensions, free health care and education," the pollster said....
The poll was conducted on December 8-9, 2017, with 1,200 Russians aged 18 and above interviewed over the phone. The maximum margin of error does not exceed 3.5% with a probability of 95%....
Every second citizen favors amending Russia’s Constitution — poll

Pat Lang — Robin Wright Admits the Borg Has Lost In Syria

US establishment refuses to accept reality.

Sic Semper Tyrannis
Robin Wright Admits the Borg Has Lost In Syria
Col. W. Patrick Lang, US Army (ret.)

At the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lang was the Defense Intelligence Officer (DIO) for the Middle East, South Asia and counter-terrorism, and later, the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. At the DIA, he was a member of the Defense Senior Executive Service. He participated in the drafting of National Intelligence Estimates. From 1992 to 1994, all the U.S. military attachés worldwide reported to him. During that period, he also briefed President George H. W. Bush at the White House, as he had during Operation Desert Storm.

He was also the head of intelligence analysis for the Middle East for seven or eight years at that institution. He was the head of all the Middle East and South Asia analysis in DIA for counter-terrorism for seven years. For his service in the DIA, Lang received the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive. — Wikipedia

See also

Fills in some detail that Col Lang omits.

Moon of Alabama
U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

Thomas Piketty — Trump, Macron: same fight

It is customary to contrast Trump and Macron: on one hand the vulgar American businessman with his xenophobic tweets and global warming scepticism; and on the other, the well-educated, enlightened European with his concern for dialogue between different cultures and sustainable development. All this is not entirely false and rather pleasing to French ears. But if we take a closer look at the policies being implemented, one is struck by the similarities.
In particular, Trump, like Macron, has just had very similar tax reforms adopted. In both cases, these constitute an incredible flight in the direction of fiscal dumping in favour of the richest and most mobile.
Le Monde — Le blog de Thomas Piketty
Trump, Macron: same fight
Thomas Piketty | professor (directeur d'études) at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), associate chair at the Paris School of Economics, and Centennial professor at the International Inequalities Institute, which is part of the London School of Economics (LSE)