Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Xinhua — China on rapid progress of robotization: study

China bought 90,000 robots in 2016, accounting for almost a third of the global total, and the robot revolution may raise China's economic competitiveness, according to a report released this week by Bloomberg Intelligence.
China.org.cn
China on rapid progress of robotization: study
Xinhua

RT — Netanyahu to Putin: Iran must withdraw from Syria or Israel will ‘defend itself’

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel is prepared to intervene in Syria to counteract the Iranian influence in the conflict. Moscow, which views Iran as key to resolving the crisis, said it will note Israeli interests.

When the two leaders met in Sochi on Wednesday, Netanyahu told Putin that any peace deal in Syria must entail the full withdrawal of any Iranian forces from the area.
"Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon," Reuters quoted Netanyahu as saying. "We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel."
"Israel opposes Iran's continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat."...
RT
Netanyahu to Putin: Iran must withdraw from Syria or Israel will ‘defend itself’

telesur — US Vice President Meets Venezuelan Opposition and Promises More Sanctions

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has been in Florida to meet Venezuelan opposition leaders, capping off his tour of Latin America last week where he sought support against the government of President Nicolas Maduro....
Pence, for his part, continued to repeat the White House position that the democratically-elected government in Caracas resembled a “dictatorship,” and that there was “more to come” in terms of sanctions.
Soon after visiting the house of worship, Pence also made his presence felt at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command, which is located in Doral as well.
The US interpretation of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.

Chris Williams — Marx and Engels on ecology: A reply to radical critics

Chris Williams reviews Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique by Paul Burkett and John Bellamy Foster, Haymarket Books, 2017....
As shown by Foster and Burkett, Marx and Engels believed that to be truly free, humanity not only needed to overcome the alienation of labor but simultaneously our alienation from nature, both bestowed on us by capitalism
Capitalism privileges property ownership over people and the environment.
Marx and Engels go far beyond a mere utilitarian conception of nature and ascribe an appreciation of nature as a primary axis of human fulfillment and, furthermore, it is the duty of a socialist society to look after the air, water, and soil for the benefit of future generations of humans and other species. Marx’s tremendously important concept of the “metabolic rift” furnishes us with the analytical tools to understand why capitalism is inherently anti-ecological—and thereby anti-human—and furthermore, how a socialist society must operate to repair those rifts and overcome human alienation from nature....

Bloomberg — Big U.S. banks could see profit jump 20% with deregulation

The deregulation winds blowing through Washington could add $27 billion of gross profit at the six largest U.S. banks, lifting their annual pretax income by about 20%.
American Banker
Big U.S. banks could see profit jump 20% with deregulation
Bloomberg

Bill Mitchell — The divide-and-conquer strategy of the CIA in France 1985-style

A good friend sent me a document that was released under the US Central Intelligence Agency’s rules about archives. The CIA has established a fabulous ‘Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room’ where all sorts of stuff is released after they deem it benign to current security concerns. The 1985 CIA document – France: Defection of the Leftist Intellectuals – written by CIA operatives, provides an analytical summary of the leading lights in the French left-wing intellectual thought in the 1980s with a view of promoting ….. It is redacted but only marginally. There is no doubt as to what the message is. It helps us understand the forces that were mounted against the progressive Left by right-wing, pro-market forces and how the public was manipulated to reject This is part of the research I am currently doing on the way literature, particularly fiction, is used to advance the neo-liberal ideological position – to make it look as though the ideas about governments running out of money and the like are just extensions of our usual individual experience in families and households. That research will be disseminated in a paper that Louisa Connors and I are giving at the upcoming MMT conference in Kansas City.
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
The divide-and-conquer strategy of the CIA in France 1985-style
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Robert Coalson — Is Putin 'Rebuilding Russia' According To Solzhenitsyn's Design?

Russia-watcher Miriam Elder noted in a piece on BuzzFeed that Putin's response and other statements he has made about Ukraine in the past reflect some of the arguments put forward by Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a 1990 essay titled "Rebuilding Russia."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Is Putin 'Rebuilding Russia' According To Solzhenitsyn's Design?
Robert Coalson

Edward Harrison — The failure of the Trump presidency

In sum, while Donald Trump, the cultural warrior, is failing as President on the economic front, not helping get us to the 3 or 4% growth he promised, he isn’t cratering the economy yet either. A US debt default or a military war could certainly change that though.
The US economy has been resilient. We are now back to 2% growth after a mid-cycle pause due to the (partial) bursting of the shale oil investment bubble. But, since we are in the ninth year of this economic expansion, you have to believe we are at the late stages of the cycle. That means we should be actively asking ourselves what the US economy would look like if a recession started in the next 12 to 24 months.
And that’s where my concern is. US households are spending beyond their means to sustain even 2% growth (see here and here). What happens when US consumers are forced to cut back? The hope has always been that tax cuts or wage increases would come before consumers do cut back. But nothing on the horizon shows this will happen. And Donald Trump’s ineffectiveness as President makes robust wage growth and tax relief for the middle class even less likely.
PS – The chaos in Charlottesville tells you that if you combined a failed Trump presidency with economic recession, you have the pre-conditions for some serious political extremism and revolt.
Credit Writedowns
The failure of the Trump presidency
Edward Harrison

Pam and Russ Martens — Three Critical Steps to Making America Great Again Are Not on Trump’s Agenda

  1. M&A rather than IPOs, stock buybacks. Primary investment is lagging. The environment for investment must be addressed.
  2. Deregulation for its own sake. Removing bank regulation was a factor in the financial crisis. Regulation needs to be revisited from the perspective of lessons learned.
  3. Control fraud and criminogenic environment were promoted by hands-off policy in regulation and oversight. Well-Functioning markets require appropriate regulation and supervision.

Paul Antonopoulos — Russia is certain the US will meddle in forthcoming presidential elections: Deputy FM

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Chinese and Japanese media in an interview that Moscow is certain the United States will attempt to meddle in the forthcoming Russian presidential election.

"We’ve got used to US meddling. We’ve learned to live with it. The same applies to the tapping of telephones by US secret services," Ryabkov said.

"The one who is unaware of this is an absolutely naive person who lives on a different planet and does not understand what’s what," he continued.
He then went onto say that "There can be no doubts it will happen" when quizzed in whether the US will meddle in the upcoming elections.
Fort Russ
Russia is certain the US will meddle in forthcoming presidential elections: Deputy FM
Paul Antonopoulos

Diane Coyle — Property is – theft?


Buying versus renting. Is buying over in the drive for rent-seeking?

The Enlightened Economist
Property is – theft?
Diane Coyle | freelance economist and a former advisor to the UK Treasury. She is a member of the UK Competition Commission and is acting Chairman of the BBC Trust, the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation

Ryan Browne — Estonia wants to launch its own government-backed cryptocurrency called 'estcoin'

  • Estonia has proposed to launch its own state-backed cryptocurrency, called "estcoin".
  • Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin apparently gave feedback on the digital currency.
  • It would be launched via the digital coin community's version of crowdfunding - an initial coin offering (ICO).
Provocative article.
Last month Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said that her nation was "the only truly digital society," underpinned by the state.
"Almost all our citizens' interactions with the government, including voting, can be done securely online, and our 'e-residents' can incorporate and run their businesses in Estonia without ever having to set foot here," she said in an article for the Telegraph.
"Seeing this digital revolution up close has made me question whether the state as we know it today is fit for the 21st century."...
CNBC
Estonia wants to launch its own government-backed cryptocurrency called 'estcoin'
Ryan Browne

Chris Dillow — A new capital?

What does capital do in the digital economy?
For one thing it applies the mass market. The huge asymmetry in income is lat least in part due to access to and use of mass markets. Contemporary managerial capitalism and digital entrepreneuring are based on creating new mass markets or capturing a share of existing or developing mass markets.  

While this is well known in business, economists haven't yet picked up much on it implications, at least in my roaming around the field as an onlooker.

Stumbling and Mumbling
A new capital?
Chris Dillow | Investors Chronicle

Pedro Nicolaci da Costa — Fed rebel warns businesses to stop 'whining' about a shortage of workers

It’s an all-too common refrain among US corporations: we have jobs available, but simply can’t find qualified workers to fill them.
Economists, including top Federal Reserve officials, lend credibility to this dubious claim by arguing there is a "skills gap" among US workers that is preventing firms from finding employees with the right backgrounds.
However, ample research and basic common sense suggests that wage stagnation, which has dominated the US job landscape in recent decades, is a symptom of an anemic labor market, not a fully recovered one.
Credit to Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari for pointing that out during a speech to business leaders on Monday.
"If you're not raising wages, then it just sounds like whining," he told a group of business people at a Rotary Club meeting in Sioux Falls, S.D., according to the Washington Examiner.
Business insider
Fed rebel warns businesses to stop 'whining' about a shortage of workers
Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
ht Brad DeLong at Grasping Reality
 

Bill Mitchell — Central banks still funding government deficits and the sky remains firmly above

There was an article in the Financial Times last week (August 16, 2017) – Central banks hold a fifth of their governments’ debt – which seemed to think there was a “challenge” facing policymakers in “unwinding assets after decade of stimulus”. The article shows how central banks around the world have been buying huge quantities of government (and private) bonds and holding them on their balance sheets. Apparently, these asset holdings are likely to cause the banks headaches. I don’t see it that way. The central banks, in question, could write the debt off any time they chose with no significant consequence. Why they don’t is the question rather than whether they will become insolvent if the values crash (they won’t) or whether the yields will skyrocket if they sell them back into the non-government sector (they won’t). Last week (August 15, 2017), the US Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board put out their updated data on Foreign Holders of US Treasury Securities. Other relevant data was also published which helps us trace the US Federal Reserve holdings of US government debt. Overall, the US government holds about 40 per cent of its own total outstanding debt – split between the intergovernmental agencies (27.6 per cent) and the US Federal Reserve Bank (12.4 per cent). In some quarters, the US central bank has been known to purchase nearly all the change in total debt. That folks, is what we might call Overt Monetary Financing and the sky hasn’t fallen in yet as a consequence.
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Central banks still funding government deficits and the sky remains firmly above
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Peter Cooper — Short & Simple 17 – A Notion of Macroeconomic Equilibrium

At the macro level, equilibrium requires that total demand in product markets equals total supply. This could occur at high or low levels of output and employment. For this reason, equality of supply and demand in product markets does not imply full employment.
heteconomist
Short & Simple 17 – A Notion of Macroeconomic Equilibrium
Peter Cooper

Hazel Marsh — Venezuela’s long history of racism is coming back to haunt it


The back story. 

Similar in Brazil and other Latin American countries. In Brazil the Carnival queen was deposed for being too black.

Defend Democracy
Venezuela’s long history of racism is coming back to haunt it
Hazel Marsh

M.K. Bhadrakumar — Russia Warns the US Over Afghanistan

The more one looks at it, President Donald Trump’s real challenge is not about winning the war against the Taliban, but the high risk he’ll be incurring, by taking his generals’ advice, to put his imprimatur on a full-fledged proxy war in Afghanistan against Russia, Iran and China.
Russia Insider
Russia Warns the US Over Afghanistan
M.K. Bhadrakumar

Pat Lang — The generals rolled him, as they rolled Obama ...


The difference between Trump and Obama is that under Trump generals are in key civilian positions that are supposed to put a civilian check on the military. Now there is in effect a military junta running military policy with State under the control of a former Exxon CEO and treasury under the control of a Goldman Sachs alumnus. This is even worse that could be expected if HRC had been elected instead, and it is what a lot people that voted for DJT were voting to prevent.

Sic Semper Tyrannis
The generals rolled him, as they rolled Obama ...
Col. W. Patrick Lang, US Army (ret.), former military intelligence officer at the US Defense Intelligence Agency

Also
Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump's new strategy toward Afghanistan is against Afghanistan's national interest.
Sputnik International
Karzai Slams New US' Afghan Strategy as 'Trump More Focused on War & Rivalries'

Also for consideration:

Voltaire Network
The anti-imperialist camp: splintered in thought

Thierry Meyssan

UPDATE

No plan, no strategy.

Irrussianality
Reinforcing failure
Paul Robinson | Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa

Pam and Russ Martens — Wall Street Banks Sued Again for Conspiring to Control a Market

As summer draws to a close and the Wall Street titans enjoy the last of their lazy long weekends in the Hamptons, summering next door to the army of lawyers that keep them out of jail, it’s a curious time to be reading about a major new lawsuit that has the potential to shake Wall Streeters right down to their Gucci loafers. The charges include conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of the Sherman Act and unjust enrichment in a $1.7 trillion market.
Since the Senate hearings of the early 1930s, which examined the Wall Street practices and conspiracies that led to the 1929-1932 stock market collapse and Great Depression, there have been rumblings that Wall Street’s system for lending stock for traders to short is a viper’s nest of ripoffs. Now two major law firms, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Cohen Milstein are suing six of the largest Wall Street banks, alleging that they illegally colluded in this market. The defendants are the usual suspects: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, UBS and their stock lending units. (The only surprise here is that Citigroup is not named.)...
Wall Street On Parade
Wall Street Banks Sued Again for Conspiring to Control a Market
Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Robert Vienneau — The Concept Of Totality


Georg Lukács quote.

Thoughts On Economics
The Concept Of Totality
Robert Vienneau

Graham E. Fuller — Global Disorder- What Are the Options?

Global disorder is on the rise. What can the US do about it? There are two fundamentally different approaches one can take—it all depends on your philosophy of how the world works.

The first school thinks primarily in terms of law, order and authority: it accepts the need for a global policeman. The second school is more willing to let regional nations take the initiative to eventually work things out among themselves. Both schools possess advantages and disadvantages. Something called Balance of Power politics lies halfway between the two....
Graham E. Fuller
Global Disorder- What Are the Options?
Graham E. Fuller | adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University, formerly vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, and a former senior political scientist at RAND

Also
With words unprecedented for a US president, Trump called out Pakistan for harboring and supporting terrorist groups that target and kill US citizens and said there would be a radical change in policy toward the South Asian nation. Trump indicated the US would work to increase ties with India, Pakistan's neighbor and greatest enemy, a move sure to both enrage as well as frighten Pakistani elites.…
Trump said the US will work to increase ties with India, Pakistan’s neighbor and greatest enemy, as part of the “change in approach in how to deal with Pakistan.”
Pushing Pakistan into China's arms.
In what must have sent shockwaves all the way to Islamabad and Rawalpindi – the home of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service – Trump followed up his harsh words for Pakistan with a call for greater American cooperation with India.
Trump said the US will seek to “develop its strategic partnership with India” and described the country as “a key security and economic harbor of the United States.” He called for India to play a greater role in Afghanistan “especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”….
FDD's Long War Journal
Trump takes hard line on Pakistan for supporting terrorist groups
Bill Roggio | Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal

Also

RussiaFeed
Russian expert says Trump’s new Afghanistan policy aimed at China`

UPDATE

The Duran
China tells Trump not to allow India to interfere in regional interests
Adam Garrie

Baltnews — Greek Minister refuses to attend anti-communist conference in Tallinn, and tells why

In a letter sent to the organizers of the event, Kontonis explained that such an initiative revives the climate of the Cold War, contradicts the values of the EU and equates Communism with Nazism, which is unacceptable.
"History can not be faked. Historical data and events declare the Soviet Army as the liberator of Europe and of the Nazi concentration camps, as a savior from the horrors of the Holocaust. In our thoughts and in our minds, the Nazi regime is a political system whose ideology is based on racism, hatred, intolerance and mass murder, and under no circumstances can it be compared with communism, with the political ideology that it represents, or comparable to something else, Or simply because humanity has not experienced anything like Nazism and I hope that in the future it never will again" his letter states.
According to him, communism has spawned dozens of ideological currents, including Eurocommunism, which influenced all of Western Europe.
"We believe that the initiative to organize a conference with a specific content and title sends an incorrect and dangerous political signal, reviving the climate of the Cold War, which has caused much suffering to Europe, contradicts the values of the EU and, of course, does not reflect the point of view of the Greek government and the Greek people.
And nazism and communism can not be two sides of the same equation. It is clear that the General Secretariat for Human Rights of the Greek Ministry of Justice will not participate in a conference with such a theme," said Kontonis.... 
Fort Russ
Greek Minister refuses to attend anti-communist conference in Tallinn, and tells why
Baltnews.ee, translated by Tom Winter -

David Lazare — Israel’s Alarm over Syrian Debacle


Backgrounder on the Middle East.

Consortium News
Israel’s Alarm over Syrian Debacle
David Lazare

Will Denayer — The Great Repeal Bill: the neoliberal assault on democracy and human rights

The Great Repeal Bill grants May’s ministers the power to rewrite reams of British law without democratic oversight. Not only will there be no longer an equivalent to the Francovich ruling. The Great Repeal Bill will also diminish human, civic, social and environmental rights. It will considerably strengthen the position of the executive. A British Bill of Rights and “free” trade deals will replace the Human Rights Act and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Agreements will empower global corporations to sue the government in secret courts any time ‘state regulation’ stands in the way of corporate profit. It is the neoliberal assault on democracy and human rights in full action....

Bill Mitchell — Europe – the deliberate wastage of its youth continues

Earlier this month (August 11, 2017), Eurostat published the latest European Union data for – Young people in the EU: education and employment. This data now allows us to track the fortunes of three age cohorts – 15-19, 20-24 and 25-29 years since before the crisis to the end of 2016. So a teenager prior to the crisis (2007) would be transiting into the 25-29 years cohort in 2016. One of the disturbing trends shown in the data is the increasing number of young people in the older ‘youth’ categories that in 2016 we classified as being Neither in Employment, nor in Education or Training (NEET). Some will have been in that category for the entire duration of the crisis – that is, they dropped out of school early, are not receiving any skills development and are unemployed. Whereas in 2007, the proportion of NEETs in the 25-29 years cohort was 17.2 per cent, that figure has risen to 18.8 per cent by 2016 (although the peak of 20.7 per cent was reached in 2012). This suggests that the systems which provide transitions between education and employment are not working effectively because the demand-side of the labour market is deficient. That is, there is a lack of jobs available overall and the most disadvantaged youth workers are at the back of the queue along with the disabled and other stigmatised cohorts (for example, Roma people in the European context). There is an urgent need for a true Youth Job Guarantee, to replace the faux Youth Guarantee that was introduced in 2012. But then that would require abandoning the obsession with austerity and dysfunctional fiscal rules. The European Commission’s answer to the problem will be to have another ‘summit’ or two and issue plenty of statements replete with motherhood statements.

A recurring theme among mainstream economic commentators is that the ageing societies that the Western nations are experiencing will eventually impose massive health and pension costs, which governments will be unable to afford. The claims of financial incapacity are, of course, fallacious....
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Europe – the deliberate wastage of its youth continues
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mark Perry — How Generals Talked Another President into Losing Strategy

Another Pentagon observer had a much different take. “This is Joe Biden’s plan, all the way,” he said, referring to the then-Vice President’s recommendation to Obama back in 2009. “Biden said that we should increase counterterrorism operations, draw down U.S. forces in the provinces, increase pressure on Pakistan and make a deal with India. Obama said ‘no’ to the idea, but you can bet Mattis was listening. This is his plan all the way.”
Almost everyone at the Pentagon agrees, though key senior military officers who have been privy to James Mattis’s thinking over the last weeks (but who remain unconvinced by it) provide a cautionary, and nearly fatalistic, note. “This Trump plan, at least so far as I understand it, sounds a lot like the kind of plan we’ve come up with again and again since the end of World War Two,” a senior Pentagon officer says. “We’re going to surge troops, reform the government we support and put pressure on our allies. In this building [the Pentagon] there’s a hell of a lot of skepticism. And that’s because we all know what this new strategy really means – and what it means that the only way we can get out of Afghanistan is to get further in. You know, it seems to me that if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that that doesn’t work.”
The American Conservative
How Generals Talked Another President into Losing Strategy
Mark Perry

Edward Harrison — The limits of monetary policy in today’s fiat currency world

First, let me say that two primary goals of macro policy everywhere and always should be full employment and stable prices. Why? I am looking at this purely through the lens of the political economy – thinking about how our fellow citizens live and breathe the economy and how government should be designed to respond to their needs. On the jobs side, we have seen that high unemployment leads to political instability, economic turmoil and conflict. When you have masses of people unemployed or unable to earn enough money to sustain the lifestyle they aspire to – especially young males – you have the makings of discontent that leads to political instability, electoral desperation, fringe voting, and even revolt and insurrection.
On the inflation side of things, high deflation and inflation are equally problematic. When you have, say, families with mortgages or businesses trying to expand, doing the things we see as ‘normal’ to get ahead, deflation makes their task harder by unexpectedly increasing the real burden of that debt. That leads to a downward spiral as fire sales force prices even lower, what we now called debt deflation. Now I know the Austrians say just let this play out. But politically, that’s never going to happen. Think about the housing busts of this last crisis. Just as with joblessness, you have the same makings of political discontent that leads to chaos. And as bad as deflation is, we know inflation is difficult too – not just Weimar or Zimbabwe-style inflation but even the moderately high levels of the 1970s....
Credit Writedowns
The limits of monetary policy in today’s fiat currency world
Edward Harrison

Sputnik — Russia's Nuclear Shield: From World's First ICBM to 'Dead Hand' System

The Russian "doomsday machine" continues to safeguard the country's sovereignty and national interests, RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko writes, shedding light on how Perimeter, an automatic nuclear-control system dubbed 'Dead Hand,' actually works.…
After the end of the Cold War, the Russian "doomsday machine" was removed from combat duty in 1995.
However, "the United States and its allies did not appreciate this gesture of goodwill of the leadership of the Russian Federation, and began to actively create the world of 'American exceptionalism', with NATO proceeding to move closer to Russian borders," Khrolenko pointed out.
Thus, in December 2011 the commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, Sergei Karakaev, announced in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda that the Perimeter system was up and running again....
Sputnik International
Russia's Nuclear Shield: From World's First ICBM to 'Dead Hand' System

CIA Dr Richards J. Heuer — “Information Collection vs Analytical Methods”


Information overload.

Intel Today
CIA Dr Richards J. Heuer: “Information Collection vs Analytical Methods”