Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dirk Ehnts — Von Mises and the Position of the State in the Market

The state is not external to the people, enterprises and other institutions. I think that it is wrong to divide state and market. In modern states, they are intertwined. Maybe this topic should go in my course to create a debate about what terminology to use (dichotomy of state and market) and what we recognize as (economic) “science” over the centuries.
The view that market imperfections result chiefly from the side of the state versus the market, that the market and state can be disentangled, and reducing the influence of the state decreases market imperfections is an article of faith of economic liberalism. It is a foundational assumption that is regarded as self-evident. That's doing speculative philosophy, not empirical science.

econoblog 101
Von Mises and the Position of the State in the Market
Dirk Ehnts | Berlin School for Economics and Law

Sigrún Davídsdóttir — Lies, damned lies, and Greek statistics

Long and thorough post on the previous corruption in Greece that led to the present crisis.

Coppola Comment
Lies, damned lies, and Greek statistics
Sigrún Davídsdóttir

John Weeks — Third Bailout and the Third Punic War

After his defeat by the Roman leader Scipio Africanus at the battle of Zama in 201 BC, the great general Hannibal pleaded with the Carthaginian Senate to accept the draconian peace terms demanded by Rome. Polybius has him say to the Senate, “I beg you … to declare your acceptance of the [peace] proposals unanimously” (The Rise of the Roman Empire, Book XV).
The draconian treaty proved too burdensome for the Carthage Senate to implement. This led to a Third Punic War and yet another Roman victory in 146 BC, over an enemy far weaker after fifty years of austerity due to payment of tribute to the Roman overlords. No treaty ended this third war. The Roman army sacked Carthage, razed it to the ground and sold the population into slavery.
Those in Greece whose hope is that the Third Bailout has bought them time for a better deal with the Troika in the future might reflect on the outcome of the third Punic War.
Triple Crisis
Third Bailout and the Third Punic War
John Weeks | Professor Emeritus of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London

David F. Ruccio — “Thought is the courage of hopelessness”

So, the current situation does appear hopeless.
However, in challenging the terms of the bailout—first, in supporting the “no” vote in the 5 July referendum and, then, in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s statements that his government would not implement reform measures beyond those agreed with lenders at a euro zone summit this month—the Greek government has come to represent all the “thinking and suffering people” of Europe and to expose the “passive and thoughtless existence” that characterizes the tiny elite that currently reigns on that continent.
That, perhaps, should fill us with hope.
Sorry, I haven't got my hopes up. If the European elite is to be defeated in their attempt to impose neoliberalism on Europe, indications are that it will likely be by the nationalist Right rather than a resurgent Left. The Left has had its chance on several occasions in different countries and has consistently blown it.

Occasional Links & Commentary
“Thought is the courage of hopelessness”
David F. Ruccio | Professor of Economics University of Notre Dame Notre Dame

Yanis Varoufakis — Treason charges: What lurks behind the bizarre allegations

The bizarre attempt to have me indicted me on… treason charges, allegedly for conspiring to push Greece out of the Eurozone, reflects something much broader.

Yanis Varoufakis
Treason charges: What lurks behind the bizarre allegations

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

teleSUR Extreme Poverty in Venezuela Drops to 4.5%

The number of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty has dropped to a historic low of 4.5 percent, according to figures released Monday. “In the midst of an economic war, extreme poverty has dropped below 5 percent,” Planning vice president Ricardo Menendez said. He said the continued decline of poverty is vindicating “the model we are building.” “This figure represents the strengthening of the battle ... from the beginning of the great (social) missions there has been an outright decline in indicators of poverty, (such as) unsatisfied basic needs,” he said. The figure of 4.5 percent is nearly half that of neighboring Colombia, where over 8 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty according to 2014 statistics. It's also the lowest level in decades for Venezuela. When President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, 21 percent of homes were registered as experiencing extreme poverty. Under Chavez, the Venezuelan government created a series of anti-poverty programs called missions. Each mission targets a specific aspect of poverty, such as housing and education. Government funding for social spending including the missions has skyrocketed over the last decade. By 2014, extreme poverty had dropped to 5.4 percent. The massive reduction in poverty has been praised by international organizations including the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America.…
Extreme Poverty in Venezuela Drops to 4.5%

TASS — Structural reforms required for increasing Russia’s private sector — IMF

WASHINGTON, July 28. /TASS/. Structural reforms are required for increasing Russia’s private sector and its balance with the public sector, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its 2015 External Sector Report (Individual Economy Assessments) published on Tuesday. 
"The nonoil fiscal deficit remains significantly higher than its long-term desirable level and needs to adjust to facilitate a rebalancing from public to private activity, and a re-allocation of government expenditure from current to capital spending," the IMF reported.
Clear signal to do the exact opposite. Hopefully they will act on it and increase the deficit.

Structural reforms required for increasing Russia’s private sector — IMF

Max Fisher — Donald Trump's only real foreign policy idea: steal foreigners' oil

It looks like Donald Trump's presidential campaign is going to be with us for a little while longer, and probably through the first Republican debate. At some point, then, it becomes impossible to avoid talking about Trump's policies — yes, even his foreign policy.
So, to review, Donald Trump is a Republican and free market conservative businessman who opposes the free market exchange of fossil fuels, who believes the US should become a mercantilist colonial power that steals natural resources from other countries, and who opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion but believes the US should have re-invaded in 2013.
It turns out that Donald Trump's central foreign policy plank is the same as his central domestic policy plank: that Donald Trump is very successful, and the rest of the world should be assimilated into his successes.

Matthew Bodner — Russian Defense Industry Revenues Soar Despite Western Sanctions

Replacement for exporting natural resources?
Russia's major defense industry enterprises shrugged off Western sanctions and a Russian economic slowdown to grow their revenues rapidly in 2014, according to a new global ranking. 
The Defense News Top 100 ranking is published annually and ranks the world's top arms makers by revenue. Russian firms bucked a global downward trend in defense revenues thanks to an expansion of military spending by the Russian government and increasing defense exports, which reached new highs in 2014.
The Moscow Times
Russian Defense Industry Revenues Soar Despite Western Sanctions
Matthew Bodner

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee — The Majority Of GOP Voters Want Mass Deportation, But It’ll Cost Them

Translation: 63% of GOP voters are racists? Looks like the 2016 presidential is going to be about (non-white) immigration.

According to the poll, white Evangelicals, older voters, people who did not attend college, Republicans, and voters who live in rural areas tended to be more supportive of deportation compared to granting legal status to the undocumented population.

CNN reported that “Republican voters who say their views are not represented at all by the government in Washington are far more likely than other Republicans to back Trump’s run for the White House,” many of whom also favor his position to focus on border security and deport undocumented immigrants.
Trump seems to be attracting "low information voters" in droves.

Looks like the 2016 presidential is going to be about (non-white) immigration.

Think Progress
The Majority Of GOP Voters Want Mass Deportation, But It’ll Cost Them
Esther Yu-Hsi Lee

Colin Gorenstein — Donald Trump says Sarah Palin is a “really special person” who would be great on his presidential cabinet

Say what?
Did you know that a Sarah Palin-themed radio show called “The Palin Update” exists? It does. And Monday’s guest on the “Mama Grizzly”-hosted program was no other than GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

Turns out, there’s a very good reason Trump agreed to appear on the show: In his words, she’s “really a special person.” A special person that he’s been considering for his cabinet. 
Asked by host/Palin-stan Kevin Scholla whether he could see himself having governor Palin “along in some capacity” (“picking up the phone, giving [her] a call and picking her brain on some things”), Trump responded:

“I’d love that. Because she really is somebody who knows what’s happening and she’s a special person, she’s really a special person and I think people know that.” 
What’s more, Trump later declared that “everybody loves” Palin. She’s “tough” and “smart” — unlike the current Republican rivals who are “weak” and “ineffective” leaders, he said. “[Voters] like the Sarah Palin kind of strength, you just don’t see very much of it anymore.” 
Another vice-presidential run?

Donald Trump says Sarah Palin is a “really special person” who would be great on his presidential cabinet

Kate Aronoff — Have reports of the death of capitalism been greatly exaggerated?

Late last week, economic journalist Paul Mason, whose Channel 4 blog has been one of the best English-language sources for making sense of the ongoing Greek crisis, published an excerpt from his forthcoming book in The Guardian. It announces that the end of capitalism has begun and that (spoiler) it doesn’t look how we thought it might. The 20th century old/new leftist dream of some crisis-sparked proletarian revolt, he argues, has been battered by neo-liberalism and, now, is being replaced by a steady trickle of viable, largely technology-fuelled alternatives to the current economy. “Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques,” Mason writes. “It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviors.”…
But as Leah Hunt-Hendrix and Astra Taylor noted recently for The Nation, there’s no ready-made path from information to liberation. “Our high-tech tools are constrained by market incentives and government surveillance interests that are often intertwined,” they wrote. “We cannot think about surveillance without paying keen attention to the corporations that benefit from it and the deep inequities that result.” Not only is there a barely-hidden world of workers making the digital revolution possible, but tech itself is already being used to serve the interests of those driving our current, vastly unequal economy. It deserves noting that some of the biggest fans of decentralization — technological or otherwise — are right-wing libertarians, who would be as happy to see workplace protections stripped as they would to see a new start-up food co-op take root….
Mason’s call to “direct all actions towards the transition — not the defense of random elements of the old system,” to focus solely on building alternatives, is a false dichotomy. If Syriza’s project in Greece has shown anything, it’s that combining a broad-based solidarity economy with political power is deeply threatening to neo-liberalism, the top brass of which will risk self-implosion to stamp it out. Acting alone, Solidarity for All didn’t provoke a sadistic backlash from Greece’s creditors. Syriza’s victory at the polls, its leadership’s presence at the negotiating table in Brussels, and the egalitarian populist parties grasping at state power across the Mediterranean did — but neither the challenge nor the solution could exist without the other.

 If the early 20th century labor heroine Lucy Parsons were alive now, she might add an addendum on to the statement she’s best remembered by: “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to innovate away their wealth.” Today’s movements will need to be at least as creative as the forces they’re taking on, and be building solutions that are even more so. Post-capitalism is coming, but a new and even more disruptive tradition of organizing will have to clear the way first.
Open Democracy
Have reports of the death of capitalism been greatly exaggerated?
Kate Aronoff

Markha Valenta — Neoliberal realpolitik: choking others in our name

This is a fairly long article but it is worth reading in full. I pulled out some representative quotes.
The project of Europe has transformed from one of collective liberation from war, poverty and brutality to one of nauseating inhumanity for the sake of maintaining our comfort and welfare. This is presented to us as an a-political matter: not an ideological choice made by politicians, but an economic necessity carried out pragmatically. In the process, there is an Orwellian inversion of terms, such that the failure of the euro is presented as success, oligarchy is presented as politically representative, democratic protest as disruptive and irrelevant, human suffering as a side-issue, sovereignty as the freedom to agree and submit, austerity as realistic, our self-interest as the same as that of banks and the corporate-political elite, and alternatives as non-existent.
In other words, the neoliberalization of Europe is being presented to us as the solution to the very disorder and violence it itself produces.…
Indeed, in another Europe, a Europe we have yet to make, this would be criminal. 
It would be criminal precisely for the reason that bad policies by politicians are not: the policies of the Troika and the Eurogroup have no political or democratic legitimacy but were born of informal alliances and backroom agreements by a small oligarchic clique, a center of power answerable to no one. Under such conditions – of governance without normative or democratic grounding – legal culpability is essential if we in any fashion take the notion of a humane, rather than vicious, Europe seriously.…
This has cleared the way for a radical politics of dehumanization. A Neoliberal realpolitik. A realpolitik that in the name of Europe negates the Europe that gave birth to it: the Europe of democracy, solidarity and equality.…
Sustaining this endeavor is the fantasy that the economic policies of the Troika supersede politics itself. Tusk himself asserts that there are no alternatives. The neoliberal conceit is precisely this: that its policies are not politics but the neutral application of invariant, impersonal and transcendent economic mechanisms.
In other words, Greece has exposed the raw split between Europe’s ethical and political core. While Europe’s formal ethics are those of inclusive human equality in diversity, dignity and security, the political ideology is one of socio-economic precarity and inequality, harsh realist politics, nationalist chauvinism, Calvinist discipline and punishment. Two visions for the future of Europe are increasingly clearly delineated: one which follows Schäuble’s fantasies for an intensified political and economic union of Europe’s rich few and another that reconfigures a future Europe along the lines of its original values, willing to pay the price, quite literally, that it will take to make Europe more egalitarian, inclusive, diverse and humane.….
This condition in which we find ourselves marks the coming to fruition of arguments and policies tried out elsewhere for the last three decades and now making their way into Europe’s heartland. Until now, their objects have been those most distant from us: far away, in Third World countries subjected to the rapacious incisions of the IMF and World Bank; closer by in the East Bloc countries subjected to a ferocious liberalization after the Cold War; and closer yet, along our borders, extending into the inner reaches of our cities, in the regimes that have sprung up to control, exploit and expel poor people from beyond Europe when and where they seek entry into what is considered to be “ours”. 
Until now, the preeminent guinea pigs of neoliberal realpolitik in Europe have been those who are not yet, are not completely or will never be the citizens of Europe.…
That is to say: part of the shock of the moment is to see a European country and people treated as if they are a dark Third World (Muslim) one. To see the Greeks treated as a people that do not deserve to be European and must prove their intent to reform, to be disciplined, to earn our good graces. As a people that does not deserve the full palette of recognition, dignity, democratic self-assertion, and protection from exploitation that are the birthright of (white, middle-class, elite) Europeans. The invisible boundary that divided the world between the West and the poor, brown, Muslim Rest has been breached…
One of the distinctive aspects of a hegemonic, repressive system is that it presents itself as the solution to the chaos it itself creates. It is no different with Neoliberalism.…
Open Democracy
Neoliberal realpolitik: choking others in our name
Markha Valenta

Noam Chomsky — Creating the Horror Chambers

Dan Falcone: I wanted to stay on the topic of education and ask you about language, terminology, and definitions in the social sciences. So for example, I’ve noticed in my curriculum that there’s a tendency to have terms with a real definition and then a code definition. Terms like foreign aid, independence movements, partition, and democracy. 
Two terms that I know are of particular interest to you are anarchism and libertarianism. Could you discuss the varying definitions of those two terms, anarchism and libertarianism? Maybe the American definition versus the European, and why that’s important for education to sort out?
Noam Chomsky: There’s hardly a term in social science, political discourse, academic professions, and the scholarly professions where there’s anything remotely like clear definitions. If you want a clear definition, you have to go to mathematics or parts of physics.
Definitions are basically parts of theoretical structures. A definition doesn’t mean anything unless it’s embedded in some theory of some explanatory scope. And in these areas, there really are no such theories. So the terms are in fact used very loosely. They have a strong ideological component.
Take, say, democracy. The United States, I’m sure in your school, they teach as the world’s leading democracy. It’s also a country in which about 70 percent of the population, the lower 70 percent on the income scale, are completely disenfranchised.
Their opinions have no detectable influence on the decisions of their own representatives. Which is a good reason to believe, a large reason, why a huge number of people don’t bother voting. They know that it’s a waste of time. So is that a democracy? No, not really.
And you could say the same about almost any other term. Sometimes it’s almost laughable. So for example, in 1947, the US government changed the name of the War Department. They changed it to the Defense Department — any person with a brain functioning knew that we’re not going to be involved in defense anymore. We’re going to be involved in aggression. They didn’t have to read Orwell to know that. And in fact, religiously, every time you read about the war budget, it’s called the defense budget. And defense now means war, very much as in Orwell. And pretty much across the board.…
Creating the Horror Chambers
Dan Falcone interviews Noam Chomsky

The Saker — The new Russian Naval Doctrine – one very important sentence

“A defining factor in (our) relations with NATO remains that for Russia the following is unacceptable: the alliance’s plan to move its infrastructure to the borders of Russia and the attempts to give the alliance a global role“.
Saker analyzes what it means.

The Vineyard of the Saker
The new Russian Naval Doctrine – one very important sentence
The Saker

Philip Chrysopoulos — European Commission Denies Varoufakis’ Accusations of Controlling Greece’s Tax Agency

“On what Mr Varoufakis has been saying, the allegations that the Troika was controlling the general secretariat of public revenue are false and unfounded,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a news briefing.
“The general secretariat of public revenue is a quasi-independent entity, responsible for tax administration, that is formally part of the Finance Ministry,” Andreeva explained.
“The Commission and IMF only provide technical assistance to the tax administration but certainly do not control [the agency],” she added. “Alleging that the Troika would be controlling the secretariat… is simply not true.” 
Greek Reporter
European Commission Denies Varoufakis’ Accusations of Controlling Greece’s Tax Agency
Philip Chrysopoulos

See also

Supreme Court Brings Lawsuits Against Varoufakis to Greek Parliament

Murtaza Hussain — Scott Walker Foreign Policy Guru Called for Nuking Muslim Countries, Mass Deportations

At an event earlier this month to formally launch his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cited a man in the crowd named Kevin Hermening as a formative influence on his foreign policy thinking. Hermening, a former U.S. Marine who was held hostage during the 1979 Iranian revolution, is a longtime friend of Walker, and has been described in press reports as “the face of Walker’s foreign policy.” The governor has repeatedly cited Hermening as a major influence on his worldview, including his opposition to the Obama administration’s recent nuclear deal with Iran.
But Walker’s choice of Hermening as a foreign policy counselor raises serious questions about Walker’s understanding of the issues. Hermening has publicly advocated conducting nuclear strikes against the capital cities of Muslim-majority countries, as well as the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, particularly those of “Middle Eastern descent” from the United States.
In 2001, Hermening wrote an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calling for a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that would include “the destruction of the capitals of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen,” unless the governments of those countries unequivocally agreed to help kill Osama bin Laden. “Every military response must be considered, including the use of nuclear weapons,” he wrote. In his commentary Hermening also called upon the United States to erect security fences “along the entire perimeter of the United States,” as well as deport “every illegal alien and immigrant, with a focus on removing those of Middle Eastern descent.” ….
Walker responded to Bice’s column on Monday. “I’ll speak for myself,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “My policy is very clear, and it’s not aligned with what he said in that particular column.” Walker told the newspaper that he does not consider Hermening an adviser, even though his campaign has featured him prominently. Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept.…
The Intercept
Scott Walker Foreign Policy Guru Called for Nuking Muslim Countries, Mass Deportations
Murtaza Hussain

Sean Guillory — Ukraine is ripe for the shock doctrine

Serial rapists and their willing victims. Sadomasochism?

Open Democracy
Ukraine is ripe for the shock doctrine
Sean Guillory

Chris Dillow — On centrist utopianism

There's a common theme here. It's centrist utopianism - the idea that moderate and feasible tweaks within capitalism can generate big improvements.… 
I say all this as a counterweight to a longstanding prejudice - that centrists and moderates are realistic and hard-headed whilst we leftists are utopian dreamers. Of course, this accusation applies to some on the left - anything is true of someone - but for me the opposite is the case. I'm a Marxist because I'm a pessimist. It is those who think that (actually-existing) capitalism is easily reformable so that inefficiencies and injustices can be eliminated who seem to me to be the dreamers.…
Stumbling and Mumbling
On centrist utopianism
Chris Dillow | Investors Chronicle

Gilbert Doctorow — Has Gaullisme returned to France? The French parliamentary delegation’s visit to Crimea

The ins and outs of French (and German) politics and policy.

Une parole franche
Has Gaullisme returned to France? The French parliamentary delegation’s visit to Crimea
Gilbert Doctorow

Cathy O’Neil — Greek Debt and German Banks

Are you fascinated by the “debt as moral weight” arguments you see being tossed around and viciously debated over in Germany and Greece nowadays? It seems like the moral debate has superseded the economic reality of the situation. Even the IMF has declared the current Greek deal untenable, but that hasn’t seemed to interfere with the actual negotiations.
What gives? Many point to history to explain this. Besides the whole Nazi thing, or maybe exactly because of it, the Greeks keep reminding the Germans that they (and others) forgave half of existing German debt after World War II, with the1953 London Debt Agreement. The Germans have responded vehemently that such ancient history is irrelevant, and that the Greeks are a bunch of lazy olive-eating tax avoiders. It’s a dirty fight, and getting dirtier every week.
I maintain we don’t have to examine the history of 60 years ago to understand at least some of the moral anxiety. Instead we should look a mere 7 years ago, at the enormous German bailout of their own banks, which had invested quite recklessly in all sorts of the most risky financial instruments and, most relevantly, Greek bonds.…
This is not to suggest that there was perfect planning going on by the previous Greek governments. But I do think that, if we’re looking for who deserves blame in this story, we might want to circle back to the German bankers who couldn’t resist subprime mortgages and Greek bonds back in the early 2000’s.
Greek Debt and German Banks
Cathy O’Neil
ht Brad DeLong

Bonus: There is link in the upper right hand column to download the second edition of Occupy Finance free.

Bill Mitchell — IMF on Greece – they haven’t learned from their mistakes

In the most recent take of the Greek crisis, the IMF seems to have come out as being the reasonable part of the Troika as a result of its last minute release of a document where it said that Greece’s debt position was unsustainable and that any longer-term settlement of the crisis would require “debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far”. But a closer reading of that report (July 14, 2015) – An Update of IMF Staff’s Preliminary Public Debt Sustainability Analysis – tells me that the IMF hasn’t learned very much at all from the disastrous and repeated mistakes they made that have deepened and prolonged the Euro crisis. They are still hanging on to the neo-liberal mantra that if only Greece had followed the ‘structural reform’ program fully it would now be out of crisis and not in need of debt relief. It is a pipe dream that only these neo-liberals can contrive when their whacky ideas are confronted with the reality of the monetary system.…
As Michael Hudson is fond of saying, "junk economics." As these people blinded by ideology, or just plain stupid. Or maybe insane, repeating failure aka digging the hole deeper, while expecting different results.

Bill Mitchell – billy blog
IMF on Greece – they haven’t learned from their mistakes
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Was I right or was I right? Stupid eventually sinks to the bottom.

Back in 2012 I wrote an article about hedge fund little boy, David Einhorn.

(Click on the image above to read the entire post.)

In that post I talked about how Einhron was at some conference and made some really stupid idiotic comments like these:

"Norway is the only country in the world which can finance itself."
"China is misunderstood and is not an investment opportunity because it doesn't have enough money to feed the economy."

Norway can "finance" itself? Yeah, um, is that a revelation? (He's right, but for the wrong reasons.)

And China doesn't have enough yuan? Is he serious?

I think at that conference or shortly thereafter Einhorn announced that he had a huge position in gold because he said that he had dinner with Bernanke and was scared shitless at the answers to the questions he  posed to the former Fed Chairman. His thoughts went something like, "Wow, all this QE and 'money printing' is going to create hyperinflation."

Right...he didn't even BEGIN to understand monetary operations. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Totally fucking clueless.

And NOW we see this:

Hahahaaha!!!!!!! The gods have delivered!!

Einhorn has deservedely been slaughtered in gold. He's Schiff with a bigger purse and maybe not for long!

These guys are the worst...the absolute, worst. As far as I am concerned they cannot lose money quick enough. If governemnt won't "euthanize" them, which they won't, then maybe they'll just die off from their own stupidity. But that's probably wishful thinking because I'm sure they'll  just get their bought politicians friends to enact laws and policies that force their victims to pay them back for all their losses.

Yes, Einhorn's a billionaire and for the life of me I will never be able to figure out how that happened. If Einstein were alive today he'd have trouble with that, too, and by the way, Albert Einstein was arguably one of the smartest humans to ever walk the planet, but he made like $60k per year in today's money. Just sayin'.

What irony...Einsten and Einhorn. The names sound very similar, but BOY, what a difference.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sputnik — Kalashnikovs of Tomorrow: Musk, Hawking, Wozniak Fear Killer Robot Armies

Fears of artificial intelligence (AI) gone wrong prompted more than a thousand scholars and public figures - including theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak - to sign an open letter, cautioning that the autonomous weapons race is “a bad idea” and presents a major threat to humanity.

The letter, presented Monday at the International Joint Conference on AI in Buenos Aires by Future of Life Institute, warns about the high stakes of modern robotic systems that have reached a point at which they are to be feasible within just years, and that "a global arms race is virtually inevitable."
"This technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow," the letter states.

"Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc."

While AI may promise to be truly beneficial to humanity in many ways, it has to be kept under strict controls, and perhaps even banned, the letter suggests, while warning that lethal autonomous weapons systems — or more simply, killer robots — which engage targets without human intervention, are on par with various weapons of mass destruction…
Opening Pandora's box, or letting the genie out of the bottle?

Kalashnikovs of Tomorrow: Musk, Hawking, Wozniak Fear Killer Robot Armies

Fyodor Lukyanov — The world enters an era of uncertainty

The world has been undergoing painful changes for a long time. But the uncertainty that is spreading now concerns not only the future, but also the effectiveness of the known methods of solving social problems.
The disturbing symptom of the past period was the more frequent talks about the approaching big war. The fear, which seemed to have disappeared forever at the turn of the 1990s, is coming back. At the same time, as noted by many experts, there are no real grounds for either an arms race or a serious clash of interests. But in today's world, the line between reality and illusion has almost faded.
Russia and India Report
The world enters an era of uncertainty
Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Russia's Council on Foreign and Defense Policy
First published in Russian by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Martin Kirk — Greece: It’s All Going With the Flow

Reading the commentaries on Greece in the last few weeks, it’s clear that there is a degree of genuine shock and consternation rippling through groups who have traditionally been the main cheerleaders of the EU. How is it, people are asking, that we got to this place where the sovereignty of a nation can be overridden by the elite in this way? How can it be acceptable that a small, unelected and unaccountable set of technocrats can be free to micromanage the Greek economy, right up to dictating how much bakers get paid, and even putting public assets into a private trust, like a parent putting candy out of reach of a child because they cannot be trusted with it. The degree of patronization is staggering and has led Nick Cohen to diagnose the EU as a “cruel, fanatical and stupid institution,” and Owen Jones to go so far as to argue that the left should now reject the EU as a political project.

I, too, feel a visceral revulsion at the way Greece has been treated, and I am increasingly of the opinion that the EU as an institution must be rejected. And I do mean the EU, not the Troika. The EU is ultimately the responsible party here; it invited and made space for IMF dominance; it sanctioned the establishment and operating principles of the Eurogroup as a extra-legal entity that has wielded extraordinary financial and, by short extension, legal power; and it is directly responsible for the legal structuring of the ECB, which, as George Monbiot points out, “enjoys “political independence”. This does not mean that it is free from politics, only that it is free from democracy.” 
But my reasons go beyond Greece, beyond even the EU, to the fact that this is all merely one example of a global drift away from democracy, towards a form of public/private governance whose raison d’être is capital generation. Not as a service to humanity, but as a purpose and an end point unto itself.

When seen in this larger reality, what’s happened to Greece looks less like an unfortunate but contained European phenomenon and more like a vivid example of a form of governance that people the world over should be extremely wary of. In other words, Greece is a cautionary tale for all of us, that warns us how fully our governance structures have been captured by elite, private interests.…
Neoliberalism is antithetical to democracy.

Story Europe
Greece: It’s All Going With the Flow
Martin Kirk
ht Clonal

fritzmorgen — The Weakening Tentacles of SWIFT

Blowback from US economic warfare — creation of an alternative payments system.

Fort Russ
The Weakening Tentacles of SWIFT
Original: The Weakening Tentacles of SWIFT
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

Ben Aris and Nick Allen — Power to the people

Conversion from previously subsidized socialist economies to capitalism bites, creating social unrest, as market price sticker shock hits.

Johnson's Russia List
Power to the people; As Electric Yerevan showed, governments throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia will face the risk of social and political unrest when they move to compel their citizens to pay market rates for electricity
Business New Europe – Ben Aris in Moscow and Nick Allen in Berlin

What's capitalism and what is neoliberal capitalism?

Heather Stewart — Wealth doesn't trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals

The sheer scale of the hidden assets held by the super-rich also suggests that standard measures of inequality, which tend to rely on surveys of household income or wealth in individual countries, radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor.
Milorad Kovacevic, chief statistician of the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, says both the very wealthy and the very poor tend to be excluded from mainstream calculations of inequality.
"People that are in charge of measuring inequality based on survey data know that the both ends of the distribution are underrepresented – or, even better, misrepresented," he says.
"There is rarely a household from the top 1% earners that participates in the survey. On the other side, the poor people either don't have addresses to be selected into the sample, or when selected they misquote their earnings – usually biasing them upwards."
So it is actually worse than we thought.

The Guardian
Wealth doesn't trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals
Heather Stewart
ht Lambert Stether at Naked Capitalism and Corrente