Thursday, May 21, 2015

Colbert's Bye  (Pretend Economic Illiteracy or Venal Victimality?)  The Secret Corporate Takeover (It's Not Diplomacy, It's Arms Dealing)  Bye Bye Dave?  Say It Ain't So!

Colbert's Wake.

"Try to make the world good according to your standards," Colbert told the class. "It won’t be easy. Get ready for my generation to tell you everything that can’t be done — like ending racial tension, or getting money out of politics, or lowering the world’s carbon emissions. And we should know they can’t be done, after all, we’re the ones who didn’t do them.
Your job, pro humanitate, is to prove us wrong — because if you don’t prove us wrong, then forget everything I’ve been saying . . ."

And on a more serious note ~

We perhaps will understand the many mystical occurrences (and odd pieces of evidence) surrounding the Boston Bomber trial evidence much better once we become familiar with the choices given to the jury.

So much of the evidence was never even introduced at trial. But what was was indefensible (or close).

Boston Jury’s Life or Death Form

And on another missing piece of evidence front:

Senator Reads the TPP and Exposes Its Contents; Other Elected Officials Should Do the Same

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is one of the few members of Congress who has taken the time to jump through the hoops and read the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But, he has gone a step farther than other members - he told members of Congress what he read. He told the truth about what the TPP says and why Congress should oppose it in a five page letter to his colleagues.

Sessions' action flies in the face of the threats made by the US Trade Representative to prosecute elected officials who tell people what is in the trade agreement. Others should follow his example and get out the truth about the TPP.

The FBI's Deadly Incompetence.

Don't laugh too loudly when you read Bill Black's latest exposé of all of the vicarious vicious venal  "victims" of economics illiteracy.

You are among them.

And his almost ridiculous story of how voters behaved in Great Britain mirrors exactly what we in the USA USA USA are being urged to do in our next election. (Lesser Evilism!!!!)

New Labour’s Economic Illiteracy Exacts a Terrible Price:  “I’m Afraid There Is No Money.”

William Black

Quito: May 17, 2015

One of the great ironies is that just as neo-liberal economics and “modern finance” were falsifying each of their core claims, Tony Blair led New Labour to embrace both dogmas. The result was a double economic catastrophe and it also led to the defeat of New Labour at the polls. I have already explained how Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s embrace of the most criminal and corrupt elements of the City of London (and their dogmas) and their resultant unholy war on financial regulation caused the UK financial crises and the UK’s Great Recession.

But after this catastrophe, New Labour’s attachment to insane austerity policies became a death grip. It also led to the single stupidest political action by a New Labour official (Liam Byrne) – one that continues to haunt his party today. My focus, however, is on Byrne’s explanation for why he gifted the Tories with the perfect ammunition to use against Labour.

My point is not the quality of his attempt to explain his behavior, but rather that his explanation discloses how economically illiterate New Labour was. Byrne’s explanation also shows that despite Labour’s slight shift to the left on some issues after it lost power; on the paramount economic issue facing the UK, the economically illiterate policies that Blair engrafted on New Labour continued throughout Ed Miliband’s inept leadership of the party. It is also revealing that New Labour’s voters are so loyal to this dogma that Byrne was elected to parliament even though he is often perceived as a farce.

What Byrne did is summed up nicely in a headline in the "Guardian."

Liam Byrne, chief secretary to the Treasury under Gordon Brown, left a note for his successor that proved to be a gift for the Conservatives.

The note said: “I’m afraid there is no money.”

I do not need to explain the political stupidity of leaving such a note or the immaturity it displayed. I do not need to explain how the Conservatives used the note in their political campaigns. Plainly there is no explanation for Byrne’s behavior that reflects well on him. His explanation, however, is important because it reveals that his political stupidity flowed from his economic ignorance. Worse, that economic ignorance is symptomatic of New Labour and continued even under the (politically inept) leadership of a Labour politician (Ed Miliband) who sought to distinguish himself from some of Blair’s policies.

The single most insane post-crisis New Labour policy has been the fervent embrace of economically illiterate and self-destructive austerity.

This means that the people New Labour appointed to senior financial leadership positions like Byrne had to be – or pretend to be – unfit for their jobs. In either case – true or feigned ignorance that is causing devastating harm to the public – the official has to be unfit – intellectually or morally (or both).

Here is Byrne’s explanation for his note. As one would expect from someone that would write such a note, his explanation is incoherent, delusional, and intended to excuse his failures.

The final years of Gordon Brown’s government were tough.

His leadership of Britain and the G20 at the London summit stopped the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggering a global depression – an incredible achievement we should never have stopped shouting about. But the recession slashed Treasury tax receipts by over £40bn, forcing us to borrow to keep public services on the go and get Britain back on its feet. And because the deficit was big, the responsible thing to do was draw up a long-term plan to cut spending.

In government, it was my job to craft a plan. As chief secretary, I spent bruising months negotiating £32bn of annual savings to help halve the deficit in just four years and set out in huge detail in our 2010 budget. Of course, the Conservatives attacked us – though it was the timetable they eventually delivered.

Those negotiations were tough and bruising. And so in my final hours of office, I was writing thank-you notes to my incredible team of civil servants. And then I thought I’d write one letter more to my successor. Into my head came the phrase I’d used to negotiate all those massive savings with my colleagues:  “I’m afraid there is no money.” I knew my successor’s job was tough. I guess I wanted to offer them a friendly word on their first day in one of government’s hardest jobs by honouring an old tradition that stretched back to Churchill in the 1930s and the Tory chancellor Reginald Maudling, who bounced down the steps of the Treasury in 1964 to tell Jim Callaghan: “Sorry to leave it in such a mess, old cock.”

Yet “the note” was not just stupid. It was offensive. That’s why it has made so many people so angry. And that's why it was so wrong to write.

People’s anger – and my party’s anger – at me, will never ever match my anger with myself or my remorse at such a crass mistake. I made it easy for our opponents to bash our economic record by bashing me. And for millions of people and businesses who have had to make such sacrifices over the last five years, there was nothing funny about the national debt when the national task of cutting it has brought them such pain in their everyday life.

Let’s begin with the easy lies to spot and respond to. No, Brown did not save the world from a “global depression.” That was the U.S., led by the Fed and the Treasury.

No, Lehman’s frauds and failures did not cause the global crisis or the UK crises. There were simultaneous fraud epidemics in the U.S., the UK, Ireland, Iceland, France, and Switzerland that all contributed to the crisis.

The “made in America” myth of the crisis was one Blair worked hard to craft in 2008, but this is 2015. Everyone in the UK – even Byrne – knows about all the fraud epidemics in the City of London that grew to epic proportions because New Labour dogmas pushed the regulatory race to the bottom that the City “won,” becoming the financial cesspool and fraud epicenter of the world.

Yes, when a Great Recession hits, the automatic stabilizers act to (1) reduce the government’s tax receipts and (2) increase its expenditures. As a result the budget deficit grows. That is a good thing essential to a more effective recovery. Byrne – writing in 2015 with the difference in the U.S., UK, and EU recoveries (or non-recoveries) obvious still thinks that “because the deficit was big, the responsible thing to do was draw up a long-term plan to cut spending.”

Austerity in response to a Great Recession is the only “responsible thing to do.”

Yes, New Labour adopted the TINA mantra (There Is No Alternative to Austerity).

But the UK, unlike the nations of the eurozone, has a sovereign currency.

So, (a) when Byrne writes that the fall in tax revenues caused by the Great Recession “forc[ed] us to borrow to keep public services on the go” he demonstrates that he was unfit for the job he held because he does not understand money or its creation in a nation with a sovereign currency.

No, such a government does not have to “borrow.” As even Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan have admitted, governments with sovereign currencies literally create money with keystrokes on a computer.

Byrne thinks it aids his case that the Tories adopted his austerity plan as their own.

Of course, the Conservatives attacked us [for my austerity plan] – though it was the timetable they eventually delivered.

All the Tories adoption of his austerity plan proves is that New Labour and the Tories share the same fundamental, self-destructive dogmas worshipping austerity.

But Byrne is also dead wrong economically in claiming that “because the deficit was big, the responsible thing to do was draw up a long-term plan to cut spending.” That statement also demonstrates he was unfit for his position because he did not understand one of the most basic aspects of macroeconomics. His plan to cut spending – at a time when the UK was producing far below capacity – was wholly “irresponsible.”

And most of all, Byrne could not have made his epic political blunder – his note – if he had not been ignorant of economics and unfit for the senior position that New Labour appointed him to hold.

A government with a sovereign currency cannot run out of money.

Byrne’s note:  “I’m afraid there is no money” is a nonsensical statement. Similarly, given that he admits that he used that same nonsensical statement repeatedly as his mantra to deny vitally needed public services at a time when deficit spending was a clear win-win that would help the needy and speed the recovery.

In fairness, Byrne’s note was strikingly similar to one of the all-time stupid statements of another official – President Obama.

In a C-SPAN interview that caused conservatives to chortle, Obama channeled his inner-Byrne.

SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?

OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits….”

As Paul Krugman has rightly emphasized and criticized, Obama also adopted a line on the campaign trail that implied that the U.S. government was just like a household and should adopt austerity.

Obama knew that this was false, but used the line anyway because it proved politically popular even though Obama’s campaign statement made it far harder politically to adopt proper economic policies. 
Obama’s actions are more cynical than Byrne’s because Byrne appears to be genuinely ignorant while Obama knowingly chose to promote an economic lie. He chose politics over the good of the Nation.

Remember, as comically inept and callow as Byrne is, it was New Labour that chose him to act on behalf of the Nation in one of the most important finance positions in the world. Each of things Byrne was dead wrong about, New Labour (and the Tories and the Lib Dems) also got dead wrong. The SNP does not understand sovereign monetary systems, but it is the only major party in the UK that opposes austerity.

Ah "Austerity."

The prescription that keeps on giving.

To those who don't need it and have actually planned the emergency (and the response)?

The Secret Corporate Takeover

FLush the TPP coup d'etat sign

By Joseph Stiglitz

May 17th, 2015

The United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called “free-trade agreements;” in fact, they were managedtrade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the US and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as “partnerships,”as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But they are not partnerships of equals:  the US effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America’s “partners” are becoming increasingly resistant.

It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.

Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its “partners” have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.

The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.

This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking.

The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.

In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.

When I chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, anti-environmentalists tried to enact a similar provision, called “regulatory takings.” They knew that once enacted, regulations would be brought to a halt, simply because government could not afford to pay the compensation. Fortunately, we succeeded in beating back the initiative, both in the courts and in the US Congress.

But now the same groups are attempting an end run around democratic processes by inserting such provisions in trade bills, the contents of which are being kept largely secret from the public (but not from the corporations that are pushing for them). It is only from leaks, and from talking to government officials who seem more committed to democratic processes, that we know what is happening.

Fundamental to America’s system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a “judge” in one case and an advocate in a related case.

The proceedings are so expensive that Uruguay has had to turn to Michael Bloomberg and other wealthy Americans committed to health to defend itself against Philip Morris. And, though corporations can bring suit, others cannot. If there is a violation of other commitments – on labor and environmental standards, for example – citizens, unions, and civil-society groups have no recourse.

If there ever was a one-sided dispute-resolution mechanism that violates basic principles, this is it. That is why I joined leading US legal experts, including from Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, in writing a letter to President Barack Obama explaining how damaging to our system of justice these agreements are.

American supporters of such agreements point out that the US has been sued only a few times so far, and has not lost a case. Corporations, however, are just learning how to use these agreements to their advantage.

And high-priced corporate lawyers in the US, Europe, and Japan will likely outmatch the underpaid government lawyers attempting to defend the public interest. Worse still, corporations in advanced countries can create subsidiaries in member countries through which to invest back home, and then sue, giving them a new channel to bloc regulations.

If there were a need for better property protection, and if this private, expensive dispute-resolution mechanism were superior to a public judiciary, we should be changing the law not just for well-heeled foreign companies, but also for our own citizens and small businesses. But there has been no suggestion that this is the case.

Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century. I hope citizens in the US, Europe, and the Pacific answer with a resounding no.

Related Posts:

It’s Not Diplomacy, It’s an Arms Fair

U.S. defense contractors are popping corks as Obama “reassures” his Middle East allies with billions of dollars of weapons.

The summit between President Barack Obama and representatives from the Persian Gulf countries that kicked off today at Camp David is meant to reassure Washington’s Arab allies. “Don’t worry about the nuclear deal with Iran,” Obama will say. “We’ve got your back.”

And what’s the best way to show your friends that you’ve got their back? Sell them billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons.

In fact, it seems like arms sales are the Obama administration’s tool of choice these days for dealing with everything from counterterrorism to a lagging economy. And the consequences, unsurprisingly, are bloody.

In its first five years in office, the Obama administration entered into formal agreements to transfer over $64 billion in arms and defense services to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, with about three-quarters of that total going to Saudi Arabia.

And new offers worth nearly $15 billion have been made to Riyadh in 2014 and 2015. Items on offer to GCC states have included fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, radar planes, refueling aircraft, air-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, artillery, small arms and ammunition, cluster bombs, and missile defense systems.

Sales to GCC members have been the most important component of the record-level U.S. arms deals concluded during Obama’s term. The Obama figures for sales worldwide even edge out levels reached during the Nixon administration, when the end of the Vietnam War and the rising purchasing power of members of the OPEC oil cartel spurred the United States’ first major arms export boom.

Does anyone really believe David Letterman is retiring?


But he did get a lot of tearful tributes.

Norm MacDonald was one of the best.

And Adam Sandler did write and perform an original good-bye song for him:

There simply is no better man than good ol’ David Letterman. And no one gets Julia Roberts’ face redder than a flirty David Letterman.

He’s leaving after 30 years, and you know he will be missed. If you like gap-toothed men in double-breasted suits, he’s No. 1 on your Top-10 lists. He won’t have to pick up the phone anymore when Les Moonves calls him up. He’ll finally have time to take Jay Leno out for coffee, then secretly pee in his cup.

There simply is no better man than good ol’ David Letterman. And no one makes my mother wetter than David Letterman. [Okay mom, I told him, I hope you’re happy.]

Seems like yesterday, when I was 14 and you looked like a freshman at Ball State. Now your hairpiece is full of grey, and I’m f–king 48. I can’t believe at night when we’re watching Stephen Colbert, you’ll be tucked in bed under the sheets. Pets with stupid tricks will have no place to go, while Paul Shaffer and the band sell crack on the streets.

There simply is no better man than our hero David Letterman. I can’t thank you enough for all you done, and I’m sure I ain’t the only one.

Because you’ve paved the way for every late-night show. Both Jimmys should get on their knees and blow … you kisses. You kisses. No more interviewing Heidi Klum or Cheryl Tiegs, now you’re just the oldest dad at little league. And when you say goodbye and take your final drive in your Ferrari full of stolen office supplies. And we watch you go with eyes full of tears, I hope the cops pull you over and drag you back here for 30 more years. ‘Cause you’re the king of comedy. Our best friend on TV. And I’ll miss you. Yeah, buddy, I’ll miss you. The whole world’s gonna miss you: David Letterman.

Check back for Dave bye-bye show notes.

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