Bhu Srinivasan: Capitalism isn’t an ideology — it’s an operating system   Recently updated !

TED Talks has this short video Bhu Srinivasan: Capitalism isn’t an ideology — it’s an operating system.

Bhu Srinivasan researches the intersection of capitalism and technological progress. Instead of thinking about capitalism as a firm, unchanging ideology, he suggests that we should think of it as an operating system — one that needs upgrades to keep up with innovation, like the impending take-off of drone delivery services. Learn more about the past and future of the free market (and a potential coming identity crisis for the United States’ version of capitalism) with this quick, forward-thinking talk.


I have said that I am a “what worksist”, but now maybe I can talk in terms of operating system. The way I would talk about China versus the USA is that China has a much more flexible operating system than we do. I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to the details that he thinks are indicative of the Chinese system versus ours.


2nd Amendment Passed to Protect Slavery? No!

The Root has the article 2nd Amendment Passed to Protect Slavery? No!.

Recently Thom Hartmann published an essay on Truthout titled “The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery.” Hartmann, who is described on the Internet as a radio host, author, former psychotherapist and entrepreneur and a progressive political commentator, said the amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended, in part, to protect slave-patrol militias.
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Still, however committed one may be to a political outcome, it serves no purpose to make historical arguments that are demonstrably wrong, misleading and inconsistent with what happened. Hartmann does not serve his cause well by purporting to write history when his version of history is mostly wrong, and very misleading.

I saw a post making the claim that this article claims to debunk. Not having been around at the time, I have no knowledge that would allow me to say whether Thom Hartmann had the story right, or this author has the story right. The Root where this article was published seems to be oriented toward meeting the needs of a black audience, so I have no reason to think they would want to debunk Hartmann’s story unless they thought the facts supported the debinking. Unless someone else can introduce another independent source, we’ll each have to use our own smell test to see which side we think is more likely to have the story more right. In the mean time we have at least two versions of the story to consider.


Mueller Indictment: ‘Russian Influence’ Is Commercial Marketing Scheme   Recently updated !

Popular Resistance blog has the article Mueller Indictment: ‘Russian Influence’ Is Commercial Marketing Scheme.

Note: When Coleen Rowley shared this article she wrote” “What’s easier to indict than a ham sandwich? 13 Russians.” If the German writer of “Moon of Alabama” has this right, his analysis of the Mueller indictment is devastating. It makes a mockery of Russiagate and the media, Democrats and neocons caught up in it. – KZ

This certainly explains a lot of what this was really about. Any good criminal lawyer and even honest police will tell you never volunteer information to the police. The most innocent activities can be couched as having a sinister purpose in a courtroom. That is why lawyers advise their clients never to speak to the police without having a lawyer present (besides the fact that it makes money for the lawyer).

I have a 2011 post about this, Don’t Talk To The Police. I’ll save you the effort of looking at that 2011 post by posting the video right here.


Here is a downloadable version of the 37 page Mueller indictment.


INEQUALITY AND VIOLENT CRIME

The World Bank has published the study INEQUALITY AND VIOLENT CRIME.

Abstract

We investigate the robustness and causality of the link between income inequality and violent crime across countries. First, we study the correlation between the Gini index and homicide and robbery rates within and between countries. Second, we examine the partial correlation by considering other crime determinants. Third, we control for the endogeneity of inequality by isolating its exogenous impact on these crime rates. Fourth, we control for measurement error in crime rates by modeling it as both unobserved country effects and random noise. Finally, we examine the robustness of this partial correlation to alternative measures of inequality. The panel data consist of nonoverlapping 5-year averages for 39 countries during 1965–95 for homicides and 37 countries during 1970–94 for robberies. Crime rates and inequality are positively correlated within countries and, particularly, between countries, and this correlation reflects causation from inequality to crime rates, even after controlling for other crime determinants.

The terms exogenous and endogenous appear throughout the paper. The Statistics How To web site has an explanation of the terms.

An exogenous variable is a variable that is not affected by other variables in the system. For example, take a simple causal system like farming. Variables like weather, farmer skill, pests, and availability of seed are all exogenous to crop production. Exogenous comes from the Greek Exo, meaning “outside” and gignomai, meaning “to produce.” In contrast, an endogenous variable is one that is influenced by other factors in the system. In this example, flower growth is affected by sunlight and is therefore endogenous.

In the conclusion to the World Bank paper, they provide a cautionary note to keep in mind about the results.

The first shortcoming of the paper leads to the second, which is that we have not identified the mechanisms through which more pronounced inequality leads to more crime. Uncertainty about these mechanisms raises a variety of questions with important policy implications. For instance, should police and justice protection be redirected to the poorest segments of society? How important for crime prevention are income-transfer programs in times of economic recession? To what extent should public authorities be concerned with income and ethnic polarization? Do policies that promote the participation in communal organizations and help develop “social capital” among the poor also reduce crime? Hopefully, this paper will help stir an interest in these and related questions on the prevention of crime and violence.


Want to end gun violence? End violent inequality   Recently updated !

Greg Palast has the article Florida = Honduras: Inequality kills. Want to end the American shooting epidemic?.

The result of my scatter plot came as quite the surprise to me: there was just about no correlation between number of guns and number of gun homicides.”

In fact, “the correlation coefficient was -0.105871699.” That is, by a small amount, more guns meant fewer homicides.

So what DID prove a strong correlation? Homicides versus the “GINI” coefficient. GINI is the measure of income inequality in a nation.

The graph he presents makes little sense as an explanation of the excerpt above. I have yet to figure out exactly how the horizontal axis of the graph should be labeled to make sense of it. We must also remember that correlation does not prove causation. However, at least in this case the premise does make sense to me. Given this hint of what these measures might be indicating, I’d like to see someone publish a real study of the possibilities.

Reluctantly, I have to file this story in the category of Greenberg’s Law Of The Media – If a news item has a number in it, then it is probably misleading.


The Free Market Threat to Democracy

Naked Capitalism has published The Real News Network video The Free Market Threat to Democracy.

From Naked Capitalism we have the introduction:

This Real News Network interview with professor emeritus John Weeks discussed how economic ideology has weakened or eliminated public accountability of institutions like the Fed and promote neoliberal policies that undermine democracy.

There are many good points here in the interview, but at one point I think it goes seriously off the rails.

Second of all, probably most of your viewers will not remember the days when we had fixed exchange rates. We had a world of fixed exchange rates in those days that represented the policy, which government could use to affect its trade and also affect its domestic policy. There have been deregulation of that. We now have floating exchange rates. That takes away a tool, an instrument of economic policy. And in fiscal policy, there the, here it’s more ideology than laws, though there are also laws. There’s a law requiring that the government balance its budget, but more important than that, the introduction into the public consciousness, I’d say grinding into the public consciousness, the idea that deficits are a bad thing, government debt is a bad thing, and that’s a completely neoliberal ideology.

This makes absolutely no sense, and seems to have the case exactly backward. Our federal government has no rule that the budget must be balanced. Fixed exchange rates were not a tool that could be used to affect trade and domestic policy in a good way.


DHS Statement On NBC News Coverage Of Election Hacking

The US Department of Homeland Security has issued the statement DHS Statement On NBC News Coverage Of Election Hacking.

“Recent NBC reporting has misrepresented facts and confused the public with regard to Department of Homeland Security and state and local government efforts to combat election hacking. First off, let me be clear: we have no evidence – old or new – that any votes in the 2016 elections were manipulated by Russian hackers.

I look at the URL, and I cannot see how this item can be anything but authentic. I never expected to see an admission like this from DHS.

So, when I say that the government has not provided any evidence that Russian computer attacks have changed any votes, perhaps people won’t think I am crazy.


Donald Trump v. the Spooks

Consortium News has republished the article Donald Trump v. the Spooks.

This excerpt explains the context.

From the Archive: Just before Trump took office last year, ex-British intelligence officer Annie Machon wrote about the battle he was facing with U.S. intelligence agencies. As Russia-gate morphs into Intel-gate, we re-publish her prescient article today.

The author dislikes Trump’s domestic, economic, and most foreign policy positions, but does find merit in his fight against the spooks. I have similar likes and dislikes about Trump.

This match has already gone into the middle rounds with Trump still bouncing around on his toes and still relishing the fight. It would be ironic if out of this nasty prize fight came greater world peace and safely for us all.

Having lived through this fight over the last year, it seems like the spooks are winning the battle to keep us in perpetual war.


As China Marches Forward on A.I., the White House Is Silent   Recently updated !

The New York Times has the article As China Marches Forward on A.I., the White House Is Silent.

It is a good idea to be concerned, but there needs to be caution about going overboard for huge, centrally planned initiatives. From the article on China I have picked out the following excerpt.

“We may have a bunch of small initiatives inside the government that are doing good, but we don’t have a central national strategy,” said Jack Clark, a former journalist who now oversees policy efforts at OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab co-founded by Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive. “It is confusing that we have this technology of such obvious power and merit and we are not hearing full-throated support, including financial support.”

The Trump administration’s budget for 2018 aims to cut science and technology research funding across the government by 15 percent, according to a report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“They are headed in precisely the wrong direction,” said Thomas Kalil, who led O.S.T.P’s Technology and Innovation Division under President Obama. “That is particularly concerning given that China has identified this as a strategic priority.”

It is probably true that Trump is going in the wrong direction, but remember that there are many wrong directions to pursue. Trump’s wrong direction is not the only one.

I remember back to the Fifth Generation Computer project by Japan in the 1980s. Wikipedi’s article is a decent summary of Japan’s failure.

The FGCS Project did not meet with commercial success for reasons similar to the Lisp machine companies and Thinking Machines. The highly parallel computer architecture was eventually surpassed in speed by less specialized hardware (for example, Sun workstations and Intel x86 machines). The project did produce a new generation of promising Japanese researchers. But after the FGCS Project, MITI stopped funding large-scale computer research projects, and the research momentum developed by the FGCS Project dissipated. However MITI/ICOT embarked on a Sixth Generation Project in the 1990s.

While the Japanese program still looked like a good idea, there was a book about it The Fifth Generation: Artificial Intelligence & Japan’s Computer Challenge to the World. As I read the book, I started to think that all this hoopla about our needing to mount a response to Japan was a wrong direction.

The strength of our (USA) system was the fact that there was a lot of competition among companies and universities researching the field. There was never a good chance to predict which research effort would lead to breakthroughs. The strength was that many things were tried, and the useful ones would tend to commercial success while the others would fade away. Betting everything on one track would have a high probability of failure.

What has lead to the resurgence of AI in recent history is not any of the things that Japan focused on. Who could have predicted the advance of microprocessors that power our PCs and the advent of the internet and big data?

This is not to say that government financing of research projects is not a good thing. This is just a precautionary tale to remind people that there are advantages to having a somewhat disorganized system. China may be smart enough to use moderation in thinking it can predict what the winning ideas will be.


Why ‘Russian Meddling’ is a Trojan Horse   Recently updated !

Counterpunch has the article Why ‘Russian Meddling’ is a Trojan Horse.

A great article bringing together many factors with links to supporting articles. It is hard to pick just one example to quote. Here are two disparate quotes to just give you a hint of what is in here.

In 2013 the Obama administration ‘brokered’ (Mr. Obama’s term) a coup in the former Soviet state of Ukraine that ousted the democratically elected President to install persons favorable to the interests of Western oligarchs. At the time Hillary Clinton had just vacated her post as Mr. Obama’s Secretary of State to prepare for her 2016 run for president, but her lieutenants, including Victoria Nuland, were active in coordinating the coup and deciding who the new ‘leadership’ of Ukraine would be.

And this one more directly addressing the title of the article.

More than a year later, no credible evidence has been put forward to establish that any votes were changed due to ‘external’ meddling.

With regard to Victoria Nuland and where she came from politically, here are some excerpts from the Wikipedia article. She served in both Democratic and Republican administrations – Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

During the Bill Clinton administration, Nuland was chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott before moving on to serve as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs.

She served as the principal deputy foreign policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and then as U.S. ambassador to NATO.