Periodic Posts

Posts made periodically by a particular author. The periodicity may be totally random.


Congressional Black Caucus Still Trying to Hurt Their Constituents By Killing the Labor Department Fiduciary Rule

Naked Capitalism has the article Congressional Black Caucus Still Trying to Hurt Their Constituents By Killing the Labor Department Fiduciary Rule.

This is an insane argument. In essence, asset managers are saying that they only way they can afford to offer financial advice to low and middle-income earners is if they screw them. If you force them to act in their clients’ interest, it won’t become cost-effective. So CBC members want to protect their constituents’ ability to get sham advice contrary to their interest? There is no question that these constituents would be better off with no advice at all.

I remember back to the days when I was writing and supporting simulation programs for the semi-conductor industry. Richard Newton, a professor at the University of California at Berkley, was a leading light in the academic world in this field. In discussing questions of accuracy when solving difficult equations in a simulator he often remarked that it was better to get no answer than the wrong answer. In other words, you could employ all sorts of techniques to get the simulator to find the answer in difficult situations, but you must guard against any technique that could come to the wrong answer and present it to the user as a solution to the equations. Better to just tell the user that the simulator was unable to solve the equations.


Socialism For Dummies.   Recently updated !

YouTube has the video Socialism For Dummies.

Professor Richard D. Wolff explains in 50 minutes what socialism is NOT.
Where does the American fear of Socialism, Communism and Marxism come from?

As a firm backer of Bernie Sanders, even I got quite an education from watching this video. It gave me a much more nuanced view of Socialism. I had not recognized, in quite the detail presented here, the difference between state run capitalism and true socialism. That doesn’t mean that I believe “true” socialism will work as imagined, whatever that may be. Organizing human society is a work in progress. Even thinking about how to organize is a work in progress. What this video did is to give me more ideas to think about.


Kaliningrad, Russia – The Dagger Points East and West   Recently updated !

Naked Capitalism has the post Kaliningrad, Russia – The Dagger Points East and West. The article is full of charts, and maps, and words. It sort of takes it into the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read category), but I did skim most of the rest of it after I realized it was TL;DR.

Cutting to the chase, I came across this excerpt toward the end.

That leaves the US and NATO to promote subversion inside Kaliningrad. The first deployments are of the green men and volunteers known by their western cover as investigative journalists.

I don’t know if there are any good guys in this game that is being played behind our backs. What little we know of the game is being leaked to us by people whose motive’s we don’t know. Perhaps both sides are just acting like scared little children who don’t know how to get themselves out of the mess they are in.

It seems to me, that at the very least each side is responding to escalating provocations from the other side. Each is hoping that its own most recent provocation will finally make the other side give in. We have seen this scenario played out in the lead up to probably most of the wars we have gotten into.

Isn’t there any way to stop the escalation? Can the two sides get together, and agree that this is all getting out of hand? Can they agree that they need to find some way to stop the escalation?

The only people who seem to have a stake in the future are the people with children and grandchildren who are not believers in an after life. People without children may make it out of this world before it all blows up. People who believe in the afterlife, depending on their particular beliefs, may think that the sooner Armageddon arrives, the better. That’s when we will all be resurrected to live in a Paradise. Is it going to be left to the rest of us to find a way to prevent WW III?


Michael Pettis: If We Don’t Understand Both Sides of China’s Balance Sheet, We Understand Neither 2   Recently updated !

Naked Capitalism has the potentially important article Michael Pettis: If We Don’t Understand Both Sides of China’s Balance Sheet, We Understand Neither.

China is a dynamic and unbalanced economic system entering into something that we might grandly call a “phase shift”, or less grandly the rebalancing process, and that it is doing so with a great deal of debt structured in a highly inverted way. Anyone who sees China this way would have been able to predict not so much the specific shocks, panics, and credit crunches that we have experienced, but rather that we would of necessity experience a series of very similar shocks.

As I read this the author seemed to be displaying an annoying propensity to dance around the issue without making it clear to me what he meant. Perhaps that is only because I didn’t understand his terminology rather than the fact that he refused to give me the specifics that would have made it clear to me.

I found one tantalizing sentence that hinted to me what this article was about.

I believe, however, that without a massive and fairly unlikely transfer of wealth from the state sector to the household sector, the average Chinese GDP growth rate under Xi Jinping cannot exceed 3-4%.

Nowhere else did he explain which balance sheets were out of whack, inverted, nor did he ever mention again the sector issues, let alone the specific state and household sectors. Over and over he talked about too much debt, but never said which sector was too much in debt.

Maybe a finance expert can read this, and explain to me the golden nugget of what this article is trying to tell me. I have a strong feeling that there is a golden nugget to be found.

I think there may be a relation between this article and a conundrum for the Chinese economy that I always wondered about. If the Chinese economy depends on massive exports, how is this going to succeed when all the buyers of Chinese products run out of the money to buy these products? The answer seemed to me to be having domestic demand in China sop up the products for which China could no longer find foreign buyers. Is this article saying that the state is keeping too much of the wealth, and not transferring enough of it to the private sector to spur private domestic demand? If the author would only say this, and talk about specifics on solving this problem, perhaps his disagreements with other experts could be resolved. I have a feeling that his disagreements arise because the other experts can’t figure out what he is getting at either.

I have posted that last paragraph as a comment on the article on Michael Pettis’ blog.


Every second counts in hilarious, NSFW time travel short One-Minute Time Machine

Blastr has the article Every second counts in hilarious, NSFW time travel short One-Minute Time Machine.

It’s not every day that you get to see a NSFW time-travel short film. But if you do, it’s not every day that you get one this good. At only five minutes runtime, One-Minute Time Machine is short. But it manages to pack a serious punch.

If all science fiction were as good as this, I would be a fan.


America’s Short-sighted ‘Grand Strategy’

Consortium News has this great article America’s Short-sighted ‘Grand Strategy’. I’ll give you an excerpt from the conclusion, but you must read the article to see how the author came to this conclusion.

Today America’s central foreign policy problem and the problem of American militarism can be simply stated: Military strategy is trumping grand strategy. The result is not only a state of perpetual war, but as the emerging Ukraine and China policies show, it is one of an expanding confrontation that can lead to even more war and more blowback.

That, in a nut shell, is why it is time to do a grand-strategic evaluation of the coercive unilateralism that is evident in America’s ever-mutating war on terror, its meddling in Ukraine, and its so-called strategic pivot into China’s backyard to threaten China’s exceeding vulnerable sea lines of communication and “contain” China, whatever that means. The time is ripe for a substantive political debate on a real issue.

The article explains why I think that the war-like foreign policy of the Obama/Clinton administration is so reprehensible. The current need to demonize Iran even by supporters of the Iran Nuclear Deal is tragically short-sighted.

I am glad to be able to add this article to the arsenal of this blog in trying to explain what is so wrong with our unnecessarily aggressive foreign policy.


Congressman Jerrold Nadler Statement on the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action   Recently updated !

Medium has published Congressman Jerrold Nadler Statement on the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

I bring to my analysis the full weight of my responsibilities as a member of Congress, and my perspective as an American Jew who is both a Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel.

With this background information it is easy enough to recognize there is enough mendacity in the full statement to sink a battleship. It is all pro-Israel, anti-Iran mendacity.

In the last 15 years, Iran has unfortunately made substantial progress in its nuclear program. Prior to the Interim Agreement in 2013, Iran had progressed to the point where it was only 1 month away from producing enough fissionable material for a nuclear bomb. The Interim Agreement forced Iran to get rid of its 20 percent enriched uranium, moving the “breakout” timeline — the length of time it would take Iran to produce enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon — to 2–3 months. That is where Iran is now — at the threshold of developing a nuclear bomb.

As if having the fissionable material is tantamount to having a bomb and being able to deliver it. As if being able to deliver a single bomb would make any rational sense when Iran’s opponents have thousands of more bombs than Iran will ever have. Maybe i should call it hysteria rather than mendacity.

Nevertheless, Rep. Nadler comes out in favor of the Iran Nuclear deal. Imagine how well he could support the deal if he were able to think about it, Iran, and Israel more rationally.

What is truly amazing is that this statement by Nadler is mentioned in the article of my previous post Propaganda and the Iran-Nuke Deal as an example of a thoughtful analysis.

A gold standard for such education and explanation was set by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who last week accompanied his announcement of support for the agreement with a remarkably thorough 5,200-word statement giving the reasons for his decision. The statement is one of the most insightful analyses of the relevant issues to come out of Congress or anywhere else, and it is very useful reading for any citizen looking for guidance and education on the subject. Not every member of Congress can be expected to be as thorough and diligent as Nadler has been, but he has shown what can be done along this line.


Propaganda and the Iran-Nuke Deal   Recently updated !

Consortium News has the article Propaganda and the Iran-Nuke Deal.

For years, the anti-Iranian propaganda in the U.S. media has been unrelenting, at times aided by the idiocy of certain Iranian officials. That one-sided presentation and the ignorance that it has engendered are now adding to the public confusion about the Iran nuclear deal, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar describes.

I post this for my own records when anybody questions my assertion about falling for propaganda against Iran. I don’t care so much how many others don’t even realize the lies they have been told and are currently still believing. If they don’t read this, there is nothing I can do about it.

Here is an interesting excerpt from the article.

The tactic also has repeatedly surfaced with what became the “24-day” issue on inspections. The provision in the agreement that was seized upon in that case has nothing whatever to do with inspection of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, which will be subject to continuous monitoring. Even with undeclared, non-nuclear facilities the required advance notice is 24 hours, not 24 days.

As one who is quite aware of the propaganda campaign in this country to go to another war with Iran (the 1954 one wasn’t officially called a war), even I was caught up in the above propaganda a tad. I figured that the the meme had to be a misrepresentation, but I never suspected that the propagandists could make such a blatant lie as to claim 24 “days” instead of 24 “hours”.


I have subsequently read the statement touted in this article.

A gold standard for such education and explanation was set by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who last week accompanied his announcement of support for the agreement with a remarkably thorough 5,200-word statement giving the reasons for his decision. The statement is one of the most insightful analyses of the relevant issues to come out of Congress or anywhere else, and it is very useful reading for any citizen looking for guidance and education on the subject. Not every member of Congress can be expected to be as thorough and diligent as Nadler has been, but he has shown what can be done along this line.

See my subsequent post on this Congressman Jerrold Nadler Statement on the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is amazing that a guy who says:

For years, the anti-Iranian propaganda in the U.S. media has been unrelenting

thinks this is a gold-standard of insightful analysis as opposed to some thoughtful analysis in a pit of mendacity and hysteria. This and my falling for 24 “days” that was really 24 “hours” shows how pernicious this propaganda is, even to the wary.


The Case for Pragmatism   Recently updated !

Consortium News has the article The Case for Pragmatism by Robert Parry.

There is always a fixation about getting rid of some designated “bad guy” even if the result is some “far-worse guys.” This has been a pattern repeated over and over again, from Libya to Sudan/South Sudan to Ukraine/Russia to Venezuela (just to name a few). In such cases, we see the neocons/liberal hawks release a flood of propaganda against some unpleasant target (Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi/Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir/Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych/Russia’s Vladimir Putin/Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Nicolas Maduro) followed by demands for “regime change” or at least punishing economic sanctions.

There is an awful tendency of the opposition party in this country to look at a bad situation, and demand that the party in power “do something”. As long as the party in power does not “do something”, they are under constant pressure from the other party. I think this is what leads to the driving force for “doing something” even if it is worse than “doing nothing”. Until a better idea is presented, sometimes “doing nothing” is exactly the something that needs to be done.

Parry also brings up some information that seems to have been neatly wiped from people’s minds in this country.

Toss into this volatile mix of a Europe seemingly close to explosion the Obama administration’s “neocon/liberal interventionist” policies toward Ukraine, where neocon holdover Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland helped orchestrate a 2014 coup to remove democratically elected President Yanukovych after he was demonized in the U.S. mainstream media as corrupt.

In sum total, Robert Parry makes the case against what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promoted, and he doesn’t even mention her by name or by office. He also makes the case for a foreign policy that Bernie Sanders might get behind if it weren’t so politically dangerous to do so. Even Bernie Sanders has his limits on how much he dares tell the American public that has been infected by the oligarchs propaganda for so long.

I shouldn’t leave you hanging without at least a little taste for what Robert Parry sees as solutions.

So what can be done? As dark as the gathering economic storm may be, one silver lining could be that Americans and other Westerners will finally begin pushing back against the powerful neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist fellow-travelers.

Perhaps, instead of President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal being a one-off affair that may barely survive a determined neocon assault in the U.S. Congress, it could become a model for pragmatic approaches to other international crises. The core of this pragmatism would be that one doesn’t have to love or even like the leadership of another country to cooperate on global concerns, whether they are economic, geopolitical or environmental.


Force Discussion of the Serious Issues   Recently updated !

Bernie Sanders posted the video below on his Facebook page. ICYMI means “In Case You Missed It.”

ICYMI: What we are trying to do in this campaign, and believe me it’s not easy, is to make sure this campaign is not about Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump or anybody else. This campaign has got to be about you, your kids, your parents, and your grandparents. Whether the media likes it or not, that is what we are going to stay focused on.

If Bernie Sanders only accomplishment were to get the “news” media to focus on the issues, he would have done a great service to this country. Luckily for us, Bernie Sanders can do so much more than that if he is elected President.