SteveG’s Posts

Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea   Recently updated !

The dreaded The New York Times has the surprising article Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea. The subtitle to the article is “With a single scholarly article, Lina Khan, 29, has reframed decades of monopoly law.”

This is an important article because lack of anti-trust action is a major cause of how our economy has gone wrong with its extra wide income disparity.

In early 2017, when she was an unknown law student, Ms. Khan published “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” in the Yale Law Journal. Her argument went against a consensus in antitrust circles that dates back to the 1970s — the moment when regulation was redefined to focus on consumer welfare, which is to say price. Since Amazon is renowned for its cut-rate deals, it would seem safe from federal intervention.

Ms. Khan disagreed. Over 93 heavily footnoted pages, she presented the case that the company should not get a pass on anticompetitive behavior just because it makes customers happy. Once-robust monopoly laws have been marginalized, Ms. Khan wrote, and consequently Amazon is amassing structural power that lets it exert increasing control over many parts of the economy.

Maybe I missed it, but I saw no mention in the article of the domination companies like Amazon exert on keeping wages down. That is a monopoly power that needs regulation to protect the little people when they are not acting as consumers.

Why Government Needs to Tax, and Why Government needs to Spend   Recently updated !

There are two important things we have to understand about federal government taxation and federal government spending. Just because I mention these two things in the same post, don’t get hung up on the false premise that you cannot do one without doing the other. It may be better to do both, but it is not essential to do one before the other.

  1. The federal government needs to control the misspending in the private sector by the obscenely wealthy
  2. The federal government needs to make investments in society that are not profitable for the private sector to make

With the current level of economic disparity, the obscenely wealthy have so much money that they can’t find useful places to invest their money. They end up inflating the value of stocks and other assets to the point of creating a bubble that must burst at some point in time. The obscenely wealthy’s hoarding of money prevents the rest of us from having enough money to buy the things we need and keep others (and ourselves) employed. Taxing the wealth and not giving trillions of dollars to the already rich is one way to exert this control. Making sure the rest of us have some money is not helped by cutting the budget for government services the rest of us use.

There are investments in infrastructure, education, and health care that a society needs. These are not investments that are profitable for the private sector to make. These necessities really need to be provided at cost rather than being hugely profitable to the rich. Only the federal government can make these investments in the way most beneficial to the society.

Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” Aims Not at Trump But at Those Who Created the Conditions That Led to His Rise   Recently updated !

The Intercept has the article Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” Aims Not at Trump But at Those Who Created the Conditions That Led to His Rise.

The following quote from the article explains why it is worth seeing Michael Moore’s movie. What was Obama thinking when he stole hope from the people of Flint? Until I read this, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the movie.

One of the most illuminating pieces of reporting about the 2016 election is also, not coincidentally, one of the most ignored: interviews by the New York Times with white and African-American working-class voters in Milwaukee who refused to vote and – even knowing that Trump won Wisconsin, and thus the presidency, largely because of their decision – don’t regret it. “Milwaukee is tired. Both of them were terrible. They never do anything for us anyway,” the article quotes an African-American barber, justifying his decision not to vote in 2016 after voting twice for Obama.

Moore develops the same point, even more powerfully, about his home state of Michigan, which – like Wisconsin – Trump also won after Obama won it twice. In one of the most powerful and devastating passages from the film – indeed, of any political documentary seen in quite some time – “Fahrenheit 11/9″ takes us in real-time through the indescribably shameful water crisis of Flint, the criminal cover-up of it by GOP Governor Rick Snyder, and the physical and emotional suffering endured by its poor, voiceless, and overwhelmingly black residents.

After many months of abuse, of being lied to, of being poisoned, Flint residents, in May, 2016, finally had a cause for hope: President Obama announced that he would visit Flint to address the water crisis. As Air Force One majestically lands, Flint residents rejoice, believing that genuine concern, political salvation, and drinkable water had finally arrived.

Exactly the opposite happened. Obama delivered a speech in which he not only appeared to minimize, but to mock, concerns of Flint residents over the lead levels in their water, capped off by a grotesquely cynical political stunt where he flamboyantly insisted on having a glass of filtered tap water that he then pretended to drink, but in fact only used to wet his lips, ingesting none of it.

A friendly meeting with Gov. Snyder after that – during which Obama repeated the same water stunt – provided the GOP state administration in Michigan with ample Obama quotes to exploit to prove the problem was fixed, and for Flint residents, it was the final insult. “When President Obama came here,” an African-American community leader in Flint tells Moore, “he was my President. When he left, he wasn’t.”

Like the unregretful non-voters of Milwaukee, the collapsed hope Obama left in his wake as he departed Flint becomes a key metaphor in Moore’s hands for understanding Trump’s rise. Moore suggests to John Podesta, who seems to agree, that Hillary lost Michigan because, as in Wisconsin, voters, in part after seeing what Obama did in Flint, concluded it was no longer worth voting.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: It is Outrageous that The US is Supporting a Genocidal War in Yemen

The Real News Network has the interview Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: It is Outrageous that The US is Supporting a Genocidal War in Yemen.

Over 5 Million children are facing starvation, a cholera outbreak is raging on in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and yet the US continues to support the Saudi’s to bomb and destroy Yemen says Rep Tulsi Gabbard

Here is another example of sweeping away the obfuscation and getting to the real issues.

De-Regulation, De-Supervision, and De-Criminalization Set the Stage for the 2008 Financial Crisis   Recently updated !

The Real News Network has this great series of videos De-Regulation and De-Criminalization Set the Stage for the 2008 Financial Crisis.

White collar criminologist Bill Black analyzes how the U.S. got into the 2008 financial crisis and what it means that we have not learnt the lessons from that crisis 10 years later, on the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse

Part 1

BILL BLACK: OK. So the crisis doesn’t begin with Lehman. Lehman dies because of the crisis. So the crisis became that bankers didn’t trust bankers anymore. And they didn’t trust them for good reason, because bankers were lying to each other about the quality of assets. So Lehman, for example, did not have $600 billion in assets. Maybe it had $300 billion in assets. It was claiming to have $600 billion. And it didn’t have $600 billion, roughly, in liabilities; it had liabilities of over a trillion dollars which it wasn’t recognizing. Why? Because it was one of the leading sellers of fraudulent loans to the rest of the world. It sold hundreds of billions of dollars under false representations and warranties, and that’s how you get these massive liabilities for these institutions that you’ve seen in the lawsuits.

Part 2

But good economics has a long said, and I mean since 1970 this has been the literature, that the key thing regulators need to do, and only regulators and the law can do effectively, is stop what is called a Gresham’s dynamic in economics and criminology. And that’s this: In a Gresham’s dynamic, the cheater gains a competitive advantage. If that’s true, then market forces become perverse, and they drive the ethical people out of business. Now, the obvious victim from these frauds is us, the consumer or the investor. But the less obvious victim is the honest competitor. And that’s exactly what these frauds do. So when I told you that the appraisers gave their warnings, began giving their warnings, in 1998, when we could’ve fixed this problem with zero losses, zero recession, zero failures, that’s what they said, that the lenders were deliberately creating a Gresham’s dynamic. They were blacklisting honest appraisers and sending all the work to appraisers that would inflate the value. Well, that makes no sense for an honest businessman, because the appraisal, of course, is your great protection against loss.

Part 3

BILL BLACK: Well, obviously the economy is enormously stronger than in the depths of a great recession in terms of things like unemployment. But a couple of things. First, the estimated loss of GDP over the course of not just the Great Recession, but the very, very long recovery- this is economists- is $41 trillion.

Remember that our debt is in terms of money that our Federal Reserve Bank creates out of thin air. The lost GDP is in terms of the dollar value of real goods and services that nobody can produce out of thin air.

Intercept Report Reveals Senate Ignored Federal Court Employees Willing to Testify Against Kavanaugh   Recently updated !

Democracy Now has the interview Intercept Report Reveals Senate Ignored Federal Court Employees Willing to Testify Against Kavanaugh.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain Kavanaugh’s relationship with Judge Kozinski.

RYAN GRIM: Right, it’s very tight. So, not only was he his clerk in the early ’90s, he became close friends with him afterwards. And he and Kozinski vetted the clerks that went to Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court, which is one of the most powerful positions in the legal world, to vet Supreme Court justices. Kavanaugh’s own clerk last year was Kozinski’s middle son. So these are very close people. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: And Kavanaugh was recommended to be Anthony Kennedy’s clerk, which he was, by Judge Kozinski.

RYAN GRIM: Yes. And then Kennedy recommended to Trump that Kavanaugh be his replacement. Without Kozinski, you don’t have Kavanaugh. And so, he has distanced himself, in testimony and in public statements, from Kozinski’s behavior. Interestingly, Mazie Hirono followed up to him in written questions—

AMY GOODMAN: The senator from Hawaii.

RYAN GRIM: Senator Mazie Hirono said, “Please search your email and check to see if you got any sexually inappropriate emails from Kozinski, because to know him for 20 years like this and to not have is very strange.” His [Kavanaugh’s] reply was—instead of the wall of denial that he gave in his testimony, his reply to that was “I do not remember receiving any sexually inappropriate emails.” And that’s the end of his written reply.

And so, now, according to Sanai, there are employers who would say, “That’s nonsense. I know firsthand that Kavanaugh was a witness to…”—not that Kavanaugh approved of the behavior, but that he’s lying about this. And his credibility is now central to the accusation of the attempted rape.

There is much more damning information in this video than suggested by the excerpt and the headline.

What strikes me about Kavanaugh’s situation with his alleged attempted rape victim is that he has ruined his chance of using the excuse that he was so young when it happened. If he had admitted to the incident, apologized profusely, and said something like he has looked back at that incident in shame ever since and was so sorry that the incident had such a significant impact on the victim’s life, he might have gotten a pass. If it turns out that it can be proven that his denials are false, then his initial attitude to the accusation should disqualify him.

This interview seems to provide evidence that his behavior long after he became adult shows insensitivity to the issue of sexual discrimination and harassment. His credibility on this issue is destroyed. The unwillingness of the Republicans on the committee to entertain the idea of listening to other witnesses to his adult behavior completely destroys their credibility, too.

If the Democrats on the committee allow this to solely revolve around the he said, she said issue between Ford and Kavanaugh, then they ought to be as ashamed of themselves to the degree

Ten Years After The Financial Crisis, The Contagion Has Spread To Democracy Itself

Huffington Post has the article Ten Years After The Financial Crisis, The Contagion Has Spread To Democracy Itself.

Today, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner insist they did what they had to under conditions of extreme duress. Mistakes were made, the government’s former top financial overseers acknowledge in a recent piece for The New York Times, but they did ultimately “prevent the collapse of the financial system and avoid another Great Depression.”

Except they didn’t really rescue the banking system. They transformed it into an unaccountable criminal syndicate. In the years since the crash, the biggest Wall Street banks have been caught laundering drug money, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba, bribing foreign government officials, making illegal campaign contributions to a state regulator and manipulating the market for U.S. government debt. Citibank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and UBS even pleaded guilty to felonies for manipulating currency markets.

Not a single human being has served a day in jail for any of it.

Previously, I had gone under the assumption that taking financial decisions out of the political sphere was a good idea. Now I see the problem with that approach. Given how the oligarchs have bought the political sphere, I am not so sure that putting the political sphere back in charge of finances would be a solution. I guess that is exactly what the title of the article is trying to convey.

If Jeff Bezos wants to help low-income people why not just pay them better?   Recently updated !

The Guardian has the opinion piece If Jeff Bezos wants to help low-income people why not just pay them better?

The rule you learn on Day One of being a billionaire philanthropist is that you don’t give money via pay packets to the poor people who literally already work for you. They’d only spend it poorly. However, if they want to humbly queue up and apply for it via some thinly disguised hardship grant that you take the applause for, that’s a different matter. Dignity is something you hand out, not something that others get to earn. I missed this bit in The Wealth of Nations; I guess there’s a sealed section.

If nothing else, this article should soothe the souls of frustrated Progressives. It surely does not mince words.

As for the philanthropy of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, I have always wondered if the society would have been better off if they hadn’t fist sucked so much wealth from the rest of us and put it into their own pockets, and then given back a small piece of what they took (or even all of what they took).

China’s quantum satellite achieves ‘spooky action’ at record distance

Science Magazine has an article giving more detail about China’s quantum satellite achieves ‘spooky action’ at record distance.

Quantum entanglement—physics at its strangest—has moved out of this world and into space. In a study that shows China’s growing mastery of both the quantum world and space science, a team of physicists reports that it sent eerily intertwined quantum particles from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. The result is a stepping stone to ultrasecure communication networks and, eventually, a space-based quantum internet.

There is more in this article than just the following video.

If the idea of quantum entanglement boggles your mind, maybe the following video will help. (Or maybe it will just boggle your mind more).

YouTube has the video Quantum Entanglement & Spooky Action at a Distance

Keiser Report: Will the dollar live to die another day? (E963)

YouTube has the video Keiser Report: Will the dollar live to die another day? (E963).

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the new m-SDR and ask will the dollar live to die another day? And are SDRs forever? As the G20 in China concludes they ask whether the new Special Drawing Right is the first step toward one world currency. In the second half, Max interviews Dan Collins of about yuan internationalization and China’s quantum satellite.

Here is an interesting follow-up to my previous post. Some of this is at least a tad over my head, but it points me to some things i should be paying more attention to.