Syria’s First Lady Asma al-Assad’s interview with Russia’s Channel 24

YouTube has the interview Syria’s First Lady Asma al-Assad’s interview with Russia’s Channel 24.

Interview date: 17 Oct 2016 Syria’s First Lady Asma al-Assad’s interview with Russia’s Channel 24 Source: Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic

Whatever criticism you may eventually hear about this interview or about Asma al-Assad, I think you should start by hearing the interview. Of course you should always have a certain amount of skepticism about anything you hear if you are to make critical decisions. Just be wary of ulterior motives on all sides, including the USA corporate media. What are the chances that the corporate media has the humanity of the people involved as their most important consideration?

WHITE HELMETS: ‘Humanitarians’ and the ‘Moderate’ Bomb Factory in Saqba, Eastern Ghouta

21st Century Wire has the story WHITE HELMETS: ‘Humanitarians’ and the ‘Moderate’ Bomb Factory in Saqba, Eastern Ghouta by Vanessa Beeley.

Here is just a small excerpt of the text and one of the videos from the article.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consider the White Helmets to be their “most routinely reliable source“. Mull that one over for a minute. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were created as revolving door instruments of power that would be used to crack target nations open with false humanitarian pretexts designed to “manufacture consent” for one regime change war after another. Remember Libya and Iraq. Remember Benghazi, womens rights in Afghanistan, WMDs in Iraq. Remember any of these blatant false flags that took us to war and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch will be right there dancing in the shadows with their professional poster campaigns and No Fly Zone ‘crusades’.

Supreme Court backs employers over workers in first of two major labor cases   Recently updated !

USA Today has the story Supreme Court backs employers over workers in first of two major labor cases.

Gorsuch said. “But as a matter of law the answer is clear. In the Federal Arbitration Act, Congress has instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms.”

Do you suppose that the Supreme Court is able to read the constitution? Maybe they just can’t read amendments.

Seventh Amendment – U.S. Constitution

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Does this mean that forcing people to use arbitration instead of having a jury trial is a way of preserving the right to trial by jury? We have certain rights that we cannot agree to forego. I don’t think we are all speaking the same language even if this purports to be English. If this country were silly enough to declare that English is the official language of the USA, what meaning would that have? It all depends on what the word English means. Would there be an official dictionary?

Escaping Corporate Blackmail   Recently updated !

One of the problems states have in collecting enough taxes to do what needs to be done is the need to compete for job creating businesses to locate in their state by giving tax and other concessions to those businesses. A company like Amazon that wants to create a new headquarters has various localities competing to get that headquarters to be located in their jurisdiction. If states don’t play the game, then businesses go elsewhere. How can the government at several levels cooperate to help free states and localities from this corporate blackmail?

One way to halt or lessen the race to the bottom is to impose a federal tax on the corporations for the imputed income that the concessions represent.

WikiPedia has several things to say about the concept of imputed income.

Imputed income is the accession to wealth that can be attributed, or imputed, to a person when they avoid paying for services by providing the services to themselves, or when the person avoids paying rent for durable goods by owning the durable goods, as in the case of imputed rent.

As for taxing imputed income, WikiPedia further explains:

Many countries, such as the United States, tax imputed income only in certain limited situations. Imputed income is sometimes difficult to measure, and tax policies regarding imputed income can have political consequences. For taxpayers, not taxing imputed income creates a tax incentive in favor of owning over renting, and in favor of self-service over hiring. For the economy, not taxing imputed income directs economic activity away from activities associated with extreme and severe division of labor.

If the federal government decided to collect taxes on the imputed income from tax breaks that localities give to coporations, then this could significantly lessen the value of these tax breaks to corporations. They would have less incentive to play one locality against another for free benefits. One could go beyond the tax breaks to include the building of infrastructure specifically for one corporation (or group of corporations).

Of course, if the federal government went too far in this direction, it would create incentives for corporations to relocate their facilities in other countries. That is why there needs to be cooperation among national governments on some tax policies. There were negotiations going on among countries to come to just such agreements before George W. Bush came to office. He put a stop to the participation of the USA in such talks.

Imagine if trade negotiations included agreements on tax policies as well as on policies to protect the profits of corporations.

Here is a Google search on international tax negotiations so you can do further research on this idea.

I also found the paper Piercing the Veil of Secrecy: Securing Effective Exchange of Information to Remedy the Harmful Effects of Tax Havens. The first page of the paper is numbered 293. Starting on page numbered 313, I found the following quote:

Although many different organizations have introduced projects to combat the destructive effects of tax havens, there is still no single comprehensive regulation aimed at controlling tax havens or the capital flows that go through them. Among the various international initiatives, there is a clear lack of accord on the degree of harm created by tax havens and on the best method to deal with the adverse economic effects they cause. Arguably, the most successful multinational initiative today has been the work of the OECD, and its work to develop a model tax agreement.

One of the references that was in the above quote on WikiPedia seemd to come from the video Tax Havens: The Hidden Hand in the Financial Crisis.

The financial crisis seems as if it emerged from nowhere and struck as hard and fast as lightning. How did so many financial institutions crumble with so little warning? There are many reasons, but one that has not been given much attention is how tax havens helped enable the mess — and how several of the big companies that have received billions of bailout dollars were also the most active in the shady world of offshore finance.

I couldn’t find a reference to George W. Bush’s stopping international tax negotiations, but I did find a paper, When International Tax Agreements Fail at Home: A U.S. Example, with the footnote below that confirms that international tax treaties were established practice.

The two levels may typically be sequential as a formal matter, with states negotiating their agreement, which then would be ratified through internal domestic processes. Given established treaty practice (including the U.S. Model Tax treaty and the OECD Model Tax treaty), little risk generally would be anticipated at the second (i.e., domestic) level. It should be noted, though, that in 1995 Senators Bob Dole and Jesse Helms blocked ratification of tax treaties until President Clinton compromised on another unrelated bill. This situation, which differed from the current U.S. treaty blockage in that there was no underlying objection to the tax treaties themselves ,emerged after the Senate failed to vote on the State Department Reorganization and Authorization Act. As retaliation, Senate Majority Leader Dole coordinated with Senator Helms, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to block all tax treaties until the White House acquiesced. A month later, Senator Helms released seven tax treaties as a show of “good faith,” though he continued to delay meetings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, effectively holding up all foreign policy legislation requiring Senate approval.

Don’t forget the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Commerce Clause

The Commerce Clause refers to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”

Bad News – The U.S. Government Posts A $214.25 Billion Budget Surplus For April 2018

Seeking Alpha has the article Bad News – The U.S. Government Posts A $214.25 Billion Budget Surplus For April 2018

Here is one of the introductory bullet points.

Net financial assets in the private sector declined by $214.25 billion in April and have prolonged the current stock market retrace.

This article is a 9 page dissertation in how Modern Money Theory (MMT) justifies the title of the article.

This is an ideal example of where MMT goes way off the rails. I have read the book Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems and much more about MMT. I don’t need 9 pages in this article to see the hole in the argument, when they emphasize the flaw in one of the bullet points.

Here is where the flaw in the analysis is buried “Net financial assets in the private sector declined by $214.25 billion in April and have prolonged the current stock market retrace.”

When you only talk about net assets, you exclude the counting of borrowed assets like money because the borrowed money is cancelled by the debt in the static analysis of net assets. But that does not mean that the borrowed money during the life of the loan isn’t producing economic benefits. It doesn’t mean that the benefits disappear when the loan is paid back.

When any entity borrows money and puts it to productive use, the borrowed money is producing profits that exceed the cost of borrowing the money. It’s called leverage. If people don’t think that the use of leverage is economically important, they haven’t understood the mantra of “buy now, pay later.” Surely borrowing can lead to trouble if the purchase doesn’t more than pay for itself, that’s why leverage is risky. However, well calculated risk usually has big rewards.

So the bullet point is right that net assets, more accurately called high powered money in MMT lingo, has been removed from the economy. However, they are failing to take into account the private lending can, under the right circumstances, replace the missing high powered money with low powered money created in the private sector through the making of loans. If you only look at a one piece of the economy, you cannot always predict what the consequences will be.

I haven’t even thrown in the mark-to-market asset valuation technique that also has huge economic impacts. Can one tulip bulb really have a value that was placed on it during the Dutch Golden Age?

Empire Files: How Palestine Became Colonized

YouTube has the video Empire Files: How Palestine Became Colonized.

Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants.

Giving critical historical context the occupation today, this timeline explores the creation of the state of Israel and how it came to cover so much land since. From the early settlements, to the Nakba, to it’s conquest of the West Bank, Abby Martin reveals the brutally honest root of what is behind the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Previously I blogged about a book review The State of Israel ‘My Promised Land,’ by Ari Shavit.

Eventually, I did get to read the book on the suggestion of a former friend who thought I was being too harsh on Israel. When I read the book by an Israeli journalist and grandson of one of the founders of Zionism, I was introduced to more horrific facts about the founding of Israel than I had been aware of. From what I remember from the book, this video by Abby Martin is accurate. She is not spouting Palestinian propaganda.

Lee Camp: I Know Which Country the U.S. Will Invade Next

TruthDig has the article Lee Camp: I Know Which Country the U.S. Will Invade Next.

Sorry, I can’t stand the suspense.

Well, last week, Iran finally did it: It switched from the dollar to the euro. And sure enough, this week, the U.S. military-industrial complex, the corporate media and Israel all got together to claim that Iran is lying about its nuclear weapons development.

I have been following the sequence that Lee Camp describes, but I must have been asleep at the switch last week. I did not notice what Iran did last week that Lee Camp mentions in this article.

Modern Money Theory (MMT) tells us that the USA that makes its own money and borrows exclusively in its own money has policy freedoms that the oligarchs and their politicians don’t want us to know. It is clear that if the oligarchs are willing to have the USA invade other countries if they threaten the position of the USA dollar, that the oligarchs fully understand the impact of losing the policy freedom that they pretend not to know about. (See my previous post Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems.)

Is there life in the multiverse?

Earth Sky has the article Is there life in the multiverse?

Now scientists in the U.K. and Australia have taken an interesting step toward probing the multiverse. Their work, which is based on computer simulations, suggests that life could potentially be common throughout the multiverse, if a multiverse exists.

Many of the comments about this article disparaged what was studied here as just speculation. They said it wasn’t scientific research because it was “merely” based on a computer simulation.

I responded to that train of thought and to some other thoughts that were in the article.

One way to understand the importance of certain variables in a system is to see how variations of those variables would change the system. A computer simulation is about the only way you can see how sensitive a large system is. Knowing that the system is not as sensitive to the amount of dark energy as scientists had assumed from their simpler previous calculations can lead to valuable insights.

I don’t know the meaning of the luck of being in a system that supports life as we know it. If the system did not support life as we know it, we wouldn’t be around to think about it. The only way that life like us could exist to think about such things would be to live in a system that can support us.

There is no telling what we might learn from speculating about such issues, so I wouldn’t disparage such speculation. Such speculation is not something I would devote much of my life to. However, it probably is a good thing that there are a few people who want to spend their time on such speculations.

If we somehow were to restrict people’s thoughts to only what we knew for sure would be productive, then there are lots of useful discoveries we never would have had.

Will EU Block China Economic Silk Road?

New Eastern Outlook has the article Will EU Block China Economic Silk Road?.

Here is an excerpt that makes on narrow point of all that is covered in the whole article.

China’s Maritime Silk Road envisions directing state investment into key sectors such as acquisition of port management agreements, investment in modernized container ports and related infrastructure in select EU states.

At present the most developed example is the Greek port of Piraeus, operated under an agreement with the Chinese state company, COSCO, as port operator. Modernization and more than €1.5 billion investment from China has dramatically increased the port’s importance. In 2016 Piraeus’s container traffic grew by over 14 percent and COSCO plans to turn Piraeus into the fifth largest European port for container traffic. Before COSCO, it was not even in the EU top 15 in 2007. In 2016 COSCO bought 51% of Piraeus Port Authority for €280 million, and now owns 66%. Last year Piraeus Port, COSCO and Shanghai Port Authority, China’s largest container port, signed a joint agreement to further boost trade and efficiency at Piraeus. Greek Deputy Economy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas said at the time, “The agreement means that huge quantities of goods will be transported to Piraeus from Shanghai.”

The narrow point that I see here is that, if the western vulture capitalists are going to punish countries like Greece, countries like Greece will find a way out by allying with a more helpful China. Reading the rest of the article, I see the possibility that as the western capitalists try to convince us that unfettered capitalism is the only solution, China will foil this by proving their economic model is better for all of us.

Looks like I was right about a previous post along these lines, China’s trillion dollar plan to dominate global trade. Our reaction is essentially “We don’t need no stinkin’ infrastructure. Besides if China’s infrastructure starts to annoy us, we can just blow it up.”

Israel Baits the Hook. Will Syria Bite?

New Eastern Outlook has the article Israel Baits the Hook. Will Syria Bite?

At face value, for Iran to inexplicably launch missiles at Israel, unprovoked and achieving no conceivable tactical, strategic, or political gain strains the credibility of Israel’s narrative even further.

But it is perhaps published US policy designating Israel as a hostile provocateur tasked with expanding Washington’s proxy war against Damascus that fully reveals the deadly and deceptive game Israel and the Western media are now playing.

For years, US policymakers admitted in their papers that the US desired regime change in Iran and sought to provoke a war to achieve it.

This article provides an analysis that I had not considered before. Perhaps Russia is being wise to avoid retaliation against unprovoked attacks from the USA and Israel. Still, I wonder if it makes any sense for Russia to make threats that it knows it is not prepared to carry out. If the USA specifically wants Russia to carry out these threats, that may be an even better reason not to make them.

I don’t doubt that Vladimir Putin has thought about this more deeply than I have. Perhaps he has a strategy that I am unable to recognize.