Monday, May 16, 2016

NATO: Expensive, Obsolete, and Dangerous

And, strangely, something that Donald Trump speaks out against.

But he's only complaining that we bear too much of the cost (though that is true also, and a good place to start).  The more important problem is that it is far more likely to trigger a war than prevent one, and it's gotten worse since we broke Reagan's promise to Gorbichev that we wouldn't expand NATO, it has expanded greatly in 1999 and 2004.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Agnostic Liberal: Sometimes Too Agnostic

Shane Taylor makes good points about 30% of the time on his Agnostic Liberal website.

He falls into, for example, the trap of ignoring the many faults of Uranium Power.  (Sadly, economist Quiggen has or had until recently fallen into that trap also.)   Because of harboring some residual belief in Nuclear Power, he fails to see the truth in Naomi Klein's poetic denunciation of Extractivism.  Klein has it right.

He's quite good on Islamism vs Liberalism, which is one of his favorite topics (see also here), and well describes the Paradox of Tolerance.

He's excellent on subjectivist illiberalism though unfairly categorizing this as "progressivism" (even in the title of his blog).  Progressivism has nothing at all to do against traditional liberal values, fairly construed.  Progressivism is about Social Democracy.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


One of two excellent OP's on Neoliberalism by Corey Robin at Crooked Timber.

And within that, an assortment of riches in the comments, especially this comment by Bruce Wilder.  Example:

It doesn’t do any good, because the distilled version of mainstream economics that informs popular political discussion and rationalizes policy frameworks at a high level of abstraction — often called Econ 101, because it follows the introductory (and intermediate) college textbooks — maps out a theory that has few reliable referents in the world. Economic theory imagines an economy organized as a system of markets, coordinating activity with perfect numéraire prices and fairly complete information. It is a pretty good theory, capable of being rendered as an impressive axiomatic system and productive of considerable and valuable insight. Sometime in the 1950s, economics arrived at the conclusion that the actual economy could not possibly be like that for a variety of reasons, which can be summarized as uncertainty and bounded rationality. The traditional pedagogy of indoctrinating students in the theoretical system, while waving out the window as if the actual economy was like the imaginary world of theory, but just messier in mostly unspecified ways continued despite this result. The advanced research program in various subfields continued, with varying degrees of accommodation to reality, but the pedagogy remained paralyzed, while macro and policy economics have degenerated into a Dunning-Kruger combination of arrogance and ignorance.
That neoliberalism is the ideology of a managerial elite cadre that doesn’t want anyone to interfere with their self-serving complacency let alone looting and doesn’t want to be held responsible for results becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way, since the underlying economics does not supply much in the way of practical wisdom or practical tools for that matter. When Krugman announces that IS / LM analysis — an 80 year old kludge that even its originator regards as fundamentally wrong-headed — provides a sufficient insight into what’s going on in the macroeconomy and with monetary policy, he’s defying others to parody him.
You cannot remain in this narrow space between Tyler Cowen and Krugman or DeLong and Mankiw and say or think much of anything that’s relevant to the 21st century problems of a globalized economy, climate change, resource exhaustion, overpopulation, or the Third Industrial Revolution of communication and computing.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Was Chavez Assassinated?

After reading this story published by Mike Whitney, interviewing Eva Golinger, I think probably so.

Do I agree with her assessment of Chavez:
Eva Golinger– The loss of Hugo Chavez has been crushing. He was my friend and I spent nearly ten years as his advisor. The void he has left is impossible to replace. Despite his human flaws, he had a huge heart and genuinely dedicated himself to build a better country for his people, and a better world for humanity. He cared deeply about all people, but especially the poor, neglected and marginalized.

Though I hope the void is not, ultimately, impossible to fill.

Chavez one of the greats...even if not socialist as self-proclaimed and called communist by others.

Chavez was a social democrat, much in the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I consider FDR the single greatest President.  He has been impossible to replace (though Bernie could, given similar popular support).

Was Chavez as great?  Well in a southern world not run from Washington, he might have been.

FDR's legacy at least partly still lasts, 70 years after his death.  It was going strong in 1968.  How much of Chavez legacy remains?

It was rather a long time before a nearly full throated advance could be made on FDR's New Deal, the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson and especially Medicare.

And that was pretty much it.  Nixon made a few additions, but got impeached before he could advance his universal healthcare proposal (or Teddy Kennedy's).

How far did FDR's accomplishments go?  And Chavez?  Well I'll leave that question open, though my sense is that FDR went far further with his social democracy.  Of course he was fortunately in that regards to the time and other factors...ultimately the war too.

Most likely, however, Chavez did far fewer negative things.  So there is indeed truth to what Eva says.

Why we want Bernie

Two of my favorite bloggers describe why Bernie is best.

Doug Henwood shows the inconsistency of technocratic Paul Krugman, who has long called for something like Swedish social democracy in the US.  Now that a candidate is offering what he has long claimed to want, Krugman has joined the finger wagging "no you can't have that" contingent.

Steve Waldman discusses what is important in politics.  While competency is important, the campaign is not necessarily a good demonstration of that, and the most important thing is that the candidate shares your values and vision, which is why he supports Sanders.

One of the many commenters on Steve's OP gives a peek to a darker side perhaps we best not think of too much lest we lose our courage:

United Fruit writes:
Ha, ha, I see what you did there. You say politics. Then you say words: democracy, democratic polity, democratic process. In which of your wet dreams did US politics have anything to do with democratic anything? The legal test for democracy is free expression of the will of the electors. Did you like your free expression of the will of the electors when you voted JFK in and CIA shot him? When you pushed LBJ out and CIA shot RFK before you could vote for him? When you tried to send them a message with spoiler Wallace and CIA shot him? When you voted Carter in and CIA shitcanned him with a humiliating hostage crisis arranged with US enemies? When you voted Reagan in and CIA shot him and tried to take him back to the White House instead of the hospital? When you finally gave up and voted in the former CIA director? When you got to choose between the former CIA director and the comprador of the CIA drug trade at Mena Airport? When you voted Al Gore in and they said No, none of this vote-counting business, it’s going to be spook cadet G.W. Bush? When you voted to replace him with Kerry and CIA stole the whole state of Ohio? When you voted for a credential-free empty suit who worked for BIC, took an inexplicable intern trip to Pakistan, and whose mother, father, Australian squeeze, and Grandpa were spooks?
So knock yaself out, vote for Grampa and watch Marine One throw a rotor and crater in leaping flames.

There are a few facts in there, some of which I've mentioned before.

How AIPAC gets what it wants

The story of the rise of Chris Van Hollen is very telling.

Van Hollen started his career being very skeptical of the very reliable US support of Israel and the congressional sense that Israel can't do anything wrong.  That didn't last long, he was quickly pulled back into the fold of strongly pro Zionist politicians, which is nearly all of them (including especially Hillary Clinton).

Some of what is described, such as being organized, visiting a congressman, and threatening not to vote for him, are just exactly the ways the political process should work and illustrations of what everybody should do to advance their political priorities.

But the part that involves campaign contributions, super PAC funded advertisements, and threats from mega donors are illustrations of how the US political system is corrupt--rotten to the core.

As Molly Ivins once wrote, anybody who is a real Democrat should support Single Payer Healthcare and Publically Financed Elections.  Molly did not like triangulating politicians, and specifically mentioned Hillary in that regards.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tax Evasion was whole point of Panama "trade" agreement

Bernie was right on this issue even as the agreement was being debated in the Senate.  He saw it couldn't be seriously about US jobs, so then what?  Answering his own question, he pointed out that Panama was already one of the world's top venues for tax evasion and money laundering.