Friday, March 24, 2017

Miguel Navascués— The huge fallacy of the Modern Monetary Theory: money is not free

Critique of MMT by a Bank of Spain economist.

The Corner (Spain)
The huge fallacy of the Modern Monetary Theory: money is not free
Miguel Navascués, economist at the Bank of Spain for 30 years, focusing on international and monetary economics

Fed now holds record amount of Treasuries. There was no "avalanche of selling" like so many Wall St. morons predicted.

When the Fed started raising interest rates 15 months ago you had a lot of Wall Street idiots predicting massive Treasury sales. One dope, Scott Minerd, predicted $1 trillion in sales. I wrote about that stupid call, here.

The Fed is currently holding a record amount of Treasuries, with the new heights in its holdings coming recently, after not one, not two, BUT THREE RATE HIKES!

These dopes don't understand that the Fed pays interest on reserves, making the need to manage reserves in order to maintain their target rate, a thing of the past.

Malpractice. That's what they idiots engage in. All the time. If it were any other industry they'd be sued or shut down. And networks like CNBC disseminate their crap, regularly.

Fed holdings of Treasuries: $2.463974 trillion.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Michael J. Sainato — Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine

The cyber security firm outsourced by the Democratic National Committee, CrowdStrike, reportedly misread data, falsely attributing a hacking in Ukraine to the Russians in December 2016.…
The report sheds further skepticism on CrowdStrike’s findings and objectivity in their conclusions, which several cyber security experts and former CIA and NSA officials have cast doubt on, especially given that several media outlets reported in early January 2017 that the DNC never allowed the FBI to examine their servers themselves, rather the FBI relied on forensic data gathered by CrowdStrike.
The investigation methods used to come to the conclusion that the Russian Government led the hacks of the DNC, Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, and the DCCC were further called into question by a recent BuzzFeed report by Jason Leopold, who has developed a notable reputation from leading several non-partisan Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for investigative journalism purposes. On March 15 that the Department of Homeland Security released just two heavily redacted pages of unclassified information in response to an FOIA request for definitive evidence of Russian election interference allegations. Leopold wrote, “what the agency turned over to us and Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate at MIT and a research affiliate at Harvard University, is truly bizarre: a two-page intelligence assessment of the incident, dated Aug. 22, 2016, that contains information DHS culled from the internet. It’s all unclassified — yet DHS covered nearly everything in wide swaths of black ink. Why? Not because it would threaten national security, but because it would reveal the methods DHS uses to gather intelligence, methods that may amount to little more than using Google.”
In lieu of substantive evidence provided to the public that the alleged hacks which led to Wikileaks releases of DNC and Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta’s emails were orchestrated by the Russian Government, CrowdStrike’s bias has been cited as undependable in its own assessment, in addition to its skeptical methods and conclusions. The firm’s CTO and co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with openly anti-Russian sentiments that is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
In 2013, the Atlantic Council awarded Hillary Clinton it’s Distinguished International Leadership Award. In 2014, the Atlantic Council hosted one of several events with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who took over after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in early 2014...
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Michael J. Sainato

Michael Hudson — Wall Street First

Trump is Obama’s Legacy. Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Michael Hudson
Wall Street First
Michael Hudson | President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Guest Professor at Peking University

Reuters — Uncertain fate of Obamacare causes some hospitals to halt projects, hiring —

Uncertainty surrounding the Republican plan to replace Obamacare is forcing some U.S. hospitals to delay expansion plans, cut costs, or take on added risk to borrow money for capital investment projects, dealing an economic blow to these facilities and the towns they call home.…Across the country, hospitals are shifting to a more conservative stance as they await sweeping changes to the nation's healthcare law that for the first time in U.S. history would reverse a government healthcare entitlement program. The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, provided coverage to 20 million Americans and brought higher revenues to many hospitals. 

The law's likely overhaul puts many hospitals in a uniquely daunting position of being unable to predict how many of their patients will be insured and what type of coverage they will have in the future. As a result, many are more wary than in years past to invest in expensive capital projects, issue debt, or expand into new regions, said healthcare experts and hospital executives....
Hospital jobs increased after the Affordable Care Act expanded coverage. Now, amid increasing uncertainty around the nation’s healthcare law, hospital jobs are on the decline.
But, but, but, we are "saving money."

Uncertain fate of Obamacare causes some hospitals to halt projects, hiring

Matthew Allen — Greece to Surrender Gold, Utilities and Real Estate in Exchange For Pieces of Paper Printed in Brussels

It’s official: The Germans will not allow debt relief for Greece. Instead, Berlin wants to send in the repo man.
The untold story of the Greek “bailouts” is that it wasn’t a “bailout” — it was an auction of Greek assets. Real, tangible things with real, tangible value were seized in exchange for pieces of paper that guarantee Athens will be chained to Berlin and Brussels for the foreseeable future.
It’s your basic extortion racket....
A bit too melodramatic? We forgot — we are supposed to use the friendly neoliberal term for this policy of national enslavement and communal suicide: “voluntary privatization.”...
Events prove Michael Hudson right again about predatory lending funneling assets from the periphery to the core. Neoliberalism implies neo-imperialism and neocolonialism.
A perfect crime. After all, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs helped cook the books so Greece could join the eurozone.
This really is a golden age for international criminal cabals. Al Capone was a chump.
Defend Democracy Press
Greece to Surrender Gold, Utilities and Real Estate in Exchange For Pieces of Paper Printed in Brussels
Matthew Allen

Kevin Robillard — Koch network pledges to defend Republicans who vote against GOP health bill

The Koch brothers' network of well-funded outside groups says it will spend millions to protect Republicans who oppose the party's health care bill from political fallout.
Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the Koch network's big budget grass-roots activism and advertising groups, are teaming up to create a "seven-figure" reserve fund to support lawmakers who buck President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan on the health care vote, as the threat of primaries looms over some opponents of the bill. The Koch groups will spend the money on paid media, direct mail and grass-roots canvassing.

Freedom Partners called the GOP bill "Obamacare 2.0" and said it falls short of truly repealing the 2010 law....
The Koch groups argue that the GOP's bills refundable tax credits to make health coverage more affordable are a new entitlement….
The GOP goes to war with itself over purity versus practicality.

Kevin Robillard

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer — Quantitative Easing vs. Fiscal Policy

… when people pay taxes their bank accounts are debited and correspondingly the government account at the central bank is replenished. During an accounting period, government expenditure will have been funded by tax revenues received, sale of bonds to the private sector, plus the increase in central bank money....
I am not sure from reading this whether the authors hold that taxes fund spending and debt issuance finances deficits in the accounting sense of "fund" and "finance," or that such funding/financing is operationally necessary before spending can take place. The former is consistent with the MMT view, but not the latter.

From the MMT point of view, the central bank creates government liabilities by crediting accounts with bank reserves, which increases the monetary base. Funds in the Treasury's general account (TGA) do not count toward either the monetary base or the money supply. 

In the US, when the Treasury spends in accordance with appropriations, it directs the Fed to credit bank's account in the payments system with settlement balances aka "bank reserves." This increases base money. When taxes are paid, base money is reduced by that amount and taxpayers deposit accounts at banks are reduced. The spending and taxation are reflected in the government fiscal balance.

Similarly, when government securities are issues, the auction is paid for with settlement balances, the monetary base is reduced by that amount, and purchasers's deposit accounts at banks are reduced.

This simply involves crediting and debiting various accounts on the government's books (Treasury and central bank), banks' books, and bank customers books. There is no operational need for funding for the government to spend prior to spending than for banks to secure funding before extending credit by making loans and crediting deposit accounts. 

In the process, the LHS and RHS balance, which is what "funding" means in an accounting sense. For banks, the corresponding entry in a deposit account "funds" the loan. For government, the entries in accounts recording tax payments and debt issuance "fund" spending. 

With respect to government, the ratio between money creation that adds to the monetary base and money withdrawal through taxation and securities issuance that reduces the money base determines the fiscal balance. 

The difference between taxation and securities issuance is that taxation "destroys" money in the sense  that the monetary based and M1 are reduced, decreasing non-government net financial wealth in aggregate, while securities issuance shifts funds from the monetary base and deposit accounts to government securities without changing non-government net financial wealth in aggregate. Only the term changes and not the amount. 

MMT calls the issuance of government securities "draining the monetary base." It is a monetary operation that is not necessary operationally, but rather it is an optional tool operationally that is convenient for conducting monetary policy when the central bank chooses to set the interest rate above zero and is not paying interest on excess reserves. Draining the monetary base with securities issuance reduces the needs to open market operations (OMO) using repurchase agreements (repo).

However, instead of the Treasury issuing securities, the central bank could simply book loans to the Treasury directly. This is permitted in some jurisdiction, but it is prohibited politically in the US. This is a voluntary political choice that doesn't involve the US government needing to obtain funding from nongovernment in order to spend. In actuality, spending funds both tax payments in aggregate and securities purchases in aggregate, since the funds that government spends are offset on the governments' books by taxes and sale of government securities, both of which reduce the monetary base. The monetary base consists of government liabilities that only the central bank can create and that must already be available for tax payment and securities purchases. 

In this sense, government spends first which creates the funding for it similar to the way that the extension of a loan as an account receivable that is bank asset creates the corresponding funding in the form of a credit to a customer deposit account, which is a bank liability. Similarly, when government spends, the money base as a liability of the central bank increases and the TGA is debited. Debiting the TGA doesn't affect any of the measures of money.  When taxes are paid, monetary based decreases, which is the same as saying that the central banks' liabilities decrease. The TGA is credited but this credit doesn't count toward any measure of money. Thus tax payments "destroy money." The Treasury does not have money to spend. It simply has a credit that is used in determining the fiscal balance.

Based on spending appropriations and tax policy determined by the fiscal authority, generally the legislative branch, the Treasury and central bank coordinate operations to accommodate both the fiscal operations of the Treasury conducted by the central bank as the government's fiscal agent with the monetary operations of the central bank. This is coordinated so that all accounts stay in balance, which means that spending is always funded using government liabilities as the spending occurs.

The key to understanding this is that "the government neither has not does not have money." The government as monetary and fiscal authority issues the currency, determines monetary and fiscal policy, using its agents, the Treasury and central banks to carry it out in accordance with law and regulation.

Central banks are usually delegated as the fiscal agent of government having the authority and responsibility for issuing the currency. This means that the central bank is not limited in the amount it can credit to its liabilities. That is, as the currency issuer the central bank does not have to get money elsewhere. 

The Treasury does not have money either since credits to its account at the central bank do not count toward any measure of money. Moreover, the doesn't have to get money from the central bank to spend. The Treasury directs the central bank to credit non-government accounts in accordance with the government appropriations. Like the liabilities of the central bank that constitute bank reserves, the numbers in the TGA are simply accounting entries used to compute the fiscal balance from the income statement and balance sheet and show sources and uses of funding. 

The Treasury and central bank coordinate operations to ensure that accounts balance as operations are conducted. From the logical point of view, spending must precede taxation and securities purchases, since government only accepts its own liabilities in the payments system operated by the central bank. Currency users have to get these liabilities, whereas government is the currency issuer. From the temporal point of view, accounts are debited and credited simultaneously so that they are always in balance. There is some intra-day leeway but all accounts must balance at the close. 

Another key point is that government liabilities held by non-government are non-government financial assets. Since the liability is on the side of government, these financial assets held by non-government constitute non-government net financial assets in aggregate, that is to say, non-government financial wealth the funding of which is government liabilities.

Triple Crisis
Quantitative Easing vs. Fiscal Policy
Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

Asia Unhedged — Blackwater’s Eric Prince to open bases in China

US private military company Frontier Services Group (FSG) is planning operations in China’s Xinjiang Province that will support the One Belt, One Road initiative, Chinese state media reported Wednesday.
FSG’s chairman, Eric Prince, is better known as the founder of the Blackwater military company, which played a large role in the US-Iraqi war. Prince told China’s Global Times that “FSG has expanded its geographic focus from purely Africa to include the Northwest corridors of the One Belt and One Road initiative.”
Seemingly at odds with plans to provide military services in China, Prince has close ties to the White House. His sister is a member of the president’s cabinet, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and he was a frequent radio guest of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s Breitbart....
Asia Times
Blackwater’s Eric Prince to open bases in China
Asia Unhedged

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jon Schwarz — Congressman’s Trump Surveillance Claims Have an Obvious, Mundane Explanation

It's complicated. Jon Schwarz unpacks it for us.

Edward Harrison — You should be concerned about falling car prices and Ally’s profit warning

Yesterday, Ally Financial warned that profits would underperform expectations. Now, they dd not say that profits would fall or that they were taking credit writedowns. Neverthless, the warning is an important marker and should be of grave concern. Here’s why....
Credit Writedowns
You should be concerned about falling car prices and Ally’s profit warningEdward Harrison

Biz Carson — Apple just bought the app it once crowned 'most innovative' and made it free for everyone

Free is good.

Business Insider
Apple just bought the app it once crowned 'most innovative' and made it free for everyone
Biz Carson

Here's another new product from Apple.

Bill Mitchell — More evidence that the US labour market is not at full employment

Regular readers will recall a few of my blogs where I have demonstrated that the US economy is still nowhere near to what one might call full employment, even though that concept is highly contested and can span a range of outcomes depending on the ideological disposition one takes. I have also done some research decomposing the marked decline in the US participation rate since around 2000 into age-related effects and what I call the discouraged worker effects (workers giving up looking for jobs because of the slow employment growth). This week (March 20, 2017), research published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco bears on this topic –
How Tight Is the U.S. Labor Market? – and they essentially concur with my previous assessments. There work is interesting because it reaches the same conclusion from a variety of methods, which is always a good sign because it means the result is not method-specific. However, there are those who for their own ideological reasons want to argue that the US economy is already at full employment. If they were correct, it would mean the quality of that ‘full employment’ had shifted markedly – lower – as a consequence of the GFC and its aftermath and that the associated underutilisation levels had risen.

Bill Mitchell – billy blog
More evidence that the US labour market is not at full employment
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Sputnik — Russia Secures Financial System From Potential SWIFT Shutoff - Central Bank Head

Russia has introduced safeguards against the risk of being shut out of international transaction systems such as Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) after anti-Russian sanctions introduced by the West, Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina said Wednesday.…
"There was the threat of being shut out of SWIFT. We updated our transaction system, and if anything happens, all SWIFT-format operations will continue to work, we created an analogous system," Nabiullina said during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Think Tank: Cyber Firm [Crowdstrike] at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data

Voice of America, the US government international propaganda arm news service confirms the report of Moon of Alabama posted here at MNE earlier in the day that the Crowdstrike claim of Russian involvement in hacking the Ukrainian military was disproved.
[Dmitri] Alperovitch, a Russian expatriate and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council policy research center in Washington, co-founded CrowdStrike in 2011.
Voice of America
Think Tank: Cyber Firm at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data
Oleksiy Kuzmenko and Pete Cobus

#$@&%*! [James Comey on Russia at the Congressional Hearing]

These guys are clowns. They are beyond ignorant, because they are ignorant even of their own ignorance.
Nobody should take these hearings in the slightest bit seriously.
Paul Robinson | Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa

“… Schiff, a former prosecutor, … should know better than to treat ‘circumstantial evidence’ as a synonym for guilt by association.
NEWSWATCH: “Leakgate Finds Its Joe McCarthy; On Trump-Russia links, Rep. Schiff tries to fool the public with randomness” – Wall Street Journal/HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.

A shortage of knowledge accompanied by a desire to generalize as broadly as possible are the basic ingredients of a witch-hunt.
Bloomberg View
Why the Comey Hearing Was Frightening to a Russian
Leonid Bershidsky | Bloomberg View columnist and dRussian ex-pat


The National Interest
The House Intelligence Committee Hearing: Missing Questions

Brian Romanchuk — Modelling A Gold Standard

A simple account of the Bretton Woods international monetary system, out of Godley & Lavoie, and with diagrams.

Bond Economics
Modelling A Gold Standard
Brian Romanchuk

Trumponomics: causes and consequences – Part I – RWER issue no. 78

Auerback, Galbraith, Hudson, Kelton, Wray, Tcherneva provide an MMT-based critique of Trumponomics. 

Real-World Economics Review Blog
Trumponomics: causes and consequences – Part I – RWER issue no. 78

Preface          download pdf
Trumponomics: everything to fear including fear itself?          3
Jamie Morgan          download pdf                                                                           
Can Trump overcome secular stagnation?          20
James K. Galbraith            download pdf                              
Trump through a Polanyi lens: considering community well-being          28
Anne Mayhew            download pdf                                                                                    
Trump is Obama’s legacy. Will this break up the Democratic Party?          36
Michael Hudson          download pdf
Causes and consequences of President Donald Trump          44
Ann Pettifor               download pdf                                 
Explaining the rise of Donald Trump          54
Marshall Auerback          download pdf 
Class and Trumponomics          62
David F. Ruccio          download pdf 
Trump’s Growthism: its roots in neoclassical economic theory          86
Herman Daly          download pdf 
Trumponomics: causes and prospects          98
L. Randall Wray          download pdf 
The fall of the US middle class and the hair-raising ascent of Donald Trump
Steven Pressman          download pdf          112
Mourning in America: the corporate/government/media complex          125
Neva Goodwin          download pdf 
How the Donald can save America from capital despotism          132
Stephen T. Ziliak          download pdf 
Prolegomenon to a defense of the City of Gold          141
David A. Westbrook          download pdf 
Trump’s bait and switch: job creation in the midst of welfare state sabotage
Pavlina R. Tcherneva           download pdf          148
Can ‘Trumponomics’ extend the recovery?          159
Stephanie Kelton           download pdf 
Board of Editors, past contributors, submissions and etc.          173

Moon of Alabama — Fool Me Once ... - Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of "Russian Hacking" - One Has Been Proven Wrong

The cyber-security company Crowdstrike claimed that the "Russia" hacked the Democratic National Committee. It also claimed that "Russia" hacked artillery units of the Ukrainian army. The second claim has now be found to be completely baseless. That same is probably the case with its claims related to the DNC.
Much of this has already been posted here previously, but b pulls it together. Moreover, it is relevant now owing to the recent testimony of FBI chief James Comey that the agency never actually investigated the alleged DNC "hack" forensically and there is good reason to think that it was actually a leak rather than a hack.

There are some good comments, too.

Internet security is highly important, of course, but without oversight it can lead to government management of the national and global information systems.

In this case Congress seems to be bent on a witch hunt rather than a real investigation.

New Directions

Like many good books, Martin Gurri’s The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium is about One Big Idea, though the implications take a while to work through. It’s basically a story of how technology and media are changing politics.…Gurri really won my heart when he brought this insight together with the work of the great anthropologist Mary Douglas, who had an uncanny knack for creating powerful and useful analytical frameworks:
Andrew Batson's Blog
So far, my favorite book about the 2016 election is one that came out in 2014
Andrew Batson
The crawl toward despotism within a failed democracy is always incremental. No regime planning to utterly extinguish civil liberties advertises its intentions in advance. It pays lip service to liberty and justice while obliterating the institutions and laws that make them possible. Its opponents, including those within the establishment, make sporadic attempts to resist, but week by week, month by month, the despot and his reactionary allies methodically consolidate power. Those inside the machinery of government and the courts who assert the rule of law are purged. Critics, including the press, are attacked, ridiculed and silenced. The state is reconfigured until the edifice of tyranny is unassailable.
A Last Chance for Resistance
Chris Hedges

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kate Martin — Neil Gorsuch was instrumental in defending George W. Bush’s torture program

When Gorsuch took a job at the Justice Department in 2005, the department — then headed by President Bush’s former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales — was in the midst of defending radical claims of unreviewable presidential authority to act in the name of national security. Gorsuch, as Principal Deputy to the Associate Attorney General, became deeply involved in that work. 
President Bush claimed that he could act not only without Congress, and in secret, but that he could violate the law if he decided that national security required it, and the courts had no power to review his actions. These were not academic claims, they were made in defense of outrageous abuses of individual rights carried out in the name of the “war against terror.”…

While the documents about Mr. Gorsuch’s tenure at DOJ working on this case are still incomplete, they contain no indication that he disagreed with or questioned any of these radical legal positions taken by the administration....
Think Progress
Neil Gorsuch was instrumental in defending George W. Bush’s torture program
Kate Martin | Senior Fellow at American Progress

Gorsuch appeared slightly flustered when Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California – the top Democrat on the Republican-majority committee and an influential member of the Senate Intelligence Committee – pressed him on his role advising President Bush in drafting U.S. policy on torture.

She brought up several memos and emails detailing his role helping the White House conclude that "enhanced interrogations" were legal, a memo he drafted helping top Bush aides sell that notion to the public and agreed that a controversial program allowing government surveillance on American citizens without a warrant as part of the war on terror.
Gorsuch said he didn't remember the memos and was reluctant to talk about his "loose recollection of something that happened 11 or 12 years ago." But he reminded Feinstein that he was essentially a lawyer working for a client and not a judge, and he didn't always agree with the administration's more assertive conclusions – although he wouldn't say which ones..

"There was a tug of war in the White House" on the issue, Feinstein answered, and "I want to know which side you were on."
He refused to say.

Thumbs down on confirmation.

US News
Gorsuch Questioned Early on Torture Memo
Joseph P. Williams, Staff Writer

Robert David English — Russia, Trump, and a New Détente

This was originally published at Foreign Affairs, an organ of the Council on Foreign Relations. Foreign Affairs is behind a paywall, so the venue here is

Foreign Affairs has generally taken the idealistic approach to foreign policy and suppressed the realistic. The publication of this article is counter to trend. Observers wonder if it signals a reversal, or at least a modification.

Russia, Trump, and a New Détente
Robert David English | Associate Professor of International Relations, Slavic Languages & Literature, and Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California
Originally published at Foreign Affairs

Is Internet censorship looming large? Looking like it.

Censorship is descending on the Internet.

QCHG is the British counterpart of NSA.

The Guardian
Facebook and Twitter should do more to combat fake news, says GCHQ
Josh Halliday

“Facebook itself will not decide what is real and what is considered fake. Instead, it is enlisting The Poynter Institute, a Florida journalism school, to sift through content,” they continued. “The Poynter Institute is the host of the International Fact Checking Network which bills itself as a ‘global alliance of fact checkers’. Its members include ABC News, Politico, The Associated Press, and The Washington Post.”
Breitbart question the partisanship of some of the "fact checkers," but not The Poynter Institute. Here are some of the entities behind it.
Poynter's IFCN has received funding from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Duke Reporters’ Lab, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Foundations and the Park Foundation.
Not exactly objective, are they?

Report: Facebook Users Begin Receiving Pop-Up Warnings When Trying to Share ‘Fake News’


Bloomberg View's Leonid Bershidsky blasts Poynter's IFCN as biased.

Bloomberg View
Leonid Bershidsky


Media Bias Fact Check has a list of the supposedly least biased news sources. They are all establishment entities that are in general agreement on the "facts."


Ex-CIA agent Larry C. Johnson's blog No Quarter  has been taken down, as you will see if you click on the link. Disappeared.  Now that is scary. 

Is totalitarianism looming?

Garrett M. Graff — Inside the Hunt for Russia’s Most Notorious Hacker

Detective story. And the quarry is still at large.

Inside the Hunt for Russia’s Most Notorious Hacker
Garrett M. Graff

Hayley Peterson — Sears says there's ‘substantial doubt’ it can stay in business

Remember Sears and Roebuck's competitor Montgomery Ward? Looks like Sears is following the same path.

Monkey Ward is still around, you say?
After its demise, the familiarity of its brand meant its name, corporate logo, and advertising were still considered valuable intangible assets. In 2004, catalog marketer Direct Marketing Services Inc. (DMSI), an Iowa-based direct marketing company, purchased much of the intellectual property assets of the former Wards, including the "Montgomery Ward" and "Wards" trademarks, for an undisclosed amount of money.[30]
DMSI applied the brand to a new online and catalog-based retailing operation, with no physical stores, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. DMSI then began operating under the Montgomery Ward branding and managed to get it up and running in three months. The new firm began operations in June 2004, selling essentially the same categories of products as the former brand, but as a new, smaller catalog.
The DMSI version of Montgomery Ward was not the same company as the original. The company did not honor obligations of the previous company, such as gift cards and items sold with a lifetime guarantee. David Milgrom, then president of the firm, said in an interview with the Associated Press: "We're rebuilding the brand, and we want to do it right."
In July 2008, DMSI announced it was on the auction block, with sale scheduled for the following month. Catalog retailer Swiss Colony purchased DMSI August 5, 2008. Swiss Colony—which changed its name to Colony Brands Inc. on June 1, 2010—announced it would keep the Montgomery Ward catalog division open. The website launched September 10, 2008, with new catalogs mailing in February 2009. A month before the catalog's launch, Swiss Colony President John Baumann told United Press International the retailer might also resurrect Montgomery Ward's Signature and Powr-Kraft store brands. To augment its vast selection, Montgomery Ward started promoting several exclusive new brands in July 2012 in its Early Fall 2012 catalog and on its website, including Devonshire Collection, Apothecarie Collection and Elysian Forest Collection furniture, Chef Tested kitchen products, Comfort Creek towels and sheets, Freshica shoes, Sleep Connection bedding, and Color Connection window treatments.

Just the skeleton remains.

Will Sears meet a similar fate?

Business Insider
Sears says there's ‘substantial doubt’ it can stay in business
Hayley Peterson

Johnson's Russia List — “How did the intelligence community know that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee? CrowdStrike told them so. From the March 20 House Intelligence Committee hearing …”

The FBI and NSA admit that they never actually investigated the DNC hack. Excerpt from the hearing transcript.

Johnson's Russia List
“How did the intelligence community know that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee? CrowdStrike told them so. From the March 20 House Intelligence Committee hearing …”

See also

NEWSLINK: “Notes From the House Select Intelligence Hearing on Russia; In one of the most anticipated congressional hearings in years, James Comey and Mike Rogers took turns saying nothing” – Rolling Stone/Matt Taibbi

NEWSLINK: “Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion” – The Intercept/Glenn Greenwald

NEWSLINK: “The paranoid attempts to tie Trump to Russia are distracting US liberals from their real problems” – Quartz: James Carden

Michael Winship — Embattled Trump Reneges on Health Vow

This article is a bit of a rant, but it conveys the essential point that the AHCA as it stands will adversely affect a lot of the disgruntled electorate that put him in office and which he will need come 2020 if he decides to run for a second term.

Considering that the first month of the Trump administration was spent on delivering on campaign promises, this is a reversal of direction.

It is not clear yet what the final bill will look like, but if this an outline, it is an indication that either President Trump is reversing direction or is out of touch.

Add this to the disappointment about the promise of Russian détente instead of continued confrontation, based on recent appointments.

Consortium News
Embattled Trump Reneges on Health Vow
Michael Winship

John Helmer — Fiona Hill to Take Over President Trump’s Russia Desk

This lady makes the neocons look tame. She thinks the US is already in a hot war with Russia. And Donald Trump is supposed to be a foreign policy realist? Really?

President Trump has either caved to the deep state, or is completely out of touch. It's difficult to say which.
This month, a few days before her NSC staff appointment was announced, Hill gave an interview to a New York periodical in which she declared war on Russia. “I think we are in a hot war with Russia, not a cold war. But we have to be careful about the analogy. It’s a more complex world. There is no set-piece confrontation. This is no holds barred. The Cold War was a more disciplined competition, aside from the near blowups in Berlin and Cuba, where we walked back from the brink. The Kremlin now is willing to jump over the abyss. They want to play for the asymmetry. They see themselves in a period of hot kinetic war. Also, this is not just two-way superpower. There is China, the rising powers. I almost see it as like the great power competition from the time before the Second World War.”
Dances with Bears
Fiona Hill to Take Over President Trump’s Russia DeskJohn Helmer 

Johan Nylander — Chinese banks, HSBC caught up in huge money laundering scam

Several of China’s state-controlled banks, as well as HSBC’s Hong Kong branch, have allegedly processed hundreds of millions of US dollars from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and the spy agency FSB.
Documents obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project show that at least US$20 billion was moved out of Russia between 2010 and 2014 in a vast criminal operation called “The Global Laundromat”....
Asia Times
Chinese banks, HSBC caught up in huge money laundering scam
Johan Nylander

Alex Tabarro — LBRY Saves 20,000 Courses from the ADA

Those free online course materials may be gone from the University of California, Berkeley, courtesy of a U.S. Deparment of Justice interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related statutes, but they’re not gone from the Internet: “20,000 Worldclass University Lectures Made Illegal, So We Irrevocably Mirrored Them” [LBRY] Won’t that infringe on a lot of copyrights? The site claims not: “The vast majority of the lectures are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows attributed, non-commercial redistribution.” Earlier coverage here, here, here, and here.
As someone put it, it looks as if the internet recognizes ADA litigation as damage and routes around it.
Marginal Revolution
LBRY Saves 20,000 Courses from the ADA
Alex Tabarrok | Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and a research fellow with the Mercatus Center

Why Trump will have to trash the dollar to create jobs

If Donald Trump really wants to Make America Great Again, he’s going to have to Make the Dollar Weak Again first.
So argued hedge fund manager Mathew Klody of MCN Capital Management at this week’s Grant’s investment conference in New York.
He made an intriguing case.
If Klody’s right, Trump may just be blowing smoke when he talks about tariffs and border-adjustment taxes.
And, most importantly, if Klody is right, we should also buy foreign currencies, especially those issued by emerging markets. Sooner or later, the president will need to drive down the dollar, and for those based in the U.S. that will drive up foreign currencies.
Market Watch — Opinion
Why Trump will have to trash the dollar to create jobs
Brett Arends, columnist

Dirk Ehnts — J. S. Mill (1848) on tax-driven money

Via Matt Forstater (link), I have found some paragraphs by J. S. Mill on tax-driven money (see below). It is quite amazing that this knowledge got lost in the 21st century, with all that technology available.
econoblog 101
J. S. Mill (1848) on tax-driven money
Dirk Ehnts | Lecturer at Bard College Berlin

Monday, March 20, 2017

Xinhua — FM: China, U.S. can avoid Thucydides Trap, Kindleberger Trap

China and the United States can sidestep the Thucydides Trap and the Kindleberger Trap and jointly chart bilateral ties from a long-term perspective, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday in Beijing.…
The Thucydides Trap refers to a warning by the ancient Greek historian that cataclysmic war can erupt if a rising power causes fear in an established power.
The two countries will not fall to the Kindleberger Trap either, Wang said, as a single country cannot provide all public goods for the world with such complexity, and international cooperation is the only possible choice.
Charles Kindleberger, an intellectual architect of the Marshall Plan who later taught at MIT, believes that the disastrous decade of the 1930s was caused by the U.S. replacing Britain as the largest global power but failing to take on Britain's role in providing public goods.
Applauding U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's remarks during his recent visit to China, Wang said that China stands ready to advance bilateral ties from a strategic perspective.
Tillerson said that the United States and China should jointly chart bilateral ties for the next 50 years and plan all-round cooperation.…
China stands ready to shoulder its due international responsibilities, but never wants to lead the world, Wang said.
FM: China, U.S. can avoid Thucydides Trap, Kindleberger Trap
Xinhua | Editor: Gu Liping


China's door opens wider to outside world: premier
Xinhua | Editor: Gu Liping

Zhang Rui — 'Beauty and the Beast' smashes box office records

The film, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans and Josh Gad, grossed 308 million yuan (US$44.6 million) in China during its debut three-day weekend, and became the biggest grossing musical ever screened in China...
Disney has been very successful with profitable remakes of its own animated classics in China in recent years. For example, the live-action "Cinderella" made US$71.57 million, while the remake of "The Jungle Book," which won best visual effects at the Oscars on Sunday, grossed US$150 million here.
Disney has already decided to hire Niki Caro for a live-action remake based on the 1998 Disney animated feature adaptation of the story of the Chinese heroine Mulan.
'Beauty and the Beast' smashes box office records
Zhang Rui

Bill Mitchell — Amazing what politics does to people

A fiscal strategy that restrains net public spending to keep the economy below the inflation barrier does not, inevitably, mean a fiscal surplus is required. In fact, a fiscal surplus would only be indicated if the economy had a very strong external surplus, the private domestic sector was saving overall at its desired level, public infrastructure and services were first-class and the economy was at full employment. 
That conjunction of events is rare.….
… a counter-cyclical fiscal strategy does not mean that the government should achieve a surplus. To think otherwise is to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the main sectoral aggregates and why they interact at various levels of economic activity.
The concept of counter-cyclicality more correctly refers to the direction of change of the aggregate. The government should certainly not be expanding its deficit if the economy is already at full capacity and it is satisfied with the private spending mix. Such an expansion would be pro-cyclical. But holding a steady deficit where the external deficit is steady and the private domestic sector is saving overall and content with that outcome is not pro-cyclical.
Under those circumstances, growth would be steady, and, hopefully, sufficient to absorb all the available capacity....
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
Amazing what politics does to people
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Marcia Angell — Medicare for All should replace Obamacare

Paying for Medicare for All would require an increase in taxes — perhaps an earmarked progressive income tax for the purpose — but that increase would be offset by the elimination of premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and the slowing of inflation that stems from our market-based system. 
Angell buys into the false government as business or household analogy. Of course, a medical expert could not be expected to know the difference between an issuer of a sovereign currency like the USD and those who use the currency and must obtain it since they don't issue it.

The reality is the the federal government issues its currency and its cost of capital is zero, including interest payments if government chooses to include this even though it is not necessary operationally.

The only constraint is the availability of real resources. Public investment can augment real resources  through issuance at no cost of capital. As long as real resources are available for purchase in the currency they can be deployed. There is no affordability problem.

Issues might arise where government competes with the private sector for scarce resources. That would occur at full employment if government wishes to continue to expand services.

USA Today — Opinion
Medicare for All should replace Obamacare
Marcia Angell | corresponding member of the Faculty of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Faculty Associate in the Center for Bioethics, and former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine
ht Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism

Alexander Dugin — Eurasia: A Special Worldview

Sociologist, political theorist and philosopher Alexander Dugin is a first-rate Eurasianist if not the premier one. The post is short.
Eurasia is not only a geographical concept; it is also a whole theory, system, and special worldview. Its essence lies in the following....
Eurasia: A Special Worldview
Alexander Dugin
Translated by Jafe Arnold

John Helmer — Russia Lie Detector Catches Australian Prime Minister, Canadian Foreign Minister

The truth, revealed last week in Brandis’s papers, is that Brandis and Prime Minister Turnbull have been hiding what they, not Russian government officials, know about the incident. A source in Canberra close to these papers emerged following the release of this report last week. The source identified himself as privy to the classified intelligence on MH17 in the days and weeks which followed the incident. The source was also privy to the discussion in the National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC), the topmost decision-making body in Australia for Ukraine and Russia.
According to the new disclosures, the Australian Government believed in 2014 — and Brandis and Turnbull believe still — that in the daylight hours before MH17 was shot down, Ukrainian Government military forces were using the overflight of civilian airlines in eastern Ukraine as shadow and shield for attacks against ground targets in the belief the separatist forces would not return fire for fear of hitting the civilian airliners.
The source has also revealed it was the Australian Government’s conclusion that the Kiev regime did not close the airspace in the Donbass region to civilian air traffic above the war zone because of the operational advantage Malaysian Airlines transit gave to Ukrainian Air Force operations. The Australian officials recognize this calculation to be a violation of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. The source is sure the intelligence leading to this finding was American, so the implication is that the US Government also shares the Australian finding – in secret.
The Australian officials concluded — the source has reported — that what had happened to MH17 was an unintentional accident on the part of those who fired the BUK missile. Without intention, there was no crime on the part of those on the ground, whoever they were — if they were the Novorussian separatists, or a regular Ukrainian Army missile battery, or a unit of the irregular forces paid by Igor Kolomoisky and others.
Dances with Bears
John Helmer

Andrew Batson — Fu Chengyu’s frank talk on SOE reform

For China watchers.

Andrew Batson's Blog
Fu Chengyu’s frank talk on SOE reform
Andrew Batson

World Happiness Report 2017

Download links.

World Happiness Report 2017

Chye-Ching Huang — Ryan Makes It Clear That Cutting Medicaid to Pay for the Health Bill’s Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Enables Deeper Corporate Tax Cuts in Tax Legislation to Follow

House Speaker Paul Ryan has made a key Republican motive for pushing ahead with the House GOP health plan explicit in recent interviews:[1] passing the health package first facilitates deeper tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations in subsequent tax legislation.
That’s because the House GOP health plan reduces revenues by nearly $900 billion over the decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), including $592 billion in tax cuts largely for the wealthy. Passing these tax cuts now as part of a health package allows the GOP to offset their cost through cuts to health care spending — particularly in Medicaid, which CBO estimates the House health care bill cuts by $880 billion over ten years. If these tax cuts were part of tax reform legislation rather than being in the health bill, Republican leaders would have to offset their cost on the tax side to maintain revenue neutrality, as they have said they would do, limiting how sharply they can cut tax rates.

Instead, because these tax cuts are in the health bill, Republicans can, in writing their tax bill later this year, make much deeper cuts in tax rates — particularly for corporations — than they otherwise could do....
Soak the poor.
House Republicans intend to enact both their health and tax packages using a special budget process called “reconciliation.”[4] The key advantage is that reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered in the Senate and so can pass with a simple majority vote, allowing Republicans to pass their health and tax packages without needing the support of a single Democrat. But reconciliation bills must meet certain criteria, including that they not increase the deficit after the ten-year budget “window.” The House GOP health plan meets this standard because it pays for its revenue losses with deep cuts to health coverage for low- and moderate-income families, especially Medicaid.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Commentary: Ryan Makes It Clear That Cutting Medicaid to Pay for the Health Bill’s Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Enables Deeper Corporate Tax Cuts in Tax Legislation to Follow
Chye-Ching Huang | Deputy Director, Federal Tax Policy with the Center’s Federal Fiscal Policy Team

Will Denayer — The Dutch election, the extreme right, social democracy and the future

Backgrounder on Dutch politics and other nations as well.
While the working class has become reactionary or not remains an open question, there is no doubt that social democracy has become neo-liberal. As a result, several societal strata ended up without political representation (who defends the rights of the unemployed?; who speaks for the poor in parliament?; who represents the homeless?; who defends the rights of those abused by the institutions?). One of the results of social democracy taking the ‘third way’ (see here for a devastating critique), was the de facto exclusion from the public sphere of all those that have been on the losing end of globalization, outsourcing, ‘free’ trade, the capital bias in technology or lack of investment, neo-liberalism, the attack on the unions and the welfare state. The workers we met on the train in France did not rant about restoring the honour of the great fatherland or about ‘race’ or religion. It was about their work. “We are sorry,” the system has said to them for decades, “but your skills have become useless, you have become superfluous, you have become a burden on our economy and now that you are voting for extremist parties you are also a danger to our democratic institutions. They are, in the words of Hollande, the “sans dents,” those who are too poor to have dental care and, hence, have no teeth. “There is nothing to worry about,” Hollande opined. “The Front National can have the sans dents, we do not need them” – exactly as the Democrats did not need the blue collar workers in Pennsylvania (see here).
The so-called Left failed and now the Right is rising.
Today, the liberals tell you that the revolt is the back clash of the stupid masses, the uneducated, the radicals and the populists – it’s not the system, it never is. The sport seems to be to come up with the most superlative terms imaginable when engaging in quasi-religious moralisation and condemnation of the electoral temerity of the “rednecks.” The truth is completely different. Speaking of stupidity and blindness, how could the liberals ever assume that those at the bottom of the societal ladder would remain silent forever? For some, wage growth has stagnated, sometimes for decades. In Europe, the level of unionisation has almost halved over the last 30 years. Those at the bottom of the pyramid can forget about their labour rights. The political parties that, at one time, stood up for them left them behind and became champions of welfare-to-work ideology. People have been treated with neglect or with moralising paternalism, suspicion and brutal sanctions of the so-called modernised welfare state. Inequality has exploded, the rich have never been richer, businesses sit on piles of cash, but refuse to invest. According to the liberals, however, the back clash is a mere sign of collective stupidity. Sure, some fall for the fake anti-elitist and anti-establishment rhetoric of the extreme right. What did they expect?...
Flassbeck Economics International
The Dutch election, the extreme right, social democracy and the future
Will Denayer

David Ruccio — Dual economies and the vanishing middle-class

Both Peter Temin and I are concerned about the vanishing middle-class and the desperate plight of most American workers. We even use similar statistics, such as the growing gap between productivity and workers’ wages and the share of income captured by the top 1 percent.
And, as it turns out, both of us have invoked Arthur Lewis’s “dual economy” model to make sense of that growing gap. However, we present very different interpretations of the Lewis model and how it might help to shed light on what is wrong in the U.S. economy—with, of course, radically different policy implications.
It is ironic that both Temin and I have turned to the Lewis model, which was originally intended to make sense of “dual economies” in the Third World, in which peasant workers trapped by “disguised unemployment” and receiving a “subsistence” wage (equal to the average product of labor) in the “backward,” noncapitalist rural/agricultural sector could be induced via a higher “industrial” wage rate (equal to the marginal product of labor) to move to the “modern,” capitalist urban/manufacturing sector, which would absorb them as long as capital accumulation increased the demand for labor.
That’s clearly not what we’re talking about today, certainly not in the United States and other advanced economies where agriculture employs a tiny fraction of the work force—and where much of agriculture, like the manufacturing and service sectors, is organized along capitalist lines. But Lewis, like Adam Smith before him, did worry about the parasitical role of the landlord class and the way it might serve, via increasing rents, to drag down the rest of the economy—much as today we refer to finance and the above-normal profits captured by oligopolies....
So, our returning to Lewis may not be so far-fetched. But there the similarity ends. 
Occasional Links & Commentary
Dual economies and the vanishing middle-class
David F. Ruccio | Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

The Global Industrial Working Class — Alejandro Reuss interviews Immanuel Ness

Alejandro Reuss: You’ve written that there are more industrial workers in the world today than ever before. Can you explain how that growth has occurred and how it has reshaped the world’s industrial working class in recent decades?
Immanuel Ness: Yes, there are two major factors. The first is the deindustrialization of the traditional industries in North America and Western Europe—garment manufacturing, electronics, automobiles and other heavy industry—and the relocation of those industries in the global South—Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia, as well as to some extent Latin America. As a consequence, the latter regions have become major centers of production and export. And as part of that, the number of manufacturing workers there has grown dramatically.
The second factor is that, within industrializing countries like India, China, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, there has been a dramatic urbanization forced by the end of productive farming in rural areas. Many of the working peasants have been moving into urban centers where there are concentrations of industry. So while many in North America and Western Europe would say “the industrial working classes is virtually dead,” I would make the case that there are in fact more industrial workers on the planet today than anytime in human history.
Roughly speaking, the industrial working class has grown over the last 50 years from somewhere around 200 million to nearly a billion people. Of course, that doesn’t include other workers outside of manufacturing. The process has been unrelenting, and is bringing a number of Marxist arguments about capitalist globalization to fruition: Workers are engaged in very significant industrial struggles in places like New Delhi, Shenzhen, Cairo, and beyond....
I would argue that there are leading imperialist powers—the United States, especially—that engage in economic forms of imperialism and ensure that it takes place through military expansion and financialization.…
There is a form of financialization that starts from the early 20th century, when German banks were investing in Russia, and now we have this taking place on a global scale. And in many ways, it is contributing to a politicization of working-class people around the world.…
Worth reading in full. Is capitalism entering its final phase in Marxian terms as the world industrializes?

Triple Crisis
The Global Industrial Working Class
Alejandro Reuss interviews Immanuel Ness, professor of political science at Brooklyn College the City University of New York and the author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class (Pluto Press, 2015)

Matthew Martin — How to design a medicaid buy-in

I think democrats have an unrealistic vision of how medicare buy-in would work in practice. They're confident the buy-in program would fund itself, that the insurance plan would be generous, and the premiums low. None of these things are true....
Interesting analysis and proposal.

It also shows implicitly that the only way to go is single payer with the currency issuer picking up the tab as a public investment and "social dividend." Insurance is never going to be "affordable." What makes health insurance "affordable" now is business including it in employees' compensation package. But this reduces wages and salaries.

As health insurance has increased in cost, employee compensation has become increasingly dominated by health care expenses and wages and salaries have become stagnant as a result. Employees complain about lack of wage and salary increase, while business points to figures that employee compensation has been stable owing to increasing benefits.

Separating Hyperplanes
How to design a medicaid buy-in
Matthew Martin

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Autor, Dorn, Pisano, Shu — Competition from China reduced innovation in the US

The discussion of the decline in US manufacturing during the 2016 presidential election campaign largely focused on job losses. This column examines the effects of Chinese import competition on another metric for the health of the US manufacturing sector – innovation. Firms whose industries were exposed to a greater surge of Chinese import competition from 1991 to 2007 experienced a significant decline in their patent output as well as their R&D expenditures. While politicians’ ‘obsession’ with manufacturing is primarily due to job losses, an accompanying reduction in innovation may well affect economic growth in the longer term....
Competition from China reduced innovation in the US
Autor, Dorn, Pisano, Shu

Barkley Rosser — Three Quarters Of Population Fear Losing Homes, So Fear Dominates Complacency

A poll taken last September by the NHP Foundation and reported by Kriston Capps of City Lab that 75 percent of Americans were worried that they could lose their housing in a crisis.…
Three Quarters Of Population Fear Losing Homes, So Fear Dominates Complacency
J. Barkley Rosser | Professor of Economics and Business Administration James Madison University

Robert Parry — NYT’s ‘Tinfoil Hat’ Conspiracy Theory

There are real reasons to worry about President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, including his casual belligerence toward Iran and North Korea and his failure to rethink U.S. alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel, but The New York Times obsesses on Trump’s willingness to work with Russia.

On Saturday, the Times devoted most of its op-ed page to the Times’ favorite conspiracy theory, that Trump is Vladimir Putin’s “Manchurian candidate” though evidence continues to be lacking.
The op-ed package combined a “What to Ask About Russian Hacking” article by Louise Mensch, a former Conservative member of the British Parliament who now works for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and a connect-the-dots graphic that when filled out shows the Kremlin sitting atop the White House. But the featured article actually revealed how flimsy and wacky the Times’ conspiracy theory is.
Consortium News
NYT’s ‘Tinfoil Hat’ Conspiracy Theory
Robert Parry

Caroline F. Pearson — House of Representatives ACA Repeal and Replace Legislation Could Increase Penalties for Failure to Buy Insurance

The bill makes significant changes to the ACA, including replacing the individual mandate penalty with a new penalty for failing to maintain continuous coverage. Both approaches are designed to insure that sick and healthy—as well as old and young—Americans pay into the insurance pool, which promotes affordability.
Under the ACA, the individual mandate imposes penalties on people who are uninsured for more than three months during the course of the year. Those penalties are adjusted based on income and are prorated based on the length of time an individual was uninsured.

As proposed in the AHCA, the continuous coverage requirement would apply a premium penalty for individuals who have a gap in continuous coverage of 63 days or greater over 12 months. The penalty is equal to 30 percent of the monthly premium and would last for 12 months, starting in calendar year 2018.

Because premiums are age adjusted, the penalty would be higher for older people and lower for younger individuals. Additionally, because the AHCA’s penalty is not tied to income, low-income individuals will pay significantly more under the AHCA’s penalty, compared to what they pay for not having insurance under the ACA....
House of Representatives ACA Repeal and Replace Legislation Could Increase Penalties for Failure to Buy Insurance
Caroline F. Pearson | Senior Vice President

Anonymous — Anonymous Prison Guards Who Boiled A Schizophrenic Man to Death Will Not Be ChargedPrison Guards Who Boiled A Schizophrenic Man to Death Will Not Be Charged

Human rights violation?

Prison Guards Who Boiled A Schizophrenic Man to Death Will Not Be Charged

AP has picked it up. This report contradicts the one above. Which is the fake news?

The Guardian
No charges in case of US inmate left in hot prison shower for two hours
Associated Press

Pat Lang — Netanyahu does not seem to fear Russia

So, the strike in question was near Palmyra far from the Lebanese border. This supports the belief that the strike was intended to assist IS which is now hard pressed by R+6 forces in that area.
Why should Bibi fear Russia when Israel is the 51st state?

Sic Semper Tyrannis
Netanyahu does not seem to fear Russia
Col. W. Patrick Lang, US Army (ret.), former military intelligence officer at the US Defense Intelligence Agency

See also

Russia Insider
Israeli Policymakers: ISIS Is ‘Useful Tool’ Against Syria
Matthew Allen

Gordon M. Hahn — Khodorkovskii Gets It: Russian-Negotiated Transition, Not Western-Backed Revolution

An interesting analysis but it is within a framework that the majority of Russians would be in favor of a Western liberal political process if given the choice. However, that does not seem to the case in Russia presently.

The largest contingent preferring a traditional Russian political process based on the Tsarist-Russian Orthodox Church model of the past. This is a major reason that Putin shifted his stance to the right, although nowhere near far enough for conservative traditionalists like Alexander Dugin. 

Moreover, about a fifth of Russians vote for the Communist Party. 

Western liberal parties glean only about five percent of the electorate. This cohort is located mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, so it's demonstrations seem to have a much wider impact in Russia than they do. The rest of Russia is much more conservative than these big cities.

Finally, the Russian experiment with liberalization and "democracy" after the collapse of the USSR that led to the rise of the oligarchs and Russian mafia and a general impoverishment of everyone else. This experience soured most of the Russian people on the Western model. Russians even coined a term for it — dermokratiya — which translates into English as "shitocracy."

It's much more likely that Mikhail Khodorkovskii is simply trying to reinsert himself into Russian politics after Putin busted him for overreach as an oligarch during the go-go years that the oligarchs are seeking to recreate for themselves.
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago),; member of the Executive Advisory Board at the American Institute of Geostrategy (AIGEO) (Los Angeles),; Contributing Expert for Russia Direct,;Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California; and an Analyst and Consultant for Russia – Other Points of View (San Mateo, California),

Reuters — White House to offer balanced budget plan by mid-May: Mulvaney

A detailed version of President Donald Trump's budget to be released in May will lay out plans to eventually erase U.S. deficits, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday.
"We're getting into that now. By May, I think it's mid-May we're shooting for right now, we'll have that larger budget..." Mulvaney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.
Mulvaney acknowledged that the budget would not be balanced in the upcoming 2018 fiscal year but said the administration wants to put the country on a path toward eventually wiping out annual deficits.... 
White House to offer balanced budget plan by mid-May: Mulvaney

Kenneth Thomas — U.S. Has Worst Wealth Inequality of Any Rich Nation, and It's Not Even Close

I've discussed the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Reports before, an excellent source of data for both wealth and wealth inequality. The most recent edition, from November 2016, shows the United States getting wealthier, but steadily more unequal in wealth per adult and dropping from 25th to 27th in median wealth per adult since 2014.…
One important point to bear in mind is that while the United States remains the fourth-highest country for wealth per adult (after Switzerland, Iceland, and Australia) at $344,692, its median wealth per adult has fallen to 27th in the world, down to $44,977. As I have pointed out before, the reason for this is much higher inequality in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. ratio of mean to median wealth per adult is 7.66:1, the highest of all rich countries by a long shot....
Middle Class Political Economist
U.S. Has Worst Wealth Inequality of Any Rich Nation, and It's Not Even Close
Kenneth Thomas | Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis

Stephanie Attar — Taxes and Turmoil in Lebanese Politics

Applying MMT analysis to the situation in Lebanon. Stephanie Attar, student a Levy Institute

Brian Romanchuk — Book Review: Modern Monetary Theory And European Macroeconomics

Dirk H. Ehnts, a lecturer in economics at Bard College, Berlin, has written Modern Monetary Theory and European Macroeconomics. The book acts an introduction to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), aimed specifically at the situation in the euro area. This is distinctive, as a great deal of the MMT literature discusses the situation of floating currency sovereigns (which is the preferred position in MMT, as distinct from the rest of the post-Keynesian literature, where some economists are in favour of currency pegs). The later chapters of the book give a historical explanation of the euro crisis, and offers an outline of how the euro area can be reformed. The book is aimed at non-specialist readers....
Bond Economics
Book Review: Modern Monetary Theory And European Macroeconomics
Brian Romanchuk

Neil Wilson — Is Basic Income Basically Daft?

A parable.

Modern Money Matters
Is Basic Income Basically Daft?
Neil Wilson

Warren Mosler — Credit check

FRED charts. Domestic private sector borrowing continues to roll over with the pace picking up.

Warren doesn't mention it in this post, but the trade deficit is also increasing, and the federal government fiscal balance is headed toward surplus as the administration having promised to reduce the deficit and debt. 

The Fed has just raise the interest rate to 1%, which will have an offsetting fiscal effect but likely not large enough to offset the combined effect of 1) reduced domestic private sector borrowing, 2) an increasing trade deficit, which entails net saving on the part of the external sector, and 3) a tightening fiscal stance in order to impose "discipline" and reduce the public debt, which in reality is to lower aggregate nongovernment net financial USD savings

Triple sectoral balance whammy.

The Center of the Universe
Credit check
Warren Mosler