Category Archives: Politics

Before Trump, top economist Joseph Stiglitz warned about globalization

Summary: Lost amidst his bombast and folly, Trump has challenged key bipartisan policies of US elites. That is why they hate and fear him. That’s why attacks on him seldom mention issues, focusing instead on his character and language. Better to spin fantasy (he’s a Hitler) then remind the public that Trump dislikes globalization and mass immigration — as so many of them do. Criticism of globalization is Trump’s most dangerous theme; here anthropologist Marximilian Forte reminds us that some top economists agree with him (see the links at the end for other examples).

World in the palm of my hand

Globalization: Beyond Discontent

By Maximilian C. Forte.
From Zero Anthropology.
Reposted with his generous permission.

Review of Globalization and Its
by Joseph E. Stiglitz (2003).

“Today, globalization is being challenged around the world….for millions of people globalization has not worked. Many have actually been made worse off, as they have seen their jobs destroyed and their lives become more insecure. They have felt increasingly powerless against forces beyond their control. They have seen their democracies undermined, their cultures eroded”. (Page 248.)

There are at least two main reasons that past reformist approaches to IMF-imposed austerity measures, market deregulation, trade liberalization, and privatization — some of the core tenets of neoliberal globalization — have largely fizzled out. One is that institutions such as the IMF are thoroughly undemocratic, unrepresentative and accountable, just as they are maniacally ideological, unresponsive and thus resistant to change.

Another is that some of the proposed reforms are almost worse than what is to be reformed — or they can seem that way with the passage of time. One example would be the proposition that if “free trade” has been unfair to the developing world (because it is not free when developed nations maintain subsidies, tariffs, and other domestic protections), then the best way to have fair trade is to make it free absolutely everywhere. What this now looks like is a generalization of misery — but it’s “fair” if it’s evenly spread. As massive job losses have swept the “developed world” in a rising tide of de-industrialization with the advent of a battery of free trade agreements, few remain who would call this a positive step forward.

Re-reading Joseph E. Stiglitz’s 2003 book Globalization and Its Discontents in the present context, might provoke the realization that whatever chance there was for reforming neoliberal globalization, that time has passed. What Stiglitz calls globalization (what others call neoliberalism) was something that he saw as worth salvaging, even if acknowledging how vastly unfair, unequal, and ideologically-driven it has been.

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Matt Taibbi visits the GOP convention. We can learn from what he doesn’t see.

Summary: Matt Taibbi is one of America’s most acute political observers. His analysis of the Republican Convention shows his skills at their peak, but (like most on the Left) he cannot see the significance of what he sees — the radical changes altering the US political landscape. We can learn much from his essay, lessons that can help us understand what will happen in the next few years.

2016 GOP convention

Photograph by Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

Trump’s Appetite for Destruction:
How Disastrous Convention Doomed GOP

By Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, 22 July 2016.
Republican National Convention made a joke of American democracy.

“It wasn’t what we expected. We thought Donald Trump’s version of the Republican National Convention would be a brilliantly bawdy exercise in Nazistic excess. We expected thousand-foot light columns, a 400-piece horn section where the delegates usually sit (they would be in cages out back with guns to their heads). Onstage, a chorus line of pageant girls in gold bikinis would be twerking furiously to a techno version of “New York, New York” while an army of Broadway dancers spent all four days building a Big Beautiful Wall that read winning, the ceremonial last brick timed to the start of Donald’s acceptance speech. …”

Liberals refuse to see the substance behind Trump’s campaign, just caricatures they invent — glitzy combinations of NAZI and racist imagery. It relieves them of the burden of responding to his issues. For details see Why they lose: the Left tells us that Trump is like Hitler.

“Thus the area around the convention feels like some other infamous de-peopled landscapes, like Hitler’s paintings…”

Not subtle. But Taibbi has some powerful insights about the convention.

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The Harvard B-school program to reform America for higher profits

Summary: Things go poorly for America’s economy, with decades of slowing growth and rising inequality. The insurgencies on the Left and Right in Campaign 2016 show increasing public agitation as people understand what’s happening. Now our business leaders have a solution: yet more policies to boost corporate profits. Their timing is excellent. Both Clinton and Trump are likely to take their advice.  Read about it (it might motivate you to start preparing for Campaign 2020).

Problems Unsolved and a Nation Divided


Problems Unsolved and a Nation Divided

Michael E. Porter, Jan W. Rivkin, & Mihir A. Desai of the Harvard Business School.

Decades of bipartisan rule for business interests have produce an America of extraordinary inequality, a dying middle class, and near-record profits. So our business leaders want to double down, getting even more! Profits can rise even more. Inequality can set new records! Why shouldn’t the 1% cream off all of America’s rising income? See this excerpt, the money paragraphs (literally so for US businesses).

“The U.S. lacks an economic strategy, especially at the federal level. …In 2012, we put forward an Eight-Point Plan of federal policy priorities that would unlock U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. The Eight-Point Plan consists of the following policy recommendations: simplify the corporate tax code with lower statutory rates and no loopholes; move to a territorial tax system like all other leading nations; ease the immigration of highly-skilled individuals; aggressively address distortions and abuses in the international trading system; improve logistics, communications, and energy infrastructure; simplify and streamline regulation; create a sustainable federal budget, including reform to entitlements; and responsibly develop America’s unconventional energy advantage.

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PollyVote gives a reliable forecast about the Election. Prepare for Hillary.

Summary: The polls dominate the election news, but there are better ways to forecasts of its results. Here is one of the best: aggregating the various forecasting models. The results gives us time to prepare for the Clinton administration. See below for links to posts describing what we’ll see.

Prediction: a landslide for Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College

Pollyvote - Electoral Count - 16 Sept 2016

From the PollyVote website

“The PollyVote is based on the principle of combining forecasts. That is, PollyVote combines forecasts from different forecasting methods, the so-called component methods, each of which relies on different data. The PollyVote forecast is calculated by following a two-step approach:

  1. Averaging forecasts within each component method.
  2. Averaging the resulting forecasts across component methods.

“In other words, we use equal weighting of all forecasts within each component method, then equal weighting across these forecasts from different methods. This is the same approach that the PollyVote successfully used to forecast U.S. presidential elections since 2004, and the 2013 German federal election.” {Read the rest here.}

“The PollyVote was launched in 2004 by forecasting expert J. Scott Armstrong and the political scientists Alfred Cuzán and Randy Jones. In 2007, Andreas Graefe joined the project. For more information about the team click here.”

Read about their track record and their publications about the PollyVote project. To learn more see their Frequently Asked Questions page. News stories about PollyVote data are automatically generated by software of the German-based company AX Semantics. Here’s how they do it…

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We can learn much from the stories about Hillary’s health

Summary: The Campaign 2016 circus continues, each chapter weirder than the last. Trump’s caravan is weirdness on wings, with his bizarre stream of misinformation and fantasy. Also interesting (if less scary) are the stories about Hillary’s health. This is a follow-up to Important advice for us about the election from Obama’s doctor. Only by reviewing the full story — cutting through the lies, assembling the pieces from the daily news — can we see the full picture, identify the key questions, and draw useful conclusions. Update: see the new information in the last section.

Hillary Clinton

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Recap of the story so far

As of Saturday concerns about Hillary Clinton’s health were deemed illegitimate by mainstream journalists and political gurus. For example, on Sept 6 WaPo reporter Chris Cillizza asked plaintively “Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?“, referring to the “Clinton health conspiracy” (the all-purpose dismissive hand-wave). MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter dismissed NBC’s mild story about her coughing with “this ain’t news“. Then she was ill on Sunday at a 9/11 event. We can learn much about our America by careful review of what happened next.

Clinton left the Manhattan event at 9.36 am. Here is the first official story, from campaign spokesman Nick Merrill — released aprox. 90 minutes later.

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated, so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment and is feeling much better.”

The NY Times told us what came next.

“About 90 minutes after arriving {at Chelsea’s apartment}, Mrs. Clinton emerged from the apartment in New York’s Flatiron district. She waved to onlookers and posed for pictures with a little girl on the sidewalk. ‘I’m feeling great,’ Mrs. Clinton said. ‘It’s a beautiful day in New York.’”

This story was greeted with derision. The temperature was in the low 80s. Sometime after 5 pm Dr. Lisa R Bardack gave us a second story — with new information.

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