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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 74,378

Journal Archives

Weekend Economists Make War on Charlie Wilson August 22-24, 2014

You may have seen "Charlie Wilson's War" the adventure-comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Frankly, I couldn't even watch the whole trailer, when it opened. The term "amiable dunce" may have been coined for Ronald Reagan by Clark Clifford, but I think it could equally apply to the former congressman, from Texas (of course), who found true love by funding the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet invasion, thereby creating Al Quaida and bringing Osama binLadin to our national attention.

Charles Nesbitt "Charlie" Wilson (June 1, 1933 – February 10, 2010) was a United States naval officer and former 12-term Democratic United States Representative from Texas's 2nd congressional district.

Wilson is best known for leading Congress into supporting Operation Cyclone, the largest-ever Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covert operation which, under the Carter and Reagan administration, supplied military equipment including anti-aircraft weapons such as Stinger antiaircraft missiles and paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division to the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. His behind-the-scenes campaign was the subject of the non-fiction book Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History by George Crile III and the subsequent film Charlie Wilson's War starring Tom Hanks as Wilson....
photo circa 1995

This is his story, her story, Afghanistan's story, USSR's story, our story. We will try to piece it together: the good, the bad, the ugly, the stupid, and the consequences.

And for our accompanying culture tidbits, we will play upon the concept that "it takes two to tango". Charlie would never have gotten the idea if he weren't pursuing the indomitable Joanne King Herring, whom we will also delineate.

So, pick music that features some concept of "two". I'll start with Shostakovich's "Tahiti Trot":

Tahiti Trot, Op. 16, is Dmitri Shostakovich's 1927 orchestration of "Tea for Two" from the musical No, No, Nanette by Vincent Youmans.

Shostakovich wrote it in response to a challenge from conductor Nikolai Malko: after the two listened to the song on record at Malko's house, Malko bet 100 roubles that Shostakovich could not completely re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour. Shostakovich took him up and won, completing the orchestration in around 45 minutes.

Tahiti Trot was first performed in Moscow on 25 November 1928, and has been a popular encore ever since. It was used as an entr'acte for the ballet The Golden Age at the suggestion of conductor Aleksandr Gauk.

And, since Joanne King Herring was born in 1929, it all ties together...

Philip Pilkington: Taxation, Government Spending, the National Debt and MMT


The other day my friend Rohan Grey — a lawyer and one of the key organisers behind the excellent Modern Money Network (bringing Post-Keynesian economics to Columbia Law School, yes please!) — directed me to an absolutely fascinating piece of writing. It is called ‘Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete’ and it was written in 1945 by Beardsley Ruml. Ruml was the director of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from 1937-1947 and also worked on issues of taxation at the Treasury during the war.

The article lays out the case that taxation should not be focused on revenue generation. Rather, Ruml argues, it should be thought of as serving other purposes entirely. He writes:

Basically Ruml is making the same case that the Modern Monetary Theorists (MMTers) make: a country that issues its own sovereign currency and is unconstrained by a gold standard does not require tax revenue in order to fund spending. This is because the central bank always stands by ready and able to buy any sovereign debt issued that might lead to the interest rate rising. Indeed, it does this automatically in the way that it conducts its interest rate policy. Ruml then outlines what taxation is really for in such a country.

This is a fantastic summary and I really couldn’t put it better myself. The interesting question, however, is why people were making such statements at this moment in history? It should be remembered that the economist Abba Lerner had published a paper entitled ‘Functional Finance and the Federal Debt‘ just two years earlier which made a very similar case. In that classic paper he wrote:

So, what was it about this moment in history that allowed for such a clear-eyed view of government spending and taxation policies? The answer is simple: the war. World War II allowed economists, bankers and government officials to see clearly how the macroeconomy worked because the government was basically controlling the economy. World War II was perhaps the only time in history when capitalist economies were run on truly Keynesian principles. (You can make a case that the Nazi economy in the 1930s was also run on these principles, however, so perhaps it is better to say: a capitalist economy in a democratic state).


And that's the other aspect of this Elitist paradigm

It's hard to imagine that such smart great thieves and crooks as we have in this country, stealing all the money and hoarding it,

produce such stupid and uneducated offspring as to think this massive exploitation of theirs is going to work

...or the alternate plan, which is robotic minions, without provision for producing and repairing and designing and mining the raw materials and...to make the minions!

There is this annoying trend in Ecomonists and their Elitist Overlords

to look at some artificial, statistical result or index: housing market, GDP, stock prices

and think that the underlying fundamentals: wage levels, job prospects, entry costs

have nothing to do with these indices of outcomes.

Then they try to goad, bribe and beat the artificial, derivative numbers into submission to their will.

Since the artificial indices are created by the underlying fundamentals, which are starved to death, literally, all the stimulus in the world will not move those indices a jot. but they keep trying.

How does that definition of insanity go?

Weekend Economists Letters to Nowhere August 15-17, 2014

NPR had this exciting book review this week:

Hampton Sides: "In the Kingdom of Ice"

... Bestselling author Hampton Sides has a new book. It's all about an epic naval expedition in the late 19th century to reach the North Pole. Thirty-three men journey north of the Bering Strait in a wooden ship and become marooned on an ice cap almost a thousand miles north of Siberia.The title of the book is "The Kingdom of Ice." (sic) And author Hampton Sides joins me in the studio...You know, so few people really know about this story. What prompted you to delve?


Well, yeah, I'd never heard of it before. And no one I knew had heard of it before. I went to Oslo, Norway to write a story for National Geographic about another explorer who had tried to sort of duplicate the voyage of the Jeannette in a different kind of vessel. This was Fridtjof Nansen. And at the museum there in Oslo, you see references to the Jeannette, the Jeannette and DeLong, this American voyage. And I'm an American, never heard of it before, filed that away, decided to dig a little deeper...Great characters, amazing primary documents, kind of now obscure but then very, very well-known bit of a sensation, kind of internationally known story, so I thought, you know, this is something. I'm going to follow this. And it's been about four years of travel and research and reading, and it's finally out.

You say the world at the time was kind of obsessed with Arctic fever.

Yeah. Yeah. I talk about that in the early part of the book. Just how little was known about what was up there and what a kind of nagging, gnawing obsession that it bothered people...
And the myths that were out there.

Yeah. Right. I mean, there's a lot of crazy ideas or what we would now think are crazy, some of them going back to the Greeks and the Vikings and the early Mercator maps that showed things like an Open Polar Sea and sea serpents and tropical islands up there, Hyperborea -- the Greeks had this place -- ultima Thule, these -- all these concepts kind of swam in our imagination.

But when we discovered how powerful the Gulf stream was and that it moved north from the tropics past Norway, that began to get some of the scientists thinking that what's really happening here is that these thermal currents are tunneling under the ice, creating kind of a gateway to this Open Polar Sea and that the planet has this sort of beautiful and symmetrical way of regulating its own heat.

So this expedition, the Jeannette expedition, was really designed to test this idea of a gateway to the Pole that's made by a thermal current, in this case, a Pacific Ocean current called the Kuroshio (sp?) that was believed to tunnel through the Bering Strait and north into the ice pack.

Well, Gordon Bennett was one of the just outlandish Gilded Age characters. And I really wanted to write about the Gilded Age, a time of really great facial hair, a time of unbelievable sums of money now being made by certain individuals. And he was one of them. He was the third richest man in Manhattan. He was the publisher and owner of the New York Herald, which was the largest newspaper in the world at that time. And he was a lover of spectacle and sports and adventure. He believed that you shouldn't just cover the news.

You should create spectacles that would generate more and more copy. He had sent Stanley to Africa to find Livingston or "find Livingston" -- in quotes -- because Livingston wasn't exactly lost. But he had enjoyed with his newspaper such enormous success with the Stanley Livingston dispatches that he decided it was time to do something even bigger. And so he wanted to bankroll an expedition to the North Pole, pay for it entirely himself in order, yes, to generate more copy for his paper, but in the name of science and also, you know, just because he was a great lover of spectacle and adventure. And he was a believer in some of the ideas of a scientist who believed deeply in this Open Polar Sea theory... the naval lieutenant, George Washington DeLong, who apparently planted the idea in Bennett's head is the hero of the story. He's the captain of the ship. He was a young ambitious naval officer, graduate of the naval academy. He had just missed the Civil War by a few months and was, I think, burning with a desire to kind of make up for lost time and do something especially big and ambitious. He had been to Greenland on an earlier expedition and had fallen in love with the Arctic, and something about the atmosphere and the just grandeur of this wilderness. And he became sort of addicted to this puzzle of what's up there, how does it work, what's at the attic of the planet?

So he knew he was going to go back, and he really began carefully plotting an expedition and reading everything he could get his hands on, kind of imbibing, you know, all the theories of what's up there and made this decision that the way to go was by way of Bering Strait 'cause all the attempts thus far had been through or around Greenland. So now it's like, let's go west, and let's go through the Bering Strait. There was a lot of interest in that part of the world, partly because no one had really been there and also because we had recently purchased Alaska from the Russians.

Hampton Sides is author of "Ghost Soldiers," "Blood and Thunder," and "Hellhound on His Trail." He is an editor-at-large at Outside magazine and a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine.

An excerpt of his latest book: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, is available at above link.

Audio link: http://thedianerehmshow.org/audio-player?nid=19678


There's a way to talk to women who don't know you from Jack the Ripper, and that ain't it.

Came home, phone rings....caller id shows some woman's name, don't know her, but figure I'll pick up. And it's some man asking me who I am! And when I ask him, as the caller, to identify himself, he just goes on in this ass-chewing manner, and I hang up.

He's calling about the newspaper I deliver, but can't be bothered to leave a real message, just a threat to call the paper. I could give a care. Telephone etiquette was well understood at his age...and he sounds older than me, and arrogant. Let him call the paper.

There's a way to talk to women who don't know you from Jack the Ripper, and that ain't it.

It's a Fascist Oligarchy, masquerading as a democratic republic

and I don't know how to fix it;

we'd have to form a dominant People's Party, capture the legislature and executive branches on state and federal level, impeach all the courts, and rewrite the Constitution and the tax code to prevent Big Money from taking over again...

"Humanitarian Emergency" Does Not Suspend the Constitution on War Powers


... every time the President - this President or any President - is allowed to "cut corners" on the Constitutional question of Congressional war powers, it sets a bad precedent for the future, eroding a key Constitutional, democratic speed bump against unnecessary wars of choice. And every time the President - this President or any other - succeeds in tearing a hole in the Constitutional and democratic fence that the Framers wisely constructed to try to impede the President - any President - from launching unnecessary wars of choice, it's a key responsibility of people who want choosing war to be as hard as it should be to try to rebuild the fence.

In the case of Libya 2011, the Administration tore a huge hole in the fence. In the case of Syria 2013, Congress substantially repaired and strengthened the fence. Now the Administration is again attacking the fence. Regardless of what you think about what has happened so far on the ground in Iraq, to preserve this key tool for preventing wars in the future, we need to defend the fence now.....I strongly suspect that the Administration delayed this military action until Congress went on recess (and perhaps also until there was a ceasefire in Gaza, no doubt a reason that the Administration was pressing Israel for ceasefire, to clear the stage, to avoid conflation of the US and Israeli military actions in the Arab world.)

But it's not like recess appointments. There is no provision in the Constitution for a "recess war."


  • The "emergency" bombing of Libya in 2011 took place during the Spring (Easter) Congressional recess.

  • The "emergency" push to bomb Syria in 2013 took place during the August Congressional recess.

  • And now the "emergency" bombing of Iraq in 2014 is taking place during the August Congressional recess.

  • The Burr under Weekend Economists' Saddle August 8-10, 2014

    This Weekend, in the Bad Boys series of exposés, we examine the historical records for Aaron Burr, 3rd VP and unconvicted traitor.

    And as an added bonus, we will also look at Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President and also an unconvicted traitor, on the 40th anniversary of his resignation. But first, Mr. Burr:

    Aaron Burr, Jr. (February 6, 1756 – September 14, 1836) was the third Vice President of the United States (1801–1805); he served during President Thomas Jefferson's first term.

    After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician. He was elected twice to the New York State Assembly (1784–1785, 1798–1799), was appointed New York State Attorney General (1789–1791), was chosen as a United States Senator (1791–1797) from the state of New York, and reached the apex of his career as Vice President.

    The highlight of Burr's tenure as President of the Senate (one of his few official duties as Vice President) was the Senate's first impeachment trial, of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. In 1804, the last full year of his single term as Vice President, Burr killed his political rival Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel. Burr was never tried for the illegal duel, and all charges against him were eventually dropped. Hamilton's death ended Burr's political career.

    After leaving Washington, Burr traveled west seeking new opportunities, both economic and political. His activities eventually led to his arrest on charges of treason in 1807. Although the subsequent trial resulted in acquittal, Burr's western schemes left him with large debts and few influential friends. In a final quest for grand opportunities, he left the United States for Europe. He remained overseas until 1812, when he returned to the United States to practice law in New York City. There he spent the remainder of his long life in relative obscurity.

    Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office. Nixon had previously served as a Republican U.S. Representative and Senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

    Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. He graduated from Whittier College in 1934 and Duke University School of Law in 1937, returning to California to practice law. He and his wife, Pat Nixon, moved to Washington to work for the federal government in 1942. He subsequently served in the United States Navy during World War II. Nixon was elected in California to the House of Representatives in 1946, reelected in 1948, and elected to the Senate in 1950. His pursuit of the Alger Hiss case established his reputation as a leading anti-communist, and elevated him to national prominence. He was the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party presidential nominee in the 1952 election. Nixon served for eight years as vice president. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and lost a race for Governor of California in 1962. In 1968, he ran again for the presidency and was elected.

    Although Nixon initially escalated America's involvement in the Vietnam War, he subsequently ended U.S. involvement by 1973. Nixon's visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 opened communications between the two nations and eventually led to the normalization of diplomatic relations. He initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year. Domestically, his administration generally embraced policies that transferred power from Washington to the states. Among other things, he launched initiatives to fight cancer and illegal drugs, imposed wage and price controls, enforced desegregation of Southern schools, implemented environmental reforms, and introduced legislation to reform healthcare and welfare. Though he presided over the lunar landings beginning with Apollo 11, he replaced manned space exploration with shuttle missions. He was re-elected by a landslide in 1972.

    Nixon's second term saw a crisis in the Middle East, resulting in an oil embargo and the restart of the Middle East peace process, as well as a continuing series of revelations about the Watergate scandal. The scandal escalated, costing Nixon much of his political support, and on August 9, 1974, he resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment and removal from office. After his resignation, he accepted a pardon issued by his successor, Gerald Ford. In retirement, Nixon's work as an elder statesman, authoring nine books and undertaking many foreign trips, helped to rehabilitate his public image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81.

    There is a certain commonality among the Bad Boys of America...overreaching, arrogance, and disgrace.

    Meet 'The Brothers' Who Shaped U.S. Policy, Inside And Out



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