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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
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Journal Archives

Weekend Economists Boldly Go...Again! September 12-14, 2014

Yes, it's 48 years since we caught a glimpse into the world of Star Trek, and yet the ideas and ideals of Star Trek are as fresh and untried as ever.

No need to adjust your screen. Those are not the original actors, but a plucky band of wannabes, who produce seriously authentic new episodes for the World Wide Web called "Star Trek Continues".

Star Trek has seen its share of fan-made series and films. So even though mega-fan Vic Mignogna has decided to go where other men have gone before, he's taking it to a whole new level with Star Trek Continues, which picks up right where The Original Series left off.

Life-long Trekkie Athena Stamos interviewed Vic (best known for his proliferous voice acting work and acting as Captain Kirk), Grant Imahara (best known from Mythbusters and playing Mr. Sulu) and Chris Doohan (James Doohan's son, who is playing Scotty). They talk about how they captured the look and feel of the beloved Original Series and how they avoided the pitfalls that fan films often fall into. Plus Chris recounts some hilarious mishaps as a troublemaking child on the hallowed Original Series set. So sit down, pour yourself some Romulan Ale, and check it out... http://www.craveonline.com/tv/articles/193387-star-trek-continues-cast-interviews VIDEO INTERVIEW AT LINK


Believe it or not, there are serious economic considerations in the Star Trek Universe.

The Star Trek Economy: (Mostly) Post-Scarcity (Mostly) Socialism By Matthew Yglesias


I greatly enjoyed Rick Webb's efforts to piece together how the 24th century economy of the United Federation of Planets works, but I don't think he has it quite right. Dual-hatted as Moneybox columnist and Star Trek completist author, I want to delve into this a bit. Webb is essentially struggling to understand how to meld the apparently post-scarcity, post-currency, socialistic economy with the concrete reality that on various occasions you do see what appear to be small business owners:

There is absolutely, obviously, still private property in the Federation: most obviously Joseph Sisko’s restaurant in New Orleans and Chateau Picard, evidencing that not just small possessions are allowed but that the land itself is still privately owned. One could argue that these aren’t really Sisko and Picard’s to own, but they are routinely referred to as “his” restaurant and vineyard so we gotta go with Occam’s Razor here and assume they do, in fact, own them.

It's important to pay attention to the specificity of these cases. Chateau Picard is essentially a heritage vineyard, deliberately eschewing modern production techniques to deliver the authentic French wine experience. The same is true, in a more down-home way, of Sisko's restaurant in New Orleans. If you think about the modern economy, highly efficient highly rationalized food service firms (Olive Garden or TGI Friday's) exist along side organic locally-sourced farm-to-table operations.

The central conceit of Trek is that technology gets better and better, so things that are mass produced and rationalized get cheaper and more abundant. So there's a post-scarcity economy where anyone can replicate any kind of consumer goods he wants. Webb sees a welfare state, but I actually see something different. It's simply that energy is abundant enough that people have unrestricted access to consumer-grade replicators. Under the circumstances nobody needs to work to survive and there's really no point in maintaining a cash economy. But by definition improved technology can't increase the efficiency of historical production techniques. If the promise of Sisko's is a home-cooked New Orleans meal, then Sisko's can't partake in the post-scarcity economy. Similarly, you can replicate wine in unlimited quantities but a Chateau Picard vintage is by definition a scarce commodity. People appear to operate these businesses for roughly the same reason that Starfleet officers cruise around the galaxy—for a sense of personal fulfillment rather than enrichment. The Federation has clearly acted so as to prevent the existence of any kind of meaningful banking system, and though various mediums of exchange seem to be floating around there isn't enough stuff for sale for people to really focus on it as an issue...

Michael Hudson: Losing Credibility – The IMF’s New Cold War Loan to Ukraine


By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, who publishes regularly at his website. His latest book is “The Bubble and Beyond”

In April 2014, fresh from riots against the kleptocrats in Maidan Square and the February 22 coup, and less than a month before the May 2 massacre in Odessa, the IMF approved a $17 billion loan program to Ukraine’s junta. Normal IMF practice is to lend only up to twice a country’s quota in one year. This was eight times as high.

Four months later, on August 29, just as Kiev began losing its attempt at ethnic cleansing against the eastern Donbas region, the IMF signed off on the first loan ever to a side engaged in a civil war, not to mention being rife with insider capital flight and a collapsing balance of payments. Based on fictitiously trouble-free projections of the ability to pay, the loan supported Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, long enough to enable the oligarchs’ banks to move the money quickly into Western hard-currency accounts before the hryvnia plunged further and was worth even fewer euros and dollars.

This loan demonstrates the degree to which the IMF is an arm of U.S. Cold War politics. The loan terms imposed the usual budget austerity, as if this would stabilize the war-torn country’s finances. The financings obviously were devoted mainly to rebuilding the army. The war-torn East can expect to receive nothing even nothing even though its basic infrastructure has been destroyed for power generation, water, and hospitals. Civilian housing areas that bore the brunt of the attack are also unlikely to profit from the IMF’s uncharacteristic generosity.

A quarter of Ukraine’s exports normally are from eastern provinces and sold mainly to Russia. But Kiev has been bombing Donbas industry and left its coal mines without electricity. Nearly a million civilians are reported to have fled to Russia. Yet the IMF release announced: “The IMF praised the government’s commitment to economic reforms despite the ongoing conflict.” No wonder there was almost no comment in the news or even the business press!...The IMF’s Articles of Agreement forbid it to make loans to countries that clearly cannot pay, prompting its economists to complain at their Washington meeting that their institution was violating its rules by making bad loans “to states unable to repay their debts.” One official called its Debt Sustainability Analysis, “‘a joke,’.... In practice the IMF simply advanced however much a country needed to pay its bankers and bondholders, pretending that more austerity would enhance the ability to pay, not worsen the debt trap, while Kiev also used the loan for military expenses to attack the Eastern provinces...Ukraine’s main problem is that its debt is denominated in dollars and euros. There seems only one way for Ukraine to raise the foreign exchange to repay the IMF and NATO creditors rounded up to help Westernize the economy: by selling its natural resources, headed by gas rights and agricultural land...


STILL 1.4 Million Fewer Full-Time Jobs Than in 2008


Yves here. Despite his many faults, Bill Clinton at least recognized that the first responsibility of a Democratic president is to create jobs. Of course, Obama is a Democrat in name only, but until recently, just as the nobility understood its duty was to protect the peasants, the powers that be understood that providing for enough employment at at least adequate wages was one of their major responsibilities. Sadly, the idea of having responsibilities is sorely absent among today’s elites.

By Lee Adler of the Wall Street Examiner

Let’s cut to the chase: There were 1,446,000 fewer people working full time in August 2014 than in August 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey (CPS).

Full Time Employment Measures

That’s after an increase of 210,000 full-time jobs in August. That’s the actual count, not the seasonally adjusted abstraction. So we have to compare that with past Augusts to get an idea if its any good or not. August is a swing month, sometimes up, sometimes down. The average change over the prior 10 years, which included a couple of ugly years in the recession, was -63,000. So this number wasn’t bad. It was slightly better than August of last year and 2012, but come on….

It’s still 1.4 million below 2008? In 2008, the economy was in full collapse mode. The Fed has expanded its balance sheet by $3.7 trillion since August 2008 and there are fewer full-time jobs now than then? Remind me again what that $3.7 trillion has bought!

QE Stimulates Stock Market Bubble

Since August 2009, near the bottom of the recession, the US economy has added 6.25 million full-time jobs, a 5.5% increase. That amounts to $588,000 in Fed QE per added full time job. But that’s ok. It’s been great for bankers, securities brokers, and hedge funds. While the number of full time jobs increased 5.5%, stock prices soared 175%. It’s all good!

Or not. I have argued for a long time that the Fed’s policies have rewarded financial engineering at the expense of job creation. The Fed has made it profitable for corporations to borrow free money to buy back the stock options that they issue to their executives rather than investing in expanding their businesses and creating jobs. The Fed’s policies have enabled corporate executives and their financial enablers to conduct a massive skimming of the US economy and wealth transfer at the expense of everybody else. By promoting this behavior, not only has Fed policy been ineffective in stimulating real growth, it has been a moral outrage, decimating the middle class and robbing the elderly of their life savings as they’re forced to consume principal.

The result has been that growth in full time jobs barely keeps pace with population growth. The ratio of full-time jobs to total population was 48.4% last month. That’s finally above the August 2009 reading of 48.2%. August 2009 was the bottom of the recession. At the bottom of the 2003 recession, before the housing bubble took off, this ratio was at 52%. In terms of a recovery in the number of jobs that might support a family, the Fed hasn’t supported recovery, it has suppressed it.

MrScorpio, these people don't love America!

If we were a nation full of people who loved it, we wouldn't have 90% of the problems we have.

What we have are people who love putting down others, stealing everything from the less powerful, emulating the more powerful, and violence.

There is no demonstrable love of America, at home or abroad.

It was the love that foreigners had for America that kept America alive through most of the 20th century. Now even that idealism has been killed by the PNACers at the State Dept, the Chicago school of economics, the NSA, CIA, FBI and all the alphabet agencies, and numerous wars for corporate interests that overthrew other people's attempts to build their own nations into something like what was good in ours.

No, it's only FDR Democrats who give a care, and we are few and far between: the first generation is dying off, the later generations are getting sidetracked and defeated by this very corrupt culture.

Weekend Economists Celebrate Peace Like a River September 5-7, 2014

Yes, today we combine contemplation and celebration of the life and art of Joan Rivers, who left us for that distant shore

Joan Alexandra Rosenberg (née Molinsky; June 8, 1933 – September 4, 2014),
known by her stage name Joan Rivers

With the first (and if there's any faithfulness in that region, the last and only needed) declaration of Peace between the citizens of Ukraine and their minorities/civil war/closest neighbor and largest trading partner, source of winter fuel...(good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. Brightly shown the moon that night, though the frost lay cruel, when a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel....)

{We highjack this thread to Xmas because it is unbearable outside--over 90F, heat index of 99F, 60% chance of thunderstorms (bet we don't get them)...this is the hottest day of the summer, and the pool closed Monday, of course}...

ahem....oh, yes, Peace in Ukraine, for the nonce at least.

Ukraine ceasefire 'agreed for east of country' at Minsk peace talks


News reports say ceasefire due to come into effect at 1600 GMT (5.5 hours ago as I write), although fighting reported on ground near port city of Mariupol...A ceasefire for east Ukraine has been agreed during talks in Minsk between Ukrainian government representatives and separatist leaders, according to news reports from the Belarusian capital. The agreement came shortly after loud booms of artillery were audible in the city of Mariupol, which Kiev's forces are defending against a possible rebel onslaught.

The former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma began talks at a hotel in Minsk on Friday with leaders from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk "republics", in the presence of officials from Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Interfax reported that the ceasefire was due to come into effect at 6pm local time (1600 GMT). The official Twitter account of the Donetsk rebels said: "Representatives of the Donetsk People's Republic, the Luhansk People's Republic, and Ukraine have signed a ceasefire protocol."

Poroshenko had reportedly told the BBC on Friday he was "absolutely not confident" that any ceasefire would hold, but said he and Ukrainian forces were doing everything possible to achieve peace....MORE

Ah, yes, Poroshenko, the Chocolate King...what a leader! in case anyone had a doubt of my meaning...

We will wait in anticipation of word from our correspondent on the ground in Kiev (sorry, Matt, I just can't memorize the new spelling that fast....)

How America’s Largest Worker Owned Co-Op Lifts People Out of Poverty


Before Zaida Ramos joined Cooperative Home Care Associates, she was raising her daughter on public assistance, shuttling between dead-end office jobs, and not making ends meet. “I earned in a week what my family spent in a day,” she recalled. After 17 years as a home health aide at Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the largest worker-owned co-op in the United States, Ramos recently celebrated her daughter’s college graduation. She’s paying half of her son’s tuition at a Catholic school, and she’s a worker-owner in a business where she enjoys flexible hours, steady earnings, health and dental insurance, plus an annual share in the profits. She’s not rich, she says, “but I’m financially independent. I belong to a union, and I have a chance to make a difference.”

Can worker-owned businesses lift families out of poverty? “They did mine,” Ramos said. Should other low-income New Yorkers get involved in co-ops? She says, “Go for it.” New York City is going—in a big way—for worker-owned cooperatives. Inspired by the model of CHCA and prodded by a new network of co-op members and enthusiasts, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council allocated $1.2 million to support worker cooperatives in 2015’s budget. According to the Democracy at Work Institute, New York’s investment in co-ops is the largest by any U.S. city government to date.

Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by their members on the basis of one member, one vote. Given enough time, worker-owned cooperatives tend to increase wages and improve working conditions, and advocates say a local co-op generally stays where it’s founded and acts as a leadership-building force.

“There is no greater medicine for apathy and feelings of living on the edges of society than to see your own work and your voice make a difference,” says a report on co-ops by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies in New York.


I will pencil that in

How's the mail been?

Are there bonafide Russian troops invading Ukraine? or is it more of the same old convict by accusation we've been subjected to here?

Honestly, it's a war against truth, more than anything else, truth and property rights.

Weekend Economists Celebrate Endless Summer August 29-September 1, 2014

Yes, we are going into Summer, the Sequel. Because it's finally warm enough to call it summer, again...

Tansy mentioned Bruce Brown, film maker of the Surfing genre...

Bruce Brown (born December 1, 1937 in San Francisco, California) is an American documentary film director, known as an early pioneer of the surf film. He is the father of filmmaker Dana Brown.

Brown's films include Slippery When Wet (1958), Surf Crazy (1959), Barefoot Adventure (1960), Surfing Hollow Days (1961), Waterlogged (1962), and his most well known film, The Endless Summer (1964) which received a nationwide theatrical release in 1966. Considered among the most influential in the genre, The Endless Summer follows surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August around the world. Thirty years later Brown would film The Endless Summer II with his son in 1994.

He has also made a number of short films including The Wet Set, featuring the Hobie-MacGregor Sportswear Surf Team and one of the earliest skateboarding films, America's Newest Sport, presenting the Hobie Super Surfer Skateboard Team. These short films along with some unused footage from The Endless Summer were included in the DVD Surfin' Shorts, as part of the Golden Years of Surf collection. Brown has gone beyond surfing a few times with films about motorcycle sport, On Any Sunday (1971) which is held in high regard as one of the best motorcycle documentaries of all time, On Any Sunday II (1981) Baja 1000 Classic (1991), and On Any Sunday, revisited (2000). He made a guest appearance in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode SpongeBob vs. The Big One.

Brown is a 2009 inductee into the Surfers' Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach, California.



As with so many things, I was just an infant when all this was going on, so if I get something wrong, please correct!


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).

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