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The BBC’s Inept but Revealing Attempt at a Game Theoretic View of Greek Crisis

Posted on June 26, 2015 by William Black

The BBC came up with a good “hook” for a story on the troika’s assault on the Greek economy and people. “Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, spent his academic career … studying game theory.” Professor Marcus Miller, a UK economist (U. Warwick) wrote an article for the BBC premised on how Varoufakis would apply game theory to Greece’s negotiations with the troika (the IMF, ECB, and the European Commission). Miller is a colleague of the great Robert Skidelsky and has co-authored with him an article explaining the economic illiteracy and self-destructive nature of the troika’s (and UK’s) infliction of austerity in response to the Great Recession.

The BBC, however, is such a great fan of austerity that one rarely reads why the vast majority of economists think that using austerity to respond to a Great Recession is akin to the quackery of bleeding a patient to make him healthier. Miller’s article in the BBC about game theory has the wrong title (recall that the author often does not get to choose the title), the wrong game, the wrong concept, and the wrong payoffs. The title of the article is: “Can game theory explain the Greek debt crisis?” The article does address that issue. It is limited to the issue of the new Greek government’s negotiations with the troika concerning a crisis that they inherited.

The game that Miller uses is the “prisoner’s dilemma.” That is the wrong concept and the wrong game and should actually be called the “prisoners’ dilemma” because it requires at least two prisoners. The “prisoners’ dilemma” game is used to explain (1) why cooperative behavior – by criminals – would be their optimal strategy, (2) why prosecutors and the police should prevent that cooperation, and (3) how prosecutors and the police can shape the prisoners’ incentives to encourage them to confess. As conventionally pictured, and Miller falls into this trap, the game does a poor job of explaining the third point. Real life prosecutors, police, and criminologists in the U.S. do a far better job of optimizing the incentives than do economists – and did so long before game theory was developed.

Here is Miller’s explanation.

The most famous game of all is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Imagine two prisoners have to choose between confessing and staying silent. If they both stay silent, they both go to jail for one year. If one confesses and the other stays silent, the first goes free and the second gets 20 years. If both confess, they both get five years.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/06/the-bbcs-inept-but-revealing-attempt-at-a-game-theoretic-view-of-greek-crisis.html#more-9555

Presumed Guilty: Remand in Custody by Military Courts in the West Bank

To all intents and purposes, the Israeli military court appears to be a court like any other. There are prosecutors and defense attorneys. There are rules of procedure, laws and regulations. There are judges who hand down rulings and verdicts couched in reasoned legal language. Nonetheless, this facade of propriety masks one of the most injurious apparatuses of the occupation.

Every year, thousands of Palestinians are brought before military courts on various charges, including entering Israel without a permit, stone-throwing, membership in an “illegal association”, violence, firearms-related offenses and traffic violations. The military court has jurisdiction over residents of the entire West Bank, including areas over which partial control was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, and even if the offense was committed outside the West Bank. In theory, these courts have the authority to try settlers. In practice, settlers are tried only in civilian courts inside Israel.

Watch the movie on the website of "The Law in These Parts – Beyond the film, an interactive journey" (Hebrew website, English subtitles).This segment and the two below are excerpts from interviews conducted for the production of the film The Law in These Parts. The speakers, military judges and legal advisers, describe and explain the legal proceedings in the military court.

Remand proceedings expose the injustice that takes place in Israeli military courts. In this context, remand is the detention for the duration of all legal proceedings in the case of a person whose questioning and investigation has been completed and who has been formally charged. Individuals on remand are not serving a prison sentence. They have not been sentenced, not been found guilty. They are being held in custody when they should be presumed innocent.

The Military Courts Unit does not publish figures on the number of motions for remand put forward by the prosecution nor the number of motions approved by the courts, claiming that this information is not available electronically. However, partial figures provided to B’Tselem indicate that, with the exception of individuals accused of traffic violations, remand is the rule rather than the exception. The military prosecution routinely asks for remand in custody and the courts approve the vast majority of the motions.


Court Reinstates Case Against Former Attorney General, FBI Director and INS Commissioner

Michael Ratner says after 13 years this is a big victory, The Centre for Constitutional Rights will be able to proceed with the case against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller and former INS commissioner James Ziglar, for policies they issued that resulted in the abuse of immigration detainees post 9-11

- June 21, 2015

snip*MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Sharmini, thank you for having me on The Real News.

PERIES: So Michael, tell us more about the case. Why was it reinstated?

RATNER: Sharmini, it's unusual that I'm on the show with you or Real News, and we actually have really good news to announce. This is one of those occasions. It's a big victory. It's a Center for Constitutional Rights case called Turkmen v. Ashcroft. Ashcroft was of course the attorney general during the initial period of 9/11. The litigation concerned abuse of immigration detainees post-9/11. And what we have won is an interim victory. It's been a 13-year struggle to get it there. This case was filed in April 2002. You have to have a long life and a long litigation life to win these cases, but we're on our way.

When I say an interim victory, what it means is that the case will now be remanded to the district court for trial, or the Justice Department could appeal to the Supreme Court and try to overturn it. We don't yet know which one.

But here's what it said. The appeals court in the second circuit, which is the court right underneath the Supreme Court, said that high-level Bush officials, including Ashcroft who was attorney general, Mueller who was head of the FBI, and Ziglar who was the commissioner of immigration, could be sued for post-9/11 abuse of immigration detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. The abuse, and what we alleged at the Center was from the policy decisions to target and punitively detain Arab, South-Asian men, and Muslim men post-9/11, despite the fact they were innocent of any claims of terrorism. As the court said, there was no reason except race and religion to consider them dangerous. That's what we alleged, and of course that has to be found as true at this point. They were detained from three to eight months. So not only were those three high-level policy officials subject to suit, but the court also said the people, the warden at the prison and others who actually did the abuse to these prisoners could be subject to suit as well.

Let me just give you an example of the type of conduct--and I'll talk a bit more about it. But the eight plaintiffs in this case and many others, when they walked into, they were arrested and taken into the prison, they had their faces smashed into a wall where guards had pinned a t-shirt with a picture of an American flag and the words "these colors don't run". The men were slammed against the t-shirt on their entrance to the prison, and told, welcome to America. The t-shirt was smeared with blood, yet it stayed up on the walls of the prison for months.

It's important to understand the context of this case. Until now there's been little, really no accountability, for what happened post-9/11. This may be the first victory on accountability if we can hold it. And just recall, we've had torture, indefinite detention at Guantanamo, abuses, arrest without probable cause, and yet no accountability.

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=14069

Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA ( Re-post from 2013 )

*Over turn CU and fight for public funded elections

How the Gun-Rights Lobby Won After Newtown

December 10, 2013, 4:15 pm ET by Sarah Childress

snip* A New Gun-Rights Power

In January, President Obama announced 23 executive actions intended to strengthen the enforcement of existing gun laws. Last month, he touted some progress, including improving the national background-check database and appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a post that’s been vacant for seven years.

But the administration’s major effort to pass what would have been the most sweeping reform in nearly two decades — new legislation that would have expanded background checks to include gun shows and online sales — failed within months in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The legislation was staunchly opposed by gun-rights groups, including a powerful newcomer in the federal arena.

The National Association for Gun Rights, or NAGR, which considers itself to the right of the powerful NRA, spent nearly $6 million in lobbying this year through September 2013 — more than double what the NRA paid out and far more than any other group on either side of the debate.

The NAGR was founded in 2001, but until this year it focused mainly on advocacy, keeping local groups apprised of gun legislation in their states. The source of its funding isn’t clear because as a 501(c)4, the NAGR isn’t required to disclose its backers.

The group’s leadership has ties to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The group’s executive vice president, Dudley Brown, declined to talk to FRONTLINE for this story. But earlier this year, Brown told the Center for Responsive Politics that the Sandy Hook shooting prompted the group to get involved on the federal level.

remainder in full: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/newtown-divided/how-the-gun-rights-lobby-won-after-newtown/

The Myths and Realities About Juneteenth

Preeminent historians Mr. Hari Jones and Dr. Gerald Horne discuss the many misunderstandings related to myths of Black freedom and notions of progress associated with Juneteenth celebrations. - June 19, 2015



June 13, 2015

By William K. Black
Quito: June 13, 2015

My answer to the question I pose in my title is “no.” The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is far from dead and can only be defeated by heroic efforts by a broad coalition of Americans dedicated to the interests of our Nation and its people and willing to pay the price to oppose the triumph of corporate interests. The focus of this column, however, is on the New York Times’ coverage of Friday’s vote on a key component of President Obama and the Republican leadership’s efforts to make the TPP law. That focus requires some tangential discussion of the substantive arguments for and against TPP but I will minimize that discussion because I have explained previously in greater detail why I oppose the TPP and urge Americans to make our efforts to defeat it one of our highest priorities.

The reasons to defeat TPP have nothing to do with political party. The NYT, however, treated Friday’s House vote against TPP almost entirely in partisan political terms. Indeed, the paper’s coverage focused almost exclusively on Democrats and its perspective was almost entirely that of President Obama’s framing of the issues. The NYT ignored the majority bipartisan opposition to TPP based on the harm it would cause to our people and sovereignty, the obscene manner in which it was drafted in secret by corporate interests, and the indefensible manner in which it presented to Congress without any meaningful opportunity to (a) know the deal terms, (b) know which corporate interests had secretly drafted the terms for their personal benefit, or (c) vote down even the worst examples of corporate abuses.

Instead, the NYT “analysis” (initially) entitled its column: “Washington Dysfunction, With a Twist: Democrats Desert Their President.” That is a remarkable title, particularly for a supposed news story rather than an op ed. The NYT writers’ advocacy for TPP is so extreme that they redefined “democracy” as “dysfunction.” A more apt “twist” in their title would have been: “Democrats Refuse Obama’s Attempt to ‘Seduce’ them to Desert their Principles and Constituents.”

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/06/rip-tpp.html

You’re the reason BDS is winning!

**For the brainwashed, the man makes a plea

June 16, 2015, 11:09 am

So you think BDS is the big threat against Israel?

You just can’t understand why it is the world is so obsessed by a few houses Israel builds while so many other countries do so many other things?

You are trying to counter BDS but all that’s happening is it’s getting stronger and stronger and you know why…anti-Semitism. But you’re wrong. About everything.

Did you ever think during your endless meetings and conferences on anti-Semitism and Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) that the reason BDS keeps getting stronger no matter how hard you work is actually because of the work you’re doing?

it ever occur to you that the reason every country around the world, without exception, thinks settlements are a negative mark on a beautiful country is…because they are?


NAFTA at 20

**Posting in response to some of the misinformation I see referenced on NAFTA as
well as the letter posted that was written by Caroline Kennedy..which pretty much
blew my mind. Fair Trade seems to be lost in the equation.

The North American Free Trade Agreement took effect on January 1, 1994.

NAFTA opponents – including labor, environmental, consumer and religious groups – argued that NAFTA would launch a race-to-the-bottom in wages, destroy hundreds of thousands of good U.S. jobs, undermine democratic control of domestic policy-making and threaten health, environmental and food safety standards.

NAFTA promoters – including many of the world's largest corporations – promised it would create hundreds of thousands of new high-wage U.S. jobs, raise living standards in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, improve environmental conditions and transform Mexico from a poor developing country into a booming new market for U.S. exports.

Why such divergent views? NAFTA was a radical experiment – never before had a merger of three nations with such radically different levels of development been attempted. Plus, until NAFTA, "trade" agreements only dealt with cutting tariffs and lifting quotas to set the terms of trade in goods between countries. But NAFTA contained 900 pages of one-size-fits-all rules to which each nation was required to conform all of its domestic laws – regardless of whether voters and their democratically-elected representatives had previously rejected the very same policies in Congress, state legislatures or city councils.

NAFTA requires limits on the safety and inspection of meat sold in our grocery stores; new patent rules that raised medicine prices; constraints on your local government's ability to zone against sprawl or toxic industries; and elimination of preferences for spending your tax dollars on U.S.-made products or locally-grown food. In fact, calling NAFTA a "trade" agreement is misleading, NAFTA is really an investment agreement. Its core provisions grant foreign investors a remarkable set of new rights and privileges that promote relocation abroad of factories and jobs and the privatization and deregulation of essential services, such as water, energy and health care.

Remarkably, many of NAFTA's most passionate boosters in Congress and among economists never read the agreement. They made their pie-in-the-sky promises of NAFTA benefits based on trade theory and ideological prejudice for anything with the term "free trade" attached to it.

Now, twenty years later, the time for conjecture and promises is over: the data are in and they clearly show the damage NAFTA has wrought for millions of people in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Thankfully, the failed NAFTA model – a watered down version of which is also contained in the World Trade Organization (WTO) – is merely one among many options.

Throughout the world, people suffering with the consequences of this disastrous experiment are organizing to demand the better world we know is possible – but we face a race against time. The same interests who got us into NAFTA are pushing to expand it to include 31 more countries in Central and South America through the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) Peru was added in 2007; and there are NAFTA expansions with Panama and Colombia as well. The largest NAFTA expansion to date, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently under negotiation.

Chart: See all corporate investor-state cases launched under NAFTA and other U.S. 'free trade' agreements
Infographic: NAFTA Terms Replicated in TPP
Read the new report from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch: NAFTA at 20 – One Million U.S. Jobs Lost, Mass Displacement and Instability in Mexico, Record Income Inequality, Scores of Corporate Attacks on Environmental and Health Laws.

in full: http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=531

The Vultures of Desperation (Paul Jay asks why did Rodney Todd and his seven children die? )

June 5, 2015

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Hi, everybody. I'm Paul Jay from The Real News Network.


The world has heard the name of Freddie Gray, who was brutally murdered by Baltimore police. Here's another name everybody should know: Rodney Todd. Mr. Todd lived in Princess Anne, about 130 miles southeast of Baltimore. Rodney was described by family and friends as a devoted parent and a hard, disciplined worker. Rodney couldn't afford to pay an electric bill, and had been cut off by the Delmarva power company. He bought an electric generator to give some light and give his children warmth. Why he ran the generator inside the house isn't clear. People speculate it was because it was noisy and would have kept his neighbors awake at night.

Rodney Todd and his five young girls and two young boys died of carbon monoxide poisoning. They were last seen alive on March 28th of this year.

The media reports focused on whether the power company had illegally shut off his power. In Maryland during winter months, non-payment of a bill is not supposed to be legal cause for cutting the cord. The power company said it was a safety issue because of the type of meter that was being used. They also said Rodney had never tried to set up an account. And while it's criminal, or at least it should be criminal to shut off power to a family under any circumstances, it's even more criminal that a working father can't afford to pay an electric bill. Rodney Todd, an African-American worker, was paid $8 an hour for a full-time job. That's Maryland's current minimum wage. He was supporting seven kids on $8 an hour.

What the major media didn't ask is, why was Rodney working for $8 an hour? When Baltimore exploded after the death of Freddie Gray, CNN and other such media outlets, when they weren't accusing the protesters of being thugs and criminals, which was most of the time, paid lip service to the fact that the underlying conditions of poverty and the savaging of communities by drugs, and they should have added and they didn't the war on drugs, helped create the anger expressed on the streets of Baltimore. What they didn't address is why poverty in Baltimore and cities across the country is chronic?

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=13973

The Murdoch Effect and the Continuing Bankster Crime Wave

By William K. Black
Quito: May 30, 2015

One of common characteristics of the two epicenters of the elite banking fraud epidemics – the City of London and Wall Street – is Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers’ repeated efforts to create a criminogenic environment in both financial centers by cheerleading the regulatory race to the bottom. Murdoch’s papers also act as apologists for the resultant epidemic of elite banksters’ crimes.

One of the bit players that the Wall Street Journal has deployed as part of this apologia is particularly interesting for white-collar criminologists. The setting, as always on the WSJ’s editorial pages, is that the writers are overwhelmingly the most extreme right wing ideologues. The only criminological theory that the right wing loves is “broken windows.” The WSJ presented an op ed by Heather Mac Donald of the hard-right Manhattan Institute. The title gives a good feel of the extreme claim she is making: “The New Nationwide Crime Wave: The consequences of the ‘Ferguson effect’ are already appearing.”

It turns out that she has no nationwide data supporting the existence of a “new nationwide crime wave,” no basis for establishing the existence of a “Ferguson effect,” and no basis for demonstrating that the purported effect that a notorious police chief invented caused the “nationwide crime wave” that she cannot demonstrate exists. Instead, she quotes mostly figures on one month rates of some crimes in some cities or portions of cities. No social scientist would consider this approach reliable, but then she is not a social scientist but a “non-practicing lawyer.”

It also turns out that the invented “Ferguson effect” is the label of one of the police chiefs most criticized for his force’s cultivation of terrible relationships with the black community and his embrace of militarized policing. Mac Donald complains that blacks complain when white police shoot unarmed blacks:

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/06/the-murdoch-effect-and-the-continuing-bankster-crime-wave.html#more-9485
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