Peter Lee (aka China Hand)
has some valuable remarks on US-China policy
that help to put the
trade war in perspective:
There is a certain amount ofOMG how did we get here??handwringing over the escalating trade war between the US and China. BS. The decoupling strategy of the US China hawks is proceeding as planned. And economic pain is a feature, not a bug . . . Failure of trade negotiations was pretty much baked in, thanks to Lightizer's maximalist demands. And that was fine with the China hawks. Because their ultimate goal was to decouple the US & PRC economies, weaken the PRC, and make it more vulnerable to domestic destabilization and global rollback. If decoupling shaved a few points off global GDP, hurt American businesses, or pushed the world into recession, well that's the price o' freedom . . . Between the global economic slowdown and the regional military buildup, I guesstimate the cost of taking on the PRC at a trillion dollars over the next decade. But like they say, War with China: one trillion dollars. Postponing the loss of US hegemony in the Pacific: priceless.
Bankers creating money by lending to speculators is the ultimate source of endemic instability in financial markets. Neoclassical economics entirely erases the role of bankers; hence its dismal record in explaining and predicting financial crises. Hyman Minsky worked out a compelling explanation for intrinsic financial instability quite some time ago. In a paper presented in 2012, notable economist Steve Keen contrasts Minsky's theory of instability to the equilibrium-oriented theories of neoclassical economics. Minsky's theory satisfies by virtue of being easy to understand and providing plausible explanations of such perplexing situations as the stagflation of the 1970s and the suddenness of the contraction after the 2007 debt crisis. Keen does a fine job of presenting Minsky and there's some particularly useful discussion of the possible outcomes to a debt crisis (which we are likely to be facing again in the near future):
As the boom collapses, the fundamental problem facing the economy is one of excessive divergence between the debts incurred to purchase assets, and the cash flows generated by them—with those cash flows depending upon both the level of investment and the rate of inflation. The level of investment has collapsed in the aftermath of the boom, leaving only two forces that can bring asset prices and cash flows back into harmony: asset price deflation, or current price inflation. This dilemma is the foundation of Minsky's iconoclastic perception of the role of inflation, and his explanation for the stagflation of the 1970s and early 1980s. Minsky argues that if the rate of inflation is high at the time of the crisis or the debt level is relatively low, then though the collapse of the boom causes investment to slump and economic growth to falter, rising cash flows rapidly enable the repayment of debt incurred during the boom. The economy can thus emerge from the crisis with diminished growth and high inflation, but few bankruptcies and a sustained decrease in liquidity. Thus, though this course involves the twinbadsof inflation and initially low growth, it is a self-correcting mechanism in that a prolonged slump is avoided. However, the conditions are soon reestablished for the cycle to repeat itself, and the avoidance of a true calamity is likely to lead to a secular decrease in liquidity preference. A secular trend toward rising debt to equity ratios develops, as each new cycle begins before all debt accumulated in the last cycle had been repaid. Colloquially, firms borrow during a boom and repay during a slump, which gives the debt to income ratio a tendency to ratchet up over time, making the system more fragile. If the rate of inflation is low at the time of the crisis and debt levels are very high, then cash flows will remain inadequate relative to the debt structures in place. Firms whose interest bills exceed their cash flows will be forced to under take extreme measures: they will have to sell assets, attempt to increase their cash flows (at the expense of their competitors) by cutting their margins, or go bankrupt. In contrast to the inflationary course, all three classes of action tend to further depress the current price level, thus at least partially exacerbating the original imbalance. The asset price deflation route is, therefore, not self-correcting but rather self-reinforcing, and is Minsky's explanation of a depression.
Retired diplomant M. K. Bhadrakumar has a thoughtful assessment of the imposition of U. S. sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. MKB highlights Zarif's capability, erudition, and his solid contacts amongst the U. S. elite. What particularly lifted my spirits was MKB's assertion that there's been a palpable change in American discourse in Iran:
For any longtime observer of the US-Iran standoff, it is obvious that a sea change has appeared in the American discourses on Iran. There is an influential and ever growing body of opinion in the US today, which disagrees with Trump'smaximum pressurestrategy. This constituency rationally argues that Trump shouldn't have dumped the 2015 deal. Equally, there is a far better understanding today in the informed American opinion regarding Iran and its policies, and the zen of dealing with Persian nationalism beneath the veneer of Islamism. The surprising part is that such an awakening has happened despite the Herculean efforts by the Israeli Lobby to demonise Iran and to stymie all contrarian views in the media, think tanks and campuses — and the Hill.
Would that it were so!
Our favorite political economist Michael Hudson has a wide-ranging survey of the current status of the US-led neoliberal struggle for global dominance. Having ceded military and economic supremacy according to many accounts, the tenuous dominance of the almighty Dollar remains the crucial redoubt in the war of the few against the many. But how much longer can it be maintained? Grab a cup of coffee and settle down for a geopolitical deep dive. Much of what he covers will already be familiar to those who follow the sources we like to cite here, but it's handy to have it all tied up and correlated:
[T]he past decade has seen U.S. diplomacy become one-sided in turning the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, SWIFT bank-clearing system and world trade into an asymmetrically exploitative system. This unilateral U.S.-centered array of institutions is coming to be widely seen not only as unfair, but as blocking the progress of other countries whose growth and prosperity is seen by U.S. foreign policy as a threat to unilateral U.S. hegemony. What began as an ostensibly international order to promote peaceful prosperity has turned increasingly into an extension of U.S. nationalism, predatory rent-extraction and a more dangerous military confrontation.
For those who would like to dig deeper, Hudson's 1972 masterwork Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (updated in 2003) is available for download as a pdf at the previous link. NOTE: Hudson's web site appears to be offline as of 2019-07-26. Will update when available. Deparate for a copy? Get in touch. I've got a download from 2014.
In the binary corporate electoral arrangement that governs the United States, Black people approach each primary season pondering which Democratic candidate is best equipped to defeat the White Man's Party. Polls and studies have long showed that Blacks are the most left-leaning constituency in the nation on issues of socio-economic justice and peace, but that's not how Black Democrats vote in national primaries, where they tend to support whoever they believe can beat the Republican.Electabilitytrumps and displaces ideology. Given the role that money plays in the U.S. electoral game, Black primary voters intent on choosing anelectableDemocrat will support the corporate candidate — not because these voters arecentristor corporate-minded, but because their overarching priority is beating the GOP. Thus, during Democratic primary season, many Black voters will seem to have no worldview or mission except as soldiers of the Democratic Party.
The Jeffrey Epstein rabbit-hole has become too alluring to resist. What really piqued my interest was when Vicky Ward reported that ex-Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta had told his interviewers in the Trump transition:
He'd cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein's attorneys because he hadbeen toldto back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade.I was told Epstein 'belonged to intelligence' and to leave it alone.
That was quite the powerful attractant, and now we have Robert Willman highlighting Acosta's remarks at his resignation:
. . . we come to the recent fascinating events, in which Epstein was arrested, and the role of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta in this whole rotten mess was revealed to some extent . . . On Friday, 12 July, when president Trump went outside the White House to talk to the press before leaving on a trip, Acosta went with him. At around 1 minute, 40 seconds into this short video excerpt, Acosta says —I have seen coverage of this case, that is over 12 years old, that had input and vetting at multiple levels of the Department of Justice. And as I look forward, I do not think it is right and fair for this administration's labor department to have Epstein as the focus, rather than the incredible economy that we have today. And so I called the president this morning. I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside. . . .There you have it:. . . this case . . . had input and vetting at multiple levels of the Department of Justice.The cat was out of the bag. It was a sad sight: Alex Acosta, after achieving two significant positions in the federal government, took a dive to be the fall guy.Multiple levelsofinputandvettingat the DOJ, you say? Who might that be?
Willman also has links to court documents and some discussion of the two civil suits that have helped to bring the focus back to the infamous pedo procurer. Those court documents shine quite some light into that rabbit-hole. Pass the popcorn!
The brilliant and prolific Caitlin Johnstone offers a compelling argument that opposing the endless war should be the highest priority in the struggle against the owners and rulers. She argues that the weakest link in their propoganda narrative (and hence the best place to attack) is the justification for this:
The challenge for the propagandists is that [convincing Americans that it is good and desirable to keep trillions of dollars in military hardware moving around the planet and killing complete strangers who pose no threat to any American] is plainly bat shit crazy. It's an assignment that is both absolutely necessary and extremely difficult. When the entire world order depends on convincing millions of people that something transparently insane and ridiculous is perfectly sane and rational, you're naturally going to have difficulty smoothing over all the plot holes in the narratives you're selling. That's why you're always seeing glaring discrepancies in the narratives used to promote US foreign policy agendas. In retrospect I've pretty much built my career on highlighting these discrepancies.
Russiagate drags on as the 2020 elections loom. Too lazy/busy/indifferent to read the Mueller report? Aaron Mate' read it for you! In CrowdStrikeOut, Mate' examines the two principal allegations of Mueller, that
Russian military intelligence officers hacked and leaked embarrassing Democratic Party documents, and a government-linked troll farm orchestrated a sophisticated and far-reaching social media campaign that denigrated Hillary Clinton and promoted Trump.
Mate' uncovers the dearth of actual evidence and highlights the weasely language that goes with along with the flimsiness of Mueller's claims. He takes note of Mueller's declining to interview Julian Assange, who obviously had first-hand knowledge of the provenance of the leaked DNC documents. Mate' could have also noted that Mueller also declined to interview Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who has claimed to have participated personally in the hand-off of the leaked materials to WikiLeaks.
Mate' does a nice job of putting the operations
of the St. Petersburg troll farm in perspective,
citing Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch that
posts from suspected Russian accounts showing up in Facebook's News Feed
approximately 1 out of [every] 23,000 pieces of content.
There's lots more on Guccifer, Crowdstrike, and the logical discrepancies of Mueller's timeline. Most usefully, there's a handy tracing of the roots of the witch hunt back to John Brennan, who appears to have quite a bit of 'splainin to do to the likes of Michael Horowitz, John Huber and John Durham. Of course, all this investigative flutter is unlikely to lead to any genuine consequences, but a guy can hope!
Putting our own Macronies in a wider context,
Nancy Fraser characterizes our
present crisis of widespread disaffiliation
(loss of trust in established institutions)
as an opportunity for experimentation and even emancipation.
But liberal elites, threatened with a new openness
the struggle to build a counterhegemonic left project,
have counter-attacked by trying to build fears of
a new fascism:
I'm focused, rather, in the performative force of the termfascism(ornew fascism) in the present context. As I read it, it's a call to order, to re-affiliation, to re-consolidation, to closure. It's a call above all to close ranks with the liberal elites who present themselves as ourprotectors,but who could more accurately be seen as our predators.
This brief and compelling essay concludes by dismissing the premature branding of disaffiliated citizens:
The present interregnum is the scene of a battle for hegemony in Gramsci's sense. Financialization continues on steroids, but its legitimating ideology lies in tatters. The result is a rare historical moment of political dis-affiliation and mass-psychological experimentalism. It is a moment when critical masses of people no longer believe the ruling commonsense and are willing to think outside the box. It is entirely premature to brand them asregressiveorfascistic.The last thing we need is to allow such scare tactics to close down the space of experimentation that represents our best hope for an emancipatory resolution of the present crisis.
Worried about US war with Iran? Skepticism might be in order. Dmitry Orlov neatly captures the trolling spirit of a sinking hegemon:
The world is on the brink of war, again. And again. And, yes, yet again. And then it's not on the brink of war any more . . . but wait, there's more! Of course there's more, there always is. . . . What's going on is that a has-been country, which can't stop squandering what little resources it has left on a useless but ridiculously bloated military-industrial complex, is trying to generate activity in order to justify continued lavish defense spending. All sorts of experts and pundits play along, claiming that the threat of this or that war is very real and that therefore we should all be paying attention to what's happening. But what's happening is that you are being trolled.
Patrick D. Anderson provides a fascinating riposte to the eclipse of the internal colonialism theory of Black life in the United States. Ranging over half a century of history, with an explication of the origins of the the thesis is not race-centric but anti-colonial, and explains Black elite behavior:
In the 1960s, nearly all Black Civil Rights leaders accepted the view that the oppressive conditions they faced were expressions of a global imperial logic, and the fundamental question confronting Black radical political theory of every kind was the question of Empire. Inspired by the anticolonial theorizing of Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, and Kwame Nkrumah, Black activists and intellectuals of many ideological stripes adopted what is known as the internal colonialism thesis — the idea that Blacks in the United States constitute an internal colony within the borders of the imperial mother country. . . . Fifty years later, the internal colonialism thesis has largely fallen out of favor, and its critics insist that this is for the best[, arguing that] the most serious shortcoming of the internal colonialism thesis is that it fails to account for class divisions within the Black community. On the contrary, the internal colonialism thesis not only accounts for class distinctions among Black Americans but also provides an historical answer to the why and how of Black class antagonism. It illuminates the process of differential segregation under a neocolonial regime of simultaneous middle class integration and working class repression.