Showing posts from December 3, 2015

Understanding the new global oil economy

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[Some of his points are mundane, but others are interesting. I like the observation that India and China will have a growing interest in Middle Eastern stability, and Americans less. But I like this point more: "...low oil prices now justify elimination of subsidies. In rich countries the opportunity of low prices could — and should — have been used to impose offsetting taxes on consumption, thereby maintaining the incentive to economise on use of fossil fuels, increasing fiscal revenue and allowing a reduction in other taxes, notably on employment. But this important opportunity has been almost entirely missed." *RON*]

Martin Wolf, Financial Times, 1 December 2015

Why have oil prices fallen? Is this a temporary phenomenon or does it reflect a structural shift in global oil markets? If it is structural, it will have significant implications for the world economy, geopolitics and our ability to manage climate change.

With US consumer pric…

Another Way to Slow Corporate Inversions: Collect an Exit Tax on U.S. Firms with Deferred Earnings

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[This would be so bloody simple to do that it really shows the US government has no intention of doing anything about tax inversions. *RON*]

By Steven Rosenthal, Tax Vox, 30 November 2015

Pfizer’s recent decision to merge with Irish drugmaker Allergan generated headlines as the latest, and biggest, example of an inversion—where a U.S.-based firm combines with a foreign firm in order to save U.S. taxes (by sidestepping deferred U.S. tax liabilities and shifting income to the lower-tax jurisdiction in the future). Sometimes, the U.S. firm will move operations abroad, but often it will not. Congress could slow these tax-motivated departures, and preserve our tax base, by imposing an exit tax on U.S. companies with deferred earnings.

Unlike many other countries, the U.S. taxes its residents (both firms and individuals) on their worldwide income, not just their U.S. income. But our tax rules allow U.S. firms to defer taxes on their foreign subsidiari…

America Is Too Dumb for TV News

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["What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism." Matt Taibbi, in typical blazing form in the Rolling Stone, asks how it can be that millions of Americans believe Donald Trump's fairy-tale about Muslims cheering after 9/11 when it just didn't happen. He avers that that investor-driven media, which no longer even plays lip-service to the idea of informing the public, is partly to blame -- but so is the public for demanding it. *RON*]

By Matt Tiabbi, Rolling Stone, 25 November 2015

Donald Trump said this to supporters at an Alabama rally:

"Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."

It was a hell of a revelation. Where did this wi…

US: CIA Torture is Unfinished Business

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[A year after the Senate Report, there has still been no criminal inquiry or redress provided. In my experience it's pretty rare for Human Rights Watch to come out strongly against the behaviour of the US government. *RON*]

Human Rights Watch, 1 December 2015

(Washington, DC) – Obama administration claims that legal obstacles prevent criminal investigations into torture by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are unpersuasive, and risk leaving a legacy of torture as a policy option, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Sufficient evidence exists for the attorney general to order criminal investigations of senior United States officials and others involved in the post-September 11 CIA program for torture, conspiracy to torture, and other crimes under US law.

Download the full report

Hillary the Hawk does it again: Asked about her Wall Street ties, Clinton again invoked 9/11

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[Jingoistic distraction - typically a Republican habit. When CBS asked her about the millions she received from Wall Street, Hillary Clinton yet again invoked September 11. It would be good to be a fly on the wall at the staff meetings where they decided this was, somehow, good strategy. See also: Poll: Sanders More Electable than Clinton Against GOP Frontrunners. *RON*]

Ben Norton, Salon, 1 December 2015

Hillary Clinton is by far themosthawkish of the Democratic presidential candidates. She supported the internationally illegal Iraq War; helped lead the NATO bombing of Libya, famously remarking “We came, we saw, he died” when Muammar Qadhafi was killed; oversaw the U.S. drone war, in which targets are assassinated without charge or trial; previously defended torture; and said in her 2007 campaign for president she would consider dropping nuclear bombs on militants in South Asia.

In the first Democratic presidential debate, Clinton’s hawkishness …

FBI Redacted Passages Showing Judge Mocking Its Stupid Claims

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[From the laugh until you cry department. "Opinions may vary about whether the FBI’s 11-year fight to hide the fact it knows some people have work phone numbers was an appropriate use of secrecy. But hiding that a judge is mocking your stupid claims doesn’t fit under any legal use of classification. It’s abuse, pure and simple." *RON*]
By emptywheel, 30 November 2015

As I noted earlier, today Nicholas Merrill was finally able to reveal the things he was requested to turn over to the FBI in response to a National Security Letter he received 11 years ago.

The expiration of his gag order also allowed him to publish an unredacted copy of the ruling ending the gag, which was released in redacted form in September. Comparing the two lets us see what the government believed had to be redacted in September. Not only does it show how ridiculous were FBI’s claims of secrecy, but also makes it clear FBI used such claims to hide the fact that the ju…

The rise and fall of the unicorns

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["Some private technology firms are having trouble justifying their lofty valuations." Since the turn of the century a mystique has built up around internet firms, either implying or stating outright that the 'old' economic rules no longer apply to them. Phrases like 'zero marginal cost of production' and catch-words like 'disruptive' are trotted out as ostensible proof that things like Price to Earnings ratios no longer hold meaning. Yet, as with every other darling-du-jour of the capitalists, all that has happened is bubble after bubble, exactly as predicted by the old-style economic rules. *RON*]
The Economist, 28 November 2015

WORKERS from technology firms recently gathered at a cinema in downtown San Francisco to watch a preview of “The Big Short”, based on the bestselling book by Michael Lewis. The film, which will be released in December, profiles several outsiders who successfully bet against the housing …

Does income inequality make rich people less generous?

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[A very well researched phenomenon is that people are made more unhappy by losing something than they are made happy by gaining something, and the effects of loss are more long-lasting as well. My take is that inequality leads to class jealousy, leading to the fear of class loss (whether through revolt or just higher taxes), leading to a fear-driven retrenchment in generosity. The researcher's interpretation is interesting too, since it is testable yet he hasn't tested it. *RON*]
Corinne Purtill, Quartz, 30 November 2015
Wealthy people from states in the US with relatively higher levels of income inequality appear to be less generous than their peers from states with more equal income distributions, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management looked first at the results of an existing study of 1500 Americans…