Sunday , March 29 2020

Barkley Rosser

I remember how loud it was. I was a young Economics undergraduate, and most professors didn’t really slam points home the way Dr. Rosser did. He would bang on the table and throw things around the classroom. Not for the faint of heart, but he definitely kept my attention and made me smile. It is hard to not smile around J. Barkley Rosser, especially when he gets going on economic theory. The passion comes through and encourages you to come along with it in a truly contagious way. After meeting him, it is as if you can just tell that anybody who knows that much and has that much to say deserves your attention.

Articles by Barkley Rosser

The Oil Price War

7 days ago

One consequence of the emerging global Covid-19 recession has been that it has helped push world oil prices down from the $60-70 per barrel range near rhw beginning of 2020 to $23.12 for West Texas Crude and $29.00 for Brent Crude, levels not seen since the end of 2008. But part of why that decline has been so sharp and deep has been thet Saudi Arabia has increased production while Russia has kept up production, despite the Saudis demanding that they cut production.  So there is an oil price war going on.Of course this will tend to cushion the recession for oil consumers.  But the US has become a small net oil exporter, and reports have it that a subsidiary reason for the Saudis and Russians getting into this price war has been to tank the US fracking industry in oil and natural gas,

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The Coming Fiscal Crisis Of State And Local Governments

11 days ago

Yesterday my wife Marina and I mt with our personal attorney, a close friend also, to fix  some loose ends in our wills due to some recent family deaths, as well the current situation.  He also happens to sit on the Harrisonburg City Council, as well as having been Mayor for awhile and a longtime member of the city Planning Commission, someone whose competence we have great respect for.  Anyway, he noted that on April 14 the City Manager is to present a proposed budget to the City Council, and that it will have a giant hole in it given that taxes on restaurants are a significant source of revenues for the city, and while not completely shut down, restaurants are now seriously restricted in their activity, not to mention that students will not be returning this semester, and they provide a

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Has The Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Campaign Come To An End?

11 days ago

Quite possibly.In today’s Washington Post, p. A8, Robin Dixon and David L. Stern report that President Voloymyr Zelensky has removed anti-corruption General Prosecutor Ruslan Ryaboshapka and is replacing him with Uryna Venedkiktova.  She is associated with the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who has long been the main backer of President Zelensky and who had his control of a major bank removed previously.  Observers have long viewed Zelensky”s connection with Kolomoisky as a danger point in his up-until-now largely successful anti-corruption campaign, which had given much hope to many in Ukraine, where in the last year the economy had grown at a stron 4 percent annual rate.  Some obserers say that if Ryaboshapka had been able to last another six months, his removals of corrupt prosecutors

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To Slow Spread Of Coronovirus, End Iran Sancttions

13 days ago

On 3/13/20 in Foreign Policy Focus, Ariel Gold and Medea Benjamin argue that to improve the global coronavirus problem, sanctions on Iran should be lifted, quite aside from the fact they should never have been imposed in the first place as Iran was adhering to the JCPOA nuclear deal.The effect of the sanctions has been to tank the Iranian economy, including its health care sector, much worsening the coronavirus epidemic in Iran, thus making it more likely to spread to the global pandemic. The Iranian rial has fallen by 80 percent, making it far harder to purchase medical equipment from abroad.  This has not only aggravated the coronavirus situation but also that of many other diseases as well. As of March 13, there were 11,362 reported cases and 514 deaths.Of course this is aggravated by

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What Might That Compromise On Health Care Between Biden And Bernie Look Like?

16 days ago

As discussed in an earlier post it looks like there is an as yet undetermined compromise between the ACA plus public option with some other items supported by Joe Biden that unfortunately lacks the crucial matter of universal health care coverage (although he professes to support such) with the single payer plan supported by Bernie Sanders, somewhat modeled on the system of Canada, although more generous and less open to private insurance than Canada’s but definitely including universal coverage.  Obviously Biden’s plan has the problem of lacking universal coverage while that of Bernie appears to call for the end of private insurance, which might save money but also seems to be unpopular and thus damages his potential electability.It certainly looks like a possible compromise should be

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Are US Treasuries Really Facing A “Liquidity Crunch”?

17 days ago

That is what I just saw on an internet report, with 30-year Treauries supposedly especiallly hard hit. Rather stunning was a figure showing trading costs, which have supposedly massively spiked in the last week or so, reaching the highest levels since 2008.  Apparently this may be tied to exceptionally high volatility in the bond markets, especially the long term ones, which may explain it, although this has not bee much reported, I guess with so much attention on the volatile and mostly crashing stock markets.What makes me wonder about this is that usually a lack of liquitdity results in higher yields on bonds, but this report also noted that in the last few days we saw for the first time ever the entire U Treasuries yield curve below 1 percent.  Indeed, I am under the impression that

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McCoy Tyner Dies, RIP

18 days ago

Several days ago, McCoy Tyner died at age 81.  He was one of the greatest living jazz pianists at the time of his death, with perhaps only Keith Jarrett his serious rival, although others might beg to differ.He was most  famous for having been the pianist in John Coltane’s "classic quartet," along with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.  Their most famous album was "A Love Supreme," one of the greatest jazz albums of them all.  He also produced a prodigious body of excellent work after he left that group, and was active up until near his death.  In later years he sometimes played with Coltrane’s son, Ravi.  He had known John Coltraane from when they were both young in Philadephia before they became jazz musicians.I saw him perform several times over the years, although when

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Why International Womens’ Day Barely Celebrated In US Despite Starting In US

21 days ago

Today, March 8, is International Womens’ Day, recognized as such by the United Nations since 1975.  But probably a majority of American women have never even heard of it, much less celebrate it.  There have been marches on it (or around it) here in Harrisonburg, VA for the last four years, but these have been small and led by women born outside the US, with most of the native born participants highly educated and very progressive politically, the latter very much the case for most native born American women who celebrate it, although it is gradually getting more celebrated here.  But it started here.  What happened?The first International Womens’ Day celebration happened on February 28, 1909 in New York City, organized by the Socialist Party of the US at the behest of Teresa Malkiel.  The

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Ranking Health Care Systems By Country

22 days ago

As promised earlier, I am going to provide several lists of rankings of nations by the supposed quality of their health care systems. For only one of these do I have a breakdown for specific aspects.  Given that the US generally does not do well on any of these, I do note that studies have shown the US is especcially good for certain cancers, especially colon, wiith France and Japan its main rivals on that one. We are also tops for various unusual elective surgeries that are expensive.Also for this list I note that pretty much all of the nations appearing have universal coverage except the US.  UK has full-blown socialized mediicine with health care workers central government employees.  Canada and Taiwan are supposedly single payer, with South Korea having close to such a system.

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A Compromise Health Care Proposal Between Bernie and Biden

23 days ago

Bernie supports a singly  payer system resembling that of Canada’s. Biden supports an extension of ACA(Obamacare) tp add a public option such that anybody can buy into currently existing US Medicare, but not guaranteeing uinversal coverage.So, my proposal intermediate between theiir proposals undoes the two biggest political economic problems with each sides.  Bernie’s problem is that eliminating private insurance he alienates 2/3 US voters who like their employer-supplied insurance. Biden’s problem is that he has not offered universal coverage, which every other high income nation has.So, here is my proposal. Let there be "Medicare for All," but make it what most people think that means, not just what Biden proposes of letting people buy into Medicare, but simply making any uninsured

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Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

February 25, 2020

That would be Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, whose French name means "prairie dog," and which is located where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mississippi River, third oldest town in the state founded by Europeans (the French) after Green Baay (originallly Fort Nicolet) and Portage, also located at crucial spots long used by the Native Indians for river transport.  It is also the county seat for Crawford County, with Grant County just across the Wisconsin River.Many argue that Wisconsin is the ultimate swing state, based on that if all the states go as they did in 2016, Trump would stilll win if he loses PA and MI, but wins in WI.  It might be that Bernie in particular could swing AZ because of his strong support among non-Foridian Latinos, but even with that, Wisconsin is clearly

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What Is “Democratic Socialism”?

February 21, 2020

Probably the best answer is whatever Bernie Sanders says it is as he is by far the most famous person ever to adopt this term as a label for his beliefs.  There is a group  in the US baring that name, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has been in existence since 1983.  But while its membership ha since then generally fluctuated between 4,000 and a bit over 6,000 through 2016, its membership had surged to over 45,000 by 2019, clearly responding to Bernie’s identification with the term, even though as near as I can tell, he has not been a member of the DSA.If one goes to the Wikipedia entry  on "democratic socialism," one finds claims that it originated with the utopian socialists and chartists in the early and mid-1800s.  Certainly many of these groups supported democracy

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Who “Got” Iraqi Oil?

February 20, 2020

Not the US.Dick Cheney collaborated with US major oil companies in a plot to at least take over operating the oil production in Iraq, OPEC’s second largest producer and exporter, if not get to own the oil itself outright (which has not happened as oil in the ground was and remains owned by the Iraqi government, which is they way it is in pretty much all OPEC members).  Of all people, Juan Cole and many other progressives agreed that the war was all about controlling Iraq’s oil.  So the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, but then what followed was civil war and discombobulation, and oil production was seriously disrupted for a long time, with those US oil companies not getting any business for a long time.Of course, Donald Trump has repeatedly argued that the worst thing about the Iraq war was

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Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

February 15, 2020

Juan Cole reports that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Eliot Engel (D-NY) has criticized the administration for its assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in response to a report fresh our of the DOD that said the attack was for past activities by Iran in attacking tankers and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia without any mention of a threat against US personnel in Iraq, the ostensible reason and the only legal reason for doing this.Cole also reminds that Soleimani had been in Baghdad to negotiate peace with Saudi Arabia at the  invitation of the Iraqi prime minister.  e also reminds us that the Iraqis are denying that the original attack that killed the American contractor and initiated the escalation by the US before the Soleimani attack almost certainly did not come from

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Do Dirty Tricks Make 2020 Like 1972?

February 11, 2020

The dirty tricks in 1972 were sustained attacks based on faleshoods by the Nixon CREEP against the most popular possible Dem opponent, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, who was finally brought to tears in public, which fatally damaged his campaign, opening the way for George McGovern to get the nomination and take only DC and Massachusetts in the general election.  Today Trump and his many allies, both in Congress and on Fox News, have peddled a false story that Joe Biden fired a Ukrainian prosecutor because that prosecutor was investigating Biden’s son, Hunter.  They said repeatedly during the impeachment trial, and just last night I heard Sean Hannity at it again vociferously, with those on the show all nodding their heads.  Today is the New Hampshire primary and results not out yet. But

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Is Iraq About To Switch From US to Russia?

February 8, 2020

Today Juan Cole reports from a newspaper in Iraq that since Mohammed al-Allawi has become the new prime minister in Iraq, there has been a meeting in Baghdad between the Russian ambassador and the Iraqi milirary Chief of Staff, and the Iraqi president, Saleh, will be visiting Moscow shortly. A variety of issues and possible areas of cooperation apparently are being discussed, but the biggie apparently is that there is serious discussion of Russia replacing the US in providing air support for the Iraqi military for its ongoing campaign against the remnants of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It looks like the new PM is very much a part of the move in the Iraqi parliament to get US troops out of Iraq, something that those in Washington have been pretending is not for real.  Juan Cole reports that key in

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Will The “Impeachment Charade Fade Quickly”?

February 3, 2020

We have not yet had all the final speechifying where GOP senators attempt to justify their votes to make this the first US federal impeachment trial in history (there have been 15, mostly of judges) not to have any witnesses, as well as the foregone acquittal.  But the battle over how it will be viewed in both the short and medium and long runs is already going on.  A sign of this is a column in yesterday’s Washington Post by Hugh Hewitt entitled, "This impeachment charade will fade quickly," with Hewitt viewing the "charade" part not to mean the refusal of the Senate to have witnesses, but the entire trial itself, which he Trumpisly declares to have consisted of "fake history,"  because Trump will be viewed in 50 years as an "outsize personality" with "a growing list of achievements."

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Goodbye To The Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope

January 30, 2020

Sometime today, January 30, 2020 the plug will be pulled and the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope will cease to operate.  It has been in operation since late August, 2003.  It will be succeeded next yeat hopefully be a enew infrared space telescope named for James Webb.Serving as the Chief  Scientist for this telescope has been the main life work of my brother-in-law, Michael W. Werner, who has since 1990 worked on it out of the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech.  He had stepped down as its administrator a few years ago, but was still working on projects associated with it, and will continue to do so as data will still need analyzing, and the forthcoming James Webb telescope will need guidance.The many achievements of this telescope have been described and pictured in the excellent book

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Which Lie Is The Worst?

January 29, 2020

With the conclusion of the Trump defense in his impeachment trial, the question arises as to which lie told by the defense is the worst?Sean Hannity has been emphazing four in particular.  In the first he claims that there was no linkage between military aid and investigating Bidens in the July 25 phone transcript.  But there it is in black and white that when Zelensky mentioned wanting more military aid Trump immediately goes to "I need a favor though," with that immediately followed by his demand for inveatigating the supposedly missing laptop with mention of investigating Bidens coming a bit later.Then we have the true claim that Zelensky has never publicly said he felt "pressure" from Trump.  Indeed, but we know no way he would say so as long as he wants aid.Then we have the claim

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Covering Up The Coverup

January 23, 2020

I keep thinking that Fox News cannot get worse, but there seems to be no bottom to how low they can go.  New lows are being exhibited in their coverage of the current Senate impeachment trial.  They are fully involved in covering up the Trump administration coverup of what Trump did regarding the articles of impeachment. Anybody getting their news on this trial from Fox will really have no idea what is going on or what the case is that the House managers of the prosecution are arguing.I am not following the trial fully, and I am only occasionally popping to Fox News to see what they are doing, but I have seen enough.  The main thing they do, and I am seeing Sean Hannity do more of it after seeing Tucker Carlson also do it, is that they barely show the presentations of the House managers.

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Guns and Commas

January 22, 2020

I am glad that the large pro-gun rights rally in Richmond on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day end without any violence as had been threatened by some people around the US.  That is nice, but it does not end the unpleasant situation legal situation that has arisen here in Virginia.  As of now 93 jurisdictions, mostly counties, have declared themselves "gun sanctuaries" where any gun control legislation passed by the Virginia government will not be enforced.  The bills currently having received majority support in the Assembly and Senate with support from Governor Northam include requiring uinversal background checks for all gun sales (while allowing intra-family gun transfeers without that), a one-gun per month limit on gun purchases, and an especially controversial "red flag" bill allowing for

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The US-China Nothing Burger Trade Deal

January 16, 2020

There has been much hype about the signing of Phase One (and probably only) US-China trade deal.  However based on a front page story in today’s Washington Post, there is not much there.  The US did not raise tariffs as planned, but tariff still remain on two thirds of the sectors that had them, although some were halved.  But numerous US sectors see no change at all and are now viewing the  situation as not likely to improve, with them suffering losses of business likely to return.  Among those are chemicals, apparel retailers, and auto parts. In these and other sectors there is not much reduction of uncertainty regarding US-China trade, so not likely much increase in investment.The main items in it besides no worsening of tariffs, China has made promises not to pressure US firms to turn

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Further Followup On The Soleimani Assassination

January 15, 2020

I wish to bring out some matters not getting a lot of attention in the US media.An important one of those was reported two days ago by Juan Cole. It is that apparently it has not been determined for certain that the initial attack that set off this current round of deaths when a militia in Iraq attacked an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk in which an American contractor was killed, almost certainly a matter of collateral damage although not recognized as such, was actually done by Kata’b Hezbollah, the group reported to have done it.  That group was commanded by al-Mushani, who was also assassinated with Soleimani, with whom he was allied.  But it is not certain that they did it.  As it is, the Kirkuk base is dominated by Kurdish Pesh Merga, with whom it is not at all obvious the pro-Iranian

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Can The US Assassination Of Qasem Solemiani Be Justified?

January 9, 2020

We know from various Congressional folks that briefers of Congress have failed to produce any evidence of "imminent" plans to kill Americans Soleimani was involved with that would have made this a legal killing rather than an illegal assassination.  The public statements by administration figures have cited such things as the 1979 hostage crisis, the already dead contractor, and, oh, the need to "reestablish deterrence" after Trump did not follow through on previous threats he made.  None  of this looks remotely like "imminent plans," not to mention that the Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi has reported that Soleimani was on the way to see him with a reply to a Saudi peace proposal.  What a threatening imminent plan!As it is, despite the apparent lack of "imminent plans" to kill Americans, much of

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Are We Living In The “Capitalocene”?

January 7, 2020

I also attended the last session listed in the program at the ASSA at 2:30 on Sunday, an URPE session on "Ecology, the Environment, and Energy," chaired by Paul Cooney.  He presented on "Marxism and Ecological Economics: An Assessment of the Past, Present, and Future." Lynne Chester presented on "Energy and Social Ontology: Can Social Ontology Provide Insight?"  Finally Ann Davis presented on ""’Home on the Range:’ Integrating the Household and Ecology."  There were a lot of interesting ideas in these talks, and there was a vigorous discussion about them involving the audience.What I want to present here is not anything in particular from the talks, but rather a remark from probably the most insightful commenter in the audience.  That was my old friend, David Barkin, who has lived in

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Might We Be On The Verge Of An “Upswing”?

January 7, 2020

One of the more dramatic sessions at the just-completed ASSA meetings in San Diego was an AEA panel on "Deaths from Despair and the Future of Capitalism" on Saturday at 2:30.  Chaired by Angus Deaton, it focused on the book by him and his wife/coauthor Anne Case with the same title as the panel session.  Case spoke on their book.  This was followed by Robert Putnam, who spoke on his forthcoming (in about six months) new book, The Upswing, which this post will focus on. This was followed by Raghuram Rajan, who spoke about his recently published book, The Third Pillar: The Community. Finally Ken Rogoff commented on the Case/Deaton book, although he has no new book of his own.So all of these focused on the declining life expectancy in the US, along with the associated broader breakdown of

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Is The Chines Economic System the “Mandarin Growth Model” or the “Chinese-Style Keiretsu System”?

January 5, 2020

The first term in this choice was the title of a paper presented this morning (1/4/20) at the ACES/ASSA session at 8 AM in San Diego by Wei Xiong of Princeton University.  It was a highly mathematical model I shall describe shortly, but which drew heavily on the paper presented before it by Chenggan Xu of Cheng Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, the alma mater of Jack Ma who founded Alibaba and the founder of Sinopec and the richest woman in China, etc. His paper was titled "Institutional Genes of China’s Socio-Economic Development," with it discussed by the current ACES (Association of Comparative Economics) president, Scott Rozelle of Stanford.The simplistic version of the "Mandarin model of growth" according to Wei Xiong is "political centralization with fiscal

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Killing Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis

January 4, 2020

Most of the attention in this recent attack by a US drone at the Baghdad Airport has been on it killing Iranian Quds Force commadder, Qasim (Qassem) Solmaini (Suleimani), supposedly plotting an "imminent" attack on Americans as he flew a commercial airliner to Iraq at the invitation of its government and passed through passport control.  But much less attention has been paid to the killing in that attat of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, commander  of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq and reportedly an officer in the Iraqi military, as well as being accoeding to Juan Cole a Yazidi Kurd, although the PMF is identified as being a Shia militia allied with Iran.The problem here is that supposedly US leaders approved this strike because there were no Iraqi officials in this grroup; it was

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Thiessen Balances His Policy Defense Of Trump

December 31, 2019

Several days ago I posted on Marc A. Thiessen’s defense of 10 policies by Trump in WaPo.  I must now credit him with today on New Year’s Eve in the same venue publishing a column "The 10 worst things Trump did in 2019."  Good for him, some balance after all.  I agree these are all bad things, although I disagree with some of his analysis of them, with a few caveats especially on a couple of the foreign policy items.  However, I shall just list them with Thiessen’s conclusion.10. He ridiculously claimed "Our country is FULL"9. He used anti-Semitic tropes to attack his enemies.8. He said the Soviet Union was right to invade Afghanistan and congratulated China on the 70th anniversary of the Communist takeover.7. He lost a needless government shutdown.6. He used his emergency authority to

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Forward Creeping Excessmass Wins The War On Christmas

December 31, 2019

"Excessmass" is a term neologized in a column in the late 1990s in the Wall Street Journal (sorry, unable to find precise date) by my JMU colleague, Bill Wood.  A devout Brethren, he was and remains disgusted by the crass commercialism associated with the Christmas holiday in the US. In this column he proposed dividing the holiday into two: a strictly religious one, "the Nativity" without gift giving, and a gift giving one he argued should be called "Excessmass," a term that did not particularly catch on, but I am reviving as I see its forward creep as in fact damaging it not outright destroying the traditional religious Christmas, certainly far more vigorously than any bout of people saying "Happy Holidays!" to each other.What triggered this post is that over the weekend in the

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