Monday, July 27, 2015

Sputnik — Kalashnikovs of Tomorrow: Musk, Hawking, Wozniak Fear Killer Robot Armies

Fears of artificial intelligence (AI) gone wrong prompted more than a thousand scholars and public figures - including theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak - to sign an open letter, cautioning that the autonomous weapons race is “a bad idea” and presents a major threat to humanity.

The letter, presented Monday at the International Joint Conference on AI in Buenos Aires by Future of Life Institute, warns about the high stakes of modern robotic systems that have reached a point at which they are to be feasible within just years, and that "a global arms race is virtually inevitable."
"This technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow," the letter states.

"Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc."

While AI may promise to be truly beneficial to humanity in many ways, it has to be kept under strict controls, and perhaps even banned, the letter suggests, while warning that lethal autonomous weapons systems — or more simply, killer robots — which engage targets without human intervention, are on par with various weapons of mass destruction…
Opening Pandora's box, or letting the genie out of the bottle?

Sputnik
Kalashnikovs of Tomorrow: Musk, Hawking, Wozniak Fear Killer Robot Armies

Fyodor Lukyanov — The world enters an era of uncertainty

The world has been undergoing painful changes for a long time. But the uncertainty that is spreading now concerns not only the future, but also the effectiveness of the known methods of solving social problems.
The disturbing symptom of the past period was the more frequent talks about the approaching big war. The fear, which seemed to have disappeared forever at the turn of the 1990s, is coming back. At the same time, as noted by many experts, there are no real grounds for either an arms race or a serious clash of interests. But in today's world, the line between reality and illusion has almost faded.
Russia and India Report
The world enters an era of uncertainty
Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Russia's Council on Foreign and Defense Policy
First published in Russian by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Martin Kirk — Greece: It’s All Going With the Flow

Reading the commentaries on Greece in the last few weeks, it’s clear that there is a degree of genuine shock and consternation rippling through groups who have traditionally been the main cheerleaders of the EU. How is it, people are asking, that we got to this place where the sovereignty of a nation can be overridden by the elite in this way? How can it be acceptable that a small, unelected and unaccountable set of technocrats can be free to micromanage the Greek economy, right up to dictating how much bakers get paid, and even putting public assets into a private trust, like a parent putting candy out of reach of a child because they cannot be trusted with it. The degree of patronization is staggering and has led Nick Cohen to diagnose the EU as a “cruel, fanatical and stupid institution,” and Owen Jones to go so far as to argue that the left should now reject the EU as a political project.

I, too, feel a visceral revulsion at the way Greece has been treated, and I am increasingly of the opinion that the EU as an institution must be rejected. And I do mean the EU, not the Troika. The EU is ultimately the responsible party here; it invited and made space for IMF dominance; it sanctioned the establishment and operating principles of the Eurogroup as a extra-legal entity that has wielded extraordinary financial and, by short extension, legal power; and it is directly responsible for the legal structuring of the ECB, which, as George Monbiot points out, “enjoys “political independence”. This does not mean that it is free from politics, only that it is free from democracy.” 
But my reasons go beyond Greece, beyond even the EU, to the fact that this is all merely one example of a global drift away from democracy, towards a form of public/private governance whose raison d’être is capital generation. Not as a service to humanity, but as a purpose and an end point unto itself.

When seen in this larger reality, what’s happened to Greece looks less like an unfortunate but contained European phenomenon and more like a vivid example of a form of governance that people the world over should be extremely wary of. In other words, Greece is a cautionary tale for all of us, that warns us how fully our governance structures have been captured by elite, private interests.…
Neoliberalism is antithetical to democracy.

Story Europe
Greece: It’s All Going With the Flow
Martin Kirk
ht Clonal

fritzmorgen — The Weakening Tentacles of SWIFT


Blowback from US economic warfare — creation of an alternative payments system.

Fort Russ
The Weakening Tentacles of SWIFT
fritzmorgen
Original: The Weakening Tentacles of SWIFT
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

Ben Aris and Nick Allen — Power to the people


Conversion from previously subsidized socialist economies to capitalism bites, creating social unrest, as market price sticker shock hits.

Johnson's Russia List
Power to the people; As Electric Yerevan showed, governments throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia will face the risk of social and political unrest when they move to compel their citizens to pay market rates for electricity
Business New Europe – Ben Aris in Moscow and Nick Allen in Berlin

What's capitalism and what is neoliberal capitalism?

Heather Stewart — Wealth doesn't trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals

The sheer scale of the hidden assets held by the super-rich also suggests that standard measures of inequality, which tend to rely on surveys of household income or wealth in individual countries, radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor.
Milorad Kovacevic, chief statistician of the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, says both the very wealthy and the very poor tend to be excluded from mainstream calculations of inequality.
"People that are in charge of measuring inequality based on survey data know that the both ends of the distribution are underrepresented – or, even better, misrepresented," he says.
"There is rarely a household from the top 1% earners that participates in the survey. On the other side, the poor people either don't have addresses to be selected into the sample, or when selected they misquote their earnings – usually biasing them upwards."
So it is actually worse than we thought.

The Guardian
Wealth doesn't trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals
Heather Stewart
ht Lambert Stether at Naked Capitalism and Corrente


Miles Kimball — "Aristotle saw people not as striving to maximize a state of satisfaction, and also not as striving..."

Aristotle saw people not as striving to maximize a state of satisfaction, and also not as striving to perform a list of duties. He saw them, instead, as striving to achieve a life that included all the activities to which, on reflection, they decided to attach intrinsic value.

Confessions of a Supply Side Liberal
"Aristotle saw people not as striving to maximize a state of satisfaction, and also not as striving..."
Miles Kimball | Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan

Dirk Ehnts — Schäuble supports European Treasury, which might fight recessions

The proposal of a Euro Treasury is a first ray of light that the euro zone’s policy makers have learned the lessons from 2010-14. However, it critically depends on the capability to deficit-spend, meaning that a Treasury that can use only taxes would be useless to fulfill its job of fighting recessions in the euro zone.
econoblog 101
Schäuble supports European Treasury, which might fight recessions
Dirk Ehnts | Berlin School for Economics and Law

Nick Bunker — Rising U.S. compensation inequality and productivity growth

If the question you want to answer is ultimately how well labor as a whole is being compensated for its productivity, this data choice is the right way to go. Lawrence finds evidence of a break between productivity and average labor compensation around 2000, just as he did in a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. This break means that labor as a whole is receiving a declining share of income, with the gains from productivity go to the owners of capital instead.
But what if we want to think about how productivity growth results in rising standards of living for workers on different rungs of the economic ladder? Then we need to look at what’s happening to the distribution of compensation. It may have been that compensation for labor as a whole tracked productivity until 2000, but it’s not clear how well productivity growth was translating into growth and higher living standards for all workers.
Note: The assumption of trickle down is that higher growth rate per capita implies a higher standard of living for all through distributional effects based on market forces.

WCEG — The Equitablog
Rising U.S. compensation inequality and productivity growth
Nick Bunker

Yanis Varoufakis — Statement by Yanis Varoufakis on the FinMin’s Plan B Working Group & the parallel payment system


Yanis's side of the story.
Regarding the recent article by “Kathimerini” newspaper entitled “Plan B involving highjacking and hacking”, Kathimerini’s failure to contact Mr Varoufakis for comment and its reporter’s erroneous references to “highjacking tax file numbers of all taxpayers” sowed confusion and contributed to the media-induced disinformation.
Yanis Varoufakis
Statement by Yanis Varoufakis on the FinMin’s Plan B Working Group & the parallel payment system

Subsistence Living Amidst Hoarded Plenty - vs - The Insanely Great Performance Of Social Species

   (Commentary posted by Roger Erickson)


The “sharing economy,” or a brief recurrence of sharecropping mentality? Or both? Should we be complacent, giddy with relief, or expect even more depressing hardship before sanity breaks out again, on a larger scale? Is everything going to change as much -  better or worse - as plentiful prophets are always claiming?
"You only find this new economy if you look hard for it. In Greece, when a grassroots NGO mapped the country’s food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies and local exchange systems they found more than 70 substantive projects and hundreds of smaller initiatives ranging from squats to carpools to free kindergartens. To mainstream economics such things seem barely to qualify as economic activity – but that’s the point. They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff. It seems a meagre and unofficial and even dangerous thing from which to craft an entire alternative to a global system, but so did money and credit in the age of Edward III."

Uh ... so what? I'm not sure this helps anyone. It's just stating what all can see, without making any useful suggestions, or any useful warnings.

Let's start with the warnings. A national government is the ultimate current example of cooperative coordination, and is a remarkable achievement for any population. Tearing an organized government apart, and attempting to replace it with isolated pockets of coordination is NOT necessarily progress. In fact, that's the same, insanely juvenile, logic that various Bolsheviks & Capitalists, from Stalin to Pol Pot to Scott Walker and the Koch brothers, fell back on. Tear some highly evolved thing apart, and plan to replace it with something better? Like 5-yr olds dismantling a watch, that strategy rarely, if ever works, while evolution does.

Meanwhile, if you look at the insane profit margins of firms like Uber, they present ample opportunities for Capitalists (or Pol Pots) to - once again, and a little bit longer - steal the commons. This time, they're stealing your time, which is rather like belling the cats. Except this time it's the distributed cats that invent innovations. The form changes, but not the goal.

Yes, new forms of coordination will continue to break out, but don't expect pickpockets with MBA degrees to stop stealing whole railroads.

Sinks in any system stop destroying aggregate output ONLY when sources surround sinks with enough warning lights and stop signs.

The desired outcome of the process we call "coordination" is to reduce any & all frictions, from individual frictions to institutional frictions. Success tracks our ability to fine tune the little things that keep us and all of our institutions from working at cross purposes. (Kudos to Col. Casey Haskins for helping to drive home that concept.)

Who controls what Marx called the “power of knowledge?” To a biologist, that seems like a specious question - revealing that the questioners mind is trapped in the capitalist dogma of agent-based competition to seize & control - for what sustainable purpose, they never explain.

Doesn't it seem more sensible to instead ask, why anyone would limit the power of aggregates to compound knowledge? Isn't that the same logic as "why shrink the flock of geese that lay golden eggs?"

To a biologist, this whole discussion is an aberrant tangent. Capitalism is no more than the mores of a bandit or Cossack camp, a population with members recently & briefly ripped from integration in a social species. Given time, even bandit bands re-invent coordination & teamwork, and return to their social-species instincts. The only question is, how much time? The answer depends on the cleverness the bandits wield, and the contexts they find themselves in. No one said evolution is easy, just unstoppable.

Our "general intellect" won't blow anything sky high, except in the mind of the aberrants. It will just allow us to regain the aggregate-intellectual-agility we once had in fluid tribal societies, before our growth spurt created our existing, supra-tribal population sizes, and thereby briefly turned us into the less-agile bandit super-society we call capitalism.

Paul Mason seems to be missing his own forest, by populating it with one too many of his own, distracting trees. All those little experiments in "sharing" on a larger scale? They started from scratch, mostly BECAUSE few, if any of the participants knew they were supposed to read attempted summaries of unpredictably distributed innovations, by people like Paul Mason. And, as noted, they were just prevented from continuing coordination on a national scale, through use of a functional government serving the needs and desires of the people.

It may come across as harsh, but what useful purpose does Paul Mason play? He travels around telling people what they see in their own mirrors? I don't get it. Does anyone remember the name of the Dinosaur who traveled around telling compatriots that the end of sauropods was occurring? Methinks it was rather obvious to all, and they didn't throw parties for scribes recording the obvious. In fact, they probably ate him.

Now about those requested suggestions. What would help cut through all the useless chatter and clutter of banalities? Maybe cooperative interactions with each other? How many of each other? There's the rub. If citizens could know summaries of what ALL of their co-citizens knew, they wouldn't have to worry about their food supply or "money" supply. They'd have more options, plenty of free time, and literally endless suggestions. For now, I'll only make one suggestion.  Personally, I think that we should be paying one helluva lot of attention to what gets taught in those cooperative kindergartens. Tomorrow's aggregate adaptive rate may well depend largely on the utility of such adaptive methods.

We are what we practice, we practice what we train, we train what we teach, and we teach what we see (not what we say).

In the end, we as a people learn the dynamic sum of what we do, and our descendants live with the outcomes we deserve.

It's literally not enough even to do unto others what you would have done to you. To make your culture even more adaptive, you have to do unto the 7th generation yet unborn what subtle, small things you would have had your ancestors prepare for you. That's how subtle & complex our adaptive challenges now are.

If that cascade isn't actively and exquisitely coordinated into a whole greater than the sum of it's parts, then we get the distributed civil war of capitalism, instead of the insanely great performance of finely tuned, highly adaptive, social species.


Dollar is tanking


Dollar down over 100 pips against the yen this morning. Euro is up over 1.11. Even very weak currencies like the NZ dollar are getting into the act, up 80 pips overnight.

What's causing this?

Not sure, but I have been saying that U.S. Federal Gov't spending has been slowing. This may be starting to be felt through purchase/supply channels, etc. Forex markets reacting.

As for the euro, I don't think there is huge upside because if the U.S. economy weakens as a result of a spending slowdown, then European exporters will start cutting prices again. Furthermore, Greece is not out of the woods; it just bought some time with the new bailout deal.

Anyway, I am a trader. If the dollar is falling now I am shorting it. By the way...my short USDJPY position, which I have had on for two weeks is near turning a profit now.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis — For an alliance of national liberation fronts – by Stefano Fassina MP

Stefano Fassina, MP and former Deputy Finance Minister of Italy, kindly sent me the following opinion piece. While convinced that the “controlled disintegration of the eurozone” that he advocates is pregnant with great dangers, this is a debate that Europeans cannot eschew.
Yanis Varoufakis
For an alliance of national liberation fronts – by Stefano Fassina MP

Also

EU refuses to acknowledge mistakes made in Greek bailout – by Richard Koo
Richard Koo sent me recently his latest, Nomura, assessment on Greece and our negotiations with the EU and the IMF. As always, Richard’s views make for fascinating reading. Here is the pdf copy that he has made available to us.

Bill Mitchell — The damage of the Thatcher sea-change

When socio-economic historians reflect back in the decades to come, they will what insanity ruled the economic policy choices that have been taken in the last three or so decades. They will conclude that arrangements such as the Eurozone was the work of lunatics who systematically undermined the prosperity of millions of people and polarised their societies as a consequence. There is no possible way that the Eurozone can be constructed as a successful monetary arrangement.
The deeply flawed design of the common currency in Europe, was, in part, the product of the shift towards Monetarism and its microeconomic analogue (deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing etc) that surged back into dominance in the 1970s, after its main ideas had been thoroughly discredited and dismissed during the Great Depression. While Margaret Thatcher was not the first Monetarist government (that title goes to the government of President Giscard d’Estaing who appointed Raymond Barre as the Prime minister and Minister of Economy and Finance in 1976), her regime certainly influenced the spread of neo-liberal thinking among policy circles, particularly in the Anglo world.
What is still not acknowledged is the damage done by that swing to so-called free-market policies, which would be better called pro-business capture given there was no real market forces unleashed, just an industry of parasitic, rent-seeking profiteers closely followed by the massive growth in the unproductive, wealth-shuffling financial sector. A recently released report (June 10, 2015) – The Macroeconomic Impact of Liberal Economic Policies – from researchers at the University of Cambridge lets us know more closely how damaging this period was and challenges the view that the best way forward is even more austerity and deregulation.…
[I have introduced paragraphing for readability. The original is one introductory paragraph.]

Bill Mitchell – billy blog
The damage of the Thatcher sea-change
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

teleSUR — Ecuador's President Correa Warns of Further Destabilization

The South American country has recently been witness to often-violent protests by opposition forces, who are demanding that Correa’s government proposed tax reforms, that would make the wealthiest pay more, should be scrapped. The government has delayed the measures pending a national dialogue and retains strong support according to recent polls.
teleSUR
Ecuador's President Correa Warns of Further Destabilization

Trump Cast as Perfect Ringleader of Corporate Media Circus — Jessica Desvarieux interviews Robert W. McChesney


Despite outspending the world in elections, U.S. voter turnout is historically low because of media's focus on the interest of the elite, says University of Illinois Professor Robert McChesney
Video and transcript

Real New Newsnetwork
Trump Cast as Perfect Ringleader of Corporate Media Circus
Jessica Desvarieux interviews Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard — Varoufakis reveals cloak and dagger 'Plan B' for Greece, awaits treason charges

A secret cell at the Greek finance ministry hacked into the government computers and drew up elaborate plans for a system of parallel payments that could be switched from euros to the drachma at the "flick of a button" .
The revelations have caused a political storm in Greece and confirm just how close the country came to drastic measures before premier Alexis Tsipras gave in to demands from Europe's creditor powers, acknowledging that his own cabinet would not support such a dangerous confrontation.

Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister, told a group of investors in London that a five-man team under his control had been working for months on a contingency plan to create euro liquidity if the European Central Bank cut off emergency funding to the Greek financial system, as it in fact did after talks broke down and Syriza called a referendum.

The transcripts were leaked to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini. The telephone call took place a week after he stepped down as finance minister.…
You'll want to read the rest of this even though it is a nice Sunday and you have other things to do.

This looks like the true story from Yanis. International intrigue.

The Telegraph
Varoufakis reveals cloak and dagger 'Plan B' for Greece, awaits treason charges
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Also

This is more complete than the Telegraph article based on it.

Ekathimerini
Varoufakis claims had approval to plan parallel banking system
Xenia Kounalaki

Mehreen Khan — Europe braces itself for a revolutionary Leftist backlash after Greece

A pre-revolutionary fervour is sweeping Europe.

“The atmosphere is a little similar to the time after 1968 in Europe. I can feel, maybe not a revolutionary mood, but something like widespread impatience”.

These were the words of European council president Donald Tusk, 48 hours after Greece’s paymasters imposed the most punishing bail-out measures ever forced on a debtor nation in the eurozone’s 15-year history.

“I am really afraid of this ideological or political contagion”
Donald Tusk

A former Polish prime minister and a politician not prone to hyperbole, Tusk’s comments revealed Brussels’ fears of a bubbling rebellion across the continent.

“When impatience becomes not an individual but a social experience of feeling, this is the introduction for revolutions” said Tusk.

“I am really afraid of this ideological or political contagion.”….
I'm betting the Right to win this, not the Left. There is no Left. It's a myth. The Right is real and they have the swastika tattoos to prove it. Just (half) kidding.

The Telegraph
Europe braces itself for a revolutionary Leftist backlash after Greece
Mehreen Khan

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Oleg Nazarov — Junta is provoking Transcarpathia


European nationalism still a factor to be reckoned with.
J.Hawk's Comment: It is definitely true that Hungary is handing out its passports and citizenship hand over fist to Ukrainian nationals living outside Hungary's current borders. This policy has to be of considerable attractiveness to ethnic Hungarians and any Hungarian-speaking Rusyns because that's about the only way they can achieve visa-free travel into the EU in the foreseeable future.
In part it's Orban's recipe for electoral success--these expatriates unsurprisingly vote for his Fidesz party in droves, since that's the one party that really and truly defends the interests of Hungarian minorities abroad. However, intentionally or unintentionally, that policy might lead to some pretty serious Hungarian irredentism, and the fact that Romania's government (which has a much bigger Hungarian minority than Ukraine) is staunchly pro-Ukraine (and pro-US) is not an accident. Bucharest and Kiev have a common enemy, and that enemy isn't even Russia but rather Hungary.
Fort Russ
Junta is provoking Transcarpathia
Oleg Nazarov
Original: Junta is provoking Transcarpathia
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

Corey Hoffman — Reaping the seeds that Austerity hath sown


Overlapping Consensus
Reaping the seeds that Austerity hath sown
Corey Hoffman

Ramanan — Federal Government And Regional Balance Of Payments

To summarize, the point of the above analysis is that the financial sector as a whole cannot achieve this on its own. It takes a federal government to not only affect demand in all regions but also keep their debts in check. The workings of finances of a federal government affects the asset and liability positions of any region as a whole. The financial sector cannot take up the task of a federal government.
The Case of Concerted Action
Federal Government And Regional Balance Of Payments
Ramanan

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Eric Draitser — China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion

China has recently taken an important step in more tightly regulating foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) inside the country. Despite condemnation from so called human rights groups in the West, China’s move should be understood as a critical decision to assert sovereignty over its own political space. Naturally, the shrill cries of “repression” and “hostility toward civil society” from western NGOs have done little to shake the resolve of Beijing as the government has recognized the critical importance of cutting off all avenues for political and social destabilization.
The predictable argument, once again being made against China’s Overseas NGO Management Law, is that it is a restriction on freedom of association and expression, and a means of stifling the burgeoning civil society sector in China. The NGO advocates portray this proposed legislation as another example of the violation of human rights in China, and further evidence of Beijing’s lack of commitment to them. They posit that China is moving to further entrench an authoritarian government by closing off the democratic space which has emerged in recent years.
However, amid all the hand-wringing about human rights and democracy, what is conveniently left out of the narrative is the simple fact that foreign NGOs, and domestic ones funded by foreign money, are, to a large extent, agents of foreign interests, and are quite used as soft power weapons for destabilization. And this is no mere conspiracy theory as the documented record of the role of NGOs in recent political unrest in China is voluminous. It would not be a stretch to say that Beijing has finally recognized, just as Russia has before it, that in order to maintain political stability and true sovereignty, it must be able to control the civil society space otherwise manipulated by the US and its allies.
New Eastern Outlook
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Eric Draitser

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sputnik — US Must Block Russian ‘Hybrid War’ in Crimea, Ukraine - SOCOM


Translation: The US has dug itself into a hole in Ukraine and doesn't know how to get out, now that the whole country is crashing down and support for the major party of the Ukrainian coalition government — that would be the party of Yats" whom Victoria Nuland referred to as our guy —  has declined to a dismal 2.8%.

Is that the result of widely successful Russian hybrid warfare, or US stupidity? You be the judge.

Sputnik
US Must Block Russian ‘Hybrid War’ in Crimea, Ukraine - SOCOM

Jonathan Stempel — Lawsuit accuses 22 banks of manipulating U.S. Treasury auctions


Libor in the UK, Treasury auctions in the US. WTF!!!
Twenty-two financial companies that have served as primary dealers of U.S. Treasury securities were sued in federal court on Thursday, in what was described as the first nationwide class action alleging a conspiracy to manipulate Treasury auctions that harmed both investors and borrowers.…
According to the pension fund's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, the banks used chat rooms, instant messages and other means to swap confidential customer information and coordinate trading strategies in the roughly $12.5 trillion Treasury market.
This enabled the banks to inflate prices on Treasuries they sold to investors in the pre-auction "when issued" market, and deflate prices when they bought Treasuries to cover their pre-auction sales, violating antitrust laws, according to the complaint.
Primary dealers are the banks authorized to transact directly with the Federal Reserve. They are big players in Treasury bond auctions and act as market makers in the secondary market…
Media reports last month said the Justice Department was also investigating possible collusion in Treasury auctions.…

EU Steel Prices Remain Under Negative Pressure in July


Headline from a July report at MEPS in the UK here.

Short report I'll post the whole thing below high lighting some pretty bearish language... a pretty depressing narrative as the austerity policies continue in the west.

Aggressive offers from third country suppliers are driving down flat product domestic selling values in all EU nations. Iran has entered the market of late, as their export duties have recently been lowered. In general, market activity is reasonable, despite the slowdown ahead of the European summer holidays and reduced export sales volumes during Ramadan. However, little improvement is anticipated in the short term. Buyers anticipate further price reductions during the third quarter.  
Basis figures in Germany have reduced for the second consecutive month. Imported Asian material is arriving into northern Europe and putting pressure on domestic producers to lower their selling values. The Greek crisis has added to the uncertainty in the market. Nevertheless, demand in the first half of the year was good, particularly from the automotive and construction sectors. 
Prices have come under negative pressure in France this month. There is fierce competition from imports and between local distributors. Consequently, resale values remain low. Some buyers are cautiously re-ordering for their summer requirements. Nonetheless, end-user activity is subdued with many customers keeping inventories to a minimum. 
In Italy, the situation at Ilva is still uncertain, despite the two blast furnaces remaining in operation. Third country suppliers continue to take advantage of this. Import pressure is very strong from all over the world, not just China and Russia. Nevertheless, market activity is generally good. 
Prices in the UK have softened as a result of the stronger pound against the euro. Customers are continuing to use Chinese offers as a means of negotiating with local suppliers. Demand remains patchy but distributors are fairly busy and they are reporting reasonable returns.  
In Belgium, domestic selling values have been eroded. Distributors are finding it difficult to make a profit as they are holding stock previously bought at higher prices. Purchasing activity is, on the whole, quiet but is better from the building and machine industries. 
Spanish prices weakened in July, despite stable domestic sales volumes. The general election, due to take place towards the end of 2015, is likely to result in restricted government spending after the summer holidays. This could temper the growth in steel demand that has been recorded so far this year.

This portends continued bearish conditions for the terms expected from EU suppliers based on this depressing steel price report for July.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard — Emerging market currencies crash on Fed fears and China slump


Global economy rolling over without ever even getting up?

The Telegraph
Emerging market currencies crash on Fed fears and China slump
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

My podcast for Friday, May 24. Joe Firestone. Matt Franko calls in, too!



My podcast for July 24, 2015. Joe Firestone. Matt Franko.



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David F. Ruccio — This is the end of capitalism?


Response to Paul Mason, The end of capitalism has begun.

I give Mason's argument more credence that Professor Ruccio does, but I agree that technology is not enough.

Nevertheless, technology is highly significant in Marx's analysis, which is based on historical materialism and economic infrastructure as foundational. Feudalism was chiefly agricultural and capitalism was mainly industrial. In fact, in time agriculture itself was mechanized and became agribusiness.

I harbor little doubt that the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age will be as transformational as the transition from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age. This implies an economic realignment as well.

How that will manifest is remains unclear, since the world is still operating largely in terms of capitalism and industry.

We are witnessing emerging opportunities and challenges and how these are met will determine the next moment in the historical dialectic. What's coming will be different from capitalism but what it will look like is too early to tell.

However, the basics of information suggest that it will be distributed and networked, which implies a new approach to politics, economics and political economy. There is at last the potential for scaling up popular participatory democracy based on an informed electorate.

I suggest this is the takeaway.
As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started.
We don't know yet what that new kind of human being will be like, although we can get a sense of it by observing the difference between those who grew up in the analog age and those who have grown up in the digital age. It's a different "head."

Occasional Links & Commentary
This is the end?
David F. Ruccio | Professor of Economics University of Notre Dame Notre Dame