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What We Read Today 10 June 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • The Amazing Arab Scholar Who Beat Adam Smith by Half a Millennium

  • How Bad Biology is Killing the Economy

  • An Example Of Using GLD Puts To Hedge Precious Metal Long Position

  • Erasing History: Why Islamic State is Blowing Up Ancient Artifacts

  • Trump Can Take Payments From Foreign Governments, U.S. Says

  • Debunking the Reality Winner leak about Russia hacking the election

  • Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak

  • Leaked NSA Report Short on Facts, Proves Little in ‘Russiagate’ Case

  • Brace yourselves for the mother of all investigations

  • How May’s Sure Thing Became a Political Disaster for the Ages

  • No One Has Ever Made a Corruption Machine Like This One

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Erasing History: Why Islamic State is Blowing Up Ancient Artifacts (Ancient Origins)  One of the many tragedies that have unfolded in the wake of the Islamic State (IS) is their smashing of statues and the destruction of ancient archaeological sites. Indeed, the rapid and terrifying advance of the IS has proved fatal for much invaluable heritage.  In an article published recently in the  International Journal of Heritage Studies , it is argued that the acts of heritage destruction undertaken by IS are much more than mere moments of propaganda devoid of political or religious justification.  It was  found that the heritage destruction wrought by IS was not only very deliberate and carefully staged, but underpinned by three specific and clearly articulated frameworks: theological; historical; and political.


  • Government says emoluments clause doesn’t bar Trump businesses

  • Watchdog group sued president over payments to his companies

The odd story of Reality Winner and her leak of an NSA report are the next volleys in the propaganda campaign to start a new cold war — and bring down President Trump. The story makes little sense. But we are undemanding consumers of propaganda. Like manufacturers of dog food and Hollywood blockbusters, they need not put much effort into the quality of the product.

When propaganda dominates the major media, insights are found on the fringes. Here are excerpts from two articles by informed analysts showing some of the many flaws in the story. Read them both in full!

An NSA document purporting to show Russian military hacker attempts to access a Florida company which makes voter registration software is sent anonymously to The Intercept. A low-level NSA contractor, Reality Winner, above, is arrested almost immediately. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.

... the NSA document allegedly leaked by Winner reinforces assertions made by President Trump that the Russia story is fake news.

  • Brace yourselves for the mother of all investigations (David Brooks, The Seattle Times)  Hat tip to the Doomstead Diner Daily. Brooks finds that the first important part of James Comey’s testimony was that he cast some doubt on reports that there was widespread communication between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That was the suspicion that set off this whole chain of events and the possibility that could have quickly brought about impeachment proceedings.  Then he says that the second important implication of the hearings is that as far as we know, President Donald Trump has not performed any criminal act that would merit removing him from office.  But his conclusions include a disquieting opinion comparing Trump to the last President to be impeached:

The Clinton team was a few shady characters surrounded by a large group of super-competent straight arrows. The Trump administration is shady characters through and through. Clinton himself was a savvy operator. Trump is a rage-prone obsessive who will be consumed by this.



Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • The Amazing Arab Scholar Who Beat Adam Smith by Half a Millennium (Evonomics)  Arab scholar Ibn Khaldun created principles of economics several centuries before the western progenitors of the discipline such as Adam Smithand David Ricardo.  Many icons of 19th and 20th century economics were predated in their supposedly original thinking by Khaldun in the 14th century.  

The biggest merit of Khaldun lies in his revolutionary methodological thinking. He completely rejected the methodology of his ancestors, which made him the first “social scientist […] in the strictest meaning of that term” (Fonseca, 1988). Before Khaldun, the role of islamic historians was limited to transmit knowledge without modifying, editing or adding any remarks to the tradition. They never questioned the validity of stories, but analyzed the credibility of the transmitter quite carefully instead.

Khaldun discarded the practice, stating the need for a new, scientific method which allows thinkers to separate true and fake historical information. But how to achieve that? According to him we should “investigate human social organization” to have “a sound yardstick” helping us to analyze society instead of accepting absurd stories of historians (Khaldun pp. 7-8).

Khaldun highlights that this is a completely new, original and independent science, which hadn’t existed before (Khaldun p. 8).

Khaldunian thinking may be embarassingly familiar to today’s economists. He states that the division of labor serves as the basis for any civilized society and identifies division of labor not only on the factory level but also in a social and international context as well.

Rather than pitting individuals against each other, society needs to stress mutual dependencies. This could be seen in the recent healthcare debate in the United States, where politicians played the shared-interest card by pointing out how much everybody (including the well-to-do) would lose if the nation failed to change the system, and where President Obama played the social responsibility card by calling the need for change “a core ethical and moral obligation”. Money-making cannot be allowed to become the be-all and end-all of society.

And for those who keep looking to biology for an answer, the fundamental yet rarely asked question is why natural selection designed our brains so that we’re in tune with our fellow human beings and feel distress at their distress, and pleasure at their pleasure. If the exploitation of others were all that mattered, evolution should never have got into the empathy business. But it did, and the political and economic elites had better grasp that in a hurry.

  • Mid-week, we began fearing a correction in GLD based upon various factors.

  • We initiated a hedge with GLD to protect our precious metal long positions.

  • We describe some of the rationale of this hedge.



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