6. Weekend Reads

Stephen Miller, an advisor to Donald Trump. Photo by Getty Images.

Here's a few longer reads on matters economic, political and social from around the world's media.

This New York Times report from Nashville by Hiroko Tabuchi is a compelling look at an example of everything that is wrong today about politics and public life in America, at least. The Koch brothers are politically active energy industry billionaires on a mission to reduce the size of Government. Their 'grass roots' campaigners helped defeat an anotherwise popular plan to increase public transport in Nashville.

The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways, Tabuchi writes. One of the mainstay companies of Koch Industries, the Kochs’ conglomerate, is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts. Even as Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, it supports spending tax money on highways and roads.

The rise of extremism at the heart of the US Government is evident with the influence of Stephen Miller and Jeff Session.

The partnership between Mr. Sessions and Mr. Miller began in 2009, when Miller became a spokesman for Sessions. He sported sideburns and skinny ties as he often delivered long and passionate lectures to reporters about the dangers of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. The Atlantic writes how Sessions is systematically dismantling the civil rights hard won during the 1950s and 1960s.

Here Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner report on how the anti-immigration passion was inflamed from the fringe.

Here's a dose of reality in the blockchain and bitcoin debate from the the Bank for International Settlements (the central bankers' bank). It's a full chapter in their latest report on looking beyond the hype for cyptocurrencies. The conclusion is scathing:

"Even if trust can be maintained, cryptocurrency technology comes with poor efficiency and vast energy use. Cryptocurrencies cannot scale with transaction demand, are prone to congestion and greatly fluctuate in value. Overall, the decentralised technology of cryptocurrencies, however sophisticated, is a poor substitute for the solid institutional backing of money."

Fair enough.

Meanwhile, where's the inflation after years of money printing, low inflation and quite strong economic growth? Still, late in a very long cycle, inflation has yet to rear its ugly head, despite predictions of an imminent surge for almost a decade.

The New York Times' Patricia Cohen and Jim Tankersley point the finger at e-commerce in this article.

Donald Trump is also systematically dismantling the system of rules for global trade managed by the World Trade Organisation. In particular, America is blocking all new appointments to the seven-member appeals court of the WTO. In September, when another member's term expires, that number could drop to three, at which point the Appellate Body might not be able to function, as Simon Lester reports here via Reuters.