Links 12/8/13

The secret structure of the sun: Nasa maps enormous, swirling plasma flows to reveal inner workings of the star Daily Mail

Shanghai grinds to a halt as smog nears top of air pollution scale and Choking smog over eastern provinces spreads into Beijing South China Morning Post

Ice Storm over the Southern Plains: An Example of Differential Temperature Advection Weather Underground

Climate Summit Trap: Capitalism’s March toward Global Collapse Der Spiegel (!)

Federal Reserve Interest Rates Should Be Near Zero Forever Warren Mosler, US News (!)

Standards of evidence Interfluidity

Does Lowering Corporate Tax Rates Create Jobs? Answer is a resounding “no” ataxingmatter

Econometrics and ‘Big Data’ Economist’s View

Playing Pension Games Gretchen Morgenson, Times

The scandal at the Vatican bank FT. “As much as 25 per cent of the bank’s business is done in cash.”

Current economic conditions Econbrowser. Discusses “unemployment” without mentioning labor force participation.

Our Coming Chronic Discouraged-Worker Epidemic: Friday Focus Equitablog. We’re not looking at an epidemic. We’re looking at elite policy success. 

David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’ Guardian

Would You Rather Be Born Smart or Rich? The Atlantic

How the Bitcoin protocol actually works Data-driven intelligence (RS). Get your coffee, but this is a great post.

Baidu Stops Accepting Bitcoins After China Ban Bloomberg

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

U.S. Spy Rocket Has Octopus-Themed ‘Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach’ Logo. Seriously. Forbes. Hail, HYDRA! Immortal HYDRA! We shall never be destroyed! Cut off a limb, and two more shall take its place! We serve none but the Master—as the world shall soon serve us! Hail HYDRA!

Patriot Act author: Obama’s intel czar should be prosecuted The Hill

Obama: My Overseas Spying Not Constrained by the Law I Passed as Senator empty wheel

NSA morale down after Edward Snowden revelations, former U.S. officials say and FBI’s search for ‘Mo,’ suspect in bomb threats, highlights use of malware for surveillance WaPo

Are your smartphone apps selling you out? Computerworld

The Anonymous problem with feminism Guardian. Much better than the headline.

ObamaCare Launch

2014 National House Race HuffPo (MS)

No You Can’t The Baseline Scenario. With all that corrupt data, it’s a good thing healthcare.gov doesn’t involve financial transactions. Oh, wait…

Obamacare’s real promise: if you lose your health-care plan, you can get a new one Ezra Klein, WaPo

Is Obamacare worsening the liquidity trap? Economist

Vermont Approves Single-Payer Health Care: “Everybody In, Nobody Out” Truthout. Interesting for the lies and omissions of the Democrat author. First, VT may indeed be able to set up the program only by 2017; omitted is the fact that it will have to get a waiver from HHS to do so. The lie? Attributing the waiver to Obama. In fact, the waiver was added by the House, in a “strange bedfellows” deal between Dennis Kucinich and Republicans, on “state’s rights” grounds. And you’d think that “progressives” would be pushing for the 2017 start date to be moved forward in view of the lives to be saved, say to 2014, but n-o-o-o-o.

Ministry of Defence shelves plan to privatise procurement FT. “The bid was also hampered by a government investigation into Serco,” also an ObamaCare contractor.

Italy – the day after Eurointelligence

German Euroscepticism Hans Kundnani

Britain’s Ministry of Nudges Times. So what’s the Ministry of Winks?

Zombie Replicants to Outperform the Living energy.gov

The Truth About Pork and How America Feeds Itself Businessweek

Can we avoid an antibiotic apocalypse? Gillian Tett, FT

Apartheid’s Useful Idiots Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

On Smarm Gawker. Word of the day!

William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211 Paris Review

Antidote du jour (via):


Untitled by zoltán túri on 500px.com

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

94 comments

    1. tongorad

      Interesting article. I’ve often thought that ours is chiefly a crisis of imagination. Our number one problem is slaves who think in the cynical terms of their masters. Maybe we all can imagine a better future. Old fashioned solidarity seems to be the only way out.

      1. no more banksters

        “Our number one problem is slaves who think in the cynical terms of their masters”

        I couldn’t describe it better

  1. CB

    Someone I know who pretty diligently tracks these things told me that btwn the House and the Senate, there are only about 90 actual, practicing Democrats. (Debbie Stabenow isn’t one of them.) And she added that maybe that was a generous count. Of course, I remember when liberal Republican was not an oxymoron. We’ve come a long way, Babies.

    1. 12312399

      to see how far the country has changed in 60 years, watch this interview from 1959 of Ayn Rand by Mike Wallace.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ukJiBZ8_4k

      Wallace (epitome of 1950’s middle-class America) seems gobsmacked at Rand’s philopsophy—as if Rand is an alien from another planet.

      Now Randism pretty much is mainstream—among Democrats and Republicans.

      1. neo-realist

        The horrifying thing about the mainstreaming of Randism is that while its partial implementation has resulted in the diminished quality of our infrastructure and public education system, as well as increased unemployment, poverty and hunger, many people still perceive it as some sort of cool rad ideology.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Those “liberal Republicans” came out of holdover party machines (see the Philly area), were opponents to the machine (see Massachusetts), or were anti-Southern Democrats first and foremost.

      1. scraping_by

        Note these are all retail politicians.

        Now that they’re media actors, there’s no motivation to reflect, even in a distorted way, the views of the voters.

  2. George Hier

    RE: Zombie Replicants to Outperform the Living
    I see the headline writers at the Department of Energy have been cribbing from the Daily Mail. A more accurate headline would be: “Scientists spray-paint cells with silicon. Results look cool, but are currently pointless.”

  3. YankeeFrank

    From “Scandal at Vatican Bank”:

    “Francis also began issuing papal decrees that helped speed inspections and made changes within the upper ranks of the cardinals. According to Bank of Italy sources, the new pope “marked important steps toward real reform of the legal and institutional framework”. Backed by Francis, the Financial Information Authority was strengthened with broader powers of supervision.

    “The pope had also asked for a review of the bank’s activities and appointed two boards made up of senior clergy and lay bankers to give advice regarding the future of the institution so that “it was in harmonization with the mission of the Catholic Church”, according to Vatican statements.”

    Francis is turning out to be a real reformer, and an original in today’s world, a reformer that isn’t a hypocrite. He’s cleaning up the Vatican bank, he broke up the Curia, and he is generally bringing the Vatican into the 21st century and transparency in a way the rest of the banking system should emulate but won’t.

    Of course the big banks are seen to be ‘taking the Vatican bank to task’ in the front of the FT piece and manage to not mention until the last third of the piece Francis’s part in the changes that started months BEFORE the Italian government started pushing for reform themselves.

    You can always rely on the elite Engish press to consistently minimize two religious groups: Jews and Catholics.

    1. Jackrabbit

      “Francis is turning out to be a real reformer…”

      I can’t share your optimism. At best, the jury is still out.

      The spin on his papacy harkens back to Obama’s “hope and change” bit:

      * The first non-european pope! But both of his parents were born in Italy.

      * Taking the name Francis and speaking for the poor – how genuine is this? Only time will tell if this radically ordinary ordinary position from a religious man is more than just talk.

      * Moves to reform the Vatican Bank were forced by scandal, but they are played up as reform efforts (and see my comments later in the thread)

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        There is a huge difference between Obama and Francis.

        When I saw Obama and his acolytes, I saw people projecting their hopes and dreams onto Obama while he tended to NewsSpeak stringing together random assortments of platitudes while genuinely being out of touch. His vaunted speech on race amounted to turn off the television and an absurd comparison to a job held by Michelle’s father which no longer exists.

        There was nothing behind “Hope and Change.” What were his ideas except to wait two weeks after Hillary proposed something and release it as his own?

        Francis is quite bright, and his speech against neo-liberalism borrowed heavily from Catholic thought, most notably Aquinas and was well put together.

        I believe compassion and competence go hand in hand. Francis may not be perfect, but he is far more on the ball than the President which reveals he isn’t completely full of it. Compare Francis’ denouncement of neo-liberalism, and look at anything by Obama. One man cared enough to present a coherent depiction of a real problem, the solution, and how to get there. “We aren’t red states, and blue states. We are the United States” or “he belongs to the ages” sound nice but ultimately represent gibberish.

        I’m not going back to Mass anytime soon, but Francis brought the pedophile scandal back when I think the church had moved on and the critics/victims/so forth had moved on. In Europe, its a newer wound, so I’m not following the day to day of the situation.’

        The jury is still out, but there is more there there. Remember Pope Francis instructed the American Bishops to hold prayer vigils for peace during Obama’s attempts to lie us to war. Francis directly challenged Obama’s blood lust, and even if he was defending Christians in Syria, shouldn’t he be? I have higher hopes for Francis than say Liz Warren at this moment.

        1. Klassy!

          Call me a dupe, but I have higher hopes for Francis too. He chose to speak of income inequality in his first formal written statement. That says something. And he spoke of this inequality being a political problem with political solutions– inequality is not something that just happened as Obama seemed to portray it.
          Depressingly, but not unexpectedly the MSM media portrayed this simply as an exhortation to step up charity efforts.
          It is not that the Catholic church has never been critical of capitalism or neoliberalism but this seemed to represent a different thing. So, despite his somewhat unsavory past, I’ll retain some optimism. Perhaps he’s our Trojan horse?

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Its not just that he chose inequality.

            Francis chose to compare the inequality in the world to stealing and murder borrowing from Aquinas and making the obvious reference to the 10 Commandments. Aquinas included the neo-liberal descriptions of the world. This was not the mere exhortation towards charity but a call for structural changes.

            This was not the b.s. which can be expected of Western politicians. John Paul II had a sense of the moment which Ratzinger lacked, so John Paul’s views were ignored because he played soccer and went skiing. This Pope has the same sense of the moment, but John Paul never sounded like this. Francis isn’t even trying. He even said evangelization is not a goal of the Catholic Church which isn’t surprising considering he is a Jesuit and thats not their realm.

            As for the Catholic Church, its always been a united force for the Peter (James)/Paul conflict. The relative freedom for Christians and control John Paul had over appointments meant way less John XXIII were being appointed as opposed to an era when the king might off the cardinal’s head if he thought the priests were being too uppity or stealing too much.

      2. YankeeFrank

        I agree with much of what your other repliers wrote, but I’d like to add that, unlike Obama, Francis is backing up his words with actions. As I mentioned, he is cleaning out the Church, both the Vatican Bank and the cardinals and bishops that protected pedophiles are all going. Cardinals that flaunt and waste the church’s wealth as if it were there own are being deposed. He cleaned out the Curia and is breaking up the little gay cabal the Vatican has been notorious for. Its not in reaction to outside events, its to refocus and clean up the church’s mission that is motivating Francis. He is a true reformer in every sense of the word.

        Sure there are things he can’t do — he can’t begin to intitiate women priests because John Paul really closed the door on that, so instead he’s openly talking about no rule against women cardinals! He’s also bringing lay people in to oversee the church’s activities, which will seriously help to clean out the dusty corners. He is no longer trying to minimize the pedophilia scandals but is dealing with this head on.

        And his behavior with regard to the poor and disenfranchised is both action and word. He’s a true Jesuit with Saint Francis’ care for the poor and outcast.

        I have a lot of hope for his efforts and the future of the Catholic church now, and I’m not even Catholic!

        1. Jackrabbit

          I hope he is the real deal.

          After the false promise of a Nobel prize-winning, constitutional lawyer who claimed to be a ‘community organizer’ and spouted lofty rhetoric, I am very hesitant to give anyone a free pass.

          I’m especially attuned to political ‘spin’.

  4. YankeeFrank

    Oh, and Lambert, thanks for the action puppy shot :).

    I saw something called a “Racoon Dog” from I forget where in a nature show last night. I’m gonna get a picture of a pup Racoon dog if you’ll put it up!

  5. judabomber

    Just wanted to make a comment regarding the several posts over the last couple of weeks about capital flows and financial crises.

    In the Steve Keen video post from about a week ago, he mentioned an excellent historical study by Schularick et al on financial crises, credit booms, and external imbalances. Looking at the paper, the authors draw the following conclusion:

    “Our overall result is that, from a policy-maker’s perspective, credit growth – not the current account – generates the best predictive signals of impending financial instability. However, the relation between credit growth and current accounts has grown much tighter in recent decades. In a globalized economy with free capital mobility credit cycles and capital flows have the potential to reinforce each other more strongly than before. The historical data clearly suggest high rates of credit growth coupled with widening imbalances pose instability risks that policy makers should not ignore.”

    Of course this comes with the following caveat from the authors:

    “The current global economic order, combining floating exchange rates with capital mobility, has no historical precedent which makes direct comparisons difficult.”

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w16567.pdf

  6. grayslady

    Almost wish you hadn’t included the article about pork production. I love pork. Wish there were a way to find product that is processed safely.

    1. 12312399

      humanely, safely slaughtering animals is labor-intensive and not cheap.

      to get an idea watch the end of the show to see Gordon Ramsay take two pigs he raised in his backyard to slaughter so that the pigs can be turned into roast….

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPKuVArmxDQ

      best bet is if you live in an area with local producers who see directly to consumers via markets or subscription (CSA-community supported agriculture like localharvest dot org ).

  7. AbyNormal

    re: Shanghai Pollution…weeks ago i listened to an NPR interview with journalist Adam Minter/Junkyard Planet. he followed our ‘recyclables’ around the world and found our plastics deposited in Shanghai. its mostly mom n pop operations (articles lamely refer to as ‘construction’ & manufacturing)…people who use to bring home $100.00 a week are now raking around a $1000.00 a week. Shanghai officials put a halt to it for a bit, but it only spread out to other provinces…so i guess they gave up. Even more interesting is the life span showing up…snip-[people would start having strokes in their 50s. And then you got into the ’90s, and you saw people starting to have strokes in their 40s. And then by the time we got there in 2009, he was seeing people having strokes in their 20s and 30s. And the cause of the strokes, and again there’s no epidemiological data on this, the studies haven’t been done, but his feeling, and, you know, you only need to spend a few hours there, the feeling of anybody who goes there is the health effects of the plastics recycling industry.]

    very interesting 411 (from boots on the ground) and i found yall the transcript ‘)

    Christmas Lights Make Slippers In Global ‘Junkyard’ Economy
    http://wap.npr.org/news/Books/244984351

    “When we buy junk, we become junk.”
    Bryant McGill, Voice of Reason

  8. Jim Haygood

    ‘What about the budget deficit? Well, with a permanent 0 percent rate policy, there is no interest to speak of being paid, so you can forget about all those issues.’ — Warren Mosler

    Interest constitutes about 6 percent of the $3.6 trillion federal budget. Eliminate it, and more than half of the estimated $560 billion 2014 deficit would remain.

    But wait, we can’t! The Federal Reserve has imposed near-zero rates on short term Treasury debt, such as 3-month T-bills. But owing to the term premium demanded on longer-term debt, 30-year T-bonds yield nearly 4 percent. The term premium is not going away, and neither is interest paid.

    Nice to see that the 19th century tradition of exhortatory economics — where you just make shit up, leap onto a tree stump, and harangue the crowd as if you know you’re talking about — still endures at UMKC, our nation’s second most prestigious institution of higher learning after my own alma mater of Whatsamatta U.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Why not make rates negative?

      If you can make them zero, you can make them negative.

      Don’t worry about them savers – they got ACA now. They may freeze to death or die of starvation from zero or negative rates on their savings, but it won’t be due to a lack of health insurance.

      By the way, this is how it works in the 2Americas today:

      0% for the rich when they shop at the discount window*
      10% for the rest of us, unless you’re subprime.
      50% in that case.

      So, it’s actually the 3mericas.

      *Discount window – where it’s great discounts everyday and everyone knows your name.

      1. optimader

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-26/negative-rates-on-treasury-bills-show-little-debt-limit-concern.html

        Negative Rates on Treasury Bills Show Little Debt-Limit Concern

        By Liz Capo McCormick – Sep 26, 2013 1:04 PM CT
        A slide below zero in rates on some Treasury bills that mature beyond October shows investors have little angst lawmakers may fail to agree on a debt limit.

        Treasury bills that mature as soon as November traded below zero today, with the bill maturing on Nov. 29 having a negative 0.005 percent rate at 2:02 p.m. New York time. The three-month bill rate was negative 0.0051 percent, compared to 0.0152 percent yesterday. Treasury bills that mature on Oct. 24 were at a rate of 0.038 percent, up from 0.018 percent yesterday.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        The concept of negative rates boggles my simple mind.

        We’re paying people to borrow money? Is that what negative rates amount to? Isn’t that a sign that something’s really out of kilter?

  9. Andrew Watts

    RE: NSA morale down after Edward Snowden revelations, former U.S. officials say

    I think Dubya was only the third president to visit the NSA. So it’s kind of a big deal to those people. Probably more so to those people(*) who bear the responsibility for the brunt of the Snowden revelations. It’s a clear statement from the White House that Obama hasn’t visited Fort Meade in person. “NOT WORTH THE TROUBLE!” Bwahaha!

    *By people I mean those former US official(s) like ex-NSA Director Michael Hayden. Hayden was the director when Bush II visited the NSA in 2002. A few years later he approved the first steps towards domestic surveillance. They were not mass collection programs per say, but they did involve the collection of phone calls originating within the country to foreign countries. He’s also been remarkable forthcoming in public (and I suspect in private with journalists) about the extent and depth of the Snowden documents. But only when he hasn’t been insulting Snowden supporters or publicly making veiled threats against the man.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Within the perception of Versailles. Even now Obama won’t propose changes to ACA because it would make him look like a girly man to clowns like Chris Matthews and Andy Sullivan despite ACA destroying any chance he has at being popular.

        He won’t even fire Sebelius because of the Versailles perception.

        I saw you made a comment about the catfood commission. A smarter guy would have run the catfood commission with right wing Democrats instead of Alan Simpson. There would have been less opposition among outlying Democrats, but Versailles loves Simpson. Obama went for the choice which would make him look wise and bipartisan for Wolf Blitzer, and twits who think Crossfire* is an intelligent show.

        *Have you seen the new one? It almost makes one nostalgic for a Begala/Carlson show.

        1. neo-realist

          Re: the catfood commission

          I believe that when Obama likes to implement policy that has a deleterious effect on the lives of Americans, he’s the kind of President who prefers that the victimization comes from a bipartisan effort, so that the political blowback doesn’t fall upon his party, ergo himself. It’s SOP for how he keeps his hands clean.

  10. Greenguy

    The Vermont Plan isn’t true single payer. Not only is it based on payroll and not income taxes (which places a higher burden on the working class rather than the wealthy), the ACA makes bulk purchasing of pharmaceutical products – a major reason why single-payer systems like Canada’s so cheap – difficult if not impossible.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Gee, that’s funny. If ObamaCare is all about bending the cost curve you’d think Big Pharma would be a concern.

      I don’t think “true” single payer has to be financed progressively, though it’s very unfortunate if it’s not. However, do you know who’s going to administer it? If it’s the insurance companies, that’s a recipe for disaster….

  11. Andrew Watts

    RE: Patriot Act author: Obama’s intel czar should be prosecuted

    Yaaay! Glad to see this incident has not died yet. People still seem to respect General Alexander for some unfathomable reason. Maybe they really do fear the NSA or they’re just easily impressed. Oh well. In either case nobody is similarly dazzled by the DNI. General Clapper, come on down!

    Sun Tzu says; “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.”

    Is it time to put some more points on the board?!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      What if these guys (or gals for that matter) have the goods on them prosecutors?

      We have to find people they have not spied on.

      “Have you been spied on today?” – I saw that on a bumper stick, in a dream recently.

  12. JTFaraday

    re: Our Coming Chronic Discouraged-Worker Epidemic: Friday Focus Equitablog. “We’re not looking at an epidemic. We’re looking at elite policy success.”

    Yeah, I agree that this was “the plan.” But I also think their assumption is that people are going to participate in the plan the way they want them to participate, pace DeLong:

    “Can we get them back into the labor force? What would we have to do to get them back into the labor force?”

    Whereas, I think there’s no real guarantee of that, especially if you try bully them pack into the labor force, which was “the plan.” I mean, he sounds panicked to me.

    Meanwhile, there’s this article in the NYTimes today about Wall Street house husbands, that I can’t actually read because for whatever reason my computer won’t load it. I’m sure it’s not saying anything I’m saying. I’m sure it’s more liberal feminist cheer leading but nevertheless:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/us/wall-street-mothers-stay-home-fathers.html

    To me, this looks to be the latest version of yesterday’s “well educated women who decide to be stay-at-home moms and don’t ‘lean in.'” Such consternation.

    All things considered, and while such people make up a relatively small fraction of the population, I think there’s a very real possibility that the people who will exit the bone crushing official “‘job’ market” are the very people who our de facto national central planners would have liked to have stayed in it.

    As all too many people have discovered already, it’s much more effective to exploit skilled labor than to exploit less skilled labor, because you get so much more bang for your buck.

    After a while, people from certain strata of the population are going to get tired of that, and they’re going to start finding ways to “lean out.”

    1. JTFaraday

      Sorry, typo:

      It won’t work “if you try bully them pack into the labor force”

      should be it won’t work “if you try bully them back into the labor force.”

    2. JTFaraday

      Actually, that’s what I always say about tenured radicals–who always have their own agenda, which they don’t necessarily disclose– who go around kicking up sh*t on campus with a bunch of students in tow, and end up professing consternation when the students starting acting on their account and end up doing the wholly unexpected.

      You can’t control how people decide to participate. I don’t know where this elite sense of puppet mastery comes from, but I don’t always see their theories about how things will work playing out the way they assume they will, in the long run.

      1. JTFaraday

        Oy. Well, for their sake, they better hope their own control over the puppets is better than my control over my keyboard today.

      2. jrs

        Yes some highly skilled and priviledged may tune in, drop out etc., especially if they have a working spouse (communes still aren’t that big afterall).

        But I don’t know if mass unemployment was the way to the end of capitalism through sheer attrition (and I’d take it :)), wouldn’t it already have taken off where they have truly mass unemployment? Because parts of Europe are miles ahead (ahead?) of us on the unemployment front. Truely mass unemployment. While it has lead to some alternative economic experiments it mostly seems pretty dire.

        1. ambrit

          Dear jrs;
          The most long lived and successful communes tend to be religiously based. The kibbutzim in the Holy Land are essentially Zionist affairs. (Spending a summer in a kibbutz was almost a rite of passage for many of the jewish kids I knew in middle and high school.) It also helps when the State is supportive. Counter culture communes seemed always on the edge of chaos.
          The other question to be addressed is; Just what is employment anyway? Not that I’d want to go back to subsistence farming but, that artifact known as money presently defines our social and political interactions. We need to develop and institute new ways of relating socially. Values are the key. Religion used to inform our values. Now Money wants to be the New Religion. Time to burn some Heretics, eh?

    3. Massinissa

      Basically the article is saying its a good thing because it makes women be able to be a better part of the looting class.

      Gotta have equal opportunity looting, you know.

      1. JTFaraday

        Yeah, that’s what I figured. Liberal feminist cheer leading whitewashing Wall Street.

        But when it comes to white washing Wall Street, there are plenty of “look forward, not back” strategies being deployed.

        Certainly, the deficit talk functioned as one such means of changing the subject. Simon Johnson predicted just that in that Atlantic article from March 2009:

        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/307364/

        The corresponding “progressive” calls for “full employment” instead, appear to be counter to the “conservative” or neoliberal deficit strategy, but they both share in common the same “look forward, not back” dynamic. By itself that’s not really satisfactory.

        We’ve long noted that the political parties are really two fronts for the elites. I think that criticism applies in the public policy space as well.

  13. Jim Haygood

    ‘The International Freedom Foundation was part of a South African intelligence gathering operation designed to be an instrument of “political warfare” against apartheid’s foes, according to Newsday.’ — Apartheid’s Useful Idiots

    Substitute ‘AIPAC’ and ‘Israeli,’ and it’s still true today.

    Who will be Palestine’s Nelson Mandela?

    1. Massinissa

      Israel would just poison him like they did Arafat with Plutonium…

      Israel is smarter than SA: SA thought imprisoning people for decades was the answer. Israel knows better.

  14. dearieme

    I see that Tett’s effort is consistent with The First Law of Journalism: Thou shalt know no science.

    After wittering about the problems of killing bacteria, she writes “And that is a chilling point to ponder; particularly as we all brace ourselves to deal with this winter’s wave of cold and flu bugs” i.e. she cites viral illnesses.

    I continue to be baffled as to why so many people rate her highly.

    1. AbyNormal

      your not kiddin Dave!…THANKS YVES

      “What we’d like is a way of making infocoins unique. They need a label or serial number. Alice would sign the message “I, Alice, am giving Bob one infocoin, with serial number 8740348″. Then, later, Alice could sign the message “I, Alice, am giving Bob one infocoin, with serial number 8770431″, and Bob (and everyone else) would know that a different infocoin was being transferred.

      To make this scheme work we need a trusted source of serial numbers for the infocoins. One way to create such a source is to introduce a BANK.”

      pesky serials bahahahahahaaaaaaa

      “I believe the only way to reform people is to kill them.”
      Carl Panzram

        1. AbyNormal

          mining = bankers making bank

          im with Mango Cat: “I also somewhat disapprove of the concept of encouraging people to “mine digital space to earn currency” since that creates an artificial demand for energy which could grow into a significant waste of “real world” resources as such a system scales up.”

          sound familiar? of course it does.
          yesterday i was told ‘get a Clue Aby’…me thinks the poster wanted me to sniff his Glue

    2. diptherio

      Yes, the iterative description was quite enlightening.

      It’s interesting how bitcoin attempts to recreate money in the form of a thing, or rather many individual things. This is in contrast to systems like time-dollars or the Greek TEMS, where money is the result of (and a reflection of) relationships between people. I think there’s something deep there, somewhere….

      1. susan the other

        Bitcoin does know what it wants to be: anything it wants to be. It wants to be a medium of exchange the value of which cannot be diluted. It wants to be secured by code and protocol even tho’ millions of Bc just got looted. It admits it is not backed by any intrinsic value. It wants to be a giant people’s bank where people simply sign a letter of intent and produce their own programmable money. But for sure it does not want to dilute the value of Bitcoin. It denies it is baked by a sovereign purpose. It wants to be backed only by secure strings of numbers. (Gee who wouldn’t). Bitcoin doesn’t care if PBOC has banned it and declared it to be a virtual commodity – it never wanted to be a currency in the first place. But it does seek to be a medium of broad-based exchange. It’s stated purpose is to promote “new forms of collective behavior.” But it doesn’t want to expand bitcoins; it just wants a manageable number. (Gee who wouldn’t) On the other hand it really, really does want to be a medium of exchange and it does want to be exchangeable with national currencies. But still, it would rather be a commodity. Oh dear. How clever can you get?

        1. AbyNormal

          sure glad this got thru STO…taking it with me
          (what if it had been a bitcoin transaction…id have been a bit short an a bit late’)

      2. jrs

        Money as labor is always good (Ithica dollars etc.). At least if it eliminates the money not as labor.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Born smart or rich?

    Brainwashing question.

    It’s better to be worn wise…because if we were all wise, we’d be all equally rich or equally poor.

    Smart won’t get you that.

    Smart will get you the neatest spying gadgets. ‘Oh, that’s cool!’

    And rich guys (and gals) always seem to have a lot of smart guys (and gals) working for them.

    But not wise guys (and gals); otherwise, they wouldn’t be wise…unless it’s for a greater cause.

    1. PQS

      Haven’t read the article, but the question itself seems designed to reinforce the dominant paradigm – that success is the ultimate goal, either by being smart or rich.

      What about being born empathetic? What about being born ethical? What about being born artistic or creative? Aren’t these qualities more important than either the smart/rich options?

      One of the things that struck me in reading about Mandela’s life over the past week is that he seemed like a person who WAS born empathetic, who was able to throw away the bitter gall of revenge in service of a higher goal. Not a common trait in humans, but perhaps a much, much better goal going forward.

      1. jrs

        Good point. Although of course I believe people are born empathetic to some degree, but it’s burned out of most of them. The rest takes effort, as does regaining empathy if it’s been driven out of you. Getting rich is the wrong goal of a life.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Debt.

    There are people, I notice, who always want to do you a favor, but never, never, ever would let you help them.

    You feel like you owe them a favor back.

    In fact, mathematically, you do own them a favor back.

    In the meantime, it seems to be interest free.

    But you don’t feel at ease.

    Here you are – a non-collateralized debt (a debt of favor, a debt of gratitude), zero interest, but you feel like a sword over your head, even when he/she tells you to forget about it.

    And then there are situations, when you owed someone a debt of favor and you were able to repay the favor back and you felt great about yourselves.

    But when you see someone who always want to help and when in need of help him or herself, refuses, there’s something you say to yourself, why? ‘No, no, I am fine. Really.’

  17. anon y'mouse

    the Smarm article is interesting. that one is a reaction to the other is possibly accurate, but not quite.

    they are two sides of the same coin.

    one uses outrage, disgust and moral reprehensibility to shut down examination of everything the “opponent” has said. if you can frame the other side as a low down dirty double dealin’ backstabbin’ bar brawler, so that what they are saying is never examined fully nor taken seriously, you’ve won.

    the other uses superiority, sarcasm, subtle degradation, and all of the other tricks and tools to place their opponents in the position of fools, incompetents, idealists, or {insert misguided person here} to shut down examination of the arguments made. if you can successfully cast the opponent as someone not worth listening to because, “hey! who wants to “follow” a stupid person? why should anyone take seriously the ideas of a stupid person?” then you’ve won by shutting down the opposition. especially if they don’t successfully come back with the same snide putdowns.

    few people realize that from there it just turns into a slinging match. which makes both sides stupid, in my opinion.

    so, i’m not against snark and sarcasm and even “smarm” or moral outrage when it is genuine, but when it is used as a tool to dismiss criticism, halt discussion, and thus eliminate the possibility of determining greater truth (if that’s possible at all in the post-modern world) or accuracy, then both are pretty damned despicable.

    also, I do think that the postures we take online can infect how we react to the world. if ‘being depressed’ can make you more depressed just by repeatedly activating certain pathways in your brain, then behaving superiorly dismissive of all “idiots” (which is practically the whole damned world, when you get down to it, except for moi!) is bound to carry over into real life. people already tend to behave like this when behind the wheel of a car, or while directing a shopping cart in the supermarket. civility is not totally lost, but the “stupidity” of everyone else out there when one is sealed into the bubble of one’s own office or set of wheels seems to do something to people.

    not to mention, young folk (hA!) are already uppity and feel superior. life will smack them down fast enough, so they don’t need schooling from any of us, but it is a bad attitude to encourage at any age. imagine a world where people do not grow into any ‘mature humility’ because Snark/Smarm is ever-present. the person never has to consider, or seriously even take into mind another person’s arguments. they already know that everything they think, or want to think about, is superior to anything another person might say.

    this is some kind of nihilistic egotism cocktail that technology can only foster into full society-wide personality disorder. yeah, it doesn’t happen to everyone. they’re polite enough when you’re among them, but that is also becoming mainly a passive-aggressive type of veneer to avoid conflict with someone who might be bigger and more belligerent than themselves.

    now ends my coffee-infused ramble of the morning. sorry!

    1. Klassy!

      I enjoyed your rambling even if it was a little uncomfortable for me– I see myself in your description of people at the grocery store and in their cars. (I may not see myself as superior, but there is a bit of superiority to my perception of myself as average– as in “I’ve read enough to know that I’m average.”)
      I have to brace myself everytime I enter the grocery store and force a smile on my face. I don’t know if it’s the people but all the stupid “choices”, or the discovery that they’ve shrunk yet another package, or the constant request for donations at the checkout line.

      1. Bridget

        “I have to brace myself everytime I enter the grocery store and force a smile on my face.”

        Why can’t you just go into a grocery store and buy your stuff and then leave? Why do you think you have to force a smile on your face?

        Although, I’m from Texas, where it’s natural that you smile at people in the grocery store. And then you talk to them and they talk back. Or vice versa. It’s actually sort of pleasant. Not forced at all. Unless you are really depressed.

      2. Bridget

        I must confess. I enjoy practicing smiling at perfect strangers on the street. And driving politely. Almost every time I get the reward of a big smile back or a wave of acknowledgement for my attempt at being considerate behind the wheel.

    2. gordon

      I enjoyed the article on “smarm” by T.Scocca. He has packaged up an essay on the decline of factual and logical public discourse around a new (well, retreaded) word really well. I just hope that people will be able to unpack “smarm” into its various components:
      1) selling product;
      2) cheerleading;
      3) euphemism, and
      4) propaganda.

      I guess I just wonder whether a journalistic tour de force like Scocca’s isn’t actually going to make it harder for people to identify the precise type of bullshit they’re being subjected to. Calling it all by one single name – smarm – may not really be the best way to alert people to what’s going on.

  18. TarheelDem

    My understanding is that healthcare.gov does not itself handle financial transactions. Any financial transactions would be triggered in insurance company or Medicaid systems in processing the enrollment forms. What appears to be the case is that validation of assets for Medicaid applications or other subsidy programs requires touching credit-reporting databases, but those are not financial transactions.

    Throughout this whole mess, it has seemed to me that that the Administration has been covering for insurance companies, particularly those who are members of AHIP (remember that Blue Cross/Blue Shield wrote the bill) who had not fully implemented HIPAA data transactions and who were dragging their feet on implementing Obamacare and who are the source of the “error-prone” transactions claim just because of bugs in their software that receives the transactions and interfaces with their internal systems.

    It is clear to me that for various reasons some insurance companies likely had more difficulty interfacing a standard data transaction than others did. A hub in which a single standard transaction feed up to 1500 receiving transactions is more likely to have problems at the receiving end.

    Some sceptical coverage of insurance company interfacing would be helpful at this point in clarifying what has been going wrong, as they are the ones alledging high error rates.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Literally, no, it does not. However, from the end user perspective that’s how it’s going to feel. Especially for those who pay, and then find out their not covered because of the 834s mess.

      1. TarheelDem

        That illusion is because the media and the politicians of both parties have made a decision to shield insurance company poor performance. Kudos to the investigative journalist who comes up on evidence behind the failure to implement HIPAA 834 data transactions at insurance companies properly. And the likely Bush administration granting of waivers to keep a health information system as envisioned by HIPAA from ever occurring. Just a hunch.

    2. Bridget

      Nice try.

      “My understanding is that healthcare.gov does not itself handle financial transactions. Any financial transactions would be triggered in insurance company or Medicaid systems in processing the enrollment forms.”

      You mean the faulty enrollment forms sent to them by clusterfuck?

      “Throughout this whole mess, it has seemed to me that that the Administration has been covering for insurance companies,”

      Throug”hout this whole mess, it has seemed to me that the insurance companies and the Administration are in bed together and they are all lying through their teeth.

      “Some sceptical coverage of insurance company interfacing would be helpful at this point in clarifying what has been going wrong, as they are the ones alledging high error rates.”

      The day after Obama pretended that insurance companies could let people who like their policies keep them, I predicted in a comment on this very site that two could play the delay game, and that insurance companies would suddenly find it impossible to enroll people they didn’t want to enroll. What you are obfuscating is that THEY ARE COLLUDING!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        It isn’t really that the forms are faulty, though gawd knows that could be happening too. It’s that the back end is mangling them on the way to the insurance companies.

        On collusion, why yes! Who’d a thunk it?!

      2. Splashoil

        Exactly. Collusion to manipulate the “natural selection” to pull in the actuarial positives whatever the cost. CA just sent Insurance Companies contact information to speed up the selection without asking permission. What could possibly go wrong? We are doomed with these clowns. Soon the whole game will be privately managed like Medicaid. Rents all around! We don’t need O and HHS after all.

  19. Jackrabbit

    Scandal at the Vatican Bank

    By this summer, von Freyberg had sought out Promontory Financial, a global risk-control group that specialises in regulatory and compliance issues. Promontory’s contract, according to von Freyberg, costs “well above seven digits”… Promontory employees now comprise 25 per cent of the staff of the Vatican bank, according to the Vatican.

    Promontory was the same group that was involved with the OCC’s sham Independent Foreclosure Review. Yves’ reporting on the IFR revealed Promontory as a landing place for sell-out regulators – hired guns as ‘fixers’.

    Is it any surprise, then, that soon after Promontory is engaged, a prominent financial rag trumpets the Vatican Bank’s reform program? Nothing to see here.

    The comment section of the article is most interesting. One reader complains that despite what is claimed to be an 11-month investigation, the article is simply a re-hashing of what is already public information:

    Monocles
    I must admit, based upon the title of this article and the extensive amount of time (11 months) spent on the investigation, I expected much more in terms of concrete evidence of misdealings at the Vatican Bank. Instead, we find silly suspicious vignettes that should grace the inside of a paperback novel . . . rather than stain the front page of the FT.

    ad iudicium
    I am sorry Rachel to comment that the article was a complete copy filler. I entirely agree with Monocles, where is the real story here? . . . Furthermore, the headline gives the inference of present tense when it is past.

    Alan101
    True that after 11 months etc, what we get is a superficial report, tiptoeing around generalities. And yes, there has been little done on LIBOR, let alone the whole banking fraud crisis in the West . . . Not much of God’s work going on anywhere.

    Sure enough, later comments praise the reporting (soon after an FT editor reviews the comments and leaves a note about the ft’s Libor investigations which some had found wanting).

  20. fresno dan

    Standards of evidence Interfluidity

    3.For reasons that would be baffling, if I weren’t so cynical about the economics profession, the Permanent Income Hypothesis was generally accepted as sufficient explanation of observed MPC effects in cross-sectional data, and the issue was considered closed. You were naive and ill-informed if you thought MPC effects in the data had anything to do with inequality. They had been explained

    It is incredible that anyone would believe the permanent income hypothesis…

    “But we are not always, or even usually, behaving as scientists. The Tax Foundation will tell you right off that taxes are bad for growth, much worse than spending cuts. Studies prove it, and if you disagree you are simply wrong. Steve Roth aptly wonders why so few voices among “respectable progressives” are willing to even give fair consideration to the case that inequality might be an impediment to growth. I think he has a point. This isn’t a general phenomenon. It’s not like “liberals are cautious scientists, while conservatives run roughshod over the truth”. Progressive economists are willing to assert, in the same stentorian, authority-of-science voice as the Tax Foundation people, that fiscal multipliers are real or that evidence against expansionary austerity is incontrovertible. But on connections between inequality and the macroeconomy, it feels like respectable progressives are always looking for an excuse to say there’s no there there. People who are usually very smart make very thin arguments that are frankly beneath them to cast doubt on the relationship.”

    Why I so like Waldman – trying to be objective and use the same standards of evidence on theories. But I suspect he knows that no matter how much linear regression you apply to reading chicken entrails, people will only see what they want to see.

      1. SashaB

        Mandela has had Alzheimer’s or some other sort of impairment for years. Obama didn’t meet with him because Mandela was seriously ill and would not have recognized him or even his title, in all likelihood.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Somebody said “NO” and I, for one, am grateful that the meeting never took place.

          I have no doubt that Obama CRAVED a photo-op with Mandela, whether Mandela could recognize him or not.

  21. Bridget

    Re: Obamacare’s promise. If you lose your heathcare plan, you can get a new one.

    Ha! Ezra is whistling past the graveyard. Who cares if you can get a new plan IF YOU HATE YOUR NEW PLAN AND YOU WANT YOUR OLD ONE BACK! This is the kind of betrayal that will not be forgiven and will never be forgotten.

    1. jrs

      “Health insurance isn’t such a fraught topic in countries such as Canada and France because people don’t live in constant fear of losing their ability to get routine medical care. A decade from now, that will be true in the U.S., too. But it’s not true yet, and paradoxically, that’s one reason health reform is so difficult. The status quo has left people rightly fearful, and when people are afraid, change is even scarier.”

      Medicare for all is the inevitable result of Obamacare. And how do we know it? You need not ask why, it’s Erza prophecy. The inevitable path to not for profit medicine runs through for profit medicine. Oh don’t ask why. It’s like asking why the path to the state withering away runs through totalitarianism. It just does.

      You’re playing 3 dimensional chess and these guys play 11th dimensional chess, artificial intelligence hasn’t even caught on to 11th dimensional chess yet. Yea Erza really had to tie himself in knots for that one.

      (Mind you I could see Obamacare increasingly becoming such a disaster there is mass demand for single payer but it is far from inevitable.)

    2. jrs

      Btw the Erza title reminds me of an old Mark Russel (groan) joke about the elder Bush: there’s no new taxes, they are just going to raise the old ones.

      See noone every really breaks promises, not if you define them right …

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