Links 1/2/12

Lambert Strether is an old-school blogger from Corrente.

Resistance to Monsanto’s Bt corn emerging more rapidly than expected. What could go wrong?

The $18 Trillion Threat Of The Unregulated Shadow Banking System Forbes (SusanW). IMF study PDF. What could go wrong?

New kidneys via Facebook. What could go wrong?

Dental care via Groupon.

People rush to empty flexible spending accounts or claim bargains after meeting deductibles before year’s end LA Times. Magic of the health care marketplace.

Physicians for a National Health Program supports OWS.

Charlotte Occupy flag burners charged for careless use of fire.

Secret discussion between prosecutor and judge in Boston Occupy tweet subpoena hearing ACLU. What tyranny looks like.

Iowa primary tweet hilarity DeLong.

New Year’s messages crash twitter Daily Mail. We’re actually becoming accustomed to privatized infrastructure that regularly fails.

Obama’s weasel wording in the New Year’s NDAA signing statement George Washington.

Obama’s NDAA signing statement guts section 1024, one of the few good provisions EmptyWheel (MS).

“Why has the devotion of a great deal of skill and enterprise to finance and insurance sector not paid obvious economic dividends?” DeLong. Looting?

Forecasting the forecasters Big Picture. Meta meta.

“77% believe the nation’s problems can be solved with better leaders.” Especially if they’re uniformed mean wearing sunglasses?

Paul’s newsletters a profitable enterprise McClatchy. Picador work from the Progressive Media Project.

In a first, gas and other fuels are top US export (SusanW). The curse of hydrocarbon.

State- and local level corporate subsidy tracker.

Using our “cognitive surplus” in call centers at Al Jazeera. No higher calling!

Hollywood arson spree claims Jim Morrison’s former home LA Times.

The fiddly balance sheets of Indian infrastructure firms Economist (MS).

Indian democracy as anger management (MS).

American teenagers display adaptability, lose interest in driving. No wonder. Cars are expensive, and a new one often means debt.

Dept. Of Homeland Security Cologne. “If you smell something, say something.”

Upton Sinclair’s EPIC campaign for CA governor in 1934. His opponents invented the modern political campaign to defeat him. Today’s must read.

Antidote du Jour, hat tip Furzy Mouse.

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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.


    1. ambrit

      Dear rjs;
      Please let us know if you get any of the other ‘signs and portents’ associated with fracking.
      Am I just getting old? The minute I read any news item with a variation of the phrase, “According to officials,” in it nowadays I assume the opposite of whatever is being asserted to be probably true.
      I’ve generally been a Sceptic. Now I’m a Cynic? What next, the Hermetic Life? “Ambrit Stylites.” That sounds interesting.
      As a sidebar, as I was googling some terms I used above, in Explorer mode, I kept geting shunted off to references to pay sites by E machines. This is blatant commercialism, of course, and well below what we were led to expect at the dawn of our ‘Brave New World’ of internet computing. Any suggestions for this ossified old fart?

        1. ambrit

          Dear rjs;
          Thanks for the link. I like your site.
          We live above the Tuscaloosa Trend ourselves, so fracking might become an issue one day. Especially considering the ungodly complex of fault zones associated with the New Madrid fault and the lower Mississippi Valley.
          One good reason the Tuscaloosa Trend isn’t such a huge gas producer, (I got this from a Petroleum Engineer in this area,) is the presence of hydrogen sulfide in parts of the deposit. The petros are waiting for the market price to justify the cost of extraction and sequestration of the toxic gas before serious activity is commenced. Then, who knows? Maybe the Mississippi River will flow backwards again.

  1. Unsympathetic

    Did Monsanto’s PR department write that article? They tried to blame the farmers for the issues with Frankenfood!

    1. Sock Puppet

      Got me checking, 5 mins on Google. Sources include:

      Gregory Jaffe – a lawyer who works for Center for Science and Public Policy – global warming deniers and GMO apologists

      “Aaron Gassmann has received research funding, not related to this project, from Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, and Bayer …”

      These two are the “some scientists…” and the “experts…”

      Bruce Tabashnik, an entemologist with no evidence of compromising funding, and the farmer just get a couple paragraphs at the bottom.

      So yes, Unsympathetic, I would say you named that tune!

      1. Sock Puppet

        Here’s an item from Bloomberg earlier this month:

        Certainly makes the later piece look like a blame the victim piece.

        Here’s another piece that labels a environmentalist who predicted this “a left-winger”:

        It is eerily fascinating watching the propaganda machine at work here.

    2. Praedor

      Inevitable (resistance) and predictable. That is, inevitable and predictable that Monsanto would attempt to cast blame everywhere but upon themselves AND that resistance to Bt corn would evolve quickly.

      Evolution happens. You spike a plant with ONE insecticide and guess what’s going to happen? Quick resistance. Hell, one can look at the heavy use of multiple antibiotics hither and yon…look where that’s led.

      Monsanto’s execs and even their scientists are morons. Or perhaps their scientists knew the inevitability of resistance but let it slide ’cause they know what side of the toast their paycheck is buttered on. As for the execs at Monsanto…business degrees…utterly worthless and utter crap. Too bad their fantasies about how business works or how economics works has absolutely no connection to the real world whatsoever.

      1. Sock Puppet

        Oh, speaking of antibiotics, meant to send this in:


        Unfortunately people at Monsanto are not morons. What we have is a system that rewards companies for sociopathic behavior. They tried for a while to deny that there was an issue with bt corn, but now the EPA is on the case, they picked up on some comments in the EPA report and are spinning a whole blame-the-farmer storyline out of it. They even changed the headline so that blogs like this would pick it up. They are just playing the game by the rules they’ve been given (and of course helped shape).

        This is why I jump in when I see someone here (not in this thread today) using bad science in support of a good cause. It’s just a weakness that will be exploited by some very smart sociopaths.

  2. craazyman

    Jim Morrison is alive and living in Africa as a shaman, writing poetry no one will ever understand. :)

    1. Jim

      So what happens when a Chinese mining concern comes across him, holed up in his cave, preaching to his followers?

      1. craazyman

        At this point his followers will be too old to offer much resistance. The Chinese won’t recognize the Lizard King and will think the followers are Baptist Missionaries. The Chinese will ignore them all.

  3. ambrit

    Re. adaptable teenagers;
    No surprise there, especially since they are piling up huge debt burdens to go to ‘college’ to learn skills they used to learn ‘on the job’ while being paid sub standard wages, which they still are being paid during the ‘probation’ periods for most jobs.
    I like the good old term: “Sweating your labour.” “If it was good enough for grandpappy, dag nabbit!”

  4. Pam Silva

    Mitt Romney’s top 3 contributors in the first 3 quarters of 2011 all received bailouts from the Federal Reserve.
    #1 Goldman Sachs gave Romney $354,700, chump change considering the bailout of $814,000,000.
    #2 Credit Suisse Group gave Romney $195,250 after receiving $262,000,000 from the Fed.
    #3 Morgan Stanley gave Romney $185,800 after getting the 2nd largest bailout, a whopping $2,040,000,000!
    9 out of the top 20 contributors to the Romney campaign are on the top 20 list of companies bailed out by the Federal Reserve.

    Of course we all know who Ron Paul’s top 3 contributors are:
    #1 US Airforce, #2 US Army, #3 US Navy…ecret-bailouts…es/102566.html

    1. Jim

      Pam, what about Bain Capital donating a majority of their (employees) contributions to President Obama.

      With respect to GS and others, why not blame Obama. Had it not been for his intervention, those firms would have gone under. What does it say about the President that the people whose jobs he saved are now supporting another candidate?

  5. Ep3

    Yves, I have been thinking about something lately. As of lately I have put together more pieces from looking at the world while growing up. Anyway, now that I have a degree and have a job in the field, and seeing how some persons are promoted/gain employment, I am starting to begin providing more detail to this hypothesis.
    Here is my background premis I started with. Supposedly in America if u work hard enough, you can be successful. So I have tried to do my best. But I have found ppl who have “connections”, they have achieved sometimes better. One person has two early 20s out of work children. He happens to live next door to someone who has mgmnt connections in a large insurance company’s corporate office. Well he announces how his successful daughter has gotten a job at this company and frequently brags about it. Approximately one year later do we hear from this bragger that this neighbor hired his offspring. So did the person get hired based upon skill set or as a neighborly favor? Taking into account, the employer is in Michigan, where good jobs are scarce. So was this offspring truly the best qualified in a state with 25% unemployment?
    Now my next component came while watching the show ‘mad men’. The main character is a self made man. Came from nothing, hard work and being good at his job results in him having a successful career in what he is naturally good at. He didnt attend an Ivy league school, he didn’t have parents with money and connections. So while watching this show I have been wondering what are the odds that this happens in our world today? Sure, you may find many people that are happy at their job and good at their work. But are they truly born to do their job? Or do they do it because of financial reasons?
    So I ask, in today’s world, given these two examples, would a person graduating college with a degree, would they find employment commensurate with skill set? Put another way, due to our declining economy, we have more employees than jobs. So when employers hire, they are choosing based upon things other than skill set. So I hypothesize that the daughter from the above example possibly caused a more qualified person to not get hired with the company. But in the larger picture, I am trying to say that since we have more workers than jobs, we have persons like don draper that would not get hired for a job that would make him a valuable asset to a company. Instead, we have persons with connections and friendships getting hired over qualified workers. In fact, these persons being hired may have the skill sets, but we have other qualified individuals wasting their skill sets waiting tables and serving French fries. Thats my theory.

    1. ambrit

      dear Ep3;
      Another term used to describe the phenomenon you outline is Politics.
      The Brit show “Rumpole of the Bailey” had a crony themed episode called, appropriately enough, “The Old Boy Net.”
      Worth a watch.
      Good luck, you have already made a good start in learning to think for yourself.

    2. Anonymous Jones

      Running out of time.

      Must respond quickly.

      World is unfair.

      Has always been thus.

      (fictionalized exceptions notwithstanding).

      “World of Should” will never exist.

      If desire less unfairness, stop whining and start actually working on real solutions.

      1. ambrit

        Hey Jones;
        Cut the kid some slack. The first requirement for change is knowledge. Then comes the analysis part. Then, if we’re lucky and or good, comes action.
        (Is that Iambic Pentameter?)

      2. Bryonie Pritchard

        Anonymous Jones: “World of Should” will never exist…..If desire less unfairness, stop whining and start actually working on real solutions.”

        But aren’t you saying that people *should* stop whining, and they *should* start working on real solutions instead?

        You mean like supporting Occupy Wall Street? Oh wait, you never really supported that one, did you. (If I’m mistaken, then point to the link or comment where you expressed support for OWS.)

        So you mean like making comments on a blog that are critical of others, for instance? Like the vast majority of your comments.

    3. EH

      “Supposedly in America if u work hard enough, you can be successful.”

      This is a lie u have been sold. Google “Fundamental Attribution Error.”

    4. Ransome

      Workers are frequently employed for reasons that are not known to you. My first job hire had me mistakenly thinking it was good grades in college. The HR person later mentioned that it was because I had been in the military and could not be drafted. I might hire a “librarian” type personality for my team, because they maintain order. None of the applicants will know, unless they can pry it out of me. Knowing the most you can about a company always helps and knowing how you might add value helps. Sometimes skills don’t appear to add value unless you can frame them as a contribution. Don’t expect the interviewer to recognize potential.

  6. Cal

    Call centers as opportunity to spread pro Democracy propaganda.

    Whenever I get an unsolicited call, I look at it as an opportunity to talk to people and stir up trouble for the corporations that employ them. If they are Indian, I tell them that they are taking a job away from an American who would make at least ten dollars an hour. “How much are you making? — Do you know how rich your employer is getting of of your slave labor? Oh, and by the way, I don’t accept calls from foreigners…goodbye!”

    If the solicitor is American it gets really fun. “So what kind of benefits are you making?””You getting full time work?” “Do you guys have bathroom and lunch breaks?”

    “Who owns your company?” “Are they millionaires?”

    “Let me tell you about a great website called Naked, you can learn all about the good companies and the bad ones there.”

    Sometimes the Indians pretend to be Americans. You can almost always tell. “How’s the weather there in Arizona?”
    (They always claim to be from Arizona for some reason)
    “Oh it’s fine”…”So, what color are the Arizona license plates this year?” “what?” “you know, license plates, do you own a car?” It gets hilarious after that, often the real hard cases will stay on the phone for half an hour attempting to get your credit card number to sell you some kind of coupon or such. Have fun and don’t forget to tape the calls, with their permission of course.

    1. Sock Puppet

      Next generation call center – staffed by Americans speaking Chinese with an Indian accent…

        1. ambrit

          I believe the proper phrase is: “Welcone to Tiennamin Square, running dog Democracy supporter!”

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I think it will be especially useful as a ’99 Cents and All You Can Get Psychological Consoling Call Center’ after the Novemeber election:

          ‘Comrade Jones, it’s only an election, not an erection. You know they are not the same, don’t you? They sound similar but they are not. So, don’t get excited! An election once every four years is very normal. An erection once every four years would be a cause for concern, but that’s not what you have here.’

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I should add that under the dictatorship of the proletariat in the former USSR, one never got excited over an election.

            One could only get excited over an erection.

      1. ambrit

        Sorry Sockey, but the Brits have beat you to it. A few years ago, the Ministry of Education instituted a broad based programme to develop a population of Mandarin speaking school kids. I believe the goal was several hundred thousand! If Herr Murdoch had succeeded in his Anschluss of SkyNet, those call centres would have been in Bognor Regis. Any Comm Barons listening in? There’s a business model lying around unattended!

    2. craazyman

      better watch it Cal or you might end up as a call center operator in your next life. ho ho.

      I try to be very polite. When I had a phone I’d just say “Put me on your do not call list please.” But once I lost my temper and told the guy to go f– himself in the nastyess way possible. There was a silence in the line and my brain as boiling with a cauldron of life stress. But after i hung up, I realized I failed a test of character and composure. And I jarred the mind wave so hard that it was like a knife and I don’t know who it ultimately stabbed. But it stabbed I am sure. Someone, his girlfriend maybe, or some person who waters the plants above his cubical. Somebody without defense, I need to remember that.

      Now since I have no phone or TV they try to get me directly through telepathy and I can feel the relentless press of their thanatically aggressive but brittle neuroses, their survival neuroses. I can only try to let it wash around me like water in a stream and not add to it by my own failures of consciousness.

  7. Externality

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a report card comparing the civil rights record of President Obama with that of the Republicans seeking to run against him in November. According to the ACLU, two candidates, Gary Johnson and Congressman Ron Paul, have better records on civil liberties issues than President Obama. The ACLU report card can be found here:

    From SFGate:

    The highest overall rating went to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, who opposes the Patriot Act and – unlike Obama – supports the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Among the leading Republican candidates, libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul also got a higher score than Obama despite low ratings in several categories.

    The ACLU gave the Texas congressman [Ron Paul] high marks for opposing the Patriot Act and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, condemning waterboarding and voting to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But it criticized Paul’s call for an end to “birthright citizenship” for children of illegal immigrants, his support of the law that denies federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples and his opposition to abortion.

    Read more:

      1. Cynthia

        Perhaps things aren’t so black and white, Prime Beef, but it seems pretty clear to me that our imperial elites love using black men with baby faces to sell all sorts of lies to us. First they used Baby Face Colin Powell to sell us the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and now they are using Baby Face Barack Obama to sell us all kinds of lies – anything from Iran being a threat to our national security to our banking system being free of criminal activities.

        So until the American people get this myth out of their heads that black people, especially the ones with baby faces, are somehow more likely to oppose endless and unjust wars, rein in criminal activities on Wall Street and protect our Constitutional Rights, we will continue to see our imperial elites using blacks to do their imperial dirty work for them.

        But eventually it will reach a point when the American people will realize that they have been lied to in a very big way. And when they do realize this, and they will particularly when the American Empire starts falling apart at the seams, most of them will be incapable of connecting the dots back to our imperial elites, which will result in a huge backlash against the black community rather than our corrupt and tight circle of imperial elites.

        I can’t help but think that this sort of thing was planned from the very beginning, at least dating back to 9/11.

    1. Lidia

      Again no mention of Paul’s patriarchal theocrat tendencies.

      Get rid of government because “patriarchal” religious tribunals can judge better, plus blastocysts deserve full personhood.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    If you think it’s deja vu all over again and if you feel that way all the time, it’s OK.

    You’re not insane.

    Relative to the sun, we are exactly where we were a year ago, two years ago, etc.

    SO, yea, we have been here before.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    A reminder.

    If you have any left over Christmas wishes, don’t throw them away.

    Use them for your New Year resolutions.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    My astrology du jour.

    Looking ahead.

    2012 – year of the Mayans’ End of the World and also the year of the Dragon. Could be quite a ride.

    2013 – after the worlds’ end, you get the year of the Snake (I would avoid eating apples a year long) and also the number 13 (sell all silver coins the year before, I suppose). Should be interesting.

    2014 – A true beginning (for this Neo-Neanderthal) as we enter the Horse Age with the Year of the Horse!!! A true auspicious beginning.

  11. MacCruiskeen

    “We’re actually becoming accustomed to privatized infrastructure that regularly fails.”

    Twitter is not infrastructure; it is a service that runs that the infrastructure of the network allows to exist. And infrastructure has always been prone to failure. And it always has finite capacity, or have you not tried driving in rush hour lately? So it turns out that Twitter does not have infinite capacity. So what?

  12. craazyman

    If anybody wants to try to understand hypothecation and re-hypothecation this is a good explanation. Somehow, even though I’m just a layman without specialist knowledge, I think it’s even more complicated than this. I get a sense that there’s an additional invisible layer of un-named and un-quantified force that hovers over this whole hypothecation/re-hypoth/leverage dynamo, and that this nameless and quantity-less layer of force is nevertheless somehow the primary agent of reality construction. This is not helpful, of course, to me or anyone who wants to understand this, but it’s just what I sense about it. What it is that is nameless and quantity less but otherwise “in charge” seems to me (hat tip to you Valissa) something that takes the structure of a myth in the classic psychoanalytical sense. One might say I have simply mistaken “confidence in the system” for this force, and this is the outer surface, but I think the confidence is also a manifestation of this force but not it itself. Beyond that, I don’t really have a clue.

    1. Yata

      Much in the same boat you are, crazyman. When this story hit Yves put the evil discriminating eye to the veracity of these Reuters’ claims. Single-sourced data without corroborating the numbers seemed to top her list.
      The deep insidious aspect of the storyline works to keep it in league with other previously secret financial machinations come to light of late. Count me in your camp as I won’t shut the door on the possible extents of this scenario.

      1. craazyman

        I totally missed on that one, thanks. I actually believed the article’s analysis without even realizing it was unsubstantiated because it explained things so well. Man, you can’t let your guard down for even one second or you’re road kill like a squirrel on I-95. How can a normal person follow and understand any of this 3 card monte finance? They can’t, because if they’re normal then they’re not psychopathically insane like the creators of it. But what’s done to them in the name of it makes them insane, so the 3-card shuffle creates a certain symmetry between perp and population that one might call an equilibrium of insanity. Maybe unregulated markets really do tend to equilibrium!

  13. Francois T

    Re: ““77% believe the nation’s problems can be solved with better leaders.”

    In a word, “our system of government, as well as the fundamentals of our country are fine and very sound TYVM! If only we could choose the right people.”

    The level of denial and delusion is positively frightening.

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