Links 4/17/12

Memory Foraging: When the Brain Behaves Like a Bee Scientific American

On the Border Between Matter and Anti-Matter: Nanoscientists Find Long-Sought Majorana Particle Science Daily (furzy mouse)

All Five Star Trek Captains Unite at London Event Vancouver Sun (Valissa)

U.S. Senator Tours Fukushima, Warns Situation Worse Than Reported …Urges Japan to Accept International Help to Stabilize Dangerous Spent Fuel Pools George Washington’s Blog. “A small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.”

Sordid footnote offers lesson for megabanks FT

Iceland’s President Explains Why The World Needs To Rethink Its Addiction To Finance Business Insider

‘Full Crisis Mode’ Returns to Spain Guardian

Spanish-Bailout Chatter Rising Marketbeat, Online WSJ

Exclusive: Briton killed after threat to expose Chinese leader’s wife Reuters

Rotting From Within: Investigating the Massive Corruption of the Chinese Military Foreign Policy

GSA Inspector General is Investigating Possible Bribes, Kickbacks WaPo

Americas Leaders End Summit in Discord NTN24

The Secret Service’s Prostitution Problem The New Yorker

Agents Assigned to Protect Obama Found Their Girls at the Pley Club in Cartagena, Colombia New York Daily News

Rousseff Warns of Tsunami of Money Rio Times

Argentinian President Moves to Nationalise Spanish-owned Oil Assets Guardian

Israeli Soldier Clubs Danish Protester with Rifle Guardian

Personalizing Civil Liberties Abuses Glenn Greenwald, Salon. First, they came for the Muslims.

The Privacy Nightmares of CISPA FDL

The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret Rolling Stone (barrisj)

Texts from Drone. The trope of the moment.

The Zombie Files: Nearly 7,000 Stagnating Foreclosure Cases Lie Dormant in Palm Beach County’s Courts Palm Beach Post

Chriss Street: Orange County’s Iceberg Dead Ahead Testosterone Pit

Wells Fargo Now A Major Shareholder In For-Profit Prisons Crooks & Liars (furzy mouse)

“The Migration Myth” Economist’s View. ALEC pins the bogometer yet again.

The Games Politicans Play With Employment Statistics Economic Populist

Aluminum Warehouse Orders, Premiums Signal Scarcity of Metal Business Week

LA area Port Traffic increases in March, Exports Hit New Record Calculated Risk

Ishihara Shintaro Proposes the Purchase of the Senkaku Islands Japan Security Watch. “Deliciously interesting and mildly deranged.”

South Korea’s Economic Reforms – A Recipe for Unhappiness Guardian, Ha-Joon Chang (Aquifer)

Six degrees of Aggregation: How The Huffington Post Ate the Internet Columbia Journalism Review

Herbert Hoover: “Nothing is more important than balancing the budget with the least increase in taxes.” The American Presidency Project, via Credit Slips

Deny the Facts When They Contradict the Theory Bill Mitchell

Antidote du jour (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. Captain Kirk

      If you remember, Spock left captain Pike on that really cool planet with the hot blonde chick. He couldn’t make it to the show.

      Then in the latest trekkie movie , I have a mini-me. Does that count as one or two of us?

  1. sasori

    has anyone seen R Taggart Murphy’s summary of/introduction to Michael Pettis article about why China Hasn’t/isn’t/won’t ‘rebalance’ it’s economy in Japan focus.

    He argues pretty convincingly that china has failed to increase domestic consumption and that savings actually increased as a share of GDP from 50% in 2007 to 53% in 2010.
    If Pettis and Murphy are to be believed both china and Japan will attempt to export their way out of their respective problems just like everyone else.
    ..”while the world is struggling with weak growth in demand, and surplus countries are being forced to rein in their surpluses, China’s share of total surpluses are probably actually expanding. This suggests that China is restraining, not leading, global trade rebalancing, and given China’s difficulty in raising the consumption share of GDP this shouldn’t be a surprise.”
    the orignal article is here
    also 5 star trek one roomm…together…◉◡◉

  2. rjs

    in re the zombie files; that’s not just palm beach, it’s pretty much a national problem; states with the largest backlog of homes in the foreclosure process continued to be New York and New Jersey, where backlogs remain at 846 and 772 months respectively (ie, over 60 years for both; see p 17 of pdf for the foreclosure pipeline bar graph:

  3. Jim Haygood

    From the Guardian article about Argentina’s nationalization of YPF:

    Economic and political interest in [Argentina’s] hydrocarbons has rocketed since the end of last year when YPF announced it had discovered a shale oil site that could potentially yield 1bn barrels.

    Argentina is expected to expropriate about 24% of YPF from Repsol and another 26% from Argentina’s Peterson Group at a price yet to be determined by the government.

    This is an ugly example of government looting. In a campaign orchestrated by President Kristina Kirchner, Argentina’s oil-producing provinces stripped YPF of exploration leases, knocking its market cap down from $16 billion to $10 billion. Then Kristina made a grab for the looted carcass, replacing the company’s president with a politician before the legislation is even rubber-stamped by the Argentine Congress. ‘L’etat, c’est moi’ and all that.

    Merrill Lynch’s Frank McGann forecasts that YPF shareholders will get only 15 cents on the dollar, compared to what YPF would be worth if ‘managed for economic returns.’

    Spain is berserk with rage at Argentina’s shabby treatment of a major shareholder in YPF, the Spanish oil company Repsol, and is promising serious trade and investment consequences.

    Kristina’s picayune Peronist pugnacity is systematically burning Argentina’s bridges. First she picked a fight with the UK over the Falklands/Malvinas, through such measures as denying landing rights to cruise ships. Then President Obama, in an almost unheard-of move, stripped Argentina of its most favored nation status under the U.S. General System of Preferences, for failing to pay a $300 million WTO judgment.

    Since YPF’s shares are traded in New York and have U.S. institutional shareholders such as Blackrock, Vanguard and Fidelity, it’s easy to imagine Spain, the UK and the US teaming up to whack Argentina with a swingeing multibillion-dollar WTO judgment for its thuglike looting and expropriation of YPF, as well as bilateral trade sanctions.

    As a pariah cut off from international financing, Argentina is totally dependent on trade surpluses to pay for its imports. It simply lacks the bargaining power to tweak the noses of three of the world’s largest economies.

    Kristina, a lawyer by background, is a sad example of the profoundly distorted cognition — the functional equivalent of brain damage — imposed by Peronist ideology. She’s headed for a cold-turkey cure … likely in the form of a second default in as many decades, a hyperinflation, or both.

    p.s. With Argentina’s government running YPF, it will produce even LESS oil than under Repsol ownership. Watch and see.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      They are a “pariah” because they want the Argentinian people to enjoy the benefits of hydrocarbons rather than an international corporation? Give me a break. The international corporation is more of a pariah. The U.S. and Spain are more of a pariah than Argentina.

      And give me a break that Kirchner is “brain damaged.” Sounds like she knows just what she is doing.

      And I’m rooting for her now that I know she’s pissing off the right people.

      1. Jim Haygood

        As I clearly stated, ‘pariah’ means that Argentina is unable to sell bonds internationally owing to its poor credit status.

        By contrast, the U.S. Treasury conducts weekly debt auctions with international participation, and Spain conducted one today.

        Nice try at twisting my words, but you lose.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Twisting your words? You used both pariah and brain dead. Now you are simply trying to qualify why Argentina is a pariah.

          You obviously are against the nationalization of this oil company. You used language that showed your disgust. Your whole description of this event showed your feeling about it (e.g. your elaborate description about how the legislature even played a role–oh noes!).

          Sure, the credit markets agree with you. You and the international criminal terrorist bankers will try to crush anyone who doesn’t play by your fascist “capitalist” system.

          I wonder when you will demand American guns going down there to impose its will on the country?

        2. monte_cristo

          What is happening in the States? The rich get richer through ‘financial chicanery’. Is that not so?
          Argentina is a cauldron of corruption, I spent a year there and live in a neighbouring state. So what I see from a simplified perspective is one set of corruption against another. How do you choose?
          Obviously there isn’t a simple answer. In this case the devil is truly in the detail. And the play out of that is exactly what we are watching.
          What we really don’t want to see, well myself at least, is any alliance between the two financial elites.
          Christina is fighting a “dirty war”. She knows it. Do we? How well she is managing is a valid topic for debate. She sits on top of a cauldron of Argentinos. I wouldn’t want to!

          1. monte_cristo

            A follow up:
            When we consider “looting”. The Kirchners apparently made just at most a few million through ‘propotious property investemnts’.
            If we compare this to the President of Chile, or any of the American political aspirants then we have a triviality.
            “Follow the money” is a tried and tested metric.
            Let’s give Christina the benefit of an audit?!!!

          2. Jim Haygood

            The mayor of Buenos Aires expressed it well:

            “La empresa más grande del país va a estar manejada por los mismos que los trenes y Aerolíneas Argentinas”, señaló Mauricio Macri.


            The largest company in the country [YPF] will be managed by the same people who run the trains and Aerolineas Argentinas.

            The money-losing commuter trains had a fatal accident last month which killed 50 passengers.

            Aerolíneas Argentinas doesn’t fly to the US any more, because holdout creditors obtained judgements to seize their aircraft.

            Macri also points out that the government ministry taking over YPF is the same one which administers the power cuts in Buenos Aires during summer and winter due to — guess what? — LACK OF INVESTMENT.

            Saludos …

          3. Walter Wit Man

            Yeah, as opposed those safety-conscious companies like BP and Exxon.

            Foreign international companies are known to rape countries. It’s foolish to let international corporations manage the resources of Argentina. They will simply suck up the profit, abuse the people, and leave a mess behind. These companies are only efficient at extracting profits for a few rich pricks, they are not better for the environment or for the people of Argentina.

            At least nationalization brings the profits a step closer to the Argentinean people.

          4. Caballito

            “The ‘money losing Argentine railroad’ was privatized a long time ago.

            Peronism was the best friend that the White Working Class has ever had anywhere in the world. Sorry if they are upsetting you because they refuse to be victimized.

            How long did you live in Argentina to form your opinions sir? I lived there for 21 months.

        3. Jim

          Yet, over the last 9 years, Argentina’s GDP growth has been higher than any other nation in South America.

          It really bothers met that otherwise educated people will slam a nation for embarking on an economic path that doesn’t fit their preconceived notion of conventional.

          You want conventional economic policy? Over the past 30 years, Mexico has done exactly what the Heritage Foundation has asked. No capital gains tax. No dividend tax. No estate tax. Only Mexico City levies a property tax. There is one significant tax: A national sales tax of 16%.

          Economic outcome?

          Over the last 30 years, GDP/Capita growth of 0.5%.

          How do you like them apples?

        4. Jim

          Do you honestly believe that anyone outside of Spain participated in today’s Spanish auction?

          And the banks that did participate were told to do so by Rajoy.

          But I guess that when Rajoy seizes private property (by forcing the banks to buy ill-fated bonds), that’s OK.

          When Kirchner does the same, it’s not.

          Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

    2. ginnie nyc

      What is it, Mr. Haywood, anytime there is a link about President Kirchner, you have to trash her attempts to recover Argentine assets for her people?

  4. Klassy!

    I just read the drone article last evening. This is an excellent primer on the administration’s drone program.
    Since Obama won the Nobel peace prize, may we look forward to the Nobel prize for literature going to that E.L. James woman.

  5. Sanctuary

    Follow up on Fukushima:

    Hey Lambert did you see this one today? The story is on enenews here: and references the NHK daily from Japan here:

    So basically, the Japanese think we have all the time in the world to remove the fuel rods while in a highly seismically active area. No need to worry about the fact that the building is close to collapse, is only dozens of feet from the pacific ocean, has hundreds of tons of plutonium in it that can end all life in the northern hemisphere if it does collapse, and as you say above is only held back by “A small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.”

  6. ohmyheck

    I voted for this?

    “Obama’s drone program, in fact, amounts to the largest unmanned aerial offensive ever conducted in military history; never have so few killed so many by remote control.”

    Well, this makes me feel a little better:

    “President Obama demanded that Iran return the drone, but the damage was done. “It was like when someone from Apple left a prototype of the next iPhone at a bar….It was a propaganda win for Iran.”

    Obama asked for it back? In the immortal words of Skippy-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  7. YY

    I’m sure that Wyden is a decent guy and a good senator, except for occasional lapses like being fooled into voting for the donut hole. Does it not strike as strange that on what was probably a very cursory and safe tour of the facility where the ability to identify structures and equipment are most likely more limited than someone looking at video and photos on the web, the resulting letter highlight the infamous #4 SFP as if his visit enlightened him to the problem? This is why the issue smells like an activist theme. And it is quite creepy that #4 SFP which Jatzco made a big deal about in his congressional testimony, the basis of it actually being withdrawn at later date, also relied originally on basically hearsay information.

    As to the stray remark about bag of rocks on the website, anecdotally interesting. The seawalls were overrun by the tsunami but are still intact. So who knows what the bag of rocks were.

    The letters read as if written by someone with a definite agenda. There also seems to be a notion that America would have better expertise to handle it. I get the feeling that many do not realize that when one is talking about GE or Westinghouse nuclear, we are in fact talking about Toshiba and Hitachi. (smart move to sell out when no new facilities were being built) So where original manufacturers are concerned they are already deeply involved. What many do not realize is that the French are more involved in Fukushima than identifiable American expertise. They were camped out very early in the picture and probably are most responsible for advising on cooling/filtering system.
    (and I really question, in a layman way, why they did not separate cooling circuits from filtering/cleanup)

    The #4 SFP issues just seem to materialize from nowhere.
    If Tepco employees, Japanese government officials, and Senators from the US of A are the only people to have visited and therefore make intelligent comments, it would be a worry. But such is not the case. For better or for worse there is an entire industry (yeah the bad guys) and academia paying attention to what is going on. And since it can not be in the interest of the industry to see a pool of fuel cause Armageddon, does it not seem strange that the alarm needs to be sounded by ex-diplomats, visiting senators, and activists on such specific and technical issue?

    That’s it for me on this.

    1. Sanctuary

      You are an industry stooge on here to engage in concern trolling. It is evident from all of your comments that you are not interested in the truth of this highly dangerous situation but instead are interested in keeping the American public asleep. You’ve had a problem with scientists, diplomats, and now US Senators raising awareness of this issue. You are not credible.

    2. Up the Ante

      “.. does it not seem strange that the alarm needs to be sounded by ex-diplomats, visiting senators, and activists on such specific and technical issue? ”

      You have flipped the Analogous Switch. The seemly/unseemly switch,

      Witness, for YY to mention seeming strangeness is analogous to MF Global customers telling Corzine to keep all their assets stolen, in quite possibly the manner described below,

      from pg 3,

      “What did MF Global do once these assets were moved to a “house” account? I believe they pledged the customer assets as collateral for a short term loan.

      By mid week, according to the New York Times DealBook:

      “Corzine had already hired the investment bank Evercore Partners to help him find a buyer for part or all of the firm. MF Global also contacted BlackRock, the giant asset manager, to help it wind down its balance sheet — including efforts to sell its holdings of European debt.”

      Corzine planned to sell the company not file bankruptcy.

      There was no time to monetize the assets by selling them outright. That would have made replacing them quickly, in kind, much more difficult. A privately arranged line of credit, secured by a basket of assets discounted by up to 50% due to the risk of default and the firm’s desperation, could be unwound as soon as a deal to sell the firm was struck. All the assets could go back into the customer accounts and no one would be the wiser.

      Any firm willing to lend $300-400 million for a week or so against approximately $700 million of customer assets was certainly wise enough to require recourse to those assets in the event of a bankruptcy. Some of the assets, like CME stock, were sure to drop in value if the bankruptcy occurred.

      When MF Global filed for bankruptcy midday on Monday October 31, 2011, the lender owned the customer assets.

      My guess is the pledged assets were immediately liquidated.

      No one is raising their hand to admit they’re the firm who lent MF Global several hundred million dollars, enough to get them through the weekend, based on collateral MF Global had no right to pledge.

      .. The lender must have had the capacity to make such a loan and the ability to execute a strategy intended to leave few traces.

      .. The undercover lender may be off-shore. MF Global has operations in the UK, Singapore, and Australia. Timezone differences would have allowed transfers of customer assets to house accounts in those locations during the night any time after the CME auditors got distracted reconciling the report from the 26th for more than two days. .. ”

      page 1,

    3. psychohistorian

      This is a potential extinction event for humanity and TPTB are backing into letting the public know how serious it is at Fukushima.

      When it becomes know how bad the situation is and could become there will be a huge international effort made to address the problem…..which is a good thing.

      Another outcome will be public rage at the decisions that were made at Fukushima and with nuclear power in general. Whether this public anger will precipitate further unrest is uncertain but likely and TPTB are becoming afraid.

      We can only hope that we can skirt the edge of extinction as we quibble about everything but the global inherited rich that continue to make these short term decisions about our world.
      Who decided to have a throw away consumptive culture?
      Who decides to have endless wars?
      Who decides that private money and finance is better than public?
      Who decides that capital should be favored over labor?
      Who decided to change the original American motto from E Pluribus Unum?

      Who decided to build tin-plated technology that could kill all of us and/or commit hundreds of generations to burdensome management of “our” short sighted decisions….along with ongoing health consequences?

      Those people need to be taken out of control of our society, prosecuted would be my preference, and all their ill gotten gains taken from them.

      It case it is not obvious by now folks, we are not being led by the best and the brightest; to say nothing of their morals and ethics.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Interesting story about Majorana.

    Maybe he met his anti-him somewhere between Palermo and Naples.

  9. Mel

    “Iceland’s President Explains Why The World Needs To Rethink Its Addiction To Finance”

    Nice. But I’m not happy with this line:
    “[…] all modern big banks […] are no longer banks in the old-fashioned way. They have become high-tech companies. High-ranked engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, programmers and so on and so forth. And their success depends largely on how successful they are in hiring people with this education and capability, not necessarily those trained in business schools or finance, but in engineering, mathematics, computer science and so on.

    All recent evidence tells me that they’re not. They may be hiring such people, but it’s as supporting actors for the sales pitch: “Don’t worry. This deal will be great. Because of those people over there.”

    Maybe the president imagines a banking industry that serves to grease the wheels of real industry. An effective wheel-greaser definitely needs to evaluate enterprises, and to have people who can do that. And in a technological society that means technologists. But I think that’s what banks should be. I don’t think that’s what banks are.

    1. Mel

      I should have kept on reading. Maybe this will teach me. Not that what I say was wrong, but what the President went on to say is far more interesting, regarding the physical conflict between banking and the real economy I like to talk about.

  10. Cynthia

    Prostitution is not illegal in Colombia, so the Secret Service agents, who brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Colombia, can’t be accused of a crime. The most they can be accused of is having sex with women who aren’t their wives. And at least they didn’t use taxpayer money to pay for the sex.

    But the same thing can’t be said about either First Lady Michelle Obama or Defense Secretary Leon Paletta. Our First Lady has used our tax dollars to go on frequent and extravagant vacations. Over the past year, she has spent roughly $10 million in public money on 42 vacations for herself and her kids. This includes but no limited to her checking into five-star hotels, where she splurges on expensive massages and top-shelf alcohol. Here is some more on this:

    And our Secretary of Defense has used our tax dollars to fly to and from his home in California. Over a period of roughly six months, he has made 27 round-trip flights to his home in California at a cost of, get a hold of this, $32,000 per flight! Here is some more on this:

    Maybe Leon Panetta was right when he said that the Secret Service agents “let the president down” by having sex with Colombian prostitutes, despite the fact that they paid for the sex using their own personal money. But what is certainly right is that Leon Panetta has let the taxpayer down by spending millions in public dollars on personal plane flights to his home in California. Apparently he has forgotten that people like himself, the President and the First Lady are all public servants. They aren’t paid to serve themselves, they are paid to serve the taxpayer.

      1. Captain Kirk

        BTW, I always assume guys that use prostitutes are single, gorgeous hunks like me and just appreciate the expediency of the arrangement.

        Not always a good assumption, I know, but it works for me.

        1. Captain Kirk

          One other point.

          I do recall during the last election thar the Bush Campaign did warn us that Michelle was a communist.

          On my ship we Go Where No Man Has Gone Before, but we all have to work while we’re traveling.


          1. Captain Kirk

            Not to belabor this, but actually I have no idea if “10 million dollars” for vacations is a lot of “money” or not.

            If I recall 1st grade history correctly, the United States Dollar went to zero sometime in 2018. Then everyone just kept going about whatever they were doing, and gave up on the money anacronism althogether.

            Wait…hang on a moment…Spock is mentioning something in my earpiece.

            Spock says 10 million dollars is enough money to get to Jupiter.

            So, I guess that’s not “chump change”, to use a phrase popular in your time.

            Spock says “Live well and prosper!”

            Signing off for now.

            PS – Also, what does flying to California have to do with defending the Federation? You aren’t due to have that whale problem for a couple more centuries?

  11. diptherio

    Call of Duty
    by Joshua W. Davis

    A man rushes home from work
    to sit before his Playstation 3,
    He logs in and links up with others
    who may be across the street or across the sea.
    But they join together as one,
    and to a common cause they commit:
    to wander around the cyber-Middle East
    and blow-up a bunch of shit.
    With fantasy weapons in their fantasy world
    they are a force that none can withstand.
    They sow cyber-terror in the cyber-hearts
    of the cyber-Taliban.
    After an hour, his wife calls for dinner
    and the man logs out with a sigh,
    for there’s no greater joy after a day at the office
    than to realistically grease some guy.

    Away far off around the world
    an Afghan woman looks to the sky.
    She squints and scans the horizon
    and silently asks her God, “Why?”
    “Why now these American soldiers
    bringing their new reign of terror?
    Why their uranium bullets all over the ground
    and their demonic drones in the air?”
    “After the Soviets and the Warlords,
    haven’t we suffered enough?
    Why must our lives, like this landscape,
    be always so rocky and rough?”
    “You are the All-Merciful, the All-Loving,
    so today, please show us your love.
    Be merciful, don’t let the demonic drones come
    and rain down their death from above.”
    In the distance a voice calls her name,
    her child, and she turns to go,
    thinking “Maybe today the soldiers won’t come.
    Maybe, you never know.”

    At a military base in Nevada
    PFC Jacobs sits down.
    He’s just chugged two cups of coffee
    and he’s ready for another round.
    He flips on the screen in front of him
    and it flickers to glowing life,
    showing him a runway on an airbase
    somewhere deep in the Land of Strife.
    He cracks his neck and wraps his fingers
    around the familiar joy-stick;
    he’s got a mission to destroy some Taliban schmoe
    and he’s damn well gonna get that prick.
    He steers his drone out onto the runway
    and reports that he’s taking off.
    An hour later he’s targeting a shack so rickety
    even Ted Kaczynski would scoff.
    But he saw some fucker go in there
    and he thinks that it might be his guy.
    So he centers the shack in his cross-hairs
    and lets his missiles fly.

    From her kitchen she hears the explosion,
    then the high-pitched, fearful wail
    of a woman she knows, and she knows what has happened
    without having to hear the tale.
    It was the woman’s last son, her youngest,
    and he’d just gone to feed the goats
    in the tumble-down shack on the side of the hill
    when he was slaughtered by remote.
    He was a good lad, in the bloom of adolescence,
    just barely turned fifteen.
    But all the Afghan woman can think
    is, “thank God it wasn’t me.”

    Meanwhile, back on the home-front
    the dinner time dishes are done.
    The domestic obligations wrapped up for the evening,
    now it’s time to get back to the fun.
    Oh, how we love our flat-screens with their Hi-Def,
    our surround sound and our trusty Wi-Fi,
    for there’s no greater thrill for an American
    than to realistically grease some guy.

    “The U.S. Military reports that another Taliban war-leader was killed yesterday in Afghanistan by drone air-strike. The Military is denying reports of civilian casualties, saying that the only collateral damage from the operation were two goats. A Military spokesperson said that the owner of the goats may receive monetary compensation for their loss. This is NPR.”

  12. ScottS

    The Heywood case is fishy. Why would he suddenly threaten his “soul mate” Gu with exposing her — especially for something so trivial as moving money around?

    Either the article is wrong and there were romantic feelings, or Heywood was murdered by one of Bo’s rivals to ruin his chances.

    1. Procopius

      I envision a scenario something like this:
      Gu: I need you to move some more money for me.
      Heywood: Sure, no problem. How much this time?
      G: (names some outlandish sum)
      H: Whoa, sorry, that’s way more than I can handle.
      G: But that’s what I need.
      H: Well, look, I’m going to take a bigger percentage. It’s going to cost me a lot more.
      G: You’re getting greedy!
      H: No, just trying to cover my expenses. Look, I don’t make anything off this, I just do it to help you out.
      G: You’re lying. You’ve been getting rich off me for years. Don’t forget how much help my husband has given your company. You owe us!
      H: Listen, let’s just forget this and be friends.
      G: No, you’ve betrayed me. You’ll pay for this.
      H: Wait a minute, don’t forget how much I know. If you try to harm me I’ll pass on some of this information to the authorities.
      G: (sometime later, speaking to pretty young lady) Now when Robert takes you to the hotel, slip this medicine in his drink. It will increase his manliness and you’ll have a better time.

      Years ago there was a Dutch writer named Robert Von Gulik, who wrote a series of novels about a T’ang (?) dynasty official named Judge Dee who combined the roles of administrator, detective, and judge. The books were written in the style of old Chinese novels and have some fascinating cultural details, because Von Gulik was a real scholar of Chinese history. Or go watch some reruns of The Sopranos.

  13. Aquifer

    “the Korean story shows that insecurity actually makes people less, not more, productive, and also desperately unhappy.”- Chang

    Contra the prevailing wisdom – make folks insecure and they will work harder, sounds as though there might be some truth in it, except that, as Chang points out, the facts don’t seem to agree … One can always come up with the anecdotes of the lazy “union” guy who lounges around and extrapolate that behavior to all workers who feel “secure”; the problem is when actual data is in – as in the Korean example, turns out those anecdotes don’t seem to be representative of broad swathes of people.

    I could see the same thing in the hospital where i worked – up until the mid 90’s folks worked as a team, got work done, ahead of time and could “relax” a bit if there was a lull. Then under the new wave of “efficiency”, the first wave of firings swept through – good people doing good work axed and the fear began, who is next? People had to start watching their own asses, watching for what, who knew, but watch never the less and the more energy you had to expend watching your own ass the less you had for watching the patients’. Insecurity bred less trust – your job might depend on the extent you could do 2-3 jobs, so the place could do without your coworker. More got done? Nope just one did more and was increasingly frazzled, tired, snappy and necessarily sloppy – couldn’t do it all, but had to – not a good environment for healing …

    Chang does this stuff well – takes the “accepted” wisdom and dumps it on its head, his “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” is a gem of logic and common sense, backed by historical data, and should be, IMO, required of all econ students. He is the “little boy” standing in the crowd of sycophantic “adults” in the economics profession pointing out, quite simply, “the Emporer is naked ….”

    Iceland’s story seems to be another from the other side of the planet and a completely different “culture” that shows the “reality” of people doesn’t seem to mesh too well with the “theory” of finance.

    Korea recently caved to “the rules”, after doing its own thing and its people suffer – Iceland recently defied them, after following them too long and is forging its own way.

    Chang’s Bad Samaritans is a good historical overview of the pattern.

    So which way for us?

  14. Externality

    “No Taxes, No Travel: Why the IRS Wants the Right to Seize Your Passport”

    The Senate has just passed legislation, sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), that would allow the IRS to seize the passport of Americans it believes to owe $50K or more in back taxes. (The government can already take away the passport of anyone who owes back child support.)

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