Links 1/30/2013

Patient readers: Yves is finishing the next part of “Bank of Satan America Foreclosure Reviews,” so I am filling in for her. –lambert

Beer’s bitter compounds could help brew new medicines Science News (JL)

US Military set to scan puppy brains to find the most suitable ‘war dogs’ Daily Mail

The Kraken Wakes: What Architeuthis is Trying to Tell Us Boing Boing

At least 100 batteries failed on Boeing 787 Seattle Times

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® Declines The Conference Board (WM)

Dell’s Multiple Restructurings Aid It in Tax Avoidance David Cay Johnston, Tax Analysts

Exclusive: JPMorgan bet against itself in “Whale” trade Reuters

The US Justice Department’s Libor prosecution of RBS is too little, too late The Guardian

Here’s Who Stood to Gain from MPS Golden Dividends Corriere Della Sera 1/25 (follow-up via Google translate; RS)

Bank of Italy weighs in on bailout scandal FT

Monte Paschi no risk for banking system after aid – Intesa CEO Reuters. The dreaded vote of confidence?

Italy says banking system untouched by troubled lender AFP

Scandal at world’s oldest bank upends Italian elections Christian Science Monitor

Envelopes of Cash: Corruption Charges Put Madrid on Defensive Der Spiegel (Ruben)

What lies inside Bárcenas’ boxes? El Pais

Exit everyman: How the Jersey Democratic bosses destroyed Dick Codey and unleashed Chris Christie Capital New York. Also too, Jon Corzine!

Mayor [For Life] Bloomberg to Journalist: ‘Look at the Ass On Her’ Gawker

The Onion Demands John Kerry Tell The Truth About His Swift Boat Service The Onion

Exclusive: CIA nominee had detailed knowledge of “enhanced interrogation techniques Reuters. That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

Egypt’s armed forces chief warns unrest could cause collapse of state Guardian

Rape squads of Tahrir Square: Marauding ‘state-backed gangs’ are still terrorising female protesters two years after revolution Daily Mail

$7.3 million camp for Afghan police found nearly empty: inspectors Reuters

The Ticking Time Bomb in Zero Dark Thirty Kings of War

Female militarism: Band of sisters? Al Jazeera

Op-Ed: In The Fight Over Gun Control, Kids Play An Unexpected Role Take Part

Was the Sandy Hook Dad Really “Heckled”? The Video Suggests Otherwise Slate

Beijing is left fighting for breath as pollution goes off the scale Independent

In Race for Burmese Energy, China has a Commanding Lead

Stanford researchers break million-core supercomputing barrier ExtremeTech

Panel: City retirees’ health insurance too costly Chicago Tribune. Rahm to consign Chicago’s retirees to ObamaCare?

Class-Divided Cities: Los Angeles Edition Atlantic

Alt-Labor The American Prospect

Antidote du jour, spot the owl:

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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. JustMeAgaiN

    The US military takes war to the dogs. And we call ourselves “intelligent” apes?

    Ahh, but here come the pitch lines:

    The work could also help spot dogs suited for social tasks such as rehabilitation, it is claimed.
    ‘Advances from this program could also be transitioned to the Veterans Administration, which is running a clinical trial on the impact of therapy dogs on the lives of veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
    ‘Understanding the mechanism and communication between canine and human will facilitate therapy dog support for veterans with PTSD.’

    What’s next? Scans for Tots? Why wait for pre-school when tomorrow’s killers (err… “freedom fighters”) can be identified and exploited today? Brave new world indeed!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      War dogs – more from Scientists Gone Wild.

      It’s a little disconcerting as this news comes on the same day as the link on breaking the million-core supercomputing barrier.

    2. Glenn Condell

      ‘US Military scans brains at Pentagon, comes up short’

      Reminds me of this:

      ‘An intelligence test was conducted among the OMON (Russian Special forces) involving various sized round holes and square pegs. The conclusion states that the OMON can be divided into two groups: very dumb and very strong.’

  2. Peter Pinguid Society

    At this morning’s staff meeting of the Peter Pinguid Society, there was good news and bad news. The bad news first. A Western politician has gotten out of line!

    Yes, for the first time in recent memory a Western politician is not reading from the Pinguid script.

    Belgian politician (MP Laurent Louis) brazenly voted against Belgian support to go to war in Mali, claiming it is based on lies and neo-colonialism. And he also questioned why Belgium can afford to send 9 million Euro to support Syrian rebels who want to bring in Sharia law and yet thousands of Belgiums are forced to suffer Austerity.

    Then he went on to express his disgust and anger with the Pinguid Society (referring to it as the criminal foreign policies of the Western elite and its submission to foreign financial and interest groups), before scolding colleagues who voted for interventionist war with “f*ck you’s”.

    Finally he says that the war on terror is a lie and that 9/11 was a false flag to justify aggressive military action in the Muslim world.

    (for English sub-titles, click on caption)

    MP Laurent Louis will be dealt with, and you probably won’t be hearing from him again.

    As for the good news, Michael Moore has agreed to lend a helping hand in supporting torture, by endorsing Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty.

    Thanks, Mike! As your reward, you can place metal objects on Laurent Louis’ hands, while we water-board him.

    So all in all, the good news outweighs the bad.

    We are the Peter Pinguid Society, we are the 0.01 percent.

    1. Susan the other

      Belgian MP Laurent Louis. I watched it in French (which I do not speak except for a few choice phrases), so I googled fous la guerre just to make sure I heard it. He’s very fluent in his outrage. Why aren’t there more of him?

    2. Brindle

      For Laurent Louis to call the War On Terror a lie and question the integrity of 9/11, (the emotional core and foundation of modern day America)is beyond the pale. He obviously is mentally unsound and perhaps spending some time away at a facility in the Belgian equivalent of Siberia will help him see his error.

    1. craazyman

      Looks to me like the Mayor is right about this one.

      The only time I don’t check out the butts on the hot women on the bus is when they’re sitting down.

      Sometimes when they stand up you can sort of surreptiously angle in and get a view. It’s easy to do. But I will admit, whenever I see a big diamond wedding ring, or even a small one, I let it go. I am a gentleman, even if it’s anonymous.

    2. lil fella

      You have to look at it from his point of view, the little pygmy’s face is right down there at the level of a normal woman’s butt.

      1. dale pues

        When I was younger (thirty years) a butt would turn me around on the sidewalk. No more. Now I am in control. I carry a mirror.

  3. Jim Haygood

    While AlJazeera reacts skeptically (‘Female Militarism: Band of Sisters’), the insidious meme of gender equality in the military is swallowed uncritically by Britain’s Grauniad:

    When she was a child growing up in Minnesota, Arielle Werner dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. Now the 21-year-old spends her days and nights patrolling the harsh desert landscape through which the Israeli-Egyptian border runs, wielding a gun, trained and ready to kill in defence of her country.

    “If at the age of 19 you’d told me I’d be a combat soldier, I would have told you that you’re crazy,” she said in an interview with the Guardian. But, she added, “it’s totally worth it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world – university, travelling. This is the place for me.”

    Werner is one of a small number of women combat soldiers in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Since the state lifted its restriction on women serving in combat roles in 2000, only 4% of soldiers in fighting units are women. But the principle of equality is important to the IDF.’

    Never mind that North American settlers like Werner are helping to enforce Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land using (as Mike Bloomberg likes to call it) ‘gun violence’ to the max.

    Women are helping with the shooting of unarmed teenagers, so it’s all vaguely progressive, you see — a kinder, gentler brand of apartheid, as it were.

    Back in the day, Uncle Joe Stalin was rather good on gender equality by the standards of his time, so he also got respectful notices from a credulous press. Shame about the millions he murdered …

  4. wunsacon

    >> The Onion Demands John Kerry Tell The Truth About His Swift Boat Service The Onion

    Is it funny because it’s true?

  5. Brindle

    Re: “Consumer Confidence Index Declines”….

    The mumbo-jumbo about “consumers’ spirits” and “confidence” are meant to blur the basic fact that people (consumers) do not have enough money to buy things.

    —“Says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board: “Consumer Confidence posted another sharp decline in January, erasing all of the gains made through 2012.
    Consumers are more pessimistic about the economic outlook and, in particular, their financial situation. The increase in the payroll tax has undoubtedly dampened consumers’ spirits and it may take a while for confidence to rebound and consumers to recover from their initial paycheck shock.”—

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks, Brindle. I agree.

      With respect to the Consumer Confidence report from The Conference Board, this is the Achilles Heal of the Fed’s Quantitative Easing (QE) policy IMO.

      We’re in the fifth year of QE now, which began in November 2008. Over this period, the stock market has been pushed up well over 200 percent off its lows, bond interest yields have been suppressed to negligible levels and held there, and oil and food commodity prices have increased.

      Meanwhile, the real economy remains weak, which is reflected in The Conference Board surveys. Unemployment, while slowly improving, remains high and real wages low.

      The problem is NOT that insufficient money to fuel economic growth has been printed. The problem lies in the distribution of that money. The Cash is being used by “First Recipients”, the Primary Dealers, to purchase stocks, bonds, and commodities; and to sit in the banks’ reserve accounts at the Federal Reserve. This is why the turnover of money in the real economy – its Velocity – has been declining and is so low.

      Relatively little money is finding its way into the real economy. Instead, it is being used primarily to increase the wealth of those who own stocks, bonds and commodities.

      It has become clear that “Trickle Down” is largely an illusion and a fly in the QE ointment. Because improvement in tthe real economy has been minimal, the ramp in stock prices has far outpaced growth of the real economy.

      This is why every time the PPT tests the market to see how well it can stand on its own, it drops precipitously,

      Absent political intervention by Congress, I expect QE policy will be continued by the Fed and Primary Dealers indefinitely, as the so called “Wealth Effect” benefits their primary constituency.

      What will be the catalyst to precipitate that political intervention and enable fiscal spending into the real economy to replace it?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Does anyone know where to find the Citizen Confidence Index or the Voter Confidence Index?

  6. jsmith

    Gee, a lot of great news coming out of the shining beacon of democracy in the ME!

    Israeli warplanes enter Lebanese airspace looking for chemical weapons and presumably pregnant Ethiopian Jews.

    Also, Israel has decided to boycott the UN forum on Human Rights – the first country in history to do so – and the Israeli spokesman actually had this to say in Israel’s defense:

    “There have been more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world put together,” an Israeli government official said on Tuesday. “It’s not a fair game – it’s not even a game.”

    But don’t worry, any cartoonish depiction of Israeli crimes against humanity will bring about effuse apologies and condemnation from the Western world.

    Never again…will Israeli war crimes be depicted in such caricature!!

    Never again!!

    Now as to the timing of the building of the Separation Wall, the two latest Gaza wars etc etc (whistling) move along.

    And just throw that UN resolution on the pile over there.

  7. Susan the other

    Science News on the medical benefits of hops. Maybe it wasn’t so much the alcohol that purified water in the middle ages as it was hops. No mention of the effect of hops on bacteria. So, anyway, I knew there was a good reason to drink beer. Did I mention that our bro-in-law seems to have cured himself of leukemia by drinking a 6-pak a day. He’s healthy as a horse.

    Boing Boing. Mark Dery. I’m going to watch for more of his writing. I appreciate his catalog of miseries about the state of our oceans. I’d like to hear this more often. Let’s hope it never becomes the Kraken’s wake.

    1. craazyman

      yeah the president of my college frat had a theory about staying well. whenver he felt a cold or sickness coming on, he’d get totally sh*tfaced on beer and/or grain alcohol and smoke half a bag of reefer. He said he wanted to make his system so toxic that all the germs would run away in terror. He had a big beer belly but was a pretty healthy guy. I guess being 21 years old makes a difference too, but who knows? Maybe there’s something here to build on.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Class-Divided Cities – Los Angeles Edition, Atlantic.

    I am the least qualified to criticize editors, but shouldn’t that be La Angelless, or maybe La Angel-less.

    In any case, I am seeing a trend here, perhaps not unlike Italy following the sacking of Rome, and that is, rich people are fleeing to hill towns. So, while the Italians have their lovely quaintly little hill towns in Tuscany, Romanga, etc, we have, here in Southern California, more specifically La Angelless, lovely, entirely livable hill towns of Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Pacific Palisades, Rollins Hills, etc. – all hill towns. Here, only the invaders live in valley pits. So, one imagines while the patricians enjoyed themselves among the clouds, the invading Goths and Vandals wallowed in the ditches and gullies.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China’s commanding lead for Burmese energy.

    The last time China went to Burma or Myanmar, the Qing emperor Qianlong was completely humiliated, thank, in no great part, to some French help.

    Perhaps it’s better to be invited. I would certainly go for their Mohinga. It’s a tasty dish.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I think Beijing’s little pollution problem will only go away the next time the Yellow River changes its course, which it has done many times.

  11. ScottS

    Re: Class-Divided Cities: Los Angeles Edition Atlantic

    Interesting stuff, but the city doesn’t seem so class-divided. The article itself remarks on the diffusion of class throughout the greater metropolitan area.

    Which begs the question of gentrification’s impact as GenX and GenY largely reject their parent’s suburbanism — perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently.

    During the heyday of suburbanism, many progressives decried the white flight that resulted in de facto segregation and economic stratification. Now, largely from the same circles, gentrification (which I take to mean higher income brackets living in dense metropolitan areas) is being similarly decried as pushing out poor and minority folks.

    So which is it? Is white flight bad, or is gentrification bad? I don’t have a dog in this fight, so it’s an open question.

    I feel intuitively that gentrification is “better” but with the proviso that the real problem is income inequality. With flatter income distributions, the decision of where to live can be a more practical (commute times versus square footage) and aesthetic (architectural versus pastoral) issues rather than race and class issue.

    1. Ed

      Its a good question. Gentrification is better than white flight, on at least two grounds. First, gentrification more efficient in terms of energy usage (and also preserves more farmland). Second, it ensures that the tax dollars of the prosperous remain in the city, where among other things they can be used to fund programs for the poor. This point tends to be overlooked. City governments benefit from gentrification as tax revenues increase, so of course they love it.

      But you are right that the real problem is inequality. Inequality plus white flight means abandonment of the urban poor and their problem. Inequality plus gentrification means the urban poor can’t afford to pay the rent. I think gentrification somehow seems worse because inequality is higher than during the 1960s and 1970s. If the US had present levels of inequality in the 1970s, all the “bads” of white flight would have been much, much worse, likewise the early gentrification in the 1980s was relatively benign because inequality was lower.

      One area where gentrification is worse than white flight is culturally. The abandoned cities because enclaves where counter-cultural and creative types could flourish. Now there is no space for them, and living in the cities doesn’t seem to have cured the ex-suburbanites of their philistinism.

      1. ScottS

        Thanks, Ed.

        I’ve had similar ideas about the concentration of money in richer rather than poorer areas. There is a very wealthy enclave around here with a nationally-recognized public education program, and about ten miles away are inner-city schools being bit by the Parent Trigger law. It seems like the money going to the rich public schools is gilding the lily while the inner city is withering from lack of funds. Your point about mixing the classes would lead to more efficient allocation of resources for everyone.

        I’ve heard that artists have been pushed out of Manhattan (gentrification ground zero), so you also have a point about artists suffering from gentrification. It would be good to see more public money going to the arts to balance this out and it may well improve the quality of art at the same time. If only rich kids can afford to go to art school and have their whole career path planned out by an agent who will guarantee a marketplace for art speculators while those with talent are kept out of the art factory system you will have a pretty poor quality of art being produced.

        Of course, both of these problems could be helped by flatter income distributions, but that’s easier said than done.

      2. different clue

        When gentrifiers drive the poor people out of targetted neighborhoods, where do the poor people go?

        I have read interesting speculations that some of the poor people will be driven all the way out to the suburbs, in hopes of being “out of sighted, out of minded” there.

  12. The nun skins on Brennan's wall

    “Even in the opinions of advocates of coercion and even in the case of in Laden, bringing a terrorist to justice for acts committed in the past does not justify its use. It is also necessary to make the case that bin Laden is still a danger.”

    It is not necessary, it is not sufficient. Your race against time means shit. Your danger means shit. Your ticking time bomb means shit. Awkward fact from Convention Against Torture Article 2(2): “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Whatsoever. Binding as supreme law of the land, except you can’t just set it aside like you can with your toilet-paper constitution.

    You slit dicks, you take your medicine. Until John Brennan gets his day in a real, independent court and shovels enough shit to reverse two generations of universal-jurisdiction law, he is an extraditable fugitive. Until the US lives up to its CAT commitments, the fugitive NCS torture cowards will continue to be a stinking, weeping Philoctetes’ sore on US national honor.

  13. John Brennan's nunhide lampshades

    Hey, the Clandestine Service has shipped fallback plan for torture justification version! Take it from that CIA detailee, I mean retiree, talking to the slack-jawed dopes of NPR about his sad propaganda wheeze, The Americans, on your boob tube.

    Your new slogan goes like this: “media views of the CIA are so veddy veddy simplistic: either extreme glorification or Absurdly Conspiratorial.” The C word, of course, has long been CIA’s all-purpose criminal-impunity brushoff – they were using it back when they killed JFK, MLK, and RFK. Absurd is the label-modifier of the new millenium. The NCS picked it up torturing Bradley Manning.

    So here is what you think: Not knights in shining armor. Not fiendish conspirators. The truth is somewhere in between. That is what you think. And make the I’m-so-very-clued-in-because-I-heard-it-on-the-radio-in-a-traffic-jam face.

    The reality is also somewhere in between: The Clandestine Service are just criminals who got away with it for so long that they’re losing control, as spree killers often do before they get caught. Times change, decent people get fed up, and now the NCS is shitting bricks.

  14. jfleni

    RE: Boeing batteries.
    Safe bet: The good engineers who know all about lithium batteries and especially the charging electronics got the boot from Boeing and/or the Japanese subcontractor and the work was sent to Bozo Batteries Ltd in Japan or China or Mongolia etc.

    Boeing just wants to collect the fast bucks from shipping defective badly designed and constructed aircraft; that’s how “business” is done now. Of course they will destroy the company right before the execs collect their last and largest bonus. How many passengers will be destroyed is unknown and probably unknowable.

    Press reports say Boeing has had to return work in-house that fell apart, costing them many millions. Batteries are just a symptom of this plutocrat “gimme” disease.

  15. scraping_by

    RE: War girls

    Whatever else, it makes a great sentimental publicity blitz.

    The usual answer to objections against pointless exercises in imperial slaughter is ‘The boys!‘. Meaning that anyone who objects to spending time, lives, and wealth killing peasants on the other side of the world is somehow disloyal to the working class kids who populate the military.

    How much more heart wrenching when they can moan, ‘The girls!‘. Not only unpatriotic, not only subverting the ground troops, but beastly sexists as well.

    And going into the tear-jerker mode (Taking Chance) will be even more effective when it’s some sweet-faced girl that is your little sister you should have been protecting, you not in the military clod.

    All in all, good visuals. Good penetration on the Middle American world view. The First Gay President should be able to stand at Taps and get lots of good halo. Various chickenhawks ought to sigh and be strong. Fox News should have their on-air hotties croon about their fallen sisters. Win win win.

    1. Jagger

      Why anyone, male or female, would want to kill or be killed in combat “over there” is beyond me. Most combat veterans never ever want to see combat again after the first experience.

      So does this mean all our daughters must now register for the draft and must serve in combat if qualified? Is this a case of combat only if woman want to do it or no choice, you must fight just as for men?

    2. Ms G

      “equality” bla bla bla “gender” bla bla bla “new equality paradigm” bla bla bla … is this lady for real? she’s all tied up in knots over the gender-equality puzzles she labors hard to tease out of women now being allowed in front line combat … meanwhile, big picture (US = war machine, men, women, children = cannon fodder (because no more jobs, because freedom) … Sheesh, I don’t even know where to begin or end.

      It’s somewhat amusing that this lady has made a decades-long career in her barcalounger-based “academic” speciality in the gender-equality intelligentsia complex (aka the Palace of Irrelevance).

  16. RobM

    In re: opposite sides of trades

    Our options trading firm once had members come to blows over this. This may be considered a special situation as it occurred before the four exchanges options had really begun to trade each others options books. It involved dividend capture trades where one member owned a significant part of the open interest in deep in the money calls. In excercising the call options the other trader came in long stock against his leap written calls altering his down side risk. It was not pleasant.

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