Links 8/10/12

Bacteria ‘have lessons for economy’ BBC (Lambert). Because bankers are scum?

Perseid meteor shower to light up night sky this weekend USA Today (Deontos)

How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan Bloomberg

Distributional consequences of natural-resource booms: Lessons from Australia VoxEU

China Factories Turn to Undocumented Labor as Local Wages Jump Bloomberg (Lambert)

Just set fire to Japan’s quadrillion debt Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Russia GDP figures fuel slowdown fears Financial Times

Hope Amid the Middle East’s Turmoil Tony Blair, Project Syndicate. OMG, people still listen to stuff Blair has to say? Especially about the Middle East?

US alert belies claim of al-Qaeda’s demise Financial Times

Big Brother is Watching You Watch:

Obama touts NSA surveillance reforms to quell growing unease over programs Guardian. Even though this account focuses on the concession that Obama claims he’s making, here’s the money paragraph:

Throughout his press conference, Obama said there was no evidence that the intelligence agencies had “abused” their powers, insisting he was instead addressing a problem of public perceptions.

Classic Obama. As we’ve said repeatedly, Obama believes the solution to any problem is better PR. Even worse, given Obama’s penchant for precise legalistic formulations, notice this part:

Neither did the president exhibit much appetite for significantly altering the surveillance capabilities of the US intelligence community, saying at one point the aim might be to “jigger slightly” the balance between the intelligence and “the incremental encroachment on privacy”

“Incremental encroachment” suggests that any changes will not be on existing program but ones not implemented. If so, it’s a cynical way to do nothing. Simply create a more aggressive supposed baseline for new initiatives, and concede back from that to what you had planned to do in the first place.

Obama says phone spying not abused, will continue Associated Press. So the only way to curtail the surveillance state is for Congress to develop a set of balls and impeach Obama. Glad that’s been made clear.

Justice asserts broad powers on surveillance Washington Post

Give Snowden Immunity National Review Online (Lambert)

Whistleblower, Leaker, Traitor, Spy New York Review of Books

Maybe the real state secret is that spies aren’t very good at their jobs and don’t know very much about the world Adam Curtis, BBC (mookie)

Edward Snowden of banking: Hervé Falciani can name 130,000 Swiss bank account holders New York Times (Deontos)

Secure Mobile Apps and Open-Source Code for a Better Tomorrow GuardianProject (Lambert). One concern is that using Tor is waving a big red flag at the NSA to take interest in you, at least until enough people are using it (my wildebeest effect, you need a big enough herd to be safe). But it’s clear more people ARE using Tor (and presumably other privacy tools) so we may be close to having safety in numbers.

Nate Silver Thinks the Midterm Elections Will Be Boring Political Wire. So now we have official messaging to encourage low turnout?

America’s 50 worst charities rake in nearly $1 billion for corporate fundraisers Tampa Bay Times

The Right’s Goal–end the one tax expenditure that truly aids poor working families Linda Beale

Job Market Faces New Problem, Hitting One Unlucky Group Really Hard Yahoo (Carol B)

U.S. Said to Plan to Arrest Pair in Big Bank Loss New York Times. I should post on this, but I desperately need this weekend to do other stuff, so some quick reactions now and perhaps I’ll write more for Monday morning. First, although I need to check the detailed earlier reports, my recollection is that Martin-Artajo was indeed pretty senior and in a bit of a power struggle with Ina Drew. Remember that in investment banks and trading operations, a LOT of responsibility is delegated to non-executives. Martin-Artajo is a producer, so in and of himself a meaningful scalp. Second, however, it looks as if Martin-Artajo and Grout are being positioned as rogue trader equivalents, as in they knowingly violated company procedures and falsified records. However, as we discussed in gory detail back when the London Whale scandal was hot, JP Morgan had grossly deficient controls (starting with risk management reporting to a trading operation business head, as in the boss of the same profit center, as opposed to a corporate-wide executive). Moreover, P&L-flattering mismarking is endemic in the industry (particularly at quarter and year end, sometimes with the cooperation of friendly counterparties). In other words, this suit is consistent with our argument that the controls were so deficient as to warrant Sarbanes-Oxley charges against more senior executives (which could include criminal charges) but the body language is that that’s not where the DoJ is going (the Grey Lady mentions probably civil charges versus JP Morgan. Third, one has to wonder at the timing. It’s not clear why the indictments are being filed now, particularly since the DoJ does not know the location of the targets (the DoJ has asked England for extradition but it isn’t clear either defendant is there). Why didn’t they wait until they had located them? It suggests there was a PR motive for going ahead now. Oh, and fifth, the DoJ basically worked up what Levin unearthed in his London Whale hearings. So much for the investigative skills of our Federal prosecutors.

What The 25% Collapse In Homebuilder Stock Prices Tells Us Testosterone Pit

Camden, A City for Others Next City (May S)

Antidote du jour:

Bear Cub in Katmai

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  1. Mark P.

    We’re living in interesting times when the still, small voices of sanity include the NATIONAL REVIEW — “Give Snowden Immunity” — and Pritchard-Evans in the good old TORYGRAPH — “Just Set Fire to Japan’s Quadrillion Debt.”

  2. YankeeFrank

    Regarding the Adam Curtis piece, I’ve been saying this to friends for a while now: these NSA tools don’t know what info they really need to fight terrorism in the first place. Keith Alexander tried this same crap in Iraq — collecting everything — and it didn’t work there either. Lets face it, law enforcement, including local, FBI, NSA, DEA, whatever, are not the brightest bunch, and don’t really have any solid ideas on how to approach catching terrorists in any effective way. I mean, just look at their record: the only cases the FBI manages to “break” are ones where they instigate the “terrorism” in the first place.

    The NSA wouldn’t know how to find a terrorist if he was laying dynamite in their asses.

      1. Pete

        Yes, since the NSA’s relative agencies in the MIC are in the business of growing and harvesting “terrorists” to feed their own existence. Actually snaring a couple of rogue “evil” pirates would fly against the face of carpeting entire villages with drone bombs. Quick pan to Dubya on the tee box at the 5th hole. “Now watch this drive…”

      2. susan the other

        The Adam Curtis piece (thank you for the transcript) reminded me of the way I used to feel when I had had a long and exhausting day and I would sit down without even a glass of wine and just start to giggle at any foolishness I perceived. When you have exhausted every situation, and you are exhausted too, it’s time to laugh. Unfortunately, the NSA doesn’t seem to know this. I liked the bit about James Jesus Angleton who I always suspected poisoned J. Edgar because he was waiting outside in his car to haul away Hoover’s secret files. Then here we learn that a few years later all the MI5 dudes began “confessing.” Funny. I’ll always think the Brits were playing both the US and the SU for the sake of their fading empire. And Maggie just kept a stiff upper lip. But no books on that yet.

        1. optimader

          “Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie…

          Adam Curtis is consistently very good at capturing the spirit of Orwell’s observation. The most effective way to discredit totalitarians and bullies is to ridicule them

    1. Richard Kline

      The way to catch clandestines of any stripe = humint. The way to catch funding to long figures = sigint. Same as it ever was.

      NSA &etc. aren’t really quite so stupid, they just aren’t doing what they say they are doing. What they really are doing is capturing budget space and promoting their personal standing in the hierarchy. And in that regard, they have done _excellently_ since 2001, their relative ineptitude at their stated mission notwithstanding. And we don’t really know what that degree of ineptitude/apptitude really is regarding operations because—they won’t tell us! Sweeeeeeet, huh? They just invent an intercept to do a chair-shuffling of embassy minons “Take a vacation, don’t worry” for a week—a WEEK, some threat!—and tell the world we’d be in the loo but for their peptitude being on watch ‘n’ all. They just present their nominal superiors with a blank check and say, “Sign here, or things could get bad ’cause we might miss something.” ‘Terrorists’ are just visuals in Powerpoint globules to justify selling points. A few dead bodies in Third World armpits just give a realistic tint to the whole sick game.

      Ain’t America a great place to get rich? All you really need are people stupider than you are signing off on your budget allocation.

      1. YankeeFrank

        You have a good point — they’re not dumb about what they are interested in. But the key failure of the NSA’s approach to “catching terrorists” is that you just can’t tell who is and who isn’t one. If there was ever a solid chance to catch a terrorist before their rampage the Boston bombers are it. Yet the FBI flubbed the call. He was right in their sights, and he had already killed 3 people. Yet with all the NSA’s supposedly technology, and all that FBI experience they couldn’t tell. And they couldn’t tell for the same reason all those MI5 fellows couldn’t find the spies within their own midst: because when you are a spy, everyone is a potential spy, and hence no one is. That’s why the only “terrorism” the FBI stops are ones they make up and/or facilitate.

        1. Richard Kline

          So YankeeFrank, agreed. The entrapment-as-success is a particular grotesque injustice.

          But regarding the inability of the entire securacracy to catch the Boston Pressurizers—who sadly were all too deranged unlike, say, the Haymarket Eight—if you have never done so I recommend reading on the history of the Okhrana, the endstage Imperial Russian secret security branch. It’s all there. Everything one ever needs to know about how the spy business works. And fails. And murders. And promotes double and triple agents in a lattice of complete falseness and corrupt incompetence of every kind and degree like ‘The Prisoner’ to an exponent except that’s a society’s entirety. Nothing has been done that hasn’t been tried. Newtech but old malfeasance comes out about the same.

          And despite jailing many thousands, and executing a hefty fraction, the Russian radical plotters kept going *bang-bang* and the Russian Empire collapsed right on schedule. This is what the NSA and the CIA and the NSC and GCHQ don’t really understand: they change nothing, except perhaps to hurry it up a very little. Because security and spying is just a short piss in a large ocean of human society, and when the tide comes in the regime goes out. Nobody in all the spy towers got it right on Mubaraks fall, for instance. And _that_ is the grade on the real utility of the ‘intelligence [sic] industry’: F is for Fake.

          1. diptherio

            Mind-blower of the morning (for me, at least): Lenin was a German Military-Intel agent!

            From the link above:

            Ventsion Moiseev-Moshkov Dolin was a classic double agent. (Running double agents has long been a quintessentially Russian skill, practiced before, during, and after the Soviet period.) Dolin began his career as an Okhrana penetration of anarcho-communist groups (see the fourth reprinted article, “Okhrana Agent Dolin”). On the eve of World War I he began working for German military intelligence–or so the Germans thought. He was in fact a double agent who had remained loyal to Russia. With help from the Okhrana, Dolin organized “successful” sabotage operations inside Russian weapons and munitions factories–operations that were “documented” in press articles.

            The Germans were so pleased with Dolin that they asked him to conduct psychological warfare operations aimed at stirring up Russian workers to overthrow the monarchy and take Russia out of the war. “Kronenbitter” neglects to mention that when Dolin’s efforts fell short of expectations, the Germans turned to another Russian agent on their payroll by the name of Vladimir Lenin. He was more successful, and the rest, as they say, is history.

          2. Nathanael

            Richard, you seem to see the grand geopolitical and historical picture pretty much the same way I do.

            I’m frustrated, because by inclination I am conservative, and by class I’m upper to upper middle. I know that proper reform — like that of Earl Grey in the UK in 1832 — can actually save the position of the upper classes when necessary change comes.

            Whereas the lack of such reform sends them to the guillotine.

            But I am not sufficiently powerful to get the idiots who are in charge of things to stop their lemming-like march over the cliff. They’re going to cause a lot of damage as they self-destruct, and I don’t see how to prevent it.

      2. from Mexico

        Richard Kline said:

        NSA &etc. aren’t really quite so stupid, they just aren’t doing what they say they are doing. What they really are doing is capturing budget space and promoting their personal standing in the hierarchy.

        That may explain part of the motivation of the deep staters, but it certainly doesn’t explain it all.

        I called Optimader out on this same point the other day, and I’ll repeat the same comment here in order to call you out:

        Spoken like a real true believer in neoclassical economics. As Amitai Etzioni notes in The Moral Dimension, “neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest.”

        The science historian Naomi Oreskes, however, comes to a very different conclusion, one which paints science and scientists in a much less favorable, and not nearly so simplistic and reductionist, light:

        TOM LEVENSON: Who were the people the tobacco industry found to create a counter-narrative to the emerging realization that tobacco could really do terrible damage to you?

        NAOMI ORESKES: Well the answer is that they were scientists. And in a way this was the shocking part of the story, it was partly what got me motivated in the first place to study this when I discovered that some very prominent, very respected, very smart scientists had been behind this doubt-mongering campaign….

        TOM LEVENSON: What was [Frederick] Seitz’s [“who came with the most powerful possible scientific credentials”] motivation [to join the doubt-mongering campaign]?

        NAOMI ORESKES: [T]here’s a quality to this story that is rooted in the cold war and rooted in the specific historical moment of a group of men, and they were all men, I’m sorry to say, who in a way I think power went to their head. I think it made them overconfident, and in a way it’s the kind of Greek tragedy. It’s the hubris. They became arrogant. They became overconfident about not just what they knew in physics, where they had some basis for a very high degree of confidence, but spilling over to think they knew more than other scientists who actually studied these problems….

        TOM LEVENSON: Do you want to talk about that, the whole cold war politics?

        NAOMI ORESKES: Yes. It’s a crucial part of the story and the other half of the question you posed before about the motivation. So, what permits them to do this is a sort of overconfidence that comes out of the cold war. But that still doesn’t explain why they did it.

        And when we first started doing this work and when I first started talking in public, everyone assumed that this was going to be about money, that it was going to be a simple story of people being corrupted, being bought out. The tobacco industry offers Fred Seitz a lot of money and so he goes to work for them. And what we found is that really was not the case.

        In fact we found very little evidence that most of the people in the story had received much personal financial benefit for the work they had done. They did in some cases get some consulting fees, but the motivation was really much deeper than that, and it was political, and it was ideological, and it was personal. And as you said it was rooted in the cold war.

        So all of the characters in the story, all the key characters… it was about their work in the cold war. And they had developed a political ideology deeply, deeply anti-communist, and because of their hatred and hostility towards communism and because of their understanding of their own work, their own life’s work as being meaningful because of the fight against communism, they became incredibly skeptical and even hostile to anyone who would suggest that free market capitalism doesn’t always do everything it needs to do.

        Sometimes market economies don’t fulfill human needs and sometimes the government needs to intervene. And sometimes people don’t make the right choices for themselves. Like sometimes people do stupid things like smoke cigarettes, and the government needs to tell them that cigarette smoking is dangerous for your health. So all of these issues, whether it was tobacco smoke, the ozone hole, acid rain, climate change, what they all had in common was that they were market failures. They were cases where free-market capitalism was not solving an important social, political, or environmental, or public health problem. And so people who were concerned about these problems were calling for some kind of government action, possibly regulation of tobacco, and remember that in the 60s there were outright calls for the banning of tobacco.

        Seitz found that deeply offensive. He believed in a free world, a free-market system. People should decide for themselves, and if you want to smoke it’s your business and it’s not for the government to tell you whether or not to do that… But the point for me where Fred Seitz crossed the line is when you start misrepresenting the scientific evidence. So at some point he crossed the line, and how in fact the crossing of that line takes place, well, that’s only for psychologists to explain and of course we are not psychologists. So we don’t try to explain the psychological crossing of the line, but we do try to understand it historically.

        “Naomi Oreskes, Tom Levenson: Virtually Speaking Science”

        But you are far from being the lone ranger when it comes to being a victim of neoclassical brain washing. As Peter Turchin points out in War and Peace and War, even though the “self-interest axiom” was “vehemently rejected by Machiavelli’s contemporaries, as the modern period unfolded it gradually gained ground in the thinking of European philosophers, economists, and other social scientists.”

        “During the twentieth century,” he continues, “the ideas of Mandeville, Smith, and many others have been developed and systematized into what is now known as ‘the theory of rational choice.’ The core of the theory is the postulate that people — ‘agents’ — behave in such a way as to maximize their ‘utility function.’ … Agents that behave in ways that maximize their utility functions are ‘rational.’ ”

        However, Turchin argues, recent findings “decisively prove that Machiavelli’s self-interest premise was wrong. It is simply not true that all people behave in entirely self-interested manner. Some people — the knaves — are like that. However, other kinds of people, whom I have called the saints and the moralists, behave in pro-social ways. Furthermore, different societies have different mixtures of self-interested and cooperative individuals.”

        The self-interest axiom pops up everywhere, and I’m quite sure most people are not even aware to the extent this assumption influences and shapes their thinking. Take some of the comments from this thread the other day, for instance:

        There are several comments as to how greed is the motivation behind “How Police All Over the US Grab Cash, Cars, Even Homes from the Innocent.” Some people just can’t get their heads around the fact that it is not greed that motivates a man like Barry Washington, who was Tenaha, Texas’s seminal anti-drug crusader cop.

        If one gives the matter of Washington’s motivation even the most cursory of thought, the notion that it is self-interest that motivates him is nonsensical. He made a base salary of $30,000 a year plus $40,000 in bonuses working for Tenaha. That is peanuts. A US border patrol agent, for example, in the employ of a Mexican drug cartel makes twice that much in 30 minutes, and all he has to do is turn his head and look away, so as not to see what is happening:

        1. charles sereno

          More of your “history is the result of ideas gotten from books” silliness. Let’s start with something I think we can both agree on. Some humans behave as knaves, others as saints. Most rulers, elites, etc. lean toward the dark side. Given that, you think it was because they read it in a book? Give me a break. And BTW, your anti-science (Rousseauian?) bias sometimes shows itself.

          1. from Mexico

            • charles sereno says:

            More of your “history is the result of ideas gotten from books” silliness.

            There are actually two separate issues here: ideas and empirical data.

            Why would one want to rule out books as a source of ideas and empirical data? And if you rule out books as a source of ideas and empirical information, then where do you get your ideas and empirical data?

            • charles sereno says:

            Let’s start with something I think we can both agree on. Some humans behave as knaves, others as saints. Most rulers, elites, etc. lean toward the dark side.

            But we can’t agree on that, and what you said is certainly not what Turchin said. What he said was this:

            It is simply not true that all people behave in entirely self-interested manner. Some people — the knaves — are like that. However, other kinds of people, whom I have called the saints and the moralists, behave in pro-social ways. Furthermore, different societies have different mixtures of self-interested and cooperative individuals.

            To begin with, I don’t see anything there that conveys any moral superiority upon non-elites or non-rulers. And being as I was born into the working class, I know entirely too much about that class to form any romantic notions about it.

            Furthermore, “saints” and “moralists” are not the same thing, as Turchin goes on to explain:

            Remember that a moralist not only behaves according to the norms, but also detects and punishes cheaters — people who break such social rules. A “second-order” moralist also keeps track of those who shirk by not punishing cheaters, and punishes them.


            Kindly saints are completely ineffectual in preventing cooperation from unraveling. In the absence of effective sanctions against free-riders, opportunistic knaves waste any contributions by the saints to the common good. Self-righteous moralistis are not necessarily prosocial in intent. They might not be trying to get everybody to cooperate. Instead, they get mad at people who violate social norms. They retaliate against the norm breakers and feel a kind of grim satisfaction from depriving them of their ill-gotten gains. It’s emotional, it’s not pretty, but it ensures group cooperation.

            • charles sereno says:

            Given that, you think it was because they read it in a book? Give me a break.

            Well no, there is a great deal of recent empirical research which informs the theories posited by Turchin.

            • charles sereno says:

            And BTW, your anti-science (Rousseauian?) bias sometimes shows itself.

            Ah yes, the old “if you disagree with my ‘science,’ then you must be ‘anti-science’.”

            Surely, charles sereno, you can do better than that. There might be forums where espousing the tenets of neoclassical economics might fly, but I hardly believe this is one of them.

        2. optimader

          Mexico, spoken like a philosophical tradesman who’s only tool seems to be a hammer for neoclassical economic nails

          “…neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest….etc etc..”

          IMO your flawed assumption is reducing “pleasure and self interest” to a metric consisting of a (subjective threshold) of financial benefit. People often sell their souls cheap by other peoples standards, (object lesson a long list of Chicago politicians)
          “Capturing budget space” is a strategy to expand bureaucratic scale which enables perpetuation of power and resource aggregation. Power, peer affirmation, “capturing budget space” are all excellent examples of “pleasure and self benefit” and are at least as intoxicating as direct, personal financial benefit.

          A simple example, I used to take lunch at a local municipal airport restaurant (subsidized by the county aviation authority, that’s another story). This is a municipal airport serving the business class jet crowd. Long story short, there was (is?) a USAF Gulfstream, gold lettering and all that, frequenting the airport. Two intermediate rank AF guys in flight suits would get out w/ their golf bags and head over to the golf course –also on the airport property. I can assure you, “their motivation in their roles” was not personal financial gain, that is irrelevant! They were Pentagon bureaucrats living out their version of “pleasure and self interest dreams” through the adroitly named “captured budget space”

          Your justification of the notion that there aren’t scientists, say for example those that served the interests of the tobacco industry, that wouldn’t do just that for trivial funds ( by an arbitrary standard) is vacuous at best.

          People of all walks of live have there own price that serves their “pleasure and self interest” personal financial benefit is just one, and in this case it surely doesn’t have to be a (arbitrarily) large sum of money.

          1. from Mexico

            @ optimader

            Doubling down on that neoclassicism, are we?

            Some people may indeed sell out their principles cheap. But it does not logically follow from this that everyone is for sale, nor that pleasure and self-interest motivate all human behavior.

            You manage to dance around the issue a lot, but throughout your comment you hew to the neoclassical straight and narrow, and every example of human behavior you cite is someone who you assert has sold out for pleasure or self-interest, which only goes to confirm Etzioni’s claim:

            As Amitai Etzioni notes in The Moral Dimension, “neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest.”

            1. optimader

              “Some people may indeed sell out their principles cheap….”
              Statement of the obvious.
              Let me add: and some may sell out there principles at great expense and some never sell out their principles. That about covers it, So what?

              “…But it does not logically follow from this that everyone is for sale,…”
              I made no such claim.

              “…nor that pleasure and self-interest motivate all human behavior”
              Nor have I claimed that!
              But perhaps you can specify human behaviors that is demonstrably exclusive of motivation “by pleasure and self interest”? Otherwise, “neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest.” Is just so much rhetorical BS

              Such as this is BS:
              The tobacco industry offers Fred Seitz….…In fact we found very little evidence that most of the people in the story had received much personal financial benefit for the work they had done. They did in some cases get some consulting fees, but the motivation was really much deeper than that, and it was political, and it was ideological,

              Who is the arbiter of:
              1.What represents a little/much “financial benefit” in the perception of Fred Seitz?

              2.) Is the writer assuming knowledge of what constitutes Mr Seitz “pleasure and self interest”? Could pleasure and self interest not simply be satisfied by a modest amount of money while advancing political and ideological objectives, or are “political and ideological objectives” somehow mutually exclusive of “pleasure and self interest”??

              Certainly seeing my political and ideological objectives advanced are consistently give me pleasure and at least in a measure serves my self interest. Am I unique in this regard?

              Don’t take this wrong, Mexico, but it all seems like coffeehouse BS to me, sorry.

              1. from Mexico

                optimader says:

                But perhaps you can specify human behaviors that is demonstrably exclusive of motivation “by pleasure and self interest”? Otherwise, “neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest.” Is just so much rhetorical BS

                Gladly. I’ll just cite the examples Turchin gives:

                More tellingly, [when WWI broke out] all over Europe hundreds of thousands volunteered for the army. In the British Empire, for example, there was no need to introduce conscription until 1916. Three hundred thousand men enlisted during the first month of the war, and more than 450,000 in the next month. Even on the other side of the world, Australians rode for days to get to towns where they could enlist and begin the long voyage to Europe.

                By the end of the war, more than 8.5 million were dead from bullet, artillery shell, poison gas, or trench sickness. In France, every sixth soldier mobilized for war was killed. More than half were wounded. Only one soldier in three escaped the meat grinder unscathed in body (if not in soul).

                The willingness of the British, the French, and the Germans to fight for their country is only one of the many striking examples of the human capacity to sacrifice for the sake of a very broad common good…

                [This is] one area where the rational choice theory fails utterly… The cost — the risk of injury or death — is substantial. The benefit — preventing the defeat that might entail paying war reparations, being evicted from your home, enslaved, or even killed — is also substantial. However, the cost of enlisting you bear directly, whereas the benefit is shared equally among everybody (what economists call the public good)… By failing to join the army, you will reap all the benefits of victory without bearing any of the costs. According to rational choice theory, this is precisely what a rational agent should do… In a society of rational agents, everybody will defect, with the end result that collective action will always fail…

                In a world where all individuals behave strictly rationally, armies would run away at the first shot (or would not even get together in the first place). Nobody would vote or pay taxes. IRS agents would accept bribes not to prosecute tax evaders, and then pass some fraction of that to the members of the Senate overseeing committee, to buy them off. The courts would make verdicts in favor of whoever can pay more, or has more power to intimidate the judges and juries. The police would let criminals go in exchange for part of their loot. Actually, I am painting too rosy a picture — when all behave in a purely self-interested manner, there will be no IRS, courts, or police. There could only be a Hobbesian war of all against all.

                1. charles sereno

                  When I first saw your reply to me I was content to leave the exchange for readers to judge. Upon revisiting the site and seeing the back and forth with Optimader, I was lured into another comment. You approvingly quote Turchin:
                  “The willingness of the British, the French, and the Germans to fight for their country [in WW I] is only one of the many striking examples of the human capacity to sacrifice for the sake of a very broad common good…”
                  Turchin erred, he meant common GOODS, didn’t he since they were on opposing sides? Welsh coal miners went on strike in the middle of the war (look it up). They’re my heroes, not the hapless, misled souls marching to a meaningless immolation.

                2. optimader

                  More tellingly, [when WWI broke out] all over Europe hundreds of thousands volunteered for the army…

                  I’ll stop you right there Mexico.
                  You are putting yourself in the minds and motivations of people that volunteered, based on the information available to them at the time.

                  You can divine the motivations of people ~99 years ago? I surely can’t, but as a junior student of History I think it reasonable to conjecture many volunteered based on the Nationalistic sentimentalities de jour that were appealing to them at the time (call it satisfying?). Ironically, not too much unlike the emotionally manipulated response of many military volunteers who responded in a manner that satisfied their sensibilities in days that unfolded in the U.S. post 9/11.

            2. MikeNY

              from Mexico, I believe you are correct.

              To view the motive of all human action as “self-interest” is reductionist. And the attempt to explain away altruism as irrational, or merely self-interest in disguise, is unfalsifiable in the Popperian sense — which is to say, the assertion is logically meaningless.

              I remember some wag from my college days pronouncing: the problem with communism is that it over-estimates human nature; the problem with capitalism is that it under-estimates human nature.

              This still seems true to me today.

              1. optimader

                Gee, and all this time I’ve been doing altruistic things because it gives me pleasure!
                I’ll have to reconsider my motivations over a unpleasurable disinteresting martini in 4 minutes :o/

                1. Whistling in the Dark

                  My reading of the discussion is this:

                  Optimader: You have this object–which you can imagine in various concrete ways via metaphor, say a ruler, which may or may not facilitate a thought, so let’s try something else simultaneously–a talisman–marked “self-interest.” And you take it out whenever you encounter various (and all?) human behaviors and see whether the image inscribed on your token, your talisman, etc., matches up with your observations.

                  Of Mexico: though not in a disinterested way, you appear to be expressing skepticism over this little hobby of optimader, of measuring human behavior against some axiom about self-interest and its ubiquity.

                  So, it’s a harmless hobby, right? Hey! Maybe your talisman is a mood ring. Perhaps we should all try it on. It turned purple; what does that mean? You know, the world is really a giant Ouija board. The invisible hand is the summed expression of our individual machinations and efforts of our amygdalas–or whatever the pleasure center is, dammit–which inexorably, painstakingly spells out the illustrious history of a most quizzical species.

                  Spoiler alert: Caligula the Second comes on the scene and finds a way to extingush the whole fine experiment somehow. I mean, his pleasure center switch got flipped the other way. Phooey.

                  1. optimader

                    “…The invisible hand is the summed expression of our individual machinations and efforts of our amygdalas–or whatever the pleasure center is, dammit–which inexorably, painstakingly spells out the illustrious history of a most quizzical species…”

                    I re-read this a couple times and yeah along these lines.

                    We all, (except the psychopaths and their ilk amongst us), have a tendency I believe to at least try to err to the common good. When I check out at night I reflect on my efforts and it quietly gives me satisfaction. Is that neo-whatever economics? Maybe so and that fine by me.

                    In fact I endorse Mexico and everyone else to be jealous of what they believe to be true long as it doesn’t Fk w/the execution of my life..

              2. from Mexico

                MikeNY says:

                I remember some wag from my college days pronouncing: the problem with communism is that it over-estimates human nature; the problem with capitalism is that it under-estimates human nature.

                Yep. Marxists “are convinced they can remake the human condition.” (John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern). Man can be purged of self-interest and thus transformed into Turchin’s “saints.” But Reinhold Niebuhr asserted that some Chistians are even worse than the Marxists in this regard:

                While our modern children of light, the secularized idealists, were particularly foolish and blind, the more “Christian” children of light have been almost equally guilty of this error. Modern liberal Protestantism was probably even more sentimental in its appraisal of the moral realities in our political life than secular idealism.

                –REINHOLD NIEBUHR, “The children of light and the children of darkness”

                And Hannah Arendt argues that the New Left and many present-day Marxists are far more disconnected from reality than what Marx was. Speaking of the New Left movement, she writes:

                Nothing, indeed, about the movement is more striking than its disinterestedness; Peter Steinfels, in a remarkable article on the “French revolution 1968” in Commonweal (July 26, 1968), was quite right when he wrote: “Péguy might have been an appropriate patron for the cultural revolution, with his later scorn for the Sorbonne mandarinate [and] his formula, ‘The social Revolution will be moral or it will not be.’ ” To be sure, every revolutionary movement has been led by the disinterested, who were motivated by compassion or by a passion for justice, and this, of course, is also true for Marx and Lenin… Still, they too had first to espouse the nonspeculative, down-to-earth interests of the working class and to identify with it; this alone gave them a firm footing outside society. And this is precisely what the modern rebels have lacked from the beginning and have been unable to find despite a rather desperate search for allies outside the universities. The hostility of the workers in all countries is a matter of record, and in the United States the complete collapse of any co-operation with the Black Power movement, whose students are more firmly rooted in their own community and therefore in a better bargaining position in the universities, was the bitterest disappointment for the white rebels….

                I am not sure what the explanation of these inconsistencies will eventually turn out to be; but I suspect the deeper reason for this…has something to do with the concept of Progress, with an unwillingness to part with a notion that used to unite Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism into the “Left” but has nowhere reached the level of plausibility and sophisitication we find in the writings of Karl Marx.


                Progress gives an answer to the troublesome quesition; And what shall we do now? The answer, on the lowest level, says: Let us develop what we have into something better, greater, et cetera. (The, at first glance, irrational faith of liberals in growth, so characteristic of all our present political and economic theories, depends on this notion.)


                Progress, to be sure, is a more serious and a more complex item offered at the superstition fair of our time. The irrational nineteenth-century belief in unlimited progress has found universal acceptance chiefly because of the astounding development of the natural sciences… That science…should be the subject to never-ending progress is by no means certain… Progress, in other words, can no longer serve as the standard by which to evaluate the disastrously rapid change-processes we have let loose.

                –HANNAH ARENDT, “On Violence”

                1. Lambert Strether

                  IIRC, the “New Left” was a 60s thing. So, ~50 years on, it’s not clear to me how Arendt could “argue” anything about “present-day” Marxists. I admire Arendt’s writing, but her precognitive capabilities were, hitherto, not known to me.

                  If your point is that many on the left today still buy into the myth of progress, then say so, but on your own authority, not Arendt’s.

        3. Nathanael

          From Mexico:

          Bruce Schneier is the acknowledged security expert. His analysis of the NSA is that they are like “little old ladies who collect newspapers because they might be useful someday”. He seems to be right.

          In short, some of the motivations of the deep-staters are actually *clinically insane* — obsessions or compulsions having no connection to reality. Does this help in your quest to understand them?

    2. Richard Kline

      *HAHAHAHAHA* that BBC piece by Adam Curtis is and absolute and complete MUST READ! Not only is it truly informative on the sordid subject of spyguy incompetence, it is quite, quite illuminating on human nature, and our willingness to believe what we wish rather than any uncomfortable facts (or absence of any evidence whatsoever) directly interfaced with our sensory organs. I learned details of the specifics I had never known beyond the outline, and gathered a richer perspective on the folly of the genus homo sapiens sapiens [sic]. It is a better world, methinks yes, where you see the dodgy, flailing dopiness of Figures Great and Small not as some twisted evil design but just the pecculations of small, helpless flops which are ever with us. Not Satan’s Grand Plot (of any kind) but the day to day glop of weak people desperate to be taken seriously and respected above their punching weight or production. We take (putatively) Very Important People far more seriously than their actual competence or accomplishments merit (though their money and their firepower are sadly all too real). Too, too human . . . .

      1. Goin' South

        What bothers me about the incompetence of spies, cops and soldiers is that they’re trigger-happy and armed to the teeth. When some of them smash through our front door, kill our dog and taze us to death because they had the wrong address, that incompetence becomes life-threatening.

        1. from Mexico

          This is what bothered me about Adam Curtis’s article.

          It trivializes something which has flesh and blood, life and death consequences for billions of people.

          1. from Mexico

            The other problem I have with Adam Curtis’s article is that it places the agency upon the actual deep state operatives, and not their handlers and people at the top really running the show.

            We’re supposed to believe that the fish doesn’t rot from the head, or that the buck doesn’t stop at the top.

        2. psychohistorian

          I believe the incompetence angle is overstated in relation to conscious control.

          Via this story:

          we learn that 900 NSA sysadmin types are leaving and 100 are remaining. While a operations management study would need to be done to determine how many sysadmin folks they would need given a certain management strategy, shifting sysadmin management down by a factor of 10 speaks of gross incompetence on one hand but from another perspective it tells of focus change more to manufacture “facts” necessary to control any and all….including the 900 sysadmins being laid off to not become new Snowdens.

          Another observation of this development is that there is fear in the air on high in the plutocracy and I like the smell of that.

          1. Nathanael

            Expect quite a lot of those 900 to walk out with large amounts of NSA-stolen data.

            Expect the remaining 100 to be the most cynical, most hostile to the NSA of the entire 1000 — the NSA’s worst nightmares.

            They never think these things through. The people they keep will probably include the Russian moles, as has happened in the past at the CIA.

    3. from Mexico

      @ YankeeFrank

      If we take a look at what the purpose of the deep state really is, however, it all falls into place and it all makes sense. Hannah Arendt, writing in The Origins of Totalitarianism, identified the true purpose of the police empire — which “it goes without saying” in the totalitarian regimes “had risen to the peak of power” — as follows:

      1) To unleash a wave of police terror which is “no longer used as a means to exterminate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people who are perfectly obedient,” and

      2) To establish “the secret police as the executors and guardians of its domestic experiment in constantly transforming reality into fiction.”

      The fiction that forms the heart and soul of “the essentially fictitious character of totalitarianism,” and which must be kept alive at all costs, is that there exists some “fictitious global conspiracy” which the secret police are “organized to combat,” and which will “eventually concentrate all power in the hands of the police.”

      Regarding #2, I very much recommend the following film which explains in great detail how the secret police in both the UK and the US manufactured the “intelligence” necessary to justify the Iraq War:

      “The Spies Who Fooled the World”

      1. Nathanael

        That’s such a failure strategy though.

        The *universal reaction* to this week’s “raised terror alert” or whatever it was was “This is a fake set up to distract from the revelations of criminal activity by the government”.

        Universal. Random people were talking about it in random places.

        The fiction can’t be maintained.

    4. Wildebeeest

      I’ve known a lot of these creeps. They are the criminals, not you. It’s not you that’s abetting torturers and murderers and rapists and aggressors. They don’t pick these people for their brains. They can’t. If they slip up and hire someone too clever, she’s liable to start thinking. Look at Snowden.

      Safety in numbers is fine, but not crucial. There’s no need to wait for a herd. When you get down to brass tacks, there may be danger in numbers.

      Privacy is never absolute. The government itself (before it went mad) protected only what needed protection. That’s sound policy for humans too. Ideally you’ll have boring identifiers for the panopticon and interesting indentifiers for matters of privity.

      You know you have good data security when you notice repeated attempts to obtain better identifiers: social engineering; pretextual privacy interference from different quarters; transparent efforts to justify collection; probes of your honeypots (yes, you ought to run one now and then.) No need to be alarmed. This is part of life in your totalitarian state.

  3. fatmoron

    I think the Perseids are going to be a real treat this year. I live in the Northeast and spent a good part of the past night outside watching, and I saw a bunch of heavy hitters. One was actually bright enough to light up the ground, for the split second or two that it was out there.

    And it won’t even peak for another two nights!

  4. Richard Kline

    Re: Obama on an ‘incrmental approach’ to NSA ‘reforms [sic],’ what he means is buying Congressfolks by twos and threes to shut up and drop it. There will be no changes on anything the NSA is doing, except to increase their scope, speed of expansion, and penalties for leakers.

    PR does have a function besides blurring the domestic infospace (which in and of itself is important from the Permanent Washington perspective): it buys time which will be used to incapacitate the only critics of the securacracy whose view really matters: Congress. The courts are already completely muzzled on security issues, the rightists at the top just won’t touch that part of ‘Executive Action.’ Congressfolks were badly, BADLY embarrassed by the NSA leaks so far because _they didn’t know any of this stuff._ Congress will sign off on shooting someone in the back of the head, for the most part, so long as they are informed and thereby their status is ‘respected.’ The NSA got caught lying to them full out, and some in Congress feel disrespected. Obama is working to get out in front of that shambling herd.

    The _real_ ‘reforms’ involved which Obama has already endorsed involve forcing out of business the remaining domestically based email encryption firms. The next step will be to shut down any domestic servers which still provide ‘leaker throughput.’ This will in no way impede the next Snowden from jack-and-talking, they’ll just switch to offshore platforms entirely. The point is to control _domestic_ dissent and its ability to network and disseminate information. We’re approaching a ‘velvet gloved samizdat’ level of having to ship info around on the hush-hush. These reforms aren’t about stopping the next Snowden: they are about hamstringing the next Glenn Greenwald, and achieving a level of legalese which will de jure criminalize the kind of things Glenn does _now_. We are going to see a greatly increased security state before we see any substantive improvement. Not that it makes us, the people, andy safer; it does not. What the securacracy does is to make _Permanent Washington and the 1% behind them_ safer. From ‘threats.’ Which realistically are more domestic than foreign, for them. And the biggest threat of all is for the public to find out what they do, how they operate, and how much they steal. Hence, ‘Top Secret’ on everything. The hush-hush agenda is to protect the 1% from anybody seeing what _they_ are doing.

    1. Brindle

      Obama’s PR—here he talks to Americans (and anybody else) at about the 4th or 5th grade elementary school level.
      I find this “scene”on the bizarre side:

      —“The question is how do we make the American people more comfortable?
      If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes — now, granted, in the White House, I don’t do the dishes that much, but back in the day — (laughter) — and — and she’s a little skeptical, well, I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it.”—

      1. Montanamaven

        Here’s the most honest statement of the press conference. Reporter Carol Lee asks:

        Q: Can you understand, though, why people might not — not trust what you’re saying right now about — (off mic) —

        PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can’t.

    2. Jim Haygood

      “What the securacracy does is to make _Permanent Washington and the 1% behind them_ safer. From ‘threats.’ Which realistically are more domestic than foreign, for them.”

      Hell, probably you could say that the threats (from their perspective) are ENTIRELY domestic.

      What prompted the American revolution … a routine tax enforcement action in Boston harbor? What prompted the Arab Spring … a self-immolation by a Tunisian street vendor? These events are the province of chaos theory. No amount of Big Data can forecast their occurrence.

      Meanwhile, one can easily imagine our Dear Drone Laureate parroting Hosni Mubarak:

      “Barack Obama, who speaks to you today, is proud of the long years he spent serving America and its people. This dear nation … I have lived in, fought for, defended its land, sovereignty, interests, and on its land I will die.”

      1. barrisj

        Not only has the Obama crowd taken on and greatly enhanced the huge Surveillance State edifice created by Cheney-Bush, and abetted by Congress (US-PATRIOT Act, etc.), Obama himself has adopted the moronic, grade-school-level language of Bush, forever proclaiming that, “My job is to protect the American people”, or variants on that theme. What he is selling – and defending – is in fact total protection, which of course has the corollary – unspoken or otherwise – of willful surrender of civil liberties and Constitutional protection against unwarranted snooping in the service of “national security” (100% security!) Now, Obama surely realises that the spy agencies had greatly exceeded their remit – and continue to do so today – aided by a compliant FISA Court and nugatory oversite by Congress; the Snowden revelations have forced his hand in making back-handed acknowledgements of “the need for more transparency”, or other such bureaucratic waffle. The notion that he was “on the verge of forming a committee to oversee actions of…, blah-blah” until Snowden is so much cant and humbug, it staggers the mind that Obama believes a simple Beltway-style PR offensive will carry the day for him. One can only hope that revelations from the “Snowden tapes” will continue to flow, keeping Obama’s feet to the fire, and in fact embolding the major Internet players to really push back against NSA intrusions. The telecoms, unfortunately, have been in the bag for too long to ever extract themselves from compliance and collusion with the Surveillance State.

        1. Nathanael

          You know what? There’s a way to sell “total protection” and “surrender your civil liberties”. But Obama is so much of an idiot that he isn’t doing it.

          That way is simple: make sure everyone’s standard of living is increasing. Everyone’s. Emperor Augustus, as I have said before, *bragged* about how many people he was giving the wheat ration to. They happily let him be, well, Emperor.

          The economic performance of this government has been pathetic, mainly due to selling out to some greedy 1%ers.

          Oligarchies are not stable when the oligarchs are psychopathically greedy and unable to know when to back off.

  5. Elliot

    Give Snowden immunity, yes, but not for the facile reasons given in that opinion piece. Clearly Snowden CAN give us the information we need; he has been doing so since June. If he were to come back now, before real changes are made, he would be divested of what he has, and the process would stop. And nor, dear cynical National Review, is he guilty of treason. But one can surely see Obama dangling a fake immunity, like a worm on a hook, if none of the other ploys work.

    Those guys @ the NatRev need to get over themselves as protectors of liberty.

    Bright spies or not, fighting terrorism is not really what the domestic syping is about, a child could see that.

    Oh, and the Perseids are already magnificent; run out and look if you have dark sky.

  6. Richard Kline

    Yves: ” . . . DoJ basically worked up what Levin unearthed in his London Whale hearings.” I get the feeling that this drizzle of maybe-possibly indictments is designed to please certain somebodies in Congress. The DoJ obviously isn’t too serious. And certainly isn’t interested in tripping over any higher-ups on Wall Street caught in flagrante—as many patently HAVE been caught. I mean, the London Whale’s unit reported directly to Dimon, but DoJ doesn’t think there’s a problem there? Or wants to cinch-and-flip some mid-tier in-the-knows (though the effort sure doesn’t look like that)? Hmm.

    This all seems like a Congressional horsetrade. For what if so? That is what I don’t get, but I’m not trying to hard to sniff the wind, either. Methinks BO wants votes on something, and he’s willing to give a few tepid hotfoots to bad actors on Wall Steet to get those votes. Obviously, any such proposal from BO would be grossly against the public interest because, well, _track record_.

  7. D. Mathews

    Don’t give up your cell-phones yet. Despite the US claiming to not negotiate with terrorists, the reality is different. Hopefully, the lessons of the past have been learned in this more promising “ronda” of negotiations. While the Bloomberg piece acknowledges that the FARC are carrying out one of the oldest insurgencies, precious little information on the roots is provided. Of course, you would need an entire book for that.

    1. Richard Kline

      So D., anything on FARC (or any other Latin American left side sorts) in major American media is complete propaganda, by definition, and nothing more. I don’t even read articles from those sources anymore, they can’t even be bothered to get the players right. It’s smear stuff for domestic consumption only.

      I still hope that the current stand-down talks succeed; and have a different ending then the last two. Both times, the lefties came in and joined the political process—and were decimated by right wing death squads tied directly to American trained military and American friendly corporations. Yeah, I’ll bet they didn’t get any of THAT background in this particular article, did they?

      1. D. Mathews

        As an interesting footnote (for outsiders), President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón’s grandfather was notable journalist Enrique Santos Montejo (bio notes in Spanish), whose brother Eduardo was president of Colombia (for the Liberal Party) from 1938 to 1942. The fact that these relatives were caught in the maelstrom of events leading up to and including La Violencia undoubtedly exerts influence on today’s President in his determination to successfully negotiate an end the current conflict.

  8. Skeptic

    Camden, A City for Others Next City (May S)

    I watched a movie called the Wrestler with Mickey Rourke some time ago. The first place I thought of was crumbling New Joisey. The movie is really about the crumbling of American society. Many elements of the American nightmare are there. Even the wrestling is interesting since it is so showy, tawdry and fraudulent like much of American life. The scenes with Rourke working as a low paid, despised deli counter server are tragic. I looked this morning and very available at a famous file sharing site.

    1. diptherio

      I could only make it through about 15-20 minutes of the film…well made but soooooo depressing. I had to turn it off and watch some cat videos to salvage my mood…

      1. direction

        Rourke’s personal history makes his performance that much stronger. Having lived in rural “cities”, I feel like that movie’s portrayal of dead end small town American life is shockingly accurate. Hope you try watching again sometime.

      2. direction

        Sorry I have to add more. If you, dear reader, have not lived in poverty, you need to put this movie on your watch list. This is a compelling portrayal of an economic struggle that a large portion of people in this country are born into and where they spend their whole lives. Rourke’s performance is wonderful. If you harbor any remnants of the classist notion that poor people are not as smart as the upper class, please take the time to watch a great actor portray someone hardworking and sensitive who is stuck in a dead end position in this society. This should be Naked Capitalism’s favorite movie. (’cause it’s stark) and if you don’t have the stomach for it, consider doing volunteer work at an orphanage for your penance. (we still have orphanages folks; they just don’t call them that anymore)

        1. Skeptic

          Before I posted this morning about this movie, I looked at a couple of reviews and none of them seemed to get it like the posters here. I agree this movie is hard to watch. But, having had a few shit jobs myself and been treated as such, it has a real feel to it.

          Hey, who knows, maybe the Wrestler is posting to NC from the Afterlife.

          1. direction

            I’ve had the privilege of experiencing both sides of this society, viewing the heart of the intelligencia and the heart of the disposessed (that side, unfortunately, is much larger and more unpleasant to explore). The class divide is enormous and now has been rendered 100 times larger. I recommend walking in the shoes of the other; there is a great need for understanding. Divide and conquer is the main tool of TPTB. Enhancing poverty secures them a steady labor source for their armies (can you say free education and health care?) allowing them to avoid a draft which might result in insurrection. It’s all very straightforward.

    2. anon y'mouse

      from the article on Camden: “The message to local residents is clear: The nice things here aren’t for you. We need other people.”

      this is the same message you get growing up in East or West Oakland, as I did. you are surrounded by the monied classes, who look at you as though you are defective. in reality, after coping with poverty and poor schools and usually having very little hope of attending college afterwards, there isn’t much for you to do except replicate your parents’ lack of success.

      starving (not literally)in the midst of plenty is very damaging to the psyche.

      1. Klassy!

        You need not live in an economically depressed city to be given the brush off if you have no disposable income. Sorry, we don’t need you. If, on the other hand you do have disposable income the city leaders will make sure you have even more. You may find the property tax bill on your 500K condo to be less than that of the old couple who own that house that is generously assessed at 40 thousand dollars. But think of all those good jobs supported with that disposable income!

    3. optimader

      Maybe you’ll find this film more uplifting and affimational?

      M.R.’s best film, right up there w/ “Night of the Iguana”:
      Barfly (1987)

      Wanda: I hate the police, don’t you?
      Henry: I don’t know, but I seem to feel better when they’re not around.

  9. Chromex

    The problem I have with the Curtis piece – interesting as it is-is that it contains an assumption- that the NSA “spying” has an actual goal in line with its stated goal. I think there is compelling evidencce otherwise that must be considered. First, some “terrorists” are/were being armed by the US governement in Syria and Libya. This is an explicit confession that the US governement/corptocracy does not really beleive their own public propaganda about what an ominous threat to “freedom” these small groups actually are. Second, Gaius’s recent articles demonstrate the likely domestic uses/concentrations of NSA data. I would not at all be surprised if an objective analysis of NSA money would demonstrate that the most money went to domestic surveillance and data distribution to the agencies identified by Gaius.
    This makes Curtis’s piece a diversion in my mind- I have long suspected that the portrayal in SPY v SPY comics was esstentially correct.
    It would be nice if media would emphasize investigating whatever NSA’s ACTUAL role is in America’s rising facism. My opinion is that recent developments make musician Frank Zappa’s statement below look very prescient.
    “The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

    1. from Mexico

      Chromex says:

      This makes Curtis’s piece a diversion in my mind.


      For someone like Adam Curtis, sitting at his MSM vicariate, it is asking too much of him to draw a bead on TPTB or their ruling mythology. Instead, he fixes on someone or someones much lower in the ruling hierarchy.

      The same criticism was made of Curtis’s The Century of the Self:

      V-RADIO: Are you familiar with the BBC documentary “The Century of Self”? Did it influence your making of Psywar?

      Mr. Noble: It did, but not in the manner you might expect. Curtis is an extremely talented filmmaker with an immense repository of archival footage at his disposal (some of which I utilized in Psywar), and he puts out a great product. But I also find that he tends to exaggerate the importance of particular individuals, groups and fanciful ideas in lieu of basic class analysis; he also appears to self-censor, often at critical junctures. I don’t recall seeing the slightest hint of skepticism about the official story of 911 in “The Power of Nightmares”.

      There was a great review of The Century of the Self” published by Media Lens. In it, the author quotes a passage from the film:

      “Politicians and planners came to believe that Freud was right to suggest that hidden deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had lead to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again, they set out to find ways to control the hidden enemy within the human mind.” (The Century of the Self – The Engineering of Consent, BBC2, March 24, 2002)

      The critic goes on to state:

      “As you’ll know, if you’ve read Elizabeth Fones-Wolf’s study of the period, Alex Carey’s work, and countless books by Edward Herman, Noam Chomsky, and many others, this could not be further from the truth. Post-1945, as now, the real fear of politicians and planners was the existence of dangerous +rational+ desires and fears – popular desires for equity, justice and functioning democracy; popular fears that unbridled capitalism and militarism would once again lead to horrors on the scale of the two world wars. Freud’s theories were incidental – useful in refining traditional methods of popular control perhaps, but a sideshow.”

      In Curtis’ film, Bernays is presented more as a cause than effect. In reality he was joined by all sorts of other like-minded mind managers from the time period: scientists like John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism, for example, and Ivy Lee, the unsung hero of embedded journalism, crisis management and the press release. Public relations evolved as a means of rescuing corporations from the wrath of public opinion, most notably in response to events like the Ludlow massacre.

      The revolution in American advertising was brought about not by a single visionary but by a crisis in capitalism, namely overproduction, which mandated new and innovative ways of marketing products. There were alternatives. Raising wages and reducing working hours, for example, but corporations were and are mandated by law to maximize profits on behalf of their shareholders.

      The consumer society is a natural outgrowth of capitalism, not Freud. Endless growth means endless mountains of junk. To sell it, you have convince people that buying objects leads to happiness.

      1. optimader

        I breathlessly await Mr. Noble’s piece of documentary filmmaking that that ties together all these deerpaths in the woods critiques. From the unabridged treatment of all 911 revision theories to the unified history of consumer psychology, thoughtfully rendered down into an entertaining and cohesive ~45 mins stock footage documentary masterwork!

        Looking for the popcorn maker.

        1. Bev

          Journalists have been brave for a long time:

          AA Exposes Bush’s ‘Big Lie’: Flight 11 DID NOT FLY on 911!
          by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

          American Airlines is the source for information that AA Flights 11 (North Tower) and 77 (Pentagon) did not fly on 911. If neither flew on 911, the Bush ‘theory’ is a lie. If the Bush ‘theory’ is a lie, there remains only one explanation and that is: 911 was an inside job given a green-light by Bush himself.

          These flights are critical to the the government’s crumbling cover up! Conan Doyle, the brilliant creator of the character Sherlock Holmes, said: “When you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains however implausible must be the truth!” Bush’s official conspiracy theory of 911 is not only impossible, it’s absurd and insulting to intelligent people!

          The Bush Conspiracy Theory is impossible! And it is a Lie!

      2. I'm Not Buying It

        “…. you have convince people that buying objects leads to happiness.”

        It is not very difficult to convince hungry people that buying food will lead them to happiness.

        Perhaps you over-generalize; and perhaps you should think again about what precisely constitutes “convincing people”.

  10. Andrew Watts

    RE: Maybe the real state secret is that spies aren’t very good at their jobs and don’t know very much about the world

    Mr. Curtis does not seem to understand that the primary duty of the intelligence agencies is to collect information. Which they seem to be doing a fairly good job as of late. It’s why people are concerned about the domestic spying. Furthermore, the intelligence services actively recruit people who are highly intelligent that also possess an intuitive understanding of the world. In other words, eccentric individuals. The remainder are careerist hacks, ‘crats, and pols. Who are quite deserving of scorn.

    I have the uttermost respect for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Just how good are they? Well, after allegedly being implicated by the CIA traitor Aldrich Ames, Oleg Gordievsky was recalled back to Russia. Upon arriving he was immediately interrogated. They let him go even though he was suspected of working for a foreign country. Probably due to the fact Gordievsky didn’t give them anything substantial during his interrogation. Undoubtedly he was kept under KGB surveillance. He managed to signal his handlers somehow, and then British intelligence pulled a Houdini and extracted him out of the Soviet Union. Right under the KGB’s watchful eye.

    While Curtis mentions Gordievsky as an original source he neglects to mention the interesting tale of his defection. Possibly due to the fact it does not fit his personal bias. I also do not appreciate how he twisted the facts surrounding the Cambridge spy ring. He criticizes the inability of MI5 to catch any Eastern bloc spies, while neglecting to give Sir Anthony Blunt any of the credit/blame for his role in that paralysis. Nor does he give any credit to the individuals in British/American intelligence that harbored suspicions regarding Philby early on.

    “In August 1971 an ordinary London policeman arrested a man who was driving drunkenly down Tottenham Court Road. He turned out to be Oleg Lyalin who was a KGB agent. Lyalin spent a lot of his time buying socks in the West Midlands – pretending to be a member of the Soviet Trade delegation. But really he was spying.”

    According to the story I heard, MI5 drugged Lyalin on purpose and was tailing him the entire time up until the moment the cop picked him up. Perhaps it’s true. I have yet to met an elderly gentlemen who wasn’t willing to divulge some of what he knows to a bright young mind.

    One of the allegations Snowden made in his extensive interview with the Guardian was that American intelligence did a similar thing to a Swiss banker in Geneva. It must still be a popular means of compromising foreign nationals if Americans are doing it.

    “The great spy round-up of August 1914 never took place – as it was a complete fabrication designed to protect MO5(G) from the interference of politicians or bureaucrats.”

    That’s winning. If people are truly serious about limiting the scope of the intelligence services they need to know the difference.

    But hey, what do I know?

    1. Synopticist

      The trouble with Curtis is that he’s first and foremost a storyteller, and he rarely lets inconvenient facts get in the way of an entertaining narrative. So his pieces, interesting and diverting as they are, only ever present maybe 70% of what the thing is really about.

      To nuance it a bit further, Curtis is a storyteller, a polemicist, and only thirdly a documentarian.

      I still liked it though. The one thing the UK intelligence services are undeniably brilliant at is burnishing their own reputations and credentials. Their greatest success in the last 30 years was in dumping ALL the blame for the non-existence of Iraqi WMDs onto the politicians and their advisors. Before the war they assured anyone listening about their existence, and afterwards they pretended they’d been sceptical all along. (David Kelly was probably an MI6 agent.)

      And everyone fell for it, blaming Blair (who’s a cunt) and Alistair Campbell (who mainly isn’t). MI6 effectively had no independent spies at all in Iraq, and was totally reliant on exiles and defectors, who were happy to lie to them. In all the UK navel gazing post-Iraq, one question never raised is the level of basic competence of the secret services. They’ve very smartly avoided any criticism.

      Curtis touches briefly on their relationship with the media, but mostly to sneer at bad haircuts. He doesn’t understand, or chooses to ignore, that it’s their manipulation of the media which gives them much of their power.

      1. Andrew Watts

        The intelligence services are a convenient scapegoat for the Iraq affair. The fact of the matter is that whether the Iraqi exiles were actually believed or not is irrelevant. Ambassador Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame conclusively proved the whole aluminum tubes story to be a complete fabrication. In retaliation, Plame was viciously outed as a covert CIA operative by the journalist Richard Novak. The State Department tipped off Novak with regards to Plame’s undercover status. This is the point where DCI George Tenet probably faced a internal revolt within the ranks of the CIA.

        Politics cannot be divorced from the work of intelligence. To publicly question the professional competency of the secret services would shine a giant light on the whole torrid affair. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve heard that both British/American intelligence analysts thought that the primary source for the Nigerian allegations by the Iraqi exile (code name: Curveball) was full of shit in the first place. While their ‘crat and pol bosses were eager to please the Bush/Blair Administration. There’s a couple of books by Wilson/Plame and a Hollywood movie if you’re more interested about the details.

        I still don’t think that would’ve stopped the Iraq War.

        1. Synopticist

          “The intelligence services are a convenient scapegoat for the Iraq affair. The fact of the matter is that whether the Iraqi exiles were actually believed or not is irrelevant ….. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve heard that both British/American intelligence analysts thought that… Curveball was full of shit in the first place…”

          Hmmm, this is what I’m talking about.

          Thats the narrative that we’ve been left with. The intel guys are a scapegoat, that their being fooled was irrelevant, and they weren’t really fooled at all, it was the politicians etc.

          Just like we all like to think we’re immune to advertising, which we’re not, we all like to imagine we’ve come to this conclusion by ourselves. Personally, I don’t buy it, rather I think is largely the result of the secret services succesfully manipulating the media so as to avoid the criticism which would otherwise be their due.

          1. Andrew Watts

            The intelligence services get credit in my book for following it up via Wilson/Plame. The Bush Administration doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. They were looking for an excuse to go to war and when their justification was refuted they retaliated. It was only later when the war turned into a fiasco that the scapegoating of the intelligence community began.

            I don’t believe for a second that anybody is immune to advertising or propaganda, but we’re really only scratching the surface of Plamegate and the events leading up to the Iraq war.

            1. Nathanael

              Your analysis of that period seems right…

              ….but I look back further. The CIA *failed to notice the fall of the USSR*. They didn’t believe that Gorbachev meant what he said (which he did). They were *USELESS*.

              I don’t see the value of the intelligence services. If they’re providing less reliable intel than CNN, as they were in the 1980s 1990s, what’s the point of funding them?

              1. Andrew Watts

                Hindsight is 20/20. The only commentator who correctly predicted the fall of the Soviet Union was an intellectual named Ravi Batra.

                I can’t think of anybody else who got that right.

    2. from Mexico

      What do you think of this?

      The documentary film Counter-Intelligence cites two incidents where the US deep state intervened in the internal politics of two countries in the first world — Australia and Great Britain — to depose governments by manufacturing false intelligence.

      The segment that deals with US intervention into the internal politics of Australia and Great Britain begins here:

      The lead-in to this segment begins by noting: “That the CIA has overthrown countless governments around the world is no longer a closely held secret. What is less known is that its agents have engaged in similar plots against America’s closest allies.”

      1. Andrew Watts

        It’s plausible. Those were the wild days of the CIA. I know of a historical precedent for that sort of meddling in the electoral affairs of our other allies. In the late 40s (or early 50s) the communists and their political allies were posed to win the national elections in Italy. I’m not sure on the intimate details, but the CIA definitely meddled in the elections. I would imagine that they covertly funded and organized the opposition. The Soviets were heavily involved in doing the same exact thing too.

        1. Nathanael

          The really nasty part is that, as far as I can tell, CIA meddling in foreign countries has mainly ended up being *bad* for US geopolitical interests in the long run. Iran is the most dramatic example, of course.

    3. barrisj

      Mr. Curtis does not seem to understand that the primary duty of the intelligence agencies is to collect information

      Unfortunately, in the States, the spying and security agencies have also taken on the remit of creating intelligence as well, at the behest of their masters, as the history of the US invasion of Iraq showed. One can as well enumerate dozens upon dozens of “terrorist” cases where informers and operatives acting directly for the agencies have created or abetted “plots” that would have never risen to that level had it been NOT for active participation and intervention by the same people who are charged with prevention of such crimes through conventional “HUMINT” and “SIGINT”. Indeed, the pendulum has swung so radically away from “collection” to “operations” that entrapment domestically and drone attacks abroad now define the agencies’ mission, and will continue to do so until and unless Congress can get its collective hand round these agencies and do a massive overhaul – another “Church Commission” is really, really overdue.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I’m not really sympathetic over the whole entrapment issue. If you’re dumb enough to stick your hand in such a obvious honeypot you deserve whatever is going to happen next. It’s unforgivable to create fear amidst the population with the specter of another terrorist attack for self-serving political purposes though. That’s how our leaders want to run the country though and that bothers me more then a Predator drone blowing some people up half a world away. Whatever happened to the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?

        Anyway I don’t think another Church Commission is the best we can do. Dismantling the post-9/11 intelligence organizational structure seems like a more worthwhile goal. Not only would it make it harder for intelligence agencies to utilize other agency’s intel for their own possibly nefarious purposes, it would likely prevent another widespread Snowden leak. That’s a win-win for everybody. Well, maybe not for the politicians who are held responsible for everything.

        There’s already talk about abolishing the office of the Director of National Intelligence (…) and disbanding Homeland Security.

        1. barrisj

          Wait, what? Disbanding DHS? Can you be serious? This agency has been foremost in shoveling huge amounts of taxpayer dollahs into local police depts. for “security upgrades” and the like. States and cities LOVE DHS for their largesse, as it saves them from massive expenditures for meeting “the challenges of terrorism”, whatever. No bloody way does DHS go away…it’s a fecking cash-cow for local government, a “win-win” for both privatised “security” companies vying for govt. contracts, and for local cop-shops who can militarise at taxpayer-expense, and no questions asked. No, mate, DHS is NOT going away, full stop.

          1. barrisj

            Re: entrapment…no, mate, it’s really not a question of “who’s dumb enough to…”, rather that entrapment is the raison d’etre of security agencies protecting their turf. Show “results”, and you get the appropriations you requested, plus a big hug from Dr Drone, for “actions above and beyond the call of duty” defending da peepul. Isn’t it bloody obvious?

  11. diptherio

    Re: 50 Worst Charities

    This is a wide-spread and little-discussed problem across the non-profit sector. The orgs mentioned in the article are extreme examples, but the problem is widespread.

    Besides the issue of donations mainly going to pay fundraisers rather than to program work, high overhead expenses and out-sized ED salaries are also major, and widespread, problems.

    The irony is that if an organization wants to spend as much as possible on program work, and so forgoes the glossy pamphlets and the salaried employees, 9 out of 10 people will assume that the org. is a scam or, at the very least, a poorly-run fly-by-night kind of group. It’s something of a catch-22. This is one of the reasons I simply gave up on fundraising for my school project: too much work for too little gain; and without all the typical fundraising accouterments (i.e. brochures, newsletters, etc.) most people won’t give you a second glance, much less any moola. Self-funding actually turned out to be more do-able for me.

    1. Nathanael

      Brochures and newsletters are much cheaper than they used to be. You can make a newsletter at home using free software and distribute it via website. (The website hosting costs are an unpleasant added expense, of course.)

  12. b2020

    One observation on the WP summary of Obama droning about surveillance – if US citizens are bothered about a phone surveillance dragnet based on the idea that “signatures” will emerge that “warrant” action, and that every user of modern online communications is a suspect by virtue of “being there”, maybe they should be a bit less sanguine about a drone surveillance dragnet based on the idea that signatures will emerge that justify assassination, and that every inhabitant of certain territories is a suspect by virtue of living there. The way I see it, if you feel like your government considers you a military-age male militant, then maybe you should consider that those “others” have been dying while the canvassed majority has expressed little more than disinterested acquiescence.

    1. b2020

      As far as signatures of pathological behavior go, the oh-blahblah regarding what the PATRIDIOT Act does or does not legalize is a “dead” ringer for the contortions regarding the AUMF authorizing acts of aggressive war illegal under constitution, domestic law and signed international treaties, in more than half a dozen countries.

      In short, it should be pretty obvious what goes on in either context – droning or phroning – by analogy to the known transgressions in the other context. Obeyne is a serial offender.

  13. docg

    Re: immunity for Snowden. I haven’t yet read the article, but the headline sort of says it all. And I agree. Imo Snowden’s (and also Manning’s) actions are defensible according to the Nuremberg protocols, regardless of whether he did anything technically against the law. Also, his actions, regardless of what you might think of him personally, or the NSA, have provoked a much needed debate in this country, and worldwide, about both the need for, and the limits of, surveillance.

    Another aspect, which has not of yet received much attention is the very real possibility that former KGB chief Putin is not above coercing Snowden to put his considerable knowledge of NSA secrets and advanced encryption techniques at the service of Russian intelligence.

    Preventing such an outcome should be a huge motivator for Obama to do everything in his power to get Snowden back to the USA, even if he has to swallow his pride and offer him immunity.

    1. Synopticist

      I think that horse has pretty much bolted already. You have to assume the Russian FSB knows everything Snowden knows. They have a lot of experience in, and still more expertise in the science of, breaking down defectors and “traitors” and making them all their own. Snowden is an inexpierienced 28 year old computer nerd wildly out of his depth, and won’t have the mental toughness and sophistication to be able to resist their blandishments for long, (very few people would, it’s not just Snowden).

      He’s totally isolated and dependent on his protectors, and will be putty in their hands.

      1. ++

        Who cares? I’d trust Putin with that trove before I’d trust US government scumbags. Putin enforces jus cogens while the US government shits on it.

      2. Nathanael

        I doubt it.

        The FSB doesn’t even care about whatever the NSA collected, generally — the Russian hackers are probably better at *actual* spying than the NSA is.

        The official FSB opinion of the US government’s geopolitical behavior is that the US government is “insane”, according to one press release.

        1. Nathanael

          FWIW, the idea that the NSA is better at encryption techniques than the Russian government is laughable. Russia always had better mathematicians.

  14. barrisj

    Once again, let’s give the final word to Lorenzo Da Ponte:

    L’empio crede con tal frode
    Di nasconder l’impieta

    The villain believes that with fraud
    He can hide his wickedness

    Don Giovanni


    1. Emma

      I’m thinking Paradise Lost/Milton:
      “To do aught good” (159) is a shame – rather, “to do ill is (his) sole delight.” (160) He takes greatest satisfaction in twisting God’s creations to his own ends. He “raise(s) impious war” (43) in Heaven, and he thinks he has succeeded in making God fear for His sovereignty.

    1. AbyNormal

      aye on the sores of darkness there is light,
      and precipices show untrodden green,
      there is a building morrow in midnight,
      there is a triple sight in blindness keen.
      keats, to homer

      1. direction

        beautiful, thank you. It’s just gotten dark out here on the left coast and I’m heading outside soon.

  15. barrisj

    As a followup story to Yves’ post of yesterday: “Do you trust the police” – here is the view from the UK, where police violence has really become an issue:

    The British Police: getting away with murder since 1969
    827 people have died during or following police contact since 2004. Families have struggled hard for justice, encountering multiple failures and police collusion from the IPCC. Why is police accountability failing in this most serious of issues?
    The last time a police officer was successfully prosecuted for the death of somebody in custody was in 1969, when the two Leeds Police officers responsible for the death of David Oluwale, the first black man to die in police custody in the UK, were found guilty of assault and sentenced to a mere few months in prison. There have been over 1,000 further deaths in custody since. However there has not been a single successful prosecution against any police officer involved in these deaths – despite several verdicts of unlawful killing, most recently in the case of Azelle Rodney.

    And in Britain, there is something called the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is by statute to act as sort of a “public advocate”, to ensure that “justice is done”, or at least to ensure that “justice is seen to be done” in the matter of police conduct. As the article details, the IPCC often sides with the coppers, assisting them in avoiding prosecution for arrant misdeeds. Local governments in the US in many cases also have “Police Review Boards”, or the like, as an “independent” agency acting as an “ombudsman” on behalf of the public, or allegedly serving as an “independent” oversight of police activities and conduct. But, as every city’s experience of such Review Boards have shown, such agencies usually bend over backwards to accommodate the police, usually taking the “official” police version as the “truth”. Only through extensive litigation, paid or pro bono, can private citizens obtain redress for unlawful acts perpetrated by the police. Rarely does one find that city governments or their police admit to wrong-doing – “the Thin Blue Line”, and all that.

    1. direction

      OOh, thanks for the heads up. I missed that yesterday. I skimmed through the comments just now, and it looks like I’m not repeating this link.

      The October 22nd Coalition travels nationwide publicizing police killings. They now have a book out called Stolen Lives. If you know someone who is killed, they will come do community support and organizing if you contact them.

      We had a mentally ill man shot dead when public health asked the police to bring him in to get his meds. He refused to go with them so they peppersprayed him. He still refused so they set the dog on him. He defended himself against the dog so they shot him. (the dog got to take the first ambulance that arrived on the scene because the dog was an officer of the law, he had to wait for the second ambulance and died)

      1. barrisj

        An item in today’s Seattle Times newspaper:

        Violent SPD arrest to cost city $1.75 million
        The city of Seattle will pay $1.75 million to settle a civil-rights lawsuit involving a mentally ill man who suffered severe brain damage during a violent arrest involving 15 Seattle police officers in May 2010

        The city of Seattle will pay $1.75  million to a mentally ill man who suffered severe brain damage during a violent arrest involving 15 Seattle police officers in May 2010.

        Brian Scott Torgerson’s father had filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit alleging Torgerson was beaten by officers, restrained hand-and-foot and had his head wrapped in a mesh “spit hood” even though he was bleeding heavily and vomiting.

        The settlement may be the largest ever in a case alleging excessive force by the Seattle Police Department, which is implementing sweeping reforms of its policies and training after findings by the U.S. Department of Justice that its officers routinely use excessive force, often against the mentally ill or chemically impaired. The city paid $1.5 million to settle claims by the family of John T. Williams, a First Nations woodcarver who was fatally shot by a police officer in August 2010.

        There have been many, many cases of SEA-area coppers and county sheriff’s deputies grievously wounding or killing in the course of an arrest people who are identified as having mental issues, and who didn’t understand or immediately comply with police orders at the time of a confrontation. So, it leaves the families of mentally-ill people one of two alternatives: don’t call the cops, and have a family member or friend run amok; or, call in the Blue Meanies and risk having that person permanently “taken care of”. Seattle PD is one of several jurisdictions that is under DOJ supervision to clean up their act; however, given the history of other PDs also having had DOJ intervention (Houston, New Orleans, NY, among others), one wonders how lasting any “reforms” will be.

        1. barrisj

          And the “Police Gone Wild” hits just keep coming:

          Miami Beach police
          Friends who witnessed Tasering of Beach teen offer disturbing details

          At just 18, Israel Hernández-Llach was already an award-winning artist, on the threshold of acclaim in Miami Beach art circles. He was a sculptor, painter, writer and photographer whose craft was inspired by his home country of Colombia and his adopted city, Miami.

          He was also a graffiti artist, known as “Reefa,” who sprayed colorful splashes of paint on the city’s abandoned buildings while playing cat-and-mouse with cops, who, like many property owners, consider graffiti taggers to be vandals, not artists.

          It was while spray-painting a shuttered McDonald’s early Tuesday morning that Hernández-Llach was chased down by Miami Beach police and shot in the chest with a Taser. He later died.

          Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez said the department “would like to extend its condolences to the family of Israel Hernández.”

          Read more here:

          Ah, yes, Florida…nuff said. Police porn, indeed.

  16. MIWill

    re: Obama says phone spying not abused, will continue

    I think the dishonor is my favorite part.

  17. fresno dan

    “Throughout his press conference, Obama said there was no evidence that the intelligence agencies had “abused” their powers, insisting he was instead addressing a problem of public perceptions.”

    Funny word, that “evidence” – by the President Obama definition, there was no evidence that banks and financiers caused the great recession. No evidence of massive fraud and corruption. Nope, no prosecutions, so there must be no “evidence.”
    We simply have reached the end of the experiment in limited government. They do whatever they want whenever they want. They have stopped even putting effort into making their lies plausible

  18. Walter Map

    Now that the Security Apparatus is in place it will not be too long before the engines of suppression and oppression are throttled up. People will disappear, and the existence of concentration camps will be denied at first. It is only a matter of time, and it will not take very long.

    One wonders what future presidential candidates will campaign on, now that they’ll no longer be able to mouth empty platitudes about the virtues of a ‘free country’. Perhaps one or more will talk about the wisdom of dissolving Congress, as its approval ratings wend their way down to zero. Perhaps they won’t bother with elections. Why continue to bother with pretences?

    Magic is loose in the world, and anything is possible.

    So much bad news:

    Towards a radical new theory of Anglo-American slavery
    Economic Forecasts Are Bad, Budget Forecasts Delusional

    Why it’s time to sell

    A hard landing for the middle class

    Emanuel’s Chicago Is On Path To Be The Next Detroit

    Big Banks Conspiracy is destroying America


    Save yourselves. You will almost certainly fail, but you should at least give it a good try.

    1. Climb Ev'ry Mountain

      The annals of history show that things in general have climbed & surmounted towering walls of worry, well enough & often enough, before now: so keep yer chin up!

      It’s always darkest before the dawn starts to break, so keep holding fast to your fair hopes, even though they may for the moment seem doomed to be disappointed!

      …. You get my drift:)

      Perhaps I’m being too optimistic…

      Nah! Not a chance!
      See ya on the bright side!

  19. susan the other

    One comment on Tony Blair: he is an unreconstructed neoliberal privateer still and is published by like minded people and all he is saying now is that the USA should go in to Syria, now. He wants us to go to war for him and his ilk.

    Amb Evans-Pritchard on Japans Quadrillions which might as easily be torched. Yes. All present debt based on the illusion of growth and that bears no relationship to reality can be torched. It is what goes forward from here that is important.

    And is that antidote Bear Stearns? Kinda wild and shaggy lookin.

    1. Emma

      Great suggestion Susan for antidote du jour.
      Could also be the reverse – any bank customer named Iorek Byrnison (His Dark Materials/Pullman) who has his armor taken away, and needs Elizabeth Warren (as Lyra) to use her Alethiometer to find his armor and set him free.

  20. barrisj

    Re: the Nate Silver item…there is another story on “Political Wire” that’s even more interesting: Rick “Man-on-Dog” Santorum is gearing up for 2016!

    Santorum Says He’ll be Better Prepared in 2016
    Rick Santorum told the Des Moines Register that if he runs again for president, he will have a more robust organization in Iowa than his famously shoestring operation in 2012.

    Said Santorum: “Obviously, we’re going to be in a little better shape, we’re organized already just from having campaigned in a lot of states. Folks are anxious to help us. Just that alone puts us light years ahead of where we were.”

    He added: “It just amazed me how many people I know.”

    Political Moneyline notes Santorum “still has $552,895 in debts outstanding. Although he has spent the last three days in Iowa, his 2013 fundraising has been almost non-existent. His $138,396 in receipts in the first six months have been mostly from renting his donor lists out to others.”

    Right, the US rids itself of Obama, only to be faced with the likes of Mr Rick, the Newtster, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, et al on one side, and HRC on the other side. Gesu Bambino, what a bloody shower.

  21. charles sereno

    Re: JP Morgan investigation
    Looking forward to Yves’ look at it especially if more info dribbles out. I’d really appreciate a 101 on the statute of limitations with regard to criminal financial fraud. For example, can it be gamed by reluctant prosecutors?

  22. charles sereno

    Re: Distributional consequences of natural-resource booms: Lessons from Australia (VoxEU)
    Pardon if I missed previous comments. Here’s another barmy study from academics peeking through the slits in their towers at the outside world. Unless I misunderstood them, I think they’re saying that a boom in non-renewable resources leads to inequality? Like a real cause? How about the USA after WW II? You know, oil? If I remember, inequality decreased in that case (big time). Trees, forests…

    1. anon y'mouse

      now i’m confused about the article. it seemed to have made sense when I read it.

      early exploiters of non-renewable resources make massive money exporting them. this results in alteration of currency exchange rates so that importing goods (for the entire population) becomes more expensive.

      early exploiters use their windfall to solidify their position in the country by buying up valuable resources and industries (unstated assumption backed by the article).

      so, the regular folk suffer higher import costs and an inability to cash in on markets cornered by the lucky few who got there and staked a claim first.

      notice the study was Australian, the focus was mainly on mining, and similar effects didn’t seem to occur with renewable resources. Australia is not the U.S. it is ecologically more fragile. we have a lot of renewable resources in this country which are still being exploited in a somewhat more equitable manner (although dynasties still tend to exist). differences between U.S. and Oz can be racked up to differing history and geologic/geographic facts, possibly.

      the pattern exposed seems to be true of most of the resource-dependent, less developed countries, no? a small oligarchy makes most of the money and little of it trickles down to the rest of the peasants earning subsistence on meager farmland.

  23. F. Beard

    re The Right’s Goal–end the one tax expenditure that truly aids poor working families Linda Beale:

    One should tell the Right that welfare for the rich MORE than justifies welfare for the poor.

    And speaking of welfare for the rich, how about euthanizing their government-backed counterfeiting cartel, the banking system?

    1. charles sereno

      Hi F. Beard. You just named it yourself “the banking SYSTEM.” It’s more like a slime mold or starfish (self-replicating) than a cat. Even if it were a Cat, who could bell it much less strangle it? THAT is the question!

      1. F. Beard

        Without government-backing, and I mean absolutely none, explicit or implicit, the slime balls can be counted on to keep themselves in check since there is no honor among those thieves.

        1. Nathanael

          No, actually, they can’t. We tried that several times throughout history. The result is generally nasty economic crashes. :-(

          We need government-issued fiat to be available, to avoid the generally nasty consequences of having *only* private currencies. It can be issued by any level of government which is generally trusted. No private entities involved. Of course, I know you agree, from previous comments.

          1. F. Beard

            We need government-issued fiat … Nathanael

            Yes, because otherwise true private currency competition is not even possible so long as we have government taxation since whatever private currencies are accepted for taxes will have an advantage over those not accepted. That applies to gold too, which is just another scarce metal.

            As for free banking, it was never truly private since the government by default allowed the banks a monopoly on fiat storage and transaction. It was not totally risk-free but it mostly beat the mattress and carrying around large amounts of physical fiat.

  24. Joe

    The New York Times has an article up that sings the praises of Leisure Suit Larry (Summers). We learn that good old regular guy Larry is a friend to the middle class, as he is co-chairing a study on why wages have stagnated for them (duh, couldn’t possibly be the results of his own work, could it?).

    Take an industrial strength barf bag with you, if you decide to read the article:

    The Fed, Lawrence Summers, and Money

    1. Ms G

      Thanks for flagging this. I can’t read it – same as with Obama’s speeches.

      NYT has outdone itself (again), but they should have just shot their shilling wad and compared him to Ghandi.

      Hey, why not.

  25. charles sereno

    I’m torn between recruiting A Evans-Pritchard as a NC commenter or having him continue in his present role. On the one hand we’d sorely miss his columns in the Telegraph. But what a wonderful addition he would make at NC. It’s truly a Solomon’s choice!

  26. Jeff N

    I thought the whole point of the “earned income tax credit” was that it was a tax credit that the poor got *only* if they worked…. now that’s not even good enough for the conservatives…

Comments are closed.