Links 8/30/13

Pair of kittens shut down subway service for nearly two hours NY Daily News

Why Big, Intense Wildfires Are the New Normal National Geographic

Huge canyon discovered under Greenland ice BBC

United States’ 2nd-Quarter Growth Is Revised Up to 2.5%, From 1.7% Times

Teen employment hits record lows, suggesting lost generation McClatchy

JPMorgan Bribe Probe Said to Expand in Asia as Spreadsheet Is Found Bloomberg

Libor Rate-Probe Spotlight Shines on Higher-Ups at Citigroup, Other Banks Online WSJ


Obama strike plans in disarray after Britain rejects use of force in Syria Guardian. The poodle turns.

Democrat Alan Grayson: Obama’s case for striking Syria “flatly false.” Miami Herald

So, What’s It Going To Be? Bashar al-Assad, The Onion

U.S. ready to go it alone on Syria after stinging British defeat AFP

Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No Times

Unclassified Syria briefing exposes rifts among key lawmakers The Hill

U.S. Officials say ‘no smoking gun’ implicating Assad in chemical attack Reuters

Assad assassination attempt may have prompted chemical weapons strike NBC (but see emptywheel).

Joe Biden’s Case That Waging War Without Congress Is an Impeachable Offense The Atlantic

Big Brother Is Watching Watch

Poll: Americans Cared More About Snowden Than Sports, Celebrity Scandals This Summer US News

U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget’ summary WaPo

Edward Snowden leaks again: five takeaways from the ‘black budget’ Christian Science Monitor

New Snowden Leak Reports ‘Groundbreaking’ NSA Crypto-Cracking Wired

Snowden impersonated NSA officials, sources say NBC

Castro denies Cuba caved to U.S. pressure on Snowden Montreal Gazette

U.S. won’t interfere with states on marijuana sales LA Times

Blogs review: Takeaways from Jackson Hole Breugel

Larry Summers and the politicization of the Fed Felix Salmon, Reuters

Summers’ Lending Club makes money by bypassing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act mathbabe

Economist Jayati Ghosh: India’s Woes Foretell ‘Chaos and Violence’ Der Spiegel

Colombian president calls for calm as farm protests reach Bogota Reuters

Why is Sydney University on strike? Because students are not our ‘clients’ Guardian

Fukushima Fishermen Ruined by Tepco Now Key in Radiation Fight Bloomberg

The Oil Drum, peak oil and why some good blogs don’t last FT (and see What The Oil Drum Meant).

*Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means so Much* Marginal Revolution

On the Death of Dreams Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

The girl who went to Kate and Pippa’s school, the £15bn ($22.8bn) Google chief and a romance that has rocked Silicon Valley Daily Mail

Financial Psalm No. 16 Cassandra Does Tokyo

How Moral Revolutions Happen (They Had A Nightmare) Crooked Timber (BD)

Antidote du jour (furzy mouse):


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post on by .

About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Onionesque Obamabot

    During the last century, whenever White Presidents asked for help, the British heeded the call as reliable junior partners. Now that an African American President asks for assistance in executing a finely tailored strike on Syria, the Brits suddenly get all peacenik and refuse to help a brotha stitch together a battle plan. Fifty years after MLK had a dream; a Black US President cannot find a lapdog anywhere on the British Isles to play pin cushion while he sews up his attack. Back in the day, the Limes were always happy to go out and die for any haute couture designs White Presidents came up with; their deep-seeded racism will not allow them to lay their lives down for a Black man no matter how prêt a porter his action is.

    The fact is Syria is basically a white country; Bashar al-Assad looks like he has more European blood than even Joe Biden. Since it is undoubtedly true that Whites would have supported Obama if he were attacking some African dictator; the Brits and all the White Americans who oppose our President are showing their racist underbelly in their resistance to his calls to bomb lily-white Syria. The crackers see his foreign policy as without goals — the attack on Syria being not much more than an international drive-by shooting. They don’t want to assist what they see as their Crip President in busting caps up that Blood al-Assad’s ass. They are afraid Obama will go on CNN and start screaming “World Star!, World Star!” with joy once the footage of the bombs landing on Damascus are broadcast.

    They unconsciously see Assad / Obama fight as a racially mirrored version of the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman battle. But this time the powerful Obama playing the global neighbourhood watchman stalking the watermelon juice, Skittles, and Sarin totting victim Assad. And with the barrage of black on white violence being trumpeted in the US media, few White Americans are ready to support black on white international violence as well.

    So let’s all get together to smash racism by supporting our President in overcoming white bigotry so that he can claim his God-given right to bomb any and every white or semi-white third world dictator back to the Stone Age.

    1. Jim Haygood

      In a 2007 article, Pravda on the Hudson reminds us of happier times, when Syria was our friend (Syria has always been our friend):

      “Where you from?” [the young Syrian man] said, in English, as women in headscarves battled for plastic shoes from an adjacent sidewalk dealer.

      “New York,” I answered, lowering my lens and awaiting a tirade against my country — or worse. Instead, he broke into a smile.

      “New York, great city!” he said. “Ahlan wa sahlan bi Sham.”

      Ahlan wa sahlan bi Sham: Welcome to Damascus. During a weeklong visit in May, unexpected welcomes seemed to erupt from every corner of this ancient nation of Bronze Age, Classical, Biblical and Islamic history. No matter where I was or whom I encountered, local greetings were never long in coming.

      The country I discovered, in addition to being friendly and largely free of crime and related hassles, even showed glimmers of creaking open to the West after decades of closure. Under its London-educated, 41-year-old president, Bashar al-Assad, Syria has instituted private banking, removed a number of long-standing import barriers and passed measures allowing foreigners to own property.

      Regretably, ‘opening to the West’ now is being pursued by other means. Welcome to Damascus, comrades!

      1. craazyman

        Black and White

        I received a recent email from a long-time friend with family from (and extended family in) Syria. Since the family has money, many of them evidently have left the country due to the violence.

        The friend was a New Yorker for many years, a European national, a Christian, thoroughly Westernized and cosmopolitain in a wordly way. Often there were family pictures from visits to Syria, the usual bad photographs we all take, lacking a sensitivity to lighting, color, composition, gesture — snapshots of a life with suits and ties and kids dressed neatly around a Christmas tree not much different than Westchester county or someplace outside Washington DC. People like us, or like those we know.

        The email, of which I was one of several recipients, said that a relative in Syria, a well-regarded professional in the community, was forced to travel by bus since that was the only means available. The bus was stopped by rebels and the relative was shot dead. No reason was given. It must have been religious or tribal or some political metaphor, some action that derived its meaning from a Manichean duality of which we as a species seem so fond of, our map of the psychological cosmos, our method of dissection which finds its way even into the most trivial forms of thought, such as bits and bytes and ones and zeros.

        The email understandably referred to the actors as terrorists and asked for blessings for this individual’s soul.

        I once met a young woman from Lebanon at a social event and asked what it was like to live in a place where war is a fact of life. She froze slightly, probably overwhelmed by the burden of memory and the futility of answering it in any way that I could understand, but she succeeded in briefly relating it to the weather. It comes and happens and then it goes away.

        It’s hard to tell what was there before it came and what was there after it left. I suspect that whatever that is, it is there now — before any missles or bombs are dropped — and that after they come and happen it will still be there. And the next time it comes, it will be as if the bombs and missles never happened, or if they did happen, it was just some sort of rain. It seems like that’s the way it really works.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Even earlier than the Bronze Age, back to the Neolithic period with the likes of the Halaf culture that was succeeded by the Ubaid culture.

    2. mookie

      Kerry’s Chem Speech: Old School Empire Gary Brecher (The War Nerd) NSFW

      What this burst of outrage really shows is a much older, sleazier scenario: A small power, out of favor with the big players, crossing a “red line” that’s drawn by the technology you use to massacre the other tribe, not the fact that you’re massacring civilians.

      There are three factors that determine how much artificial world outrage a massacre sets off. First, the obvious one: Who committed it? Second: What technology did they use to commit it? Third: Who were the victims?

      When a truly dominant world power commits massacres, they don’t even register. No one noticed the massacres we committed in Tokyo and Dresden because the US/Soviet/UK alliance was clearly going to win the war and rule the world. After the war, of course, journalists for this consortium discovered the death-camps, which allowed them to backdate their justifications for the massacres. But even if the camps had never existed, we would still celebrate those mass killings because they reflected perfectly the new map of the world, the total domination of that cartel.

    3. optimader

      …proxy war between Obama and Putin, Saudi Arabia and Iran…”

      Mexico, I think you nuance the motivation of a narcissist

  2. Jim Haygood

    From the WaPo’s black budget expose, courtesy of the courageous patriot Ed Snowden:

    U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government’s top-secret budget.

    The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny.

    Not only has it never been subject to public scrutiny, it has never even been subject to Congressional scrutiny, other than by a privileged clique of party leaders and intelligence committee chairs.

    From the largest perspective, the deadweight $52.6 billion black budget is the logical consequence of the megalomaniacal U.S. obsession with ruling the world via its trillion-dollar military empire. Invading, occupying, destabilizing and brutalizing distant enemies naturally produces a constant threat of retaliation, which 107,035 people are now uselessly employed to monitor.

    From contemplating how to spend our excess leisure time at the apogee of U.S. affluence in the 1960s, now we are reduced to documenting the slide of millions into the vida precaria of part-time work and permanent unemployment. Quelle surprise — waste five percent of GDP for decades on outright malinvestment, and your economy turns to sh*t.

    The fulminating ooze of the black budget is the centerpiece of the planned destruction of the U.S. economy (and rule of law) by our worthless Depublicrat puppet government.

    Have a nice day …

  3. Antifa

    The opening lines of the NBC article on Snowden impersonating top NSA officials is hilarious:

    “Edward Snowden accessed some secret national security documents by assuming the electronic identities of top NSA officials, said intelligence sources.

    “Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,” said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. “This is why you don’t hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.””

    If the NSA makes it a policy to never hire brilliant people, I’m fine with that. What they really should be doing is intentionally screening for sociopaths like Henry Kissinger or Madeline Allbright, who can see great heaps of dead human bodies as “worth it” every time. Hire that sort. They’ll feel right at home.

    Well, of course Snowden impersonated people who had free, approved access to top files. That’s what a Chinese or Israeli hacker would do, and that kind of cracking is what Edward was hired to do. He just didn’t fulfill the second half of his job description, which was to tell Booz Allen or the CIA where all the holes in their security are.

    The holes are sure as hell there, fellas.

    I wonder if we can start a national movement of people mailing swiss cheese packed in old sneakers to the NSA. Let them know we see them, and their whole operation stinks like swiss cheese in old sneakers.

    I know this, uh, this guy in my neighborhood who’s willing to start it. Anyone else?

    1. LucyLulu

      “Well, of course Snowden impersonated people who had free, approved access to top files.”

      I hope this isn’t what causes the NSA to deem Snowden “brilliant”. It’s the most obvious way somebody would grab these files. And knowing that he had access to their profiles by setting up system file privileges, it would be a first assumption of how the files were obtained. Either that or by using root privileges, but using other people’s profiles would be harder to trace.

      Is Snowden brilliant or does the NSA have mediocre talent? I suspect both.

  4. Tyler Healey

    Economic growth would be much higher than 2.5% if the federal government, not the state governments, paid for unemployment benefits and the minimum weekly benefit provided by the states were $500.

    Instead, we have poor states like Mississippi whose weekly benefit is less than $300.

    1. cwaltz

      A full time minimum wage job is $290 a week in Mississippi. Why in the world would you be surprised that the unemployment benefit is under $300? The GOP philosophy is that the unemployment benefit should not be higher than minimum wage. So it should come as no shocker that unemployment is pegged towards the minimum.

  5. petridish

    RE: Snowden Impersonated NSA Officials–NBC

    WTF??? Is this article some sort of a joke?

    From the article:

    “The NSA still doesn’t know exactly what Snowden took.” And this:

    “’The damage, on a scale of 1 to 10, is a 12,’ said a former intelligence official.”

    Upon hearing the apparent contradiction, Nancy Drew’s interest was piqued. After a light lunch of chicken salad and lemonade prepared by the grandmotherly housekeeper, she, Bess and George jumped into her convertible and hurried quickly to NSA headquarters. In no time, the girls made an important discovery.

    “It works like this,” the amateur sleuths explained patiently, “if an employee was on vacation while the on-line version of the employee was downloading a classified document, it might indicate that someone assumed the employee’s identity.”

    The worried NSA officials relaxed. Some even smiled for the first time in months. Everything was going to be fine. Nancy Drew and her friends, Bess and George, had come to help.

    So, you see, I’m just as well-read as from Mexico.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Everyone is unique and special.

      All the comments, together, make the place special.

      Now, if you become a guest blogger or a blogger, that will be something. You will start getting quoted and referenced around the net.

      1. Emma

        This is precisely why the Petridish is disposable due to cross-contamination, and Mexico is irreplaceable due to cross-fertilization…..
        You just know when Tequila is talking!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That very same question was asked by a commentator, sorry, a commenter here a while back.

      When you ask that question, you will likely follow up with ‘do we need to print more money?’ and ‘does the government need to print or borrow more money?’

      1. F. Beard

        What if NEW money is absolutely needed because the banks have created, say, 30 times as much debt as the existing money supply?

        Or would you prefer that people remain debt slaves?

        Based on your gold-loving comments, I’d guess you’re a money hoarder with no debt so you take the creditors’ side lest your own hoard be diluted.

        Me, I have no debt myself but realize that my own prospects depend on a healthy economy and whether I’m for or against justice.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          But you have enough money.

          It’s just that they have been…let me remember who said this…stolen.

          There are some who wish people would avert their eyes from the stolen loot. They would tell you to look the other way at the new money coming.

          1. F. Beard

            It’s purchasing power that has been stolen, not money per se.

            But borrowers are cheated too because the banks don’t create the required interest except as more debt. Ever hear of the rat race?

            You’re in the wrong place except as an Austrian 5th columnist. Most people here agree that more deficit spending is the solution, not the problem, at least until full employment is achieved.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Where did the money go then?

            And yes, I like to see gold in the hands of the 99.99%. Are you against that?

            1. F. Beard

              Sure. Pass it out equally to the American public. That way we can save a lot of money by closing down Fort Knox.

              But do you agree that fiat should ONLY be inexpensive fiat? Or are you trying to sneak in a gold standard?

    1. LucyLulu

      Tepco wants local fisherman to agree to their plan to divert 25% of the groundwater that flows from the surrounding hillsides to the plant, which is then subject to irradiation. Tepco wants to divert the groundwater into the sea from a point before it reaches the plant. The fishermen are certainly justified in their lack of trust of Tepco.

      But this water being proposed for diversion would be uncontaminated, and the diversion would reduce the overall amounts of water being contaminated at the plant. It seems the local fisherman could easily oversee the construction and use of the conduits to divert the water to ensure only uncontaminated water was being diverted. Diversion of this groundwater as proposed is a win/win for everyone, and especially local fishermen. As always, some minimal oversight should be involved to ensure compliance, oversight which has been historically absent. It’s time for the government to follow through on their promises to step up inspections, and the fishermen could include their own inspections as part of their agreement (which is not legally required, only a cultural norm).

      Problem solved. And Tepco execs make how much money while I’m unemployed?

  6. Garrett Pace

    Kittens shutting down the subway

    Thought provoking and kind of inspiring – considerable cost and inconvenience to protect the frail bodies of baby animals.

    Still, it puts the inconsistencies of society on display. These kittens were packed off to an animal shelter for their only chance at assimilation into the world that we’ve created for them. If nobody wants to take the cats into their home, they will be destroyed.

    Makes me think of a condemned criminal being treated for a heart attack, or prevented from suicide, so that they might face their sentence the right way and in the best possible health.

  7. docg

    The real reason we’ll be bombing Syria is that our president stupidly drew a “red line” in the sand and now has no choice but to follow through on his silly ultimatum. He’s made more or less the same mistake time after time, as for example when he insisted that raising the debt limit was “not negotiable” — a patent bluff that lead to the absurd compromise known as “the sequester.” Now he’s bluffing again in exactly the same manner, as a new debit limit debate looms.

    Such declarations place crucial decisions in the hands of the opposition and leave yourself looking like a fool when they call your bluff. It’s precisely the sort of thing you do NOT do if you understand anything at all about negotiation, compromise, strategy.

    I don’t see anything like a grand plan or conspiracy behind anything Obama does. Just inexperience and lack of foresight. Our much vaunted president is a bumbler.

    1. down2long

      Hear, Hear! And may I add as a point of clarification re: Dimon White House Major Domo Obomba: A useless waste of biomass serving as a giant nanoparticle to serve the rich and vacuum up what it left in this country of the money the oligarchs have not yet confiscated. War is always a good way to facilitate that wealth transfer and get rid of a lot of pesky living peasants who might one day wake up and smell the flames of the crematoriams.

      Minatur innocentibus qui parcit nocentibus. He threatens the innocent he who spares the guilty.

      Because: FREEDOMMMM!!!!!!!

      Alas, Graviori Manent: Heavier Things Remain. Trans. The worst is yet to come.

      “I don'[ need no stinking Congress to wage war on innocent people. What I need to be is a wartime president. That’ll give me juice.”

        1. ambrit

          Mr. Haygood;
          Wait, wait; in the copy of the movie I possess, Slim Pickins rides the iron horse to glory. Do you mean to tell me there is a version where James Earl Jones does the deed? Will wonders never cease.

    2. LucyLulu

      I agree wholeheartedly. I also don’t understand why it’s a humanitarian crisis when a sovereign ruler kills his own people but not when one intervenes to kill many more citizens of another nation. The means of death is mostly irrelevant to those who end up dead as well as those left behind. Whether nerve gas or traditional bullets or bombs, dead is still dead, and for that matter, maimed is still maimed.

      I only hope now that this will be “limited engagement” to send a message to Assad that using chemical weapons is not acceptable (not that I have any faith that the message will be heard as intended), Syrian allies such as Russia won’t be drawn into the fray, and we will then withdraw back to our baseline of only providing arms to the rebels. I also hope damage will not be significant as reports that I’ve read indicate that Assad is close to regaining control of Syria. Assad is no benevolent ruler, but there are none in the Middle East and any successor is likely to be worse. It’s a mistake to apply Western cultural norms to the Arab world.

      1. F. Beard

        The bloody, bloody bankers,
        a most respected lot.
        How many millions have they starved?
        How many have they shot?

        The bloody, bloody bankers,
        since 1694,
        booms, busts, Depressions
        and never ending war.

          1. F. Beard

            The banks require that people be greedy just to avoid being left behind in the rat race they created and drive.

      2. ohmyheck

        @Lucylulu— I understand your sentiments, but the facts are becoming more and more clear that ” send(ing) a message to Assad that using chemical weapons is not acceptable” might prove to be disregarded, since Assad does not seem to be the one who attacked his citizens with CW. Here is a link posted by waking up–

        And agreed—dead is dead. The entire debacle is morally reprehensible.

  8. JEHR

    Remember all that balderdash about how great Canadian banks are? Well, it turns out that there is a chink in that armour. As the comment states:

    “It seems to me that the deregulation of the banks in Canada is causing a lot of problems in the world and in Canada. First, the government injected “liquidity” into all the top banks after the financial crisis in 2008 and then the banks borrowed billions more from the US Fed discount window. Why wouldn’t RBC manipulate the Libor rate for its own purposes? No one seems to mind that the banks are now in the insurance business, and the investment business, and the deposit business. What is there in the regulations that makes sure Canadian banks do not use citizens’ deposits for speculation in their investment businesses? How else can we explain the billions that the banks earn each quarter? We do not have uninterested banks: they all want to profit by billions and the executives want to earn their millions. The banks are no longer concerned with the public good but with the private increase in their own wealth.”


  9. Brindle

    re: “On The Death Of Dreams”–Ta-Nehisi Coates…

    I didn’t watch one second of the 50th Anniversary stuff, I knew it would be basic misdirection and crumb throwing directed at African-Americans.


    —“Indeed, if we are — as the president asks us to be — honest with ourselves, we will see that we have elected a president who claims to oppose racial profiling one minute, and then flirts with inaugurating the country’s greatest racial profiler the next.
    If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have a president who can condemn the riots as “self-defeating,” but can’t see his way clear to enforce the fair housing law that came out of them.
    If we are honest with ourselves we will see a president who believes in particular black morality, but eschews particular black policy.

    It is heartbreaking to see this. But it is also clarifying.”—

  10. peace

    A 1987 wildfire in China and Russia burned 18,000,000 acres – an area the size of Scotland or South Carolina (10% of world conifer forest?). However, wildfires are part of the natural cycle of forests and some species even require a fire for their seeds to become fertile. Also, fires are not always witnessed or recorded (or remembered as in this case!); so, it is difficult to know if they are increasing or not.

  11. charles sereno

    Re: Syria
    I’m so fickle. I never thought I’d succumb to the charms of Merkel. Yet, watching Cameron’s stumble-flop and Hollande’s over-the-top doggie-tease, I’m taking a second look.

  12. craazyboy

    ZH just posted the transcript of the minutes old Kerry on Syria “proof speech”.

    Comes with word cloud thingy, big word being “KNOW”. Starting to really like those word cloud thingies.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Barbarians at the gates of the library.

    Sometimes, Roman city dwellers were the ones to storm a library.

    I think that was what happened at the Library of Alexandria.

    1. F. Beard

      Well there were the Muslims later on who burnt a lot of books but you don’t dare mention that because, unlike Christians, they don’t turn the other cheek very often? Or is that all error is united against the truth? At least temporarily? As fellow travelers?

  14. charles sereno

    “Un mystère enveloppé d’une énigme”
    Who is this Hollande guy? A bishop Pierre Cauchon? A Pierre Laval? My advice: Don’t count on safe passage from your “friends.”

  15. mookie

    David Sirota on Bezos and the Washington Post:
    Jeff Bezos: Not The Apolitical Media Savior You’re Looking For David Sirota, NSFW

    Indeed, even Washington-based watchdog groups like the Center for Responsive Politics now claim – in non-Onion fashion – that Bezos “is not a man known for using his money to make political points,” despite the fact that he and his company most certainly are, especially on economic issues.

    Amazon, for example, was financial backer of the American Legislative Exchange Council – the most powerful conservative economic forces operating in America’s state legislatures.

    Under Bezos’s rule, the company has lobbied aggressively in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures to preserve online retailers’ immunity from the sales taxes that brick-and-mortar outlets must pay. It has also lobbied to slash the U.S. corporate tax rate, even though, in practice, it is already one of the lowest in the industrialized world. Meanwhile, Bezos personally helped finance the successful opposition to a Washington State ballot initiative that would have raised income taxes on his fellow rich folk to raise money for public education.

    Just as it isn’t shocking for a miserly billionaire to oppose paying more taxes, it isn’t particularly shocking that Bezos worked against more resources for public schools. It isn’t shocking because he’s also one of the biggest sponsors of the ideological crusade to privatize public education, replace proven pedagogic techniques with unproven technology and crush teachers unions.

  16. Bapoy

    If deficit spending was the solution, than why is there a recession?

    Has the US not been deficit spending for years on in? And… more so in the last 5 years? Obama took deficit spending to new heights, look at the chart. It looks like a hockey stick.

    Where is prosperity? Where is “full employment”? It’s nowhere, that’s what and it won’t come back until this crapper hits the fan. If you are thinking things are going to get “better”, hold on to your hats, things are about to get nasty.

    This will keep going until the US and the world are forced to settle their debts. Only then will we get over this issue. Since I know both the population and the government will not change, i’m expecting a head on collision in the next 5 years.

    Even the ones playing their cards right (those holding gold) will see their wealth ripped from their hands, of course, all “for the good of society”.

    1. Ben Johannson

      The size of the government’s negative flow must satisfy the saving and spending preferences of the non-government sector. Other than one weak stimulus in 2009-2010 we have entirely let automatic stabilizers do the work, and they simply do not have the capacity necessary to inject financial assets at a sufficiently high rate. The key to stimulus is not the overall dollar amount of the package; rather the rate of flow from government to non-government.

      By my own estimate the government should have been injecting $700 billion per year for at least three years in addition to our large cyclical negative flows.

    2. F. Beard

      Even the ones playing their cards right (those holding gold) will see their wealth ripped from their hands, of course, all “for the good of society”. bapoy

      Don’t flatter yourself. People are not so primitive. If gold is “ripped” from your hands, it’ll be you selling it into a down market to buy fiat so you can pay taxes or meet living expenses or because you finally realize that a government-enforced gold standard is not coming back, because, you know, people hate to appear stupid.

  17. RanDomino

    How Moral Revolutions Happen (They Had A Nightmare) Crooked Timber (BD)

    The note on honor is important merely because it exists.
    Liberals and leftists are afraid of the word “honor” because it implies primitive, backwards, ‘third-world’. But I think that a concept of honor has the potential to be the new frontier in social justice praxis. Not only is it individually dignifying and therefore motivating (i.e. people don’t need to be pushed or threatened to abide by it), but it can serve as a base for reestablishing society.

    Briefly, in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, there are two variations- iterated, non-iterated. The ‘solution’ to the non-iterated case is to betray. The ‘solution’ for the iterated case (as determined by programming competitions) is to initially trust, but then betray ruthlessly if the other betrays. In this way, if there is a critical mass of participants following this strategy, the individual outcomes for those participants is better and those who follow a predatory strategy are punished.

    This is essentially how honor works. Those who are generous and trustworthy (meaning both 1. not being a thief or moocher and also 2. succeeding at goals) gain honor; those who are selfish or dishonest lose honor. The initial baseline is zero but with a hand offered; over the course of years, a person can build up their honor in a community by being helpful, productive, and selfless. The economic purpose ties into a large-scale gift economy which I won’t detail right now since it would be another few paragraphs.

    So why don’t we have a system based on honor? Essentially, communities have been destroyed, and there is now no longer a critical mass of honorable people to disincentivize greed. If you’re the only one following a strategy of honor, you will get burned every single time. Capitalism encourages every interaction to be non-iterated. The existence of taxes and other compulsions to acquire dollars force everyone to do something exploitative just to survive, and to the greatest traitors go the greatest rewards. Why don’t Americans look each other in the eye? Because we’re ashamed at what we have to do just to keep a roof over our heads.

    So, with a concept of honor we may be able to change that around. There are already plenty of honorable people. The universality of honor (with variations in name and form but always adhering to the main traits of generosity and trustworthiness) has me convinced that it’s hardwired. What it really amounts to is not compromising with evil, at least not without a plan to destroy it (since, after all, to be destroyed for no benefit is not honorable, as you have cost your allies a potential resource in yourself. The British in the Middle-East in the 1920s had a saying- “The Arab is either at your feet or at your throat”. I think that’s a good strategy.). It means weaning ourselves off of the exploitative and dishonoring capitalist economy and building a new one based on cooperation, mutual aid, and respect. It means shunning those who are dishonorable; mainly those who are so without cause, but even to a lesser extent those whose very survival depends on reinforcing the dishonorable system (particularly those who do so while doing nothing to overthrow it- but there’s still a stain on those of us who are working on that but for now still participate in dishonorable acts). In this way we may yet be able to form the critical mass necessary to restore our honor and slay this monster that has us putting knives to our own throats.

      1. William C

        Re Prisoners dilemma, has there not been work done suggesting that the conclusions may differ in non-American cultures? I.e. there are underlying assumptions in the work in the US (e.g. we all think of ourselves as individuals rather than as group members) which do not necessarily apply in other cultures. I ask because I picked up some hints to this effect somewhere and would like to research the topic a bit more thoroughly.

  18. optimader

    The Missileers

    FRI AUG 30, 2013

    Produced by:
    Bob Carlson

    Subscribe to this Podcast:
    Podcast iTunes Podcast

    Listen to/Watch entire show:

    Listen Download Add to My Shows

    We don’t really think about them that much anymore, but they’re out there. Men and women sitting in underground bunkers, ready to launch nuclear missiles and “mutually assured destruction.” Little is known about the missileers, most of our images of life in the bunker comes from movies like War Games. Hear stories of the launch control center from John Gazelius and John Krumm, who both served as launch officers.

    In the second half of the program, Ronald Gray and Greg Devlin talk about their jobs as maintenance workers on the temperamental Titan II missiles of the 60’s through 80’s. They risked their lives simply by working around the volatile rocket fuel, it could kill you with one breath. The two men tell the harrowing story of an accident in Damascus, Arkansas that killed a Titan II maintenance specialist.

    Produced by Eric Molinsky. Editing, mixing and music by Bob Carlson.

    Eric Molinsky is a public radio reporter based in New York. He has produced stories for Studio 360, Marketplace, WNYC, NPR, 99% Invisible and Tablet magazine, among others. He also sketches subway commuters on his iPhone, you can check them out on his Tumblr page.

    Additional resources:

    The song at the end is “Escape” by Kongos.

    An informative website built by a former missileer

    The Titan Missile Museum in Sauarita, Arizona

  19. Propertius

    I’m sure that our teen unemployment problems will disappear once our latest military adventures succeed in reducing the excess of 18 year-olds.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Propertius;
      For that to work, we’d have to bring back the draft, with no exemptions this time. Which is not such a bad idea. It would be a real education for the younger generation. Then maybe we’d see some street action.

Comments are closed.