Links 11/26/13

A new, flying jellyfish-like machine Science Codex (Lambert)

Eating Nuts and Plotting Forests Patient Safety Blog

New Warning: Morning-After Pill Doesn’t Work for Women Over 176 Pounds Mother Jones

Canada approves GM salmon eggs Guardian

US spewing 50% more methane than EPA says Associated Press

Yakuza forcing homeless people to work on the Fukushima nuclear plant clear-up Daily Mail (Deontos)

Toil for oil means industry sums do not add up Financial Times (Joe Costello)


The Iranian Nuclear Deal and Its Effect on Oil Markets OilPrice

Iran nuclear deal changes Middle East alliances as Saudi Arabia rebels against US Telegraph

Afghan accord near collapse due to new demands Washington Post

Troubled skies over troubled waters Economist. Chinese militarization.

U.S. to Continue Flights in Defense Zone Claimed by China Bloomberg

Thailand protests: Demonstrators fill Bangkok streets BBC (furzy mouse)

Payday lenders to sell electricity instead Daily Mash. If you are in the UK, this is plausible.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

N.S.A. May Have Penetrated Internet Cable Links New York Times

Keith Alexander: The One General Obama Didn’t Fire Marcy Wheeler

Obamacare Launch

Obamacare fail isn’t the site — it’s the law Boston Globe

WH: Obamacare website ‘on track’ to meet Nov. 30 goal CNN. Will someone tell him to stop digging?

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: The next candidate for IT problem is the IRS Lambert

Obamacare Fiasco Erodes Government as Problem-Solver Idea Bloomberg

Moms the new focus of Obamacare’s ‘young invincibles’ recruitment scheme Guardian

It’s time to have the talk You must look at this. I can’t come up with an adequate description of how vile this is.

Tea party unscathed in early GOP civil war Politico

Man builds homemade gun from items that can all be purchased in the airport terminal AFTER you go through security Daily Mail (Chuck L)

Christian militia claims ‘authority’ to shoot and kill Obama Daily Kos

Onward, Christian Soldiers! Peter Van Buren, Firedoglake (Chuck L)

Brooklyn Man Suspected Of Attacking Jew In ‘Knockout’ Game Charged With Hate Crime Business Insider

The Kosher Butcher Who Was Not a Person Until He Incorporated Himself Angry Bear

Driver Arrested in Ohio for Secret Car Compartment Full of Nothing Reason

Murder charges in fatal building collapse (Paul Tioxon)

Moocs are no magic bullet for Americans Ed Luce, Financial Times

The government-dominated bond market Felix Salmon (Scott)

M&A Mystery: Why Are Takeover Prices Plummeting? Wall Street Journal

Here’s why Wall Street has a hard time being ethical Guardian

I received a message from a friend of the family of NC commentor Charles Sereno to say that he had died unexpectedly at the age of 80. From the message:

It is a simple statement of fact that Charles was a genius and that his life was akin to that of Diogenes. How unsung was this early disciple of Dorothy Day and inventor of much that never realized financial profit.

This US postal carrier (as this is where his financial rewards came from) leaves behind 6 adult children, 5 of them stellar neuroscientists, and one (Paul Sereno) rock star paleontologist. They are all staggeringly bright and kind and humble. Thus, they would likely never be able to tell their father’s story to others. The lessons from their father’s philosophical life would be appreciated by those who want to live a creative authentic life and still survive financially.

The point: i am intimate (in friendship) with anne sereno & her sorrow is that her father’s extraordinary intelligence & decency was not more widely appreciated. Not that he would have cared.

I am sure Charles is far from the only NC commentor that has passed away. One I am certain that has died is Buzz Potamkin, a retired media executive not only wrote several posts but gave me extensive TV performance notes after my initial appearances. He was fighting cancer the last time I heard from him. If anyone knows his family, I hope you can tell them how much I appreciated his generosity and advice.

Antidote du jour (furzy mouse):


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  1. skippy

    I was reviewing some old posts on NC today, Charles replied to a comment I submitted. I thought, who is this wrangle sort that seems to know a thing or two. So I went in search.

    Wasn’t long till I was looking a university web site and on it, a table at Thanksgiving with 6 young ones sitting, smiles on their faces, genuine type, easily offered. Then onto a bio of the family.

    Thought to myself, this has got to be that guy, those are his kids, family, Bio not withstanding, what a nice mob. Next thing I know, in my defective head, the need to say to Charles… good on you mate… good on your and your family. If the opportunity posed itself down the road.

    Bloody teared up about it now, silly defective marsupial thingy.

    Skippy… Another wave of interesting folks are departing, around me, won’t be easily replaced in light of events, here, there, everywhere. Before anyone else decides to Kark it thanks for sharing some space together.

    PS. Seeya when I seeya Charles.

    1. optimader

      I am very sad to read of Charles Sereno’s passing, thanks for posting this sad development Skippy.
      I have recently been noting his absence as well, and I knew he was as an older gentleman.. I felt some blogger kinship with the him, he certainly knew his coffee beans, and had interesting thoughts when he had the inclination to post. I’ve been hoping in the back of my mind to see a fresh comment from him.

      I didn’t put it together ’til I looked this morning, but he is Paul Sereno’s dad, whom I’m a casual acquaintance w/ from back when he was in charge of the Sue T-rex project at the Field Museum.

      A sad development indeed, the Holiday season is changing for my generation, my thoughts are with his family.

        1. down2long

          I was deeply touched by the passing of Charles Sereno. I enjoyed reading his posts, and he was always gracious. Somehow, it seems that things will not be the same around here.

          I believe it was Hemmingway who said that an old man dying is not a tragedy. I beg to differ. When anyone goes missing from our lives, it is a tragedy. It sounds as though Mr. Sereno had a great life, and I am so glad for him, but those of us left behind are still here and will feel his loss.

          Having only peripherally interacted with Mr. Sereno, I am not sure why his passing bothers me so much. I think what it shows is that we are all important in the human family, and that we have impacts on others which we cannot imagine. It is nice and fitting to remember that Mr. Sereno made such a positive impact. That is his legacy.

      1. skippy

        Opti – it was not myself that pinged Yves about Charles passing, just a confluence of events brought on by my discovery out of curiosity.

        skippy… the emanate passing of so many, due to past events, bothers me greatly, if not handled well… it could have dire consequences down the road.

    2. Jackrabbit

      RIP Charles.

      I’m feeling really thankful right now of the time and insight of every member of the NC community.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Yes, well said. And the archives are a curious form of quasi-immortality. A famous technical guy in my former field died, but for many months people kept receiving email with his words and his name, because he was on many, many lists, and his name was in many CC and From fields. A very curious echo.

    3. susan the other

      I’m sorry to hear about Charles Sereno too. I always liked his comments. And I noticed Potamkin was MIA. Whenever Beard disappears I worry about him too. I’ve been wondering what happened to Aquifer. Bless us all. RIP Charles.

    4. ScottS

      Funny to think how intriguing the people who are visible at NC are (those who comment), and how intriguing those who lurk here could be. Charles will be sorely missed here. Reading his obituary, though, I can’t imagine he could have asked for more. He lives on through his children in the best sense possible.

      The allusion to Diogenes put a fine point on what NC means to me. It’s one part Plato’s Academy, one part Epicurus’s Garden, and one part Les Miserables. It’s an oasis in the desert for clear thinking and compassion. Thanks, Yves. And thanks, Charles and all the other deep-thinkers just like him who contribute here. I’m a better person for having come here.

    5. tim s

      Charles, you lucky man. You had loving friends and family, a body that served you well for 80 years, and a mind that was sharp enough to be part of a community such as NC up ’til the end. And to top it off, the end came quickly.

      I can only hope to be so fortunate. RIP. Peace to all of your loved ones these holidays.

    6. Glenn Condell

      Vale Charles. Basic decency and good humour shone thru your pithy asides, which I for one will miss.

      ‘And the archives are a curious form of quasi-immortality.’

      I hope so, but trying to find old conversations from the pre-Iraq era is often impossible now – Media Whores Online, No War Blog, Road to Surfdom where I used to loiter – all gone. I guess we could ask Gen Alexander for directions.

  2. Skeptic

    Time To Have The Talk:

    To represent the average American family shouldn’t the plates have beans and franks with a bag of serve yourself Doritos?

    Also, apparently Junior has a shiny SUV, presumably no cash to pony up for something as useless as sickcare. Hopefully, he will insure against Kegpartyitis.

    As Stock Market hits new highs, American culture hits new lows, any connection? Culture mining, perhaps?

  3. dearieme

    “a group of people find and assault unsuspecting Jews”: so you can point out that a victim belongs to a particular racial/religious group, but not the accused.

  4. ambrit

    I had a little tussle with Sereno in the long ago. I ended up eating some humble pie. The man was civilized about the whole thing. That’s the point to me; he was a civilized person. Even if he “unexpectedly” passed on at 80, he used his time well. I’ll miss him.

    1. ohmyheck

      THANK YOU for this link. It is terrific and a pleasure to read. What marvelous company we have the privilege of spending time with here.

      @ skippy…now you went and made me cry, too.

      Peace be with you, Charles.

      1. AbyNormal

        i’ve always said, ‘there are giants stomping around this site’! im a gnat with a big heart…by now it’d be broke if not for these genital giants.

        shoulders back Aby…Thank You All…i’ll pay your messages forward, always.

          1. AbyNormal

            i p’d myself
            well every site needs its abnormal
            foot stompin tears

              1. AbyNormal

                HOLY BALLZ BAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA (thats just painful to look at)
                i dared to peak again at my total humiliation, but you’ve brought me back to foot stompin laffter! Thanks Anon

                HeY Dolly…miss you and always glad to spare a laff’))

                I ran across some ole humorous post of Charles…he even got a laff at a few of Aby’s quirks…hope he enjoyed another one on my behalf today, it’d be an honor.

                Nite All.

    2. anon y'mouse

      notice all of the unusual things that they were able to do for their kids, that most people don’t get when they are growing up:

      two educated parents, interested in allowing their kids to grow. fostering that intellect, in all directions (music, art, science, adventure). coming home early from work so you can be there for them. all moving on to an ‘affordable’ college. these kids had an unusual upbringing, although ideally what all kids should have. and yet, we measure everyone by this yardstick even though that kind of upbringing is quite rare.

      they are exceptional. and so were their parents.

      goodbye, charles. wish that I had known you sooner, and better than a web experience allows.

      1. direction

        Thank you, tongorad, for posting that link. There are so few magiccal families like this, rare indeed and precious. Way to go Charles. You did well friend.

        I wish we could let the good ones stay at the party forever.

    3. EmilianoZ

      What a brilliant family! I hope he also passed on his politics to his kids. The situation is so desperate, we need everybody.

  5. Andrea

    On: It’s time to have the talk. re. obama care:

    Vile certainly. Mostly ridiculous.

    The creators attempted to present the ‘average middle class’ (in fact far richer, look at the car, house etc.) with actors who would NOT be perceived as good looking actors but ‘regular folks’, which is condescending or even insulting to everyone, and a perilous move ad-wise. Stupid.

    The props guys fell down on the meal – they seem to be eating mostly bread. I suppose props. were utterly confused as to what kind of dinner meet was to be represented.

    As for all the ‘having the talk’ guff it throws health insurance into the realm of personal or family discussions that are long-due and might be painful or scary, ex. “Mom, I’m gay but I love you” – “Trev, I love you but if you don’t propose soon…*sob sniff*…” – “Marcia, we your 10-person family know you having cancer is a lie, what didja do with the money?” Which makes health insurance look and sound like a taboo topic that is nevertheless secretly acknowledged, obscured with a veil of silence that must be lifted. Which it is not.

    Absurd. The appeal to humor (son wonders what is coming up ..) 100% reinforces this view (his doings in Las Vegas, etc.)

    The twist: If the humor is engaging and appreciated, here the final message is lost! As all the son’s dire imaginings are swept away, it is only insurance! Ouf, totally trivial! – so, there is NO conclusion.

    The basic aim – to co-opt parents and families into forcing young people to insure themselves is too blatant.

    “It’s time to get covered” says the father. To my ears, that evokes expensive parkas, rubber boots and condoms. If that was intentional the allusion is an epic FAIL.

    Lastly, the title “Health Care for the Holidays” is really dismaying.

    1. Klassy!

      At the NYT it appears readers are thrilled with this campaign. I flag this disturbing comment:
      I think we need to portray the deadbeats that won’t buy insurance for what they are: cheaters/frauds who while healthy won’t spend the money but when they get sick will go on the taxpayer dole so fast it will make your head spin. Reagan had incredible success with his “welfare queens” myth. We need to fully develop the “insurance deadbeat” story only this won’t be a myth. Or pass a law that they don’t get taxpayer charity if they were too corrupt to sign up.
      because divide and conquer has worked so well for the 99%.

      1. Massinissa


        Good jesus lord mercy.

        The Left has turned into the Right.

        And the Right has turned into the Brown Shirts.

        We are so screwed if the average American starts thinking like a Fascist.

        Oh, and I like how Poor = Corrupt. Nice one there. The MSM should start using that.

        I like how, after the propagandists spew enough propaganda, the propaganda self propagates due to the rescitations by the propagandized. Kind of like how Nazi propaganda was so prevalent in Poland (Without the shame of actually being Germany), Poland is still to this day pretty much the Neo-Nazi/Skinhead capital of the world.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I guarantee that comment was either from a paid trolll or a someone on the business side of the medical/industrial complex. Real people don’t write/think like that. Political operatives do.

        Not that comments like that won’t have their intended effect, sadly.

  6. AndyB

    Obamacare was never about fixing an already dysfunctional health care system, its agenda is really control over a critical facet of everyone’s life with a mandated data base that only an extreme fascist would love. Whether planned or not, it will also result in the final destruction of the middle class which, again, has been the aim of totalitarian governments throughout history.

  7. Dino Reno

    I agree with a Sunnu (Boston Globe). Kill me now. The dam holding back the Democrats’ flop sweat is about to break.

  8. Hugh

    I am saddened to hear of Charles Sereno’s death. It says something about how the country has changed, and not for the better, that he as a middle middle class worker could see 6 of his kids through college. With decades of flat real wages and the trap of student loans, only the upper middle class and rich can afford to send their children to college anymore without reducing them to debt servitude.

    1. dcblogger

      Not so, send your children to school in Canada, or the English speaking Caribbean, or even Europe. Much cheaper. And maybe they could stay their and work in a country with health care.

      1. Roland

        Canada is just like the USA, just perhaps a decade behind.

        All the neoliberal crap you guys go through, we go through with only a delay of one or two election cycles.

        Tuition rates in Canada have been soaring in Canada, esp. for professional programmes. e.g. most Canadian law schools’ tuition rates have more than tripled during the past eight years.

  9. AbyNormal

    one of my dearest:

    charles sereno says:
    July 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Just came late upon this discussion and was impressed (and maybe missed some of it). I see several viewpoints, not particularly contradictory, though typically ones employing the kind of arguments that lead to non-productive cat fights. One bit that I can add based on experience is this — the “masses” (or fill in the blank) are not unattracted to the intellectual elite, on one condition. That condition being that the person espousing views, (even when offensive to those they currently follow), has risen up from their own background and have experienced enough of it to understand how they think. Once that happens, they swell with pride and are eager to learn new ways. This is the makings of a true revolution. The acid test of a leader is this — Does he/she fully comprehend that one’s own competence in a particular area must be accompanied by a quest for leaders in many other areas?
    The problem Chris Hedges has (not his fault) is that his audience doesn’t suspect how much he’s shared their own experiences.

    Charles imprinted my mind & heart…this swirl brushes close:

    Somewhere around the jungle of concrete,
    heard cries of new born kid;
    the sun rules the last day of july, crowned this breed to carry his line.

    In the crowds of dificulties, hold his pride to make the beats; carrying ambition in the full of greed,collecting trophy even thou he bleed.

    “Failure is nothing when we try to reclaim and regain” he sound just like a lion roar
    “no tears are allowed to drop unless in a glorious way” strikes like thunder that never hit before;
    through the open door he lead the fellows to the open shore, being core power of his comrades;
    in no time they gain glamorous victory,
    succesfully the kid of the sun gain the trust through loyalty; blast their life away from poverty, yet he learnt power of humanity.

    the lion heart are made of no stone, they are still made of flesh and bones; toughest one carry the legacy, to make universe always be in a harmony.
    Pride of Lion Heart/by Leozmooth

  10. Jim Haygood

    From the WaPo article on the teetering Afghan accord:

    Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s top national security adviser, told Karzai that if he failed to sign the bilateral security agreement by the end of this year, the United States would have “no choice” but to prepare for withdrawal.

    If only Susan Rice were speaking in code:

    ‘Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox — bred en bawn in a brier-patch!’ en wid dat he skip out des ez lively as a cricket in de embers.

    Unfortunately, she’s playing the Brer Fox role, in which the defeated U.S. gets suckered into paying trillions a year to preserve its Afghan puppet government, and the illusion that the folly of invading Afghanistan actually achieved something.

    Save us, Mr. Karzai, from this American idiot!

  11. rich

    The Empire Strikes Back
    How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme — Again
    By Laura Gottesdiener

    Forty thousand homes add up to only a small percentage of the total national housing stock. Yet in the cities Blackstone has targeted most aggressively, the concentration of its properties is staggering. In Phoenix, Arizona, some neighborhoods have at least one, if not two or three, Blackstone-owned homes on just about every block.

    This inundation has some concerned that the private equity giant, perhaps in conjunction with other institutional investors, will exercise undue influence over regional markets, pushing up rental prices because of a lack of competition. The biggest concern among many ordinary Americans, however, should be that, not too many years from now, this whole rental empire and its hot new class of securities might fail, sending the economy into an all-too-familiar tailspin.

    “You’re allowing Wall Street to control a significant sector of single-family housing,” said Michael Donley, a resident of Chicago who has been investigating Blackstone’s rapidly expanding presence in his neighborhood. “But is it sustainable?” he wondered. “It could all collapse in 2016, and you’ll be worse off than in 2008.”

  12. Jess

    Condolences to Mr. Sereno’s family. Sounds like he was a great guy. Perhaps his family is the counterbalancing opposite of the three despicable offspring Mr. Rahm, Sr. has unleashed on the world?

    Am I the only one who thinks Mr. Sereno would have enjoyed today’s antidote?

  13. John Jones

    I am saddened by the news. I wondered why I didn’t see his name on here recently.

    I think Charles Sereno was the the first to ever reply to me on here. Seemed like a very nice guy when ever he was posting. I am sure to come across his words in the archive many times still.

    My condolences to his family.
    Rest in peace Charles.

    1. anon y'mouse

      in this techno-utopian future where we don’t work and machines do it all, where are the energy constraints?

      in this current world as it is arranged now, where are the resource constraints?

      this show was excellent, but neither of those issues, nor the environmental degradation that all of this causes, was in any way mentioned.

      I doubt we can have a Star Trek future if our home base is a burnt-out plastic trash filled shell.

  14. ChrisPacific

    Looks like NC has a new ally. It’s the Pope:

    “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?”

    About time the Church actually lived up to its calling.

    As an aside, it’s interesting to see the choice of headlines for this one around the world. The US media is using much softer language and also playing up the religious aspect.

  15. bob

    “N.S.A. May Have Penetrated Internet Cable Links New York Times”

    NYT, just a decade behind. AT&T was sued for this in the early oughts. Dead to rights. One of the telco guys reported it.

    1. bob

      This story is complete BS, complete with the Wharton® opinion on CYA..

      “Everyone was so focused on the N.S.A. secretly getting access to the front door that there was an assumption they weren’t going behind the companies’ backs and tapping data through the back door, too,” said Kevin Werbach, an associate professor at the Wharton School. ”

      Yes, it just never dawned on the multiple layers of “engineers” that once the cable leaves your building, you have no control over it.

      He should be summarily executed for that quote.

        1. bob

          The story reads like weak CYA PR from google and yahoo among others.

          “who couda node!”

          It reinforces the idea that google et al are innocent victims and not the information pimps they are in real life.

          1. skippy

            Same shite differant day… eh bob.

            As long as American consumers feel they have the appropriate color palette choices, supplied by the usual suspects (the ones sticking the probe in the back of their heads) there is nothing wrong with the picture.

  16. dbk

    Thank you for posting the news about Charles Sereno; although I rarely comment, I read many/most of the posts daily (always the links), and recognize regular commenters by their handles. And what a story about his children!

    Regarding the Have You Had the Talk – I don’t know if I would call it vile, but I did find the approach embarrassing when I scrolled through it. Is it true that there are Bronze plans available on state exchanges for $100 a month, btw? And what’s the deductible for such plans?

  17. cwaltz

    My condolences to the Serano family. May the void you feel today be replaced by the happy memories and the legacy created by an individual who believed in human decency and compassion.

    As to Charles, “vaya con dios.” I hope when my time comes that there will be people who I impacted positively in the way you did. It’s the true sign of a life well spent.

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