Links 12/20/13

Dear patient readers: You may have noticed we had a bunch of ads (called an “ad unit” or “ad blade”) inserted between the post and the comments section yesterday. Even though our ad service insisted it is lucrative, and not having more income means not being able to do more things with the blog, we took it out pronto because it was really intrusive and seemed to discourage comments (as in you didn’t see them when you finished the post, and it appears seeing an interesting remark or two induces a lot of people to keep reading). We might restore it if they can come up with a version that does not eat as much real estate, but I’m skeptical as to whether they can devise a workable compromise.

Whale Hides Under Boat; Tourists Have No Idea (PHOTO) Huffington Post (Carol B)

Suggested Reading — Medicare’s Wasteful Prescription Practices and Why Docs Prescribe Name-Brand Drugs Patient Safety Blog

A First Look at NewCo’s structure Jay Rosen. Finally, some info…but we learn the money is not all going to the news organization, in fact, it looks as if it is heavily funding the related tech company that will support the news org.

Big US online retailer to accept Bitcoin Financial Times. The shot across the bow. The SEC indicate Bitcoin was probably a security, but they are the least likely regulator to do anything.

China cash injection fails to calm lenders Financial Times. There was a nasty squeeze last year that abated quickly when the PBoC finally roused itself to Do Something. But the central bank twice trying to stare the situation down and then relenting seems to be coming at some cost.

Pettis: Post Plenum growth hope is hype MacroBusiness

Japanese gov’t to pay more for Fukushima cleanup Associated Press

Vladimir Putin pardons jailed tycoon Khodorkovsky Guardian

EU downgraded as rating agency warns of cracks between members Telegraph

U.K. Consumer Sentiment Declines for Third Month, GfK Says Bloomberg

UK to Launch Fracking Bonanza OilPrice

Race, Religion and Rounding Up Africans in Israel Black Agenda Report

Saudi Arabia Pledges To Fund Jihad In Syria Alone If Necessary DSWright, Firedoglake

S Sudan on precipice, Obama warns BBC

Big Brother is Watching You Watch:

NSA Fallout in Europe Boosts Alternatives to Google Bloomberg

Brazil Chooses Saab Jet Deal For Air Force After NSA Spying Sours Boeing Bid Huffington Post (YY)

Officials’ defenses of NSA program may be unraveling Washington Post

The NSA review panel didn’t answer the real question: was any of this legal? Marcy Wheeler, Guardian

BitTorrent unveils secure messaging service to counter ‘NSA dragnet surveillance’ The Verge

Report Suggests NSA Engaged In Financial Manipulation, Changing Money In Bank Accounts TechDirt (Lance N). Holy moley.

Obamacare Launch

White House broadens Obamacare exemptions Politico

Utter Chaos: White House Exempts Millions From Obamacare’s Insurance Mandate, ‘Unaffordable’ Exchanges Forbes (Richard Smith). Just because it’s Arik Roy does not meant it’s wrong (this does not involve numbers which is where he usually goes off the rails). Plus I am enjoying how what the insurers had assumed would be a great looting opportunity is now starting to go pear shaped.

Insurance Industry Gives Consumers a Few Extra Days to Pay Their First Premiums Jon Walker, Firedoglake (Carol B)

Last-Minute Enrollment In Health Site A Hard Sell Wall Street Journal

Take This Town and Shove It Politico. Carol B: “Change DC to Wall Street and I’ll bet every word remains true.”

Tax Reform Appears Dead Jon Walker, Firedoglake

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Congress Has Two Months To Raise The Debt Ceiling Business Insider

New Commodity Trading Rules Good for Big Oil OilPrice. In case you had any doubts…

The Senate, Chapter 14, and a General Lack of Seriousness Steve Lubben, Credit Slips

Fed’s Mortgage Role Expands Wall Street Journal

We still need to learn the real lessons of the crisis Martin Wolf, Financial Times

S.E.C. Tension Grew Ahead of Mortgage Crisis Decisions New York Times

Unemployed Americans Speak Out as Benefits are Slashed at Christmas Truthout

Nelson Mandela’s Long Death Black Agenda Report

The Kansas Regents’ (Unintentional) Honesty about Academic Freedom Bill Black, New Economics Perspectives. Circulate this to every academic you know. If Kansas makes this stick, it will have plenty of imitators.

Antidote du jour (furzy mouse):

image

And a bonus antidote from YY (a video, so email subscribers need to visit the site):

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65 comments

  1. David Lentini

    Technology Enabling KS to Become SS

    Black’s posting—apparently now putting his job at risk—is just another sign of how the technologies that were supposed to give us unlimited freedom (at least that’s what I recall reading and hearing all the time in Silicon Valley back in the heady dot-com days) is working quite well: Unlimited freedom ends up in tyranny. As we have now become suckered into using the Internet as a primary means of communication, while denying the extension of the Constitutional protections to the printed and (live) spoken word that have traditional protection because of the “newness” of our technology, we have given up our liberties for the sake of convenience.

    As Mary Shelly and the Greek myths told so well, science and technology are sources of the richest ironies. Computers and the Internet—the supposed great technologies of egalitarianism—have become the sources of our intellectual imprisonment.

    1. Walter Map

      There was no need for the government to install Big Brother boxes in your homes to watch your every move. People happily paid as much as they could afford to buy their own.

      What could be more pathetic than people who witlessly sell themselves into servitude? Amerikans are such willing slaves, and that will prove their undoing. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a collection of online receipts.

      When … you realize that all along something in us going wrong

      You stop dancing.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That’s my next T-shirt project:

      Beware of Scientists Bearing Gifts of Technology.

      By scientists, we mean Big Budget Scientists…because we are no longer in that Kansas where the curious just rolled balls down an incline, without the need to spend a lot that might contribute to the economy (gasp) (but then, if we really are interested in jobs, why not just hire more soldiers? Oh, you only want certain kinds of jobs. The only way to get away from the inconsistent application of logic, among other paradoxes under the present ‘if-the-rich-take- too-much-from-the-99.99%, let’s-kill-them-foreign-species. Kill-more-pigs, Kil- more-vegetables! Frack-more-fields!,’ is give GDP sharing a try) *.

      And big budgets are not free. Why would Big Business, Big Military or Big Government give you that money?

      But I don’t expect to sell a lot of it though. I think I have to sell a lot of de-brainwashing kits before I can sell a lot of that T-shirt; otherwise, if you must be crazily insane, out-of-your-mind insane, to criticize science.

      * BTW, Galileo was not the first to describe reality with numbers. The first was some forgotten slave-master who first thought up the idea that an hour of your time is worth 6 bucks, or less – I can’t recall the exact details. He/She described human life span fractions in numbers (money numbers, to be exact). Others then described other living beings, like vegetables, in money numbers as well. Galileo merely used it to describe balls and spheres.

  2. Frank

    I think Black’s comment is about Kansas, but he teaches in another state, Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City.

    Also, Avik, not Arik, Roy.

    1. DakotabornKansan

      “If UMKC can make this stick, it will have plenty of imitators.”

      ???

      Bill Black is at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on the other side of the border from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

      What’s the matter with Kansas?

      It’s the Brownbackistanian laboratory of “democracy,” i.e., putting Tea Party tenets into action.

      Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback in order to advance his agenda has packed the state’s Board of Regents and the state judiciary. Kansas is no longer a state government by and for the people. It’s state government for large corporate donors and lots of red meat social issues for those who always vote against their economic interests. He used his executive powers to create the KanCare reform of Medicaid and upending state social service agencies. He’s working to finish off public schools and sell off the state’s agencies and assets.

      “Kansas is trashing the only remaining jewel in the state, its superb university system. The ideological purge that removed virtually all of the “moderate” Republican conservatives from the Kansas legislature has now set its assault rifle sights on the universities. Their view of the glorious “harmony” made possible only through ideological purity perverts a “right” of free speech or “academic freedom” into an act of disloyalty. The new “efficiency” regime founded on “truth” as it was revealed to the Koch brothers and the NRA will gradually sweep discordant views from Kansas’ universities. The purge leaders will eventually celebrate the date, December 18, 2013, on which the Kansas university system was officially Koched and NRAed.” – William Black

      But there is more news and twittering about the loud mouth from Duck Dynasty and his right to free (although ignorant) speech than the Kansas Board of Regents.

      1. dearieme

        On the subject of the future of the universities I tend to intone “Dissolution of the Monasteries”.

  3. Jim Haygood

    From the NYT:

    President Obama, expanding his push to curtail severe penalties in drug cases, on Thursday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses. Each inmate has been imprisoned for at least 15 years, and six were sentenced to life in prison.

    In a statement, Mr. Obama said that each of the eight men and women had been sentenced under what is now recognized as an “unfair system,” including a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was significantly reduced by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

    The [minimum sentencing provisions] carried a racial charge: Offenses involving crack, which was disproportionately prevalent in impoverished black communities, carried far more severe penalties than those for powder cocaine, favored by affluent white users.

    According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, about 8,800 federal inmates are serving time for crack offenses committed before Congress reduced mandatory minimum sentences, going forward, in the 2010 law.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/20/us/obama-commuting-sentences-in-crack-cocaine-cases.html?hpw&rref=politics&_r=0

    ————

    Not to damn with faint praise — Obama’s move is admirable — but with clear constitutional authority to commute sentences, he has provided relief to eight of 8,800 people whose lives have been deformed by a clearly racist feature of the drug war signed into law in 1986.

    Strange that the NYT fails to mention that even after amendment in 2011, the sentencing disparity between Wall Street blow and ghetto crack remains at 18 to 1: it takes 500 grams of white powder on the coffee table to get you a 5-year minimum sentence, while 28 grams (about 1 ounce) of crack will do the trick.

    Sad that in a case where he could have acted aggressively to relieve African-Americans from the ongoing drug war lynching, the president has chosen to proceed rather timidly.

    1. FederalismForever

      Obama’s hesitancy might be due to the fact that the original 100-to-1 ratio was the bright idea of his current Vice President Joe Biden. Although many on today’s Left try to spin this 100-to-1 ratio as some right-wing Republican racist plot, the fact is it was the Democrats who sought to burnish their “tough on crime” credentials by adding provisions like the 100-to-1 ratio to Reagan’s 1986 anti-drug legislation. As part of this dubious project, then-Senator Joe Biden came up with the 100-to-1 ratio idea. He confessed to this in a 2002 Senate hearing:

      http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-107shrg86452/html/CHRG-107shrg86452.htm

      1. Expat

        Great link, FF. So revealing, and so indicative of how incapable our representatives are at the big job of governing this land.

        Quoting from the report, “FEDERAL COCAINE SENTENCING POLICY,” May 22,2002:

        Senator Biden: …But occasionally, we make mistakes. I’m the
        guy that wrote the law–literally. I’m the guy who drafted the
        legislation that resulted in this disparity….
        “…We had medical experts come in, telling us it was
        much more addictive. There was the phrase: “Once on crack, you
        never go back.” There was a lot of testimony saying how
        particularly dangerous this was….
        “…The proposals ranged from former President Reagan’s
        proposal for a 20 to 1 disparity between crack and powder–
        which is what we are proposing going back to, or at least what
        the Sentencing Commission is proposing going back to a 1,000 to
        1 disparity proposed by our old friend, now deceased, former
        Governor and former Senator Lawton Chiles.
        “…I joined Senators Byrd and Dole in an effort to enact an
        anti-drug abuse act in 1986, in which we established the
        current 100 to 1 disparity.
        “…We have learned that crack and powder cocaine are virtually
        the same drug. According the Journal of the American Medical
        Association, “Cocaine, regardless of whether it is crack or
        cocaine hydrochloride, leads to the same physiological and
        behavioral effects.”
        “…We now know that the dire predictions of a generation of
        crack babies whose mothers used crack during pregnancy have not
        proven true, at least according to medical experts.
        Now President Bush, Federal judges, Federal prosecutors,
        doctors, academics, social scientists, civil rights leaders,
        civic leaders, clergy, and others have begun to speak about the
        disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.
        That is why, quite frankly, I was surprised at Deputy
        Attorney General Larry Thompson’s testimony before the U.S.
        Commission on Civil Rights in March, and I am about to be
        surprised by Mr. Howard’s testimony. I know what it is going to
        be, and it is a real switch.
        Mr. Thompson said, “After thorough study and internal
        debate, we have concluded that the current Federal policy and
        guidelines for sentencing crack cocaine are appropriate.”
        I would also like to state for the record that I have
        invited Deputy Attorney General Thompson and drug czar John
        Walters to testify today. Both declined to appear before the
        Congress to explain why the administration suddenly changed its
        position.”

        1. FederalismForever

          The way many of today’s Democrats attempt to spin the history of the 100-to-1 ratio as some Reagan administration plot to oppress black males is one of the more notable recent examples of revisionist history, bordering on propaganda. To be sure, Reagan was completely on board with the idea of cracking down on crack, but Reagan’s sentencing proposals were relatively mild compared to the many far harsher provisions which Democrats added to what became the final bill. Yet, today, many who write on the black/white sentencing disparity (e.g., that wildly overrated book The New Jim Crow) routinely describe it as having originated in the Republican Party, almost to the point of depicting Reagan as being consumed with the idea of oppressing black males. The way Joe Biden gets a pass on this is truly reprehensible. His bright idea to go with a 100-to-1 ratio has had a truly devastating impact on the black community in recent decades.

          1. Expat

            But your link, FF, shows that the Republicans in the persons of the Bush adminstration were satisfied with the 100:1 disparity, although no one from the administration was willing to explain why, at least in this Congressional report. In other words, by the time 2002 rolled around, both parties were on board with the policy regardless of the disparate and discriminatory effects, and regardless of the fact that none of the nightmare predictions had come true. To me, that reinforces the premise of the book, The New Jim Crow.

  4. Bridget

    You should consider retitling “Obamacare Launch”. Call it “Failure to Launch”.

    Delaying the mandate for the formerly insured is just adding insult to injury. The mandate is hardly their problem, obtaining coverage commensurate with their former coverage is their actual problem. Fail.

  5. diptherio

    Here is the background article on the Bill Black piece. The audacity of the Regents in Kansas is simply stunning. The CEO can fire anyone for anything they say on social media that s/he decides interferes with “harmony” on campus…and if the fired prof appeals, the CEO gets to review their own decision. A truly stunning display of chutzpah by the Kansas Board of Regents.

    Although…part of me just wants to say, “Welcome to the club, all you academics. Not so special now, are ya?” Perhaps treating academics just as dismissively as most of us proles get treated in our jobs will create some much needed solidarity between the denizens of the ivory tower and the rest of us…always gotta look for that silver-lining, right?

    1. squasha

      since tenured academics are nearly rare as siberian tigers, the hubric downfall you’d be celebrating to line your cloud with silver would be for the most part that of indebted grad-grunts.
      This move is but a royal neutering of the top-shelf uppity eldery,

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Neutering the uppity elderly – that’s a bit redundant, probably mostly for show, as I believe aging should take care of that.

  6. diptherio

    Re: Utter Chaos: White House Exempts Millions From Obamacare’s Insurance Mandate, ‘Unaffordable’ Exchanges

    Holy schadenfreude, Batman! I found myself laughing out loud while reading this piece. The Administration and insurers are being eaten alive by the complexity of their own design. Their solution for people who’ve lost their insurance due to Obamacare requirements are now allowed to remain un-insured without being fined. Gee, thanks Mr. Obama!

    Being un-insured is synonymous with being poor, in this country. Obamacare just managed to toss a bunch of people into the ranks of the un-insured, which they are sure to be upset about, and their solution is to not pile on yet another injury by levying a fine for the privilege of being socially demoted. It’s almost hard for me to not believe that this is all purposeful, and has been designed to ensure that the Repubs take power again in 2016. Although arrogance and incompetence could also account for it.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Undoubtedly there will be more complexity on the back end. The IRS is supposed to enforce the coverage mandate … but how? With self-certification by filers, or with a new reporting regime imposed on insurers? Either way, the revenuers’ creaky steam-driven mainframes are just as ill-equipped for last-minute tweaking (in response to Obama’s desperate ad hoc rule changes) as the healthcare.gov website was.

      Moreover, statutorily the refusenik penalty is different from other tax penalties, in that it’s only collectible from refunds due, and not by other means such as liens. Sounds simple, but poking balky old mainframes with a sharp stick to induce them to handle this special case (against a shifting backdrop of ever-changing rules) is a recipe for SYSERROR (try again Y/N?).

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Enforced by the IRS – but how, you ask?

        How?

        Yes, the NSA just volunteered to do the reporting.

        If the combined might of the IRS and the NSA does not do the job, I don’t know what will.

    2. McMike

      You think the Dems did this to themselves on purpose, as a way to get themselves back in the minority?

      That’s a little hard to accept; staying elected is about the only thing they DO care about. Then again, they do have industry lobbyist jobs waiting for them on the other side…

      1. McMike

        I know some Obamabots who are still sticking with the 11-dimenstional chess theory – that this is a trojan horse for single payer.

      2. diptherio

        No, no, no…in that conspiratorial reality, it would be the shadowy figures behind the curtain, the real puppetmasters, who would be doing this “on purpose.” You know, like the CFR or the Bilderberger’s or something….not saying I believe that, but if you wanted to make the Dems look like a bunch of incompetents, you could hardly have scripted it better.

        Caveat: I’m currently reading the Illuminatus! Trilogy

          1. Synopticist

            I haven’t commented on Obama care, because I really don’t know a darn thing about it, but to screw up your one signature policy thanks to a crappy untested website, well, it’s f*ckin amateur hour stuff.

            They’ve had 5 years.

          1. diptherio

            ;-)

            I read the Schrodinger’s Cat trilogy and the Cosmic Trigger books years ago…I really don’t know what took me so long to get around to the magnum opus…

    3. Dave of Maryland

      As my wife pointed out a few minutes ago, with Obamacare there are no no uninsureds. You are either a card-carrying insured, or a card-carrying Medicaid, since enrollment is mandatory.

      The sneaky part is that if you’re over 55, Medicaid mandates the state seize your assets upon your demise. Various state efforts to seize assets of all those who got Medicaid at any age was supposedly overruled by the Feds, but even if that’s true, it can be changed at any time.

      Do a Google search: “[your state name] Medicaid Estate Recovery.” See what turns up.

      It would appear the “expanded Medicaid” provision in Obamacare was to require the poor under 55’s to sign up, healthy or not. The poor had previously applied for Medicaid only when faced with big bills. Presuming emergency rooms are wise to this, we could see hospitals refuse care altogether unless and until the patient coughed up either an insurance card, or Medicaid eligibility.

      That’s how Medicaid has always been funded, by seizing the estates of the middle class who blundered into it. There is no money to change that.

      As of last February, when I went through the system, the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore would take you, no questions asked, but would then require you to file for Medicaid afterwards and give you “help” if you didn’t.

      Just about the worst program rollout since declaring war on a neighboring country. Which never, ever works out.

      1. ambrit

        Re. “Just the worst program roll out since declaring war on a neighboring country.” Well, we here in the Deep South do indeed remember that occurrence, and how well it worked out for your northern manufacturing elites.

      2. davidgmills

        I have heard of this provision in the Medicaid statute but have never heard of a state enforcing it or heard of a case that litigated the issue, so it may not be the problem that some are claiming. But if it is, wouldn’t it put the states who refused to expand Medicaid and denied huge federal subsidies to their citizens, in a real box? Would these people on Medicaid have had any liability to the states if the states had expanded Medicaid and the federal government had paid for their healthcare instead of the states?

  7. McMike

    Been thinking about the Pope. Has there been much reflection on that hereabouts? I’m not Catholic, but this strikes me as a pretty remarkable turn of events.

    Anyway, I was thinking about MLK, and then I got to thinking about the Pope.

    He better watch out is what I thought… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUfaJ8RqfOg

    1. DakotabornKansan

      James Carroll, who is a former priest, has this very interesting article on Pope Francis, “Who Am I to Judge? A radical Pope’s first year”

      http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/23/131223fa_fact_carroll?currentPage=all

      As a lapsed Catholic, who once lived in Latin America, I am becoming more impressed with Pope Francis.

      In September, he met with Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, who is regarded as the founder of liberation theology. Was this a reopening of the door to this theology?

      Gutiérrez and Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the current head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, co-authored “On the Side of the Poor: Liberation Theology, Theology of the Church.”

      Müller recently announced that the Vatican doctrinal office plans to proceed with the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 after condemning violence by the military dictatorship in El Salvador.

      Paul Farmer, who known for his humanitarian health care work in some to the world’s poorest countries, also co-authored a book with Gutiérrez, “In the Company of the Poor.” Farmer credits liberation theology as the inspiration for his effort to do social justice medicine. He hopes the meeting between Pope Francis and Gustavo Gutiérrez means an easing in the church’s stance toward liberation theology.

      “But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.” – Gustavo Gutiérrez

      Far right Catholics rant: “Marxism disguised on christianism! The only theology of liberation that the Church knows is liberation from sin. The Church’s mission is to save souls, not make heaven on earth. this was the temptation of the communists and the fascists. I am not surprised that in an age not known for faith and devotion that a Pope would be more worried about talking about the poor and the evils of various economic systems rather than about the sins of abortion, homosexuality and contraception. Somebody got to Francis.”

      Someone did get to Pope Francis. It was Jesus.

      “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away, to the naked: and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.” – Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

  8. Institutionalized

    An uncertain future ahead for fracking in Pennsylvania:
    http://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2013/12/20/an_uncertain_future_ahead_for_fracking_in_pennsylvania_107427.html

    Some excerpts:
    The highest court in Pennsylvania, heart of the country’s natural gas drilling boom, on Thursday struck down significant portions of a law that limited the power of local governments to determine where the industry can operate — rules the industry sought from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers.

    “It’s a tremendous victory for local governments, for local democracy, for public health and for the environment,” said Jordan Yeager, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. “It’s a huge, huge victory for the people of Pennsylvania.”

    Schweeet!

  9. kevinearick

    AbyNormal:

    Always happy to hear that somebody found something useful…

    I really don’t care what the machine is doing. What I care about is giving young people what they need to move beyond non-participation and on to their own developments, beyond the empire.

    People raising children have outmaneuvered every political machine ever built in history, because the machine is just the remainder of responsibility not taken by individuals in their community.

    The State solving community problems, with best police state practice, best as the enemy of better, is A backwards, turning an opportunity into a threat and stopping time, relative to Nature, which has other ideas, with a false assumption of preemption, which becomes emulated behavior, which becomes law, which shuts the system down automatically if young people move forward.

    The bank is going over the cliff again. If young people put that gravity to work, thing will go quite well. If not, things will go quite badly, for the majority. The more things change…I completed everything I set out to do some time ago.

    As far as the emotion you may see in my writing these days, my wife wants me to learn to be emotional, and she has to go through the Esther thing, so I figure it’s the least I can do. She is the bleeding heart type, you know, mercy for Charles Manson, blah, blah, blah…you do things for your spouse that you would never do otherwise, and that is what makes the economy go. She is the far better half, the Mrs. Claus of food distribution.

    As far as I am concerned, emotional response to emotional response is serious robotville; writing recursive code in double helix requires a tremendous amount of energy, sustained over long periods of time, but without kids what is there?

    The empire has once again built an imploding world, devoid of effective parents, which is a tremendous opportunity for effective parents, if you think about it.

    Poor and rich are definition perceptions. For a time as kid, I worked out of a dumpster, to be near my dad, and had the entire Pacific Fleet at my disposal. When other kids were on the school playground learning to be bullies or followers, I was playing on submarines and carriers in the naval yard. Was I poor or rich?

    Form over function beats function over form, but function and form beats both, which is distilled out in the process, waiting to be recognized. Delivering higher quality at lower price isn’t rocket science, when you are at max price and minimum quality. What you have seen happen to money, you will now see happen to real estate. Some will be ready, but most will not. All that is required is a little labor on the margin, in the right direction. That’s life.

    The day may come when I am so old and so slow that the State catches up, but that day is not today, and my kids are so far ahead of me that I can barely perceive them.

  10. Fíréan

    Ref; NSA Fallout in Europe Boosts Alternatives to Google . article in linked here.
    The article , in implying Europe, or European internet servers etc., to be a saver and responding contrary to (USA) NSA activity , completely over looks the recent actions of the French government which has just passed the 2014-2019 Defense Bill last night with the adoption of article 20 (formerly article 13) allowing, legalizing, blatant surveillance with no regard to the French Constitution nor recent concerns regarding USA ( or UK) orientated surveilance.
    LaQuadranature Du Net has been covering this, englich language link :
    http://www.laquadrature.net/en/final-adoption-of-generalised-surveillance-in-france-a-disturbing-political-drift

  11. fresno dan

    Suggested Reading — Medicare’s Wasteful Prescription Practices and Why Docs Prescribe Name-Brand Drugs Patient Safety Blog
    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/20/the-economics-of-being-kinder-and-gentler-in-health-care/

    It is a strange and bizarre thing that advocates (at least in congress, mostly pretend) of free markets believe that the government, which in fact pays for an extraordinary amount of health care, should not do anything to try and get a better deal…..and than b*tch incessantly about how much the health care the government buys costs…

    1. CB

      But that’s the point: don’t do anything useful so you can bitch about the waste. It’s a strategy, not an oversight.

    1. Emma

      If one of these days the whale jumped out of the water and said a proper hello to life on earth, that would be the beautiful essence of life indeed, wouldn’t it?

  12. EmilianoZ

    I also noticed the low number of comments yesterday. But I don’t think it has anything to do with the gigantic ad blocks. It may simply be fatigue: end of year fatigue, fatigue of having to be constantly outraged. Being outraged is a mental strain. I don’t think it can be sustained for long, it’s probably as destructive to our mental health as stress. Sweet surrender is gentler on your nervous cells. And what have we achieved with all our outrage? It’s game over. I wish there was a cave somewhere we could go to to hibernate.

    1. fresno dan

      I am outraged, OUT R A G E D, that you think my supply of OUTrage is flagging….
      I am going to jog double my normal outrage route….and do double my number of outrage pushups…
      than do a lot of outraged drinking, and take an outraged nap…filled with outraged dreams…

    2. Synopticist

      The outrage fatigue we’re all feeling is a feature, not a bug, as Lambert would say.
      They meant it this way.

    1. Emma

      So the ‘concerned residents’ removed the antlers?
      Umm…weren’t the elks there before the townsfolk?
      Another fine tale of unnecessary over-interference by mankind.

      1. bob

        I’ll defend that. He’s obviously not afraid of civilization, and chances are, will be in someones yard again. Would I have done it? No. But I do understand the logic.

  13. Andrew Watts

    RE: Report Suggests NSA Engaged In Financial Manipulation, Changing Money In Bank Accounts

    This report was always going to be very educational. Predictably the less than praiseworthy recommendations deal with electronic/cyber warfare.

    “Recommendation 30

    We recommend that the National Security Council staff should manage an interagency process to review on a regular basis the activities of the US Government regarding attacks that exploit a previously unknown vulnerability in a computer application or system. These are often called “Zero Day” attacks because developers have had zero days to address and patch the vulnerability. US policy should generally move to ensure that Zero Days are quickly blocked, so that the underlying vulnerabilities are patched on US Government and other networks. In rare instances, US policy may briefly authorize using a Zero Day for high priority intelligence collection, following senior, interagency review involving all appropriate departments.”

    So does this mean that Microsoft is providing 0-day exploits for Windows and it’s other products to the NSA before they patch them? What about other US companies?

  14. chicagogal

    If we ever really get inspired to truly reform some of Medicare’s profligate spending and unchecked doctor habits, we should look into the relationships between hospitals and doctors and how they double-bill for every appointment or service provided. Spent this year being billed by my doctor for his 10-15 minutes, then also being billed by the hospital his office is located in for renting their room for that time period. We could seriously cut Medicare costs if they quit allowing that practice to continue!

  15. fresno dan

    Suggested Reading — Medicare’s Wasteful Prescription Practices and Why Docs Prescribe Name-Brand Drugs Patient Safety Blog

    “So the reporters asked renowned practitioners why doctors prescribe the way they do, and their answers range from, essentially, the “glamour” of new drugs, patient pressure, a drug’s appearance, unawareness of cost, to the a sense that Medicare has no idea who’s doing what in the prescribing realm”

    Uh, er…., how about it is the most effective for treating the condition???
    Maybe it is worse than that – they simply don’t know what to prescribe. My doctor when I first was diagnosed with type II diabetes started me on Avandia. (Thanks Doc!!!). After the controversy, I looked into the situation. In point of fact, Metformin is the standard of care – it is generic and by far, far cheaper than Avandia, as well as BEING MORE EFFECTIVE. I can’t help though, (maybe all the Glaxo Wellcome pens, notepads, dod dads in my doctor’s office) thinking that I got Avandia initially due to….oh, bribery is such a harsh word. How about non optimal resource allocation in a health setting milieu?

  16. Hugh

    Re NewCo, so it is all supposed to be about “public service, mission-driven journalism”. Great. Now does anyone know what that means? Both FoxNews and MSNBC no doubt say that’s what they’re doing now. The question comes down to what really is the mission. It’s great to say that you want to do investigative journalism, but what kind and on what? And more importantly what are its limits?

    Is this just going to be the latest recasting of Establishment liberals à la Krugman? an embrace of the reformer’s fallacy? People like Krugman are allowed to criticize aspects of the system because it is understood they will never criticize and challenge the system as a whole or reject their class. Indeed their partial critiques are a de facto validation of the system, and they deflect and defuse more fundamental opposition to the system itself and the elites and rich who run it. The reformer’s fallacy is the belief that a system whose foundations have become rotten and corrupted can be reformed. So where NewCo positions itself with regard to this is critical. And there is no possibility for agnosticism on it. Looking at those involved, I have to go with NewCo being an updating of the Krugmanesque approach.

    Re investigative reporting, I think Glenn Greenwald has done a lot of excellent reporting on the NSA story. But it is important to remember that he did not go looking for this story (i.e. engage in investigative journalism). The story came to him. If there was anyone who did investigative journalism in the NSA story, it was Edward Snowden. Now to the present, Greenwald has done a great job getting this story out into an otherwise obsequious, servile media and keeping it there. But at some point the material, as in virtually all of it, needs to go into the public domain so that we all can see and judge it. Gatekeeping is antithetical to the progressive internet. Glenn Greenwald more than most should understand this.

    What is also missing in Glenn Greenwald’s reporting is more musing about the nature of the surveillance state. Surveillance state in the first place is a euphemism for police state. What does it mean and what is the purpose of these vast, intrusive anti-terrorist NSA spying programs which, in fact, have never stopped a single act of terror, but which do spy on tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions worldwide? If you accept the frame of the police state, you have your answer. If instead you look upon NSA spying, as something else, bureaucatic inertia, a hiccup in the system, then your response to it, as a journalist, is going to be very different.

    In other words, independent, investigative journalism doesn’t mean much if we don’t know where those who practise it stand.

    1. bob

      We know exactly where GG stands- He’s an info pimp, just like his new boss. Sell it to the highest bidder. That’s OK, as long as the gubmint ain’t doin it.

      Better if the gubmint has to buy it, for the sake of GG’s and “first look media”.

      It’s the market solution!

    2. bob

      And for the people that don’t think he’s a pimp….you are guilty of Hugh’s “reformers fallacy”.

      “You can’t say that about HIM!”

      Indeed.

  17. Hugh

    Re Kansas and academia, I think that boat has already sailed. Free thought and inquiry were aspects crucial to a liberal arts education. But the liberal arts education is by and large dead and has been for some years. Universities have become bastions not of questioning the status quo but its defense. They are not collections of scholars but large, and often very large, corporations. Their business is business. Education is a sideline shifted off to poorly paid grad students and adjunct faculty.

    In this view, the Kansas regents are only codifying what is standard corporate practise and just removing a superannuated fiction of the old regime. I suppose it could be argued that it’s overkill. Conformity is built into the system: who gets accepted into grad school, where, who gets published, who gets hired at the assistant professor level, and the whole set of promotions from there. It is a process that preferentially selects for those who know how to work within the system and are willing to do so. So there is no need to be concerned about the fate of bombthrowers and iconoclasts in academia. They aren’t there.

  18. AbyNormal

    Boston University / Master of Criminal Justics
    info graph:
    http://cjdegreeonline.bu.edu/infographic-incarceration/
    “During the last 2 decades, state spending on prisons grew by 127%, SIX times the rate spent on higher education.”

    Federal Prison System (BOP)
    FY 2013 Budget Request At A Glance
    FY 2012 Enacted:
    $6,641 million (41,310 positions; 19,756
    correctional officers)
    Current Services Adjustments:
    +$254.7 million
    Program Changes:
    +$23.4 million
    FY 2013 Budget
    Request:
    $6,919 million (42,164 positions; 20,162
    correctional officers)
    Change From FY 2012 Enacted:
    +$278.1 million (+4.2%) (+854 positions; +406
    correctional officers)
    http://www.justice.gov/jmd/2013summary/pdf/fy13-bop-bud-summary.pdf

    30 Years Later, Private Prisons Have a Future to Secure
    http://ivn.us/2013/02/02/30-years-later-private-prisons-have-a-future-to-secure/

    The Future of Debtor Prisons Has Begun In Ohio (privatization just found its loop hole)
    http://beforeitsnews.com/strange/2013/04/the-future-of-debtor-prisons-has-begun-in-ohio-2448146.html

    “I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare. Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man. Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do. At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.”
    Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    1. AbyNormal

      apologies for my typo’s…its late and i know yves has covered this area before but the info-graph is something to pass around.

      thanksgiving my neighbor (63yrs old) was arrested in our parking lot during a finder-binder…she wasn’t driving but the officer asked for everyones license. they found where she had 2 outstanding tickets…1 for no tag and another for speeding…they locked her up till the following wed. a few of us offered to pay her 1200.00 bond but she said absolutely NOT…money is needed in other places and they won’t keep her for such a small ‘thing’. the issue with this woman is she has cancer and they refused her any of her meds…they gave her sleeping pills to sleep thru the ordeal…of course she fell on the way to the bathroom and is now in real pain. GA just hired more state troopers and are handing out tickets like i’ve never seen before…most tickets start around 200.00 these days.
      i’ve gotten everyone out of jail (including my dog in the late 80’s) but i’ve never heard the doors slam on me…yet. when i was talking to my neighbor about it she made the comment…’you won’t survive it, your too helpful and they’ll eat you alive’. i was talking to my sister about it and she agreed with my neighbor and described how id have to pickout the badest of the group and go batshitcrazy on them…they’re correct…id be fucked. (plus ive probably read all their books in the library…if they got one anymore).

      “I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions–poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed–which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.

      It must surely be a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that even a small number of those men and women in the hell of the prison system survive it and hold on to their humanity.” Howard Zinn

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