Links 12/26/13

Was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ really communist propaganda? FBI investigated classic Christmas film Daily Mail

10 truly bizarre Victorian deaths BBC. In the unlikely event you were nostalgic for Dickensian England.

Fake Knee Surgery as Good as Real Thing, Study Finds Wall Street Journal

The new era of the New York skyscraper Felix Salmon

Scientists Link Spike in Thyroid Disease to Fukushima Disaster Real News Network

Japan’s Abe to Visit Yasukuni Shrine Wall Street Journal. Ugh.

Graft Scandal Is Approaching Turkey Premier New York Times

Big Brother is Watching You Watch:

If not the NSA, who should store the phone data? Washington Post. Notice how not storing data is somehow not an option.

Stanford Researcher Proves NSA Can Probably Identify Individuals From Phone Records

NSA Struggles to Make Sense of Data Flood Wall Street JournalTechCrunch

Obamacare Launch

Final ACA deadline not quite final Politico. Can I get negotiate similar deadline extensions from the IRS?

Avoiding Obamacare insurance gaps may take persistence CBS

Bart Chilton Says Goodbye – The Essence of NeoLiberalism and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice Jesse

House GOP Screw Poor And Meek, Now Want Laws To Protect Christmas Symbols DSWright, Firedoglake

Bill O’Reilly’s War on Jesus Truthdig (RR). Remember, the one time Jesus got mad was at the moneylenders….


Capital Goods Demand Signals Stronger U.S. Growth: Economy Bloomberg

Demand for food stamps soars as cuts sink in and shelves empty Guardian

Wall Street Is My Landlord; Blackstone’s Home Rental Bonds Yet Another Sign of Renewed Credit Bubble Michael Shedlock

Debt Rattle Dec 23 2013 – How Do We Define Value? Ilargi

Why Corporations Might Not Mind Moderate Depression Paul Krugman. Um, reinforcing the corporations = people and have independent will fallacy. If you change headline to “Why CEOs and C Level Execs Might Not Mind Moderate Depression,” then you might find some merit here. But this isn’t a new observation, more an indicator that this point of view is becoming mainstream.

Antidote du jour (Jeff N):

Screen shot 2013-12-25 at 10.58.35 PM

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    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Which country’s cats are the happiest cats on earth?

      I believe India’s cows are probably the happiest cows in the world…although being worshipped doesn’t guarantee you happiness, a lot of celebrities will tell you that..

      Somewhat related, apparently, cats in rich families are not necessarily happier than cats in regular families. It’s being suggested that the amount of quality playing time is the critical factor, beside the proper etiquette required of all contact humans.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        I have seen some pretty happy looking cows in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Local (Amish) milk production goes to make Lancaster County chocolate: Hershey’s isn’t the only chocolatier in the neighborhood. Next time you’re in the area, try the local ice cream. It’s rich and fatty beyond anything you’ve had before.

        1. Jessica

          The “sacred” white cows starve because they are useless.
          The black water buffalo are sleek and well-fed and much worked.

          1. Emma

            Not quite true – aside from the fact that there are around a good 20 to 30 breeds of cows in India (c.200 worldwide) , all breeds in India are deemed by Indians, to be a symbol of the earth giving but demanding nothing in return.
            For many in India, the cow is an economic godsend to a family and without them, many children there would not survive.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Funny, the celebrities we worship over here also look like they are starving…most of them, anyway.

  1. Skeptic

    Fake Knee Surgery as Good as Real Thing, Study Finds Wall Street Journal

    Having dealt with a serious medical condition, I have read three books on placebo. It is an incredibly powerful tool in medicine. Many improved medical conditions can be attributed to placebo. I do some things now on my own which I feel have improved my health. This is, in part, encouraged by the doctor I have who requires the patient to keep his own health records along with those the doctor keeps. In many cases, you know better than the Doc what is going on. There are other things I do which are placebo based and, in my opinion, do not carry significant risk.

    So placebo can be Do It Yourself, you don’t need a costly medical professional who may be nothing more than a profit driven human with a medical degree. Someone just churning a buck. Someone who will treat you according to the Balance Sheet rather than your actual health.

    Anticipating outcries of rage and KIDS DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, here is a link to a site discussing iotragenic death in the US:

    This then raises the question: if placebo is real, then what effect does it have on a patient when he knows healthcare can unnecessarily harm or kill him rather than cure him. That is, there is a negative placebo effect. I was once in such a situation and, having researched the recommended treatment, refused it. Just doing so, based on the evidence before me, did wonders for my spirit.

    So, as people rightfully lose faith in Industrialized Medicine, the placebo effect may be diminished at least as far as it is used by medical professionals.

    1. craazyman

      For the fake operation to work, it sounds like you’ve got to do 99% of everything a real operation requires. Might as well get the real one in that case! Just to be safe. I’m not sure this is a placebo, it might be more of a cost-saving measure that puts even more money into insurance company profits while the surgeons chill out in the TV room with you asleep on the table.

    2. Dave of Maryland

      What it actually means is the conditions are transient and will, at least in some cases, fix themselves, but only if you know the schedule. I could say a great deal more but I have to kill the Enlightenment and reestablish Aristotle first. Aristotle ruled for 1800 years because he brought structure and organization. The Enlightenment brought fakes and phonies who fooled us by manufactured consensus.

      The replacement of Aristotle by egos could only have happened if the existing Aristotelian society had been destroyed, such as from the fall of Rome or as a consequence of the 30 Years War.

      And, in fact, Germany, which had revived Aristotle (which they got from the Italians, by the way), chewed itself to pieces from 1618 to 1648, whereupon, two years later, the French, who had no knowledge of or interest in Aristotle, declared him dead and substituted themselves. Le science, c’est moi.

      Whatever survives Aristotle is real. Whatever does not, is junk. It is time to sort things out.

    3. diptherio

      If you haven’t already read it, Coyote Medicine by Louis Mehl-Medrona is a book you’d probably find interesting. Mehl-Medrona is a western-trained doctor from a native-american background and his work focuses on bringing the best of both worlds together to create a more holistic health care.

      And that’s a very interesting point about the “negative placebo,” I’d never considered that possibility before…

      1. M Quinlan

        Technically know as the Nocebo, it’s been used to account for cases where Voodoo curses etc. seemed to have had an effect.

    4. XO

      I had surgery for a torn meniscus. Anyone who has had this injury knows exactly what kind of excruciating pain it causes.

      Surgery fixed it, immediately. I’m willing to venture that a placebo would not have had a measurable effect, if any at all.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Um, did you not read? That’s exactly what this study said happened. While the results were better in the first month for surgery, one year out, both groups had the same success rate.

        Moreover, not all people who have a torn meniscus have a lot of pain. Some have swelling and the pain level is in the discomfort range.

    5. docg

      I am convinced, based on personal experience, that mind over matter is real. However, the real problem is not so much on the matter side, but the mind side. Yes, your mind controls your body and is capable of controlling even pain. But how do you go about controlling your mind? Which is what meditation is all about, and Buddhism, yoga, etc.

      In the placebo effect your mind is fooled into producing the desired result. That demonstrates what the mind is capable of. But it also demonstrates how easy it is for the mind to be fooled!

    6. Mildred Montana

      Well, duh! The Knowledge Network had a show about the surgical placebo effect about fifteeen years ago. Nice to see the WSJ is keeping up to date, as best as MSM recycling idiots can at any rate.

      The Knowledge Network’s program detailed the experience of a middle-aged man with intractable, crippling knee pain. He was treated by placebo surgery: taken into the operating room, anaesthetised, and given superficial incisions on the knee and appropriate sutures.

      Several months later his wife was asked how he was. She responded, “Before the surgery, he couldn’t do anything, now he’s a dancing fool!”

      Here’s to the placebo effect! And here’s to The Wall Street Journal for being so damned cutting-edge! Nice going WSJ. Your story is only about fifteen years old. Talk about a scoop!

  2. Dave of Maryland

    Bill O’Reilly’s War on Jesus Truthdig (RR). Remember, the one time Jesus got mad was at the moneylenders….

    And he was dead a week later. Don’t mess with the money boys.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Being mad occasionally is no sin.

      It may be a sin to be never mad…in this world.

      And if you never use force, if you are always non-violent, on inanimate objects, it could be a sin in this world.

      That’s why I bang my head against the wall…occasionally. I simply don’t get along with that wall.

      But please, no violence on living beings…except dead vegetables, meat and fish on the dinner table. If you are rich and have servants and cooks, it’s not your fault anyway. The serfs did the butchering in the death camp you call kitchen ..for you.

  3. DakotabornKansan

    This fall the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) stopped using federal grants to help low-income residents sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka, food stamps). “We simply do not believe taxpayer dollars should be used to recruit people to be on welfare,” said a DCF spokesperson. “The decision is consistent with our state’s position that finding a job is a better than seeking short-term assistance.” DCF proclaims that “strong families make a strong Kansas.”

    The end of that program meant Kansas no longer provides funds to non-profit and community organizations which sought to reach eligible un-enrolled families in far-off regions of the state where the DCF does not have offices. The DCF spokesperson said “These efforts were simply inconsistent with the state’s commitment to shrink the number of people receiving any sort of government assistance. By actively encouraging people to get on welfare, that’s counter to what we’re encouraging. We believe that there are plenty of jobs available in Kansas.”

    Kansas has ended food stamps for adults without children. In September, the Kansas DCF announced that 20,000 unemployed Kansas adults no longer would be eligible to receive food stamps. The benefit is now available only to people who work at least 20 hours a week. Childless adults who wanted to continue to receive food stamps had three months to get a job or enroll in a job training program. “We believe that work is the most effective path out of poverty and welfare benefits are not designed to be a permanent solution. They’re designed to be a bridge for people to be on their feet and be self- sufficient,” said the same DCF spokesperson.

    Kansas unemployment is less than 6 percent, down from a 7.5 percent recession high. However, in Kansas, blacks and Latinos are nearly three times as likely as whites to be poor and unemployed. Nearly 320,000 Kansans – almost half of whom are children – receive food stamp benefits. The average per-person benefit is $122 per month.

    Cutting people off food stamps will suddenly create jobs for unemployed adults?

    In the Kansas echo chamber: “People have become addicted to the safety net. We have over 50,000,000 people nationally in the program. We are bankrupt. We are racing to $25 trillion in debt by 2020. All these programs, every one of them must be cut back. The safety net is now a hammock.”

    Let’s make the poor suffer more for their own good.
    “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”- Paul Ryan.

    Bill Black responded:

    “As an Irish-American I was struck that Ryan’s argument repeated the arguments that Britain’s leaders made when they decided to allow a million Irish to starve to death and another million to emigrate on the coffin ships. The British argued that providing free food (or even food in exchange for brutal work) was unacceptable because it would spur ‘dependency.’”

    “As with their British predecessors, they are hostile to providing the unemployed with the opportunity for respected employment. Their model of government employment is the gulag – a model in which the unemployed are shamed, denounced, and demeaned. The British designed their work program to be punitive and to fail. The British structured their minimal relief efforts to protect private businesses rather than to protect the poor from starvation. Their workhouses deliberately paid a grossly inadequate wage. The British elites, as a matter of policy, insisted that the workhouse labor not be constructive, hence the ‘famine roads’ to nowhere, the breaking of rocks, and the digging of holes followed by filling them back in.”

    “Allowing a million Irish to die and forcing another million to emigrate to try to escape starvation is so self-destructive an economic policy that only quack ideologies would fail to see that it must harm trade and the economy.”

    “It is disturbing that Paul Ryan, a Catholic of Irish descent, would embrace the policies and prejudices that led to the mass deaths and emigration of the Irish and drove his ancestor out of Ireland. An economic dogma should be conclusively discredited when it kills a million people, demonizes the victims, and honors the authors of the mass murder.”

    There were exceptions even among British elites, and their views of the dominant elites were scathing. “Lord Clarendon, the British viceroy in Ireland during the famine, saw the situation more clearly. He wrote to Prime Minister Lord John Russell: ‘I don’t think there is another legislature in Europe [other than the British] that would coldly persist in this policy of extermination.’”

    – William Black, An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger)

    Both my maternal and paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland to the United States during the time of the Great Hunger.

    Kansas Brownbackistan Republican right wing Tea Party Pro-life logic:

    “Unborn babies must be born!

    Hungry children in low-income or no income families? Maybe they should have thought about that before having children they couldn’t afford!”

    1. AbyNormal

      as long as the rich remain addicted to their welfare…all will be well

      “Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs.”

      P. J. O’Rourke

  4. diptherio

    “Bill O’Reilly’s War on Jesus Truthdig (RR). Remember, the one time Jesus got mad was at the moneylenders….”

    Hmm…IIRC, he also got sorely pissed off at a fig tree that refused to bear fruit out of season…never could understand that one.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Wiki has one theory that its a metaphor for the Jews because the local fig tree produces fruit at the beginning of the season. So I imagine its the first sign of spring, and since Jesus largely seems to be irritated at the Sadducees who controlled the Temple in Jerusalem*, this makes narrative sense. Instead of being more like the pharisees which Jesus probably was at some point, the Sadducees were just jerks who robbed from the poor and didn’t produce fruit (really there is no difference between them and the FIRE Sector).

      Of course this explanation only makes sense if the local fig trees at the time produced fruit early in the season.

      *The Samaritans had their own Temple and a slightly different 10 Commandments which is why there were pushed as local villains.

  5. fresno dan

    If I had a nickel for every study done debunking medical interventions (and JUST coincidentally they are all expensive) I would be very rich (note that I didn’t say that I read, because it is impossible to keep up with all the studies, which just proves the medical establishment works overtime to come up with ways to separate you from your money)

  6. Jeff N

    I wonder if my cat’s thyroid issues are related to Fukushima? :(
    she also has some kind of cancerous tumor growing near her stomach.

  7. fresno dan

    Debt Rattle Dec 23 2013 – How Do We Define Value? Ilargi

    “The global stock market rally over the last five years has added back more than $34 trillion to world equity values since 2009, and demonstrates the incredible resiliency of economies and financial markets to recover and prosper, even following the worst financial crisis and global economic slowdown in at least a generation.

    My immediate question is: really? That’s what that demonstrates? Incredible resiliency? It had nothing to do with QE and other stimulus measures? What about all the reports about increased poverty, food stamps, pension cuts, budget cuts, 50+% unemployment among young people in several countries, and many more stories from the bottom rung, how do they fit in with that incredible resiliency? How can stock markets set record new highs while economies still suffer? And why does the Fed taper QE by just 10$ billion out of a total $85 billion a month when the S&P 500 hits those new records? ”

    I think if pretty clearly demonstrates that its a system of the bankers, by the bankers, for the bankers…

    1. Mildred Montana

      Of course it’s all a fraud. What does the Fed propose to do with its balance sheet of rotten debt? (1) Wish it away? Or, (2) Print money? The Fed would like to do #1. Unfortunately, in the real world, that won’t work. Therefore it has done, is doing, and will continue to do #2.

      From “The extent of that accommodation can be seen in the expansion of the Fed’s asset holdings. Last week alone they increased by $14.1 billion, taking the total to $4 trillion—up from $870 billion in 2008. The Fed’s holdings of financial assets are now greater in size than the entire US budget and larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany, the world’s third largest economy.”

      If this were France and the year was 1793, Bernanke and his head would be summarily separated for crimes against the people.

  8. Jim Haygood

    Today’s biggest drama in the markets probably won’t be noticed by many: the 10-year T-note yield is right at 3 percent, doing ‘the dance of the round number.’

    Will it bounce off the 3 percent ceiling, or blow right through it? Early January, when normal trading volume resumes, will provide a better answer.

    Either way, it’s a big deal. The 10-year T-note’s yield has more than doubled in a year and a half, from its record low of 1.40% in July 2012 — and that’s with massive price-propping from the Federal Reserve’s purchases. Likewise, its real interest rate has gone from negative 1.8% in Sep 2011 (when the T-note yielded 2.0% and the CPI had risen 3.8% over the trailing 12 months) to a more normal positive 1.8% now.

    In markets most affected by note yields, such as corporate debt and mortgages, the rising real interest rate is now a drag rather than a subsidy. Appalling how little $75 billion a month buys these days, ain’t it?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Old people’s markets are most affected by note yields.

      My local credit union’s CD rates have gone down nonstop. I think one year CD is around 0.2% or 0.3% – it was too painful to remember – regardless of amount.

      1. Jim Haygood

        You’d be surprised how many seniors still have mortgages. The current 4.50% average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage is 1.5 percentage points above the 10-year note yield of 3 percent. This premium is fairly stable.

        So if the 10-year T-note should rise to 4 percent, 30-year mortgage rates probably would climb to 5.50%, reducing housing affordability (again).

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Wall Street is my landlord.

    Luckily, that’s not the case for me.

    Still, they say, beware of Wolves of Wall Street…just any Wolf of Wall Street, really, much less the Wolf of Wall Street.

    But that’s their world.

    In my world, sheeple only see Lambs of Main Street.

    1. AbyNormal

      “My name is Jordan Belfort. I was raised in a tiny apartment in Queens. At the tender age of 22 I headed to Wall Street. Within months I started my own firm out of an abandoned auto body shop. The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars which really pised me off because it was three shy of a million a week.” The Wolf of Wall Street

      “Willful blindness sees no end of damage done.”
      Stephen Richards

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Nice juxtaposition.

    Capital goods demand/US economic growth and demand for food stamp soaring.

    It’s weird that they have a positive correlation.

    It makes one pine, long and hard, for a smaller GDP but better wealth distribution.

  11. Hugh

    “Capital Goods Demand Signals Stronger US Growth” The key word here is “signals” (future) as opposed say to “reflects” (present). I wish I had a dollar for every one of these green shoots articles predicting stronger growth. We will know things are getting better when we see stronger growth in employment and workers’ wages. Growth in GDP is not a good in itself and does not translate into better lives for most Americans.

  12. Mildred Montana

    Bernanke—and his successors—are hooped. If he believes in free markets (I presume he does), he’s gonna see what they can do in the next five years. He’s spent five years suppressing interest rates, now the lid’s about to blow. Fed or no Fed, interest rates are going to rise and history will judge Bernanke to have been a fool.

    Ride the wave. Then, when the 10-year treasury hits 5%, put everything into gold. The last resort of a desperate central banker is destruction of the currency.

  13. Foy

    Interesting article on how corporations are using the First Amendment on free speech to destroy government regulation….

    Some outtakes…

    “By claiming that the government cannot, under the Constitution, compel companies to “engage in speech they would not otherwise issue,” NAM is essentially undercutting nearly all economic regulation. “If that seems alarmist, it’s not,” wrote University of Tulsa law professor Tamara Piety, the author ofBrandishing the First Amendment. In the legal context, the current definition of “speech” is famously fuzzy and could, depending on the situation, include very nearly everything a company does, from advertising and performing financial transactions to transferring data and utilizing computer algorithms. So if NAM’s claim were true, it’s very possible that the government couldn’t regulate any of those activities. “If you cannot regulate commercial speech,” Piety wrote, “you cannot regulate commerce, period.”

    “In the past decade, both the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts have begun, with increasing frequency, to strike down rules and sometimes entire laws, on the grounds that they infringe on companies’ First Amendment rights to free speech and expression. ”

    “While none of these cases is by itself a game changer, the collective weight of all of them—combined with sweeping decisions, like the one in the recent NLRB case—is enough to begin to bend legal precedent in favor of industry. ”

    “If liberals insisted on brandishing the First Amendment to protect anarchists and communists, they reasoned, why couldn’t they could use it to protect businesses and restrict government interference in the economy? And that is more or less exactly what they did.” 

    “What’s needed are moderate judges willing to admit that when it comes to commercial information, old-guard conservatives like Rehnquist were right, and so too was Justice John Marshall, when he wrote in 1819, “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.”

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