Links 12/29/13

Hunter-gatherer humans join insects, sharks and other animals in doing the Lévy walk Washington Post. Hah!

Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’ Independent. No wonder the officialdom is doing everything in its power to kill the humanities.

We still don’t really know how bicycles work New Statesman (Chuck L)

The Tech Startup Incubator Breaking Out of Silicon Valley’s Bubble Bloomberg

The Queen ‘plotted to hit Idi Amin with a sword’ if he visited Britain Independent (Chuck L)

China formally abolishes re-education labor camps Asian Correspondent (Lambert)

Greek Economic Crisis Leads to Air Pollution Crisis Science Daily (Chuck L)

Cairo campus torched amid protest BBC

Report: Israel shells Lebanon after rockets fired Associated Press

Guantanamo: Twelve Years of US War Crimes Real News Network

We’re The Good Guys … Especially at Christmas AntiWar (Dr. Kevin)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Tech giants form AllSeen Alliance to fast track “Internet of Everything” Gizmag. Bad enough your smartphone and iPad are surveillance devices. Your coffeepot wants to join the party.

NSA Intercepted Children’s Letters To Santa Duffelblog

The Man of the Year Foreign Policy

Obamacare Launch

Obamacare Clusterfuck: Our HEARTLESS government is forcing people in states without Medicaid Expansion to apply for Medicaid Dromianus, Corrente

IRS could face blame for Obamacare’s unexpected tax bite Politico

Obama’s presidency beset by fits, starts in year 5 Associated Press. Lambert: “See para starting ‘How could he not have known…’ Ouch.”

The Bernanke Legacy CounterPunch (Carol B)

Collective Futures: How Projections About the Future of Society Are Related to Actions and Attitudes Supporting Social Change Bulletin. This is the sort of study that drives me bonkers. The methodology is that they asked participants to take a policy change and ask participants how society would look in 2050 with if that change were made. They then worked back from participants’ reactions (based on a limited segmentation of the participants). The problem is in general that people lie like crazy about themselves in surveys and greatly over-represent their likelihood of taking action. And the method of envisioning a future as the basis for action is, at least if you believe in Myers-Briggs (based on Jungian psychology) is just not the way the overwhelming majority of the population operates. In Myers-Briggs, 75% of the population is Sensing: rule and procedure driven, concerned with the present, literal-minded, sees themselves as acting based on facts. Intuitives are more future-oriented and more willing to work on the big-picture level. Thinking about “society” and the future are both Intuitive predispositions, and so responses elicited from Sensing types from a perspective that they’d normally never revert to are likely to be invalid. It’s tantamount to asking a highly leading question in polling.

The Insiders’ Game: The transition from power or money to power and money Washington Post (Lambert). Important.

How the Village Voice and other alt-weeklies lost their voice in 2013 Aljazeera

The Welfare Queen Slate (Lambert). Yowza, this is amazing.

Is Hollywood’s blockbuster model broken? BBC

Clawbacks? They’re Still a Rare Breed Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Americans Still Pessimistic About Economy Time

US weekly jobless claims drop sharply Aljazeera

Bitcoin Is Evil Paul Krugman. Um, it took this long for Serious Economists to figure this out? Not the “evil” part, but the idea that Bitcoin is intended to be a challenge to central banks and the monitoring of transactions by the authorities (as in creating a new type of cash economy)? I’ve been calling Bitcoin “prosecution futures” since I expected the officialdom to crack down on it if if ever looked like it was going to become serious and was really surprised about the politely positive treatment Fed and SEC officials gave it in a recent hearing (note that even though Bitcoin does record all transfers, I believe they are not time-stamped, and that would frustrate determining holder’s gains or losses in official currency terms for tax purposes).

Hazards of Revolution Patrick Cockburn London Review of Books

Oligarchs, Demagogues and Mass Revolts . . . Against Democracy thepeoplesvoice

Antidote du jour:


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  1. JGordon

    Sure bitcoin is “evil”, but then what is anyone going to do about it? It’s not like there has to be a centralized clearing mechanism for transactions for someone to come in and shut down. And besides, do you going to make it illegal for people to trade information with each other? What about the First Amendment, the right to privacy, etc?

    Anyway, if Helicopter Ben and the federal government really are offering a superior monetary service for the people to use, they should have no fears about bitcoin stealing their business. And I believe that is why the SEC and the Fed have come out so supportive of bitcoin; unlike some people, they have confidence that their monetary scheme is so obviously good and superior that they don’t feel the need to force American citizens to use it with the threat of extreme violence. They know that people will naturally want to use it just because it’s so awesome, honest, and fool-proof. If only others would have so much faith and confidence in fiat currencies, like Ben Bernanke and the federal government do, they wouldn’t feel so threatened or want to lash out whenever an alternative pops up.

    1. AbyNormal

      “They know that people will naturally want to use it just because it’s so awesome, honest, and fool-proof.”

      How to install local Bitcoin wallet on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (fool-proof)

      Bitcoin Is Broken (honest)
      Specifically, in a paper we placed on arXiv, Ittay Eyal and I outline an attack by which a minority group of miners can obtain revenues in excess of their fair share, and grow in number until they reach a majority. When this point is reached, the Bitcoin value-proposition collapses: the currency comes under the control of a single entity; it is no longer decentralized; the controlling entity can determine who participates in mining and which transactions are committed, and can even roll back transactions at will. This snowball scenario does not require an ill-intentioned Bond-style villain to launch; it can take place as the collaborative result of people trying to earn a bit more money for their mining efforts.

      Conventional wisdom has long asserted that Bitcoin is secure against groups of colluding miners as long as the majority of the miners are honest (by honest, we mean that they dutifully obey the protocol as proscribed by pseudonymous Nakamoto). Our work shows that this assertion is wrong. We show that, at the moment, any group of nodes employing our attack will succeed in earning an income above their fair share. We also show a new bound that invalidates the honest majority claim: under the best of circumstances, at least 2/3rds of the participating nodes have to be honest to protect against our attack. But achieving this 2/3 bound is going to be difficult in practice. We outline a practical fix to the protocol that is easy to deploy and will guard against the attack as long as 3/4ths of the miners are honest.

      We need the Bitcoin community’s help in deploying this fix so that the Bitcoin ecosystem can be made more robust, at least against attackers whose mining power is below the 25% threshold. Even with our fix deployed, however, there is a problem: there are mining pools at the moment that command more than 25% of the mining power, and, in the past, there have been mining pools that commanded more than 33% of the mining power. We need the Bitcoin community’s awareness and concerted effort to ensure that no mining pool reaches these thresholds. The mere possibility that the system can get into a vulnerable state will be an impediment to greater adoption of Bitcoin. (good luck with that b4 the debt creators/deepest pockets make pixie dust of the last of peoples physical wallets)

      INVENTOR, n. A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization./Devil’s Dic.

      1. JGordon

        Err, I think you missed the point of my statement but that was good stuff anyway. Thanks a lot!!

        To clarify, the only people who are going to be against bitcoin are those who don’t have the faith in their convictions about the value of their preferred fiat monetary regime. Ben Bernanke et al. apparently does have such faith, which kind of puts all those others out in the left field somewhere when it comes to advocating their preferred method (threat of violence) for forcing people to use their pet monetary theory.

        1. AbyNormal

          also important JGordan: research & links from RJS @ (will show up this eve)

          Bitcoin has a dark side: its carbon footprint
          – At today’s value of roughly $1,000 per bitcoin, the electricity consumed by the bitcoin mining ecosystem has an estimated carbon footprint – or total greenhouse gas emissions
          – of 8.25 megatonnes (8,250,000 tonnes) of CO2 per year, according to research by
          . That’s 0.03 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas output, or equivalent to that of the nation of Cyprus. If bitcoin’s value reaches $100,000, that impact will reach 3 percent of the world’s total, or that of Germany. At $1 million – which seems farcical but which may not be out of the realm of possibility given the artificially limited bitcoin supply – this impact rises to 8.25 gigatonnes, or 30 percent of today’s global output, and equivalent to that of China and Japan combined. Bitcoins aren’t mined from the earth’s crust like most physical commodities – although at least that leaves tangible evidence of its environmental impact. Rather, they are “mined” by computers solving a set of complicated computational problems. These problems are designed to get more difficult over time, until the year 2140 when the 21 millionth (and final) bitcoin is mined. Early in bitcoin’s existence, it was feasible to run a successful mining operation with a standard PC. Now the task requires custom mining rigs that can run orders of magnitude more processes per second. The top of the line model, which is currently made by a Swedish company called KnCMiner
          , costs around $13,000 and can mine at a rate 550 gigahashes
          per second: They’ve sold $28 million worth
          , and soon these too will be obsolete. The total computational power of the global bitcoin mining network today is more than seven million gigahashes
          , and climbing. That’s 256 times greater
          than the world’s top 500 supercomputers, combined. These computers are consuming so much electricity that it’s already unprofitable to mine in some regions of the world. According to
          the total electricity cost of all mining acticity conducted over the last 24 hours was $19,652,986.38, as the system consumed 131,019.91 megawatt hours. In April, Bloomberg Sustainability called bitcoin mining it a “real-world environmental disaster.
          ” At the time, the system was consuming just 7,000 megawatt hours per day – things have increased 142-fold in the last eight months.

          1. Anon y Mouse

            The general idea behind your statement is correct (the increasing value of bitcoin requires/leads to an increased carbon footprint. And this might end up being a tragedy on a massive scale one day.

            That said, there is simply no possible way those stats on bitcoin’s energy consumption are correct (or even close to correct).

            Bitcoin miners don’t report their stats, but neither do high frequency traders. My guess (and it is an educated guess) is that the footprint of BTC is still only a small fraction of HFT.

            That could change if BTC becomes a meaningful reserve currency for serious money, but there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that bitcoin mining is currently using .03% of all electricity.

            .03% of all electricity! What a claim. Bitcoin miners aren’t even .03% of computers in data centers, let alone the electricity used by households and factories and Teslas and concerts and movies and and and…

            1. Anon y Mouse

              I misread the claim. It is even more insane than I thought.

              > That’s 0.03 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas output, or equivalent to that of the nation of Cyprus.

              I skimmed it when I replied earlier; I thought the claim was only .03% of electricity. Counting internal combustion engines, the claim mocks itself.

              AbyNormal, I often enjoy your comments and they are always thoughtful and well-expressed. But the stat you are quoting is wrong, laughably so.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                You don’t seem to be up to speed on the resources now devoted to Bitcoin mining and how much energy they consume. This is from the New York Times, December 21, emphasis mine:

                Mr. Abiodun is one of a number of entrepreneurs who have rushed, gold-fever style, into large-scale Bitcoin mining operations in just the last few months. All of these people are making enormous bets that Bitcoin will not collapse, as it has threatened to do several times….

                Most of the new operations popping up guard their secrecy closely, but Mr. Abiodun agreed to show his installation for the first time. An earnest young Briton, with the casual fashion taste of the tech cognoscenti, he was a computer programmer at HSBC in London when he decided to invest in specialized computers that would carry out constant Bitcoin mining.

                The computers that do the work eat up so much energy that electricity costs can be the deciding factor in profitability. There are Bitcoin mining installations in Hong Kong and Washington State, among other places, but Mr. Abiodun chose Iceland, where geothermal and hydroelectric energy are plentiful and cheap. And the arctic air is free and piped in to cool the machines, which often overheat when they are pushed to the outer limits of their computing capacity….

                Until just a few months ago, most Bitcoin mining was done on the home computers of digital-money fanatics. But as the value of a single Bitcoin skyrocketed over the last few months, the competition for new coins set off a race that quickly turned mining into an industrial enterprise.

                “Even if you had hardware earlier this year, that is becoming obsolete,” said Greg Schvey, a co-founder of Genesis Block, a virtual-currency research firm. “You are talking about order-of-magnitude jumps.”

                The work the computers do is akin to guessing at a lottery number. The faster the computers run, the better chance of guessing that right number and winning valuable coins. So mining entrepreneurs are buying chips and computers designed specifically — and only — for this work. The machines in Iceland are worth about $20,000 each on the open market.

                The energy required to run these computers is huge, and has led to criticism that Bitcoin mining is wasteful, not to mention socially useless. But Mr. Abiodun prides himself on using renewable power, at least in Iceland…

                In February, Mr. Abiodun used the investors’ money to buy machines from a start-up dedicated solely to manufacturing specialized mining computers. The competition for those computers is so intense that he had to pay for them and wait for delivery.

                When the delays became lengthy, however, he went on eBay and paid $130,000 for two high-powered machines, which he set up in June in a data center in Kansas City, Kan….

                Today, all of the machines dedicated to mining Bitcoin have a computing power about 4,500 times the capacity of the United States government’s mightiest supercomputer, the IBM Sequoia, according to calculations done by Michael B. Taylor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. The computing capacity of the Bitcoin network has grown by around 30,000 percent since the beginning of the year.


              2. AbyNormal

                i hate to post w/o links but i was spread thin earlier …excuses aside here they are:





                What is a Gigahash



    2. susan the other

      Krugman is having fun here. The difference between positive, working economics and normative, wished-for economics? Then he has the audacity to imply Bitcoin is evil because it is a bubble, and this before he has “done his research and gotten back” to Dean Baker? Or did I miss that one. Why doesn’t Krugman say that In order for Bc to ever work (i.e. be “positive”) in a reliable manner it will have to be regulated and that will kill the whole reason for its existence. Bitcoin is a mirage.

    3. Schtubb

      “Sure bitcoin is “evil”, but then what is anyone going to do about it?”

      What they already have been doing about it – isolate it so you can’t move from it to another, more practical fiat currency.

      1. JGordon

        First, bitcoin is in no way a fiat currency. It may be good to have your definitions straight when you’re trying to form an opinion on a subject.

        Anyway, I think that the point being here that people should not be going around trying to speculate with currencies in order to “make money” in the first place. If you do have a bitcoin, trade it for goods and services for God’s sake. In Islam using money to make money is a sin worthy of the death penalty, and I believe that we in Western cultures would benefit greatly if we ourselves internalized that belief and passed laws to its effect. Yes, the death penalty would suit usurers (those who charge interest on money) and other like criminals just fine.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How supportive is the Fed?

      I am curious to know if one can pay one’s taxes with it.

      Can the Fed print money to buy bitcoin?

      1. JGordon

        Let’s say I’m willing to do a complete urban permaculture design and write up for your yard in exchange for 1 bitcoin. Or that I’m willing to accept 1 bitcoin in exchange for 8 Orpington hens and a rooster. Or I’m willingto trade my used 65 inch plasma tv for a bitcoin.

        In the example economic transactions above, why or how would it benefit me to involve a third party in them just because said third party has some theoretical monopoly and omniscience over the fiat currency of the realm? If I’m not denominating my transactions in the Fed’s currency (and for these particular example transactions there is literally no logical, non-arbitrary way to denominate them in Federal Reserve Notes) then why should the government/Fed care what I’m doing?

        Now obviously there are many (corporate) activities that can’t avoid the NSA/Fed’s all seeing eye of Sauron, but certainly between actual existential human beings it’s very human and rational to operate in ways outside of that straightjacket. Thinking there is something wrong with that and trying (ineffectively of course) to put a stop would lead to an extremely unpleasant control-freak society. Not that we aren’t already there in America. But it could always be worse.

    1. David Mills

      Yeah, the lioness is not showing mercy more like bemused confusion. The faun’s mother is dead, so it will die of dehydration / starvation or a severe case of claw-interuptus. Truth hurts.

      1. AbyNormal

        The man who is described as behaving like a beast would often in his behavior be a disgrace to any known animal.
        Ernest Bell

    2. Wendy

      Whoever took this picture knows what happened next, at least for some period immediately after. Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. AbyNormal

    re, US weekly jobless claims drop sharply/ Aljazeera:

    “Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs, and recent declines are consistent with a solid job market.(;-/) “The underlying trend remains favorable,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “We will be able to muster stronger job growth in 2014.”

    Thursday’s report supports expectations for faster economic growth next year. “With labor markets on the mend and consumer confidence on the rise, we look for broader economic improvement to continue pushing claims (lower),” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an analyst at TD Securities in New York.”
    “Sociopaths are more common that you might think; one estimate says that 4 of out 100 people have sociopathic tendencies. Unfortunately, they appear to be disproportionately drawn to vocations such as high finance, where they can inflict wreckage in the name of entrepreneurship. How do you regulate that?”

    “Danglars was one of those men born with a pen behind the ear, and an inkstand in place of a heart. Everything with him was multiplication or subtraction.”
    Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

  3. DakotabornKansan

    No wonder the officialdom is doing everything in its power to kill the humanities: brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel.’

    Of all the skills and subjects taught in school, none is as important as reading. If you wish to cripple a person or a civilization, what better way than to diminish literacy?

    Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain:

    “While reading, we can leave our own consciousness, and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture . . . Reading enables us to try on, identify with, and ultimately enter for a brief time the wholly different perspective of another person’s consciousness . . . We never come back quite the same; sometimes we’re inspired, sometimes saddened, but we are always enriched.”

    “Learning to read begins the first time an infant is held and read a story. How often this happens, or fails to happen in the first years of childhood turns out to be the best predictors of later reading … Children who never have a story read to them, who never hear words that rhyme, who never imagine fighting with dragons or marrying a prince, have the odds overwhelmingly against them.”

    “By five years of age, some children from impoverished-language environments have heard 32 million fewer words spoken to them than the average middle class child … 30 to 40 percent of children in the fourth grade do not become fully fluent readers with adequate comprehension.”

    Nicholas Carr, The Shallows – What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains:

    “I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”

    “Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

    “Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

    “Books to the ceiling,
    Books to the sky,
    My pile of books is a mile high.
    How I love them!
    How I need them!
    I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.”

    – Arnold Lobel, “Whiskers and Rhymes,” award-winning author and illustrator of many beloved children’s books, including the classic I Can Read books about Frog and Toad

    Will we lose the mysterious gift of time to think more deeply than the thoughts that came before? Will our reading brains, with all our capacity to be analytical, reflective, and inferential, be able to function effectively in the immediacy and seeming comprehensiveness of the digital world? In other words, will we lose the ability to think critically?

    1. diptherio

      I’ve noted the same tendency in myself, with some distress. I’m trying to consciously make myself spend time reading books now and trying to make myself pay closer attention to whatever I am reading, whether it is on-line or IRL.

      The internet is definitely a mixed bag that way. Because of it I watch much more video than I used to (never was too much into TV) and I’ve noticed reductions in attention span…but I also have access to astounding amounts of information and connections with people all over the planet that were not possible before.

      You get a little, you lose a little: thus is life. And to quote that old Buddhist sage, Willy Shakespeare, “nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

      1. Carla

        Thank you, DakotabornKansan and diptherio, for these comments. I, too, have noticed (with some alarm) that I am intolerant not only of long posts, but even of long paragraphs. I do think that my diminished attention span may be at least partly attributable to the hours spent online each day. Fortunately, I can still read long print articles and even books. But I used to devour books…In my case, I fear it may be “get a little, lose a lot.”

  4. Butch In Waukegan

    Odd as it sounds, there appears to be a connection between charter schools in Illinois and politics in Turkey.

    The eponymous Gulen movement, led by a Turkish cleric based in the US, is connected to Concept Schools Inc. Concept runs several Chicago charter schools and was bidding on another one. The school board turned them down.

    Poltically connected Gulen appealed to the state charter agency, which overturned the board’s decision. There is evidence for Gulen’s clout in Illinois. The Chicago Sun Times reports “Turkey was the destination of 74 percent of all foreign trips Illinois legislators reported receiving as gifts during the five-year period [2008-2012].”

    Turkish Prime Minister’s recent cabinet shuffle is reportedly part of a political struggle with the Gulen movement in Turkey.

    1. Glenn Condell

      What is it with Turkey? Sibel Edmonds and other ex-outfitters have been pointing to it for years as a sink of US political corruption, and I read somewhere it has more high net worthies per capita than anywhere else. I guess if both are true they are likely to be related.

    2. Wayne Reynolds

      Yes, I was following a few threads concerning the same last night. It seems this Gullen also received a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his charter schools in Texas. To continue down the rabbit hole, when Gullen applied for a green card to enter the United States, his major sponsor was a character named Graham Fuller, a former CIA operative in the middle east. It seems that Fuller also had a tie in with the Iran/Contra gun running operation of the 1980’s. But wait, it gets even more bizarre than this. Graham Fuller’s daughter was married to the uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers of the Boston Marathon bombings, you might have seen the uncle fulminating on TV about how his nephews were both losers and how great the United States was, and freedom and yada yada yada. You can continue investigating this over at the Boiling Frogs website. By the end of reading this my head was spinning.

  5. Thorstein

    re: Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’

    This study badly needs a control study, say “Brain function ‘boosted for days after listening to Limbaugh'” The non-null hypothesis would be:

    “Even though the [redneck, not student] participants were not actually listening to Limbaugh while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity.”

    While I desperately want to value the classical “humanities”, the contemporary [in]humanities are being defined quite without much neural connection to my values.

    It may be true that “the medium is the message”, but this only means another control study, e.g. “Brain function boosted for days after watching Bill O’Reilly” might yield more robust results.

    The real question is which neural circuits are resonating? What’s the message? How strongly does it resonate? Then we finally get to Goethe’s third question: Was it worth doing?” This is the question teachers are being barred from asking. The implicit threat to the Lords is that some “art” questions the Lords’ authority. Science teachers mostly readily agree to measure value in joules. Social Science teachers mostly readily agree to measure value in money (as it is readily convertible to social joules). The problem with Art is that the value measure is often inherent in the work of art. Therefore many, if not most books and works of art in the received Humanities canon must be banned in favor of TV and TV adaptations (O’Reilly again). There are of course exceptions, for example the works of Ayn Rand.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I firmly believe one’s brain function is boosted, for YEARS, after writing novel.

      Art is not something you hang on the wall…art is about living a creative life and you are the greatest artist in your life.

      Partake in reality, instead of watching reality TV.

      For us, that means making ourselves, we the Small People, Big, instead of watching Big Government, Big Business, Big Art, Big Writing, Big Religion in action.

      Let your neurons make their own free-willed connections, instead of those programmed according to someone or something else’s blueprint.

      So, go out (or come here) and make a fool of yourself, if that’s what others perceive, but do it and make sure the Big Things hear you.

      BTW, it doesn’t have to be a novel. A sentence or a paragraph every morning when you wake up, before your coffee, is a good start.

  6. Jim Haygood

    If buyers don’t alert the insurance exchanges to big life changes throughout the year — like a divorce, promotion or new job for them or a spouse— they could wind up with sticker shock at tax time.

    Potential “repayments” to the government will not come due until 2015, when recipients file next year’s taxes. But the new rule for reporting these life changes begins this January. The true-up process is known among wonks as a type of “reconciliation” — a term with little meaning to the uninsured. — Politico, ‘IRS Could Face Blame …’

    If these were REAL wonks (as opposed to Depublicrat political hacks), Obamacare subsidies would be based on already-known last year’s income, rather than reconciled on the fly to an ever-changing estimate of this year’s income.

    The IRS is ill-equipped to handle a complex reconciliation that probably isn’t feasible to begin with. But it’s their political masters — the cavalier Nancy Pelosis who ‘passed the bill to find out what’s in it’ — who created this unmanageable mess.

    They tried to teach Accounting 101 to Nancy Pelosi in college. But she lost interest in the textbook after ten pages, cuz it didn’t have any pictures. So changed her major to Poli Sci (which, like economics, is no science at all. But any idiot can get a degree in it).

      1. Wayne Reynolds

        I thought that the NSA had us all covered on the reporting part of the scenario? Snark off, now.

  7. S Haust


    Nah! This whole article is complete rubbish. I don’t know anything about what the
    Univ. of Mons is up to. It may be significant and it sounds like fun but, by the article’s
    description, it has nothing to do with a bicycle.
    The analysis of how a bicycle works is absolutely straightforward Newtonian mechanics.
    No mystery at all and no gyroscopic forces needed. I have done it in detail myself,
    though a long time ago.
    Let me ask you, what is “the spontaneous turn of the handlebars”. Hot air, that’s what!
    Except that Michael Brooks thinks it “has something to do with the gyroscopic effect”
    and he thinks all that has something to do with an adequate engineering analysis.
    It doesn’t. He needs to go back to school, probably for a degree in theology. That
    would fit.
    To put it simply, the forward momentum of a moving bicycle along with the angle of the
    head tube with respect to vertical (have you ever wondered why it is slanted?) and the
    offset of the forks (that is why they are bent, dummy) create a countervailing force
    to any deviation from a straight and upright trajectory by steering the front wheel so as to
    recover its initial forward path. The bike may then overshoot and wobble a bit,
    thereby creating countervailing forces back in the opposite direction. And that, my
    dear friends, is how you ride it. You may, if you wish, turn by moving the handlebars
    and simultaneously leaning a little bit in the direction of the desired turn, so as to
    offset the corrective forces. Once you develop a little bit of coordination in these
    activities, you can go wherever you like and don’t have to carry any gyroscopes.
    By the way, Mike, I still have an old set of training wheels. I grew out of them a long
    time ago and could let you have them at a keen price if you still can’t master
    an upright, forward trajectory without some help.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A bicycle can be like a brain in that, you don’t have to know exactly how either works*, but you use it anyway.

      If, you have a viable choice between a motorcycle and a bicycle, go for the latter.

      *We don’t really want to know how the brain works. The ego thinks that knowledge will be beneficial, ignoring the stark naked truth that unless we humans are wiser, that knowledge will merely be used for domination.

      1. S Haust

        This work may be the classical one but it shouldn’t be. Confessing that I haven’t read it in its entirety, I can see a couple of big problems. First is a serious lack of precision in his terminology, specifically the terms “precession” and “centrifugal action”. Maybe others as well. At least he begins by dismissing a couple of foolish theories but then he goes on to test a couple of other equally foolish hypotheses that could have been equally dismissable. He never seems to grow out of the gyroscopic nonsense. Granted, there will be gyroscopic forces generated by any rotating object but in a bicycle these will be minimal compared to those resulting from “steering geometry”. I note that he does apparently settle with steering geometry as the principle reason for stability but he sure takes a long time to get there. As I said, I haven’t read it fully and the reason for that is that it would take some time and work. Fig. 3 at first sight, looks reasonable though the description of it involves more terminology sludge. He does go into areas that may not have been considered before, such as computerization and searching for areas of instability. At least he seems to have had some fun.


  8. susan the other

    The Levy Walk. The hunter-gatherer shuffle. With a purpose. No doubt done intentionally to save energy. When you live in an edible forest you learn to take only what you need. Now if they could only extrapolate the Levy Walk to modern-day economics. Normatively speaking of course, Mr. K. Are there bubbles in the forest if nobody is there to glean them?

  9. community organizers in action

    Thanks much for the People’s Voice tutorial on knocking over governments. Works in Africa too! Disorienting because everything you know about Rwanda is lies lies lies. US wiped its butt with the non-interference principle (A/RES/36/103) to run a very effective genocide that continues in Congo. Best of all, slavering blowen Samantha Power gets to wring her hands and say ‘Never again!’ using US genocide in Africa to push the next war in Syria &c.

  10. eeyores enigma

    “Greek Economic Crisis Leads to Air Pollution Crisis”

    This story is more telling of our future than anything else posted.

    It’s happening everywhere, gaining momentum, and will almost certainly spell the end of civilization as we know it… barring a radical shift.

    1. susan the other

      If we cannot come up with practical solutions, with good planning, then 7 billion people burning wood will be a disaster. I wish we could achieve sanity.

  11. JTFaraday

    re: The Welfare Queen, Slate “Yowza, this is amazing.”

    “According to the Sun-Times, while incarcerated she worked cleaning her fellow inmates’ cottages. As of March 1979, she had a minor violation on her prison record, having “allegedly used state-owned materials to make cushions and sell them.””

    Resourceful and entrepreneurial even in prison. Ayn Rand would be so proud!

    Anyone who reads this flex-tastic Welfare Queen article can skip their brain boosting novel reading for the day. This will do nicely.

    1. AbyNormal

      it was pretty amazing in a rand-pycho way. my favorite part was when the long time investigator was pulled off the case for harassment…even after she told him there was a bullet with his name on it.

      Ayn: it was revealed in the recent “Oral History of Ayn Rand” by Scott McConnell (founder of the media department at the Ayn Rand Institute) that in the end Ayn was a vip-dipper as well. An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand’s law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand’s behalf she secured Rand’s Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O’Connor (husband Frank O’Connor).

      As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”

      But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.
      In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.
      [Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not one that any sane, rational adult can live by consistently any more than it’s a philosophy that any successful, prosperous society could adopt. Ayn Rand wasn’t insane so as soon as it was plain what her real choices were she chose to path of government support and abandoned her own failed philosophy. She just didn’t have the courage to admit how much of a failure her philosophy was before she died.]

      1. optimader

        “..even after she told him there was a bullet with his name on it.”
        Very civilized. At least in Chicago, that courtesy is not normally extended.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          This doesn’t happen much in Chicago either:

          “Since he hadn’t been charged with any crime, the police didn’t confiscate Wakefield’s bounty.”

          The cash ”bounty” was over $763,000. The cops LOOKED FOR HIS HEIRS, so they could give them the money.

          Obviously Rahm hadn’t hit town yet.

      2. Wayne Reynolds

        Let’s not forget the Charles Koch and Friedrich Hayek correspondence of 1973. When Hayek was invited to chair the Institute for Humane Studies at U. of Chicago, Hayek was concerned about his health coverage. He had recently had health problems. Being the philanthropist that he is, Charles Koch sent Hayek a government pamphlet on how to apply for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Once Hayek was happily enrolled In these programs he ensconced himself in Chicago to spread his individualistic poison to a generation of students. These Neo Liberals are hypocrites and are EVIL.

  12. PeonInChief

    I’m not surprised that reading novels is good for brain power. There was a study of college students that showed that only students in the humanities (literature, history, philosophy etc.) showed an increase in critical thinking skills from freshman to senior years. BTW my husband and I both read Pompeii–it was really good.

    1. diptherio

      I’ve been blowing through the Illuminatus! trilogy by Shea and Wilson and I have to say, I do feel considerably smarter than normal–although, admittedly, that’s not saying much. But for instance, it just occurred to me this morning, totally out of the blue, that having an obsession with discovering “THE TRUTH,” can be a major hindrance to one’s ability to think. This is paradoxical since we generally depend on thought to lead us to Truth. However, if one takes the view that THE TRUTH is likely ultimately unknowable and definitely not expressible in words–and that the best we can ever do is rough approximations, metaphors, parables and and the like–then one is free to think all sorts of thoughts, even ones that might seem, at first blush, utterly absurd or nonsensical.

      As Feynman put it, “the opposite of a small truth is a small error, but the opposite of a great truth is another great truth.” Being obsessed with finding THE truth, then, will actually impede one’s ability to perceive reality…or something like that.

      Hail Eris (and read a book)!

      1. scraping_by

        Illuminati today seems a document from an earlier, gentler time. I mean, all the conspiracies remained that, conspiracies.

        Today, with conspiracy theories turning out to be conspiracy fact at an alarming rate, you’d almost want Dillinger to be on a submarine with JFK. It would be relatively quaint.

    1. vanununu

      Well, now that we know, countermeasures should not be hard to arrange.

      One of my minor lifestyle aspirations is to make myself sufficiently obnoxious to this criminal regime that NSA chooses to expend one of their higher-value exploits on my pretty-darn-secure machine, so I can look for it and maybe find it and play with it and teach it tricks. So far it seems I am quite a low-value target, only worth some half-assed social engineering by the B or C team. How dispiriting.

    2. bob

      Again, this just looks like CYA PR from the tech/computer companies.

      It’s long been known that the NSA works with both software and hardware vendors. They don’t need to have access to the machine, they had access to it’s design.

      The message being sold is “who could have known”. THEY KNEW! THEY HELPED THE NSA DO IT! THEY ARE GETTING PAID TO CONTINUE DOING IT!

  13. Colinjames

    I like James Petras, admire his work, very smart guy, but while the overall narrative is spot-on (Oligarchs, Demagogues, Mass Revolts), the picture of Thailand isn’t accurate, actually grievously wrong- Tony Cartalucci of Land Destroyer (terrible name, great blog) is the man on Thailand, this piece has a basic overview but I highly suggest anyone who wants to know more about what’s going on take a look at his pieces from the last month

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    We are the good guys…at Christmas.

    I was at the park some time ago taking a walk. As I approached a flock of birds, I thought to myself, ‘I am a good guy. The birds should no be afraid of me.’ Bruising my ego, the birds scattered before I came close enough.

    So, I thought, “Eureka! Here is a test for virtue in the world, even in Assisi. A saint, a holy man or a sage would be able to approach a bunch of stranger birds and not scare them away, and it doesn’t count if you have been feeding the same birds in Central Park every day.”

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Americans still pessimistic about the economy…

    We should be even more pessimistic about wealth inequality, if we can only get past the ‘GO GDP, GO!’ phase.

    But, alas, that is not on the Central Brainwashing Bureau’s program, so we will just occupy ourselves with the stalled Permanent War On Nature, aka economic growth.

  16. Jackrabbit

    Bernanke’s Legacy

    Dean Baker is conflicted. He points out how Bernanke is complicit in the 2008 disaster but praises QE. He also fails to describe how Bernanke’s willingness to position the Fed as riding to the rescue provided political cover for an extension of the Bush tax cuts and then making most of them permanent.

    The taper fiasco is yet another Bernanke disaster that Dean Baker overlooks. Bernanke claimed that he could turn off QE and change policy immediately at any time. And he stressed _for years_ the Fed’s need to carefully communicate its direction.

    Bernanke has shown himself to be as much a political stooge and crony as Obama. This crop of ‘leaders’ will no doubt be well rewarded for working so well at ‘fixing’ everything but we are all worse off as a result.

  17. affinis

    I’ll argue somewhat with Yves’ comments regarding the “Collective Futures” study. I’d agree that the the study has weaknesses – asking someone how they’d act is not the same as performing an intervention and then observing their actual actions. But I see this study as exploratory (not as the final word), indicating a promising direction. And the counterargument from Myers-Briggs to a conclusion about how the majority of people would act is IMO indirect and very weak (just to begin with, Myers-Briggs is known to have weak construct validity and poor reproducibility, and attempts to predict performance from Myers-Briggs results have failed spectacularly).

    The study is useful especially since, under current conditions, inducing positive social change is a tough nut to crack. A lot of studies show that many/most messages induce reactance/backfire – and are worse than doing nothing at all (e.g. hammering a conservative over the head with facts about global warming will often make them entrench harder in disbelief; will cause them to actively steer away from using energy-conserving appliances). As a society, we’re now at a low point with trust (IMO, a direct consequence of neoliberal policies), and data suggests that increases in inequality lead to more conservative/distrusting attitudes, leading to even greater inequality (self-reinforcing). Though corruption needs to be exposed to be corrected, there’s a quite a lot of solid data showing that frequent discussion of corruption also normalizes it, engendering further corruption (e.g. basically, people begin thinking: if everyone else is ripping others off, why shouldn’t they; For the same reason, signs at Petrified Forest National Park indicating that considerable theft/vandalism has been happening and asking people not to do it actually led to increased theft). In this context, any promising rhetorical direction is noteworthy. And there are concrete examples supporting the paper’s essential claim that appropriate messages (including encouraging community-building, etc.) can indeed help bring about pro-environmental actions among conservatives.

  18. Anon y Mouse

    Yves, thank you for your reply. Your quote is (mostly) accurate, but it still doesn’t come close to .03% of our carbon footprint.

    Mr. Abiodun, who you quoted, proves my point. Ignoring that he uses renewable energy for his BTC mining operation, look at the small investment he has and compare that to the large % of BTC generation he controls, and explain how the small number of millions of dollars he controls leads to that much energy usage.

    Also, why did my first comment (which gave context to the one published) not get approved?

    1. Lambert Strether

      Because nobody has written a big fat check to cover real time management of the moderation queues when the WordPress algorithms kick in. That’s why. The PayPal button is to your right. Otherwise, no whinging, please.

  19. Seal

    ‘How could he not have known…’
    Obomba is President in name only – someone else is giving the orders.
    1. Bank bailouts vs. Main St. bailouts & Govt. infrastructure spending
    2. Ineffectual Iraq & Afg ‘surges’
    3. ‘HealthCare’ sell out for campaign $$
    4. Gross control of financial markets destroying US financial market transparency
    5. selling off US [and fgn. custodial] gold to china in return for ?????
    6. continued war crimes behavior in Guantanamo and drone strikes

    etc., etc. and all we’ve gotten as explanation is a whiny “I don’t want to end up like MLK”

  20. mookie

    Snowden’s biggest revelation: We don’t know what power is anymore, nor do we care – Mark Ames
    reads a bit like a re-write for clarity and civility of one of his longer nsfwcorp pieces. well worth reading.

    The Snowden leaks, which began by exposing the vast interlocking private-public Leviathan, has devolved into a pulp sci-fi story about government Big Brother versus heroic martyrs, the Death Star versus Luke Skywalker. And the more this NSA story is simplified into a mid-20tb Century Orwell tale — rather than a complex narrative about the power of technology sweeping over everything from democracy to culture to business to media, a power that makes no distinction between the public and private — the more paralyzed we’ll be.

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