Links 1/25/14

Downworthy: A browser plugin to turn hyperbolic viral headlines into what they really mean

Broadband providers push ‘slow internet’ movement Daily Mash

Pig Virus Found at Two Canadian Sites, Posing ‘Disastrous’ Loss Bloomberg

ROBERT SHILLER: Bitcoin Is An Amazing Example Of A Bubble Business Insider. Shiller is seldom this definite.

Offshore Leaks, Tax Haven Secrecy Revealed International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Reports highlighting use of offshore accounts damaging for China’s elite McClatchy

Swedish gangster who claimed he had photos of the king in compromising sexual situations is found dead with four bullet wounds to the head Daily Mail

Japan calls off all tours to Thailand ThaiVisa

Concessions fail to end Kiev unrest BBC

Ukraine unrest spreads beyond Kiev Financial Times

Prolonged Fight Feared in Egypt After Bombings New York Times

Assad regime and rebels agree talks Guardian

The Re-Judaizing of Israel Counterpunch (Carol B)

Emerging Markets Meltdown

Emerging market rout turns serious, punctures exuberance in Davos Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Angst Over Argentina Upends Alpine Complacency in Davos Bloomberg

Argentina eases currency controls BBC

Why Singapore’s Economy Is Heading For An Iceland-Style Meltdown Forbes

Emerging Market Contagion Spreads; Argentina, Venezuela, Turkey Roundup; 50% Tax on Internet Purchases Michael Shedlock. Helpfully flags the role of falling corn and soyabean prices in Argentina’s tsuris.

Mexico set for $7bn foreign cash boost Financial Times

All Of The Turmoil In Global Markets Right Now Is Just One Gigantic Hedge Fund Short Squeeze (SPX, SPY, DIA, DJI, QQQ, TLT) Business Insider. Haha, all these hedgies only know other hedgies (or their rich clients) and therefore they really thought the economy was doing SOOO much better!

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

NSA Interception In Action? Tor Developer’s Computer Gets Mysteriously Re-Routed To Virginia Techdirt (Chuck L)

EU justice ministers seek data security reform DW

NSA domestic surveillance condemned in Republican party resolution Guardian

Open Letter From Security Researchers Explains How NSA Has Weakened Our Communications Infrastructure Techdirt (Chuck L)

Obamacare Launch

OC Register explodes Medicare myths Columbia Journalism Review

In Target’s wake, businesses plot Obamacare paths Politico

Americans Think Their Own Member of Congress Should Lose Jon Walker, Firedoglake

A rival car service says Uber has been using questionable tactics to recruit its drivers CNN. Lambert: “Libertarian paradise!”

U.S. Stocks Fall; DJIA Suffers Biggest Weekly Drop Since Sept. 2011 Wall Street Journal. You have to love the happy talk. For instance: “Traders said that despite the scope of the declines, fund managers weren’t overly urgent in their selling….Buyers, meanwhile, pulled to the sidelines, content to wait before putting money to work.”

SP 500 and NDX Futures Daily Charts – Another Big Slide on Global Growth Jitters Jesse

The Keeping-Up-With-the-Joneses Myth Atlantic (Carol B)

The Ultimate Transparency Angry Bear

A Lawyer and Partner, and Also Bankrupt…for reasons that have nothing to do with being a non-equity partner… Adam Levitin, Credit Slips. Levitin shreds the lead article in the New York Times business section by James Stewart.

Profiting From Veterans’ Trust New York Times

Are adjunct professors the fast-food workers of the academic world? Guardian

AIG’s Name Is So Strong, One Can Hardly Remember The Time It Had To Borrow $182 Billion Just To Stay In Business: Chairman Dealbreaker

Retail Sales Cannibalization Michael Shedlock

Indulging vanity will not help the poor Financial Times. Bill Easterly takes on Bill Gates.

Antidote du jour. From Fruzy mouse’s e-mail:

Everyone knows who Koko the gorilla that speaks sign language is. For her birthday one year, she signed to her teacher that she wanted a kitten. Koko’s teacher wasn’t surprised, as Koko’s two favorite books were about cats. They adopted one from an abandoned litter and Koko showed it tender care and gentleness.


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  1. psychohistorian

    The tax haven article and web site point to one of the most effective global sales tools of the plutocracy. It speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the China “communist” system of government by showing its leaders having been co-opted by the “capitalist” way of accumulating private ownership of things.

    I wonder what China has for rules on inheritance????? I suspect the rules have changed since Mao’s time. If the China leadership is really that corrupted by the “Western Way”, is their military posturing recently just more kabuki to keep the global serfs in line/fear?

    1. susan the other

      We give money too many mandates. Money as a “store of value” makes it so easy to steal, to abscond with value that is never inherent in money itself. Never. It’s a clever mechanism to scoop everyone and make up accounting rules after the fact to establish the practice. If money is fiat (which it always is whether it is gold or paper) doesn’t that then mean that value is fiat? Usually determined by scarcity. This looney system of finance has been working like this for so many millenia, since before recorded history, that we think it is just the way it is. A true society would share and share alike. When shortages arise we take a ticket and get in line. Time solves a lot of these panics – but the panics make lots of money for those who hoard. The communists came close to admitting this contradiction about value and money and equality, but not close enough.

    2. NotSoSure

      Are you sure it’s China that’s corrupted by the “Western Way”? Corruption has been endemic in China for centuries. That’s why they have folk legends like Judge Bao. Once they invented paper money, it’s pretty much the beginning of the end:).

      Arguably it’s perhaps the currency crisis in 1998 that corrupted America. Perhaps Westerners saw how good the kleptocrats in Asia had/have it and decided to replicate it here.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The humbly amazing thing about the Chinese is that they will never stop learning, as their other Taoist sage, Zhuangzi, once said, paraphrasing here, ‘one’s life is limited but the knowledge to be gained is unlimited.’

        I suppose that’s true of other cultures as well.

        In any case, even after thousands of years of corruption, they can still learn from foreign barbarians their ‘Western Way’ of corruption…because knowledge, good or bad, is unlimited.

  2. no more banksters

    A new attack from the neoliberal dictatorship against labor rights in Greece!

    A shocking suggestion by the Centre of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE)

    “The report of economic progress of KEPE, January 2014, suggest that new-hired young people could work for one year without minimum wage!”

    1. Yulek

      It is not shocking, it is just another proof, that elites are so detached from reality of people, who grant them their luxuries, that it will end as always, this time it is not different, it is as always, the same cycle.

  3. Skeptic

    “Pig Virus Found at Two Canadian Sites, Posing ‘Disastrous’ Loss Bloomberg”

    Moral Hazard comes to the Farm:

    The Canadian Government, or rather the neoliberal Harper Regime, now pays for any losses due to virus infected farm raised industrialized Atlantic Salmon:

    “The government has paid out an estimated $100 million in compensation since the virus first surfaced in the Maritimes in 1996, according to a tally of government documents done by the Atlantic Salmon Federation.”

    One suspects there would be a similar Bailout for the Hog Industry. This is just another way to hand out loot to gain political favor. Industrialized Agriculture is Too Influential To Fail.

  4. DakotabornKansan

    Koko the gorilla and her kitten, All Ball (Koko named it herself) was a favorite story of my children. All Ball was a tailless tabby (Manx) like our pet kitten.

    At first, a cat toy was given to Koko. But she didn’t like it at all and refused to have anything to do with it. She wanted a real cat for a pet.

    When Koko was shown three orphan kittens and asked which one she wanted, she signed, “That,” pointing at the tailless tabby.

    When All Ball got tired of being babied by Koko, she would bite Koko or wriggle loose. When that happened, Koko would sign, “Obnoxious. Cat.”

    Once when Koko ripped a sink out of the wall in her habitat, she was asked, “Who ripped out the sink?” Koko signed, “The cat did it.”

    When All Ball escaped from Koko’s cage and was killed by a car, Koko was extremely distraught over the death of All Ball.

    When asked, “Do you want to talk about your kitty?”

    Koko signed, “Cry.”

    “What happened to your kitty?”

    Koko answered, “Sleep cat.”

    When she saw a picture of a cat, who looked very much like All Ball, Koko pointed to the picture and signed, “Cry, sad, frown.”

    All Ball was followed by two other kittens, Lipstick and Smoky.

    How closely linked we as human beings are to these incredible creatures.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thank you for those wonderful stories.

      I remember Koko and her little video dating adventure trying find a ‘husband.’

      True love in a mail-order groom.

      Light years ahead of Eharmony – only pictures, no messy essays (like, ‘I am humorous!’ – well, if you don’t LOL at that, you’re not humorous yourself, my dear reader).

      ‘Thinking without words’ – an art we have lost a long, long time ago.

      1. AbyNormal

        ‘teaching’ thru intimidation is a give away…i agree with MsMarkey:

        Like many speakers and teachers, Dr. Sapolsky depends on a great deal of sarcasm, ridicule, and exaggeration to try to make his points, and to keep the attention of his audience. Whether or not he has true substance (ie will a gorilla or chimp ever use sign language the same way an adult human does OR will the apes use language the same way a toddler does), he keeps the attention of his audience by ridiculing anyone who holds a differing opinion. His technique is more irritating than educational………

        1. squasha

          so you are communicating your disapproval of the manner in which the professor communicates the trajectory of attempts to teach primates to communicate? ;)

            1. squasha

              I must admit, I am a bit crestfallen, either to have not expressed myself clearly or to have been so utterly misunderstood. But then my point was meant to have made light of the inherent difficulties of communication. Maybe signing with apes isn’t such a silly idea after all, at least it would preclude anyone feeling erroneously attacked.

  5. Ditto

    I like this site, but why is a fluff piece about another fluff piece concerning the law school bubble considered news worthy? World you consider such skepticism okay if this was NAFTA and manufacuring?

    What’s happening in the legal field is the same thing happening with adjuncts in academia which is really just a continuing decline of middle class jobs while saddling those seeking economic mobility with enormous debt and greater rusks. Lawyers are just another canary in the coal mine.

    The data on the law school bubble is irrefutable on the numbers. Skepticism can be a great tool when backed by fact. It can be just another religion when backed by belief.

    1. McMike

      I’m not disagreeing that attorneys aren’t immune to neoiiberal cannibalization, but for the record: $375,000 per year is not middle class.

      1. Ditto

        Some sacademics make that. Do you use their salaries to say what’s happening with the overall picture with most teachers? I know beliefs are stubborn things to get rid of, especially if its about someone else’s life.

        1. McMike

          I’m not following you.

          $375k is top 2%, which is therefore, by definition, not even close to middle class, regardless of who is earning it.

          I did not say that what rock start professors make reflects on high school teachers, nor did I say that a law partner’s wage reflects on the paralegals and janitors.

          I acknowledged in my post that law firms are doing the same thing every other industry is doing to its staff.

          Nevertheless, the fact that the poor sack in the story found himself out of the equity tier and struggling to make ends meet on $375k is NOT a middle class story.

      2. Ditto


        I’m not even getting into the data of how many can actually obtain the bad jobs (below 50k a year, working 60 hour weeks, few benefits with 100k debt)

        I’m focusing on the employed lawyers

        What you are doing is comparing the financial elite to everyone else bc org the elite in the profession and non elite are lawyers so cultural views of lawyers taint what is really a discussion about the continued decline

        Here’s mother jones actually getting that point

        “UPDATE: Based on comments, the answer seems, indeed, to be “weird cultural collusion among top law firms.” Except that it’s not really all that weird. It’s like one gas station lowering its price and suddenly all the other gas stations on the same corner start charging the exact same price. There are only a few dozen super-elite law firms, and they pretty much all offer the exact same super-elite starting salaries. From comments:

        The Commentor: The primary reason for the spike is that large law firms have a herd mentality. No one wants to be below the market when recruiting from the 14 or so schools we all recruit from. There is close to perfect information about the salaries at the firms on the Internet and if the market leaders pay 160K for a kid from one of these schools, then the other top 50 or so firms will all largely pay the same too….Truth be told a very small percentage of graduates get into top law firms. We are hiring far fewer than we used to. They have next to no chance to make partner, and most try to stay long enough to pay off their 200K+ of student debt before we fire them or they leave.

        Mannahatta: There are multiple outlets (websites, magazines, directories) that publish starting salaries for big law firms. So, there absolutely is a level of implicit collusion that goes on between law firms. For the most part these firms are difficult to distinguish for law students, and it’s difficult for firms to make fine distinctions between someone with a certain GPA from one law school or another. So firms tend to compete for graduates on the basis of potential bonuses, what the firm has to offer in terms of specialties, training, etc., rather than starting salaries.

        Read the full comments for more details. Via email, a couple of folks who work in Big Law say that Cravath has traditionally been the first mover in this super-elite competition. “But, during the real estate bubble that led to a biglaw bubble, Simpson Thacher, another top firm, started offering $160k in an attempt to jump Cravath. To stay competitive, everyone had to follow suit.”

        1. McMike

          What does the plight of law school grads have to do with the partner who makes $375k?

          Most MBAs don’t end up as Goldman Directors either. Yet I shed no tears for the master of the universe who didn’t get a double digit % bonus increase.

          1. Ditto

            1. My very first comment calls out both the NYT and Creeit Slip articles as fluff pieces. The credit slip arcle I now restate is fluff bc it is unfounded scepticism about the problems happening in the legal profession. I never claimed the issure is unique to lawyers. Nor did I state the anecdote frim the NYT article matters. I stated the opposite. whats happening in other parts of the happening to lawyers and other intelkectual capital jobs. Using anecdotes from the one percent is misleading fluff. it also stints of “personal tesponsibilyy” arguments. There is no economic basis for being sceptical about the decline .

            2. Your rebuttals make little sense given both the points I made and evidence to back them up. This all feels like you are either being defensive or arguing just to argue rather than rebutting the actual points I am making.

              1. Ditto

                Once again my point is that the NYT/credit slip anecdote says nothing about the dynamics of the legal profession and should not be a basis for skepticism. Its just fluff. That’s all I have said.

                I am unclear why saying anecdote is not the singular of data is confusing. I do know your Goldman Sachs comment suggests I’m dealing with your assumptions about lawyers.

                The median as I remember once you take out big law firms and companies is 45k for lawyers. The cost to attend law school and undergrad is 120 to 150k. Focusing on the one percent in this context seems to create undue skepticism about what is the norm

          2. Ditto

            By the way,comparing lawyers to an MBA us also misleading

            Only a tiny percentage of lawyers work in those positions

            Nor are all lawyers, unlike all MBA, focused on business

            The reality is that the demand for legal services is great but people are making less or stagnant money so that means lawyers are less likely to get paid in any form at all

            The bias us toward seeing lawyer success. stories rather than understanding lawyers necessarily reflect the rest of the economy outside the 1 percent

    2. Synopticist

      Yeah, OK, but for the life of me I can’t contain my schatenfreude when it comes to lawyers feeling the same economic pain as the rest of us.

  6. TimR

    Has anybody else noticed this — I was in a Walmart last night, and the canned salmon looked to be way cheaper than what I recall it used to cost. Maybe 30 or 40% cheaper, but I must be mistaken. I can’t imagine Fukushima fears would have that big an effect since it’s mainly only been an online news story from what I can tell.

    1. JEHR

      Perhaps, it is not the information that the customer has that lowers the cost of “radiant” salmon; it is the knowledge that the fisher has about where the catch was made that will reduce the cost. I expect that we will all eventually ingest highly suspect fish unless all fish from the Pacific is inspected for the effects of radiation. I haven’t heard anything about such inspections.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That’s bad news for Atlantic fish in the same way it’s bad news when all humans say ‘I love Nature. I want to visit Nature.’

        Nothing can survive ‘human love.’

        ‘Mama, I love Moa meat. It’s so delicious. Can dada hunt more all them birds?”

        So, good luck, my Atlantic salmon friends. You will also go the way of your Pacific cousins…well, almost the same way – one is radiated out, the other eaten away.

    2. Skeptic

      Possibly because it is diseased, hybrid, industrialized raised salmon. Salmon isn’t necessarily salmon just like a security isn’t necessarily secure.

      “The Canadian Government, or rather the neoliberal Harper Regime, now pays for any losses due to virus infected farm raised industrialized Atlantic Salmon:

      “The government has paid out an estimated $100 million in compensation since the virus first surfaced in the Maritimes in 1996, according to a tally of government documents done by the Atlantic Salmon Federation.”

      So, first of all, lots of diseased salmon being dumped on the market. This is another form of inflation. Look for this in other forms of your “food”.

  7. YankeeFrank

    Re “Keeping Up With the Joneses”

    These type of studies are rather useless. If you want to know why
    poorer and middle class Americans got into so much debt during the last
    decade the way to do it is to analyze what all that credit was spent
    on. Those who want to absolve the banking industry of their obvious and
    massive frauds, and/or who refuse to admit the finanical squeeze the
    99% are under, will throw up “keeping up with the …” type arguments or
    the favorite “they blew it all on flat screen tv’s” “defense”. Those
    of us with a bit of honesty and common sense see that while wages have
    not risen for over three decades the cost for everything from housing to
    transport to food to healthcare to education have gone through the
    roof, meaning that its harder than ever to just survive. That is where
    all that credit went. At least the vast majority of it. Many took out
    loans to fix leaky roofs, to help defray college or healthcare
    expenditures, to keep the basic bills for food and energy paid, etc. It
    wasn’t about keeping up with anything or trying to live large. It was
    about the basics of living. Sure some people spent a small fraction of
    the credit on a vacation or a plasma screen, but those purchases are
    nothing compared to the build up in debt over the period in question.
    Most people don’t want to get into debt. But when its a choice between
    sending your kids to college or not, or whether to fix the roof or let
    it leak and ruin the house, or whether to get that surgery or try to
    survive an illness, then the credit will be used.

    Its easy to make up fantasies for why most Americans are in debt and struggling. Its a lot harder to look at the reality.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Someone needs to make up their mind. This perpetual motion hamster wheel is getting exhausting.

      Over a decade ago, the Fed lowered interest rates to near zero and has kept them there ever since. The purpose was to get people to BORROW. To borrow and spend. On anything and everything. That was the plan. They’re still trying to keep it going.

      The Fed got to claim credit for an economic “miracle.” “Investors” got rich buying and selling consumer “momentum” stocks like Priceline, Apple, Amazon and Toll Brothers. The apostles at the investment banks got invites to Davos for brilliant financial “innovating” in the packaging, peddling and betting on debt.

      And the proles? Why they got the bills. And the blame, for not having done it all “for the right reasons.”

      Who could’ve seen that coming?

      1. Eureka Springs

        Funny how it’s the devices which take a beating among the zerohedge type trollisphere. When the cost of a flatscreen or iphone device itself is a fraction of an truly outrageously expensive annual cable or phone bill. All for service which is largely non negotiable (no real competition nor an ability to purchase only stations you will view, etc.), at third world speeds with beyond Orwellian totalitarian costs.

        As for the big boxes… the only saving grace has long been their apparent planned obsolescence. They were never constructed to last any longer than a cheap mobile home.

    2. Marko

      Derek Thompson is simply doing his part in the propaganda campaign that attempts to de-link inequality from any connection to the financial crisis. The idea that proving that households were not trying to emulate the rich accomplishes this goal is ludicrous. More likely , as you said , most of these households were just trying to maintain their recent standards of living , or perhaps , in some cases , trying to recapture the somewhat higher standards they had enjoyed in earlier times. A not-unreasonable tendency that most people have , I suspect , even if it does entail taking some risks with one’s future finances.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Can’t wait to find out what it is in 2050.

      ‘Those were happy days,’ our future philosopher sighs to herself/himself, reading the circa 2014 comments at Naked Capitalism.

  8. Lambert Strether

    I tried being an adjunct for a bit; with grading, meeting, and correspondence with students, it worked out to around $7.00 an hour, with a good deal of stress piled on top of that, since I actually cared about the work. University towns are full of people hanging on by their fingernails, considering themselves to be middle class, and refusing to look seriously at the precariousness of their position.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Another good and wrenching piece on the adjunct situation inspired by the Times’ hackjob:

      People need to know that 70% of college faculty these days is part-time
      with crap pay, no benefits or job security. It’s outrageous.
      Efforts to unionize have been tried – and stymied – since the ’80s.
      If unionization doesn’t happen soon, I hope adjuncts will stop enabling
      this systemic exploitation and ‘just say no’, walk off the job. The source of cheap
      labor must dry up before these institutions begin to even think of paying all their faculty –
      not just a few of them – fairly.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Let’s not forget academic slaves who are grad students who dream of better lives as adjunct professors.

      The worry should be that those who are abused will, if lady luck smiles on them, in turn become abusers. Not that it will happen automatically, but it’s a concern for all abused victims.

    1. Expat

      Your comment reminded me of a Krugman comment I clipped in 2006:

      Warsh tells the tale of a great contradiction that has lain at the heart of economic theory ever since 1776, the year in which Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations.” Warsh calls it the struggle between the Pin Factory and the Invisible Hand. On one side, Smith emphasized the huge increases in productivity that could be achieved through the division of labor, as illustrated by his famous example of a pin factory whose employees, by specializing on narrow tasks, produce far more than they could if each worked independently. On the other side, he was the first to recognize how a market economy can harness self-interest to the common good, leading each individual as though “by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

      What may not be obvious is the way these two concepts stand in opposition to each other. The parable of the pin factory says that there are increasing returns to scale — the bigger the pin factory, the more specialized its workers can be, and therefore the more pins the factory can produce per worker. But increasing returns create a natural tendency toward monopoly, because a large business can achieve larger scale and hence lower costs than a small business. So in a world of increasing returns, bigger firms tend to drive smaller firms out of business, until each industry is dominated by just a few players.

      But for the invisible hand to work properly, there must be many competitors in each industry, so that nobody is in a position to exert monopoly power. Therefore, the idea that free markets always get it right depends on the assumption that returns to scale are diminishing, not increasing.

      A Story of Economic Discovery.
      By David Warsh
      reviewed by Paul Krugman, May 7, 2006

      In other words, this is Economics 101, and yet….

  9. ambrit

    The money quote from Shedlocks blog entry today was: “Over the years we’ve migrated to a top-heavy structure in management.” That from the CEO of Sams’ Club. Oh boy, where to start? Being presently enmeshed with a similarly “run” big box store, on the sales floor, I can attest that the aforesaid “top-heavy structure” is the result of Draconian cutting of ‘average’ floor staff and ‘backroom’ workers. Where I work, which is not as bad as Sams’ Club, from what I can surmise, Middle Management has had to both crack the whip more often on a workforce less skilled than that previously encountered, and do much of the ‘grunt’ work themselves. I have personally watched one youngish man start to go prematurely gray as he navigates the mine infested waters of Bigboxx Store Bight. So, allow me to go out on a limb, quite a strong and sturdy one I assure you, and predict continuing and worsening dysfunction in Big Boxxstore Land. These emporia are hitting a wall of some sort. Same store sales have begun to lose their upward impetus. We all know how this scenario will probably play out. “The whippings will continue until morale improves!” Plus, my favourite, “Assume the Position!”

    1. flora


      “The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major U.S. research university. The element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have one neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons and 111 assistant vice neutrons, which gives it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons.

      “Since it has no electrons, administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would have normally occurred in less than a second.”

  10. JPalmer

    “Pig virus found at Two Canadian Sites…posing disastrous loss”

    Next step for Harper and cronies is, of course, to eliminate the ‘Canadian Swine health Board’ – which, at least in Harper’s mind, would mean the elimination of the problem? “disastrous” loss is money of course not the loss of all those piglets – but then this is Bloomberg…

    1. JEHR

      All animals know what they have to know to survive. They should not be classified as “dumb” or “smart.” We know little about what animals know and we should not judge them according to our lower standards of knowledge about what they know.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We know little yet we love.

        Unfortunately, not many tasty animals can survive our love.

  11. Jess

    Regarding the OC Register’s Medicare Myths story, which focuses on failures and profit-taking in the Part D drug benefits program:

    I have Part D through my Blue Crucifix Medicare Advantage program. In addition to generally having to go through the hassles of mail-order drug fulfillment, BC has seen fit to raise co-pays without any apparent justification. As of Jan 1 of last year, the price of several meds that I take on an on-going maintenance basis for certain conditions doubled A $7 per month drug went to $14. A $22 drug went to $44. And note that this not only raised my monthly out-of-pocket, it also accelerated the pace at which I approached the infamous “donut hole”, which I subsequently fell into thanks to the cost of meds when I incurred a herniated disc that required surgery.

    Speaking of that herniated disc: After other methods failed I had surgery performed by doctors from the UCLA Spine Center. The surgery was performed at the UCLA hospital a few blocks from the Spine Center. Everything and everybody involved was UCLA affiliated and IN-NETWORK for my Blue Crucifix plan. Just this week I got around to sending off payment for my portion; two bills totaling $1,373.25, (which is $6.75 less than my entire SS check for the month). But get this about those two bills:

    Two different billing offices.
    Two different return payment addresses.
    Two different types of return payment ENVELOPES. One had the traditional triangular flap and I had to write in my own return address. The other had a horizontal flap and the address of the billing office was pre-printed (in COLOR) as the return address.

    A moment to consider the colossal waste and duplication here: the cost for staffing, equipment, utilities, and maintenance of two different billing offices for facilities within easy walking distance of each other. (Walking distance as defined by L.A. standards, where anything farther than a few blocks is considered a driving event.) Not to mention the pension costs of the duplicate staff. And on top of that, they are not even gaining the volume purchase benefits of standardizing something as simple as ENVELOPES, for Chrissakes!

    Talk about a convergence of the Medical Industrial Complex and bloated public institution bureaucracy! I support the idea that both public and private sector employees should have fair compensation, good benefits, and equitable pensions. But it’s not hard to understand why so many people have such antipathy and outright hostility to public sector employees when you have this kind of display of blatant inefficiency.

  12. Andrea

    Prompted by: *Uber rival accuses car service of dirty tactics*

    An emblematic, small-scale tale, about privatization.

    Taxis were tightly state-controlled (Geneva.)

    Then, some objected, and got it liberalized. – > Against the taxi drivers who had state concessions for which they paid a bomb and usually transmitted to son or sold for a high price…a kind of monopoly.


    The approved / new private services could not manage calls and booking, as the whole ‘biz’ was in confused mode – on the internet, there were dozens of nos. to call, many did not answer phone, ppl made multiple calls but had no idea of what was going on.

    Booking cabs became unreliable, nobody knew who they were dealing with, what guarantees, if, when, they would arrive – often they did not, one could not guess beforehand.

    Prices rose steeply. Because the new (private) cabs got few rides, they raised prices and ripped off customers, sometimes being very threatening, or asking for mega-cash up front. The others followed suit, so like for 500 m to 10 kms it cost…40 to 100 dollars.

    Steady, paying-on-the nail clients of the cab services had no choice but to drop all of them.
    Incl: social services, e.g. to give a blind person a cab to drive to med consult, cancer patient, cheaper to ferry by cab than ambulance. (That was a steady part of their biz.) Parents who were stuck and needed just that one – reliable, safe and steady ride – for kids once a week. Elderly person who took a cab twice a week for destination x. Private ppl who booked a cab to the airport, the train station. Not to mention night-party revelers who wanted a cab to go home. (Public transport had to step up to prevent drunken crashes, paid for by the tax payer…cost a bomb…)

    Hotels, luxury and below, who guaranteed a cab on ordered time were left with their Gucci Guests grumbling on the pavement for hours. Ordered cabs that never showed up.

    Ordinary ppl took to hitch-hiking > stress, dicey.

    So, the whole ‘cab industry’ was no longer credible and collapsed.

    Nobody took cabs anymore and instead arranged to take public transport or be ferried by friends or strangers. Thus, prices rose once again, as the cabs had fewer customers and were intent on getting the max out of few rides.

    The only ones who benefitted from this boondoggle were car cos. Mercedes, first of all. Many had to buy, one, two, several cars to ferry ppl about, with of course complicated and not optimal schedules, hiring drivers, etc. An expensive nightmare, to keep their hotel or biz going. Social services just gave up or tried their best… The airport had to create an extra ‘resting area’ for ppl who could not show up in time and missed their planes.

    There were also several accusations of sex-stuff, hold-ups, accidents, and more.. in a cab.. several taxi drivers ended up in prison.

    Turning this all around has been very hard.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Japan calls off all tours to Thailand.

    They probably should avoid Fukushima, Egypt and Kiev as well.

    Also may want to think twice about visiting Tokdo-Takeshima or Senkaku.

  14. Murky

    An interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski about mass protests in Ukraine:

    Brzezinski isn’t a brain-dead cold warrior, like McCain. Not even anti-Russian here. For now Ukraine remains a client state or protectorate of Russia. Yanukovich regime unstable, particularly if mass protests can unite behind a single leader. What’s interesting is the long term prognosis: Not just Ukraine, but Russia will eventually become part of Europe.

    Why isn’t Brzezinski Secretary of State? Instead we are stuck with a stooge in a stuffed shirt, John Kerry…

    Best English language content about Ukraine here:

    1. direction

      “We shouldn’t deal with Ukrainian problem as with anti-Russian problem. From the historical perspective, it’s better to look at the latest events in Ukraine as the start of the long process, which will lead not only to the probable broadening of Europe, not only to the Ukrainian inclusion, but also to the Russian inclusion. Because prospects of Russia leading Eurasian Union – it’s a fiction. This alliance will disintegrate – for economic, social and personal reasons. As a result, it will only lead to the increasing unwillingness of Russian to meet expansion across China in Central Asia.

      Therefore, in the long term interest Russia is interested in moving towards becoming a part of Europe. And strategic vision of the West should be: “We want Ukraine to be in Europe, but not as a weapon against Russia, but as the beginning of a process that eventually will cover Russia.” -ZB

      Thanks for the links!

  15. Doug Terpstra

    On emerging market rout, “Goldman Sachs chief [Lord Bankfiend] said in Davos that now is a good time to start buying emerging market assets while they are cheap. “I’d be long, not short,” he said.”

    The sociopathic mentality of a kleptoparasitic vulture capitalist vampire squid all its glory. No qualms at all about the wreckage they wreak.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Conventional wisdom from that website that shall remain nameless is that one should do exactly the OPPOSITE of what GS declares publicly that you should do.

      GS creates the “muppets” it needs, when it needs them. With its free “investment” advice.

      Or so the theory goes.

  16. Hugh

    Another day in kleptocracy. One week the sky’s the limit. The next it’s all falling apart. It’s hard to tell how much of it is real because none of it is real. Emerging markets were supposed to be the new engine of growth. Why? Who knows. Their export markets were all static to falling. Commodities were going nowhere. So what were they going to grow into? It hasn’t made sense for months. But in kleptocracy this is not a requirement. On a more positive note Europe seems to have turned a corner, except it hasn’t. France the necessary anchor to the eurozone enterprise is poised to go off the cliff with the anti-socialist Socialist Hollande. The US and China are both desperately huffing and puffing to keep their various bubbles from collapsing, a soft landing, a taper, yadda, yadda, yadda. Have the Masters of the Universe finally grokked what is really going on? Will they finally wake up and smell the coffee or more likely double latte grandes? Of course not. This is one set of gamblers stiffing another set of gamblers in the neverending replay of “Muppet, muppet, who’s the muppet?” Could they take everything out like they did the last time? Yes, but that’s not the object of the exercise. Nor is it a response to the underlying realities which they haven’t looked at for years. And if things begin to go really south, they can always fall back on the new motto of the US “In the Fed, we trust”. Like cargo cultists, they will be out looking for those helicopter drops. More likely, they will simply describe this all as a predicted and necessary shakeout showing that markets really do work, etc. They will wait a few days and if the sky hasn’t fallen they will start bidding up sky futures and exchanges and indexes. You can never have too much sky.

  17. savedbyirony

    For people who are interested in ongoing developments in the catholic church.
    Non catholics may think, “big deal”, but it is for a priest to do this because that behavior is just the type of action which could get him on the fast track to ex-communication. It also helps demonstrate that while the hierarchy dictates, “we don’t and can’t talk about women’s ordination” catholics go right on discussing it all the time. Plus, this article doesn’t mention the decreasing numbers of catholic priests (down about 15% over the last two years, with enrollments in seminaries up just slightly) and the growing, organized numbers of priests who support at least women serving as Deacons. Pope Francis has also told clerical orders to stop the “trafficking” of seminarians and clergy from eastern and third world countries to the west for cheap, domestic labor; help with caring for their aging priests and to fill parish positions at the expense of those clergy members own countries’ parishes.

    1. Glenn Condell

      Thanks Emma, lovely warm day here in Sydney after a cool start. It appears no-one was maimed or killed by drunken yobs in the city overnight, so that’s a nice change. Just took my son to the beach for a swim and it was crawling with cops. Friendly cops, but cops. A new normal.

      There is a good piece in the Herald today by David Mason an academic and poet laureate of Colorado – ‘Put away the flags and enjoy your country on Australia Day’

      He has a top ten list of positives. By my count at least half of them are under threat, generally from our unhealthy proximity to American power. If we sign the TPP the threat turns from amber to red.

      Happy invasion day to you Skip. Did you ever see that sly Aboriginal satire Barbecueria? That nailed it. From Wiki:

      ‘The opening scene depicts a group of uniformed Indigenous Australians coming ashore in a small boat, watched by various European Australians engaged in typical beachside activities. The group from the boat approaches one of these and asks, “What do you call this place?”, receiving the reply, “Er… ‘Barbecue Area’.”The plot revolves around a role-reversal, whereby it is the Indigenous Australians who have invaded the land of stereotypical European Australians – the fictitious country of BabaKiueria. It presents many contemporary Aboriginal issues including white people as a minority, the unequal treatment of whites by the police, white children are taken from their families or white people being moved because the government needs their home for “something”.’

      It was clever, with the anger held well in check. I can think of a certain governing party (you can pick them, they all look like gargoyles, cads or harpies) that could use an annual viewing.

      1. skippy

        Great googly moogly a epic aussie art film I have yet to see, an auspicious occasion if there ever was one, and on a day we remember something and forget it soon enough. Thanks Glen~

        Indeed….. Happy remember and soon forget day… all!

        skippy… Personally I think we hold national elections just to take the piss out of our collective selves, that and it befuddles the international community… snort!

        PS. Is Palmer the national pet monkey with a disturbing similarity to bieber’s companion, that an you can’t kick out a fella that owns his own party… lmma0… Cheers!

        1. Glenn Condell

          Well, I do miss Joh, Russ and the gang, those were the days. Somehow Ironbar and Mad Bob Katter didn’t quite cut it. I think we can fairly ask when Clive goes ‘will we ever see his like again’? I am waiting for the first album, or maybe a novel or perhaps a Luhrmann biopic.

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