Links 1/5/14

“Is the U.S. economy really about to go boom?” Econbrowser

Where in the United States are the largest shadow economies? Marginal Revolution

Car sales missing The Center of the Universe

Bankruptcy Filings Fall 13% in 2013 Credit Slips

Manufacturing Growth to Help Propel U.S. Expansion: Economy Bloomberg

Worker aghast at shoddy work on Fukushima radioactive water storage tanks Asahi Shimbun. “Use of adhesive tape on key equipment.”

Arctic blast dropping temperatures in U.S. to lows not seen in years CNN

‘Liveaboards’ weathering harsh Maine winter on 35-foot cutter in Casco Bay Bangor Daily News

Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network Tech Crunch

Thinking Outside the (Big) Box Times

Here’s What White Collar Prison Is Really Like For Three High-Profile Criminals Business Insider

Why SAC Capital’s Steven Cohen Isn’t in Jail Businessweek

It’s true! The FT – and social media – really do move markets FT

For Obama, a full 2014 agenda: Income inequality, NSA reforms, health care WaPo. Uh huh.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

More than 250,000 and counting join Rand Paul in class-action lawsuit against NSA data collection Lexington Herald-Leader. Nice to see “progressives” stepping forward like this. Oh, wait…

Losing Aaron Boston Magazine

Napolitano: No clemency for Edward Snowden The Hill

NSA statement does not deny ‘spying’ on members of Congress Spencer Ackermanm, Guardian. Sure, but have they bugged every motel and hotel room in the Beltway? I’m guessing yes.

Boeing machinists approve contract securing 777X jet Chicago Tribune. “They held a gun to our head and our people were afraid.” Chicago Tribune because workforce-hating Boeing moved its headquarters from iconic Seattle.

Disinformation on Inequality Paul Krugman, Times. Say what you like, the man can still shred.

Economists agree: Raising the minimum wage reduces poverty Mike Konczal, WaPo. Nice of Ezra to keep the Wonkblog chair warm, however.

20 Things the Poor Really Do Every Day HuffPo

Beware techies talking gobbledegook Gillian Tett, FT.  “The way modern society treats IT looks uncannily similar to the picture with finance before 2007.”

An Error Message for the Poor Times


Early days of Obamacare bring trickle, not flood, of patients Reuters defects leave many Americans eligible for Medicaid, CHIP without coverage WaPo.  Well, it’s not like human lives are at stake.

Obamacare: Adding a baby to health plan not easy AP. Also not easy: “marriage and divorce, a death in the family, a new job or a change in income, moving to a different community,” all of which affect your rates, your subsidies, and your compliance.

Police: Center of Fallujah falls to Qaeda-linked fighters CBS. Mission accomplished!

Cambodia strike faces deadly crackdown Al Jazeera (photos)

Asia Foundation survey – Part 2: What do the Thai protesters want? Asian Correspondent

Vietnam: Back to Organic? The Diplomat

Police hunt drug makers after huge crystal meth raid in Boshe village South China Morning Post

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops Times. IMNSHO, the real issue is privatizing our common germ plasm. 

The Birds The New Yorker

Fraternity where 19-year-old lost a testicle in ‘hazing ritual’ is BARRED from Ohio college Daily Mail

Melissa Harris-Perry makes tearful on-air apology after sketch made Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson the butt of a series of jokes Daily Mail

Reclaiming Virtue Ethics for Economics [PDF] Journal of Economic Perspectives

Social Darwinism Isn’t Dead Slate

Antidote du jour:


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Andrew Watts

    RE: Napolitano: No clemency for Edward Snowden

    The whole point of offering Snowden (and Greenwald & Co) amnesty is to begin the process of reforging the trust that Americans have in the US intelligence community and by extension the federal government. It’s unlikely they’ll ever return to the United States even with amnesty.

    The US intelligence community’s SIGINT programs constitute a massive intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans. They were never going to receive the blind faith of the general population but when they built these programs without any interest in what exactly the public might have thought about them they forfeited the benefit of the doubt. When they were confronted with the existence of these programs their leaders decided to lie to the public and our elected representatives. This was their last opportunity to elaborate upon their position and the status of their surveillance programs in good faith. To make absolutely certain they were not blindsided they were provided with advance notice to prepare their collective response to the question that would be asked.

    The greatest fear I have is that these actions are spreading a cancer within our system of governance. The judiciary does not seem eager to seize oversight and stewardship of the intelligence community’s programs. Meanwhile the executive branch appears to be abdicating it’s responsibility as national command authority in resolving the precise limitations that should be placed upon electronic warfare.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Idiotic article. What did the author expect her to say? She was IN on it.

      But since someone brought it up, from the link on why Cohen isn’t in jail:

      “…Sunday, July 20, Martoma sent a message to Cohen saying that it was important that they speak. No one, aside from Cohen and Martoma, knows what was said during the 20-minute phone call that followed, which Cohen conducted from his home.”

      NO ONE????

      I’ll just bet SOMEONE knows, and Snowden could tell us how to find out.

      He’s never coming back. He knows too much.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Snowden would do well to consider any “promise” of clemency to be about as valuable as a “promise” of, say, closing Guantanamo, hope and change, affordable “healthcare” for all, a “transparent” administration, a peaceful solution to ANYTHING, or an end to gross income inequality.

        Which is to say, of course, not worth anything at all.

      2. Andrew Watts

        “Idiotic article. What did the author expect her to say? She was IN on it.”

        It was still very informative from the perspective of how incapable leading officials of the intelligence community are when it comes to analyzing political developments. I mean, that’s a huge part of their job description.

        Trying….not… to make…. joke….

      3. Otter

        “they built these programs without any interest in what exactly the public might have thought”

        Perhaps one should read the Slate article regarding social darwinism.

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘Meanwhile the executive branch appears to be abdicating it’s responsibility as national command authority in resolving the precise limitations that should be placed upon electronic warfare.’

      That’s one interpretation. Another is that having nullified any opposition from the legislature and judiciary by putting them under surveillance as well, the executive has seized total power and isn’t giving it up.

      I mean, a legislature that can’t even enforce a contempt of Congress citation against the Attorney General is simply no credible threat. Preview of 2014 State of the Union speech:

      1. Andrew Watts

        I wouldn’t describe the present political climate as being an intended result of the executive branch’s seizure of total power. If anything it is a result of the presidency’s weakness that political opposition to the national security state is showing no signs of waning.

        Please try to understand this from my perspective. Before the Snowden revelations, the general public was blissfully ignorant of what was actually occurring. There was basically only one senator (Feingold) who actively took a stance opposed to the Patriot Act’s ‘enabling’ provisions. It was not until much later that Senator(s) Wyden/Udall picked this issue up as a topic of their concern. From there it has snowballed into an issue that has turned both Democrats and Republicans alike against their party leadership.

        The Republicans are just a lot less shy about expressing their discontent publicly.

  2. diptherio

    Re: White-collar prisons.

    Enough with these minimum-security prisons for white-collar criminals. I say we should only let them sleep there. During the day they should be either placed in stocks in our poorest neighborhoods or required to give foot-massages to the homeless.

    And Kerick is the worst. The quotes from him at the end of the piece (which is in DuJour, not Business Insider, btw) are gag-worthy. Get a load of this a-hole:

    “The punishment should be the deprivation of freedom and liberty,” he says. “But once you arrive at prison—I was shocked by the psychological punishment.” This is unexpected. “You are constantly berated, degraded, demoralized,” he says. “You’re herded like cattle.”

    The isolation from family also takes its toll. “You can’t show your child love and support and guidance in absentia. You damn sure can’t do it in a two-hour visit in a visiting room. You can’t discipline your child while you’re in the system, because the last thing you need is for that last conversation you have with your child to be a negative one,” he says. “You cannot fathom the pain, the heartache, that the system causes parents and their kids. Nobody gets it. Nobody understands it.”

    Actually Bernie, you jackass, plenty of people understand it: namely all the victimless “criminals,” and their families, who you and your ilk are responsible for imprisoning. Nobody understands? We live in the country with the highest number of incarcerated humans on the planet, douche-bag, so actually LOTS of people understand it. Aaargh!

    This is what unrepentant narcissism looks like, in case anybody was wondering…And the author of the article just lets it slide…

    1. Shutter

      Lisa Depaulo, the Eager Young Kissass clearly showed her NeoJourno chops.. she did everything but give Bernie a blow job. What a joke of an article.

    2. JTFaraday

      ““The punishment should be the deprivation of freedom and liberty,” he says. “But once you arrive at prison—I was shocked by the psychological punishment.” This is unexpected. “You are constantly berated, degraded, demoralized,” he says. “You’re herded like cattle.”

      The isolation from family also takes its toll. “You can’t show your child love and support and guidance in absentia. You damn sure can’t do it in a two-hour visit in a visiting room. You can’t discipline your child while you’re in the system, because the last thing you need is for that last conversation you have with your child to be a negative one,” he says. “You cannot fathom the pain, the heartache, that the system causes parents and their kids. Nobody gets it. Nobody understands it.””

      It’s like he never had a day job.

    3. Mildred Montana

      “You are constantly berated, degraded, demoralized,” [Bernie Kerick] says.

      Bernie you idiot, you’re being PUNISHED. Don’t you get it?

      The loss of your freedom seems not to bother you too much; you’re willing to accept that. Maybe it’s even a badge of honor among your white-collar thieving brethren. Well, what kind of punishment is that?

      Your griping unintentionally reveals the hidden mind of the sociopath and confirms a suspicion I’ve always had: Sociopaths are not rehabilitated by conventional sanctions such as imprisonment. But they may—just may—respond to humiliation as a corrective.

      Humiliation, Bernie. In other words, “berating, degradation, and demoralization”. Something you apparently don’t like and therefore in your case is the appropriate punishment.

  3. DakotabornKansan

    “The Birds – Why the passenger pigeon became extinct,” Jonathan Rosen, The New Yorker…

    Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” The Atlantic, June 1862:

    “We are accustomed to say in New England that few and fewer pigeons visit us every year. Our forests furnish no mast for them. So, it would seem, few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from year to year, for the grove in our minds is laid waste—sold to feed unnecessary fires of ambition, or sent to mill—and there is scarcely a twig left for them to perch on. They no longer build nor breed with us. In some more genial season, perchance, a faint shadow flits across the landscape of the mind, cast by the wings of some thought in its vernal or autumnal migration, but, looking up, we are unable to detect the substance of the thought itself. Our winged thoughts are turned to poultry. They no longer soar, and they attain only to a Shanghai and Cochin- China grandeur. Those gra-a-ate thoughts, those gra-a-ate men you hear of!”

    The grove in men’s minds is laid waste…

    “While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, few are attracted strongly to Nature. In their reaction to Nature men appear to me for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower than the animals. It is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of the animals. How little appreciation of the beauty of the land- scape there is among us! We have to be told that the Greeks called the world , Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so, and we esteem it at best only a curious philological fact.”

    Thoreau’s essay reads like prophecy.

    “At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only, when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps and other engines invented to confine men to the public road, and walking over the surface of God’s earth shall be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman’s grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days are upon us.”

    The evil days have been upon us for some time now.

    “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves…There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

    1. diptherio

      It makes me quite sad to consider that many a city-person in our society will never in their lifetime have the experience of untouched wilderness, never spend a night beside a mountain lake, staring at the stars, listening for bears…

      Our human civilization seems much less impressive once you’ve stood atop White River Pass in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or gazed out across the seemingly endless Beartooth Mountain Range, or come across fresh bear prints in a muddy trail. Or planet is made of wonder and awe…and we cover it over with high-rises and Wal-Mart parking lots. We count this as advancement, not even knowing what it is that has been lost.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          With better mileage cars and more ‘infrastructured’ roads, it’s easier to reach wilderness indeed, even if it’s farther away – I noticed recently the ‘spoils’ of our local urban sprawling victories when I made a trip to the Coachella Valley.

          For one human to go to wilderness, Nature can take the blow.

          For millions of humans to ‘rediscover’ wilderness, well, good luck to her.

          Anyone for cleaning up the base camp, that has sheltered many ‘nature lovers’ below Mt. Everest?

          Perhaps one day, some kid in South Asia will come across a pair climbing boots or other trash and wonder where they came from.

          1. optimader

            “For millions of humans to ‘rediscover’ wilderness, well, good luck to her. ”
            Yes indeed, I do not encourage the masses to “commune with nature”. I am a National Park enthusiast and we have a inverse square observation that always seems to playout. The population density on trails quickly thins out as an exponent of distance from the parking lots –as well as the weight. If you want to see morbidly obese people w / shitty looking tattoos on the side of their shins, check out the motorhome crowd at a NP.

            “Anyone for cleaning up the base camp, that has sheltered many ‘nature lovers’ below Mt. Everest?”

            Not me, but fro anyone that is enthusiastic about the idea, why stop w/ the base camps?

            1. AbyNormal

              “It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” (Howdy Opti’)
              George Eliot

              1. diptherio

                That’s a great quote. Also Richard Feynman: “The opposite of a small truth is a small error, but the opposite of one great truth is another great truth.”

              2. optimader

                I guess sitting in a parade of motor homes and peering out the window while eating sugarcoated fried dough is one way to experience the national park system, it’s just tough on the flora fauna .. and the septic systems. It’s a much different sensibility than when I was a kid.

                “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
                ~ Albert Einstein

                I hope 2014 is good to you Aby

    2. mk

      Be Kind whenever possible.
      It is Always Possible.
      The Dalai Lama

      here’s a link to an article by an artist Molly Crabapple. In it she writes:
      “So much of the difference between the experiences of rich and poor comes down to kindness. Kindness is scarce. Kindness must be bought.”

  4. from Mexico

    @ “Reclaiming Virtue Ethics for Economics”

    This is one of those long academic papers that requires some time to read and digest.

    However, how can economics “reclaim” something — virtue ethics — which it never had?

    The entire “science” of economics was based from the very get-go on a highly reductionist model of human existence called “economic man.” Not only does economic “science” hold that 100% of human beings fit inside this little homo economicus box, but in addition to this there is the claim, based on nothing but magical thinking, that somehow if everyone could be made to fit inside this little box and operated purely in their own self-interest, then a rational, just, and fair distribution of resources will somehow ensue. If that isn’t a departure from reality, and an orgy of wishful thinking, then what is?

    Economics fits into the same school of thought as the prosperity gospels. They promise a Utopia on this earth if the believer’s faith is sufficient, not an other-wordly paradise as many Christian sects in the not-too-distant past did.

    The best of Christianity, however, as the Rev. Martin Luther King pointed out, strove to achieve a healthy balance between the materiality of this world and the spirituality of the other world.

    I believe Marx also strove for this balance, even though he has been horribly slandered by both his followers and his enemies.

    Economic “science,” however, has no room for anything but materiality. If it moves outside the realm of its metaphysical materialism, then, by definition, it is no longer economics “science,” but something else.

    1. from Mexico

      Reading a little bit further, I see what Bruni and Sugden are up to.

      They are attempting to defend the “science” of economics from attacks like those rendered by Michael Sandel in this NC post from yesterday:

      “Michael Sandel: The Moral Limits of Markets”

      For me Bruni and Sugden’s paper will be an interesting read, all 24 pages of it. This is so because, in my opinion, it is a debate that must happen if the world is to be saved from market fundamentalism.

      1. diptherio

        Yeah, I’m reading it right now. It’s a doozy. Typical apologetics for the status quo. So far as I can tell (by pg. 13) their defense boils down to invisible hand and ricardian comparative advantage. Same ol’ BS…

        “On the assumption that the telos of the market is mutual benefit…” Yeah, great assumption…NOT!!!!

    2. from Mexico

      Ah ha!

      One doesn’t have to read very far before Bruni’s and Sugden’s inner classical economist emerges, and their argument falls apart.

      Here’s what they say on page 3:

      ***beginning of quote***
      Our central idea is that the public benefits of markets should be understood as the aggregate of the mutual benefits gained by individuals as parties to voluntary transactions, and that the market virtues are dispositions that are directed at this kind of mutual benefit. For a virtuous market participant, mutual benefit is not just a fortunate by-product of the individual pursuit of self-interest: he or she intends that transactions with others are mutually beneficial.

      ***end of quote***

      My critique is as follows.

      BRUNI and SUGDEN say: “the aggregate of the mutual benefits”

      Notice the sole emphasis on “aggregate” benefits and not individual benefits. As socities transitioned from traditional to market economies — more often than not at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun — definite winners and losers emerged. And as Robert H. Nelson notes in his devastating critique of classical and neoclassical economics, Economics as Religion:

      ”The dynamic transition [from traditional to market economies], however, has also involved large costs for many people. The greatest significance of Adam Smith to the economic history of the world was not in any power of economic explanation but in offering a ‘scientific’ doctrine by which the many losers from all this radical change could be persuaded to accept their fate without active revolt…”

      BRUNI and SUGDEN say: “as parties to voluntary transactions”

      Michael Sandel, in the above-linked NC post, took a sledge hammer to this fiction.

      BRUNI and SUGDEN say: “he or she intends that transactions with others are mutually beneficial”

      As Amitai Etzioni points out in The Moral Dimension, good intentions are necessary for moral conduct. “Moral acts often concern intentions and processes, not outcomes,” he writes. But they are not of and by themselves sufficient for moral conduct. “This is not to say that outcomes do not matter,” he goes on to explain.

      And what has been the outcome of “free” markets — of “the invisible hand” — in practice as opposed to in theory? The “mutual benefits” which Bruni and Sugden boast of have proved to be illusory, to say the least. The invisible hand has never worked as billed. I like how Keynes put it: Capitalism is “the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.” And yet Bruni and Sugden still cling to the mythology of the invisible hand as to a life boat in turbulent waters, despite 200+ years of empirical evidence to the contrary.

      I could go on with other passages from Bruni and Sugden’s paper, but hopefully this gives a small sampling of the types of sophistries and empirical and historical fiction they use to defend classical and neoclassical economics.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I usually start with one simple question I have been wondering for a long time:

        If a person’s life, that is to say, if one’s time in the world is priceless, if you divide that pricelessness (i.e. infinity) by a finite number of hours, you still get a value of ‘one hour of my life is priceless,’ instead of ‘X dollars and Y cents per hour.’

        Also, how close are these 2 statements:

        1. You can buy this slave for X dollars.

        2. You can have this worker for Y dollars and Z cents an hour.

        The first is like a lifetime contract, and some people would jump at it, as some jumped at slavery or sold themselves as indentured laborers (to save his family, bravely or nobly, one imagines).

        The second sounds to me like ‘Just In Time Slavery’ to me, in light of ‘one hour of my life is priceless.’

        1. Ed

          The differences between slave labor and wage labor amount to three things:

          1.) The wage laborer can walk away from the job
          2.) The wage laborer is only rented out by the hour
          3.) The employer has more of an incentive to keep the slave fed and in decent health.

          Otherwise, it depends on social constraints and regulations of how employers can treat the labor force (the Romans limited what slaveholders could do with their slaves, during the imperial phase when ex-slaves tended to make up the Emperor’s personal staff, though this didn’t appy to the Republic), the scarcity of labor, what type of job the laborer is doing, and the degree of sadism/ benevolence of the employer. These factors apply to both wage labor and to slavery.

      2. JEHR

        Thank you for the brief summing up of the Ethics in Economics article. I guess the best way to read the article is to count the ways that economics has failed already.

      3. Hugh

        Yes, it is all about language. Wrap the corruption and greed of kleptocracy in the fresh shiny paper of a few bowdlerized ethical concepts and it’s all good.

        I see this in just how big a difference there is between the “aggregate of mutual benefits” you cite and a fair distribution of benefits, i.e. societal resources.

        As for “intends that transactions with others are mutually beneficial,” I wonder how this fits into the Wolf of Wall Street Gordon Gecko Goldman Sachs reality of Wall Street and our financialized world.

        But then what was I expecting? French aristocrats doing economics are always going to end up with something that looks a lot like aristocracy. Officials of the tsar will come up with something that looks like autocracy. Neoclassical economists will end up with something that fits in well with neoliberalism and kleptocracy. I am never sure how much of this is limited vision, inability to see outside the prevailing paradigm, and how much of it is willing propagandization.

  5. Jackrabbit

    Re-imagining ignoble moments of the Obama Administration:

    > > If I had a President, he would act a lot like Snowden.

    > > The NSA didn’t have anything to do with the Boston bombing!

    > > If you like your Constitution, you can keep your Constitution.

    > > When you have something to fear (nsa police state), you have something to hide.

    And the classic “go fly a kite” line, applicable to any concern:

    > > At this point . . . what difference does it make?

  6. NotSoSure

    IT Systems: The comments section of the article is far more intelligent than the article itself. Any time now the US Minuteman missile system is going to blow up right because whoever the president was at the time of its building didn’t understand its physics jargon. There’s probably a greater risk of the president pushing the wrong button on the football than the missile itself actually self detonating.

  7. Jackrabbit

    Krugman: Say what you want, he can still shred …

    When not shilling for Obama policies, Krugman likes to unwind by joining TPTB Kabuki Theatre troop, in their ongoing production of ‘TINA Follies’. Krugman performs admirably here by jumping up and down and pointing fingers at the crazies on the other side.

    But his dutiful performance is unredeeming in my eyes because Obama’s solution for inequality is so laughably inadequate. Thus I am reminded of one of Lambert’s favorite phrases: “other than that (betrayal), Ms. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Has Krugman done research on the TPP he promised after admitting he didn’t know that much about it? I only ask because I refuse to read his particular drivel unless directed.

  8. PQS

    Thx for reading that for us. I started it but the ads for gold bracelets and zillion dollar rugs were too busy for my phone. I had high hopes even so for an article with some glimmers of humility….guess that was too much to ask of rich people. Good to know their time in the hoosegow hasn’t dimmed their enormous self regard.

  9. afisher

    Rand Paul repeats the Ted Cruz gambit and 250K folks fall for it – giving your email address to a .gov website. Is that really a wise idea?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Probably. The government is soaking up so much information at the back end, they already have it. The best thing to do is to remember fascists tend towards incompetence and would be more likely to be overwhelmed by information than find it useful or ignore it if it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions.

      We can discus hows and whys of Iraq, but Iraq despite the civil war* more or less starting with connections to Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (its a reporters dream), we are hearing nothing from the American msm about this, even Fox News despite the narrative the conservatives are pushing. Why is this? The Iraq narrative doesn’t fit into preconceived notions of American superiority and the vaunted Surge which became the strategy for Afghanistan in Obama. The American MSM can’t handle this kind of complexity, and Iraq’s connection to U.S. behavior can’t be forgotten. The result is they are ignoring it.

      *I suppose in our American (Western Europe) understanding of the term this would be inaccurate.

  10. We have to find a place for poor slow Stevie

    Losing Aaron is an outrage. Steven Heymann is a sad example of family degeneracy, the kind of pig-ignorant legal shitstain that totalitarian states puke up. Daddy got him his job but he worked hard too, by kissing lots of ass to get ahead. He’s a protege of the murderer’s go-to shyster Eric Holder.

    Doing the only thing he knows how to do, Heymann tried to coerce a confession from Aaron Swartz in breach of CCPR Article 14 clause 3(g). Poor dumb shit wouldn’t know Article 14 if it bit him on the ass. Doesn’t know it’s binding. Has no idea it’s supreme law of the land with which domestic law must be brought into compliance. No inkling that it’s equivalent to federal statute. Heymann’s trained like all US government lawyers are, to illegally coerce a confession.

    Heymann doesn’t just do it to adults, He will also be remembered as the procedural child molester of Jonathan James. Bet he’s relieved that his victims killed themselves. But that outcome’s built into this perverted judicial system.

    Heymann is a primitive type from less civilized times that has returned as the US government regresses. He’s the animal who pours molten lead into your ears or pulls your joints apart or twists the rope around your skull until your eyes come out. Heymann does whatever it takes to coerce a confession. He’s afraid to go to trial.

  11. Anon y Mouse

    The GMO article was terrible; both the the author, Amy Harmon, and the city council member have been had by industry and industry scientists. The same industry (same exact company, in fact) that told us that DDT and Agent Orange had no health concerns.

    Activists aren’t scientists and will often say things that don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny, but the lack of any anti-GMO scientists (they are numerous) in the article is telling. Every example given as evidence is flawed.

    Papaya Ring Spot Virus

    The only reason the virus spread so far, and was such a major issue, is due to corporate mono-culture. And, non-surprisingly, the answer the corporate “farmers” come up with isn’t diversification of crops (which worked for thousands of years) it is pesticides and GMOs. Also, the Rainbow Papaya is a unique GMO in at least two meaningful ways: First, it was developed by academics and has been largely (at least so far) outside of the control of corporations like Monsanto. Second, it decreases the amount of pesticides while most GMOs are designed to make plants more tolerant, so they can increase pesticide use. Despite (or because?) of its unique history, the Rainbow is held up as the quintessential GMO in this story?


    Cross-contamination concerns held by organic farmers are dismissed as follows, emphasis added: “Organic farmers worried that their crops would be contaminated also made an impression on the councilman, though he felt that the actress Roseanne Barr, who owns an organic macadamia nut farm here, could have been kinder to the papaya farmers in the room.

    I do not know what Rosanne Barr’s rhetorical style has to do with cross-contamination concerns, but I do know that this style of writing discredits Harmon’s claim to merely want a scientific debate. Cross contamination is a valid concern, and the impacts could be devastating. Making fun of Rosanne Barr is fun, but not helpful.

    Monarch Butterfly decline

    Quoting the article, and adding emphasis on the half-truth:

    Butterflies were disappearing, but Mr. Ilagan learned that it was not a toxin produced by modified plants that harmed them, as he had thought. Instead, the herbicide used in conjunction with some genetically modified crops (as well as some that were not) meant the milkweed on which they hatched was no longer found on most Midwestern farms.

    The GMO in question is designed to allow for greater use for the pesticide that kills the milkweed. The amount of pesticide used on the GMO plants would kill non-GMO plants. So, yeah, it is actually the GMOs that are killing off the proud Monarch Butterfly in the mid-west.

    Industry funded studies

    To quote: “Biofortified, which received no funding from industry […].”

    This is misleading in the extreme. Biofortified is a group of industry scientists without any funding, at all. And they don’t need any funding to end up in gullible author’s news stories (as proven here). Biofortified is a PR stunt. All they do is field calls from journalists, referred by their employers’ PR departments, and claim to be independent while spouting industry propaganda.

    Super weeds

    To quote the article:

    The scientist, he recalled, helped him understand that “superweeds” were weeds that had evolved resistance to a widely used herbicide — most likely faster than they would have if farmers had not used it so much on crops genetically engineered to tolerate it.

    Biotechnology firms were already selling seeds that tolerated other, less benign herbicides, Mr. Ilagan learned. But that was a different problem from the specter conjured by a woman at one of the hearings, who said that “G.M.O.s are cross-pollinating with weeds that now can’t be controlled.”

    In other words the author is saying that it is a concern, but I will quote someone who slightly mis-states the concern in order to dismiss it. Again, please note that GMOs lead to more, not less, pesticides in most cases.

    I could go on, but I would rather live my life. Amy Harmon is a tool.

    1. JLowe

      Agreed – good highlighting of key issue with GMOs. Privatization of our germ plasm will just lead to hideous social stratification (“The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacugalupi gives a feel for that). The real problem with GMOs is that we’re tinkering with biodiversity, which could kill us all.

      1. Anon y Mouse

        The real problem with GMOs is that we’re tinkering with biodiversity, which could kill us all.

        Exactly. This important point was also mentioned, and then oddly never brought up again, in Harmon’s piece:

        “We don’t fully understand genetics,” Mr. Brewer said, his dark hair tied back in a ponytail. “Once you change something like this, there is no taking it back.”

        It would seem in the “lonely quest for facts” that would be an item worth following up on, no?

  12. fresno dan

    “NSA statement does not deny ‘spying’ on members of Congress Spencer Ackermanm, Guardian. Sure, but have they bugged every motel and hotel room in the Beltway? I’m guessing yes”

    I can remember Frank Church and the investigation of the “intelligence services”
    On August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC’s Meet the Press without mentioning the name of the NSA about this agency:

    “ In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.
    If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
    I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.[9][10][11]

    What was than an outrage with real consequences is now, with arguably much, much worse and more extensive violations of the Constitution is ….yawn….not really bothering anybody.
    What if we had a coup and nobody noticed?

    1. Jim

      We have already had a coup lead by the NSA and while many have noticed nothing is being done to stop their consolidation of power.

      The Left is still stuck in their increasingly absurd narrative of Market=Bad, State=Good, even though some of the most powerful coup participants are primarily State-based.
      The Right is still stuck in their increasingly absurd narrative of Market=Good, State=Bad, even though some of the most powerful coup participants are primarily market-based.

      The only choice for savior is the State or the Market–a choice which has little do with our actual cultural/political/economic/financial situation and a choice which the coup participants happily endorse since it helps to maintain their hegemony.

    2. Ed

      Unfortunately, Church was correct that once this technology was turned loose on the general population, there is no longer any possibility of successful resistance. The lack of outrage could just be pragmatic recognition of this.

      1. neo-realist

        Back in Church’s day when there was not widespread use of technology among the people, the lack of distraction from non use of the technology gave them the thinking capacity, and perspective to see and oppose it for its potential big brother use. In the present age, so many people are distracted by plugging into technology via their social networking that it has narrowed their perspective of the broader fascist implications of its use against them–“C’est la vie, I’m texting my friend”.

        We also had more principled people in government willing to push back, whereas today, those principled people have either been pushed out of power by the plutocrats in favor of willing servants or they have been blackmailed into acquiescence.

  13. Eclair

    I saw the headlines for the NYT’s GMO article this morning and decided not to read it, until my daughter e-mailed it to me. As a mother and grandmother, I felt it was my duty to respond to her, and so spent the next hour+ writing a reply. As a regular reader here, I hold in my mind at all times the high quality of writing and analysis I find in these comments. But, in spite of my feelings of inadequacy, I’m posting my reply to my daughter. Unedited.
    Oh lordy, where to start on this one!

    Point # 1. If GMO food is so safe, why are agri-companies spending millions on preventing moves to label it? Well, we know the answer, people probably will chose to buy non-GMO food, thereby reducing profits. Even if this desire to eat non-GMO is “illogical” and “unscientific.” The whole food thing with humans is totally illogical, anyway. Some cultures love dog and grasshopper and pork. Other cultures consider them vomit-inducing. Don’t think anyone eats kittens.

    Point # 2. GMO crops are necessary to prevent widespread famine and to feed the growing world population. Many (if not most) famines are political in nature. Prime example is the Irish famine, where crops grown in Ireland were being exported to feed England while the peasants died. Unfortunately, the native Irish peasants ate a diet composed mainly of potatoes, which did provide ample carbohydrates to allow them to work the fields, but, when the crop was decimated by a virus, they starved. Same thing happened in Sweden, by the way. Also, an example of the perils of mono-cropping.

    Same stuff occurring in “developing” countries now, due to trade deals. Mexico is case in point. Farmers grew mixed crops – grains, veggies, etc. NAFTA allowed cheap US grain to flood the country, making it uneconomical for Mexican farmers to compete. Go bankrupt, don’t grow varied crop of food (including nutritious veggies), end up eating cheap corn-based processed food and drinking cheap sugar-based soft drinks. Vitamin deficiencies – and gross obesity are the results (90% of Mexican women are now obese!!). Call it the GMO famine.

    Point #3. GMO crops are necessary to combat pests/disease. It has become a vicious cycle: Industrial, large-scale farms encourage mono-cropping, which are just red flags for a pest or disease. One horrible pest can wipe out Iowa’s GDP for the season!. So, GMO seeds that resist a pest – or make the crop tolerate massive doses of herbicide (Round-up) – become touted as the “saviour.” Planting of more diverse crops actually favor pest/disease resistance. And, if one crop is affected, the farmer’s entire income is not wiped out.

    Point #4. GMO crops are necessary to add vitamins to crops and so combat vitamin deficiencies in “developing” countries. The GMO “golden rice” with added vitamin A might be a boon. But …. vitamin A is plentiful in many many other plant and animal products: meats, fish, yellow/orange fruits and veggies, green veggies. Vitamin A deficiencies are prevalent in India, Nepal and South Asia islands. Question we should be asking: Why are the poor eating only rice? See Point#2. Ireland and Sweden and feeding the poor a diet of potatoes.

    Point #5. Monsanto (and other large corporations) owns rights to GMO seeds. Well, yes they do. And, one may argue about the ethics and morality of “owning” a gene, a basic building block of life. Humans for centuries did not question the morality of “owning” another person. Or, of a male “owning” females. However, among most humans, the idea of one person “owning” another is now unacceptable. Monsanto’s protestations about getting a return on investment and making a profit, to the contrary (I think southern slave-holders made the same argument), we may all someday regard the “ownership” of a gene as unacceptable in a civilized society.

    And, contrary to what the author of the article says, Monsanto has sued and is suing farmers: 145 since 1997. This is taken from Monsanto’s website. Monsanto is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. There aren’t many farmers (even with huge acreage, US corn and soybean farmers are still dependent on large government subsides to make a profit – but that’s for another discussion!) that want to face the deep pockets of Monsanto. And, corn pollen is wind-blown and those crops do cross-pollinate with non-GMO crops.

    The point here is that once a farmer buys a GMO seed, plants it, harvests the crop … he or she does not “own” the resulting seed. He can never save and plant it. Because of the law that says Monsanto owns the implanted gene, any progeny is Monsanto’s property unto eternity. Sort of like a slave and the progeny of slaves. Always the property of the master.

    Point #6. Comparing GMO dissenters with climate-change denialists. Whoa! This is disingenuous at best and downright evil at worst. Climate change, rising oceans levels, ocean acidification, dramatic drop in fish populations …. all this is happening. Piles of data. And … it is occurring in tandem with a rising level of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Which, is not necessarily causal …. it’s just correlated. As, the article’s author points out, the rising incidences of childhood autism and allergies as well as of adult diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimers and many cancers- are correlated with the increasing prevalence of GMO food in our diet. I agree, there is no proof of causation here. But show me an American child (well, with the exception of the Amish) who has not eaten heartily of GMO corn starch, corn sweeteners, soy flour, etc., in the last 20 years. And, breathed the polluted air … and drunk the water. Our food and our environment are poisoning us.

    GMO’s are not necessarily bad. And, certainly plant scientists are going to promote them … because, well, this is their livelihood. Atomic fission and fusion are not necessarily bad. But the results are hellish to live with. Just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we should.

    What GMO protesters are saying is: our food system is fucked up (industrial-scale farms, mono-cropping, excessive use of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, almost catastrophic loss of top-soil.) Yeah, there is no PROOF that GMO’s are affecting us adversely … but there is no PROOF that they DON’T have long-term effect on our bodies … and the bodies of our children – who are so much more sensitive to these effects than are adults. You can’t ethically do long-term controlled studies on people, feeding one group all GMO foods and another group all non-GMO , organically grown, foods.

    You just have to do what human parents have done for millennia; and, that is to make day-by-day decisions, based on the available data and the cultural myths and the stories our grandmothers told us – about what to feed your children. And, frankly, when I look at what our industrial food system has done to newly-developed countries just in terms of obesity (report out in past few days), I’m going to stick with my rules: fresh food, grown without pesticides; know where your food – especially your meat – comes from; eat mostly veggies and fruit; don’t eat anything that has a list of ingredients you can’t pronounce; don’t eat too much.

    As to the tumor-ridden rats fed GMO food, I read some stuff before Christmas about that big brouhaha. Will have to dig it out and reread and report.

    I’m sure there will be lots of reaction to this article in the next few days from people who are more knowledgeable than I. Pulitzer Prize winning material it is not (unless Monsanto is giving out the Pulitzers). As an example of a major newspaper planting seeds of doubt in the population’s mind to the benefit of huge multi-national corporations – manufacturing consent – it is a winner.

    Now that I have spent Sunday morning on this .. thank you, Sarah … well, it is still snowing and non-walkable outside – unless I want to shovel …

    1. from Mexico

      In Mexico the word sacred frequenly comes up in debates over GMO contamination. The word sacred, however, is worthless to those raised on a diet of classical and neoclassical economics.

      “Biodiversidad, Erosión y Contaminación Genética del Maíz Nativo en América Latina” is an article you might find interesting. A link to it can be found here by clicking on the “publicaciones” tab:

      Even though the article is written in Spanish, the introduction is also written in English.

      The pictures of all the different varieties of corn which exist in Latin America at the end of the article are also interesting.

      The allegation is that GMOs threaten to wipe out all this biodiversity, and along with it sacred traditions which go back for at least five thousand years.

      1. Eclair

        Thanks for the link, from Mexico. Yes, “sacred” is a term that perhaps needs resuscitation. Water, maize, the dependency between animals and people, all are sacred in cultures that haven’t yet advanced to the level of worshipping the science of economics.

        I treasure your daily comments, by the way. You set a high bar.

  14. Ignim Brites

    Fallujah. When John McCain suggested that he would be willing to have US troops in Iraq for 1000 years, he, in his inarticulate way, suggested that one of the stakes in the 2008 election was America’s willingness to enforce a Pax Americana in the middle east. McCain’s assumption, that this could be accomplished without loss of American lives, as the long term Korean presence suggested, was pretty dubious. But clearly the American people have decided that a forceful (military) American presence in the middle east is not in the national interest. Recent developments in Syria, Iraq and with regard to Iran has pushed the internationalist elite of the country to get nervous about this now. And Hollywood is getting into the act with a new “Jack Ryan” movie to panic the New York press. It seems unlikely that Obama could be pushed into another middle east adventure. But you never know. Whether or not the meme that we have vital national security interests in the middle east can survive its undermining by the shale oil revolution is unknown. Not that it is completely unreasonable to suggest that terrorism could collapse the world economy. Mumbai may have been a dry run,

  15. skippy

    National assets including Medibank Private and Australia Post should be sold, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has told the government.

    The ACCC has also urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to push for the privatisation of state-owned energy companies.

    Chairman Rod Sims has told The Australian Financial Review a root-and-branch review of competition laws should recommend the government relinquish control of long-held assets to ensure productivity and the greatest benefit to the public.
    ACCC chairman Rod Sims

    ACCC chairman Rod Sims Photo: Nic Walker

    ”I think it would be the most important driver of how Australia improves its productivity,” Mr Sims told the Fairfax Media paper.

    ”Of all the reviews going on, this will be the most important because it will be removing impediments to competition right across the country.”

    Government ownership versus private ownership massively affects the incentives people have to drive productivity change.”On the matter of energy assets, Mr Sims said consumers would be paying less for electricity, particularly in Queensland and NSW, if the assets had been in private hands.

    The ACCC boss said his priorities this year would include pursuing large penalties against major companies who breached consumer laws as well as closely monitoring petrol prices.

    Read more:

    skippy… whispers have the entire health system is only a few years away from privatization… is economic mathematics the greatest destructive weapon… humanity has ever devised???? Born a – consumer – will be the next stage of cortex injection… homo consumer = from Latin cnsmere : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + smere, to take; see em- in Indo-European roots… “smere” is absolutely spot on methinks….

    1. F. Beard

      That word “share” again.

      Sharing is what corporations would have had to do all along if not for the government-backed credit cartel that allows them to steal their workers’ purchasing power.

      1. skippy

        Corporations are P/L actuary’s, sharing is anti profit.

        skippy… the historical physical evidence is beyond repute.

        1. F. Beard

          Actually, sharing is pro-profit since otherwise the assets (the profit producers) are dissipated in usury and/or dividend payments. With common stock as private money, ownership and profits are shared WITHOUT touching the assets.

          Common stock as private money makes perfect sense unless corporations have a cheaper option, which they do, government-enabled theft of purchasing power from their workers and the general population.

          1. F. Beard

            Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17 [NASB]
            In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me,” declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 22:12 [NASB]

            Common stock as private money resolves this paradox since no profits are taken; they are just more widely shared.

            1. skippy

              Historical Evidence to support your claims please and no biblical homily’s.

              You really seem to have taken the whole “biblical corporation” meme to heart… society is a corporation schtick… barf~

              Skippy.. if you have not noticed I am completely unswayed by biblical anything, quite the opposite imo. It shows a lack of ability to think for ones self and to adjust with the advent of new and better information.

              1. F. Beard

                quite the opposite imo. skippy

                That’s called bigoted thinking.

                You’ll have no supporters on Judgement Day, including yourself, when you bow in awe to the Creator who allowed Himself to be crucified for His creation.

                Original thinking? I’ve done more than my fair share but somewhat like Paul, I consider it rubbish compared to knowing God: Philippians 3:7-12.

                1. skippy

                  bigot meant “an excessively devoted or hypocritical person.” Bigot is first recorded in English in 1598 with the sense “a superstitious hypocrite.”

                  Thesaurus Legend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms
                  Noun 1. bigot – a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own chauvinist – a person with a rejudiced belief in the superiority of his or her own kind antifeminist – someone who does not believe in the social or economic or political equality of men and women homophobe – a person who hates or fears homosexual people drumbeater, partisan, zealot – a fervent and even militant proponent of something racialist, racist – a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others sectarian, sectarist, sectary – a member of a sect; “most sectarians are intolerant of the views of any other sect” segregationist, segregator – someone who believes the races should be kept apart.

                  Adj. 1. bigoted – blindly and obstinately attached to some creed or opinion and intolerant toward others; “a bigoted person”; “an outrageously bigoted point of view”
                  intolerant – unwilling to tolerate difference of opinion

                  Skip here… go look in the mirror… you were actually warned, your commenting rights were in jeopardy for what you accuse me of.

                  skippy… I am tolerant to a point, except when others lay claim to universal truths, which then are used to (as from above) to dictate the conversation. I provide evidence to refute your assertions and in no way do i attempt to stop you from believing anything, nor make claims on your future out comes. Its a big difference Beardo the superior being by proxy.

            2. skippy

              Here beardo try something more factually based – It’s amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there’s good news too.


              skippy… , social psychology is vastly superior to opinions of elitists from antiquity imo.

              1. Garrett Pace

                For what it’s worth, I think the Bible (OT in particular) was written or at least translated by people with incredibly shrewd observers with good insight into the nature of their fellow human beings, on a Shakespearean level at least. And the Jesus represented in the Bible was as keen an observer of human condition as ever lived.

  16. Jim

    An alternative interpretation of “Reclaiming Virtue Ethics for Economics” which attempts to jump outside the tired and increasingly absurd progressive/left narrative of Good State vs Bad Market (since both spheres are now completely blended together in their joint responsibility for our emerging technocratic-totalitarian structure) would argue that MacIntyre does not go deeply enough into an examination of the nature of Practice.

    First of all Bruni and Sugden do acknowledge in their analysis that at the foundation of a properly functioning Market even Adam Smith himself recognized the importance of virtues such as prudence, temperance and self-command for a successful economic life.
    But, of course the real purpose of the Bruni and Sugden analysis is to lend support to the other absurd modern narrative of only Good Market-Bad State as the solution/cover to our emerging totalitarian nightmare.

    But what if practice is other/more than what MacIntyre indicates when he argues that it consists of “a coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity which realizes goods internal to that form of action–which has intrinsic ends and internal standards of excellence.”

    How exactly would “socially established cooperative human activity become embedded in individual human character?

    What is a practice with “intrinsic ends and internal standards.”

    I would argue that what we are really talking about is an analysis of the nature of embedded dispositions which prepares the actor for virtuous or unvirtuous actions.

    This has to do with understanding the relationship between repetition, habit (good or bad) and the potential that the individual has to be better than himself.

    Of course, the knee-jerk left progressive community would argue that such a vertical goal is ideologically unacceptable ever if it is a part of our nature and even though an appreciation of such “up-ward tending” might be crucial to eventually tapping into powerful motivatons for cultural, political and economic change.

  17. sd

    A concise and fairly easy to understand article about index linked mortgages in Iceland. And on it goes…..

    During a single week in early October, 154 Icelandic families quietly defaulted on their mortgages and had their homes put up for forced state auctions, or foreclosure sales. They aren’t the first families to be threatened with the loss of their homes this year, and based on current trends, they won’t be the last. Rather, these families are part of a steadily increasing number of Icelanders whose bankruptcy is precipitated by compounding loan interest and skyrocketing principals, victims of what MIT graduate and researcher Dr. Jacky Mallet referred to in this paper as “the most unique instrument of financial self-destruction over the last 30 years.”

    “So even as you are making monthly payments on your loan, the amount you owe is actually increasing—drastically.”

    Index-linked loans, or Verðtryggð lán, as they’re called, make up at least 85% of the Icelandic mortgage market, according to The Homes Association of Iceland.

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