Links 1/8/14

If you are in New York City, don’t forget the meetup tonight with Lambert at the Old Town Bar, 45 East 18th (just off Union Square) from 6:00 to 8:30 PM. Meet us upstairs! It’s still gonna be sucky cold, though not as bad as Tuesday, so dress warmly! I may wind up taking my wardrobe cues tomorrow from Marge Gunderson.

Vermont farm struggles to care for abandoned horses Reuters

Bird survey assesses light pollution BBC

Report Finds More Flaws in Digitizing Patient Files New York Times

Apple: $10bn spent on apps last year Guardian

A New ‘Mother’ to Digitally Nag You Wall Street Journal (furzy mouse)

The Next Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet Pacific Standard (Chuck L)

Alibaba ban a fresh hurdle for Bitcoin Financial Times

IMF to revise up global growth forecasts Telegraph

Emerging Markets See Selloff Wall Street Journal

Jakobsen on Europe, deflation and the euro TradingFloor (furzy mouse)

Richest Danes Face Benefit Cuts as Universal Welfare Abandoned Bloomberg

No Truce in Turkey as Erdogan Party Sees Graft Probe as Coup Bloomberg

America’s Black Ops Blackout, Unraveling the Secrets of the Military’s Secret Military TomDispatch

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Clickable Consent at Risk in Internet Privacy Lawsuits Bloomberg. Best news I’ve read in a while. If these clowns are forced to destroy past data due to inadequate consent and start over, serves them right.

Carmakers keep data on drivers’ locations Detroit News

WikiLeaks’ Assange: Sysadmins of the World, Unite! Wired. Problem is TPTB are already there. Why do you think they’ve been so aggressive in going after “hackers,” including ones who weren’t, like Aaron Swartz?

We’ve Known for Some Time that the NSA Is Spying On Congress George Washington

Gates hits out at Obama foreign policy Financial Times

Book review: ‘Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’ by Robert M. Gates Washington Post

In surprise move, jobless benefits advance

Federal Probe Targets Banks Over Bonds Wall Street Journal. The SEC suit that kicked this investigation off is here.

Navy mistakenly sends FOIA plans to reporter Politico (Carol B)

Socialized Health Care in a Red State CounterPunch (Carol B)

What happened to US life expectancy? Incidental Economist (Mark Thoma)

Alternative Lenders Peddle Pricey Loans Wall Street Journal

JP Morgan Pulled $275 Million Of Its Own Money From Madoff Feeder Funds Months Before His Arrest Business Insider

Your Cab Driver is Looking For A Job NBC 10 Philadelphia. Carol B: “Enterprising guy, but note that the resume has been displayed for a year and a half and still no job.”

‘Financial literacy is a human right’ Guardian. OMG, the neoliberals just keep upping the rhetoric! Markets uber alles!

The Circle of Scam American Prospect

Coastal dwellers should take their own chances John Kay, Financial Times

Antidote du jour:

Robin Moore-Giraffe Manor, Nairobi

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  1. Ben Johannson

    Regarding LearnVest and Alexa von Tobel: how many peoples’ CVs are based entirely on attending an Ivy League University and leveraging their contacts?

    1. Anon y Mouse

      Well, she is also charismatic, a great public speaker, but … yeah, a kid in her early 30s who got millions of dollars for having the revolutionary idea of offering financial planning. If you ever end up in a conversation with her (I have) you will be nauseated hearing about all the disruption (and other buzzwords) her company will bring about.

      But … her company, LearnVest, really has been built around the idea of providing financial planning to the middle and working class, and the financial planners are good and friendly. And it is a good deal, at least in its current unsustainable phase: consumers get access to financial planners at below cost. LearnVest pays the financial planners about $800 and then charges customers about $300 (dot com logic) in order to gain market share. If you don’t mind putting your financial passwords in their app, the app is good as well.

      Please don’t read this as me pushing LearnVest, and their CEO is repellent to anyone who can see through her facade, but I did use them and was pleased with the result. They don’t sell services, to avoid conflicts of interest, and the financial planner I worked with was nice, hard working, and dedicated.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Move over, Suze Orman, there’s a new girlfriend in town.

        And ditto on the buzzwords. I’d suggest consulting Roget’s Thesaurus for synonyms for the word passionate. Enough already with the passion.

    2. Skeptic

      “How many peoples’ CVs are based entirely on attending an Ivy League University and leveraging their contacts?”

      Here is a wrinkle on academic records and leveraging one’s contacts:

      It would be my understanding that academic records are now computerized. Since anything digital is subject to change by anyone gaining either legitimate or illegitimate access to it, why would anyone rely on the accuracy, authenticity of computerized academic records? And, since tampering with or even creating false academic records could be a lucrative business, there is a lot of incentive for anyone either inside a university IT department or with knowledge of same to engage in such tampering.

      Back in the dawn of the PC age, I was told that individuals in the IT department of a major university were selling clone PCs at severely discounted prices without invoices thereby avoiding the mandated sales taxes. If such folk working right in the IT department were engaged in such overt illegal activity, what might they have been doing given their relatively free access to the university’s computers?

      Madoff and the major banks have certainly shown how many digitized records are not worth the paper they are printed out on.

    1. Expat

      George Washington’s column raises proper concerns about the potential for abuse that the NSA’s spying on Congress makes possible.

      But there is an important issue for all of the constitutionalists out there who believe that the USA’s virtue depends on that document. The separation of powers, a profound doctrine that prevents such stupidities as an imperial presidency, is surely implicated when the executive branch through agencies like the NSA and the IRS gathers embarrassing information on elected officials (and, yes, I include the president & VP in the potentially embarrassed category).

      The fact that the Congress failed to get enough votes to protect its powers last year when legislation to regulate NSA behaviour failed is just one more illustration of how this generation of Americans has squandered our democracy solely to make a few people very, very rich.

      Unless we throw the bums out, require any good people to join a third party in order to get votes, and thoroughly clean House (and Senate), the US will slip ever further away from majority control and, as such, the dreams of so many around the world.

      1. James Levy

        I don’t think the abdication of authority by Congress is primarily about making some people rich. I think it is a long-term response to events combined with a short-term desire to avoid responsibility. It can probably be traced back to the Great Depression and the fact that Roosevelt was the only one with a vision who could and would act. Congress followed him, blindly at first, but with growing antipathy and skepticism over time. But then World War II happened, then the Cold War, then the black and student rebellions of the 1960s, then the perceived profit squeeze of the 1970s and America’s slipping absolute dominance. Congress tried to reassert itself in a petulant and partisan way by going after Clinton hammer and tongs, but then 9/11 happened and Congress went back into doormat mode.

        Currently, Congress is back in its petulant and partisan phase, but as irresponsible and short-sighted as ever. C. Wright Mills predicted that Congress would fall into the second rank of actors because the money was in the Corporations and the power was in the Executive branch with the military, the spooks, and the semi-secret obligations of imperial management. Of course Congress loves to serve the wealthy because that’s where the money is. But they also display a lack of nerve and a fear of reality (they don’t want to know about the torture regime and that they themselves are being spied on) that goes beyond servicing their campaign donors. When the model of efficiency and excellence is the “free market” corporation, folks are going to emulate its model, which is a top-down autocracy. Politics becomes a contest of cabals trying to get “their guy” made CEO, not a collective effort to solve problems. Most Congressmen, and too many Americans, are looking for “leaders”, which implies pretty clearly that they want to be led. The original ideal of the President as a brave, humble, and efficient Chief Magistrate straight out of the Roman Republic is lost beyond, I fear, redemption. And how does a leader lead? By fear and by favors. So he spies on everyone but give the banks TARP, ZIRP, and QE. Take away the lies we tell ourselves and it is all pretty clear.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          “short-term desire to avoid responsibility.”

          This is the driving force of the Democratic Party and the result of their candidate recruitment policies. The GOP will fund its challengers and outsiders. Admittedly, they have more money, but the Democrats hoard money. Obama is sitting on a huge campaign chest when Democratic challengers couldn’t raise money until September when money is more or less useless in 2008.

          Democrats recruit non-controversial, self-funders. Being non-controversial is a sign of laziness except when it comes to “sexy” work, doing commercials, rallies, house parties, fundraising calls. Going to rinky dink town halls full of skeptics is hard*. As these Democrats move from the local governments to the State house and then to Congress, what we are left with is celebrity candidates (Al Gore, Evan Bayh-types) and people who bought titles who are there for the fun. Like Janis Joplin who noted performing before crowd was better than sex, these politicians are there for the same reason, but they aren’t there for policy or values. Like the musicians who work in studios and receive criticism and perform in front of hostile or uninterested crowds of different listeners to become great, the great leaders do work which isn’t “sexy.” It revolves thinking and reading dry reports. Why would a local real estate developer who once gave money to the animal shelter turned Democratic Congressman** want to do that kind of work.

          *This is why Bill is President and Hillary is not. Bill did this. Hillary did not and it left enough of a bad taste she lost Iowa and didn’t do better in the whitest place on Earth. If Hillary had worked harder, she would be President. Its why she won’t be President in 2016.

          **This is no one specific, just a made up example.

          1. James Levy

            You are correct, but might it be that Dems act this way because to some extent they are more likely to be held accountable in a way Republicans are not? I’m thinking 9/11 here, specifically, but all of Paulson and Bernanke’s policies (and we forget at our peril that Bernanke is a Republican) seem to be blamed on Obama, especially by the Tea Party types. I mean, Republican mendacity is taken for granted by the wink-and-nod media. But they like to fixate on Democratic hypocrisy. No excuse here for the Dems, but it is wise to note that the environment in which they operate favors the bland, photogenic, moderate Dem over the policy-oriented progressive. The Democratic Party’s class origins, fear, and risk aversion accomplishes the rest.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Cleaning the Senate is a waste. In general, the Senate is an abomination. They may be better than the GOP of the last 30 years (the Teabaggers are just the followers coming of age; the Tea Party was an attempt to put them under control and prepare for Romney, the Governor of Massachusetts; it was so on the nose.), but cleansing the Senate is a waste of time. It needs to be abolished as an undemocratic operation where good legislation has gone to die since the dawn of the Republic. I would prefer indirect elections of Senators before our current system which promotes do-nothing Presidential wannabees.

        1. Jim Haygood

          ‘I would prefer indirect elections of Senators.’

          Also known as ‘federalism,’ the as-designed U.S. structure in which state legislatures each selected two Senators. It was destroyed by the 17th amendment in 1913.

          Federalism survives only as a slogan. Overwhelming micromanagement from Washington D.C. — everything from Medicaid to drinking-age laws — shows that federalism is dead. This wouldn’t be happening if states, via their Senators, could check federal overreaching as the founders intended.

          1. James Levy

            Sorry, but the nail in the coffin of Federalism was Southern Jim Crow States Rights. Nothing bad we have today was worth the perpetuation of that abomination. A system in which blacks could be disenfranchised, terrorized, and murdered with impunity had to go. And the only way to get rid of it was through the death of States Rights. The only thing that I lament is that the deaths of 620,000 people the first time we put those clowns in their place didn’t stick, and the Republicans gave up on their black fellow citizens and turned them over to 90 years of purgatory in the name of reconciliation.

        2. Ed

          I’ve been slowly reading more about the history of Congress, particularly the House of Representatives (I agree with NTG that the Senate is a waste of time, in some sense literally).

          Congress has been very slow to establish Congressionally controlled institutions that can create policies. Instead its members follow the lead of the excutive branch, and think tanks/ lobbyists. This is really one of the two key deficiencies of Congress as an institution. The other is that it is essentially legal to bribe its members (there are ethics laws, but it is ridiculously easy and legal to give thinly disguised bribes in the forms of campaign contributions, promises of employment, and employment of family members). The effect Congress is a sort of rubber stamp legislature that is balky enough to ensure that the bribes keep coming.

          However, this is an institution that was very much conceived in the late eighteenth century, and in terms of corruption and generally inefficiency its hard to top the British Parliament at the time which were the main available model. The 18th century framers frankly envisaged a government that did less in general and a federal government in particular that was less powerful than was the case in the 20th century, so having a Congress where states and localities sent people to bargain for some federal government patronage and to stop programs particularly injurious to their interests seemed to be OK. Lord North (!) was the first British Prime Minister to resign and give a no confidence vote in the House of Commons as the reason for his resignation. This was in 1782. The US Constitution was ratified in 1788, so the whole framework was conceived before ministerial responsibility to the legislature really became a feature in any constitutional system. And ministerial responsibiliy to the legislature is really key to keeping the executive under control.

          Short of a parliamentary system, the House of Representatives can be improved by developing the capacity to frame its own policies (which both the majority and minority can use). The entire US electoral system needs to be overhauled -this includes campaign financing, district boundaries, and the administration of elections and who counts the votes. For the Senate, it would be better either to abolish it or to follow the example of other countries with upper houses and restrict its ability to block legislation.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I think the indirect elections would promote a different caliber of individual. Former state house speakers-types would be the Senators. They wouldn’t have standing to grandstand on foreign issues and when they did go abroad they would have more understanding of how this really affects people.

            They would also understand governing is difficult while being older and possibly burnt out. I think the effect would be the creation of a class less interested in bothering with the House than we have today.

            Three not being popularly elected state-wide, they wouldn’t have the imaginary standing that they are one step away from the White House by leveraging a non-controversial voting record and the state du jour into an Iowa trip. If they wanted to move to the White House, they would need a seemingly positive record because they aren’t directly elected. The President isn’t obviously, but it seems close enough that high profile, un-elected will never win the White House.

            1. Ed

              Well obviously you want to study what changed between the 19th century, when indirect election of Senators was the norm, and the 20th century. Did the composition of the Senate change significantly? Were Senators more or less likely to seek and win election to the Presidency (itself technically an indirectly elected office)? Some have argued that the growth in federal power versus the states in the twentieth century was at least partially a result of taking away the power of indirect election of Senators.

              Looking at changes in presidential candidates is difficult because candidates who had spent time in the Senate usually held other offices. However, the 20th century at first glance does seem to a have a small increase in major party nominees who had spent the bulk of their political career in the Senate or even just part of their political career in the Senate.

              I agree that still having the Senators elected from the states, but popularly elected instead of by the state governments, was frankly brain dead and I wonder why this wasn’t questioned more. Using the states as units of election makes sense if the Senators are meant to represent and look out for the interest of the state governments. Then they should be selected (and deselected) by the state governments. If they are to be popularly elected, you don’t want this to happen from districts with unequal populations. I think the original 18th century framers also erred in not allowing state governments to recall Senators, and to a lesser extent in having two per state instead of one per state -there was no reason to go to two per state and with one per state you would have fifty Senators, and the ridiculous Senate procedures would be much less unweildy (since you would need 30 and not 60 to get to the 60% threshold, and could even get to a 67% threshold with 34 instead of 67).

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                Obviously the late 19th century Senate was no picnic then either which is why I want it abolished all together, but in my estimation, Senators are treated with a respect which isn’t warranted because they are elected state wide. The result is they aren’t told to “go to hell” often enough. That “the gentleman from the great state of X” has filtered down into us. The House members despite the size of the district still get this and represent districts too big to run a good ole’ operation but not big enough for a challenger with proper support even with gerrymandering.

                During our own Syrian crisis, House members were jumping ship first. Admittedly, there was a Democratic President, but the Democratic House caucus voted against the Iraq War, NAFTA, and a host of other bad ideas. The Democratic Senate on the other hand has willing accomplice despite claiming to revere the filibuster except when they were in the minority. The Senators don’t have to worry and can isolate themselves because they have a whole state to draw for “yes men” and “loyal crowds.”

                The legislators are up for re-election and want to move up, and they have standing to demand face time with the Senator. If there are 100 voters, the Senator will be motivated to hear their concerns, and the local legislator is a local legislator because he is local.

                The 60% threshhold is a gentlemen’s agreement. 50 Senators plus the VP meeting in any old time and place has as much Constitutional muster as any grand tradition of the Senate. The Supreme Court ruled on this in the 1890’s. The filibuster is used to give these Senators “good” voting records while serving big money donors because they all expect to be President.

    2. neo-realist

      I believe L Fletcher Prouty’s book, the Secret Team, made mention of the company bugging the President’s office and having agents among his staff, so Presidents, no surprise.

  2. Hugh

    Robert Gates’ memoir is an interesting example of how our elites jockey among themselves while still being able to unite to screw the rest of us over. Gates was, of course, Secretary of Defense under both Bush and Obama, showing how little difference there was between Democrats and Republicans when it came to pointless, horrifically expensive wars of empire. Gates was a major supporter of both the failed surge in Iraq and the equally failed surge in Afghanistan. He remains apparently a big fan of Afghanistan’s corrupt narco-leader Karzai. I think a lot of this is CYA. The shrillness of Gates’ blame gaming is indicative of the magnitude of the failure of the policies he championed. It should be seen as a pre-emptive “Who lost Afghanistan?” strike. Of course, Gates’ alternative was even more pointless, endless war on top of what is already America’s longest war. Such abuse of American troops shows that he never gave a shit about them. His criticisms show too how little loyalty there is among these clucks. It is no more than Obama, Biden, and the Democrats deserve. It is not, however, what either we or the soldiers in our armed forces deserved. We both deserved infinitely better than we got from Obama, Gates, and our political Establishment in general.

    1. diptherio

      “Such abuse of American troops shows that he never gave a shit about them.”

      If you care about American troops, you will not send to kill and die in distant lands for questionable purposes.

      If you care about American troops, you will not say, “Yes, sir! Yes, sir!” when the Brass decide to have them construct a hell-on-earth for people they have never met.

      Therefore, if you care about American troops, you can never become Secretary of Defense [sic]. QED

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I think it was Sherman who voiced his opposition to Lincoln’s candidacy prior to the 1860 election despite sympathies for his position because he thought everyone should vote to avoid a war.

        The Confederate General who led the Army of Northern Virginia until he was hurt and Lee took over called Sherman the most moral man he had ever met at Sherman’s funeral because he was the only person who didn’t pretend war was something other than it was. Sherman predicted how many Confederate men would have to die before the South gave up at the beginning of the war and was lampooned for not predicting the troops would be home by Christmas in local newspapers. That target was hit about April 1st, 1865.

        1. Butch In Waukegan

          So “Sherman [was] the most moral man he had ever met”, because Sherman had qualms about a war that would produce thousands of Confederate enemy deaths? His morality fits well with our expeditions today in the places which the military (talking among themselves) describe as “Indian territory”.

          ”We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children. — William Tecumseh Sherman

          Neither Obama or Gates give a damn about Iraqi of Afghani deaths, let alone rank and file US troops.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Sherman was the most moral man because he treated the war like war. Everyone else had imaginary issues and sought to live in a dream like state about the costs of war.

            Sherman was a soldier, and that might be an issue for you. Sherman didn’t live in a fantasy land of being home by Christmas or expecting glorious victories. He was ignored because of his stark predictions except for a chance with Lincoln which put him on a collision course with Grant after the war started.

            Please, spare me this coded war of Northern Agression crap.

            1. James Levy

              What your saying is, he was moral because he knew and admitted what he was doing was immoral. Kind of a weird way of looking at things. And Joe Johnston loved Sherman because he offered him ridiculously lenient terms of surrender at Bentonville in 1865. Sherman’s terms were condemned by Washington and Johnston had to surrender under the same terms Lee got at Appomattox (which were, considering these were rebels, extraordinarily generous in and of themselves).

              I’m not one who sees Sherman as a devil incarnate, because he wasn’t, but the idea that he was this great moral individual does not hold up under any kind of scrutiny.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                Absolutely, it does. He worked to avoid the war, and when the war started, he didn’t live in a fantasy land about the nobility of war.

                Half-assed attempts results in spiraling conflicts which last. Sherman understood that. He didn’t advocate for phony smart wars or humanitarian missions which always result in expanding disasters.

                The escalation of the war happened without Sherman. He was out West until after Gettysburg.

            2. Butch In Waukegan

              Sherman Curtis LeMay was the most moral man because he treated the war like war. Everyone else had imaginary issues and sought to live in a dream like state about the costs of war.

              Sherman was a man of his times, not a devil, but I can’t agree that someone who advocated and participated in genocide can, in any way, be described as moral.

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘Gates was a major supporter of both the failed surge in Iraq and the equally failed surge in Afghanistan.’

      Meanwhile, the FT quotes Gates as follows:

      ‘[Gates] said presidents in recent decades had been “too often too quick to reach for a gun” when confronted by tough foreign policy problems. “Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarised, the use of force too easy for presidents,” the book says.’

      Ya reckon? Kinda like Xaviera Hollander lamenting that sex has become too commercialized and commoditized.

      Why not let Gates offer this defense in the dock at The Hague? After all, guilty verdicts went pretty far down the chain of command at Nuremberg.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Gates is an interesting case because its an opening salvo against Obama having a post-Presidency like Clinton. Gates isn’t the usual rabble who write juicy books. He is respected in Versailles.

      Of course, I can hardly contain my glee and lack of surprise at a Republican, especially a W. appointed one, pulling out the knife for a Democrat who gave him a high profile job (reappointment).

      It does demonstrate how the GOP believers see their Democratic counterparts. One Gates remarks that Obama doesn’t seem like a moron at least from his perspective and includes that the President was concerned about the troops*. A few weeks ago a Republican Congressman or Senator expressed surprise and thanks towards the Democrats who reached out to him over his family tragedy. He had no idea they were people just like him.

      Seriously, the Gates appointment and even the Bernanke appointment demonstrate the sheer narcissism of Obama. The idea Obama thought his glory would make these appointments successes is incredulous.

      *Gates is a Republican, so his views have to be filtered through that prism. Obama’s support for our troops would extend to photo-ops and remembering to use them as rhetorical devices in Gates estimation.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘Gates isn’t the usual rabble who write juicy books. He is respected in Versailles.’

        ‘Respected in Versailles’ … ah ha ha ha! That’s even more impressive than being the honorary night-mayor of Paducah, Kentucky.

        Doubtless you were cryptically alluding to the country song, ‘I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.’

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          No, but I wish did think of the song at the time. It is an apt analogy. When John Murtha came out against the Iraq War, it was a shattering development in Versailles because he is among the “respected” elders. After that, the Iraq War coverage shifted dramatically until respected members supported the Surge through a lack non-opposition. The country souring on the war never changed perceptions because the country is full of dumbass hicks, valley girls-types, minorities who aren’t white enough, and DFHs from the Versailles perspective.

      2. neo-realist

        Yes, Obama was so concerned about the troops that his iron will consented to keeping them fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely:/

  3. Hugh

    Robert Gates’ memoir is an interesting example of how our elites jockey among themselves while still being able to unite to screw the rest of us over. Gates was, of course, Secretary of Defense under both Bush and Obama, showing how little difference there was between Democrats and Republicans when it came to pointless, horrifically expensive wars of empire. Gates was a major supporter of both the failed surge in Iraq and the equally failed surge in Afghanistan. He remains apparently a big fan of Afghanistan’s corrupt narco-leader Karzai. I think a lot of this is CYA. The shrillness of Gates’ blame gaming is indicative of the magnitude of the failure of the policies he championed. It should be seen as a pre-emptive “Who lost Afghanistan?” strike. Of course, Gates’ alternative was even more pointless, endless war on top of what is already America’s longest war. Such abuse of American troops shows that he never gave a sh*t about them. His criticisms show too how little loyalty there is among these clucks. It is no more than Obama, Biden, and the Democrats deserve. It is not, however, what either we or the soldiers in our armed forces deserved. We both deserved infinitely better than we got from Obama, Gates, and our political Establishment in general.

    1. Eureka Springs

      Gates in so few words admits they are all mad war criminals. It’s systemic – all branches, right down to the party and all individuals who cast a D or R vote (lessor evil be damned!).

      He’s clutching pearls over how to be a proper war criminal. And that will impress far too many. While Gates clutches pearls over political discussions in his presence – admissions by both Clinton and Obama that their feigned opposition to ongoing war criminality was pure kabuki will be ignored by liberals who need to look in the mirror as much as any neocon.

      The term “Good war” used by anyone is really all any semi-sane semi-decent human being should have to hear to declare those who utter such words unforgivable, impossible to ignore clinically mad.

      Biden wanted red mist policy to lead the way, Gates wanted it all in Afghanistan as you have pointed out for many years now – the longest war. A war we should have never engaged in. And somehow decent human beings are supposed to consider either Gates or Biden correct? Much less worthy of anything but great contempt.

      Yet the final update in the article… what’s most important to Obama in response to all of this is to defend Biden and assure everyone that O relies upon his red misty advice every day!

      Endless war, red mist kill lists and government secrecy…. to stop one we have to stop it all.

  4. diptherio

    Re: Socialized Medicine in a Red State.

    A couple of things: Calling Montana a ‘Red’ state kinda irks me. We’re independents and typically divide state and national offices pretty evenly between the two parties. Hell, our last Gov./Lt. Gov. pair consisted of a Democratic Gov. and a Repub. Lt. Gov…and they ran together, as one ticket. That’s the problem with labels like ‘red state’ and ‘blue state,’ they do more to obscure the political reality than to enlighten it.

    Anywho, it is good that our state employee healthcare system is getting some press, as it is one of the few bright spots in healthcare. Unfortunately, and unmentioned in the article, MT failed to expand Medicaid, so folks like me who are poor-but-not-poor-enough and not employed by the state remain uncovered. We’re a LONG WAY from socialized medicine…

    But the major point of the article bears repeating: Free preventative healthcare LOWERS overall costs. And paying MDs by the hour rather than fee-for-service is an idea who’s time has come. I bet that would be a highly effective cost-cutter if applied widely (second only to allowing Medicare to bargain w/ Pharmaceutical companies). If I’m not mistaken, this is already what the Mayo Clinic does.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        No kidding. With regard to “healthcare” in general:

        Getting your teeth cleaned every 6 months is true “preventive” “healthcare.” But that’s neither covered nor free.

        Free birth control for all could also be considered truly “preventive,” but some want that declared unconstitutional.

        And I don’t think weight management services/nutrition education are included as part of free “preventive” “healthcare” either.

        When you really think about it, “preventive” services, as currently construed, are really loss-leaders for the blood pressure/statin drug pushers and other “providers” who need to generate new customers.

        In a “gateway drug” kind of way.

          1. Anon y Mouse

            Thanks! I am signing up for ACA now (it is as painful of a process as everyone says it is) and I wondered what the covered preventative services were. They should be expanded, certainly, but they are a lot more comprehensive than I expected/feared.

              1. Katniss Everdeen

                Well, knock me over with a feather. There appear to be some weight management services in there, quality unknown and unspecified.

                My mistake.

                But there also appear to be an awful lot of “screenings.” Maybe people should be checking with Alexa von Tobel for advice on how to build up a quick “In Case They Find Something” fund.

              1. Anon y Mouse

                > Those are preventive tests, not services.

                I was disappointed when I realized I was looking at Montana specific services, instead of the national at the link diptherio provided (

                Even the tests are more limited than Montana. No cervical cancer, or STI, screening.

                A few comments ago, after mistaking the Montana link for the national list, I said the covered preventative services were “a lot more comprehensive than I expected/feared.” I take that back. They are exactly as bad as I expected/feared.

        1. Eclair

          Yes, and “preventive” should not include 8 thousand dollar colonoscopies-for-all. “Preventive” should include nutritional counseling to avoid diets associated with colon cancer. But … it doesn’t.

    1. BondsOfSteel

      Much of the ‘cost’ of our healthcare system is in treating the un- and under- insured. That cost ends up being paid by the people that can pay.

      Montana’s success is partly because they are only treating the insured at their ‘private’ clinics.

  5. Dino Reno

    Re:Coastal dwellers should take their own chances
    States my case better than I stated myself. Also applies to those who live in areas very prone to regular forest and shrub fires. If you still don’t get this very basic principle, Joseph Conrad would like a word with you.

    1. Susan the other

      Should we also say it applies to everyone along the full length of the Pacific west coast? Anyone who inadvertently eats pacific fish? And should we say as well that it applies to all big cities that go bankrupt due to the social costs of maintaining them? And what about the looting by fracking and the destruction of water supplies – do people take their chances then too? I think it is fair to require building permits which limit catastrophic destruction – who wants their house blown away in a tornado, etc – not to mention the panic of all the insurance companies. But really, the push for cutting people off after they have been demolished is too crony-capitalist big-insurance to even consider at this point. There isn’t a soul alive on this disaster-planet that is worth the risk to some greedy fucking underwriter.

  6. rich

    To Catch a Trader
    FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith goes inside the government’s ongoing, seven-year crackdown on insider trading, drawing on exclusively obtained video of hedge fund titan Steven A. Cohen, incriminating FBI wiretaps of other traders, and interviews with both Wall Street and Justice Department insiders.

  7. Ed

    I’m sorry I won’t be in New York for the meetup. The Old Town Bar is a good choice. Being just off Union Square means that it is easily accessible from most of the rest of the city, and there is an upstairs area that should be perfect for these sorts of things.

    Unfortunately the bar itself is one of the few decent places left around Union Square, which has become so dominated by chains in recent years that it has started to look and feel like an open air mall (even more than the norm in Manhattan). I’m really curious to see if the departure of Bloomberg has any affect on this trend.

  8. Ed

    This is a long but unusually thoughtful essay from Alan Nasser on the economics of the Great Depression, via Counterpunch. It touches on many of the issues that are regular discussion fodder in this site and really should have been included in the links:

    That said, I don’t really agree with the essay. I think automation is slowly but inexorably chaging the labor market, and a policy of the federal government creating alot of jobs will translate into the federal government creating alot of make-work jobs. I prefer a guaranteed income, though a make-work jobs program is probably better than what we currently have. I also think its important to remember that concerns that the federal government was undermining the states by interfering in areas normally left to the states was a much bigger and much more legitimate concern in 1933, before, well, the federal government was rotuinely interfering in areas normally left to the states.

    That said, since the start of the Great Depression at least, the private sector has never come close to creating an amount of jobs sufficient to employ every pre-senescent adult, or even every pre-senescent adult-male. And they never have even come close, so the argument that they would have done this if left to their own devices is weak. If you want people to receive their income through going to work, you simply need government jobs and lots of them too.

  9. timotheus

    The retired NY police and firemen who got caught (allegedly!) scamming Social Security for disability cash (welfare queens!) should have done it through a bank like JPMorgan. Then you just give back some of the money and escape jail time.

    Like Paulie said after trying to hustle protection payoffs from a Starbucks, There’s just no room any more for the little guy!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s not unlike the fact that big brothers can use violence, but not little brothers.

      At the end, they should go after those firefighters, cops and the big guys as well, and guns should be taken away from imperial troopers, cops, and individuals, lest people like Paulie should try to rob a movie theater with a gun. There is no room for that.

  10. Adam1

    The FED is the US governments credit card. The primary dealers are just the processing agents.

    Prior to QE the financial system had basically ZERO excess reserves in the system – fact. Where did the primary dealers come up with the necessary reserves to complete the Treasury auctions if there were no unspoken (excess) reserves? You can’t have a reserve drain (treasury auction) without first having a reserve add. In order for the FED to have, hold and defend a target interest rate it must fund Treasury auctions by providing the primary dealers with the necessary reserves to complete the auction.

    Per Former FED Chairman Eccles (1947): “…if the Treasury has to finance a heavy deficit, the Reserve System creates the condition in the money market to enable the borrowing to be done, so that, in effect, the Reserve System indirectly finances the Treasury through the money market…and as they will have to continue to be in the future. So it is an illusion to think that to eliminate or to restrict the direct borrowing privilege reduces the amount of deficit financing. Or that the market controls the interest rate. Neither is true.”

  11. coboarts

    The Next Civil Rights Issue: The behavior cited is absurd. It would be great if a 500 amp, 500,000 volt charge could be sent back to the individual through his keyboard and blow his head off through his fingers. Any kind of open channel opens you up to all the wacked fools out there, however, what I don’t understand is the notion that a cop should know about every new Internet phenomenon. I still think twitter is stupid and spammers, identity thieves and others (see above) should be identified and killed, oh, but that would require a security state. Maybe they should just be re-educated, that only requires a nanny state. People deserve what they get.

    1. BondsOfSteel

      Absurd and widespread. Fat, Ugly, or Slutty has be documenting them for a while:

      Personally, I’ve learned to pick a gender neutral name. I just can’t stand the abuse. Too emotionally draining.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Universal Welfare Abandoned in Denmark.

    As there is no universal GDP sharing, there will be no universal welfare and the richest Danes will see benefits cut.

    The problem here is not with universality, but with it not been consistently applied to the front and back ends (revenue and expenditure).

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    US Life Expectancy.

    Let’s not forget, also, Quality Life Expectancy – we desire less stressful years and hopefully, the last few years should not be lived in a coma-like state.

    Moreover, do we have to stress over choosing between fewer quality years versus more, but less quality years?

  14. flora

    re: Circle of Scam
    Mr. Waldman writes:
    “But [the Kochs] sure didn’t get much for their money. Barack Obama, you might have noticed, is still the president, and Democrats did quite well overall in 2012. ”

    The Kochs have stated that they are targeting state – not federal – level politics. And they’ve been very successful. Look at North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio. That’s where they’re making their biggest push. And why not. D.C. already takes care of Wall Street. Mr. Waldman, I think, misunderstands what’s happening if he says the Kochs aren’t getting their money’s worth. A good snapshot on state level action is this Moyers report.

  15. financial matters

    The Fed getting involved in setting money market fund interest rates could actually be a stabilizing feature. Money market funds now invest in tri-party repo to try and get positive returns. This feeds into the unregulated derivatives industry. If they can get a safe low interest rate from the Fed this would prevent them from ‘breaking the buck’. I think it’s important to view the Fed as a combined Fed/Treasury operation so this is essentially giving strong backing to a large amount of funds and limiting their involvement in destructive financial leveraging.

    “”Under the program, the Fed is essentially offers an investment opportunity to money-market mutual funds, banks, securities dealers, government sponsored enterprises and others. These counterparties invest cash with the Fed, and in exchange receive a fixed interest rate and collateral in the form of securities from the central bank’s massive portfolio accumulated through its bond-buying programs. “”

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