Links 3/29/14

Watch a 40-year-old Deaf Woman Hear for the First Time Gawker

Crows better than children Daily Mash

Dog treat-linked deaths stump FDA Washington Post

Pet cats infect two people with TB BBC

House of Cards Producers Try, Fail to Bribe Politicians Matt Stoller

Smarter People are More Trusting Bruce Schneier. Gee, the exceptions to this cheery pattern seem to wind up at NC! And I dunno about that health/trust correlation, except “trust” for most people likely correlates with more social bonds.

How ”Extreme Levels” of Monsanto’s Herbicide Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm Truthout

Climate change felt ‘everywhere’ Guardian

Is UCC Article 8 Bitcoin’s Savior (for Commercial Law)? Credit Slips. A possible Hail Mary pass, but as other Bitcoin boosters have suggested, getting it declared legal tender by some cooperative banana republic or tax haven is a cleaner save. But that would just solve the UCC Article 9 problem; the cumbersomeness from a tax standpoint would be alleviated, but not to a great degree.

Now It’s UBS’ Turn To Slam Bitcoin Business Insider

Self-Insurance or Self-Destruction? Gene Freida, Project Syndicate. On emerging market defenses against the defenses of QE.

Has China’s military expansion peaked? Nikkei

China, Germany eye RMB hub in Frankfurt Xinhua (psychohistorian)

A deflationary future beckons for much of Europe, but still the ECB won’t listen Telegraph

Bengt-Ake Lundvall: “The Portuguese Manifesto could become a trigger for change” Yanis Varoufakis

Obama seeks to reassure Saudi king on Iran nuke program, Syrian civil war DW

Palestinian showdown turns ugly Asia Times


Putin and Obama discuss Ukraine plan BBC. Putin phoned Obama. Must be to thank him for the IMF funds.

Obama calls on Russia to withdraw its troops from the Ukraine border Washington Post

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

No NSA reform can fix the American Islamophobic surveillance complex Guardian

Journalists, media under attack from hackers: Google researchers Reuters. Quelle surprise!

Obamacare Launch

The Obamacare report card Politico

Uphill all the way Economist

Maryland set to replace troubled health exchange Washington Post

Poll: Obamacare fails to gain support Associated Press

Obamacare: The Uninsured Are Not Signing Up Because the Dogs Don’t Like It Health Care Policy and Renewal

MSNBC is in serious trouble Politico

In Defense of Density Jacobin. On NYC housing, but has more general applications.

Georgia Wants To Make Food Stamp Recipients Pay To Prove They Don’t Do Drugs ThinkProgress. Doug S: “How about federal and/or state laws that require ‘suspicious’ employees/executives of any company receiving any form of federal and/or state subsidy/aid must take drug tests?”

Sustainable growth requires a long-term focus VoxEU. One robin does not make a spring, but good to see that “sustainability” is getting a bit of traction among orthodox economists.

Consumer Confidence Rebounds, but Uncertainty Lingers Floyd Norris, New York Times

Faith and Econometrics: Minimum Wage Edition Menzie Chinn, Econbrowser

Apple, Google lose bid to avoid trial on tech worker lawsuit Reuters

UPDATED: Google begged Steve Jobs for permission to hire engineers for its new Paris office. Guess what happened next… Mark Ames, Pando

Citi stress test hit by audit lapses Financial Times

U.S. judge rules banks must face lawsuit over alleged rate rigging Reuters

The Fed is Beginning to Freak Out About Bubbles Phoenix Capital v. Fed’s Evans: Interest Rates to Stay Near Zero ‘Well Into 2015‘ WSJ Real Time Economics. Dueling links! So much for the clarity of Fed thinking.

Thin capitalisation rules and corporate leverage VoxEU

Top M&A lawyer attacks activist investors Financial Times. Notice the misrepresentation of Icahn’s position. Ichan was campaigning v. Apple’s cash horde. There was simply no way Apple would ever spend it on the business of the business even if they had gotten a tax holiday (the money for tax purposes was held overseas even if actually being managed hedge fund style out of Nevada, I am not making that up). In the 2004 tax holiday, the tech and pharma companies used the repatriated dough on executive bonuses and stock buybacks. And Lipton conveniently ignores that companies that are under no activist pressure are also borrowing and buying stock back to goose prices. See the first chart in this link for data, as opposed to company-flattering PR. Not that Icahn is out for anyone other than himself, but company execs for the most part operate the same way, and Lipton is spinning a big fairy tale in pretending otherwise.

Ideology & behavioural economics Pieria

Why Minsky Matters BBC4 (New Economic Perspectives)

Big data: are we making a big mistake? Financial Times

Antidote du jour. From the Facebook page of the South Florida Wildlife Center (Stephen L):


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  1. abynormal

    APOSTATE, n. A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.
    (with a strawberry fetish)

  2. Ben Johannson

    Re: Smarter People are More Trusting:

    Confirms my status as resident comment dummy, given my extraordinary cynicism.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I suspect the relationship to be nonlinear, instead of linear.

      Dumb – trusting (ignored by the study probably)
      a little smart – less trusting
      a little smarter – trusting again
      smart – very trusting (the group studied in the link)
      a little smarter – just plain trusting
      smarter – doubting is existing here
      very smart – suspicious
      very, very smart – paranoid
      genius – triple-tinfoil hat 24/7 conspiracy awareness, not just the solar system, but far, far beyond..

      From ‘a little smart’ to ‘smart,’ the relationship appears to be what was found in the link.

    2. JohnB

      Looks like the measure of ‘intelligence’ on the trust study, is more a measure of social ability/intelligence – which, naturally (as in – speculatively ;)), would tend to correlate with a high trust of others, as more sociable people, are more likely to be predisposed to getting-on-with/empathizing-with (and thus coming to trust) other people.

      So, would be good to do a separate study on how trusting more sociable people are, vs less sociable people, and then control for those variables by repeating this original study.

      Or just – find some other, better, measure of intelligence – as it’s really not an easy thing to measure; certainly, measuring social intelligence, as a measure of overall intelligence, is an extremely common mistake.

  3. Skeptic

    Georgia Wants To Make Food Stamp Recipients Pay To Prove They Don’t Do Drugs

    Since alcohol is a drug, those huge booze conglomerates certainly must have an exemption for their drug.

  4. allcoppedout

    The articles on behavioural economics and big data are numpty. I’d start here on big data –
    I’m working with some big data people as averse to idiot google ads and such as I am. The real ideas are about not getting skewed by theoretical assumptions or organising concepts.

    On behavioural economics I probably wouldn’t bother at all. First stop to understand why it’s not worth spit would be to understand a bit of critical psychology as summarised here –

    The “psychology” in behavioural economics predicates round the individual and, for this reason, cuts out class-war and power-groups.

  5. Juneau

    Re: Mandatory drug testing of public assistance/food stamp recipients
    17 dollars a test? Even buying state of the art 5 item urine drug screens from a medical supply company is 1/3 the cost:

    and on Amazon dipsticks are 1/10th the cost:

    Boondoggle. When Jesse talks about the elimination of the “other”, I think this is a fine example of what that might look like. All of this talk about costs and nothing about immorality of allowing people to go hungry.

    1. diptherio

      If people are going hungry, it’s their own damned fault! There’s one easy thing anyone can do to ensure themselves not only food, but clothing and shelter provided at state expense: kill somebody. As long as you’re living in a non-death-penalty state, if you’re facing serious life-threatening hardship the smart thing to do is threaten someone else’s life; then the state coffers will open up for you and you will be provided food and shelter and a groovy jumpsuit.

      Seriously though, the fact that we are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to keep murderers and rapists alive and fed, but not to a cent to make sure that the financially destitute don’t end up dead, is THE indisputable evidence that our society is, literally, insane.

        1. diptherio

          I think that we should at least give homeless people the option of spending the night in jail and sharing in the morning’s repast with the inmates. I mean, we should at least treat the poor as well as we treat our criminals (and everyone else we’ve got locked up), it seems.

          If I was homeless here in my little mountain town, like plenty of people are, I would probably have assaulted some yuppie at some point during the winter, just looking for a warm place to sleep. I imagine when it’s 20 degrees below and the wind is howling, a warm jail cell doesn’t sound so bad.

      1. abynormal

        new stadium cost started at 947.7 million…now 1.2 billion and climbing

        new trolley system 2.7 miles @ 3.3 million now @ 46.7 million :-/

        new ferris wheel (promoted by ‘bring jobs to Atlanta=less than 50)…so one can view the surrounding starvation

        Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the $19.9 billion FY2014 state spending plan into law on May 8, 2013.[1]
        Georgia has a total state debt of approximately $94,041,152,000, when calculated by adding the total of outstanding official debt, pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities, Unemployment Trust Fund loans, and the budget gap.[2] The total state debt decreased from the prior year’s total of $97,478,050,000.[3]
        Georgia’s total state debt per capita is $9,581.17.[4]

        the city to busy to hate …mite have to eat you (nothing personal)

      2. just me

        “we are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to keep murderers and rapists alive and fed”

        trillions for military and bankers

  6. Butch In Waukegan

    Safety last:

    ”A union for Chicago Transit Authority drivers says the operator of the train that crashed at O’Hare International Airport worked 69 hours in the seven days before the accident.”

    Recall the Lac-Mégantic derailment derailment, where almost 50 people died when an 111 car derailed. The train was manned by 1 person.

    1. kimyo

      the ntsb and metro-north, instead of assigning 2 engineers to each train, are ‘solving’ the problem by installing more cameras:

      NTSB to Metro-North: Put Cameras on Train Operators

      “The images and audio captured by recorders can be invaluable to our investigators,” said NTSB chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “Understanding what is happening inside the cab just prior to a crash can provide crucial information about how to prevent future accidents.”

      Engineer in Metro-North Train Derailment Clocked Loads of Overtime

      Payroll records reviewed by the I-Team show the engineer of the Metro-North train that derailed last month, killing four people and injuring dozens more, worked a consistently demanding overtime schedule in years leading up to last month’s fatal derailment.

      According to the data, provided by the MTA in response to public records requests by the I-Team, William Rockefeller worked an average of 762 overtime hours per year in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Assuming a 40-hour work week with eight-hour shifts, that’s the equivalent of working a sixth day every week for three years straight.

      1. Ned Richards

        CTA Trains used to have an operator and a conductor. The conductor spots were eliminated years ago. We could sure use two people to safely operate.

    2. optimader

      1.) The way this is written it implies Sleepy Le Bouef worked seven days in a row –that’s illegal in Illinois
      2.) She had 17hours since her previous shift. The point you’re making is what, that’s not enough time to get you sht together sufficiently not to fall asleep at work??
      3.) it also implies that 29 hours OT is too much. That’s an arguable point. Should the Union be challenged on OT rules? That would be a negotiating bloodbath, tantamount to Union Busting in the incredibly dysfunctional Chicago municipal union employee gravy train.
      4.) Are you implying there should be more than one motormen on a train? How many should there be, 2 -3?
      5.)So, should the CTA be able to IMMEDIATELY fire a motorman that, say drives through a stop?

      The way this will play out is Sleepy LeBouef will be revealed to be “minority hire” female w/ a short and poor performance record that was buried on the third shift because it is virtually impossible to off her even though she had already been caught falling asleep . You may ask how.

      Instead she’s on third shift w/ the requisite salary bump on top of which she is packing on OT.

      It’s classic Chicago Municipal Employee Union BS. A few years back at party I made the acquaintance of the Chicago Streets and Sanitation Attny in charge of personnel “issues” ( read: liabilities) and we got onto the subject of what goes on in the bowels of the dept… Unfking believable stories, no less what it actually takes fire a union employee that is egregiously incompetent/lazy/idiotic. BTW she was certainly putting in more than 29 hrs a week (unpaid OT) keeping those spinning dishes on the sticks


  7. allcoppedout

    Minsky made facile at the BBC. ‘strewth what a waste of space. The shame brought on by this programme leads me to the following:

    Recent review paper –

    Free PDF book –

    The Bimbo Broadcasting Corporation’s programme is akin to saying ‘Steve Keen is an Aussie’ as a summary of his economics. After listening I thought to estimate the average IQ of the BBC audience before realising I’d been listening and thus could not have the ability to count.

  8. Banger

    We talk about gangsters running the financial system, the media lying about significant political issues, the emergent police state but it all is as candles in the Sun compared to the human effects on the environment whether it’s climate change or toxic waste or the massive species die-off we are experiencing.

    Contemporary culture, it seems would be quite happy to leave the earth in ruins and simply upload our consciousness into a Matrix-like virtual reality system where we can fulfill our fantasies and play games. I have seen this drift towards not caring about the Earth system become dominant except the few tree-huggers among us. As George Carlin reminded us nature will adapt to toxic human culture but it will react to it in ways that will seriously deplete the human race. Catastrophe from positive feedback loops is far more likely than any other catastrophe we are likely to face other than nuclear war I suppose.

    Even if the vast majority of scientists were engaging a carefully coordinated hoax so they can earn a third of what they could earn by working for an oil company, even if there is a hidden mechanism within the Earth’s very elaborate system that will enable it to neutralize high levels of greenhouse gases, even if aliens or angels or God herself will protect us from ourselves it would still be a good thing to act, as a whole human culture on limiting the use of toxins and greenhouse gases. Imagine the opportunity for cooperation to radically limit this pollution of our environment! It would bind us together as WWII bound the U.S. citizenry together. We have to see that the celbration of materialism and greed is harmful not only for the poor but for those who benefit from that greed. The rich a-holes who are the winners, ultimately have to live with themselves–evil like goodness is its own reward.

    Fore me, the fact we are almost completely ignoring the threat of environmental degradation is a direct proof of the toxic quality of the dominant culture. Even if economic “growth” where to increase the incomes of the poor and middle-classes were to swell (not very likely) our society would still be, at heart, evil because to our best knowledge, climate change and other environmental issues, are our chief collective challenge.

    1. Eeyores enigma

      Here here Banger!

      I for one can not stomach the disconnect that I am forced to witness day in and day out. When I talk about it folks say “well I bought a Prius so I’m doing my part”. Sheesh!

      1. just me

        Russell Brand: Yeah, they shouldn’t vote, they should – that’s one thing they should do, don’t bother voting. Because when it reaches – there’s a point – see these little valves, these sort of like little cozy little valves of recycling and Prius and like you know turn up somewhere, it stops us reaching the point where you think, “I see, this is enough now.” Stop voting. Stop pretending. Wake up. Be in reality now. Time to be in reality now. Why vote? We know it’s not going to make any difference. We know that already.

    2. Jackrabbit

      almost completely ignoring the threat of environmental degradation

      TPTB would heartily disagree. They have chosen to address the issue via climate change mitigation. Apparently they think they can ride it out. After all, 63 billionaires are ‘worth’ as much as 2 billion of the poor, right?

    3. Skeptic

      Bang on! As Thoreau wrote: strike at the roots!

      Having read Bill Joy and “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”, I long ago decided that climate change is small potatoes to what is really in store. The Political/Financial disaster is only a forerunner of the tumult our successors will face.

      Recently the renowned Black Swan author and 2007 Crash predictor, Nassim Taleb, came out on the subject of ecosuicide via GMOs. Reverberations of Joy’s essay of years ago.

      Then there is Charles Hugh Smith on how sociopaths rule us:

      So maybe the really burning question for us all is: do the people who rule us give a rat’s patootie about whether they leave the Earth smoldering in ruins and their own species extinct? My own reply would be a resounding NO. Which leaves one to the final conclusion, the Human Species as a Planet Manager is irrevocably defective or in the vernacular: shits in its own nest, which most, if not all, other species do not do.

    4. Bill Frank

      Well said. I believe the planet will react in direct proportion to the degree of poisoning it is experiencing and the consequences will be horrific. In all likelihood, we have crossed the point of no return and our increasing pollution will simply seal our fate along with countless other species. I also believe that many people, on varying levels, understand that modern culture is corrupted and toxic, to humans and the planet as well. Unfortunately, too many are unable to fully confront this reality even though they “know” that our culture (and planet) is decaying right before our eyes. It is a scary place to visit in your mind, and some can not go there for long. Any culture that allows business as usual to continue after decades of warnings is sick beyond repair. As is always the case with human folly, the innocent will suffer mightily. Have a good evening.

      1. Banger

        I believe it is essential to inhabit that scary place and face the implications of what we are doing because though we are harming the planet in ways that can never be that clear since the Earth/Gaia system is so stunningly complex–but we are directly harming ourselves in obvious and very scary ways.

  9. HotFlash

    “How about federal and/or state laws that require ‘suspicious’ employees/executives of any company receiving any form of federal and/or state subsidy/aid must take drug tests?”

    I have for some time been aadvocating drug testing for all elected and appointed government officials. I also think constituents should be able to sue for breach of promise. This should be *normal*, but it’s unthinkable!

  10. carl

    I’m really enjoying the reporting around the wage-fixing tech cartel. It throws back the curtain on the venality and emptiness of Silicon Valley. I’m hoping Mike Judge’s upcoming “Silicon Valley” series strikes similar dark notes of graping backbites and doesn’t turn out to just be “Microserfs” meets “Office Space.” Oh, who am I kidding that’s exactly what it will be.

    The community at Hacker News seems wholly unable to process the revelations; it’s a real crisis of faith for all the crumb-scrambling startup types. A special bonus is the meandering arguments about whether the whole thing is an argument for or against H1-Bs.

    I’m also glad this drama has brought Pandodaily to my attention, inching ever closer to a US version of The Register.

  11. carl

    I’m really enjoying the reporting around the wage-fixing tech cartel. It throws back the curtain on the venality and emptiness of Silicon Valley. I’m hoping Mike Judge’s upcoming “Silicon Valley” series strikes similar dark notes of graping backbites and doesn’t turn out to just combine “Microserfs” and “Office Space.” Oh, who am I kidding that’s exactly what it will be.

    The community at Hacker News seems wholly unable to process the revelations; it’s a real crisis of faith for all the crumb-scrambling startup types. A special bonus is the meandering arguments about whether the whole thing is an argument for or against H1-Bs.

    I’m also glad this drama has brought Pandodaily to my attention, inching ever closer to a US version of The Register.

    1. just me

      What about sustainable life?

      The test tube looks like a suspicious analogy for me… What was that first bacteria supposed to have done differently to save his world? What would have made his test tube sustainable? Bacteria live in a real world ecosystem; is the problem that in the test tube the rest of the ecosystem isn’t there, was never there?

      Like Neil Young says, “You can’t just eat. You’ve got to plant.” I think our problem is that what goes for capitalism now just eats, never plants. Maybe that’s what Suzuki’s test tube demonstrates.

    2. Banger

      Much depends on your definition of “growth.” There are economic models that suggest growth can come through sustainable energy projects, new agriculture techniques that radically reduce carbon use, micro-chip embedded building materials and what I call “elegant engineering.”

    3. Paul Tioxon

      And for a brief lecture to educate yourself on why any and all growth is unsustainable, see the above link for THE MOST IMPORTANT VIDEO YOU’LL EVER SEE.
      The Social Scientist know that all processes have a beginning, a middle and an end. English majors know that all writings also have a beginning and middle and end. Philosophers and theologians know that all of us are mortal, we are born, we live and we die. The only people who do not know this self evident truth are economists who promise annual per capita growth and ever expanding wealth of nations, with steady, sustainable economic growth. The economy can be sustainable, but not perpetually growing, over a fixed period of time, based on the parameters of inputs that can replaced after repeated consumption. The inputs can not keep growing after repeated consumption to meet ever expanding demand. Hence the need to find various alternatives or moving around. The problem of modern economics is not to find better strategies of growth but to move the problems of capitalist growth from one sector to another, from one nation to another, but to never solve the problem of exponential growth of profits based upon exponential growth of consumption of profitable commodities.

      It never makes any sense for a system based on pricing commodities at price in excess of its cost to produce, to produce an excess called a profit and then expect the removal of the excess to contribute to growth. The profits have to be reintroduced at some point, new investment due to new commodities or reinvestment due to wearing out of old plant or expanding due to some increased demand. This only serves to increase the extraction of the so called profit, from the economy and some point, without a regular reintroduction of the profits back into the economy, the cost plus excess pricing model will drain the economy dry. Capitalist stagnation. Right now, a new system, other than capitalism, that can create a non growth, but sustainable economy can be born. But a new system that will preserve a hierarchical power structure to maintain control of the nations of the world and a sustainable economy will probably not be born. Another system of political exploitation that harnesses the work of the majority of the people and channels into the exalted lives of the top 20% will be sought with a vigor an known unknown.

      1. just me

        “And for a brief lecture to educate yourself on why any and all growth is unsustainable, see the above link for THE MOST IMPORTANT VIDEO YOU’LL EVER SEE.”

        I clicked: 1:13:54

        Also, full name of video is “The Most IMPORTANT Video You’ll Ever See – FULL LECTURE –”

        If there’s a brief pithy point made, I hope it’s covered in your comment, at, or on wikipedia… youtube still loading…loading…loading… I think it’s stuck.

      2. Vatch

        Thanks, Paul! It’s more convenient to have the whole video of “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy” in one place, which is how it is shown at your link.

    4. craazyman

      The sustainable growth fear is hilarious.

      What if the measurement of a mile decreased by 3% per year? After 10 years a mile would be 1/(1.03)^10 = 1/1.34 = 0.74 = 74% as long as it was 10 years ago. Eventually, after many more years, the moon would be 2 million miles away! The sun would be 100s of millions of miles away.

      it would be dark all the time and the moon would be gone! What would we do?

      Well, we’d look up in the sky and see the moon as big as it always is and the sun would shine all day long.

      The numeration of the thing is an arbitrary quantity when the thing is not a Newtonian object with mass and dimension. If numeration get so ridiculous were’ climbing the power-law-distribution curve, then we can just do a 100 for 1 reverse split and start over.

      the only reality is what people chose to do with their arms and legs and imagination. The numeration of that reality as an arbitrary choice that has no intrinsic reality except in so far as it measures some aspect of the forms of activity that people choose to engage in. But it isn’t any limit and it isn’t any barrier.

      Any form of thinking that can’t separate quantity and form is a mental disorder. it doesn’t mean the people doing it are dumb or incapable. It just means they are suffering from a mental disorder that might reach the state of a complete intellectual psychotic break from reality where they lose themselves in a fantasy world of Cartesian Cooordinate Systems and abstract quantifications and lose all connection with reality.

      A few weeks in residence on The Reality Ranch doing some horseback riding and fishing and maybe some skeet shooting and nature hikes and many people with severe reality distortion syndromes (RDS) can be cured.

      1. optimader

        complete intellectual psychotic break from reality where they lose themselves in a fantasy world of Cartesian Cooordinate Systems

        Maybe better off loosing oneself in a polar coordinate system, at least you’ll get back to where you started ( which might be a problem unto itself?).

  12. Jackrabbit

    Putin phoned Obama. Must be to thank him for the IMF funds.

    neocon #winning:
    – funnel money to Russia to pay for energy for Ukraine – check
    – drive Russia into arms of China – check
    – increase worldwide distrustful of US/West – check
    – anger allies (“fuck the EU”) – check
    – destabilize Europe by advancing ultra-nationalists/neo-nazis – check
    – snub needy citizens (Detroit, Puerto Rico, Greece, etc.) – check

    – stick everyone else with the bill- priceless

  13. jfleni

    RE: Obama seeks to reassure Saudi king on Iran nuke program, Syrian civil war

    Terrific! Barry the babbling “diplomat” will never “reassure” the schmuck with no job or prospects of any, that anything will really change!

    Neither will he EVER make what we desparately need: A nation-wide CRASH public transportation program (local and national) to let the Princelings and their plutocrat friends eat more of their oil, while we get the immense economic, employment and environmental benefits!

    With “Diplomats” like Barry (and Hillary??), nobody needs enemies!

    1. Fíréan

      Obama seeks to reassure Saudi king, or seeks reassurance from Saudi king ?

      Given the recent admissions, directed to Putin, from at least one influential Saudi that they, the Saudis, have direct influence on the activities of some “terrorist” factions, Obama may well seek reassurances from the Saudis regarding what ever (go-it-alone or in collusion with third parties ) plans they might have in the pipeline.

    2. Thor's Hammer

      Obama seeks reassurance from the Saudi king that the chemical weapons he is offering will only be used against Assad in Syria and against the Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.
      And that the Saudis will never disclose the true identity of the Osama bin Ladin stand-in that was assassinated on his watch and hidden through burial at sea.

  14. diptherio

    Re: Ideology and Behavioural Economics

    Dillow writes:

    …politicians themselves might be as prone to cognitive biases as the public. Indeed, it’s possible that they are selected for such biases – because the overconfident are disproportionately likely to enter politics and because irrational consumers are likely to make irrational voters. The image promoted by behavioural economics (or its users) – of rational policy-makers operating upon irrational subjects – is therefore questionable.

    Well that’s putting it mildly. I would be inclined to use “utterly indefensible” in place of “questionable.” He wraps up on a pretty direct note, though:

    In this context, there’s both similarity and contrast between users of behavioural economics and Marxists. Both believe that ideology or cognitive biases (they’re much the same) stop people pursuing their best interests. Where they differ is in how they respond to this. Marxists think people should be educated out of ideology and therefore empowered: “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”. Most users of behavioural economics, by contrast, see cognitive biases as just more policy tools, and thus ways of empowering rulers.

    1. Banger

      The Marxist idea of the working class educating itself is just not realistic–there is no evidence that can happen in advanced industrial societies because working class people have, largely, abandoned solidarity and community in favor of worship of money, celebrities and endless amusements. Solidarity does exist in other parts of the world and has been well expressed in Latin America–but will it last?

      As for rational leaders leading an irrational public–I think I’m on the fence on that one. I believe the leaders/oligarchs are fairly rational in what they want (more, more, more) while the proletariat is definitely confused and easily manipulated. However, I do believe that wanting more and more is in itself more irrational than mere confusion.

      1. neo-realist

        We are seeing faint glimmers of hope re Working Class solidarity in the North Puget Sound—A lot of people banding together in Oso—volunteer searchers digging out survivors, people providing food, shelter, diapers, etc. It seems that only crisis brings out the solidarity best.

      2. Alejandro

        Are you familiar with Paulo Freire?
        The following is an excerpt from the Foreward by Richard Shaull to “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” ;
        “At first sight, Paulo Freire’s method of teaching illiterates in Latin America seems to belong to a different world from that in which we find ourselves in this country. Certainly, it would be absurd to claim that it should be copied here. But there are certain parallels in the two situations that should not be overlooked. Our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into conformity to the logic of its system. To the degree that this happens, we are also becoming submerged in a new “culture of silence.”

        The paradox is that the same technology that does this to us also creates a new sensitivity to what is happening. Especially among young people, the new media together with the erosion of old concepts of authority open the way to acute awareness of this new bondage. The young perceive that their right to say their own word has been stolen from them, and that few things are more important than the struggle to win it back. And they also realize that the educational system today—from kindergarten to university—is their enemy.

        There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes “the practice of freedom,” the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. The development of an educational methodology that facilitates this process will inevitably lead to tension and conflict within our society. But it could also contribute to the formation of a new man and mark the beginning of a new era in Western history For those who are committed to that task and are searching for concepts and tools for experimentation, Paulo Freire’s thought will make a significant contribution in the years ahead.”

        1. allcoppedout

          Paulo’s work is inspirational. Sadly, there is a managerial model too, which we might associate with Peter Senge’s ‘learning organization’. In practice, this hasn’t achieved much other than the dreadful establishment denial language of “we must learn the lessons”.

          Imagine yourself in front of a fresher class of 18 year olds of mostly virgins at probably the most selfish time of their life, no work experience and bare abilities to walk without bumping into others. They are going to leave your “care” £54K in debt in three years time in an increasingly dud job market. The university has dumped behavioural economics 101 on you. How do you now do right by these kids? Tell them they have been traumatised by an education system and create a theatre of the oppressed? That behavioural economics is a nonsense (which it is)?

          Most of these kids have already been corralled into believing their university degree is a ticket to being better off than others. By the time they leave, or soon after, they are going to discover all we give them are directions to the job train station.

          Don’t know anything about behavioural economics? Never mind. All you need is the tutor version of a textbook that comes with Powerpoint slides. The kids won’t listen, though some will pretend to. They know the score. You will set the a couple of essays they can buy from last year’s mob or the internet. That’s about it really. Do you tell them the truth or go with the standard lying?

        2. Banger

          Don’t know much about Freire I’ve now read somethings about him and will read a bit more when I have time. Currently education, in the U.S. is in a confused state and has become politicized–critical thinking skills or questioning authority has been de-emphasized and reflects the general trend towards authoritarianism. On the other hand, students are, increasingly, sensing this and looking elsewhere for knowledge. The whole field is in a state of flux here. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere.

      3. allcoppedout

        Marx and Engels were hardly working class, so on what basis could they ‘teach’? The quote in context can be found here –

        The issues are quite well discussed here –

        In the first link here you find university types criticised rather as GB Shaw on economists being laid end to end and never reaching a conclusion, bringing too much bourgeois baggage.

        The second link is rather scholarly. But we could go on to think in deconstructive terms to really undo attempts to found Marxism in science (Althusser, Eagleton). Brains melt into air time.

        Such scholarship apart (the NC links are to facile material) Banger is right. There are more modern ways into this, but we would be starting at the wrong point on the information as given. There is no exclusion of the scholar, but rather the baggage of hierarchy. Biology is rather better understood today and the tendency of hierarchy to assert itself by default. One possible ‘way out’ could come through technology and greater understanding and participation in argument. Most of my old students ‘accuse’ me of being very ruthless in teaching them to learn for themselves.

        1. JTFaraday

          I think this is the crux of the problem right here. The 20th c. labor movement, especially in the US, ultimately supported a form of employment based social welfare provisioning that undermined the idea of universal benefits of citizenship, leaving people completely exposed to global labor arbitrage in turn.

          Indeed, loading social welfare provisioning onto employers, however much they may have opted for this at the time, ultimately made labor arbitrage even more attractive under altered conditions, while promoting an employment norm that promoted identification with the capitalist class– whose aim is to ultimately undermine even those well compensated employees who appear to be getting away with that identification in the short run.

          People in the US who accepted, and who continue to accept, personally funded Social Security accounts as the left bounds of discourse– “it’s not welfare!” but everyone else can starve– (semi-inadvertently) helped promote the conditions for undermining every single public institution that rested on the primacy of citizenship, because SS like all self funded accounts, operates according to a reasoning that privileges property over citizenship:

          “Is it any wonder that the trade unions and the great socialist and communist parties which created the welfare states and universal benefits are no longer able to summon masses to the barricades like they once did?

          One of the struggles which the trade union movement in Australia regards amongst its most important successes is the fight for superannuation. Whereas the first generation of unionists successfully fought for universal old age pensions, which remain in place though eroded by inflation, the union leaders of the past several decades have proudly collaborated in undermining this universal right by winning relatively generous compulsory private pensions for all those in employment, bringing benefits in proportion to wages earned. By the time a worker retires their living is predominantly derived from the proceeds of capital via share ownership by their pension funds. My own experience as a Marxist and union activist was that not only was this objective promoted by the leadership, but was embraced by the mass membership with a tenacity which would not be denied. So called ‘self-funded retirees’ escape the stigma of those who are dependent on ‘welfare’, even though it is difficult to specify objective distinctions between superannuation pensions and government pensions which mark the superannuant out as ‘deserving’.

          If anything would serve as a means of abolishing the proletariat as a class, surely it would be a policy which ensures that every employed worker aspires to become and actually eventually becomes an owner of capital? The ‘abolition’ of the proletarian social position of each individual proletarian is to be furthered not by abolishing private ownership of the means of production, but by extending it, thus at the same time extending the subordination of the mass of the population to dependence on wage-labour and the expansion of capital. Let there be no misunderstanding: superannuation does not abolish the sociological class of those dependent on wage labour and denied control of their own means of production. Indeed this category of persons is larger than ever. But it does function as one among a number of processes, to undermine the proletariat as a self-conscious social movement and identity.”

          I won’t mention the punitive cultural attitudes it fostered– the will to punish “the lazy” (and let’s not even mention the deliberately excluded)– which constitutes an even deeper problem because it inhibits the political capacity to change policy, and even the culture of policy making, to meet an utterly altered global economy.

          I’m also pretty sure employers are eventually going to more or less completely repudiate the burden of social welfare provisioning in the globalized landscape for all except the most “in-demand” specialists. Rethinking heavily entrenched punitive attitudes is not going to be optional, especially for the mass of younger people whose stake in the 20th c. legacy system seems tenuous at best. Obama’s appeal to this demographic to fund Obamacare out-of-pocket is nothing less than a sick joke.

          Today’s New Deal and US labor liberals need to figure out how deeply conservative their received ideas really are. The grassroots Tea Party, shorn of the liberal politically correct gloss these things usually get, is really the standard bearer of this essentially punitive ideology–and they’re perping it hard, (but keep the government’s hands off their earned benefits!).

          If I ever have a blog, this is what I would blog about. (I can’t imagine who would read it though).

          Thanks for the links. Interesting.

      4. Jackrabbit

        . . . working class people have, largely, abandoned solidarity and community in favor of worship of money, celebrities and endless amusements.

        Freedom and free markets at work. One could equally say that ‘leaders’ have abandoned the people to the not-so tender mercies of commercial interests.

  15. abynormal

    8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

    “These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

  16. fresno dan

    The following morning, when Bush arrives at the Oval Office, his chief of staff confirms these suspicions. “Mr. President,” Card tells him, “we’ve got a major problem.”

    “Jim Comey is the acting attorney general, and he’s going to resign…. So are a bunch of other Justice Department officials.”

    I was stunned. Nobody had told me that Comey, John Ashcroft’s deputy, had taken over Ashcroft’s responsibilities when he went in for surgery.

    Revelation Three: it is Comey who is now in charge at Justice. After that morning’s FBI briefing, where Comey is sitting in for Ashcroft, the president takes the deputy attorney general aside:

    I started by explaining that I had an obligation to do what was necessary to protect the country…. He explained his concerns about the problematic aspect of the program. “I just don’t understand why you are raising this at the last minute,” I said.

    He looked shocked. “Mr. President,” he said, “your staff has known about this for weeks.”

    Revelation Four: what Bush had believed, had been led to believe, was a last-minute disagreement was in fact a policy conflict that had been raging for weeks between the White House and the Department of Justice. And that is not all:

    Then [Comey] dropped another bomb. He wasn’t the only one planning to resign. So was FBI Director Bob Mueller. I was about to witness the largest mass resignation in modern presidential history, and we were in the middle of a war.

    “Witness” is, alas, the appropriate word. Bush has finally reached the innermost Russian doll: a score or more of top lawyers in the Justice Department, including the deputy attorney general and possibly the attorney general himself, and the director of the FBI, and perhaps other attorneys at the CIA and elsewhere in the national security bureaucracy, are about to resign en masse over a secret, highly intrusive, warrantless surveillance program less than eight months before Bush will have to face the voters. And it is all going to happen today—and Bush has up until this moment known nothing about it. It will be an enormous scandal with George W. Bush playing hapless witness to his own destruction.

    Simply startling, the lack of awareness, as well as competence.

      1. optimader

        Don’t care for tavis smiley but I saw that advertised and made a point of watching it. IMO Von Rumsfeld is incarnate evil, a true psychopath.
        He certainly gives Cheney a run for the money in the evilness contest, although in Cheney’s case I am fairly convinced his personality devolved as a result of ministrokes, so at least there maybe an organic explanation for aspects of his irrational fckupness. Not so VonR, he is a true believer. His dad was a car salesman in Glenview,IL –taught him how to be engaging while seamlessly lying w/ a smile.

    1. Banger

      Not at all surprising if you know Washington. The President only has enough power to make decisions on a narrow band of options presented to him through the layers called the “Deep State.” EVen if you don’t want to use that term executives at all levels depend on layers of bureaucracy to present certain options. Often critical matters are not reported because the other parts of the bureaucracy have a vested interest in keeping things under wraps for a number of of structural reasons.

      1. VietnamVet

        I appreciate your comments. DC will act quickly if important person’s money is at stake. What has changed is that DC used to be concerned about issues that affected voters. Now they just don’t give a damn about their citizens. I blame campaign managers, wedge issues and industry consolidation. Today’s Democrat is far more right wing than the Republicans I voted for way back when.

        Today’s majority ideology is “get it while you can”. But, just underneath are the true believers. Sequestration and the back down from the Syrian bombing campaign was a shock to military corporations and the true believers. As a response, backdoor and NGO monies have been flowing to create more chaos around the world that requires new spending on the military and insulates Israel from a united Islam. The Neo-Libs/Neo-Cons hit the jackpot in Kiev; an armed confrontation between Russia and the USA.

        However, this just might divert the world’s citizens’ attention from the HDTV. A conventional war between NATO and Russia will inevitable escalate to a nuclear exchange and Armageddon.

        1. OIFVet

          “However, this just might divert the world’s citizens’ attention from the HDTV.”
          Well, not the American citizens’ attention. We love our televised wars with embedded propagandists sprinkled in amongst the grunts. Look for Ollie North to lead the Rah Rah Semper Fi cheer, while immaculately mustached Geraldo draws field expedient battlefield maps in the nuclear ashes when not too busy waiving a gun and threatening to hunt down Putin all by his lonesome.

  17. Cal

    “Mystery of pet deaths related to jerky treats made in China continues to stump FDA” Oh like wow, such a mystery.

    When are people going to take responsibility and start to read labels?
    There’s a reason that we have country of origin on food labels. Any product, especially food, coming from China is Chinese Roulette, even if its an American company manufacturing or producing in China, those never boast about the high standards to which they are holding their Chinese contractors until after there has been a disaster…

    Steel, drywall, pet food, baby formula, iPhone screens, children’s toys and let’s not forget some Whole Foods “organic” produce.

    What if there is no label showing national origin? Then don’t buy it. Only buy foodstuffs labeled made in USA and then filter for organic, certified by high quality agencies such as Oregon Tilth, California Certified Organic or others and from trusted companies.

    1. Massinissa

      You do realize that theres not always even an option to buy made in USA food anymore, and when there is, its usually more expensive?

      Not everyone has money, you know, to pay higher prices.

  18. participant-observer-observed

    In a world of chronically depressing news, this is an awesome, hopeful story, especially considering the fact that it is also about “banking.” It has salient points for finance and econ!

    “When WWF-Nepal started consultations with villagers on how to protect water resources and crops, the women pointed out that the indigenous seeds they had used in the past were better suited to the changing weather conditions.

    “The local seeds we used could withstand both excessive rain and drought,” says Chandrakumari Paneru, a 27-year-old female farmer from Bhorle village and a university degree holder in a district where almost 60% of the population can only sign their names.

    “But we had to use hybrid seeds imported from India as local stocks were decreasing. The hybrid seeds produced a good crop one year, but the next year they would prove sterile. It led to farmers using more chemical fertilisers and the soil turned hard while health hazards increased.”

    Paneru is also a member of the Mahalaxmi Women’s Savings and Loan Cooperative. In a village that has no banks, it collects small sums of money from its 200-odd members to create a modest fund that can provide loans in times of need.

    “As we were running our own cooperative, we felt we could do something more on our own,” says Paneru. “So we asked WWF-Nepal to help us set up a community seed bank.””

  19. kimyo

    Ex govt adviser: “global market shock” from “oil crash” could hit in 2015

    At the heart of these risks, Leggett argues, is our dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuel resources. His wide-ranging analysis pinpoints the possibility of a global oil supply crunch as early as 2015. “Growing numbers of people in and around the oil industry”, he says, privately consider such a forecast to be plausible.

    Leggett thus remains highly sceptical that shale oil and gas will change the game. Despite “soaring drilling rates,” US tight oil production has lifted “only around a million barrels a day.” As global oil consumption is at around 90 milion barrels a day, with conventional crude depleting “by over four million barrels a day of capacity each year” according to International Energy Agency (IEA) data, tight oil additions “can hardly be material in the global picture.” He reaches a similar verdict for shale gas, which he notes “contributes well under 1% of US transport fuel.”

  20. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The Fed freaking out about bubbles.. near zero rates well into 2015.

    What is this enigma, puzzle and mystery?’

    Simply, according to Quantum Theory of Money.

    This Fed Cat is a Schroedinger’s Fed Cat. You won’t know until you open the box…in 2015.

    And apparently, it is related to the cats infecting people with TB, per the BBC link.

    So far, there is no known antidote against the TB (Total Bankruptcy) this Fed Cat is spreading.

  21. Propertius

    I’ve always thought that mandatory daily drug testing of all elected officials and high-level civil servants should be the norm. I’m perfectly happy to extend that policy to the members of the real government (banks, etc) as well.

  22. Bill Frank

    Anyone think that CNN’s 24/7 coverage of Flight 370 is more about 370 or more about using it as an excuse to ignore looking at other matters? CNN wouldn’t do that, would they? In a heartbeat.

    1. optimader

      is it a sufficient excuse to finally stop looking at CNN? Consuming CNN. like cigarettes & Big Macs, is an elective behavior that isn’t enriching your (anyone’s) life.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      CNN? How about all the American-Anglo media? It’s been the lead or # 2 story since the plane disappeared.

      I thought this was sus one week in. Front page, yes, but below the fold after the first few days would make sense. This level of coverage screams that the story is being pushed.

      Distraction is one angle. Talking up terrorism (and the 9/11 dog whistle, “big planes going astray are big trouble!) is another.

      1. Banger

        The coverage has nothing to do, in my view, with terrorism. It seem to be a distraction. As I’ve said many times, there is a power-struggle in Washington and the Ukraine business is a key part of it. The media is unable to directly criticize U.S. actions so it changes the subject. Personally, I believe the big corporate owners don’t like the neocon uprising but can’t attack them directly. This is pure speculation but I’ve been watching this unfold for some time and have a feel for these things.

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