Links 4/7/14

Mickey Rooney, child actor who went on to lifetime of stardom, dies at 93 Washington Post

Photos: With Little Snow and Little Work, a Musher Worries New York Times (furzy mouse)

Another If/Then Review of Hospital Safety Ratings Patient Safety Blog

Eight (No, Nine!) Problems With Big Data New York Times (furzy mouse)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Australian Ship Picks Up Signals Wall Street Journal

Inflation Watch: Global Food Disruptions, Commodity Prices Soar Testosterone Pit. Food inflation with no corresponding wage growth caused political instability, particularly in countries with a large proportion of the population at the edge of survival (think Arab Spring uprisings).

Will inequality rise in this recovery? BBC. Do we really need to ask? Of course, notice this question presumes that what we are experiencing now qualifies as a real recovery, as opposed to a technical one.

How much bad debt can China handle? MacroBusiness

It’s All Circle Jerks All The Way Down Ilargi

“Huge preferential offers” bust Chinese property MacroBusiness. An eye-opener on the state of Chinese real estate.

The real reasons why Draghi flirts with QE Telegraph

French Socialists Revolt Against Prime Minister, Threaten Vote of No Confidence Michael Shedlock

The Greek experiment BBC

Death knell for Brazil’s economic strategy Financial Times

The Tower of David – Venezuela’s “vertical slum” Reuters

Universities from industrial nations putting down stakes in Islamic countries Nikkei

Israel may take ‘unilateral action’ over Palestinians’ UN move, says PM Guardian


Ukrainian Officer Killed by Russian Soldier in Crimea, Says Ukraine Wall Street Journal

The First Real Russian Retaliation for American Sanctions Ian Welsh (Chuck L). I buy only half of his position. I don’t see denominating crude in rubles as significant, since the only trade at issue is Iranian crude, which is heavy, sour crude, which is economical to refine only when for light sweet crude are over $100 a barrel. But Russia breaking the sanctions against Iran is significant, and they are basically setting themselves to assist others who face US economic sanctions. And the West can’t really cut off Russia because the UK, with its enormous banking system (last I checked, banking assets over 6 times GDP) has gotten too dependent on Russian oligarchs. So the UK will remain a financial center for Russians.

Stand-off over $2.2bn Ukraine gas bill Financial Times

Ukraine fears gas war with Russia Guardian

Pro-Russia protests in eastern Ukraine DW

The Red Line and the Rat Line Seymour Hersh, London Review of Books (Synopticist). Today’s must read.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Snowden, Greenwald urge caution of wider govt monitoring at Amnesty event Reuters (furzy mouse)

Snowden to Receive Truth-Telling Prize New York Times. Poitras included but not Greenwald. Hhhm.

U.S. Attempts Candor to Assure China on Cyberattacks New York Times. Trust me, it’s all about the tech sales, otherwise we wouldn’t bother. Plus you gotta love the headline. Is this a bit of subversion at the Grey Lady? “Attempts candor” raises the question of whether the US is capable of it, or more likely, that both sides recognize that this attempt is fake, but the US might actually serve up a tad more information than usual.

How Many Watch Lists Fit on the Head of a Pin, Post-Constitutional America, Where Innocence Is a Poor Defense Peter Van Buren, TomDispatch

Obamacare Launch

Political offers pour in for Canadian MD who defended medicare in U.S. Senate Vancouver Sun (John L)

How should Democrats deal with Obamacare in 2014? CBS News

Leaders of Teaching Hospitals Have Close Ties to Drug Companies, Study Shows TruthOut (furzy mouse)

Obama Administration Committed to U.S. Nuclear Energy Exports OilPrice

Shale Gas Boom Leaves Wind Companies Seeking More Subsidy Bloomberg. One might point out that shale gas operators are getting a massive de facto subsidy by not paying for their externalities.

US State Department Lost Track of $6 Bln Under Hillary Clinton RIA Novosti (furzy mouse)

Oligarchs and Money Paul Krugman. It is now officially OK to use the “o” word in polite company. Note the Simon Johnson bravely used it the Atlantic in May 2009, but Serious People wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole back then.

More Deportations Follow Minor Crimes, Records Show New York Times

Two Yale law professors think they know what, exactly, the APPEARANCE of quid pro quo corruption looks like. They don’t. But I do. Angry Bear (furzy mouse)

Credit Suisse Is Said to Be Facing Double-Barreled Inquiries New York Times. New York’s Benjamin Lawsky strikes again.

Why labour markets don’t clear Frances Coppola

Global value chains in the current trade slowdown VoxEU

Bondholders don’t get mad, they get even John Dizard, Financial Times

Antidote du jour. Another before and after pet photo:


And a bonus antidote, courtesy Harry Shearer (e-mail subscribers need to go to the NC site to see this video):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here

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  1. direction

    Venezuelan tower “slum” looks a lot more hospitable than the crime infested low income towers of San Francisco. Those are beer and urine soaked piles of thieves and lost souls.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Can you imagine what would happen here, in the land of the “free” and home of the “brave,” if such a community sprang up?

      Why, the fact that there are unlicensed businesses not collecting sales tax would be enough for a full-scale assault, Waco style. Not to mention unacceptable “hygiene” ala OWS/Zuccotti Park.

    2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      I’m a middle-aged, white professional who spent his early days in one of the “beer and urine soaked” public housing slums you mentioned. Due to circumstances beyond my mother’s control, she, my sister, and I lived in such a place for the first 6 years of my life.

      If you think these places are populated thieves and lost souls, you are grossly mistaken.

      Your comment is offensive.

      May you find yourself at the mercy of these people, someday, and may they treat you with the human kindness I was treated with as a small, minority child.

  2. notexactlyhuman

    “I don’t see denominating crude in rubles as significant, since the only trade at issue is Iranian crude, which is heavy, sour crude, which is economical to refine only when for light sweet crude are over $100 a barrel. But Russia breaking the sanctions against Iran is significant, and they are basically setting themselves to assist others who face US economic sanctions.”

    Didn’t the exact same scenario directly precede the Iraq invasion, with Russia, France, and China skirting sanctions against Iraq and buying crude in non-dollars? Weren’t there fears then of this deflating American currency, thus driving up oil prices? My recollection is fuzzy.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      “The U.S. has shot itself in the foot. Far from isolating Iran, the sanctions are potentially speeding up the demise of the dollar’s dominance by forcing Iran to explore alternative currencies. That so many other countries are so willing to support Iran in direct defiance of the sanctions is what the U.S. clearly bet against. It might end up as the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. Either that, or yet another war.

      Challenges to the petrodollar are challenges to American hegemony. The rest of the world has, apparently, had just about enough.

      1. Ben Johannson

        Yeah, if you don’t understand how reserve currencies work, then you might believe Iran can ruin the dollar.

  3. vlade

    Not sure why Telegraph’s article made it to the links?
    While EU has (more than) it’s share of zombie banks, QE along UK/US lines makes little impact on that. That is, unless QE would buy private paper (which neither US or UK did as part of QE – US did do it, but not QE. Agency RMBSes aren’t private paper as far as credit’s concerned) and misvalue it. Most of the gov’t paper can be repoed to central banks even now, so swapping liquid securities for cash would make little difference to EU banks.
    For all the talk around QE, it would be mostly a psychological warfare weapon, with the impact being mostly in the FX area (rates are down, and the curve doesn’t steepent until about 4/5Y out, 10Y EURIBOR is still well under 2%, and even 40Y is about 2.5%, well below USD/GBP curves which already started to discount end of the respective QEs).

    If ECB starts buying private paper, most likely it will be SME securitization. Now that could actually make a difference, and ECB in that case has to be able to take credit losses. Of course it will help the banks, but it’s likely to help the EU economy too – as long as ECB has even reasonably sensible rules (say only new loans, along the funding-for-lending scheme in the UK).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think the issue would be valuation. QE would increase the price (presumably) of government paper, which would provide a balance sheet cushion. You still have to repo at market value, so repo affects liquidity, not valuation, and thus reported equity levels. Increasing or supporting market value is a prop to the banks.

      1. vlade

        Well, the value is pushed up quite a bit (which is why the yield is so low). Depending on what they would buy, there’s not much space to go lower for short term bonds or even long terms. I don’t know how much convexity there’s in EUR market, but I’d still think that even QE would not move the prices massively.

        Still think that if you wanted to prop up the banks in EU (and they do need it, that’s given), you’d buy ABSes, not govvies.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The ECB can’t do that by charter I believe…they are already risking war with the Bundesbank with QE.

          1. vlade

            Actually, I think they can (they can’t do direct gov’t financing). Given the last ECB meeting the support was “unanimous”, I’d say Buba dropped their QE opposition. Even Weidmann uttered something positive about QE few weeks back IIRC.
            Directly from horse’s mouth (Draghi’s response to the last question at the presso last week):
            “And the second point on private debt is that it is not easy to design a programme of QE on private debt that is large in size and doesn’t have risk for financial stability. That is why the ECB is so squarely behind the need to develop an ABS market, because that is where the largest pool of private sector assets lies, basically banking loans – as I said before, we are a bank-based economy. So, if we are able to have these loans being correctly priced and rated, and traded, like it would happen, like it used to happen in the ABS market before the crisis, then we naturally have a very large pool of assets. The ECB is squarely behind this in a variety of ways – first and foremost, in its action to revisit the regulation for ABS. At the high point of the crisis, the regulation for ABS did not distinguish between simple ABS like the ones that had mortgages in them or the ones that had some SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) loans, and highly structured ABSs, quite complex. The first ones were typically European; the second ones were typically generated in the United States. The default rate of the first was something like between 1% and 2%. The default rate of the second was between 16% and 18% – I can’t remember now exactly the figures. In spite of this difference, the regulation concerning capital charges was the same, and the same thing for liquidity and other regulatory issues. That is why we have to revisit this and we find right now ample agreement also in other monetary policy jurisdictions. As a matter of fact, the ECB will present a joint paper with the Bank of England on this point at the next IMF meetings.”

            So clearly he thinks buying private asset (=SME ABS) would be more effective for them.

              1. vlade

                What surprised me there was a quote from Haldane (who can’t be accused to be in banks pocket by any measure):

                “The BoE has also been calling for change in the ABS market. In an interview with the Financial Times, Andy Haldane, its head of financial stability, said securitisation should not be the “bogeyman” it was during the financial crash and that it instead could be the “financing vehicle for all seasons”. “

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Very interesting stuff.

      I’m about a fifth of the way through the video, and I do believe that Dr. Pierre-Marie Robitaille was the model for the Dr. Leonard Hofstadter character on The Big Bang Theory. Somewhere, there’s probably a real-world Sheldon Cooper.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It seems that there were a lot of stuff we didn’t understand or simply misunderstood…’erroneous’ stuff, and there are and always will be a lot of stuff we don’t understand or misunderstand (see ‘best explanation’ below).

      And yet, we ran experiments with high energy particle collisions to peek at conditions close to Big Bang…based on our then best explanation of the universe (to be replaced, according to our current best philosophy of science, someday, not just once, but again and again).

      Was it just dumb luck nothing bad happened or did we really ‘cover ALL contingencies?’

      Connecting the dots, we might as well remind ourselves that many major scientific breakthroughs were ‘accidental.’ (Frankly, that is because what we have had is partial knowledge). All rational persons know that the odds are against the ‘good streak’ lasting forever, even as the mainstream media seem to celebrate accidental discoveries blissfully.

    3. Kurt Sperry

      Excellent link, thanks. So much of current thermodynamics has Kirchoff’s Law baked into it somewhere, like a mote of soot perhaps, that the implications of the law’s falsification must shift the ground underneath physics. Plus I think he implied the sun or its spots are like polished metal like we were in a Hendrix song.

      1. Jim S

        He actually did give a talk the following day wherein he proposed that the sun is primarily composed of liquid metallic hydrogen. Rather amusing, considering that the Electric Universe crowd he was speaking to postulates that the sun is composed of glow-mode plasma, but a very good talk, and I could see points where the two models agreed. Regardless of which is more correct–or if neither is– it’s fascinating to listen to. If the video gets posted I’ll drop it into comments.

        Johann: Ha! I wonder if he’s ever contemplated kidnapping Stan Lee.

        MLTPB: Human beings have a remarkable aptitude for getting “in the ballpark”, even against all reasonable expectations, don’t we? Perhaps “close enough” is good for more than just horseshoes and hand grenades.

    4. lyman alpha blob

      I read quite about physics and was wondering why I hadn’t heard of this guy before. As an admitted dilettante I have always had a problem understanding the concept of blackbody radiation and admit to having difficulty understanding what he is saying in the video. But I can use the google and found that these claims aren’t exactly new. This guy spent a year’s salary taking out a full page ad in the NYT over a decade ago to promote his theory:

      “Dr. Steve Rissing, a professor of evolution at Ohio State, called the timing of the advertisement ”just devastating” because its assertions so closely paralleled the contentions of evolution opponents in Ohio.

      ”I hope it’s just coincidental,” Dr. Rissing said.

      Dr. Robitaille declined to say whether he was aligned with either the so-called intelligent design or creationist movements, which have led the push to include challenges to evolution in the school curriculum. But he said he and his family had paid for the advertisement.”

      How hard would a simple ‘no I’m not’ have been?

      And then there is this:

      “Some scientists said they were puzzled that Dr. Robitaille did not post his paper on the free non-peer-reviewed Web site where virtually all astronomers have begun placing their new results in recent years,

      ”I did not know about this Web site,” Dr. Robitaille said.”

      Never heard of arXiv?!?!? So paid over $125K to get an ad in the paper?!?!?! Doesn’t sound like the sharpest tool in the box if you ask me.

      For more trustworthy speculative physics I would suggest Lee Smolin’s latest “Time Reborn”. Smolin proposes time as fundamental in a universe whose ‘laws’ may change over time. Fascinating read. As a good scientist, his theory is falsifiable and he admits he could be very wrong. And the latest evidence of gravitational waves found in a new analysis of the cosmic microwave background which came out not long after Smolin’s book may have just proven him wrong if I understood things correctly. This discovery goes a long way towards proving the inflation theory which Smolin’s theory was in opposition to. Either way, Smolin is a pleasure to read and while he is sometimes pooh-poohed by his fellow scientists, he seems to have a LOT more credibiltiy than this Robitaille character.

      1. Jim S

        I’ve come across Smolin’s name before, and will take your recommendation to look him up. Thank you, although I oughtn’t add to my reading backlog!

        You’ll pardon me if I decline to meet you point-by-point at this time. I believe Dr. Robitaille addressed your concerns in his first talk, and when it is put up to Youtube perhaps you’ll be interested to view it?

        I will say that to accept that the patterns in the CMB support the inflation view, one must first accept that the CMB is in fact in the cosmic background. At this time I am rather more persuaded that it is not.

  4. JTFaraday

    re: Snowden to Receive Truth-Telling Prize. New York Times. “Poitras included but not Greenwald. Hhhm.”

    You know, I wish I could trust the judgment of the people at the Nation Institute on something like this, but I’m not sure their definition of “truth telling” includes things like telling too much truth about Obama and the Democrats. Like that, on some foreign policy and civil liberties matters, Ron Paul might actually be better than Obama and the Democrats, so crappy has their tribe’s judgment become. I guess some truths are just beyond contemplation.

    Which is why I stopped being a regular reader of The Nation a long time ago.

    1. susan the other

      I became leary (leery?) of the Nation back in early 90s when they were not-so-subtly trying to make the Vietnam war look like it was all LBJ’s ego trip. And I’m no fan of LBJ. Just don’t expect me to accept bullshit covered up with more bullshit.

      1. JTFaraday

        The way it looks to me, just on the surface of things, is that they decided they needed to do something to get on the “right side of the law” here, but they weren’t going to upset the tribe by patting the evil libertarian on the back.

        That said, I agree that based on Greenwald’s own account of what he’s all about, Omidyar is a terrible employer for his stated purposes.

        And I find the disavowals of all of Omidyar’s employees unconvincing. The whole idea that a billionaire who regularly interferes in the governance of other countries is going create his own vanity press and not try to control it too is a bridge too far for me.

        1. Ned Ludd

          I don’t think Omidyar is going to try to control his employees. I think he selected Greenwald, Poitras, Scahill, etc. because he recognized that they pose no threat to his interests. They are disaffected liberals. They are not radicals who question the very legitimacy of the government.

          If you wish to challenge authority in any serious manner, you must be prepared to provoke an unholy, chaotic, extremely messy scene, one punctuated with howls of outrage by those in power, where everyone is mortified, humiliated and riven with panic — including you. Anything short of that is merely a very small speed bump on power’s journey to ever-increasing destruction and death.

          The manner of disclosure adopted by Lord Greenwald & Friends, a model of a polite, rules-abiding challenge to authority, has stopped exactly nothing.

          Social systems that maintain a stable social life are like ecosystems; some evolve ways to neutralize and contain disruptions, the others perish. The social function of liberals is to marginalize and co-opt leftists and radicals while reforming capitalism (and, nowadays, the surveillance state) in ways that preserve the integrity of the underlying system of authority.

          [A] tattletale is someone who reports “something bad or wrong” to an authority. And that is precisely what Snowden has done. He has entrusted the documents to “responsible journalists,” who have adopted the rationales and methods of the States themselves. Moreover, these “responsible journalists” work together with “government stakeholders” to determine which documents may be “safely disclosed” on the basis of factors that are explained in only the vaguest and most vacuous of terms. We haven’t escaped the oppression and abuses of authority: we have only added to the authorities who decide what we will be allowed to know.

          None of this has to be conscious, just as the organisms in an ecosystem do not need to know or be conscious of their ecological function.

          1. JTFaraday

            It seems to me that some people are too casual in assuming there is an “outside” position that an individual whistleblower can readily assume. The only “outside” position that’s apparent to me at the moment is the near suicidal one assumed by Bradley/Chelsea Manning.

            Having that example before them, I don’t think you can expect too many individual people to take that route. I don’t have the time or inclination right now to get into a big argument about the back seat driving blogger to whom you link– I’m not going “call him irresponsible,” I’m going to call him “hypocrite”– who came up with that juvenile “tattletale” tag, demanding scapegoats to state power this week that he condemned others for demanding the week before, but I did google the relevant links that lead me to make this hypocrisy charge:

            “No right to demand scapegoats!”:


            “Why didn’t “tattletale” Snowden make himself a better scapegoat by doing the big data dump by which Bradly/Chelsea Manning screwed him/herself in the first place?!”:


            I have a hard time seeing what the difference is here that makes Snowden a more worthy scapegoat in the eyes of Arthur Silber, other than the fact that he didn’t stupidly volunteer himself.

            A little consistency from the backseat drivers would be nice. And from the link you provided, this particular backseat driver seems to be ever more hysterically wallowing in an ever bigger morass of Greenwald Derangement Syndrome.

            In light of which phenomenon, a person could be forgiven for assuming that Silber’s hypocritical inconsistency and new demand for scapegoats has at least something to do with who belongs to what tribe.

            That said, I don’t expect much more of anything that’s productive to come of l’affair Snowden. I think this particular skirmish is basically over.

            Meanwhile, billionaire government coup plotting Omidyar–who crybaby Silber is apparently too wussy to pick on (I’ll give the Greenwald Derangement Syndrome afflicted Mark Ames credit for that much)– will go right on being government coup plotting Omidyar.

            Because he’s got the big bucks to burn. And because MMT informed economistic technotards– and supposed lovers of state power because, you know, “that’s The People’s Power”– don’t want anyone to even try taxing them back:


            Okay, enough Power of Bullsh*t for one day.

            1. JTFaraday

              And for a brief moment, I felt like a real dummy for slipping from “martyr” to “scapegoat.” Then I realized that this actually appropriate, as Silber has gone from condemning people for demanding Manning be a martyr to attempting to turn other whistle blowers into scapegoats, to be torn apart by a frustrated mob.

              Time to go on vacation?

              1. JTFaraday

                Although, if Greenwald did do a big data dump and FedGov decided to give him the Bradley/Chelsea Manning treatment, then Silber– and all the other victims of Greenwald Derangement Syndrome– could have their martyr too.

                1. Ned Ludd

                  Journalists who are actual threats to either capitalism or the surveillance state end up marginalized and unemployable like Gary Webb. Anyone hired by a plutocrat to launch a new media venture is not disruptive.

                  Regarding Snowden, he actually is a martyr, who made personal sacrifices in order to improve the surveillance state.

                  “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”

                  One of the underlying themes of what Silber writes about is how liberalism differs from radicalism. Snowden is not a radical, nor as far as I know has he ever described himself as one. If you want an improved surveillance state, one that does a better job of targeting its enemies, then Snowden is a hero. If you want no surveillance state, then Snowden is, by his own account, working against your interests.

            2. vidimi

              agree with this post completely.
              in the fight that snowden and greenwald have started, you can only win by keeping public opinion on your side and that’s something they have done brilliantly. the only misstep snowden took was fleeing to russia – something assange was adamant on – instead of ecuador or venezuela.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            I forget which First Look journalist said it, but it has been reported that Omidyar is the most active person on internal e-mail. So he’s trying to exercise a LOT of influence. Being all over your employees is not the behavior of a hands off boss.

    2. optimader

      “…on some foreign policy and civil liberties matters, Ron Paul might actually be better than Obama and the Democrats…”
      faint praise..
      on foreign policy and civil liberties no comparison actually.

  5. fresno dan

    “But Kahan and his coauthors also drafted a politicized version of the problem. This version used the same numbers as the skin-cream question, but instead of being about skin creams, the narrative set-up focused on a proposal to ban people from carrying concealed handguns in public. The 2×2 box now compared crime data in the cities that banned handguns against crime data in the cities that didn’t. In some cases, the numbers, properly calculated, showed that the ban had worked to cut crime. In others, the numbers showed it had failed.

    Presented with this problem a funny thing happened: how good subjects were at math stopped predicting how well they did on the test. Now it was ideology that drove the answers. Liberals were extremely good at solving the problem when doing so proved that gun-control legislation reduced crime. But when presented with the version of the problem that suggested gun control had failed, their math skills stopped mattering. They tended to get the problem wrong no matter how good they were at math. Conservatives exhibited the same pattern — just in reverse”
    First comes the belief, than the facts to support it.
    When was the last time you changed your mind?

    1. nobody

      “[Kahan] sounds like, well, what he is: a Harvard-educated lawyer who clerked for Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court and now teaches at Yale Law School. He sounds like a guy who has lived his adult life excelling in institutions dedicated to the idea that men and women of learning can solve society’s hardest problems and raise its next generation of leaders.”

      Good grief.

  6. Chris D

    Can you help me understand what you mean by this comment: “One might point out that shale gas operators are getting a massive de facto subsidy by not paying for their externalities?”

    1. Foppe

      They’re exempt from having to comply with the clean water act, for instance (see “halliburton loophole”

    2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Our entire “capitalist” system depends on government dealing with its waste stream. The trick is to take your profit before all costs are accounted for.

    3. Bruno Marr

      @Chris D:

      The “externalities” referred to are costs of production that are not paid for by the “profiteer”. In the shale oil example, there are environmental costs (polluted water, polluted air (CO2 and methane gas) that are borne by ALL of us, but only the shale oil extractors reap the profits. These environmental costs are said to be “external” to the shale producers operation.

      Of course, the costs could be made more “internal” by imposing a serious extraction fee.

  7. susan the other

    Thank you for the Seymour Hersh link “The Red Line and The Rat Line.” Good review of some of the information that has come out (briefly and then disappeared), especially about Benghazi – that our “consulate” was nothing more than an arms smuggling operation from Libya to Syrian “rebels.” Raising the question once again, why on earth didn’t we secretly protect them in such a dangerous situation? The info on Erdogan is very interesting, but doesn’t quite hang together for me since NATO doesn’t really put up with loose cannons. I think he is probably a stooge. And how did he get re elected with such a big majority? Another thing that bothers me here is that Assad’s civil war supposedly is not based on the Saudi’s natgas pipeline hopes being dashed, but on Erdogan’s desire to make Syria dependent on Turkey. Don’t really get that claim. There is a lot that still isn’t being revealed. Loved the intelligence guy who accused one of our generals of having a “shit-fit” over some top secret info getting out. Haven’t heard that term in a long time. Seems like the whole debacle is more or less a shit fit in real time.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      For me the take away is the danger of “entangling alliances”. NATO should have been done away with at the conclusion of its – ostensible – justification; i.e., the Cold War. Instead, despite assurances to President Gorbachev that NATO would not expand into former satellites of the USSR, let alone former republics of the USSR, that is exactly what happened when first the USSR, and then following the dissolution, Russia, were weakened. And then ‘Ol Bill Bob Clinton went a’viking in the Balkans, and NATO morphed into a vehicle for US hegemony, not merely in the original North Atlantic area (hence the name…), but wherever it could be brought to bear in service of that toxic notion. And now, as Katniss observed above, the world has about had enough of that shit, but Our Leaders have kept right on with their strategy of using NATO as the stalking horse for hegemony.

      But funny thing about this; the smaller powers “allied” with the US within (or even in the declared “sphere of interest” of NATO) can be emboldened by big brother hulking over their shoulder to pursue their own vicious agendas, potentially greatly to the US’s disadvantage. So, we get little tinpots like Sakashvilii in Georgia (in that “sphere of interest”), and Erdogan in his provocations against Syria, feeling empowered to undertake initiatives of their own devising that kinda, sorta seem to advance the US’s hegemonic ambitions, but primarily serve their own destructive ends. The ill-advised, pretty much in every way possible, expansion of NATO into historically tumultuous march lands between traditional great powers (Ukraine being the latest and most bone-headed of them all), super-empowers nations (or “nationalities”) to think that this is the time to get theirs. Or in the Middle East, the US’s desire to kneecap any secular state capable of resistance to US or Israeli hegemony (Iraq, anyone, and now Syria) gives Turkey and the Gulf States ideas that they can set the pace, and since it seems to be in “our” interest, that we’ll go along with whatever depraved courses of action that they want to undertake that advance their interests.

      Problem is, Russia, you know, that “regional” power according to the Washington Fool – a power in Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, East Asia…jeez, that’s a lotta regions – ain’t having it any longer. So, you want to turbocharge a bunch of autocrats in NATO or in its “sphere of interest” to go bear baiting, do ya? It should not escape our notice that 100 years ago this year, similar “entangling alliances” had extremely bad consequences.

      History you say? What relevance could that have for the Bestest, Mostest Exceptionalistest Nation The World Done Evah Seen? Our Leaders, as that great sage, Karl Rove, reminded us, are History’s Actors now in their capacity as masters of the Empire. Uh, no.

      1. susan the other

        Well, great comment. Totally. One point: I do think our military is sophisticated beyond comprehension in some aspects. So I also suspect that our foreign policy is equally sophisticated altho’ we are willing to look like doofuses… And I also trust, after all these years since Vietnam, that the US really does not want “to go to war” because it is just so damned pointless.

        1. JerseyJeffersonian

          Susan the Other,

          This in a nutshell is my worry; a conceptual framework has settled over our nation’s leaders that they and the systems that they supposedly “command” are just so damned sophistamicated that nobody could possibly conceive of challenging them. Well, they’re wrong on two counts: 1) When you have backed another nation (or nations, given that Our Leaders are pivoting every which way to secure and maintain hegemony), they will fight, and fight with all of the determination that they can muster, and with all of the weapons at their command. In the case of the Russians or the Chinese, these include nuclear weapons. Ya wanna go there? After having grown up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, I sure as fuck don’t want to, but our callow, ahistorical, narcissistic leaders may ramp things up to such a point that this is a real possibility; 2) Having partially surrendered the course of events into the hands of bad actors among our allies, or those who think themselves to be our allies, events can transpire that are not under Our Leaders’ control, events that understandably may dragoon perceptions of involved parties toward a critical point from which you cannot walk things back. Like in 1914…

          Shallow, arrogant decision makers. Decentralized control of events to which reactions may be dire. I’ll let Creedence Clearwater Revival draw the syllogism.

          “Bad Moon Rising”

          I see the bad moon arising.
          I see trouble on the way.
          I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
          I see bad times today.

          Don’t go around tonight,
          Well, it’s bound to take your life,
          There’s a bad moon on the rise.

          I hear hurricanes ablowing.
          I know the end is coming soon.
          I fear rivers over flowing.
          I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

          All right!

          Hope you got your things together.
          Hope you are quite prepared to die.
          Looks like we’re in for nasty weather.
          One eye is taken for an eye.


        2. OIFVet

          Sophistication is not all that it is cracked up to be. I would rather have stuff that works reliably. Take the F-35: a very expensive and “sophisticated” system that rules the hangar and on the rare occasions it may fly it will be a sitting duck for any halfway competent Su-30 or Su-35 pilot. The F-22 is much better, but four hours of maintenance for every hour of flight time make its availability very limited. Or take something much more basic, the M-16. In Iraq we would clean them 2-3 times a day and they would still jam after a few rounds, even a little bit of dust renders them unreliable. And the desert was one dusty place. Compare that to the Polish with their AK-47s. I personally saw one being covered with sand, dug out, and then fired without jamming. Simple can be so much better.

          1. Jim S

            Also, perhaps “labyrinthine” is more often a better adjective than “sophisticated” where the military is concerned.

            1. OIFVet

              For sure. It is a sad fact that the most valuable people in combat arms are not experienced squad leaders but competent UAs who can fix the inevitable pay problems created by the bureaucratic DFAS, and supply sergeants who can actually supply the unit with the things it needs.

          2. Abe, NYC

            The Russian T-34 tank was no match for Germany’s Panthers or Tigers, but since it was cheap it could be produced numbers that could easily overwhelm the Germans. V-2 was the most sophisticated weapon of WW2 (until the A-bomb at any rate), but each one’s production absorbed as much labor as was required for 5 fighter planes or so; and its development was costlier than Manhattan project.

      2. Abe, NYC

        Not to idealize Clinton, but he was damned whatever he did or didn’t do: first for intervening in Somalia, then for not intervening in Rwanda, then for not intervening strongly enough in Bosnia, then for intervening too strongly in Serbia.

        One of these is not like the others and it’s Rwanda, where the genocide started 20 years ago to the day. The result was 800,000 deaths that could have been prevented with literally a few hundred soldiers and few to no military casualties. I think it left a mark on the US foreign policy that continues to this day. Samantha Power, the current Ambassador to the UN, is an especially ardent supporter of interventionism, published an acclaimed book on the subject, etc.

        Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Serbia IMHO have nothing to do either with the (all too real) US imperialism or the (even more real) power of the oligarchy. Iraq is an obvious example to the contrary. But when it comes to Libya or Syria, I think the administration was simply caught unawares and is still trying to figure out a workable policy. Not that Israel (or anyone else for that matter) has been thrilled about their performance so far.

        But once again, when it comes to interventionism they’ll be blamed either way.

  8. TimR

    Re: Okay to use ‘Oligarchs’

    I don’t know which is worse, when mainstream media denies reality or recognizes it.

    Is that elephant video real?? Such sophisticated drawing techniques on display.. These sorts of things always beg for more context.
    What’s next, he’s going to be wearing tweed, sitting in recliners, and smoking pipes like Babar?

    1. Lord Koos

      I’m waiting for “plutocrats” to be revived by the MSM.

      As far as the elephant… some elephants in Thailand are trained humanely, and some are not. Hopefully in this case it’s the former.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Chinese ‘huge preferential offers’ link.

    The People’s Central Bank needs to buy out all the bad real estate loans in China and set up some thing like our TARP to lend to their banks, before things get out of hand.

  10. fresno dan

    The Red Line and the Rat Line Seymour Hersh, London Review of Books (Synopticist). Today’s must read.

    “The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.”

    Reminds me very much of the line from Monty Python “run away, run away!!!”
    Our congress, given the immense power of war and peace…shows that they really don’t want to make any decision that might interfere with their reelection.

    1. hunkerdown

      Not until they’re “made”, anyway. After that, reelection doesn’t even matter, but they still have to be seen being concerned about it, since that’s a necessary but not sufficient condition for the present national order’s least bit of credibility. In reality, once they’ve gotten tenure as effective and loyal elite operators, you have absolutely no recourse against them anymore. “What are you gonna do, fire me?” Why, they’re hoping you do so they can cash in as lobbyists, “thinkers”, “speakers”, board members and other such sinecures of the designated winners.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Hilary and her missing $6 billion.

    RIA Novosti – is that a Russian news organization?

    In any case, it’s curious how the article ends with ‘The Clinton family has not responded to the findings.’

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Hillary and Bill sail the rolling main of the Oligarch Ocean, and are scarcely accountable to such Murikan rabble as you and me. This is what comes of being excellent stewards of the interests of said Oligarchs. Here is a little vignette from their new, valorized existence:

      Now, you see, the missing $6 billion from the public fisc was undoubtedly wisely spent, if you class cementing into place the improved social status of Bill and Hill in those rarefied circles as the desired end state. Sure beats working the state fair in Arkansas, or scuffling for dimes in some local law firm, or even the returns from the commodities market (employing favorable information asymmetries, of course).

      Yeppers, those Clintons have sure made a transition.

  12. craazyman

    You can’t really tell if that elephant knows how to draw without seeing the baby elephant and the flower so you can compare.

    If going into debt is borrowing money from the future, where is the money now, if it’s in the future? And how does it travel back in time from the future to the past?

      1. craazyman

        If we borrow an infinite amount of money from the future it shouldn’t be a problem to pay it all back, since, assuming time itself is infinite, we have an infinite amount of time to pay it back.

        Therefore, debt of any amount is not a problem. This is simply a mathematical fact. I’m not even making this up!

        You gotta fight for your right to party.

        1. optimader

          “since, assuming time itself is infinite, we have an infinite amount of time to pay it back.”

          Isnt that the essential feature of a Sovereign Currency?

          Your implied confusion about “debt” is that it necessarily ever needs to be paid back.

          That’s where the popular and simplistic analogy of to a household budget fails.

        2. Hugh

          If you could borrow an infinite amount of money, you could spend as much of it as you wanted and still have the same amount.

          infinity minus any finite X equals infinity

          This is also why you could pay it back at any time regardless of the rate of interest.

          infinity plus (infinity times any finite X) equals infinity.

          It was Georg Cantor who came up with the basics of infinite math back in the 19th century. While he recognized that not all infinities are of the same size (another story), he saw that any finite mathematical operation on an infinite set simply reproduced that set.

          1. optimader

            infinity plus (infinity times any finite X) equals infinity.

            and that Hugh is the essence of e=mc^2.

          2. craazyman

            he sounds like a wacko. I bet he just made it all up in his head, and then people believed it. haahahah

            I’d rather lay around than work. If anybody wants to send some money, I’ll waste it utterly and pay it back eventually.

            Yours truly
            D. Tremens
            Profesor of Math and Science
            PO box 9

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              You got to get into transfinite investing.

              It’s like that Zen saying, a mountain is not just a mountain, so infinity is not just infinity, there is life beyond infinity.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Although, the last time I tried to follow Cantor’s proof of transfinite, I wasn’t really sure what he was saying about the ‘diagonal.’

                Maybe that’s something to do with Zen’s ‘at the end, a mountain is just a mountain.’

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Craazy, not only can money time-travel, but it emerges from nothingness to become somethingness.

      So, for a bankster in need, there is no need to time-travel money-tomorrow and money-the-day-after-tomorrow to add to money-today to get 3 times money-today. The bankster can just create two times money-today in addition to his existing money-today to get to 3 times money-today.

      1. allcoppedout

        Craazy – get real, money is useless if the beer runs out. My understanding is that the brewery pixies would drink it all themselves in an infinite money situation.

        1. craazyman

          that’s exactly why we can’t let the beer ever run out.

          you gotta fight for your right to party

          1. optimader

            that’s why brewing is an important personal skill.
            Don’t kill the baker;
            Don’t kill the brewmaster.
            And don’t let the paleo diet people have any of either.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Paleo people didn’t need these people nor beer; they only had to hunt and gather sacred herbs.

        2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

          Reminds me of this:

          “Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.”
          —Freewheelin’ Franklin (Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers by Gilbert Shelton)

          There’s a prophecy somewhere in there (probably have to smoke a dube to find it, though).

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That seems to be a little better than the slogan: ‘Hope (and change) will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no hope (and no change).’

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No you have this wrong.

      There are hardly any small fish in the PE business. The criminal abuse was at a small firm, but the fact that the SEC actually threw more staff at this is proof they are showing some uncharacteristic vigor.

  13. Here, hold this bag

    @fresno dan, “Our congress, given the immense power of war and peace…shows that they really don’t want to make any decision that might interfere with their reelection.”

    They also don’t want to make any decision that might constitute aggression. Article 8 bis is going to enter into force and it will simply codify what is already recognized as a peremptory norm of international law. In Iraq and Afghanistan, in Libya… no declaration of war. They left the president on the hook.

  14. libarbarian

    This is a bit of an off-topic question, but I figured this was a good place to ask it: Anyone know approximately how much HFT shops pay to get preferential high-speed access (ie,. “colocation”)?

    I’m reading a lot of the debate surrounding “Flash Boys” and it occurred to me that knowing how much actors are willing to pay to get that extra few milliseconds compared to the masses. At least, the simple first-order assumption is that they wouldn’t pay more than it is worth to them, so knowing how much they pay puts a lower limit on the “profit” they get from being able to act faster than the herd.

    1. abynormal

      something i dug out of my files
      What are the social costs of high-frequency trading?

      here’s a tech writer i caught up with one late night:
      Problem with letting any digital life operate without simulus it starts to run it’s own numbers to match the environment given. So obviously somewhere the Algo found a piece of information and acted on it. University of Arizona had a study to the effect, without researcher inputs the bots went apeshit and started designing their own controls.

      Considering the morons that bought the Algo/HFT systems never stopped to think once about the term “life”, these bot or built creatures are designed to learn and recompile themselves to survive. Their food is real data. So somewhere there really is 460 trillion in exposure somewhere.

      Most agencies that use AI fail to set security boundries to their bots. The executives are more throughly managed by ACL’s and given less information and access to information than a bot is given. A bot will always reflect it’s known reality with the information is finds and acts on.

      CPL’s picture

      Sentience is something else entirely.

      Think of them as really adaptable information yeast. Smarts doesn’t have anything to do with it. Environmental inputs do, it adapts to given information and seeks the shortest path to success.

      Unlike physical reality that limits us their lifespan can be measured in CPU clock time, their evolution from one form to another that is suited to survive in under a minute. Entire generations in hours. New derivative digital life in hours. Entire ecologies in weeks.

      Then the retards take that and apply that against a financial system. Until something else pops up. World bandwidth has been shrinking, internet traffic reports are showing this and a weird herd migration pattern. No clue what it is as nobody has caught one that’s “lived” longer than a couple of seconds and self expires (deletes itself). Over the last month since the core switches went apeshit and are hitting loads that don’t warrant the traffic and data being used.

      My general thought is like yeast they’ll eventually breed to maximum capacity of the environment.

      No worse, the digital life has already broken out of it’s pen by measuring the macro data offered by the various engineering data spots (IEEE, W3C, Monitoring PUGS).

      When a developer builds something they are typically incredibly lazy when it comes to the infrastructure requirements. Tivoli, HP Openview, SAS, SAP, Symantec Perimeter tools are good examples. Anyone of those products can offer monitoring, baselines, reporting…they can save a fuck tonne of money, offer security and their AI’s are very simple.

      Set it up wrong though without service accounts limited, proper internal rule sets, human processes to manage it properly and you’ve created a 800 pound gorilla to tear the ass out of an enterprise.

      Most of the guys I’ve met that do AI find the engineering aspect “beneath” them, like somehow establishing a foundation to a product is meaningless. They are really more interested in reaction and tighter code.

      They simply do not give a shit about anyone’s infrastructure or the costs. They cludge source more often than people are lead to believe with half an idea of the business processes underneath them. They are hand to mouth in terms of career with the attitude to match.

      In this case, HFT’s and Algo’s are closer to yeast. They just eat. And eat. And eat. Then breed. Evolve. Rinse and repeat. A small 70k self contained program doesn’t sound like a lot in the beginning. But give it room to move and “food” and no limits to ability to where it can go. Like yeast in a fermenting carbouy of beer, it’ll consume everything until it dies. When a trader pushes a button, the HFT examines the trade, the risk, and how it knows how to counter with the available information.

      Or evolves. Ever wonder why there is bread, beer, champagne, ice wine yeasts. That takes hundreds of years for people to nudge in the direction of what they want to use the particular yeast for and breed environmental “hardiness” into the end yeast/product. In terms of CPU time, the Algo/HFT yeast will, or maybe it has evolved beyond it’s intention.

      Again the people buying these things see a method to cut costs in human bodies and have a legion of bots on a mainframe do the job. What doesn’t click is similar to people that adopt baby chimpanzee’s, eventually it turns into a great ape and more than likely turn on their “handler”.

        1. abynormal

          not anymore…its gone down hill and still looking for a bottom

          “Rock [and ZH] journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read”
          Frank Zappa

  15. Skeptic

    Political offers pour in for Canadian MD who defended medicare in U.S. Senate Vancouver Sun (John L)

    ““And when I arrived in the lobby, I noticed across the hall that there was a second entry point with no lineup whatsoever. Sometimes it’s not actually about the amount of resources that you have, but how you organize (them).”for U.S.-style health care?”

    Yes, Doctor, and in Canada if you have pull, influence, vig, call it what you will, you will jump the healthcare waiting queue and get some service. Use that second entry point! This is commonly know as theft of public services and is well practiced by the connected in Canada.

    Recently, for example, two scumbag Canadian Senators were caught illegally registered in the healthcare system of Ontario in order that they get premium service. Needless to say, no prosecutions. Supposedly, in the Capitol, Ottawa, there are hospitals devoted solely to maintaining the good health of the pols, bureaucrats and whoever pays them off. As for provincial politicians and their entourages it is limousine healthcare all the way.

    There is no Snowden to whistleblow on this in Canada nor is it ever discussed in the media. Verboten, tabu, do not go there or you will be in dire straits when you need, yes, Canadian healthcare!

    I do hope also that the good Doctor did mention that Big Pharma and other corporate heatlthcare perps are allowed to run loose in Canada just like the States.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      I don’t know if the Canadian system differs from province to province, but I visit NS frequently, and make it a point to ask those I meet how they like their healthcare system. So far, no one has complained — in fact, I can’t remember a negative response in the 8+ years I’ve been traveling there. The only person who ever said they had a wait time was the cashier at a McDonald’s (where I was buying a McLobster roll for $6 CDN!), who had to wait 6 weeks for an elective surgery (she was not upset about the wait).

      I also don’t hear Canadians, generally, trying to have their system overturned in favor of a “free market” rogering.

  16. optimader

    A character from the Halcyon Days of Empire

    Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing
    This article was published online and printed in the Magazine before Mr. Matthiessen died on Saturday April 5

    Though Matthiessen is not as well known as some other names of his generation, you would be hard-pressed to find a greater life in American letters over the last half-century. He is the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for nonfiction and fiction, but it’s not just the writing: Born into the East Coast establishment, Matthiessen ran from it, and in the running became a novelist, a C.I.A. agent, a founder of The Paris Review, author of more than 30 books, a naturalist, an activist and a master in one of the most respected lineages in Zen. As early as 1978, he was already being referred to, in a review in The New York Times, as a “throwback,” because he has always seemed to be of a different, earlier era, with universal, spiritual and essentially timeless concerns…

    in 1963 he married the writer Deborah Love, a spiritual seeker as he was. He’d already taken ayahuasca in the South American wilderness, an episode he transmutes memorably into fiction in “At Play,” and with Love, he would turn to other psychedelic drugs and a bizarre LSD-driven form of therapy. In August 1968, returning from a seven-month trip to Africa that would become a part of “The Tree Where Man Was Born” (1972), Matthiessen arrived at home to find three Japanese Zen masters standing in his driveway. They were visiting Love, who had become a Zen student while Matthiessen was away on expeditions. He likes to joke that they took one look at him, saw how deluded he was, then immediately felt sorry for his wife. A year or so later, one of those teachers, the enigmatic and charismatic Soen Nakagawa, would accept him as a student

  17. Hugh

    In “Why Labor Markets Don’t Clear”, Frances Coppola accepts as a given that employers have no social responsibilities, such as offering their employees a minimum, let alone a living wage. The moment we look at her analysis inserting the social purposes of economics and the economy back into it, we see just how odd it really is. Of course, there is not one word in it about the effects of massive wealth inequality on labor markets and production. And too if we were to bring back social purposes to the discussion, we would also have to revisit the whole concept of work and the social responsibilities we have to each other. All of this is absent from her post.

  18. ohmyheck

    After reading Sy Hersh’s article, I found this one by Robert Parry. I am gob-smacked. I posted this comment at consortium news, though used a naughty word, so it may not post. And if anyone doubted that Robert Parry is an Obamabot Apologist, doubt no more.


    “A reluctant Obama”? Did we read the same Sy Hersh article, Mr. Parry?

    “From the beginning of the crisis, the joint chiefs had been skeptical of the Obama administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt….”

    “Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – – would be a military blunder…The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course.”

    “…many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’”

    “… ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’:”

    If that doesn’t sound like a Class-A War Mongerer, please, Mr. Parry, tell me what does.

    And this doesn’t sound comforting-

    -“‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president,..”

    Bubble-living has its downsides.

    But then we have this Catch-22-

    ” Although the strike plans were shelved, the Obama administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ … ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’

    Sheesh. D@mned if you do and d@mned if you don’t.

    But this is the absolute WORST:

    “the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘THAT THE MIDDLE EAST WOULD GO UP IN SMOKE, IF IT WAS CARRIED OUT.” (my caps)

    The President of The United States did NOT know what he was going to start World War 3?! Well out here past that nice bubble, LOTS of people were more than aware of this fact.

    If this is what we have for leadership, there is no hope.

    If what Sy Hersh writes is true, we were far closer to WW3 than even in my most paranoid fears.

  19. Bagehot-by-the-Bay

    Re the New York Times op-ed on Big Data. The longer Tim Harford article in The Financial Times (March 28, 2014) “Big data: are we making a big mistake?” is a classic, much better.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      New York Times likely dumbed the op-ed down. I had that experience once (in fairness, I got a very good editing job on my second go with them).

  20. JGordon

    With regards to how Democrats should deal with Obamacare in 2014, I believe seppuku would be appropriate.

  21. skippy

    Matt Taibbi begins his sixth book, “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” with a simple formulation: “Poverty goes up; Crime goes down; Prison population doubles.” It’s a snapshot, a way to represent what Taibbi sees as the through-the-looking-glass reality of contemporary America, where rule of law has been subverted by, on the one hand, corporate greed and, on the other, a kind of institutionalized abuse of the poor.

    Such a landscape, he suggests, brings to mind the last days of the Soviet Union, which operated out of a similar sort of mass hypocrisy until, in 1990 and ’91, “people were permitted to think about all this and question the unwritten rules out loud, [and] it was like the whole country woke up from a dream, and the system fell apart in a matter of months.”

    Not that Taibbi is particularly optimistic about such a revolution (of either justice or perception) happening here. Rather, he feels “like I’m living that process in reverse, watching my own country fall into a delusion in the same way the Soviets once woke up from one.”

    “The Divide,” then, is — like other recent books, including George Packer’s “The Unwinding” and Thomas Pikkety’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” — an attempt to map the slippage, to identify, through reporting and analysis, just what has happened to America and how it operates. Taibbi is well suited for such an endeavor; a longtime contributor for Rolling Stone — he left this year to start an online magazine for First Look Media — he’s been writing about American political and economic life for better than a decade, especially the 2008 financial meltdown and its aftermath.

    In that regard, “The Divide” can be read as a sequel of sorts to his last book, 2011’s “Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History” or even to “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion,” which came out in 2009. What all three share is a sense (to borrow a phrase from Leonard Cohen) “that the deal is rotten,” that we as a nation have turned our backs on our ideals.

    “For a country founded on the idea that rights are inalienable and inherent from birth,” Taibbi writes, “we’ve developed a high tolerance for conditional rights and conditional citizenship. And the one condition, it turns out, is money. If you have a lot of it, the legal road you get to travel is well lit and beautifully maintained. If you don’t, it’s a dark alley and most Americans would be shocked to find out what’s at the end of it.”

    To make the case, Taibbi shifts throughout “The Divide” between macro and micro, juxtaposing two distinct, and separated, worlds. He begins with Wall Street, which has yet to pay in any real sense for its part in the financial crisis: “a Ponzi scheme, no different than the Bernie Madoff caper, only executed on an exponentially huger scale.”

    As to why this is, Taibbi zeroes in on a memo, written in 1999 by “a little-known official from Bill Clinton’s White House named Eric Holder” that established the principle of collateral consequences. The term refers to avoiding fallout from prosecution on corporate “officers, directors, employees, and shareholders” by pushing for fines and civil sanctions instead. -s snip,0,4516236.story#axzz2yFZkjjWz

    1. Jim S

      “The Divide,” then, is — like other recent books, including George Packer’s “The Unwinding” and Thomas Pikkety’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” — an attempt to map the slippage, to identify, through reporting and analysis, just what has happened to America and how it operates.

      I’ve seen Pikkety mentioned often here and other places, but haven’t spared the attention to read what was written. Must read? Packer’s book?

      1. skippy

        Really don’t get your point other than you don’t like looking in the mirror. Caveat not everyone’s mirror is attuned exactly the same.

          1. skippy

            The cut and paste above should have given an adequate summery of the position taken.

            “but haven’t spared the attention to read what was written. Must read? Packer’s book?”

            Not taking the time to self inform and then finished with undefined questions is easily misappropriated. If that’s the case amends.

            1. Jim S

              Oh, I’m not terribly bright to begin with, so guilty as charged. Sorry if that came off as an oblique attack on you.

  22. ambrit

    I’m going to take Suda the elephants painting at face value. I watched the video of her making the image all the way through. This way one gets a feel for the thought involved in the composition. Notice that she wasn’t the only elephant doing art. At the end, two paintings are shown, one by Suda, and the other by an older elephant. The Suda piece has all the earmarks of the young. Strong, simple lines with a directness of expression one sees in the works of human children. A narrative is clearly expressed. The piece by the larger and presumably older elephant, the one to Sudas right I suspect, is more subtle and, to use a trite expression, pictoral. The tree shown has a solidity and balance, it actually has a discernable composition. Freeze the frame at that picture and try to follow the motion of your eyes as they look at the canvas. Both pieces exhibit thought and analysis.
    After seeing this, I dug out my old copy of Orwells’ “Shooting an Elephant.”
    Someone once said something to the effect that Humans are like most animals in that they kill, but profoundly unlike most other animals in that they also murder.

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