Links 5/13/14

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Everyone else’s life better than yours Daily Mash

A 71-Year-Old Man Built A Fully-Functioning Volkswagen Beetle Out Of Wood Business Insider

What Caused a 1300-Year Deep Freeze? Science Magazine

Antarctica Is Melting and There’s No Way to Stop it Gawker

Scientists Warn of Rising Seas as Antarctic Ice Sheet Melts New York Times

Second U.S. Case of Deadly Mideast Virus Found, CDC Says Bloomberg

Monsanto Meets its Match in the Birthplace of Maize Triple Crisis

How ‘Big Corn’ lost the ethanol battle to Philadelphia refiners (Paul Tioxon)

“No Turning Back:” Mexico’s Looming Fracking and Offshore Oil and Gas Bonanza DeSmogBlog

Protect Canadians from FATCA NDP (Timothy S)

U.S. launches ‘manned’ intelligence missions over Nigeria to try to locate abducted schoolgirls from the sky Daily Mail

China data comes in weak MacroBusiness

U.S. Treasury’s Lew Urges China to Move to Market-Determined Exchange Rate

The Economist editorial: Thailand close to the brink; compromise needed Asian Correspondent

China presses housing panic button MacroBusiness

How the Greek Banks Secured an Additional, Hidden €41 billion Bailout from European taxpayers Yanis Varoufakis

Switzlerand: referendum may herald world’s highest minimum wage Guardian

Pfizer says its AstraZeneca vow over big UK presence is binding Financial Times. Right. Read the fine print.

A Deal to Dodge the Tax Man in America New York Times

Nuclear Talks Will Confront Iran Over Enriched Uranium New York Times


East Ukraine Votes For Independence As Reports Claim 400 Blackwater Troops In Country
DSWright, Firedoglake (Chuck L)

Ukraine separatists seek union with Russia Al Jazeera

Global Capitalism, the US Empire and Russian Nationalism Real News Network

In Ukraine, Donetsk People’s Republic lurches to life Globe and Mail

As Ukrainian separatists claim victory in vote, fears of all-out civil war mount Washington Post

EU Modestly Expands Russia Sanctions WSJ

Russia gives Ukraine gas payment deadline Telegraph

COMMENT: After referenda, a window of opportunity opens up in Ukraine BNE (Richard Smith). Even though this piece makes some useful observation, the emphasis on Russian meddling with no mention of US interference is frustrating.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Federal court rules that stiff driving posture is suspicious behavior Police State USA

Anti-surveillance mask lets you pass as someone else CNET (Nikki L)

Heartbleed bug still a threat after flawed patches IT Pro (Richard Smith)

About HR 3361, the NSA Surveillance Efficiency Act, AKA USA Freedom Act Marcy Wheeler

Report claims Anonymous will protest Glenn Greenwald for ties to PayPal billionaire Raw Story (Howard Beale IV)

Obamacare Launch

GOP goes quiet on ObamaCare The Hill

Only 8% Of Independent Voters Call Obamacare A ‘Success’ Business Insider

Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) “Neither Admit nor Deny” Settlements Continue to Draw Controversy National Law Journal (Adrien)

Barclays’ Fed lobbying efforts fall flat Financial Times. Just because they lobbied a lot does not mean they were necessarily good at it.

The New York Public Library Comes Around New Yorker. A rare bit of good news.

Class Warfare

As Hedge Fund Managers Rake In Record Pay Obama’s Economic Advisor Attacks Piketty DSWright, Firedoglake

US taxes and inequality FT Alphaville

Yul Brynner’s Tax Spat Augurs Rush to Give Up U.S. Passports Bloomberg. James R:

All articles (including this one) I’ve seen try to blow this into a huge issue. Yet as this article states, the number of people renouncing amounts to 0.05% of American expats (the “rush” of the article’s title), and I suspect disproportionately on lower-income folks who don’t have the resources to make this a non-issue for them. Meanwhile, well-known wealth offshoring continues unabated.

Despite Falling Revenues, Walmart Increases Pay for Top Execs Peter Van Buren, Firedoglake

Billionaires Are Just Different From You and Me Matt Stoller

Tim Geithner: More Banker Than the Bankers Noam Scheiber, New Republic

Geithner’s Other Ad Hominem Attacks on Barofsky Bill Black, New Economic Perspectives

What Confucius Teaches Those Who Want a Better World Ian Welsh. My one quibble is with his discussion of rituals. I associate them too strongly with cults and in-group behavior to regard them as benign.

Antidote du jour (mark w):


And a bonus! Richard Smith submitted this as an antidote, but I think it is yet another of his anti-antidotes:


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Skeptic

    A 71-Year-Old Man Built A Fully-Functioning Volkswagen Beetle Out Of Wood Business Insider

    Er, Business Insider, “Fully-Functioning”? I think this Beetle would be ashes soon after cranking it up.
    A perfect example of how these business reporters are mesmerized by cosmetics and do not even understand the language they (ab)use.

    Next Week at BI: Financial Regulatory System now FULLY-FUNCTIONING.

      1. optimader

        Le Dîner de Cons (English: “Dinner of Fools” ), also known as The Dinner Game in the United States, is a 1998 French comedy film written and directed by Francis Veber. It is a film adaptation by Veber of his play Le Dîner de Cons.
        Pierre Brochant, a Parisian publisher, attends a weekly “idiots’ dinner”, where guests, who are modish, prominent Parisian businessmen, must bring along an “idiot” who the other guests can ridicule. At the end of the dinner, the evening’s “champion idiot” is selected.

        With the help of an “idiot scout”, Brochant manages to find a “gem”, François Pignon, a sprightly employee of the Finance Ministry (which Brochant, a tax cheat, loathes) that has a passion for building replicas of landmarks with matchsticks.
        Shortly after inviting Pignon to his home, Brochant is suddenly stricken with dorsalgia while playing golf at his exclusive country club. His wife, Christine, leaves him shortly before Pignon arrives at his apartment, as she realizes that he still wants to go to the “idiots’ dinner”. Brochant initially wants Pignon to leave, but instead becomes reliant on him, because of his back problem and his need to resolve his relationship problems….

        1. Skeptic

          Thanks for that. I will look for it; one certainly needs amusement sans tax, of course.
          The other night I saw The French Minister a satire on French Bureaucracy. Very amusing, available at everyone’s favorite file sharing site.

    1. Oguk

      Key words are “Every external detail of the fully-functioning automobile is made out of wood…”

    2. Banger

      I was imagining what kind of new technology had been devised to make an engine out of wood–my mind was racing almost with delight–why if they could make an engine out of wood well what else is possible…but that was over quickly.

  2. John

    “Yul Brynner’s Tax Spat Augurs Rush to Give Up U.S. Passports Bloomberg. James R:”

    Actually, it is a very huge issue and has nothing to do with tax dodging but all to do with invasive reporting requirements. As result of recent tax law changes I am paying a lot more in accounting fees and spending a lot more time doing taxes just to be compliant. There is no sympathy for Americans found in this situation. Congress and the public see Americans making a living abroad as tax cheats and should pay up. Its that simple. Keep in mind Americans living in the US don’t have the same intrusive filing IRS requirements as their overseas counterparts have. The IRS regularly tries to imply Americans with overseas assets has something to hide and this is what gets fed into the media.

    International investors often refuse to work with expat Americans because of the IRS reporting requirements. Trust me, I was blocked on several occasions.

    I work around a lot of expats from many countries and they all laugh at me because of my problematic filing requirements.

    Believe me, a lot of Americans living overseas are proud to be American and pay their American taxes (yes, I pay loads of American taxes even though I don’t live in the US) but the new filing requirements Team Obama is pressing the IRS to enforce is causing some to ask why bother holding onto that American passport.

    It is all about control and nothing to do with tax collection. Big Brother. Many Americans just don’t buy it anymore.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Your point is amplified in the ‘Protect Canadians from FATCA’ article:

      ‘The intergovernmental agreement to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) mandates Canada to supply the U.S. government with sensitive financial information on Canadians who also hold U.S. citizenship. More than a million Canadians with dual citizenship could be caught up in this net.’

      These U.S.-Canadian dual citizens aren’t fat cats, and most of them aren’t giving up their U.S. passports (although some will now consider it). They are just caught up in the utter outlier status of the U.S., which insists on taxing its citizens when they are living overseas, whereas other civilized nations do not.

      It used to be a trivial matter for a U.S. expat to establish a local bank account overseas. Now it ranges from difficult to impossible. Remember how hard it was for Soviet citizens to emigrate? Well, we’re the Soviet Union now, comrades. How are you gonna get your money out, if you can’t open an account to wire it to?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Can one give up one’s US passport but opt for the next level of connectedness, i.e. having a green card?

        I believe having a green card, even without US citizenship, lets you keep your Social Security benefits, even abroad.

        How about another option – give up one’s US passport and sneak back into America as an illegal alien?

        1. bb

          Green card holders lose their green card if they do not substantial presence in the US. One test of substantial presence is paying taxes.

    2. McMike

      Arguably of course the US is the only nation that extends a global blanket of security, diplomatic, and rescue resources to its citizens regardless of where they are anywhere on earth.

      While the above is not the reason for the tax approach, it remains a fact that the US is still an attractive nation to hold a passport to. A few petulant Facebook executive and rich guy tantrums aside, being a US citizen remains a pretty good deal.

      Besides, it also remains a fact that expat shenanigans remains a major source of tax evasion for the wealthy, and for their corporations.

    3. bb

      I think Yves is wrong in saying “…I suspect disproportionately on lower-income folks”. If you live abroad the first ~$100,000 in earned income is exempt from US taxation.

      I prefer the US system to the joke of the UK system. In the UK rich people move to Monaco/Channel Islands pay little tax, but just go back and forth to the UK. Also the rich foreigners in London, who benefit from the UK but do not pay money on their offshore income. I am kind of glad the US says you have to pay on your offshore income.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I was quoting a reader, and he was referring to those below the really rich. I lived abroad, and it’s really costly and difficult to have to deal with the intersection of US and local taxes. And if you have a foreign bank account (necessary if you are living abroad) your odds of being audited skyrocket. It’s a real pain and the admin hassle and extra accounting costs are significant.

        1. optimader

          Friends I know that have worked abroad most often are given the services a company hired accounting firm to sort out their personal income mess.
          It’s all seemingly designed to favor large multinationals w/ the budgets to hire legions of CPAs.

        2. James R

          Yves glossed my words as I intended them. While not a huge issue in terms of the number of people affected, this is a big issue for those falling under the requirements and quite costly and headache-inducing. Many of them are lower-income and may incidentally have American citizenship (as an accident of birth) despite living abroad for a long time.

          The narrative that this is about fat cat tax cheats is fallacious. Nevertheless, tax cheating goes on at the elite level, knowingly, and is enabled by the lawmakers that otherwise vilify it. The U.S. has a very friendly tax and political regime for the elites — maybe not as tax-friendly as the Channel Islands or Monaco or even Switzerland — but nonetheless friendly. Even the law titled FATCA suggest this is about fat cat tax cheats.

          Ignorance is strength.

        3. bb

          The whole issue of FATCA and giving up US citizenship is a non-issue to those outside the 1%. You were probably working in finance, or some high paying consultancy job. My colleagues are scientists who frequently live abroad, and although we don’t make ‘bad’ money, it is not finance sector levels of compensation. The middle class are unaffected by this law. The story gets reported over and over as it inconveniences the rich.

          Aside from the ~100,000 exemption the details are that the US only taxes you if the local taxes are not as high as the US equivalent. Examples of countries were this occurs include Switzerland, the parasite of europe. Also Singapore. They have low taxation while benefitting from surrounding high tax countries.

          I am surprised NC is not supporting FATCA, and taxing US citizens abroad. Read some stuff about the tax avoidance of Guy Hands. He generates his income from Terra Firma the UK but decided to move to Guernsey to avoid paying personal taxes. Do we really want to encourage that behaviour in the US?

          1. optimader

            I have a friend who is a musician, very talented/successful artist. Started his own record label, vertically integrated. Does very well, I suspect more weighted to touring revenue rather than music sales these days just because of the state of the digital music industry. A lot of time on the road is a tough lifestyle for the undisciplined, for that matter tough lifestyle for the disciplined no matter what the budget, particularly when you get older.
            He moved to Monaco many years ago due to the predatory taxation he was subject to in the UK. Plus the weather. More power to him.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            You could not be more wrong. I haven’t been on anyone else’s payroll since 1989. I was starting a business in Australia, on my own nickel. I paid for everything. I had no sponsor or gig lined up. I’m thus quite aware of compliance costs. I would not have been able to attempt what I tried doing in 2002-2004 (moving to Oz to get permanent residence as an entrepreneur) under the new rules.

            Biased, aren’t we?

            The US is one of a very few countries that taxes its citizens on their income earned overseas. It’s a ridiculous position.


            The super rich will always seek out tax havens. And the US happens to be the nexus of the biggest “offshore” or tax haven jurisdictions, according to expert Nick Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands. So to depict the US position as virtuous is naive and misleading.

            The super rich can hide their funds, or do the more visible move of living in some place like Monaco (which having visited there looks utterly unattractive, full of overtanned older men and women on average 25 years younger, where the local culture seems to consist solely of shopping and gambling. I’d need a lobotomy to live there). It’s everyone below who gets whacked with insane compliance costs and hassle.

            1. optimader

              “..and women on average 25 years younger…”
              Probably their nieces?
              other than that you liked it?

              These days presumably a place to maintain citizenship w/a legal address unless of course one finds an ultra-dense urban environment populated w/ Russian mafia appealing. Otherwise, more sensibly a little place ~15+ min away in the country.

            2. habenicht

              Does anyone know if there are ways to file the FATCA compliance form aside from the electronic submission route? (this is a good place to check first as most commenters are pretty knowledgeable.)

              Call me a fan of the post office or a luddite, but I prefer just sending the form regular mail.


    4. ChrisPacific

      International investors often refuse to work with expat Americans because of the IRS reporting requirements. Trust me, I was blocked on several occasions.

      FATCA will only make this worse. If the petitions succeed and citizens of other countries successfully lobby their governments not to comply with the new reporting requirements on privacy grounds (and I wouldn’t blame them if they did) then US expats will simply lose access to local banking services. They won’t be worth enough to banks as customers to justify the extra hassle if the banks have to deal with all the compliance requirements themselves, along with possible punitive penalties if they get it wrong. As the Yul Brynner article mentions, this is already happening to some extent in Switzerland.

  3. Sandwichman

    Here’s one I promised Bill H.
    Microfoundations of Inequality and Sabotage

    “In sum, these models [efficiency wage] provide a new, consistent, and plausible microfoundation for a Keynesian model of the cycle.” — Janet Yellen (1984).

    Conspicuously missing from the mainstream discussion of efficiency wages and shirking is the fact that work effort is composed of both intensive and extensive dimensions. That is to say, a worker might work twice as hard for half as long and produce the same amount of output. Or half as hard for twice as long. Labor productivity is calculated by dividing total output by the number of hours worked. Edmund Phelps (1992) gives a slight nod in this direction when he offers “on-the-job leisure” as a less pejorative substitute for “shirking.”

    If higher wages can act as a deterrent to “on-the-job leisure” why wouldn’t the provision of greater off-the-job leisure perform the same feat? …

  4. Banger

    Re: Confucius:

    There is no reason to fear ritual and music they go together pretty well–many rock concerts and other musical events have a quality of ritual that seems obvious to me. Rituals bring us together and it is precisely this that we need more than anything else. The main cause of all the problems we talk about here is isolation that comes, in large part, through the bizarre (from a historical POV) ideas surrounding individualism. There is no possible solution to climate change or wealth inequality and massive crimes at the top of our political pyramid without confronting the issue of connectivity.

    Confucius saw life as a web of relationships–which, in fact, it is. If you study biological systems including our own physiology you will see incredible cooperation and synergy between very different organisms. Is there a difference between our own bodies and a forest or any other ecosystem? Not really. Our concepts and ambition to be separate without reference to anyone else are perverse and self-destructive. We are hard-wired for connection and we go in the opposite direction. The reason for that in the West is a little involved but it has to do with the failure of Christianity as a viable religion leaving us bereft of viable rituals and ethical frameworks–Western philosophy has failed rather dramatically to offer any substitute to religion because the whole point of religion is to bind us together and that cannot be done in isolation.

    As the referenced article points out the key to Confucius’ political ideas is compassion–a non-compassionate political system is, by definition, illegitimate and it is our duty to dismantle that system or that tyrant. In the U.S., there is no question at all on a dozen different levels that our current political system and the officials who populate it is illegitimate and it is our duty to oppose it in whatever we can and help to build something new. If we profit from it then we are part of the problem and it is our duty to plow whatever we have gained from, for example, the stock-markets into new compassionate institutions not into our retirements. Sorry folks, but how can we be comfortable in the situation we are facing today?

    Many people, myself included, believe that we are moving towards neo-feudalism. I believe it is inevitable given current trends. Democracy as an ideal simply can’t work without Jefferson’s idea of an informed and educated public–the reality is that the public does not want to either be educated or informed–at best the public wants gate-keepers who are informed, are educated and watch out for them. Some people are interested in mechanical devices or technology, others are interested in art and beauty, others in antiques and history, others are interested in sports, others in relationships, and others are interested in politics–if we understand that we are each connected and that each of us can offer, through are interests, little gems that help the whole then we are on our way to healing and changing this illegitimate system. By ourselves we cannot save the world–by myself I can’t convince you of what I’m saying but I know that these ideas are in the air and part of an emergent ethic that runs directly contrary to the ethic represented the corporate oligarchs who every day have more power.

    1. allcoppedout

      What you say here reminded me of this old paper –

      There are many versions of “virtue ethics”. I have no problems with Banger’s exposition. What concerns me is the real history of what went on around these rather lovely creations – broadly conquest and slavery. It is so easy to feign belief. And the Confucius bureaucracy and education were awful.

      I’d like to see us move to a free-table economy for all. The control of people through depriving or threatening to deprive basics is slavery. We can’t see that any more than Plato could see the evil of slavery. What we need to know more about is why Confucius, Socrates and religion generally can’t pull us through to a decent society.

      1. Banger

        It’s hard to evaluate the Confucian bureaucracy based on its decay in its latter days. The fact is that it worked fairly well for most of its history as, for example, did Islamic law before decline set in and the advent of Western imperialism created deep fissures; the same was true in Native American cultures Did it produce cultures that most Westerners would fell comfortable in? Probably not.

        My point is that the current culture of narcissism is not convivial and very destructive by definition. When people begin to understand that focusing connection is both pragmatic and more enjoyable then all the tools we have created will transform our world for the better.

        1. allcoppedout

          As you know, I think current culture is ‘screaming monkey’. I’m not as positive on stuff working in the past. I think history is crueller than we know and I don’t think there has been a convivial time. Still, the biggest opponents of women’s emancipation on both sides of the Pond were women. That came about, so why not the convivial society? One can definitely see that once we got something started there could be a snowball.

          1. Banger

            Each historical period and culture had, from our perspective, their beauty and their ugliness from our perspective. Since our period is unprecedented and really can’t be compared to any other historical moment, we have to literally create a new culture out of the ruins of all our predecessors. We have collectively, as a cowardly reaction to the sixties, retreated into crude materialism, denial, and cynically manufactured fantasies all to avoid the challenges of modernism which should be seen as grand opportunities. Fortunately there are many rays of light and we need to focus on that.

            1. Banger

              BTW, the idea that people have never lived in a convivial society is not true. We have the accounts of poets if nothing else.

              1. allcoppedout

                No conviviality for me where there are slaves and propaganda and any eudaimonia in such circumstances would be false. Poets are often up themselves, so I’m not sure of their evidence.

                If we want significant change we need to understand more on such as how apparently sensitive and intelligent people can allow massive injustice.

          2. Lambert Strether

            “the convivial society” — I like that very much. It’s a goal of the Slow Food movement, so but and connects directly (in my mind) with local food sovereignty.

            Big Food promotes fun-like events in conjunction with the consumption of food-like products, but I don’t think that’s the same as conviviality.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Local is good…local foods, local tourism, local stores, etc.

              And slow is…slow friends, slow money, slow dancing, slow reading, slow food chewing, etc.

            2. Paul tioxon


              From Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader right through into the 1970s, a radical reassessment of the social order was published and widely read and inspired much political as well personal action to live better and differently than PR and commercialism would have us believe was a good life. Ivan Illich wrote relentless critiques of society. Tools for conviviality, appropriate technology, planetary culture, these were the new visions of a better America that so many writers put forth in their boldness to build the alternative institutions. I am sure as well as powells has his books.

              See also:

              1. Lambert Strether

                Well, it’s interesting to see the same concept come up again via Italy, origin of slow good, then. All I can say is that when I read allcoppedout’s use of “convivial,” Slow Food came to my mind, not Illich.

          3. optimader


            Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog” was a black Labrador Retriever admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924. Prison folklore tells us that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to Life Without Parole for killing his wife’s cherished cat. Prison records support this story: Pep’s inmate number (C-2559) is skipped in prison intake logs and inmate records. The Governor told a different story. He said Pep had been sent to Eastern to act as a mascot for the prisoners. He and the Warden, Herbert “Hard-Boiled” Smith, were friends. Pep was much loved, and lived among the inmates at Eastern State for about a decade. While the truth may never be known, in photographs Pep—with his head down and ears back–looks GUILTY

            my kinda antidote

    2. kgilmour

      Connectivity between unlike groups is harder than we imagined when we opened the borders.

      I’ve lived in Colorado and New Mexico for 40 plus years – traveling often to California for work, friends and family. That said – Latino immigration is responsible for much of the change in our participatory democracy. Necessary disclaimer – yes, there are politically active, educated Mexicans, Hondurans and El Salvadoreans – but for the most part – your diagnosis of an electorate who wants a nanny state is the result of the Latino peasant invasion. They are not born and bred like any of my ancestors. Even my Russian and Polish side – resembles my Scottish heritage.

      I’m sick of hearing about a melting pot that does not melt. All I know is that in Norman Rockwell 50’s America – I didn’t have to have a locked mailbox. I could pay after I pumped. The expectations between people were better defined.

      We now live in a cultural sewer. I don’t know who to blame – but we don’t look the same, we don’t speak the same – we don’t listen to the same music – and TV, with the exception of a few great shows that do NOT Include recent Emmy Winners – is aimed at the lowest common denominator…. and they do not look, act, eat, or speak like me or mine.

      Hamilton’s Rule – again… it is hardwiring.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s understandable.

        Chief Joseph said the same. These people are not at all like my ancestors. And all he knew was unlocked resources – how can you buy the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water? Never mind putting it in a mailbox.

        It’s interesting that after hundreds of years, neighbors like, for example, the Basques and Castilians have not completely melted. And the same with the Hakkas and their neighbors. For some, it’s been over thousands of years and there is still no melting.

        On the other hand, there are lots of melting stories. We are not immediately aware of them because they had melted too well.

        Perhaps the first step is to investigate what conditions contribute to successful melting and given a set of conditions, if there is an expected rate of melting, so that we don’t give up due to unrealistic expectations.

        Then, we might ask, are the elites pushing people to melt (I need those cheap foreign workers), so their machines can run smoothly and profits uninterrupted, more than they can handle?

        Note this is not a rejection of people melting in a melting pot, but an invitation to understand the process of human interaction and indeed, the nature of humanity itself.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I was aiming more for making Modena Balsamic vinegar Traditionale, for which, patience is a virtue.

            Sometimes, good things take time.

            1. optimader

              I posted a general recipe for shortcutting the ~30years in a oak barrel in the attic. Its really good in a heroin sort of way. I am taking a little bottle to some Tuscan-Italian friends this summer to do a blind a-b-c test. I’ll post the result (if I win).
              they have a tradition of passing along a bottle to sons or daughters as a wedding gift to start a “fresh” barrel. so there is a molecular thread that goes way the hell back.. Kinda like a favorite sourdough I guess. Very enlightened culture when it comes down to the quality of life essentials IMO.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Sounds good. It’s like that Kosher (?) Yogurt shop in New York I saw on the show, The Diary of a Foodie, that had a 100 year+ yogurt culture. They made fresh homemade yogurt every day from the same culture.

        1. hunkerdown

          Then, we might ask, are the elites pushing people to melt (I need those cheap foreign workers), so their machines can run smoothly and profits uninterrupted, more than they can handle?

          Bullseye. Replacing social relations with market relations makes those relations easier for authority to manage to their needs.

          And all that’s why you should feed kids plain, un-dyed, natural food and no television, ever.

      2. Banger

        I see it less as a sewer and more like a compost heap–it just needs turning over.

    3. diptherio

      In the U.S., there is no question at all on a dozen different levels that our current political system and the officials who populate it is illegitimate and it is our duty to oppose it in whatever [way] we can and help to build something new. If we profit from it then…it is our duty to plow whatever we have gained from, for example, the stock-markets into new compassionate institutions not into our retirements.

      You’re liable to touch some sensitive nerves, cutting so close to the bone like that…

      Sorry folks, but how can we be comfortable in the situation we are facing today?

      There’s the existentialist conundrum of our times, in a nutshell. No one likes an existentialist, btw…philosophizing is all well and good, but when you go around suggesting that one’s philosophy or beliefs should actually effect the way one is living, you should be prepared to lose your audience.

      Sure, we’re being ruled by kleptocrats; sure, our wealth distribution (and therefore our individual wealth) is random and unjust; sure, democracy, free-speech and equal protection under the law are all dead letters, based no more on reality than the stories of nocturnal fat men and bunny rabbits that we tell our children. Sure…but if I do as you suggest, I might lose my place and my standing in society…my friends might lose respect for me, my co-workers might regard me as weird…no, the risk is to great! I will constrain my beliefs to blogs and their comment sections, thank you very much–and keep all of my wealth for myself (I did earn it afterall)

      Myself being a practicing existentialist, I can only imagine that this is the sort of thing that’s going on in people’s heads. It seems to have it’s own kind of twisted logic to it.

      If you haven’t read Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript yet, I highly recommend it. I think you’d get a kick out his take-downs of pseudo-religiosity in his time (which did not, however, lead him to abandon his Christianity).

        1. diptherio

          That’s largely what attracted me to him. Very few philosophical texts make you laugh out loud…especially while making profound points. That Soren was a joker (of the best variety).

          Thanks for the link too, that looks like a great book. I’ll have to check my library.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Zhuang Zi the Taoist anarchist is a philosopher who can alwasy make you smile.

            Here he is, mocking Confucius (from Watson):

            When Confucius visited Ch’u, Chieh Yu, the madman of Ch’u, wandered by his gate crying, “Phoenix, phoenix, how his virtue failed*! The future you cannot wait for; the past you cannot pursue. When the world has the Way, the sage succeeds; when the world is without the Way, the sage survives. In times like the present, we do well to escape penalty. Good fortune is light as a feather, but nobody knows how to hold it up. Misfortune is heavy as the earth, but nobody knows how to stay out of its way. Leave off, leave off – this teaching men virtue! Dangerous, dangerous – to mark off the ground and run! Fool, fool – don’t spoil my walking! I walk a crooked way – don’t step on my feet. The mountain trees do themselves harm; the grease in the torch burns itself up. The cinnamon can be eaten and so it gets cut down; the lacquer tree can be used and so it gets hacked apart. All men know the use of the useful, but nobody knows the use of the useless!”

            *note: legend has it that the phoenix only appears after the arrival of a sage ruler. So, Confucius, the phoenix, is apparently off a bit with the timing of his entrance.

      1. jrs

        It’s my thoughts too, this saving for retirement and the future stuff is a crock, there’s likely to be no future if humanity doesn’t shape up (and even if – yea maybe but I don’t go there)_. If one has disposable income don’t save it (and screw ipads and the like as well) spend it for a better world, but then it’s hard to find much worthwhile there either. Charity … may be necessary especially in these times but is seldom actually the path to a better world by itself. We need more.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Confucius saw life as a web of relationships.

      There are many possible webs of relationships.

      His web is just one special case of connectivity.

      The general case of connectivity needs not require hierarchy nor such rigidity.

      It’s possible to include in that case of connectivity more flexible, democratic and horizontal social and political structures, keeping compassion throughout.

      1. Banger

        Indeed–we can’t live with structures from the past we have to create something new. The organizing principle of our time is emergent networks not top-down hierarchies that worked ok in a steady-state world. We live in a completely different kind of world today. In fact the attempt by our oligarchs to organize us in rigid hierarchies is highly destructive along with the notion of individualism which I actually a scam.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I like it when we make ideas living ideas.

          That they make his descendants hereditary heads of the his temple in Shandong is an idea fits in with the Confucian perception of hierarchy, but whose time has passed.

          Similar imperial government academy/official positions via inheritance given to the descendants of his students/disciples had, to my knowledge, ended with the last emperor. His hierarchical worldview has no place in today’s world (no place in his own world as well, according to Zhuangzi).

          And so, we march on, and adopt and improve on his good ideas, thus keeping them alive, when we can, to make this a better world.

    5. LucyLulu

      You’re in good company on the connectivity and compassion front, Banger.

      I watched the Dalai Lama speak not long ago on a financial forum. He was pushing these same concepts in regards to inequality of wealth. He said the problem today is too much focus on individuals and a lack of awareness of our connectedness to each other. He said people need to know that when one person benefits, all benefit, and when one is harmed, everyone suffers. A rephrasing of Reagan’s rising tides perhaps. Those who are wise tend to share similar ideas, irregardless of culture.

      Pope Francis also promotes themes around compassion and connectivity. I wouldn’t rule out Christianity just yet. First, it has stronger influence in some cultures than others. Latin-Americans often have deep ties to the Catholic church, which is steeped in rituals. Confession provides a template for moral and behavioral accountability. It’s anonymous perhaps, but it requires a regular conscious review of one’s life and having to speak “sins” out loud to another person, an effect that shouldn’t be underestimated in the context of a Cathlic upbringing. The practice of confession has been on a long decline in the US (related?), but remains common in Latin churches.

      1. Banger

        Certainly I don’t rule out Christianity it’s just that most Christian churches don’t understand their own religion and adopt, instead, some modern variant of a Pharisee religion. I have never stopped being inspired by Pope John XXIII and this Pope could even get me back to church, who knows?

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      That’s what happens when everyone else’s life is better than yours.

    2. Lambert Strether

      “Whoever…” is next to “Posted by….” up top rather than flagged by bold italics and with a bio.

      Does this bother you? Personally, I like the self-effacement, and feel that the link selection and ordering bespeak the author, for those who really want to know….

    1. ohmyheck

      Amazing! Go Team Blue! Let’s all defend the Bidens, who are in no way involved in using the US military to protect the corporate interests of Ukrainian Oligarchs and themselves, with taxpayers’ money…because Obama!

      1. Skeptic

        The Bidens, Oligarchs of the Great State of Delaware, America’s favorite haven of corporations:

        Delaware – The Onshore Offshore:
        “Delaware has long been criticized for an incorporation process that leaves it vulnerable to criminal activity. Despite complaints from federal law enforcement officials, congressional testimony, and reports from the Government Accountability Office, procedures in Delaware – and similar processes in other states – still let criminal groups infiltrate the corporate system.

        Delaware is becoming the choice of drug dealers, organized crime and corrupt politicians to evade taxes and launder money, an investigation of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) assisted in the investigation.”


    2. JerseyJeffersonian

      Forgive me for reposting my comment from the earlier thread “Has America’s Use of Finance as a Foreign Policy Tool Backfired?”, but I think that it contains more links that flesh out the story a bit…

      So get this: Joe Biden’s youngest son, Hunter Biden, has just joined the legal team of Ukraine’s largest private gas company:

      Jeez, Banger, Ulysses, and gepay, weren’t you just talking about the power of certain families within the structure of the Deep State? Huh.

      A further post adds some more insight into exactly who the owner of this company is, and illustrates the point about the corrosive effect of off-shoring of illegally expropriated national assets by oligarchs as can be seen in this Yves’ post. It’s really detailed – a virtue – but that needs to be traversed so that the really startling information can jump out at you as you encounter it.

      Ihor Kolomoisky, the apparent new employer of young Biden, is rumored to be behind a lot of the killing and terrorizing in East Ukraine, collaborating with the junta in Kiev in these activities. When you factor in the idea that the majority of his gas fields are in disputed territory in the East, giving him the worry that they might slip out from under his control, the picture comes into better focus. And gosh (h/t Catherine Ashton…), wasn’t it just such a coincidence that CIA director John Brennan, and then in a further coincidence, VP Joseph Biden, had meetings with the junta just prior to all of the killings?

      At this point, I wish to acknowledge that this information came to my attention via several posters over at Moon of Alabama. A sweeping bow is in order rather than a mere hat tip.

      So we have the same oligarchic looting, defended by NeoLiberal stalwarts, with the ill-gotten gains being off-shored, as was detailed above about the rogering of Russia in the 90s, but nobody in Ukraine to put the brakes on like Putin. Years more of time to further institutionalize the oligarchic system. Looks like a good time for Joe Biden (Dick Cheney’s worthy successor…) to hook his kid into the system, and to assist his kid’s new oligarchic boss out with a little good ol’ Deep State rat fucking.

      Like this:

      1. Abe, NYC

        the rogering of Russia in the 90s, but nobody in Ukraine to put the brakes on like Putin

        Don’t be deluded. Corruption under Putin leaves Yeltsin’s good old times in the dust. As for the oligarchs, all he did was remove them from politics (see Khodorkovskiy, Mikhail), leaving them to plunder the country in peace. That’s the difference with the Ukraine: in Russia the executive did assert its primacy, chiefly by complete subjugation of the courts as well as creative and selective application of laws.

    3. VietnamVet

      This is the neo-American Dream. The VP’s son grabbing the Golden Ring off the backs of the dead in Ukraine’s incipient Civil War. This is a sequel of the Young Republicans conquest of Iraq’s Green Zone a decade ago; except, today the money’s better and the risks of a nuclear war real.

  5. Andrea

    On: “Switzlerand: referendum may herald world’s highest minimum wage.”

    It is not expected to pass. Too many reasons to vote against.

    1) Contra the Constitution and would require a new Const. article. CH is a ‘free contract’ zone, shake hands and you can make any deal. Labor law is restricted to working conditions, safety, hours worked, night work, pregnant women, sanitation, health, being able to eat decently, etc. Not pay, which is ‘free contract.’

    This point worries legal purists, libertarians, traditionalists. It would indeed be a major change, and would impact the present setting of wages which is thru negotiation and ‘collective’ contracts, such as between a prof. association or a Union and their bosses, or ‘other’ such as person to person. Plus, many pragmatists worry about the fixing of a ‘precise sum’ – how does that make sense as compared to buying power, in view of all kinds of financial turbulence, imponderables? Flexibility is all! Let’s just fix it as we go along.

    2) The people affected…complex.

    The notorious low payers. The hard discounter supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl, pay 4K and 4.2K CH 13 times a year (Xmas bonus.) Well above the proposed minimum. Middle-range supermarkets (Migros, Coop) also above the proposed minimum > 3.8K 13x. The LUX stores (Globus, Manor) pay a little less but are above all the same. All is for ppl with zero qualifications.

    Aldi and Lidl pay more (contrary to Guardian spiel) because they hire polyvalent employees who can do till, fill stock, use computer, check, enter, input/output, tally day by day, clean and organize, change and write tags / prices, inform customers, handle an electricity problem, etc. The mid range slots workers into just one function – till, cleaning, stocking, etc.

    So, not a strong attack against low wages – a minor move that does not touch shareholder rapine, capitalism, etc. Not radical enough for many!

    The restaurant/hotel industry and Agri and some small family biz do employ many below the proposed min wage. Often part-timers. They and their employees have been screaming blue murder. These ppl have more or less said that if it comes to pass they will cheat (on hours, which no-one can check, i.e. work 3 hours for official pay of 2 hours.) And two of the major Unions have come out against it, no they were not bowing to the bosses.

    3) The proposed minimum wage will do nothing to help workers who are really being screwed over or in dire straits: illegals (who will work for room and board and pocket money in bad conditions), imported temp workers, semi-legals, illegal sub-contracting (a MAJOR problem, it is all covered up with fancy paperwork and basically ignored), fringe workers like sex workers, slave labor (rare but exists), and those who need room to breathe like single parent of 3 children on social aid.

    1. neo-realist

      A big factor in why I keep a land line for primary contact and occasionally use the cell phone.

        1. Abe, NYC

          Regular headphones are likely to increase the risk since they act as an antenna. Bluetooth headset may be safer: very low-power.

  6. zephyrum

    Regarding billionaires being different, Steven Wynn put his elbow through Picasso’s “Le Rêve” because he is almost blind. An interesting character, he is, but not necessarily one you’d enjoy spending time around.

    1. optimader

      I saw Wynn interviewed quite a few years ago, he actually presented as a reasonable and smart guy.I think he has good relations w/ his employees, he’s just in a business I find utterly unappealing.

      Re: the Picasso in question, he sold it to some hedge fund thief about a year ago, hopefully for too much money. At least Wynn feeds a food chain under him. All things considered I’d rather not be a billionaire if I had to be blind.

      Political Views[edit]
      Wynn has previously described himself as a Democrat, and has supported Nevada Senator Harry Reid. However, over the last few years, Wynn has been very critical of President Barack Obama, whom he originally supported and voted for in the 2008 Election. He has accused Obama of being a job killer rather than a job creator, and has stated that he has created friction between him and his employees with the use of class warfare tactics. He has also stated that Obama has been the biggest “wet blanket” to business in his lifetime.[32]

  7. Paper Mac

    Re: ritual-

    “The anthropologist Maurice Bloch took linguistic performance itself as the paradigm of symbolic action, and argued that the very “formality” of oratory (as in the formality of polite manners) was a crucial means of social control and political domination. Formal communication – including religious ritual and political oratory – was to be seen as the denial of choice, and therefore as submission to traditional authority. Since traditional authority, in Weber’s influential view, was one of the three modes of legitimate domination, this approach to ritual therefore reinforced the idea that the autonomous subject needed to break from tradition and from the imitation of the past it demanded from him or her – and to choose her own beliefs.

    The claim that ritual had a repressive social function resonated with the view that liberal religion should primarily take the form of private belief, and with the historic Protestant rejection of Catholic ritualism. It re-enforced the well-known notion that ritual was not only non-rational but also, by virtue of its being symbolic and therefore separated from interiority, anti-political in the sense of the politics that liberal democracy values. However, the notion that formality is necessarily an external form of coercion is questionable, for it is only when forms become elements in a Goffmanesque strategy that they serve as a means of control over others. To the extent that public forms contribute to the making and remaking of the self in a social world, to cultivating it – where, in other words, external forms are part of developing subjectivities – its effects are different. In that context, what the embodied subject learns to say and do, how it handles behavioral and verbal forms in relationship to others, are at the centre of its moral potentialities and not merely an external imposition. In short, if one thinks of ritual not as an activity that denies choice by imposing formalities but as aiming at aptness of behavior, sensibility and attitude, one may see the repetition of forms as something other than a blind submission to authority. For the aptness of formal performance (whether this be politeness or reverence) requires not only repeating past models but also originality in applying them in appropriate/new circumstances. In other words, although at one level the cultivation of appropriate formality necessary to ethical virtues may not allow unlimited choice, it does require the exercise of judgment. Like the rules of grammar, forms are at once potentialities and limits, necessary to original thought and conduct.”

    -Talal Asad, “Thinking about Religious Belief and Politics”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Hah thanks for a very well argued defense of my gut reaction!

      And the business about types of speech is spot on. For instance, the elites are permitted to engage only in certain modes of discourse. Be too candid and you’ll be dismissed merely for breaking those rules as hysterical or shrill. Be too candid too often and you lose your club membership.

      1. Paper Mac

        You stopped reading before the end!! It’s not intended to be a defense; Asad is arguing that the conventional Blochian/Weberian view of ritual as oppressive social institutions is, in fact, quite provincial (related to specific European history with hierarchical religious institutions, not present in the majority of the rest of the world), and that in many contexts ritual functions as generative social grammar. To be sure, ritual can function in the manner you describe, but it doesn’t necessarily; the Confucian tradition (as well as Islamic, Buddhist, etc) does not revolve around centrally-promulgated ritual in the same way Christian societies did, the experience of ritual is different for most people.

        1. Banger

          Ritual became, in Christianity, something very “edgy.” As a Catholic I was told that missing our Sunday ritual (barring illness) was a mortal sin meaning that if I died Sunday afternoon without going to confession I would face eternity in Hell. No other religion goes to this extreme to enforce ritual. On the other hand, as a Catholic, Baptists think I’m going to Hell. Christianity became, somehow, a religion of profound sadism. No wonder we in the West have a dim view of rituals–you have to be a fool not to.

          1. skippy

            You only have to look into the predecessors of monotheism [actually multi-theism] going back at least 11,000 years to see the progression.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          I have not had much experience with Chinese culture, but based on my quasi-insider experience in Japan, ritual is taken extremely seriously there and is the mechanism by which power dynamics play out. Power is reflected in the form of address (far more complex and nuanced than Western notions of “politeness”, you literally have to make decisions about power to talk to someone in Japanese) and how you greet them. How you exchange cards, who sits where in a room, how deeply you bow, all are prescribed and violating them isn’t just a faux pas, it’s an insult. Gaijin are tolerated a certain amount of rudeness…because gaijin…. but you don’t get very far that way unless the Japanese have a particularly acute need to put up with it.

          And the Japanese are just about the most secular culture going. They have some Shinto-ist rituals (like some people pray at certain shrines for good luck before exams) but most Japanese see it as superstition (as in can’t hurt but they don’t take it all that seriously).

  8. scraping_by

    RE: Geither on Barofsky

    Bill Black and several other commenters have noted Geither’s umbrage at the examiners going armed and armored as they investigated the banks.

    It’s true that the malefactors patrolled by SIGTARP weren’t the gangsta class. As Woody Guthrie said:

    “Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
    I’ve seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen. ”

    The bent bankers playing with taxpayer money were obviously of the fountain pen class. Not really likely they’d try to end an argument by reaching into a desk drawer and filling the room with lead.

    OTOH, there’s a certain play-acting along with law enforcement. The gun, in America, is just as much a symbol as the badge. Out here in the real world, it’s daunting to scorn the cop making a federal case out of some chickenshit violation when they’re resting their hand on a sidearm. It’s still chickenshit, but the traditional symbols have a certain meaning.

    White collar criminals are always going to be offended at being treated like criminals. Part of it’s the salesman front of paper sellers, the fog of trust they need to weave to get the signature. But much of it is real self image, their belief that theft is just like any other business process. That it’s a negotiable point, whatever it is. That it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If you think white collar criminals don’t have or might not resort to guns, you are smoking something very strong. In California, one rolling scandal at the city/municipal level is that big donors have been given concealed carry permits to which they weren’t entitled. I’m not up on CA gun laws, but I gather this is a big deal, to the point where activists have been demanding local records and outing these relationships.

    2. ambrit

      If you’ve ever had a gun pointed at you, you’ll understand that this “traditional symbol” has a very powerful meaning; “I’m ready to kill you.” Since the next step in such a power struggle is to respond in kind, you get quickly to physical violence. So, the initial step of highlighting the firearm has set a zero sum game in play. That’s not symbolism, that’s ego.

  9. LizinOregon

    Regarding Tim Geithner – how much are they paying him to “learn something new”?

  10. KFritz

    Re: Monsanto Meets Its Match

    Not to put too fine a point on things, BUT “yellow dent corn” is fit for human consumption. All cornmeal products, not to mention high fructose corn syrup (and Caro’s) come from yellow dent corn. Furthermore, for a 2-3 day window early in its development, an ear of yellow dent corn can be eaten exactly like “sweet corn.” In fact, it will give the eater an inkling of what sweet corn was like BEFORE it was turned into a super sweet food.

  11. JTFaraday

    re: “Everyone else’s life better than yours,” Daily Mash

    “Professor Brubaker also highlighted 28-year-old Emma Bradford, whose Twitter profile describes her as ‘mother, teacher, cupcake evangelist’.

    He said: “That’s two proper things followed by an amusingly light-hearted thing. She doesn’t take herself too seriously because the various brilliant aspects of her personality are perfectly balanced.”

    Oh-hhh, so that’s how you do it!

    1. ambrit

      Professor Brubaker has succinctly defined the essence of modern advertising. I’m with the fellow above who advocates no television for kids.

          1. optimader

            Some movies and some shorts, but American comedic geniuses which I grew up w/ on TV. Great stuff.

            On their shoulders stand Warner Bros Cartoons.. Mel Blanc.. Walter Lanz’s Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry, Felix the Cat…then Jay Ward w/ Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

            All double entendre comedic genius.

  12. financial matters

    Nice paper pertinent to today as the Fed has huge reserve balances. Important points on how government spending is funded.

    Scott T. Fullwiler
    December 1, 2004

    “To summarize, consideration of interest payment on reserve balances demonstrates that bond sales are offsetting, interest-rate maintenance operation not financing operations. With IBRBs (interest bearing reserve balances) eventually the entire national debt could be held exclusively as reserve balances. As Abba Lerner (1943) envisioned, Treasury bond sales would occur simply because the private sector desired Treasuries for use as collateral or as risk-free, fixed-rate investments. With NIBRBs all reserve balances except those necessary to settle payments are drained via security sales by either the Fed or the Treasury. Reserve requirements necessitate that some additional reserve balances be left in circulation. Thus, when a deficit is incurred, the quantity of bonds sold depends upon the method of interest-rate maintenance. As the impacts upon the net financial assets of the private sector from replacing credited NIBRBs with an interest bearing bond or simply crediting IBRBs at the outset are identical, it is arbitrary to refer to the former as ―financing‖ and to the latter as ―monetization.‖ While government spending might be limited as a result of self-imposed legislation or lack of public support, the federal government is not financially constrained even where the Treasury issues bonds.”

  13. H. Alexander Ivey

    Re: “Global Capitalism, the US Empire and Russian Nationalism Real News Network”

    Interesting interview, in a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard kind of way. Jay, the interviewer, is spot on, but the professor, Panitch, is the usual, everyone involved is bad, but their bad guys are way worse than our bad guys. But Panitch does openly state his assumption that since the USA is the only super power, it has the right to “manage” the world. Panitch is correct to observe that the US uses its Treasury Department as a weapon (but, really, this is not new), but note how he uses business terms to set his main theme, that the US is right to do what it does, instead of political terms. Political terms would be too clear and could lead the reader to ask, “Who died and put the US in charge?”.

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