Links 5/20/14

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If you are in Boston and not leaving town on Friday, please consider seeing some or all of this full-day program at Harvard Law School: Institutional Corruption and the Capital Markets, sponsored by the Safra Center on Ethics. How often do you hear Serious People talking about systematic corruption, and better yet, giving thought about what to do to combat it?

The secret language of dog play Washington Post

The Library of Congress Wants to Destroy Your Old CDs (For Science) Atlantic. Jeff: “The headline is a bit misleading. It’s more like CDs are disappearing—literally!”

Wolf of Wall Street Belfort Is Aiming for $100 Million Pay Bloomberg

Greenland will be far greater contributor to sea rise than expected: Work reveals long, deep valleys connecting ice cap to the ocean ScienceDaily (Chuck L)

How Rising Seas Could Sink Nuclear Plants On The East Coast Huffington Post

Miners in spotlight as iron ore drops below $US100 per metric tonne Sydney Morning Herald (EM)

U.S. Charges Five Chinese Military Officers With Spying Bloomberg

China denounces cyber-theft charges BBC

China homebuyer’s pain index MacroBusiness

Thai Stocks Decline After Army Imposes Martial Law; Baht Drops BusinessWeek

Thailand Under Martial Law: What’s Next? Siam Intelligence Unit (Lambert)

How should the ECB enact Quantitative Easing? A proposal Yanis Varoufakis

Eurozone periphery bond spreads hit two-month highs Financial Times. Just an unwelcome blip so far.


Russia’s Weakened Hand Could Pay Off For Beijing In Major Gas Deal OilPrice

Russian troops still at Ukrainian border despite withdrawal pledge, NATO says CNN

Why Everything You’ve Read About Ukraine Is Wrong Forbes

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

In Ten Years, We Will Have Zero Privacy CoutnerPunch

Cisco’s Chambers tells Obama that NSA surveillance impacts U.S. technology sales PC World

Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas First Look

NSA Spying Is a Power Grab George Washington

President Obama golfs with private equity lobbyist Politico

Wall Street Super Pac Paid Jeffries Supporters $150 A Piece On Election Day DSWright, Firedoglake (Chuck L)

Air Force is reviewing rule that bars proselytizing by superiors McClatchy DC. Chuck L:

“The single biggest frustration I’ve had in this job is the perception that somehow there is religious persecution inside the United States Air Force,” Gen. Mark Welsh III told a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this spring. “It’s not true.”

The hundreds of USAF and other service people who contact Mikey Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation each year would beg to differ.

NC Republicans want prison time for revealing what frackers are pumping into the ground Raw Story

Bernanke says no need for Fed to shrink balance sheet CNBC

The London-to-New York Currency Trade Bloomberg

All-Cash Purchases Are A Huge Part Of The US Housing Market Business Insider

Geithner Pants on Fire

How do we prevent the next Tim Geithner? Cathy O’Neil. Important.

Tim Geithner Lays into FDR for Not Working with Hoover Matt Stoller

Mortgage, Home-Equity Woes Linger Wall Street Journal

Peer-to-peer lending: The wisdom of crowds Financial Times

Class Warfare

Bernanke Says Central Bank No Engine of Inequality WSJ Real Time Economics. He would say that.


Post-Occupied Truthout

The Triumph of the Rentier? Thomas Piketty vs. Luigi Pasinetti and John Maynard Keynes Lance Taylor, INET. I am unable to translate this paper out of economese, otherwise I would post on it. It’s a devastating critique of the Piketty book and is causing fits in some circles.

Antidote du jour (Angus):


And a bonus video:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Ben Johannson

    On Triumph of the Rentier:

    1) Taylor makes the point that Picketty’s determinations of the rate of profit and the capitalists’ share of those profits assume a fully employed global labor force due to his use of the neoclassical production function (the one trashed back in the 1950s during the Cambridge capital controversies). This is THE critical error in Picketty’s work, that capital can be aggregated and differences simply assumed away while the reality of effective demand is ignored.

    2)The rate of profit and share of net profits will vary over time depending on the business cycles, employment level, monetary policies, technical changes, etc. The neoclassical production function referenced above does not take this into account.

    3) The accumulation of wealth at the top is not an autonomous product of “capital”, some natural law of economics which states that it will always produce growing inequality, but rather a product of specific policies which can be reversed. Altering the ratio of output/capital and the share of profits taken by the capitalist class is the better and more easily implemented choice for reducing inequality rather than taxation. In other words rising real wages is more effective in sustaining aggregate demand and attenuating capitalist power, while relying on taxation will fail to address stagnating wages and continue the current trends.

    1. Worker-Owner

      Actually, the Taylor article creates a smoke-screen around the simple facts. Actually, the link between accumulation, profits, growth, national accounting and all the rest depends on some set of expectations and norms that are never discussed in pieces like this. When the Capitalist decides it is possible to share less with society and the workers, they get to accumulate “Capital” and create greater inequality. When society lets them get away with it … a failure of governance in any form of regime except Oligarchies (which most States have been in one form or another for thousands of years) … it ends up enshrined in the laws and religions that support them. Taylor is merely using the magic incantations of meaningless formulary to avoid saying so … IMHO.

      1. Eeyores enigma

        W-O Good comment.

        IMO the problem with all of economic analysis is that it all stems from some hypothetical that has nothing to do with life on planet earth.

        But as a common sense observation someone or some entity with more capital than another one will nearly always come out on top.

        Picture the little fish about to be eaten by a larger fish which is about to be eaten by a larger fish and so on and so on.

        You can’t possibly believe you can implement that dynamic and then regulate it so it doesn’t happen that way.

      2. Ben Johannson

        You do realize you’ve repeated what Taylor’s paper says, yes? You’ve simply re-written it in polemical style.

      3. diptherio

        Either that or he’s trying to speak the right language to be taken seriously, while making a damaging critique of the system.

        To my mind, the major point of the paper is that our current system is bound to lead to capacity under-utilization, i.e. needless unemployment. First, he points to Keifer and Rada’s finding that the profit share of income increases sharply when capacity utilization falls. Profit share rising means wage share declining which is what the record shows:

        The “long run” (over four decades) wage share has dropped by around five percent and capacity utilization by two percent (before the Great Recession).

        Capitalists can increase their share of income by letting factories sit idle–the economy not working works just fine for them.

        He also shows that the greater percentage of society’s capital that the capitalist class controls, the easier it is for them to gain control of even more. So what we have is a vicious circle where a small elite (the “1%”) are able to gain control of capital, and let it sit idle, thereby squeezing wages and providing themselves a bigger portion of the pie…which allows them to gain control of even more capital.

        The solutions are to reduce the percentage of capital controlled by these elites, either by increasing the amount of capital controlled by non-elites or by redistributing the existing capital more broadly. He doesn’t say it, but worker co-ops (and cooperatives of all kinds, actually) are a method for accomplishing the former, while the latter is a more difficult nut to crack.

        1. Ben Johannson

          I think we’re in broad agreement. I would, however, suggest that all monetized economies will tend toward underemployment and under-utilization of resources since since the desire to save against future uncertainty will cross economic systems.

          In that sense the solutions will by necessity involve some mixture of spending and direct job creation, although what form that takes is pretty open.

          1. allcoppedout

            I agree too Ben. I’m not happy, at a conceptual level, with terms like money, tax or even government. And practically, not many are discussing management and control with the iron fist of capitalism off. I honestly think we should just get on with something radical, building-in some agility into a defeasible feedback system.

            I’m struck the essential problem is ‘what projects and how to control what we now call money in them’? This ‘money’ unpacks as getting the right work done at the right quality on time (and obviously more). Would existing control features apply?

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Perhaps Craazyman can help me here with this ‘money’ thing.

              I am working on using mattresses as money.

              One major advantage is that the rich won’t be able to hide their money under a mattress with mattress-money…thus, less tax-evasion.

        2. craazyman

          Your probably right about all that. I am mystified why these economists don’t consider the Job Offering Rate (JOR) as a component of labor market analysis.

          The JOR is the Jobs Offered per unit of revenue. It can also be expressed as Jobs offered per Unit of Profit or Capital, however it has a peculiar relationship to Capital (C) which can be graphed as a quadratic of the form y = C = f(JOR) = -a(JOR-b)^2 + v ; where a, b and v are constants. Clearly, C is maximized at v when JOR = b, since a is a negative, but remains below its maximum potential value (v), in aggregate, if JOR is either below b or above b.

          Unfortunately, the JOR tends to slide to zero as capitalists attempt to make C increase. Clearly this is futile when JOR < b.

          The higher the JOR the higher employment, all other things being equal, of course, and the lower is unemployment, both in absolute and percentage terms. This is easy to prove mathematically.

          A low JOR can lead to high unemployment, even while profits and revenues rise. Eventually, when JOR is sufficiently far below b, capital goes to zero, which is also evident from the mathematical natural law shown above — just like physics.

          What you are expressing is a theoretical formulation whereby Labor gains control of the JOR, raising JOR back toward b and thereby raising C back toward v, to it's aggregate maximum value, in theory.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            They say with every equation in a post, you lose 50% of your readers and so, after 3 equations, you only have 12.5%.

            1. allcoppedout

              And in dire need of a mattress, whether currency or not. I’ve just tried to post some Minskian analysis to aid American friends still with mattresses achieve blissful repose. A moderator short of sleeping pills must have stolen it. Essentially, using the word endogenous a lot, it says the financial crisis was caused by the shadow banking system stuffing a lot of USD into mattress-making. The key innovation involved forgetting where the mattresses were.

            2. craazyman

              that’s what you get when you try to be a Serious Peanut Gallery Economist (SPGE). You go for rigor and all you provoke is rigor mortis. It takes an office and a coffee room where you can hang out and you can do this all day long in the real world, for real money! The SPGE doesn’t make any money, but in the real world, you can make money just by laying around and typing every once & a while, making up equations and discussing them. That’s amazing. When you go home you can chill out and rest. Not that you need to, since you didn’t do much all day and you should be all ready to go do somethng wildly irrational. hahahahahah

    2. nycTerrierist

      This makes sense: pay workers more so they can buy stuff!
      The old Ford trick.

      Thanks for the translation from economese, much appreciated.

      1. Eeyores enigma

        Yeah, pay them more so they can continue to be fleeced at an ever increasing rate.

      2. Peter Pan

        I just skipped the diff-e-conomese (math) and went to the conclusion of “…public intervention would go a long way toward maintaining aggregate demand and reducing capitalist control. Otherwise, wage repression leads to secular stagnation by enriching the rentier.”

        No shit, Dick Tracey!

      3. LucyLulu

        That was my take too.

        Though I’m not so sure the paper has it quite right, based on the experience of Venezuela. Perhaps somebody smarter than me can steer me in the right direction if I’m missing something.

        Venezuela has historically had high levels of inequality. During Chavez’s tenure in the 2000’s, programs were aggressively instituted to address poverty. About 1 in 4 lived in extreme poverty, and more than half lived in poverty. By the end of the decade, only 9% lived in extreme poverty and about a third lived in poverty. The poor had seen a dramatic rise in their living conditions (no data about income or jobs, but infrastructure was also among the best in Latin America prior to the last few years). Much of this was done by nationalizing their largest oil producer with the government claiming roughly 60% of net revenues, and increasing oil prices.

        Towards the end of the decade, from what I’ve been told, the government started focusing more on spending on “capital investments” and “diversification”, corruption was increasing as public spending was taken off budget and more difficult to track, and spending on social programs and infrastructure fell off. A deluxe high rise stands with incomplete construction, now housing a community of squatters who don’t take kindly to the presence of strangers, adjacent to an affluent suburb of Caracas. It seems that the focus on improving the plight of the lower classes, without addressing the cronyism enriching the elite, resulted in modest improvements whie their economy was growing. When it started to stagnate at the end of the decade, those improvements immediately disappeared and people started taking to the streets. (No, it’s not the US instigating unrest.) A similar phenomenon has been seen in Sao Paolo, another place with very high inequality and a government that poured money into social programs for the less-advantaged, while their economy was red-hot, and has now dialed it back.

        I’m not sure that you don’t have to address both sides of the inequality to see meaningful change. We can double the minimum wage, but if the top-paid execs at a company make 400 times that of their minimum wage workers, doubling minimum wage still leaves a 200:1 ratio. Companies can’t pay a large number of their lowest paid workers a reasonable fraction of top-exec compensation and remain competitive with executive compensation set at today’s levels. And the executives still have the power and money to block legislation to increase minimum wage anyways.

        The U.S. has the best laws that money can buy.

  2. Klassy

    More class warfare.
    When it’s bipartisan and co sponsored by Chuck Schumer, you know “positively American” families such as “The Baileys” can’t lose:

    (Reuters) – A proposal to make the Internal Revenue Service hire private companies to collect unpaid taxes is dividing Senate Democrats, with some warning it could lead to harassment of low-income people, but others saying it would boost tax revenue.
    New York Democrat Charles Schumer recently offered up the plan, which would raise an estimated $4.8 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years. Schumer’s state is home to two of four firms that would likely be hired to do IRS collection work.
    Cosponsored by Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas, Schumer attached the bipartisan proposal to a broad Senate tax bill meant to renew more than 50 temporary tax breaks, mostly for corporations, known as the extenders. By raising new revenue, the proposal would help offset the costs of the tax breaks.

    1. abynormal

      typical, after all Probation Officers are being replaced by Debt Collectors in FL (one of the Worst states to get caught throwing a kleenex out the window)

      Profiting from Probation
      America’s “Offender-Funded” Probation Industry
      “many judges ask probation companies rather than their own clerks to prepare arrest warrants for probationers whom the companies allege have violated the terms of their probation. Those warrants require a judge’s signature but some judges do not bother to inquire into the facts around a probationer’s alleged violation. One judge acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that he does not even have time to scrutinize warrants and other company-prepared orders before signing them. ”

      thinning the crowd one torture at a time

      1. Klassy

        Geez. Aby what a lovely story. Should we file this under “the wages of austerity” (we need a new file cabinet pronto). God forbid the fed government, which can run deficits, give any aid to local governments, better they exercise their creative powers and come up with innovative new sources of revenue.
        Meanwhile, we gotta keep those corporate tax breaks– but how to pay for them? It would be irresponsible to increase the deficit. Chuck Schumer to the rescue!

        1. LucyLulu

          I just wanted to say……

          Aby, I’m so sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Your parents were lucky to have you share their final days and offer your love and comfort

      1. Vatch

        That’s why we should vote for third party candidates instead of for the Demolicans or Republicrats. With the exception of a few social issues, there is no discernible difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Vote Green or Libertarian — otherwise you are wasting your vote.

          1. LucyLulu

            Most of our politicians have been corrupted by big money. They don’t represent the interest of the people, they represent the interest of their donors. I’m more closely aligned with the interests of the Democrats’ buyers than the Republicans’.

            I live in NC. For Senate, I haven’t been the least impressed with Kay Hagan, our incumbent. But she will run a tight race against Tom Tillis, NC House Speaker. We have all three divisions of our government heavily controlled by Republicans, largely thanks to Art Pope, who has more money than God, and his generous infusions into various elections, along with creative gerrymandering (question: is a democracy representative if the majority vote doesn’t elect their legislator due to district reshaping).

            Our governor was a 30 year employee of Duke energy. Duke Energy has received all kinds of pork, including free passes on dumping their coal ash in our pristine waters. His staff are paid generous salaries, typically well above what they had been making. Two kids on his staff, one year out of school, and having worked the interim for Gov. McCrory’s campaign, were started at salaries in the mid-80’s. We have some of highest rates of uninsured in the country but opted out of the Medicaid expansion.

            Tillis was just elected as the Republican nominee with a healthy margin. It confounds me since the NC legislature polls with a 19% favorability rating, down from over 50% when they took control. The unfavorability ratings, OTOH,.are easy to understand. We passed voter’s rights laws that are the most draconian in the country. Parents can be taxed if their children in college choose to vote. Seriously. Not to mention the usual govt picture ID, which the poll workers at my local precinct are saying will radically slow down the voting process, add about 3 hours to the day, and our precinct is always a leisurely no wait to vote place. They checked ID as a practice run, most people thought it was already required this year instead of 2016. Combine that with shorter polling hours and moving voting locations to inconvenient sites in liberal precincts, and many of our precincts may be Miami in 2016, if the ACLU doesn’t prevail in their suit (where the hell is the DOJ?). The people have also been protesting the assault on women’s rights.

            Re: fracking. Our last governor, a Democrat, twice vetoed legislation from Republicans that would lift the state ban on fracking. She wasn’t opposed to fracking, she only wanted guidelines to prevent environmental contamination. The Republicans would have nothing of the guidelines and on their second attempt, were able to override her veto.

            Anybody who says there is no difference between the two parties is denying my reality.

            1. Vatch

              Hi Lucy. There’s a difference between the Dems and the Reps on social issues, but on other issues, the difference is so minute, it’s hardly worth mentioning. The way I see it, the Democrats will tell people that they care about inequality, fairness, and environmental protection. Then they do what they can behind the scenes to prevent equality, fairness, and environmental protection. You ask where the DOJ is on voting rights in your state? I guess that’s an example of what the Democrats do don’t do behind the scenes. It reminds me of all the banksters that Eric Holder has prosecuted.

              The Republicans flat out tell people that they are going to damage people’s lives, and hurt the country, and then they go ahead and do it. I guess the Republicans are more honest.

              Regarding fracking, and Sen. Charles Schumer, here’s an interesting quote of his:

              “But overall, the Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking. The president has, most of us have, and it’s worked quite well.”

              I don’t know how accurate Schumer’s statement is. From:

            2. Thor's Hammer

              I like Dimitri Orlov’s dry humor in describing the difference between American political parties:


              “Discussions of social policy, especially with regard to such things as the rights of women and sexual and racial minorities, play a very special role in American politics. As I’ve explained recently, it has recently been shown that the US is not a democracy, in which public policy is influenced by public opinion, but an oligarchy, where public policy is driven by the wishes of moneyed interests. On major issues, such as whether to provide public health care or whether to go to war, public opinion matters not a whit. But it is vitally important to maintain the appearance of a vibrant democracy, and here social policy provides a good opportunity for encouraging social divisions: split the country up into red states and blue states, and keep them in balance by carefully measured infusions of money into politics, so as to maintain the illusion of electoral choice. Throw a bit of money at a religious fundamentalist candidate, and plenty of feminists, gays and lesbians will vote for the opposing kleptocrat who will, once elected, help Wall Street confiscate the rest of their retirement savings, in return for a seat on the board; throw another bit of money at a rainbow-colored lesbian, and plenty of bible-thumping traditionalists will vote for the opposing kleptocrat who, once elected, will funnel tax money to his pet defense contractor in return for some juicy kickbacks. This part of the American political system works extremely well. On the other hand, if some matter comes before the politicians that requires helping the people rather than helping themselves and their wealthy masters, the result is a solid wall of partisan deadlock. This part works very well too—for the politicians, and for the moneybags who prop them up, but not for the people.”

              1. hunkerdown

                Gender roles used to be important because they specified relationships adequate to sustain the “production, consumption and reproduction of the working class” (Kevin Floyd). Here and now, they aren’t particularly relevant to most forms of capitalist production, so the matter provides a perfect sandbox in which the children can play Democracy with just enough apparent success for both to believe that it works, and thus wear themselves out in resolving carefully designed zero-sum situations so the parents don’t have to be seen clubbing the kids with a ladle for asking for seconds.

      2. LucyLulu

        There are a few in Congress who are good eggs.
        Schumer is definitely not one of them. He’s been bought and paid for.

      3. GuyFawkesLives

        I have wondered just that myself. For DiFi’s funeral, I personally will dig a hole deep enough to deliver her personally to Satan.

    2. curlydan

      Schumer reveals his neo-liberal plumage. The IRS’s budget has been cut by nearly 10% preventing them from recouping a lot of lost revenue, yet all he wants is to farm out the job to people who will do it less effectively, so the owners can make a handsome profit.

      1. LucyLulu

        That’s exactly right about the budget cuts. Even though the IRS agents in charge of tax enforcement collect something like 10 times their compensation in delinquent taxes, their numbers have been cut. Now they want to privatize the function to debt collection companies. Those companies will have zero authority outside the US where the largest sums are stashed, won’t they?

        As long as a couple has the right to pass $11M onto their children and pay no estate taxes, and a hedge fund manager’s 10’s of millions of carried (earned income) interest is taxed at 15%, while Medicaid can take possession of a family home to pay a far smaller sum for those of modest means to have the right to modest healthcare, any mumblings about tax enforcement or collection aren’t serious policy proposals.

  3. dearieme

    “Air Force is reviewing rule that bars proselytizing by superiors”: one of the best decisions made by the old East India Company was to keep Christian missionaries out of its territories in India.

  4. Banger

    OMG!!!! Color me stunned!!!

    A truthful account of the actual situation in Ukraine that recognizes reality!!! From Forbes magazine!

    Those of us who know a little about the history of Eastern Europe and the shifting borders over time understood from the beginning that Ukraine is yet another artificial state that can easily be torn apart–in this case under direct order from Washington. The Western press has, as a pack, reported the same tissue of lies straight from the U.S. government which, again, shows us who the enemy of mankind is, i.e., the Western mainstream media that lies about everything everyday (except sports scores). The fact Forbes published the article linked to above is yet another sign that some of the corporate sector is not so happy about some new sort of Cold War that will do nothing more than drive Russia into the Chinese camp.

    1. craazyboy

      I have been curious to see the reaction of our corp sector when they become concerned about Cold War II cutting their biz model off at the knees.

      Will Wal-Mart turn into a Hippy? Start selling Bob Dylan CDs perhaps? Tie-Dye Chinese T-shirts?

      Will General Electric sponsor Woodstock III, or will they merely write off their consumer products segment and focus on jet engines?

      The implications are mind boggling. Will the FDA approve LSD?

      1. Banger

        Maybe it’ll come to pass–but I don’t think acceptance of LSD or any psychedelic is possible under the current structure.

        1. craazyboy

          I mean FDA approval as a patented prescription medication – prescribed by Doctors for patients with Adaptive Coping Disorder (ACD). Covered by Obamacare, certainly, and to be taken with Donovan tunes. The R’s will go along, once they see the benefits.

        2. abynormal

          Timmy bio: “Born to a pianist and international development official for the U.S. government, he spent most of his childhood traveling to different foreign countries. He spent time in Zimbabwe, India and Thailand during his adolescence”

          “I’m glad mushrooms are against the law, because I took them one time, and you know what happened to me? I laid in a field of green grass for four hours going, “My God! I love everything.” Yeah, now if that isn’t a hazard to our country … how are we gonna justify arms dealing when we realize that we’re all one?”~Bill Hicks

          (proof enough for me Timmy plunged into the psychedelic realm…he’s been NOTHING BUT A HAZARD)

      2. ambrit

        LSD was legal in the U.S. until 1967 and was used in psychotherapy. It was banned in large measure for “culture war” reasons. In the 60’s psychedelics were in the forefront of the Counter Culture movement. They were also doing quite well in freeing thousands of otherwise conformist youth from the elite cultural narrative. As far as I know, the FDA was not involved in the prohibition of LSD.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Indeed a refreshing double surprise, either slipped past the censors or not all western oligarchs are on the WWIII Express. RT reports that Russia and China just inked a deal for non-dollar trade and investment. The end of dollar hegemony or war?

      1. James Levy

        Capital has sectors and the only thing they agree on are the prerogatives of capital. Different sectors want different policy strategies, although almost all are sold on US hegemony. What’s good for business for General Dynamics is not necessarily good for business for Goldman Sachs or Walmart. That’s why we still have elections: so that different sectors of Capital can appeal to the masses to solidify their choices under a “legitimate” political regime. If all the big shots in all the major institutions were on the same page, they’d get rid of elections tout suite. Having political parties and elections allows Capital to settle disputes in ways that shield them from overt responsibility or resorts to violence. This is how the extractive industries and the defense contractors put forward McCain as their “champion” while the financial and tech sectors chose Obama to carry water for them. That, at least as far as I can see, is how the game is played.

        1. Banger

          Great point! Elections to decide conflicts between capitalist factions–I like that notion.

      2. LucyLulu

        I was under the impression that Russia and China were already trading in their own currencies. Is that not correct?

        I’m assuming the deal was for Gazprom fuel. Does this enable Russia to tell the EU where to go when they want to buy gas again? If so, this can’t be good news for the EU, even if the melting of Arctic ice is opening up lots of access to new oil reserves in the Arctic Sea and around Greenland, who has sold all the rights surrounding their coasts to several companies* (*source: Years of Living Dangerously, current excellent series on climate change on Showtime with repeats on some non-premium channel).

        We may need to leave 80% of fossil fuels in the ground but no country is willing to eat the losses, least of all the U.S. Its climate deniers choose to believe the opinion of 1% of the experts on climate over the opinion of 99% of them. The masses have been hoodwinked by misleading fossil fuel funded studies (one oft-cited study I dove into the weeds on had compared past surface temps to recent atmospheric temps) and propaganda.

      3. Thor's Hammer

        Absolutely no mainstream news reporting about the threat to Fed Reserve Note reserve currency status. Must mean that Humpty Dumpty just fell off the wall and the FED and IMF are running around with Crazy Glue trying to put the pieces back together while the mainstream press does its job of reporting on the latest Kardasian wedding/divorce.

        Somehow I don’t think assassin drones are the right tool for the job of maintaining the American “right” to print money to import oil to maintain our SUV cultural heritage.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I hate to break the news to you, but it’s no threat. Among other things, a country needs to be willing to run trade deficits to have its currency serve as reserve currency. China and Russia both run surpluses. And we ran that post days ago with that caveat.

    3. allcoppedout

      I see the colour drained quickly! I’m just beginning to play with a wad of archive material I managed to get in a control theory project (notionally as data). The project idea concerns data base methods on text and records on tough to assimilate material. So I ordered some tough material I happen to be interested in. Part of the aim is at being able to mechanise literature review and content analysis, and apply this to real-time investigations. A practice run in this will look at stuff like this Forbes article in what we call a ‘context line’ in the historic production it is part of. Marx produced a monograph published in 1899 that is not unlike Forbes on Ukraine and we saw Perelman here yesterday. The paper is here –

      The techies are after some sort of big data assimilation and reporting from that. They’ve already demonstrated some machine ability on an old police archive, which would have beaten cops to the punch. The actual idea is to reveal processes like your ‘in Forbes, why now’ question or Marx’s ‘what might explain massively disproportionate British military spending in the war between Sweden and Russia over a negative trade return’? We might be able to show a long-term oligarch fraud as an underlying process of certain public rhetoric strategies.

      I imagine most in here would regard what’s being done in Ukraine as criminal (and by empire generally over history). The crimes seem to be repeated over and again like scams on the gullible. Yet even on that crime we recognise directly as crime, our institutions and processes are woeful – see (full paper downloads).

      Part of what we are considering is what networks flash up around a publication and whether we can find ways forward that don’t involve exhausting rhetorical clashes. I couldn’t agree with Banger more, but how do these messages impact or never even reach those bodies not thinking as we do? We have found, in police interaction, that officers (they admit this) can’t see pretty ‘routine’ abuse crimes (one example) before our control network context (and observational training). We and others have brought some fairly radical work and ideas not widely accepted into functionalist practice, against an insular ‘school of hard knocks’ culture. Key in this was not approaching the cops as experts. In the wider context of money-power-politics-military we are looking for the processes of a long-term failure in knowledge dissemination. The presence of the knowledge and observation in the public domain (as Marx, Forbes, Perelman etc) seems, on content analysis, to involve huge amounts of copying and repetition, that apart from a few spikes, do little to shift practice or the ability of any public to resist ‘not being played in the con again’. Our question, over-simplified to the extreme is ‘if Banger is right here, why doesn’t everyone know’? He’s right, so why is the other bit so tough? The new-old answers have not helped.

      1. lambett strether

        Now that’s cool. It would be even more cool if the rhetorical strategies could be used in the near term (see playbook comment yesterday).

        For example, a town that is targeted for fracking or a landfill will know it’s in the crosshairs perhaps a few weeks before the permitting process begins, so they’re behind the eight ball from the start. However, it’s possible that by mining the appropriate corpus (technical literature on the characteristics of good sites, GIS data on locations with those characteristics, house organs, financial date on the firms, e.g.) some sort of “early warning system” that could look a year or even a decade out might be constructed. That would be a game changer. The non-profits in DC aren’t cutting it, and most of them are captured anyhow. So it’s down to the locals, and they need intel.

        Do you have any idea of, or can you give a pointer to, the technical approach used? The algorithm? The pattern recognition software used?

        1. allcoppedout

          At the techie level I can’t. This is a commercial product (or will be), though we are developing it in a public sector incubation. It would fit with your suggestion. A key feature is the ability to strip databases and such as scanned and internet material to get round the misery of data input. The thing is already investigative, once pointed in the right direction.

          I’m not good enough at the tech to give you a decent answer (I do the wider defeasible logic/ordinary language translation stuff plus searches for odd metaphors that may have harmonics that bridge from what we know well to processes we cant work out). I’ll put your question to my colleagues next week when I’m fit to put in a day’s work.

          One possible way to further your idea would be to get the system in wide use stripped of certain aspects – part of the project goals concern enterprise solution. Tired tonight.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Thanks. Even a pointer to a key scholarly paper or two would help, especially on the harmonics of metaphor. Sounds like the classic “Free Version” / “Pro Version” / “Enterprise Version” might work, though I’m the world’s worst marketer. Especially if enough of the software was open source. Of course, if you’re under NDA, adhere to it….

      2. Banger

        Your project is very thought-provoking but this idea, in various forms, has been kicking around for awhile–wikis came out of this sort of thinking and what I imagine your project being is a kind of wiki meets AI deal which is now very doable since storage and data trolling techniques have been refined over the years. I think your project is really exciting and points in a direction that could be very helpful to all of us.

        But to the question of how to reach people that do not think as we do or, indeed, think at all about the subjects that interest many of us here and other public affairs sites. In my experience and study in social science it seems clear that people do not want to know the sorts of things we talk about here; T.S. Eliot wrote early in Burnt Norton “…humankind cannot bear very much reality” and that situation is more the case now than it was when he wrote it nearly 3/4 of a century ago. There is simply too much information out there–too many things to figure out–which is why I hate, at this point in my life, learning new apps or even reading about technical issues–the information has grown so dense around so many areas of life that I am steadily limiting my inquisitiveness–and it’s not just age either–many younger people feel as I do–there’s just too damn much to think about and truth be dammed!

        At one time we could trust our elders and our leaders not being able to trust people just overloads the human system with stress and reality is too unforgiving for most. I’m a bit perverse. This is why, at a basic level, I believe we need to be collaborators in collective enterprises where we are not in it for private gain but for the good of our comrades–yes, that sounds like communism but communism or communitarianism is the only way forwards for our species at this time (capitalism was useful and highly creative but it has now become toxic). Through uniting our lives with others we can, collectively (assisted by IT) put together accurate and useful information just as we can share tools rather than each buy one independently.

        We cannot convince others through argument or presenting facts–every major issue that has come down the pike, in the U.S. at any rate, has been dominated by completely irrational responses and real solutions to these problems have never been discussed. I think all we can each do is to live as fully as possible and attract others who will want to work with us and join the party–the rest is fate.

        1. Lambert Strether

          If diptherio is right, we don’t need to reach “humankind.” We need to reach 3% of humankind, a huge but less intimidating project. Wish I had the source and the reasoning for that happy thought, though.

          1. sd

            “…humankind can not bear too much reality…” Which is why insatiable greed so easily takes hold.

    4. susan the other

      I was surprised too that Forbes published that piece. The most interesting thing mentioned in it was something nobody really looks at, which is that China and Russia share the longest border on the planet yet they have always been reluctant neighbors. And that Russia is not exactly capable of defending that border, nor would Russia ever dream of “invading” China. Etc. I’m wondering if their currency agreement isn’t instigated by us because the dollar is under stress as the only reserve currency. There are so many details I’d like to hear about on Russia and China.

      1. Vatch

        On balance, it’s a good article, but I have a few disagreements.

        The border between Russia and China is significantly smaller than the border between the Soviet Union and China was, since parts of the Soviet-Chinese border are now borders between China and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. I’m sure that Russia has no plans to invade China, but the fact that Russia is overextended doesn’t mean that they lack imperial ambitions along their western borders. Heck, the U.S. is badly overextended, but that doesn’t stop our government from expensive and bloody imperial actions all around the world!

        I think that the author was misleading about western Ukraine only becoming part of the Soviet/Russian empire during the Stalin period. Far west Ukraine, Galicia, was part of the empire of Austria Hungary, but the more central western parts of Ukraine, such as Kiev, which are ethnically and linguistically Ukrainian, were part of the tsarist Russian empire long before Stalin.

        I was disappointed that the author made no mention of the Soviet genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933. That event helps to explain some of the feelings that Ukrainians have about Russia. Omitting that from the discussion is like ignoring the Holocaust in a discussion about 20th century Judaism.

        1. Banger

          That genocide is now debatable according to French historian Annie Lacroix-Riz. Her argument, on the surface, makes sense here’s her online piece (in French). Her argument is, basically that it was German propaganda. There was a famine one year only and Stalin did not single out Ukranians other parts of the USSR suffered even more in some cases.

          I want to make it clear here that I know that Stalin broke way too many eggs to make his omlelette–he was a mass murderer for sure.

          1. Vatch

            Hi Banger, I appreciate that you know that Stalin was evil. We may disagree about some things, but I know that we agree about Stalin (and many other things, as well).

            Thanks for the link; unfortunately, I can’t read French. Google tells me that her article is on a website called “Communist revival”. The Google translation of her article is virtual gibberish, but she seems to be saying that the famine was natural, and not the artificial catastrophe that so many claim today. Perhaps, but it is interesting that there was an even deadlier famine during China’s “Great Leap Forward”. It appears that the Communist collectivization of agriculture kills a lot of people.

            The awkward Google translation of Ms. Laroix-Riz’s article provides this sentence:

            If there had been famine in 1932-1933 , at its maximum during the ” lean ” ( between two harvests ) in July 1933 marked the end.

            So Ms. Lacroix-Riz appears to be skeptical that there was a famine at all, natural or otherwise. It really seems as though she has an axe to grind. She cites Holodomor denier Douglas Tottle in her bibliography.

            I’m sorry I can’t read French; it would be great if there were a readable English translation of her essay.

            I am aware that the famine occurred in other places besides Ukraine, such as Kazakhstan and the Volga region. Without evidence, I see no reason to assume that those areas suffered worse than Ukraine — of course it’s possible. It is interesting that Kazakhstan and Ukraine were both briefly independent of Communist Russia (not yet known as the Soviet Union) for two or three years following World War I. Stalin and his thugs had good reason to want to break the will of the people living there.

        2. vidimi

          i noticed that too when the author mentioned that russians suffered just as much as the ukrainians under stalin. my first thought was the holodomor. that kind of careless assertion discredits an otherwise fine article.

          i don’t see the holodomor as any more debatable than the holocaust. that the germans would exploit it for their own goals is no surprise – the russians are similarly exploiting the fact that the americans organised the coup in kiev, but that doesn’t make it false.

          if anything, allied powers tried to silence criticism of stalin as they needed him on board against the germans: refusing to report on events such as the holodomor or the katyn massacres for fear of failing to secure “uncle joe’s” co-operation.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Forbes now has LOT more blogs associated with it than most business pubs. I believe this was a post responding to another post.

      3. H. Alexander Ivey

        Well, the Soviets did “invade” China back in ’45 for a few months. They scared the hell out of the Japanese, took what they wanted, and then left under their own power.

        But the width or length of a common border is a weak argument. How close are military or economic points of interests are more germane. And, as always, the personalities of the leaders involved.

    5. H. Alexander Ivey

      Well, yes, the 7 points were more critical of the West than is usual for the MSM. But point 6 gives the writer away – Russia is just a paper tiger, ready to implode, so don’t worry….

      And point 7, Putin took it before (the expansion of the West) and will take it again…

      HA HA.

      Russia is not overextended and it is not about to implode. And Putin did not have a choice in the West’s expansion – the West broke its word, and Russia was not willing to start a European War III.

  5. diptherio

    Re: Stopping the next Geithner

    My suggestion is to democratize the regulatory agencies. Instead of dept. heads being appointed by politicians, they should be voted on by the rank-and-file, on-the-ground regulators at the agency. That would improve things dramatically.

    1. allcoppedout

      I don’t think even that is enough Opti. We need to democratise money – – and our decisions generally. I fear we for for dreadful creatures like Blair that have all the honesty of a psychopath on speed once in office. I’d go for structural changes in regulation with compulsory public scrutiny. It should be a criminal offence to enter the revolving door after being a regulator within 10 years.

  6. Carolinian

    Good Forbes article. Thnx fr the lnk.

    This recent analysis by Israel Shamir from the Saker blog may also be worth a look. He says the real window into Putin’s mentality is not the Crimea “crisis” but the winter Olympics.

    Which sounds plausible. The opening and closing ceremonies were nationalistic to be sure(with few concessions to the Macy Parade level NBC commentators)but western and derivative in style. The director of the closing ceremony, for example, came from Cirque du Soleil.

    Shamir says that Putin wants to become part of the world system, not defy it. Of course this is what Washington–apparently–most defintely doesn’t want.

    1. Banger

      Washington cannot thrive on peace and must agitate the world in order to provide an arena for martinets and con men/women to play in.

      1. abynormal

        the desperation in detracting Oil from sand (high cost low return) and rock (outright killing folks) offers a clear picture for military global upsurges to come

        1. Banger

          I’m more optimistic. I think people are beginning to understand, on a visceral level and without information or clear world-view, that something is very wrong with the current set-up.

          1. abynormal

            i consider you an informed friend Banger…don’t take this personally

            the people that are ‘waking up’ are already waste deep in illness and loss of homestead. plenty 411 has been publicized about fracking land grabbers NOT paying the percentages offered if Anything. So, i ask you where and how are these ‘informed folks’ to relocate?

            i remember back in the early 80’s when comedian Wildcat or whatever his name was…did a shtick about “stop sending food to drought stricken west Africans, SEND THEM U-HAULS and get them the heck out of there”. at the time it sounded funny…as i matured i realized too many folks around thought it was the correct solution…not the wakeup call to human suffering…never crossed their minds that Carter realized our multinationals had the diamond mines shored up and military & aide money funneled elsewhere was in dire need! (which he ran on cutting military spending by 7B and raised it 10B his first yr).
            Im not optimistic about the care of our babyboomers either…which is another ‘current set-up’ where U-HAUL fleets are already diminished.

            too many ‘wake-up’ calls have been left to the answerin machines, erased and hey…’it ain’t happening to me. thin out the poor in the heard and my freakin phone’ll stop ringin!’

            “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
            James Baldwin

            1. allcoppedout

              I sort of agree. The visceral might need some unpacking, though I think I know what Banger means. We should have politicians in the stocks by now. Some would extend that to the chattering class generally and might mistake us that that.

              1. Synopticist

                It seems there are more and more people rejecting the MSM, which is a start. But we should be running out of piano wire and lamp posts by now.

            2. Charles LeSeau

              “i remember back in the early 80′s when comedian Wildcat or whatever his name was…did a shtick about “stop sending food to drought stricken west Africans, SEND THEM U-HAULS and get them the heck out of there”. at the time it sounded funny…”

              That was Sam Kinison:

        1. craazyboy

          Really?*** That would make a great export product for Arizona, IMO.

          *** Not the story I’ve been told, tho.

  7. Worker-Owner

    “NSA Spying is a Power-Grab”: Whether you believe the official story or the truthers, you have to admit that 9/11/01 marks a turning point in the dismantling of the Bill of RIghts and in the take-over of civil society by the military. The NSA is just one of the militarist elements of governance that has gone into tyrannical over-reach. One could make the argument that the police departments of our larger cities (especially New York) have made a power-grab and their City Fathers have given them sweepingly unconstitutional ticky-tacky laws and regulations to punish even the mildest and least threatening forms of dissent. The substantially increased occupation of foreign States with US military contingents, the increasingly aggressive meddling of the CIA in foreign affairs (Libya, Syria, the Ukraine, …), and blustering hypocrisy of complaining about Chinese spying are symptoms of a disregard for anything but the military-minded neo-goon mentality.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Sanctimonious pot charges five Kettle officials with spying. Blustering hypocrisy indeed.

  8. Jim Haygood

    Forty-one north — horse latitude:

    The flood of heroin coming into and going out of New York City has surged to the highest levels in more than two decades, alarming law enforcement officials who say that bigger players are now entering the market to sell the drug here and to feed a growing appetite along the East Coast.

    The amount of heroin seized in investigations involving the city’s special narcotics prosecutor has already surpassed last year’s totals, and is higher than any year going back to 1991.


    Crack down on pain meds, and heroin use surges. Who would have thought?

    It’s almost as if the cartels ordered the crackdown on ‘prescription mills.’ Organized crime and law enforcement: one of our longest-enduring and most successful biz-gov partnerships.

    From a zeitgeist p.o.v., opiates are probably the best analgesic for numbing the quotidian ache of imperial decline. Sic transit gloria mundi, and I don’t give a damn.

    1. susan the other

      +100. We could almost see this coming. Back in 2002 none other than James Baker III talked about how he really didn’t have a problem with “the poppy” and he didn’t mean Bush senior.

    2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      “. . . and I don’t give a damn.”

      In Europe, from what I understand, heroin is a legally prescribed drug — not just for pain, but for the palliative effect it has on the terminally ill. “I don’t give a damn,” is far preferable to the anxiety of a terminal or potentially terminal patient than giving a damn and not being able to cope with it.

      Rage all you want against the dying of the light. It won’t help. I plan to ease into death.

    3. LucyLulu

      The increase in heroin use is not from the crackdown on prescription drugs as much as their street price. A tablet of oxycontin will often sell for ~$80. No wonder the poor sell their pills. Vicodin is more reasonable at ~$5 but an addict eventually needs 10-15 at a time to get high and stave off withdrawal. Once addiction sets in, the addict can no longer afford the prescription meds and has a hard time keeping his stash adequately supplied. Heroin is cheaper, perhaps $10 per “fix”, is easier to find to buy in urban areas, and as a fellow opiate, relieves any withdrawal symptoms.

    4. ewmayer

      Jim Haygood wrote, From a zeitgeist p.o.v., opiates are probably the best analgesic for numbing the quotidian ache of imperial decline.

      As Marx – Groucho, most likely – noted, “when religion fails, opiates are the opiate of the masses.”

  9. petal

    Thank you for posting the dog play article! Very neat. Will watch my two yellow lab rescues a little closer now when they play. Have definitely seen them do the “play bow” many times, especially when meeting new dogs when we’re out for a walk but will look for the other little signs mentioned in the article.

    1. susan the other

      I enjoyed that one too. When the researcher said you can miss dog body-language if you blink, because they are so fast sending and understanding each other’s signals, I though yes that’s so true. Dogs must get frustrated thinking we read them as quickly and accurately as they read us.

  10. Mary

    I know NC wouldn’t want to be party to possible animal cruelty. I bought a greeting card of this frog photo and wanted to know a little more about it before sending to a friend. I tore it up and threw it away after finding this: and this:

    While the facts re the photo remain unclear, the mere possibility that the frog was manipulated and that it might have been harmed in the process made me regret the purchase. Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me to even suspect it was a deception. I merely thought the story behind the photo had to be interesting. It was – in surprising ways. The fact that the photog never replied to Nat’l Geo’s inquiry was enough for me.

    1. craazyboy

      I wouldn’t get that upset about it. Frogs are pretty tough – certainly able to put up with a photographer during semi-nude modeling sessions.

      For instance, here is an arms length video of a frog eating a snake – which they do in the wild, occasionally.

      1. Mary

        “I wouldn’t get that upset about it.” ???? I said I tore it up and regretted the purchase. Thanks for the video, but I don’t need the schooling. Nature is indifferent to suffering. Gosh, really???
        The photograph is (possibly) a deception. In the grand scheme of things not a big deal, but certainly a less impressive feat than we’re meant to believe it is, and IMO, worth noting. At best, it’s unethical, at worst, cruel to the subject, however tough frogs may be.
        And while Nature’s indifference has no ethical or moral dimension, ours supposedly does. No apologies for being bothered by it.

        1. craazyboy

          My first thought was the pic was photoshoped, but then I found I preferred believing that frogs have fashion super-models and nature is a really cool place.

          1. allcoppedout

            France, where the frogs live, is really rather civilized and it rains less often than in the UK, where you’d expect a web-footed race, breathing through their skin would thrive. Nature plays such cruel jokes.

  11. Katniss Everdeen

    “No Coal In Newcastle: John Hancock Cancels Agents’ Health Insurance”

    It appears that now that Obamacare has been declared an unqualified and resounding success and the nation has moved on, the real fun begins.

    “One would think that great health coverage would be a basic perk of working for an insurance company, but those days are apparently over. Investment News reports that John Hancock has not only eliminated health insurance for its agents, it has converted those agents from employees to commission-based independent contractors.


    “You’d think that if a company makes a given product, the marginal cost of providing that product to employees would be pretty low. But apparently not.”

    I’m sure that, at some point in the future, things like this will be referred to as “unforeseen” consequences that are difficult to “manage” but “inevitable” when policies are “overhauled.”

    1. LucyLulu

      While its terrible that JH is changing the pay structure and benefits of its agents, I don’t believe it is related to Obamacare. This trend of claiming employees as independent contractors, often counter to IRS rules on employees vs. independent contractors (and if so, one can go back and sue to recover employer’s half of payroll taxes, but this is a legit example of a contractor), and cutting benefits, started before Obamacare was passed.

  12. diptherio

    Re: Peer-to-Peer Lending: The Wisdom of Crowds

    Holey buckets! This is insane. They’re doing it again!

    Hedge funds and large wealth managers have been making loans through US P2P platforms for many months, lured by yields of up to 24 per cent at a time when returns on cash and government bonds are stuck around record lows.


    Investors have also applied one of Wall Street’s most infamous techniques to the sector. Last October a New York-based hedge fund “securitised” about $53m worth of P2P loans from Lending Club, repackaging them into bonds that could be sold to a wider array of investors.

    Alongside the potential for slicing and dicing loans, it was the prospect of Lending Club’s much-anticipated initial public offering that caused the most excitement at the San Francisco conference. The company recently reached a valuation of $3.76bn after raising new funds to expand into small business lending and loans for riskier “non-prime” consumers.

    Securitized “non-prime” loans…what could go wrong? It’s hard to believe that the world has enough idiots in it to create an actual market for such things.

    The automated due-diligence process that allows platforms to keep their costs low can also be manipulated by fraudsters. In its first few years of operation, Prosper’s default rate exceeded 20 per cent. Now, as a result of its enhanced systems to weed out manipulation, it has been able to reduce it to just over 3 per cent.

    When UK consumer group Which? investigated the sector by lending £100 on Funding Circle, another UK-based P2P platform, it lost £10 when one borrower defaulted on a loan.

    “Peer-to-peer lending has brought a new element of competition to the saving and loans market,” says Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which? “But it is riskier.”

    As it grows, crowdfunded lending faces a fundamental choice between remaining selective about its borrowers to keep default rates low or relaxing criteria and accepting the risk of more bad loans.

    Gee, which road do you suppose the Wall Street bankers are going to lead the industry down? Selective and safe, or high-risk high-return (until it collapses)? Any guesses?

    And as for those Wall Street bankster types who are buying in big to this scheme:

    The industry’s partnership with bankers is viewed with suspicion by many. There is disbelief that an industry that once claimed to want to avoid large financial institutions is now teaming up with them. Some have suggested that investment through P2P lending might be a way for institutions such as banks to circumvent regulatory requirements.

    Uh…ya think? Cause it’s not like banks circumventing regulatory requirements to make super risky loans to securitize and sell-off to unsuspecting dupes is something we’ve ever had happen…

    But it’s ok, they’re just wringing inefficiency out of the system; don’t pay any attention to the iniquity:

    Mr Suber from Prosper says that it is not the purported iniquity of big banks that people should focus on but rather their inefficiencies.

  13. PeonInChief

    Am I the only one who thinks that the U.S. prosecuting Chinese officials for spying should result in derisive laughter from the rest of the world?

      1. craazyboy

        Haven’t read the article yet, but did the CIA arrest them in China, or some US country?

    1. Peter Pan

      Regarding the USA prosecuting Chinese military officials and/or setting sanctions against Russia, I would think the appropriate diplomatic response from either China or Russia should be:

      “I laugh in your face!”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        As we go after Russian billionaires and their business holdings through sanctions, I wonder if Russia will go after US billionaires or our top banks/oil companies.

        ‘Mr. Fortune 500/Silicon Valley, we are freezing your assets.’

    2. Jim Haygood

      Instead of laughing, another person charged by this same crowd has sent them an invoice:

      ‘I was taken from my childhood home at gunpoint on January 18th, 2011, and I was not allowed to freely exercise my liberties as a citizen until April 11th, 2014. That’s 1179 days that you used my time that I am now billing you for (I gave you a discount by not including the last day). I am owed 28,296 Bitcoins. I do not accept United States dollars, as it is the preferred currency of criminal organizations such as the FBI, DOJ, ATF, and Federal Reserve and I do not assist criminal racketeering enterprises.’

  14. Chauncey Gardiner

    Re: “Bernanke Says Central Bank No Engine of Inequality” from the WSJ link…

    Yes, he would say that. He’s fully invested in the policy.

    And despite no verifiable sightings, the Trickle Down Fairy Lives! Fed Chair Yellen has just revised the Fed’s unemployment benchmarks downward to prolong QE-ZIRP on behalf of the usual suspects:

    But who can criticize the reasons?… It’s so nice when the Fed cares, despite a significant body of evidence that the Fed’s monetary policies are in fact counterproductive.

    Meanwhile, a dysfunctional congress and administration remain opposed to increased domestic non-miitary fiscal spending which might result in reduced levels of unemployment, among other benefits to society. Viva Universal Austerity!

    1. craazyboy

      “Janet has gone to great lengths — some would say extremes — to put a face on unemployment,” said Mesirow’s Swonk. “She understands it is not just numbers; it is the reality of what people see.”

      Just short of the extreme Ben himself even uttered briefly about 3 years ago – “The Fed has done all it can do for unemployment – the rest is up to congress”

      What congress may do is scary too, of course. Like Schumer bankrolling collection agencies to try and extract back taxes out of unemployed people.

      Not to mention I’d love to have some interest income so I could add to aggregate demand. Beats watching the bank account and trying to judge if I make it to official retirement age.

      There is not a sane one in the whole bunch.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Official retirement age.

        It seems, these days, the people are staying younger longer.

        It’s not just 50 year old models can still look 30ish, but many 25 year old men and women look like they are still 17.

        As we like to say, 30 is the new 50 (or is it 50 is the new 30?) and 25 is the new 17.

        What this means is that this is the age of satanic mills.


        Well, if 25 year olds are mentally and physically younger, like they are still 17, then
        we are talking about child labor here.

        So, if they are hiking the retirement age, due to ‘PROGRESS,’ they might as well hike the legal adult age, to protect our new ‘children.’

        In fact, all of us are still children inside.

        Maybe the government should protect everyone.

        1. LucyLulu

          “It’s not just 50 year old models can still look 30ish, but many 25 year old men and women look like they are still 17.”

          Beefy, that’s what happens when you get old. Everyone else starts seeming young. :)

      2. susan the other

        Things are getting stranger and stranger. I don’t fault Yellen for emphasizing unemployment realities. It is the only option she has under her “mandate.” Congress and Obama are the real culprits under the current laws. But Congress is too stupid to be panicked.

        1. craazyboy

          Transferring the employment responsibility from the Congress/Exec branch to the Fed was by design – not ignorance.

          It began when congress gave the dual mandate to the Fed in the later Volker years. It may have sounded like a cure for Volker’s inflation cure policy, which had the side effect of high unemployment. But since then there has been constant brainwashing that the Fed will fix the economy with an interest rate, and the rest of the government can just sit and watch.

          Nowadays it’s pure intellectual cover.

      3. Lambert Strether

        I don’t care what they “understand”; in fact, I think that permanently high disemployment is the preferred policy outcome of the elite, and they understand perfectly well what they’re doing. (That is, to the eternal question, “Are they stupid and/or evil,” I’m answering “At least, they’re evil.”) If they want to show they’re serious, then they can do something. Show. Me. The. Money.

  15. Synopticist

    I hope they gave those beagles some cigarettes after taking them from their lifelong home. Going nicotine cold-tukey’s a bitch.

  16. Dryly 41

    “Geithner Rips FDR For Not Cooperating With Hoover”.

    But the thing is the “strict supervision” finance by of Roosevelt led the 78 years and 11 months of financial stability, which, happens to be the longest in American history. It was the abandonment of “strict supervision” of finance and the return to laissez faire that led to the collapse of the financial system after Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008.

    Obama/Geithner have left “Too Big To Fail” in place, permitted commercial and investment banks to remain together, permitted gambling to continue in these giant banks, failed to rein in the “shadow” banks that were integral to the collapse. If you didn’t like the last financial collapse, you are really not going to like the next one.

  17. Abe, NYC

    For an article titled “Why Everything You’ve Read About Ukraine Is Wrong,” there are far too many deviations from historical facts and, especially, glaring omissions. Some of the article is correct, but much is utter rubbish.

    Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists aligned themselves with Nazis and, led by their radical leader Stepan Bandera, proceeded to rid their land of other ethnic groups, including Poles and Jews

    What isn’t mentioned in the article (or any other linked here) is that: (a) Russia-organized genocide took the lives of 3-7 million people in the Ukraine just before the war; (b) Bandera spent most of the war in a German concentration camp; (c ) Ukrainian Insurgent Army spent most of the war fighting Germans. I have no intention to whitewash Bandera or his force, which is known to have carried out mass murders. But one factoid is that in postwar Ukraine, OUN was responsible for about 35,000 deaths while the Soviet troops, over 150,000. Supporters of Bandera are wrong and blind themselves to his crimes, but they view him as a hero of the war for independence, and are not automatically Nazis as Putin would like you to believe. At the same time, in Russia supporters of Stalin ride high and the official line increasingly praises him as a wise statesman who won the war. So you might as well label Russian leadership supporters of genocide.

    The Western press, including Forbes, has underestimated the extent of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky’s influence

    This, for me, was the most interesting section. Much of it must be true, but is largely unreported.

    Only a fanatical Russophobe would imagine that Russia wants to expand

    Hmm. One Mr. Putin has stated a number of times that the dissolution of USSR was a tragedy, and more recently that Ukraine’s exit from the USSR was illegal. Does that make him a fanatical Russophobe?

    Despite what you read in the Western press, he didn’t protest about NATO expansion

    That’s a fairly bold statement. Even a cursory search will find hundreds of references to the contrary. What is true is that the latest round expansion took place back in 2004 – well before $100 oil and while Russia was fighting its war in Checnya. Putin was faced with a fait accompli, and if he protested too strongly he would only deepen his own humiliation. But protest he did.

    Annexation of Crimea, while responding to very strong popular demands both in Russia and Crimea

    This demand was non-existent until Mr. Putin planted and fueled the idea and vastly inflated mythical threats to Russian population. The current “prime minister” of Crimea took 4% of votes at a recent election.

    operation that enabled Putin to save his face after “losing” Ukraine

    Yep. The hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor, to save its face.

    Since then he has given plenty of indications that he is ready to call it a day

    With troops still amassed on the border, despite 3 announcements of a pullout? Things were clearly going towards an invasion on 25-26 April until the plans were apparently abruptly canceled. The reason is disputed.

    His limited goals are acknowledged in the writings and interviews

    Sure. Just as he stated he did not intend to invade Crimea, that there were Russian troops behind the overthrow of authorities there, etc.

    Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s NATO representative and a serious political figure on the right, has already declared that next time he’ll fly into Ukraine and Moldova on military bomber

    What isn’t mentioned is that Putin has cultivated Rogozin and elevated him from a regional politician running Nazi ads to the national level.

    The policy of public humiliation of Putin, the talk of “punishing” him or Russia for bad behavior, is insulting to the Russian leader and his countrymen

    Yes. Apparently Putin tried hard to engage Western countries at the beginning of his rule, even wanted Russia to be part of Nato. What he got instead is cool reception and an expansion of Nato into Eastern Europe. This was at the same time that Iran’s diplomatic advances were met with Dick Cheney’s “We don’t speak to evil.” Not clear though why third parties should pay the price, or how this justifies Putin’s thieving and murderous ways.

    Fairly misleading article overall, but it has its strengths and is thought-provoking.

    1. Vatch

      Thanks, Abe. Putin is as imperialist as the leaders of the United States and China are. His nation has financial problems, so he can’t put his troops and agents in nearly as many places as the U.S. can and does, but he definitely wants to recover territory that used to be part of the Soviet Union.

      1. Abe, NYC

        Putin, in many ways, is far more imperialist than the Americans. US is pushing 20th century version of imperialism, maintaining sphere of influence through military dominance in a region. China is apparently pushing the 21st century version, that of trade and economic dominance.

        Putin, by contrast, demonstrated in Crimea and Georgia the classic imperialism of territorial conquest. There was also a peaceful and largely failed attempt at a reunion with Belarus.

        Another feature of Putin-style imperialism is that it’s rooted in ethnicity and religion, also more characteristic of 19th century. There is no shortage of Russian historians proclaiming the special destiny of Russia with its unique “civilization”. It’s just another version of White Man’s Burden, but one that largely ignores or denies the virtues of democracy while putting Russian chauvinism front and center.

        To be fair, Putin has also tried the softer version of imperialism with mixed results, the latest incarnation being the infamous Customs Union.

        This has always been madness, stoking chauvinism in a country composed of a multitude of native ethnic groups and religions. The resulting structure is unstable, will not survive a serious military or economic calamity and will collapse, just as surely as it did in 1917 and 1991. Unfortunately, the agony of an empire hits former colonies the hardest, be it Hindustan, Indochina, Algeria, Bosnia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, or Moldova.

    2. LucyLulu

      Thank you, Abe, for giving us a good, and credible, summary of the other point of view to consider.

      I’m still unsure what I believe. US and CIA involvement is certainly a possibility. On the other hand, I’ll never buy any story that paints Putin in anything but an imperialistic light, with grand ambitions to restore Russia to the USSR’s most glorious days. Or that he isn’t as cunning as a fox and would kill his mother in exchange for an extra helping of chicken. I don’t need any journalist to confirm this. Like Bush, I’ve looked in his eyes and saw evil. His eyes scared the shit out of me. I’ve worked with many of society’s “outliers”, some who had raped and murdered. (I like intense jobs.) They never scared me. I also wouldn’t underestimate how brilliant he is, and very clever

      Don’t misinterpret as any endorsement of US imperialism or the danger it poses. I wouldn’t underestimate Putin though either. Russia has sent troops to Chechyna, Georgia, Crimea, and now eastern Ukraine in a little over a decade(?), with no international support nor real response, a pretty impressive feat given Western war-junkie rulers. The US and Russia is a case of Lucifer and Satan, whatever the particulars in Ukraine, or Iran, or Syria.

        1. Vatch

          I don’t know what Lucy’s sources are, but there appears to have been a lot of Russian military activity in Crimea prior to the secession vote. This military activity took place outside of the Russian military bases.

          Crimea saw a sudden increase in armed presence, with militiamen dressed in camouflage but lacking any distinctive markings appearing all over the region. President Putin denied that Russian troops stationed in Crimea left their barracks, claiming these men were “pro-Russian local self-defence forces,”. The presence of Russian troops is acknowledged by new Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov.

          According to Suomen Sotilas (Soldier of Finland) magazine’s expert, the troops belonged to high readiness forces of the Russian Federation.

          Soldiers were seen patrolling Simferopol International Airport and Sevastopol International Airport, while Western and independent media reported Russian troop movements in Crimea, including Russian military helicopters moving into the peninsula and Russian Army trucks approaching Simferopol, the Crimean capital. Ukrainian officials said Russian forces took over a military airbase in Sevastopol, landed troops at another airbase, and surrounded a coast guard base.

          Ukrainian helicopters were shot down in Slovyansk by rebels. This is a lot more firepower than the rebels in Maidan had, which implies that the Slovyansk rebels had military help. I realize it could have been Ukrainian soldiers in the process of defecting, but it also could have been covert Russian solders.

          Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said on Friday “unknown groups” had shot down two Mi-24s, while an Mi-8 transport helicopter was also damaged. The SBU security service earlier said one pilot was killed and another captured.

          The SBU said man-portable missiles were used against one helicopter – proof that “trained, highly qualified foreign military specialists” were operating in the area “and not local civilians, as the Russian government says, armed only with guns taken from hunting stores”.

          1. OIFVet

            By the SBU’s standard the mujahedeen shooting down Mi-24s with Stingers were in reality trained, highly qualified US military personnel and not rebels armed by a foreign power. Lots of Afghan Vets in Russia and Ukraine Vatch, trained and skilled in using manpads. Got some other source other than the SBU, perhaps someone a bit more independent?

            1. Vatch

              Hi OIFVet,

              The issue isn’t that they knew how to use the rocket launcher. The issue is that they had a rocket launcher. That implies some sort of military assistance, although whether it was Russian or defecting Ukrainian military assistance, I don’t know.

              The information about Crimea is evidence that there was Russian military activity in Ukraine back in February and/or March. I’ll let you and Lucy search for additional information about later months. It’s possible that she won’t see this comment, since this is a thread from yesterday.

              1. OIFVet

                My question was about the Russian troops she was so certain are present in Eastern Ukraine, not about military assistance. Everyone and their third cousins provides military assistance, see US and Syria. I asked for a link that establishes the presence of said Russian troops and I am still waiting for one. Your semantics about “military activity” are quite insufficient; everything from a couple of guys raising a pup tent to a babushka scouting Ukie troop movements through a pair of binoculars can fit the definition of “military activity”. I simply asked for the source of her assertion (not a guess, a hunch, or possibility) that Russkie troops are operating in Eastern Ukraine. My guess is I will be waiting until an invasion does come to pass and then it will be “See, there are Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine.”

                1. Abe, NYC

                  Pardon butting in. There was no shortage of reports of “little green men” in Sloviansk in mid-April, see here or here for example. I haven’t seen reports of little green men in the last 3 weeks, apparently after the invasion was canceled and they were withdrawn.

                  1. OIFVet

                    There are a bunch of masked green men running around the woods of Michigan also. Are they Russkies, or did they buy some surplus BDUs and ACUs from the nearest Army Surplus? Weapons look similar? You can buy many AR-15 variants that look just like the M-4s of US SOF, right down to the camouflage, optics, and basic functionality. Same with the AK variants in use.

                  2. Abe, NYC

                    And you expected them to parade in full insignia singing Soviet Russian anthem? That probably wouldn’t be enough either, since anyone can buy said insignia, and almost anyone can sing.

                    Speaking of which, what evidence do you have any CIA involvement in the Ukrainian conflict?

                    1. OIFVet

                      “And you expected them to parade in full insignia singing Russian anthem?” That’s beyond silly. Clue number 1: Elite special forces setting up and manning checkpoints? This would be blatant misuse, abuse, and waste of highly trained personnel. One never does that, no matter how blatantly incompetent higher command is. The purpose of such forces is to train and coordinate insurgencies, not to do grunt work. Clue number 2: Patrolling streets? Same big no-no as number 1. That’s what infantry is for. SOF would go and kick in some doors, but never approach on foot in an urban environment. Bad tactics that completely erase the advantage of surprise. Tey go in by helos and fast-rope down, or if helos are not possible due to wires and such they will barrel in in vehicles. On foot? Never. Just my military experience talking.

                      “Speaking of which, what evidence do you have any CIA involvement in the Ukrainian conflict?” I guess John Brennan’s trip to Kiev was only a sightseeing tour. Silly of me to think it could have been anything else.

      1. Abe, NYC

        The below is pretty straightforward, and in this case said by someone who got more scars fighting the (British version of) neocons that pretty much anyone else:

        Were western governments encouraging pro-western groups in Ukraine? Yes, that’s their job. Did this include covert support? Yes. Were the Russians doing precisely the same thing with their supporters? Yes, that’s their job too. Did the Americans spend 5 billion dollars on covert support? Of course not.

        Victoria Nuland claimed in a speech America had put 5 billion dollars into Ukraine. I used to write those kind of speeches for British ministers. First you take every bit of money given by USAID to anything over a very long period, remembering to add an estimate for money given to international projects including Ukraine. Don’t forget to add huge staff costs and overheads, then something vast for your share of money lent by the IMF and EBRD, then round it up well. I can write you a speech claiming that Britain has given five billion dollars to pretty well anywhere you claim to name.

        The problem is that both the left and right have again, equal but opposite motives for believing Nuland’s bombast about the extent of America’s influence on events. I have been in this game. You can’t start a revolution in another country. You can affect it at the margins.

        A military coup you certainly can start. One thing we don’t really know nearly enough about is what happened at the end, when Yankovich had to flee. The Maidan protestors would never have caused a government to fall which retained full control of its army. The army can fail the rulers in two ways. First is a revolutionary movement among normal soldiers – the French revolution model. Second is where the troops remain disciplined but follow their officers in a military coup. The latter is of course a CIA speciality. More evidence is needed, but if this is the second model, it is unusual for it not to result in military control of government. Egypt is the obvious current example of a CIA backed coup.

        I didn’t realize Craig Murray had a blog, wish I’d discovered it before. He knows a thing or two about the region, and every one of his posts on Ukraine is brilliant.

  18. David Petraitis

    The article on the risk to the plants of course contains a not so subtle nuclear plant operating corporate fig leaf. The dates given for the end of the current operating contract ignore that
    1) usually the operating companies ask for and receive extension; and
    2) the costs of decommisioning is larger (sometimes 15x more) than the cost of construction (in nominal dollars) of a plant, and
    3) the time to decommission a plant can be 5x the construction time, and
    4) even in decommssioned plants the spent fuel rods are still there and need to be cooled and secure until they can be moved (and most people don’t want nuclear waste to move through their backyard!) to a more secure permanent facility for long term storage, and
    5) there is NO long term storage facility in the USA, one still needs to be constructed.
    These plants will need to be manned, powered, secured from theft, attack, weather, seismic and flood risks for a long time coming. This problem will be with us until way past 2100 or right up until after the collapse, whichever comes first.

    1. LucyLulu


      And because there aren’t any current nuclear plants less than 30 years old, their original operational life, all of those in operation now have apparently been given extensions on licenses.

      And then there is the problem of the spent fuel pools that hold three or four times the amount of fuel as the largest pool at Fukushima. Many plants have in-ground pools as opposed to elevated on the 5th floor. They store cooled rods in huge metal dry casks on concrete pads on the premises. Both would have to be relocated. Imagine the NIMBY cries, also the reason we have no permanent storage.

  19. Hugh

    Minus the mathematical obfuscation, Taylor lays out his thesis against Piketty here

    “Familiar macroeconomic forces affect the ratio (say Z) of capital held by a rich “capitalist” class to the total, and create conditions under which ever-increasing concentration of wealth may or may not occur.”

    and here

    “With regard to political economy, the increase in π [the profit share] (and therefore the profit rate r) was not so autonomous [as per Piketty] after all. It was the outcome of a sociopolitical process which could be reversed.”

    Markets are never free. So what happens in them is never autonomous. It is always a question of who controls them (government) for whose benefit (the rich). The rich will always increase their rate of return faster than increases in output (Piketty’s r > g ), and this will result, as their control of the political process grows, to greater and greater wealth inequality. And it is precisely this increased control of government which makes reversal of their rigging of the economic system difficult.

    I think what both miss is that the last 35 years have seen something new, different, and malevolent, kleptocracy. Kleptocracy is relentless. It can not be reversed through the political system because the rich own the elites and control all the public institutions and organs of government. There is no such thing anymore as a business cycle. What we have in its place is a kleptocracy cycle: loot to a crash, then loot the crash. In kleptocracy, crashes do not spur government to reset the balance of wealth rather the rich bail themselves out through government. Wealth inequality dramatically increases post-crash and the fraction holding the greatest wealth becomes tinier and tinier.

    1. Patricia

      Thanks Hugh. You are always able to succinctly cut to the heart of the matter in explaining what’s gone so horribly wrong over the last 35 years. Depressing but realistic. And reality is so important in a culture that mostly avoids it like the plague.

  20. RanDomino

    Occupy happened because yuppies noticed Anarchism. Then they got bored of it. We’re still here.
    Shawn Carrié’s comment on Mass Movements was telling. Yes, the core of a mass movement is the ‘sunshine activists’, by definition. And that’s why mass movements are terrible.

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