Links 6/18/14

Attention, Star Trek fans: 3-D printer headed to space station Christian Science Monitor

The designer of the F-16 explains why the F-35 is such a crappy plane Gizmodo (Stephen L)

A climate fix would ruin investors Martin Wolf, Financial Times

NHS is the world’s best healthcare system, report says Guardian. John L: “I’ve lived in both. I agree. Although Cameron is trying to make NHS as good as US.”

At Merck’s Urging, a Federal Judge Threatens to Sanction a Lone Professor for Trying to Reveal Evidence about Vioxx Health Care Renewal

Uber Drivers Protest Their Dick Boss Gawker

Trade deals, Investment Treaties and the Death of Democracy – How companies sue whole nations and win. Golem XIV

China May Not Be History’s Economic Growth Champ After All, Report Says WSJ China

The BoJ’s balance sheet is about to go parabolic Walter Kurtz

Cambodia slams Thailand as workers flee out of fear of military junta Agence France-Presse

Thai junta threatens Telenor on Facebook The Local (furzy mouse)

Eurozone’s disinflation contagion in the UK Walter Kurtz

London property earns more than Londoners MacroBusiness

Why YouTube won’t remove Egyptian sexual assault video Christian Science Monitor

IMF Issues Warning on Argentina Debt Defeat WSJ Economics


Ukraine and Russia discuss possible ceasefire Financia Times

Ukraine Suspects Terrorism in Pipeline Explosion New York Times

European countries are selling arms to Russia while condemning it over Ukraine Washington Post


Who is Behind ISIS? CounterPunch

Why ISIS Won’t Stop With Iraq OilPrice

The military situation in Iraq MacroBusiness

Democrat Quotes on Iraq; Ron Paul Asks “Haven’t We Already Done Enough Damage in Iraq?” Michael Shedlock

Oil volatility returns as Iraq fears grow Financial Times

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Google and Facebook can be legally intercepted, says UK spy boss BBC (EM)

US tech giants seek protection against overseas NSA snooping RT

Judge orders release of NSA surveillance court rulings SF Gate

Possible hidden Latin warning about NSA in Truecrypt’s suicide note BoingBoing

Post Snowden: The Government Doubles Down on Hard Power Marcy Wheeler

US Army Investigation Found Employee Accused of Spying on Activists Violated Pentagon Directive Kevin Goztola, Firedoglake

The Most Destructive Presidencies in U.S. History: George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama Charles Hugh Smith (Chuck L)

IRS lost more emails in tea party probe Washington Post (furzy mouse)

GDP Numbers Confirm Wisconsin’s Lagging Growth WI Budget Project, Firedoglake

The US Chemical Safety Board’s Turmoil Is Playing With Public Safety Truthout

The smoking memos: Big Tobacco’s longstanding interest in marijuana MinnPost (Chuck L)

Citi urged to fight any big fine from DoJ Financial Times

Ex-Goldman director goes to prison, still owes $13.9 million fine Reuters

Federal Reserve

Fed Issues Surreptitious SNAP Payments to Bankster Welfare Queens At Taxpayer Expense Lee Adler, Wall Street Examiner

Fed Will Raise Rates Faster Than Investors Bet, Survey Shows Bloomberg

Fed expected to cut US growth forecast Euronews

Class Warfare

The Environment of Poverty Project Syndicate

How Inequality Shapes the American Family Alternet

Does He Pass the Test? Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books. On Geithner.

Antidote du jour (Josh D):

antidote_pandit passed out

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. arby

    Clever Mr. Krugman, once again, manages to traipse through the history of the financial crisis and it’s aftermath without once tripping over the blatant fraud and criminality of the participants. One supposes that this is why clever men are so useful in economics.

    1. David Lentini

      Why would anyone expect Krugman to know more, or undetstand better, the motiviations and mistakes of Wall Street bankers? Krugman is a professor of economics. He is not a banker. He has never held—and actively has rejected—any direct roles in making policy. Sure, he probably is somewhat more privy to insider chatter and certain details of Wall Street’s operations than most who read this ‘blog (myself included), but is that much to go on when reviewing Geithner’s book for lies and half-truths?

      In fact, given the need for Krugman to keep in the good graces of those who support him at the NYT and in other venues, and his close connections to many economists who did directly participate in our economic disaster (hello, Larry!), it stands to reason that Krugman is vulnerable to both being fed biased information and avoiding criticisms and claims that are too harsh on the MSM or Obama. In fact, Krugman has alluded to the latter on more than one occasion.

      1. nycTerrierist

        But surely Prof. Krugman is as intellectually curious as readers of this blog and no
        stupider. After years working in a field that is somewhat related to finance, surely
        he could get clued in. Furthermore, as an academic he certainly must understand how to parse biased information. With all due respect, not buying the Krugman as dupe hypothesis.

        1. David Lentini

          Not saying he’s dupe, just saying that I don’t see much special about his opinion on this matter.

    1. David Lentini

      The stories on ISIS from CounterPunch, Macrobusiness, and OilPrice illustrate the foolishness of relying on the press to predict the motives and performance of conflicts. Looking at the realities of ISIS reported by Patrick Cockbun in the Independent and CounterPunch, which are supported by Juan Cole’s excellent commentary (see his interview on yesterday’s DemocracyNow!), as a very militant, fanactical terrorist organization that uses the crudest forms of violence on its enemies to sow confusion and fear, the contradictory stories in Macrobusinessness and OilPrice are just absurd.

      ISIS’s “offensive” really looks like 1968 Tet Offensive, in which the North Vietmanese and Viet Cong hoped to foment a popular uprising by showing hollow the South Vietmanese government really was. Of course, that failed on the ground because of US troops and air power, but the will of the US to keep fighting was largely broken by the shock and chaos (and the lies made to the US public exposed thereby) and the stage was set for serious peace talks. Here, it looks like ISIS, like the VC, can’t possibly expect to actually control area and execute the sorts of military maneuvers (like OilPrice’s “pincer movements”)—they completely lack the resources, manpower, and training. Instead, their version of “shock and awe”—better “shock and panic”—will so weaken the Maliki government as to lead to the partitioning of the Iraq into differente zones of control and perhaps topple Maliki. For ISIS that still would be a huge victory. But it won’t be in the form of a military conquest.

      The result will like be that Maliki will have to rely on Iranian help, with the tacit approval of the US. I can’t see how the US could intervene in any serious way after the debacle of the invasion and the lack of manpower to control areas of Iraq. And so another Obama-tolerated neocon failure will enable Iran to further its interests.

      1. Benedict@Large

        I keep hearing ISIS being called a TERRORIST group. This is absurd. This is an organized army (with likely some political command structure), out to take and hold territory. This is what (some) folks do when they are trying to build a country. This is a revolution, not terrorism [The nod to the Tet Offensive is probably appropriate.]

        1. David Lentini

          Well, the BBC refers to the size of ISIS in the thousands and as a “jihadist group”; and when you add Cockburn’s and Cole’s assessments on size and composition, it doesn’t sound like much of an army.

          I think the press has been very misleading in using words like “conquest”. The stories sound more like ISIS has been able to scare-off Iraqi forces, which by the way Cole says were predominately Sunni in the northern areas of Iraq and therefore not too interested in dying for Maliki, and then filling the power vacuum. Under these conditions, “holding” territory is more through terror than physical and political control.

        2. Katniss Everdeen

          Here is how Martin Armstrong put it:

          “ISIS is becoming a proto-state that is its own sovereign entity in the mind of its forces. The brutal brand of Shariah law enforced by ISIS includes beheadings and amputations. It appears that they are turning away from trying to overthrow Syria and instead are just carving out a new country from both Iraq and Syria.While the official story has been attributing their funding to the seizure of banks, this does not explain their arms to seize the banks. That funding came from the USA and Saudi Arabia.”

          With any luck at all, Saudi Arabia has finally created a monster that it cannot control, and that will rid the planet of this oil-enabled menace once and for all.

          1. fresno dan


            “Consider, please, the following: Last month President Obama announced we would extend our stay in Afghanistan — a war we have clearly lost — until the end of 2016. Last week, Mr. Obama, after months of procrastination, said he was considering sending weapons to the Syrian Sunni insurgents fighting President Assad. The most effective of these insurgents are the ISIS Jihadis who are fighting and defeating, as well as stealing or buying weapons from the other insurgents. This week Mr. Obama opened the door to the possibility of bombing ISIS Jihadis in Iraq to support the floundering Shi’ite government we installed. Yet, as Patrick Cockburn** of the Independent has reported, the ISIS Jihadis in Syria and Iraq are coalescing into one proto-caliphate in their common Sunni areas (see map below). This raises the real possibility that we could end up arming and bombing the same Jihadis.”

            We were for the Jihadis until we were against the Jihadis….

            William R. Polk, June 12, 2014
            “America appears once again to be on the brink of a war. This time the war is likely to be in Syria and/or in Iraq. If we jump into one or both of these wars, they will join, by my count since our independence, about 200 significant military operations (not all of which were legally “wars”) as well as countless “proactive” interventions, regime-change undertakings, covert action schemes and search-and-destroy missions. In addition the United States has provided weapons, training and funding for a variety of non-American military and quasi-military forces throughout the world. Within recent months we have added five new African countries. History and contemporary events show that we Americans are a warring people.”

            Its difficult to admit, but the US keeps getting involved in these messes, despite bountiful evidence that we do not help, and generally make things worse. I would like nothing better than to attribute this to malevolent politicians – but at some point, the fact is that the American people appear blasé about our continual war mongering.

            1. cwaltz

              The whole entire situation is farce. We’re supportive of their goals in Syria so we’re ARMING them but in Iraq they’re a bunch of terrorists thugs and we’ve got to KILL them. It’s almost as ignorant as the whole entire “we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” thing that essentially pretended that there is no such thing as a two front war and that groups of people don’t have the ability to be in more than one place.

              We definitely need to pick a position though. If they’re terrorists then their support needs to be cut off in Syria(even if we aren’t an Assad fan.) If they aren’t then there is absolutely no reason to intervene in Iraq and no reason for them not to be able to control areas in the ME. We can’t say they’re “freedom fighters” in Syria and arm them and then “terrorists” in Iraq and then kill them.(well we theoretically could and have but it’s really stupid shortsighted policy.)

    2. craazyboy

      We have about 200 cable channels and there are about 200 countries in the world. I don’t think this is a coincidence. We can dedicate one full time cable channel for each country we invade. Customers can easily cycle thru the conflicts on their remotes, and even save favorites to your favorites list!

      Of course the major channels would get the major conflicts, and FOX has already won the bidding for the Australian invasion. Rumors are that PBS put in a unsolicited bid for the USA invasion of itself. The Home Shopping Network recently inked an agreement for the China invasion and the Weather Channel has expressed interest in the Russian invasion.

      All in the interest of quality cable content.

      1. fresno dan

        Which channel will cover (or should I say uncover) the beach invasion at Ipanema beach???

        1. craazyboy

          Obviously the Playboy Channel.

          There is ongoing speculation whom CNBC is after. When asked if they were interested in acquiring rights to Grand Caymen, a CNBC spokesman replied the company was not aware of any country called “Grand Caymen”, then added that they are happy with their current programming and they only need 400 billionaires watching to attract all the advertising revenue they need.

    3. Jackrabbit

      Contrast with the initial ‘hair on fire’ kabuki of professed surprised and tough talk.

      Anyone in the US/West that is paying attention already feels like we (the people) are being ‘played’. And elites overseas are drawing their own conclusions. Yeah, countries don’t have morals, they have interests. But the effluent we see from Washington is working against US/Western interests on multiple levels.

      H O P

      1. Synopticist

        The western foreign policy elites are plain not as smart as they used to be…

        They’re not very good at judging what’s in our interest, that goes for the US, the UK, the French, the whole of NATO. It’s partly arrogance, hubris, corruption, and having got used to full spectrum dominance, but there’s a genuine intellectual decline there as well. People are getting appointed to positions which are above their cerebral pay scale.

        Here’s Anne Marie Slaughter, who’s likely to be a Grande Damme of any future Hillary presidency…

        In short, “we should bomb Iraq AND Syria”, even thought the enemy in one country (hardcore sunni jihadis hellbent on establishing a global caliphate) will be an ally in the other.

    1. James Levy

      That fact is impossible to get into the heads of anyone in authority because for big-city news editor, TV talking heads, and top corporate executives (forget about billionaires or senators) it’s probably the best. They know that any attempts to reallocate those scare resources (quality doctors, hospitals, top-flight insurance coverage) will take something from them and give it to “those people” (in America, always the blacks and the despised poor white trash).

      It’s like education. The toughest jobs are in the cities and poor rural areas. But that’s not where we allocate the bucks and the talent. It’s as if you put the best educated and highest paid doctors into taking care of tennis elbow and the worst, most harried and poorest paid into brain surgery. It’s all ass-backwards. We give the people with the best diets, least physically demanding work, and access to gyms and personal trainers all the best healthcare. Then we take people with lousy diets, physically disabling jobs (truckers, miners, construction workers, loggers, etc.) and under crushing financial stress, and give them the leftovers.

  2. Jim Haygood

    Argentina’s ‘workaround’ plan to pay holders of restructured bonds has already emerged:

    ‘Argentina will seek to move its overseas bonds into local jurisdiction to skirt a U.S. court ruling forcing it to pay holders of defaulted debt in full. The swap will ensure holders of restructured bonds keep getting paid while allowing Argentina to avoid complying with the U.S. ruling, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof told reporters yesterday.’


    Are foreign bondholders going to accept local law bonds? For one thing, Argentina’s comprehensive exchange controls would have to be waived in advance. Right now, you can’t even send a hundred dollars out of Argentina by Western Union — not possible.

    Worse, Argentine courts have shown no scruples about expropriating foreign investors, over and over. It’s practically the modus operandi of Argentina’s vida criolla.

    Meanwhile, in classic Argentine fashion, after getting annihilated in court, the marxist economic minister is still trash-talking his opponents as if he were the victor:

    “Some people say that we need to negotiate with the vultures,” Axel Kicillof said. “The vultures are vultures because they don’t negotiate. The vultures are vultures because they go to court to get it all.”

    An unnamed official quoted in Clarin probably got it right:

    “The gamble is to convince Judge Griesa to review his decision and to negotiate with holdouts, which is a real mission impossible. There’s no Plan B; the option is to default.”

    1. Jim Haygood

      Markets give a thumbs down to Argentina’s duct tape and bailing wire ‘workaround’:

      Argentine bonds tumbled for a third day as investors doubted the nation can skirt a U.S. court order and avoid default by shifting international debt into the local market.

      “It is difficult to imagine any financial intermediaries or even legal advisories willing to take the risk of being perceived as violating a U.S. court order,” Citigroup’s Guillermo Mondino and Jeffrey Williams wrote. “A significant number of market participants may have to either sell their holdings or hold on to a bond that might enter technical default.”

      Restructured bonds due 2033 plunged 2.82 cents to 70.38 cents on the dollar, the lowest price since March. Yields on the securities rose 0.55 percentage point to 12.85 percent. The spread on Argentine bonds versus Treasuries is the highest in emerging markets after Venezuela, according to data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I still think it’s possible that

        1. Argentinian CIA sets up a front currency trading company* in NY
        2. You then print new Pesos, wire the money to said company and use it to buy US dollars
        3. Pay off dollar loans with that new dollar money.

        * inspired by Belgium central bank’s clandestine purchasing of bonds recently.

        1. Jim Haygood

          Today, District Judge Thomas Griesa shot down Argentina’s proposed local law exchange and any other clever subterfuge they might come up with.

          Nice try, though.

  3. Carolinian

    NHS: One of the pleasures in watching PBS’ Doc Martin is to trip out on a world where the town doctor sees you without asking for a penny and even makes house calls with his trusty bag.

    For us Yanks it’s like a beautiful dream.

    Perhaps related: California can’t even get so called “non-profit” hospitals to play straight on charity care.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One day, there will be ‘non-profit’ organizations and ‘non-greed’ organizations.

      Hopefully, non-greed’s will be kinder and gentler.

    2. dearieme

      It took me ages to realise that when an American refers to a “doctor’s visit” he means that he has got to visit the doctor. I had a nasty problem last year; the GP came to our house three times. As soon as I could limp without wincing too much I was expected to visit him; but while I was all blood and gore, he came to me. And when the pain was really severe, no nonsense: morphine. Bloody right too.

      1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

        Opiates are, indeed, the best medicine for severe or intractable pain. They also have a well-documented palliative effect on the terminally ill.

        Too bad the US’s grounding in Puritanism is all about taking all of the “feel good” out of fairly natural and historically well-tested medicines that can fight against feeling bad.

        1. cwaltz

          Well to be fair the US has significant issues with chemical dependence and abuse(prescription painkillers are second only to marijuana in terms of being utilized by “recreational” users for their high instead of for medicinal usage.) It also doesn’t help that our mental health system is a disaster and many people are using things like alcohol and medication as coping mechanisms.

  4. Jim Haygood

    Private equity problems at Harvard, one of the pioneers of the asset class, says Bloomberg:

    After years of subpar results at Harvard Management Co., three high-level managers have exited the $32.7 billion endowment and the university is searching for new leadership. Harvard Management’s private-equity division experienced turmoil last year as Peter Dolan, the private equity director, left after almost 20 years only to have his replacement, Lane MacDonald, depart in less than three months.

    A sore spot in Harvard Management’s portfolio has been private equity, which accounted for about 16 percent of assets in 2013, up from about 11 percent in fiscal 2008. The portfolio’s 10-year annualized private-equity return trailed its benchmark by almost 3 percentage points as of June 30, 2013. That compares with an outperformance of almost 17 percentage points for the portfolio’s 10-year returns as of 2008.

    ‘‘I would characterize our private equity performance this year as fair,” Mendillo wrote in her 2013 annual letter. “While this asset class still presents unique opportunities for attractive returns, it has gotten much more crowded and there is less of an illiquidity premium. As a result, we are actively focused on honing our private equity strategy.”


    ‘Less of an illiquidity premium’ is polite jargon for ‘Crap, we’re not even keeping up with publicly-traded equities!’

    And mind you, this is happening in top-quartile PE funds, the ones that leave scuffed-shoe public pension funds out in the cold with their noses pressed against the showroom windows in envy. They’ll be lucky to earn anything in the garbage-barge PE funds they found on the remainder shelf at WalMart.

    1. James Levy

      Oy vey, that word again: “leadership.” Can’t anyone just run something competently? Can’t they just do their job in a careful, professional manner and get results? No, they must exhibit “leadership”, which means being tall, looking great in an expensive suit, and talking really authoritatively. Looking for “leaders” is a kind of affirmative action program for handsome, well-spoken white guys with just the right pressure handshake.

      1. craazyman

        I’ve noticed there’s a lot of Indian dudes doing it these days too, That’s probably cause they’re good at math and you have to be good at math to confuse people when it comes to managing money. If you lose lots of their money and you’re good at math, you can make up equations that confuse people so much their minds get paralyzed and they just stare into space. If you can quickly leave the room, they’ll even get up and go home in a state of stunned mental paralysis and you ‘ll still have their money. It’s not just Indian dudes who’re (no pun intended) good at math, but many of them are tall and slender and you almost can believe they’re experts at whatever it is they do. It may be a mathematical expertise and it might not have much to do with your money, but when it’s not your money anymore it’s too late for any mathematical epiphanies. At that point it’s a legal problem and it’s not likely to be a profitable one for you.

      2. lambert strether

        The “leader” meme is truly poisonous — I shudder every time I see it in a headline — because it assumes that people don’t have defined roles (defined by, say, Constitution or statute) and there are not responsibilities that go with those roles, regardless of the “leadership abilities” of those playing the role.

        Everything is an undifferentiated mass of leaders and led. Horrible.

  5. Swedish Lex

    On F-35 and Norway (from Wikipédia):


    On 18 January 2008, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence issued a Request for Binding Information (RBI) to the Swedish Defence Material Administration,[225] who responded in April 2008 with an offer for 48 Gripens.[226][227] On 20 November 2008, the Norwegian government announced that the F-35 Lightning II had been selected for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, stating that the F-35 is the only candidate meeting all of its operational requirements;[228] media reports have claimed the requirements were tilted in the F-35’s favour.[229]

    Saab and the Swedish defence minister Sten Tolgfors have criticised the selection, stating that there were flaws in Norway’s cost calculations for the Gripen NG.[51] The offer was for 48 aircraft over 20 years, but Norway had extrapolated it to operating 57 aircraft over 30 years, thus doubling the cost; Norway’s operational cost projections also failed to relate to the operational costs of Sweden’s Gripens. Norway also calculated with more attrition losses than what Sweden considered reasonable. According to Tolgfors, Norway’s decision would complicate further export deals for the Gripen.[230][231] In December 2010 leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that the United States deliberately delayed Sweden’s request for access to a US AESA radar until after Norway’s selection. The cables also indicated that Norwegian consideration of the Gripen “was just a show” and that Norway had decided to purchase the F-35 due to “high-level political pressure” from the US.[37]

    1. David Lentini

      The F-35 is just another chapter in the gold-plating of military technology that enriches the arms industry and key politicians at the public’s expense. The fact is that few really expect to see these things used in combat. They just create these whiz-bang fantasies to drive public awe and fear. One way to do this is to combine disparate and really unreconciable functions in a single system, claiming it’s “more bang for the buck”. It always fails. In the early ’60s, Robert McNamara tried this with the TFX program that sought to create a single fighter-bomber for the Navy and Air Force. The program was a huge failure and left many in the services with bitter memories. The design later became the Air Force’s F-111, which not surprisingly could never really perform any funtion terribly well.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        In terms of a great power conflict, it’s correct to be very suspicious about the value of these sorts of weapons systems. They surely are made out to be godlike in power by fawning media accounts that love all that Tom Clancy booshwa. The fact that their only real tests have been against essentially defenseless targets in colonial conflicts like Iraq, Columbia, Aghanistan is not any indicator of their utility in an actual war.

        1. James Levy

          My guess is that most of this kind of equipment would be grounded or destroyed in the first three weeks of a serious conflict between major powers. Years ago I read a book called Machine Age Armies that argued that in any intensive great power conflict of the future the “cutting edge” stuff would go quickly and is irreplaceable on timelines consistent with continuous operations. Everyone would be largely back to infantry and artillery in a matter of weeks or, at most, a few months (he took losses of state of the art equipment in the 1971 India-Pakistan and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars as his benchmark). I think the Iran-Iraq war and the Falklands campaign supported his contention.

          1. Swedish Lex

            Gripen was designed to be maintained by a handfull of conscripts with little training, servicing Gripens on a myraid of improvised air bases across Sweden using national roads as airstrips in order to avoid being detected and wiped out in single strikes by the WP attack.

            And now the Norwegians are stuck with their F 35s……..

          2. dearieme

            Up to a point. The Harriers did pretty well for us, and the Exocet for the Argies. They were advanced kit at the time.

            1. James Levy

              True, but Argentina literally ran out of Exocets and the UK forces were down to about half a dozen serviceable Harriers after the Atlantic Conveyor was hit. The final push towards Stanley was pretty much foot infantry on each side supported by a few batteries of towed artillery, aka World War I. The ultimate irony was the outstanding Argentine A-4 pilots were too brave–if they had dropped their bombs from only a few hundred feet higher, the initial landings would have been a bloodbath for the British, as the old iron bombs dropped on the fleet needed their arming screws to turn for a set time so they didn’t explode. If Argentinian fighter pilots had shown the skill and courage the Skyhawk and Etendard pilots did, the British would have lost.

            2. Namegoeshere

              The Harrier is an extremely bad airplane. It can perform one neat trick, taking off and landing like a helicopter, but the cost for being able to do that trick is extremely high. It’s slow, it’s wings are too weak to carry much ordnance, and when it finally does arrive over a combat area it doesn’t have the fuel capacity to stay there long. All in exchange for an ability that has been shown to have no tactical or strategic value whatsoever: VTOL has never been used in a combat scenario by either the British or the Americans. The Marines convinced themselves it was something they needed to have, and their insisting on this gimmick being retained in the F-35 is one of the central problems with the new aircraft’s design.

              Not that it’s the only problem with the F-35, the project was doomed from the start because the entire concept of a universal plane that can do everything was inherently unworkable. They haven’t just ended up with a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, they’ve ended up with something that will be unlikely be able to perform any task adequately.

              All that said, while he’s fundamentally correct on this specific issue, Pierre Sprey is regarded as something of a crank in the industry, a man who hasn’t actually contributed or created much in decades. He spends most of his time complaining about other peoples airplanes and decrying them all for basically not being the F-16. He’s also very misleading in that interview. He makes it sound like the High/Low doctrine is a recent creation, when it dates back to the F-15 and his very own F-16. The F-15 was not a junk plane loaded down with too much tech, as he claims, it was the High part of the equation, a premium super-plane primarily intended to achieve air superiority. The F-16 was intended to be the cheap all purpose plane, only it turned out to be disproportionally capable given its low cost and went on to prove itself adaptable to a wide range of roles. His disparaging of European aircraft as ‘not very good but better than the F-35’ is utter nonsense, especially given that many of them have a lot in common with the F-16, being small and intended to be good at multiple tasks.

              What actually is something of a piece of junk is his other creation, the A-10. Or at least massively overrated. An entire plane designed around a gun that actually isn’t demonstrably effective enough to warrant its size and bulk. The Russian Su-25 also carries a 30mm cannon, but one which which is much more lightweight and isn’t arrogantly used as a chief selling point.

      2. BondsOfSteel

        IMHO, the F-35 will never see much combat. The future belongs to the robots.

        Drones already make most attacks and do most recon. They are getting better at an astonishing rate. It’s only logical to assume they will eventually take on most air combat rolls… including air superiority.

      3. Yonatan

        My understanding is the the mean time between repairs for an F-35 is shorter than the time taken to arm it, taxi to the runway, spool up to full power and then reach V1.

    2. optimader

      Re: the F-35..Tis program’s significance is as a Rubicon. It is symptomatic of the systemic failure of the Pentagon to serve its explicit mission (Defense).
      The F-35s stealth achievement is not related to technology, rather it is in the confirmation of the Pentagon’s transition from the mission of serving the Nations Defense to serving industry partners who deliver hamburger instead of tenderloin with impunity.
      The economic Death Spiral of the Pentagon
      7 February 2009

  6. ex-PFC Chuck

    Pierre Sprey ( is the guy who drove the design of the A-10 Warthog and, together with John Boyd & Co., drove its procurement down the throat of a kicking and screaming Air Force. It was designed explicitly for the ground air support role, a mission that has always received hind tit in the USAF. A couple of months ago the service announced that all the currently active Warthogs (about 240 IIRC) will be taken out of service and the mission taken on by the F-35. Results will probably be as foreseen by Sprey.

    1. James Levy

      I only had second-hand press accounts to go on, but my overwhelming impression from the 2003 invasion of Iraq was that the US Army combat brigades were hopelessly dependent on their attack helicopters to clear any resistance. Whenever the Apaches were grounded or absent, the US advance simply seemed to stop. That the helicopters will prove vulnerable in a contested airspace, and the USAF can’t take up the slack, means tough times ahead for the ground-pounders. I heard an anecdote related to this from when the US was trying hard in the 1970s to sell attack helicopters to the Israelis. One Israel colonel heard the spiel and then said, “It sounds great, until the Migs show up.”

      1. Mark P.

        ‘US Army combat brigades were hopelessly dependent on their attack helicopters to clear any resistance.’

        Then the US Army has a big problem going forward. The dominant trend in conflicts everywhere is the democratization of missile technology of all levels, most especially including cheap, human-portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

        A more recent example: in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Hezbollah used mobile missile platforms like Volvo station-wagons, and out of 52 Israeli Merkava tanks damaged (45 of them by different kinds of ATGM), missiles penetrated 22 tanks, with 4 being completely destroyed.

    2. David Lentini

      Amen. To the detriment of our ground soldiers. Another story along that line is the replacement of the Navy’s F-14, A-6, EA-6B, and S-3 aircraft with various forms of the F-18. Now we’ve lost lots of capabilities and range in order to satisfy accountants and General Dynamics. I’ve read a lot of griping about this from those on the line, but have seen nothing in the press.

    3. dearieme

      Two points. (i) His arguments were fascinating and persuasive. (ii) He spoke better English than I’ve heard from an American in ages. Is that his age, his profession, or just a personal characteristic?

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        I’ve never met Pierre Sprey but have read a lot about him and the rest of the folks in the military reform movement. Like most of them, he is extraordinarily competent in many ways.

  7. Luke Nolan

    Not sure if this was posted previously, but they were just talking about this piece on the Keiser Report and I thought it was amusing enough to share:

    The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth
    Tyler Cowen

    “An additional explanation of slow growth is now receiving attention, however. It is the persistence and expectation of peace.”

    “Counterintuitive though it may sound, the greater peacefulness of the world may make the attainment of higher rates of economic growth less urgent and thus less likely. This view does not claim that fighting wars improves economies, as of course the actual conflict brings death and destruction. The claim is also distinct from the Keynesian argument that preparing for war lifts government spending and puts people to work. Rather, the very possibility of war focuses the attention of governments on getting some basic decisions right — whether investing in science or simply liberalizing the economy. Such focus ends up improving a nation’s longer-run prospects.”

    “Today the major slow-growing Western European nations have very little fear of being taken over militarily, and thus their politicians don’t face extreme penalties for continuing stagnation. Instead, losing office often means a boost in income from speaking or consulting fees or a comfortable retirement in a pleasant vacation spot. Japan, by comparison, is faced with territorial and geopolitical pressures from China, and in response it is attempting a national revitalization through the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.”

    Now–I suppose to Professor Cowen’s credit–he does go on to sound less fascistic, but do you ever get the feeling that something big is coming?

    1. Luke Nolan

      I hate to double-post, but I wonder if he’s referring to Yugoslavia and Iraq when he writes that countries become more liberalized during wartime.

    2. Vatch

      I certainly hope there’s nothing big coming. Prof. Cowen seems to have fallen victim to the Broken Window Fallacy. Sure, there was plenty of economic development spurred on by war, but many economically beneficial projects were delayed to allow for the war projects to proceed. And the “benefits” of World War II simply did not occur in the places where the heaviest fighting or bombing occurred: the Soviet Union, Germany, many other parts of Europe, Japan, and China. It took a generation or more for some of those countries to recover from war.

      1. Luke Nolan

        Well, to be fair to the good professor, he didn’t exactly say that war itself was good for the economy, just the looming threat of war. In that regard, I suppose this is the national, macroeconomic variant of the notion that poverty is a necessary motivator to keep people working.

  8. curlydan

    One quibble with Cockburn’s “Who Is Behind ISIS?” It’s an informative article, but it’s title should be “Who Is Leading ISIS?” That is, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua”
    I’d like to know who, what, and what funds are _behind_ al-Baghdadi? Many think wealthy Saudis loom large

  9. nony mouse

    on Uber:

    “”When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”

    wait, ok. perhaps I have no ability to do basic math. how can you rent out a car and make a profit by renting it out for lower cost than “owning” a car? why would you do this? isn’t this like saying “I could rent my house out and make money, and rent it out for less than the mortgage and heating/lighting costs”?

    cost per mile goes down, butbutbut…..I just don’t see how you could both make it lower than the cost of owning a car and also make money. unless he means “lower” because you are simply renting the car when you need it and not paying for it all of the time, even while it sits getting dusty in the garage. lower from the perspective of the customer–well, isn’t that why people use cabs anyway?

    1. Mark P.

      It’s poorly articulated.

      Putting it differently, the writer is presuming a situation where the total cost of using a Uber-directed driverless car whenever any given individual (including the vast mass of commuters) needs one would become less than the total cost of any individual owning a car (including insurance, upkeep, etcetera). The owners of rental driverless vehicles could still be able to make a total profit.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It depends.

        With or without Uber, if you only need to take a $10 dab ride 5 times a month, yes, using Uber or regular tax is cheaper than owning a car.

  10. fresno dan

    I find Beck’s statement that the Iraqi’s just don’t want democracy petulant, but at least he is more reality based than Cheney, who is incapable of admitting error, apparently about anything.
    Maybe in 10 years Beck can discover that the Bush administration was totally incompetent in even considering how to think about what would happen in Iraq after toppling Saddam…. but we should be grateful for what progress we have….

  11. Jim Haygood

    Three days till summer … and with today’s record S&P high, J-Yel’s unwritten target of ‘S&P 2K by springtime’ is only 2.2% away.

    Can we attain this exalted level in just two business days? With teamwork and POMOs, yes we can!

  12. Yonatan

    ISIS has gone beyond the franchise model of al Qaeda and gone to full corporation mode. It produces annual reports detailing its progress in its market area. Commentors at ZeroHedge suggest an IPO may be imminent, with speculation about possible Goldman Sachs involvement in this.

  13. docg

    Interesting that no one has yet chosen to comment on what, for me, is the most important of all today’s NC links: The Environment of Poverty (

    Here’s the gist, which unfortunately comes near the end, so it’s all too easy to miss:

    “Indeed, there is something fundamentally immoral about the way we set our priorities. The OECD estimates that the world spends at least $11 billion of total development money just to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. A large part of this is through renewable power like wind, hydro, and solar. For example, Japan recently granted $300 million of its development aid to subsidize solar and wind power in India.

    If all $11 billion were spent on solar and wind in the same proportion as current global spending, global CO₂ emissions would fall by about 50 million tons each year. Run on a standard climate model, this would reduce temperatures so trivially – about 0.00002oC in the year 2100 – that it is the equivalent of postponing global warming by the end of the century by a bit more than seven hours.

    Of course, climate campaigners might point out that the solar panels and wind turbines will give electricity – albeit intermittently – to about 22 million people. But if that same money were used for gas electrification, we could lift almost 100 million people out of darkness and poverty.

    Moreover, that $11 billion could be used to address even more pressing issues. Calculations from the Copenhagen Consensus show that it could save almost three million lives each year if directed toward preventing malaria and tuberculosis, and increasing childhood immunization.

    It could also be used to increase agricultural productivity, saving 200 million from starvation in the long run, while ameliorating natural disasters through early-warning systems. And there would be money left over to help develop an HIV vaccine, deliver drugs to treat heart attacks, provide a Hepatitis B vaccine to the developing world, and prevent 31 million children from starving each year.

    Is it really better to postpone global warming by seven hours?”

    Since I’ve been delivering essentially the same message for several years now (see, e.g., the argument presented in this article is especially gratifying. So why do I feel so hopeless? Because so many supporting such absurdly counterproductive measures to ameliorate “Global Warming” could care less about global poverty. To quote Mr. Lomberg’s final sentence:

    “Could it be that environmental aid is not primarily about helping the world, but about making us feel better about ourselves?”

    Is he yet another one of those “deniers” in the grip of those nasty oil and coal barons? If you read the article you’ll learn otherwise. He just happens to be someone with a brain in his head and a heart in his chest, someone who actually cares.

  14. fresno dan
    “Caveat. It is exceptionally difficult to understand the dynamics of ongoing military operations. Oftentimes, the participants themselves do not know why they are winning or losing, or even where they are in control or where their troops are. For non-participants, it is often equally difficult to gain more than a rudimentary sense of the combat without access to the sophisticated intelligence gathering capabilities—overhead imagery, signals intercepts, human reporting, etc.—available to the United States and some other governments. As one of the CIA’s Persian Gulf military analysts during the 1990-91 Gulf War, I noted the difficulty that many outside analysts had in gauging the capabilities of the two sides and following the course of operations because they did not have access to the information available to us from U.S. government assets. Consequently, readers should bring a healthy dose of skepticism to all such analyses of the current fighting in Iraq, including this one. ”

    First, most information in the world is crap…so when you intercept it, it is just as useless to you as it was to the person you intercepted it from.
    And even if it was correct, it is kind of incredible, with the history of the last 12 years, that anyone thinks that anyone in the US gubermint can do foreign policy.
    Hmmm…maybe if NSA spent less time and money on US cell phone monitoring, maybe it would have more time to monitor IRAQ……you know, fight them (or monitor them) there instead of here…..

  15. optimader

    “..maybe it would have more time to monitor IRAQ..”
    Or maybe if NSA was dramatically defunded and we allowed those in the ME to resolve their own destiny we could remission those funds to productive use and anticipate much reduced animosity from that part of the world?
    The ironic idiocy is, it’s all about oil, always has been. By virtue of the fact that oil has substantially no alternative uses other than as a trade item (and domestic fuel), the commodity will be produced and sold at a world market price no matter who is in charge. So what is the point to all of this??

    Naaaaah, I don’t know what came over me, scratch that thought.

  16. hunkerdown

    Zingerman’s becoming worker-owned cooperative (Business Insider). Zingerman’s, for background, is a well-regarded local gourmet food firm which runs a diverse range of businesses (including a management school) and treats their help quite well. Behold, management: “I’ll have to figure out every detail, half of which will be wrong and will be changed within the next year to three years, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”

  17. Abe, NYC

    Re F-35
    Something that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves is the Soviet procurement process for its fighter planes (and other military equipment) – which it is universally acknowledged the USSR was very good at making. Basically, the Ministry of Defense would prepare specs and distribute those to “Design Bureaus.” A couple designs would be selected and the “Bureaus” in question given funds to build prototypes. These would be evaluated, and one model chosen for production. The winning Design Bureau would then receive the contract, its staff showered with awards, bonuses, and such; its facilities geared up and expanded for manufacturing of the airplane, new staff hired, etc.

    Sounds familiar? Yes, the process was virtually identical to that in the US, all under a “socialist” economy, and the result was as good as anything the US or Europe ever produced (setting aside avionics/electronics where the USSR sucked, that’s a separate story).

    Not that the USSR/Russia is immune to the same failures as those which manifest themselves in the F-35. With at least 3 design bureaus with vast experience in the design of commercial airplanes, Russia awarded the contract to build its commuter airplane to Sukhoi, a military design bureau with no experience in civil aviation. The design, Sukhoi Superjet, was several times the cost of comparable Embraer or Bombardier airplanes and several dozen times of comparable other Russian planes, the difference transpiring in Cyprus mansions and yachts in the Mediterranean. And the result is a subpar airplane that has 80% import content and is poorly suited for Russian environment.

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