Links 6/2/14

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Do Porn Watchers Have Smaller Brains? Discovery

New analysis contradicts findings published in Science PhysOrg

Trudo Lemmens of the University of Toronto critiques the recently distributed draft EMA Clinical Trials Data Release Policy Dr. David Healy (furzy mouse). Not pretty.

Change of Climate in the US Triple Crisis

US carbon curbs raise hopes for Paris deal Financial Times

Environmentalists And Nuclear: Not Such Strange Bedfellows OilPrice. I am sure readers’ heads will explode, but view this as messaging you’ll see some fauxgressives take up.

House prices fall most in five years: RP Data Business Spectator (Australia)

Chinese city outlaws price falls amid property bust MacroBusiness

How serious is China’s property slump? Gavyn Davies, Financial Times

China explores bond buying in first hint of QE Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

China army official blasts U.S. ‘provocative challenge’ MarketWatch

Exceptionalism Without Exceptional Means? Moon of Alabama

Military, protesters in cat-and-mouse game ThaiVisa (furzy mouse)

The WSJ Suggests Hollande May Redefine Chutzpah by Complaining to Obama about BNP Paribas – on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day! Bill Black, New Economic Perspectives

Scots Are Divided Over Independence New York Times

Israel wary of Palestinian unity government Financial Times

Tariq Ali: In Cairo London Review of Books


Mish Reader Who Speaks Russian and Reads Ukrainian Updates the Situation in Ukraine Michael Shedlock

Gazprom pushes back Ukraine gas ultimatum to June 9 after payment Hurriyet

Translation of the “must read” article of explaining why there is no Russian intervention in the Ukraine The Vineyard of the Saker (mundanomaniac) . This idea of Russian intervention has been debunked elsewhere (see War Nerd). Note there is also a definitional issue: does supplying some arms amount to “intervention” or order-taking?

The future visible in St Petersburg Pepe Escobar, Asia Times (mundanomaniac).

White House Launches Propaganda At TROLL Level George Washington

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images New York Times

Why U.S. Should Bring Snowden Home Bloomberg (furzy mouse)

Intense Solar Impulse 2 #FirstFlight Take-Off YouTube. Richard Smith points out that solar drones can stay up indefinitely already…..

Intruders for the Plugged-In Home, Coming in Through the Internet New York Times. Duh.

SPY VS. SPY James Surowiecki, New Yorker. On America’s history of industrial espionage.

US parties clash over prisoner deal BBC

Edison’s San Onofre settlement mirrors bailouts of banks  Los Angeles Times

Study Examines Efficacy of Taxes on Sugary Drinks New York Times

50 Shades of Fed Washington Post

Private Equity

US watchdog triggers buyout group fee queries Financial Times. Get a load of this confession, erm, quote:

“In many cases, the fee split has changed but the magnitude of fees has increased,” says the head of investor relations at a private equity group. “When the share to LPs [limited partners] increases, they add more fees.”

Failure of Guidance on Leveraged Lending resembles the War on Drugs Walter Kurtz

Class Warfare

QE, Bailouts, And Families Struggling to Buy Food Wolf Richter

Tepid US recovery – it’s the middle class, stupid Edward Luce, Financial Times

On Inequality Denial Paul Krugman, New York Times

Robbing Peter Katie Porter, Credit Slips

Inequality Has Become The Achilles Heel Of Democracy Business Insider

Is Piketty’s ‘Second Law of Capitalism’ fundamental? VoxEU

Antidote du jour (Lance N):


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Yonatan

    So the Whitehouse places ads to demonize Putin. How many clicks would it take to bankrupt the US?

    1. hunkerdown

      Perhaps a better question is, how many clicks does it take for Eric Schmidt to own the joint?

  2. Carolinian

    The late great Alexander Cockburn–contrarian and lover of large old American cars (often purchased not far from where I live)–used to pooh pooh global warming as a stalking horse to revive the long moribund U.S. nuclear power industry. You don’t have to agree, and his partner St. Clair didn’t, to see that some of the proposed AGW solutions are either impractical or examples of opportunistic disaster capitalism.

    Hence Obama with his close ties to Exelon has already greenlit two new reactors in Georgia. And the increasingly dreadful Duke Energy is in the active planning stages of restarting construction on a reactor that is also not far from where I live (the shell of which–interestingly–once served as the underwater set for James Cameron’s The Abyss).

    Even setting aside environmental concerns it’s likely that we poor ratepayers will suffer for this for quite a long time. No need to cite the various examples of half finished or totally finished reactors that have resulted in huge cost overruns or charge offs that the customers have had to bail out.

    So boo hiss Oilprice for promoting this “meme.”

    1. taunger

      Agreed. Whenever nuclear is mentioned, I ask why not just invest the money in wind and solar first? If for some unknown reason those generation sources don’t work, at least there isn’t the threat of meltdown alongside failure.

      1. craazyboy

        There are known problems with wind and solar. Solar is getting within the realm of affordability in the sunny SW. But this is much more true for solar thermal – rooftop PV has a ways to go yet.

        For onshore wind, 95% of the “good” wind is in areas that have only 5% of the population. There is offshore wind, but that is hugely expensive.

        But true about Gen III (safer) nukes. The bill on those is coming out to be in excess of $10 billion a plant – probably much more once they are complete and all the cost overruns are totaled up.

        The reason it appears that not a whole lot is happening is because the choices just aren’t that attractive. Except conservation – but that would be bad for biz……

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Right on, craazyboy.

          Just consume less.

          No one is going to make money off of you with that approach. The rest – spend money to buy this gadget, give me your dollars to invest in that Trojan horse – you can never know.

          In today’s very uncertain world, that is as close to a sure bet as we will ever get.

          Consume less…just say yes.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Unlike the beer commercial, Great Waste or Less Filling, we can have Less Waste and Less Filling.

          1. optimader

            “..Except conservation – but that would be bad for biz…”…No one is going to make money off of you with that approach…”
            I think that’s an incorrect assumption, huge commercial opportunities for conservation.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              There is no money for corporations in our consuming less.

              They love for us to continue (or increase) our consumption, and to increase our GDP (even though it’s possible to be happier with a smaller GDP, when wealth is less concentrated).

            2. craazyboy

              I don’t doubt a green industry can and will grow. My snide reference was towards the oil, auto, housing and other industries that turn energy into dollars.

              The housing industry fights any attempt to update building standards for better effy. Saw a builder on TV once lamenting that if his “customer” ** had the choice of buying an energy efficient house or using the increased cost to buy furniture instead, she would buy furniture.

              So there’s responsible, strategic decision making for you!

              * Which for houses is anyone that may buy the place over the next 60 years…

              1. optimader

                It will only turn on economics not on people actualizing based on the premise of voluntary climate change mitigation.

        2. susan the other

          And not too many people are talking about geothermal. There are ongoing experiments with Nevada geothermal generation, I think one is camouflaged with the name ‘New York Canyon’ or stg like that. I think it is strange that no one is talking about it. About safer nukes, I don’t see why 10 billion is an obstacle. 10 billion spent on the applied research and construction of these plants is 10 billion more added to the economy, and in a good way. And it is quite possible that this money, spent on avoiding the mistakes of the past, will lead to some solutions for our environmental disasters, like Hanford, Carlsbad (of kitty litter fame), Fukushima and more to come. So with the thought in mind that we have a lot of reparation to do, for which money should be no obstacle, a viable and safe industry should not be out of reach because of a few billion extra dollars. Who cares? The comment by the Japanese nuclear phys professor, sorry I didn’t take note of his name, that nuclear energy is an “incomplete technology” really haunts me. The only way to address this is to just put everything we can into making it complete. Including the humongous task of cleaning up our past mistakes.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I am not sure how safe is ‘safer.’ While money should not be an obstacle, lives matter when considering more ‘safer’ nuclear vs. no new nuclear.

            And with Science being about the current best explanation, we can’t expect ‘complete.’ It will always be ‘incomplete.’

            1. susan the other

              I know. I don’t like nuclear. It really scares me. But I think we should go forward as carefully as we can. We gotta do something, imo.

            2. craazyboy

              Safe is always a relative term. Gen 3 is much less likely to go into thermal runaway and core meltdown. Gen 4, on the drawing boards, is supposed to be stable. But the industry says 10-15 more years of R&D there.

              Perhaps the larger problem is waste. Gen 3 is 30% more efficient, but 70% is still too much. Plus we don’t have any way to dispose of what we have now.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                I guess the questions are (and has always been) ‘how much less likely?’ and ‘can we live with the potential number of death/environmental damage?’

                1. zapster

                  Well lessee, we currently have a case in NM where some idiot packed radioactive nitrates into barrels of cellulose, essentially creating radioactive gunpowder.

                  With this sort of breathtaking stupidity routine, the prospect of managing more extraordinarily dangerous, technically complex, incredibly unstable processes for the required thousands of years is, well…

                  “We’ve gotta be kidding” just doesn’t cut it.

          2. craazyboy

            Geothermal, meaning the kind from lava heat, is kinda in the same situation as hydro – all the low hanging fruit has been picked already. Mexicali, Mx, across the border from Calexico, CA, gets most of its power from a geothermal plant. But they were drilling very deep down in central CA and stopped because earthquake tremors increased. Plus drilling far enough down for these is – wait for it – very expensive.

            There are geothermal heat pumps. These work pretty good for residential and commercial heating and AC. You only need to dig a well for a heat exchanger that is 15-20 feet deep. There is very good potential here at a reasonable investment, IMO.

              1. craazyboy

                Yup. 303MW is the largest in the world. Compare that to one 600MW unit in a coal plant in the US and you get an idea of how far we have to go to bridge the gap with renewables.

                    1. ambrit

                      Don’t forget the immense potential of the Mississippi River. One project, in Vidallia Louisiana generates 192 MW a year with run of the river heads and has been working for over twenty years now.

                    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                      I can hear Jevon now: That ought to give us some time before demand catches up with supply…again.

                    3. Kurt Sperry

                      Traveling around western Iceland one sees geothermal development all over and plenty of evidence of undeveloped potential.

  3. dearieme

    “the kind of rationalist foreign policy followed by the United States from the end of WW II until the hysteria of post 9/11 life swept away the careful consideration of risks and benefits that had controlled US policy”: apart from Vietnam, I suppose. Or JFK’s recklessness over missiles and Cuba. Was Korea really rational? Not in its execution it wasn’t, but conceivably in its purpose it was. What was that purpose?

    1. ambrit

      At the risk of sounding like an old Cold Warrior, North Korea actually was trying to conquer the South by force of arms. Korea being right over against Japan, which was still then militarily weak, (by design,) the Domino Theory had a pretty convincing argument going on. Now, when MacArthur started making noises about using nukes against China… everything changed.

      1. susan the other

        Some of the stuff I read about Vietnam claimed that we did ship nuclear weapons to South Vietnam and intended to use them to blast our way all the way through southern China. They were said to be kept in a bunker and closely guarded and that the decision to let the South Vietnamese use them was so contentious that they were never deployed. And there was no accounting for these weapons when we evacuated ourselves so hastily that people were dropping out of helicopters, etc. The MacArthur faction certainly never “faded away.” They were kept under control, at least.

    2. neo-realist

      Was JFK all that reckless on Cuba and nukes? More like the Joint Chiefs who would have liked to invade or nuke Cuba. If anything, JFK was probably more of a pragmatist and a peace seeker re Cuban Missle Crisis–Got the Russians to remove nukes and began to open a dialogue with Castro.

  4. craazyman

    wow, if porn shrinks brains that’s really bad news for gynecologists. Is this one more reason to wonder about medical advice? Everything in the news these days is confusing and alarming.

    1. ambrit

      Cmon crazy. Gynecologists are professionals. They’re, we hope, looking beneath the surface. It’s the ultimate materialists career choice. (If you mess up a childbirth, you could kill two or more people.) Porn, on the other appendage, is all about perception. (So is the Newz, I grant.) As the article says explicitly; “..the study doesn’t confirm whether watching porn causes the changes, or whether people with a certain brain type are inherently more apt to tune into X-rated content.” I wonder whether this finding about smaller brain regions can cross over to the other types of porn we all know and love: War Porn, Finance Porn, Housing Market Porn, Political Porn. The list could go on forever I’ll warrant.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Dear Ambrit, most excellent point about Political Porn.

        I have noticed my brain returning to its former not-so-tiny size since quitting watching Political Porn, except when I encounter it here at NC.

      2. craazyman

        my brain shrank to the size of a pea from reading macroeconomics articles on the internet. And I lost money in the market too! I guess that’s empirical proof. I’d be a lot richer if I’d just thrown my cash at an index fund and surfed porn all day. hahaha. Small brain with big bank account vs. small brain with small bank account. when it comes to this sort of thing: size matters!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Beside losing money and having my brain shrunk from reading all the learned macroeconomics masterpieces, my eyesight has suffered as well.

          It’s a triple whammy!

    2. Working Class Nero

      And will the same scientist have a bunch of women watch several hours of The View and then measure their before and after brain sizes?

      No, I didn’t think so….

  5. Vatch

    Regarding the article “Environmentalists And Nuclear: Not Such Strange Bedfellows”: one consideration is the enormous about of cement and concrete that is needed in the construction of a nuclear power plant. To produce cement, calcium carbonate (CaCO3, limestone) must be heated oxygen to produce calcium oxide (CaO). For every molecule of CaO that is produced, a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2) is released. In addition, the fuel that is used to heat the calcium carbonate almost certainly also emits significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Other structural materials in the nuclear power plant, such as steel, also produce carbon dioxide when manufactured.

    For more information, see:

    “The cement industry produces about 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions, of which 50% is from the chemical process, and 40% from burning fuel.”

    1. Vatch

      Oops. “must be heated oxygen to produce” should be “must be heated to produce”.

    2. susan the other

      Very true. Which is why conservation is so important. We have to balance everything we do going into the future and to think we can continue to use energy like we do today is nuts. I think somebody should invent some good bionic boots. Something we can all wear to rediscover walking. Leap tall buildings.

  6. Eeyores enigma

    “Obama unveils new policy to significantly increase the price of energy across the board”.

    In the face of the worst economy in a generation with shrinking incomes, stagnating wages, record low employment participation rate, record private sector debt, record high gas prices, record high food assistance participants, record forclosures, etc, the President is hailed for his heroic decision making in focusing on global warming without concern for the human condition. The President was quoted as stating;

    “Hey, everything is getting more expensive from here on out so get over it and deal”.

            1. allcoppedout

              It doesn’t need to be human adaptation. The android I’ve built to transmigrate my mind to feeds on atmospheric radioactivity and blinding solar weather. I’m not sure you eco-freaks have any right to interfere with my future …

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Cole Porter: If you want a future, darling, why don’t you get a past?

            2. optimader

              You asked what the alternative is to “dealing” (mitigating) with climate change.

              Adaptation is the alternative to Mitigation. Either approach have catastrophic potentialities, reality is probably some combination.

              The most obvious risk of Mitigation policy approach is it never actually even happening. Not too many successful examples of organizing local interests to achieve global objectives come to mind to me.. Maybe some vaccination program? That would be about it..

              1. zapster

                Well, except for the fact that it will be impossible *to* adapt to temps that are very far outside our livable range. When the plankton collapse, the primary global source of oxygen is gone. When there’s insufficient oxygen in the upper ocean levels, the anaerobic bacteria get the upper hand, leading to hydrogen sulfide emissions which have been implicated in nearly every mass extinction in prehistory. Nothing can survive in the presence of concentrated hydrogen sulfide except the anaerobic bacteria that produce it.

                Changing the climate this fast will not allow our oxygen-producers, or anything else, to adapt quickly enough to prevent radically changing the chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere.

                And this isn’t even being hyperbolic, the dead zones are already huge and growing. There’s a very large one in the Pacific west of Seattle.


                1. optimader

                  “Well, except for the fact that it will be impossible *to* adapt to temps that are very far outside our livable range. When the plankton collapse, the primary global source of oxygen is gone.”

                  Nature operates in an interrelated equilibrium. I will speculate our present human societies, with our fragile foodchain will collapse before and our ability to influence environment with CO2 sufficiently to force plankton extinction. I am confident , at worst it will survive in at least some microenvironments and hang out for better days. I would not speculate where the global human population will go, other than precipitously down . Historically the top of the food chain gets wacked first.

                  As a pragmatic guy, and as meritous as we may all think a policy of Mitigation may be, I give it a low probability of elective global adoption. Maybe by default when societies can no longer support their present consumption models? BU twe’ll be well along the path of Adaption by default.

                  But who knows, on a less optimistic unintended consequences future outcome vector, we may have all poisoned ourselves w/ artificial background radiation from legacy manmade nuke ma’tl so maybe we might as well live it up?

      1. Eeyores enigma

        I guess my point is that the only way we can address climate change is by structuring society in such a way as to allow for the population to do less or even do almost nothing and not die a horrible uncomfortable death. Otherwise everybody will either continue to burn anything they can to make a “living” or they will suffer.

    1. hunkerdown

      I seem to remember a) Al Jazeera is in fairly tight with the Qatari government b) they’ve got LNG loading docks to recoup. It would be completely expected for Qatar to object to carbon taxes if Europe might dare think to follow suit.

        1. hunkerdown

          In fact, al-Jazeera tends more journalistically independent than average, but Qatar natgas constitutes the majority of the Qatari economy and they are the world’s top exporter of LNG. Carbon taxes mean demand destruction, and if successful would nudge already receptive Europeans to accept tightening their own hydrocarbon belts. Demand destruction frees up domestic inventory for potential export. With the supply side of Europe’s LNG market in political flux, and with the US having extended an incredible offer to supply Europe with LNG, decisions are being made now that will broadly shape nations’ approaches to energy and politics for decades to come.

          AJ are clearly better than most of what we see daily. What I’m saying is, while Qatar isn’t critically interested in much, they do have a lot of costs sunk in natgas infrastructure, and AJ is still responsible to the interests of the national governments whose readers and viewers it serves. The article seems just a little more skeptical than the usual false-balance, which might be nothing more than good journalism and knowing the locals well, or nothing more than the expected result of rewriting AP articles. But, the last paragraph reads much like a sketch for defanging this initiative, which seems uncharacteristic of news, and if one follows the practice of interpreting the last paragraph of an article as subtext, *someone* seems to want action.

  7. Johann Sebastian Schminson

    New analysis contradicts findings published in Science

    It’s good to see science check itself.

    OTOH, the symbols referred to in the linked article are either language/writing (communication), or they are decoration (art, for art’s sake). The author’s point is valid, but Occam’s razor points to language.

    1. susan the other

      I didn’t really understand how they could isolate symbols from language. It’s kinda like one long continuum from scratches on a stick, to cuneiform, to pictograms, to numbers, to grocery lists, to prose, to rap, to poetry. What was the control group again?

      1. allcoppedout

        We feed all kinds of text and pictures into our machines. So far I can say they learn to paint better than me and can work out the context of text, doing such as stripping codes from one patent database to leave data to crunch. My suggestion to dress the machines as Tony Hancock in ‘The Rebel’ have been ignored a flippant. I live in hope the machine mind appreciates me.

  8. David Mills

    I have to say it… That Cat looks like Jabba the Hut. Sorry, just had to get that out.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    SPY VS SPY…industrial espionage.

    I thought the greatest episode of military- industrial espionage was the wholesale rounding up, sorry, protection of German and Japanese physicists, biologists and engineers post-WWII.

  10. flora

    re: Tepid US recovery – its the middle class, stupid. FT

    I’d slightly reword one sentence in the article:
    “The US middle continues to (be) hollow(ed) out, even as the economy continues to grow.”
    The hollowing out of the US middle class is not a natural event, it is a man made, or govt made event.

    The May 27th Moyers/Stiglitz interview explains that current US tax laws encourage off-shoring jobs:

  11. Jagger

    A little off subject but I just bought 4 heartguard pills for heartworms and 4 Comfortis flea treatment to treat 3 dogs. Cost right on $140 for one month of treatment for two dogs and two months treatment for 1 dog. Just looking at the internet, looks like I can get the same thing for $25 per dog per month instead of $35 from the vet. STILL, $75 a month for heartworms and fleas for 3 dogs???? Don’t they, like, mass produce these pills. Why $17 a pill for Comfortis for one months treatment??? Any alternatives or ideas for reasonably priced heartworm or flea treatment for dogs out there?

      1. Jagger

        Thanks, I am checking into it now. Although the flea medication was more expensive than the heartworm medicine. I guess I could give them baths every couple days.

        1. craazyboy

          Try a google on this
          “does tea tree oil get rid of dog fleas”

          Tee tree oil is from Australia, and pretty cheap considering you only use a few drops. Walmart has it next to the eucalyptus oil in pharmacy section.

          The aussies use it for all sorts of skin or critter problems. The above search pops up a whole bunch of pages for dog fleas. Don’t know what it’s like if they get it in their eyes, tho.

            1. craazyboy

              Tea Tree oil has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. It’s supposed to kill little stuff we don’t like.

    1. kareninca

      Our dog has IBD so we can’t give her the tasty Heartgard cubes. We have a compounding pharmacy (originally private, now owned by Safeway) make up Ivermectin capsules, with nothing but the Ivermectin in them. It is only $10 per month for her (a 60 pound dog). The Ivermectin is a powder, and actually I remove it from the capsule (since she can’t digest the capsule), and toss it down the back of her throat. Really we could just buy the powder and it would be even cheaper, but I like having the pharmacy do the measuring.

      We do not use flea meds since even the topical ones cause her to have a flare-up (they enter the bloodstream)(you might want to consider whether you really want to use them). We’ve had great luck with flea traps purchased on Amazon. They have a little light bulb and a sticky paper that is flea-attractant scented; the fleas are attracted by warmth and scent and stick to it.

      I would not buy pet meds online, except from a reputable company like Foster and Smith.

      1. kareninca

        You don’t need to give your dogs a full-fledged bath to get the fleas to jump off of them. Just wet their fur with vinegar-water (I use about 25 percent vinegar). It won’t kill the fleas, but they will leave the dog, and then go to the flea trap. Perhaps in an area with a terrible flea problem this wouldn’t suffice, but it’s worked for us.

        People also use diatomaceous earth with great success; we have not needed to try it yet.

  12. Trinity River

    Piketty’s Second Law of Capitalism VocEU
    Krusell & Smith disagree with Piketty:
    “In both cases, theory suggests that the wealth–income ratio would increase only modestly as growth falls. Thus, declining overall growth is simply not a powerful force for generating high inequality, and we would not want to make predictions based on it.” Krusell & Smith
    I seem to disagree with Krusell & Smith. Has not the growth rate of k/capital not increased and increased inequality in Great Recession? Help me here. So far the 1%’s control of government/regulation is not factored into the equation.

    1. craazyboy

      I think it suffices to say, the way things work now, is they get the long end of the stick which ever way you flip it.

  13. rich

    The Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics

    Kenneth Vogel gives a tour of a new political world dramatically reordered by ever-larger flows of cash. Vogel talks about the secret gatherings of big-spending Republicans and Democrats alike—from California poolsides to DC hotel bars—to expose the way the mega-money men (and a few women) are dominating the new political landscape. His book Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politicsis about the multimillionaires and billionaires getting involved in politics, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, nouveau cowboy Foster Friess, Texas trial lawyer couple Amber and Steve Mostyn, Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One thing is certain in life – when a government spends MMT money, the rich will always be there to offer tips on how best to spend it.

      After, they are rich and know all about money and spending.

  14. Banger

    I found the following comment from an anonymous poster on the ‘Vineyard of the Saker’ article in the links that I thought was interesting and worth thinking about.

    Anonymous said…
    Some political considerations from the American side of this. The American President is simply not engaged in this at all. I know that sounds outlandish but as an American and more importantly a Chicagoan I’m pretty sure it is the case.

    Obama’s first Secretary of State was appointed strictly for domestic political reasons and she was a loose cannon. The boss never interfered. The current SoS also got his job for domestic political reasons and he’s shown himself utterly incompetent. Incompetence does not matter. Go a step lower, the National Security Advisor is a relatively young woman with trivial qualifications and again it does not matter. The Ambassador to the UN is a petulant child and it does not matter. And none of the above have that much access to the President.

    Obama’s inner circle has been very stable. Bill Daley, Valerie Jarrett, Penny Pritzker, David Axelrod. Chicagoans all and quite parochial ones at that.Axelrod has a complete precinct map of the City of Chicago in his head and he knows at least a few things about all 435 Congressional districts. He does not know where Ukraine is. Daley is the only one who even qualifies as smart and he spends most of his time chasing young boys. The two women think of nothing but money. Their own money, not Wall Street.

    Because the boss has never cared the dominant faction at State is the Cheney faction. Vicky Nuland is from Cheney’s personal staff. That such a clique has been allowed to persist is not because Obama is a secret neo-con, it’s because Obama is just disengaged. The largest part of the mid-level appointees who should be eyes and ears in the bureaucracy are drawn from the Hall (Chicago City Hall) and the University of Chicago Lab School (which is just a private elementary/secondary school). These appointees are hopelessly out of their depth. And they don’t have the boss’s ear anyway.

    If you want to know how Obama governs look at a cardboard cut-out of Eric Holder.

    The Cheney faction and the permanent schemers at Langley can do a lot and they have done a lot. They are limited by not having executive power. They don’t personally know the President and don’t know what he will do in a crunch. In the meantime tapping into Cold War Russophobia covers all missteps. The public knows nothing, the media knows nothing. What is really happening at Langley is by nature obscure.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Interesting, Banger. I think Obama is first and foremost a neolib. In my opinion, neolibs think a ‘realist’ foreign policy is one that has commercial benefits. Obama MUST have approved of the push to bomb Syria and the Ukrainian gambit and each of these satisfies important foreign and commercial interests.

      One might wonder if he was misled by the neocons on Syria (as described by Sy Hersh in December 2013) – but then why did he approve of Ukraine? Remember: Ukraine, Russia, and the EU agreed in late February that Yanekovish would continue as President until elections in December 2014. That agreement was basically torn up and the neocon’s EuroMaidan allies proceeded to seize control.

      Obama also loves to extole American exceptionalism – the neocon self-licking ice cream cone. Another ‘tell’ of his sympathy for them.

      1. Banger

        The comment makes the case that Obama and his operatives don’t really care about foreign affairs–or just figure it will run itself anyway.

        1. Jackrabbit

          I don’t agree Banger.

          We’ve seen many, many excuses for Obama:

          > eleven dimensional chess;
          > he means well; or
          > others are taking advantage of his good nature.

          This has gotten old. Occam’s razor: he is part of the team. He understands and approves what his administration is doing in foreign policy and other areas. He may not know every detail but he knows WHO is doing what, and their agenda/what interests are being served.

    2. VietnamVet

      This is an excellent comment on one side of the argument by those who worry about the US Government supporting Nazis in Ukraine and Jihadists in Syria. This argument is basically the Titanic is going in circles. The other one is that the President is a puppet to his neo-globalist paymasters. In this case the Titanic is headed straight at the Iceberg.

      I tend towards second. The Lords of Wall Street and City of London are so pathological that gaining access to Ukraine’s resources is worth the risk of the civil war that is breaking out on Russia’s border; in their minds it is all the better to destabilize Russia, and loot it once again.

      If Roman history is any guide, hiring mercenaries to fight your Empire’s wars has dire consequences when the Vandals show up at the gates of your community. History will rhyme, unless America pulls back to North America, and builds a people’s army to defend its borders against the barbarians it is now funding overseas.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        There isn’t much difference between Romans besieging towns, starving their non-combatants, and today’s economic sanctions, starving millions of civilians.

      2. Banger

        The Romans actually did rather well for themselves for quite a while using those policies.

    3. neo-realist

      Is the disengagement on the part of Obama and his circle really just an acceptance of the fact that for any administration, democratic or republican, challenging the paradigm, the methods, and the goals of the “state” is a deleterious to one’s health, e.g., JFK?

      1. Banger

        I’m sure it’s both–but the latter factor is always in the background–there are forces in Washington that outrank the three branches of government.

    4. James Levy

      Very profound comment that might be true! Obama is a puzzle. So was Bush, for that matter. What no one wants to admit, especially the pundit class, is that no president is likely to be knowledgeable, forget expert, in anything but getting themselves elected. The Imperial Presidency is now so fixated on having its talons in every nook and cranny of the globe (and most aspects of domestic policy) that the president is hostage to his “gut” and his advisors, since he can’t know much about most of the things he called on to decide. Both Bush and Obama strike me as weirdly diffident men. They crave power and the limelight but shy away from doing the hard work of leaning enough to make informed decisions. Bush trusted his “gut” and Obama is convinced (wrongly) that he is always the smartest guy in the room. So our nation has lurched from active to passive to active again, with no rhyme or reason and no coherence. It’s shocking how we’ve created this monstrous office and combined it with a process that only attracts striving connivers who can hold their tongues and stay on vacuous “message” for two years in order to grab hold of a job they are not qualified for and have little interest in actually doing well. We are in the Commodus phase (the real one, not the movie one) waiting for the barracks emperors.

      1. Banger

        Honestly, as I’ve commented above, I don’t think Obama or any President has much control over the national security/deep state. We do not live in the country we think we live in. We live in an authoritarian/totalitarian state with an increasingly rigid pecking order.

        1. skippy

          Ideological mass is a bitch… especially when false positives are the predominate momentum acceleration input and not the availability of easy resources to exploit.

        2. Jackrabbit

          Here’s Moon of Alabama reader, JSorrentine saying much the same thing in a more direct and dramatic way EXCEPT he applies it to ALL of the elite (Deep State, politicians, ceo’s, etc.):

          In the minds of the psychotic Western elite, there is no alternative to thinking how they currently do and I don’t mean that lightly.

          Do people think that if someone could have just sat the leaders of the British Empire etc down and explained to them the unjustness of colonization that they would have stopped?

          That all mankind needed to do to avoid the US Civil War was to rationally explain that slaves WEREN’T really subhuman animals?

          What about the Native American genocide? Gee, if only we’d have had Rachel Maddow back then, right? Shucks.

          Nope, for whatever reason and there are numerous reasons, the US war criminal elite and their Western minions have demonstrated time and time – exposed hypocrisy after exposed hypocrisy – that they are ALL IN in regards to their current trajectory. They have made their decisions.

          Thus, we are not engaged in a polite debate with these war criminals where a fitting charge of “hypocrite!” is going to make them pause or stop what they are doing especially as TPTB have been very skillful in crafting/framing their obvious – and UNDEBATABLE – commissions of war crimes as the subject for polite debate and discussion.

          No, we are witnessing the waging of a full-on war of aggression directed by people whom we should not treat as if they are bluffing and by bluffing I mean that TPTB really do rationally understand that they are being hypocritical/criminal and could chose NOT to engage in said actions/crimes if the just understood what was “right” and what was “wrong” as determined by certain bothersome – yet teensy weensy and non-powerful – segments of society.

          @Yves: maybe this should be the subject of a post?

    5. OIFVet

      Mary Todd Lincoln: “I heard the report, discussed at the table this morning, by persons who did not know, who was near, a party of gentlemen, evidently strong Republicans, they were laughing at the idea of Judd, being any way, connected with the Cabinet in these times, when honesty in high places is so important. Mr. Lincoln’s great attachment for you, is my present reason for writing. I know, a word from you, will have much effect, for the good of the country, and Mr Lincoln’s future reputation, I believe you will speak to him on this subject & urge him not to give him so responsible a place. It is strange, how little delicacy those Chicago men have.” It’s amazing how little has changed in the past 150 years, Chicago men (and women) are just as clueless and corrupt now when “honesty in high places is so important.” Still, I have a small nitpick with the comment: the only administration official at that level who attended Lab is Arne Duncan. The kids of most people mentioned attended at one point or another. Still, it is true that it no longer produces Michael Hudsons and John Paul Stevenses, it has become a factory that churns out establishmentarians for the democratic wing of the Republicrat party.

  15. Jackrabbit

    Exceptionalism Without Exceptional Means – Moon of Alabama

    MoA says: “the speech may have been a step back from the financially ruining use of large scale military forces but . . .” doesn’t go far enough. Some MoA commenters have expressed much more skeptism:as I noted previously (plus speech-related links)


    The much touted neocon push back consists of Obama giving voice to a policy that was already well established in his Administration: that soft power and covert ops are preferred to war and occupations.

    Besides the extolling American exceptionalism, the speech seems mostly about reassuring the public (in an election year) and the military that when the US commits troops it will be for the right reasons. In this regard, Obama seems more interested in countering PR effects of charges that WH manipulated Syrian intel and Nuland’s Ukraine meddling.

    The Obama Administration has decided to leave almost 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2015; to step up its support for the Syrian rebels; and asks Congress for a $5 billion to anti-terr0rist fund that is certain to delight the neocons. In short, not much seems to have changed.

    1. Yonatan

      How are the US troops going to get out of Afghanistan given Obama has pissed off the Pakistani population making the southern route tricky and is in the process of pissing off Russia so the Northern route may end up closed? Eastwards – China, Westwards – Iran. Hmmm, those troops are between a rock and 4 hard places.

  16. Abe, NYC

    From Translation of the “must read” article of explaining why there is no Russian intervention in the Ukraine The Vineyard of the Saker (mundanomaniac) :

    the head of the resistance ibn Slaviansk, Igor Strelkov, coped with this task better than I: in his video message, he very clearly described the inertness of the local population of Lugansk and Donetsk in terms of real action to protect their interests against the junta.

    You can’t make that stuff up. What do the people of Donetsk and Luhansk know of their own interests? In order to save the cities, Strelkov will have to destroy them.

    I never ever expected this video to be quoted in an ostensibly pro-Russian article, much less one that purports to provide a detached analysis. Kharkiv, next door from Donetsk and with just as big a Russian population, has no bandits roaming the streets, no hostage-taking, no human shields, no Chechen fighters, no Ukrainian army fighting them. In short, people in Donetsk are dying, civilians in militants alike, while in Kharkiv the situation is calm and no Russians are threatened.

    This is what Putin’s idea or protecting Russians look like. He is killing them for their own good.

  17. Elliot

    Apologies if this is a double post, my browser is being very odd & jumpy. But the advice to use tea tree on dogs is so dangerous I’m going to try again to post this.

    NO NO NO! Tea tree oil is poisonous to dogs. And cats. Animals’ physiology is different to humans’, and much more fragile in re: poisons. Plus, you should never ever use essential oils undiluted on the skin, even of humans. yes a lot of altie med sites tell you to use them (because they are selling them) but it is dangerous nonsense. You risk, at minimum, giving yourself contact dermatitis, and possibly much worse.

    If you don’t believe me, believe this poison control for pets site:
    “Tea tree oil is often found in varying concentrations and should never be used on pets. As little as 7 drops of 100% oil has resulted in severe poisoning, and applications of 10-20 mls of 100% oil have resulted in poisoning and death in both dogs and cats” – http: //ww

  18. OIFVet

    Sociologist does about-face on homeless people with pets. It seems pretty self-evident to me that a pet’s companionship is beneficial for all who seek a bond, but apparently academia is a bit slow on the uptake. Still, better late than never. This research has some interesting implications for public housing policy: “Irvine’s research has numerous practical policy implications. For example, public housing policies discriminate against homeless pet guardians, often requiring them to choose between housing and their animals. That may be precisely backwards, Irvine says.”

    “I speculate that homeless people who are responsible pet guardians would be more successful tenants than the average homeless person. … Taking care of animals on the street for years involves great responsibility and I think they would make great renters…”

    It’s hoping against hope that policymakers will take notice and make adjustments to the Section 8 policy. The extraordinarily cold winter we had in Chicago this year forced many homeless with pets to survive the bitter cold outdoors, unwilling to leave their companions for the warmth of shelters with no-pet policies. It is cruel and unconscionable, and to me at least it shows who the better people are.

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